Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Celebrate Forgiveness

I know that I just recently posted about Mary pouring perfume on the feet of Jesus. You can find it in Mark 14.

I want you to think about this story again. Even if you have heard the story before. But imagine, for a moment, in modern day settings, that you are invited to an upscale dinner party. It’s the kind where no one would dream of using a spork. There’s 3 forks, 2 spoons, a knife and some of those after-dinner mints that nobody eats unless you are at one of these parties.

You’ve had the formal invite on your fridge for weeks. You meticulously plan out what you will wear. You take extra time to iron your clothes and wear the special perfume or cologne. Maybe you even Googled dinner party manners, just to be sure.

You arrive and everyone is decked out. Waiters are in tuxes and everyone is being careful not to snort when a joke is told. And the guest of honor? Everyone is watching him, even when they are part of another conversation. You can see the host making sure all the details are perfect.

That’s when it happens. You stare in shock as a prostitute, dressed quite like Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman before she gets to go shopping, enters the room. Despite not wanting to draw attention to herself, her thigh high boots echo across the floor with every step. Her attire makes it difficult to move, but all of the sudden you see her at the feet of the guest of honor. She’s weeping openly and crying thank you, over and over again.

You look around and all the other guests are just sitting there, shocked, not knowing what to do. So they just sit there, thinking, ‘Well, this is awkward’. 

The irony here is that the guest of honor has not done any more for this prostitute than he did for you. We don’t celebrate forgiveness the way we should. Our church settings are much like a formal dinner, where we intend to thank the guest of honor with a dignified thank you, spoken while looking into his eyes. Perhaps we will attempt to make a sizable donation to his cause. 

When we are willing to become a bigger fool than ever before, when we decide the stares and the whispers don't matter, when we come to the conclusion that the Giver must be thanked properly, that is when we are celebrating forgiveness the way it should be celebrated.

Are you celebrating properly?

Monday, January 30, 2012

God First, Man Second: New Year's Series

Then I saw "a new heaven and a new earth," for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Look! God's dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.  ~Revelation 21:1-3

This is a classic few verses from the last book of the Bible. It is very inspiring and can be very useful, like towards the end of an emotional movie when the hero has been beaten down beyond normal human comprehension, only to come back and achieve victory, even if it is only a partial and emotional victory achieved by getting the attention of a pretty girl.

But I digress.

These verses are best heard, read aloud by someone with a voice like that guy from the Allstate commercials. You can hear that. can't you. And even though my voice isn't so memorable as that, I want you to see where I would put the emphasis.

"Look! God's dwelling place is now among the people." See! We're going to be the guests at an eternal sleepover at God's house. It's God's place and we get to stay over.

"and he will dwell with them." Yeah, it's God's call and he is choosing to hang with us. If that doesn't leave you feeling a sense of worth, then nothing else will ever do. And that's kind of the point.

"They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God." Belonging. It's not like God is just a part of some big hang-with-a-loser program. I could have used something like that in middle school. We belong to God. And the object always comes second to the owner.

God first, man second.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The Silent Years

Hmmm, have you ever thought about something, had lots of conversations about said topic, then got really excited when someone finally decided to write a book about it?

Yeah, me too.

The aforementioned topic would be all the years of Jesus' life not talked about in the Bible. Let's face it, we get a birth story full of animals and characters. Then we get one snippet of the childhood of Jesus at age 12. Then, WHAM!, it's Jesus taking down demons and loving on the sinners.

For anyone with an imagination, it leaves us wondering what it was like for Jesus, and His family, when He was a child or young adult. Was He always correcting His parents? Did His siblings ever try to get Him in trouble? Did Mary ever lose her patience and use His name in an incorrect manner? If so, was she breaking a commandment?

So I was excited to recieve a copy of The Silent Years by Alan W.C. Green. The story was told from the perspective of an Uncle He may have had, but largely fictional character, named Benaiah. He was a Pharisee who would serve to teach Jesus the Torah as a child.

Alan, for the most part, does a good job of weaving the unwritten parts with the record we have from the four Gospels. He does not seem overly concerned with everything fitting perfectly with the Gospel records. For instance, in Alan's version, there is no mention of any wise men or an escape to Egypt. Later, some of the miracles seem to be performed before Jesus actually starts His ministry. But I think we can allow some freedom here for the sake of imagination.

