Monday, December 29, 2008


I can't imagine how frustrating it must be to be my Lord sometime... of course, it probably helps that God is infinitely patient, loving and caring. I'm always forgetting even the most simplest of acts in our relationship: saying "thank you".

I catch myself a lot with this, but usually well after the fact. The other day my wife and I traveled back from Indiana through fog and melting snow, and I prayed at the start of the trip for a safe journey. God was faithful and protected us, but it wasn't until literally the next day that I caught myself, winced, looked up and said, "Thanks!"

We pray so little when things go well, and so much when they do not, and then get frustrated at the perception that God's just not listening and answering fast enough for our liking. In looking at the attitudes of my young niece and nephews this holiday, I can identify with that behavior -- a kind of "what have you done for me LATELY?" response that nullifies everything that came before.

I think when the hard times come, it is so very important to continue to say "thanks" and remember all of the ways God's supported, protected and blessed you over the years, because it reminds you that He's not done and hasn't lifted His hand from you in the least.

God was very good to me this year -- thanks, Lord, for all I have, all I am, and all you are to me.

"Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus." - 1 Thessalonians 5:18

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Friendship in Proverbs

For my Hermeneutics class, we were tasked with identifying verses in Proverbs that dealt with friendship, and then organize them into an outline for teaching. I thought this was interesting enough to pass along my efforts:

Forming Friendships:

  1. Be cautious in friendships you choose (12:26)
  2. Do not make friends with people who have short tempers (22:24)

Preserving Friendships:

  1. Promote love by covering over offenses (17:9)
  2. Love at all times (17:17)
  3. You can endure hurts from true friends (27:6)
  4. The best sign of a true friend is the advice they give (27:9)
  5. Don’t desert your friend when they’re in need (27:10)

Destructive Friendships:

  1. Bad friendships can take you away from God (12:26)
  2. Gossip and dissension can destroy a friendship (16:28)
  3. Repeating offensives can separate close friends (17:9)
  4. You cannot trust people who flatter you too much (27:6)

Wealth and Friendships:

  1. Rich people find themselves surrounded by many people claiming to be friends (14:20, 19:4)
  2. Poor people do not have people running to be their friends (14:20, 19:4, 19:7)
  3. People claim to be friends of whoever is giving out gifts (19:6)
  4. Poor people are shunned by relatives (19:7)

God’s Friendship:

  1. While having lots of friends doesn’t prevent problems in your life, God will stick with you no matter what (18:34)
  2. If you love a pure heart and try to say right things, God will be your friend (22:11)

Monday, December 1, 2008

Being Called (Mark 1:14-20)

(You can read Mark 1:14-20 here)

For my New Testament Exposition class, I'm writing a 10-page exegetical paper on Luke 5:1-11 (exegesis is a critical examination and understanding of a particular text), in which Jesus calls his first disciples, Simon Peter, Andrew, James and John. One of the interesting things I've uncovered in my research is that the other two gospel accounts of Jesus calling these men to follow him -- one in Matthew and this one in Mark -- are probably not the same account. Many scholars deduce that the Matthew/Mark accounts happened before the Luke 5 one... so what's going on here?

The answer is pretty simple, once you put it to a timeline. In Mark 1, Jesus calls these four fishermen with the well-known phrase, "Come, follow me, and I will make you fishers of men." The disciples "at once" and "without delay" followed Jesus. Yet, since Jesus ends up calling them again in Luke 5, we can deduce that these four hadn't made a full commitment to Christ. They didn't fully understand what he was asking. They were dipping their toes into the water of discipleship, but still remaining in their home town with their families.

But God is nothing if not persistent. Jesus doesn't sense their half-heartedness and move on; he pursues them and calls them again. In Luke 5, Jesus performs an incredible miracle -- the huge catch of fish -- that demonstrates on many levels his power and authority over nature and our daily needs. It is in this miracle that who Jesus is and what he was asking of these fishermen finally got through to them. Peter falls down at his feet, and in verse 11, they finally "leave everything" to follow Christ.

Anne Lamott, in her book Traveling Mercies, describes her conversion to Christ. She was going through a terrifically horrible period in her life following drug use and an abortion, and had ducked out of several church services before hearing the sermons. But one day, on her way home, she felt as if something was following her, like a cat. She knew it at once to be God, pacing after her, going with her all the way home. It was finally there, in her bedroom, that she knew God would be chasing after her her entire life, and she gave in and accepted Him into her life.

If these are indeed two separate accounts of Jesus calling these four disciples into the ministry, then we have a wonderful picture of how persistent Jesus is in going after those he knows will eventually be receptive to him. I love how God doesn't give up on us, even though we're sinful and frustrating and often downright mean back at him. A quote (I forget the author) I've always liked went like this: "Our God is the only God the world has ever heard of who loves sinners."

Jesus pursues us relentlessly, out of love and an eager desire to save us from our own destruction. He's the Lord of second chances, the Prince of patience, and he's either right behind us if we haven't accepted him or right in front of us, leading, if we have.