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Saturday, April 27, 2013

Honesty Is the Best Policy

Proverbs 6:12-15 (ESV)
12 A worthless person, a wicked man, goes about with crooked speech,
13 winks with his eyes, signals with his feet, points with his finger,
14 with perverted heart devises evil, continually sowing discord;
15 therefore calamity will come upon him suddenly; in a moment he will be broken beyond healing.

My first reaction to this scripture was: “Is this a description of a politician?”

I know that thought is unfair. There must be some people who go into politics who are honest, trustworthy and the highest character. However, this isn’t what we normally observe. We find that our politicians are always playing politics. They are maneuvering over their opponents. They always sow discord so that they can be perceived as better than others. They expect medals when they solve the problems they caused in the first place.

They are always running for re-election. They seldom selflessly serve the people. They are more concerned with their image what is right. I don’t think that many of them can distinguish between what is right and what makes them look good.

But that can’t be the motivation of a Christian. The Christian must be open and honest. This must be guarded because it being righteous man not be popular. In fact, righteousness is being presented as more and more unpopular. Maybe that’s why we get the politicians we are getting. A righteous unpopular politician can’t be elected. Remember, they call it a “popular” vote.

And that, too, isn’t the concern of the Christian. The Christian must only please one Person. The Christian needs only one popular vote. The Christian serves and pleases the Lord alone.

Around here we have something called “Best of the Beach.” Many of the businesses have a sign out front indicating that their customers voted in the Virginia Pilot (local newspaper) contest for their business as the best in their category. I joke that I am working to get the “Best of the Beach Husband” award. Of course, I only need one vote.

The same is true as a Christian. I only need one vote to be successful. I only serve one Person.  I am always seeking this vote.  There isn’t a time that I am off the clock. I am always trying to please Him.

The Proverb also gives a negative side of this dishonest person. The end is destruction. The end is failure. They will be broken beyond healing. In other words, all that they have had will be taken from them.

It is so easy to see those who are dishonest as profiting but never getting caught. I often look at temporary things and think they are permanent. What is gain for them today is destruction tomorrow. Yes, honesty is the best policy. And when you are honest with the One you will be honest with all. 

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Praying Like You Mean It

Most of us have either been asked or have heard of someone needing or asking for prayer. I always tell people that I will pray for them.  However, I rarely know what I should pray. They give me their circumstances and assume that I will pray for provision, healing or some other means of relief. What if God is using this situation to form something in their lives? What if He is using this as a testimony for others to see how a believer is faithful even during hurts?

I wonder if my prayers without any thought actually do any good. Sure, I hear what a people say and almost immediately pray for them to be healed or get a job or see God provide something they need. I don’t even consider the will of God. Am I assuming that my prayers are going to change His will? I don’t think so! Am I assuming my prayers have power to act independently of God? No way! So, why should I mindlessly rattle off impotent prayers which have no concern for what God is doing?

Now, this principle should apply to all prayers. This isn’t just about prayer requests made by others. I should understand that I either join God in what He wants to do or I am spinning my wheels. I should understand that prayer is also about seeking His will rather than trying to change it. I must come to a place where I am so closely aligned with Him that the things in my heart is the same as the things in His heart.

Many times my wife and I go to familiar restaurants. We sometimes arrive separately because of what we are doing at the moment. Naturally, one of us gets there first. Which ever one arrives first gets a table and waits for the other to arrive. Traffic or other complications can make one of us late. It is not unusual for us to have the waiter ready for the order before the other one arrives. One of us calls the other before this happens. We ask what should be ordered. Sure, I might get it right if I ordered without asking but it is much safer to ask.

Why shouldn’t prayer follow this same pattern? Shouldn’t we ask God what we should ask? Shouldn’t we know His heart so that we can ask correctly?

I have heard so many preachers telling people to look at their own desires, find a place where God says He will answer and hold God to what He has already said. They are trying to coerce God into doing something that He may not want to do. They are trying to have faith in something that may not be His will. They are trying to make God their errand boy.

