Are you counting on the right safety nets?

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The United States is what I would call a safety-net country. An abundance of government-led programs prevent the widespread devastation of economic crises and natural disasters. In fact, these programs have made many believe they are entitled to invulnerability of any kind.

“Everyone has the the right to eat!” So the government spends billions on WIC, EBT, SNAP and other welfare programs.

“Nobody should lose everything if they are laid off from a job!” So we’ve been given unemployment benefits.

“No elderly person should have to work until they die, or starve if they can no longer work…” So we have Social Security.

“No disabled person should have to beg for food!” So we have disability benefits.

“No person should get abandoned in a catastrophe!” So we send in FEMA

To many, these safety nets are like gods themselves… Continue reading

How do I read through Leviticus?

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Do you have difficulty reading through certain books of the Bible?

Here is my short-list:

  • Revelation
  • Ezekiel
  • Some of the minor prophets (about 9 out of 12…)
  • Parts of Exodus
  • Leviticus

Prophetic books containing apocalyptic language are an obvious challenge. It takes research into the symbolism, a knowledge of the historical time frame, and a good hard look at the context. You can’t just glide through them like you do through the Psalms or Proverbs where the meaning is obvious and the verses highly quotable.

The book of Leviticus is not apocalyptic, it’s laborious. Twenty-seven chapters overflow with detailed rules, regulations, and instructions. It’s a bit like reading the United States Tax Code, only it makes abundantly more sense.

If you are in the midst of your daily bible reading and find your eyes glazing over Leviticus, try the following: Continue reading

Lessons from a Humiliated Pharaoh

This is Part 2 of the Series “The Effects of Knowing God” For the previous post, click here.

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What effect does knowing God have on your life? What effect did it have on the Pharaoh of the Exodus account?

Picture in your mind Moses and Aaron in the court of Pharaoh…

A line of foreigners, servants and gifts winds between gleaming pillars of alabaster. Pharaoh reclines lazily on his throne, receiving tribute from conquered lands, Occasionally sparing a glance or a nod for these lesser mortals. As he waves two Ethiopians away, two plainly-clothed men approach the throne carrying no gift at all. One is clothed as a shepherd, the other a slave.

The man on the right squares his shoulders and speaks:

“Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, ‘Let my people go, that they may hold a feast to me in the wilderness.'”

Pharaoh jerks his head back in shock, one eyebrow arched menacingly.

Both feet press into the stone floor as he leans forward. The one on the left looks a little familiar, but it’s unlikely. The man to the right, the speaker, bears all the marks of servitude—the slight hunch of the shoulders, the leathery skin, and the eyes that flicker of fear.

Filthy Hebrews. 

Who is this God they’re talking about? If the Hebrews have a god, he’s certainly weaker than Ra…

Weaker than me, he thinks to himself.

Pharaoh’s mouth curves into a sardonic smile. “Who is the Lord, that I should obey his voice and let Israel go? I do not know the Lord, and moreover, I will not let Israel go.” (Ex 5:2)

Pharaoh is about to get the introduction of a lifetime… Continue reading

The Effects of Knowing God

 

ben-white-131241Do you know God?

In some form or fashion, everyone “knows” God… Continue reading

Do these words describe you?

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Today, as I was preparing to listen to my daily reading in the YouVersion app, this verse popped up as the “verse of the day.” YouVersion has graphic designers that make these verse images and every so often I post them to Facebook or Twitter. This particular verse jumped out at me today, and I particularly love the emphasis this designer gave to the three words, “joyful, patient, and faithful.”

Now, in the context, this verse is part of a list of “things to be” from Paul the Apostle in the book of Romans. As I looked at this verse this morning, I thought, “Am I joyful, patient, and faithful?” Continue reading

You’re Not As Alone as You Think

This is part 4 of the series “God’s love is the Greatest Love.” For the previous post, click here.

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“But who knows what she spoke to the darkness, alone, in the bitter watches of the night, when all her life seemed shrinking, and the walls of her bower closing in about her, a hutch to trammel some wild thing in?”

~ J.R.R. Tolkien, The Return of the King

Loneliness has a way of seeping into the soul uninvited, slowly sapping our stores of joy until a gaping emptiness remains. Loneliness assaults us in the dead of night or kicks us in the gut as we jostle our way through the madding crowd. It metastasizes through our hearts and minds, increasing our susceptibility to temptation.

“I just wish someone understood…”

“Not a single person has walked in my shoes.”

“I don’t have anyone to talk to…”

“Even my wife doesn’t get it…”

“Everyone I see on Facebook is out having a good time, but I don’t have any close friends.”

“Since my husband betrayed me, I can’t trust anyone ever again.”

“I don’t think God hears my prayers anymore…”

Do any of these phrases sound familiar? Have you ever felt misunderstood or forsaken? Continue reading

The Greatness of Sacrificial Love.

This is part 3 of the series “God’s love is the Greatest Love.” For the previous post, click here.

 

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We mortals make much ado about our sacrifices in the name of love. I’ve heard countless people say they would take a bullet for Jesus or their family. On the other hand, they don’t want to give up Sunday sports to go to worship or put down  their iPhone to have a meaningful conversation with their kids or spend a little less on themselves to help a brother in need.They say they would give up their life, but they are unwilling to make even small sacrifices for others. They would die for others, but not necessarily live for others. Real love does both.

