Tuesday, August 31, 2010

"God is Good?"

People follow religious ideas and sayings. It is easy to do. We hear and see other people speaking of God and the things of God and others chime right in. One of the catch phrases that is used over and over is "God is good!" and "God answered my prayer." I want you to know that I believe in God's goodness with all my heart and He answers the prayers of the righteous (I Pet. 3:12). What is troubling is the usage of these sayings only when things go our way. That's when people seem to praise God and His goodness.
We need to be thankful in all things. Thankfulness should be the heart of those in Christ Jesus. However, when things don't go smoothly or we face a difficulty in our lives, isn't God still good? Doesn't God still answer our prayers? When we pray and things don't turn out as we asked for, can we believe God said 'no'? My point is I am not trying to pick at certain issues but to show that our attitudes are reflected in difficulties as well as times of ease and goodness. How many of us get on our knees and thank the Lord through a difficulty? Paul reminded the Philippians that rather than let anxiety rule, let your requests be made known to God by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving (Phil. 4:6)! There are a lot of things that can cause us to be anxious but we need to have the right attitude, taking the anxiety to God with thankfulness. Difficulties are what we need at times because they are what builds true, godly character within us and it is that character that will take us to hoping in God (Rom. 5:3-5). Difficulties serve a great purpose if we have the right attitude. Paul needed difficulties in his life to teach him to trust and rely on God (II Cor. 1:8-10) rather than circumstances.
God is good and God answers prayer but His goodness prevails in difficulties and His answers are sometimes no for our benefit. That should make us pause and not use saying so flippant without thought.

Monday, August 30, 2010

"It's Amazing!"

He is a very religious man. One who is kind and gentle and a good friend of mine. He serves on a "board of directors" for his religious group. While speaking with him the other day, he told me he really didn't believe the Bible was God's word. I was taken back but at the same time I wasn't surprised. Over the years, I have tried to speak with him about the truth of God's word, the gospel and he never has responded. Now I know why.
I believe that God's word is God's word. I believe the whole Bible is God's word. There are many, and it seems to be a growing number daily, that do not believe in it. Why do many have this take on the Bible? Over the years many have taken on the attitude and thinking that we have evolved into our own religion and beliefs and God's word is nothing more than man words penned. I can understand why some would think that but those who hold to such views have never seriously read God's word looking and listening. They don't believe in it to follow Christ but somewhere they have developed their thinking they need Christ and He died for their sins.
Here's the amazing part: God's word, written over a period of some 1500 yrs. still is as modern as ever and the last part written some 2000 yrs. ago is still as modern as ever! When we read it, it sounds just like us today. No man could come up with that. The relevance and up to date teachings sounds like something written last year or a few months ago. To the true believer, it makes us stand in awe knowing the source of the Bible is an eternal God, who continues as He is while man thinks they evolve into other notions and beliefs. Amazing...simply amazing!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

"Jesus' Atonement"

"We speak of forgiveness and being forgiven. We hear that Christ "atoned" for our sins. But what does all this really mean? Peter tells us, "And He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds we were healed." (I Pet. 2:24) Isaiah spoke 700 yrs. earlier saying that "...My Servant, will justify the many, as He will bear their iniquities." (Isa. 53:11) What does it mean to "bear" our sins?
When we look at the OT Scriptures we find that different ones were held accountable for their own sins. We see the same when a criminal is charged with criminal actions. They must face their own guilt and take complete responsibility by facing the consequences tied to their guilt. Here comes Jesus and by taking our place, He made our personal sins His responsibility and faced the consequences of them on our behalf! He became the curse and condemnation that sin brings to us. He "bore" our sins by taking it upon Himself to carry our sins to the place of judgment, the cross! There and only there was the consequences faced and the sentence carried out. In this process, Jesus had to endure the hostilities of man on Himself (Heb. 12:2-3) to expose the depth of man's sinfulness that He had to bear.
How does all this impact our hearts? Just look at your life and see the depth of love and devotion it creates in you and there you will find the impact.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

"The Wrath Of God"

