Monday, August 31, 2009

Sin is Crouching

A Quick Look: Genesis 4:3-8

Really Read It: Genesis 4:1-26, Hebrews 11:1-4

Memorize: Psalm 18:1-3 I love you, Lord;
you are my strength.
The Lord is my rock, my fortress, and my savior;
my God is my rock, in whom I find protection.
He is my shield, the power that saves me,
and my place of safety.
I called on the Lord, who is worthy of praise,
and he saved me from my enemies. (NLT)

Kana was home alone. He wasn’t scared even though he had never been by himself before. He didn’t even think about it until he heard a knock at the door. Kana’s mind started to race. Seven thoughts in .7 seconds. Is it locked? Is it someone I know? A package. A bomb. Pizza? A robber. A kidnapper. He decided to look out the window before he opened the door. He could see the front door from the window in his sister’s room. As he snuck through the house, he heard the knock again. He got to the window as the scary music started to play. He slowly pulled back the curtain and peeked out. There was no person at the front door. Maybe there was something, but Kana was sure it was not a person. He heard the knock again, so he looked more closely. It was a dark shape, a gray mess crouching at his door.

That is the scariest story I have ever tried to write. I don’t know if it was scary to you or not, but I got a little nervous writing it. I am not a fan of scary movies or scary books. The fear battle is tough enough without finding fake fear. But I wrote about Kana because he really had something bad crouching at his door. In the real story his name was Cain and he didn’t have a door. But still sin was crouching at his door.

Cain was the first person ever born. He was the oldest son of Adam and Eve. Their second son was Abel. The Bible tells us nothing about what kind of kids they were or their adventures on the brand new earth as they grew up. In the same verse that Abel was born, he got a job as a shepherd. We do get a few clues about their lives in God. We know that Adam, their dad, used to talk to God a lot. God used to come down and talk with Adam each day. Adam should have learned a lot from that, and he should have told his kids about it. We can’t be sure that he did, but somehow Cain and Abel learned how to worship God. Maybe Adam taught them, maybe God still came down, so He taught them. Either way, they both worshiped God by bringing an offering. Cain brought some grain and Abel brought some meat for God. Chances are they burned up their presents to give them to God.

When they were done worshiping, they both got a grade from God. God told them or showed them what he thought of their gifts. God liked Abel’s but he didn’t like Cain’s. The amazing thing to me is that Cain knew. Every week people go to church and they worship God with songs and prayers and money. Some of it God likes and some of it is trash to God. But the people who bring God their trash don’t know it. They walk out of church smiling. Their worthless worship doesn’t bother them at all. Somehow God was in Cain’s life so that he knew that God didn’t like his worship.

After the bad offering, God gave Cain a choice. God preached to Cain. He showed Cain how far away he was. God gave Cain a way to come close. Genesis 4:7 says, “If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it."

Cain opened the door and held out his arms to give sin a welcome hug. The sin crouching as his door came right in and together sin and Cain went to work. Cain planned the murder of his brother and then he did it. From that day until today, Cain is known as the first murderer. His crime is even worse because he knew that Abel was good. He knew Abel was right. Cain’s crime is worse because he knew about God, he knew the way to God and he ran the other way. He knew God, but he didn’t love Him.

I don’t expect that anyone who might read this is planning a murder. You don’t have that sin crouching at your door, but you must still hear God’s words about sin. Genesis 4:7, “If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it." That is the same verse I stuck in just 135 words ago. Those were God’s words to Cain, but those words are powerful today. You must and you can master sin. You must and you can be accepted by God. Cain’s path seems so extreme, so rare. Sadly Cain’s view of God is not so rare.

Cain is famous for killing and Abel is famous for dieing. He is in Hebrews 11 as one of the great examples of faith. It says, “by faith he still speaks, even though he is dead.” Hebrews 12 talks about Abel again, but it says that the blood of Jesus speaks better than the blood of Abel.

What does this dead guy say? What does the blood of Jesus say?

They say to love God with everything. Love God so much that you would die for Him. You would give up your life, you would give up any part of your life, you would give Him anything in your life. Love Him. Love the King. Love the only true God. The only One who matters. The only way to be accepted. The only acceptance that matters.

Abel gave God a goat. Or maybe it was a sheep. It doesn’t seem like much. But Abel gave God his heart. Abel lived to love God with all of his heart. Abel died loving God with all of his heart.


