Category Archives: Devotion-y

Sermon Notes: Prequel

Jeremiah challenged me to post sermon notes up here, but since we’re near the end of 1 John in church, I felt the need to lead into it. During the last few weeks of Bible class last year, I really dug in to the book of 1 John. It’s an awesome book, and it’s full of super practical stuff. I’ll stop rambling now and get to the notes. I would highly suggest grabbing your Bible right now and opening it to 1 John, because I can’t exactly post the whole book up here.

1 John 1

Main point #1: Word=Jesus

God’s word has been made a physical object which we are able to use, interact with, and experience on a physical, human level. Also significant here is that the Word is described as the Word of life. If you flip back to the gospel of John, you’ll see that he was referring to Jesus. He makes it abundantly clear that the Word is Jesus. He appeared, and so became manifest to all of humanity. People were able to see Him, experience Him. Jesus. The Word. We know what/who He is and what He says, and we can testify to it.

Main point #2: Walk in God’s Light

God is light. He is absolute perfection. There’s no darkness, shadow, no gray area when it comes to the things of God. That means that anyone who claims to have fellowship with Him must follow suit. If one says they have fellowship with Him, yet does not show the evidence of that, they’re lying to themselves and to God. Light and darkness don’t mix. Try lighting a candle in a completely dark room. The light will completely swallow up the darkness. It’s not like you can have like a floating orb of dark in a room that is unaffected by the presence of light. Darkness can only live in places where there is no light. So obviously, you can’t walk side by side with someone who is Light if you are living in sin and darkness. It just doesn’t work. However, that’s not to say that those who are in Christ don’t sin. We’re fallen creatures. It happens. But if we strive to walk in the Light, Christ has promised that His grace will cover us and cleanse us, allowing us to have fellowship with Him. It doesn’t mean we’ve never sinned at all, it means our sins have been paid for by the blood of Jesus.

Fact of Life: This took way longer than it was supposed to, I’m sorry. More to come soon. And when I say soon, I mean like 2 weeks maybe.

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Help my unbelief!

Oy. It’s been forever. Too long. Summer will do that to you. Not that that’s a good excuse, but it is what it is. Anyways, as part of summer, my family took a huge road trip out to the west coast. As part of road trips, you listen to the radio. It’s just what you do. Sometimes you hear some good stuff, sometimes you hear some complete baloney. Today we were listening to a sermon on the Christian station (scary, I know) and some guy was teaching on Mark ch. 9. This passage has always been impactful to me, but today it struck me in a new way.

The passage depicts a man whose son has a demon in him. He takes his son to the disciples, who fail to heal the boy. Now, most people would give up here. Jesus’ disciples had cast out demons before, and were known for their works. If they couldn’t something, the situation was pretty hopeless. This man doesn’t give up though. He wants so badly for his son to be healed, that he goes to Jesus Himself.

After a little exchange in which Jesus assesses the situation, the father asks, “If you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.” Now Jesus responds, “If you can? All things are possible for one who believes”. This is where I’m getting to. After being told that, the man answers, “Lord I believe! Help my unbelief!”.

This is one of my favorite passages in the Bible. It has been since the first time I read it. I’ve always been amazed by this man’s lack of pretense. He doesnt care about putting on a facade, he just wants God to work. Here’s what struck me today: this is the way that I should always pray. I never have the faith that is required to pass whatever trial God has placed in front of me. If I could do it on my own, where would God get the glory? He doesn’t!

What God wants is for me to get to that first “I believe”, where I am willing to let Him help me. This is the easy(ish) part. The second, more difficult part is the second half: admitting that I have unbelief that I cannot fix on my own. Apart from Christ, I am uncapable of even the tiniest smidge of Faith. With that in mind, it would be unreasonable and, quite frankly, idiotic to try to fool myself into thinking that I have everything necessary to pass whatever trial God sends my way.

And that’s about all I have there, soooo……abrupt ending.

Fact of life: hashing out a whole blog post in a car on an iPhone is very difficult.

Second fact of life: that was a very long buildup for that itty bitty point. But hey it made sense to me!

Third fact of life: this is the first post to ever have three facts of life!

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Jesus cookies. Wait what?

1 John 5:21 — Little children, keep yourselves from idols. Amen.

This morning I was told that I was not allowed to exit my room (<–paraphrase) until I had read my Bible. It was a good challenge. I’m not in the habit of doing that, I’m embarrassed to admit. So when I was startled from oblivion, I dismissed my waker and immediately grabbed my Bible. I flipped it open and began to look for little orange brackets around some verse– any verse– that was even remotely applicable to my current situation. I landed on 1 John 5:21.

