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Tuesday, March 31, 2009

When The Saints Are Called Up Yonder

Earlier this morning I watched one of God's saints enter into heaven. It was very peaceful. The family was gathered around and we had a prayer that ushered her into God's presence.

Many people have asked what happens when a believer dies. They want to know if they are immediately in heaven or if they have to wait for the resurrection of the dead.

I have never been to heaven nor do I know someone who has. I have read a book (90 minutes in Heaven) of someone who gives his testimony of being in heaven but I really don't know if that is exactly what happens. His story seems so much like a dream though I can't refute it. I must rely on the Bible for my answer.

Paul says that he would be absent from the body but present with the Lord at his death. I have no reason to believe it will be different for anyone else. One moment the person is here on earth and the next they are in the presence of the Lord.

Jesus said we will not be given in marriage in heaven. This does not mean there will be frivolous relationships but that marriage will not be a part of heaven. This means our relationships will change somewhat. I take it that we will be equally related to everyone.

Jesus also says that we will be like angels. Some have taken this to mean that we will be sexless. Since there will be no marriages, there will be no sex. This means that this will be of no interest to us in heaven.

Paul tells us that the dead will arise when Jesus returns. Somehow those who are with Jesus will return with Him. They will enter resurrected bodies and will meet with Christ in the air. All who are still alive will also meet with Christ in the air. This is meant to be a comfort to those who have lost loved ones but it does not plainly tell us what will happen either. This will remain a mystery until we see it for ourselves.

God will create a new heaven and new earth because the old ones had passed away. The new heaven will have many new things which are reassuring. There will be no death, no sickness, no crying and no pain. There will be no separation from God. He will always be present and we will not need any light for He will be with us. There will be total safety and complete provision for whatever we need. All in heaven will be forgiven and no evil will be able to enter.

There is great assurance that heaven will be a wonderful place that we will enjoy forever. However, there is one thing I would have asked of God. I wish our loved ones would get one last phone call that says they arrived safely. I would love to hear, "Just waiting on you to arrive," from them. I suppose I will have to accept that our loved ones have arrived as a matter of faith.

My description of what happens when the saints die is sketchy at best. I guess I'll just have wait and see the rest.

Monday, March 30, 2009

What Is God Saying?

Many people wonder if they are created at random. They think that the conditions were just right for their birth. They, therefore, believe that they will die and nothing and soon be forgotten. Their world is only what they make of it.

I don't see things that way. I believe that each of us is a special creation. Each of us was known by God Almighty before the beginning of time. He loved us before anyone else. He has desired for us to commune with Him.

This word "commune" is not used much among people. It is more than conversation. It deals with the true deep sharing with one another. It is more than interested in the other person. It is giving yourself to that person. It is the closest relationship you can have.

God works in our lives to bring us into this communion with Him. This does not mean He causes bad things to happen so that you will seek Him but He certainly allows those things and causes good things to happen because of these bad things.

He is working all the time. He wants to you to see Him. He wants you to hear Him. He does this in every fiber of our being. If you listen you can hear Him doing so.

Years ago people had WWJD on everything they wore or drove. What would Jesus do seemed to be a great way to live your life. It did not take into account that we are not Jesus. We are not going to walk across lakes or calm the storms because of who we are or through our words. We have Jesus within us but we are not God. We realize that God can do great things through us because Jesus lives within us but not in the same manner. Jesus said we would do greater things that He. He didn't mean the same things He did.

What would Jesus, who lives within me, have me to do? This is the pertinent question of the day. It requires that communion with God to know the answer. This is when we hear the voice of God. We act according to that voice.

We act as if we give our hearts to the Lord at one time and never have to do that again. I believe that salvation is for all time but my heart is very fickle. I will need to give my heart to Him often. This can't be faked for the Lord knows my heart.

Many times God speaks to me before I re-give Him my heart. I am confused with what God says during these times. There are so many voices coming in from circumstances and the world that I don't know if it is God or not. It is like getting a call from a friend whose voice you know but can't be sure of because of all the inteference on the line. I have to step aside and profess my total allegiance to my Lord before I can hear clearly.

There are times that I don't like the voice of God. He tells me to do something that I don't want to do. This generally happens when He wants me to make things right with others. I argue with God. I have never won any of these arguements. God tells me to do these things because I cannot be close to Him while I am far away from others.

God will move heaven and earth to commune with us. I look backwards on my life and see His handiwork. These are like voice mail messages. The person has left the message in the past but you are just now hearing them.

It is in the here and now that I seek Him. It is now that I want to hear His voice.

So, I open my spiritual eyes and hear with my spiritual ears and God speaks clearly.

What is God saying? "I love you." This is the message no matter what else happens.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

If You Died Today

What would be said at your funeral if you were to die today?

I do a lot of funerals. I never say anything bad about the deceased. I listen to what the family wants me to say. Sometimes they think the deceased was a jerk. They, however, don't want to say that. So, they give me things they would like to be said. The truth gets seriously stretched.

One man's greatest accomplishment was that he got people to stop chewing gum at a local little league park. That would be fine if that was the capacity of that man's abilities. Do you think that God created him for that purpose alone? Should there have been more?

There are many generalities that people tell me. "She was a great mother" or "He always did what he said," are often recited. I ask them what story they can tell me that would reflect their statements. If too much time passes before they can answer I know that this is merely what they want to have said rather than the truth.

Friends and family often feel they must say something. One friend of the deceased got up unprepared at one of the funerals I did. He rambled along for several minutes and then got to what he wanted to say. "The next time I drink beer," he said, "I'll drink one for you!" I am sure that this sounds really good in a bar but it went over like a lead balloon at the funeral. No dead person cares if you are drinking a beer in their name. Unfortunately, your friends do indicate what kind of life you have lived.

I have heard so many people say, "Just throw me in a box and bury me. Don't spend the money or the time to have a funeral." I have wondered is that really their sentiment or are they afraid there is nothing to say. Funerals are not for the deceased. They are for the ones left behind. They bring closure for them. People need to remember in order to go forward with their lives. Some of the deceased aren't giving them much to remember.

So, what would be said of you? Can you think of a story that would indicate what you would want said? What things must you do in order to be a great mother? What would indicate to a son that you loved him and did your best to see that he grew up to be a man? What will stay behind after you are gone?

You may have made some terrible mistakes or committed some terrible sins in your past. You can't change that. You do have the ability to change the present. That will make a new past. It is better to have said, "He was a real jerk until about thirty years ago; then something changed."

What would be said at your funeral if you were to die today? Are you happy with that?

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Why Do We Do What Others Expect Us to Do?

I have been reading the account of Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem which happened a little under a week before His crucifixion. It seems that people were caught up in a frenzy in welcoming Him. Could some of these same people have been calling for His crucifixion five days later?

I wonder if there is a lot of crowd psychology or mass peer pressure that causes many people to act and even feel a certain way. This may have nothing to do with how well they actually know what's going on. They react to their emotions which are being created by the crowd around them. Thus, a crowd who would have called for Jesus to be released from prison will actually call for Him to be crucified because they are influenced by the others around them.

Have you ever been to a concert where the fervor for the band will build and build until it is out of hand? The security guards come to protect these performers who have fostered this devotion but don't know how to control it. They run out of the building before they are torn apart by their adoring fans. Would any of these people think that was reasonable in a calm setting?

