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Friday, November 30, 2012

Condemning God

People often talk about the judgment of God. They speak of it as righteous if they understand righteousness. These are the people who have come to God for their righteousness. They are the ones who have recognized Him as God. They know who He is and that He cannot become unrighteous. They know that what He does comes from what He is.

Another picture of God emerges when you get outside of this group. They see God as evil if He will only take those who have believed in Jesus. They want to see God as taking everyone. They want to see "many paths" to heaven. They want to accept all doctrines of all faiths all the time.

The god who would do this is a very confused god. This god would not know which path is right. He or she would allow everyone to find a way which may or may not come from god. Anything is okay as long as the follower of this way believes it.

So, there is a condemnation for those believers who say that Jesus is the only path to God. The world calls these people narrow minded. They see these believers as radical fundamentalists. These believers are condemned.

Of course, this is exactly what Jesus said. He said He was the only way. The whole of the Bible points toward the sacrifice of Jesus for the propitiation of sins. The non-believers don't understand this because sin has already been removed from their personal dictionaries.

Therefore, the world wants to do whatever it wants and still have eternal life. God is condemned for having it otherwise.

The whole of the Bible is one of God being particular. Jesus called Lazarus out of the tomb. He didn't call everyone who was in a tomb. Moses was chosen to lead God's people to the Promised Land. Paul was picked out in a caravan of others to be an Apostle. Jesus prayed all night and chose only twelve to be His disciples. Gideon was chosen to bring his people back to faith and overcome their enemies. Abram was chosen to the the father of God's people. Each of these people were chosen out of a group of others.

Shouldn't God have chosen everyone everytime if He is to be the egalitarian god the world wishes He was? Can you see the senselessness in this?

Condemning God keeps people away from the salvation He wants them to have. They are already set in their thinking. They believe they are no better than others. They are right but they take that to mean that they cannot receive anything others might not receive. (Maybe that's where the redistribution of wealth idea is coming from. Didn't we call that communism when it was done in other countries?) Thus, we have become a society which wants everyone to have everything.

All people have equal value to God. The same blood of Jesus was paid for each person for their salvation. There was no extra blood spilt for anyone. Yet, not all people will receive the same things from God because many will reject His gift.

And the amazing thing is that they condemn God even though it is they who have rejected Him.

So, I continue to tell people with all the love of God within me that Jesus is the way, the truth and the life and that no one comes to the Father except through Him. Some people call me narrow minded. Others condemn me for it. They don't realize that it isn't me that they are condemning.

And I understand God a little better. I hurt, not because of their condemning me, but because they reject the One who will bring them into a light that would change their lives forever and give them eternal life. They miss the fullness of His love. I want the best for them.

And so does God.

John 3:18-21 (ESV) 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. 19 And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. 20 For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. 21 But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.”

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Where Am I, God?

Many of the people are staring blankly forward. They are not really engaged in what's going on. It is as if they are watching television. It keeps them occupied but they really have no part in the show. It fills their time. They will forget most of the show by the next day. Within a month they will watch a rerun of it and be just as mesmerized.

What are these people attending? The worship service at their church. They love the way the ushers march down the aisles. They love the burning candles and the stained glass windows. They feel good about attending. But overall, they are unaffected by what's going on.

Is this what worship should be? Should people expect to encounter the Almighty in worship? Should they expect to hear Him speak? Should they be so changed by His presence that they live differently after worship?

Yes, I beliieve we should. I believe that is the expectation. Worship is not merely telling God His worth but also being changed by His presence. Those who are not changed must have distanced themselves from God. They must have barriers which prevent them from being truly engaged in what's going on.

What could these barriers be? They center in a hell-bent desire to to what the selfish will of the person who has erected barriers to God. This selfishness veils itself so cleverly among mankind that those who employ it don't think God notices it either. They are wrong. He knows how close or how far hearts are to and from Him.

More than half of the people who attend church regularly say that they have not had en encounter with God. Yes, these are the people who participate with their attendance but are never engaged with their hearts. They don't even know that something is wrong. Too many others are just like them. Too many others are saying the same things they are. They think that church attendance is the end result. They do not see beyond it so that they will hunger for God's presence when they worship.

