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Sunday, July 31, 2011

The Lord; He Is Strong

It shouldn't be so hard to remember. God is always God. He is always strong. He is always bigger than anything that anyone can face. Yet, I forget when I look at my circumstances.

It is like an optical illusion. What you see is not the truth. It is like the lines which look to be different lengths but in reality are the same. It is picture with the dots which seem to be changing color but are really remaining the same. God is always more powerful than anything anyone can face or imagine.

This illusion gives you the impression that God may not be doing anything. Not true. You may not be able to see Him but He is always at work. He is always bringing His kingdom to us. He is always seeking us. He is always loving us. He is always active.

The fact that you have not heard from Him does not mean that He has not heard you. It does not mean that He has not already sent an angel to rescue you. It may mean that Satan has sent demons to prevent that angel from reaching you as he did in the Book of Daniel but it does not mean that God's desire will be quenched. It means that God's will is opposed. Is that a surprise?

God is still as powerful as He was when He split the sea, provided the manna, rained fired down from heaven and raised the Lazarus. He is still as powerful as He was when the sea was calmed and five thousand were fed with so little. He has not abdicated His power. Not now. Not ever.

So, what do I really have to fear if God is on my side? Who can really be against me and make any difference?

Yeah. I needed to remember this.

Psalm 24:8 (NIV) 8 Who is this King of glory? The LORD strong and mighty, the LORD mighty in battle.

Romans 8:31-32 (NIV) 31 What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us?
32 He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all--how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?

Friday, July 29, 2011

Maybe We Should Listen to God

There are a lot of things I know to do in the Christian life. Most of them are not working. In fact, I only have one thing I know to do working right now. I know I need to spend some time with the Lord each day. It's amazing what a difference that has made in my life.

On the other hand, most of the other "spiritual" things I have done come from tradition. I worship like I do because I have done so for so long. I do church like I do because that is what I am familiar with. I do it because I can examine what I have done in the past and continue to make decisions from my past. I look at the circumstances and say, "O, this is what I am supposed to do."

I know that God expects me to use my brain. He wants me to recognize certain circumstances and make decisions. He does not expect me to call for a prayer meeting if the church is on fire. He expects me to dial 911. However, He does not expect me to depend upon my decisions which come from interpreting circumstances. He expects me to depend upon Him.

And sometimes He expects me to do something completely outside of my own interpretation. He expects me to go where no one has gone before. He expects me to listen to Him for every step I need to take.

This is the case of Moses, Joshua and really every person whom we know has stepped out in faith with God. God takes us out of what our circumstances tell us and does something that we would never have thought of. He even does it in ways that we would never have expected.

Doing church must never be a formula. It should not be choosing five songs that match the sermon or making sure that the offering is accompanied with the special music. It should be first and foremost listening to what God wants to do.

This is true for the Christian life. I may be that God wants you to spend the rest of your life in the job that you have but He does not expect you to remain in it without the ministry He has planned for you. This too does not mean that He wants you to simply interpret the circumstances and do what your senses tell you to do. He expects you to listen.

Failing to listen makes us mediocre. It will have us making decisions with dire circumstances.

Listening in creative. It brings solutions which we would never have dreamed. Who would have thought of splitting the sea or marching around a city to see the walls fall down? Who would have imagined that going to prison provided the opportunity for the writing of most of the New Testament?

I have a totally radical idea, though really not radical at all, of how we should walk in our Christian life.

Maybe we should listen to God.

Joshua 9:14-15 (ESV)
14 So the men took some of their provisions, but did not ask counsel from the LORD. 15 And Joshua made peace with them and made a covenant with them, to let them live, and the leaders of the congregation swore to them.

1 Samuel 3:8-9 (ESV)
8 And the LORD called Samuel again the third time. And he arose and went to Eli and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” Then Eli perceived that the LORD was calling the young man. 9 Therefore Eli said to Samuel, “Go, lie down, and if he calls you, you shall say, ‘Speak, LORD, for your servant hears.’ ” So Samuel went and lay down in his place.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

HolySpirit, We Could Use Some Help Right Now!

Each morning I get our my Bible to have my time alone with the Lord. Each morning I have to fight the urge to do something else. Recently, I have often turned to a Psalm which calls for deliverance from God. The Psalmist cries for God to deliver him. He wonders why God has been so distant.

I had not intended to open my Bible to the Psalms. Granted it is the largest book in the Bible located in the smack-dab middle which would make it the most natural place for any book to open but these Psalms have caught my attention. I read them and continued to the place I wanted for my quiet time. A few days with this repeated experience made me think that turning to these Psalms was no accident. Then, today, I began to listen.

