Wednesday, May 31, 2006

chapelblog: Psalm 1

by Andre Rogers.
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May God bless the hearers and doers of His Word.

Think about success, what is it, what does it look like? We miss God when we do all the right things for the wrong reasons. Psalm 1 is the blueprint for what it looks like to be blessed, fulfilled.

Define “success”: it does not mean that you have the right stuff or attitude. Success is living by true obedience to the Word of God.

I. Model God's Word (Verse 1)

Don't take counsel from people who leave God out. And don't be like the ungodly, and give counsel that leaves God out. The ungodly have no foundation, no fellowship, no future but punishment (see verses 4-6). We hang around sinners to point them to Christ, not to let them transform us. The things of God are nothing to scoff or laugh at, no joking matters here.

II. Meditate on God's Word (Verse 2)

There are only two occasions we are to meditate on the Bible: day and night, not Sunday and Wednesday. Make our delight in what He says. Make it a "no read, no eat” policy as your spiritual life depends on God’s Word as spiritual food the same way your body depends on food. Ruminate on the living Word of God. Make every moment count.

Check out:
Joshua 1:7. After Moses died, God’s words to General Joshua was not martial strategy. God told Joshua ““Only be strong and very courageous; be careful to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, so that you may have success wherever you go.”

King David's last words to Solomon, who was taking the throne in 1 Kings 2:1-4: “As David’s time to die drew near, he charged Solomon his son, saying, I am going the way of all the earth. Be strong, therefore, and show yourself a man. Keep the charge of the Lord your God, to walk in His ways, to keep His statutes, His commandments, His ordinances, and His testimonies, according to what is written in the Law of Moses, that you may succeed in all that you do and wherever you turn, so that the Lord may carry out His promise which He spoke concerning me, saying, ‘If your sons are careful of their way, to walk before Me in truth with all their heart and with all their soul, you shall not lack a man on the throne of Israel.’

Don't fall into the trap of being under the Word, but never in the Word.

Ezra 7:10: “For Ezra had set his heart to study the law of the Lord and to practice it, and to teach His statutes and ordinances in Israel.” Learn God's Word, Live God's Word, Teach God's Word.

2 Tim 2:1-2: “You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.”

2 Tim 2:15: “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.”

Cod liver oil is not only the nastiest stuff there is, but you can’t cut it with anything to make it taste any better. You can't mix it with Coke or candy or anything. It just makes whatever it gets mixed with taste nastier. My grandmother used to just take swigs directly out of the bottle. She got used to it. You know as well I do that as you mature, taste changes and things that once tasted nasty gets better.

Sometimes the Bible is like that. It confronts us and causes us to wrinkle our nose and we try to cut it, to mix it with something, but God’s Word never changes. It only comes to the surface and exposes the falsity of our attempts to make it easier or less nasty. But when we mature, it isn’t so bad but quite beautiful. It is sweeter than honey and more precious that gold (Ps 19:7ff).

III. Be Motivated by God's Word for the rest of your life. Verse 3

The tree is transplanted, moved to a place of constant feeding. This does not say that life gets easier, that seasons change for the tree, but that life goes on as the seasons do, only the tree is now firmly rooted in a constant stream and gives fruit!

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Lessons from a traitor

The twelve apostles included “Judas Iscariot, the one who betrayed Him” (Matt. 10:4).

"God can use even an apostate like Judas to teach us some important lessons.

Judas is history’s greatest human tragedy. He had opportunities and privileges known only to the other disciples, but he turned from them to pursue a course of destruction. Yet even from his foolishness we can learn some important lessons.

Judas, for example, is the world’s greatest example of lost opportunity. He ministered for three years with Jesus Himself but was content merely to associate with Him, never submitting to Him in saving faith. Millions of others have followed his example by hearing the gospel and associating with Christians, yet rejecting Christ. Tragically, like Judas, once death comes, they too are damned for all eternity.

Judas is also the world’s greatest example of wasted privileges. He could have had the riches of an eternal inheritance but instead chose thirty pieces of silver. In that respect he is also the greatest illustration of the destructiveness and damnation greed can bring. He did an unthinkable thing, and yet he has many contemporary counterparts in those who place wealth and pleasure above godliness.

On the positive side, Judas is the world’s greatest illustration of the forbearing, patient love of God. Knowing what Judas would do, Jesus tolerated him for three years. Beyond that, He constantly reached out to him and even called him “friend” after his kiss of betrayal (Matt. 26:50).

If you’ve ever been betrayed by a friend, you know the pain it can bring. But the Lord’s pain was compounded many times over because He knew ahead of time that He would be betrayed and because the consequences were so serious. Yet He endured the pain, because He loved Judas and knew that His own betrayal was a necessary part of the redemptive plan.

The sins that destroyed Judas are common sins that you must avoid at all costs! Use every opportunity and privilege God gives you, and never take advantage of His patience."

**********

MacArthur, John. Drawing Near. Includes indexes., May 30. Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway Books, 1993.

Friday, May 26, 2006

There's no place like home . . .

"Oh, but anyway, Toto, we're home. Home! And this is my room, and you're all here. And I'm not gonna leave here ever, ever again, because I love you all, and - oh, Auntie Em - there's no place like home!"



Friends, my "Dorothy" came home! Praise the LORD!

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Signs of life

A few years back my wife, two of my children and me were in a horrible car crash. We were on our way to a friend’s house to pick up my two oldest daughters and to spend the rest of the evening in fellowship. My wife was driving our brand new GMC Safari, our baby daughter strapped in her car chair in the front, while I sat with our two-year old son in the very back seat.

We turned from the highway onto the road that took us to our friend’s house. From the direction we were coming, the road made a “V”, curving off sharply to the left, while our friend’s house was straight ahead—as a matter of fact, we could see our daughters playing in the front yard up ahead.

Suddenly, and without warning, a car came flying around the curve from our left and overshot the center line. My wife saw the car coming and (though we were going slow, from having just turned off the highway) began to move off the road onto the shoulder. The speeding car kept coming straight on and slammed into the front of our vehicle. We could see the bodies of the driver and passenger slam, seat-beltless, into the windshield and fall back. Our bodies reacted, everything flying up into the air from the impact, and dropping down again.

Later, we would see pictures of the wreck and notice the impact contained so much force that both vehicles were moved over to the side of the road one entire car’s width. From the car’s approach (he had actually slammed on his brakes, but too late because of the speed), there were two short black lines approaching the wreck, one from each tire. The left black line ended just to the left of the right rear wheel, and the right black mark just pointed to nothing.

My daughters saw the whole thing and came running up the road with our friends. My wife punched the air-bag out of her face and was already out checking on the baby and the other vehicles. I had little birdies tweeting amongst the stars and my son just sat there watching his own little birdies and stars. The baby was fine. I couldn’t breath (cracked ribs, plus no oxygen from the gasses that inflated the air-bag in the front) and I felt like both my legs were broken. Rescuers used some saw to cut out the seat in front of me to get me out.

The other car was a horror. Since I could not move, all I could do is sit there and watch the guys in the other car bleed through the smashed windshield. The passenger showed some signs of life (I think he later had to have a couple of fingers amputated) and was really banged up. The driver of the other vehicle was dead (we did not know this until the ambulance arrived). I realized that the steering wheel of the other car was actually inverted and while his head hit the windshield, the steering column punched him in the chest with such force (he was not impaled, don’t worry) that the steering wheel looked like it was mounted in reverse.

Then I realized I could smell alcohol. Not gasoline, but alcohol. Both driver and passenger of the other car were stone drunk, and my guess is that they weren’t really feeling anything. The irony for us was uncanny, for we had once lived in a town that was nationally known as having the nations worst alcohol problem, wrecks and alcohol-related deaths that Stephen King couldn’t write about every day and remained unscathed. And now, here we were, 1500 miles away, in the middle of the Bible-belt . . . I tried not to laugh at the irony.

The point of my telling you this: when we got into the emergency room, the passenger of the other car was being worked on next to me. He was bleeding and greatly bewailed his position. I tried to relax while we were both being examined. And then it happened.

You know, you lay there in a position where all you can do is trust in the training of professionals. Since one is the field upon which all that training is exercised, one must simply lay there and tell them where it hurts and allow them to fix it. I laid there and they talked. And they poked and prodded and they talked. They worked on me and they talked. But they were not talking about me, or about the guy next to me. They were not discussing procedure or diagnosis, nor were they planning what steps to do next. The technicians were boisterous and “just did their job.” They talked about partying and where to go get drink after their shift ended.

My confidence in them did anything but soar. I felt like saying, “Ahem, excuse me . . . and why are we here this evening?” It’s not like me and my families were bored or had nothing else to do. But 1) there is such a thing as bedside manner; and 2) I was not looking for the hair of the dog that bit me. I hated to think of the possible scenario of the ER later that evening when one of their own technicians is brought in on a stretcher . . .

All but the driver of the other car survived and I suppose to a point that’s alright. But hearing those who worked in the ER show more concern for themselves and how they were going to enjoy partying later really gets me . . . even to this day.

If I am in trouble, I want someone to rescue me.
I want someone who is trained to know about the situation I am in.
I want someone who is trained to know how my body is reacting and how I am feeling.
I want someone who is trained to know how to get me back on the mend and give life back to me.

