Wednesday, June 20, 2018

"WHAT'S HAPPENING WITH MY DAD?" TRUE APOLOGETICS

                      Does your life present a case for Christ?

This past weekend, I had the privilege of seeing Lee Strobel speak at the Gridiron Men's conference, in Birmingham Alabama. Those  familiar with Lee Strobel,  know he is arguably the premier apologist of our time.  He is author of the groundbreaking book
The Case for Christ and subject of the movie by the same name.  


     An apologist, for those not familiar with the term, is someone who can present evidence for faith in Jesus Christ and the science of presenting this evidence is called apologetics. 

   Being very familiar with Mr. Strobel's story, having read his book and seen the movie about his transformation from atheist to child of God, much of what he shared was also very familiar to me.  However, one story Mr. Strobel shared truly impacted me and I knew I would be writing about it when I got home.  

     Prior to coming to faith in Christ, Lee Strobel was a man who struggled with alcohol abuse and given to violent episodes. Mr. Strobel recounted one incident where, in a booze fueled rage, while arguing with his wife, he kicked a hole in the wall.  Strobel's violent behavior negatively impacted his young daughter.

    Strobel shared how his toddler aged daughter, happily playing in the living room, would gather her toys, retreat to her bedroom and close the door when daddy arrived home.  Mr. Strobel admitted his violent behavior precipitated this behavior from his daughter.  

     If you are familiar with Lee Strobel and his story, you know he embarked on a two year journey in search of truth and was confronted with a far different set of facts than he expected. Faced with irrefutable evidence concerning the resurrection of Christ, Strobel surrendered his life to the Father, through the Son.  Lee Strobel's life began to change as did his behavior at home.

    Lee Strobel's daughter watched the transformation taking place in his life and began to wonder, "what's happening with my dad?"  One day, at the age of five, Strobel's daughter told her daddy, "I want what you have."  This precious child, who hid in fear of her alcohol fueled, raging father, watched the transforming power of Jesus Christ and knew she needed that power in her life.

    Here is what I took away from this story: Remember, Lee Strobel had all the evidence necessary to make the case for Christ.  Strobel had years of research and historical documentation.  None of that was relevant to his five year old little girl.  What mattered to her was the change taking place in her father's life and behavior.  

     Today, Alison Strobel is grown and actively serving Christ. Not because he father presented her irrefutable information about the savior but because her father allowed the savior to manifest Himself in his life.  Lee Strobel's changed life was a far more convincing apologetic to his daughter than the book he would later write.      

      More than your than your words, believer, your actions will tell others what you believe.  If someone watched your life, would they be able to make a case for Christ?  Can those who live with you make a case for Christ based on your behavior?  Would there be enough eyewitness testimony to convict you of being a follower of Christ? 

   Jesus, Himself, told us: Matthew 5:16 - In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.

   As much as I hate cliche's, here is a cliche' that holds much truth - no one will care what you know until they know you care. Lee Strobel backed up his faith with action by pursuing holiness in his personal life.  The hard truth is, there are many learned Bible scholars whose lives do not reflect their claim to faith, rendering all their great learning meaningless.  In Jesus' day, these were called Pharisees.  Jesus used strong words of condemnation for Pharisees.

  If you have not read The Case for Christ or seen the movie, I encourage you to do both.  Even more importantly,  I encourage you, pursue truth like Lee Strobel, and, just as necessary, pursue holiness like Lee Strobel so others may encounter your faith in word and deed.  Let your life be the case for Christ.

Now, go live as Christ... and give the devil hell!

Thursday, June 14, 2018

CELEBRITY SUICIDES EXPOSE A HIDDEN EPIDEMIC


   In the last few weeks, two more celebrity suicides dominated news headlines,  leaving many average non-celebrities to ponder, "what more could these people want from life?"  From the outside looking in, fame is the golden ticket of life.  With fame comes adoration of friends and strangers alike and enough resources to indulge almost every craving and desire.
In a materialistic culture, what else could anyone possibly want or need?  

      When one realizes suicide is the number 10 leading cause of death in America and many in the celebrity world succumb to or attempt suicide each year, one conclusion screams out: adoration and accumulation of possessions are not a pathway to peace and purpose.     

   In the subsequent days to the tragic and unexpected deaths of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain, calls to suicide hotlines increased 25%. This may be a cause for alarm or a sign of hope, depending on what is driving this number.  Alarm if this increased 25% is a result of suicide contagion and hope if the increased 25% is the result of increased awareness and willingness to seek help rather than suffering alone.

