Your Very Life

Living where Life is

Month: February 2016

Two Banquets: Study Guide from Sunday

On Sunday, we “went” to two banquets: one at Herod’s Palace and the other in the wilderness.  One where the table was set by a weak and selfish king and the other where it was set by the Son of God himself. One where the guests were horrified and the other where they were healed. One where Jesus’ disciples were served up on a platter, and the other where they served the needs the world.

Click below for the study guide to go deeper in your quiet times this week.

Study Guide 2016.02.28

Click here to watch the sermon (it starts at 29:55).

Leap Day & The Two Times

lyanswers_tshirtIt’s February 29. Leap Year Day.  This day is rare (semi-unique!), only happens once every 1460 days. A special day on the calendar.

Except that it’s also just like yesterday and tomorrow: the sun comes up, and the sun goes down, the wind blows, and the clouds might drop some rain.

It’s a normal day, it’s a special day. It’s today.

I think every day is like this: normal and special. God has given us normal days: routines of sun-up & sun-down that bring us hope, confidence and normality… because we can count on things to be as they have been.

But, God has not made each day on an assembly line where they are exactly the same. Each day is different, special, unique. Yes, the routine is the same, but the particulars are different. And, so each day has the potential to hold memories for a lifetime… a conversation that changes the direction of your life, an interaction that gives you hope and a future, a diagnosis that affects everything.

Every day is the same, and every day is special.  In Greek, they had two concepts of time: chronos & kairos.

Chronos time is “tick-tock time”, simply the routine passing of the minutes.  That’s where we get the word “chronometer”, which is the fancy word for a stop-watch. This is the time that can be measured, marked off, and that passes regularly. It’s the normal, routine day.

Kairos time, for the Greeks, means “seasons” or “moment” – Think of the young couple who tells their parents at a special dinner that they are pregnant: all those soon-to-be grandparents will mark that dinner for the rest of their lives. It was a kairos moment.

February 29 is kind of like a bridge between chronos and kairos, normal and special, tick-tock and “moments. It’s rare and comes only once quadrennially.  But, it’s the same as every other day.

Watch for God’s Kairos in the Chronos he gives us. That’s what will infuse meaning and life-change into our weeks. When God shows up (kairos) into our everyday chronos.

8 Truths about Joy in the Treasure of Christ

imagesJesus tells a short parable about a man who discovers treasure hidden in a field. In his joy, he sells all he has and buys the field (to get the treasure). Matthew 13:44.

This got me thinking about how JOY is such an integral part of God’s gift to us of the Kingdom! The King is a Joy-Filled King.  Here are just 8 truths about joy in the treasure.

  1. Joy motivates us to grab hold of it.

That’s the point of the parable: the man’s joy drove him to get it.  Apathy never gains the kingdom. Nobody saunters into the kingdom of God. You gotta want to enter through the narrow gate. For that matter, anger, sullenness, bitterness never gain the kingdom. Nor fear. I daresay there’s no Christian who’s walked with Christ for 20 years because they are afraid of hell. Fear is an extremely poor motivator.

But DELIGHT in Christ is what drives someone to keep on following. Christ-followers rejoice in him, we delight in him, and we enjoy him.

  1. Joy motivates us to grab hold of it at all costs.

The man sold all he had to buy the field, to get the treasure.  And, that’s just it: You can’t NOT “sell all” to gain the kingdom. You cannot hedge your bets. You cannot be in two places, on two teams, double-minded, or two faced.

Why else would martyrs walk to their own execution? Because of the joy of knowing Christ. He is worth it all.

Why would a Muslim or Hindu turn to Christ, even though it means alienation of their family? Because this treasure is worth grabbing hold of at all costs.

  1. Joy carries us into growing relationship with God himself

Psalm 100 says this: make a joyful noise to the Lord, serve the Lord with gladness, … enter his gates with thanksgiving & his courts with praise.

God wants us near him and wants us to rejoice in him.

  • For you O Lord have made me glad by your work; at the works of your hands I sing for joy. Ps 92:4
  • Let the heavens be glad and let the earth rejoice… before the Lord, for he comes!” Ps 96:11-13
  • The Kingdom of God, Paul says, is a matter of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. Rom 14:16
  1. Joy strengthens us in all things

Nehemiah says to the Israelites, “the Joy of the Lord is your Strength” (Neh 8:10).  Notice it doesn’t say, “my service to the Lord is my strength” or “my obedience to the Lord is my strength” or “my sacrifice for the Lord is my strength.”

It’s the JOY of the Lord that strengthens us all the day long.  That’s why Paul calls us in Philippians 4:4 – “Rejoice in the Lord always, I will say it again, Rejoice.”

  1. Equips us to endure anything

Do you remember what Hebrews said about Jesus?  “For the joy set before him he endured the cross…” (12:2)

The joy of the outcome (redemption of you and me!) enabled him to endure the worst anguish, humiliation, injustice of all eternity. Joy carried Christ through the cross. It will carry you and me through any and every trial and suffering in this world.

  1. Joy is the hallmark of a Christian

Gal 5:22 says that when someone has the Spirit, he produces fruit in us: love, joy, peace…  If you have the Spirit, he wants to bring joy out through you.  In John 15:10-11 Jesus says that his joy is in us, and our joy is complete as we continue to live for him, obeying him and loving one another (ie., as we are a Christian)

  1. Joy is our reward in this life—as others follow him with us

The greatest reward in life is that folks meet or grow in Christ through you and me. Paul and John both say this: 1 Thes 2:19-20 – For what is our hope and our joy… at the coming of the Lord? Is it not you? For you are our glory and joy.  2 John 4 – I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.  If you’ve ever helped someone to understand Christ just a little more, or love Christ just a little deeper, or follow him just a little more fully, you know the joy Paul and John are talking about.  Worth way more than any of the other good gifts in this world.

