1 TIMOTHY 3:16-17

"All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us...God uses it to prepare and equip His people to do every good work."

Sunday, April 29, 2012

MATTHEW - The Last Shall Be First

Everyone loves a winner.

And we live in a competitive world, don’t we?

What is it about human nature that makes us want to finish on top, to beat out the next guy, to endlessly compare ourselves to others?

Unfortunately, winning can be a relative term.

Especially when the issue of popularity is thrown in there.

When I was in high school (ages and ages ago…), I decided to try out for the flag team. Back in my day, the flag team was a little group of girls who twirled flags (basically batons with flags attached) – as they marched in parades and performed at football games.

So, I practiced and practiced. I got pretty good at it.

Finally the day came for tryouts. Yikes! I was really nervous. We tried out in groups of four. My best friend was right next to me. I only made one minor mistake, but my friend performed flawlessly.

There was one girl in our group who flubbed several moves – she even dropped her flag two or three times (BIG no-no).

I remember feeling pretty good afterwards. I thought I had a chance – but for sure, my girlfriend was gonna get in – she did great.

A few days later, we went to see who had made the team. I remember feeling sorry for the girl in our group who performed so poorly.

We looked at the names…the girl who had messed up, and dropped her flag, made the team. I should have known…

She was popular.

Sometimes we can get caught up in the same sort of competition within the Body of Christ. Sometimes we can get preoccupied with who’s the "better" Christian. Sometimes we compare ourselves, and jockey around for position – assigning value to our serving, and rating our sins.

It’s not very attractive – but it’s all so human.

Today’s "Bible Pick ‘Ems" shows us that this is not a new phenomenon. A long time ago, a motley crew of twelve men did the same thing:

"About that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, 'Who is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven?'" (Matthew 18:1)

I can almost hear the disciples kibitzing –

"I found the boy with the fish and loaves."

"Yeah, but I went up to the mountaintop with Him."

"I went, too, you know."

"Boys, boys – I walked on water."

Someone mutters in the background – "Yeah, for like two minutes."

Jesus must have rolled his eyes in frustration.

At this point in His ministry, His disciples were wasting time engaging in personal competition? They were concerned with whom He liked best? They were consumed with petty issues like performance and position?

The Kingdom of Heaven was a popularity contest?

Had they learned nothing?

"Jesus called a little child to him and put the child among them. Then he said, 'I tell you the truth, unless you…become like little children, you will never get into the Kingdom of Heaven. So anyone who becomes as humble as this little child is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven.'" (Matthew 18:2-4)

The disciples had totally lost sight of what was truly important. They were caught up in winning. Instead of seeking a place of service, they sought positions of advantage.

Painful, but true – it is easy to lose our eternal perspective and compete for promotions or status in the church.

It’s easy to play the comparison game.

It’s tempting to want to "win" a faith popularity contest.

But Jesus doesn’t want winners – He wants servants.

He wants people who have childlike faith. Who are weak and dependent on Him. People who do not boast in their own abilities – but rely on only Him.

Jesus told us that we might be surprised in the end – for He turned the world’s values upside down. He promised that "many who are the greatest now will be least important then, and those who seem least important now will be the greatest then."

I think we can believe Him.

After all, He proved it Himself by dying a humble death on a criminal’s cross – and then was raised to the highest glory in His Father’s Kingdom.

You know, I don’t think I care so much about popularity anymore…

I just want to be His child – and seek His approval.

How about you?

"When in doubt, search God out!"

Sunday, April 22, 2012

NEHEMIAH - Let's Get Busy!

I get by with a little help from my friends.

Oh, how true that is –

We're not supposed to live this life on our own. Of course, we have God with us, every step of the way. But we also have each other.

Today's "Bible Pick 'Ems" comes from the book of Nehemiah.

I just love it when God brings me a message in the middle of the Old Testament.

I found the verses He had led me to, but I read the chapters before to get some background information.

Jerusalem lies in ruins. The exiles have returned to their land, but it is in a decimated and ravaged condition.

