God Owns Everything

  • Psalm 24:1
    God Owns Everything
    This week’s passage is short and to the point. I think we forget that although God has given us things we can get our hands on, we only have what God has given us. Whether it is our food, our ability to grow it from the ground, to kill animals, our clothes, our stuff…I could go on. God has given us use of everything He owns! How generous is that? An interesting story that walks hand in hand with this is the one Jesus tells his disciples about the servant who was forgiven his debts, but when given the opportunity to forgive someone else, he was ruthless and unforgiving. The moral of that story (See Matthew 18) is, how can we be children of God if, when He is so generous to us, that we are not generous to others (one another)?
  • The same can be said with everything God has given us. Not just stuff, food, or forgiveness, but all of that and everything else. I get it, we have been taught that one ought to work for the things they have, and that dependence is a prison for humanity. But we are literally dependent upon God for our very existence, our sustenance, and our very breath! What prevents this from being a prison for us is that God does this out of love, He gives abundantly (meaning more than we need) and we are allowed our fill. He does not only give us what will keep us from starving or from suffering. It is, therefore, our responsibility AS His children to bring honor to His Name by being generous like that. By giving more than is needed, so this generosity brings about the freedom which is so antithetical to our perception of dutiful living, and instead swings open wide the prison doors.
  • When Jesus fed the multitudes, there was always so much left over. What a perfect example of what God has blessed us with! Are we giving all that we can? For love’s sake? To bring freedom, rather than prison? It is such a convicting notion that even when we think we’re being generous, we aren’t being Godly generous, and it isn’t because He hasn’t given us everything…
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Jesus

Jesus

John 1:1-14

This passage in John talks about what the author believes is the true nature of Jesus. There isn’t a lot of language regarding Old Testament prophecies of the Messiah, but rather, it is geared towards the Greek peoples of the time. It was a commonly held philosophical discussion that the Theos, and His Logos (Divine, perhaps God’s action upon the universe) were responsible for the creation of the universe, even amongst people who were unaware of Jesus, and did not believe in the God of Israel. These terms were no doubt used in this gospel in order to point the Greek thinkers toward knowing that Jesus was the Logos that God (Theos) used in order to bring about all that is. This would firmly establish in their minds, if they would believe it, that Jesus is The Divine, and thus to be worshipped.

More than just a Deity (for the Greeks worshipped many), Jesus is also given the distinction of having given true enlightenment, something many greeks sought after, to everyone. In this call to look into the life, teachings, death and resurrection of Jesus, terms which “foreigners” to the prophecies of the Messiah could understand are used. This has always given me great hope that it is fully God’s intention to meet us where we are, in order to share His true Self with us. These 14 verses of text make such great claims regarding the person of Jesus, that to read them and not look into them may expose our callous towards venturing beyond ourselves to understand where WE truly come from, and in turn, God’s desire for us. If we are looking for our true purpose, this text points us toward Christ as God’s desire for us.

My prayer is that as we press this text through the filter of our mind, that we will not simply gloss over the ramifications it presents us with, but that we will take inventory of our hearts through them and when we share this gospel with others, that we will take the journey again with them and remain as children would about this truth. Which is to say, we would perpetually treat it as new and authoritative.

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New Year, New Beginning

When God delivered Israel from the slavery of Egypt, He commanded them to celebrate it as a new year. That moment was for the Hebrew people, a new beginning:

“The Lord said to Moses and Aaron in Egypt, “This month is to be for you the first month, the first month of your year.”

‭‭Exodus‬ ‭12:1-2‬ ‭NIV‬‬

Why is having a “New Year” so significant?

A new year, in biblical terms, was the beginning of something else new too. Not only will this new year represent a beginning of the cycle anew, but also it was the very first month of the new nation of people who would be “the Lord’s own possession”. A people who would follow His law, and live by His standards.

  
What will this new year be for you? Do you realize that it is a new opportunity to leave the slavery that you may have been bound to? Let this year be a new beginning for you. Begin to read scripture from beginning to end. Mine all that it has for you to glean from it. And when you’re done, begin again.

