Tag Archives: Thoughts on Scripture

Joy in the Storm

“And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling.  But he (Jesus) was in the stern, asleep on the cushion.” – Mark 4:37-38a

This has been something I have experienced spiritually and emotionally recently, that I’m in a boat and windstorms of life have arisen, waves have been breaking into my boat so that it has Christ Asleep In His Boat by Jules Joseph Meynierbeen filling and it feels like I’m in danger of drowning.  When I call out to God, it seems at times like He is sleeping in the storm much like Jesus was in this story, and I feel like the disciples did in the boat with Jesus.  I start to freak out and ask Him, “Do you not care that we are perishing?  Um, hello, Jesus, do you see me over here?  I’m about to drown, don’t you see this?  Are you gonna do anything?” Ever experience something like this?  I have before, and I have recently.  It isn’t easy or fun when you are in the midst of it and freaking out.

What is it that I’m forgetting, just like the disciples did in this story, in the midst of the storm?  I think I could say a lot of things here, but lets look back a few verses to what was going on in this story. Just before this storm rose up and the disciples started to freak out, Jesus had finished telling some parables and told the disciples, “Let us go across to the other side.”  Did you get that?  Jesus didn’t say, “Hey, let’s get in this boat and go sink out in the middle, for this is how we die today.”  No, he says, let us go across to the other side.  As in, everyone on the boat. Seems like Jesus had a plan and it included getting to the other side of this body of water without drowning.  And these were experienced fishermen – they have been in boats, most likely have even gone across this body of water before, and it is a high chance they have been in storms on the water before as well but they still freak out in this storm (must have been big).  In spite of their expertise, or maybe because of their expertise, they freak out about this storm and turn to Jesus when they don’t know what else to do.  Just like me at times, they have easily forgotten what Jesus has said and they were confused that their circumstances weren’t what they expected of their journey.

What is Jesus’ response after they wake him?  First He calms the storm with His words – which is incredibly loving of Him.  Then verse 40 says: “He said to them, ‘Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?'”  Jesus had told them they were going to go across to the other side, but how quickly they lost sight of what Jesus said and were overcome by their fear in the storm.  I do this.  I have experienced this recently, and there are many aspects to this current storm for me. But I am reminded that I am not experiencing joy in this time because I am so easily distracted by the storm around me.  Someone recently said to me that joy is: looking to Jesus first, then to others, and then lastly to yourself (Jesus, others, yourself = Joy).  It is kinda silly doing acronyms, I know, but really it made some sense when you look at the great commandments – to love God (seek His Kingdom) and to love others.  Instead of looking to Jesus first, I’ve often in the storm been looking to myself, my own needs, and my own desires. Like the disciples on the boat I start freaking out and saying “God, don’t you see me? Don’t you care that I am perishing?”  I easily forget promises He has made. I forget who He is.  Please pray for me to turn from myself – repent – and look to Jesus.  The disciples had to learn this lesson, so at least I’m in good company.

When I discussed this with someone the other day, what came to my mind is the Casting Crowns song – “Praise You In This Storm”, so I have included it from Youtube below.  I think it is fitting and pray that although my heart is torn, that I will praise Him in this storm.  I am reminded also that just because we can and want to experience joy in these storms does not mean that we act like our hearts aren’t broken and just put on a happy face. We can bring our brokenness to Jesus and that is how we experience this Joy.  By coming to Him, no matter what. Lord, help me in this even now!

My daily bread…

Pray then like this: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. – Matthew 6:9-13

I’m getting a colonoscopy.  Yup, that’s right, time to explore more of my body in my year of body exploration (or at least that is what it seems to have become).  Why I am doing this you ask, well here is the short end of the long story: after some lab results from the doctor I am having a colonoscopy/endoscopy to determine if I have chrones disease or any other inflammatory bowel diseases  (Yes, I appreciate your prayers with all this – thank you!).

