Search This Blog

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

No Wonder . . .

I ride a bicycle to work every day. I get to watch drivers in a unique way. I have the time to see what they are actually doing while they drive to and from work, back and forth to get their children from school, on their ways to pay bills or go to the grocery store and just going over to see friends. I watch them eat, talk and text on their cell phones, hold their dogs in their laps, read the paper, play musical instruments and smooch with their significant others. They rarely (like winning the lottery rarely) stop before turning on a red light. They must believe that a yellow light means that you hit the accelerator and that a red light is optional. They hardly look both ways before crossing an intersection. No wonder car insurance is so high.

I often eat out with my staff or just with my wife. It is one of the leisurely things I really enjoy. Most of the places are inexpensive- a little nicer than Taco Bell but way short or Ruth Chris. Most of the people who enter these restaurants are obese. Obesity is the cause for much of the sickness we have in America. No wonder health insurance is so high.

My wife works in a hospital. Many people are there through injuries. Some have led a healthy lifestyle but for some unforeseen reason are sick. Many of them are there because of smoking related illness. These hospitals have had to ban smoking on their property. Even the people visiting the patients couldn't go through a visit without smoking a cigarette. No wonder the hospitals are full.

My church is across the street from a high school. I see lots of fine young men and women in this high school. They give evidence of having studied and have a bright future. I also see lots of students whose main concern is Guitar Hero. They are not preparing for their future. Their hope is to work at the video store part time after graduation while still living with their parents who should have no say on how they live their lives. No wonder so many young people are being led by those who promise the biggest handout.

I am a pastor. Often people come to me for marital counseling. They come after things have gotten to the crisis stage. They didn't even know they had problems until one of the couple decided for a divorce. These people are often members of my church. I look at the problems in their lives and their sporadic church attendance. They say they come all the time but the records indicate that they come twice a month. That may seem like all the time but realize they are depending upon four hours a month to keep everything in their life in order. In other words, they are expecting 52 hours a year (if they come every other week) to affect the other 8,708 hours of their year. That's .002296% of their time which will affect the other 99.99771% of their time. No wonder marriages are in trouble.

Sure, people want to fix the problems but they don't see them as cause and effect. Why are things like they are? Is it the insurance companies fault that people are having so many car wrecks? Is it the restaurants' fault that people are obese? Is it the hospitals' fault that they are full? Is it the schools' fault that young people are purposeless in their lives? Is it the churches' fault that marriages are falling apart? No, it is the fault of those who have not taken responsibility for their lives.

People do not want to address problems where they lie. They want to fix problems without making people responsible for their own decisions. The first step in fixing a problem is to place responsibility on those who are the most responsible for the problem. 

I am a believer in grace. I say let's not kick the people for what they have done but celebrate their decisions to be responsible. God does not honor continued sinfulness. He receives sinners. To those who want their lives to be different I would say:

Drive responsibly. Stop doing things that distract you from the road. Obey the traffic laws as they were written.

Get in a program that will help you lose weight. You will need some significant help to accomplish something which took years to develop. Pray hard for God will help you do so.

Stop doing things which hurt your health. If you smoke stop. If you are getting too much caffeine cut back. Get into a program that will help. Cigarette addiction is a very strong enemy. See it as an enemy and go to your Heavenly Father with the problem. Get His help and those others who can help you beat the addiction.

Find your purpose in your life. God has wonderful plans and is willing to share them with you. I doubt it will be working at the video store. Pray that God will show you His plan and commit your life to it.

Make sure your marriage has a strong faith foundation. Yes, go to church but also include spiritual language in your daily speech. Pray together and live out the Christian life when you are not in church. It used to be said that the family that prays together; stays together. That has never changed.

Remember that God has a solution no matter how badly you have messed up your life. It may be that He will take you home to heaven to be with Him. It may be that He will heal you of your problems. No matter what, His way is the best for you. 

If you take responsibility and go to your Lord things will significantly change for your better. 

No wonder!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The World Needs Jesus

I do not think there is any inherent good within myself. I have done good things. My good actions have been caused through the influence of my parents, teachers, coaches and friends. Each of these people were God's grace to me. The grace that God gave them came to me through them.

God's grace did not stop with outside influences. There have been plenty of people who have had God's grace with moral, Christian parents and solid communities who never come to know Jesus as their Savior. God came to me and pulled me away from my own tendencies. He gave me a new nature. He changed my environment so that I would know Him. He invited me to become someone new. Jesus came into my life. This act of grace is greater than all the others. I know that His grace is always upon me for I know Him.

I think of those who grow up in deplorable conditions. Their parents did not care for them. They have no influence which exhibits God's grace. Their community is in darkness. They are headed toward hell. They will be a part of creating hell in their community. They will be a part of shutting out God's grace.

The greatest act of God's grace is knowing Jesus. If Jesus could enter the communities of darkness light would shine again.

You cannot buy someone God's grace. You cannot give them money and send them back to those communities and think God's grace is going to change things. Many rich people are full of hell without any measure of God's grace. The problem isn't economic.

You cannot educate people into God's grace. It isn't that they don't know enough math or can't read that causes them to be full of hell. Many educated people are full of hell.

No, the change that makes a difference is Jesus coming into people's lives. We are fooling ourselves by believing that we possess the ability to change the world. True change comes from knowing Jesus.

Many people think that we should give the world hell. They will even yell that to you when they seek to encourage you to keep going. I think the message is all wrong. I think we should give the world heaven. The world needs Jesus.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Is God Ever Bothered by Us?

God enjoys His children coming to Him. We can come to Him in need. We can come to Him in praise. We can come to Him the smallest of things (like, Lord, help me write this blog) or great things (Lord, my friend will die of cancer if you don't heal him). No prayer is too large or too small. He is our God. He loves us.

However, that doesn't mean that He isn't bothered by us. Joshua came to God after his army is defeated by the little town of Ai. They had a great victory at Jericho. God had given them this victory. Joshua must have thought that nothing would stand between his people and the Promised Land. The defeat set him back and he went to God to gripe about it. God told him to stop bothering Him.

Isaiah wrote that God was being bothered when they came to worship. He said that God was not interested in their sacrifices and observations of holy days. God didn't want to hear it anymore.

So, why was God bothered? In each case there was disobedience to Him. In each case the disobedient were going on as if things were just fine. God is bothered with us when we try to pull a fast one on Him. He is bothered when we think we can continue to have a close relationship without doing what He has said.

I have struggled with the story in the book of Joshua for some time. Joshua didn't know that Achan had taken some of the things intended for God. He assumed that everyone had been obedient. Thirty-six of Joshua's men were killed when the people of Ai defeated his army. Did any of these thirty-six men know about Achan's sin?

It seems that God holds us accountable for making sure there is complete obedience. We can't simply say, "I think I have done everything You wanted, Lord," and go on with our business. We must say, "Search me, Lord, and see if there is anything that I have not done which you commanded. Search me and tell me what I have done that I shouldn't have done. I will repent for I want to be completely Yours." This, too, could be bothering God if you already know there is something and you have not dealt with it. No one pulls the wool over God's eyes.

So, are you bothering God?

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Will Your Excuses Work in Heaven?

I was in a deacon's meeting some time ago when one of the deacons reported why a couple in our congregation had quit coming to church. They said that they had quit coming for awhile and no one had contacted them so the church must not care for them. They weren't going to come back to a church that didn't care for them.

The deacons began to beat up the church for not contacting these people. I said, "Wait one minute! Are you telling me that these people have stopped coming to church and we are going to take full responsibility for their irresponsibility?"

We talked about it further and someone reported that they had been irregular in their attendance before they had stopped coming altogether. Each time someone had contacted them this couple had some excuse for their lack of attendance. By the time they had stopped coming their irregular attendance pattern and excuses had been firmly established. Their new excuse was to blame us for not attending. They also weren't going to any church when they were contacted.

Granted, their excuse worked on the deacon who had contacted them. It didn't work on me or the rest of the deacons when we discussed it. I know it will not work on the Lord.

I am tired of hearing the lame excuses people give for not doing what the Lord has called them to do. They don't witness because they are afraid they will make things worse. Good grief! The people are going to hell; how much worse can you make it?!

They don't attend because they only get one day away from work. This is the only day they have for themselves. Come on! Do you really believe that the Lord needs you to come to church more than you need to do it for yourself?

They don't tithe because they deplore money hungry preachers. Think a little! The preacher doesn't get any more money if you tithe. That is determined by the church leaders or the congregation. You can still express your opinion why you don't think the preacher should make more money!

I may come up with an excuse that you will accept but my excuses will not work on my Lord. I will be like Adam who tried to blame his sin on God Himself. "The woman You gave me . . . ."

So, what will be your excuse for not going to church today? I don't care if it will play in Peoria. Will it play in heaven?

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Why We Must Go through the Wilderness to Get to the Promised Land

People like to talk of God's promises. Books have been written about them. Preachers have written and preached countless sermons on the promises. Yet, no one gives the road map to the Promised Land. This is because it invariably leads through the wilderness.

