Sunday, December 30, 2012


I’ve been challenged by a lot of things lately. Probably most challenged by the book, “Forgotten God” by Francis Chan.  Here are a few excerpts.

If the Holy Spirit dwells within you, a number of things should be a part of your life.

1. The Spirit helps us speak when we are in precarious situations and need to bear witness.  (Mark 13:11; Luke 12:12)

2. The Counselor teaches and reminds us of what we need to know and remember.  He is our comforter, our advisor, our encourager, and our strength. He guides us in the way we should go.  (Psalm 143:10; Acts 9:31; Acts 13:2; 1 Cor. 2:9-10; I John 5:6-8)

3. From the Spirit we receive power to be God’s witnesses to the ends of the earth. It is the Spirit who draws people to the gospel, the Spirit who equips us with the strength we need to accomplish God’s purposes. The Holy Spirit who not only initially draws people to God, He also draws believers closer to Jesus.  (Acts1:8; Romans 8:26; Ephesians 3:16-19)

4. By the power of the Spirit we put to death the misdeeds of the body. The Spirit sets us free from the sins we cannot get rid of on our own. This is a lifelong process we entered into, in partnership with the Spirit, when we first believed. (Romans 8:2)

5. Through the Spirit we have received a spirit of adoption as children, which leads us into intimacy with the Father, instead of a relationship based on fear and slavery. The Spirit bears witness to us that we are His children. (Romans 8:15-16)

6. The Holy Spirit convicts people of sin. He does this both before we initially enter into right relationship with God and as we journey through this life as believers. (John 16:7-11; I Thessalonians 1:5)

7. The Spirit brings us life and freedom. Where the Spirit is, there is freedom, not bondage or slavery. In our world that is plagued by death, this is a profound truth that points to real hope.  (Romans 8:10-11; 2 Corinthians 3:17)

8. By the power of the Holy Spirit we abound with hope because our God is a God of hope , who fills His children with all joy and peace.  (Romans 15:13)

9. As members of God’s kingdom community, each of us is given a manifestation of the Spirit in our lives for the purpose of the common good.  We all have something to offer because of what the Spirit gives to us. (1 Corinthians 12:7)

10. The fruit of being led by the Spirit of God includes love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. These attitudes and actions will characterize our lives as we allow ourselves to be grown and molded by the Spirit. The Spirit is our sanctifier. (2 Corinthians 3:18; Galatians 5:22-23)

While I’ve heard all of these ideas before, it really seemed to come together as I looked at them all at one time.

The Holy Spirit living in us and through us makes us different. My Christian life is dependent on the Holy Spirit to live in me and through me.

One final thought ….

"What would your church look like if everyone was as committed as you are? If everyone gave and served and prayed exactly like you, would your church be healthy and empowered? Or would it be weak and listless?"

If you find these ideas interesting of challenging, then I encourage you to get the book and read it.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Reaction to the CT School Shootings

As a school teacher for the past 27 years, I can say that we don’t just teach children.  We love them, play with them, encourage them, discipline them, cheer for them, laugh with them, praise them, and then love them some more.  If you’ve ever been one of my students, you will always be one of “my kids.”  If a gunman came after you, I would do everything I could to protect you.

How could something like this happen …

The government has systematically taken God out of our culture.  We are not to speak of Him in public.  We disallow the 10 Commandments from being hung in public places.  We disallow the nativity to be out at Christmas.  We say Happy Holidays not Merry Christmas.  We ban public prayer. However, these things did not cause this shooting.  The reason goes deeper…

There has been a cultural shift over the last generation from a God-centered culture to a self-centered culture.  We encourage self-expression.  You can say or do anything you want because that is your right.  We even encourage children to do this. Kindergarten kids curse in school and we laugh at it and think it is cute. 

We have raised a generation of children who all got trophies in everything they ever participated in.  No one loses.  Our children haven’t learned to deal with defeat. We have so guarded their self-esteem that they now lack it because nothing has meaning. 

We’ve dismissed the Bible as the basis for all truth.  We have no moral absolutes.  We do what feels right.

We have no “family unit”.  Marry whoever you please – no matter what sex they are.  Our children have no concept of a natural loving family that encourages each other and spends time with each other.  We have taken away all discipline until each child does whatever he wants.  We’ve raised a generation that hasn’t been held accountable for anything.  Parents try to buy their kids love and obedience through expensive toys.

We don’t teach them about the Creator God who loves them and who has created them exactly as they are for His purposes and glory.  We don’t teach them that God is all knowing and it is Him who we ultimately are accountable to.  Instead, we teach them that life is disposable and if it is inconvenient, then just abort it. 

We, as a nation, have turned our backs on God.  We don’t fear Him and we don’t worship Him.  Then why are we surprised when our young people kill each other?  Where have they learned that they are fearfully and wonderfully made?  Where have they heard that the God of the Universe loves them and wants to know them personally?  Not in school. Why – because teachers are forbidden to talk about God with their students.  We can hand out condoms but not Bibles.  We can teach about evolution but not creation.  We must teach tolerance of all kinds of sin but we can’t teach to love God with your whole heart and to love your neighbor as yourself.

