Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. (1 Tim. 6:17-18)

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Pray Like You Mean It

Photo by Uri Breitman
Banging At The Door

In Luke 11, the disciples asked Jesus to teach them how to pray. So, Jesus gave them the model prayer that we now call The Lord's Prayer. Jesus then followed up the model prayer with an example story of asking a friend for some food in the middle of the night:
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; a friend of mine on a journey has come to me, and I have no food to offer him.’ 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.’ I tell you, even though he will not get up and give you the bread because of friendship, yet because of your shameless audacity he will surely get up and give you as much as you need (Luke 11:5-8).
At first glance, this story seems simple enough. Okay, you go to a friend's house, maybe a little too late in the night, to get some food. Can't your friend just turn on a light, run into the kitchen, and grab some food for you? Really, how difficult can that be? Well, in Jesus' day, it would have been a tremendous challenge for a neighbor friend to do this for you. First, any food in the house would have been stored at the back of the home. Second, the entire family would be laying on the floor asleep in the main part of the house. Third, obviously, there was no such thing as electric light.

In order for your friend to get you some food, he would need to light an oil lamp or two, quietly walk over his family laying in the middle of the floor, and go to the store room at the back of the house to find some food for you. There's a really good chance your friend is going to wake up his family in order to do this, if the banging at the door didn't wake them up already. I don't know about you, but I'm always concerned about waking up my kids in the middle of the night, fearful of the fact that they may not go back to sleep for me!

Praying With Persistence

In this example, Jesus tells us that our audacious persistence will cause a friend to get up and get the food for us. It's not because of our friendship, but because we are persistently banging on the door asking for the food!

After his example story, Jesus then goes on to explain that when we pray, we should approach our prayer time with this exact same persistence:
“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. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.
“Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? 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!” (Luke 11:9-13).
In essence, Jesus is saying to us, "I want you to bang down the door to the throne room of Heaven. I want you to be persistent in the 'ask' for your prayer concerns." The Lord tells us that if we will be persistent in our asking, seeking, and knocking, then He's going to open that door and give us whatever we need. Most importantly, though, He's going to give us what we need because He loves us like crazy! The majority of earthly fathers love their children and like to give them good things. In the same way, our Heavenly Father loves us and wants to give us good things too.

How Do You Pray?

So, do you pray like you mean it? Are you persistently banging down the door to the throne room of Heaven, asking God for His financial provision, for a job, for healing, or for your family? Whatever your need may be today, why not take Jesus at His word and start working on your "ask?" He loves you, and He wants to open the door in order to provide good things for you.

Also, check out these related posts:

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Rebellion Against God Is Costly

The ruins of King Jeroboam's altar at Tel Dan
Photo by nightwing350b
We Three Kings

I was recently reminded of the Bible story of the division of the Nation of Israel into the Northern Kingdom (10 tribes of Israel) and Judah (containing the tribes of Judah and Benjamin). The story begins with the united kingdom of King Solomon, who near the end of his reign, followed his many foreign wives into idol worship. The very king of Israel who oversaw the construction of the first temple succumbs to the wiles of his foreign wives and sins greatly against Almighty God. As a result of Solomon's sin, God made the decision to split up the Kingdom of Israel (1 Kings 11:9-13).

For the sake of King David, God waited until King Solomon's passing, then He split the kingdom up through a civil war, not long after Solomon's son Rehoboam assumed the royal throne. Before this all took place, though, God sent the prophet Ahijah to one of Solomon's officials, Jeroboam. God through Ahijah explained to Jeroboam that he was going to split up the Kingdom of Israel and give Jeroboam ten tribes to rule over. This royal official was going to be crowned king of the northern kingdom! God not only promised him the kingship but also told Jeroboam that if he would be obedient to His commands and follow Him wholeheartedly, then Jeroboam could expect to have a dynasty as great as King David (see 1 Kings 11:29-40).

Unfortunately, Jeroboam does not heed God's advice once he assumes the throne. He rebelled against God. He set up two places of golden calf idol worship for the northern tribes - one in Bethel and one in Dan (1 Kings 12:25-33). Jeroboam also set up additional areas of idol worship in the high places of northern Israel. As a result of his sin and rebellion, God eventually takes the Northern Kingdom away from his dynasty and gives it to another.
Even after this, Jeroboam did not change his evil ways, but once more appointed priests for the high places from all sorts of people. Anyone who wanted to become a priest he consecrated for the high places. This was the sin of the house of Jeroboam that led to its downfall and to its destruction from the face of the earth (1 Kings 13:33-34).
Why Do People Rebel?

