Vineyard Life Journal

An online forum for our church family to connect around our 2012 daily Bible reading plan using the S.O.A.P. method.

Archive for the month “August, 2012”

Day 234

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Welcome to Day 234 of our Life Journal!

Click here for today’s reading: Jeremiah 28; Jeremiah 29; Jeremiah 30; 1 John 3 (2012 Daily Bible Reading Plan)

Before you comment or read what I have posted, please read the following passages for yourself and complete your own S.O.A.P. exercise… How does this work?

S.O.A.P =  Scripture, Observation, Application, Prayer

S cripture

Jeremiah 28:15, “Listen, Hananiah! The Lord has not sent you.”

Jeremiah 29:9, “They are prophesying lies to you in my name. I have not sent them,” declares the Lord.”

11 “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 12 Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. 14 I will be found by you,” declares the Lord.”

Jeremiah 30:24, “The fierce anger of the Lord will not turn back until he fully accomplishes
the purposes of his heart.

1 John 3:1, “How great is the love the Father has

lavished

on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!”

18 “Let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.”

O bservation

Wow, so much that could be written about…

False prophets.

The plans God has for us.

God’s love for us.

Actions speak louder than words.

A pplication

1 John 3:1, “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!”

Lav-ish, to expend or give in great amounts or without limit.

Love without limit.

How GREAT is the love the Father has lavished on us! (Not that it is not a question… it’s a statement.)

We are called the children of God!

I was talking with a guy today, who is new to our church. We were sharing our stories. He talked about his faith and his struggles. I talked about mine, or lack thereof… I have never really had a crisis of faith. I have always believed in God and in Jesus. It was never hard for me. I always believed that he died for my sins and that he rose from the dead.

Walking it out is the hard part, right?

Believing that God lavishes his love on me, now that’s a different matter. That can be difficult for me to get my head around.

Unconditional love… lavished upon me.

Not just any ol’ love, mind you… unconditional love, lavished upon me.

I’m not great at lavishing love upon anyone… not even my wife or kids, really… I think I’m doing good just to be a loving person.

“Lavishing” sets the bar very high, doesn’t it. It kicks love into a whole new level…

It’s buckets full. It’s beyond measure.

Love without limit…

Imagine loving those around you, without limit. Imagine lavishing love upon them. What would that look like? What would change? How different would that look than it does now?

Love without limit.

Gonna chew on that for a while myself…

P rayer

Show me what it means to love without limit…

Day 233

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Welcome to Day 233 of our Life Journal!

Click here for today’s reading: Jeremiah 21; Jeremiah 24; Jeremiah 27; Psalms 118; 1 John 2 (2012 Daily Bible Reading Plan)

Before you comment or read what I have posted, please read the following passages for yourself and complete your own S.O.A.P. exercise… How does this work?

S.O.A.P =  Scripture, Observation, Application, Prayer

S cripture

Jeremiah 21, “Sorry, Zedekiah…

Jeremiah 24:7, “I will give them a heart to know me, that I am the Lord. They will be my people, and I will be their God, for they will return to me with all their heart.”

Jeremiah 27:6, “Now I will hand all your countries over to my servant Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon…”

Psalm 118:24 ” This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. 25 “O Lord, save us; O Lord, grant us success.”

14 “The Lord is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation.”

28 “You are my God, and I will give you thanks; you are my God, and I will exalt you.”

1 John 2:1-2, “My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. 2 He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.”

15 Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world. 17 And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.” (NKJV)

O bservation

I was shocked to see Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon referred to as “my servant.” (Jeremiah 27:6)

A pplication

I guess God really can use anybody for his purposes…

Daniel 4:29, “As the king [Nebuchadnezzar] was walking on the roof of the royal palace of Babylon, 30 he said, “Is not this the great Babylon I have built as the royal residence, by my mighty power and for the glory of my majesty?” 31 The words were still on his lips when a voice came from heaven, “This is what is decreed for you, King Nebuchadnezzar: Your royal authority has been taken from you. 32 You will be driven away from people and will live with the wild animals; you will eat grass like cattle. Seven times will pass by for you until you acknowledge that the Most High is sovereign over the kingdoms of men and gives them to anyone he wishes.” (Emphasis is mine.)

Compare that passage to what the LORD says…

Isaiah 10:13, “For he says: “‘By the strength of my hand I have done this, and by my wisdom, because I have understanding. I removed the boundaries of nations, I plundered their treasures; like a mighty one I subdued their kings.”

International leaders may think they are in control, but they are not. Our president isn’t, the leaders in the Middle East aren’t, those in South America aren’t either.

God is in control.

