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Monday, December 28, 2015

Where Do We Go from Here?

God wants the best for you always. This means that He is always seeking your growth. Growth is a never ending process. Growth is challenging. It requires our consistent obedience. This message gives seven needed elements to receive God's best.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Is Jesus Not Enough for Your Church?

Churches are promising undeliverable enticements for people to visit. I heard one recently that promised that the people who visited would learn the purpose and meaning for their lives. Yes, it is possible to find that in Jesus Christ but no one can promise, no matter how hard they preach who Jesus is, that you will find purpose and meaning in one visit. I am afraid this is what the visitors believe will happen if they come. The local bar has a better chance of delivering their expectations.

I noticed another church promising that those who come will receive a "dynamic" sermon. I'm not sure what that means. Surely, no preacher is trying to make his sermons boring. Most preachers don't know if their sermons are boring. I know I don't. I just notice the sleeping people. I conclude that the sermons are boring.

Many churches are using marketing as their main draw for people to enter their churches. They are using "churchy" words and drawing in people from other churches who believe there must be something better than they have where they are. Then, these churches are crowing about their growth. Attendance and giving have become the main goals of the modern church. Any means of packing them in is okay.

But let's look at what the Bible says.

Jesus said that He would build His church.

Matthew 16:16-18 (ESV)
16 Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 17 And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. 18 And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

Jesus said He would build His church on the testimony of a faith in Him as the Christ. This is the foundation of the Church.

Jesus said that the Father must draw people Himself before they can be reached.

John 6:44 (ESV)
44 No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.

Is this why Paul was so determined to preach Jesus only?

1 Corinthians 2:2 (ESV)
2 For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.

For the longest time I blamed myself for every person who left the church and praised myself for everyone who joined. I kept thinking that I had to grab their attention with more creative messages. I searched for videos to enhance messages, practiced what I would say and did my best to find amusing and emotional stories to hammer in my points. Even now, I don't think these things are inherently wrong. They are only wrong when the message of Jesus takes a back seat to the efforts of man.

Several months ago I began to pray to be filled with the Holy Spirit. I have recently gathered with others to pray that God would fill our church with His Spirit. I am neither testing nor challenging God to act. I am asking that He would build His church on the testimony of His Son. I am praying that our church turns the corner and becomes so Spirit filled that no one says that it was marketing, better preaching techniques or any other reason for what God will do. I don't pray that our church is filled with people. I pray it is filled with Jesus.

Personally, I believe He is enough.  

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

What Does God Want for Christmas?

Behavior is goal directed-even for God. He sent His Son to be Savior, Christ and Lord. He sent birth announcements to shepherds and Magi. Does this indicate what God expected to accomplish in the birth of His Son? If so, isn't this what God wants for Christmas?

Monday, December 14, 2015

Emmanuel, God with Us

The Christian message has told people that Jesus died for their sins. It has said that faith in Jesus will allow their sins to be forgiven and give them eternal life. So, many Christians are leaving the church after their salvation experiences and baptisms because they do not understand the fullness of the gospel message. Salvation enables a relationship with God. Relationships must be ongoing to be vital. People should experience communion with God and others each time they worship. This sermon addresses why they aren't.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Make My Joy Complete

Conflict among individuals is inevitable. However, it can be rectified when both people seek to have a heart agreement. The Bible tells us how to solve these conflicts. You have to disrupt the present situation in order to improve the future.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

How Much God Can I Get for Five Dollars?

People try to use the minimum commitment rule with their faith. The minimum price for having the life that Christ has for you is everything.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

I Want to Know You, Lord

God is not hiding Himself. In fact, He invites us to find Him and know Him. This message will lead you to what you need to know if you would like to know Him better.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Living Your Purpose

People either believe they create their own purpose or that they were created with a purpose. The person who creates his own purpose is obligated to fulfill his appetites. The person who is created for a purpose has a greater reason for living but needs to know where and how to find that reason. This message will not tell you your purpose but it will tell you how you can find it.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

How to Be a Cheerful Giver

Giving should be joyful but is often made to feel compulsory at the church. Thus, everyone dreads messages which speak of giving. Preachers even warn their congregations in advance before preaching messages on giving so they can stay away. God loves a cheerful giver and our reluctant giving means we must be doing it wrong. This message is what the scripture says about cheerful giving.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Seeing People Through Jesus" Eyes

There is a vast sea of people around us who would love for us to tell them of the love of Jesus, Most believers act as if they are the enemy. Therefore, they never see them as Jesus sees them. They are His beloved.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Why Sharing Our Faith Has Been So Ineffective

Church visitation has been an extremely ineffective way to share our faith. It doesn't fail from lack of enthusiasm, effort, literature or money spent. It fails from lack of power. However, there is a way which leads many to know Christ. Would you like to know what that is?

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Living Together

Marriages are failing; even those who call themselves Christian. People are miffed at something that happened to them at church and never come back. What causes us to break up a relationship? Why can't we get along? The answer is found very close to the beginning of all relationships.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

The Bible Code

The Bible should be read as a personal message to the reader. However, most people listen to the Bible as if they are listening to the flight attendant who is pointing out the safety features of the plane. They simply do not think it applies to them. So, reading the Bible is the proper manner changes everything. This is the Bible Code.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Lord, Teach Us to Pray

Jesus disciples heard Him pray and wanted to pray like Him. So, they asked Him to teach them how. The pattern of prayer He gave them changed everything.

Lord, Teach Us to Pray

Jesus disciples heard Him pray and wanted to pray like Him. So, they asked Him to teach them how. The pattern of prayer He gave them changed everything.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

The Fear of God

No other fear is like this fear. The Bible tells us that the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom. Why is that?

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Fear of Death

The Bible tells us that we do not need to fear death if we have faith. The key is in having that faith.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Fear of People

Much of the stress in our lives comes because we need to do something that will upset someone else. They may not like us anymore or seek retribution. Thus, we fail to do what we need to do.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Seven Predictions of Our Future If a Holy Spirit Led Revival Doesn't Come to America

Nearly all predictions are wrong. That is why people either predict very often and get some of their predictions right or they predict so far into the future that they can't be proven wrong during their lifetimes. However, I have been watching what is happening in America and see a dismal future if the Holy Spirit does not bring a revival to our country. Some of these predictions are already coming true.

I'll try to state these succinctly.

Prediction 1: People are going to get meaner and there will be more violence.

Less people are going to church. Less people are being influenced by Christian principles. It is more acceptable to seek revenge, hold grudges and lash out at others. Those who have been bullied are becoming bullies. Where are people going to find out that they should love one another if they don't go to church.

Now I know that some people will say that they will teach that in their own homes. They will require their children to treat others with respect. Always treating people with respect is not hard. It is impossible as long as we are trying to do it in our flesh. The flesh looks good when people are watching but has now foundational motivation for treating others with respect when no one is looking. Thus, the meanness and violence will escalate when others bring it to the table.

The world does not have nor knows much about the Holy Spirit. It is the Holy Spirit that changes us. The fewer people being changed, the less bad behavior will be noticed. America will go the way of flesh which demands that it is satisfied.

We will remain exactly what we are in the flesh if we are not changed by the Holy Spirit.

1 Corinthians 6:9-11 (ESV)
9  Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, 10  nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11  And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. 

Prediction 2: Customer service will be a thing of the past.

This doesn't sound so bad, does it? After all, customer service is already a thing of the past in some businesses. During the last recession people said they wanted jobs but what they really wanted were paychecks. The businesses where they work have no loyalty to them and they have no loyalty to their business. They have no concern for the businesses' customers. Why should people care for others when they is not something built into them to care for others?

