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Thursday, April 30, 2009

How to Rejoice During Bad Times

Bad times fall on everyone. That is one of the facts of life that often eludes us. We believe we are the only ones who have bad times. I must admit, some people seem to have more than their share but I often find that they also create the atmosphere for bad times.

I believe you will know every point I will make today that will help you rejoice during the bad times. I don't think I am telling you something new. I believe I am reminding you of something that you need to tell yourself again.

First, bad times don't last; they just seem like it. Whatever you are going through will pass. The pain subsides after losing a loved one. Another job will be found if you lose the one you have. You will find a place to live even if your house gets repossessed. Your children will eventually come to their senses and love you again.

This is true even if the fault is your own. You will get out of prison if you have stolen from your company. You can know forgiveness if you have hurt your spouse. You can mend your marriage. You can see victory no matter how bad the defeat is at the moment.

Second, there is a silver lining to the bad time. Bad times are the most effective way for us to learn what we should or should not do again. Bad times make us appreciate the things we had and make what we have more precious.

For example, losing your job makes you evaluate what you should have done. Maybe you should have been going to school at night to learn something else you could do at the present job. Maybe you should have been looking for a new job sooner. Maybe you should have paid more attention to the industry you were in. You may have realized that the days of the company were numbered. This bad times may make you want to always position yourself for something better rather than waiting for the other shoe to fall when the company starts doing badly.

Losing a loved one will make you realize how precious other people are. It should make you realize that there are still loved ones around. You can't do anything for the one you lost but you can invest in those you have. It should make all your relationships sweeter.

Third, you know you are not alone. God never lets you walk through a bad time alone unless you leave Him out. He will give you strength to make it through each day. When you cannot walk another step, He will carry you. If you draw near to Him, He will draw near to you. He will comfort you if you let Him.

Fourth, God uses these bad times to make us stronger. Our faith is challenged. We are forced to rely on Him for strength. We come to the end of our own wisdom and depend upon His. We become better witnesses and we prove ourselves to be His when we stand with Him in the tough times. Tough times are like making a muscle fail during exercise. The failure of a muscle may make us sore but it increases the muscles strength. Bad times make us come to the end of ourselves to depend upon God's strength which makes us incredibly strong.

Fifth, God always makes good out of bad. This doesn't change bad into good but He takes that which is bad and makes something good come out of it. I have often married two people who came out of terrible divorces. Their ex-spouses were destroying them. They divorced and met each other. God hates divorce. He calls it bad but He also takes those who have come through it and makes something good. This new marriage becomes the good for this couple. They could never have had this good without the bad divorce.

I don't think any of these points are going to make you start laughing. They should, however, help you rejoice. Rejoicing is an action that does not require good times. It is a conscious decision. You rejoice in the Lord because of who He is not because you feel like it. You rejoice that this bad time is going to end, not because it is over.

You rejoice not because you know what the future holds but because you know Who holds the future.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

You Are Somebody!

Each day I ride my bicycle past two high schools on my way to work. Many students walk or ride their own bicycles past me. There is one student that I notice each day. He walks by himself. His hair is combed so far forward that he looks at the world like a sheepdog. He never talks to anyone. He neither gives me more or less sidewalk as I pass by.

Of course there are others students who looked like they are dressed for a costume party but this young man has intrigued me. He is hiding behind that hair. You can not see his eyes. I wonder if he can see much either.

This morning I began to wonder why he wears his hair this way. I don't see any of the other students with their hair like this. It may be popular somewhere but it doesn't seem to be at either high school. Why does he want to be so different?

The answer is simple: he wants to be somebody. He wants to be noticed though he may not act like it. He wants to be admired. He wants someone to tell him that he has value.

This condition is foremost when people reach high school. Cliques form. People are left out. There is always someone ready to tell you that you are nobody. Even the teachers may not help. They may not be able to.

You would think that each student would be elevated to somebody by their parents. Maybe they are but being recognized by your peers is a whole other level of somebody.

Parents need to give their children what they need, though. Each child needs to be told that he or she is loved and that the parent is proud of them. The parent also needs to identify what the child is good at and give the child compliments. A child has a hard time recognizing that he is somebody without his parents telling him he is. These three things will certainly help.

I would like to tell the young man that I pass that he is somebody even if no one else tells him that he is. He is somebody even if his parents don't tell him that he is. He is somebody even if all his classmates tell him that he is a loser. He is somebody even if his teacher never says an encouraging word.

He is somebody because the God of the universe loves him. He is somebody because God's only Son died for him. He is somebody because God is seeking him. He is somebody because God has a hope and future that is more wonderful than he can imagine already planned for him.

You, who read this blog, are somebody, too. Don't you find it strange that you can get fifty compliments and one criticism and you will spend all your time thinking about the criticism? It seems that we fear that we are nobody. Most of our lives are spent either living up to or living down what we think other people think of us.

You are somebody no matter if everyone on the earth tells you that you are not. You are loved even if your spouse says he or she doesn't love you any more. You are great at something even when the experts tell you that you are not. Look at all the famous actors and writers who were told they were not any good at their trade. The only one that wasn't any good at their trade was the people who told these, now, famous people that they weren't any good.

Remember that you are somebody no matter what happens today. In fact, you are amazing! Go ahead and say it out loud, "I am amazing!"

Of course, that is because God made you that way.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

God Never Wastes His Grace

Today is a new day. It may be good or it may be bad. You need God's grace for today.

Yesterday is gone. You had God's grace for yesterday or you could never have made it to today. It may have been considered a good or a bad day. You may or may not have noticed God's grace. It was there. You just have to realize that it is. You have to accept that God's grace sometimes takes you through some tough times to get you to what God really wants for you. It is still grace even if the journey is tough. Those tough times are grace when you realize where they will eventually take you.

Tomorrow is in the future. You may be expecting some difficult times ahead. There may be some difficult times that you have not expected ahead. God will not give you the grace for tomorrow today. It is a waste of God's grace. However, God's grace will be there tomorrow. Remember this so that you will not fear tomorrow.

Look for God's grace in today. It will be found in exactly what you need. It may not be what you want. It may be found in a challenge to your faith. It may be found in a promotion in your job. It may be found in a disappointment in a friend. Each of these things need God's grace. He will give it to you when you need it. Look for it and you will find it there.

God never wastes His grace. Yesterday's grace is no good for today. You may see evidence it was there but it is all used up for today. There is no rollover grace. Tomorrow's grace will come tomorrow when you need it. Today's grace is what you need. It is the only grace you have.

God never wastes His grace.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Where Is God in Our Pain?

I have seen many things that are wonderful. I have seen babies born and brighten the whole world. I have seen people succeed in business and spread their wealth and joy with a multitude of people I have seen people marry and be so in love that it makes you sick!

But I have seen terrible things as well. I have seen people walk with their loved ones through a terrible disease which ends in death. I have seen marriages break up and both hearts get broken. I have seen people have their homes repossessed and their dreams drained from them. I have seen singles whose hope for marriage get washed away like sidewalk chalk drawings in a summer thunderstorm.

Where is God when we hurt so badly? Is He stoic, not showing any emotion? Is He the instigator of all this pain so that we will learn a lesson? Is He around at all?

I have learned much from the raising of Lazarus. Lazarus was sick and someone was sent to tell Jesus. Jesus waited before He went to Lazarus. He waited so long it looked as if He could do nothing about the sickness for Lazarus died.

Sometimes God just waits during our pain. I have a hard time here. I wished He would never wait. I assume He does so for a reason but I hate when God merely waits. I can't see Him. I only have faith that He is around. I only have faith that He will be here with me. . . and for me. I suppose it increases my faith but I really don't like it. I hate it when God waits.

Jesus goes to Lazarus' home to find his sisters, Mary and Martha mourning. Jesus sees all the crying people. Then, Jesus wept.

Have you wondered who Jesus wept for? He wasn't weeping for Lazarus because He knew He was about to call him out of the grave.

He wept because those He loved were in pain.

Never forget, you will never weep alone. God will always weep with you. He is not stoic. He loves and cares for you. It pains Him for you to be in pain even when He knows that He will fix the pain.

Jesus went to the grave and told people to remove the stone from Lazarus' grave. Have you ever wondered why? Surely the Person who can call a dead man to life with a word can move a stone with one. God expects us to do what we can. He will do what we can't. Naturally, this seemed like the wrong thing to do because Lazarus would smell by this time.

Jesus commanded Lazarus to come out of the grave. Jesus worked what only He could do. He changed everyone's perspective of who He was in a moment.

After God waits and weeps, He works. He makes something that you never expected. He makes it better.

That doesn't mean that He will always heal or always send a check in the mail. It means that He will act to show Himself to be the loving God that He is.

God knows your pain. He knows exactly where you are. Jesus said that in this world we will have tribulation. But also remember that He said that we should be of good courage because He has overcome the world!

Do me a big favor please. Send this to someone you is in pain right now if you believe it would help them. I want people to know that God loves them even in the middle of their pain.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Waiting on the Holy Spirit

After the resurrection, Jesus told His disciples to "stay in the city (Jerusalem) until you have been clothed with power from on high." The early church would have no power until she had God's power. Where is that power of the Holy Spirit today?

