08 December 2009

Let Earth Receive Her King



Last Sunday for our time of worship in church, we sang Joy to the World. It has been spinning around my head ever since. Christmas time IS about the birth of Jesus, the Christ, the Savior of the world. Why should this not be the joyous season of the year? And why should all earth not receive her King? The answer, because receiving the King means we must give up ourselves. But in a world of instant internet gratification, and a population blinded by consumerism, it is easier to fool ourselves into rejecting what it true, so that we can live a life that is false, and yet, oh so gratifying.


It should come as no surprise that the King is rejected. Some reject simply as a matter of rejecting all things that represent authority. When the King not only wrote the laws from the foundation of the earth, knowing that they are all fulfilled by grace and love… AND, that only the King can rightly judge a man's heart – THAT my friend is authority. Some reject out of spite to the King, or to others who serve Him. Some reject Him because they think it can't be that easy, to simply believe by faith and be saved by grace. Still others other reject not because they do not believe that there is a God and Savior, but that they want it to be their own way, not His way.


What greater joy can there be, than to receive Christ? What greater joy can there be than for the WORLD to receive her King? We know this, and for the most part we live in a state of heightened awareness and great expectation of when that day comes. But for the lost, the only expectation in their lives may be the expectation of their next failure or loss. Where there is no hope, there is little joy. We, by the power of the gospel, have the ability to bring hope and joy. Not because of anything we have done or can do, but because the earth WILL receive her King!


When Jesus was born to his earthly mother and father, there was great expectation. Both Mary and Joseph had been warned by God's messengers that their son was to be special. A miraculous birth first to Zacharias and Elizabeth to signal His coming, and then to Joseph and Mary the miraculous birth of Jesus. This birth was expected by many Jews. It was expected by the Magi, and it was hoped for by every Israelite living under the burden of the Romans and their own sin. The angels heralded the birth, and the shepherds were some of the first to see Him. The lowly, dirty, smelly shepherds. My goodness, to have been there to see it!


If you have not received Jesus yet, receive Him now. 'Tis the season as they say. If you know someone who needs to receive their King, let them know of the joy in your life, and the reality of Christ living in you via the Holy Spirit. This year, let us all will to do our part to help the earth receive her King!

02 December 2009

Less Like Scars…


Seems that in my devotional time the Lord has given me a focus this week. Healing. Preparing for, living through, walking with God during – our trials. While God's promises are there (what we shared Monday), and while we may not have had the perfect earthly example of how to do this (something we talked about yesterday), we know that we have a heavenly Father whose promises are true and righteous. Still, it is often very hard to remember to lean on Him when we need to. We need to train ourselves to remember that we can always rest in, and lean on Him in our times of need. In doing so, I also feel that it is very important that we seek growth from our experience. God does not allow things to happen in our lives that cannot be used for good, despite how bad things look at the time.


A favorite Christian artist of mine is Sara Groves. She is sort of a mix of folk with biblical inspiration. There have been artists like this in almost every generation, but few that carry such a biblical emphasis even in the Christian genre. Popular artists like Bob Dylan and to some extent John Melencamp, Tom Petty and Tracy Chapman are more examples of this style in our era, but we can hardly say that any of them offer their talents with any sort of Christian slant. As I was listening to one of Sara Groves' songs today, the lyrics (pulled right out of scripture) remind us that going through our hard times brings healing, and that often the process of healing teaches us life lessons that God desires that we learn.

In her prose, sharing the heart of her life's own troubles, the song has a chorus that goes like this:

And I feel you here
And you're picking up the pieces
Forever faithful
It seemed out of my hands, a bad situation
But you are able
And in your hands the pain and hurt
Look less like scars and more like...
Character

Lest you begin to feel like this is a promo for a Christian musician and not devotional, let me say that while this is just a song, the principals and thoughts are God's own heart. His desire is that we take the troubled times that are dealt to us in this fallen and sinful world, and give them to Him, allowing Him to turn our worldly scars into Christian character. His desire is that as we simply do not GO through our hard times, it is that we GROW through our hard times.

Scars are cool when we are young men, but as we get older they can be more troublesome. Scars can make for tight, rough skin that is less elastic, less flexible and lacking in feeling. Internal scars are even worse. If any of you have ever has surgery, you may know this. Internal scars prevent proper movement of our parts, stiffness occurs and we have binding with things that we should not be bound too. Often when another spiritual trial or physical trial come up, previous scars prevent proper care of the new wound, and present even greater hurdles to our present recovery.

But... there are positive sides to scars, as well. They may be ugly, cause inflexibility and provide areas where we have lack of feeling, but they are reminders. The sign of the maturity of our faith is what we do when we look at those scars. Do they remind us of struggles, bringing sadness and or condemnation to us? Or do they represent steps we have taken in our walk? Scars should not be painful in a spiritual sense, they should bring the joy of victory over the attempts of the enemy to do us harm, that end up helping us grow closer to God. Giving all things to God, and seeking to allow Him to bring all things together for good is allowing scars to become character, and righteousness will go before you.

To watch the Sara Groves video, click HERE.
To read all of the lyrics, click HERE.

24 November 2009

Renewing & Rebuilding


I was reviewing some of my pictures from our recent trip to Israel today, and I'm still just utterly amazed that we can literally walk on roads, streets and sidewalks that were made over 2,000 years ago, and some of them even older. With each new city we went to, no matter how ancient, there was always another city or civilization built on top of that one. This eventuality continues until either that city dies to be buried in the rubble of history until someone stumbles upon it and digs it up again, or a modern city is built right over top of it all. In the villages that we looked at there were easily seen archeological evidence of buildings built right on top of the foundations of those that had come before them. This is what got me thinking.


Our lives, each and every one, are living examples of just that. Lives, new and modern, built on the foundations of those that came before us. In some cases, our lives include self-generations where we destroy what we were living on in order to make something new and better. No matter where you are at in your life's journey, there is a foundation under you. Why do I know this to be true?, because we all have those who have come before us. Each one who has come before us has added to that foundation on which you and I walk today.


On our trip in Israel, we were there because Jesus came before us. He laid a foundation for us with the Father that we all can take advantage of today. But we forget sometimes, that even Jesus had those who had come before His incarnate walk on earth. In Capernaum as an example we observed an ancient synagogue there. That synagogue had a foundation that was built in the later Roman period, but underneath that was another foundation, and that one was built before the time of Jesus. Those were the foundation stones that were laid by those who came before Jesus, so that Jesus might walk on those stones, and give us teachings that would change the world. Jesus was preceded by John the Baptist, and he was preceded by 4,000 years of patriarchs and prophets before him. Even Adam had a foundation as the triune God has always existed and were there present at his making. We worship One God, but we owe much to many who have come before us.


As I looked at that picture of the layered foundations in Capernaum, I thought, that's my life; layer upon layer of experience and growth. By the way it is no small coincidence that the older layers are more black, and the newer layers appear whiter and whiter. The old me is buried under the foundations that I have allowed Christ and my spiritual forefathers to lay on top of what I had tried to do on my own. Each new layer of the foundations in Capernaum were cut with greater precision, and engineered with greater knowledge and understanding of what was being built, and the importance of it. As too with my life, each new layer is built over and old one that I'd just as soon leave buried, and the newer layers are cleaner, more precise, and engineered with greater understanding, and cut with tools more superior that I had even imagined existed.


As we build the story of our lives, God is building through us a testimony that will be unique to your life. Our foundations are the investment that others have made into our lives before us. Some investments have been made with sand. Some of us have parents and family histories that can create nothing more than foundations of sand that can hold nothing, and the longer we stand on them the further we sink into lifelessness. Others have build on brick and mortar, those who care about us and wanted what was best for us, at least in their own thinking. Then along comes Jesus into our lives, and we find that while we may never forget those times when we lived on foundations of sand, or brick & mortar, that long lasting foundations are only built on stone not cut with human hands, but prepared for us by our Creator Himself.


