Sunday, July 31, 2011

What Organizations Does God Support?

            There are no shortages of organizations or activities to draw and hold our attention. In several conversations today I have been reminded how important our choices are when we attempt to serve God. What are organizations top your priority list? As a child in the Cub Scouts, I pledged to do my best to do my duty for God and my country. (I had a short lived Scouting career.) As a teacher for 19 years, the day began with the Pledge of Allegiance (to the American Flag) and a moment of silence (We dare not call it Prayer). As a Christian, husband, and church leader what activities deserve my time and attention?

            To answer that question, it’s important to examine a few of God’s priorities. Family, church and community are the first institutions that come to mind. The Bible is our source for instructions on how to be a family. The process goes something like this: 1. Adults, one male and one female are joined together and leave the comfort and security of their family homes. 2. That couple brings children into the world and has the responsibility to teach those children about God. 3. Those children love and honor their parents, grow up serving God, and eventually repeat the process. (Note: I am not saying every couple must have children. I am not judging the value or quality of any family. I am stating what I see as the Biblical pattern)

Genesis 2:24 “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.”

Exodus 20:12 “Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you.” (NIV)

Ephesians 6:4 “And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.” (KJV)

            In the process of living a Christian life, bringing up godly children, and evangelizing the world, the church begins to take shape. As I see it, God established the family first; however, to assist the family He created the church. God’s church consists of a five-part ministry team all working together to achieve a three part goal.

Ephesians 4:11-12 “And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:” (KJV)

            The church was established to unite God’s people by teaching the doctrines of faith, equipping Christians for service, “Ministry”, within the community, offering a place for corporate worship.

Hebrews 10:23-25 “Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised;) And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.” (KJV)

Colossians 3:16 “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.” ( KJV)

            With the foundations of the family and church in place, allow me to say, “God is not anti-government.” According to the Bible, God established the governments among men to bring about His will. He builds them up and brings them down in His timeframe to accomplish His cosmic, universal, plan.

Romans 13:1 “Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God.” (NASB)

2 Peter 2:10 “But chiefly them that walk after the flesh in the lust of uncleanness, and despise government. Presumptuous are they, selfwilled, they are not afraid to speak evil of dignities.” (KJV)

Proverbs 28:2 “When there is moral rot within a nation, its government topples easily. But wise and knowledgeable leaders bring stability.” (NLT)

            God values the organizations He established. Each of these three organizations under His leadership will be blessed. The resulting blessing produces a prosperous nation. The question we should ask is: Are we worthy of that blessing? Do our priorities line up with God’s?

Saturday, July 30, 2011

How Does God Make it All Work?

I am constantly amazed at how God influences every area of my life at the same time. Yesterday, as Michele and I were traveling back home from San Diego, she was relating a conversation she had with the Christians who happened to be in her group at this conference. The topic they were discussing at lunch was marriage and divorce among Christians. It seemed to have been a lively discussion. (I wish I had been there.)

            Today as I joined my prayer partner for our weekly grouping, he brought up a topic that on the surface would seem unrelated. He asked me to take a look at the Sunday school lesson he was preparing to teach tomorrow. There was something he wanted a second opinion on and that point became part of our discussion. I cannot say what the actual point was; however, I will say both these issues are based in tradition.

            Salvation is the gift of God … available through the Son of God … a miracle of faith. Anything that undermines that faith, or suggests that we can somehow accomplish everything necessary to transform the world apart from Christ is leading unsuspecting people down the wrong path. However well-meaning it may be it is the path away from God. Traditions taught by men that diminish or deny the miracle working power of the Son of God, run the risk of becoming the same lie the devil used in the garden. “You shall not surely die, … You shall be as gods …”  

Galatians 1:13-16 “For ye have heard of my conversation in time past in the Jews' religion, how that beyond measure I persecuted the church of God, and wasted it: And profited in the Jews' religion above many my equals in mine own nation, being more exceedingly zealous of the traditions of my fathers. But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother's womb, and called me by his grace, To reveal his Son in me, that I might preach him among the heathen; immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood:” (KJV)

            Stand firm and keep reading the Bible. God reveals Himself through His word. That means when our opinions, traditions, and especially our desires do not line up with the Bible. It is not Scripture that is wrong. Traditions cannot usher us into the grace of God. More often than not they drive us away from Him. Keep a strong grip on the TRUTH found in the Bible.