Make no mistake about it… Ultimately He has it all in his hands, and we don’t have to wonder or worry.

No king who builds a monument to himself, no leader that makes threats or promises…

God is in control.

He decides.

We can rest in that!

P rayer

I think you Lord that you have it all in your hands. The world, the nations, our city, my family… me.

Day 232

Monday, August 20, 2012

Welcome to Day 232 of our Life Journal!

Click here for today’s reading: Jeremiah 48; Jeremiah 49; Psalms 67; 1 John 1 (2012 Daily Bible Reading Plan)

Before you comment or read what I have posted, please read the following passages for yourself and complete your own S.O.A.P. exercise… How does this work?

S.O.A.P =  Scripture, Observation, Application, Prayer

S cripture

Jeremiah 48 is an oracle of judgment against the Moabites..

46 verses of woe, ending in a classic verse, 47 “‘Yet I will restore the fortunes of Moab in days to come,’ declares the Lord.”

Jeremiah 49, oracles of judgment against the Ammonites, Edomites, Damascus, Kedar and Hazor, and Elam. Whew…

Promise of restoration for the Ammonites and for Elam. Not so much for the others…

Psalms 67:1, “May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face shine upon us, Selah 2 that your ways may be known on earth, your salvation among all nations.”

1 John 1:6, “If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth. 7

But…

if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. 8 If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”

O bservation

A welcome reminder of what it means to live by the truth… and God’s faithfulness!

A pplication

When my wife, Bonnie, and I were dating, I helped her to memorize the book of 1 John. If I recall correctly, each week she had to memorize and recite a passage to our friend “Augie.” Basically a verse per day for twelve weeks? Something like that…

Anyway, when 1 John popped up in our reading plan, I was instantly transported back in time to New York City, circa 19, 19, 1985, sitting in the Washington Square coffee shop with Bonnie as she agonized about having to appear before Augie to recite that week’s passage of 1 John. Needless to say it was a lot of pressure… for her… haha…

These five chapters are some of the richest in all of the Bible. Written by John, who wrote the Gospel of John, 1, 2 and 3 John and the book of Revelation.

John 1:9 is one of the most amazing verses (right up there with John 3:16), “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”

Speaks to the ultimate forgiveness, purification and faithfulness of God. I can’t wait to get to the next chapter where it talks about Jesus being our “advocate” (KJV) or “one who speaks to the Father in our defense.” (Advocate = Attorney!)

Not to get ahead of myself, but I love that!

1 John 1:1-2a, “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. 2 The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it…”

John is writing from his own personal experience… a shared experience by many. Notice his use of “we.”

“We have heard…”

“We have seen…”

“Our hands have touched…”

“We proclaim…”

No one can take our personal experience away from us. Of course, in that argument, anyone can claim anything… “Well, I bought these crystals and…” or, “I visited this psychic and…” or whatever…

John was there. He knew Jesus…

Remember when Jesus was on the cross? John was there with Mary, Jesus’ mother. Jesus said to John, “Behold your mother.” then to Mary, “Woman, behold your son.” (Referring to John.)

John saw Jesus’ miracles. In fact, at one point (in yesterday’s reading from John 21) John penned, “This is the disciple who testifies to these things and who wrote them down. We know that his testimony is true. 25 Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.”

Jesus did so much that it couldn’t all be written down.

John referred to himself as “the disciple whom Jesus loved.”

John was there. He saw it all… he knew Jesus on every level. He was there at the Mount of Transfiguration, when Lazarus was raised from the dead, he saw all the healings and how Jesus treated people. He heard Jesus teach in the synagogue…

He heard. He saw.

He knew.

P rayer

I’m so thankful that I know… even without seeing you firsthand, I’ve heard and seen enough to know for myself!

Day 231

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Welcome to Day 231 of our Life Journal!

Click here for today’s reading: Jeremiah 45; Jeremiah 46; Jeremiah 47; John 21 (2012 Daily Bible Reading Plan)

Before you comment or read what I have posted, please read the following passages for yourself and complete your own S.O.A.P. exercise… How does this work?

S.O.A.P =  Scripture, Observation, Application, Prayer

S cripture

Jeremiah 45 records God’s promise to Baruch, son of Neriah… v 5 “I will bring disaster on all people, declares the Lord, but wherever you go I will let you escape with your life.’”

Jeremiah chapters 46-51 are a series of judgment oracles against surrounding nations. 46 concerns Egypt.

Jeremiah 47 is an oracle of judgment against the Philistines.

Psalm 105:3b, “Let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice. 4 Look to the Lord and his strength; seek his face always.”