May God bless you, and have a Happy New Year!

http://bible.com/111/exo.12.1-2.niv

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Christmas is…bad?

Many questions surround why we celebrate Christmas or how we celebrate Christmas. I wanted to take this time to consult some Scripture on the story. What better place to start than the prophecies of Christ’s birth.

In Isaiah 7:14, we read that Ahaz is asked of God to request a sign that could be “as low as Sheol, or as high as heaven”. Ahaz refused to ask the sign on account of putting God to the test. The sign was so that Ahaz would know that Judah would not be conquered by Israel. Ahaz didn’t ask a sign, so God offered one:

“Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel” (NASB).

“Unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given” (Isaiah 9:6)

We read in Luke Chapter 2, that the Angels proclaimed this very birth to men: 

“For today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ (Messiah) the Lord. (Luke 2:11)

Christmas is definitely a biblical thing, as believers celebrate it. But, how do we celebrate Christ’s birth? Christmas is a big deal in America and elsewhere. Perhaps for other reasons than Christ’s birth. It is important for believers not to take the focus away from our recognition of Jesus Christ the Messiah having come to us. 

We don’t celebrate Christmas around the time of Christ’s actual birth. Is this significant? We know that God created all things…days, years, and so on. For the believer, we see that Paul encourages the church in Romans 14:5 that:

One person regards one day above another, another regards all days alike. Each person must be fully convinced in his mind. He who observes the day, observes it for the Lord (speaking of believers, not just anyone…this was understood), ”

Paul’s encouragement is this: The world has already been redeemed by Christ. When we observe days in honor of the Lord (this part is important), it is sanctified. My hope is that we can be at peace with one another, and cease targeting fellow believers with minutia which divides us, rather than celebrating Christ, who unites us.

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Why We Teach. Why We Learn

bible-Sunlight

“Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.” Psalm 119:105

It is my belief that the best method of education, according to Scripture, is to build/learn it on the foundation of this advice from Proverbs: “The teaching of the wise is a fountain of life, to turn aside from the snares of death”[1] (Proverbs 13:14). The very good question of ‘why is it important to learn’ can be applied to anyone. According to Proverbs, the most basic answer is, so you don’t die. From the time we are born, we are subjected to potential dangers which are very obvious. Dangers like, cars, angry animals, fire, too much water, sharp things, not eating or being fed, to name a few. This is especially important in the early stages after birth, but still important for the rest of our life. It is safe to say that if we’ve reached a ripe old age, we’ve learned how to do some things for ourselves. But we don’t do many things outside of learning.

We may begin learning or teaching ourselves things from the very first day we are born. As mentioned above, some of those things we learn about are very obvious, and many things we learn from painful experience. But the author of the Proverb isn’t simply talking about the obvious things. The author is also talking about those things which are not obvious: Deception, hatred, greed, once again, just to name a few. These are things about which we must also learn a great deal in order to survive. We can be guilty of trusting the wrong person to our own demise. The world is no safe place for the uneducated.

I’ve recently been reading through the Pentateuch with my wife, and have finished the book of the Law which has many kinds of Laws in it that address many obvious snares, and some not so obvious snares. It is interesting to learn that this Law was responsible for the prosperity of the Hebrews early in their existence as a nation in the world with land given them by God so they could live as His people there. The second to last chapter in Leviticus is full of verses about the blessings and curses that are associated with either following this Law or not following it. We learn similar things in our own country when we begin school. Laws regarding safety and social laws like: ‘Don’t talk to strangers’ and ‘look both ways before you cross the street’. To not follow these ‘laws’ of life will end up risking one’s own opportunity for life, and so we must be diligent to teach each other in order to survive the wild.

As I mentioned before, though, there are many not-so-obvious things we need to learn if we are going to eventually live together in this world in peace and harmony. Those lessons indeed come from Jesus himself in a popular sermon called the Beatitudes (see Matthew 5). I think we mistakenly think He’s talking to those people who possess those traits, but He’s actually addressing all of us, and imploring us to become those people, so that we may obtain the blessings associated with living that life. In the Biblical narrative, there is no one better at teaching than Jesus, as He used many parables, which are more like allegories that possess a lesson embedded in a familiar story. But we can attach the purpose for learning these things back to the Proverb which Jesus would have known well, that teaches us that to learn is to receive the true gift of abundant life.

