Friday, November 27, 2009

Blessed are the Peacemakers

If you were able to look at my profile page on Facebook right now you would become informed rather quickly on some very exciting news in my life: I am an Auntie! My sister and her husband had their first child, Caleb and I must say, HE IS ADORABLE. He is only a few days old but I can already see similarities in facial features with his parents. At this point, I can easily see that he has his father's nose (my brother begs to differ but what does he know right? :) As Caleb continues to grow, I know he will continue to develop facial features and other characteristics like his parents. In the same way, as we develop in our relationships with Christ, we too take on the "features" of God. One of these features is described in the Matthew 5:9 which states:

"Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called sons of God" ESV

A quality of God's is that He has peace. Check-out these verses to describe this quality of peace and His desire to give peace:

"For this is what the LORD says: "I will extend peace to her like a river, and the wealth of nations like a flooding stream; you will nurse and be carried on her arm and dandled on her knees." Isaiah 66:12 NIV

"I will make a covenant of peace with them; it will be an everlasting covenant. I will establish them and increase their numbers, and I will put my sanctuary among them forever." Ezekiel 37:26 NIV

"Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid." John 14:27 NIV

"Again Jesus said, "Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you."
John 20:21 NIV

"since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ," Romans 5:1 NIV

"The God of peace be with you all. Amen." Romans 15:33 NIV

"For God is not a God of disorder but of peace." 1 Corinthians 14:33 NIV

"[ Final Greetings ] Finally, brothers, good-by. Aim for perfection, listen to my appeal, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you." 2 Corinthians 13:11 NIV

"And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." Philippians 4:7

Whew. Ok, I am going to stop there for now. I cannot tell you how many verses talk about "peace" with many of them coming from personal quotes of Jesus to people saying "Peace be with you" in the New Testament. In the same sense, I think it is also important to say that there are just as many verses that talk about Jesus not merely coming to bring peace, but a "sword." Jesus came to bring justice as well but for the sake of theme of this devotional, we will continue to focus on the peace aspect of Jesus--keeping in mind that He has many qualities.

Additionally in Matthew 5:9, it not only says peace but it ties-in the word "maker." A "peace-maker." Pastor Rick described this as someone who "actively seeks to make peace." Peace does not just exist out of thin-air (unless God miraculously bestows it upon someone). Most of the time, peace has to be created or made between two parties. Here are a few more verses pertaining to the "making of peace."

"Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace." Ephesians 4:3 NIV

"Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification." Romans 14:19

Probably the most notable example of showing peace was in the death of Jesus Christ:

"19For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, 20and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross. " Colossi ans 1:19-20 NIV

This passage in Colossi ans is incredibly powerful so I encourage you to read it in its entirety but as you can see that God desired to "reconcile himself all things and this was done through the blood, shed on the cross." Pretty amazing huh?

In conclusion, the verse says that those who make peace shall be called "sons of God." This verse is cross referenced with another passage that talks about being "children of God" (Romans 8:14). So just like a resemblance of a father to a son in facial features exist, making peace can be a quality in which we resemble God in.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Fruits of the Spirit Series:Kindness

Kindness—Fruits of the Spirit Galatians 5 and Various Scriptures

Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges and… did you get the next one right? It was one of those books in the Bible that always got me in memorizing them as a child in Sunday school. After the book of Judges, a small, almost forgotten book is located called “Ruth.” Do you remember the story of Ruth? I wanted to revisit the first two chapters as a way to illustrate one of the fruits of the Spirit, kindness. Like gentleness, the fruit of kindness is somewhat overlooked in the “fruit bowl” but it has an authentic significance in describing the character of our Amazing God. Be sure to read the text for yourself, but I thought I would somewhat summarize it for the sake of bringing in other passages to define this word, kindness.

There was a famine in the land of Judah and so a man by the name of Elimelech, his wife, Naomi as well as his two sons, Mahlon and Kilon all traveled to Moab to live. Shortly after, Elimelech passed away and Naomi was left with her two sons. Mahlon and Kilon married two Moabite women named Oprah and Ruth. Ten years later, both of Naomi’s sons passed away—so she was left alone with her two widowed, daughter-in-laws. Naomi heard that the Lord had provided for his people in the land of Judah and so she was preparing to go back. She told her daughter-in-laws to return back to their mother’s homes because it was better for them. They must have been very close because they wept several times over the idea departing from one another. They both resisted at first and then Oprah left while Ruth remained or “clung” to Naomi. Ruth expressed her devotion to Naomi and said:

“"Don't urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. 17 Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the LORD deal with me, be it ever so severely, if anything but death separates you and me." 18 When Naomi realized that Ruth was determined to go with her, she stopped urging her.”

So they traveled back to Bethelham with one another and lived together. There Ruth began working in the fields to provide for Naomi and herself. A man named Boaz owned the field in which Ruth worked in. He was actually a relative of Naomi and was an upright man. He took notice to Ruth and said:

11 Boaz replied, "I've been told all about what you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband—how you left your father and mother and your homeland and came to live with a people you did not know before. 12 May the LORD repay you for what you have done. May you be richly rewarded by the LORD, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge."

Ruth didn’t have to stay with Naomi just like Boaz didn’t have to protect Ruth while she was in the fields and allow her to work, and later on—marry her; but they did. A close relative to the word kindness is grace in the sense that it goes against what is the natural, selfish reaction to a less than ideal situation. The Old Testament is littered with examples of God’s kindness to his people and in the New Testament, this kindness was ultimately manifested into grace and mercy of our salvation in Jesus Christ.

So why is it important to show kindness? In Romans 1, our identity as followers of Christ is explained in an analogy of grafted branches. We were given the choice to follow Christ and therefore were grafted in the family of God based off of the kindness that God bestowed on us through his Son Jesus Christ. It says in verse 22 however, that if we do not continue in his kindness, we will be cut off.

“Consider therefore the kindness and sternness of God: sternness to those who fell, but kindness to you, provided that you continue in his kindness. Otherwise, you also will be cut off.” Romans 11:22

Seems like a pretty good reason to be kind doesn’t it? Another purpose behind this fruit and why it is a part of list of fruits of the Spirit, is found in 2 Peter:

3His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. 4Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.
5For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; 6and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; 7and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. 8For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9But if anyone does not have them, he is nearsighted and blind, and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins.
10Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure. For if you do these things, you will never fall, 11and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

I love this passage of scripture because it explains that God has given us everything we need for life and godliness and that we GET to participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption of the world. The next few verses have this picture of building blocks of qualities that lead to a peak of love. One of these crucial building blocks that is actually right before the peak of love is “brotherly kindness.” And it says that “if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Wow. Do you ever feel ineffective and unproductive in your walk with Christ? There is quite a bit of an overlap between the qualities listed here and in Galatians 5, so even the repetitiveness of these fruits reveal the importance of them to God. Do you have a desire to be effective and productive in the ministry God has placed you in? Maybe begin with this list in both Galatians and 2 Peter and pray through these qualities; asking God to reveal specific opportunities that you can practice them. It’s tough---so tough to show kindness to people who are more like our enemies but it says later on in that passage in 2 Peter that “ if you do these things, you will never fall, ‘and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savoir Jesus Christ.” Your situation may be less than ideal right now and being kind is the last thing on your mind, but think of Ruth. She lost her husband, brother-in law and father-in law. She knew she had the freedom to go back to her home and possibly re-marry someone else but she saw that Naomi didn’t have anyone: she lost her husband and both her sons! Ruth understood the big picture in all of this and she was rewarded for it.