Do you think this is a strong reason why people who call themselves Christians find themselves in some of the worst sins? Are they simply acting out what the world around them expects? Is it reasonable to tell people they need to protect themselves if they are to have any semblance of a victorious Christian life?

I think most Christians don't protect themselves. They don't monitor their own actions. They allow tv and movies into their own homes that represent smut. They talk the language of the street and make the same jokes as those who don't know Christ. They, then, are surprised to find themselves acting like those around them. They are acting like they are expected to act--just like the rest of the world.

Where would you find yourself on a scale from 1 to 10 with ten being totally immersed in Christlike activity and 1 being around Christlike activity only when you come to church? Do you think you are acting like the world expects you to act or like Jesus expects you to act?

Just a thought . . .

Friday, March 27, 2009

Something's Wrong with Our Faith

I am a pastor. People come to me with their problems. They come to me with their sins too. Their sins are real problems.

I know that none of us is perfect. I know that I have sinned and continue to confess things that I should have known better than to have done. The problem is that I am seeing people who are active in church, obviously believing Christians, get involved in sinful lifestyles that do not distinguish them from anyone who has never known Christ. Something is seriously wrong.

Do people live double lives? My experience reveals that they do. They can come to church, sing praises, raise their hands and shout "Glory!" yet before the week is up, they have committed adultery or embezzled from their company or snorted coke or beaten up their wife. Why is there such a disconnect?

We cannot be of the world and in Christ. They are opposed to each other. Either we are in Christ and we are merely in the world or we are of the world and we have Christ standing outside our lives. The issue is lordship.

Maybe I have failed these people. Maybe I have talked about God's grace so much that I have left out our commitment to Him. Our response to His grace is total commitment. Yet, I avoid telling them that total commitment means every area of their lives. I don't want to appear as one of the preachers who begs for money each week so I soft sell the aspect of all of your money belonging to God. I don't want to appear a prude so I don't say that there are places you should never go and movies you should never see.

I wonder if I have told people how to love Jesus. You really can't say you love someone if you only think about them on Sundays. True love means you can't stop thinking about them. Maybe I have not modeled that for the congregation.

Maybe I haven't told the congregation that the Christian life is one of war. There is a distinct enemy. He wants to destroy their faith. He wants to destroy their witness in the world. You can't be casual in a war. You either are serious about fighting it or you will lose.

Could I have been so concerned that people wouldn't come back that I failed to tell them the real meaning of Christianity? Would they go somewhere where they are told that God wants to give them a bundle of money if they keep giving to that church and praising God with hands lifted high? There are plenty of places making these promises about God. They have enough random stories of wealth that they keep people hoping. It's like the lottery. Every day there is a winner. They never point out the number of losers. These churches are doing the same thing. They pack their buildings and I want to pack ours so I am just as guilty of presenting a god who doesn't exist as much as they are. I just do it in a different way.

Maybe I have. That doesn't mean that I must continue to do so. If I really cared about Christ and His people I will tell them the story of commitment. I will tell them how they can truly fall in love with Christ. I cannot be concerned with whether they like the story. The story I have been telling is making no difference.

Something has to change. I will start with me.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Characteristics of a Dying Church

We look for vital signs when a person is dying. Usually something like the kidneys or one of the other major organs begins to fail. Death is just around the corner if this failure continues.

We can look at the vital signs of a church to see if it is dying. Often the signs are subtle. No one notices until it is too late. Here are some of the signs I see.

The median age of the church is getting older. The church is not getting younger people to join. There may be younger people in the church but overall the median age gets older and older. The church is in real trouble when that number goes over 35.

A church is dying when the church talks about the glory days of the past rather than their dreams about the future. They are looking backward rather than forward. This will mean that the members will do their best to preserve what they have created. It represents their glory.

A sign of impending death in many churches is the hope of doing what they are doing better in order to grow. Some things worked for growth in the past. These things do not work now. Every creation of man becomes obsolete because of either function, quality or style. If what you are doing isn't causing growth, doing it better is not likely to do so either. It is like saying: "I am going the wrong direction to get where I want to go. If I go faster I will still get where I want to go." This is crazy yet some churches will say, "We just have to do what we are doing better!" They will say that until the church disbands.

Many dying churches have created a time machine. It becomes 1955 once you walk into the church. They are doing things exactly as they did. Of course, the room fills with archeologists who are fascinated with exploring how things once were. Anyone else walks out without a reason to go back.

A dying church tells those who show up that they need to start acting like the members of the church. You need to learn our songs and our lingo. Go somewhere else if you don't want to do this. They do.

Dying churches do not pay attention to those around them. The neighborhood changes but the church stays the same. The church does not change the ministries to match that would reach the people around them. I once preached in a dying church in another country with a median age so old I was afraid some of them wouldn't make it through my message. The church worship service was at 11:00 AM as it always had been. It was well known that the average young person didn't normally wake up until 2:00 PM on Sundays. That church is dead now.

A dying church gives privileges to members and disregards the unchurched. They set up fees for non-members that church members do not have to pay. They will not allow you to come to their family life centers to play basketball unless you are sponsored by a member. They tell the non-member that he is not welcome in very subtle ways.

Dying churches are more concerned about losing a member than getting a new one. They spend an inordinate amount of time on those who demand attention rather than reaching new people. There will always be people who will demand your time. They will do so and keep you from reaching new people. The time you spend trying to keep these people happy will keep you from reaching five more. Every church is going to lose so many people every year even if they do everything right. Some people just want to change from church to church. Some people love the attention they get when they say they are going to go to another church. Growing churches have to let them go. Dying churches will lose them too but only after the damage is done.

Who is responsible for keeping the church from dying? We are, all of us who call ourselves believers. I am sure there are many other signs which will indicate that a church is dying. Sometimes the churches don't know it. Many churches will publicly say their attendance is one number while it is really another. They will not notice that they have a lower average attendance of eleven each year for the past five years. That means their attendance has fallen fifty-five people in five years but they haven't noticed it.

Let's be honest: If the church doesn't reach new people, it will die. That's not rocket science!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Personal Opportunities for a Bad Economy

Things are tight for many of us. We have bought cars and houses that require payments. We have lived on the edge. Now, we are pulling back in case the money gets really tight. Many of us could lose their jobs or already have. Does that mean our lives have to be mundane? Do we hold our breaths until things get better?

No, we look for the opportunities right in front of us.

So, we don't go to the movies because of the expense. We rent movies and stay at home. We pop our own popcorn and buy the milk duds at Sam's. We pour our own soft drinks and talk as much as we would like during the movie. (Somebody has the opportunity of creating a movie sharing website. This way we could share our movies with others and not even spend the rental fee.)

So, we don't go somewhere exotic for vacation. We look for the local things that tourists come to see in our area. I lived in Nashville for years before I went to the Country Music Hall of Fame. I lived there for years before I went to the Hermitage. People were coming to Nashville every week to go to these places. I could have gone any day. Sometimes the best vacation is in our own back yard. You save the gas and hotel expenses. You spend the money to eat out so that it still seems like a vacation.

So, you suspend your membership at the health club (Don't cancel it or you will have to pay the initial fees again when you go back). You take walks with your spouse. It is just as good of a exercise program and it might pay back with special dividends in your relationship.

So, you don't buy the new video games. It is hard to imagine but families used to play games together. They can do so with dominoes and cards. These games are more social and interactive. They will help in the "relationship with your children" department too.