God is tired of it too. He wants people to join Him. He wants them to continually grow in His grace. He wants them to have true joy though they go through tragedies. He wants them to be victorious in life rather than victims of life.

The question each person should ask when they come to worship is: "Where am I, God?" It is a dangerous question. It may bring rebuke but the rebuke will only come because He loves you. It will only come because He wants you to know Him intimately.

The barriers must fall if we are to worship.

Isaiah 1:12-18 (ESV) 12 “When you come to appear before me, who has required of you this trampling of my courts? 13 Bring no more vain offerings; incense is an abomination to me. New moon and Sabbath and the calling of convocations— I cannot endure iniquity and solemn assembly. 14 Your new moons and your appointed feasts my soul hates; they have become a burden to me; I am weary of bearing them. 15 When you spread out your hands, I will hide my eyes from you; even though you make many prayers, I will not listen; your hands are full of blood. 16 Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your deeds from before my eyes; cease to do evil, 17 learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause. 18 “Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Ashamed of the Gospel

I just downloaded the update to Flashplayer. I wasn't paying attention and got Google Chrome with it. I have never used Google Chrome so I can neither say good or bad about it. I just wonder: If it is any good, why do they have to sneak it in with another program's download? Wouldn't my friends tell me how good it was if it was all the rage?

This made me think of all the times Christians and their churches have invited their friends to something that turned out to be a presentation of the gospel. They treated it like they were inviting someone to an Amway meeting. You don't know what the meeting is all about until you get there.

I remember being invited to a Billy Graham film before I became a Christian. My friends took me to the movie. I thought it had some interesting points but when a guy came to the front and made a religious speel, I rebeled. I got up and walked out. I told my friends that I couldn't believe someone could be such a con for religious reasons. I walked out while the guy was still offering the "invitation."

Shouldn't we tell people that we are going to talk to them about the gospel if it is such a great deal? After becoming a Christian I notice that there were people sitting by themselves late at night on the campus. (I didn't know that this was a homosexual tactic to get picked up. This, of course, made no difference except that I thought they were just lonely. Maybe they were.) I got a friend and went out to talk to these apparently lonely people about Christ. Our approach was, "We're out here talking to people about Jesus Christ. Do you want to hear what we have to say?" It wasn't much of an introduction but at least it wasn't dishonest. Most of the people we asked responded positively.

Why do Christians and their churches do this? Is it because they think the gospel isn't good enough? Are they ashamed to tell the truth of the gospel to their friends?

Our church is somewhat strange. We are in a Navy town. There are so many naval bases in the area that a sailor can spend his or her whole career here even though accepting obligatory normal transfers. However, many people do not get that privilege. They come and go within a couple of years.

Thus, I will see someone come to our church for some time. Hear the gospel many times. Finally, they give their hearts to Christ. I baptize them and they are shipped out to another port of call. I rejoice that it is those who are already here who are bringing their lost friends. No one doubts what they will receive when they arrive. They know they will hear the word of God preached. They know that they will hear the gospel. We will not be ashamed of this.

I actually believe that the gospel is so good that all believers will invite their friends to share in it with them. It is so good that it doesn't need to be veiled behind something else.

Romans 1:16 (ESV) 16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

What Makes a Great Leader?

This football season several coaches were fired. Each of them had success somewhere at some time. One had even won the National Championship a few years back. That didn't matter to those who decided his fate. They weren't asking what he had done but what had he done lately. Unfortunately that is true for all football coaches. (and preachers and heads of companies and you-fill-in-the-blank leaders.)

Neither the successes nor the failures of these men made them great leaders. Great leadership cannot be determined by circumstances.

A great leader is not someone who has always had success. A great leader may have had significant failures. (Look up the life of Abraham Lincoln if you don't believe me.)  A great leader is someone who chooses the right people and puts then in the right positions. A great leader might even be considered a failure at some time during his or her leadership. Getting the right people in the right position at the right time is not an easy thing to do.

So, a great leader must have an uncanny ability to choose the right people. He or she must be able to see into the heart of others and choose them for the right task. A great leader must overlook what others are saying whether it is good or bad. Yet, most leaders go with the flow. They choose the most obvious person for the position. They listen to too many others who tell them what they should do.

