Thursday, August 28, 2008

"What Is It All About, Really?"

When one reads Rom. 1:18-3:20, it becomes evident that all mankind is sinful at best. God had to deal with our sin and that took the death of His Son. You can't work your way out of your sins, attend services to trade off your sins or do enough visiting and giving to pay for your sins. All our sins were dealt with at the cross!
But let me share something else with you to think about. The cross is about more than just forgiving our sins. The cross is about finding life! The cross is not the end but the beginning of finding life with God. The cross is not the last thing we hear about our Lord! It reveals the wonderful, life-giving power of God extended to us through Jesus. God had a purpose in the death of Jesus. His purpose was not only the payment of our sinfulness but it was holy and joy filled heart reaching out offering what God possesses that we don't: life!
Through the crucified Christ, God makes us alive. Oh, there is forgiveness of sins but it goes beyond that. God, through Christ, reconciled us to Himself to share in His life. The defeat of sins enslavement and power by raising Jesus from the dead brought us life and the power of His life to overcome our own weaknesses and failures. The life extended to us is not for the future but for us here and now! We live in a sin-filled world, with death all around us. We encounter death each and every day. But in Christ Jesus and the power of the cross, we have been blessed with life. Was it not Jesus who said, "I came that they might have life and have it in abundance"?
All this "pumping up" people to be healthy and wealthy is false! All this "power of positive thinking" approach and trying to stir people to "feeling" something just distracts from God's life and purpose of the cross. It makes our lives shallow and empty. We become the focus. Just listen to our assemblies how we talk about us more than God! Many seem to try to move people into a false sense of reality and security. On the other extreme there are those who just preach/teach how we just plod along, hoping that the next turn isn't something devastating in our lives, hoping that one day we will be free from this earth pains, so just grin and bear it!
The cross says, "Paid in full." It continues to speak, "The cross is entrance to My life!" Believe in it. Trust in the life that was promised us and walk in the power of that life. Stop cheating ourselves by looking at us and our puny activities. Stop relying on yourself and get your focus off what you have to endure day by day. The cross speaks, "Get your mind/heart off of you and look to the life that is new to the glory of the Father."Isn't that what it is really all about?

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

"Holding God Hostage"

Sometimes we are not as aware in our relationship to God. We talk about how blessed we are, (and we are), how wonderful our family, (both physical and church), are doing and look at the things God is doing (and has done) in our lives. We sing praises to God, which is fitting for the saved. What can be wrong with all the above? It makes me wonder, I am thinking out loud for us to ponder something, do we love the sound of our voices and praise of our lives more than who is our God?
Listen to our Bible classes/studies. We judge the success of a class/study on how much participation was encountered! People speak openly and they go on and on about this or that. It seems they have to literally be cut off to continue. One brother opens up a point about his life. Another sister pours in her two cents worth and the blessings of God in her life. Then other illustrations are added from personal experiences and it goes on and on. After it is over we hear, "What a good study we had today!" Have we ever thought that maybe what God was trying to say to us was drowned out with all the voices of experiences?
Too many studies are are 'hijacked' by all this self-gazing! We gather to hear something from God and end up holding God hostage because we have too much to say! We take the gifts of blessings we receive from God and speak of them so much that we drown out the voice of God. I am not advocating we are not to be thankful and show thanks for His wonderful, bountiful blessings toward us, His children. We simply get caught up on all these blessed experiences and they get in the way to listening to what God wanted to speak with us about!! "Why today, we covered one verse!!"
Praising and being thankful to God is fitting for those in Christ! BUT SO IS LISTENING! We would gain so much more in our praises to the Lord if we would slow down all the talk about the wonderful things He has done for us and the things He has brought us through and simply listen to Him speak! Sometimes I can almost hear the voice of God say, "Okay, I know you can sing well and I hear your thankfulness for what I have done for you and you express that but let Me tell you some deeper things to enrich your lives!"
We seem to have lost our way in all this moral excellence and we miss being confronted with the Almighty God! We read about the woman caught in adultery (John 8) and we begin to uncover many moral principles that we talk about. We leave our study and never heard one word God speaks!!! Solomon was right on when he penned the words, "Guard your steps as you go to the house of God and draw near to listen rather than to offer the sacrifice of fools; for they do not know they are doing evil." (Eccl. 5:1)
I pray that the eyes of our heart may be enlightened so we can be filled with the knowldege of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding. (Paul penned those inspired words in Col. 1:9.) I pray the Lord would bring to us rich teachers and wise leaders who can keep us from wandering all over the place, keep us from self-gazing by offering us the voice of God with His enriching truth that will make our relationship more meaningful and precious. May we stop looking inward and fix our eyes on Him with an humble heart to listen. Too many brethren are holding God hostage in our studies and worship and they call it a good study! God forgive us!!!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

