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Archive for Faith


The Next Chapter:: 1

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History has a way of casting big shadows. Circumstances, events, and even personalities can become larger than life! Stories are told and told again until the stories become legends. Now there’s nothing wrong with history and legendary tales from yesterday. But if we’re not careful, we can come to a place where we pause and look at one another and lament like Elijah, “we are not greater than our fathers!”

The story of the Exodus was epic. It began, like all good stories, with the daring rescue of a baby from a tyrant ruler named Pharaoh. The deliverance of the baby from certain death foreshadows what was to come: the rescued becomes the rescuer!

The unfolding drama fast forwards eight decades. The baby, now an aged gentleman (by modern standards, at least), is challenged by God to become the emancipator of an enslaved people. Before you know it, this 80 year old man, armed with nothing but a stick, is standing before the most powerful man in the world, demanding that the people of God be released. Pharaoh’s heart was hardened. After all, why should he give up a no cost work force? Plagues follow…first one, then another, until the climactic tenth plague elicits the desired response.

The disorganized multitude observe the first Passover and are on their way to the land of promise. Pursued by the fickle Pharaoh and his army, the people cross the Red Sea and are safely removed from harm’s way. Next comes the giving of the Ten Commandments followed by the construction of the first house of worship.

There’s obviously much more to the story, which spans four more decades. Though Exodus doesn’t give us the conclusion of Moses life, Deuteronomy does. Check out these final verses from Deuteronomy 34:10-12: “There has never been another prophet in Israel like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face. The Lord sent him to perform all the miraculous signs and wonders in the land of Egypt against Pharaoh, and all his servants, and his entire land. With mighty power, Moses performed terrifying acts in the sight of all Israel.” (NLT)

That’s quite a story, and that’s quite a reputation! It would appear that these words would serve as the perfect conclusion to such an epic action and adventure drama. But it’s not, for God’s purposes do not evaporate at funerals or rivers. All of the promises of God to the people of Israel are in the process of being fulfilled.

Joshua chapter 1 represents a turn of the page in the ongoing history of Israel. Joshua is not a new story. It’s simply the next chapter in same story.

Tomorrow I’ll get into the text of Joshua 1. But for now, think about this question: Do you believe God’s best for you is in the rear view mirror? Or is the best yet to come?

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The Dawning of a New Day

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The Dawning of a New Day is my first sermon series for First Baptist Church of Greater Des Moines. This series will begin this Sunday from the Old Testament story of Joshua. I’ve included the sermon titles and Scripture texts. My prayer is that these sermons will encourage and inspire you as you begin 2012. You can look forward to regular posts the week following each sermon.

January 8: “The Next Chapter” (Joshua 1:1-8)

January 15: “Make Your Own Mark” (Joshua 3, 4)

January 22: “Meet the Hero” (Joshua 5:10-15)

January 29: “The Real Battle” (Joshua 6-8)

February 5: “Be Discerning” (Joshua 9)

February 12: “Finding Your Element” (Joshua 14)

February 19: “The Final Challenge” (Joshua 23, 24)

This is an excellent interview with Dr. Kara Powell, co-author of Sticky Faith, on how to help kids maintain their faith during college.

How should we respond to those opportunities that interrupt us? The disciple’s initial response was similar to the way many respond today.

“Philip replied, ‘Even if we worked for months, we wouldn’t have enough money to feed them’” (John 6:7, NLT). In today’s language, Philip would have said, “I’ve sharpened the pencil on this, and we can’t afford it.” Some translations specify the amount Philip had in mind, 200 day’s wages, or about eight months salary. He simply couldn’t wrap his mind around what it would take to feed the multitude. The disciple’s personal resources were inadequate to meet the need.

The next verse details another common response. “Then Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, spoke up. ‘There’s a young boy here with five barley loaves and two fish. But what good is that with this huge crowd’?” (John 6:8-9, NLT) In other words, Andrew had taken an inventory of existing resources, only to discover that the people didn’t have enough to feed themselves. The crowd’s resources were also inadequate to meet the need.

Sharpen the pencil! Take an inventory! While the disciples earned an “A” in Business Administration, they received an “F” for faith. Although they felt inadequate when the opportunity to meet a need presented itself to them, who said they had to be?

