Friday, August 31, 2012
Tuesday, August 28, 2012
The Life Project: Acts
When my oldest Jaden was baptized we bought him the
book, Jesus Freaks, which is a compilation of stories about
real martyrs, ancient and modern-day, who have been
persecuted and often killed for the cause of Christ. We
wanted Jaden to understand that following Jesus does not
mean following Him to a church service on Sunday
mornings at 11. Following Jesus sometimes means
following Him to the cross. A faith this radical is what true
Christianity is about, and there is no book in the Bible that
exemplifies true Christianity more than the book of Acts.
The Christians in the book of Acts and the Christians
referenced in Jesus Freaks, have more than a few things in
common. The most striking trait about both of these
groups is their boldness. And in 21st Century America, I see
boldness as one trait that Christians are lacking. We are not
a bold people. And I believe God would like to see that
I think there are three keys that the church in Acts had that
gave them great boldness. First they knew the Truth.
Secondly, they had a sense of urgency. And finally, they
knew their Source of power.
First century Christians knew the Truth. Many of them had
walked with Jesus. They saw Him perform miracles. They
heard Him teach. They heard Jesus proclaim that He was
the way, the TRUTH, and the life and that NO ONE could
come to the Father except through Him. Many of these
early believers saw Jesus crucified. Some of them even got
to witness the empty tomb. In the first century world,
Christians KNEW the truth and so they could proclaim it
boldly. I fear today that we are anti-truth. Our society says
that there is no true way, just the way that is right for you.
Sadly many in the church have bought into this lie. When I
discard absolute truth, I also have to discard boldness. Why
would I tell you about Jesus, about the salvation available
through Him, if we both believe you can get your salvation
another way? If we do not believe in absolute truth, we will
certainly not have the boldness to proclaim our Savior as
the only way. But just because we don’t believe in absolute
truth, does not make it less true. Just because you believe
the moon will save you, or the stars, or being good, or
attending church; doesn’t mean it is true. The only thing
that saves is Jesus Christ. Until we are convinced of this
truth, we will never have boldness.
Once we know the truth, we must also have an urgency to
proclaim it. The early church used to greet each other by
saying, “Maranatha”, which means the Lord is coming. First
century Christians lived with the idea that Christ would
return any moment. They knew their time was short. The
longest anyone had to spread the Gospel of Christ was their
life span. They might even have less time than that. They
had the real hope that Christ would return at any moment
and they wanted to be ready. The Christian martyrs in the
Jesus Freak book had a sense of urgency to their faith as
well. They lived in a time and/or place that was hostile to
Christians. They understood the ramifications of being a
Christian. They understood they were in a Spiritual war and
the enemy was gaining ground. Living and dying for Christ
is not something that can be put off. The enemy won’t wait.
The time is now.
But in America.......we are, in a word, complacent. We have
been lulled to sleep by a very crafty enemy. In the famous
Screwtape Letters by CS Lewis, we find this poignant quote.
“Indeed the safest road to Hell is the gradual one- the
gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings,
without milestones, without signposts.” And the Church for
too long, has been happy to help people down this gentle slope to Hell. We don’t want to be too bold. We don’t really think Christ could come back any day. We have lost the urgency of the Gospel. No urgency = no boldness.
If we can regain our sense of urgency, and realize that the
Bible tells us we are living in the last days; If we can arm
ourselves the truth that Jesus is the only way to heaven;
then we are closer than ever to obtaining the boldness of
our ancient Christian brothers and sisters. The final key to
boldness, is to know the Source of power. This Source of
course, is the Holy Spirit. Acts chapter 1 tells us that the
Holy Spirit was given so that the Christians could be
witnesses to the ends of the earth. This implies that
witnessing is not something that can be done in our own
“Renounce your Jesus, or we will kill you!” they threatened.
Roy was terribly frightened. Though trembling, he
answered, “I am a soldier of Christ!”
At this, one of the Muslim attackers swung a sword at his
stomach. The sword hit the Bible Roy held, and ripped into
it, knocking it out of his hand. The man’s next swing sliced
open Roy’s stomach. His last word was “Jesus.” From Jesus
Freaks, by DC Talk
This is the story of a 15 year old boy in Indonesia who was
murdered for his faith. It happened in 1999. Roy knew the
Source of his power. Roy knew Jesus. He had been filled
with the Holy Spirit. Like the Christians in the book of Acts,
Roy has now heard, “Well done, my good and faithful
servant.” As a Christian, these are the greatest words we
can ever hope to hear- to hear our Lord telling us well
Our mission is clear. Matthew 28:19, “Go therefore, and
make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of
the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” Have we
done this with boldness? My prayer for our church this
week is that we would understand boldness, that we would
adopt it as a character trait that defines us. I pray that we
will be armed with the truth, with a sense of urgency and
with the Spirit’s power to be witnesses for our Savior.