Are You Spiritually Over-weight?

Spiritually Over-weight
A Devo from James 1: 19-27 & 2:14-26

I’m sure by now you are well aware of the growing obesity epidemic among most Americans physically, but are you aware of the trend in our churches of spiritual obesity? It may be somewhat of a far-fetched analogy but the parallelism between the analogy and actuality is startling. Allow me to explain. What causes an individual to become physically overweight? Basic nutrition principle: the more food you take in the more energy you must exert in order to maintain a current weight. If one desires to lose weight he or she must exert more energy than what he or she is taking in. Very basic, basic principles. Similarly, we as Christians take in a lot of church on a weekly basis. The following is the weekly “diet” of a typical church in America: church services on Sundays, prayer meetings, small groups, annual short-term local and international mission trips including fundraiser events, church potlucks, Bible schools, Bible camps, youth conventions and concerts, couples retreats, and even coffee with the Pastor on Thursday mornings (whew! To name a few). A majority of these take place safely inside the walls of the church where it is easy to be a believer. It is easy to serve one another and to give. It’s fun to be a Christian at church just like it’s fun to eat out at your favorite restaurant. But when you have to actually leave the bubble and go back into the real world where there are hurting, starving and frustrated people, it’s just easier to remain stationary and not “spiritually exercise.” It’s too risky! People may think you’re weird, a push-over or an over-achiever.

I look at Christ’s ministry located in the Gospels and find it somewhat interesting that it was rare to find Jesus in a temple. A majority of his parables, his miracles, his profound speeches and conversations all took place outside the walls of the church. Jesus exercised a lot! Don’t get me wrong, He sought out quiet times and fellowship with his disciples. We too are to enjoy the fellowship with other believers, to enjoy corporate worship and to encourage our pastor. But that isn’t it. That isn’t what being a Christian is all about—just like you can’t just eat and take-in food without expending some of that energy in a form of exercise. The body, physically, would not be as efficient and healthy if you did not exercise. Similarly, the body, spiritually, is not going to be as efficient and effective if it does not exercise. The Bible is living and active. In order for the Truth to penetrate the hearts of non-believers and for it to make sense, you have to exercise what it says. James 2:14-26 speaks directly on the topic of “Faith without Works is Dead”

Faith Without Works Is Dead-ESV (
14What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith(A) but does not have works? Can that faith save him? 15(B) If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, 16(C) and one of you says to them, "Go in peace, be warmed and filled," without giving them the things needed for the body, what good[a] is that? 17So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.
18But someone will say, "You have faith and I have works." Show me your faith(D) apart from your works, and I will show you my faith(E) by my works. 19(F) You believe that God is one; you do well. Even(G) the demons believe—and shudder! 20Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless? 21(H) Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? 22You see that(I) faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed(J) by his works; 23and the Scripture was fulfilled that says,(K) "Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness"—and he was called a(L) friend of God. 24You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. 25And in the same way was not also(M) Rahab the prostitute justified by works(N) when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? 26For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.

James is not saying that our salvation comes from doing good works. He says that belief is simply not enough; your belief should compel you into doing good works because of our good God. God is good. If we believe in a good God, don’t we also want to participate in good works? Good works is faith being exercised. An athlete consumes a food that was high quality and sustaining energy it is going to show in the way he or she performs. In summary, I wanted to remind you of what Pastor Rick touched on at Oasis this past week. Pastor Rick shared the title of the book “The Hole in the Gospel” by Richard Stearns and the penetrating words in the prologue involving the current status of most of our churches in America:

“How could the great tragedy of these orphans get drowned out by the choruses of praise music in hundreds of thousands of churches across our country?”

Disturbing isn’t it? Can you picture our worship services taking place here in America and the millions of orphans and widows both in America and across the world crying? James 1:19-27 says this:

“Hearing and Doing the Word
19(A) Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person(B) be quick to hear,(C) slow to speak,(D) slow to anger; 20for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. 21Therefore(E) put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with(F) meekness the implanted word,(G) which is able to save your souls.
22But be(H) doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. 23For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. 24For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. 25But the one who looks into the perfect law,(I) the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts,(J) he will be blessed in his doing.
26If anyone thinks he is religious(K) and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s(L) religion is worthless. 27Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this:(M) to visit(N) orphans and widows in their affliction, and(O) to keep oneself(P) unstained from the world.

To re-iterate verse 27 “ Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this to visit orphans and widows in their affliction and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” Wow. Do you have that definition of religion written in your heart? If not, I suggest seeking-out the Lord today and asking Him to push you out the door, strap on your running shoes and begin putting the Word, your “Spiritual Food” into practice.


Taste and See that the Lord is Good!

“Taste and See that the Lord is Good!”—a Devotional from Oasis 9/12/09

Matthew 9:27-34 and other passages

You are a remarkable human being; did you know that? (I’m sure you’re already thinking to yourself, “I like this devotional!”) But seriously, you have been created with amazing abilities; you may deny that statement thinking to yourself “ I’m not athletic, I can’t sing, or speak well.” Never mind those kinds of abilities, I mean the way God has blessed you with senses. Sight, smell, sound, taste and touch. Each sense has been uniquely designed with a specific function. This past Sunday, Pastor Rick spoke on the message of “God of this City” emphasizing on belief. He referenced from Matthew 9, a treasure-chest of miracles performed by Jesus. Pastor Rick highlighted the story of “Jesus Heals the Blind the Mute” in verses 27-34.