He is rarely presented as the One whom we should wait on. He presence is demanded or forgotten. His power is misrepresented or ignored. We do not wait upon Him for a word or the power to do most of what we do. We make our plans and ask for His blessing rather than ask for His plans and give our blessing.

I wondered as I prepared this, "Would I wait upon the Holy Spirit if He would do a small work in me?" If I will not wait upon Him for something small, I doubt I will wait upon Him for something big. I have no idea what is small or big. I don't think God has that distinction in the things that He does. It takes no more effort for Him to do either.

Waiting on the Holy Spirit is difficult when there are people demanding that you do something. Surely, you don't need to wait to call the Fire Department if your church or house is on fire but many of the decisions in our lives are not as clear cut. Many times we need a word from Him.

I think we are like Saul who offered the sacrifice before Samuel arrived. (1 Samuel 13:9) Saul looked at the circumstances and thought he couldn't wait any longer. He told Samuel that he forced himself to offer the sacrifice because the Philistines were ready for was and his own troops were abandoning the army. The circumstances really don't matter if you have God's power. Saul hadn't learned this and we haven't either.

Do you need a word from God concerning a decision that you must make? Are you willing to wait upon the Holy Spirit to deliver this word? Are you willing to step forward with whatever that word is to rest in His power to accomplish His will for your life?

Answer these questions carefully. The answers and actions that follow will make all the difference.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Why Churches Are Dying

Most churches in America are dying. Most of the churches in America who are growing are doing so by the transfer of members from other churches.

Christians are huddling in mega-churches. These are presented as evidence of God's great work in America. Yet, the percentage of people in America who claim Christianity continues to fall.

Church leaders rush from one fad to another. We grab up each new book that tells us what we need to do. We break our necks to get to a conference that will tell us what we need to do. We do everything but read the Bible and do what it says.

We built great cathedral like churches hoping to attract people They did. People wanted to see the inside of something that looked so magnificent outside. They wanted to be a part of something so beautiful. But the wonder faded in their children. So many of these great buildings stand almost empty on Sundays now.

We went through the "program" era. Each new program that came down the pike would set our church toward growth. We had Sunday School programs, evangelism programs, fellowship programs and discipleship programs. We spent a lot of money but each of these lost momentum and we abandoned them one by one.

Some churches went through a phase of "vision" statements. They heard people tell them that is was the lack of vision that kept their churches from growing. Church leaders formed committees and spent long hours crafted what would be known as the "Church's Vision Statement." It was voted on by the church. Framed and placed on the walls of the church. Filed in the church minutes and promptly forgotten by all.

Then came the "purpose" of the church. We gathered around trying to figure out what our purpose was. We looked for mission statements. We patted ourselves on the backs and said, "We are purpose driven." Those books are gathering dust on our shelves.

During this time, televangelists were gathering large crowds of Christian followers. Often the spouted heresy but gave wonderful performances. They told the people what they wanted to hear and people gave millions to their shows. Churches weren't helped one bit by these great crowds.

When will we learn that we can't grow our church like others have grown theirs? When will we learn that God uses the personality of the individuals to reach people? We can see that clearly in the New Testament. Paul was very different from Peter. Can you imagine Paul coming to Peter and saying, "Can you tell me how you are growing the church? I am willing to buy the notebook and send my whole staff to one of your conferences!"?

The Bible tells us that Jesus will build our churches upon the statement that Jesus is the Messiah. Christians will go out to tell others when they truly believe that. The problem is not programs, vision, mission or purpose.

The reason churches are dying is because they have bad hearts. Anyone with a heart for God would realize that He loves the world and wants to win souls to Himself. Churches are afraid of running because their heart just isn't that strong. Running involves telling others about Christ. It means that you live by faith and are not afraid of spending money when it means reaching people. It means that you will be found in church on Sundays even when there is something better to do that day. It means you will give because you want to see souls won for Christ. It means exertion. Bad hearts are afraid to run.

Churches set up guardians which will keep them from exerting themselves. Sometimes that is giving to the denomination. They can't spend the money that they do have on reaching people because we must remember to give to the denomination. The end result is bad for the church and the denomination. If the churches fail, the denomination fails too.

A guardian can be a proposed building. That building is expected to send the church into a new era of growth. Nothing else happens because people have been waiting on that building to be built.

A guardian can be "finding the right pastor." This excuse is used more than any of the others. We will go back to our former greatness when we find the right pastor. Each pastor is rejected so that will not happen. The church greets each new pastor with a facade of enthusiasm. They are willing to let him do anything he wants as long as they don't have to exert themselves. The one that causes the church to grow will demand exertion and that can't happen if you have a bad heart.

Most Christians never see the crowds before them. They do not see the lost marching into hell. They do not know that you could line up the lost and circle the globe over thirty-seven times. They don't know that this line grows over twenty miles every day. They have focused on themselves so they can't see the lost. It takes a good heart to see the lost.

Most non-believers say they would come to church if someone would invite them. Jesus said that we should pray to the Lord of the Harvest to send forth laborers. These laborers will have good hearts to get out into the fields for His harvest.

Yet, the prayer meeting is all but a forgotten part of churches. Prayer meeting is an organ recital for most of the churches which have one. We are praying for Sister Sue's liver and Brother Al's kidneys.

Churches aren't growing because they haven't gone to their knees. Sure, they will have a prayer emphasis but they are not sustaining the prayers. It may take years of prayer to see the heart of a church changed.

If I am wrong, the Bible is wrong. Then, it is not the word of God. It is just a book that keeps our children off the streets and out of jail.

Would you be willing to start a group of praying people in your church? They will pray for the lost and for God to send laborers to reach the lost. They will pray for God to give the church a new heart.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Does Trust Come with Forgiveness?

Someone hurts you. He has crushed your spirit. He has stolen your joy. He has caused tears and a pain that seems to go completely through your body. You feel as if you have been hit by a car and left to bleed to death by the side of road.

The one who hurt you comes to his senses. He asks for forgiveness. You grant forgiveness. Does that mean things go back to like they were before he hurt you? The answer is "no" but many people do not know why.

Forgiveness is given; not earned. It is necessary to forgive everyone of all that they have ever done to you. The one who doesn't forgive has consequences for their unforgiveness. Bitterness may spring up and ruin many of their other relationships. They will never have a right relationship with God if they do not forgive. It simply hurts people to live with grudges against others. You forgive for yourself. You don't need this hurt to continue to hurt you.

Forgiveness is not holding a someone's wrong against your future hopes for them. In other words, you hope the best for the person you have forgiven. You have not forgiven if you are hoping for their demise.

Trust is earned; not given. This is why the relationship does not go back to what it was like before. The offending party must earn the trust he had before he hurt you. Trust is the removal of cautions which will keep that person from hurting you again. Trust is earned by faithfulness and time. The continued faithfulness will earn your trust over a period of time.

Many people think that forgiveness guarantees trust. They believe that your lack of trust is proof that you have not forgiven them. That is not true. It is unreasonable to think that a person who has been hurt will put themselves back in a position to be hurt again without precautions. These precautions are the difference between how the relationship was before and after the hurt.

I believe that every abused wife should forgive her husband (or ex-husband). I do not believe she should live in the home as if he never abused her. He must earn trust if she is to live this way.

I believe that every employee should be forgiven if he has stolen from the company. I do not believe he should be given the cash drawer after he has violated the company's trust. In fact, I do not believe that a company can function without trusting its employees and he has forfeited his privilege of working for that company. This does not mean that the boss hasn't forgiven him.

Often the offending party says that he hasn't been forgiven because things are not like they were. He tries to make the one he has hurt feel guilty. Many times this works because the offended party doesn't know that he is asking for trust but calling it forgiveness. The answer must be that in time with continued faithfulness trust will be given.

Don't let people continue to hurt you. Do not fall into their whining about how you have not forgiven them. Protect yourself but give forgiveness freely. Pray for those who have hurt you. Ask God to bless them by changing their hearts to ones of love.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Have You Kissed Any Frogs Today?

You have probably watched the video of Susan Boyle astounding the judges of "Britain's Got Talent." No one expected much. She didn't have the look of a performer. Yet, when she opened her mouth the whole world noticed the beauty behind the facade. She told the world she had never been kissed. I think the world is now giving her that kiss which has long eluded her.

I was never one for fairy tales. However, one memorable tale is when a princess kisses a frog who turns into a prince. Actually, he was a prince all along. He was cursed by a witch or a wizard-- honestly I forget the details. The kiss released him from the curse.

How do you know that the frog you are kissing is a prince in disguise? How do you know when a rather plain looking woman will thrill the world with the voice of an angel?

You don't. I guess the only solution is to kiss a lot of frogs.

Maybe you are a frog yourself. I want you to know your value to God. Be encouraged even if the world never notices you. You have the kiss of God upon you.

