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Monday, January 31, 2011

Throwing Yourself Under the Bus

A young man should know that he does not have the wisdom to keep his way pure. He has not learned from the school of hard knocks. He can walk in purity because he has not walked in such sinfulness that his life is scarred. He does not have to know why God has said what he must do. He does it because it is God's Word. He does not have to commit sins to know they are against God's Word and have devastating consequences.

Bad decisions will lead many people to good decisions. They have learned from their failures so that they can correct what they have done. But this isn't God's plan. We can walk in His ways and avoid the stains of many sins. These stains come from the memories of these sins. The sins may be forgiven but the memories of them seldom die.

Today we have a common expression of throwing someone "under the bus." It means that we have sacrificed them for some other reason. The reason is always to our advantage. However, I have seen more people throw themselves under the bus when they have chosen sinfulness over purity.

I have seen a man leave his wife and children to pursue someone he met. Many people think he has thrown his family under the bus. Yes, he has but he has also thrown himself under the bus. He has left his faith behind as well. His life will never be complete or fulfilling again. He will be so stained by his sinfulness that he will never walk with the Lord in the same way. The repentance that he will need to come back to a place with the Lord will be a true miracle. He will never really be able to repair the hurt he has caused. He will never have confidence in this person with whom he has left his family for. If she will do it with him, why should he expect that she won't do it with another? His life will be utterly miserable after a season of sinfulness. He has a great chance of being truly alone even if he lives with others.

I have never been unfaithful to my wife but I know what it would do to the relationship. I am old enough to have watched others ruin their relationships. I know that they have thrown themselves under the bus.

I use unfaithfulness to a spouse as an example. There are other ways to throw yourself under the bus. You can go to a life of "drinking with the guys" as you forget your family. You can spend your family into oblivion. It doesn't matter if you are still in the home. You have already left them.

You are no longer riding with them on this journey for you are under the bus.

Psalms 119:9 (NIV)
 How can a young man keep his way pure? By living according to your word.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Doing What Your Father Desires

We are all motivated. Some of us are motivated by our own lusts. We cannot blame the devil of God for these. We want what all that we can get and do whatever it takes to get it.

However, there are other things that drive us that come from the outside. These are spiritual forces that cause us to desire things. They fall into two categories. Our desires come from our relationship with God or they come from our relationship with the devil. We will follow our father's desires.

Jesus encounters a group of Jews who did not realize they were following the devil in the eighth chapter of John. They claim that Jesus must be of the devil. They do not realize that they are the ones whose father is the devil. Jesus points out the differences.

A person who has God as his Father will love Jesus. Jesus said that those who loved Him would keep His commandments. Therefore, those whose Father is God will do what Jesus desires.

A person who has the devil as his father will also follow his father's desires. The desire of the devil is to hate, lie and keep people from the truth. Those who are following the devil are evident because they do these things.
Often people enter the church who may call Jesus "Lord" but do not exhibit evidence that God is their Father. This is because He is not their Father. They will distract the church from its mission with clever lies. These lies are often go undetected by the church. They will point out the flaws of the pastor so that they the church condemns him. The will distract people to give money to what appear to be laudable causes but detract from the true mission of reaching people with the gospel. They will stop action that needs to be taken by manipulating spiritual things to fulfill their desires.

Yet, the church does not know them because they cannot believe that someone could call Jesus Lord and work against Him. Of course, Jesus said that would happen in Matthew 7 but most good church members don't connect the dots. They cannot believe that anyone really has the devil as his father.

The danger of making this statement is that people will go on witch hunts. They will start calling everyone who disagrees with them a  child of the devil. That, of course, is not true but it does mean that there should be an evaluation of an overall direction that some would lead the church.

People will carry out the desires of their father. You can count on it.

John 8:42-44 (NIV)
42 Jesus said to them, "If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and now am here. I have not come on my own; but he sent me. 43 Why is my language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say. 44  You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father's desire. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Falling Short of God's Glory One Step at a Time

We were created to give God glory. That is why sin is defined by our falling short of that glory. Sin is not doing what we were created to do. It is missing the mark in fulfilling our reason for creation.

In the Garden of Eden we see Adam and Eve committing what seems relatively benign by eating fruit they were supposed to avoid. But that assessment of harmlessness is exactly what got them in trouble. It is exactly what gets us in trouble too.