Jesus Heals the Blind and Mute
27As Jesus went on from there, two blind men followed him, calling out, "Have mercy on us, Son of David!"
28When he had gone indoors, the blind men came to him, and he asked them, "Do you believe that I am able to do this?"
"Yes, Lord," they replied.
29Then he touched their eyes and said, "According to your faith will it be done to you"; 30and their sight was restored. Jesus warned them sternly, "See that no one knows about this." 31But they went out and spread the news about him all over that region.
32While they were going out, a man who was demon-possessed and could not talk was brought to Jesus. 33And when the demon was driven out, the man who had been mute spoke. The crowd was amazed and said, "Nothing like this has ever been seen in Israel."
34But the Pharisees said, "It is by the prince of demons that he drives out demons."
A ridiculously powerful piece of scripture isn’t it? Man! My head spins just thinking of how powerful our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is. To think that he can take a pair of blind eyes and immediately grant sight to the individual is nothing short of a medical mystery. No lasers or surgical procedures; just faith.
You may have 20/15 vision, but are your eyes capable of seeing the beauty of God’s creation in nature around you or images of lost and hurting? You may have the nose of a blood hound, but have you ever smelled the intoxicating aroma of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ? You may have the capability to hear sounds from miles away, but have you ever heard the whispers of God in moments of fear or the cries of orphans and widows? You may have the taste-testing ability of Napoleon Dynamite in a FFA Dairy Foods competition, but have you tasted the sweetness of the Word of God like honey from a honey comb or the contaminated water from a well in a third world country? You may have the ability to feel the softness of a down pillow but have you ever touched the scars of Christ’s hands and side like Thomas or the cuts of a teen-age girl from self-mutilation?
Friends, when we approach the throne of the Almighty God through his son Jesus Christ, we have full access to the enhancement of these already remarkable senses to an entirely different level. Not only, do we get to experience the fullness of God in all of his splendor and majesty but we can see the devastation of this world the way he sees it. We can see the needs of the lost, hurting and broken just like he does.
Do you believe you can experience God in an entirely different way than ever before? In the book “The Pursuit of God” A.W. Tozer describes the experience of God best by referencing specific scriptures relating to our senses:
“O taste and see that the Lord is good” (Psalm 34:8); “All is thy garments smell of myrrh, and aloes, and cassia out of the ivory palaces” (45:8) ; “My sheep hear my voice” (John 10:27). “Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God” (Matthew 5:8).
Tozer continues with commentary to follow these passages:

“What can all this mean except that we have in our hearts organs by means of which we can know God as certainly as we know material things through our familiar five senses? We apprehend the physical world by exercising the faculties given us for that purpose, and we possess spiritual faculties by means of which we can know God and the spiritual world if we will obey the Spirit’s urge and begin to use them.”

Is it possible that our five senses are not merely meant for physical sight, sound, smell, taste and touch but to experience the Almighty God, our Creator? Could the act of believing in God and entrusting your life to his Son truly “open your eyes” as Christ did to the two men in Matthew 9. Pastor Rick asked us to utilize the time we had in prayer Sunday evening to specifically ask God to deepen our abilities to believe in Him; have you done that today? God desires to be seen, heard, smelled, tasted and touched; have you experienced Him that way today?


Blessed are the Poor in Spirit

“How to Become Poor” a devotional from Matthew 5

In a city, it is not uncommon to pass by several homeless people. Some may be lying on a park bench, others sitting with a hazy stare still others maybe in search of food in a nearby trash can. Or what about in Brookings, South Dakota: more and more, homeless individuals are becoming prevalent in the current economic crisis in small, Midwest communities. You may see a person standing on the side of the road, trying to either get a meal, money or transportation to a different town. They all seem pretty desperate don’t they? They seem as though they have no shame in standing by the road with a sign day after day admitting, “I need help!”

I had the privilege of participating in a “poverty simulation” with some students at a camp I’ve worked at the past two summers. The directors of this poverty simulation wanted our group to experience what it was truly like to be homeless for four days. We traded in our expensive clothes for second-hand, non-fitted clothing. We slept outside in sleeping bags with trash bags to keep the dew from soaking through. We had limited use of the restroom and no showers. We had occasional opportunities to eat but we never knew when, what and how much. The climax of the poverty simulation took place on the last day when we actually begged for meals in downtown St. Louis. The looks, the stares were hurtful but it didn’t matter; we were in desperation and in need of food.

This past Sunday at Oasis, Pastor Rick’s message was not on “How to help the poor and the needy,” but rather “How to be poor; poor in Spirit.” So often we read a passage about being poor and we think it means “selling everything” and living a sacrificial life. Well, in a sense, when we decide to follow Jesus, we are leaving everything to follow Him but how does one truly become ‘poor in spirit’? How does one make his or her spirit ‘poor’? And what is the worth of becoming poor? Let’s look at the passage in Matthew 5 in context with the other beatitudes to get a better idea of it’s meaning.

The Sermon on the Mount
1Seeing the crowds,(A) he went up on the mountain, and when he(B) sat down, his disciples came to him.
The Beatitudes
2And(C) he opened his mouth and taught them, saying:
3(D) "Blessed are(E) the poor in spirit, for(F) theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4"Blessed are(G) those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
5"Blessed are the(H) meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
6"Blessed are those who hunger and(I) thirst(J) for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
7"Blessed are(K) the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
8"Blessed are(L) the pure in heart, for(M) they shall see God.
9"Blessed are(N) the peacemakers, for(O) they shall be called(P) sons[a] of God.
10(Q) "Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for(R) theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11(S) "Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely(T) on my account. 12(U) Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for(V) so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” So Jesus is saying that if I become poor in the spirit, that I can inherit the kingdom of heaven? A cross-reference to this passage is found in Luke 12:32 which says:

"Fear not, little(B) flock, for(C) it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you(D) the kingdom.

Indeed Christ is saying that we will inherit a kingdom if we become poor in spirit. So how does one do that? A commentary provided by John Gill may shed some light on the statement of becoming poor in spirit, he writes:

“The greater part of mankind are insensible of this their condition; but think themselves rich, and increased with goods: there are some who are sensible of it, who see their poverty and want, freely acknowledge it, bewail it, and mourn over it; are humbled for it, and are broken under a sense of it; entertain low and mean thoughts of themselves; seek after the true riches, both of grace and glory; and frankly acknowledge, that all they have, or hope to have, is owing to the free grace of God. Now these are the persons intended in this place; who are not only "poor", but are poor "in spirit"; in their own spirits, in their own sense, apprehension, and judgment: and may even be called "beggars", as the word may be rendered; for being sensible of their poverty, they place themselves at the door of mercy, and knock there; their language is, "God be merciful"; their posture is standing, watching, and waiting, at wisdom's gates, and at the posts of her door; they are importunate, will have no denial, yet receive the least favour with thankfulness. Now these are pronounced "blessed", for this reason not only the Gospel, and the ministration of it, which belongs to them. "The poor have the Gospel preached": it not only reaches their ears, but their hearts; it enters into them, is applied unto them, they receive and embrace it with the utmost joy and gladness; but eternal glory, this is prepared for them, and given to them; they are born heirs of it, have a right unto it, are making meet for it, and shall enjoy it.” John Gill Commentary (

Being poor in the spirit simply means recognizing the poverty-ridden-state of your heart. You have nothing without the grace and mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ. You cannot do anything to obtain salvation; it is a gift from God. Just like my group wandering around the streets downtown St. Louis begging for food, we as people first must recognize we are in need—we are hungry. You may have been able to curve your hunger pains for love, acceptance and joy in this life in temporary things like money, success or relationships but far too often discovered that they went away, leaving you even more hungry than before. Or maybe you’ve been sustained by simply going to church once a week, listening to Christian music and praying before every meal. Being a Christ-follower is so much more than that. It starts with a recognition of your bankruptcy in life and then allowing it to ‘enter into them, is applied unto them, they receive and embrace it with the utmost joy and gladness.” I cannot express the happiness that filled my heart when my group received a free meal at a little Chinese restaurant in St. Louis. Being a meat and potato-girl, I am not one who always likes Oriental food but I can say that cleaned that plate and was so satisfied. Imagine what Christ’s body and blood will do to satisfy your hunger.


