Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Another Brick In The Wall

I began writing this story the same day that the Supreme Court in our country begins hearing arguments in a case dealing with same-sex marriage. Depending on how the court decides, same-sex marriages could become legal in the United States.

We in this country have been getting farther and farther away from Gods as we turn our backs on His laws and His precepts in favor of our OWN desires. We have become so politically correct in this country it's hard to speak without offending somebody.

The line between acceptability and non-acceptability is ever-moving . . . ever changing. This battle over same-sex marriage is just another brick in the wall between us and God.

I was listening to audio of some of the court proceedings today. One of the judges asked the question, "What if two men and two women came in and they ALL wanted to get married to each other. We currently do not allow polygamous marriages here but that could be next. Where will all of this end?"

Well, I know exactly where it will end. Standing in front of Jesus we ALL will give an account for our actions. I would not want to be an unrepentant sinner on THAT day.

Marriage is clearly defined as being between one man and one woman in Matthew 19. This is Jesus speaking.

"4 And he answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female, 5 And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh? 6 Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder." - Matthew 19:4-6  - Matthew 19:4-6

I highlighted the word wife because some say that the word "wife" could mean a man OR a woman. I have also heard it said that, "Jesus never said anything against homosexuality." Wrong on both counts . . . and I will prove it.

Below is a link to an on-line Greek Interlinear Bible. It is the one I use in my word-for-word translation research for some of my stories. Click on it.

Greek Interlinear Bible

Now click on Matthew 19. A PDF will pop up. Begin scrolling down to verse 5. Read it word for word and find out what the Greek actually translates as. The answer rests in the Greek word gunaiki. Note the English word below it . . . in all caps. WOMAN.

Still despite all of the proof about what God thinks, what really matters in our highest court is, what do WE humans think. Not all of the justices are Christians. Many have their own opinions about what's right and what's wrong. We have lost ourselves as "one nation under God" and instead have become "one nation, under self."

I fully expect the court to rule in favor of same-sex marriage when they release their judgment at the end of June. If they don't I would be surprised. I believe that God has turned His back on us and removed His hand of protection from this once-great country.

I have been praying for the attorneys involved in the case, the justices and our country, but I fear that God has had enough of us and our ways. Read this passage from Paul and see if you don't agree that these verses perfectly describe the sinfulness that exists in Ferguson, Baltimore and "every town, USA" May God have mercy on us.

"28 And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. 29 They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, 31 foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. 32 Though they know God's righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them." - Romans 1:28-32

People have told my that I am intolerant and/or judgmental. I disagree. I am a Christian. GOD is the one who is not tolerant. He is the One who judges . . . and I am with Him. God loves us all. He wishes that none of us should perish. But He is an incredibly just judge. He has told us time and time again that he wages of sin is death. He will knock down our weak, idolatrous little wall that we have worked so hard to build. He will judge who is right and who is wrong, not nine men and women sitting in a cold, dark room in Washington D.C.

"All in all it's just another brick in the wall."

Another Brick In The Wall - Pink Floyd

Monday, April 27, 2015

Knowing Brings The Pain

I think perhaps now I am beginning to understand the gift that has been given me in this life. It saddens me to some degree. But when I compare that pain to the hope that I now have been given, there is nothing . . . nothing that can compare to the joy that awaits me now. A joy that awaits us ALL.

Coming from the world as I did, the concept of a gift like the one I was given was difficult for me to grasp - especially the size of the gift, and just who it was who was doing the giving. There was little knowledge about what was coming, little foretaste of the things that would happen, not only to me but in the lives of those I love as well.

I don't know about how you feel about this but when something does something for me I like to reciprocate. Like if my friend brings me breakfast in the morning at work I like to return the favor. If someone lends me some money I like to pay them back, with interest. That's just the way I am.

I read a few verses a several weeks ago that bears repeating right now. As you read them, try to grasp the meaning of what is being said.

"6 For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. (That's you and me) 7 For one will scarcely die for a righteous person - though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die - 8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God." - Romans 1:6-9

Jesus died for me. I struggle with that. It bothers me that my sin caused Jesus to go to the cross. How am I EVER going to pay THAT back. The fact that God does not want me to pay Him back bothers me as well. I struggle with God's grace because I am totally undeserving of it. And I do mean . . . totally.

So what do I do? Well, I did the only thing I could think of. I offered Jesus MY life in return.

Twice in the book of 1 Corinthians Paul reminds us that we "were bought with a price." Do you know what they call it when someone pays a price to purchase a human being? It's called slavery. I am now a slave of Christ. And I am more than okay with that.

When I consider what that means and the price that has been paid, it's really not a bad deal at all. But I still feel incredibly indebted to God for grace and forgiveness. The debt really makes me want to pay God back by being obedient.

I watch the world as it goes by. I see many professing Christians leading lives contrary to God's wishes. It bothers me that they do that. It also bothers me when I do that. It bothered Paul as well.

"15 For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. 16 Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. 17 So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. 18 For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me." - Romans 7:15-20

Confused? Frustrated? You bet!

