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Friday, March 30, 2012

Why Did You Doubt?

 Matthew 14:28-31 (NIV)
28 "Lord, if it's you," Peter replied, "tell me to come to you on the water." 29 "Come," he said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. 30 But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, "Lord, save me!" 31 Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. "You of little faith," he said, "why did you doubt?"

I have read this story many times and wondered, "What do you mean, 'Why did I doubt?' Of course, Peter doubted. Wouldn't everyone?" Jesus didn't think so. So, let's look at the evidence.

Jesus has just fed the 5,000 from a child's lunch sack. There was enough for everyone after He had blessed two fish and five small loaves of bread. Not only were they fed but there were twelve large baskets of bread left over. Jesus is obviously capable of creating. No one can put enough water in the soup to feed that many people! It wouldn't have stretched out far enough to have given each person a taste. Jesus made that which wasn't there be there. That's creating.

The ability to create is reserved for only one person: God. Peter should have and may have understood who Jesus was at this point but he ignores what he has observed to go with what he has already known.

Jesus walks on the water Himself. The law of gravity had to be suspended for this to happen. There is not enough surface tension for any man to stand on water unless it is frozen. Who can suspend the natural laws of the universe? God. Peter should have and may have understood this when he asked to come out on the water. However, he forgets what has been revealed to him and reverts to what he has always known.

Peter knew that men cannot walk on water. Yes, he saw Jesus doing so but that mattered very little to him when he doubted and became afraid. Indeed, that is the order. Doubt precedes the fear. There would have been no fear if there had been no doubt.

Our lives are full of observations of the physical laws of the universe. We know that water boils at 100 degrees C under one atmosphere of pressure. We know that objects fall at 9.8 meters per second per second. We know that matter and energy remains constant in the universe. We know that anyone who has been dead for several minutes cannot be brought back by human means.

The violation of the things we know are called miracles. Miracles go against that which we have observed. Thus, our tendency is to doubt the validity of any miracle. We also find it hard to accept that a miracle will occur to accomplish God's will. Our lives are full of worries, anxieties and fears because we doubt the wisdom, power and love of God.

Faith is not suspending what we know. It is believing that God is greater than what we know. It is not claiming that God will do something because we want Him to. It is believing He will do something because He has commanded it into being.

Peter asked to walk on the water to Jesus and was commanded to do so. The God of the Universe was suspending the laws of the universe so that He and Peter could take a stroll together. Jesus did not remove the apparent dangers which would have swallowed Peter. The wind was still blowing hard and the waves were still rising and falling. Drowning was almost assured if Peter sunk in those waves. The disciples would have had a hard time getting to him. The waves would have pushed him under the water and he would have had very little chance of survival. I have personally seen waves on the Sea of Galilee like this and know I could not last a few minutes if I were in the water. My observations were in the daylight!

But isn't this often the demand of our Lord? Doesn't He command us to come to Him through something that seems impossible?

The first mission trip that I was a part of organizing seemed doomed from the start. The year was 1978 and we needed to raise a little over $13 k for building materials which would be used to build a church in Mexico. We had nothing and we had a month to raise the money. We told two groups of pastors on the same day of our need. We told them how God was putting the trip together. We told them that He would provide. One set of pastors joined us in prayer and sought to support the mission trip. Some in the other group openly laughed at us. They told us there was no way to raise this money in such a short time when nearly everyone going on this trip was a college student.

But we persevered because we believed that God would provide. And no, we didn't have $13 k in a month. We had over $40 k! I thought of the twelve baskets left over. Isn't God a God of abundance?

Each time I hear the call of my Savior saying, "Come!" I have to remember that He will not take away the dangers or circumstances which can cause me to fail. And, yes, I sometimes look at those things and doubt. It is after He has been the provision that I have needed that I am ashamed and ask myself, "Why did I doubt?"

The God of the Universe will suspend the laws of the universe to bring me to Him. This is not for me alone. It is for everyone who listens to Him; everyone who asks to walk on the water to Him.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Birthing New Believers Is Inconvenient

I am always trying new things to bring people into God's kingdom. The message of Jesus coming to save the lost never changes but the methods of delivering this message constantly changes.

Our church was unknown even in our own community. Thus, we put an electronic sign that got a lot of media coverage. One of the local tv stations interviewed me as a few in the community tried to say that electronic signs would make us look like Las Vegas. I have been to Las Vegas. I don't think what we put on our church sign palely resembles the signs in Las Vegas. The media coverage and the sign netted us hundreds of new visitors. Some of our own members thought that we shouldn't put up the sign if we made anyone mad. I can assure you that the devil is always mad when people come to the Lord. I also know that there are some people who don't like people coming to the Lord. Winning people to Christ is not popular with everyone.

We changed our worship service times because we needed to put an emphasis on reaching young people. It made it hard on some of the older members to get to church an hour earlier than they had previously. Their difficulties are noted but we are now growing faster in young adults and children than ever before. It is strange but I baptize as many adults as I do children. Many of these are young adults with preschool children.  The life of a church must always include new spiritual births. Most of these will come from a younger congregation. The congregation that makes it easier for its believing members to attend while making it harder for non-believers will die.

This is just math and biology. Everyone has a shelf life. We are are expiring no matter how much we ignore it. A church who fails to reach new people will die because its members will die. The numbers in attendance will gradually fade. The church will die slowly.

For some reason, people forget that having children is very uncomfortable. It is very inconvenient. I remember my wife's back pains and morning sickness. I remember getting up with my children in the middle of the night. I remember thinking that I would die from lack of sleep. Birthing and raising spiritual children is not that different.

The unchurched, not yet believers (NYBs) do not know what to do. They treat the worship service like it is a concert. They bring in their Starbuck's cups and walk in an out as they please regardless of what is going on. I let this stop bothering me long ago. Yes, they are sometimes distracting but I would rather have them listening to the gospel than not. So, we love on them regardless of their actions in worship.

The NYBs bring in a set of problems that are messy. Some have children from several different relationships. Some do not understand the idea of exclusive sexual relations in a marital context. Some are addicted to drugs, sex or pornography. Some have been convicted of crimes and are on parole. Some are just lost and do not know where to turn so they turn to every new snake-oil salesman and try his special "spirituality."