Few, if any, people get up one day and say, "I know that I have lived a life which has pleased the Lord to this point but today I am going out to commit the most egregious sins I can think of." No, we would recoil from great sin if we had lived chaste lives. Our journey is more like a frog boiled slowly in a kettle than one jumping directly into boiling water.

This is why we must guard the little things because it is these which most people would think are benign which lead us on a journey away from our God and create lives which do not give Him glory.

The little steps are skipping a time with God each day in which we "hear" His word, pray and give Him glory for the day. The little steps are missing church when it is possible to attend. The little steps are forgetting to honor Him as God and thank Him in all things. The little things aren't noticed by the people around us. They notice the things that happen after the little things are ignored.

I have been around a few ministers who were caught in affairs. I spoke with one recently who admitted it was a stupid thing to do. It came out of a counseling situation. It happened little by little as he did things that seemed benign. It ended the ministry he was in. No one noticed the little things. They noticed what happened because of the little things.

God often warns us against fear. However, there is a fear that He applauds. It is godly fear. This fear isn't one of terror because God may tear us apart for our sinfulness. It is the fear of disappointing Him. This fear is so strong that it guards against the little steps that take us away from Him.

If you are a Christian and you have committed one of the sins with hard consequences, I can assure you that you didn't simply decide to do something evil when it happened. You took little steps away from God and toward this sin.

If you are a Christian and you know that you are taking these little steps away from Him now, you need to go back to the little steps that will bring you closer to Him.

If you neglect a step that will bring you closer to God, you are taking a step farther away from Him.

Honestly, which way are you going today?

Song of Songs 2:15 (NIV)
Catch for us the foxes, the little foxes that ruin the vineyards, our vineyards that are in bloom.

Friday, January 28, 2011

What Is Righteousness?

Everyone has some sense of righteousness. It doesn't matter if he or she is a prostitute, drug dealer or preacher. There is a sense of righteousness in each one of them. Each one believes in a standard which is right. Each one works within that standard. Each one will violate his or her own standard. Each one will try to redefine his or her understanding of righteousness.

Righteousness is often determined by the one making judgment. A self-righteous person determines that he or she has been upholding a certain standard. This person may have violated the standard at some points but remains in his or her own righteousness because this violation is either ignored, covered up or unnoticed. For example: Mr. John considers himself a righteous person. He believes he has followed the standard of the Bible to the letter of the law. He prides himself on biblical knowledge and points out the sins of others frequently. He fails to see his own sins even as he chastises others to confess. He fails to see his sin of condemnation of others. He is self-righteous because he is the one determining who is righteous.

There is what I call a "common" righteousness which often invades any society. The righteousness is determined by a standard common to those who are part of any social, religious, political, intellectual or economic group. They have determined a sense of righteousness by which they judge who is upstanding. An example of this was found in those who were of the Global Warming group. They castigated anyone who brought any evidence contrary to their sense of righteousness. They ignored and covered up science and claimed that they were prophets of their standard of righteousness.

Churches often live in this common righteousness. They may stand up for biblical righteousness until it affects a revered family within the church. Then, it is ignored. Those who try to correct the unrighteousness are declared unrighteous themselves. The standard of righteousness is that which is accepted by those within the church. This is why so many "outsiders" claim the church is full of hypocrites. They can claim it because it is true.

Many people believe that we need to strive for biblical righteousness. This righteousness is established by biblical standards. They believe that we should be able to judge what we have done as right or wrong by what the Bible says.

I find this will not do for I have the same tendency to ignore my own sinfulness. I overlook, ignore and make excuses for the things I have done. I am like Adam in the garden who claimed it was the woman whom God had made who really sinned.

A biblical standard defines righteousness but it cannot be those who read the Bible who declare their own righteousness. We will often become self-righteous and condemning of others if the judgment is left to us. No, we must stand before God. He alone should determine our righteousness.

This is why the Psalmist prays for God to reveal his wickedness. He simply can't do it on his own.

Neither can we.

Psalm 139:23-24 (NIV)
23 Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. 24  See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Is Your Marriage Fulfilling?

I find that many unmarried people long to be married. Many of these are enamored with marriage. They believe that marriage is all roses and no thorns. Their perspective is skewed because of the distance by which they view marriage. Living with another person is not hard. Being committed until death to another person is. The first is merely friendship; the latter is marriage.

Love is a strange emotion. It seems to have no logic. People say they fall in love. It appears to be a pit covered branches that they have innocently walked over. They are captured in the pit of love and can't get out.