I guess it's good that I feel frustrated over the fact that I cannot keep from sinning. No matter how many times I repent and seek God's forgiveness I will still desire not to sin. It is when we DON'T feel remorse for our sins that we are not forgiven.

There is great joy in knowing that someone would literally die for me. Yet, at the same time, there is great sadness when we realize WHY that had to be done. And when we see people we love not grasping the reality of what has been done for them it hurts.

Faith without works is dead. James told us that. If we are truly saved scripture says we will show evidence of that in our life. Works do not save. Physical baptism does not save. It is the baptism of the spirit that gives rise to a transformed life and works done in the spirit. I pray for those who do not live the life Jesus called us to live.

So, if you see me staring off into space . . . no smile on my face . . . I am thinking. I am not depressed. I have tremendous compassion for the lost, I have empathy for the false converts because I was one once. I pray for each of us to more fully embrace Jesus. He gave up His life for us. What have we given up for Him?

Jesus Paid It All - Kristian Stanfill

Saturday, April 25, 2015

The Commands of Jesus: Walk Two Miles

"41 And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles." - Matthew 5:41

At first I didn't know what I should write about for this particular Commands of Jesus installment. I have never been "forced" to walk with someone. It has always been a choice for me. "Hey, Bob. Would you like to go walking today?" That sort of thing.

No one has ever burst into my bedroom in the middle of the night and forced me to get up and go walking with them. So what does this command really mean? What am I supposed to do?

Have you ever been forced to do something against your will? Yeah. I go to work every day. I don't really WANT to go to work. I am "forced to" . . . because . . . I want to eat!! However, I think Jesus had something more in mind. He's looking for real sacrifice from us. That's what these last few commands we've been reading in Matthew have been all about.

Matthew 39: Do not resist the one who is evil, turn to him the other (cheek) also. Verse 40 let him have your cloak as well.

It seems to me that Jesus is looking for sacrifice from us beyond what most might consider a "normal" response. Remember, we are supposed to be servants in this world. We are supposed to be the ones who are "giving" even though we might not have much.

I am thinking of a young friend this morning. Her parents are kicking her out of the house. She has tried to get a job but has found none. What would Jesus want me to do in this situation?

There is another young friend in my life seeking funds to go on a mission trip. It's rather obvious what Jesus would want me to do there but in light of Jesus commanding us to go TWICE as far as we might otherwise, how much shall I contribute?

Funny. Here I am writing about this particular command about "going beyond" right as two people in my life surface with opportunities to do just that. Is there someone in YOUR life who could benefit from this command Jesus gave to us? Is there someone in YOUR life in need?

You know, a "command" is something that is often contrary to our will. I have another young friend who is in the Marines. It is DEFINITELY contrary to his nature to get up at 5:00AM and go for a 20-mile run with his platoon . . . but he does it.

What opportunity will occur today in YOUR life that would allow you to follow this command of Jesus? Will your spouse ask you to do something this weekend that you really don't want to do? I encourage you to be aware of any opportunities to follow the commands of Jesus.

We are here on earth to learn and grow in character and be transformed into the image of Jesus. We should be eagerly awaiting opportunities to do that, don't you think?

"10 “One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much." - Luke 16:10

I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles) - The Proclaimers

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Friends Are A Gift From God

The cold wind blowing in our faces. Sleet stinging our exposed skin like so many frozen needles on this incredibly cold spring day. Why, oh why did we go walking today? Why? I'll tell you why. Because we are the best of friends. That's why.

Do you have a best friend? Do you have someone you can always depend on? Do you have someone who sacrifices their own wants and needs for yours? Do you have someone who will back you up in a fight? Someone you can borrow money from and they don't care if you pay it back or not? Do you have a friend who sticks with you through thick and thin when nobody else will? If not you should go get one. Or better yet, become one.

Have you ever met someone you felt like you already knew? Why is that do you suppose? Do you think it's random chance we meet these people in our lives who we just get along with so incredibly well? Or is there some divine conductor orchestrating our lives for some purpose we have no idea about? So, what do you think? Random chance? Or intelligent plan?

Sounds like a creation vs big bang debate beginning to form, doesn't it? Not too far from it I agree. I have a problem with the whole "random chance" creation theory. The evidence in this world alone is just too compelling to deny that somebody designed all this stuff we see around us. But I don't want to get sidetracked here. Let's get back to relationships.

I heard a verse today from the Book of Acts that caught my attention. It was about God and His interaction with us humans. Read the Word of God here in these two passages and see if you don't agree that God directs us and molds us to accomplish His will. This is Paul and Silas wondering where to preach next.

"6 And they went through the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia. 7 And when they had come up to Mysia, they attempted to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them. 8 So, passing by Mysia, they went down to Troas. 9 And a vision appeared to Paul in the night: a man of Macedonia was standing there, urging him and saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” 10 And when Paul had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go on into Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them." - Acts 16:6-10

And then this happened when they reached Macedonia:


Baptistry at Philippi
"11 So, setting sail from Troas, we made a direct voyage to Samothrace, and the following day to Neapolis, 12 and from there to Philippi, which is a leading city of the district of Macedonia and a Roman colony. We remained in this city some days. 13 And on the Sabbath day we went outside the gate to the riverside, where we supposed there was a place of prayer, and we sat down and spoke to the women who had come together. 14 One who heard us was a woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple goods, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul. 15 And after she was baptized, and her household as well, she urged us, saying, “If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come to my house and stay.” And she prevailed upon us." - Acts 16:11-15

Did you catch all that? God's Holy Spirit prevented the two apostles from visiting several places and then specifically directed them in a vision to go to Macedonia where they preached the Word to Lydia. Lydia, whose heart God had already prepared in advance to hear the words spoken by Paul. Why? So she might believe, and her whole family. Today she is a Saint in the Catholic church.

