If… Then…

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Photo by Tuce on Unsplash

If you are a parent you know the if/then scenario, the child comes in and says if I clean up my room then I will be able to play Xbox. Maybe it is the other way around, the parent says if you read these books then you will get $50. Let the negotiations begin!

If you are a parent, you no doubt have come across these if/then scenarios, some are ridiculous, some worth considering, but it is inevitable. The human condition wants something in return for something accomplished or desires the motivation to accomplish something.

You know what’s interesting, this is nothing new. As I was reading in Genesis I came  across the time when Isaac & Rebekah sent Jacob away to find a wife from their homeland. They also sent him away because Esau wanted to kill him for stealing his blessing. On his journey  Jacob dreamed about the stairway to heaven, the angels were ascending and descending and the Lord spoke to Jacob saying,

And behold, the LORD stood above it and said, “I am the LORD, the God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac. The land on which you lie I will give to you and to your offspring. Your offspring shall be like the dust of the earth, and you shall spread abroad to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south, and in you and your offspring shall all the families of the earth be blessed. Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land. For I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.” Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, “Surely the LORD is in this place, and I did not know it.” And he was afraid and said, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.” (Genesis 28:13–17 ESV)

The Lord gives the patriarchal promise, the promise given to Abraham and Isaac, he now gives to Jacob. God tells them He is with him always, He will protect Jacob and will bring him back to the land of promise.

When Jacob wakes up and he is astounded by the dream and the words the Lord has spoken to him, so awe struck  by the presence of God he names the place Bethel, which means the house of God. The God of heaven invaded the life of Jacob and breathed life, purpose, calling into him.

So what does Jacob do? What would you do?

I have never experienced anything like Jacob, but I have had several holy moments in my life, moments when God has spoken to me through his Word, through a sermon, a conversation, a moment so holy it plants purpose and calling, it begins to transform and define you.

Have you had a moment like this?

What’s interesting in the life of Jacob is he realizes he is in the presence of God, he memorializes the place and even changes the name of it. Yet at the same time Jacob’s response amazes me. Instead falling before the Lord in submission and full surrender, Jacob enters negotiation mode, Jacob gives God an if/then,

Then Jacob made a vow, saying, “If God will be with me and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat and clothing to wear, so that I come again to my father’s house in peace, then the LORD shall be my God, and this stone, which I have set up for a pillar, shall be God’s house. And of all that you give me I will give a full tenth to you.” (Genesis 28:20–22 ESV)

Did you catch it?

Jacob tells God if you are with me, feed me, clothe me and bring me back to my father’s house in peace, then the Lord shall be my God. What is interesting is God just told Jacob he was going to do all this and in Jacob’s mind he says if and when you do this then you will be my Lord and God.

To be honest, I feel like Jacob more times than not. God if you give me a better job then…, God if I just received a raise then…, God if you take away my problems then…, what is your if/then to God?

God has made the same promises to us as believers that he has made to Jacob,

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:37–39 ESV)

And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. (Philippians 1:6 ESV)

Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”  (Hebrews 13:5 ESV)

God has promised us that nothing can separate us from His love, he promises he will complete the good work he has started in us, he promises to never leave us and forsake us. God speaks these promises to us, through His Word, like he has spoken them to Jacob and many times our response is an if/then to God. If you do this, then you will be my God.

I thank God we serve a patient and merciful God, who doesn’t do a Thanos snap when we respond to His greatness with an if/then. He patiently brings us to a place of surrender and places in us a desire to desire Him above all. God help us move beyond the if/then scenarios to a place of wholehearted submission to your purposes and plans, no matter where they take us.

Until Next Time

Soli Deo Gloria

 

 

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The Early Bird Gets The Link

Here is your daily round up.

Leave and Cleave Like a Strawberry

I looked at the hostas with their many shapes of leaves in varied shades of green. I looked at the ferns towering above them, still lush and healthy before they inevitably fade under the coming heat of the summer sun. I looked at the bright red and yellow begonias, brilliant splashes of color contrasting beautifully with the dark soil beneath. Then my eyes fixed on the irises which opened for the first time today to display their magnificent purple flowers. And I thought, “I someday want my children to leave and cleave like a strawberry.” I’d better explain.