So, you don't take your kids to soccer, piano, ballet and baseball. You choose the best of the activities and leave all the others. Your children will get the opportunity of getting to know the other children in your neighborhood. They will be creative in the games they will create. They will have time for spiritual matters, like church, and may open up conversations about those things and many others with you.

So, you plan for meals at home. You no longer have to pick up your kids from daycare, have them eat the McDonald's meal in the minivan as you drive them to their next practice. You have given up some of those activities and you can actually go home and have dinner together as a family. You won't just save money; you will get to know your family.

This bad economy could actually make our families much stronger. It could make us re-evaluate what is really important. It could make us stop adding activities to our lives which have hurried us but have not truly enhanced our lives. It could make us sane again.

Look for the personal opportunities in this bad economy. You might find that you don't want to quit what you have found even after the economy improves.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

How to Make Any Situation Worse

If things aren't bad enough for you, I thought I would let you know how to make them worse.

First, blame all your problems on someone else. This way you don't have to take responsibility for anything. You can take another nap, play another video game or watch another movie rather than looking for a job or trying make more money. Since it is not your fault you can wait for someone to rescue you.

Second, think things will get worse. Tell yourself that things are going to get worse. In fact, things are going to get so bad that there is no hope. Sit in a dark room and mope. You should since you don't have any hope. The best thing to do is sit still and maybe the light will forget about you. Don't believe the sun will come up tomorrow either.

Third, tell yourself that you are a loser. You have to keep doing this until you really believe it. If you are such a loser no one should hire you. No one should trust you. No one should have you on their team. Things are bound to get worse if you will do this until you really believe it. People don't like to hang around with losers. They don't believe losers will ever provide anything that they need.

Fourth, treat others badly. If you can get everyone else feeling as badly as you do then you will not have anyone to help the current situation. They will make things worse so that things will not only feel worse--they will be worse! Make sure that you don't help or give anyone any hope.

Fifth, make sure you don't go to church. The people there should have a message of hope. This could affect you positively. They might tell you that God loves you and wants to give your life purpose. They might tell you that God is the great provider. They might get you to pray. Prayer requires hope. You certainly don't want any of that if you really want things to get worse.

Sixth, close yourself in a dark room. Stop eating. Stop getting any outside information. Stop seeing anyone unless it is to tell them how bad things are and how bad they are going to get.

If you will follow the things I have outlined above you are assured that things will get worse. Please be aware of this warning though: disregarding any of the above ways of making things worse will make things better.

So, do you want to make things worse?

Monday, March 23, 2009

Be Careful in What's Rewarded

The news media has reported that people who are having troubles with their taxes, mortgages and meeting ends meet will soon have Uncle Sam come to their rescue. That's great but are we not rewarding bad behavior in many of these circumstances?

Many of the people in trouble are in this state because they have borrowed more than they could afford. They are blaming unscrupulous lenders for steering them toward subprime loans. Do they not have some responsibility for reading what they are signing? Do they believe that these lenders are totally altruistic? Don't they realize that lenders lend money in order to make money off the people they lend to?

What happens to the people who didn't get these loans? They pay their mortgages and taxes and get nothing for their hard work and prudence. Won't these people say, "Oh, I get it. Don't pay your bills and someone else will come to pay them for you. Pay your bills and you are on your own."? Don't you think everyone is going to catch on very soon that responsibility doesn't pay?

Unfortunately, bad behavior most often creates bad results. This is the message we must send. Companies and individuals learn by falling down. They decide that they don't like it. Rewarding bad behavior will result in business as usual. The result isn't a bailout but a continuance of what we have already had.

People are upset with financial institutions paying bonuses to their executives after they received bailout money. Why shouldn't they? They were rewarded for their bad behavior. They are simply continuing in what they had always done.

Don't expect the UAW to concede anything when these financial institutions didn't. It doesn't matter that the automakers are in deep trouble. A bailout is just a way of keeping business as it always has been. The financial institutions didn't change the way they were doing business, why should the union or the automakers?

We are not helping the situation with bailouts. Giving businesses money for a bailout so that they can continue to do business as they always have is like buying liquor for an alcoholic. It makes him feel good but it ultimately hurts him. He is still an active alcoholic. He just doesn't ask for liquor until that which we have given him is gone.

It is immoral to reward bad behavior. It is godly to have compassion on those who have realized the error of their ways. It is immoral to keep people in their bad behavior. It is godly to help people back on their feet.

I am afraid we are rewarding bad behavior with such a fervor that we are encouraging more bad behavior. We cannot sustain this. The result is disastrous for us as a nation.

If it continues we can expect that responsible people will buy guns and get prepared to protect what they have earned. We can expect that the government will continue to tax responsible people and reward the irresponsible. We can expect that the businesses will move to other countries where they will not be taxed at the rate necessary to pay for this irresponsibility. We can expect that America will become like one of the third world countries where corruption is the norm.

What we reward will either come back as a reward or as a curse. What do you think will happen?

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Be Authentic! Go to Church

I have heard it so many times. "I can worship as well at home or by the lake just as well as I can in church." It's a crock! Quit saying this!

If that was true, why doesn't the Bible tell us to go out and worship that way? Why does the Bible tell Christians to meet together for worship? Could it be that something happens when we get together that doesn't happen when we are apart? Duh!

Corporate worship requires that we are in harmony with others. We have to sing together. We have to listen together. Synergy can happen when people do things together. Could it be that God expects more to happen in our worship when we worship together? Duh!

Coming to worship requires that we make an effort to worship. We make an effort to show up on time. We make an effort to park, walk in and find a place to sit. Could it be that God wants us to make worship something that we consciously make an effort to do? Duh!

Worship means we must get along with people. Church people aren't always the most gracious loving people you will meet all week. It means we must show grace to others when they are not as gracious to others. Could it be that God wants us to show His grace to others in order to worship? Duh!

Yes, there may be a Sunday that you go out by the lake and have a wonderful worship experience. That is the exception; not the norm. God expects you in church to worship unless you are sick, have to work or you are genuinely ministering to someone else. Anything else we tell ourselves is a crock. It doesn't matter who hurt you at church or who didn't call you or how many hypocrites exist at the church. It's not about you anyway. It's about worshiping God Almighty.

So, get up and go to church.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Don't Let Bad News Keep You Down

Somebody gets terrible news every day. It may range from a spouse who wants a divorce to word of a terminal disease. These are not things you tell someone, "Stiff upper lip, now, it will all be over soon!" No, these are show stoppers. They take your breath away. You don't know what to do next. You may not know where to turn.

Bad news has to "sink in." It may take a while. Maybe you feared you would receive this news and were prepared for it. Maybe it caught you by surprise. At some time you had to allow this news to become real and true. That came with pain and fear. The moment becomes so bad that you can't think of the next moment.

I had a professor in seminary who was told he had terminal bone cancer. He told the class that he always knew he was going to die but didn't know it would be this soon. He also told us that he had given his life to Christ a long time ago. He knew he was going to be okay. The day before he died someone told me that he was talking of God's grace. I decided that was the way I wanted to go- talking about God's grace.

No one needs to be alone when they have received bad news. They need people who will be the body of Christ for them. I know you may be a Christian and know the presence of Christ but He also exists in others. He becomes a clear voice and a corporal hugger in someone you know. You may need some time alone but don't become a hermit. The Church, Christ's Body, needs to act as Him. You will need this too.

