Pastor's Corner

This is some blog description about this site

Flushing Out the Real Demons

b2ap3_thumbnail_DemonBook-plate-small.jpg

On Tuesday, March 24 2015, 07:58 PM CDT – A woman in Austin, TX is facing charges after police say she threw a Molotov cocktail at Pro-Life protesters who were standing outside of Planned Parenthood facility. Melanie Toney, 52, was charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.

Yeah, I know, you probably didn’t hear about it. The national media is not picking up the story very well, which is a news story all in itself. But we will leave that alone for now, there is something else I am hoping to make a point about in this post. What is taking place with this story is commonplace right now in America. Everyone, no matter which side they are on (politically, socially, or morally), are only providing information which is in line with their agenda. Finding truth on almost any subject up for debate, has become virtually impossible – and at least extremely difficult.

Coupled with this is the common practice of hateful speech out of all sides on every topic, as well as the demonizing of everyone who does not agree with our agenda. Fear mongers and bigoted folks on all sides are only adding fuel to the flames of strife in our country with their handling of the conflict which exists. Folks are heated up, inflamed against those they are engaged in the culture wars with. The result is a nation engaged in a civil war in local communities to international levels on social media sites.

And what happens? The results of this are only going to be bad, hurtful, and damaging. Someone tries to bomb an abortion center to kill the doctors, or as in Melanie Toney’s case, they try to fire-bomb Pro-Life protestors. Why? Because Jesus told us that hate is from the same heart that murders. (Matthew 5:21-22) The one is the prelude to the other.

Quite honestly, this manner of warring over the culture has become so commonplace, it is beyond comprehension to most folks that there is any other way. This is true about those who are termed liberals, and this is true about those who are termed conservatives. Whatever subject it is, whichever side someone is on, it has become all the same.

The next time you pass on that material which encourages hate, encourages strife, mocks and degrades others because they do not agree with your view; you are part of the problem and not a part of the solution. And if you believe yourself to be a Christian, you must understand you are not only a part of the problem, you are aiding the devil’s plan. This is what Jesus said,

John 10:10 (ESV) “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”

Let’s flush out the real demons, the apostle Paul made it clear who the real enemy is.

Ephesians 6:12 (KJV) “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.”

2 Corinthians 10:3-5For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, 4 for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. 5 We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.”

So, whose side are you on? And in the culture wars, whose weapons are you using? Liberal or conservative, we are all just people. If you are a Christ-follower and you are creating or passing on those ugly pictures of propaganda and biased news, you should be ashamed of yourself. It is high time we remembered who the real demons are, and get back to living like Christ. Pray first, think about your actions, and let your words and actions be seasoned with salt and grace. 

Continue reading
1278 Hits

Contentment and God

b2ap3_thumbnail_in-god-we-trust-graphic-1small.jpg

Tim Keller in his book, “Counterfeit Gods” tells about how some years ago he was doing a seven-part series of talks on the Seven Deadly Sins at a men's breakfast. His wife, Kathy, told him, "I'll bet that the week you deal with greed will be the lowest attendance." She was right. People packed it out for "Lust" and "Wrath" and even for "Pride." But nobody thinks they are greedy. Then he added, “As a pastor I've had people come to me and confess that they struggle with almost every kind of sin. Almost. I cannot recall anyone ever coming to me and saying, "I spend too much money on myself. I think my greedy lust for money is harming my family, my soul, and people around me." Greed hides itself from the victim. The money god's modus operandi includes blindness to your own heart.”

Solomon wrote about this issue:

Ecclesiastes 5:10He who loves money will not be satisfied with money, nor he who loves wealth with his income; this also is vanity.”

Jesus warned about the problems associated with money, but specifically about the “deceitfulness of riches” in the parable of the sower. (Mark 4:19) There is an underlying promise of contentment and joy made by riches, everything in the culture tells us this. It is all deceitful though, the promise is never fulfilled, only a longing for more. You are left unfruitful in your life and worn out from chasing riches. The truth is excess (having more than we need) breeds discontentment, pettiness, and a disregard for God. And ultimately we lose sight of reality in terms of what is enough or sufficient for living, and we believe that our life is wrapped up in all we own.

Luke 12:15And he said to them, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”

Making a good wage and enjoying the blessing of God from that wage is good. But only always using that wage to spend on your own pleasures is wrong. (James 4:3) Having a good savings or retirement is good, but hoarding with no regard for how God would have you use your wealth to help or bless others is wrong. When you are spending more of your personal non-working time thinking about money and making money instead of God, you are probably crossing a line which is a danger to your soul. Our life, as a follower of Christ, is in Christ.

Colossians 3:4,5When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory. 5 Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry

That lust for excess, that continual longing for more... Americans call it living the American Dream, Paul calls it idolatry. Be careful.

Continue reading
695 Hits

Exclusively Yours

b2ap3_thumbnail_exclusive-truth-stamp-small.jpg

There are many people who hold many different views of what is truth, what the point of life is, and how we should live it. Living in what we term as a “pluralistic society” means there are many views contained within the same society. It also means there is a conviction that various religious, ethnic, racial, and political groups should be allowed to exist and thrive in a single society. There was a time when Christianity was the predominant view in America, but over time we have arrived at what is definitely a pluralistic society.

At some point, this view of the world permeates all levels of society and all areas of society as well. The call to tolerance and acceptance, yes even a call to embrace the diversity of all views is constant. In America as the “melting pot” of nations and people, this pluralistic view seeks to create a melting pot of worldviews. For this reason within that same society, those who do not cooperate with this view of pluralism are often shunned, persecuted, labeled, and mocked.