Jesus said that we should so identify with Him and His words should so identify with us that we will ask what God already wants to do. Our will lines up with His will. Our hearts are like His heart.

Thus, my prayers originate in the heart of God because I want nothing other than He wants. His word becomes what I am. Then, I ask with a full understanding that it will happen because it is His will.

So my relationship with God exceeds my own personal desires. I walk in a new faith. I remain Him and His words remain in me.

Please understand that this is radical stuff. I can’t have some superficial walk with God and think I can ask God for anything. I might get it right and see my prayers answered like I have asked but that would simply be random acts of prayer which bring success only because of their number.

I always wrote something for an answer on tests even when I was guessing. I might get it right with a guess but I certainly got it wrong by leaving a blank. This is the philosophy of so many who pray. I admit that this is better than not praying at all but why should we remain in the dark with our prayers when they could reveal light? Why should we randomly pray while hoping to see what we have prayed when we could pray knowing that God will answer?

It is the devoted life that seeks this type of prayer. It is one which stresses the relationship with God rather than the supply God can provide. It is one that changes the seeker. It takes time and it takes commitment.

I wonder if most Christians think this type of prayer is worth it.

John 15:7 (ESV)
7 If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

God Is Like a River

There is a river near my hometown.  It is spanned with a mile-long bridge. The bridge starts at the edge of the flood plain and extends until you can see the rather small body of water below. There have been times when it has spilled over its banks and taken the entire flood plain. During droughts the river has shrunk to little more than a creek.

I haven’t  seen this river for a long time but I am sure that it is still there. I am sure there is some amount of water flowing through the banks. I am sure that the river doesn’t appear only when I come to look at it. I am sure that the water that is flowing in it now will be long gone before I see the river again.

Sunday morning God gave me a “vision” of that river. I prayed that He would do some things during the worship service. I asked that He do even more in our church. He said very clearly to me, “Do you not realize that I am working right now?”

You see, I asked God to do some things as if He was waiting to start when I asked. I acted as if my asking activated His work. I acted like He wasn’t there in this need until I arrived. I saw this as that river that runs so near my home town. It is there and flowing even when I am unaware of it. God is there in the middle of each need and acting even when I am unaware of the need.

Now, I know that God doesn’t say, “Oh, I am so glad you told me of this need. I wasn’t aware there was a need there at all.” Yet, I have acted like it. I have acted like God didn’t act until I told Him what the need was. I acted like He didn’t want to do the things I asked Him for.

No, God is like that river in this way. The water that has passed did so without my observing it pass. It represents the continual action of God. He never stops flowing. I can choose to jump in the river but my only real progress comes when I go with its flow rather than trying to “swim upstream.” My prayers jump in the river and go with Him or they will be mute. The river is not changed when I enter it. My location has changed. I am moving with the river.

Yet, the river beckons me to jump in. It is as if the full purpose of its flowing is not met unless it has a passenger. I enter into this in prayer.

Have you ever thought that God is not working until you told Him of the need? That’s silly when you think of it but it is exactly how I was acting. His grace is coming all the time for every need so that His work will succeed.

2 Corinthians 9:8 (ESV)
8 And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work. 

Monday, April 22, 2013

When Evil Ends

The popular sentiment is that nearly everyone is good. The world wants to believe that everyone is basically good. Therefore, evil comes when evil has affected these good people. In a sense they are right.

In the beginning God created a world without evil. Evil entered the world when Man invited it in. It has caused the world and all that is in it to fall from its original glory. The lingering image of God's glory remains but it is marred like a painting which has been slashed. The painting remains but it is flawed.

It may be hard to understand but damage to one ushered in damage to all. Every person born, every part of this world has fallen from its original glory. Thus, evil things happen even though the original painting can still be seen.