2 Thessalonians 2:14-17 “He called you to salvation when we told you the Good News; now you can share in the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. With all these things in mind, dear brothers and sisters, stand firm and keep a strong grip on the teaching we passed on to you both in person and by letter. Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal comfort and a wonderful hope, comfort you and strengthen you in every good thing you do and say.” (NLT)

            Allow the Bible to be your source of inspiration. Learn its lessons and discover a meaningful and joyous relationship with God. As to my stance on marriage and divorce, I believe the scripture is clear. If you do stay single … If you have remarried, repent and don’t do it again. Both the Old and New Testaments support this approach.

Malachi 2:16 “The man who hates and divorces his wife,” says the LORD, the God of Israel, “does violence to the one he should protect,” says the LORD Almighty. So be on your guard, and do not be unfaithful.” (KJV)

Mark 10:4-9 “And they said, Moses suffered to write a bill of divorcement, and to put her away. And Jesus answered and said unto them, For the hardness of your heart he wrote you this precept. But from the beginning of the creation God made them male and female. For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and cleave to his wife; And they twain shall be one flesh: so then they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.” (KJV)

            We (and I do include myself) spend far too much time justifying our traditions and opinions and far too little time studying the Bible to see what God has to say.

2  Timothy 2:15 “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” (KJV)

2 Peter 1:19-21 “We also have the prophetic message as something completely reliable, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.  Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation of things. For prophecy never had its origin in the human will, but prophets, though human, spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” (NIV)

            Those concepts we find hard to accept or understand from the Bible cannot be erased, or explained away. We must ask God to lead us by His Holy Spirit into acceptance of His plan. It is His message. Who better to explain it? Walk in the way of the WORD not the traditions of men. He has ways we cannot understand. He just makes it work.

Friday, July 29, 2011

How Do You Deal With Distractions?

           Anyone following this blog may have noticed that Wednesday’s post was not there. That’s because I got a little distracted. It’s tough writing what amounts to a sermon a day, but when I started this process that was my goal. (I could be in over my head. In any case, I am in the deep end of the pool.) So, if you are following me here I want to apologize for being late and virtually nonexistent Wednesday. With your comments and encouragement I’ll do my best not to let it happen again.  Feel free to comment on the posts. (What is God saying to you? Does my life in some ways reflect your own experience?  Are these posts at all valuable, or am I, in fact, talking to myself?)

            I cannot really talk about what distracts you mostly because I don’t know who is reading this, but I can talk about what distracts me. We can examine what the Bible has to say, and with any amount luck at all we should be able to apply God’s Word to our situations with great success. You’re right. Luck has nothing to do with it. God promises that His word will accomplish the task for which it has been sent. There is a high price associated with disregard for God’s plan for our lives.

Psalm 73:27-28 “Those who are far from you will perish; you destroy all who are unfaithful to you. But as for me, it is good to be near God. I have made the Sovereign LORD my refuge; I will tell of all your deeds.” (NIV)

            The way I see it, distractions in my case follow three basic patterns: 1. someone draws my attention away from someone else, 2. something becomes troubling or worrisome, or 3 something I find entertaining and amusing steals precious time away for important activities. Let me deal with them in order.

            Human existence, Christianity itself, and the ministry are each about relationships. Relationships involve people. People require time commitments. But, I recognize within myself a tendency to nurture and develop certain relationships more than others. The key to my dealing with this distraction is evaluating not what I am gaining from the time spent in the relationship by what I am giving to the other person. My relationship with God is reflected in my relationships with people.

Matthew 7:12 “Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets.” (KJV)

Philippians 2:2-4 “Fulfill ye my joy, that ye be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others.” (KJV)

Romans 14:19 “So then we pursue the things which make for peace and the building up of one another.” (NASB)

            The only way I can deal with the distractions caused by people is changing the way I value the individuals. They really are not a distraction are my responsibility. Spending time with people becomes a “call to discipleship”. However, dealing with worry may not be so cut and dried. Especially in today’s economy with my decision not to return to teaching and focusing my life on ministry this is becoming a real issue for me. I have found passages from Philippians chapter 4 lend themselves to combating this distraction.