You have to know that God knew that you would receive this news. God did not cause it to happen. He did not make your spouse unfaithful. He did not put cancer cells in your body. He did not cause your business to cut your job. Yet, God knows exactly where you are. It is a great time for you to find how much He cares for you. You talk and listen. Sometimes you may even cry and scream. Be assured, every tear you cry is matched by Him. He hurts when you hurt.

God could have stopped what happened to you but didn't. He allows us to go our way. He allowed Adam and Eve to sin and has never stopped us from doing the same. He has allowed sin to enter His good creation. Often, these realizations make no sense to me until all of the bad news is over.

God has a way through your bad news. It may be that everything will turn around. It could also be that the bad news will bring about everything that bad news does. Your marriage may or may not survive. You may be healed or you may die. There is not promise that God will bring us through our bad news the way we desire. It just means that He will carry us through this time.

Lean on God's strength. Give up trying to do it all on your own. Allow Him to show you things you would have never seen if you hadn't gotten this news. Believe in a tomorrow that will be better than today. Hope because hope is a seed that God plants within us to grow into a better tomorrow.

Read stories of God's deliverance. The Bible is full of them. Tell them to others. It helps the stories stick with you.

I get emails and letters from people all the time who ask me to pray for them through some very bad news. Sometimes they have caused their own bad news. Get someone you can share with who will pray for you through this bad time.

Don't give up. God will never give up on you. Resolve to be God's person during this bad time. It may be the greatest testimony you will ever have. Make sure that you are always real. Phonies do not make great witnesses.

God will always walk with you if you will let Him. Do not let the bad news keep you from remembering this. God has a better day waiting.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

The Road to God's Will

Many people tell me they are searching for God's will. My question is always, "Are you willing to pay the price to know God's will or are you just looking for a fortune cookie?" Most don't know what that question means. Let me explain it.

Paul gave us Romans 12:2. He didn't know he was giving us Romans 12:2; he just thought he was writing a letter that would be distributed to all the churches. He knew it was written with an extra measure of God's grace. He told us that we could not be conformed to the pattern of this world and know God's will. We had to have a renewed mind. This mind is renewed by God's Spirit.

So, stop acting and caring about what the world thinks. Start pouring your spirit into God's Spirit. Seek Him with all your heart. When this happens you will prove God's will. This means you will be presented with God's will. You will take it on because the Spirit agrees with your spirit. You will accomplish what God has planned and this will prove in retrospect that you have done God's will. You, however, will act on it because it is God's will. Others will know in retrospect.

The price for knowing God's will: the world. As long as you are trying to please the world or are afraid of what the world thinks, you may or may not do God's will. You will ride a sea that rises and falls. You will live on emotions.

Are you willing to pay the price to know and do God's will?

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Why Are You Living Your Life Like You Are Right Now?

Churches love gimmicks. They often jump on the bandwagon when something becomes popular. They will "church-e-ize" just about any popular fad.

Take for example the fad of "Living Like You Were Dying." This topic has become a country song and cause for numerous Youtube downloads. Churches will use it to get people to tell what they would do. Of course, it is a gimmick. I don't believe you can tell what you would do if you are not practicing it now. We think of ourselves grandly. We think of ourselves going out in a blaze of glory. I have sat with so many people who have heard that they have cancer and have only a short time to live. Most of them don't do anything more than what they have been doing until they die.

So, to change this gimmick a little bit I would like to ask the following question: How would you live your life if you knew you had thirty more years to live? Or, how about this one: Why are you living your life like you are right now?

Each of us has a certain number of days on this planet. They may be many but they are finite. Our lives will have meant little to the world or anyone else if we take the path of least resistance each day. Is there more to life than what you are living?

Years ago I got a chance to preach and I discovered I liked it. I asked the Lord if He wanted me to pursue this as a life calling. (I was already in the ministry as a staff member of a large church.) God told me that this was my calling. I asked Him if I could preach like someone I admired. He asked me very clearly, "Are you willing to drink from the cup I have had him drink from?" A little to hastily I said, "Yes."

Thus began my quest to become a pastor. I assumed that God would have a church call and beg me to pastor them. I started praying each morning and each night that this would happen. I prayed for eight years and three months before a church called to make me their pastor.

I assumed I was prepared to pastor because I had God's calling. I wondered why others got the opportunity that I didn't. I begged and argued with God. He patiently waited for me to be ready. I thought my time was running out. I was forty-one years old when I started pastoring. I went to a small church and made a significantly lower salary than I did as a staff member.

I thank God that He took me through all this. I didn't like it at the time. I could have stayed as a staff member of one of the best churches in America but I am glad that I followed God's calling.

My advice to anyone who is dismayed with their answer to why you are living the life you are right now is this: Ask God what He has for you! It may be hard. It may take years of prayer. It may mean your salary decreases. It may mean great hardship. But it will be exciting!

Following God's calling will not allow you to be mediocre. You may never be known nationally. Yet, you will change lives in ways that will give your life significance. You will know the true joy from doing what you were created for: giving God glory.

Say, "Yes," to God and start praying. I would love to hear of your journey. If you don't feel comfortable commenting here, email me. My email address is: or you can just go to our website, or and click on the place where my email address is posted.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Is a Casual Faith a Saving Faith?

A casual faith is one that does not require inconvenient commitment. It does not give more than is convenient. It does not serve any more than convenient. It does not attend unless there is nothing better to do. It violates God's laws if it is convenient.

A casual faith says, "I want to go to heaven. If I have to be baptized and say I believe in Jesus, then, so be it, but don't expect much else."

I don't believe that Christians are perfect. We are far from it. We have a lower nature that calls us back to sin. Yet, I believe our faith must be more than casual for a trip to heaven.

Jesus said that those who endure to the end will be saved. There is a persistence in the faith Jesus speaks of. If faith is merely an act of convenience there is no necessity of endurance.

Endurance is not perfection. It does not mean that we will never sin or even that some of those sins might be especially egregious. Surely, Christians have committed every sin that non-Christians have committed. They will still go to heaven if their faith is real.

How will a Christian know for themselves if their faith is real? The Spirit dwells within them. The Spirit continually calls them home. The Spirit brings them under conviction. Those with a casual faith do not have any motivation to act like they do except in how others look at them. They will forget Christ and His Church for anything they can justify to others.

Parents with a true faith will allow their children to attend something that will keep their children away from church. There may be a school trip or a family gathering that will keep their children out. Casual faith parents will keep their children out for months for an ongoing event that has nothing to do with Christ. I heard a comedian last week say that he hated the Olympics because it made parents ruin their children's childhood for an event that was held every four years. I thought about those parents who were putting their children in things that kept them away from church when their faith should have been developing. Are these children's childhoods ruined too?

I know that it is controversial to say that a salvation experience must include a Lordship decision but this is truly what I believe. If I can't say that I believe in health and eat at McDonald's every day why should I be able to say I believe in Jesus but never do what He said?

I know that truly believing Christians struggle with the Lordship of Jesus Christ. He is either Lord or He isn't. That is why He told us to take up our cross daily. Yesterday's commitment will not keep Him Lord. You don't lose your salvation but you lose some of its joy.

Salvation comes when we trust in Christ as our Savior and Lord. That takes a commitment. We can slide away from that commitment and still be saved. We will never be saved if we have never made the commitment. We will never be saved by saying we are when there is no commitment in us.

This is not a condemnation of those who are casual Christians. This is a call to all committed Christians to act with commitment. Show the world there is a difference between those who call themselves Christians and those who are committed to Christ. This is a call to pray for those who are casual. They do not need our condemnation. They need our love. People are most always loved into God's Kingdom.