Blessed are those that Mourn

Blessed are those who mourn—a devo from Matthew 5

As a little girl, I can recall numerous times that my curiosity got the best of me and I broke something. Lamps, mom’s kitchen glassware, Barbie’s heads (what—I wanted to see if she had an esophagus!) even my brother’s little farm machinery (whoops—he may not even know about that one!). But the idea of breaking something devastated me and almost paralyzed me; I felt so horrible. We as people, don’t like the term ‘broken’ and see it as a negative term. We as Christian’s however can have somewhat of a mixed perspective on this word 'broken' because Jesus Christ truly revealed beauty in the broken.

Pastor Rick spoke on the beatitude in Matthew 5 “Blessed are those who mourn for they will be comforted.” We can mourn ourselves, for loved ones and for people we may not even know. With the Sex-Trafficking Awareness Week on campus last week, he touched a lot on the suffering and the torture that millions, of mostly women and children, experience all over the world—including right here in South Dakota, in sex-trade. We as the body are to mourn and grieve with these individuals and hopefully our tears propel us into helping put an end to it. But for this devotional, I wanted to take a different angle on the beatitude shed some light on how mourning or being broken allows us to be more like Christ.

There are several instances throughout God’s Word that deals with this topic of being broken. In Exodus 32:19, Moses is carrying the Ten Commandments down the mountain after just encountering the Almighty God—still glowing from His glory, and how does he find the Israelites? Partying and worshipping a golden calf. It says in verse 19 that he “threw down” the stone tablets and broke them. Wow. Do you see the silver-lining message behind that action? What is the first Commandment? “Thou shall have no other gods before me”? The word broken, in this sense, represents the pitiful state that we as people are in and how we are so quick to break the Law in which God has given us to honor Him. So maybe this example is not the most encouraging example of being broken but I promise you that as we move towards the New Testament, hope will rise and we’ll see beauty in the broken.

Probably two of my most favorite passages now lie within the book Psalms: Psalm 34 and 147. Psalm 34 is entitled “Taste and See That the Lord Is Good.” I have referenced this passage in previous devotionals on how tangible God is to us and how we can ‘taste, touch, smell, see and hear’ Him. But if you go just beyond verse eight, to verse 17-18 it says “When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears and delivers them out of all their troubles. The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.” The Lord is near to those who mourn and He saves the crushed in spirit; but we are to also cry out in moments of mourning and ask for His help to deliver us. We should be crying out to God right now to deliver the millions of individuals involved in sex-trade and to bring justice to those doing evil. In verse 16, it says that “The face of the Lord is against those who do evil, to cut off the memory of them from the earth.” Ouch! Is not God’s revenge in injustice so much sweeter than ours? Not only does He bring justice, but in Psalm 147, he brings “healing to the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” I know today’s medicine is pretty good stuff, but have you found a remedy for a broken heart? I didn’t think so---but God’s Word says that He can heal the brokenhearted and bind up their wounds.” Wow. Just after that verse it says that God goes onto “determine the number of the stars and gives to all o them their names.” Well, once you put it into that context, mending a heart doesn’t seem so complicated does it? I am not trying to deny the pain and suffering that takes place in our lives but I am saying that hope is beginning to rise with this term of ‘broken’ and it has not even met its climax point yet. Let’s continue to journey to the New Testament.

Pastor Rick touched on the story of Lazarus and how Jesus mourned with his family. A perfect example as to how we are to mourn with others. Christ mourned even knowing that he was going to raise Lazarus in a few days. I think it’s safe to say that it is important for us to grieve with one another. In Matthew 14, Jesus is feeding the five thousand. In verse 19 it says “He broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds.” In a sense, this passage is nothing but a foreshadowing of what was to come in a few more chapters. In chapter 26, Jesus is with his disciples and in verse 26 it says “ Jesus took the bread and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples “Take, eat, this is my body.” And he took a cup and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying “Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.”

Jesus’ body was broken; his side and his hands were penetrated with a spear and nails. His body was lashed hundreds of times. He was humiliated, mocked and tortured for hours only to be placed on a cross and abandoned to his death. He endured the cross so that you and I wouldn’t have to be ‘broken.’ He united the cliff that separated us from God with the sacrifice of his body. Do you see how there is actually beauty in the broken?

The neat thing about the beatitude “Blessed are those that mourn” is the second part “for they will be comforted.” Comforted. Although you may be experiencing a pain like none other in your life and do not know when the season of grief will end; is it not great to know that you will at least be comforted through it? Do you know that the Lord is near to you during this time, the same one who numbers the stars? The same Lord who fed the five thousand, raised Lazarus from the dead and then died on the cross for you? Do you not think that God is going to take care of you or those who are enslaved to sex-trade? You can mourn and have compassion—it is a part of being a Christ-follower; but do not loose hope and deny the beauty that is within being broken.

I think back to when I broke a glass of my mom’s and how she was upset at first but how much grace and mercy was bestowed upon me later. God’s grace and mercy is all the more abounding than a parent could even try to give a child. Jesus was God’s only son and it is in these times of brokenness that we are more like Christ!


Blessed are those who Hunger and Thirst

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness—A devo from Matt. 5

An analogy for this text is not hard to come by because we can all relate to what it feels like to be hungry and thirsty. It is remarkable how the body is designed to rely on food for nourishment. We have specific chemical cues to tell your brain when you are in need of food. Likewise, dry mouth and headaches are helpful reminders that we need to consume water. Do you ever hunger for something you’ve never tasted? Have you ever had an unquenchable thirst for something you have never drunk before? The cues for righteousness appear to be bit more difficult to identify; could this be because we as Christ-followers don’t completely understand the importance of righteousness? Maybe we have neglected to really sit-down and recognize the importance of it. What does it even mean to be righteous? What does it look like to desire this righteousness like one desires food or water? Obviously if Jesus is using it in comparison to something we need to live then it must have a degree of importance to us. The word “righteous” or “righteousness” is littered throughout the entire Bible. Let’s first look at some “Foundational Fathers” of the faith in the Old Testament to get a better idea of what this term means; then we can decide what hunger and thirst for it and also look at some text in Christ’s ministry.

What better place to begin our quest for an understanding of righteousness than to look in the book of Genesis. In Genesis chapter 6, Noah is introduced as a “righteous man, blameless in his generation. Noah walked with God.” It says in the English Standard Version (ESV) Commentary this:

“The Hebrew for blameless conveys the sense of being perfect, without evident flaw (although not necessarily sinless). Like Noah, Abraham is later required by God to walk before him blameless (17:1). The positive attributes listed here are rarely ascribed to human beings in the OT”

So there are two primary components of being righteous in this passage: blameless and walking with God. In the previous chapter, chapter 5, a genealogy is being described and it is interrupted in verses 22-24 with the statement “Enoch walked with God,” The ESV commentary says that “the Hebrew verb for “walked” is a distinctive form that conveys the sense of an ongoing intimacy with God.” So the term righteousness is further described as having “an ongoing intimacy with God.” These “Foundational Fathers” were not perfect---these were merely men who in the moments they were tested, obeyed God. It says in Hebrews 10:7:

“By faith Noah, being warned by God concerning events as yet unseen, in reverent fear constructed an ark for the saving of his household. By this he condemned the world and became an heir of the righteousness that comes by faith.”

