David's Famous Lasagna

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Ingredients

  • 6 Tbsp olive oil

  • 1 yellow onion chopped fine

  • 2 lbs ground beef

  • 2 small cans tomato paste

  • Garlic powder to taste

  • Salt and pepper to taste

  • 2 28-oz can of petite diced tomatoes

  • 2 tsp dried basil

  • 1 tsp oregano

  • 1 lb lasagna noodles

  • 3 oz (or more!) Romano cheese, grated

  • 1 lb (or more!) Mozzarella cheese, grated

  • Italian or French bread!

  • Lots of love!

Instructions

  1. Sauté onion in olive oil.

  2. Add meat and brown.

  3. Add tomatoes, tomato paste, spices. Salt and pepper to taste.

  4. Bring to boil and then lower to simmer for one hour, stirring occasionally to keep from sticking to pan.

  5. Cook noodles as directed.

  6. In two deep 9” x 13” pans sprayed with oil, layer noodles, sauce and cheeses. Make two layers in each pan.

  7. Bake at 400 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes.

  8. Bake the bread!

You can make sauce ahead of time, but it may need to cook a little longer to heat through the lasagna.

Total time to prep and cook: About two hours.

Why Was Zacharias Made Mute and Mary Left Unpunished?

In Luke 1, we have two intersecting pregnancy stories: Zacharias and his wife Elizabeth, followed by Mary the (eventual) mother of Jesus. Zacharias was a priest who is described with his wife Elizabeth as being "righteous in the sight of God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and requirements of the Lord" (v. 6). However, they were childless and advanced in years.

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On one particular day, when Zacharias entered the temple to perform his priestly duties, he encountered the angel Gabriel. The angel told Zacharias that Elizabeth would bear a son who would turn many people's hearts back to the Lord. But Zacharias questioned Gabriel: "How will I know this? For I am an old man and my wife is advanced in years" (v. 18). Because he questioned Gabriel, Zacharias was made mute until his wife gave birth to their son.

On the surface, this hardly seems fair for at least three reasons:

  1. What the angel said to Zacharias is most unusual. Zacharias and Elizabeth were too old to have children. Wouldn't most of us doubt such a message if we received it?

  2. Zacharias had lived righteously and served the Lord faithfully all of his life. Shouldn't he be given a break for being a little weak in his faith just this once?

  3. Later in the same chapter of Luke's narrative, Mary likewise questions Gabriel when she is told of her pending miraculous pregnancy. However, unlike Zacharias, she is not punished.

I believe that there are at least three possible reasons Zacharias was made mute and yet Mary was unpunished. First, we must consider the nature of the recipients of Gabriel's message. Gabriel may have held Zacharias to a higher standard. After all, he was a priest with many years of walking with the Lord, while Mary was simply a teenager. If anyone should have been able to trust God's abilities to do miracles, it would be the well-trained and well-experienced Zacharias.

Second, the nature of the miracles to be believed was different for Zacharias and Mary. Zacharias was asked to believe something highly unlikely (an old couple having a child), while Mary was asked to believe something impossible (a virgin having a child). The angel might be patient with a person for questioning the impossible, but questioning a holy angel from heaven about something that only rises to the level of 'unlikely' shows a lack of faith from an otherwise righteous man like Zacharias. This rings especially true since Abraham and Sarah's miraculous pregnancy exists as a very prominent precedent of the Lord doing the same miracle.

Finally, and most conclusively, there seems to be a difference in the nature of the questions raised by Zacharias and Mary. After Gabriel, a holy angel of heaven, told him what would occur, Zacharias asked, "How will I know this?" I wouldn't have been surprised if Gabriel had replied, "Because I just told you! That's how you know!" Gabriel's response to Zacharias gives us an important clue as to what was really occurring in Zacharias's heart: "You shall be silent and unable to speak until the day when these things take place, because you did not believe my words..." (v. 20).

Mary's question for Gabriel was quite different: "How can this be, since I am a virgin?" (v. 34). It appears that she was not doubting Gabriel's message or integrity (or by extension, the Lord's abilities to accomplish this miracle). Rather, the mechanism of her becoming pregnant did not make sense to her since she had never known a man. Gabriel's response again informs us as to the hidden, spiritual reality occurring in the heart of the one who received the message: "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy Child shall be called the Son of God" (v. 35). In other words, Gabriel explained to Mary how she would become pregnant without knowing a man. Gabriel also told Mary the result of the miracle: she would give birth to the Son of God.

