Thursday, February 11, 2016

Day 2 - Fig Tree Religion

It's Thursday morning...and I mean early morning!
Awoke in the middle of the night and couldn't get back to sleep. So I got up and began to read. 
It's the second day of Lent and I'm thinking of a passage in the book of Mark where Jesus stops on a walk, goes over to a fig tree and finds there are no figs growing - even though its the growth season. Then, remarkably, he says, "May no one ever eat fruit from you again." (Mark 11:14).

Mark 11:12-19
12  The next day as they were leaving Bethany, Jesus was hungry. 13  Seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to find out if it had any fruit. When he reached it, he found nothing but leaves, because it was not the season for figs.
14  Then he said to the tree, "May no one ever eat fruit from you again." And his disciples heard him say it.

Hmmmm...seems strange to say that so abruptly.

Yet right after that he walks to the temple and there he overturns the money-changers tables and speaks of how they have changed the Temple from "a house of prayer for all nations" (what God intended it to be) to "a den of robbers" (what they have done).

15  On reaching Jerusalem, Jesus entered the temple area and began driving out those who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves, 16  and would not allow anyone to carry merchandise through the temple courts. 17  And as he taught them, he said, "Is it not written: "'My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations'? But you have made it 'a den of robbers.'"

The two incidents are connected. What was meant for life has instead died.
We don't know what killed the fig tree, but we do know what cause the death of the Temple's purpose - Religion.

That is the nature of religion outward show, a superficiality of faith without the fruit. What can/should we do.
"Love the Lord Your God with all of your heart..." "Seek the Lord while He may be found."
Seek Christ, His grace, His mercy, His forgiveness...and rest in His love - be Genuine.
Jesus didn't die for religion! He died for our Sins...We Need HIM.


Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Ash Wednesday - the First Day of Lent

Today is Ash Wednesday - the first day of Lent. 
The word "Lent" comes from the word LENCTEN, and old Saxon word used for Spring. 
The season of Lent lasts 40 days and it's dedicated to a time of spiritual reflection and meditation on the Cross of Christ.  Why 40 days?  The number 40 appears many times in Scripture and is often attached to times of testing and even judgment.  These 40 days of Lent lead up to the Saturday before Palm Sunday and therefore they celebrate all that lead up to Christ Jesus' march to Jerusalem to die for us on the cross.
As Christians, we see the cross as the ultimate proof of God's love for a lost creation. Lent gives us a time to think about what God has done for us in sending His Son, Jesus, our Savior who came to bear our sins. 
1 Peter 2:21-25
21 For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps.
22 He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth.
23 When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly.
24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.
25 For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.
I would love to have you join me in and think, ponder, pray, and let God's word "soak" in us during this great season.
Last year I published a book - which is available on Amazon Kindle - I called "A Lenten Sojourn".  If you would like a daily devotional to read during this season I'd love to have you take a look at it.  You can purchase it and begin reading it right away at:  

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Praying the Songs of Jesus

Happy Thursday my friends.
I've been reading a new book, "Praying the Songs of Jesus", by Tim Keller which is a year-long prayer book that prayerfully follows the Psalms. If you didn't know it the Psalms is a song book. Yes, there's history, prophecy, poetry, but most of all is an collection of songs by a number of authors.
I love the songs of worship because they draw my head to my heart towards God. A song like that may stay in my head being sung over and over again.
It leads me to this: Meditate on the Psalms. 
Don't just read the Psalms and then walk away - even if you pray after reading which is good - there's much to be gained by taking some time to meditate on the Psalms. And it's confirmed as good in the Psalms itself: Meditation on scripture is like a tree planted by the river that feeds itself from the water that flows around it.

Psalm 1:1-3
1 Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, 
nor stands in the way of sinners, 
nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
2 but his delight is in the law of the LORD, 
and on his law he meditates day and night.
3 He is like a tree planted by streams of water 
that yields its fruit in its season, 
and its leaf does not wither. 
In all that he does, he prospers.

Here's some more from Tim Keller's interview on why meditate on the Psalms:

Question: Throughout your new book on prayer, you warn readers about moving from Bible study to prayer, skipping over one crucial step in the middle, meditation. Why are we quick to skip right over meditation?

Tim's Answer:

It’s possible that we are quick to miss this step because we live in a culture that doesn’t encourage solitude and reflection. It is also possible that evangelicalism is a little bit too shaped by the rationality of Rationalism. So our approach to the Bible sometimes is to get the meaning through the grammatical, historical exegesis, and once you have got the meaning, that’s all you need, and you don’t have to work it into your heart.
I’m concerned about approaches to reading the Bible that say: read the Bible, but don’t think about theology, just let God speak to you. I’m concerned about that, because God speaks to you in the Bible, after you do the good exegesis and you figure out what the text is saying. Martin Luther believed you need to take the truth that you have learned through good exegesis, and once you understand that, you need to learn how to warm your heart with it — get it into your heart.
And it diminishes our prayer life that our hearts are cold when we get into prayer. Without meditation, you tend to go right into petition and supplication, and you do little adoration or confession. When your heart is warm, then you start to praise God and then you confess. When your heart is cold, which it is if you just study the Bible and then jump to prayer, you are much more likely to spend your time on your prayer list and not really engage your heart.

As I read Tim Keller's answer I realize he's simply reinforcing the Psalm itself. We meditate in order to go deeper than we could by simply reading itself. If you don't know how to do that, take the scripture and let your mind read it deliberately, slowly, and stop often just to think over the words and allow God's word go deeper into your heart.

Monday, February 1, 2016

We Believe... Foundations

Good Monday Morning my family of faithful ones, friends near and far.  

I'm sitting down this morning preparing to jump into study for a brand new series of teachings to share in our church fellowship. This new series is entirely based off of the Apostle's Creed.  Do you remember it?
I believe in God, the Father Almighty,
the Creator of heaven and earth,

And in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord,
who was conceived of the Holy Spirit,
born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried.
He descended into hell.
The third day He arose again from the dead.
He ascended into heaven
and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty,
from there He shall come to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy Christian church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and life everlasting.

I learned it as a kid growing up in our family's church, and it's a wonderful statement of what I've entitled this series: "What We Believe - The Foundations of Our Faith"...

I first began to think about this a year ago, and now it's time to share it. I believe...and so do you...but what we believe in makes all the difference in the world.

Jesus said, Matthew 7:24-27
24 “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock.
25 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock.
26 And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand.
27 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.”

Foundations of what we believe...I am reminded of what Augustine said about faith that believes.

Peace to you, have a great week...and if you're part of New Life, hope you can catch the first of these teachings this next Sunday.