It is time our nation got on its knees and humbled itself and prayed for forgiveness.  These events are what we now reap for what we’ve sowed.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

I got a big “NO!”

I teach at a small private high school.  About 50% of our student body are international students.  This obviously means our student body is very diverse in lot of ways …. language, customs, holidays, and religion.

As an employee, I am allowed to answer any of their questions.  However, I am not to push my customs, traditions, religion on them.

A young Chinese girl came to me and said, “Mrs. X was telling us about the Christmas Story.  Do you know it?”

I smiled and replied, “Yes.  You mean the story about the birth of Jesus as it is told in the Bible.”

It was at that exact second that her demeanor completely changed.  She exclaimed in her broken English, “NO!  Not the Bible.  I don’t want to know the Bible. I want to know the movie.”

I backed off.  I told her I had seen that movie a long time ago.

I did as was expected of me by the rules of the school.  I didn’t press the issue.  I didn’t tell her about Jesus.  It was obvious that she didn’t want to hear anything about the Bible or Jesus.

Did I do the right thing?  I wanted to tell her all about the birth of my Savior.  I don’t think it would have meant anything to her though because she didn’t want to hear.

I am feeling frustrated, sad, guilty, etc….


Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Prophesies about the Birth of Christ

The prophets foretold the birth of Christ for hundreds of years.  In anticipation of the Christmas season, I’ve been reviewing some of those prophecies and lining them up with the New Testament.  Below are some of the things I’ve been examining.

Isaiah 7:14   - Virgin Birth
“Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.”

In this passage, the prophet Isaiah was addressing the family and descendants of King David, and speaks of a virgin being pregnant with a child, and giving birth to the child. Isaiah says this in the context of it being a sign from God. He also says that the child would be referred to as "Immanuel," which means, "God with us."
Matthew and Luke record details involving the birth of Jesus, saying that he was born of the virgin Mary and is the Son of God.

(Matthew 1:18-23; Luke 1:26-31))

Genesis 49:10  - Tribe of Judah
“The scepter will not depart from Judah,
nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet,
until he to whom it belongs shall come
and the obedience of the nations shall be his.”

The context of this verse is Jacob is blessing his 12 sons. This blessing was also a prophecy. Jacob told his son Judah that his descendants would be rulers and that one of his descendants will be an ultimate ruler.

Jesus' ancestry is traced back to Jacob's son, Judah, in Luke 3:23-34 and in Matthew 1:1-16.

Isaiah 9:6   - Names of Jesus
“For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”

Micah 5:2    - Born in Bethlehem
“Marshal your troops now, city of troops,
for a siege is laid against us.
They will strike Israel’s ruler
on the cheek with a rod.

“But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah,
though you are small among the clans of Judah,
out of you will come for me
one who will be ruler over Israel,
whose origins are from of old,
from ancient times.””

The prophet Micah prophesied that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem, a small village near Jerusalem. Jesus fulfilled this prophecy about 2000 years ago. Although Jesus was raised in the town of Nazareth, he was born in Bethlehem.

(Matthew 2:1)

Jeremiah 23:5  - Lineage of David
“The days are coming,” declares the Lord,
“when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch,
a King who will reign wisely
and do what is just and right in the land.

The Messiah would be a descendant of King David. David ruled over the land of Israel about 1000 years before Jesus was born. Jesus is recorded in the New Testament books of Matthew and Luke as being a descendant of King David.Messianic prophecies

Psalm 21:10  - Presented with gifts
“May the kings of Tarshish and of distant shores
bring tribute to him.
May the kings of Sheba and Seba
present him gifts.”

This predicts the gifts the magi would bring Jesus.  (Matthew 2:1-11)

Jeremiah 31:15  - Predicts Herod killing the children
”This is what the Lord says:
“A voice is heard in Ramah,
mourning and great weeping,
Rachel weeping for her children
and refusing to be comforted,
because they are no more.”

(Matthew 2:16-18)

Isaiah 40:4 – Predicts the coming of John the Baptist
”A voice of one calling:
“In the wilderness prepare
the way for the Lord;
make straight in the desert
a highway for our God.”

The Messiah would be preceded by a forerunner. (Matthew 3:1-2)

There are many more prophecies about Christ in the Old Testament.  Learning the Old Testament helps you understand the New Testament.  Take some time this Christmas season to meditate on the birth of the Savior. 

Thursday, December 6, 2012


Commitment can be defined as the decision to do what needs to be done, no matter the cost.  I see this kind of commitment in many of our service men.  They are committed to their unit and their country to do anything necessary in order to get the job done.

Christian commitment really starts with God’s example.  The problem – a lost and dying world.  The solution – God sending his Son into the world to die for us.  Our sin cost God the life of his only Son.  He was committed to me before I even acknowledged him.

What does He ask from me in return?  My love and commitment. 

