Saturday, August 30, 2014
Last night I saw a commercial on TV for eyeglasses. They referred to an acronym - BOGO - which stands for By One, Get One . . . free. Is that second pair of glasses REALLY free? Or is the cost of the second pair built-in to the cost of the first pair? Only your eye glass specialist really knows for sure. This past week I was reminded of a few things in this life that ARE free. I'll give you and example. Maybe two. Or three!
I have a friend named Cheri. She is an advocate for Compassion International. Compassion provides food and education for impoverished children throughout the world. They do so as they spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Cheri and I promised each other we would get together for lunch after Lifest and share "God stories" as we call them. Stories of when we have seen God working in the world around us. My God stories usually make an appearance in this blog but I hadn't heard hers and I was anxious to hear them.
So we went out to lunch this past week. We ordered our food and began trading stories. Cheri had some amazing stories of children being sponsored and of an uncle coming to a saving faith in Christ late in life. I shared stories of kids being touched by God's merciful hand, another one about a gay couple I know. God provided an opportunity to speak into each of their lives in a loving and caring way. They were all amazing stories of an amazing, loving God.
We were having a wonderful time - encouraging each other with every tale. I really like to hear other people's testimony and encouraging stories. And guess what . . . they're free!
Finally, I checked the time and found that an hour had passed! Yikes!!
"I have GOT to get back to work," I told my friend. The only thing was we had yet to receive our food!
We flagged down our waitress. She apologized massively. They were incredibly busy that day. She boxed up our food for us and said, "Just take it. It's on the house." In other words . . . it's free. Hmm, free stories and free food. I like!
My friend and I spent an entire lunch hour, and THEN some, glorifying God with our stories about Him. It was another one of those amazing conversations, like the one I told you earlier this week about Susan. And what did God do? He fed us. In more ways than one. God is such an amazing provider!
There is one more free gift I should tell you about before I close. That is the free gift of salvation for all those who place their faith in Jesus. He offers that to anyone - young, old, rich, poor, atheists, Muslims, men, women, black, white, red, brown, purple. Everybody!! And it is absolutely free . . . to accept.
It is true that sometimes our faith can cause us to pay a price. It might be someone picking on us for our faith. It might mean being persecuted for our beliefs by our government. It could even mean being martyred because we refuse to renounce our faith in Christ. But the gift itself is always free.
Have you accepted God's free gift of amazing grace? You should. I can't promise you that you will get a free lunch out of it. But I can tell you that the benefits are out of this world . . heavenly . . . and they come with an unlimited warranty - that of eternal life. Please, place your faith and trust in Christ today. Who knows what tomorrow might bring. But be prepared to be blessed - not necessarily in earthly ways but in ways that are from God and are therefore priceless.
And if you do accept that gift, get ready to shout for joy, because you are truly free indeed.
"8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them." - Ephesians 2:8-10
I Am Free - Newsboys
Thursday, August 28, 2014
This past Sunday I met with someone I hadn't seen in nearly 40 years, my sister's best friend . . . from the 6th grade! She and my sister have kept in touch all these years, recently aided by everyone's favorite social media network, Facebook. This story is an example of how God can, and will, use ANYTHING to accomplish His will - even us humans!!
A couple years ago I began seeing posts from my sister's friend, whose name is Susan by the way, in case you were wondering. I noticed that her beliefs were very similar to mine - political, spiritual, etc. I wondered what had made her become a follower of Jesus. A friend request was sent and accepted. Facebook conversations ensued, Christmas cards were exchanged - all at a relatively safe Facebook-ish distance. And that's where our relationship stayed . . . until this past Sunday.
It was definitely a God-thing because I had events scheduled for both Saturday and Sunday. But for "some reason" everyone canceled and my schedule was wide open. I still had no idea what was about to happen.
Sunday morning before church I opened up Facebook and saw a message from my sister's friend Susan. She was going to be in the area and was wondering if I would like to get together to catch up on things. Umm . . . Absolutely!
Later that day, as I was driving to Oshkosh for our meeting, I wondered what God had in store. What would she look like. What would I look like in her eyes? Would she go running from the building, screaming? Probably. But all that's up to God.
When I got to the restaurant I didn't see her at first. However, as the hostess took me to her table, the recognition was immediate, by both of us. We smiled and hugged as if we hadn't seen each other in decades . . . which was absolutely true. We sat down and began to talk and to fill each other in on 40 years of family, events, tragedies, births and deaths - woven together with Bible verses as they came to mind.
We shared both our struggles and our joys. God tells us to ALWAYS encourage each other and we did that. Being those willing vessels, exhorting one another in our faith.
"13 But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin." - Hebrews 3:13
It was an amazing conversation. Before we knew it three hours has passed and it seemed like we were just getting started. I honestly believe we could have talked for at least another three.
I have had other such conversations with other believers - my friend and sister Gayle, my brother-in-law Curt, my brother-in-Christ Ron and my son-in-law Travis, his boss Kathy and now on Sunday with Susan.
It's hard for anyone living in the secular world to understand the special bond that exists between followers of Jesus Christ. In the Bible, we who believe are referred to as brothers and sisters. That is SO true! That's exactly what it feels like! What an incredible gift that is!
