The God Factor

"He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body to be already dead (since he was about a hundred year old) and also the deadness of Sarah's womb. He did not waver in unbelief at God's promise but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, because he was fully convinced that what God had promised, He was also able to do." (Romans 4:19-21)

I think there is a school of thought out there that says, "Don't look at the obstacles; don't feed your doubts." 

This is not what Abraham did, and it is not the course of genuine faith. True faith does not live in denial about the obstacles. It considers them--mulls them over--as Abraham did. But it does not stop at weighing the negatives. Faith then considers the power and faithfulness of God.

I think Abraham's logic may have gone something like this: "Let's see: God promised to give me a son and make me a great nation. But I'm one hundred years old. My body doesn't work like it used to. Sarah's way past child-bearing age. Hmmm, those are some heavy challenges. But, lets see, God is the one who made me this promise. He is able to raise the dead and give them life." He picks up a stick and begins to scratch some figures in the sand. "Obstacles: two. But God: one... with one zero behind it... and another zero... and another zero... and another.... Ah, forget this! I'll just go with God!" 

Abraham did not deny the obstacles. Those were real. He looked them squarely in the eye! But then he moved on in his computations. He added "the God factor" into the equation. God smashes the competition! 

And don't miss this: Abraham "gave glory to God." It helps to give expression to your faith. Something about confessing God's power and faithfulness that bolsters our faith. 

The result was that Abraham believed God. His belief was counted for righteousness for him and the promise was fulfilled. 

Don't deny the obstacles, but never stop there. Not only consider them, but consider Him! 

Should We Abandon the Old Testament?

Everyone is chiming in on this one. The most dangerous heresy is that which sounds most like the truth. This one does not even sound close to truth to me, but it distresses me greatly that lots of good people are being snookered.

So many in the church act like sheep--just nibbling from blade to blade with no idea or concern for where their leaders are taking them. 

So, should we abandon the Old Testament? 

My answer is: Are you crazy?! No! Here's why:

  1. If we forsake the Old Testament because it condemns certain behaviors, what will we do with New Testament passages that do the same? What will we do with Romans 1, which says that people who practice certain behaviors "deserve to die"? What will we do with controversial passages like we find in 1 Corinthians 14 that forbids a woman to speak in church? Will we begin to practice selective censorship of certain parts of the Bible? Eventually, what will we have left? 
  2. What is the job of the Christian pastor but to explain the difficult passages? When we do this--like they did at the Water Gage in Nehemiah 8--we might just have revival! 
  3. How will we reach certain people with the Gospel without the Old Testament? For certain faith traditions it is the New Testament that is irrelevant! Our hope of reaching them is to show how Jesus fulfills the prophecies of the Old Testament. 
  4. What did Jesus say about the Old Testament? "Then He said to them, 'How unwise and slow you are to believe in your hearts all that the prophets have spoken! Didn't the Messiah have to suffer these things and enter into His glory?' Then beginning with Moses and all the Prophets (Old Testament), He interpreted for them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures" (Luke 24:25-27). The "Scriptures" it refers to here are the Old Testament. "You don't have His Word living in you, because you don't believe the One He sent. You pore over the Scriptures because you think you have eternal life in them, yet they testify about Me" (John 5:38-39). Do not throw the Old Testament away because Jesus is the Subject of the Old Testament! 

"But Christianity was not birthed out of the Old Testament, but out of the resurrection of Jesus!" (This is the part where everyone is supposed to say, "Amen!"). Yet, in explaining the Gospel, Paul says, "... that He was buried, that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures..." (1 Corinthians 15:4). What are the "Scriptures" he is referring to? The Old Testament! We lose the meaning of the resurrection if we divorce it from the Old Testament! 

We cannot pick and choose which parts of the Bible are true. We accept the entirety of the Scripture as truth--even the difficult parts we all wrestle with... but they are still truth! 

A farmer was walking along a path. On his shoulder was a bag of grain. There was a hole in the corner of the bag and a steady stream of grain was pouring out of the bag onto the path behind the farmer. Following along after him was a herd of pigs, gobbling up the grain.

A man saw this and said to the farmer, "That is sure a strange way to feed your pigs!"

"Sir," said the farmer, "I am not feeding them.... this is how I lead them to the slaughter house." 

Be careful what you eat... and who you follow! 

Help for Parents

A common refrain when I was growing up was "I just don't understand these kids today!" 