This is where the Christian faith encounters turmoil in pluralism. While we believe everyone should be free to accept as true whatever they desire for the most part, we do not embrace some of the unifying aspects of pluralism. We as Christians believe there are many truth claims, but not all of them are equally valid or connected to reality. And some beliefs, as seen in ISIS, are simply dangerous for civilization in general.

He who with his whole heart believes in Jesus as the Son of God is thereby committed to much else besides. He is committed to a view of God, to a view of man, to a view of sin, to a view of Redemption, to a view of the purpose of God in creation and history, to a view of human destiny found only in Christianity.– James Orr, The Christian View of God and the World

While we are called to love people of all faiths, and even to love the atheist – we do not believe they hold to a valid source of truth. We are often termed narrow and even bigoted because of our outlook, and we understand this. But we think what is truth is narrow, and all truth claims cannot be understood as all being true. For example, the Hindu who believes in thousands of deities is not holding to a compatible view of truth as compared with the Buddhist who does not believe in a personal God at all. Something cannot be both black and white at the same time, or true and not true at the same time. Another example would be those who claim to be what they term Buddhist-Christians. They do not understand that Jesus cannot be combined with other faiths without becoming something completely different from Christianity as it is found in the New Testament. They are believing it is possible to hold to the best of both religions as they view it, but Jesus will not be blended like this.

John 14:6Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.”

You are free to believe whatever you desire for the most part, this is a characteristic of any pluralistic society. For the person who would claim Christ though, Jesus made it pretty clear there is exclusivity, or that He is the only way to God. All religions lay claim to this I should point out, so it is not some odd concept of Jesus alone. Nevertheless, Jesus said He is “THE WAY” because He is the only way, and He is “THE TRUTH” because truth has no other source, and He is “THE LIFE” because He is the very basis of life – and Jesus rose from the dead to demonstrate this.

Continue reading
1210 Hits

Grow in Grace and Knowledge

b2ap3_thumbnail_Jesus-young-among-scholars.jpg

Our tendency is to present Jesus in a manner that is in keeping with how we see Him, or we are comfortable with. Over the years many voices have popularly presented Jesus to the culture in ways that are inaccurate or completely false as a result of this. In more recent years for example, Rob Bell in his book, “Love Wins”, presented Jesus as someone who did not include hell in His theology. Jesus is all-loving and therefore could not include hell. It is a lopsided view of God, completely imbalanced in its presentation of Jesus because the justice of God and God being wholly Just, is simply overlooked or ignored. It is a troublesome habit with many of us, and as in Rob Bell’s case, it can also be dangerous.

In recent years I have noticed a view of Jesus where He is a regular Joe, a man of the common people. There is some truth to this where He is down to earth, and Jesus even had a reputation for spending time with “common people” – and even among many of the social rejects of his day. Jesus was comfortable with “common people, the working class” so to speak. Even children were unafraid to come up to Him, and Jesus welcomed them. (Matthew 19:14)

But this can also be an imbalanced view of Jesus. We neglect the reality of Jesus regularly engaging the religious leaders and social elite as well. Jesus in the Gospel accounts argued and debated the educated. He confronted their wrong thinking about God and wrong thinking about life, all of the time. Jesus was just as comfortable with the social elite and the educated as He was with anyone else. Jesus was not some “country-bumpkin”, He was God in human flesh. And there was no lack of intellect; Jesus engaged in forms of arguments we now have long and difficult to pronounce titles for. I say all of this because I want to encourage you to grow in your faith and knowledge of Jesus Christ. Check out this quote from Dr. Moreland at a recent conference.

What we want is comfort and strength as Christians, but we don’t want to learn how to engage the culture because that requires turning the TV off and reading. I’m being dead serious with you, I’m not angry, I’m embarrassed by that. It’s time for us to change, our brothers and sisters of previous generations were not like this. Isaac Watts who wrote beautiful hymns, also wrote two books on logic that I have in my library. He wrote hymns, and he wrote logic texts, and he thought they were both crucial to the worship of God.” – J. P. Moreland, Talbot Seminary professor – William Jessup University lecture March 13, 2015

Very often I encounter believers who tell me they do not want to share their faith because they feel they do not know enough to do it. Yet year after year passes, and they continue to not do anything to change this situation.

2 Peter 3:17-18You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, be on your guard so that you are not carried away by the error of unprincipled men and fall from your own steadfastness, 18 but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory, both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.”

I encourage you brethren, grow in grace and knowledge!!

Continue reading
649 Hits

Friendships

b2ap3_thumbnail_true-friendship-Calvin.jpg

Friendship is a tremendously complex thing which at times seems to come easily, and other times seems to require a lot of work. In friendships, we all have differing views as to what a friend is and what qualifies as a friend. All of us have different lines where we believe acquaintances move into the category of being a friend, and another line for who we would consider a good friend. Relationships are never simple though because humans are complex beings comprised of an enormous set of personality traits, quirks, and personal qualifiers.

Proverbs 18:24A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.”

This is what we look for in a friend, someone who will stick with us closer than a brother. Someone we can trust, someone who will listen, someone who will strengthen us, and who will lift us up when we fall down. And someone who would have us do this for them as well because we see each other as equals.

Ecclesiastes 4:9-12Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken.”

God created us as relational beings, we need relationships in order to survive and be healthy. But some folks guard themselves to the point that they never have a true friend, while others have been hurt and have withdrawn themselves to avoid being hurt again. Facebook becomes a source of interaction for such people, they interact with others and have friends online and it feels good. Unfortunately this is only another barrier to keep others at a distance. In fact, most of the research today shows that people who use Facebook as their only source of friendship are lonelier than ever – some folks desperately so. What we need is human interaction, face to face human interaction.

