God’s Power in You (Reflections of Ephesians 1)

In Ephesians 1, Paul prays that the Church would know and understand the power of God available to us. He then spends five or so verses describing this power.

First, Paul calls God’s power “exceedingly great,” using the phrase “hyperballo megethos.” This basically means “mega-hyperbole.” In other words, it’s entirely impossible to exaggerate or overemphasize God’s power.

We then read that this power is the same power that raised Christ from the dead. You know, that resurrection thing. Basically the single greatest event in the history of the universe.

In that moment, God brought a Man who was both physically and spiritually dead, suffering in hell for the sins of the world, back to life.

And the resurrection didn’t just bring Jesus back from the grave. It brought the human race back from the grave. Billions and billions of people stretched out over thousands and thousands of years, from the beginning of time to the end of time.

Suddenly, where there was despair, now there was hope. Where there was death, now there was life and peace. Humanity was brought back, and given eternal life. It was kind of like that final snap of the Infinity Gauntlet, but infinitely greater.

And that power of God didn’t just raise Christ from the dead; it seated him far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion.

Let’s break that down.

First, notice it didn’t say He “sat” down. He was “seated.” This is a legal term. Jesus didn’t just plop down on the couch; He was appointed over His kingdom, where He reigns as King of the Universe.

Think Aragorn’s coronation at the end of Lord of the Rings. The battle is won. The enemy is defeated. And now He is officially and unequivocally seated on His throne. And where is He seated?

“Far above.”

Ever been in a plane as it’s taking off? As the plane lifts off the ground, you can still see those guys with the orange flashlights. Then they shrink down to the size of ants. Then they’re gone.

But you can still see cars whizzing by. Then they disappear. Then the houses go. Then it’s all gone. Just you in the clouds, far above everything else.

And Jesus, by that exceedingly great power of God, is seated far above all principality and power and might and dominion. We often see those words grouped together, but because we don’t know exactly what they mean, we just figure they mean “powerful stuff” and then move on to the next verse. But what do they actually mean?

The first word (principality) is “arche” in the Greek. It’s where we get the suffix “-archy,” used in words like “monarchy” or “anarchy.” It refers to entire forms of government. And Jesus is far above all those monarchies or anarchies or whatever other –archies may crop up.

Next is “power,” or “exousia.” It means delegated authority, and refers to the legal rights and powers a ruler or official might have. Picture a police officer, or an ambassador. When they act, they aren’t simply acting on their own power; they have the full force of their government backing them up.

And Jesus is higher.

“Dynamis” is the word “might.” It’s where we get the word dynamite. It’s power that really packs a punch. It was used historically to refer to the power and might of giant armies.

For instance, it appears on a burial epigram from the Battle of Marathon, commemorating the Greek army’s decisive victory over the (more numerous) Persian army. Nations hold off invading armies when they have greater dynamis.

And yet Jesus is greater.

Finally, we have dominion, or “kyriotes,” meaning complete ownership or lordship. It’s almost never used outside of Christian texts, and typically refers to God’s lordship over the universe. Any dominion, power, or rule falls under kyriotes.

And still, kyriotes falls under Jesus.

Next, we read that this exceedingly great power of God has set Jesus far above every name that is named. Think about that for a second. We just got through defining arche, exousia, dynamis, and kyriotes.

And just in case anything slipped through the cracks, any other named thing is also far beneath Jesus’ feet.

There are 171,476 words in the Oxford English Dictionary. There are over 470,000 English words in Webster’s Third New International Dictionary. All of them: far beneath Jesus.

There are 6,909 distinct languages in the world. Many of them have 100,000 to over 500,000 words. Every last one of those named things: far below Jesus.

And that’s just the names that have already been named. Jesus was seated far above things that HAVEN’T EVEN BEEN NAMED YET.

Who’s going to be the richest or smartest person 10,000 years from now? Doesn’t matter. Jesus is far above. What nation will be the most powerful to ever exist? Doesn’t matter. Jesus is far above. Any future plague, any tyrant, any thing pales in comparison to the power of God.

And Paul’s prayer was that you would know and understand that incredible power of God, because that power WORKS IN YOU.

The exceedingly great, impossible-to-overemphasize power of God? It’s in you.

The same power that raised Christ from the dead, and set Him far above all authority and explosive power and world governments and mighty armies and everything else you could possibly imagine? In you.