But there is a LOT more to be confused about today than just language and music. If you are a parent of a teen you know what I mean.

I just got off the phone with my son who is a student pastor. I totally trust him. He recommended two online resources for parents. I checked them out and recommend you do the same. 

If you are a parent feeling overwhelmed by todays technology, language, and culture you should visit axis.org. This is a website that helps parents interpret and understand the world your kids are immersed into. According to their website, their mission is "to empower the next generation to think clearly and critically about what they believe and to take ownership of their faith." Their goal is to help parents keep their kids from walking away from their faith. Read the "About" section on their website. 

The other is protectyoungeyes.com. Their mission is to help parents understand the murky world of apps and digital devices. They can help you set parental controls... when these are available. They'll also help you understand which apps are the most dangerous and why. Warning: this is only for parents! The examples they show from the internet--the places your kids can visit--are graphic. To me it is like being in New Orleans. If you are familiar with the city you know there are places YOU should not go, much less send your kids down there. Yet this is EXACTLY what we allow our kids to do when they can go online without parental controls or supervision! 

So I encourage parents to check out these two resources immediately. 

Mene, Mene, Tekel, Parsin

“But you his successor, Belshazzar, have not humbled your heart, even though you knew all this. Instead, you have exalted yourself against the Lord of heaven. The vessels from His house were brought to you, and as you and your nobles, wives, and concubines drank wine from them, you praised the gods made of silver and gold, bronze, iron, wood, and stone, which do not see or hear or understand. But you have not glorified the God who holds your life-breath in His hand and who controls the whole course of your life. Therefore, He sent the hand, and this writing was inscribed. “This is the writing that was inscribed: MENE, MENE, TEKEL, PARSIN. This is the interpretation of the message: MENE means that God has numbered the days of your kingdom and brought it to an end. TEKEL means that you have been weighed in the balance and found deficient. PERES means that your kingdom has been divided and given to the Medes and Persians.” Then Belshazzar gave an order, and they clothed Daniel in purple, placed a gold chain around his neck, and issued a proclamation concerning him that he should be the third ruler in the kingdom. That very night Belshazzar the king of the Chaldeans was killed, and Darius the Mede received the kingdom at the age of 62"  (Daniel 5:22–31, HCSB).

 

Couple of lessons from this passage:

  1. Don't be like Belshazzar. He was arrogant and stupid.
  2. The breath in your lungs is a gift from God. Don't know what to praise Him for? How about the fact that you're still breathing!
  3. God controls the course of your life. He is directing your life today.
  4. Are you measuring up to your God-given potential? Are you filling your place?
  5. God can change everything overnight!

Moaning Like A Dove

I thought until morning: He will break all my bones like a lion; You make an end of me day and night. I chirp like a swallow or a crane; I moan like a dove. My eyes grow weak looking upward. Lord, I am oppressed; support me.
— Isaiah 38:13-14

Have you gone through one of those times when you stay up all night? You've gone without sleep from worrying. You go about the day chirping "like a swallow," or moaning "like a dove." 

When I was a boy my parents had a house on 9th Avenue, just a short walk from the north shore of Big Lagoon. Some mornings I would entertain myself by pretending to be an adventurer searching for buried treasure. I'd explore among the scrub oaks that covered those sand dunes, looking for a hidden treasure chest.  I discovered no pirates' treasure, but I did see lots of racerunners! And there was the perpetual song of the katydids, and the mournful cooing of the doves. I did not like the dove-song. No sadder tunes will you ever hear in all of nature! Something about their song seemed to accentuate my own sense of loneliness.  Doves must be the loneliest creatures on the planet!  

Hezekiah was the king of Judah. He had become terminally ill. The prophet told him, "Get your affairs in order, for you are about to die." The king turned his face to the wall, and prayed, "LORD, remember me; remember how I have walked before You in faithfulness, doing what pleases You" (38:1-2). 

The LORD heard his prayer and dispatched the prophet Isaiah with the message that he would recover. God was going to give him fifteen more years. 

Sometime later Hezekiah recounted that story and gave a testimony to the LORD's faithfulness. He also had this insight: "Indeed, it was for my own welfare that I had such great bitterness; but Your love has delivered me from the Pit of destruction, for You have thrown all my sins behind Your back" (vs. 17).  

Sometimes the Lord crushes our spirit and afflicts us with bitterness. But He does this for our own good. If we did not experience the heartache, we could not know the LORD's power to heal. No amount of bitterness could ever match the faithfulness of the LORD, or the joy of experiencing His love and the forgiveness of our sins! 

