Archive for December, 2013

Swapping Tables

Posted in Uncategorized on December 31, 2013 by nmpreach

I’m not much for resolutions, but I think goals are vital to life.  Is that a contradiction?

What I mean is this:  Resolutions focus on the upcoming year but often times those new-found commitments end after a few weeks.  Resolutions seem to appeal to individuals – their hopes, dreams, desires, etc.  You might resolve to lose weight, quit smoking, exercise more, etc.  But most seem narcissistic.

On the other hand, Jesus said, …I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. (Jn 10:10)  Living an abundant life should be our goal – living a life that’s full.  So we must define the abundant life the way He defines it.  In other words, my life is not my own.  My goals can’t be focused on me!  My selfishness must be destroyed.  That’s not narcissistic at all.  In fact, it’s the opposite.

So here’s one of my goals for 2014.  I’m making an exchange.  From this,

buffet

to this.

Bible

Don’t get the wrong idea.  I’m not giving up food.  That would never happen!  🙂  But I do want to make better choices.  Although I will benefit from making better choices on what I consume, in the long-term, my family benefits, my church benefits, everyone around me benefits.  They benefit because of conscious decisions that I make.  I’ve also told our church I’m praying that we all have a new hunger and thirst for God’s Word.  Ezekiel 2:8 reads, …open your mouth and eat what I give you.  Jesus himself said, Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.  (Matt 5:6)  That’s the “table” I’m more interested in.  Amen.

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Quotes (32)

Posted in Words on December 27, 2013 by nmpreach

I realize it’s Friday and typically I post quotes on Thursday.  Nevertheless, think about this.

Faith is not a make it up for yourself, personal do-it-yourself life project. But faith is a life practice, conducted in community. – Leonard Sweet

Ears To Hear

Posted in Jeremiah, Scripture, Sin on December 26, 2013 by nmpreach

Continuing through Jeremiah, you ran across chapter thirteen. Weird, right? First of all, a loincloth? I can’t think of the last time a loincloth has come up in one of my conversations.

Firstly, a loincloth held the outer clothing in place. Typically, the “belt” would cling to one’s person. However, what makes this belt different was it was to be made of linen (13:1) rather than leather. Previously, only the priest wore linen. So why would the prophet be told the loincloth was to be linen?  Linen signified purity.  And each time linen was put on, it was to remind the wearer of the presence of God.

Secondly, Jeremiah is told to make the long journey to the Euphrates and hide the clothing near the river.  After some time, he’s told to retrieve his clothing.  But as he returns, Jeremiah finds it “spoiled” and good for nothing” (13:7).  The text goes on to say God would make the Israelites acknowledge their pride.  It’s important to quote here:

This evil people, who refuse to hear my words, who stubbornly follow their own heart and have gone after other gods to serve them and worship them, shall be like this loincloth, which is good for nothing.  For as the loincloth clings to the waist of a man, so I made the whole house of Israel and the whole house of Judah cling to me, declares the LORD, that they might be for me a people, a name, a praise, and a glory, but they would not listenvss 10-11 emphasis mine

ears

God desires a relationship with His people.  In fact, at a risk of over-simplifying a statement, He reaches out to the Israelites more than once.  Yet they choose to do their own thing.  And eventually God has enough.  He commissions the prophet to make a point about Israel’s sin.  They’re pride and arrogance is passed the point of no return.  They’re not hearing God’s call to return.  They’re selfish and it’s time to be called on their sin.

You might think these are uneducated people.  They didn’t have the knowledge we have.  But wait a sec.  What makes us any different from them?  Sure, they didn’t have the Word as we know it.  But they had the Law and the Prophets and still refused to heed the warnings.  They continued down the same path of destruction and believed they would get by with their rebellion.  We do the same.  We cry “foul” when we’re disciplined for our sin.  We worship money, material possessions, the things of the world.  Yet we don’t learn from previous choices.

Let’s not be too quick to judge these people.  Let’s look first at our own lives and decide what God is calling us to change.  I’m not interested in a resolution that will last a few days or a few weeks.  I’m talking about a life long change.  What has God been speaking, prodding, screaming for us to change but we’ve chosen not to listen?  Thankfully, it’s not too late!

Seriously, Sin?

