Archive for the ‘Bible Study’ Category

3 things you must do when your world crumbles

March 15, 2011

old tiresThe rats scurried away as Joseph sat up, stretching after a long night of catnaps and fitful sleep.  The lumpy mattress and prison noises had conspired to maximize his discomfort.

Joseph’s muscles cried for their usual morning activity, but with a sob rising in his chest, Joseph sunk back to the mattress and turned to the wall.

Hours later, his foggy thoughts were invaded by new sounds.

Thumping in the hall.
Someone walking.
His door opened.
The prison guard ordered him out.

Joseph drug himself off the bed, contemplating his new reality. Yesterday, he was as close to a prince as a slave in Egypt could get. Today? Today he was on the bottom, in this awful, smelly hole.

With heavy feet, Joseph shuffled – suddenly stiff like an old man. The guard marched on. Soon, a door opened. The air changed, as a soft smell emanated from the room. Joseph raised his head, sensing, more than feeling, the familiar opulence of status.

Standing up straight, Joseph followed the guard into the room.

Inside, soft light opened every corner. A rug softened the floor and incense filled the air, covering the stench of prison bodies and human waste.

The Jailer sat in a corner of the room. Weeks ago, Joseph would have sent people to the Jailer for insubordination. He saw himself a peer. Now, the Jailer held power. Power over Joseph’s life. Joseph watched the Jailer carefully, looking for a clue as to why this meeting was arranged.

The Jailer waved the guard away. The door closed behind Joseph, shutting out the prison sounds.

“Well?” the Jailer simply asked a question.

Joseph was careful to not relax. His prison could become his grave if he got on the wrong side of this man.

“I am here to serve you.” Joseph decided his best approach was honesty, thinking of the Jailer’s perspective instead of his own. Rage still burned in his stomach from his false imprisonment, but that rage would not put him in anyone’s good graces. That was for him, alone, in the privacy of his cell. Here, the Jailer needed to hear his function, not his feelings.

The Jailer gestured to a seat. Carefully, still stiff, Joseph sat on the edge of the chair. Remembering the lessons from his march to Egypt, Joseph knew that to relax was to assume, and to assume was to be punished. Subservience would be rewarded.

As Joseph sat on the edge of the chair, the pain of betrayal burned in his heart, crying for release. His mind, however, focused on the reality before him.

In that moment, he made a choice – let go of what was. Years ago, he had resigned himself to the life of a slave and released his right to the privileged child. Today, again, he resigned himself to subservience and released his right to rule.

Have you ever sat on the edge of that seat? Yesterday’s pain, choking your throat, as you try to grasp your new reality? How long did you sit on that seat?

Here are a few things you need to do in order to get off that seat and start moving forward again:

  1. Forgive. No matter whether your current situation was caused by your failings, someone else’s failings, or just circumstances, you are going to have to forgive.
  2. Release. When we sit on the edge of the seat, in the middle of transition, we have a tendency to think “someday, things will get better.”   We hold our dreams and expectations from the past, hoping that “someday” we will find all the puzzle pieces and put our picture back together again.  It is imperative that you release those expectations,  let go of “someday”, and start living today.
  3. Focus. Today is your day to live. Focus on being the best you can be today. You are still a gifted person. Your new position doesn’t mean you are a different person. It may very well mean that this new situation needs someone just like you to bring the talent and make something new. Once you have forgiven and released, you will be free to focus on those around you and find out how you can make a difference in their lives.

Joseph gained status in each of his new positions. Eventually, he rose to a position above everyone, and even saw his dreams fulfilled.

It would have been easy to let resentment and anger take over his life.  It would have been easy to carry that anger into each new position, therefore poisoning all his new relationships. Instead, Joseph thrived.  He thrived physically, and he thrived spiritually. Throughout his journey, as he forgave, released and gained new focus, he became more and more convinced of God’s presence every step of the way.

Where are you at in the process?

Do you need to forgive?
Do you need to release expectations?
Are you ready to focus on making a difference today?

Feel like a basket case? Here’s your escape.

