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Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Little Hearts Never Make Good Leaders

A couple of mornings ago my wife backed out of our driveway like normal. A car coming around the curve had to slow to let her completely take off. She drove the speed limit for the neighborhood which is 25 mph. The guy driving behind her become irate. He pulls ahead of her as soon as possible and hits his brakes. Then, pulls over to the right three lane and gives her the finger.

I got a little angry when she told me the story but since she couldn't identify him, I can't really do anything about it. What do you say to a coward such as this anyway? Anyone who will act such toward a woman while staying in his car at some distance is an incredible coward! He is a little man no matter how tall he is.

Sometimes people mistake little in stature as little men. It is said that the Apostle Paul was short but he was no little man. King Saul, on the other hand, was tall but he was a little man.

1 Samuel 9:1-2 (NIV) 1 There was a Benjamite, a man of standing, whose name was Kish son of Abiel, the son of Zeror, the son of Becorath, the son of Aphiah of Benjamin. 2 He had a son named Saul, an impressive young man without equal among the Israelites--a head taller than any of the others.
Physical size really doesn't matter but size of character does.

I heard a ad on tv the other day claiming that a high percentage of CEOs are tall. Could it be that people equate a large physique with large character? They look like leaders in the minds of those with small characters. While a large physique is certainly no disqualifier as leader; it doesn't qualify a person as leader either.

The Prophet Samuel had such expectations out of Saul. He came from the right parentage. His father was a man of valor. Saul was handsome and was an easy sell to the people. He should have known that God was choosing Saul because he was the one that the people would accept. He should have known when Saul hid when he should have been visible.

1 Samuel 10:21-22 (NIV) 21 Then he brought forward the tribe of Benjamin, clan by clan, and Matri's clan was chosen. Finally Saul son of Kish was chosen. But when they looked for him, he was not to be found. 22 So they inquired further of the Lord, "Has the man come here yet?" And the Lord said, "Yes, he has hidden himself among the baggage."

He should have known when Saul would not wait for him to offer the burnt offering (a sacrifice of commitment to the Lord) before going into battle. Saul was afraid of losiing the battle because of a lack of men rather than a lack of favor from the Lord. With his men scattering, Saul took upon himself the office of priest. He acted as if the burnt offering was magic rather than commitment. He depended on man's effort alone to do what the Lord wanted.

1 Samuel 13:11-12 (NIV) 11 "What have you done?" asked Samuel. Saul replied, "When I saw that the men were scattering, and that you did not come at the set time, and that the Philistines were assembling at Micmash, 12 I thought, 'Now the Philistines will come down against me at Gilgal, and I have not sought the Lord's favor.' So I felt compelled to offer the burnt offering."

He should have known when Saul didn't completely obey the Lord. Incomplete obedience is disobedience. Saul was supposed to destroy the Amelekites but he chose to pick the parts of the Lord's commands that he wanted to obey.

1 Samuel 15:3 (NIV) 3 Now go, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy everything that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys.'"

1 Samuel 15:7-9 (NIV) 7 Then Saul attacked the Amalekites all the way from Havilah to Shur, to the east of Egypt. 8 He took Agag king of the Amalekites alive, and all his people he totally destroyed with the sword. 9 But Saul and the army spared Agag and the best of the sheep and cattle, the fat calves and lambs--everything that was good. These they were unwilling to destroy completely, but everything that was despised and weak they totally destroyed.

Samuel really wanted Saul to succeed. He really wanted him to be a great king. He looked the part and as many people would say of one as handsome and tall, "He has such great potential." But potential is not found in the physical size of a leader. It is found in the heart.

Samuel didn't really learn this lesson right away. He was sent to Jesse to pick one of his sons to be the next king. The oldest comes before him and he looks upon him as he did Saul.

1 Samuel 16:6-7 (NIV) 6 When they arrived, Samuel saw Eliab and thought, "Surely the Lord's anointed stands here before the Lord." 7 But the Lord said to Samuel, "Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart."
We cannot see another person's heart. A heart is revealed by the action of that person. Thus, we see David writing Psalms which tell of his relationship with the Lord. We see him believe in God bigger than Goliath. We see him spare Saul's life when it would have been easier to have taken the kingdom by force. People with tall character gather around one who has tall character.

Yes, David had his faults and sinned. Every successful person with a tall character must carefully guard his heart every day. It is so easy to believe that you can do anything you want when you have been so successful. It is easy to believe that it is all about you and take whatever you want.

Are you looking for a leader? Do your best to discover his or her heart. Do you want to be a leader? Then, don't wait for circumstances to overwhelm you. Go to the Lord.

The problems of leadership are never in the physical size. They are in the heart. The qualities of leadership are not in the size of the person. They are in the heart.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Are You a Long Way from Home?