Another thing I noticed as we talked was the similarity between our relationship and the relationships many Christians have with Jesus. Prior to Sunday afternoon I had just known ABOUT Susan. I knew WHO she was and WHERE she lived, but I didn't really KNOW her or have a relationship with her beyond Facebook. Our relationship with Jesus really changes when we actually come to know Him and to love Him. That is true of ANY relationship.
I am not sure when I will see Susan again . . . I hope it is soon. But I know that when we DO meet again we will have another amazingly long conversation. In the meantime I am going to think about my relationship with Jesus. When was the last time I had a three-hour conversation with Him? Never. Maybe it's time I did that. After all, isn't the God who brings people together after four decades worth a chat now and then. I think He is. And so we shall. In the meantime . . .
Lord Jesus, I thank you for my friend . . . no, my SISTER, Susan. I thank you for the smiles and the laughter we shared. I thank the Holy Spirit for directing the conversation and I thank God for the gift of family.
And Susan? I thank God for you, for your husband and for your precious daughter. I came away from our conversation on Sunday feeling like I had a new sister. How can I not praise God for a gift like that. Love you!
"50 For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister" - Matthew 12:50
Believer - Kutless
Monday, August 25, 2014
Do you think you are a compassionate person? Do you think you care enough about your fellow human beings to reach out to them in a time of need? Okay. Here's a little test for you this morning to find out just how much compassion and love you have for others. You won't even have to get out of your chair. It's that easy. Are you ready to take the test?
Scenario #1 - You are watching people bungee jumping off a bridge. It looks like a lot of fun so you and your friend ask the jumpers if you can try it. They agree and go grab another bungee chord and harness out of their truck. Your friend goes first. She puts on the harness, clips on the bungee chord and climbs up on the bridge railing. She's just about to jump when you notice the other end of the bungee chord did not get tied to the bridge. Do you . . .
A. Let her jump anyway. It will be a good life lesson about preparation.
B. Pray for a safe landing.
C. Scream, "Wait!! The bungee chord's not hooked up!"
If you answered "C" you are correct. You probably thought about answering "B" as I did but this test is about YOUR compassion, not God's.
Scenario #2 - You are enjoying dinner with some Christian friends when one of them says he just moved in with his girl friend. Do you . . .
A. Stand up, point a finger at them and say, "You're going to hell!"
B. Laugh, wink at them and ask, "How's the sex, bro?"
C. Talk to them privately afterwards and lovingly remind them of God's view on sex outside of marriage.
Again, the answer is "C." 1 Corinthians 5:12 tells us that we are to judge others within the church. In other words, we are to hold our brothers and sisters accountable, just as they are to do the same for us. Basically, we are to demonstrate our love and compassion for them by lovingly rebuking them.
Scenario #3 - You will be on your way to work or school tomorrow morning and you will see someone in need. Maybe it's a lady whose car has a flat tire, a homeless man digging through the trash for aluminum cans, or a kid smoking and drinking a Monster behind the gas station. Do you . . .
A. Ignore them.
B. Shake your head and thank God you're not like them.
C. Stop. Take a few moments out of your busy day and help them or talk to them.
Final Answer, Final Grade - You've probably noticed that all of the answers to this little quiz were "C." That was on purpose. It is do remind us about the Compassion we are to have for others. It is to remind us to Care for other, just like Jesus Cares for us. We should be demonstrate our love for Jesus by talking to them, helping them change that tire or buying someone a meal at a nearby restaurant.
The most compassionate thing we could ever do for ANYBODY is to share the love of Jesus with them, to speak words of truth into people's lives. If we don't speak into people's lives, if we don't keep each other accountable, it's like we don't care or worse yet, it's like we are condoning or accepting their behavior.
Is there someone Jesus has placed in your life to mentor or to come along side of? How are you doing with that real-life Compassion test? To be honest, I have failed more of these tests than I'd like to admit. But each time I fail the more determined I get NOT to fail the next time. God has chosen each of us who believe. Why? So we can just go to church, sing songs and donate money? No! We were chosen for the good works God wants us to do. We were called. We have been equipped. We need to act. It is only by our actions that we can live out the things God wants us to do. It's up to us. Let's act out the Great Commission, not simply read it in church.
Our Compassionate Provider - John MacArthur
Saturday, August 23, 2014
We humans are so easily amused. As Pink's Floyd's Roger Waters once wrote, "We have amused ourselves to death." We love following the latest trends. We like to be "hip" and "cool" as my generation called it. We will follow anything as long as everyone else is doing it and it's fun. We seldom stop to think things through and that is the case with people and the Ice Bucket Challenge.
On the surface this cause is a noble one. We SHOULD show support for those willing to fight terrible diseases such as ALS and cancer and Alzheimer's. But should we abandon our faith and beliefs in doing so?
Amidst all the videos I see scrolling by and amongst all of my friends who are supporting and participating in the phenomenon, accepting and giving Ice Bucket challenges to each other on Facebook, I have seen only a handful of people expressing their concerns about what goes on in the actual ALS research these challenges are supporting. I applaud them. They are actually thinking. They have done their research, They have counted the cost.
In the Book of Luke Jesus tells us this about "counting the cost" FIRST before we undertake anything in our lives. Jesus is The King of doing what is right and giving good advice for us to follow. If we'd only listen. Read His words and see if they are not true.
