Archive for August, 2010

Long Way Home

Posted: August 26, 2010 in Random Thoughts
Tags: ,

The band that I play in (Jericho Down) is currently in the process of recording a CD and one of the songs we’re doing is a remake of the old hymn Coming Home (southern rock style, of course). Anyway, as I was reading about Jacob in the book of Genesis this morning I thought about my own life. I thought about the times I have wrestled with God and ran so far from Him trying to get for myself the things I thought I wanted, only to find out that He wants so much more for me. All I really need to do is be patient and obedient. As I thought about these things the words to this song began to come to mind. Check it out:

I’ve wandered far away from God

Now I’m coming home

The paths of sin too long I’ve trod

Lord’ I’m coming home

I’ve wasted many precious years

Now I’m coming home

I now repent with bitter tears

Lord, I’m coming home

I’ve tired of sin and straying, Lord

Now I’m coming home

I’ll trust Your love, believe Your word

Lord, I’m coming home

I think Jacob could certainly relate to this song. You see, Jacob was the son of Isaac and the grand son of Abraham. He grew up hearing a lot of talk about God and how God had made a promise to Abraham and how God was always faithful and would be faithful to Abraham and his descendants and all of that. He knew about God but he didn’t know God. Jacob learned at a very young age to take what he wanted. Well, as a young man this attitude backfired on him and he found himself alone,wandering in the wilderness and sleeping on the ground with a rock for a pillow. During the night though he had a dream and God spoke to him and made some very specific promises to him. The thing that interests me most though his how God introduced himself to Jacob. In Gen. 28:13 He says to Jacob, “I am the LORD, the God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac.” He’s the God of Jacob’s father and grandfather but He’s not Jacob’s God yet, not in a personal way. In typical fashion Jacob answers God by basically trying to bargain. He says, “If God will be with me and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat and clothing to wear, so that I may come again to my father’s house in peace, then the LORD shall be my God.” The irony is that Jacob’s trying to bargain with God to get what God has already promised him. Jacob must have been one of those strong willed children that has a need to retain some control over his life. He’ standing there with nothing, no food, no clothes, no friends…  nothing, while God has promised to give him all the promises that belonged to Abraham and Isaac and he’s putting some conditions on it. Pretty stupid, huh? He wants God to bless him as he goes his own way. Well, he does go his own way and God does bless him, not because he bargained but simply because that’s what God intended to do anyway. God would fulfill his promise to Abraham through Jacob, despite Jacob’s apparent lack of faith. You see, Jacob didn’t need to bargain with God, all he had to do was what Abraham did. Believe God and act accordingly. But Jacob does things his way and spends many years far from home. During all of that time Jacob continually refers to God as the God of his fathers, not as his God. Twenty years later Jacob returns to this spot and he’s spent. He’s a man who has gone his own way trying to get what God had already promised him. He’s wrestled with God and he’s a broken man and comes back to this same place where God made him those promises and he makes an altar, not to the God of his father but to his God. In Gen. 35:2-3 it says, “So Jacob said to his household and to all who were with him, ‘Put away the foreign gods that are among you and purify yourselves and change your garments. Then let us arise and go up to Bethel, so that I may make there an altar to the God who answers me in the day of my distress and has been with me wherever I have gone.'” Jacob wandered far away from his home as a rebellious young man trying to get what he wanted out of life but he returns home as a man broken and surrendered to God, only to find that what he was after was what God wanted to give him in the first place.

We can save ourselves a lot of grief in life by simply believing God. God has made many promises to those who belong to Him and we can trust Him for all of them. The question is: do you belong to Him? Is He your God or is He someone else’s God that you’ve only heard about? It’s something worth considering.

What do a soldier, an athlete, a farmer, and a Christian have in common? According to the Apostle Paul in 2 Timothy 2:7 the answer to this question is worth giving some serious thought to. In this letter the aged Apostle is trying to tell Timothy, his “son” in the ministry, something important. You see, Paul and Timothy shared a special bond. Timothy came to faith in Christ through the influence and teaching of his mother and grandmother and then he had the opportunity to be discipled by Paul. He traveled with him, ministered with him, and learned the great truths of the Christian faith from him. As Timothy is struggling with pastoring his own church his old mentor writes him this letter to encourage him to remember all he has been taught and to stand firm in his calling to pass along his knowledge to others who will in turn continue to pass it along to others. This is exactly what discipleship is. Christianity is passed along as faithful followers of Christ invest into the lives of other followers of Christ. Sometimes though this can be harder than it sounds; sometimes conflicts arise even among Christians. Sometimes Christians get focused on the wrong things. Sometimes Christians don’t do a very good job of following Christ and sometimes people claim to be followers of Christ when they really aren’t. That’s just the truth. So what? Our calling is still the same.

