Friday, January 30, 2009

God gives and He takes away

We just got done reading about how God gave the Israelites, including the half-tribe of Manasseh, the victory over their enemies because they cried out to Him and He answered their prayers. However, the very next passage in 1 Chronicles chapter 5 talks about how the half-tribe of Mannaseh was then sent into slavery by God Himself. How does that happen? How does God give someone victory and then take it away so decisively?

The answer lies in what took place after the half-tribe of Manasseh settled-in to their new God-given home. They conformed to the ways of their new world. They adopted the practices and gods of the very people that God had destroyed right before their eyes. They violated the first commandment that states that they “shall have no other gods before Him.”

This passage in 1 Chronicles clearly displays the fact that God is a just God and a jealous God. He will not be mocked and He will not share Himself with any other. Let's learn from the mistakes made by the half-tribe of Manasseh and never allow ourselves to put anything else before God. Let's never allow ourselves to conform to this world and serve anything other than our Lord God Almighty.
23The people of the half-tribe of Manasseh were numerous; they settled in the land from Bashan to Baal Hermon, that is, to Senir (Mount Hermon). 24 These were the heads of their families: Epher, Ishi, Eliel, Azriel, Jeremiah, Hodaviah and Jahdiel. They were brave warriors, famous men, and heads of their families. 25 But they were unfaithful to the God of their fathers and prostituted themselves to the gods of the peoples of the land, whom God had destroyed before them. 26 So the God of Israel stirred up the spirit of Pul king of Assyria, who took the Reubenites, the Gadites and the half-tribe of Manasseh into exile. He took them to Halah, Habor, Hara and the river of Gozan, where they are to this day. - 1 Chronicles 5:23-26

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The battle cry

The Bible very clearly compares the Christian life to a battle. In a battle, the stakes are high. It is life or death. Everything is on the line. Therefore, we must approach the Christian life with intentionality and know how to battle our enemy – Satan. Let's not be clueless.

This morning, I was reading in 1 Chronicles chapter 5 how the Israelites incorporated prayer into their battle plan. The results speak for themselves. Check it out...
They were helped in fighting them, and God handed the Hagrites and all their allies over to them, because they cried out to him during the battle. He answered their prayers, because they trusted in him. - 1 Chronicles 5:20
Let's make sure we are people who make prayer an integral part of our battle plans.  

Sunday, January 25, 2009

God promotes the humble

I am so very proud to bring you this week's small group curriculum which encourages us to live lives of humility.  :)
 
Big Idea:
We live in a world that promotes the proud, the arrogant, and the boisterous, but God’s Word tells us that He will promote the humble. Understanding Godly humility is therefore important, and living it out is essential. 

Summary:
As followers of Christ, we are called to boast in the Lord and not in ourselves. This means that pride must be eradicated from our lives and replaced with humility. Before we continue, let’s make sure we understand that humility is not weakness. In fact, it takes strength to intentionally live humbly. Moses was “the meekest man on the face of the earth,” but he wasn’t the weakest. Humility is not self-abasement or beating oneself up. It is not thinking less of yourself. Rather, it is thinking of yourself less. Humility is also not hypocrisy. It is not acting as if you are something less than what you really are. 

So, what is humility? What does it look like? Humility is surrendering to the sovereignty of God and accepting that God is God and we are not. He is the creator of the universe and He is in control. Humility is learning to rely on the Source of life. We must acknowledge that all of our talent, all of our gifts, and all of our abilities ultimately come from God. Humility means accepting God’s gift of grace. He gives His amazing grace to the humble, which saves us and empowers us to live our lives for Him. Humility is putting the needs of others first. We are called to give up our rights in order to serve others - not grudgingly, but thankfully. Finally, while we are not called to boast in ourselves; we are called to boast in God - in His glory, His marvelous works, His grace, His power, and His love. Let’s tell others of the great things He has done. 

Discussion Questions: (read the scriptures & discuss) 

Matthew 20:25-28 & Matthew 23:12
What does God say will happen when we promote ourselves? Why is it hard to be humble? How has pride messed things up in your life? How can we be servants to one another? Discuss examples of humble people that have been lifted up by God because of their humility (ie: Mother Theresa). 

Philippians 2:3
What attributes does Paul use in this passage to contrast humility? How does esteeming others more than ourselves display humility? What can we do that shows others they are important to us?  