With that in mind, I realized, just like the Romans, that if I want to build the best life for myself, sometimes it requires tearing down all that has come before it, removing all the rubble, and allowing Christ top build with whatever is left. Emptying myself is just as important, if not more so, than allowing myself to be filled with Jesus. There must be less of me, so that there can be more of Him. Someone who came before me laid that foundational nugget. Let us devote ourselves to renewing and rebuilding. Let us renew our commitment and dedication to Jesus, allowing Him to rebuild our lives in the way that HE would have us go. Tear down the things that hold us back, the trappings of the world, and the desires of the flesh. Let us look forward to a building of pure white laid on a foundation of pure white stone that will last forever.



27 October 2009

Sloppy Wet Kiss


If you want to get people's attention when you share a devotional or personal thought with someone, here's how to do it:

"I have a confession to make".

And, that's where I'm at. I have not even shared this with my wife yet simply because I have no idea where the Lord is taking this… or me. But what I can tell you that she does know ~ is that God is alive and working in our church body, perhaps like we have never seen before. When faced with hard times, and tough decisions, people who love the Lord and seek to serve Him band together in prayer and sacrifice. I can see and feel this happening. Sometimes God has to show us the end of the rope so that you know you really need to hold on to Him with all of your spiritual might.

So here's my confession: My life has been changed by a sloppy wet kiss.

Legalism is not me, and it is not becoming. I abhor legalism and God has given me the nose of a hound, and the eyes of a hawk to seek it out. But we must carefully balance the freedoms we have been given in Christ, with the irrefutable laws of the character of God and his commandments to us. To further complicate the problem, we, as believers, must also balance the power of Christ that compels or constrains us, with not only our freedoms but with the considerations of those weak in the spirit fighting for their souls.

These issues came to a head last week. My wife had been working hard on producing a new set of music that we can use for a worship service at church. Lacking the provision of a live worship band, we choose to use recorded music for our times of worship. It is generally well received by those who choose to make our church their home. But at the same time, producing a worship set can be difficult as very few recordings are actually produced with the idea of them being used in the setting of a corporate worship service. Needless to say, it takes a great deal of effort to put a set together. With all the effort that is put into it, you can also imagine how important it is that it is received well, not only by those at the service, but by our Lord.

In putting this set together Sonja found a song from a band I did not know, with a singer I had never heard of. This is nothing that surprises me, I like new music, and this band was good. I listened to the song, and it was wonderful! The music was melodious, the harmony was done well, and it was 'full' and strong. But something caused us both to question whether or not to use this song.

There is a line in the song that goes like this: "So Heaven meets earth like a sloppy wet kiss"… Wow.

It makes you want to clear your throat and almost blush a little doesn't it? Well, it did us. We all have our own visions of exactly what a 'sloppy wet kiss' is, and what it means to us, and somehow those visions never seem to include God. So without going into the detail of the visions, suffice it to say, it gave us both some reason to ponder and seek the Lord.

I researched the band, I researched the song, I listened to the whole song and the lyrics in context. We weighed our freedoms in Christ with those who may be put off by such lyrics. I considered legalism; Am I applying it if I say no? I considered our freedoms; Am I abusing them if I say yes? Then I prayed about it, considered all that I could in my temporal mind and decided to go for it. I felt that the Lord must lead in this, and that He must be in it.

This was a stretch for me. It was honestly a bit out of my comfort zone, but you know what they say about God and our comfort zones; He never wants us to be in them for long. In the end, we played the song, I watched for reactions, and waited for the response. It would seem the Lord used it to bless the body.

So to continue my confession: Since that day, and the tears that it brought to my eyes considering the love that God has for us, I have not been able to get that song out of my head. I've been listening to it for 2 days straight now, and it is not growing old. I think this is the case because God has stretched me, and is growing me.

For your benefit, I have attached the lyrics to this song, and link to it being performed on Youtube. I pray that you will give it a listen, and allow God to work through it.

How often do we consider how much God really loves us? When I do it is usually, in fact almost exclusively, associated with Christ's death on the Cross. The fact that He loved us as much as He did is the reason that Jesus died. I get that, I get that in its totality; a love that cannot be surpassed. But here is why this song has blessed me, and here is why this song is changing my life:

God loves me THAT MUCH, just because!

He is my Father, I am His son. When He thinks of me He simply LONGS for me to be with Him. He loves me because He can, and because I am His son! I love my children because they are my children! Not because of something they did that was good, or something that I did as a service of sacrifice to them, but because they are my children! I love them most when they are closer to me! I love for them to desire to be near me and because they want to be around me. I long for them when they are not around, and wish they were with me, I love them without restrain or restriction. I love when they run across the field as I drive up the driveway, and I love how they will wait for me outside in the rain, just to be the first one to greet me that day as I come home from work. I always think that my love for my children cannot be increased, but it is increased all the time!

God loves us in all these same ways just as much. He desires us, loves for us to seek Him out and wait for Him. He loves that we run towards Him just because we long to be near Him, and in times of need. He loves us not just because we are good, but because we are His children. Let us show God that we CAN love Him more. That our love for Him can increase.

I have not been moved in such a way by prose or song in decades. I'm not only taken back to a childhood of innocence and child-like unconditional love, but my walls of indifference and apathy created by years of age, 'experience' and understanding have been crushed under the unbearable weight of the understanding of God's love for me. Oh, how He loves us, and until we understand this, love itself is somehow less than what He meant it to be, and God is not God.

I implore you to take 8:52 out of your day, and listen to this song and watch this video as you read the lyrics below. May God truly bless you with this song as a continuing answer to so many prayers in so many ways. May your heart be moved not necessarily to love God or your spouse or your children more (although that's a good thing), but to understand how much God loves you, His child. My prayer is that you are never the same. Love God. Fear God, and honor the King!

LINK TO YOUTUBE VIDEO

He is jealous for me,
Loves like a hurricane, I am a tree,
Bending beneath his wind and mercy.
When all of a sudden,
I am unaware of these afflictions eclipsed by glory,
And I realize just how beautiful You are,
And how great Your affections are for me.

And oh, how He loves us all,
Oh how He loves us,
How He loves us all

Yeah, He loves us,
Oh how He loves us,
Oh how He loves us,
Oh how He loves.
Yeah, He loves us,
Oh how He loves us,
Oh how He loves us,
Oh how He loves.

We are His portion and He is our prize,
Drawn to redemption by the grace in His eyes,
If grace is an ocean, we're all sinking.
So Heaven meets earth like a sloppy wet kiss,
And the heart turns violently inside of my chest,
I don't have time to maintain this regrets,
When I think about, the way…

This song was written by John Mark McMillan, and is performed in the Video by a group called The Jesus Culture, featuring Kim Walker singing lead vocals.

But wait, there's more. Learn what the story is behind this song, click here.

01 September 2009

The Universal Significance of our Universal Insignificance


Sometimes I have a specific spiritual experience. In this experience I come to have a sudden realization of the total pile of garbage that I really am. As a friend has told me time and time again, that you realize that you are nothing more than a wart on the backside of a hog. Seriously, when you truly recognize the gospel, and the 'bigness' of God, you realize that you are nothing.


Outside of a biblically foundational world view, this experience can be startling and hurtful. By worldly standards, this can be devastating, and entire lives are spent trying to 'recondition our psyche' to recognize our self worth and to grow our self esteem. But as a Christian, soon after this realization strikes, the real struggle begins That struggle is to use the experience or realization that God has allowed me to have (or has actually engineered) and to use it for good. We struggle against using it for our benefit, vs., allowing the enemy to use it to his advantage by bringing discouragement into our lives and pointing us towards a reality that does not exist: The one in which we are strong without Christ. Because that 'reality' does not exist.


