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The Beauty of Cathedrals

What makes a cathedral beautiful? wpid-20140609_135031.jpgSome people measure beauty by the architecture, size, cleanliness, paintings, relics, sculptures, age, colors, and in many other ways.

On our recent trip to Italy, I thought about this a lot. We saw some elaborately decorated cathedrals. We visited the Pantheon, St. Peter’s-in-Chains Cathedral, the Duomo of Florence, the Cathedral of Pisa, St. Peter’s Basilica, the Sistine Chapel, more.

wpid-20140606_061003.jpgEach of those buildings is beautiful for many reasons. Without a doubt, they were built and decorated by talented builders and artists who used their God-given abilities to create magnificent places of worship, and we appreciate their skill, dedication and work. In addition, we are thankful for those who have preserved the buildings for centuries.

But the real beauty of the cathedrals is in the One who is worshiped there. If you enter the building and only admire the architects, engineers, painters, sculptors, and others who constructed the cathedral, or if you only take the time to admire the colors, size, shapes, and age of the building, then you have totally missed the point.

wpid-img_787459955786.jpegThe God of the universe should be worshiped there. The purpose of the building is to provide a place where people can gather to worship God, and to hear of the good news of Jesus Christ who lived, died and rose again to offer salvation to all who will believe. Of course this can happen anywhere. It can occur inside or outside of buildings. God speaks by the Holy Spirit through the Bible, His Word. You can worship God while you are by yourself or in the midst of millions of people. We are not dependent on buildings to admire Christ. We do not need cathedrals to find salvation.

The real beauty of the cathedral lies in the beauty of Christ’s sacrifice and love for us. Nothing can match His radiance and beauty. In one of the cathedrals we visited, a radiant sunbeam shone down through the opening in the dome, a great reminder that Jesus is the light of the world.

 
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Posted by on July 25, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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Legacy of a Warrior: The Sword of the Spirit

ColosseumRecently I visited the Colosseum in Rome. This outdoor arena held 50,000 screaming spectators, and witnessed some of the most dramatic, traumatic and gruesome events in human history. Gladiators battled there. Criminals fought lions and other wild animals to the death. Christians were fed to the lions there.

Life is a series of spiritual battles. We face fear, guilt, temptation. depression, pride, and all sorts of evils. Our enemy, the devil, knows our weaknesses. He knows how, when and where to attack each of us. Yet, in Christ we are champions. We are more than conquerors through Christ.

Our strong and loving Heavenly Father has provided all the resources we need to be victorious. We arm ourselves to prepare for the battles of life. Here are the links to the first few posts in this series if you’d like to read more about each part of the armor of God:

All of the weapons mentioned above are defensive weapons, intended to protect us. But the next weapon – the sword of the Spirit – is both a defensive weapon and an offensive weapon. It defends us and attacks our enemy.

Take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is God’s word. (Ephesians 6:17)

The Bible helps us overcome temptation. As we commit verses of Scripture to memory, God brings them to mind at just the right time. As we say them in our heart and mind, or even say them out loud, we have clarity and power to stand victorious over the temptation that is coming against us.

I have treasured Your word in my heart so that I may not sin against You. (Psalm 119:11)

The Bible shows us how to obey the Lord. As we read and study the Bible, the stories, principles and verses jump off the page and give us direction for life. They show us what to say, how to relate to others, what to do, and how to focus our life. The Bible is our guide for the big decisions in life and also for the daily decisions of life. The Bible shows us how to obey the Lord.

Your word is a lamp for my feet and a light on my path. (Psalm 119:105)

Here are seven ways for you to interact with the Bible.

  1. Read the Bible
  2. Study the Bible
  3. Understand the Bible
  4. Memorize verses from the the Bible
  5. Meditate on verses from the Bible
  6. Discuss the Bible with others
  7. Apply the Bible to your life

Pick up your sword. Use it. Let God’s word change your life. Let God’s word be your weapon to live a legacy of faith worth passing on to those who follow you. That’s the legacy of a warrior that we need. If you need help on getting started with reading God’s word, read my post about that HERE.

I like to keep it simple: read the Bible and do what it says. Because of Christ and through Christ you can!

 
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Posted by on June 26, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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Mars Hill

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In the first century AD, the apostle Paul stood in Athens on a rock formation known as Mars Hill (aka, the Areopagus). Just a few days ago, I stood in that very spot. It was a deeply moving experience.

My wife and I, along with our friends Kip & Amanda, were on vacation in Greece. In Athens, we toured the Acropolis, a plateau that contains the archaeological remains of the Parthenon and other temples to Greek gods and goddesses.

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At the Acropolis, people worshiped Athena, Nike and other false gods at the Greek temples. When Paul arrived in Athens in the first century these false gods had been worshiped there for more than four hundred years. A few hundred yards away from the Acropolis is Mars Hill. We went there too, just as Paul had done two thousand years ago.

