Tuesday, September 30

Studying the Beatitudes - Week 1

I don’t want to merely talk the talk, or only give lip service to what I believe. I want those around me to see me living and loving differently because of what and Who I believe. I want to be a “doer” of the Word…
“Don’t fool yourself into thinking that you are a listener when you are anything but, letting the Word go in one ear and out the other. Act on what you hear! Those who hear and don’t act are like those who glance in the mirror, walk away, and two minutes later have no idea who they are, what they look like.” James 1:22-24
In our study of the Beatitudes in Matthew 5, I hope we will listen to what the Holy Spirit is showing us and make the necessary adjustments in our lives and in our hearts. I’ll be hitting the highlights of this study we’re doing (Lord, Only You Can Change Me), some of the author’s main points, and anything that jumps out at me personally.

There is a lot to cover in our first week’s study (chapter one)! It begins by directing us to read the entire Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5 - 7) and to let that soak in, let the Holy Spirit–our Interpreter–speak to us through God’s word. Then to re-read and note all the times “righteous” or “righteousness” is used; by doing so, we learn that the main theme of the Sermon on the Mount is the righteous lifestyle of those who belong to the kingdom of heaven. The key verse (according to our study) is Matthew 5:20: “For I say to you, that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and the Pharisees, you shall not enter the kingdom of heaven.” What does that mean? My interpretation of this is that even if we follow all the rules, cross all the t’s and dot all the i’s, our hearts may still be hard and our souls may still be polluted. Jesus said the Pharisees were like whitewashed tombs–beautiful on the outside but full of rotten things on the inside (Matthew 23:27). It’s what’s in our hearts that truly matters.

Many of us want to have our cake and eat it, too. We want to be saved from eternal damnation, but we want the “best” of what the world has to offer, too. In my own experience, I’ve lived this. I professed my belief in Christ and was baptised as a believer, but then spent more years than I care to mention doing what Jamie wanted to do. I believed in God, but the “fruit” I produced did not match up to what I claimed to believe. But true Christianity will give us the “want to”, as my pastor puts it. If our hearts have been changed by Christ, we will be willing to leave those things behind and make a total commitment to Christ: to doing whatever He says. There will be some who claim to know Jesus as Savior, but they will be like wolves in sheep’s clothing (Matthew 7:15). Their “fruit” will not match up with what they claim to be.

Hypocrisy: it’s one of those buzzwords that many non-churchgoers use as the excuse to not attend church. But it’s not just those in the church who are hypocrites! A hypocrite is anyone who “wears a mask.” The word originally was used for Greek and Roman stage actors who wore exaggerated masks to show emotion. Based on that definition, are you a hypocrite? Is there ever a time you pretend to be someone you’re not? Is there ever a time you paste on a happy face so no one sees the turmoil or difficulty in your life? Do you act differently with church friends than you do with coworkers?

Though the Sermon on the Mount seems like an impossible standard, it’s not if we allow Christ to rule our lives. "I can do all things through him [Christ] who strengthens me." (Philippians 4:13)

Saturday, September 20

His Son

Today this verse took on new meaning for me:

“For God so loved the world
that he gave his one and only Son,
that whoever believes in him
shall not perish but have eternal life.”
John 3:16

A gentleman I met in a ministry training class this morning profoundly changed the way I think of this verse. He said we often talk about the fact that God loved us enough to die for us. That is an amazingly powerful truth if we allow it to truly soak in, and don’t skim over it simply because those words are familiar to us.

But this gentlemen went on to share that just a few years ago, he lost his own son to suicide. Since then, he says he has realized that not only did God love us enough to die for us, he loved us enough to allow his Son to die for us. As a parent, I’m guessing most of us would probably say we love our children enough to die for them. But can you fathom the love it would take to allow your child to die to save someone else? That’s how much God loves us.

Thursday, September 18

Sermon on the Mount

This evening begins our new Bible study group. We’ll be using Kay Arthur’s study on character: Lord, Only You Can Change Me. Since this study is based on Jesus’ “Sermon on the Mount”, I wanted to revisit my notes from a sermon our pastor preached via video from the Sea of Galilee earlier this summer.

