Are You Living a Lie? (Judges 17)

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In today’s chapter, we meet a man named Micah. Micah had stolen some money from his mother. When he returned the money, she made some of it into a idol of him. Micah then made a shrine for the idol and set it up in his house. One day a Levite from Bethelehem came to Micah’s house looking for a place to stay. Micah offered the man a salary to remain in his house and be his priest. Micah finishes by saying, “I know the Lord will bless me now because I have a Levite serving as my priest.” (17:13, NLT).

Have you ever thought you were doing the right thing, but in actuality, it was completely wrong? That’s the story we find here in the 17th chapter of Judges. But it is just as applicable to our lives today. We often spend time trying to help others, when all we are really doing is hurting. Micah breaks so many of God’s laws, and brings it to the climax of hiring a priest who is breaking just as many laws. At the end he believes God will bless him because he knows that only Levites can serve as priests. It’s like someone who says I’m super rich (because of fancy houses, cars, clothes, etc) but it reality is deeply in debt. Micah is living a lie, even to himself.

Are we doing this? At my church we are reading the book not a fan. by Kyle Idleman. In this book, he asks us to take a serious look at our relationship with Christ. He wants us to realize that we want to be followers, not fans. So I ask this question of all of us today, are we really with Christ or do we think we are? Do we think we are Christians because we go to church on Sunday, be involved in ministries, or listen exclusively to Christian music? Do we think that reading the Bible for a few minutes every-so-often is helping us become deep followers of Christ? Are we living the lives God has called us to through His Son, or are we living a life that just looks like one?

These are the questions that we must ask daily to remind ourselves of what it means to be a Christian. Simply because we have a label, or repeated a prayer, or got some water splashed on us does not mean that we are following. Don’t be fooled like Micah. Know that you are doing the right thing and living a life according to God’s Will.

“People may be pure in their own eyes, but the Lord examines their motives.” –Proverbs 16:2, NLT

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Psalms to Pray: Psalm 78

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Just Believe!

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I’ve had a few different Scriptures hit me like a ton or bricks over the past few days. The one I’d like to talk about today, everyone seems to know the first part: “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.”. But did you know that there is much more to that whole statement?

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. This is the judgment, That the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. For everyone who does evil hate the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. Bu the who practices the truth come to the Light, so that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God.” –John 3:16-21, NASB

The quoting of John 3:16 is a good practice, but I feel that it’s changing the point of the entire passage. When I read that one verse, I get the message “Yay! God loves me”. Now this is a great message and is completely true, but in light of the following verses I’m not convinced it’s the entire message Jesus is conveying. We see that, as humans, our natural tendencies are towards evil actions (thanks a lot sin nature). Because of this, God has no reason to love me. He should despise me because of what we have done to His Creation. Have you ever spent a ton of time and energy into making something, let’s say a cake? You’re really happy with what you have done, but then the dog sees it and runs towards it. Before you can stop him, he’s destroyed the cake. How upset would you be? I’m sure God’s feelings are similar, saying that the people He created to care for Creation were the one’s ultimately to blame for it’s humiliation.

But God doesn’t hold it against us. He loves you and me in spite of ourselves. We deserve His wrath, but rather we get His grace! We simply have to believe in His son, Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus was saying in this section from John that we are only judged by whether we believe in Him, or not. Seems pretty simple. It was also a radical idea at the time, and it seems that it’s still pretty counter-cultural today. There is no series of steps to get grace, there is not rituals or prayers you have to say. All you have to do is believe. Believe in the one Son of God. Believe that He has come to save us from ourselves, and to take the punishment of our sin. Believe that God has made all things right between us and Him. All we have to do is believe!

As we go into the new year, I encourage you to take a look at your beliefs. Do you believe in all those things that God has done for you? If not, I encourage you to spend some time in prayer and reading Scripture. Did you know that there is a prayer in the Bible written for unbelief. In Mark 9, a man asks Jesus to heal his son. Jesus’ replay is that all things are possible if you believe. The man then prayed, “I do believe, but help me overcome my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24, NLT). Jesus then healed the man’s son. This shows me that even if we don’t believe, God hears our prayers. But we have to be earnestly seeking Him and wanting to overcome our unbelieving hearts, if we expect God to do anything. The lesson here? Prayer works friends, even if you have problems believing it does.

