Easter - 2018

Monday, March 31, 2014

I am resolved to be devoted!

In the first chapter of Daniel, Judah had fallen and the Jewish Kingdoms had come to an end. The Babylonian King, Nebuchadnezzar, took Hebrew children as captives and prisoners to live in a foreign land as slaves. These children had been taken from their homes as well as everything they knew as safe. It would have been a very frightening time. Guards separated the strongest and handsome of the captives in preparation for them to serve in the royal courts. A select group was to be the chosen few to serve the king and the palace. The selected captives would be treated with the best that royal life could offer. The guards offered the hungry, hurting, grieving, and lonely young men the choice life of fine foods, drinks, and pleasure. Daniel was one of the chosen few and he refused to defile himself with the pagan culture. He resolved to abstain from the any pagan pleasures that were offered in order to maintain his loyalty to his God.

Daniel witnesses several trials through his captivity. Yet, decades later his resolve would see him through a visit to a den of hungry lions. In Daniel 6, Daniel would pray three times a day. His time with God was precious and was his lifeline to the Creator. King Darius and the Medes conquer the Babylonians. The new governors request a decree, which requires everyone to pray to the pagan king. Daniel responds by remaining faithful to his resolve and goes home. Three times a day he looks toward Jerusalem and bows in prayer to give God thanks. The result is a trip to a den of hungry lions, where God would save Daniel. King Darius praises God and elevates Daniel as the leader of the entire country. 

            Daniel’s devotion is not unique throughout scripture. God responds favorably to a devoted nature by granting blessing and grace. Moses’ devotion to God would energize his ability to lead the Hebrews out of Egypt. King David’s devotion to God would grant him courage to face a giant. Mary’s devotion to God prepared her to carry God’s son. Stephen’s devotion would empower him to preach the message of the cross, endure being martyrdom and see Jesus standing in heaven. Peter’s devotion would break through cultural barriers so as to extend the gospel message to Gentiles. Saul would be blinded and experience a personal encounter with Jesus, which would result in a devoted life. Saul, renamed Paul, would travel the Roman Empire preaching, teaching, and establishing new churches throughout the region. Repeatedly, one’s encounter with God results in a devoted life. 

 I wan to be known as devoted. You know I love ya - Don 

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

The Blame: The Responsibility

Isaiah states in 53 verse 10; “Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the Lord makes his life an offering for sin.” An offering is a sacrifice ceremonially offered as a payment for an offense. Jesus was perfect in every way…that is what made him acceptable to Holy, Perfect and Just God. Jesus was also willing to take responsibility for our offense…He took the blame.
In a concentration camp, a guard announced a shovel was missing. Screaming at the men, he kept insisting someone had stolen it.  He shouldered his rifle, ready to kill one prisoner at a time until a confession was made. As the story continues, a Scottish soldier broke ranks, stood stiffly at attention, and said, "I did it."  The guard killed the man. As they returned to camp, the shovels were counted. The guard had made a miss counted.  No shovel was missing after all.
Who does that?  What kind of person would take the blame for something he didn't do? Jesus does. Isaiah 53:6 says, "We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all."
Christ lived the life we could not live and took the punishment we could not take, to offer the hope we cannot resist!
Jesus took responsibility. We are not willing to blame Jesus…but Jesus was willing to take the blame as his own!You know I love ya, Don