Why? Because they really don't know how to choose. They would be much better off if they would simply admit that. Then, they would have the sense to go to the One who does know.

Jesus prayed all night before choosing His disciples. They were such an unlikely group that the conventional carriers of wisdom thought that He must not be such a great leader. They even questioned Jesus' relationship with God because of His unlikely choices. Yet, when the stakes were much higher than a winning season, Jesus went to the One who would reveal the hearts of those He would choose.

What was at stake? In three years Jesus would die on a cross. He had come to give salvation to all. He would die for that purpose. This good news must be carried to all places in the world. People would so need to understand that this was their purpose that they would die to keep the gospel message alive. Then, he chose people who did not make sense to others. Among the group were fishermen and a tax collector; sinners every one of them.

Most of my mistakes have come from one simple sin.-- I  decide without asking God. I am so arrogant in my own abilities that I decide as if I know what only God can know.

My church needs a vision. It needs to come from its leadership. It needs a leadership team that will carry that vision to fruition. I am tasked with choosing the people who will carry this vision. The vision is greater than I am. I cannot make decisions like I have in the past. I must ask God if I am to choose correctly.

So, I am praying:

"God, I do not know who I should choose. Great decisions need to be made. I need your vision for our church. But I also need your eyes to choose who will carry this vision beyond myself. I cannot do it without your leadership, Lord. Please help me. Amen."

I will always be a mediocre leader without God's answer.

 Luke 6:12-13 (ESV)
12 In these days he went out to the mountain to pray, and all night he continued in prayer to God. 13  And when day came, he called his disciples and chose from them twelve, whom he named apostles:

Monday, November 26, 2012

Don't Forget Whose Birthday It Is

Wow! Have you seen all the people out shopping? Even the old, worn out malls are full of shoppers. Of course, everyone is looking for a great deal and, from what I have heard, they are getting them. Conventional wisdom is saying that the prices will just get better all the way to Christmas. That is, if anything is left over!

So, people are buying gifts for each other. No, it won't substantially improve our economy other than its psychological affect. We have to build houses and start businesses to significantly affect the economy. Christmas will help small businesses stay in business. This is positive but it will not necessarily cause them to hire more people. These small businesses have been treading water all year. They have to have this season just to stay in business. So, go shop, you are helping someone keep his/her job.

Christmas Day will arrive and gifts will be opened. Just about everyone will receive something. But imagine with me for a moment going to a birthday party rather than a Christmas party. At the party each of the guests gives each other gifts but no one gives a gift to the person who actually has the birthday. You really can't imagine that can you?

Yet, this Christmas, which celebrates the birth of Christ, many homes will do exactly that. They will give gifts to each other without a single gift given to the One whose birthday they are celebrating.

And it they aren't really celebrating His birth, what do they have to celebrate? Is it just a reason to buy someone something? How long will that joy last?

And what should you get? Well, I wouldn't get Jesus something that He can't use. He doesn't need a toaster or a sweater. You have to ask yourself what would make Jesus happy. Maybe your church is in a building phase and you could buy some bricks. Maybe there is a missionary you could help support. Maybe you will fund an evangelism program at the church. Maybe you know will give to your church's food pantry or clothes closet.

I don't know; just do give something that would make Jesus happy.

But don't forget Him. After all, it is His birthday we're celebrating!

Luke 2:10-12 (ESV)
10 And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.”

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Ever Wonder Where Your Joy Has Gone?

We act like we think the people around us expect us to act about 85% of the time. This is why you must  carefully choose who you spend your time with. If we walk with the wicked we will follow their counsel. 

Thus, the Psalmist points out the journey of destruction. It is the journey of a lack of character. It is a journey of an unremarkable life. It is what it is because it has not been steadfast. It has not gone against the popular wisdom or the prevailing thoughts or right and wrong. It walked with these folks and so walked in their counsel. Let's face it: There are lots more of the wicked than the righteous. And all the wicked are suspicious of the righteous. They ridicule us if we are righteous. It is much easier just to walk in their counsel without making any waves.