     While certain demographics seem more susceptible to suicide, no sector of society remains untouched.  Rich, poor, religious, godless, married, single, young and old - despair and hopelessness is no respecter of persons.  Over 100  hurting souls commit suicide every day. In 2016 over 44,000 Americans took their own lives and the suicide rate continues to climb. Most people do not gives much thought to suicide until someone famous falls victim to the darkness. 

     The list of musicians and actors who succumb to the siren call grows each year, nevertheless, the news is never less shocking.  From Curt Cobain to   Robin Williams, from Wendy O. Williams to Chris Cornell, high profile suicides always leave the public wondering what went wrong.

Suicide is the hidden epidemic:

       Society is more medicated and connected (via social media) than any time in history, while suicide rates continue to climb.  Depression awareness, anti-bullying programs and other tactics meant to stave off the flood of self destruction seem to be making very little progress, in fact, we may just find encouraging people to embrace impulse is counterproductive.  Never before has transgenderism, for example, been more encouraged and accepted, yet the suicide rate among the transgender community continues to rise.  

      What is the answer?  Ultimately, the answer is always God, but to abdicate our responsibility to love one another to God's sovereignty is gross negligence of the highest order.  Despite our best efforts to walk with others through the Valley of the Shadow of Death, people we love may surrender to the despair and end their lives, this, however, does not relieve us of the responsibility to love others as God commands us.  

     Rather than throwing medicine at symptoms, maybe we could do a better job of dealing with the root causes of depression and hopelessness where medicine becomes a temporary bridge to true healing, not a life sentence to chemical dependency.  Pharmaceutical companies have convinced the medical world pills are the answer to everything and have convinced the public to believe if I feel ok, I am ok.  What happens when the medicine stops working or side effects cause other problems?  More medicine?

     The truth of the matter is, lives are transformed, healed, and set free by the power of Jesus Christ.  If you are struggling, if you feel hopeless, if you feel as if you have passed a point of no return, these are lies told to you by the hater of your soul, Satan.  

     Suicide is a senseless tragedy that seems the only logical choice committed by those who feel helpless and without any other path.  Those left behind, in turn feel helpless and begin the self blame game, what could I have done better?  

     Because high profile suicides get us thinking about an issue we would rather ignore, I would like to encourage you to take stock of those around you.  Be aware of those who are hurting, those whose mouths say "I'm fine," while their eyes tell a far different tale.  Maybe, just finding someone who cares would be enough in some cases.  

    If you are struggling with suicidal thoughts, you are not alone and you are not without hope, though it may feel that way.  Reach out for help, ask God to direct you to the right person.  If nothing else, contact the Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255.  You may be amazed at how many others have been on the path you are on currently and have overcome the darkness.

     Awareness is key.  Be aware of those who are hurting around you, take the time to really listen, maybe turn off the TV and reach out to someone who needs a friend.  Get out of your comfort zone be involved in someone's life. We cannot expect to do the same things over and over and expect a different outcome .  If the problem is increasing, our strategy must change.

     Love others toward the cross.  You cannot make someone change and you may not, ultimately, prevent them from harming themselves, but you can point them in the one direction with the most hope and possibility.  Jesus Christ offers hope and the power of the Spirit cannot be denied.  

    I Corinthians 1:18 - The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved, it is the power of God

   Faith based programs have proven to be far more effective than non-faith based or government programs because the power of God's Spirit to transform lives. 

    If you are struggling with thoughts of self harm, if you are in a dark place and feel there is no escape, if you feel isolated and alone, please reach out, please do not suffer alone and please know nothing you are experiencing is unique to you. 

    Believer in Christ, be aware of the suffering and hurting people around you.  You may be the only lifeline to God they have.  Offer the hope you have in Christ, be the bridge to someone's soul, care enough to make an effort.  Love as you have been commanded.

Now, go live as Christ... and give the devil hell!      

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

SAINT, SINNER OR A LITTLE OF BOTH?

   
    Are you a saint?  Are you a sinner? Are you possibly both?

     When you refer to someone as a saint, there is a presumption of a higher level of goodness or holiness.  Sainthood infers a greater depth of godliness or piety.      

  How does one become a saint?  According to some, you must live an exemplary life, die in good standing with God, have a couple of miracles attributed to you after you die, and oh yeah, your dead body has to, some how, not rot.  Pretty simple, right?

       To confuse matters even more, the opening line to the Epistle to the Ephesians states: Ephesians 1:1 - Paul, an Apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, to the saints which are at Ephesus...  Is Paul writing a letter to a bunch of dead people?  Not likely, so, who are saints, really?  

     I am a saint.  If you trust in the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation, you also are a saint.  Nowhere does scripture give any formula for sainthood.  Faith in Christ, and nothing else, makes one a saint.