An heir of the righteousness that comes by faith. So Noah became righteous through the act of faith. This reflects the theme other statements throughout the New Testament in regards to righteousness:

“None is righteous, no, not one;” Romans 3:10-4:12 consists of three huge passages on the concept of righteousness first beginning with the fact that “No one is righteous.” God’s righteousness (Rom. 3:22) was shown through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. Righteousness then,, becoming blameless (as stated earlier), comes through faith in Christ Jesus.

“For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one mans’ obedience the many will be made righteous. Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Romans 5:19-21

In 1 John 3:7 it somewhat adds to this concept of righteousness in the sense that you as Christ-follower will be identified with righteousness in your life:

“Little children, let no one decive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous.” 1 John 3:7

We are expected, once we’ve received the righteousness through Christ as our Lord and Savior of our lives, to be like him and live in righteousness. No, it does not mean that we will be perfect and never sin again—but that we now are to be a slave to righteousness—being blameless, walking with God rather than being a slave to sin.

To relate this back to Rick’s message primarily focusing on hunger and thirsting for righteousness, it is important to first recognize that you are even hungry to begin with! This may seem odd to you because you may be saying to yourself “ Life is going great, I’m in college, I have a boyfriend/girlfriend and an awesome group of friends, I’m healthy, I have a future, why would I be in need or hungry for anything when I’m really satisfied?” If you’re in this state of being satisfied with life, maybe you need to take a step back and ask God to just open up your eyes to impurities in your life or areas of weaknesses. It’s not fun to say “Hey God, show me where I struggle in life so that I realize that I really need you.” But sometimes we allow this pride of “arriving in the faith” that we once we receive Christ that we don’t need Him to “save us” anymore. Did you know that being thirsty is actually a “late” sign of dehydration in the body? That you were actually dehydrated before you were thirsty? Similarly in our walks with Christ, we don’t hunger or thirst for him until we realize how much we need him when life really gets ugly. If we, as His children, would take the time and fill up on Him, whether in Word, fellowship, worship and prayer---we would most certainly not have to worry about becoming ‘dehydrated in Christ.’ Through the passages of His Word, we have recognized that in order to obtain righteousness, it can only come from Christ just like how in order to replenish your body’s needs for fluids, it can only come from water. We are dependent upon food and water just like we are to be dependent up on God. Don’t try to live without Him.


Blessed are the Meek

(Me and Aerial)
Blessed are the Meek-A devo-inspired by Oasis Message

-Matthew 5:5

Aerial, my horse, and I have been companions for about ten years now. She is the sweetest thing; chestnut-brown in color, a black mane and thick, beautiful tail and two white socks on her back legs. She has a white ‘strip’ down her face: adorable. I first got her when I was 11 and she was 9 years old. She had not been ridden for a while because her previous owner went off to college and did not have time to ride and show her like she had in the past. Now, Aerial is one of the sweetest, most gentle living things on the face of the earth. She seriously has to work at killing flies by slapping her tail against her body because she is just that nice (hehe!). Aerial however, is very head strong and I recall the first few months of riding her as a total-body, strength-conditioning class. Picture a little 11 year old girl, noodle-armed and scrawny-build trying to turn this massive 1200 lb animal around in the arena. To get her to stop literally took every muscle in my body down to flexor halucus longus in my big toe. Eventually, with lots of practice, Miss Aerial and I discovered that life was much more enjoyable when she submitted to my leading and directing. Soon we were doing patterns for English and western pleasure, reining, western riding and trail. Aerial and I went on to have a very, very successful showing career and developed an awesome friendship.
Ok, enough bragging about my horse, the point of this little analogy is to re-iterate what Pastor Rick spoke on at Oasis in Matthew 5 verse 5 on the beatitude :
“Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth.” ESV
What does my horse have anything to do with this passage of scripture? Well if you recall, Rick used the analogy of having a horse with a bit in its mouth and related it to how the bit does not take away the amount of strength and power within that horse: it merely harnesses the strength. Being meek is often looked at as a negative quality in today’s society. “Meek” has the false-definition of someone who is weak, powerless and a push-over. The Greeks would agree with this false-definition in the sense that they too saw it as a weakness to be meek-in-spirit. It is interesting however, how Jesus used this quality to describe a person who would actually inherit the earth. The English Standard Version Commentary says this:

“Meekness (Gk: prautes translated to gentleness in Gal. 5:23) was considered weakness by the Greeks, but Jesus elevated it to a primary Christian virtue (Matt. 5:5; 11:29) Meekness comes not from cowardice or passivity but rather from trusting God and therefore being set free from anxious, self-promotion.”

Let’s look at these two other passages mentioned within the commentary to get a better picture of what it truly means to be “meek”

Galatians 5:22-23: “ But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.”

This passage associates the quality of “gentleness” (interchangeably with meekness) as a ‘Fruit of the Spirit.’ If we were to use the Greek’s opinion of the definition of being meek, we would be saying that the Holy Spirit-God is weak, passive and a push-over. Yikes! Even though you cannot come close to comparing God’s strength to a human being, it would be as if we said that Arnold Schwarzenegger couldn’t lift a 5 lb weight. Meekness is an attribute and a gift from following the Spirit.

Matthew 11:29-30: “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.”

In this passage of scripture, Jesus is addressing the concept “Come to Me, and I will Give You Rest.” The cross-reference for verse 29 “for I am gentle and lowly in heart” is the beatitude in Matthew 5:5. Here again, Jesus-God is associating Himself with the quality of meekness. Why would he describe himself as weak and a push-over? I love this passage because it makes me just want to give Jesus a hug. The idea of Him being meek is so inviting and restful.

What about the second half of the verse: “for they shall inherit the earth.” Somewhat of an odd statement to make is it not? Again, let’s try to dissect the passage a bit by cross-referencing to get a better understanding.

A verse in Psalms parallels this Matthew 5:5 perfectly: “But the meek shall inherit the land and delight themselves in abundant peace” Psalm 37:11

Other verses include: Psalm 25:13, Proverbs 2:21, Isaiah 57:13, 60:21, Ezekiel 37:25 I am going to paraphrase these verses into four main points for time-sake but please take the time to read the verses yourself!