By now you may be wondering, “what the heck does this have to do with ‘my daily bread’?” as I have titled this blog post.  Well, I had to give some background to get to where I’m going with all of this.  I’ve always been intimidated by the idea of fasting.  Ever since I became a Christian I have heard many talk about fasting for Spiritual reasons and I have always thought to myself “I don’t think I would ever be able to do that”, and so I never have.  As many who have gone through having a colonoscopy would know, the difficult part of getting one is the preparation leading up to the actual day, because it requires fasting from anything but clear liquids among other not-so-enjoyable things… but yes, it requires fasting!  This thing I have been fearful of for so long, and now at the age of 34, I am being forced into a time of abstaining from food for health reasons.  But I feel that God has used this time for other reasons, as He often does.

While spending some extended time with God this morning in prayer, I was asking God for physical strength through my day… I asked that He would be my bread for the day.  This day that I had feared, I asked Him to replace my desire for food for a greater desire for Him.  And as I prayed this to God, my mind went to the Lord’s prayer, that you can see above.  But I got hung up on the part that says “Give us this day our daily bread”.  I have always thought to myself that this line seems a bit out of place among the other things that Jesus says during this example on how to pray.  And I have also always heard it explained to be an example of asking for our physical needs in prayer… but what occurred to me today was that maybe Jesus was not saying daily bread as to ask God for food, what if more importantly He was showing us to ask for Him daily?  Almost immediately other verses started coming to mind such as: John 6:22-59 where in verse 33 Jesus says “For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world” or in verse 35 Jesus states “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.”  Also in John 4 that we went through in our Bible study last night where the disciples are insisting that Jesus eat something after talking to the Samaritan woman, then Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work.”  And yet again the verse that many know came to mind that says “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”  What I forgot when that verse came to my mind, along with the section just before it about not being anxious about anything and how God provides for the birds of the air because of his common grace (which also made me think of where Jesus talks about God “make(ing) his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust”), is that this verse is just after Jesus teaches the disciples how to pray.

As all these thoughts and verses were flooding my mind, I thanked and praised my God who is so generous and loving.  I right there and then asked Him to send me the bread of life daily, by filling me with His spirit daily, that I would walk in the power of the Holy Spirit as Jesus so perfectly did as an example for us.

What are your thoughts?  Do you think asking for our daily bread is to ask for the physical sustenance that God seems to promise soon after to already be there for everyone without even asking?  Or is it the spiritual bread that the Bible so often refers to as The Bread of life: Jesus Christ?

Importance of The Gospel

I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel– which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned!
As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned! – Galatians 1:6-9

This 2006 Time Magazine cover focused on
the current prosperity gospel movement.

How important is The Gospel?  I have read through many of the New Testament books over and over recently, but I love how new things continue to shine bright in front of me.  In fact, when looking at the above scripture at a Saint Patrick Presbyterian Church service here in Greeley recently, pastor Michael pointed out something that I didn’t pay enough attention to before.  You see, the above scripture is how Paul (the author of Galatians) starts out when addressing the Galatian churches.  Some might not see the importance until you compare this letter to the other letters of Paul’s we have in the Bible.  Take a look at the letter to the church in Corinth, 1 Corinthians, here Paul starts out (after the usual greeting where Paul introduces himself) saying:

I always thank God for you because of his grace given you in Christ Jesus. For in him you have been enriched in every way–in all your speaking and in all your knowledge– because our testimony about Christ was confirmed in you. Therefore you do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed. He will keep you strong to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.
God, who has called you into fellowship with his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful.” – 1 Corinthians 1:4-9

It is fairly well know, especially if you have read the rest of 1 Corinthians as well as 2 Corinthians, how many issues with sin and other issues within the church in Corinth there are, I’ve heard many compare it to a Las Vegas or New York of today – it was the “sin city” of the time.  So you might think it ironic that Paul starts out the letter to such a church with such praise and thanksgiving.  This is in contrast to how Paul starts out the letter to the churches in Galatia, where Paul does NOT begin with praises or accolades to the church.  In fact, you can look at almost every letter Paul wrote that is in the New Testament, and almost all of them start out with a similar beginning as seen in 1 Corinthians.  So why is that not the case in the letter to Galatia?  It is because we are seeing here just how important the Gospel of Jesus Christ is.  In fact, we see that preaching any gospel other than The Gospel of Jesus Christ was of such importance that Paul could not wait to address this severe issue in the Galatian church, it had an even higher importance than the sinful living of the Corinthian church.

