Thursday, May 29, 2008

"Why Are We Here?"

Over the years people have asked me the question: "Why are we here?" I have heard sermons, discussions in Bible studies about this very topic. Some are shallow, some are thought provoking. Then I hear people come up with the thought that God has a purpose/plan for all of us. I am still thinking about that one because He has already explained what His will is for each of us and wants us to understand His will (Eph. 5:17/Col. 4:12/I Thes. 4:3/I Thes. 5:18/I Pet. 2:15). It seems to me if He wants us to understand His will, He would not leave us out there wandering to find His purpose or plan! I do not have a handle on it all and I know I never will, but it seems when we talk about God having a purpose/plan for each of us, people seem endlessly wandering about, looking for His purpose/plan for them with no sense of direction. Some never seem to arrive at anything their whole life! I am not trying to be difficult or condemning. I just want us to think about the statement that God "has a purpose/plan for each of us" and I am not real certain that is God's intention. The will of God, understanding the will of God gives us all direction, purpose and a settling down. He wants us to know His will and reveals it for us. That's why I listed some of the verses above.

Some time back I heard one say that God must be a little vain to want us here to worship and adore Him. The idea that He created us solely for the purpose that we would worship Him really narrows Him. God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit have a holy eternal love and joy filled relationship. It was out of that eternal love and joy that God created us that we might share in the life He possesses. Our purpose and plan that God has for us is to be in this life, loving and joyous relationship He possesses! Read carefully Phil. 2:5-8. There we are given some insight into the very nature of God. Is He worthy of worship? Absolutely! But part of the reason we adore Him, admire Him is not that He is self absorbed as some want to claim but He is bent on giving us His life to the fullest by the sharing of His Son so we can share in His life.

Why are we here? We are here because He loves us and He loves us because of the very nature of His being will not allow anything less! We are created in His image. That should ring in our ears!!! That means in us God wanted us to reflect His character, His activity, His purpose by calling us to be holy, righteous and thankful. He gave us Jesus so we could share in His love and life of holiness!

We are created by God, in His image and we are here because He is life and wanted us, His creation, to share in who and what He stands for. Once we get a glimpse of that, His will becomes our desire. His love overwhelms us and we honor and worship Him for His greatness to allow us to share in His eternal love. Take some time and reflect on this. My mind cannot convey what I am really thinking. Why, I am not sure what I think right now! I am not sure what I am trying to get across. We have the purpose of God for each of us: reflect His character! We have God's plan for each of us: enjoy His life and love while bringing others into that relationship. I know this, God desires us to enjoy His fellowship and relationship! That gives us the real reason to why we are here.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

"Strange and Bizarre"

Over the years, I have witnessed some of the strangest and most bizarre things in the church, at funerals and such like things. Some are hard to believe how people responded and what they did. I know you have had many things in your lives. What I would like to do is from time to time, I will share a "strange and bizarre" moment and if you do not mind, please share one of your with me (and others who read). This could get very interesting...

I was 25 years old and it was the very first funeral I ever did. It will always stick with me. I was preaching in Beardstown, Illinois and one of the members of the body there had a nephew that was stabbed in the heart during a fight. A horrible situation but the member of the body approached me and asked me if I would do the funeral as a service to her. I agreed, like a young knucklehead would do. My mind filled with all the opportunities I would get to speak to so many on behalf of the Lord. They were expecting a large crowd. He was 21 years old and had a nine month old daughter. He and his wife had been married two years. I was so excited...and naive!
The funeral started with some loud old country bar drinking song! I thought, "I didn't know they were going to play this!" After the song, I got up to speak. I had not gotten out a few words and suddenly, a wailing like I had never heard, shook me to my socks. His wife just blurted out crying. That sent the crowd into hysteria! For a few moments it was completely chaotic and I was unable to speak. I had to let the crowd settle down. Finally, family members helped the wife and others gain control. I spoke again and the words flew out of her mouth, "I can't believe he's gone! He will never see his little girl again!" The loud crying hit again. I was completely lost and confused!! The worst was yet to come. After long pauses due to the outbursts of crying and wailing, I finally and thankfully reached the end. People began to leave and the room emptied, passing by the coffin for a final view, leaving the family for their final last moments. I stepped outside with the crowd to wait. I waited, waited and then from behind a door a hand reached out and grabbed me by the shoulder. It was the funeral director. He pulled me in and said, "We need your help! Get in here!" I looked up and you wouldn't believe it. The wife of this young man had climbed up into the coffin, having wrapped her arms around his neck, sitting on him, kissing him and wouldn't let him go. I was in shock. The director said, "We have never had anything like this and she won't listen to us. You have got to talk her down!" Me? A 25 year old greenhorn who never had done a funeral? The one who was in shock over what happened during the service? They were asking me to talk her down? I was still in my preaching diapers!!! I walked over talking to her. She wailed holding on to her husbands corpse with all her being, lifting him up toward her. I reached out and touched her shoulder while continuing to talk. She wailed louder. I patted her arm and asked her to look at me. She finally did. As I continued to speak, (I can't remember one word I said because I thought I was in a dream world), she finally let go of him, took my hand and climbed down. She really messed up the body of her husband, that was for sure. Let me say, I grew up a lot that day!
What about your "strange and bizarre" experiences? I am waiting to hear...

Monday, May 26, 2008

"Bounce Protection"

Sometimes banks have a customer service called "bounce protection." I am not sure I really like it. It is nothing more than when you write a check without enough money in the bank, instead of returning the check as 'insufficient funds', they cover it and charge you a whopping fee! I know mistakes can be made and it can be a valuable help for those few times one is overdrawn, but the danger is one can become comfortable and use it consistently to be overdrawn. There needs to be a lifestyle change in order to not abuse this service. You end up paying more in fees than what the resending of a check may cost.

