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Give to God what is God’s

January 14, 2011

Many people are familiar with the passage in Matthew 22 where the Pharisees ask Jesus about paying taxes to Caesar.  The were trying to trick Jesus into condoning civil disobedience just because Caesar wasn’t a nice guy.  Yet Jesus so eloquently quipped, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s” (Mt 22:21).

The teaching most commonly taken from this is that Christians should obey government rulers whenever possible.  As Paul wrote, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone” (Rm 12:18).  But if the government were to make a law against, say, going to church…should that law be obeyed?  Of course not!  When Peter was imprisoned for preaching the Name of Jesus, he replied, “We must obey God rather than men!” (Acts 5:29).  So if the government ever makes a law that says I can’t go to church, bet your bottom dollar that I will go to church every day of the week, and twice on Sunday.

That was a nice teaching from Matthew 22:21, but in my opinion, it isn’t the most important one.  Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s – absolutely.  But what about the rest of the verse?  And to God what is God’s – ah!  It’s kind of like the old Texas Revolution cheer – “Remember the Alamo!  Remember Goliad!”  Everyone remembers the Alamo…we just forget to remember the rest of the saying.  (The Goliad Campain was fought before the Alamo btw…)

So let’s pay some hommage to the second half of Matthew 22:21.  While the first half emphasizes our obligations to our human authorities, the second half emphasizes our obligations to our Supreme Authority – God.  In other words, Jesus is saying, “It is true that you have responsibilities that you need to take care of.  I know that.  BUT, don’t forget about God.  No excuse is good enough to justify ignoring God’s place in your life.”

The big question now becomes, what in your life is God’s?  Or perhaps more appropriately, what in your life should be God’s?  Regardless of how busy you become, does God deserve part of your day?  How about just 20 minutes for Bible reading and prayer?  Does God deserve that from you?

1 Samuel 2:30 – Those who honor Me I will honor, but those who despise Me will be disdained.

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Moving Forward

January 1, 2011

I have a challenge for you: hop on your bike and try to keep your balance…without pedaling.  Just stay stationary, pick up your feet, and see how long you can keep your balance.  Not too easy, is it?  Yet when you start pedaling and moving forward, keeping your balance becomes as easy as, well, you know…

Albert Einstein once said, “Life is like riding a bicycle.  To keep your balance you must keep moving.”  How true. Although conventional wisdom would seem to say that staying put and focusing on the task at hand is the best way to achieve success, sometimes the opposite is true.  Sometimes you just have to get going, keep your eyes on the prize, and watch the pieces fall into place.

I’m sure you’ve heard phrases like “the Christian walk”, “walking with God”, etc.  There’s a reason that the Christian life is compared to “walking with God” and not “chilling on the couch with God.”  God loves you too much to leave you the way you are.  He has big things in store for you, but in order for you to achieve them, you have to get going.

How would you currently categorize your Christian life?  Were you recently saved, or have you been a Christian for a long time?  Is your Bible a little dusty, or do you have a daily devotional time?  Do you hide your beliefs, or do you wear the Cross proudly on your sleeve?  Regardless of where you currently are, I challenge you to make 2011 a year of moving forward in your walk with God.  Set some goals to achieve in your relationship with God and others this year. Here are some of mine:

1. Read the Bible in 2 years

This can be done by reading about 11.5 chapters per week.  Great spiritual discipline.

2. Verse memorization

Committing verses to memory can be extremely rewarding and helpful in times of sorrow, stress, depression, anger, temptation, etc.  I have a list of 124 verses that I would like to memorize in 2 years time, about 1 per week.  (Remember Charlie’s List?)

3. Regular fasting as God directs

Taking a break from the preparation, consumption, and eating of food, from tv, from shopping, etc. and instead using that time to draw closer to God in His Word and in prayer is extremely beneficial.  Remember, Jesus gave us instructions for when we fast, not if we fast (Matthew 6:16).

4. Share the Gospel with at least 3 friends from school before graduation

“How many times have we watched it slip by?  The opportunity passes and we wonder why…”  I can recall all too many opportunities that I watched slip by.  Before I graduate West Virginia University, I vow to let God direct me to share the gift of eternal life with at least 3 friends that I have made during my time there.