     You may be thinking, "I ain't no saint, I'm a sinner."  Well, I am a sinner too, but... I am also a saint.  Nope, you can't have it both ways, you may be thinking.  Mick Jagger told us "Just as every cop is a criminal and all the sinners saints..." and, just like the Father of Lies he was singing about, go it twisted. Every sinner is not a saint, but, indeed, every saint is a sinner!

       When you place your faith in the Messiah, God declares you holy, set apart and sanctified, transferring the righteousness of Jesus to you. So, is a person sanctified and made holy, at the point of salvation, or is sanctification a lifetime process of growing in Christ?  The answer is YES!

I Corinthians 6:11 - and that is what some of you were.  But you have been washed, you have been sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

Philippians 2:12-13 - Therefore my dear friends, as you have always obeyed... continue to work our your salvation with fear and trembling because it is God who works in you to will and to act according to His good practice

  Positionally, you are a saint if you are a believer.  Behaviorally, you may have a lot of work to do.  At Salvation, you are declared holy and heaven ready, but it takes submission to the influence of God's Holy Spirit for your behavior to match your status.

       Just as Jesus was both man and God, we are both saint and sinner.  Jesus is inherently God and became a man, we are inherently sinners and become saints.  This is why scripture tells us we must lose our life in order to find it. Jesus retained His inherent nature and was governed by it, so, even as a man, He remained sinless.  We retain our inherent nature and are governed by it and so as saints, we continue to sin - albeit, less and less, hopefully.

      Does this excuse our sin?  By no means!  Understanding who we inherently are and what we have been declared to be should make us more aware of the need to live according to our new status as saints.  Through the power of the Holy Spirit indwelling us, we have the power to overcome sin and live victoriously.  

I Corinthians 10:3 - no temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful and He will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation, He will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.
Inherently, we are prone to sin, in Christ, we are not doomed to remain in sin.  

    Within sainthood, we are being sanctified and made holy, being set aside for the purpose to which God has called us.  Through sanctification, God grants us the ability to overcome sin and choose the better and less traveled path.  Will you be the saint God declares you to be or continue to make excuses for sin that Jesus paid for with His blood?  Choose this day whom you will serve, saint. Are you a saint, a sinner or both?  

Now, go live as Christ... and give the devil hell!      

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

ARE YOU ROTTING AWAY IN THE COMFORT ZONE

               
    You are traveling in a mundane dimension.  A dimension of familiar sights, sounds and like minds.  A journey into a colorless land whose boundaries require no imagination. Your next stop, The Comfort Zone. 

     The Comfort Zone may be one of most unsatisfying places in the world.  What happens in The Comfort Zone?  NOTHING!
  No adventure, no excitement, no anticipation... no meaning. Just routine.  

     Not much spiritual growth takes place in The Comfort Zone, in fact, spiritual growth is stunted and hindered.  The Comfort Zone is a premature destination that ruins a wondrous journey God has mapped out for you.

      Actively serving God is an adventure.  Everyone loves Indiana Jones.  Had Indiana Jones remained in the classroom merely talking about searching for hidden treasure, no one would even know who he was.  Indiana Jones left the confines of safety and comfort to pursue his passion and literally saved the world from Nazis.  Yes, I know Indiana Jones is not a real guy, but the concept is true for all of us, we can sit in the pew and learn about what it means to serve God or we can get out and actually serve.  

     What good is learning if the learning is never applied?  What credibility as a teacher of the Word do I have if I only instruct others how to serve God and never actually get off my hind end and do it? 


     A few years ago, I was dragged, kicking and screaming from my comfort zone. I had carved a nice little den for myself where I felt insulated and secure.  I served God within the confines of established Christianity and just told myself, over and over, "my ministry is to equip the saints for works of service."

    Easy, just give me a classroom or a living room and a couple of people wanting to learn the Bible and I was good to go!  I was rotting away, marking time, waiting for... I don't even know.  I never realized why I never progressed past a certain level of spiritual growth. 

     I stopped growing because I stopped allowing God to stretch me.  I insulated myself inside my little Christian bubble.  

    If you are feeling frustrated with your Christian growth, you are probably rotting away in your comfort zone, also known as the serving free zone.

     Not everyone is called to be an evangelist in the strictest sense of the word. Not everyone is equipped to strike up meaningful, life changing conversations in a grocery line or a doctor's waiting room.  The ability to do that is a special gift from God.  Everyone is, however, called to outreach to the lost in some form or fashion.  

    If no aspect of your life, even indirectly, supports outreach to the lost, you are missing out on a major component of the Christian faith.  Chances are, you will never reach your full potential as a servant of Christ.  