A couple of years ago I had severe chest pains, and fearing the worse if not for safety, an ambulance give me a nice ride to the hospital. Now the technicians were cautious, careful, observant—one never took his eyes off me. They were actually gentle and so quiet that they didn’t even use the siren in the drive, so as not to add to any stress levels of their passenger. When I got the hospital, they told everything to the doctors and the doctors did their job wonderfully.

When it comes to evangelism, how’s your demeanor?
Are you trained?
Do you know what the state of a lost soul is?
Are you aware of the reasons why people are the way they are?
Can you identify with the way they are feeling?
Can you tell them what is wrong and what needs to be fixed and how to fix it?
Do you know how to grow and nurture and mature one who finds new life in Christ Jesus?

My prayer is that we would not be the kind of evangelist that leaves a tract on the ground, hoping that someone picks it up while we hide around the corner. Be the kind that walks up to people and says, “Hey, did you get one of these? It’s a gospel tract.”

Some kinds of evangelism sits by the bedside and waits for the patient to bring up where it hurts. Other kinds poke and prods and shows the patient where it hurts.

Some evangelism consists of fellowships who talk their own language amongst themselves and just “do the duty.” Other kinds never take their eyes off their contact, watching, listening, until they show signs of life.

I was asked recently about a hypothetical situation in which a person was in dire straights and needed professional counsel or a specialist--what would I do? All I could think of was, "is he saved?" and "let Jesus heal him."

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Wee little men

My Bible reading today caused me to consider a very serious, sobering thought about heaven, which was this: there’s going to be a lot of people there.

Think about that for a minute . . . a lot of people.

Who are those people?

The Bible tells us those in heaven are those redeemed by the blood of the Lamb! That’s who they are, people from whom all blemish and spot of sin has been removed! But who are those people on this side of heaven? They are the tax-collectors, the Zaccheus’s of our locale. They are the stinky, the dirty, the poor whom perhaps we have told to sit “over there,” out of the way, where we can’t smell them or look at them.

We prefer to associate with people who draw crowds, not with those who chase crowds away. We like beautiful people. The truth of the matter is: heaven is going to be populated by people who don’t fit our preferences. Heaven is going to be filled with people God loves—without our consent. “Sunday Morning Worship” has become the most segregated hour of all time!

Take the homeless community, for example. For years I’ve noted the people on the street and how the Christian community responds, setting up churches and chapels “for them” “over there.” In all my years of ministry, I’ve only seen one person from the street dare to walk through the doors of a church and survive the entire service unscathed by attendees.

Monty was a kind of Zaccheus to me. He hid in the bushes until the service started and tried to quietly enter and sit at the back. He was intercepted by a deacon, who was literally showing him the back door until I saw what was going on. I took Monty back into the service where he heard the gospel preached and that very night accepted Jesus as Lord and Savior. He was baptized and discipled by two men of our street ministry team, one of whom got him an apartment for three months until he got back on his feet, so to speak. Monty was a changed man. For a long time I felt like sticking my tongue out at that deacon.

Jesus found Zaccheus up a tree and went to his house, where the man demonstrated was true saving faith was. He tore down his god of money and gave back what he had taken. He demonstrated true repentance and saving faith. Monty, like Zaccheus replaced his gods for the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Monty, like Zaccheus no longer bowed down to a god of his own making. They blessed God with their mouths instead of taking His name in vain. They both made a point to worship God in spirit and truth. They no longer killed with their lips, but gave blessing and testimony instead. Their lust was removed and experienced true love. They stopped stealing and began their confrontations with truth. Coveting was no longer an issue because they found everything for life and godliness in Christ Jesus.

Most difficulty for the church lies in the inability to overcome that lie in the areas of finance, race, culture, gender, theology, society and the ever-present generational gaps. There are dozens of ways one church can be segregated. The sad fact is that the local church is a microcosm of the universal church. Even sadder is the fact that the family is a microcosm of the church! If a family has difficulties getting along in these areas, is it any wonder that when families come together for worship that the difficulties continue?

How does a family treat a member who has burn-marks in his pockets (can’t hold on to money)?

What reactions are seen and heard when a brother takes a sister of another color for a bride?

Who in the fam likes to play games and get rowdy, and who would rather sit and talk?

What does a family do when so-and-so goes to this church and so-and-so goes to that church and so-and-so would rather skip church for the sake of a family reunion?

You get the idea.

Now, God, who makes heaven all it is, is impartial. He is the great equalizer, in whom is no Jew nor Gentile, slave nor free. What does He think?

Consider Matthew. You remember him. He’s the tax collector whom Jesus called to be a disciple. Who likes a tax collector? Nevertheless, Jesus changed his eternal destiny because Matthew responded to Jesus. “So what!” one may think. Go back and look at Matthew 9 at Matthew’s call. Notice, that Matthew begins his testimony with Jesus healing a paralyzed man. “When the Jewish scribes accused Him of blasphemy for claiming to have the authority to forgive sins, He said to them, “Why are you thinking evil in your hearts? For which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise, and walk’?” He wanted them to know that His miracles testified to His deity. As God, He could as easily forgive sins as He could heal diseases. Immediately after that account, Matthew gave the account of his own call. It’s as if he wanted his own salvation to serve as an illustration of Christ’s ability to forgive even the vilest of sinners.”[i] We get to spend eternity with those who were paralyzed, with tax collectors and other despicables.

I think part of our problem is that we have lost the awe of our own salvation and take God for granted. We would rather be rich, be successful and hold onto what wealth we have than be humble.

James 1:19-27 is our text. Here we find that favoritism or partiality has no place in those truly saved. He implies that if we are partial with those around us, then we question the grace of God that brings salvation to all men! If we are partial with others, we hold our own faith partial! He says that partiality is sin and the law convicts us as transgressors (see v. 9). How is it evil? Partiality allows us to protect our self-interest and is driven by our motivation to gain some kind of advantage and self-glory. And what is sin but that which falls short of the glory of God?

The early church was a mixture of rich and poor, mostly rich. Interestingly, James is writing to Christians who are scattered, dispersed, both rich and poor. The common denominator is they are persecuted and are being spread out; yet, they hold a strange behavior among themselves of segregating one another based on finances or social standing! James has to remind them that the poor are not to be shunned or treated any differently than a wealthy man with gold rings. James says to them, “Listen, my beloved brethren: Has God not chosen the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him?” (2:5) The rich and the poor must receive equal treatment.

What we are considering then is not the alleviation of poverty nor the distribution of wealth. That is communism. What we are considering is eliminating the sin of impartiality!
Matthew 22:34–40, “But when the Pharisees heard that He had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. Then one of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, and saying, ‘Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?’ Jesus said to him, ‘You shall love the lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”

To eliminate the sin of impartiality, the first and greatest commandment must be kept: loving God with all your heart, soul and mind! The other commandment is loving neighbor as you love yourself! This is not a mandate for self-love, for self-love is what gets us into the sin of impartiality; rather it is a mandate to love others with the love they would loved to be loved with by others! Consider what is said concerning those who love themselves in 2 Timothy 3:2-5: “For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; Avoid such men as these.”

No doubt you’ve heard the story of Mahatma Ghandi, the leader of the Indian Nationalist movement against British rule, considered to be the father of his country (India). He says in his autobiography that in his student days he was truly interested in the Bible. Deeply touched by reading the gospels, he seriously considered becoming a convert. Christianity seemed to offer the real solution to the caste system that was dividing the people of India. One Sunday, he went to a nearby church to attend services. He decided to see the minister and ask for instruction in the way of salvation and enlightenment on other doctrines. But when he entered the sanctuary, the ushers refused to give him a seat and suggested he go and worship with his own people. He left and never came back. “If Christians have caste differences also,” he said to himself, “I might as well remain a Hindu.”

Philippians 2:3-4 says that we should be “of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.”

* * * * *
I was hungry, and you formed a humanities club and discussed my hunger.
I was imprisoned and lonely, and you crept off quietly to your chapel and prayed for my release.
I was naked, and in your mind you debated the morality of my appearance.
I was sick, and you knelt and thanked God for your health.
I was homeless, and you preached to me the spiritual shelter of God’s love.
You seem so holy, so close to God, but I’m still very hungry, lonely and cold.

**********
[i]MacArthur, John. Drawing Near. Includes indexes., May 23. Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway Books, 1993.

Monday, May 22, 2006

The Bible IS full of errors!

A couple of months ago I was on the campus of USC sharing the gospel with students in "The Horseshoe." I was going through the law with this guy to point him to his need for Christ: he admitted he had broken the 9th and 8th and 3rd Commandment. When I asked if he had committed adultery, he said he had not. I pointed out that Jesus said that if you look at a woman so as to lust after her, that adultery had already been committed. He got extremely agitated and raising his voice fired back, “You can’t quote what Jesus said because his words are contained in a humanly written book that is filled with errors!”

I wanted to ask him who wrote the textbook in his hand if he thought the author was right in the ever-changing flow of understanding. I didn’t.

Instead, I held out my Bible and asked him to show me some of those errors. He stepped back and declined my offer. He sarcastically asked, “prove walking on water archeaologically!” I confessed I could not, but that’s why such events are called “miracles.” He wanted to go eat, and thus ended our conversation.