NYBs bring children and cannot share time teaching these children in the preschool department because they have nothing to teach them. They do not have a faith to pass on. NYBs give very little or nothing at all even though they come to the fellowships, eat the food and leave things a mess. NYBs slow the teaching process in Sunday School because they ask questions that those who have been in church all their lives already know the answer to.

Some NYBs are born. Some are aborted by church members. Some miscarry.

 A former NYB wrote me (Not a quote but close): I don't know what has happened to me. I didn't use to want to come to church and now I can't wait. I didn't use to have or read a Bible but now I read it every day. I didn't use to pray but I now don't understand how I could have gotten along without it. . .

These messages I receive are getting less rare. I rejoice and commit myself again to these NYBs. Birthing new believers is messy but it is worth it.

Luke 19:10 (ESV) 10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The Theology of the Defeated

I recently listened to a church member who acted as if God was an old man who boasted of great things but had no strength to do any of them. She acted as if everything done for God is solely up to us. While will concede that God expects us to work, I won't say that it is all up to us. We act on the faith that we are doing His will and He creates the means for our work.

The theology of the defeated is quite like this lady's understanding of God. She sees doom and gloom around every corner. She doesn't expect God to actually do anything. This is probably the same reason she will never be found in a prayer meeting. Why would anyone pray if he or she did not believe that God could or would answer? Let me refute some of this theology.

The Theology of the Defeated says:

God does not care.

The Bible says:

 Matthew 6:26 (NIV)
26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?

The Theology of the Defeated says:

God can't help me.

The Bible says:

 Psalm 46:1 (NIV)
1 God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.

The Theology of the Defeated says:

God will not help.

The Bible says:

 Psalm 118:7 (NIV)
7 The Lord is with me; he is my helper. I will look in triumph on my enemies.

The Theology of the Defeated says:

God has left me alone.

The Bible says:

 Deuteronomy 31:8 (NIV)
8 The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged."

The Theology of the Defeated says:

God will not supply.

The Bible says:

 Philippians 4:19 (NIV)
19 And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.

The Theology of the Defeated says:

I can't do what God wants of me.

The Bible says:

 Philippians 4:13 (NIV)
13 I can do everything through him who gives me strength.

The Theology of the Defeated says:

I am a loser.

The Bible says:

 Romans 8:37 (NIV)
37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.

The Theology of the Defeated says:

God no longer loves me.

The Bible says:

 Romans 8:38-39 (NIV)
38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

The Theology of the Defeated has to ignore the Bible. It has to believe what the devil wants believed.

But that is not your case. You are not defeated!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The Difference between Love, Trust and Drawing Boundaries

Should the Christian wife allow her husband to continue to physically beat her because she has the love of Christ in her? In other words, is it an act of love to stay with someone who physically harms you?

First, let me say that love is not conditional upon the circumstances. Love is a gift from God in which we love because He first loved us (1 John 4:19). However, love does not demand remaining in an abusive situation. Why would Jesus say that divorce is possible under adultery if this was not the case? Why would Paul say that you should allow a spouse to leave if he or she wants to leave?

Paul wrote this about love:

1 Corinthians 13:7 (NIV) 
7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Someone taking a cursory examination of this scripture could justify staying with an physically, abusive husband, continuing on with a wife who continues to commit adultery or following the wife or husband who keeps leaving. It must have a deeper meaning or it makes no sense at all.

(Let me give my own translation of this verse. "It (love) always puts up with, always believes, always hopes always endures." No, this word for word translation doesn't help much but I think that "protect" instead of "puts up with" is reasonably significant.)

Love does all these things mentioned, however, love does not need to end when actions seem contrary to love. In other words, a child may say he is not loved when he is punished while the parent is truly acting in love for the child when punishment is being administered. A spouse may claim that drawing boundaries around the relationship is not love when it really is.

If loving relationships are void of boundaries why do we put, ". . . and I pledge to you my faithfulness until death do us part," in our wedding vows. That boundary is an act of love. It is trusted when it is stated because there is no reason to disbelieve the one saying it.

Does God have boundaries? Of course! They can be seen throughout the Bible when God says that He will allow for bad things to happen if His people are unfaithful to Him. Yet, His love never disappears.

 Exodus 34:7 (NIV)
7 maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation."

Obviously, God administers punishment with no loss of love. He loves us with an everlasting love while maintaining boundaries in the relationship.

Should we expect to act in a manner that God Himself is not willing to act?

But what about trust? What does it mean when Paul says that love "believes all things?" The New International Commentary on the New Testament says of this phrase, "Paul does not mean that love always believes the best about everything and everyone, but that love never ceases to have faith; it never loses hope." (New International Commentary on the New Testament; The First Epistle to the Corinthians; Gordon D. Fee, p. 640) You can love someone and trust them to act as they have acted in the past. You can love someone a believe that God will work in their hearts and change them. Love never stops believing this. Love never stops hoping for this. Love continues in the face of all of this.

Boundaries are drawn tighter when trust is lost. Take the example of a teenage daughter who has been caught smoking pot with friends late at night. Should her parents allow her to continue to go out late because love is defined as "believing all things?" No, they should draw the boundaries. (Of course, there are a lot of other things they will need to do if they want to express their love to her.) They should allow her to win back their trust by living faithfully within the boundaries.

The same would be true for the unfaithful spouse. He or she should make sure that the spouse knows exactly what is going on at all times. It is after a period of faithfulness within the boundaries that trust is increased and some boundaries are loosened.

Therefore, truly love one another. Celebrate clear boundaries which will allow love and trust to increase.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Standing Firm in the Face of Bad Times

Christians are not above telling lies. We sometimes act as if we never have bad times. Our public testimonies are often sugar coated. We make ourselves the heroes of faith as if all our circumstances- bad and good- have had no affect. We claim that our faith has made us superheroes who are able to jump all problems with a single bound. We tell others that we are fine when we are really in great pain. We say that we are depending upon the Lord when we are really scared.

