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Posts Tagged ‘Bible’

“You don’t know what you are asking for”

That is a weird answer to prayer, but that was my answer back in May when I was praying about the upcoming semester.

Let me tell you about it.

Each new school year there are struggles unique to that semester, I hope the beginning of this school year will truly be unique.

Fountain Steps Sharpened

The Eboard from left to Right: Nick, Charles, Sarah, Simone, Steph, and Zack

 

The semester was starting and our new executive leadership team (the eboard) was hitting on all cylinders.  Two days before classes started, we had fliers around the campus and emails from new students on our phones.

This is a good start!

The day before school started, things took a slight turn.  Every student group was removed from the student group website.  In itself, not unusual.  The day before classes while freshman are looking for things to do?  Unusual.

When we went to register, three things hit, one after the other:

One of our eboard members needs to step down from official leadership
As a non-registered group, we cannot hang fliers, represent the school, or get meeting rooms
We need to raise over $800 before we have access to a budget and register the group

Tough start.

It seems God teaches us through our lives.  Our first two weeks of lessons during our Wednesday night fellowship meetings on the UAlbany campus were about trusting God, believing that when He says He will provide, He will provide.  How?  I don’t know, but that shouldn’t be my concern, it is His.

We talked Sabbath.  Can we rest one day a week to keep a reminder that our efforts aren’t what changes things, but our partnership with God does, because He is moving.

Sabbath: Can we stop production one day a week to trust that God has given everything we need?  Can we trust Him?

Tough lessons when you need money to go forward.

On the 14th day of class, I get a call from Jeff.

(pleasantries)

Jeff: “Have you been support raising for this $800 yet?”

Me: “No”

Jeff: “Have you spoken with ———- ?”  (Alumni’s name redacted by request!)

Me: “I have sent some emails over the summer”

Jeff:  “Are you waiting on a gift?”

Me: “No”

Jeff: “They gave $5,503.49 this morning”

Me: *Silence*

This is a swing in momentum!

The next day a dedicated member of Impact joined the Eboard.

The next week, we were registered once again as a group.

As of today, we have a meeting being set up for our budget.

“You don’t know what you are asking for”

If God would have revealed to me that we’d be deregistered, need to raise $800, get a new eboard member, and we wouldn’t have meeting rooms, I wouldn’t have believed it.  If He went on to say don’t worry, I will provide for each need and more, I wouldn’t think I was hearing right.  How much?  Really?  That’s crazy talk!

In our times of strife, may we continue to turn to God knowing that He provided in Genesis 1 and continues providing today, in Acts 29.

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Power and Turkey

Grace and Peace,

Today we are going over 1 Corinthians 4.

Here is a link to it on Biblegateway.com

I hope everyone had a good Thanksgiving Day.  I know I had a good day with some family and a huge meal.  I went and spent the day with relatives at a family party.  We brought a pie and in return had a huge feast! There was a 24lbs turkey, stuffing, multiple types of cranberry sauce (the canned is my favorite), salads, potatoes, sweet potatoes, other things too, we probably had vegetables but not on my plate.  This was also the second Thanksgiving Day gathering I went to.  I was at one the weekend before with a group of friends.  There, all the food was provided, we were asked to bring canned goods for the food pantry.  We brought a big can of Bush’s Baked Beans and a big can of sweet potatoes in light syrup.

Today when I was reading 1 Corinthians 4, a verse that stuck out to me was v20:

For the kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of power.

I didn’t really know what to make of this “but of power“.  The chapter didn’t seem to explain it, or at least I didn’t understand it, so I started to look into it.

Now that verse is in the NIV from 1984. So I checked the new 2010 version and it says the same thing.  I looked it up in a total of 17 different translations and the only one that was significantly different was the New Living Translation (NLT).  it said:

For the Kingdom of God is not just a lot of talk; it is living by God’s power.

Now that is quite different and easier to understand but when there are 16 other translations that don’t read like that, I have to give pause to thinking that that is the correct, or best understanding.

In reading about this passage in a number of places, including the biblegateway.com commentaries, I have gathered the idea that “but of power” is talking about how the message of God has changed the person’s life who is speaking.  Paul is writing to people who believe they know everything and do not want to listen to further instruction.  These people are talking like they know everything but their lives are not changed, the power of God is not seen in them.

It might be easy to put on a show for people and lead them to think that things are good, but when in reality, there are struggles and pitfalls.  Paul said earlier in this chapter in v 5:

“He (Jesus) will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of men’s hearts. At that time each will receive his praise from God.”

