Friday, December 14, 2012

School Shootings and Old Wineskins

This morning, another tragic school shooting - this time in Newtown, Connecticut - took the lives of 27 people. At an elementary school, a man with two guns opened fire. 18 children are among the victims.

Recently, Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher killed his girlfriend and himself. A man opened fire inside a movie theater in Colorado.

The outcry is as painful as it is predictable.

"More gun control."

"More mental health."

One Tweet said: "There can be no debate now."

But there is a solution to all of this. It's not gun control. It's not more mental health. It's the solution nobody wants to hear about. It's the solution nobody's talking about - even among "Christian" circles.

The solution? New hearts.

Jesus put it this way:

“No one puts a piece from a new garment on an old one; otherwise the new makes a tear, and also the piece that was taken out of the new does not match the old.  
And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; or else the new wine will burst the wineskins and be spilled, and the wineskins will be ruined.  
But new wine must be put into new wineskins, and both are preserved. 
And no one, having drunk old wine, immediately desires new; for he says, ‘The old is better.’” 
Luke 5:36-39

All the gun control and mental health in the world won't change what's inside a man's heart. Unless we become a nation of changed hearts, we will continue to see school shootings.

You must be born again.

When you are, God gives you a new heart, with new desires. The evil you once loved, you now despise. The righteousness you once ran from, you now run toward. Because that's what you crave.

When that happens, you influence the people around you with the good news, that this new heart is available to anyone who humbles himself, quits pretending he can find the answers on his own, and calls upon the name of the Lord.

When you do, they get new hearts, too.

Until then, we will continue to drink up iniquity like water.

And we'll continue to see school shootings.

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Thursday, December 13, 2012

What Kind of Trophy are You?

Every person who is born again recognizes that we are saved by grace, through faith. It's the gift of God - not of works - so that none of us can boast that we got what we "deserved."

But why? Why did God save you and me?

Because you're His trophy.

Don't believe me? Take a look at what the bible says on the matter.

Have you ever stopped to think about the magnitude of the verses before the famous "grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone" verses?

But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us,  
even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved),  
and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 
Eph 2:4-6, NKJV

Why did God do all of this for us?

that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 
Eph 2:7

God is going to display His grace for all of eternity in what He has done to save you and me.

Think about that.

In Job's day, Satan had a conversation with God. God said, "Have you considered my servant Job?"

The whole book displays how Job became God's demonstration of grace. Job was God's display upon the mantle for all the world to see.

Through Job's circumstances, God revealed His character: His holiness, His power, His grace, His generosity...

Job was a trophy of God's grace.

Know who else was a trophy of God's grace? Samson. God used Samson in mighty ways. Samson was a "hero," but he was hardly heroic.

Despite himself, Samson was a trophy of God's grace.

Know who else was God's trophy?


Judas was a trophy of God's justice and righteousness. Judas got what he deserved. Frankly, he got what we all deserve. Because we're all guilty of "selling out" - setting Jesus aside for money, or career, our our own selfish desires.

You're going to be God's trophy for all of eternity. The most devout Christian, the most hard-hearted atheist, and every other human being that has ever lived will be God's trophy.

The question is: what kind of trophy will you be? Will you be a trophy of God's justice and righteous judgment?

Or, in the coming ages, will God use you to show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward you?

Better yet, will you allow God to use you to show the world today the exceeding riches of His grace - through the kindness He shows you today?

But how do you do that?

"In Christ."

Every spiritual blessing is "in Christ." Everything you need is "in Christ." Think you understand what that means?

I challenge you today, while it's fresh in your mind, to set aside some time. Pray about and think through what it truly means to be "in Christ."

Not sure? Need help? Read through Ephesians 1-3. Slowly. Camp out there for a while. Let God show you what it truly means to be "in Christ."
You'll know you've hit the sweet spot when all you can say is, "WOW."