I feel like the Psalmist. The devil is my enemy. He is winning battles all around me. He captures hearts, destroys families, ruins the testimony of believers and steals the joy of the Lord. I am fighting but I am losing the battle. I am holding him off on my best days and I am conceding victories to him on my worst. My preaching is makng no difference. My praying is producing no visible results. I could really use God's power and presence.

My denomination has be infamous for its attempt to create revival. We have known that the presence of the Holy Spirit resulted in His presence working with might in many places at once so, we thought we could have all of our churches have simultaneous revival meetings so that the Holy Spirit would work mightily. It didn't work. We know that people are unconcerned about the length of time when the Spirit comes upon them. They will pray or stay in a revival meeting for hours. So, we told people that they need to stay in very long services so that the Holy Spirit will come. That doesn't work either.

Jesus compared the Holy Spriit to the wind. He does not inform you where He is going nor when He will arrive. He does not respond to our attempts to manipulate Him. He is God.

I have been in one church which experienced an extended visit by the Holy Spirit. I arrived five years after the revival began. I saw the devil flee and God's Spirit rest on that church. People would tell me of falling under conviction in the parking lot before entering the building for worship. The building was so full the first time I came to give my testimony that I had a hard time making it to the pulpit. There were chairs in the aisles and people sitting on the steps up to the pulpit because there was no other place to put them. It was a Wednesday night in January. It was too cold to do as the church normally did. Normally, they would open the windows and let people either sit or stand at the windows because there was no more room in the sanctuary.

That church built a new sanctuary which would seat three times as many. I remember hauling chairs in the first Sunday night after we moved into it because we didn't have enough seats for all the people.

That is not my experience today. I am seeing the people most involved in church dissolving their marriages. I see them having affairs, in debt past their ears and participating in the sins of the world. I see the Church being taken over by great salesmen who are great at marketing. They give people what they want to hear so that their churches are full to the brim while their people are empty.

I see the devil winning and I know that I cannot win the victory without the Holy Spirit.

So, Holy Spirit I could use Your help. I need Your presence. I have no power beyond Your power. Change me and change the Church to glorify the Son. Fill me and make me pure so that I can be Yours alone. Come, Holy Spirit, I could use your help right now!

Psalm 10:1-14 (NIV) 1 Why, O LORD, do you stand far off? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?
2 In his arrogance the wicked man hunts down the weak, who are caught in the schemes he devises.
3 He boasts of the cravings of his heart; he blesses the greedy and reviles the LORD.
4 In his pride the wicked does not seek him; in all his thoughts there is no room for God.
5 His ways are always prosperous; he is haughty and your laws are far from him; he sneers at all his enemies.
6 He says to himself, "Nothing will shake me; I'll always be happy and never have trouble."
7 His mouth is full of curses and lies and threats; trouble and evil are under his tongue.
8 He lies in wait near the villages; from ambush he murders the innocent, watching in secret for his victims.
9 He lies in wait like a lion in cover; he lies in wait to catch the helpless; he catches the helpless and drags them off in his net.
10 His victims are crushed, they collapse; they fall under his strength.
11 He says to himself, "God has forgotten; he covers his face and never sees."
12 Arise, LORD! Lift up your hand, O God. Do not forget the helpless.
13 Why does the wicked man revile God? Why does he say to himself, "He won't call me to account"?
14 But you, O God, do see trouble and grief; you consider it to take it in hand. The victim commits himself to you; you are the helper of the fatherless.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Message from an Aspirin Bottle

One of my doctors (Yes, I have gotten to the age when I have a different doctor for every part of my body.) recommends that I take a low dose aspirin each day for my heart. I am reluctant to do so even though I understand the reasoning. A small amount of aspirin would thin my blood which may prevent a heart attack or even a stroke some day. Personally, I think there is an amount of risk that is assumed when the aspirin is taken.

However, I do take aspirin when I have aches, pains or even headaches. One or two aspirin makes most of these discomforts disappear in a reasonable amount of time. I do not exceed the recommended dose unless directed to by a physician. I put this limit on myself because crazy logic says: "If two aspirin are good; four aspirin must be better. In fact, the whole bottle will be best." Of course, I know better.

Too many aspirin will become toxic to my body. They will kill me unless they are expelled from my body. They go from being good to being very bad.

That brings me to the thought that some people have about worship. (Yeah, even I am wondering how I got here.) They reason that a four hour worship service must be four times better than a one hour worship service. They haven't taken into account the aspirin bottle.

Now, can anyone say that simply making a sermon longer makes it better. I heard a speaker speak for five minutes and quit one time. It was one of the most powerful messages I have ever heard.

Let's look at the ridiculous side of the reverse as well. Will taking only 1/4 of an aspirin be better for you if the whole bottle is toxic? No. Taking such a small amount will have no affect. The proper dosage is required. Cutting every sermon to five minutes would have the same effect if the message cannot be completed in five minutes.