Jesus is the infinite, loving caring God, who left total perfection in heaven to suffer for ME. As author Dick Staub wrote in his book Too Christian, Too Pagan; How to Love the World without Falling For it, "Few of us know what it really means to actually love the world with the kind of passionate , visionary love that sent Jesus from the heights of holiness into the depths of a sin-sick culture".


I journaled this a few weeks back:
"I'm fairly positive that it is impossible for us to understand our universal insignificance. In light of all that surrounds us, the endless mass of the universe, we are but a speck. We get a minor glimpse of this understanding when we are flying from place to place. At 30K feet everything is small, 'those cars look like ants' we have all said before. When we see pictures taken by the Hubble Telescope where in vast outer space galaxies are colliding like marbles on the floor, we get a glimpse of it. When we see these things, it brings some pause. But in spite of my significance, the God who created all that we see and all that we do not, the God that dwells in perfection, holiness, peace, constant love and in a place that can only be defined as Paradise, left all that comfort and perfection to become a human Himself ~ just to show me that such an infinite God can love low-life pieces of garbage, little specs like me as well."

After all, we are HIS specs and pieces of garbage aren't we?….


The problem here is that this runs in direct opposition to worldly understanding. Freud and Spock (the psychologist, not the Vulcan) tell us just the opposite. Dr. Ruth relating everything to the physical, and all of modern psychology tells us that we need high self esteem. Oprah has lived her life to make sure everyone knows that they too are to look at themselves and see how successful they are. Now she 'preaches' that we too can be gods, and that there are many ways to heaven outside of Christian dogma.


God loves us as specks and garbage. While we were yet sinners He left perfection to take on sin and die for us. We cannot do that. No 'man' can do that. Only a perfect man/God can accomplish what was required for our salvation. In light of that, we are insignificant, and just specs, or dirty rags. But to God we are SIGNIFICANT, because we are HIS.


Abba, we are failures, sinners all of us, but we sure love you. Take what worthless thanks we can offer you; our love and our lives.


Signed:


Speck

25 August 2009

All things to All Men

Paul once said, "I have become all things to all men". Since those words have been spoken, they have been used to mean a great many different things to a great many different people. For the most part, this verse is referenced to show how a Christian must be willing to interact with the people of the world in order to take the gospel of Jesus Christ to them. As they should. For some, this verse is sighted to show that if we as Christians are going to be effective in reaching 'this generation', we need to 'do as they do', look as they look, and act as they act. Is this what Paul really meant when he wrote those words?

Let's work off the assumption that we all agree that the lost of the world need to be reached with the gospel. It's a good place to start. Christians are called to evangelize. "Go" unto the world, cannot be done from your desk, from inside your church, or even from your computer. You have to go and rub elbows as they say, and put some real work behind reaching people 'where they are at'. If we all sit around waiting for the world to come to us, or to magically appear in our churches one Sunday morning, not only will you be sadly disappointed, you will be living in opposition to God's calling for your life. I for one do not want to be found there.


So how far do we go? What is the line we cannot cross? Do we compromise in order to reach the Lord? Since there is no simple answer, I'll share with you what the Lord has put on my heart, and what scripture gives us as a guideline.


Looking at this most frequently used verse, here's what we do not see; Paul professing his personal liberties in Christ to act in a way that distracts from putting the focus on Jesus and Jesus only just so he can make his point. We do not see Paul defending his eating of meat that has been sacrificed to idols or drinking alcoholic beverages ~ just because it is his Christian liberty to do so. Don't get me wrong. He does defend it, but not for those reasons. What we do see is this: Paul taking his knowledge of scripture, his knowledge of the people he was addressing, and by applying God's grace boldly going to them the way God made him (fallible, poor, with thorn-in-side, weak yet strong, humble etc.), and reaching people by the thousands.


A bit more theologically, when we look at the text here in Corinthians, Paul's context is the spiritual. What Paul is saying is that when the people he is trying to reach are weak, he also would be weak so as not to offend and lose his opportunity, while boldly, yet humbly explaining the truth of the gospel. Though Paul was free from all men, he became a servant to them while boldly, yet humbly explaining the truth of the gospel. When with the Jews (under the law) he become like a Jew, while boldly, yet humbly explaining the truth of the gospel. To those outside the law (the law of the Jews, not the law of the land), he had become like them while boldly, yet humbly explaining the truth of the gospel. The context of what Paul is saying is spiritual, not physical or worldly. All that he is basing his freedom on is the spiritual guidelines of God, not worldly guidelines of those he is trying to reach.


As a matter of fact, Paul does exactly the opposite. Instead of reveling in his liberties, he lays his liberties aside in favor of making no offense to those who may be weaker. Paul says he has the right to drink, eat meat that was offered to idols and more. He and Barnabas had the right to take along with them a believing wife like the other apostles such as Peter did. But they chose not to do these things! Why? Because they did not want to stumble a brother, and wanted to properly represent the gospel they were proselytizing. They always put the gospel, its message, properly representing Jesus and not stumbling a brother, ahead of the defense of their liberties and freedoms in Christ. Others came first.

The context of Paul being 'all things to all men' is in a sense of spiritual understanding: Their understanding of religion and faith, verses the real understanding of grace and faith. How could Paul represent Jesus, if he participated in acts that detracted from his message, or caused others to question his integrity or that made him look like a hypocrite?

A friend recently pointed out that our youth today can smell a hypocrite a mile away. And they can. When I was their age, I could. Let us not be one. Let us not be one ourselves. Let us celebrate our liberty in Jesus not by conforming to the world around us so that we blend right in, in the way we look, the things we do, the music we listen to, the movies we watch and books we read. Let us instead go to our youth and to the lost of this generation with an understanding of who they are, and where they live.

Let us go out shining the light of Jesus, not reflecting the light of the world.

14 August 2009

Moshing for Jesus. Really?

Matthew 5:14-16

14"You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. 15
Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16
In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.


In watching some worthwhile Christian TV last night, this verse was read to me. In the context of the show (Drive Thru History: America, You can become a Facebook fan of the show by clicking HERE), they were talking about the Pilgrims travails in getting to America. In that show it was mentioned that one of their driving forces was the verse above from the Sermon on the Mount. As the host read off this passage, the end of verse 16 stuck in my ears.


With all the talk the Lord has been giving me on making a difference as Christians, and applying God's will and righteousness to our freedoms, this verse played right into that theme. We have a calling. Not just to BE a Christian, but to make a difference as one. Our calling is not just to take dominion over the world, but to do so with Godly stewardship. Our commission is not just to make disciples, it is all of these things, and it is all of these things done in such a way that we reflect Jesus, and not ourselves.


Look at what Jesus says here. We cannot hide what we have, and what we are. We can try, but to do so, is to live a life contrary to what Jesus has called us to do. For those people who's Christian faith is "personal" to them (with personal meaning, I'll keep to myself, and my faith and fruit are none of anyone's business by myself), this verse obviously puts that discussion to a close. Jesus said, to show the world His light! We cannot do that while being hidden away, not going fellowshipping with believers, not breaking bread with believers, and not praying with other believers. If we think we can, we are denying the will of God in our lives, and creating a Christian-like faith that is not biblical.


But more to the point of what struck me last night. How do we decide about those gray areas? What biblical principals do we have to guide us in making those choices? The end of verse 16 helps us. "Let your light shine before men…" OK, we get that, we cannot be a self-sustaining Christian island. But Jesus goes on to say, "that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven". THAT is a tall order. What Jesus is saying is that whatever we choose to do as believers, that it must be done in such a way that people see it as Godly. Not just that it IS Godly, but that they see it and understand it to be Godly! The result of what we do MUST bring praise to God, not merely attention to ourselves.


