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Monday, November 30, 2009

What to Do with Life's Regrets

I suppose everyone has regrets. We regret doing some of the things we did. We regret not doing some of the things we didn't. We can't deny that given the knowledge we have now that we wouldn't have done some things differently.

There are many things we would do all over again, too. This may involve our professions or who we married or even how we raised our children. They provided wonderful times for us and we will treasure these memories forever.

Whether we had good times or bad we cannot live in the past. We can make decisions that will change our future. We can do what we need to do. We can learn from our past.

Make a resolution that you will not repeat the things that went wrong. Why should you expect a different result if nothing has changed? Don't waste your time doing something that will lead nowhere. If that is one of your regrets, accept your loses and move on. If you know that coming in late for work got you fired at your last job, don't come in late for the job you have now. If you know that drinking ruined your last marriage, don't drink so you won't lose your present marriage. If you know your anger has caused a separation between you and your child, work on controlling the anger.

Don't let regrets merely be regrets. Let them become learning opportunities whenever you can.

Don't let your regrets predict what you can do. You may have tried and failed at something in the past. You regret that failure but a failure doesn't make you a failure. Quiting makes you a failure. There is a difference between quiting and retirement. Quiting says you have had enough. Retirement says I have done what I could. Don't get the two mixed up. There are times when you can't do anymore. You retire because you are satisfied that you have done your best. Quiting is when you just stop. There is a whole lot more that you can do but you are afraid you can't do it so rather than try, you don't do anything.

Make your regrets something you can launch from. "Never give in, never give in, never, never, never, never." -Sir Winston Churchill

Don't let your regrets fool you into thinking that you are alone. You are never alone. You may act like it. You may shun the presence of God but He will not leave you alone if you will let Him. Many people do not know that God has a plan for a future and hope for them. They do not know that God wants to help them become successful. They do not know that He will provide strength. They do not know that God works best with those who have regrets!

Moses regretted killing the Egyptian. God had plans for him. Paul had regrets for persecuting the Christians. God had plans for him. These regrets launched them into a new future because God was with them. Yes, you will have your regrets but God has a way of making big things from regrets. Why don't you let Him?

We have regrets. They are things in our past that have made us stronger. They have made us have new resolve. They have taught us lessons. They have made us depend upon God to succeed.

You know, maybe we should be grateful for our regrets. Then again, they wouldn't be regrets then, would they?

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Is Shopping More Important than Jesus?

This morning, as I rode my bicycle to the church, I went through a mall parking lot. I noticed people getting out of their cars (at 6:30 AM) to go in. I suppose they were employees getting ready for the early morning shoppers who want the latest, greatest deal. Is it really so important to shop on Sunday morning so that you can get the greatest deal?

I am not against people having to work on Sundays. There are certain professions that demand it. One of my daughters is a doctor and I am glad that she can be at work to help heal people. I understand that people work in restaurants. (Yes, I have eaten out on Sundays and enjoyed it.) Yet, I know that these people can go to a church which has a service at other times than Sundays. They can do so because it is their regular schedule. They can look at their schedule in advance and go to church accordingly.

The people at the mall this morning do not have Christmas shopping as their regular schedule. Many of them are unaware that there are churches that have services at other times. They did not make their church choice based on the Christmas shopping schedule. Would it have been so wrong to open shopping a little later for them? 

It is really easy to allow Christmas to eclipse Jesus in importance. We can claim it is for His glory but eventually we must admit it is because we want to shop. 

I hope the managers of these stores arrange the schedules of their employees so that they don't miss every Sunday morning worship. I suppose working one would not be so bad but I have seen many stores obviously short-handed. (How can we be short-handed at 10.2% unemployment?) I'll bet many employees will have to work every Sunday.

I guess I am just concerned for those employees.

What if I and my church and you and your church were to invite each of the clerks you encounter to a Christmas Eve service at your's and my church? Do you think we could remind everyone of the reason for the season?

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Atheism: A Christmas Mystery

I don't understand atheism. Atheists obviously don't understand Christians either. They actually believe our faith has no basis for belief. They discount anything we say because they seek something which can be verified without faith. They believe we have superstitions which we constantly seek to produce statistical results. In other words, rain follows dancing under a full moon enough times to keep us dancing under a full moon.

The mystery to me is why atheists continue to oppose Christians. Why try to get the word "Christmas" removed for the season we are in? It is a very small number that is opposed to the word. I can find words which will get people more upset than Christmas. (Try the word "Obama" for example. Last year it was "Bush.") Are we to remove all words that upset people?

What was the reason for setting up a display countering a Nativity scene last year in Seattle? Are others not supposed to keep their beliefs? Are atheists beliefs so fragile that they must reinforce them with efforts to keep others from exercising their faith?

Atheists have a faith stronger than most Christians. They believe there is no god and they must reinforce it with a greater faith because they can be converted if they let their guards down. They know there is no way to prove or disprove the existence of God within the parameters they will set. They cannot accept what Christians say. Many times that is because Christians do make up stories that aren't true. Most of the time it is because there are plausible explanations for what Christians experience. Atheists, therefore, must choose to believe there is no god. They can't do an exhaustive research to find Him. They don't want to be agnostics (someone who is not sure) so they choose a faith in no god. Yet, they remain a mystery to me- especially at Christmas.

Why do they care what we believe? Do they think they are doing some ultimate good by keeping people from believing? If so, where do they believe this good comes from? Is it inherently inside of everyone? If so, why is there so much suffering caused by people who do not practice any faith? (Yes, there is suffering that is caused by people who practice their faith carefully but that can be explained. They believe it is necessary to support their faith. We are talking about faithless people here.)

No one can say this is good or this is bad without a standard being set no more than you can announce that the solution to a math problem is correct or wrong without a standard to do math. Someone has to set the standard. Who sets the standard?

Our society has gotten much worse after eliminating God from it. Many of our schools have become danger zones. There is no outrage or surprise when our elected government officials are caught breaking the laws they are sworn to uphold. Marriage has become a roll of the dice rather than a commitment for life. If faith didn't exist because God came down from heaven to live as one of us, it would still make sense to support this belief so that we could straighten out the wrong being created in the world.

It would seem that atheists would want to support our society if they want to see an ultimate good. It would seem they would foster rather than try to debunk Christianity. Don't they want our country to pull out of a recession? Shouldn't they want people to celebrate Christmas so that they will buy lots of gifts?

Atheists really come out at Christmas. It is a real mystery to me. I guess I don't understand why they care. . . unless they are afraid they may be converted at this time of year.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Before You Buy That Expensive Gift

My wife thinks I should be named Scrooge. I know that I am less generous than I need to be. I should want to give lavishly. I try to purchase each gift with the best cost in mind. I do research and shop frugally. Therefore, my gift giving stays within my budget.

My stinginess is no reason for others to be foolhardy with their giving. I want you to remember some things before you buy. If this catches you after you bought, remember that you can take it back without hurting their feelings. The one you were going to give the gift to doesn't even know that you were going to give it. So, here are some things you might consider when you are purchasing gifts.

You can't purchase love. That's not just the sentiment of a Beatles song. It really can't be bought. There is no gift that will purchase another person's love. It is a very shallow person (a gold digger actually) who acts like he or she loves you when receiving a gift. 

A gift from the heart does not need to be expensive. Let your gift giving reflect your feelings. Many people (men especially) think that love is reflected by the cost of the gift. That's why the jewelry stores have tv commercials showing women going crazy over a diamond necklace. The purchase of a diamond necklace may show no thought whatsoever in the selection of the gift. I believe people are more impressed with your effort to get the right gift than the cost of the gift.

You can't start a contest on who can spend the most money. It is a dead end street. Eventually no encore will meet the previous year. Eventually, neither you or the other person can afford what you are doing. It is much better to agree on a cap and stay within that amount. The one who can afford this best should be the one to approach the subject.

There is a payday someday. The gifts you put on credit cards will result in bills you will have to pay later. You may grow to resent the Christmas season if the pain of the giving lasts well into the next year. Keep a close watch on what you are spending and know your limit. It could take a lot of pain out of your future.

Check your pride at the store's door. Don't be afraid to ask for a price. Don't be afraid to reject the item if it rings up more than you expected. Don't be afraid to ask for a cheaper price if the store has a policy of beating any other stores advertised price. You would be surprised at the prices available if you will check your pride at the door.

Remember that you are celebrating Jesus' birthday. Let your giving reflect the love you have for others as an expression of His love for them. There is a difference between an expensive gift and one which comes from love. The person who can't tell the difference is one who doesn't know the reason for the season. Jesus does not want you to commit financial suicide. He wants you to love people like He does.