Why is that? Why does God have to take us through tough times to get us to a place He desires for us? Why can't He do the "Star Trek" thing and beam us to the Promised Land? It has to do with our character and His.

God is opposed to the proud but gives grace to the humble. This is not just God's attitude toward the proud and the humble. This is who God is. He would have to violate who He is in order to give grace to the proud and oppose the humble. Therefore, to give us the Promised Land- which is an incredible act of grace- He must remove the character flaw which prevents His grace.

For example, Joseph was promised through dreams that he would have his brothers and father bow down to him someday. The problem was not in the promise but in Joseph. He would tell his brothers this story so much that his brothers wanted to kill him. One day, Jacob sends his son to see how his brothers are doing as they watched the livestock. Joseph wears this special coat that his father given him as he searches for his brothers. This coat reminded his brothers of Joseph's special status with their father.

The plot to kill Joseph was already planned by the time Joseph got to his brothers. If not for one brother's opposition to the plan, Joseph would have been killed. Instead, he was sold into slavery. His coat was smeared with blood and taken to their father as proof that a wild animal had killed him. Joseph is 17 years old.

Joseph is sold to a Egyptian and rises in the ranks of his new master's household. Eventually, he is the head slave. His master's wife sees this young man as desirable. She makes her move on Joseph.

Most people see Joseph's actions and statements virtuous. They are, but they also contain a bit of arrogance. He tells his master's wife that his master has put him in charge of everything but he will not have relations with her. This delay caused her to get close enough to grab his coat before he could run out of the house. She is so angry she accuses Joseph of trying to do what he refused to do. I believe Joseph's master knew the truth because, instead of having Joseph executed, he threw Joseph in prison.

So, Joseph goes from hated by his brothers to slavery to prison. Things don't look like he is headed for the promised land.

While in prison, two of the Pharoah's servants have dreams which Joseph accurately interprets. Joseph hopes that someone will give him a good word so that he will get out of prison. One of these servants in executed. The other is restored to his former place of service before the Pharoah. He seems to forget about Joseph.

Eventually Pharoah has a dream. His dream is so vivid and frequent that he needs someone to interpret it. His servant, who has already had a dream interpreted by Joseph, recommends the Pharoah call on Joseph.

Joseph comes to Pharoah after he has been cleaned up. Pharoah asks Joseph if he can interpret his dream. Joseph replies, "The answer is not in me but God will give you an answer." All of the arrogance is gone. He is not taking credit for anything. He is no longer proud. The time has come for Joseph to enter his Promised Land! Pharoah puts Joseph second in charge for all the lands of Egypt. Joseph is thirty years old.

This is still not the fulfillment of Joseph's dreams. His brothers and father have to bow down to him. There is one more character flaw that Joseph must have removed.

There are seven years of wonderful crops. There is so much that Joseph make huge bins to store the crops. Egypt is a land of plenty. Then come the seven years of bad times. There is no rain and no crops. People come from everywhere to buy from Pharoah. Joseph's father and brothers have to make that journey to Egypt to buy from him. They arrive and all bow down to him.

Joseph plots to get all of his family in Egypt. I wonder if he didn't think he would throw his brothers in prison for the things they had done to him. He had a plot devised that would do so. Yet, he heard his brothers remorse for what they had done. He no longer wanted them to bow
down. He wanted his family back. He grants forgiveness. I place Joseph between 39 and 44 years of age when he is restored to his family.

God takes us through the wilderness to get us to what He has promised. Joseph has had to wait 22 to 27 years to receive God's promised blessing. He had to have his character changed. Joseph is not the only one who has had to go through the wilderness to get to that which is promised. God is taking all of His children down this path.

This blog is not intended to discourage you but to let you know that your tough times have purpose. What is it that God is working on in your life? He will continue to work until it is accomplished. He wants you to have His promises. They lead through the wilderness.

He will give you everything He has promised as soon as you are ready for them.

Please send this blog to someone God has given special promises to but is now walking through the wilderness. It may not look like it at this minute but God will give them everything He has promised. Let this be a word of encouragement for them.

Friday, September 25, 2009

The Unscheduled, Unplanned, Unanticipated Call of God

I asked several people to tell me their stories of coming to know Jesus as Savior a couple of days ago. Each had a unique story. No two stories were exactly alike. The people were different ages with different circumstances. They were all exciting stories to me. However, I noted one common theme: No one planned to give his or her heart to Jesus on the day that they did.

I asked if they had planned to do so in church that day or at work with their friends or with their parents or any number of places and each one said they had no idea that they were going to give their hearts to Jesus the day they did. There is a very good reason this is true.

Conviction is not something that we call upon for ourselves. It is the work of the Holy Spirit. He convicts the world of sin. He convicts people for their need of a Savior. Jesus said He (the Holy Spirit) is like the wind; going wherever He wants to go. You cannot predict a gust of wind. It comes upon you without any coercion. We cannot command the Holy Spirit to come. We can ask as we do when we call upon God for anything but we cannot command.

Sometimes people sit in church or with a friend and think that they can give their hearts to the Lord next week. Maybe this week the service went too long and there will be people waiting for them if they trust in Christ. Maybe they didn't like everything the preacher said or maybe they didn't like the way he said it so they say they will go somewhere where they like the preacher before giving their hearts to Jesus. They will be wrong. There is no guarantee the Holy Spirit will bring His conviction on them later. They cannot convict themselves. They may never be saved if they do not give their hearts to Jesus when they are under conviction. 

It is like trying to plan a tornado. You may go to a tornado and it may come to you but you are not going to get it to go where you want. The Holy Spirit may be working in a certain church and people may be coming to Christ in miraculous numbers but you are not going to be able to command the Holy Spirit to come upon you. You can ask but I believe even that asking comes from the conviction of the Holy Spirit.

Let's suppose the greatest leader your country has known came to your house and knocked on your door. Would you tell him or her, "Not today. Come back and see me tomorrow."? Why would you suppose this leader would come to see you when you have snubbed him or her?

Salvation is a miracle. Don't try to treat it as mundane. Salvation is the rebirth of a person so that he has a new nature. Old things pass away. Behold new things have come. It changes a person's character. It changes his wants. It is not merely a preference. You do not get educated into salvation. You do not get coerced into salvation. You are born again into salvation.

No one should ever try to put off receiving Christ. He will not be able to do so. He may get another opportunity but he should not expect it. Many people do not get another opportunity. Why should anyone expect that he will be the one who will get another opportunity?

This calling of God; this conviction of the Holy Spirit is true of any calling from God. He may have called you into the vocational ministry or to talk to your neighbor about Jesus. Why should you expect Him to come back to you again? He has already called. 

Do whatever the Lord has called you to do like there is no tomorrow. 

Thursday, September 24, 2009

How Does Your Church Define Success?

I sometimes think that churches have more politics than the government. Many churches try to accommodate every person with his or her own wishes. These churches will gravitate toward the whine of any disgruntled member and make a rule that will suit this disgruntled one. This rule will become a burden to everyone else. Many churches court the rich so that they can get contributions. They seek the power of the majority and tell their stories to unsuspecting members who believe their tales of bravery and miraculous feats. They define success in every endeavor by drawing a bullseye around anything they hit.

A church is successful when it wins people to Jesus Christ and grows these people to spiritual maturity. These mature Christians bear fruit that is lasting. This fruit is found in their own characters and those whom they have won to Christ and grown to spiritual maturity. The church was and is intended to be a multiplying force. Jesus proved this by choosing twelve disciples who would "do greater things" than He did. He did not mean their actions would be greater in individual power but greater in the scope of people He personally was able to affect. Those He discipled turned the world upside down.

Many churches define success by the number of people who show up at any given event. It is impressive to have a room full. Many of these capitalize on this definition by inflating the numbers in attendance. I remember the story of the country preacher whose church never ran over seventy-five on Easter. When asked how many were in attendance on an Easter he replied, "I personally believe we had some fewer than 5,000!" 

I know a church who kept reporting over a 1,000 people at each of the Christmas musicals. They increased the number of performances to and reported over 5,000 people in attendance. One of the church staff measured the pews and found that it was impossible to get more than 750 in their sanctuary at one time. Seats along the edges were not used because the set prevented people from seeing the performance. Yet, they had the audacity to report over 1,000 in each attendance. It was easy to see that success was defined by the number 1,000.

Some churches have a special emphasis and try to make that their standard. For instance, they will have a high attendance Sunday, take a picture of that and report this attendance as a typical Sunday. This hurts later generations who believe this malarky. They can never come to former grandeur the church experienced. Their success was in the past when Reverend Gimmick Per Week was pastor. They define success as getting back to doing things the way they used to.

Churches will talk about those who participate rather than those they lost. For example, I have heard of churches who will suspend their worship services so that they members can participate in something else. They may have taken the congregation on a retreat and met by the lake or they have put everyone on mission in the community. They report their success by telling of all that were there. They don't note that they would have had twice as many people if they had a regular worship service on that Sunday. They don't speak of those who were visitors who came to find an empty building. They look only at the good feelings or the publicity that this action generated. They don't look at the opportunity lost.