I’ve not been able to shake his comments about errors in the Bible. The more I think about it, the more I realize he is right. There are errors in the Bible. The Bible is full of mistakes and I will show you some right now (by golly!):

  1. Genesis: God told Adam to eat of any tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, he is not to eat of it or else he would die. Adam disobeyed God and death came. Big mistake.
  2. Exodus: God told Moses to speak to the rock and water would come out for the thirsty people. Moses struck the rock and disobeyed God, so Moses was not able to enter the Promised Land. Bungle!
  3. Leviticus: Nadab and Abihu disobeyed God’s directions for priestly behavior and fire fell from heaven and consumed them. Error!
  4. Numbers: God told Israel to take the Promised Land, but the people failed to believe God and wandered until the unbelieving generation died. Blunder!
  5. Deuteronomy: A review of past mistakes for the next generation (Ch. 9) and a prediction of future rebellion (Ch. 31). Beware misappropriation!
  6. Joshua: God instructs that no souvenirs be taken from conquered cities, but Achan did anyway and the army was defeated at Ai. Achan died for his disobedience. Misjudgment!
  7. Judges: everyone does what was right in their own eyes and were punished. Constantly. Aberration!
  8. Ruth: Naomi’s thinking that God afflicted her. Misconception!
  9. 1 Samuel: One word says it all . . . “Saul.” Delusion!
  10. 2 Samuel: Again, one word . . . “Bathsheba.” Misapprehension!
  11. 1 Kings: In the midst of all wisdom, Solomon drew around himself a lack of discernment. Laxity!
  12. 2 Kings: Israel trusted in their strength amidst their rebellion against God and the Babylonians invaded. Misguided!
  13. Chronicles (see 1,2 Kings)
  14. Ezra: Adversaries of Judah tried to resist and oppose the rebuilding of Jerusalem. False Impression!
  15. Nehemiah: see Ezra.
  16. Esther: Yet another single word . . . Haman. Self-Deceit!
  17. Job: try to put words in God’s mouth. Malapropism!
  18. Psalms: Misguided worship. Not a good idea!
  19. Proverbs: act like a fool. Misinterpretation!
  20. Ecclesiastes: try anything once, do the fun things twice. Vanity!
  21. Song of Solomon: (uh, hmmmm. Oh, here we go . . .) Treat love cheaply. Dream!
    Isaiah: Practice empty religion. Woe!
  22. Jeremiah: try to tell God He does not know what He is doing. Bull!
  23. Lamentations: try to act like nothing is happening. Flaw!
  24. Ezekiel: hang onto idolatry and false religion. False hope!
  25. Daniel: tell God who the king REALLY is. Malediction!
  26. Hosea: do whatever you want, even it means acting like a harlot. Faulty!
  27. Joel: Don’t repent. Foolish!
  28. Amos: abandon true worship and act foolish. Heresy!
  29. Obadiah: Edom mistreated Judah. Erratum!
  30. Jonah: God said, “go”; Jonah said, “no”; God said, “oh?” A Bubble!
  31. Micah: persistently pursue evil. Trip!
  32. Nahum: be proud against sovereignty. Danger!
  33. Habakkuk: see Amos and Micah.
  34. Zephaniah: ignore God’s attention-getting. Delusive!
  35. Haggai: misplaced spiritual priorities. Not advised!
  36. Zechariah: see Haggai.
  37. Malachi: hold contempt for God. Oops!

So see, the Bible IS full of errors! And that’s just the Old Testament!

Friday, May 19, 2006

Yes, Jesus knows me

"Nathanael said to Him, 'How do You know me?' Jesus answered and said to him, 'Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.'" (Jn 1:48)

“'Come, see a man who told me all the things that I have done; this is not the Christ, is it?'” . . . From that city many of the Samaritans believed in Him because of the word of the woman who testified, 'He told me all the things that I have done.'” (Jn 4:28, 39)

**********
Searcher of hearts, from mine erase
All thoughts that should not be,
And in its deep recesses trace
My gratitude to Thee.

Hearer of prayer, O guide aright
Each word and deed of mine;
Life’s battle teach me how to fight,
And be the vict’ry Thine.

Giver of all—for ev’ry good
In the Redeemer came—
For raiment, shelter, and for food,
I thank Thee in His Name.

Father, and Son, and Holy Ghost,
Thou glorious Three in One,
Thou knowest best what I need most,
And let Thy will be done.

(Words: George P. Mor­ris, 1838.)

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Bein' all neighbor-like

The result of our recent move has put us within the boundaries of a changing neighborhood. A local church is fronting an initiative called “The Nehemiah Project” that includes affordable housing and cleaning up the neighborhood both aesthetically and spiritually. Though I think we are the only white people for quite a few miles, I actually delight in God’s providence for us to be in this area, though we are not part of that local church—I am sure He is going to do something great.

I mentioned before about the party that took place next door: the loud music, the debauchery and language being broadcast without shame into the neighborhood. I was outside doing some gardening last night when I suddenly heard an eruption of profanity and abusive speech from two bickering females (I just can’t call them “ladies”) two houses down—yes, two houses down. About once a week they erupt and I shoo the children inside . . .

I never have been able to tell what their problem is, but all the guys do is stand around and drink, never talk, while these two girls spew verbal filth at each other. Out of everything their mouths could possibly say, sadly, the only words I can actually understand is the profanity. I've never heard people talk in wingdings like that before.

Anyway, I was outside, tending my garden and was about to go inside when suddenly I heard this lovely voice from the area of profane women, “Hey, Neighbor!” I turn around and there is this young girl, smiling and waving, calling out, “How are you today!” I wasn’t quite sure she was talking to me . . . but there she was, just smiling, waving and greeting me! Often when I see people outside, I smile, wave and greet them. This is the first time I have actually been greeted back, unprompted.

But she could not fool me, because as soon as I was out of sight, Yosemite Sam’s little sister jumped right back into her verbal maledictions. Her friends (?) could not fool me either, because I live right within earshot. When she turned on the charm, I was hesitant for her to approach . . . "would she knife me with her tongue?" I asked myself.

This whole thing breaks my heart because she is just a young girl and cusses like a sailor. And there are more like her within earshot. Someone has convinced her that her language is strengthened by poor vocabulary and grammar. No, the more she opens her mouth, the more I hear her admit how God sees her, as dying in sin. The day will come though, and very soon I pray, when she and her friends will hear the gospel.

Soon, the garden will be ready for another harvest, and I will use that harvest to bring the gospel to them. Pray for a full harvest! I met Andre from down the street already . . . he is going to plant melons in a field near his house. I gave him some pumpkin seeds if he wanted to try.

The thing is . . . I am a happily married white guy. My neighbors greet each other with abuse in their speech and most don’t know what marriage is, much less happiness . . . or contentment. Prejudice is great on their side because of who I am. Prejudice is not the ground on which to plant a garden of friendship, and relationship. Prejudice will blind people from the gospel. I’ve heard it so much already when we lived in New Mexico. “Jesus is the white-man’s god.” The attitude is no different in places right here.

You know what gets me? When I am sharing Christ with people and they jump right to the “hypocrites in the church.” I am amazed how so many people from so many walks of life can say exactly the same thing. You know what gets me more? The reason why so many people can say the same thing is because, for the most part, what they observe about the church is actually true. The Church is full of hypocrites. And this is nothing new. Consider Paul’s words to the Ephesians:

Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” (Eph 4:1-3).

I am waiting for the Macedonian call to go to my neighbors and point them toward peace, peace with God, with each other. I will not go until I have clearance. There will be no peace in the ‘hood without the gospel. If I am not living like one who is at peace with God and my Christian brethren, there will be no peace next door. If I give them something to cuss about, I better not give them a reason to cuss me or my behavior. I don’t want to be persecuted for my piddly excuses.

Wanna help win the neighbors?

Rescue the perishing, care for the dying,
snatch them in pity from sin and the grave;
weep o’er the erring one, lift up the fallen,
tell them of Jesus, the mighty to save.

Down in the human heart, crushed by the tempter,
feelings lie buried that grace can restore;
touched by a loving heart, wakened by kindness,
chords that are broken will vibrate once more.

Rescue the perishing, duty demands it;
strength for thy labor the Lord will provide;
back to the narrow way patiently win them;
tell the poor wand’rer a Savior has died.

Rescue the perishing, care for the dying; Jesus is merciful, Jesus will save.

(Crosby and Doan)

Wednesday, May 17, 2006




You're Confessions!

by St. Augustine

You're a sinner, you're a saint, you do not feel ashamed. Well, you
might feel a little ashamed of your past, but it did such a good job of teaching you
what not to do. Now you've become a devout Christian and have spent more time
ruminating on the world to come rather than worldly pleasures. Your realizations and
ability to change will bring reverence upon you despite your hedonistic transgressions.
Florida will honor you most in the end.



Take the Book Quiz
at the Blue Pyramid.

Believing Behavior and the Word of God

I may have already mention Aiken to you. He's the guy I met downtown a few weeks back. He was sitting on a bench listening to his CD player when I approached him with the gospel. He told me he was saved already, and an ordained pastor to boot! But the Lord prodded me not to let him go. I asked him what he understood about salvation. He told me he had received the Word of God into his life, so he was saved and he was happy; however, he was not going to church because he was mad at God because he was homeless, but he fellowships with God on a daily basis in the wind and the sunshine and rain, etc. I see Aiken every time I go to the park, just sitting there on the bench, listening to his CD player, mad at God and fellowshipping with Him, saved as a snug bug in a rug. Or is he?

