Superman or Clark Kent?

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Let me start by saying that I know I’ve used today’s image before, but I like it, ok?!

During his time here on earth, Jesus did many wonderful and great things. He healed many, cured blindness and disease, and changed the world with his teachings. He did all these things by faith and because he was God. But look at what he says in John’s gospel, “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do, he will do also; and greater works that these he will do; because I go to the Father.” (John 14:12 NASB).

This says to me that since I have Christ, I can be like a superhero! No, we probably can’t do supernatural things or perform superhuman feats, but God can! He can use us to fulfill His purposes and achieve His goals. There is a couple that goes to my church that had a family member go to the hospital. Come to find out he had a blown an aneurysm, and was all but dead when they reached the hospital. Despite the grim situation, this couple began to pray and placed him on as many prayer chains they could. That was over a year ago! Today he is walking and talking and going through physical therapy to regain motor skills. Doctors, nurses, and unbelieving family members have been shocked at this man’s recovery from such a devastating injury. It’s amazing to think that all of those who prayed for this man have been involved in a miracle. Let’s see Superman bring someone back from death.

The radio segment that inspired this post leaves you with a simple question. Do you want to be in Christ and be greater than Superman, or be without Christ and be no more than a powerless Clark Kent?

 

Answering the Call

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Receiving a call on your life is a very powerful moment and feeling. I remember mine to become a worship leader. Answering God’s call is a very important thing for us to do as we seek to become closer to His heart.

To me, one of the most powerful moments in the Bible is Paul’s conversion (Acts 9). Before, Saul of Tarsus spent his life chasing down the Church and arresting and killing Christians. Until one day, on his way to Damascus, Saul was struck by lightning and God said to him “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?” (Acts 9:4 NASB). Saul was confused, he thought he was doing God’s will. So he asked who was speaking to him, and the answer came “I am Jesus”. After this encounter Saul was blind. He was lead into Damascus until a man named Ananias came to him, healed his sight, baptized him, and delivered God’s call on his life.

I was reading a book this morning called Then Sing My Soul by Robert Morgan. It is a book that talks about several hymns. Today I was reading about Be Thou My Vision. Here Morgan discusses St. Patrick. After having lived a life where he was sold into slavery in Ireland, he escaped and returned home to England. Patrick then had a dream of an Irishman begging for him to come back to Ireland, but this time as a missionary. His family pleaded with him not to go, but he did return to Ireland with only his Bible. He planted about 200 churches and saw 100,000 converts to Christianity. Patrick is seen as one of the most important evangelicals of all time.

So where does that leave us? Paul and Patrick both became great persons of faith, and simply answered God’s call upon their lives. Can you imagine a world where they hadn’t? God has placed on your life a purpose and a calling. It may not be to go and turn a whole country to Christianity, it may not be to lead arenas is singing His praises. It may not be anything that you would view as grand and important. But I can honestly tell you, if God wants you to do something, it is important. If you don’t know what that purpose is, then spend some time in prayer. Ask Him what job He has for you. God doesn’t create anything without a purpose, and that includes you and I. So seek out your calling, and ask God to lead you to it.

Give To God What is His (Mark 12)

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Today’s chapter has a ton of Jesus’ most well known teachings. This only makes sense because if the gospel writers knew anything, it’s that Jesus did a lot of good teachings during his final week on earth. Among these is Jesus speaking on paying taxes.

The Pharisees, Sadducees and scribes attempted to get Jesus in trouble with the Roman government by asking him if it was right to pay the poll tax. They clearly expected him to answer “No!”, but this is not they way he chose to answer. Instead he says, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s” (12:17 NASB). While I feel as though most of the time this text is used to teach about submitting to authority, today we’re using it to show that we can’t hold anything back from God!

There are two things in this world; things of the world and things of God. They best way to tell the difference (to me at least) is to know what things go away with time. As the prophet Isaiah says, “The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of God stands forever” (Isaiah 40:8 NASB). So God wants us to give to the world the things of the world, that must eventually fade away. However, He wants us to give Him what is eternal. To put it another way, “Love the Lord Your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.” (12:30 NASB).

So while we can give our tithes and offerings, we can tell people about God and Jesus Christ, etc., what God truly wants from us is for us to give our whole hearts into worship. “Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12:1-2 NASB).

