27 February 2014

25 February 2014

BSF 2013-2014: Matthew 19:1-21:17

There’s a lot to cover this week, so I’ll do a lot of summarizing. Hold on to your hats!

First, the Pharisees question Jesus about one of the hot topics of the day. They ask if God accepts divorce. Jesus answers them with Scripture. We always should turn to the Bible for answers to all of life’s questions.

Jesus says to focus on marriage not divorce. God’s Word clearly says marriage is between one man and one woman. So why did Moses permit divorce? Because of the people’s hard hearts. Divorce protected the women who were victims of men’s frivolous actions. Divorce allowed the women to live better lives and be productive in society.

God hates divorce because marriage is a picture of Christ and His love for the church. Divorce depicts that Christ could abandon and divorce His church. This is false. Christ never will abandon or betray His church. Divorce destroys the picture of Christ’s love for His people.

Marriage isn’t for everyone. While marriage is a gift, so is singleness is a gift. Seek God’s will in these situations. Whether married or single, Christians must use our situations as a platform to demonstrate God’s love.

Next we see parents bringing their children to Jesus. The disciples rebuke the people. Maybe the disciples thought the children weren’t worthy of Jesus’ time and attention. Or maybe the disciples thought they were protecting Jesus.

Jesus tells the disciples not to hinder children from coming to Him. Jesus calls the children to come to Him. Jesus touches the children, blesses them and He prays over them.

After this, a rich young ruler asks Jesus what he can do to receive eternal life. Jesus says to keep God’s commandments. The man claims he has obeyed the commandments. Then Jesus tells the man to sell his possessions, give them to the poor and follow Him. The man goes away sad because he has great wealth.

The rich young ruler was focused more on his possessions than anything God could provide for him. Jesus wanted the man to give up his earthly possessions to gain heavenly possessions. Jesus said it is difficult for rich people to enter the kingdom of heaven. This is because these people typically have everything they need and don’t recognize their need for a Savior. They don’t want to rely on anyone other than themselves.

Jesus promises to give us blessings on earth and eternal blessings in heaven. (Jesus also promises persecution to those who follow Him.) He explains this with a parable.

In the parable, a landowner hires workers at various times throughout the day. At the end of the day, the workers are paid from last to first. The earliest workers expect to receive more, but everyone was paid the same amount. The landowner is a picture of our sovereign God -- the landowner could do whatever he wanted with his own money just as God has all authority to do anything He wishes. But the landowner (and God) was generous to all of the workers.

This parable can be a picture of someone who is a longtime Christian versus someone who came to Christ later in life. This parable also shows us that eternal life is a gift of divine mercy not human merit. We cannot do anything on our own to gain eternal life. We must accept the price Jesus paid for us on the cross.

Finally, after predicting His death for a third time and healing some blind men, Jesus enters Jerusalem for his last week of life on earth. Jesus enters on a donkey to show He is the King of peace. Thousands of people are in town for the Passover feast. They praise Jesus and recognize Him as the King of salvation.

Then Jesus cleanses the temple of the moneychangers who had made His house of prayer a den of robbers. And He healed people in the temple.

Things to Think About
  • Jesus rewards those who sacrificially follow Him. To follow Him sacrificially is to give up something I want to serve Him.
  • How am I bringing children to Christ? Am I sharing the love of Christ with the children in my life? Do I pray with them, tell them about Jesus’ faithfulness in my life, teach them stories from Scripture (Psalm 78:4) and share what God is doing in my life?
  • The rich young ruler’s wealth was his god. What in my life is more important than God? What is getting in the way of my serving God?
  • Am I willing to praise Jesus in the midst of crowds as the people did during His triumphal entry to Jerusalem? Do I ignore the naysayers and praise God for who He is and what He has done for me?
  • My body is the temple of the Holy Spirit. What kind of cleansing does my temple need?

21 February 2014

A whole hand

Recently when Avery talked about turning five, she said she will be a whole hand. I didn't think about it like that, but she was right!