There are people around us every day who need a kiss. That kiss may take the form of a compliment or a word of encouragement. You can change a person's whole day with a little encouragement. Enough encouragement and we could change the whole world. There would be so many more princes (and princesses) if we would take the time to kiss a frog every day.

Look around you. Go kiss the first frog you see.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Is It Hard for You to Say, "I Love You?"

Some people tell others that they love them all the time. They do not have any fear of saying the words. Others have a difficult time actually saying the words. If asked, they will admit that they love other people but they simply don't say the words. Why is that?

Jesus said that His disciples would be known by their love for one another. The Bible says that we can't even love God if we don't love one another. These should be compelling reasons for Christians to be known by our love but is this the picture the world has of us? Unfortunately we are known for our boycotts and our angry speeches which try to tell the world to act like us. They, of course, do act like us with angry responses.

Sometimes people can't separate a person's actions from the person. They simply cannot hate the sin and love the sinner. They treat them as one because they see the person as a threat or an abomination. They fail to remember that God loves each sinner equally. They also forget that He desires that everyone come to Him. He is motivated by His love for each and every person to have sent His Son to die for our sins. He continues to call people to Himself by His love. We are His agents to bring that love to them. He holds us responsible. We should be loving people into God's kingdom.

Sometimes people have a hard time saying, "I love you, " because the words give some control to the other person. Love is a powerful force. It causes people to sacrifice for others. It makes them listen and even obey the other person. It makes them vulnerable for hurts. Maybe this is why the words are so precious when you hear them. They should be treasured because they are words of trust. They also are words that build trust.

The words, "I love you, " can also be words of protection. Many years ago, when I was a much younger man, a college co-ed came into my office. She sat on the corner of my desk and started talking to me. I do not know what her intention was but I was scared of how it appeared to me. I asked her to pardon me for a moment for I had forgotten to do something that morning. As she continued to sit on the desk I picked up the phone and called my wife. I said, "Honey, I forgot to tell you something before I left, " I paused and continued, "I forgot to tell you, 'I love you'." The co-ed slid off my desk and sat in a chair before the phone conversation was over. She never knew that my wife wasn't at home and I was talking to a ringing phone!

The words "I love you," protected three people that day: me, my wife and that co-ed.

So, today my challenge is to tell someone whom you love those three little words that may scare you. They will make you vulnerable. They will obligate you. They will protect you, build trust and just be a part of being a Christian. Call or text someone right now.

Yes, right now or else the moment will pass you by.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

What Does God Have to Say about Fear?

There are certainly lots of things to be afraid of. You may have lost your job or believe that it is in danger of being lost. You may wonder how you are going to pay your mortgage or how your children and grandchildren are going to pay the national debt. You may fear your boss or your spouse or the lady down the street who threatens to sue everyone who crosses her.

There is a difference between the person who is merely afraid to fly and one who is afraid. One has a specific instance in his life while the other is being bombarded by fears. The latter is anxious and becomes nervous. This can cause us to do unwise things. You just want to stop being afraid.

I have heard some motivational speakers tell how you can change your attitude and therefore your fears. I believe that most of this is just covering up what you are feeling. You somehow put your fear into another room which you never enter. It sounds good but the fear is still there. It might get out again.

The Bible tells us that we are to cast all of our fears upon God. That seems like a good thing to do but our casting seems to have a rubber band tied to it. It keeps coming back no matter how hard we cast. Casting without prayer will always result in the fear bouncing back to us.

Specifically the Bible says we should pray with an attitude of prayer and specifically what we need. The attitude we should take is one of expectation evidenced by thanksgiving. We can fully expect that God will hear our prayer unless we already know it is against His will. We can expect that God has the power, knowledge and goodness to do what we really need no matter what. This means that the circumstances do not indicate the outcome. God can enter into any circumstance and change the outcome.

The Bible also says that perfect love drives out fear. I don't have perfect love but He does. When I pray I must get close to God. (This may be the reason so many people have a hard time praying. They are actually afraid of getting close to God.) I cannot help but know Him when I pray. I cannot help but know His love. I know that He is always for me even when all hell is breaking lose around me. His perfect love drives out my fears.

What is it that frightens you? Take it to the Lord in prayer.

Do not be anxious about anything but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your request be made known to God. And the peace of God which surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6-7)

Cast all your fears upon Him for He cares for You. (1 Peter 5:7)

Perfect love drives out fear. (1 John 4:18b)

Monday, April 20, 2009

Is Jesus Coming Back Soon?

Each generation since Jesus was ascended has believed that Jesus would come back during their lifetimes. Our generation is no different. Are things really that different from any other generation?

There are plenty of books that will point to all the parallels with prophecy about Jesus' return and today's events. There have been plenty of books reporting the same things in previous generations. Jesus said it would happen when no one would expect it. I wonder why people keep writing books that predict His return all the while knowing that Jesus said that no one will know.

There is no reason to expect that Jesus will not return today or any other day. The New Testament writers expected Jesus to return during their lifetimes, too. They did not believe that anything could hinder Him from returning.

Each of the current prophetic interpretations are done with the finite minds of humanity. God often steps outside of our mental capabilities to do something we would never have expected. The conversion of Saul is a good example of this. Saul/Paul never expected to become a Christian evangelist until after his Damascus Road experience. God stepped way outside his mental box to to call him.

There were prophecies of the Messiah that were missed by the most learned people around. The Pharisees expected a Messiah who would come because they had returned to God's law. Jesus came and did not recognize them as ones who should be exalted for their efforts. They rejected Jesus because He did not fit into their teachings of prophecy. Only after the recognition that Jesus is the Messiah did people interpret the prophecy correctly. Is it possible that the same thing could happen today concerning the prophecies of His return?

Believing that certain things have to take place before Jesus' return is dangerous. Some may think they have more time to get ready for His return. It will be like cleaning your house to them. They will not clean it until right before the Guest is expected. Continually cleaning the house comes when the Guest can arrive at any time.

Dogmatic statements about His return can be detrimental to preaching about His return. If He does not return at the given time people will treat these statements with less and less alarm. If you warn the villagers that a wolf is coming to take their sheep too many times without a wolf ever arriving, the people will not pay heed to the warning when the wolf actually comes. They will be lulled to sleep when they should be actively working.

However, preaching that Jesus is not coming soon is unbiblical. The Bible taught us to be ready. The parables of Jesus taught us to be ready. Jesus asked if there would be faith on the earth when He returned. Faith is found in Christians obeying Jesus on the day of His return. Each day should be lived with the expectation of His return.

A book was published in the 1980's called, "Eighty-eight Reason Jesus Will Return in '88." I was serving in west Texas and many of the younger adults were reading it. Many of them believed wholeheartedly that Jesus would come on the date determined by the book. Some came to talk to me about their faith. Jesus didn't come back that day even though the writer had some very convincing reasons he believed Jesus would.

I believe we will understand the prophecy when Jesus returns. I believe that some of the interpreters will be right about some of the things mentioned in the prophecies. I believe the danger arises if Jesus does not return at the appointed time or way. I believe this will cause subsequent generations to believe that He will never return.

Finally, I believe He could return today. Whether He is coming soon or not is not my place to say. We watch and pray. We make sure that we are ready for Jesus whenever He comes.

Come, Lord Jesus, come!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Are Christians Hungering for the Lord?

I am usually preaching to the choir when I write these blogs. If you are taking the time to read this, you are probably not one of the people I will address today. You will agree with me but, since you need no change, you will be unchanged.

Today, many, perhaps millions of Christians will have awakened and casually decided whether or not to attend church. It may have been raining or cold outside. It may be so nice that it is such a waste to stay inside. Besides, church messes up a Sunday. Many will go to sporting events to watch or coach their children's playing. They will justify this activity by having someone do a ten minute devotional before play begins.

Nothing would be wrong if this was a once a year activity but this happens more often than these people realize. Even Christians who consider themselves to be very committed only attend church forty times a year. They would be unemployed if they treated their jobs this way. Their jobs only last in this life. Their spiritual walk lasts forever.

Can Christians be characterized by a hunger for the Lord today? Or, are they politely bored with God? (A.W. Tozer) Will it have to get much worse before this attitude will be changed?

After 9/11 the churches filled. People seemed to be looking for answers. The terrorists had scared Americans and they were looking for security. Within weeks no one was scared any more. They no longer thought they needed God to protect them.

King David prayed that God would restore to him the joy of His salvation. He had been confronted by the prophet Nathan about his affair with Bathsheba. He knew he was guilty and longed to come back to his Lord. He probably wondered how he could have gotten so far from the Lord. He grieved inside. He hungered again for the Lord.

People who hunger for the Lord do not treat Him casually. They think of Him with love. They honor Him with praise. They seek Him with their whole hearts.

And they find Him.

Surveys reveal that most Christians say they have not known the presence of the Lord in more than a month. Honestly, many of these have been in church. Do you think that God was not there or that they were not hungering to see Him?

Christians have told some of my staff that we are over the top when it comes to the Lord. They think that a relationship with the Lord is just something that people do. They don't think it should control your life. But this is where they are wrong. It is something that should control your life. The Bible says that God is an all consuming fire, not that He is just a place to get warm.