Monday, March 24, 2014

The Blame: Ugliness

The death of Jesus was a bloody, gruesome, gore of an experience. It was not meant to be pleasant. Isaiah’s prophecies, predict that the suffering servant would come 680 years prior to Jesus birth. The coming savior has no attraction that people might think he would save them from their sins…Jesus was born in a simple stable, with common folk parents. He did not belong to any rabbi school and he did not have any political associations. Jesus was unattached and had nothing to call his own. Jesus is the suffering servant that is declared rejected and unattractive.
Sin is our “not right” nature in life. It is that which separates us from God. Sin is the ugliest part of who you are. Sacrifice is not attractive and unpleasant. Blood is an unpleasant subject to many because it brings to mind suffering and death. Curiously, the Bible is a book literally filled with blood. On 362 occasions the Old Testament speaks of blood, most often referring to sacrifices and death by violence. The New Testament also speaks of blood 92 times, most commonly in reference to violent death. Much of the Bible’s teaching about blood is in relation to the hundreds of appearances of related issues such as the Temple, priesthood, fire, and smoke.
The shedding of blood and animal sacrifice likely began with God, after the sin of our first parents, Adam and Eve, as God covered their nakedness and shame with the skin of an animal (Genesis 3:21). Other sacrifices were offered by Abel, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Job (Gen. 4:1-5; 8:20; 22:3, 13; 26:25; 33:20; 35:7; Job 1:5). Perhaps the most insightful sacrifice was done by Abraham in place of Isaac, where it was promised that one day, through Jesus, God would provide the ultimate sacrifice (Gen. 22:14).
Blood was again shed in Exodus at the Passover (Ex. 12:1-30), which was commemorated each year with the Feast of Passover. The process of animal sacrifice was an incredibly personal confession of sin. First, an unblemished animal was chosen, symbolizing perfection. Second, the worshipper would draw near the animal that was to be substituted in place of the worshipper. Third, the worshipper would lay hands on the animal to identify with it, confessing their sins in repentance over the animal. Fourth, the animal was then killed and its blood shed as the penalty for sin.
Nonetheless, the Old Testament practice of sacrificial atonement was declared by God to be insufficient for the remission of sin (Psalm 40:6; 51:16; Hosea 6:6; Micah 6:6-8; Hebrews 10:4). This is because those sacrifices were only preparatory in anticipation of the death of Jesus (Jeremiah 31:34b; Heb. 8:3-13). Blood sacrifice was unpleasant, unattractive, undesirable, and messy. It was shameful and filled with blame.
Isaiah 53:3 states: “He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.”
Sin is ugly and it brings a shame that separates us from God. The Blame is unattractive.
You know I love ya, Don

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Devoted to God and to each other!

Luke’s summary statement of Acts 2.42 records that salvation unified the believers as a community while establishing a new initiation in joining the band of Jesus followers. The believers remain a very Jewish community in Acts 2. Luke records the first Christians as demonstrating a devoted life to the Apostle’s teaching, fellowship, breaking bread, and prayer. These disciplines are supporting the growth and transformation of the early church in connection with their Jewish roots by praying at the temple (3.1; 6.9) and observing Jewish traditions (10.9-17). Minear describes the work of the Holy Spirit in transforming the early believers as; “the very emergence of faith is a work of the Spirit, for it bespeaks the weaving of a new fabric of relationship, personal and social, earthly and heaven, human and divine.”[1] The reception of Jesus as Lord and Savior changed the worldview. The commitment of the believer was no longer a cultural religious commitment, but a devotion to radical change within the believer and in the view of the world.

“Devoted” is defined in several dictionaries with a common theme of staying the course and remaining faithful. The TDNT defines προσκαρτερἐω as “to be devoted to.”[2]  TDNT explains the meaning of the word with examples consistently focused and persistently loyal. Strong’s Greek agrees with the TDNT adding, “continually devoting themselves.”[3] Louw-Nida further describes “devoted” as meaning; “to continue to do something with intense effort, with the possible implication of and despite difficulty—‘to devote oneself to, to keep on, to persist in’.”[4] The choice of words that Luke uses is descriptive of the passion recorded in the passages following Acts 2.42.

I agree with Bock’s assessment that the imperfect periphrastic construction of the verb speaks directly to an active and ongoing devotion. Devoted (προσκαρτερἐω) is used ten times in the NT, and six of the ten are in the book of Acts (1.14; 2.42; 2.46; 6.4; 8.13; 10.7). Bock describes their devotion mentioned in Acts 2.42 as “echoes of their unity of mind as described in Acts 1.14.”[5] The early Christians demonstrated unity of mind, which encouraged their actions of living a committed to God and to each other. 