People believe that because they didn't have to do anything to fall in love that they will not have to do anything to stay in love. Thus, they become like many of the tom cats found in Hollywood. They roam from one to another as long as they feel something. Eventually, the relationship takes more work than they are willing to do and they roam on to others.

The continual roaming between partners leaves children who never understand what a marriage should be. It makes marriage less than fulfilling for it never builds upon commitment. Marriage that is built upon emotion without commitment can't last. Emotions can't be trusted.

I am awed at people who are totally committed to each other. There have been several people I have known who went through long terminal illnesses. Their spouses stood by them and cared for them though it brought them tremendous hardship. I have seen these remaining spouses grieve after the loss of their mates even though their deaths made the living spouses lives much easier.

I have heard it said that marriage is twenty-five years trying to figure out if you can live with your spouse followed by twenty-five years believing that you can't live without them. The key to a fulfilling marriage is a lifelong complete commitment by husband and wife to each other. The key is becoming one with each other.

Amazingly, true love is born out of that committed relationship. It is then that you are glad you are married. You have complete confidence in your spouse because he or she is completely committed to you. You stop holding back your affections because you know that commitment exists. You give of yourself freely to one another because the relationship is not based on an emotional roller coaster but on commitment.

However, even this commitment needs help. It needs a spiritual element to perfect it. It needs a strong foundation for both the husband and wife. Becoming one with each other requires a conscious spiritual and physical commitment to one another. The greatest joy in marriage is fellowship that is spiritual and physical. It truly makes for a deep communion with each other. It connects the two even when they are apart.

The only reason that people are single is because they have standards. Eliminate the standards and anyone can be married in a short time. My experience has found that the reasons married people regret their marriages is because they either didn't have any standards or that their standards weren't high enough.

Fulfilling marriages take work by two people who are totally committed to their Lord and each other. These are marriages that last for a very long time. Their commitment to their Lord gives them strength to forgive and serve each other. Their commitment to each other makes them cling to their Lord.

If your marriage isn't fulfilling you must ask yourself where it is lacking. Yes, you can do something about it. You can pray and then obey what the Spirit has told you to do. Renew your relationship even if you need to say your vows to each other again.

Then, let God bless your marriage.

2 Corinthians 6:14-16 (NIV)
14 Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? 15 What harmony is there between Christ and Belial? What does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? 16 What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said: "I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people."
Ephesians 5:31 (NIV)
31  "For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh."

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Are You Being Ignored?

I see teenagers in some pretty bizarre clothing, jewelry and makeup some days. I ride my bicycle to work past two high schools. Many of the students walk to school each day. They are wearing outlandish boots, dressed all in black or in wild colors, filled their faces with piercings and colored their nails. Some of the boys are wearing makeup and some of the girls are not. Both their actions and their looks scream:

"Don't ignore me!"

They are desperately asking for social interaction. They are insecure in their relationships. They are looking for attention.

I am no psychologist and can't tell you why they are doing so. Maybe they were always raised in daycare and had to do bizarre things to be noticed. Maybe their parents don't know how to interact with them. Maybe they are genuine misfits that no one pays attention to or even attempts to avoid.

I wonder if this is what happened to the young man in Arizona who shot and killed people recently. His crazy questions seem to be a cry to be noticed. Overlooking them made him angry. Violence got him exactly what he wanted. He isn't ignored any more.

Christians are not immune to a desire for attention. They, too, will tattoo, pierce and wear imaginative clothing. They may even use their Christianity to get attention.

Many people think that the world is thinking little of them. The truth is that the world is often not thinking of them at all. The world only wants to belittle those it notices. Criticism is a conscious act. The person undergoing criticism may not like it but he is not being ignored.

The truth is that no one is ignored. The truth is that the most important person in the universe constantly keeps  the one who is completely ignored by the world on His mind. He is constantly desiring the best for that person. He is working always for that best. He is always available. No one else is more important.

Many in the Christian community fail to recognize this. Of course, the world doesn't know He really loves them that much. It's the Christian's duty to tell them of His love.

But how can they tell of something that they haven't realized themselves? How can they say that they know He truly loves everyone constantly when they don't act like it themselves?

God never ignores any of us. He sometimes is silent because He trusts us to act by faith rather than His constant assurances. However, He never ignores us. He never forgets us. He never needs to be made aware of where we are or what we are doing. He never needs to be reminded that we are His children.

He even keeps an account of how many hairs are on our heads.