Some church define success by activity. The show how full their calendars are and say they are successful. They have a program for everything. They have an event every day and night. They fill up their congregations lives with no other purpose than to keep them busy. Their members have a notebook for every fruit of the Spirit. They also have one for evangelism, fellowship, missions, discipleship and worship. They have so many programs some of the members have been through a couple to them twice without realizing they had gone through them once. It all gets so mixed up.

The questions that churches need to ask are: Are we reaching new people or are we content with stealing members from other churches? Are we seeing more people serve to help our church grow or are we seeing more people attend without any purpose in serving? Are we seeing the fruit of the Spirit in our people's lives or are we seeing them remain just as they were when we first met them?

These are the questions that define success.    

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The Greatest Danger in Disobedience

 It was the time of year that kings went to war but King David stayed home in the palace. I wonder if he thought that was the safest place to be. I wonder if there was no more thrill of a battle victory in him. I wonder if he thought he wasn't needed anymore on the battlefield. This little bit of time at home corrupted his legacy. Of course, one night he saw Bathsheba taking a bath on her roof. The rest is, as they say, history.

The failure to be obedient brings a restlessness within us. We will never be truly fulfilled by disobeying our purpose of giving God glory. We give Him glory by bearing fruit. We bear fruit with our obedience. We are obedient by responding to His call. He calls us to His work. We work and are fulfilled.

There are so many Christians who are getting divorces, having affairs, breaking laws and a host of other things which Christians should never do. They didn't get up one day and decide to do these things. They just didn't have a passion for the Lord any more. They may have been deeply involved in the ministry but they were not deeply involved in the Lord's work. They were doing what they could under their own power, with their own personalities, with their own personal charisma and they had gotten weary in this work because it was draining their strength. They lost the passion to see another soul come to know they Lord. They lost the sense of their own calling that made them special before the Lord. They lost the desire to serve and they put themselves in a place they should never have been.

I have seen ministers fall into this trap. They find themselves in an affair that they never intended. They were disobedient to what they knew they must do. They should never have had that counseling session alone. They should never have met the lady after hours. They should never have gone out without their wives to meet with another woman. They knew better but they allowed themselves to be caught into the stream of intrigue which turned into a raging river that captured them all the way to the waterfall. Now, they are no longer in the ministry. They lost their ministry because they lost the trust of their congregations. The legacy of their ministry is gone or, at least, forever tainted.

I wonder how many marriages would still be together if husband and wife had listened to their calling to God's work. I wonder how many would be raising healthy, well adjusted kids if they had continued in their passion for the Lord. I wonder how many Christians understand that God's calling us to His work is not because He couldn't do things without us. He calls us so that we will walk with Him in the work. We simply do what we should be doing under His authority, with His strength and with a passion to see Him glorified.

The greatest danger of disobedience is where it takes us. It brings us to ourselves and our own passions. It leads us down a road that promises fulfillment but never produces fulfillment. It causes us to walk further away from the Lord in cover-ups for our failures to be obedient. It taints our legacy. It promises to be our greatest thrill and becomes our greatest disappointment. 

You are in danger if you know what God wants you to do and you are not doing it. You may have said that you are just going to take a break but God didn't direct you to do so. You are susceptible to things you would never have dreamed you would ever do. You have lost your passion for God's work and you need to return to the joy of His salvation. You need to cry out to the Lord in repentance and run back to His service before you find yourself doing what you consider anathema. 

You are just as disobedient if you are working for the Lord under your own strength. You have left Him far behind you. You will never give Him glory by doing things for Him. You give Him glory by walking with Him. Cry out if He is far away from you. You need to joy of His salvation. 

You and the Lord are the only ones who know your heart. Are you truly giving Him glory?

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

In Search of the Magic Bullet

It seems that every discipline wishes to find one thing that ties together all the other things they know. Physicists are looking for the string theory. It is the underlying theory that explains all the other theories they have. Biologists believe that water is the source of life. Therefore, they look for water on Mars to give evidence that life happens where water is present. Even people on diets are looking for a substance which, when taken, will allow them to eat anything they like and still lose weight.

Therefore, it shouldn't shock us when people come to church looking for the magic bullet which will rearrange their lives into meaning. Unfortunately, they believe they will either find it in the first time they come or they believe it will not be found in church.

How did we get in this condition? Why do we believe that answers to complex questions are as simple as doing one thing? It certainly sells books, diet pills and gathers large crowds to hear preachers. They all say one thing: "Do this one thing I tell you and you will have whatever you want." So, we do the one thing to have whiter teeth, firmer abs, disciplined children, better jobs and anything else we want. Either the warranty runs out or we are too embarrassed to admit that we were taken in when the one thing fails. But this does not deter us from continuing to look. We keep buying the exercise equipment and pills. The exercise equipment is found in a later garage sales. The pills set in our cabinets forever.

There is a magic bullet but it takes a lifetime to leave the barrel of the gun. It is called character. It means that you are consistent in what you say and do. It means that you stick with the things you say you believe in. It means that you stand up for something. It means you have an overwhelming "yes" in your life that allows you to say "no" to so many other things. It drives you. It is who you become and is the means in which others define who you are.

You don't come to church expecting to find the magic bullet which will rearrange your life. You come knowing that each visit should build upon the rearrangement of your life. You hear the Word of God not expecting it to be the only word you will ever need. You hear the Word of God which builds upon what you have already heard in God's Word. You mature slowly. It creates your character.

Character knows there are forces working against it. Character deteriorates when it is not being built. It goes forward or backward but never sits still. It does not claim to know what it is to love God with all your heart and soul  and all your strength. Character knows that this is always a building process. Character knows that you love differently the longer you love. Character changes the capacity of this love.

Character is not what the world is looking for. The world seeks and instant magic bullet. I don't believe the instant bullet exists. I believe it is all about building character.

Jesus said that unless we deny ourselves, take up our cross daily and follow Him we cannot be His disciples. Do you really think that is a one time decision? No, each decision to follow Him builds on the previous day's decision to follow Him. It develops the character you need to give your life purpose. Herein lies the magic bullet.

Monday, September 21, 2009

The Power of Impossible Thinking

The worst thing that can happen to a sports team or a company or a church or anyone who is trying to do something great is the thought, "We can't do it!" The action is doomed as soon as people think it is impossible.

Peter had that trouble once he started walking on the water. He looked at the wind and waves and said, "This is impossible." He was literally sunk at that point. The power of impossible thinking stops people from going with God. It stops them from believing in a God who can do anything.

Do we believe that we can't do what God wants us to do or we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us? Of course, the encouraging word of God says we can.

Impossible thinking invades any organization with stealth. It starts with doubt. Are we sure we can do this? It continues until it says that the leadership is wrong in leading us to this place. We should abandon the leadership and go back to where we were safe. We were safe when we weren't trying anything new.

Moses had to live with impossible thinking as he led God's people to the Promised Land. There were those who thought they couldn't. They looked at their circumstances and disbelieved in God who had shown Himself to be for them. They forgot about the plagues and the sea and said, "It's impossible! Let's go home!" This people would never be able to enter the Promised Land as long as they continued to think like this. So, God raised a new generation.

This doesn't mean that you can do anything that you want to do. It does mean that you can do anything that you have been called to do. It does mean that you have been gifted to do amazing things. It does mean that you can do anything that God has called you to do through Christ who strengthens you.

Stay away from impossible thinking people. They will bring doubt which means you no longer expect God to be your strength. You simply cannot continue to listen to them. You must tell yourself how much you know that God has called you. You must continue to believe in the God whose only impossibles are: It is impossible for God to fail. It is impossible for God to tell a lie.

I was called to pastor in March of 1987. Each day and night I prayed that God would call me to a place where I would preach. I was told that I wasn't any good at preaching. I saw many others pastor who were younger than me. I continued to pray for eight years and three months before God called me to a church in Houston. The irony is that I told God that I never wanted to live in Houston. It was one of the greater blessings in my life. I would never have seen that day come if I had believed in impossible thinking. I thought that no one would call a guy to his first pastorate past forty years of age. God is the God who beats what we think is impossible. I was forty-one. He had to show me that my thoughts of possibility did not match His "all things are possible."

Believe in the God who is for you. Do whatever He calls you to do. Know that He will never fail. Amaze people with the God of all things possible.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Do You Cling to God in the Bad Times and Walk Away from Him in the Good?

I have seen so many people return to church when something has gone wrong. They may be in financial stress or going through a divorce or have a sick child or any number of things. They have already tried everything else. God is their last resort.

They will come, having read their Bibles daily, prayed with the fervor or a prophet and just as committed as a missionary, looking for God to pull them out of their latest jam. They are relatively sincere. They are sincere until the crisis is over. Then, they go back to their old ways as soon as they can.

I can imagine how God feels. He only receives your love when you are in a crisis. So, why shouldn't He send you more bad times? Its the only time you listen to Him. Its the only time you are close to Him. It is the only time you praise Him or worship Him. 

