Saturday, December 31, 2005

New Year's Resolutions for 2006

After much soul searching I have come up with the following list of New Year’s Resolutions for 2006

  • To improve my spiritual disciplines by being more regular in my Bible study and prayer. I got a nice new NASB/The Message Parallel Bible as a Christmas present.
  • To err more on the side of taking action instead of “wait and see” or “maybe now isn’t a good time.”
  • To improve my health and level of fitness thru both aerobic and strength training as well as more stretching for flexibility.
  • Listen to more biographies (audio books). I have really enjoyed the biography of John Adams and have learned much more about history than I expected.
  • Take more photographs for my own enjoyment and not just at special occasions or when traveling
  • To devote time and energy to things which I feel passionate about.
  • To tell myself “no” more often, especially to snacks and second helpings.
  • To train myself to combat stress in healthier ways than indulging myself in my favorite comfort foods
Technorati Tagged:

Remember, Jesus Loves Pornographers

Check out this article "Can't Stop Looking at Porn?" on the MIT Technology Review site

A quote:

One of the most interesting pieces of technology at the XXXChurch is a program which will monitor all of the questionable websites that you go to, and then send the list to your "accountability partner." This works better than simply blocking the websites, apparently. It's the same technique that 12-step support groups use to keep people from drinking or drugging, except with the little technological assist.

Overall, hats off to Craig and Mike. Remember, Jesus loves pornographers.

(Added later) It is also significant that this initiative got positive publicity in a secular magazine associated with a major university.

Friday, December 30, 2005

What the Homeless Taught Me About Prayer

There is a really excellent article by Phillip Yancey entitled The Word on the Street
What the homeless taught me about prayer.

Here are a few quotes to entice you to talk a look...

"If you're writing a book about prayer, you should hang around the homeless for a while," said my wife, a veteran of inner-city ministry. "Street people pray as a necessity, not a luxury."

Her advice made sense, especially after I interviewed Mike Yankoski, a Westmont College student who, along with a friend, left school for five months to live on the street. (His book, Under the Overpass, tells the story.) Mike told me that homeless people, having hit bottom, don't waste time building up an image or trying to conform. And they pray without pretense, a refreshing contrast to what he found in some churches.

As I listened to the homeless relate their prayers, I was struck by the prayers' down-to-earth quality—indeed, their resemblance to the Lord's Prayer. "Give us this day our daily bread": They all had stories about running out of food, praying, and then finding a burrito or uneaten pizza. "Deliver us from evil": Living on mean streets, these believers pray that daily. "Forgive us our trespasses": Deep down in each lay buried secrets of shame and regret.

Monday, December 26, 2005

Jesus Never Fails

Jesus Never Fails - On the back of a three-wheeled taxis in Bangalore, India. Picture taken in October 2004. Posted by Picasa

A Spirit of Anticipation

I found myself wondering whether I have the kind of spirit of “anticipation” that God would want me to have.

It all started when I was preparing to teach Sunday School and read in the Gospel of Luke about Simeon and the prophetess Anna.

Luke 2:22-40 (New International Version)
22When the time of their purification according to the Law of Moses had been completed, Joseph and Mary took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord 23(as it is written in the Law of the Lord, "Every firstborn male is to be consecrated to the Lord"[a]), 24and to offer a sacrifice in keeping with what is said in the Law of the Lord: "a pair of doves or two young pigeons."[b]

25Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. 26It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord's Christ. 27Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, 28Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying:

29"Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you now dismiss[c] your servant in peace. 30For my eyes have seen your salvation, 31which you have prepared in the sight of all people, 32a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel."

33The child's father and mother marveled at what was said about him. 34Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: "This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, 35so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too."

36There was also a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, 37and then was a widow until she was eighty-four.[d] She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. 38Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.

39When Joseph and Mary had done everything required by the Law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee to their own town of Nazareth. 40And the child grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was upon him.
See how Simeon was “righteous and devout” to the point of God choosing to reveal that the arrival of the Messiah was to be within his lifetime? Think of the anticipation he must have felt knowing that Christ was coming soon. Imagine the difference this would have made in his life. Also note how he was attentive to the subtle promptings of the Holy Spirit and was present in the Temple on the exact day that Mary and Joseph were to present the baby Jesus. God chose to use Simeon to announce that Jesus would be a “light for revelation to the Gentiles” as well.

As for the prophetess Anna, I cannot imagine myself never leaving the temple but always being in an attitude of prayer. And, I am sorry to say, I have not taken up the spiritual discipline of fasting either. I do not believe anyone could spend decades in constant worship without anticipating that God was about to work in a mighty way right there in the community where she was.

I must now ask myself some difficult questions.
  • How well am I worshiping God?
  • Do I live in anticipation that God will work in some mighty way right here where I am?
  • Am I listening attentively to the prompting of the Holy Spirit?
  • Will I be willing to speak boldly for God if asked to?
  • Do I have the perseverance to wait expectantly for decades for an answer to prayer?

God, I pray that You will mold me into the kind of man You need me to be. If it be Your will, give me the faith and perseverance of Simeon and Anna. They both never stopped believing You would keep Your promises. They both waited with anticipation for You to work in Your own time.

Monday, December 19, 2005

God is Like

I received the following in an email and thought it was worth posting for all:

A fifth grade teacher in a Christian school asked her class to look at TV commercials and see if they could use them in some way to communicate ideas about God.

God is like...

He works miracles.

God is like...


He's got a better idea.

God is like...

He's the real thing.

God is like...


He cares enough to send His very best.

God is like...

He gets the stains out that others leave behind.

God is like...

He brings good things to life.

God is like...


He has everything.

God is like..