It is believed that Lydia was the first person in Europe to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. The first of many. And God softened her heart and brought His Word to her in the form of Paul and Silas. Impressive!

Now, do you think that God softens OUR hearts to make certain relationships work well? It says right in Acts 16 that God softens hearts. He also hardens them as well (remember Pharaoh in Egypt?).

Think of your friends. Why did God bring you together? Has one of your friends done something for you? Or you for your friend?

God brought a friend into MY life for His purpose back in 2005. A few months later I gave my life to Christ. I am a firm believer that God orchestrates relationships for His glory - because it happened to me! Pray that it happens to you, then be ready. The next person you meet might be sent from God to become your new best friend.

God's Gift - a mother with Alzheimer's remembers her friend, her daughter.

Monday, April 20, 2015

In The Blink Of An Eye

I wasn't feeling well for most of the day - too much work done by this old body the day before perhaps. I had a headache, numerous body aches and I slept until noon. Not much thought was given to going to church or what I would write for this story. So I asked God what I should write about and picked up my Bible.

The book of Acts that I was reading didn't reveal any story thoughts beyond how the Gospel was spreading in the early church, so I sat down in the living room, exhausted. My wife was making biscuits in the other room and was pampering me most of the day. She offered me some soup and a grilled cheese. That sounded perfect as I searched for something to watch on TV. Blah.

Have you ever heard of a show called 30 for 30? It's on ESPN. I had never heard of it either but I began watching it anyway. This particular show featured the rise and fall of one Brian Bosworth - a former college football player, full of himself . . . destined to burn out . . . for a purpose.

The Boz, as he labeled himself, was an extremely good middle linebacker. Extremely good! And that's just how The Boz felt about himself. Soon The Boz began taking over Brian and the resulting egomaniac burned nearly every bridge he had. He had it all until he experienced a career ending shoulder injury. He had it all and then lost it all in the blink of an eye. One season in the NFL and done.

During the show I kept noticing that the "post-crash" Bosworth was wearing a cross around his neck. So, I did a little research and found this video of Brian giving his testimony.

Life Today - Brian Bosworth

As I watched his testimony I thought back to the 30 for 30 video I had just seen. A man who had everything and then suddenly lost it all - in the blink of an eye. I remembered reading about Job in the Bible and how HE had lost it all. Yet, in the end, God had blessed Job because of his faith. Such was the case for Brian Bosworth. Brian now makes Christian movies. Search for Revelation Road.

After all my Brian Bosworth research, I went into the living room to see what my wife was watching on TV. It was the end scenes of the movie Shawshank Redemption. As Red (Morgan Freeman) is heading south on a bus to meet up with his long, lost friend Andy, he offers these words of encouragement for us all to remember.

"I find I'm so excited, I can barely sit still or hold a thought in my head. I think it's the excitement only a free man can feel, a free man at the start of a long journey whose conclusion is uncertain. I hope I can make it across the border. I hope to see my friend and shake his hand. I hope the Pacific is as blue as it has been in my dreams. I hope." - Ellis Boyd 'Red' Redding

That's when I knew what God wanted me to write about today. Hope. Brian Bosworth was a very lost young man. He was very full of himself, thinking he didn't need God because he was The Boz! What Brian REALLY needed was Jesus Christ. His testimony shows us all that there is ALWAYS hope when we place our faith in Jesus. God can rescue even the most lost person on earth - a middle linebacker, a convicted criminal, anyone. There is incredible, undeniable hope, in Christ.

"So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, 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

Shawshank Redemption

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Time Warp

I just watched the new Star Wars VII movie trailer. Cool. Harrison Ford was in it. Boy, has he changed over the years! Grey hair and wrinkles can never hide that cocky grin. Chewy looked good. Not a touch of grey! Can't tell about the wrinkles.

When I look in the mirror these days I too can see more wrinkles and grey hair than I used to. I still feel young inside but I will admit it takes a little more time to get from Point A to Point B. Why is that? Could it be that I am getting older? Nah.

I have some young friends who like to tease me about my age. They call me a dinosaur. They ask me what it was like to walk the earth when Jesus did. Funny. I don't really mind because I am indeed young at heart.

There are two things about getting old that I find incredibly useful, especially later in life - experience and wisdom. Experience comes naturally. As we get older we just naturally go through more "stuff." Simply by being "old" I know more stuff through my experiences. My 62 years of experience on this earth trumps the experience of most 19-20 year olds for example. It makes sense. Wisdom, on the other hand, is harder to come by.