Philippians 4:19 “But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” (KJV)

Philippians 4:7-9 “And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you.” (KJV)

This Third form of distraction is my Achilles heel. This one gets me every time. Entertainment and amusement has attracted me since childhood. Flashing lights, a catchy tune, a good storyline, anything exciting or different will stop me in my tracks. (If you listen to Michele the story does not have to be that good. They just have to make a movie out of it.)

Psalm 101:3-4 “I will set no wicked thing before mine eyes: I hate the work of them that turn aside; it shall not cleave to me. A froward heart shall depart from me: I will not know a wicked person.” (KJV)

Isaiah 26:3 “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee.” (KJV)

            The Bible directs us, teaches us and corrects us if we read it with understanding and devotion, but accountability holds us to a standard even above our own willpower. So the way I deal with distractions is making a commitment to meet every week with Christian brothers I trust. Please find trustworthy people within your circle of friends and share your heart with them. They will challenge you to be more than you can be alone. The experience will sharpen, encourage and equip you to fulfill your calling with boldness.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Why Can’t We Be Satisfied?

            This morning (Wednesday, 7-27-20011) I woke up with “I can’t get no satisfaction” running through my mind. Usually I wake up with a prayer, or praise on my heart, or even some contemporary worship song, but today “Satisfaction”! You see, for the past five weeks Michele and I have been on the road. Our vacation intermingled with two huge teacher conferences. We were home for almost a week before this newest adventure, but here we are in San Diego at an expensive resort.  Anyone would think, “What a sweet deal … three days and nights at a resort … cool ocean-breezes … maid service … dinners out … and someone else is paying … sign me up.”

            Well getting here was not quite that easy. It was a struggle. On the front end of our vacation we took the cars in for service. You know the drill; tires, oil change, general tune up, $1,300.00 a couple motor mounts, and assorted other work and we’re off for rest, relaxation, and one teacher conference in Nashville. On the trip we had to replace one tire, and we knew when we got home we would need another oil-change. By the way, there seems to be only one rule while driving in Nashville. It is actually a three step process: 1. Close your eyes. 2. Floor the accelerator. 3. Pray. Four weeks on the road and we make it home just in time to leave again.

So, I took the car in for service, Monday, the day before we were leaving for San Diego. The service guys put the car up on the rack and immediately say, “Looks like we have a problem. Your water pump needs to be replaced.” The job that was supposed to take two hours took all day and they had to pull the whole engine. I picked up the car just before closing time. The bill for this joyous experience was over $1,400.00. Then, I drove to the high school where I had dropped Michele off earlier in the morning for a few meetings and her before the school year begins frenzy of activity. (Realize she had been stuck at school all day, just as I was stuck at home waiting on the car. Her intent was to work only a couple of hours. It ended up being a FULL day.) I shut the car off and was greeted with violent shaking, some clanging and a bang. (Why can’t life just be simple and why can’t I just be satisfied?) I called the shop right away and explained where I was and what the situation was. The service manager said, “Don’t move the car. We’ll send a Tech. to your location and assess the problem.” (Can you feel my eyes rolling back?) I assured him I was not moving the car, and that yes someone should come and fix it.

            Half an hour later, when the Technician (We used to call them Mechanics.) arrived he quickly found the problem, and explained in his broken Asian- English way, “Problem is Motor Mount. Motor Mount is broken this side. Shop close now. You drive home. Bring back  shop 7:00 AM. We fix. Thirty minutes no problem.” He was right they did get it fixed in the time frame he gave and we were on our way … to the tire shop.

            It was Tuesday and I was still working on Monday’s list. (Does that happen to anyone else, or is it just me?) Thirty minutes at the tire shop and the repair is complete … No charge. Fantastic Monday’s list is completed Tuesday morning and we are leaving for San Diego on schedule.

Psalm 34:19 “Many are the afflictions of the righteous: but the LORD delivereth him out of them all.” (KJV)

            I don’t know about you but I always have a little difficulty seeing myself as “Righteous”. Especially in situations that push me out of my comfort zone, or in those situations where my expectations are not realized. (O.K. how many people besides me feel I have just described your whole life?) There is hope when we turn to the Bible and apply its principles to our lives. If we identify ourselves with Christ we can be “Satisfied”. Because of His promises.