"Timely Words"

The wise man penned these words of wisdom from the Lord: "A man has joy in an apt answer, and how delightful is a timely word." (Prov. 15:23) Timely words can be a wonderful thing to ones ears. People are not careful about their words. When something is stirred in the heart, they often speak without a thought of what they say and how it will affect others. I know I have done that in the past and it creates a lot of pain in the heart of another.
I have sat with couples, trying to help them through difficult situations and just when it seems there is going to be a breakthrough, one of them says an 'untimely' word. It destroys everything that has been worked toward.
In the recent past, I was speaking with a husband that was struggling spiritually. It was while we were on our congregational retreat. (Just a side note to help make sense of the statement made by the wife. I had been telling people all week we were keeping up with an Olympic runner that was making his way across Kansas to Denver and then up to our retreat. Of course people knew something was up and they were right!) I was trying to encourage this husband in his walk and shared with him how much his wife cared for his soul. I shared with him, "You wife loves you a lot and especially she loves your soul." I didn't know deeply that affected him. The next day his wife came to me and had the following conversation: "Thank you for speaking to my husband. We were walking yesterday and he reached out and took my arm. He has never done that before. We stopped walking and he looked at me and said, 'Brent told me that you love me!' I just smiled and said, 'Brent also told us there was an Olympic runner coming up from Denver!' That probably wasn't the proper thing to say, huh?" Timely words! It was rather funny to listen to her tell this and she is a very godly lady but there is no telling the affect it had on her husband!
We need to be careful what we say and how we say things. We need to heed to words from God's word, "Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear." (Eph. 4:29) The need of the moment...we need to consider the need of the moment. Use words that 'build up' (edify) and help a situation, not tear the other down. I am still working on this area of my life. Unwholesome, rotten words will only destroy! People use destructive words many times to try to control the other person to give into their selfish ways. That's ungodly and fleshly. We need to think about what we are going to say before we say it. We need to realize the impact a word can have in the ears and heart of another. We need to use timely words!

Monday, August 25, 2008

"Those Who Never Heard"

The question has been asked by many a sincere believer. "How can God condemn people to an eternity of punishment when they have never heard the gospel?" You may have heard the question in one form or another. We know God is faithful and His commitment to try to save is His very heart. Jesus demonstrated God's loving heart on behalf of lost man. But if one never hears of this love, this commitment on behalf of God, is it just too bad they live in the wrong place at the wrong time?
If one is a Calvinist in their belief, (God appoints some to damnation and some to salvation), they answer that by saying that such people were "ordained" to that damnation and that's why they never will hear the gospel. Can you imagine God creating people for no other purpose to condemn them to the fires of hell? Take out the Scriptures, "Who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth." (I Tim. 2:4) For one to believe in this Calvinist idea is to completely make a liar out of God!
Others tell us it is the fault of lazy Christian's who do not spread the message! There might be some truth to that as over the years I have seen a lack of desire to reach the lost. But it goes a step further. Some of these who claim this is the reason some never will hear the gospel also tell us that God probably knows these that never heard wouldn't respond anyway, even if they heard the gospel, so God doesn't bother getting it to them.
How do we conclude about those who never heard? It is true, that those who die without the gospel will burn eternally. Let's see if we can find some solid ground. Jesus commissioned His apostles to "go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation." (Mark 16:15-16) As the apostles went, more and more people heard this gospel message. In Acts 19:10, while Paul was at Ephesus, he preached in their synagogue and the school of Tyrannus. The Scriptures tell us that "all who lived in Asia heard the word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks." This took place from about 55-57 AD. By 62 AD, the writing of the book of Colossians, the inspired apostle Paul encourages the brethren to "continue in the faith firmly established and steadfast, and not moved away from the hope of the gospel that you have heard, which was proclaimed in all creation under heaven.." (Col. 1:23) The gospel had reached all creation under heaven by 62 AD! He also reminds them that this gospel that came to them had come into all the world bearing fruit. (Col. 1:6) What do we learn? There was a time and point in the history of man that God had this saving gospel message sent into the ears of every person! If man didn't respond and keep this gospel alive, was that God's fault? Does man, even though today they never heard of the gospel, find themselves without? Through the creation, God made His invisible attributes, eternal power and divine nature clearly seen so that God sees man without excuse (Rom. 1:20). It's not man does not know about God. It is man is not concerned about reaching out to God. Read carefully Acts 17 and see what Paul teaches to the idolatrous Athenians that they should be reaching for the true God, even if they had not previously heard!
There will always be questions, some difficult to answer. But I know this, that there was a time and point that man heard and did not continue passing that message on. As the world became more and more populated, man drifted so far that the message was lost in the ears of many. Is God at fault? Not hardly. Does He still want people saved, even those who never heard? Yes! We need never forget our purpose and mission on this earth. It's not about being the largest church, the most active church, to provide entertainment for our children but the spreading of the gospel of God to a lost world. That starts in our own communities and helping those willing to go into a country that they were not born, just to get God to them. Let's support such men as these!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

"God Helps Those Who Help Themselves!"