I heard someone once say that "intelligence is knowing that a tomato is a fruit. Wisdom is knowing not to put one on a cake." That's true. Wisdom can be very beneficial, especial when baking cakes! Correct, timely application of knowledge. Now THAT is wisdom.

Wisdom is usually something that comes slowly with age but it is possible to obtain wisdom without spending years and years to obtain it. Kind of a time warp for the wise. Pray for it.

"5 At Gibeon the Lord appeared to Solomon in a dream by night, and God said, “Ask what I shall give you.” 6 And Solomon said, “You have shown great and steadfast love to your servant David my father, because he walked before you in faithfulness, in righteousness, and in uprightness of heart toward you. And you have kept for him this great and steadfast love and have given him a son to sit on his throne this day. 7 And now, O Lord my God, you have made your servant king in place of David my father, although I am but a little child. I do not know how to go out or come in. 8 And your servant is in the midst of your people whom you have chosen, a great people, too many to be numbered or counted for multitude. 9 Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, that I may discern between good and evil, for who is able to govern this your great people?”

10 It pleased the Lord that Solomon had asked this. 11 And God said to him, “Because you have asked this, and have not asked for yourself long life or riches or the life of your enemies, but have asked for yourself understanding to discern what is right, 12 behold, I now do according to your word. Behold, I give you a wise and discerning mind, so that none like you has been before you and none like you shall arise after you. 13 I give you also what you have not asked, both riches and honor, so that no other king shall compare with you, all your days. 14 And if you will walk in my ways, keeping my statutes and my commandments, as your father David walked, then I will lengthen your days.”
- 1 Kings 3:5-14

Solomon asked and received. Have you asked God to give you wisdom? I'm not saying that you will be made wise like Solomon was but seek God in ALL things. If you do this, you can't help but become wise.

Star Wars - The Force Awakens (Trailer #2)

The Wisdom of Solomon - Moody Bible Story

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

The Commands of Jesus: Hand Over Your Coat

"40 And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well." - Matthew 5:40

This command of Jesus really goes against our nature as Americans. At least at first blush. Why would we pay someone MORE that what they deserve? Especially if they are suing us?

I think the point Jesus is trying to make here is that we need to examine ourselves, JUST a little deeper that simply the words He spoke.

First, if someone is suing us, we must have done something wrong at least in SOME body's eyes. And if we indeed have done something wrong this command from Jesus begins to make a little more sense than it does on the surface.

If we have indeed wronged someone, Jesus wants us to not only make things right, but to make things REALLY right. It's a way of saying I'm sorry. Simply paying someone the amount they were owed would be "normal." But paying someone TWICE what there were deserving of would make the recipient really take notice.

"Why are you paying me twice as much as the courts awarded me?"

"Because I have done wrong in the eyes of the court and in the eyes of my God. I ask you to accept this extra amount as a means of saying I am sorry.

I this series of commands in Matthew 5 Jesus is desiring for us to look at all these situations with God in mind and with the other person in mind. That brings us to this basic concept of the Christian faith. We are not to be thinking about ourselves in this life. We are to be thinking about God and others before we think about ourselves.

Can you think of an instance where someone, upon winning a court case, has been paid MORE than they were due? Me neither.

Have you heard the story of the northern Indiana pizzeria owner who refused to sell pizza for a same-sex wedding? He was trying to be obedient to his god yet serve the public. He had no problem with selling pizzas to LGBT people. He just didn't want to contribute to a ceremony that contradicted his God. The protests came. He was on the news. This horrible man discriminating against gay people!

He was discriminating against people, he was discriminating against the ceremony. But our media doesn't see things that way. The attack was swift and direct. He paid a price, more than just the loss of this gay couples business. He actually closed the doors of his pizza store to stay true to God's will. And what happened?

Although the owner wasn't seeking anything in this, other than to just operate his business, someone started a crowd-funding campaign on-line for this store owner.

$842,387 was contributed to help this guy after he shut his doors. He has since re-opened his doors. The protests have stopped. Tables are full.

When God provides us with an opportunity to demonstrate our faith, let us not miss that opportunity. Let us stand talk and honor this King whose name we profess. Let us give to others MORE than they are expecting. In doing so, we not only with honor God, but we will be blessed as well.

Indiana Pizzeria Re-Opens

Monday, April 13, 2015

Pop Quiz!

Didn't you just love those surprise tests your teachers gave you in school? To see how much you really knew without studying? Yeah, me neither. I always hated those things. As soon as I heard the teacher say, "Today, I have a little surprise for you," I knew my GPA was going to drop significantly before the bell rang.

And how do you answer the questions you don't know the answer to. Do you guess? Or just leave them blank? Do you answer all unanswerable true/false question as "true" figuring you'll as least get half of them right? Maybe. On multiple choice do you always answer "c"? Or all of the above, and then try to figure out a way to justify your answer. Yeah.

The whole problem with pop quizzes is that they were only a problem for those of us who didn't  studied. That was me. I look at my life now and my walk with Jesus. I haven't changed much.