When I say that all of creation no longer holds God's glory, I mean that I am included too. I do evil things-not always because of a new outside evil influence but because I no longer perfectly reflect God's glory. It is not a trait that I lost. I was slashed from my beginning. It was passed on from a fallen world.

How could a fallen world produce an unmarred creation? It would be easier for cavemen to produce precision watches with only their flint knives and metal ore.

Yet, people are surprised when they see evil. They take the point of view that something evil must have happened to make a person do evil. Thus, they absolve all crime when they learn what evil caused people to do what they have done. They do not realize that evil will exist in a person regardless of the circumstances.

Evil exists in me. I cannot explain why I am short with someone I care about or why I will bite the head off of the person checking me out at the grocery store.  I act superior to those I feel are beneath me. I gossip about those whom I detest. I am careless in what I say and how I think. I want revenge for the wrongs which hurt me or others.

There is nothing that justifies my evil. My own evil makes me sick of myself at times. I want to believe that I am God's perfect creation but I cannot look in the mirror of my life and reasonably come to that conclusion.

No, I am only good when the grace of God matches the remnant of God's original glory placed in me. It isn't that evil caused me to act evil. It is that good has caused me to act good. Yes, I have some responsibility. I must allow that remnant to respond to God's grace. I must ask God to cleanse me from my evil. I must confess. I must allow Him to make me clean.

Unfortunately I have not yet been fully saved. I know that I will go to heaven but God's work on me is not complete until I have been restored to the glory God intended. That redemption will come when Christ returns. It is the time when all of creation will be fully returned to His glory.

Each day we hear of evil being done in the world. There is a mass shooting or a bomb kills several people or a con artists cheats a large number of people out of their retirement money or someone hurts another with his words. These things will not make logical sense. They are not created from logic. They come because of the disconnect people have with God. (Yes, even religious people have a disconnect from God!)

This should make us long for the day of Christ's return when all that is wrong can be changed to right. We should be groaning with creation for that day.

Romans 5:12 (ESV) 12 Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned—

Friday, April 19, 2013

Prepared for the Battle?

I admit that I don't want to believe it. I would rather believe in circumstances or fate. I would rather believe in randomness. Yet, I can't escape what the Bible says: We wrestle against the devil and all his demons. These work against us in our efforts to bring God's kingdom to reality here on earth.

Most believers, even mature believers, know very little about the workings of the devil. They would rather believe as I would like to believe. They want to say that these things which have happened are from the inevitable bad things which happen randomly. I want to agree but I can't.

The devil and his demons are active. They work in the evil happenings which seem to be random. They work in the hearts of those who murder, lie, steal, commit adultery, etc. which destroy the society which will enable the church to see God's kingdom come. They work in the tragedies which engulf believers in order to destroy their faith. They work in the apathy of believers which keeps them off of their knees in prayer. They work in the doubt of believers so that they will stay in the wilderness and never reach the Promised Land.

Most believers think they can ignore the devil. They think that they can do the work of God without any interference. They think they can gossip and complain about each other with impunity. They do not see themselves doing the devil's will. They will refuse to work in their apathy while complaining about those who won't work in their hatred. They cover their blackened hearts with "churchy" words. They want others to see them as saints while they are unwittingly in the employ of the devil.

I recently spoke with a fellow pastor whose church has chosen to make his life so hard so that he would resign. He has complied. I am not in his shoes so I can't say whether or not that was the right thing to do. I can say that they way his church treated him fell into the hands of the devil. I believe that many of the church members actually believe they are doing the Lord's work even though they can't point to a word from God in their actions. They acted on their emotions, human reason and public sentiment.

Someone asked me who I listen to in the church/ I said that I listen to those who pray. I covet their wisdom. I share my own struggles with them because I know their hearts are not in the hands of the devil. They go through great struggles themselves. They have been brought to their knees and God is at the center of their lives. They are warriors who have opposed the one who wants their eternal destruction but can't have it. Sure, they are wounded at times. Their families, health and possessions have been attacked.

