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Wednesday, December 19, 2012

A Word for 2013

As I write this, it is still mid-December. But with great anticipation I am looking forward to this New Year that quickly is approaching. I am expectant of great things for 2013.

I have looked at what the number thirteen (13) ‘seems to signify’ in the Bible.  Whether you buy into biblical numerology or not, it is quite obvious that there are Biblical patterns in the Word of God, as related to numbers. For example, the number seven (7) is often associated with God or spiritual perfection, the number forty (40) is used repeatedly in relation to trials or tests (Israel’s 40 years in the dessert, Christ’s 40 days in the wilderness, etc.)   So, just out of curiosity, I have looked at the number thirteen and found that it often seems to point to ‘rebellion’.  Will the year 2013 have any of the characteristics of the patterns found in the Bible for the number thirteen?  I honestly don’t know.

What I do know is that this generation is a very rebellious generation.  I do know that even in 2012 it seemed that the spirit of rebellion became much more prevalent in our nation. Now before I have you scared or depressed let me shift gears.  The numbers 10 and 3 are both known as signifying Divine perfection, fullness.  Perhaps the connecting of the two would reflect that? Who knows!

I'll stop short of making predictions for the coming year, and I'll simply tell you what is more important than figuring out the future.  Here it is: This is no time to let down on your faith!  This is the time to go after God with your whole heart!

The Word tells us that “perilous times will come”.  I believe we all know that they are here.  The Word tells us that there will be “a great falling away”.  I think we are witnessing it. The Word tells us that “evil men and seducers will wax worse and worse”. So true!

Yet while the world seemingly deteriorates all around us, while chaos becomes the norm, while rebellion is the expected lifestyle of our day, there is still going forth HIS message of HOPE.  We carry the Good News that a desperate word is so needing to hear! And for us, He is with us and has promised not to forsake us!

There is truth in the saying, “The light shines brightest, when things are the darkest.” So if things do continue to grow darker in our day, it only makes our living for Christ all the more precious in the world.

Don’t fear the coming days, the Lord has gone into them before us. Let us go into the days ahead with great expectations, knowing that great opportunities are being presented to us to reflect the brilliancy of Christ! And let us go into them in full pursuit of God and His righteousness. His promise is that He will supply all we need, if we will do this: seek Him first.

What does 2013 hold? Only God really knows, but whether it is darker yet than what we have experienced or whether we get a short reprieve, the end of days is upon us.  NOW is the time to give ALL to God, and today is the day of SALVATION!

2013 doesn't scare me.  The numerical pattern of 13 can’t make me fear. Here's a word for 2013, "My God is still in perfect control, He is still lighting the way with His Word, and He will empower us who are in Christ to light the way for the world in the days ahead!"

Friday, December 14, 2012

How Do You Ever Smile Again?

I saw a news story just days ago about a woman who lost her two kids and her parents in a fire a year ago at Christmas. I wondered, if you are that poor woman, how do you ever smile again?

I watched in horror today as the unthinkable news reached us that a gunman had killed 20 young children and 6 adults at an elementary school in Connecticut. Again I thought, if your child was taken so needlessly today, how do you ever smile again?

Each time, my heart broke in compassion for those that were in those situations. And each time as that question crossed my mind, "How do you smile again?" I heard the answer whispered in my ear. Jesus.

Only Jesus could ever bring a smile back to those broken, mourning faces. I see no other way to ever smile again. But Jesus can bring back the smile, because in Him those grief stricken, hurting parents can have the promise of seeing those babies again.

My prayers tonight are for the survivors. May Jesus somehow bring a real smile back to each face. This dark world has stolen it, and it may seem impossible to ever smile again... But in Christ there is hope beyond this dark world.

How do you ever smile again? Only by the grace of God, through Jesus Christ.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Christian Voters Guide

By now I’m sure that most of you have made a decision about who you will vote for in the upcoming election. I certainly hope that you plan to vote!  It is not just our right as Americans, but it is also the obligation of every citizen of the United States to take part in determining the direction of the country.

This country is clearly at a crossroads.  Everyone seems to recognize that, no matter which party you listen to, the future is up for grabs.  Our part in this, as Christians, is an important one. Jesus said we are the salt of the earth. He said we are the light of the world.