Say this if you believe it, "Jesus is my Lord today. I will do whatever He says whether or not it is convenient." Tomorrow you will have to say and mean the same thing.

Monday, March 16, 2009

America, Renew Your Conscience

Postmodernism says that there are no absolutes. That makes for a very disfunctional society. Some things have to be either right or wrong all the time or chaos erupts.

For example, murder is always wrong. Approving it at any point means no one is safe. Stealing is always wrong. Approving it means that no one will trust each other. Business cannot operate without trust.

Many tv programs reflect our societies erosion of absolute wrongs. There are programs in which people steal from others and give the stolen loot to people who were cheated. It seems okay if the one being stolen from is the cheat. There are those who murder people who have murdered others. Again, we have a sense of right when the person apparently gets what he deserves.

The conscience is our own system of right and wrong. It bothers us when it is violated. It provides moral absolutes. America agreed that 9/11 was morally wrong. There was an absolute everyone could agree on.

The sense of right and wrong is eroded when these the right and wrong is violated. In other words, the more you do something the more right it becomes. The conscience will no longer bother you. However, the lack of a conscience that bothers you does not make whatever you are doing right.

A person seeks a means of justifying the violation of their right and wrong. Adultery can be committed when a person says that his wife doesn't treat him right or that he has needs that she isn't meeting. Stealing becomes right when a person believes he deserves better. He wants what others have and stealing becomes a legitimate way of receiving it. Even murder can be justified if a person can give himself sufficient reason.

Can you see that a country without moral absolutes invites chaos? You cannot be properly related to others around you without previously agreed moral absolutes. A conscience is a necessity for keeping us compliant with these absolutes. The numbing of the conscience invites chaos.

America believes that the current recession is the greatest problem that she has. I don't think so. I think it is in the loss of a conscience. A conscience would have kept America from falling into the recession in the first place. Greed was the number one reason for the recession. Everyone wanted to make money fast. They lent it out fast and they hedged it and leveraged it and came up with creative ways of making money. The banks finally failed, the commercial paper supply dried up and few companies can do business like they did before.

America must get her conscience back. If not, we should build a statue of Bernie Madoff. He will be the new symbol of what America has become.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Why Let It Rain on Sunday?

God and I have had this conversation many times. I pray for good weather on Sundays. I know a number of people will not be here if the weather is bad. Today it is as bad as it gets. It is darkly overcast with a steady cold rain. Why should it rain today? Why can't it rain tomorrow when people have to go to work. They won't sleep in from work; will they?

I have had to conclude that God has special blessings for people who make a special effort. There is a strong reason that those who attend today are here. They need to hear something, see someone or simply be affected by the fellowship of the congregation. God has a purpose in the rain even if I don't know what it is.

Today, I preach on God giving us a new heart. That seems important to me. Maybe those who wouldn't respond to this message would have distracted those who will. The church definition of success is the number of people attending. The Lord's definition was people becoming like Him through discipleship. I doubt if any articles are going to be written in state newspapers about churches who remain small but produce genuine disciples.

I will strive to be faithful. God will send those whom He will send. He will be the Lord of the Harvest. I will be His servant and friend. It's a great deal when you really think about it.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

My Heart; God's Grace

I do not understand God's grace. He loves me with an everlasting love and He knows my heart. It seems these should be in opposition to each other. How can He love me when I haven't been someone who is easy to love?

I think some people have to know the answer to that question before they can receive His love. The answer will always allude us. We cannot fathom the depth of His love. We cannot understand it because it has that infinite quality that all of His characteristics have. We are finite beings and try to relate them to our own characteristics. It just doesn't work.

The fact that I don't understand something doesn't mean that I can't accept it. I don't understand the program that allows me to blog but I accept it without a lot of questions. I am glad it works.

Of course, if this program didn't work, I wouldn't be using it. I suppose that is true when I accepted God's love. If nothing had happened after I received Christ I probably would have said it didn't work. I am changed by the love of God into the likeness of His Son. It is still working that way.

So, I am grateful and accept God's love. It is all His grace. What a wonderful way to live!

Friday, March 13, 2009

What Does It Mean to Bring Sin into The Light?

I am afraid of allowing people to come to the microphone and speak in church unless I know what they will say. I have gained this fear very honestly. Some have used it to confess sins that many did not need to know. Their confession went far beyond the people it affected.

Sin must be brought out in the light but not to everyone. It does not positively affect those who have no part in the confession. Confession beyond those affected is gossip even if brought on by the one committing the sin. Gossip is telling the truth in order to hurt someone. (Slander is telling a lie to hurt someone.) The purpose of confession is forgiveness and repentance; not payment. The payment for sin is Jesus blood on the Cross.

Yet, sin should be brought into the light. This is something that churches fail to do. They say, "Just don't say anything about it." The younger Christians learn that a silent sin is the same as no sin. That is why many Christians today say they would steal a million dollars if they knew they could not get caught. The unawareness of sin is the same as not having committed it to them.

Confession needs to go as far as those who the sin has affected. The revealing of sin needs to be told to those it has affected. Sometimes a person will not confess but the church should know the truth. A church shouldn't say, "The staff member is resigning because of personal reasons," if the reason he is resigning is because he has stolen money from the church. The church should hear that he has stolen this much money. We will forgive and we will pray for him but we will no longer give him our trust. Trust is all a minister has. He has lost his ministry when he has lost the congregation's trust.

Gossip dies when the whole truth is told. No one has inside knowledge. Talking about the sin is common knowledge. I have found there was no gossip when the whole truth was revealed to those the sin affect. You cannot have restoration and forgiveness as long as people gossip.

I encourage sin to be brought into the light and never spoken of again. The sin needs to be allowed to die. It had control of the sinner until there was true confession and repentance. It should have no affect on the sinner once it has been brought into the light. Other Christians should stop listening to those who want to fan the flames. The best way I have found is to stop the person and say, "That was horrible. Would you join me in prayer for that person?" They either quit keeping the sin alive or they leave me out of the loop.

Make it a point of praying for those who have been caught and have repented. There may be consequences. You cannot protect people from all of sins consequences. People have been hurt and that always brings a broken fellowship. So the former sinner needs your prayers as they go through some tough times ahead.

Make it a point of allowing the sin to die. Do not engage in talking about the sin. It makes you a partner with Satan who is the "accuser of the brethren."

Realize that you too could have committed that sin if not for the grace of God. Some Christians have done better things than others but no Christian is better than another.

Guard your heart. Purify it by allowing sin to be brought into the light. Live victoriously.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

How Can You Tell When A Person Has Repented?

There are no repent-o-meters which indicate whether or not a person has repented. Repentance is a turning of the heart from following after a sin to working toward righteousness. There is no repentance if the heart is not turned.

I have observed the difference between those who repent and those who are just sorry they got caught. They follow this pattern so well that it seems there is a script which each one has been given. They say their lines with perfect timing.

The non-repentant person will deny he has committed the sin. He will do so until there is no way he can deny it any longer. Friends will come to him and give him their suspicions but he will deny them vehemently. Sometimes he will also feign being hurt that this friend has suspected him of any sinful behavior.

He minimizes the sin when the evidence is no longer deniable. He searches the eyes of the accusers and claims the fewest times possible for the transgression. He will continue to claim the fewer times until evidence exposes him further. This is actually part of the denial process. He is continuing to deny the sin by denying its frequency.