The question that begs to be asked is why the heck do people rebel? Why do people turn and go 180 degrees in the opposite direction of what God tells them? Jeroboam could have looked back at the history of the first three kings of Israel and seen a pattern of God's blessing for loving Him as King David did, or judgment as a result of the gross, outright sins of King Saul and King Solomon. Instead of following the righteous path of David, Jeroboam decides to follow the path of Solomon, which led to the splitting up of the Nation of Israel in the first place. I mean, c'mon! How dumb is that?

I don't claim to be an expert on the human condition, but I just don't understand the mindset of some people. Jeroboam could have had a lasting family dynasty and untold wealth if he had just followed God's path for his life. Unfortunately, even in today's world, we see a lot of people doing the same dumb stuff, even so-called Christians. They have a head knowledge of God, His Word, and how He expects us to live while here on this earth. But then, they do a 180, and do exactly what God has asked them not to do. I fear a rebellious mindset has crept into the hearts of many church goers. In the last few years, I've seen it manifested in some of my friends and family. They think they are rich in this world as they go headlong into a life of rebellious sin, but as an outsider looking at their lives, I see people who are "wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked" (Revelation 3:15-18).

Do You Battle A Rebellious Spirit?

So, how about you? Do you battle that same rebellious heart and spirit as a King Solomon or King Jeroboam? For whatever reason, I think some people battle this more than others due to our different types of personalities, plus the obvious fact that we have also been born with a sin nature. If so, you may need to constantly remind yourself that in the end, rebelling against God and His Word has severe, costly consequences. There is no positive payoff to your rebellion in this life and the life to come. Enlist the aid of your Godly friends and family in order for you to be accountable to them for your rebellious spirit. True wealth can be found in living a life of obedience to God Almighty.

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Thursday, May 12, 2011

The Uniqueness of Family

Photo by peff
A Rabbi's Struggle

As part of my recent trip of Israel, my tour group visited the Aish HaTorah yeshiva right across from the Western Wall. One of the yeshiva's rabbis met with our group and discussed a number of issues regarding the nation of Israel and its history.

A question that this rabbi has struggled with for a number of years was what exactly are the Jewish people? Are they a country? Well, certainly, the Jewish people had their own nation in the past and after a few thousand years, they became a nation once again. But the Jewish people themselves still survived and prospered during their exiles in the in-between times of being a nation. Today, there are Jewish people all over the world who are not living in the actual State of Israel. No, that couldn't be the answer.

Or, maybe they are a religious group? That certainly makes a lot of sense, given the fact that God had established this nation almost 4,000 years ago as a theocracy. Religion has always played a large part for the Jewish people. But, there are many secular, non-religious Jews in the world today. Does this make them non-Jewish?

Maybe the Jewish people are a people group. They have a shared history, ancestry, language, and culture. While this may be true, there are also a wide-variety of Jews that don't necessarily share the same cultural practices. There are distinct populations of African Jews, Russian Jews, German Jews, American Jews, as well as many others.

A Rabbi's Revelation

The conclusion that this rabbi finally came to was the fact that the Jewish people are a family. Obviously, this makes total sense. The Jewish people are all descended from the patriarchs - Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. And in spite of their various cultural, nationality, and religious differences, the majority of the Jewish people feel a kindred spirit of being part of one, enormous family.

Over the millennia, the Jewish people have remained mostly united as one large family spread across the globe. Now that they have their homeland back, I believe they have even a stronger familial relationship with one another. They love one another and support one another as only family can.

The Family of God

The universal church could learn a lot from the Jewish people. You know, just as the Jewish people are a family, so to are those of us who claim the name of Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior. We are one big family that has been "grafted into" the Jewish family (see Romans 11).

Unfortunately, though, we don't always offer the aid, love, and support to our brothers and sisters in Christ as we should. Instead, we get hung up on petty, denominational differences. We could accomplish so much more for God's Kingdom if we could lay much of the bickering aside and unite under our common goal to reach the world for Christ.

