25 July, 2017

Pride Is a Funny Thing

A couple of days ago someone told me that God hates pride. They were referencing someone we both know who had done well in a given area and took pride in their accomplishment. I tried to explain to this person that there is a difference in taking pride in a job well done or an accomplishment, and being a prideful person. The truly ironic thing is that the person who was tossing condemnation on another for having pride in their accomplishment was now filled with pride over their own intellect and told me that I could not tell them what pride was, that they knew full well what pride was and just because I had more education than them did not make me smarter than them. I finally told the man that it was he who was now displaying the kind of pride and arrogance which God really does hate. It only went downhill from there. The truth is, some pride is a good thing. It is pride that makes you arrogant and unteachable is a bad thing. Pride that will not allow you to admit you were wrong is a bad thing. Pride that makes you feel superior to others and look down your nose at them is bad. Pride that causes you to sever relationships rather than apologize is the very thing that God hates. But some people are so full of pride that they'd rather cause a firestorm of damage than to say, "forgive me"... and this is the kind of pride that God hates and brings about destruction because that pride takes one's thoughts far away from God and godly things.

19 July, 2017

Thinking Out Loud: Come As You Are

The following was written by Madison, the daughter of the best friends I ever had. I'm amazed that this teenage girl has this insight and wisdom.  Rock on, Maddy!  Good Word hon!

Thinking Out Loud: Come As You Are: Anyone who really knows me knows that I am without a doubt a perfectionist. I constantly feel pressure for everything to be perfect at all t...

04 July, 2017

Expand Your Boarders

There's an old story about a frog who was born at the bottom of a well. There in that well he had water and food and he was comfortable. He thought life was splendid and that it just could not get any better, until one day he looked up and he saw sunlight. Climbing to the top of the well to investigate, he was amazed to find a much larger pond than the one he lived in at the bottom of the well. He decided to move out of the well and to set up housekeeping near the pond. One day he heard cows mooing and he ventured away from the pond to investigate, where he discovered a lake that was much larger than his little pond, so once again he moved. One day he began to investigate further and he found a rolling river, and diving into it, he was carried off to the ocean. Climbing out of the ocean onto the beach the little frog was amazed that as far as his eyes could see, there was nothing but water. Standing there gazing out at the ocean it dawned on him how limited his thinking had been while living at the bottom of that well. He thought all he ever need was down in that well, but now he had discovered that what he had experienced was but a drop in the bucket compared to all that was out there for him to enjoy.

Many people are living in their own little "well," reluctant to leave their comfort zone and they have settled for a limited and safe existence while all the while God has so much more in store for them. Isn't it time to climb out of the well and expand your borders? Isn't it time to quit staying in the safe confines of the "box" of safety you are in? Perhaps you've settled for where you are because you feel like circumstances of life have limited you. Remember, the enemy will do everything he can to keep you focused on your past in order to limit your future. Bruce Wilkinson says, "It doesn't matter whether you're short of money, people, energy or time. What God invites you to do will always be greater than the resources you start with."Don't let fear limit your vision when God is your source because His supply is without limits! Just one idea, one dream, from God can change not only your life, but the lives of others as well. But first, you have to climb out of the safety of your well.

17 June, 2017

What's The Most Important Thing?

I speak with people all the time who tell me that they really need to get their family in church. The thing is, they are sincere, and they really mean it. They know that it is important. The thing is... life gets in the way. There are family outings. There is baseball, softball, hockey, skating, gymnastics and so many other things that keep them busy and they just can't find time to squeeze going to church into their busy schedules. I've heard this for years as a pastor. But I've also been on the receiving end of the call when the son has been in a wreck while partying... the daughter has told them that she is pregnant. The kids are unruly and will not obey them. Their child tells them that they are gay. The adult kids reject God and the church altogether. And the parent wonders aloud where they failed. I'm going to be bold enough to say it... you failed when you chose to forego church so that your child could participate in their favorite sport. It's parents living a vicarious dream through their child, with the notion that "someday" they will do what they know is right and bring their children to church. But that day never comes, because, rather than thinking of eternal things, they focused on the temporal things... and they trained their children in the belief that God will always be there when they need him, rather than train the in the belief that we are here to serve God. If you are the parent of a young child... wake up! Ask yourself what is more important to your family on an eternal scale? If your children are already grown... you may think it is too late. It's not. Go to them and confess your failure and beg them to understand that serving God is the most important thing we can do in this life. Those trophies and pictures will mean nothing when life is over and they stand before God to be judged for eternity. Make the change today! 