Each day we are faced with opportunities to shine, situations set in place and arranged for by God, to test us, examine us. So often we just fly right by those "pop quizzes. We don't recognize them for what they are. Opportunities to serve, opportunities to witness to others about our faith. The problem comes when we are simply too busy with our lives, our friends and our phones to notices them when they occur. And they DO occur. For example . . .

When I was at church today the pastor was speaking from the Book of Hebrews. Instead of telling us to open our Bibles to chapter 6:9-12 he misspoke and gave us the verses right before it to read instead.

"7 Land that drinks in the rain often falling on it and that produces a crop useful to those for whom it is farmed receives the blessing of God. 8 But land that produces thorns and thistles is worthless and is in danger of being cursed. In the end it will be burned." - Hebrews 6:7-8

This was the second time these verses have spoken to me in the past week - my friend and I having discussed them just last week. "Coincidence," you might say. Friends, I have been a Christian for nine years now and have seen enough "coincidences" in that time to KNOW they are more than that. They are God-incidences. This week God was testing me and . . . IT WAS AN OPEN BOOK TEST!!!

You see, my family is involved in a minor land dispute with our farm in Michigan. Our neighbor built a driveway on our land. My sister, her husband and I ran through all sorts of scenarios about what to do. That was the test.

Of course I wrote in the wrong answer at first. Grateful I was using a No. 2 Ticonderoga with a fresh eraser on its head! I wrote down a few answers initially. None of them seemed right after they sat there for a while. Then I read that verse again in church today and God's Holy Spirit showed me something I was missing in my answers.

I have been chosen by God. "No one comes to the Father unless the Father draws Him" (John 14:6). I have answered that call and become His slave, seeking to do His bidding. As a result, I am expected to bear fruit (Matthew 17:7). If I bear from the truth of God is in me. John 15 is amazing in this area. The words of Jesus, our Lord.

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 2 He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. 3 You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. 4 Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.

5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. 7 If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples."
- John 15:1-8

Ouch! God pruned me a bit this weekend. Made me bow my head and humbly seek His forgiveness for not passing this test with my FIRST answer. But God was good to me and forgiving, desiring that I pass the test. I hope He is pleased with my final answer.

We all face tests every day - pop quizzes with eternal consequences. God does not grade on a curve. Instead He offers a simple pass / fail exam. Trust me. You do NOT want to fail His exams. Did you miss a pop quiz today? That's okay. There will be a make up exam tomorrow. You will be given the same test over and over again until you pass. That can become very depressing unless we live, and learn from our teacher. Study, learn and live God's teachings. Embrace the tests. Pray . . . teach me, O Lord.

Teach Me, O Lord - Trinity Chamber Singers

Saturday, April 11, 2015

War Of Change


I would like you to do something before you read my story today. Stare at the picture at the left for a few moments. Look at the eyes. This young soul is a casualty of war. Remember those eyes as we proceed.

The following link is from the movie U-571. The movie is about a submarine crew during World War II who is under attack by a German destroyer. I'd like you to notice how the explosions (depth charges, designed to blow up when they reach a certain depth) come slowly at first but then increase in frequency and severity. Remember the term increased frequency and severity as we continue on.

Depth Charges - U-571

Did you feel like you were under attack along with that submarine crew? I sure did. The German attack was pretty severe. Now, let's close our eyes for a moment and search our minds for images of war. Let your mind drift back to World War II, or The Korean War, Vietnam, Iraq, or Afghanistan. What are some of the images you see? Hitler? concentration camps? A nuclear explosion? Burning oil fields? Rice patties perhaps. It doesn't matter what war you remember. The images of the innocent victims are all pretty much the same. Solidify those pictures of war in your mind now as we begin to take a deeper look at another war. This one is actually going on right now. It has been going on for years. It is a battle that we are currently losing. It is a battle . . . for our souls.

The scary thing about this war is the enemy. We KNOW our enemy, and our enemy is . . . us.

Recently, al-Shabab, a terrorist organization affiliated with Al-Qaedda, murdered 148 Christians in Kenya. This is just the latest in an all-too-long series of attacks against innocents, mostly Christians. These attacks are only a visible part of a greater war that usually goes reported. Most of the attacks on Christianity come from within our own country. Often by professing Christians.

Political correctness they call it. That is one of the weapons the evil one uses against us. "We must be nice to one another. Embrace everyone's uniqueness," they say. Sounds good, right?

Removing God from our classrooms is another tactic. "If we can remove their God from the minds of their children and replace His thoughts with ours, the future will be ours!" It's working.

The gay agenda, the social justice movement, syncretism, universalism, emergent theology. All these and more are eating away at the church. We are under attack as surely as the crew of U-571.

Many Christians simply accept all these factions. "We should be loving. It's the "Christian" thing to do."

Wrong.

We SHOULD be loving, right up to the point where our willingness to love takes us away from our obedience to God. God is our king, not the world in which we live. We are to be pleasers of God, not of men.

Christians are taught to love their enemies (Matthew 5:44) but we are not to bow down to them. We WILL be persecuted and attacked. So was Jesus. So were the disciples. We should expect persecution. We should expect and be prepared for the enemy to creep into our camp while we are not watching. We need to be ready.

