Oh, my tree!

Oh My TreeWhy is it that people who don’t even believe in Jesus use His name as an expletive? We’ve all heard a non-Christian say: “Oh my God! God! Jesus! Jesus Christ! Or any of the popular variations: Jeez! Gosh! OMG!”

If you think this whole existence is random and that there is no Creator, why use His name at all? Why not use some other word or name?

If you worship science, why not shout: “Galileo! or Oh my Newton! or Nikola Tesla!”

If you worship nature, why not shout: “Kingdom & Phylum! or Galapagos! or Oh my tree!”

Silly, isn’t it? But why?

Could it be that none of these name have even an inkling of power? Could it be that you use the name of the Son of God because He is the only name from which every knee shall bow and every tongue confess? And doesn’t it stand to reason that by using His name, you acknowledge His existence anyhow?

It puzzles me to no end.

It also offends me (especially GD).

The obvious go-to verse here is Exodus 20:7, “You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses His name. (NIV)”

 

The NIV says “misuse” but most Bibles say, “in vain.” The Hebrew word for vain here is, “shav.” It means “emptiness, vanity, falsehood, nothingness, lying, worthlessness.” Do you really want to lift up God’s name and attach it to emptiness? It’s disrespectful. It’s dishonorable.

Since Exodus 20 is the Old Covenant under the Law, I would also like to look at an example from the New Covenant of Grace, Matt. 6:9. “Hallowed be Your name.”

Hallowed: respected, revered, honored! Not to be used trivially and definitely not to be used as an everyday run of the mill curse word.

Sadly, Christians are just as guilty of this as non-Christians, myself included. We need to guard ourselves! James will tell you how hard the tongue is to tame! It’s a never-ending battle. Surrender to Jesus. Revere His name!

May God’s Love be with you

Skip to 42

Job 42
Job 42

Wouldn’t it be nice just to skip to Job 42?

Instead, we gotta complain. We gotta whine. We gotta give God our 2 cents on the matter. We call a buddy and have them confirm that we’ve got it bad. Then we definitely feel the need to enlighten the All -powerful Creator of the known universe with the way we would’ve done it.

Job did that. He had finally had enough. Job said enough of the boils and scabs, enough of the terrible advice from his “friends,” and enough of taking it. So, he let God know.

And God let him speak his little mind.

Then it was God’s turn. God said, “Brace yourself, I will question you and you shall answer me.”

By the time Job 42 rolls around, Job’s story has changed, hasn’t it? He realized that he spoke of things he didn’t understand. He pontificated on matters he couldn’t possibly understand. Finally he repents.

The LORD blesses the latter part of Job’s life more than the former. Way more! In fact, Job lived for another 140 years for crying out loud and saw his grandchildren’s grandchildren.

There are times when we shake our fists at God and feel like we’ve been dealt a crumby hand. However, there are things we don’t understand. Couldn’t understand. But God does. All He asks is that we love Him, believe in His Son, and leave the rest to Him.

I need to skip to Job 42 and just thank God.

May God’s Love be with you

And Peter

Mark 16:7
Mark 16:7

Two of the sweetest and tender words in the Bible are “and Peter.” What’s so loving about those words? It is actually a special message. It is a special message meant to comfort Peter.

In typical Peter fashion, he had been the first to defend his loyalty and the first to discard it. He boasted the loudest (I would die first!) and fell the hardest (3 times?). If Peter was anything, he was consistent, wasn’t he? The man always did it big. He won big (walking on water!) and He lost big (really, 3 times, man?!).

So, of all the Apostles, Peter was probably the most ashamed of abandoning Christ at the last moments. He didn’t just run away – he cursed Jesus’s name! Jesus knew this about His servant. Jesus knew Peter was probably beating himself up something terrible. So, He had the angel give a extra message to Peter.

“But go, tell His disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see Him, just as He told you.'” – Mark 16:7

I’m sure this message brought tears of relief to the eyes of Peter.

Go tell His people… AND Peter.

Especially Peter.

Make sure Peter knows.

Tell Peter in particular!

Jesus knows our strengths and our weaknesses. He knows when you have dropped the ball and are beating yourself up about it. He doesn’t like that. He just wants you to come back to Him. Just as He made sure to send this special message to Peter, Jesus has a special message for you too. He has a special message meant to comfort you.

Read Mark 16:7 and replace Peter’s name with your own.

“But go, tell His disciples and ______”

May God’s Love be with you

Ref: Kerry Shook’s Easter message, 2014

Self Entitlement

Luke 17:7-10
Luke 17:7-10

Ever take your car to the mechanic and he fixed it? Did he ask for a tip? Did he want your praise and adoration?

Of course not. He was just doing his job. He was supposed to fix it. He was not going above and beyond.

Teachers and business owners will tell you that the biggest problem they face today is the self-entitled student or worker. The people who feel they are owed something for just showing up!