My computer just established a restore point before it would install the Microsoft updates. I suppose these will allow me to return my computer to its previous state if the updates really mess it up. I get these updates regularly. I wonder if that means that there were so many errrors in the original that they haven't found all the bugs or if there are others hacking into their system with such regularity that Microsoft has to keep up with them. I suspect its a lot of both.

I was thinking: Wouldn't it be great if we had a restore point in our lives?

We would be able to return to a previous state no matter how far we get away from the Lord. We would be able to restore the relationships we really damaged. We would be able to completely undo those things that were harmful to ourselves and others. We could go back to when things were fine.

Of course, this really doesn't exist. As they say, "You can't unring a bell."

While instant restoration is impossible, eventual restoration is. However, it is not easy.

Restoration is a realization that there is a problem. I recently visited someone who is incarcerated. That person has realized that there is a problem and is taking necessary steps to eliminate that problem. I hope these steps stick when back on the street.

No problem can be fixed if it is not recognized as a problem. The alcholic must realize that he or she is an alcoholic. The person in tremendous debt must realize that they can't keep spending. The person who is far away from the Lord must realize how far they have gone. Each requires a turn-around but no one turns around without realizing that he is going the wrong direction.

You must know you are a long way from home.

There has to be a desire to go the right direction. Some people know their addictions but have decided that they don't want to live another way. As the adulterous song of old said, "If loving you is wrong; I don't want to be right." Somehow the desire for something sinful made sin less sinful that not getting what is wanted. Of course, wrong things have consequences. Why don't we have songs which tell of the families that are destroyed because people knew what they were doing was sinful and did it anyway?

You must want to go home.

The person wanting to restore what he once had needs help. He first needs the help of the Lord. It will take a commitment and strength beyond his own to restore things. The sinful nature is not eliminated. The reason he got so far away from home is still there. The sinful nature is not overcome on an intellectual or natural level alone. A spiritual element must employed if coming home and staying home is restored.

You must pray to go and stay home.

King David realized how far he had gotten from his Lord after his sin with Bathsheba. He had violated who he was at his core. He had allowed his sinful nature to rule. It resulted in a man's death and his own pretention that nothing was wrong. The prophet Nathan confronted him and he knew what he had done. He wanted to go back. He prayed that God would restore him.

I regularly talk with people who want to come home to their faith. They want to restore things to where they once were. They can come home but it isn't all that easy. It means more than walking down the aisle in church to make a recommitment to Christ. It  takes more than crying a bucket of tears in remorse. It takes true repentance. It takes humility. It takes commitment. It takes a daily walk with the Lord.

But you can come home no matter how far you have gone. Will you?

Psalm 51:9-12 (ESV) 9 Hide your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities.
10 Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.
11 Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me.
12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit.

Friday, May 25, 2012

There's Spam in My Faith

I just opened my email. There were around 120. Not one of them was a personal message for me except for those sent because someone comments on my blog. (You may not know it but your comments come to me as email before I post them. That means that the spam people try to insert as comments never make it to the comment page.) There is so much spam that I may miss a genuine email sometimes. I delete the whole lot without looking too hard. No spam blocker is going to tell me what I really need to read. I wish I had something which only gave me the really important messages.

I was thinking of this when I remembered that someone came to Jesus and asked Him what was the most important commandment.

Matthew 22:34-40 (ESV)
34 But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. 35 And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. 36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?”
37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” 

They were testing Him. Did He know what was the most important? Did they?

Jesus knew exactly what was important. He knew the "string theory" of our faith. All the law and the prophets hung on these two commandments.

It hit me that all of my faith can be tied into those two commandments. These two commandments will interpret the rest of Scripture. They will allow me to focus my life each day so that I can filter through the spam the world throws at me.

These two commandments give me two things I must ask myself at the beginning and the end of each day: Will I love God with all that I am today? Will I love others as I love myself? And at the end of the day I must ask: Did I love God with all that I am today? Did I love others as myself?

Of course, this sounds oversimplified but it isn't simple at all. If it was, I would do it everyday and filter through the spam. I wouldn't allow the challenges of this world to distract me from the two most important commandments.

So, the question is: Will I act today like these are the two most important commandments on which my whole faith depends?

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

One Heart and Soul

The store is being robbed. Vandals remove one item after another right under the owners noses. One thief takes takes large appliances while another takes small appliances. Some take jewelry and others take perishable goods. Eventually the store will be empty. Emtpy, that is, except for the owners.

You see, the owners are too busy arguing on the color of the walls, the temperature in the room and the music that should be played over the store sound system to notice that they are being robbed blind. Oh, they'll eventually notice but it will be way too late. Literally everything will be gone.

