Saturday, February 18, 2012

One Minute Devotion: Matthew 4: 8-11

Matthew 4:8-11

Again, the devil taketh Him up into an exceeding high mountain, and showeth him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them;  and saith unto Him, all these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me.  Then saith Jesus unto him, Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and Him only shalt thou serve.  Then the devil leaveth Him, and, behold, angels came and ministered unto Him.

Most, like myself, look at this verse and see it from one perspective. It is an excerpt from the temptation of Christ in the wilderness as told in the scriptures. It is the last of the three temptations that Satan unsuccessfully tried with Jesus. The face value dissertation is that Christ could be tempted but could not sin. Jesus' humanity had the possibility of sinning, but His diety would not allow it. In that, we can draw several conclusions. One, that the devil believed he could tempt Jesus with some level of success. The devil is the master of pride, so to tempt Christ, believing it would be futile, is a ridiculous concept. Two, the devil wholly underestimated the person and power of Christ and His mission. Finally, the devil understands the concept of worship and knows scripture better than most so called scholars. Two facts that make him an incredibly dangerous adversary. I never like giving the devil his due, but facts are facts. Those three points alone are incredibly powerful and thought provoking, but there is another level to this passage that I think most miss. I know I have. Why would Satan tempt Christ with the idea of worshipping him? Satan believed, because of the fall, that he held the title of the world and humanity. That God could not revoke that title. As seemingly unimaginable as that idea is, the devil was convinced of it. He believed he won a significant victory through his rebellion, in heaven, and successfully tempting God's first man, Adam. Through Adam, he corrupted God's ultimate creation, a being designed for the sole purpose of glorifying Himself. That self perceived win, convinced the devil that he could defeat God if he worked hard enough. He may have failed with Job or been unable to execute Christ as a child through Herod, but he lay waiting to turn the tide in his behalf. So Satan dug deep into his bag of tricks to find the most effective weapon in his arsenal, worship. Why? Man was created to worship God. Jesus was the son of man, the second, perfected Adam. If Satan could corrupt that worship in his favor, it would be an undeniable victory. If the Son of Man would worship the Son of Perdition, not just the battle, but the war could be won. At least in the twisted mind of the deceiver. What is worship? According to the Bing Dictionary it is defined as: treating somebody or something as a deity, showing respect by engaging in acts of prayer and devotion. It continues to describe worship as to love, admire, or respect somebody or something greatly and perhaps excessively or unquestioningly. To simplify further, Satan wanted Jesus to recognize him as sole diety, worthy of all praise and adoration. In exchange, Satan promised dominion over all of his kingdoms. This ownership was a delusion to all present but himself. If Christ knew that Satan had no providence, why was this a temptation? In this case, it was the temptee not the temptor, that was aware of the truth. The deceiver had once again, deceived himself. So was this a real temptation? It served several purposes, unquestionably declare to a finite being, the devil, that Christ's loyalty was to God and God alone. That Jesus, not his adversary, had control over the entire event. Finally, for us, that all temptation can be resisted through the power and wisdom of Jesus Christ. That message alone is spiritual triumph defined, but it begs a deeper question. In all of the temptations, you have faced, have you ever been tempted to worship someone or something other than Christ? Have you been tempted to worship the devil in exchange for your desires? Immediately one would say unequivocally no, but before answering on must consider this, every time we succumb to temptation and then sin, we chose to love and worship something over Christ. Sin is the enemy of obedience. Obedience glorifies Christ. Obedience is worship. When we sin, give into temptation, we turn our worship from Christ, to Satan. This is a stark and harsh reality, but it is just that, reality. Temptation is not sin, surrendering to it is. When we are tempted, Satan offers us the world to turn against God. What he owns is only pain and guilt. So we trade our worship on empty promises and obstacles in our relationship with God. Which is exactly what our enemy wants. Is anyone perfect? There is none but Christ. Will we sin? Yes, the battle will rage until we are with Christ in eternity. Can we resist any temptation? Absolutely. If we understand and accept two basic things. We need a complete reliance on God's strength to resist temptation and an understanding of who we are worshipping. Once we register these to base principles, it tends to motivate us to resist any temptation at all cost. We can not do it alone. Christ was Christ. We are human. God provides us all the strength we need, all we need to do is accept it. Is it that simple? Yes. If we allow it to be. Who does your worship belong to? Is anything in your life, any desire you have worth worshipping more than Christ? God bless.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

