Category Archives: Life

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2 Tim 2:14
Keep reminding them of these things. Warn them before God against quarreling about words; it is of no value, and only ruins those who listen.

Pastors and church leaders are called to be spiritual “reminderers.” The goal of ministry is not to invent new ideas or new teachings. Instead, men and women need to be reminded what God had already communicated. And when it comes to quarreling, a reminder is what we need.

The reminder not to quarrel is presented before God Himself. God is the authority here, not man. The reason for not quarreling is not ultimately for ourselves, in other words, but because of God.

Quarreling matters to God because it is against His own character. Within the Trinity, the three persons do not argue but exist in perfect unity. Love and respect are made possible in the world because love and respect first existed within God. Rather than condemning or quarreling with us, God displayed His love to the world. (John 3:16-17)

The warning in 2 Timothy 2:14 is not to quarrel about words. This does not mean we should drop out of school, burn our dictionaries, or stop discussing important matters. The warning concerns trivial arguments that damage others. Because of the sin that so easily entangles us, even healthy debates can go astray and, sometimes within seconds, turn into worthless quarrels. As soon as we depart from loving communication in order to prove a point, we sin against others and against God.

In other words, as men and women, we often engage in arguments that do not help the people around us, but ruin them. We need reminders not to quarrel because if we are honest with ourselves we sometimes prioritize arguments over people. As followers of Christ, however, we are called to re-examine our motives, cease from pointless debates, and pursue peaceful and constructive conversations with one another.

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If you’ve ever been hurt in your life, you know that the memory doesn’t go away. Whether someone hit you, betrayed you, neglected you, or somehow otherwise injured you, the memory can remain for years. It may even replay in your mind when triggered by a sound or image. Even when forgiving the other person, you do not forget how much it hurt.

In a similar way, Jesus did not get “amnesia” when He ascended into heaven. Jesus still remembers the mockery, the pain, and the sacrifice that he received for me and you. His forgiveness is so much greater because of the fact that he forgives despite the memory of how much he hurt. After all this time, his forgiveness never ends.

1 John 2:1 tells us that Jesus, despite being hurt, is our advocate: “If anyone does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense — Jesus Christ, the Righteous One.” He is sitting at the right hand of the Father, pleading for us. Rather than forgetting what happened, he continually reminds the Father of his own righteousness and his sacrifice for us.

This truth can free us to forgive one another. Even when we remember, we can still pray for those who hurt us and ask God to bless them. This is what it means to forgive — not ignoring the past, but loving others in the present.

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6 For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
and his name shall be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

- Isaiah 9:6

As the lyrics of the Hallelujah Chorus, we hear these words almost every Christmas. The music of Handel’s song easily gets stuck in our heads, but I wonder if the words do the same. These words are too incredible to pass by.

Hours could be spent on each of these ideas. But for today, think about the fact that “the government shall be upon His shoulders.” Jesus’ birth signified that God had a better plan. As much as the Israelites desired a king, every kingdom failed. But God promised to send a Savior who would rule with power and grace. Even the responsibility of government would rest upon Him.

So in a world where so many things are going wrong, we all need to be reminded of who is in control. Whether we are Republican or Democrat, our hope should not rest in a politician to solve our problems. In fact, as followers of Jesus Christ, we should be gracious to public officials because they will never get it completely right. As hard as they try, Christ is the only one who can effectively lead our world towards peace and reconciliation.

This Christmas, try to reach out to someone with the good news of the gospel. If you know a public official, tell them how much you appreciate them. And rather than complaining about our government, remember that we are looking for a better, more peaceful kingdom that is yet to come.

Prayer: Jesus, we believe that you are the hope that we need. Whatever our need, help us to trust in You for our peace. You alone are our Savior.

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2 For he grew up before him like a young plant,
and like a root out of dry ground;
he had no form or majesty that we should look at him,
and no beauty that we should desire him.
3 He was despised and rejected by men;
a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief;
and as one from whom men hide their faces
he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

– Isaiah 53:2-3

As most of us can admit, it is easy to miss the true meaning of Christmas! If we are honest, all of us can think back to years that didn’t have as much significance as we hoped. Whether we didn’t receive that present on top of our list, whether we have mourned the loss of a love one, or whether the time just passed too quickly… we have all missed the point from time to time.

Of course, we are not the only ones to miss the Christ in Christmas. From the very beginning of Jesus’ life, people did not see anything attractive or popular about Him. Scripture tells us that in addition to being born in a filthy manger, Jesus did not draw a lot of attention in terms of his physical appearance.

Unlike the movies that we see on TV, Jesus wouldn’t have been cast for any movies. In fact, the Bible tells us in John 1:10-11 that Jesus was despised and rejected by those around Him. Rather than seeking out His face, they hid from Christ and did not see any value in Him. In today’s terms, He was far from being a movie star.

This can be convicting because all of us are guilty about forgetting about Jesus. Many of us pay more attention to the movie stars and the latest Hollywood gossip than we do to Jesus Christ. But it is never late to change.

Christ calls us to notice Him, to recognize who He truly is, and to bring others with us to the manger. If we all do that, this Christmas will not be another empty holiday.

Prayer: Lord, forgive us for neglecting You. Like our friends and neighbors, we have lost sight of who you truly are. All of us have gone astray and looked to the idols of our greed, pride, and lust. Have mercy on us for not esteeming You as we should, and help us to to draw others to You, so that today, we will all recognize Your majesty as we should. Though born in a manger, You are the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords.