Matthew 7:12 (ESV)
12  “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets. 

Prediction 3: America will continue to devalue life.

Children are aborted in this country in alarming numbers. Most of the time it is because they are unwanted. Value is determined by how much an item or even a person is wanted. It is, therefore, acceptable to abort children. 

I wonder when this will escalate to allowing old people to die. Elimination of the expense should be expected when the value of life doesn't exceed the cost. If people are created by a biological function alone, they can be eliminated because they only belong to the realm of biology.

Psalm 139:14 (ESV)
14  I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. 

Prediction 4: There will be an increasing persecution of Christians.

I recently heard someone thank God that we could worship freely in America. I thought to myself, "At least for now," because I don't know how long that will last. Christians are already being persecuted if they stand against the immoral values of secular America. America does not tolerate voices which stand for righteousness. Thus, many of the Christian principles will be labeled "hate crimes" and Christians will be persecuted for them.

Matthew 24:9 (ESV)
9  “Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake.

Prediction 5: There will be a larger population of "Fast Food" Christians.

Many Christians attend church and serve God as long as it is convenient. Many of the growing churches are snagging these Christians by eliminating the need to spend more than one hour per week doing anything for God. There is very little mentioned about changed lives. Attendance is the only thing that matters. And, by the way, there are lots of people who like a judgment free, no commitment type of Christianity.

2 Timothy 3:1-7 (ESV)
1  But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. 2  For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3  heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, 4  treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, 5  having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people. 6  For among them are those who creep into households and capture weak women, burdened with sins and led astray by various passions, 7  always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth.

Prediction 6: Christians will demand messages from their preachers which tell them how to be rooted in this world.

Thus, more messages will tell people how they can manipulate God into giving them whatever they want. These messages will tell the people that they do not need to repent. These messages will say that any lifestyle is okay as long as it is acceptable by the world. The messages will claim that going along and getting along are God's desires for Christians. Christians will hear of a God who is going to make them rich beyond their wildest imaginations.

2 Timothy 4:3-4 (ESV)
3  For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, 4  and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.

Prediction 7: America will become more and more a totalitarian state.

The waning influence of Christians to affect truth will result in more and more corruption. Thus, the state will have to watch each citizen more thoroughly than ever before. It will be more than just red light cameras which are watching the people. Each conversation will be scrutinized. Each act will determine if a person will keep his or her job.  More and more reporting will be required by the government. It will all be done in the name of peace and safety.

Pharaoh made things harder on the Jewish people when they asked to be released. He put tighter restrictions on them so that he could maintain control. Thus, America will follow this pattern for all her people.

Exodus 5:6-9 (ESV)
6  The same day Pharaoh commanded the taskmasters of the people and their foremen, 7  “You shall no longer give the people straw to make bricks, as in the past; let them go and gather straw for themselves. 8  But the number of bricks that they made in the past you shall impose on them, you shall by no means reduce it, for they are idle. Therefore they cry, ‘Let us go and offer sacrifice to our God.’ 9  Let heavier work be laid on the men that they may labor at it and pay no regard to lying words.”

The only hope for America is revival. And Christians have the ability to usher that revival in. But will we? Well, we haven't in a very long time. 

2 Chronicles 7:14 (ESV)
14  if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.


Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Don't Fear the Future

For all of you who want to hear the sermon I preached this past week on Fearless Faith:

Go to itunes.
Search: "Fearless Faith: Future" (no quotes)
It should pop up and you can either download or listen to it.

Thanks for listening,


Saturday, August 22, 2015

Seven Things to Remember When You Believe You Have Been Hurt by the Church

People are sometimes hurt by people in their churches. Many times they identified this hurt with the church rather than with the people who hurt them. Today, they lash out on Facebook or write blogs decrying the evil of the church. Unfortunately, other people copy these blogs and Facebook posts so that the message of a hurtful church travels around the globe. It hurts the church, the message of the gospel and those who are giving their all to bring people to Christ.

So, here are a few things for those who have been hurt to remember before they lash out.

The church didn't hurt you. It was a few people within the church.

Most of the people in church are loving, giving and seeking to walk with the Lord. They are unable to control the actions of those who are hateful, self-centered and judging. I have never been in a church that had more than a very few "trouble makers." They were loud and demanding but they didn't represent the church. They come to church because no one else will let them have their way. No one else will love them with their present attitude. Yes, the church would be better off without them so they gravitate to churches who are more loving and forgiving. The church accepts them just as they are.

Many of the hateful people in a church do not know the Lord.

It is easier to join a church than to be a member of the Country Club. The Country Club will demand dues and would not put up with the hateful actions of many. People learn the Christian lingo and become church members. They are baptized without any faith in Christ. They attend for social reasons and can spout enough of the "God bless you's" that the church accepts them into their fellowship. Anyone who examines them finds sexual immorality, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissections, envy, drunkenness, etc. These are all the fruit of the flesh. These are all evidence of someone who is far from the Lord or doesn't know Him at all. Unfortunately, every church probably has some of these people.

Most churches are doing their best to reach people with the gospel.

That means they are trying new things which may step on the traditions of some. The church is the only organization that I know of that also exists for those who have never entered the building. The pastor is probably reading what others are doing to grow their churches and is trying out as many of the ideas as he can. He has no intention of hurting anyone. He has no intention of allowing you to be hurt either. Maybe his best was not good enough for you but it was still his best.

The church is the Bride of Christ no matter what has happened to you.

The church is not a civic organization, a club or a shop. The church isn't even a group of people whose main aim is to make you happy. The church should be a fellowship of believers who are being prepared for Christ's return. I know that I don't like people criticizing my bride to others. I can't believe that Jesus likes it either.

Maybe you actually deserved what you got.

I know this is rough but think of it this way: I can't tell you how many times that I have broken the law while driving. I have rolled through stop signs, turned right on red without actually stopping, failed to look both ways before crossing an intersection and pushed the speed limit with all the other motorists. One night I was pulled over by an officer who noticed that my rear lights weren't burning. I had performed a funeral that day and no one told me that my lights were out. He gave me a ticket.

The next day I took my car to the shop to have it fixed. They discovered a short in the light switch. The lights were working some of the time. However, I still had a ticket (not a warning ticket). In this instance I didn't believe that the ticket was justified. However, I thought of all the times when a ticket was justified and decided that I deserved it.

God is using this experience to do something greater in your life.

I though of David when he was being cursed by Shimei.

2 Samuel 16:10-11 (ESV)
10  But the king said, “What have I to do with you, you sons of Zeruiah? If he is cursing because the LORD has said to him, ‘Curse David,’ who then shall say, ‘Why have you done so?’” 11  And David said to Abishai and to all his servants, “Behold, my own son seeks my life; how much more now may this Benjaminite! Leave him alone, and let him curse, for the LORD has told him to.

Could it be that the Lord is doing something in your life that couldn't have been accomplished otherwise. It may be something as simple as being humbled. It doesn't make what has happened to you good but it may be that God is about to do something magnificent if you will refrain from lashing out and put things in his hands.

God could be using your loving reaction to work in the life of the one who hurt you.

Maybe God needs to work on those who hurt you. Attacking them only justifies their actions. It often gets in the way of what He wants to do. God is always just but His justice is not always seen on this earth. He loves you and will demand justice for everything that has been done to hurt you. He doesn't expect us to live unscathed by the actions of the world. He expects us to walk with Him through all these things. The world cannot deny the testimony of a Christian who remains loving when faced with evil. Love changes the hateful. 

So, please refrain from lashing out at the church when you have been hurt. Instead, put your trust in Him who will relieve all hurt someday.

Romans 8:38-39 (ESV)
38  For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39  nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. 