There are more than one way to be "overdrawn". Couples make too many emotional demands on another's emotional bank without making deposits. The wife tells the husband to "trust me" while breaking that trust over and over and over again. She consistently writes emotional checks, looking for "bounce protection", while making very few emotional deposits. The husband consistently writes "hot checks" while emotionally hurting his wife, only to say "I'm sorry! It won't happen again" without ever making a deposit of security into her heart. In both cases, the giving runs out and the "bounce protection" comes to a halt because the limit has been reached. Neither gives the other a reason to believe that they truly want the account built up by making more deposits than they take out because they do so little to change their heart and lifestyles.

This not only happens between spouses but you see it between parents and children, friends and in the church. It seems there are those that bend people over and over until they break and then they complain when the one shattered too many times isn't acting like they still have an open account!

Isn't it rather unique that the very ones who call out for 'unconditional love' of another usually has no clue because they are not in an every day stream of abuse in some form or another. I know our Lord laid down His life for us unconditionally, but He does not allow hard hearted, unrepentant people a free ride in His love! There are conditions on the relationship with Him. When there is repentance, a real sorrow for offending or hurting, there must be a deposit made with that sorrow. Just read Luke 11:23-26 and make the application! Too many are sorry, according to the world that they have been caught or their hand called with no intention of changing their attitudes and lives. They continually call on the other for "bounce protection" when they go beyond the limit. Godly sorrow produces real results that leads to salvation. (II Cor. 7:9-10)

What about you? How serious are you about your walk with the Lord. It will be reflected in your dealing with those around you. And get on your knees and thank the Lord for those who have to deal with your continually 'overdrawn' without making deposits that they continue their "bounce protection" to help you along. Let's learn to deal rightly with one another and help each other make it to heaven!

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Can I Ride A Buffalo?

She snuggled up under my arm. With her big blue eyes, looking up at me she said, "Grandpa, can I ride a buffalo?" I looked at her and said, "Oh dear, I am not sure anyone can ride a buffalo. They are big and aren't meant to ride." She paused and said, "But grandpa, you're going to ride a buffalo!" It stuck me what she was saying. I had announced that I was flying to Buffalo, New York for a meeting. That is where I am presently. I am returning home tonight. It has been a great meeting, a gift from God.

I looked at my granddaughter, chuckling at her and said, "No dear, I am not riding a buffalo, I am flying to Buffalo!" I saw the 'thinking' look come over her face. She replied, "Grandpa, that's silly. Buffalo's can't fly!" End of discussion. She had her innocent simple way of breaking things down. Oh the things a child can come up with. Maybe next time, I'll ride a buffalo. At least she could understand that concept! May God bless.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

We're Standing On Holy Ground!

We need to get a better understanding of our heavenly Father and His ways. We are too familiar with our ways and wants and push them instead of submitting to God. It can easily happen. Rather than a denial of self, we promote our own desires and thinking. The result is seen in our approach to our God in our worship of Him.

When Moses encountered God at the burning bush (Ex. 3). The voice of God called, "Remove your sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground." Holy ground is in the presence of God. The idea of holy literally means not to treat as common. The wilderness area was full of sand, bushes and rocks yet this one area, the area where the presence of God appeared, was holy. It was different than all the common ground around and God wanted some reverence and respect shown for His presence so He instructed Moses to remove his sandals. Moses was not standing in the presence of common man on common ground. What did Moses do? He hid his face and was afraid to look at God (Ex. 3:6)! It sent a respect and reverence (fear) because of the presence of God.

When that high priest entered the Holy of Holies, the very presence of the Lord, there was reverence and respect shown. The room was not common like other parts of the tabernacle and only the high priest was allowed into the very presence of God, once a year. The high priest was standing on holy ground and he showed great reverence for God, not a lot of commotion.

The prophet Habakkuk spoke out clearly for the Lord God, stating that "the Lord is in His holy temple. Let all the earth keep silent before Him." (Hab. 2:20) God's people began treating Him as common and God was going to punish them by sending the Chaldean's to hurt them. They lost His holiness for their lives!

There are so many examples used to show us the holiness of God. Reverence is what seems to be lost in the church today. The church is tied to God/Christ and that makes us holy. We aren't common like some public gathering or event but we are the holy temple of God (I Cor. 3:17). Worship must be a worship that is not treating God as common but recognizing His greatness, His power and holiness. True worship is God centered and when we take our eyes off of God and center it on us, the holiness of God is lost. The danger is we take the worship as Christ's body and treat Him as common, like some type of production or human event. Worship for many is becoming a place of entertainment and emotional charges. People want to "experience God" so they try to make their worship a place of emotional release, not understanding that taints the holiness of God. When worship becomes man-centered, man-motivated and man-manipulated it is no longer God centered, much less holy. I am not trying to bash anyone. I want us to grasp who our God is and our approach in our worship reveals our reverence or lack thereof. Our worship reveals our understanding and knowledge of God. When our worship is evaluated by what happens in our emotions or uplifting experience, it is geared to man and we become the center. Worship becomes common while using the holy name of our God to promote our ways and desires. Once our worship heads toward common ground, common man, it is extremely difficult to get people to turn back to the holiness of God because of what they "feel" in their worship.

Real, genuine worship takes place in the heart of the worshiper, not orchestrated by man or man's instruments. Too many are confusing religious entertainment with God centered worship because they do not realize or understand the holiness of God. True worship in the heart can affect your emotions but worship that is designed to stimulate the emotions is an entertainment or moving experience we would see at some function in the common world. "Therefore, since we received a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us show gratitude, by which we may offer to God an acceptable service with reverence and awe; for our God is a consuming fire." (Heb. 12:28-29)

We are the people of God! We are holy because of God! God does not treat us as the common world but as His holy, sanctified, redeemed people. We need to realize who we are and who we belong to. Our lives should reflect holy behavior (I Pet. 1:15-16). Our worship should not be treated as a form of entertainment but a recognition of the holiness of God. Too much of our worship reflects the entertainment saturated society we live in. It cost Israel to go into captivity over and over because they took on the attitude of the lost world around them, following their practices and lost the holiness of God. We too, in the church, are following the worlds practices gearing our worship to world appeal/people appeal rather than God appeal. We might ought to wake up and realize, We're standing on holy ground!