John 21:7, “As soon as Simon Peter heard him say, “It is the Lord,” he wrapped his outer garment around him (for he had taken it off) and jumped into the water. 8 The other disciples followed in the boat…”

O bservation

I love that Peter went for it, jumping right into the water to get to Jesus as fast as he could.

A pplication

“As soon as Simon Peter heard him say, “It is the Lord,” he wrapped his outer garment around him (for he had taken it off) and jumped into the water. 8 The other disciples followed in the boat…”

Yet again, Peter is the only one to get out of the boat. (Remember when Peter walked on the water? He was the one who said, “Jesus, if it is really you, tell me to come to you.” “Come,” Jesus said…

Peter got out of the boat and began walking on the water toward Jesus.

In this instance, he knew that Jesus, now the risen Christ, was a mere 100 yards away on shore.

Keep in mind that the last time they had spoken was in the upper room the night Jesus was betrayed. Jesus had told him then that he would deny knowing him three times that night, before the rooster crowed.

Luke 22:60 records their last encounter, “Peter replied, “Man, I don’t know what you’re talking about!” Just as he was speaking, the rooster crowed. 61 The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word the Lord had spoken to him: “Before the rooster crows today, you will disown me three times.” 62 And he went outside and wept bitterly.

Even though Jesus had appeared to the disciples after the resurrection, there’s no record of a direct exchange between Peter and Jesus (or Jesus and any other specific disciple…).

Here they are alone on a beach, while the other disciples are rowing toward shore.

I would really like to know what was said in that moment.

Jesus asked them to bring some of the fish they had caught, and they shared a meal together…

Then Jesus addresses Peter directly… “Peter, do you love me more than these?” Three times he asked Peter.

(Peter must have been feeling horrible about denying Jesus, the one he proclaimed as the Christ!)

Jesus simply invited him to “take care my sheep.”

Just days later, on the day of Pentecost, Peter preached his first message about Jesus and three thousand people were saved! (Acts 2:40).

God used Peter right where he was at. Peter was… impetuous? Imperfect. Flawed. (Not enough time to go into all of Peter’s antics…)

But he loved Jesus and God used him to ignite the early church!

P rayer

Thank you Lord that you still use imperfect people!

Day 230

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Welcome to Day 230 of our Life Journal!

Click here for today’s reading: Jeremiah 26; Jeremiah 35; Jeremiah 36; John 20 (2012 Daily Bible Reading Plan)

Before you comment or read what I have posted, please read the following passages for yourself and complete your own S.O.A.P. exercise… How does this work?

S.O.A.P =  Scripture, Observation, Application, Prayer

S cripture

Jeremiah 26:8, “But as soon as Jeremiah finished telling all the people everything the Lord had commanded him to say, the priests, the prophets and all the people seized him and said, “You must die!”

Jeremiah 35:18, “‘You have obeyed the command of your forefather Jonadab and have followed all his instructions and have done everything he ordered.’ 19 Therefore, this is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says: ‘Jonadab son of Recab will never fail to have a man to serve me.’”

Jeremiah 36:23, “Whenever Jehudi had read three or four columns of the scroll, the king cut them off with a scribe’s knife and threw them into the firepot, until the entire scroll was burned in the fire. 24 “The king and all his attendants who heard all these words showed no fear, nor did they tear their clothes. 25 Even though Elnathan, Delaiah and Gemariah urged the king not to burn the scroll, he would not listen to them.”

John 20:24, “Now Thomas (called Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!”

But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it.”

26 A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”

28 Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!”

29 Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed;

blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

O bservation

How often do we not want to hear what someone has to say to us? Advice, a rebuke, feedback…

A word from the Lord?

A pplication

Even though all the disciples and many others close to him told Thomas that they had seen the Lord, he refused to believe. Not that he couldn’t… or didn’t, there seems to be an air of refusal in his statement. “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it.”

“I will not believe it.”

“I will not…”

Often times when the Lord would send Jeremiah to someone with a message, they would discard it. The King actually cut up the scroll with Jeremiah’s word on it and burned it! (Against better judgment…)

I was having coffee yesterday with a friend. We have been friends for nearly 20 years. Several years ago we had a difficult situation that we had to work through involving our kids.

I simply asked him, “Hey… are we ok?” He replied, “Of course, why wouldn’t we be?” “Well, what we went through back then was pretty hard. I just thought I’d ask.” I told him, “Every now and then, when we’re together, it kind of rises up in my heart and I begin to wonder… so I just thought I’d ask, rather than wonder.”

I was prepared for whatever…

He simply said, “Yes. That was a difficult time, but I think we all handled it the best we could.” He said, “I’m sure I didn’t always handle everything perfectly, I’m sure you probably didn’t either, but I think all parties involved gave it their best shot.” (In so many words…)

We didn’t belabor the issue… But it was nice just to know how he felt, years later.