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

What Are You Hoping For?

Those who are trying to adjust themselves to the morality of the world are riding on a roller coaster. People are afraid of offending just about everyone but the Christians. New words are used to describe sinfulness. New justifications are made for it. It is approved, adopted and made a part of the mainstream. You must be an intolerant person if you don't join in. In fact, you must be a hater of all that is really good as approved by the politically correct police.

So, I ask the question: What is the world really hoping for?

The world is hoping for all heaven and no hell.

Many of the people in the world don't want to believe there are any consequences for anything that is done unless you are a murderer. (Somehow I think murderers will make an appeal to being made that way and get away with it someday.) One tv show actor said that death was like you were before you were born. He exclaimed, "And that wasn't so bad, was it?" He is saying that the non-existence we supposedly had before birth is the same for us when we die. That is refusing to believe in anything after this life. Of course, that ignores any judgement but doesn't explain any problems with our own consciences when we do evil.

The culture we live in wants to believe that there is a heaven and that everyone will go there. "Everyone is good," they say. They say it over and over. I wonder if they read the news. There are some genuinely bad people in the world. How do they miss that? Are these "bad" people going to their heaven too?

Of course, having a standard for heaven or hell means there must be a judge who determines what that standard is and enforces it. Maybe the world should think about that

The world is hoping that there is never again another Christian revival.

We all know what that means. It means that a majority of people would repent and stop doing things which the Bible has declared as evil. The world has convinced the Christians that we are only making mistakes when we sin. No sin is called sin anymore. We say that we made a mistake when we stole the money from the bank. We made a mistake when we lied, committed adultery, murdered or said something hurtful to another person. I guess we made a mistake when we failed to love and forgive others too. Sin has been removed from the Christian language because the world does not want to be reminded that walking with God requires holiness.

A revival among Christians would startle the rest of the world. It would show them that Christ changes people and is relevant in the world today. It would bring light into our society and reveal these "mistakes" as sins against God. It would force people to change their definitions of what is real.

The world is hoping that Jesus never returns.

What would happen if Jesus returned today? Believers would eject from the world. Others might wonder what happened to them Many people might already know. They would be left behind without the ability to leave immediately. 

It isn't only the world who hopes Jesus never returns. Many believers have fallen so in love with this world that they don't want Jesus coming back anytime soon. They still have money in the bank, things to buy and places to go. They have things they want to do more than they want to see Jesus face to face.

But Jesus return would certainly be a show stopper. The world would have to question if it needed a course correction. It would have to question what it was calling moral and immoral. It would have to question judgement and eternity. The world is making no plans for any of these. They are hoping that the stories of Jesus are fictitious. 

Hebrews 9:27-28 (ESV)
27  And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, 28  so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.

By the way, I am praying for revival and hoping for Jesus to return today. What are you hoping for? 

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Fearless Faith:Failure

Many people because they never try. This message is intended to encourage people to do and therefore be what God has intended them to be. The find purpose and fulfillment when walking with God through impossible challenges.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Fearless Faith: Finances

God does not want you to have fear and anxiety over your finances. The Bible gives us seven principles to help alleviate this problem. This message is for you if you have too much month left over at the end of your money

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Can a Faithless Society Produce Virtue?

Let me define virtue before I actually start this blog. Virtue is simply moral excellence. A truly virtuous person has a moral quality that is consistent even if no one is looking.

I'll admit that people who claim faith do not have much over on those who claim no faith. You can't deny that pastors have affairs, steal from their churches and are often found wanting for morality. It is here that we must make a distinction though. The problem is not in the faith but in the individual. No one who fails to live what he says he believes is living in faith. This is a common reason for people to stop going to church. They had hoped to find a virtuous people and found people a little worse than the people at a local bar.

However, I have seen people completely changed by their faith. I have seen people who have gone to prison become some of the most loving, carefully moral people I have ever met. One such person was Chuck Colson. I had the opportunity to sit down with this man almost twenty years ago and never met a more humble, caring and virtuous man. I only know what his reputation was before Watergate. I am sure I wouldn't have wanted to meet him then.

So, what changed him? True faith. He honestly identified with Jesus in such a way that he started becoming like Jesus. This is what true faith is all about. It isn't being perfect but continually walking with and toward Jesus. True faith changes people.

What changes people apart from faith? I know some reasonably virtuous people who have told me that they do not subscribe to any faith. They are friendly and good people. I genuinely think they aren't trying to fake me out with their words or observable acts. However, as I talked with them, they were influenced by people of faith. One told me he grew up going to a Christian school. Another minored in Bible in college. You can't simply say that they were void of faith all of their lives. Formative years were spent around people of faith and that influenced who they became.

So, in order to answer the question we must go to a people who have no faith influence to find those who are virtuous. I don't know that you will find those people. There is faith in everyone even if that faith is found in humanity itself.

However, if I change my search from trying to find virtuous people who have not been influenced by faith to the non-virtuous people who exist in society I find a plethora of subjects to discuss. Today I read that a man shot his neighbor and ran over her with her own lawnmower because she was mowing at 9:00 PM. There was no virtue in this man to stop his anger. He killed the lady and now faces prosecution. He appears to have lacked any morality. Can I blame this on living without any faith? No, the individual may have been around the same amount of faith as those whom I mentioned earlier but failed to take it in. Individual cases can neither prove nor disprove  whether or not faith produced virtue.

Therefore, I must look at society as a whole. There was a time when a large portion of the American populous went to church. The people never locked their houses and frequently left their keys in their cars. Neighbors knew each other because they went to church together and were involved in their communities to improve those communities. It was understood that forgiveness was something each person needed and many forgave rather than sought revenge when they felt wronged.

Honestly, our society has not gotten better because we have removed ourselves from faith. Each night we watch tv with ads coming from angry lawyers claiming they will "get the money you deserve" because others have hurt us physically. We live in fear of being sued or attacked on the streets because we may have not seen the car we almost hit. Anger rules those streets.

I believe that faith is necessary for creating a virtuous society though I realize that there are individuals who will be virtuous who personally have no faith. Faith changes people when it is true faith. I know that my relationship with Jesus has changed me. I hope that I will live a life pleasing to my Lord. I want to be morally excellent even when no one is watching.

However, I am a work in progress but isn't that what change is?

1 Corinthians 6:9-11 (ESV)
9  Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, 10  nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11  And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. 

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Have You Rededicated Your Life So Many Times That Your "Rededicater" Is Worn Out?

Most preachers notice when members of the congregation are bored. Their eyes are open but there are no lights on. They may actually be looking straight at you and not see a thing.

There are others who are hanging onto every word. Their faces are animated. They smile, frown and even show disgust during the sermon. They may not like what the preacher is saying but they are fully engaged in the sermon.

Then, there are others who are agitated. There is something going on in their lives that they would like to end. They have come to church to dedicate themselves to the Lord so that He will take their problems which may also be their sins and throw them into the deepest sea. They haven't heard what the preacher has said. They read into every word a reference to their own problems. They come weeping down the aisle, telling the preacher how far they have strayed from the path and want to rededicate their lives to the Lord one more time.

They may or may not be back next Sunday. They think that this rededication is all that is needed.

Yes, the preacher will see them again. They will be in the same state and they will want to rededicate their lives again before long. Eventually, they learn that rededication alone doesn't work. It takes more.

Its funny how you can look at a scripture that you have read dozens of times in the past and find something new, isn't it? I was wondering about these people whose rededications never seem to stick. I believe the Lord directed me to a passage which I had read as recently as last week but didn't see what He was trying to teach me.

Joshua 24:15 (ESV)
15  And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the LORD, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.” 