Tuesday, May 20, 2008


They were sitting watching a tv program. A knock at the door. The wife gets up, answers the door and speaks for several minutes with someone. She comes back and sits quietly back down. The husband asks, "Who was it?" She responds, "A Christian!" He asks, "What did he want?" She replies, "He wanted to know if I was saved." The husband speaks, "Did you tell him you went to church regularly?" "He didn't ask me that! He asked me if I was saved." The husband looks over, "Did you tell him you are involved in our church and community programs around here?" "He didn't ask me that! He asked me if I was saved." The husband responds again, "I know you said that but did you tell him you were a school teacher, sang in the choir and visited the shut ins?" Frustrated she looks at her husband, "Are you listening to me? He didn't ask me any of those things! He asked me if I was saved....and I am not!"

It seems everyone wants to save us from something. Teachers want to save us from ignorance, doctors want to save us from diseases and sickness, financial advisers want to save us from poor financial decisions and manage our money and health instructors want to save us from being unhealthy. These things are important, no doubt, but these things cannot touch the deepest need each and everyone has within their being. Only Christ can do that.

Jesus came to this earth to bring life, the life of God into human lives. He taught the body is more than putting clothes on and life is more than eating and our possessions. Keeping house, working and enjoying pleasures of this earth are good, but that is not what we are created for. We have families and friends the Lord has given us, but the Lord does not want us to make that a substitute for our real need. He created us for more than all of these things.

The one solitary thing in our lives we need freedom from to enjoy the blessings of all the above is freedom from our sins! Only Christ can save you from your sins. The list of things we have done wrong down through the years. The things that bring shame when you recall them. The "little" wrongs that cross your mind in certain situations that show your guilt. The pain staking sinful acts that shamed you, your mate, your family or your friends hit hard at certain times.

Let Him save you from all these! Let Him save you from your lack of purpose and emptiness that sometimes hits you. Let Him save you from the mental distress caused by guilt and shame. Let Him save you from poor self esteem because you know how evil you are capable of being. Jesus Christ wants us saved!!! Think about the very word "SAVED" and what that means. Jesus Christ our Lord does not want us to settle for just things on this earth, even though He created it for us to enjoy. He wants to enrich our lives, to live on this earth a brief time grasping the depths of His love. He gives us Himself to make a difference. Have you been to Jesus for the cleansing power? Bask in His salvation! Why were you baptized into Christ? For the lack of salvation? To be miserable? Is that what Jesus wanted? We must humbly, willingly submit to His will and receive His salvation (it takes faith). Your union was with Him! Enjoy your salvation! Exclaim because of Him your sins have been wiped clean and that results in one thing: SAVED! Go ahead, don't be afraid to believe it. SAVED! Don't think little of it. SAVED! Let it wash over you like a warm soaking bath. SAVED! Your life is complete in Christ Jesus (Col. 2:9-10) and He guarantees it! Sing it! Believe it! Love it! Say it! SAVED!!!

Monday, May 19, 2008

"Wish You Didn't Have To Leave!"

We have been there. That visit with dear friends or family and you hear the words, "I wish you didn't have to leave!" I can recall certain times when those words were not just words, but spoken in sincerity and my heart wanted to stay. (Resa tells me that when I go away on my trips and I do not like leaving her!) I felt the pain of leaving. You probably can recall some of those instances too. The words warm the heart!

Could you ever imagine how you would feel if you had visited with Jesus Christ while on earth and when you were about to leave His presence, He said, "I wish you didn't have to leave!" I am not sure what I would do, do you?

"Do not let your hearts be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father's house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for i go to prepare a place for you. If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also." (John 14:1-3) I have heard every one's input about what these words mean and some have even tried to 'spin' them but let me say this and reach for a little nugget from the words of Jesus to His own disciples. Let's combine the words of Jesus with the text of I Thes. 4:17, "...and so we shall always be with the Lord." Read the words from the lips of Jesus carefully. Listen to the assurance and astonishing promise. Can you hear Him? Did you receive what He was saying? Jesus wants His disciples around and was going to make the necessary arrangements for them. Combined with I Thes. 4:17, He wants to have us around....FOREVER!

I know sometimes people probably wish we would leave! People, for whatever reason, just wish you would go away and leave them alone. We look at our flaws, looking back at our history and we remember we have hurt people so deeply that they wish we were gone....FOREVER! Sometimes people dislike us for no reason and other times we have brought on our own disliking because of our actions. In view of our failures and deep hurts we have caused our Lord, isn't it rather stunning that He wants us to be around....FOREVER?

What do we learn? Christ's love for us is a redeeming and transforming love. It is a love beyond our thinking that He has no plans to send us away, to disown us when we walk in our stupidity and sinfulness. He will discipline us when we need it (Heb. 12) but He knows we can bear it as it is for our good. (I'm not speaking to the hard-hearted and unrepentant!) However He deals with each of us, it is always with one thought in mind, "I don't want to you to go away! I want to have you around....FOREVER!"

Listen to His voice. He wants us to stay! Never doubt your Lord and Savior. We might become arrogant and our actions are not lovely. We throw our filth out not caring who it bothers or hurts. Why we might become so hard and brazen that we don't care if we end up in hell! (That was hard to write!!) But it is true in our ungodliness. And all the while we walk disdainfully against our Lord, He gently, humbly and sincerely speaks...."I wish you didn't have to leave!"
That should soften the heart.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Sunday Is Approaching...

In a few days, Sunday, the first day of the week when the disciples came together to break the bread, will be here. There will be one of two reasons you will assemble with the saints: (1) just going through a non-productive routine because it is Sunday or (2) it will make a huge difference in your life!

