Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Rick Nier: A Real Nimrod

If you were having trouble sleeping, you might try reading 1 Chronicles. It's a list of names, although these names tell a story of Israel's history. Towards the beginning the name Nimrod is listed. What do you think of when you hear the name Nimrod? I don't think of anyone flattering. The informal dictionary definition is that of a silly person; a simpleton. But that's not the only definition.

When the writer of Chronicles is listing out the names, he spends most of his ink just listing who was born. But when he comes to Nimrod he pauses. He adds a description. "The first great hero on earth." The NIV tells us that Nimrod was a great warrior. Even the dictionary offers that nimrod can refer to one skilled in hunting.

Isn't it funny how names can change over the years? I can remember when I was younger and people would hear my name, they would roll their eyes. You know, on second thought, perhaps my name isn't the best example. But I bet we could all name actors or athletes who at one time were idolized. Then, after a fall from grace, their name becomes synonymous with something less than heroic.

How do you feel about your name? Does it strike fear in the hearts of your enemies? Does it make the opposite sex swoon? Does it make people laugh? No matter, because God has a new name for you. Even before we all get to Heaven, and despite what others think, God has called you child, His child.

No Nimrod would turn down that name.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Primal


Jesus said to Love God with all of your heart, soul, mind and strength (Matthew 22:37). So if you do love God with all of your heart, then simple math says that you're only doing 1/4 of the job. In his new book, Primal, Mark Batterson tackles the Great Commandment and shows us why we may be missing all of what God wants for us.
As he explains;
I couldn't help but wonder if we have accepted a form of Christianity that is more educated but less powerful, more civilized but less compassionate, more acceptable but less authentic than that which our spiritual ancestors practiced.

If you're looking for some stuffy book for pastors and theologians, look somewhere else. Batterson writes with a passion for our hearts to connect with God's heart. He breaks down each aspect of God's command into the primal aspects of what we're called to. The amazing thing here, like many things with God, is that the parts add up to be more than the whole.
If you think you have the whole love thing down, think again. Pick up this book and be awed once more at just how completely God is, and why He deserves all of our heart, soul, mind and strength.

To purchase this book, visit http://www.randomhouse.com/catalog/display.pperl?isbn=9781601421319.
This book was provided for review by the WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Get in Line

Having a baby is such an amazing time in a couple’s life. The idea that something was created by two people and will form another is a miracle. All of the work that goes into preparing for this new life is done with pleasure. The pain that a woman goes through is surpassed by the joy that comes with a new little one. Of course, who can forget fleeing from the hospital to another country so the king wouldn’t kill your baby?

You didn’t experience that last part, did you? Neither did I. But Joseph and Mary did with the birth of Jesus. You can read about that in Matthew 2:13-18. Of course, we who have heard the life story of Jesus know that Herod was only the first in a long line of those who tried to kill Jesus. Religious teachers had schemed during Jesus’ ministry, even taking matters into their own hands a time or two (see John 8:59). Add Judas, Pilate, and Roman soldiers and you start to compile a list of people, all looking for a scapegoat.

Sadly, the appropriate response is far less common. In Luke 1, we find Zechariah forced into silence due to his shock at the birth announcement of John the Baptist. Though Zechariah’s silence was involuntary, our choice should be to respond likewise when hearing about God’s incredible gift.

We often have too much to say about, well, about everything. We know there is no end to the making of books (Ecclesiastes 12:12). It seems we all have an opinion. But this gift is so amazing, so full of grace, so earth-shattering and history-defining, that we should push the pause button and become thoughtfully silent.

We are not the first to hear about God entering His creation. Hopefully, we will not be the last. There have been many saints who have taken pause and wondered over and over again at these marvelous events, pondering them in their hearts, and we should get in line.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

It's Jesus' Birthday For Crying Out Loud

Let me see if I have this straight. God’s Son enters this world as a baby, the ultimate in a gift to mankind. We select a date of December 25 (though let’s not get into that), and we commemorate this gift of God. We celebrate each year by singing songs, giving gifts, and keeping in mind ‘the reason for the season’.

Whether through history before or after Christ, we have added details of some jelly-belly bringing gifts, drinking eggnog, and having office parties until the New Year. Added to this in recent years, we have Christmas decorations sold before Halloween is here and, despite any economy, lists as long as our legs and retailers willing to sell us the items on that list. Don’t even get me started about the 362 different versions of The 12 Days of Christmas song.

Is it just me? Or does just about everything around us scream for attention to be taken from Jesus?