Many have difficulty defining and understanding the wrath of God. There are some who simply refuse the wrath of God. Many just don't like to think that God has wrath. We are reminded in I Thes. 1:10 that Jesus is the ONLY one that can deliver us from the wrath to come. Later in the same letter we are reminded that God did not destine us for wrath (I Thes. 5:9) but for obtaining salvation through Jesus.
Here's the definer! Without realizing Jesus for who He is, what He stands for and where our love should be placed, we live pointless lives! Yes, our lives are meaningless without Christ. That's what sin does. It destroys lives, corrupts hearts and uses people to fill the world with its ugliness. People that continue in their sins or believe in their goodness (which is the pride sin wells in many) for their salvation, there is only one destiny for them...the wrath of God. God has fixed a day for the destiny of the human race and those who persist in ungodly ways, rejecting the truth of the gospel will face the expressed wrath of God.
Too many are trying to define God as they think He should be. Things are based on their feelings, their personal experiences or their own ideas. That reveals our corruptness and depth of despair without Christ. What we are failing to realize is the corruption that sin causes in us! It's not we just sin once here and there. It is sin that masters lives, effects our mindset and thinking and it makes us calloused in heart. Read Romans 1:18-32 and there you will find three times God speaks that He "gave them over". Why? Because people want to follow their lusts, their personal desires in their own thinking while ignoring God. The affects of sin on our lives is a constant downward spirial. One doesn't get stronger or wiser while walking in their sins. They get more corrupted and more deceived. That's why the wrath of God will be revealed.
Jesus was the ultimate price to release us from the penalty of our sins and the only One who can bring us back into line with our holy Father. Jesus paid the ultimate price and will be the only One standing between us and God's wrath in the end.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

"Too Many Rules"

While out in Colorado camping, we had our granddaughter with us. She is six now which is very hard to believe. While leaving the confines of our camper, she was running around the area barefooted. I sat her down and told her she had to have shoes on running around outside. She put on her flip-flops. While around the campfire, I told her she had to wear her 'normal' shoes because of the coals in the fire and the popping sparks. Sitting by the fire, she was cold so I asked her to get her jacket on so she wouldn't be so cold. Then came the words to her grandma, "Rules, why are there so many rules?"
It seems we as people don't like rules! When we use the phrase 'commandment from the Lord' it makes people draw back. We just don't like commandments. It reveals the deeper struggles we have. We want to do our own thing, in our own way and following our own desires. The preacher is told to preach the word because people will turn their ears from the truth and find teachers to teach what they desire (II Tim. 4:1-4). People want it their way. Jude urges us to contend for the faith because without following the teaching people will follow their own desires. That's what grumblers, fault finders do! They follow their own lusts. They speak out of arrogance and flatter people to try to gain an advantage. We need to keep ourselves in the love of God. God's love leads us into His life and righteousness. That keeps us under His 'rules' which is for our spiritual and eternal well being.
As I sat my granddaughter down, I explained to her that without rules people would hurt themselves and rules are to keep us safe and on the right track. A smile came across her face, her blue eyes looking into mine and her hug came with the words, "Thank you grandpa!"

Monday, August 23, 2010


The love of God does not impress us unless the word "love" it has some true meaning for us. It is very difficult for many to rejoice in the love of God, especially when things are not going so well in our lives, because the word "love" has no real meaning. We use "love" from "we love pizza" to "we love our family." There is little concrete meaning in the word for us to grasp.
We read verses like, "We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren." (I John 3:16) But the impact of reading such doesn't seem to hit our hearts to change our attitudes and behavior. I am coming to realize that we are filling our minds more with religious chatter which prevents us from digesting the truth of what God speaks. We speak of God's love for us but look how little it really moves us. Recently while dealing with a husband and wife that were separated, I asked if they would be willing to forgive, move back to the cross and let the love of motivate their actions and decisions. They of course agreed in concept because they were religious until it meant that they had to forgive from the heart, let go of the past so the love of God could affect the present. There was no heart, no reality but only hurts of disappointment and bitterness. The laying down of the life of Jesus on their behalf was null and void! The reality was their past witnessing of what each had done to one another. There is no connection to "love."
I know I can't convey what I am thinking today very well but I want you to realize that Christ dying on your behalf was not just Him dying! It was a redeeming death, a "in the place of" death. It took the revealing of the cross to open our eyes to God's love toward us and realize the fathomless depths of the life He calls us into. Too many are making God's love sugary, nice little bits and pieces while the reality is missed and obscure. Some just have difficulty distinguishing between the real "love" of God and the counterfeits offered. It really comes into play when people are separating families, unwilling to yield and forgive, refusing God because of past hurts and so "love" to them becomes nothing more than a word of mere human feelings with no devotion or affect on the heart and little connection to God.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