Just the other night I stayed up quite late while the neighbors celebrated a drunken, boisterous birthday party (most folks left at 2:00 a.m., but the debauchery continued until at least 4:00 a.m.), screaming happy birthday obscenities into the karaoke machine. You could hear it echoing off the surrounding houses. I am quite certain that a select number of the guests accompanied their mothers to church the next morning.

Prov. 14:12, "There is a way which seems right to a man, but the end of it is the ways of death."

I talked to a guy not long ago who told me he was saved, but he was backslidden and needed to get back into church. I asked him if he had ever slid forward to begin with. Why is getting back to church so important? What about getting back to God and repentance? So many ministries are consumed by dealing with backsliders, but putting Band-Aids on corpses who were never spiritually alive. Part of the reason for that is because of the kind of gospel they are responding to. The gospel that has no power over sin is a false gospel.

“What a far cry this is from the present-day gospel that is preached-a gospel that gives no new heart or new nature, a gospel that does not break the power of sin, but allows one to live on in it, a gospel that gives only an insurance policy against hell and knows nothing about holiness of thought and action, a gospel that will let you indulge the flesh, and puts no restraint upon your passion, pride and evil heart! Oh, this is not a gospel, but a false thing! I say false because it says that all one has to do is say “yes” to the four spiritual laws and believe in a historical Jesus; and after he “believes” he is saved and saved for ever, no matter what he does.

Did you know that the average individual tells you that he made a profession when he was 6, 8, 12, or 15 years of age; but he drifted off into sin, and after 10 years or so he came back and rededicated his life and now gives himself to religious service? It is from this group that the majority of our missionaries, teachers and preachers come, and they know nothing of heart-felt repentance or standing before God as a guilty, lost sinner! If you are in this group, I tell you in love, you have mistaken the call to salvation -to come to Christ as a guilty, needy, lost sinner-as the call to service; and therefore you have become two-fold more the child of hell than you were before, unless the Holy Spirit by His Word and grace gives you a heart to see your desperate need of Christ. You see, you have mistaken the call to a broken heart and a contrite spirit, to repentance and faith-the call to break with sin and to walk in holiness of life in conversion-as a call to the ministry!”[i]

What are the marks of a genuine believer? What does one who has experienced true saving faith actually do?

In James 1:19-27, “James presents a third test of a true believer. The first was his response to trials (1:1–12). The second was his response to temptation (1:13–18). The third is his response to the truth revealed in the Word of God (1:19–27). When the true disciple hears God’s Word, there is an affection for its truth and a desire in his heart to obey it. One of the most reliable evidences of genuine salvation is that hunger for the Word of God (see Psalm 42:1). In 1:19–27, James focuses on two major truths relating to that evidence. First, saving faith is marked by a proper reception of Scripture as the Word of God (vv. 19–21). Second, it is marked by a proper reaction to the Word, reflected in an obedient life (vv. 22–27). Just as a newborn baby does not have to be taught to hunger for its mother’s milk, the newborn child of God does not have to be taught to hunger for God’s Word, his spiritual food and drink. That is the natural impulse of his new spiritual life, of his new creation. To use another metaphor, his spiritual dial is tuned to the frequency of Scripture.” [ii]

According to James, the child of God commits obedience. He is a do-er, not a hearer only. I remember growing up I was told that when I was given a chore to do, I could not take off and do my own thing. I had to “check in” to see what needed to be done next. The things I wanted to do just had to wait and in some cases, I never got to do them at all. The Bible describes the upright person as one who actually does God's Word, and who seeks what lies next in God's commands. He does not simply obey, then takes off to do his own thing. He goes from obedience to obedience, searching out what God would have for him next. The child of God is one who hides God's word in the heart in order that one would not sin against God. (Psalm 119:1, 10, 11, 14; 2 Timothy 2:15; 1 John 2:24; 3:10)

A few years ago I was given a project in which I was to interview a person of another world view on issues concerning the Bible. I chose to interview a Jehovah's Witness. After many phone calls, I was actually granted an interview at the Kingdom Hall itself. I met my contact and two elders and we went in—I was not allowed to tape our interview, so I had to write everything down by memory. My central question was “how do you study the Bible.” I opened the interview by asking if they had a favorite Bible verse?

“No” was my stern answer.

“Do you have a ‘life-verse’?” I asked?

“No”. Came the answer.

Basically, the Jehovah’s Witnesses consider it a sin to memorize scripture because it is subject to one’s own interpretation, and one will idolize that passage above all else. I learned that Bible Study is done by groups only, it is considered a sin for an individual to read the Bible, so personal devotions is strongly discouraged. Interesting how a person of false conversion is one who will have nothing to do with God's word. The truth is, one genuinely converted will study to show himself approved unto God, a workman who is not ashamed (2 Tim 2:15). God's Word must abide in the one who belongs to Him (1 Jn 2:24). "In this the children of God are revealed, and the children of the Devil: everyone not practicing righteousness is not of God, also he who does not love his brother." (1 Jn 3:10)

Handling and Receiving God’s Word is an intentional act on the part of the believer. Believers receive God’s Word. This is what separates believers from unbelievers. One must be separate from sin, which comes in part through hearing the Word of God. One must also remain separate from filthiness and wickedness, overflowing of evil. This is part of handling and receiving the Word of God. He keeps himself unspotted from the world.

Romans 13:12-14: “The night is almost gone, and the day is near. Therefore let us lay aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us behave properly as in the day, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual promiscuity and sensuality, not in strife and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts” (see also Ephesians 4:22-24; Colossians 3:8; Hebrews 12:1; 1 Peter 2:1-2)

John 14:21-24 is a “golden nugget” where we find this treasure: the one who loves Jesus will do as He commands. The one who does not keep His words is one who does not belong to Him. Obedience to God’s Word shown through the study and application of it is a love-motivated act on the part of the believer.

God gives us the resource of His Holy Spirit to empower us to continue on in the Word, living obediently. Pressing forward without the Holy Spirit is to press on into spiritual delusion and empty religion.

The fact remains that we live in this world and the world would have us not pay attention to God’s word. We fall into the habits of entertaining ourselves to death. Sports and movies and television and luxuries eat up our time when we allow them. We would be shocked and surprised how we set ourselves up for the fall if we sat down with a sheet of paper and listed the hours on one column and blocked out how much time we spend sleeping, playing or watching sports, reading magazines, comic books, blogs, searching the internet, playing computer games, shopping, hobbies.

Remember 2 Kings 22? The Bible was a lost book because the people neglected it. Josiah, a godly king, was repairing the house of the Lord when a priest found the book of the Law in something much akin to a closet within the house of the Lord (the word was neglected by those entrusted with its care and distribution!). The nation of Israel had lost the source of the divine power! Is it any wonder they became apathetic and walked in an overflow of evil?

Remember how the high priest showed the book to the scribe, and the scribe brought the book to Josiah and read it.

Remember Josiah’s reaction? He broke down with intense sorrow because of the neglect of the Word of God. Josiah ordered the Book of the Law to be read and the people responded to it!

“The king stood by the pillar and made a covenant before the Lord, to walk after the Lord, and to keep His commandments and His testimonies and His statutes with all his heart and all his soul, to carry out the words of this covenant that were written in this book. And all the people entered into the covenant.” (2 Kings 23:3)

"As important as the proper reception of the Word of God is, without obedience to its truths it is not only without benefit but becomes a further judgment against its readers. It is essential to hear the Word with an attitude of submission, but even that is not enough. Obedience to the Word is the most basic spiritual requirement and is the common denominator for all true believers. The bottom line of true spiritual life is not a momentary feeling of compliance or commitment but long-term obedience to Scripture."[iii]

“The Bible is not a lost book but a found book if we read it daily and live according to it. The Bereans searched the scripture diligently (Acts 17:10-11). Lois and Eunice searched the scripture and taught young Timothy (2 Tim. 1:5; 3:14-17). The early Christians continued in the teachings of the Scriptures (Acts 2:41-42). Above all, the Bible gives us Jesus Christ.” [iv]

**********

[i] Shelton, Jr. L.R. The True Gospel vs. The False Gospel. Pensacola: Mt. Zion Bible Institute, 2001.
[ii]MacArthur, John. James : Guildelines for a Happy Christian Life. MacArthur Bible studies, Page 26. Nashville, TN: W Publishing Group, 2001.
[iii] MacArthur, ibid.
[iv] Poganski, Donald. 50 Object Lessions. St. Louis: Concordia, 1970.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

She Loved It!

She loved it! The deep blue four-inch vase sat in her glass cabinet for thirty years until her death. I'm convinced that she loved it more every year she lived. She didn't have to say much about it. Just that fact that it sat there among other valuables and was dusted with cherished thoughts was enough. You could see mom having good memories.

I remember when I bought that blue vase for mom. I was on a trip with a school group when we stopped at a truck stop. There on the shelf was the blue vase, and in my pocket was some of my very own money. I'm not sure, as a grade-school boy, that I had bought anything costing three dollars on my own before, but I didn't hesitate. I really wanted to buy it for mom.