Tomorrow I’ll post Jesus’ response to the disciples inadequacy and how He demonstrated the way to respond to the opportunities that interrupt our lives.

Categories : Belief, Faith, iBelieve, Jesus, John
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The third step we must make if we’re going to turn the corner from regret to resolution is to Remember that God is for His Children (Genesis 42:36). Upon hearing the news from the brothers, Jacob made four false statements:
1. Joseph is no more!
2. Simeon is no more!
3. Benjamin will be no more!
4. Everything is against me!
The truth is that everything is for Jacob. His problem was that he had forgotten the promise of God, found in Genesis 28:13-15. In that passage, God clarified to Jacob what he was going to do. God relayed it this way: “I am the Lord…The ground you are lying on belongs to you. I am giving it to you and your descendants. Your descendants will be as numerous as the dust of the earth! They will spread out in all directions…And all the families of the earth will be blessed through you and your descendants. What’s more, I am with you, and I will protect you wherever you go. One day I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have finished giving you everything I have promised you” (NLT).

In my reading last week I came across a statement about love. The writer stated that love involves a commitment to be with someone and a commitment to be for someone. I see that claim verified in God’s promise to Jacob. God wasn’t against Jacob and his family. Nothing could have been further from the truth. God is for his children. When all things appear to be against you, remember that the Father’s hand has sent it and the Father’s love has measured it to exactly fit your need.

Each morning as we bench press the blankets from our bodies and slide our feet out of bed and onto the floor we have to make a decision about how we’re going to face that day. The direction choice we make with each sunrise is whether we will live that day by faith or by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7). Faith determines to live life based on the person and the promises of God. On the other hand, sight determines to live life governed by the senses, the emotions, and the prevailing circumstances we will face. There was a day when Jacob lived by faith, but by this stage of the storyline, he is purely running on sight. If Jacob could be susceptible to “sight living,” so can we. The choice to live by faith is one of the most important daily decisions we can make.

Tomorrow I’ll conclude this week’s series with the final two steps on how to Turn the Corner from Regret to Resolution.

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Men of Faith

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The Old Testament book of Genesis tells the story of 8 characters, each of whom portrays an important aspect of faith. Check this out!

1. Adam (Genesis 1-3) is the one who sinned in the Garden of Eden. His life teaches us about the Need for Faith.
2. Abel (Genesis 4) is the son who offered the acceptable sacrifice. He helps us to learn about the Basis of Faith.
3. Enoch (Genesis 5:23) who didn’t experience death reveals to us the Walk of Faith.
4. Noah (Genesis 6-9) is famous for taking years and years to build the ark. He shows us the Perseverance of Faith.
5. Abram (Genesis 12-20) who left Ur to go toward no certain destination helps us understand the Obedience of Faith.
6. Issac (Genesis 22) submitted to his father’s will and portrays the Power of Faith.
7. Jacob (Genesis 27-36) lived a life of highs and lows as the battle wages between the flesh and the spirit. He models the Training of Faith.
8. Joseph (Genesis 37-50) transitioned from the pit to the prison, then to the palace. From his life we receive hope as we learn about the Trials and Triumphs of Faith.

Last weekend I began a new sermon series on the life of Joseph. 25% (14 chapters) of the Book of Genesis are devoted to his life. With that much time devoted to his experiences, I think it’s worthy of our attention! Joseph, along with Daniel, are the only two biblical characters that have nothing negative recorded about their lives. That doesn’t make them perfect, of course. But it does make them notable. Joseph experienced a tremendous amount of adversity, yet he handled it with integrity and character. Joseph never complained, compromised, or lost his courage.

I’ll be blogging frequently over the next several weeks about his life as I teach through Genesis 37-50. I pray that his life will be a blessing to yours as it has been to mine!

Categories : Adversity, Faith, Joseph
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During this morning’s reading I came across  research posted by Barna Group which describes six faith trends that have emerged in 2010 that we all need examine. I want to encourage you to take a few moments and read this carefully. There are many who ruffle at Barna’s unvarnished observations, but in the 20+ years I’ve been following his work, time frequently proves that he’s spot on with his insights. You can click for the article.