Yet, if the point was to give us a realistic look at what could have actually been, I was left a little wanting. Aside form the historical license Alan took, my biggest problem became the seemingly cluelessness Jesus had about Who He is. The vigin birth is discussed, but other than saying that Jesus probably had a special mission from God, there is no real mention of what the miraculous birth meant.

Alan does have Jesus referring to Himself as 'the Son of the Human', but even with that he stops short of painting Jesus as someone who had 100% clarity.

The story was entertaining, nonetheless, and would cause great thinking and great discussion. Alan does a great job of weaving familiar characters earlier in the life of Jesus in ways that one might not have considered before. It's worth the read.

I received this book from my friends at SpeakEasy. They give me books and ask that I talk about them. They don't tell me what to say, just a review.

You can find this book for purchase here.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Rock Climbing Is Not About Me

The other night my family went to the Y. Jacie wanted to go rock climbing and I said I would climb with her. You have to know, internally, my goal was not to let a 10-year old girl show me up. My competitive side is well known by my kids, because as I was encouraging Jacie on one of her climbs, Luke (8-years old) asked me why I was encouraging the competition. I reminded him that we were on the same team, so it was good to work together. And we did. Jacie reached the top of two different climbs. 

Perhaps you're wondering how I did. I thought about telling you. I almost put it down. But then I realized that would make this about me. Whether or not I reached the top does not change who I am. What you think about whether or not I reached the top does not change who I am either.

I could tell you. But if all we're doing is comparing, which I started to do, it will get us nowhere. 


Let it be known that the family had a good time, so the mission was accomplished. A lot of times we think the mission is to make it about us. It reminds me that there were moments in the life of Jesus when He too was silent. Specifically, I am thinking of His trial by Pilate when He remained silent. You can find that in Matthew 26.

I know, that's a big jump in topic, from rock walls to trials. I'm sorry if I jarred you. But realize that we have so many ways of making life about us, even in trivial matters. Jesus, in a moment of life and death, said nothing. Not about His innocence. Not about the injustice being done to Him. Not a word about Himself.

Do you still want to know how I did at rock climbing?

Monday, January 23, 2012

God First, Man Second: New Year's Series

I think that we love the New Year because we have a romanticized view of what happens when the clock rolls over. We seem to think that we'll make some resolutions and everything will be rainbows and kittens. But then we wake up and realize that old acquaintances are not all forgotten.

Relationships that stunk the year before will still stink, unless, of course, we decide to do something about it. Consequences carry over, without caring to look at the calendar.

I think this leaves us with a despair that leaves us not wanting to try. Why bother, right? The New Year doesn't actually change anything. If we look closely, we'll realize that the New Year is really just a new day.

Sounds kind of discouraging, doesn't it? Well, hold on, because I am actually a big believer in a good night's sleep and a new day making a world of difference. In fact, I could be chief among those accused of romanticizing the New Year, a new month and even just one new day.

But for all the romantics out in the world, there is a day coming where things will be made new.

I am coming soon. Hold on to what you have, so that no one will take your crown. The one who is victorious I will make a pillar in the temple of my God. Never again will they leave it. I will write on them the name of my God and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which is coming down out of heaven from my God; and I will also write on them my new name. ~Revelation 3:11-13

I know, I know, there are other verses later in Revelation that make us long for Jesus to come even more. I chose this one because the focus is clearly on Jesus. It is Jesus who brings the real action here. Jesus is coming. Jesus is making pillars. Jesus is writing the name son us.

What do we do? We hold on. Yes, we hold on to that which Jesus has given us. Oh, and we achieve total victory, but not in the Ninja Warrior sort of way. This victory has already been won by, you guessed it, Jesus.

So, celebrate this New Year. Aim high for resolutions and new goals. Romanticize if it helps you. But make sure you are focused on the right new day. And then...hold on.

How do you handle the New Year? Does a new day make a difference for you?

Friday, January 20, 2012

It's Not What Others Think

I have spent way too much time considering what other people think about me. From the way I dress, to the way I talk, I've obsessed over too many details of me. Why? Because I've concerned myself with what others think.

Earlier this week, I talked about a guy named Simon the Leper who didn't seem too concerned with his identity. His name is only mentioned in passing, because it will be a woman who steals the scene, although it's not really about her either. Mark 14 tells us of a woman who comes in and anoints Jesus' feet with an expensive perfume. From the gospel of John, we know that it's Mary, the sister of Martha.

