Take the Next Step

Jesus loved to tell stories. He said and did things that were controversial. Things He said caused debate among the people and the religious leaders of the time and, in fact, are still being discussed today. And not just in church.

If you read the gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke & John), the books that tell the story of His life, you’ll find that Jesus very rarely gave a straight-up answer to a question. His teachings were never bullet point lectures.

“6 Steps to a Better You.”

“5 Ways to Get the Most Out of Life.”

“7 Amazing Life Hacks – Your jaw will drop at number 5!”

No, “click-bait” wasn’t His style. Not exactly.

The religious leaders of the time would often try to stump Jesus with a trick question designed to tie Him up in knots. Whenever they would do that He would pause, look them in the eye, and say something like, “Have I ever told you the one about the son who squandered his inheritance?” And everyone would sort of roll their eyes and try to track with Him.

He would tell this open-ended story with His own question at the end, like a riddle.

I wonder why he did that.

His disciples wondered, too, and one day they asked Him…

Matthew 13:10-13
10 Then the disciples came and said to him, “Why do you speak to them in parables?” 11 And he answered them, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. 12 For to the one who has, more will be given, and he will have an abundance, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. 13 This is why I speak to them in parables…

Even their question about His teaching style was answered with a sort of riddle!

When I read these verses I get the feeling that Jesus is saying that there are certain answers discovered only by taking the next step. Sometimes you don’t really understand until you go on the journey. You may want to have all your questions resolved ahead of time but that’s just not going to happen.

Here’s an example: Parenting.

You can read every book and go to every class about being a good parent but until you actually get in the game you don’t know a thing. True? You have your first child and before too long you realize that you’re just making it up as you go along. But you learn. As new parents you can double-team the child. There are 2 of you and one of them so you figure out how to parent in that situation. And about the time you sort of get into a pattern and feel like you’re getting a handle on this parenting thing, the 2nd child comes along and you have to shift to a man-to-man defense. It’s 1 on 1 and it requires some different types of strategies. But you learn it as you go. I’m not sure what happens when that 3rd and 4th child comes along. I suppose you have to shift to some sort of zone defense, but we never got to that point. What I’m saying is that the book learning, advance planning, and parenting classes are all good things, but the truth is that you don’t really learn parenting until you become parents.

DSC_0898There are just some answers in life that aren’t discovered until we take the next step.

I believe this is profoundly true of the Christian life.

You and I may be in completely different places on our journey with Jesus, but I can pretty much guarantee that, anyplace along the path, the only way we get closer to Him, the only way we grow in our discipleship, is by taking the next step. By obediently putting into practice the things we’ve already learned. These things may not make absolute sense ahead of time, and we may still have questions, but it’s when we take that next step of faith that we get answers…

…answers that we would otherwise never learn.

Lloyd

PS – I recently went on little hike in the woods with my grandson Asher. That’s when the photo was taken.

 

Genesis 7:1-24

The idea of these little devotionals is simple. I want to approach scripture with the understanding that God is speaking. I’m reading through the Bible and listening for God to ask me questions. I expect these questions to be fairly open-ended and plan to carry them in my mind throughout the day. I’ll share these questions with you in the hope that you find them challenging and helpful.

Genesis 7:1-24
Then the Lord said to Noah, “Go into the ark, you and all your household, for I have seen that you are righteous before me in this generation. Take with you seven pairs of all clean animals,[a] the male and his mate, and a pair of the animals that are not clean, the male and his mate, and seven pairs[b] of the birds of the heavens also, male and female, to keep their offspring alive on the face of all the earth. For in seven days I will send rain on the earth forty days and forty nights, and every living thing[c] that I have made I will blot out from the face of the ground.” And Noah did all that the Lord had commanded him.

Noah was six hundred years old when the flood of waters came upon the earth. And Noah and his sons and his wife and his sons’ wives with him went into the ark to escape the waters of the flood. Of clean animals, and of animals that are not clean, and of birds, and of everything that creeps on the ground, two and two, male and female, went into the ark with Noah, as God had commanded Noah. 10 And after seven days the waters of the flood came upon the earth.

