Big Just Keeps Getting Bigger

It’s a strange way to entice potential readers, but I wish I could bore you with some of the amazing scientific information that I have heard recently about our universe and God’s incomprehensible power and intelligence.

But doing that would mean primarily that I would be listing out incredibly huge numbers with dozens of zeroes, trying to explain how big something is, or how far something is.  Or, there would be a decimal and a bunch of zeroes in the opposite direction, relating how tiny something is, or how intricate something is.  Fortunately, at least for you, I did not write down nor can recall even a small portion of the litany of facts expressing God’s hand of design in the making of this vast expanse.  But having the details escape my recollection does not mean the reality of their truth has lost its impact on me.  Hearing how one scientific discovery after another further support God’s creation story in Genesis, debunking and discrediting the myth that is evolution, leaves a lasting and powerful impression.

What else could be the effect of repeatedly hearing of the unbounding wisdom and might of the Creator, coupled with His focus on redeeming the capstone of His creation to have a relationship with him?  To think that there are thousands of galaxies like this one, and that one day, and forever, I’ll be able to sit at the feet of the One who made it all, is staggering.  Or to consider that there are trillions of these little cells  that make up my body, and that each cell contains a strand of DNA that contains the program for life, almost paralyzes me in awe.

But I said I would not bore you with science, and I shall stick to that commitment.  But please hear this, that as I grow and learn and continue to mature, I am doing so only to the extent that I am realizing how much more awesome and astounding God is.  My development does not produce in me the urge to stand up and be noticed, or to voice my opinion as worthy of note.  On the contrary, I am overwhelmed by my insignificance and inabilities.  It is in this juxtaposition of God’s prodigious enormity and my infinitesimal minuteness that I am compelled further to worship Him rather than question Him.  I see a little more clearly the absurdity of trying to answer God’s questions to Job concerning creation and His counsel.

I don’t understand most of science, and much of life to be honest.  But I am comforted in this rather than confounded, and I am moved more to devotion than ever before.  “Have you ever commanded the morning to appear and caused the dawn to rise in the east?” (Job 38:12)  Then join me in worshipping the One who does so each day.

Rich Holt

A very “unchristian” obedience

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What are the reasons you are obedient to the laws and commands that are given to you by God?  Of course, that question contains a major and incredible assumption that you obey God’s laws and commands.  Sometimes you and I obey and sometimes we just don’t.  My heart has manufactured multiple reasons for obedience that deviate from the gospel and actually become self-destructive.  For example, I might obey out of ensuring a good fortune.  As if I can manipulate God to create a positive environment for my personal desires to flourish.  Somewhat akin to the animistic thought that by doing the right dance I can produce rain for my crops. This may be instinctive to my desire to control, but not gospel thinking.

Another example is obedience out of fear.  This sounds good, for the Bible talks about fearing the Lord, but this misses the mark.  It’s the thought that I better obey and pray or read the Bible or else God will give me a miserable day, job, or year.  This tends to make obedience no more than a lucky rabbit foot,  or religious icon.  If we don’t obey than the angry God is just waiting to strike us down.  From what I have read from the Bible, God had just cause to strike us down a long time ago before our latest disobedient act and any future submissive act will not compensate for my past disregard of God.

Lastly for our consideration is the blind obedience.  You know the “just do what you are told because God said it.”  We get this because we were told as children to obey for no other reason except Mommy/Daddy said to obey.  This is close to Christian obedience but lacks an important component of gospel generated obedience.  After all, which one of us claim to know the mind of God and fathom why He has commanded us to obey in such manner.  Yet, when the focus is just God’s authority and sovereignty then the life is not different than Islam, which means “submit.”  The Christian perspective is not the same as Islam, Mormonism, or animism, or paganism, or any other “ism”.  The differences in what is revealed about the nature of God has an appropriate reflection in the obedience.

The Christian perspective is not the same as Islam, Mormonism, or animism, or paganism, or any other “ism”.  The differences in what is revealed about the nature of God has an appropriate reflection in the obedience.  Unique to the Christian gospel is a God who actually seeks us to know His love, His person, and enjoys this love in a reciprocating manner.  This changes obedience in that the main motive is to know God and to put ourselves in a place where we can enjoy His person more.

In John 15 Jesus explained 13 Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command you.15 No longer do I call you servants,[a] for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. 16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.

Consider how Jesus responded to Satan’s temptations to Jesus, when he was focusing on obedience.  “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God” “You shall not put the Lord thy God to the test,” and “You shall worship the Lord your God and Him only shall you serve.”   With every response, Jesus was focused on seeking the right relationship with His father and it was the motive of his obedience. The more I read scripture and think about my life, the more I am settled on this one idea, My life motive is to seek my God in everything I do and endure, for He seeks me in all He has done for His Glory.   To obey with this motive makes obedience distinctly “Christian.”