People say, “Time heals all wounds.”

I disagree.

I think wounds need attention. Issues need to be talked out. Forgiveness is key.

But when things are not talked out, or are “swept under the rug,” they don’t heal. Once the topic or the issue comes up again, you can be right back where you started.

It’s difficult though when people choose to not deal with issues. (I’d say we’re all guilty of that…)

But I’ve learned that I can only clean up my side of the street, not yours. I can’t control you, I can only control me. I can’t control what you think or how you feel about me… but what I can do is open it up for discussion and try to bring healing to whatever the situation may be…

I try to remove the plank(s) from my own eye before trying to remove the speck from someone else’s eye.

Now, I’ll admit, I can shrug off a whole lot more than most people. I’m not easily offended, and I’m pretty thick skinned… (but I do have feelings.)

The key is to keep short accounts. To do the Matthew 18 principle and go to the person. It says, “If you know your brother has something against you…” It’s not even, “If I have something against my brother…” If I know you have something against me, I should go to you… and I should do it before I give my offering. (It’s that important.)

The thing is, you never know if the person will tear up the scroll and burn it.

P rayer

Lord, help me to always keep short accounts and to clean up my side of the road.

Day 229

Friday, August 17, 2012

Welcome to Day 229 of our Life Journal!

Click here for today’s reading: Jeremiah 23; Jeremiah 24; Jeremiah 25; John 19 (2012 Daily Bible Reading Plan)

Before you comment or read what I have posted, please read the following passages for yourself and complete your own S.O.A.P. exercise… How does this work?

S.O.A.P =  Scripture, Observation, Application, Prayer

S cripture

Jeremiah 23:5, “The days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when I will raise up to David a righteous Branch, a King who will reign wisely and do what is just and right in the land. 6 In his days Judah will be saved and Israel will live in safety. This is the name by which he will be called: The Lord Our Righteousness.”

Jeremiah 24, the vision of two baskets of figs…

7 “I will give them [good exiles] a heart to know me, that I am the Lord. They will be my people, and I will be their God, for they will return to me with all their heart.”

Jeremiah 25:14, “I will repay them according to their deeds and the work of their hands.” (This was not a good thing…)

John 18:6, “Pilate answered, ‘You take him and crucify him. As for me, I find no basis for a charge against him.'”

30 “Jesus said,

‘It is finished.'”

O bservation

Interesting how the Lord often used objects to speak to Jeremiah…

A pplication

The figs (good/rotted)

The clay jar (break it)

The potter and the clay (can I do this with you?)

The linen belt (soiled, ruined and useless)

I love how the Lord uses everyday items to speak to Jeremiah… and to us. Jesus followed suit by using everyday analogies… “Consider the lilies of the field…” “Show me a coin…” “”Drop your nets on the other side of the boat.”

I often think of these verses out of 1 Kings 19, after Elijah had dusted the prophets of Baal and Jezebel threatened him…

10 “The Lord said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.” 11 “Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord,

but the Lord was not in the wind.

After the wind there was an earthquake,

but the Lord was not in the earthquake.

12 After the earthquake came a fire,

but the Lord was not in the fire.

And after the fire came a gentle whisper.”

People often see God (and judgment) in natural disasters. This is a great passage that speaks to the fact that God is not “in” every natural occurrence. He wasn’t in the wind, the earthquake or the fire.

We often look for God in the dramatic, when we need to just listen to the gentle whisper…

I commented the other day that I don’t see God judging the United States. I see him blessing our great nation. Have we as a country strayed? Yes. Have we taken him out of our schools? Yes. Does sin abound? Yes.

“And where sin abounds, grace abounds even more!” Romans 5:20

There have always been wars and rumors of wars. There have always been earthquakes.

Our country right now is in the midst of the worst drought in 56 years! Is it God’s judgment? I don’t think so…

Why?

All this will do at this point is raise the cost of our food. No one is going to starve in the US because of this drought. No one is going to go hungry. The farmers all have insurance and it will cost billions of tax dollars to cover their losses… but it won’t put them out of business.

If God wanted to judge our country, trust me, he could do something really dramatic that would have lasting impact. We will most likely recover from this drought.

Prophetic people are always looking for what God is doing… seeing God in everyday happenings. Listening for what God is saying. We all should be.

But some see God in the wind, the earthquake and the fire… when He isn’t in it. He could be… but not always.

The Bible is pretty clear on this one law, “You reap what you sow.”

“Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. 8 The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. 9 Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. 10 Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people.” Galatians 6:7-10

As a nation, we have certainly “sowed to the flesh.” I think that’s pretty undeniable… And we may pay for it dearly. God could even use a total financial collapse to make a point…

The US though still sows a lot of good around the world, and I believe there is great blessing in it for our country. We are blessed beyond belief!

Anyone who thinks otherwise should visit a third-world country in Africa, where EVERYONE is poor, and they have to walk five miles for water, where starvation and sickness surrounds you. And attend church with them… and watch as they worship the same Lord that we do. And they are thankful they are still alive… and they praise God for the little they have.

The poor in Africa don’t have houses, cars, air conditioning or flat panel tvs… They may have a one room structure with no windows or doors. Maybe not even a mosquito net to protect them from Malaria.

And they aren’t under judgment…

And they will WALK five miles to go to church… and sit in the dirt for three hours and walk home… and never complain.

Judgment is a matter of perspective.

If you think God is angry… and he is judging our nation, consider this…

“All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Romans 3:23.

(Just for the record, I am well aware of Matthew 24 and Revelation 16… I am merely suggesting that God is not “in” (is not speaking through) every wind, earthquake and fire event for the sake of judgment.)

Luke 18:8, “when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?”

Now that’s a great question…

P rayer

Lord, help me to see and hear more clearly… to not speak falsely about what you are saying… Help me to know when you are in, or not in, the wind, the earthquake or the fire…

Day 228

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Welcome to Day 228 of our Life Journal!

Click here for today’s reading: 2 Kings 24; Jeremiah 22; Psalms 112; John 18 (2012 Daily Bible Reading Plan)

Before you comment or read what I have posted, please read the following passages for yourself and complete your own S.O.A.P. exercise… How does this work?

S.O.A.P =  Scripture, Observation, Application, Prayer

S cripture

2 Kings 24, moving toward the utter destruction of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonians.

Note: The Jeremiah mentioned in v 18 is a different Jeremiah than the Prophet. There are ten different Jeremiahs in the Bible. For more info, CLICK HERE.

Jeremiah 22 (chapters 21-24 outline the end of David’s dynasty, toward exile and destruction.)

V 13 “Woe to him who builds his palace by unrighteousness, his upper rooms by injustice, making his countrymen work for nothing, not paying them for their labor. 15 “Does it make you a king to have more and more cedar? 16 “He (King Josiah) defended the cause of the poor and needy, and so all went well.

Is that not what it means to know me?” declares the Lord.”

Psalm 112:6b, “A righteous man will be remembered forever. 7 He will have no fear of bad news; his heart is steadfast, trusting in the Lord. 8 His heart is secure, he will have no fear; in the end he will look in triumph on his foes.”

John 18:38, ““What is truth?” Pilate asked. With this he went out again to the Jews and said, “I find no basis for a charge against him.”

O bservation

So many different directions we could go in today…

A pplication

“Does it make you a king to have more and more cedar?”

Great question. What makes a king a king?

“He (King Josiah) defended the cause of the poor and needy, and so all went well.

Is that not what it means to know me?” declares the Lord.”

There is something to be said for defending the cause of the poor and needy. To not treat them as though they are poor and needy, but to offer respect as to anyone else.

When we honor others, we then are able to receive honor.

Make no mistake, people are watching. In my case, there are many sets of eyes watching my every move. I make it pretty easy, thanks to facebook, twitter and FourSquare… But that’s not really what I mean.

“People” all around us are taking note of how we treat others. Our families, strangers… the poor and needy.

This is a big part of why, as a church, we invest so much into caring for the poor. We can’t fix the economy. We can’t hand out checks to pay everyone’s DP&L or rent… but we can, and do, do something.

Every week now, we distribute groceries to 250 families all over Dayton. We don’t do it for marketing, or to get people to come to our church.

We do it because it honors God. The poor and needy are close to God’s heart. And He is watching how we treat them. He also takes note of how we walk it out…

Who I am trying to impress by where I live, what I drive or what I wear…

“Does it make you a king to have more and more cedar?”

There is absolutely nothing wrong with having stuff. Nice house, nice cars, nice clothes.

But God is more concerned about how we treat the poor and needy. Did I “build my palace” by unrighteousness, my upper rooms by injustice, making my countrymen work for nothing, not paying them for their labor?

Some people consider “evangelism” as overseas missions. By supporting a missionary and calling that evangelism. And it is!

But for me, evangelism starts right here at home, in our city. Doug and I and our families moved here as missionaries. We felt called to come back to Dayton to start a church that would be a place for the hurting, broken, wounded… for the single moms… to find healing. To find the Lord, and to be able to get healed up and begin serving Him. A church that presented the Gospel in a clear, understandable, applicable way, with worship that was engaging, that drew people into and welcomed God’s Presence. A church that would be known for what it gave back to the community, more than what it took from the community.