These prayer warriors choose not to use complaints as a weapon They do not accuse others for their struggles. They do not lash out at the most vulnerable person to vent their frustrations. They attack the devil with truth, righteousness, and God's word. They go into his territory to rescue those who he has claimed by sharing the gospel. They stand on their salvation and faith. They ask for and receive the filling of the Holy Spirit.They oppose him and he flees form them.

Today, I put on my own armor. I will have to face someone more evil than those who set bombs in Boston. I will go against one more evil than those who flew planes in the World Trade towers. I will face someone more evil than those who set the bombs in Oklahoma City. I will face someone more devious than the Son of Sam.

What would happen if believers took this battle seriously? No, I am not saying that they looked for Satan under every rock. I am saying that they genuinely put  on their armor and stood prepared for his attack. Would they recognize that attack and stop reacting in ways which pleased him?

Today, I will oppose him.

Ephesians 6:12 (ESV) 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Is Being God's Friend Enough?

Deuteronomy 34:4-5 (ESV) 4 And the Lord said to him, “This is the land of which I swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, ‘I will give it to your offspring.’ I have let you see it with your eyes, but you shall not go over there.” 5 So Moses the servant of the Lord died there in the land of Moab, according to the word of the Lord,

Moses is an amazing man. However, I am not amazed that he confronted Pharoah, led his people through the wilderness and saw God do miracle after miracle to preserve and make His people. I am amazed at Moses' faithfulness even though he would not reap the fruit of his labor. He led them to a place they would go but would not be allowed into the place himself.

I meet with other pastors on a fairly regular basis. Some of them are so full of themselves. (I can recognize it because I am so full of myself.) They speak in lofty terms of "their vision" and the wonders of God. They stretch the truth when they tell their "testimony" of what is happening at their church. They never seem to wander in the wilderness and even believe that God will let them see earthly success. They see a day in which other pastors will fall at their feet just to hear them tell how they performed miracles. They tell stories of taking their people into the promised land.

Personally, I am tired of listening to them. They chastise other pastors at these meetings. They never point to their own failures.. Very few of them have any true measures of how many disciples have been made. They point to their attendance, their buildings, their budgets and their baptisms. They ignore the number of their longtime members who are getting divorced, having abortions or abandoning the faith. Their success is built upon a huge front door. They are doing fine as long as their churches show greater numbers and their books continue to sell.

Yet, there are those whom I admire. I see some pastors who are in horrible conditions. They have a people who do not wish to listen to God nor do what He wants. They live Sunday to Sunday on their offerings. They take cuts in pay, work constantly and seek God with all their hearts. They have a depth about them that the "celebrity" preachers can't match. Their speech is not rhetoric said to impress the masses who never look beyond the surface. They speak as people who truly know God. They have spoken with Him each day. They have fasted, prayed and sought His face. Yet, they are never praised for their attendance, buildings, budgets or baptisms.

I wonder if Moses felt like a failure when he was shown the Promised Land but was forbidden to enter. He had been faithful. He had taken the people through the toughest of time. Why should his predecessor reap the benefits of his hard work? It didn't matter. Moses had something that I fail to see in many superstar pastors. He had a face-to-face relationship with God. That was enough.

Today I will be around pastors. Some of them are just hanging on in their churches. They want things to happen like the big-time preachers but they have not been so blessed by God and they are unwilling to razzle-dazzle the people into creating a pseudo-work of God. These people will have prayed for God to let them see their Promised Land but they have no promises that He will do so.

Thus, their relationship with God must be enough. If not, they will have nothing but despair.

Exodus 33:11a (ESV) 11 Thus the Lord used to speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

After You Have Looked Elsewhere

2 Chronicles 20:11-12 (ESV) 11 behold, they reward us by coming to drive us out of your possession, which you have given us to inherit. 12 O our God, will you not execute judgment on them? For we are powerless against this great horde that is coming against us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.”

