Glory of the Story: Day 63
Tuesday, April 4, 2017
Excuse me for my absence! I have been a little worn out of and by writing. I've had to do multiple "assignments" for RUF and I have been writing a lot of content for me and Rachel's wedding website. For those of you who have not heard, I will be going to Southern Methodist University in Dallas, TX to work with RUF International.
In today's readings, we are urged to remember three things. I would like to add personal notes to each, and I encourage you to do the same so they are easier to remember.
First, God's timescale: if to God one day is like a thousand years and a thousand years is but a day, this gives us even more incentive to study the Bible. I often hear people say that the Bible's age makes it culturally irrelevant. But, if this is true, it gives added truth to Ecclesiastes 1:9 ("What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun.") and shows us it is still relevant today. I might not think what happened thousands of years ago matters, but I know what happened a few days ago does.
Second, God's purpose: God is incredibly patient with us. He delays His judgement so when we return (not of our own volition, but of God's unconditional and irresistible grace) like the prodigal son, He can run to us and give us His cloak and ring.
Third, God's judgment: a thief does not give you a warning. He will strike when opportunity shows itself and he hopes to be long gone before you are aware of what happened. If you continue reading to the end of 2 Peter 3, you will read an imperative to "be diligent to be found by him without spot or blemish, and at peace." (2 Peter 3:14) The thief wants to come in with the door unlocked and the alarm off. Will you remember every time? Probably not. Is it possible to be without blemish when the Lord returns? Definitely not. But God is patient and He has given you His cloak and ring through Christ, so you are without blemish.
Glory of the Story: Day 37
Thursday, March 9, 2017
I'm sorry this is so late. I know some of you won't see this until tomorrow. Today we read about God's work in creation. First things first, work is not a product of sin. How can it be if God worked? Work can be enjoyed. We were made to work. We were made to keep the garden.
A second note in this passage is how God made you and me. We were not spoken into existence. We were formed. We were molded by God, and then He gave us his breath. A reminder on the gravity of that difference: you can accidentally say something or make any kind of sound; you can't accidentally make a pot out of clay. It takes far too much equipment, time, and skill to do that by accident. And that is exactly what God does. Then, instead of snapping His fingers and giving us life, He breathes life into us. He gives us the same breath that created the world.
A friend of mine in music school once told me with every breath you take, you say the name of God. As you breath in you say Ya and as you breath out you say weh. Every breath you take serves as a reminder to the one who gave it to you. -Jeremy
And every time we introduce ourselves, we acknowledge the Great I Am, our Creator and Father God! I am Susan. -Susan
Glory of the Story: Day 35
Tuesday, March 7, 2017
I've been pretty horrible about posting on my blog recently so I thought I'd cheat and combine this and that today. If you hate it, you don't know how to read any other posts so it's not that much of a gamble on my part.
Descanso (dehs-cahn-so) is Spanish for rest.
Today we read from Genesis 1:31-2:3 and John 5:16-19. In the first we read about God's rest from his work of creation. After each day God sees what He has done and declares it good. Except this last day. Once He has finished His creation (the pinnacle being the creation of man and woman), He declares it to be very good. Then He rests. The job is done. He doesn't worry about everything falling apart. Again, the job is done, and He knows it is time to rest. If only I knew when that time was. Many times it seems as though the only time I rest is when it is time to work, and the only time I work is when it is time to rest. I, like many others, run myself ragged with trying to please everyone and worrying my work won't be good enough. I'll say it once more: the job is done and God (the creator of the universe) rests. And He does this before the fall. Work and rest are not products of sin. They are both good (in the right amount). We could end right there. It would be easy. I'd wrap it up in a nice little don't-be-so-prideful-to-not-rest bow. God knew to rest so how could we not?
That almost makes resting seem like another thing to check off before we can get back to our lives. Chester's first two sentences of today's reading present another idea. "The creation account has two peaks. Humankind is the crown of God's creative work, but God's rest is its goal." That is why we don't stop. And that's why we read John 5:16-19. In this passage, Jesus heals a man and tells him to take up his bed and walk. Both acts (the man taking up his bed and Jesus healing him) were considered work. So Jesus, being completely without sin, worked on the Sabbath. On its own, this is hard to wrap your head around. We've always heard we aren't supposed to work on the Sabbath. But Jesus points out first, that the Son can only do what he sees the Father doing, and second, that God has been working until now. He doesn't say, "My Father has been working six out of every seven days until now." Just that God has been working. Chester points out that God's good work on our behalf will tolerate no interruption. Even in His rest God takes care of us.