Wherever you are with God, make a short list of spiritual challenges that can draw you closer to Him.  And then get going.

Ashamed of the Name

December 12, 2010

Acts 11:26 tells us that the followers of Christ in Antioch were the first to be called Christians.  Note that they did not choose this title for themselves, but “they were called Christians.”  It was a derogatory term given to them: Oh, you’re one of those Christians, aren’t you?

Apparently, after a while they said to themselves, “You know what?  Yeah, I am a Christian.  What of it?”  They were proud to bear the name of a follower of Christ, and now there are millions of Christians worldwide.

Yet many Christians today choose to hide their faith.  They’d much rather blend in with the crowd than stand out as being different, fearing that they’d give the world a foothold to criticize them for their beliefs.

But the believers in Antioch were so proud of their faith in Christ that they readily identified with His Name, despite the fact that they were being mocked with it.

Are you proud of Christ?  Or are you ashamed of the Name?

Mark 8:38 – For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him the Son of Man will also be ashamed when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.

Not Good News

October 26, 2010

2 Kings 7:9 – “We are not doing right.  This is a day of good news, and we remain silent.”

In 2 Kings chapter 7, we read about 4 men with leprosy.  They were in Samaria, which was where Israel was at that time.  Israel’s enemy, the Assyrians, had the city surrounded and under siege, so there was a famine in the city.  Due to the fact that the lepers were outcasts anyway AND there was a famine in the city, they decided to go throw themselves at the mercy of the enemy.

“What’s the worst that will happen?” they thought.  “Either they’ll kill us, which doesn’t matter because we are about to die of starvation anyway, or they’ll show mercy on us and take us in.  Sounds worth the risk.”  But when they got to the enemy camp, they found that everyone was…gone.  Vanished.  The whole camp.  Empty.

Well, not completely.  The people had fled in the middle of the night (God caused them to be afraid of Israel and flee instantly), but all the stuff in the camp was still there.  Tents.  Animals.  Jewelry.  Gold.  Silver.  Food.  Ah…food!  So, the first thing the lepers did?  Eat, of course.  The second thing they did?  Gather up as much gold and silver and jewelry as they could carry.  They went outside the camp and hid it so that they could keep it all for themselves.

Then they went back to the camp to get more, and all of the sudden it hit them (THUD!).  “We are not doing right.  This is a day of good news, and we remain silent.”  They had been so caught up in their own needs and their own greed that they forgot the most important thing of all…the enemy has fled!  Samaria is no longer under siege.  The famine is over.  Israel is free.  Uh, shouldn’t we go tell them, seeing as how they don’t know yet?

Are you saved?  Good news.

Do you have unsaved friends?  Not good news.

Do you ever have the opportunity to share the Gospel with them?  Good news.

Do you pass up the opportunity in order to avoid “social awkwardness?”  Not good news.

As Third From First sings, “we gotta let the world know, every day and night.”

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For such a time as this…

October 21, 2010

If you’ve never read the book of Esther, you totally should.  And not just because it’s one of the two books in the Bible named after a woman (Ruth is the other).  It’s a great example of God’s divine providence.

Esther was the Queen of the Persian Empire, and the King was a lovely wretch of a man named Xerxes.  The King’s evil henchman, Haman, tricked the King via flattery to issue an edict that says all the Jews in his empire should be put to death.  Little did the King know, however, that his wife Esther was a Jew!

Esther had been an orphan, and her cousin Mordecai, also a Jew, had taken her in.  Through an AMAZING set of circumstances, Esther came to be Queen.  Later, when Mordecai heard about the King’s edict against the Jews, he tried to persuade Esther to speak up against the King to defend her people.  Esther was reluctant at first, so Mordecai gave her this encouraging thought:

Esther 4:14 – Yet who knows whether you have come to the Kingdom for such a time as this?

Mordecai is pleading with Esther to realize that she is NOT where she is by mere coincidence.  Through a very unique set of circumstances (God’s divine providence), she has found herself in a position to do something great for God.  Mordecai begs her to realize the opportunity she has.  ‘After all, you’re already here.  You might as well take it seriously.’  She does, and the Jews are saved.