When mother died, I took the vase and put it in my own cabinet. It represents the unselfish, encouraging nature of my mother. She was always like that—making out that you were so special. She always told us that the four children were equally loved and appreciated, but I knew she loved me the most. We all thought that about ourselves.

Selfish moms have it hard. They must struggle daily with the demands of their calling. But thankfully most moms have a generous, self-sacrificing nature for their children. It is not to be despised. If it is once a day her selflessness is called on, it is twenty times a day. And if it is twenty, it is 150,000 times in the twenty or so years while the children are being raised. And that's just for starters.

Moms must be professional givers. They give their precious time, skills, energy, encouragement, and love unstintingly. It takes Christ in the woman to do that well.
I know that a lot of sinful stuff is hidden to the eyes of our children. Surely my parents weren't perfect either. But they did seem perfect to me. It's good of God to keep kids in the dark about how awful parents are. But, for the life of me, I think my mom really was special—mostly because she was so full of Christ.

"Let her works praise her in the gates," the Proverb states. Indeed. The goodness of a Christ-filled woman is tangible, seen in a myriad of acts of love for her kids.

Why does she do them?

Part of the reason is what is called "common grace." God graciously puts familial love in the hearts of all mothers. Society is better because of it. But add Christ to that, and you have something far richer.

Only a Christian mom can love that child "for Christ's sake," and "as unto the Lord." Only a Christian mom can show her child what it means to be a true believer in Christ. Only a Christian mom can pray effectively for her child. Only a Christian mom can teach her children the truth about Jesus. Only a Christian mom can teach her kids what marriage is all about, even when times are difficult. And only a Christian mom can die as a lover of Christ, contentedly anticipating eternity in the house of her heavenly father.

You young men, marry a truly Christian woman. And children, thank God for the love God has had for you that he put you in a home with such a mother. Fathers, cherish the mother of your children who lives so unselfishly. What beauty is there; what nobility of character; what Christlikeness!

The blue vase reminds me of her. Perhaps like no other item in our home. And I'm sure that the porcelain skunk with the bushy tail reminds my brother of mom also. The skunk rested, tail in the air, next to the blue vase in my mother's cabinet. But now it's in my brother's house. As with the vase, it was an early token of my brother's affection.

Skunks and truck stop vases are the stuff of love in a child's mind, but cherishing skunks and vases is a mother's special talent. May God bless them for it.

Copyright © 2003 Jim Elliff Permission granted to copy in full for non-profit use, including all copyright information.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Leadership and Fru-fru Pageants (part 5): "Keeping up with the Jones'"

My wife and I enjoy watching some of those “specialty” cable channels like The Food Network, Discovery Channel, and HGTV—a lot of the latter. Matter of fact, I’ve watched it so much I think I noticed a pattern in the shows. This one house was being renovated and had some tall shutters outside the windows that the decorators wanted removed. The next show was something about one-room make-overs and the decorator on this show goes, “I know just what this room needs,” and produces this set of shutters, laying out the plan on how to spiff them up and mount them inside the room as a faux window. I keep seeing stuff like this from time to time and wonder . . . just what does it take to keep up with the Jones’?

We talk to our kids about peer pressure and the dangers associated thereunto, yet as adults, create entire TV networks that use peer pressure as the driving motivation for each show. The competitions, the makeovers, the cutting edge, the sound, the taste —everything has to “pop” just a little better than the one before it. The cars, the clothes, the food, the landscaping, the boats, the weapons, the entertainment systems, the pets, the “reality.” Drives me nuts.


Honestly, the only “Jones” I want to keep up with is Dr. Jones, Seminary Professor, evangelist, author, father, missionary. Why? Because he is godly example. It is not uncommon to hear him conclude a meeting or class with something like, “well, I must go. Please pray for us as I go to meet so-and-so at such-and-such to introduce them to Christ.” I actually feel jealous at times because I can’t just go out like he can. Of course, I also have the words of a Jehovah’s Witness ringing in my ears and spurring me on from a conversation almost 17 years ago, “I go out door to door telling people about the Kingdom. What are you doing?”

Considering the kinds of pressure adults feel, the main arena in which we try to keep up with the Jones’ is in the area of our business. I am currently working with an organization that has found itself asking the question, “Are we a church, or a business?” Years ago I worked for a company that asked the same question. Approximately 90% of all employees there were professing Christians, most all attending the same church. But what happens when so many work together in one place? Is it a church, or a business? Moreso, under which principles do we operate? I actually think I am closer to the answer to that question for past employer and present associations.

I have very strong convictions concerning marketing the church and allowing the unregenerate and unrepentant to tell the church how to be and what to do. In the same regard I feel very strongly about adopting leadership principles from a worldly perspective, and leadership principles should have a much wider application than we allow. In that vein, I feel that a business, with Christians at the helm is asking the wrong question, which is not, “are we a church or a business?” then seek to discover a balance of worldly and religious principles toward success. The right question is, “what is biblical?” If “we” are not a church (what else would a gathering of Christians be in any setting?), then what are we? I suppose we could infer that the church can exist within business, but how do we act? By what is biblical.

I suppose then we could say that we struggle and are tempted at times to live under two different sets of ethics.

Approach this from a national perspective. Israel had a problem in the past that grew into a large cycle of sin and restoration. Eli had perverse sons, but Samuel seemed to be showing promise. We read in 1 Samuel 8 that Samuel’s sons are rising but are acting perversely, like Eli’s sons did, taking bribes and perverting justice. Israel goes from this dark, depressing period, through rays of hope, and now the clouds are moving in again as old patterns are reappearing. While Samuel’s sons were showing signs of failing as leaders, the nation begins to inquire about getting a king—after all, the other nations have them. They have rejected God’s reign over them.

Samuel’s response to the people’s request for a king is noteworthy. Samuel prayed. I am inclined to think this was not a quick, upturned eye, in-and-out shallow, cheesy prayer, but the prayer of a leader. I am inclined to think that he left the presence of the leaders and spent time in serious conversation with God. During this time, God says some specific words to Samuel about what to do and why it is to be done. This causes me to think: when we pray and ask God for direction, do what simply take the “what” and run with it? I wonder how many times we understand God’s “why . . .”

Samuel returns to the people with God’s words, the warnings of what having a king would be like. In I Samuel 8 he told them specifically:

  • He will take your sons and will make them his army and the caretakers of the army (v. 11-12);
  • He will take your daughters to be his caretakers (v. 13);
  • He will take you (v. 17b);
  • He will take from you for his servants, his officers and their servants, who were your sons and daughters (v.14-15);
  • He will take your tools: your servants and donkeys and from your flocks (v.16-17).
  • And you will cry because of your king (v.18).

What did the people do? They refused to listen and threw a tantrum. They wanted to be like everyone else so much, they would do whatever it took to get it. I notice that Samuel goes back to God and tells them what the people said. That sort of seems strange, in a way. But Samuel talked to God and God talked to Samuel and did what God said, not what the people wanted. I think Samuel wanted to make certain of that.

1 Peter 2:9–12:But you [are] a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; who once [were] not a people but [are] now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy. Beloved, I beg [you] as sojourners and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul, having your conduct honorable among the Gentiles, that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may, by [your] good works which they observe, glorify God in the day of visitation.”


There are reasons why the people of God are to be different from the people of the world.

  • Believers are chosen royal priests, His special people, sojourner and pilgrims. This is who we are.
  • Believers are to proclaim the praises of Him who called us out of darkness into His marvelous light. We are to abstain from fleshly lust and have honorable conduct. This is what we are to do.
  • Believers once were not a people of God, we had not obtained mercy. Now, we have. This is the reason why, the motivation to be and do.

Israel forgot who they were, what they were to do and the motivation for doing it.

Exodus 19:4-6:You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings, and brought you to Myself. Now then, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be My own possession among all the peoples, for all the earth is Mine; and you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words that you shall speak to the sons of Israel.”

God’s people are to be unlike anyone else.

Romans 12:1-2:Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.”

Here is the solution for we who live in a world that seeks to conform us to its pattern of thinking and living. We are to:

  • DO: Present our bodies as living and holy sacrifice as worship.
  • DON’T: be conformed to this world
  • DO: be transformed by the renewing of your mind.
  • WHY: to prove what the will of God is.

If you “do” all the “do’s”, you don’t have time to “do” the “don’ts”.

Now, I am stuck: how is it possible for a godly man like Samuel to have ungodly children?
Or consider the converse: how can godly children come from ungodly parents?

This looks to be the great irony of redemptive history. The reason is to show that the outcome of God’s activity is truly His doing. When people want to be like the world, God gives them what they want, and the consequences of their decision as judgment. The people wanted to king, not God. God gave them what they wanted and all that came with it. In the same way Eli’s sons wanted the world and they got it and all that came with it. They missed what God had for them had they obeyed. Samuel’s sons wanted the world and they got it and all that came with it. They missed what God had for them had they obeyed.

Here is another question: what standard should we expect leadership to hold? Clearly an unregenerate leader will not accept God’s principles, so the people get to experience the results of their choices along with those that follow the decisions of that leader. If the character and private life of a leader has no bearing on his public life, then what of integrity? I think we saw that come to the fore a few years back under the Clinton Adminstration. But the Fru-fru blinded and baffled the nation . . .