Some approach their worship of God with no real expectations. They show up, slouching, expecting little as they go through a ritual the same way they have done for many years. They offer nothing and gain nothing. They can sleep a little or maybe just plain bored. It is simply, "going to church" for them. No reaching out, no embracing the realities of the Almighty. Maybe some take 'potshots' at a missed note, a missed word and "please, get this lesson over with so we can go eat" attitude. A non-productive routine that God must watch with disgust. They leave quickly and as empty as they came.

Some approach their worship of God to make a huge difference in their life! They want to express gratitude, awake, alert as they are aware of the very presence of the Almighty! They don't just pop a cracker in their mouth and sip some juice. It means life to them and they express it. The covenant comes into focus. The fruit of their lips offer a sacrifice of praise. The prayers have deep meaning and the message from God is accepted with gratitude to effect a change in their heart to be more like Christ. (Even if the message lacks, they still are looking to gain.) The assembly motivates, sharpens and helps them focus on the realities of eternity to prepare them to face another week. Some in their worship are facing difficulties, others may have the sorrow of the loss of a loved one but in all this, the assembly of worship makes a huge difference within them. They leave full, joyous and thankful.

Sunday is approaching! You will have one of these two attitudes and they will determine everything about who you are and where you walk. Take a serious moment, examine yourself and ask, "why do I do what I do each Sunday?" It might scare you that you offer little and you need to take a serious look at your relationship with the Lord but I pray it will thrill you. It should for we belong to God and He is not ashamed to call us His people!

Thursday, May 15, 2008

God Is Not Ashamed...

We sure need to know God much better. So many know Bible verses, can quote Scriptures right and left, memorized the books of the Bible and read through the Bible in a year. That does not translate into knowing God. God wants us to know and have an wonderful, intimate relationship with Him. Eternal life is knowing God and His Son (John 17:3), not knowing about Him! There is a difference.

In speaking of those who died in faith in Heb. 11, we read, "Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God." (Heb. 11:16) Is that really true? Can it really be? In speaking of Jesus and those that are tied to Him, the words are spoken, "for which reason He is not ashamed to call them brethren." (Heb. 2:11) Can we hear the tones? They aren't timid tones or defensive gulps. The words spoken from God/Christ on our behalf are not half-hearted. Do you think God/Christ are saying, "Well...I guess, despite all their messy situations they create, the sin they so easily walk into, well...despite all those things I guess they can call me their God, those pathetic bunch of losers!" We live like our heavenly Father and our Savior responds that way! He is not ashamed!!! The words come ringing from heaven itself: "THEY ARE MY PEOPLE AND I AM NOT ASHAMED OF THEM!"

God and Christ are proud of those of us in Him, not because we are strong and powerful. Not because we can quote a verse for every situation. God is not ashamed to be called "their"/our God not because we have a string of moral successes and moral victories. Our Lord calls us brethren not because we lived on the path of righteousness all our lives! (Some believe their own righteous behavior merits their standing before God!) The Hebrew writer tells us, look back at the ancients and ask what made them worthy and proud in the eyes of God? What made sinful people where Jesus said He was not ashamed? It had nothing to do with their purity (just think of David and Samson). It was much deeper than moral successes. It was because they trusted in God and not themselves!! They trusted God to overcome enemies, to embrace death to gain life and to overcome unrighteousness in their own lives. "For whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world - our faith." (I John 5:4)

People overcome failures, deep hurts and challenges of life because they believe and trust God! They believe God, taking Him at His word, that they overcome sin and evil practices in their lives. They trust in God when their marriages are testing to the soul, only to follow Him. They believe in God when jobs are lost and their trust keeps them from lazing around but seek with eyes fixed on Him.
We have done (and will do) things that we are ashamed of. Doesn't God know that? DOESN'T GOD KNOW THAT? If He knows that and our Savior knows that, and you still hear the words: "He is not ashamed..." shouldn't that penetrate our hearts? Just take a few moments and go look in a mirror and come back. I'll wait.............................What did you see? Someone who failed or is a failure? Did you see things that disgust you about yourself (not in your body as that is superficial but looking past that), knowing there is so little righteous about you? But in all of this you reach out daily, trusting, holding as tight as you can to the cross and your Savior realizing there is that proud, confident voice that rings out in all our weakness: "Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God! He is not ashamed to call them brethren!" What are you going to do with that? Why are we afraid to believe God is really not ashamed of us unless we are unrepentant and untrusting of His mercy and grace? Maybe we are ashamed of Him?

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

A House From God...

When John Quincy Adams was eighty years old, he often took walks, slowly of course. One day his walk was interrupted by a neighbor who inquired, "How is my good friend John Quincy Adams?" The aged Adams looked his friend in the eye and said slowly, "John Quincy Adams himself is very well indeed, thank you. But the house in which John Quincy Adams is living is sadly dilapidated. The walls are beginning to tremble and every time the wind blows, this house trembles on its foundation. The roof is badly worn too! I think John Quincy Adams will be moving out in a while, but John Quincy Adams himself is quite well, thank you."

The most important part of our being is our souls. We need to take care of the soul. Too much emphasis is put on the physical body and it seems little emphasis is placed on the soul. The wonderful part of our soul is it can grow, strengthen and flourish with the passing of time. Time takes its toll on the body, diminishing it, weakening it and will return it to dust. The soul is eternal and untouched by the passing of time. Why do so many do little for the soul and so much done for the part that is dying? It is because we do not see ourselves through the eyes of God. We lavish our bodies with some of the finest foods, clothing that is top of the line, recreation and pleasures in abundance. The soul is left starving, naked and exercised little. The body is painted, worked over and pampered while the soul is neglected. Just take a few moments and reflect at what you go after in your life and what takes up the time of your children. It takes honesty but it can be eye opening.