Friday, August 24, 2012
Tuesday, August 21, 2012
The Life Project: John
I hate the dark. Even as an adult, I am still a bit afraid of it. When my husband goes
out of town I sleep with the bathroom light on. From my constant desire to avoid
darkness, I have learned a few things about the light.
The first thing I know is that light and darkness cannot coexist. Secondly, I know that
light dispels fear. And finally I know that if you want to know where you are going, you
need a light. In the book of John, it is fitting then that Jesus is frequently referred to as
a light John 1:4-5 In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light
shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
John 1:9-10 The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the
world. He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the
world did not recognize him.
John 8:12 When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the
world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of
John 12:35-36 Then Jesus told them, “You are going to have the light just a little
while longer. Walk while you have the light, before darkness overtakes you.
Whoever walks in the dark does not know where they are going. Believe in the
light while you have the light, so that you may become children of light.” When he
had finished speaking, Jesus left and hid himself from them.
So what does it mean that Jesus is the light? What does it mean that He has called me
to be a child of the light? I heard an illustration once about light and darkness that I
thought was very powerful. Suppose you had a dark room that you wanted to make
light. Would you make it light by scooping out the darkness one cup at a time? Would
you grab a pitcher and swing it through the air to capture the darkness and then try to
pour it out? No! Of course not! To make a dark room light, you turn on a light. When
the light is on, darkness cannot exist. When Jesus is on the scene then, darkness
cannot exist. For me to live as a child of the light I must keep this principle in mind. I
cannot rid myself of my darkness with my own efforts. Any effort to get rid of my
darkness is as asinine and trying to scoop the darkness out of a room with a
measuring cup. What I need to get rid of my darkness is a light. I need Jesus. When I
welcome Jesus into my life, the darkness naturally dissipates because darkness and
light cannot coexist.
The result of having the Light in my life is that fear is dispelled. I am a fearful person
by nature. Maybe it is my human condition that makes me this way. Maybe it is my sin
nature. Maybe it’s just me. But whatever the reason, I struggle daily to fight anxiety
and fear in my life. I worry about my children. I worry about my husband. I worry
about our church family. If I allow myself to crouch in the darkness, I become fearful
of so many things. But when I focus on Jesus, on His goodness on His holiness, I don’t
have much time to focus on my fears. When the light is turned on, the darkness runs
hiding, and my fear fades away.
Finally I understand that to know where I am going, I need a light. We were recently
visiting my in-laws and Matt got up in the middle of the night because he heard one of
our boys crying. He walked out of our room and straightff the first step of a long
stair case. He wasn’t familiar enough with his parent’s new house to remember there
were stairs there, and it was pitch black so he couldn’t see that there were stairs. He
almost broke his neck. When Matt told me about the middle-of-the-night adventure
the next day, it got me thinking about life. So often we walk around in total darkness.
We don’t know where we are going. We have no idea about the obstacles that are in
our path. We are tripping over ourselves, over sin, over uncertainty. We are walking
down staircases. Maybe we just end up walking in circles because we cannot see
where we are going. But what if we had a light? What if we allowed our Savior to
illuminate our path? We probably wouldn’t falter near as much as we do now. We
would probably “get somewhere” in life instead of walking in circles. Psalm 119:105
says, “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.” The Word of God,
and Jesus, the Word made flesh; these are lights.
As you study the book of John this week, I encourage you to ask God how He wants to
apply His Light to your life.
Tuesday, August 14, 2012
The Gospel According to Luke is probably my favorite book of the Bible. I love all of the Gospels. They are after all "Good News". The main character is my Savior and the message of these books is central to my faith; salvation through Jesus Christ alone. But Luke is my favorite for its wealth of stories that are not found in the other Gospels. Through the stories that Luke chooses to include, special emphasis is placed on those that the world rejects; the poor, the sick, the outcast, women, elderly, sinners. Luke shows us a Jesus who has truly come for the "least of these".
There is another reason that Luke is my favorite book, and that is for its special emphasis on prayer. In no other Gospel is prayer given such attention. And yet Jesus gave great attention to the practice. There are two Greek words for prayer and they are mentioned 41 times in the book of Luke. Jesus taught about prayer, gave instructions on prayer, but more importantly is shown praying himself.
It has often perplexed me why Jesus felt the need to pray. He was, after all, God in flesh. If there was ever someone who did not have the need to pray, Jesus would be that person. But Jesus did pray. In Luke 3:21, Jesus prayed at His baptism. In Luke 5:16, Scripture tells us that Jesus often withdrew to the wilderness to pray. In Luke 6:12 Jesus went out to the mountain to pray all night. Luke 9:18, Jesus is found alone praying. In Luke 22:41 Jesus prayed for His Fathers will to be done in the Garden of Gethsemane. While Jesus was on the cross, Luke 23:34, he prayed for those who crucified Him to be forgiven. It would seem that Jesus prayed at all times for all sorts of reasons.
