One thing that was part of the message on Sunday that was not in the notes I just posted is very important.  We can see great examples throughout the Scriptures of God loving people and God using people despite what they have done!  Here are a few key examples:

Rahab (the harlot):  she had faith in God, was spared in the fall of Jericho, became a follower of God and was the father of Boaz.  She is in the genealogical line of Jesus the Messiah!

King David: was an adulterer and a murderer.  Though there were consequence for his sin, God still used him in many ways and we are blessed by his words as we read many of the Psalms.

Paul:  before being a follower of Jesus, an Apostle and writing a large portion of the New Testament, Paul consented to the murder of Stephen and had families ripped apart by having innocent people thrown in prison.  Paul’s goal was to destroy the church and yet God’s grace changed his life!

Praise God for his amazing grace!


On Tuesday’s Inauguration day, I paid particular attention to the opening and closing prayers.  I’m interested in who will be asked to take on that task and how they will handle it.  For Obama’s inauguration Rick Warren and Joseph Lowery had the honor and difficult task.

Rick Warren is known as a popular evangelical preacher and writer (Purpose Driven Life), and Joseph Lowery is known as a civil rights activist and is a Minister in the United Methodist Church.

From my perspective Warren’s positive points were:

  • he stated firmly that there is one God
  • he prayed in the name of Jesus and made clear that this was his prayer and did not represent it as a prayer from all the people present and watching on TV
  • he gave testimony that Jesus had changed his life
  • he asked for justice and the helping of one another
  • by using the Lord’s prayer he made it clear that God’s glory and kingdom are primary

From my perspective Warren’s negative points were:

  • he could have used the opportunity to thank God for Jesus as the only source of salvation (Some will argue that wouldn’t be appropriate at the time, but the problem I have with events like this is that many people walk away with a false sense of security that they are okay with God.)
  • he went a little extra-biblical on the idea that MLK and a “great cloud of witnesses” were rejoicing in heaven (We know there is a great cloud of witnesses – Hebrews 12:1-2, and we know there is rejoicing in heaven when one sinner repents – Luke 15:7, but I do not find any biblical precedent for the idea of rejoicing in heaven over a strictly political event in the world.

From my perspective Lowery’s positive points were:

  • asking for the forgiveness of our national sins
  • asking for protection for the poor that they would not be exploited
  • asking for help that we would work together

From my perspective Lowery’s negative points were:

  • he does not seem to believe in the One God presented in the Bible and expressed that there are multiple paths to doing God’s will
  • though early in the prayer he talked about unity, he ended with what many decry as racism and a step backwards.  I’m not really sure what “when yellow will be mellow” means – if someone in the know could help me with that one I would appreciate it.  I do know that Asians don’t want to be called yellow and that Indians don’t want to be called red – so in that regard the whole thing is a little insensitive – even if meant in fun. I do greatly wish that we would treat each other with no regard to ethnicity, but it seems like the devil and the sinful human flesh are going to keep dragging this one out as they have for thousands of years.  Regardless we all still have personal responsibility to think and do right.

May we be right with God through His Son Jesus Christ and may we learn to pray in a way that pleases God.

(Click on the name for the entire transcipt of each prayer:  Warren Lowery)

Also please note previous post on praying for our new president.

From Romans chapter one verse eighteen through chapter three Paul makes his case for the sinfulness of man and God’s righteousness in condemning sin.  He begins with showing the guilt of those who blatantly deny God and then he shows the guilt of the moralists and religious people.  Remember that Paul has already claimed that they only way to be made just in God’s sight is by having faith in the Gospel of Christ (Romans 1:16-17).

Romans 1:18-23

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened.  Professing to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man—and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things.

Romans 1:1-18-32  The wrath of God against ungodliness

I.  The reasons for God’s wrath against humans (1:18-23)

A.  Humans suppress the truth about God (1:18-20)

  1. the knowledge of God is within humans
  2. the evidence of God’s design is all around us

Paul makes the claim that the general truth about God is obvious to humans but that most humans do not want to know about God. Therefore, they suppress what they know in their hearts and what they perceive with their minds.  The denial of God must be fortified on two fronts – the heart and the head. Human’s selfishness (the desire to do one’s own thing) is of great use is suppressing what the heart knows about God.  On an intellectual level the truth of being accountable to one’s creator is slapped down by denying anything was created in the first place.  If we are here by chance then at most I have to answer to my society, but in all reality my goal is to please myself.  Despite the abundant evidence all around us of God’s design the reality is rejected and the self-blinding goes deeper and deeper.