Paul saw our earthly tent is going to be torn down but he knew that we have a house from God that is eternal (II Cor. 5:1). He groaned in this earthly house, longing to be clothed with the dwelling from God (II Cor. 5:2). One thing was certain, he did not want to be found naked in the presence of God (II Cor. 5:3-4)! Day by day he was renewing that inner man, the soul (II Cor. 4:16). The conclusion of this reality? "Therefore, we also have as our ambition, whether at home or absent, to be pleasing to Him." (II Cor. 5:7-9)

What about us? What is your ambition? Whatever you put emphasis on is what your ambition is. As time passes for us in Christ, our souls should become stronger, healthier and more vibrant. Each day passes, our bodies are fading. We are leaving this world with one thing and one thing only: our soul! We should be striving to feed our souls, to make wise choices in the things we do that will strengthen and keep the soul from deteriorating and in the end, we will have a house from God and not found naked and ashamed.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Read the Proverbs...

Wisdom is seen in our behavior. When people only think of how things are affecting them or they are jealous of another, that is a self centered, self consumed person and they reveal their lack of wisdom (Jam. 3:13-16). There are bunches of money making schemes, books on self-esteem and medical 'pills' to control your life. Surgery to look young, loose weight or become more inhanced is taking our young people (and parents) by storm. Society instructs us that our lives will be better with all of the above, but we seem to be getting worse and worse. Why? Everything is focused on our self-image, self-centeredness and self-pleasures!

When was the last time you heard a parent speak of wisdom, training their children in wisdom to be wise? If you want to be a wonderful parent, it comes from the wisdom of God! Our parents need wisdom! Our children need wisdom and not the wisdom of the world. We need wisdom from God (Jam. 3:17-18). God instructs us from His word how to gain His wisdom, yet it is so ignored by many, especially many in Christ Jesus!

Paul instructed the Colossian congregation to conduct themselves with wisdom toward outsiders (Col. 4:5). How is your conduct toward outsiders? Wise or like the world? Paul prayed for the brethren at Ephesus to be given a spirit of wisdom to gain understanding from God (Eph. 1:17). How is your understanding and wisdom in daily life? Are you getting it from God or another source? Paul warned the Corinthians about fleshly wisdom from the world (II Cor. 1:12). Can people tell the difference in your behavior and the behavior of the world?

How you act reveals your source of wisdom. Wisdom from God affects your behavior and thinking. Wisdom from God gives one a clear direction in difficult situations. Marriages struggle and fail because of the lack of wisdom. Children are being raised to be self centered and follow selfish desires because parents lack wisdom. They give their children everything and allow their children to make the decisions in the home. (The child will throw a tantrum if they don't get their way. It reveals the wisdom they are trained with.)

Take some time and read the book of Proverbs, a book of wisdom from God. There are 31 chapters. Read the chapter that corresponds with the calendar day. That is the easy way to keep up. You will be surprised how enriched your thinking will become if you will apply what you read. It is a book for the youth and the older (Prov. 1:1-6). It will help you as a parent, as a person and will train your children in ways of righteousness. Where does wisdom and knowledge of God begin? Fear of the Lord! (Prov. 1:7) No fear of the Lord, no respect for His greatness and power and you will gain no wisdom or insight!

I have seen the lack of wisdom destroy many a marriage, ruin a child and destroy a congregation. Wisdom seems to be lacking among our leaders and preachers. Read the Proverbs, apply the Proverbs and wisdom will start taking hold in your life. You won't regret it!

Monday, May 12, 2008

The Cross in the Heart...

Many times when people encounter difficulties, they question God. Questions like, "Why does God allow bad things to happen to good people?" or "How can there be a God when all this evil is going on?" There can be more variations. Let's think about this and take our minds back to the cross of calvary on our behalf. Our Lord in anguish and pain never cried out, "Where is God?" He saw the height of sin, felt the pain while suffering and cried out but never once did He question God. He never thrust God aside because things became so difficult. It never entered His mind to doubt God! He still called on His heavenly Father, "My God, My God, why have you forsaken Me?" (Mark 15:34)

What does this teach us? It is alright to cry when we hurt. There is nothing wrong with expressing our inner pain using our lips to God. You do not have to pretend! You can be honest and express your heart (Phil. 4:6-7). In the words of Jesus, He is our representative to God for us. He expressed the inner agony for all of us. But that is not all. In Jesus our Lord, God joined us in our pain! Wasn't it God through Christ Jesus that was reconciling us to Himself (Col. 1:20)? For us, Jesus lives to make intercession for us (Heb. 7:25) and God invested His whole being into His Son on our behalf.

Never question God! Never thrust God aside or think that God is not aware. We need to sit and take a hard look at the cross and draw some proper conclusions. The cross teaches us God isn't absent in suffering! God is revealed in the suffering cross!! We feel abandoned sometimes in our sufferings and trials but that is not true. God joined us in Jesus our Lord to show us He is there too! He knows the depths of pain and suffering that sin causes and so through the cross of His Son, He joined in our lives of suffering.

A mother was grieving over her son who had died. Who wouldn't? She felt a great loss and a pain in her heart like nonother. The words came out, "Where was God when my son died?" The reply? "The same place He was when His Son died!" He knows the depths much more than ourselves and knows what comfort is needed in times of pain (II Cor. 1:3-6).

The presence of pain and suffering do not mean the absence of God. Do not cast God aside in your worship and service to Him just because you hurt. That should draw you even closer because He too knows what you need at your hour of pain. For those in Christ, the cross of Jesus is in their heart! Our Lord and God suffered with us and in turn we will suffer with Him (Rom. 8:16-17). Maybe it is time to refocus and look at the cross and ask, "Is the cross really at the center of my heart?"

Thursday, May 8, 2008

To The Point...