I was asked during an interview how long I preached. I answered as honestly as I could, "Until I am finished." Preaching until finished is the recommended dosage. It should be speaking what the Holy Spirit is whispering into the heart of the preacher. The preacher needs to quit when the Spirit says the message is over. Continuing will cause toxicity among the hearers.

Many people use the philosophy of more is more spiritual. This isn't of Christ. It is merely religion made by men.

 Colossians 2:8 (NIV) 8 See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ.
Colossians 2:16-17 (NIV) 16 Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. 17 These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Is a Formal Church Necessary Anymore?

This blog is not about formality. Many of us have given up formality for relevance. Honestly, we can't see why things have to be done in a certain way all the time. We don't understand why these things make a difference in the Christian life.

Yet, in a way I am talking about formality. Is there a need for the church which meets on Sundays, Fridays or any other day of the week? Is there a need since there are so many Christian resources? After all, a Christian could read the books and get as much out of what they needed to know about Christ from them, couldn't he? Sermons? Of course, there are plenty of them online.

Church could have been eliminated a long time ago if church was merely about education or sermons. People need church for a whole set of other reasons.

Church is necessary to create the Christian community. These a where you meet new Christian friends who will be your support team when troubles arise. This is where you find new ministries to get involved in. This is where you become a mentor to someone else and help others through a tough time. No, the Christian life is not about you alone. It is about you with others.

Church should be Christians meeting together to challenge each other to live the life Christ died for. He loved us much to much for us to be moved by the music and sermons but never changed. The Bible says that iron sharpens iron. Christians challenge each other to live in a community of faith. We are responsible for seeing others grow in their faith. We cannot read the Great Commission and think we can live a successful Christian life without others.

Church should be where we consolidate our efforts to do more together than we could do by ourselves. We give and send people as missionaries. We gather together to reach people with the gospel. We become a strong voice of right and wrong when we speak together. Whole communities are changed by the presence of a strong church.

Church encourages us to have stronger families and marriages. Maybe some of this is plain peer pressure but it changes our actions in our homes so that we work harder at staying together.

Church provides immediate support for our children. They interact with other children to realize that their parents are not the only ones who believe in this strange concept of going to heaven because you believe the Son of God died and came back to life. Church interests them in spiritual things. It answers questions parents have a difficult time answering. It is the best place to support values which will lead the children to live honorable lives.

Jesus died for the church. The church is the body of believers who meet regularly to do God's will, worship Him and become like Jesus. No church is perfect and those who seek a perfect church fool themselves. It is full of flawed humans who though they came from sin and continue to sin, work together to walk in the full presence of God. No one in the church has arrived at perfection.

Those critical of the Church do not realize that they are speaking ill of Jesus' bride. You cannot be at peace with the Bridegroom by ignoring the Bride. No one can truly be at peace with Jesus while unconcerned about and unconnected with the church.

No, the formal church is absolutely necessary.

Where are you going to be the next time your church meets?

Hebrews 10:23-25 (NIV) 23 Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. 25 Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another--and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

What's the Difference between Lust and Temptation?

People get it all wrong. They think that lust and temptation are the same thing. Thus, they say something like, "Since I thought about it; I might as well do it." They think that thinking of something is the same as lusting after it. They think that they are guilty of temptation and, therefore, they are as guilty as having done what they are thinking about.

There is no reason to think of yourself guilty when you are merely tempted. Jesus was tempted by the devil. He had to recognize the temptation. He had to be cognizant of the temptation. He opposed the devil and fled the temptation. The difference between temptation and lust is picturing yourself as giving in to the temptation. It is in meditating on the temptation. It is not merely the desire but inviting that desire into your heart.

Therefore, seeing something which might cause you to be tempted is not the same as allowing yourself to linger on that sight with longing. Being tempted to get close to a man who is not your husband is not the same as dreaming about getting close to him. One is merely the thought. The other is desiring that thought to become reality.

The thought of revenge toward someone who has hurt you are your family might flash through your mind as temptation. Hoping for an opportunity for such revenge is lust. Lust is never accomplished in one step. It follows temptation which people try to fight rather than flee.

You cannot allow temptation to remain. It will lead you to lust if it is not removed. Thus, you cannot have that which tempts you nearby.

Many men have come to me because they have a problem with pornography. I believe they genuinely want to be delivered from this scourge. They no longer want to disgrace their wives and themselves. They want to be freed from this demon which keeps pulling them back into the pit.

Often, their problem persists because they do not eliminate that which is tempting them. They continue to carry the cable channels which show nudity. They continue to visit the websites with pornography. They continue to rent the movies and get the magazines. For some reason, they don't stop when it is merely temptation. They want to live with the temptation rather than eliminate it. They believe they can invite a hungry lion in the room without it eating them. They should know that the only answer is to keep the lion away.

