GO: The Groundwork

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19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” – Matthew 28:19-20

Jesus commanded his disciples to tell others about what they had seen, learned, and experienced during their time with him. They were to go and tell others about the Good News, that the Son of God had come and paid the price for all sin; that Jesus had lived, died, and had been resurrected on the third day.

In Acts 1, we find the disciples waiting in Jerusalem as they were instructed by Jesus:

On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with[a] water, but in a few days you will be baptized with[b] the Holy Spirit.” – Acts 1:4-5

The Holy Spirit soon comes, Peter preaches/confirms that Jesus was the Son of God, and the body of believers grows in numbers. One will notice, however, that no one is “going”. Instead, the believers begin to form a tight knit community, sharing everything they had with one another. Little did they know that a storm was coming.

The storm begins with small clouds (Ananias and Sapphira holding back part of their money in Acts 5:1-11) and slowly darkens as the Apostles are persecuted (Acts 5:17-42). Some of the religious leaders of the day write off the growing number of believers as simply a craze:

34 But a Pharisee named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law, who was honored by all the people, stood up in the Sanhedrin and ordered that the men be put outside for a little while. 35 Then he addressed the Sanhedrin: “Men of Israel, consider carefully what you intend to do to these men. 36 Some time ago Theudas appeared, claiming to be somebody, and about four hundred men rallied to him. He was killed, all his followers were dispersed, and it all came to nothing. 37 After him, Judas the Galilean appeared in the days of the census and led a band of people in revolt. He too was killed, and all his followers were scattered. 38 Therefore, in the present case I advise you: Leave these men alone! Let them go! For if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail. 39 But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God.” – Acts 5:34-39

Note: The key verse here is verse 39 – “…But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God.” Who could argue with that?

Lightening appears on the horizon amongst the darkening clouds as one of the believers, Stephen, is killed for his faith. The storm has now hit. In Acts 8, the new believers who have failed so far to heed Christ’s words and “go”, are forced to move due to persecution:

On that day a great persecution broke out against the church in Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria. – Acts 8:1

Something odd began to happen as a result of this:

Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went. Acts 8:4

Christ’s command was finally being obeyed, His word was being preached. God was using a potentially evil situation for His good. But how does all of this apply to Christians today? Check-in tomorrow to find out.

Yielding My Heart

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Last night, I taught a Bible study on the Book of Joshua, chapter 24.  A chunk of Joshua 24 is about the Israelites recommitting themselves/ renewing their covenant to follow God. Towards the end of the chapter, right after the people have agreed to the covenant, Joshua exhorts the people to:

23 “Now then,” said Joshua, “throw away the foreign gods that are among you and yield your hearts to the Lord, the God of Israel.” (NIV)

This got me thinking about the “foreign gods” that I allow into my own life. One of my daily routines, when I wake up, is to check:

  • My email
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • WordPress (for blog stats)
  • and the weather

I do all of these things before ever engaging in a conversation with my wife, let alone spending time with God. In a way, I have let social media become a god. So, today I didn’t go through my morning routine. Instead, I read my Bible for a bit (had trouble focusing) and then prayed for awhile. My time of prayer was awesome! I’ve been learning not to beat around the bush but to tell God exactly what I am thinking (even though He already knows).  In an act as simple as putting down social media as the first thing I engage in, in the morning, I have “yielded my heart to the Lord”.

What foreign gods do you need to throw away? What is keeping you from yielding your heart to the Lord?

The Babysitter

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Awhile back, my brother-in-law came over and watched my son for the evening. Here is what my wife and I found on the driveway the next day…

Uncle Mike drew some ships...

Even my son got a ship.

My wife had written me a note on the driveway the day before. My brother-in-law took credit for it. 🙂

To cap it all off, my brother-in-law left my wife stranded at the very end of the driveway.