The problem is that it doesn't stop with walking. Standing comes next. The person walking is expected to stand. Here the person walking with the wicked doesn't merely act like the wicked; he begins to stand in the same way as they stand. He takes on these values and espouses them to others. What was merely acting morphs into becoming. 

The final stage is sitting. It is as if he has made the inner trusted group of the wicked. He has fully conformed to their acting and thinking so that it takes no effort to be what he has become. He acts like who he is. He is totally immersed in the philosophy.

How many people do you know who at one time proclaimed Christ are now acting as if they don't know Him? How many of these actually say they don't know Him? All of them never saw their transformation coming. All of them never intended to leave their faith and their Lord at one time in their lives.

And what did they forget? They forgot God's word. They forgot to meditate on it. They forgot to act on it.

It was very subtle at first. They simply missed a day without reading God's word. One day turned into two, which became a week and a month and six months and so on. They quit going to church where the word is preached. They missed a week because of a common reason for missing. People often miss church because they have company or rain or a late night the day before. Eventually, they miss church because they just don't think of it anymore.

One day, when no one is around, they wonder why life doesn't have any meaning. Of course, they are sitting in the seat of the sinners so that all those around them are acting like they are living the best life that can be had. They can't let down on appearances. To admit that their lives have no meaning is to come to your senses and look for something better. That would mean leaving the sinners' support group. That may mean that you are all alone.

How do I know these things? I lived them. But one night, all by myself, I came to my senses when I picked up my Bible and read the words that had brought me blessedness. I quit walking with the wicked, standing with the sinners and sitting with the scoffers.

They said, "He got religion," but they were wrong. I got the gift of faith that God wanted to give me. I got a whole lot more, too. I got to walk with Him each day. I got my joy back.

Psalm 1:1-2 (ESV)
1 Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers;2 but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night. 

Friday, November 16, 2012

The Most Righteous Person in the Room

Believe me, I get it. You have had an encounter with God. You have yielded yourself completely to Him. You have praised Him, worshipped Him and given yourself to complete obedience. You know His righteousness. It is all over you, around you and in you.

Then, if you are not careful, you start realizing that others do not experience God in the way that you do. You consider yourself privileged. You see yourself as somewhat better than others. After all, you are righteous and anything they will say or do which does not match your righteousness must not be righteous.

"Those poor souls," you think, "They don't know God like I know God. If they did, they would do as I do." Naturally, they have nothing to teach you. They don't even realize who you are. You are the most righteous person in the room!

I wish I would realize what I am thinking at that moment. Maybe my own unrighteousness would be revealed and I would listen to others in the room. Maybe I would praise God for how He is making them righteous. Maybe I would realize that they are more righteous than me.

My righteousness does not come from within. I am a fallen creature. I am totally depraved. There is no goodness that comes from me. The only goodness I have is by the grace of God. There is a remnant of His glory left over from creation. This remnant is stimulated by His presence and working in my life.

Through the remnant of His glory, He brought me to faith in Jesus. Through this faith I have been made righteous.  My own righteousness in following Him comes because He has taken the initiative to love me into obedience. He has changed me into a new creation. I have no righteousness on my own. It comes from Him.

Thus, I can never consider myself as the most righteous person in the room. Jesus must be there if I am righteous at all. I must be in the presence of the Spirit if I am exhibiting any righteousness.

Humility is not a virtue that I readily accept. It is one that I desperately need. Only through it will I realize that God is not so fortunate to have me on His side. Only through this humility will I realize that I am the chief of sinners. I believe I might have taken Paul's claim.

Philippians 3:8-9 (ESV)
8 Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— 

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Carefully Watch What You Are Doing

This morning I did something really stupid. It ranks among some of the dumbest things I have ever done.

My wife and I watch the early news as we get up and leave the house. The news reported that someone had sent a woman shirtless pictures of himself. I asked my wife if that's what men are doing now. She said she didn't know.

So, I thought I would have some fun with her. After getting to my office, I locked the door, took my shirt off and sent this message with the picture: "Since all the other husbands were sending these to their wives; I didn't want you to be deprived." I hit send.

The problem was that I didn't send the message to her. I didn't check to see that she wasn't the last person to send me a message. The last one was the Metro in Washington DC. I had signed up for alerts during hurricane Sandy because I needed to go there right afterwards and needed to know which trains were running. I canceled the alerts but they keep coming.