Toying with a temptation will always result in lust. Lust will always take another step. It will either be acted upon or it will be meditated on. Either way, lust will beget a greater degeneration of the person.

There is no guilt in temptation. Just run as hard as you can from it. Do not flirt with the guy in the office who may flirt with you. Turn off the tv immediately when something inappropriate comes on. Walk away from someone who tries to tell you gossip. There is no shame in temptation.

Lust is another matter.

Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. (Matthew 4:1)

But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. (Matthew 5:28

Saturday, July 23, 2011

There Is A Difference between Sailing and Drifting

Sailboats do not stay in one place unless anchored. The wind or the current in the ocean will move them. They will drift the direction of the current and wind. It takes a greater effort to go against the direction of the wind. The sailor must go back and forth to make headway.

Our Christian lives are like sailboats which are being pushed where they do not want to go.  It takes a great effort to stand up to the wind that is against us. We will drift away from our goal if we do nothing. We must actively work to continue on our journey.

Many Christians are brought under conviction of the things they need to do. They genuinely want to get closer to their Lord. They genuinely want to be obedient and in the middle of His grace. However, they do not work at it each day and so they drift in the wrong direction.

I have seen a number of my friends who no longer walk with the Lord. Their lives were vibrant with the Lord at one time. Now, they are nominal Christians. They act in ways indistinguishable from non-Christians. They run from spiritual things and spiritual people. They are like people in comas; they are still alive but for what they are getting out of live, they might as well be dead.

For some reason, many Christians think they can drift and still go the right direction. That is actually impossible. The wind is against us.

So, I cry out to my Lord to help me remember that the time I have with Him will protect me from myself as well as make me stronger. I praise Him that He has heard me and draws me close.

I will always drift away from Him if I fail to have time alone with Him each day. That is just the way it is.

Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and renew a right spirit within me.
Cast me not away from your presence,
and take not your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
and uphold me with a willing spirit.
Psalm 51:10-12

Friday, July 22, 2011

Lord, Come to My Rescue!

Psalm 70:1-5 (NIV) 1 Hasten, O God, to save me; O LORD, come quickly to help me.
2 May those who seek my life be put to shame and confusion; may all who desire my ruin be turned back in disgrace.
3 May those who say to me, "Aha! Aha!" turn back because of their shame.
4 But may all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you; may those who love your salvation always say, "Let God be exalted!"
5 Yet I am poor and needy; come quickly to me, O God. You are my help and my deliverer; O LORD, do not delay.
I understand that he Psalms were songs. I don't think Psalm 70 would have made the top ten in sales but I know there have been many times that I have prayed it. I would have sung it if I knew the tune.

Each and every one of us has a time in his or her life when the help of the Lord is needed. These times draw us closer to God. There are people who threaten our way of living. They make our lives a living hell. They look at our flaws and put them on exhibit for others to see. They sometimes seek revenge for perceived wrongs. They want to destroy us through their words and their actions. They gossip about us. (Gossip is telling as much truth as meets the need of hurting others.) They yell, "Aha! Aha!" Their conversations will not deviate from their mission of hurting us.

Of course, these people cannot seek the Lord and continue to do this. Those who seek the Lord will rejoice in the Lord. They will spend their time praising the Lord. Their conversations are not veiled in pseudo-spirituality. They do not pretend to do what is right while spreading their distruction. They use their efforts to seek the exaltation of the Lord.

Knowing that these people are not doing what the Lord wants does not help the one being hurt. The boss who threatens and makes your life a hell is not seeking the Lord even if he has a Christian fish on his car. Being a deacon or a Sunday School teacher does not matter when the person seeks to destroy your reputation or your livelihood. The husband whose harsh words are not a reflection of Christ in His treatment of His bride, the church. It doesn't matter if he is the pastor of the church or considered by everyone else as the most spiritual man.

We become poor and needy in this relationship because our lives' have been threatened. These people do not necessarily wave weapons at us. They destroy us by pushing us away from others. They hurt us by squeezing the happiness out.

So we cry out, "You are my help and my deliverer!" We must for there is no one else who will come to us and take us out of this oppression. Where else can we turn? Who else loves us more than our Lord? Who can actually deliver us other than Him?

Then, we add, "O Lord, do not delay!" O yes, I have been there many times. I thought I couldn't go any farther and begged God to deliver me quickly. Yet, God did not seem to come as I saw one day after another pass in my distress. I never wondered where I was getting the strength to stand up through these difficulties. I did not realize that He was delivering me by giving me that strength. I failed to notice His grace as I went through the trial.