Jehoshaphat had three armies approaching. The Ammonites, Moabites and the Meunites were coming to drive the Israelites out of their land. There wasn't much hope. There was absolutely no way he had the military strength to defeat them. He had three apparent options. He could surrender. This would almost assuredly mean the destruction of Israel. He could fight them. This would almost assuredly result in the destruction of Israel. He could flee from them. This would mean the destruction of Israel. No option was good. He was forced into his last option: turning if over to the Lord.

Before we give our praises to Jehoshaphat we must remember that most people will not look to the Lord unless they have exhausted all other options. They will seek what they can do. They will call in consultants. They will try everything they know while they focus on the problem. They typically turn to the Lord when there are no other options.

Isn't that the immediate reaction after 9/11? People flocked to the church for a few weeks. Church was suddenly back in vogue. It was the place to be. People were scared because they didn't have any idea where terrorism might strike. They didn't know what to do and ran to the One who did.

But fear doesn't last. It didn't take but a few weeks before people were back where they were. They began to trust in the government for their security. They were willing to trust in someone doing something they could see rather than Someone who could truly act on their behalf doing things behind the scenes.

Thus, people generally look to what they can do themselves, what others can do for them or they wallow in their problems rather than turning to the One who can truly do something. Let's face it: Most people don't think God will do anything on their behalf because they aren't that sure that He exists in the first place. They may talk a good game when around religious people but they forget what they say they believe when they have a problem that cannot be easily solved. They won't turn to the Lord unless there is no other option.

Does it have to be that way? No, absolutely not! We could bring our struggles, our good times and decisions to the Lord. We could place our eyes on Him so that we see His handiwork in helping us manage the good times, working out our bad times and giving us what we need to do all the time.

For some reason that is the last resort. We would rather worry.

Is there any sense in that?

Thursday, April 11, 2013

The Truth Is in Here

Many years I did the funeral of a beloved preacher. His sons wanted to speak at that funeral. One did a magnificent job. He gave a tribute to his father that was both honoring to his father and to God. The other had gone to seminary. He used the opportunity to preach message of universalism. He told how everyone will some day go to heaven. This was not his father's message. This was one he liked and wanted to tell.

I wasn't concerned about the deceased preacher's soul. I knew people he had led to the Lord. I had conversations with him and knew he believed in Jesus personally.

I did not know his seminary educated son. I realized he was well-educated. He was better educated than me. He was an articulate speaker. Again, I would say he bested me. I wasn't about to rebuke the man. This was his father's funeral. It was not my time to straighten out his theology. It was his time to grieve. He used this grief to straighten out our theology.

Why is it that some people can get so immersed in learning and never recognize the obvious? Do you think they want things to be more complicated? Do you think they seek an understanding which will be more agreeable? Do you think that they want to absolve themselves of any responsibility?

I think it is all of the above. Some people seek an understanding which gives them the greatest ease of minds. They seek it as one who stands outside looking in. They are like the scientists who so desperately want to find life on other planets that they confabulate stories of life found by dubious observations. They say that there will be life any place they can find water. Thus, water equals to life. Thus, there is life on other planets.

I have no idea if life will be found on other planets. I personally hope so. But neither my hope or theirs' is proof that it exists. Therefore, our looking for something so diligently can easily produce the "facts" we are looking for.

Looking for a salvation which is agreeable to what you want to believe will almost always produce one that fits your wants.

But the gospel is not something that we must figure out. It is something we must recognize. We  do not verify it as true but realize the truth. We take it by the faith that God desperately wants to give us. If we go beyond that faith, we have failed to recognize the truth. It is as if we have lost a shoe but in our looking so intently we see our shoe but fail to recognize it as our shoe. Therefore, we keep looking because we cannot find what we have already seen.

And eventually we put on a different pair of shoes.

