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Monthly Archives: January 2014

It’s Not all About me

feet-wash3Abraham and his nephew Lot coexisted with their large sheep and cattle business for some time. But eventually prosperity crowded them and they had to go their separate ways. They stood together and looked North, South, East, and West. Abraham led the way and said to Lot, “Is not the whole land before you? If you take the left, then I will go to the right; or, if you go to the right, then I will go to the left.” Lot looked things over, saw the streams and green grass and chose the best for himself.

And why shouldn’t he? Abraham gave him the choice, after all. And surely he needs to look out for himself and all those depending on him. Whether he should have or shouldn’t have I’m not addressing. I am admiring Abraham’s role in this. He did not depend on the outward circumstances for his prosperity but on God. God had made certain promises to him and that was enough. Abraham believed God…

It is a common theme in scripture to be humble and not look out for number one but for others. The apostle Paul exhorts us to prefer others above ourselves. He also says to not only look out for own interests but the interests of others. We are called to serve. Jesus said if we want to be great in God’s kingdom we need to be a servant of all. Jesus said when we are done serving our attitude should be we are only servants and have done our duty. Denying ourselves is just that. Blessing those who mistreat us is just that. Turning the other cheek is just that. Enduring wrong for the sake of what is right is virtuous.

In the western world, we have adopted an attitude of looking out for ourselves and not letting anyone get the best of us or wrong us. This isn’t entirely a bad attitude. But it is when it gets in the way of living the gospel. When we were called to become disciples of Jesus we were called to be inconvenienced. But oh, us Americans hate to be inconvenienced! Our lives have become too busy to serve. “I don’t have time” is a common excuse for not serving our brother or sister. What we are really saying is I have chosen to be too busy to bless others. Beloved, we are called to serve above all so we need to find time.

During the past year plus of fighting advanced cancer, my family and I have consistently witnessed the body of Christ be the body of Christ. The prayers for us are endless, as well as meals, visits, and generous giving. Many people have inconvenienced themselves repeatedly to serve us and look out for our interests instead of theirs. We are greatly humbled by the kindness of many. We often wonder what the will of God is for our lives but I submit God has made most of His will very clear in scripture. We have an opportunity to live the gospel and speak the gospel in everyday life if we would just slow down, notice chances to bless others and do it. Let’s pay attention to the regular opportunities God entrusts to us to serve others and prefer them above ourselves. This is how we live like Jesus.

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The True Story of Fern Christianson

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Fern Christianson was born in the early 1900’s. She grew up relatively insignificant in rural Iowa and attended high school in Waverly, Iowa. She attended a Methodist church as a child. During her teenage years, she became friends with a young attractive woman named Dorothy. They both graduated from high school and went their own ways. Fern married and stayed in Iowa and Dorothy moved to South Dakota and married Ralph. Fern grew in her faith in Christ and Dorothy and Ralph were content to keep God at arm’s length. For the next few years, Fern and Dorothy stayed in touch. Sometime in the 1930’s Fern wrote a letter to Dorothy and said she had something very important to share were her. Could she come to South Dakota and share it?

Fern and Dorothy had a visit and Fern explained to Dorothy the need to surrender her life to Jesus, be born again and live her life for Him. The Holy Spirit had prepared Dorothy for that moment and she received the message, repented of her sins and gave her heart to the Lord. For months afterward, Fern taught Dorothy more about the Christian faith through letters. Later Dorothy’s husband Ralph also gave his life to the Lord. For the next decades, Ralph and Dorothy had 9 children, 8 of which lived to adulthood. Ralph and Dorothy taught their children the importance of living for God.

The children all grew up and started their own families. And they taught the 26 grandchildren of Ralph and Dorothy how to live for God. The grandchildren grew up and had dozens and dozens of great-grandchildren. And the grandchildren taught their children how to live for God. Presently the great grandchildren are having families and teaching their children how to live for God. Scores of people have come to Jesus because of the obedience of one Fern Christianson.

What became of Fern Christianson? Not long after she led Dorothy to the Lord Fern’s husband picked up a hitchhiker and was murdered. Soon after that, Fern passed away from complications involving a tubal pregnancy. Her life was short but amazingly effective. Scores have taught their children the right ways of the Lord. All those Believers have influenced people in everyday life to follow Jesus. There is no telling how many people have made a decision to follow Jesus because of Fern. Hundreds, maybe more.