Categories : Barna Group, Faith
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My hunch is that no passage in Acts has been taught or discussed more than the summary that concludes chapter 2. Rick Warren has made a mint from this paragraph in his Purpose Drive Church and Purpose Driven Life, creating a philosophy of ministry and an approach to life through worship, evangelism, discipleship, ministry and fellowship.

In looking at this passage in worship last weekend, I tried to step over the commonly argued themes and point to the process that was at work. While those primary believers were engaged in those purposes, it’s the process that is often overlooked.

The first stage of the process is found in Acts 2:41-42, which reads, “So those who accepted his message were baptized, and that day about 3,000 people were added to them. And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, to fellowship, to the breaking of bread, and to prayers” (HCSB).

Through the Scriptures, fellowship (literally, “partnership”), the Lord’s Supper (memory), and prayer, the new community were behaving in ways that cultivated faith and belief. Unfortunately, many people quit believing at the point of original faith that leads to salvation. These 3,000 new converts to the gospel expressed faith upon hearing Peter’s message at Pentecost. But they didn’t stop believing. They steadily worked on developing their faith, making God bigger and bigger.

As a result of their steadily increasing faith, “Fear came over everyone, and many wonders and signs were being performed through the apostles” (Acts 2:43, HCSB).

Because of their belief, they witnessed the miraculous work of God. Here’s the point. Miracles in the face of unbelief will harden the heart. You would think the opposite to be true, but it’s not. Think about Pharaoh from the book of Exodus. When Moses presented himself to Pharaoh and requested in the name of God that the children of Israel be released from bondage, Pharaoh replied that he did not know God and that he would not let the people go. After that initial meeting, God sent 10 plagues to the land of Egypt—each one a miracle. With each plague, Pharaoh’s heart was increasingly hardened. Miracles in the face of unbelief will harden the heart, not soften it. And miracles happen in the rich soil of faith, not the rocky soil of unbelief.

What are you doing to cultivate belief in your life? Worship and discipleship are wonderful ways to cultivate belief. Just make sure you remember the end game.

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I find it interesting that Jesus doesn’t make much of physical death. On two occasions where he raised people from the dead he called it “sleep.” For Jesus, (and the apostolic writers) the death that matters is the death that takes place at conversion.

God’s perspective on death is unique from ours.

What we call perilous, God calls precious.
What we strive to avoid, God designs.
What we view as a curse, God calls a gift.
What we think as bitter, God thinks to be blessing.
What we label as the end, God labels a new beginning.

Death is a transitional step, like moving. No one likes to move. But you have to move to get to the new house. The move is a big deal, but it’s never a bigger deal than the new house. Here’s my point. The move cannot be avoided, but it can be prepared for. You can get out in front of the move, and the more you prepare, the easier it is to face. The worst moves are the moves you don’t prepare for.

Jesus was prepared. He knew from his entire life experience that God could be completely trusted.
Above all, Jesus kept the end game in mind. I don’t know what my cause of death will be, but I hope to be strong enough in faith to die like Jesus died.

I watched the ESPN coverage of Kurt Warner’s anticipated press conference yesterday in which he announced his retirement from the National Football League. Warner has always been a class act, and on the final stage of his playing career he didn’t disappoint.

Warner said some very gracious things about others around his life who gave him a chance and then a second chance to play the game he loved. But it was his testimony of faith that was especially impressive. As he credited God for his success, Warner made a statement describing the Bible as a book of stories about average people through whom God did extra-ordinary things. As he continued, he cited himself as just another average guy through whom God had blessed to accomplish things that were beyond himself.

That word of testimony was powerful. Warner was spot on about how God functions in his world. He takes average Joes who surrender themselves and does marvellous things in and through their lives. There’s an old adage in business that states “There’s no limit to what one can do as long as they don’t care who gets the credit.” For the person of faith that saying would sound something like this: “There’s no limit to what one can do as long as God gets the credit.”

Congratulations, Kurt, on a great career! We’ll miss your play, for sure. Even more, we’ll miss your character and the passionate faith you brought to the stadium each week of the season. May God grant you stages in the future that will continue to allow opportunities for you to honor the One who has honored your life!
Categories : Faith, Football, Kurt Warner
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