In today’s church, it feels as if we all to often do the opposite.  We put more weight on addressing sin, or self-help, or whose theology is correct on relatively minor things, and we don’t put enough weight where it needs to belong – on The Gospel of Jesus Christ.  In fact, we right now are coming to a point where a false gospel is starting to spread within the church – and we need to take Paul’s lead by addressing it first thing because it is of first importance!

Do you think the Gospel is that important?  What do you think of the false gospels, specifically the prosperity gospel that is being so heavily preached in many American churches today?  Eternal condemnation is a pretty serious consequence for those preaching a gospel other than that preached in the Bible.

The Good News… without words?

For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard?  And how are they to hear without someone preaching? 
And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!”  But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?”  So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ. – Romans 10:13-17

“…how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?”  This struck me when I read it through, again, and again… it convicted me personally about something I’ve been sometimes on the fence regarding how to go about “spreading the gospel”.  There is a fairly common idea I have heard and fallen into that is often represented by this quote: “Preach the Gospel always, and if necessary, use words.”  The view often associated with this quote is typically that of just sharing Christ through our actions and not words.  Reading this section in Romans again points out to me the incredible importance of not just living out our faith but the way to share our faith with others is through the use of telling them with words about the good news of Jesus Christ.  

Don’t get me wrong, our actions are very important as we are reminded often in the book of James for example in James 1:22 or again when James talks about faith and works in James 2:14-26, but this is often how we are to live out our faith – not necessarily how we are to share the Gospel.  It is obviously important to live by the faith we profess to believe, to continually lay down our lives, take up our cross, and follow Jesus – these are all active things we do on an ongoing basis.  But just living a “good” life out in front of others, in hopes of leading them to Christ (this on occasion happens, but it is usually less about how “good” we are and more about our faith, joy, or contentment coming through to create curiosity from those around us) I don’t believe is how we should expect to share our faith.  If we are only showing others how to live a “good” life, what is it we are actually showing them?  Part of me thinks that if we just show how to be a Christian merely by “good” deeds, then all we are teaching is how to achieve works righteousness.  The other problem with this, as I was reminded recently, is that because we are all made in the image of God – even those who do not believe can still be used by him to do good, even amazing, things that can even look better than a lot of Christians.  This again goes to show that living the Gospel with our actions or doing good works is a part of living out our faith, but it is not equal to sharing the Gospel with words.  Look at Jesus’ example – every time we see a miracle, or a way he lives out his faith, he uses words to follow it up or accompany it in order to point people back to the Father.

Michelle and I feel so blessed to be called to share the good news of
Jesus Christ to all the nations

 Again, coming back to this scripture in Romans, it is specifically stating that the only way others will hear the good news of Jesus Christ is through those who preach it.  I feel so blessed to be one called to preach this good news to future leaders of the world.  Michelle and I know that God is calling us to reach the world through the students at Walt Disney World, and I know it is important for me to continue to work out my faith as I am being sanctified to be more like Christ, but none of this discounts me using the words He gives me through reading His word and through submitting myself to the work of the Holy Spirit in me.  Many of us, me included, often say “I’m not a good speaker”, or “I’m not very outgoing” when we think of telling others about the Gospel, but let us not forget that even Moses had similar hang-ups with God.  But God used him anyway, and God will use me anyway… I know he will use you anyway too as you obey and follow His call on your life.