“Which of you, having a slave plowing or tending sheep, will say to him when he has come in from the field, ‘Come immediately and sit down to eat’? But will he not say to him, ‘Prepare something for me to eat, and properly clothe yourself and serve me while I eat and drink; and afterward you may eat and drink’? He does not thank the slave because he did the things which were commanded, does he? So you too, when you do all the things which are commanded you, say, ‘We are unworthy slaves; we have done only that which we ought to have done.’” Luke 17:7-10 

Luke is not attacking obedience itself, but the obedient servant who is self entitled. Whether it be praying, reading, preaching, or witnessing – these are all things we are supposed to do. The NASB translates it, “that which we ought.” We ought to be doing them! These acts are not extra. There isn’t any extra credit. If there were extra credit then men could boast, right?

The joke is that you cannot spell “entitlement” without I and Me. The focus should never be on us. It’s about what God has done, not what man is doing. We are unworthy even after doing what’s expected of us. I thank God for his long-suffering patience with me and my self-serving self entitlement!

May God’s Love be with you

God’s Kindness

Romans 2:4
Romans 2:4

If you owe someone something, aren’t you more likely to avoid them? You don’t want to run into them and be reminded of the debt you owe. It embarrasses you to know you haven’t repaid them. The debt is always hanging over your head. It becomes a burden. It becomes awkward.

If someone has a free gift for you aren’t you more likely to seek them out? You want to find them and get the present. It warms your heart to know they were thinking of you. Their love follows you wherever you go. It becomes a source of comfort. It becomes precious.

It is the promise of God’s kindness that should lead us to Him, not the fear of His wraith. Do you see the difference? Both servants are obedient, but one serves through fear and one serves through love. Are you obeying God because you don’t want to make Him angry or are you obeying God because His kindness moved you so?

“Or do you show contempt for the riches of His kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?” (Romans 2:4)

It is God’s kindness that should cause us to turn away from our wicked selves. It is God’s kindness that should cause us to run into His arms. We don’t owe Him anything. Our balance is zero. The debt has been paid without any sense of repayment. We never could, even if we wanted to! When Jesus healed, it was never with the attitude that the healed now owed Him anything. He did so freely!

The Message says “Or did you think that because He’s such a nice God, He’d let you off the hook? Better think this one through from the beginning. God is kind, but he’s not soft.” The promise of His love and kindness is real. Also real is His promise of wraith and judgement. So, don’t be fooled. God will not be taken advantage of. The door one day will close. Which side of that door will you be on?

May God’s Love be with you

Brother From Another Mother

Brother From Another MotherAre you my brother? Or are you my brother from another mother? Is your mother Sarah or Hagar?

God promised Sarah a child. His name was to be Isaac. So she waited. And waited. Finally she got frustrated with waiting and took matters into her own hands. Sarai offered a surrogate; her Egyptian bondwoman, Hagar. Hagar produced a son, his name was Ishmael.

Just as God promised, Sarah became pregnant and gave birth to Isaac. Now Sarah was in a pickle. Ishmael was the first born and therefore, heir. Hagar and Sarah now began bickering. The last straw? Ishmael began mocking Isaac. So Sarah asked Abraham to kick Hagar and Ishmael out.

(Don’t worry, God would bless Ishmael. However, that is a story for another time.)

Ishmael represents self effort, the Old Covenant, and the Law. By not believing in God and having faith in his promise, Sarah created a bigger mess for herself. Hagar was Egyptian and “Egypt” always represents “the world.” Also Hagar was a slave which further strengthens the concept of bondage to the law.

Isaac represents God’s promise, the New Covenant and Grace. Isaac would later become a perfect image of Christ (as he was offered as a sacrifice). Eventually Christ Himself, would come from his line. Sarah was a free woman which strengthens the concept of the freedom offered by Grace! God wanted Sarah to be the mother, not Hagar. God wanted freedom for us, not slavery.

We are not children of the bondwoman, but of the free woman! Galatians 4:21-31

Who is your mother?

May God’s Love be with you

Ref: Genesis 16, Joseph Prince “Experience Grace”

Still There Is Room

Luke 14
Luke 14

Ah, the Parable of the Dinner: both tragic and majestic! You have the invite in your hand. Will you be by the fire in the warm banquet hall or will you be outside in the rain looking through the window as your stomach growls?

A man is having a big dinner and invites many. The time comes for the dinner and he tells his staff to send the word. However, the worker returns reporting that all the people made excuses on why there were not coming; one bought a new piece of land, one bought some oxen, and one even used his wife as an excuse. This angers the man and he tells his staff to go tell all the people in the street, all the crippled, poor, blind, and lame. The worker does and they come. But the worker reports to the man that there is still room! So he’s ordered to go out to the highways and along the hedges – so that his master’s house may be filled! Lastly, the man of the house declares that none of the original guests will ever eat of the dinner. (paraphrasing of Luke 14:16-24)

First of all, I love how when the first order is carried out – there is still room! Jesus calls all who will receive Him to join in His Father’s wondrous splendor… and there is still room! He will not stop until God’s house is filled! How amazing and wonderful!