Of course we aren’t expected to expand the Kingdom of God in this nation, or the world, through political power. Jesus told his first disciples that His Kingdom was not of this world.  (We aren’t looking for a president who will set up heaven on Earth. We aren’t looking for the ‘pastor of the United States’. And we don’t need another Messiah.) However, we do have the ability, and I believe even the obligation, to expand the Kingdom of God into all areas of the nation and the world, as the command of Jesus was to go into ALL the world and preach the good news to all creation.

Sure, one day the kingdoms of this world will have become the Kingdom of our God. Sure, one day the government of this world will rest firmly upon the shoulders of Christ.  For now though, in the meantime while we wait for the coming of our savior, one thing is clear.  We cannot stop being the light!  It is the light of Christians in the world that holds back the darkness from overtaking every area of society.  Now is the time to shine brightest! We cannot stop being salt!  It is the salt of Christianity that preserves this world to the extent that it is preserved.  Be salty!

Jesus said it this way in one of his parables, “Occupy till I come.” Jamieson-Faucet-Brown Bible Commentary says the term occupy means to "negotiate," "do business," of the Kingdom with the resources entrusted. (emphasis added) We have been given many spiritual resources which we must use in the “occupying” of the kingdom, yet the liberty given us in this country to have a say in the direction of this nation is also a great resource given to us by God.

As light, we should expose the works of darkness (Eph 5:11).  As salt we must preserve righteousness, or as Jude 1:3 says it, “Earnestly contend for the faith once delivered to the saints.”  2 Thessalonians 2:7 tells us, “For the secret power of lawlessness is already at work; but the one who now holds it back will continue to do so till he is taken out of the way.” We, the church of Jesus Christ, by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, are the restraining force holding back complete iniquity in this world and in this nation!

That is why it is so important that we uphold the standards of God’s word, as best possible, in every way possible including the use of our vote. We MUST NOT compromise because of personal agendas. We can’t allow fear of the economy to drive us. (God will preserve us.) We can’t vote for a candidate simply because of our history of backing a certain party.  We can’t vote according to our conscience, because the conscience can become ‘seared with a hot iron’ and lead us astray. We can’t actually even vote our values, because our values are sometimes skewed by our flesh.

SO the only true voters guide for a Christian is the Word of God. We must cast our vote as closely as possible to what the Word of God declares. There is no excuse for us to do anything differently.  Trust God’s word in this. He will not lead us wrong.  Weigh your decision by the Word of God, then go vote!

God bless America!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Who are you?

Who are you?  Lots of titles are used to describe you and I daily.  Some of them we choose. Some are chosen by others.  Some of them are true, some are facetious, and some are completely unfair. Many things are said about us none the less.  So you and I may as well take the initiative and write our own description, because we are being talked about.

Here are some titles I would used to describe me. I’m a pastor. I’m a husband. I’m a father. I’m a son. I’m a brother. I’m a friend. I’m a servant. I’m a Republican. Most of all though, I’m a follower of Christ. 

Here are some other descriptive phrases I would use. I am caring. I am a listener. I am an encourager. I am passionate. I love to worship! I am unafraid to speak the truth. I am unashamed of who I am. I am transparent.

In thinking about how I would describe myself, I have noticed something. I can hardly think of anything bad to tell you about me.  That’s not because there aren’t any bad things about me, but because none of us want to portray ourselves in a negative light.

If I am honest though I realize that there are things that I only wish, I could say about me. Yet I cannot confidently say many of those things.  I want to say I’m handsome. (lol) I want to say I am a great dad. I want to say I am a wonderful husband. I want to say I am a very good preacher and pastor.  I wish I could say that I am a revolutionary leader or a powerful presence for the Kingdom of God.  But in reality, I have no right to say any of those things.

Those things are all determined by my life and how I live it.  They can only be said by others who observe me and know me.  Only my wife could truly tell you if I’m a wonderful husband. My daughters know whether I’m really a great dad or not. The church I pastor knows more than anyone else what kind of pastor, preacher, or leader I am. (By the way, I know I can improve in each of these areas.) It’s really not about how we might describe ourselves, the truth of who we are is determined by how we live our lives. 