Give the world what it deserves. Give it time at your job. Give it money. Give it submission to authority over you (so long as it doesn’t conflict with God). But never give it your worship! Worship is reserved solely for God. “You shall have no other gods before me” (Exodus 20:3, Deuteronomy 5:7). It’s right there in the first Commandment. The second doesn’t even want us making idols so that we aren’t tempted to worship that instead of God! When Moses delivered the Ten Commandments, God was telling us that He wants and deserves our worship, nothing else deserves it more than Him!

So worship God today (What?! It’s Tuesday!). I love to pick up my guitar in the mornings and just sing Him a song. But even if you don’t play music, turn on some Christian music/radio. And even beyond that just read your Bible and pray. That is the most intimate kind of worship. Just praise God for all He has done for you. Even if it’s a hard day. Worship is most meaningful when we just don’t feel like it. Because what we are saying then is “No matter how bad I feel, or how angry I am with You, You are greater than all of it and worthy of my praise!”

The Answer to Prayer (Mark 11)

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We are coming to the end of Christ’s life. The beginning of this chapter is during what we celebrate as Palm Sunday, the beginning of Passion week and the end of Jesus’ life. I always find it interesting during Easter celebrations to take a look at the difference between the people’s reactions to Jesus on Psalm Sunday and on Good Friday. I might have to do that during Holy Week next year, but for now I will stick to Mark 11.

The next day after entering Jerusalem, Jesus curses a fig tree (this seems crazy but it’s used as a teaching moment). He then entered the temple in Jerusalem and drove out the money changers say “Is it not written ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations’? But you have made it a robbers’ den” (11:17 NASB). Then spent the rest of the day teaching. As the evening came, Jesus and the disciples passed by the fig tree again. This time it had withered and died! The disciples question Jesus about this and his response is, “I say to you, all things for which you pray and ask, believe that you have received them, and they will be granted you” (11:23 NASB).

WHAT?! If I pray really hard and believe I have it, God will give me everything I pray for?! No. I wish that were true. Honestly I really wish it were true. I recently had applied for a job, that I did not receive. I prayed really hard for it. I really wanted this job, but as I said, I didn’t get it. So how does this work in relation to the statement Jesus makes?

Well, honestly, it is hard to reconcile. But God gave me an answer today!

I was listening to one of my many podcasts this morning, and this episode was on ambition. The pastor being interviewed stated, “Sometimes God says no. But He never just says no. He says it because something bigger and better is coming for you.” Wow! I was blown away by that statement. This just means to me that that wasn’t the job God had in store for me, He has something better for me He wants me to do. I can’t wait to find out what it is.

So I encourage you to pray (like I do on almost every post). Pray with all your heart and believe that God will give it to you! However, if He says no, take heart in knowing that this wasn’t right for you and God has a better plan.

The Heart of Man (Mark 7)

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Today’s chapter holds three of Jesus’ teachings. First, he talks about worrying more about tradition than the commandments of God. He uses the fact that the Pharisees allow people to give everything to God, and that releases them from needing to help their parents. This is obviously a clear violation of the the commandment to honor our parents, yet people were allowed to do this by the Pharisees.

The second teaching, however, is where I want to spend my time. Jesus tells the Pharisees, “there is noting outside the man which can defile him if it goes into him; but the things which proceed out of the man are what defile the man” (7:15 NASB). Jesus’ statement is speaking towards the heart of man. He says in verses 21-23, “For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, deeds of coveting and wickedness, as well as deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, and foolishness. All these evil things proceed from within and defile the man.”

This teaching spans all the way back to Genesis 3. When we were created, we were not created with the heart that Jesus is talking about, rather we were made with one of servitude and worship. It was when Adam and Eve first sinned, our hearts changed and became full of the things listed above.

So what do we do? It seems that our hearts are full of things that God tells us to stray away from and that we should not be. However we have a way to be rid of those things. In Christ, we are a new creation. While we are still human we have to fight these things, yet we have the ability to overcome these temptations through Christ.

So ask God for forgiveness. Spend time with the Lord, and read the Scriptures. This is how we overcome the evil that is inside of all of us. So take up the habit if you haven’t already. This body is not who we were created to be, so let’s seek the heart of God so we can become all that we were meant to be.