God's rescue doesn't always remove the struggle. More often, God's deliverance is in walking through the struggle. It is often the rescue that I need before I see the rescue from the struggle actually being removed. He has not delayed in being my help in the present difficulty. He simply has not removed the difficulty.

I don't know if David took comfort in this. He was chased by Saul for years. He was forced to live as a fugitive whose life was threatened at every moment. This oppression and struggle was not quickly removed, yet David continued to write Psalms to the Lord.

I am quite sure that David would have rather been welcomed back into Saul's graces and have escaped the dangers he must face. I believe this because I would like to escape my own struggles immediately. But I have this reconcilliation: I am drawn so much closer to my Lord when I am under so much pressure.

And thus, in those quiet times I am with my Lord, as I cry out to Him about my trials, I am rescued quickly. He comes; I am strengthened. I survive another day. Then, one day the trial has taught me all that it can and it is gone.

O Lord, do not delay!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Drawn in by the Counsel of the Wicked

The Psalmist wrote:

   Psalm 1:1 (NIV) 1 Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers.
You must pay attention when the Bible tells you that a person is blessed when he does or doesn't do something. There is no need to draw attention to something unless it is unusual. A blessing in itself implies that there is a special favor on the person because he or she has avoided or committed to something.

 In this case the person blessed is one who did not walk in the counsel of the wicked. This must mean that it is easy or likely to walk in this counsel. It must mean that it takes some effort to avoid the counsel of the wicked..

The counsel of the wicked is popular. It is accepted as the norm in a fallen world. Denying this counsel makes you an oddball. It sets you against those who have accepted this counsel as normal.

The counsel of the wicked is often couched in godly terms. Many godly people are duped by the counsel of the wicked because it is often a thin layer of truth stuffed with a lie. It takes godly discernment to distinguish the truth from the lies. The counsel of the wicked says something like, "God wants His church to grow. (Truth) We need to stop telling people they are sinners in need of Jesus if we want to see them in our church. (A lie from the pit of hell)."

Continuing to walk in the counsel of the wicked will lead the person to stand in the way of the sinners. Standing represents a value that has been established. It is an identifier that has been given to that person. It is seen by the defense of the wicked counsel. It is much like an attorney who defends his or her client. He stands to defend the client even if the client is guilty.He needn't prove innocence. All he needs to do is bring doubt into the equation. Thus, we have the acceptance of the counsel of the wicked.

After making his case the one who has stood in the way of sinners will set on the governing counsel of those who create the counsel of the wicked. He mocks those who will stand for righteousness. He makes the righteous appear ridiculous because there are so few who refuse to walk in the counsel of the wicked. He makes his own way righteous by the standard of those who sit with him.

How can anyone discern that counsel is wicked? The Psalmist answers this too:

Psalm 1:2 (NIV) 2 But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night.
It seems to me that having a time alone with the Lord and His word each day will keep us from falling into the trap of the counsel of the wicked. Taking delight in God's word will result in reading and meditating on it. It will become a part of the individual.

Though the Psalmist does not state the reverse, the one who walks in the counsel of the Lord is blessed. He stands with the righteous and sits with those who give godly counsel. This godly counsel will look like foolishness to those who do not possess the spirit of God. It will be life to those who receive it into their hearts.

So, when was the last time you spend alone time with God and His word? Failing to spend this time makes you very susceptible to walking in the counsel of the wicked.

I have seen many believers drawn into the counsel of the wicked. They all have one thing in common. They don't have any time meditating on God's word.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

There Is an End to the Night

The Bible is replete with stories of faithful people going through terrible struggles. There was a time that Moses had to wonder about going to a sea that he couldn't possibly cross when the Egyptians came on his heels. There was a time that Elijah thought that he was the only prophet left while Jezebel chased him. The disciples of Jesus had a couple of terrible nights after Jesus was crucified.

These stories would have remained tragedies if they ended while these people were in the middle of the night in their souls. There wasn't an apparent solution. There was nothing that they could do about their situations. They had to think that these circumstances would remain the same or get worse. There doesn't seem to be any light at the end of the tunnel; no silver lining in these clouds.

But we know the rest of these stories. God arrived at what seemed the last moment. He changed the circumstances from failures to successes. He appeared when they didn't expect Him to. It wasn't a matter of them having enough faith for they had none at all. God simply came to their rescue. He pulled them through their dark night.

I must admit that there have been many struggles in my life that seemed to have no solution. I have been laughed by other preachers when I have declared that God would find a way. I have been thought to have had my head in the clouds when I have claimed that my God would not forsake me. Yet, God has always brought an end to every night.

It wasn't because of my faith either. I have been drained to the point when I stopped declaring God would find a way and stopped claiming that God would not forsake me. I have actually believed there was no way nor that God would deliver me.