The Sermon on the Mount is found in the book of Matthew, chapters 5 - 7. It’s full of great teaching, but here are a few key points:
  • Blessed are the poor in spirit (Matt 5:3) ~ Being poor in spirit means recognizing our great need for God, being truly humble.
  • Blessed are those who mourn (Matt 5:4) ~ We must mourn our own sinfulness. We must comprehend the depth of our own sin so that we recognize what a gift salvation truly is.
  • Blessed are the pure in heart (Matt 5:8) ~ Our heart must be totally devoted to God, with no divisions of loyalty.
  • salt and light (Matt 5:13-16) ~ Salt adds flavor when it it sprinkled around; if we clump together with only Christians, we are of no use. We must be a witness for Christ by letting his light shine through us.
  • extra mile living (Matt 5:41) ~ Help others, do more than is expected, even for the most difficult people.
  • love our enemies (Matt 5:43-48) ~ This is something that should make Christians stand apart from the rest of the world.
  • do not worry (Matt 6:25-34) ~ The birds are expected to work hard, but they never worry if their needs will be met. God knows what we need; when we seek him, we will have all we need.
  • a plank in your eye (Matt 7:1-5) ~ Before we judge others, we must examine our own heart.
  • a tree and its fruit (Matt 7:16-20) ~ We are known by the fruit we produce; you can not fake the fruit.

Christ is dealing with our hearts in all of this:
what we do doesn’t matter as much as why we do it.

If you want to follow along with our study, I’ll be posting about it each week.

Monday, September 15


“I live because of the living Father who sent me; in the same way, anyone who feeds on me will live because of me. I am the true bread that came down from heaven. Anyone who eats this bread will not die as your ancestors did (even though they ate the manna) but will live forever.”
John 6:57-58

Each morning the manna came down from heaven with the dew. The Israelites were to collect only what they needed for the day. God made the manna so that the people could not store up extra for future days; He wanted them to depend on him anew each day for their needs. It is the same for us: we can’t cram in extra time with God one day so that we can ignore Him for days or weeks afterwards.

Here’s incentive to get my lazy rear out of bed in the morning to have some time with God: Christ is our Manna. He is “the bread of life” (John 6:48). Just as the Israelites in the desert had to trust God for what they needed each day, so should we!

Saturday, September 13


But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.
1 Peter 2:9-10

It is a privilege that we are a chosen people; we are all undeserving. We, as believers, are a royal priesthood: mediators between a holy God and unbelieving people, just as Aaron was for the Israelites. Jesus is our ultimate high priest. Our calling is to reconcile the people with God; we are called to proclaim the gospel of Christ!

  • We are to be holy–to have the character of God
  • Remember we are God’s possessions–we belong to Christ. (Titus 2:14)
  • We are to trust God to meet our daily needs.
    The Israelites looked at the desert and wondered what they’d eat, how they would survive. And they grumbled. (Exodus 16:2-3)
  • Never forget our salvation! (Exodus 19:4)
    In both the old and the new testament, God is always the same and his vision for his people never changes.
  • Our mission is to end up in the promised land with as many people as possible!
  • Declare his praises! Worship is practice for heaven.

Wednesday, September 10


In Sunday school, we’ve been covering some of things we as parents do to provoke our kids to anger. (Ephesians 6:1-4) If our children’s hearts become hardened towards us, we will never be able to reach and disciple them as God wants us to do. The way kids develop their perception of what God is like is based on their relationship with their parents; I don’t know about you, but that’s a very humbling and sort of scary thought that makes me much more aware of how I’m parenting!