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Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Reading the Bible in a Year? Count Me Out

(In case you're wondering, I have not forgotten the promise I made in the previous post. I'm preparing my case. Besides, I'd like to get some more answers from you first.)

After the lights come off the tree and the last gift is unwrapped, most of you will turn to thinking about what you want to accomplish in the New Year. Like many, I use this time to look back at how the year has gone, what went right, and what I wish I had done differently. I resolve to make the upcoming year better by thinking about what's most important.

In fact, this blog was born from one of those heavy thinking sessions. (No, I didn't keep those resolutions.)

People often decide that January presents a perfect time to "get serious" about reading the bible. "This is the year I'm going to do it," Christians say as they gleefully start in Genesis 1. By the end of February, the genealogies have taken their toll and the laws have done what only law can do. They've brought death to your mighty ambition to read the bible in a year.

I've been thinking about this a lot lately. I'm told to put on the full armor of God, right? That includes the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. I imagine myself picking up my sword and charging into battle. But the only sword I have is a tiny plastic knife.

How mighty will I be in battle? When the storms come, will I be prepared? When trials come, will I be able to stand my ground and not compromise?

Not with that kind of "sword."

So I can follow the crowd, get all excited, and gloss my eyes over the pages. What's today? Genesis 1-3. Great! Let's do it. Check off the boxes. I'm all set. See you tomorrow, Jesus!

I was thinking today about how I wish my life had more fruit to show for it. I wish I was stronger in my faith. I wish I could stand my ground, serve with compassion, and lead my family with conviction.

So I decided I'd get serious about reading the bible.

I came to this:

1 Blessed is the man
   Who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly,
   Nor stands in the path of sinners,
   Nor sits in the seat of the scornful; 
2 But his delight is in the law of the Lord,
    And in His law he meditates day and night. 
3 He shall be like a tree
    Planted by the rivers of water,
    That brings forth its fruit in its season,
    Whose leaf also shall not wither;
    And whatever he does shall prosper. 
4 The ungodly are not so,
   But are like the chaff which the wind drives away. 
5 Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment,
   Nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous. 
6 For the Lord knows the way of the righteous,
   But the way of the ungodly shall perish. 
Psalm 1, NKJV

How do I become the person God wants me to be? Meditation. Really thinking about what God has to say. Taking time to slowly, carefully consider the words instead of stuffing my face full of "bible."

What if, In 2013, I became the man in this Psalm? What if, by God's grace and with His help, I began to truly delight in His Word? To think carefully and deeply about what God has to say, "day and night?"  When I'm writing to you at this time next year, how much richer would these posts be? How much deeper would I know Christ? What would that fruit look like in my life? How refreshing would that be?

What if these 6 short verses are the only Scripture that I applied next year? Some of you will read the bible through next year. Some of you more than once. I applaud you. If I only get through one book, or five, and truly become one who delights and meditates on God's Word, I'll take that "plan" over any one-year plan in a heartbeat.

If you're ready to get serious about God's Word, and be transformed by the renewing of your mind, you've got the right idea. Whatever "plan" you choose, though, keep the goal in mind. Why do you come to the Word? To get your to-do list? To learn some cool prophecy? To find verses that support your side of the argument?

My heart says of you, "Seek His face!"
Your face, Lord, I will seek
Psalm 27:8, NIV

Make that your goal. Come to Scripture to seek His face. Everything else will fall into place. Lord, show me your glory. That's all I want and all I need.

Need some help? There are a million ways you can meditate on Scripture. One way I've found extremely helpful is the one Janet Pope presents in "His Word in My Heart." If you've been struggling in your Christian walk, I invite you to check it out and give it a try.

Most of all, pray. Delight in God's Word is a gift from God - not something you conjure up through effort. Pray that God will help you delight in His Word, and He'll answer that prayer. I guarantee it.

Let's be like trees planted by rivers of water this year, that bring forth fruit in its season. When the trials come, we won't wither. Whatever we do shall prosper. We have God's Word on it.

You with me?

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