I’m not gonna lie… it took me many years to “get it.” To understand God’s heart for the poor.

And it’s not about the numbers… We started with seven bags of groceries in the back of Doug’s car…

God is pleased when we give and do what we can. Any feeble attempt to care for the poor, He applauds. But if we patronize them, minimize them, talk down to them or brush them aside…

After our last Dayton food outreach, a guy that I knew had been in trouble with the law, asked me for a ride.

“Hop in…”

I drove him to downtown near the “Y” and as he was getting out, he asked me for $5. (He said he pays his rent daily and it’s $8 per day…) I pulled out a ten and gave it to him. I gave him twice what he had asked for…

Then he asked if I would give him $2 for bus fare! I said, “You asked me for $5… I just gave you TEN…”

We went back and forth a few times. He was relentless…

I told him, “You know this is why people don’t want to give you money, right? You asked me for $5. I gave you $10, then you ask me for more?”

I stuck to my guns and he got out and walked away. He did his best to make me feel guilty for what I had shorted him. But I felt good about what I HAD given him.

Jesus said, “You will always have the poor with you.” Truer words have never been spoken… We could all empty our bank accounts and give it all away, and the poor would still be with us. 20% of the US now lives at poverty level.

I never feel pressured to give money to everyone who asks. I can smell a story from a mile off. (It usually involves a bus ticket or insulin. This is where wisdom and discernment come into play…)

(It wasn’t about the extra $2… I was actually irritated that I had given him double what he asked for and then he had the nerve to ask for more, and wouldn’t back down.)

At the end of my life, I’d rather be known as a generous person, than a stingy tightwad…

P rayer

Lord, give me your heart for the poor and the hurting…

Day 227

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Welcome to Day 227 of our Life Journal!

Click here for today’s reading: Jeremiah 18; Jeremiah 19; Jeremiah 20; John 17 (2012 Daily Bible Reading Plan)

Before you comment or read what I have posted, please read the following passages for yourself and complete your own S.O.A.P. exercise… How does this work?

S.O.A.P =  Scripture, Observation, Application, Prayer

S cripture

Jeremiah 18:7, “If at any time I announce that a nation or kingdom is to be uprooted, torn down and destroyed, 8 and if that nation I warned repents of its evil, then I will relent and not inflict on it the disaster I had planned. 

Jeremiah 19, yet again, more doom and gloom… destruction and judgment…

Jeremiah 20, I think Jeremiah must be tired of it, too… “Why did I ever come out of the womb to see trouble and sorrow and to end my days in shame?”

Psalm 93:1, “The Lord reigns, he is robed in majesty; the Lord is robed in majesty and is armed with strength.”

John 17:20, “I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21 that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 I have given them the glory that you gave me…”

O bservation

“If at any time… that nation I warned repents of its evil, then I will relent and not inflict on it the disaster I had planned.”

AT ANY TIME! (That, my friends, is what we call “mercy.)

A pplication

Funny thing I noticed about my own blog… often times my Application has nothing really to do with my Observation. Have you also noticed that about yours? I wonder why that is…

I think in my case it’s that just because I made a note-worthy observation, that’s not necessarily what I feel God is speaking to me about, or what applies to my life. Although of course it’s good to know, “At any time!”

We had a guest speaker at our staff meeting Wednesday. His name is Jesse Cupp, our regional Global Legacy guy from Bethel Church… he came to meet and encourage our staff.

One of the verses in today’s reading from John is one he referenced during our staff meeting. John 17:21, “that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us…”

I think that’s a request the Father is happy to grant, or at least was going to happen, and Jesus simply made it known to us! “May they also be in us.” How cool is that?? And that Jesus has given us the glory that the Father gave to him!

“May they also be in us…”

Paul wrote in Ephesians 2:6, “And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus…”

He has already raised us up WITH Christ, seated us WITH him IN the heavenly realms, IN Christ Jesus.

We are already WITH him AND IN him! How cool is THAT??

It’s already done. Finished.

They say you can’t be in two places at once?

I can! And I AM… in two places at once!

I am seated here, at the table at my breakfast nook… AND I am seated in the heavenly realms IN Christ Jesus.

If you are a believer in Christ, the same is true for you. I think just most people don’t think about this stuff… That we are no longer sinners saved by grace. We are saints! I was a sinner, but once Christ saved me, I am no longer a sinner! (Not because of anything I have done, that’s for sure!) But because of what HE has done!

He said on the cross, “It… is… finished.”