This requires stepping out of our comfort, and stepping into the risk of real friendships which can possibly cause pain. But if you never step out, you will never know real friendships. And over the years I have come to value spiritual friendships – those friends with whom I can share my relationship with Christ and we can mutually grow from the time we spend with one another.

“[Spiritual friendship] is eagerly helping one another know, serve, love, and resemble God in deeper and deeper ways.” ― Timothy Keller, The Meaning of Marriage: Facing the Complexities of Commitment with the Wisdom of God

I have also come to know that God enjoys these types of friendships as well. God even likes to listen in as we spend time together talking about Him and the things of Him.

Malachi 3:16Then those who feared the LORD spoke to one another, and the LORD gave attention and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before Him for those who fear the LORD and who esteem His name.”

And not to sound like Mr. Rogers, but won’t you be a friend?

Is any pleasure on earth as great as a circle of Christian friends by a good fire?” – C. S. Lewis

Continue reading
688 Hits

More Than Saved - Adopted

b2ap3_thumbnail_successful_adoption-family-small.jpg

Together since before time, when there was no time as we understand it; God: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit existed together. They had relationship together, they enjoyed fellowship with one another, and they were each one involved in the creation of everything. The Father spoke everything into existence (Gen 1:1), the Spirit moved over the waters (Gen 1:2) as the creation formed the way God intended, and nothing was created without Jesus Christ that was created. (Colossians 1:16)

There was beauty in their relationship, a magnificent interaction which can only be known by God as the One who is LOVE and who is PERFECT, enjoyed companionship within the godhead. The angels came along sometime before we were created. In fact, I heard once the Jewish people believe the angels were also instrumental in the creation. But then came humanity. Once the whole of the creation was formed, God formed a man and breathed life into him.

Genesis 2:7Then the LORD God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.”

Of all of the creation, God reserved His very breath for humanity. The newly formed man, Adam, was animated with the breath of the living God. Formed in his own image (Gen 1:26) and then God gave him life from His own life. What an incredible thing! And with Adam, and his new wife Eve, God walked in the garden. But this beautiful story was interrupted by sin. (Gen 3) Eve, and then Adam disobey God when the devil tempts and deceived them and eat from the tree which God prohibited. Their whole world comes crashing down, and everything which was created to bless and benefit the man and the woman, took on a curse which resulted from sin. Man was sent away from the garden, and from the face of God due to sin.

Before they were sent away, God initiated a plan. And a glimpse of the plan was seen in the first clothing God gave to the man and the woman to cover their nakedness. (Gen 3:21) Animal skins instead of fig leaves were provided for them both. But to provide the coverings, an animal had to die, blood had to be spilled to cover their exposed sinfulness. This would be the means by which God would ultimately redeem all of humanity back, the shed blood of the One who was innocent and pure.

Ephesians 1:7In Him [Jesus] we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace

Yet, there is something else which takes place as God is redeeming each individual back to Himself, adoption as sons and daughters.

Romans 8:15For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, "Abba! Father!"

And that beautiful relationship which is enjoyed between the Father and the Son, and also with the Holy Spirit – which exists eternally... we are invited to that relationship. We who were below the angels in creation, through adoption by God, find ourselves as sons and daughters exalted and elevated to relationship as God's children!! None of us mistakes or children born out of time, but all of us adopted. We were chosen by God to come and enjoy relationship so intimate, we can call out to God “Father” - “Abba, Father.” In the Jewish culture this was a term of endearment which children said to their fathers. We are not invited to join a club or a group, we're not asked to embrace a religion or religious system. We are invited into relationship!! Our sin dealt with by the cross of Christ, and our position with God radically altered to the place of being children because God has adopted us. Praise God for such an offer. And this offer, is for all of humanity. God desires to once again, walk with us. 

Continue reading
625 Hits

The Story of Saint Patrick

b2ap3_thumbnail_St-Patrick-Shamrock-Image.jpg

He was taken captive by slave traders and carried away from his home as a young boy. He endured terrible conditions while working as a slave on board a ship as a deck hand. He landed in a foreign land he knew nothing about, and continued living as a slave being mistreated and abused. Finally, one day he found a way of escape and took it, traveling aboard a ship, he headed for his home in England. How the escape happened was nothing short of miraculous, but now he was finally home.

During his time as a slave, young Patrick gave up his rebellious and self-willed life in order to follow Christ. So when Patrick returned home, he sensed God's call to return to the land where he was a slave, Ireland. How could he do this, how could he return to a place like that? When God calls you though, every faithful follower of Christ is compelled to obey. So he did.

The life of Saint Patrick, his testimony and a small amount of his writings are easily discovered on the internet with a basic search. It is a wonderful story of a young man who brought the good news of Jesus Christ to the Irish people. Despite the many traditions and customs connected to Patrick, many of which involve beer, Patrick's story is a true one and is worth the reading. Under Patrick's leadership, almost all of the Irish came to be redeemed by Christ. And under Patrick's leadership, the Irish saved civilization. Check out Thomas Cahill's book, “How the Irish Saved Civilization.” Cahill is an excellent writer, and the story of the Irish is wonderful.

What is your life going to account for? No, we cannot all be apostle Paul or St. Patrick. Nevertheless, our lives can be lived in a way that we influence our world around us and make a better place before we leave it. Patrick was not a perfect man, but neither was the apostle Paul. God uses broken people because that is all He has to work with. God would take your life and make something glorious with it, if you would surrender yourself to Him. Imagine the possibilities.  

Continue reading
666 Hits

Tensions and Stress

b2ap3_thumbnail_stress-2-small.jpg

All of us live with some tension in our lives. It is a part of human existence to have or be dealing with tension on a regular basis. We struggle with the tension between work and family, taking care of the needs of our family and our own personal time, and it seems like there is always a push and pull between the competing priorities of our lives. But not all tension is bad, and not all stress which arises from daily living is bad either.

