Tag Archives: bible

Jacob: A New Identity (Genesis 32:24-33:4)

[As part of our “Loving the Bible” class at Scoala Biblica Piatra Vie, each student is required to write a paper about some passage in the Bible and then present it to the class.  I decided that since I’m requiring my busy students to do the paper, I should do it as well.  Below is my paper about Jacob and his strange, late-night wrestling competition.]

To every child ever born God has given a destiny and purpose.  He has specific plans for each human being and has not only created each person with such individual and unique personalities, likes and dislikes, even talents, but He has also ordained specific things for him to do during his short lifetime, things that only that particular individual can accomplish.  Regrettably, most Christians are so haunted by their failures that they see only a long list of lost opportunities, resulting in a deep and pervasive sense of disappointment, a fear of having somehow missed God’s plans and purposes for their life.  For many, this sense is great enough that they fail to see by faith the redemptive power of God to bring restoration and renewal.  For those who have felt the weight of such a list of failures, there is much encouragement in the life of Jacob, in particular, in one fateful night when God met him and revealed his new identity.

July 24, 2015 - 'No Longer Jacob'

July 24, 2015 – ‘No Longer Jacob’

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The Third Day

[As part of the Loving the Bible class at Scoala Biblica Piatra Vie, students had to rewrite Genesis 22:1-19, choosing to either write all or just a portion of the story in their own words. The following is my rewrite.]

Three days.

It had been three days of heavy and brooding silence in my spirit, each day heavier and more terrifying than the last as the mountain reared its ugly head and took form, and step by dreadful step grew larger, more defined, and more hideous for what it signified. The end of our journey.

And now, here finally, my boy in my arms at last, how heavy was his weight. Oh, how heavy and terrible the weight!

“My boy…” I mumbled, terror and sorrow mixed in my trembling voice. “My dear Isaac…”

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Exodus 24 – Maintaining Intimacy with God

December 6, 2010 - 'His Word Is My Life'

December 6, 2010 – ‘His Word Is My Life’

How’s your prayer life? you ask a random Christian. Nine times out of ten, he’ll respond, Uh… not as good as it should be… and then lower his eyes with a guilty look.

Personally, my prayer life took a massive hit when I moved to Bucharest, Romania. Besides the natural factors of moving from a slower-paced small town in rural Wisconsin to a large, fast-paced European capital city, there is also the spiritual factor of an enemy who wants to keep me from the presence of the One who gives life, direction, power, anointing. I was still reading the Bible, but not every day, and I regularly rushed through it so I could get something practical done… My heart wasn’t connecting with God, the spring of living water.

September 4, 2012 - 'Baptize Me In Fire'

September 4, 2012 – ‘Baptize Me In Fire’

I could feel my heart getting colder towards God, but I hadn’t realized how bad I had let things get until I took a week off to go to Turkey. In my mind, I thought, Yes! I finally can get some time to rest and recuperate spiritually. I’m gonna read so much of the Bible and spend so much time with God. It’s going to be awesome! But when I got to Turkey, I didn’t want to read the Bible! I didn’t want to pray. I didn’t want to play music and worship God. I didn’t want to make art for him. I didn’t even really feel guilty for this!

It was a rude wake up call! But I responded quickly, made some changes in my life, and have been fighting this cold, dead heart ever since I recognized the problem. Already, I can see a drastic change in my attitude and desire towards prayer and the presence of God.

I want to share with you some tips from my experience. All of these tips are pretty basic, but they’re things that I had let slide, things that can make the difference between a religious, dry, dead prayer life and a life-giving, abundant, empowering, relationship with God.

Let’s look at Moses’ life, perhaps one of the best examples we have of a man who kept a sustained and intense intimacy with God despite incredible demands on his time and a number of serious weaknesses. Turn to Exodus 24

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Apostle: A Possible Postulate

I’ve been studying the word “apostle” recently.  While I don’t have any “ground-breaking” things to say, I did realize some things that I hadn’t noticed before.

Before getting to the things that I found surprising, let me just say….  I know people tend to freak out when anyone starts talking about apostles, especially when that person believes in the present gift and calling, but bear with me.  Don’t freak out.  Yet.

Okay, now that that’s done, let’s start with some basics:

1) The term “apostle” used to be a normal Greek word, not a religious word with a capital letter on the front of it.  That capital letter and the religious context only came later, much later.  In the beginning, it was a word just like any other, just like how “born again” used to mean simply being born a second time, not “prayed a prayer and go to an evangelical church somewhat regularly.”

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Every Bird Poops – or – God’s Power to Protect His Word

birdI remember one time beginning preaching open-air by shouting out, “There are two things that will happen to everyone.  Number one, you are going to be pooped on by a bird.  Number two, you are going to die.”  I don’t know how effective it was in drawing people to hear the gospel, but it always made me snicker.  (Seriously, who doesn’t enjoy yelling the word “poop” in public?)