"28 For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? 29 Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, 30 saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ 31 Or what king, going out to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and deliberate whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand?" - Luke 14:28-31
While we think about what Jesus just said concerning counting the cost BEFORE we get involved in anything, I'd like you to read something from the ALS Association. We will are beginning to count . . .
“Adult stem cell research is important and should be done alongside embryonic stem cell research as both will provide valuable insights. Only through exploration of all types of stem cell research will scientists find the most efficient and effective ways to treat diseases.”
Anything jump out at you from that quote? How about EMBRYONIC STEM CELL RESEARCH?
What is embryonic stem cell research? Well, it's where scientists "create, harvest, then destroy human embryos" in the name of research. Gee, I wonder what God thinks about that?
"Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart;" - Jeremiah 1:5
The article I am getting my information from is from a Catholic website. A friend of mine provided a link to it on Facebook (you may read the entire article by clicking on the link at the end of my blog). There are several theological disagreements I have with the Catholic Church but standing against embryonic stem cell research is not one of them.
When we blindly write out a check to ALSA, or support these Ice Bucket Challenges, a portion of our money goes straight to embryonic stem cell research, where human embryos are being terminated in the name of research. Where did someone come up with this horrific idea? It smacks of Nazi Germany and Josef Mengele's "human research" at the expense of the Jews.
It's okay to support ALS research. But there are ways to funnel donations to areas of the ASLA's research where human embryos are NOT being used. But people . . . we MUST look into thin ANYTHING before we simply join in.
Just as a side thought, do you think people in areas of our world effected by drought enjoy see people dumping water all over the place? Or people in countries where they HAVE no clean water . . . how much they might desire the very thing we Americans are dumping on ourselves. Be we don't think. That's the whole problem with so many of the world's situations today. We simply don't take the time to think.
The Bible is full of Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth. Our problem is three-fold - we do not read it, we do not understand it and most of us don't even think about applying it to our lives.
For example, the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. Was HE thinking when he robbed a convenience store and then walked down the middle of a road at two in the morning, blocking traffic. Didn't he think that might draw some attention from the police? I'm thinking Mr. Brown hasn't read his Bible, therefore, he didn't learn anything or have the opportunity to apply it's wisdom to his all-too-short life.
The same with the ALS researchers. They spent so much time hoping that they COULD find a cure for ALS by killing human embryos, they didn't stop to think whether or not they actually SHOULD.
May God have mercy on us. He has provided us with His Word. He has provided us with His unconditional love, despite our unworthiness and continual sin. He has provided us with everything we could have ever needed. Yet we chose to follow our own selfish desires. We chose to "do things because they are cool" or "because everyone else is doing it."
So many people want to be "popular" and "to fit in" with our friends and with society. But we are called to "be holy as I am holy" (Leviticus 20:26, 1 Peter 1:16). Do you know what the word "holy" means? According to Strong's Greek Dictionary it means to be "set apart." How can we be set apart from the world if our desires are to fit in?
Please, donate to the ALSA. Let's fight a good fight and find a cure, but direct your funds appropriately. Don't partake in the Ice Bucket Challenge and don't support the challenge by challenging others. Support God. We need to read His Word so we can better understand where and how He wants us to direct HIS energies and HIS resources that He entrusts to us in ways that are God honoring. Thank you for letting me vent.That way HE gets the praise, not us.
What’s wrong with the ALS bucket challenge? - Greg Kandra (a deacon in the Catholic Church)
Wednesday, August 20, 2014
I've had toothaches before. They usually go away after a day or two. But this toothache has lasted four weeks and the pain is constant and getting worse. The pain I am feeling in my lower jaw is actually changing my appearance an demeanor.
My wife has asked me several times, "Are you okay?" I usually force a smile and say, "I'm just really tired. I'll be alright." But then the next day the pain is still there. Often it's worse. I don't really want to tell my wife what's wrong because she'll start to lecture me, offering me all sorts of "expert medical advice." Advice I don't really want to hear . . . whether she's right or wrong.
And so I sit here in my pain. Not getting any better. Just trying to get through it. Hoping it will just go away. But guess what. It didn't.
I went to the dentist last week. Dentists are experts in pain. Usually, however, they just inflict pain on others. Dentists, and their minions the dental hygienists, like to scrape and probe and poke at our teeth and gums until they bleed. Pain can be such fun!
God gave us pain for a reason. Pain is an indicator that something is not right. Something is wrong. When we feel pain we can be certain that our bodies are telling us to take it easy or to get something checked out.
My dentist told me that my tooth was infected and it would have to be removed (Oh, joy. MORE pain). But actually, after my bad tooth is removed the pain will be gone and I can once again sleep through the night.
God's Holy Spirit, accompanied by God's Word, The Bible, serve a similar purpose. When we become convicted of a sin that we have committed we can feel "spiritual pain." Again, just like with a toothache, we KNOW something is wrong. We need to take a visit to the dentist, or in OUR case as Christians, we need to come before God in prayer. Only He has the ability to heal us and restore our "health" through His grace and mercy . . . and the sacrifice Jesus made for us on the cross.
If someone knocked on my door and told me they could take away the pain from my toothache I'd let them. But if that pain transferred from me to them would I still allow them to heal me? If I saw them leaving my house, holding their jaw in obvious discomfort, how would I feel then. I would probably still be feeling pain, but pain of a different sort.