To achieve great things, two things are needed: a plan and not quite enough time.” ― Leonard Bernstein, composer

Bernstein understood it is not all bad, he recognized that there are some pressures which drive us on – which cause us to reach for something more or something better. But when we imagine we are in control, that we are powerful enough to dictate everything about life and living, we will soon discover reality has departed from us. In fact, we run the risk of life slamming right into us and providing proof we are not all that. Stress overwhelms us, the tensions take over and we worry or become so anxious we become disabled. We cannot carry the burdens of today and tomorrow at once, we are not capable of this. This is what Jesus said,

Matthew 6:34So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

One danger of living with stress for too long is we become addicted to the stress and begin to act in ways which create further stress in order to feel normal. We overbook our schedules, we don’t say no to people or situations which do not require us, or we involve ourselves in things which have little or nothing to do with God’s will for our lives. Instead of scheduling down time, dates with our mate or family, we overbook with things which will not matter to us long before our family stops being important. Should we continue on in this lifestyle, we will find our mental and emotional health will come crashing down. Our physiological response to stress is an incredible automatic system God has built into us. But if you abuse it for too long, you can break it – the endorphins will stop being produced and you will crash.

There must be balance between the tensions in our lives. An example is Paul telling us to “not be anxious for anything, but instead we should pray and connect with God about those things which are on our hearts.” (Philippians 4:6) Yet, in another letter Paul speaks of his “anxiousness for the churches.” (2 Corinthians 11:28) This was one of the tensions in the life of the great apostle, struggling to not allow an anxiousness to settle in his heart, while carrying a deep concern for all of the churches. There were (are) so many threats, so many issues of turmoil troubling the churches, and Paul carried it all.

This must be a conscious effort on our part, we must be aware of our stressors and the tensions in our lives. We must handle them according to their priorities they hold in our life and not allow low priority issues to muscle out the high priority and valued elements of our lives just because today they seem to be screaming louder. We must take our cares and burdens to God in prayer as Paul said (Philippians 4:6), and we must back up to take a better look at what is going on so we do not fall prey to the urgency of the emergency. Stress can be good, tension can be good; but only so long as we do not allow them to destroy us. Stand up, stretch, and take a deep breath… now, get out there – you can do this!

 

Continue reading
599 Hits

The Will of God for Your Life

b2ap3_thumbnail_God-has-a-plan-for-me.jpg

Mark 3:35 "For whoever does the will of God, he is My brother and sister and mother."

How often do you consider the will of God? How important is the will of God in regard to your life, and how you choose to live your life? There are some who have attempted to come to God on their own terms and rarely give the will of God a thought. There are others who have come to God on His terms, but fear what the will of God will mean for their life. There are still others who seek the will of God, and seek to live it out every day of their lives. One man said once,

Doing the will of God leaves me no time for disputing about His plans.” ― George MacDonald

Do you resist the will of God because you still consider your life your own? Do you fear the will of God because you do not desire to be put to the test? Or have you truly come to trust in the Lord God who gave His only Son to redeem you back to Himself? Are you prepared to seek out God’s will for you, to submit to His will, and to rest in His will?

I know, this is a lot of questions. But they are important questions. Where do you see yourself in the will of God? Let me share with you the words of the psalmist.

Psalm 139:5-6You have enclosed me behind and before, and laid Your hand upon me. 6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is {too} high, I cannot attain to it.”

First he says, “You have enclosed me behind and before…” which is a term from a military defense position. God has set up around us as troops in battle array in defense surrounding something or someone with a front defense and a rear defense as well. Then the psalmist writes, “…and laid Your hand upon me.” So right now, as you are reading this, cup your hand and lay it upon your desk, or a table or some other surface leaving that airspace between your cupped hand and the surface.  This is what the original language is describing. God is not resting His hand upon you, He has cupped His hand over you to protect you.

Being in the center of God’s hand does not guarantee the absolute absence of pain. But being in the midst of the will of God for your life guarantees everything happens for a reason, including the times when things get a little rough. And in this place where we are doing the will of God, Jesus, sees our relation with Him. (Mark 3:35) The apostle Paul echoes this sentiment and speaks of how the one is evidence of the other.

Romans 8:14For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.”

Trust, submission, and commitment to the will of God as a way of life; it is there, in that place we find peace and rest because it is there the hand of God rests upon us. 

Continue reading
669 Hits

Yes, You are Stinky

b2ap3_thumbnail_bad-smell-stinks-640.jpg

I was driving down the highway with an old farmer and as we passed a farm along the highway, the odor was so strong we could smell it from the road. There is nothing like the smell of a cow farm after a rain. We had the windows rolled down since my old 75 Chevy pickup did not have air conditioning and the smell filled the cab. The smell hit me and I said, “Wow, that smell is horrible.” But my friend, a farmer who had grown up on farms took a deep breath and said, “Ahh, smells like home…” We looked at each other and laughed for a while.

What a completely different reaction we had to the same smell. Having grown up in Southern California, I was not accustomed to the smells of rural America. My friend who grew up on farms had good memories which accompanied the odors, so it was all good to him. But this reminds me of something the apostle Paul once wrote.

2 Corinthians 2: 15For we are a fragrance of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing; 16 to the one an aroma from death to death, to the other an aroma from life to life. And who is adequate for these things?”

Every one of us puts off a fragrance, but there is a differing reaction to the odor depending upon our reaction to the Gospel. To God, because we have been redeemed by Christ back to God, we carry the fragrance of Christ. To those who are rejecting the message of the gospel, we smell like death because they are refusing the offer of life from God through Christ. And for the one who is receiving the gospel, to them we are carrying the fragrance of life which comes with the gospel of Christ. So in this case, “beauty is in the nose of the smeller…” We are not different, nor is the fragrance we put off with our words and the testimony of our lives.