But God laid a message on Nehemiah's heart – He told him an audacious plan. He wanted Nehemiah to rebuild…

So, in the middle of the night, Nehemiah snuck out with a few other intrepid souls, to inspect the broken walls and burned gates of the city. Rubble was everywhere…

But Nehemiah did not see the impossibility in the ruined heaps –

Because he had heard the Voice of the One who could turn it into a "Him-possibility." And now, in the quiet, wee hours of the night, he whispered to those few souls surrounding him…

"Psst. You know very well what trouble we're in. But God has spoken to me. Let's rebuild the wall and end this disgrace!"

And I just love how the friends replied…

"YES! Let's rebuild the wall!"

So they began the good work…

No hesitation, no doubting, no committee meeting, no vote – unbridled enthusiasm and God-sized faith.

And boy oh boy – did they get busy!!

The entire 3rd chapter of Nehemiah is a listing of people who worked –
a Who’s Who of some of the faithful…

…each one working on "their section" – taking care of their responsibility.

Now Sanballat was very angry about this.

Sanballat was the governor of Samaria. He may have hoped to become governor of Judea as well, but Nehemiah's arrival spoiled his plans.

Listen to his rant – "What does this bunch of poor, feeble Jews think they're doing? Do they actually think they can make something out of stones from a rubbish heap – and charred ones at that?"

Well, yes – evidently that's exactly what they thought – because God was with them.

Today’s "Bible Pick 'Ems" comes from Nehemiah 4:4-6:

"Then I [Nehemiah] prayed, 'Hear us, our God, for we are being mocked. May their scoffing fall back on their heads…for they have provoked you to anger here in front of the builders.' At last the wall was completed to half its height around the entire city, for the people had worked with enthusiasm."

Friends, we are the Body of Christ – we are the builders. And we must work with enthusiasm and dedication.

We must work without fear –

We must work side by side, determined…each doing his or her part.

The enemy will be outraged by this – (isn't that kinda motivation in itself?!)

He will mock us – but He will not stop us.

Let's get out there and work on our section of the wall – doing what God has called us to do – our part. We’re working next to each other, alongside our brothers and sisters…

…and we have God with us, every step of the way.

Are you guys with me?

What "impossible" task is God asking you to get to work on?

"When in doubt, search God out!"

Sunday, April 15, 2012

HABAKKUK - The King Still Reigns

Have you ever just been terrified out of your mind?

Then I'm sure you have something in common with Habakkuk.

Habakkuk lived under the threat of the Babylonians. Babylon was becoming the dominant world power, and Judah would soon feel Babylon's destructive force. The LORD had promised to use the Babylonians to punish Judah for their rebellion.

I'm sure Habakkuk was afraid.

He asked questions – difficult questions – and he diligently sought answers.

He asked God why He would use the wicked Babylonians to punish His people.

He asked why the wicked in Judah were not being punished for their sins.

He asked why a just God could allow such evil to exist.

He asked the questions we ask.

He asked why...

God responded to Habakkuk.

And Habakkuk praised God.

He knew that God was going to discipline the people of Judah and that it wasn't going to be pretty!

But Habakkuk acknowledged God's Sovereign Control, yielded to His Divine Providence, accepted His Perfect Will, and asked for His Help and Mercy.

Today's "Bible Pick 'Ems" comes from the very end of Habakkuk's prayer to God.

"Even though the fig trees have no blossoms,
and there are no grapes on the vines;
even though the olive crop fails,
and the fields lie empty and barren;
even though the flocks die in the fields,
and the cattle barns are empty,
yet I will rejoice in the LORD!
I will be joyful in the God of my salvation!
The Sovereign LORD is my strength!
He makes me as surefooted as a deer,
able to tread upon the heights."

(Habakkuk 3:17-19)

Habakkuk affirmed that even in times of fear, he would still rejoice in the Lord. He didn't let his feelings be controlled by the events around him. He trusted God's ability to give him strength.

He let his "even though" turn into "yet I will..."

When nothing makes sense, and you're AFRAID, remember God.

Look to Him, only Him –

He is alive and in control of the world. He is working, and He WILL accomplish His purposes.

So, run like surefooted deer, my friends – across rough and dangerous terrain.


