Archive for the category “2016 Challenge”

Pondering the Word – Philippians 1:2

ponderingtheword2“Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 1:2)

Perhaps you know by now that the poet in me often comes out when I ponder Scripture. Here is a song/poem I wrote as I thought about Paul’s salutation to the Philippians (as well as to other churches that he wrote to).


(Refrain)
Grace and peace from our heavenly Father

Grace and peace from the Lord.
Grace and peace from Jesus our Savior
The Holy Creator, the Alpha, Omega
The One who alone should be praised and adored.

Your grace so amazing, abundant and free.
Your grace is sufficient to satisfy me.
Your grace makes me grateful and fuels me with strength
And helps me to live with unshakeable faith –
And helps me to live in your steadfast embrace.

Grace and peace from our heavenly Father
Grace and peace from the Lord.
Grace and peace from Jesus our Savior
The Holy Creator, the Alpha, Omega
The One who alone should be praised and adored.

Your peace is sustaining when life’s really hard.
Your peace lights the way when the daylight seems dark.
Your peace rules my heart when I’m prone to despair
And helps me remember that you’re always there.
And helps me remember that you really care.

Grace and peace from our heavenly Father
Grace and peace from the Lord.
Grace and peace from Jesus our Savior
The Holy Creator, the Alpha, Omega
The One who alone should be praised and adored.

Pondering the Word – Acts 20:7-12

ptwOn the first day of the week we came together to break bread. Paul spoke to the people and, because he intended to leave the next day, kept on talking until midnight. There were many lamps in the upstairs room where we were meeting.Seated in a window was a young man named Eutychus, who was sinking into a deep sleep as Paul talked on and on. When he was sound asleep, he fell to the ground from the third story and was picked up dead. 10 Paul went down, threw himself on the young man and put his arms around him. “Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “He’s alive!” 11 Then he went upstairs again and broke bread and ate. After talking until daylight, he left. 12 The people took the young man home alive and were greatly comforted.

We’ve all been there haven’t we. .. fighting to stay awake while the pastor goes on and on and on… and on! (not my pastor, of course but I’ve heard that there are pastors who do this). So how do you stay awake so that you don’t find out after the service that you a pic of you has gone viral that you had no clue was even taken. A few tips…

Doodle on your bulletin – outline words, draw boxes around announcements, try to write your name backwards abd upside down

Count all the number of bald headed men that you can see

Shout out a loud “Amen” even when the sermon does not call or it

Stand up and stretch , lifting your hands up above your head – people will think that you are really engaged in worship

Kneel and lean on your chair and pray – this way people will think you are really spiritual but you can take a nap.

And if those don’t work, keep these cartoons in mind…

e1 e2 e3

Romans 15:5-6,13

ptwMay the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

13 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.

As I read these verses this week they seemed especially poignant in view of all the political pervasiveness. They do not need much commentary.

Read them. Ponder them. Pray them. Encourage others with them. And find joy in the God of endurance and encouragement and hope!

Pondering the Word – 2 Corinthians 12:7-10

ponderingtheword2Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

(This post is a bit tongue in cheek)

I had never really understood what Paul was talking about in this passage until 2002. There has been much conjecture about what Paul is describing in this passage – what exactly was he being tormented with – but it is now absolutely clear to me. He is absolutely, unequivocally, and decidedly talking about…

screen-shot-2016-11-03-at-7-54-15-amKIDNEY STONES!!

I have never heard a better description of those little boogers than what Paul gives.

1) “a thorn in my flesh”  – if you have experienced an ATTACK then you know exactly what I’m talking about. These tiny little thorns are capable of making grown men cry and reducing them to shriveled up balls of humanity that lie in fetal positions in the middle of public spaces. Trust me – I know of that which I speak.

2) “a messenger of Satan” – it is as if the evil one has developed the perfect weapon designed to cause God’s image bearers to curse the day that they were born. I realized back in 2002, perhaps for the first time, that my salvation was indeed real and that sanctification was indeed taking place in my life when I did NOT revert back to the language of my B.C. days and cuss up a storm of foulness – but believe you me I was mighty tempted.

3) “Three times I pleaded with the Lord” – If ever there was an understatement then this is it. Pleaded! Begged! Implored! Beseeched! Just take it away or kill me right now. There are many things that I want to ask God about one day: Why did you make mosquitos? Why do I not have hair on my head but do have it in so many other places? And what were you thinking when you created those little nephritic terrors?

This much, however, I do know… God’s grace is indeed sufficient for me. An no matter what comes my way in this lifetime, the Lord will sustain me because His promise to me is that He “will be with me”… even when the dreaded kidney stones march boldly through my body.

Pondering the Word – 1 Corinthians 15:1 and 58

ponderingtheword2Verse 1: Now, brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand.
Verse 58: Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.

As I pondered these verses I started thinking about some of the things about God and Scripture that I consider really good news (gospel). These are all reasons why I am willing to take my stand on the gospel and give myself to the work of the Lord – knowing that it is not in vain. I will list them without a lot of commentary – each one is worth thinking deeply about.