Casual Christianity: I’m just a man

King David in Prayer by
Pieter de Grebber
– 1635-1640

I have been brought back to Acts several times over the last few years as God has been bringing me, and our family, through this journey to go in to full time ministry in the mission field, and I don’t think that is by accident.  I have read through these stories of the early church and about the missionaries that were used by God to grow His church many times in the past.  What started out as something much more distant from me, has become more revealed thanks to the life experiences God has been bringing us through, and because of how He has been allowing me to understand more about Him and His character.  You see, when I used to read these New Testament letters (and honestly, it still happens today), I would hear these stories of these men whom I imagine being some sort of “super-Christians”.  I never really saw most of the people of the Bible as being anything near normal people, like you and I.  I often assume that they were much like fable characters, or slightly more real than that.  They were almost like the “Michael Jordans” of faith, if you will (to appreciate this analogy, it helps to understand that when I was younger I all but deified Michael Jordan and he became more than human to me, so this might help you understand the perspective I am talking about).  Basically, I always thought something like this: “Wow, those Apostles and people of the Bible are something I can always look up to but never, ever, think of being anything like that – it’s just not possible for us “normal” people.”

Then, God started opening my eyes to reality. I began to recognize, thanks to some studies He has brought me through, that the people in the Bible were chosen for the very opposite reason that I was crediting them.  They came from almost every walk of life you can think of. God intentionally chose people that were normal every-day fisherman, hated tax-collectors, wealthy kings who started out as poor shepherds, and the list goes on and on.  Basically, each of these people from the Bible were just men and women like you and me.  I know that sounds almost blasphemous in some people’s minds, but look at what James, Jesus’ half-brother, says himself, “Elijah was a man just like us. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years.– James 5:17.  James is telling us that Elijah, one of the greatest Prophets of the Old Testament, was “a man just like us”.  Wow!  But you may think that surely we can’t assume that Jesus would agree with a statement like that, right?  That’s not what I read.  In the Gospel of John Jesus states, “I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.  And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father.” – John 14:12-13.

So why don’t more of us look like characters such as these from the Bible that we read about?  Well, I have begun to realize that it is not because they were a special breed of man or that they found a magic potion, but instead they show us all throughout the Bible that they were truly interested in and submitted to God’s will for their lives.  Of course, this doesn’t mean that non of them failed in this area, just look at King David, we can see many times where he turned back to his own selfish desires.  But we also see that he is fairly quick to repent.  This repentant heart is a big part of most of these “heroes” of the Bible.  It is that kind of attitude that allows them to be used as humble servants of the Most High.  There is a constant attitude of dying to self, of letting go of the fleshly, selfish desires that each and every one of us have.  When they lay down their own lives (and I don’t mean just physically dying, but letting go of everything a person selfishly could want or desire), and pick up their cross and follow Jesus (which means to actually do what he says and not just intellectually memorize what he said or just agree with what he said but to actually take action), this is when we typically see amazing things happening in and through the lives of these Bible characters.

So, when I have been tempted to say, “I’m just a man, I can’t be used by God or do the same things that these superhuman characters did in the Bible,” God has been reminding me that they are not any more superhuman than I am when I die to myself (give up my selfish desires), and submit my life to His will (do what He asks me to).  When more of us begin to live this way, which I believe is the way God has called us to live, then I believe we will see some amazing things happening like Jesus promised.  That we “will do even greater things than these [things that Jesus did]… And [Jesus] will do whatever you ask in [Jesus’] name so that the Son may bring glory to the Father.”

Get your feet wet… a big step of faith.

“And as soon as the priests who carry the ark of the LORD—the Lord of all the earth—set foot in the Jordan, its waters flowing downstream will be cut off and stand up in a heap.” – Joshua 3:13

Crossing the Jordan River
Unterberger, Christoph

This story, and others that talk about stepping out in faith (literally in this case), have been popping up to Michelle and I since we started praying about joining Campus Crusade for Christ staff, especially when we decided to have Michelle step away from her job with the American Cancer Society (which was our main source of income at the time) and into the waters of the Jordan… or at least to trust God that He would continue to provide as we follow His lead into the ministry in Florida that He has called us to.  Looking back at this story in Joshua, we see the Israelites witnessing God performing wonders right before their eyes, in order to take them where He called them to go.  We continue to see God use this story, as well as the stories of other missionary friends, to lead us forward in faith to follow His call on our lives.