Have you ever heard the old song "Gone Fishing"? Louie Armstrong and Bing Crosby sang it together. It was a theme song for me on several of my fishing trips! My kids think I am nuts but if you could ever find it, listen to it. It is a very simple but great song. It has a neat little tune. I guess that makes me a simple man! My family has been telling me that for years!!

Why I am saying all this? Because for the next two days I've "gone fishing!" I have not been able to get away in the spring of the year over the last two years to go fishing. My sons and I are headed out with the boat, camping out and fishing at Truman Lake. It is one of my favorite lakes in all of Missouri. I am really excited about it. Who knows, maybe I will start giving a fishing report! That would really be helpful, huh?

I pray God will grant you His wisdom and understanding. Learn to let the things of this life not to impact your soul and allow the eternal things to determine everything. Sin is deceitful. Sin will blind your mind and heart. Sin will lead you down a path to believing you are right with the Lord when you are really in darkness. God/Jesus will not fellowship anyone in sin! They will embrace those who flee from sin, who are repentant in heart but that takes an honest humble heart. Let the word stand for what it says and I believe that is really "to the point!"

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

You Can't Make A Horse Drink!

How many times have we heard the old saying, "You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink"? We have analyzed it and used it many times as examples. In my younger years, a friend of mine had several horses. We would go out together and he would lead those horses to the watering tank. What I noticed was some drank, some didn't. It took me a few years because maybe I am a little s-l-o-w but I realized you don't have to make a thirsty horse drink! If you lead them to the water, if they are thirsty, they will do the rest on their own. The difference between those that drink and those that don't drink is within the horse, not the water availability! A tank of water that holds 500 gallons of fresh, clean water (they had a windmill that pumped fresh water in daily) but it holds no appeal at all to a horse that is not thirsty.

Okay, I hope you see where I am going with this. The same is with people, especially those in the church. You can preach/teach and have all the available water but if there is no desire within the ones listening to God's word, it will hold no appeal. Jesus, in John 4, met the Samaritan woman at a well. He offers her living water to drink and that water will become a well, springing up to eternal life (v.13-14). The only question that had to be answered was within her being. Did she thirst? Jesus never chased people down when they did not respond. He let them go!

Looking back in my preaching life, I have tried many times to make people drink that were mediocre, lukewarm and just did not have a real interest. People like that are not thirsty. No amount of encouragement will change their desire. That desire must come from within them. I have been guilty of trying to "guilt" people to drink, for which I have long repented of. That only made them more stubborn. I was actually aiding their spiritual decline and not even aware. You try to push fleshly, stubborn people with fleshly ways (and many times brethren use fleshly ways to push) and they only become more fleshly and stubborn. I have wised up. Some in the body of Christ think that if we just keep reaching out, try to involve people more, invite them to gatherings to keep them in touch with members will change things. That's the fleshly way of doing it. There is no power in that. The desire must come from within each individual. Thirsty people will drink!
Jesus said, "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness sake, for they shall be filled." (Matt. 5:6) Jesus fills those who hunger and thirst. No hunger, no thirst, no help from the Lord. Just add it up! The Psalmist writes, "As the deer pants for the water brooks, so my soul pant for You, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God; when shall I come and appear before God?" (Psa. 42:1-2)

Today in the church, too many pant and thirst for the wrong things. What I have learned is simple and some have difficulty in accepting it: Let's stop trying to make the unthirsty people drink and reach out to those who pant and thirst for God. It keeps you from frustrations and keeps you out of trying to control things out of your control. Too many are trying to take on God's role to motivate people. "The Spirit and the bride say, 'come.' And let the one who hears say, 'come.' And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who wishes take the water of life without cost." (Rev. 22:17)

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Depressed or Guilty? (part 7)

This will be the last post in this series. Guilt is a terrible master. Freedom of guilt can only be obtained by coming into the presence of God and being honest (I John 1:9). There is another type of guilt that can lead one into depression and that is called "false guilt." False guilt is where you feel guilty when you are not. Many have a standard of belief not based on anything other than something they have been told. You break that standard, you will feel guilty, even though it might not be wrong. If you believe something to be wrong and break that standard, you will feel guilty, even if God's word says it is okay. People use "false guilt" to try to control others in situations.

You have known of those who say, "If you really loved me, you would..." That is a statement of control by the usage of "false guilt." One uses the power of guilt to get another to give in to their wants. Children learn to use it on parents to control their parents. Preachers (and elders) try to control congregations through "false guilt." They guilt the brethren into giving or serving. "If you loved the Lord, you would..." That's a horrible thing to do to people. It is completely against Scriptures. "Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus." (Rom. 8:1) To use condemnation on one in Christ who is under no condemnation is a hideous sin.

What is the solution for "false guilt"? You have to learn the holy Scriptures to see where you really stand with God. If you are standing fully assured on His promises and His word, their standard of judgment does not matter and you know it! This is why God's word teaches us to constantly be searching for the truth.

The young lady ran off with a young man. The family called the police and they brought her back and had the young man arrested. When the young lady came to the assembly (without one ounce of humility and repentance), everyone began patting her on the back and telling her they loved her and felt sorry for her. She walked into my office and I asked her when she was going to repent? Her heart and attitude was not right. She became hostile, indignant toward me and spoke how others loved her. (She could not recognize true love as I was trying to get her to turn to the Lord!) She left my office and immediately began accusing me with vicious words, trying to get me to back down. She was trying to put me under "false guilt"!

If one does not know God's word, they can easily fall under "false guilt". The word of God works on our inner being, our spiritual side. Too many are not serious about the word and they hold to little things they always believed in never searching to see if their standard of belief lined up with the word of God. If you are accused of wrong, search your heart and repent if it is true. If you are repentant and someone accuses you, do not allow their assessment of you to mean anything! They must take their charge to the Lord and He will speak for you (Rom. 8:31-34). I pray this study has helped some and if you see something that I have miscommunicated or have a question, please feel free to ask! Let's move deeper into God!!