As family, we truly do need each other. And, when we love each other with the love of Christ, we demonstrate to an unbelieving world that there is something uniquely different about our faith as compared to all the other religions of the world. As I close out this post, consider the following verses on loving one another in the Body of Christ:
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:34-35).
Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord (Romans 12:9-11).
This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not God’s child, nor is anyone who does not love their brother and sister. For this is the message you heard from the beginning: We should love one another (1 John 3:10-11).
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Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Lessons from Nazareth | Donkey Path Living

Mountain Towns Developed By Donkeys!
Photo by letdown102

On my recent trip to the Holy Land, our tour group visited the city of Nazareth. This is the small town where Jesus grew up, after His birth in Bethlehem and hide out in Egypt (see Matthew 2). If you've ever been to Nazareth, then you know how hilly and mountainous that part of Galilee is. When you drive through the city, there is no such thing as a straight road. Homes, apartments, and business are all perched up on the hillsides around a zig-zag maze of winding streets. It's crazy!

Our guide made the comment that ancient towns built into sides of hills were built around the paths that were created by donkeys. You see, in earlier days, the donkey was the primary beast of burden. People would load their donkeys down with the supplies that they needed transported, and then the donkeys would discover the easiest path on the hillside to travel. All of these donkeys would travel the same path, which created a well-worn, zig-zag street up the side of the mountain or hill. Then, the people would build their small village around the donkey path. If you visit these towns in Israel, you can see exactly what I'm talking about when you look at a village built into the side of a mountain.

The Path of Least Resistance

We've all heard the saying the shortest distance is a straight line between two points. While this is a true statement, a straight line up the side of a mountain with a couple of hundred pounds of stuff on your back is not the most intelligent path to take. The lowly donkey knows this.

Donkeys instinctively take the path of least resistance even though it may be the longer way to travel. They have a unique ability to uncover and travel the easiest path up the side of a hill or mountain in order to get to the top and onto the other side. Then, the people of the town were able to build their homes, businesses, and places of worship around the road created by their donkeys.

Photo by tiexano
Life Lessons from a Donkey

So what's the takeaway here? What can we learn from the lowly donkey? All of us have mountains in our lives that we need to travel. We have struggles, disappointments, opportunities, and goals that look difficult to get over. So, our natural tendency is to face our "mountains" head-on and try to create a straight path up to reach the top.

The problem we typically run into, though, is that we get discouraged and defeated taking the shorter but more difficult path. We simply give up out of pure exhaustion. But, if we simply take a little extra time to look all around us in every direction, we can probably discover an easier path in order to accomplish the task before us. That path is probably going to look like a zig-zag maze of going multiple directions, but eventually it's going to get us to the top of our destination.

So, how about you? Are you going through a time of great difficulty and have a massive mountain to climb? Or, maybe you have set before yourself a massive goal that seems impossible to achieve? Whatever the challenge may be that is before you today, consider the ways of the donkey. Look all around you in every direction and take an easier path of multiple directions in order to get where you need to go.

Also, check out these related posts:

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Get In the Flow | Receiving and Giving

Map by
The Flow of the Jordan River

In my last post on Staying Close to the Source, I mentioned the journey of the water of the River Jordan. The source, of course, is the spring melt water off the snowcap of Mt. Hermon. The melt water moves quickly down the mountain slope to form the headwaters of the Jordan River. This early portion of the Jordan dumps into the northern part of the Sea of Galilee, and then flows out the southern end to form the main body of the Jordan River.

The final destination for the majority of all this Mt. Hermon melt water, of course, is the Dead Sea. The flow of water stops here. There is no outlet on the southern end of the sea. The water is trapped at this one place and becomes contaminated by the high mineral and salt content of that area in the desert.

The Life-Giving Properties of Water

This movement of water from the slopes of Mt. Hermon all the way down to the Dead Sea, is a great example of what produces life and what produces death – flow! When water has a natural flow of intake and outlet, then the water contains the proper amounts of oxygen and other life sustaining nutrients. When the water gets stopped in one place, though, the water becomes stagnant and loses its life-giving properties.