What God Has Been Teaching Me

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All I have to do is look to you
And I will never be the same
My lifes been changed
And like a child, I will play despite the rain

– Between Thieves

God has been really working on me lately. Teaching me that:

  • I need to be faithful in the little things (10 “Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much.” – Luke 16:10): Practically, on a daily basis, this looks like showing up for work on time and having a good attitude about it. Also means being excited about the opportunity to actually teach a Bible study versus bumming over having to study for it. Perspective is everything.
  • That God fulfills His promises43 So the LORD gave Israel all the land he had sworn to give their ancestors, and they took possession of it and settled there. 44 The LORD gave them rest on every side, just as he had sworn to their ancestors. Not one of their enemies withstood them; the LORD gave all their enemies into their hands. 45 Not one of all the LORD’s good promises to Israel failed; every one was fulfilled.” – Joshua 21:43-45): With all of life’s challenges, knowing that I am not alone. That God is with me and isn’t going to forsake me and leave. Knowing that He is with me is comforting.
  • That God works in His own time (the entire book of Haggai): Even when it feels like I am stuck in life, that no answers are being given, that God is still working in the background. Orchestrating my life’s story.
  • To focus on Him, not worry, and everything else will fall into place (25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life[e]28 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. – Matthew 6:25-34): Worrying about everyday life is a huge thing for me. Will I ever have a job where I can support my wife? Will we ever be able to own a house? God says not to worry. I should take Him at His word.

What has God been teaching you?

Just Pass The Offering Plate!

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As a kid, I grew up in a Baptist church. This meant that hymns were sung, nice clothes were worn, and traditions were observed. I don’t remember at what age exactly (I think I was still in elementary school), but my parents decided to leave our church. After some searching, our family ended up at a non-denominational Calvary Chapel.

Side Note: Now for those of you who are not familiar with Calvary Chapel, Calvary Chapel was born out of the 1960’s Jesus Movement. Think of it as the perfect blend of hippies and the Bible. Which is to say Calvary Chapel was about as far from my traditional Baptist upbringing as possible.

Now, each Calvary Chapel is different. Each church has it’s own unique blend of people and culture. For instance, some of the churches pass the offering plate; others have “Agape Boxes” at the back of the sanctuary to place your tithe in. I say all of this to show that I have come from both sides of the tithing/offering spectrum (I currently attend a Southern Baptist Church that passes the plate weekly).

I have never thought of tithing or passing the offering plate as a cover charge to enter the church.

Today I came across an article by Shane Raynold entitled “Losing the Offering Plate“. For some reason this post really bothered me. Perhaps it was the “if you are still passing an offering plate you are guilty of using the crutch of tradition” tone the post takes. Doesn’t matter. I believe that passing the offering plate:

  • Allows the giving of tithes and offerings to become a part of the worship service. For me, I’m not looking around at what others are and are not giving. I am simply giving a portion of the money that God has chosen to bless me with back to Him.
  • Also allows for the church community as a whole to obediently give to God together. Not in secret. Not in the church lobby using credit/debit card kiosks to conveniently swipe in secret if at all (talk about enabling people who are already in debt). The plate, for me, often is a gentle reminder as to whether I (read: my wife) have written the tithe check or not.

Ultimately, I believe that this is a matter of personal church preference that has nothing to do with the core Gospel message. Whether you have “debit kiosks” or a traditional plate, neither is a crutch or somehow more holy. Giving to God is giving, period. No matter what the method.

Game Plan: Daily Bible Reading

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Imagine being in a relationship and only talking to your boyfriend/ girlfriend for 10-15 minutes a day. Do you think you’d end up being married in a years time? I don’t think so. This week, I’ve been struggling with my daily Bible reading, my alone time with God. As a result, I have felt the impact of my non-reading physically, mentally, and spiritually. I feel like I am drowning and it is only Tuesday. Tuesday! So, I have decided right this moment to come up with a game plan to actively recommit myself:

1. Being Purposeful – I need to actively schedule a time, everyday, to sit down and read God’s Word. I know that mornings are hit and miss for me. Which leaves me with 2 choices:

  • Reading over my lunch break, or…
  • Reading right before bed. I would definitely have to commit to developing a better bedtime routine to make this happen.

2. The Prayer Perspective – Prayer, communicating with God, is not a one time deal sort of thing. Prayer, in my mind, is something that should be continuously flowing throughout the day. Everyday, I need to be praying for a God perspective. That is to say that I view the world through God’s eyes. When we step out of our own perspectives and see the bigger picture, it allows us to pray about things beyond ourselves.