This is the scene in many churches. The church bickers over these exact things. They argue over the music, the temperature, the color of the walls and let the world invade. Many care little whether the Bible is preached, if souls are being saved or if conflicts are being resolved. Each person wants to have his or her own way. The church continues to diminish while the bickering continues.

I recently went to a meeting with several preachers. I heard many of them tell of the conflict in their churches. A few of them were looking for new churches to pastor. One even told of a petition to remove him which was being passed around in his congregation. How does this happen?

Jesus didn't save us so that we would fight with each other and be in harmony with the devil. He saved us to fight with the devil and be in harmony with each other. He didn't save us to have our own way or to obtain positions of power. He saved us to bring the love of God to the world. How will the world know the love of God if the people of God fail to love one another?

We, the church, need one heart and soul. We need to love on each other so much that we lovingly correct those who need to be corrected, forgive those who need to be forgiven, feed those who are hungry, pray for those in distress, worship with each other even when we don't like all the music and teach what it really means to be a follower of Jesus Christ.

The early church didn't have a building to worry about. They didn't complain about the color of the walls or the temperature. They didn't argue over the music nor did they castigate their pastors for preaching too long. They were so glad to hear the word of God and fellowship with each other that these things didn't matter. The Holy Spirit was an honored guest when they met. They acted because He was in them and they cooperated with Him in how they treated each other.

The early church was of one heart and soul. Isn't that what we need today?

Acts 4:32 (NASB) 32 And the congregation of those who believed were of one heart and soul; and not one of them claimed that anything belonging to him was his own, but all things were common property to them.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Did You Love?

I have seen viciousness for the sake of theology. I have heard people say that they can't become a staff member of my church because we don't have the right theology. They have been warned that coming here will hinder their ability to go to a larger church someday. Evidently church-hopping is not as egregious as our poor "theology."

I used to think that having the "proper" theology was most important. I even thought there were certain Bible translations which labeled the reader as uncommitted to the Lord. I thought it was all about who I associated with and what we were doing to keep the Bible pure. I didn't realize that the Bible really didn't need my help. I also didn't realize that even though theology is important it will not be the crucial question given to me on the day I stand before my Lord's judgement.

Many Christians fail to remember that we shall stand before the judgement  seat of Christ. This will not concern salvation. Our names are written in the Lamb's Book of Life if we have trusted Jesus as Savior. That's like a light switch. It is either on or off. No, this judgement concerns how we have lived with others. The question isn't whether or not we are forgiven but whether or not we have been obedient. This is why it is necesary for believers to confess their sins even though they are forgiven for salvation's sake. Our own unfaithfulness in living the Christian life needs correction. Thus, He cleanses us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1: 9)

The question that I will be asked before the judgement seat of Christ will not be whether or not I had the proper theology. It won't be which Bible translation I used. It won't be who I associated with nor how big my church was. No, the question will be, "Did you love?"

Do I love the Lord God (who includes the Son and Holy Spirit) with all of my heart, soul and mind? Did I love Him so that I put all other things aside because of that love? Did I love others so that I brought them to this love of God? Did I care for them to the point of laying down my life?

Someday, if Jesus doesn't return first, I will take my last breath. My heart will stop beating. I will enter eternity. I will have no other opportunity to improve my obedience to my Lord. I will stand before His judgement seat. My life will be known. Then, I will really know the impact of the words, "Did you love?"

I want to be faithful to those words now.

Matthew 22:37-40 (NIV) 37 Jesus replied: "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments."

Friday, May 18, 2012

Living with Life

I am sitting in a hospital cafeteria as I write this blog. Today was my day to drive my wife to Williamsburg so she could conduct an infection control meeting. The hospital cafeteria is open and bright with lots of outside light. There are only a few people sitting around me. A monitor is playing a promo piece for the hospital. Most people watch it as they come and go in the cafeteria. This beautiful hospital is proud of their reputation for caring for people. They are proud of saving lives and giving people a better quality of life. They should be proud of their record. It is admirable.

Of course, they never say that the people who were helped will some day die regardless of the hospital's best efforts. All their doctors, nurses and technicians will not be able to extend life for anyone forever. And, of course, the hospital does not address whether the people are living lives which are full. Many people have their lives extended by this hospital but they do not really understand what it is to live. Anyone can live without out having life. Giving real life cannot be done by a hospital.

Many people who are looking forward to having life never really have it. They think that they will find life in graduation, marriage, a career, children, weekends, parties, vacations, a new house, retirement, etc. They work very hard to accomplish, afford and reach these things. They may even find that these things provide a respite from the boredom but they do not truly find life. Sometimes they wonder if there is more. Is there something more than going to school, getting a job, getting married, having and raising children, retirement and death? Is there more to living than fogging a mirror when you breathe?