He paid my debt in full!

P rayer

Thank you Lord!!!

Day 226

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Welcome to Day 226 of our Life Journal!

Click here for today’s reading: Jeremiah 16; Jeremiah 17; Psalms 96; John 16 (2012 Daily Bible Reading Plan)

Before you comment or read what I have posted, please read the following passages for yourself and complete your own S.O.A.P. exercise… How does this work?

S.O.A.P =  Scripture, Observation, Application, Prayer

S cripture

Jeremiah 16:10, “What sin have we committed against the Lord our God?’ 11 then say to them, ‘It is because your fathers forsook me,’ declares the Lord, ‘and followed other gods and served and worshiped them. They forsook me and did not keep my law. 12 But you have behaved more wickedly than your fathers. See how each of you is following the stubbornness of his evil heart instead of obeying me. 13 So I will throw you out of this land into a land neither you nor your fathers have known, and there you will serve other gods day and night, for I will show you no favor.’”

Jeremiah 17:10, “I the Lord search the heart and examine the mind, to reward a man according to his conduct, according to what his deeds deserve.”

(I like how Jeremiah quoted from Psalm 1, almost verbatim… “like a tree planted by rivers of waters…”)

Psalm 96:12, “Then all the trees of the forest will sing for joy; 13 they will sing before the Lord, for he comes, he comes to judge the earth. He will judge the world in righteousness and the peoples in his truth.”

John 16:33, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

O bservation

Each of us stands on our own merits before the Lord…

A pplication

I have one particular reader that sends me messages that pertain to my journal entries on a pretty regular basis. They are a very thoughtful person, giving much thought to each day’s readings… Like most of you… they read the blog, but comment to me privately, not publicly.

Many of you approach me at church, or elsewhere to tell me how much you appreciate the blog, a particular post, insight or just that I do it and it has been a good resource for you… Every week someone comes up to me in this way… someone who I had no idea had been reading the blog all along.

I’ve had a bit of an ongoing dialog with this one reader… They ask me questions and offer their insights as well.

One point that sticks with them in particular, as with so many, is “What about those who never hear the Gospel? What about those in Africa? What about those from other cultures, whose parents who practice other religions?”

I answered their email before I started todays reading… Then sent them a second email after reading from Jeremiah.

It really speaks to this… while not exactly, in general terms it gets to the heart of very difficult questions we all ask. The two passages I cited above bear repeating…

Jeremiah 16:10, “What sin have we committed against the Lord our God?’ 11 then say to them, ‘It is because your fathers forsook me,’ declares the Lord, ‘and followed other gods and served and worshiped them. They forsook me and did not keep my law. 12 But you have behaved more wickedly than your fathers. See how each of you is following the stubbornness of his evil heart instead of obeying me. 13 So I will throw you out of this land into a land neither you nor your fathers have known, and there you will serve other gods day and night, for I will show you no favor.’”

Jeremiah 17:10, “I the Lord search the heart and examine the mind, to reward a man according to his conduct, according to what his deeds deserve.”

First, salvation is pretty simple. One must answer the question, “What did I do with Jesus?” Did I accept him or reject him? Romans says, “If you confess with your mouth, the Lord Jesus, and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” Romans 10:8-9

Salvation isn’t complicated, but we make it complicated with all our add-ons. Once a person accepts Christ, we confuse “sanctification” with salvation. Sanctification is the process of becoming like Jesus… “Christ-like.” Not perfect, but being conformed into the image of Christ.

It’s easy to confuse the two issues, because we are all still in process.

But if a person claims to be a Christian, but doesn’t “regularly” attend church, we may question whether or not they are even saved at all.

What if they attend church but don’t serve regularly?

What about tithing?

What about their language?

What if they struggle with addiction?

What if they are living with someone, not married?

Can a person be gay and be saved?

All great questions…

Do I think people should attend church regularly? Obviously. Do I think people should tithe? Of course. (Yes, it is a New Testament principle… 🙂 ) Is it ok to live with someone and not be married? Not the best scenario… Do I think there should be a change once a person has submitted their life to Christ. Yes.

Romans 12 speaks to the transformation of our minds (in addition to our spirit being renewed) and living our lives as a sacrifice. We are now both priest and sacrifice. (Paul refers to believers as “priests” and Peter proclaimed believers as a “royal priesthood.”) We choose, as priests, to lay our lives down as a sacrifice.

Do you realize a sacrifice has no choices?

In the Old Testament, the sacrifice gave its life without a choice.

Jesus, by his own choice, gave his life as a sacrifice for us. He paid for my sins…

Now, I have the choice to live as a sacrifice. Not as a slave, but as a son, willingly serving. A living sacrifice!