You will never really enjoy the season if you are afraid of checking your mailbox for the bills that follow. Make sure that your gift giving reflects your heart, your band account and your faith. Christmas is a wonderful time when these are in balance. 

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Giving Thanks During Tragic Times

I do not thank God directly for children being abducted, hurricanes which kill, car wrecks or terrorist attacks. This makes no sense to me. I am not thankful directly that they happened. I am thankful when I put tragedies in God's hands, though. I am thankful for who He is during a tragedy.

I am thankful that He will somehow work out this tragedy so that some good will come from it. This does not me thankful for the tragedy. It makes me thankful for what God can do. His word says that He causes all things to work for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose. He is working even before I start praying. He is making something good happen even now.

I am thankful that He is more powerful than any tragedy. I know that He can keep His promise of making something good happen because of His strength. Just when you think its all over His power over everything makes something good come out of a tragedy. Never doubt what God could do. I have seen terminal tumors immediately disappear because of the power of God. He has the power to change any circumstance. He has the power to make good happen.

I am thankful that God is all-knowing. I do not know what the best thing is. I do not know how to make good come from the tragedy. God does something completely outside my box when I try to tell Him what to do. I put the solutions in His hands. I know I would like to see something good happen. For example, I am praying that a young man gets a needed heart transplant. What is the best thing to do for this young man who will die soon without one? I do not know if God will take him home to heaven. I do not know if God will provide another heart from someone he will call home to heaven. I do not know if God will simply heal the young man's heart. I do not know if there is something outside my own perception of possibilities. God knows it all and will do what is best. I am thankful for that.

I am thankful that God is always loving. Making something good happen will come from His love. I can count on that love. It is constant and nothing can take it away. I know that He loves each of the people involved in the tragedy. I know He will cause something good to happen because He loves each person with an everlasting love. 

So, I don't thank God for the bad things that happen. I thank Him for the good that He will make from the bad. I thank Him for who He always is. 

Maybe this can give you something to be Thankful for if this has been your worst Thanksgiving. Have you been wondering how you can "give thanks in all circumstances?"

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The Answer to a World Without a Moral Compass

The greatest complaint of teachers in the 50s was that the students were passing notes and chewing gum. Do you think most teachers would jump at the chance to teach where these were the greatest complaints today? Today it is not uncommon for students to call teachers vulgar names and, after reporting this to their parents, have the parents call the teachers vulgar names.

There are certainly people who are godly left on the earth. The tendency, however, is that the world is getting worse. It is getting much worse. 

I could wring my hands and say, "O, my goodness, O, my goodness!" and think that there is no hope or I could do something so radical that it would change the course the world is on. It is something that has happened in the past which changed the way our country was going. It worked before and it is promised to work again.

There was a time in our country when bank robberies, rapes and murders were daily occurrences. In one town the people banded together to fight the miscreants and evil won. That all changed after this one thing happened.

What is this one thing? Prayer.

God's people prayed. They confessed their own sins. They stopped being ashamed of telling people that they were Christians. They sought after God and it was evidenced by their devotion to Him. God cleaned up the land.

One city had nothing for their police to do. They directed traffic for the daily prayer meetings. This city had sixteen policemen who formed four quartets so that the police department was called when people needed to have someone sing at their prayer meetings. 

These are not the prayers that start and stop Christian meetings. These were hungry prayers. They sought after God wholly. It started small each time it has happened and took hold of whole sections of the country. It was miraculous. It changed the whole direction of the country for years to come. There were social reforms, prison reforms and church memberships swelled. 

It seems so simple that God would tell us to pray and He would heal the land but it is still true. It isn't political reform that will do so. That's the politicians trying to get Christians to vote for them. It isn't educational reform or economic reform that will do it. It is humble prayer that turns away from anything that resembles wickedness. It is prayer that seeks God's face rather than trying to get something out of His hands. It is prayer that is heard by God. It is prayer that God is wanting to hear right now.

These prayers sometimes have a few people who can be noted as having started the movement but they are not about personalities. They are not about selling books are waiting in lines to hear some great Christian Bible teacher. They are just God seeking, God honoring prayers.

Will there be people who will pray diligently again? In some instances, there was a small praying group that prayed for years before the revival of God's presence took hold. They faithfully prayed and believed. God honored their prayers.

Will we be that people who will call on God to heal our land? Will we turn away from anything that even resembles evil and seek His face? 

I am sure that God will keep His part of the agreement. 

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

A World Without a Moral Compass

I have always thought that we have inherited a sense of right and wrong. I believed that the righteousness by which God created us was the foundation of our existence. We knew what was right by this righteousness and it would eventually prevail in the face of evil. I now have doubts about this belief.

I am discovering that many people do not know the difference between right and wrong. They see sins as choices. There is no good or evil just a choice on whether something seems good for them. The difference is how they are judged; not whether their actions have some higher law which determines right and wrong.

Thus, the heroes in our plays and movies are often more flawed than the villains. Often, a portion of the audience is secretly rooting for this villain. They so often show the justification for their evil.

Thus, we often attack the victims rather than the ones who are guilty. A shooting rampage at a school is blamed on those who laughed at the shooter. Robbing the bank is blamed on the rich cats who have driven the economy into the ground. We can't seem to fix who is right and who is wrong because we no longer have a sense of right and wrong.

Right and wrong is now determined by who and how many people believe as you do. If the majority thinks that bad language is fine, it will be defended as free speech. If a majority thinks that marriage infidelity is fine, it will be supported as a release from feeling confined.

The lack of this moral compass of knowing wrong from right gives us a very unstable world. It means we cannot count on being defended when we suffer a wrong. You have to know whether or not it is wrong before you can be defended. It means that we will stand still when someone is being hurt. We will say, "Its not my fight," and fail to recognize that we have joined the ranks of those who do not know right from wrong.

Mankind will always create a sense of right and wrong but it cannot simply be that which the majority favors. Right and wrong must be transcendent or it will go the way of mankind's nature. We are naturally selfish. Having no governing authority will allow us to extend our selfishness.

The Bible says that there is a way that seems right to a man but the end of it is destruction. Mankind will not have to wait for a giant meteor to hit the planet or any of the other disasters heralded by popular movies. We can destroy ourselves from within. We are certainly on that path.

If you think I am hopeless, you are wrong. I have a genuine solution. It is very revolutionary. But that's tomorrow's blog . . . .

Monday, November 23, 2009

Often Opportunities Come Disguised as Obligations

One day Moses was minding his own business when he saw something that caught his eye. It piqued his curiosity so that he went over to see what it was. In the midst of a bush that appeared to be burning but wasn't consumed was the presence of God. God told Moses what he must do to lead his people out of Egypt. Moses resisted.

Here was a great opportunity for Moses. He could be the leader of his people. It was something God had prepared for him since birth. He could give his people relief but Moses saw this as an obligation that he didn't want to fulfill. He didn't even think he could fulfill it. He almost let the opportunity go by. Of course, he didn't and became one of the more influential leaders of all time.

We pass up lots of opportunities because they look like obligations. We pass up serving in church because we don't want to be tied down each Sunday. We pass up taking our sons fishing because it takes an effort out of us. We pass up taking our daughters to a movie because it isn't a movie we particularly want to see. We pass them up and regret our decisions later in life.

Opportunities are often inconvenient. They take us out of our routine. They take more effort than doing what we have always been doing. They take some risks because they don't have guaranteed returns. Sometimes we are so protective of our time and energies we miss the best parts of our lives.

You can't really identify a true opportunity until you have committed to it. The things that appear to be opportunities may be burdens. Retrospect is the best way to identify a true opportunity.

How do you know the difference? You do what is presented before you as you seek whether or not God has placed this opportunity in front of you. You must look at what you have been given. Most things have a shelf life. The opportunity comes and goes. It seldom returns.

Selfishness is a great way to lose an opportunity. Opportunities cost something. They will take your time, money or energies. You will never meet an opportunity that won't cost. Giving is truly the best way of seizing an opportunity.

Today will present opportunities for you. God will place them in your path. Will you accept them and be grateful that you did or will you pass them by and never know them as opportunities?

The choice is yours.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

There Is No Such Thing as Payback

Many years ago a woman had an affair. She knew it was wrong, ended the affair and confessed to her husband. He told her that he forgave her. Then, he went out and had multiple affairs himself. I wondered if he was trying to pay back the pain his wife inflicted upon him. He may have felt justified for a short time. He may have felt that he had paid her back for a short period of time but he kept starting new affairs. No number of affairs can serve as a payback. You simply cannot get over evil by inflicting more evil. Evil promises relief from your pain but never delivers.