I do not want to know what they thought when they got my message. My wife is not a little bit mad at me anyway. I will not leave the doghouse this decade.

This is a perfect illustration in watching carefully what you are doing. I would never have sent the picture. If I had been careful, I would have checked who I was sending it to. If I had been careful I would have felt a whole lot better about myself right now.

Even huge sins start with little decisions of carelessness. A man spends too much private time with a woman who is not his wife. The result may be adultery and divorce.  A careless decision to go ahead with minimal risk may result in a space shuttle exploding. Neglecting to look both ways at a stop sign may result in hitting a pedestrian.

Many major problems begin with small mistakes. Many sins with great consequences begin by not carefully watching the very next acting you take.

So, my days for joking around with my wife are over for some time. I know I will watch what I send and who I am sending it to much more carefully.

But no bell can be unrung.

Proverbs 4:26 (ESV)
26 Ponder the path of your feet; then all your ways will be sure.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

In Need of Peace

I’m embarrassed. I have no peace in my life and I know better. After all, I preach that Christians should have peace when the world offers no peace. So, why have I lost my peace?

The answer is simple. It is always the same answer. I believed the language of this world. I believed its promises of providing peace. I believed in the peace it offers and have found that it is no peace at all.

The world says that peace can be had when you have enough money or if people love you or if  you have your health or if anything you perceive that you lack is supplied. The language of this world is never about the grace given on this day. It demands future grace. It wants a world without any humbling moments. It wants peace on the world’s terms. That means not having to answer to anyone. Not even God.

God, however, offers peace when we answer to Him. His peace does not depend upon the circumstances in our lives. This peace does not need more of anything more than the needs of the day and a dependence upon God to supply everything needed for tomorrow. This is foreign to the language of the world.

Does the world offer peace? Yes, without a doubt. But the peace never lasts.  It is like living on cotton candy. The taste is sweet for the moment but you can’t seem to get enough to live on. You must have more and more until you just get sick.

The lives of movie stars seem glamorous, but I wonder if they have real peace. They have all the things the world promises as peace. They have money, companionship, fame, love and can do whatever they would like whenever they would like. I wonder if the causes they support are their efforts to give their lives meaning. I wonder if this is their hope of peace.

But who am I to cast stones? I have admitted that I have no peace even though I am a believer. I admit that I have fallen into the trap of this world one more time. I have believed that the peace that this world promises. I have been disappointed one more time. I don’t know why I keep listening to the world.

So, I am back where I need to be. I am humbly coming to my Lord and asking for His peace. The peace that doesn’t need enough money in the bank for tomorrow. The peace that seeks Him and finds Him. The peace that assures me that He is truly able to change everything into good things for me. The peace that knows that He has a plan to prosper me and not do me harm. The peace that says He will never leave me nor ever stop loving me. The peace that says He will be with me for eternity.

Yes, now comes the peace that passes all understanding. I wonder why I left it.

John 14:27 (ESV)
27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

You're Still Treated Like a Slave When You Borrow

Proverbs 22:7 (ESV) 7 The rich rules over the poor, and the borrower is the slave of the lender.

I just returned from lunch. The waitress (server in now speak) was very nice. I tried to be nice to her. I gave her a tip. I thanked her for her service. I hope I didn't treat her like a slave. I never thought of her as one.

Meanwhile, I am trying to refinance my house. I have talked with several lenders. I don't know why some of them talk down to me. I just want to refinance. Some of them act as if they are doing me a favor. I thought I was the customer. I realized that I am really the slave.

Borrowers are always at the mercy of the lenders. I know it makes no sense. Borrowers should be buying the product from the lenders but lenders still treat them like they are slaves. Shouldn't this be a warning?

I realize that a home is more than most people can affort without borrowing. I am certainly not in a position to do so. But borrowing should be the last resort for basic needs. It should not be used at all for discretionary spending. It should be used as little as possible for needs. Otherwise, the person should expect to be treated as a slave for borrower will always be at the mercy of the lender.