Sweet Avery Joy,

Five years ago, God rocked our world when He introduced us to this bright-eyed beauty one early Saturday morning.

He asked us to love you, to care for you, to make you smile and to teach you about Him. But you ended up doing all of that for us, too.

You've helped us learn what it means to love someone unconditionally. You completely depend on us and trust us for everything. You've shown us God's love, mercy and grace through your life.

And you've shown us our weaknesses, the places in our lives where God wants to grow and change us.

You're such a spunky, energetic little girl! You love all things sports, thanks to Daddy. And you especially love playing sports with Daddy.

You are a crazy, mischievous, creative, sometimes hyper girl who certainly loves being the center of attention.

We love your smile and your giggles. You always brighten up a room with your presence and your personality.

We are so proud to be your parents. We love watching you grow, learn and change for the better. We already can see glimpses of what God is doing in your life. And we can't wait to experience more of that with you. We love you with all of our hearts.

Happy birthday, AJ...Princess...Boogernut...Avery Bear!

Love, Mommy and Daddy

20 February 2014

19 February 2014

20 questions with Avery :: 5 years old

Here's the second installment of our birthday questions with Avery! Compare these to last year's responses.

1. What is your favorite color? Pink, yellow and purple.

2. What is your favorite toy? Joy (a stuffed dog)

3. What is your favorite fruit? Strawberries

4. What is your favorite TV show? Jake and the Neverland Pirates

5. What is your favorite thing to eat for lunch? Peanut butter and jelly

6. What is your favorite outfit? The pink sweater with the tutu and pink leggings (she just received this outfit from Mommaw and Poppaw Clark last weekend)

7. What is your favorite game? Hungry, Hungry Hippos

8. What is your favorite snack? Goldfish crackers

9. What is your favorite animal? Elephant

10. What is your favorite song? Call Me Maybe

11. What is your favorite book? How Do Dinosaurs Eat Cookies?

12. Who is your best friend? Janie and Jack

13. What is your favorite cereal? Lucky Charms

14. What is your favorite thing to do outside? Play on my playset when it's spring

15. What is your favorite drink? Pink lemonade

16. What is your favorite holiday? Christmas

17. What do you like to take to bed with you at night? Froggy (a stuffed frog)

18. What is your favorite thing to eat for breakfast? Pancakes with syrup to dip in

19. What do you want for dinner on your birthday? Peanuts at Texas Roadhouse

20. What do you want to be when you grow up? Basketball player

15 February 2014

Indiana's game. Avery's team.

In case that title doesn't mean anything to you, the Indiana Pacers' recent marketing slogan has been "Indiana's game. Indiana's team."

If you know Chris, you know that he's a sports fanatic. And while he can watch just about any sport, his favorite one is basketball. He always had hoped to pass along his passion for the game to Avery. He started by introducing her to the National Chris Clark Holiday, less than one month after she was born. Then later he moved on to referee signals.

Now he's trying to teach her the rules of the game as well as the Pacers players. Because of this, Avery has become a true Pacers fan. (She has no clue that they're the best team in the league so far this season, so she's not a fair weather fan!) Not only does she know the players' names and jersey numbers, she even can recognize them.

Here is the video proof.

She doesn't just know the starting five. She even knows the bench warmers, like C.J. Watson and Chris Copeland, even though she didn't mention them in this video.

Avery also likes to play basketball and pretend she is Paul George (her favorite player) while Daddy is David West or even "the other team." They run around the living room, dunking on each other and fouling each other. It's quite fun to watch her do all of this. And of course Chris is one proud sports daddy!

13 February 2014

11 February 2014

BSF 2013-2014: Matthew 18

Matthew 18 teaches us how to live in God’s family. God uses this chapter to teach us that greatness in His eyes includes humility, selflessness and forgiveness.

The chapter begins with the disciples arguing about who will be the greatest in God’s kingdom. The disciples aren’t very different from us. They are focused on themselves and don’t understand God’s words or God’s plan very well. But our idea of greatness contradicts God’s idea of greatness. God calls a person great if he humbly serves others because this quality is most like Jesus. Humility is being willing to serve others, especially those who are weak and helpless.