When we sin do we think of Jesus being nailed to the cross? Again and again? For each little sin? Jesus actually died for ALL of ours sins - past, present and future. But if we thought about Jesus being nailed to the cross each time we stuffed ourselves at the dinner table or looked longingly at a man or woman at work, would we still go on with our lusts, even with that picture in our minds?
Those of us who are believers in Christ have that decision to make each time we sin. The knowledge that someone else has paid our fine for us. Though He committed no sin, Jesus received punishment, OUR punishment, as if He did. I personally have a hard time with that. May we ALL have such regret when we become convicted of our sins.
In closing I will leave you with a verse - a verse that haunts me when I contemplate the ramifications of the sin of believers. I hope it will make you think as well the next time we catch ourselves in sin.
"26 For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, 27 but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries. 28 Anyone who has set aside the law of Moses dies without mercy on the evidence of two or three witnesses. 29 How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has trampled underfoot the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace? 30 For we know him who said, “Vengeance is mine; I will repay.” And again, “The Lord will judge his people.” 31 It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God." - Hebrews 10:26-31
This is a hard teaching. It says that those who have heard the Gospel and then reject it, cannot be saved because they have refused to the salvation offered by Christ's death on the cross. Sinning after we become believers is not "terminal" unlike those who deny Christ. But sinning after we have come to believe should create in us an enormously heavy burden. Repentance should be a daily . . . no, an hourly act. Whenever we sin our immediate response should be repentance. We should be driven to our knees, seeking God's mercy. Without that, we are truly lost. BUT . . . there IS hope.
"24 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” - Revelation 21:4
Forgiveness - Matthew West
Monday, August 18, 2014
When people talk to me about the things they see happening in this world and I hear about all the frustration they are feeling, I usually try to comfort them by telling them that "God is still on His throne. He is still in control" but that is proving to be a hard sell these days. This world we live in can be VERY frustrating. So how do I myself stay positive amidst all the negativity? That's easy. I remember The Cross and I volunteer at Ruby's Pantry.
I have been blessed to have been given the task of pre-registering our guests. I literally get to meet EVERYONE who walks through the doors to receive food at Ruby's. I'd like to tell you two short stories about two of the many positive people I have met at Ruby's Pantry in hopes that you too might become encouraged by their example.
The first such example I will call Joe. Joe looks to be in his 40's, a veteran I assume. He is a very positive person - always smiling and joking with everyone. We always greet each other with a smile and a hug. This past Saturday I saw Joe coming towards be and I stuck out my hand to shake his, but I missed the mark slightly and ended up grabbing his thumb. We shook anyway and I said, "Let's try that again. I missed your hand."
So we shook hands again and he said, "That's okay. There are times I miss my hand too." We both laughed. You see, Joe has no left arm. He has every right to be negative with the situation this world has placed him in yet he smiles widely and is always there at Ruby's to serve others. He is a very positive guy and encourages others by his example. And here's the key . . . he LOVES Jesus.
The second example I have for you about being positive in a negative world is my friend Jane. At least that's what I am calling her in this story. Jane stands out in a crowd because of her bubbly personality. She is always smiling and joking with others. Whenever we see each other we always give each other a rather long, extended hug and this week I gave her a kiss on the cheek. There is real love in our relationship. Not as the world loves. It is the love of Christ. One could say that Jane's love for others is as plain as the nose on her face. Except my friend doesn't have a nose. Doctors are rebuilding it. She has every right to be negative about the things that have happened to her, to hold her own pity party, yet she remains positive. Why? Perhaps this next example will explain.
"Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. 3 And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; 4 and perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.
6 For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. 8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." - Romans 5:1-8
Jesus is our hope. Through His death on the cross with see what rightly awaits us all - death, punishment for our sins. Our only hope for life comes by placing our faith in Jesus. In His resurrection we find that hope. Knowing that Jesus defeated death and having heard His promise to us of eternal life through our faith in Him, how can we not rejoice in our hardships and through our pain? We live in Christ!
These bodies we have now. They will pass away. And we will be given new ones.
"For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home (our bodies) is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. 2 For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling, 3 if indeed by putting it on we may not be found naked. 4 For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened - not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. 5 He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee.
6 So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, 7 for we walk by faith, not by sight. 8 Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. 9 So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him." - 2 Corinthians 5:1-9
I look forward to the day I will see these two friends of mine in heaven. Somehow I think I will recognize then when we give each other hugs . . . all of us in our new bodies. And we all will praise God for His gifts of love that brought us together as brothers and sisters.
[Shortly after writing this story I can across a message by John MacArthur. It's about reconciliation. It's 30 minutes long but well worth your time. Please watch it and be blessed. Thank you.]
The Reconciling Gospel - John MacArthur
Saturday, August 16, 2014
When we were in Michigan last weekend for our family reunion I decided to go for a walk around the block. That sounds like a nice, leisurely, little stroll but the temps were in the mid-80's and out where our farm is, "around the block" is a five mile hike.
Things started off well but by the time I reached the four mile mark I was already out of water. I was kicking myself for forgetting to wear a hat and put on sunscreen, and as I rounded the corner and beheld the final one-mile stretch with no shade whatsoever, I was already dreading what was to come.
The sun and I don't get along. I had heat stroke once in my 30's and it's not fun. Ever since then I am very susceptible to getting it again and never like to venture out into the sun for prolonged periods of time. I was now looking at at least 20 solid minutes in the glaring August sun.