Many times I find the conflict in marriage stems from one of the two people borrowing money. Sometimes a spouse is surprised to learn that the new partner comes into the relationship with a boat load of debt. The spouse assumes half of it if there is no prenuptual agreement. This doens't solve the problem. Since nothing has changed to stop the borrower, the borrowing will continue.

Budgets are hard to live on. I don't like making one out. I use a simple rule. I don't buy things without talking it over with my spouse. She and I decide and we don't buy unless the money is in the bank. This has allowed us more freedom in our marriage than you would imagine. We don't have to answer to any lenders with the exception of our mortgage company for thirty years. We haven't even originated a car loan in thirty years. (We did pay off a car that one of our daughters bought.)

Some might consider us slaves to our bank accounts. I guess that is so. We don't spend it if it isn't in the bank account. We purposefully make ourselves a slave to that rule. It is a whole lot better than listening to someone talk down to us because we are borrowing money.

Do we use credit cards? Absolutely but there is money in the bank to cover them. Credit cards are used for their convenience, airline miles and cash back. We don't have any credit cards without return benefits. If the price is the same whether or not we use a credit card; we use a credit card.

I have to admit that I didn't like being humbled by the potential lenders. I probably needed the humility but I still didn't like it. It made me remember why I don't borrow money for anything except our house.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Where Does It Come From?

The world speaks a language that we have all learned. It has taught us that we should be full of anxiety any time our needs aren't met. We fret over these things without any reward for our fretting. We depend on the health of the economy, the bottom line of the business, the politicians we have just elected, the lottery or our rich uncles passing away and leaving us millions. The truth is that we should be full of anxiety if we are depending on these things. They are all absolutely unreliable.

The problem is that we don't know where it all comes from. We believe that we are in total control of our future. Thus, when this is challenged, we fear our future. The language of the world says that human beings are ultimately responsible for all the good and bad that happens in the world. Neither is true all of the time.

Of course, we could take the approach that nothing human beings do makes any difference and be just as wrong. We do make a difference.

But how does that difference originate? How is it that needs are met through human beings if we do not consider them as the source of all the good and bad?

To answer these questions we must go back to creation itself. God created. In this creation He used man to serve His desires. He works through His love to move people to do what He desires.

Let me give some examples. Our church borrowed several hundred thousand dollars to renovate the sanctuary lighting, sound and video systems. It included recarpeting and painting the halls. It included new heating and air units throughout the church.

Meanwhile a lady in the church who had worked very hard throughout her life decided she wanted her possessions to be given to the church upon her death. There was no reason to think that she would pass away any time soon and there was no reason to believe that the inheritance would amount to a great deal of money.

This lady passed away after the completion of the renovation project and left over $400 k to the church. It enabled the church to pay off the debt with the aid of the building fund. (We also discovered that the lady was 92 years old when she passed away! She had been telling everyone that she was much younger!)

Should I accept this as a windfall which had no force behind it? Or should I see that God's hand was there to make provision for our church? Of course, God works with people doing the things necessary to accomplish His will and provide for those who seek Him.

The ulitimate source of all that we need is God. He works to provide. He is called Jehovah jireh. (The Lord will provide. Genesis 22:14) Our greatest obligation is to seek His kingdom on earth and accept His righteousness upon ourselves so that we depend completely on the Lord who provides all that we need.

The world will never understand this language. He is Lord of all.

Matthew 6:31-34 (ESV) 31 Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. 34 “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

We Prayed; But Did We Also Repent?

Many people believe that God will simply answer their prayers because they have prayed. They believe that He never looks at condition of the heart when He considers the answer. He never denies the requests as long as the person prays.

This isn't true. God has often said that He would not listen to the prayers of people. It doesn't matter how sincere the prayer is when the heart of the individual is somehow turned against Him. He says that He will not answer if I am full of pride (Luke 18:11-14), if my prayers are selfish (James 4:3), if I fail to believe in His word (James 1:5-7), if I am being disobedient (Proverbs 28:9, if I have forgotten the poor (Proverbs 21:13), if I have meaningless worship (Isaiah 1: 15) and if I am continuing to sin (Psalm 66:18).

The answer to each of my sins is repentance if I want to have my prayers answered.