     Just as every army has front line soldiers, every army has a vast support staff which is vital to the mission.  I am blessed to be part of a ministry actively serving the homeless.  Within this ministry, in addition to those who come out to the streets, we have a vast support of prayer warriors, those called to provide supplies and financial support, and those who spread the word about what we are doing.  Each component is essential to the execution of the mission.

    If you are dissatisfied, it is because you are rotting away in your comfort zone and not fulfilling your God ordained destiny.  The command to "go and make disciples" did not end with the last martyred Apostle. 

     If you are not actively serving God according to your designed purpose, you are trapped in The Comfort Zone, missing out on true satisfaction, joy and peace.  

     God has blessed you with a unique personality and abilities that are essential components to the Great Commission.  By rotting away in The Comfort Zone, you are not only robbing yourself of blessings, you are robbing those whom you were designed to serve and serve with.

    James 1:22 - Be ye doers of the word and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.
     
    We are designed by God to serve, to do , to function as a unit. This cannot happen in The Comfort Zone. Get up and go!

Now, go live as Christ... and give the devil hell!!

     

Thursday, May 24, 2018

CHILDREN OF THE LIGHT BUT DRAWN TO THE DARK?

       

      "Hello Darkness my old friend, I've come to talk to you again..." - Paul Simon

       What happens, when God's children, children of the light, are drawn to the darkness?  How can this even be?


     As one who has wrapped himself in darkness as a cloak, I understand how something which promises comfort quickly becomes a straight jacket.  Satan's design is to isolate us from the pack and leave us vulnerable.  Satan has lost your soul, believer, so he desires to destroy you and your calling. 


      Every so often, I get the feeling of being disconnected from God. Discouragement leads to withdrawal, withdrawal leads to isolation and isolation leads to vulnerability to the lies of the enemy.  There were times I would go months with little or no social interaction.  

     I recall, being in the midst of active ministry, relating to Christopher Walken's character in the film Prophecy when he, an angel, lamented, "He doesn't talk to me anymore"  The thing about feeling disconnected and isolated is God never moved, God never hid Himself, and God never stopped speaking, I stopped listening, trading the light of God for the darkness of self.  

      Like Adam, fruitlessly hiding in the Garden, I thought I could avoid God's attention.  According to Genesis, God was in the habit of visiting Adam in the Garden of Eden.  Adam, ashamed of his sin, attempted to hide himself from God.  Notice, God was right where He always had been, it was Adam who moved, it was Adam who hid.

      In dark times, I enjoyed feeling sorry for myself and embraced my own shadow.  My life seemed to cycle through spiritual ups and downs, where I would have amazing moments with God and slowly slip back into a spiritual slump.  

    If this sounds familiar to you, know that you are not a hopeless cause or too far gone for God to draw you back.  Though the darkness beckons and draws you promising refuge, the refuge becomes a prison.  God offers freedom from the darkness.

       One of Satan's great lies is discouragement.  Even the superstars of scripture were susceptible to discouragement.  King David, arguably the most victorious king, suffered bouts of discouragement and darkness. Major prophets like Jeremiah and Elijah did as well.  Jeremiah even wrote a book called Lamentations!  Go read Solomon's opus, Ecclesiastes and you will realize no one is immune. 

      What is the remedy?  There is no magic pill that will instantly transport you out of the darkness.  Steadfastness, prayer and honest fellowship are necessary factors to breaking free.  Recognizing, as the Christ centered metal band Place of Skulls puts it: The Black Is Never Far, helps you avoid the trap.  

     Darkness has always, and still calls to me and has been a false place of comfort and refuge, even as it hindered my ability to lead my family in the ways of righteousness. 

     As long as my eyes were on me and my circumstances, as long as my heart was set on my desires, I cycled through one spiritual roller coaster after another.  

    God knows the darkness lurking in the hearts of men.  God understands the enemy, Satan, comes to kill, steal and destroy.  Satan who disguises himself as an angel of light, offering us darkness packaged as light and freedom. Satan's bogus gift to us is hopelessness and despair

        Scripture tells us, 1 John 1:7 - But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.

     God calls us to walk in the light because He knows our penchant for the dark.  In the dark is isolation, fear and confusion.  This is the perfect place for the mortal enemy of our soul to lead us in order to destroy us.  This is why the Apostle Paul asked the Corinthian church, "what fellowship has light with darkness?"  

     Scripture tells us: 1 John 1:5 - God is light and in Him there is no darkness at all.  In God, through Christ, we can escape the darkness and drive it out. Fellowship with other believers, serving with purpose according to your design ( for more about that CLICK HERE ) and keeping your eyes focused on God will not only help you avoid the siren song of darkness but help lead you out of the suffocating blackness, as well.