Exposure makes the non-repentant person uncomfortable. He will start blaming others when he can no longer minimize the sin. A person who has committed adultery might start blaming his wife for what he has done. A person who has embezzled will blame the employer for making the embezzlement so easy.

The non-repentant person will claim the consequences of the sin are too great. If convicted in court he will point at all those who have gotten away with more than he did. If confronted by his church, he will point out the sins within the congregation. He will claim that they did not have to suffer as he is being made to do.

Finally, the non-repentant person will find sympathetic souls who will join him in condemning those who have confronted his sin and have extracted consequences. Together they will trash the legal system or the church or their former friends who hold him accountable.

On the other hand, you have the repentant person. He exposes his sin to the light. He admits all that he has done. His heart turns toward God through scripture, prayer and putting himself under the authority of those who will hold him accountable. He accepts the consequences and does not blame others at any time for their actions even if they are, indeed, too harsh.

The repentant person waits until others say that he is restored to righteousness. He does not take former privileges of trust until others say he can. He will exclude himself from the environment that caused the problem. The alcoholic quits going to the bars. The person caught with pornography quits using the computer (if the computer is where he was getting the pornography). He guards his heart from returning to its former sin.

If I have not already been fooled, I will probably be fooled some day by someone claiming repentance. My system of detection is far from perfect. It is based on observations alone. Please don't use this to be judgmental of others. Yet, watch them closely. Don't give your trust until you are convinced they are truly repentant.

I suppose this method might be used if a person wonders if he is repentant. Which pattern did you follow when you were caught in a sin?

A non-repentant person will eventually repeat his sin. That is the real tragedy. Eventually, he will lose all trust from those around him. He will lose his witness. On the other hand, a repentant person receives a witness through repentance.

I strive to be one who repents. How about you?

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Does Your Preacher Preach the Truth?

I have sat under a number of preachers. Most have been honorable men. They have tried their best to live the lives they lifted up from the pulpit. However, I have found praise for preachers with growing churches who do not live Christian lives.

I have heard a preacher who consistently said he believed every word in the Bible but did not let the Bible speak when he preached. His sermons came from other books he had read. The text that was read each Sunday morning had a vague connection to what he would say. I concluded he didn't have much use for the Bible. His talk of believing the Bible was just rhetoric.

I have heard preachers praised for their church's growth. Even their actions are praised. They came, fired staff maliciously and set a new marketing approach for the church. People flocked in from everywhere because of the preacher's drive and ambition. He was great entertainment, too. What does "love your neighbor as yourself" mean when you have treated others harshly? Isn't he just a clanging cymbal without love?

I have seen preachers tell staff members that they will be resign and get several months salary if they will simply tell the people that "God is leading them (the staff members being fired) to something else." Unfortunately, the staff members accept the lie because they want to provide for their families. Heaven help them if the truth gets out. How do you preach "Thou shalt not lie" when you have encouraged lying?

I have known preachers who would tolerate sin in the church because the sinner was a great giver or a prominent person in the community. These preachers did not address these sins as Paul instructed. They overlooked them for the sake of the money or the ripples of condemnation. (It's amazing but you will often be condemned for standing up for righteousness.) They sweep the sins under the carpet and do not let them out when the Bible says they need to be brought into the light.

I don't need to tell you how many preachers who have preached against adultery while committing it or against homosexuality while molesting little boys.

My purpose is not to bring suspicion on your preacher. I want people to recognize what they have. Those who do not preach the truth need to be helped to succeed at another profession. Of course, I am not saying your preacher must be without sin. I am asking you: Is he characterized by this sin? If he has done this several times there is no repentance.

On the other hand, you have a real gem if you have a preacher who lives what he preaches. You should commend that preacher. You should take a little time today to thank God for him. You should send him a note of gratitude.

Success as a Christian is living a life that is becoming like Christ. It is no different for preachers.

God bless preachers who truly preach the truth!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Encourage Those You Meet Today

Some people think church is a place where you go to get someone to make you feel bad about yourself. I wonder why people would want to go to a church like that. I don't like to go to places where they tell me I am rotten. I'll bet there are lots of others that feel the same as I do.

This doesn't mean that there aren't times that you shouldn't feel bad. You should feel bad if you lied to someone. You should feel bad if you have said something that has hurt someone. The tragedy is when you leave people in that condition. If you are going to tell the them the bad news you must tell them the good.

I taught sixth grade public school several years ago. I had one little boy in my class that was as tough as nails. I could have beaten him with a piece of barbed wire and he wouldn't have flinched. He had been told he was a bad kid who would never do anything great in school all of his life. Many of these prophets of discouragement were teachers. I took a different approach with him.

One day he was acting up in class. I asked him to step outside so I could talk to him. I closed the door and stood in the hallway and told him that I loved him (that's a little scary for a teacher to do now but this was in the middle 70's) I told him that I expected great things from him but I was disappointed in his actions that day. I told him that I had confidence in him as a leader and someone who could do anything he set his mind to.

He began to cry. Not just a little either-he wailed. I had only put my hand on his shoulder. He was not physically hurt in any way. I wondered if anyone had told him these things before. He really didn't want to disappoint me.

I sent him to the boys room to wash his face so that the others wouldn't know he had been crying. Unfortunately, his eyes were still red when he re-entered the classroom. All the other children knew how tough he was. They must have thought I had beaten him.

He began to live up to my expectations. He was a really good kid. It's amazing what people can do when you encourage and put your confidence in them. They seem to want to please the ones who care about them. They want to continue to hear words of encouragement.

Try this little experiment today. Give someone some genuine words of encouragement and see how they act toward you. See how they do the thing you have encouraged them in. I'll bet they do it better. I bet they will treat you differently too.

Most of us know our own failures. That's why we believe others when they tell us how bad we are. We need someone to encourage us so that we don't stay in our failures. God made us to do great things but we need each other to help us believe this.

Encourage someone and be a partner with God in seeing others do great things. Pass this along to others who will encourage others who will encourage others.

Monday, March 9, 2009

God Is Always on Your Side

Many television stations claim to be "on your side." This means they have a person who investigates injustices, tries to set them straight and reports these victories. I suppose their failures never make the air. Of course, they need to be made aware of your problems before they can be "on your side."

This is not the case with God. He is always on your side. However, that doesn't mean bad things won't happen to you. He takes bad things and makes them good. He takes the things you lack and shows Himself as the one who provides. He takes the injustices and rights the wrongs. He just doesn't do it when we tell Him He must.

God takes a car wreck and brings families closer to Him. He has family members come to saving knowledge of Christ by a terminal illness. He takes the loss of a job to show that He can be trusted. This trust results in a closer walk with Him and others coming to know Christ. You always rejoice when the bad times are over but not just because they are over. You rejoice in what God accomplished with the bad times.

It is often hard to see God when things are really bad. That is because we bring our bad situations close to our eyes and God looks a lot smaller in comparison. If we bring them close enough, we can't see anything but our bad times.

That is why God says that we should give them to Him. He wants them because He cares for us.

Nothing will ever change that. There is nothing we can do to make God love us less. There is nothing we can do to make Him work for us less. He has given His own Son; how much more does He have to do to prove He cares for us?

You should give God your troubles. You should tell yourself that you know He is on your side. It goes like this: I have (name your trouble) but God is on my side. He wants (this trouble). I gave it to Him. He will make things good because He is always on my side.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

The Slavery of the Circumstance

The coach enters the locker room and the players gather together. He will give that speech that coaches give before games. It is the one that will inspire the players to play beyond themselves.