"Jesus Knew"

Have you ever thought what was on Jesus' mind that night before His arrest? Before He was captured as some criminal that had evaded authorities? The Scirptures tells us several things were on His mind but what is simply amazing is how Jesus 'functioned' knowing what was coming. How many of us, when things get difficult and stresses hit our lives, it almost immobilizes us? We can't think, move and fretting leads the way. Jesus told His disciples over and over what was coming and He knew it!
First, Jesus knew that His hour had come and His entry into our world as man was going to collide with His bearing our sins (John 13:1). He was having a face to face meeting with incredible turmoil. Secondly, Jesus was aware that the Father had given all things into His hands (John 13:3). His fate would be met with full assurance from the Father. Thirdly, Jesus knew where He came from and where He was going (John 13:3). He came into our lives as us and understood that from His childhood He had a task at heart and never ventured from it.
What do we learn from all the above? Jesus acted on and chose love which led Him to servanthood! Here was One who possessed all authority and all power and what did He do with it? In the face of great evil, sin lashing at Him on every side and He held the power to explode on everyone with judgment and power, and He simply loved and served. Jesus was aware of what was going to happen but His heart of love, set on the will of the Father took what came and found Himself alive, seated at the right hand of God still possessing all power and authority. He became our sin bearer!
We sit and read and our hearts are touched by His great love for us and yet He calls us, not to march on the world, to fight injustices and battle those in earthly authority but simply to serve. We are called to have His heart and stand on the truth of His word! He is King of kings and Lord of lords and will bring us safely to Himself. He guarantees our ending if we would just simply trust and obey with His heart.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

"What Does Christian Really Mean?"

As I read others on facebook and hear different statements about their lives, it struck me how many believe that their relationship with the Lord is based on them being good. Just listen to what people say or the little sayings they write. In our messed up world, people are looking for decency where people pay honorable debts, keep their word, be nice and good to our neighbors which is good in itself but the message from God is being shaped by these kind of attitudes and desires.
Followers of Jesus reflect His agenda in their lives. Followers of Jesus center their hearts on His teachings and look to Him for their guidance in His righteousness. If we are going to be the so-called Christian, a follower of Christ, our minds and lives need to be shaped by Him and not what we hear and see around us.
Following Jesus makes one serious about being faithful, both in word and actions. Following Jesus brings a kindness and loveliness into our lives. Following Jesus makes one live up-right morally and concerned for moral behavior. But wait, a non-follower, an unbeliever can live and be concerned about the same things, can't they? In fact, I sometimes see unbelievers live more up-right and serious than those who profess Christianity.
Too many are approaching their Christian lives to be nice people! It seems being nice, saying nice little religious statements are what Christian's are driving at. We have become molded into the thinking of the world that nice is right so we have lost our way as to what Christianity is all about. People aren't saved because their are nice and morally upright. No one is in a relationship with Jesus because they are good people. All sinned (Rom. 3:23). There is none righteous (Rom. 3:10). Sin enslaved us and became our master. Sin separated us from God and declared our end without Christ. Christianity is based totally and completely on the death of Jesus. It was His death in our place. It was His death that brought us holy and clean before God. It was His payment for our sins that makes us anything before God. It has nothing to do with our 'niceness' or good moral behavior. We have been created in Christ for good works because we are His workmanship (Eph. 2:10). Being good for goodness sake is based on us, not Jesus!
Maybe Jesus was wrong! Maybe the only thing that matters about Christianity is being a nice person. Maybe Jesus lied when He spoke that all will die in their sins without Him. Maybe His dying in our place was not really for salvation but for a bunch of 'good 'ole folks' to continue to be 'good 'ole folks'! Christian's have lost their way as to their purpose in life and that is leading others into the saving blood of Jesus. That's why the church taking on the world's mind set. There are going to be millions of nice people separated from God in the end because they see no need for needing their sins pardoned because they are just nice people with good moral behavior! They really don't need Jesus! Have we lost sight of what it really means to be a Christian?