Do you see the key element in this rededication? It is found in the word "serve." There is no purpose nor lasting influence that comes from rededication oneself to the Lord without service. The person who simply wants to belong to the Lord never will until he serves with his whole heart.

Jesus will never be your Lord until you obey Him. Obedience requires service. Service is the glue that holds us to our dedication. I have never seen a growing Christian who was idle. That doesn't mean I haven't seen busy Christians who weren't growing. Busyness is just being busy. Service requires following the Lord. Following Him means that He is sought after and depended upon to supply everything necessary to complete the service one has been called to.

So, before you make that trip down the aisle of your church this Sunday, make sure that you realize that there is no true rededication without committing yourself to the Lord's service. That means more than simply sitting in a pew week after week.

Sure, you may rededicate yourself to the Lord again but it will be to a new ministry that He has given you. And guess what--it will stick!

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

New Birth Is Messy

Mark 2:15-17 (ESV)
15  And as he reclined at table in his house, many tax collectors and sinners were reclining with Jesus and his disciples, for there were many who followed him. 16  And the scribes of the Pharisees, when they saw that he was eating with sinners and tax collectors, said to his disciples, “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?” 17  And when Jesus heard it, he said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”

My church* is full of sinners. Many of them use colorful language. Many of them have equally colorful backgrounds. Some of them don't know what a Christian is. I am glad they are at my church. I am afraid that there are churches who would have nothing to do with them. There are churches who would tell them that they have to clean up their acts before they can come to their churches.

So, tell me how we are supposed to see people come to know Christ if we aren't willing to be around them until they act like they have come to know Christ. We have no apparent appeal for them. The society we live in will more likely shun them for going to church rather than praise them. There is no status gained by church membership. Why should they come if we don't love them exactly the way they are?

I saw my children born many years ago. It was a messy business. I loved those children before they were cleaned up. I loved them before they would know who I am. I didn't tell them to clean up. They wouldn't have understood. I didn't tell them that I would love them as soon as they acted correctly.  They would have learned conditional love that way. And I am afraid that they would never come to love my Savior if they couldn't understand unconditional love.

Sure, there are people who never use colorful language or have colorful backgrounds who also come to my church. They have been so changed by the Lord that they love people regardless of whether or not they know the Lord. They see themselves as sinners who are being changed by the grace of God. They teach Sunday School, feed people who can't afford food, serve others in the kitchen, visit the sick and do whatever it takes to take care of God's creation. They are lights shining brightly for the cause of Christ. They understand that Christ came for them but that they are not an exclusive group. He came for those who neither know the Lord nor act like they want to.

Sinners don't show up already clean. They come messy.

I have people visit my church weekly who come in and look at those in the congregation with tattoos and unusual dress and decide that they don't want to be in be in a church that welcomes people like this. I never see them again. They don't know that we would have loved them as if they were sinners, too.

*I do not own my church. I use this term to identify with the church I pastor.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Identification with Christ

Our own salvation is a difficult thing to grasp. We think of ourselves as self-contained beings. This concept means that our minds and souls remain our own. Therefore, all decisions and changes we make are made internally. But when we come to know Christ, things change.

We never lose the responsibility for our decisions but we are inhabited by the Holy Spirit who empowers us to over-ride our fleshly desires and follow Him. It is through the Holy Spirit that we identify with Christ. This identification is so strong that though we were never on the cross with Jesus, we were indeed on the cross with Him in our identification.

A woefully inadequate illustration of this is seen in a marriage. My wife will charge something on a credit card that we share. Though I was never with her during the purchase, I am with her in my identification with her so that I am responsible for that purchase. Thus, I was on the cross with Jesus because of my identification with Him. I receive my salvation by His sacrifice on the cross. I have so identified with Him that I also died with Him.

What continues to connect me with Him? My fear of God and my love for Him keep me working out my salvation with fear and trembling. Yes, i am saved by grace but I cannot possess a grace that does not cause me to identify with my Lord. Again, let me use the example of a marriage.

Let's say that I married my wife but never lived with her. I never identified as one with her. I rarely, if ever spoke to her. What kind of marriage would it be? Wouldn't the marriage ceremony itself be a sham? Too many times I have heard a groom exclaim at his wedding reception, "It's finally over!" I say, "No, it just began!" Thinking that your salvation is complete at your baptism is like thinking your marriage is complete after the reception. There is much more. Much, much more.

So, today I renew my identification with Christ. I have to do so continually. I have to remember who I am now. I am not unto myself alone. I am His and He is mine. And I had better act like it.

Galatians 2:20 (ESV)
20  I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

2 Corinthians 5:14 (ESV)
14  For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died;

Philippians 2:12 (ESV)
12  Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling,

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

The World as You Know It Will End Today

I asked my staff today what they would do if they knew they had only one hour left to live. Each of them said they would spend it with family. I asked them what they would do if they had ten years. That caused them to scratch their heads.

Each of us thinks we may have ten years left to live. It seems that some people would come to the point when they stopped believing that but, without a known terminal illness, nearly everyone acts as they will live forever. I guess they can't imagine a world without themselves. Most people see the world as never changing no matter how many times they have seen it change.

This caused me to think about the world and its change. The world will never again be like it is today. Today will cause changes that will not be undone. Today will have changes in which tomorrow will be built. The opportunities of today will be gone with today if for no other reason than they can't be done as quickly if we had started on them today.

Essentially, the world as you know it ends today.

The greatest tragedy in life is wishing that you did something when you could. The sun is setting. The opportunities are growing dim. One of your tomorrows might find you sitting in a rocking chair wishing that you did something differently. You may lie to yourself and say you did all that you could but you will know the truth no matter how many times you say it.

Just think of the things that could be done in ten years. You could write a novel or a symphony or an opera, earn a doctorate, make a disciple, start a church, lose all the weight you have been meaning to lose, learn to play the piano or be known as a completely committed follower of Jesus no matter how people see you now.

The road to hell is paved with good intentions. Yes, I have heard that too. The road to hell is paved with missed opportunities too.

I believe the Lord has been telling me something that I must do. I have heard it from people who have walked up to me after church. The say as tears stream down their faces, "This is my last Sunday to be in church. My job requires that I work Sundays." Am I to say, "I really hurt for you," but do absolutely nothing about it?

So, I am meeting with a group of people with whom God has been speaking about this same issue. They know that we have to do something about it now. We have to provide a means that people who work on Sundays can worship. Therefore, we are working to start a Saturday night service for people who have either an impossible or hard time coming on Sundays.

I'll admit that it is easier to do nothing but how can I say that I have the love of Jesus when I simply tell people how sorry I am about their predicament when I could be doing something about it? The opportunity is right in front of me and those who are working to start this service. We have to do something.

Tomorrow today's opportunity to speak to someone about Jesus may be gone forever. There are people you may see that you will never see again. The things that the Lord leads you to do may not be available for very much longer. The world and all that is in it is changing. You have to act now.

The Bible says that the days are evil. Maybe I've been singing praise songs for so long that I have forgotten there is an enemy telling me that there is plenty of time to do whatever God has put on my heart. Maybe that's why Paul urges us to proclaim, "Now is the day of salvation." Tomorrow may be too late for some people.

Ephesians 5:15-16 (ESV)
15  Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, 16  making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. 

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Is It Persecution or Is It a Random Act of Circumstance?

Imagine having spoiled milk in your refrigerator. You want a glass of milk so you go to the frig. The smell tells you right away that you shouldn't drink it. But instead of throwing it away, you put it back in the refrigerator. Guess what happens the next time you want a glass of milk? The milk is still spoiled.