So often we have the tendency to take the blame, or the credit, when we are sharing our faith and we see the reaction of folks to the message of Christ. And while we do have something to do with the other person hearing about the gospel, it is a matter of their hearts in regard to Christ which makes the difference. God loves us and thinks we smell like His Son, so it is pretty hard to go wrong there. Those who hear the gospel and understand their need for Christ will always smell life on us since they recognize it out of their need. But those who reject the gospel, to them we smell like death Paul says. Judgment hangs over them and they are refusing God’s offer of life, so they only smell death. It’s not us. Be faithful to Christ and remember, you are stinky to others. And the fragrance can be good or bad depending upon how they are reacting to the good news of Christ. But to God, we who have committed ourselves to Christ smell wonderful!

Continue reading
704 Hits

Keep Running the Race

b2ap3_thumbnail_running-the-race.jpg

Having days when you just want to give up are common to the human experience, we all have times in our lives when this is exactly how we feel. It is the single mom who has had a terrible week struggling to keep up with work, the housework, and the kids. Or the man whose job is demanding more of him than he can give, and he feels like he is at the breaking point. It can be any number of things, we all know the exhausted, frustrated, and harried feelings which leave us overwhelmed.

Philippians 3:12-14Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus. 13 Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”

In total humility the apostle Paul encourages believers to hang on and press forward. He tells us he has not “arrived” at the place of perfection, but he is pressing forward to the finish line. Paul is pressing on like one who is obsessed with getting something for which he is in pursuit of, he is extending all of his strength to get it. God got a hold of Paul for a reason, and Paul is laboring to take hold of what it is God intended for him. What a play on words that is. Paul also says to us that there is “one thing he does”, which illustrates how focused he is in his pursuit of the prize God has for him. His heart is not divided, there is a fixed point and Paul is running for it.

Like Paul, we need to forget the past, and turn our attention to now and to Christ! All of us have had days when we have failed, those failures cannot be allowed to dominate our hearts and minds. There is a glorious prize to be found in Christ, and it is an upward call, not one that flat-lines. As we continue to pursue God with all we have, in this life and on into the next we will find ourselves being lifted up closer and closer to Christ! There is a finish line in Christ, keep running and don’t take your eyes off of it…

Continue reading
679 Hits

Men Understanding Women

b2ap3_thumbnail_man_woman_symbols2.jpg

There is an old joke where a man is walking down the beach and comes across a genie lamp along the shoreline. He picks it up and rubs it, and out comes the genie granting him a single wish. The man is stunned, but says, “I thought you granted three wishes?” The genie says, “Yeah, that is the stuff of legend, we only give one. So what is yours?” The man thinks for a minute and says, “You know, I have always liked the beach, but I am afraid of water. So could you build a highway from here to Hawaii?” The genie looks at the man and says, “Are you out of your mind? Do you know how complicated that would be with environmental impact statements, commercial codes and dealing with union crews between several time zones and states?” The genie shook his head and said, “Think of something else.” The man thought a bit longer and said, “Ok, I have never understood women, make me able to understand women.” And as the man continued to talk about how great it would be to understand women the genie stared at him listening, and finally said, “So, did you want that to be a four or six lane highway?”

And whether this is reality or not, it is certainly the material for a lot of comedians. Regardless of this, Peter tells men,

1 Peter 3:7Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers.”

So how realistic is this? And if it is realistic, how can it be done?

During the dating process, or courtship, we are watching every move and listening to every word. You want to know everything about them so you can do things to make them happy and feel loved. But, when a couple gets married and settles into everyday life, the responsibilities of work, housekeeping, child care, family finances and other commitments often reduce the desire of knowing your mate to a lower priority. There's just no time. Husbands and wives are habitually exhausted, and their conversations become, at best, mere business discussions — "Who's picking up the dry cleaning?" or "Hey, we're out of milk."

For these and other reasons, the natural drift in a marriage is to stop learning about the other person and to lose track of his or her thoughts and feelings. And it is important to grasp this, because if you don’t, the days will turn into months and years, and you will one day wake up and realize you do not know this person lying next to you in bed.

So fulfilling the direction of Peter regarding husbands must be understood to require an active role on the part of the husband, as well as the wife regarding her husband. As a couple you must make time and space for constantly getting to know each other. You must, as some folks say, “Continue dating each other.” Which is to say, continue doing those things you did when you were dating.

  • Extend grace and patience to each other.
  • Reduce or eliminate all of the distractions which draw you away from each other like TV, computers, or bringing home work that invades your home like an unwanted guest.
  • Take the time to listen to the other person, to understand, not to rebuttal their statements or tell them what to do.
  • Ask open ended questions like “How do you feel about _______?” or “What do you think could be best about ___________?”
  • If you disagree, exercise wisdom and choose your words carefully.
  • Show respect to each other, remembering you loved them enough to say “I will marry you.”

You must make time for each other. And when you are together focus on each other. Don’t let your conversations drift to work, or daily events and the news. Talk about each other and think about each other. You will come to realize that knowing your spouse is not as strange or impossible as you first thought.

Continue reading
647 Hits

Death Awaits You

b2ap3_thumbnail_sim_missions-founders2.jpg

How do you face death? How would you knowingly walk into a situation where you knew that death was the most likely scenario? Throughout human history there have been men and women who have faced these questions, and still they walked forward knowing death awaited them. Fearless? No, they had some fear in their hearts, but they went ahead regardless. Super brave? None of them would have thought so.