I think is is strange that Jesus came to give life but people think that living a Christian life will stifle life. They think that going to church is boring. They cannot imagine reading their Bibles each day. They only understand prayer as an act of desperation. They are okay with tipping their hats toward God but they really don't want to have anything to do with pursuing Him. Their natural minds tell them that this will keep them away from really living.

Years ago I went into a neighborhood to invite people to revival services we were having at our church the upcoming week. I found a lady working in her flowerbeds. As I approached I said, "Hi, my name is Prentis. I am the pastor (of the church I was serving then). I just wanted to invite you to our church."

She looked up for a moment and then down at her flowers. She said, "I tried church once and I found I didn't like it."

Before I thought I said, "And I'll bet you're not going to like hell, either." Fortunately, she didn't hear me. She didn't know the life that Jesus gives because she thought that people were saying that life comes from going to church. She had tried it once and found that life wasn't there. You know something: she is right! Church doesn't give us life; Jesus does.

We don't' attend church until we like it. We attend church because of the life that Jesus has given us makes this mean something to us. Truthfully, those walking outside of Jesus generally find church boring.

Funny, but I really can't explain the life that Jesus gives us. He fills what can't be filled with events or possessions. He makes life worth living. He gives forgiveness and purpose. He gives direction in what will make our lives full. He fills our hearts.

My job and the job of everyone who knows Jesus is to bring Him to others. We can't give the life we have but we can tell others of the one who can.

Extending life for some people is just giving more of the same life that they have had. Jesus does more than that. He gives them a new life.

John 10:10 (NIV)
10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. 

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Setbacks Are Inevitable; Defeat Is Not

Just about everyone who has set out to do something has setbacks. Moses certainly did. So did Joshua, David, Joshua, Peter and the rest of the disciples. Each of these people were doing what God wanted. They were fulfilling their purpose when something happened which could have made them stop.

These setbacks could have defeated them if they had quit. They were merely setbacks rather than defeat because these men of God did not stop. They were not only convinced they were fulfilling God's will, they were also committed to seeing it through. They were knocked down but not knocked out.

Many of these servants of God questioned God when they suffered setbacks. Moses often went to the Lord for a confirmation of what he was doing. Elijah asked God to take his life. David wrote psalms which reveal his questions to God. Peter went out and wept bitterly. They all did so because setbacks look like defeats.

Setbacks are defeats when the person suffering the setback quits. The person needing to lose a lot of weight will often gain weight at some time during their diet and exercise schedule. It can be very discouraging but this is not the time to accept defeat. These momentary setbacks must be seen for what they really are: bumps in the road. They may be detours but they are not the end of the journey.

Thus the recovering alcoholic who falls off the wagon gets back on again. The former smoker who takes a few puffs throws away the rest of the pack. The worker who is fired redoes his or her resume and keeps  looking for work. The preacher who is lambasted by a member after a sermon prepares next week's sermon right away.

Think about it for a moment. Wouldn't the devil want to discourage you if you are doing something right? Wouldn't he also want to get you to stop doing what is right? What better way to do that than to tempt you to quit through setbacks?

You keep going through the strength you receive from the Lord. You keep going with the resolve to follow after Him. You keep going because He who began to work in you will complete what He says.

Satan asked permission to torment Job because he believed Job would quit praising God when he was no longer blessed. Satan asked permission to tempt Peter because he believed Peter would not be the leader he was intended to be. Satan may be asking permission to give you a setback too. On the other hand, he may have already obtained permission.

I urge you to turn to the Lord for your strength and reject the defeat that sits waiting to devour you. What you are going through is a setback, not a defeat.

1 Samuel 30:6 (ESV)
6 And David was greatly distressed, for the people spoke of stoning him, because all the people were bitter in soul, each for his sons and daughters. But David strengthened himself in the LORD his God.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Recognizing Sin

I have virus protection on this computer. It checks to see if anything I download or open will consume the hard drive or make the computer act in an abnormal way. I, personally, wouldn't know how to recognize a virus. I have had them on other computers. I need this virus protection program which regularly updates virus recognition software to keep me from getting another virus.

People generally invite viruses onto their computers. They open emails are agree to a download or receive it from someone else's thumbdrive. Sometimes they even ignore the warnings or their own virus protection software. It isn't long before the virus makes them realize that what they have will radically affect the performance of their computers.

Sin is like this. It is either invited in or it comes attached with other things. For example, it may come because a man spends time talking of his marital problems with his secretary. It was attached to something that seemed benign.

Sometimes people invite sin. They simply ignore the things they know in order to do what they think will be best for the moment. Sin will always consume a person't spiritual life.

The virus protection software that we must update daily is found in the Holy Spirit. The Spirit speaks God's word to us so that we can walk in righteousness. The Spirit speaks through the words of the Bible and other spiritual people.