1) In regards to “fearing the Lord, his offspring shall inherit the land” (Psalm)
2) Upright will inhabit the land, and those with integrity will remain in it (Proverbs)
3) But he who takes refuge in me shall possess the land and shall inherit my holy mountain (Isaiah)
4) give the land that God gave to Jacob (Ezekiel)

All of these passages have a theme of land being given to certain group of individuals. Land is and was a big deal to receive. If you think about it, we base a lot of our identity off of where we live and where we came from. Texans never stop talking about where they are from; it’s usually the second adjective that comes out of their mouths when they introduce themselves “Hi, I’m so and so and I’m from Texas.” On a more serious note, inheriting the land can also represent the act of getting to be with Jesus and that “we have overcome the world” because of Him. The English Standard commentary says this referring to the verse in Proverbs 2:

“Verses 18-19 refer to the paths of death and life to indicated these paths ultimately lead, the upright will inhabit the land also looks not simply to the possibility of long life on earth but to the inheritance to which the path is headed (and contrasted with the wicked being cut off from the land.) For a similar reference to the “land” used in the context of wisdom language referring to the way of the wicked and the righteous see Ps. 37:11.”

So “inherit the earth” as you can see, has a much deeper meaning than just getting a piece of land: it is speaking of our inheritance as children of God in His Kingdom.

Aerial understood the importance of submitting to my pulling of the reigns because she obeyed her owner when I asked her to go right, left or to stop (along with some voice commands and cues from my feet!). She soon became so sensitive, that even the way my body was positioned on her back was a cue for what she was suppose to do and where she was suppose to go. That direct connection between a horse and rider is the kind of connection we should have with God. In moments of decision, we should simply sense the leading of God and immediately submit to that cue because we know that we will not only inherit the earth but it pleases Him!


Blessed are the Merciful

Blessed are the Merciful-a devo inspired by an Oasis Message on the Beatitudes
Matthew 5:7 and James 2

Karla Faye Tucker was a beautiful woman. If you had seen a picture of her just randomly, you would have assumed she was just a normal, happy and healthy woman. Karla was an axe murder but before her death, she was vibrant and joyfilled woman. Just over 10 years ago, Karla was the first woman to be executed since the 1860s. I was first introduced to her story at a camp that I worked at this past summer. A message was done on “Forgiveness” by one of our leaders and it really intrigued me. To think that this woman brutally murdered two people in one of the most horrifying deaths besides the cross could receive forgiveness simply blows my mind away. How could someone like Karla experience forgiveness? Yes, we always say “Well sins are not ranked and so a murder is the same as lying or committing adultery.” Which, by all means is true, but to think of the ramifications of committing a murder, not even a quick one but a painful, horrifying and grotesque murder with an axe. But even Karla Faye Tucker has experienced forgiveness and she is now in the place where, if you’ve committed your life to Christ, we desire to go after our own lives. She is in the presence of the living God; our Perfect, Holy and Righteous God, blameless in His sight. What about the pain here on earth though? What about the holes in the hearts of victim's family? One of the victim's names is Deborah and I would like to invite you to go to a link with a short video on where Deborah’s family stands, specifically her brother’s and how it truly depicts the scripture in Matthew 5:7 about Mercy.


Crazy is it not? Praise God for prison ministries. Karla came to know the Lord through a puppet show conducted at the Harris County Jail. The last moments of her life consisted of proclaiming the Truth and setting an example for all believers to live in freedom that comes through the mercy and grace from our Lord Jesus Christ.
It says in Matthew 5:7

“Blessed are the merciful for they shall receive mercy.”

The word “mercy” is thrown around a lot. I remember as a little child watching the television show, “Full House” and Uncle Jesse would always say “Have Mercy” when he received a kiss from Rebecca Donaldson. But I think mercy is a little deeper than that. What is mercy? It is often thought of as the same thing as grace, however in the message given by Pastor Rick last week, he used a statement to define the two words:
“Mercy is not receiving something you do deserve while grace is receiving something you don’t deserve.” So in the example of Karla Faye Tucker, she deserved to die. I won’t go into the whole debate of death row but focus more on the fact that we all deserve to die. We deserve hell for the sin in our lives. But, we can receive mercy through accepting Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, like Karla. We don’t deserve heaven because of the sin in our lives however, because of God’s grace through His Son, we get to experience eternity with Him, like Karla. Secondly, we need to recognize mercy is not a feeling; mercy is a choice. We can choose to be merciful and to receive mercy just like what Matthew 5:7 says. James 2:13 says this:
“For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.”

To set the tone of this passage, James, the half brother of Jesus, is addressing the body of believers that were in dispersion or the “assembly” (2:2). In chapter two, he is writing in regards to showing partiality to each other with the example of favoritism towards the rich. He somewhat scolds the body and questions them on this act of judgment. He speaks of how breaking one part of the law is the same as breaking the entire law. The closing statement of the passage however is verse 13, a verse of hope in the fact that mercy triumphs over judgment. Wow! Is that not so great! Do you realize the power you have been given by the blood of Jesus Christ? Can you fully comprehend the fact that you have the power to either judge which leads to death or the power to grant mercy, like our Great God and to receive life? If you choose to judge, you will be judged but if you choose to extend mercy, you will receive mercy. Simple concept but oh, so hard to follow through with is it not? Stop and think of a moment where you received mercy, even if it was just for something “small.” Do you recall the depth of mercy you received in that moment? Think of the depth of mercy that Karla felt when she realized that she was forgiven in God’s sight. Think of the weight that was lifted off of her shoulders knowing, yes, she would leave this world and die physically, but that she would live eternally with a God who was madly in love with her! That God is madly in love with you because he created this concept of mercy so that you too could experience an eternal life with Him. The brother of Deborah also understood this concept and he too obeyed these two passages. He was set free the anger and bitterness that came with the loss of his sister. God truly worked in this story and although it has a depressing overtone, our good God was able to show redemption at it’s finest and hopefully, you too will be impacted enough to choose mercy over judgment in your own life!

If you have a few extra moments, you should really check out these two other links—especially the interview on You Tube to hear and see first hand the transformation of Karla’s life!

An interview with Karla Faye Tucker and Larry King

The 700 Club Interview with Karla Faye Tucker

Blessed are the Pure in Heart

Beatitude: Blessed are the pure in heart-Oasis-Inspired devo Matthew 5:8

Approximately 100 miles below ground there is some pretty crazy things happening: the element carbon is transformed into diamonds. It is still somewhat of a mystery to scientists as to how the phenomenon works but it is believed that diamonds are made from carbon subjected to high heat and a ton of pressure. High heat meaning, 2200 degrees Fahrenheit and a pressure of 725,000 pounds per square inch. Now, I am not too fond of chemistry but for some reason this just really grabs my attention (Perhaps I am like every other girl who just loves shiny things---like diamonds!). To think that the same compound in the tip of my No. 2 pencil (carbon is commonly known as graphite), has the potential to become a breath-taking diamond is crazy! What is even more mind-boggling is that here on earth; there is an even greater transformation taking place inside of the human body: the purification of the heart.

Seriously. When you’re born, your heart is not really any different than a hunk of graphite. Jealousy, success, anger, money, popularity, insecurities, sexual immorality and sin in general, create these other elements of impurity in your heart until the moment you give your life over to Jesus Christ. When that happens, you are cleansed and made new by the washing of Christ’s blood much like a solvent purifies a solution or a metal.