Unlike most of my blogs, I have no solutions to this problem. I pray and ask God to bring His people home to Himself. I am open to other solutions. I am willing to listen.

I believe Christians should have a hunger for the Lord.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

What Can I Do to Get My Prayers Answered?

There are many people who have formulas for prayers to be answered.

Some will tell you that all you need is faith. They say that your belief will bring whatever you want into reality. Wouldn't that make God the greatest of the irresponsible fathers? Think about it. You have a child who says that he wants something so often or convincingly that you give it to them. Would you give your child something that would hurt him and still consider yourself to be a good parent? Many childish parents think so but most know that this isn't reasonable.

Some of these people say that God had to have faith or He couldn't have done anything. This is one of the most ridiculous statements I have ever heard. Who was God to have faith in? Was He to have faith in something called faith? He didn't call Him self "I Am" because He needed something outside of Himself.

Yet, the Bible says we can have confidence if we ask anything according to God's will. Another words, our prayers should be expressing God's desires for us. This is what it truly means to pray "in Jesus name." Our prayers identify with Jesus so that His name is not merely invoked but is a signature to the check of our prayers.

This carries with it an unlimited supply. God's love for us is unlimited. His supply for our needs is also unlimited. We can address the things we need without feeling we are stepping over the line in our request. We just need a word from God to know what His will is concerning our prayers.

My method is to pray for anything that is on my heart unless I already know it isn't God's will. He will either tell me that He will not answer my prayer like I want and/or tell me that He will do so in another way or give me the faith to believe I will receive what I am praying.

I have some experience doing this.

In 1987 I began to ask God if I should become the senior pastor who preaches to the congregation of any church God would call me to. The answer came rather quickly that I should.
I asked another question. "God, can I preach like (a certain preacher that I admired)?

God responded, "Are you willing to drink from the cup that he has had to drink?"

"Yes," I said without much thought. I reasoned that I would shortly receive a calling from a church. I resolved to pray each morning and each night until I went to become a senior pastor. I did this for eight years and three months.

There were many things that had to happen in my life to accept what God had planned for me. I prayed what He wanted. It certainly wasn't an instant supply. During that time my faith changed. It got much stronger. I am glad it took so long now that I am a pastor but I can't tell you I really loved it while I was praying to see it happen.

I think many people would have thought that I had misunderstood God when I did not receive what I was praying. They do not understand that I was praying what God had already told me. The fact that I couldn't physically see it yet was an act of faith based on God's words to me. I already had what God wanted me to have in my spirit. It took longer to receive it physically in this world.

Sometimes the answers to my prayers are made evident without a spiritual encounter. I prayed earnestly for a lady to recover from an illness a couple of weeks ago. She died the next day. I didn't need more to convince me that this was God's will for her.

Once I was praying for a young man to be healed of a life threatening disease. God told me while I was praying that He was going to use this illness to bring this man home to heaven. I really didn't like that answer but I spent time with the man until he died. My prayers changed. I began to pray that the illness would not be long and drawn out like it generally is. (He was one of the early victims of AIDS.) He died in a relatively short time without the suffering. I knew my prayer had been answered.

So, where do you get this word from God? Sometimes I get it while reading His Word. Sometimes I am praying. Sometimes God will give me His Word through another person. Sometimes I have prayed all night just get an answer. The greatest concern is getting my heart to become like His. I believe this is the key.

Pray with expectation. God has more planned for you than you can dream.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Is It The Devil or Just My Own Temptation?

Most Christians do not know how to separate whether their own desires led them into sin or the devil who did so. I must admit that Satan is very involved in temptation but the Bible has said we should deal with Satan and temptation differently. This means that there is a difference between the two.

The Bible tells us to flee temptation and to resist the devil. The problem comes when we flee the devil and try to resist temptation. We nearly always fail.

Jesus was tempted by the devil. He resisted this evil one by giving the true meaning of God's word. The devil came naming and claiming the scriptures. Jesus responded with His Father's heart.

Temptation is common to people but not all things tempt everyone. Overspending for new clothes will tempt some people to neglect their tithe, their witness for the Lord and their abilities to do what God has called them to. People in tremendous debt are slaves to their lenders. Their own Christian service will be hindered by their debt. Their own desires bring them into sinfulness. Many people would never let clothing get them into this debt. They will be tempted by compromising their Christian principles to get an acting job so that they can be rich and famous. They will be tempted by a picture of a scantly clad woman. They will be tempted by some things that others are not tempted and vice-versa.

Temptation comes from three main desires: the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life. The lust of the flesh is to fulfill the desires of the flesh. This may be through sex or eating or anything that will make the flesh feel good. The lust of the eyes is the desire to have things. It drives the person into debt, fills their garages with unneeded stuff and keeps them always wanting more. The pride of life is the desire to have your name in lights. It is offended when others don't remember their names, know how important they are and disregard them.

Most people are not equally affected by each of these desires. Satan tempted Jesus through food (turn these stones into bread), wealth (bow down to me and I will give you all these riches), and who He is (Satan tempted Jesus to prove Himself as the Son of God. This is an issue of pride if He were to retake what He had given up to come to earth. He told Jesus to throw Himself from the pinnacle of the temple and prove He was the Son of God when the angels came to catch Him.). None of these temptations affected Jesus for He resisted the devil and fled from the temptation.

Desires exist within us. Adam and Eve had their desire before they ever met Satan in the garden. (We assume that was the day Satan and mankind met but they may have known each other for some time before the fall.) Eve's response about the fruit gives us some indication that she understood fleeing temptation. God had said they were not to eat the fruit. Eve added that they were not to touch it. Adam and Eve were fleeing temptation by not allowing themselves to touch it. There reasoning was that you can't eat what you don't touch.

Satan does not create the desire. He brings it into the forefront of our minds. He leads but does not control. He places fears, discouragements and insatiable cravings before us. He uses whatever means it takes. However, once the temptation becomes master of the person, he may not do anything at all. It is all us.

Once a man came to me to ask how he could overcome his problem with pornography. I told him to avoid the magazine racks. (Up until this man came to me I thought pornography was found in smutty magazines.) He told me that he was spending $400 a month on pornography. He was into videos, live shows and I didn't want to know what else. I realized that the devil didn't have to do anything with making him sin. His own temptation was running rampant. Could there have been a junior demon who still taunted this man? Sure, but I don't want to start blaming it all on someone or something else. Some times it is just us.

The Bible tells us to set our hearts on the Spirit and we will not fulfill the desires of the flesh. This is a constant action. It is not an attempt at being perfect but a desire that our hearts belong to our God.

So, what are you tempted by? Do not get near it. Tell some good Christian friends to pray for you. Tell them that you would like to become accountable to them. Meet with them regularly and be honest in your failures and successes. Flee this temptation with all your heart.

Then, you will truly have Satan's attention. He will tell you that you must have your desires that tempt you into sin. You tell him to go to hell where he belongs. You tell him of God's love through Jesus Christ. You tell him that he must leave you because you belong to Jesus. You fight back and pull no punches.

Make no mistake. Satan is very active in the world today. He gives every sign that his days are short. He acts like a scared animal who is about to be captured and put away. He is doing as much damage as possible to destroy those who the Lord loves.

Resist the devil. He will flee from you.

Just a final note: Each time that I have written about Satan, something has happened. The blog before this one I had Vista decide to do one of its infamous updates and shut down my computer right at the end of the blog. This morning at the end of writing this blog our server went down and it would not reboot. We are all kept from the internet until we can get this fixed. I was not able to publish this blog until I copied it over to word processing, brought my laptop to Panera Bread and connected to the internet. Each time I say something about Satan this happens. It makes you wonder if he is involved.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Are All Sins Equal?

Maybe the question that needs to be answered before this one is: What is sin?

According to the Bible sin is falling short of God's glory. This means that we were created with a purpose. That purpose was to give God glory. Sin is any time that we fall short of our purpose.

This is why King David would say to God in Psalm 51, "Against You and You alone have I sinned." David said this after his sin with Bathsheba. He had committed adultery, lied and had her husband killed. Surely, David had wronged Urriah, Bathheba's husband, but the purer definition of sin meant that he had fallen short of God's glory so that his sin was against God alone.

All sin has the same penalty but all sin does not have the same consequences. The Bible tells us that when someone keeps the whole law but stumbles in one, he has become guilty of all. (James 2:10) This means that each sin has at its root the same problem: falling short of God's glory. The penalty for sin is death. (Romans 6:23) There is no measure of one sin being greater than another because sin, falling short of God's glory, has reached its maximum wrong already. We fall short of God's glory and are sentenced to death.

This does not mean that all sin is equal in earthly consequences. Sexual sins are identified as sins against the one who commits them. It says that all other sins are outside the body but the sexual sin is committed against the person's own body. This is because people who believe in Christ have the Spirit of Christ within themselves. (Romans 8:9) Their bonding with another outside of marriage brings Christ Himself into the sin (1 Corinthians 6:15-18). This is still falling short of God's glory but more intimately bringing Christ into the center of the sin. The damage is very spiritual.