Read John 21:15-19  Jesus asks Peter if he loves him more than these and Peter answers that he does.  Jesus tells him to feed his lambs.  Following Jesus and feeding his sheep became Peter’s mission.  Peter might not have understood it all at first but as he grew in his faith, he went on to help found the Christian church. This commitment went on to cost Peter his life.

Love for Christ isn’t just a feeling or an emotion but is a commitment to obedience. 

Luke 9:23 “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.”

Jesus also said,”If you love me, you will keep my commandments”  (John 14:15)

Christian love is a commitment to obedience but not in order to win God’s favor.  It’s not for what I can get out of it.  It isn’t from a selfish motive.  It is in response of what God did for me that I demonstrate my commitment to Him.  I should be saying the words He gives me; I should be going where He tells me to go; I should be doing whatever He tells me to do.  All of this should be done without considering the cost.

Hebrews 11:1 “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.”

Hebrews 11:6 “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.”

Faith is not just believing God exists.  The book of James says that even the demons believe. 

Faith and commitment go hand in hand.  Faith needs action.

By faith Noah built and ark.  He not only believed God, he did what God told him to do.  He was laughed at.  He was ridiculed.  He was despised and yet he endured the persecution and completed his project. 

By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place to receive his inheritance.  He didn’t know where God was leading him.  (Hebrews 11:8)

Hebrews 11 is called the “Hall of Faith”.  It talks about Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel, and the prophets.  These were men who through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, received promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched raging fire, escaped the edge of the sword, won strength out of weakness, became mighty in war, and put foreign armies to flight.  (vs 33-34)

This chapter is followed by Paul’s model for commitment in chapter 12. 

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”  (Hebrews 12:1-2)

Paul goes on to encourage us not to grow weary or fainthearted .  We are to strive for holiness.  Striving for holiness becomes the commitment, the goal.  Why?  Verse 14 – without holiness I can’t see God.  What motivates me – verse 2 – the joy set before me.  The confidence of knowing what God has promised, he will fulfull. 

Commitment tells me to try my hardest.  Commitment leads me to do “whatever it takes.”  Commitment says “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.” 

What Christ has done for me, what Christ does in me daily, what Christ will do for me in the future – all of these motivate me to commit my life to Him. 

Jesus said “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”  (Matthew 11:28-30)

Monday, December 3, 2012

Surrender, Submission, and Sacrifice

These are not ideas that we like to think about.  However, they are words that I have been contemplating for a couple of weeks.

I can submit certain areas of my life to Christ really easily but there are other areas that I sometimes try to manage myself.  Surrender in part is OK with me but not complete surrender.  Sacrifice is easy as long as I don’t really have to give up anything I really like or want.  However, following Jesus is not about me.  It is not about what I can keep or what I can gain.  It’s about losing everything for the sake of the gospel.

I like to think that I am the master of my own destiny.  (I like to be in charge.)  I like to decide what I want to do and how I want to spend my money.  I don’t like to be submissive. I submit to my boss because I want my paycheck.  But I don’t always do that with a good attitude.  However, following Jesus requires that I bow humbly before Him.  It requires that I make the purpose of my life to serve Him.  Discipleship cannot exist without submission.  (Ouch)

Surrender is similar to submission.  It is the idea of giving up all my perceived rights in order to follow Christ.  Everything I think is mine is really His.  I forfeited my right to possess anything when I chose to follow Christ.  All I have is to be used to serve and worship God.  I have to give up all sense of ownership.  This isn’t an easy task.  However, I must let go of everything I cling to in order to be transformed into a servant of Christ.

Sacrifice is like the final stage.  I sacrifice my freedom in order to be a servant.  I sacrifice my creature comforts when I surrender to Him.  I sacrifice my way of life to follow Him.  I need to go where He sends me.  I need to do what He asks me to do.  I need to reach out to the lost and the lonely.  I need to give generously to those in need, even if I don’t think I can afford to do that.  He has promised to provide for me.

Following Christ is not a guarantee that I will live “happily ever after.”  Sometimes being a disciple of Christ is dangerous.  It could cost me friends, popularity, money, a job, or even my life.  But, it is the only way to find true freedom and everlasting life.

These words are scary.  Which one are you most uncomfortable with?  Do you readily humble yourself and submit to Him?  Do you acknowledge His Lordship over your life?  Are you able to give up everything that you worked so hard to acquire?  Do you still hold on to some things? Are you willing to sacrifice everything for the sake of the gospel?  Will you give up your life? Can you honestly say your aren’t holding anything back from God? 

Discipleship isn’t an easy path.  God never promised us an easy life.  He did promise eternal life.  He did promise rest, peace, mercy, and grace.  The road to eternity may be difficult but the destination will be greater than our wildest imagination.  Our minds simply can’t conceive how amazing heaven is going to be. 

Submit, surrender, and sacrifice.  He alone is worthy of our devotion and worship.  He alone is mighty to save.


Philippians 3:7-8 “But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ.”

Mark 8: 34-37 ““f any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it.  For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life?  Indeed, what can they give in return for their life?”

“'He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose'. “
Jim Elliot (Missionary to the Auca Indians who was martyred for the gospel)