You’re a Theologian. Become a Good One.

In one sense, all it takes to be a theologian is to have an opinion about God. That’s it. The moment you think or say anything about him or her or it or whatever “God” is to you, you’re doing theology.

The real question, therefore, is not whether you are a theologian. It’s whether you are a good one.

3 Daily Wages of Sin in Your Life

What’s remarkable about the Bible, and maybe you know this from first-hand experience, is that every time I approach it with a willingness and eagerness to learn, God’s Word teaches me something new.

Claiming Victory Will Help You in the Fight

While we may recognize that, as Christians, we are in a constant war within ourselves, wrestling with the desires of our sinful flesh, we must also remember that we live with this assurance of victory.

That assurance changes our outlook in the midst of the battle for two reasons.

Where We Find Significance

All of this confirms something that the Bible already makes clear: we all want to be a part of something bigger than our own lives. We are searching for significance, and we find it by rooting our lives within a bigger story. As one writer put it, “I can only answer the question, ‘How should I live?’ when I’ve answered the prior question, ‘Of what story do I find myself a part?’”

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The Early Bird Gets The Link

Here is your daily round up.

A Disappearing Missionary Impulse

Can the American church regain such a missionary impulse? If we are to do so, the hope rests on common people of God—missionary disciples—infusing their lives with a missionary impulse.

Amazon Sold $240K of ‘Liturgy of the Ordinary’ Fakes, Publisher Says

Just as The New York Times put out a report in late June on a surge of counterfeit books available on Amazon, the 70-year-old Christian publisher discovered that one of its own had also “been victim of a highly organized and sophisticated counterfeiting scheme.”

Beg God to Move Again: Seven Marks of True Revival

While we cannot dictate to God what he will do, history shows us that there are some things that happen before and when revival comes that are worth noting.

How Can We Help Our Kids Communicate the Truth of Christianity in an Evidential Way?

God Hates When Christian Politicians Lie. We Should Too.

Does that mean you shouldn’t vote for a Christian politician that habitually lies?

To answer that question we should ask ourselves: Does it promote the common good to elect politicians who habitually lie? Does it bring dishonor to the name of Jesus to elect people who habitually lie and yet claim to be citizens of Christ’s Kingdom?

4 Starting Points for Reading Revelation

This is a very helpful starting point for those who desire to tackle the book of Revelations. If I could add a fifth I would say come to the book of Revelation with a desire to understand what the book is teaching instead of trying to make it fit with your eschatological view.

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Meditation Monday: Extra! Extra! Read All About it!

Meditation Monday will consist of reflections in the Gospel of Mark.

I love headlines, especially the really good ones, they grab your attention and draw you into the article or news story. A good headline creates an appetite inside of you to continue reading or viewing what follows. The Gospel according to Mark doesn’t begin with a genealogy like Matthew and Luke, Mark begins with a thematic headline, a purpose statement, which is intended to grab our attention and let us know the purpose of his writing.

Just imagine you are a person who lived during the time of Jesus Christ, you have heard rumblings through your town of a man who was giving sight to the blind, raising the dead, healing lepers and the paralyzed, transforming lives, this man was crucified, died, buried, but his followers say he is risen from the dead. Or imagine you were a citizen of the nation of Israel, you’ve heard the prophecies passed down for centuries, a messiah is coming, he will make all things right again. Put yourselves in their shoes… now imagine a scroll arriving to your synagogue or home, the messenger unrolls the scrolls and begins to read, the words which come from his lips to our ears are,

The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. (Mark 1:1 ESV)

How would you react? Would it pique your interest? Would you want to keep listening, investigating, reading?

I know I would if I lived in the the New Testament era, I still do in the 21st century. Mark’s thematic headline is his short confession of faith. With this purpose statement, Mark is summarizing for us what he believes about this person who stepped into time and space named Jesus. Mark records, in his style, the Gospel of Jesus Christ the Son of God is not only history but it is his story. Jesus is the Gospel.