Forget what you know about the argument the disciples have with Jesus about this being a wise or foolish use of money and resources. Forget that this seemed to spur Judas into betraying Jesus. You can even forget about the imagery of this being preparation for Jesus' burial, although it is a beautiful picture.

What strikes me is the bravery Mary had when walking into this room. This wasn't just giving Jesus a bottle of perfume, an odd gift to give any man, unless this was a musk. The Gospel writers always leave out the gritty details like that.

Mary not only turns her back on the crowd, but she puts herself in a most vulnerable position, so she can wipe the feet of Jesus with her hair. There's no suave way of doing that. In fact, there's no way of keeping your face off the floor when giving this gift.

And while what she did has been told and retold for generations, this is ultimately about Jesus. It is preparation for His burial. So it didn't matter that others thought it was a waste. It didn't matter that others might have felt awkward as she was wiping His feet. It wasn't about what others thought.

The gift we give Jesus is about Him. It is our response. It's not what others think.

When's the last time you lavishly gave to Jesus without considering what others thought about you?

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Hometown Prophet

I recently read Jeff Fulmer's novel Hometown Prophet. The story follows Peter, a classic story of a man who lives with his mom and receives visions from God.

Wait, that's not classic? Before you scoff, we don't really know where some of the Old Testament prophets lived. Maybe that was why Jeremiah was known as the weeping prophet. You might cry to if you still lived with your mom.

Despite it's un-classical nature, Jeff does a good job of thinking through the implications of receiving, and then delivering, messages from God. Especially when you live with your mom and back in your hometown, where everyone knows your flaws. Aside from the obvious supernatural aspect, I think this story flowed very realistically through the consequences to our hero, Peter.

Good book. Good story. Good characters, despite their flaws.

I do have one minor soapbox of mine to get on. There were a handful of swear words used. I know, I know, there is a huge literary debate about what is necessary or not. I understand that if you have characters who are not Christian, and you want to portray them realistically, sometimes they use language. I get that, I do.

However, at several points, words were spelled out. At another, a f-bomb was dropped, but wasn't spelled out. Instead, he used the symbols to show a bad word was intended. So, clearly, the author had a line he did not want to cross. So why not use symbols for all of the swear words. More surprising, in my mind, was when a swear word was used outside of dialogue.

It will sound like an old argument, but for me, it didn't add to the story. Characters were angry. I already understood that. But I digress. Other than what may be an irritation for me, the story was good. I appreciated seeing an in depth look at what it might actually be like for some one who has the gift of prophecy. It wouldn't be easy, that's for sure. Despite my irritations with salty language, I was entertained by this story.

You can check out all the extras below. I received this book from my good friends at SpeakEasy. They send me books and ask that I say something about them. They don't use bad language when they do.

Video trailer for Hometown Prophet: http://youtu.be/hjufn9mjVN0


Tuesday, January 17, 2012

It's Not Who You Are

I've had some pretty bad nicknames. When your legal name is Richard, it doesn't exactly make it difficult for name-callers. But even I feel bad for Simon the Leper.

Apparently people in the first century weren't very good with last names. And since there were a bunch of people with the same first name, your identity became unique by some other marker. Can you guess how Simon the Leper got his name? It's not difficult.

Simon was evidently the only Simon people knew who had suffered with leprosy. But it must have been a thing of the past, because Jesus is at his house. Leprosy was something that made people live outside city limits, with other lepers. With no modern meds and no known cure, it was a segregated life for lepers. So for Simon to be back home, he must have been cured, probably by his house guest, Jesus.

What strikes me about this story is that it has nothing to do with Simon or his leprosy. We're merely told where Jesus is at. In fact, the major part of the story is that Mary, sister of Martha, came and anointed Jesus' feet with expensive perfume. (We'll save that part of the story for another post.)

Simon the Leper is mentioned because of who he is with. Seems like a good reminder for the rest of us.

Some of us are known by things in our past. Be it sin or habits, or even silly details from a summer camp. Some of us are recognized for one part of our lives, math whiz, jock, computer dork...or maybe just a regular dork. It doesn't matter that the rest of us is ignored, most of us have a label.

But it doesn't matter. It's not who you are. It's who you are with.

