Monthly Archives: December 2015

A Family Tree with Deep Roots.

treeEvery family has one, I’m sure you will know exactly who I am talking about. This person has a memory like an elephant, they can tell you the name, birth-date, height and most likely the last known location of every one of your relatives that is perched on the branches of your family tree. They spent countless hours pouring over records trying to establish a lineage that ties us back to the beginning of time when Adam walked with God in the Garden.

1 Chronicles is divided into 29 chapters, the first nine of those highlight a lengthy genealogy that begins with Adam, then works its ways through the all the tribes of Israel and eventually ends with the family line of Saul. Finding excitement within the study of historical documents such as the Chronicles in my mind extends only to a limited audience. It is the picture of a truly faithful God through generation after generation of people that is encouraging to me. The law and word of our sovereign God had not changed throughout their time, it was the people who changed. It was a gracious and loving God who always wanted them to come back to Him and that is what we read in these books. There is more going on through these chapters than the rebuilding of God’s house, for me it is about relationships, about people.

Our God is great and mighty, and His power goes beyond our capacity to understand how His plan unfolds. The evidence of His work in the lives of people is recorded here in scripture, it really is a treasure that should not be overlooked. I don’t often think about or look back into my own family history, but it would be interesting to look back and see how God used the people in my family tree to help build His kingdom. Generations from now I wonder how people will look back to my life and the life of my family? It is my hope and prayer that they can find the same encouragement as I do in the faithfulness of a God who is described below in 1 Chronicles 29:11-12.

Yours, Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the majesty and the splendor,for everything in heaven and earth is yours. Yours, Lord, is the kingdom; you are exalted as head over all. Wealth and honor come from you; you are the ruler of all things. In your hands are strength and power to exalt and give strength to all”.

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What is in a Story?

scriptureThere is always a story behind a story.

The story of Ezra is packed with many accounts, records and lists of the exiles that returned to Jerusalem from their captivity in Babylon. We read about the incredible journey of God’s people as they work to rebuild the temple through the reign of more that one king, one of which puts a complete stop to the work. Alongside this great story another story unfolds that helps us understand how God was working in the lives of the people. God had raised up a great teacher and leader among them. “Ezra had devoted himself to the study and observance of the Law of the Lord, and to teaching its decrees and laws in Israel.”

After many years of wandering from one place to another and with so many years of influence from the “outside” world the new gathering of the people of Israel had strayed from the practices of the Law of the Lord. Ezra, with his knowledge and understanding of scripture began teaching and preaching the word of the Lord so that the people would come back into a right relationship with God. Ezra’s story reaches beyond that of the book scribed with his name, you can continue to read about his ministry in Nehemiah chapter 8. “Ezra praised the Lord, the great God; and all the people lifted their hands and responded, Amen! Amen! Then they bowed down and worshiped the Lord with their faces to the ground.” (8:6). All this happened when Ezra opened the book, (the book of the law of Moses, which the Lord had commanded for Israel).

Fast forward to today, what we have is much like that in Ezra’s day. Our bibles are filled with stories that have the power to change lives. Many of us gather together every week to listen to the Word of God being preached, we listen to how God speaks through His word to us. When was the last time you responded with a loud Amen! Amen! bowing in worship to the Lord? The stories we read, each one of them are there for a purpose and when the time is right God will use them to shape our own personal stories, and when that happens it deserves a loud Amen.

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Encourage One Another

EncourageAs I was considering some thoughts around the idea of encouragement my mind wandered a little bit and I started to think about sports. Now, this is strange because I am not much of a sports guy so bear with me. Have you ever watched golf or been out on the course with someone who “talks” the ball to go where they want it to? Usually that person takes the time to skillfully line up their shot with the hole whether it is to be hit off the tee or is laying on the green. After taking the shot they will sometimes expressively talk the ball towards the hole, especially if it’s going off course. What about the basketball player getting ready to take a foul shot from the top of the key or is going the for the distance of a well timed three point shot? Often they will verbally encourage the ball to hit its target.

The author of Hebrews talks about a different type of encouragement, here is a short verse on what that looks like: “And let us consider how we may spur one another on towards love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another.” (10:24&25) When you dig deeper into the word “encouraging” that the author uses here, it has a sense of urgency to it. It is suggesting a position of begging or pleading for fellow believers to stay the course of faith in our God. It is to build our faith in the midst of trials and temptations as we wait for the day when Christ comes again. The author calls us to encourage one another daily as he warns us that there will be times of unbelief, times of falling away and times where we will need to persevere.