What would it look like if the people at church wanted to be there and wanted God? What if God’s people had nothing better to do? It might look like this.

You can find more of Nathan’s writing on lulu and helium.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Copycat Copycat

A Quick Look: I Corinthians 11:31-32

Really Read It: I Corinthians 10:31-11:1, I Corinthians 11:20-34

Memorize: I Corinthians 11:1 And you should imitate me, just as I imitate Christ. (NLT)

All the cats I know ignore everyone. But in 1896, there was a cat who watched others and did what they did. Kids have been cheering for this cat ever since. His name was Copycat.

What happened to Copycat? Did he win or loose? Was he rich or poor? Was he good or bad?

The answer is yes. He won and he lost. He was rich and poor. Good and bad.

It all depends on who he copied. Copycat’s life was sad and short when he copied that guy who walked through the fire, into the swamp, and over the cliff. But Copycat got rich when he copied the guy with all of the money. Copycat was lost, wondering in the forest forever when he copied a fluttering leaf. Copycat found a dish milk and a nice warm bed when he copied the man with the map. To teach a bad copycat a lesson, don’t tell him not to copy, tell him who to copy.

Kids are copycats. Grownups are too, so don’t try to grow out of it. Start now copying the right people. Don’t copy famous people. They are rich and people scream for them because they are really good at one thing. But they are bad at too many important parts of life. Plus 2.3 million people are already trying to copy that famous guy. That puts you really far back in line.

Paul wrote about this in a letter to some people called Corinthians. I think a Corinthian sounds like a pretty tough guy. I wouldn’t want to mess with them, but Paul did. He wasn’t very nice in his letter. These guys were doing a lot of things wrong, and Paul wanted them to know how to turn it around. I Corinthians 11:1 says, “And you should imitate me, just as I imitate Christ.” (NLT) Imitate means copy, do the same things, act the same way, think the same thoughts. Paul left out the part about cats.

We have Paul’s copycat verse at the beginning of Chapter 11, so it looks like Paul is starting a new part of the letter. But Paul didn’t put chapter numbers in his letter, so he had this verse in the middle of a list of mistakes. The things Paul told them in Chapter 10 and Chapter 11 seem weird to us. That’s because Paul was helping those people 2,000 years ago to know how to live in a city on the other side of the world. This side of the world in the 21st century is quite a bit different. It doesn’t really matter but one of the weird things that Paul told them was if someone puts your food in front of a statue and prays to the statue then don’t eat it. But if you don’t know if you food went to visit a statue or not, don’t worry about it. Another one was about haircuts and hats in church. In these simple rules, Paul was telling them what he would do and telling them to copycat him.

Then Paul wrote about communion. Part of his communion speech would go better for us in a list of rules for the church picnic. He told the people who had a lot to share with the people who didn’t have any food. Or if they didn’t want to share, they had to eat at home where nobody saw it. I’m pretty sure my elementary school had that same rule. After the communion picnic rules, Paul talked about the communion part of communion. I have heard the words about the great value of the cup, the Blood of Jesus, and the bread, the Body of Jesus. I hope you have heard that and thought and prayed about that a lot, but Paul put in another thing that I have almost never heard in a communion speech. In verse 28 he said “examine yourself.” Exam is the same as test. Examine is to look at really closely. Give yourself a test. And the test Paul told them to give themselves was about honoring the other people in their church. That part goes with the sharing rules that were right before this. But for you to honor the body, to be nice to your church, it is not enough to share some of your food. You need to share everything you’ve got. Share your food, share your money, all your stuff. Share your brains, your ideas. Share encouragement, good words. Shy is not allowed. It’s not nice and it does not honor the body. Share your muscles, work hard to make your church great, clean, mow, haul, paint. Share your muscles, work hard in worship praising with strength.

Paul wrote his ideas about haircuts and church picnics because he wanted the Corinthians to copycat him. You could copycat Paul too. That why we read his words in the Bible, so we can copy him. But not just Paul. There are a lot of people in the Bible that we can copycat. We can copycat so many other great people from history too. But you must also find people that you know to copy. Find people young and old who love Jesus and who are working to move the Kingdom of God forward. Be a copycat to those people.