If I were Simon, I would have invited Jesus to my house that day too. And as I was spreading the word, I would have made sure people knew where to go. The invite would have read;

Jesus Party
Simon the Leper's House

Monday, January 16, 2012

God First, Man Second: New Year's Series

I was playing guitar and singing when my 5 year old interrupts my American Idol-worthy groove to ask what grace is. Now, you know how parents, when they are talking with another, say things they wouldn't say to their kids? Well, sometimes I say those things to my kids.

What's grace, my child? It's what God gives you, even though you're a little sinner and don't deserve it. That's grace! It ranks right up there with some advice I got from Jack Handy. He thought it was a good idea that when a kid asked where rain came from, to tell them it was God crying. When they asked why God was crying, he'd tell them it was probably because of something they did. That's parenting at its best.

I think of that because of Lamentations 3:22-24.
Because of the Lord's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fails. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, "The Lord is my portion, therefore I will wait for Him."

See, despite what a dirty sinner I am, God's love overcomes all of that. He has compassion on me. He extends His grace to my life.

Oh, and God does it every day.

Therefore, I will wait for Him. What are you waiting on God for this week?

Friday, January 13, 2012

Grinch: The Whole Story

Christmas is in the rear-view mirror, but I have something that's been bugging me for a couple of months. It's our use of the word Grinch. When we call someone a Grinch, we are not normally handing out a compliment. In fact, we even have the song all worked out. You're a mean on, Mr. Grinch. We rhyme and wax poetical about just how insufferable he is.

I may stand alone here, but I think this view of Grinch is short-sighted. And as Christians, I think we should re-think this name-calling.

First of all, name-calling is just not nice. So let's not be so stupid. Secondly, we are ignoring the whole story of Grinch. Do you remember the end of the story? His heart grew 3 times as large as I recall. He became Dr. Seuss's version of Zacchaeus.

Do you remember that guy? He's not just an avid tree-climber that Jesus spotted. He was a tax collector that apparently had a Napolean complex and took care of things by cheating people on their taxes. But after a visit with Jesus, good ol' Zac was paying people back 4 times what he cheated them. We don't normally think of Zacchaeus as the cheat he was before he met Jesus. We think of him as the success story.

How would you like it if you were remembered for the sins you committed before you were saved? 'Hey, there's Greg, the fornicator!' It just doesn't sound right, does it?

From now on, if I call someone a Grinch, it will be because of the great change and growth of heart that I see in them. Perhaps we should all be striving to be a Grinch.

Your turn. How do you see the Grinch?

Wednesday, January 11, 2012


2012 is starting out really well as far as my book choices. Last week I reviewed Dug Down Deep by Joshua Harris. I thought this was a good place to start a year because it laid a foundation of truth.

Then I jumped right into Sacrilege by Hugh Halter. I must admit, the title had me scared a bit for what I would find inside. But you know what they say about judging a book by its cover. So I jumped in anyways.


I say jump in with both feet, my friends. What Hugh basically does is to break down the Beatitudes and explain how deviant these words would have sounded to the original audience.

Hugh writes in a very easy to follow manner. He explains in the introduction that he is writing as if to his daughters in a letter, so they may know the real Jesus. Also near the beginning he defines how he is using the term sacrilege. It comes don to tipping holy cows. That sounds mean, but these cows had it coming. Really.

What we need to understand is that people did not sit through Jesus' teaching like we do through a sermon. Instead of obedient silence and perhaps a smattering of 'Amens', there would have been shock and awe. Imagine gasping, scoffing and disbelief and I think we get a bit closer to the reactions Jesus would have become accustomed to.

Hugh weaves the Beatitudes together and shares some very clear implications for how we follow Jesus, from the sharing of communion to the sharing of our resources to how we spend our Sabbaths. He even returns our focus to how we respond to people.

In the end, nothing is too sacred to be questioned and yet Hugh finds the true character of Jesus to be uber-sacred. Yes, uber.

I highly recommend this book for anyone who is new to the faith and needs to start out right, before getting comfy with the holy cows. Oh, and for the rest of us, this would be a great opportunity for a  refocusing.

I received this book for free from my good friends at SpeakEasy. They ask me to say something but don't tell me what to say. They're cool like that.
Hugh Halter is a church planter, pastor, consultant, and missionary to the US. He is the national director of Missio and is the lead architect of Adullam, a congregational network of missional communities in Denver, Colorado.You can vist him at his blog if you'd like; http://hughhalter.com


Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Thinking Ahead

 Do you ever spend time thinking ahead? I don’t mean in the sense of merely looking forward to dessert, although I do that a lot. I’m talking about the kind of thinking that is especially popular at this time of year. You start thinking about what your last year was like and what you want your next year to be like. Perhaps you think about relationships that need to be repaired. In your home, you may ponder the next big home project. In your work, you may scheme on how to attain more paid sick days.