Jesus told us to pray for our enemies. He never claimed we could get relief by revenge.  There will never be enough pain inflicted which will result in satisfaction for what has happened to you.

It is harder when someone very close to you wants to make amends but you still want them to know the pain they have inflicted on you. You think that giving them what they gave you will restore the relationship because each of you will have felt that pain. It just doesn't work. You will never feel satisfied if you are looking for payback.

There is justice but justice is not revenge. Justice gives a prescribed penalty. That penalty means the person has paid that debt. For example, the wages of sin is death. There is a prescribed penalty for sin.

There is grace but it does not negate the sentence.  Guilty people need grace because they deserve justice. I want grace for my sins not justice. Grace will not make me innocent. It simply takes away the penalty of my sin.

There is grace that lives inside the one who has received grace. That grace should allow those full of grace to give grace to others. In fact, grace is the only way to get over what someone has done to you.

I know that the movies create bad guys whom everyone attending wishes for payback on what he has done. It makes a good movie to see someone get back what he has been dealing out. Sometimes we cheer as if that will pay back what has been done. It is easy for movie goers to believe this because we have not really experienced the first hand pain inflicted by the evil character. We think there is a real payback. Real life doesn't feel that way. The pain is still there and as long as the pain is there, there can be no payback.

Only God's grace can remove the pain someone has inflicted. Asking Him to do so is the first step in relief. No measure of payback will take away the pain. No measure of payback will satisfy the wrong. 

Simply put: If you want to get over it, you ask for God's grace. If you want to prolong the pain, you seek payback. It's your choice because there is no such thing as payback.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Your Trust in God Affects Your Whole Life

Something is always substituted for a lack of trust in God. If you don't trust God you may trust yourself. Your mantra will be, "If it is to be, its up to me." This trust may get you far. You will probably take responsibility for your achievements. You will make them paramount in your self esteem. You will think that you are grand when they go well and when they don't you will somehow call yourself a failure. This seems to be a miserable way to live. How do you forgive yourself when you have no basis for forgiveness? Do you merely look for final success for vindication? Yet, the one who dies with the most toys still dies.

Maybe you trust in karma. This seems to be one that is going around today. If you are good, good things will happen to you. I'm sorry but that means you must turn a blind eye to a lot of bad things that happen to some very good people. That means you must assume that these good people have secretly done some bad things to have such bad things happen to them. It also means that you are giving yourself too much credit when good things happen to you. While doing good things so that good things will happen seems reasonable, it just doesn't always happen.

Maybe you trust in fate. Things are going to happen no matter what you do. So, you live a mundane life. You buy a lottery ticket every week and think that if it is going to happen it will happen. You go to work thinking that keeping or losing your job will happen if it is going to happen. Your life neither has highs or lows because it is all a matter of fate. Why get excited?

A lack of trust in God may cause you to trust no one. Who can be trusted if the One who gave His only Son on the Cross can't be trusted? You may keep yourself at a distance from others because they can't be trusted. You may suspect every person to plot evil against you because they can't be trusted. You may assume that everyone is talking about you. You may lose those who love you because you won't trust them. You may even drive them away.

A true trust in God takes away life's anxieties. Any fear can be given to Him. Any uncertainty can placed in His hands. Any hope can be supported by Him. You can always trust Him because He is always loving. He will never withdraw His love from you. He is always all-knowings so that He knows what is best. He is always all-powerful so that He can always accomplish what He wants for you. His plans are for you to have a hope and a future. His desire is to be with you forever.

You can trust God no matter what you are going through. Give Him a try if you think you have something that He can't be trusted with. Bring it to Him and He will give you a peace that you can't explain.

Keep saying, "Yes, He will," until you say, "Yes, He has."

Friday, November 20, 2009

You Can't Be a Parent Just When You Want To

I flew yesterday through Atlanta. If you watched the news you know the mess. It gave me time to practice my new skill: chilling. I calmed down after learning that it was a computer glitch and there was really nothing that Delta could do about it. They were very nice, booked me on later flights that I would either miss or were canceled. By the time I got on one of the flights I was completely calm.

A mom with two children got in the seats behind me. The kids were absolutely berserk. They were yelling, kicking the seats and generally ignoring everything she said. In turn, she was yelling at them to stop kicking the seats and to be quieter. It made them do it even more. Dad was a row or so away. He may have had another child with him. Mom started the, "I can't make this trip with these children " complaint to him. He was doing all that he could from a distance to get the children to mind. It was having no affect.

These two parents are at a critical time with their children. The youngest was a baby. The oldest appeared to be eight to ten. If they think it will be hard to manage these children at this age because they won't mind, let these children become teenagers and see how that will ruin their lives. They need help badly. I doubt if they will get it until a great deal of damage is done.

You can't be a parent just when you want to. You can't try to be your children's friends in the home and then try to parent them when you get in public. They will see no need to mind if they see you as a peer. They will treat you no different from their other friends who don't always try to tell them what to do. Don't have children so you can have more friends. Just get on facebook. It's much cheaper and you don't have ever have to give them the keys to the car!

Discipline in the home is necessary so that discipline in public is natural. It will never happen the other way around. You can't suddenly tell the children to mind. They will not understand what has changed. They will challenge these boundaries like anyone who is suddenly restricted. It is normal and you should expect it.

When things are really bad these parents may bring their children to church. They will say, "We have tried everything. Now, let's have the church be our children's parents." That also won't work. The church will never substitute for a parent. The discipline learned at church will not transfer to the home if the parent continues to act the same way. This is why the Youth Minister will praise the child to the parent while the parent wonders how he got their child mixed up with someone else's. The child may work well under boundaries but does not see those boundaries at home. Therefore, he continues to act like he always did.

Often the parenting skills are a reaction to how their own parents raised them. Maybe they don't want to do it the way their parents did. Maybe their parents were strong disciplinarians and they want to give their children freedom. So, instead of having their children rebel as soon as they get out from under their parent's rule, they live like rebels all their lives. Parents need to learn that each child is different and each child needs to be treated differently. Parents need to learn that having parents doesn't qualify you to be parents. Parents need to learn that help is available and it is better to seek it than to pretend you don't need it.

Becoming a parent will change your life. You cannot be as free in where you go, how you spend your money or how you plan your life. You have a responsibility to these children to grow them up so that they can make it on their own. Your goal is to prepare them for life, not to be their older friend. It is from you that they learn love, honesty, hard work and any virtue necessary for life. It is from you that they will have the character to stand tall when challenged in these virtues. It is from you they learn forgiveness, generosity and seeking the best in others. A parent is simply the most important person in the child's life. 

Get help. Read books. ( I recommend "Have a New Kid by Friday" by Kevin Leman.) Take your children to church and ask your church to provide things to help with parenting. Talk with your children's teachers. Resolve that you will be a full-time parent. You can't be a parent just when you want to.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Erring on the Side of Grace

Have you ever made a judgement call at first glance? Was it on the side of grace or condemnation?

Years ago I went to play tennis with a friend of mine at a fairly nice tennis club. I didn't put on tennis shorts, just grabbed an old pair of shorts to play in. One of their members told me that I would have to leave because I wasn't wearing tennis attire. There was a little girl in her swimsuit and other playing without this type of clothing but they were not being asked to leave. My friend, a member of this tennis club, asked why. I told him that it was better if we left rather than argue with the man. He deemed me unacceptable for the club. He made a judgement call which condemned me. Funny, but I never forgot this. I hope I never do the same.

I wonder why some people think like that. Why would you assume the worst when you are presented with outward appearances? Why not assume something else? Why not give grace rather than condemnation?

This attitude will keep many people out of the church. They see the looks at their clothing, tattoos and body piercings. They know they are being condemned from the surface. They know that they are being degraded in the eyes of the one who is giving this condemnation. They have very good reason for staying out of church.

This elitist attitude actually degrades the person who claims it. It makes him fall under the same judgement. Jesus said, "In the same way that you judge will you yourself be judged." Honestly, I don't want to be judged. I am sure I would turn out guilty. I want to have grace. I know I must give grace if I am to have grace. I know that I must judge with grace rather than condemnation. Judging with condemnation results in condemnation. I don't want any part of that.

I'll admit I am prejudiced. I am so aware of how someone might judge

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Living with a False Sense of Security

I flew to Texas yesterday. I will drive to Lovington, New Mexico to conduct my wife's uncle's funeral today. Of course, I had to fly. So, I had another set of fingernail clippers confiscated by TSA. It had a blade of two and a half inches.