  1. Joy is our eternal future

Rev 19:7 – “Rejoice and be glad at the wedding supper of the Lamb”—the feast of eternity!

John 16:22 – Jesus says, “I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice…” I can’t wait to see him again!

Isa 35:10 – “And the ransomed of the Lord shall return and come singing to Zion, and everlasting joy shall be upon their heads; they shall obtain gladness and joy, and sorrow and sighing will flee away.” Let that promise sink in: at the end of all things, when Christ returns and gathers us to himself, everlasting joy will be our lot! Hallelujah.

 

How is your joy quotient? How are your joy levels? Jesus and his Kingdom really are a treasure. The joy of abandoning yourself to him is the greatest joy we could imagine.  It’s what we’ve been created for!

Heartburn in Leviticus?

imgresWho’s reading through Scripture this year?

If you are, you might be in Leviticus right about now. (My wife is, and I try not to disturb her while she’s doing her quiet time. She’s taken to hollering “unclean” at me.)

Or, perhaps you are avoiding quiet times in books of the bible like Leviticus.  This poor book, always chosen last for the team… The rest of the OT kinda apologize for him. I once overheard hyper-active-Acts taunting him: “You don’t even have any real action – yer just a bunch of instructions. Nobody likes a lecture!” I bet poor Nadab and Abihu wish that were true! (See Lv 10.)

And yet, isn’t all of Scripture God-breathed and profitable for us? 2 Tim 3:16 says so.

Well, if you are struggling through Leviticus or pretending it’s not really necessary reading, I’ve got great news for you!

We came across these fantastic little videos called The Bible Project.  They give an overview & orientation to many bible books and some themes. I’ve watched several of them, and they’re great.  I’d encourage you to take 5 minutes on your way INTO a book, and get oriented!

So, here’s Leviticus’ guidemap video

Also – The Bible Project is producing free resources to build up the church. It is supported by readers/users.  Don’t be afraid to help out if you are blessed!  Click here.

Study Guide for the Sermon

Jesus teaches us about the nature of the Kingdom – it’s like wheat and weeds, a mustard seed and leaven. What does that mean?

Click the link for a few questions that track with the passage from today’s sermon.

Study Guide 2016.02.14

Also, you can click here to view the sermon.

A Sober Valentine’s Anniversary

imgresThe 14th of February is a day to celebrate the God-givenness of marital love. It’s not quite a church-calendar event (like Easter), but it is a cultural phenomenon. So, with red roses, cards and hearts, we give thanks for our wives and husbands… or we miss them in an especially tender way.

Last year just around Valentine’s, the world was shocked out of its stupor. We watched as photos of 21 men in orange jump suits were marched to the seaside and executed by ISIS, which also proclaimed a message of hatred, vengeance and threats against Rome (ie., a key cultural center of the Christian world, just across the Mediterranean).

Far from being the Jayvee, ISIS showed its true colors in an unmistakable way. It woke us all up. It made me more sober about the times. Valentine’s Day this year is a little less silly and sentimental. I’m immensely grateful for Susan, and our boys, and the family I grew up in, and our family at Grace. This Valentine’s Day, let us love with deeper love. Let us love with action and deeds, not for 24 hours, but as a way of life.

Husbands, love your wives by honoring them in every way: how can you live each day so that they grow to look more like Christ? How can you serve them, die to self-agenda… like Christ did for his church? How can you build them up in your words, in your gratitude, in your tenderness, in your own pursuit of Christ, in your prayer for your family? Husbands, chocolates or roses are great IF they are the icing on top of a robust, faithful love. They are a farce if we count on them to prove our love!

Wives, love your husbands by respecting them, encouraging them, building them up and giving yourself to them. Men are simple: we want our wife to look up to us, and to help us become the man God made us to be. We might not express this, but it’s true. Inside every man is a young boy who needs the encouragement and thrill of the one he loves. Give it to him. And, give yourself to God. We just watched the movie War Room last night, where the marriage was rocky, but the wife started praying for her to love her husband, and her husband to love Jesus. Keep on praying, wives. God is listening, and answering in love.

Parents love your children with mature love, not indulging love. If they don’t learn how to do hard things at home, when will they learn? Children, love your parents with trusting love, knowing that they see what you can’t.

Grace family, let us love this world around us—the Egyptian widows, the ISIS terrorists, the presidential contenders, our coworkers and neighbors—with Jesus’ love. Ask God to give you his eyes for those around you… you’ll know it’s happened when you sense a spark of compassion where once you had disdain.

The most amazing thing in Egypt last year was that the Muslim president of the country, Abdel Fatteh al-Sisi, paid tribute to and declared seven days of mourning for the Christians that were slaughtered. He identified them not as “Egyptians” but as “Christians”—honoring their faith and faithfulness, and condemning ISIS’ message. ISIS does not speak for all Muslims. Al-Sisi showed us that.

I don’t know if they celebrate Valentine’s Day in Egypt; I rather doubt it. But I can be sure that the widows of the 21 martyrs will not love this day. Let us who do celebrate it, do so with sober joy, real thanksgiving and a life overflowing with the true love of Christ that dies for its enemies.

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