Now, that's not being ignored, is it?

Matthew 10:29-31 (NIV) 29 Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father. 30 And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. 31 So don't be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Uncertain about the Future?

There are plenty of doom-sayers predicting disasters. It seems to sell. I have always wondered why these people charge for their books if they really believe the world will end. What good is money if the world no longer exists?

Many of the prophets of doom predict an almost insurmountable challenge for the existence of mankind. They predict the worthlessness of all currencies, chaos among governments and the destruction of all civilization. Those that appeal to the conservative groups say that it comes through overspending and the failure of governments to act responsibly. Those who appeal to the more liberal groups say that it will be caused by the destruction of the environment.

Each of these disaster peddlers gives advice in how these problems can either be averted or taken advantage of. So, we have one side telling us to recycle, ride a bicycle to work and bathe every third day while the other side is telling us to store food, stock up on guns and ammunition and put all our assets in gold.

Those of us who are reading this dire predictions don't really know what to do. We may not have the money to buy gold nor the ability to ride our bikes to work (which I do, by the way). Who can you trust? Who should you put your trust in?

I remember hearing a preacher once tell his congregation that God was still sovereign even if the person who won the election wasn't the one they had chosen.

I have seen many things that are terrible have great results. I have seen that God can take the worst of situations and make them good. I have seen murders turn into positive changes in many lives. I have seen God reveal things that would never have been seen if bad things hadn't happened.

A couple of years ago one of my church members was taking out the trash when the wind caught the trashcan. I fell back against him so hard that it cracked a couple of his ribs. The x-ray that was ordered to check his injuries revealed a spot on his lung. He began treatment for the cancer and is cancer free and alive because of what appeared to be a bad thing. Another member went to the doctor because of his sore throat to find that his heart didn't sound quite right. He is having his heart treated without any damage to the heart because of his doctor saw him with a sore throat.

If God can make these things, which appeared to be bad, turn out to the advantage of those who love Him, can't He also take our world and make what appears to be a disaster into something that will be good for those who love Him too?

God is still in control and we can still put our trust in Him.

Maybe we have gotten to the heart of the problem. Maybe our worries come from listening to the prophets of doom rather than listening to our Lord.

Yes, bad things happen to good people. But God didn't lose control when they happened. We can trust Him because He loves us.

Psalms 103:19 (NIV)
19 The LORD has established his throne in heaven, and his kingdom rules over all.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Can't Handle the Truth?

Very few people come to me with the problems that are evident to everyone. Often, they ignore the problems by refusing to acknowledge them. They avoid getting on the scales because they are afraid of how much weight they have gained. It doesn't make them weight less nor does it make their clothes fit but it allows them to continue their eating habits and lack of exercise.

Other people will avoid opening bills from creditors. They just throw them away. It won't keep these creditors from repossessing their cars nor foreclosing on their houses. It allows them to continue spending even though they have no money to do so.

Many people go beyond ignoring their problems. They divert attention away from their problems. They blame McDonald's for their obesity, the credit card companies for their debts and the loan companies for the mortgages they should have never gotten. I have never understood how people can sue the tobacco companies for their lung diseases when it has been printed on the side of the cartons for over forty years. Didn't they notice the smoke in the room?

Jesus said the truth will set you free but people seem to be afraid that the truth will actually bind them. The truth will not let them continue their own mismanagement of their lives. It will make them realize that the damage they are doing to themselves is self-administered. They will have to say it is no one else's fault. They will have to say that they saw it coming.

The truth sets us free because we are no longer under the slavery of the lies. The lies are often told to ourselves by ourselves. The lie says that eating more than needed makes one feel better. The lie says that exercises doesn't feel good. The lie says that it is better to have things that you can't pay for and have them repossessed than to never have them at all.

This is why the Bible is so important. It delivers the truth when one remains in it. Remaining is not merely reading the Word but doing it. It is allowing that word to become a part of life.

Are you avoiding the truth? Have you gotten on the scales lately? Have you opened all the bills to see how long it would take to pay them off? Have you opened God's Word and seen where you need to make changes? Do you really like slavery?

The truth will set you free.

John 8:31-32 (NIV)
31 To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, "If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. 32 Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free."

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Lord, Pray for Me!

There  are two cases that come to my memory where Satan has asked God for permission to attack one of His servants. One is when God brings Job to mind. The other is when Jesus tells Peter that Satan has asked to "sift him like wheat." Both cases involved men who would be great witnesses for the Lord. Both of them had made life commitments to Him.