12 June, 2017

I Live to Please the Lord

I really wonder just how many people who believers in Christ actually believe what they say they believe. I watch people and listen to them and when at church they sing and shout and dance and they talk about loving God... but then outside the church, their language is profane, they choose to live in ways that not only do not bring glory to the Lord, but often times would bring a disgrace to the name of Jesus. In church they talk about how they want Jesus to return soon, but away from the church... they live for selfish pleasures and desires. They seldom, if ever tell people about Christ and what he has done for them and invite others to know Jesus. They say they "live" for Jesus, but the facts that are witnessed in their living is that they seem to "visit" Jesus from time to time when they have problems and occasionally come to church.  I see a real problem here. When I married my wife, my life changed. I committed my life to her. I started coming home to her every night and when I made plans, my plans revolved around my wife and me as one.  Something tells me that no matter how much I SAID I loved Libby, if I only came home to her once or twice a month or if I lived only to please myself and not her and only talked to her when I had a need... I just somehow think I would not be married all that long. How much more so should our lives in Christ be entwined with him? As for me... I live for Jesus. I would die for Jesus. My time, energy and money, for the most part, are resourced for the furthering of the Kingdom of God. I don't spend money buying myself new toys all the time because I'm bored with the old so I have to have something new and exciting to keep me "happy". Long story short; I've found my life, my meaning, and purpose and my joy in serving the Lord. I GLADLY proclaim myself to be a servant to the Lord. Just yesterday I read where someone said that we (those in Christ) are not servants of God but children of God who choose to serve. While there is some truth in that, what that person is missing is that I CHOOSE to be a servant of the most high God. Paul, on more than one occasion, identified himself as a bondservant of Christ. You can do what you want, but I'm going to align myself with the pattern established in the Word of God, and I am a bondservant... a servant by choice... of the Lord.

Times have changed... and the church has changed. But God has not. God did not offer to make himself a genie in a lamp for you and me to rub and make a wish. He is Master. He is Lord. We are his servants. That's in the Word and it still stands. I live to please him... not the other way around.

10 May, 2017

Let Your Conscience Be Your Guide? I Don't Think So!

When I was a kid, one of my favorite movies was Disney's "Pinocchio." Jiminy Cricket was my favorite part of the movie, and when I was young and growing up, his motto, "Let your conscience be your guide" became my motto. That may sound like sound advice, but as I grew older, I discovered that our conscience changes; and that can lead to a lot of problems. 

A pure and undefiled conscience may in fact be a good guide. But as we live and breathe in this world, life treats us to some harsh realities and can make us hard and cynical. Our conscience can and does become seared as we become "used to" the pain and grief of this world. Ever wonder how a sweet and innocent child can grow up to become a cold blooded killer? They were not born that way. They allowed their hearts to become hard and calloused, just as a man's hands become calloused and when he uses them to perform hard labor. When a heart (conscience) becomes calloused, things that once troubled the person no longer does. The conscience once was bothered and we knew not to go any further, but that hardened shell has now been formed and the voice that cries out to stop can no longer break through. It is kind of like when we sear meat.  To sear meat, the surface of the meat is cooked rapidly at a very high heat, which causes the juices to caramelize and form a crust, sealing in the juices. It is the same as cauterizing a wound where it is burned, thus sealing off the wound so that it will no longer bleed. When the heart is cauterized, it no longer feels in the same way that it used to feel.  Paul warned Timothy about false teachers whose conscience have been seared with a hot iron in 1 Timothy 4:2.  

My point is simply this...

Just because a person's conscience no longer "bothers" them does not mean that the activity they are doing is now "OK" to do. Once their conscience pricked their hearts and they felt guilty or ashamed; or we might say "bothered" by that which today they do without giving it a second thought. It's not that God's standard has changed; it's the case of callouses forming which have built a hardened shell around the heart and the person is no longer sensitive to the prompting of the Holy Spirit. We must all make an honest effort to be aware of just where we are and the need to keep our hearts (conscience) tender. If not, we would find ourselves doing things we once knew to be wrong and becoming bitter and cynical people. 

03 May, 2017

Walking Out Your Faith

Over the years I have come to realize that many, (maybe even most) Christians are really intimidated by the idea of sharing their faith with others. I am convinced that Jesus did not have any intention for us to fulfill the Great Commission to be such a drudgery and burden, but rather I believe that God intended for us to be witnesses of Jesus Christ as a natural outflow of our daily walk as we live for Him. So, why do we make it complicated? It’s like we think that we must complete a course on evangelism or personal witnessing before getting started. I’m not knocking such programs, for they can be beneficial to us, but the truth is that all God wants from us is to walk out our faith before others.