We will not recognize sin as sin on our own. We may think what we are doing is "not the best" but we will not call it sin apart from the Holy Spirit. Sin is falling short of God's glory.

Trying to recognize sin by reasoning is like trying to recognize a computer virus by the way it looks. You might actually be right once in a while but the danger of being wrong when virus protection is available doesn't make the "guess" worth it.

We have come into a world which wants to define sin by what appears as normal. Thus, we change the definition of sin and allow it to consume the spiritual lives of people. We fail to recognize gossip, hatred, gluttony and all other manners of sins. We act indignant when what we call the greater sins are made righteous. We cry out against homosexuality, abortion and euthanazia. We are quite cleaver in pointing out sins we don't have.

We fail to recognize sin because we are not walking with the Lord. We are not receiving regular updates to our spiritual software. We are inviting sin into our lives and/or receiving it as it is attached to other things.

The most important thing you can do is update your contact with the Holy Spirit today. Take out your Bible and ask Him to read it to you. Ask Him to reveal any unknown sin. See what happens.

We don't recognize sin on our own. Even King David, a man after God's own heart, had trouble with this.

John 16:7-14 (NIV) 7 But I tell you the truth: It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. 8 When he comes, he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment: 9 in regard to sin, because men do not believe in me; 10 in regard to righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer; 11 and in regard to judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned. 12 "I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. 13 But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. 14 He will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you.

Friday, May 11, 2012

What Is Your Superpower?

The Church strongly adheres to spiritual gifts for a time. Then, the emphasis seems to fade and people do whatever they want. The idea just doesn't seem to stick even though it is biblical. The fallen nature of people reverts to the belief that everyone should be able to do everything. That isn't true even though there is already someone reading this saying, "I can do all things through Him who strengthens me." Anyone who takes a serious look at Philippians 4:13 will realize that all things are refering to the things God has called them to.

Each believer has been given at least one spirtual gift. No believer has been given all the spiritual gifts. The believer should listen to the Lord and do what the Lord says to do. The Lord will not require anyone to do something that can't be done without Him. He works through the spiritual gifts to accomplish His will.

Sometimes people feel guilty when they refuse to accept a position of service at the church. Many will accept the position but never show up for the service. Others, feel as if they are not being good Christians by their refusal to work in a certain area. Still others accept the position, do the work reluctantly and look forward to the moment they no longer have to serve. It shouldn't be that way.

The spiritual gifts were given to the church so that the church would have unity. Let's face it, God could do everything He needs to do without us. He requires us to do His will so that we will grow spiritually and have fellowship with Him. There is a greater fellowship when His children have unity with each other. Thus, we depend upon each other and work together. The members of the church working together for the purpose of giving God glory produces unity.

But that means we must need each other. No member has all of the gifts so that the members need each other to do God's will. So, God has given specific gifts to different people to accomplish His will, bring them to unity and felllowship with them. So, every believer should be functioning in the area of  his/her giftedness and no believer should be trying to function outside of his/her giftedness.

God does not call people to do things outside of their giftedness. He calls His Church to do great things  and equips the Church to do whatever He is calling her to do. Each new member should be a confirmation or an indication of God's will. He is gathering those whom He has gifted to do what He has or will call the church to do.

This gift or gifts which have been given are to be used in conjunction with the leading of the Spirit. They are given and governed by the Spirit. Thus, the person who lords a gift over someone is not truly employing the spiritual gift. He or she is acting under the flesh. Some people are very good at imitating a spiritual gift with the flesh.

So, one gifted in teaching who is also a natural orator may teach heresy by the flesh and confuse others who know the person has the spiritual gift of teaching. The person listening should know what the scriptures say and realize that God does not contradict Himself. Those listening should always ask for spiritual discernment for any "new" teaching.

This is true for any of the spiritual gifts. The person who has the gift of serving others may act in the flesh in his/her service. Thus, the service is used to gain an advantage over others. Those who serve in the spirit will always be thankful for the service. Those who serve in the flesh do so to satisfy the flesh.

Knowing your own spiritual gift does not exempt anyone from service. In other words, the one who has the gift of prophecy is not exempt from mercy because he doesn't have the gift of mercy. The one with the gift of leadership is not exempt from giving because he lacks the gift of giving.

The gifts provide spiritual results for those who are operating under the Spirit with their spiritual gifts. The prophet speaks for the Lord with a special power. The teacher gives the reasons and details of the teaching as one who has walked with the Lord. The person with mercy sees the need to be merciful when others would rather wask their hands over the matter.

In short, we have been given special spiritual gifts to see our Lord personally and corporately. We see Him as He works in us and as He works in His body, the church.

Are you serving God with your spiritual gift? It is His power working in you. It is your superpower.