Some Christians who haven't figured out the lying think there is something wrong with us  or them; they are not sure. They know that they are scared or hurting or doubting or whatever the circumstances dictate and wonder why they aren't feeling calm in the middle of their own storms. They feel inadequate and search for the strength to "keep a stiff upper lip" and bear their burdens as badges of honor. They desperately want to tell someone their feelings but either have to abandon the Christian community and "ruin" their testimony to the non-Christians or face derision and appear immature in their faith to believers.

Thus, the Christian life has become a curse to those going through their bad times. They have no one they can safely tell their anguish to. After awhile, they either learn to lie like the other Christians or their faith becomes less central to their lives. They still want to believe but they also know the truth.

Okay, so let's look at how Jesus faced His toughest time.

He told others what He was going through. Many did not understand Him. The man who raises the dead cannot be killed; can He? They assumed that the man who spoke so much about faith when the boat was sinking would not be concerned when He had to face pain. One of His best friends, Peter, rebuked Him for His statements of death. Peter thought that bad times could be prevented by the faithful. They can't.

He called for His best friends to join Him in prayer. Again, He was disappointed. They fell asleep because they did not realize the gravity of the situation. They had seen Jesus escape miraculously before and surely would see Him do so again. They did not join Him for long in His prayer.

He sweat poured like drops of blood. It may be that the small blood vessels near the surface of the skin actually ruptured. Jesus was under tremendous stress. He prayed that He would not have to face the agony which awaited Him in a few hours. He accepted the will of His Father regardless.

I have been in the Garden of Gethsemane a few times. A few steps out of the light would have provided ample cover for escape. Those arresting Jesus needed to literally "get their hands on Him" in order to prevent Him from one of His famous escapes. They needed Judas, one of His disciples, to point Him out in the dark. (Strange how it is often one of those you have trusted that will betray you; isn' it?) Jesus truly walked in His Father's will to the cross since He knew who would betray Him, when He would be betrayed and that His betrayer would know where He was. He could have avoided His arrest by changing His location. Jesus certainly stood firm in the face His great and terrible time.

But let's look at what happened: (1)He told friends who did not understand- does that sound like what happens today when Christians tell other Christians of the terrible times they are going through? Simple answers of, "Just trust God," and the quoting of scripture is all the comfort you sometimes get. (2) He was rebuked by one of His closest friends. This may be your greatest fear. Someone you tell will rebuke you for your "lack of faith" because you are in such stress about the thing you are going through. (3) He asks for prayer but they fell asleep. Again, have you heard another Christian say, "You are in my prayers" but later when you speak of what you are going through they can't remember your circumstances. It really sounds like they went to sleep.

Standing firm in tough times is stressful. It is terror in losing what you have. It is knowing that you are losing a loved one, a marriage, a child to sinfulness or your means of supporting your family. It is going through or watching someone go through a grave illness. It is having life drained from you through this stress.

Standing firm is expressing your desire to avoid and escape the hard road ahead while resolving to walk through it if it is God's will.

Mary and Martha went through a terrible time when their brother, Lazarus, died. He was in the grave for four days when Jesus arrived. Jesus did not rebuke them for their lack of faith. He listened to them. Then, when they wept, He wept with them. Wouldn't it be great to find some believers who would do the same with you?

Standing firm in the face of bad times isn't for sissies. It is often stressful and painful.

Why can't we just admit this?

Luke 22:41-44 (ESV) 41 And he withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, and knelt down and prayed, 42 saying, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” 43 And there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him. 44 And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground.

Friday, March 23, 2012

So, You Want to Have a Strong, Positive, Christian Witness

We have all heard the stories of the hypocrites at the church. These are the people claiming self-righteousness  while condemning others. If there it is of any consolation, they make me sick too. I know that I am a sinner and have no right to judge those outside the Church. I must never proclaim my own righteousness.

The Apostle Paul claimed to be the chief of sinners yet also told other Christians to imitate his behavior. It is obvious that he did not use his "sinner" condition as an excuse for unrighteousness. He always wanted to know Christ in a deeper way. He always sought to walk in a manner pleasing the Lord. He also knew his weakness and was quick to admit it. Yet, he also had a strong, positive, Christian witness.

Christians cannot create a strong, positive, Christian witness by being honest or a good worker or simply proclaiming Christ. A Christian must be exceptional in order to have a strong, positive witness.

This means a Christian cannot be simply honest in his dealings. He must go the extra mile to be identified with honesty. There is no room for any innuendo or slighting of the truth. There is no room for misleading others by only telling what you want them to know. The Christian must always be above-board in dealing with others.

The Christian, then, must also know that he can't be a "good" worker. He has to strive to be the best. He can't be friendly alone. He must strive to love the most unlovely. He can't simply avoid gossip. He must be known as one who speaks well of others. He can't hold grudges, make his faith an act of preference nor toot his own horn. He must rejoice in the good things that happen to others no matter how undeserved. His tolerance level before becoming angry must be close to unreachable and he must be the first to apologize when he has hurt someone even if it was inadvertent.

If you really want to have a strong, positive Christian witness you will have to walk with Christ daily and continually be filled with the Spirit. It isn't easy but it will put those who try criticize your good behavior to shame.

I believe the world is looking for something to believe in. I believe Christ is that someone who can be believed in. I believe that Christians lead people away from Christ by their bad behavior.

But I also believe the opposite is true. The Christian who lives exceptionally will be admired by many of those who are not Christians.

Will you have a strong, positive Christian witness?

1 Peter 3:16 (NIV) 
16 keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Holding Onto the Bible

While in college I sold "Bible Books" for a very brief period of time. One of the questions I would ask in my sales talk was, "Have you ever come across a passage in the Bible that you didn't understand?" I only had one person say they hadn't. My next question was, "Do you read the Bible?"

The Bible is not read and understood as one might read a math problem. The understanding in a math problem comes from the human intellect. The understanding of the Bible comes from the spirit. The nature of being "God-breathed" means that it came from the Spirit to the spirit of those who wrote it. It was not automatic writing in which a person has no control of his body and writes without his knowledge or effort. The Spirit moved the spirit to know and obey. From this we see the personality of the writers in the text. We see their own intellectual abilities to tell stories and state the truth.

Thus, while the Bible has no claim of being inerrant, there are no errors (in the original text which is no longer extant. The current translations have endeavored to correct minor copying errors which have occurred over the centuries. That is why there are slight differences in the translations.) because it comes to an obedient servant who responds to the Spirit.

