Fools for Christ

Psalm 119:42 – “then I will answer the one who taunts me, for I trust in Your word.”

When you think about it, we Christians believe some pretty strange things. We believe that God created the earth. We believe in the virgin birth. We believe that Jesus died for our sins and rose from the dead. We believe that Jesus is coming again. We believe that heaven is real and so is hell. We believe that people who have not accepted Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord will not go to heaven.

And, the world hates that message. The world says that the message smacks of arrogance. The world says that those who believe such things are fools. And, the world has said that for a long time. David’s enemies taunted him. They made fun of his belief in God. And, David prayed that God would prove His word to be faithful.

In this verse we are reminded that God will be true to His word. But, God works in His time and not ours. David would have to rely upon God, love and trust God, and love his enemies as he waited for God’s truth to be revealed.

We live in a world that continues to reject God. And, they continue to think that Christians who take God at His word are fools. Are you ready to live as fools for Christ?

A fool for Christ will:

1) Love those who mock her.

2) Believe that God will follow through on what His word says.

3) Speak of for Christ when the opportunity arises.

4) Not think of themselves as having it all together, but recognize that it is only because of Christ that we have anything to offer the world.

5) Reject the world’s system in favor of God’s.

What else? What would you say that a fool for Christ will do? I’d love to hear from you.

Dear God,

Sometimes it is hard to live for you. There are times where we don’t want to feel different. There are times where we grow weary. Give us faith. Help us to know that you always follow through on Your word. Help us to always love a world that treats us like we are foolish. Help us to embody Your love.

In Jesus’ name,

Amen.

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Salavation From What?

Psalm 119:41 – “May your unfailing love come to me, O LORD, your salvation according to your promise;”

One of my favorite theological truths about Jesus is that He is God incarnate; God in the flesh. Jesus Christ left the glory of Heaven to dwell among us. In a moment’s time the Prince of Peace entered our world of war.

In Psalm 119:41, David pleads with God for His unfailing love to come to him. He longed for God’s salvation. Those of us who have tasted and seen that Jesus Christ is God, know this love. We have experienced God’s grace. We have been granted His salvation. Because of the incarnation, we have reason to celebrate. Faith in Jesus Christ, and He alone, is the basis for our salvation. Romans 10:9 tells us that “If we confess with our mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in our hearts that God has raised Him from the dead, we will be saved.”

Do you know what a HUGE deal that is? The greatest gift in all of the world has been offered to you. The God of the universe wants to save us. A couple of years ago, my brother Mark and I were talking. He asked, “Brian, what is it that God saves us from?” The seminary grad answered his businessman brother, “From hell. From Satan. From ourselves.”

“Wrong!” he answered back. “God saves us from God.”

My brother was right. God saves us from His furious wrath. And, that is a message that is being lost on the church today. David understood it. He understood that his salvation was completely dependent upon God. So many today want to believe that Jesus will save everyone in the end. Or, we want to believe that there are more important things that the church can be involved in than seeing lost people come to faith in Jesus Christ.

Jesus still transforms lives. The majority of people in the world will reject His message. Too often that is because of the messengers. In today’s Minneapolis Star Tribune, actor and activist Martin Sheen is interviewed. In the interview he says, “I’m a radical Catholic who sincerely believes in the Gospels. We are commanded by the Gospels to love our enemies. I love Gandhi’s quote about [how] Christianity would be a great religion but it’s never been tried.” You can read the complete interview here: Link.
It’s a valid point. A new book, released earlier this week entitled, unChristian reports about the incredible skepticism that has arisen towards Christianity by today’s 16- to 29-year-olds. This new generation believes that Christians are hypocritical, judgmental, and full of hate. Only 16% of non-Christians in their late teens and twenties have a positive impression of Christians. To read more follow this Link.

Martin Sheen and the book unChristian aside, we have to recognize that even when Jesus walked this earth, with a love like the world had never seen, “He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not” (Isaiah 53:3).