Jarrod Scott

 

Happy Mother’s Day

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As a bit of history… the origins of Mother’s Day dates back to 1908. Anna Jarvis, 2yrs after losing her well-known mother and wishing to honor her, held a ceremony in Grafton, WV. The positive response from others caused Anna to begin a national campaign to honor all moms. Sadly, the holiday became so commercialized that by 1923, Ms. Jarvis filed a lawsuit to stop Mother’s Day celebrations, regretting she had ever brought up the idea. Mother’s Day remains the third top card-sending holiday of the year behind Christmas and Valentine’s Day.

 

The typical Mother’s Day scripture reference comes from Proverbs 31:10-31

 

“A wife of noble character who can find? She is worth far more than rubies.
Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value. She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life. She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come. She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue. She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness. Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: “Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all.” Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised. Give her the reward she has earned, and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.”

 

Like the Sermon on the Mount, this is an impossible standard to achieve, and for many moms on Mother’s Day, it can create more pressure for perfection than a sense of accomplishment and honor.

 

So, let’s take a step back to:

 

  • Genesis 3:20 The man called his wife’s name Eve, because she was the mother of all living.

 

So many humanists try to expand this verse out of context to refer to the importance of ‘mother earth’. However, within its context, Scripture is speaking to moms and their children. Though childbearing was to be painful, it is the basis for all those who have, and will, worship our Lord and Savior for eternity.

 

How important does God see motherhood?

 

  • Psalms 127:3a Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD
  • Proverbs 17:6a Grandchildren are the crown of the aged.
  • Mark 10:14b “Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God.

 

But with importance, comes responsibility.

 

  • Proverbs 29:15 The rod and reproof give wisdom, but a child left to himself brings shame to his mother.

 

This verse from Proverbs does not negate the role of dads within the household. But, it does express the significance of a mother’s love and nurture in the life of her children.

 

  • Erma Bombeck was quoted as saying, “It is not until you become a mother that your judgment slowly turns to compassion and understanding.”
  • Abraham Lincoln once said, “I remember my mother’s prayers and they have always followed me. They have clung to me all my life.
  • Billy Sunday, the famous evangelist offered, “There is nothing in the world of art like the songs mother used to sing.”
  • With questionable theology, even Milton Berle weighed in on the importance of moms by saying, “If evolution really works, how come mothers only have two hands?” Also, the well-know-writer Rudyard Kipling stated, “God could not be everywhere, and therefore he made mothers.”

 

Did you know there was a book of the Bible which many (including John MacArthur) believe was written directly to women, about their children?

 

  • 2 John 1:1,4 The elder to the elect lady and her children, whom I love in truth, and not only I, but also all who know the truth… I rejoiced greatly to find some of your children walking in the truth, just as we were commanded by the Father.

 

The theme of the book is based on the important dependency between Love, Truth and God. In order to love God we need to love and follow His truths as found in his Word. One of the most important truths that is often neglected in our crazy lives is that we need to be in continuous prayer for our children, and grandchildren.

 

On Mother’s Day, as moms (and dads) think about the blessings of their children, prayer and petition need to be at the center of that blessing.

 

  • Colossians 4:2 “Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving.”
  • Luke 18:1 And he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart.

 

What to Pray – children and grandchildren from Family Life Publications…

 

  • They will know Christ as Savior early in life and desire a close relationship with You throughout their childhood, teen, and adult years (Mark 10:13-16; Luke 2:52; 2 Timothy 3:15).
  • They will develop the discipline of prayer and the study of Your Word (Joshua 1:8; Daniel 6:10; Matthew 4:4; Philippians 4:6-7).
  • You will bring into their lives godly adults and friends who will help them grow in godly living (Psalm 1:1-3; Philippians 1:27; Proverbs 27:17; I Corinthians 4:15).
  • You will keep them pure and strengthen them against temptation (Job 17:9; Psalm 24:3-4; I Corinthians 6:18-20).
  • They would develop discernment, wisdom, responsibility, and a strong conscience (I Kings 3:11-12; I Timothy 1:5; Daniel 6:3).
  • They will be caught if they wander into cheating, lies or mischief (Psalm 119:71; Proverbs 20:30).
  • They will see other people as You do, treating them with love and kindness (Matthew 25:35-40; Romans 12:10; Philippians 2:1-4).
  • You will protect them from emotional, physical and spiritual danger (Psalm 28:7-9; Psalm 41; John 17:15; 2 Thessalonians 3:3).
  • You will prepare them to be a godly, loving and faithful spouse or prepare them to glorify You in their singleness (I Corinthians 7:7-8); and that You also prepare their future spouse (2 Corinthians 6:14-15; Ephesians 5:21-33).
  • They would leave home with an eternal perspective and Christ-like values (Matthew 28:18-20; Galatians 2:20; Philippians 1:21).
  • They will sense Your calling on their lives and their lives will count for Your kingdom (Psalm 78:1-8; 103:12-18; 2 Timothy 1:9).