Deuteronomy 31:6 “Be strong and of a good courage, fear not, nor be afraid of them: for the LORD thy God, he it is that doth go with thee; he will not fail thee, nor forsake thee.” (KJV)

            Challenges, problems, setbacks, they happen to everyone. When they happen we are tempted to react. Sometimes those reactions cause us to revert to our former nature. Remember the Son of God has set us free from our former nature. God supplies all our needs and we can find TRUE, LASTING, and JOYOUS satisfaction in our relationship with Christ.

1 Corinthians 10:13 “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.” (KJV)

John 8:36 “If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.” (KJV emphasis added)

1 Timothy 6:6-8 “A devout life does bring wealth, but it's the rich simplicity of being yourself before God. Since we entered the world penniless and will leave it penniless, if we have bread on the table and shoes on our feet, that's enough.” (MSG)

Hebrews 13:5 “Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.” (KJV)

            Finding “Satisfaction” has more to do with where we are focusing our search and who is beside us on the journey, and much less to do with the things we acquire on the trip. We have come a long way from the hymn, “Mansion Over the Hilltop”. I’m just not sure we have been traveling in the right direction. I’m working on returning to finding, “Satisfaction” in a life-giving relationship with Christ. Are you willing to make the same commitment? Don’t get lost in the details. Hold on to the TRUTH.

John 14:6 Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (KJV emphasis added)

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Does Training Really Matter?

           Did you ever stop to ask the question: Does training really matter? Well today I caught myself doing what some might consider a rote task. One of those things I’ve done so often that it requires very little thought. No, I was not making a hamburger, driving to school, or speaking before a group of people.  You might think the driving comment is a stretch, but how many experienced drivers have ever found yourself going down the road headed for a new location but traveling in the direction of your work place or favorite store, I mean a really familiar route, and the car just seems turn on its own? You arrive at an unintended destination and ask yourself, “How did I get here?” (Be Honest! I cannot be the only person this has happened to.)

Today, I was folding laundry. Not a task that requires an extended amount of brain power I’ll grant you. But, as I picked up the towel it seemed to fold itself. First, I matched the ends lengthwise in half. Then, without a second thought I folded the towel into thirds. By now I’ll bet most people reading this are saying, yep that’s how you fold a towel. That is the way it was done in my mother’s home. It is also the way it was done in my mother-in-laws home, but when Michele and I got married we lived in an apartment and she had some decorating sense that the towels had to hang across the towel rack lengthwise in thirds. One evening we were having guests, and she asked me to change the towels in the bathroom before they arrived. Which I dutifully with one small imperfection, I took the towels straight from the linen cabinet and hung them over the towel rack just the way they were folded. Oops!

Once Michele finished whatever the task was that required her attention, she checked the bathroom and I got a lesson in elegant towel hanging. The towels had to be unfolded and refolded and hung across the towel rack lengthwise in thirds. I never forgot that lesson, but I did develop a more efficient way to fold towels. First, fold them lengthwise in thirds. Then, fold them in half and half again. When they are folded and put away like that you just take them out of the linen closet let the second half fold fall freely and place the towel on the towel rack. That way no one gets in trouble. Today, after 15 years of my own towel folding practice, I folded the towel the wrong way. Where did that come from?

Proverbs 22:6 “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” (KJV)

            Parents spend so much of their time teaching children so many things. They teach their children how to walk, talk, ride bikes, drive cars, hopefully they teach every life skill. But, how much time is spent actively training the next generation to hear God’s voice?

Isaiah 30:20-22 “And though the Lord give you the bread of adversity, and the water of affliction, yet shall not thy teachers be removed into a corner any more, but thine eyes shall see thy teachers: And thine ears shall hear a word behind thee, saying, This is the way, walk ye in it, when ye turn to the right hand, and when ye turn to the left. Ye shall defile also the covering of thy graven images of silver, and the ornament of thy molten images of gold: thou shalt cast them away as a menstruous cloth; thou shalt say unto it, Get thee hence.” (KJV)

            The world will offer your children many teachers. Not all of them will be pointing out the path of righteousness. As a public school teacher, I was surprised, or should I say shocked every year to see the sheer numbers of students that were spiritually illiterate. Many of them came from “Christian homes” and  “Good churches” but lacked a solid foundation in the TRUTH.