I think we’d all agree that there's nothing worse than somebody trying to preach to us you about something going on in our life when all we can think about is finding a way to fix the problem. Right? The reality is that at that moment in our life, the last thing we want is somebody wearing a suit, carrying a Bible big enough to choke a mule and acting like they know exactly what we need and how we feel. Let’s be real honest… at those times in our life (especially before we were saved) and some Bible thumper came reading their verses of scripture, we were thinking that we with they’d just quit wasting our time and go away. For some reason, after we’ve been saved awhile, we forget how we felt. We didn’t want some religious person spouting scripture… we wanted someone to show us how to get out of the mess we were in!
This is exactly what makes the prospect of sharing our faith so scary or intimidating. I think that most people would like to help others to Jesus, but not knowing what to say and how to say it stops us dead in our tracks. So how do we share our faith without making people run and hide? The truth is, people can spot a phony from a mile away. That being said, then I have to believe that the absolute worst we thing we can do is to say one thing and do another. In other words, if you are not committed to applying Christian principles in your own life, you will not only be ineffective but will be seen as a phony. I’m convinced that people aren't near as interested in what you say, as they are in seeing how it's working in your life. Please don’t misunderstand, I believe we need to open our mouths and share with others, but first, we must live it out. I often speak to the people of my church and tell them that we must “earn the right to be heard.” Those around us want us to BE a friend, not tell them we are. They want us to show them we love them before we tell them that we do. A hungry person needs to taste the food… not just hear about it.
So, how do we walk out our faith before others? I want to share some practical ways to walk it out.
Be Real: OK, that sounds so cliché. What do I mean?
Be transparent and let people see your faith in action. When we go through a crisis or trial, let them see you with a positive outlook and a good attitude, even in the face of adversity. As we keep our eyes (and faith) on Jesus in the storms of our life, we are “walking out our faith” before the world. Remember when Peter walked on the water? He kept walking as long as he kept his focus on Jesus. But as soon as his attention was drawn off of Jesus and onto the storm around him, he sank. When those around us see us walking through the storms of our life, but still maintaining the peace of Christ, I’ll bet you that they are going to want what you’ve got! But if they see you panic and acting like everyone else, then they will see your faith means nothing, and dismiss it.
Another thing we can do is to treat people with respect and dignity, no matter what the circumstance. Be consistent and show that you always treat people the same, no matter what. Jesus treated people right, even when they mistreated Him. People around you will wonder how you're able to show this kind of respect for others. You never know, they may even ask you about it.
Still another way of walking out our faith is for us to find ways to be a blessing to others. This not only plants seeds for a harvest in our own life, it shows others that you are real and not a fake. Your life speaks louder than words and when we look for ways to bless others, it shows that we live what we believe. Saying you're a Christian is one thing, but walking out our faith in tangible ways every day is something else. The Word tells us that They will know us by our fruit.
Above all don't compromise your beliefs. Situations happen to us every day where we are tested because compromise is not only possible, but many times is expected. This is a real way to show people that your Christianity means living a life of integrity. And yes, that means you tell the cashier that she gave you back too much change or forgot to charge you for an item!
Our willingness to forgive quickly is a powerful way to walk out our faith. As children of the King, we must become a people of forgiveness. I’ve learned that nothing creates division, hostility, and turmoil more than an unwillingness to forgive the people who hurt you… even when you are absolutely right! Being right doesn't give you a free pass to lash out, insult, humiliate or embarrass someone else. Being right doesn't eliminate your responsibility to forgive.
Let me sum all this up in one sentence. The best way to share your faith is to be an example. Walk it out before them and people will want to know how they too can be peaceful in their storm. They will want to know why your kids are not sucked into the traps that theirs do. They will want to know why your marriage is going well… Live it out before them and they will watch and eventually they will ask. And when they ask, we have all kinds of great stuff to share about how good our God is.

02 May, 2017

What Is Lacking?

Is it not written: Behold, the Lord your God will withhold nothing good from you who walk uprightly; for He has graciously shielded you with Favor in Christ Jesus. (Psalm 84:11)?