11 In the six hundredth year of Noah’s life, in the second month, on the seventeenth day of the month, on that day all the fountains of the great deep burst forth, and the windows of the heavens were opened. 12 And rain fell upon the earth forty days and forty nights. 13 On the very same day Noah and his sons, Shem and Ham and Japheth, and Noah’s wife and the three wives of his sons with them entered the ark, 14 they and every beast, according to its kind, and all the livestock according to their kinds, and every creeping thing that creeps on the earth, according to its kind, and every bird, according to its kind, every winged creature. 15 They went into the ark with Noah, two and two of all flesh in which there was the breath of life. 16 And those that entered, male and female of all flesh, went in as God had commanded him. And the Lord shut him in.

17 The flood continued forty days on the earth. The waters increased and bore up the ark, and it rose high above the earth. 18 The waters prevailed and increased greatly on the earth, and the ark floated on the face of the waters. 19 And the waters prevailed so mightily on the earth that all the high mountains under the whole heaven were covered. 20 The waters prevailed above the mountains, covering them fifteen cubits[d] deep. 21 And all flesh died that moved on the earth, birds, livestock, beasts, all swarming creatures that swarm on the earth, and all mankind. 22 Everything on the dry land in whose nostrils was the breath of life died. 23 He blotted out every living thing that was on the face of the ground, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens. They were blotted out from the earth. Only Noah was left, and those who were with him in the ark. 24 And the waters prevailed on the earth 150 days.

From this passage I hear God asking me:
I really did this. Noah really did this.
Would you?
Just think about this today.

 

My Picks for 10/26/2015

Just some stuff I found helpful, challenging, interesting, or amusing…

Why Corporate Worship Is Good for the Soul
David Santistevan
Hibernate“What happened to the idea that corporate worship is an individual responsibility? You are the church. Your heart needs to be felt. Your voice needs to be heard. It’s not just about being entertained or getting ‘filled up.’ We come because we’re a part of the family and we have a voice. …So let’s lay down the complaining. Let’s stop hating each other. Let’s stop looking for something new to criticize. Let’s take responsibility and go to church for more than making sure it lines up with your preferences.”


Amazing…

Largest-Ever Image of Space
“Space is big, but it’s never been quite this big. This composite image taken by astronomers at Germany’s Ruhr-Universität Bochum is, they claim, the largest image of space to date. It shows a long swathe of the Milky Way, photographed piece by piece over a period of five years from the university’s observatory in the Chilean desert.”


For all my under-appreciated bass playing friends…

The Neuroscience of Bass: New Study Explains Why Bass Instruments Are Fundamental to Music
Fender Marcus Miller Jazz Bass with authentic Marcus Miller signature under the pickguard. Serial no. Q074671 Made in Japan Features: - Natural - Maple fingerboard - 3 pick guards: original 3-ply black, white and chrome - Two-band active EQ - Badass® Bass II™ bridge More information: http://www.fender.com/en-NL/series/artist/marcus-miller-jazz-bass-maple-fingerboard-natural-3-ply-black-pickguard
“It seems the importance of rhythm players, though overlooked in much popular appreciation of music, cannot be overstated.”


Let’s close with a little Bizzaro
(click the image for a full size version)

http://bizarro.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/Bizarro-10-25-15-WEB.jpg

 

Genesis 6:9-22

The idea of these little devotionals is simple. I want to approach scripture with the understanding that God is speaking. I’m reading through the Bible and listening for God to ask me questions. I expect these questions to be fairly open-ended and plan to carry them in my mind throughout the day. I’ll share these questions with you in the hope that you find them challenging and helpful.

Genesis 6:9-22
These are the generations of Noah. Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his generation. Noah walked with God. 10 And Noah had three sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth.