I had the privilege to share that story with my campus ministry group at college, and I encouraged them to take seriously the opportunities that God places before them.  That evening, a young man expressed interest in learning more about the Gospel, and a short time later he was saved.  I had no idea that would happen, but God gave me an opportunity to share an inspiring message, so I did.

What opportunities has God placed before you in your life?  To whom do you have the chance to lend a helping hand, or even to witness to?  Don’t let the opportunity pass by, for how do you know that God hasn’t placed you where you are for such a time as this?

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A Clark Kent Moment

June 25, 2010

About a year ago, my youth leader from Chippewa Evangelical Free Church was talking about prayer.  “Worrying instead of praying”, he said, “is like trying to push your car out of the mud when you have Clark Kent in your back seat.”

Our lack of prayer sounds really stupid when you think of it that way.

Later, “I mean, why would anyone try to push their car on their own when they have Superman ready and waiting to help?” he asked.

“Oh wait, you mean Clark Kent and Superman are the same?”  One girl had just now figured out the analogy from 15 minutes ago.

A few weeks later a newcomer said something that she thought was dumb and called it a blonde moment.

“Around here, we call those Clark Kent moments”, I told her.  That got me a prompt kick in the shin.

Don’t have a Clark Kent moment about God.  Remember who He is and that He’s there to help you.

Pray.

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God’s Wrath

June 24, 2010

In 1789, First Mate Fletcher Christian led a mutiny against Captain William Bligh on the HMS Bounty.  Bligh and 18 of his loyal crewman who refused to take part in the mutiny were ordered into a tiny boat and pushed out to sea.  Fletcher, 8 mutineers, and several Tahitians set out for the uninhabited island of Pitcairn to enjoy their plunder.

There they made whiskey from some plants, and the result was drunken orgies and violent fighting.  The island paradise had become a prison, and all but one of the mutineers was killed in fights or murdered in his sleep.  Alexander Smith was the lone survivor, along with the women and fatherless children.

As the only adult male, Smith felt responsible to care for the rest, but he knew he lacked the wisdom.  Finding a Bible in a chest, he read it from cover to cover over the course of a few weeks, surrendered his life to God, and began to teach the women and children to read from the Bible.

Eighteen years after the mutiny on the HMS Bounty, the Topaz, an American ship, stumbled upon the island of Pitcairn.  There they found a small, organized, Christian community.  No violence.  No crime.  No alcoholism.  No illiteracy.  Just peace.

The story of the mutineers demonstrates the reality of God’s wrath.  As Romans 1 tells us, after people willingly choose to be ignorant of God, claim to wise, and openly encourage an immoral lifestyle, God gives them over to their desires (Romans 1:24).  God’s wrath, in effect, is the removal of His presence and peace.  “Fine, have it your way”, says God, and the ravaging effects of our sin break forth in full force.

For those of us who know God as our Lord, let us be grateful that He does not give us every desire of our naturally sinful hearts, and that restoration can always be found by those who turn back to Him!

Nick B

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Charlie’s List

June 23, 2010

I have recently been encouraged to commit some Bible verses to memory after coming across the story of Charles Hayward.  Inspired by Colossians 3:16, Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly…, Hayward started memorizing his favorite Bible verses.  He began his “Whole Bible Memorization Plan”, as he called it, at the age of 73, and committed 239 verses (at least 1 from each Old Testament book, the Gospels, and Acts, and at least 1 from each chapter of the rest of the New Testament) to memory before his death 14 years later.

239 verses!  I’m not sure if my mind has the capacity for that kind of memorization, but I desperately long for the “word of Christ to dwell in [me] richly.”  I often recall that when Christ Himself was tempted by Satan, He responded to the Prince of Lies with the Truth of the Word of God (Matthew 4:1-11).

Charlie’s List, as his kids called it, has been made available to everyone with this encouraging note: “It was his wish that others would be as blessed as he was by committing this list (or one like it, using your favorites) to memory.”