     Satan is the father of lies and the peddler of darkness.  If you hear the deceptive call of darkness, as I do, you know how appealing it can be, if you embrace the offer of comfort in isolation, as I have, you know what kind of debilitating prison the darkness can become.  Scripture tells us, if we submit to God and resist the devil, he will flee from us.  

    The light of God can and will, not only chase away darkness, but extinguish it as well.  Jesus calls us to an abundant life.  Just as important as repentance, acceptance of God's love and forgiveness are fundamentally key to freedom.  God loves you, nothing you have done or has been done to you, can separate you from the love of God.   Accept God's love and forgiveness, know that when your heart condemns you, God is greater than your heart and Jesus died for and cleansed you from all condemnation, according to Romans 8:1.  

Yes, for some, the black is never far, and darkness does call like an old friend, only to envelope those who heed the call in the deafening sounds of silence, but we are victorious in Christ and His light can and will extinguish the darkness.  Embrace the light and watch the darkness fade away.

Now, go live as Christ... and give the devil hell!

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

SERVING GOD ACCORDING TO YOUR DESIGN

          Ok, so now, you are a born again believer, what's next?  Why, conforming to the standards of your local congregation, silly.  You will be instructed on all the important things pertaining to your new, or renewed Christian faith. You will learn, for instance, what style of clothing is acceptable, what type music is approved, the proper hairstyles and all the places and people types you should avoid.  If you work very hard, you too can become a perfect clone, protected from all the evils of the outside world.  In fact, if you follow all the rules and make all the necessary changes, you and your whole family can become totally insulated from all contact and tainting of unbelievers - isn't that exciting?

Cue the loud sound of screeching brakes..

       When Jesus walked the sands of Israel, this type of religious hypocrisy was the norm and 2000 years later not much has changed.  Jesus was accused of being a glutton, a drunkard and a friend of sinners.  How does a perfect and righteous man get labeled with such ignanamous titles?  Obviously, Jesus was none of those things (ok, maybe He was a friend of sinners, but only to tell them "go and sin no more") yet, something about the way He lived His life caused the religious crowd to disparage Him.  

     Jesus refused to conform to political correctness, nor did He allow the traditions of man to influence His lifestyle and ministry.  Jesus was God, clearly.  Not only does the Gospel of John demonstrate this in the very first chapter, but the Old Testament reveals the Messiah would be God CLICK HERE to read my post Yehovah Yeshua.  In addition to being God, Jesus was a man who experienced life like all men do, He had a personality and style influenced by His life experiences.  

DO NOT ALLOW THE WHIMS OF MEN INTERFERE WITH YOUR GROWTH

     Guess what, you too have a personality and style influenced by your life experience.  The life you have lived has helped shape who you are today.  Tough things you have gone through and difficult situations you have faced, along with victories and high points have all played a role in the person you are.  God looks at the person you are and He loves you.  You have a unique style and way of viewing life formed by your experiences.  God has allowed you to become who you are and will use you within your uniqueness.  

    This is not to say God excuses sin or harmful behavior.  Those things must change as we grow in our faith.  God wants to change your heart and lead you to obedience while allowing you to minister according to your personality.  As you grow and pursue the righteousness of Christ, you will change inwardly.  The trap you must avoid is allowing the rules of men to interfere with the work God is doing in you.  

    For most of my adult life, I have looked and dressed in a certain manner.  For 3 of the last 5 years, I attempted to conform to a certain image.  I "cleaned up" my appearance and dressed more "professionally" and felt like a fish out of water.  I literally wanted to punch every mirror.  Finally, about 2 years ago, I came to a place where I could hear God's voice tell me, "be who you are."  By being true to who God has allowed me to become, I am able to serve Him according to my design.  Do I still need to grow and allow God to prune sin out of my life?  You bet.  The sanctification process goes on until we die.  

      So many times well meaning believers want to impose rules, not found in scripture, to help you in your spiritual growth.  Maybe God does want to change many things about you, but that is a willing partnership between you and God.  True spiritual change takes place within and manifests outwardly. This is natural or organic change.  Again, this does not apply to obvious sin or destructive behavior.  We are beholden to point these out to one another as part of healthy accountability.  

IS WHATEVER I DO NOT LIKE SIN? 

     I have to be careful not to allow my preferences to define sin.  I personally do not care for Rap music. Rap, in and of itself is not evil, just as Metal in and of itself is not evil.  I have met believers who will adamantly declare drum beats are inherently evil.  I have met believers who adamantly declare men wearing earrings is sin.  If the Bible is the final authority and the Bible never once condemns drum beats and the Bible actually commands the piercing of men's ears under certain circumstances, drumbeats and earrings for men become a preference thing, not a sin thing.  How about nose rings, pretty edgy in certain circles, right?  Rebekah the mother of Jacob, had a nose ring...