God has been very careful with His Word. There have been many efforts to eliminate it from the earth but these attacks have only served to intensified the resolve of believers to preserve their own Bibles. There are many stories of people hiding the family bible where Christians are persecuted. I cannot help but believe that God also has had His hand in preserving the Bible. His word has spread across the world with so many copies that it would be extremely difficult to remove it.

Yet, the Bible is also always under attack. These attacks often come from people who do not like what it says. They may like its teaching but they often see the Bible as harsh when it reproves and corrects people. Those who attack it often try to read into the Bible the things that they do not wish to be reproved. They will gloss over the texts that are bothersome. The will use outside sources to have a new understanding. They will ignore principles in order to get their way. They will also become judges over the Bible as to interpret its meaning to be exactly as they want it.

The Bible does not train in righteousness when the things which are righteous are ignored. The Bible becomes a book that is used to support political and social agendas rather than what it really is: a sacred book intended to change lives.

We find a great separation in the world we live in. Some people are losing themselves to a conservatism that rivals the Pharisees. On the other hand, there are those who have moved with the world to accept anything the world accepts as right and good. Neither of these can be the stance of the believer. It is not conservatism  that makes the words of the Bible come alive. It is not just believing what your parents or your neighbors believe that stands for righteousness. It is reading the Bible in the spirit which reveals the spiritual intent of the Bible. It is obedience to this understanding. It is tearing yourself away from politics and social mores to embrace a true Savior and live a life devoted to God.

The Bible must be held onto if there will be anyone who is able to do the good works God has intended. How else can we understand what is truly a good work?

Someone once said, "Its not how many times you've been through the Bible; its how many times the Bible has been through you." Yes, indeed. You do not understand the Bible by merely reading it. You know it by reading it while your spirit interprets. Then, and really only then, does it equip you.

But it still needs to be read. I have no statistics but I believe that very few Christians read their Bibles daily. They walk into the world unprepared for each day, void of the word that God would say to them for that day.
The only way to really hold onto the Bible is to place it in our hearts.

2 Timothy 3:16-17 (NIV) 
16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Why Some People Cannot Understand Spiritual Things

Each week I share the gospel in some form. I preach a message intended to lead people to Christ. Some of those people are believers in Christ; some are not. I look at the faces of those who are sitting in front of me to see if the lights come on. Some obviously get it. I see them smile, nod or even respond with an affirmation. Some of these lean forward and absorb all that is being said.

Of course, I have those who are just the opposite. Some of these nod off. They look and act bored. The immature may even start a conversation with someone sitting to next to them. They are a distraction for those who are hearing and seeking the Lord.

Most people explain why some people get it and others don't as a difference in their personalities or interests. Yes, these are certainly factors which affect their eagerness for the gospel but they are not the major consideration. These people are trying to grasp the mysteries of the gospel with their minds rather than their spirits. They either try to explain the faith of others in human psychological terms or in their own ways of making it all fit somewhere between hobbies and voodoo. For them the gospel is an initiation into the Christian club or it may go so far as to carry the superstition of tapping unseen forces to manipulate the world. Nothing along this spectrum explains the gospel

The gospel is mysterious because it takes a spiritual understanding. That spiritual understanding requires a spirit that is alive in the person having the understanding. That means that the person must also understand all truly godly spiritual things with their own alive spirits.

It is no wonder that the gospel is boring to so many people. They either understand it in human thoughts or they don't understand it at all.

I have an extremely smart dog. She understands many of the words I say. She knows what I ask of her even when she doesn't want to do it. Sometimes I talk to her as if she is human. She looks into my eyes and tries her best to discern what I am saying. Eventually she lays down and closes her eyes. She simply can't understand. I have bored her to sleep.

My dog doesn't understand me because she doesn't have the capability. She has many instincts that I don't have but she does not have a sufficient brain to understand much speech. Certainly, she has learned some words but not enough for any complicated communication.

Thus, we have people understanding their own guilt and the need for forgiveness but failing to understand that a price had to be paid for their sin. They see praying the prayer of salvation, baptism and church attendance as penance for their sins. They don't have to like their penance; they just have to go through the motions. None of it makes sense even when they mimic the words which they know are acceptable. "Yes," they say, " I believe in Jesus as my Lord and Savior. He is the only way to salvation." Thus, they pass the test but do not really understand what they have just said. They have no concept of a spirit made alive within themselves which communicates with the Holy Spirit. The Spirit reveals the mind of God.

The Holy Spirit longs to fellowship with the Father and Son. He listens intently in what is being said. He is more than simply interested for the gospel is in the Trinity.

At first, I was distressed because of the few people who read my blog. I got over it when I realized that many of the people, even Christian people, may be incapable of understanding spiritual things because their spirits are dead. They cannot recognize those things which are life changing because the Spirit is required to reveal those things to them. (Please don't think that all that I have written is worthy of the Spirit's attention but I do believe that there are some in which God spoke through me.)

Don't get me wrong. I don't want to look down on those who fail to understand the gospel. I want to continue bathing the gospel in prayer as I present it. I want those who cannot understand to listen to the "still, small voice" which is telling them to receive Christ. I want to see them understand as those who have live spirits.

I want to see people changed by the glory of God.

 1 Corinthians 2:11-13 (NIV)
11 For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the man's spirit within him? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. 12 We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us. 13 This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, expressing spiritual truths in spiritual words.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

More Than Just Talk

1 Corinthians 4:20 (NIV) 
20 For the kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of power.

You have probably heard someone spout off about how good he is at something. He may say he is a great guitar player, singer or even fighter but when the time comes he is either nowhere to be found or can't measure up to his own words. We say, " He is all talk."

Many Christians fall into this category. They tell others what needs to be done but do not do it themselves. They speak of how the preacher, the deacons, the Sunday School teachers or any other person at the church should act when they fail to do so themselves. They fail to see the irony in the words, "I won't go back to that church because they are the most unforgiving people I have ever met." How can anyone make that statement and be a forgiving person?