He says, "You are not my players. I inherited you from the last coach. He was a loser. You are losers, too. I don't expect any more than that from you. Remember, I am behind you even though you will lose anyway. It's not your fault. You are losers. It's not my fault either. I inherited you as players. Now, who wants to play?"

No coach in America would give that speech but I hear it often. People fall into a slavery of their circumstances. One will say, "I'm just a poor man, " and another says, "I don't have much education," and they act as if that is a great excuse for doing nothing about it.

Your present situation does not have to be your final one. I have heard some tell me that the reason they didn't get an education was because they had to go to work. There are countless people working and getting an education. They go at night and work full-time jobs during the day. It is difficult but not impossible. They have decided they will not be slaves to their circumstances.

Many people are more likely to complain about their circumstances than do anything about them. They will complain about their jobs but not look for another. They will complain about their weight but continue eating at a pace to gain weight.

Please admit one thing. You are a slave to your circumstance because it is difficult to change the circumstance. It may mean you have to ask for advise. It may mean that you have to give up television for six years so you can study to get a better education. It may mean that you have to get up early and walk several miles every day before you go to work to lose that weight.

God did not create us to be slaves. He created us to be more than conquerors. He made us to be victorious. God provided so that death itself could not conquer us. It is time we stopped believing the "we are losers" speech and become who we are intended to be.

Do you have a circumstance that has enslaved you? Isn't it time to break free? What do you need to do to be free of that circumstance?

Do it.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

What Makes a Good Sermon?

A preacher needs to constantly be aware that it doesn't matter which Sunday it is when he delivers his sermon. Every opportunity to preach God's word is special. There are no special sermons for special occasions which need to be better than others. The heart of the preacher committed to God is the first and foremost quality in a good sermon.

A good sermon is covered in prayer. There should be prayer for the preacher before the sermon is delivered, prayer by the preacher for a heart to hear from God and prayer during the sermon for the people and the preacher. The work of a sermon is done by the Holy Spirit. The preacher is just the delivery boy.

Sermons should be experienced before they are delivered. I don't mean that a preacher must experience the sin before he can preach but even when he preaches about certain sins he should know the pain they cause families, individuals and God. He should be aware that he, too, could be in that sin if not for the grace of God. He needs to let God's word run through him before he speaks of it to the congregation.

A good sermon is an act of obedience. The preacher should not measure the success by the number of decisions that were openly made. It may be that the sermon was for one person in the congregation (though that is very rarely the case). The preacher must answer the question, "Was I faithful to God in this sermon?" If the answer is yes, there is no need to scrutinize the sermon further.

A preacher should not say he has preached a good sermon by the praise he receives. Not everyone will love a sermon which God has delivered through a preacher and some people will love sermons that don't change anyone for God's glory.

A good sermon must be biblical. The preacher has nothing to say if he doesn't say it from God's word. It is His word for all time. It will never fade away. It is powerful; more powerful than a two-edged sword. The preacher cannot be obedient without being faithful to the Word. He must study the Word and pray of it. It must become a part of him before the sermon can be delivered.

I hope that you hear a good sermon this Sunday.

Friday, March 6, 2009

God Has Not Forgotten You

I wondered if God had forgotten me. I was having a terrible time in the ministry. I begged God to move me to a new church. I prayed each day. I told Him that I could not make it one more day. Of course, I said the same thing the next day.

I tried blackmail when begging didn't work. I told God that I would leave the ministry if He didn't give me what I needed. I told Him that I would not serve Him again. I told Him that I would forget Him. He told me that He could do all that He was doing through me with someone else but that I could not do anything without Him.

Bargaining came after the blackmail. I told God all of the things that I would do for Him if He would move me. I said I would love more and give better and forgive all and anything else that was more than anyone else. He told me that all He wanted me to do was be obedient to Him. There is no way to do more.

So, I waited. I prayed. I told Him I knew He love me. I told Him that He had the right timing in mind. I grew closer to Him than I ever had before. I learned more about forgiveness and love than I have ever learned before. I began to understand patience. I loved God with a greater love.

I cannot say that I love those times when I have thought that God has forgotten me. I don't like pain. Who really does? I do love what God does with me during these times.

God hadn't forgotten me. He was growing me in a way that I would never have grown if I had not gone through the tough time. I am sure that every time I wept through the crisis that He wept with me. He didn't enjoy sending me through this time. He knew it was necessary.

I was moved at the right time to the right church. I praised God for the move. I praise Him more for the changes in my life.

You may be going through an extremely tough time right now. I am one who knows what you are feeling. God has not forgotten you any more than He had forgotten me. At the right time (not our time but His time) He will deliver you.

Would you send this blog to someone you know who is going through a tough time? They need to know God hasn't forgotten them either.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

The Sun Can't Be Seen When the Debts Are Piled So High

There is a local furniture store that will sell without customers having to make any payments for years. It means their furniture is priced so high they can afford to wait on your payments. It means that they are going to ask for serious collateral before making this loan. It means it is to their advantage to sell their furniture this way. I cannot understand why anyone would accept this deal. Why can't people be patient enough to wait until they can afford furniture? They will get it at a much better price with cash.

I fear debt. The Bible says, "The borrower becomes the lender's slave." (Proverbs 22:7) I don't want my ministry to be hampered because of my debt. The Bible also says, "The wicked borrow and do not repay." All debts must be repaid or I am wicked. If I can't afford it now, why should I believe I can afford it later? I limit my debt to my house. I used to think that was an appreciating investment. I am not so sure anymore. I pay my credit cards off every month. I just don't want to say, "Lord, I can't do what you want because I have so much debt."

America is borrowing heavily from China. What does that tell us? What happens if they were to call for their loans to be paid quickly? Would we become their slaves? Will our children be the slaves of the Chinese because of our desire to avoid difficult circumstances? Is it immoral to hand people such a large debt?

I know this sounds political but it is truly a moral issue to me. I am sorry for all the greed America has displayed which got her into this situation. I am sorry that it will cause immediate hardships to people. I, however, do not believe it is better to delay these hardships on others. I believe our generation needs to be the one who owns its own mistakes and sins. It would be extremely hard but we should hand the next generation a better America than we are doing now.

The generation before my generation knew that they wanted their children to live a better life. They fought a world war to keep us safe and prosperous. They paid a huge price to hand us an America we could do anything with. Don't we have that same responsibility for our children and grandchildren? Aren't we just a greedy as those who placed us in this recession when we put off our debts to the next generation?

We have two choices: Borrow our way so high in debt that we will never see the end of it or take our lumps, brush ourselves off and show what Americans are made of.

If you choose the first I recommend you start teaching your children Chinese. The first word they will need to know is "master."

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Is America's Morality Dead?

I heard a politician talking about his party this morning on tv. He said they (his party) had to determine what would get their party elected. I wondered if he knew what he just said.

What is wrong with determining what the core values and morality of who you are and seeking others who will join you? Could it be that we don't have a stabilizing morality in our country any more? Are we only seeking what appears to make our lives better without thinking what these actions will do to our souls?

Politicians think they are selling themselves to the public. They think that they must be what the public wants. They change from day to day so that they can blow with the winds of public sentiment. It is said that an honest person can't be elected.

Is it more valuable to be elected that to be honest?