Do you know that? No really, do you KNOW that the unstoppable, undeniable, unchallengeable power of God courses through your veins? Then act like it.

Stop quibbling about the nonsense the exists in the realms far below, and start doing the work of God.

Heal the sick.

Raise the dead.

Free the captives.

Preach the gospel.

And change the world.

 

 

Ten Reasons the Ten Commandments are Important (TEN COMMANDMENTS)

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Every few years, the Ten Commandments find themselves embroiled in controversy when some progressive pastor suggests that God doesn’t really like them all that much (a silly supposition, since God never changes and Jesus told us these laws would never fade away). And while I’d’ve hoped that Christians could agree on such basic universal truths as “We should only serve one God” and “Murder is bad,” it’s apparently not so obvious.

So here are ten facts about the Ten Commandments that you may or may not know:

ONE: They were literally written by God.

I know, I know. The whole bible was written by God. But technically, it was ghostwritten by God (or Holy Ghost-written by God, amirite?): God communicated His words through prophets and apostles, but God didn’t actually put pen to paper. David, inspired by the Holy Spirit, wrote his psalms; Luke, inspired by the Holy Spirit, wrote his gospel; Paul, inspired by the Holy Spirit, wrote his epistles. That’s why the scriptures are called God-breathed, not God-written.

However, the Ten Commandments are different. We are told several times that God literally carved them into stone with His finger.

“…[God] gave Moses two tablets of the Testimony, tablets of stone, written with the finger of God.” (Exodus 31:18)

“Then the Lord delivered to me two tablets of stone written with the finger of God…” (Deuteronomy 9:10)

In this way, the Ten Commandments stand apart from the rest of the scriptures, not being transcribed but literally carved by God.

TWO: God spoke them out loud to over two million people.

Many times throughout the Bible, you’ll read phrases like “Thus saith the Lord” or “Command these people, saying…” What that means is God spoke these words to some spiritual leader, who then repeated these words to God’s people.

But again, the Ten Commandments stand apart in that they were spoken directly by God to His people.

“These words the Lord spoke to all your assembly, in the mountain from the midst of the fire, the cloud, and the thick darkness, with a loud voice…” (Deuteronomy 5:22)

It is estimated that there were somewhere between two and seven million Israelites at the time. And Moses gathered those millions of desert wanderers around Mount Sinai, and God spoke these commandments out loud to them all. There was no denying that these divine laws came from God.

THREE: They are listed not once but twice in the Law.

The first five books of the Bible contain 613 laws (if you think that’s a lot, keep in mind that the United States has over 20,000 laws about guns alone). And in that limited space, God doesn’t repeat many of His commands. For instance, the “greatest commandment”—to love your neighbor as yourself—is only listed once. And yet God presents all Ten Commandments not once but twice (Exodus 20, Deuteronomy 5).

FOUR: When God created a nation, they were His Bill of Rights.

After over four hundred years in slavery, God fantastically delivered His people from the greatest superpower on earth and led them to form a nation of their own. And the central tenets of this new nation was these Ten Commandments. Of all 613 laws He had given them (or the millions of laws that have been written by countless nations since), God felt these ten were foundational to a successful and free society.

FIVE: They explain Jesus’ commandments to love God and love others.

In one famous exchange, a lawyer asked Jesus how to inherit eternal life. Jesus responded that the right answer was:

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all you soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and [to love] your neighbor as yourself.” (Luke 10:27)

However, it might not always be clear how to love God or love your neighbor. That’s where the Ten Commandments come in handy. The first four provide instruction related to loving God, while the latter six command us how to love others.

SIX: Jesus said the Ten Commandments were the key to eternal life.

In another famous exchange, a rich young ruler asked Jesus for the key to eternal life. Jesus responded,

“If you want to enter into life, keep the commandments.” (Matthew 19:17)

The ruler pressed further, asking which ones He should keep. Jesus answered by listing half of the commandments and the command to love your neighbor (Matthew 19, Mark 10, Luke 18).

According to Jesus, anyone who wants to enter into life should keep the Ten Commandments.

SEVEN: The Ten Commandments apparently gave the rich young ruler riches and influence.

As mentioned previously, a certain ruler (Luke 18:18) who was rich (Mark 10:22) asked Jesus for the secret to eternal life. Jesus told him to keep the commandments (Matthew 19:17), specifically citing five of the Ten Commandments. The rich young ruler responded, “All these things I have kept from my youth” (Matthew 19:20).

