What Your Next Bible Study Book Should Be…

disruptive-messiah-coverweb

I don’t read very many Christian books, mostly because I don’t like 50 different people resaying the same things, so I’m very selective with my Christian reading list. But every so often I’ll pick one up that really stands out on its own.

The one I recently ran across is by a new author, Ken Ruggles from Southern California, who writes about a Messiah who doesn’t come to give peace, nor offer comfort, nor sit idly by as a mere observer. He writes, instead, about the Jesus of the Bible who comes as a disturber – a Disruptive Messiah, if you will.

Ruggles walks his readers through thirteen separate instances of Jesus’ life, beginning with His birth and ending with His entry into Jerusalem. Ruggles’ vast knowledge of the mid-Eastern landscape and culture, particularly in regards to biblical times, aids his readers in having a clearer understanding of the background surrounding the particular stories he calls to attention.

You can read The Disruptive Messiah on your own, but I think it would best be discovered as a small group discussion guide as each chapter is conveniently bookended with thoughtful questions for reflection.

Ken Ruggles isn’t the pastor of a church, nor some high-profile missionary, which is to his credit because he is able to relate to his readers on their level and meet them where they’re at. It is his many years of study and teaching and traveling to the Promised Land that affords him the credibility to teach us about Jesus from a unique perspective.

So grab a copy for yourself and talk to your Bible study leaders about making The Disruptive Messiah your next discussion guide.

Order your copy here.

Shiny Pennies

us-pennyYou probably do it too.

The cashier says, “That’ll be $16.18.” You dig through your wallet or purse and you pull out a twenty, a dime, a nickel, and three pennies. But as you’re digging through your pennies, you see that you have three dingy, rusty ones, and one brand new, perfectly shiny one, minted in 2012.

Which three do you use to pay for your food?

The three old rusty ones, of course. It’s better to hold onto the shiny one. It’s prettier.

It’s shinier.

That’s what we do with the Gospel, isn’t it? Let’s be honest for a minute.

We want to fit in with our coworkers, so we throw in a few dirty jokes to get their approval. That’s a pretty dingy part of our character we’re spending on them, holding back the best part of us – the Christian part of us.

The part of us that’s supposed to be like Jesus Christ.

We’re slow to show forgiveness to our spouses. We’re a little rusty on being slow to anger, so that’s what they get from us. A rusty, sour attitude. Again, we’re holding back the beauty of forgiveness, keeping it deep in our pocket for our own sake.

Modesty, forgiveness, kindness, love – these are all aspects of the Gospel that we often decide to keep from others, day in, day out. All the while, we offer them the same thing everyone else gives – the worst part of who we are. Anger, selfishness, an unforgiving spirit…

So as you interact with your coworkers and loved ones this week, think about whether you’re giving them dirty, rusty pennies, or the bright shiny ones that everyone likes.

In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in Heaven. -Matthew 5:16

Why You Should be Glad When You Have No Reason to Be

photo-119We’ve been extremely fortunate in our foster-to-adopt situation with Baby A.

More fortunate than most people.

In a few weeks the State will change Baby A’s permanency goal from reunification with her birth parents to adoption.

We’re hoping Baby A will officially be a Toy by Christmas, which is feasible as long as there are no surprises.

We also just found ourselves in a situation where we are ready to take in another baby if the State calls us. So we’re looking forward to an addition to our family of five (two dogs) in the next couple of months.

Right now, things can’t seem to get much better, but we recognize that things could change in a heartbeat, so we live with that reminder and walk cautiously, yet graciously.

We owe our happiness to God, for He has graciously provided us with Baby A after years of praying, waiting, crying, and longing for her. The wait was worth it.

I was not a good Christian during that waiting period. I grew resentful toward God, and even hated Him for not giving us a child when I wanted. But looking back, I can see that the timing was absolutely perfect.

I just wish that while we were waiting for a child that I had acted better. I wish I had prayed more and taken the opportunity to grow in my relationship with God.

So, if you’re in a waiting period, or things are difficult, or you’re at your wit’s end, or life just seems to be falling apart around you, I can’t promise that it will get better, but the odds are definitely in your favor.

Just don’t wait for things to get better and then praise God for what He’s done, because then you’ll end up like me and feel like a hypocrite (or something… I haven’t quite figured it out yet), and you’ll feel a little out of place when you do thank God for the turnaround in your life circumstances.

So even in your mourning and your crying and your despair, God is to be praised, so that when things do look up for you, you can confidently point to Him and say, “It’s because of Him that this happened,” and not feel so out of place.

Television’s Rape Epidemic – Post by Tim Challies

challies-thumb-800x533-335I found this to be a very interesting read concerning today’s mainstream media. Downton Abbey is a show listed in Tim Challies’s article that I have invested in, but I know many people invest their time in other shows he points out. Give it a read and share your thoughts. What do you think is the next frontier for explicit television viewing?

I don’t watch a lot of movies these days, largely because it’s rare that I can find something that promises to reward me more richly than spending the same amount of time in a good book. That said, I do enjoy the occasional miniseries when I can catch it on Netflix or iTunes; I guess I find it easier to part with forty minutes than two hours. Even with that limited exposure there’s something I have observed and something that has spelled the end of my interest in more than a few shows: Rape is in.

Click here to read the rest of the article.

You might also want to give one of my older posts a read and share your thoughts: Why Christians “Prefer” Violence to Sex. 

3 Words, 7 Letters, One Cosmic Offense

vomitingBeing a father has caused me to be extra careful with the words that I use in the house. There’s no need for my foster daughter to hear certain words, and there’s certainly less need for me to use them.

There is a phrase that you might use today that is the most deplorable phrase to God’s ears – worse than all the obscenities that might raise the MPAA rating for a movie.