"You got to be joking!" I told the agent, "No one could say this is a weapon!" Can you really imagine a guy taking on a plane full of passengers with a blade that is flimsy and only two and a half inches long? Common sense says this is ridiculous. This is the post 911 world. Pre-911 we told people to obey the terrorist and eventually everything would be okay. Post-911 means everyone on the plane will beat the fire out of you until you are subdued. We can't think that confiscating such small blades are giving us any security.

Its amazing what rights we are willing to relinquish to receive a sense of security. We don't mind being searched without cause or even having our personal belongings displayed for every passenger who walks by. We would rather have security before we have our rights.

I believe that is what elections are about. People are afraid for their jobs, their homes and their savings. They want someone who will make their lives secure. They want security rather than opportunity.

People have yet to learn that the world cannot offer real security. That is because the world is not in charge of making things happen. Believing that government, politicians, economic prosperity or any other thing created or controlled by mankind can bring security is only false security. It was not so long ago we thought that the economy would never stop, the politicians we needed were in office and the government just needed to leave us all alone. Our world was turned upside down, not because any of these tried to destroy our security, but because none of these things is in control of the world.

The only real security is found in putting your life in the hands of Jesus. He is the One who said that He has overcome the world. His security is eternal. It may not mean you won't be killed by a terrorist. It will mean that He will take you home to be with Him forever. It may not mean that you will be able to live off of your stock market investments. It will mean that you can be contented with all that you need as He supplies. It may not meant that you will be healed from every disease on this world. It will mean that you will be healed from every disease in the next world.

We put so much stock in what we see. We think that the appearances of security mean that there is genuine security. We think that this world can provide security. We work so hard for something that we can never really provide.

True peace is not found in peaceful moments. True peace is found when all hell is breaking loose and you have placed your life in the hands of the Prince of Peace. You will be completely secure and your earthly circumstances will have nothing to do with it.

The hope for security from the world is a false hope. The only real hope is found in Jesus.

If you feel insecure, don't look to the world to give you a false sense of security. Put you life in the hands of the One who loved you enough to die for you.

God bless you. Yes, He already has.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

What Part of "For God So Loved the World" Do Christians Fail to Understand?

I get emails from people and organizations telling me to boycott businesses that do not act like Christians want them to. They claim that this pressure will make them comply. I think this sounds a lot like what the Pharisees did in Jesus' day.

The Pharisees didn't have anything to do with the sinners. They were very good at condemning their sin and would accept them if they would simply comply and do what the Pharisees wanted. They expected that Jesus would follow their lead if He was a great religious teacher. He certainly couldn't be the Messiah if He didn't comply with the Pharisees' rules.

Jesus, however, had a different idea. He loves sinners. He decided He would hang out with them. He expressed His love for them. Out of the sinners came Matthew who would write a Gospel. Another sinner named Zacchaeus would repent of the money he had cheated from people. He would return it fourfold. Mary Magdalene would become one of Jesus closest followers. He loved on these people and they came to know Him.

Jesus abandoned the Pharisees' method of coercing people to comply with their behavior. He gave us the example of loving people into the kingdom. His love made them repent of their sins.

I wonder why we just don't get it. Why don't we understand that genuine love will win people into the kingdom? Our judgment should be reserved for those who are believers. We should approach believers when they sin. We should gently urge them into a renewed relationship with Christ. However, we should be showing love rather than coercion to those who do not know Christ.

I wonder: Instead of Christians boycotting stores who do not comply, what would happen if we decided to love and pray for them instead? What would happen if we wrote them letters of love and said we were going to shop at their stores? What if they understood that our God is One of love rather and forced compliance?

Do you think that we would see more people come to Christ?

Monday, November 16, 2009

What Is Revival?

Maybe your pastor has told you that you should be praying for revival. This seems to be a mantra given for several decades. Many prayers are offered without any idea what they are praying for. Many are offered without any expectation of revival. Many are offered without the compliance revival requires. There is no revival.

Revival is not several days of meetings with a guest speaker. We have called these revivals but they often result in a frustration. People are expected to come to church several nights during the week to hear this speaker. The speaker has a few "sugar stick" sermons delivered with incredible timing. They are given ti elicit a public response. He will "share" the number of people who have walked the aisle to make a decision for Christ with every church at which he hopes to preach.

I believe that many of these men genuinely want to see people come to know Christ as Savior but I also know they can't help believing that the results directly impact their ability to get other churches to book them. I am no better than them. I'm just acknowledging that this has to be on their minds.

A genuine revival is a work of the Holy Spirit. People are drawn to a relationship with the Lord. It starts with a praying group. It erupts in some type of meeting. It may be a prayer meeting, a meeting when their is preaching or some other type of spiritual meeting. It cannot be contained.

The moment of revival begins when Christians confess and repent of their sins, are no longer ashamed of telling someone of Jesus who lives within them, obey the Holy Spirit and make a total commitment to the Lord. They no longer begrudge tithing, witnessing or going to church meetings which run longer than one hour. They are changed from the inside out. They live like Jesus is truly their reason for living.

Revival has always resulted in a great number of people coming to know the Lord. They do so because the Holy Spirit makes a sweeping movement into the community around these changed Christians. There are stories of people falling under conviction before they even entered the church. They cannot explain why this has happened other than the presence of the Lord came upon them and they were compelled to be saved.

Sometimes revivals have resulted in an emotional cleansing. People who were convicted of their sins wept as they confessed their sins. They have laughed when they were clean. They have a joy that is inexpressible when they have come fully to the Lord.

Most of the people who come through a genuine revival never lose their zeal for the Lord. They are steadfast in keeping their sins confessed, their lives humble, their Bibles read, their church served and their lives circumspect. They are diligent decades after the revival has passed.

Revivals affect lifestyles. Bars go out of business and crime virtually stops. People don't have to be told what they need to do to live godly lives. They will avoid that which appears to be evil. They don't become judgmental. They just don't participate. The businesses which appeal to the lower nature go out of business from lack of participation.

Revival seems like a dream. It isn't. It can be a reality but it will never be such until Christians decide to pray for it. We must do so realizing that we can not hold back anything from our Lord. This, unfortunately, seems to be a nightmare for many Christians rather than a dream.

Revival will change your church, community, city and country. Will you pray for revival?

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Sometimes WWJD Is Not a Good Answer

The thought at one time was, "What Would Jesus Do in this situation?" It was supposed to drive us to do what He would do in the world. It was supposed to have us live moral lives. I don't think it applies to every situation.

How do we know what Jesus would do? Do we take what we know of Him from the Bible and try to apply that? Do we take what we know of Him from our own personal experiences with Him and apply that? Do we pretend that we are the physical manifestation of God Himself and lay hands on the sick with the full expectation that they will get up and take their sick beds with them? Do we go to funerals and attempt to raise the dead?

Take, for example, a man who is struggling with an alcohol addiction. His car breaks down between work and home on a Friday afternoon. He begins to walk toward home when he comes upon a bar. It is easy for him to rationalize what Jesus would do. Since Jesus came to the sick rather than the well, Jesus would have gone into the bar and made friends with all the patrons. He can rationalize that he should do the same thing when in reality he needs to keep on walking.

The question shouldn't be "What would Jesus do?" but "What does Jesus want me to do?" Now that changes the whole focus. The Holy Spirit has gifted each of us differently. He has called us into different areas of service. We are to act according to our gifts and the call we have received. 

We all have different weaknesses and strengths. I don't have any problem with alcohol. My sins are much deeper. I don't drink but I also don't mind being with those who do. I could walk into a bar and make friends with everyone. However, I couldn't be the person who watches certain movies to inform Christians of their content. I couldn't be the person who could intellectually takes on the religious leaders who attack those who do not believe as they do. I don't have the spiritual or intellectual fortitude to do so. 

Jesus expects me to work with Him in doing what He would have me do. It is a much more powerful position. I do things that I could never have done by simply asking what Jesus would do. I am doing things designed for me before the beginning of time. 

I have prayed for people and seen their healing. I have also prayed for a baby born without the necessary vital organs and brain function to peacefully pass into the arms of Jesus. Could I have prayed the prayer for the baby if I were going to act like Jesus? No, I had to ask what Jesus would have me do. The answer was full of His love. He said, "Give me the child."

I suppose WDJWMTD (What Does Jesus Want Me To Do) bracelets will never catch on. I do think it is a much better way of living. This question, if answered honestly,  just might change our whole lives.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Lessons I Never Wanted to Learn

There are lessons I have never wanted to learn. I know these are characteristics but I would have liked to have inherited them rather than learned them. Some of these are trust, patience and perseverance. 