The gospel can be recognized by a child.

I heard this riddle a few years ago. It stumped many of the Stanford graduates but was answered by most kindergarten children. Here it is:

What is:

Greater than God,
More evil than the devil,
The rich need it.
The poor have it.
And if you eat it, it will kill you?

The more educated look so intently to find a difficult answer. Many of the children see it almost immediately. They are not worried about how complicated the answer ought to be.

So, people need to recognize the truth of the gospel rather than trying to learn the truth. The truth is not only out there somewhere. It is in here. The heart is where the truth of the gospel must reside.

2 Timothy 3:7 (ESV) 7 always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

A Real Hell

There are many descriptions of hell in the Bible. None of them sound like a place I would like to go. Maybe it is described metaphorically. Maybe it is literal. I have no idea. I will not go there and do not concern myself so much with the descriptions. I am not better than others. I simply have a promise from God.

I read a novel recently that said that people fear nothingness. It said that a literal eternal painful hell was not as scary as dying into nothingness. This appears to be an observation made from this side of the grave. Those who suffer in hell may want desperately to end it all. However, hell has no end at all.

There are those who preach a hell that lasts for only a time. They say that God will give people another chance to come to heaven with Him. I wish that was true. I can see no evidence of that in the scriptures. The word "eternity" seems to capture all of time forever.

I know that some people think I am setting myself up as superior to others when I say that there is a hell and all who refuse Jesus will end up there. They think that all religions are the same and that I am merely condemning others' religions. They want to believe that good people will go to heaven regardless of their religious affiliation. That is not what the Bible says.

The Bible tells us that hell is a place where the non-believer will spend eternity. Knowing this should change my prayers. It should change my words and actions. It should change my giving and sacrifice. It should change my devotions. It should bring me to my own calling.

Jesus didn't come into the world to condemn the world. The world was already condemned. He came to save the world from hell. I, personally, have come into this world to be saved by Him. He has called and sent me to preach the Kingdom of Heaven. He has called me to remember the presence of hell. He has called me to bring as many people as I can into heaven.

We have a great attendance when we musicals at the church. We have a great attendance when we offer special services for Maundy Thursday or Christmas Eve. We have fewer people who come to our baptism services. Each person being baptized has written their own testimony of what they were like before knowing Christ, what happened to change them and why they are being baptized. Each one tells the story of how their journey to hell was diverted to a journey to heaven.

Does the average Christian believe in hell? I don't know but it seems that they don't. Otherwise there would be an urgency to see others come to know Jesus.

How can the love of Christ abide in us if we are complacent with others going to eternal hell?

2 Thessalonians 1:5-9 (ESV) 5 This is evidence of the righteous judgment of God, that you may be considered worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are also suffering— 6 since indeed God considers it just to repay with affliction those who afflict you, 7 and to grant relief to you who are afflicted as well as to us, when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels 8 in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. 9 They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might,

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

If You Are Thinking about Resigning

I am not in your situation. I don't know how tough it has been on you. I don't know the forces that have marshaled themselves against you. I don't know the strain you and your family is under. I can't give you adequate advise because I know none of the details of what you are going through.

However, I can tell you that I have gone through some tough times. I can tell you that I have been offered an opportunity to resign from a position and chose not to. I can tell you that I have been desperate for the Lord to rescue me from the position He called me to. I can tell you how hard it is to continue on when resignation would be much simpler and seems the most logical thing to do. I know that  resignation is the right decision some times.

But please consider these words before you resign.

Elijah had whipped the prophets of Baal hands down. He had ordered that their execution. He had opposed the king and queen. He had prayed and seen God act in a drought, in a rain and in fire falling from heaven to light an altar on cue. He knew the power of God but was willing to die because the queen, Jezebel, had threatened him. So, he ran.

1 Kings 19:4 (ESV) 4 But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness and came and sat down under a broom tree. And he asked that he might die, saying, “It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life, for I am no better than my fathers.”