A recent photo into the crowd of one of the largest "Christian" concerts in America showed a man in the front rows holding up a cast iron frying pan because the band playing was named "Skillet". I do not know much of the band, its members, or the music that they play. But if they are properly shining their light, using their talents, expressing their freedoms and liberties in Christ, the desired effect of what they would call 'worship' should have the crowd in prayer, meditation, reflection, or holding up bibles, rather than "moshing for Jesus", stage diving, and waving 6 lb. cooking utensils around like Sylvester hoping to whack Tweetie Bird. The effect was completely different, and the band made no attempt at adjusting it.


Don't get me wrong. I am not against us celebrating our freedom and liberty in Christ. We have been given it as a gift from God. It is ours to use, but let us not lose the understanding that we have a great responsibility to use it wisely, and in a Godly fashion There are limits and guidelines that too often get overlooked, all in the name of 'freedom' and 'liberty'. When this happens, Jesus' light ceases to shine, and any light that may shine from us at all, will be that of our self-exulted intellect in deciding that our way is better than God's. I say go for it! Go out and enjoy this life while we have it! But do not forget the life that Jesus has called us to and that you accepted when He became your Lord and Savior. Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.


Amen?

22 July 2009

Discussing Christian Freedom

Philippians 4:8

Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.


[Begin Rant]

OK, call me a crazy Christian conservative right-wing gun-toting whacko, but why in the world do we want to say it is OK to have our children, the next generation of Christians (or so we hope) fill their minds with stories of Vampires, the 'underworld', demons and magic? Whatever happened to filling our minds with the things of God and righteousness rather than the things of the world? Whatever happened to Philippians 4:8?

Why don't we encourage these things more, and work harder to protect our children and young and vulnerable believers from the attractions of the world which will prove to be distractions from Christ? Sure, we can debate the 'freedom in Christ' thing all day long, but why don't we instead debate commitment to Christ and His word, separation from the things of the world (2 Corinthians 6 and all through there)?
Psalm 14:2
The LORD looks down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there are any who understand, who seek God.

Are there any who seek God? Shouldn't WE be one of them? Our job is to protect our children shelter them from the ways of the world and raise them in the way that they should go, not show them the things of the world and all their attractiveness, let them read it, watch it, participate in it with all the other kids of the world, and then try to tell them to be separate from them? Sanctified? For that matter 'children' in a Pauline sense also means those new to the faith. We owe it to them to protect them and shelter them just as if they were our own children!

When I say that I shelter my kids, it is not to say that they do not know what it going on. Sometimes we watch the news together, read the papers etc. We talk politics, social issues of the day and all of that. BUT, when it comes from me or their mother, WE control the spin on the subject, and get to take them to scripture to back it up. My children are more prepared for dealing with the world BECAUSE they are sheltered.

Call me goofy, but I think it is more important we teach them at a very young age the intricacies of sanctification and separation from the world and its ways. People tell me all the time that you cannot shelter your children from the real world. My response is your right, I can't totally shelter them, BUT I SURE CAN TRY!!, and God makes it clear that we are supposed to. It used to be that it was only the lost and secular of the world that asked me that question. Now it is other believers and PASTORS who are asking!

With regards to Christian freedom Paul said that all things are lawful… and this seems to be where the people who want to relish in their 'liberties' and freedom tend to leave it. But as leaders we must always be willing to step up to the plate of righteousness and finish the verse, "but not all things are helpful; all things are lawful for me, but not all things edify." Why as leaders are we debating what we can do and still be 'OK with God', when we should be challenging our congregations to live a Holy and perfect life, because "[HE] is Holy!"? Why do we not respond when people ask us about Harry Potter and his minions of Satan worshipping witches and say ~ RUN AWAY! And as fast as you can, and rather, fill your children's hearts with the love of Jesus, and the word of God! And yes, you read it right because I said it strong, I said Satan worshippers: If their power is not clearly identified as having come from God, there is but one other source. If they desire and love these powers, which they clearly do, and they do not come from God, they are loving the power source as well.

Our children do not need to be culturally 'relevant' to be liked and well adjusted. Scripture does not encourage us to teach our children the ways of the world so that they can avoid sin, but feel free to walk the tight-rope as close to the world as they can so that all the kids at public school will 'like' them… Rather it tells us to protect them, and to raise them in the ways of the Lord.

Someone please explain to me why liking, even obsessing over a series of books or movies, waiting hours, even DAYS in line to get the next book or movie ticket, whose main characters desire to have supernatural powers that come from the underworld is helpful to our kids?? And we wonder why the secular world looks at Christianity and shakes its collective head!

I just do not get it. We debate these things, we allow our kids to participate in them, even promote them in the name of cultural relativity, and then we wonder why our youth are falling away from the church. We wonder why we have such a high failure rate of our young adults keeping their faith when they run off to college. Are we all this naïve? Or just kidding ourselves to that we can be 'popular' 'cool' or 'rad' parents to our kids? Then again, maybe we are moving away from actively seeking and teaching our flocks to seek the Holiness that God desires and commands us to live out in our lives?

In a recent conversation a pastor friend questioned the direction of Christianity in America. His point was that it is not about debating freedoms, it is about a trend in Christianity that only we as leadership can change. The question should not be CAN I do/read/drink/smoke something, the questions should be what can I do to please God? What can I do to make my relationship with Jesus better? What things can I do in my life that will bring Glory to God?

  • Are we bringing Glory to God by leading a generation of kids into a fantasy world of Vampires, witches, demons?

  • Are we edifying ourselves and lifting up the body when we participate in watching and endorse films filled with nudity, sex, violence and filthy language?

  • Are we furthering the Kingdom and growing our witness when we go to the bars to have "a beer" and a smoke?

  • When we do these things are we helping (Phil. 4:8) the cause of Christianity? Are we Edifying (Phil. 4:8) the body and bringing glory to God?

Picture this: You're sitting at home and just got done watching a Harry Potter film or some R rated 'classic' like Basic Instinct or [insert sex, profanity and violence filled movie here]. Your smoking a stogie, finishing off knocking back a cold one, maybe two… and now that the movie was over, you breath out a large lung-full of cigar smoke and belch out the last bit of carbonation from your beer you just finished. Then, you look to your right and say to the guest in your home that you share a couch with that just happens to be Jesus Christ Himself and say, "Holy [expletive] man, wasn't that a [expletive] GREAT film dude!? Buuuurrrppp… By the way, I love you Jesus, and thanks for coming over tonight."

[awkward pause…] You guys can answer that for yourselves. The thought makes me wretch.

[End Rant]

21 July 2009

What He has Done For Us

John 17:4


I have glorified You on the earth. I have finished the work which You have given Me to do.


It came to mind today something that Pastor Chuck Smith had shared with us at this year's Sr. Pastors Conference. I thought of it in part because of the celebration we had this weekend of the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 11 Lunar landing.


President Kennedy, who had promised to take us to the moon within the decade (1960's), something we did accomplish, but that he did not live to see, started his term as President with a wonderful speech. In that inaugural address he said, "Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country." What Chuck Smith had to say was very similar in tone, but with much farther reaching effects. Chuck said, "Going through all of scripture I find a biblical emphasis that is not what we can do for God. But rather, what he has already done for us."


His point was, I believe two fold. Firstly that the work of the cross is finished. There is nothing we can do for or against that work. It is simply a matter of accepting and receiving it, or denying it and rejecting it. Secondly, that we have a responsibility after accepting Christ to live for Him with all we are worth.


Jesus uttered the verse chosen for today's devotional right before He prayed for His disciples, and was then off to the Garden to be arrested. By the end of the next day, Jesus would have done all that He could do… for us. He had finished the work that the Father had Sent Him to do. It is at that point that OUR work began. It was at that point that the responsibility to do the will of the Father in order to further His Kingdom, fell on us.


Unlike the lunar landing was to the world, an impressive feat indeed, we cannot do anything to impress God. We cannot say that within the next decade you or I are going to do something so totally awesome that God will want to create a new section in heaven just for us. Anything we do in our lives, we ought to do out of love, respect and a heartfelt indebtedness for what God has already done for us. What we need to do is all that we can do in order to bring glory to God here on earth in the time that He has so wonderfully graced us with. This day is the day that the Lord has made. We must rejoice and be glad in it, knowing that His work is finished.