Before Martin Luther began questioning and proclaiming the Roman Catholic Church to be in error regarding salvation and the meaning of the scriptures, there was John Hus. Hus said all of the same things that Luther did, but Hus was burned at the stake July 6, 1415 more than 100 years before the Reformation. He did not start the Reformation, Luther did. Hus knew the risks but continued to speak out.

William Tyndale died in October of 1536 as the Reformation was really starting to explode all over Europe. He was burned at the stake for translating the Bible into English. Out of respect and as an act of mercy, Tyndale was choked to death before his body was burned. Tyndale knew the risks, but he continued to translate the Bible.

Walter Gowans, Tom Kent, and Roland Bingham are three names you have probably never heard of before. Who were they? They were three Canadians who founded the Soudan Inland Mission in 1893. Under their leadership and example, many missionaries went to Africa to bring the gospel. But what was characteristic about them was they were all sent with their belongings in a casket because they were likely to die before ever making a difference on the African continent. But they went and died there anyway, either being killed by the people or because of disease.

Acts 20:24 "But I do not consider my life of any account as dear to myself, so that I may finish my course and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify solemnly of the gospel of the grace of God.”

This was the same heart the apostle Paul had about this life and what we are here for. Paul took living for Christ in this world seriously. He knew the call of Jesus on his life and Paul went forward to fulfill that calling even in the face of death. Jesus told us:

John 12:25Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life.”

No one has a death wish, this is not suicidal thinking. But if your life is too valuable to you, then you are already dead. Jesus called us to give up our lives for His sake! Hus, Tyndale, the founders of (SIM), they all knew what it meant to give up their lives for the sake of Christ. Death awaits you, one way of another, death will be there. What will you do between now and then? Christ would live in you, change you, empower you, and cause your life to become something incredible if you would allow Him. Paul knew this, and he daily lived in the reality of it.

Galatians 2:20 "I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.”

Death awaits you, but what will you do before it comes? 

Continue reading
664 Hits

The World as it Now Is

b2ap3_thumbnail_21-coptic-Christians-beheaded.jpg

According to Reuters News services, ISIS released a video last Sunday claiming to have killed 21 Egyptian Christians who were captured in Libya. The Egyptians were wearing orange jumpsuits, being forced to the ground by militants dressed in black, and beheaded on a beach. The five-minute video had a caption that read, "The people of the cross, followers of the hostile Egyptian church."

And if by now you have not understood the point of the orange jumpsuits, ISIS is sending a message to the U.S. There is a declaration being made against the U.S. and the holding of radical Muslims in various prisons like Gitmo. The jumpsuits are to echo back at our orange prison jumpsuits.

But what the news is not putting in the headlines, according to a recently posted article by Jim Daly at Focus on the Family, is that these 21 Coptic Christians were working in Libya because they were trying to feed their families in Egypt who are starving due to the poor conditions there. The news media is also not telling you that these ISIS members tried to get the 21 Christians to deny their faith through torture before beheading them. And lastly, the news is not telling you these believers sang songs of praise to Jesus while they were being beheaded.

John 16:1-3 "These things I have spoken to you so that you may be kept from stumbling. 2 "They will make you outcasts from the synagogue, but an hour is coming for everyone who kills you to think that he is offering service to God. 3 "These things they will do because they have not known the Father or Me.”

You have seen the pictures, please pray for our brothers and sisters in Christ who are daily being threatened, tortured, and murdered for their faith in Christ. Here is the reality of where the world is going right now. This is not some throw back to a bygone era, this is now and the hostility against Jews and Christians is on the rise worldwide. Those who oppose Christianity seek to make Christ-followers social outcasts in first world nations such as the U.S. and Europe. And they seek to kill them everywhere else. This is a time for standing strong in our faith, standing up for what is right before God and not what is acceptable socially, and to pray in solidarity with our brothers and sisters worldwide.

I am Coptic, I am Armenian, I am Ukrainian, I am American, and I am… a follower of Christ.

Continue reading
604 Hits

Looking into Your Soul and Looking to God

b2ap3_thumbnail_God-Loves-You-Veggietales.jpg

What do you behold when you gaze into the abyss of your soul and see the darkness there? You know it is there, that sin, that corrupt part of you. It is no secret withheld from you, no territory you have left unseen… Even if you have only seen it long enough to know you do not want to see it again, you know it is truly there.

You drown yourself in hatred for what you deny exists. Because if God exists, your ruined soul is all the more painful and you know you must do something about it. But in your quiet moments of self-reflection the reality of who you are is difficult to face. You are not as gentlemanly as you would like to play, not so elite and above others as you would like those others to imagine. Your soul cries out.

So you drown it out in entertainment, in drinking, in sensuality… whatever you can do to deaden this reality. Anything as long as you do not have to once again face your own soul. God knows, deny Him as you will. He sees the depths of your soul and the anguish you seek to avoid facing. Despite your denial, despite your rejection, He calls out to you day after day.

In love, not hatred, Jesus came to do everything to redeem you back to God. In love He did not push you away, instead He came closer. God extended His mercy and offered His very hand to all of humanity through His Son. To the depths of human depravity he has reached to take you back to Himself. Deny His existence and God will still not withhold His love from you. Hate him, and He stands even firmer upon the foundation of His mercy placed before you in His Son.

Today He calls out, “For God so love the world He gave His only begotten son…” And all of this, for you. Turn to Him, and He will run to you and call you His own. (Luke 15:20

 

Continue reading
576 Hits

Let Everything You Do Be Done In Love

b2ap3_thumbnail_cute-love-couple-wallpaper-3-small.jpg

I have done a lot of pre-marital and marital counseling over the years. As a pastor I have seen a lot of things in relationships, good and bad. Folks have come in seeking to get married for a lot of different reasons, and others have come in on the verge of divorce for a lot of different reasons. So would you allow me tell you something about what has been consistently true?

