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Monday, October 29, 2012

Thinking Like a Missionary

I have heard so many Christians tell me how church was when they were children and expect today's parents to raise their children as they were raised. They just can't understand why that may not be possible.

It seems that time is traveling faster than it has ever traveled before. Things have been changing faster than they ever have before. The world is more accessible. (On this date I have one daughter in Singapore and another in Kenya.) Technology which was supposed to free us has imprisoned us. Twenty-four hour per day news stations have become the norm. Most children have the opportunity to study, train for or perform in activities which would have been unavailable a few short years ago.

A stay-at-home parent has become the exception rather than the rule. There are very few men who work at home. There are many who work somewhere in the world and may not see their families for days, weeks or even months at a time. The gathering for the family meal is rare because of the schedules for each person in the family. Cable television provides hundreds of stations. The internet provided instant access to movies, youtube, worldwide communications and information that cannot be controlled by large media corporations.

Sunday is no longer considered a day of worship for most. Many will work on Sunday as if it is any other day of the week. Many others will see Sunday as their only day they can spend for themselves. Even church members look for opportunities to miss church on Sundays. Everyone stays home if one person in the family gets sick. That wouldn't happen if they all had tickets to a play or football game but church has lost its meaning to many.

So, it makes no sense for people to say: "Church services must be held at 11:00 AM Sundays. You will be here on time, dressed as we have prescribed and have your children sit quietly while we sing, take up and offering and sleep through most of the sermon. Do not let your children wake us up!" Churches who think they can keep the status quo are dying.

Churches must change their thinking. They can no longer expect people to move into town visit a couple of churches before deciding which one to join and be there every time there is an event. Most people weren't attending a church before they moved. Nothing has changed to make them want one now. A simple post card or letter from the pastor won't entice most people to visit a church. It will take much more. They are very likely to avoid any place that tells them that they will have to come at a certain time, dress in a certain way and have abnormal children who sit quietly while someone talks.

Churches must stop thinking they can dictate how things should be and do whatever they can to reach people with the gospel. It may mean changing service times or relaxing the expectation of how people should dress. It may mean accepting people who let their children fidget and ask a fair amount of questions during the sermon. It may changing the music style so that there is more liveliness and excitement to grab the attention of a people who have been raised on media stimulation.

The members of each church must start thinking like missionaries. They have to give up their own desires to reach those who do not know Christ. They have to do what they can and change what they can in order to win some.

I notice lost people more and more as I get older. I see that my own eternity is coming. I know that each person has an eternity. I want people to know the joy of Christ and the eternity of His presence. I do not want the eternity of hell for anyone. I am willing to act any way necessary to win some to Christ.

This is not a new idea.

1 Corinthians 9:19-23 (NIV) 19 Though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. 20 To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. 21 To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God's law but am under Christ's law), so as to win those not having the law. 22 To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some. 23 I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The Language of Lies

Unfortunately, I only speak one language fluently. I always learn the greetings in the native language of the countries I have visited but beyond that I know very little.

Several years ago one of my daughters came running up to me while we were visiting France. I had left her and my wife shopping while I wandered down a street with some friends. My daughter told me to come quickly because a man was, "Yelling at Mom!" When I got there I found out that my wife had left some of the items she had purchased on the counter and the man was trying to retrieve her items. He wasn't angry. He was just increasing the volume to help her understand french. It wasn't working.

Saying things louder does not help people understand a new language. They do not have a problem with their hearing. They have a problem with their understanding.

There were Jews who confronted Jesus because they could not understand Him. He was not speaking their language. They only knew the language of lies.

John 8:43-45 (NIV) 43 Why is my language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say. 44 You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father's desire. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies. 45 Yet because I tell the truth, you do not believe me!

Most of us learn our native tongue by interacting with people who speak it. We even adopt the accents of those we are around. Many people will never know another language fluently. Even the words that they learn in other languages are translated into the native tongue. They have to think, translate and, then, communicate with others in a a different language. This is not true of those who become fluent. They can think in any language they are using.