After a couple hundred feet I was already feeling it. Mouth dry, temples pounding. That's when I noticed a blue object in the ditch, A bandana! It was clean, and brand new. I picked it up and thanked God as I tied it around my neck to keep the sun off of it. Subtle. Yet God had provided exactly what I needed.
The second story of provision is found in the book of 2nd Kings, the fourth chapter.
"Now the wife of one of the sons of the prophets cried to Elisha, “Your servant my husband is dead, and you know that your servant feared the Lord, but the creditor has come to take my two children to be his slaves.” 2 And Elisha said to her, “What shall I do for you? Tell me; what have you in the house?” And she said, “Your servant has nothing in the house except a jar of oil.” 3 Then he said, “Go outside, borrow vessels from all your neighbors, empty vessels and not too few. 4 Then go in and shut the door behind yourself and your sons and pour into all these vessels. And when one is full, set it aside.” 5 So she went from him and shut the door behind herself and her sons. And as she poured they brought the vessels to her. 6 When the vessels were full, she said to her son, “Bring me another vessel.” And he said to her, “There is not another.” Then the oil stopped flowing. 7 She came and told the man of God, and he said, “Go, sell the oil and pay your debts, and you and your sons can live on the rest.” - 2 Kings 4:1-7
God provided for the widow of one of his servants through Elijah. Amazing! And rather obvious!!
The third story, the story of God's unforeseen provision, began six weeks ago when my father died of pneumonia. He had also suffered with Alzheimer's for years. The story ended yesterday, beginning with a text from a young friend of mine - Katie.
"If you could keep my family in your prayers it would be much appreciated. My aunt passed away this morning."
My young friend and I have been through a lot together. Many late night conversations, we have laughed together and we have cried together and we have prayed together . . . when she surrendered her heart to Jesus. We are very close. I am also close to the rest of her family and now Katie's mom's sister had just died. I felt like I should be there with Katie, so after work I stopped by their house.
Katie's mom came out to greet me when I arrived. "Katie can't come out right now. She's in the shower." So I talked to her mom for a while. She was on the verge of tears as she told me about her sister.
"My sister had cancer . . . and dementia . . . AND pneumonia," she said.
I thought about that for a moment as I listened. Her sister had died from the same basic things that my dad had died of - except for the cancer. It also occurred to me that God didn't want me there to talk with Katie. He wanted me there to talk with Katie's mom. God providing again!!
We talked for 5-10 minutes and then I asked Katie's mom if I could pray for her. She said yes, so I put my arm on her shoulder and I prayed. I believe my words had added meaning For her, and my prayers rang true in her ears, because I had already felt the pain that Katie's mom was feeling. God had provided once again. He provided someone who knew EXACTLY what she was going through, right when she needed it.
It is quite possible that if Katie had been available to talk her mom and I wouldn't have had the opportunity to talk or to pray. But God provided. He always does.
There will be times, when God provides for His children, that we cannot see the things He does or the comfort he distributes in our lives. But if we give ourselves opportunities to reflect on just how great our God is, His provision for us really becomes rather obvious. Take time today to look around as you go. Thank Him for the big things as well as the little things. He is a great God who provides. We should thank Him and give Him praise.
Wednesday, August 13, 2014
Everybody lives in their own world - their own little bubble. I am no different than anybody else. And everything in our little bubbles is important to us, We get disturbed when our "bubble-stuff" gets modified or even re-arranged. Here's an example of what I mean.
My wife makes amazing meatloaf. I LOVE meatloaf, probably WAY more than I should. Of all the meatloaf I have ever eaten the meatloaf my wife makes is absolutely the best. I have tried other people's meatloaf. Nope. None compares to the meatloaf my wife makes. Meatloaf is one of the things in my teeny little comfort bubble.
In other words . . . don't be messin' with my meatloaf!
One morning, my wife told me she was making meatloaf for dinner that night. She shouldn't have done that. I thought about that meatloaf ALL DAY! When I got home that night I had already gained two pounds just by THINKING how much meatloaf I was going to eat! I was salivating before I even came in the front door.
But something smelled different. Something was not the same.
"I thought we were having meatloaf tonight," I said, a little concerned about not actually smelling the meatloaf I knew and loved.
"Oh, we ARE having meatloaf. I just made a different recipe."
". . . . what?"
Yeah. My wife made a new meatloaf recipe. It was nowhere NEAR what I was expecting. It was nothing like the meatloaf that I had mentally stored in my little bubble of happiness. That made me think.
Where is God in our sphere of fuzziness? Is He inside or outside of our comfort bubble? Do we only let that parts of God in that we like? Or do we let His whole nature and essence into it? Do we exclude Christ from our bubbles because we don't like how He "tastes" when we "eat of His flesh and drink of His blood?"
Think about your personal little bubble for a minute. What's in it? Do you have anyone else in your bubble . . . like a spouse or a close friend? Or is it only you? Is God like one of our "favorite foods?" Or is He like everything else in our bubble of self? Or is He our all-consuming fire?
"36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” - Matthew 22:36-40
When I read that passage from Matthew, I begin to think . . . "It is only God who is supposed to be in our bubble. God is to be our reality, our obsession. Please read these words from Philippians. Does it sound like God is IN Paul's bubble? Or is Jesus outside looking in?
"7 But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. 8 Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith - 10 that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.