Disney Stole A Good Name!

Woe to Ariel, Ariel, the city where David camped! Continue year after year; let the festivals recur. I will oppress Ariel, and there will be mourning and crying, and she will be to Me like an Ariel.
— Isaiah 29:1-2

Disney named one of their most famous animated characters--a cute, red-headed mermaid-- "Ariel." But God used that name first--1,500 years ago in fact--to refer to His people Israel. The "city where David camped" was the place he later established as the headquarters of his kingdom--Jerusalem.

Isaiah prophesied during a time when Israel was rebelling against the LORD.  They had forsaken the LORD to worship idols. They also insulted the LORD by seeking the help of the Egyptians against their Babylonian oppressors. This angered the LORD. He promised that Egypt would forsake them--which they did--and the Babylonians would overrun Jerusalem--which they did with extreme prejudice. But God promised that after a time of discipline He would restore Israel. They would return to their God and become His "Ariel." The name Ariel is a combination of two Hebrew words: ari, meaning "lion" (2 Samuel 23:20; 1 Chronicles 11:22) and el, which is one of the Hebrew names for God. Put the two together and you have ariel, which means "God's lion" or "lion of God." Would you not agree with me a  pretty awesome name

When we rebel against God He must discipline us. But our failures are never final. God is not finished with us. He uses His discipline to  restore first to Himself and then to usefulness in His service. When we repent and return to Him God can make us His lions too! 

A Bed Too Short!

Indeed, the bed is too short to stretch out on, and its cover too small to wrap up in.
— Isaiah 28:20

Maybe you've been the victim of this old prank--someone came into your dorm room when you were not there and they short-sheeted your bed! They took your top sheet and folded it in half. There it was--bed made--inviting you to tuck yourself in--to wrap yourself snugly in the blanket--all comfy-cozy--and then drift off into a peaceful sleep, filled with sweet dreams. So it seemed! But when you tried to slip between the sheets you discovered you couldn't stretch out! Your knees were up to your chin! You kick and kick, but they don't move. It's been a long and exhausting day of classes, lab work, and practice! You are so mad right now! You have to jump out of bed, bare feet on cold floor, and remake your bed. That's when you hear it--your roomy snickering beneath her covers! Okay, it's on! You slam your pillow down on her head. She's crying she's laughing so hard! Not funny, you think! Now she's out of bed slinging her stuffed teddy bear at your face! The fight continues until you both need showers! Not the night you expected! 

Strange as it seems, many play a similar trick on themselves. They place their faith in themselves, or in someone--or something else--their job, their back account, their trust fund, their skill, their education, their lawyer, their experience, their ability to pull themselves up by the bootstraps, their pedigree, etc. But when you put your trust in anything or anyone other than the LORD God you are pranking yourself. The day will come when you discover--to your shame--that you trusted in an unreliable source. You attempted to rest your faith on a cot that is too short. You played a practical joke on yourself! The day will come when you discover that the warm, cozy blanket you tried to cover yourself with is too short! There is only one reliable and trustworthy foundation for our faith--in the LORD! 

So don't prank yourself! 

How To Accomplish Your Goals: Part Three

He steadfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem...
— Luke 9:51
But one thing I do...”
— Philippians 3:13

 

I. Do An Honest Evaluation

II. Set Goals

III. Focus

Concentration is the secret of power. There is enough energy in an acre of sunshine to blast rocks... if it is narrowed into a narrow, concentrated beam. 

Our minds average about 70,000 thoughts a day. 95% of these are simply recycled old thoughts--and about 80% of these are  negative! But imagine if we could focus even 30% of our mental energy on ways to accomplish our goals. We'd be unstoppable!  

So remember what your little league baseball coach used to say: "Keep your eye on the ball." 

IV. Be Persistent

Paul said, "I lay hold of that for which Christ laid hold of me"(Philippians 3:12). That phrase, "I lay hold of" is the translation of a Greek word that means "to grab a hold of something like you'll never let go!" In verse 14 he says, "I pursue as my goal...." Strangely enough, Paul used a word that was typically used to describe his persecutors. They pursued him relentlessly. That was the language Paul employed. We need to be tenacious in the pursuit of our goals. The value of a postage stamp is in it's ability to stick to something until it gets where it's going.  Some call it "bulldog determination." A bulldog's nose is slanted backward so it can breathe without letting go. Nothing can stop the person who is always "pressing on." Nothing succeeds like persistence.