B.  Humans alter the truth about God (1:21-23)

  1. Professing to be wise they became fools
  2. Made God into an image – depicted by corruptible things

The fool has said in his hear there is no God (Psalm 53:1).  In particular the fool denies the true and living God.  He makes his own god(s) to his own specifications.  He often worships the creation or even himself via humanism and materialism.  He sets the rules of his life to his own liking and he makes or picks god(s) to match.

God is rightly angry at such things, but we should be so thankful that while God’s holiness demands the condemnation of sin, God’s love desires the redemption of you and me!

(In Part 2, we will look at God’s response to human’s suppression of the truth.)

The questions:
Am I right with God?
Is Jesus currently sitting in His rightful place as king of my heart and life?
Am I doing the basic things that a follower of Jesus should be doing?
Am I loving God with all that I am?
Am I more concerned with the things of God or am I more concerned with the things of myself?
Am I loving my neighbor as myself?
Do I put the needs of others on an equal or higher place than my own needs?
Have I dealt with sin in my life so that I am striving for holiness?
Can I say that I have no known and unconfessed sin in my life?

Beginning my Bible reading this year in the book of Isaiah, it is easy to see that God has always been holy and forgiving. Read Isaiah 1:15-20.

15 When you spread out your hands,
I will hide My eyes from you;
Even though you make many prayers,
I will not hear.
Your hands are full of blood.
16 “ Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean;
Put away the evil of your doings from before My eyes.
Cease to do evil,
17 Learn to do good;
Seek justice,
Rebuke the oppressor;
Defend the fatherless,
Plead for the widow.
18 “ Come now, and let us reason together,”
Says the LORD, “ Though your sins are like scarlet,
They shall be as white as snow;
Though they are red like crimson,
They shall be as wool.
19 If you are willing and obedient,
You shall eat the good of the land;
20 But if you refuse and rebel,
You shall be devoured by the sword”;
For the mouth of the LORD has spoken.

Now surely we are not actively pursuing personal gain by oppressing people. As a church we are “learning to do good; seeking justice, rebuking the oppressors, defending the fatherless, and pleading for the widows.” However, we must always strive to have God as #1 in our lives and live in such a way that we can be confident that we aren’t just giving lip service to a set of good ideas and beliefs, but that our hearts are right before God.

If you have not been made right with God in a final sense, then you need to understand that there is nothing you can do to save yourself because just like everyone else you are a sinner and a spiritual failure. You need to recognize your need for Jesus to save you from your sins because He is the only one who can. You need to tell him you are sorry for all the bad things you have done and for the unholy person you are and thank Him that He died on the cross for your sins and rose from the dead. If you genuinely put your faith in Jesus then you are what we call born again – a saved person – a believer – a saint. You can now expect the world to call you crazy.

Now let me remind you that those who are redeemed by the grace of God through faith have the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. We have such an advantage over those who the prophet Isaiah was speaking to. We have the Holy Spirit living within us, and we have the complete Word of God. If you are consistently in the Word of God and in prayer then your sins should be obvious to you (Hebrews 4:12-16). 12 For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. 13 And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.  14 Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15 For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

As a safeguard our lives should be open books within the church, and we need to give others the freedom to call us out when they see us in error.

We have the opportunity to always have very short accounts of our sins. Do we realize that we should always be able to go to bed at night with no unconfessed sin? How is this possible? Well if you have sinned in such a way that only God is offended, then you only need to confess to God and you know that Jesus is your Great High Priest. (Examples – you let your mind dwell on sinful thoughts of pride or lust). If you have sinned against your brother or sister through your words or your actions, you ask for forgiveness from that person and from God. In the days that we live with cell phones and email, we normally have no excuse for not making it right the very same day!

Even if by a hardness of heart we went a few days with unconfessed sin, surely having the bread and cup before us, representing the body and blood of our Savior would drive us to confess. For we know with certainty he who eats and drinks the bread and cup with knowingly unconfessed sin eats and drinks judgment to himself (I Cor. 10:13-17, 11:23-34).

10:13 No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.
14 Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry. 15 I speak as to wise men; judge for yourselves what I say. 16 The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? 17 For we, though many, are one bread and one body; for we all partake of that one bread.

11:23 For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you: that the Lord Jesus on the same night in which He was betrayed took bread; 24 and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, “Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” 25 In the same manner He also took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.”
26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes.  27 Therefore whoever eats this bread or drinks this cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. 28 But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup. 29 For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body. 30 For this reason many are weak and sick among you, and many sleep. 31 For if we would judge ourselves, we would not be judged. 32 But when we are judged, we are chastened by the Lord, that we may not be condemned with the world.
33 Therefore, my brethren, when you come together to eat, wait for one another. 34 But if anyone is hungry, let him eat at home, lest you come together for judgment. And the rest I will set in order when I come.