"12 In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted," - 2 Timothy 3:12 

We are at war my friends. We should start acting like it. Examine every "new thing" in church. Examine every "vision" your church leaders have. The Bible is our standard. It is both our measuring stick and our weapon of choice in our daily battle with the devil.

A few weeks ago I just happened to by a CD by a band named Thousand Foot Krutch. On that CD was a song, seemingly written especially for this story. Over 4 1/2 million people have viewed the music video. The lyrics are amazing. They speak of the war we are all involved in on a daily basis. Head the warnings my friends. They are everywhere.

It creeps in like a thief in the night,
Without a sign, without a warning,
But we are ready and prepared to fight,
Raise up your swords, don't be afraid,



A War of Change - Thousand Foot Krutch

Sorry this wasn't a very uplifting post today. It's more of a warning than anything else I guess. A warning of what is to come and a warning about what is happening right new. Read your Bibles. Continue to love others. Cling tight to your brothers and sisters in the faith. Trust in God. Listen only to Him. He will keep us safe, Our refuge is in him alone.

"27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand." - John 10: 27-28 

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Fanatical Fanatics!

Duke beat the Wisconsin Badgers Monday night in the NCAA Basketball National Championship game. The Facebook posts prior to the game were varied. People were nervous, excited, confident, doubtful and enthusiastic. All the typical emotions of a fanatic - a fan.

I only watched a few minutes of the game. I had a Bible study scheduled for that night so I went to that. Nobody else showed up. It was pretty much me and the waitress at the restaurant. I gave her a $5 tip for my glass of water and left. No sense everybody's night being a total loss.

Well, it wasn't a TOTAL loss. I did go home and read two chapters in The Book of John. I was reading the account of the betrayal and death of Jesus and began to think about all the things Jesus gave up for me. For us.

He gave up His life . . . obviously. But that's not exactly true. He is alive today! Come to think of it, Jesus didn't really give up anything at all. He actually has everything He could have dreamed of. Hmm. I wonder. Does Jesus dream? If so, what does He dream about? But I'm off on a tangent.

God didn't really lose anything either. We are fond of saying that "God gave His only Son" but God's One and only Son is currently sitting right by His side. God didn't give up anything either.

For the Badger basketball team and their fans the night WAS a total loss. Some people spent thousands of dollars to travel to Indianapolis, rent hotel rooms, pay for dinner, tickets, taxi fares, tips. All to see their team lose. Of course, they might have won! But they didn't. Thousands of dollars lost, time lost for absolutely nothing. But that's past of the cost of being a fan.

After the game many Badger fans posted congratulatory messages for their Badgers. "Thanks for the season Badgers." "We'll get 'em next year." "Thanks Bucky!"

Always thinking about those Badgers (or whatever teams name you want to use). Which brings me to the point of this blog post.

I wonder . . . with all of the basketball games being played in March and now baseball starting up, how much time does the average sports fan have for Jesus?

Do you remember what Jesus said was the greatest commandment? Here's hint.

"36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
- Matthew 22:36-40

I struggle with that command. It's not that I don't want to obey it. I can't!

Let's talk about the word "ALL" for a moment. All . . .  that kind of means everything, doesn't it? How many minutes are there in an hour? ALL the minutes. Every one. Well, there's 60 minutes in an hour.

How many minutes in a basket ball game? 40 minutes. That's the whole game. That's ALL of it.

We have no trouble thinking about basketball for 40 minutes but most of us can't think about God for 4 minutes, let alone 40 minutes.

Do we love God with ALL our hearts? Or do we save some of our hearts for the Badgers? See what I mean? God wants all of us and we refuse to let him have us. That's a problem.

So, how do we let God have all of us? We could start by getting rid of the extra stuff.

I probably spend too much time on the computer. I work on a computer at work drawings architectural plans. I also  write this blog on a computer. If I wanted to think about God all the time I would have to give up my job. Is that what God wants?

The question actually is do we LOVE God with all we have? My answer, sadly, is no. Do I love God more than I love my best friend? More than I love my wife? My kids? Myself? The answer MUST be yes!

Thank about that for a moment. Do you love God more than anything? Is YOUR answer yes? I want my answer to be yes, yet I still fail at living that out. It's probably the same for you. So what do we do? We stand back up and try again tomorrow. Our highest goal must be to please our God and when He wants us to give him our EVERYTHING, our ALL, We MUST be fanatical about doing that.

You Are My All In All - Hillsong Kids

Monday, April 6, 2015

The Danger Of The Sinner's Prayer

My church did it today. There are churches all over the world that do it. Most evangelists do it too. Even Christian rock bands are after the same thing. Everyone seems REALLY interested in getting us to say the "magic words" in what has become known as "The Sinners Prayer."

What exactly IS the sinner's prayer? Here's one taken from GotQuestions.org:

"God, I know that I am a sinner. I know that I deserve the consequences of my sin. However, I am trusting in Jesus Christ as my Savior. I believe that His death and resurrection provided for my forgiveness. I trust in Jesus and Jesus alone as my personal Lord and Savior. Thank you Lord, for saving me and forgiving me! Amen!"