If it is true that if there is salvation to be found in God, if Jesus Christ is the Savior, then there is something that we need to be saved from. I read a blog entry on The Ooze Blog, yesterday, that concerned me. The most disturbing part was this paragraph, which read, “This alleged holocaust by God, or at least the threat of it, portends much harm. It is a distraction from the true plan of the creator—a plan for peace and restoration. There are adequate resources in the church to thwart hunger, disease, pollution, everything, yet those resources are too often being used to save souls from hell. There is way too much focus on dying and not nearly enough on living. Jesus’ focus was not for us to save souls. He told the believers to make disciples—people who live out the way of the Sermon on the Mount.” You can read the post, and my response to it, in it’s entirety Here..

It is time for the church to get back to the whole Gospel. Yes, we need to be about social justice. Yes, we need to care about the earth, and take care of God’s creation. But, of utmost importance is sharing the Gospel. The Gospel won’t be heard if Christians try to preach repentance without demonstrating love. But, some will never want to hear it. Remember what Jesus did when he walked into a town? “Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field” (Matthew 9:35-38).

Jesus was filled with compassion. He loved his enemies. He loved those who would never follow Him. We need to do the same.

Dear God,

Thank You for Your incredible gift of salvation. There has never been a gift like it, and there will never be another like it. We do not deserve it. Forgive us for making Christians look hypocritical, judgmental, full of hate, and by default making You look bad. Give us courage to walk with You when others won’t. Give us compassion to meet people where they are at. Give us wisdom to know understand the economy of the Kingdom of Heaven. Help us to make investments in the things that really matter. We hear all the time that the church has enough resources to solve world hunger, disease, famine, etc. If that is true, then help us to do it. If not, then help us to give more than we do, and to do more for others than we do for ourselves. Bottom line is, we want to please You. We want to ultimately be about the things that You are passionate about. We want to love You, to make You known, to make You look good, and to love others more than we love ourselves.

In Jesus’ name,

Amen.

To the Prodigals

Psalm 119:40 – “How I long for your precepts! Preserve my life in your righteousness.”

Not long ago I had a conversation with a father who was clearly distressed. His child had made one bad decision after another. She had once walked closely with God. She was active in inviting her friends to church and had even seen many of her friends come to faith in Jesus. Something happened along the way. Seduced by the lure of the world, this girl ran from God. Today, she is addicted to drugs and alcohol. She has watched her life spiral out of control. She is finally ready to give God control of her life. She knows that the things that she has been chasing are killing her.

I had a conversation with another father some time ago. He too was distressed, but his distress stemmed from a marriage that was falling apart. He felt helpless as he watched his wife make one poor decision after another. Her embrace of alcohol, rejection of her husband and children, and denial of the faith was wreaking havoc on her life, and the life of everyone that she once claimed to love.

Maybe you’ve been there. Maybe you’ve run from God. Maybe you are there today.

In Psalm 119:40, David cried out, “How I long for Your precepts!” When does one long for the law of God? Often times it’s when we realize that we need God’s touch in our life more than ever. It’s when we are at the end of our rope. It’s when we are drowning and we need a lifeline to pull us in.

It’s Peter, who jumped out of the boat to walk with Christ on water, and then took his eyes off Christ and began to sink.

It’s the Prodigal Son who wasted his inheritance and then while dining with the pigs realized that he desperately needed his father’s forgiveness.

It’s my friend Joe, who battle drug addiction. He has been in and out of rehabilitation more times than I can count. When he’s clean there is no one like him for zeal for the Lord. And, when he’s not, it’s the saddest thing I’ve ever seen.

To the prodigals out there, and if we are true to ourselves we know we’re all prodigals from time to time, remember that when we walk with the Lord, when we follow Him, we experience life to the full. When we don’t we trade the glory of heaven for the temporal satisfaction of hell.

Do you know what will preserve the life of the prodigal daughter and prodigal wife that I mentioned earlier? The same thing that David said in verse 40. It’s following God. Both of these women are so close to losing everything because they want to live life without regard to God’s standards. I pray that they’ll be healed. I pray that they’ll come back. And, I pray that all of us prodigals will run back to the Father.