11 Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight, and the earth was filled with violence. 12 And God saw the earth, and behold, it was corrupt, for all flesh had corrupted their way on the earth. 13 And God said to Noah, “I have determined to make an end of all flesh,[a] for the earth is filled with violence through them. Behold, I will destroy them with the earth. 14 Make yourself an ark of gopher wood.[b] Make rooms in the ark, and cover it inside and out with pitch. 15 This is how you are to make it: the length of the ark 300 cubits,[c] its breadth 50 cubits, and its height 30 cubits. 16 Make a roof[d] for the ark, and finish it to a cubit above, and set the door of the ark in its side. Make it with lower, second, and third decks. 17 For behold, I will bring a flood of waters upon the earth to destroy all flesh in which is the breath of life under heaven. Everything that is on the earth shall die. 18 But I will establish my covenant with you, and you shall come into the ark, you, your sons, your wife, and your sons’ wives with you. 19 And of every living thing of all flesh, you shall bring two of every sort into the ark to keep them alive with you. They shall be male and female. 20 Of the birds according to their kinds, and of the animals according to their kinds, of every creeping thing of the ground, according to its kind, two of every sort shall come in to you to keep them alive. 21 Also take with you every sort of food that is eaten, and store it up. It shall serve as food for you and for them.” 22 Noah did this; he did all that God commanded him.

From this passage I hear God asking me:
1. How do you like Me now?
2. Do you remember who I AM? Does this remind you?
3. Would you have built the boat?
4. Would you have been on the boat?
5. Are you on the “boat”?

 

God Has Done Something

god-space_1 copy“God has spoken and acted in Jesus Christ.
He has said something. He has done something.

This means that Christianity is not just pious talk.
It is neither a collection of religious ideas nor a catalogue of rules.
It is a ‘gospel’ (i.e. good news) –
in the apostle Paul’s words ‘the gospel of God…
regarding his Son…Jesus Christ our Lord.’

It is not primarily an invitation for us to do anything;
it is supremely a declaration of what God has done in Christ
for human beings like ourselves.”

– John Stott, Basic Christianity

Genesis 6:1-8

The idea of these little devotionals is simple. I want to approach scripture with the understanding that God is speaking. I’m reading through the Bible and listening for God to ask me questions. I expect these questions to be fairly open-ended and plan to carry them in my mind throughout the day. I’ll share these questions with you in the hope that you find them challenging and helpful.

Genesis 6:1-8
When man began to multiply on the face of the land and daughters were born to them,
the sons of God saw that the daughters of man were attractive. And they took as their wives any they chose. Then the Lord said, “My Spirit shall not abide in[a] man forever, for he is flesh: his days shall be 120 years.” The Nephilim[b] were on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of man and they bore children to them. These were the mighty men who were of old, the men of renown.

The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the Lord regretted that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart. So the Lord said, “I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens, for I am sorry that I have made them.” But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord.

From this passage I hear God asking me:
1. What do you think about?
2. What is the “intention of the thoughts” of your heart?
3. What do you think it would take to find favor in my eyes?
4. Do you think it’s even possible…without My help?

 

Weekend Picks

Just some stuff I found helpful, challenging, interesting, or amusing…

I was a little surprised to find that I resonated with a lot of what he has to say in this Leadership Journal piece:

Six Church-and-Culture Issues I Don’t Care About Any More
Karl Vaters
Six Church-and-Culture Issues I Don't Care About Any More“When I say I don’t care about these issues, I mean it. I don’t think they’re bad. I’m not upset. If your church does them, fine. I don’t want to take a sledgehammer to them. I’ve just shrugged them off due to apathy…”


I liked that one well enough that I followed his link and found this one from a few days ago. More good stuff…

Six Church-Insider Issues I Don’t Care About Any More
-Karl Vaters
Six Church-Insider Issues I Don't Care About Any More
“I grew up in the church. But in recent years I’ve found myself caring less about many of the issues I used to think mattered so much. I’m not just apathetic about them, I’m passionately apathetic.

Apathetic enough not to care. Passionate enough to write about them anyway.