While writing this, I asked my wife, Tracy, to describe to me who I am.  She had some good things to say, and some not so good things. Since I have already described myself as transparent I’ll share some of both with you.  Tracy said, “You are smart, loving, stubborn, caring.  Did I say stubborn?  You are a lover of God, overbearing, a worshipper, sometimes a procrastinator, slow to change, somewhat neglectful of health.” I stop there, not because she stopped but because I didn’t like the other labels she put on me.

The truth though, is how we live is a reflection of who we really are.  What I allow in my life, what I believe, who I really am, will be seen by those around me.  We cannot hide what’s inside.  What I value will be evident.  It will be evident in my conversation.  It will be evident in my character.  It will be evident in my priorities.  It will even be evident in my vote, come election day. What I value will become who I am, and who I am will be evident in every aspect of my life.

What does your life show those around you?  What do they think you believe by the evidence you are offering?  Make a choice today to define your own life, to describe yourself, by living as you want to be interpreted. Determine who you are and live that way, and when the world sees it, there will be no question.  Or… you can live an undefined life not knowing who you really are. Even then it will not keep everyone else from knowing who you are, because others are observing you and describing you constantly. So who are you?  

Monday, July 23, 2012

The Sleeping Christian

There is a well known saying, “Let sleeping dogs lie.” We know, of course, what the saying means. It means don’t stir up trouble… If things are quiet, just leave things alone.

I guess there is some merit to that saying in certain situations. There is even a concern to be considered; if we wake up a sleeping dog he may bite. However, it’s different with sleeping Christians. Sleeping Christians always need to be awakened! What good is a sleeping Christian? (None.) What good thing does he bring to the Kingdom? (Nothing.) How does his life reflect Christ? (It doesn’t.) How does his sleeping honor God? (Again, it doesn’t. Actually, his laziness brings no glory to God at all, but rather can bring a reproach.)

In the garden, Jesus disciples stayed close to Jesus but they kept falling asleep. Jesus kept urging them to “watch and pray” but slumber repeatedly overtook them. Likewise today, slumber has overtaken much of the body of Christ. We are so content to be ‘in His presence’, safe by his side, that we are not concerned with the things that concern Him. It seems that we are content to rest in His arms while the world spirals out of control toward Hell.

We have been given a message of hope, a message of joy, a message of peace, restoration, and reconciliation. We have been given the awesome honor and responsibility to tell the world about Christ. Somehow though we have been rocked to sleep by the lullaby of complacency. It goes something like this,

"Go to sleep you little Christian… Go to sleep you little Christian… Jesus went away, He’s com’in back someday, but you’ve done enough now little Christian…”

I think we know who sings that song to us, but the truth is, that a Christian asleep is of no benefit to the Kingdom of God. Until we Christians awaken ourselves, we cannot awaken the world! Awake out of sleep!
Our Salvation is nearer than when we first believed!!!

Romans 13:11-14 11 And do this, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed. 12 The night is far spent, the day is at hand. Therefore let us cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light. 13 Let us walk properly, as in the day, not in revelry and drunkenness, not in lewdness and lust, not in strife and envy. 14 But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts.

There is work to be done, and we can’t do it if we are just lying near to Jesus. Stop listening to the Devil sing his lullaby! We MUST wake up, and wake up NOW, and then wake up every other sleeping Christian we can find!

Monday, May 21, 2012

When God Breaks Our Heart

We don’t often think of God as a heartbreaker. He is love.  In His presence is fullness of joy. He binds up the broken hearted! So how could God, or why would He, break my heart?  Is it even possible that God would ‘cause’ me to experience sorrow?  Sure it is! The bible even says in 2 Corinthians 7:10 “Godly sorrow worketh repentance.” 

Certainly God’s heart breaks for lost humanity. Genesis 6:6 tells us that it repented God, or grieved Him, that He created men. (It wasn’t that He made a mistake, but that we brought sorrow into His life.)  Jesus looked out over the city of Jerusalem and mourned saying, “Oh Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing.”