One Minute Movie Review: Moneyball

To begin, any movie based on a true story has the definitive obstacle of becoming immediately predictable.  This can not be avoided as you are dealing with fact over fiction with very little creative license unless sacrificing the integrity of the events. The director's challenge is to make something that has happened in real life, more entertaining and engaging than the actual story without deviation from reality.  In some cases, this challenege overhwelms both cast and crew like such misses as the Fifth Quarter and The Perfect Storm. However, this film succeeds where others have failed. The story of the Athletics record breaking season is, of itself, exciting enough, but Miller so effectively fleshes out the story and characters it adds an entire new level. Pitt's performance is one of his best, the same is true for Hill, who thankfully, traded his goofy and juvenille past personas for a mature and serious role. The only missed opportunity is the lack of development of Beanes' relationship with his daughter. The attempt lacks both depth and an emotional connection with the audience which is unfortunate in an otherwise well rounded picture. Pitt and Hill definitely earned their Oscar nods. I don't know if the overall film reached the plateau of an oscar nomination especially going up against such real achievements as The Help this year. With that said, it is a good move that draws you in and keeps you invested. Beane's final career decison might keep you scratching your head, but his story is both remarkable and his legacy is unquestionable. 4 out of 5 Kernels; not a grand slam but definitely a homerun.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

One Minute Movie Review: Mr. Popper's Penguins

I think Jim Carrey's career may have finally run its course. The best way to describe this film is a regurgitation of a severely watered down, dull mix of Liar, Liar, and Ace Ventura, two of Carrey's signature flicks. There are moments where we catch the irreverent, physical comedy that made him a star, but they are quick and muted, easily missed. Even the CGI penguins upstage him for most of the picture. There are some mildly funny moments, but not enough to make this film bearable. It is the usual Cats in The Cradle storyline, but with little energy or chemistry between Carrey and his supporting cast. Most of the acting is juvenile and unmistakably predictable. The humor relies heavily on poop jokes and lame slapstick. This was yet another miss from the former comedic force who brought us Vera de Milo, Fire Marshall Bill, and the like. Dramatically speaking, I do not think he will ever surpass his performance in the Truman Show which was a mediocre movie at best. There are a few upcoming features in which Carrey may return to his outlandish over the top roots, but I am not optimistic (as one of them is a sequel to Bruce Almighty). 2 out of 5 Kernels:  Oh, Ace where art thou?

One Minute Devotion: Zechariah 4:6

Zecharaiah 4:6

Then He answered and spake unto me saying, This is the word of the Lord unto Zerubbabel, saying, Not by might, nor by power. but by my spirit, saith the Lord of Hosts.

This is another of the most misinterpreted and misused verses in the bible. Many have mistaken this passage as a blanket statement that whatever we may want or need, God will give. Others present this as the ultimate battle cry for Christians, to charge into any conflict they deem appropriate, no matter what the circumstance or outcome, depending on God's power to bail them out. Both would be inappropriate. Zechariah was a priest and prophet who served a dual purpose as an oracle of the Lord. First, to encourage the Israelites to rebuild the temple. Second, to reveal the glory of God. Zechariah was the one prophet who focused solely on the purpose and ministry of the coming Messiah. He proclaimed to the people that they were instruments in God's program of glory, both present and future. With all of that in mind, this passage states simply when God has a plan it always works, and its entire design is based in His glory. Heaven forbid we glorify someone other than ourselves. In this society, the mere idea that God would do things for His glory alone seems selfish and useless to us. We grow more and more into a culture that seeks our needs first and our own righteousness ignoring the consequence of the acts that will be added unto us. If you doubt that point just watch the plethora of reality or morning self help shows that saturate the airways. Even worse, is how the church has evolved. We have moved from teachings focused on a people desperate to find salvation and deep relationship with the author of their souls, to the sole purpose of filling pews utilizing pop religion, prosperity doctrines, preaching Christianity as more of a philosophy than life giving theology, or ignoring sin and its effects altogether.  If the idea of putting God first, you last, and surrendering your whole life to glorifying the Lord in every aspect of your existence is offensive, then Christianity is not for you. That may be a bold and harsh statement, but it is absolute truth. If it is all about you, how will you have any room in your life for God? We are to be useful vessels of our God, not perfect, just perfectly willing. In Zechariah's time, Israel had been beaten, bruised, and abused due to their selfish rebellion against the Lord of All and all the ways He had blessed them. God did not give up on them but placed them in that turmoil to open their eyes and hearts to the undeniable truth that they needed to return to and serve Him.  God's plan is the only plan.  Their repentance led to deliverance, their deliverance led to the rebuilding of a nation, and from that nation came the deliverer of all nations. Zechariah encouraged them by letting them know that not because of anyone's might or so called power, but all good things are provided by the sheer will of God.  Nothing can stand against His agenda.  There is no power in heaven and earth that can move His hand. No matter how grim things may seem or how difficult times become, God's plan is unhindered. We may not see the light at the end of the tunnel, but it is there, shining in a way we will may never have anticipated. Remember, many times God constructs that very tunnel or directs us to travel through it. Why? He does so to refine us, strengthen us, and draw us deeper to Him. To develop us into the people, He knows we can be.  The people He created us to be. Why? Our success in Him, growth with Him, and lives dedicated to Him, all glorifies Him. It always comes full circle. Zechariah's very name means Yahweh (God) remembers. We are always on His mind.  We are most important to Him because our mere conception glorifies Him. When we are obedient to Him and following His plan by His spirit we will succeed. When we run outside of His purposes we will fail, sometimes hard, so that God can lead us back to Him and His glory will be, again, fulfilled. Why does God deserve all the glory? Who else would? He is the creator of all, craftsman of our souls, architect of the natural and supernatural universe, and author of all truth. With just that said, it negates even the question. For the prideful and self centered who will fruitlessly question further no answer will ever suffice. For those who understand, that without God, there is no life and meaning for anything, glorifying God is a willing lifelong process. What side do you fall on? God bless.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