Check out this verse in 1 John 1:6-9

“6If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth. 7But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all[b] sin. 8If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.9If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness”

It says that the "blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin." The washing of your “graphite heart” puts you into the position of being created into a diamond. Now, just because you make the commitment to be a Christ-follower, or a diamond in our analogy, doesn’t necessarily mean bam: I am a diamond! It has to undergo some pretty high heat and pressure. How does one maintain this purity over the course of a life in all the “pressure” and “heat” ? Check out this verse in Psalm 119:9:

“How can a young man keep his way pure? By living according to your word.”

“By living according to your word.” God’s word is so honest about sin and is so obvious about the penalties of living in the ways of the world. Sometimes the pressure and heat of life doesn’t come in the form of sin but just in trials and tribulations and God, in his goodness, uses these hard times to shape us and refine us.

James 1:2-4 NIV

“2Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. 4Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”

Psalm 6:10 NIV

“For you, O God, tested us; you refined us like silver.”

Isaiah 48:10 NIV

“See, I have refined you, though not as silver; I have tested you in the furnace of affliction.”

Zechariah 13:9 NIV

“This third I will bring into the fire; I will refine them like silver and test them like gold. They will call on my name and I will answer them; I will say, 'They are my people,' and they will say, 'The LORD is our God.' "”

Malachi 3:3 NIV

“He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver; he will purify the Levites and refine them like gold and silver.”

1 Peter 1:7 NIV

“These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.”

I think you get the idea: God is big into refining things. But why? Why is he so concerned with transforming our hearts? You see, God defines the word pure and in order for us to see Him, we need to be purified. Pastor Rick spoke on the beatitude in Matthew 5:8 which states:

“8Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.” NIV

In this message, Pastor Rick challenged us to seek the Lord on areas of our lives that need to be purified so that we can actually see God in the future.

John 1:8

“18No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only,[a][b]who is at the Father's side, has made him known.” NIV

Hebrews 12:14

“14Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord.” NIV

1 John 3:2

“2Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears,[a]we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.” NIV

Revelation 22:4

“4They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads.” NIV

Isn’t that great?!?!?! I am sorry but I cannot help but get excited to get to see the God of the Universe; my Savior and King. And this actually relates a little to our analogy in the sense that if you were to try and look through a hunk of carbon, you won’t be able to see anything, but if you were to look into a diamond that has been purified, it is clear and even reflective of itself. This somewhat relates to the verse in 1 John where it says “we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.”

My challenge for you today is to be like the Psalmist and ask God to “Create in me a pure heart, Oh God and renew a right spirit within me.” Ask God to either begin or continue to purify your heart so that when He comes, you will get to gaze upon something far more glorious than a diamond.

(Numbers and letters within the scripture used within the devotional have been copied from –check them out for cross-reference purposes!)

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Blessed are Those who are Persecuted

A few weeks ago, I was at an FCA event supporting a couple of the SDSU FCA students as they shared their testimonies. Afterwards we had a gentleman come up and visit with Jordan Paula, one of the SDSU football players, on the awesome season the Jacks were having and the upcoming games. I remember Jordan talked about going to Youngstown that weekend and how it was going to be a tough game; not only was the team decent and had been difficult to play in the past, but it was on “home turf” and so the spectators would also contribute to the fight of the game. He talked about how much people there loved football and how much they got into it. He said something along the lines of them needing to go into the game focused on the game and to not get distracted or intimidated by the multitude of voices surrounding them as they played. Immediately I had an analogy come to mind with our spiritual lives. Now, I am by no means claiming to be a football player (hehe), but in the same sense, when we make a commitment with Christ, we should expect to walk into the arena or playing field of confrontation. In fact, in John 15: 18-26, Jesus spoke to his disciples about the “world hating them without cause.” Although it’s a long passage, the words of Jesus summarize exactly (surprise, surprise right?) what came to mind that day I was listening to that conversation about “playing on someone else’s field.”

The World Hates the Disciples –
18"If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. 19If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. 20Remember the words I spoke to you: 'No servant is greater than his master.'[a] If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. 21They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the One who sent me. 22If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not be guilty of sin. Now, however, they have no excuse for their sin. 23He who hates me hates my Father as well. 24If I had not done among them what no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin. But now they have seen these miracles, and yet they have hated both me and my Father. 25But this is to fulfill what is written in their Law: 'They hated me without reason.'[b]
26"When the Counselor comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father, he will testify about me.

Even if the SDSU football team “performed miracles” in the way that they executed plays or put up a wall in defense, Youngstown was still going to ‘hate them.’ In the same way, Jesus performed miracle after miracle for these people and they still did not believe in him or the Father. This hatred was actually a fulfilled scripture from Psalm 35:19 or 69:4. These passages say this:

Psalm 35:19- NIV
19 Let not those gloat over me
who are my enemies without cause;
let not those who hate me without reason
maliciously wink the eye.
Psalm 69:4- NIV

4 Those who hate me without reason

outnumber the hairs of my head;
many are my enemies without cause,
those who seek to destroy me.
I am forced to restore
what I did not steal.

The English Standard Version Commentary says this about John 15:25

“Jesus declares that the Jews’ hatred of him fulfills OT scripture, specifically Psalm 69:4 (Psalm 35:19 and note on Isaiah 6:9-10). This Davidic psalm depicts the figure of a righteous sufferer who is zealous for God but is persecuted by God’s enemies for no good reason. Thus Jesus found a precedent for his enemies’ hatred toward him in the antagonism encountered by David. ‘Without Cause’ reminds believers that hatred and persecution against Jesus and his followers is often not because of any wrong that they have done but simply because of irrational evil in the hearts of the persecutors.”

Interesting how this perfectly ties into the beatitude discussed at both big church (Brookings Wesleyan Church) and Oasis on Sunday evening.

“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 5:10- ESV

For whatever reason, when faced with a trial, I immediately feel as though I have done something wrong to deserve the pain or suffering in my life, but in these passages—if the suffering is done out of a righteous act, it is said that you should be blessed! I love ‘suffering passages’ in the Bible because almost every single scripture verse is paired with this glimmer of hope. Check out John 16: 25-33, specifically verse 33:

“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart, I have overcome the world.”

Wow! In respect to our analogy of football, God’s already played and won the game for us! We don’t have to go into the opponent’s playing field and be fearful or ashamed but with peace and power! We are guaranteed to win no matter what. One final passage in
1 Peter 1:3-12 says this:

Praise to God for a Living Hope- NIV

3Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade—kept in heaven for you, 5who through faith are shielded by God's power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. 6In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. 7These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. 8Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, 9for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

10Concerning this salvation, the prophets, who spoke of the grace that was to come to you, searched intently and with the greatest care, 11trying to find out the time and circumstances to which the Spirit of Christ in them was pointing when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow. 12It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves but you, when they spoke of the things that have now been told you by those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven. Even angels long to look into these things.

