Archives For April 2017

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How do we define victory? Last night that was the question I posed at the FCA Victory Dinner. For the answer we turned to 1 John 5:4-5 where the apostle exclaims that our faith is our victory.

For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? 1 John 5:4-5

Our faith–that Jesus Christ was the Son of God and died on the cross for our sins and on the third day was resurrected–is our victory. The world, full of sin & death since the garden, is constantly trying to destroy, tear apart and break us. But as John says, being born of God–we have overcome the world. Our faith is our victory. 

It was a great night celebrating the ministry of the Western MD FCA. I am so proud to be a partner with them. God is moving greatly among the FCA in Washington County to reveal Himself and y–our faith.

What a great honor it was to be at the celebration last night. It was a night seeing friends, coaches and referees I haven’t seen in years! Guys I idolized in football and baseball were there and it was so encouraging to see these men, not just as teammates, but now as Brothers in Christ. (Even If one did go to South High)

For me though the highlight of the night was the surpriseDad @ Victory Dinner of being introduced as the key note speaker by my father. My dad said something that I will always treasure. He said that he was proud of me for being a hard worker. Maybe to you that doesn’t seem like much. But coming from my father–the HARDEST working man I have EVER known–that means so much. My dad exhausted himself, always pouring out for his family and his community. And it has been a privilege to move home and see how he now pours himself out for the Kingdom of God. I have always tried to imitate his work ethic. So when my dad, the expert on hard work and sacrifice, says that he is proud of how hard I work at ministry–I am overcome with joy. I couldn’t imagine any trophy, award or earthly honor greater than that.

 

Read Isaiah 53

It’s Good Friday. He died. Crucified. For sin, none that He himself committed, but for the sins of those whom He would call. My place. Your place.

 

His Father turned away. Forsaken. Three hours. Then it was finished. Sin had been atoned for. The price–His life. A perfect, obedient, spotless, righteous life. 

“But he was pierced for our transgressions;
he was crushed for our iniquities;  upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,  and with his wounds we are healed.” Isaiah 53:5

The disciples were crushed. Dismayed. All of their hopes rested in their teacher–rabbi. He taught them so much. Spoke with such authority. Loved them incredibly. But now He is gone. Their hopes dashed. Everything they knew, loved and hoped for lay in the tomb.

For now.

Judas decides to betray Jesus. 

Read Mark 14:10-11

He did it. We know the story. Heard it thousands of times. And yet every time I read it, hear it, see it renacted I still am heartbroken that Judas could betray Jesus. 
Don’t get me wrong–God worked along side of the evil of the religious leaders, Judas and Satan to bring about good. His betrayal, death and resurrection leads to forgiveness, reconciliation and eternal life for those He calls. 

What upsets me is that I can be Judas. I can and do betray Him. Every time I sin I choose to betray Him. I know the rules of the game, I know what God demands, I know the law–old and new.  The problem is that God asks for all of my heart. He wants me to love Him with ALL my heart and ALL my strength and ALL my soul. If I give Him 50% I’ve betrayed Him. 75% = betrayal, 80%, 90%, 99.99% all equal betrayal.

What’s worse–sometimes I plot. Sometimes I ponder sin and then commit it. Sometimes my sins are premeditated. Like Judas, I have plotted to betray Him.

So, does that mean the end of my story is the potters field? No. Why? Because where sin abounds, grace does more. God is still working, transforming and renewing my mind. The heart transplant He performed in me is still healing and changing me from the inside out. I fail, but neither God nor I are giving up on me! I am moving on toward perfection!!!

“Jesus, please forgive me for betraying you. Please foil my plotting and plans for sin. When I have offered you less than ALL of my heart or strength, forgive me. Give me the wisdom to recognize where I have held back and the grace to offer it to you. Create in me a clean heart. Amen.”

The struggle for Authority & Power


Take a look at:

Jesus’ authority is questions as He teaches in the Temple (Matthew 21:23-22:14; Mark 11:27-12:12; Luke 20:1-19)

Jesus predicts the destruction of the temple and His return (Matthew 24:1-25:46; Mark 13:1-37; Luke 21:5-36)


The religious leaders feared Jesus. His arrival2487.jpg and growing popularity was a threat to their stranglehold on religious authority (power & money!). Having seen first hand the atrocities in Temple, Jesus cleared out the robbers from the den on Monday.

On Tuesday He returned to the Temple to teach and preach the good news (Luke 20). Three different groups questioned Jesus’ authority: scribes & priests, the Pharisees & the Sadducees.

  • The Scribes, Chief Priests & Elders approached him and asked “Tell us with what authority you do these things, or who it is that gave you this authority.”
  • The Pharisees sent spies to sincerely ask, “Is it lawful for us to give tribute to Caesar or not?” They attempted to trap Jesus. If he said “yes”, He was supporting a false deity claim by Caesar, if he said “no” pitted Himself against Roman law.
  • The Sadducees invented a ridiculous scenario where a woman was married and then widowed to 7 different brothers–none leaving offspring. They asked, in the resurrection, to whom would she be married to? SADDUCEES DIDN’T EVEN BELIEVE IN RESURRECTION!?!?!