March 11, 2011
Saul (Paul) snuck from the house in the dark of night.   Ahead of him, friends led the way to the house on the wall.
Just days before, he was envoy of the powerful Jerusalem Pharasees.  The Jews he’d come to support now had a hit out on his life.  His only hope lay in the hands of the men and women he’d come to imprison, and if need be, kill.
In the wall house, the Jesus-believers paused to pray.

“Lord, anoint brother Saul.  You have shown yourself to him, now use him to tell others the good news.”

“I pray in Jesus’ name that brother Saul would be safe.”

Around the room they went, each praying in turn, and privately at the same time.  Then it was time to leave.
The women of the house had a giant basket, used for storage and laundry.  The believers tied the top together after Saul sat in it.  As a single unit, they hefted him through the window and down the wall.
In the quiet of the night, amidst all the wildlife sounds, Saul’s basket thumped to the ground.  Quickly, he slipped out of the basket and watched it ascend into the night.  Alone, Saul began to walk the long road back to Jerusalem.  (See Acts 9)
Do you feel God has called you?  Are you trying to figure out what He wants you to do next?  Do you feel pressed in and pursued from all sides?  Here is what we can learn from this lesson from the Apostle Paul’s life:
  1. When you take a stand, some people won’t like it.
  2. People’s true colors come out when they disagree with you.  These same men who sought to kill Paul would have fawned over him had he rode into town with his intended purpose – to kill and imprison Christians.
  3. You aren’t alone.  Paul was not liked by the Jews, but neither were the Christians.  He found refuge and solace in their friendship.
  4. God will provide a way out.
  5. You need other people.  God didn’t call Paul and then show him how to go it alone.  First, he had him dependent on the Christians in Damascus.  Later, he would be discipled and encouraged by Barnabas.  Always, he would need the good will of other Christians to get the Message out.
  6. God’s calling is a great adventure.  Either jump in the basket and enjoy the ride, or hide and watch other people accomplish your dreams.

 

Have your dreams been crushed?

February 9, 2011

Sometimes things just seem out of focus

Have you lost your momentum?  Can you remember a time when you had a vision for the future, and now, like a mist in the night, it has vanished?

It may seem counter intuitive, but you are in a place of power.  In this dark, empty time, you are experiencing the power of God.

I am reading “Follow” by Floyd McClung.  This morning I read this line:  “and God crushed his dream”.

Dreams that are crushed can be powerful.  Like a seed, when planted, becomes mushy and goes through a destruction process – a crushed dream also becomes something much bigger than itself.

Martha had crushed dreams – and she was pretty sure that Jesus let her down:  “Lord, if only you had been here, this wouldn’t have happened.”

Peter and the other disciples had crushed dreams:

“Lord, when we enter your kingdom, can we each sit on your right and left?” (from the brothers)

“and they all ran away”;

“I don’t know him!”

After going through the horror of lost vision and lost dreams, Peter and the others went back to earning a living.  Then Jesus came again – then He sent the Holy Spirit.  “and Peter stood up and addressed the crowd…on that day, three thousand were added to their number”.

When we have dreams and visions, I believe God has spoken to us, and we have translated what He wants to do through the filter of our experience and understanding.  Often, our understanding of life, God and the way things are, is limited.  When we see our vision slip away, we feel like we must have been drinking the Kool-Aid, and the hard reality of real life has returned.

Don’t give up!  Keep your eyes on Jesus.  He is the *author* and *finisher* of your faith.  He gives you vision, and then, He makes it happen.  Often, the first step is for the vision to disappear from our sight, as it is buried (planted).  Soon, new sprouts will come up.  Your vision will be fulfilled and even greater – because God is making it happen.  Imagine – the disciples expected to be part of a new ruling party – God led them to be part of world transformation.  Joseph expected to be head of his family.  God put him second in command in Egypt, the leading nation at that time.

What are you expecting?

 

You aren’t your emotions!

December 2, 2010

image

Have you ever noticed how hard it is to act kind and loving when you are mad, afraid, or just plain freaked out?

I am reading Ezekiel.  In chapter 20, God is talking to Ezekiel, telling him what to say to the Israelites.

Several times in this chapter God says ‘I acted out of who I am, not what I felt.