God is willing to allow me to suffer defeats, hardships and severe losses as long as I refuse to repent. In fact, God will leave me alone as long as I look anywhere except in my own heart when accusing Him of the difficult times I am facing. He allows these things in my life to conform me into the likeness of His Son who also faced extreme difficulties. He uses many of them to bring me to repentance because I realize that my prayers are not being answered.

I have heard it said, "You just can't pray too much!" That is not true. Prayer that does not address the sin harbored in the heart is of no use. It is saying many words and seeking a mantra which will evoke a response from God.

This is true even if you and I are praying for our nation. I believe that our nation continues to walk toward her own destruction because the people who are called by God's name have refused to repent. We have blamed the preachers and politicians for our moral decline while we have neglected to seek a new heart which is purified by God. We have reserved our devotion to God by keeping things which should have been sacrificed to Him. We carry the fruits of the flesh rather than the fruits of the Spirit. (Galatians 5: 19-21) We fail to seek His face daily and commit ourselves to His will without reservation. We are holding back from a full commitment to God.

Thus, God says, "Straighten out the things you have stolen from Me or I will not be with you!"

This is the story in Joshua 7. Joshua sends only the men necessary to defeat the people of a little town called Ai. Joshua's army is routed and thirty-six of his men are killed because there was sin in Joshua's camp. Joshua accuses the Lord of failure in supporting him when God tells him to get up from his prayers. It was time to repent, not to pray.

It this our time to repent?

Joshua 7:10-12 (NIV) 10 The Lord said to Joshua, "Stand up! What are you doing down on your face? 11 Israel has sinned; they have violated my covenant, which I commanded them to keep. They have taken some of the devoted things; they have stolen, they have lied, they have put them with their own possessions. 12 That is why the Israelites cannot stand against their enemies; they turn their backs and run because they have been made liable to destruction. I will not be with you anymore unless you destroy whatever among you is devoted to destruction.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Simple or Wise?

Do you think it is a “left-brain vs. right-brain” thing? People choose to believe all types of lies as they vote for a candidate. It appears more like fans in a sporting contest instead of choosing the right person for the job. It seems like they are looking for similarities in looks, admiration for speech and appearances of grandeur rather that who will lead the country in the direction of prosperity.

People believe that achieving a goal will keep them ahead forever. They believe that making a certain amount of money, losing a certain amount of weight, getting a certain kind of spouse, buying a certain level of house or any of a myriad of goals will mean that they will no longer have to hope for anything again. They can’t imagine that they will have to work harder to stay at the level they achieve. It’s not hard staying at the lowest socio-economic level. It is very hard to stay at the top.

Thus, the prudent person looks at the consequences and rewards for each decision. The consequences extend into the future and cannot always be seen but the trend of making those decisions usually predicts the future. Therefore, we do not hire thieves to be bank tellers. They have had trouble keeping their hands off of other people’s money in the past. They will probably have trouble keeping their hands off of it as tellers.

Yet, people choose to believe. They adamantly defend their beliefs. Often, they have no proof for their convictions. They simply want it to be so. They want to place their faith in persons and things even when the trend it toward failure. They follow their sports team to another year saying, “Wait until next year.” Unfortunately, next year is many years away.

Of course, there are those who put their faith in persons and things with no evidence too. There is no trend because it is unknown and untested. That is why aircraft manufacturers hire test pilots. They fly the planes before they ever place the public on them. Who really would like to know that his weight was the test for the plane in which he was flying. It doesn’t  matter how many theories or formulas predict the success of the plane. It matters that this plane has been tested.

Yes, a prudent person considers his steps beyond believing in things which have no proof. He looks at the past and sees beyond the image of the person or things. He checks to see if what he sees is more than a fa├žade.

But do you think that there are more simple or prudent individuals on the planet? I think you know the answer and this has nothing to do with their mental capabilities. More people choose not to think than to think.

Which are you? Do you look at the consequences and rewards of your decisions or do you just “go with your feelings?” I may have done this when I was younger but I can no longer jump before I look. I am working too hard to maintain what has already been achieved to waste it in a “gut feeling” moment.

Even faith has evidence when people look.

Proverbs 14:15 (NIV)
15 A simple man believes anything, but a prudent man gives thought to his steps.