I believe that this happens to many Christians because they have no vision of God's purpose for their lives. If asked, they will claim to know Christ but they cannot reveal anything of His purpose for their lives. Church is just something they do when they don't have anything else to do. Prayer is something they do in a crisis. Reading the Bible is one of those things they wished they had done but never get around to. 

Those without a vision of God's purpose are like yo-yo 's. They get close and go away and get close and go away. Yo-yo Christians do not realize that the God is working all the time. They do not know that He has called them to be His during their work hours. They do not realize that He has called them to be His at the ballpark. They do not realize that He has called them to be His with their families. They think they are just His at church. Therefore, even church has no meaning for them. It is just a place to get help if you need it.

They do not understand the good times or the hard times. They think of things happening without purpose. They do not see His hand at work unless it is solving their own crisis. They think of Him as a fire fighter- unnecessary unless there is a fire. No wonder they only get close to Him during a crisis!

This is a terrible waste of your time if this is the only faith you have. The crisis that you are now in may pass without coming to God. Just wait it out if all you will do is leave God later. Think about it: how would you feel if you had a spouse who only came home when he or she went through bad times and wanted you to bail him or her out? Do you think God is fooled?

You need to see yourself as God's servant if you come to Him during one of your bad times. You need to make a commitment that you will remember so that when the crisis passes you will stay with Him. You need to see the purpose He has for you so that you can understand that you are totally His all the time. 

This will mean that church will start making sense. Going to work will make sense. Time with your family will make sense. Prayer will make sense. In fact, life will make sense.

How long will you settle for what you can make of life when God is willing to give you an abundant life? 

I believe that most of the people reading this blog are going through a crisis right now. You may have just started your journey back to God. Will you stay? 

Saturday, September 19, 2009

What Has Happened to Marriage?

Can you imagine going to a car dealer who lets you drive any car on the lot without any obligation for as long as you want? He says, "Come back and we'll finalize this deal when you are ready to make a commitment." He's hoping that you'll love the car so much that you will want to make it yours officially. This dealer is sure to go out of business.

This is not the model the Bible uses for marriage. Marriage should be a model for love.

Love involves commitment. Jesus speaks of doing what He has said to prove our love. This is a commitment to Him. He speaks of taking care of each other because of our love. There is no love without commitment.

Love requires sacrifice. It may not appear to be sacrifice because it is love. There is no love when you are waiting for something better to come along. There is no love if you are unwilling to be committed.

An clandestine commitment is no commitment. Jesus said we must proclaim our relationship to Him or He would not proclaim it to us. You can't be silent and claim that you are committed to God. It must be said to Him and it must be said to others.

Marriage is intended to be a public commitment between a man and woman who love each other. Some states still require witnesses before the marriage license is complete. It is intended to give certain privileges and responsibilities. It is intended to make a family.

I believe people want to play house but not form a family. They want to enjoy all of the privileges without any of the responsibilities. This is extremely immature. This is ignoring common sense. Otherwise, car dealers will be sending customers out with their cars with no obligation for as long as they want.

Many things in life don't seem to do any damage at the time. The person that gets AIDs doesn't seem to have been damaged for some time. The person who smokes doesn't seem to have any damage for a great while. The person who lives an unhealthy lifestyle doesn't see the damage for years to come. The people who live together without marriage will see this come back to haunt them.

A family teaches the way we should act in our society. We learn responsibility in a family. We learn that family matters. We learn to take up for each other. We learn to help each other. Take away the family and we are all on our own. We will become the most neurotic people you will ever see. Yes, you can be neurotic and have been raised in a disfunctional family. However, a cohabitation family is making sure the home is disfunctional yet hoping to raise someone productive. How crazy is that?

If you are committed, why not be married? If you aren't, why pretend that you are?

A church I served had an Indian couple who had several children. They told me that their marriage had been arranged before they had met each other. They met the day before they were married.

I asked, "But do you love each other?"

They looked at me as if I were the craziest person on the planet. "Of course," they replied. They looked at each other and I saw that love that comes from a deep commitment. It was one that was lasting. It was one that was full of sacrifice. It was one that had passion.

Here is the missing element in marriage today. We think love is something that you fall into. It is like the branches over a large hole that we unwittingly fall into. We think that we can get out of it if we can. We don't see it as a commitment first. When it is a commitment we are free to love without reservation. Without commitment, there is always a danger when either person can climb out. How do you give your love without reservation without a commitment? One may, but I doubt if both will.

I thought I loved my wife when we got married. I learned what love is after we got married. It isn't just how you feel. It becomes who you are. It has been said that you spend the first twenty-five years of marriage wondering how you will live with the other person. Then, you spend the next twenty-five years wondering how you could ever live without them.

Marriage is something you work on. It is a commitment which burns the bridges behind you. It is a journey which should become an adventure. It is great if you will work at it with complete commitment. Marriage is alive and well in many places. The trouble is that you have to look harder to find it.

Instead of wanting your neighbors to envy you for your house or car, have one of those marriages they would die for. If you do, maybe others will want one like yours too.

Friday, September 18, 2009

How to Make Sure God Will NOT Supply Your Every Need

I can preach on nuclear physics and people will listen as if I am an authority. When I preach on money, I am an idiot. They believe that preachers can't know anything about money. I wonder where they think I shop.

There are few topics spoken of more than money in the Bible. They tell us what we must do in order to get our finances right. They tell us that God will supply our every need if we are faithful. They tell us that God will not supply our every need if we aren't.

Admittedly, God does not supply like we think He should when He has a deeper purpose. We may have been completely faithful to Him, yet He causes our finances to go south. He may be testing us so that we will prove ourselves faithful even though we are running short on cash. He may use us as a testimony that others are watching. Faith seems to shine brighter in the dark. Tough times reveal our faith to others more clearly than good times.

Most of the time, though, our lack of finances come because we have not followed God's principles for handling money. I will list them. Explaining each of them will take too much or my time and yours.

Proverbs 21:13- No regard for the poor.

Proverbs 28:20- Eager to get rich for riches sake.

Proverbs 22:3- Not seeing the danger ahead and taking financial precautions.

Proverbs 22:8- Too much debt.

Proverbs 28:22- Being stingy rather than generous.

Proverbs 18:9- Laziness. 

Proverbs 16:3- Not regarding your work as working for the Lord.

Philippians 4:12- Lack of contentment from all your stuff.

1 Timothy 6:5- Using the Lord as a means of financial gain.

Proverbs 21:20- Lack of savings.

Malachi 3:10- Not tithing.

Proverbs 22:4- No humility or fear of the Lord.

Proverbs 15:22- Not seeking counsel.

Proverbs 21:5- Hasty investments.

Proverbs 21:17- Loving pleasure too much.

You can take a look in your Bible at these fifteen principles which will cut off God's supply. Don't pick and choose which ones you like. Look at the whole list. Any one of them can leave you on your own. God always keeps His promises. He promised:

"But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added unto you." (Matthew 6:33)

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Pay Attention to the Interruptions

Some days I make to-do lists. Some days I seem to be too busy to make one. I know there are several things that I must do each day of the week. Things go fine until there is an unplanned interruption. (This is redundant. Obviously, something planned cannot be an interruption. Interruptions are unplanned by definition.)

Interruptions rearrange my day. The things I had planned to do don't always get done. Interruptions may make my day longer. I used to hate interruptions. Now, I pay attention to them.

I have to ask myself, "Is this an interruption from God that will change who I am?" What if God has a plan for my day that I didn't take into account? What if He has interjected this interruption to bring me to something I need to become? If so, I need to explore this interruption. I need to see what I am becoming because of it.

Let's say that someone calls with an urgent request for help. Maybe it is an elderly church member who is having trouble with his invalid wife. She is not responding to his voice. I go to his house and do my best to wake her. I call 911 and stay there with the husband while EMS takes her to the emergency room. I go with him there and pray with him. They treat her and she comes around. He is grateful and I have learned an important lesson.

I have learned the condition of many of my elderly members. They live each day without knowing it is their last. They take care of their spouses knowing that their days are also numbered. They are in need to comfort. My whole attitude toward homebound members changes. I understand like I never did before even though I have visited homebound members at other times. My heart is moved toward these who are in the waning hours of life.

An interruption may be God's means of correcting my actions. I may have intended to do something that would not be honoring to Him but the interruption prevented me from doing so. I may have gotten angry because of an email I have received and fire back one much more hurtful in reply. The server is down at the church so that my email will not go through. I think about their email and decide to call the person. As we talk I find that I totally misunderstood what they were trying to say in the email. The interruption was a blessing because I would have had to repair the damage from my hasty reply.

We may never know how many interruptions are for our protection. I am at a red light when my phone rings. The light changes to green as I am fumbling to answer the phone. The time it took to answer the phone delays my start through the intersection. Suddenly, a speeding car runs the light from the crossing direction. I know that they would have solidly hit me if I had gone the second the light changed. The little interruption certainly saved my car and may have saved me, as well.