It isn't that I want to pass on these traits. It is just that I would like to receive them in another way. I would rather watch my neighbor learn these from experience. I would love to think that I could get as much out of them vicariously as I would with personal experience. Yet, while I do admire my neighbor's learning, I have found that I never truly learn traits of character without personal experience. Thus, I am due to have my faith tested, my patience tested and my continuance in doing God's will tested.

I suppose I shouldn't be surprised. Was Joseph ever tested? Was Moses ever tested? Was Joshua ever tested? Is this not the pattern for all the saints? Why should I expect to learn without personal testing if God has been testing His servants from the beginning?

The Scripture says that He would began a good work in you will complete it by the day of Jesus. God is certainly in the completion business.

Now, here is the strange thing: I don't like being tested and learning character traits that God wants to place in me. Yet, after they are completed, I wouldn't trade anything for them. I treasure these experiences once they are over.

The experiences come and go but God keeps working on me. I think I am patient and He takes me through another trying experience. I think I trust Him and He takes away all my other supports. I learn, I praise Him and He brings me into a new experience, often concerning the same character trait I thought I had just learned. I cannot see the flaws that remain behind. God continues to clean up the mess.

I praise God, not because I have arrived, but because I am not what I was. He is making me into something I would never have achieved on my own. Please be patient, God is not finished with me yet. 

Friday, November 13, 2009

Not Enough Faith to Be an Atheist

I just don't have enough faith to be an atheist. Though they claim to worship at the altar of science, atheist often exhibit an undeterred faith when science does not provide the answers.

Atheism must, therefore, be a faith system. It has loyal followers, has a method of worship and has beliefs which boggle the imagination. Science is god, Darwin is the son and evolution represents the holy spirit. The atheist takes a stance of faith if any evidence challenges a "proven" theory (by the way, a theory by definition is not proven). He simply gives a excuse which is also unproven.

Take for example punctuated equilibrium. This is the theory that says that whenever evolution is about the create a new species that rapid change occurs. Therefore there will be no fossil evidence for gradual change. It removes the burden of proof which evolutionary scientist established long ago. They claimed that the fossils would prove their theory.

The hunt for that evidence has been mudded by these "scientist" who claim to have discovered missing links in the evolutionary chain. Different "discoveries" have resulted in great claims of evolutionary science in which it has been proven that the ones making the discoveries knew they were false before they made their presentations. The evolutionists gathered to toast these findings without taking the time to scrutinize the evidence. This sounds a whole lot more like faith than science to me.

To top all this off, they continue to recite this false evidence in subsequent books. Therefore, the already proven false claim gets more credence even though it is false. The whole thing sounds like a Dan Brown novel.

What is wrong with saying, "I don't know"? This would be the answer without a faith system. A faith system needs something to believe and demands that this remain believable. It vehemently defends its stance before unbelievers. It often fails to examine alternate theories of what it claims.

I don't have enough faith for that. I believe that God has left enough mystery in the universe for me to never know all of what has been done. I believe time began at a certain time (an infinite past means we could have a never arrived at today). I believe that the universe is a cosmos rather than chaos because of a creator.

I understand (dimly) the concept of infinity in which everything is not only possible but assured. I just don't believe you can put a million monkeys in a room with a million typewriters and you will ever produce War and Peace (Tolstoy would be relieved). In fact, I don't even think they would be able to produce The Cat in the Hat.

I believe that Occam's Razor is the best explanation for most things of creation. I have never found a watch created by molecules randomly running together. Life is immeasurably more complicated than a watch. A creator is much less complicated in explanation and fits within everything else I know about creation. Most of the things I use each day had a manufacturer and creator. I never think that any of them randomly came together.

I grasp part of the Big Bang theory but even it creates its own unexplained conundrums. How could the Big Bang start time without an outside force? Wouldn't it mean that time has already started if there is an outside force? If time was already started, what happened before the force that was outside of the Big Bang? Think about this for very long and you will eventually start chasing your tail.

So, I admit that I am a man of faith. I admit that I don't have the answers of the universe. I admit that it is faith and sometimes lacks empirical proof. I choose to believe because of my own personal encounters with God, not because I have simply tried to believe. These are my own experiences which I cannot give to someone else. They lack outside proof. That is because they are experiences of faith.

I lack the faith to be an atheist who says he knows there is no god. You see, if he ever says he doesn't know, he becomes an agnostic. And, therein lies his problem. He must be much more steadfast to defend his faith or before too long he will be claiming that there could be a Creator. If so, he has lost his faith.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Interpreting the Bible in the Absence of the Holy Spirit

Many Christians either give the Holy Spirit a place among the Trinity of God which He does not seek or relegate Him to being a servant of Christians rather than God Himself. They cannot seem to find the place for the Holy Spirit. They understand the Father and the Son. Jesus spoke to His Father. Everyone has had a father at some time. That makes sense. They understand the Son. He is God who came from Heaven to live among people as one of them. They don't understand why the Holy Spirit is needed. They don't understand how He works. Thus, it is easier to have Him absent than to seek His presence for they have no idea what His presence means.

Their are many names for the Holy Spirit. One of these is "Spirit of Truth." It isn't just that He tells the truth for He is the truth. Jesus also said the He (Jesus) is the truth. It is a characteristic of God to be the truth. The Holy Spirit is the One present on earth to guide us into all truth. He is the One who inspired the writers of the Scriptures. He is the One who continues to lead us into truth.

The Bible is the inspired word of God. It is a book which needs the Holy Spirit for interpretation. It is not merely something that can be studied objectively with the human mind. It needs divine intervention to be understood and applied. The Holy Spirit brings people under conviction, teaches them what they must do, corrects them when they have done wrong and trains them in righteousness. This is all done by the leading of the Spirit of Truth, the Holy Spirit.

Men try to give their own interpretations and applications in the absence of the Holy Spirit. This causes them to lean one way or the other. On one side you will find legalism. These people take the Scriptures, study them under a microscope and give strict rules for obedience. They are very much like the Pharisees in Jesus day. They have very little room for grace. Compliance is the evidence of a good Christian. Each deviant must be met with chastisement and threats. Legalism leads to a false sense of righteousness because it is based on works rather than the righteousness of Jesus. The believer seeks a perfection which is truly a terrible way to live. 

The other way of interpreting the Scripture without the Holy Spirit is liberalism. Here you find a loose interpretation and application of Scripture. It is taken out of context to prove social agendas. Obedience is made optional. The feelings of the individual will overrule the Scripture. The current acceptable social more' prevails over sin and righteousness.

God becomes what I call the "Nursing Home God." No one hardly ever comes to see Him so He doesn't care how you come to Him as long as you come. Conviction is seen as bad for the psyche. Obedience is found in what feels good. Service is found in whatever is convenient. Perfection is defined as a clear conscience. 

The presence of the Holy Spirit does amazing things with the Scriptures. They become personal words to believers which help them live victorious lives. The Scriptures encourage and convict. They lead believers to a God who loves them and receives them. The Scriptures lead believers to a God who loves them enough to chastise and challenge them. They lead believers to a God who is personal as well as almighty. Righteousness is based on the work of Jesus. Forgiveness is based on the Cross. Life is based on a real relationship with Jesus.

The believer no longer reads the Scriptures alone when the Holy Spirit is present. In fact, often the believer opens the Bible and says, "Holy Spirit, please read your word to me." It becomes an exciting moment rather than a drudgery. The believer is meeting with God who loves and has plans for a hope and a future. The Bible is no longer something which merely tells of a God in the past but a God who is very present in that moment and in all other moments. 

The believer knows he or she will not live perfect lives when the Holy Spirit is present. The believer seeks to be in communion with God. It means that sins will be confessed and repented of. The believer does not think of condemnation when thinking of God. He or she thinks of joy because this is where true joy is found.

So, why would you ever read the Bible without the Holy Spirit? 

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Do Christians Worship Idols?

I have preached the answer to this sermon before. The problem was that I didn't preach all the message. I preached that Christians are worshiping their boats, houses and bank accounts. We worship that which we spend our most valuable assets on. Our time and money are given in homage to our possessions. These are idols which we see clearly.

Lately, I have noticed other idols Christians are worshiping. They are found in the church. They seem natural and even beneficial but they are idols which take away from, rather than enhance the worship of God.