What we read and learn should be applied to our lives.  If we just superficially cover up problems, they will be revealed.  Paul gives us examples of overcoming troubles. He says that when the Apostles are cursed, they bless.  When they are persecuted, they endure it.  When they are slandered, they answer kindly.

I feel like I am working towards this and I hope you are too.  Then I look at things like Thanksgiving, a day where we are supposed to be thankful for what we have and it has turned into one of the more selfish days of the year.  I am thankful to God and I show it by eating constantly with way too much food left over, watching TV, napping, and even though I am still full from a 1pm dinner, have a sandwich again around 8pm.

What I am taking from this is to see how the power of God has changed my life.  Do I reply to curses with prayers of blessing on that person or do I get angry and gripe about it with people later?

I hope that we are like the final seeds in Jesus’ parable of the sower in Luke 8:15:

But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop.

 

-Zack

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Praise Night

Grace and Peace,

Today we are starting to go though 1 Corinthians

Here is a link to 1 Corinthians 1 at biblegateway.com

(As I was reading today, I noticed another “error” in the NIV translation that they have.  Upon looking further into it, it appears not to be an error but instead they are using the new version of the NIV called NIV.  Here is a link to a video talking about the new NIV with more links with text to read.)

I visited a non-denominational church in Indianapolis once and next to this church was a big open grassy area.  It looked like someone had taken the time to make sure it was just the right rich shade of green.  On the other side of this lush yard was another church, a Baptist Church.  As I was talking with Pastor Sean, who had set up a place for me to stay that night, I asked him if his church and the other one ever held joint events on this big open area between the two.

He said no…

He said that there has been efforts in the past to do something, but it doesn’t work out.

In his letter to the Corinthians, one of the first things that Paul instructs them about is unity in the body of Christ.

It’s amazing to me that after what is close to 2,000 years, we are not that different from the churches that Paul set up.  Churches today mostly (only a Sith deal in absolutes) have the same goal.  That goal is to spread the good news of Jesus.  That even while we were sinners, God sent His Son Jesus to die for our transgressions.  That through our belief in Jesus’ atoning sacrifice on the cross, we are brought back into relationship with God, with Jesus as our Savior.

Now the trouble isn’t that churches don’t believe that, the trouble is this:

some think the best and only true translation is the King James version,

some think that you should only use wine during communion,

some don’t think women should teach while others may have a female minister,

and the list goes on.  I’m sure you could think of more

I think something great happened on the SUNY Albany campus this November.  Five christian campus groups came together to put on a Praise Night.  Instead of being separated from each other on our own separate nights, we came together for praise and worship of our God.  I think this night gave a glimpse of what heaven will be like.  Christians from different places all over the world together for one purpose, to praise and give glory to God. It was awe inspiring.

But back in Paul’s day, things were different.

Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 1:12:

“One of you says, “I follow Paul”; another, “I follow Apollos”; another, “I follow Cephas”; still another, “I follow Christ.”

At this point in time, there was no written bible for people to be reading.  People who heard Paul talk, followed his teachings.  People who heard Apollos talk, followed his teachings.  People who heard Cephas (Peter) talk, followed his teachings.  People who heard Christ talk, followed His teachings.

Now though, we all have access to the written Word of God.

There shouldn’t be division because teachings can be compared back to the bible.  Of course I say there shouldn’t be but there are.  Divisions are tough and they are something I am also working to overcome in my life but with things like the Praise Night, I see more clearly how we are all working towards the same goal.

My hope for me, you and the church as a whole is that same desire of Paul’s in v10

I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in mind and thought.

What I am taking away from this is that as we move to impact the campus, that we work in conjunction with the other groups to increase the opportunities for students to connect with God in a life changing relationship.

-Zack

Praise Night

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Gold

Grace and Peace,

(To those of you who wonder why I open with Grace and Peace, it is because I want to remind you what is yours through Jesus.  It is also how 16 of the 27 books of the New Testament open up, and I like it)

Today we are going thought James Chapter 5

Here is a link to it on biblegateway.com

Earlier this month was my 2 year anniversary of my marriage with my beautiful wife.  On Nov. 1st, 2008, we exchanged rings of gold after saying I do.  We bought these rings a couple months in advance from a jewelery store and had them sized and bought a guarantee that they can be sized, fixed, and cleaned at any time for free.  My ring is just what I wanted it to be, it’s a plain gold wedding band.  Nothing fancy, no engravings, just a gold ring.