15 July 2009

Simplicity



2 Corinthians 11:3


But I fear, lest somehow, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, so your minds may be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.


Last night, on a night when we normally have a family bible study, or a one on one study with the kids, I decided a change of pace was in order. I talked it over with my wife, and off we went to a 6:40 PM showing of the animated movie UP. Long story short, it was wonderful. Go see the movie. In the mean time, here's my experience.

I went into the movie just glad to have a weeknight open enough to be able to go. Usually, between study time for the mid-week and Sunday teachings, board meetings, general meetings, and the midweek bible study itself, there is not much time left to do anything. Last night was a wonderful and rare exception to have free time. We to the theater, and after figuring out that the Fandango kiosk was not working, and listening to the next guy cuss at the machine because it does not dispense cash (it's a FANDANGO kiosk, not a teller machine…) we got into the show, picked up our obligatory popcorn and "sodie-pop", and off we went into the theater.

The theater is for the most part empty save for us. My wife sits down beside me and gave me a smile. The kids all sat off to her right and we began the feast of popcorn gluttony. As the movie wore on, so did our tired bones. The older you get, the more difficult it is getting comfortable in these theaters. Your knees and hips do not move and shift like they used to, so relaxing ends up being more work than it should, and the attempt at relaxing only seeks to increase your heart rate and stress. Probably not a bad idea though, having an increased heart rate considering we just added 6 lbs and an inch of popcorn and Coke to your waistline!


The movie captivated us though. It was an incredible love story, albeit between cartoon characters, but it was touching and moving. As I have already shared with some, I was crying elephant tears in no time at the death of a cartoon character I had only been introduced to 10 minutes prior. For those of you who have not seen the movie, I'll leave out who actually passes away. Wiping my tears away, I looked to my wife's right side, and there are all three kids. Immediately, I was seeing all of them as toddlers once again. Faces buried in the popcorn buckets (yes, plural…), and cheeks sunken in like the bitter-beer-faced man from commercials years back while trying to get the last drop of Coke from the bottom of the 6 gallon cup. In spite of the feasting, tears were forming in their eyes as well. We laughed, cried, wiggled and sneered at the movie screen for the next two hours.


I could barely take my eyes off the kids, and my thoughts could not be moved. The movie was awesome, but life was so much better.


I have a loving wife who (after we settled on the fact that we were not going to get our knees to bend the way we wanted in order to reach a youthful level of comfort) cuddled in beside me as we raised the folding arm between the seats that separated us like we had just met. She was so warm, and smelled so nice!


I watched as the body of a thirteen year old showed the loving heart of a small boy. Army BDU cap and all. I know he'd just as well be outside jumping his bike, or flying an airplane (which he has done), or protecting his sister like the big brother he is. But I also know that, in spite of the fact that he knows he's growing up, that he still likes being a kid, teddy bears and all.


I watched a budding young woman - that I really came to know how much I really loved the day her brother flattened in her nose, because he had run into her with his tricycle and parked it, pedal down on her face, while he was still riding it with a totaling unknowing grin on his face – who was obviously understanding the depth of love between the characters, sit and stare. I was wondering what she was wondering, and yet knowing that cannot wait until she herself is a mother so that she can love in the same manner.


I also saw another young boy. The youngest of them all. I know he was able to weasel a few bucks out of mom on his way out to the restrooms, because he was chewing on a few Sour-Patch kids. I also knew that he did not have to beg very hard, because they are Momma's favorites too. He's harder to read emotionally. Yeah, he wears his emotions on his sleeve, but what's really going on in there? He tries so hard to please his parents, but makes mistakes long the way like we all have. What I felt as I watched him, was that he was my last child. They'll be no more. I just wanted to pick him up and squeeze him right then and there, and make sure he know how much I loved and appreciated him.


With that all said, life is, or at least can be so darn busy that the simple things in life get lost, and missed. Trying too hard to please, rather than trying even harder to raise a family in the way that it should go makes it easy to fall victim to the ways of the world, and to the world's version of how to raise a family. I just spent $300.00 on a fuel pump, the brakes need replaced in the Suburban that hauls all my dearest loved ones around, bills are due, and I'm broke. But I will not fall victim to the craftiness of the world. Our home will continue to be a one income home so that my wife can be ever devoted to the gifts that God has given us in our children. Right where she, and every mother belongs. I will work hard to see that the corruption of the world, which comes along as easy fixes to problems that are better solved by longsuffering love and faith in Christ and His deliverance, does not seek its way into our home.


I thank God for His love and grace, and for the family that He has gifted to me. I am THE most blessed man alive.

02 July 2009

America, Where Art Thou?



Fresh off the press from ABC News' website:

"Roberto Micheletti sat down in a chair in front of the blue and white Honduran flag in the Presidential Palace on Tuesday and insisted he is the rightful occupant of the President's office. In an exclusive interview with ABC News -- Micheletti's first with an American Network -- he said he'd like to be called "Mr. President." "You have to because I am the President," he said, then added playfully, "or you can call me Roberto if you want." Micheletti may think he's the president of Honduras, but the world isn't prepared to call him that and nor are a lot of Hondurans. That's because Micheletti became President on Sunday after masked Honduran army soldiers stormed the home of the country's elected president, Manuel "Mel" Zelaya, while he was sleeping. Still in his pajamas, he was forced onto a plane and taken to San Jose, Costa Rica, where he was left at the airport. Hours later the Honduran Congress proclaimed Micheletti the new president." In a related article they go on to say, "There is widespread concern that allowing power to change hands this way will inspire coups in other countries in the hemisphere -- a return to the bad old days."


What they do not tell you is this: The outgoing president Manuel Zelaya had reached the end of his constitutionally mandated term limit and could not run again. He said, "I will anyway". He went to court. The Honduran Supreme Court said, "You can't", He said, "I will anyway. Up yours," and went across the border to commie country and buddy Hugo Chavez to get his own ballots printed for the election in Honduras. The Honduran Supreme Court said, "You can't do that, Cease and desist." Zelaya said, "I will do it anyway, Up yours." At which point outgoing president Zelaya passed out his illegal ballots and attempted a coup via illegal ballot in blatant disregard for the Honduran Constitution, and its Supreme Court. The Hondurans had their election, Zelaya lost, and refused to relinquish. Instead in continual defiance of both the Supreme Court and his own Constitution, he demanded to be President. It was at that moment, that by act of the Honduran congress, that the Honduran Government ordered the military, in perfect compliance with Honduran law and their Constitution, to escort Mr. Zelaya to the border.


This, a perfect execution of a democratically elected government thwarting an attempted overthrow of the constitution that a real coup was avoided and democracy reigned. YET, our news agencies tell us that what happened was a coup, not an execution of law. That out Secretary of State says that this action "should be condemned by all". And our very President Obama finds himself siding with both Communist Dictator Hugo Chavez of Venezuela, and Cuban Communist Dictator Fidel Castro in condemning this action. That's right; our president is in agreement with two communist Dictators from our hemisphere (something John Kennedy said we would NEVER allow to happen) in that we should install a President in another country who by that nation's own constitution can no longer be president! AWESOME!


For those people who voted for change, by golly, yer getting' it! We now have a US President that is sinking us into the greatest economic depression since the 1920's, who is single handedly turning a Democratic Republic into a Socialist government, and is now siding with communist enemies of the United States on political matters! He bows to a Saudi prince symbolically subjugating himself and our nation to a foreign prince, travels the world apologizing for how evil our nation has been, and is committed to leaving citizens of the world fighting for freedom and being murdered in the streets of their city, to die without even a word of encouraging support. When we used to fight and die to defend the rights of those who fought for freedom, we now side with communist dictators.