1 Corinthians 12:1-11 (NIV) 1 Now about spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be ignorant. 2 You know that when you were pagans, somehow or other you were influenced and led astray to mute idols. 3 Therefore I tell you that no one who is speaking by the Spirit of God says, "Jesus be cursed," and no one can say, "Jesus is Lord," except by the Holy Spirit. 4 There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit. 5 There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. 6 There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men. 7 Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. 8 To one there is given through the Spirit the message of wisdom, to another the message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, 10 to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. 11 All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he gives them to each one, just as he determines.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Tale of Two People

There are two people who live within me. One knows what the Lord has said and believes. The other doubts and worries. One humbles himself and obeys the Lord. The other does things he knows he shouldn't do. One is at peace. The other is ful of anxieties.

I naturally walk as one of these people. The other requires the Lord to walk with me.

I know that God is the Almighty. There is nothing that is beyond His abilities. There is nothing that is beyond His concern. His love for me is everlasting and He loves no one more than He loves me. I know that He will give me direction for today. I know that I exist in His grace for today and must depend on His grace for tomorrow when tomorrow arrives. I know obedience to Him honors Him and is best for me. I know that I have been created for His glory and He desires to have fellowship with me. I know that He has plans for good things in my life. I know that He is sovereign. He is aware and involved in everything that happens. I know He has forgiven me of all my wrongdoings. I know His mercy is fantastic. I know I can trust Him.

Yet, today, if I fail to pay attention to what I know, I can act as if none of these things are true. I can worry that my life will be meaningless. I can believe I am a failure. I will see myself as a fool who believes in Someone who does not care for me. I can blame myself. I can lose my trust. I can be full of worries, anxieties and fears.

Will I be the person who knows God or will I act like one who doesn't? This is the question I have before myself every day.

Yesterday, I rode my bicycle to the church building. I was almost hit by three cars. Twice it was my fault because I was trying to get past people before the lights. The third time it was because the person was completely distracted. He was talking on a cell phone, looking left and turning right at a stop sign. I was crossing the intersection on the sidewalk. I hit my brakes hard because he never looked.

I believe this man knows how to drive and is probably a safe driver most of the time. The problem was in his distraction. I thought of this as an example of the two people who live within me. I am a different person when I pay attention. I am different when I take time in the morning to remember who I am and who God is. I am different when I pay attention to what I know of God and how He acts. I am different when I am paying attention.

Who will I be today? That depends on whether I am paying attention.

Psalm 42:11 (ESV) 11 Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

What Are You Expecting?

Everyone has faith though that faith may not reflect the type of faith Jesus told us to have. For example, some people have faith that there is nothing to Christianity. They believe the followers are deluded fools whose hope might as well be put in the Tooth Fairy or Santa Claus. Their faith will not allow them to see the working of the Lord around them. Everything can be explained by those who choose to believe there is no god.

Faith fashions our expectations. Natural explanations are readily available to those who seek them. The Hebrew people escaping through the sea can be explained with a strong wind. The crossing of the Jordan on dry ground came because a landslide dammed the river. People were healed just as they are healed by placibos. Walking on water meant Jesus knew where the rocks were.

But these expectations also often form the results too. Jesus told His followers that they must believe before they will see God act.

Matthew 17:20 (NIV) 20 He replied, "Because you have so little faith. I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there' and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.

A father comes to Jesus and asks that a demon be removed. He asks Jesus to do something if He can.

Mark 9:23 (NIV) 23 "'If you can'?" said Jesus. "Everything is possible for him who believes."

Belief is tied to expectation and expectation to results. The lack of belief resulted in the lack of miracles in His home town.

Mark 6:5 (NIV) 5 He could not do any miracles there, except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them.

While I am not one who says that the lack of faith is the reason for every unanswered prayer, I have to admit that there is merit in faith bringing miracles.

So, I have to ask myself what I expect. It is not just a matter of what I believe God has the capacity to do. I believe that He can at all times do what people consider impossible. That must be true if I am honest in any request I make. But faith of Jesus is more than this. It actually believes He will rather than merely He can.

How can I have this faith? God is not a cosmic Santa Claus who grants my every wish. He does not merely grant it because I have told Him that He must because I have used the "faith" card to trump Him. No, He remains sovereign.

I must, therefore, know Him so well that I know His will. I may receive that will from a word from Him. I, then, can expect that He will grant my request because He has said this is His will.

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.

The problem we most often have is that we have neither taken the time to ask or if we have, we do not consider what His will is. Thus, we are either silent or selfish. Neither will see God respond.

James 4:2-3 (NIV) 2 You want something but don't get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have, because you do not ask God. 3 When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.

But we can ask and we can expect if we walk with Him to know His will and pray that His will be done.