Monday, May 5, 2008

Depressed or Guilty? (part 6)

For years I have heard people say (and they get it from the world's thinking) that one cannot find forgiveness until they forgive themselves! You have probably heard similar statements. We have no power to forgive ourselves! Forgiveness is not ours to offer. The Lord is the ONLY one who can forgive and we must embrace His forgiveness to find relief. If we have the power to forgive ourselves, then we do not need Jesus!!!

Guilt stays with a person on their spirit side and until one decides to be honest and come into the presence of the holy God and confess their guilt to Him, there will be no relief but Only a continuation of the pain, fear and deep hurt of our failure. What makes some people stay in a constant state of depression and anxiety is they refuse to come into the presence of God and they know it! Guilt takes place on our spirit side. If we will only reach out and realize our heavenly Father's wants and desire for us, we would find relief.

In II Sam. 11, David commits adultery with Bathsheba. He had the best laid plot (v.1-17). Here is the king of Israel, powerful and could command almost anything. Yet the cords of his own sins captured him within his conscience. There was adultery, scheming, lying, deception, murder and the sins continue to pile up. In chapter 12, the Lord responds after David was given time to come and repent, which he did not. David was hiding and Nathan revealed his sinfulness (v.1-15). Look closely at Psalms 51, David's plea to God. (v.1) David has realized his transgressions. He is aware of his guilt and only by coming into the presence of God would his problem be solved. He wants his sins "blotted" out because they are on record before God. Here is David, a king that had killed 10,000's of the enemy, defeated Goliath and his accomplishments meant nothing to God! He is making an open and honest appeal to God's great compassion and love. (v.2) He sees himself defiled. This is what sin does to a person. The longer one stays in their sins, not being honest, the conscience will start searing over. (v.3) Notice he knows what is in himself. He tried to cover up his sins but now, his sins will not let him forget and he cannot escape them. We are spiritual beings! (v.4) He is being honest in the presence of God. He knows whatever God says about our sinfulness, He is right and the verdict God pronounces will be just. (v.7) If God cleanses him, he will be clean, perfect and back in a genuine relationship with Him. David's cleansing can only come from God. He cannot forgive himself! (v.8) Notice what David has lost: JOY! Guilt/depression robs one of joy. (v.9) Turn Your face from my sins! (v.10) David knows he needs a clean heart and a steadfast spirit. Where has all this guilt/anxiety and depression taken place? On his spirit side! (v.11) Even back here, what was David aware he was close to losing? (v.12) He knows he needs help on his spirit side and coming into the presence of God will solve it.

Look at Psalms 32. Actually, Psalms 51 comes first and then Psalms 32 is next. In Psalms 32, David has been forgiven by God and he knows it! (v.1) Forgiveness brings great blessings to a person. God covers our sins through His Son. (v.2) How blessed is a person to know that God will not hold them accountable if you will be honest? (v.3) David was in depression!!! Notice how things were affecting his body as long as he tried to cover up his sin. Guilt/depression affect every aspect of your body and you cannot cover it up. (v.4) Notice what happened to his energy level: "vitality was drained". God was sending David a message. (v.5) Notice the difference between here and before he confessed his sins in the presence of God. Instead of fear, anxiety and depression, David flees to God and is honest which leads him into freedom and peace within. (v.6) Here is great, sound advice: One better get to God while they have an opportunity because the next flood that hits, you might not reach God at all!

If one does not face their guilt in the presence of God, you will have to create some other means to solve your problem, but you are still defiled and guilty within. As long as people run from their sins, they will run from God. They will not be honest. This is why psychologists cannot help. They work on the physical side and never take one to the spiritual side to really solve their problems. We need to know that we cannot solve guilt, anxiety and depression until we look outside ourselves, reaching to the only source of help. (His name is "Wonderful Counselor" - Isa. 9:6.) The longer one walks in their guilt, the heavier their burden becomes and things get more confusing. There is an answer and that answer lies with God. Let me do one more part which I will briefly deal with "false guilt." Read God's word!

Friday, May 2, 2008

Depressed or Guilty? (part 5)

Man is created in the image of God. We are spiritual beings. God has set standards and when one breaks a standard, guilt sets in and you cannot escape it. Guilt brings shame, regrets, fears, low self esteem and it works on the spirit side of a person. No one may ever know anything you have done, but one's guilt screams out within and creates painful results.

Rom. 2:14-15, we gain some insight about our conscience, which is on our spirit side. The context is comparing the Gentile to the Jew under the Law of Moses. (v.14) The Gentile is trying to keep the things of the Law even though they are not under the Law. What they have done is made the Law their standard to live by. They now have set up a standard of right and wrong within themselves. If one violates a standard they have set up (either Biblically or the way they were raised), something happens within them. (v.15) By writing the standard on their heart, notice what their conscience is doing: It is bringing up a charge against them called guilt! Within each man and woman, there is a tribunal within you called your conscience and your conscience will either accuse or defend you. Your thoughts will either become a defense lawyer or the prosecutor on yourself. When you know you have violated a standard, you cannot escape that and your conscience is telling you what you have done. Have you ever known someone (or maybe yourself) having done something wrong and try to justify why they did it? You are trying to lessen the pain! Guilt is the feeling of shame coupled with regret of having performed some disapproved act. It all takes place on our spiritual side. Sometimes when we have done something we think is horrible, it evokes within us a need for punishment and many will turn on themselves and begin to hate themselves. That's when depression will rear it's ugly head. Depression is hostility turned inward! That's why people become introverted!! We do wrong and know it, our conscience begins crying out within us, shame sets in and shock because we cannot believe we did such a thing and we feel we need to be punished in some way for our failure. That's where the self esteem issue comes in to play. They feel like a low life with little assurance of themselves. It leads some to wanting to destroy their life!