 

The blessings of Mother’s Day stem from a celebration of children and grandchildren. It is important to keep God and prayer in the center of that celebration.

Jeff Hilles

What’s on your mind?

What is the stuff that fills your fantasies? How often are we living in fantasies? What are the common denominators when we find ourselves fantasizing? The answers to these questions may reveal more about us than we care to admit. Such answers provide a roadmap of desires and not just any desires. These objects of desire serve to relieve us from the doldrums of our everyday life. In a fashion, they rescue us from the undesirable situations in which we find ourselves.

All these questions and thoughts hit me as I was reading and praying this morning in the Bible.

Philippians 4:8 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. 9 What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.

According to this text, we are to focus our mind on what is true,  honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellence, and praiseworthy.  All of these are descriptors of Jesus Christ who is worthy of being the object of our desires. I like how the Message translation states the verse as, “filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious – the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse.  Thoughts matter and direct our desires, which in turn directs our attitudes and living. We can’t pretend that our daydreams are irrelevant to our living. What we direct our thinking upon will yield a return with interest in our lives. How does the stuff of our fantasies relate to Christ? Does it flow from Him and to Him? Or is opposed to Christ?

Jarrod Scott

Post-Easter Depression?

Why don’t we ever hear about Post-Easter depression like we do with Christmas? I have to admit I may be one of those rare few to be sad when the calendar rolls past Easter.  Maybe it’s a pastor thing, but I console myself by reading about the 40 days of post-resurrection experiences Jesus had with his disciples.  Today I was reading about Mary Magdalene’s  deep sadness as she sought the body of Jesus in John 20:11-18.  The words used are “weeping,” which is not the “pretty crying” but the ugly, red-faced kind of crying.  Her sadness was mixed with mourning over Jesus, but also a frustration in trying to give honor to Jesus.  Normally, such an act would be commended such as when Jesus praised the women who anointed the feet of Jesus before his death.  Yet in this case, her attempt to honor the body of Jesus and all of her mourning was no longer appropriate.  She even wanted to “help” Jesus by carrying off the body from wherever it was laid.

All of her “religion” of a dead Jewish teacher was insufficient in light of a risen Savior.  Jesus came on the scene and spoke her name in a way she could connect the dots.  Interestingly, Jesus asked, “Woman, why are you weeping?  Whom are you seeking?”  As if it was absurd to cry at that moment and look for bodies? Yet, if Jesus has risen than her religion no longer matters.  The only thing that mattered at that second was her faith to believe that a resurrected Jesus was standing before her.  That faith transformed her sorrow into joy.  The encounter changed her mournful meander in a garden into a jubilant run to proclaim what she has heard.  All of our efforts to “honor” God can become woefully inadequate when we are not focusing on a Jesus that is working in our life and around us.  Do our demeanor and attitude reveal to the world that Jesus has risen from the dead?

For further post-resurrection reads look to John 20 -21, Matthew 28, Luke 24, Acts 1-2, 8:54-60, 9:1-19, and 1 Corinthians 15:1-19.

Jarrod Scott

Amazing Love!

As we began Holy Week yesterday and look forward to Easter Sunday, may we approach each day leading up to this Resurrection Sunday with prayerful consideration of the Amazing Love that was shown by our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  We are reminded in Isaiah 53:5 “But He was pierced for our transgressions; He was crushed for our iniquities; upon Him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with His wounds we are healed.”  Not only did He take on our sins willfully and sacrificially, but Jesus alone was the only One capable of taking this burden as He conquered hell and the grave and arose from the tomb on the Third day.

The traditional hymn “Up from the Grave He Arose” comes to my mind as I think about Easter Sunday.  “Low in the grave He lay, Jesus my Savior, waiting the coming day, Jesus my Lord! Up from the grave He arose; with a mighty triumph o’er his foes; He arose a victor from the dark domain, and He lives forever, with His saints to reign. He arose! He arose! Hallelujah! Christ arose!  We indeed serve a risen Savior who is mighty and triumphant!