Here’s where we get to reflect and ask ourselves about how our lives, values, attitudes and/or behaviors mirror the world.

Here’s where we get to ask, “What does God’s Word say? How do I fail? What should I be doing? How am I to be doing it?”

Take a look around at where you are, who is around you. Where has God placed you? Where are God’s people in relation to where you are? What are you to be doing as God’s people? How are you going to be used by God to encourage and admonish the brethren in good and poor choices?

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Leadership and Fru-fru Pageants (part 4): Leadership in desperate situations.

Not too long ago I was talking with this guy about his need for Christ and was listening to him list off excuse after excuse upon being confronted with his sin. When confronted with the 9th commandment, he made sure I understood that lawyers make their living by mishandling truth. When I asked if he had ever taken anything that didn’t belong to him, he gave me this “desperate times call for desperate measures” story. He said that if he had no food, he would rather steal it than work for it. “I’m not certain that laziness qualifies for desperate time or desperate measures,” I told him. He laughed. I couldn’t.

There was a time in my life when I had that same attitude. I had dropped out of college in late fall of 1985 and winter approached. I felt like I didn’t need to go home as I spent more time drinking than going to class and did not want to face the shame and guilt of my “poor choices.” I had to find a place to stay. A friend told me of a mobile home he was going to rent and somehow I talked him out of it and letting me have it. I lived in that trailer through the cold New Mexico winter, paying no rent and having no water or electricity. I did not want to work because I was too stoned to go. I got food stamps (somehow) and when those ran out, hung around the convenience stores trying to talk the clerk into giving me the food they were going to throw out. I went around town writing checks from a bank account that had no money, literally stealing from the stores I went in, buying lamps, oil, rolling paper, food.

I started seeing a judge, who made a standing appointment with me. I had to go out every day and find a job. At the beginning of each day I had to report to him and tell him where I had been the day before, who I interviewed with, and what the result was. I was also to tell him where I was going that day.

And it all caught up to me. And I paid the penalty justice demanded, and after coming within an inch of losing my life, I repented and was saved.

Desperate measures? Hardly. But when you wake up from tripping in house with no heat and it is sub-zero temperature outside, just about anything feels like desperate measures. God gave me this lovely young lady who fed me, I think perhaps did some laundry and made sure I washed—she was greatly used by God and still is. I married her, and am going to celebrate 19 years with her this August.

If I had it to do all over again, I wouldn’t. That’s the way I think about it. But you know what? It’s hard to imagine what life would be like had I not made all those decisions, if I had not taken “desperate measures.” Desperate times can be self-inflicted. The importance lies in that we be able to recognize what is bringing desperate times about. Face it, there is a consequence for every action, every decision. We are good at kicking our own butts.

1 Samuel 4 records an incident worth investigation. The Philistines and the Israelites were at war. Verses 1-2 shows the Israelites going out and losing 4000 men in the battle. Here was a group of people that were going to determined to win! After all, they are God’s people, right? But they were defeated. Their response? Verse 3. “Why have we lost? Oh, yeah, we forgot about God! Go get the ark of the covenant, the symbol of God’s presence among us!” So they take the ark, go to battle . . . and lose. And lose the ark too.

Here is a group of people trying to deal with their self-inflicted desperate situation by desperate measures. When they finally realize they have not tried all the options, they latch onto symbols and not God Himself. They wanted to be victorious as the people of God, but failed to make any changes that would allow God to bring the victory. The grabbed the symbol of His presence and sought after a symbolic victory that was self-serving, a quick-fix to get the Philistines off their backs.


You know what the difference between Eli and Samuel is? Eli sat by and watched the sinfulness of the people pile up around him. Samuel, on the other hand, stood up and told the people what needed to be said, “If you return to the LORD with all your hearts, [then] put away the foreign gods and the Ashtoreths from among you, and prepare your hearts for the LORD, and serve Him only; and He will deliver you from the hand of the Philistines.” (1 Sam. 7:3).

Here is a leader that told people what they did not want to hear. Samuel was the kind of guy who would stand up and say, “The problem is not here, in such and such a place. It is back there.” In other words, the problem was not that the Philistine could fight like real men or that the ark of the covenant was taken. The problem was that the people were not in a position for the LORD to be victorious! The Philistines knew this was the same God who delivered His people from Egypt by judging the gods of the Egyptians. They were ready to be put to flight! But what they did not know is that the people they were fighting were (in effect) taking the Lord’s name in vain. They were not representing God accurately by hanging on to idols. They were using God. I suppose that means they were breaking the second commandment also. Samuel stepped up to remind them of their need to return to the Lord.

Hebrews 12:5-11 reminds us of the necessary aspects of the discipline and chastening of the Lord toward disobedient children. The Lord disciplines those He loves. When God disciplines, He deals with those who belong to Him as sons. God deserves the respect and discipline may remind us that respect has been lost. When He disciplines, His children are not telling Him how to do it (as a child would try to bargain with his parent about how many swats he gets or how long his grounding should be), but as He sees as best for the child.

What should the response to discipline be? We should not despise Him for what He is doing because we know we deserve the discipline we receive. We are not to be discouraged, but encouraged. The fact that He is doing this tells us He is paying attention and knows the details of our lives. We should rest assured that we are loved and received, as a father to son. How do you know that you are the Lord’s? By the fact that discipline comes. If you are looking for a quick-fix for desperate times, you will not find it. If you are not disciplined, perhaps you should consider whether or not you are really of the family of God.

Bottom line:
God’s people are not excused from high-handed sin. God’s people are not excused from God’s displeasure over sin, either. While we may be caught in the full brunt of our consequences, and we are seeking a remedy for our situation, that is the time God will discipline His children—during the desperate situation itself.

The consequence of idolatry are:

  • The creation of a god suitable to one’s own tastes and desires;
  • Placing the false god in the face of the true and living God;
  • Damaging the relationship to the true and living;
  • Misrepresentation of the true and living God, taking His name in vain;
  • Discipline through desperate situations.

Look at the specific steps involved in Israel’s repentance--and it takes a godly leader to speak these words of truth into the ears of God’s children (1 Sam 7:3). A fluffy fru-fru Ms. America type could not do what Samuel did. Samuel did not get up and draw the people with a talent, or speak in a deep eloquent way, directing his head this way and that, holding his chest “like so” or use his hands appropriately with any poise or grace. He stood up and spoke the words of the Lord, instructing Israel to:

  • Return to the Lord whole-heartedly;
  • Remove the false gods;
  • Prepare the heart for the Lord;
  • Serve Him only;
  • Be delivered.


Look what Israel did (1 Sam 7:4ff):

  • They removed their false gods;
  • They served God only;
  • They gathered and participated in prayer;
  • They gave an offering, remembering what God did for them in the past;
  • They confessed their sin;
  • They struck fear in the hearts of their enemies;
  • They sought for constant intervention before the Lord;
  • They marked what the Lord accomplished.

There are many instances where people need godly leadership to point them the right direction. Too many in churches today see aspects of Christianity as religious symbols to be used only by those trained to do so. Here’s an example: “Pastor, pray for me. I’m going through a tough time and really need you to pray.”

Folks, prayer is not an object to be handled by someone who has been through Bible College or Seminary. Prayer is not magic. If you are a Christian, you have open access to the throne of God. If you are going through a tough time and are being directed to pray, then by all means, PRAY! I’ll pray with you, but not for you so you don’t have to.

And what about the Bible? I hear so often of people who are experiencing a tough time, but after spending 5 minutes reading Psalm 23 feel much better. Scripture ain’t Band-Aids! You want some relief? I’ll direct you to two tablets and call you in the morning and we will work from there. I want you to meet the balm in Gilead that makes the wounded whole—His name is Jesus! Beware of treating primitively those things that serve as reminders of what God has done for us. Idols are not to be made of crosses, baptisms, communion, etc. When we are in desperate measures those things do nothing but remind us to get on our knees and make certain we allow God to be God and we have not put up anything in His path.

This is where desperate measures need to take another turn.

We need to take desperate measures to make certain we are in the right mind about God.

We need to take desperate measures to make certain our heart is right and there are no idols.

We need to take desperate measures to make certain it is God’s glory we are seeking and not our own.

We need to take desperate measures to make certain we accept His discipline with the love it is given.

We need to take desperate measures to make certain others who wear the name of Christ are representing Him correctly and are living in the victory that only He can give—freedom from desperate measures!

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Finding fault with temptation

Wednesday evening I met Victor and Jennifer, two operators from a company that rents out inflatable play toys, those large contraptions you can climb on and jump in and whatnot. They were just sitting there in the trailer, minding their own business when I approached. I actually think I stumbled upon a special “smoking” session because 1) the funny way I was greeted; and, 2) the funny smell in the air. I tried not to let on that I noticed anything as I just wanted to share Christ with them.

We talked for a while about the play equipment and the unique features of set-up, cleaning, packing, moving and other things. I tried to show interest in other things, but they wanted me to go away call the home office for details.

I asked Victor and Jennifer if they ever thought much about eternal matters. He looked away and she looked at him as if to say, “Oh no, here we go again.” I asked if they went to church somewhere. They both said, “No.”