God got good and mad at the Israelites, but instead of wiping them out, He chose to act from His character rather than His emotions.  This means a couple of things:

1.  Our emotions don’t define us, our actions do.  You don’t have to be beat up by your failures and fears.  Your existence is much more complex than how you feel right now.

2.  If God has to choose not to act from His emotions, how can we expect to not struggle with the complexity of what is vs. what we feel?

With every act, we are becoming, yet with every act we have the opportunity to be the person we want to be- the person we were created to be.

No wonder Paul cries out ‘I do that which I don’t want to do, and that which I want to do, I don’t.’ (Kim’s paraphrase)

Here’s the awesome part:  we don’t have a God who sits outside our struggles wondering why we can’t get it right. God understands the complexity of our nature.   He sent the Holy Spirit to live in us and to teach and guide us.  Who better to learn from than someone who knows the way?

Are you tired of blowing it?  God sees you as you really are, and as you can be.  If you ask Him, He will teach you how to overcome and be the person you were created to be.

God’s Character

July 1, 2010

Canal

How much time do you spend getting to know God?

We have several ways to approach our spiritual life.  Two of the most common look like this:

1.  God is bigger than me, so I better behave.  This approach is where we try very hard to do everything right.  We don’t want to ‘let God down’, or ‘incur his anger’, instead, if I am good enough, I can have His pleasure. 

2.  God is very busy, I don’t want to bug Him, so I need to take care of as much of my stuff as possible.

Both of these approaches will lead us to pain.  God is bigger than any of this.  He made us, He understands our failing.  He also knows our incredible need of Him.

Did you know that when Jesus died on the cross, He paved the way for a new way of life.  We not only received access to heaven, but God was able to send the Holy Spirit to teach, guide and correct us.

Today, relax.  Ask God to show you His activity.  If you focus on knowing God, He will make your life pleasing to Him. 

Proverbs 3:5-6 says:

Trust (put everything you have on) God and lean not (don’t even put a little weight) on your own understanding (way of perceiving life, knowledge, abilities).  In all your ways (in every part of your life, in every way that you act, think, do) acknowledge (recognize what He is doing, practice thankfulness, proclaim God’s view) Him and He will make your path (way of doing life) straight (good, pleasing, smooth).

Mark 3 part 1

February 9, 2010

Mark 3 part 1

I have been contemplating this passage for a couple weeks now.  In one chapter, we have such a mixed bag of characters – yet in each small section I am challenged to look for myself.  Mark 3, starting with verse 7, talks about all the people who were around Jesus.  With just a few sentences each, we get a glimpse into their character and motives – and maybe we get a glimpse of ourselves. Let’s take a look at these people.

1.  The crowds that followed Jesus.

These crowds were incredible.  They wanted what Jesus had so bad that they crowded Jesus, kind of like a rock concert.  They were so desperate for healing, they were willing to only get a glimpse of Jesus and touch his garment to get their healing.  These were desperate people.  (We live in a desperate world that is similarly grasping for relief, but from the wrong sources.)  Where might you or I be in this picture? 

  • Do I seek deliverance from God and not His face? 
  • Have we become so myopic that we missed the point of relationship? 
  • Have we lost our reverence for God in our desperation to get what we want from Him?

2.  The apostles.

From all his followers, Jesus called 12 to be his all-the-time followers.  The rest of his followers probably needed to attend to their lives, and followed when Jesus was in their area, but these 12 were with him all the time.  These 12 were endued with power to operate in His name.  My question:

  • Does my life show that I am an all-the-time follower of Jesus?
  • Do I walk with the power and authority that He has given me?
  • Or does my life show that I follow when He is conveniently in my area?

The freedom to dream – Mark 2

January 29, 2010

Today we are looking at Mark 2:23 through 3:6.

In these passages, Jesus and his disciples come head to head with the Pharisees about the Sabbath.

The Sabbath was from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday.  It was a time of no work whatsoever.  Presently, I think the movie “Fiddler on the Roof” gave us quite a bit of insight into what Sabbath preparations look like.  Frenzy – getting ready for Sabbath required lots of work because you weren’t allowed to even light a fire on the Sabbath.

Then along came Jesus.  His followers stopped spending time trying to figure out what they should be doing and started living holy lives.  In so doing, they broke some of the traditional rules.