You would think that a commitment to God would guarantee God's protection, yet this is not what happens for either of these men. Job's family, possessions and health were taken from him. Peter was tempted to do what he considered the unthinkable-deny his Lord! This seems to be Satan's continuing tactics. He will either persecute or tempt God's most committed servants.

Satan did not force Peter to deny his Lord. He simply tempted him. Peter made the choice on his own. That is why Peter wept so bitterly when he realized what he had done. He knew his guilt.

Don't you find it interesting that Jesus told Peter of Satan's permission to attack him right before Peter said that he would give his life to Jesus? There had been a dispute among the disciples as to who was the greatest. They started this argument after Jesus told them that one of them would betray Him. Peter's name somehow rises to the top.

Jesus tells Peter of Satan's claim on him. Thankfully, it doesn't end there. Jesus says that He has prayed for Peter. He has asked that Peter's faith will not fail.

Peter would repent because of his faith. He would strengthen the other disciples and become the head of the Church from this faith. His faith got very small when he denied his Lord but it did not fail for it brought him back to where he needed to be.

I believe that Satan hasn't changed his tactics. He still stands before God asking permission to sift God's committed servants like wheat. I also believe that Jesus stands there too asking and receiving permission to grant the faith to those who are enduring Satan's attack.

Maybe the next time you are going through an especially difficult persecution or even the failure in a temptation you should say, "Lord, pray for me!" In this, you will agree with His prayer.

Jesus is asking that your faith not fail.

Luke 22:31-32 (NIV)
31 "Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat. 32 But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers."

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Does Your Church Lack Unity?

The Church has always sought unity. It has rarely had it. We find it in the beginning but it doesn't take long before factions have caused conflict in the Church. The Hellenistic Jews complained that their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food. I wonder if the Hebraic Jews looked down on these Hellenistic Jews. The Apostles knew that this conflict needed to be solved quickly and appointed Deacons to serve the tables.

Unfortunately, many Deacons don't see their role as problems solvers, servants or those who bring unity. They think of themselves as regular members. Today they can be the instigators of disunity. Why is that?

Paul indicates in his letter to the Ephesians that unity is the product of service and maturity. It seems that everyone in church has a responsibility. We are gifted to serve. We are expected to serve. We are unified when we work together.

Understanding what brings unity reveals what causes disunity. The lack of service and maturity creates disunity in the church. There can be service without maturity but maturity guarantees service. The ultimate problem within the church is not the lack of service but the lack of maturity.
I suppose this should not shock anyone. Many of the people within the church are immature. They do not understand spiritual reasoning. They are unaware of their own involvement in disunity. In fact, they often hide in the shadows and get others to become their spokesmen. They use other immature people who can't discern the immaturity of others.

Immaturity is using fleshly excuses to work against the unity of the church. It is seen when someone complains of the lack of service he is receiving. It is perpetuated by those who don't see the immaturity in the complaints of other immature people.
For example, years ago I was in a Deacons' meeting when someone brought up a complaint by a member of the church. The member had stopped coming to church and was complaining that no one had contacted him. He started missing church to pursue a hobby. Eventually, he stopped coming altogether. He felt validated in his complaint to the church because of the lack of contact.

I said, "You mean to tell me that this man quit coming on his own and complains because no one came to get him to come back? What would happen to the church if half of our members did that? Wouldn't the other half have to work at getting them to come back? Wouldn't we drop all evangelistic efforts just to get our old members to come back? Wouldn't we have to drop all other ministries to our community? Why hasn't this vacant member repented of his absence and come back on his own? We are not responsible for running him off. He must take responsibility for his absence or very soon immature members will quickly learn what it takes to get attention. Immaturity is the same at every age."

Half of the Deacons didn't understand a word I had said. You know why.

That is why we must constantly work at seeing our churches mature. That is why the leadership in a church must be filled with mature Christians. Otherwise, we can expect disunity.

Immaturity and disunity go hand in hand.

Ephesians 4:11-13 (NIV)
11 It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, 12 to prepare God's people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Trying to Live on Made-To-Order Faith

The internet has allowed people to comment on just about everything. Even news articles have a place for comments. While I appreciate comments, I also think they should be filtered. The comments that come to this blog are filtered. I don't believe in cluttering the internet with more stupidity.