The Beginning

If you are a student of the Bible, what do these words remind you of? When I see these words my mind is drawn to the opening phrase from the book of Genesis, in the beginning. Genesis begins this way to record the beginning of creation. Fast forward to Mark 1 and he proclaims the beginning of the Gospel, Mark is letting us know God is on the move. Mark’s allusion to the creation narrative by using the word beginning in his thematic purpose statement is pointing out this Gospel is crafted in the mind of God and implemented in the person of Jesus. In the words of J.R Edwards ” For Mark the introduction of Jesus is no less momentous than the creation of the world, for in Jesus a new creation is at hand.

The Beginning of the Gospel

The Basic meaning of the word Gospel is good news, so when Mark says “the beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ” he is saying this is the beginning of the good news concerning Jesus. 
This term “gospel” also has a cultural meaning. When Mark plants this word in the middle of his thematic purpose statement he wasn’t just saying “hey, I have some good news.” In the time of Christ this word gospel had a very specific cultural meaning. A gospel was news of a history changing event, which impacted everyone and everyone needed to respond. For example there is a document in Greek that says “this is the beginning of the Gospel of Caesar Augustus.” This  gospel concerning Caesar Augustus was sent out via heralds (preachers/messengers) of Caesar Augustus, to everyone who was under his rule, they went every where to share this good news. This cultural use of the word gospel carries the idea that this good news was earth shattering, history changing event which effects everyone.
Another famous example of this is in AD 490 the battle of Marathon. The Persians were invading Greece and the Athenian army went out to battle the Persians on the plains of Marathon. Everyone expected the Persian army to win the battle. The people in Athens were in fear because as soon as the Persians broke through, Athens would be defenseless. To everyone’s surprise the Greeks won and as soon as they won they realized we need to communicate this Gospel to Athens. What the people on the battlefield realized is unless the people of Athens knew this gospel there could be panic in the streets, looting, chaos.
So they sent a single runner back, and he ran all the way back from Marathon to Athens, can anyone guess the miles? He ran into the city and all he shouted was REJOICE we’ve triumphed!! Then he fell dead. The Athenians needed to hear this good news and the runner realized the message was more precious than life itself.
When Mark proclaims the beginning of the Gospel, he was saying rejoice the promised messiah has come. His thematic headline was proclaiming earth shattering news to all people. The messiah, the true king of Israel is here, God himself has come in the person of Jesus.

Names and Titles

Mark continues his thematic headline by stating that this Gospel is not just historical facts, or certain truths but this Gospel is a person. This person has a name and titles associated to him which describe who he is and his purpose. Mark says this Gospel is about the person of Jesus, which comes from the Hebrew name Joshua meaning Yahweh saves. This name was given to him because he was going to save us from our sins (Matt. 1:21). We discover Jesus is the one who will save us from sin.

We also see Mark uses the name or title of Christ. Which literally means anointed one, to the Jewish people the term Christ was used to describe the Messiah who was to come. Which adds another layer to Mark’s thematic headline. Jesus is not just the savior, but he is the person promised in the Old Testament, He is the one we have been waiting for. This Jesus is the Messiah.

Which leads us to our final title Mark uses, the son of God. Mark is not mixing words, he wants it to be clear who Jesus is, when he calls Jesus the son of God, he is saying that Jesus is God. We will discover through the book of Mark, the title of son of God is proclaiming the divinity of Christ.

Implications

 By using this thematic headline style Mark is conveying some important news to us the reader. What are some implications we can draw from this thematic headline.

  1. This person called Jesus deserves our careful attention and investigation into his claims. Mark is letting us know the life, death and resurrection of Jesus are claims which need to be investigated. Mark’s thematic headline is is stating what follows is my apologetic, my defense and my case on why Jesus is the messiah, the son of God and why it is good news to the world.
  2. Mark desires his confession of faith become our confession of faith. Mark’s desire is that in the reading and investigating of his book you discover and believe Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. He wants his confession of faith to become your confession of faith.
  3. Mark’s goal is to proclaim this life changing, earth shattering, historical event known as the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Mark is like the Athenian messenger from the battle of Marathon, with an urgent message. Mark’s voice is travelling thousands of years through time and proclaiming the message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God to our 21st century ears. This Gospel is still life changing, earth shattering, historical event and the words of God through the Gospel of Mark coupled with the power of the Spirit of God, still can and still does birth faith in us to believe in Jesus.