BE WHO YOU ARE WITHIN THE FRAME WORK OF LOVING GOD WITH ALL YOU ARE

     Often, society attempts to define sin by norms and mores, which leads to the same self righteous hypocrisy Jesus encountered within the so called religious community of His time.  The danger in this is we know how to make the outside appear clean without ever having to deal with the inner sin.  Your hairstyle manner of dress or taste in music genre does not define your spiritual maturity, your devotion to God and your pursuit of holiness defines your spiritual maturity.  God has made you unique for a unique purpose.  Be who God has allowed you to be within the framework of loving Him and loving others with all your being.  Serve God according to your design.

Now, go live as Christ... and give the devil hell!

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

MANIPULATING GODS FAVOR THROUGH GOOD BEHAVIOR - FAIL!

   
  If you have ever set off fireworks, you know how disappointing it is when you light a fuse only to watch a little wisp of smoke drift off and no bang.  It's a temporary let down when you realize you lit a dud.  Out of a box of 100 firecrackers, there is bound to be 3 or 4 duds.  Even though 97 exploded and brought satisfaction, those 3 that failed still let you down because you anticipated a certain outcome and nothing happened.  After all, you did your part by lighting the fuse so, obviously, the maker of the firecracker failed you because you got no bang.

GOD CANNOT BE STRONG ARMED

     Sometimes our spiritual life seems like that.  You do some good deed, or you faithfully go to church every week and you pray for a certain situation anticipating a certain outcome and... nothing but a wisp of smoke.  You think, I did everything right and still nothing happened, there must be something wrong with the maker...  Though you may be careful to never verbalize such words, they sometimes float around in your mind.  The problem is not with the Maker, the problem is with our perception and expectation.  We sometimes get to a level of self righteousness where we falsely believe God somehow owes us something for being good.  Or even worse, we perform solely for the purpose of demanding something from God.  God cannot be manipulated, strong armed nor fooled into giving us what we want.  

WE ARE NOT TRAINED CIRCUS ANIMALS 

      Many people fall away from faith because of faulty thinking.  Once you believe God owes you something or you have somehow earned God's favor through good behavior, you have failed Theology 101.  If your obedience to God is motivated by what you can get from God you have reduced yourself to the level of a trained seal clamoring for a fish or a poodle jumping through a hoop of fire for yummy dog treat.  We are not trained circus animals, we are children of the Living God, created in His image.  

OBEDIENCE OUT OF FEAR IS MISPLACED 

      Another trap to avoid is obedience out of fear.  This is not the "Fear of the Lord is beginning of wisdom" kind of fear, this is the, if I step out of line, God will whack me kind of fear.  This fear is an unhealthy fear that reduces God to an angry control freak who looks for opportunities to inflict pain and retribution on His wayward children.  The scriptures tell us God takes no pleasure in the destruction of the wicked.  If anyone deserved to get a whack it was Adam in the Garden of Eden.  Adam sinned and then tried to hide from God.  God did not yank him out of the bushes by his hair and beat him, instead God called out to him and covered his nakedness.  Yes, there was the whole curse thing, because there are consequences for bad behavior, but even in the midst of consequence, God demonstrated mercy, grace and love.  

GOD IS NEITHER A GENIE NOR AN OGRE

      God's nature is revealed to us in scripture.  He is neither a Genie we can call upon to grant us our wishes nor is He an ogre angrily awaiting our failure so He can gleefully inflict pain and suffering.  God is a loving father who desires fellowship with His children.  Yes, obedience leads to blessing, but on His terms and determination, not our whims.  Yes, disobedience leads to discipline, as scripture reminds us God disciplines the ones He loves, however, Godly discipline is designed to correct bad behavior and bring restoration.  

OBEDIENCE BECOMES  WHO WE ARE NOT WHAT WE DO

     When we begin to see God as He truly is, obedience becomes part of who we are, not merely something we do. If you love someone, you want to please them.  Therefore, if you love God... well you get the idea.  God desires a relationship that is more than you simply following a set of rules, God desires the pleasure of your company because He loves you. Jesus told us His yoke was easy and His burden light because the commands of God are designed for our own protection and benefit.  Our disobedience breaks fellowship, our repentance restores fellowship.  In the midst of all that, our position in Christ remains secure.     

       Do not be discouraged when God tells you no.  God is not beholden to your behavior or religious practice, He is beholden to His own sovereignty  and holiness.  When God says no, it is for your good.  Rejoice in the knowledge He loves you enough to tell you no. 

 Now, go live as Christ... and give the devil hell!