Whatever kind of thinking it is, we’re given some guidelines in God’s Word.

Hakuna Matata
We’re told not to worry about the future. In fact, Jesus compares us to birds and flowers and assures us that we’re worth more to God than those things (Matthew 5:25-34). Whew! In case you become concerned that God might be ok with us being hungry and naked, rest assured, He is not. Jesus tells us that our Father knows we need them. But God also knows that “life is more important than food, and the body more important than clothes” (Matthew 5:25b).

So while Timon and Pumba, of Lion King fame, may have sang Hakuna Matata in an attempt to do as little as possible, we can sing it as praise to God. No worries may not mean problem-free living, but it does mean that God has our back.

Don’t Worship the Plans
Have you ever had a near-death experience? I’ve had a couple. When I realize how close I was, it makes me pause and think about my plans for that day. I’m all for planning, but James was correct when he said that we “are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes” (James 4:14). So we should plan with open hands.

You never know what God has in mind.  If we did, it would likely change all our plans. So would the knowledge of how many close calls we’ve actually had. Not every close call is one we will see. Consider all the delays and distractions that come your way. Yeah, they may mess with your plans. But they may be in God’s plans.

If we’re to really look ahead, I think we may need to do some more thinking.

How often do you plan ahead? How far ahead do you look? How has that helped or hindered your faith?

Monday, January 9, 2012

God First, Man Second: New Year's Series

I'm judgmental. There, I said it. I'm pretty bad about it as well. Oh, I don't often say things out loud, but I'm judging. I can't tell you how many times I've judged a person because of some pattern of living they have, only to be reminded of God's grace. But even in the view of grace, I return to judgment fairly quickly, piously reminding myself that people still have consequences to live with. 

There may be consequences, but that really shouldn't be my concern. How I deal with people should reflect God's grace. Period. This was Paul's point in 2 Corinthians. 

So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 2 Corinthians 5:16-18

Like all scripture, this is about God first and man second. So what do we see God doing? Reconciling. And God is getting it done, in amazing ways. God loves reconciling so much that He has given us this as a ministry. It's like sharing your favorite hobbies with your friends. 

I think we might experience better relationships across the board if we took this way of living to heart. Stop judging people in a worldly way. See people as new creations. Work more on reconciling people with God. 

Hmmm, there might be something to this. 

How about you? What goes on in your head regarding other people?

Friday, January 6, 2012

You're So Vain, And With Good Reason

I must apologize to Carly Simon. I'm sure she has life experience that I don't have. I am positive that she is trying to make a point. But in this one instance, she is just plain wrong. The song is about him!

What song, you ask? You must be young. The song is called You're So Vain by the aforementioned Carly Simon. She sings about a guy that she would clearly rather forget. She was hurt. I feel for her, I do. But, like a teenage girl who pretends that she doesn't care what a stupid guy thinks, she tips her hand. Yes, my lady doth protest too much.

She tells us this guys is so vain that he probably thinks this song is about him. Well, what is he supposed to think? She describes him in pretty clear detail in 3 verses. Or are there multiple guys leaving her, travelling to Saratoga, then jetting off to Nova Scotia? Maybe I just don't live in the world where every other guy wears hats and apricot scarves. Maybe that's just me.

Or maybe the song is about him.

We don't do any favors to those who think too highly of themselves when we think too often about them. It just feeds to the ego that has already stayed too long at the Thanksgiving table.

What Carly should have done, if she really wanted to convince this guy, was to feign memory loss. Perhaps forget some of the tiny details and choose not to attend the same parties. It's just a thought. But perhaps people would believe that you're not all about them if you weren't singing songs about them, then telling them the songs aren't really about them.

It comes across like;
  • Kobe Bryant talking about that one really big, All-Star center he played with, but he's not talking about Shaq.
  • Colts fans talking about not really needing that one quarterback they have, but they're not talking about Peyton Manning.
  • People in general talking about that evil guy in a red suit that takes Jesus out of Chrismas, but we're not talking about Santa.
Of course we are. It's time we admit that some things, people included, get too much of our attention. Some times that person is us. Is this blog about you? You're so vain...