And so, if Jesus felt the need for prayer in His life, how much more do we need prayer in our lives? That’s a rhetorical question by the way because the answer is infinitely more. We need prayer infinitely more than Jesus did. But if you are anything like me, prayer is a difficult habit to acquire, an easy practice to set aside.
And do I even have the right to pray? Do I know the right words to use? Have I been "saved" long enough to pray? What if I pray for the wrong thing? These are all questions I have either asked myself or heard other Christians ask. And they are legitimate. After all we are talking about praying to God, all-powerful, all knowing, can smite me at will God. But here is what Jesus had to say about our prayer lives.
2 He said to them, "When you pray, say:
"‘Father,[a] hallowed be your name, your kingdom come.[b] 3 Give us each day our daily bread. 4 Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us.[c] And lead us not into temptation.[d]’"
5 Then Jesus said to them, "Suppose you have a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; 6 a friend of mine on a journey has come to me, and I have no food to offer him.’ 7 And suppose the one inside answers, ‘Don’t bother me. The door is already locked, and my children and I are in bed. I can’t get up and give you anything.’ 8 I tell you, even though he will not get
up and give you the bread because of friendship, yet because of your shameless audacity[e] he will surely get up and give you as much as you need.
9 "So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 10 For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.
11 "Which of you fathers, if your son asks for[f] a fish, will give him a snake instead? 12 Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? 13 If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!"
We can deduce several things from Jesus’s teaching on prayer.
First we can deduce that God wants us to address Him as Father. He is not far off; not unapproachable. He is not disinterested. He is our Father; loving, wise, good. When we address Him as such, it makes the whole concept of prayer easier, doesn’t it?
Second, we can deduce that God wants us to pray for His Kingdom to come. Multiple times in scripture Jesus talks about the Kingdom of Heaven being on earth. When we are praying for His Kingdom to come, we are essentially praying for His will to be done.
And finally we can deduce that God wants to grant our requests. Do you need wisdom? Ask!! Do you need help in relationships? Ask!! Do you need a job? Ask!! As long as your requests are in line with the Kingdom of God, He delights in granting them. How many times have I failed to pray because I thought my requests were too small? I thought God wouldn’t be bothered with my petty life. But God is my good Father and Jesus tells me to ask. I think I will take Him at His word.
So I am renewing my commitment to prayer today. I am going to pray for God’s will to be done. I am going to bring all my requests to God. I am going to make it my habit to pray, as Jesus did. And I am going to remember that God is my Father. Will you join me in this commitment?
Monday, August 6, 2012
The Life Project: Mark
By Casey Hooper
Every time I read through the Bible, I am amazed that something new and fresh
jumps out at me! This time through is no exception as I read The Gospel of
The Gospel of Mark is an action packed, fast paced narrative where the Apostle
Mark focuses on the miracles of Jesus as a sign that God’s kingdom is at hand.
The second half of the book is concerned with suffering as a cost of being a disciple alonmg with its promised reward.
In all this action there is a four-leaf clover that I’ve overlooked before. Maybe
you have noticed it as well. In Mark 2:13-17 (NIV84), Jesus has called Levi, the
son of Alphaeus, who is a tax collector. Jesus would later rename him Matthew.
In Jesus’ day, tax collectors had the same social status as sinners. They were
the scourges of the earth and there were not many people who were more
hated. In his association with Levi, Jesus reveals his purpose for becoming one
Once again Jesus went out beside the lake. A large crowd
came to him, and he began to teach them.
14 As he walked along,
he saw Levi son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax collector’s booth.
“Follow me,” Jesus told him, and Levi got up and followed him.
While Jesus was having dinner at Levi’s house, many tax
collectors and “sinners” were eating with him and his disciples, for
there were many who followed him.
16 When the teachers of the
law who were Pharisees saw him eating with the “sinners” and tax
collectors, they asked his disciples: “Why does he eat with tax
collectors and ‘sinners’?”
On hearing this, Jesus said to them, “It is not the healthy who
need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous,
Jesus took on human form so that he could minister to a broken, hurting, sinful
world. At first glance it might look like he did not come for the “righteous.”
But, as we read elsewhere in the Bible, Jesus did not even consider the Pharisees
righteous. In reality, He came for everyone; because, “. . . all have sinned and
fall short of the glory of God . . .” (Romans 3:23). Jesus didn’t come for the
righteous because there weren’t any! We all have areas in our lives that need
No matter your situation in life or what your relationship with God looks like, it
is comforting to know that Christ came so he could minister to you! God wants
a loving relationship with all His people. The Apostle Paul put it this way: “But
God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ
died for us.” (Roman 5:8)
Thursday, August 2, 2012
I'm just thinking about this ChicFilA controversy and it makes me sad... And while the bible has a stance on homosexuality, it also calls you to love God AND love your neighbor. Pretty sure I've read something about not judging others too.... It didn't say love them only with their straight, if they're sober, if they have a good profession... So even though I may not agree with some people's way of life, I'm still called to love them and thats what I'll do, with all my heart :)