Tuesday, February 28, 2017
Why am I so afraid? I've lived in not knowing before. A lot actually. So what is different now? Is it because it won't just be me anymore? Is it because I'm a college graduate, and I'm expected to have my life together? I don't know. I do know that I have been asking the same question as the disciples frequently. I'm swimming along in this sea of life, and I can only help screaming, "Don't you care if I drown?" And the answer is a resounding yes. During this storm the disciples asked the question and instead of only reassuring them, Jesus calms the storm. He removes the thing that is causing the fear. After this He asks them if they still have no faith. The disciples, of course, were awestruck at this man who would control the wind and sea. Because, as Richard Chester points out, faith is the answer to fear. Whenever you're afraid, have faith, and Jesus (both real man and mighty God) will give you perfect rest.
I found the reading for today encouraging. Thank you for the post. I'm looking forward to the joy that is brought in the calm waters and the journey that is made through the storm... -Hellon
Glory of the Story: Day 23
Friday, February 24, 2017
Just read Day 23 about "praise" from psalm 148...you could say this psalm is an expansion of the first commandment... "You shall have no other gods before me." The reason, Psalm 148 and the first commandment are imperatives. Imperatives are what God tells us to do to live the life that is truly life, to thrive as His children in His world. Unfortunately we can't obey any of them, especially the "command to praise," until our full heart (mind, will and emotions) are engaged. The good news is that once we realize (again) that we aren't praising God like we ought, we are taken to the One Who lived a life of praise and preferring God over Himself. The Law leads us to Christ.
When we think about The Lord Jesus Christ and His Covenant Faithfulness to us, that He considers us to be His inheritance (or any of the other thousand gracious thoughts the Gospel causes us to realize), He transforms our hearts and minds , and moves us to do what sons and daughters of God in the new creation do...unexpectedly and surprisingly, we are praising God.
Glory of the Story: Day 9
Monday, February 7, 2017
How do you read the Bible? "Application" or "Implication?"
Rev. Chester reminds us to do two things when we read: Ask questions of the text. In a good conversation we ask clarifying questions. This shows the other person we are interested in them and want to honor their words. When we read the Bible, we're not reading for information, we are listening to God speak to us. He loves us and is speaking to our hearts. We love Him by listening carefully.
Here are a few "clarifying questions" Chester suggests:
What does this passage tell us about God? What is he like? What are his purposes? How does he act? What does he promise his people and expect from them?
The second thing Chester does is to remind us to first look for "implication" rather than "application." Think about this, if we go to God for "application," our approach to the Bible is focused on us. That's like having a conversation with someone and thinking about what you're going to say next, rather than really hearing what your friend is saying (which might just help you!) Chester's point is this:
We must listen carefully to God, and then derive implications from what He is saying. Only at that point are we ready to considering applications of His Word for our lives.
Consider the text from Hebrews 3:7-4:11. If the goal of our conversation is "application," (if I read this passage first for an application to my life), I will read this passage as "I'd better get my life in order so I can make sure I enter into God's rest!" However, if you first consider this passage as it points to Christ, you are forced to see the gospel, which calls us to "get our lives together" in Christ. Notice Hebrews 4:2 and 4:6. The writer says the people in the Joshua's day (Old Testament saints) had the gospel preached to them, but did not enter into rest, because they didn't obey. The real question is..."how did they have the gospel preached to them?" How did they disobey?
Here's the answer: The Gospel is essentially this: The Lord promises His people His presence and a place to live in His presence (the Promised Land). In the Old Covenant God constantly told His people to believe He would come through on His promises. Paul called this the "obedience of faith." In the wilderness, most of the "first generation," Israelites didn't believe God, and for that reason they did not enter the "rest" of the Promised Land.