Seeking to be devoted to God and to each other...you know I love ya, Don

[1] Paul Sevier Minear. “Holy People, Holy Land, Holy City: The Genesis and Genius of Christian Attitudes.” Int. 37 1 Ja (1983), 23.

[2] W. Grundmann, III προσκαρτερω"  TDNT abr. G. Bromily ed. 417-418.

[3] R. L. Thomas,  προσκαρτερω" #4342  Strong’s: Updated edition.

[4] Louw, J. P., & Nida, E. A.προσκαρτερω" #662 L&N (elect. 2nd edition.) 1996. New York: United Bible Societies.

[5] Darrell L. Bock, Acts. (BECNT; Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2007). 149.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Breathing in and Breathing out!

Acts of the Apostles reveals the passion of the early Christians for continuing what Jesus Christ had started in his earthly ministry (Acts 1.1). These early believers demonstrated a devotion that sparked radical transformation in their worldview during the days following Pentecost. A question arises: “What was the newly discovered passion that encouraged their change?” In the following pages, I seek to examine Acts 2.42 as supporting the presumption that the “devotion” of the early believers was the means by which radical transformation took place in their lives. There is tension in living the contemplative life in Christ and the active life in Christ. Tension between growing in Christ and living for Christ is experienced by followers of Christ and I suggest that there is a biblical solution for resolving this tension through a persistent devoted nature.

Mulholland suggests tension is natural and is like breathing in and breathing out. Humans are created to do both. “There are not three classes of humans: ‘breathers in,’ ‘breathers out,’ and ‘breathers in and out.’ Healthy physical life requires a synergy of breathing in and out.”[1] Healthy spiritual formation is only possible if there is direct connection between growing in Christ and serving the purpose of Christ. “Spiritual formation is a process of being conformed to the image of Christ for the sake of others.”[2] The first followers of Jesus devoted themselves to learning of righteousness, fellowship with others, remembering Jesus, and submitting themselves to God in prayer for the benefit of growing inward and sharing the message that Jesus outward.  

Seeking to breathe in and breathe out my devoted life to Jesus. You know I love ya, Don

[1] M. Robert Mulholland. “Spiritual Formation in Christ and Mission with Christ” JSFSC 6 (2013), 11-17.

[2] M. Robert Mulholland Jr. Invitation to a Journey: A Road Map for Spiritual Formation. (Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press, 1993), 12.

Friday, March 14, 2014

A Call to be Transformed by God

And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. - 2 Corinthians 3:18

Abram’s journey may look like it’s a kind of quest, but very quickly he and we will discover quite the opposite to be true. This won’t be a call to take hold of anything other than God. Abram was clearing the road to the cross. Even though he did not know of the cross, he was willing to trust God to transform his life and to bless the entire world. Abram will spend the rest of his life learning to let go; let go of his doubts and fears, let go of all kinds of passions, to let go of his way of doing things
God’s goal is to bring Abram to a point where the only thing Abram has left – is God himself.
God is going to transform Abram in a magnificent way. The call of Abram will lead people for every generation to follow on a road to the cross.
Abram won’t get there by just being a better person; by making a few minor changes in his diet and in his health; he won’t become the person God has in mind by reading a few good books. Abram can’t answer this call with a sorta-kinda, luke-warm commitment and effort – This is going to require tremendous courage if he is going to follow where God is leading.
And the same is true for us. If God needs something from me, I need to try harder. I’ll try to read a few more books, read my bible more, say more prayers, pray stronger, pray louder…But the question isn’t about trying harder… Trying harder doesn’t deliver what it promises to deliver…Yes, you do everything you can to give yourself over the Holy Spirit. You commit yourselves to the spirit disciplines: You read, you study, you pray, you worship, you confess, you serve, you give… But none of that makes you holy. None of it gives you courage. None of it proves you to be God’s possession. Only God himself can make you worthy, make you capable, and bring you to transformation.