12 Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own." - Philippians 3:7-12
Paul had my little bubble concept figured out WAY before I did. Our lives should exude Jesus Christ and Him crucified from every fiber of our being. We should fill our bubbles so full of Jesus that we explode, massively, so that everyone near us becomes wet . . . wet with the shed blood of Christ. May Jesus be the ONLY thing that fills us completely, so full, that there is no room for anything else. Then, and only then, will everything truly make sense.
The Boy In The Bubble - Paul Simon
Monday, August 11, 2014
One of those treasures sits right outside the back door - a large maple tree. Is was big when I was a kid, some 50 years ago. It is even bigger now. I remember climbing up next to my grandpa as he rested in the hammock he had positioned under the tree. It's cooling shade, along with a gentle summer breeze, were always welcome on hot summer days.
Over the years the maple tree has grown - not only up and outward but down as well. It's long branches actually sag downward and out as it tries to find light for more of its leave. The branches are SO low in fact that they now block the view my sister, brother and I once remembered.
Back home in Wisconsin my wife and I are building a fireplace in our home. One of my goals on this trip to Michigan was to cut an old barn beam on our farm and use it for a mantel. But in order to do that I needed a chainsaw. So when we were at our family reunion a few days ago, I asked my uncle if I could borrow his. He gladly said yes. He even put a nice, sharp chain on for me.
I cut the barn beam for our fireplace back home and began to put the chainsaw away. That's when I examined the big maple tree and decided to do some trimming. My sister, brother, my wife and I proceeded to trim branches off the tree until the view we remembered from our childhood returned. We all felt SO much better being able to clearly see the woods and the apple trees on the back hill where the deer come to graze on transparents and to bed down for the night.
Our lives can become cluttered with "branches" of its own. Things can get in the way of our "vision" in this world. We often lose what's really important in this life, like family, friends and memories of days gone by.
Are there "branches" blocking your view of Jesus? Things that keep us from reading His Word or offering up prayer. Things can creep in, blocking our vision of what's truly important. What we need is a chainsaw. And we need to do a little trimming in our own lives. That "chainsaw" is Jesus.
So pull out your Bible and begin to read it. Soon you will see your vision begin to clear. You will begin seeing things you had forgotten, since your childhood perhaps. You will begin to see things in a new way. And your life, and the things you see, will become clearer and easier to see.
God provides each of us with an inner desire to seek Him. Not everyone answers that call. Not everyone tries to trim the sinful things out of our lives. But for those who do, for those who desire to be refined and to become more like Jesus, there is an incredible world awaiting to be seen, the view of which is unblocked by the branches and leaves of this world in which we live.
Pick up your chainsaw today, God's Word, and start trimming yourself by learning what God's will is and then sit back and look at the world around you through God's eyes. The view is amazing.
"He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, Which yields its fruit in its season And its leaf does not wither; And in whatever he does, he prospers." - Psalms 1:3
Saturday, August 9, 2014
Have you ever met someone you felt like you already knew? Someone who you’ve had an almost immediate bond with after you have only known them for a short amount of time? It’s almost like they were part of our family before we even met them.
I have had a few people like that in my life. I am sure you have people like that in YOUR life as well. Why are these people so close to us? What makes them stand out about other people we run into in this world? I believe that God has something to do with it - God and His Holy Spirit.
Today my wife and I are in Michigan for our annual family reunion. We will see family members we haven’t seen for a year – some even longer than that. Yet we can sit right down and begin talking as if we’d only been apart for a few days. We’re family. That’s just the way it is.
My wife was the first one of those people I met. She was, and still is, someone who knows me extremely well. She is someone with whom I feel totally at ease and someone I KNEW I loved, practically as soon as we met, becoming engaged to be married after only knowing each other for two months. Sometimes relationships seem as if they were “meant to be.” Do you think God plays a part in our relationships? I do!
God knows no limits regarding time. He was there at the beginning of time when He created the universe. He has already seen our world coming to an end. He was there at our birth and He will be there at our death.
Jesus told us that “no one comes to the Father unless the father draws them” (John 14:6) How do you think He draws us to himself? Do you suppose His Holy Spirit has anything to do with that? I do. Do you think God places us in situations to meet people? People who He wants us to know whose relationships will ultimately bring Him glory? I do. The evidence of that is seen throughout the Bible.
The testimony of my salvation begins with a seemingly random person entering my life. After a short period of time we became very good friends and began sharing stories of things that had happened in our lives. The next thing I knew we were talking about Jesus and within a few months of our meeting I had given my life to Christ. Was that a random chance meeting of two people? I don’t think so. It seems to me like it was more a meeting by design.
God already knew I was going to become one of His children. He knew that before I was even born. He knows us “before the foundation of the world.” And He uses people and His Holy Spirit to accomplish His purpose for us.
When you go to church are there people there you feel really close to? There should be. There should be an incredible closeness to every one of our brothers and sisters at church . . . because they are our brothers and sisters! Sure, there might be some disagreements. There might even be some squabbles now and again, but we are family.
Why do people leave a particular church? I left a church once over doctrine. The Bible says we should do that. But we are not to leave because of relationship problems. We are a family! We should be able to work things out. In reality though, because we are selfish, “I want it my way” humans, we tend to leave relationships that don’t go OUR way. Is that what God wants? I don’t think so. The Bible is all about family, featuring story after story about fathers and sons, mothers and daughters. Families are God’s design!