The Life-Giving Properties of Money

You know, money works a lot like water. Money has its own flow or current to it, that’s why it’s called “currency!” Money likes to move from one point, to the next, and then to the next. The flow of money is what accomplishes things, whether it’s the flow of money from our wallet to a restaurant in order to buy us a meal, or the flow of credit money from a bank in order to build a new building for a business, or the flow of money from our bank accounts to our local churches in order to accomplish God’s Kingdom purposes here on earth.

Christians who have an open hand with the money God has entrusted to them have life! They tend to be more mature spiritually because they are living unselfishly. But those believers who struggle with financial greed and selfishness have a tendency to hoard the money God has entrusted to their care. The flow of money comes to a stop with them and their selfish desires. They become spiritually dead inside because they are not allowing the flow of God’s money to accomplish His work and His desires.

So how about you, Christian? Is God’s money flowing through your life or is it stopped up? Are you just doing a bunch of receiving and very little giving, or do you have a good flow of both receiving and giving in order for that financial current to give spiritual life and maturity? What changes do you need to make in order for that financial flow to be established?

Focus on the flow of both receiving and giving. Don’t let your finances get backed up so that you start to stink and die inside, spiritually. Re-establish the proper flow of giving back to God through your local church, as well as to those in need. And you know what? When we get into this financial flow of both receiving and giving, God can and will do some amazing things through your life.

You yourselves know that these hands of mine have supplied my own needs and the needs of my companions. In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ ” (Acts 20:34-35).

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Staying Close to the Source

Photo by L. Jones
A Trip To Israel

Over the last two weeks, I had the awesome opportunity to travel to the Nation of Israel as part of a large touring and missions trip, mostly made up of members from my church. A deep, meaningful part of our trip was our guide as well as our pastor quoting Scripture and giving spiritual teaching as we viewed the various sites around Israel.

At one tour site in the Northern Galilee region, we visited a nature preserve near the ancient city of Tel Dan. This nature preserve lies extremely close to Mount Hermon. This mountain is the highest point in Israel, and for a good portion of the year, at least, has snow at its peak. During the spring season, melt water from the snow cap on top of Mt. Hermon comes racing down the mountain across the countryside in a bunch of small and large streams. These various streams eventually merge together to form the beginnings of the Jordan River.

So, while our group trekked our way through the preserve, we started crossing over all of these numerous trickles and torrents of water. You would not believe how fast this water was running, either! And the purity of the water is crystal clear. It was so clean, in fact, that members of our group were bending down to grab a drink in their hand or fill their water bottles.

A Spiritual Emphasis

At one smaller stream off the beaten trail, our guide stopped the group and began discussing the purity of the water. He mentioned that the closer we are to the source of this water, Mt. Hermon, then the cleaner the water will be. As you follow the path of the water south, we see that it flows from the beginnings of the Jordan River down to the Sea of Galilee, then down to the main body of the Jordan River, finally emptying into the Dead Sea. As this water moves, we find that it gradually gets less and less pure, until it ends up undrinkable at its final destination, the Dead Sea, in which animals or plant life can live due to its high salt content. The further the water traveled from its original source, the less pure it becomes.

This principle is also true in our spiritual lives. God is our ultimate source of holiness and righteousness. The closer we can move in our relationship to God, the “purer” we become. The farther away from God that we get, the more polluted our lives become. We get enamored with the fleshly desires of this world instead of God’s desire for our lives. We can end up spiritually dead, just as the Dead Sea is devoid of all plant and animal life.

A Spiritual Examination

So, how about you? Where are you at today, this week, or this year in your relationship to the source? If you were to put your spiritual life under a microscope, would it be considered pure or contaminated? In your spiritual life, are you closer to the source, just like the melt water of Mt. Hermon, or are you far away from the source, just like the contaminated water of the Dead Sea?

If you’re away from God, your source of purity and righteousness, what do you need to do to get back to the source? The good news is that God is crazy in love with you! He gave His only Son in order to redeem your life so that you can have a relationship with Him in the first place! Ask the Father to forgive you for moving away from Him. Get in the Word. Spend time in prayer. Be faithful in your attendance and service in your local church. Connect with fellow believers in a small group. Form an accountability group with a few close friends. Do whatever it takes to stay close to the life-giving properties of the pure source for your spiritual life, God Almighty!