I have been ashamed when He arrived for I realize how faithless I have been. I feel as Peter must have felt when he knew the Lord had heard his denial of knowing Him. I feel as if I had denied my Lord when I doubt His deliverance.

So, I would like to declare for you (and myself) that no matter what you are going through that God will find a way: no matter how dark the night, God will not forsake you (or me).

I do not doubt that your night is dark. I do not doubt that it is long. I just want you to know that there is an end to it.

Psalm 37:25 (ESV) 25 I have been young, and now am old, yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken or his children begging for bread.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

The Precious Gift of Love

No one owes you love. Not even your parents.

You can't make somone love you. It doesn't matter what you have seen in the movies. You can keep some people from loving you but you can't make anyone love you.

Love is a gift. It is the decision of another person to love you. That person may not know where this love comes from. They can make themselves not love you. They can decide to love you.

It is not love when the feeling comes only because of what has been received. For example, the feelings another person gets because he or she has received a gift is not love. It may be gratitude but it isn't love. Love is a gift which is given without expecting something in return.

Love is not always a feeling. True love is always attached to a commitment. That is why the commitment is so necessary. That is why some people don't know whether or not they are in love. It is easy to discern. Are you truly committed ot the person you say you love? If so, you are in love.

The absence of commitment is a sign of limited love. People can still love without an absolute commitment but their love will always be limited. This type of love is fickle. It can come and go. It is hard to call it true love.

There are different kinds of love. There is a love you have while dating which will not measure up to the love you have after thirty-five years of marriage. The commitment makes the difference.

Some people complain that their spouses are not giving them what they want. They want to withdraw their love because of this. They don't have much to withdraw. They are talking about investments rather than love. You sell your investments when they no longer perform. They want to get rid of their spouses when they no longer perform. I can't see the difference.

I think a lot of people think God owes us something. That is why they complain when they don't get what they want. He owes us nothing. We have nothing to complain about.

God's love is simply a gift. It is just like any other love. It comes with the deepest of commitments.

John 3:16
For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

When the Devil Comes Calling

Many Christians deny the existence of the devil. They admit to evil but deny that there is a force behind it. They admit to bad things happening but they deny that there is an intelligent force behind it. For them, things just happen.

I believe that many of these Christians deny the presence of the devil because he has not overtly opposed them. He has kept the peace between them and himself because they aren't causing him any trouble. They have failed to get in his way. They have participated with him in the destruction of godly people by gossip. They have been the "devil's advocate" at church meetings. They have challenged God's word as whether or not it is truthful, relevant and/or accurate. No, the devil's best position is to leave these people alone.

On the other hand, the devil stood before God to get permission to cause Job hardship. Why was that? Well, God brought up Job's name because Job had been so faithful. The devil believed that Job would curse God if God would just stop being so good to him. So, the devil was given permission within limits. It seems apparent that serving God fully causes the devil to seek permission to cause havoc in our lives. Remember, that Peter had said that he would never leave the Lord Jesus when Jesus told him that the devil had obtained permission to "sift him like wheat." Peter failed the test since he denied he knew the Lord when the pressure was put upon him. Yet, it was his faithfulness, his testimony that Jesus was the Christ, that got the devil's attention.

I am not saying that all bad things that happen are from the devil. I am saying that the devil is given permission to cause bad things for those who fully follow the Lord. I don't believe that God always grants him permission, however, God does grant permission more than I would like.

You are not going in the same direction as the devil if he has come calling. He spends his time opposing those who have the potential for disrupting his plans. You are marked. Your personal defense is found in truth, faith, the gospel and salvation. Your weapon is the word of God. It is the same weapon employed by Jesus to rebuke the devill when He was tempted.

Don't let pride get the best of you with what I am about to tell you.

You must be a thorn in the devil's side if you are being opposed by him.

So, call on the Lord for your strength and oppose the devil. He has gained permission within limits. Resisting ing him will send him running.

James 4:7
Subnit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Did I Do Something Wrong if Everything in Life Is Not Right?

I hear the stories that come from behind pulpits: "Give you life to Jesus and everything will be great from here on out!" Is that true? Is that even biblical?

Sermons are set around winning, being champions, getting your marriage in the right place, your family following the Lord, your children growing up right, being financially fit and a host of other topics that seem to say that everything will be great if these steps are taken. Doesn't that leave a lot of people wondering what went wrong when they swallow these teachings hook-line-and-sinker only to find that things are not going so well.

Sometimes you can do everything right and the wrong thing still happens. (To make matters worse, you can look at someone who has done everything wrong and see the right thing happening though I will admit not as much.) This reality eventually hits us. The rain falls on the righteous and unrighteous. Bad things happen to the good and the bad people. Bad children come from good and bad homes. The only thing we have going for us in these sermons is that the odds are in favor of those who follow their teachings. It does not totally ensure success.