In Acts 17:16-34 (see below) you can read the story of Paul sharing a powerful message with the Athenians at Mars Hill, a message about their altar set up to an unknown God. You see, Paul knew God. Personally. He knew the Sovereign, Eternal, Creator. This God who was unknown to the Athenians was the God who had changed Paul’s life. Paul knew the One who sent His Son to provide the way to eternal life. Paul knew Jesus, who was God-in-the-flesh, the One who died and rose again.

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Paul’s message convicted the hearts of some people and they put their trust in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Others rejected Paul’s message.

When Kim, Amanda, Kip and I stood on Mars Hill, we read Acts 17:16-34 out loud. We discussed the fact that we were standing in the very spot where Paul preached. We thanked God for Paul, and asked the Lord to use us to point people to Christ just like Paul did, because we live in a day when people worship many gods but they don’t even know the One True God — Jesus.

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Paul’s message at Mars Hill:

While Paul was waiting for them in Athens, his spirit was troubled within him when he saw that the city was full of idols. So he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and with those who worshiped God and in the marketplace every day with those who happened to be there. Then also, some of the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers argued with him. Some said, “What is this pseudo-intellectual trying to say?”

Others replied, “He seems to be a preacher of foreign deities” — because he was telling the good news about Jesus and the Resurrection.

They took him and brought him to the Areopagus, and said, “May we learn about this new teaching you’re speaking of? For what you say sounds strange to us, and we want to know what these ideas mean.” Now all the Athenians and the foreigners residing there spent their time on nothing else but telling or hearing something new.

Then Paul stood in the middle of the Areopagus and said: “Men of Athens! I see that you are extremely religious in every respect. For as I was passing through and observing the objects of your worship, I even found an altar on which was inscribed:

TO AN UNKNOWN GOD.

Therefore, what you worship in ignorance, this I proclaim to you. The God who made the world and everything in it — He is Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in shrines made by hands. Neither is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives everyone life and breath and all things. From one man He has made every nationality to live over the whole earth and has determined their appointed times and the boundaries of where they live. He did this so they might seek God, and perhaps they might reach out and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us. For in Him we live and move and exist, as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we are also His offspring.’ Being God’s offspring then, we shouldn’t think that the divine nature is like gold or silver or stone, an image fashioned by human art and imagination.

“Therefore, having overlooked the times of ignorance, God now commands all people everywhere to repent, because He has set a day when He is going to judge the world in righteousness by the Man He has appointed. He has provided proof of this to everyone by raising Him from the dead.”

When they heard about resurrection of the dead, some began to ridicule him. But others said, “We’d like to hear from you again about this.” Then Paul left their presence. However, some men joined him and believed, including Dionysius the Areopagite, a woman named Damaris, and others with them. (Acts 17:16-34)

 
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Posted by on June 18, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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Legacy of a Warrior: The Helmet of Salvation

A helmet protects your head. Whether it be an athlete, a motorcyclist or a soldier, or even a kid just learning to ride her bike, people know that helmets are important cranial protection. In chapter six verse seventeen of his letter to the Ephesians, Paul used the analogy of a warrior’s helmet to describe how our salvation through Christ protects us.

First, our salvation helps us to know something vitally important. And second, our salvation helps us to think in certain ways. Knowing and thinking — two functions of our brain, things that need protection by the helmet of salvation.

Take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is God’s word. (Ephesians 6:17)

First, God wants you to know that you are saved. Here are three evidences of salvation:

1. You turn away from sin, and you trust in Christ.

This is how we are sure that we have come to know Him: by keeping His commands. The one who says, “I have come to know Him,” yet doesn’t keep His commands, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoever keeps His word, truly in him the love of God is perfected. This is how we know we are in Him: The one who says he remains in Him should walk just as He walked. (1 Jn 2:3-6)

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away, and look, new things have come. (2 Cor 5:17)

2. The Holy Spirit produces fruit in you.

This is how we know that we remain in Him and He in us: He has given assurance to us from His Spirit. (1 Jn 4:13)

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, gentleness, self-control. Against such things there is no law. (Galatians 5:22-23)

3. You continue to walk with Jesus over time.

As He was saying these things, many believed in Him. So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed Him, “If you continue in My word, you really are My disciples. (John 8:30)

Second, God wants you to think like a saved person. As a person who has been saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, set your mind on Christ. Learn to think like a saved person. Right thinking leads to right living. Let God transform your mind so that you think in ways that honor Him. Right thoughts produce right words, right decisions and right actions. God will help you. Immerse yourself in the Bible, His Word. The Bible will teach you to think like a saved person.

For those who live according to the flesh think about the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, about the things of the Spirit. (Rom 8:5)

Therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, I urge you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God; this is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God. (Rom 12:1-2)

Finally brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable —if there is any moral excellence and if there is any praise—dwell on these things. (Phil 4:8)

 
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Posted by on May 31, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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Free Digital Resources that you will actually use

As a Christian living in the digital age, there are many free resources available for your smartphone, tablet and computer to spiritually encourage you and help you in your walk with Christ.