"I have heard all about you, LORD. I am filled with awe by your amazing works." (Habakkuk 3:2)

What is the "even though" that you want to turn into a "yet I will" in your life today?

"When in doubt, search God out!"

Sunday, April 8, 2012

THE GOSPELS - Seven Mighty Statements


Lucky number 7.

God's perfect number.

The Bible records the last seven statements of Jesus on the cross. I thought it would be interesting to explore them today.

1. "Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing." (Luke 23:34)

The cross was the culmination of a terribly stressful week. Authorities had been looking for a way to kill Jesus. One of His trusted friends had betrayed Him. Another had denied Him. The rest of them had run away when He was arrested. He was completely alone. If anyone had reason to be bitter – it was Jesus. And yet, the completely Innocent One turned instinctively to His Father and prayed for all those people.

What does Jesus' gracious prayer of forgiveness mean to you?

2. "I assure you, today you will be with me in paradise." (Luke 23:43)

Three men hung on three crosses. Two of them deserved to be there. They taunted the "King of the Jews" hanging between them. And yet, one of the men began to see things differently – He saw who Jesus was. He turned to Him and asked to be remembered. Jesus didn't make this moment of salvation theologically complicated, or personally difficult – no, He just spoke an unmistakable, clear promise that because the man believed, he would be saved.

How does this promise affect your perspective about death?

3. "Dear woman, here is your son." And He said to His disciple, "Here is your mother." (John 19:26-27)

Was Jesus self-absorbed in His own struggle, His own suffering? No, even at the end, in His supreme moment of agony, His tenderness shone like a beacon to everyone at the foot of the cross. Suspended between life and death, Heaven and earth, Jesus did not think of Himself. He took care of those He loved – and at the same time, He was taking care of us.

In times of crisis, do we withdraw, or do we reach out?

4. "My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?" (Matthew 27:46)

Jesus was not a good man who died for a cause. He wasn't a soldier who died for his buddy next to Him in battle. He wasn't a misunderstood martyr or a teacher who said the wrong things. He was Almighty God. God who stepped out of Heaven and came to earth for one purpose only – to give His life for you and me. Jesus took our place. He wore the dirty clothes of our sins. He became the ultimate Sacrificial Lamb – once, for all, for always. And in that moment, God had to turn His back on His beloved Son. Jesus experienced all the wrath, judgment, and penalty for every sin – He experienced it alone.

What does this moment tell you about Jesus' grace and love for you?

5. "I am thirsty." (John 19:28)

After all He had gone through, you might expect that Jesus would have been incoherent, delirious, not in His right mind. But, He maintained an unclouded focus. As a student of Scripture, He knew what the prophets had predicted. He knew that the Messiah's death would produce a dry mouth – "My tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth" – Psalm 22:15. He knew that those attending the execution would offer "sour wine for my thirst" – Psalm 69:21. John tells us that Jesus was acutely aware of every detail of His crucifixion. As the moment of His death neared, Jesus made sure that not a single detail would be overlooked. He would finish and fulfill all the prophecies made about Him – He would make the final statement – Yes, I AM the Messiah.

How do these fulfilled prophecies strengthen our faith?

6. "It is finished." (John 19:30)

Jesus' death on the cross was fast by crucifixion standards. Usually, people lingered in agony for days. But Jesus, already weakened by blood loss because of His beatings and flogging, died quickly. This phrase is a translation of a Greek phrase that means "paid in full." Yes, Jesus paid the price. Totally. Completely. And in this moment, in this statement, Jesus proclaimed the humbly jubilant truth – "I have done what I came to do. I have borne the sins of the world. I have brought salvation to all people." We can never do enough to win God’s approval – we can never bridge the gap between a holy God and sin-filled people. Jesus did what we couldn't do. He bought us reconciliation with the shedding of His blood.

Do you ever let trying to be good enough affect your relationship with God?