But sometimes the bad things happen to us even when we have been completely obedient to the Lord. Thinking otherwise makes us believe that we have done something wrong when we haven't. It makes us define the most minute offense as a great offense. It makes us rethink our lives until we have no peace.
So, do what the Bible says with all your heart but know that this does not mean that everything will turn out wonderfully for you. You may still have days and nights when people will oppose you, bills will overwhelm you and your health gets progressively worse.

Know that God is aware and caring even when those bad things come your way. Know that you may have been totally devoted to Him without the need of confessing some great transgression. Know that He has a plan for it all. Know that He will carry you through it all.

Sometimes you have done everything right when things go wrong. Stop beating yourself up when you know you have been obedient. It is merely God's test to see if you will continue to be obedient even when your obedience fails to produce your success.

I bet the Apostle Paul understood this. Who else suffered such hardship for his faithfulness?

 2 Corinthians 11:23-27 (ESV)
23 Are they servants of Christ? I am a better one—I am talking like a madman—with far greater labors, far more imprisonments, with countless beatings, and often near death. 24 Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; 26 on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; 27 in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Almost Is Not Acceptable

We live in the world of the almost. We almost stop at stop signs. We almost go the speed limit. We almost make it on time. We almost win. We almost caught the bus. What does each of these mean? We didn't stop, we didn't obey the speed limit, we were late and we lost. Each of these represents the failure to accomplish what we intended, otherwise we wouldn't have used the word "almost."

The problem isn't in trying and failing at the almost line. We seem to accept the almost as good enough. We tell ourselves that we should be glad to have gotten this far. Therefore, there is no improvement. We are glad to stand closer to the line of success without ever crossing it.

Don't get me wrong. I think that trying to live a perfect life is a terrible way to live. I believe that setting perfect as a goal is enslaving, depressing and not God-honoring. It represents and individual who thinks that they can achieve perfection. If that were true Jesus would not have died on a cross.

A fully devoted life is not one of perfection. It recognizes the failures and commits itself to the Lord. It neither accepts the almost nor believes it has achieved perfection. It concerns itself with the heart. The heart must be fully devoted rather than almost. It makes corrections often. It does not beat itself up for the failures. It expresses joy in journey of becoming like Christ but never claims it has arrived.

Accepting almost is not the reflection of a fully devoted heart. It is content with where it is. It looks down on others who have not arrived at its "almost" level.

Almost is so pervasive that I wonder if there is a demon named "Almost." He would certainly have a great number of people enslaved to his will.

So, don't almost tithe, share Christ, serve or attend worship. Each of these "almosts" mean you didn't.

Instead, fully devote yourself to the Lord.

 Psalm 119:2 (ESV)
2 Blessed are those who keep his testimonies, who seek him with their whole heart,
Psalm 119:10 (ESV)  
10 With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments!

Monday, July 4, 2011

I Will Look to the Lord

The economic recovery we are supposed to be seeing doesn't appear to be in sight. Many have lost the life savings they had prepared for their retirement. Several have said that retirement will not be in their future. Those who still believe in retirement are depending upon bankrupt Social Security to be their safety net. Home equity has fallen with the price of homes. Many people who lost jobs are working at jobs which pay much less than they once had. Many have simply stopped looking.

And where do we turn in these bad economic times? Back to the same people who got us here! Politicians! For some reason we believe that those who did not have the courage to stop giving away the country before the recession will now have the courage since we are in such dire economic times. They didn't have the courage to do so when it was easier  but now they will have the courage when it is harder. Yeah, let's see how that works out for us!

For some reason we can't understand why people won't do the right things and fix the entitlement programs our nation has come to depend upon. Each industry has somehow gotten its hand in the government cookie jar of entitlements. The result is a bankrupt nation which cannot pay back what it owes. It will take severe spending cuts to put us back on track. Raising the taxes to the level necessary to balance the budget would be devastating. Even the rich do not have enough money to make a serious dent in the national debt.

We won't do the right thing unless we know the standards by which the right thing must be done. There is no common sense without a common truth. There is no common truth when we are accepting the words of so many people who represent various beliefs. Economics is not the answer for economists are disagreeing on what needs to be done. They have no common truth. They have economic theories. Politicians cannot have a answer since the majority of them seek their own interests first. They pass laws for the rest of the people while exempting themselves from these laws. Surely we must know they are seeking their own self interests.

While I believe in a separation of church and state I also believe in a return to values which are represented in the Judeo-Christian model. Where did the writers of the Declaration of Independence get the "truths to be held self-evident?" What made them self-evident if there wasn't a common truth?