Sometimes interruptions test us. An interruption may not be something that you need to get involved in. You need to remain focused. The ability to say "no" must come from an emphatic "yes." An interruption may look like a good thing to do but you know that you can't do it because it will keep you from what you are really supposed to do.

An interruption may take you down a totally different path. It may change your vocation and reveal your purpose in life. It may cause you to know something about your life that you would never have known before.

I had always planned to go to certain college while growing up. We had a college night at our high school and many colleges sent representatives. I went to that school's assigned room to hear what they said. The people they sent were such jerks that I decided that I didn't want to go there. Later, I received a letter from the head of their drama department offering me a part in a summer production. ( I had been in a play which he attended.) I rejected this offer and went to a college that didn't have a drama department. Obviously, drama was not to be my vocation. That one night changed my whole direction in life.

So, pay attention to your interruptions today. Should you leave them alone? Should you go with them? Have you seen God's hand in them?

Remember that God has great plans for you. Sometimes He sends interruptions to make sure you get with and stay with those plans.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The Commitment of Waiting

I was promptly seated in the restaurant. I had been in the area shopping in a Christian bookstore and thought this place would be a reprieve from the restaurants located near our church. I waited for my server.

Other tables were receiving their meals. Their glasses were being filled. Orders were being taken. However, my server was nowhere to be found. I looked through the menu to kill time. I already knew what I would order.

Where could that server be? I thought I might ask for the manager. I'll bet he or she would be glad to know that a customer wasn't being waited on. I'll bet heads would roll!

My frustration built. I looked intently at each server who emerged from the kitchen area. I asked myself, "Which of you is the slacker that should be waiting on me right now?" Finally, a young lady with a white apron and pad came by to ask if what I would like to drink. I wondered if she could see the indignation on my face. After all, I looked at my watch, I had been there for two minutes! 

Patience is not a virtue in our society. We think of it as a flaw. We talk about taking action all of the time. We never mention waiting. That may be why so many Christians get frustrated with God. He does not act on our timetable. He is not our server. We serve Him.

God never shows up early. You have probably heard that many times. You always respond with, "But He never shows up late!" True, but sometimes we think He does. We would rather have an insurance policy than a God whom we must wait upon. We would rather have the money in the bank, the tumor already gone, the child already home and the job made absolutely secure. We don't like waiting on God to provide the money, heal us in His timing, bring the child home slowly and wait until God provides us a new job.

God left His people in the wilderness for decades so that they would learn to trust Him. He provided for them daily. They had no choice but to wait upon Him. Things turned out okay as long as they applied this lesson. Things went awry when they didn't.

This doesn't mean we should sit still when we already know what we must do. We should take action to accomplish what the Lord has called us to do. We should accept His solution which often includes action on our part. There is no virtue in waiting when the Lord has told us to act. 

Yet, there are times when we don't know what to do. We don't have the resources. We can't act to change the circumstances. Then, we must wait upon Him. I think we would rather have the Lord ask something grand of us. Waiting takes a tremendous effort. It is a total commitment.

The Lord says that those who wait upon Him will renew their strength. Does that mean that those who don't wait when they should will drain their strength? I have often experienced this. I have made great efforts to move things that only God can move. I have taken it upon myself to worry rather than wait. I have decided that I will try different avenues to solve a problem rather than wait. I have done everything but take it to the Lord in prayer and wait upon Him. Yes, my strength was drained.

So, I wait upon the Lord for a solution to a mountain of a problem. I wait for Him to tell me what to do. I wait for Him to supply. I wait upon the Lord and get stronger.

Recently, I realized how weary I was. I come to the church between 6:30 and 7:00 AM each day. I usually have a committee meeting and leave around 8:00 PM. It is not unusual for me to be called to go to an emergency in the hospital when I get home. I have been out to well after 10:00 PM visiting and praying with these people. I am not too good at waiting upon the Lord. I seem to want to do it all myself. 

Can I wait upon the Lord? It will be the greatest commitment I have ever made.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Our Only Hope for Our Faith, Our Churches and Our Culture

I have observed several things about the affect that Christ and His Church is having on people. These are not intended to be depressing but should give mature Christians a "wake up" call.

1. The average Christian is woefully immature. He or she neither does nor knows the spiritual response to the world in which they live. They react rather than act when confronted with unrighteousness. It has caused the Christians to be as likely as the non-Christian to participate in sinful things.

2. The difference in maturity between the person who has come to church for many years and the one who is a new Christian is too small to measure. We have assumed that coming to church will grow them in their faith. It would be the same as saying we thought that going to the car dealer each day would make them mechanics. They have learned the terms but they have not been able to put what they have learned into practice.

3. People are more affected by the culture they grew up in than by the culture of Christ. The older generation gives because their culture was expected to be responsible and provide for those who are coming after them. They were taught sacrifice by their culture. They were also told that they would have it all if they won WWII. The result is that they are demanding when it comes to services they think the church should provide. The next culture was taught that everything was created for them. They expect that the church will provide because they are the chosen generation. The next generation is just as affected by their culture. And so on and so on.

4. The media has more influence over righteousness than the Church. People are determining what is right and wrong by what the media says. They are cautious to stand up for what the media condemns. They are quick to adopt what the media applauds. It has affected the Church, the education system and what we can expect when dealing with others.

5. There is no foreseeable change coming. The Church continues to make grandiose mission statements which are not being met. The thought of bringing the non-Christian to full commitment to Christ is laudable but is happening at such a dismal rate that it will have absolutely no affect on our culture. We will continue to see the moral absolutes fall and our society deteriorate if nothing new happens.

6. The only hope for our faith, our churches and our culture is God-sent revival. This revival must be the sweep of the Holy Spirit into our churches which will ignite us to a complete commitment to Christ. It will take us far beyond our comfort zones. It will change our way of thinking. We will confess our shortcomings in our faith. We will stop doing things which harm the cause of Christ. We will commit ourselves and do whatever the Spirit leads us to do. We will proclaim Christ unapologetically. We will be personally changed. The genuine work of the Spirit within us will change others around us.

7. There has never been revival without a praying group. They may have been as small as two people. God has honored these prayers to send revival.

Unfortunately, our nation has looked to earthly leaders to bring us prosperity. Prosperity will not bring us to the fulfillment of whom we are created to be. We are created to give God glory. Everything else falls short of His glory. Everything else is the empty promise of an evil devil. There is nothing greater than what God has prepared for us. There is nothing that will satisfy us. 

Will you join me in praying for revival? I welcome your comments. 

Monday, September 14, 2009

God Created Them Male and Female

Men and women were created differently. This does not make us unequal. It makes us different. We communicate differently. We have different hormones. We have different body types. We have different emotions. 

We are different so we can compliment each other. A man and a woman marry so that they can raise a family. This family needs a father and mother who are functioning in their respective genders. Together they make a whole. It is the way God intended for a family to be raised.

Problems arise when men and women do not understand that while they are equal, they are not the same. Men do not see their place in the family if the mother can and will take the positions of mother and father. They do not understand the need to have a man, not just a male, in the house. They do not understand because their fathers did not know what it was to be a man. They cowed before their wives, abdicated their role in the family or beat their wives (verbally or physically). None of these responses is a man. They were either trying to keep the mothering protection of a woman or trying to escape the control of a woman. They have no idea how to relate to a woman.

Society has tried to make males and females the same. They try to tell the society that sex is the same for males and females. It isn't. Studies show that a relationship is almost always present when women fantasize about sex. Men fantasize about sex without any commitment. Society says that sex ought not have any commitment. Casual sex is like a casual nuclear war. It doesn't matter how you think about it; it still destroys the landscape for many years to come.

Society says that the husband and wife should be the same in raising the family. While they are equal, the Bible does not say they are the same. The husband is to take the place that Christ has taken with the church. He is to be the servant-leader of the family. He should make whatever sacrifice necessary for his family. The woman is the servant-lover. She is to uphold him as he seeks to please the Lord. The business world reports a 50% failure in businesses where there is an 50/50 partnership. We are seeing about the same result in marriages. 

Not every marriage in the Bible is meant to be a good example of what a marriage should be. Some are examples of what not to do. However, there is teaching in the Bible that tells what a marriage should be. There is teaching that tells males and females how they are wonderfully different. 

I recommend to every couple I counsel during pre-marital counseling that they do before they are married. I tell them they need to pray together. It has been said that the family that prays together, stays together. It is true. The spiritual intimacy that prayer brings will bind the spirit of the husband and the wife together. I also recommend that they find a good small group. It may be a Sunday School class or a small group that meets at someone's house. This group will be your friends that you share together. They will be the ones to whom you will go when you have hard times. They will be the ones that come to you when they have hard times. They will be the ones who will confront you when you are not acting right.  This small group should celebrate the differences between man and woman yet treat each other as equals.

Let's face it: men and women are different. Now, isn't that wonderful?

Sunday, September 13, 2009

A Prayer for My Pastor

I am a pastor. I know that I am not always right. I want to do what is right but I have failed at times. I need the prayers of my church. This is the prayer I would want my church to pray for me if I could compose it myself:

Dear Lord,

I want to lift up my pastor to You.