Now think of those who grow up learning the language of lies. They often cannot understand the Truth. Even when they understand the concept of the Truth, they often translate it from what they do understand. Thus, when they speak of those who know Christ as religious. They say that they got "religion" rather than a relationship with Jesus. They see the rituals as having meaning within themselves. There is no need for a living Christ to exists. The ritual itself is moving enough.

I have learned enough Spanish phrases to fool a non-spanish speaking person. They will hear me rattle off my Spanish as if I know what I am talking about. They don't know how badly the words are pronounced or that they carry a very bad American accent. They believe I know how to speak Spanish. But I am obvious to the native Spanish speaking person. They know very soon  that I don't know how to speak Spanish.

Several people who come to church learn to say some of the words that believers use. Their words fool the ones who do not speak the language of Truth. It should be obvious to the believers when someone is just pretending they know the language.

There was a time in my life when I couldn't read. I really don't remember the process of learning. I don't think about reading when I read. I just read.

There was a time in my life when I couldn't type. I would hunt and peck but did not really know how to type. I bought a computer typing program and started going through it. I can't tell you the day I said, "Now, I can type." I don't think about the letters. I just type.

There was a time in my life when I didn't understand the language of Truth. I only knew the language of lies. I don't know how it came about. I just knew that what I heard was the Truth. I accepted the Truth and am uncomfortable when I start listening to the language of lies. I guess this is the only area where I am bilingual.

This means that people who hear the Truth do not understand it like a person may not understand a different language. Something has to happen to cause them to understand it. Simply saying it louder doesn't work They must have an interpreter.

Thus, the Holy Spirit comes to give us the ability to speak and understand the Truth.

John 14:16-17 (NIV) 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever-- 17 the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.
Maybe we are all bilingual. The language we speak is determined by which one we act on. So, which language are you speaking today?

Monday, October 22, 2012

Repentance Is Not the Same as Being Sorry

I have visited many jails and prisons during my time in the ministry. I have also listened to numerous confessions of those who have done wrong who never go to jail. These include adulterers, tax cheaters and just plain ole liars. Each and every one of them is sorry. Often, they are just sorry they got caught.

Yes, these people often shed tears. They cry out saying that they were in the wrong. They want their punishment to stop. Their actions are often a reaction to the punishment rather than their sins.

I find there are things they have not confessed. There are things in which they minimize the extent of their sin. They are offended when their own sin is revealed. They blame others for their own actions. They have found a way to live with their sins.

Then, they say that the punishment is too great. They fight back; demanding less punishment. They take actions to protect themselves. They are reluctant to sign any agreements. They don't want to admit anything which will reveal their sins. They are unwilling to go the full distance of repentance.

Repentance is taking whatever punishment is dealt out for the sin. It is turning completely away from the sin toward God. That takes a full confession without hiding, minimizing or blaming others in your sin. Repentance abandons the worldly wisdom of protecting yourself. It accepts the full consequences because it is repentance. It turns away from the world and the world's standards so that the repentant ones may have God's presence again.

King David accepted the death of his child as punishment. He didn't want the child to die. He fasted in hope that God would not let this happen but it made no difference. He accepted it. He wrote that he had sinned against God. He knew that he had also sinned against Uriah, (Bathsheba's husband), Bathsheba, Joab, his military, his own family and his country. Yet, he knew ultimately that he would never have done what he did if he hadn't sinned against God.

Sometimes people believe that God is the one who declares that there will be no consequences if  sinners simply admit what they has done. That is not true. There are always consequences. Some are greater than others.

Yes, we live as a people in grace but that is not because we have confessed. It is because Jesus died on the cross for our sins. There can be no other payment which satisfies the penalty of sin. He did that for us. This is pure grace. True confession is not simply admitting what you have done. It must also contain true repentance.

The lack of true repentance almost guarantees a repeat of the sin. The sin has never really been washed away. The restoration of righteousness cannot be attained without true repentance.

So, when I listen to people who are sorry I also listen for repentance.

Psalm 51:1-4 (NIV) 1 Have mercy on me, O God,
 according to your unfailing love;
 according to your great compassion
blot out my transgressions.
2 Wash away all my iniquity
 and cleanse me from my sin.
3 For I know my transgressions,
 and my sin is always before me.
4 Against you, you only, have I sinned
and done what is evil in your sight,
 so that you are proved right when you speak
 and justified when you judge.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Where Is Your Cross?