On my way to work, there is a sign posted in a neighborhood yard that says, “Pray for John”. Now, I have no clue who John is. John could be the elderly man I see sitting in the garage watching cars go by. Whoever John is, he needs prayer. I find myself often randomly praying for John as I drive by. Do I benefit from this? No. Does John? Yes. I need to be in prayer daily not only for myself (overcoming temptations,etc.) but for the world around me. I need a God perspective and NOT a me perspective.

That’s it! By committing to a specific time of day (and remaining flexible) and engaging in prayer through God’s eyes, I should be able to radically change my messed up week. Should be simple enough to follow right? I’ll let you know how it goes as the week progresses.

President Kennedy Visits Ireland

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Over lunch, I happened to watch a PBS documentary on President Kennedy’s visit to Ireland, in 1963. Crowds gathered everywhere to see the President who had led America through the Cuban Missile Crisis some 9 months earlier. Beyond the crowds, the very faces of the people themselves are what captivated me. One would think that President Kennedy’s visit was the second coming of Christ. Joy-filled faces, reaching out to touch or to simply catch a glimpse of the American President filled the screen. For some reason, this awestruck scene reminded me of wave that swept now President Obama into the White House.

I think that we, as Americans, get excited about ideas. Be it flying among the clouds or carrying a Swiss Army Knife-like cell phone, we are always pushing the boundaries forward, testing what is and is not possible. I think that that is what carried President Obama into office. The very idea that an African American could become President of the United States was too big of a thought to pass up. So a majority of Americans voted him into office.

After nearly 4 years of leading the United States, President Obama’s time is running out. Though he is running for a second term, he now has a track record to back up his lofty speeches. The word “hope” no longer has the optimistic tone it once did. We have seen Obama polarize our country in ways he swore would never happen; we have seen how his words lead to little action.

President Obama is certainly no John F. Kennedy. However, JFK was not all he was cracked up to be either. I can’t wait to see what the November elections bring.

Lack of Leadership

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The Longview News-Journal ran an article yesterday on the possible closure of a local VFW post. Why closure? Lack of members willing to step up into leadership positions.

“The problem is, we don’t have enough members who want to serve,” said former Post Commander Joe Crenshaw.

I have witnessed this “me-driven” phenomena for quite sometime now. People just aren’t willing to step up and take responsibility. On the church level, I have seen this in the lack of volunteers wanting to serve in the children’s department. Everyone seems to be willing to drop off their kids but no one is willing to stay and serve. This is a problem.

We live in a culture today that only wants to consume. We are content to let others lead while we sit back and criticize. At some point, leaders are needed. Without guidance, without leadership, we have no direction. I want to encourage everyone today to step up, to take responsibility, and lead. Are you with me?

God: Working Behind the Scenes

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I stood out in the front yard last night watching the clouds swirl by. A storm was coming. The sky was growing darker by the minute as the clouds rotated in an eerie fashion. Sirens blared off in the distance, a tornado had been spotted in the northern part of our county. Beauty and death danced before me in the clouds, such a mix of awe and fear.

Back in the house, the weatherman was drenched in full HD glorified sweat. I openly wondered if he was going to have a heart attack. He didn’t. He did, however, rant and rave about “rotations” and “charging up your cell phone”. There was no calm, no awe in his voice, just fear.

When the weather outside is possibly life threatening and the weatherman is swamped in a fear-induced froth, I find it hard not to become fearful as well. But fearful of what? Tornadoes, “death from above” as I like to call them, are random creatures. They can be slow moving and quick to strike without notice. In other words, I have no control over them.

Journeying through life, we live under the illusion that we are in control. We aren’t. Lately, I’ve been studying through the Old Testament. Reading through the book of Joshua, I have read time and time again of God orchestrating massive events, even using evil things for good. Though we are not in control, God is. Even in times where it doesn’t seem like He is answering our prayers, He is working behind the scenes as the book of Haggai points out. But even with God in control, our daily choices still matter. Choices such as whether to let fear rule our lives, instead of the hope of Christ (for those who have accepted Him), these choices matter.

Are the clouds of fear swirling around you? Does destruction seem to be looming on the horizon? Take hope in that God is orchestrating all things for the good of those who love Him.

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. – Romans 8:28 (NIV)