Jesus’ use of the parable was mostly exclusively used to teach spiritual gems of wisdom and prophecy while using imagery that the people of the day could process in order to obtain the treasure locked within. But it’s clear that even then, Jesus’s disciples continually asked Him to explain what he meant by these parables. Today, we have the benefit of commentaries in the form of Epistles from the disciples to teach us what Jesus represented to us, and what he taught through his life, as well as writing about some things in hindsight. But His disciples didn’t have that revelation to draw from. So Jesus began to explain what he meant, and that is where the teaching process was completed. He painted the image they could draw from, and then told them what it meant so that they could “see” what he was trying to teach them. Using these mind tactile senses, Jesus imprinted His word upon their minds, and by proxy, in their hearts. They used the written word to teach us those same parables, and by that, we have learned what Jesus taught His followers long ago.

So we have a purpose for teaching, and a proven method for teaching. It is for the spiritual lessons that we really learn how to grow, and it is the physical lessons we learn in order to use the wisdom we obtain in order to achieve our growth over generations. We can’t limit our learning to physical lessons, even though they teach us to pay attention to obvious dangers and opportunities, we must also learn the spiritual lessons so that we may learn how to notice the less obvious pitfalls in life which can ultimately lead to our physical death. It is on this foundation that we sit to learn anything at all. Our curiosity may just be the thing God knew we would need in order to pursue knowledge and wisdom, so that we might live for our appointed time, rather than carelessly walk ourselves into our own demise.

In conclusion, our purpose for learning is to stay alive, both physically and spiritually so that we may live the life that God has designed for us to live, as well as obtain the promises that God has chosen to give us in order to live in relationship with Him. There are many methods people use to teach, but imagery which is easily understandable seems to be the method chosen by the one ancients called “Teacher”, and His lessons have lasted millennia in order to teach us still today.

[1] All scripture from the NASB, Copyright 1995, The Lockman Foundation

bible-Sunlight

“Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.” Psalm 119:105

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Independence

This weekend, we will celebrate our 239th anniversary as an independent nation. There’s just something about being able to drive from the west coast to the east coast without fear of losing your life. But the independence that humans so desperately need goes deeper than one nation’s history.

“Then God said, ‘Let Us make man in Our image, according to our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.'” Genesis 1:26

I often wondered what it meant to be created in God’s image. How can we, who are mortal, delicate and prone to illness, be made in the likeness of God, Who is immortal, all powerful? What did Genesis mean to say?

What Genesis is telling us is that God made us to be like Him, in that He is free. God has free will, and so, He created us with free will. We are free to love or hate. We are free to do the wrong thing, or the right thing. Independence is not necessarily speaking to freedom, but freedom from being ruled…by anyone but God.

We failed as humans at being like God, so we require governors. The sad thing is, without government, the world would be utterly evil. But Genesis says God intended for man to rule the world, not to be ruled by any but God. So why can’t we live that way?

When we put our own desires over those of God, which are all good, we build our own house, rather than living in his. Because we don’t understand us like He does, our rooms are not suited for us as they should be.

I hear a lot of comments from people about God being cruel and unjust because of stories they read in the Old Testament. They read scriptures in Leviticus about slavery and think God is pro-slavery, or at least the Old Testament is. So why read it? Why believe what is there?

“If you buy a Hebrew slave (one who sold themselves to pay debt, indentured servant), he shall serve for six years; but on the seventh (regardless of how much he still owed) he shall go out as a free man without payment.” – Exodus 21:2

This is God’s law regarding indentured servitude. (See also Exodus 21:7,20,26,27)

God desired that we not be indebted to anyone, but if we are, to work for the one who pays our debt, and then be released, because we are not meant to be in debt, or a servant to another person, except as a willing participant for the aforementioned reason.