All sins have the same remedy: Confession and forgiveness. The Bible tells us that by confession our sins will be forgiven and we shall be cleansed of all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9) Many people do not understand this. They think that confession is telling God what you have done wrong as if God doesn't already know. Confession must have repentance or it is not the biblical confession this verse carries with it. The Greek word for confession is homologeo. "Homo" means the same. "Logos" means word. It is saying the same word. This means that our lives and our mouths must say the same words about our sin. We live it or we never meant it.

No sin is meant to be kept from forgiveness. Many people are afraid of forgiving themselves for what they have done. Maybe they are afraid that by forgiving themselves they will be more susceptible to commit the sin again. It doesn't matter what the reasoning is. Jesus Christ paid the price on the cross so that all sins will be forgiven. Any lack of forgiveness on our part, even concerning our own sins, says that Jesus sacrifice was not enough. You just can't say that.

Jesus told the woman caught in adultery, "Go and sin no more." This would not have been easy for this woman. The culture of that day said that a man could not commit adultery unless he had sex with another man's wife. She must have been married for the charges of adultery to have levied against her. Her sin had been made public. Her husband must know of her sin. He would probably divorce her. The most natural profession for a woman caught in such a public scandal would have been prostitution. She would have had a very difficult time supporting herself by any other means. Jesus did not give her a "pass" for her sin. He gave her a difficult path. Sin would be very hard to avoid.

Not all sins are equally hard to avoid for everyone. One sin will be a problem for a certain person while another person will not even understand how someone can be caught up in that sin. But overall sin is something that we all must flee. It comes as an intruder, stays as a guest and eventually becomes our master if we do not flee from it.

I hope you have a blessed day.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

If Christians Are Supposed to Obey the Authorities; Why Was Paul in Prison So Much?

Paul, himself, said that Christians should obey the government. You would have thought that Paul would have kept his nose clean and never seen the inside of a prison. That, of course, is not the case.

Most of the New Testament was written by Paul. He wrote while he was in prison. He went to prison for disturbing the peace. He preached the gospel of Jesus Christ so fervently that it upset the people in charge. He was placed in prison until the authorities could decide what to do with him. So, why did he keep doing it each time he was released.

Paul saw Jesus as Lord. He believed that he was answering to Him first. Paul knew he must continue to do so at whatever peril in order to continue to follow his Lord. If this meant prison; so be it. His intent was not to break the law but to follow his Lord.

I have to admit that I have only lived this one time in my life. I went on a mission trip to Mongolia several years ago. The intent of the trip was to start a church in a remote village about seventy miles from Ulanbator, the capitol. I had with me a translator and a man from my church who had never been on a mission trip. We were dropped off by a missionary from the area who had never been to this village before. We headed off in an old Russian jeep down a road full of craters that at one time had been merely potholes.

I asked the missionary, "What do I need to do to start a church?"

"Don't know, " came the reply, "I've never been here before."

"What do you suggest?" I persisted.

"Do what works."

"What works?"

"Don't know, I've never been here before," he said again. "Just don't go door to door. It's illegal."
(Actually, you can't go door to door it is more like going hut to hut."

The missionary dropped us off in the village at a home of someone who agreed to take us in for the next five days while we were to see if there was any interest in a Christian church being started. I watched the jeep drive into the distance.

Bob, the man with me from my church, said, "What are we going to do?"

There was only one Christian in this village of 30,000. He had walked or hitch-hiked the seventy miles to the capitol to ask that someone start a Christian church in his village. I was very aware of this man's deep concern for his family and friends. I felt I had a mandate from the Lord to help start this church.

"We're going door to door." I didn't see that we had time to find out "what works." We had paid made too much of an effort and paid too much money to sit still. We needed to get about the Lord's business so we went from hut to hut telling people about the gospel.

I resolved at that moment that I didn't want to be thrown in jail for sharing the gospel but if that is what it took to be faithful to my Lord; so be it. I understood a small part of what Paul went through.

We did see a policeman one day but I am sure he was like most of the authorities of Paul's day: If no one complained, he was not going to get involved. The problem in Paul's day was that people complained and the authorities were brought in.

This day may come again. The ability to share the gospel is continuing to be censored in this country. Christianity is being blamed for many of the ills of the country. It sounds much like Nero blaming the Christians for the burning of Rome. The country is going toward the amorality of the Roman Empire. Unwanted babies were thrown on trash heaps. Homosexuality was a leisure activity. Pornography and prostitution was common. The country was decaying and looking for someone to blame.

I hope that if the day comes when I need to stand up for my Lord or simply try to keep the peace, I will choose my Lord without any contemplation.

No, we have not gotten there yet and we probably won't get there in my lifetime. Then again, if you had told me that we would be where we are now in our morality in the 80's I would have said there is no way this would happen.

Yes, this can be turned around. 2 Chronicles 7:14 is needed now more than ever.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Look Where You Are Going; Know Where You Have Been

We spend a lot of time fixing blame on why things are the way they are. We need to know why but some of the myopic details need less attention. You can study your past until you don't do anything but study your past. You can fix blame until you have destroyed yourself or those around you. You can blame so many things in your past that you have no responsibility for the future.

Find out what went wrong. Determine what it takes to set things right. Then, go for it. This is where we need to spend our efforts. For example, if I am in deep financial problems I need to know how I got there. Was it because of spending with credit cards when I didn't have the money in the bank? Was it because of unexpected bills like a car repair or health issue? Did the interest rate on the house go up steeply?

How will I get out of this problem? Maybe my solution is no more eating out until the bill is paid. Maybe I need to look at my total bills and cut back. Maybe I need to take my credit cards and bake them in the oven. You have to know that there is a solution and that this solution will solve the problem. You can't just wring your hands and say, " O my goodness, O my goodness!"

Know where you would like to be. If you would like to be debt free, physically in shape, growing in the Lord and the best spouse you can be, ask yourself what it will take to get you there. Then, ask yourself a much more important question: Am I realistically willing to do what it takes? If the answer is no then you have made the decision to stay exactly where you are. If the answer is yes then you need a plan.

You know how you got where you are. You must change that in order to get where you want to be. You can't expect to keep doing what you are doing and get a different result. That's just plain crazy!

Schedule what you need to do. Exercise daily at a time set aside for exercise. Read your Bible and pray daily at a time set aside. Even make your lunch before going to work if you are trying to save money. This takes setting aside the time to make the lunch.

Keep doing the right things until they become habits. After they are habits keep doing the right things like with fervor or else they will stop being habits. Lots of people are great starters. They stop smoking every day but start the very next time they need cigarettes. They start an exercise program but quit when they get sore. They start a diet but quit when the opportunity to blow it comes up. They will get up early one morning to read their Bibles and pray but stop the very next morning because a good movie on tv kept them up late. You have to see where you are going and keep going there or you will never arrive.

Do what you need to do until you are tired of doing it. Then, keep doing it and you will find yourself where you would like to be. Time, effort, determination and a plan will do more for you than just determining how you got where you are right now.

Remember, God will be right there with you. Never, never forget that.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Is America a Christian Nation?

President Obama recently said that America is not a Christian nation. I don't think this is what he intended to say. I think he meant that all faiths are welcome in America. This is not true in many of the Muslim countries. I believe he was making a statement of religious freedom. At least, I hope this is what he was doing.

This has raised the question whether we should ourselves a Christian nation. One would be hard pressed to deny that the majority of our nation's founders were anything but Christian. The very fact that they set the government up with three branhes of government in which each checks the power of the other two is founded on the Christian principle of depravity. People take advantage of each other if not checked. This comes from the Christian Bible. The wording in the Declaration of Independence speaks of a creator without identification but it is easy to determine who they were speaking of by the sentiment of the country during that time. We would have to say that America was founded by Christians.

But is America a Christian nation now?

Newsweek reported in 2007 that 87% of Americans identified with Christianity. Last week that percentage was donw to 76%. There are certainly less people who are making the claim. I have several questions about these numbers.

Has the precentage been affected by immigration? Many immigrants will have come from countries where Christianity is in the minority. These are the ones who come here legally. They enter a nation with religious tolerance. They can practice their religion or practice no religion at all.

Were many of the ones who once stated that they were Christians more led by wanting to be religious than true belief? People often don't want to rock the boat. It may have been embarassing to say that you didn't have any religion and Christianity seems to be a good choice if you have to pick one. They said the closest thing on their minds.

Does the political climate of today make a difference in how people answer the poll? We seem to think that America has caused all the world's problems. People may see this is because of religion. Someone contacted CNN last week saying that the way to curb population growth was to attack the religious nuts who think you should have as many babies as possible. He looked as faith as a detriment. I suppose he was speaking of abortion because I don't know if this guy knows this or not but people generally don't have babies because they are religious. I think you would be hard pressed to find any significant number of people who are having babies for religious reasons. Christianity seems a good target today.

Are these polls taken so that the answers will turn out like the one doing the survey wants? Is the question, "do you consider yourself to be aligned with Christianity?" Is the question preceded with, " do you consider yourself a spiritual person?" Some people might reject Christianity after stating they consider themselves spiritual. Being spiritual is popular these days. Being spiritual often denies any religious affiliation.