Dear God,

Thank you that you love prodigals. Thank you that none of us have ventured so far that we enter back into Your arms. Help us to live for you. Help my prodigal friends. Help us to long for you, like David did.

In Jesus’ name,

Amen.

A Worried Cub Fan

I love baseball. It’s my favorite sport — always has been. And, there is no team that I love more than the Chicago Cubs. So, why am I so upset tonight? My Cubs are in first place. They hold a two game lead on the Milwaukee Brewers. And, they could clinch the division tomorrow with a win over Reds coupled with a Brewer loss to the Padres.

Three games left. Magic number: Two. And, Cub fans all over the world almost convinced that the Cubs will find a way to blow it.

That’s the problem with growing up a Cub fan. We are way to used to the phrase Wait ’til next year.

I hope this is the year. Go Cubs.

Wise Words From A 16th Century Puritan Pastor

Psalm 119:39 – “Take away the disgrace I dread, for your laws are good.”

I love the way that C. H. Spurgeon wrote. The man, who history has called, The Prince of Preachers was an incredible orator, but also quite proficient with the pen. In his classic work, The Treasury of David, Spurgeon analyzed every verse of the Psalms, phrase by phrase.

As I read today’s verse, I turned to Spurgeon for help. When David asked God to take away the disgrace taht he dreaded, Spurgeon was convinced that the disgrace had to do with David’s enemies. The King James Version of the Bible translated this verse, “Turn away my reproach which I fear: for thy judgments are good.” David was pleading with God for divine intervention in dealing with his enemies. He wanted God to not allow his enemies to make a mockery of him. I would agree with David. I don’t like it when a mockery is made of me. But, I’m not a King. When David battled enemies, his entire country was effected.

When talking about the end of this verse Spurgeon quoted Richard Greenham. Greenham was one of the most prominent Puritan pastors of the 16th century. I’d love to have one of Greenham’s original books some day. Spurgeon, quoting Greenham wrote the following of the words, for thy judgments are good, which are found at the end of Psalm 119:39.

“The judgements of the wicked are bad judgments, but the judments of God are good; (At this point in the reading I was thinking, ‘Wow! This Richard Greenham was a real rocket scientist.’) I pray against those, I appeal to these: I fear one, I approve the other. Now the judgments which God pronounceth in His word, be they threatenings in the law, or consolations in the Gospel, yea, and those also which He executeth in the world, whether upon the godly or godless, they must needs be good. 1. Because God is goodness itself. 2. He cannot be deceived. 3. He will not be bribed. 4. He alone is no respecter of person, but judgeth according to every man’s work.”

So, today, let’s focus in on a God whose judgments are good. His desires for us are good. Let’s try to remember that God does make demands of us. That God’s demands are for His glory and our betterment. Let’s pursue God with everything we have. And, let’s rejoice that His judgments are good.

Dear God,

There is not one of us who deserves Your love. Your judments are indeed good. They are not fair, or we would all be condemned to hell. Thank You that You deal with men in grace and love. May You be lifted higher in our lives.

In Jesus’ name,

Amen.

God Keeps His Promises

Psalm 119:38 – “Establish Your word to Your servant, As that which produces reverence for You.” (NASB)

Have you ever had someone promise something to you and then not deliver on that promise? I know that I have. In fact, I know that I’ve too often been guilty of making a promise that I failed to deliver on.

God will never do that.

Psalm 119:38 says, “Fulfill your promise to your servant, so that you may be feared,” in the New International Version of the Bible. The New American Standard Bible translates it more liteally when it says, “Establish Your word to Your servant, As that which produces reverence for You.”

At first glance this verse may look like David is making a deal with God. If God fulfills His end of the bargain then David will fear God. But, that’s not a completely accurate way to look at this verse. David wasn’t bargaining with God. God had already made a covenant with him. That covenant is recorded in 2 Samuel 7:16, which says, “Your house and your kingdom shall endure before Me forever; your throne shall be established forever.” (NASB)

When God made this covenant with David, the King responded with the following prayer,

“18Then David the king went in and sat before the LORD, and he said, “Who am I, O Lord GOD, and what is my house, that You have brought me this far? 19″And yet this was insignificant in Your eyes, O Lord GOD, for You have spoken also of the house of Your servant concerning the distant future And this is the custom of man, O Lord GOD.