Right now, we feel God asking us to take another big step of faith.  What we feel God is asking us specifically at this time is to plan on being ready to be in Florida in January.  This seems so impossible, and this is one of those things in life where we have struggled with discerning whether or not this is our own selfish desires, or if it is truly God working in and on our hearts.  Back in April when we attended a follow-up training in Arkansas, some of the encouragement we received from the coaches was to pray and ask God to reveal a specific time that He would send us to Florida, and then to pray fervently for that to happen.  So, Michelle and I both began to pray, and both of us came together one night to discuss what we felt God was speaking to our hearts as a time that God wanted us to arrive in Florida…and both of us felt that January is when we are supposed to be there.  At that time, we were somewhere around 25% of our monthly support goal, so January felt like a huge hill to climb, needing God’s guidance every step of the way.

Lately, especially over the last week or two, we have been feeling encouragement and confirmation on asking God to send us at a specific time – and again January has been coming up as when we are supposed to be there.  As of this post, we are at 52% of our monthly support goal, so if it were to happen for us to arrive in Florida in January, God would have to move a mountain over these next few months and bring in almost as much support as has come in during the past year.  We know it is possible, but sometimes it is hard to act in faith in light of the unseen.  But as we learn in Joshua, as well as in the steps of faith that God has already led us through, it usually works that God will provide when you take the step of faith and it is usually not before that action is taken.  The waters of the Jordan didn’t budge an inch until the priests took a step of faith (literally) into the water, and only then did the waters get “cut off and stand up in a heap.”

This morning, I again returned to this story in Joshua, just to remind myself yet again about how God moved.  As I read, I was reminded of the details of this story – like the fact that when the Levite Priests carrying the ark of the covenant came to the Jordan River, it was during the season that the river is flooded (see Joshua 3:15 and 1 Chronicles 12:15) – so they are not only crossing a river, but a river running at a higher level.  But what does God ask them to do as they are on their way to the promised land?  He asks them to take a step of faith into the water, and it is then that the waters move.  As I looked at this story, I was curious to look at some cross-reference verses in the New Testament, and I ran into my sermon notes from our church service on Sunday, which I normally don’t leave in my Bible.  When I came to them I noticed a verse reference that I had underlined which made me curious to look it up, it was this verse: Matthew 7:21 – “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.”  And then this afternoon I was reminded of a verse I was made familiar with not long ago thanks to a newsletter update from some of our missionary friends in Italy, “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.  And if we know that he hears us–whatever we ask–we know that we have what we asked of him.” – 1 John 14-15

So, what does this mean for us?  Well, it means that we are prayerfully planning on packing up our stuff here in Arizona soon in order to prepare to move out sometime between now and the end of December (when we need to be in Colorado for the annual Denver Christmas Conference hosted by Cru staff).  From there, we are praying that we will have the courage to be ready to leave for Florida in January and trust that God will complete our team of ministry partners to make it possible for us to report to where He is calling us.

This of course means we need your prayers as well.  Please join us in prayer that we would be sensitive to and follow God’s will for the path and timing we are to take on this journey, and we humbly ask that you pray with us that God would provide for our needs by January in order to make it possible for us to report to Florida where we hope to reach the world with the love of Christ.

Please let us know your thoughts and any words that God may be giving you to share with us on this topic.  Thank you again for your partnership in prayer or financial support with us in bringing the Gospel of Jesus Christ to all the world, in order to make disciples of all nations.

Casual Christianity: What’s your identity?

They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. – Acts 2:42-47

I have been brought back to Acts several times over the last few years as God has been bringing me, and our family, through this journey to go in to full time ministry in the mission field, and I don’t think that is by accident.  I have read through these stories many times in the past, stories of the early church and about the missionaries that were used by God to grow His church.  What started out as something much more distant from me, has become more revealed thanks to the life experiences God has been bringing us through, and because of how He has been allowing me to understand more about Him and His character. Not only that, but God has also opened my eyes more to who I am in Him.

