Daily Nuggets – 12/31

Here’s a few interesting articles and tidbits from around the web.

ESV Study Bible Give-Away
Bob Kauflin is giving away 10 ESV Study Bibles over at his site. Get entered over there. It’s a great resource.

Bible Reading Plans
Justin Taylor has posted the ESV yearly reading plans over at his site. It’s a good time a year to start one.

What Does the President Read?
Interesting look at what the President Bush has been reading.

Bible Reading and Praying One-on-One
Interesting article from the Briefing magazine on the possible benefits of Christians reading the bible and praying together.

Best Wishes for 2009!

Grace and Peace.

Tony

Can I Open Just One?

christmas_gifts

 

Well it’s a week to go til Christmas. It was about this time each year when I was a kid that I would start to pester anyone who would listen to let me open a Christmas present or two or all. Most years I was pretty successful at getting an early crack at the Christmas goodies. Still today it doesn’t take much to get me in the mood to open presents.  So I thought I would just throw it out there to see what you guys do. Here are the choices:

1. Christmas Eve
2. Christmas Day
3. Other

Feel free to describe your traditon in the comments.

Grace and Peace,

Tony

What do you fear?

When I was a kid, I was terribly afraid of the dark. I can still remember dark night after dark night lying awake in bed cataloging every foreign noise I could hear or imagine until I would eventually pass out due to the sheer terror of it all. 

Forests and wooded areas also kind of freak me out a little bit. For the longest time and still even sometimes today I am convinced that lurking somewhere in the foliage is some entity bent on doing me harm. 

I guess being afraid is nothing new.

In Luke 12:4-7 Jesus deals with this subject of fear. I always find it cool when the people in scripture end up dealing with the same issues we do today (Honestly, it’s hard to find any scripture that is not applicable in some form or the other. This fact alone builds my faith and belief every time I consider it). The context of this passage is Jesus speaking with His disciples. He says:

Luke 12:4-7 (English Standard Version)

4 “I tell you, my friends,(A) do not fear those who kill the body, and after that have nothing more that they can do.

5 But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him(B) who, after he has killed, has authority to cast into hell.[a] Yes, I tell you, fear him!

6 Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies?[b] And(C) not one of them is forgotten before God. 

7 Why,(D) even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not;(E) you are of more value than many sparrows. 

Footnotes:

  1. (a) Luke 12:5 Greek Gehenna
  2. (b) Luke 12:6 Greek two assaria; an assarion was a Roman copper coin worth about 1/16 of a denarius (which was a day’s wage for a laborer)

Cross references:

  1. (A) Luke 12:4 : Isa 8:12, 13; 51:12, 13; Jer 1:8; 1 Pet 3:14
  2. (B) Luke 12:5 : James 4:12
  3. (C) Luke 12:6 : Psalm 50:11
  4. (D) Luke 12:7 : 1 Sam 14:45
  5. (E) Luke 12:7 : Matt 6:26; 12:12

 

Breaking this passage down, we see Jesus saying something very significant. Jesus is saying we should not fear the dark, or the woods or anything for that matter that causes us to die physically. More so Jesus says that we should fear God. Now, I realize fearing God is not a new a concept, but Jesus is saying we should fear God because has the authority to cast us into hell. I mean I have always been happy to think that I should fear God because He is holy and because He created everything and all, but I should fear Him because He the has authority to cast me in hell. Wow.

The question this begs me to ask is would God send me to hell? I mean why would He do that? Can’t I just assume that God is pretty much cool with me as long as I don’t do anything real bad and everything will work out just fine? What is Jesus saying? It really seems like Jesus is telling us that we need to be afraid of God because God will send us to hell. Logically, if God would not really send us to hell then would there be any reason to fear that He would?

So what’s the take away? For me it is the Gospel. Humanity is broken because of disobedience to God. He created us to obey and worship Him. None of us can confidently say that we have obeyed and worshipped God in all things. What is God’s response to our disobedience? Death and separation. This is what Jesus is telling us to fear. Jesus was keenly aware that the only place to find the fullness of peace and community with God is in total obedience and submission to Him. And how did Jesus know this?

Jesus is God. Jesus came to dwell in humanity to show us how to live in submission to God. He came to point the way to reconciliation. He came to provide a way to reconciliation. The true issue for every human being is that we are all disobedient to God. That fact combined with the fact that God is perfect in every way including fairness and justice means that there must be an accounting for our disobedience. The scriptures tell us that the penalty for our disobedience is death and separation from God. How did Jesus provide a way for our reconciliation?

Jesus offered Himself as substitute. Jesus with His life essentially says that even though all of humanity should be destroyed because of their disobedience could they possible be reconciled in exchange for His life. God allowed this exchange and Jesus was tortured and crucified on a cross until death as payment for our disobedience, and in a final affirmation of power and deity God raised Jesus from the dead. This is the Gospel. That through one man, Adam, came sin and death for all and through another man, Jesus, came life and reconciliation.

What do you make of this Gospel? Anything? Jesus taught that only those who know Him through His sacrifice will ever know intimacy with God. Jesus is my Lord and my God. He is the beginning and the end. He is the bread of life and offers living waters that allows me to never thirst. He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. He allows me to call God, Father. If this Gospel moves you, God is possibly drawing you to Him. Seek Him and He will find you. Submit to Him and repent (turn away) of your disobedience.