I woke up with a vision this morning. (A vision is something that you "see" in your mind's eye. It reveals things you should know, convicts you of things you should do, and leads you in where you should go. It is not really all that mysterious. It sort of develops the more you think of it.) I "saw" a road that stretched over the horizon and beyond my sight. Along the side of the road were crosses. They seemed to be everywhere. I was on this road with a cross.

Now here is the strange part (as if the rest of this isn't strange), the cross was a joy rather than a burden. I noticed that someone was walking next to me. I didn't identify him as an angel though he may have been. He just seemed to be there.

I asked, "Why are all these crosses laying beside the road?"

"O, those are the crosses that Christians were supposed to pick up each day. They left them here when they went into the city."

"There's a city?" I asked.

"Sure," came the quick reply, "no one has to stay on this road. You just have to leave your cross here if you do."

"So, these Christians were enticed by sinful things, right?" I smirked. "Yeah, things like gambling and drinking and sex. Things I preach against every Sunday."

"Not so much," he said with a saddness that cannot be captured with words, "most of the time its good things that get them off the road. They hear the call of their children or spouse or parents or even their reputations. Soon, the cross gets too heavy and they drop it. They leave the road soon afterwards."

"But don't they know that Jesus said that we can't be His disciples unless we put all that aside and keep our eyes on Him? Don't they realize what they have done?"

"You see," he answered, "once they have dropped their crosses they make excuses to convince themselves that Jesus never expected them to really hate their fathers, mothers, spouses, children and their own lives. That way they can live good Christian lives without carrying a cross."

"So, are they happy now?" I asked expecting him to laugh.

"Yes," he said with that same saddness, "they are happy."

We walked along and he finally said, "They are happy but they never have joy."

I got up from my bed and thought about this "vision." I dressed, got my things together, mounted my bicycle and headed to work. I told the Lord on the way:

"Today I take up my cross. Nothing will get between me and you, Lord. I will not act on my on behalf. I will do whatever, whenever, however for as long as it takes to obey your will. Neither my family, bank account or job will get in the way. I am dead to these things because I carry my cross."

Then, I received the joy of the Lord.

Where is your cross?

Luke 14:26-27 (NIV) 26 "If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters--yes, even his own life--he cannot be my disciple. 27 And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

There's a Time for That

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 (NIV) 1 There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven:
2 a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
3 a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
4 a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
5 a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain,
6 a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
7 a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
8 a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.

I read these verses one night last week. The next morning one of my church members died unexpectantly. There was no prevailing illness. There was really not much warning. His abdomen ached. He had an inflamed pancreas. He died within a few hours of being admitted into the hospital. His time was up. It made us all remember our mortality.

Somehow I think that the present time will last forever.

I just had a conversation with someone whose children have grown up. I told her that it seems that the time went quickly but I didn't think that when my children were all little. I thought they would be children forever. They are all grown now and I miss seeing them as children more than I wanted them to grow up. The time has passed and I can't turn back the hands of time.

Our church will soon renovate the sanctuary. There are some who do not see any reason we should change things. Many of those  are people who sacrificed to have it built over thirty-two years ago. Some of them still call it the "new" sanctuary. They knew there was a time to build but they are having a hard time seeing that there is a time to tear down.

Some Sundays I lament over the sermon I have just preached. I wish I had said so many other things which I didn't say. I also wish I hadn't said some things that I did. I vow to do a better job when I know that I did the best job I knew how to do in the first place. There are other Sundays that I praise the Lord for a sermon I preached. Neither of these last. I forget there are times to rejoice as well as there are times to regret. Neither one of these times last very long.

I must realize that I am not permanent in the condition I am in and nothing that I know other than the word of God, and other people will last forever. I know that some of the things that I abhor can be as valuable as the things I love. I know that what is happening now will pass. I know I don't have forever to contemplate this.

Thus, I should see this time as temporary. I was born and I will die. I will laugh and I will cry. I will build and I will tear down. I will plant and I will use Round-Up. 

