Monday, February 24, 2014


clearly show the existence or truth of (something) by giving proof or evidence.

But God demonstrates His own love toward us,
in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
Romans 5:8

  1. This is what separates God from man, His purposeful act of love towards His enemies.

    I think that we often picture ourselves in the gospel story as loved ones who were in peril - tied up and lying on a train track with an locomotive approaching when Jesus jumps on the track and takes the hit. This makes us more desirable - helpless, hopeless, praying for a savior.  

    But this is not truth. A more accurate picture would be the rioting, angry crowd, pulling down the statue of their leader (which in our case would be a statue of Jesus), shaking our fists and cursing His name.  Jesus then enters the crowd, we recognize Him and the intensity increases - the mob mentality sets in and He is beaten to death and while dying, God turns from Him and pours out His anger and judgment on His Son that was intended for the unruly, rebellious crowd. 

    That's at least closer to the truth than the damsel in distress picture.  

    We need an accurate picture of who we are, what sin is and what God has done for us.  We are His enemy, sin is a purposeful act of rebellion and God demonstrated His love through Jesus' death.  He clearly showed the existence of His love, the truth of His love by the death of His Son for sinners.

    Take a deep breath and let that settle in.  Don't get defensive and try to paint a prettier picture.  Stop trying to be the focus of this verse and get your eyes on God.  He proved His love through Christ's death. This is all about Him.

    Okay, now let's turn it.  Because of this great truth, what is our response?  Do you love the One who first loved you?  Do you love the One who loved you even when you were His enemy?  Do you love the One who loved you and brought you back to life when you were dead?

    If yes, then how do you demonstrate your love for Him?  How do you extend love to God, to your family, to those you love, to your neighbors, and to your enemies?  (The last one is the hard one…)  

    May the Lord give you opportunity this week to walk by faith and experience the truth of this verse!

Monday, February 17, 2014

The Michigan Crud

Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, 
and death through sin, and so death spread to all men,
because all have sinned.
Romans 5:12

We have had the Michigan Crud in the house for over a month now.  It started with one of my twins, spread to me and then to David.  I am waiting for the other twin to fall, but she has successfully avoided it somehow.  In the meantime it has shown up in my other children's households, knocking parents and children alike out of commission from anywhere from one to five weeks, depending on whether the Crud desires to show mercy or not.  

But it's kind of been a given that if you're in the family, you're going to get it.  Watch out, Nicole...there's still time!

But the Michigan Crud is nothing like sin.  You don't need to be exposed to it to get it.  You come with it - you're born with it.  Romans 5:12 tells us that through Adam's choice to sin, sin and death has spread to all men.  Psalm 58:3 tells us that the wicked are estranged from God from the womb (upon conception) and go astray as soon as they are born.  Job 15:14 implies that if you are born of a woman you cannot be born righteous. I John 1:8 says that if any man claims that there is no sin in him, he is a liar and John 3:6 tells us that whatever is born of flesh is flesh - in other words, if you are born sinful, you are sinful.  

Sin is not something to embrace but to address.  I think we minimize sin by labeling and blaming others.  Are we truly responsible for sin if someone else made us do it?  In the garden, sin produced the gift of blaming seen by Adam's first words, "The woman, whom you gave to me, made me do it!"  Blaming God and Eve in the same breath - masterful, but wrong.  Just watch FOXNEWS for a few minutes and you'll see that most people have reasons for why they did what they did - they justify their sin by throwing others under the bus.  Or maybe it's not a person we blame - maybe it's a disorder.  We can't help it if we're made poorly, right?  Oh, wait - perhaps we are blaming God again for our disorders.  That's a problem.

God wants more for you.  He knows that sin brings suffering - it's never the way out of any situation (notice the 100% words).  He wants you to trust Him and walk by faith - to choose to be honorable even in the hard things and see what faithfulness produces.  He knows that when we call sin what it is, that He will give us victory over sin - if we confess it, if we will repent of it, He will cleanse us of it.  Jesus was victorious over death - do you not believe He can give you victory over bitterness or anxiety?

If you are struggling today with sin - if you're willing to stop the blame game, admit that you are a sinner and are ready to do something about it - then turn to the only option you have for victory - Jesus. He died to transform you from a diseased, dead corpse into a new creation where the old things are no longer ruling us, but Jesus Himself sits on the throne of your heart.  Today - read Ephesians 1:17-32 and begin your journey of renewing your mind in scripture and tapping into the transforming power of the gospel!

Monday, February 10, 2014

Way of Escape

No temptation has overtaken you but such as it common to man;
Who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able,
but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also,
so that you will be able to endure it.

I Corinthians 10:13

God is faithful, amen?