In the end, things worked out well for both Zacharias and Mary. Mary, of course, received the privilege and honor of giving birth to and raising the Messiah of the world. Zacharias found his punishment for his unbelief to be relatively brief. Once he regained his ability to speak, he was filled with the Holy Spirit as he, in reference to his son that would become known as John the Baptist, made one of the most beautiful and meaningful proclamations in all of Scripture:

"Blessed be the Lord God of Israel,
For He has visited us and accomplished redemption for His people.
And has raised up a horn of salvation for us.
In the house of David His servant—
As He spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets from of old—
Salvation from our enemies,
And from the hand of all who hate us;
To show mercy toward our fathers,
And to remember His holy covenant,
The oath which He swore to Abraham our father,
To grant us that we, being rescued from the hand of our enemies,
Might serve Him without fear,
In holiness and righteousness before Him all our days.
And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High;
For you will go on before the Lord to prepare His ways;
To give to His people the knowledge of salvation
By the forgiveness of their sins,
Because of the tender mercy of our God,
With which the Sunrise from on high will visit us,
To shine upon those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death,
To guide our feet into the way of peace" (Luke 1:68-79).

Why Kavanaugh Didn't Swear To Tell the Truth

At his second Senate Judiciary Committee today, Judge Brett Kavanaugh "affirmed" that his testimony would be true. Usually the word used in swearing in is "swear."

So why did Senator Grassley use the word "affirm" when swearing in Brett Kavanaugh?

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The Constitution allows the President to take the oath of office by either swearing or affirming. By extension, any person coming before Congress or a court may also swear or affirm to tell the truth.

The reason for the two options is because of what Jesus said in Matthew 5:34-37: "But I say to you, make no oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, or by the earth, for it is the footstool of His feet, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. Nor shall you make an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. But let your statement be, 'Yes, yes' or 'No, no'; anything beyond these is of evil."

Jesus expects his followers simply to tell the truth. Swearing that a statement is true implies that other statements not sworn to may be false. But citizens of God's Kingdom should live up to God's standards. Yes means yes, and no means no.

As a follower of Jesus, if I am called by a court to testify, I will choose to affirm—not swear—to tell the truth. Telling the truth does not require a swearing, but simply an affirmation that statements are truthful.

I do not personally know whether Judge Kavanaugh has made a similar decision with regard to the oath that he took today. But my suspicion is that he did. He purports to go to church every Sunday, and he seems to have a long history of faith in God.

The 68Mission: Part 3 - What Does It Look Like?

This is the 3rd article in a series called "The 68Mission." The series examines the potential impact of Micah 6:8 on the church today. In "Part 1 - God's Case Against His People," I described how Micah 6 is presented as a covenant lawsuit that God is bringing against Israel in Micah's day. In "Part 2 - The Nature of God's Requirements," I examined the three timeless commands God gives to all people: do justice, love steadfastly, and walk humbly with God.

How does Micah 6:8 relate to churches today?

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An application of Micah 6:8 would have us live in three directions at once: toward God (though humility), toward one another (with steadfast love), and toward the world (with justice). We must always be mindful that God created us for relationships. In Genesis 1:26-27, we relate to God as our Creator, to each other as male and female, and to the world by dominion/management of it.

Micah 6:8 is fundamental to being spiritual. A parallel New Testament verse that describes our spiritual obligation is James 1:27: "Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained by the world." Echoing Micah, James compels believers to let their faith in God permeate their lives and, by extension, the church.

Much has been written about the role of doing social good in the name of Christ without the gospel. And much has been written about sharing the gospel without showing Christ's love through our deeds. We must do both! Peter described Jesus as going about "doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him" (Acts 10:38). And Jesus did not become a human only to be an example of someone who did good deeds; he died and rose from the grave to make us right with God (cf. 1 Peter 3:18).

Could a life—or a church for that matter—be centered on the three principles of Micah 6:8? Could our very reason for existing to be on mission with God to do justice, love steadfastly, and walk humbly? This is The 68Mission.

The 68Mission practices justice by caring for orphans and widows, standing up for those who cannot defend themselves, and rescuing those who are trapped in destructive lifestyles (such as those captured in human trafficking). The message of the gospel must be intrinsically tied to these kinds of actions.

The 68Mission loves steadfastly by becoming a part of a holistic, missional Christian community. A 68Mission church would not be a church with small groups, but a church of small groups—where each member is encouraged to use his or her giftedness to impact people with the love and gospel of Christ. The groups would not focus simply on understanding Bible content, but on the transforming power of God's Word on our relationships with God, one another, and the world.

The 68Mission walks humbly with God by truly submitting to his Word and his Spirit. Like the Jews in Berea, it receives "the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things are so" (Acts 17:11).