I love the book of 1 John. It’s so practical and straightforward about who God is, and how to know that you KNOW Him, how to be His child and act like it, and in knowing Him, learning to Love like Him. We’re talking Jesus-died kind of Love, not cookies-are-awesome kind of love. It’s mind-boggling. And then you get to the end of the book, the very last verse, and there’s this random little blurb about idols. Idols aren’t mentioned anywhere else in that book at all. But there it is. It always stuck out to me, and that’s why I marked it out in the first place, but it took on a new meaning today.

*Disclaimer: I don’t know what John really meant when he wrote that verse. This is what I got from it.*

John talks a lot about Love in this book. Loving like how Jesus Loved the whole world enough to lay down His life for a bunch of pagan heathen scumbags who He knew would willfully disregard Him, mock Him, and generally reject Him. Personally, I find it difficult to be around people who don’t like me very much, much less LOVE them. And yet that is what I, as God’s child, am not asked but COMMANDED to do. I could easily go off on a whole other rant on that but right now I’m talking about idols. The thing about idols is that they are things that we think we love. And we think we love them SO MUCH that they take priority in our lives and in so doing, ruin them. There’s a reason God talked about idols in the 10 commandments. They have a way of sneaking in and taking over everything, and sometimes you don’t even really notice it until it’s a humongous problem in your life. So here’s John, talking all about what Love really is, and he tosses this thing about idols in there. It’s to make sure that you have the RIGHT KIND of Love happening. Jesus-died Love not cookies-are-awesome love.

What’s your love about? What do you Love? Who do you love? Is there something you love that needs to be checked out as a cookies-are-awesome kind of love as opposed to Jesus-died Love?

Fact of Life: This was written terribly. I rambled a lot and started sentences with and. Hopefully you caught was I was saying though, because it had a major impact on my life. If it didn’t, maybe I’ll re-write it sometime so that it makes more sense.

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Some thoughts on giving

Just read this and had to share it:

“But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your tunic either. Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back. And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them. (Luke 6:27-31 ESV)

I’m sure you’ve read this passage before, but I want to point out something I’d never noticed here. We often hear the first part of this passage, but I’ve honestly never heard the last part of it, namely the instruction to “Give to everyone who begs from you, and from the one who takes away your goods do not demand them back”. I think that statement is pretty self-explanatory, so I won’t spend too long here.

I do want to say, however, that I know of very few people who follow these instructions. I know I don’t. How often have I passed by someone holding a cardboard sign on the corner when I know full well that I have enough cash in my wallet to but them a nice meal? I can try to justify not giving, but it’s not going to work. Jesus says that I’m to give to them without worrying about whether I’ll get my cash back, or what they’ll use it for.

And that’s about all I have to say about that. I don’t know if that’ll hit you the same way it did me, but I had to at least put it out there.

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Authority

Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.
(Romans 13:1 ESV)

Romans 13 has always been a difficult passage for me. Submission in general is a difficult topic for me. I don’t like it. The natural leader in me wants to be in control, in command. My flesh hates losing control. I tend to freak out when that happens. But some things have happened recently, causing me to lose some authority over things. So I turned to the scriptures to make sense out of it. Through these circumstances (which I’ll spare you, because it would take forever to explain), God has shown me that I never really had any authority in the first place. It’s been a humbling few weeks for me, and I want to share some of that.

Let’s start by looking back at that passage. Paul says, “Let every person be subject to…authority.” Not just the followers. Not just the weak-willed. Even the strongest-willed among us is to be subject to authority. Whether it be under a boss, parents, government, or God Himself, everyone on this planet is subject to some sort of authority. Unfortunately, human nature is to rebel. Has been since the very beginning. This is equivalent to rebellion against God.

Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer.
(Romans 13:2-4 ESV)

Now here’s the hard part for me. If I’m to believe the Scriptures (and I’d be an idiot not to…), then ALL authority is an extension of God’s own. In fact, God has appointed them to their position. We are to obey them as we would obey God.  This includes the people who seem like they’re flat-out wrong. Put another way, if my parents ask me to to do something I think is stupid, the order may as well have come from God. If a boss asks me to complete a menial task in a horribly inefficient manner, God Himself may as well have asked me. To disobey them would be to disobey God.

Taking it a step further now

Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.
(Hebrews 13:17 ESV)

Heavy-duty stuff here. The writer of Hebrews is telling us that we’re to obey our leaders. Not only that, but we’re to do it cheerfully. Even when the commands are lame and asinine. He tells us that if we groan, we’re missing the point. This is a really hard pill for me to swallow. Every part of my flesh screams that it’s stupid. It screams, “But God! Surely you wouldn’t ask me to do that! Why should I do it?!” God allows these things to happen to stretch us, refine us, and give us opportunity to kill the flesh. In fact, if my flesh is complaining, I’m probably doing something right.