When we close the books on "2018," where will you be? 

 

 

Accomplish Your Goals: Part Two

Let the plan of the Holy One of Israel take place so that we can know it!
— Isaiah 5:19

God has a plan. This world is not just whisking along by chance. Everything is proceeding to a predetermined goal. God's plan will be accomplished. 

Planning is biblical. We must be flexible, because none of us is omniscient. When the wind changes we must be ready to change course. The sailor knows the best time to change tack is when he has momentum. 

How do we set goals? I'll give some tips for getting started and some guidelines of goal setting.

Getting Started

1. Set aside time to plan

Our lives are busy! There are so many distractions! As Christians, if we are going to hear from God, we must intentionally set aside some time and get to a place where we can hear from God. 

2. Pray

Begin by asking God to give you His plans. 

3. Write it down

The dullest pencil is better than the sharpest mind. Make a list. Put it someplace obvious. I believe that if we do not write it down it will never get done.  According to one study, people who write clear, concise goals are 95% more likely to accomplish those goals. 

4. Prioritize 

This may be the most difficult part! But twenty things will not get done. Trim your list of goals down to four or five. As you accomplish your goals you can add others to your list. Maybe as a motivator you should start by listing a few that you can accomplish quickly.

5. Pray again!

Read your list back to God and ask, "Lord, is this of You?" Will the fulfillment of your goals glorify God? God-inspired goals will require faith to accomplish. William Carey said, "If God is your partner, make no small plans." What would you attempt to do if you knew you could not fail? 

6. Get started! 

"By far the greatest time wasted is the time getting started." Procrastination is a sin! Start now!

7. Be accountable

Find one reliable, trustworthy person who will help to hold you accountable. Accountability is a great motivator!

Some Guidelines

"SMART" is an acronym for goal setting. I've taken the liberty to make some slight adjustments:

1. Specific

Many good plans die from a disease called "Terminal Vagueness." Write your goals clearly and specifically.  State them in such a way that, when each is accomplished, there is no doubt. 

2. Measurable

Where you can, put a number on it. "Weight: 165. Benchpress 250. Tithe 10% of income." Know exactly what you're shooting for. It helps you track your progress. 

3. Actionable

Write down action steps for each goal. Break big goals down into smaller, more manageable goals. Set benchmarks. "Jogging 3 Miles by May, 4 miles by July, 5 miles by August, Run All-American 5k in September." 

4. Righteous

Are your goals worthy of you? Are your goals worthy of God? Will the accomplishment of your goals help you to reach your overall objective of glorifying God? Is the pursuit of your goals worth the investment of your life? "Is this worth dying for?" 

5. Time specific

Have a deadline for reaching each goal. 

One last comment: give yourself some grace. If you don't reach your goal, don't beat yourself up! Try again. Forgive yourself. Make adjustments. God is God, not your goals. Go again! 

More to come on how to accomplish your goals.

Accomplish Your Goals: Part One

Commit your activities to the LORD, and your plans will be accomplished.
— Proverbs 16:3

Have you made your New Year's Resolutions yet?

Did you know that planning is biblical? Solomon believed in the wisdom of planning. The Apostle Paul was a planner (2 Corinthians 1:15-17). But how do you make plans and set goals that honor the Lord? 

Begin by honestly assessing where you are

Recently Deb and I were meeting friends in Rome, Ga. We arranged to meet at a restaurant in downtown Rome. I keyed the destination address into the GPS, but before it would calculate my route it required two vital pieces of information: my destination AND my present location.

Herein lies a principle: To get to where you desire to be, you must first begin by honestly evaluating where you are. 

Ask yourself some basic questions: 

Where are you relationally?

How are things in your relationships? God created us as relational beings. We need healthy relationships to live healthy lives. How are things with your spouse? Your children? Your parents? Your work associates? Do you have some close friends that you can share anything with and know they will not judge you, they won't blab, and they'll tell you the truth? You may need to make as your goal this year making at least one trusted friend. 

Where are you financially? 

Up to your ears in debt? Behind on planning for retirement? Need to start a savings account? Take an honest assessment of where you are financially.

Where are you physically?

Need to lose some weight? Need to get your cholesterol under control? Want to build your stamina? Start by taking a step... on the scales! Go the doctor for a check up. 