Most people know that my passion for this nation is outweighed by few things in this life. God and family come first, but after that, I'm an American through and through. Baseball, hot dogs, apple pie, and well… Ford is the only one left (Obama and the Unions now own Chrysler and GM…), so we'll go with that… but my point is the defense of this nation, and the free people of the world are one the things in the short list of things I would lay my life on the line for, and have done so. I'm at a point right now, where although I pray heartily for our President, I am now at enmity with him. I love him as a human, I wish I could say I love him as a brother in Christ, but his ways, the religious people he has studied under, and his expressed religious beliefs
show me that he is NOT a Christian. Believing like Oprah, that there are many ways to heaven/God (
"I believe there are many paths to the same place, and that is a belief that there is a higher power, a belief that we are connected as a people.")
kind of takes you out of that category. Can you say Universalism?


I pray that God will richly bless Barack Obama and this nation. I pray that His Holy Spirit will bring conviction to Barack Obama. I pray that this nation will return to its roots, and a love for the Creator God who has been given honor in so many of our nation's founding documents. Even Thomas Jefferson, often times proclaimed a deist, signed his paperwork, "In the year of our Lord Jesus Christ", strong words for a deist. But, if our President does not or will not turn his heart to Jesus, I pray that God deal with Him in an appropriate manner for the protection of those in this nation that do love Him and desire that this nation remain, One Nation, Under God, Indivisible, and indestructible.

30 June 2009

Independence Day: Not Enough


This coming Saturday is July 4th. It is a day that we set aside in remembrance of our nation's declaration to remove itself from the chokehold of tyranny. It is a day in which a nation loosely knit together in common ideals, became a fiber woven tightly for a common purpose. Freedom, and self government. That day, fifty-six men signed the Declaration of Independence, a document that was essentially written evidence of their treason – a crime punishable by hanging or even dismemberment, and yet they signed it anyway. That day changed the face of a continent. That day forged a future for a free people. That day, created a nation of free people, governing themselves, for themselves. It was laughed at by the world's 'leaders' and political experts, called an 'experiment destined to fail'. It was also called an act of War by the King of what was at the time, arguably the world's most benevolent and civilized nation. Yet this group of fifty-six men, some as young as 26 years old, some as old as 70, who, in the words of treasure hunter Ben Gates (from the movie National Treasure), stood up and "…did what was considered wrong, in order to do what they knew was right..."

Little did those fifty-six men know how great an effect that their collective strokes of pen, would have on the world. Two hundred and thirty-three years later, this 'experiment destined to fail' lives on. But that experiment, people governing themselves, supported by a democratically elected government, with checks and balances to protect not only the electorate, but the elected as well as the collective whole of the nation, was more than just an experiment for a new nation or continent. It was the beginning of a shift in world politics. It was more than just a Declaration of Independence; it was a declaration of FREEDOM, a declaration of CHANGE. Real change. Change for the better, and change for the world.

Prior to the Government of the United States of America taking front and center on the stage of world politics, governments only sought to rule by power over the people, not power from the people. And when these antiquated forms of government gained power by over taxation of the people and their goods, services and labor (forced and otherwise), they used that power to overthrow other nations. They used their power to seize other lands, enslave, entrap or subjugate whole other cultures and people groups. They sought to assimilate whole other races of people into their own collective; a collective for the mutual benefit of only the select few who had been given the privilege of ruling over the other subjects under them. The thoughts of the people on those governments was such that those in power would fight to keep that power, and the best way to do that was to keep those under them uneducated, and to throw upon them a feeling of unworthiness and of being a caste beneath those who rule. Now things are different.


Since the founding fathers by divine revelation, produced the declaration of independence (those are their words, not mine) and won their war for freedom, the world has taken note. Since July 4th, 1776, the people of the world, the people, not the governments, have seen it is possible to have real freedom. Freedom seen is freedom desired, and freedom desired should be freedom gained. But, alas, it is not always that way. In the entire history of our great nation, not once has our military power been used to steal territory or subjugate a people. We have done nothing but fought for freedom, to which millions of American soldiers have died, not just so that WE remain free, but so that others might have that same taste of freedom themselves. Freedom tastes oh, so good. The people of the world know this, and their leaders hate it.


After WWI or WWII the United States did not demand that we gain the territories our soldiers fought and died to control as is the historical standard of warfare. The US does not own Japan. As a matter of fact, we fought to stop the Japanese expansionist government, freed their people to rule over themselves anyway they say fit, and gave them millions of dollars to rebuild. The United States does not own France, or Italy or any European territory, yet hundreds of thousands of our citizens died to free them. THAT is the true ideal of freedom. Freedom means not just freedom for yourself, but a responsibility to see that others who desire freedom may have it as well. Our founding fathers saw that ideal not as a strange and foreign sickness, but a divine gift given from the Creator. FREEDOM in America is seen as a human right, not as a privilege of just those people the kings and tyrants choose to give in fits and spurts at their own whim.

Dozens of nations around the world today, literally MILLIONS of people have freedom today because the United States feels that this divine right should be available to all that want it. Raised purple ink stained fingers bring tears to my eyes, and they should yours. If they do not, perhaps you do not value freedom as much as you should. My friends and relatives have fought and died so that others might have a say in their government, so that they might have the ability to speak out-loud that they think their governmental leaders are wrong without threat of retribution. Our citizens continue to volunteer to join our military, something the naysayers said would never happen. They do this because in their hearts they know that as a free people, they have a duty, a responsibility to the world to bring freedom to all those who desire it, or want to keep it. Much to the dismay of the dissenters, this will continue to happen as long as we as a nation are able.


This nation is on a precipice. We currently teeter between freedom and enslavement. This nation balances ever so gently between a Republic and a Socialist nation. Regardless of what it may say on paper, when the government owns or controls over a third of the nation's business interests, you have become a socialist nation. When the tax debt equaled per capita exceeds the individual tax burden, you have become a socialist nation. When 30% or more of the businessmen in the nation are controlled or beholden to the government, there is no longer financial independence, and there is no longer a Republic, it is Socialism, and ladies and gentlemen, we are there. We look over the cliff of socialism that millions have dies to keep us from. We are on the verge of falling into an abyss from which we may never recover as a free nation. If you are afraid of heights, you'd better get over it, and fast.

It is for this reason that this nation cannot fail. We are not a world power in the form of a nation that tells every other nation what to do. We are rather a world power in that we are the shining light on the hill of freedom that those who live in tyranny look at for hope. Look at the people of Iran today. Still this day, weeks after their election, people are dying in the street because they want just a taste of what we have FREEDOM. And our President has abandoned them, watching them die in the streets, watching old women get beat and slapped, while he sits with his hands ties and mouth shut. Do I promote an invasion of Iran? Absolutely not. What I promote is an invasion of sanity in our leadership to simply stand up and say, "We support those who desire and support freedom; and we will continue to seek to defeat tyranny wherever it lives." That's what a real leader does.

But remember this on this year's celebration of our nation's Independence Day. Remember that the 4th of July is so much more than that. It is a beacon of freedom that all people living in tyranny today look at with hope and desire that they might someday, see a 4th of July in their nation. Remember that our 4th of July brought similar "fourths of July" to people in nations all around the world. Italy, France, Germany, Japan, England, Poland, Iraq, Afghanistan, the Balkans, South Korea and many more have freedom not because of the "United States" per say. But because of the hearts of our people willing to fight and die so that others might live to taste that freedom we enjoy, and so often take for granted.


The Fourth of July is not just a national holiday. It is a worldwide celebration of freedom. It is a global event that shows that mankind has a God-given, yes an inalienable right to be free from tyranny. I thank God that He has divinely placed me in this nation, and in this time so that I have the ability and freedom to worship Him, and tell everyone I know about Him. If you do not know god, or have a saving relationship with the One Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, reach out for the ultimate freedom today. Celebrate this Independence day with freedom from the weight and wrath of sin. Celebrate a light burden, and an easy load. Celebrate peace beyond your understanding and submission to the only benevolent leader you will ever know.