Sometimes I forget that the world is fallen. It has been corrupted by sin. All of creation suffered in the Fall. The world still has a remnant of its "good" creation but also contains the evil brought in by the Fall. Thus, you cannot count on the world to give you good. It continues to produce bad. No matter how many times you ask the world for something good, you have to remember that it has yet to be redeemed. It has been spoiled and will remain spoiled until it is redeemed.

Those who wish to live godly lives will find the world persecuting them. It may be through the greed of their employers. It may be the hatred of their neighbors. It may be through what appears to be random acts of evil. Yet, the world hunts down the godly to discourage and end their godliness. The world seeks to have each person like it is. The world is corrupted and getting worse.

I used to think that persecution had to be volitional. Many times it is. But sometimes things happen which knock you don't to your knees that seem like random acts. You set out to live a godly life and you lose your job. Your former employer doesn't have a vendetta against you. He or she is merely downsizing without regard to your status. Your employer doesn't know that you have recently made a commitment to tithe. It sure feels like persecution. It feels like there is someone who knows when and how to hit me. It feels like there is someone who wants me to forget my faith and live a life apart from God. Do seemingly random events have a purpose? Is this persecution? Is the time these things happen precise or is it merely random circumstances?

Of course, there is a danger in saying that every unwanted event is an act of Satan. Therefore, Satan gave me a flat on the way to work today and Satan caused it to rain on my wedding day, etc. But on the other hand why should I praise God when I see someone healed if the world only contains activities of  coincidences? When are events seen as the acts of God or Satan?

Job interpreted his hardship to God. He had lived a godly life yet his family, wealth and health were taken from him. He didn't understand why these things had happened but he didn't see them as merely random acts. He knew that God had blessed him. He knew that he no longer had God's blessing. Was Job being persecuted? It sure seems so.

So, when do you see hardship as persecution? This requires godly discernment. The same set of circumstances may produce different results. A tornado may just be the result of a fallen world. The loss of a job may be the work of the world's persecution. One is something that happens to everyone. The other is particularly for you.

This must be the wisdom of the Spirit. No earthly wisdom can discern whether an event is from the world, Satan or even from God. What appears to be a blessing may, in fact, turn out to be something very bad. What looked like destruction reveals the grace of God. Sure, they are easier to discern in the rear view mirror but God doesn't want us floundering around wondering if there is any meaning in the things which befall us.

Suppose you have lived a godly life and get cancer. You suffer through the chemotherapy and radiation treatments. You endure the surgeries. Things continually get worse no matter what you do. You may not know why you are going through this. You have prayed and had countless others praying for you. Yet, you do not realize those who are watching you. The grandson or granddaughter whose faith is in doubt is taking note of your faith as you go through your difficulty. Is this persecution or an opportunity to give a final strong witness to those whom you love? The answer is not one or the other. The answer is "yes." That must be revealed by the Spirit.

So the world will remain fallen. There will be tribulation in it. There will be persecution through it. and God, by the Spirit, reveals what is going on.

1 Corinthians 2:6-13 (ESV)
6  Yet among the mature we do impart wisdom, although it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are doomed to pass away. 7  But we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glory. 8  None of the rulers of this age understood this, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. 9  But, as it is written, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him”— 10  these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. 11  For who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. 12  Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. 13  And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual.

Monday, May 18, 2015

The Christian Life Is a Changed Life

I thank God that the church admits sinners. I would not have been able to enter if this was not so. I have acted like Paul predicted people would act in the last days. Yet, I am being changed and these characteristics are seen less in me than they once were. I can only praise God that He is changing me.

This morning I spoke with a young lady in my church. I told her that she gets it. I don't know her life before coming to my church other than what she has told me. Her own testimony reveals that God is changing her too. She, like me, is coming to the knowledge of the truth. I wish there were more people like her.

I see many people who come to church, attend Sunday School and give every outward appearance of knowing the Lord who never change. It is like they live too different lives. They act one way at church with service and dedication to the Lord and go home to live very secular lives in which none of what they should have known from their relationship with Jesus is ever seen. Sure, there are a few words of spiritual correctness given occasionally but it isn't enough evidence to determine whether or not they are truly Christians.

In fact, you will find that most people who call themselves Christians are acting like Paul's last day prediction. They love themselves, use nearly all their money on themselves, disrespect their parents in one way or another, care very little for others and certainly lack a true love for God.

Truthfully, I preach ever week and see very few being changed. They are happy to be the same people they have always been. They are happy to pretend to be everything the Lord wants them to be. It is as if they have chosen avatars to live at church. This is the life they imagine but their real life is much different.

So, no matter how much they come to church, no matter how many discipleship courses they take, no matter how many times they work in Vacation Bible School, there is never any significant change. They have learned the books of the Bible, know the stories and can recite John 3:16 but they never really come to the knowledge of the truth. Coming to this knowledge will never be intellectual. It will always be a matter of spiritual maturity.

I have met a few reasonably famous people during my life. I have had private conversations with some of them. But I know that I would be kidding myself to say that I know them. I wonder if that is what it is like for these people who call themselves Christians but never change. Are they basing their salvation on one conversation? Do they think that their faith is something that is ritualistic rather than life changing? Do they think its like a membership in a club? You pay your dues and get your privileges but that's as far as the commitment goes.

I guess I always thought that Paul was speaking of people being outside the church when he made his prediction of the last days. I never dreamed that the people would be in the church.

2 Timothy 3:1-7 (ESV)
1  But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. 2  For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3  heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, 4  treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, 5  having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people. 6  For among them are those who creep into households and capture weak women, burdened with sins and led astray by various passions, 7  always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth.  

Saturday, May 16, 2015

The Value of a Child

I have read stories of people who have accomplished much for humanity whose mothers considered abortion. The world is a better place because of them. I thank God that they weren't aborted but I also wonder why people think that these non-aborted people make a stronger statement about pro-life than the non-aborted children who remain anonymous.

Don't get me wrong. I love the stories from people who could have been aborted. I love to hear of their accomplishments. I just don't like saying that this child was more important than any other child who wasn't aborted. Why not a story of a child who became a bus driver or a steel worker or someone who assembles cars in Detroit? Do the people giving these statements realize that they are inadvertently supporting the idea that one life is more important than another?

The pro-choice people want to say that the freedom of the mother is more important than an unborn child. They give the mother's life more value than the child's. They have made a leap from preserving the mother's life to making sure that the mother has a future she has planned for.

Aborting a pregnancy has always been legal when it was done to save the life of the mother. The doctors performing the procedure would have liked to saved both mother and child but could not because of dire circumstances. Some see this as making the mother's life more important than the child's. The doctors know that the child will not live if the mother dies. It is not a matter of giving a greater value to the mother than the child. It is an effort to save one life.

This is where the leap is made though. The mother should not have to suffer the consequences of the pregnancy. They see this as giving the mother the same footing as the father. They give her more value than the child. Thus, it is okay to abort this child's life.

That's why we can't ask pro-choice people to consider whether or not their unborn children might become famous and make significant contributions to society and possibly humanity as a whole. That's their argument. We are simply saying that you might have a child that is more valuable than others. They are saying that the mother is the one who is more valuable. We are making the case for them.

No, the actual value of a person isn't determined by mankind. It is determined by the Creator Himself.
He is the One who knits each person together. It is His work that is interrupted by abortion. A person's worth is determined by God's love. That love is neither more or less because the person has great accomplishments for humanity.

A fallen humanity gives a greater value to one person over another. A revived believer loves each one that God loves. The value of the person is found in love.

Psalm 139:13-14 (ESV)
13  For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. 14  I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

So, You Want to Be a Rock Star (for Jesus of course)

Everybody wants to be somebody. It is in our nature. Maybe its part of the reason I write this blog. . . no, I am sure its part of the reason I write this blog. It's okay because I am doing it for Jesus, right?