2 Corinthians 10:17-18 & Jeremiah 9:23-24
What happens if we take the credit that should go to God? Discuss practical ways that we can boast in the Lord. Challenge each other to implement these practices into your daily lives.  

Taking Action: Make this week a week of boasting – not in yourself, but in God. Also, intentionally think of yourself less and think of others more. Finally, make this a week where you purposefully “do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God.” 

Ministry Time

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Who's in control, God or your emotions?

This week's small group curriculum helps us keep our emotions in their proper place as we continue to "live like we were dying".

Big Idea:
God has given us the ability to feel emotions. It is what makes us feel alive. However, we must not allow our emotions to control us. Rather, we must submit our emotions to the Lordship of Christ and let the truth of God’s Word be our guide.

Summary:
God created humanity with an amazing emotional capacity. The Book of Psalms records the emotional rollercoaster ride of King David, the man after God’s own heart. When he’s happy, he feels happiness to the core of his being. And when he is sad, he embraces his despair without reservation. He feels deeply. And at times, his feelings lead him astray. But somewhere along this journey, David seems to discover that as important as feelings are, they are only one part of his total being, and certainly not the most important part. The emotional aspect of our being coexists with our intellectual, physical and spiritual aspects. Every person will build the foundation of his or her life upon one of these four foundations: the emotional, the intellectual, the physical, or the spiritual. And among those foundations, feelings are important but they are not the most important because you are not your feelings. For that matter, you are not your body or your intellect. You are fundamentally a spiritual being.

There are three dangers when we build our lives on our feelings. First, feelings can be distorted. The enemy likes to manipulate our circumstances and our senses in an attempt to throw us off balance. Second, feelings can be imported. Sometimes we have a way of feeling what has been forced on us rather what is truly within us. And third, feelings can be aborted; they can change in a moment. The danger of building our lives on our feelings is that we may not feel the same way about a situation tomorrow as we feel today. Feelings come and feelings go. As Christians, the way we must deal with our feelings is by choosing to believe God’s Word over what we hear, feel, or even experience. Our emotions are the servants of our will. Our feelings are the fruit of what we believe. So instead of struggling to change our feelings, we must begin to work on our belief system and our feelings will follow course.

Discussion Questions: (read the scriptures & discuss)

Philippians 4:6-9
How do our thoughts affect our emotions and ultimately how we approach life? In addition to prayer, discuss other practical things that we can do to guard our hearts and our minds.

Romans 12:2
How do we renew our minds and keep our emotions from running away and conforming us to this world? Share something that you have read recently in the Bible that has transformed your mind and thus kept your emotions in check.

2 Corinthians 10:3-5
How do you know if an emotion is healthy or unhealthy? How can we take our thoughts and emotions captive? How have your emotions lied to you? How does the truth of God’s Word speak to those issues and areas in your life? (Example: Your emotions might say you are worthless. But, God’s Word says you are fearfully and wonderfully made.)

Taking Action: Spend time reading God’s Word every morning this week. Meditate on what you have read, and ask the Holy Spirit how this Truth can form your thinking and direct your emotions throughout each day.

Ministry Time

Sunday, January 18, 2009

The Championship Game

The NFC championship game is today with the Arizona Cardinals hosting the Philadelphia Eagles. Why in the world am I posting about a football game on Transformed Daily? Well, it just so happens that The Cardinals quarterback, Kurt Warner, is a member of our church. He is an outspoken, yet humble, follower of Christ who gives God the glory and honor due His name. It's only a football game, but that isn't keeping me from shouting out a big GO CARDINALS and GO KURT!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Love God by loving people

How we treat others matters greatly to God. In fact, it appears as though the Holy Spirit is grieved when we handle each other poorly. Check out the context of Ephesians 4:30, "do not grieve the Holy Spirit." It is smack dab in the middle of scripture that in encouraging us to treat one another with love, compassion, and forgiveness.  The Apostle Paul even goes so far as to encourage us to love others just as Christ loved us and gave His life for us. How we act toward others is very spiritual and either glorifies God or grieves Him. You say that you love God... Well, how are you treating others?
29Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. 30And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. 32Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. 
1Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children 2and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. - Ephesians 4:29 - 5:2

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Live Like You Were Dying (live the dash)

This week, my small group curriculum reminds us that how we live our lives matters. Everything we do is spiritual and has eternal ramifications. Let's not waste the precious time God has granted us in this life to make a difference for His kingdom.