One of Dorothy’s daughters, Doreen, married a Christian man named Marv. They taught their children how to live for Jesus. On April 6, 1968, Doreen told her little 7-year-old son all about the great story of how God so loved the world that He gave His Son Jesus to die for the sins of the world. Little Danny went to bed that night but couldn’t sleep right away. He prayed, told God he wanted to give his life to Jesus, and little Danny has never looked back. Today little Danny is in his 50’s and the father of 6 and teaching them how to live for Jesus. Today he wrote this blog. God bless the legacy of Fern Christianson!

Nearly all of Ralph and Dorothy’s posterity have committed their lives to the Lord and live a life that shows it. Fern would have never guessed the difference in history her one visit to Dorothy would make for so many. We can do it too. Be inspired, dear saints. One soul led to Jesus is not just one soul…

 
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Posted by on January 30, 2014 in Inspirational

 

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God’s Chosen People

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The Lord gave Abraham a very difficult assignment. He said, “Get out of your country, from your family and from your father’s house, to a land that I will show you.” Leaving everything comfortable, secure and familiar to you is totally out of the comfort zone, even if it is to obey God. But along with it was a promise: “I will make you a great nation; I will bless you and make your name great, and you shall be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you, and in you, all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”

So we see God promises that through Abraham much blessing will come to the people who live on the earth. How so? This promise has a dual fulfillment. First, it is fulfilled in the Jews. The Jews were chosen, through no virtue of their own, by grace, to be the people God. God’s purpose was to use them to show love, forgiveness, favor, how He deals with man, to steward His commandments and be the family through which the Messiah will come. And so began much blessing to the Jew and a high calling. Sometimes they were faithful to their calling, much of the time they were not. But in spite of much unfaithfulness and God nearly wiping His hands of them because of their constant spiritual harlotry, God still used them to continue His story and bring the long awaited Messiah. The human genealogy of Jesus if full of not-so-good people, and not 100% Hebrew either. The mission was accomplished, the Messiah was born and a new covenant came into being, a better covenant.

Again, there is a dual fulfillment of this prophecy. God’s promises to Abraham go far beyond the Jews and beyond the arrival of the Messiah. The promises are to a spiritual family of God, not just physical. The promises are fulfilled in the new covenant, far beyond a mere promise to a physical people. The New Testament makes it clear that we believers, whether Gentile or Jew, are enjoying the fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham. Through Abraham, all the people of the earth shall be and are blessed because of the good news of Jesus Christ. The promise of blessing comes through faith, not through blood. The people of God ultimately are the people of faith, not just a nation or a people.

Much is still made of the Jewish tradition and the Jewish people. And blessed they are…what a heritage! But there isn’t a special reward for being a Jew. Believing Jews occupy the same heaven as believing Gentiles. And unbelieving Jews occupy the same hell as unbelieving Gentiles. The apostle Paul said they are not all Israel who are Israel. Neither are they all Jews who are Jews. No, a Jew is one who is a Jew inwardly and circumcision is of the Spirit, not the flesh. We are all sons of God through faith in Jesus Christ and there is no distinction. God will bless those who bless the people of God, Jew, and Gentile. As followers of Christ and part of His Church, we are the true chosen ones. Bless the Lord for His indescribable gift to the world…Jesus the Messiah and the privilege of joining the family of God through faith in Him!

 
 

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Lessons From Noah

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The story of God, Noah, and the ark has much to teach us today. Here is a brief overview and then application: God looked down on the earth and saw sin was rampant to the point of this description: The thoughts and intents of man’s hearts were only evil continually. God was sorry He made man and decided to clean house. Man was about to reap what he sowed. But as God looked around He found one faithful man on the earth. Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord. Noah walked with God. Noah was righteous in his generation and obeyed God. Noah was God’s man for the hour and God used him to do God’s work. He built the ark for his family and the animals. The earth was destroyed but Noah and company were saved for a second chance for man on the earth.