This isn’t about how good you are. God uses people like Abram, Jacob, Moses, David, Solomon, Samson, Peter, Mary, Martha, and Paul…What do they have in common? In an uncommon way, they gave everything in their lives over to God – their needs, their passions, their agendas, their plans, their pride, their fears, their hearts, their minds and their souls. Abram teaches us to travel, trust, and be transformed by God by spending more time letting go and giving God more of your heart, more of your time, more of your strength, more of your dreams!!!

You know I love ya, Don 

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

A Call to Trust in God!

“We can make our plans, but the LORD determines our steps.” Proverbs 16:9

All throughout scripture Abram is a man credited with faith. He steps out in faith and trusts God.

A hostile culture and people occupy the Land to which they are traveling. Abram, Sarai and Lot are now homeless. Abram and Sarai have no child. This must blow Abram’s mind. How are all these things going to happen? He can’t make this happen; not taking the land, not finding a new home, not having a child. He’s been doing that for 75 years and God told him to leave it all behind.
This is the beginning of a call for Abram to trust in God; not himself, not his talents, not his ideas, not his work, not his friends – Trust in God.

Our problem is we tend to trust more in ourselves than we do in God to fulfill his promises:
We trust our skills and talents.
We trust our hard work and long hours.
We trust our wisdom and intelligence.
We trust in our technology and medicine.
We trust our religion, and our practices.
We trust our feelings and instincts.

Abram immediately discovers that if he is going to answer God’s call, he will have to find some courage to believe in someone greater than himself. The same is true for you and me. We have to trust in God’s power, not our own. Instead of believing in yourself, start putting your trust in God.

You know I love ya, Don


Monday, March 10, 2014

A Call to Travel with God!

“Come and see what our God has done, what awesome miracles he does for his people!” Psalm 66:5

God invites everyone on a journey. Consider it a Biblical Road Trip. His journeys are often and difficult. Abram’s will be an uncomfortable journey. One that requires everything Abram can offer over the remainder of his life. You and I can learn stamina, faithfulness, and trust in this man’s journey that has changed all on history.

1.     Abram doesn’t speak in the story. No questions, No excuses, No tests, No complaints.

2.      Abram doesn’t see the whole story.
This will be a difficult, uncomfortable journey. He doesn’t know that. If he did, he might not go. He has glimpse of what is coming. “I will make you a Father of many nations…”

3.     Abram doesn’t search for the hidden story.
If Abram might be doing soul searching, “Why would God want me to do this? What greater purpose does he have…” we’re never told. God certainly does have a huge, amazing plan for Abram. But Abram doesn’t make it his problem to decipher and decode God’s agenda. He just jumps on the path and travels with God.

God speaks and with ears of faith Abram listens. Abram figures out that his job is to join God on the journey. He’s got his wife and his nephew with him, but he will quickly and frequently discover God is his traveling companion. He’s 75 years old and for Abram the journey has just started.
He’s gone his entire life without children. 75 years, probably 55 of them married to Sarai, all those years of hoping God would bless them, all those years wondering why things were working out the way he had hoped. 75 years of feeling helpless, struggling with doubts and despair about his future.

At age 75 – God speaks and gives Abram a call. Sure there are the Jeremiahs out there who hear God’s call early in life. But there are also people like Abram, who don’t hear the call until much later in life. “Middlers” they’re called. People who live one life doing one thing, and a second life answering God’s call to travel with him.

So what does this mean to believers 4500 years later? It reminds us that God invites each of us on a journey with Him. We are called to travel with God. But sometimes, we’re a little too busy to hear it, aren’t we. Sometimes we’re a little too preoccupied to hear the invitation, a little too proud to consider the request, too busy doing too many things, or even just talking too much.

Abram reminds us to listen and respond in faith! You Know I love ya, Don

Friday, March 7, 2014

Center and Circumference

Galatians 2:20
“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for Me.”