One Minute Devotion: Micah 6:7&8

Micah 6: 7&8

Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams or with ten thousands of rivers of oil?  Shall I give my first born for my transgression, My own child for the sin of my soul?  He hath showed thee, O man, what is good;  and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God.

What does it take to live life as a Christian?  One word, grace. You can not try to be a Christian. You can not act like a Christian. You can not earn your Christianity. You did nothing to deserve it. In fact, the only thing we all deserve is the outcome of our sin. However,  God's grace removed sin's end game. That grace, was of course, provided through Christ. The grace of Jesus Christ is allows us to live the life of a Christian. This passage paints an intensely dramatic illustration that there is nothing the author can afford that is worthy of God's saving grace. Not thousands of rams to sacrifice, or ten thousand rivers of oil, which would have had immense value in the time of Micah. Even offering his own child in exchange for amnesty falls short. A repulsive idea and yet speaks profoundly of how desperately the author seeks to achieve a relationship with His Lord. Of course, we know God would never expect such an offering from us. But God did provide it for us. His son paid the ultimate price to enable us direct route to God's mercy. Many would try to convince you works define Christianity. Others would implore your Christianity can be lost. As if, it was you who found it. Finally, some say Christianity is a choice. How does a corpse chose to live? A corpse you say. Yes, in sin, we are dead to God's love and purposes. We have no desire to serve God or submit to Him in any way, shape, or form. We are in essence spiritual corpses. When Jesus opens our heart to His love through His grace that we begin to live, ressurected by and with Him. Before that, we had no choice, sin controlled every step we took. We were enslaved to it. I am amazed that some still profess free will. How is someone who is dead to Christ and bound by sin, free?  Even more so, what choice is available to someone who is blinded to anything but their own sin? Our will is freed, when Christ saves us from our sin. Then we understand what the choice is; to serve Him or serve the habits of our old, corrupt self. This verse is a testament to these facts. Verse 8 states; He (God) showed thee, O Man, (us), what is good. If we read on, we see a pattern of behavior that follows salvation in the statement, "what the Lord requires of thee." Three things are clearly stated; to do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with the Lord. Are these requirements for salvation? No, again, grace is the only requirement. These are the resulting behaviors of the supernatural change within us. Let's examine each one briefly beginning with the word justly. Freedictionary.com defines justly as this; honorable and fair in one's dealings and actions, consistent with what is morally right; proper in nature, based on fact or sound reason, and well-founded. There is, in those definitions, a lot to digest but all fit. To put it simply, to act justly is to do what is right in the eyes of God. It is to do the right thing even when it is unpopular. To do the right thing because it is simply the right thing to do. His word guides us in His principles and precepts. It is the map of life. God has done all the work for us and all we need to do is follow His instructions relying on His strength. What does to love mercy mean? We visit the same site and learn that mercy is defined as; compassionate treatment and a disposition to be kind and forgiving. So we are called to be in love with the processes of compassion, kindness, and forgiveness of others. God loved those concepts so deeply that it resulted in imparting His grace to us. Finally, how does one walk humbly with God. To be humble is to be marked by meekness or modesty in behavior, attitude, or spirit. Humility is the complete opposite of arrogance, it removes self from the equation of our lives.  Humility means to submissively respect, to lower ourselves in position compared to God. In other words, God is first and we fall to last. John the Baptist, upon learning of Christ's ministry said, "I must decrease so He may increase." These are very powerful words from a sincere and Godly heart. True humility is a direct result of submission or obedience to God, to His word, guidance, and will. Humility is a bi product of our obedience. Three elementary principles; to do what is right, love others, and surrender to God. Do these three things qualify you as a Christian?  No, but they can not be accomplished without the presence of God's saving grace. Grace always comes first. When does Christianity begin, when you realize without God you are nothing. That only way to experience God is through Jesus. It is a complete acknowledgement that you are trapped and controlled by sin and only Jesus can forgive and free you from those sins. If you are reading this and the desire to follow Christ is there, grace has already come. Grab hold of it and allow God to create a marvelous and miraculous work in your life. When you are in the Masters hands, your life will become a masterpiece unmatched and unimaginable. God bless.