The other day I read a comment in which someone said that he believed that God didn't care how you prayed or if he was the right god because it all went to the same place. This person was essentially saying that his belief did not require a foundation. It was true because he wanted to believe it.

So, he thinks that he can pull up to the drive-through window, order his faith and pull ahead to pick it up. The order makes the faith valid. Everyone can have their own faith in their own way. You do not need to use the Bible to determine what is correct. In fact, the Bible actually gets in the way of this "made-to-order" faith.

Then, you need a "made-to-order" bible. This bible takes away the things that don't fit into the always changing, made-to-order faith. It adds things that do fit. It does not need to be consistent. It depends upon what the person wants to believe on that day.

Now, I ask, is this person being worshiped so capriciously really a god at all? I don't see how. This god seems to be more like the genie who comes out of the lamp. He is your slave, not your god.

Why should anyone believe that he can create a god in his own image? How can you call him creator when it is you that created him? What foundation can anyone stand on when their faith is as fluid as a river? Why do people actually believe they are gods who can create their own persons to worship?

None of this makes sense to me. I can't see how anyone can live on a made-to-order faith. In fact, I don't see any faith in it at all.

Romans 1:22 (NIV)
22  Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Do You Sometimes Feel Like an Alien in Your Own World?

I was shopping in Walmart before Christmas when I observed an elderly lady trying to check out in the electronics department. She was a small woman, thin and very plainly dressed. She had a small hat, one of those round  ones you might have seen women wearing in the 1950s. She had written a check for her items. The clerk looked at it; trying to remember what to do with a check. Finally, the clerk ran it through the cash register (I don't even know if that's what they are called any more. Does anyone actually use cash?)

The clerk asked the lady to approve the amount. The old woman just stared at her. She didn't understand. The clerk told the woman to press the screen on her side of the counter. The woman didn't know what to do. The clerk walked around the counter and showed her what to push. The lady did so. Then, the clerk asked her to sign it. Again, the lady didn't know what to do. And again, the clerk walked around the counter and showed her how to sign the electronic pad. The woman retrieved her bagged purchase with her receipt and shuffled toward the front of the store.

I thought, "The world has changed so much for this dear lady in her lifetime that she is like an alien who must make visits to it but is never really a part of this world."

No doubt, she does very fine in her own home. She probably doesn't know why her tv doesn't work since things went digital. She has no idea what the internet is. She reads books, believes everything written in the paper and makes weekly trips to the grocery store. Her joy is found in working in her yard and the infrequent visits made by her children who are grandparents themselves. She goes to her Sunday School class and worship at her church but has an increasingly hard time understanding the sermons. The preacher talks of "youtube, facebook, email, websites and twitter." She has no idea what he is talking about.

When will our world change like hers has? Will we be aliens in our own country? I think it has already happened in spiritual things.

Our technology has grown at an alarming rate while growing churches have worked diligently to increase the number in attendance. The church has struggled to stay in the technology race. It has worked hard to get the attention of a people who are more fascinated with "reality shows" than reality. Honestly, the church is losing.

Right is becoming wrong and wrong is becoming right in our society. Righteousness has no meaning to the average church attender. God is something that happens on some Sundays. Any other athletic or entertainment activity can take His place on any given Sunday.

Marriage is an optional arrangement for raising children. Dependence on the government, union or employer has replaced a dependence upon God. People have become devoted to their political party in place of their church. Parents abdicate their role while children are dictating the direction of the family. Morality is governed by whether or not people will get caught. Sins have become addictions in which we must be cured rather than convicted.

Frankly, I sometimes feel like this elderly lady in Walmart. My world has changed so much that I am an alien.

My only hope has remain steady, however. It is in Jesus Christ. It is in a Holy Spirit revival. It is in a visit by God in these difficult times.

God will let us go our own direction. I pray that we will awaken and come home to Him.

Romans 1:28 (NIV)
28  Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

How I Forget God in a Nutshell

We are all busy. In fact, we many of us have lost what is truly important because we have become so busy. Our own busyness has caused us to waste time.

Each day I have a lot to do. I have found that I get more done by making a to do list than if I don't. I can easily write these things down and check them off one by one. That's fine until something happens that I must do which is not on my list. My to do list becomes worthless and I am frustrated with how little I got done during the day.

So, I look at my list and see what I can get knocked out early in the morning before anyone's crisis can ruin my to do list. No one notices if I have had my time alone with God so I promise that I will do it the moment I knock out a couple of things which are major priorities. That means the God is not at the top but somewhere around three or four by this time.