You too are here, in this nation, and in this time for a reason. Isn't it time you found out what that was? God knows….


Happy Birthday America!

26 June 2009

Come & Go…

Ecclesiastes 9:3
This is an evil in all that is done under the sun, that the same event happens to all. Also, the hearts of the children of man are full of evil, and madness is in their hearts while they live, and after that they go to the dead.

Our generation is really no different than any other. We have out aches and pains and struggles. We like to think we are different because we have technology that previous generations did not have. We like to think we have bigger dangers than previous generations had. Perhaps most of all we like to think simply that we have it 'harder' than previous generations because it gives us license to fail, and an excuse for the cause. I say phooie!

We might have a fear of weapons of mass destruction and the fact that unstable people have them at their disposal. But evil men have tormented the earth before with their armies of evil doers and death. Attila the Hun may not have had mega-tons at his control, but he had a mega army of ruthless soldiers that literally tore men apart by tying their arms and legs to horses and tearing them off. I'm certain that this struck equal fear. They also tortured, raped and enslaved all they could capture. We might fear disease we cannot cure like AIDS and Ebola, but incurable disease has always been with mankind. In biblical times those people with leapers were heralded with the phrase, "UNCLEAN! UNCLEAN!" because people knew that a touch could entrap them in a lifetime of pain and suffering as your body simply rotted away. Epilepsy was synonymous with demon possession and don't you think for a moment that these things struck fear into the hearts of men like we have today.

As the plague rolled through Europe and then the world in the mid 1300's millions died. And when we look at the number of deaths as a percentage of the word population, it was a death rate higher than we can almost imagine estimated at 35-50% in Europe and as high as 60% or more in China and the East. Not surprisingly, the plague returned in variations in almost every generation since then until the late 1700's.

We all live with fear. Fear is a mechanism that God built into us in order to give us alarm. Some fears are certainly justifiable. If we lived in Israel as an example, the fear of dying in a nuclear holocaust is not unwarranted. If you travel the world much, the fear of contracting an air-borne illness is real. If you are required to have a blood transfusion in a third world country, it may save your life, but only to find out that you are now HIV positive.

My point: We do not have to live IN fear. Nothing is new under the sun. AND, nothing is new under the SON. The hearts of men are evil, as the book of Genesis tells us, only evil continually. This is what we live in fear of. What will evil bring upon us next? Whatever it is, it's basis is not new, and thankfully, by the grace of God, our protection from that evil is not new either.

As Christians we are called to live in peace, joy and satisfaction that Jesus rules our lives. That being the case, He has conquered all. He has conquered fear, and disease, as well as death itself. If we stop to ponder what the most wise man to ever live stated above, there is nothing new. There is nothing that will surprise Jesus and cause Him to say, "Jeesh, what do I do now?" Knowing that, and allowing that the live in our hearts, and live out in our lives will not only bring comfort to ourselves, but will live to serve as a witness to others that Christ is in control; not just of us, but of everything!

23 June 2009

The One


And it came to pass in the Age of Insanity that the people of the land called America , having lost their morals, their initiative, and their will to defend their liberties, chose as their Supreme Leader that person
known as "The One".

He emerged from the vapors with a message that had no meaning; but He hypnotized the people telling them, "I am sent to save you. My lack of experience, my questionable ethics, my monstrous ego, and my association with evil doers are of no consequence. For I shall save you with Hope and Change.

Go yee, therefore, and proclaim throughout the land that he who precedeth me is evil, that he has defiled thy nation, and that all he has built must be destroyed."


And the people rejoiced, for even though they knew not what "The One" would do, he had promised that it was to be good; and they believed.

And "The One" said "We live in the greatest country in the world. Help me change everything about it!"
And the people said, "Hallelujah! Change is good!"


Then He said, "We are going to tax the rich fat-cats."
And the people said "Sock it to them!"
And "The One" continued and speaketh, "And redistribute their wealth."
And the people said, "Show us the money!"
And then He said, "Redistribution of wealth is good for everybody"


And the people responded, "AMEN! AMEN!"

And Joe the plumber asked, "Are you kidding me? You're going to steal my money and give it to the deadbeats?" And "The One" ridiculed and taunted poor Joe, and Joe's personal records were hacked and publicized, and he was systematically discredited in front of thine people.

One lone reporter asketh, "Isn't that Marxist policy?"
And she was banished from the kingdom forever, to be separated from thine wealth of redistribution, and forced to report for ever more on Joe the Plumber!


Then a peasant asked, "With thou having no foreign relations experience and thou having zero military experience or knowledge, how will you deal with radical terrorists?"
And "The One" responded by saying, "Simple. I shall sit with thine enemies and talk with thine enemies and show them how nice we really are; they shall then forget that they ever wanted to kill us all! And they shalt forget that thine enemy has deemed you the Infidel and that because thou aren't Muslim, thy must be slaughtered by the sword"
And the people said, "Hallelujah!! We are safe at last, and we can beat our weapons into free cars for the people!"

Then "The One" said, "I shall give 95% of you lower taxes."
And one, lone voice said, "But 40% of us don't pay ANY taxes."
So "The One" said, "Then I shall give you some of the taxes the fat-cats pay!"
And the people said, "Hallelujah!! Show us the money!"
Then "The One" said, "I shall tax your Capital Gains when you sell your homes!"
And the people yawned and the slumping housing market collapsed.
And He said, "I shalt mandate employer- funded health care for EVERY worker and raise the minimum wage. And I shall give every person unlimited healthcare and medicine and transportation to thine free clinics."


And the people said, "Gimme me some 'a dat!"


Then he said, "I shall penalize employers who ship jobs overseas."
And the people said, "Where's my rebate check?"


Then "The One" said, "I shall bankrupt the coal industry and electricity rates will skyrocket!"
And the people said, "Coal is dirty, coal is evil, no more coal! But we don't care for that part about higher electric rates."


So "The One" said, "Not to worry. If your rebate isn't enough to cover your expenses, we shall bail you out. Just sign up with ACORN as many times as you like, and your troubles are over!" Then He said, "Illegal immigrants feel scorned and slighted. Let's grant them amnesty, Social Security,
free education, free lunches, free medical care, bi-lingual signs and guaranteed housing..."


And the people said, "Hallelujah!!" And they made him King!


And so it came to pass that employers, facing spiraling costs and ever-higher taxes, raised their prices and laid off workers. Others simply gave up and went out of business and the economy sank like unto a rock dropped from a cliff. The banking industry was destroyed. Manufacturing slowed to a crawl. And more of the people were without a means of support.


Then "The One" said, "I am the "The One" - The Messiah - and I'm here to save you! We shall just print more money so everyone will have enough!"
But our foreign trading partners said unto Him, "Wait a minute man! Your dollar is not worth a pile of camel dung! You will have to pay more..."


And the people said, "Wait a minute man! That is unfair!!"

And the world said, "Neither are these other idiotic programs you have embraced. Lo, you have become a Socialist state and a second-rate power. Now you shall play by our rules!"


And the people cried out, "Alas, alas!! What have we done?"
But yea verily, it was too late. The people laid hands upon "The One" and spat upon him and stoned him, and his name was like dung in the mouth of all people.


And the once mighty nation was no more; and the once proud people were without sustenance or shelter or hope. And the Change "The One" had given them was likened unto a poison in thine mouth that hath destroyed them and like a whirlwind that consumed all that they had built.


And the people beat their chests, tore thine cloths, and wrapped themselves in sackcloth and ashes in despair and cried out in anguish, "Give us back our nation and our pride and our hope!!"


But it was too late, and their homeland was no more.

19 June 2009

More Powerful than a Superhero!

Romans 1:16

"For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek."