So, here is a point I want to make: If God’s heart breaks for lost humanity, why doesn’t ours?  We have been redeemed from eternal damnation! Why then are we so unconcerned with those who are still on the way to Hell?

I have often asked God to allow me to feel what He feels. I have found on occasion, that I cannot handle it.  I don’t know if you have ever experienced it, or not, but I am experiencing it to a certain degree even now as I write this, and I have experienced it several times before.  I honestly believe that God will sometimes allow us to experience what breaks His heart to galvanize us to His purpose.

Some of you will remember, I recently stood before the congregation unable to speak through the anguish I was experiencing on behalf of abandoned children in Brazil. We need our hearts broken! Not just for Brazil, or for Uganda, or Pakistan or Israel or even... America, but our hearts should be groaning within us because of the pain in God’s heart for His lost world.

We sing a song in worship sometimes that says, “(Lord) break my heart for what breaks yours.” Do we really want it though?  Because, it’s far easier to just be satisfied with what God has done for us, and just let the rest of the world go to hell.

Oh, God shake us! Wake your church to the cry of your heart! If our hearts need to break so that we might feel Your grief for the lost, then let us experience heartbreak! Let Godly sorrow bring us to repentance for our lack of concern for those around us!  For Lord, if we will partake of Your glory, should we not also partake in Your suffering?  Save this region Lord, and use us to do it!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

You can take the the politics of of the church...

The laws in the United States governing separation of Church and State were written to protect religion from the control of the government.  As we all know, the opposite has become the common mis-interpretation.  Most people now believe that these laws are in place to keep the religious community from becoming 'too controlling' in the direction of the country.

Do your own research and you will see the original intent of the founding fathers, but hurry, history is being rewritten constantly.  I urge you to read their writings and see for yourself.

With that said, I get to my point.  You can take politics out of the Church, but you can't take the Church out of politics!  What do I mean by that?  Well, the law prohibits churches, or pastors for that matter, from endorsing specific candidates.  I believe that is an attack on my freedom of speech actually, but I'm not really trying to go there today.  If asked, I would be glad to tell someone who I am voting for but I'm restricted from urging others to vote similarly. Not fair!  Anyone else can do that... why not me?  Because the secular world is afraid of the mouth 'pieces of the religious community'.

Why should they be afraid of the religious right?  There is really nothing to fear. Yes, we have an agenda.  Our agenda is to be the salt of the earth, to preserve it.  Our agenda is to be the light of the world.  Yes, to keep the darkness from taking over. Our agenda is to keep this great nation, great, like our founding fathers envisioned it to be.  Our agenda IS NOT, however, to control government or to force others into Christianity. Rather the agenda of the religious right, as I see it, is to keep a check on government to make sure it serves us rather than us becoming it's servant, to protect the morals this nation was founded on, and to keep secure our right to share our faith with others.  We don't want to force Christ on anyone.  Why would we?  That would do neither us, nor the one upon whom He was forced, any good.

Here is the truth though, no matter how many laws there are restricting what we can, or can not say, about politics we have a duty as Christians to uphold a greater law, the Law of Christ.  Which simply put, is to love.  We must love in spite of the love, or lack of love, returned to us.  We love first and foremost, Christ, then family and somewhere still toward the top of the list is this country. Similarly, we have to speak the truth, whether it is received or not, and we must do our best to be a preservative, because these things are mandated by Christ.

I know the majority rules. I understand that we cannot set up Christ's Kingdom in the United States. That is not the goal.  Jesus will set up His Kingdom Himself, when He's ready, but like Jeremiah, I can not be silent!  Like the New Testament church in Acts, the more we are demanded to be silent the louder we should become.

You can take politics out of the Church, and I may not be able to publicly endorse a candidate, but you can never really take the Church out of politics because the Church in this country is made up of free citizens, and  like everyone else we, have the right to make our opinions known.  Get involved Christians, don't be afraid to let your opinion be known and your vote count.  Vote what you believe!

Friday, March 2, 2012

If Jesus had a Church...

What if Jesus came to your hometown and planted a church?  Would you go?  Rather, would you make that your home church? We all know we must answer yes here, if we want to feel like good Christians but the answer would probably, more realistically, be no.