Here are the high points of what we can learn from this story:

  1. God hates sin. He always has and always will and can only tolerate it so long. Sin is never okay, and never will be. The Bible says we reap what we sow and sin is no exception. It has become popular to excuse various sins but God does not. He has not gotten old and soft in His old age. We reap what we sow. If we sow to please the flesh we reap corruption. If we sow to please the Spirit we reap everlasting life.
  2.  Noah did right even though it was extremely unpopular to do so. To say everyone was sinning and displeasing God was not an exaggeration. Noah chose to do right against an incredible tide against him.
  3. Noah walked with God. Like anyone who walks with God, he learned that there is nothing better than sweet fellowship with a loving God. Noah knew God and God knew Noah. They had a good thing going.
  4. Noah was found righteous in his generation and obeyed God. If one walks with God he or she will obey Him and will be found righteous in their generation. Works matter; Obedience matters.
  5. Grace is one of the most wonderful words there is. Noah found grace or favor with God. This is the first of many times grace is mentioned in the Bible. Often grace is often defined as unmerited favor. It sure is. Without grace, we would have no hope whatever. With grace, we have great hope.
  6. God is a God of second chances. God so loved the world that He gave is a statement of grace and second chances. All of us have this second chance available to us. God is willing to forgive and give us everlasting life. Wow.
  7. Get into the ark. The ark is often compared to Jesus. Sin abounds, the world stands judged, punishment looms. Just like the ark was the way of escape from the righteous result of sin, so today we can get into the ark, Jesus, be saved from sin and get a second chance at life.

What a great invitation to another chance at life for sinners. What a great challenge to believers! Dear believer, like Noah, flee from sin. Do what is right in the eyes of the Lord. Walk with God. Obey Him. Fellowship with Him. Be found righteous in your generation and be God’s man or woman for the hour. God has you here for a very important purpose. Find grace and favor in the eyes of the Lord. “The eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is loyal to Him.” (2 Chronicles 16:9) Be that one.

 
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Posted by on January 27, 2014 in Blogging Through the Bible, Genesis

 

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Forbidden Fruit

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Genesis chapter three is a chapter of firsts. In this chapter Satan, disguised as a serpent, began his career of causing people, believers and unbelievers, to doubt God’s words. He is still at it, repackaging God’s words with the goal of doubt, unbelief and disobedience.

This was the first Adam and Eve knew they were naked. That sounds kind of strange, being they walked around naked all the time. But they were the definition of innocent. When they discovered it, the first occasion of pride set in. This was the first time someone hid, or had something to hide from God. It was the first occasion of self-centeredness; the first time it was all about me. It was the first time someone believed a lie and believed Satan more than they believed God. It was the first time someone disobeyed. It was the first time someone blamed anyone else for something. Adam blamed Eve and Eve blamed the serpent. It was the first time man was negatively influenced and made a wrong decision. It was the first punishment or chastisement as a result of the first sin. The first curse had come. Then they began to die. It was the first time something began to die.

Then there was the first prophecy of anything and it even included words about the coming Messiah and His victory over Satan: “He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel.”

Then there was the first sacrifice when God made new clothes for Adam and Eve out of animal skins. He didn’t just throw them out of the garden and have them fend for themselves but provided a covering, a picture of what the sacrifice of animals would do for thousands of years…cover sin and provide a way of forgiveness. This was the beginning of a picture of what the Lamb of God, Jesus Christ would ultimately do once for all, the just for the unjust to bring us to God…He would become a sacrifice not just to cover sins but to take away the penalty and power of sin. Man no longer had to be in bondage to sin or fear the punishment of sin. He became free, thanks to the blood of the Lamb, Jesus Christ. And his hope became eternal, one that will never perish, spoil or fade away. Man, in spite of the first sins and many more since, could once again have fellowship with God and have the hope of everlasting life. That’s good news…

 
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Posted by on January 25, 2014 in Blogging Through the Bible, Genesis

 

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Happy New Year?

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Happy New Year!

All my life I have loved the beginning of the New Year. The only way one could improve on it would be if it were in the summer. New beginnings are a beautiful thing. Who doesn’t like another chance? No matter what a year looked like and brought to us, we have a chance to start new every January. True, some of the circumstances may remain, but we have an opportunity to look at them with fresh, optimistic eyes is a blessing too.