Where are you professionally?

This is not about making more money. You may feel that you're in the wrong line of work or out of God's will entirely. 

Where are you spiritually? 

Leonard Ravenhill used to say, "You're as spiritual as you want to be." 

If you are going to make the right plan you need to begin by taking an honest look at where you are. 

Let me offer some tips:

1. Be Honest

Don't assume everything is great with your marriage. I cannot tell you the number of times a husband or wife came to me right after being handed divorce papers saying, "I never saw this coming; I thought things were great!" You know what they say about "assuming." Stop living in denial. 

2. Take Responsibility 

Don't waste time blaming your circumstances. Jesus said, "Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof." Bad stuff happens. We can't control that. But we do have control over how we respond to the bad stuff that happens--and sometimes we influence our adverse circumstances by how we respond. I am not downplaying the impact of what happens. You may have lost someone dear to you and now you're grieving the lost. That is normal. But there is good grief and bad grief. The loss may have put you into an emotional spin, but you are going to have to grab the stick and fly out of it. No one is going to do that for you. 

"What about God?" He is going to help. Lean on Him and trust Him. He will show you what He can do, but He desires to use you in the process. 

3. Don't compare yourself to others

You ain't them! They ain't you! God made you different and God has a different plan for you. 

4. Don't look back

Looking back can fill you with regret. Plus, we naturally gravitate toward what we look at. "Do not remember the past events, pay no attention to things of old" (Isaiah 43:18). 

Where do you want to be? The first step to getting there is to honestly take stock of where you are now. 

More tomorrow. 

Two Strange Opposites

... because a wide door for effective ministry has opened for me—yet many oppose me.
— 1 Corinthians 16:9

Here are two things that seem to be in conflict with each other: opportunity and opposition. But they're not. We think sometimes when our efforts are met with opposition--when it seems we are pushing the bus uphill, and it's hard--that this must not be God's plan. 

Wrong! Just because something is hard does not mean we have missed God's will. It just means it is hard... and hard is good! Pushing against resistance builds strength. We need that... otherwise we become soft. 

So don't shy away from something just because the going is tough. There are still many good things ahead. 

When we pursue a door of opportunity that opens for us we should expect the devil to oppose. In fact, without opposition I don't know that it's God's will! 

One Spirit With Christ

But anyone joined to the Lord is one spirit with Him.
— 1 Corinthians 6:17

At the moment we put our faith in Jesus Christ as our Savior we are "joined to the Lord." From that point forward we are inseparable from Him. We share an essential life-force with Him. His divine nature comes to abide in us. Our life comes from Him. Our strength comes from Him. Things may happen that may disrupt that connection, but nothing can ever destroy it. 

There are deep theological ramifications of this that have not been fully explored. But my intention here is not to begin that journey. My intention is to encourage you.

Dear friend, there is nothing can separate you from Christ. NOTHING! He would never abandon you, for to abandon any Christian He would have to abandon Himself! How He treats you is how He is treating Himself. What He does may seem harmful to you at the time, but it cannot be. He cannot do harm to Himself. 

"But what about the cross? Did He not allow Himself to be harmed?" 

Yes, but that was for us. How He treats us is how He treats Himself, and whatever He does for Himself is always for His glory. It was for the eternal joy that would be it's consequence that He embraced the cross (Hebrews 12:2). And it was that cross that joined us to Him. 

Supporting Immorality

Your boasting is not good. Don’t you know that a little yeast permeates the whole batch of dough?
— 1 Corinthians 5:6

A man was telling his friend about his visit to a new church. He said, "The pastor preached on sin."

"And what did he say?" 

"He's against it."

Remember a time when preachers were against sin? 

In 2015 the pastor of a large evangelical church in Franklin, Tennessee announced he would perform same-sex weddings. Almost immediately the church took a precipitous drop in attendance. After two years of continued decline they listed their property for sale. Ironically the buyer is a conservative evangelical congregation... which is growing.  

Is God pleased with progressive preachers who support immorality? The Word of God is clear:  our acceptance of sin is "not good." It may win the praise of the evangelical left and LGBT community, but God is grieved! Why? Because sin destroys--and if it is embraced by the church it will destroy that church. A little yeast ruins the whole batch of dough.

Are there not other issues besides homosexuality that grieve God? 

Of course!

The case Paul addressed in I Corinthians 5 involved incest. The truth is that all grieves God! 