20″Again what more can David say to You? For You know Your servant, O Lord GOD!

21″For the sake of Your word, and according to Your own heart, You have done all this greatness to let Your servant know.

22″For this reason You are great, O Lord GOD; for there is none like You, and there is no God besides You, according to all that we have heard with our ears.

23″And what one nation on the earth is like Your people Israel, whom God went to redeem for Himself as a people and to make a name for Himself, and to do a great thing for You and awesome things for Your land, before Your people whom You have redeemed for Yourself from Egypt, from nations and their gods?

24″For You have established for Yourself Your people Israel as Your own people forever, and You, O LORD, have become their God.

25″Now therefore, O LORD God, the word that You have spoken concerning Your servant and his house, confirm it forever, and do as You have spoken,

26that Your name may be magnified forever, by saying, ‘The LORD of hosts is God over Israel’; and may the house of Your servant David be established before You.

27″For You, O LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, have made a revelation to Your servant, saying, ‘I will build you a house’; therefore Your servant has found courage to pray this prayer to You.

28″Now, O Lord GOD, You are God, and Your words are truth, and You have promised this good thing to Your servant.

29″Now therefore, may it please You to bless the house of Your servant, that it may continue forever before You. For You, O Lord GOD, have spoken; and with Your blessing may the house of Your servant be blessed forever.”

Did you notice the similarity of verses 24-26 with Psalm 119:38? In the Psalm, David was merely asking God to do what God had promised to do. He saw God’s fulfillment of His promise as a reason to worship God.

So, what has God promised us?

He’s promised to forgive us when we truly repent.

He’s promised to never stop loving us.

He’s promised salvation to all those who make Him Lord of their life.

He’s promised to return.

He’s promised to never leave us or forsake us.

He’s promised to listen to us.

He’s promised to watch over us.

He’s promised to accomplish His purposes in our lives.

He’s promised to . . . well you get the idea.

I’m just hitting the tip of the iceberg.

We may not have a throne that will never end . . . but then again . . . we, who are joint heirs with Jesus do have thrones . . . and we will rule with Christ for eternity . . . and He will be our God . . . and we will be His people . . . and God will keep His promise.

Dear God,

We will never be You. We will never be God. And, we thank You for that. But, You have made promises to Your children that are spectacular. Those who have been redeemed by You will live and reign with You forever. Sometimes it’s easy when we are living our day-to-day lives to feel like your promises have been forgotten. Help us not to live with a temporal perspective, but with Your eternal perspective. Help us, to like David, look at your answered promises as a reason to worship you. For, you, God are worthy of our praise.

In Jesus’ name,

Amen.

What Really Matters

Psalm 119:37 – “Turn my eyes away from worthless things; preserve my life according to your word.”

Are you ever amazed at how much time you spend on things that won’t really matter when all is said and done? I know that I’m guilty of that.

So, how do we determine what things are worthwhile pursuits and what aren’t? Is it wrong, for example, to have wealth?

No. It’s wrong if wealth has you.

Is it wrong to have hobbies that require excessive amounts of time? No. It’s wrong if our hobbies have us.

Is it wrong to sin? Of course. We can all agree that sin is a worthless thing to pursue. But, sin, catches our eye all too often. The temptation to puruse that which displeases God is ever present.

David knew this. He asked God to actually turn his eyes away from sinful things. He was incapable of this without the assistance of God. And, so are we.

All too often the good things in our life can begin sin when we allow them to crowd God out of the place that He so rightly deserves. May we never allow anything to creep into our life and take the place that God deserves. All such things are worthless.

What really matters? God. Life is about God. Pursue Him with all that you have.

Dear God,

Like David, we ask that You would turn our eyes from sinful things. Help us to pursue You with everything that we have, everything that we are, and everything that we hope to be. You are worthy.

In Jesus’ name,

Amen.