These were futile attempts to trap or discredit the ministry of Jesus. All because His authority threatened their established religious advantage. They were face to face with God and did not recognize Him. The keepers of the law were standing with the GIVER of the Law and could not trust Him. They chose their own desires, gain, and personal comfort over God.

And yet… I am like them.

Have I rejected His authority? I know the Scriptures (like a scribe), I teach the law (like a Pharisee) and am just as able to deny the authority of God as they are. When have I not listened or applied His Word because it meant letting go of power or comfort? Have I denied His authority as Lord by not submitted everything over to Him?

Do I always recognize Him? Am I that different than those who stood face to face and did not recognize God? Do I get so busy with selfish desires and personal agendas that I miss what God is doing right in front of me?


“Lord, please be just that. Lord of my life. I confess there are pieces of my life I still try to control have not handed over to you. You are the Sovereign. You have ALL authority in heaven and on earth. Please give me the grace to trust You, the wisdom to see You and the humility to be used by You. God, please help me to recognize You. Amen.”

 

 

 

The Fig Tree & Cleansing the TempleJohanneskirche_Freiburg_-_Glasfenster_-_Verfluchung_des_Feigenbaums

Read: Jesus Curses the Fig Tree (Matthew 21:18-22 or Mark 11:12-14 AND Jesus Cleanses the Temple (Luke 19:45–46 or Mark 11:15-17)

It’s Monday. After a late evening investigating the Temple, Jesus retreated to Bethany on Sunday evening.
 
On Monday, he left for the temple and along the way ran into a fully leaved fig tree. But the fig tree bore no fruit. He looked at the tree and cursed it, saying, “Never again shall you bear fruit!” (Matthew 21:18-22)
 
What was this about? Why was Jesus so upset over a single fig tree?
 
It wasn’t about the fig tree–it was merely an image or symbol of Israel. One that God had used before (Isaiah 34:4; Jeremiah 24:1-10; Hosea 2:12; Joel 1:7)
 
Israel’s purpose was to be a blessing to all families on earth (Genesis 12:3) by revealing God and how to be in a relationship with God. They were called to be His ambassadors so that the world might know the true God. Their role was to point people to God. And yet, the leaders of Israel created barriers between God and the people. This is why Jesus chased out the money changers and those selling sacrificial animals–they were extorting the people. They were the predatory lenders of their day. The ones who made their money by taking advantage of the power and authority they assumed.
 
They had the appearance of God’s people (a fig tree with leaves) but did not bear the fruit of BEING God’s people (a fig tree bearing figs).
 
Jesus would look at the tree and remove the responsibility of making fruit. He also withdrew the responsibility of revealing God from the religious leaders of the Jews and gave it to the apostles, the leaders of His disciples. Look at Matthew 28.
19 “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
The one who had “all authority under heaven and earth” removed the wicked tenants and gave the Kingdom work to the church. It is now the role of the followers of Jesus Christ to point people toward God.
 
How is that going for you?
Do you reflect God’s character, allowing people to know Him better because they know you?
Or are you creating barriers between those who don’t know and God?
 
Are you bearing fruit?
“God. Please give us the grace to live the lives you have given us in a way that others would see and know YOU by seeing and knowing us. Increase while we decrease. Amen.”

Some days the words just flow right out–your preparation, your notes, the whole service just flows beautifully. Of course there are times when the Spirit takes over and you know these thoughts are not yours and yet they are perfectly timed and eloquently delivered.

And then there are those other days… those days were every word feels like a brick coming out of your mouth. You are trying to build a message, but each brick is a different size and there is nothing left after 45 minutes but a pile of rubble.

Yep… I was speaking odd sized bricks on Sunday morning. A jumbling of words that really made it hard for the congregation to follow. As I was talking with my wife we observed that the message (scattered and heading in 3 directions at once) reflected my week (scattered and heading in 3 directions at once). A colleague observed yesterday that he wasn’t sure where I had solid blocks of time to sit and prepare–that my week tends to be pulled in many directions–all good directions–but many DIFFERENT directions.Calendar

So today’s leadership challenge for me is how to clear my mind & schedule. I cannot imagine doing anything else but being a preacher & teacher of the scriptures. It is an amazing privilege to be asked to gather a word from God and deliver it to His people. This is my primary calling. How can I get back to it being my primary agenda on my calendar? What do I need to put down? What can I hand off? Who can I ask to join me and share the ministry? Who has God equipped to take and run well with the ministry? 

“My God, please give me wisdom and discernment. A clear vision of the text and what these folks at MBBC need to hear from it. Grant me the wisdom and understanding of the Holy Spirit to know your word, and give me the grace to share it clearly. Please help me to identify what, and to whom, I need to relinquish. Raise up men for the work of ministry in this place. God, please make the messages I share effective to equip your people see and reflect you. Amen”