For this Holy week, I’d like to share with you some devotional scripture readings and excerpts that are taken from John Pipers devotional book titled “Love to the Uttermost”.  The challenge for us is to read each day prayerfully and allow the Lord to speak to our heart as we consider how He Loves us to the Uttermost:

Palm Sunday (Luke 12:32) “God’s joy, His desire, His want and wish and hope and pleasure and gladness and delight, is to give the kingdom to His flock.”

Monday (Luke 9:51-56) “Jesus, who was the very embodiment of His Father’s love for sinners, saw that the time had come and set His face to fulfill His mission: to die in Jerusalem for our sake.”

Tuesday (Romans 5:6-8) “The ultimate freedom is joy.  He rejoiced to do His redeeming work for us.”

Wednesday (John 13:19) “Jesus took up the principle of John 13:19 and foretold numerous details of what was going to happen to Him so that we might believe when they happened.”

Maundy Thursday (John 13:34) “Let us see the greatest love in action on Maundy Thursday and tomorrow on Good Friday.  Having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end.  He loved us to the uttermost.”

Good Friday (Hebrews 7:25) “He magnifies His mercy by giving us free access through His Son, in spite of our sin, to the one Reality that can satisfy us completely and forever, namely, himself.”

Saturday (Luke 22:63-65) “I felt that if the rage of God would spill over onto those soldiers and sweep me away, too, justice would have been done.  I wasn’t there, but their sin was my sin…..I do not deserve to escape, for I know my own heart.  But I trust Christ, and so I know the judgement will be turned to joy.”

Easter Sunday (John 10:17-18) “I am alive to show you that I really loved you.  I freely loved you.  Nobody forced me to it.  And I am now alive to spend eternity loving you with omnipotent resurrection love forever and ever.”

A full copy of this free devotional eBook “Love to the Uttermost” can be downloaded by following this link at DesiringGod.org.

Jason Hicks

“She Laughs at the time to come”

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Isn’t it wonderful that God made us to laugh?  These are some of my favorite pictures of each of my children.  To this day, I smile at their sight.  Have you wondered what laughter reveals about God and about us?  Laughter can express scorn, hatred, and unbelief.  Or laughter can express joy, humility, strength, and faith.  We love pictures of children laughing for usually, it expresses the innocence of youth with all of its joy and great faith.  The child’s soul hasn’t been ravaged by sin in this world.  Yet, just because there are sin and death in this world, the believer in Christ does not have to lose joyful laughter.

Proverbs 31:25 was advice given by a mother to a king describing the virtuous woman, the kind of woman she wanted for her son.  “Strength and dignity are her clothing and she laughs at the time to come.” This woman is not naive to the potential pitfalls of this world, yet she rejects fear and anxiety as a reaction to the adversity.  According to verse 30, this woman knows God’s authority and rests in His control.  Do we realize that God has hold of all our tomorrows? As sweet as laughing children may be, sweeter still we be the laughter of faith even through the sorrow.  This is the effect of resurrection and Easter when he said:

” So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you. In that day you will ask nothing of me. Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you. Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full”. John 16:22-25

Remember that God’s authority reigns over our future.

Remember that Jesus resurrection means that sorrowful things become joyful things.

Pray for joy and even laughter that flows from faith.

Look to the one who will write the final chapter of our soul and is writing our life now. He promised joy.

If you want to read more about this subject, you might want to check out Kate Merrick’s new book, And Still She Laughs.

Jarrod Scott

 

You’d Be Ugly If You Weren’t So Beautiful

It seems that blogs are good places for regurgitation and itemization.  If you’ve read something someplace else, or heard another speak on a topic, then the blog is the perfect spot to reword it and share it.  Additionally, if you’ve come up with five tips to a successful yard sale, or learned the six things grocery stores do to your fresh produce, or uncovered the secrets to make your day more productive, then turn it into a list and get that life-changing wisdom out there.

In keeping with this essence of the blog, I have come across some steps regarding women and beauty.  A woman wrote a book about 10 easy steps to feeling ugly, intending to help women avoid these traps and instead, to know their true beauty from God.  And so, I regurgitate and itemize a few below:

  1. Believe what you see on the screen – Assume every image is real and you should look like that, if you want to feel ugly.
  2. Get the look at all costs – No matter what the cost, whether it be time, money, or your dignity, get that look, if you want to feel ugly.
  3. Treat the scale like a magic mirror – Like the mirror in Snow White, look to the scale for your identity: “Scale, scale, on the floor, tell me I’m lighter than the day before,” if you want to feel ugly.

The writer wanted to stress that Satan has promulgated the lie that what God has said about women and their beauty and worth is not enough.  Satan longs to see God’s daughters idolize and worship their outward appearance, rather than relishing their loveliness in how God has formed them and what He has intended for them.