Read Paul’s words to Timothy in 2Timothy 2:1-2, “You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus, and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also” (ESV). Paul tells Timothy to stay focused on Jesus, draw strength from his relationship with the Lord, and keep on making disciples. Then he talks about soldiers, athletes, and farmers. So what do these three have in common and what does it have to do with making disciples? They all three endure hardship because the result is worth it.

I’ve never been a soldier but my father and grandfather were and they both told me stories about their days in the military and one thing is for sure. A soldier’s life is not a life of comfort; it’s a life of suffering for a cause and a purpose greater than the individual. Paul tells Timothy to suffer as a soldier for the Lord. I’m not much of an athlete either but I have been spending a lot of time running lately. My wife and I push ourselves physically because we want to be in shape but it doesn’t come easy. It takes commitment.  We’ve even been talking about competing in a 5k run and maybe we will. If we do we’ll sign up, pay the fee, start at the designated time and place and give it our all to reach the goal line (without embarrassing ourselves). The only way to get the prize is to compete by following the rules set forth. I’m not a farmer either but both of my grandfathers were and I’ve spent some time planting, weeding, and picking, plucking, and digging. I also know what it’s like to sit down to a meal of fresh, homegrown vegetables. So what’s the point? Perseverance, obedience, and persistence are necessary for soldiers, athletes, farmers and Christians. The rewards are great but they will only come through a little blood, sweat, and tears. Some good old fashioned hard work and commitment are called for.

I am grateful to those who have invested their lives and ministries into mine. I only hope I will be found just as faithful to pass along the faith and sound biblical teaching they’ve entrusted to my care.

I Will Rise

Posted: August 5, 2010 in QT's
Tags: , ,

This may come as a surprise to those who know me well but I have a confession to make. I’m a sci-fi fan (as if the Yoda ring tone on my phone didn’t give it away). What can I say? Star Wars came out when I was six and I’ve been hooked ever since. The cool thing about science fiction is that there are no boundaries to the imagination. Anything is possible which has led to some pretty outlandish tales and ideas (and unfortunately some pretty bad theology for many people, a little discernment really goes a long way, I’m just saying).

If we’re being honest though we have to admit that Christianity boasts some pretty wild claims too. For instance, the last few days I’ve been reading in 1 Corinthians 15 and it’s all about dead people being resurrected. I know, crazy huh? But that’s what the Bible says. In fact, in verses 12 and 13 Paul says, “Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say there is no resurrection? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised.” If you’re having a hard time believing people can and will be raised from the dead, well, you’re not alone. Evidently many people in the church in Corinth were having a hard time believing it too. They just couldn’t get their minds wrapped around it. The thing is though, and this is the point Paul is making, is that the resurrection from the dead is a key teaching of Christianity. The hope that we have is in Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. This is essential to our faith because if Jesus didn’t rise from the dead then he’s still dead, and if He’s still dead then we’re still dead in our sins. There is no abundant or eternal life for us if Jesus isn’t alive because our life is in Him. In verse 14 Paul goes on to say, “And if Christ has not ben raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is vain” and in verse 17, “And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins.” If Jesus didn’t rise from the dead then there is no Christianity, it’s a farce, but since He did rise from the dead, so will we. Even though we will all die, one day those who trust in Christ’s death for the judgment of their sin will be raised and given new bodies just as Christ has been and those who have chosen not to trust Christ will be raised to stand judgment for their sin.

You can call me crazy but that’s what the Bible teaches. I really don’t think it’s hard to believe though. I mean, if God really is God then why would resurrecting the dead be a problem for Him? It wouldn’t. The problem isn’t believing that God can’t do it. the problem is simply believing God. Some will read what I said about trusting Jesus or standing judgment and be offended. Some will perhaps get angry and say something like, “If God’s so good why would he send people to hell?” When the truth is He doesn’t send anyone to hell. In fact He made a way for us not to go there. He just doesn’t force us to take what’s offered. Or maybe some will think I’m a delusional fool and that’s alright too, I can live with that. I just think believing God makes so much more sense than not believing Him. As Chris Tomlin has so beautifully written:

I will rise when He calls my name