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Dug Down Deep

Doctrine and theology can be fun. No, seriously.

Joshua Harris has done both serious and light-hearted on this subject of uber-importance. As he writes early on, "all of us are constantly 'doing' theology." Since "all of us have some idea or opinion about what God is like" we might as well 'do' theology properly.

See, we all know things about God. But we have to be pushed to make the applications for that knowledge. For instance, it's one thing to know that God is good. But what does that mean for us in a practical sense? Sigh if you must, but it's the working out of in depth questions, like how a good God can allow bad things to happen or even knowing if God can make a burrito so hot that even He can't eat it.

Yeah, it's deep stuff.

So Joshua tackles all the basics, from reading the Bible, redemption and sanctification to the 3 personalities of God. He even tells us why church is important. As a pastor, I have to give that chapter 2 thumbs up.

He does it all with an understated humility, which is where he ends his book as well. The truth is not something for Christians to use as a weapon, against other Christians or non-Christians. The truth is something that exists outside of us. Since we cannot control it or own it, but only claim it, we need to be careful how we use it. Joshua emphasizes that our main task is to live by this truth. Much like the parable of the wise and foolish builders, our job is to dig down deep and continue discovering core truths and then shaping our lives by the Truth.

I received this book from my good friends at Waterbrook Multnomah Publishing. They send me books for free and ask that I say something about said books. This latest edition comes with an in-depth study guide, which would be great for small groups.

You can purchase this book here. I recommend that you do.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

The New Divide

Ok, now that Christmas is over, we can move on from birth stories and manger scenes, right? Maybe. While we may talk less about baby Jesus we won’t (or shouldn’t) stop talking about Jesus. As annoying as the phrase ‘Reason for the Season’ may be, the simple truth is that Jesus is the Reason for…well…everything!

When the Apostle Paul wrote to the Colossian Church, he began by telling them how thankful he was for their faith in Jesus. He tells them how this good news is “all over the world” and is “bearing fruit and growing.”

Then Paul tells these Colossians how he is praying that God would fill them “with the knowledge of His will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding.” But this not just knowledge for the sake of having knowledge. This knowledge’s purpose is so they “may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please Him in every way.” This is our faith becoming action.

This knowledge is to be shared. It is to be lived. Knowing Jesus is not like checking an item off of our to-do list. “For He has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son He loves.” There was our life before. Now there is our new life.

Jesus is the New Divide! You can decide which side to be on, but it would seem a waste of what God did to walk right back into a darkness that He already saved us from. Maybe that's just me.

Question for today; Do you tend to compartmentalize the Christmas stories? Or will you remember Jesus as baby stories all year long?
* All of these quotes can be found in the first 14 verses of Colossians.

Monday, January 2, 2012

God First, Man Second: New Year's Edition

Well, happy New Year to those willing to read another year of my blog. (See how I assume that you'll read it all year?) I hope you will. I have some new ideas for posting themes that I will be working on, in an effort to increase our interactions here on the blog. 

But one series I'll be continuing starts today. It's God First, Man Second. Every Monday, I'll post a scripture and answer the following questions in the following order. What does this say about God? What does this say about man? I believe the order is important because asking who man is first can get us wrong answers. 

Alright, on with it...
“Therefore, you Israelites, I will judge each of you according to your own ways, declares the Sovereign LORD. Repent! Turn away from all your offenses; then sin will not be your downfall. Rid yourselves of all the offenses you have committed, and get a new heart and a new spirit. Why will you die, people of Israel? For I take no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Sovereign LORD. Repent and live! Ezekiel 18:30-32

What does this say about God? We see that God is the judge, but more importantly, we see that God is not a vindictive judge, looking to smite people just because He can. He is encouraging the people, including us, to change our ways. We're told sin equals death, but that God doesn't take pleasure in death. 

That's good news, because the prospect doesn't sound enticing to me either.

So, what about us? The best news for us is that we can receive a new heart and spirit. It's not something we will earn or purchase or work hard for. If that were the way it was done, believe me, I'd have done it by now. I tend to be goals oriented. 

The doing focus for us here is more of simple repentance. In case it doesn't seem simple to you, consider the options. Die in your sins, to your heart's content. Or get a new heart by changing your ways. Sounds like a no-brainer. 

I'm not a big resolution guy, but maybe the New Year helps you focus. If so, what's your resolution? Any chance putting God first will help you accomplish that goal?