Until Next Time

Soli Deo Gloria

 

The Early Bird Gets The Link

Hope you had a blessed weekend!

Does Prayer Change God’s Mind?

Does prayer make any difference? Does it really change anything? Someone once asked me that question, only in a slightly different manner: “Does prayer change God’s mind?” My answer brought storms of protest. I said simply, “No.” Now, if the person had asked me, “Does prayer change things?” I would have answered, “Of course!”

Five Bad Reasons to Go to Church

When a church splits over the color of the ceiling, one must wonder: Why do we even go to church at all? To worship God? To be entertained? To have all of our preferences met?

3 Ways Your Faith Should Shape Your Work

If a person went to church every Sunday from the age of 25 to age 65, they would spend around 3,000 hours gathered with the body of Christ. If the same person worked full-time during that span, they would put in around 80,000 work hours. My point? It is the workplace, not the sanctuary, where most Christians live out their faith. If God’s reign shapes all of life, then it must shape one’s view of work.

What I Miss Most (and Least) About Being a Pastor

Jared C. hits the nail on the head.

Why Smaller Churches Are Making a Comeback

Two-thirds of churches have an attendance under 125. The smaller church is the norm, not the exception. And though the news has not been that promising for smaller churches in recent years, I do see some very promising signs for the years ahead. Why do I make such an apparently contrarian statement? Here are five reasons:

The Early Bird Gets The Link

10 Things You Should Know about Communion with Christ

Helpful, insightful and short.

Christians and the Old Testament Dietary Laws

How should New Testament believers view the Old Testament dietary laws outlined in Leviticus 11?

Refresh the Hearts of Those You Love

What if we could see everything that happens in our child’s mind and heart when we love our wife with strength, tenderness, and conviction? What if we could see our neighbors’ thoughts when they see us loving our children with patience, sacrifice, and loving discipline? What if we knew the ripple effects in our church of the creative and intentional ways we’re caring for lost neighbors? We simply cannot see even a fraction of what God does when we love one another well.

Seek the Giver, Not the Gift?

Many believers have overspiritualized church, preaching, and prayer, and in doing so they have distanced God from creation, pleasure, and happiness. “Seek the giver, not the gift” can be an apt warning against idolatry in certain contexts, but as a general rule, it’s misguided.

Three Glimpses of God’s Love Seen in Hagar’s Life

Who cared about this woman? Her whole life seemed to be a story of what other people want. She was pushed from pillar to post, according to what was most convenient for others.  

The Early Bird Gets The Link

 

Happy 4th of July!

Do We Have to Study Every Religion to Know Which One Is True?

Do You Love Your Country?

What this means regarding our question is that, for the Christian, any love for our country that does not flow from an ultimate love for the triune God, and express itself to our various and diverse “neighbors” in real, concrete ways that our neighbors actually experience, is defective, deficient, secondary love at best. And it might not be love at all.

9 Ways Christian Ego Prevents You From Experiencing God

Can I be honest? The past year has largely sucked. And I’m beginning to understand why. My ego was dying. And when the ego begins to die, it feels like death. My identity, my purpose, everything I used to convince myself I was somebody, that I was special, was losing out in favor of a different voice.

Are You Pointing Your Suffering Friend to Earthly Things?

Instead of reminding a sufferer that “this too shall pass” or claiming the Lord will give them something they haven’t been promised, let us tell them of His faithfulness. His steadfast love remains, even if they don’t receive the thing they desire and their suffering continues. Let’s help them look to Jesus, where their true hope lies.

Amazon bans books on “conversion therapy”

Let me stipulate up front that I am no fan of Nicolosi or of conversion therapy. It’s a secular theory that has nothing to do with Christianity. I have written and spoken in opposition to it for years (if you want to understand why, read here). Having said that, the reason that Amazon is banning Nicolosi’s books is not because he taught Christianity (he didn’t) but because he taught that it is possible to change someone’s sexual orientation.

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