Here are some things we must AVOID:
  1. lack of marital harmony (Gen. 2:24) ~ Husband and wife are intended to be one flesh; kids need to see this lived out in front of them.
  2. maintaining a child-centered home; the marriage relationship must come before the child relationship. (Prov 29:15b)
  3. disciplining when angry (Eph 4:26-27) ~ Anger itself is not wrong, but often the way we deliver the message does cross over into sinful behavior.
  4. scolding (Eph 4:29). Say what is necessary to “build up” our children and offer them grace, not to tear them down with our words.
  5. being inconsistent with discipline (Ecc 8:11)
  6. not admitting when you are wrong, and not asking for forgiveness from your children (James 5:16) ~ Set a great example of what you want them to do; this is not a sign of weakness, but a show of humility.
  7. constantly finding fault (Prov 19:11) ~ Look for the good, and praise it! Overlook faults whenever possible, if it’s not an issue of respect or obedience.
  8. not listening to your child, or not taking his or her side of the story seriously (Prov 18:13). The Bible says it’s foolishness to give an answer before we listen. Show your child you value him or her by hearing what they have to say, as long as they say it with respect.
  9. not taking time to “just talk” (James 1:19). If we aren’t the primary relationship in our child’s lives, someone else will be.
  10. failing to keep your promises (Matt 5:37). ~ Show them you are trustworthy.
  11. chastening in front of others (Matt 18:15). We must remember that, as believers, our relationship with our kids is eternal; we will only be their parents here on this earth, but will rejoice with them for eternity in heaven.
  12. not allowing enough freedom (Luke 12:48b). As they are given greater responsibilities, they must be given more freedom. A great analogy someone in class shared is that kids are like a metal spring: if you suddenly release the spring, it will go flying off, and there’s no telling where it will land. However, if you let off of it very gradually, by small increments, it will be right there in that same spot when you take your hand off of it.
  13. unrealistic expectations (1 Cor 13:11a). They are not yet adults, so we must not expect them to think like adults. We should also take care never to compare one child to another, whether their sibling or another child we know. God created every one of us uniquely.
  14. practicing favoritism (Luke 15:25-30). In the case of the prodigal son, the father showed favoritism, but he also explained to the older son why he did so. We aren’t shown the reaction of that son, but I hope he understood after his father took time to explain.
  15. child training with methodologies inconsistent with God’s Word (Ephesians 6:4). Any training not consistent with the Bible will exasperate our children.
  16. reacting without understanding the heart (James 1:5). We must be careful not to wound our child’s spirit; we must pray for wisdom in parenting.

    There is no list of one-size-fits-all parenting rules…
    We must have a close, intimate relationship with the Lord; only then will we know how to handle each unique situation with our children.

    Tuesday, September 9

    Fear and Faith

    God leads, obstacles stop, prayer strengthens, and faith moves.
    Christ tells us,
    “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)
    Exodus, chapter 14…
    When the Egyptians pursued the Israelites, the people panicked, and fear replaced faith. Fear and faith cannot co-exist. The people forgot all about the miracles God had recently done for them. They cried to God to save them, then looked for someone to blame for the situation they were facing. They wanted to go back to the “safety” of bondage as slaves to the Egyptians, just as we sometimes return to the bondage of our past lives/sins. Moses told the people not to fear. God knows we will have times of fear, but He wants us to choose to focus on God instead of focusing on our fear. God often leads us to obstacles or trials too big for us so that we will learn to trust Him and stand firm in our faith.

    We must pray as if everything depends on God–because it does. Prayer strengthens us for what is ahead. Then in God’s timing, we must step out in faith, knowing God will take care of the enemy. Moses prayed, but then it was time to move in faith as they crossed the Red Sea.

    Unrepentant faith leads to the judgement of God. The Egyptians knew God had power, but they wanted to use God’s power for their own benefit. The fear of God is the respect and awe and thankfulness for saving us, since we know the punishment sin deserves.

    The Israelites went into the place of death and chaos (the sea), and came out to a new life. This is a foreshadowing of Christ’s death and resurrection, and symbolizes baptism.