She was 68 years old. She was the wife of an elder. He had spoken with me about his wife that she has panic attacks in stores at certain times and she has been on medication for over twenty years for her depression. You would have never known it because she seemed to be such a lovely lady. He said she was doing well since they found the right dosage and all the new medications have been helpful. One day she shows up at my office. She looks shaky when she arrives. As she sits very meekly and hands folded, she tries to speak and begins to cry. Finally the words come out: "I don't know if my husband has told you anything about me. I have been in depression and have anxiety attacks from time to time over the last 20 years. I want to share something with you I have not told one single person, not my doctor, not even my husband. About 25 years ago, I had an affair. I could not believe I did what I did. I had 4 beautiful children, taught Bible classes and I am well respected in the church. I cannot tell you why I did it, but I did. I have never been able to speak to anyone about it. My husband, children and church family think I am wonderful but I am a horrible person, being tormented with this memory. I have thought of driving my car off some embankment and end my life. If I get off my medicine for a minute, I go into deep depression."

Guilt is a state of being. Her conscience had passed a judgment on her entire being! No matter what anyone else said or thought, she felt worthless! She felt the need to punish herself for what she had done. She had been hiding this fact for 25 years! For whatever reason, she was now ready to admit it and find relief.

What is the solution to our guilt? There is only one: Admitting your guilt in the presence of God! We are spiritual beings. God is spirit (John 4:24)! Guilt is on our spirit side and coming into the presence of God who is spirit, humbly and honestly, we will find real answers and solutions to free the conscience and heart! This is where so many miss it. This lady had lived with this guilt and depression for 25 years. When she got honest, admitted it before the Lord (not me), her problem was solved. Today she is completely off of her medications and has told me she is free! She saw her answers in Christ and by putting her faith in Him, He set her free (Heb. 9:14). Her husband to this day has no clue but he believes it was her medication that eventually evened out her "chemical imbalance"! I can never tell him the real reason. That must come from her. When people believe in something, you cannot dislodge them from that because their faith is in that. That is the reason so many get upset when you try to show them from God's word here is what is really happening. Too many accept the "professionals" of the world for answers. They believe in those professionals and you cannot change their mind. Let's keep looking at God's word to find more answers to guilt and depression. I will continue with an Old Testament example of this and we will see the guilt/depression clearly and the solution of admitting our sins in the presence of God.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Depressed or Guilty? (part 4)

Depression is a reaction to situations in one's life. The majority of time, it is caused by guilt! Guilt is powerful and once it enters your being, you cannot escape it. Guilt has a direct effect on your self esteem and your relationship with others. Guilt is defined as the feeling of shame coupled with regret that results in having performed some disapproved act. It burdens one's inner being.

In an article written by Dr. Joyce Brothers, she tells of a mother with two preschoolers, her husband had created a financial difficulty and she finds herself pregnant again. What did she do? She did not believe in abortion but she chose abortion as a quick solution because of the stress and strain on her marriage and life! Now she feels guilt and sorrow. Each time she looks into the eyes of her children, her heart and mind are flooded with thoughts of what she did. She eventually became very depressed and openly admits, "I am not a good person!" She even has thoughts of suicide. Dr. Brothers told her that two children families tend to have more security and are better cared for. She tells her that her situation is better because she can focus on them which results in better care. Dr. Brothers then says, "You have a right to a fresh start unburdened by guilt!"
By telling the lady she is going to be better off, her children will be better and you have a right to be unburdened by guilt did not solve her problem. Her problem is bigger than someone speaking some words and saying "You have a right..." This lady performed a disapproved act in her own conscience and she knows it. Guilt entered her being and she cannot escape it. If guilt is not properly dealt with (and we will get to that) it will always lead one into depression at some time or the other.

People with guilt often seek out others who have gone through a similar disapproved act or acts to help them deal with it (Rom. 1:32). Because someone else has failed in a similar fashion, they temporarily feel better (it is called support groups) but the next time something happens in their life, here comes the flood of those guilty feelings. The reason? We are spiritual beings (I Thes. 5:23) and guilt takes place on the spiritual side of us, not the body/physical side of us. That's why one cannot escape it. People in guilt try to stay busy or avoid any situations that might remind them of their past failure.

In Gen. 3, one can see this whole thing clearly. Let me take you through a few verses to help us. (v.1) We see the devil's number goal is to confuse one and get them to think about certain things. By asking the question, he has created two directions of thought rather than one clear direction. (v.2-3) The woman recounts God's promise. She knows there is a standard and the moment that standard is broken, death will result. (Death is a spiritual separation and happens with in a persons being.) (v.4) The devil assures her there is nothing to fret! The standard is too high and he is getting her to compromise that standard she knows within. (v.5) Let's just speak for God! He is really cheating you, holding you back. Many in our world today believe this very lie. They take advice from people who think they speak for God, while lowering His standard. (v.6-7) The immediate change takes place after they ate. They gained knowledge of evil. Before this, that knowledge was absent. Evil brought a conscious awareness within their being that they previously did not have. They covered their nakedness! Why? Who told them they were naked? SHAME! Guilt is the feeling of shame coupled with regret that results in having performed some disapproved act! Something within their being has brought a shameful awareness and they know without being told! One cannot escape their guilt once it enters their life. (v.8) Their guilt leads them to hiding from the presence of God. What has changed between them and God? God has not changed but they have. We are spiritual beings and guilt takes place on the spiritual side! They have fear and are tormented by God's presence. (There are certain people I know when they get trapped in the guilt of sin. They do not want to be around me or or anything God related!) One disapproved act brought pain and suffering to their inner being. God said, "The day you eat is the day you die!" We see two spiritual people in death recorded in Scripture and what brought about that death. We are all spiritual beings!

As long as guilt stays with us, it will effect every aspect of our lives because it is on our spiritual side. Guilt is major cause, not only of depression but one's self esteem. There is help and an answer for our guilt, but we must see the cause before we can accept the answer. More coming tomorrow!