This is comforting. Nothing I am going through will last forever. The only forever I will see is not in this world. The temporal nature of this world makes me long for one in which time means nothing.

Some people think that everything travels in a circle. The things that we have seen will be seen again. But time is a journey. It ends at a place. It continues in a place. No matter how much I long to be there I remember: There's a time for that.

So, I am here now. . . but that will change.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Do We Ever Get Beyond a Little Faith?

I have heard many people tell me that the economy is bad. I believe them. They tell me that people aren't investing, spending or giving because they are afraid of the economy getting worse or even staying where it is. They tell me that people who have jobs are afraid that these jobs will end. They tell me that people are afraid.

Does faith have anything to do with this? Or are all of these things excuses for people to claim to have faith while being faithless?

Did the economy change God's favor? Surely God did not look at the economy and say that he was going to stop supplying what His people needed. God has worked for His people during wars, famines and plagues. The economy didn't stop God's favor.

Is the economy a hurdle that God can't clear? No, God is greater than the economy. In fact, the Scripture tells us that God causes all things to work for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.. So, God is using this bad economy to bring good to those who love Him. In some cases He is bringing people back to Himself because He is all they can trust. In other cases, God is using those who are doing well in this economy to supple the needs of those who need the supply. In all cases He is leading people to understand that they can trust in Him if they just will.

Does this economy mean that God no longer expects us to be obedient? No, that can't be the case. Obedience is required in the good and bad times. In fact, the bad times are when obedience is even more necessary for how will there be good times if we are not faithful during the bad times?

Yet, people are neglecting to tithe, serve or attend church. They aren't having times of prayer nor are they reading their Bibles. I know these things because they are so anxious about the economy. If they were doing these things the anxiety would be gone for they would know that God's love has not wained nor has His favor left us.

I wonder if some people ever get beyond a little faith. They want to say that they believe but they fail to show it. Thus, they don't have it when they need it.

Matthew 6:30-34 (NIV) 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31 So do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

Friday, October 12, 2012

It All Comes Down to Faith

Hebrews 11:1 (NIV) 1 Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.

Hebrews 11:6 (NIV)
6 And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.

Christians are a people of faith. We should admit it as much as we proclaim it. We believe and look for objective non-controversial evidence which back up our faith. We do not realize that it ceases to be faith if  we start believing in these "facts." Thus, we point to what we claim as answered prayers and God's providence as proof that we have a creator who is worthy of our belief. I wonder how many people believe without having to have these "proofs." I wonder how many proofs are simply circumstances molded to fit into the belief of the person who chooses to believe.

I have never seen God but I believe in Him. It is more than believing that He exists. I believe He is involved in His creation. I don't have to see Him to believe. I choose to do so.

I have no guarantee for my prayers but I still pray. I don't know which ones whill be answered exactly as I have verbalized them and those which I will claim were God's providence even though they weren't what I had asked. I believe that God does what is best for me without having absolute evidence of that.

I have no proof of the afterlife in heaven other than God's word. Of course, that is dependent upon  something else I can't prove. I have no proof that the words of the Bible had any contact with God other than the testimony of the authors. I choose to believe it is God's word. I choose to believe I will go to heaven because of the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. I will go there because I believe it.

I say it again: I choose to believe. I truly can't explain this belief without using other terms that I can't prove. I can look continually for non-controversial evidence but each and every instance can be debunked. This does not keep me from believing it is true.

My very nature is not reject anything that can't be proved. Somehow I am comforted by the fact that I believe in God whom I cannot prove and know my life is one of skepticism in everything else.

But think of all the things that we accept in this world without absolute proof. We have no proof that everyone's fingerprints are different from any other person's. We would have to have a record of all fingerprints of everyone who had ever lived to prove that. We don't have nearly enough samples to say that without these records and a thorough comparison.

This would also be true of DNA and retinal patterns. We know that the samples we have indicate that they are different but we can't know they are all different so we take a leap of faith and say that they are.