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

"Praise the Lord"

The older I get, the more I realize how much I need to know God. My sermons have changed over the years. What I use to think that I was defending the faith was nothing more than showing why we are right and everyone else is wrong. That took away from God's glory, made us glory in us and what we believe and people left with little filling up of God. It made us gloat and created self righteousness. That sounds just like the Pharisees in the days of Jesus. I have come to realize in a deeper way that we need to keep our eyes off us and lifted up to God. Jesus taught over and over that it was God's glorification that was important and His death would be to God's glory.
The messages we need to be hearing from our pulpits are messages that bring us back again and again to the implications and applications of the redemptive work of God through Christ. We need to hear the atoning affects of the cross as well as our faith challenged to grow up, to see our holiness in light of the Lord and extend ourselves to others as the Lord has extended Himself to us in truth. People can't grow as long as those preaching/teaching keep regurgitating the same old shallow stuff. We've got to stop 'lullibying' into the bland, cheap talk that never takes one into the heart of God! Preaching and teaching should make us reflect, repent if necessary and say 'thank you' to the Almighty for His wondrous care and love. It should confront us to move our hearts (if the heart is in tune and operating correctly) to take on more and more of His nature. Forgiveness should be so sweet to our souls that we would offer it to others freely because it has our hearts turned into the heart of our Savior.
Brethren don't need to be verbally abused. They need conviction and that conviction comes through the proper presentation of mercies of God. The mercies of God are what moves us to present ourselves back (Rom. 12:1-2) and what draws us away from the mold of the world. Only then will people be transformed. The words of the song we often sing: "My sin, O the bliss of this glorious thought, my sin, not in part but the whole, is nailed to the cross and I bear it no more, Praise the Lord, Praise the Lord, O my soul!" For the sensitive heart and sincere of faith, that's what everything is about that moves us from deep within. Praise the Lord, O our souls!

Monday, August 16, 2010

"God Cares Deeply"

Sometimes we feel all alone and our thinking starts running like no one cares. Our thoughts begin to run to the point that not even God cares. If He cared, why doesn't He do something or help?
Eliphaz was one of Job's friends. He offered to Job the same line of thinking we are talking about. While thinking he is exalting God, he ends up asking Job if God really cares or is there any profit in our response to God. (Job 22) Eliphaz got it all wrong and backwards and in the end, God condemns Eliphaz along with his two friends because in all their thought process, they did not represent the truth about God. God cared for Job and expressed it early on.
For us, we have been touched with the ease of society and our thinking has been tainted at times with the wisdom and process of the world. There is so much ungodly and evil behavior around us that it has shaped some of our reasoning's and ideas. We look at the corruption in government, the injustices of society, the ill health and depression that runs rampant among people and we start viewing God through these eyes and endless books.
Do you think God gets pleasure to see us struggle against all odds? Do you believe God just sits and twiddles His thumbs while we are in pain from losing battles in our lives? Who and what is shaping our thinking? We need to spend more time with God, listening to His voice and allow Him to develop our thinking. It matters deeply to God that we hurt but sometimes that hurt has a great spiritual purpose. It helps us trust, helps our faith and shows us that we are His children. The next time you are called upon to forgive the one who walked over you or took advantage of your kindness, you are standing with God. When you feel the desire to isolate yourself from others but you go, knowing it pleases the Lord, you are growing under His grace. When you shut your mouth rather than let words fly in anger and hurt, you are not allowing the evil to flow from you but God's power and grace to have an effect over others. To stand and do what's right is helping God battle the forces of evil and one day it will all come out. You will see the glory of it all and hear the words: "Well done!"