This is a great verse to put to memory - very useful in times of struggle, wouldn't you say?  Work through it phrase by phrase to marinate in its truths:
  • Temptations you face are not unique - Satan doesn't have some new tactic he's using on you and your sin nature isn't so special that no one has ever faced what you are facing - so quit feeling sorry for yourself and realize that others deal with the same issues
  • God is faithful - He doesn't change - He's exactly what He has always been and always will be - this is a remarkable truth in light of how much we humans change on a regular basis
  • God is allowing the temptation - yep, that's right!  He's involved, He's overseeing it and He knows your capabilities - trust that He's in this with you, has a purpose for it and knows you will not be overtaken by it
  • With the temptation is the way of escape - don't stop there...the Y in the road is not a choice of staying in the temptation or getting out - it is falling to the temptation or enduring it!  This is a huge difference - the road is still within the temptation but God provides the way to endure it
So what exactly is the way of endurance?  Obedience and faithfulness.  Know what God wants you to do - imitate Jesus - and be faithful, even when you don't feel like it.  When faced with the choice of doing what your flesh wants and what Jesus wants, which will you do?  Many, many times we have to put aside our feelings and walk by faith - this is sanctification at its most crucial point.  The way of escape is always obedience to the Lord but there is an underlying assumption here - that you know what God wants you to do and the only way to know is to be in His Word.  And if you truly don't know what He wants or where to find it, then phone a friend who knows and go from there.  The fact that God ALWAYS provides the way of escape means that His Word is sufficient for all needs, but it takes elbow grease to find that escape.

One of my favorite truths taught from the story of Daniel, who continued to pray three times a day even after the king made the edict that no petitions could be made to anyone but himself and found himself in a den filled with lions because of it, is:  you cannot have success in the crisis until you have success in the process.  Now you might be thinking, success does not equal lion's den for me.  But the truth still stands.  Daniel continued doing something that he had already made a habit.  Spiritual disciplines that are habitual in our lives will be what carries us through the hard times.  I am sure his discipline of prayer continued even in the lion's den and what was the conclusion of that story?  Miraculous salvation, right?

So determine now, before the crisis or before the temptation hits, to know God through His Word and see how the Lord reveals that way of escape that leads to successful endurance in the midst of the hard times.  Phoning a friend is an option, but rather than trying to develop a spiritual discipline in the midst of the crisis, today when the sea is calm and all is right, choose to seek after and follow the Lord so that in the midst of the storm, His figure is recognizable!

Monday, February 3, 2014

One Step at a Time

Your Word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.

Psalm 119:105

The shepherd turned king penned this illustration, drawing a visual for his readers of his dependency on God's Word.  The whole chapter of Psalm 119 is a verse by verse discourse of the value of God's Word - check it out sometime.

But as we try to modernize the written Word of God, if we are not careful the true meaning can be lost.

I got in an interesting discussion this weekend about translations and paraphrases.  As most of you know, with a translation of the Bible the translators go back to the earliest manuscripts and either translate word for word or thought for thought from the ancient languages.  A paraphrase takes an already translated script and just modernizes the text.  This is dangerous, friends - paraphrases are not upholding the integrity of the written word, though they are much easier to read.

Let me use this verse as an example.  The above translation is from the NASB (New American Standard Bible), which is a word for word translation.  As we look at the verse, we can understand the main message, that God's Word lights our way through life. But if we spend some more time on it - think through the author and what his life was like, it looks more like this:
  • David was a shepherd
  • As he cared for his sheep at night, he could have a fire but if he was walking in the dark, he would have a lamp with him
  • Back in those days there were not high powered flashlights that would light up a hillside, but rather oil lamps like the one pictured above
  • The light from an oil lamp would simply show one step ahead - a clear place to set your foot 
  • As a shepherd on a moonless night, you would be completely dependent on that small light for your safety
  • This is the picture that David is giving us of the Word - it illumines our steps, not our whole future - it is not a high powered beam that shines in a straight line, showing us exactly where we will be in the next days, months or years, but it is an intimate, guiding, step-by-step light which we are to be completely and utterly dependent upon
  • God wants us to be completely dependent on Him - He wants us to cling to His Words for our very next step - in this dark world, He is the source of light
Okay, so all that makes sense, right?  Understanding the author and the context/culture really increases the picture, doesn't it?

Now, take a very popular paraphrase - the Message.  Here's what it says: "By your words I can see where I'm going; they throw a beam of light on my dark path."  What do you think?  Has the meaning been skewed at all by the paraphrasing?  Did this paraphrase enhance the meaning or did it minimize it?

Perhaps this is just my issue, but I struggle when the Word is not handled with extreme care.  I want to know what God wants me to know.  I don't need it modernized so that it is more readable or understandable, because I think the message can actually be changed with familiarity.  Studying the Word is not necessarily easy but it is rewarding.

Let us today be thankful for the hard work of the translators who have delicately handled the careful and accurate translation of God's Word into our language, let us thank God for His oversight of the process and let us consider what Bible we actually use.

But most importantly, let us thank God for the guidance and protection that comes from the light of His Word that leads us one step at a time.