Much is made of goals and business plans this time of year. Some time ago I thought, why don’t we have Spiritual business plans? We could have a mission statement, various measurable goals, changes, etc. We could ask ourselves the hard questions, consider how to improve in daily life and line up our behavior with the Bible. Just like in business, we may not perfectly attain all our goals every year, but taking stock, setting those goals and systematically executing those goals will get us farther in the faith than if we didn’t examine ourselves or set goals at all. If we aim at nothing we are likely to hit it. Here are a few questions you could ask as you consider how to spiritually improve your 2014.

  1. Are you more like Jesus than you were a year ago?
  2. Are you more thirsty for God than ever before?
  3. Are you more and more loving?
  4. Are you more sensitive and aware of God than ever before?
  5. Do you read your Bible every day?
  6. Are you governed more and more by God’s Word?
  7. Are you concerned more and more with the needs of others?
  8. How much are you giving to eternal purposes?
  9. Are you more and more concerned with the Church and the spread of God’s Kingdom?
  10. Are the disciplines of the Christian life more important to you?
  11. Are you repenting of and forsaking your sin?
  12. Are you more and more willing to forgive others?
  13. Are you thinking more and more of heaven and of being with the Lord?
  14. Are your affections on the things above or the things on the earth?
  15. Am I praying every day?
  16. Are you being led by the spirit or the flesh?
  17. Are you building your kingdom or God’s kingdom?

These questions and others can help you assess where you are in your faith and where you may need improvement. Of course acknowledging an area that needs improvement is good but developing a plan to improve is much better. In your weak areas, what can you intentionally do to improve and look back at the end of this year with success? Perhaps the simplest thing to improve on is Bible Reading. It can be done intentionally and be measured. Only three chapters a day, about 15 minutes, reads the Bible through in a year. If Bible reading is a weakness for you, resolve to conquer Bible reading this year. If there are other areas that need help, don’t let yet another year go by without improvement. The apostle James said if we draw near to God He will draw near to us. He sure will. He stands ready to meet you and help as you begin anew to pursue Him and His ways. Look back at 2014 with a smile at your nearness to God.

 
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Posted by on January 24, 2014 in Inspirational

 

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The Line Item Veto

Line item vetoIn Genesis chapter four we have the first murder in history. Cain and Abel both brought some of their bounty to God as an offering. God preferred Abel’s offering of the firstborn of the flock to Cain’s fruit of the ground. This made Cain very angry. In fact, he was angry enough to rid the earth of his only brother.

What was behind this reaction? Ever since the beginning of time man has questioned God. We just plain want things our way. We forget that the Almighty God just may have His reasons for doing things the way He does. For instance, Abel gave the first fruits of His flocks which was to be the chosen offering for thousands of years pointing to the ultimate spilling of the blood of the Lamb of God, Jesus Christ. Fruits and vegetables just wasn’t the picture God was after. The Almighty God who made the heavens and the earth knew what He was doing.

This was the beginning of the line item veto that has run rampant in the world and has become popular in Church. We question God. We read or hear His commands and then decide if we want to obey them. Some things we obey, some things we’d rather not. So we don’t. So we make God in our own image, with some “improvements”. That way He is manageable and we need not feel guilty when we disobey one of His commandments. If we do disobey, we just add that to the list of commandments we’d rather not follow. We hear things like, “ Unbelievers and the religious often say, “Well, I don’t believe it that way”. I always want to say, based on what? It is incredible the beliefs people will concoct to make themselves feel justified in their self-centered, often sinful lives. I just don’t believe that about God. Again, based on what? The fact that we don’t want to submit to God? That’s not very solid ground to stand on. Believing in something only accomplishes something when it is based on truth. I can believe with all my heart in the tooth fairy but so what? It is the same with our made up doctrines and our made up gods. They are as trustworthy as the tooth fairy and are as likely to save us. If God is worth believing in He is worth submitting to. We need to stop looking at His Word in light of our experiences and moods and look at our experiences and moods in light of His Word. His Word, after all, is the final authority on the subject.

We may not like certain laws made by man but don’t have the freedom to pick and choose the ones we would like to obey. We must obey them all or be willing to suffer the consequences. It is the same with God. It’s His way or the highway. The thing about the highway is that Jesus said it is very wide and there are lots of travelers on it but it leads to destruction. God’s ways are best, and we best embrace them without the line item veto.

 
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Posted by on January 23, 2014 in Blogging Through the Bible, Genesis

 

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