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Posts Tagged ‘Faith’

prodigalgodTim Keller is the Senior Pastor of Redeemer Church in Manhattan. He’s an intellectual, and a really good one. What I mean is he’s really smart! Like YODA smart! But more importantly, he’s a pastor. Coupled with his awesome brain-power is an equally inspiring compassion for people. Truly a rare combo.

In his recent book, The Prodigal God, Keller deconstructs legalism and the pitfalls of dutiful religion. In his introduction, Keller explains that he wrote the book for faith seekers, as well as Christian faith insiders who may benefit from a fresh approach to the gospel. If you are either, which means everyone, you’ll benefit from this book.

Keller opens by explaining that the word ‘prodigal’ has been misrepresented and its true definition is not ‘wayward’ but instead means ‘recklessly extravagant’ or ‘having spent everything’. He goes on to explain the good news of the gospel message in a fresh way and how God has recklessly spent everything on us. I highly recommend it!

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What’s NOT in the Bible

Just finished reading the gospel of John this week and some things really struck me. Not only things that were in there, but this time some things that were not.

For example in chapter 8, when the Pharisees brought a promiscuous woman to Him, what did Jesus write in the sand? In Chapter 11, just before raising Lazarus from the dead, what caused “a deep anger” (The Message) to well up within Him? Not once… but twice?

These are moments I’ve heard others speculate about, but a different one struck me on this reading. One that I can not remember hearing someone speak to. The moment is in chapter 13. After reading it I was riveted with the question, “What was it like when Jesus washed Judas’ feet?” We know that Judas had already decided to betray Jesus (v. 2). We also know that Jesus was aware of Judas’ intent (v. 11). But what we don’t know is how that moment went down.

I think about what was going through Jesus’ mind while He took Judas’ feet and wiped them clean, all while knowing Judas’ motives were filthier than a pig’s hoof on a hot summer day (if you get my drift). I think about what kind of emotions were probably displayed by Jesus who often wore His heart on His sleeve. I also wonder if Judas displayed any emotions. Mostly though, I think about what it must have been like for Jesus to bend down and serve the man He knew was about to turn on Him. And honestly I have a hard time wrapping my brain around it.

I could pontificate here or attempt to tie this post up in a nice little bow. However, I’m not sure how. (And please don’t misunderstand this brief post or its title as a defense for overlooking the countless lessons and boundless wisdom readily available in the Scriptures.) I will say that if you’re looking for them, lessons can sometimes be found from what’s NOT in the Bible. And from this specific passage, lessons for people who have been betrayed, and even greater lessons for us betrayers.

That’s the best little bow I’ve got. Any thoughts?

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A little over a year ago, my family relocated to Tallahassee, Florida, from Birmingham, Alabama. Over the past year, Blake has had the opportunity to visit with some of his friends from Birmingham on occasion. He always enjoys hooking back up with his buddies. There are a couple of little guys that as soon as they see each other it is as if we never moved. I love that!

Well out of nowhere tonight, Blake mentioned that he had not seen one of his friends in a long time. He was indeed correct. Over the past year I think Blake had only seen this friend one time. Then Blake followed up with something very interesting. He said, “Man! It’s been so long since I’ve seen him that I forgot the sound of his voice!”

Wow! Forgot the sound of his voice! What an amazing statement from my 7 year old little man. While it saddened me a little bit (even though Blake wasn’t sad when he said it… it was just a matter of fact to him), I found his sincere words to be helpful in my journey of faith!

I never… ever, ever, EVER… want to forget the sound of God’s voice! I want it to be as distinct as the smell of my grandmother’s house, and I want it to be as familiar as my favorite chair. I want it to be as comforting as my wife’s, “I love you”, but I want it to be as disturbing as a police siren when if I’m pushing the speed limit.

I know it is always just ahead of me, and I hope to always follow it!

