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An act of worship that hurts

I received some advice once. It was “give it back to God.”

That advice really began to come alive at a concert I was at couple of weeks ago. MercyMe was closing out the night with a song called “Bring the Rain.”

God was wrecking me through this song. ;)

The chorus goes something like this:

Bring me anything that brings You glory
And I know there’ll be days
When this life brings me pain
But if that’s what it takes to praise You
Jesus, bring the rain

During this song, God gave me a new take on the story of Abraham and Isaac.

There are times when God asks you to surrender the very things He’s given you. The very things you hold dearest and closest to you.

In the case of Abraham, God asked him to sacrifice Isaac. The same son Abraham had waited 20 years to conceive. The same son that Abraham had raised as a boy and understood to be part God’s promise to him.

The thing closest to your heart.

White-knuckled and protective. The thing you hold the tightest.

“Give it back to God.”

It hurts. There’s turmoil. Inner pain. Rampant emotions.

But should we expect anything less? God expects our very best. He wants our first fruits. Why wouldn’t he also want whats dearest to us?

What struck me about the song was the line “But if that’s what it takes to bring You praise.”

If my pain brings You praise. If my sacrifice brings You praise.

Then Jesus, “Bring me anything that brings You glory.”

We may focus on the hurt it brings us. But is our hurt not an act of worship?

You want to fight it. You want to make sure it never really leaves your hands. The flesh wants to retain control. You look around. Maybe there’s a way out.

There is. “Give it back to God.” Freely and completely. Complete surrender and sacrifice.

It is worship that hurts.

Abraham worshiped God in this way. The power of this story is that God returned the sacrifice back to Abraham.

If I were Abraham, I probably would’ve cried afterwards.

You know why?

I knew what I was about to do would have hurt me in a ridiculous way. I knew how badly I wanted to modify God’s plan (even just slightly) so that the hurt would be less. I knew the internal struggle my spirit had with my flesh and how drained I was.

But . . . I sacrificed willingly and completely. I worshiped God with my pain.

I would have cried knowing God had returned it back and it was untouched and unblemished by me. Instead it was purified and accepted by God.

It had God’s approval on it.

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The Bible’s Contradiction-Free Take on Temptation

Is there a contradiction in the Bible when it comes to temptation?

Generally, people think of Job when they think of God allowing someone to be tempted. After all, God actually gave permission to Satan to tempt Job (Job 1:11-12). Even if it was Satan who carried it out, God’s permission was the initial source of the temptation.

Then you also have:

1 Corinthians 10:13 (NIV)
No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.

The italicized section implies God will let you be tempted; it’ll just be of the “bearable” variety. ;)

The contradiction comes when you read:

James 1:13 (NIV)
When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone;

Translation: God does not tempt anyone.

So what’s the scoop?

The contradiction can be cleared up pretty easily by understanding the different uses of the word “tempt.”

Specifically, we’re going to look at the different forms of the Greek word peirazo. All Bible references below are based on the word peirazo.

The Bad Kind of Tempt (Peirazo)

  • to test maliciously (Matthew 22:18; John 8:6)
  • to lead away from God (Matthew 4:1; 1 Thessalonians 3:5)

These definitions are all in line with the general connotation of the word tempt. It is an an enticement towards sin/evil and away from the good stuff of God. It’s the perfect description and why Satan is called “the tempter.”

However, in the Bible there is also another form of the word.

The Good Kind of Tempt (Peirazo)

  • “testing” or “proving by testing,” to determine the depth and integrity of one’s commitment to God (Hebrews 11:17 cf. Genesis 22:1)

The easiest differentiation here is that the word “tempt” would be better replaced with “test” or “trial.” Namely, a test or trial designed by God is for your own benefit.

They are good things. ;)

For example . . .

James 1:2 (NIV)
Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds,

The italicized word “trials” is peirasmos which is based off the root word periazo. Later on in that verse it goes on to talk about how these trials bring you to a point of maturity. This is the God-kind of tempt (peirazo).

So it’s important to understand that God does not tempt us towards evil or sin. He will tempt (i.e. test, try) us in order to make us better disciples of Jesus.

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What is God’s ultimate goal for us?

God’s ultimate goal for your life is to make you happy and healthy.

So if you are ever unhappy and/or unhealthy, you can blame God for it because it’s his job to give you the tools necessary to achieve his goals. But we know everyone isn’t happy or healthy. There’s depression, cancer, AIDS and a myriad of other things that can make living a pretty miserable experience.

There must not be a God then because he’s obviously sucking at being a god.

I’ve been thinking about this lately. This whole line of thinking is probably one of the biggest roadblocks for people believing in God. How can a loving God allow suffering, disease and “evil” to exist in the world?

That line of thought only works if we assume health, happiness and goodness are God’s ultimate goal for everyone.

If that’s what God set out to do when he created us, then we can “fault God” because he definitely screwed up somewhere along the way.

It’s got me thinking.

What is God’s ultimate goal for us?

And how would knowing it “frame our thinking.” How would it change our perspective on the way the world has been setup? What would we learn from the issues we face in life?

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23 Bible Reading Plans That Will Satisfy Anyone

Here is a diverse and pretty comprehensive collection of Bible reading plans. All of them are easy to follow and most include a printable copy you can keep in your Bible.

They range from two week commitments to year-long commitments, from reading straight through cover to cover, to topical readings, to a mixture of readings each day.

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Easily memorize the Old Testament books with a phone number

Anyone familiar with the number 555-1212? That’s the winning phone number for today’s post.

555-1212 Background (skip if you don’t care)

According to Wikipedia, it is the number to call for directory assistance (ie: 411). The difference between 411 and 555-1212 is that with 411, you get local assistance whereas with 555-1212, you get directory assistance for the area code you dialed.

Which means I could be in San Francisco and dial 904-555-1212 to find the Burger King closest to where I live in Jacksonville.

Not that I would actually do that, but I could.

Also, here’s an interesting piece of trivia. Apparently the numbers 555-0100 through 555-0199 are reserved for “fictional use” (eg: movies and tv shows).

How is that number going to help me?

So what’s the significance of 555-1212? Just as you can use it for directory assistance, you can use it to assist you in memorizing the books of the Old Testament. We do this by breaking the number down a little bit.

And now I have a confession.

Although the end goal is that you’ll memorize all the OT books, this post is just going to focus on the different classifications or book types found in the OT. Baby steps here, baby steps.

Bite-sized Pieces

5 – that’s the number of law books (ie: The Pentateuch)
5 – the number of Wisdom Books
5 – how many major prophets there are

12 – el numero de “historical books”
12 – the number of minor prophets in the house

Now the extra credit question. What’s the sum of those numbers? Yup, 39. Which also happens to be the number of books in the Old Testament.

Sponsored by the letter ‘H’

That’s about it for now. Next time I’ll break down the books in each of the classification types and figure out some ingenious way to memorize them. For example, God Exists Like Nobody Does is a mnemonic for the first five books of the Bible (The Pentateuch).

Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy.

I’ve also whipped up a PDF you can download with a summary of all this information and a pretty visual aid sponsored by the letter ‘H’.

I’d like to thank the Academy

Since I’m a “good little Christian”, I won’t take credit for something I didn’t come up with. The H-visual as well as the numbers 5, 12, 5, 12, and 5 were from The Old Testament Made Simple by Melvin Short. I just rearranged them into the phone number and added them up. Hopefully I’m not infringing on any type of copyright. ;)