If you do, you will look behind you and see other people copying you. Nobody is too young to be the right one to copycat. Younger kids can follow you, but they don’t have to be younger. You can be a great one to copy for kids your own age and even older kids. Pick the right ones to copycat and the copycats will copy you.

Paul was at the end of his food speech when he stuck in the imitate me, copycat verse. But he put a great test right with it. I Corinthians 10:31-33 “So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. Don’t give offense to Jews or Gentiles or the church of God. I, too, try to please everyone in everything I do. I don’t just do what is best for me; I do what is best for others so that many may be saved.”

Whatever you do. For the glory of God.

Don’t do only what is good for you like a spoiled me, me, me brat. Do what is best for others for the glory of God. So that so many will know this great and awesome Jesus, for the Glory of God.


What would it look like if the people at church wanted to be there and wanted God? What if God’s people had nothing better to do? It might look like this.

You can find more of Nathan’s writing on lulu and helium.

Monday, August 17, 2009

The Last Words of Moses

A Quick Look: Deuteronomy 30:19-20

Really Read It: Deuteronomy 30:11-20, Colossians 3:1-4

Memorize: Deuteronomy 30:16 For I command you today to love the LORD your God, to walk in his ways, and to keep his commands, decrees and laws; then you will live and increase, and the LORD your God will bless you in the land you are entering to possess. (NIV)

Moses was the president, the prophet, the priest, the man with the miracle power of God. He took a whole country of slaves on a 40-year camping trip. They had some trouble along the way, so God used him to split the Red Sea, bring water from a rock, and drop bread from the sky. When ultra-famous Moses was about to die, he gave a final speech. It was really long. Hard to blame him for talking so much. It was his last day on earth. But since it was so long, I’ll go straight to my favorite part and bring it up to date a little.

Love God. Do what He says. And it is not so hard. You don’t have to send your aunt on a mission to Mars to find God’s words and bring them down to you. You don’t have to put your brother on a sea voyage across the ocean to learn God’s ways and bring them back. No. The Word is very near you. It is in your mouth and in your heart so you may obey it.

Those ideas are close to what Moses said in Deuteronomy 30:11-14. Then Moses made all of the people contestants on the easiest game show in the history of the world. (Sort of.) There was only one question in the game and Moses made it real easy. Picture Moses standing between two doors. One door was dirty, gray, and broken with a huge KEEP OUT sign. The other door was bright yellow with flashing lights and arrows all around it. Moses kept pointing to that good door while the smiley face in the middle of the door called out, “Pick me, pick me, pick me!” It was not a trick. The good door was really that easy to find.

Moses said things like, “See, I set before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction.” (Deuteronomy 30:15) This door is life and prosperity, the place where you always have enough stuff, enough food, your body is healthy and your family is happy. The other door is death and destruction, the place with sickness, lack, not enough stuff, not enough food, bad hard times. Moses said it as many ways as he could. He even asked the angels to listen to make sure that he gave all of the people a fair chance. He said, “This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live.” (Deuteronomy 30:19)

And the way to choose was with worship. To get to the bad door, forget about God, do not obey His ways, let your heart get pulled away to other gods and bow to them. To get to the good door, love God, walk in His ways, and do what God says. Stay close, listen to His voice, and hold on tight to God.

In Deuteronomy 30:20 Moses used the words, “For the Lord is you life.” I wonder how he said that. Did he go right through it or did he stop and blast those words one at a time? It might have been a quick phase in a long speech. Maybe only a few of the people standing there caught this key. The Lord is everything. He is health in your body. He is the strength of every friendship. He is hope. He is life itself.

Paul was never as famous as Moses while he was alive, but he wrote more books of the Bible. Paul used that same powerful phrase in a letter. Colossians 3:4 says, “When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.” Readers then and readers now could really focus on the part about appearing in glory. Do you see yourself cloud surfing with light shooting out of your fingers? That is not how you are going to appear with Christ in glory, but forget about that for now, and go back to that little phrase the Paul stuck in there: Christ, who is your life.

I saw a stupid T-shirt that said, “Basketball is LIFE. The rest is just details.” I like basketball but something is wrong if a little game with a ball and a hoop is the core of who you are. I don’t think you could really do it, but just think about it for a minute. What would your life look like if you wore that shirt and you were telling the truth? You would work all day every day at becoming a better player. Running, shooting, dribbling, weights, sprints, drills. You would have to study all of the books by all of the world’s experts. You would train under the best coaches you could find and gladly do whatever they asked. Food would have to be a part of your life but only to get stronger. Entertainment could be pushed out of your life, but if you let it in a little, it would be something about basketball.