Continue reading

The Love of our Heavenly Father

This is part 2 of the series “God’s love is the Greatest Love.” For the previous post, click here.

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One of the greatest tragedies for a young child is to grow up without a good father. For one thing, fathers provide protection, establish balance, and are often essential to a child’s understanding of how men and women should behave toward one another.

Fathers are a vital part of the family unit.

In ages past, fathers often treated their children as though they ought to be seen and not heard, rarely showing affection and often remaining aloof. This explains why many of the old preachers and pastors framed God as wrathful and distant. In our current culture, many hear “God is our Father” and do not believe He actually exists or cares because their own fathers are likewise absent or uncaring.

How we view earthly fathers directly affects how we relate to our Heavenly Father. Continue reading

How do I Achieve Peace AND Be Holy?

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Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.

Hebrews 12.14, ESV

Peace is an elusive, hard-won, state of affairs.

One party may feel at peace while another is ramping up efforts to overturn it. World leaders made flowery overtures about how they longed for lasting peace after World War I. Unfortunately, their desire to humiliate the Germans via reparations payments simply set the stage for another world war.

These past several years have been anything but peaceful, and the past few weeks have been downright nuts. I don’t care where you stand politically—both sides are behaving like sugar-hyped, bickering siblings. Continue reading

The truth in the music.

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Over the weekend as I was whirring around like a tornado cleaning the house, the kids asked to listen to Christmas music. I suppose it really is that time of the year…

I didn’t feel like fussing with CDs so I pulled up my Amazon Music app and selected the first Christmas station that looked promising. The crooning of Michael Buble, the tinny Feliz Navidad, the rocking Brian Setzer renditions, and the bouncy Christmas oldies rang through the house one jingle bell after another. I skipped “It’s the Most Wonderful time of the Year” because it’s one of The Most Hated Songs in My Ears (I have no idea why that song irritates me so much). While my arms were covered in soap, the song, “Mary, did you know?” came on, performed by the a cappella group Pentatonix. My little girl wanted to skip it because it sounded too slow and she wanted peppy songs. I asked her to pause and listen to this one, partly because I hadn’t heard this version and was curious.

If you are unfamiliar with this song, please take a moment to read and digest the lyrics:

Mary did you know that your baby boy will one day walk on water?
Mary did you know that your baby boy will save our sons and daughters?
Did you know that your baby boy has come to make you new?
This child that you’ve delivered, will soon deliver you

Mary did you know that your baby boy will give sight to a blind man?
Mary did you know that your baby boy will calm a storm with his hand?
Did you know that your baby boy has walked where angels trod?
And when you kiss your little baby, you kiss the face of God

The blind will see, the deaf will hear and the dead will live again
The lame will leap, the dumb will speak, the praises of the lamb

Mary did you know that your baby boy is Lord of all creation?
Mary did you know that your baby boy will one day rule the nations?
Did you know that your baby boy is heaven’s perfect Lamb?
This sleeping child you’re holding is the great I AM.

(Written by Buddy Greene and Mark Lowry)

Obviously, Mary couldn’t possibly have known all the amazing things Jesus would accomplish in His lifetime. We know that she was told He was the Son of God. Luke 1:35 records the angel’s words to Mary: “therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God.” She knew who Jesus was, but could she comprehend the magnitude? I don’t think so. Truth be told, none of us can wrap our heads around all the the Lord has done and continues to do for us.

Mary, we are told, treasured the wondrous acts she observed in her heart (Luke 2:19). There is a lesson in that for us. Do we treasure God’s wondrous deeds within our hearts? Do we marvel over each one as a precious gift or do we treat them as commonplace? Each time God answers our prayers, do we lift our souls in rapturous praise or do we shrug a thanks?

The striking lesson in this simple song is not, “what did Mary know?”. The lesson lies in this: Jesus will never cease to fill us with wonder. The Son of God, through whom the world was created, was willing to live on this earth in poverty, suffer disdain, and bear the torturous death on a cross so that we could be delivered from God’s much-deserved wrath.

These amazing realities in the gospels should stir our hearts with joy and conviction with each and every read.

 

Jesus astounded all who came in contact with Him. It wasn’t his dashing good looks or his phenomenal charisma, for as Isaiah tells us, “he had no form or comeliness that we might desire Him.” It was not pomp and circumstance for He was an impoverished itinerant. What drew people to Jesus was the depth of His compassion, His quiet authority, His defiance of natural laws, and above all, seeing the very nature and essence God dwelling among man. Most men would allow their fame to go to their head, but Jesus made it clear time after time after time that He was no “mere man.”

I wish I could have followed Jesus on those dusty Judean roads—to see the deep love in His eyes, to gaze in wonder at His mercy, to hear His calm voice over the roar of the storm. And yet Jesus says, “blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.” Through Jesus, God has done more than our finite minds can grasp. Through Jesus, we will be granted “scenes of bliss forever new” as the old hymn says. Through Jesus, we will never cease to be filled with wonder at the glorious greatness of the I AM.

Who knows what Mary knew? It doesn’t really matter.

What this song should convey to us is the awe we should feel in the presence of God and bring to our remembrance the hopeful expectation of the joy—forever new and forever wondrous—awaiting us in eternity.

“What no eye has seen, nor ear heard,
nor the heart of man imagined,
what God has prepared for those who love him…”

~ 1 Corinthians 2:9, ESV