Imagine this:  You are learning to ride a bike.  You are focused on everything you should and shouldn’t be doing.  A piece of paper flies across your path – do you hit the paper?  No!  You aren’t going fast, you stop, and have a personal meltdown on all the dangers on what could have happened if that paper flying had landed in your face, etc. (okay, I’m having fun, but you get the picture.)

Now imagine yourself on the same bike, only you now have your focus on riding free.  You are flying down the road.  A paper flies across your path.  Do you hit it?  Maybe – you hardly even notice it – and even if it lands on your face, you will just swipe it away because your focus is way down the road on the goal.

Now, imagine serving God.  You can either focus on all the shoulds – how do I get this right?  OR you can focus on God Himself and let the little things fall where they may.  Here’s what happens if you focus on God:

  1. Temptation doesn’t trip you as easily because you are highly focused.
  2. You have the freedom to dream wide and large because your focus is as big as the God of the Universe.
  3. You can receive all that God has for you because your focus is on Him instead of on rules.

Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath – we are supposed to take a day of rest every week – not so that God can control us and we can fulfill a religious obligation, but so that we can have the freedom to open up our focus wide and let God show us His dreams for us.

What dreams does God want to show you this week? 

Will you take time out to ask Him and let Him show you?

Looking Forward to God’s ‘New Thing’

January 22, 2010
This week we look at the end of Mark 2. The language here is very picturesque. John’s disciples and the Pharisees were fasting. We don’t know the reason for the fast, we just know that everyone who was ‘in the know’ was fasting.Everyone except those who were following Jesus. Those following Jesus were busy learning new things.

Jesus gives a beautiful illustration:

You can’t pour new wine into old, dried up wine skins – they will burst.

Likewise, you can’t focus in two directions at the same time – you can either face forwards or backwards, but not both.

Jesus explained – (his disciples) “haven’t given up fasting, they will have time for that in the future – they are just focusing in one direction.” (Kim’s paraphrase)

Let’s look at the three groups in this story:

The Pharisees: They found their stability and identity in religious ritual. Fasting was how they ‘found God’. They missed God in their midst because they decided what He should look like and how He should act.

John’s Disciples: John’s disciples had just found a ‘new thing’. They had even left normal life to follow a guy out into the desert. John was preaching that The One was coming. John’s disciples, however, had grown up in a religious system. They were trained to follow certain custom and pay attention to the opinions of other religious leaders. Since John was preaching to the Pharisees, and many were being baptized, these two interests weren’t necessarily competing. John’s disciples kept one foot in the old and only hoped for the new. They remind me of a runner who runs while constantly looking back over his shoulder…eventually he’s likely to trip and fall.

Jesus’ Disciples: Jesus’ disciples grew up in the same religious system, but they left the old system and followed Jesus wholeheartedly. They experienced an entire paradigm change. This new system didn’t uproot the old, it put the old in a new framework.

I heard about a painting that was discovered. (This might have actually been in a movie, but it is still a great illustration.) On it’s face was just an ordinary, plain painting. A family owned it, and hadn’t really appreciated it much because it was dull. Then, a restorer got a hold of it. Upon removing the top, dull painting, he discovered one of the great master’s works. Apparently, during Nazi times, someone had sought to hide the painting in plain sight by covering it over.

The old religious system was like the plain painting. When the new paradigm grew into a full picture, it became apparent that within the old paradigm was a beautiful plan of God that was fulfilled in Jesus. The old religious system wasn’t to be abolished like the Pharisees feared, it was to be completed.

God spoke to the people through Isaiah another time. Here are the words He used:

Forget the former things;
do not dwell on the past.
See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the desert
and streams in the wasteland.
(Isaiah 43:18-19)

We live in a day of constant change. However, we know that God stays the same. He is dependable, lovely, and on our side. Most of all, He is more interested in having a relationship with us than we can ever muster up the desire to have a relationship with Him. We don’t have to jump up and down to get His attention.

Here our challenge today:

  • What are you doing instead of just being with God?
  • Are you looking forward for what He is doing now, stuck in what you hope He is going to do, or are you really stuck in what He has already done?

My question is this:  What do you think God’s ‘new thing’ is – for you personally, or in general?