Psalm 34:10-12 “The young lions do lack, and suffer hunger: but they that seek the LORD shall not want any good thing. Come, ye children, hearken unto me: I will teach you the fear of the LORD. What man is he that desireth life, and loveth many days, that he may see good?” (KJV)

            A Pastor once told me (when I was a child), “Christians are not called to judge each other, but we do have a responsibility to become fruit inspectors.” As responsible leaders in our homes and within the “Body of Christ” we owe it to the next generation to train them in the art of hearing God’s voice, discerning the correct path, and accurately testing the quality of spiritual fruit.

Matthew 7:20-26 “Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them. Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity. Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock. And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand:” (KJV)

            Training really does matter. Let’s be sure our children know what is important. The world will not like you and it surely will not understand your position without the intervention of the Holy Spirit but we can become like Jesus the Master Teacher.

Matthew 10:25 “It is enough for students to be like their teachers, and servants like their masters. If the head of the house has been called Beelzebul, how much more the members of his household!” (NIV)

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Where Do We Get Our Worth?

            Today was a very gloomy day in south Yuma County. It was overcast humid and just generally one of those days I’d rather stay in bed and feel depressed. It felt like something bad was just lurking beneath the surface. Rain should have been arriving any second, but was holding off.

            Then, I checked my face book account.  I came face-to-face with the reality that family relationships are both the most joyous and most frustrating gift God has given us. My family, for the most part, takes pride in being traditional, at least, in the idea that the man of the house is the “provider”. The following scriptures come to mind almost immediately. One clearly stating, (if you will allow me to paraphrase) “If you don’t work buddy, don’t expect to eat at my table.” The other saying, (still paraphrasing) “Anybody who does not provide for his family is a godless BUM, and has turned his back of the faith.”

2 Thessalonians 3:9-11 “Not because we have not power, but to make ourselves an ensample unto you to follow us. For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat. For we hear that there are some which walk among you disorderly, working not at all, but are busybodies.” (KJV)

1 Timothy 5:8 “But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel.” (KJV)

            OK, I’ll admit those scriptures taken in isolation are pretty condemning. If all a person did was sit home and expect to be taken care of by someone else. However, Jesus told his disciples to go from town to town sharing the “Good News” without thought of what they would eat or even what they would wear. 

Luke 9:1-3 “Then he called his twelve disciples together, and gave them power and authority over all devils, and to cure diseases. And he sent them to preach the kingdom of God, and to heal the sick. And he said unto them, Take nothing for your journey, neither staves, nor scrip, neither bread, neither money; neither have two coats apiece.” (KJV) 

            As children of God in a materialistic culture we face the dilemma of chasing after possessions or chasing after the “Kingdom of God”. We are not called to live in poverty but neither are we to spend our lives building our fortunes. Luke chapter 12 verses 15 through 20 graphically depict the outcome of that lifestyle. I believe there can be a healthy balance in our lives. The key is finding our worth as a member of God’s family.

            Each of us has been given various talents. Some are builders, some are teachers, some are homemakers, some caregivers, and this list can be as varied as the number of individuals reading this post. The only thing that matters is recognizing God made you who you are and He has a place for you within His family. Define your worth not based on what you do, but rather who you are in Christ.

Luke 12:15-20 “And he said unto them, Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man's life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth. And he spake a parable unto them, saying, The ground of a certain rich man brought forth plentifully: And he thought within himself, saying, What shall I do, because I have no room where to bestow my fruits? And he said, This will I do: I will pull down my barns, and build greater; and there will I bestow all my fruits and my goods. And I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry. But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided?” (KJV) 

            Again we are reminded, life is more than food and we are more than what we wear. You will be blessed,  I  will be blessed, the world will be transformed when we find our worth in our Creator and His plan for us.

Luke 12:21-23 “So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God. And he said unto his disciples, Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat; neither for the body, what ye shall put on. The life is more than meat, and the body is more than raiment.” (KJV)

            I can see right now I should have started writing this post sooner, but life gets in the way some times. Attending early service at church, a marriage ministries meeting in the afternoon, and the traditional Sunday nap has put me behind my time schedule. But, with God’s help I’ll get this posted while it is still today. Allow me to close with this thought.