Taking a few verses from Charlie’s List and adding my personal favorites, I have begun to compile a list of my own that I hope to store in my memory bank.  I hope you will join my efforts with a list of your own!  There is no doubt that many lives were in fact blessed by Charlie’s Scripture memorization, and his inspiration can continue to impact lives through the likes of you and me.

Feel free to share a few of your personal favorites with me!  Some of mine that are not so well known are:

2 Kings 7:9 – We are not doing right.  This day of good news, and we remain silent.

Psalm 103:12 – As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us.

Jonah 4:4 – Then the Lord said, “Is it right for you to be angry?”

Nahum 1:9 – What do you conspire against the Lord?  He will make an utter end of it.  Affliction will not rise up a second time.

Good luck!

Nick B

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Brainwashed

March 14, 2010



The washcloth I use to do the dishes gets absolutely filthy.  Poor thing.  Dried up spaghetti sauce, hardened ketchup and barbecue sauce (ick), strands of Ramen noodles clinging to the side of the bowl, and the washcloth has to tackle it all.  It sounds a little funny to have to wash a washcloth, but it definitely needs done.  I can think of only one thing that should be washed more often than that washcloth.  My mind.

Our minds soak up everything we expose them to.  Whatever we watch, read, or listen to gets sucked into our brains like a vortex, affecting our thoughts, feelings, and desires.  Man do those things get dirty.  Where’s a good brainwasher when you need one?

Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed through the renewing of your mind (Romans 12:2 NIV).  Ah ha!  A good mind renewal sounds perfect.  But how exactly do we let our minds be renewed?  Philippians 4:8 commands us to focus our minds on whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things! (NIV)

We have a tendency to allow ourselves to be slaves to our sinful nature by what we choose to fill our minds with.  Instead of starving our sinful nature, we choose to fuel it.  When we try under our own power to change, we inevitably fail.

But God’s Word has the answer.  Instead of trying to simply remove our sinful thoughts and actions, we should focus on replacing them with what is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, and admirable.  I can think of no better way to fill my mind with God-honoring thoughts than by studying the Word, the ultimate truth.

It’s time to undo your thinking.  Wash your mind with the Word.  By allowing the Holy Spirit to work in your life, you can be renewed from the inside out.  If anything is excellent or praiseworthy, studying the Bible daily most certainly is.

Have you had a good brainwash lately?

Nick B

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There your heart will be also

March 7, 2010

rap1

If the picture has you enticed, then you absolutely HAVE to watch this rap from New Hope Church in Hawaii about tithing.  Come on, you know you want to…

Everybody watch?  Good.  Now first thinks first, that was quite possibly the best thing ever! Kudos to those guys for not only remembering the classics like “Hammer Time” and “Running Man” but also being up to date with a little “Walk it Out.”  Very impressive.

Now that you’re all done giggling, let me share my take on the basic message that was being shared.

A line towards the end of the rap said, “Where’s your heart?  Just follow the cash.  I’m storing up mine in a Heavenly stash.”  This of course is based off of one of Jesus’ teachings during the sermon on the mount: For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also…No one can serve two masters.  Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other (Matthew 6:21,24 NIV).

Many people think that this teaching applies only to the Donald Trump’s of the world: greedy traders on Wall Street and selfish CEO’s who put their wallet before God.  However, what Jesus said applies to regular people like you and me, too.

No one can serve two masters.  There are many things besides money that we can put before God.  Sometimes I get too busy with homework and tv that my evening just gets away from me, and before I know it I don’t have time for my daily prayer time and Bible study.  What are the effects of this?

There your heart will be also.  I sometimes end up caring more about getting perfect grades and about Jim and Pam’s wedding than about what God might be trying to do with my life.

Who has been your master this week?  Who have you been serving with your time, talents, and love?  Have you been too busy with friends, school, or a significant other to spend any time with God?  We cannot serve both God and ourselves.  The Lord has given us all gifts, and He intends for us to use our gifts to serve Him, to serve others, and to build up His Kingdom (Romans 12:6-8).

How can you serve God today?  Who do you know that is in need of a few moments of your time?

Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve…But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord (Joshua 24:15 NIV).

In Christ,

Nick B

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