Here are a few that are especially helpful to me:

YouVersion Bible App — I use it for daily Bible reading (there are many daily reading plans inside the app). Choose from multiple versions of the Bible in many languages. Also, through YouVersion you have access to videos such as The Jesus Film and others. I also use YouVersion to read the Bible on Sundays at church, even using the “Live” tab to follow along with our pastor’s sermon notes.

Pandora Music App – choose your favorite songs, favorite artists, or favorite genres and create channels of music that you will love.

MyStudyBible.com — two of the best features of this site are free access to the HCSB Study Bible digital version (filled with study notes, maps, charts, etc) and a feature that allows you to click on any key word to see a short definition of the meaning of that word in the original languages of the Bible: Hebrew, Greek and Aramaic.

Wordsearch and Logos — these two apps have enormous amounts of free materials available, everything from Bible commentaries, books on theology, discipleship resources, and more. Just this morning I was reading a book on Bonhoeffer that I downloaded free.

Vessel Project — you can sign up to receive a daily email that gives you discounted and free Christian e-books. Depending on your genre preferences, you will find some that you will enjoy reading on your Kindle Reader (another free app you can download).

What are some others that you use?

 
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Posted by on May 24, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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The Fruit of the Spirit

When you receive Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, you are changed forever. Your life is changed from the inside out. It starts at the moment of salvation and continues all the days of your life. God desires for you to steadily grow throughout your entire lifetime, and He will help you every step of the way.

The great work that God does to change you on the inside results in a transformed life that all can see. This life is very different than your old way of living. Your old nature was marked by sinfulness and flesh-centered living. The Bible describes the flesh-centered life this way:

Now the works of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, moral impurity, promiscuity, idolatry, sorcery, hatreds, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambitions, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and anything similar. I tell you about these things in advance — as I told you before — that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. (Galatians 5:19-21)

The life of self-centered, flesh-centered living is alluring, but it doesn’t fully satisfy. It leaves you empty, feeling guilty, hurting, lost. It ultimately leads to eternal separation from God. But God loves you so much that He provided the way to eternal life — Jesus.

God changes us through Christ. He fills us with His Spirit. He changes us from the inside out. When you read the list below, you will notice that every one of these character traits were perfectly displayed in Jesus when He walked the earth. And God wants your life to look just like Jesus. It’s good for you, and it honors Him.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, gentleness, self-control. Against such things there is no law. Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, we must also follow the Spirit. (Galatians 5:22-25)

Four truths about the fruit of the Spirit:

  1. God’s way is the best way. As verse 23 says, “Against such things there is no law.” The reason there are no laws against the fruit of the Spirit is because God’s way is the best way. An interesting note: in almost every society, there are laws against the works of the flesh (Galatians 5:19-21), especially when those works are carried to the extreme.
  2. God produces His fruit in us. He produces love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, gentleness and self-control. You don’t have to try to work it up. God is the one who produces His fruit in us. As we stay close to Him, stay focused on Him, rest in Him, depend on Him, and draw strength from Him, He produces His fruit in us.
  3. God desires to produce ALL of His fruit in us. The Bible says that “the fruit of the Spirit is….” Notice that the word “fruit” is singular and the verb is singular (“is”). The Bible does not say that the fruits of the Spirit are…. What this means is that all of the characteristics of the fruit of the Spirit should be displayed in our lives. We don’t pick and choose. God produces it all.
  4. God uses His ways to produce His fruit in us. Three ways that God works:
      • Salvation – “those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires”
      • Determination – God puts a determination in us to want to “live by the Spirit”
      • Daily Guidance – “we must also follow after the Spirit”
 
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Posted by on May 11, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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4 things that I’m learning to pray for every community

Every city is unique. Every community is unique. Yet cities and communities have many similarities, including similar needs. And, they all have amazing opportunities for good news to be shared with people, the kind of good news that changes lives.

I came across a couple of verses in chapter four of Luke’s gospel that give me guidance on how to pray for cities and communities. Jesus spent much of his earthly ministry in a region known as Galilee. Here are the verses that I read, followed by the four things that I’m praying for each city and each community.

Then Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about Him spread throughout the entire vicinity. He was teaching in their synagogues, being acclaimed by everyone. (Luke 4:14-15)

4 things that I’m learning to pray for every community

  1. I’m praying that the power of the Holy Spirit will be displayed there.
  2. I’m praying that the news about Jesus will spread throughout the entire vicinity.
  3. I’m praying that the Bible will be taught to everyone who will listen.
  4. I’m praying that Jesus will be glorified there, being acclaimed by everyone.

Read Luke 4:14-15 again. Maybe you notice other specific ways we can pray for our cities and communities. What would happen if all of us began praying for every city and every community that we live in, work in, travel to, play ball in, shop in, and even think about?

Something big might happen. Let’s pray.

 
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Posted by on May 10, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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