Paul said at one point we slaves to sin, now we are to be slaves to righteousness! (Romans 6:18).

Yet, at the same time, we are sons… adopted into God’s family, with all the rights and privileges that go with that. God runs to us, puts a ring on our finger, a robe on our back, embraces us and throws a party.

The prodigal son, as it says, “came to his senses.”

The wrong question is “what can I get away with?” or “How far is too far?”

The right questions is “where is God leading me? or “What is leading me away from Christ?”

God understands all the ins and outs of our lives… all our hurts… all the circumstances that have brought each of us to where we are. He knows our heart. He is able to take all that into account.

I often refer to Romans 1 in such matters… “what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 20 For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.”

This doesn’t speak directly to Christ, but to God, in general. Does a person reject the idea of God, his eternal power and divine nature… After that would come, “Did they hear the message of Christ?” and what did they do with it?

I never feel any pressure to try to speak for God. I get asked to pretty often, when doing a funeral… Often times the family is concerned about their loved one’s salvation… they say something like this, “Well… they claimed to be a Christian, but they never went to church…” or something like that. I always go back to Romans 10…

Beyond that, it’s not up to me.

I have enough to deal with trying to rationalize Matthew 7, “Many will say to me on that day, Lord, did we not prophesy and do many miracles in your name? And he will say, “Depart from me, I never knew you.”

How is that possible? And how does that fit with Romans 10? I’m not sure… It’s verses like that, that cause all of us to scratch our heads, or wonder about our loved one’s salvation. Even our own at times.

Doug spoke over the weekend about the “Jesus Factor.” Ultimately it comes down to what did we do with Jesus.

Then, how did we live our lives…

All I know is, I want to know Him and to be known by Him.

Relationship…

P rayer

Lord, I want to know you more and more… Lord, search me and know me… Psalm 139

Day 225

Monday, August 13, 2012

Welcome to Day 225 of our Life Journal!

Click here for today’s reading: Jeremiah 13; Jeremiah 14; Jeremiah 15; John 15 (2012 Daily Bible Reading Plan)

Before you comment or read what I have posted, please read the following passages for yourself and complete your own S.O.A.P. exercise… How does this work?

S.O.A.P =  Scripture, Observation, Application, Prayer

S cripture

Jeremiah 13:27, “Woe to you, O Jerusalem! How long will you be unclean?”

Jeremiah 14:21, “Remember your covenant with us and do not break it. 22 Do any of the worthless idols of the nations bring rain? Do the skies themselves send down showers? No, it is you, O Lord our God. Therefore our hope is in you…”

Jeremiah 15:19, “Therefore this is what the Lord says: “If you repent, I will restore you that you may serve me.”

John 15:5, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”

O bservation

Today I’m focusing on Christ!

A pplication

Jesus came to show us the Father. (John 14:9)

How about this for a statement from yesterday’s reading, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except by me.”

That’s a bold statement, isn’t it.

No one.

Jesus came to make a way for us to know the Father.

He came to show us the Father.

How about this for yet another bold statement? “I am the vine you are the branches. Apart from me you can do nothing.”

Nothing?

Well, not nothing… obviously we can do a lot, but what he is saying is that apart from him we can do nothing of any eternal value. Nothing that will last. Apart from him I am just going my own way, doing my own thing.

But with him, I am making an eternal impact. I am changing the destiny for people, for our city.

I always say, our food distributions are more than food. I would go as far to say it’s good to feed the hungry… but apart from him, it’s just good people doing good works… meeting a felt need… but with no eternal ramifications.

Keep in mind, eternity begins here on earth, not just after we have taken our last breath! It’s already begun.

I am already a citizen of heaven. I am already seated in heavenly places with Christ Jesus! I just haven’t arrived there yet. (And I’m in no hurry to, just for the record!) I’ll get there eventually, but in the meantime, I’m here, doing the work God has called me to.

Funny, I think there are plenty of people unaware that they are even impacting eternity by what they are doing…

Matthew 25:37, ““Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’”

What did we do?? Huh??

Make no mistake, God is in the small things. The littlest effort to do something for the sake of the Kingdom.

When done in humility, and attached to the Vine, it has lasting impact.

Every visit.

Every drink of water.

Every bag of groceries.

I’m not arrogant about it, I just know it is making an eternal difference! Scripture says so! The key is to do it in humility. Not to be seen by others, but to do it as unto the Lord. To let Christ work through us… to stay connected to Him. To do it for His glory, not ours.

Apart from Him we can do nothing…

P rayer

Lord, I want to stay close, connected to you… I don’t want to do anything for my glory, but for yours!

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