Archive for » January, 2014 «

January 8, 2014 – Ezra 8

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footHave you ever put your foot in your mouth? Not physically, of course. That’s just gross. Unless you’re a baby, then it’s adorable. Of course, babies can get away with all kinds of gross stuff and be cute; try babbling and drooling when you’re sixteen to impress a girl. Babies get all the breaks.

“Foot in your mouth” means you say something without thinking, and then come to regret it. We’ve all done this. “Hey, when are you due? Oh, you’re not pregnant? Nevermind me, I’m just going to back slowly away.” “Man, that was a pointless meeting. Who plans these things? Oh, you did? Umm…I’m sure it was very informational for some people.” Don’t worry, though. Regretting what we said isn’t a new thing. Look at Ezra.


Ezra is planning to take a bunch of people from Babylon back to Jerusalem, a nice leisurely journey of over 900 miles across bandit-infested desert (no shrieking eels, at least). As he’s discussing his plan with the King, Ezra confidently says “Don’t worry, God will take care of us. No problem.”

Then the time comes to depart, and Ezra realizes what he did. He now has to take 1500 or so people (not soldiers, mind you, just a bunch of fatties who spent their lives living in the Babylon metro area) on foot across the headquarters of Robbers-R-Us. Ezra is having second thoughts; maybe a soldier or two from the king would be nice. But now he can’t, because he was so sure God will protect them. Now what? Ezra comes up with the only solution he can: beg God for protection.

Ever put yourself in that situation? Ever put God on the line? Sometimes we look at this as a bad thing; we don’t want to put God to the test after all. But is that really why we shy away from these statements? Or are we more afraid that if God doesn’t come through, we’ll look like idiots? Is it our humility or our pride that prevents us from confidently declaring what God will do?


The Bible is full of people making bold statements about God. God will defeat you, Goliath; God will set his people free, Pharaoh; God will protect me in the lion’s den, king. Strangely enough, God always seems to back these people up.  Ezra and the fatties made it safe and sound in the end.

Maybe being a little foolish is just what God is looking for. He seems to delight in supporting people who make bold, and sometimes ridiculous, statements about Him. Are we able to do that? Or are we more comfortable hanging back and “humbly” saying, Thy Will be done? Which is more pleasing to God?

Are you willing to put your faith in God on the line?

January 7, 2013 – Acts 7

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straw“That’s the last straw.” Have you ever wondered what the last straw really is? Like, for example, when one is hypothetically eating a couple dozen cookies, there comes a point when one knows “hmm…this was a mistake.” But at what point did that happen? Was it the 6th cookie? or the 13th? How would you know?  There’s a time when your kids are fighting that you cross over from “ok guys, time to stop.” to “ok, now I have a hankering for some spankering.”  What is the point when those little tushies cross the line into spatula targets?

In today’s chapter, we find out the last straw for many non-believers.  Stephen, a leader in the early church, is giving a quick history lesson to the Jewish leadership in Jerusalem.  He tells them how God has protected and guided the Jewish people through their history, and how great their country was in the past.  Then he drops the hammer: they are just like the “bad guys” of the past, attacking and betraying God’s prophets.


Notice that the Jewish leaders may get mad at Stephen when he rebukes them, but he doesn’t actually sign his own death warrant until he brings Jesus into it. Though they can’t have been real excited about him comparing them to the worst of their ancestors (not to mention the ultimate insult: “stiffneck”), they seem content to just be angry with him. But when he says he sees Jesus standing in heaven next to God, then they scream, cover their ears (la la la, i can’t hear you), and drag him outside to stone him.  What’s the difference? Why is it suddenly a stoneable offense?

In a word: Jesus.  People are generally ok with us talking about God. You can have debates about creation and evolution, comparing religions, or taking “In god we trust” off of money, and people can generally remain fairly calm. But once Jesus comes into the picture, specifically that He is Lord (that is to say, that we must submit our wills to his), then you will find people suddenly get very aggressive. Everybody likes to pray “God bless America,” but you don’t hear “Jesus, take my life” quite as often. Why is that?


Notice that Stephen doesn’t just claim that Jesus is a great teacher, that He is a prophet, or even the Messiah.  He sees Jesus “at the right hand of God,” ruling with complete authority.  The idea of Jesus as a moral teacher is pretty popular these days, but Jesus didn’t come to be a teacher.  He came to be a sacrifice, to be a King.  Can we accept that? Or is that the last straw for us as well? Is it too much to give Jesus complete control of our lives? Would we rather just pick and choose the good teachings (at least the ones we agree with).

Are you willing to talk about Jesus today? Not about your “religion,” your “faith,” not about your “beliefs”, not even about “God,” but about Jesus as the Lord of your life. Will you stop considering your dreams and desires, and talk about giving up your desires to serve Christ?  Can you approach life like James: “If it is the Lord’s will…”

Are you willing to give up your rights, and maybe your life, to see Jesus at the right hand of God?

January 6, 2014 – Genesis 6

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Have you ever read a book on optical illusions? If so, why? You know the pictures are lying to you. Dirty little weasels. And yet you just keep turning page after page, knowing that you hold in your hand nothing but a bound pack of lying Lyersons.  Do we enjoy being fooled? Do we get some thrill from feeling like a moron? Or is there just an inborn distrust in us that doubts our own perceptions.

Uncertainty is part and parcel to the human condition. We know that what we “know” is real, yet we can’t always bring ourselves to believe it. Sometimes what we know is easy to say, yet hard to believe. For instance, do we really believe God is loving? If that’s the case, then every single one of his actions must be informed by His love. We know God is Love (it says so in the Bible somewhere), yet we really suspect is a vindictive jerk.  Can our perception be changed? In other words, as we read through the Bible, is it possible to consider every act of God a loving act? You wish for an example? Very good.


In Genesis 6, we read how God looked around and saw the growing wickedness of people after the Fall. God says “My Spirit will not strive with man forever. Their days will be 120 years.” There are lots of interpretations for this verse, but for the sake of argument, let’s assume the traditional interpretation: the lifespan of men will be cut to 120 years at maximum. Prior to this point, men (and women we assume) lived for hundreds of years. Usually people see this as a punishment, like a spanking with the mortality spatula. We used to live for hundreds of years, and now we only get roughly a hundred years, if we’re lucky.

So, let’s consider this passage in light of God’s love. Is it possible to see this as an example of God’s goodness instead of a punishment?

To start, we need to establish the reason we were created. In light of other passages, it seems clear that we were created for fellowship with God. Before the Fall, God used to walk with Adam every day, just hanging out, drinking some Dew and chewing a banana or two. But then the fall came. We were no longer able to see God face to face. The punishment for sin was death; not immediate physical death, but spiritual death culminating in eventual physical death.


If that’s the case, man was condemned to live out his life without God’s fellowship. We could not fulfill the purpose we were created for. The result of sin is death; hence, the only way we can be back into that relationship with God is to pass through death. Therefore, the longer we were alive, the longer we are out of that relationship. Instead of enjoying God’s full presence, we were condemned to a life of weeds, toil and suffering.

In his mercy, God shortened that time that we would have to be without Him. By shortening our lives to 120 years, God brought us back into His presence, into full joy, into the complete fulfillment of our creation, hundreds of years sooner.

That sounds just like a loving God to me.