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

THE MOON MAKES A MONKEY OUT OF EVOLUTIONISTS

     
  I am often amazed by the design and symmetry of creation!  The earth, moon, and sun, all working together with the precision of a Swiss clock.  Last year, I was fortunate enough to witness a total eclipse of the sun.  (didn't even need to fly to Nova Scotia)  Millions of Americans were able to witness this extremely rare event.  Did you ever stop to think - how is it the moon is a perfect fit for the sun during an eclipse?  If you have ever seen a total solar eclipse, the moon appears the same size as the sun and  covers the sun without any overhang from either celestial body.


    The moon happens to be 1/400 the size of the sun.  The moon also happens to be 1/400 the distance from earth as the sun.  So how did this amazing phenomenon take place?  The two prevailing ideas from science are the Capture theory and the Giant Impact Hypothesis.  The Capture Theory postulates the moon was flying through space, minding it's own business, when suddenly, Earth captured it in it's gravity.  How exciting, and fortunate, that a celestial body sooo beneficial to earth (governs tides, believed to govern seasons by holding Earth in it's axis), arguably necessary for life to exist on Earth, just happened to get captured.  It's almost like the Earth knew!  

     The Giant Impact Hypothesis states our planet was impacted by something about the size of Mars and the impact was so great the moon popped out of the earth and flew into space.  This is what scientists currently believe!  So, in a effort explain the existence of the moon without the Creator, science has postulated the earth gave birth to the moon after colliding with another planet.  

Psalm 191:1 - The heavens declare the glory of God, The skies proclaim the work of His hands. Day after day, they pour out speech, and night after night, they reveal knowledge

     Precision and design is why the moon makes monkeys out of evolutionists.  Evolutionists would have us believe that an object 1/400 the size of the sun, accidently popped out of the earth and shot out into space until it reached 1/400 the distance to the sun and locked into orbit.  Scientists would also have us to believe this cataclysmic accident was necessary or life to have evolved on Earth.  

     The Bible tells us, in Genesis, God created the moon on the 4th day of creation.  God gave us the moon as a lesser light to govern the night and to mark times and seasons. The intricate details in the relation of the earth, sun and moon suggest intent which demands a creator.  Aside from the 1/400 thing noted earlier, there is an even more astounding mathematical fact: the circumference of the sun is equal to the circumference of the earth multiplied by the circumference of the moon.   Once again, a mathematical wonder that defies chance.

     When studying the universe, the imprint of design and intention is undeniable.  This is only one of millions of examples of symmetry and detail that cannot be denied.  The Bible tells us, "the fool says in his heart, 'there is no God'."  and only a fool could study the universe and not see the clear imprint of design.  Where there is design, there must be a designer.

     The next time you see a full moon -  keep in mind the care and detail that went into designing a world for you to not only live in but to have fellowship with the creator.  Do not allow the foolishness of man's attempts to ignore God make a monkey out of you!

Now, go live as Christ ... and give the devil hell!

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

IS THERE A TOBIAH IN YOUR HEART?

 
    Do you have a Tobiah taking up residence in your heart?  Well, you'd better get him out!!  Just what is a Tobiah and how would he get in someone's heart and more importantly, how can you get him out?  Well, we learn about Tobiah in the book of Nehemiah, in the Old Testament. Nehemiah was rebuilding the city of Jerusalem and Tobiah was a bad guy bent on destroying the work of God.  As long as Nehemiah was around, Tobiah was powerless, once Nehemiah left, Tobiah made his move and literally moved into the holy Temple. 

           Tobiah personifies sin. Sin allowed to manifest in our lives will have repercussions beyond ourselves.  Like throwing a pebble in a pond, the ripples move out and affect everything on the surface, long after the pebble has settled to the bottom of the pond.  Who sinned in the case of Tobiah moving into the Temple?  The priest in charge of the Temple sinned by allowing Tobiah to take up residence.  Likewise, as Christ's followers, our bodies are Temples of God.  When we harbor sin, even secret sin, as the high priest harbored Tobiah, the repercussions to those around us can be devastating.

The Priest over the Temple emptied the store room, which was set aside for a holy purpose, and in so doing, unemployed all the guys whose job it was to maintain the store room and distribute it's contents.  With no purpose, these guys left and went back to farming their own lands.  With no place to store contributions, the people stopped giving to the work of the Temple, sending the priests out to find work elsewhere.  In essence, Tobiah, single handedly, stopped the function of the Temple and destroyed the ministry of untold men, simply by his presence!

The enemy comes to steal and destroy

     Sin takes resources.  Time, money, and energy are all resources we have in limited supply.  Minimally, at least one of these is expended on our private, and not so private, sin.  If we waste one or all of these resources on sin, we are failing to use it for the purposes God intended.  Obviously, God does not want us to use our time, energy or money to disobey Him so there must be a proper way to expend time, energy and money.   In wasting our resources on sin, we rob God and we rob others around us who would have otherwise benefitted by our obedience.  