You may have heard the saying that goes something like this: "With great power, comes great responsibility". If you are a comic book fan, or a fan of the movies that have come out over the past few years featuring comic book heroes, you may recognize this phrase. Surprisingly, I found this quote attributed to one Stanley Martin Lieber, also known as Stan Lee, creator of most Marvel Comic superheroes like, the Incredible Hulk, the Fantastic 4, Iron Man, and Spiderman in whose comic book those words were uttered.

So how does Spiderman bring about biblical wisdom? Well, he probably doesn't really, but we can correlate what was said in that comic book into a lesson or biblical thought. Here's that thought.

Doctor and gospel author Luke tells us in Luke 12:48 this: "But he that knew not, and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes. For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more." This plays well in helping to support this theme.


We have been approved by God, and entrusted with the gospel message of Jesus Christ (I Thess. 2:4). That gospel message has the power to give eternal life. I used to be a fairly avid comic book reader. The aforementioned superheroes from the first paragraph are the ones I read most, but I read many. All of the superheroes had some sort of super 'power'. Iron Man had his inelegance, funding, and his iron suit that made him virtually invincible. The Fantastic Four had a plethora of things going on their; rubber-band type body, invisibility, a body as hard as a rock and as strong as a mountain, and of course we have the human torch. Spiderman, well, we all know what happens to a person when he is bitten by a radioactive spider. While all of these superheroes had a collection of powers that seems almost awesome and unstoppable, as a Christian, you have an even greater power.

In all those comic book superheroes, I do not remember a ONE of them, and there are hundreds, that could give eternal life. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, and the work done by the perfect sinless life, and sacrificial death of Jesus our Christ, YOU have the power to offer eternal life. You can make Spiderman look like a powerless little jumping spider. You can make the incredible Hulk look like a weakling getting sand kicked in his face. You can be more powerful, and offer REAL, not comic book make-believe power to people who are in desperate need of it.

However, with great power, comes great responsibility. MUCH has been given to us. God TRUSTS YOU with His message of salvation. Much like the servant who buried his talants in the ground, you will have done no one any good at all if you do not put this investment that God made into you… to work for Him. Much IS expected of us. Time is short, and it is high-time that we start living up to those expectations. Rather than 'bring a child to work day', we need to have 'bring a friend to Christ day', and that needs to be every day.

17 June 2009

Phase 4: Desire & Understand My Grace

God has taken me through several phases in my ministry. Initially, it was 'Make yourself available'. Through that phase, I was guided to participate in mission trips, teach classes I would not otherwise have taught, to just generally do whatever was asked of me, and volunteer for everything that after providing for and making sure my family had all the quality time they needed. Phase 2 if you will was, "Honor your spiritual chain of command", in which I had to learn to die to myself, and follow the directions of those that the Lord had placed over me. This was not hard, but I learned a very necessary lesson along the way. Until lately, I have been in Phase 3: "Be diligent in what I have given you". I have been in that phase since the Lord called me to Bonney Lake to start a bible Study there and eventually plant what is now the small but healthy CCBL.


I feel now that while the Lord is not done with me in Phase 3 (I doubt He ever will be…), that He has added a Phase 4. This phase is turning out to be, "Desire and Share My Grace".


This phase of learning is a difficult one for me. I know that sounds terrible. "My pastor has a hard time offering grace!", would be an awful thing to have to say. And I hope that those who know me well enough know that this is not true. What I am having a hard time with is God's stretching of me in my understanding of what grace is, and how far reaching it needs to be applied. These are the areas where God's stretching is opening old scabs. But the more He teaches me, and the more circumstances He allows me to go through,. The more I do understand His grace, and the more I see how He and the Holy Spirit have been working in my life to orchestrate some awesome revelations and healings.

Understanding grace, by biblical definition is simple. Grace is typically and acceptably defined as simply unmerited favor. That understanding comes easy. It is the far-reaching application of the depth of this understanding that requires work. Why? Because to do so, we must first understand who WE are in Christ (as my good friend and mentor Justin Alfred has often said, 'we are nothing more than the wart on the backside of a hog.' I have found, by God's grace mind you, that I am the infected pimple on that wart. As awful as that sounds, this is how we must see ourselves if we are to fully understand the far-reaching effects of God's unlimited grace.


Once we have allowed ourselves to see who we are in Christ, a humbling experience in itself, then the real growth comes. With this new understanding in mind, we then have to allow ourselves to be stretched by God beyond anything we have ever experienced before. God will undoubtedly show you that our allowances of grace, and our application of it to others has been woefully, dare I say, sinfully inadequate. He will show us that we do not apply grace where we should. That we have not applied grace often enough. He may even bring you to an understanding that maybe, just maybe (as He has done in me), that sometimes we need to apply grace even when there has been an offense against God! Wow, unbelievable.


When we see someone who has either taken advantage of their freedom in one of life's many gray areas to the point where boundaries have been crossed in our minds, and even to the point where we feel sin may be, or may have been the result, we must control our thoughts, taking them all captive unto Christ, go to that person in love and GRACE, expressing your thoughts on the matter, but ALWAYS allowing God to deal with the offense. We must also consider grace through prayer. Perhaps God simply wants us to keep our big yappers shut, and go to Him in the strength of payer and fellowship, lifting up this person in our hearts.


Now understand this: What I am not saying is that we do not hold our brothers and sisters accountable. We have a responsibility, even a duty to protect fellow believers from the influences of the world. We look out for each other, we are the body (singular) of Christ. But what I am saying is that we need to hold them accountable to the Lord, not to US. If we go to someone because we see bad fruit, and we do so because there is an offense in our heart that has caused us bitterness or anger, do not go. Only go when you can, through God's grace, show that person unmerited favor, with a clean heart, with no malice in mind, and simply point them to Jesus. That's grace. And that's hard.


Grace may cause you to see things, and do things that do not 'feel' right. It may cause us to love someone that, at least at that moment we do not want to love. But considering who you are in Christ, aren't you glad He did the same for you?!

16 June 2009

Healing Revisited

As the members of CCBL know, I had planned to do a 4-6 week study of dealing with hurt in the church. How to prevent being wounded, what to do when you are wounded, and how not to wound others. It turned out to be a totally God lead study through the book of 2 Corinthians. In hind sight, it may have been a God thing just to prepare me for upcoming events in my life as it was unfolding before me.

I wrote the other day on my blog, and in my devotional, about a healing process that I had gone through (see Mother-in-Lew Reintroduced below), and an initial comment made by my friend Brian. Well, since then comments have kept coming in, not just from family and friends, but others who read my blog and receive the devotional that have no connection to my family, or any knowledge whatsoever of the interworking of our family to even have any idea what may have been going on. Yet, many people have been blessed by that story of healing. No one more than I.

The healing power of God is complete, and it is awesome. His work on the cross has allowed for our healing, and our ability to use the grace that He has imparted on us to offer grace, rather than being offended or hurt in the first place. As was stated yesterday and bears repeating today, who are we to take that offense back? But what He has truly amazed me with, is the power of God to work in our lives outside of time. These events have given me a new understanding and appreciation of God’s mercy, and a greater understanding of God Himself.

What I had not realized until that day was that God had already healed me. The healing had already been done, in my past, but I did not realize that until I was faced with dealing with that hurt. I had prayed many hours and many times about God bringing healing in my life and the lives of others who had been offended. And although I had not known it, realized, or perhaps better said, accepted it, God has already answered those prayers.

Someone commented this way, “He literally showed me forgiveness is possible as I felt at the moment… He has wiped the slate clean” Wow! What great words. There is a time for weeping and mourning. But the time for healing is always. Psalm 41:4 says, “I said, “LORD, be merciful to me; Heal my soul, for I have sinned against You.”

Perhaps our greatest sins are the times when we do not trust God that He has already granted our requests, and we simply refuse to see it? Have mercy on us God for our unbelief.