Thursday, August 12, 2010

"Nice Little Bible Stories"

It concerns me a little when I hear people talk about God's word as some little nice 'Bible Stories', doesn't it you? Maybe you don't give it much thought and maybe I'm a little over-sensitive but to declare the things written as a nice Bible story, is that really justice to what things are really about?
Are they history lessons? One might think that as they read but is that a good approach? It might lead one to saying, "What an interesting part of man's history!" It leads many to such a casual approach that God's word is not revered but seen as many other of the history books we find in the library.
Think of the incident of David and Goliath. I have heard people say, "That's a great little story for the kids Bible class!" That's how we approach it and yet that's so far from God's intention. If you were to ask David about this, would he say it was some little story found fascinating? God called a little shepherd boy, to face the biggest threat to the people and the outcome was going to determine the fate of a nation. Ask King Saul when he saw this scrawny little boy face the warrior among their enemies in the name of God's people. The hearts pounding, the sweat falling, the wringing of hands and the wondering of what in the world was happening. As David stooped to pick up stones, what must have gone through his mind. The complete dependency on God, trusting in the impossible under normal conditions. It was not an easy task and it was not what David did. It was what God did!!! The matter revealed the lack of man's power in the people and leaders and how God can accomplish His will no matter what. It was true faith, a saving faith the brought about the final result. It was God directing the stone, not David! It was God's intention to get His people to trust Him, believe Him and listen to Him!
Oh, this was not just a story to be told to little children because they are cute! It was God calling out to man in their most difficult time showing God is trustworthy and faithful to His word. When is the last time you heard this preached in the pulpit? Maybe that's why our faith is so puny at times because we approach His word as 'nice little Bible stories!'

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

"I Raised My Children..."

It's one of those mornings when I am struggling knowing what to say. I guess you have them too from time to time? After spending time yesterday dealing with some situations, it left me wondering what is going on.
I spoke with a brother in Christ who shared with me about one of his children, well more of a young adult age, how they have taken off after other ideas and thoughts apart from the word of God. I spoke with another brother who shared with me how some people in the church where he attends aren't interested in Scripture anymore and have little desire to make certain their children understand the things of God. Needless to say, the marriages of these children are already in shambles after a few short years. I had another call from a sincere sister telling me that their young adult child is taking more advice from things they read in the medical profession and articles than what the word of the Lord says. In all these cases, those speaking with me are hurting because of the direction some of their own households and in the church are taking on.
As I ponder these things, it makes me think of my own children who have married and started their own families. I didn't raise them, or at least I don't think I did, to blindly follow teachings and ideas just because others do. I didn't raise them to follow traditions steeped in things handed down unless they are solely founded in God's word. I raised them to look at the word of God, to listen to God's voice for direction. I raised them to love God's people, no matter how weak they are. I raised them to not listen to anyone that would deflect them away from the word of righteousness. I didn't raise them to be legalistic in their thinking but embrace the love and grace of God in truth. I raised them to always seek the truth, no matter how many may try to persuade them to something else. I raised them to always put things taught up against the word of God to see if it is correct and always keep things in the context in which they were written. I raised them that sometimes in our Bible studies, things might be lacking but they can still glean some things from God with a right attitude and a heart of love. I didn't raise them to run off when someone disagrees with them or hurts their feelings but learn to reach out in love no matter what.
Too many seem to be teaching their children NOT to love the word of righteousness and practice it. The result? They never mature spiritually which leads to never being able to discern good and evil in their attitudes and lives (Heb. 5:14). Many have no clue about the mess they are getting their lives into because of the lack of discernment. God is too casual in too many homes and the result is seen in the casual approach in their faith. No seriousness, no sincerity, no real purpose or seeking and their young adult life begins to reflect that. Why I was even told that one young adult told their dad to stop listening to me in my preaching the word and reach out to the world for some help! It doesn't offend me that someone doesn't listen to me but if it is true from God's word, there is some serious heart issues there.
The bottom line...I raised my children, not perfectly, not always the best of instruction from a weak father, but never to lose heart and know the instruction of the Lord and His discipline (Eph. 6:4)! Where are you taking your home?