    Monday, September 8

    Getting Better

    “When a man is getting better
    he understands more and more
    clearly the evil that is still left
    in him. When a man is getting
    worse he understands his
    own badness less and less.”
    ~ C.S. Lewis

    I’ve found this to be true in my own life. When I was sliding farther and farther away from God, it didn’t really seem to be a big deal. I rationalized everything I was doing, and it all sounded perfectly reasonable in my own mind. But once I finally came back to God, that all changed. During my time of brokenness, I knew that I’d been deluding myself, and I knew God had seen through every bit of my “logic.” Although I know I have been forgiven, I find that as I continue to mature in my walk with Christ, I come to new and greater understanding of just how bad I had been. The benefit of experiencing this Godly sorrow over my sins is that as I face the depths of the evil I have done, my gratitude to my Savior grows. I realize it was my sins that nailed Him to the cross; I understand more deeply His love for me and I have a deeper appreciation for the grace He has given me. But as I allow myself these realizations, I must be careful not to allow Satan to throw those sins back in my face, so I remind him (and myself) that those sins are in the past and God has forgiven me.
    I am eternally grateful for Christ’s redeeming love.

    Sunday, September 7

    Success God's Way

    Mostly on this blog, I’ve been just looking at and writing about particular verses, and that’s great, but I’m also going to start writing about what I’ve learned in sermons and Bible studies as well. It helps me cement it all in my brain and my heart. (And it’s neater than my scribbled sermon notes, so it’ll be easier to re-read later!)


    Success God’s way = faithfully fulfilling God’s will for your life.
    How can we achieve this kind of success?
    How can we faithfully fulfill God’s will for our lives?
    • Success begins by being a servant of the Lord. (Joshua 1:1) In this passage, Joshua has been named as the new leader of the Israelites, after Moses died. God reminds Joshua that Moses was great because he was a servant of God. Although Joshua has big shoes to fill, he would be great if he was willing first and foremost to serve the Lord. Leaders will come and go, but God is eternally in control.
    • Be clear in your mission. (Joshua 1:2-4) God clearly defined Joshua’s mission: to lead the people into the promised land. What is your life’s mission? We are all called to glorify God, to love Him, and to reach out to others in His name. Our mission must be in context of our role as part of the church, aka the body of Christ; we mustn’t get caught up in the individualistic “all about me” mentality so prevalent in our society.
    • Be strong and courageous. (Joshua 1:5-6) God reassures Joshua numerous times, and urges him to be strong and courageous. He knows we will face difficulties, but He will not fail us. Courage is not the absence of fear; courage is doing what is right and having faith in spite of the fear we feel.
    • Obey the Word of God. (Joshua 1:7-8) We must know the Word of God before we can obey it. We must meditate on it, soak it in. When a sudden heavy rain comes upon land that has been drought-stricken, the land cannot absorb much of that rain, but a slow and steady rain soaks in to the parched ground. It is the same way with our hearts: we must soak in the word a little at a time on a regular (daily) basis.
    • Know that God will be with us every step of the way. (Joshua 1:9) He is bigger than any challenge we will ever face, and we CAN do all things through Christ who strengthens us.

    If we obey God, he promises prosperity. But the definition for the Hebrew word used for prosperity means "succeeding in life’s proper endeavors through obedience to God."

    Monday, September 1

    More Than Words

    I’m not sure who to give credit to on this song, but it’s one we sing at church.
    Holy God, You alone are worthy of my praise
    Every breath I take for all my days
    Is Yours, my King

    Holy God, I will sing another song to You
    But there’s even more I want to do
    For You, my King

    I want to give You more than words

    I want to love You with my life
    I want to be a sacrifice
    You gave it all when You paid my price
    So I want to love You, love You, loveYou

    Holy God, I will not forget the love You gave
    For my sin the sacrifice was made
    By You, my King

    Holy God, with Your Spirit here inside of me
    Let Your glory shine that all may see
    You are King
    And I want to give You more than words…

    It’s easy to have good intentions, and to give lip-service to God. But do we love Him with our whole lives? Do we give him every moment of our lives? Do we get in the way so that His glory can’t be seen through us? He paid the price for my sin, and yours, and I want to give Him more than words. I want to love Him with my life.