Guess what?
Favor is a good thing!
Healing is a good thing!
Deliverance is a good thing!
Good health is a good thing!
Salvation, redemption,
and restoration are good things.
Wisdom is a good thing!
Provision is a good thing!
Blessings are good things!
Victory is a Good thing!
Overcoming is a good thing!
Being fruitful is a good thing!
Peace and Joy are good things!

Not experiencing these things in your life?
Guess what is lacking?

Behold, NO GOOD THING will the Lord your Father withhold from you who walk in obedience to God's Word!

29 April, 2017

What Reward Are You Expecting?

In this entry, I'm not even going to approach dealing with those who are not saved, or "in the world." I want to talk to those who are in the church. Those who claim to be Born Again, Spirit-led believers. I want to be clear that I'm not asking how loud do you shout, how passionate you pray or any other outward sign that we would normally look at and say, "Wow... he/she is a good Christian." The truth of the matter is that none of that matters if your daily walk does not line up with the Word of God. Now, normally, when we say that, most people think, "I don't drink, sleep around or smoke pot." I contend that most Christians have put on blinders, just as the Pharisees did in Biblical times, and they see themselves as super-saints when in reality, their lives are a poor expression of Christ. These are the people Jesus spoke of when he spoke of being lukewarm. A lukewarm Christian has found a place of comfort and cannot be swayed from that comfort zone. They think they are impressing the Lord with their shout and church sanctuary religion... but I believe he says of them, "you make me sick to where I want to spew you out of my mouth." Here are the simple facts: nowhere in the Word of God does it mention that God is impressed by the shout, the dance or anything else we call worship. What He is impressed by is faith that causes us to walk out the word Monday through Saturday. Faith that causes us to be people of integrity, where our word and our work ethic testify of Christ. Faith that tells others outside of the church house of God's goodness in our lives and our actions, not our words show the difference that being a child of God makes... not because we don't do certain things, rather because we are faithful, consistent and trustworthy. Lives that are not on a continual rollercoaster emotionally. Lives that don't need to see another miracle to enable us to continue to believe, but we believe because the Word of God says so.

No... God is not impressed with the flash in the pan person who shouts and jumps in the church house... he is impressed with the one who lives their life with the full understanding that everything they do and say testifies more fully of what they really believe.

Whatever you do, do it wholeheartedly as though you were working for your real master and not merely for humans. You know that your real master will give you an inheritance as your reward. It is Christ, your real master, whom you are serving.
Colossians 3:23-24

Do You Know Where Your Children Are?

Years ago there used to be a public service announcement that came across the TV screens every night at 10:00.  It said, "It's 10:00 PM... Do you know where your children are?"  The message was a reminder that parents had a responsibility to look after and care for their children.  It was telling parents that the hour was late and they should be making sure that their children were safe in their homes or wherever they were supposed to be, and not in danger or in a place where they could get in trouble. Back in those days, America believed in responsibility and accountability; something that has long since disappeared from our society.  

I was thinking about that message from my youth and what it was saying to both parents and children, and that thought got me to thinking about the same message in a spiritual sense. The same spirit of "not my responsibility" and self-centeredness has crept into the church. Parents have often said to me, "I can't make my child go to church if they don't want to." Then they wonder why they don't want to go to church as adults. My own children will be 27 and 24 years of age soon and I still call and/or text to check on them, talk to them about what is going on in their lives, both in the natural as well as the spiritual realm. They may be out of the nest but they are not out of my care. And the bottom line is, I want to see them in Heaven. I think about that. I pray about that, and I stay involved in their lives because it is important to me. I see that the hour is late and the midnight hour is fast approaching and I want to know that my children are where they need to be, safe and secure. It may sound self-serving to say this, but I really question how many parents think along these lines. When they see their children going down the wrong path, do they say anything to their kids? I have to honestly say that I see many parents who know their kids are on the path to destruction and Hell, they sheepishly say, "all I can do is pray."  That is a lie from the pits of Hell itself! I promise you that if they knew an intruder was waiting inside their children's home to kill them, they'd be standing outside that home doing everything within their power to keep that child from entering that home. They would not sit at home and pray, but they'd physically intervene. If their child thought them crazy or became angry and cynical of their intervention and tried to enter that house, they'd persist and fight them if necessary rather than say, "well, I prayed." This is real. This is not a fairy tale and the fact is, it's not 10:00 PM, it's 11:50 on the spiritual clock and there are souls hanging in the balance!

Do you know where your children are?