I have been doing some research and found something very interesting in regard to the saying, "God helps those who help themselves." Many, even in the Lord's church, believe this is a biblical doctrine. In all kindness, it is not!
The saying first originated with writings of Aesop ("Hercules and the Waggoner", 6th century)! Yep, you heard that right. Where did we come up with such if it originated with Aesop? This most popular quote was penned by Benjamin Franklin in his Poor Richard's Almanac in 1757 and he adapted it from Aesop's fable. (Go ahead and research it!)
In a Washington Post article written back in April 2008, they cited a Barna survey. (The Barna Group takes religious surveys among Americans.) In the survey it was discovered that 80% of Americans believe this statement is a statement of faith and biblically founded.
The Bible in fact, teaches opposite of this statement. Paul taught in Rom. 5:6, "For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly." Man is helpless, especially in regard to their salvation. It is all in the working of God through Jesus, not ourselves. Paul exhorted the Ephesian brethren to "be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might." (Eph. 6:10) We respond by faith to what the Lord asks, but it is never by helping ourselves. We are dependant on Him in every need and situation. We respond because we are looking for His guidance and His will to be the final outcome. We simply follow, giving Him the full right over our lives. We don't help ourselves! We surrender ourselves! Was it not Jesus who taught that "if anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself..." (Matt. 16:24)? Paul found himself despairing of life because of difficulties and it taught him "that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God who raises the dead." (II Cor. 1:9)
The prophet Jeremiah warned the people, "Cursed is the man who trusts in mankind and makes flesh his strength..." (Jer. 17:5) In turn, Jeremiah speaks of the blessings from the Lord, "Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord and whose trust is the Lord." (Jer. 17:7)
It amazes me sometimes where many who claim to be true believers come up with their ideas of faith. Sometimes people blindly follow something or someone (especially a preacher/teacher) and never seek out if it is true or false. They build their faith and doctrine on statements just because someone says it or writes it in a book. God is right, from years gone by. He spoke plainly about His people, "My people are destroyed for the lack of knowledge." (Hosea 4:6) Maybe this is why so many lives of those in Christ are filled with fears and weaknesses with few answers?

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

"Show Him Your Card"

I never ceased to be amazed at people, especially preachers. I guess I amaze myself sometimes because I can be a real stinker, though I am not proud of that. What amazes me most is the credentials many a preacher and members of Christ's body like to inform people of from time to time. They want people to know how many they have baptized over the years, how many meetings they have held and where their travels have taken them. Some preachers like the brethren to know how much in demand they are while other preachers rely heavily on their degrees and years of work to get that degree. (Now I do admire people who get their degree, so don't get me wrong. That's not my point!) Preachers like others to know who they know personally, rubbing shoulders with well known people and celebrities. Hollywood stars, musicians and sports figures become their crown of glory, or so it seems by listening to them talk (or write). Members of the Lord's church do some of the same. Some glory in their jobs that are high in rank in the community. Others have a great deal of money and use their money to influence in certain situations. Still others come to the assembly with such an arrogance of knowledge that they throw around that it creates a "better than you attitude" and no one would dare cross them. It is all very, very sad knowing well that God is opposed to the proud and gives His grace to the humble.
Jim McGuiggan told of a story that makes my point. There was an old Texas rancher who was being inspected by the Department of Water Resources, a government agency. The government fellow approached the old rancher saying, "I need to inspect your ranch for your water allocations." The old rancher continued his work and said, "Okay, but stay out of that field over there." The rep, who was not used to be told what to do by 'common' folks, looked at the old rancher, flashed his credentials and said, "Mister, I have the authority of the federal government behind me! See this card? This card means I can go anywhere I want to go, wherever I wish, on anyone's agricultural ground. Have I made myself clear?" The old rancher just nods politely and gets back to his work. Before long the rancher hears a loud, long scream. He looks up and sees the federal rep running across the field for his life with a bull close behind him and closing fast. The rancher lays down his tools and heads to the field. As he approaches the fence, the rancher yells, "Your him your card!"
"For there is no partiality with God" (Rom. 2:11)

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

"You Don't Understand!"