The Gospel preached to us is the "same Old Gospel." Yes, the Good News is clearer and greater to us in Jesus, but God's message to His people has always been the same: TRUST IN YAHWEH. He is your God. He will never leave you or forsake you, and He is taking you to a land where you will live eternally in His Presence. God made those promises to both Joshua and to the Greater Joshua, Jesus Christ. Joshua believed God and took His people into the land. If we trust and adore the One Who trusted His Father with an infinite trust, we will enter into His Greater Rest. This "Greater Rest" is living life right now in the presence Christ and His Church, all the while looking to the "Final Rest," life in a renewed world with The Lord and His people.
So, when I look at the implications of the Gospel (God giving us His Rest by His grace and love through the cross), I am motivated to "apply" that Promise in every "nook and cranny" of my life. I am motivated to "get my life together," in Christ.
Glory of the Story: Day 6
Tuesday, February 07, 2017
Christianity is a statement which, if false, is of no importance, and if true, of infinite importance. The one thing it cannot be is moderately important.
C. S. Lewis
Heartbreak Hill is one of the most famous and difficult features of the Boston Marathon route. But at just a 3.3 percent elevation grade at its steepest point and just 600 meters in length, it’s a misnomer in some ways. Located between the 20th- and 21st-mile marks, Heartbreak Hill comes at a particularly difficult stretch on the marathon route since it’s the last of four hills in Newton. But that’s not why the hill gets its name.
The name comes from the 1936 Boston Marathon, when defending champion Johnny Kelley passed leader Tarzan Brown at the Newton hills and gave him a pat on the back. This gesture lit a fire in Brown, who roared back to win the race. Boston Globe reporter Jerry Nason wrote that Tarzan “broke Kelley’s heart” at the hill, thus coining the name “Heartbreak Hill.”
A smart runner will know each section of his race. He will create a "mental map" to prepare for the most difficult parts. In today's reading Rev. Chester focuses on John 14. Here, as Jesus makes the final turn into the darkest section of His race, He helps His disciples (and us) "map out" the Christian Race, and focuses on the finish line, the full presence of God. Here are some "reaction" thoughts from the teaching:
•Jesus will only go back to heaven if He knows THE WAY to the Father
Jesus knows the way to God...He is the way to God
He lives the life we should have lived...He died the death we should have died
•Jesus is the FINAL WORD from God
Hebrews 1 says ..."in these last days He has spoken to us by His Son." Every word that Jesus ever spoke was validated by His resurrection. The empty tomb of the resurrection is the beginning of the new creation. Jesus is the New Man who "raises," us out of spiritual death and darkness. He is the New Adam, the "Father" of a new humanity...of all those who He brings to God the Father by faith. He is our "beginning," and He is our "finish line," the Alpha and Omega of our lives.
•Jesus is the not only the "Word of God" who came in the flesh, He is the Light of the world who has overcome the "sinful system of sinners." Without Jesus, we are doomed to a life that is not truly life. When Jesus joins Himself to us, we are part of the "new creation," we learn to live the life that is truly life. We live in the joy of His Story, a life of loving Him and others.
Glory of the Story: Day 4
Tuesday, February 07, 2017
Hello everyone! This is Jeremy writing. Recently I have been trying to improve upon my writing skills. I do that in two ways predominately: by reading great writers and by practice. I keep a blog that acts much like a journal that I try to update weekly so I can really focus on doing things correctly and improvement. So, when Rick announced this new journey we are taking as a church, I asked if I could write one of these focuses once in a while. With that out of the way, let's get started!
What is the teaching of this passage?
Piggy-backing off of yesterday's reading about living in the last days, today we read about the prophets telling of these (last) days. We see Peter speaking to people at Solomon's Porch at the temple about the prophets "proclaiming these days." We have a great graphic that explains this idea. We are living in this "current evil age" even though Christ has defeated sin and death. We are living in these last days. Between D Day and VE Day as we read yesterday.
In the second passage, Peter is talking about the prophets searching carefully on the subject of our salvation. So wonderful are the things they searched that the angels long to look upon them.
Why should I adore and worship God based on this truth?
God is sovereign. He did not create a plan to rescue his people that ended with that rescue. He planned every part of it; climax after climax, and resolution to resolution. The Old Testament prophets knew of the days during and after Christ. They had to get their information from somewhere, and that could only be from someone who had a plan. Further, the plan He made for you and for me includes a salvation, a rescue so incredible even the angels are amazed. In fact, they long to look at God's work in us. The Greek word there is epithumousin, which means to lust or covet. God's work is so great it is something that is desirable above everything else.