Let's consider his struggle and see if it might be yours as well.

Elijah was tired. He had stood before the people, taunted the prophets of Baal, prayed for rain and ran for some distance from Jezebel. He was just physically tired. He needed rest. But his natural reaction is to resign. Maybe this was his body's own mechanism for ensuring rest. Resignation means there are no more responsibilities to fulfill. It means that you can walk away without thinking there is something else to do.

So, I say get some rest but don't resign just yet. If you must resign; resign when you are fully rested.

Elijah was emotionally spent. He had become a stench to the king and queen. The people did not necessarily listen to him either. He opposed the popular religion in the land. He prayed, as we do, knowing that we are asking for God's will but always afraid that God will do something we don't expect. We are always afraid God will take us through a new trial before He delivers us. He has hoped for the fire to light the altar. He has hoped for the rain to fall from heaven. He has done all this at the Lord's command but he has had to do so with faith. Faith can be very emotional; especially when our lives depend upon it. Then, for all of his faithfulness, he is threatened by death. His emotions had nothing left. He was completely faithful to the Lord and the people were still going to execute him.

So, I say remove yourself from the situation for a time. Take the vacation days you have coming. Get out of town so that you cannot hear the complaints and criticisms. You may still resign but, if you must, resign when you are no longer emotionally spent.

Elijah believed he was alone. He didn't ask the Lord to give him people who would encourage him. He thought that there was no one who stood with him He saw the people as lemmings who would follow the next best thing which came along. He saw no one standing up for him. He needed encouragement from godly people. He didn't see the use of continuing on if he was the only one who was doing so.

So, I say: find some godly people who will be your encouragement. These are people who will pray for you. They will encourage you. You may still resign but you will have a support system for what you are doing.

These are three very hard things to do when there are people seeking your demise. Each and every one of these things can be used against you by those who oppose you. They will not understand your time off, your retreating from the situation or your sharing of your situation with others. They will say that you are lazy, emotionally unstable and a gossip.

You, however, must return to the very core of your faith. You must love the Lord with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. You must love the people like the Lord loves the people. If you belong to the Lord you will come to Him. You will still obey. If He says, "Resign," walk out and close that door because the Lord has commanded it. If He says, "Stay," make sure you are fully equipped each day for a long haul. You will need to seek Him like never before.

There is only one question you must answer: "Does the Lord want me to resign?" Well, does He?

(Please forward this to a pastor or someone whom the Lord is using who is going through a difficult time. Most ministers go through a time like Elijah did at some time in their ministry. Most godly people will have this happen to them even if they aren't in the professional ministry. Remember that Paul said to Timothy: 2 Timothy 3:12 (ESV) 12 Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, )

Monday, April 8, 2013

What Gospel Do You Want to Hear Today?

Galatians 1:6 (ESV)
6 I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel—

A few years ago I heard a seminary professor (not one of my professors. I heard this man in a different denominational meeting.) tell the story of "winning" a muslim young man to Christ. He told the young man that he needed to be a good Christian before he could be a good muslim. I admit I can't understand that "gospel." Muslims do not believe that Jesus is the Son of God. How can they remain muslims if they change their identification from Mohammed to Jesus?

Many people do not think the gospel of Jesus Christ is preferable for them. They change it to fit the culture.  It is much easier to get along if you go along. However, this always perverts the gospel. It changes it from a gospel of grace which has been brought to us by God Himself to a gospel of imagination and adaptation brought to us by mankind. 

How does this happen? People want a gospel that is palpable to the culture. They like one that means there will be very little change to the beliefs and actions of the followers. They like being able to be like the world around themselves.. It feels much better to be in vogue so that you can look down on those who won't join you than to go against the culture and suffer its castigation. 

But the perversion of the gospel results in no gospel at all. It brings people who say that they believe but what they believe is contrary to the true gospel. The followers are left with a false sense of security. They believe they have salvation but will have the ultimate surprise when they stand before the Lord and He says, "I never knew you."