Many people will endeavor to live up to the words they have spoken. Somehow people justify their actions by saying that, "I am only doing what I said I would do." Of course this would all be fine and good if they said good things all the time but out of the mouth come blessings and cursing. The real problem comes from the heart.

 Matthew 12:34 (NIV)
34 You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks.

The problem of evil actions resides in the heart. The overflow of the heart results in words be spoken.

One time I asked a man what it would take for him to forgive me. He immediately answered before he thought. He said, "You can't do anything to get me to forgive you." He corrected himself because he realized another minister was listening. He didn't want this repeated among the church members. Yet, I believe I heard the overflow of his heart before he was able to think.

The mouth can be a deadly evil in two ways. It can produce an outright curse that is easily seen as evil. It can lead the person who says righteous things into a false sense of security. He may genuinely believe he will do what he says. The problem is that he has no power to do it.

This would not be the case if our hearts were fully committed to the Lord. Then, our mouths would speak from the overflow and our actions would follow those words. The power to live the believer's life is seen in the ability to speak and do the word of God. It, also, should be hidden in our hearts so that the overflow is one of power.

The problem Paul had with the Corinthian church was their lack of faithfulness to the gospel. They certainly talked the talk. They were like Saul claiming that he had done all that God had commanded without realizing he had edited God's commands. He did not know that God's word does not need to be edited. It simply needs to be done.

So, my prayer is not to do what I say but to have both words and heart be in harmony with the Lord. I think David said it best:

 Psalm 19:14 (NIV)
14 May the words of my mouth
            and the meditation of
            my heart
      be pleasing in your sight,
      O Lord, my Rock and my

Friday, March 16, 2012

Overcome by Joy

 Luke 10:17-20 (NIV)
17 The seventy-two returned with joy and said, "Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name." 18 He replied, "I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. 19 I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you. 20 However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven."

I have rejoiced over many things since becoming a Christian. I have rejoiced over people giving their hearts to Jesus. I have seen lives changed by His presence. I have seen people healed by His power. I have seen God supply a need at just the right moment. I have seen His love for His children in giving them direction for their lives. I have seen Him pull me out of difficult times and give me strength to endure other times. I have seen people released from the power of demons which have plagued their whole lives.

But none of these things are a greater cause for rejoicing than knowing my name is written in heaven.

I just finished the sermon I will be preaching Sunday. It is called, "Will I Lose My Salvation If I Lose My Faith?" The answer is a resounding NO! I cannot lose my salvation because

I will never be able to overpower the Son who remains faithful even if I am unfaithful.

2 Timothy 2:13 (NIV) 
13  if we are faithless, he will remain faithful, for he cannot disown himself.

I will never be able to unseal what the Spirit has sealed for me.

 Ephesians 1:12-14 (NIV)
12 in order that we, who were the first to hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory. 13 And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God's possession--to the praise of his glory.

I will never be able to snatch myself out of the Father's hand.

 John 10:29 (NIV)
29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father's hand.

You see, I can't erase my name from the Lamb's Book of Life. My God holds onto me.

And I was overcome by joy all over again!

The next time I get down, I'm going to think about this again. Real joy ought to come out of what God is doing rather than what I can or can't do.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

The True Effect of the Gospel

 Galatians 6:14-15 (NIV)
14 May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. 15 Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts is a new creation.

Something happened to me when I gave my life to Christ. I was changed in ways that I cannot explain. My motivations changed. My life was changed. The things I had no interest in became vital. Some of the things I had previously considered vital held no interest for me.

The  Cross changed me. I realized the necessity for the death of Jesus for my sins. I realized that He suffered greatly because my sins were horrible in the presence of God. I realized that I could come to Him only because of the Cross. I realized that I could not improve myself to the point of gaining access to God.

So I'll cherish the old, rugged cross,
   Till my trophies at last I lay down;
I will cling to the old, rugged cross,
   and exchange it someday for a crown.

I can only boast in the Cross for by the Cross my life was changed. On the Cross I was crucified with my Savior for I died to this world and it died to me.

The world is no longer my home. It holds no allusions of permanence. It cannot condemn me. It does not hold my ultimate future. It is as if it is dead to me.

I am crucified to the world. I am dead to the world. It cannot gain what I have from me. This world will pass away. It will not come with me as I go to my Savior. I am dead to it because it cannot remain as it is and be changed.

Coming to Christ is a mystery that cannot be easily explained to those who observe others becoming believers. They see us as brain washed, neurotic (or possibly psychotic), half-witted or delusional. They cannot imagine why we believe and point to the flaws in those who live a totally hypocritical faith. They believe that many of us are simply liars who use the talk of faith to manipulate those who are brain washed, neurotic, half-witted and delusional.

They cannot understand us because the world has been crucified to us and we to the world. This world is all they have. It is the only heaven they will ever know.

The mystery of the Cross is in its power to change. I, an unlikely believer, became one who sought the Lord when I had no interest. I became one whose actions were changed rather than one who simply tried to change his actions. I became one whose spirit communicates with God from one who had never heard from Him.

Lots of unchurched people visit our church. I believe it is because God is calling them to Himself. They talk to me in worldly terms. (How else could they talk if they do not yet know the Lord?) They struggle in getting past their worldly paradigm because they have no other paradigm. Amazing things happen to them when they commit their lives to Jesus.

One wrote me an email stating, "Something has changed me. I used to never want to read the Bible but now I desperately want to. I used to never want to speak of spiritual things but now I want to learn more and more. I used to hate church and now I love it!" (I know I put it in quotes but I changed the wording as not to embarrass the person who wrote it to me. They are embarrassed because they may see me as praising them rather than the change brought about in them.) I baptized this person as a friend read her testimony.

The Christian life is not about living a lifestyle out of your own strength. It is being changed by the presence of Christ in your life. Salvation is not merely about going to heaven someday. It is not living a life worthy of heaven. It is accepting the changes brought about by the Spirit working in you. It does not come because you have read a book, heard a sermon or even prayed a prayer. It comes because the One who died on the Cross enters your life to make you into a new creation. You are not just better. You are completely different!

And this is the true effect of the gospel.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Can Dead Churches Come Back to Life?

I really don't like playing Bible Roulette. That's when you drop your Bible and say something like, "Let's see what God has for me today?" Reading the scripture to which the Bible randomly opened is chaotic. God is not the god of chaos.