Be Still (Mark 4)

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As we continue through the gospel of Mark, Jesus finally starts to really teach. However, He taught by using parables. A parable is best defined as a short story used to illustrate a moral or spiritual lesson. Jesus loved to use parables. This came as a fulfillment of prophecy from Psalm 78:1-2 “Listen, O my people, to my instruction; Incline your ears to the words of my mouth. I will open my mouth in a parable; I will utter dark sayings of old.” (NASB) The parables were not just meant as an illustration, but were also a way that Jesus was able to instruct the disciples. In this chapter we see the Parable of the Sower, Parable of the Seed, and Parable of the Mustard Seed.

After his day of teaching, Jesus decided that they should cross the Sea of Galilee. In the middle of the night, while Jesus was asleep, a storm brewed that threatened to destroy their boat.

Quick side note, the Sea of Galilee often brews up storms from seemingly nowhere. Four of the 12 disciples were experienced fisherman from the Galilee, so they would have had plenty of experience with these storms. However, based on their reaction and fear, I would say this must have been a rather massive storm.

When Jesus awoke he said two things: “Hush, be still.” (4:39 NASB) and “Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?” (4:40 NASB)

When life begins to get rough, we all have the inclination to worry. I definitely do. When my wife became pregnant with our daughter, my first reaction (after the excitement) was worry about being able to provide for this child. This fear stayed with me up until about her first birthday. What I had failed to realize, and what many of us don’t realize, is that fear comes from a lack of faith. Jesus says in Matthew’s gospel, “do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they?” (Matthew 6:25-26 NASB) This simply reminds us not to worry and have faith, because God will take care you!

I know that for some people, myself included, we want to fix the problem as soon as it arises, or at least figure out a solution. But just like the wind and water, Jesus is asking us to “be still”. The time we take to stop and breathe is important because it gives us a chance to listen to what God is telling us. If you have stress, and are worried, I encourage you to pray for God’s peace and know that He is with you.

Brothers and Sisters (Mark 3)

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After performing more miracles, and calling his 12 disciples, Christ returns to the home he is staying at and a crowd forms. From out side of the crowd, someone notices that Mary (Jesus’ mother), James and Jude (Jesus’ brothers), and maybe other brothers were outside. The message is passed upwards to Jesus himself, and he replies “For whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother. (3:35 NASB)”

The implication of this seems rather simple; as Christians, we are counted as brothers and sisters of Jesus Christ. But honestly it goes a little deeper than that. First (and most importantly), this makes us children of God! We talk and sing about God’s love for us, and it honestly seems misplaced if you don’t understand this point. If we are not counted as children of God as well, this means that God loves strangers that hurt Him consistently. But rather, we are His children; He created us, He loves us, and He wants to help us (just like any good father would).

The second would be that we are all family. Think about that for a second. Every single man, woman and child that has a faith in Jesus Christ is either your brother or sister! How much fun is that? We all get to be one big happy family!

So I encourage you today to love on our brothers and sisters! Some are going through hardships and some are going through great joys! Either way, we should be there for each other because we are all family. So send up some extra prayers for your brothers and sisters, and maybe they’ll do the same for you!

Forgiveness of Sins (Mark 2)

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Today’s chapter is Mark chapter 2. Jesus has already began his public ministry. He has called 4 of his disciples and already began to heal people. Based on the same account in Luke, Jesus is most likely at Simon’s (Peter’s) house. A crowd had formed an no one else could get in to see Jesus. Four men decided to climb up on top of the house and lower their friend, who had been paralyzed, to see Jesus and be healed. The words that Jesus decides to use to announce this man’s healing were unexpected at the time, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” (2:5 NASB) The people around him began to freak out! They said “Why does this man speak that way? His blaspheming; who can forgive sins but God alone?” (2:7 NASB) Jesus ultimately responds with “… so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” (2:10 NASB)

This fits pretty nicely with my previous post, Repent and Believe. The progression is here that you have admitted your sin, and now Christ has the power to forgive you. Up to this point in the story, you sins could only be forgiven if you took and offering to the temple, and the priest performed the sacrifice on your behalf. However, Jesus teaches that we may go directly to Him. If you read the book of Hebrews, Jesus is constantly attributed the title of the High Priest.

This is why we pray, “in Jesus name”. This phrase puts our prayer and faith into context for us. Simply praying, we may come to think that we are mighty, but remembering that it is because of Christ’s death we have this ability to commune directly with God, we keep ourselves humble.

My prayer for you today is that you continue on with the idea from yesterday. Confess your sins, but also ask for forgiveness. Jesus says in Matthew “Ask, and it will be given to you;” (7:7 NASB). So ask your Father today to forgive you of your sins and continue on the path of repentance and work to rid yourself of your sinful ways. You will fail, but just as easy as it is to ask, its easy to ask again!