"But what about love? Isn't God a God of love?" Yes, God is love... and that is precisely why He hates sin. Why? All sin has disastrous consequences. Sin separates man from God. Sin separates man from his fellow man. Sin caused death. Sin nailed Jesus to the cross. 

Can you imagine going to a doctor for tests. A week later you go back to the doctor to hear the results. He says bluntly, "Well, you have cancer." 

After you catch your breath you say, "So, when will you operate?"

He says: "Well, this is actually a unique form of cancer. We're going make you a test case. You'll die, but you have the honor of being the subject of an historic research experiment." 

What would you do? 

Find a sane doctor!  That one seems to love disease more than he loves his patient. 

If we really love people we will take a hard line against the sin which will destroy them... and the church. 

Advancing the Kingdom: How Are We Doing?

Now to Him who has power to strengthen you according to my gospel and the proclamation about Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery kept silent for long ages but now revealed and made known through the prophetic Scriptures, according to the command of the eternal God to advance the obedience of faith among all nations—to the only wise God, through Jesus Christ—to Him be the glory forever! Amen.
— Romans 16:25-27

What is the gist of what Paul is saying? Two things: first, God gives us strength to proclaim the gospel about Jesus Christ (vs. 25); and, two, He has commanded us to advance it to all nations (vs. 26).

How are we doing? The conversion rate in America is not keeping pace with the birth rate. We are falling behind. Research shows that each generation is less religious than the previous generation. For instance, 27% of Millennials classify themselves as "Nones"-- they identify with no religious system at all. I know, religion is not particularly a good thing. But this indicates that they attend no church at all. And the pattern indicates that each successive generation is less religious than the previous generation. This is not a good pattern! 

Why is this? 

I have my own conviction. 

I believe we are not obeying the command to advance the Gospel. We have been shamed into silence. As humans we are not perfect at anything... unless it is making excuses for our disobedience. We have substituted "church growth" for winning souls. We have substituted "quality" for "quantity"--"making disciples" for winning people to Christ. But how can we make disciples for Christ if we are not winning people to Christ? I am afraid that our ambition for filling buildings, or--even worse--our theology have become the biggest obstacles to advancing the Gospel of Christ. 

Or maybe we are just lazy.

Or maybe we are simply scared. 

But whatever the reason--or lack thereof--we simply MUST return to obedience. We MUST obey God's command to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus to our family, friends, neighbors, associates... and even strangers. We simply MUST do our sacred, God-given duty. If we do not do it, no one else will. And if the current trend continues, and the generation arises that is completely Godless, we will have no one else to blame but ourselves! 

Wisdom Vindicated

Yet wisdom is vindicated by her deeds.
— Matthew 11:19

This is one of those verses that intrigues me, yet mystifies me. What does this mean? 

"Vindicated" translates the Greek word dikaiouo. It is a legal term. It can mean "to declare guiltless." That is what you want to hear when you go to court, right? "Not guilty." 

The word translated "deeds" is ergon and it means "offspring," "results," or "consequences." It refers to the results of an action. Our English word "ergonomics" comes from this word. Ergonomics is the scientific study of workplace efficiency. The purpose of this research is to help increase efficiency and productivity in industry. 

Sometimes the wisdom of an act is not immediately apparent. Perhaps there are times when, initially, it appears that our decisions, or the consequent actions of our decisions, are actually foolish. But eventually they are proven to be right. 

The source of this wisdom is God. The wisdom of God was embodied in the Lord Jesus. This wisdom is available to Believers by the Holy Spirit who lives in us. As Christians we should submit  ourselves to the Holy Spirit. When we do He provides us with an insight that is beyond our natural cognitive abilities. And, as mentioned above, there are times when this wisdom runs counter to the conventional wisdom of our culture. At first this wisdom may appear to be acting foolishly. There may be external pressures to change your mind, to turn around, to change your course of action. But if you know that God has led you to this decision then you must "stick to your guns."  There may then be a period time when the consequences of your actions appear to prove them right and prove you wrong. But all things are not as they appear to be. Eventually your actions will be vindicated. 

Jesus came under attack for His methods. He associated with sinners. But He knew what He had come to do. He did not change His methods because He knew He was doing God's will, and that eventually His actions would be justified--which they have been. 

Being vindicated must NOT be our motivation! Our motive must be to do God's will. When our "wisdom is vindicated by her deeds" we must not gloat. But, that being said, it is always better to be proven to be wise than to be proven a fool. 