Taking people from their homes is forbidden by God’s law, which simply says, “You shall not steal”.

So what now? Will you read the scripture more closely? I hope that you will try with all your might to learn and understand what the Bible really says, and believe that God wants for you to be dependent upon Him alone.

Happy Independence Day,

May God bless you and your family.

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True Bias = Mind-Set

True Bias = Mind-Set.

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True Bias = Mind-Set

I want my first post to be somewhat introductory, but also not lacking the substance of what this blog page will be about. So I want to share a little of my journey (cliff notes only), and then some Scripture.

I was born into and raised by parents of faith. In spite of early turbulence in life due to the break up of my parents, being raised by a single parent until my mother remarried when I was 5, my mother and dad made it a priority to be in church. I was raised in Pentecostal doctrine, and among charismatic families and friends. I spent all my time, except for one semester, in a Christian school. Due to the time my mother sacrificed, the first school I attended (Kindergarten – 5th grade) allowed my siblings and I to attend free of tuition. I wasn’t the best student, but I benefited from a great system of education that focused on the needs of each individual student, and taught us how to read, and how to learn.

This system continued in the next school I attended (from 6th-Graduation) as the curriculum was the same and the focus was just as good. I got involved in sports here and graduated salutatorian (class of 2)! Church twice on Sunday, chapel on Wednesdays in school and church on Wednesday nights. I spent my whole life learning about the Scripture.

“So keep the words of this covenant to do them, that you may prosper in all that you do.” – Deuteronomy 29:9

Fast Forward!

I’m 35 now and decided to go back to school to get a bachelor’s degree in…something…anything (accounting). I have been married for almost 8 years and have a 1 and a half year old son. After working many different kinds of jobs, never feeling purpose or fulfillment in the work I did, after 2 years of studies in the Accounting track, I felt like a voice in my heart telling me I was walking down the wrong path. I was pursuing the wrong calling for me. I realized that after volunteering half my life in worship leadership and living all my life near Scripture and believers, I realized that was what I NEEDED to pursue.

But there’s a catch. I didn’t feel like I knew very much about the Scriptures or their purpose. I’ve heard message after message preached about virtually every sought after answer in the Bible, and had simply taken what I was told at face value, never really digging deeper. So I changed my major to Biblical Studies and Ministry. Mostly so I can continue in worship leadership all my life, but more so I can really learn what is in the Bible. And why.

Proverbs 22:6 says “Train up a child in the way he SHOULD go. Even when he is old he will not depart from it.”

I am so thankful that my parents, even though we had some friction, never compromised the value they placed on me, as a person, and on my knowledge of the ways of God. I am thankful that they put me in touch with people who made it their life’s work to teach math, English, Spanish, science, word structure all in the context of the Gospel. I hope I am as dedicated to the life of my child and those placed in my path as they were.

Needless to say, I am biased. I have been raised as a minister. I didn’t choose how my parents would raise me, but I chose this part of my life, because they taught me what is good, and I want that. And that’s OK. It isn’t unfair, and it isn’t politically balanced or socially unsalted porridge. It is steak, peas, potatoes, carrots, gravy…and sweet iced tea.

In my studies, I come across stories and Scriptures many times, and now they mean so much more. I believe them. With all my heart. But that isn’t enough.

“But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves” – James 1:22

James goes on to teach: 23 “For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror; 24 for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was. 25 But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man will be blessed in what he does.”

The word translated as effectual here is the Greek word er’gon. We hear words used based on this word like: Ergonomics, which is the study of people’s efficiency in their working environment. In this Scripture, it most likely means an act, deed, thing done: the idea of working is emphasized in opposition to that which is less than work (Strong’s G2041-3).

My prayer is that as we grow in maturity, we begin to understand what Scripture asks us to do. And I love pastors, but please study what they teach, don’t just hear it. Do it also.

God bless you and your family.

EDIT: I have since graduated from LeTourneau University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Biblical Studies and Ministry as of August, 2016! Hallelujah!

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