I love it when I experience a time when I feel like God is specifically speaking to me, it makes me feel so loved.  Although I don’t necessarily hear an audible voice or see any burning bushes or animals using a voice to communicate these messages to me, I do think that there are times I for sure hear from God clearly – especially when I put what I hear through the filter of scripture to test if it lines up.  Well, recently at our church we have been studying through Acts and although we weren’t addressing this specific topic, in this specific way, it was interesting how God used it to speak a comforting word to me.  You see, in the sermon a couple weeks ago, our pastor got to a point in the sermon he was preaching that was stating one way “how the Holy Spirit Converts – or Transforms”, and one of the fill-in-the-blanks was “The Gospel is the greatest unifying identity factor on the earth.”  That specific idea has been something that God has reminded me of several times recently through some relationships I have that our only real bond is the fact that we both are followers of Christ.  It really is amazing how I can meet someone from any walk of life, anywhere in the world, and if we have nothing but Christ in common – we can immediately bond.  I thank God for that reality, the reality that “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” – Galations 3:28.  As I read through the section from Acts above, I can see that these early believers gave up their other worldly identities and took hold of their identity in Christ.

Now, this wasn’t completely the message God spoke to me when I sat there listening to the Sunday message… no, I felt like in that moment in time God used what was said, for whatever reason, to take me deeper in to myself.  I felt like He had taken me in that very moment behind the curtain, and allowed me to not just be in His presence, but to sit in His lap – as His son… and took His loving arms and wrapped them around me to say what I heard next…

Copyright All rights reserved by Daniel Y. Go

You see, my whole life I have struggled with something that can bring me down on many occasions, and that thing is that I have never felt that I was really great or excellent at anything specific.  This was always difficult because I saw so many others that were much better than me in basketball, or in art, or in school.  There was always someone else out there that knew more about electronics and gadgets than me, or had a greater tie to Disney than me, or was more successful in the work force than I have been… or… the list can go on.  I have always felt that I was good at a lot of things in life, which I have been good at things, but never excellent… But as I sat there in that seat two Sunday’s ago, and was transported, as time seemed to stand still, into my loving Father’s arms, I heard Him tell me something that made me feel so very loved that I couldn’t believe it.  Even as I type this and think of it, tears well up in my eyes of the joy I feel from my loving Father… What I heard that day was this: “Nate, your identity has been preserved for Me.  I have preserved you and protected you from finding your identity in all of these things in this world that are good, so that you can better realize that your true identity comes from Me.”  WOW!  What an amazing mercy He has shown me, and it made me feel so very grateful for something that I thought was always a burden for me… but no, now I see the greater reason for what He did in my life.

Thank you God, thank you Father, thank you Abba, thank you Daddy!

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” – Romans 8:28

The “Crazy Cycle”, make the first move

If you want to resolve a conflict, you need to make the first move. It requires courage and humility … you can’t wait for your spouse to meet you halfway. (Emphasis added)
The “Crazy Cycle” – FamilyLife.com

Isn’t it a Crazy Cycle indeed?  If you don’t know what the Crazy Cycle is, it is only because you haven’t heard it called by that name yet… especially if you are married or have lived in a house with parents who are married or even dating long term!  It starts with either the husband not showing his wife the love he has for her – especially if he doesn’t show it in a way that she would recognize it (ever heard of the 5 Love Languages?) and feel loved – or the wife not respecting her husband.  After this trigger, the Crazy Cycle starts with the opposite spouse reacting in the equally negative way… which continues on for as long as the couple keeps on reacting in this negative way not showing love or respect to one another.

I have to admit, even though we – my wife and I – have been through the Love & Respect book/series more than one time along with other similar studies that address the same issue, I still continue to find us giving in to this Crazy Cycle.  Just like the Apostle Paul says in Romans 7:15 – “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.”  I hate when I don’t show my wife the love she really does deserve, even if I don’t think she deserves it for whatever reason at some moment in time.  I find it interesting how this part of scripture in Paul’s letter, comes immediately after addressing an “illustration from marriage”, curious for me at least!