There are two types of couples; those who are committed to their marriage and those who are not. This is the one main reason for those marriages that last twenty years or more. And then, among the marriages who are committed, there are two groups as well. There are those who are committed to their marriage and are prepared to endure it long term, and those who are committed to their marriage and prepared to do what it is going to take to make their marriage work well and enjoy it.

Commit to your marriage. Don’t let go of that commitment. But also commit to doing what is necessary to enjoy your marriage, and you will. It is that simple.

The complications generally come when you start to work this out, no two couples are the same and you both have to figure out what makes things work for you. What makes you happy? What makes you glad to be around the other person? What really lights up your heart? What turns you on sexually? What makes you glad you are heading home? You have to determine these things between you, and this can be quite enjoyable work, if you let it.

There are some constants in terms of behaviors that will reinforce a marriage or tear it apart. Selfishness, inability to forgive, poor communication skills, blame-shifting, and a lack of grace toward your partner will ruin a marriage every time. Graciousness, a readiness to forgive, good communication, willingness to admit personal faults, and putting your partner ahead of yourself will always make a marriage work. And if you find yourself in a marriage falling apart this Valentine’s Day, know this, almost any marriage can be fixed if the couple is willing to work at it.

1 Corinthians 16:14Let all that you do be done in love.”

Every moment in life you are making memories and making choices, make them good ones. 

Continue reading
1130 Hits

And God Said No

b2ap3_thumbnail_danger-sign-small.jpg

I remember the sadness and somewhat odd feeling when I heard about a technician who was killed while working on a sign. The voltage involved in some of the larger electrical signs is quite dangerous, and I knew it was possible, but this was the first time I had personally known about an actual death. Anyone on the install crews handling these types of signs knew the safety procedures, we knew the rules. But, after the electrical shock had killed him, OSHA and executives of the company all called for increased safety procedures.

The human heart has a tendency to resist any rules, or restrictions. We believe we can go our own way and not get hurt.

Psalm 2:1-3 “Why are the nations in an uproar and the peoples devising a vain thing? 2 The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers take counsel together against the LORD and against His Anointed, saying, 3 "Let us tear their fetters apart and cast away their cords from us!"

Humanity cries out against God and they complain of His rules and restrictions, they believe God is trying to keep them from enjoying life to its fullest, that God is preventing human flourishing. Folks believe they know better than God what will make them happy, what will enable them to enjoy life, and they believe God is in the way of that. God is seen as some “cosmic killjoy” that wants to take all of the fun out of life. So humanity resists.

Yet, God could not be further from the idea of being a cosmic killjoy. God who made us, knows the intricacies of not just our physical makeup, but that of our soul and psyche, knows what will bring human flourishing. God desires for us to enjoy life for all that He intended. But we, think He is wrong because we want to follow our lusts. God does not proclaim something wrong because there is something inherently great about it just to ruin our fun. He tells us not to do something because it is so destructive to our hearts, our minds, and our souls. Never mind the damage done to our relationships and commitments. Some immoral behaviors like adultery are so destructive, that sexual immorality is the only cause God gives for divorce. (Matthew 19:8)

There are some things the human heart cannot easily recover from, and others we are just not ever going to get over.

God gives us explicit commands, some overarching principles, and He provides in Himself direction based upon His own character. All of this because He knows what will hurt us, and what will enable us to truly enjoy this life. So when a particular society and culture continues to cross new lines, new boundaries into sinful life choices, or destructive life choices – God’s people should not be following along with the culture. We should not be making the same types of choices, because we of all people, should know that God’s knows better than the rest of humanity what will bring us the greatest joy. Humanity will continue to explore and cross the boundaries of human sinful choices, this is a given. But at what cost?

The words of God stand as a large sign warning of danger – death ahead. God gives us direction for living, not to restrict us, rather it is a way of living which will provide lasting enjoyment of this life. 

 

Continue reading
679 Hits

Pray That Your Joy May Be Full

b2ap3_thumbnail_answered-prayer.jpg

As my kids were growing up, like all children they asked for things. They would ask for food, drinks, snacks, sweets, and any other number of other things. As a parent, I would try and be as accommodating as possible, within reason. Now, as a grandparent, I look back and think about how I could have said yes far more than I did. Sometimes their requests were no big deal, other times there was a problem like wanting a piece of candy before a meal. Or even more dramatic, asking for something not good for them or even harmful. And you know, every parent at some point needs to hear the word “pleeeeeeease…” at least once in their life raising a child.

I was the responsible one, I was the parent who was supposed to know best what was good for my child to have and not have. It was beyond them to know; they were too young, too immature, too driven by their cravings rather than rational and moral thinking about what was right and wrong. And growing up, I simply don’t think my children had deep theological questions running through their minds about whether they trusted me. There was definitely an issue with not getting their way, but not one about trusting me.

I encounter Christians who pretty much struggle with how God answers prayers in a similar way. There is not as much of a lack of trust, as there is an angry heart over not getting what they want. And the folks who get really angry, well, they are just not thinking about trusting God much in the first place. Think about something Jesus said,

Luke 12:32Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom.”

God is not lacking in generosity, it is the heart of God toward us that His desire is to give us the kingdom. Jesus also tells a parable in Luke 18 which is clearly told to encourage us to pray and not hold back in our approaching God with our hearts about anything in this life. Jesus also said this,

John 16:24 "Until now you have asked for nothing in My name; ask and you will receive, so that your joy may be made full.”