  1. God is Sovereign – He is in control even when things seem like they are out of control.
  2. We were created on purpose and for a purpose.
  3. Absolutely nothing can separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus.
  4. There will indeed one day be a reckoning.
  5. Heaven is real and one day those who believe will find everlasting joy in the presence of God.
  6. God has promised to be with us as we walk through the difficult days of this life.
  7. God is at work to redeem our suffering.
  8. The Bible is the inerrant Word of God and is God’s primary way of nourishing and feeding our souls.
  9. Grace is indeed amazing and abundant and free. There is nothing I need to do to secure favor from God.
  10. In the midst of chaos and craziness there is a peace that surpasses all understanding that cannot be explained to unbelievers.

 

 

Pondering the Word – 1 Corinthians 6:19-20

ponderingtheword218 Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. 19 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, 20 for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.

Here are a few questions that this passage provokes me to ponder. I will leave them without commentary because they are pretty convicting in and of themselves…

Does God consider sexual sin any different than other sin, and if so, why?

What are some practical ways that we can flee sexual immorality?

What comes under the category of sexual immorality?

Am I involved in anything that would be considered sexually immoral?

What kind of shape is my temple in?

What would the Holy Spirit have to say to me about the shape of my temple?

In what ways do I act as if my body belongs to me and not to God?

What changes do I need to make in this regard?

What can I do to better “glorify God in my body”?

 

 

 

Pondering the Word – 1/2 Thessalonians Blessings

ponderingtheword2There is lots of good stuff in First and Second Thessalonians – but I have always been drawn to the impromptu blessings that Paul gives in these 2 epistles. Here they are:

1 Thessalonians 3:12-13
12 
May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you.
13 May he strengthen your hearts so that you will be blameless and holy in the presence of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes with all his holy ones.

1 Thessalonians 5:23-24
23 May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 24 The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it.

2 Thessalonians 2:16-17
16 May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, 17 encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word.

2 Thessalonians 3:16
16 Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times and in every way. The Lord be with all of you.

I will often use these to help me pray for other other people. There seems to be a Pauline blessing for pretty much any circumstance that people are dealing with. I just personalize them as I am praying. This is an easy way to pray the Scriptures. For instance, if I was praying for my friend Louie, who’s life had been turned upside down because of a job loss or marriage difficulty or health issues I might pray 2 Thessalonians 3:16 like this…

“Father, on behalf of Louie, because You are the Lord of peace, I ask that You would be his peace and give him peace as he deals with _____________. May he recognize that You are with him throughout every step of the day.”

Here are a few more of Paul’s blessings that I will use as I pray:

Romans 15:13

13 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Hebrews 13:20-21 (may or may not be of Paul)

20 Now may the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep,21 equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

And here is one that I made up based on the way I saw Paul blessing the people that he cared about:

May the God of all joy fuel your soul with the hope of the glorious gospel and fill you with an abiding sense of His presence. And may you be refreshed by His Spirit as you trust in Him to satisfy your every desire and need.

 

Pondering the Word – Galatians 2:20

ponderingtheword2“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”

When you read this verse in the context of chapter 2 you really get the sense that Paul is absolutely dumbfounded. For the life of him he can’t figure out why his Galatian friends have reverted back to trying to find favor with God by following a bunch of rules. He is flabbergasted how quickly they have forgotten that it was faith in the crucified/resurrected Christ that brought about reconciliation between the God who saves and the man who sins. And yet…

And yet, don’t we do the same. We walk through this life as believers with a “got to” attitude rather than a “get to” attitude. And as a result, instead of experiencing the liberating joy of the gospel we feel bound up by the incarcerating rules of legalism.

Do a mental checklist by answering these questions:
Do you ever feel like if you want God to bless you and be pleased with you that you’ve…

  • got to go to church
  • got to read your Bible
  • got to pray
  • got to tithe your money

The bad news is this: If you feel that way then you are for all practical purposes what Jesus called a Pharisee and you might want to check out what He said about them (Matthew 23 for example). You probably have little or no joy in being a Christian and little or no motivation to serve him and His Church. The good news is this: You don’t have to do any of that stuff to find favor with God. If you did then you would not need Jesus. And He would have experienced an excruciating death for nothing. But because of what He did on the cross and not because of ANYTHING you have done, you have favor with God. Your relationship is restored and your relationship is secure. You don’t have to worry that if you mess up that He will abandon you – because your relationship is not based on what you do but on what He did. Talk about liberating! This is why Paul went on to say later in his letter to the Galatians these words:

“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” (Galatians 5:1)

So you don’t “got to” do any of that stuff. Instead you “get to”. You have the marvelous invitation to get into His Word and to pray and to experience relationship with your Heavenly Father. You have the opportunity to join with other believers to regularly worship together and enjoy the nurture and fellowship of the redeemed. You have the privilege to demonstrate your gratitude to God in a practical way by giving to His Church so that the advance of the gospel can take place.