Now John had a few more choice words about this business. He says that if we love God, we’ll obey Him. Check it out:

Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome.
(1 John 5:1-3 ESV)

Again, John just said that if we love God, we’ll keep His commands. God has commanded us to obey authorities, and to do it cheerfully. Do you see where I’m going with this? If we don’t obey authority, we prove by action that we don’t really love God. Holy smokes, that smarts. Put that in first-person. If I don’t submit to authority cheerfully, I am proving by action that I don’t love God.

Wow.

Now, that’s really hard for me to write, because I am normally the last person to talk about submission. I’m the guy who will might do what you say, but if I don’t like it you’ll probably have to drag me kicking and screaming. But God calls me to submit cheerfully! The dilemma here is that it’s impossible to submit cheerfully at all times. There is not one person on earth who can do it. Sure, some can fake it for a while, but eventually circumstances will arise that bring their flesh to the surface. With me it probably happens more often than others.

However, part of following God is doing things that don’t come naturally. I wrote earlier that I was in the process of having authority being stripped away from me. Through this, however, God is doing a work in me. He is showing me that the less control I have, the more I have to rely on the fact that God is in control. I can’t say that I’m a master of this yet (or even close). In fact, I’m quite bad at it. The best I can say is that I’m learning.

Recommended Reading:

Touching Godliness Through Submission – KP Yohannan
http://www.amazon.com/Touching-Godliness-through-Submission-Yohannan/dp/1595890556/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1334453232&sr=8-1

 

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To My People

“But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light;”

-1 Peter 2: 9

This is my generation. We are chosen, royal, holy, special. We are called. Called by the God of the WHOLE ENTIRE UNIVERSE. This is kindof a big deal, because He’s talking to me, He’s talking to you, He’s talking to the people of our generation. I think there’s something wrong with a lot of the Christians in my generation. We’re wimpy. We’re too sensitive. We don’t take well to haters. Last week, someone drove by my school and cussed at the girls’ PE class. They didn’t take it too well.

“Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy.”

-1 Peter 4: 12

Whoa now, calm down a little bit… FIERY TRIAL? Um, have you seen fire? Ever been in fire? Kinda scary. And yet here’s Peter telling us, “dude, this is to be expected. It’s not a big deal. This is what you signed up for.” How is it that we see persecution as some great injustice? Some major, unexpected offense? Jesus went through a whole lot more than this, and He didn’t whine about it. It was no big thing, He totally expected it. In a way, He kinda asked for it.

Ever notice how Christianity is super offensive to the rest of the world? Think about it. All of this “separation of church and state” business? It only applies to the Christian’s involvement with the state. Only Christians are forbidden from praying and reading the Bible in public schools. College professors directly attack Christians, mainly, in philosophy courses, history courses, science courses, you name it. No other religion gets treated like this. Why? Because it’s radical. Why was Jesus crucified? Sunday school answer is “for our sins,” but that’s not what was going through the religious leaders’ heads when they turned Him in. Jesus was crucified because He was radical. Too radical. You can’t just walk around saying that you’re the son of God. People kinda freak out when you say stuff like that.

As Christians, we are called to follow Christ’s radical example. This means that we will take fire. And what are we supposed to do with that? Rejoice, that’s what. If Christ was abused for what He taught, and we are abused for supporting what He taught, then that means we’re doing a good job. To quote The Dark Knight, “If you’re not getting shot at, you’re not doing your job right.” Seriously. If you’re not taking fire for the Gospel, then you’re probably not doing it right. Christianity is offensive to pretty much everyone who doesn’t believe in God. Heck, Christianity is offensive to a lot of people who do believe in God. Christianity is even offensive to a lot of Christians. Examples: Rick Warren, Rob Bell. ‘Nuff said.

Let us keep in mind here the ultimate goal: God’s glory being revealed. We’ve talked about suffering for Christ’s sake, but the end to that is seeing His glory and being able to partake in that. How awesome is that going to be? When we finally get to the end of this life, battered and bruised for the sake of the gospel, just think of being able to rejoice with the Lord about all the glory that was revealed through the beatings we took. Kinda lightens the blow. I mean, obviously, it’s not going to be fun if someone shoots an arrow at your knee because you say you love Jesus, but what about the people who watch that incident? They’re gonna be all like, “Wow, Jesus must be pretty rad if that person is willing to take an arrow to the knee for Him!” (Oh yeah, internet, I went there.) And when this life is done, we will be able to see the impact that our actions had on others. We are God’s chosen generation. This is our job. This is what we do.

Fact of Life: Pouring liquid into a glass tends to be much more successful if the glass is right side up.

Fact of Life 2: Listening to Break of Reality while writing makes whatever it is that you’re writing seem completely epic and amazing.

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