I asked them if they thought good people should go to heaven. Victor stared away and Jennifer said, “No. There ain’t no good people. Everyone should just go to hell.” Victor snapped out of his trance long enough to say, “Churches are full of hypocrites. I quit going to church because my uncle goes and he just cusses and drinks when he ain’t in church.”

I agreed with them, that the Bible says there is none righteous and underscored by saying there was no perfect church, either.

Jennifer didn’t like Victor or my answer and proceeded to educate us both on the perfect church she grew up in. Despite the fact that I turned up some hypocrites in her perfect congregation, she still viewed it as perfect (a Methodist church, mind you), there was nothing wrong with her because she was once part of that church.

Intriguing!

I tried to make it more personal by showing how God views the individual heart and that each person must give an account of herself or himself before God and there was penalty for sin that had to be paid. Would they repent and ask Christ to save them? Nah.

Though they started off saying everyone was deserving hell, they saw themselves as good people, even after being shown they were lying, murderous adulterers at heart and this is how God saw them. Their response was hard to take: since they don’t think about eternal matters, heaven is assured to them (even after she admitted everyone should go to hell). Wow. I left them with some tracts and encouraged them to think about it. Victor wadded his up. She put hers in her pocket.

The motto of the age is, “I’m apathetic and I don’t care.” Actually people do care. They care so much about themselves that when it comes to dealing with struggles and difficulties and trials, not to mention the consequences of poor choices, the problems will be certainly be blamed on someone else. Take for example the recent court case of the self-proclaimed al-Qaeda pilot Zacarias Moussaoui. Even though he was a minor consirator with limited knowledge concerning events of September 11, it was not his fault. He had a bad upbringing. I suppose that means his rejoicing at being sentenced to life in prison instead of receiving the death penalty and his proud and loud exclamations of “America, you lost!” and, “God save Osama bin Laden” and “I fight for my beliefs. You think that you own the world and I will prove that you are wrong” is not his fault either. Poor guy. He needs a Social Worker very, very badly.

That’s the mind-set nowadays. Everyone is a much worse person than I am and when anything goes wrong, it’s not my fault. Do you know what causes this? “Sin” is the root answer. Idolatry is another—worshipping the idol of self. People are convinced they have to feed their ego, smooth the roughness, fill what is lacking, keep all the good nerves tingling. Chasing sensation after sensation.

Let’s take moment and examine some excuses for wrong-doing:

  • “I’m gonna burn anyway.”
  • “The devil made me do it.”
  • “It’s my life. I can do what I want.”
  • “I’ll confess it later.”
  • “I’m addicted. I have no control over what I do.”
  • “There are worse people out there than me.”

I am still trying to understand why even when caught red-handed, we will still try to shun responsibility for any wrong-doing. Just the other night I was watching some kids in a playground. One 6th grader rather forcefully bounced a ball off the head of another boy standing within arm’s reach. The other boy took advantage of the proximity and launched a hail-storm of fist-blows to the boy who threw the ball. Breaking the fight up, the ball-thrower looks at me and shrugs, “I don’t know what got into him. I just dropped the ball at him.” I was like, “You gotta be kidding. I saw the whole thing,” and I recounted to him what I saw. His eyes got huge, but all he could do was shrug and point to the fist-thrower saying, “but he overreacts to everything!”

Week after week I approach people in a way that gets their attention: talking about themselves. I ask them about their goodness and what makes them good. But when I ask if they’ve kept the 10 Commandments, they start to stammer. I will ask most to name as many as they can. To their own surprise, many can list about half. When I ask if they’ve ever told a lie, I will always get a “yes.” Then I help them realize that one who tells a lie is a liar. Next I ask if they have ever taken anything that didn’t belong to them. By now, the comfort zone is challenged and 9 times out of 10 I start getting excuses, “Yeah, but it was a long time ago,” or “it was my brothers” or “I was just playing around when I did it.” People will not take responsibility for their actions! And they feel the weight of the law of God and can’t shake it off!

Here’s where the rubber meets the road:
1. Everyone gets tempted, Christian or not;
2. It is common for one to blame another.

It’s been that way since Genesis 3: “When God confronted Adam with his sin in the Garden of Eden, Adam’s reply was, “The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me from the tree, and I ate” (Gen. 3:12). When the Lord then asked Eve, “What is this you have done?” she replied, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate” (v. 13). Eve blamed Satan; much worse, Adam blamed God.”[i]

In James 1:13-18 we learn a great deal about temptation, blameshifting and responsibility.
Look at what James says about God and temptation: When you are tempted, it is not God’s fault. Do you realize what this means? It means we can’t backpedal and say, “Well, who created everything? Who created evil?” The reason why God cannot be blamed is because He cannot be tempted with evil, nor does He tempt anyone. God’s role is to deliver from evil. Remember these words prayed so often by the most-religious?

Our Father who is in heaven,
Hallowed be Your name.
Your kingdom come.
Your will be done,
On earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen
.’[ii]

[emphasis mine, by the way]

I am inclined to think that one who says that God can be depended on to deliver from evil and blames God for allowing one to fall into temptation is one who has a healthy sense of failure to believe Him. If God can be blamed for one’s sins, then that person has broken the First and Second commandment and created for a false god that is convenient to their personal theology. Habakkuk 1:13 talks of God whose eyes are too pure to look upon evil.

James gives us a flow-chart here describing the progression of temptation to sin:
First, one is drawn away by his own desires. The best way I can think to illustrate this is a musical one. When I play a cello, I play (primarily) on one string at a time and finger all notes pertaining to that which I am playing. If I hold my finger down on the first note on the 3rd string (that would be “A” on the “G” string) and draw the bow, a nice lower-register tone is heard. When I look at the instrument however, I notice the first string is vibrating, though I am not touching it. That first string is the “A” string. If my pitch on the “G” string is right, the “A” string vibrates in resonance with the note I am actually playing. In other words, temptation may not actually be drawing on the “A” string, but playing the “A” in a different register. Regardless of where the note is played, the “A” string will vibrate. I could place a finger on the second string, about sternum level and draw and the first string would still vibrate.

This is the way temptation is. One is tempted according to that which he is attuned. Since the human heart is sinful and deceitfully wicked, the tuning is generally set. Every heart is tuned to “sin”. The fine tuning is accomplished by desire and character. In other words, when the tempter comes, he may not simply say “Steal.” He may actually say, “You don’t have one of those” and appeal through coveting.

One is tempted when he is drawn away and enticed.

One sins when he is drawn away, enticed and he desire to see it comes to fruition actually comes to fruition. This is why when I ask people if they have committed adultery, most will proudly say, “NO!” But when I point out that Jesus said if one has lusted sexually then adultery is committed, then, yes, adultery has occurred—followed by a quick, “but everyone has!” Not a good blame-shift, but still true.

But this is why James says, “DO NOT be deceived.” It can’t be clearer. Like, “DO NOT touch,” or “DO NOT run red lights” or “DO NOT seek the treasure.” Simply put, “do not have your being in wavering and chasing after sin.” He will say more about this later.

God is described as one I whom there is no variation or shadow of turning. God does not phase in rotation. He orbits and flows around nothing. He is the creator and the center. He is consistent. For us this means “remain steadfast on in Him.” God does not change (Mal. 3:6) and is the same yesterday, today and forever (Heb. 13:8).

Romans 7:8-25 is a passage worth consideration here. Remembering that James was the earliest book of the New Testament written, Paul’s letter to the Romans would naturally follow. Verse 8 is prominent. James said one is drawn away to sin by desire. Paul says one’s desire is drawn away by sin. Which is it? Both. Because we still live in the presence of sin (thought the Christian is delivered from its power) sin draws the desire to sin. The Christian gets to live in the tension of being delivered from the power of sin and awaits the day he is delivered from its presence. In the meantime, he struggles, doing the very thing he knows he should not do; contrarily, does not do the things he knows to. This is where we can return to James where we learn: first, to the one who knows to do good and does not do, to him it is sin; and second, stumble in one point of the law and break the whole thing.

Paul has some things to say about the law. God’s law shows man what his heart is really like. As we have seen at the beginning, however, we agree that those who are under the law are reluctant to admit any error or fault in their own lives. For the Christian, however, he has the power of the Holy Spirit to decide what to do. Sin brings conviction and conviction repentance.

Because of the Holy Spirit, the Christian has no excuse concerning sin. “Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances.”[iii]

Because of the Scripture, the Christian has no excuse concerning sin. “Your word I have treasured in my heart, that I may not sin against You.”[iv]

Something to think about:

The story is told that after Augustine was converted, a woman he had formerly lived with called to him as he walked down the street, but he did not answer. She persisted and finally ran up to him and said, ‘Augustine, it is I.’ To which he replied, ‘I know, but it is no longer I.’”

************
[i]MacArthur, John. James : Guildelines for a Happy Christian Life. MacArthur Bible studies, Page 18. Nashville, TN: W Publishing Group, 2001.
[ii]New American Standard Bible : 1995 Update, Mt 6:9. LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1995.
[iii]NASB, ibid. : Eze 36:24.
[iv]NASB, ibid. : Ps 119:11.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Trials of life

David Gerrold, the science-fiction writer who gave us “Trouble with Tribbles” said, “Life is hard. Then you die. Then they throw dirt in your face. Then the worms eat you. Be grateful it happens in that order.”