However, this morning I was moved to a scripture. I don't know how to explain it other than I remembered the story and, after praying for the Spirit to fill me, looked for this scripture. It is found in Ezekiel 37:1-14.

 Ezekiel 37:1-14 (NIV)
1 The hand of the Lord was upon me, and he brought me out by the Spirit of the Lord and set me in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. 2 He led me back and forth among them, and I saw a great many bones on the floor of the valley, bones that were very dry. 3 He asked me, "Son of man, can these bones live?" I said, "O Sovereign Lord, you alone know." 4 Then he said to me, "Prophesy to these bones and say to them, 'Dry bones, hear the word of the Lord! 5 This is what the Sovereign Lord says to these bones: I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life. 6 I will attach tendons to you and make flesh come upon you and cover you with skin; I will put breath in you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the Lord.'" 7 So I prophesied as I was commanded. And as I was prophesying, there was a noise, a rattling sound, and the bones came together, bone to bone. 8 I looked, and tendons and flesh appeared on them and skin covered them, but there was no breath in them. 9 Then he said to me, "Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to it, 'This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe into these slain, that they may live.'" 10 So I prophesied as he commanded me, and breath entered them; they came to life and stood up on their feet--a vast army. 11 Then he said to me: "Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel. They say, 'Our bones are dried up and our hope is gone; we are cut off.' 12 Therefore prophesy and say to them: 'This is what the Sovereign Lord says: O my people, I am going to open your graves and bring you up from them; I will bring you back to the land of Israel. 13 Then you, my people, will know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves and bring you up from them. 14 I will put my Spirit in you and you will live, and I will settle you in your own land. Then you will know that I the Lord have spoken, and I have done it, declares the Lord.'"

I read the scripture and knew why I was reading it. I have been concerned over churches which are dying. Each year the witnesses of many churches are snuffed out because the church closes its doors. The property is sold and the work of God is abandoned by that church. It is as if the church was exiled from its own promised land. Unfortunately, there are few left to mourn the death of these churches. The congregations are elderly. Within a few short years hardly anyone remembers the church.

At one time each of these churches had life. They had children running in their halls and being disciplined by their parents. They had celebrations of weddings, baptisms and birth announcements. But, sometime, somewhere each of these churches decided to hold onto what they had rather than stretch out and reach others. They decided that change was only inevitable outside the church. They worked to keep things exactly as they had  been.

At first, it seemed like a great idea. Old time members wanted to keep things exactly as they had always had them. After all these were the tithers who kept the church in good financial condition. The church would remain fine as long as these people were made happy.

But, they got older and started dying. Some of them were placed in nursing homes by their children. Others hung on as long as they could but eventually couldn't drive to church. The neighborhood changed until it wasn't safe. Some of the long time members moved closer to their children. Attendance dropped a little every year. Hardly anyone noticed. Some of the people still talk of the church's "glory" days but they are all in the past.

Can these churches be brought back to life? The answer is yes. But that's not the real question, is it? The real question is, "Will these churches be brought back to life?" The only answer is the same as Ezekiel gave, "O Sovereign Lord, you alone know." I do know what it will take.

It will take God calling people who will speak His word as prophets. They will know they are speaking as God has spoken to them. They will say what He has commanded them to say. They will be filled with the Spirit.

These Spirit-filled, God called people will prophesy over these churches. They will call upon the Spirit to fill the churches. Those whose spirit's were formerly dead will come together. They will breath life again and believe again and have flesh on their bones again. It will be as when God opens the wombs of the barren. That which produced nothing will produce life!

It will be a work of God and only He can receive the glory for what is happening in these churches. No one can cause the dead to rise other than God. No one can cause a dead church to rise other than God.

These churches will become like a vast army to bring the gospel back into neighborhoods which desperately need the word of God. This army will take that which the enemy has claimed. Those who have been lost will be redeemed. Those who were of no use to God will be used miraculously.

This morning I placed my hand over this scripture and prayed for churches that are dying. Maybe I prayed for your church. Maybe you know a church that is dying.

Would you pray with me that God will bring these churches back to life?

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

How Long Do You Pray for the Spirit's Filling?

We don't get everything we ask for. We get everything we ask for within the will of God.

1 John 5:14-15 (NIV)
14 This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. 15 And if we know that he hears us--whatever we ask--we know that we have what we asked of him.

Thus, our asking is often searching for the will of God. We ask until He either gives us a word that reveals it is His will, gives us the thing we are asking for or tells us that this is not His will. God is always as good as His word. If He says something will happen; it will happen. Our prayers change from asking to praising once we have received His word. Of course, our prayers should be turned to praising even if we do not receive what we have asked for. He, therefore, has something better for us than we have asked if He tells us "no."

God's specific will has already been established in some things through His word. We know, for example, that we shouldn't ask for something sinful. These things will not allow us to express His glory. On the other hand, there are things specifically mentioned in the Bible for which we must ask. The Holy Spirit is one of those.

It is God's will that we possess the Holy Spirit. All believers should possess the Spirit though all believers aren't filled with Him. Many believers are saved without power. Power is the result of one who is full of the Spirit. It is the power to have a bold statement of faith. It is the power to believe when circumstances don't support that belief. It is the power to speak in the face of adversity. It is the power to see God perform miracles of healing, knowledge and any of the other spiritual gifts. It is always the power to see people come to know Christ.

God not only tells us to ash Him for the Holy Spirit but assures us that we shall have Him and He us. Jesus uses the example of a good father who would not give his child something bad when the child asked for something good. He compares the good father with the Heavenly Father pointing out that He will even do greater than any earthly father. He assures those who ask for the Holy Spirit in their prayers being fulfilled.

Luke 11:11-13 (NIV) 
11 "Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? 12 Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? 13 If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!"

But this asking doesn't really stop here. All who are believers in Christ possess the Spirit. Paul says there is more.

Ephesians 5:18 (NIV) 
18 Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit.

The filling of the Holy Spirit is a passive command. Therefore, the person who asks must allow the Spirit to fill them. This is why the Bible also tells us not to "put out the Spirits fire." (1 Thessalonians 5:19) Many believers are less than they should be because they didn't want the filling of the Holy Spirit. They just wanted to have enough of the Spirit to go to heaven. They didn't want enough to be changed by His power.