Sadly some people live that life and a lot more wish they could. So many give their lives to other things that do not deserve any devotion. But what if you crossed out the word “basketball” and wrote in Christ. Christ is LIFE. Paul said, “Christ, who is your life.” Moses said, “The Lord is your life.” And I have seen that on a T-shirt, but I have rarely seen that kind of life. Remember everything the Basketball is LIFE guy did with his day. Remember how that guy spent his energy, spent his time. What did he think about? What did he dream about? Could you tell the truth and wear Christ is LIFE? Could you give as much strength to Jesus as he gives to basketball? Listen to the last words of Moses, listen to a letter from Paul. Make Jesus Christ the One and Only. Make the living God your LIFE.

This week I found hope at church. I didn’t even know that I needed any more, but there it was. Hope. Find out more about a different church, a church were something happens:

You can find more of Nathan’s writing on lulu and helium.

Sunday, August 9, 2009


A Quick Look: Philemon 4-7

Really Read It: Philemon 1-25

Memorize: Philemon 6 I pray that you may be active in sharing your faith, so that you will have a full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ. NIV

Philemon is a small book of the Bible. It is shorter than most chapters and yet it gets to be a whole book. Philemon is so short that it doesn’t even have chapter numbers. To find a verse in Philemon, you don’t need a chapter then a verse. All you need is the verse. But I would like to change that. We are all so used to the chapter number: verse number deal that when a weird book like Philemon leaves it out, it is confusing. Right up there it says to memorize Philemon 6. Unless you are a Philemon expert, that looks like a whole chapter. Memorize Philemon Chapter 6 not just verse 6 of the little book of Philemon. What would it hurt to make the book have a chapter? I know one chapter doesn’t make it a chapter book, but then it could say, “Memorize Philemon 1:6,” and at least that verse could look like all the other verses in the Bible.

Even though it is really short, Philemon is a whole book all by itself because it was a whole letter written all by itself. The letter was from Paul and Timothy to three people. A guy named Philemon was one of the people. He got to turn his name into a book in the Bible, but the letter was also to a woman named Apphia, and another guy named Archippus. If you think those are funny names, it is okay to laugh because Apphia and Archippus have been dead for almost two thousand years. You might want to remember those funny names in case you ever adopt a pair of platypuses. Apphia and Archippus would be great pet platypus names. And if you need a third, you could add the name Onesimus. Onesimus is the man that this letter is about. Paul and Timothy wrote to Philemon, Apphia, and Archippus about Onesimus. (Nice job reading all of those weird names.) And they said that Onesimus is a great man of God. He may have made some mistakes before, but now he is right on track and he will really help their church. That is the main part of the letter, but the main thing that we are studying is in the introduction.

Paul and Timothy write down a prayer that they pray for Philemon and those others. The prayer starts with, “I always thank my God as I remember you.” Paul wrote that in at least three of his letters, but Christian greeting card writers wrote that on at least three million cards. Those words on a pretty greeting card make it seem like someone out there or a lot of someones are praying this for you. Maybe that’s true. I hope it’s true, but today switch it. Don’t hope that someone is thanking God for you. Make this be your prayer for someone or a lot of someones.

The prayer in Philemon is just four verses long, but it can be a great model for how to pray. Pray like this for your friends, your teachers, pastors, parents, brothers, sisters, cousins, neighbors, mailmen, barbers… This prayer has three main parts that you can pray.

1. Thank you, God for _______________________. That is a pretty easy part, but it is important.

2. I pray that you may be active in sharing your faith. Do this yourself. Be this yourself, but pray it for your friends too. “Be active” means your faith is a part of you that comes out wherever you are, whatever you do. Another version of the Bible says, “be generous.” Always give away a lot of faith. Always give away a lot of hope, joy, and peace. Always give away a lot of love.

3. I pray that you will have a full understanding of every good thing that we have in Christ. We have a lot of good things in Christ. So many that you can dive into Him with your whole life for your whole life and never get to the end of the good things that we have in Christ. But we still pray to know more of them, to have more of Him.