There is another system of faith that opposes my faith. It comes from those who choose not to believe what I believe. They work hard at proving their own system of faith. They look for evidence that there is no God. Of course, this is impossible. It is always impossible to prove something doesn't exist because no one can make an observation of everything everywhere for all time. They take a leap of faith and say there is no God.

However, I am confused as to why these people who do not believe as I do attack my own faith so vehemently. Why should they care? I want them to believe as I do so they will have an eternity. They want me to believe as they do so that I will no longer believe in eternity. Why should they care if there is no eternity? I wonder if their work to disprove my faith helps them believe in theirs'.

I believe by faith in an Almighty God and in His Son. I believe that the Holy Spirit is active among us today. I believe that Jesus will come back for His believers. I believe this by faith and really nothing more.

It all comes down to faith.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Confess and Be Cleansed

As a preacher I have seen the pattern that most people take when in sin. They hide it as long as they can hide it. They minimize it once they are caught. They blame others for committing the sin when they can no longer minimize it. Those that follow this pattern have a hard time repenting. Somehow they keep thinking that it was someone else's fault. You really can't confess unless you realize that you fully sinned even if someone else had a part of it.

King David would have been much better off to have admitted his sin from the beginning. Uriah would still be alive. He should have confessed and gotten it over with. He should have confessed and been cleansed. He would have had a whole lot less consequences.

I know that God used the union between Bathsheba and David to produce Solomon. I know that He works all things for the good of those who love Him and are called to His purpose. Yet, I don't see sin as the way to get those things to happen. The sword also never left David's house. David was not able to build God's Temple because of the blood on his hands.

Most people make things worse by hiding their sin. They continue in the sin thinking that no one else knows but they are wrong. God always knows. God always takes an account. Confession would cleanse the sinner but the sinner chooses to hide it.

Think of it: David tried to hide just as Adam tried to hide. It is our lower nature to hide our sins unless we turn toward God. It would be better to call sin what it is, repent of it and place yourself at God's mercy. That's what you will do anyway in the end.

There is nothing like being clean after you have been dirty. Believe me, I know. I have had to confess my own sins.

I will never be able to get close to a righteous God holding onto unrighteousness.

Psalm 51:1-4 (NIV) 1 Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. 2 Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. 3 For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. 4 Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you are proved right when you speak and justified when you judge.

1 John 1:9 (NIV) 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.

Monday, October 8, 2012

What Is a Christian Calling?

2 Thessalonians 1:11 (ESV)
To this end we always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling and may fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith by his power

It wasn't long after becoming a Christian that I heard of Christians being called. They were called into the "ministry" or called to be missionaries but that was the extent of anyone's calling. Of course, this did not bother me since I received a calling into the ministry. I thought that I was just special. I believe that to be more than a little ostentatious of myself now.

I know that the above verse can mean no more than being called out of the darkness into the light. It can mean that our calling is simply to be a Christian but I see it as more. I just don't believe that people are saved to live within certain parameters of objective right and wrong. That sort of faith is too passive for me. If God is active in my life He must have a calling for me and everyone else.

The above verse is to the Christian community called the Thessalonians. They were not all called to be missionaries or preachers. Their calling certainly had something to do with their being called as Christians but God's pattern throughout the Bible indicates that there is much more than this.

We are given spiritual gifts. These gifts are used for the glory of God. Everyone receives his or her own spiritual gifts. Not all people possess the same gifts. This is very peculiar. This means that each person operates differently as a believer because he or she has been gifted to act in that way.

This giftedness is both an ability to act and a calling to do so. The Bible encourages believers to use their gifts. Surely, this cannot be randomly done. Their must be some coordination by the Holy Spirit.

Gifts are given without regard to the profession of the receiver. The gift of prophecy or leadership does not necessarily come to preachers. They may come to any profession.

Yes, I understand that the Bible records those who will be set aside for the work but does that deal with calling or merely funding? Paul worked among these Thessalonians as a tent maker for a time. Did he forget his calling or was he still acting in his calling? I believe the latter. His calling didn't change but his funding did. This is why preachers can preach without other jobs. They were set aside in their funding but not their calling. Their calling comes first.