Does that ring true in your heart about how you think about God and how He answers your prayers? It is God’s desire that we receive what we pray for, so that we can have joy in this life. The breakdown comes when we are asking for things that will not bring us joy in this life or the next. The breakdown is within our own hearts as we seek after the wrong things, or seek after things with the wrong motives. (James 4:2-3) If you have been listening to the noise of the health and wealth teachers and their lies about how God wants you to be living the American Dream, it’s time to turn that off. Let go of wrong ideas and wrong desires. Turn your heart toward heavenly priorities, pray with a heart in line with what God wants to see happen in your world. It is there your prayer life will come alive and you will see God begin working in amazing ways. Trust Him for how your prayer life will be answered. 

Continue reading
726 Hits

Beautifully Imperfect

b2ap3_thumbnail_beautifully-imperfect.jpg

It is said that everyone’s body, in some way or another, has flaws of some sort. One eye not the same size or shape as the other, or an ear oddly placed. Something is not exact, making all of us imperfect. Yet it is those unique imperfections that are a part of the beauty in all of us, they are a part of what makes us who we are. Beauty is not flawless; freckles, laugh lines, whatever we have are the elements of beauty.

You know, the body of Christ is like this, imperfect but beautiful. We are the Church, God’s glorious Bride. But God is still at work restoring all of us sinners from the brink of hell. We carry a lot of baggage in our lives and into our relationships.  And quite honestly, we carry a lot of that baggage into church with us as well. We are a large group of imperfect people trying to pursue God, but along the way we are not always behaving well. If we are honest with ourselves, we know this. There are odd personalities, unpredictable temperaments, and varying maturity levels among us God is working on. But that is the thing about the Church, the body of Christ; we are an imperfect but beautiful entity in the sight of God!

A Christ-centered church is not a showcase for saints, but a hospital for sinners.” ― Randy Alcorn, Heaven

Every time we get angry, bothered, or upset with someone else in church, we are forgetting the truth about ourselves. We have forgotten we are all sinners saved by grace. We think folks ought to behave better than they do, especially when it comes to how they treat us. And when we become self-absorbed, we allow bitterness and unforgiveness to settle in and ruin relationships.

James 4:1-3 “What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you? Is not the source your pleasures that wage war in your members? 2 You lust and do not have; {so} you commit murder. You are envious and cannot obtain; {so} you fight and quarrel. You do not have because you do not ask. 3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend {it} on your pleasures.”

The majority of all church conflict and church splits are due to selfishness; and only on rare occasion is it due to someone holding the high moral ground of God’s word. Churches fight over pews or chairs, hymns or contemporary worship, how hot it is or how cold it is, or some silly doctrine that will not matter in eternity. I once had a brother say, “If you ever find the perfect church, don’t join it because you will only ruin it.” Give up on finding the perfect church?

Perhaps, instead we should give up demanding to have our own way. Recognize that God has brought you into an imperfect, but beautiful work of His hands. Despite your sin and selfishness God has invited you into His household. God has chosen to add you into the mix with all of the rest of those He is saving from the brink of hell. Some have been closer to the edge than others, and we need to give each other a break and extend the same grace to others God has extended to us. God’s intent is that we grow up and stop acting like children with each other so we become beautiful, together, not separately. (Ephesians 4:11-15) As you extend grace and compassion to one another, all of us together will discover the beauty of God’s imperfect people, and all that we can do together in His name. 1 Corinthians 14:1Pursue love…” 

Continue reading
674 Hits

Church Life and Spiritual Growth

b2ap3_thumbnail_you-must-live-as-a-member-of-the-household-of-faith-small.jpg

There are some very simple things I can do to enable spiritual growth in my life. Initiating and maintaining a regular prayer life is essential. Regularly reading and taking the time to study, as well as meditate upon the Bible is also important. Besides these two examples, there are many good and beneficial spiritual disciplines. In all of these spiritual disciplines, it is not just that I do them, it is that I am choosing to do them for the purpose of drawing closer to God. This decisive motive will cause spiritual growth in any believer’s life.

Yet, for all of these disciplines, there is one other element of the Christian life that is absolutely necessary for Christian growth.

Ephesians 3:14-19 “For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name, 16 that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; {and} that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God.”

It is Christ dwelling in our hearts, our being rooted and grounded in love, and it is our being together with all the saints where we truly discover and know God in all his glory. God did not save us to stand alone, He has made us one with all other believers (Romans 12:5 & 1 Corinthians 12:27), and has included all of us into the household of God (Ephesians 2:19). It is therefore necessary rather than optional, that we be a part of a community of believers in order to truly know God in all of His glory. This is such an important element of the Christian faith and life, that we were commanded to not avoid fellowship with other believers. (Hebrews 10:24-25)

This idea, because of our typical American individualism, runs contrary to how we might want to live as a Christian. I recognize this. I also recognize that there is risk in committing yourself to a group of believers, real “fellowship” is messy and emotionally dangerous. There is never a time when I look at the list of apostles and smile when I consider Matthew the former tax collector, having to serve alongside of Simon the zealot. What a radical paring of men, it would be difficult to find any two men more opposite in personality, nature, and worldview. But Jesus did, He put them together, and they had to learn how to serve alongside each other as they followed Jesus. It caused them to grow. Proverbs 27:17Iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.”

You will never grow the way God intended outside of a community of believers, you must live as a member of the household of faith in order to truly grow spiritually and know God more fully. This is the reality of how God established the Church and His intention for us. You will know and experience God in ways I can never know, and I will likewise have a personal experience with God you will not. But together, as we live in community, we share this with one another and all of us benefit from it.

Trust God in this like any other area of your life. He knew what He was doing when He set all of this in motion, and we will only be blessed as we enter in and do what God intended. Live well before God, and do this in community – all you hoped for in your relationship with God will be more fully realized. 

Continue reading
621 Hits