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

"Beware Of Catchy Phrases"

There is too much worldliness in us. I struggle with that too at times but it really hits the heart when people in Christ Jesus copy ideas and catchy phrases from the world. People take slogans from ungodly sources and make them sound like they are spiritual. For instance, years back at a lectureship I was speaking, they were selling t-shirts with the Budweiser emblem but it said "Godweiser, you said it all." Can you imagine copying a beer commercial and making it sound spiritual? Here were young people walking around with these T's and few thought anything of it. That reveals the lack of spiritual insight and maturity.
It is like the idea found in Matt. 23 where Jesus condemned the Pharisees for cleaning the outside of the cup while the inside is full of lawlessness. To take the world's slogans (or anything else) and make them appear as something spiritual and godly is covering up the ungodliness of a situation and reveals our insight of God.
It carries over to the idea of the little phrases many use like the popular, "Don't Worry, Be Happy!" or "Be of good cheer!" What empty statements that aren't taking anyone anywhere. You don't find that in God's word. Every time people were instructed to be of good cheer or not to fear, there was a statement of reason behind it! As Jesus walked on the water during the night, it frightened His disciples. What did He say? "Don't worry, be happy?" No, He told them not to fear because it is the Lord! He gave them something greater to hold to. To tell people not to worry is not the answer. It must be tied to something other than a nice slogan or statement. It must be tied to the Lord! To not fret over money and telling people that is not the answer. The answer is tying them to the promises of God that if we would just seek Him first, He would take care of our needs. That will now depend on the listerner if they have faith in the Lord or not (Matt. 6). To tell people not to worry or fret, that worry needs to be replaced with the Lord and the assurances of His presence based on His word.
The lack of maturity is because too many are filling their lives with these catchy phrases, stuck on the refrigerator doors, mirrors and bookmarks. When times of trouble hit, they are of no value, no help. Getting our lives wrapped around Jesus and practicing His word of righteousness is what will lead us away from worldly thinking, away from little ideas and phrases that amount to nothing in times of need and into the reality of discernment and faith (Heb. 5:14). There we begin to find the reality of life with our Lord.

Monday, August 9, 2010

"Flesh Or Spirit: Which Is It?"

It must be stressed again and again. I cannot tell you how important this is to us spiritually. It seems like I am in a constant state of repeating myself, but this is the most destructive part of our well being and that is our flesh!
When we talk about the flesh, the Bible uses it in two different ways. First, it can be about what we are made of as a human, our substance. For instance, there is a flesh of birds, animals, fish and humans. The other way the term flesh is used is our nature. What we are naturally. Our desires, reactions and the like. So many in Christ do not realize how destructive this part of our spiritual makeup can be. We do things that are so much part of our makeup that many give no thought as to what they are doing because it is natural. It is our natural nature that got us separated from God to begin with and to be united with Christ and continue following our natural behavior will only get us separated into the state of death (Rom. 8:12-13). The easiest thing for any of us to do is follow our own nature. That's what the Lord is trying to stop!
"For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do that things that you please." (Gal. 5:17) That's the problem: doing what we please. Something happens we do not like and what pleases us? To lash out, to respond to let others know that we have been offended or hurt. We want to let everyone around us know we aren't happy, our attitudes reveal this and it creates problems between people. All these things and anything like this is called the flesh! The Lord is trying to get His love in us and get us into His power to overcoming rather than being overcome by our feelings. People argue and it creates a division between them. That's called the flesh. Marriages fail because of the flesh! The flesh is opposed to the things of God because God is trying to reconcile, create love and unity while our flesh leads us to the opposite. People lash out and after they have gotten all their frustrations vented, they feel better. They have pleased their flesh and it is back to being content again! No thought given to how they acted or what they said. They simply vented through their flesh and feel satisfied. In reality, its costing them dearly in terms of God. There is no power to overcome, no help from the Lord and little stability.
We have been given the Spirit of God if we are in Christ. That means we must set our minds on doing things God's way and not allow our flesh to control our lives. When you feel you have been wronged, you have a choice to make: you can dwell on the wrong and let your attitude drift into hurtful thinking and reacting in ways that will divide or you can let your mind dwell on God and willingly do things His way where life and peace will enter your being and unify. The longer one walks in their flesh, the harder it is to get them away from it. That's what happens when people get older, they can't let go of certain attitudes because the flesh has won the battle and has corrupted them from within. Those who walk according to the flesh, practice the things of the flesh will not, no matter what they may say they believe, they will NOT make it to God in the end (Gal. 5:21). What are you going to do? Follow your desires or the Lord's? It takes no faith to walk after your flesh!!!