 

We Need Light

You are the light of the world. A city situated on a hill cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and puts it under a basket, but rather on a lamp stand, and it gives light for all who are in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.
— Matthew 5:14-16

I have been disturbed by the shooting in Las Vegas. I have also been dismayed at the response to the shooting. I do not see guns as the reason for this violence, no more than a Boeing 707 is the reason for violence. A gun must have someone who aims and shoots it. A plane or a truck can be as destructive as a bomb if the person who controls it is evil. The real issue is what is in the heart. 

I see something deeper, something wrong in the soul of our nation. I believe there has been a large scale rejection of God and truth in our nation, and we are harvesting the result of our rejection. As someone said, "Sooner or later we all sit down to a banquet of consequences." 

Proverbs 19:3 comes to my mind: 

A man’s own foolishness leads him astray,
yet his heart rages against the LORD.

We persist in blaming God for the consequences of our rejection. We are indeed foolish!  

The only answer I see for America is a wholesale repentance and turning back to God! When will we wake up to our need? We need revival--an outpouring of God's Spirit in our nation. Oh God, please send it!!

Jesus said that His followers are the "light of the world." We must start being that light once again!! We must let our works of righteousness shine before our fellow men. Now is the time to let them see those works. If we want our nation to give glory to God once again this is the only way. 

Living For His Purpose

Follow Me, and I will make you fish for men!”
— Matthew 4:19

As a boy I'd watch Curt Gowdy on The American Sportsman. Gowdy was an avid fly fisherman. Although I grew up in the South fishing in the Gulf of Mexico, I believed that fly fishing must be the purest form of fishing--and the most beautiful. I had this romantic dream of standing knee-deep in a mountain stream, a glistening fly line rhythmically waving over my head. From my boyhood I wanted to try it!

That time finally came when I moved to North Georgia. I took lessons from a former hippie named Henry. In the 60's he had traveled across the US in a VW van with his fly rod. Quite a character! 

I started traveling out west with some friends to Missoula, Montana to fish the Clark Fork, the Bitterroot, and the Black Foot. The first year Jeff Roach and I were assigned a guide named Rich. Rich had come to Missoula to play football at the University of Montana. One beautiful afternoon we were casting dry flies on rising trout. But I was not casting to Rich's satisfaction. After several failed attempts he says to me, obviously frustrated, "George, just sit down and put your rod in the boat!" It was like three days of fly fishing bootcamp--and I truly loved it! 

One of those days I was standing in the bow of the boat preparing for a cast. I had a great rhythm going, whipping that fly back and forth over my head in a perfect "S" pattern, visions of Curt Gowdy in my head. On about the sixth back-cast Rich says, "George, there ain't no trout up there! You can't catch fish unless your fly is in the water!" Took the wind right out of my sails... but he was right. 

Jesus said, "Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men!" Today there are a plethora of evangelism classes available. I've taken classes in EE, CWT, FAITH, Life On Mission, Sharing Jesus Without Fear... and a dozen others. I can probably share the Gospel fifty different ways. But one thing is for sure: no method works unless you actually use it! The Gospel is the "power of God unto salvation" (Romans 1:16). The Gospel is not bait--it is the "water of life" that quenches a person's deepest thirst. But to win people to Jesus you've got to "get the fly in the water"... get the Gospel out there so it can do it's work.

If we are following Jesus, and living for His purpose, He will use us to win people to Himself. 

 

 

Praying For the Lost

One of the most important things we do as Christians is pray for those who are not Christians yet.

How do we pray effectively the salvation of lost people?

Check your motivation

Your motivation should be the glory of God. I understand you cannot help wanting to see your husband come to Christ for the benefit of your marriage, or your children come to Christ for their own good. But that should not be your chief motivation in praying for them. Our primary desire is to see Christ glorified through their salvation. One day all the redeemed will stand before His throne worshipping Him (Revelation 5). Pray that God will multiply the praises coming to His Son by adding a new voice to that heavenly choir!

Check your faith

Jesus said: "Therefore I tell you, all the things you pray and ask for--believe that you have received them, and you will have them" (Mark 11:24). I take this to mean that when we pray for people to be saved we should believe that God has already saved them. Visualize them in that heavenly choir!