So, what do you expect? Are you asking for God to act in miraculous ways to do something which will save souls? Are you asking Him to revitalize your church into the army that it was intended to be? Are you asking God to provide, heal, protect, open wombs and raise the dead? Are you asking Him for wisdom, forgiveness and the restoration of the joy of salvation?

Or do you have the same faith as the unbeliever? They don't expect anything will happen today.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Do Pharisees Know They Are Pharisees?

We live in a very divisive world. People are divided into categories so that others can manipulate them. The poor are told to despise the rich. The blacks are supposed to hate the whites. The young are to be suspicious of the old. The northerners must question the purity of the southerners. Each of these can be turned vice-versa.

Groups are subdivided within their distinction. Thus, a conservative may not be conservative enough. Or, a liberal may not be liberal enough. The effort to find purity within your own personal ilk results in Pharisees being born. Don't think that theological circles are devoid of these divisions which seek to create an elite group.

Discernment of the measure of elitism becomes the self appointed responsibility of some. They tell who is of worth and who has no worth. They determine safe and dangerous associations. They tell who can be trusted and who can't.

Demonization is the accusation of the Pharisee. The Pharisee declares that all that do not act exactly as they act are agents of the devil. They often speak of a "slippery slope" or make statements like, "A little leaven leavens the whole loaf." They see these as warnings against others who have deviated fromt he pure path.

Thus, their interpretations of the Bible are as always right as those of those of others are always wrong. Those who do not believe as they teach heresy. They warn their followers to stay clear of those who are not as "pure." They tell them that they will never be able to advance to bigger churches (and make bigger money) if they don't keep themselves on the approved path. They will never be famous and never get on the big conference speaker circuit.

So, they continue to tow the party line. They continue to use division to manipulate the followers and they continue to demonize those who are not pure.

Jesus said to the Pharisees of His day: But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut the kingdom of heaven in people's faces. For you neither enter yourselves nor allow those who would enter to go in. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel across sea and land to make a single proselyte, and when he becomes a proselyte, you make him twice as much a child of hell as yourselves. Matthew 23: 13-15) (ESV)

Jesus said that we would be identified as His disciples by the love we have for each other. How can those who despise, gossip and slander others think they are the better followers of Jesus because of their self determined better doctrine?

Do Pharisees know they are Pharisees?

Thursday, May 3, 2012

What If You Are Wrong?

Each of us puts all that we know together to form our own world view. We establish our beliefs from this world view. From it we understand that the order of things. These things develop into what is right and wrong from the basest of things like eating because we are hungry to the telling the truth because it is the best policy. Maybe this is why the world is so confusing to us.

Some people tell us that we don't eat because we are hungry. Others are telling us that we are not truthful even though we might say that it is the best policy. They "scientifically" prove their theories and we don't know what to believe anymore. So, we start telling people that we are eating because our mothers' didn't burp us enough and we are telling lies but really want to tell the truth. This is all very confusing.

Many people decide to reject what the theories of others who challenge their world view. They become so adamant about it that they will not listen to anyone who presents a different world view. Thus, they defend their political party and deny that any of those in the party have flawed morals because their party is the only one with the right morals. They believe that considering the validity of an argument which does not agree with their own world view will make their concept of reality fall apart.

Many people try to live in different world views at the same time. Instead of rejecting a deviant theory, they embrace it. They are Democrat/Republican/Libertarian/Green Peace/Peta members of the NRA. They claim to be "living in the moment." This, I can't deny.

So, for some people it seems dangerous to consider if they are wrong and others never admit they are wrong. The latter simply goes with the flow. They can go to a Christian church one week and praise Jesus and to a Muslim mosque the next to pray to Allah. They make no sense to anyone who has lasting convictions.

This is all Zen if you are in that latter group. You are nodding your head in agreement with me and have decided to speak to the Buddhist Monk down the street about it all.

But what about those who do have lasting convictions that their world views are right? Can they step aside for a moment and consider a view that does not fit in with their established views?

Now, some pictures of reality do not have a lasting effect. Whether or not you believe you should be a vegetarian or ride your bicycle to work will not have a personal eternal affect. It may significantly determine what you do each day while on this earth but it will not change your eternity. What you consider to be true in your faith will have an ethernal affect. It is very important that each of us comes to a solid understanding of what we believe in this area. Each of us should listen to each other but not all of us can or should change our own world view of faith. We have to consider whether or not we are right. Knowing what we believe is right is a matter of faith.

So, we have to ask where we are gathering our information to determine what is right. Is it coming from the popular view of our communities? Is it coming from our own reasoning? Doesn't it have to come from some place more eternal to be something that determines the eternal?

I, personally, believe we must challenge and confirm what we claim to believe. I have found that the more my faith is challenged, the more it is also confirmed. I have found that people who are willing to challenge their world views will have those views confirmed or refuted. In other words, truth will win out if you will be honest in your search.