Taking the whole Bible into consideration, it is likely that this young man found financial success and influence because of his obedience to God’s commandments. After all, God told Joshua that if he kept the Book of the Law,

“You will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.” (Joshua 1:8)

Promises of economic success and influence are found throughout the Bible (Deuteronomy 28:1-14 and Proverbs 3:1-4, to name a few). It’s no wonder that this young man, who made keeping God’s laws a priority, found both success and influence.

It’s worth noting that, while this man kept many of the Ten Commandments, he doesn’t claim to have kept all of them. Loving God and not coveting are famously absent from the list, and Jesus asks the young man to give to the poor, trust God fully, and follow Him (Matthew 19:21). Jesus later tells His disciples that if the man had obeyed Him—and kept all Ten Commandments—he would have increased his possessions and influence and found eternal life (Mark 10:29-30).

EIGHT: Paul quotes them too.

In Romans 13, Paul writes to the Christians of Rome about how to live as members of society. He lays out the role of government and instructs these believers to pay their taxes. Then he tells the Christians to “love one another” (Romans 13:8). To make sure they understand what this looks like practically, He elaborates further, listing the latter six commandments (the love your neighbor commandments).

Paul’s letter reaffirms that the Ten Commandments are central to a biblical understanding of love and that they are integral to loving successfully in society.

NINE: They establish moral absolutes.

In today’s world, most people either have one God or no gods. But that’s not always how it was. For most of human history, people worshiped many gods. There was a god of agriculture, a god of money, a god of weather. These gods didn’t always get along, and usually had competing views of morality.

As a result, it was hard to know what was right and what was wrong. After all, the god of the river might command one thing, but the god of war would command another. And humans were free to pick whatever god or system of morality suited them at any particular moment.

But the Ten Commandments changed all that. God started off these commandments by declaring that He was the absolute and only God, and that these commandments were His perfect standard of living. There could be no debate whether murder was right or wrong, or whether it was sometimes okay to steal. God, the one and only God, the true God, had declared that these were wrong, whether you or the king or the entire nation agreed. Right and wrong existed because they were established by God, and no matter who you were or where you lived, these commandments applied to you.

TEN: There are only ten of them.

Let’s be real. The “Ten Commandments” has a nice ring to it, and they easily fit on two tablets of stone. It’d be much harder to memorize the “Six Hundred and Thirteen Commandments,” let alone to fit them on a poster.

Conclusion:

The Ten Commandments are important. They are clearly important to God, they were important to Israel, and they should be important to us as well.

We’ll look more into lessons we can learn from God’s Ten Commandments in the coming months.

What is Love?

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Dictionary.com defines love as “a passionate affection for another person.” But then again, Dictionary.com also believes that boys can turn into girls, so they’re probably not the best source for getting an accurate (let alone biblical) definition of love.

And it’s incredibly important for us to understand what love is. After all, we are repeatedly commanded by Jesus to love:

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. This is the first commandment. And the second, like it, is this: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 25:37-39, Mark 12:30-31, Luke 10:27)

Jesus reiterates this commandment in His final discourse:

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another.” (John 13:34)

Heck, God goes as far as to say that He is love:

“We have known and believed the love that God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him.” (1 John 4:16)

So, what is love? Is it a feeling? Is it being nice? Is it an open door, or a battlefield, or a drug?

According to the bible, love is obedience to God’s commandments:

“If you love Me, keep my commandments.” (John 14:15)

“He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me.” (John 14:21)

“By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and keep His commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome.” (1 John 5:2-3)

This is love, that we walk according to His commandments. This is the commandment, that as you have heard from the beginning, you should walk in them.” (2 John 6)

In any given situation, the most loving thing you can do is the thing God has told you to do. No wonder God gave us these wonderful commandments. It wasn’t just to keep us in line; it was to keep us in love, and as long as we obey His laws, we can be certain that we will be walking in love*.


Notes:

* Some readers might deny this biblical definition of love, citing the Pharisees as a counter-example. After all, the Pharisees supposedly kept the law, and yet would not be considered very loving by Jesus’ standards. In actuality, the Pharisees didn’t keep the law—at least they didn’t keep the whole law. Sure, they kept some of it, but they also rejected a whole lot of it (Matthew 23:23, Mark 7:8-13). Obeying a few commandments while intentionally ignoring the rest isn’t true obedience, and thus isn’t love.