I remember as a child in my family that birthdays were important. You may be neglected the rest of the time, but on your birthday, you were the star. You got to choose where the party was at and what was for dinner. You could (almost) do no wrong. Today was the day your siblings got ignored and you reigned supreme. I loved my birthday. I still do. The only difference now is that I just want a nap. (Can I please not go anywhere special for my birthday?)

Here's my point; if a birthday is about the person being born, how did we make Christmas about us? It's Jesus' birthday, for crying out loud. It should be about Him. I, for one, am going to make it about Him. Will you join me?

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

I Want to be a World Class Expert

A study by K. Anders Ericsson, which looked at musical prodigies, found the common denominator for mastery and success: 10,000 hours of practice. "The emerging picture from such studies," says neurologist Daniel Levitin, "is that 10,000 hours of practice is required to achieve the level of mastery associated with being a world-class expert—in anything." 10,000 hours is the equivalent of 20 hours a week for 10 years.
Michael Hyatt 10/16/09

In case you skipped over all the big words in the previous paragraph, here is what you missed. In order to be good at something, you have to try...hard...and long. The philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche wrote, "The essential thing ‘in heaven and earth’ is...that there should be a long obedience in the same direction; there thereby results, and has always resulted in the long run, something which has made life worth living."

I've said this before, I think most of us only want to want things. By things I mean anything from loving God to playing the piano. We say we want these things, but somehow they elude us. However, when we consider the great heroes of the Bible, they exhibit this long obedience that Nietzsche wrote about. If we really want something, we find a way to achieve it.

Abraham followed God for a few decades before he and Sarah received the promised baby boy. Joseph spent years in an Egyptian prison wondering what role he would play for God. Moses spent 80 years in a desert, half of which he spent leading people who complained more than my children on a road-trip.

Think about this. Perhaps you don't want to play an instrument, but being a close follower of God should be your goal. You may want it now. Will you still want it after 10,000 hours?

Thursday, December 3, 2009

God Gave




Hopefully you've noticed by now that I've blogged about a few books. Today I bring tidings of great children's books by Lisa Tawn Bergren.

In God Gave Us Love, Grampa Bear teaches us to love otters. That's not a misspelling, and I hope Lisa did that on purpose. The bear cub is expressing his frustration at having to share a lake with otters, when his wise grampa shows him why love is so very important. Remember to love otters as we love ourselves.

In God Gave Us Christmas, Lisa answers the age-old question for parents struggling between Santa stories and the story of the birth of Jesus. Santa's alright but God is the best. It's not just Christmas He gave us, as your kids will see as they read this book.

You can purchase these books by following the links;
http://www.randomhouse.com/catalog/display.pperl?isbn=9781400074471

ttp://www.randomhouse.com/catalog/display.pperl?isbn=9781400071753

These books were provided for review by the WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

I Want More...Lots More

Surely you have been in one of those situations where you realized too late that you could have asked for more. You're asking for a favor and the answer of yes comes back so quickly that that you realize you should have asked for more.

I know it's not just me, but I am usually so anxious for an affirmative response that I ask only for what I absolutely need. This kind of action probably says more about my lack of trust in whom I am asking than it does in the ability of the person to provide. Never is this so clear as when I only ask God for what I absolutely need. We can spiritualize this and say we are only asking for the minimum because we don't want to be greedy.

But the Bible is telling us that we should ask. 'Ask and you shall receive' is only one example from many. And then there is this story in 2 Kings 4:1-7. This widow comes to Elisha with her sob story about needing money. She's legit and so Elisha tells her to get a bunch of jars and pour what little oil she has into the jars. He hints at the madness that may ensue by telling her to get many jars and by saying to put each jar aside as it is filled.

She does all this and when she gets to the last jar, the oil, which was miraculously flowing, stopped. She sold the jars of oil and paid all her debts. Were her needs taken care of? Yes. Did a miracle occur? Yes. Should she be kicking herself for not getting more jugs? Yes!

If I were this woman, I would be asking myself why I didn't get more jars. Presumably, that oil would have kept flowing until her jars ran out. She could have been the world's first oil tycoon. But I have been there, questioning just how much God is willing to give. I'm not going to start flashing gaudy rings and driving sports cars, selling a book on how God wants to make you rich too, but...

Wrong motives aside, we need to come to God with boldness, trusting in His ever-giving nature. Or as Nancy Spiegelberg wrote, "Lord I crawled across the barrenness to You with my empty cup uncertain in asking any small drop of refreshment. if only I had known You better I'd have come running with a bucket."