Believing in God

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Yesterday I talked about waiting on God. I know that waiting is extremely difficult, especially when you are impatient. Yet waiting is important because God operates on His time, not ours. Peter tells us, “But do not let this one fact escape your notice, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day. The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:8-9, NASB). This just goes to show us that God’s time table is nowhere near ours. To him, time over the last 2000 years could seem anywhere from 2000 to 730,500,000 days (or 5.5 to 2 million years!!). Our time table is meaningless in God’s eyes, it’s only His time and will that matter.

Bu this doesn’t help us wait any. Knowing that God doesn’t provide in our time, it actually kind of makes me worry that it will never happen. So simply waiting on God isn’t enough. What is it that will get us through the waiting? What is that one thing that will help us enjoy God’s blessing, despite all the waiting around we had to do?

I believe that that one thing is belief. Believing in God and His promises is what helps us get through such hard times. The belief I am speaking of is best defined in Hebrews, “Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see” (Hebrews 11:1, NLT). I was reading in the book of Numbers today. There is a story in there that speaks perfectly about this topic.

In chapters 13 and 14, the people of Israel have been brought to a place just outside of the promised land. God told Moses to send 12 men into the promised land to spy it out for them. The men were gone for forty days. They traveled all over the promised land, and brought back many samples of what the Israelites were going to find. When they returned, ten of the men gave a report that the Israelites could not possibly overcome the inhabitants of the land. They thought that they would surely all die. But Caleb and Joshua (the other two) spoke up saying that they could because they had God, and He promised them the land. The people ultimately sided with the 10 men and rebelled against God. He chose to punish them with 40 years of wandering in the wilderness and that none of the adults would be alive (except Caleb and Joshua) to enter the promised land.

I suppose what I’m getting at is that we have to hold onto our believe that God will come through for us. He has promised to provide for us and so much more (Jeremiah 29:11 and Psalm 27:4). We can get a little doubtful when it “takes too long” (which was my point yesterday). But we have to believe in our God. He is ever faithful, so we must be faithful in Him. Holding onto that belief is counter-cultural. God said to Moses, “But my servant Caleb has a different attitude than the other have. He has remained loyal to me,…” (Numbers 14:24, NLT). Being counter-cultural is hard, but we have to do it if that means we hold onto our belief that God will provide in His time.

Repent and Believe (Mark 1)

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So we finished a study over the life of David last week. King David was the original “Heart Man” since he was described by God as a man after His own heart. I took the weekend to think about where to go from there. I landed on the gospel of Mark. I figured the only logical place to go and learn about the heart of God is to go and learn the heart of Jesus Christ, who is God on earth. So I am going to start a series where I look at a teaching of Jesus’. I’m going to do my best to pick out one sentence from each chapter of Mark, and really try to hone in as best as I can. So here we go……………..

I love the way our Bible is set up. Within it we have 4 different tellings of the life of the most important man to have ever lived, his name is Jesus of Nazareth. I like to think of them this way: Mark is the abridged version, Matthew teaches us about Jesus in his Jewish world, Luke speaks to the whole world, and John is telling about the divinity of Christ. All four gospels are important to our understanding of Jesus.

Mark’s gospel begins at the most logical place, the beginning of Christ’s ministry. The first words we hear from Jesus in this gospel are “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel” (1:15 NASB). What exactly does this mean? In order to understand we must look at Jesus’ command in two parts.

First, repent. What does it mean to repent? The definition I found in the dictionary I like says “to turn from sin out of penitence for past wrongdoings, abandon sinful or unworthy purposes and values, and dedicate oneself to the amendment of one’s life”. The way I understand this means that repentance requires acknowledgment and change. First you must realize that you have done wrong and sinned, then turn away from it and vow not to return.

Secondly, believe. Believe what? We find in the gospel of Luke that Jesus began his public ministry by reading a passage from Isaiah, “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, Because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the afflicted; He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to captives and freedom to prisoners; To proclaim the favorable year of the Lord…,” (Isaiah 61:1-2 NASB), then proclaimed the prophecy to be fulfilled. So the belief that we must have, is that Jesus is hear to heal and free those who have been trapped by sin.

So how does this help us to know the heart of God? The answer, to me, is quite simple. God wants us to acknowledge and repent from our sin. Then He wants us to help others to do the same. So shine God’s light to the world today, and help others see it. We are called to make disciples, and the first step is to repent and believe!