A phrase that is frequently used on television that is acceptable viewing for children.

Your friends might go along with it, your family members might not notice it, and your pastors might not call you out on it, yet it’s the most vile exclamation that can come out of your mouth.

It might as well be vomit.

We are so used to the stench of this phrase we go about our lives hardly noticing it.

Using this phrase is the same as urinating on the cross of Jesus, and spitting on the face of God.

While the children of God are going to church, tithing, and praying for the lost, they are defecating in God’s holy temple by saying these three disgusting words.

You don’t have to read very far in the Bible before getting to it. It’s found on page 62 in my Bible.

James, towards the end of the Bible, implores us to watch our tongues, but this one phrase is forbidden in the ten commandments.

“You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not leave him unpunished who takes His name in vain” (Exodus 20:7).

Brothers and sisters, we are to be set apart from the world, even if it means refraining from “cute” little phrases we acronymically type into our phones and ipads as friendly texts.

When I hear someone confess to be a Christian and then defile the Lord’s name, I automatically can’t help but question their salvation. After all, if they can’t refrain from using such a simple seven-letter term in their best moments, then what other sins are they giving into in their worst moments?

(On the flip side, when I hear someone say, “Oh my gosh” – a very deliberate and countercultural phrase, it gives me pause to look for further fruit in their lives.)

We must treat the name of God as reverent and holy. The very thought of Him ought to bring us to our knees in awe, not curse in jest.

If God means so little to you that you’re willing to just throw His name around like a deflated beach ball – which lacks value of any kind – ask the Lord to change your heart toward something you have viewed as being so trivial and inconsequential.

Ask Him to help you realize that the world has influenced you for the worse, and that using His name in vain is offensive to Him.

He will forgive you, if you are His child and you ask Him to, and He will never remember it if you repent of it, as He does with all sins. That is an absolute promise.

But if you want to go around continuing to use the Lord’s name as a curse word, just remember the next time you yell, “Jesus Christ,” out of pain or anger, you will someday finish that sentence with “…is Lord,” and He will reconcile His namesake.

That is another promise.

A World at War, Good Friday, and Frodo

wwiOn April 6, 97 years ago, America formally declared war on Germany, entering World War I.

It is Good Friday, the day Christ invaded our enemies and our sins.

Both were major events. Both would see devastating setbacks (so it would seem), but Americans and Christ came out victorious in the end.

I’ve heard it asked, “Why is it called Good Friday?”

If you’re not familiar with the whole passion_of_the_christChristian picture, it may seem rather odd that we celebrate the day our Saviour was beaten and crucified.

But like many wars, it was necessary for Christ to enter into battle in order to declare victory in the end.

You can’t be an official opponent if you don’t enter into a war. You can’t claim victory over that war unless you enter into battle, on the winning side. And you can’t fight the battle effectively unless you believe in the cause you’re fighting for.

Jesus knew the cause of His fight, He entered into the battle, and eventually declared victory three days later by stepping out of that tomb. Though our culture downplays it, there are many things worth fighting for, and Jesus seemed to think that your very soul was worth the fight.

If you are a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ, you better believe that when He took those punches to the nose, He was thinking of you.

When the soldiers shoved the crown of thorns on His head, He endured it for you.

When the Father looked down on His Son savagely being nailed to the cross, He knew full well that in the end, you would be able to declare victory next to His Son and stand innocent before Him on the day of Judgement.

It is Good Friday because it is a prelude to the real celebration that is to take place this coming Sunday.

frodo_cryingLike every normal person, my wife and I absolutely love the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Although we marvel at the brilliant filmmaking, we don’t necessarily enjoy all the hurt and anguish Frodo is put through.

But we know it’s part of the story. And if we’re honest with ourselves, we really only love the movies because of the last half hour of the last movie which is saturated in victory and redemption.

But those final scenes mean nothing without the 9+ hours of war and anguish preceeding them.

In the same way, you can’t appreciate the miracle of Easter unless you understand the goodness of Christ’s crucifixion.

One step further: You can’t fully celebrate the miracle of Easter unless you recognize the goodness of you yourself being crucified with Christ.

“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” Galatians 2:20

Have a very Good Friday and declare war on your sins.

What Christians Fear Most

monsters

Sometimes I feel like a monster.

Not when I lose my temper. When that happens, I’m just being a typical fallen human – my old fleshly self.

But sometimes I feel like a monster from Monstropolis. You know, the ones from Monsters Inc. who are afraid of children.

Sounds silly, doesn’t it?

But we’re not much brighter. We fear man.

We clamor for man’s approval and stop at nothing to gain the respect of the masses.

And if we’re honest with ourselves, on our worst days, we’d rather be judged by God than by our bosses.

This is the wrong way of living. Jesus is very clear in Matthew 10:28: “Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both body and soul in hell.”

We’re so anxious to please others and remain certain not to offend ignorant people with the Gospel, but we’d much rather offend the One who commanded us to do just that!

Think about it. There are plenty of reasons why we don’t witness the way we ought. Laziness and carelessness may be at the top of the list, but fear is most certainly right up there.

Why won’t you witness to your boss? Because you’re afraid of getting fired.

Why won’t you witness to your neighbor? Because you’re afraid of making future front yard conversations terse and awkward.

Remember. These people who do not know the Gospel are as harmless as a child in Monstropolis. You have the Holy Spirit fighting with you, and enabling you to carry on the task.

Easter’s coming up. Invite someone to church. Just a simple, harmless invitation.

After all, who doesn’t like an invitation somewhere, right?

And don’t loose sight of who the real enemy is: “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 6:12).

Don’t be like the monsters who are scared of little children. Know who your real enemy is and realize the potential – through Christ – they’re keeping you from.

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