Christians can worship the form of their worship. They will fight to keep that form exactly as they had it when they grew up. Their desire for this form is comes from a remembered feeling. They want to feel like they have worshiped and may even say this when their "idol" form is used. They will employ the rhetoric of others to discount any change in worship. They will say that the new song isn't honoring to the Lord or that it is too difficult to sing or that it isn't what they want. It indicates a worship of the form regardless of how the Christian has presented it.

Amazingly, this worship of form applies to both sides of the aisle. I have heard younger people saying things like, "I don't want to sing these old hymns." They believe that anything without a guitar and drum set is not worship. They are just as guilty or worshiping form.

Christians may also worship the stained glass windows, the organ, the Lord's Supper Table, the old pulpit, the preacher (though, I must admit I'm not as upset about this one as I should be) or an item in the budget. They will fall down before these idols and defend them to the end. The will leave the church if they are removed or even moved. They will make them idols which will destroy the fellowship of the church.

The Bible tells us to guard our hearts. This isn't a one time or even a once in the morning commitment. The heart has to be guarded at all times. The Bible tells us to love the Lord our God with all of our hearts, all of our minds, all of our souls and all of our strength. Anything that diminishes this love is an idol which needs to be removed from its place of worship.

I am not telling you to break your stain glass windows, throw out your organs or fire the pastors you love. I am saying that our commitment to the Lord must be established before any of these things. I am saying that you must check your heart and make sure that these items are not replacing your love for the Lord and thus becoming idols.

The Christian life is one of diligence. We must always be on our guards to keep our hearts completely His. We must admit when we have wandered and come back like prodigals who are repentant and only seeking to be in our Heavenly Father's presence. We must worship God alone and make sure that is Who we are worshiping.

Think of the conflicts which churches would avoid if Christians got rid of all their idols.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Have You Run into the Devil Lately?

Have you ever wondered why Jesus ran into the devil a whole lot more than Christians do today? It was because He is extremely dangerous to the devil. He upsets everything the devil wants to do. So, the devil came out to thwart whatever Jesus was doing.

Does the devil still try to stop the work of Jesus? You better believe he does! You can count on running into the devil if you are active in serving your Lord, Jesus.

The devil hates people coming to know Jesus as Savior. He does whatever he can to convince people that Christians are living in a psychological co-dependence. He tells people that it isn't real. He points to those who once said they believe in Jesus but now claim that was just a stage in their lives. He tries to make it appear silly or controlling or any other way to dissuade people from coming to Christ. He makes Christianity into a religion of hate. He attacks those who try to share their faith with those who do not know Christ. He can't stand it when even one soul is reached.

The devil will try to discourage Christians from living a joyful life. He will obtain permission from God to attack those who are serving their Lord. He can only go as far as God allows but he still attacks. He may attack the Christians money supply or his health or his relationships. God allows him to do so because God trusts the Christian to be faithful. That doesn't make it easy for the Christian but it is encouraging to know God trusts us.

The devil will try to get the Christian to fail in his relationship with Christ. He will tempt the Christian in his old sinful ways. The Christian may have been a boozer before coming to Christ, so the devil will tempt him with booze. The Christian may have had trouble with porn so the devil will put him alone with the porn available. The devil wants the Christian to fail and think there is no hope.

The devil will get other Christians to complain about the way the Christian is reaching people for Christ. It doesn't even occur to the complaining Christian that the way that works is better than doing nothing which is exactly what the complaining Christian is doing.

The devil will try to distract the Christian from service. I once sat in a meeting with Christians who were lamenting over a family who quit coming to their church. They said that these folks had stopped coming and when contacted said they weren't coming back because no one cared. The Christians were going to make a great effort to get this family back. I commented, "So, you are telling me that they stopped coming on their own for no reason. Now, they are saying that it is your fault for their not coming because, even though you had contacted them in the past in which they always had an excuse, that this time it was just too long before you contacted them. They are saying it is your fault that they don't come to church?" I dont' know why the Christians couldn't see that it was the absent family's fault for not coming to church. Now they were going to take the time and effort that could be used in reaching new people so that these unfaithful Christians could get attention. That is the work of the devil.

People who diligently serve their Lord out of their love for Him will regularly meet the devil. He goes to church every Sunday even if the Christian doesn't. He is there to stop the Lord's work. So, you are in great company when you run into the devil. You are in the company of the Lord Himself.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Are You a Gossip?

Gossip is one of the sins which is greatly misunderstood. It is seen as benign when the Bible lists it with the greatest of sins. It is seen as telling lies when it may actually be telling the truth.

Gossip is telling a story that will hurt someone. It is not slander. Slander is telling a lie that will hurt someone. Gossip has its own category in the list of sins. Slander is listed separately.

So, are you a gossip? You are if you carry the following characteristics.

A gossip listens to gossip. Gossips will stop coming to you if you don't receive them. They spread their venom where it will be taken in. I have heard many a gossip tell me, "I don't know why they tell me these things." I know. It is because they will listen to it. You cannot be a gossip if you change the subject when someone starts to gossip. You are when you listen.

A gossip accepts the bad thing said about the person being gossiped about. Gossips will stop coming to you if you start defending the person. Gossips will leave you alone if you start discussing the reasons people might have done what is being gossiped about in a positive light. Their goal is to stand on the back of the person they are criticizing so they can look taller. They won't look so tall if you make the other person taller than the gossip.

A gossip throws reason into the wind. The gossip doesn't think that there might be a good reason things appear as they do. They just carry the gossip on. They are not reasonable. For example, a gossip will speak of another person's apparent drinking problem. They won't look for what could have happened that might have been innocent. It might be that this is the only time the person has drunk too much. Yet, the gossip tells the story as if this is the normal way of life for the one being gossiped about. The inability to corroborate the story means nothing to the gossip. Reason has nothing to do with it.

A gossip adds to the story. The gossip looks for things that will either support or start a new thread of gossip. It is bad enough to listen to gossip but a true gossip will also add a little more. It may have been heard from another gossip or it may be original work. Either way, gossip grows like cancer among gossips.

The gossip thinks that other gossips are his or her friends. They don't know that the one who will gossip to you will gossip about you. They don't even recognize that they do the same things.

A gossip doesn't know he or she is a gossip. They think they are just having pleasant conversations. They listen, accept, add to and revel in the demise of another person. They don't even see it as such. Gossips do not consider the damage that is being done. Sometimes the greatest damage is to the gossip. His or her heart is being corrupted by their own gossip.

Now, I know that no gossip is going to admit he or she is a gossip. I guess I wrote this so people would be able to recognize a world class gossip. They tear people apart. They tear churches apart. I just don't see how someone can be happy by trying to stand on another person's back.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Will Boys Become Men?

I rode my bicycle to church this morning as I do every morning. Near the church some boys yelled obscenities at me. This is not the first time something like this has happened. I have been hit with leather straps, had bottles thrown at me and, more often, been yelled at. I was on the sidewalk or in the bike lane on every one of these occasions. I was not impeding traffic or causing them any distress. So, why did they do this?

In each case these were boys. Please note that I didn't call them young men. They weren't young men. They were boys. They want to become men but they don't know how. They don't know what it takes to be a man and they believe that exercising some power over another individual will make them men. Their fathers have not taught them what it is to be a man. Maybe their fathers don't know either.

A man does what is right. He seeks to know what is right and does it no matter what the consequences. Taking advantage of other people is not right. It is the action of a boy trying to determine what a man is. What these boys did this morning was not right. Even they would know this if confronted.

A man stands up to his adversary. These boys knew that I could not catch the SUV they were driving. They tried to say they were standing up when everyone can see they were sitting down. They wanted to think they were brave when there was no bravery. At other times I have tried to catch boys who have done these things. I have seen passengers yelling at the drivers to go faster because I might catch them at a red light. How much bravery is in this?

A man always puts love before himself. He seeks to be a friend rather than a foe to others. He seeks the best for others. He does not hate. He may pity but he does not hate. He may not choose to be around a fool but he does not hate. These boys were exhibiting hatefulness. They were just boys.

Have you noticed that the heroes in the stories don't exhibit the traits of real men anymore? There was a time when heroes in movies showed they were real men. Now, they are just boys. I wonder if movies changed the characters so that viewers could identify with them better.

Who is responsible for boys becoming men? Fathers are. Other men are. Boys don't teach boys to become men. Men teach boys to become men. 

Boys will not take their sons to church. They think it isn't manly. They don't understand the greatest Man who ever lived started the church. His name was Jesus and He wasn't the milk toast individual that movies have made Him out to be. He didn't even speak with a British accent. Jesus was a real man.

Maybe we would have more men in the world if they would learn that standing up for Jesus will make you a man. 