If you get asked to pray that prayer in church quite often you will be asked to talk with someone after the service. That's probably a good thing. Because most unbelievers, having just "prayed" that prayer, would not know what they had just agreed to or what they had even said.

There is a great danger in praying the sinner's prayer. It can give us a false sense of confidence and hope if we don't know fully what it means. The sinner's prayer doesn't tell the whole story. What IS the whole story? Please, open your Bibles to the book of Acts. This is where the disciples first set out to spread the Gospel. It is where they preached the first sermons and where people, previously not familiar with the Gospel, came to believe. Let's look at Acts 3, the 17th verse. Peter had just healed a lame man in front of a crowd. While everyone marveled at what Peter had done, he spoke them.

"17 “Now, fellow Israelites, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did your leaders. (He was speaking of  their crucifying Jesus) 18 But this is how God fulfilled what he had foretold through all the prophets, saying that his Messiah would suffer. 19 Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord," - Acts 3:17-19

The key word, often not spoken in the sinner's prayer is "repent." Examine the prayer above. Do you see it mentioned? Nope. It is not mentioned at all. Yet, repentance is the first thing Peter mentions as a requirement of being saved.

The way an unbeliever receives the praying of this prayer is that they are good to go from that point on. They most likely have not read God's word or had the opportunity to understand the faith they now profess, let alone be mentored by anyone. They most likely have missed out on the whole, "you need to repent and change your life. You need to start living for Jesus as His servant" thing.

Praying without actually believing is very dangerous. It's called being a false convert. People think they believe but they really don't. The detection key to determine who these people are is their "fruit." No fruit? No faith. This from the Book of James:

"faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead." - James 2:17

When I first came to believe at age 53 I went nuts reading the Bible. I couldn't stop. My desire for knowledge was insatiable. I couldn't get enough. I also joined not one but two churches. I volunteered as a youth leader. I was on fire for Jesus. Not intentionally. I just couldn't help myself.

Today, I look at many of the kids that were in our youth group. Some of those kids who professed a faith in Christ are now living together, involved with drugs, some are in same-sex relationships, having sex outside of marriage or are expectant mothers. On the other hand, one troublemaker from our youth group now leads a Bible study in a nearby community.

I was a kid like that. I never believed in high school, although I told everyone I did. I was a pretty good liar. It wasn't until I finally believed Jesus was who He said He was and really knew that He was real, that made a difference. Some 35 years later.

So, if the sinner's prayer is prayed in a group setting like at a rock concert or a church gathering, I believe, based on what I have seen, that it is useless unless it is accompanied by a real transformation. If an alcoholic suddenly repents, quits drinking cold turkey  and then begins volunteering at AA meetings, telling others how Jesus is WAY better than anything in a bottle, I will believe he is my brother. But if a teenage girl, who was baptized on a youth trip begins to fade and is now found living with her boyfriend, I begin to wonder.

I never prayed a sinner's prayer. It is not essential to one's salvation. It is not found ANYWHERE in the Bible. Yet the church grew. Why? Repentance, sins forgiven, , a fruit-filled tree testifying to the Holy Spirit's indwelling presence.

It isn't a prayer that is said that makes the difference. It's a transformation caused when the Holy Spirit comes into our souls and begins to refine us. It is repentance that triggers it all, not a prayer.

One of the pastors I like to listen to once said of alter calls, basically the same as asking someone to repeat a sinner's prayer, "You were saved in your seat."

It isn't the prayer that saves you. It's the deciding to say it, with meaning, that does. It is our desire to live for Jesus, not to have Him be our magical genie to do our bidding. It is our desire to be a slave to a King that makes us one of His children. Offer yourself to Him. Read His Word. Lay your life at His Holy feet and pray . . . for forgiveness. Praise Him for His free gift of salvation through His grace and mercy. THEN stand, and stand tall. You are a child of God. Now . . . act like it.

During this Easter season I encourage you to examine the thief on the cross. He was never baptized, he never said a sinner's prayer, he was never discipled, went to SHAPE class, or served in anyway. He believed that Jesus was God. It was his faith and belief that saved him mere hours before he died.

"39 One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!”

40 But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? 41 We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.”

42 Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”

43 Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”
- Luke 23:39-43


Think about that. All the thief did . . . was believe.

Examining The Sinner's Prayer - Paul Washer

Saturday, April 4, 2015

The Commands of Jesus: Turn The Other Cheek

"But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also." - Matthew 5:39

Have you ever been slapped in the face? I haven't. Maybe I just never did anything bad enough to warrant being slapped. I have been SPANKED but never slapped.

Even though I have never experienced being slapped I am pretty sure I would NOT willingly desire to be slapped in the face again. I base this on my experience of being spanked as a disobedient child. I never said, "Thank you, may I have another?" Getting spanked brings a whole new meaning to turning the other "cheek." So what exactly did Jesus mean when He commanded us to turn the other cheek?

I think what Jesus is looking for is for us to be slow to act out in anger. At least initially. But I also think He wants us to go beyond that. To think before we act. Maybe by turning the other cheek we have an opportunity to do that.