Tell Someone that God is the Healer

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Mark 5 recounts the tale of the “Woman with the Issue of Blood.” We are told that she had some unspecified medical condition, described “a flow of blood for twelve years” (Mark 5:25). She had spent all the money she had to visit the best doctors money could buy, but only grew worse.

Finally, when she heard about Jesus, she declared in faith, “If only I may touch His clothes, I shall be made well” (Mark 5:28). Sure enough, she gets exactly what she said: As she reaches out to touch the men of his garment, she was immediately healed, and Jesus commends her for her faith, saying “Your faith has made you well” (Mark 5:34).

Much could be said about this story: her faith, her words, her salvation (the same word used to describe our salvation is used by Jesus to describe her healing). But there is one verse in this story that is oft overlooked.

When she heard about Jesus…” (Mark 5:27)

This woman was ritualistically unclean. She had a rather unpleasant ailment, and would have been an outcast of society, rarely leaving the comfort of her home. And yet, she somehow inexplicably heard about Jesus.

How?

Someone left his comfort zone to tell this diseased and destitute woman about the long-awaited Messiah.

We know nothing of this mysterious someone. He (or she) isn’t even mentioned directly in this passage. But this someone is the hero of the tale. For if someone hadn’t delivered the message, this woman wouldn’t have been healed, this chapter wouldn’t have been written, and countless believers wouldn’t have been blessed by this story of faith and salvation.

We need more someone’s in the church today. We need men and women who are willing to visit people like this woman, people who aren’t welcome in society, people who aren’t visited, people who frankly smell bad or look unseemly or aren’t a joy to be around.

We need believers like the four friends of the paralytic, who, refusing to take “no” for an answer, stormed Jesus’ house with their crippled friend in tow, going so far as to bust a hole in the roof of a stranger to get their friend to Jesus (Mark 2:1-4).

Too many sick people are more like the 38-year paralyzed man in John 5:

“Sir, I have no man to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up.” (John 5:7)

It might be unpleasant. It will be inconvenient. But it’s necessary. And it’s our call as followers of Christ:

“How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher?” (Romans 10:14)

So next time you see someone with a runny nose, or a broken leg or an incurable blood disease, tell them about our Healer. Tell them about our Great Physician. Tell them about the God who does all things well. How else will they be saved?

Encouragement from Genesis

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I recently reread the book of Genesis with several teenagers from the church. While discussing it, the most common thing the students brought up was all the weird and terrible things the main characters kept doing:

  • Abraham lies about his wife being his sister, and she is almost swept into Pharaoh’s harem
  • Lot, while inebriated, impregnates both of his daughters
  • Judah sleeps with (who he assumes is) a prostitute, then tries to have her executed
  • Jacob deceives his father to steal from his brother, then spends twenty years running from God
  • Isaac, like his father, practically sells his wife into an enemy king’s harem to save his own skin

And that’s not the half of it! From cowardice and theft to sexual deviance and murder, they were guilty of it all.

But here’s the beautiful thing… God still blesses them!

Despite their sin, despite their selfishness, despite it all, they are still God’s people.

Why?

Because God made a promise. God promised some idol worshipper named Abram that if he forsook his previous life and followed after the one true God, that God would bless Abram and all his descendants after him (Genesis 12:1-3). And Abram, while certainly not perfect, followed God (Genesis 12:4). Abram, though he occasionally faltered, believed what God had said (Genesis 15:6). And God kept His promise.

And an entire family, an entire people, an entire nation was blessed because of it.

And the Lord said, “I will be with you and bless you. And I will make your descendants multiply as the stars of heaven. And in your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because Abraham obeyed My voice.” (Genesis 26:2-5)

There are two lessons to learn from this:

  1. You are blessed because God made a promise.

If you’re anything like me, you’re probably not perfect. You make mistakes. You slip up. But guess what? In spite of all that, God will still bless you. Why? Because of someone else’s faithfulness.