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Life Isn't Always What You Expect It to Be

As a child you allowed life to happen. Your parents took you everywhere you went and much of your time and nearly all your goals were prescribed for you. You did not think much of the future. It was like you were floating down a river on an inner tube. The river took you where it went. You were just a passenger.

The older you got the more decisions you were able to make. You were asked what you would do with your life. That question generally meant what you would do to support yourself. Some people know from the beginning but most change their decisions often. Eventually, you settle on one profession. You think that is what you will do the rest of your life. You may change jobs but you expect to stay within the same profession. This is rarely true today but it is your expectation.

Either new technologies or new opportunities capture your interest and you change professions. You may even go back to school and change to something completely unrelated. Thus, you have MD's with bachelors in Electrical Engineering. They don't seem very related.

At some point you may wonder if you are back in that river you were in as a kid. How could these things happen like this? How could you change direction in ways that were totally unforeseeable?

I suppose you could explain your change of direction by saying it is all about you and what you wanted. Surely, you made the decision to change directions in ways you never expected. Yet, I would ask you to consider another possibility. Could it be that there is an outside force who is helping you with your decisions?

Suppose there is Someone who is working all around you at all times. He is putting interests in your path. He can do so because He knows your heart. He knows what is best for you and is able to bring people to speak to you at the proper moments. He is able to put circumstances in front of you just when you need an answer. He senses when you have gotten bored with your current profession. He knows when you are frustrated and need a new challenge. He has great plans for you. These plans are for your good. Your response means your life takes an unexpected turn.

In the middle of the town of Enterprise, Alabama is a statue of a boll weevil. Years ago the boll weevil wiped out the cotton crops and forced the farmers to consider a new crop. They started planting peanuts and made more money than they ever could planting cotton. They owed their success to something that seemed to be their nemesis. Life took an unexpected turn. They are glad it did.

Life takes unexpected turns for us but it is never unexpected for God. I believe that He is often the One leading us to change our direction. I believe He is the One who has the ultimate plan for our good. I believe that following Him is the best.

Yes, life isn't always what you expect it to be. Sometimes it takes terrible turns that lead us down glorious paths. I thank God it isn't what I expected. In the long run, it's much better.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Is Jesus Worth That Much?

Jesus is reclining at the table. Lazarus was there. Martha was serving. Mary, their sister, came to Jesus and poured a bottle of very expensive perfume on His feet. She used her long hair to rub in the oil. The aroma filled the room.

"What are you doing?!" Judas asked indignantly, "This perfume was worth a whole year's wages. It could have been sold and given to the poor!"

Certainly Judas response sounds noble. Feeding the poor seems to be a better use of this perfume. All of it was placed on Jesus feet. It was gone in moments. Surely the poor mean more than this.

It is in this human reasoning that we discount the value of Jesus. Human reasoning will leave you without worship. Human reasoning is not based upon your love for Him. It is merely what appears right in your own eyes. Many reading this blog may have agreed with Judas. Jesus is just not worth a year's wages. It would be better to give it to the poor.

This is how people are able to forget about Jesus. One morning they get up and do something that does not honor their Lord and justify it with human reasoning. They say, "I can't go to church on Sundays because I want to spend time with my family. My family is involved in (you name it) which has its practices and games on Sundays. Surely, it is more important for me to spend time with my family."

It seems reasonable. It even seems laudable but it is really saying that Jesus doesn't mean that much. Don't worry about explaining it to the believers, its really your testimony to the non-believers that you will have to answer. They are reading you clearly. They don't think Jesus is worth that much either. They are glad you joined them. It verifies their belief. Surely, Jesus isn't worth this much.

I have seen non-believers observe the furnishings in a church and exclaim, "This would have been better spent on the poor!" I wonder if they have ever read the story of Mary giving her perfume. I wonder if they know they are repeating the words of Judas. A church should honor the Lord. It may not be lavish but it needs to be the most honorable place it can be.

Is Jesus really worth your devotion? Is He really worth all that you have? Is He worth your time and possessions? Human reasoning will never lead you to say yes.

When you get down to it, it all depends upon your love. If you love Him, there is nothing beyond His reach. You will hold back everything you can if you don't love Him. He is an idol rather than your Lord. He is a god of convenience.

Is Jesus worth that much?

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Man's Vengeance Avoids God's Justice

So, someone hurt you. Even worse, someone hurt someone you love. You want to get him or her back. You want him to feel the pain that you feel. You want him to know what they have done to you. You want vengeance in the worst way. I don't know why you want to let him off so light.

God is a god of love but He is also a god of justice. He wants you to forgive so that He can fully deal with this individual. He may bring him to repentance. Repentance will include the recognition of all the pain they he has caused. He will feel that pain or he hasn't understood repentance.

God cannot be fooled with pseudo-repentance. You have seen this before. People will cry crocodile tears but are only sorry they got caught. Their tears are produced because of the pain they feel from being caught. They don't feel pain for what they have done. God will continue with His justice in the face of pseudo-repentance.

God will not give full justice when you get in His way. You will have administered your own vengeance rather than His justice. This way the guilty get off light.

God's justice is sure. It will be administered in this world or the one to come. It is appropriate. The person will not get off as lightly as you would have hurt him. God's justice will be fulfilled. It will not be thwarted unless you try to administer your vengeance.

I worked in a business several years ago that promised me a raise after three months. When four months had passed and there was still no raise, I asked my boss about it. He told me that I embarrassed him by asking. (I had placed a note on his desk.) He told me I could quit if I wanted. 

My first reaction was to do damage to the company. I could seriously affect their bottom line by telling their customers what had happened to me. God told me to leave this man alone and the company. He told me that He would take care of it.

Three months later I quit and went to another job. I simply forgot about the injustice until I went back to that town to visit. I learned that this huge business, which owned several other businesses, was out of business. This man who had treated me unjustly was getting his justice. He lost his job when the business went under.

I could never have administered that justice. My vengeance may have hurt the company but would have done little to the man who treated me badly. God punished a business which was not treating its employees justly. He administered His justice.

I learned then to never get in the way of God's justice. Remember, He knows when a sparrow falls to the ground. He knows what is going on with you. Forgive and go on when someone hurts you. Let God have the person who hurt you. Your hands will be clean and your conscience clear.

God will give His justice. That's for sure. 

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

What Is Baptism?

A person gives his or her heart to Jesus. The church says baptism is necessary. Why?

People are baptized for three reasons. The church may administer the baptism but the reasons exist beyond the church.

The first reason a Christian needs to be baptized comes from obedience. When Peter was asked at Pentecost what one must do in order to be saved, he answered, "Repent and be baptized."(Acts 2:38) Jesus told His followers that they should go and make disciples, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. (Matthew 28:19) Baptism is at the heart of lordship for the Christian. He cannot say that Jesus is his Lord if He will not be baptized. Baptism won't save you. It is just one of the indicators that you are saved. You should be baptized if you are a believer.

A Christian needs to be baptized to present a testimony to others. Baptism represents a change in the person's life. He was walking one direction but by coming to Jesus will walk in a different direction. He lived one way of life and will now lead another. Baptism represents the burial of the old life and being raised to walk a new one. (Romans 6:4) Baptism should be a time to invite friends and family who know and don't know the Lord. Those who know the Lord have their own Christian lives encouraged at another's baptism. Those who don't know the Lord hear the Gospel through their observation of what the Christian life should be.

Baptism also shows that a Christian is in agreement with other Christians. Jesus, Himself, was baptized. Now, we have to ask why? He wasn't baptized for the remission of sins. He wasn't doing so because He was a sinner who needed to repent. He was baptized as He started His ministry. John the Baptist preached about Him before Jesus started His ministry. He came to John to be baptized so that He would show that He was in agreement with John. (Matthew 3:15) Baptism is the common experience of the believers. It is something each Christian should have experienced. Baptism shows that Christians are in agreement with each other and with the Lord.

Now, what is the manner of baptism? I must admit that I don't think Jesus is going to be looking for watermarks when we get to heaven. However, I believe that immersion best represents baptism's testimony of being buried. I do not negate someone's baptism from another denomination who does not believe as I do. I don't tell them that that wasn't real or that it doesn't count. If they come to join my church I ask them to be baptized by immersion (if they haven't done so somewhere else before) to show they are in agreement with the body of believers. It seems like a simple act of compliance but it represents a commitment to the community of believers in our church. It is a much greater commitment that most people would recognize. 

I came from a church that did not immerse to join a Baptist church after becoming an adult. I resisted becoming a Baptist more than I resisted baptism. However, I went to a Baptist church regularly. The reason I went to the Baptist church is because I loved the Bible. The messages given in that church was biblically based. I read the Bible personally and loved the sermons.