Our country was founded as a republic not a democracy. The rule of law established within the Constitution and it's amendments were to lead the country as it developed ways to protect its citizens. The founding fathers knew that a true democracy was doomed. Every decision would be met with a vote. Right and wrong could be changed depending who showed up for the vote. They believed that a general election would keep the politicians in line. They believed that a majority of the people were hard-working, honest people who would do what was right. They believed that corrupt politicians would be thrown out of office and moral ones would be elected. It worked for many years. At least the politicians weren't overtly immoral.

Now, we seem to be swayed toward how we feel rather than by the constitution. The nation often rejects any statements which reflect strong morality. I believe this, not religious freedom, is the greatest objection to the posting of the Ten Commandments. People do not like to be reminded that they will have to answer to a Higher Power some day.

Whose fault is it that the nation has lost its morality? I believe it is the Church's. Churches put attendance and offerings at the head of their list as signs of significance and success. They did not adequately respond to immorality within their ranks. It has gotten so bad that surveys reveal that Christians are as likely to do anything immoral as anyone else. Who will model morality if the church fails to do so?

That is why God said, "If my people who are called by my name; will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land." Note that He didn't say anything about the rest of the world. He spoke about the people called by His Name.

I believe that it is our responsibility to return to God humbly with confession to seek His face. I believe we must avoid even the appearance of evil. I believe that our nation is in need of the Church becoming the example of morality again. I believe it is our only hope for deliverance from chaos and possibly anarchy which will soon inhabit our land.

Of course, that begins with me. Would you say this prayer as I have:

Dear God,
Our nation needs to return to You. I will be that beginning. I humble myself before you. I seek Your Face. I ask for your forgiveness of my sins. I ask for your help in turning from any wickedness I have committed. I commit myself to You and to Your ways. I will do whatever You lead me to do. Thank You for bringing my nation healing. Amen.

Is it possible that enough people will do this so that we will see a moral America again?

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Guarding Your Heart

It is so easy to find yourself in a sin before you know it. One moment, you are clean before the Lord and within minutes you are doing something you know you shouldn't do.

I cooked a frozen pizza for lunch yesterday. I told myself to eat only a certain amount. I was so hungry that I ate rapidly. I still felt hungry. I had eaten the whole pizza before I knew it. That may not sound like much of a sin to some people. My problem is that I am already thirty pounds overweight. It is a sin to be a glutton.

I can resist anything but temptation. Temptation is something that I will gradually succumb to. That is why the Bible tells us to flee rather than resist temptation. It is in our nature to fall into it.

What could I have done? I could have eaten slower and allowed my stomach tell me that I had already eaten enough. That would have taken planning before I ate. I could have taken what I said I would eat, wrapped the rest of it in aluminum foil and put it in the refrigerator before I ate. I would have been less likely to overridden these plans and eaten the rest of the pizza.

The point is: Lack of planning in an area of temptation will result in trying to resist sin rather than flee from it. The end product will almost always be sin.

This is why we must guard our hearts. Mine should belong to God. Mine should be like God's heart. I have allowed impurities in when I sin. I must put guards in front of my heart so that sin cannot come close.

Today, I went with the church staff for lunch. I ordered two slices of pizza. I set one aside and asked for a take-out container early. I put one piece in the container and closed the lid. I had a much easier time not eating any more pizza.

You know, you would think I would have learned this by now. How about you?? Please leave me any comments.

Monday, March 2, 2009

The Hardest Thing in the World for a Christian

The hardest thing that Christians should do is having a devotional time each day. It doesn't take much time. It doesn't take any money other than the purchase of a Bible (many churches will give you one if you ask). So why not do that which will produce the greatest positive change in your life?

Part of the reason is that we do not prepare to spend the time. We stay up very late watching programs on tv which will not have a positive affect on our lives. We get up as late as possible. We rush to work or school without a moment to spare. The time to prepare to have a devotional is the night before. That doesn't occur to us.

We busy ourselves with lots of things that don't matter and often forget those things which do. Our whole day is so full that we can't give ourselves any time to stop and meditate. We generally keep this schedule until we get sick. Then, we can meditate but it is under the influence of drugs we are taking so we can get some rest and get back in the race.

Other things seem more important at the time we need to have a morning devotional. There is something over there I must put in its place. There is a call I must make. There is an email I must respond to. These things present themselves to us right at the time we want to have a devotional.

Most Christians don't know how to have a morning devotional. They can't see any productive action produced. My method is to being by prayer. I ask God to speak to me. I, then, read scripture (usually through a book in the Bible) and write what it has said and apply it to my own life. Some times it requires an action from me. I may have to forgive someone or make a commitment to call someone or even explore the possibility of a new ministry. I then close with prayer. I am not very methodical. Many great Christians have kept prayer lists and journal from their praying. This isn't me. I just pray as people and needs enter my mind. The whole process can take anywhere from ten minutes to thirty. I try not let it go over thirty minutes because I don't want to think I can't have a devotional if I don't spend more than thirty minutes. I let the rest of the day order itself around this devotional.

Eventually, I miss a day no matter how many days or months I have gone without missing one day of having a devotional. I can't let that become a habit. I have to make a greater effort the next day.

The benefits are that I give more grace to others since I have been shown grace in my devotional. I forgive because I know I am forgiven. I grow in understanding of the events in my life as ordered rather than random acts of fate. I hear my Lord speak to me. I am changed for the better.

The need will never end. I must keep at these devotionals. A consistent devotional is the hardest thing in the world for a Christian. The effort is way beyond worth it.

Have you had your devotional today?

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Does Church Have to Be Boring?

I have been there too. I have sat through a boring worship service. I didn't know any of the songs. The sermon was one that told me the history of Catholicism which I really wasn't interested in anyway. I just wanted it to stop. The final hymn was the most blessed event of the whole time. It meant it was over!

We have to admit: Not every worship service is going to thrill our souls. Maybe the whole service is for someone else? Maybe my heart is in the wrong place? These may be true some of the time but a lot of the time it is just a boring service.

Worship services should not have entertainment as their primary purpose. Of course, you can tell when a church sets its heart on entertainment. Each song, each sentence and each prayer leads to crescendos which will get the congregation to respond. If they don't the leaders will tell them that there is something wrong with them if they don't fall on the floor with excitement. Crowds and peer pressure can get the individual to just about anything.

Churches whose goal is entertainment are distracting you from the fact that they haven't said anything. Their slight of hand made to look the other way.

Some times church can have lots of substance but say it in the most boring way. The preacher's low monotone voice puts people to sleep even though he is giving the words of life to the congregation. He lacks the excitement he should have that comes with sharing a timeless essential truth.

Here are my suggestions if your church service is only a little boring:

Lean forward when you start getting bored. It is a posture for listening. It will keep you from slumping back and falling asleep.

Get a pen and the bulletin and start doodling. Studies show that people remember 29% more of what they have heard if they doodle. It keeps the hands busy and also keeps us alert.

Ask yourself this question after each of the preacher's sentences: So what? This is not an evaluation but an application into your own life. So what if I do what he has just said. So what if I live with Christ in my heart. What will be the result of compliance with the preacher's message?

Pray during the message. Pray that the preacher will find that message and be able to deliver it. Pray that the Holy Spirit will speak where the preacher is not. Pray that it will be over soon if it is really bad.

Some church services are going to be boring no matter what you do. It certainly doesn' t mean you should stop going. Not every meal your mother made for you was exciting either. You didn't stop eating.

Now, I have to go right now and give an exciting sermon. No kidding!