If you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise. (Galatians 3:29)

  1. The choices you make will bless your family for generations to come.

Over four thousand years ago, some guy in the desert listened to God, and God blessed him. His wife didn’t always listen to God, but God blessed her because anyway. His kids didn’t usually listen to God, but God blessed them anyway. His nephew didn’t listen to God, but God blessed them anyway. His grandkids and great-grandkids ran from God and disobeyed Him, but God blessed them anyway. And four thousand years later, a world that largely ignores God is still being blessed by Him. All because of a promise God made:

In you all the families of the earth shall be blessed. (Genesis 12:3)

Your obedience affects those around you. Your faithfulness will transcend your short time on earth. So don’t just live for yourself. Live for your family. Live for your community. Live for the generations that are yet to come. They are counting on you.

BIBLICAL ECONOMICS: God Cares about the Poor

There is much conversation today about poverty. From politics to the pulpit, from backyard talks around the barbeque to internet debates on Twitter, everyone has something to say about the poor. But what does God say about the poor?

The bible makes it clear that God cares for the poor. We are told throughout scripture that God:

  • defends the needy (1 Samuel 2:8, Psalm 12:5)
  • is a refuge for the poor (Psalm 14:6, Isaiah 25:4)
  • saves and rescues the poor from destruction (Psalm 35:10, Psalm 72:4, 12-13, Psalm 109:31, Jeremiah 20:13)
  • listens to the prayers of the impoverished (Psalm 34:6, Psalm 69:33)
  • promises to help the needy (Psalm 69:32, Isaiah 14:30, Isaiah 41:17)
  • and lifts the poor up close to Himself (Psalm 113:7, Psalm 140:12, Psalm 146:7)

Not only does God care about the poor, but He commands us to care for the poor as well. We are commanded:

  • not to exploit or take advantage of the poor (Deuteronomy 24:14, Proverbs 22:22)
  • not to deny or pervert justice towards the poor (Exodus 23:6, Leviticus 19:15)
  • to be kind to the needy (Proverbs 14:21, Proverbs 14:31, Proverbs 19:17)
  • not to oppress the poor (Proverbs 22:16, Proverbs 28:3, Zechariah 7:10)
  • to share with the poor (Leviticus 19:10, Proverbs 22:9)
  • not to mock the poor (Proverbs 17:5)
  • to speak up for the poor (Proverbs 31:9)
  • to consider the poor (Proverbs 29:7)
  • And to listen to the poor (Proverbs 21:13)

Furthermore, Jesus cared for the poor, and commanded His followers to do the same:

  • Jesus first announced His ministry with the claim that He was anointed to “preach the gospel to the poor” (Luke 4:18)
  • He regularly told His followers to give to the poor (Mark 10:21, Luke 6:38, Luke 12:33)
  • He was so charitable to the poor that when one of His followers left a room, it was assumed they were going to give to the poor (John 13:29)
  • He told His followers to make sure to spend time with the poor and invite them to fellowship together (Luke 14:13)
  • Part of His ministry was preaching the gospel specifically to the poor (Matthew 11:5)
  • Jesus famously told His disciples to feed the hungry and thirsty, clothe the naked, and take in the stranger, claiming that caring for the “least of these” was caring for Jesus Himself (Matthew 25:34-40)

Jesus’ followers took these commands to heart:

  • Paul wrote that Christians should be hospitable and charitable to those in need (Romans 12:13, 2 Corinthians 9:7)
  • John wrote that caring for others in need was evidence that a believer was filled with the love of God (1 John 3:17)
  • In their respective ministries, both Peter and Paul were eager to remember the poor, and encouraged each other to do so (Galatians 2:10)

From the Old Testament to the New, it is evident that God cares for and helps the poor, and that He expects His followers to do the same. But a few questions arise:

How are we to help the poor?

What are the causes of poverty?

We will examine these questions related to the biblical view of poverty in a series of future articles, BIBLICAL ECONOMICS.

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God isn’t mad when your storehouse is full

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In Luke 12, Jesus tells a parable about a rich man who built giant barns to store all his grain. After he completed the construction of the new barns, he died. Jesus concludes by calling him a fool and then saying, “This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God.”

Recently, I’ve heard a few people expound that the moral of Jesus’ parable is that money is bad. Particularly, it is immoral to save money, be it your 401k, retirement, or investments of any kind.

But that isn’t what Jesus said.

In the parable, Jesus criticizes the man for storing up things for himself but not being “rich toward God.” Jesus doesn’t condemn men who have both treasure on earth AND treasure in heaven; He is solely concerned with men who choose to have earthly treasures rather than heavenly treasures.