One day I realized that I had become what I had never wanted to become. My understanding of the Scripture lined up with the Baptist. I was a Baptist whether I liked it or not. I might as well make it official and join the church. I knew they would ask me to be immersed and thought of it as an initiation rite. I was wrong.

I did not expect anything to happen when I came to be baptized. I just put on the robe and went into the water. Dr. Malcolm Bane of First Baptist Church, College Station, Texas baptized me. Something happened somewhere between going down in the water and coming up. It was something deeply spiritual. The Holy Spirit was there. I wish I could explain it better.

I have baptized hundreds of people since then. I pray that everyone's baptism is a spiritual experience. I don't pray that it was exactly like mine. I think God loves each of us deeply and personally. I think He has something special for everyone. 

Honestly, if you are a believer, what keeps you from being baptized? Call your church and tell the pastor what you know you should do. I promise that your walk with the Lord will be greater when you do what the Spirit leads you to do.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Lessons for Pastors and Politicians

I have never run for a political office but I was elected by each church I served. The Baptist believe on voting on everything! The Baptist can vote you and in and they can vote you out at any business meeting. That's one of the reasons I never watched Survivor. I could be voted off the island in any month!

Years of service have led me to several ways of ministering that apply both to pastors and politicians. The pastor wants to do the right thing and continue to have a ministry. The politician hopefully enters office wanting to do the right thing and continue being elected. The things I have learned may not keep a politician elected but they will keep him or her sincere.

You are the pastor of all the church. You are not just the pastor of those who voted for you. You are not just the pastor of the people who agree with you. You are responsible for each person. Doing what is best for all has to be the driving force. Simply trying to please your supporters will keep you running from item to item with no real vision. 

Your critics can be your best allies. They may keep you from doing something that you never should have done. They should cause you to rethink whether or not this is best for everyone. Their way of thinking may cause you to think in a way you never thought before. You should listen without immediate criticism. You should consider their thoughts. You may need to modify or stop what your agenda to do so.

Don't bring things for a vote until you know its the right thing to do. Make sure you have looked at the consequences of your decision. All decisions have consequences and create new problems. Don't ignore these but know whether or not they are acceptable. You have not done your homework if you have not considered the consequences.

Work within the system you have. Do not try to change the system by forcing a decision down the people's throats. In other words, work within your committee structure or regular system of decision making to bring new items to your people. Make the item of change the decision making system if it needs to be changed. Do not try to change the decision making process by introducing a new proposal. Don't put the two things together.

Work toward trust. Trust comes from faithfulness plus time. Tell the truth. Tell as much of what you are doing as possible. Let the people know what you do to accomplish your work. Many people think a pastor only works Sundays. They don't know of the counseling, administrative duties and pastoral care that takes up his time during the week. They don't know that he continues to work on vacations and days off. They don't know the number of hours each week. They need to know what you are doing if they are going to trust you.

Always be honest. It is better to tell the people that you can't answer a question due to confidentiality than to tell a lie. It is better to admit your mistakes or sins than to try to hide them. Honesty will destroy a scandal. Honesty all but eradicates speculation. An exposed lie removes trust. You can't truly be the leader you need to be without the trust of the people.

Be humble. Few people enjoy an arrogant blow hard. Tell of how fortunate you are to be serving. Tell of who you appreciate. Genuinely consider others better than yourself. Never over-estimate your own abilities. 

Get advice often. Choose someone outside your system. Tell them what you are proposing and ask how it sounds to them. Often, they can stop you from making a fool of yourself.

Do not pass your responsibility to others. Stand up for what you believe in. Take your office seriously and do those things you don't like doing when they fall under your responsibility.

Remember that no one makes you do anything. You make your own decisions. Don't ever blame something on someone when the buck stops at your desk. Forget about your predecessor. He or she is not your problem even if they caused many of the things you must clean up. A true leader takes things forward and does not blame anything on someone else.

Remember the people can vote you out of office but they can't take your heart. You can leave intact as long as you have been true to your heart. You don't know who you are if you have destroyed your own heart.

You don't know it all. Be a lifelong learner. You can learn from the most unlikely people. Even little children can teach you great truths. Make sure you don't dismiss someone because they lack your education or experience. Learn until the day you die.

Have fun. This comes from knowing that it is not all in your hands. If God called you to this work, then God will see you through this work if you will let Him. Enjoy seeing Him work.

There are lots of other things that I learn and need to learn. These are some things I learned in the ministry. I believe they would also apply to politicians. I know I would want those who are serving me in office to know these things.

Monday, November 2, 2009

When Couples Fight Over Money

A survey says that couples fight over money more than anything else. I have found that money has a strange hold on people. It can make brothers and sisters disown one another. It can make people spread lies about each other. It can ruin lifelong friendships. Should we be surprised that it also makes people who otherwise love each other passionately to fight with each other?

The Bible says that money is a root of all sorts of evil. I actually think we could have figured this out. People think that it will enable them to do what they want. They think that the lack of it keeps them from what they want. Disagreements and fights will be found when the lack of money affects core values. In other words, the wife will spend money for new clothes when her core value is being dressed nicely. The husband will fight with the wife over money if he does not have such a value. His value is found in scuba diving. He cannot save the money for the trip he would like to take if she continues to spend money on clothes. She cannot have the money she needs for clothes if he continues to go scuba diving. A fight is around the corner.

Money must have defined boundaries for peace. The couple must make some agreements which will not be violated. There must be a promise not to spend any money or an agreed upon limit without communicating with each other. Every violation will cause a fight. Trust will be eroded and soon the marriage will be in real trouble.

The lack of money can mean a lack of security for one member of the couple. There may never be enough money if one of the couple has a fear that they will become destitute. They see a large bank account as a secure future. This can cause hoarding and also destroy a marriage. Again, a reasonable boundary needs to be drawn. Fights will end once the couple decides to keep this boundary solid.

Many couples need to enter a program which will help them define monetary boundaries. Often, they are embarrassed to do so. They believe there is some flaw within themselves if they have to seek outside help. They would rather live in misery rather than get help. Does that make sense?

Let me put it this way. I am on a diet. I had to get some outside help to keep me on this diet. I had tried to do so before without help but I was losing. I have gotten help and lost several pounds. I could have lived in my miserable condition but I sought help. Why can't people seek help when they have financial problems? It is no different from going on a prescribed diet. The is that this diet has to do with spending rather than eating.

Get some help if you and your spouse are fighting over money. It could save your marriage and give you many more restful nights. Speak to your spouse about it today. Then do so right away.

Maybe your church has a program offered. You could possibly take a course by Dave Ramsay or someone else who gives couples advice on money. Just don't keep putting it off.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Get Some Rest

We put a great value on how busy we are but not on our ability to rest. Does the following sum up our story? 

We run everywhere we go because we are always late. We are always late because we are trying to do too much with the time we have. We are trying to do to much because we are afraid of doing nothing. We are afraid of doing nothing because we ultimately doubt whether God has plans for us. We doubt God's plans because we have not asked Him. We have not asked Him because we already have too much to do!

Have you ever considered that God might not want you doing all the things you are doing? Maybe some of the things aren't helping you at all.

Are we training our children to be just as hurried?

Our children are still asleep as they sit at the breakfast table. We take them and their breakfasts and drop them at the door of the school. We pick them up after school, buy them a Happy Meal and let them eat and change clothes as we travel to their soccer practice. We take them home from practice to clean up, do their homework and watch a little tv before going to bed. Tomorrow we do it all again substituting piano lessons for soccer practice. The next day its karate and the next its swim team. They will never grow up to smell the roses because they won't know how. They will never know how to relax.

Why would we want to fill our lives with so many things? Do we need to be stimulated to know we are alive? Or, are we being stimulated so we won't know we're alive?

God put a day of rest in His plans. We have forgotten how to rest. We fill every moment with something. We seem to be slaves to our own appetite for things to do.

I have lived at the beach for almost five years. I have said that I want to sit on one of the benches on the board walk and watch the waves come in. I have never done so. Funny thing is, I can't explain why. I suppose I don't want to take the time. 

If you don't get enough rest you will get sick. You will be grumpy. You will make bad decisions. You will do poor work.  

I am committing myself to some rest. I will get seven hours of sleep each day. I will spend an hour simply thinking about my life, what I need to do and what I need to be. I will work hard when I work so I can have the time to do these things. I will do so because it is best for me to get this rest so I can be the best at what I do.

And I will tell others:

Get some rest. It will do you some good.