Having a Thankful Heart

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Today’s reading is 2 Samuel 7.

In this chapter of 2 Samuel, David realizes that he lives in an elaborate palace and the Ark of the Covenant is in a tent. His wish is to build God a much more prestigious dwelling place that he has. David consults the prophet Nathan, who took over after Samuel’s death, about his plan. Nathan tells him to go ahead and plan. God then delivers a message to Nathan, who in turn gives it to David. Nathan’s vision reveals that David will not be the one to build the temple, even though he will plan it. God also promises to make a “dynasty of kings” (7:11 NLT) from David. Then also promises to rise up one of David’s descendants to be His son (Jesus Christ anybody?!?!?!?!?!). David’s reaction is to offer up a prayer of thanksgiving, thanking God for His promise.

How often do you give God thanks? Only at church during the “thanksgiving” section? Never? At every meal? Sometimes we aren’t even giving God thanks when we are giving Him thanks. Some of our thanksgiving practices have become rote, and people don’t realize what they are saying. For instance take the Doxology:

“Praise God from whom all blessings flow
Praise Him all creatures here below
Praise Him above, you heavenly hosts
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost
Amen”

This chorus is filled with thanking God for everything for all His blessings. Thanking God is important, because if we do not give God the glory, than we sin. Remember the second time Moses struck a rock to bring out water for the Israelites (Numbers 20:1-13)? Since Moses did not glorify God, he was unable to enter the promised land.

But what about the times when God doesn’t bless us. I think of a scene from the movie Facing the Giants. When the coach decides that his football team is going to play football for God he gives them a simple mantra “When we win, we praise Him; When we lose, we praise Him!” I think that this has an equal meaning in all our lives, because honestly, we are all dust until God gives us the breath of life. So it is because of God we even have a life that times of trouble can happen in. So we give thanks for life and remember Psalm 23 “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me;…” (Psalm 23:4a NASB).

So I encourage you to remember to give God thanks everyday. Its especially hard during the times of trouble, but it is still important. It is also important to remember who gave you blessings. So thank God for the good times. David had a thankful heart, and remembered to give thanks when necessary, so this is something that we must learn on our way to becoming a Heart Man.

Consultation

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When David was first anointed king, he only became king over Judah. Then it seems like war broke out at every turn along the way. Finally Saul’s son Ishbosheth (the current king of Israel) was killed. This ultimately led to David becoming king over all of Israel. The wars continued after this, leading to David to take the city of Jerusalem. Finally, David’s main enemies, the Philistines, decide to attack as well. When David first hears about this attack, he prays “Should I go out to fight the Philistines? Will You hand them over to me?” (2 Samuel 5:19 NLT) God responded with yes and David was victorious over them. Soon after, the Philistines attacked again; once again David prayed to ask if he should attack. God gives the Philistines over to David, and he conquers them.

Notice what David did? If you don’t remember, during king Saul’s reign the Philistines were the main enemy of the Israelites. David was assigned to kill 100 Philistines for Michal to become his wife! That doesn’t sound like anything but a pretty big hatred for each other. So David is being attacked by the biggest enemy his people have known (so far) and what does he do? He prays for direction. He goes to seek God first. I’m sure David’s reaction was similar to Arturo Mendez’s reaction in the movie Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgandy, “Tonight’s top story: the sewers run red with Burgandy’s blood”.

This means for us today that we need to consult God first. Before we make any decisions! Let me say that again. BEFORE we make any decisions! I’ll be the first to admit that I fail at this. It’s all to easy for us to make decisions then say “How was that God?” Instead we should consult the Lord. You see friends, God’s Will will always be carried out, no matter what. When we spend the time in prayer to consult him over our decisions can either “insure” our success or prevent us from tons of heartache. I’ve noticed when I make decisions first, ask God later, my life tends to get more difficult. And I mean LOTS more difficult. Yet spending time with the Lord (both in prayer and reading Scripture) helps us to be more in tune with His will. And when we’re more in tune with God, the better at making decisions we become.

So friends I encourage you today to begin spending time in prayer with God. That’s what the original Heart Man did. So in our journey to figure out how to be after God’s own heart, why wouldn’t we spend time in prayer? God wants to know our hearts, and for us to know His. So get to know you Father. Trust me, you’ll feel tons better!