7. "Father, I entrust my spirit into your hands!" (Luke 23:46)

Now, in the last seconds of His earthly life, Jesus expressed His utter and total trust in His Father. Having felt abandonment, He still believed that God was there. God still cared. God would take care of Him. And with those last words, He breathed His last. Jesus gave up His Spirit. He rested in the promises of His Father's words – that this moment was NOT the end of the story. How do we react when it seems as if God has led us into a dark place? Are we tempted to despair? Do we consider giving up? Do we angrily blame God? In those times, especially in those times, we can follow the example of Jesus. Acknowledge the unseen and unfelt presence of God, and express our trust in Him. "Father, I am in Your hands."

What can happen when we acknowledge that we are in God's hands, even when we can't see His hand at work?


Perfect seven – the seven last statements of our glorious Savior before He gave up His life to save us.

And because of His victorious Resurrection, we can eagerly look forward to the day when He will come again...

The moment when He will shout these words:

"I am the Alpha and the Omega – the Beginning and the End – I am the One who is, who always was, and who is still to come – the Almighty One!"

The ultimate victory is eternity with Jesus Christ. – Zig Ziglar

You can trust the man who died for you. – Lettie Cowman

(Based on studies from "The One Year Daily Insights with Zig Ziglar"
by Zig Ziglar and Dwight "Ike" Reighard, c. 2009)

Won't you join me today in shouting out the Truth - HE IS RISEN...


"When in doubt, search God out!"

Sunday, April 1, 2012

EPHESIANS - Praise the King!

I was so excited.

I had stayed up all night, camped out on the street, and it was just moments before the beginning of…

The Tournament of Roses Parade!

This is a beautiful parade that happens every year on January 1st. And it's quite a spectacle to watch on TV. But, let me tell you, being there in person is another thing entirely!

It's hard to explain the excitement of the people, the sounds and smells, the beauty of the floats with their myriad rainbows of colorful seeds and flowers. I stayed out with a group from church just once in college. But I'm so glad that I did. It was memorable…

I was reminded of that beautiful morning because today is Palm Sunday. The day of Jesus' triumphal entry into the city of Jerusalem.

Picture yourself theresurrounded by people from all walks of life. It was the beginning of Holy Week, and the roads into Jerusalem were thronging with pilgrims. Can you hear the many voices of the crowd – murmuring or laughing, talking excitedly among themselves? Are you jostled along with the animals, stopping here and there for a bite to eat? Can you see and smell the surrounding countryside?

Can you imagine the anticipation in the crowd when they heard that Jesus – whom many believed was the long-awaited Messiah, the Promised One who would deliver their nationwas arriving in the Holy City?

"Where is He?"

"He's just up ahead."

"Is He coming this way?"


People scrambled for position (just like we did on that parade route) – trying to get the best vantage point to see – to see HIM!

He enters on a donkey – and people push and shove to throw their cloaks on the road ahead of Him. Palm branches are waved and strewn about in honor of the approaching King. Jesus was the center of the procession, and the people all around Him were shouting:

"Praise God for the Son of David!
Blessings on the one who comes in the name of the LORD!
Praise God in highest heaven!"

It's one thing to read about it in the Bible – being there in person must have been another thing entirely!

And then – less than one week later – Jesus was hanging on a criminal's cross.

Anticipation – then incredible, dashing hopelessness…

The anguished cry echoed in every heart – WHY?

Today's "Bible Pick 'Ems" sheds light – because it tells us what the Light of the World did on that day:

"You lived in this world without God, and without hope. But now you have been united with Christ Jesus. Once you were far away from God, but now you have been brought near to him through the blood of Christ. For Christ himself has brought peace to us. He united Jews and Gentiles into one people when, in his own body on the cross, he broke down the wall that separated us…Together as one body, Christ reconciled both groups to God by means of his death on the cross…Now all of us can come to the Father through the same Holy Spirit because of what Christ has done for us." (Ephesians 2:12-14, 16, 18)

The Prince of Peace arrived that day – not the conquering king, but the Suffering Servant.

The One who brought hope to all the peoples of the earth.

The One who still does…

"Look, your king is coming to you.
He is righteous and victorious,
Yet he is humble, riding on a donkey…
His realm will stretch from sea to sea and…to the ends of the earth."
(Zechariah 9:9-10)

Bless the One who comes in the name of the LORD!!

What are your words of praise on this glorious Palm Sunday?

"When in doubt, search God out!"