This is why we must be careful with something that is so valuable that it requires that we sell all that we have in order to have it. It is the Pearl of Great Price. It is the treasure found in a field which causes the discoverer to sell all that he has to own that field. To change the gospel, however so slightly, is to hold back some of what we have to purchase the field or the pearl. The full price is demanded. God will not take less.

So, I am very aware of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I cannot add to it nor can I take anything away. I must understand it not as I desire but as it is fully presented in the Bible. I cannot make it adapt to the culture nor make it less offensive to those who want it to be a different gospel.

It is a gospel of grace. Why should that be so repulsive?

Friday, April 5, 2013

A Deeper Understanding of God's Grace

Job 36:15 (ESV)
15 He delivers the afflicted by their affliction and opens their ear by adversity.
This is part of Elihu's admonition to Job. He assumed that Job must have done something wrong or he would not be suffering as he was. His premise to Job is wrong. His understanding of God may be right though I believe he said it without being aware of what he has said.
Elihu understands that sinners are afflicted. He claims that God delivers them by their affliction. Who are these afflicted? Are they afflicted because of adversity or is their adversity their affliction? In other words,  is their distance from the Lord their affliction? Thus, they receive adversity to open their ears so that they can come closer to the Lord and receive the deliverance of their affliction.
Therefore, should I look for a purpose in every bad thing that comes my way? Did 9/11 have a godly purpose? Does your mother’s cancer have a purpose for you or for her? Tragedies do not have godly purposes but they do have godly results. Let’s look at death as if it isn’t the end. Let’s look at tragedy without chaos. Yet, instead of blaming God for a fallen world, we should realize His grace in this world. Without His grace there would be nothing but chaos and we would never have any guidance.
Tragedies come because of the Fall of Mankind. We must understand that the Fall of Man was the rejection of God Himself. The Fall has a lingering affect on all of His creation. It is the reason we are not fully in His presence. It is the reason we are not fully glorified.
Yet, God in His grace is not pleased to leave us in our condition. We are afflicted with the Fall. So, He sends His grace. We either respond or we reject Him. Our fallen nature makes rejecting Him as the default. But God is patient toward us. He is long-suffering. We cannot appreciate His grace until we recognize His desire to open the eyes of those who are trying to keep them closed.
But some do respond. They open their eyes, recognize His grace and walk closer to Him to a point. Nearly everyone will go only so far if God does not again and again intervene. His grace is used to bring those who have been faithful even closer. Jesus said:
John 15:2 (ESV) 2 Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.
These are hard words for people who think that God's blessings always come in easily recognizable packages. They think that things which look good are good and things that look bad or bad. They cannot see that sometimes what looks good is bad and what looks bad is good. (If you are confused on this matter, please read Genesis 3 again.) Thus, the adversity which we face opens our eyes, ears and hearts to a deeper relationship with God. It causes us to give up our rejection of God.
This is why James could say:
James 1:2-4 (ESV) 2 Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, 3 for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. 4 And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
The joy does not come from the trials. We are deluding ourselves in thinking we will be joyful over hard times. If this was the case we should seek hard days. We should torture ourselves so that we will have all the joy we can have. No, this is not the source of our joy. Our joy comes with the change God makes within us through the adversity. We reach out and cling to Him. We grow closer to Him. We grow more like His Son.
Yet, most Christians will reject these words written here. They want a care-free world in which God only comes to the rescue. They will have nothing to do with a god who welcomes adversity. They really never know much of His grace.
You are exceptional if you have gotten this far. You must be one of those who is experiencing His grace through adversity. You must be one of those who has been faithful and understands that He, by His grace, is bringing you through a tough time to prune away present and future rejections of Him. You are blessed by a deep understanding of His presence.
But how many will want that fellowship with God as you do? Not many I am afraid.