“…he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know HIS voice.” – John 10:4b

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Yesterday, I was watching my friend Jerad hold his newborn baby girl. There was this really, really cool moment when I caught him just watching her. She wasn’t talking, smiling, crying, or doing anything to demand his attention. In fact… she was asleep! She was just… there! And he couldn’t take his eyes off of her. He was simply watching her… and smiling.

This is what our prayer time should look like. We don’t have to jump, yell, be repetitive, or be in the correct posture to get God’s attention. Like a father who is smitten with his newborn baby, all we have to do is show up. And when we show up, I believe God is there. He is watching… and He is smiling.

But too often when we approach God we get caught up with feelings of guilt and shame. We feel like we don’t measure up and we’re consumed with reminders of where we’ve fallen short. Because of those emotions and self-accusations, we sometimes try to overcompensate with unwarranted methods in our prayers.

Honestly, looking back at times of prayer in my life, I think I may have missed it. I was trying to prove myself in my prayers or was ‘doing’ a prayer out of obligation. When in reality, I think God just wanted to take me into His arms and shield me from the cares of this world. As hard as it is to imagine, He was content to just BE with me! And even when I didn’t know how to ask for it, He wanted to give me exactly what I needed… His embrace!

“The world is full of so-called prayer warriors who are prayer-ignorant.

They’re full of formulas and programs and advice,

peddling techniques for getting what you want from God.

Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him.”

Matthew 5:7-8, The Message

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Erwin McManus is one of my favorite authors, and I just started his most recent book, Wide Awake, over the weekend. It’s one of those books that has hit me in the right place at the right time. It’s all about dreaming with your eyes open and discovering the future that is waiting within you.

Erwin writes that sometimes the limitations we’re willing to accept establish the boundaries of our existence. He challenges us that our dreams, by their very nature, should stretch us.

If your dreams are supposed to be bigger than your life,

then your life will always be limited by the size of your dreams.

How BIG are YOUR dreams? What limitations are currently on YOUR life by your SMALL dreams?

If you could give your life to ONE THING, what would it be? And if you’re not currently pursuing that ONE THING I gotta’ ask… WHY NOT?

Go after it! Dream BIG and Trust GOD!! Life’s too short not to!

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I regret that the love of reading did not begin to surface until later in life for me. For that reason, I’m playing catch up on many of the classics. And while it is a new classic (1978), I recently picked up Foster’s Celebration of Discipline and I’ve throughly enjoyed it.

Living a simplistic life in my current culture is often a struggle. While I’m certain God has not called us all to a monastic lifestyle, I’m also certain that I have too easily and too readily rationalized unnecessary self-indulgences. Foster discusses many principles for living a life of simplicity. Below are 5 of them and where they ‘hit’ me.

1. Buy things for their usefulness rather than their status. (Why am I drawn to certain brands of clothes? I don’t think it is because they’re useful.)

2. Develop a habit of giving things away. (I’ve got too much stuff !)

3. Refuse to be propagandized by the custodians of modern gadgetry. (But my iPod and TiVo are useful!?! [back to #1] Right? I digress.)

4. Develop a deeper appreciation for the creation. (When is the last time I just enjoyed a walk in the park? I know this, I don’t do it often enough.)

5. Reject anything that breeds the oppression of others. (Are my buying habits affecting the lives of others in oppressive ways? I’m not certain. I can make more of an effort to educate myself though.)

I’ve found these principles to be very helpful personally, but also helpful as a dad trying to raise kids who are not consumed with consumerism.

Do you find these helpful? Do any of them ‘hit’ you?

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Servant of the Gospel

In many of my recent readings and some of my favorite podcasts, the importance and centrality of the gospel has been a running theme. Then, yesterday morning during my Bible reading, Paul describes the good news of the gospel in Colossians 1:15-23. When I came to the end of this passage, it stopped me in my tracks.

This is the gospel you heard… and of which I,

Paul, have become a servant. – Colossians 1:23b

Paul calls himself a servant. Not a servant of God, not a servant of Jesus, but a servant of the gospel ! WOW! I was floored. Literally. I was face down praying and hoping to live, love, and speak in such a way as to be worthy of that title… A Servant of the Gospel!

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