What sins do I need to confess as I think about this passage?
So often I forget that simple fact. God's work is the most important part of me. Nothing I do is of any value. In fact, all my righteous acts are like filthy rags. I need to move away from my self-promoting, self-righteous acts and focus on God's perfect acts. I need to let God's will be done.
What do I need to ask God for?
I need to ask for rest. Rest in faith that God has a plan for me. And not only that He has a plan, but it is perfect for me. I also (often) need reminding that I do not shape God's plan. I do not influence it for good or for ill. Everything I do is part of the path laid out for me. And hopefully, that will give me the rest I ask.
Glory of the Story: Day 2
Tuesday, February 07, 2017
This morning I had to go to the hospital to get my "blood work" done. It's work for me because I sit in a chair with a "tourniquet" around my arm and they fill vials up with my blood. The first time I experienced this "work," I passed out. For that reason, I hate giving blood and it's always a sweet relief when it's over. But it's also very weird to see all that red stuff that used to be in me, swishing around in those glass tubes.
Today's reading is about "history going somewhere." We see that Jesus is the "center" of history because He is the only one who can open the "scroll" that contains the world's destiny. The most amazing part of this story is that God becomes a man who actually has blood like you and me, and through His "blood work," (His death), He is able to include us in His wonderful destiny. That means, His blood is at the center of history and His blood should be at the center of our lives.
I know Jesus is glad His "blood work" is over. May we never stop being in wonder that the blood inside of Him, was poured out for us.
What is the teaching of this passage? (Revelation 5)
Jesus is worthy. He is able to open the scroll. He is in charge of history!
He has power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!
Why Should We Adore and Worship God based on this truth?
Jesus loves us and pours out His life..for us, to include us in the great experience of knowing and worshiping Him right now...and forever more.
What Sins do I need to confess as I think about this passage?
I spend too much time...not praising and worshiping the Lord.
I need to replace my worry and bewilderment with praise and thanksgiving to the Lamb who is worthy of my praise and to whom I owe much thanks.
What do I need to ask God for?
I need to ask God that He would move us to worship Him corporately and individually, and to give us hearts of gratitude and peace for His great love for us.
Glory of the Story: Day 1
Tuesday, February 07, 2017
… There is no fault which makes a man more unpopular, and no fault which we are more unconscious of in ourselves. And the more we have it, the more we dislike it in others.
The vice I am talking of is Pride or Self-Conceit; and the virtue opposite to it, in Christian morals, is called Humility … Pride leads to every other vice: it is the complete anti-God state of mind.
C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity
Good morning! I'm looking forward to going through "The Glory of The Story" with you. Here are some thoughts based on Martin Luther's Questions for Scripture meditation. Please feel free to post comments that will strengthen, comfort and encourage your brothers and sisters in Christ.
What is the teaching of this passage?
Pride is essentially competitive in nature. All of us constantly trying to build ourselves up by comparing ourselves with others. Our greatest competition is God. That is why it is normal for sinful people to "suppress the truth about God" (Paul says this Romans 1). After all who could compete with God...especially the truth that He controls and is charge of every minute of History?
In Daniel, Nebuchadnezzar tries to compete with the King of Heaven. He suppresses the truth about God and the results are terrible. Competitive pride destroys him and left unchecked, it will undo us as well. That's one reason God hates pride like he does. Without His grace, we self-destruct.
Why Should We Adore and Worship God based on this truth?
Fortunately for us, God is "pride-less." He demonstrates this by stooping low to renew Nebuchadnezzar's heart. Jesus reveals the heart of the God of Heaven. The Son of God comes in humility to live a "pride-less" life, and in complete self-abandonment goes to the cross for you and me, which is the only way pride can be dealt with.
What Sins do I need to confess as I think about this passage?
I am a proud person. I believe my ideas about life are the best! I fail to believe God is deeply interested in and very much a part of my story. I grow impatient and think about "what might happen, " or "what I might not have"(that's the sin of worry). In my pride, I frequently depend on my "silly sovereignty" to work through my difficulties.