Pray for conviction of sin and lostness

One of the reasons many people do not come to Christ is their lack of need. They believe they are already "good enough to go to heaven." Their self-righteousness gives them a false sense of security. It is like a ship-wreck survivor trusting in his life vest to save him in northern Atlantic. They won't last ten minutes in those ice-cold waters! Before we will come to Christ for salvation must first be convinced that "we need savin'." This is the Holy Spirit's area of expertise. His job is to "convict the world of sin, judgment and righteousness" (John 16:8). The Holy Spirit shows us the truth about ourselves: that we are sinners, and our sins separate us from a holy God. Pray that the Holy Spirit will show them their need for a Savior--and that Jesus Christ is the only qualified candidate for the job! 

Pray for deliverance from Satan and his arguments

Yes, Satan does have a grip on them and he does not let go without a fight. Pray that the obstructing thoughts he has placed in their minds will be torn down, and their thoughts will be brought captive to obedience to Christ (2 Corinthian 10:5). 

Remind God of His love for them

This is something that David never ceased to do. He was a "man after God's heart," but he constantly reminded God of His promises. We do not remind God of His promises because He is prone to forget, or in an attempt to twist His arm.  We do not manipulate God or make demands of Him. But, like His trusted servant David, we should remind Him of His faithfulness to His Word and His love for people. After all, it was to "seek and save the lost" that Jesus came down from heaven (Luke 19:10). 

Don't give up!

Sometimes it takes years--not because God is weak-- but because people are so stubborn. I do not wish to insult anyone's theology, but people do have a free will. God will not force His will on people. It is a testimony to the strength and wisdom of God that He can give man a free will without compromising His sovereignty. It is also a testimony to His patience that He labors long over us. God does not give up on us, so we should not give up on others. Keep praying. "And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up" (Galatians 6:9). 

Why Belong To A Local Church?

The local church is a miracle. It exists for one reason: the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Every time you go to church you are declaring--by that act--your belief that the resurrection of Jesus is a historical fact. Each local church can trace it's origin back to Pentecost. The family tree of every church is rooted in Acts 2.

Jesus established the local church. He said, "on this rock I will build My church, and the forces of Hades will not overpower it" (Matt. 16:18). Later He affirmed His sanction and support for the local church by dictating seven letters to seven local congregations (Rev. 2-3). His apostles carried on His work by establishing local churches. The majority of our New Testament is compiled of letters written to local congregations. 

In addition to the fact that the local church is our glorious Lord's own creation, there are other reasons why we should belong to, faithfully attend, serve in and though, and support a local church. The following are a few.

Accountability

One of the marks of the new birth is submission (1 Peter 2:13-3:15). We are to be accountable to each other and our leaders. The local church gives us a structure for Scriptural accountability. This is why--you may have noticed--when a Christian backslides one of the first things to go is church attendance. They do not want to be Scripturally accountable to anyone. 

Kingdom Investment

The local church gives us a place to invest our resources in God's kingdom. Listen, we do not "have to" bring our tithes to the storehouse... we get to (Malachi 3:10)!

Service

Every Christian is endowed with at least one spiritual gift. These are supernatural enablements given to serve Jesus through serving His body (1 Corinthians 12; Romans 12; Ephesians 4). 

Training

The local church is a place where we can learn and grow in our faith (Romans 10:17; 1 Peter 2:2).

Testimony

Every church has a theological stance... a statement of beliefs... a creed. When you align yourself with a church you are aligning yourself with that church's creed. You are saying, by your membership: "I believe what this church believes." So your membership is a part of your testimony.  

Sacraments

It is in the local church that we have the privilege of sharing the sacraments with our Christian brothers and sisters. 

Community Improvement

A municipality is only as healthy as it's heart--and the church is it's heart. A strong community must have a strong church at it's core. Your participation in a local church helps to ensure that your community will be a better place in which to live and raise a family. 

Launch Pad for Missions and Ministry

Your local church provides a home base from which to launch out and fulfill the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20). 

Encouragement

Our local church gives us a place to give and recieve encouragement. 

Example

We all learn by observation. Our local church ought to provide us with examples of faithful men and women of God. 

Love

We are commanded to "love one another." Our local church gives us a place where we can affirm our faith by loving others.

Grace

No church is perfect because the church is people, and there are no perfect people. Our church gives us a place where we can show grace to and receive grace from others. 

Faithfulness to a local church is not an option for Christ-followers--it is an obligation and a necessity. God has fixed the process so that no individual Believer can be all that He intended without connection to other Believers. Our growth depends upon our relationship with other Christians. So, we all NEED the church!