But the command to be filled makes us realize that our filling is never a final act. "Being filled" is an present imperative passive verb. This means it is a continual act. We are filled and we wane from our filling if we are not being filled again and again.

Thus, asking for the Spirit's filling is never ending. We ask and are filled when we allow the Spirit to fill us. We leak out and must ask the Spirit to fill us.

Why are so few believers filled with the Holy Spirit? They either have stopped asking or they are asking half-heartedly. Their prayers neither expect the filling nor do they want something that will change their lives. They would like to continue their lives without being so different from those who do not know the Lord. They do not want to go out of their own way to live their faith.

Of course, they also may not be praying to be filled by the Spirit at all.

I have resolved that I must pray for the Spirit's filling every day. He fills me but I leak . . . a lot.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

God Wants Everyone to be Saved

1 Timothy 2:1-4 (NIV) 
1 I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone-- 2 for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. 3 This is good, and pleases God our Savior, 4 who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.

The point of salvation is not merely that we go to heaven. We also must live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness. I wonder how many of the people spreading political lies in the name of God have really looked at this verse. They claim to be living for Jesus and spreading hatred. The two just don't go well together.

This salvation makes an impact on our lives. It is a responsibility. It means more than sitting at home waiting for God's blessings. It means that we live lives so that others will come to know Christ because God desires for everyone to be saved.

Funny, but I used a similar term in a meeting with non-Christians not so long ago and realized I said something that they did not understand. One of them essentially asked, "Saved from what?" Those who have not yet given their lives to Christ do not know what salvation really is. They want to believe that everyone goes to heaven whether or not they accept Jesus by faith. They want to believe that God will always grade on a curve that He only sends the serial killers to hell. They fail to realize that God does not have to send people to hell; they go there on their own. God wants them to be with Him.

People are not only saved from the wrath of God in eternity. They are saved from acting like they would if they didn't know Christ. They are saved from being spiritually alone in their decisions. They are saved from being being alone in fellowship for believers fellowship at a spiritual level or it really isn't Christian fellowship. They are saved from living a life which tries to fill the hole of purpose with the things of the world. They are saved from hopelessness.

God wants people to come to Him and He will do whatever it takes to get them to but there are some people who simply won't have anything to do with Him. They resist His grace.

I don't put any fault on God for the failure of people coming to know Him. God is love and His love is enduring to their last breath. He would have taken Judas into His heaven if Judas would have turned to Him but Judas took things into his own hands before he saw the resurrection. He would have taken Pilate or Herod or any of the others who had Jesus crucified. After all, Jesus Himself prayed that His Father would forgive them for they really didn't know what they were doing.

I know that I can't make anyone trust in Christ but I do urge people to do so. I do so because the God who saved me always wants others to be saved.

And not simply saved to go to heaven. He wants them saved from the emptiness of a ungodly life, too.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Squandering Opportunities

People make trade-offs all the time. They trade time at work for time at home. They trade time in school for leisure time. Many people fail to realize that these trades make significant impacts as time passes. Time is an investment. The failure to invest it wisely will have a significant impact on the life of the individual and those who surround that individual.

A young man graduates from high school at eighteen and goes to work in a widget factory. His off-time is spent playing Halo 3 and sitting in bars. He marries, has a child and things go somewhat well for him until widgets are replaced with whatsits. The factory closes. He is left unemployed but diligently looks for a job. His skills sets are: building obsolete widgets, playing Halo 3 and drinking in bars. How many people will want to hire him for anything other than the lowest of jobs?

There is nothing wrong with getting a job building widgets. It is an honest and honorable profession but it has a shelf life just like everything else manufactured. Thus, the only way to prepare adequately for the future is found in training for the future. Playing Halo 3 and sitting in bars is time squandered which could have been used for training for the future.

I have heard people say that many very rich people didn't get college degrees. That is true but it doesn't mean that they weren't either self-trained or that they weren't always using their time wisely experimenting (and are, thus, trained by their experimentation). They invested their time and money wisely and it had a significant return. Their skill sets were much more than playing Halo 3 and sitting in bars.

I have also heard of people saying that God will supply. They often take Matthew 6:33 completely out of context and claim that God will give them everything they need as long as they do absolutely nothing. That wasn't Jesus' point! He was trying to tell His followers to stop worrying. He wasn't telling them to stop working or preparing for the future.

These people are of the same ilk as those who quote Philippians 4:13 and claim that they can do things that they have no training for. I ask you: Would you like to have someone whose only claim to proficiency is that verse perform surgery on you? No! You want someone who is trained!

One of my daughters is a doctor. She got a college degree before attending medical school. She is in her third year of her residency in anesthesiology. She has one more year before she can even start paying off her debt. It has been very tough. She works an incredible number of hours in the hospital dealing with all aspects of her training. She is in an amazing amount of debt too. However, her time and money will be rewarded as soon as she completes her training. And, yes, that training took twelve years!

I guy once told me that he didn't have the opportunity to go to college to do what he wanted to do. He had to go to work because he wasn't "born with a silver spoon in his mouth." This is the attitude of those who don't understand that you can do both. You can work and get the training you need. It is very hard. It means trading sleep for studying. It means very little leisure time for some measure of time.

I remember studying until midnight and getting up to drive a city bus while I was in seminary. I was so tired but the blast of cold air with the opening of the door for each new passenger kept me awake. I knew that this wasn't my future. It was just what I had to do to be able to do what God had called me to do. I know there were those who didn't have to work while attending seminary. I wasn't one of them. It was an amazing blessing!

So, don't squander your resources. Your time and money are gifts from God which need to be used wisely. Remember the ant.

 Proverbs 6:6-11 (NIV)
6 Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise! 7 It has no commander, no overseer or ruler, 8 yet it stores its provisions in summer and gathers its food at harvest. 9 How long will you lie there, you sluggard? When will you get up from your sleep? 10 A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest-- 11 and poverty will come on you like a bandit and scarcity like an armed man.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Bad Time to Make a Terrible Decision

Sometimes things that were of supreme value go wrong. Your girlfriend gives you the speech, "I will always love you but just not in that way. . .," your boss says, "Our company is downsizing and we had to start somewhere. . .," you discover that your husband is having an affair or that someone you love is dying or has died and you believe that your world is over. I can assure you that it is not. I can also assure you that this is not the best time to make a decision that will have long term results. Your emotions will take over and you will almost assuredly do something that can't be cleared for years or even a lifetime.