On one hand, most of us don't want to be ignored. On the other, we have heard that it is wrong to want to be noticed (unless its for Jesus, again). So, we deny that anything we do is done in our own power or greatness when things go right and pound ourselves to pieces if things go wrong. We take pleasure in the success and extreme pain in the failure.

So, do I fade into obscurity when I fail to be faithful and turn up the lights when I am? Am I saying that the faithful Christian life will bring me fame and fortune while any deviation from this life will cause me to crash in flames?

Honestly, I feel better about myself when the church is packed. I love it when they laugh at my terrible jokes. I revel in people walking down the aisles after a sermon. I hang on every word I hear from people who tell my how much their lives have changed since hearing my sermons.

And I say, "Thanks for your kind words but I have to give all the glory to Jesus." If that is true then why do I feel so much better about myself? Shouldn't I be more neutral? The rock star sings someone else's songs and revels in the applause.

I am not saying that we should be joyous about our own faithfulness. I am saying that you can be perfectly faithful and still get crucified. Shouldn't my joy come from the faithfulness rather than the applause?

Some of you reading this blog already know what the problem is. There is nothing wrong with desiring applause. The error comes in whom I seek to give me applause. Do I desire the applause from a fallen humanity or a holy God?

What happens if I fade into human obscurity? What if no one remembers my name nor what I have said? What if no one reads my blog? In fact, what happens if I am castigated, criticized and abhorred for what I have done even though it was all done because I have been faithful to the Lord?

Yes, all this happens but I find that upon entering heaven the Lord says, "My joy has been in you. Well done!" What good would an earthly rock star status be then?

John 15:11 (ESV)
11  These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

What Are You Doing about It?

This morning I rode my bicycle to work. I admit that I enjoyed the ride. The temperature was cool, the breeze was with me and the traffic was relatively light. I saw one other cyclist who looked like he might also be commuting. Traffic picked up as I went along.

I wondered: Do these one-person-per-car commuters understand what they are doing to the environment? Exhaust fumes flew all around. I really don't know what the drive to work costs our environment. I also wondered whether or not these people would say that the environment needed to be protected.

Before I go on I must admit something to you. I don't believe that mankind is the major contributor to global warming. In fact, there are some dubious findings which support this theory. I believe that, like many scientific theories, that anthropomorphic global warming theory is faith based. A faith based theory gathers whatever information necessary to prove the basic tenet of the faith and either disregards or ignores anything that doesn't fit into that tenet. (Yes, I realize that my own faith system does the exact same thing. I just want those who claim to be so factually scientific to realize they are acting on faith too.)

That being said, I still believe very strongly in preserving the environment. I recycle, turn my thermostat to a warmer temperature in the summer and ride my bicycle to work. I believe that there are better sources of energy that may have not been utilized effectively as yet. I understand that burning fossil fuels fills our planet with pollution. I just don't have to be scared by wild stories of New York sinking in a rising ocean to act conservatively.

So, here's my thing: If the majority of people believe that Global Warming is true, why don't they do something about it rather than just talking about it? You see, I may be wrong and the planet will not suffer because of my view of Global Warming. But if the Global Warming believers are right, the planet won't be in better because of their belief if they don't do something about it.

So, I am forced to believe that there are a lot of people who say they believe but they really don't. A small group of people actually believe.

Now, if I take that same logic to my own faith in Jesus Christ, would I come up with the same conclusion? I think so. There are a lot of people who say they believe, buy the shirts and bumper stickers and go to church but aren't doing one thing to bring others to Christ.

I really understand what James said. Evidently, this saying you believe and doing nothing about it has lasted for a very long time.

James 2:18 (ESV)
18  But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Defined by God

Our civilization cannot exist without definitions.  Our communication depends upon our definitions. How would you read this blog if there weren't commonly understood definitions of each of these words? Every word has a definition or it is nonsense. Even the word nonsense has a definition.

Definitions within themselves are neither right nor wrong. They are simply means of communication and carrying on our lives. I am fascinated in the etymology of some words. The roots of these words reveal the cultures in which that have come. Knowing their backgrounds gives me a deeper definition. This knowledge does not make the words holy or evil. They are just words.

Organizations also have definitions. The United States government is defined by her constitution. The USA will not be the country the founding fathers intended her to be if the definition is changed. The constitution has given the people the right to change the definition. Thus, there are amendments to the constitution. Each has been seen as an improvement over the previous definition. While the constitution is an amazing document, it is the creation of human beings. While those who wrote it and others who have followed it may revere it, our constitution is not inherently better than the form of government of many other countries. However, as flawed as it might be, it still appears to function better with more compassion and justice that many other countries' constitutions.

Lately, I have been reading a historical novel telling the story of totalitarian government under the Russian tzars. The country revolted and replace it with communism. It was certainly a different definition of government but it doesn't appear to be an improvement. Some within the revolution were trying to create a democracy. They failed to understand the need for a balance of power. They failed to understand the nature of mankind as a fallen people who have a tendency to want power, wealth and pleasure at the expense of others.

Some things are defined by God. A human being is defined by God. The Bible says that God put humans together in their mothers' wombs. (It is at this point that a lot of people want to ask, "Then, why are some people born with deformities? It is a good question and I don't know the answer. That doesn't change what has happened though any more than asking about any other tragedy. After all, God knows what will happen and doesn't stop these things from happening. We live in a fallen world and all of His creation in this world is fallen.) It is a definition of the beginning of human life. Man has tried to redefine that definition in order to legalize abortions.

Marriage has been defined by God too. It is intended to be a lifetime commitment between a man and a woman to each other and God. That definition has been changed by some more than a few years ago. For many, the marriages that they have today are temporary agreements to live together and mingle their finances as they raise children. The latter is more unstable than the former. A couple who are led daily by God will see their marriages last. There is certainly a tension because each day means a new commitment must be made. It is as tedious as it is necessary.

Recently, the US Supreme Court has considered whether or not homosexual couples should be allowed to be married. (Actually, they are deciding whether or not it is constitutional to ban their marriages.) This, of course, would change the definition of marriage whether they realize what they are doing or not. I wonder if they have considered calling these unions something else. What happens once the present definition is destroyed? Anything can be a marriage when there is no clear definition. How will they define marriage? What can be the criteria? I heard that a lady in another country married a bridge.

I personally stand with the biblical definition of marriage. It distresses me that I and others like me haven't defined it so clearly that the definition hasn't been understood as biblical rather than man made. Once I turn myself over to my emotions, I will change definitions to fit my emotions. I cannot do this as long as I place myself under the truth. The truth is found in the presence of God. God is always found in His Word.

Unfortunately, we cannot be trusted to do what is right apart from God. We must take His definitions of right and wrong. We must take His definitions of human, marriage, love, forgiveness, hope and any other word or organization He has defined and stand by His definition.

Taking our own road on our own is simply a dead end.

Proverbs 16:25 (ESV)
25  There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death. 

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Biblical Morality Has a High Price

Each morning I do the USATODAY crossword puzzle online. It is found in the Life section of the paper. (Strange calling it paper since there is no paper involved.) The puzzle generally takes me from thirteen to twenty minutes though I have had a few puzzlers that have taken longer. I close the puzzle when finished and can't help but see the "news" from the entertainment world. I am both fascinated in what is happening and not at all interested in joining the fan clubs.

You see, I am fascinated that the writers expect the readers to hang on every word about these celebrities. I don't know who most of them are. I don't follow any of them. I suppose there are many people who follow these people as idols. They learn to talk and look like their idols. I am not slightly interested.