The Temptations sang back in 1966 that “Beauty’s Only Skin Deep,” but their lyrics proclaimed that love, warmth, sincerity, and tenderness were the things that counted most.

As followers of Christ, we know all about being pure in heart.  But we also have a natural inclination to look our best.  In surrender to Christ, we can have them both.  And though regurgitation is the furthest thing from any image whatsoever of beauty, retelling the worth the God has given us is indescribable and priceless.

So, for every spot of makeup or every drop of lotion or conditioner, let us be reminded of the words of Isaiah concerning our Savior Jesus, “He has no form or majesty that we should look at Him, and no beauty that we should desire Him.”  Long to look like Jesus, and they won’t be able to take their eyes off you.

Rich Holt

What if he was your neighbor?

India hungryYou probably have seen pictures like this before, accompanied by a plea for financial help. This appeals often fall on a heart separated by the digital pixelated image by a few thousand miles, several countries, multiple bills, and upcoming errands. However, for a few hours this man was more than pixels in my eyes, but flesh, blood, bones and not much more.  He was my neighbor for one morning.  As he approached me, my mind raced as I imagined his story, his life, his future.   In every imagined scenario,  his life was vastly different from mine.  My story was birthed and nurtured in excess, while his story was born out of survival.  Questions assaulted my conscience like, “why was I born in the lap of luxury and this man wasn’t?”  In the midst of the mental question storm, one command prevailed, “Love your neighbor as yourself.”  Sometimes the actions of loving your neighbor will look radically different in degrees, but the principle will be the same.  Simply give out of your resources to bless someone without those resources.

This morning I read from John 4 about the encounter Jesus had with a Samaritan woman by a well.  Maybe she was carrying a jug like the man in the picture.  Jesus may not have seen a women in physical need like this man, but he did see her spiritual need.  Jesus promised a life giving source that could be implanted in the human heart which would be a “spring of water welling up to eternal life.”  Sometimes the bridge between ourselves and a neighbor is a willingness to invest in another person’s life.  The will to give out of our resources won’t come out of our bank account, but what God is implanting in our heart.   Today, ask God to work in our heart so when our neighbor comes in view we can love them well.

Jarrod Scott

Would you recognize Jesus?

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John 21:4-8 Just as day was breaking, Jesus stood on the shore; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to them, “Children, do you have any fish?” They answered him, “No.” He said to them, “Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in, because of the quantity of fish. That disciple whom Jesus loved therefore said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his outer garment, for he was stripped for work, and threw himself into the sea. The other disciples came in the boat, dragging the net full of fish, for they were not far from the land, but about a hundred yards off.

In the passage above, the disciples, who had spent more than three years with Jesus “did not know that it was Jesus.” My question is, why did they not initially recognize Him? Interestingly, just one chapter earlier in John 20:14, Mary did not recognize Jesus when she encountered him at the tomb. It was not until He said her name “Mary” that she immediately knew it was Jesus.

One could speculate on the reasons Jesus was not immediately recognized in these Bible passages. It could be that Jesus or God actually blinded their eyes. However, that would seem a bit strange since, in each case, within a few verses, Jesus revealed Himself.

One thing that is interesting about the John 21 passage is that there were no fish on one side of the boat, and yet 5 feet or so (on the other side) there were so many fish they were almost not able to haul in such a huge quantity.

Is it coincidence or is God trying to tell us something? In John 21 the disciples were focused on fishing, stuck in their grief and concern over Jesus’ death. Notice no fruit from their efforts or their consternation. The same was true of Mary in John 20. She was so distraught over the tomb being open and empty, she was not paying attention to those around her, even the Son of God.

So, what is my point in all this? My point is that we can be so caught up in the drama and frustration of life, even when we think we are doing something good, like earning a living (fishing) or ministry (Mary at the tomb) we can completely miss Jesus, who is ready to help and instruct us.

Scripture says to “pray continuously” (1 Thessalonians 5:17). This is not a call to have our heads bowed all day. It is a command to keep Jesus at the forefront of everything we do. As we go about work, ministry, raising our kids, paying bills, going on vacation and, we need to always be actively looking for Jesus. Henry Blackaby in “Experiencing God” would always say “Look for where God is working and join Him in that work.” John 15:4 asks us to “remain in me, as I also remain in you.” The point being, if we learn to recognize Christ, and concentrate on Him rather than our situation, He will tell us when to move our nets five feet to the right and, what seemed futile, confusing and perhaps pointless, will change into an abundance of fruit in our lives, something which we can directly attribute to Him and will consequently bring glory to God.

Jeff Hilles