21 April, 2017

I'm Learning

OK, I've been preaching since 1981, pastored my first church in 1986 (interim pastor) and been a full-time pastor since 1991... so you'd think that by now I'd have this thing figured out. Hardly. The more I learn the more I discover how much I don't know. To be honest, pastoring in 2017 is nothing like it was in 1993. The world has changed. People have changed. With the increase of technology and especially the Internet, pastoring took an abrupt change of direction. Things I did back then are almost non-existent today. In 1994 when I got my first cell phone, none of us had a clue where that technology was taking us. Who would have dreamed that one day we'd set our cell phone up in the sanctuary and live stream our services around the world in real time and be able to communicate with people watching in Pakistan and the Philippines instantly? Or that a small church in a town of 800 people would literally touch people around the world? It's crazy mindboggling... and it is changing us even more rapidly. The frustrating thing that I'm learning is that with these changes which enable us to reach people around the world (as well as those who are shut in locally and cannot make it to church) come more excuses for people to stay home from the physical church and disconnect. As we live stream and record the services to be viewed later, already people are learning that the can stay home, sleep in on Sunday morning and watch the service at their leisure from the comfort of their home. Attendance drops, as does giving to the church and I'm learning that even though the church is reaching hundreds of viewers and listeners to our podcast, the church is having to make cutbacks in order to survive. One of the things I'm learning in 2017 is that fewer and fewer people are committed to the church and to supporting the work of the church financially. I wonder sometimes if they think that God just supernaturally puts money in our bank account to pay the utilities, mortgage, and insurance? I guess what I'm really learning is that people no longer really care about their church like they used to. It seems like as long as their needs are met, that is all that matters and if once church shutters its windows and closes the doors... there will always be another. I'm learning that pastoring in 2017 is a whole new challege. I have to wonder what tomorrow hold?

14 April, 2017

The Power of Simplicity

Have you ever thought about how many times we climb a mountain when all we need to do is walk through the tunnel? I'm talking about times when rather than simply saying or doing what needs to be done, we make a major production out of something that could be handled quite simply. I recently listened to a politician give a speech on television, and after he had spoken for nearly 30 minutes, a friend asked me what he had said. I was able to say everything the man said in two short sentences. We laughed about it, but I have been thinking about that ever since that moment. Why do we tend to make things so difficult? Why can't we just say it, or do it, and be done with it?

I was thinking about how this applies to us as Christians and how we tell others about our faith in Christ. We often try to "scale the mountain" with our words or testimony, when the person we are speaking to is ripe and ready to hear a right now Word from God.
A lot of folks think that unless you say a lot, talk a long time, you have not been effective. But can I tell you that there is power in just a few words?

I'm reminded of a time when I was young when there was a large number of accidents at train crossings. The Grand Trunk Railroad was quite concerned and they ran a nationwide contest searching for a slogan that would make people more aware of the dangers of these railroad crossings. The winner was to receive $2500. (Which was a lot of money back then!) Thousands and thousands of entries poured in... but the winning slogan was three short words... "STOP... LOOK... LISTEN." Those three words became known to everyone and undoubtedly saved hundreds, maybe even thousands of lives.
Great studies had been completed, positional papers were written, and meetings held across the nation to try to solve this problem at railroad crossings.... but three words changed the entire situation all across the nation. There is power in simplicity.

I've been thinking about this for some weeks now, and I realize that way too often, when people call me about their problems, their current crisis or whatever, I often go into long discussions as we try to get to the bottom of the issue and how to resolve it; when the answer is found in three short words found in Hebrews 12:2 "Looking unto Jesus." What else really needs to be said?
The reality is that so often we need to quit talking, quit fretting and worrying, and we need to take it to Jesus, "the author and finisher of our faith"!  There is power in simplicity!

Sitting here typing this, I am reminded of my teen years when I sang in a church youth choir. There was an old song that a man in my church had written a new arrangement to that had a recitation in it. The recitation began:
"The love of God; four short words, but how inclusive."
The words to the song said:
The love of God is greater far
Than tongue or pen can ever tell;
It goes beyond the highest star,
And reaches to the lowest hell;
The guilty pair bowed down with care,
God gave His Son to win;
His erring child He reconciled,
And pardoned from his sin.
Oh, love of God, how rich and pure!
How measureless and strong!
It shall forevermore endure—
The saints’ and angels’ song.

You know, sometimes rather than scaling the mountain to tell someone about the ramifications of sin...
Rather than launching into a theological discourse about salvation...
Maybe we just need to tell them about the wonderful love of God.
There is power in simplicity!