While I don’t condone using birds or their digestive systems as a form of entertainment, probably the funniest video I ever saw involved bird poop.  Picture it, a group of teenagers are gathered at the beach pouring bags of potato chips onto a tray.  One teen looks at the camera, smiles, holds up a package, and almost sings, “Laxatives.”  They cover the chips liberally with the magic sprinkles.  Hardly able to contain their excited giggling, the teens carry the tray to a populated area of the beach, set it down, and then ran for cover.  Within seconds, seagulls descend upon the glorious treasure, gorging themselves on delicacies normally jealously guarded from them…  And then the white rain begins to fall…  It’s hilarious.  Completely disrespectful and rude and should never ever be repeated but outrageously funny.  (You can watch it here if you want a good laugh.)

So, bird poop.

Jesus tells a story about bird poop in Matthew 13:3-9.  Okay, so really it’s a story about seeds and soils, but there are birds in the story, and every bird poops.  Anyhow, he tells how a man is scattering seeds all over the place; some of them land on amazing soil and bring a harvest, others fall on rocky or thorny soil and don’t really grow so well, and the last of it lands on the path.  The path is the worst place because the seeds don’t even start growing at all; the birds come along and eat them all.

“Behold, the sower went out to sow; and as he sowed, some seeds fell beside the road, and the birds came and ate them up.”  (Matthew 13:3-4)

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Jonah by Ben

[I gave an optional assignment last week in the Communion with God class to take a story from the Bible and re-write it.  It’s an awesome exercise that will help to draw out details from the actual events.  You’ll have to figure out what was really going on, why it happened the way the Bible reports it, what people were thinking and feeling…  I highly recommend it as a way to interact with the Bible!  Just don’t go around thinking you might as well write your own, more interesting version of the Bible and throw out that boring one you bought in the book store.]

Within minutes, the pale blue sky had disappeared entirely, replaced by a rolling mass of thick black and gray storm clouds.  The sun, once shining boldly, struggled now to reach even her fingers around the enveloping clouds.  Beneath the lead casket, the small ship appeared helpless on the blue-green back of a heaving, waking sea monster.  The sea was a giant stirring.

Aboard, every man took notice of the quick change in temperament, from the ancient Philistine captain borne in the womb of the sea to the newly-wed Egyptian couple on their first venture from solid land, and what a venture it will prove to be.

A cold wind brought with it the scent of rain, heavy and hell-bent.

“By Dagon, get ready, men!” the captain shouted and clenched his jaw tightly shut, his eyes challenging the sea and the wind and the rain.

A strike of lightning split the sky, and a blast of thunder shook the timbers of the small ship, the trumpet blast of some great sea god declaring war, announcing the coming of the rain.  The wind blew hard and stiff, and the ropes creaked, screaming under the pressure.  The sailors scrambled about the bridge, from starboard to port, loosening this, tightening that, attempting to anticipate the moves of the storm, most capricious of enemies; while, below decks the remaining sailors urged the vessel forward with herculean effort at the oars.  But for all their pushing and pulling, striving and straining, their most trusted ally had now by all appearances joined herself to the wind and the rain and, as a traitor, refused to obey their orders.

Another crack of lightning ripped the sky in two, and from the gaping hole the rain began to pour.

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What’s on my playlist?

Okay, so the title for this post is a little misleading.  I’m not actually going to tell you what’s on my playlist, other than saying I really can’t get enough of everything from Luciano Pavarotti‘s operatic awesomeness to Parov Stelar‘s crazy electroswing (samples), from Wavedude and Josiah Kramer‘s explorations into worship dubstep that I know are gonna blast church sanctuaries one day to the haunting and exotic sound of the Alash Ensemble, from The Tallest Man on Earth and Doug Burr‘s down-to-earth folk that speaks straight to my heart to the music of Tommy Emmanuel, who can somehow do on a guitar things no man with only ten fingers should be able to do.  (Hmmm… I feel kinda guilty that no Hillsong, Jesus Culture, or IHOP musicians appeared on that quick list… but… sucks to be them.)

But I’m not gonna talk about that.

I want to share some of the places I go to for great messages of biblical truth that will strengthen you, challenge you, and confront the laziness, timidity, faithlessness, and selfishness in you.  In no particular order, I offer you my top ten places for preaching that’ll strengthen your inner man (Ephesians 3:16), in both Romanian and English.

cstone milw1) Cornerstone Church Milwaukee (English) – Michael Fisher, the leader of Cornerstone Churches International and a man who has imparted much into my own life, is currently pastoring our local congregation of young radicals at UW Milwaukee along with a team of Jesus-loving world-changers.  Anything from this group is sure to challenge you to live with boldness, walking in the power and freedom of the gospel.  Michael’s got an anointing to raise up and send forth leaders who will change the world for the glory of Jesus, so get ready for some Holy Spirit impartation.  You can check out the latest sermons at their podcast, or you can do what I do, and dig through all the old messages here.  Currently, I’m working through Michael Fisher’s “Our Genetic Code” series.  It’s awesome!

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