I know a number of people believe I am proposing a religious state. Do you have a religious state when you proclaim that murder must be punished? How do you realize justice if there isn't some standard which is "self-evident" and endowed by a Creator? Why does the admission of a Creator establish a religion if there isn't some self-evident truth?

So, excuse me if I do not seek to be politically correct. I do not believe I can put my hope in politicians and economists any more than I can trust in the weatherman to tell me what the weather will be like this winter. Yes, sometimes all of these are right but their infrequency of being right doesn't even come close to the accuracy of a broken clock which is right twice a day.

My only hope is that our nation will turn back to God. My hope is that He will turn this nation around when we decide to walk with Him.

And by the way, I have politicians tell me lately that I should follow them. They say that I should support them so that they will lead this nation to economic prosperity. That hasn't been the way of the politicians of the past, why should it be that way now. Politicians stick their fingers in the air to see which way the wind is blowing before acting. They follow what the majority of the people want (except for health care. They broke that rule on this one.).

 I believe that we will never turn this nation around by electing better politicians. I believe we need better Americans who won't be hoodwinked by the politicians who promise us entitlements for our votes. We would reject something for nothing if we were better Americans.

Thus, my life shall be devoted to the Lord and my hope shall be in Him. I will declare my own independence from a system which is corrupt and live a life solely devoted to Him. Therefore, I will not be enticed away to do what shouldn't be done. I will reject greed and seek what is good for everyone. I will no longer look to my government to supply me with what I need. I will look to the Lord.

Jeremiah 14:22 (ESV)
22 Are there any among the false gods of the nations that can bring rain? Or can the heavens give showers? Are you not he, O LORD our God? We set our hope on you, for you do all these things.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Afraid of the Wrong Things

I get emails warning of the immanent collapse of the economy. I am supposed to be afraid and run to whatever stock or commodity being promoted so that I can "weather the upcoming economic storm." Others are declaring that the unrest in the Middle East will cause a world wide revolt which could start World War III. I am supposed to be afraid that nuclear war will end the existence of humanity. Some people are saying that global warming is causing climate change which will raise sea levels, change weather patterns, cause catastrophic hurricanes, earthquakes, tsunamis and great fluctuations in global temperatures. They are saying I should be so afraid that I stop using my car for anything. (I already ride a bicycle to work.)

A majority of news media, economists and science nerds are telling me that I should be afraid everyday of my life about something that might happen. That is not what the Bible says. It says that I should not be afraid of the things in this world but I should be afraid of being in the hands of a Living God.

Jesus said, " Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble. Matthew 6:31-34 (ESV)

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

Fear of the things in this world reveals a lack of the understanding of the sovereignty of God. There is nothing that can come into our lives without God's knowledge. There is, therefore, a purpose for each thing that is allowed to enter. God did not slip and let things fall out of His hands. He also does not cause every bad thing that happens. He uses natural events and even human sin to bring His people to Himself. He does so just as He did with Pharoah when bringing His people out of Egypt. Pharoah may have appeared to have thwarted God's will for a time but he was actually being used to bring the people to the Promised Land. It is easy for us to look back on those events and see God at work but it was difficult for those people living at that time to see it. It appeared that Pharoah was a formidable foe for God when he was merely someone who was bringing resolve to God's people to leave Egypt. Pharoah could do no more than God allowed him.

Thus, our own fears should be abated with this knowledge. God is still in control of all things. We should take precautions for things that can hurt us but we should never fear them because God will always be available to bring us through whatever we face when we walk with Him.

However, that doesn't eliminate the presence or the actual need for a measure of fear. Our fear should not be based on the circumstances of world but on the condition of our hearts. We should be prepared for judgement even though we are saved from the burning fires of hell. We should not take our salvation capriciously as if we can do anything we want because our salvation is secure and there is nothing that God can do to punish us. We should understand that heaven will be full of justice. Each one shall receive what he or she has "earned" in this world.

For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil. 2 Corinthians 5:10 (ESV)

Our fear should not be in a God who may act without regard to justice but in Him who always acts in justice. In other words, we should be afraid of our own guilt committed as those who continue to sin after coming to know Christ. It will not remove us from salvation but it will place us in the hands of a just God.

This is legitimate fear. It is the other side of my love for God. I do not want to disappoint my God because I love Him. I have a healthy fear of God because He is living and just. He cannot simply wink at my continued sin.

I do not view this as any sense of eternal punishment but it is still punishment no matter how brief when considering eternity. Therefore, I watch the way that I live. I seek to keep myself in a right standing before Him. I know that I will not be perfect but I devote my heart to Him. It keeps me from conscious sin and warns me of  many of the things I would do unconsciously.

Honestly, I do not want to be guilty and in the hands of the living God.

Hebrews 10:31 (ESV) 31 It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.