A 68Mission church does not have a number of disparate tasks, programs, or functions, but the mission of God is its function. At its heart, it doesn't exist for the sake of programs, nor does it use programs to try to make disciples of the nations. Instead, it creates disciple-makers through relationships—disciple-makers who come to understand that every day they live is another day to do justice, love steadfastly, and walk humbly.

The 68Mission: Part 2 - The Nature of God's Requirements

This is the 2nd article in a series called "The 68Mission." The series examines the potential impact of Micah 6:8 on the church today. In "Part 1 - God's Case Against His People," I described how Micah 6 is presented as a covenant lawsuit that God brought against Israel in Micah's day.

Micah 6:8 establishes God's most fundamental and universal demands on humans. The requirements placed upon ancient Israel here are essentially the same requirements placed on us. These are not requests, and God has not changed his standards.In an exposition of this verse, Elmo Scoggin writes, "Three very clear, simple, straight-forward principles are delineated.... Each of the principles is to be incorporated into the routine of daily living. They are not to be 'tacked on' to conduct. They are to be as characteristic of the godly person's conduct as they are of God's own conduct."

Principle #1: Do justice. To do justice means to right wrongs. It is looking out for the welfare of our neighbors. In short, it is to treat people like God treats people.One of the best examples from Christian history of someone doing justice was William Carey. He is most widely known as the father of the modern missions movement, but in India he is famous for helping to end the practice of Sati, in which a recently widowed Hindu woman was burned alive on her husband's funeral pyre.

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Principle #2: Love mercy. English translations use different phrases to capture this idea: "to love kindness" (ESV), "to love faithfulness" (CSB), and "to love mercy" (KJV). The Hebrew word used here is the word hesed (pronounced ke-sed), which includes the idea of faithful love in action. It is an incredibly rich word that usually refers to God's lovingkindness expressed to Israel: covenantal, unending, and unconditional. This kind of relationship begins as God seeks after humanity with love and mercy.

When we practice hesed love, we reach out with God's love to everyone: even the most unlovable and most difficult people.

Principle #3: Walk humbly. This command is directed toward our relationship with God. We walk humbly as we recognize God as the Lord of all things. Just as we would be humbled to enter into the palace of a great king, God is the King of all kings. Not only does he allow us to be his humble slaves, but he has even adopted us into his family (Romans 8:15; John 1:12).

Scoggin understands our humility before God to be the bond that ties the first two principles together. He summarizes Micah 6:8 this way: "Walking with God, by his rules, in his paths, after his manner, in proper modesty and humility, with all hindrances removed, so that one is prepared or well-pleasing to God, is possible only when and if one is right with his fellow human beings and with God."

Next in The 68Mission: Part 3 - What Does It Look Like?

The 68Mission: Part 1 - God's Case Against His People

In a recent study of Micah 6:8, I came across a 27-year-old journal article ("An Expository Exegesis: Micah 6:6-8," Faith and Mission Vol. 2, No. 2) written by Elmo Scoggin on the passage. This important verse is part of a larger context—a "covenant lawsuit." God has brought a lawsuit against his people, and he plays four different roles as the case progresses: prosecuting attorney, bailiff, judge, and plaintiff. The list below is a very brief summary of the verses leading up to Micah 6:8.

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  • Micah 6:1 - The defendant, Israel, is called to the stand and challenged to speak up in self-defense.

  • Micah 6:2 - The court issues various witnesses—the mountains and the foundations of the earth—to hear the Lord's complaint.

  • Micah 6:3 - With Israel on the stand, the Lord asks, "How have I made you too weary to serve me?"

  • Micah 6:4-5 - Each year, Israel recited God's deliverance of their lives at Passover. Now, the Lord uses the very same tactic and turns the tables on Israel. He recites their history himself. Scoggin writes, "Why, then, not return, repent, and serve God with joy? Surprise! Israel has become so insensitive to the deeper spiritual values that she now misses the point entirely... The glamor of formal, ritualistic religion has acted as a narcotic that has desensitized God's people to the essence of true religion."

Then we get to the heart of the matter.

In Micah 6:6-7, Israel offers a flimsy defense. "With what shall I come before the Lord?" is more literally translated "With what shall I confront the Lord?" Israel was basically complaining, "How much will you demand of me, God? Do you want me to be crushed by religious burdens so that I bow down before you, God? Shall I sacrifice thousands of year-old calves? Would you be satisfied with ten thousand rivers of oil? Maybe I should offer child sacrifices! How demanding can you be, God?"

Scoggin continues, "What had actually happened was that the Israelites had become very religious in a formal, institutionalized way. They had impressed themselves at least with their religiosity.... Israel knew beyond any doubt that offerings that have no basis in ethics and morality, that have no deep roots in character are themselves an insult, an abomination to God. Israel knew that true religion...must issue from a character base built upon and confirmed by ethical behavior."