Okay, here’s the scenario…
You live in a town that is already very religious.  The gospel has been preached here for years.  There is a church on nearly every corner. There is a Baptist Church just around the corner from where you are now.  A Methodist Church is two streets away.  There is a Lutheran Church, or maybe two, at the center of town.  There is a Catholic Church, and now even a Non-Denominational Church, which is usually code for ‘Charismatic’ or 'Pentecostal'.

You may have already found your place. Perhaps you grew up in your church and plan to be there until you are carried out ten toes up.  Perhaps on the other hand, you’ve tried almost every church in town and so far haven’t found one that suits your tastes or worship style.

In recent years ‘church’ has become a place of preference.  We all seem to gravitate toward some place that suits us. Preaching styles, congregation size, Hymns or Praise and Worship songs, stuffy or free, spirit filled or seeker friendly, are but a few of the choices that are available to church goers.

If Jesus had a church…? Wait let’s call him Pastor Joshua, since Joshua is another translation of Yeshua (Jesus). If Pastor Joshua came to your town to plant a church, who would attend? Well I guess it really depends on what his church would be like.  Would that church be a place that you would want to make your home church?  I seriously doubt it!

Most of us would visit once or twice, but wouldn’t stay. Why?  We wouldn’t attend regularly because, like it or not, most of us are either too set in our religious ways or too in love with the world around us.

Here’s what it might look like at “Pastor Joshua’s” church.
There would always be large crowds of transients just passing through, because many would come to see the miracles.  Yes, miracles! Pastor Joshua has a ‘gift’.  It has been said that in his services blind people have gained their sight, deaf people began to hear, and even a few dead people have come back to life… Well, that’s what I’ve heard anyway, but we would have to go see for ourselves.

The crowds would also love the feeding program. Food always draws a crowd, you know it as well as I do.  He and a few guys who came to town with him to plant the church, have been known to give thousands of hand-outs when he suspected people were hungry.

He is very direct though, maybe even too rude with his bold statements. Most don’t really like that in a preacher.  The rumor is that a little while back, he was having a discussion with some of the greatest theological minds at a top seminary nearby.  When they spoke about their great faith in God and what they believed it took to have fellowship with God, he actually called them hypocrites right to their faces!  Yes, it was the most educated pastors in town which he scolded, in public, and to their faces.

Speaking of education, He doesn’t really have much.  He used to work in the construction business and doesn’t really have a degree, or any formal bible training for that matter.

He hangs out with a pretty bad group of people too. He has been seen in the street with prostitutes. He sometimes eats dinner with some really sinful people, gluttons and drunks. He has friends who work for the IRS, not just auditors but those who going out and ‘forcefully’ collect taxes that are due.  Actually, some of the guys who are helping him plant his church are sailors, who used to work on commercial fishing boats.  We all know what their language can be like.

When he preaches he tells a lot of stories.  His style is like that of a teacher, and he preaches kind of long sometimes.  He is extremely black and white in his views, even narrow minded. He says that there is just one way to get to heaven and believes that all other religions are false. He talks a lot about sin and even Hell.  Aren’t we kind of past all that stuff?  People seem to like the feel good stuff better, but he doesn’t seem to care.

He may have some anger issues too, because once when he was visiting another church he got so angry that he turned over a bunch of tables in the foyer where some guys were simply trying to sell some things to make a living.

Here’s the clincher, He seems to have delusions of grandeur.  He believes that he is actually the Son of God.

No, if a pastor like Pastor Joshua came to our town to plant a church most of us would think he was a lunatic.  We would steer clear of that church saying: He’s too dogmatic, he preaches too long, he is intolerant, and the list of complaints would go on and on.

If Jesus had a church there would only be a few in membership, and they would probably be a pretty radical and rigid group.  If Jesus had a church most of us wouldn’t like his message, or his bold personality, or his doctrine.  We’d stay right where we are, where we can feel comfortable and hear the kind of sermon we like.

If Jesus had a church it would be over on Narrow Way, just off Broad Street, and we don’t really like that part of town.

Oh, by the way, Jesus does have a church.