The most deceitful part of us is our own heart (Jer. 17:9). Unless the heart is surrendered to the Lord completely, it will deceive us. God's word speaks: "He who trusts in his own heart is a fool, but he who walks wisely will be delivered." (Prov. 28:26) What we set our affections and desires on are what we treasure. Those desires and affections begin to lead our lives, making choices for us. Our lives head toward those desires/affections because that's what we want. It all comes from the heart. The heart goes after our treasures and we store that treasure which determines our life direction. Jesus said the same thing: "For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." (Matt. 6:21) What you want in life is where your heart will be set. That means our hearts need to be set on proper things, desiring the things of God beyond all else.
Jesus describes the heart responses and choices in the parable of the sower (Luke 8). Each type of heart is described as to what is treasured and we can see the end result because of what is stored in the heart. First, there is an unresponsive heart that simply will not believe (8:12). Secondly, there is an impulsive heart that works off of their emotions (8:13). Thirdly, there is the preoccupied heart that knows the Lord is important, but other things choke out the things of God and nothing is the result (8:14). Finally we have the good and honest heart that receives and stores within the things of God and it brings great blessings and insight (8:15).
Over the years of dealing with so many in different situations, I have always found something very interesting. When the word of God is what leads our lives, you gain wisdom and insight to what is needed in situations. When someone is not being honest in their heart by allowing the Lord to speak to their heart and then respond, the statement always comes out, "You just don't understand!" I have given such people who make that statement the opportunity to explain themselves and it amazes me how in their heart they turn the situation on you with statements like, "Your mind is already made up, there is no need to explain it to you!" or "Even if I explained it, you wouldn't understand." These are statements of a deceived heart. I have yet to have one person trapped in their sins, held in the cord of their sins be able to explain anything because they cannot outwit the Lord. They use such statements to get out of the heat of the moment. I have sat with many, asking them and giving them the opportunity to explain their thinking (which comes from their heart) and all they do is talk in circles because they are trapped by God's word. They are careful at what they express or say, mulling over every word so as not to get caught. They expend a lot of mental energy and end up saying nothing.
If we would simply give our hearts to the Lord, store His sound wisdom and insight in our hearts, desiring His ways above all, being honest with ourselves toward the Lord, we would find great contentment and not waste our energy of explaining why we do what we do. Peace, wisdom and life become ours within our being. Next time you are in a situation and you hear, "You don't understand!" just listen what comes next. They never explain anything because they can't and they may refuse to explain by turning the situation back on you. It's the part of deception that is going on in the heart and we need to understand that.

Monday, August 18, 2008


What a wonderful three weeks we had in Colorado. The first week was spent at Snow Mountain Ranch at Winter Park, Colorado. We had our congregational retreat. There were 161 members of the Lord's body that went with us. It was a time for building faith and bringing families together. It was just incredible. I cannot say enough about it. I had one young person yesterday at the assembly come up to me and tell me that it was the best family vacation time they had ever spent! (And this family had been to some incredible places for other vacations.) We are talking about being without television and much of the media and entertainment that most young people have at their disposal. Another brother shared with me they had never started every morning with a devotional and ended the day with study of God's word while during the in between time it was spent with just his family and other members of Christ body with a like mind set. They hiked together, talked and everything they did was together. It strengthened their family unit. Others talked to me about how they got to know some they never knew before. Lovely brothers and sisters in Christ, reaching out to one another as Christ would want. I watched the few outside of Christ that went with us be drawn in. The young people that went, and there was a good number of them, worked with the adults and reaching out to other young people that they did not know as well. It was an event that I am thankful the Lord opened the door of opportunity for us to take full advantage of. I have not heard one negative about the retreat. We are planning this retreat again in five years. Several have asked me not to wait that long but I am afraid this old man cannot put together another one any sooner. It's time consuming and wears you out physically! I think I slept the first three days of my vacation just to recuperate!
The past two weeks were spent camping in the middle of the mountains in Colorado. The nearest town to us is about 35 miles away. It is quiet, beautiful and relaxing at an altitude of 9481 feet. The cool days, and many never reached 65 degrees, were refreshing. At night it would drop to around 40 which is great for sleeping. I fished a lot and did we catch a lot of trout! I think it is the most we ever caught. One afternoon, I sat down on the bank of Twin Lakes with my sons and within a short period of time caught 30 trout! I am a catch and release person! Nearly everywhere we went fishing was just like that. It was a great time of relaxing, reading God's word and praying. I know why they Lord would often slip away by Himself. Most people that I know of, when they vacation just recreate and not renew the inner person. I need my inner person renewed. I get to read this two weeks for my building up and recharging my batteries. It was wonderful. The relaxing is over and now I have hit the road running...