I also think that by turning the other cheek we have an opportunity to demonstrate to our "slapper" that we love them too much to slap them back. I guess what I am trying to say is that . . . what would Jesus do in that situation. Let's go to the Bible. We are going to read about Jesus being questioned near the end of His life. He is about to get slapped.

"19 Meanwhile, the high priest questioned Jesus about his disciples and his teaching.

20 “I have spoken openly to the world,” Jesus replied. “I always taught in synagogues or at the temple, where all the Jews come together. I said nothing in secret. 21 Why question me? Ask those who heard me. Surely they know what I said.”

22 When Jesus said this, one of the officials nearby slapped him in the face. “Is this the way you answer the high priest?” he demanded.

23 “If I said something wrong,” Jesus replied, “testify as to what is wrong. But if I spoke the truth, why did you strike me?” 24 Then Annas sent him bound to Caiaphas the high priest."
  - John 18:19-24

Jesus did not retaliate against His captors. He reasoned with them. He made them think.

When people hurt us do we strike back at them? I have seen many people doing this very thing on Facebook. They lash out at who ever hurt them. By doing so thay aren't doing ANYBODY any good.

I think what Jesus wants us to do when someone hurts us is to not say anything. Let them not see that we have been hurt at all. In fact, I think Jesus would want us to pray for the person who just hit us.

"43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you," - Matthew 5:43-44

The next time someone attacks you, either physically or emotionally, don't strike back. Instead pray for them. Ask them what's wrong, that they would lash out at you. Jesus wants us to love our neighbors but that is a story from a future installment of The Commands of Jesus.

Time for a tough question. In light of this command from Jesus, to turn the other cheek, to not retaliate against our enemies, what do you think we as a nation should have done after 9/11? Should we have done nothing? Did we act appropriately in God's eyes? I'm not saying we did wrong. Perhaps we were being used by God to punish the people who killed innocent people. Did the leaders of our country ask us to pray for our enemies? Something to think about.


Budweiser Superbowl Commercial 2011

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

The Parable of The Legos

I think just about every kid in America has played with Legos at least once in their lives. Everyone knows what they look like - little plastic blocks with round, knobby things that snap into each other. Legos were first made in 1949 in Billund, Denmark and, as of 2013, 560 billion Lego parts have been made. That's a lot of Legos!!

It's fun to build things with Legos, using only our imagination as a guide. My grandson likes to stack them WAY up high, as high as he can get them to go. But lately Legos have changed. Not so much the Legos themselves but the way they are packaged and marketed.

I recently visited a young friend of mind who, only a few days before our visit, had lost a friend of hers to suicide. She told me about this young man whose favorite things in life were chocolate milk and Legos. So I thought it would be nice to send my young friend a small set of Legos as a remembrance.

As I strolled down the Lego aisle at Walmart it soon became obvious that I was not going to be able to complete my mission. There were absolutely no small sets of just plain Legos. All the Lego boxes were now kits of some trademarked TV show or movie.

There were Star Wars Legos, Hulk Legos, Arctic Basecamp Legos, Super Heroes Legos, Minecraft Legos . . . they even had Frozen Legos! But no plain old Legos could be found. Sad.

As I thought about the Legos and its company straying from the tried and true "standard" Lego format to all these theme-focused marketing offerings it occurred to me that what happened to the Lego company is also happening to our churches today. They are more interested in "selling" than their original intent - worship.

Many churches have decided to alter the tried and true Gospel of Jesus Christ into a watered down version of what God's Word really proclaims. That too is sad.

Our congregations want more than the plain old Gospel. We need to get a new high-def big screen so the worship lyrics are crisp and clear. And let's take down the crosses so no one is reminded of that bloody scene when Jesus died . . . for us. And let's "reach out" and do something nice for the community so the unsaved will flock to our church! The unsaved are not going to wander into any church because they saw us picking up litter on the side of the road!

None of these things have anything to do with the Gospel.

Legos - Logos

Our churches should not be about entertainment or seeing how many people will come to Polkafest Sunday. Churches are for edifying the body, not entertaining it.

The word logos in Greek means "I say" or "a word" or "THE Word."

"And the Word (logos) became flesh and dwelt among us." - John 1:14

The disciples asked Jesus, "What will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?"

And guess what Jesus told them . . . of all the possible warning signs In Matthew 24, Jesus spoke about deception in the church . . . first.

"4 And Jesus answered them, “See that no one leads you astray. 5 For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and they will lead many astray." - Matthew 24:4-5

We should listen to Jesus' warning and compare everything we see and hear to what has been written in the Bible for us. We don't need churches who make us feel good. We need churches who preach the truth! Otherwise, we shall become lost.

Legos are wonderful things . . . but when we can no longer get the basics . . . just "designer blocks" that give us entertainment, we have lost the origin, the beginning, the whole basis of understanding. NOT a good thing.

Here's a tongue-in-cheek blog post about the seeker-sensitive church . . .

Why I Left Your Seeker-Friendly Church - Bill Blankschaen

A nice worship song telling us that Jesus is all we need . . .

In Christ Alone - Kristian Stanfill

A really good two-hour movie about the seeker-sensitive movement - Rick Warren, Bill Hybels, Bob Bufford & Peter Drucker . . .

Church of Tares Film