I thank You that You have brought him to us. Your wisdom is great. You have caused a donkey to speak for You in the past and You can cause our pastor to speak for You.

Our pastor needs holiness. Please help him see his sins so that he can confess them. May he do so without our condemnation but with Your grace.

Our pastor needs anointing. Please anoint our pastor with the Holy Spirit. May he be filled with the Spirit to prepare the sermons. May he be filled with the Spirit when he speaks to the congregation daily. May he be filled with the Spirit when he preaches.

May our pastor realize his giftedness and his weaknesses. I pray that we will fill in for those weaknesses. I praise You for his giftedness. You have and continue to make him into the man You want him to be. I pray that neither he nor we will get in Your way.

Our pastor needs to realize that You are in control. He often worries when he should let You take over. Please urge him to release his burdens to You. Let him realize again how much You love him.

May our pastor also realize that we are his blessing. It is by Your grace that he is here. May he realize the privilege it is to be in the middle of Your will.

Please give our pastor strength. He needs strength to fight off the words of discouragement some will give him. He needs strength to stand when there are those who will oppose him. He needs strength to work the hours he does for Your Kingdom.

Please protect our pastor. Protect him physically and spiritually. The devil would like to destroy him. Please bring Your angels to protect him. Do not let him fall into temptation.

Dear God, please bless our pastor.


Stop and pray this for your pastor. God will bless your prayer.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

I'll Be in Church Sunday

A son said to his mother, "Mom, I'm not going to church anymore. Frankly, its boring and the people at church don't like me!"

"Son," the mother answered, "What you are saying is true but there are two reasons you should continue to go to church. One reason is that you are forty years old and know that you do what is right whether or not it is boring or the people like you. It is right that you should be in church."

"And the second reason is: YOU ARE THE PASTOR!"

Yes, I am the pastor and I suppose I have to be in church Sunday. However, I was in church last Sunday and I was on vacation. Even when I can't be in church on a Sunday when I take a group to Israel or a mission trip, I spend an extended time reading the Bible and praying. I always want to honor the Lord's Day.

Not all church services will thrill you nor will all of them give you a specific reason why you came. Attending church helps keep you from drifting away from the Lord. (It isn't all that it takes for I have seen people drift away while attending church.) Drifting away from the Lord is like erosion. It may not be noticed at first but left alone will create the Grand Canyon. You drift away a little each Sunday you miss church.

A very elderly gentleman who was nearly blind and almost totally deaf was asked by some younger church attenders, "Why do you come to church? You can't see nor hear what's going on. What could you be getting out of it?"

"Well," replied the old man, "I guess I just want people to know whose side I'm on."

Yes, you come to church as a testimony of what you believe. Others watch to see how you act. I suppose you also tell them what you believe if you don't go to church.

Tomorrow is Sunday. It may be cold, raining or so pleasant that you want to go to the beach. Your decision is very important.

Will you be in church Sunday?

Friday, September 11, 2009

How Important Do You Think You Are?

I suppose no one likes being belittled. I don't like being told how dumb I am nor how ugly nor how short nor any of the things I really might be but don't want to be told. I have no control over most of the things I don't want to be told. It still hurts. 

None of this really counts when considering our importance in God's Kingdom. Jesus said that the more important are those who are the servants of all others. I can be very important regardless of my intelligence, looks, height or anything else I entered this world with. I can really be somebody. 

The problem comes when I think I am somebody when I want the praise of people over the praise of God. The more I want someone else to praise me, the lower I get in the Kingdom of God. I grow greater in God's Kingdom the less I seek the praise of the world.

My natural tendency is to want the praise of this world. It is tangible. It is something I see today. However, I may not know my greatness in God's Kingdom while on this earth. I may never even realize it. 

It is very hard to be content with something promised but not received.  I suppose that has to do with maturity. I have heard that being mature is having money in your pocket and not spending it. I suppose this maturity is realizing that the more I serve, the more I am building my stature in God's eyes. I know that is true but, honestly, I would rather receive a check.

I wonder what it is like for people who are naturally gifted to receive the praise of the world. I wonder what it is like to be a great actor or athlete. They have to work against others' desire to serve them and make them important on this earth if they want to be great in God's Kingdom. I am sure that there are those who do. I just think it must be extremely difficult for them.

Years ago I heard of people practicing "random acts of kindness." I laughed. There is no such thing. Significant kindness is a conscious thought. It may be that you have been raised to be kind. It may be that you are naturally kind. However, it is a conscious thought when you do serve someone who may never thank you. It is a conscious thought when it costs you something and you are never repaid. I think this is what Jesus meant when He said the one who is the servant of all is the greatest in God's Kingdom. No repayment is needed nor should be expected. 

I will make a conscious effort to serve others today. I will do so without the expectation of being repaid or even receiving thanks. I will do so without the desire to be noticed and praised. I will do so because I know that Jesus is watching. 

That's enough; isn't it?

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Where Is the Love?

I ride a bicycle down the sidewalk to and from my church. Often people will slow down to scream an obscenity at me. I am not in their path nor have I hindered their journey in any way. They just want to pick on someone whom they know cannot do anything about actions. There is no way I can catch up with them. They drive by with impunity.

Why do they do this? What is the thrill? What do they get out of this? Is there a place where guys can go, drink and brag on the number of cyclists they have screamed at? Do they compare their words and compliment each other on their obscenities? Do they have seminars teaching the best ways to scream obscenities at cyclists? I suppose the reasons will always remain a mystery to me.

People often treat each other in a very unloving manner. They do so out of selfishness. They are rude and disrespectful to those whom they look down upon. They continue to see the light of love dim as they treat others badly. 

Is this because they need love but do not feel they are receiving any? They, therefore, act out of their resentment caused by a need not being met. They have no love to share because they are deprived of the love that they need.

It is not uncommon for ministers to act without love. They also think that love should fall where it is needed. Often ministers of the gospel who truly know Jesus do not recognize that Jesus should have been loved but was crucified. He did not react with bitterness. He responded to the lack of love with love. He called us to respond to a world which does not know love with His love. His love can fill the world.

Yet, I cannot see the world responding to this love. Is it because our reputation is not one of love but of judgment? Does the world see us as those who are always telling them what they can't do rather than expressing genuine love to them? Are we telling them that Jesus loves them while not showing any love? I think so. I think we have said we don't really care about you unless you become one of us. I don't think the world thinks this is love. I think they are right.

Where is the love we should express to the grocery store clerk who is just trying to get to the end of her shift? She may not have shown love to you. Shouldn't you show her love anyway? Where is the love that needs to be expressed to the man who renews the tags on your car? You may have waited in a long line but he is there five days a week. Shouldn't you show him some love? Where is the love when you get behind the steering wheel of your car? Yes, there will be others who will act rudely on the highway. You don' t have to speed up to prove their unrighteousness. You don't have to show how important you are. You could show them love instead.

I heard recently that 70% of Americans claim to be Christians. I don't know where that statistic comes from but if it is anywhere near true this country should be full of love for one another. But, where is this love? You tell me.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

You Are Only Committed to What You Truly Believe

Several years ago I went to Mongolia on a mission trip. I was sent to a remote village about seventy miles from the nations capital. Many of the villagers had placed a personal pile of rocks on the surrounding hills. Each morning they would make the journey up the hills to walk around their pile of rocks three times. They believed this would give them a good day. I supposed they believed the opposite would happen if they didn't walk around their rocks. They were committed to the act each day.

Many Christians who say they are committed to Christ do not prove this with their actions. Their actions show their commitment. Their commitment reveals what they truly believe. For example, many Christians prove that they believe participating in sports will be more effective in developing their children than church. They will keep their children on teams that must be gone many Sundays of the year. They tell me that they will be back in church as soon as the "season" is over. 

Of course, this also reveals what the parents believe about their own marriages. They believe that the activity with their children will keep their marriage alive. It may keep them focused for a while but it will not keep their marriages together. I have ample proof of that.

Many Christians have a cursory belief in a Lord who will supply all their needs. They say the right words but their unwillingness to give as God has prospered them is evidence that they don't believe it. They are like the Israelites who tried to pick up more manna than they could use in one day. They didn't know that the God who led them through the sea would not abandon them in the wilderness. They thought they had better take care of themselves in case God didn't provide. Isn't that what Christians who fail to give as they should are doing?

Commitment is necessary for any action that has an undetermined future. It takes commitment to get married because there are some days ahead that may not be so pleasing. There are the days that the spouse is sick or just acts like a jerk. Those are the days that the commitment becomes evident. You stay because you are committed. The love that most claim as the basis for their marriage is more emotion that commitment. That love can come and go. The love that comes from commitment will stay when the emotions want to run. 

Some days you have to draw a line in the sand for yourself. You will never be able to finish school if you don't believe in the benefits it will provide. You will never go on a diet if you don't believe you can lose the weight. It takes belief to be committed and most worthy things in life take commitment.

Look at your commitments. What do you believe?