Posted in Jeremiah, Scripture, Sin on December 20, 2013 by nmpreach

jeremiahEarlier this week, we began to look at the book of Jeremiah.  You can find the first post here.  Today, we turn our attention to chapters 6-10. Once Jeremiah is called by God to be a prophet, he quickly turns to the message.  “Jerusalem, you are sinners.  You’ve turned from a faithful God to your own desires.  Therefore, God is going to punish.”  That’s a paraphrase of the first few chapters, but it’s fair.  Read it, if you haven’t already done so.

As I was reading the next five chapters, I was thinking about sin.  Do I take my sin serious enough?  Do I realize the consequences?  Do I know that one day there will be a reckoning?  Those questions can’t be answered quickly.  It’s sin that got Jesus murdered – mine, yours, and everyone else’s.

If you’ve read these particular chapters, Jeremiah is clear about sin.  Here’s a few verses I’ve highlighted.

Behold, their ears are uncircumcised, they cannot listen; behold the word of the LORD is to them an object of scorn; they take no pleasure in it.  6:10b

But they did not obey or incline their ear, but walked in their own counsels and the stubbornness of their evil hearts, and went backward and not forward.  7:24

Death shall be preferred to life by all the remnant that remains of this evil family in all the places where I have driven them, declares the LORD of hosts.  8:3

Were they ashamed when they committed an abomination?  No, they were not at all ashamed; they did not know how to blush.  Therefore they shall fall among the fallen; when I punish them, they shall be overthrown, says the LORD.  8:12

Everyone deceives his neighbor, and no one speaks the truth; they have taught their tongue to speak lies; they weary themselves committing iniquity.  9:5

…with his mouth each speaks peace to his neighbor, but in his heart he plans an ambush for him.  9:8b

Do you hear a pattern?  It sounds as if Jeremiah recognized the seriousness of sin.  He is clear about the consequences and the judgment that will follow.  I realize I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know.  But do we allow the knowledge to become wisdom?  Do we act upon what we know?  Do we live changed lives based upon information?

The Israelites knew all of the above, yet they continued down the same path.  What makes you and I any different?  You see, we like grace.  We like the God who gives and allows us freedom, etc.  On the other hand, we’re not too fond of a God who punishes, provides judgment, or convicts us of something that needs to change.  We like a God who is holy – as long as He keeps it to Himself.

One more text from these chapters:

Thus says the LORD:  Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth.  For in these things I delight, declares the LORD.  9:23-24

If the Israelites couldn’t have it both ways, what makes us think we can?  Why are we constantly dismissing our sin with every excuse under the sun?  “After all, don’t judge me.  I’m not perfect and neither are you.”  Do you hear the stupidity in that statement?  God has provided the standard.  Any attempt to change it goes much too far.  Sure, we should be grateful for grace.  But grace came with a price – a price that none except Christ was able to pay.  I’m thankful He did.  Let’s take our sin serious, huh?

Quotes (31)

Posted in Uncategorized, Words on December 19, 2013 by nmpreach

One of the best gifts you can give to others is your ability to receive a blessing.  – Anonymous

Making Much Of…

Posted in Scripture on December 18, 2013 by nmpreach

I’ve been reflecting on what I might change in 2014. I’m not much for resolutions, because it seems as soon as I resolve to do something I revert back into old ways of living. I do think it’s important, however, to have goals, aspirations, or what I call a “carrot” to meet. Goals can be personal, as a family, employment, education – really anything. The trick is to be disciplined on a consistent basis (Is that redundant?), to make slow progress.

How about a small example? Have you ever lost weight? Studies show the slower you lose weight, the greater the chance of keeping the weight off. However, if you lose a ton of weight over a short period, chances are the weight will eventually return.  It all comes down to the dirty word “discipline.”

When you’re gone, what will people say about what you were known for?  Don’t miss this!  I didn’t say “Will you be missed?”  There’s someone (particularly family) who will miss you.  But what will you be known for?  For Mother Teresa, it was serving the poor.  Michael Jordan is considered by many to be the greatest basketball player of all time.  Billy Graham will be known as a great evangelist.  You get the idea.

You’re not Mother Teresa.  Michael Jordan would “smoke” you in a game of basketball.  And Billy Graham might lead more to Christ than you will.  But what will you be known for?  Who can’t do what God has called you to do?

I think to be a follower of Jesus, one needs to be passionate.  In other words, we can claim to be a follower but if we’re not doing what He wants us to do, we’re lying (to ourselves and to those around us).  When I think of passion, the Apostle Paul comes to mind pretty quickly.  It was one of his personality traits.  Before he met Jesus, Paul was passionate about killing believers.  After meeting Jesus, Paul was passionate about loving unbelievers.  But wherever life led him, Paul was passionate.