One thing I know about gold is that it doesn’t rust.  You can leave it in air and it doesn’t change.  You can put it in water and it doesn’t change, and I looked this up and a website said you could put it in acids and it doesn’t change.

Gold is a pretty stable substance.

When I read James chapter 5, verse 3 stood out to me:

Your gold and silver are corroded. Their corrosion will testify against you and eat your flesh like fire. You have hoarded wealth in the last days.

Here I have this ring which the value of could support a family of 4 somewhere else in the world for over 1 month. And that is just one thing, a simple ring.  When I added up what I paid for everything I wear, it totals about the same for what a family of 4 spends to survive for 6 months.

What I am wearing now, could have been money spent to support a family for 6 months.

That’s a long time.

James tells us that the people who store up, will lose everything.

He says that gold will become corroded.

This precious metal, gold, that under normal circumstances will not corrode, will not break down, will become a thing that stands as a witness against you.  It will “eat your flesh like fire.”

I have seen “security” in the wealth of the world.  I have seen it gone in a matter of seconds.  I spent a year in New Orleans taking peoples security and throwing it to the side of the road waiting for a skid-steer to come by and smash it all down and pile it into a truck.  I have used a sledge hammer to break the legs off of a $135,000 Steinway Grand Piano and that same sledge hammer to remove a microwave from above someone’s stove.   Wealth in this world is fleeting.

We might not be prone to floods, but recently a tornado passed through the area.

So what are you doing with your wealth?

Are you helping people?

Are you storing it up?

I pray that if you are a student, it is your goal that after you graduate, that you use your wealth not to indulge in the world but to change the world

I heard someone talk about a conversation they had with their child who was in college.  He ask what their goal in life was.  The child said to make lots of money. The fathers response:

Anyone can make money, make a difference.

I hope you use your money to make a difference in the lives of the people of this world and change their lives for all eternity.

-Zack

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Grace and Peace,

Here is a link to James chapter 3 at Biblegateway.com

“Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.” James 3:1

People who proclaim God’s Words, who want to teach others what it means to follow Christ, are going to be judged more strictly.

That is never a pleasant thought for me, but it makes sense.

When I think about this, it brings to mind a gym teacher I had in high school.  He was a fun, strict, and big guy.  He could figure out pretty easily how fast you could run a mile before you ran one lap.  The trouble about learning physical education from him was that he was pretty out of shape.  At one point in life, I understand he was the pinnacle of strength and fitness but later in life, not as much.  One of his sayings was “do as I say, not as I do.”

Another example that I think we can all relate to is seeing police speeding down the highway, going what seems to be at least 20mph over the limit, while talking on their cell phone (for out of state readers, in New York there are cell phone laws which prohibit you from using your phone while you drive unless you are using a hands free device).  These are the same people who would pull you over for going that fast or for talking on your phone.

James is saying that if you are looking for the ‘status’ of teacher, you better be living out what you are teaching others.  If you are telling people that they need to keep from drunkenness but you yourself live a life of debauchery then people will think it is ok to live the life you are leading, after all, you are the teacher.

This reminded me of what Paul says to the Corinthians in 1 Corinthians 1:12

One of you says, “I follow Paul”; another, “I follow Apollos”; another, “I follow Cephas”; still another, “I follow Christ.”

If a teacher says something is true, it should be compared to what the bible says.  If we start following people, who might have their own agenda, we will begin to fall into their teachings and just assume they are accurate.

Paul, I think, has the best motto that a teacher can have.  He redirects attention from himself and points to God.

“Follow my example as I follow the example of Christ'” (1 Corinthians 11:1)

Paul says that they can follow him because what he is doing is following Christ.

If Paul messes up, that shouldn’t change your relationship with your Savior because you should be moving towards Christ not Paul.

It’s my hope that those of us who want to be teachers take this to heart.

I hope that we strive to be good examples of how Christians should live and that our actions and deeds speak for us.

Your thoughts on the chapter?

-Zack

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The Rich and Walmart

Grace and Peace,

Here is a link to James Chapter 2:

http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=james%202&version=NIV

If we value people who are rich more than we value the poor, then we value wealth more than we value Jesus.

If we go to someone for other reasons than they need to know/learn about Christ, we are putting more value on that person.  The example that James gives is a rich man and a poor man come into a meeting.  The rich man, who is dressed nicely and looks impressive and successful (not to mention he could help support the church financially), is escorted to a good seat near the front.  The poor man is just pointed off into a direction and told to go “stand there” or sit on the ground.