So, an engineer can be gifted in teaching and used within the profession to teach others who God is. A doctor can be gifted in mercy and practices that mercy with such compassion that the patients see God. A businesswoman can be gifted in giving so that her giving presents Christ who gave His life for others.

And each one acts within his or her own calling even though the professions are very different.

And it doesn't stop here for there are day to day activities which glorify God as the individual sees through the gift what he or she should do in that day. The will of God is revealed as the calling is realized in that person's life.

Calling can be specific as to location or employer or profession but it does not depend upon any of these things to be fulfilled. God places us within certain professions to spread His glory to all creation. He does the same thing in location.

The Christian who does not know his calling does not know who he is. He, therefore, cannot say no to things which are outside of his calling. I have seen many people become preachers whom I thought were never fulfilling their calling. They were devote believers who did not know that their calling could be fulfilled in other professions. They are miserable in their positions because they are unable to fulfill their calling. They preach without passion because that is not what they are supposed to do. They don't know what else to do because they have a passion for God and that seems to be the only option for people who are so passionate in their faith.

Unfortunately, they do more damage to the Christian faith because they are not acting within their calling. They typically complain about the people whom they are called to equip to do the work of the ministry. Their sermons are dull because they are not delivering what they were called to deliver.

I am not trying to demote the professional ministers here. I am trying to get people to understand that all others have a calling that is just as valid as those who are professional preachers. I used to think that people separated their professions from their acts of faith. In other words, I thought that people financed their "ministry" as engineers, teachers, doctors and the like. I didn't realize that they were the ministers at the firm, the hospital, the school or the factory.

Thus, being worthy of your calling takes on a more definite responsibility. I am to be that person who exercises my spiritual gift wherever I am. It acts without respect to my profession but my profession is indeed a part of my calling. My profession determines the people who will receive my ministry.

I have struggled with those who have "left the ministry." I have felt that they either were never called and should never have entered the ministry or that they were being unfaithful by leaving the ministry. I realize that I was wrong. The calling does not change when a person is no longer a professional minister. God acts His will on that person to go where he or she must to fulfill their calling.

I know who I am because of my calling. I am called to teach. I would have liked the gift of prophecy because I believe that prophets are called to bring a people back to God. I don't have that gift no matter how many spiritual gift surveys I have manipulated to indicate that I did. I will never be able to glorify God pretending to be called to do something that I am not.

Understanding my calling gives me rest. I can say no to things that do not fall within it. I don't have to run from place to place trying to exercise spiritual gifts in a spiritual way. (I know that I should show mercy but I don't have the spiritual gift. Thus, I can act with mercy but without trying to do so as if it is a spiritual gift. I can rest in knowing that it is not my gift and that God may not be seen spiritually through that gift. God will be seen through my teaching.)

I know who I am. I pray that others know who they are too. I pray they understand and act within their calling so that they will be proved worthy of it.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Learning the Same Lesson

I have a prayer list like many others. I ask God for a number of things but often leave off the most important thing that I really need. I ask for provision, healing, His presence and His intervention in things troubling me. I ask for these things without knowing whether they are God's will. I fail to ask for the thing which I know I will receive. I fail to realize that I am even in need of it.

Imagine you are on a beach and find a lamp. You rub the lamp and a genie comes out. He tells you that he can grant you one wish. What do you wish for? You see, going to God for something that He has already said He will grant is like knowing that your wish will be fulfilled.

Let's see: What would Solomon have asked for?

So, what is it that I am so in need of? What is it that I have asked for in the past and received every time? What is it that God has already said I will receive if I will merely ask?

It is wisdom. It is something God has already said He would give without reproach. It is something I need in so many areas.

I need wisdom in dealing with my children, my church, my sermons and even my blogs. I need wisdom in those things which trouble me and those things which are no trouble at all.  I need wisdom in deciding on expenditures and investments. I need wisdom in reading the scripture and discerning God's will. Wisdom is needed in every area of my life.

Yet, for some reason, I keep forgetting to ask for it. I tell God I don't know what to do but fail to admit that I need His wisdom to make a decision. I start each day as if I am a completely self-contained unit which needs no infusion of divine wisdom.

It bothers me that I can't seem to learn this lesson.

I suppose i will need wisdom to do that, too.