Try him, you'll like Him.

God is like...

You can't see him, but you know He's there.

God is like...
He's ready when you are.

God is like...

You're in good hands with Him.

God is like...
Hair Spray
He holds through all kinds of weather

God is like...

Aren't you glad you have Him? Don't you wish everybody did?

God is like...

Neither rain, nor snow, nor sleet nor ice will keep Him from His appointed destination.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Not as Close as I Should Be

God, I come to You tonight knowing that I am not as close to You as I know I should be. I have let the distractions of life take away the time I should spend with You in prayer and Bible study. I pray that You will show me grace though I don't really deserve it and draw me back close to You. Grow me into the man You need me to be. Grow my faith. Help me discern Your will for my life. Supernaturally enable me to accomplish what You want me to do to serve Your purposes. Protect me from temptation. Do not let me be a stumbling block to others and their own walk with You. Amen

Copyright © 2005 by Philip Hartman - All Rights Reserved

Monday, December 12, 2005

Prayer - A Simple Necessity

Personal prayer, it seems to me, is one of the simplest necessities of life, as basic to the individual as sunshine, food and water—and at times of course, more so. By prayer I believe we mean an effort to get in touch with the Infinite. We know that our prayers are imperfect. Of course they are. We are imperfect human beings. A thousand experiences have convinced me beyond room of doubt that prayer multiplies the strength of the individual and brings within the scope of his capabilities almost any conceivable objective.
Dwight D. Eisenhower

Sunday, December 11, 2005

God, Make Me More Like Joseph

At this time of year when we celebrate the birth of Jesus, I want to remember the great example of Joseph as a husband to the Virgin Mary and as the earthly father to Jesus.

When Joseph got the news that Mary was pregnant (and he knew he wasn’t responsible), he could have ruined Mary’s life. Could he have had her stoned to death? Yet even before God let Joseph in on what was going on, Joseph had already resolved to divorce her quietly. Matthew 1:19 says:
19Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.
Note that he was described as “righteous.” Also, in the male-dominated society of the day, this shows Joseph had a greater respect for women than was probably typical.

In the very next verse, we are told that God lets him in on the fact that Mary is pregnant by the Holy Spirit and that it is all part of God’s plan.
20But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, "Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus,[a] because he will save his people from their sins. 23"The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel"[a]—which means, "God with us."
What was Joseph’s reaction? Did he react cynically with a “yeah, right... she hasn’t been sleeping with another man... I wasn’t born yesterday.” Did he treat his vision as just a dream. A dream that could be safely ignored? Did stop to wonder what people would think? No! Joseph was obedient and quickly so. In Matthew 1:24
24When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife.
Talk about a leap of faith! Would you have acted so boldly? Would I?

Joseph also had great commitment to God and great self control. The Bible tells us he took Mary as his wife but did not consummate his marriage to her until after Jesus was born. And in obedience to God’s instructions, he gave the Christ child the name Jesus. See Matthew 1:25
25But he had no union with her until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.
He knew the prophecies about Jesus’ virgin birth and he did not want to tarnish this part of God’s plan in any way.

Joseph was called upon to take quick action a little latter in life as well. In Matthew 2:13-14 we find that after the visit of the Magi:
13When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. "Get up," he said, "take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him." 14So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt,
Did he worry about the affect of leaving town abruptly on his carpentry business? Did he argue that the timing isn’t good. Was he so deep in debt that he couldn’t give up his steady income? No! He knew what God wanted. He did not hesitate. He did not flinch. He got up right that moment and got out of town that very night. Disaster averted!

The same thing happened once again in Matthew 2:19-20.
19After Herod died, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt 20and said, "Get up, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who were trying to take the child's life are dead."
So... Joseph continued to do his part in God’s great plan of salvation.

God, at this time of year when we celebrate the birth of Your Son Jesus, I pray that you will mold me and make me more into a man like Joseph. Help me make myself available to You to serve Your purposes. Lead me to know clearly Your will for my life and how You need me to serve You. Give me the courage and wisdom to obey promptly and not hesitate when You call me to do something. Give me the discipline I need so that I do not hinder anyone else from coming to a saving knowledge of Jesus. Amen.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Why Don't I Seek the Outcast?

My pastor preached a sermon tonight on Zacchaeus. I must admit that I had not read the story in a long time and the extent of my knowledge of him is limited pretty much to a vague memory of the old song from vacation Bible school when I was a kid. Zacchaeus was a wee little man and a wee little man was he..

The thing which jumped out at me tonight was not really about Zacchaeus but instead how Jesus treated Zacchaeus. Jesus sought out Zacchaeus. Jesus didn’t seek out the righteous religious leaders or even “regular” members of the religious community. Jesus chose to seek out the outcast Zacchaeus. He was the man that everyone in the community despised because he collected the taxes for the Romans.

I was reminded that Jesus did this all the time. He actively sought the people who had strayed far from God and sought to bring them back close. In Matthew 9 there is a related verse on this topic, "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. 13But go and learn what this means: 'I desire mercy, not sacrifice.'[a] For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners."

I found myself feeling like I needed to do some healthy re-examination of my priorities. If I was traveling to a new town, would I seek out the outcasts to visit with? Or... would I seek out the “church people” who were a lot like me? My track record is clearly on the side of doctoring the healthy. (heavy sigh) In other words, my own life is too often like the Pharisees and not like Jesus.

So what am I going to do about it?

God, I pray that You will reveal to me some practical way that I can more often seek out the person who has strayed far from You and make myself available to the Holy Spirit to reach someone lost. Prepare me and enable me to venture out of my comfort zone. Give me the faith I need and the spiritual discernment I need to let You use me for Your purposes. Amen.