Participating in the communion is a testament that we are right with God, that we have our heart and our priorities in order, that we being multiple people show that we are one body of Christ (the church) as we take the bread. We are testifying that we have no unconfessed sin before God, and that as much as depends on us we are right with our brothers and sisters in Christ, and that our testimony to the world is solid. It is something that surely we should take with seriousness for we will be held accountable. And if there is something that we need to confess or do before we can partake of it – then we should be focused on taking care of that quickly – because what a dreadful thing to not be in a place where you can remember the Lord as He asked.

Being right with God has both a personal and communal aspect. Here is a reminder of what dcf as a church family is!

We are group of people drawn together by God for God’s glory. Jesus is the head of this church. He is the Chief Shepherd. The elders (Acts 20:28) are responsible to shepherd the flock, the deacons are to help serve and meet needs as they are appointed by the elders. The members are to be equipped and to do the work of the ministry as co-workers with Jesus, the elders and deacons. Our responsibility as a whole is to be obedient to Jesus, to love God, the believers, and the lost, to seek justice and to live in such a way as to help others. We praise God for all He gave us in 2008 and all the good works He enabled us to participate in. We boldly ask for much more for 2009 as we are stirred to love and good works. Let us pray!

The purpose of seeking to understand the Scriptures is to know clearly what God has said and by that to know Him and His will more intimately.  In this endeavor, we must be very careful concerning our process of interpreting the Scriptures.  Here are some helpful points to keep in mind.

1.  God is the author of Scripture with man as the instrument of the writing.  God allows the writers personality to be maintained in the process; however, the content is His (II Timothy 3:16-17, II Peter 1:12-21).

2.  Since God is the author, His Scriptures do not contradict each other.  Most apparent contradictions are sorted through with a little effort.  If more difficult ones remain for the reader it is not because of the inadequacy of Scripture, but of the inadequacy of the reader’s understanding.

3.  We must strive to keep our culture, preferences, church traditions, and personalities out of our understanding of the text.  We must strive to allow the Scriptures to teach us the truth and then apply that truth to overcome our preferences and personalities, to give us a truthful perspective of cultural issues, and to define/redefine our church traditions.

An example of what not to do would be found in Leonardo Da Vinci’s painting The Last Supper.  He paints the scene according to his European 14th century view of Christianity.  Therefore he gets many things wrong in the painting.  How they were seated, the type of furniture, the type of dinner wear, the clothing, the hair, the time of day etc…are wrong.  Is it important?  Consider that over 500 years later, when we think of what it was like that night, most people have Da Vinci’s painting in mind more so than the biblical and historical picture of what it would have been like to have seen it first hand.  Even if you view the painting’s consequences as a non-issue, you have to agree that method of work can have great consequences on issues of doctrine and morality.  Particularly for those of us who teach from the Word of God, we must take with great weight that our words are painting concepts and beliefs that often have serious consequences for the hearers (James 3:1)

4.  Our method to understanding the Scriptures must be consistent.  We cannot use one method for some texts and then a completely different method for other texts.  We will look at various methods in part 2.

May 29, 2008 – Thursday

Here’s a picture of the majority of the missionary team I have been teaching this week.  We have been having a wonderful time…we have had good fellowship and good questions.  In the morning we spent about three hours in the Word, first answering some questions from the previous lesson on the 7 churches in Revelation 2-3, and then beginning a new study on the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 5-7.  We made it through the first 32 verses of chapter 5.  

After our time in the morning we all went to lunch, and once again the food was delicious.  I did have some spicy (pica) items that made my mouth burn and my eyes tear up.  It was a good hurt.  

After lunch, we divided into several teams to visit some villages in the mountains.  The group I was with went to Zoncolco.  In the past, this has required a hike of close to 2 hours (at least for me).  Now a road is being built so our walk was relatively short.  Sadly, the Jehovah’s Witnesses have been at work in this area. If you are not familiar with their teachings they believe that Jesus was actually Michael the Archangel (not the Son of God), they deny the physical resurrection of Jesus, they believe only 144,000 will actually make it to heaven, they deny the existence of hell, and many other heresies.  They are very far away from the truth of what the Bible teaches.  

Lencho, Christian and I had the opportunity to speak to with two families, one who was being influenced by the JWs, and another family that is concerned for their neighbors and wanted to know how they should handle the situation.  Both opportunities were a blessing.  As normal both families offered us food, at the first house they gave me what I can only describe as a hot smoothie, and at the second house I had a cup of soup.  