Jesus used children to teach the disciples how to be great. Children cannot depend on themselves; they trust others to provide for them. Children are very teachable.

Jesus also warns that we shouldn’t cause these little ones to stumble. Besides children, the phrase little ones also refers to people who are seeking God and the ignored in our society.

Next Jesus explains the restoration process within the church family. When someone strays away from God, we must grieve for him and seek to restore him to God and to the church. Repentance always is the goal.

The first step is to have a private conversation with the person. If there is no repentance, bring one or two others with you to have another conversation. If there is no repentance, bring the issue to the church. Finally, if there still is no repentance, treat the person like an unbeliever. This doesn’t necessarily mean to banish him but pursue him as a lost person in need of a Savior.

There are two potentially confusing phrases in this section – to bind and to loose. To bind means to declare that the sinful person is bound to his sin and its consequences. He should be cut off from church fellowship until he repents. To loose means to declare that the repentant sinner is forgiven, restored and loosed from sin.

This leads Peter to ask about forgiveness. In Jesus’ day, religious leader said the people had to forgive someone three times. Peter more than doubled that and suggested seven times. Jesus said we should forgive someone 77 times. He was teaching that forgiveness is a lifestyle, a cornerstone of the Christian faith.

Jesus then teaches this principle with a parable. A king wanted to settle debts with his servants. One servant owed millions of dollars to the king and certainly could not repay it. The king had compassion on the servant and forgave the entire amount. Immediately after receiving such mercy, this same servant wanted to collect a much smaller debt from a fellow servant. He had this servant thrown in prison. The king rebuked the first servant and threw him in prison. The king told the servant he should have had mercy on his fellow servant the way the king showed mercy to him.

In this parable, Jesus is the king. We all have a debt too great to pay – the payment for our sins. But Jesus pardons us and forgives our debt because He paid it by dying on the cross for us. Therefore we also must show compassion and forgiveness to others to wrong us. Unlimited forgiveness should be a trait of all believers.

In this chapter, God teaches us that anyone who demonstrates humility, selflessness and forgiveness is great in His eyes.

Things to Think About
  • What motivates me to serve God – my glory or His glory?
  • How am I welcoming God’s little ones in my life?
  • All Christians are called to serve others, putting others before ourselves.
  • Am I willing to bring wanderers back to God using the biblical method?
  • Am I willing to confront another person’s sin with the goal of repentance and restoration?
  • Do I understand what my sin cost Jesus? Do I understand the extent of forgiveness God has shown to me?

06 February 2014

05 February 2014

Oh boy!

For a few weeks, I've been unnecessarily anxious about our upcoming ultrasound. I was nervous that we would discover a problem. I was nervous about whether Pez was a boy or a girl. And I was especially nervous about Avery's reaction to the whole thing.

Then on Sunday morning, God blessed me with a wonderful message at church about His sovereignty. He reminded me that He is in control of everything and knows what is right for me and our family. So I felt much better as we walked into the doctor's office on Monday afternoon.

While I was still a little apprehensive, that first moment I saw Pez changed my entire attitude. I realized that I already loved this beautiful child, and it didn't matter if it was a boy or a girl. We are going to love this baby to pieces and give it the best life we can.

The ultrasound technician spent a lot of time looking at all of the essentials and pointing them out to us -- the kidneys, the lungs, the brain, the umbilical cord, the blood flow, the heartbeat (how amazing to SEE the baby's heartbeat!), the limbs. Chris was holding Avery and explaining everything to her.

The technician didn't get very good pictures because Pez was flipping and kicking like crazy! Praise God that everything checked out OK. Pez weighed about 10 oz., and the heartbeat was about 135 bm. I was ready for the technician to get to the good part!