Before I can get those two or three things done, a crisis strikes. I go to work on it. My time with God gets pushed to just before I fall asleep. It becomes something I just need to check off my list. This time is no longer vital to the way I live.

After a few days of crises, I quit making a to do list. I just work on the crisis left over from yesterday. After all, that is what they pay me for. To my knowledge, no pastor has ever been fired for a lack of a time alone with God. Most church members wouldn't think he was busy if they caught him having such a time. They are mostly concerned with ministering to the sick, the grieving and those who gripe a lot.

Those who really appreciate the spiritual growth of their pastor are generally silent as they see his life and messages get more and more shallow. They don't to criticize and they give extra grace to their pastor. They are like angels to him. However, they aren't helping either. He needs someone to ask about his own spiritual growth. He needs to be reminded that he is forgetting his God.

So, that's how I do it. I get busy and forget God because I don't see the penalty for ignoring Him while I see great penalties for ignoring those who bring in their crises.

Am I alone in this or does everyone have to diligently protect their time alone with God?

Deuteronomy 8:11 (NIV)
11 Be careful that you do not forget the LORD your God, failing to observe his commands, his laws and his decrees that I am giving you this day.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Why Do People Refuse to Forgive?

If you have read my blog you know that I believe that forgiveness is a gift. No one ever earns forgiveness and everyone needs it. The payment for forgiveness is the blood of Jesus. It is sufficient for all forgiveness. Nothing else ever needs to be paid. Jesus gave His life for us to be forgiven.

But what about the forgiveness I need to give others? What is the payment for their wrongdoing against me? All forgiveness must be a gift. My forgiveness of others is still based upon the blood of Jesus. Forgiveness is not a matter of my forgetting what has been done to me. Forgiveness is something I know I have and, therefore, can give to others.

The reason people can't or won't forgive is because they do not realize their own forgiveness. They may have said that they have trusted in Christ for salvation, been baptized and a member of a church yet do not realize their own forgiveness. Forgiveness is given as a gift but it is received by faith. The faith of salvation will make you realize your forgiveness.

Luke (Chapter 7) tells the story of a woman who washes Jesus feet with her tears, dries they with hair, kisses His feet and pours perfume on them. Jesus says that those who have been forgiven much will love much. He tells her that her faith has saved her. It should not amaze us that Jesus has connected her forgiveness with her faith. Her faith accepted His forgiveness. The realization of that forgiveness caused her to love Him intensely.

Matthew records Jesus saying that those who deny forgiveness will not be forgiven. This is an added act of securing our salvation if we assume that salvation is merely agreeing that Christ is the Messiah. But our faith encompasses more than that. It is accepting our forgiveness by faith. We understand that Jesus death paid for our sins. We understand that we are forgiven. We forgive because it has been given to us by faith. We can't forgive if we do not realize our own forgiveness. In fact, our tendency will be that of Satan. We will stand before others and the Lord accusing them night and day. (Revelation 12:10) Satan has not received forgiveness so he has none to give others.

There is no extra step of salvation. Faith in Christ means we realize that He has paid for our sins. We give forgiveness because it has been given to us. We have no faith if we don't forgive because we have not realized our own forgiveness.

How do you forgive? You forgive on the basis of being forgiven yourself. You realize that Jesus paid for your sins and that means that He has paid for any sins that have been committed against you too. Therefore, you cannot be a Christian and deny forgiveness.

Yet, Satan will stand before you accusing you of past sins that are already forgiven. You will feel guilty once again if you listen to him. You must accept your forgiveness by faith. He will stand before you to remind you of the sins committed against you. You must forgive again by faith.

Many people think that they can forgive someone once and be done with it. I have found that I have forgiven some people many times. Our faith is not static. It requires that we continually practice it.

When someone asks you when you gave your heart to the Lord answer correctly: This morning. It does not mean that your salvation has ended and started again. It means that it is always in motion. The same answer could apply to anyone who has sinned against you. When did you forgive: This morning. I do it again by faith because I realized again I am forgiven.

So, know you are forgiven and forgive others. Its amazing how much love will come out of that.

Matthew 6:14-15 (NIV)
14 For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15  But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.

Monday, January 17, 2011

How to Start a Fire

I have just had a load of wood delivered so I can light my fireplace. The wood is oak. It is very hard to burn. I have found the following method works best.

I must have a flame. Nothing will burn unless I first produce a flame. I have some long fireplace lighting matches I use. They work fine.