Then, in Micah 6:8, the prophet answers Israel: "He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?"

God cannot be pleased through the sacrifice of thousands of rams, tens of thousands of rivers of oil, or child sacrifices. And every human heart already knows this instinctively. Moreover, God has made it clear in his Word.

Next in The 68Mission: Part 2 - The Nature of God's Requirements

For Such A Time As This

When you find yourself in a position to make a difference, you have a choice to make.In Esther 4, Mordecai encouraged Queen Esther, who was Jewish and his own cousin, to appeal to the Persian King Ahaseurus to spare the lives of the Jewish people. The Jews were threatened with extinction due to the hatred of one of the king's officials, Haman. Only an edict from the king could stop the wicked plan from being executed.

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Esther, however, was scared. If she entered the presence of the king without being invited—even though he was her own husband—she faced the possibility of being executed herself. Mordecai reminded her that because she was a Jew, she was also in danger of Haman's wrath. And then he added these words of hope: "And who knows whether you have not attained royalty for such a time as this?" (Esther 4:14).

Esther was convinced. She now believed that the unseen Lord was quietly orchestrating the events in her life so that she could make a difference. Esther chose to act, and the Jewish people were saved.

There are two questions that deserve reflection today. The first is this: Where has God placed you to make a difference? In other words, define your sphere of influence. Who can you persuade, convince, or nudge? Whose life can you impact with your words or actions?

Once you can answer the first question, the second becomes clear: What choice will you make? What will you say that can encourage faith, give hope, or express love? What can you do that will change someone's life?

Perhaps you have been placed where you are "for such a time as this."

Soil Given By The Lord

In Deuteronomy 26, the nation of Israel received instructions about what they should do after they entered the Promised Land. Once they arrived at the land which God gave each tribe and family, they were to plant their crops. When the harvest came, they were to go to the place where the Lord would establish his name and give an offering of the firstfruits of their harvest. They would accompany their offering with these words: "Now behold, I have brought the first of the produce of the ground which You, O Lord, have given me" (Deuteronomy 26:10).

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In 2012, the Lord gave me new soil from which I was to bring him a harvest. The church was called Cotton Ridge. It began in 2010 when a group of hurting believers joined together to seek God's healing and see what the Lord would do. Through a unique set of circumstances, this small congregation in a small west Texas town seemed destined to invest its resources not in property, buildings, and other temporary things, but in people. For over six years it supported orphans, ministered to widows, rebuilt homes for the needy, fed the hungry, prayed for the sick, witnessed to the lost, and baptized those who wished to follow Jesus. The church was able to accomplish all of this without ever owning a building, a kitchen, or even a baptistery because the people believed a very fundamental truth: people are the church.

The Lord has now shown the church's members that the most effective way to serve God's kingdom is to take that same spirit and belief into other welcoming congregations in the community. Our final worship service together was a commissioning service to carry out that goal. The only thing Cotton Ridge leaves behind is that which lasts forever: changed lives.

As for me, I believe that the Lord is preparing new soil in which I will plant my life and ministry. My offering to the Lord as a pastor will result in a harvest that is accompanied by the same words spoken by Israel: "Now behold, I have brought the first of the produce of the ground which You, O Lord, have given me."

The Lord gives us both the soil and the harvest. We must do the work.

The Rarity of Repentance

The tenth chapter of the biblical Book of Ezra begins this way:

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"While Ezra prayed and made this confession, weeping and lying face down on the ground in front of the Temple of God, a very large crowd of people from Israel—men, women, and children—gathered and wept bitterly with him. Then Shecaniah son of Jehiel, a descendant of Elam, said to Ezra, “We have been unfaithful to our God, for we have married these pagan women of the land. But in spite of this there is hope for Israel. Let us now make a covenant with our God to divorce our pagan wives and to send them away with their children. We will follow the advice given by you and by the others who respect the commands of our God. Let it be done according to the Law of God. Get up, for it is your duty to tell us how to proceed in setting things straight. We are behind you, so be strong and take action” (Ezra 10:1-4).

The longing of every true and faithful servant of God's people is to lead a repentant congregation that stands ready "to proceed in setting things straight." Repentance, however, is rare in our day.

Repentance is dependent on at least three factors being present within us:

  • We must be willing to examine our lives according to God's standards.

  • We must be willing to be humbled.

  • We must be willing to pay the cost of setting our past errors straight and living life God's way from this point forward.

Are we willing to repent? If so, God will visit us and heal us.