James 1:5 (ESV)
5 If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

How Does Satan Defeat Us?

1 Peter 5:8 (NIV) 8 Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.

Satan is sly. He roams the earth. (Job 1:7) He gets permission to work against God's servants. (Luke 22: 31). He is a murderer and liar (John 8:44) He is the the ruler of this world (John 12:31, 14:30, 16:11) He brings calamity on property, health and family (Look at the Book of Job). He tempts (Matthew 4:3). He deceives (Genesis 3:13) He accuses (Revelation 12:10). He wishes to devour us.

He uses all his evil tools to get us to doubt. He seeks to have us curse God. He wants us to deny our faith. He wants us to run from him in fear. What hope do we have against him?

Peter knows who Satan is. Peter has been sifted like wheat because Satan got permission. Peter ran, hid and denied his Lord. He knows how it happened. He knows what he said the night before he abandoned his faith. Peter was neither self-controlled nor alert.

Peter was sure that he would never deny Jesus. He was sure of it because he knew who Jesus is. He was sure because he had never backed down from a fight. He was sure because he was Peter. He was full of himself. He lacked self-control. Self-control has nothing to do with your conduct when everything is fine. Self-control takes place when you can still think through each thing which happens when your world is upset. It is remaining steadfast when emotions are running high. It is being prepared for the storm.

Peter never expected to come to a moment when he was so outmanned. He intended to fight his way our of any and every situation. He didn't know what to do when Jesus told him to put up his sword. He ran.

Peter watched from a distance to see what would happen to Jesus. His fear was greater than his convictions. He moved farther away each time he was accused of having been with Jesus. Finally, he severed his connection with Jesus with a curse. His denial was so demonstrative that Jesus heard it. He went out and wept. He was sifted through and through.

Self-control must always be accompanied by being alert. Peter was not alert at the time of Jesus arrest. He didn't even stay away and pray when Jesus needed him. He had been warned but complacency left him unguarded.

Satan did not have much of a challenge with him. He loves to roan and devour Christians who are neither self-controlled nor alert. He scatters them like fox scatters chickens. Some are eaten but most just run and hide.

We will never be much of a challenge for Satan if we do not prepare ourselves for the battle. We must put on the full armor of God. We must have our time of prayer. We must have our time with God each day. We must look at how Satan is trying to defeat us.

Is he after you? Is he bringing people into your life who are causing you to doubt your faith? Is he bringing calamity in property, family and health to get you to deny God? Is he telling you lies to get you to believe something is not true? Is he turning you against someone or having someone turn against you?

If he isn't now; he will.

Today is a day to renew our resolve against him. We must stand firm. We must recite and renew our faith in Jesus.

If we don't, he'll eat us up.

1 Peter 5:9 (NIV) 9 Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings.

Monday, October 1, 2012

What Are You Trusting In; I Mean, Really?

Psalm 20:7 (ESV)
7 Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God.

Do you think the above verse would be written differently to apply to our current culture? Would it say, "Some trust in politicians and some in the economy. . . ?" 
That seems to be what everyone is trusting in. I talk with lots of Christians who act as if God is powerless to sustain any of His creation. They seem to think that its all up to who is elected or what the politicians do or whether or not the media presents the economy in a favorable light so that people will start spending again.
Why is it that Christians claim they can trust in God for their eternity but can't trust Him in the economy? Why is it that we run to God like crazy when we get sick but just go crazy when the economy is sick?
My trust is not in who wins the American election for president. My trust is not in whether the economists' theories are right or wrong. My trust is not in whether my retirement account does well or badly. My trust is not in my own health or my own house or in my own messages that I preach each Sunday. My trust is in the name of the LORD my God.
He didn't call Himself "I AM" because He knew that one day He wouldn't be! Nothing ever changes about Him. He is just as powerful, just as omniscient and just as holy as He has ever been. He can still raise the dead, calm the sea and feed any number of  people. He still knows the future as if it has already happened. He still gives mercy and saves souls.
Can I trust Him for today? If I can't I need to rethink trusting Him with my eternity!
He is still the Almighty!
What part of Almighty is so hard to understand?