I need something that catches on fire easily. I generally use old newspaper. Over that I put some small branches. Upon that is larger pieces of wood.

I must let the larger pieces of wood burn sufficiently before I place the logs on the fire. It takes a significant amount of heat to burn oak. The logs can't be that large. It takes a great amount of heat to burn large oak logs.

The fire must be stirred occasionally. It will eventually burn out if left alone. The logs aren't that close to each other after they have burned for a while. Some of them may fall into the back of the fireplace and go out altogether. They must be moved around and forced to get closer together for those who are by themselves always go out.

New logs have to be placed on the fire to keep the fire going. New logs placed on very hot coals and burning logs will catch fire much quicker and add to the heat.

That which is left untended will always burn itself out.

Churches are just like fires in the fireplace.

Did you hear me?

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Always Guard Your Heart

The heart is very special. It is in our hearts that evil arises. It is in our hearts that we keep God's word. The heart must be guarded. It can do incredible evil or good. That is why Satan would like to fill it.

Surely you have watched at least one movie with Satan in it. He is depicted as this ugly creature who wants to destroy us. I find this description awfully convenient if that is now who he is and wants to do. The Bible says that he was beautifully created. Why should I believe he is so ugly now?

Satan does not need to destroy us if he can do more damage by filling our hearts. He works at this. He wants to accuse us of our sins even when we are forgiven. He wants to prey on our weaknesses like pride and greed. He wants to fill the heart with temptations which will have us work against the cause of Christ. He does not like our obedience to God. He certainly doesn't want us giving God glory. He is willing to make concessions to have our hearts. He will let a church prosper if he can control it. He will let us do the same. He tried to do all this with Jesus.

Satan does not have the ability to force his way into our hearts. He is very observant and knows our weaknesses. He tempts us while we are afraid. He gives us an ungodly way out of our circumstances. He loves desperate people.

This is why we must so carefully guard our hearts. We need to know how we have failed because that will reveal his attempts to fill our hearts. He will try anything that will appeal to our flesh. Guard your heart of it can be filled by Satan to lie and be full of pride. Satan doesn't need to possess us as long as we allow him to fill our hearts.

"Annaias," Peter asked, "why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit. . . ? (Acts 5:3)

Saturday, January 15, 2011

The Ubiquitous Presense of Pseudo-Humility

Christian books and Church Conferences are filled with young pastors who are growing churches at alarming rates. Those of us who are more plodders that sprinters flock to these books and conferences. We would all like to grow our churches so that we could be writing books and doing conferences just like these guys.

Now, here is something that I have noticed: Many of these young guys put a fine wrapper of humility around their pride. They will begin their books or conferences with something like: "I am so humbled to be the youngest pastor of the fastest growing church in America."

What has he just said? He is letting the audience know that he is the pastor of the fastest growing church in America. You might say, "Well, of course he said that. If he didn't the person who introduced him said it." Does anyone get what is going on? This is pure pride which God has said He is opposed to!

I have yet to go to one of these conferences and hear a pastor tell the story of the growth of the community around the church which allowed it to reach critical mass so that it would grow faster. I have yet to hear one tell of the big giver or givers in the church who decided to fund their outreach, buildings and their staff. I have yet to hear one of these guys tell of the problems in the churches nearby which allowed their churches to grow rapidly because they were getting mature Christians who were able to immediately go to work. I have yet to hear them exclaim that it was their showmanship that brought in the crowds. The gimmicks run from bouncing on trampolines to a rock concert atmosphere smoke machines and laser shows.

Let's face it: it is hard to say that there isn't some pride in a sermon preached or even a book or blog written. (Why should anyone read this in the first place? I must think it is good or I wouldn't be making it public.) It is really hard to be purely humble. Pride brings attention to the proud. Humble people do not draw attention to themselves.

I cannot think of anyone in the world that needs God's grace and has received it so abundantly as me. Still, I haven't conquered pride either.

I was complaining to God recently about how hard I work and how little there is to show for it. Suddenly, He said to me, "Why do you blame me for the things I do with purpose?" Naturally, I stopped talking and listened (Listening is not really in my nature but I was a little scared not to.) God continued, "If you weren't so full of yourself, I wouldn't have to keep you humble."

Instantly, my gripes were turned to prayer. "Help me to empty myself so that I can be full of your glory!" I must say there is a lot of emptying to do.

God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.- James 4:6 (NIV)