Paul stated that the key to the Christian life is very clear in that Jesus is now our center and our circumference. When I committed my life to Jesus and was immersed, I was “in Christ,” but when I appropriate His life, then it is “Christ in me.” To be fully filled with Jesus is to examine the relationship between being filled with Jesus as the center of my life OR being filled with Jesus as the circumference of my life. For example:
Imagine you are standing on a warm beach and you can hear the ocean waves crashing. If I were to take a bottle water container and fill it with ocean water. It would be centered around the ocean water and I could say that I have the ocean in my hand. This is what it is like when we make Christ the center of our lives.
What would happen … beyond pollution… if I took the bottle and threw it into the ocean? It would fill up, but it would also be complete engulfed by the by the ocean. The bottle would have the ocean at the center of it, but it would also be swept away by the currents of the ocean. The ocean is no longer the center, but is also the circumference. The bottle no longer owns the ocean, but the ocean owns the bottle. The ocean takes the bottle and guides it through it’s currents.
I want to be driven by the currents of the Holy Spirit and have Jesus as the circumference of my life as well. 
You know I love ya, Don

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Peace is in the new friendships that last an eternity.

Reconciliation is a big church word that means to “make friendly again.”
In some languages, however, reconciliation is often spoken of in idiomatic terms, for example, ‘to cause to become friends again,’ ‘to cause to snap fingers again’ (a symbol of friendly interpersonal relations in many parts of Africa), ‘to cause to be one again,’ or ‘to take away the separation.’ A particularly crucial element in terms for reconciliation is the assigning of responsibility for original guilt in causing the estrangement.
John 15:13-17 states;  
“Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.  You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. This is my command: Love each other.”
General McArthur said, "A truce just says you don't shoot for awhile. Peace comes when the truth is known, the issue is settled, and the parties embrace each other."
Peacemakers don't just try to stop conflict. They're doing something far more meaningful, something healing and restoring. They try to bring about reconciliation and relationship, even if it means going through the conflict.

The cross was the greatest act of violence and conflict possible. In fact, much of Jesus ministry involved conflict and confrontation. He wasn't afraid of it because he was committed in love to working through that if need be to bring reconciliation.

Peacemakers don't try to stop conflict, but they work for reconciliation. God knew that we are not able to bring friendship and a renewed relationship with our creator. Jesus stepped into history and made a change on our behalf.
Paul says in Romans that we are not only friends, but we can boast in our relationship with God. … “but we also boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.”We celebrate and boast in Jesus because Jesus is also in us. I know I can face tomorrow because Jesus lives and is working in every piece of my life.
We boast in that we have Jesus as a friend on our behalf. He is interceding for us everyday and supporting believers through the guidance of Holy Spirit.

God bless you... You know I love ya, Don 

Monday, March 3, 2014

Big and little of what Jesus can do.

Best of Friends…who would you label as your best friends?
Romans 5:8-11 is all about friendship:
"But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! Not only is this so, but we also boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation."
Paul is using a “how much more” argument. It basically works like this: If the greater thing is true, then the lesser thing is of necessity also true. If God has done the harder thing, then surely He will do the easier task. Look closely at verse 9: “Since we have now…how much more shall we be…” And verse 10: “For if when we were…how much more…” Even verse 11 employs something similar: “Not only…we also.”

Since God did the more difficult task of justifying weak, wayward and wicked sinners, then to rescue us from wrath is relatively effortless. We could say it this way: If God has already done the difficult, can we not trust Him to do the comparatively simple thing of completing the task?

If Jesus can…____________ (Fill in the blank) than he can also… _____________ (Fill in the blank).

Paul is making some stunning statements in this section of Scripture to show HOW we are to live with the tension of what we have “already” and what is “still to come.” The best is really yet to be! In each of these three verses we’ll discover that Jesus has done the hard part of making friends with God a possibility thus…we can trust Him to make the future even greater.
The believer is blessed with friendship with God by reconciliation (to make friends again) and having Jesus living within.

You know I love ya, Don