Proverbs 22:29 “Do you see a man skilled in his work? He will stand before kings; He will not stand before obscure men.” (NASB)

            God has given each of us the skill to do the job He desires of us. That job is contributing an every way to His family and building His Eternal Kingdom. Our worth is found in Christ. We are serving before the King Of Kings. He will take care of our wages both here and in eternity.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Whose Opinion Matters?

Michele and I just returned home from a trip across the country. This year we visited several friends and family scattered across the U.S. from Arizona to Wisconsin. There is really nothing new in that bit of news. We have taken a 6,000+ mile driving tour every two years for awhile now.

The shocking news and the reason I find myself writing today is a shift in American culture that has become too widespread to be ignored. Tolerance and Political Correctness have pushed Christian thought and Christ centered values out of the public forum. The new reality in America is everything is tolerated and everything is protected except Christian speech and Christ centered values. Imagine my surprise at the breakfast table, sitting in the heartland of America (Iowa City, Iowa) when I hear the anchor person of the morning news say, “Well, you realize they are Christians. So, they are incapable of reasonable intelligent decision-making.”

Psalm 111:9-10 “He sent redemption unto his people: he hath commanded his covenant for ever: holy and reverend is his name. The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom: a good understanding have all they that do his commandments: his praise endureth for ever.” (KJV)

            I must confess I was not paying attention to the news. I was enjoying breakfast with my wife, but we were both taken aback by the comment of that broadcaster. Michele and I are both Christian, both well educated, and both successful in our careers. Just hearing someone say that “Christians are incapable of reasonable intelligent decision-making” was an unwarranted slap in the face not only to us but to the whole concept of what was America.

Psalm 33:11-13 “The counsel of the LORD standeth for ever, the thoughts of his heart to all generations. Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD; and the people whom he hath chosen for his own inheritance. The LORD looketh from heaven; he beholdeth all the sons of men.” (KJV)

            Liberty, equality, justice, the value of life, each of these abstract concepts find their origin not in the mind of man, but in the revealed Word Of God. Reverence and respect for God’s opinion is the only thing that insures continued success as an individual or as a nation. Removing God for the public forum does not bless, strengthen or encourage us as a people it pushes us further down the slippery slope toward total depravity.

Hosea 4:5-7 “Therefore shalt thou fall in the day, and the prophet also shall fall with thee in the night, and I will destroy thy mother. My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee, that thou shalt be no priest to me: seeing thou hast forgotten the law of thy God, I will also forget thy children. As they were increased, so they sinned against me: therefore will I change their glory into shame.” (KJV)

            The unfortunate truth is this attitude is not confined to those outside the church. It seems to have found its way inside and taken up residence. As Michele and I visited with friends in Indiana, they told us about an Evangelist and Christian music group who here turned away from Christian churches because the Pastors and their congregations did not want to hear messages about Salvation through Christ or songs about the Blood of Jesus. Does anyone else see a problem with this approach?

Hebrews 9:22 “In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.” (NIV emphasis added)

Hebrews 10:19-23 “Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God,  let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.” (NIV)

            Another stop in our travels found Michele and I at a church in Maplewood, Minnesota. We were blessed to attend their summer Sunday school. They invited published authors from the congregation to present different aspects and perspectives on the power of the written Word. In that class I was inspired to BLOG. Differences in perspective and approach bring to the discussion and debate a richness that cannot otherwise be achieved.

            My difference with the presenter that morning is rooted in an attitude toward Scripture. He said, “I purposefully left the Bible reference out of my writing.” I take the approach of purposefully and liberally putting them into my writing. Our faith is shaped by what we read. If we avoid or neglect the foundation of the Bible, what foundation are we left with and how can we decide whose opinion matters?

1 Corinthians 3:10-15 “According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise masterbuilder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon. For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; Every man's work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is. If any man's work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.” (KJV)

            God’s opinion matters. His Word is eternal and as His children Christians, cannot allow their speech to be marginalized or Christ centered values to be pushed out of the public forum. Liberty, equality, justice, and the value of life are Christian values and America was once a Christian nation. Speak freely and articulately about what you believe and why you hold those truths as sacred, but do not compromise your faith to satisfy another’s sense of Political Correctness.