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

There Is No Security in Safety

Many of us have watched in horror as a coach calls for the "prevent" defense. This is the defense that supposedly makes sure that the other team never gets behind the defense so that they are able to score a quick touchdown. We, the fans,  think that the only thing the "prevent" defense does is that it prevents our team from winning. The regular defense is more familiar to the players. The "prevent" defense puts an image of the other team's score in your players' thoughts. The "prevent" defense is one of fear. The "prevent" defense is more often a self-fulfilling prophecy. There is no security in merely working for safety.

Many times God's people will call a "prevent" defense. They will work for safety rather than stepping out on faith to do what God wants. They will be satisfied with safety rather than faith. They will accept a good effort rather than a committed life. The problem is that their is no security in safety.

Most of the churches who are dying today have a story of safety rather than faith. They may have begun by faith but soon afterwards began to work for safety. They did not build or start an ambitious program because of what might happen negatively. Someone stood in a business meeting or an elders meeting and pointed out the possibility for failure. Fear set in and nothing was done. For a long time it may appear to have been the right thing to do. Even now, as the church is dying, no one is connecting the dots. They do not see that their lack of faith has put them in the position they are in. They just want things back like they once were when the church was full of people. They don't realize that filling of the church came because people acted on faith to begin the church. Their faith and obedience, which stood up in the face of safety, made the church grow. 

This is as true for the individual as it is for the church. Staying in the job you hate when God is calling you to do something else is the most dangerous thing you can do. It looks like safety but it contains no security. It looks like you are leaving a sure thing to go after a maybe. However, stepping out in faith is the only security you can ever find.

God's will does not always lead us to the land of prosperity. It will lead us into His presence. It will lead us to His protection. It will make us grow. It may bring us to a place where we must sacrifice but still brings us into abundance. This abundance may not be money. It is the full life that the Lord has wanted us to live. It is the removal of our anxieties. It is the only secure place we can ever be.

No one says, "He played it safe," as a compliment to us at the end of our lives. Safety is the widest road to mediocrity. It is one which will leave you forgotten soon after you are buried. Who would want these words on his tombstone: "He always played it safe?"

Faith is the only security we can have. Faith is hearing from God and acting on it as God directs. 

There is no other place I want to be. I want to be faithful. It is the only secure place I know. What about you?

Monday, September 7, 2009

Why Are We So Anxious?

We clap our hands and shout praises to the Lord when everything is going fine. We  proclaim His goodness when there is goodness all around. But let the goodness stop; let our world get turned upside down and we will abandon our peace and become anxious. That is never God's plan.

Jesus promised us that there would be tribulation is this world. He never said that He would remove all tribulation. He didn't say that He would lessen it. He said that He was the One who had overcome the world. Unfortunately, that makes little sense to us when we are in the midst of a trial. We want relief; not strength or a cheery attitude. We want to have all pressures removed from us.

I suppose this is the allure of the lottery. People believe that those who have an insane amount of money have no problems. Of course, just looking at rich people will tell you that this isn't true. They have their tribulations too, albeit that most of their problems seem to be self inflicted. 

Jesus told us that God knows every anxiety that we have. He knows what we need. He told us that our responsibility is not anxiety but seeking God and His kingdom. The fact that we are anxious should press us toward seeking God. Anxiety certainly isn't getting us anything!

Anxiety fades as we seek God's kingdom and His righteousness. The way this world actually works becomes clearer as we seek God's kingdom. This world tells us that it is up to God. God's kingdom is one in which He is sovereign. Nothing and no one is disobedient. The forces of nature will obey His will. The actions of the unrighteous will accomplish His will. Every knee bows and every tongue confesses to the Ruler of God's kingdom.

We seek that kingdom in our lives with His righteousness to give us admission to it. We see that He is not only able to deliver us that there was no moment when things got out of control. There was no time in which God said that He would not take care of us.

We can go through the greatest tribulation knowing that it has a purpose. We trust in God for that purpose. He brings cosmos out of the chaos. He brings peace that passes all understanding to wipe out the anxiety.

We should not be anxious. However we resemble the Israelites who left what they knew in Egypt to go to a Promised Land which they did not know by way of a wilderness that they did not know. Would the God who sacrificed His Son really bring us to destruction? 

So, the answer to anxiety is found in our focus. We focus on His kingdom and His righteousness and we give up our anxiety. We focus on our problems and we increase our anxiety. The first action produces His supply to get us through the tribulation. The second produces ulcers, gray hair and short tempers. 

Maybe the question isn't why are we so anxious but why are we anxious at all? What good ever comes out of anxiety? However, seek first His kingdom and His righteousness and God will take care of your needs. The choice should be easy. Unfortunately, the practice is not.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Satan Reserves Special Temptations for God's Committed Servants

Satan tempts people to make God less that who He is. He tells us that he has something better for us than God has. Everyone is tempted in this way. But Satan holds his best temptations for those who will attack his kingdom and take those whom he has already claimed. You are very special if he has chosen you for these temptations.

He first tempts you to be comfortable at God's expense. The cause of Christ is being nullified by comfortable Christians. The gospel means nothing to people who watch Christians who never sacrifice their own comforts for the gospel. Sacrifice for the cause of Christ promotes Christianity much better than telling people how easy life is if they will merely give their lives to Christ. Christians who will not go anywhere or suffer any hardship are giving in to the temptation of Satan to play it safe.Their commitment to Christ is to do anything for Christ as long as it is convenient.

He tempts you with riches. He offers more money to keep you from doing what God wants you to do. That is why so many pastors are only called to higher salaries. They never consider a lower one. God's will seems to be more money, a bigger house and a luxury car. Satan can do anything he wants to with you once he has you looking at money. Jesus said we can't serve two masters. He will keep you from tithing and make you indignant when you hear that it is something you should do which proves who your god is. Money cannot be your god nor the god of your church.

He tempts you with power. He offers you a position that is impressive. He offers you devoted followers. He offers you a dominion. God says that you should be the servant of all to be the greatest in His kingdom. Satan says you should be served by all. It is strange but the person who must have power actually become a slave to it. Satan can keep you from showing who Christ is by giving you power. You will serve him to keep that power.

These are the temptations which Jesus Himself faced when He began His public ministry. Satan knew he must neutralize Jesus quickly. Of course, Jesus came through with flying colors. 

Have you been tempted with one or more of these temptations? If so, you are special. Satan knows that you have a great potential for doing great things in God's kingdom.

Be on your guard Satan is really after you.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Do Some People Need More Grace Than Others?

Does the hardened criminal need more grace than the little girl to come to know Jesus as savior? To answer this, we must clarify grace.

Grace is receiving goodness that you did not deserve. It is expressed by God for salvation through the death of His Son. The same death that pays for the sins of a little girl also pays for the sins of the hardened criminal. There is no less grace or no more grace that anyone could ever receive for salvation. Each receives the same grace of God for salvation.

Does it take God a greater effort to save the hardened criminal? The Almighty God has  infinite power. He can work on everyone in the world at the same time without breaking a sweat. The question will never be whether we tested the strength of God to be saved. The question is: "Is it harder for an individual to give their life to Christ after being a hardened criminal?" The answer to that must be "yes."

Salvation involves trusting in the Lord. That trust means you put your life in His hands. The little girl may have her whole life in others hands. She has been taken care of by her parents for food, shelter and clothing. They have taken her to the doctor when she was sick. They have driven her to the things that she has wanted or needed. She has always trusted in someone.  It is easier for her to make the connection between trusting someone and trusting the Someone. She trusts those who tell her to do so.

The hardened criminal has lived trying to make it on his own. He has learned that you can't really trust anyone. He has learned that "number one" has to be placed at the top of every list when dividing the spoils. He struggles to give his life to Christ because trust is a real issue for him. He is more likely to adopt a religion of works than one of grace. He understands doing. He does not understand having it done for you. He has to overcome huge obstacles to come to know Christ.

Many people think they have some living to do before they can come to know Christ. There are some sins they have not yet committed to their fulness. They want to do this before they come to Christ. They do not realize that they are laying a foundation which will prevent them from ever coming to know Christ. It will become almost impossible for them to trust in Christ once these patterns become a part of their lives. 

This is why the Bible says that today is the day of salvation. It is never tomorrow. There will be time tomorrow is the song sung in hell. We all exist for an eternity but some will not want to.

Thank God for His grace. 

Friday, September 4, 2009

Remember You Are Never Alone

You are never alone though every fiber of your being says you are. Your problems seem to be great. You may even be the one who caused them. It may your fault that your marriage is falling apart. You may be the reason that the creditors are threatening to repossess everything you own. Or, you may be a victim of circumstances. Your spouse left you and your business had to downsize. It makes very little difference when these problems fall on you. You seem just as alone whether it is your fault or not.

You feel especially alone because you don't seem to have anyone to call on. There is no one who will rescue you. So what do you do?

Remember that you are not alone. You never have been alone. You have Someone you can call. You have Someone who knows your situation. You have Someone who has a solution. It doesn't matter if it is your fault. This Someone will come to you right now if you ask Him.