But, for the sake of argument, let's say that each of the surveys taken through the years are exactly the same. Has Christianity lost its influence from former years? I don't think I would have to poll people to find the answer. Yes, Christianity has lost its influence.

Christians are the major reason that less Americans are identifying with Christianity. We protest the sinfulness of the world while sweeping our own sins under the carpet. We are mean toward people while telling others that they need to love one another. We boycott organization which do not do what we want when Christ told us to love our enemies and pray for them.

My personal belief is that many people who identify with Christianity aren't really Christians. I believe this because they do not act with grace and love when dealing with others. They have no fruit of the Spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control) prevalent in their lives. Jesus said we would know whether a person was a Christian or not by their fruit. Non-christians believe that anyone who claims to be a Christian is a Christian. They don't know that many of these do not give the gospel in the way they live so they reject Christianity.

"America is not a Christian nation" has yet to be proved. If the statement is true, I say we seek to change that statement but not by enacting laws to force Christianity upon others. I say we seek those who do not know Jesus and tell them the true gospel with our words an actions. However, if the statement is false, let's prove that it is false by our grace toward others.

Our faith is one of grace. So, go into the world and give everyone you meet heaven.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Why Was Jesus Resurrected?

I think most people have heard the story of Jesus having died for their sins. However, they may not know why it was so significant that He was resurrected. They do not understand why the Apostles hung their entire message on the resurrection. They see the work of Jesus as completed on the cross. Why an epilogue?

A dead man cannot save you. This is something that His disciples knew. They had seen all the miracles but could not believe in someone who could not conquer death for Himself. Magicians did seemingly miraculous things but none of them came back from the grave. No one would pledge their allegiance to a mere miracle worker. He must be God and God must be resurrected. Anything else was just superstition.

A dead man cannot lead you. Paul said that if we confess with our mouth, "Jesus as Lord" and believe in our hearts that God raised Him from the dead we will be saved. It is essential that a boss be alive to lead you. We can follow along with generalities just so far. We can keep the ways but we cannot "hear" what the individual should do without someone currently speaking. He lives within our hearts so that we can be lead by Him. This makes no sense if He is dead.

A dead man cannot help you. Why would we pray in Jesus name if He is dead? I have been to lots of funerals and never asked a dead person for a thing. They cannot do anything for me or you or anyone.

The resurrection proved that Jesus is alive. It changed the whole message of the Apostles because their message was not one of someone whom they followed for a few years, taught a lot of great ways to live and died for His own principles. He is One who is God. He is living.

If Jesus was not resurrected, He was either a liar or a lunatic. He said He would be resurrected. The person who says this is either deluding himself or others if it is not true. His return proved in a very physical, objective way that He is who He said He is.

The resurrection so changed the Apostles lives that most of them gave their lives to get this message to the people. They believed the resurrection because they had seen it with their own eyes. They knew their resurrection was guaranteed because they had seen the Risen Lord.

The resurrection changes everything. It has changed my life. Has it changed yours?

Saturday, April 11, 2009

What Happened on the Saturday before the Resurrection?

What do you think happened on that Saturday before the resurrection of Christ?

Did Peter stop crying? Did the everyone return to their Jewish roots and go to the synagogue? Did they just mope around, not knowing what to do? Do you think they had any idea that God's plans were going just like He wanted?

They did not anticipate what the next day would bring. They did not know that God was about to do something that would not only change their lives but would change history itself. They despaired but God had it all under His control.

I think of all the times that I thought things were out of control. I certainly like to tell others that God knows what is going on and still has things under control even though circumstances say He isn't even aware of their problems. I am another person when things go south for me. This is called doubt. James says I should expect to receive nothing from God if I doubt.

I shouldn't expect to receive but God still delivers. I can safely say that none of Jesus' followers really expected a resurrection. They had all the doubt that could be had to never see the resurrection. They did because of God's love not because of their faith.

The next day their faith was completely changed. The words of Jesus went from mystery to revelation. Their hopelessness became nothing but hope. They tears were turned into joy.

I learn the message of the resurrection right after the darkest of nights. I say, "God I will never doubt you again when things look bad." I am ashamed when I admit I have doubted Him when things got bad again.

Remember the Saturday before the resurrection the next time things get really bad. Even when all seems lost, God is in control. Even when things look like they will never get better, God brings the best.

Make plans to find a good church to be in tomorrow. God bless.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Are Christians A Mile Wide And An Inch Thick?

I have tried to teach theology to Christians. They didn't want it. In fact, it made them mad. Many want to keep their options open. They don't care what the Bible says. Instead of having any standard at all, they like to do what they like which fits the circumstances they are in.

For example, they like preaching which says that they will receive lots of money from God if they just have enough faith. It allows them to control the situation. It gives them something to strive for. Unfortunately, they are not striving to know God. They strive to receive from God. They do not take into account that Paul said that he had learned to be content with little or much. They think that having little is just a lack of faith.

Some have liked the idea that even God had to access faith in order to create the universe. This makes faith an entity to itself. It sounds like something out of Star Wars. "The Force is all around you. It is powerful and gives you great strength," says Rev. Obi Wan Kenobe. Faith itself is god if God had to access faith Himself.

Most Christians are biblically illiterate. They don't know what the Bible says. They are completely dependent on what others tell them. They do not read the Bible and their understanding comes in snippets read on Sunday mornings from the pulpit. They keep waiting for the movie to come out so that they don't have to read the book.

Many Christians are also tied to their traditions. Their beliefs are based on the way things have always been done and always been taught. Its amazing to hear Christians make a method into something spiritual. Many Christians believe the offering must be taken right after the special music. They somehow see this as spiritual. They have no idea that much of what we do has more to do with tradition than theology.

Some Christians will believe two opposing theologies at one time. They don't even see the conflict. I personally heard a famous evangelist do this once. One night he preached to us about the miracles that happened when he first went into the ministry. The next night he preached that the miracles ended with the completion of the New Testament. This man was also a pastor for many years. I wondered how confused his congregation must be. I learned they didn't think of themselves as confused at all. They were quite happy believing two opposing thoughts at the same time.

The confusion many Christians have experienced comes from having many pastors at their churches. The average pastor only moves to a new church every couple of years. Seminaries do not major in theology. They major in methodology. These pastors make up their own theology. They preach this theology to their congregants. These members will receive another pastor in a few years who will teach them something else. They get comfortable making up their own theology. They will believe the pastor they have if they like him. If not, their theology goes back to the last pastor they liked. Therefore, a single congregation can have several opposing theologies.

I would like to challenge Christians to develop a solid theology. I would like to challenge them to get with other Christians and discuss things like: How does someone get to heaven?, Is Jesus Christ God?, Are all people born sinners?, What is the meaning of total depravity?, What is substitutionary atonement?, Does God help those who help themselves?, Why doesn't God heal everyone? and many other questions.

The real problem is that most Christians Bible is not read and studied. It is an ornament rather than a map. It is owned but not lived. It is carried but not held.

The Bible says there will be people to will want their ears tickled some day. I think that day has come. God bless you as you get to know the True God.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Destruction of Your Name

Why don't people protect it if a good name means so much?

A good name is essential to the Christian. It is the good name that gives the Christian the privilege of being heard. It is the good name that opens doors. It is the good name that relaxes people.

A good name can be had by building trust. Trust gives you the honor of speaking to others who will listen. Trust makes what you say accepted. It encourages others to follow. It is admired.

Trust takes faithfulness and time. Trust is doing what you say consistently. It is doing what is honorable consistently. Our country has lost this concept. We give children self esteem without teaching them honor. Honor is earned. Not everyone gets to be honored.

I have served on church staffs where ministers have been fired for sinful behavior. Each time the minister didn't understand why he was fired. They thought that people would just forgive and go on. They didn't understand that they had lost the trust of the people. Trust is all that a minister has. There is no ministry when the minister has lost this. Of course, the churches did forgive these ministers. They fired them because they had acted in an egregiously sinful manner. This emptied any trust that the people could have. They would have to rebuild that trust in order to be in the ministry. Trust is faithful plus time.

Some would have said that they came to the churches without having built trust with faithfulness and time but this is not true. They had been inspected at their last place of service and believed to be trustworthy. Their name was good so the church hired them. Now, they had lost the congregation's trust and no longer had a ministry.

In each case, their good names were destroyed in a short time. I do not believe in telling the church a lie when dealing with sinfulness. I don't believe in giving the church all the details either. I tell them as much as the church needs to know. The goal is not to injure the person but to be truthful. Their good name is gone. Their ministry is gone.

Often people will promise to be faithful from that point on. They will promise to rebuild their names. Sometimes they do. These people become exceptionally trustworthy and rebuild a stronger name than they had before. However, most people don't rebuild their names. They just want things to be like they were before they got caught. They neither want to invest the time or effort to get a good name.

A good name must be protected. Often people will say things about you that are not true. They may have surmised that you have done something that you really didn't. You must go to these people and explain what you really did. Otherwise, the rumor will remain alive. Your good name can be lost without protecting it.