The Bible says, "A fool says in his heart there is no God." The foolishness does not come from challenging the existence of God. The foolishness comes when there is no challenge and the "fool" is born because he is so absolutely sure in the non-existence of God. It is foolish to say someone doesn't exist merely because you have not met him. It does not matter how self assured I am in my belief. I must keep looking if I am to be assured in the non-existence of God

The path to ultimate and eternal destruction is found in what seems to be true. Searching reveals what is true. I cannot simply seem to know what is true.

So, what if you are wrong in your unbelief? What if you haven't allowed for an honest search for God? What if you have only accepted what others have told you? What if you have simply stopped searching too early?

Destruction answers the what if.

So, keep looking, keep seeking, keep asking. I am sure that you will find the truth as long as you keep challenging what you seem to know.

Proverbs 14:12 (NIV) 12 There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Would You Go with Jesus Today?

Imagine that you have always been blind and everyone you have ever known is blind. Some people talk about sight but they are considered irrational. Most people say that they will not believe it unless they can feel, taste, smell or hear it. Of course, sight doesn't fall into any of these categories. It must not exist.

Now, imagine a Man comes to your town claiming that He can see. He tells you that you will be able to see too if you will just get close enough to Him. So, you listen to Him. You get close enough to Him and you start to get glimpses of things. Your eyes begin to function. You are filled with joy for you had been blind and now can see.

Now comes the tough part. You can see better when you are close to Him. Your vision fades when He is absent. You can either choose to be blind like the rest of your friends or you can choose to see and walk with Him. He says to you, "Come with Me and I will enable you to help others see." The implication is that you either go with Him and help others or stay where you are with the blind.

Would you go? Would you stop what you were going to do with your life and walk with Him receiving your sight and giving sight to others? I wonder how you could refuse.

I read the story of Peter, Andrew, James and John leaving their fishing businesses to follow Jesus this morning. His promise was to make them those who would fish for men. They left their old life behind to be with Jesus. They understood how blind they would be if they didn't go with Him. How could they refuse?

Matthew 4:18-22 (NIV) 18 As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. 19 "Come, follow me," Jesus said, "and I will make you fishers of men." 20 At once they left their nets and followed him. 21 Going on from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John. They were in a boat with their father Zebedee, preparing their nets. Jesus called them, 22 and immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

What Fellowship Can Light Have with Darkness?

"I am in the world but I am not of the world."

These words have been said many times yet still need repeating. I am in this world. I am to bring the presence of Christ to this world. I am to live in a way that brings light to the world.

But I am not permanently bound to this world. It is not my "forever" home. It is a temporary place in which I should not attempt to make permanent. I get myself in trouble every time I do.

It is important that I do these things. It is important that I realize the value of bringing people to Christ. It is important that I live a life pleasing to Him. I do so because of the relationship I have with Him. It isn't just a desire to get to heaven. Making this world more than it should be will hinder my relationship with my Lord.

Thus, it is important that I do not make partnerships with those who do not know the Lord. Yes, I work with those who do not know the Lord. Yes, I do business with those who do not know the Lord. But, no--emphatically NO!-- I do not bind myself to them. Binding myself will make me a part of what they are doing.

Each of us has to sign contracts for services we have. We have a contract with our cell phone companies, our cable providers and our home security systems. These are common agreements that loosely bind us to these companies. The  relationship we have with them should be severed when we find them acting illegally or unethically. We are giving our tacit approval when we continue to do business with them while others are hurt. Light and darkness cannot share the exact same space.

Therefore, we should not make direct partnerships with unbelievers either. These are those with whom we must do daily business. We do not marry those who are not believers because our partnership cannot bring fellowship. It causes us to participate in a world this is not our permanent home. It brings us pain because "until death do us part" means a whole lot more when our spouses are not believers.

I used to think that I was an island all to myself. I thout  that my actions are merely my actions but I do not believe that anymore. I am connected to other believers so much that my actions affect the actions of the whole group. I am connected to my wife. My actions affect her all the time. My walk with the Lord especially affects her. Hers does the same for me. We have the same Lord, the same home and the same destination.

I am more than simply glad that my wife is a believer. I don't know how I would have coped with life without her infusing light when I drew toward darkness. I don't know how I would have tackled life's struggles without her encouragement of faith. What would she have had to tell me if she had no faith? How could she really helped if all her encouragement came from the wisdom of this world?

Many people reading this blog may have an unbelieving spouse. This blog is not intended to put them down nor to point out why they shouldn't have married the person they married. It is intended to encourage those with believing spouses to thank God for their spouses. It is intended to urge those with unbelieving spouses to pray for their salvation. It is intended to warn those who are unmarried to wait for a believing spouse.

2 Corinthians 6:14 (NIV) 14 Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?