Remember that you are in His hands. You don't suddenly find yourself in His hands when troubles come. You have always been in His hands. He was never far away. He was with you even when you would not call on Him. He did not interfere but He is willing to take what you have and make something much better if you will let Him.

Remember that He has asked for your problems. He has said that we are to cast them on Him. We are to throw them away from ourselves to Him. He will always catch them. He will take them from you because He cares for you.

Remember His promise toward you. He has plans for you greater than your imagination. Why would you try to work out new plans when you know His plans are always greater than your own? That has been what you were doing. You have been trying to improve on a perfect plan. How has that been working out for you?

Remember what He has already done. He sent His Son for you. He does not have to prove His love toward you again. He has already done so in a way none of us truly understand. If He has so loved us why would He abandon us? If He has not abandoned us, why would He not be with us in our need? If He is in our need, why would He not help? If He helps, why would He not want us to give our problems to Him?

Yes, you are never alone. The first step is to stop acting like it. The next is to rejoice for He is caring for you right now.

Do you know someone who needs this message? Send it to them.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Has God Forsaken Us or Have We Forsaken Him?

Have you ever thought that you had done what God wanted and had everything turn out badly? This bad time may have followed a tremendous victory against incredible odds. You thought that God is so close that you could never fail at anything again. Then, you have such a failure that you don't think you can ever do anything for God again. You tell God how you can't complete the journey if He can't be depended on. You tell Him that there are those who will laugh at your testimony of God's deliverance when they look at you. You blame God for this tough time. Other innocent people like your family are being adversly affected. 

What will you do? God seems to have left you. You trusted Him and now all you can see is doom. You blame Him for the predicament you are in. You can't go forward without Him, yet you can't seem to trust that He will come through for you. So, you gripe at God.

Have you considered that the problem may be within you? It could be that God has required something from you and you have ignored it. It could be that you have forsaken Him.

Often we think that God is so glad to see us coming to church that He will do anything to keep us there. We think we can do anything we want as long as we throw God a bone every once in a while. We think that we can get all the benefits without complete obedience to what He is calling us to do. 

But God cares way too much for us to allow us to live like that. He will not simply allow us to live in our disobedience while experiencing His glory. He wants us to know that He does not serve us nor does He expect us to be His gods. He wants us to know that the only way to live fully is to live within complete obedience.

So, let's consider some things that God clearly wants us to do but we may have withheld from Him. These things will be found as things that forsake Him. They will be found in things that prove we never trusted Him in the first place.

Are you tithing? Have you withheld your money from God while expecting Him to provide an abundance for you? God said that we are robbing from Him when this happens. He has challenged us to test Him and see if He will not open up His blessings to us if we will tithe. I can preach on anything else on the church and people will claim I am a man of God. If I talk about tithing people think I am the most money-hungry preacher around. They think I am a con even when I read God's word and tell them that things are not going to go well if they do not tithe. Test Him. That's what He said to do. These are not my words. Check and see what happens if you tithe for a month. See if God is not faithful.

Have you held your tongue when you knew you should have said something about your faith. This is not a story of beating people over the head with a Bible. This is only saying the words that God will give you when He tells you to tell others about who He is. The Bible says that He will forsake us if we forsake Him. Why can't we get this? If we act like we don't know Him, He will act like He doesn't know us. That means He leaves us alone to our own devices. We will not have His strength or leading if we forsake Him.

Have we acted without faith? The Bible says that we should expect to receive nothing from God if we don't have faith. It also says we should expect to move mountains with faith. Faith is something that God wishes to deliver to us. It is taking the first step while believing that He will carry us the rest of the steps. It is putting ourselves in a position where God's actions are necessary. Faith is not being safe from the outside looking in. Faith is being absolutely safe within our obedience to His leading. It is seeing what can't be seen. It doesn't add up in the bank book. It doesn't tally up in numbers. It is the belief that there is help on the other side of the mountain. It is picking up the manna for today and believing He will provide the manna for tomorrow.

Our bad times are not always because we have forsaken God. Some times God uses them as testimonies to others, ways to move us into something we would never have considered or a way show us that His strength can carry us through the bad times. But, sometimes we need to ask ourselves if the reason we have not seen God is because we have left Him.

The solution may be the hardest thing that you have ever done. It involves confessing to God that you have forsaken Him. It means you must make a commitment to God which you don't believe you can make. It means you must take action that proves you mean what you are saying.

It means that things may even look worse before they look better. But I ask you, do you really believe you are going to have the power of God, His provision, His presence and His leading if we forsake Him?

So, take make that very hard decision. He will receive you. I know. I have had to do the same thing.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

The Power of the Golden Rule

People think that the Golden Rule is simply a good way to live. They believe it is simply obeying what Jesus said to do. I think they believe the rule exists in a vacuum. They believe that it is a nice thing to do but it really makes no difference in the people who receive it. That's why many people often add that they also watch out for themselves when they are confronted with the Golden Rule. It goes something like this: "Yeah, I believe in the Golden Rule but I also make sure people don't take advantage of me either." They fail to see the power of the Golden Rule.

The Golden Rule is not something you can do superficially. It is not intended to be something people grit their teeth and act like they are treating others like they would like to be treated. It must be genuine. No one is really nice to others while hating them. The superficial sugar put on top of the bitter fruit only delays the taste. It is merely acting. It is not following the Golden Rule.

On the other hand, I am not saying that you should act horribly because you feel horrible. Don't think you can treat others badly with impunity. You are still responsible for your actions. I am merely saying that this acting like you are doing someone good is not the Golden Rule. The Golden Rule means that you must change your whole attitude toward the person.

The premise of the Golden Rule is that you treat others like you want to be treated. Think about it. Do you want others treating you well while secretly hating you with every fiber of their being? We want to be loved. We want others to treat us with love. Love is not an act.

Love transcends watching out for yourself. It means you will get hurt at times. You cannot love and stay safe. Those whom you love will disappoint you at some time. They are human with human frailties. They have bad days in which they are short with you. They have frustrating days when they will not give you the time of day. They will think of themselves exclusively on some days. But, don't we all do this some days?

Love strives to forgive. It does not stand still while being beaten. It may get out of the place of harm but immediately seeks to forgive the one causing the harm. The one who loves knows that he or she needs forgiveness for his or her own transgressions are in need of forgiveness.

Love opens the heart of the other person. Many people expect being treated harshly but they struggle with those who treat them with love. It opens them up to the same level that those who are loving them are willing to go. It is easy to be critical of someone you do not know. We do not share anything with those who will violate our trust. We must seek to be understood by being understanding. People only open up to those who have also trusted them. 

The Golden Rule was never intended to create how Jesus wanted us to live by staying on a superficial level. It was meant for a complete interaction of people. It was meant to be an exhibition of love as it is was intended.

Can you imagine a church in which the Golden Rule was actually the practiced rule for all individual relationships? Nothing would stand in the path of that church. I believe that was the early church found in Acts 4. And what happened? The Lord added to their number daily.

Can you see the power of the Golden Rule?

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Has Your Church Forgotten Her Purpose?

It happens to me all the time. I go into a room to get something I need but by the time I get there I forgot what I came for. I have to go back to the place where I decided I needed that something to remember what I went for in the first place. I think this problem is called "middle age."

The same thing happens to a church. The church begins to operate with a definite purpose. She grows and more opportunities for grow present themselves. The church gets involved in so many things that she eventually forgets why she exists. Let's be clear about the Church's purpose.

The Church does not exist to make money. The Church can be successful at her purpose with no money in the bank. The early Church was very successful and had no money. The early Church sent missionaries without budgets. The early Church had no capital campaigns. The early Church would be surprised at our fixation on money.

The Church does not exist to build buildings. The Church can be successful at her purpose without owning any buildings. The early Church had no buildings. They met wherever they could. They often met in each other's homes. They fulfilled the purpose without owning a building.

The Church does not exist to create programs. The Church can be successful without anyone owning a notebook with the teachings of Beth Moore, Kay Arthur, Chuck Swindoll,  David Jeremiah or any other great Bible teacher. Each of these could be studied with some wonderful results but this is still not the purpose of the Church.

The Church exists to take people who have no relationship with Jesus Christ and help them become passionately involved devoted followers who will reach out to those who have no relationship with Jesus Christ. The Church exists to make disciples. 

It has been said that no pastor has ever been fired for failing to witness. I am afraid that may be true. This may also be why churches do not know that their main cause isn't to maintain beautiful buildings, put on tremendous concerts or start the latest greatest program.

The Church must be in the business of reaching people at the cost of everything else. The Church is successful when she reaches people even if there is no money in the bank, no buildings ever built or any new programs ever started. Reaching and maturing people must remain the church's measure of success.

A church will fight when she loses her purpose. She will make unimportant things paramount. She will not know how to say "no" to things that do not fit in her purpose. She will wander and accomplish little. She will make earthly things sacred and sacred things earthly.

Has your church forgotten her purpose? If so, are you the person who needs to remind her? Somebody needs to.