You are either building on or eroding your good name every day. You are either doing what you said you would do or you are not. You are either acting trustworthy or not. You are either honorable or not. It is constant.

The Bible says, "A good name is to be more desired than great wealth." Unfortunately most people don't know this until they have destroyed theirs.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Things Satan Doesn't Want You to Know

"We will help you with things the credit card companies don't want you to know!" This message blared on my radio on the way to work. Of course, you have probably heard, "things the government, banks and others, " don't want you to know. So, I started thinking, "Are there things that Satan doesn't want people to know?" Of course.

I can't say this will be exhaustive but I can think of several things without taxing my brain too much.

Satan doesn't want people to know that the trip to heaven is paid for. He wants people to think that they have to work their way to heaven. He doesn't want them to know that Jesus paid for their sins and wants to give them His forgiveness. This is like getting a job at Walmart hoping that you can save enough money to buy the crown jewels of England when you are actually an heir to the throne and don't need to work for the jewels at all.

Satan doesn't want people to know that they don't have to keep beating on themselves for their sins. He wants to keep accusing them of the things they have done. He wants them to feel guilty all of their lives. He doesn't want them to know that their sins were committed against God and and the payment for those sins does not need their approval. He wants them to think that they must do some great penance for their sins. He doesn't want them to know that whatever they do won't be enough. He wants them to think that they can have a higher standard than God for sins to be forgiven. He doesn't want them to know that Jesus death was the highest price possible.

Satan doesn't want people to know that he will run from them if they would resist him. He wants them to believe that he is the most powerful being ever. He wants them to believe that God has no power over him. He wants people to believe that they should run from him. He doesn't want people to know that he is a wimp when you invoke the name of Jesus.

Satan doesn't want people to know that they have access to infinite power. He wants them to believe they have only what they have within themselves. He doesn't want people to know that God is always for them. He asks people to pray to Him. He promises that there is nothing that can be beyond us when we work with Him. Satan would like for us to believe that we are powerless with every difficulty.

Satan doesn't want people to know that you can always come into God's perfect will. He wants you to believe that you will have to accept God's plan B or C or some other letter if you commit certain sins. He doesn't like the story of the Prodigal Son. He doesn't like the fact that God causes all things to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purposes. Satan doesn't want us to know that God has our best interests always near His Heart.

Satan doesn't want people to know that God is always seeking them. Jesus stands at the door and knocks. He does so that we will hear His voice and open the door. Satan wants people to believe that God is very hard to find. Satan does not want you to know that God is wanting to be found. God keeps the lights on so that His children can find their way home.

Satan doesn't want people to know that he is already defeated. He appears to be winning at this time but he will soon be toast (maybe literally). Satan is the defeated animal that lashes out to take as many with him as possible. His demise is imminent. He wants people to believe that they can follow him and receive more than they can from God. He knows others following him will make God grieve. Only a fool would have joined the army of Hitler right before the fall of Berlin. Satan wants you to believe that he might win. He won't.

These are just some of the things that Satan doesn't want you to know. I'll bet he is trying to make you believe that he has taken control. The worm has not.

Don't keep believing Satan when he tells you these lies. Resist him with the truth. Jesus did and Satan left Him.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

How to Make the World a Better Place

I heard a young man tell me that he thought he would go to heaven because he was making the world a better place. He didn't seem to be doing anything that was positively affecting anyone. He was wrong about two things: that's not what it takes to go to heaven and he wasn't making the world a better place.

Making the world a better place is a nice concept. I think most people mean that they are positively affecting the people they know. They think that smiling and greeting others is enough to make the world a better place. While I agree that it is better to smile and greet others, I don't believe this is making any major contribution to the world.

Each person has their own limits to how much of the world they can positively affect. Some people will have a large impact by their leadership abilities. Others will have a smaller impact with their desire to personally serve. We must get away from the idea that changing the world requires global recognition. We need to focus on our own calling and capacity to change the world.

The first person who needs to be positively affected is yourself. You must be a different person in order to draw people toward a positive change. We must see ourselves as the first project. If we have the ability to do all the things that are great but don't have love, we are just a big bag of loud noise. (Interpretation of 1 Corinthians 13) We must be different. In fact, we must be radically different to change the world.

Our focus must be toward our calling. God does not call us to things He will not gift us to do. He gifts us through a desire and an ability to do what He has called us to. He gives us the strength and works the circumstances so that we can change our world. Who would have thought that a nun in Calcutta, India would become internationally known by helping the poorest people on the earth? This is a God thing.

Changing the world means that we will listen to God. His leadership is essential for great things to happen. Disaster is around the corner when we strike out on our own. Even the disciples were told to stay in Jerusalem until the Holy Spirit had come to them. You cannot get ahead of God but you can certainly go where He never wanted you to. His power and His timing come when we follow rather than try to lead Him.

Discouragement is a part of great accomplishment. We should know that failures are not always bad things. Many times they make us stronger. Many times we will call out to God when we realize that we have been acting on our own initiative. You can do everything right some times and still have a disaster. God certainly allows His people to struggle to get their total dependence upon Him. Their failures became testimonies to others. The world was changed by these testimonies. Do not believe that God has lost control simply because you aren't able to accomplish what you thought you would.

The best way to make sure that you are on track is to keep in constant contact. It is easy to get lost when we do not check our compass or gps. This gives us assurance that we are doing what is right.

Then, to quote Sir Winston Churchill, "Never give in, never give in, never, never, never, never!" Things will happen which will make you want to stop. But never do so. Change the world as you can with as many as you can.

Monday, April 6, 2009

If It Was Easy, It Wouldn't Be Called Discipline

Many people hate discipline. (I first wrote "all people hate discipline" but I realized that there are some people who love a disciplined life. This blog doesn't apply to them. In fact, most of the problems of life doesn't apply to them.) Discipline is doing what we must do when we would like to do something else.

Discipline is not about knowing what to do. Most of us already know what to do. Discipline involves doing what you know to do. The student knows that he or she would do much better on an exam if studies were done each day. Cramming comes the night before because this wasn't done. The average man knows that he is gaining weight. Cramming comes when he tries to get into some pants he hasn't worn in some time. He knows he should have exercised or eaten less or a combination of both.

This is true of most of these things in our lives. Do we really believe we don't have to work on our marriages daily? Do we think we can clean our houses once a year? What does knowing what we need to do have to do with doing it? It seems very little.

The couch beckons us to sit when we come home from work. The tv tells us to sit still. The sand monster closes our eyes and makes us sleep. Our lives pass on without much happening if we don't fight our natural tendencies and do something.

We get complacent because we are actually not that dissatisfied with our present state. I may not like things as they are presently but I don't dislike them enough to get up off of the couch. "I can do that later," is my mantra. Later gets later and later because I am pleased with the way things are.

This is probably the greatest reason we don't grow as Christians. We don't pick up our Bibles or pray or serve because we are fairly happy with the status quo. We just aren't that interested in becoming more that we are right now.

This is also the reason that many people are without a job. Their companies have shut down because there are a number of employees who weren't working that hard. They were not improving. They were not challenging themselves to learn something new. Think of it, if the person who had a job for the last eight years had been going to night school, they could have learned an alternate career or something that would get them promoted in the are they are already working in. They would have been in a much better position to have gotten a new job when the economy went south. But this would have taken discipline.

Go look at yourself, your house, your car and maybe your garage and ask whether this is the way you want to look, live in, drive or wonder what you have in the garage. It will take discipline to make things different.

It will take discipline to keep things as they are if you are happy. It is harder to stay at a certain weight than to get there. It is harder to keep things clean than to clean them. We have a tendency to forget that we need to keep working after we have achieved our goals.

I have heard that 80% of success is beginning. I believe you need a plan and you must work your plan no matter what if you are going to improve. It will take discipline.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Do You Call Him Lord Jesus?

There are many reasons to go to church today. It could be good for business. It may be that you or someone you love needs healing. Your preacher may be a good speaker and always keeps your attention. You may need to go because you need some place to find hope. These are not exhaustive reasons but they are reasons that many go to church on Sundays.

Today I will not ask you to go to church. I will ask you if you call Jesus "Lord."

Maybe you have never thought of this. Calling Him "Lord" means that you are totally devoted to Him. You hold nothing back. You make no excuses for the things He tells you. It means you give like He owns you. It means that you serve without reservation. It means that you are not trying to protect your time from Him but you are giving Him all of your time. It means that each word you speak is meant to be pleasing to Him first.

I sometimes think we have lost the meaning of "Lord" in our American culture. We speak so much about freedom without understanding what it means. We think we should be free to be rude or stingy or greedy or any number of vices. We think we should be able to do whatever we want as long as we don't get caught.

We fail to see true freedom. For example, marriage allows us the freedom to act in the marriage relationship. Merely living together is not freedom. Freedom requires commitment. The first Americans understood that clearly.