Another important thing:  It wasn’t about Paul.  From 1 Corinthians and a dispute about what personality those in the Church would follow – Is Christ divided?  Was Paul crucified for you?  Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?  I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, so that no one may say that you were baptized in my name…For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.  vss. 13-15, 17 (ESV)

His words bleed passion.  There’s always someone looking to see what Paul said.  But I believe Paul would tell us, “But what did Christ say?”  In other words, Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.  1 Cor 11:1

You will be known for something.  That’s a fact!  So surely we can agree to have a goal that is eternal, something that’s literally the difference between life and death.  Being a great athlete only allows people to acknowledge you in the here and now.  Eventually you’ll be forgotten.  But if you stand up for those who can’t stand up for themselves and if you lead people to Christ, those are eternal qualities that will never be forgotten.

Here’s a goal that’s worth attempting to attain:  Make much of Christ.  As a person, a husband, a father, a pastor, a church family, a nation, that’s my prayer.  Amen.

A “Hearty” Conversation

Posted in Jeremiah, Scripture, Sin on December 17, 2013 by nmpreach

jeremiah
I started reading Jeremiah (again) yesterday. My goal is to read five chapters each day which will allow me to finish the entire book in just over one week. Sure, I could read more at a setting. But I’ve found five chapters to take about 35-45 minutes and when complete it allows me to “chew” and “digest” on what I’ve read. Care to take the journey with me?

Jeremiah has been deemed “The Weeping Prophet.” By the time we’re done, you will understand why. If you read certain portions of the book without knowing the context, Jeremiah could be perceived as discouraging if not depressing. However, if you understand the context, I believe you’ll appreciate Jeremiah and his candor. Let’s just say, “He’s real.”

The scene: Jeremiah (a prophet) speaks to Jerusalem in the 7th cen. – 6th cen. B.C.

Jeremiah receives his call from God right off the bat.  Most of us are familiar with Before I formed you in the womb I knew you…  How often is that taken out of context?  But the verse continues …and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.  The text says God “knew” Jeremiah.  “To know” in Hebrew signifies an intimate relationship.  God knew Jeremiah’s make-up – what would make him happy, sad, frustrated, etc.  He gifted Jeremiah with what the prophet needed.  Yet he also knew Jeremiah’s limitations.

Do you realize that God knows us better than we know ourselves?  When I think about my own life – my struggles, failures, etc., I’m amazed that although God knows me inside and out, He chooses to call me for a specific purpose.  By the way, He does the same with you!  The text states that God consecrated Jeremiah.  He was set apart.  No one could play Jeremiah’s role.  God would take Jeremiah’s limitations and use them as opportunities for Jeremiah to grow.  God would use Jeremiah’s giftedness and teach him about humility.  Make no mistake about it.  God chose Jeremiah for this task, at this time, in this place.  Coincidence?  Nope.

God then gives Jeremiah opportunities to see certain visions and promptly describes what the prophet is seeing.  It’s clear that what God calls Jeremiah to do will not be considered popular.  In fact, being unpopular would be an understatement.  Not many people … okay, no one… likes to be told what they’re doing is wrong.  And the Israelites were no exception.  Exactly how many times can a preacher accuse a people of being a “spiritual whore” without getting run out-of-town?  Jeremiah was set on finding out.  But he also offers hope if they will repent.  Here’s the charge that I’ve highlighted:  Circumcise yourselves to the LORD; remove the foreskin of your hearts, O men of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem; lest my wrath go forth like fire, and burn with none to quench it, because of your evil deeds.  4:4 (ESV)

Okay.  That’s strange!  Circumcise yourselves to the LORD?  Foreskin of the heart?  If we look at the latter part of the verse, it seems vital that we figure out what Jeremiah is saying.  The obvious meaning is repentance.  Without repentance, there’s no reason to move ahead with the conversation, relationship, etc.  The people of Jerusalem (and you and I) are called to turn away from worldly things and turn back to God.  The word pictures of circumcision and foreskin speak to the excising of one’s flesh.  Later, Paul would say “crucify yourself.”  If we don’t do away with the flesh, the Spirit is not allowed to rule.  Too often, people attempt to get religion and live in the world at the same time.  It’s impossible!  But we’re slow learners.

This theme will come up over and over throughout the book.  And that gives us a good basis to think about what we need to change.  But are you willing?