Big Idea:

God’s Word tells us that this life is but a vapor – a brief dash between now and eternity. How we live the dash matters. It matters today and it matters forever.

Summary:
The Bible teaches that there is an unbreakable link between this life and eternity.  What we do in this life matters throughout eternity.  Every one of us will give an answer to God for two things when we stand before Him in judgment. First, we will answer for the way we responded to the gift of His Son. In the face of such overwhelming love did we harden our hearts and reject His grace or did we allow His love to overwhelm us and save us? The second thing we will give account for is what we did with the time, talent and treasure that He called us to steward in this life. In other words, what we did with the dash between our birth date and our death date. Did we live for ourselves or did we live for God and help build His kingdom?

What does it mean to live the dash? It means that we should live with a sense of nobility. We were created in the image and likeness of God; we were created for God’s intended purpose; we were created for greatness. It means living with a sense of priority. We must live for the things of God and the things that build the kingdom of God. It means living with a sense of urgency. While there is a time to wait upon the Lord, we are also called to be about the Lord’s business today. We must love God and people today. We must seek first His kingdom today. “Hope deferred makes the heart sick.”  Finally, we must live with a sense of eternity. We must keep ourselves from chasing the temporal things of this world. Rather, we must invest our time, our resources, and our lives in things eternal. Remember, every one of us will die. When? We do not know. However, we are told that we are not promised tomorrow. With this in mind, how are we living today? What are we doing with this time between today and eternity – the dash?

Discussion Questions: (read the scriptures & discuss)

James 4:13-14
How does this truth affect the way you live your life today? Share with each other what you would do this week if it were your last week. How should this truth affect your relationships?

Matthew 22:37-38
How does this passage direct how we live life today? What does it look like to love God this way? How does this passage affect our relationships and actions today? Describe how loving this way affects today and affects eternity.

Ephesians 5:15-17
How can we know God’s will? Discuss how we as Christians can make the most of every opportunity?

Taking Action: Live the next 7 days as a “No Regret” week.  When we gather back here 7 days from now, let’s be able to say, “I didn’t live in the past; I didn’t worry about the future; I embraced each day as a gift; I didn’t take life for granted this week; I didn’t take the people in my life for granted this week; most importantly, I said ‘yes’ to God and His plans.”

Ministry Time

Friday, January 09, 2009

Memorials Matter to God

This week's small group curriculum talks about the importance of remembering God's miracles and His goodness. 

Big Idea:
People tend to have short memories. At times, we are even guilty of forgetting the goodness of God and His miracles. This is why memorials matter to God: they remind us of the past, point us toward the future, build faith in all those who are on this journey with us, and help us value the process we have been through.

Summary:
It is important to remember the great things which God has done in our lives and the lives of our forefathers. In fact, we see that God has often authorized memorials as a means of remembrance; not memorials to ourselves or what we have done, but memorials to the Lord which glorify His name and remember His mighty works. In Joshua chapter 4, we see God asking the Israelites to build a memorial with twelve stones as a means of remembering the miraculous crossing of the Jordan River on dry ground. We must not be ashamed to tell how God delivered us, helped us, and healed us. Repeating the stories of God’s compassion and care for us over and over again helps memorialize the great things God has done for all to see. As you read through these passages in Joshua chapter 4, you will realize that building memorials reminds us of the past, points us toward the future, builds faith in the lives of others, and establishes the value of God-ordained experiences.

The Apostle Peter reminds us that we are like “living stones”. Let’s remember that each year we are building a memorial. We are laying down stones of faith and commitment, stones of compassion and caring, stones of ministry and help. Our stones are not those from the Jordan River. Rather, our stones are picked up as we read through God’s word, as we spend time in prayer, as we teach people about Christ, as we minister to others and share Christ with them. Every time a person comes to new faith in Christ, every time a captive is set free from bondage, every time someone who is hurting discovers healing and comfort, and every time someone learns new things about God from our sharing, we are witnessing a miracle as great as the nation of Israel experienced as they crossed the Jordan. Let’s remember the great things God has done and let’s make sure we share those things with the generations that follow.