We see this truth throughout the bible. In 1 Timothy 6:17-19, Paul tells Timothy to “command those who are rich in this present age not to be haughty, nor to trust in uncertain riches but in the living God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy. Let them to good, that they be rich in good works, ready to give, willing to share, storing up for themselves a good foundation for the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life.”

Paul writes that we can store up treasure in heaven by being ready to give and willing to share the resources God has blessed us with. But he also says that God “gives us richly all things to enjoy.” God doesn’t have a problem with you enjoying what He has given you; He only commands that you be ready to give.

Finally, Proverbs 8 says “I [wisdom] traverse the way of righteousness, in the midst of the paths of justice, that I may cause those who love me to inherit wealth, that I may fill their treasuries.” Proverbs makes it clear: God-given wisdom will fill your storehouses. Clearly Jesus (who became for us wisdom from God, 1 Corinthians 1:30) doesn’t have a problem with wealth, storehouses, and savings. He merely points out that to ignore heavenly wealth is foolish.

According to Jesus, Paul, and the Old Testament, it is possible to be rich in both earthly treasure and heavenly treasure. The key is being willing to give. So give. Share. Do good. And enjoy.

IRS Kerfuffles and the Leading of the Holy Spirit

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I’m in the process of trying to close escrow on a house. But it has not been easy.

While getting our loan, we found out So Cal Edison had mistakenly opened a claim against us for a bill we had actually paid. This happened almost a year ago, but we didn’t find out until this last month. I called So Cal Edison and they agreed that a mistake had been made, but that there was nothing they could do. They advised I call the collection agency to clear it up. I called the collection agency, and they informed me that, unfortunately, there was nothing they could do, and advised I call So Cal Edison to clear it up.

It took a week of kind, harsh, understanding, and irate calls and hours on hold to finally resolve the situation.

Then things progressed. Until…

Our lender called me to say they had not received 2017 transcripts from the IRS. They told me to call the IRS and have them fax the transcripts over. I called, and after several calls were dropped, I finally made it to an agent appropriately named “Mr. Smith.”

After several hours on hold, Mr. Smith finally informed me that, while the IRS had received, processed, and cashed the check we sent, they had accidentally misplaced our tax return. On behalf of the IRS, Mr. Smith was very sorry, but informed me there was nothing he could do to correct this mistake, as there was no protocol to handle these sorts of situations (which happen more often than you’d think, he told me). My best bet was to send them everything again (sans the check), and wait (and hope) for the trusted IRS to process everything correctly this time.

Through this (and many other unforeseen issues), it became apparent: the devil was trying to prevent us from closing escrow. God must really want us to buy this house.

But what if, instead…

* * *

I’m in the process of trying to close escrow on a house. But it has not been easy.

While getting our loan, we found out So Cal Edison had mistakenly opened a claim…

… My best bet was to send them everything again (sans the check), and wait (and hope) for the trusted IRS to process everything correctly this time.

Through this (and many other unforeseen issues), it became apparent: God was trying to prevent us from closing escrow. God must really want us to NOT buy this house.

* * *

In the bible, Gideon wasn’t sure if God would save Israel. So he decided to look for a sign: he would leave a cloth out on the ground, and if the cloth was wet in the morning, Gideon would know that God would save them.

Morning came, and the cloth was wet. But then Gideon realized, “This could just be a coincidence.” So he decided: he would leave a cloth out on the ground, and if the cloth was dry in the morning, Gideon would know that God would save them.

Morning came, and the cloth was dry. At this point, Gideon stopped asking for signs, and believed what God had actually said a few verses earlier: “Go in this might of yours, and you shall save Israel from the hand of the Midianites. Have I not sent you? Surely I will be with you, and you shall defeat the Midianites as one man” (Judges 6:14, 16).

* * *

It’s easy to look for signs… until you realize that signs aren’t usually very clear. The IRS lost my tax return. That could mean God doesn’t want me to buy this house… or it could mean that God does want me to buy this house… or it could mean that government agencies are not very efficient. Who knows? (Probably the third one.)

My point is this: God doesn’t lead through circumstance. If He doesn’t want you to do something, He’s not going to send the IRS after you; He’ll just say, “Hey, don’t do that” (Acts 13:2). Better yet, chances are He has already told you what you should and shouldn’t do in scripture.

So rather than make your decisions based on esoteric signs and circumstances that could be interpreted in any number of ways, make your decisions the way God intended: based on the revealed Word of God and the leading of the Holy Spirit.