It seems that people follow the most popular trend so that they won't be left out of the conversation. They must know what's going on. They must be valued by others by that knowledge. They must be included in the "group."

Maybe that's why morality is so fluid. The right thing is what everyone else is doing. It justifies itself because with the reward of being included. Thus, normally moral people will get caught up in a riot because everyone else is doing it.

Wasn't that Ayn Rand's point in her book Fountainhead? Even bad plays were all the rage when given amazing reviews. Everyone wanted to be in the crowd who had seen it and praised it. The movie Titanic proved her right. It was one of the worst written movies I have ever seen and, yet it was a blockbuster. It didn't matter whether or not it had any substance- everyone was going to see it and if you wanted to be anyone you better go see it too.

The beatings that Christians suffer today are not physical. They are castigated and separated from the rest of society. They are said to be the immoral people because morality is what everyone else is doing. A thin benevolent philosophy covers the immorality of the world. It gives candy to its children until their teeth rot out because it claims to love them. It takes a mature Christian to recognize evil when everyone they know is saying Christianity is the evil. Many immature Christians adapt their morality to fit with the morality of the world.

And what happens if you hold your ground? Eventually, the world takes action against you. It will not let your business enter a city. It will attempt to get the legal system to call your statements hate language. It will call you names a line you up as perpetrators of all that is wrong with the world.

I see fewer people coming to church. It isn't that there aren't plenty of professed Christians around. They could fill their churches every week but stay home because they no longer have to go to church. The society around them isn't going. They can join the churchless crowd with impunity. There is more right by staying home in this society than by going to church. Naturally, we will see them all again at Easter. I wonder how long that will last.

Yet, something has got to turn this all around or I don't see much morality in the future. I suppose that's how you get to the apocalyptic movies of Divergent, The Maze Runner and Hunger Games. Each of these presents a morality that has been forgotten by its society. This morality seems to be introduced rather than remembered. No one explains why the protagonists are moral. They don't reveal where the morality originates. Maybe they don't know.

So, get ready if you decide that you will not be a part of the new morality of this world. It may remember the morality of the Bible some day but today the world is following the slavery of immorality. It will defend this immorality to the end because ambivalence means that there might be sin in what's going on. Thus, the world will immediately force its social hatred on those who stand for  biblical morality. It will bring legal action eventually if nothing changes.

And committed Christians won't be the most popular people around.

1 Peter 4:3-4 (ESV)
3  For the time that is past suffices for doing what the Gentiles want to do, living in sensuality, passions, drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties, and lawless idolatry. 4  With respect to this they are surprised when you do not join them in the same flood of debauchery, and they malign you; 

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

The Problem Is in Me

Man seems to forget that he is created in the image of God. He was imprinted with God's characteristics of love, forgiveness, justice and even holiness. Man yearns to be reunited with his creator. This union is the only wholeness that man can have. God is the only one who can fill man's inadequacies. All of mankind has fallen short of God's glory. Man looks to be restored. Thus, he looks for the One who is perfect but doesn't know where to look once he has rejected God.

So, people have looked to others to unite with that will allow them to feel whole. They have accepted priests, presidents and policemen. They have sold their souls to professional athletes, pop stars and projected images on movie screens. And each one has disappointed them for each one has the same problem as they do. They have all fallen short of God's glory.

Some have turned to science. Surely, this is the place to find that which is perfect and will give them fulfillment. Yet, they find that does a great job of hiding itself. It never seems certain because the theories are ever changing. Too many of them appear to be religions all to themselves. They are unproved and any contradicting evidence is explained away or ignored. This happens as the scientists state their theories without any doubt to their validity.

Others have lost themselves in their leisure. Maybe they are distracting themselves. Maybe they are seeking perfection in themselves. Leisure activities should be fun rather than driving the individual to feel complete. Yet, even murder is not beyond the ones who believe others are in their way of their ultimate pursuits.

So, should we be surprised that people are rioting over the injustice of some policemen? I don't think so. They are looking for justice and finding that those with whom they have placed their trust are unjust. The violence often comes from a sense of helplessness. They don't know what else to do. It makes no difference how irrational it is. It doesn't matter that the vast majority of the police would have been just. These people are seeking justice but don't know where to find it.

A people who turn their backs on God will find a world of chaos. Man has fallen from God's glory and does not know what is right or wrong within himself alone. He is imprinted with God's image but that image has also been marred. Man seeks his own glory as well as wholeness. He is conflicted so that on any given day he can be the saint or the sinner. And the ruler of this world appears to be winning right now.

Is there a fearful world on the horizon? I want to be one who is full of hope and I am. I know that God Himself can turn all of this around. I know He can heal our land. I also know that God does not force us into compliance. I know that His people have become casual in their faith. I know that He will respond if His people will simply come to Him wholeheartedly.

As seminary students we all heard the stories of the great revivals. We all dreamed that we would be the Evan Roberts who would return to our home churches to preach a message in which one of the revivals would break out. We wanted to be the D.L. Moodys, John Wesleys and Jonathan Edwards. We longed to be looked up to as the new R.G. Lees of our generation. Maybe our hearts were in the wrong places. We were seeking our own glory, weren't we? its no wonder that there hasn't been a revival.

Yet, God's promise is still true even if there aren't any people who really mean what they say in their prayers. Maybe we want to want to turn from our wickedness. Maybe we want to want to be humble. Maybe we want to want to pray. We're just not there yet. Yes, I include myself in that "we."

It is at these moments that I realize how far I have fallen from God's glory. I want to be His without any reservation but I am being pulled by the world around me. I commit myself once again to find that the commitment doesn't last. Yes, I press on but I am afraid I will simply fail one more time. You see, I am created in God's image and know that my fulfillment can only be found in Him but too often seek my own glory rather than His.

Who can save me from this? Jesus. Even now I know that my turning to Him will bring back the peace that I so often lose by pursuing exactly what the world seeks. I have forgotten that He must be Lord of each day. I have forgotten what that means when I do not seek His glory.

A saving commitment to Christ is something I need daily. It should be just as "new" as the day before. It should have the same joy for I am uniting and identifying with my Lord. Maybe the real problem is that I have kept trying to do this on my own. Just like the rest of the world.

Romans 7:24-25 (ESV)
24  Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? 25  Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin. 

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Criticism at Its Best

2 Samuel 16:5-13 (ESV)
5  When King David came to Bahurim, there came out a man of the family of the house of Saul, whose name was Shimei, the son of Gera, and as he came he cursed continually. 6  And he threw stones at David and at all the servants of King David, and all the people and all the mighty men were on his right hand and on his left. 7  And Shimei said as he cursed, “Get out, get out, you man of blood, you worthless man! 8  The LORD has avenged on you all the blood of the house of Saul, in whose place you have reigned, and the LORD has given the kingdom into the hand of your son Absalom. See, your evil is on you, for you are a man of blood.” 

9  Then Abishai the son of Zeruiah said to the king, “Why should this dead dog curse my lord the king? Let me go over and take off his head.” 10  But the king said, “What have I to do with you, you sons of Zeruiah? If he is cursing because the LORD has said to him, ‘Curse David,’ who then shall say, ‘Why have you done so?’” 11  And David said to Abishai and to all his servants, “Behold, my own son seeks my life; how much more now may this Benjaminite! Leave him alone, and let him curse, for the LORD has told him to. 12  It may be that the LORD will look on the wrong done to me, and that the LORD will repay me with good for his cursing today.” 13  So David and his men went on the road, while Shimei went along on the hillside opposite him and cursed as he went and threw stones at him and flung dust.  