I’m not even upset about them. It’s more about setting priorities than being right or wrong….These are issues that church insiders care a great deal about, but outsiders (and most regular church folks) don’t care about at all.

I’ve decided to join them.”


Insightful and frightening analysis on how school shootings catch on.

Thresholds of Violence – Malcolm Gladwell
In the years since Columbine, school shootings changed; they became ritualized.“The problem is not that there is an endless supply of deeply disturbed young men who are willing to contemplate horrific acts. It’s worse. It’s that young men no longer need to be deeply disturbed to contemplate horrific acts.”


I’m part of a church who cares very deeply about communicating the Gospel in ways that touch the hearts of people in our generation. I’ve heard this criticism more than once…

Stop Watering Down the Gospel – Marty Duren
The Areopagus“Is there such a thing as watering down the gospel? Yes, but making the gospel clear is not it. Making the gospel understandable is not it. Making sure hearers comprehend the truth of the gospel is not it.”


I suppose it’s because my new web site is just a week old, but this one hit a little close to home…

https://wronghands1.files.wordpress.com/2015/10/grammatical-voice.jpg

Source: Wrong Hands

Genesis 4:8-16

The idea of these little devotionals is simple. I want to approach scripture with the understanding that God is speaking. I’m reading through the Bible and listening for God to ask me questions. I expect these questions to be fairly open-ended and plan to carry them in my mind throughout the day. I’ll share these questions with you in the hope that you find them challenging and helpful.

Genesis 4:8-16
Cain spoke to Abel his brother.[a] And when they were in the field, Cain rose up against his brother Abel and killed him. Then the Lord said to Cain, “Where is Abel your brother?” He said, “I do not know; am I my brother’s keeper?” 10 And the Lord said, “What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to me from the ground. 11 And now you are cursed from the ground, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. 12 When you work the ground, it shall no longer yield to you its strength. You shall be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth.” 13 Cain said to the Lord, “My punishment is greater than I can bear.[b] 14 Behold, you have driven me today away from the ground, and from your face I shall be hidden. I shall be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth, and whoever finds me will kill me.” 15 Then the Lord said to him, “Not so! If anyone kills Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold.” And the Lord put a mark on Cain, lest any who found him should attack him. 16 Then Cain went away from the presence of the Lord and settled in the land of Nod,[c] east of Eden.

From this passage I hear God asking me:
1. How do you respond to those who seem to be favored more than you?
2. How do you serve them?
3. Are you their “keeper”?

 

I’m a Reds fan, but…

http://cincinnati.reds.mlb.com/mlb/images/team_logos/social_media/og_1200x630_image/cin_1200x630.jpg
I want to begin by stating it clearly, unequivocally,
and for the record.

I am a Cincinnati Reds fan.

The 2015 baseball season has not changed that fact.

But…

When I finally came to the realization in the final weeks of the season that the Reds had not one shred of an iota of a chance at the post-season (which, in retrospect, I should have realized back in June) I started rooting for the Cubs.

Let there be no misunderstanding. I emphatically did NOT become a Cubs fan, but I did start hoping they would do well. I rooted for the Reds to beat the Pirates in their last series, not so much for the Reds record, which was beyond help, but so that the Cubs could get home field advantage for the playoffs.

It seemed like the thing to do, you know? I have a lot of friends who are die-hard, no-matter-what, forever-and-ever, world-without-end, Cubs fans. So, I hoped the Cubs would finish the season strong for their sake. Yes, I have a lot of friends who are St. Louis Cardinals fans, too…but rooting for the Cardinals was just too unthinkable.

So, like a friend of the homecoming king and queen standing along the gym wall, I watched them dance and wished them well.

What could it hurt?

It hurt bad.

The season is really over for me now. Oh, I’ll watch the rest of the playoffs and the World Series, but I have no emotional attachment to any of the teams.

It’s like I’m standing along the wall of the gym and I don’t even know the homecoming king or queen.

I think I may even be at the wrong school.

Lloyd