I know when I find Michelle and I in the Crazy Cycle, that the “easiest” and “quickest” way to end that cycle is, as the quote from the Family Life website above shows, for me to make the first move.  Amazing how the up-and-coming wisdom of our culture so feeds this Crazy Cycle, and how easy it is to buy into that “wisdom” and get caught up in such a destructive and silly rhythm.  The world gives the example that a woman doesn’t need to respect a man if he doesn’t respect her first… Then it goes on to show men that women are there to meet a carnal need and we can be the emotionally checked-out guy who thinks love is only what happens in the bedroom.

This idea of making the first move isn’t just something made up, or being a “macho man” or something, but it is coming directly from the Bible.  When we look at Ephesians 5, the chapter that the Love and Respect series uses to discuss the idea of a husband loving his wife, and the wife respecting her husband, I find it important to note what exactly Paul is writing to the husbands here.  Paul writes, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (Ephesians 5:25), what I know about Christ’s love for the church is this: “We love because he first loved us.” (1 John 4:19)  So what does this mean for me as a husband?  It means I need to follow Christ’s example, I need to first love my bride, I need to make the first move.

My beautiful bride and I enjoying a hockey game “date night”
during our DCC conference back in January.

Focus on Him: Learning how to face temptation.

12 At once the Spirit sent him out into the wilderness, 13 and he was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan. He was with the wild animals, and angels attended him.

– Mark 1:12-13

Temptation of Christ by Ary Scheffer, 1854

I was recently reading through Mark on my slow (slow because of me, not the study) – but steady – journey through the New Testament Survey course that Michelle and I are taking, when I came across these verses that struck me.  What struck me is the idea that the Holy Spirit led Jesus out to the desert, knowing that He would be tempted by Satan over those forty days.  This seems like an odd thing, for the Spirit to lead anyone into a situation where it is known that the person will be tempted by Satan – since we know that Satan’s temping is intended to lead us to turn away from God.  Maybe the intention here was purely to teach us a lesson on how to face temptation when it comes our way.  What better Teacher than Jesus to show us by example how we are to respond to the temptations we will face.

Since before I became a Christian I had struggled with a certain area of sin in my life that I had been trying to figure out how to get past, I felt like the sin had a constant hold on me even though I knew I had freedom in Christ.  In those years of trying to “morally restrain my will”, I never found any amount of effort or list of “to don’ts” that would ever have any real affect on getting me past that large obstacle of sin.

Enter the process that God has graciously led me through over the past couple-plus years, the truth of replacing my focus.  What do I mean?  Well, you see, the main focus I had all those years before the coins really dropped (ask if you don’t get what this means), was on not doing things that would lead me into the sin or sinful activity I struggled with… unfortunately, putting the focus on the things I shouldn’t do, meant I spent a lot of time thinking about those things that I shouldn’t do.  I was focusing on the negative while all along my focus should have beeen on something good rather than bad.  That focus should really be on God – the ultimate good – and only when my gaze started to turn more to Him (only by His grace) have I actually been able to experience the freedom I have had all along (big praise God here is ok, :-)).

So, by now, you might be wondering how this ties into this passage from Mark 1:12-13, hang in there I am getting to it…  I am sure I am not the only one that thinks temptation is not a good thing, after all it is something that is used by our biggest adversary to try and turn our attention away from where it should be – God.  So if this is the case, why did the Spirit lead Jesus out to the desert in order to be tempted?  Well what is funny is that I initially went in to writing this blog post with a whole different idea, but as I followed the Spirits lead, something else has taken form…  It turns out that my focus was initially on the idea that temptation is bad, rather than what amazing thing God was doing with the temptation and forty days in the desert that Jesus was to face.

The rest of the story, as Paul Harvey would put it, is told in the correlating passages from the gospels of Matthew (in 4:1-11) and Luke (in 4:1-13) which share more of the detail of some of the temptations that Jesus actually faced, and how He combated the temptations Satan threw at Him.  This context shows us, in my opinion, the reason that the Spirit led Jesus to be tempted – to teach us how to face temptation ourselves.