Friday, July 22, 2011

What Will Happen Tomorrow?

Life unfolds in unusual patterns. We like to think that we have everything figured out and we know exactly where we are as the story of our life unfolds. The truth is we really have no idea. Possibilities are limitless and options are often overwhelming. Today as I left my career of the last nineteen years everyone wanted the answer to a single question. “What’s going to happen tomorrow?”

My co-workers seemed to have great difficulty accepting the fact that I am quite literally stepping into the unknown, so tonight I am reflecting on the events of the day and inviting anyone who will listen with an open mind and discerning heart to accept the only answer I’ve found to their question. I will not keep you in suspense waiting for the answer we all know is inevitable. But I will respectfully ask that you read through to the end and reflect on your own life experience along the way.

Jim Elliot is credited with making one of the most profound statements I have ever read, “He is no fool to give up what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.” His life and death on the mission field inspired the recent movie, End Of The Spear. I’m sure I will not say anything that weighty or profound, but I hope his statement can point us in the direction of understanding the answer.

First we need to at least list the things we have but cannot keep. Every life is unique and your list may look different. Your priorities shape your list, but these are a few of the universal examples: life, youth, health, wealth, security. None of these things will last indefinitely. No matter what we do to insure their continuation they will come to an end. So by definition we cannot keep them.

Now list the things we cannot lose. The list is short and in my experience is the same for everyone. The way I see it there are five key things on the list: joy, faith, hope, love and salvation. The reason we cannot lose them is simple. They do not exist in us apart from our personal relationship with the Savior, Jesus Christ. Each one is a benefit of the presence of God actively working in our lives.

I do not know what will happen tomorrow, but I know where my faith is today.  According to Proverbs 16:3 our submission to God, giving Him full attention in our work,  blesses our plans.

 “Commit thy works unto the LORD, and thy thoughts shall be established.” Proverbs 16:3 (KJV)

Ecclesiastes 9:9-10 gives a bleak existential summation to the meaning of life and reminds me of a popular song from the late 1980s or early 1990s, “Don’t Worry Be Happy”. The grim reality is we are all going to die. The spiritual truth is God has equipped us to work for His kingdom and we should be happy to live out our lives with the companions God has given to help us.

“Enjoy life with your wife, whom you love, all the days of this meaningless life that God has given you under the sun—all your meaningless days. For this is your lot in life and in your toilsome labor under the sun. Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might, for in the realm of the dead, where you are going, there is neither working nor planning nor knowledge nor wisdom.” Ecclesiastes 9:9-10 (NIV)

The existential portion of this passage tells us life is meaningless, but a deeper more complete examination of scripture reveals only a life lived without God is meaningless. In fact, God offers eternal life to anyone willing to believe in His Son. John 3:16 is probably the most well known verse in the Bible. It expresses both LOVE and EVERLASTING LIFE being available through FAITH.

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” John 3:16 (KJV)

I believe it is that love that compels me to take action through faith and devote myself to the work of the ministry. That work is to share the good news and devote myself to public reading of scripture. The power of the Word of God demonstrated through His presence and preached by His authority will transform our world.

“How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked,
Nor stand in the path of sinners, Nor sit in the seat of scoffers! But his delight is in the law of the LORD, And in His law he meditates day and night. He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, Which yields its fruit in its season And its leaf does not wither; And in whatever he does, he prospers.” Psalm 1:1-3 (NASB)

“And how will anyone go and tell them without being sent? That is why the Scriptures say, ‘How beautiful are the feet of messengers who bring good news!’” Romans 10:15 (NLT)

“Let no one look down on your youthfulness, but rather in speech, conduct, love, faith and purity, show yourself an example of those who believe. Until I come, give attention to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation and teaching. Do not neglect the spiritual gift within you, which was bestowed on you through prophetic utterance with the laying on of hands by the presbytery.” 1Timothy 4:12-14 (NASB)

I do not know what will happen tomorrow. I only know today I must answer the call God has placed upon my life. He has given each of us many great and precious promises in the Bible. So, today, tomorrow and for the rest of my life I will attempt to live life as an example of God’s Grace.

“He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?” Micah 6:8 (KJV)
Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need. So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.” Matthew 6:33-34 (NLT)