John 10:10 - "The enemy comes to kill steal and destroy, but I come that you may have life and have it more abundantly."

Your pet sin may seem small and inconsequential, but...

      Converting a storage room into living quarters may have seemed like a minor thing to the priest in charge of the Temple but the affect it had was disruptive and destructive, negatively impacting the lives of many, effectually halting the work of God.  Your little pet sin may seem small and inconsequential, but how many lives are being negatively impacted because your time, energy or money is being squandered on sin when it should be utilized as God designed.  

God loves you too much to leave you in your sin

       Jesus said, "I come that you may have life and have it more abundantly."  This means God has so much more for you than the temporary pleasure of sin.  God loves you, even in your sin, but He loves you too much to leave you in your sin.  If you are harboring a Tobiah in your heart, he is destroying your ability to serve God according to your design.  Humble yourself before God, ask for the power to expel Tobiah and experience the life God designed for you. Mark 8:36 - For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and lose his soul?"

Be restored to your true purpose

        When Tobiah was expelled from the Temple, the room was restored to it's original purpose and the ministry picked back up.  God wants to cleanse you of the impurity of sin, expelling it from your life and restoring you to your true purpose.  Are you willing to let Him?  Expel your Tobiah and watch God work!

Now, go live as Christ... and give the devil hell!

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

THE TRAGIC ISOLATION OF SPENCER CHAMBERLAIN

Formerly Christian band Under Oath
      What would you call an organizations whose members ostracize and condemn those who fall on hard times or struggle with addiction?  Tragically, I would call that organization the Church.  This past week, I read of yet another casualty of the one organization whose sole command is to love God and love others. Spencer Chamberlain, of the Christian metal band, Underoath, has renounced his faith, stating, "The most alone and isolated I've ever been in my life is when I considered myself a Christian, personally."  You see, Chamberlain got hooked on drugs and the "Christians" promoting his band were more concerned with his ability to continue performing than his spiritual crisis.  Instead of helping him work through his issues, the "believers" around Chamberlain encouraged him to hide his problems because, after all, the show must go on!

      Even more outrageous was the hate and vitriol Chamberlain received from the Christian community at large.  Chamberlain recounted how he was reviled and attacked during his very public bout with addiction.  Here is a revelation: Christians struggle with sin, just like everyone else, and  before you get all self righteous, would you be willing to share your Saturday night activities, Netflix watchlist or internet browsing history with your church leaders?  Jesus said it best, "He who is without sin, cast the first stone."  

        Of course, there is the debate as to whether or not Chamberlain, now a self proclaimed atheist, was ever actually a Christian.  The theology behind that question goes way deeper than a simple eternal security conversation. Laying theology aside for just a moment, my immediate concern here is how can we better serve those who struggle within the Body of Christ? 

        Chamberlain's story is not isolated nor rare.  I am routinely meeting people who have been shunned or alienated within the church because it is easier to trim the fat than to actually get involved in people's lives.  I have personally served in a church where the spiritually needy were shoved aside, or even out, while those who contributed were lauded and supported, even when they were of questionable character.  I myself experienced the same isolation, in that church, when my commitment to my family was criticized as interfering with my commitment to that church.  

      The Church must do better to serve those within who struggle.  We must consider each member a vital part of the Body of Christ and relate to their personal struggles and setbacks the same way we would tend to a broken or pained body part.  If we were as quick to sever body parts as we are to sever struggling parts of the Body of Christ, we would all be in various states of amputation and not functioning well at all.  Yes, there are times when a diseased body part must be removed, but always as a last resort and after all method's of treatment designed to save the part are exhausted.  It must be the same within the Body of Christ.  How easy is it to cut someone off when you do not consider them vital? What happens when you are the one struggling and deemed unnecessary because you are no longer contributing?  The Spencer Chamberlain's are vital and the church is now without his unique role. 

      Perspective is everything. Seeing one another as vital members of the same body will go a long way to helping us love the way we are commanded in scripture.  1 John is a great place to learn the type of sacrificial, others centered love God expects from His children.  Jesus said, "they will know you by your love for one another."  Let that sink in for a minute...  Where would Spencer Chamberlain be today if he experienced this kind of love from his so called brothers and sisters in Christ?  

    When you see your brother or sister struggling, remember Spencer Chamberlain, consider where his isolation led him.  Pray you would be part of the solution and not the problem.  See your struggling brother or sister as a vital part and think how you would want to be treated in a similar situation. Pray for Spencer Chamberlain that he may reconnect with a Savior whose people let him down.

Now, go live as Christ... and give the devil hell!