After these visits we went to a meeting where they asked me to speak a short message, and then we sang a good number of songs together.  The people were very enthusiastic to sing.  Oh I forgot to mention that there is not electricity in this area, so we carried a generator along with the equipment to show a film and power point slides for the music.  

In the pictures you will see a bunch of children at the meeting.  We had a great time with my camera as they love to have their picture taken and then to see it on the viewer.  After the generator went out we hardly had any light in the house – just a couple of candles, and it was a great opportunity for me to play tickle monster with the kids.  You should have heard their laughter…and that of the adults!

It is the rainy season, but thankfully I didn’t fall on the hike back to the truck. 

Ok, here is the update on what happened at the adoption meeting.  The lady I met with is one of the people in charge in this area at the DIF…our equivalent is DFCS.  At the beginning the conversation was a little discouraging as we talked about the process of getting our massive amount of paperwork translated into Spanish and through the proper channels.  Because we are from the U.S.A the normal process is to go through the Mexican Consulate in Atlanta, which then sends the paper work to Mexico City, and then they send it to Jalapa, and then to Orizaba. She said that the process can take more than a year.  She was also very frustrated by this because they have many children who need adopting.  

However, she told us that through a civil organization like an orphanage in Mexico the process can go much more quickly.  I knew the church here had talked about the possibility of starting an orphanage, but I was surprised when Pepe told me that they had recently completed all of their paper work and received approval to begin an orphanage.  Later Pepe called a lawyer in the church about this, and he stated the process could be done in as little as three months.  Step by step we continue to trust God to open doors for us in His time.

If you haven’t already, let me encourage you to read the previous 4 parts below…this is part 5 of 6 (there are a couple of other posts mixed in).

The reason Nascar and reality TV are so popular is that if you watch long enough you are bound to see a horrendous crash – weather metal is flying or people’s emotions are colliding the part of us that is attracted to disaster will be temporarily satisfied. Even at least 50% of our news isn’t really important information.  It is the story of human train-wrecks…and people love to see the carnage.

The question is, “Why are so many people crashing in the first place?” It’s not just celebrities, it is everywhere. Just list the names of people in your family and your friends and often times even yourself and you’ll see some serious collisions of an emotional, mental, spiritual, or even physical sort.
The Apostle James wrote, “Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. Or do you think that the Scripture says in vain, “The Spirit who dwells in us yearns jealously”? But He gives more grace. Therefore He says:
‘God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble’” (James 4:4-6).

Note that when James is talking about being friends of the world he is not talking about individuals. He is talking about the world system that promotes selfishness, envy, and greed. We know Jesus Himself was touted as a friend of sinners – praise God! Our problems come when we naturally and foolishly buy in to the world’s system and agree with its goals, morals, and ethics.

C.S. Lewis wrote, “The more we get what we now call ‘ourselves’ out of the way and let God take us over, the more truly ourselves we become. The more I resist Him and try to live on my own, the more I become dominated by my own heredity and upbringing and surroundings and natural desires. In fact what I so proudly call ‘Myself’ becomes merely the meeting place for trains of events which I never started and which I cannot stop.”

In fact, what Lewis is saying is that left to ourselves and being ourselves, we are trainwrecks. We desperately need God, and our proper relation to Him is one of humility. (More on this cure of humility in the next post.)

“If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God.  Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth.”   Colossians 3:1-2

All true followers of Christ were raised with Him.  What does this mean?  It means that as Christ rose in newness of life we who believe became participants with Him. He gave us a new life, a life that is to be centered around Jesus and the eternal as opposed to ourselves and the temporary.  We need to ask ourselves this question often, “do I have a heavenly or an earthly mindset?”  In a complex world that begs us to strive for bigger and better, for the here and now, for you and yours, Jesus calls us to something higher. He calls us to have a total “other world” perspective, and this “other world” perspective will cause us to live in this world a life of self-sacrifice, humility, and profound purpose: to love God and neighbor.  Today let’s seek this “other world” in prayer and practice.

We live in a unique time in history. Never before has so much information (and misinformation) been available. In this complex world it is easy to get distracted from the most important questions we must all face, and we often find ourselves struggling to know what the best course of action is. The purpose of this blog is to help us view the routine (and not so routine) things of life through the lens of loving God and loving people (Matthew 22:36-40), and to better understand our place in this world and what we should pursue with our short lives.

“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”  Jesus replied: ” ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’  All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”