Why do we show favoritism to the rich?

In reading a commentary at biblegateway.com they talk about our desire to associate with wealthy and successful people because we often want to be wealthy and successful.  We assume that people who are wealthy earned it and are successful at what they do, but maybe they inherited it.  Maybe they were dishonest and cheated their way to wealth.

James says that when we join with them, we support them in what they do!

Well what do they do?

1)     James says that they exploit the poor.  Think of someone who has a good education and money, are they willing to live on minimum wage?  Maybe some, but mostly not.  When I graduated college, I didn’t want to work at McDonalds or Walmart, I wanted a good job with an even better salary.  But someone who wasn’t able to go to college or maybe someone who didn’t finish high school is willing to work a job for low pay and the people who set the wages know that.  I know I have been offered small jobs for small pay during tough financial times which if they were to hire professional to do it would cost 2-3 times as much.  I have also been guilty of this thinking, maybe you have too.

2)     James says that the rich drag the poor into court.  This makes me think of the passage Matthew 5:40:

And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well.

If someone is suing you for your shirt, chances are you don’t have anything else of value.  The poor in Jesus day might only have a shirt and a cloak.  These are the only things protecting them from the sun in the day and the cold in the night.  Demanding their clothes is saying that they are below you and not worthy of compassion.

3)     James also says that they blaspheme the name of Jesus.  By persecution of Christians, the rich are persecuting Jesus.  Think of Saul’s encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus:

Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me? Acts 9:4

Saul (Paul) was persecuting Christians who follow Jesus.  Jesus is saying that through the persecution of His people, you persecute and blaspheme Jesus Himself.

Through all that, why would we want to value people who seek to treat our brothers and sisters in Christ this way.

Now this isn’t to say wealthy people are terrible people and they are bad.  In fact, the example of Walmart is probably unfair.  For the past 3 years, Walmart has given the most to charity out of any corporate donor in the nation.  They have given around $300,000,000 for each year from 2007-2009 and are on track to give the same for this year.  So in the past 4 years, Walmart has given around $1,200,000,000 to charity. ( Source: USA Today)

Chances are there are many more good wealthy people than there are evil.

And of course, before you think of CEO’s being the rich and wealthy, remember that most of the world lives on less than $2 a day and that pack of 2 dozen socks that we buy at Walmart came from some country where we take advantage of their low world economic status.

I think that previous paragraph was written to me from God.  Until I finished typing it, I didn’t think about that at all.

I hope your reading of James is convicting.

-Zack

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This week we are reading through the book of James.  Today, 11/15/10, we are reading chapter 1.  Post what you have learn, how you can apply this to your life, what questions you are thinking about or what has brought conviction into your life.

Here’s a link to James chapter 1:

http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=james%201&version=NIV

I know when I write a letter or email, I always get to the point right away but then I go back and add in some letter banter.  I will talk about what is going on in my day, say something like this have been exciting or hectic or boring and then after a paragraph of pointless babble, I start off the second paragraph with, “well I’m writing to you because…”

James writes who he is, who he is writing to, then says greetings then gets into it.

James says

“If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.”

James probably knows that the people he is writing to are lacking wisdom and struggling with what are probably some easy decisions.  Think of things like downloading music or movies today, people do it all the time (did i mention that my first “Christian” cd was burned from a computer? thanks j.!) and we all know it’s illegal.

I know that asking for wisdom is in my prayer life often.  I seek wisdom in discerning God’s will for my life, wisdom in how to help others, and wisdom to teach and explain the bible.

The passage then goes on to say that you need to ask without doubt.  I have thought of this many times when I have prayed for something and said to myself that I have to have believe and not doubt.  I read some foot notes (I’ll refer to the foot note writer as Frank) that went along with this chapter and Frank says that believing without doubt isn’t only believing that God answers prayer, but that when we doubt, we retain the option to disobey what God wants us to do.

Doubt gives us the option of disobeying God.

If we really trusted God, the God who tells us that He has plans to prosper us and not to harm us (Jeremiah 29:11), then we wouldn’t have doubt in His leadership.

It is my prayer for me and you that we seek His wisdom, that we ask for His wisdom without doubt, and that even if we do have doubt and want to keep the option to disobey, I hope you and I will always choose to follow God than try to lead Him.

-Zack

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