I hate criticism. I am not humble about it either for I respond vehemently when I am criticized. I wonder if I could be as gracious as David was if I had received this reception when everything seemed to be going against me.

Shimei was a distant relative of Saul. His fortune would have, no doubt, been better if Saul's family had retained the kingdom. Shimei either didn't know the real details of David's ascension to the throne or he chooses to ignore them.

He accuses David of wrongdoing in becoming king. He calls David a man of blood as if David had something to do with Saul's death. Maybe Shimei didn't want to admit the truth. Saul had been badly injured in battle and chose to commit suicide rather than let the enemy capture him. 

I have found that the facts make little difference when people want to criticize you. Rumors and outright lies will suffice. Circumstances are easily ignored.

Shimei calls David a worthless person. This is a condemnation. Calling someone worthless is an eternal judgement. It means that the person can't change. Saying that you did worthless things or that you acted in a worthless manner is not a statement about the individual. It is merely a judgement of the actions rather than the person.

Condemnation hurts. It takes on the depth of eternity. The one condemned is fated to remain condemned. Condemnation is intent on hurting. 

Shimei says that David is getting what he deserved. This usually comes from someone who doesn't think he has gotten what he deserved. The one who criticizes thinks he was entitled to something better than he has received. He is grateful when others get what they have coming to them. 

Too often, the ones who castigate others do so at a safe distance. Shimei walks along the ridge of a hill. He stays close enough to yell condemnations,  throw rocks and kick up dust but far enough away that David's attendants will have to chase him before cutting off his head. I personally have seen many people hide behind others to hurl their gossip and libel. They stay far enough away to protect themselves and stir up others enough to do the dirty work. They loves staying in the shadows.

David looks at this providentially. He sees that his life can't get much worse. His own son seeks his life. This, in comparison, is a minor inconvenience. David knows that he hasn't caused the wrong that is being done to him. He believes that God has instigated this cursing. He believes God will therefore take the bad that is done and will bring it about for good. This sounds a lot like Romans 8:28.

So, David sees God leading Shimei to curse David. Ultimately, everything either comes from God's commission or His permission. He is either causing or allowing things to happen. Thus, it must all figure into God's great plan. Maybe I don't deserve the criticism I receive. Yet, God will make the thing that can hurt me deeply into something that will bless me.

Still, I don't think I will like criticism when I receive it. 

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

What Part of "Make Disciples" Is Confusing?

I applaud new churches. They are "reaching" people who do not know the gospel more effectively than established churches. Unchurched people are more likely to come to a church that doesn't smell like the churches they have been warned about who judge them.

But many of these churches are like surrogate mothers who are no more than the vessels for the birth. They don't leave their newborns on the doorsteps of those who will care for them. They simply reach out to have more children. They don't realize the damage they are doing because they are doing such a good job in reaching new people. Their doors are open and their seats are filled. They can't see those who are starving for growth.

Maybe they are afraid to spend the time teaching these new "disciples" the word. Wouldn't they have to slow down their numerical growth to take care of their converts spiritual growth? I'll admit I would rather preach to a full room. I would love to see people come to know Christ every week. I might have a whole different attitude if I was good at winning people to Christ. Don't get me wrong. I have baptized several hundred people. I see people come to know Christ but I have never had the success of those I see around me. They see their converts come like water out of a fire hydrant. I see converts come like out of one of those watering cans that are used on your house plants.

But here is my confusion: Didn't Jesus tell us to make disciples? I don't see anywhere that He told us that conversion was enough. Shouldn't the people who come to our churches be mature enough to tell others the reason for the hope that is within them? Shouldn't they know His words? Shouldn't their lives be changed by His word?

Maybe that's why Christians are being converted to the thinking of the world. They adopt the culture around them because the culture of the church has no depth. They don't know what one who believes in Jesus needs to believe to live like he believes. They don't know the dangers of adopting the world's values. They don't know how it affects their families or their testimony. They don't know what makes a Christian distinct from the world.

It is so easy for some to hi-jack the church when those who make up the church don't know what is wrong or right. Heresy enters the church because their are no gatekeepers to warn those inside. Each heretic claims he has revelation beyond that of others. His followers are the elite. He tells them that they are full when they are really empty.

Another problem may be the reluctance of believers to dig deeper into the word. Some preachers may realize that a deeper understanding of the word isn't popular to worldly people. Thus, it is better to appeal to their base desires: to be healthy, rich and famous. People certainly gather around those themes.

But as for me, I can't do this even if it means smaller groups gathering in the church I pastor. I can't call it success if I don't see spiritual growth no matter how many people are sitting in the seats. I believe it is irresponsible to win people to Christ and leave them in the baptism waters to find their own way. I believe they must hear the word and abide in it.

Otherwise, I don't know how they will ever know the truth.

John 8:31-32 (ESV)
31  So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, 32  and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

Thursday, February 19, 2015

The General Theory of Will-itivity

God has a general will that falls upon each of us. God wants everyone to come to repentance.

2 Peter 3:9 (ESV)
9  The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.

Ezekiel 18:23 (ESV)
23  Have I any pleasure in the death of the wicked, declares the Lord GOD, and not rather that he should turn from his way and live?

God desires all people to  walk with Him.

Micah 6:8 (ESV)
8  He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?

God also has a specific will.

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

He calls us just as He did Abraham, Moses, Gideon, Simon Peter and Paul. Each of us has a specific will.

Ephesians 2:10 (ESV)
10  For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

God does not force us to do anything within His will. He has given us a free will and allows us to do things we never should have done. He allowed Adam and Eve to eat the forbidden fruit, Cain to kill Abel, David to be with Bathsheba and Peter to deny His Son. He has allowed me to do some pretty evil things as well. Should I expect that I will never be in His will again since I have sinned?

So we don't follow Him and miss His general will and His specific will for our lives.

Years ago I worked for a man who felt he had been called into the formal ministry. He even made a public commitment to that calling twice but he never went. I met this man when he was sixty-four years of age. Does this mean that he would never know God's will ever again in his life?

I know people think they can do what God wants at any time and come right back into His will. That isn't what happened with Israel after they had refused to take the Promised Land. They thought they could simply do God's will on their own time table. They were utterly wrong. God did not bless their commitment after the commitment time had passed. They were trying to do His will from the past rather than His will that was right in front of them.

God's will is always right in front of us. It appears to us that His will is changing because we have changed it but nothing can be farther from the truth. God, in His omniscience, knew exactly what we would do. He offers us His will even when He knows we will reject it. He takes those moments of disobedience prepares the path of obedience. He did all this before time began. Thus, He hears our present prayers before the beginning of time and answers them before they have been prayed by us. We still have to pray them or He couldn't have heard them before time began because we will never have prayed them. (All this starts me thinking I believe in Stephen Hawking's circular time!)

This all makes sense if we could understand things like God. We simply have a hard time realizing that the writer of the story knows the story before the story is written. The characters in our stories decide at the moment but all they will do has been known from the beginning. It is not fate because each moment is completely free.

Paul wrote:

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

All things are determined by the past. Working for good applies to the present. We never receive anything that resembles a consolation prize from God. He always gives us what is best for us. It is best for us right now. God's will is for us to obey Him right now. The moment to obey Him passes with each moment we delay. We can't simply go back to what we once knew as His specific will and act on it.

God's general will never changes. His specific will for each of us appears to change because we may know what it is and not obey Him. Instead of making us go back to what we should have done, He often gives us a new opportunity that isn't the same as the one we disobeyed. We receive His will and walk in it with Him as that which does us good and has a hope and future. Thus no one ever receives God's consolation prize when he obeys God's will.

God's will is always in front of us. The question is whether or not we will walk in it.