There is also a sense that the dinner will have a specific date. It’s not a dinner that will never come to pass. You have been invited and when the banquet finally arrives – you had better be ready. To some, this is extremely exciting and to others it is extremely agonizing. After the dinner hall doors are closed, they are closed for good. Those arriving late, will have no way in. Sadly, they will hear all the laughter and joy coming from within. They will surely be escorted out of the hall and into the cold black night.

C.S. Lewis said that Hell will be like an extension of you’re life. If, all throughout your life, you pushed God away and said, “Leave me alone!” Hell is God finally saying, “As you wish.” God will leave you alone. All alone for eternity. But for the ones who said, “God, come closer!” Heaven will be God finally saying, “As you wish.” And we will abide with the Father and be in the Father’s love forever.

The more I write it out, the more I can’t believe that there are people out there that don’t believe! It takes more faith to not believe in God to me, than it does to actually believe. I hope the invitation lasts one day longer for those who disbelieve. I hope they realize their folly before it’s too late! Come now, while there is still room!

May God’s Love be with you

The Gospel in a Nutshell

1 Cor. 15:4
1 Cor. 15:4

If you had to sum up the Good News of the Gospel, how would you do it? What would you say?

For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.” I Cor. 15:4.

There you go, the Gospel in a nutshell.

May God’s Love be with you

Jethro’s Council

Exodus 18
Exodus 18

Ever feel burned out? Ever feel like you are trying to do everything and it’s finally catching up to you? Imagine being Moses!

In Exodus 18, Moses went to visit with his wife’s father, Jethro. Moses told Jethro all about what God was doing for the Israelites. They both glorified God. They visited and they enjoyed each other’s company. The next day, Moses sat to judge the people. As was his custom, he sat from morning to evening.

All day long.

Jethro said, “Whoa, wait a minute! Why are you doing it like this? You are going to go NUTS!” That is paraphrasing of course. What he actually said was, “The thing that you do is not good. Both you and these people who are with you will surely wear yourselves out. For this thing is too much for you; you are not able to perform it by yourself.” (17-18)

Jethro then gave Moses some advice. He recommended that Moses delegate his authority instead of taking it all on himself.

This chapter has lots of lessons to teach.

For one, it is good for the spiritual leaders of the church to have someone they can go to and just be friends. Pastors need friendship that is void of judgement just like anyone else. Leaders need that kind of camaraderie.

Second, listen to your elders. They have experience. They may have a different prospective. Two heads are always better than one!

Also, it is good to get along with the in-laws. I have been blessed with Godly in-laws who I respect and love very much. I realize this is not the case for many people. However, even if there is friction, there should always be mutual respect.

Another lesson here is the difficult one on how to take criticism. Some leaders get all in a bunch if anyone mentions ways to improve their ministry. Hey, maybe they are right! If you get defensive (or worse, angry!) anytime anyone offers a criticism on your ministry, it may mean you need to search your heart. When pride shows up, the whole church suffers.

Lastly, don’t try to do it all yourself. Even Moses would’ve burned out if he had to sit there day in and day out for years and years! Let others help you! Delegate your authority. It will bless everyone involved! It helps you, the helpers, and the helped.

Isn’t it awesome when you can learn new things! Who would have thought you would learn something today about how to manage your time and resources from Moses’s father-in-law, Jethro? Just imagine what you will learn tomorrow!

May God’s Love be with you

Heart of Stone, Heart of Flesh

Ezek. 36:26
Ezek. 36:26

What was it about David? Why was he so “highly favored?” How did he become “a man after My own Heart?” (Acts 13:22)

It was not because David was the perfect servant. Actually, David was far from perfect. David committed two crimes against the Old Covenant that warranted the death penalty: adultery & murder. So, by the Mosaic Law, David was guilty.

“Howbeit the Lord God of Israel chose me before all the house of my father to be king over Israel for ever: for he hath chosen Judah to be the ruler; and of the house of Judah, the house of my father; and among the sons of my father HE LIKED ME to make me king over all Israel.” – 1 Chron. 28:4 (KJV) [emph. added].

God loved David. God loves all his children! However, God not only loved David, He also liked David. Do you know what I mean? You may have many children. You love them all! But there is going to be one that you get along with more. There is going to be one that you gravitate to more. There is going to be one that you like more.

Why?

Could it be because He knew David’s heart? Read Psalms 51. When David sinned, he repented. No, he pleaded with tears for mercy! “Wash me, cleanse me – blot out my transgressions”, David lamented. The opposite reaction would be that of King Saul. When approached about his sins, Saul hardened his heart. God places a NEW fleshly heart inside man to replace his OLD stony heart (Ezek 36:26) [emph. added].

This is the heart God desires. He desires a heart that repents. He desires one that is malleable, pliable, and workable! A stony heart is a death sentence. It sinks. It drowns. If you have sinned, repent. If someone comes to you with a grievance, answer with a contrite heart. If you feel your heart hardening, know this: that is the heart of man. A stony heart is of the world. God alone can set us free from our cold hearts and give us one that is truly alive!

May God’s Love be with you

Ref: Joseph Prince, The Secret of David