Unfortunately, this advise makes sense when times are calm but can't be heard when things go crazy. Many people make terrible decisions when they are under extreme stress. The best thing we can do it remember some things as we go through our terrible time and make our decisions based on what we knew when times were calm.

I hope this is a calm time for you but if not these are the things you should still remember.

God did not withdraw His love for you during your bad time.

 Romans 8:37-39 (ESV)
37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

God has a plan for your life that is good for you.

 Jeremiah 29:11 (ESV)
11 For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.

God knew that this thing was going to happen to you and took it into His plans for you.

1 John 3:20 (ESV)
20 for whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything.

God will take the elements of this bad thing and cause good to happen to you.

 Romans 8:28 (ESV)
28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

Please remember what happened to Joseph in the Old Testament.

God's plan was that his whole family would be saved by the hardship that he would have to go through.

 Genesis 50:20 (ESV)
20 As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.

I feel certain that Joseph didn't see things this way when his brothers threw him into a pit. He must have thought his dreams were ridiculous when he was sold into slavery. He must have thought that God had forgotten him when he was thrown in prison. He must have thought that his life was over when those he helped in prison forgot about him for such a long time. Joseph was seventeen when his brothers threw him in a pit and sold him into slavery. He was thirty when he bowed before Pharoah and interpreted his dreams. Joseph would be thirty-nine to forty-one years of age when his brothers would make the trip to seek his help and eventually bow down before him. Twenty-two to twenty-four years transpired from the revealing of God's plan to that plan's completion.

Joseph could have decided to take his life. He could have decided to get revenge on his brothers when they came to him in despair. He could have severed his relationship with his family rather than reuniting with them.
But Joseph looked at the big picture and saw how God's hand was guiding the blessing as it played out. I am sure that Joseph called it a tragedy rather than a blessing while he was in the middle of his suffering.

So, I say to all those who are going through a bad time that they should not make a decision without godly counsel when going through a bad time. They should not make permanent decisions for a temporary problem.

Revenge is not the answer. Suicide is not the answer. Going to God is the only answer. He is the only One with whom you can know that you are always loved. He weeps when you weep and carries you through your bad time.

The bad things that have happened to you are still bad but God is also still good. He will guide you if you will let Him.

 1 Peter 5:7 (ESV)
7 casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Missing Out on Life and Peace

I often read other's blogs. I recently read one of teenager who had decided to commit suicide but relented because a friend called her at just the right moment. It is hard to tell if she would have gone through with it because the moment of real decision is always seen in action, not words. However, the thought of suicide truly disturbs me by itself.

The fact that someone would consider it as an alternative to life means that they are failing to experience real life. That cannot be the attitude of someone who knows Christ. Jesus came into the world to give us abundant life. Abundant life is more than life eternal. It is giving fulfillment to the life we have here on earth.

Only believers can know that the life that evaluates and considers the world in which we now live as the only life that has meaning is a dead end street. This life is full of disappointments, hardships, tragedies and death. Yes, it has some good times along the way too but they cannot be everlasting. Our own bodies get older, wrinkle up and fall apart eventually. Even those who have kept themselves in the best shape while taking in the most nutritious food will eventually die. Those who thought Jack Lalane would live forever were surprised by his death. He had kept himself in shape and healthy into his nineties but even he had a shelf life.

The flesh invests in this world as if it is permanent. Life's meaning is found in how much the flesh can be stimulated. It must be sexed more, pampered more, thrilled more and praised more with each passing day. The flesh is insatiable in its wants. The flesh continues to promise the salvation of fulfillment around the next sexual, financial, stimulating or fame creating corner. Unfortunately, there is always another corner around that corner. Eventually, the pointlessness of these pursuits takes hold and nothing makes any difference anymore. One might as well take drugs or alcohol to pass the time. Nothing holds any meaning anymore.

Solomon wrote in Ecclesiastes 2:11 " Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the sun. " There is a need for each of us to find meaning in our lives. that meaning brings us life and peace. The problem is that the flesh promises that meaning but never ultimately delivers.

Paul wrote in Romans 8:5-8, " For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. 6 For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. 7 For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. 8 Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

Life and peace can only come through setting our minds on the Spirit. The Spirit speaks to our spirits. Our spirits interpret the things of the Spirit so that our minds can understand. The mind affects our emotions and will. Our will causes our bodies to act. This action is one of the completion of the fulfillment of our lives for we walk in harmony with God. It fully gives our lives meaning so that the flesh no longer controls us. It is made a subject rather than the ruler. It obeys the Spirit because our minds have been set on the Spirit.

The flesh cannot understand how denying itself pleasure can bring fulfillment. The flesh demands satisfaction. The mind set on the Spirit obeys what brings true life. It rejects selfishness, envy, sensuality, sexual immorality, jealousy, drunkenness, orgies, dissentions, rivalries and things that tear individuals and people apart.

The Spirit, on the other hand, give us joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self- control. It brings our life to full meaning so that we sleep well at the end of the day. We do so because we are full of life and peace. Life requires peace to be satisfied.

I am very nostalgic about some movies and am sometimes affected by these movies in positive ways. Groundhog Day was one of those movies. The main character in the movie had to relive Groundhog Day every day until he got it right. He eventually learned that the flesh simply could not fulfill his life. He learned that his life must be more important than that. He eventually had to make the right decisions for each day before he could really have life and peace.

Each day we decide whether or not we will have life and peace. We either pursue the desires of the flesh or we set our minds on the Spirit.  I have never seen the flesh really give life and peace. It only presents an illusion of these things which, when stopping to think, each person realizes is false.

So, today I set my mind on the Spirit. It will bring life and peace to me just as it will for you.

But you have to set your mind or you will go the way of the flesh. The flesh is natural. The Spirit is supernatural.

What will it be?