The sufferings you face, no matter the degree,( “of all kinds” )your faith---greater than gold is being proved genuine resulting in praise and glory and honor when Jesus Christ comes. You are to be filled with “inexpressible joy” because you are winning the game, you have an eternal salvation. The people of the Old Testament sought after the coming Messiah and even angels long to fully understand salvation and YOU have it sitting right before you. How blessed we are to know Jesus Christ as our Savior so that we have this thing called ‘hope’ in times that we are suffering. I want to remind you, the Jacks won that night; I don’t know all the little details, but if they went in with the focus of winning the game no matter the sideline-conversations or the plays of Youngstown--we too should approach the battles we face everyday with the fact that we have nothing to fear for Christ says
“ Take heart; I have overcome the world.”

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Victory In Jesus

"Oh Victory, in Jesus, my Savior forever. He sought me and bought me with his redeeming blood. He loved me ere I knew Him and all my love is due Him. He plunged me to Victory beneath the cleansing flood.
I heard about his healing, of His cleansing power, revealing. How He made the lame to walk again and caused the blind to see. And then I cried 'Dear Jesus' come and heal my broken spirit' and somehow Jesus came and brought to me the victory!"
There is nothing more energizing and uplifting than to sing this old hymn in moments of fear. My mom, sister and I have sung this as a ladies trio on numerous occasions and included it as a track on a CD we made together a couple years ago. Whenever I feel as though I have to face something challenging or difficult, the phrase "Victory in Jesus" always finds its way to my thoughts and to my hand. (I usually write phrases/verses on my hand to meditate on throughout the day :) What is so comforting in this phrase? What does it even mean? For me, it means that I may face huge trials, encounter immense pain and be in a state of fear but I know, I know because of my relationship with Jesus Christ, that I will always be the victor in whatever battle I face in life. The victory does not come from my efforts or pursuits of perfection but rather in the acceptance of Christ's blood and HIS VICTORY over the grave and endless sin of the world. How can you not feel energized by this phrase in the following verses?

"You give me your shield of victory, and your right hand sustains me; you stoop down to make me great" Psalm 18:35

"With God we will gain the victory and He will trample down our enemies." Psalm 108:13

"But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!"

1 Corinthians 15:57

"for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith." 1 John 5:4

We cannot claim victory on our own--it is only through the Lord Jesus Christ. For me, that is actually more of a comfort because I know that I will fail; I know that I am weak and frail in so, so many areas of my life. So join me in allowing God to encourage us and be victorious through us today!

Friday, November 13, 2009


Is anything more beautiful than a woman on her wedding day? Everything in her wedding is tailored to making her simply glow: a white gown, her hair in curls and veiled, a bouquet of flowers bursting full of color and her eyes fixated on the man before her all make her absolutely breath-taking. The groom could not be anymore joyful as he awaits her coming down the isle. Two becoming one, united in a commitment that lasts an entire lifetime.

It truly is the climax to all love stories.

In Isaiah 62, this scene is played out only the bride is Zion, the body of believers, and the groom is the Lord.

"The nations shall see your righteousness, and all the kings your glory, and you shall be called by a new name that the mouth of the Lord will give." (v.2)

A woman often gives up her last name to take the name of her husbands, we too will receive a new name, a name is that is honorable. He alone will define who you are.

"You shall be a crown of beauty in the hand of the Lord, and a royal diadem in the hand of your God. You shall no longer be termed Azubah (Forsaken), and your land shall no more be termed Shemamah (Desolate), but you shall be called Hephzibah (My Delight is in Her), and your land Beulah (Married)

For as a young man marries a young woman, so shall your s sons marry you, and as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall your God rejoice over you." (v. 3-5)

Wow!!!!!!! I cannot help but beam from just reading this text! Can you not picture this day? Can you not understand the anticipation that we should feel in being united with our Savior and Lord Jesus Christ? Can you hear the sweet words "Hephzibah" whispered in your ears? And your identity established in the Lord and no one else. You will be the crown of beauty and a royal diadem in the hand of the Lord. You will no longer be a wallflower, a forsaken and dirty rag but a jewel, a gem in the hand of our God. The Lord is extending his hand in marriage through the blood of his son, Jesus Christ, have you said yes?

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus

(Image Link Below)

The song, "Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus" has really simple yet powerful lyrics:

"Turn your eyes upon Jesus, look full in his wonderful face and the things of earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of his glory and grace."

I was listening to a sermon by Francis Chan entitled " You Have Everything You Need," this morning and he used this song to emphasize that if we seek an intimacy with our Creator, that we have everything we need. He based the sermon off of a passage in 2 Peter 1 verses 1-4. It says this:

"Simeon Peter, a servat and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours by the rightesouness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ:

May grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and exellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire." ESV

I really encourage you to listen to the sermon yourself if you have time to get the full extent of what God is saying in this passage through Francis but I guess the area that convicted me the most is, I often see my faith as weak in comparison to someone like Francis, or Simeon Peter or even my friends. However, Peter says " to those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours." We have obtained our faith through the righteousness of God. Can you be anymore righteous than what was given to you by God? No! Peter did not obtain the righteousness of God and then had a little more because his name was Peter----it was all from God and it's all from God in your life as well!

The second area that really stirred in my heart this morning was that grace and peace comes through the knowledge of God. So often, I find myself seeking grace and peace through other things in my life: peace in accomplishing a goal or crossing things off of my to do list. "You know if I can just get through this week of tests and projects, then I will have peace in my life." Or " You know, when I get married and start my career, I will have fufillment in my life and be able to be at rest in my relationship with God." No! No! No!! Our grace and peace comes through the knowledge of God. Now this knowledge is not just "know things about God," it's KNOWING God. Do you believe that all your problems can be solved through having a more intimate relationship with Jesus Christ? It is says in 2 Corinthians 9:8

"And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work."

Do we really believe that? Do I live my life truly trusting that God is able to be all suffcient in all things at all times. We don't need anything more than to ask God for a more intimate relationship today.

To listen to the sermon:

Go to "Get a Sermon" bottom right corner

11/1/2009 "You have Everything You Need"

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Harvest Haze

(Image Link Below)

There's a haze that is being created right now across the Dakotas by thousands of farmers working towards bringing in this year's crops. I was driving down to Sioux Falls last night on I-29 and was overcome with this haze created from a nearby field. The haze was so thick that it was I was almost unable to see the car in front of me. I was immediately reminded of one of my favorite verses in Luke 10

"The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers for the harvest."

I was challenged by this analogy of the "Haze of Harvest." Am I, as a Christ-follower, pursuing the harvest of souls like those combines are working towards bringing in the harvest to the point of creating a haze? How thick is the haze your walk with Christ is creating? You may not always reap the evidence of your efforts in impacting the Kingdom, but you should see some degree of 'haze' in your life. Partner with me today in asking the Lord of the harvest, to cause a haze to be created as you love like our Lord Jesus Christ and bring others closer to their Creator.