What do I need to ask God for?
I need God to come close to me and remind me of His humility. I need Him to open my heart to His Word and remind me of the Gospel Story again and again. I need to see that He is good and delights to walk closely with us as we draw near to Him. I need Him to reassure me that He is working everything in my life together for His glory and my good.
The Real Process: Faith and Work
Thursday, November 14, 2013
My friend also keeps up with college football. He can name players and coaches from most SEC teams. He is a very smart man. But he is a Gator, I am a Dawg. Gators don’t like Bulldogs, Dawgs don’t like Gators. That's why it's weird he and I are such good friends.
Recently another friend sent me an article to read. This friend is neither Dawg nor Gator. He spends a lot of time in Tuscaloosa. He also smiles whenever we sing the hymn that says, “look there is flowing a Crimson Tide.” The article he sent talks about Nick Saban’s philosophy about coaching football, what he calls “The Process.”
I live in Alabama. After reading about “The Process,” I decided to conduct an experiment. I asked several friends if they knew what “The Process” was. Some knew. Some did not. When I asked my Gator friend,” I wasn’t surprised at all by his response. He immediately said, “The Process” is Nick Saban's philosophy about coaching football.” I wasn’t surprised because even though he’s smart most college football fans living in Alabama know what "The Process” is.
My Tide friend knows about “The Process.” My Gator friend knows about “The Process.” Lots of people know about “The Process.” So, what is “The Process?” “What is Nick Saban’s philosophy of coaching that produces National Champions again and again?
“The Process” talks about 3 goals you need to achieve to be successful. The first is, work hard at what you do. The second goal is to “help other people achieve their goals.” The third goal of “The Process,” is to be generous and to help those who are in need.
“The Process” is a good thing and it seems to work. In places where people work hard, help others achieve their goals, and are generous to others, life seems to flow better. My wife is from Perry, Georgia. In Perry you see those three things happening all the time. Those things also happen a lot in Anniston, where we live today. And, those goals happen in Tuscaloosa, where Nick Saban works. The Process is also carried out in Auburn. It even happens in other football towns such as Athens and Gainesville. The process certainly seems to be a key to a thriving life.
So why does the Process work? Why do towns and churches and football teams thrive under this system? I think the reason is it’s a simple system which is easy to remember. But the real reason “The Process” works is because it sounds a lot like what the Bible says about loving your neighbor. Over and over the Bible mentions those three goals. You could say it’s always telling us: WHAT WE SHOULD DO and WHERE we should do it. We’re supposed to carry out “The Process” in our families, our churches and our work. The process works everywhere. That means, “The Process” isn’t really something Nick Saban invented, he’s just smart enough to put it in place where he works.
Over the years, preachers have also picked up on the idea that “The Process” works. We’re always hearing about how we should love our neighbors, work hard and be generous where ever we are. If you ask most preachers, “what should I do and where should I do it?” They'd answer by saying...“work hard, love people, and help others (especially your kids) achieve their goals. Be generous...give your money away… especially to the church!”
But here’s a question. If preachers know so much about “The Process,” why are so many Christians, NOT thriving in their lives? I’m a pastor. I see a lot of “un-thriving.” Could it be that pastors have misunderstood and mis-taught “The Process?” Could there be more about “The Process” than we’ve realized? Is there more to it than telling people what to do, and where to do it?
The Bible does give us direction toward a thriving life by supplying answers to the WHAT and WHERE questions. But to empower us to true success the Bible also confronts us with two additional questions. Question 3 is, “WHY do we do what we do?” The 4th question is, “How do we get the power to do what we’re supposed to be doing?” This last question is especially important because of the “un-thriving” mentioned before. People don’t seem to know how to get out of their “un-thriving” patterns.
Here’s where we go back to “The Process” at Alabama. “The Process” says, “while you’re playing football at the University,” work hard. Notice that this answers, “what?” and “where?” But what about question 3 and question 4? Why should you work hard at football if you’re on any Division I football team?
There are a lot of reasons. The primary one says if you work hard you can achieve your goal of playing in the NFL. That means you’ll make a lot of money and you can feel good about yourself. And because you’ll have a lot of money, you can help others achieve their goals. You can keep the process going on the rest of your life. You can keep working hard, help others and be generous.