In the great name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

Nathan’s church is exciting. It is a place that people WANT to go to way more than once a week and stay for way more than 90 minutes. Find out more about it:

You can find more of Nathan’s writing on lulu and helium.

Sunday, August 2, 2009


A Quick Look: Psalm 119:97-105

Really Read It: Psalm 119:57-120

Note: Psalm 119 is the longest chapter in the whole Bible. If you want to make sure that no chapter will ever be too long for you, read the whole chapter Psalm 119:1-176.

Memorize: Psalm 119:105 Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path.

Walter and Waffle stood on the corner of 43rd and Crest. Walter read a text message from the president.

“c u 4 dinner @ Ricks 5pm”

“Do you know Rick?” asked Waffle.

“No, but I know that his restaurant has the best coconut pizza in the city.”

“Oh yeah. I remember that. Soooo gooood! See you there.”

“Wait, Waffle. You need to use the GPS. You’ll never remember how to get there.”

Waffle took his GPS out of his pocket. “Yeah right. This little box with all of its beeps and flashes and that funny lady talking is going to get me to the coconut pizza place. I don’t think so.” He tossed the box back into the trash and walked away.

Walter took his GPS out of his pocket and typed the name of the restaurant. He listened to the funny lady and arrived at Rick’s ten minutes early. Waffle was still wondering the streets at 5:00 the next morning.


Walter and Waffle were without GPS as they hiked along the forest path. But they hardly needed it. All they had to do was stay on the path. That was easy enough in the day time, but as night rolled in seeing the path got harder. Walter pulled out his flashlight and strolled right along. Waffle left his flashlight in his pocket as he called out, “Wimpy Walter was scared of the dark! I’ll race you back to camp!”

As Walter walked along the path he heard Waffle crying out as he smashed into trees and dove into thorn bushes.

Walter won the race.

Waffle didn’t get back until the search party found him the next morning.


After just two short stories you know that Walter is just about as wise and you are and Waffle is just about as wise as a waffle. So you don’t need to read the story of Walter and Waffle in a submarine or Walter and Waffle climbing the snake tree or the story of Walter and Waffle making waffles. They all end the same way. Or almost the same way. In one story Waffle’s submarine gets stuck in a cave and in one Waffle gets stuck the inside of a snake and in one Waffle cooks his hand in the waffle iron. But they pretty much end the same way.

To make sure that you are smarter than Waffle and smarter than a blueberry waffle, you have to look at why Waffle was so foolish. Waffle ignored something that would help him. All he needed was a voice telling him which way to go. All he needed was a light to see the path. Every time he needed something that he already had. He needed to use what he already had. To pass the wiser-than-Waffle test, you are not going on an adventure with a GPS and a flashlight. Your test uses a book. A big book. The Book.

The Bible is an amazing book of history and ideas. It’s full of great writing and exciting stories. But those are all things that people can put into a book. The Bible is so much better, so much bigger because God put His Words into it. God put hope in that book. He put life in it.

Part of super-long Psalm 119 is about the Word of God. I found three things that you should do when you read the Bible. First thank God for His Word and read it. Next ask God to teach you from His Word and read it. Finally be quick to obey the Word of God after you read it. And when you read the Bible, your life will get better again and again.

This Psalm tells some of the great things about the Bible. The Word of God is eternal. Few things you touch today will last forever, but the Word of God will. It will be there in 2011 when you are trying to decide if you should say, “two thousand eleven,” or “twenty eleven.” The Word of God will be there in 2063 when you are trying to decide what year you become an old person. The Word of God will be there in 2299, 9922, and on and on to the year 999,222,999 and always and forever.

The Word of God makes your heart soft. The Bible makes you ready for God’s presence. It makes you closer to God. So many things make your heart hard (anger, ignoring God, entertainment, and more.) The Word can make it soft again. The Word of God is a comfort. Can a song or a pillow make you feel better if you’re sad? The Word of God is even better at it. The Word of God gives hope. The Word of God preserves life, your life. It can save your life. It can make your life better.

To end, I am going to stick in two more verses. These two could be the second and third place verses for the Weekly Memory Verse. I just had to give them a little extra attention.

Psalm 119:72 The law from your mouth is more precious to me than thousands of pieces of silver and gold.

Psalm 119:103 How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!


Nathan is amazed to see God move in power every week at his church. You can see what is happening:

You can find more of Nathan’s writing on lulu and helium.