Eugene Peterson in the message captures a picture of encouragement with these thoughts: “keep each other on your toes so sin doesn’t slow down your reflexes. If we can only keep our grip on the sure thing we started out with, we’re in this with Christ for the long haul.” Living out our faith calls us to encourage others by walking with them through “thick and thin”, praying for them, being the example of love that Christ has for them.  The encouragement we give (and need) ought to draw us closer to our heavenly Father, reminding us of his unconditional love and sacrifice that will one day bring us into his presence.

 

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Faith in Action.

faith in action album coverHow do you define the word action? Are you the type of person who perches on the edge of your seat while watching an exciting action movie? Have you or someone you know ever experienced the tragedies associated with the acts of war?  As a fly fisherman I enjoy the action of the rod as I cast the fly line back and forth anticipating the explosive action of setting the hook and eventually playing the fish into my hands. Often as we teach our children to memorize scripture or songs we use actions to help support their learning; and as we raise and help them grow we teach them to be responsible for their own actions.

What about faith and action? What does that look like? The book of Hebrews talks a lot about faith. Chapter 11 clearly stands out to me as it talks about the “ancients”, our forefathers as they lived out their faith in action. Think about some of the stories you might know… Verse 7 reminds us of Noah’s faith as he was ridiculed while building the ark, verse 8 talks about the faith that Abraham had as he looked forward to an inheritance only God could promise. We read about the faith of Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses and many more. Each one of these people and many others had one thing in common; they all looked at what was to come, to a future that was unknown, a future that ultimately was in God’s hands. Living out their faith in action, our forefathers were obedient to the call of God in their lives.

It is inspiring to me when I read through God’s word and find a collection of stories that help me understand more about the faith I am growing in. Stories like that of Ruth and Naomi, Esther, and our forefathers challenge me to think about how my faith impacts others. Each one of these accounts of faith in scripture portray a journey of hardships, suffering and even death along with mercy, grace and love. Through faith in the one Almighty God we can have the [sure] confidence in what we hope for (the promise of eternal life through Christ) and assurance about what we do not see. (11:1) Today, we have the opportunity to have a relationship with God through Christ who fulfilled one of those promises of long ago to our forefathers, a promise of one who would come into this world as our Savior (Isaiah 7:14).

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Superheroes

EstherPeter Parker (a.k.a. Spider man) and Bruce Wayne (a.k.a. Batman) share a few things in common that run deeper than the obvious fact that they are fictitious characters possessing a particular “superpower” that makes them into the superhero they are. Like many of us they each have a story, a story that shapes and defines who they are. Both of these unlikely heroes share a similar start in life, both were orphaned as young children and were raised with the help of family and friends. Both went through some sort of transformation that led them to a place where they were compelled to do good and save the lives of many people.

As I read through Esther, I read her story like that of a real life superhero. She shares a similar story to that of our fictitious characters described above. Orphaned as a child she was raised by her cousin Mordecai and through God’s plan for her life she was used to save the lives of many people. The record of Esther’s story is one of those inspiring tales of faith and action that has us sitting on the edge of our seat waiting for what comes next. Esther’s faith in God becomes clear to me when she speaks these words: “And if I perish, I perish” (4:16). Esther’s actions from this point on, put her own life at risk. Presenting herself to the King without request by him was punishable by death. It was because of her courageous faith that she was able to face death in order to save her people from being destroyed.

Often there is a sense of secrecy that surrounds the life of a superhero, this is true for Esther as well. Chapter 2:10 tells us that “Esther had not revealed her nationality and family background because Mordecai had forbidden her to do so”. Esther’s story unfolds and eventually her true identity is revealed through her appeal for the king to help save her people. Through Esther’s story we read how God plans and directs all the events in her life, how one circumstance led to another working to save the people and ultimately bring honor and glory to His name. The same can be said about our lives, as we grow in our faith I believe God also calls us to grow in living that faith out in action. Esther faced challenges and victories just as we will in our own lives, we need to have courageous faith, fearless hope and unwavering trust in God for all that He does.

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