She spent some time trying to get Pez to cooperate. Avery and Chris were talking about something and weren't looking at the monitor. I, on the other hand, couldn't take my eyes off the monitor the entire time. And then I saw IT. I clearly could see that Pez was a boy! I called out to Chris.

He didn't see it at first. Then the technician said, "It's a boy!" I immediately burst into tears. Avery first had a look of surprise and excitement. Then she realized her disappointment and buried her head in Daddy's shoulder.

Throughout the rest of our appointment, we talked to her about how special she will be as the only girl and how much she can help her little brother learn so many things. The doctor sealed the deal when she told Avery that she wouldn't have to share her clothes, dolls and other girly toys with a boy. I think she liked that! So Avery is starting to warm up to the idea of having a little brother.

There is one small concern. The placenta is a little lower than it should be. My doctor isn't concerned about it yet. She said the placenta should move north as Pez and I grow over the next several months. But she wants to keep an eye on it. So that means we'll have another ultrasound in about 10 weeks. I'm praying that God fixes everything and that the second ultrasound will just be another chance to see Pez.

Now we need to start pondering boy names!

04 February 2014

BSF 2013-2014: Matthew 17

About a week after the events in last week’s study, Jesus takes Peter, James and John to a mountain. While Jesus is praying there, He is transfigured. Jesus’ face shines like the sun, and His clothes becomes bright white. This was a glimpse of Christ’s radiance and glory.

Then Moses and Elijah appear with Jesus. They discuss Jesus’ upcoming exodus when He will deliver His people from the slavery of sin. Why Moses and Elijah? Moses represents the law in the Old Testament, and Elijah represents the prophets in the Old Testament. Together, Moses and Elijah confirm that Jesus was the fulfillment of everything spoken in the law and through the prophets.

Peter is so enamored with the situation that he asks if he can build shelters for Jesus, Moses and Elijah. He wants to stay in Jesus’ presence. Then a bright cloud appears. It is the glory of God. God speaks from the cloud. He recognizes Jesus as His Son and instructs the disciples to listen to Him.

God also commands us to listen to His Son – through Scripture, through prayer, through His Words spoken by other people, etc. We must be still before the Lord so we can hear His voice because listening to God requires me to be silent.

The disciples move from this mountaintop experience to a spiritual challenge. When they descend the mountain, a father kneels before Jesus and asks Him to heal his demon-possessed son. The man says the other nine disciples were not able to heal the boy, even though they had the power and authority to do so. Jesus says it is because they had such little faith. Jesus heals the boy Himself.

Next Jesus again predicts His death. This time the disciples are filled with grief – an overwhelming and deep sadness. They should have focused on the promised resurrection instead of only on Jesus’ death.

After this, tax collectors approach Peter and ask him if Jesus pays the temple tax. Peter rushed to a conclusion and said Jesus does pay the tax. Temple tax was atonement money and paid for the people’s ransom. It was used to maintain the temple. Paying the tax showed that the Israelites belonged to God and needed to be redeemed by a sacrifice. Old, young, rich, poor paid same amount.
Jesus did not need to pay the temple tax. His Father owned the temple, and Jesus Himself was the ultimate payment. But after Peter’s conversation with the tax collectors, Jesus set aside His own rights and paid the tax so He didn’t offend others.

Jesus didn’t simply give money to Peter to pay the tax. Instead He tells Peter to go fishing. The first fish he catches will have enough money to pay his tax as well as Jesus’ tax. This miracle displays the sovereignty of God: a coin is dropped in the water, the fish scoops up the coin without swallowing it, Peter catches the fish with a line instead of a net and Peter pays the correct amount for the temple tax.

Jesus provides exactly what we need, when we need it.

Things to Think About
  • When God quieted Peter, he got a glimpse of God’s power, presence and plan. How often am I silent in my prayer time? Am I doing all of the talking and none of the listening?
  • Do I ask God to transform me into Christ’s likeness?
  • Small faith can do impossible things because of God’s great power.
  • It’s not about the quantity of our faith; it’s about the quality of our faith. Faith as small as a mustard seed can move mountains.