I have people in my life who aren’t my biological family members but who are family to me, in Christ. They are as much my brothers and sisters as my biological siblings are – dare I say even MORE so. The bond that God creates through our faith in His Son, Jesus, is that of an eternal family. A bond created by God, through the work of His Holy Spirit, to bring glory to His mighty name.
God gave my sister-in-Christ, Gayle, the task of leading me to Himself. My brother-in-Christ Ron and I meet on a semi-regular basis to share with each other how God is working in our lives. The same can be said about my brother Larry and of my sisters-in-Christ Jean and Cheri. We share an incredible bond through our mutual faith in our Heavenly Father. And it is all to bring glory to God and to show the world that “there is just something special about their relationships.”
The reason our relationships are so “special” is because they are all based in faith. It is because we all have the same Father, in heaven. It is because we are all . . . family.
May God bless you with such family members like the ones He has given me. My brothers and sisters in the faith are incredibly close to me and I love each and every one of them. They are precious to me, just as they are to God. Our love for each other and for God testifies to the power, the grace and the love of an incredible Father. Please, come join His family. Love abounds!
"God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure." - Ephesians 1:5
Wednesday, August 6, 2014
The text read, "We don't shine because of what people say and do. We shine because God sees us as valuable."
Is that true? Do we shine because God sees us as valuable? The answer to that question is . . . no. We shine because we are redeemed sinners, grateful to be given the gift of salvation through our belief in Jesus Christ, who died on the cross for OUR sins. So where did this picture come from if it is untrue?
If we look a little closer at the image we can see a name in the lower right hand corner - Victoria Osteen. Hmm, Osteen . . . where have I heard THAT name before. Have you ever heard of JOEL Osteen? He is the pastor of America's biggest church. Victoria Osteen is his wife. It appears that Joel's "feel good" Christianity is rubbing off on his spouse. That is NOT a good thing.
I have written about Mr. Osteen before. He is what's known as a FALSE TEACHER. He only tells PART of the story when it comes to Christianity.That whole sin and repentance thing? Yeah, he doesn't say too much about that. He definitely is encouraging though! He's encouraging his followers straight to hell! Well, that wasn't fair. I should have said he preaches a false gospel. I don't KNOW if his followers believe him or not. I DO know that the apostle Paul feels that false teachers should be accursed by God.
"6 I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel - 7 not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. 8 But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. 9 As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed." - Galatians 1:6-9
Along with her picture, Victoria Osteen had some other things to say. Here they are, along with some comments by yours truly. She writes . . .
"God chose you before the foundation of the world . . ."
That's true. Ephesians 1:4
". . . because you are valuable to Him."
No, God chose us because He has plans for us (Jeremiah 29:1). She makes it sound like God NEEDS us. That's not true.
He chose you because He knows your worth, and He’s not willing to let you perish!
Wrong. The actual verse is from 2 Peter 3:9 and it says that God WISHES that none of us would perish. He is perfectly willing to let us die. That is what sin is all about! He was willing to let Jesus die . Are we more special than Jesus? No!
There were many other Biblically-questionable statements made by Victoria but I'm getting a little nauseous, knowing that there are many who follow these false teachers and are not hearing the TRUE Gospel. Isn't the Bible sufficient for us anymore? Some people feel we need to take out the bad parts, the condemning parts, because we want everyone to be happy and feel good about themselves. The fact is we are all sinners, deserving of death on judgment day, but through the grace and mercy and sacrifice of Jesus, we can be saved from all that.
I commented back on Victoria's Facebook picture. I'm guessing she probably doesn't read the comments. Too busy feeling good about herself. This was my reply:
"If we shine, it is because we are reflecting the grace and love of Jesus Christ in our lives, not because God sees us as valuable. Read your Bible. God sees us as sinners. It is only through our belief in His Son that we appear righteous in God's eyes. God does not NEED us. We need HIM!"
We must pray for Victoria and her husband Joel, that they might preach the TRUE Gospel. In only bring forth part of the Gospel their followers are only learning about an edited, customized God . . . a different god. And that is breaking the very first commandment. Please, say a prayer for them today and all those who worship false gods.
“I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. “You shall have no other gods before me. “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments." - Exodus 20:2-6
Pastor Steve Lawson on Joel Osteen's Larry King appearance
Monday, August 4, 2014
My wife and I were sitting in the living room Thursday night eating our dinner. The TV was on. My wife likes to watch the evening news. I like to eat her cooking. Seemed like a perfect time for both of us. Appearances can be deceiving.
If was about 6:00. Like I said, we were watching the evening news. Truth be told, I was probably more focused on my plate than I was on anything else. I randomly looked up at the television after taking a bite of food and saw a scantily-clad woman, "dressed" in a black leather thong, thrusting and rubbing herself rather sexually on a car.
"Umm, what are we watching?" I asked my wife.
"Oh, that's a Hardee's commercial," she replied, indicating by her words that she had seen it before.
Sure enough. The woman was now taking a rather large bite out of a big, juicy, dripping burger.
Suddenly another woman appeared on the scene. Paris Hilton I think. She told the other woman that she had "missed some" and she then proceeded to lick some cheese off the car's hood.
"Are you sure this is an ad? I thought most people pay for this stuff."