The Bible says that we are under bondage to our sin before we come to Christ. It has a control over us. Christ frees us from that bondage. We should not go back to it. Yet, people sometimes think they are free by acting in sin. Then, why do the alcoholics I know fail to see their freedom when they drink?

Jesus said that if we remained in His word that we were truly His disciples. He said we would know the truth and the truth would set us free. So, when we are obedient to what He has said, the truth is revealed and we are free.

This makes no sense to those who would not call Jesus Lord. They think it is just the opposite. If He is truly your Lord, you know the truth and you are free. If not, you don't understand this blog at all.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Why Do We Keep Sinning?

I sat at a red light yesterday when I notice that the guy in the right turn lane next to me was honking his horn and yelling at the lady in the car in front of him. She could have turned "right on red" but chose not to. Nothing obligated her to turn. The guy next to me was trying to become an obligation. Actually, he was a real jerk. When she finally turned and he passed by I noticed that he had a bumper sticker which reminded people to pray.

Bumper stickers don't make you a Christian but I thought he must have some motivation for putting this on his car. I wondered if he was a Christian who somehow forgets his commitment to Christ when he gets behind the wheel of a car. I'll bet he would tell me that his attitude and actions were not a good Christian testimony if he saw it in someone else.

Before I throw any more rocks at this guy, I have to ask the obvious question about myself: I know what sin is. I know that I have made a commitment to Christ to be different from the world. Why do I keep sinning in the face of what I know?

I am selfish. No matter how altruistic I appear I know that down deep I am selfish. I want to be noticed when I do something good. I want to receive something for any work I do. I want things that will make me feel good but may not be good for me. I want, I want I want.

I am full of pride. I despise others receiving things that I believe I should have had. I think they are not as good as me. They don't deserve what I should have received. I dislike it when people cannot remember my name. I dislike it when they don't pay attention to me. I think I am so important.

I am impatient. My own self importance means that traffic should part for me. Others should just pull their vehicles off the road so that I can pass. Those in line ahead of me at the bank need to put me right at the front. My time is more valuable than anyone else's.

I am vengeful. I want to extract a pound of flesh whenever I am wronged. I will do so by gossip or merely not telling the person who has offended me about the pitfalls down the road. They should get what is coming to them and I will be the agent who delivers it. I will try to get as many people as I can to dislike this person who has offended me. Forgiveness is just not in my nature.

I could name a lot of things that I am naturally but Christ came to live in my life so that I would no longer have selfishness, pride, impatience, unforgiveness, hatred and bitterness rule my life. I have got to learn that I can overcome these things only by Christ who lives within me. I must know that I will continue in these things if I don't spend time with Christ and other godly people. Victory will be contingent upon my continuance in obedience to God's Word.

Plainly put: I am weak but He is strong. My only hope of living a God pleasing life is depending on Him living my life for me. This takes things that Americans don't do much any more. This takes meditation on His word. It takes genuine prayer. It takes taking time out of your day to acknowledge that He is Lord of the day. It takes surrender from my own self importance to realize the worm I am so that I can see His majesty.

Will I become sinless? I am too far away from that idea to assume it is possible. I am afraid that my sinless moments often become points of pride. I should lose myself in His presence rather than try to measure my sinless moments.

Honestly, that guy yelling at the lady could have been me. This time it wasn't. If Christ is truly my Lord, I will live differently.

Friday, April 3, 2009

The Stuff of Stress or Is It the Stress of Stuff?

I have been thinking about how much more stress is in my life than I once had. When I first married my wife and I had little of nothing. She had one semester left in college. I had already graduated. We had no furniture and no real debt. We were able to move at a moment's notice. We had nothing to lose. The Lord could make a smooth move for us from one ministry to another in a matter of days.

This isn't our case now. We have been married for thirty-two years. We have accumulated more furniture than will fit in our house. We have electronics that I am neither willing to hook up because I don't need it nor sell or give away because I might need it one day. I have a yearly house payment that equals the total price of the first house we made an offer on soon after we married. We have tons of things to lose. It would take at least six months for the Lord to move us.

Why do I keep all this stuff? I can't say its because I need it. Much of the stuff is in boxes that we haven't opened in years. Our garage is full of stuff. Our cars have never seen the inside of the garage. Our closets are full of stuff. I have lots of clothes that don't fit anymore but I promise myself I will lose weight and get back into soon. Get real!

The stuff is keeping me from doing what I need to do. I can't find the things that I really need because I have so much stuff to go through in order to get to those things. I don't even know all the stuff I have. It makes my life much more stressful.

Why don't I start getting rid of the stuff? I pick up each item and say, "You know, I might need that someday." I put it down and never do anything with my stuff.

I am convinced that the Lord does not want me to have all this stuff. It is not good for me or honoring to Him. I will force myself to admit that there are things I will never need while there are people who do need them. I will sell that which is reasonable, give away all that someone will take and haul away the rest. I will clean my garage and closets. I will no longer become a slave to my stuff.

I must start doing some of that today. I must do some of it every day. I must never stop because stuff seems to arrive at my house all the time.

How about you? How's your stuff?

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Just How Much Jesus Do You Want?

I have been reading the story of Jesus triumphal entry into Jerusalem. There were people cutting palm branches and waving them, people singing and people throwing their clothing on the road before Him. They appear to have given their souls to Him. Where were these people on Friday of that week?

I suspect they only wanted a certain aspect of Jesus. Maybe some wanted Him to be the one who fed them as He did a couple of times. Maybe some wanted Him to bring Israel back to an independent country status. Maybe some of them wanted Him to heal. Some may have just liked being around a rock star.

They didn't really want Jesus. They just wanted a part of Jesus. They wanted the part that they liked. If they wanted all of Him they would have been committed. Even His own disciples didn't get it. Though they had been told, they didn't get the whole story.

This isn't our case. We have the whole story. We have heard the story of the resurrection. We have understood that trust in Him brings eternal life. We have heard His call to be totally committed to Him to the point of Him being more important than anything or anyone else we have in our lives.

So, do you want all of Jesus or just the part you like? Before you answer you should know what you are saying. If you want all of Jesus it will take all of you. It will mean that you will not refuse anything He asks of you. You will obey if He asks you to go to the farthest point in the earth to tell one person about Him. You will obey even if you will live out your life in obscurity. You will obey if He asks you to sell your business and give it to the poor. You will obey if He asks you to follow Him into something that will lead you to become a martyr.

Can you say that you are already seeking Jesus wholeheartedly? Does your giving reflect this? Does your serving reflect it? Do you spend time with Him daily? Does your loving of others reflect it? You only want a part of Jesus if you have set limits in your obedience to Him.

Just how much of Jesus do you want?

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

God Is Still God

It seems that the whole world has gone crazy. The United States is borrowing vast amounts of money from China. This will effectively cause the US to be silent about human rights violations. The Bible says that the debtor becomes a slave to the lender. Therefore, China can tell us to be quiet and can demand a universal currency to replace the US dollar. They have concluded that the US will print money soon to pay off her debts in inflated dollars. A one world currency would prevent this. (Sounds like something you would read in the book of Revelation?) China is a step ahead.

North Korea is threatening to launch a rocket that can hit the US. No country threatens when it believes the other country is strong. The North Koreans evidently think that the leadership will not respond. They understand that they can get other nations involved in any conflict between the US and their poor country.

Iran, who has hated the US ever since putting the Shah in power, is making weapons grade uranium. Their most likely target is Israel. Any war with Israel will unite the Arab nations because they perceive that the US will not support Israel as before.

It seems that our enemies are everywhere. Yet, our military is strong. The enemies must believe we do not have the resolve to defend ourselves. They must believe that we do not have convictions that will compel us to act.

America is creating a deficit that cannot be repaid. The Bible says that the wicked borrow and do not repay. The interest on this debt will increase the taxes on every American so that the middle class will be bankrupt. The current tax code supports the very rich (I know the rich pay most of the countries taxes but it does not bite into their essentials. The middle class pays their taxes from the essentials.) and does not affect the very poor. This eliminates the middle class.

We are heading toward a nationalized health care. This is a disaster in other countries. There is a group that decides when you get treatment and what treatment you can get. However, this will solve the problem with Social Security. These bureaucrats will probably decide that the old were going to die anyway and deny treatment. (Since abortions are done by the millions, we have proved that we do not value life. It makes sense that the very young and very old will be sacrificed when life is not valued.) Thus, we will not have to keep paying their Social Security benefits.

So, we need some good news. I was reading in Revelation this morning. It said that there is a throne standing in heaven and One sitting on the throne. This means He is still in control. He is not bothered by the events of today. He knows what will happen and He has already acted to make good come out of the bad.

My reaction is one of awe and commitment. I reaffirm my commitment to God. I call Him my hope rather than politicians, the economy or even my country. He is my Lord and I obey Him. I receive the sunshine and the rain as others but I also know He will be my provider. I read the news but know that He is the one who directs my path.

In these turbulent times we must: pray for our leaders for that is a mandate from God, seek God wholeheartedly for we will find Him in the darkest of nights, call Him the great "I AM" for He always is and depend upon Him for He is the One who loves us with an everlasting love.

God is still God no matter what.