Christian Living

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 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.

How To Take An Unpopular Stand

Two weeks after U.S. Soccer announced that their men's and women's teams will be wearing rainbow-colored jerseys in support of gay pride month in June, one player has removed herself from the team.

If you live for people's acceptance, you'll die from their rejection. - Lecrae

If you live for people's acceptance, you'll die from their rejection. - Lecrae

Jaelene Hinkle has seemingly taken a very unpopular stand on a hot-button issue. I say seemingly because she has simply stated "personal reasons" for her decision.

From what outsiders such as myself can determine, Ms. Hinkle is a Christian woman with deep convictions. Her self-removal from the team gives every appearance that she followed her principles when presented with the following scenario: The team made a decision that would require her to violate her convictions. In response, she quietly and voluntarily removed herself from the team.

It is notable that Ms. Hinkle did not blame anyone for the decision, nor did she try to come across as a victim. She did not blast out on social media her reasons for leaving the team. She simply stated "personal reasons," even when pressed to expand on her answer.

The manner in which we respond to others is often as important as our beliefs. Ms. Hinkle seems to understand this. Here are some lessons we can learn from her:

  • No one can cause you to violate your convictions.

  • Sometimes the most powerful witness is a quiet one.

  • Season your courage with kindness.

What convictions are important reflections of your faith? If a situation arises in which you are asked to set them aside, how will you respond?

Celebrating Israel with America's Rabbi

Today I had the distinct pleasure to meet and listen to Rabbi Daniel Lapin. He was in Dallas to honor the 50th anniversary of the Six-Day War.

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In that war, Israel was very much outmanned and outgunned. The old city of Jerusalem had been captured by Jordan during Israel's war of independence in 1948. As a result, synagogues were destroyed and Jews were forbidden from visiting their holy sites.

Almost twenty years later, the forces of Egypt, Jordan, and Syria were ready to strike in an effort to wipe Israel off the map. But Israel made a surprise preemptive strike, and the Lord provided miracle after miracle to keep the young nation in tact.

Importantly, Jerusalem was freed and unified. Israel quickly allowed people of any faith—Jew, Christian, and Muslim—to practice their religion freely in the city.

Today, Israel is a land with no oil, not enough water, and many enemies around the world. Yet it stands as a model of liberty and prosperity to its neighbors.

To learn more about Rabbi Daniel Lapin, check out his website at rabbidaniellapin.com.

The Problem With Clinton's Gracious Concession Speech

Hillary Clinton just delivered a very classy, encouraging, and respectful concession speech. She set a positive tone for the country.

One problem: the terminology she used is actually an attack on religious liberty.

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Mrs. Clinton (intentionally?) referenced "freedom of worship" instead of "freedom of religion." For some time, those who do not value religious liberty have been consistently making this subtle change in wording when they address the subject (see "US Immigration Exam Replaces 'Freedom of Religion' With 'Freedom of Worship'").

The question is why?

"Freedom of worship" implies that you have the freedom to worship God in your house or church, but not in public. "Freedom of religion" is exactly how it sounds: the freedom to hold your own religious beliefs in the public marketplace, in government, and elsewhere.

The difference between these two views becomes practical in many settings:

  • Are the religious beliefs of people restricted in the marketplace? For example, should the government penalize a Christian, Jewish, or Muslim baker or photographer who does not wish to participate in a wedding that would violate his religious beliefs?

  • Are religious people allowed to serve in the government? For example, can a Navy chaplain share his religious beliefs with a sailor during a counseling session? Or should religious beliefs be restricted to one's home or church?

As we move forward from this political season, those who value religious liberty must remain on guard.