Discussion Questions: (read the scriptures & discuss)

Joshua 4:4-7
What are you doing to share the greatness of God and His mighty works with the next generation? Why is our testimony so important? How has your testimony been used to advance God’s kingdom and His purposes in the lives of others?

Joshua 4:8
Who picked up the stones which were used for the memorial? How does this correlate to our role in the church today? What practical “stones” can we be picking up in order to glorify God and build His kingdom?

1 Peter 2:4-5
How does God intend to use the living stones? Can this be accomplished if we try to walk out this Christian life alone? How have you experienced God bringing Christians together with their memorable experiences to further God’s purposes?

Ministry Time

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

The common denominator

Most agree that there is a great need in the modern American church to unite the generations. But how does the church of 2009 draw in the "20 Something" young adults while maintaining the engagement of its older members? Do we need to look for a new church program or a new worship style? Is the common denominator yet to be discovered? 

I suggest that the common denominator which will unite the generations is Jesus Christ - period. A church that lifts up the name of Jesus will draw men. A church that turns its face and total focus to Him will be relevant to all generations. The person, power, and presence of Christ will unite all who desire to know Him. It doesn't have to be complicated, it just has to be Christ-focused. You've heard it said, "keep the main thing, the main thing." One way to keep it Christ-focused is to keep it Bible-focused. 
"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." - John 1:1
To focus on Christ is to focus on the Word of God. Another way to stay Christ-focused is to forsake all others, including fancy church programs, and make sure Christ and the lifting up of His name are the program. The trust must be in Him alone. Do what Christ did and also share with others His love and His power. Let's not let ourselves get distracted, let's keep it simple, let's remember the one thing, let's keep it Christ-focused: the common denominator. 

Monday, January 05, 2009

Take the baton and run

The Apostle Paul frequently used athletic terminology to describe the Christian life. One of his favorite analogies involved running a race (1 Cor. 9:23-25 & Gal. 5:7). These analogies are so important because they clearly indicate that Christianity is not a passive existence. 

Last Friday, God painted me a picture of how we are called to advance His kingdom by running our leg of the relay race. Here's what it looked like:
----------------
Jesus came to this earth to bring salvation and to bring back the kingdom of God. He ran his leg of the relay race with grace and perfection. Jesus also clearly called His disciples to continue the race by advancing the kingdom. He said, "I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father." - John 14:12 

In other words, Jesus is saying that He has run His leg of the race and is handing off the baton to those who have faith in Him. He is telling us that we will be able to run the race like Him. However, too often we find ourselves staring at Jesus as he is holding out the baton for us. Instead of taking the baton and continuing the race and thus advancing the kingdom of God, we find ourselves standing still in amazement of how Jesus just completed His lap. After all, He healed people, He drove our demons, He walked on water, He raised the dead, He turned water into wine, and He lived a sinless life. There is no doubt that He ran a perfect race. But that doesn't change the fact that He is still standing there waiting for us to take the baton and continue the race. 

We are called to be runners. We are called to advance God's kingdom and Jesus has assured us that we can do the things He did and even more. What does that look like? Here are just a few things that Jesus told His disciples to do as He sent them out into the world:
"As you go, preach this message: 'The kingdom of heaven is near.' Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received, freely give." - Matthew 10:7-8
He also very clearly described what our leg of the race would look like in these passages:
"All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." - Matthew 28:18-20
"And these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well." - Mark 16:17-18
It's time for us to take the baton and run! It is a good thing to be in awe of what Christ did while walking on this earth and running His leg of the kingdom race, but we are not supposed to simply look at the shiny baton, we are called to take it and RUN! Let's follow Christ and advance His kingdom.

Friday, January 02, 2009

The Jones Band Rocks in the New Year

That's right, The Jones Band played in the 2nd annual Battle of the Bands and we got second place this year. We played three songs: (1) Raptor {original}; (2) God, King, Everything {original}; (3) Jesus Freak. We competed against seven other bands and are thrilled with the results. I hope you enjoy the show. 

The Jones Band consists of my four children (ages 5 - 12), my wife, and myself. (note: it was a concert venue so the lighting on the video is a little dark, but the kids rocked the house)



"Raptor"


"God, King, Everything"



"Jesus Freak"