I pray that when people spend time with us, they will know that we have been with Jesus.

Join Jesus at the Table

January 15, 2010

Jesus said to them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Mark 2:17)

Jesus was having a good time with his friends. The problem, it turns out, is that people who are running for office are supposed to ‘win friends and influence the ‘right’ people’ and Jesus was spending his time with people of little consequence and even some who had bad reputations. The Pharisees sidled up to some of his followers and put the bug in their ear, so to speak.
 

You know he’s going about this all wrong? Those people are going to drag him down, and get him no where. He is spending time with ruffians and people of ill repute. The masses are going to figure out that he isn’t ’in the know’ and start looking elsewhere for someone to follow.

Okay, that isn’t what they said in the bible, but that is the underlying tone.

Jesus’ answer, at first, looks like he is saying that he didn’t come for the people who ’have it all together’, but for those who the Pharisees would consider ’sinners’. However, when you consider the greater Gospel, you begin to realize that Jesus was issuing an invitation.

The Pharisees thought they had it figured out, but Jesus knew that they didn’t. Many times, it is easy to think of our lives as ’put together’ – especially when compared to people who…don’t.

The day before Christmas, I was approached by a woman on the street who was running a pretty decent panhandling scam. She had an elaborate story that, were it not for her obvious hard core addiction, would have been heart wrenching. I realized within myself conflicting emotions – compassion, anger, sadness. The reality is that each of us is no better than that woman. We are desperate. We survive each day utilizing acceptable means of survival to get by. 

We may not end up on a street corner lying through our teeth to scam others. Instead we have placed persuasion among the arts.  Many people see their relationships as tools in the game of survival. 

Jesus came with a better way.  In God’s economy, each of us was created for a purpose.  That purpose is fulfilled when we meet Jesus at the table with all the other ruffians.  We become one of the sick and needy, and the Healer of the Universe recreates us into the people we were intended to be.  Interesting that Jesus invites us to partake in communion on a regular basis – to remember all that He did for us so that we could sit at the table with Him and let Him do the healing work in us. 

In the first part of Mark 2, Jesus healed a paralytic.  At first, he said “your sins are forgiven.”  This freaked out the Pharisees, so he changed his wording, and said instead “pick up your bed and walk.”  Some of us need to hear “your sins are forgiven” in order to allow Jesus to do the healing that we need so desperately.  Others need to hear simply ‘now is the time, pick up your bed and walk.’ 

One thing is certain.  We need a savior. We need someone to save us from our day to day existence and help us to become the human beings we were created to be.  Human beings find life beyond mere survival.  They find creative purpose.  Are you looking for something deeper?  God is the answer.  He issues the call today “Join me at the table.  Your sins are forgiven, pick up your bed and walk.”

Enter Jesus – Mark 1, part 2

January 7, 2010

Last week, we started on the book of Mark.  We were introduced to John the Baptist.  According to Peter (who tradition tells us is the writer behind the book of Mark), John the Baptist’s arrest was the catalyst for Jesus’ public ministry to begin.

In this first chapter, we are shown a picture – Jesus is a magnet, and people are metal.  Wherever Jesus goes, people are drawn to him with incredible magnetism.  What’s so amazing about Jesus?

He speaks with authority.

The leaders of the day always quoted someone else – and argued incessantly.  Jesus just told people what was.

He heals people.

Signs and wonders followed him… they were so plentiful around him that pretty soon he couldn’t enter a town without causing an uproar.

Here’s an interesting point:  In John 14:12 Jesus said:  I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.”

If you have received Jesus into your heart, then you have the Holy Spirit living inside of you.  You can speak with authority.  God is still in the healing business – we can pray with authority if we know how to hear what God is saying.

The last point that needs to be made in this passage is:

Jesus took time to recharge

This first chapter is setting the tone for the whole book.  Jesus enters the world by a ministry of wonders, but right off the bat we see him taking time to recharge.  You need time to recharge your batteries

Jesus, as he began his ministry on earth, was truly remarkable.  People’s lives were changed because they had been with him.  I pray, that as we walk through our days this week, that those who don’t know Jesus will be changed because they have been with us.  May we make a difference – because of Christ’s goodness shining through us.