There’s nothing wrong with playing in the NFL, making tons of money, helping others and feeling good about yourself. But if those are the only motivations you have, the Bible says in the end you’ll never really thrive.
We all know about professional athletes, or successful businessmen who wind up without much capital in the end. So, answering the “Why” question warns you to be aware of the motives of your heart, what drives you. Because, the wrong motives will take you to a place you don’t want to go.
But the Bible also points us to a place all of us want to go… A life of lasting joy and peace. And the Bible says there’s a sure way to get to that good place. It says that the answers to questions 1 and 2 in “The Process “have to be done for God’s glory.” In other words the Bible tells us why we should be working hard wherever we are. The goal of playing in the NFL is a good one. But the deeper and more powerful motivation is to honor God by using the gifts He has given you.
The 4th question flows out of the 3rd. Any honest person recognizes he is driven by what will promote his own honor and glory. “I want the best for me and I’m driven by the good things I can get for myself, in my future.” But the honest heart also says to God, “I realize I’ve made my life about me, I’m not really interested in bringing honor to you.
God loves this kind of honesty. God also loves the heart that says to Him, “I’m not sure how to do The Process the right way. I’m not sure what it means to live my life for You.”
So, the 4th question asks “how do we honor God? How do we love Him and love others?” The Bible says God has to help us, He has to work out His Process in us. And this is how He does it: He gives us fantastic and mind boggling promises. God promises He will reverse all that is wrong. He promises to give us a world of complete peace and justice, where everyone will always work hard for the right reasons and constantly help others achieve their goals. God promises us a world where He will always be honored and where people will always thrive.
But how can God make such promises in a world where His process is only partially understood? He makes these great promises because He has already kept the greatest promise He ever made. He sent Jesus to rescue us. Jesus is The One who fully understands and lives God’s process. He always knew what to do and where to do it. He always did things for the right reasons. And, he lived a God-honoring/other focused life because He always depended on God’s power and believed His promises. The power to love God and people comes from believing God’s promises in Christ. Once we believe the Gospel, that Jesus truly worked hard FOR US, and died FOR US, in order to secure us a place in God’s kingdom, once we understand God has worked out His Process in our lives through Him, He makes us part of His Great Process of Renewing all things. Because, once we believe the Gospel, He gives us the desire to work hard for His glory in whatever we do, and He gives us a heart that truly looks out for the good of others.
The Kingdom and the Parable of the Sower, Part 2 (Matthew 13: 1-23)
Thursday, January 19, 2012
What is the Kingdom like?
"This verse can be translated "God put the man in the garden to serve and obey." 'To serve' is found throughout the Pentateuch to indicate man's service to God (e.g., Exod. 8:1, 20; 9:1, 13). 'To obey' is also employed of man's keeping God's Word (17:9; 18:19). And when the two words appear together in the Torah they reflect the worship of God. At the very core of the book of Deuteronomy, for instance, Moses asks the question: What does God require of Israel? He answers: 'To serve' Yahweh your God with all your heart and with all your soul and to obey Yahweh's commands' (10:12-13).
Sin discourages us in our “callings.” Sin makes us believe that what we’re doing at any given moment is mundane at best. We feel like anything but “constant worshippers!” Help comes for us as we look again on the 2nd Adam. We remember He lives out His rich purpose, His calling, like no one else. He was the ultimate “worshipper.” EVERY moment of His life, especially the cross, was dedicated to displaying the glory of God. EVERY moment of His life, especially the cross, was viewed through the lens of “constant worship.” This means that through the cross, Jesus not only brings glory to God by loving Him with all His heart, mind and strength, He loves His neighbor as Himself. And by fulfilling the rich purpose of His life, He has remade us into worshippers, who are becoming more and more “constant worshippers” as we enjoy His presence in each moment, and in each circumstance of our live
Lord Jesus: You have glorified God in the greatest way by fulfilling His rich purposes through the cross. You have loved Him and loved us. Now we can live with the rich purpose of glorifying and enjoying you, delighting in our callings, no matter where we are. Forgive us when we are deceived into thinking that major chunks of our lives are insignificant. Remind us of your presence with us, help us to live lives of "constant worship." Amen