Anything else is just chance.

50 practical things Jesus did with His disciples

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  1. He taught them (Matthew 4:23)
  2. He ate with them (Matthew 26:26)
  3. He traveled with them (Mark 6:1)
  4. He went camping with them (Matthew 8:20)
  5. He went to church with them (Mark 1:21)
  6. He worshipped with them (Matthew 26:30)
  7. He prayed with them (Matthew 26:36)
  8. He prayed for them (John 17:9)
  9. He spent time with them doing regular things (see below)
  10. He fished with them (Luke 5:4)
  11. He hiked with them (Mark 3:13)
  12. He barbequed with them (John 21:9)
  13. He hung out at their place (Mark 1:29, Matthew 9:10)
  14. He invited them over to His place (Mark 2:1, Mark 3:20)
  15. He stayed up late to help them (Mark 1:32)
  16. He met their families (Mark 1:30)
  17. He gave them nicknames (Mark 3:17 & Luke 9:54, Matthew 16:18)
  18. He allowed them to be them (as evidenced by Peter’s entire existence)
  19. He called them out when they were sucking (Luke 9:55)
  20. He encouraged them when they were on track (John 1:47, Matthew 16:17)
  21. He joked around with them (Luke 24:13-36; great 15-minute sermon about it here)
  22. He cared deeply about them (John 17:12)
  23. He talked theology with them (Matthew 13:24)
  24. He talked politics with them (Matthew 22:21, ; Matthew 20:25)
  25. He talked business with them (Matthew 20:15)
  26. He made them uncomfortable (John 6:60-61)
  27. He explained things to them (Matthew 13:11)
  28. He used words they could understand (Matthew 13:47, Matthew 4:19)
  29. And when they still didn’t understand, He slowed down (Matthew 15:16)
  30. He gave them advice (Luke 10:25-37)
  31. He helped their businesses (Luke 5:6-7)
  32. He defended them (Mark 9:18-19)
  33. He fought for them (Mark 2:25-7, Luke 22:31-32, 1 John 3:8)
  34. He served them (John 13:5)
  35. He served with them (Matthew 14:19)
  36. He sacrificed for them (Matthew 17:12)
  37. He corrected them (Luke 9:50)
  38. He challenged them (Luke 10:8-9)
  39. He expected more from them than they expected from themselves (Luke 9:13)
  40. He trusted them (Matthew 21:1-3, John 19:26-27)
  41. He gently rebuked them when necessary (Mark 10:38)
  42. He harshly rebuked them when necessary (Matthew 16:23)
  43. He forgave them and gave them second and third and twentieth chances (John 21:15-17)
  44. He was patient with them (Luke 9:46-48)
  45. He never left them, but He allowed them to leave Him (John 6:66)
  46. He invested in them, even when there seemed to be little to no results (Luke 9:43-56)
  47. He was human with them (John 11:35)
  48. He lived with them (John 1:14)
  49. He showed them how to live (John 10:10)
  50. Essentially, He did life with them. Every. Single. Day.

Don’t Go, and Make Disciples

go

We all know the great commission: “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all the nations…” (Matthew 28:19)

Now here’s my question: What is the first thing Jesus commanded in this verse?

You probably said “go,” right? And… you’d be wrong.

You see, the word “go” in this verse (the Greek πορεύω) is in the passive tense, meaning He’s not actually commanding us to go. A more accurate translation would be, “As you go, make disciples of all the nations.” [1]

Most of us think our commission is to go somewhere (preferably some country far, far away) and get people saved. But that’s not what Jesus is saying. He isn’t telling us to go somewhere; He’s simply acknowledging that we all will inevitably go somewhere. And whenever we go somewhere, what are we supposed to do? Make disciples.

When you go to school, make disciples.

When you go to work, make disciples.

When you go to the grocery store, or soccer practice, or the neighborhood barbeque, make disciples.

No matter where you go, your commission is to make disciples.

So what are you waiting for? People are waiting. Get going!


 

[1] A few versions translate this passage accordingly:

  • Having gone, then, disciple all the nations (Young’s Literal Translation)
  • Therefore having gone, disciple all the nations (Berean Literal Bible)
  • Therefore, as you go, disciple people of all nations (International Standard Version)
  • So wherever you go, make disciples of all nations (God’s Word Translation)