What Jesus does to resist these temptations is not focus on what He should avoid so as to not sin in the way Satan is tempting Jesus, but instead Jesus focuses on God and the Word of God – literally the scriptures.  Of course anything Jesus said could be considered the word of God, but He chose to specifically quote scriptures that men at the time would have access to.  Look a little deeper at the scripture that Jesus quotes and you will see that the verses are from Deuteronomy.  This is important because of the correlation between the context of what Jesus is quoting compared to the situation Jesus is in.  Jesus is in the midst of spending forty days in the desert, sounds similar to the forty years in the wilderness that Israel experienced, which happened to be a desert wilderness in possibly the exact same place in which Jesus was during His forty days.  On top of the location, Satan tempts Jesus in areas that the Israelites had fallen and turned against God.  Jesus is showing us how, through the leading of the Holy Spirit (which He gave us all as a gift, see John 7:38-39 and Acts 2:38-39), we are capable of resisting temptation and focusing on and following God.  Unlike Israel who instead focused on the bad, they focused on the hard trials rather than focusing on God.  Jesus shows by example that through the power of the Holy Spirit as well as through the sword (His word)  which He has given us, we can remain focused on God even in the midst of the most trying of temptations. 

Again, the focus of Jesus’ response to the temptations that He faces here is on God.  More specifically, Jesus focuses on the Truth that responds directly to the temptations being sent His way.  Following Jesus’ example  I am of course not saying to ignore the fact that we have an adversary that is attacking us, but when we recognize the temptations or know we are going into a situation that we might face temptations, we should look to God and follow the lead of the Holy Spirit.  We should focus on God, His character, His goodness.

I am so thankful for what God has brought me through and continues to teach me every day.  It has been amazing to experience the freedom that I knew I had in Him, but was just not living in that freedom.  Of course I still have sin and areas to grow, but getting freedom in this area that has been a heavy ball and chain for most of my life is so, well, freeing!  I hope and pray that these words communicate the truth that I have experienced through the amazing work of the Holy Spirit in my life, and allow the coins to drop for you in order to make a turning point in your life just as God has begun for me.

The LORD turned to him and said, Go in the strength you have…
– Judges 6:14

He deserves our treasures…

Matthew 2:11 – On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh.

This is hopefully my first of many ponderings on scripture to come as I go through a New Testament Survey course. Reading through Matthew this week, this verse above struck me. It made me think, do I bring my treasures to Christ? Not only that, but do I drop whatever I’m doing when I hear God’s call in order to bring those treasures to Him?

Leonardo da Vinci’s Adoration of the Magi

We do not know a lot about the Magi – or Wise Men – that brought these gifts to Jesus when they were shown “his star in the east” and came to worship him, but thinking about these men as real people makes you realize some things: most people have things to do with their time, especially in this time that we live now. I don’t think that is new to people though, so one can assume that these Magi had full schedules with responsibilities and things they needed to do. But when they hear of the “king of the Jews” being born and are led by God to go and worship Him and bring Him treasures – not only do they do just that, but they stop whatever else they were doing in order to do so. 

When I do hear God’s call, (if I even end up listening to it at all), I have a tendency to finish whatever things I have already on my “to do” list before doing what it is that God has called me to. Especially when I feel God’s call to bring Him “my” treasures (as if they are really mine to begin with, but that’s another story for another time), I pause when the star is pointing the way and think “well, lets look at this month’s budget…” (since God must not be big enough to provide for whatever it is He has called me to give to), and “let me be sure I pay all the other ‘important’ things first” – yikes, doesn’t He ask for our first fruits?

Going through what God has led me through over the past few years, I have been (slowly) learning this lesson of giving to God. It is somewhat “ironic” that I have been learning that lesson and am now depending on the generosity of others and how God leads them to give in order to provide for our needs. But through this lesson, it has been coming more clear to me about the truth behind God’s word when He says “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21). We know where the hearts of the wise men were at this time… And even more so, we know where God’s heart is – after all, he sent the greatest treasure of all to pay our debts to Him. That fact alone should cause us (me heavily included) to desire to easily be open to wherever it is that God is calling us to give.