It was incredibly pornographic in my opinion. It was SO pornographic that it prompted me to take some action. I e-mailed both Hardee's and the local news channel, who somewhere, somehow came to the conclusion that this was somehow appropriate for family viewing during the dinner hour, and I let them have it - in a wonderfully Christian way, of course.
I simply told them that they should let me know when they pull the explicit ad so I could resume watching their network / eating their food. It's been four days now. No response.
This past Saturday, I went for one of my long walks in the woods. As I walked I listened to several books from the audio Bible I carry on my iPod. One of them was to Book of Ephesians. Hearing God's words reminded me of a few things.
If you have your Bible handy, please open it to the second chapter. Paul is writing to the church in Ephesus - a political, educational and cultural center. It could very well be that the influence of the culture on that local church caused it to stray from the early teachings of Priscilla and Aquila. Let's see what Paul says. We read.
"And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience - 3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind." - Ephesians 2:1-3
The things I take out of this text are these:
- We were, or are, all living a sinful lifestyle at some point in our lives but we were called out of that lifestyle through our faith in Jesus Christ (verse 1).
- We tend to follow our culture. What's "hot", the latest trends and fads (verse 2)
- Satan - "the prince of the power of the air" - is at work in us and in the world we live in (verse 2).
- We used to live in the passions of our flesh. "If it feels good, do it!" Maybe we STILL do (verse 3).
- We were no different than anyone else on this sinful planet. Destined to suffer the wrath of God, just like everyone else (verse 3).
So what has changed? Why am I now different than the rest of the world? Why has a commercial like that suddenly become so repulsive? What happened? I was so happy, or so I thought, in the lifestyle I was living. What changed? Let's continue our reading.
"4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ - by grace you have been saved - 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them." - Ephesians 2:4-9
As I read those words of Paul's and then I also recall his words to the Romans about how we are no longer to conform to the pattern of this world (Romans 12:2) I feel convicted. Why? Because I know that I have not totally left "this world" behind. I still have one foot firmly planted in it, in sin. We ALL do!
So what do we do about it? How do we get rid of some of the sin in our lives? Ask yourself this question, as I did a few weeks ago. What is something I am doing right now that I could give up and replace with reading the Bible, or volunteering to serve others someplace? What could I do, right this very minute, that would honor God above all the other thing I am doing?
Could I turn of the computer a little earlier? The same for the television. Could I chose not to watch TV shows (or commercials) that do not honor the God we serve? Of course! Movies in theaters. How many went to see Noah or Heavens For Real instead of learning more about God? There was little biblical truth in either of those movies yet thousands flocked to see them.
We must think through everything we are about to do and ask ourselves this question. Will this honor God? If no, we should reconsider what we are about to do. If yes, the by all means proceed. We serve a great God, not some two-bit fallen angle on an ego trip. Stand tall, in the name of Jesus, and flee from Satan. God will be glad you did. It is His will that we are to follow, not ours. Celebrate your God-honoring decisions and choices. You are growing closer to God when you make them. And that's a GOOD thing! :)
Are The Two Wills In God? - A Sermon by Matt Chandler
Saturday, August 2, 2014
Your nice, peaceful, organized home, suddenly appears as if a tornado has touched down and piled everything into a heap! If it weren't for the sound of the familiar laughter coming from somewhere in the clutter, you'd swear you had been robbed, or vandalized or visited by demons.
Kids can have great fun in tents like that. Adults too. Too bad those fun, living room forts are temporary. Good times like those we had as kids should be captured in a bottle and saved and opened up when we are older and more cynical. But those good times proved to be temporary, just like WE are. Where did all the good times go? For that matter, where did our YOUTH go? Gone forever? Well . . .
"16 So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. 17 For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, 18 as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal." - 2 Corinthians 4:16-18
And here's a verse for all you living room tent builders out there.
"For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. 2 For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling, 3 if indeed by putting it on we may not be found naked. 4 For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened—not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. 5 He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee." - 2 Corinthians 1:5
Just like those living room tents we used to make, our human tents, these bodies we wear, are temporary as well. So why do we spend to much time thinking about and caring about temporary things? We spend incredible amounts of our time living in, and thinking about, the visible world. So much so that we often forget to prepare for the invisible one.
Building living room forts was a lot of fun when we were younger. We weren't really thinking about earthly things. We weren't thinking about eternal things either but think about this.
What if we pursued Jesus like we built that fort? What if we built our faith with the same focus and energy that we built that living room fort with?
As kids we were totally focused on the task at hand. We used every resource we could think of to build our tent. Yet today, as adults, our faith takes a back seat compared to everything else. Our focus lies elsewhere. Hey, I can't even make it through my morning prayers without wandering off someplace else. Squirrel!
As we watch our children or our grandchildren at play, notice how focused and intense they are. Whether it's a child's tea party or building a temporary tent, they are extremely focused on what they are doing. So should we be with our faith. Let us pursue Jesus . . . focus on Jesus . . . because this world IS a temporary thing. Through our faith in Christ we just BEGIN to experience the eternal. Let us come to Him like a little child who wants to be picked up and held. He has promised us a great reward. Let's not blow it by placing so much importance on temporary things. Things that simply do not matter. Let us focus on Jesus!
At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” 2 And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them 3 and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. 4 Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
5 “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, 6 but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea." - Matthew 18: 1-6