Do you know what the number 1 killer in America is? Death.
10 out of every 10 people in the world die. That’s one-for-one.

Amazing, isn’t it?

And somewhere between the birthing and the dying this crazy little thing called “life” is supposed to happen.

Like children who pull the comforter over the head to ward off the monster in the closet, people pull comforts over their heads to ease the pain and struggles of living. From sun up to sun down folks like clothes comfortable, food fast, commutes unhindered, work easy, play-time long, movies good, food great and bed exquisite. Face it: nobody likes trials, struggles, discomfort. No, I take that back . . . struggle should be relegated to the gym where we can grunt under the strain of shaping our six-pack (I’ve got a keg) and shower off, having vented our troubles through exercise.

Some go further and deal with life by substance abuse. Fridge empty? Drop some acid. After the high, the fridge is still empty. Drop some more acid.

No matter how you approach it, life is hard and this is a world of ease. As English novelist E.M. Forster observed, “Life is easy to chronicle, but bewildering to practice.”

Somewhere in the midst of all this exists this thing called “church” and a community of people called “Christian” who preach this message of “good news.” What is the good news? God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life! God wants to save you and give you peace and happiness! Does every person really have a God-shaped hole in their heart? Do they think like that?

I know of a homeless guy who has it made. He is happy, not a care in the world, living like to the full. He gets free clothes, gets to travel (as he puts it), gets free places to stay, free food, no bills, and doesn’t have to work. Every day he gets to walk and talk with God, praying all day long. Sin? Ain’t around nobody long enough to sin against. Besides, God forgives, right?

I know a rich guy who is happy and doesn’t have a care in the world, living life to the full. He has his own business, gets great clothes (anything he doesn’t want goes to charity), gets to travel, has places to stay, eats great food, accountant pays the bills and someone else runs the store. Every day he gets to walk and talk with God, sometimes gets on his motorcycle and heads to the country. Sin? Shoot. He’s a good person and wrongs nobody. Besides, God forgives, right?

What does it mean to a world that is hiding under their comforter, at peace (as they see it) and very happy then someone comes along saying that God can give them what they already have. With that kind of gospel, all the church is doing is tucking people in! Can grace be preached to the proud? The reason why the so-called “health and wealth” gospel is so popular today is because it agrees with where the world already is!

I was in a meeting not long ago where a report from a pastor’s meeting was given. In the reported pastor’s meeting, denominational heads met under an academic umbrella searching for ways to “meet needs” and bridge cultural and societal gaps. One pastoral group representing thus and such denomination spoke loudly that if a partnership was to be had, four distinct areas of service would have to be provided to meet their qualifications; subsequently, the only ones qualified to provide the service would have to come from their sources, only the host academic group would have to pay those teachers. When asked how much pay was available, a number was given. The pastoral party asked, “You mean . . .” and quoted back the amount with an extra $100,000.00 tacked on. “No,” came the reply, and the original number was quoted. Clearly, no “deal” was made. Of course, the pastors from thus and such left the meeting in their BMW’s and Jaguars . . .

The New Testament paints a very different picture of life. Jesus said He came to give life abundantly, yet we see history splattered with blood and read letters encouraging believers to persevere and be faithful under persecution. Life is clearly filled with hardship and trial. Nobody ever said it was going to get easier! Remember Paul, writing from prison, “Hey folks! Be an example of the believer and be imitators of me!”

I used to joke with people who ask me, “how’s it going?” by responding, “staying out of jail.” My pastor turned one day and said, “That’s too bad. You could have started a new ministry!” Now if I say it, I feel guilty . . .

Because of hardship many people feel they can, like so many other things in life, just get a sample of religion and if they don’t like it, they will go find something else that suits their tastes. Seeker-sensitivity is stoking the fires of hell because of a cheesy, half-gospel that does not tell the truth. This culture nurtures the idea that, “hey, if you don’t like it, go someplace else!” More churches are planted that way. Nobody likes setbacks in a world where everything is supposed to move forward. Plateaus are dangerous! You can fall off of one!

Setbacks. Trials. What is the common response to these stressors? Fundamentally, “find relief.” Whatever happened to “perseverance?” The most common response to setbacks and suffering (and I have been guilty of this, I admit it) is 1) freak out; 2) seek counseling. “Boo-hoo, sob. Poor me.” And thus goes the mantra of worshipping at the idol of self. The sound of complacency.

Here is why I like reading older writings: they are filled with examples and testimonies of people who stood up under trial. The stuff you pick up off the shelves today try to turn on the warm fuzzies and help one pull up the covers just a little more over the head to keep the monsters away. The older works rip the covers off and bring the monster head-on!

Think of Corrie Ten Boom for a moment. Not a simple survivor of Nazi concentration camps, but one who entered Ravensbruk as a young Christian girl and left an older Christian woman. Want to know what it’s like to be confronted years after the war by a former soldier of the enemy who wants forgiveness? Ask Corrie, who lost everything to the war . . . or did she lose anything at all?

Stop by Voice of the Martyrs to catch the latest news and information on how Christianity is persevering overseas while Western Christians get their warm fuzzies from paid professionals. “Chinese President Hu Jintau’s White House visit with President George Bush today [April 20, 2006] will focus on economic issues and relations with North Korea, but Hu probably won’t mention two recent raids by over 220 Public Security officers who arrested more than 160 church leaders. Over 1,300 arrests of Christians in China have been confirmed by VOM sources between February and December 2005, including 11 missionaries from the U.S. and six from other nations.”

I will never forget the Russian Christian I met a while back who simply said, “you Western Christians need some persecution.” I know exactly what he meant and why he said it.

“If a person’s faith is genuine, it will prove itself during times of trouble, whatever the nature or source of the trouble may be. For that reason, this epistle is valuable for unbelievers as well as believers. That is especially true for unbelievers who consider themselves to be Christians and need to recognize that a faith that is reliable only when things are going well is not saving faith and is worth nothing. It is, in fact, worth less than nothing, because it deceives those who trust in it. Not only will it fail them when they need help the most, but also it will lead them to think they are headed for heaven when, in reality, they are headed for hell. The clear message of Scripture is that trials are a tool in the loving hands of the Lord. They test the strength of our faith; they humble us; they wean us from our dependence on earthly things; they call us to eternal and heavenly hope; they reveal what we really love; they teach us to value God’s blessings; they develop enduring strength for greater usefulness; they help us better encourage others who are in times of trial.”[i]

The book of James is the first book of the New Testament, and it opens with words to Christians facing trials, tribulations, setbacks, hardships, whatever you want to call it—their life was hard. He writes “to the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad” and he tells them that trials actually do something in the life of one who is a believer of Christ Jesus: it produces patience or perseverance. Why would it do that? In order “that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing.”

You mean to tell me that if takes me enduring the hardship of losing everything, I will be made complete and lack nothing?

Yup. The reasons are: first, there is more to life than what you see. The determining factor is this, “has Jesus Christ saved you from sin?” If not, you have indeed lost everything, both world and soul. Second, we are given hardships to keep from exalting ourselves (2 Cor 12:7-10). If we have a tool that does not work well we are inclined to reach for one that will do the job; however, we are (in effect) a tool that does not work well and must be quiescent to the one who can in His all-sufficiency. Third, if we did not experience hardship, God’s work at perfecting, confirming, strengthening and establish-ing us would not be complimentary or consistent to His working to us through Christ Jesus.

What should the believer’s response to trials be? The believer should ask God for wisdom. I think we are so caught up in ourselves, we are tempted to find an answer that is rooted in an emotion, not a state of being. Patience is being worked out in the trial, so responding to trial with patience is putting the cart before the horse. We are instead to get in touch with God and ask God for wisdom with faith, without a divided mind (doubting). God cannot be headed His direction and we in our own and expect our paths to convene; rather, we must be going His way in all things. If we respond to trials without asking for wisdom, we are asking in two minds.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight. Do not be wise in your own eyes; Fear the Lord and turn away from evil.” (Prov. 3:5-7)

They took his advice; and after calling the apostles in, they flogged them and ordered them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and then released them. So they went on their way from the presence of the Council, rejoicing that they had been considered worthy to suffer shame for His name. And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they kept right on teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ.” (Acts 5:40-42)

fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” (Heb 12:2-3)

You wanna know where happiness is found? Check this out: “Happy is the man who finds wisdom, and the man who gains understanding.” (Prov. 3:13)

Remember the requisite to finding wisdom: ask GOD! Relationship is everything! And the results of that relationship provide perseverance!

Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways!" (Ro 11:33)

"without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him. “ (Heb 11:6)

Spiritual tenacity is that which lays hold of God fully.

And why preservere? Why hang on? Because “Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.” (James 1:12)[ii]

For those that profess faith in Christ Jesus and find it too hard and have sought to go look for a less painful life, I challenge you to examine to see if you are really in the faith.

If you are one who has given in to the pressures of life and backslid, ask yourself if you have ever slid forward to begin with . . .

**********

[i]MacArthur, John. James : Guildelines for a Happy Christian Life. MacArthur Bible studies, Page 6. Nashville, TN: W Publishing Group, 2001.
[ii] See also 2 Timothy 4:8; 1 Peter 5:4; Revelation 2:10.

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