Father, my prayer today is that you would open the hearts of those who do not know you and that the power of the Gospel would break the chains of disobedience from those it is oppressing. All according to your will and in Jesus name. – Amen

So what do you fear?

Grace and Peace.

Tony

Man it's cold!

igloo1

This past Sunday at church the heat was out. It was pretty cold and I found myself struggling to get into the worship and the message. I began to wonder that if I were required to worship in the cold every week would I still be interested in following Jesus. I know all the good Christians out there are clamoring of course they would still be able to worship, but this thought has really challenged me. How is my devotion to Christ when I am hungry, or cold, or overly hot, or without shelter, or whatever the scenario may be. Do I really seek Him first no matter what? Honestly, I was thinking more about the cold Sunday morning than Jesus, and it saddens me.

 

As I thought about it the last couple days I was reminded of Abraham Maslow, the psychologist who in 1943 theorized that there is a hierarchy of needs that all individuals have that determines how they process life. The basic premise is that until individuals are satisfied on certain levels of need they will never transcend to explore the next level of need.  Maslow proposed that things like food, shelter, and security exist at lower levels in the hierarchy and are considered first before  things like concepts of  morality and community. So in a way, it kind of made sense that I was unable to focus on Jesus in the midst of being cold. Right?

 

I wish I could let myself off that easy, but I can’t help but think there is something deeper at play here. Am I just walking around here wearing my Christian button or do I truly believe in the Risen Christ? Do I really feel that my sin has separated me from a holy and just God whose only holy and just response to my sin would be to punish it? Is there an invisible Kingdom of God that is forcefully advancing against the power of sin and death or am I just playing church? Is Jesus the basis of my need hierarchy or am I just to cold to care?

 

The one big take away for me over the last few days of thinking about this is a new perspective on the spiritual discipline of fasting. I have traditionally not been very purposeful or consistent when it comes to this discipline. I am confident that there is a good biblical mandate for fasting. Jesus fasted for 40 days at the beginning of His earthly ministry.  Additionally in Matthew 6:16, Jesus uses the terminology “When you fast…” opposed to “if you fast” indicating that He saw fasting as a discipline that should be practiced. 

 

I think what we ultimately find in the discipline of fasting is a willful denial of our basic needs such as food and replacing it  with an intentional reliance on the sustaining presence and power of God through Jesus. Fasting allows us to reorder Maslow’s hierarchy of needs with Jesus as the first and foremost need for all individuals. I think this is the challenge for me. If my need for food or heat can throw off my devotion to Jesus, then how will I respond when I am tested by persecution or sacrifice? I need to be purposeful in my reliance on Jesus.

 

How about you guys? Do you struggle to worship when it cold or when it’s close to lunch time or when the big game is coming on?

 

Grace and peace.

 

Tony

Man it’s cold!

igloo1

This past Sunday at church the heat was out. It was pretty cold and I found myself struggling to get into the worship and the message. I began to wonder that if I were required to worship in the cold every week would I still be interested in following Jesus. I know all the good Christians out there are clamoring of course they would still be able to worship, but this thought has really challenged me. How is my devotion to Christ when I am hungry, or cold, or overly hot, or without shelter, or whatever the scenario may be. Do I really seek Him first no matter what? Honestly, I was thinking more about the cold Sunday morning than Jesus, and it saddens me.

 

As I thought about it the last couple days I was reminded of Abraham Maslow, the psychologist who in 1943 theorized that there is a hierarchy of needs that all individuals have that determines how they process life. The basic premise is that until individuals are satisfied on certain levels of need they will never transcend to explore the next level of need.  Maslow proposed that things like food, shelter, and security exist at lower levels in the hierarchy and are considered first before  things like concepts of  morality and community. So in a way, it kind of made sense that I was unable to focus on Jesus in the midst of being cold. Right?

 

I wish I could let myself off that easy, but I can’t help but think there is something deeper at play here. Am I just walking around here wearing my Christian button or do I truly believe in the Risen Christ? Do I really feel that my sin has separated me from a holy and just God whose only holy and just response to my sin would be to punish it? Is there an invisible Kingdom of God that is forcefully advancing against the power of sin and death or am I just playing church? Is Jesus the basis of my need hierarchy or am I just to cold to care?

 

The one big take away for me over the last few days of thinking about this is a new perspective on the spiritual discipline of fasting. I have traditionally not been very purposeful or consistent when it comes to this discipline. I am confident that there is a good biblical mandate for fasting. Jesus fasted for 40 days at the beginning of His earthly ministry.  Additionally in Matthew 6:16, Jesus uses the terminology “When you fast…” opposed to “if you fast” indicating that He saw fasting as a discipline that should be practiced. 

 

I think what we ultimately find in the discipline of fasting is a willful denial of our basic needs such as food and replacing it  with an intentional reliance on the sustaining presence and power of God through Jesus. Fasting allows us to reorder Maslow’s hierarchy of needs with Jesus as the first and foremost need for all individuals. I think this is the challenge for me. If my need for food or heat can throw off my devotion to Jesus, then how will I respond when I am tested by persecution or sacrifice? I need to be purposeful in my reliance on Jesus.

 

How about you guys? Do you struggle to worship when it cold or when it’s close to lunch time or when the big game is coming on?

 

Grace and peace.

 

Tony