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“In that day the Root of Jesse will stand as a banner for the peoples; the nations will rally to him, and his resting place will be glorious.”
- Isaiah 11:10

Isaiah’s prophesied to the people of God that a Savior was coming. Through an heir of Jesse, people from all nations would be saved. This was a message of great hope, and hundreds of years later, the people of God would see that the “banner for the peoples” was Jesus Christ.

By taking on human flesh, Jesus displayed to the world who God truly is. Jesus proclaimed rescue and safety for all those who come to Him, and He offered rest to the weary. For anyone that unites with Him, Christ offers spiritual peace by reconciling us to God. Jesus alone can provide the rest that we all long for.

The birth of Christ is a reminder God rules over all of creation. With foresight and divine control, God set His intent into motion hundreds of years before Jesus’ birth. Sovereign over all things, God knew far beyond what any human being could predict, for only God knows what the future holds. Nothing in human history is a surprise to God.

For us today, this is incredible news. Because the prophecies of the Old Testament were fulfilled in Christ, we can find great peace and comfort in the fact that God knows all things, and He is more than capable of taking care of us in our time of need.

Prayer: Father God, thank you for your sovereign will. Our plans shift, change, and fail, but yours remain forever. Thank you for your gift of salvation and for sending Jesus to be a banner for all the nations. This year, may Christmas be more than an American holiday, but may it be a reminder for us that you desire to save all kinds of people, from every nation. We acknowledge and believe that you alone are the world’s source of comfort and peace.

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I think Jesus may have hacked into our bank account. Somehow, he always seems to know when my wife and I are low on cash.

Now that I am a seminary student, our cash supply is often limited, and at times, nearly nonexistent. But when we reach the bottom of the barrel, we are always provided for. This has happened over and over again. God knows all along what we need, and He is always there to help.

TV and prosperity preachers give such a bad rap to the ideas of blessing and prosperity. In the guise of fancy suits and gold rings, they spout heresy. God never, never promises us a new car or a new house. Instead, God promises that Christians will face difficulty and persecution because of the evil in this world. As Jesus said in John 15:20, “If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you.” In other words, life as a Christian is difficult.

However, because extremists twist the Bible for their own purposes, the rest of the Christian faith has shied away from talking about material and physical blessing. I am not speaking about a six figure salary, but when we have six dollars left in the bank, we need to be confident and trust that God will provide. We should not be fearful of believing that. Even when we are to blame for the situation we are in, God delights in rescuing those who repent of their ways and turn to Him for help.

No matter what day it is, God is faithful. Not only has God promised never to flood the earth again, but He takes no delight in flooding our lives with unnecessary strife. So we can truly pray, “Give us today our daily bread,” and be assured that God will provide everything that we need to get through the day.

While the bare minimum not seem like very much, it has an added blessing in that it reminds us of heaven. We can look forward to when their will no longer be tears, fear, or the pain of hunger. Luke reminds us of Jesus’ concern for the poor and needy, as he records the words of Jesus in Luke 6:20-23:

“Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.
Blessed are you who hunger now, for you will be satisfied.
Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh.
Blessed are you when people hate you, exclude you, mock you, and curse you because of the Son of Man.
Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, for behold,
great is your reward in heaven…”

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Missional has become a buzzword in Christian circles, but what does it mean? There are many different responses to that, but in my mind, here are a few descriptions of what it means to be missional:

Incarnational:
You display God’s good news in the way you live.

Contextual:
You connect God’s good news with everyday life.

Personal:
You view yourself as a missionary wherever you are.

Communal:
You connect with others in order to spread the good news.

Cultural:
You communicate God’s good news in a relevant way.

Continual:
Your entire life is committed to God’s mission.

Looking at that list, all of us can strive to be more missional. Before we label ourselves as “missional,” we need to be careful to recognize that being missional is more than a label. It is not a simple yes or no. There is always more that we can do.

First Ice Cream

I wonder how much time we spend wanting something else. When a child, we want to be adults. When we are adults, we want to find a job and a spouse. Then we want a child, maybe a few. When we have children, we want a house, then a bigger house. We also want a car, a television, a computer, and so on. Our cravings never seem to cease.

I was reminded of this today when my daughter ate her first ice cream cone. She never asked for ice cream because she never knew that it existed. But when it was offered to her, she entered baby heaven! She wasn’t consumed with all of the possible deserts or all that she did not have. Rather, she was so delighted with one simple ice cream cone. Her smile was bigger than I have seen any adult smile in months, if not years.

King David once wrote, “The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.” (Ps. 23:1) If we could fully grasp that, most of our moaning and groaning would cease. We would not be consumed with what we do not have; instead, we would realize that we have all that we need in God. And when content, we are filled with deep and inexpressible joy, no longer enslaved by temporary things.

 

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The book of Leviticus can seem daunting, irrelevant, boring, and downright frightening. Honestly, I have avoided the book from time to time, as have many others. It is easy to overlook the book because the “rituals” no longer apply to us, and it can be difficult to discern what those rituals teach us.

After reading just the first few chapters, though, here are a few reasons that we can be thankful for its message:

* God has a plan for His people.
* God gives answers, so we don’t need to figure out problems on our own.
* God sets standards intended for people to follow.
* God knows we sin, but still wants to communicate with us.
* God provides a way for us to get rid of our guilt.
* God enjoys our offerings, as simple as they may be.
* God has decided to forgive us!

Those are just a few reasons. Read the first few chapters of Leviticus and see if you can add some more to add to the list.