You and I “get to” do all this stuff because we can dare to say these audacious words:“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”

Here are the questions that this verse provokes me to keep asking and why this verse is so ponderable:

  • Has my old sinful nature indeed been put to death (crucified)?
  • Is it evident that Christ is alive in me?
  • In what ways does my life (and my lifestyle) demonstrate that I am living by faith?
  • Do I daily treasure the fact that Christ loved me so much that He gave Himself for me?
  • How do I display my gratitude to Him for rescuing me?

Not I but Christ! May those words spur me onward each day to live a crucified life, a faith-filled life, and a life that reflects my gratitude to the One “who loved me and gave himself for me.”

(this post first appeared in March 2011 – I recycled it because I enjoyed re-reading what I had pondered 5+ years ago)

Pondering the Word – Acts 12

ponderingtheword2Peter’s story in Acts 12 about his escape from prison has always been a favorite of mine. It comes under the categories of “you can’t make this stuff up” and “Wait, what?”

Evidently Herod considered Peter to be a very real threat to his kingdom. He had him thrown in prison and posted  16 soldiers to make sure that he didn’t escape. Peter was bound with 2 chains, he had guards on both sides of him, and sentries on lookout at the prison entrance to make sure that no one busted him out.

And no one did. He just walked out – following an angel.

I believe in angels. Not the kind of angels that are generally depicted on TV – the kind that look like people and are just nicer versions of humanity. I have never seen an angel – at least not that I am aware of. But lots of others have. There are actually quite a few angel sightings in the Scriptures. Here are a few examples…

Daniel … while I was still in prayer, Gabriel, the man I had seen in the earlier vision, came to me in swift flight about the time of the evening sacrifice. (Daniel 9:21, NIV)

John  Then the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!” And he added, “These are the true words of God.”10 At this I fell at his feet to worship him. But he said to me, “Don’t do that! I am a fellow servant with you and with your brothers and sisters who hold to the testimony of Jesus. Worship God! For it is the Spirit of prophecy who bears testimony to Jesus.” (Revelation 19:9-10)

Philip 26 Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Go south to the road—the desert road—that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” (Acts 8:26)

Ezekiel  18 Then the glory of the Lord departed from over the threshold of the temple and stopped above the cherubim. 19 While I watched, the cherubim spread their wings and rose from the ground, and as they went, the wheels went with them. They stopped at the entrance of the east gate of the Lord’s house, and the glory of the God of Israel was above them. 20 These were the living creatures I had seen beneath the God of Israel by the Kebar River, and I realized that they were cherubim. (Ezekiel 10:18-20)

But I digress. The thing that I have always like about this story in Acts 12 is what is said about prayer.

  1. It would seem that the angel rescued Peter because the people of God had been praying diligently and desperately. (12:5) – It is not often that I see this kind of prayer reflected in my own life or in the life of the church. Perhaps if we as a community of believers learned to pray diligently and desperately then we would also see God working through his angel army.
  2. It would seem that those who were praying were as surprised as anyone that God actually answered their prayers. (12:12-15). I kind of see a picture of a group of people praying diligently and desperately – but not really expecting that anything will come of their prayers. Even when they were told that Peter was at their house they found it hard to believe – choosing to believe instead that it “must be his angel” (12:15) – whatever that means.

To conclude – I would really like to have an angel experience. At least I think that I would. But I’m pretty sure that I will not until I learn to pray diligently and desperately. So first things first and then perhaps we shall see.

Pondering the Word – Acts 6 (Stephen)

PonderingtheWordStephen was obviously a man that the early church had a lot of respect for. He evidently had a heart for God and a heart for people. This is why he was chosen as one of the first servant leaders in the Jerusalem church. I think I would have enjoyed hanging around him and letting some of what was in him overflow to me. I use the word overflow because of what Acts 6 says about him.

  • He was full of the Spirit (v.3)
  • He was full of wisdom (v.3)
  • He was full of faith (v.5)
  • He was full of God’s grace (v.8)
  • He was full of power (v.8)

No need for me to say anything about each of those as they speak for themselves. What I will say is that this would not be the way that other people would describe me. For that matter, I can count on one hand the number of people that I might even think about describing that way.

I have always been intrigued by a verse in Ephesians 3 where Paul prays for the believers in Ephesus and concludes by saying “that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” (v.19) Acts 6 gives a picture of a man for whom this is true. Stephen lived a full life – not in the sense that we tend to think of it today – but in the sense that he was full of God. And those who are full live lives that overflow to others. Their influence is a result of the “spill effect” as they bump up against other people. Note what Acts 6:7 says about Stephen and the others who were chosen…

“So the word of God spread. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly, and a large number of priests became obedient to the faith.”

It would seem that the “secret” to church growth has nothing to do with great buildings or well-designed programs or even powerfully delivered sermons but with men who live full lives in the way that Stephen did.

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