Archive for May, 2013

30
May
13

Is yourr strength, contentment, security and life hidden in God or dependent upon this world?

What if, contrary to what the “experts” are telling us, there is NOT a gigantic economic recovery just around the corner but instead another recession? What if, contrary to the wishes of most, terrible conflicts break out in distant lands and unfathomable acts of terrorism impact our home countries? What if, contrary to what our heart cries out for, instead of entering a time of peace and safety we embark on a period of conflict, crime and chaos?

You and I do not make the decisions that influence our daily lives. We do not sit in positions of power and make the hard choices that directly or indirectly impact billions of people. We are not privy to super classified intelligence, up to the second data or access to every piece of information available on everything and everyone everywhere.

Unlike our counterparts in the world, we do not have to fret, become angry or look for a cave to dwell in. Unlike our counterparts in the world, we do not have to spend our days biting our nails, nervously pacing the floor or frantically making calls all over the world in a vain attempt to protect assets, preserve nest eggs or seek asylum from perceived threats.

The only way to stay calm in this very unsettling world is to pretty much ignore it. Our trust is in the Lord and NOT in our employer, our bank accounts, government programs etc. Our trust financially and in every other realm must be in the Lord even if that demands living in a box and eating insects. Since when does it take our insanely high standard of living to enjoy the blessings of God?

The enemy has convinced the world, and most believers also, that the more abundant life promised by Jesus deals with earthly wealth, comfortable homes, nice cars and every high tech toy invented. When these things are taken from us we act like a child who has his favorite toy taken away. Worse yet, we have become so comfortable and accustomed to our lifestyles that I fear we could not survive without them.

Whether it happens today, next month or years from now; there is a day coming (because God says so in His Word) when this world is going to fall apart and the greed, pride, anger, lust and unbridled hunger for power of people in this world will rip apart the pleasant utopia we have all come to know and enjoy. This is why we must diligently strive to cut the strings to this world and utterly put our confidence and trust in God and His ability to provide for us.

What if we had no way to access the internet? Most of us conduct business via the internet, communicate via the internet and store every bit of information about our lives, families, finances etc on the internet. It is very humbling to consider how utterly helpless most of us would be without the internet. Is it a good thing to tie our very existence to something that could be shut off with the flip of a switch?

The internet has made us all very lazy and very subtly taken away our ability to survive and prosper without it. In its own way, the internet has almost replaced God in many categories for many people. I pray that we enjoy the convenience of the internet but never become totally dependent upon it. I pray that we appreciate the wealth of information available on the internet but never become so tied to it that we cannot live without it.

29
May
13

Holding on through the hurricane

In football, there is (or at least used to be) a penalty for “piling on” which is when players keep falling on the player with the ball after he is already down. Unfortunately in this game of life, the enemy will seek to “pile on” whenever and wherever he can. In fact, this is one of his favorite tactics to frustrate, bring down, cripple and defeat a believer.

Most of us can tolerate a hit once in awhile. Many of us can handle repeated hits occasionally. Few of us can handle one hit after another for days on end and none of us can handle all of the above for a lifetime. Sometimes it seems that life just doesn’t want to let up, that the pressures and afflictions are like drenching rains that fall every day causing the rivers to rise and the roof to leak.

Few forces of nature are more awesome in power and scope than a major hurricane. Not only is there torrential rain and winds strong enough to rip off roofs and collapse walls, there is usually a storm surge which is every bit as dangerous as its first cousin-a tidal wave. Put together, a hurricane provides the perfect example of how things pile up and pile on in life.

As pressures mount, fears increase and the mind and nerves become frayed and tattered; the tendency is to “freak out”. Freaking out is equivalent to “snapping” which is the ultimate goal of the enemy. As long as we can bend in the wind we have a chance of surviving. It is only when we snap that the game is over and the enemy has succeeded in his goal of stealing, killing and destroying us.

The ability to endure a storm and not snap is called PATIENCE in the Bible. In many respects, patience simply means to “hang on or hang in there”. Unfortunately, there are many times in life when all we can do is hang on for dear life as the brunt of the storm moves in. During these times of extreme pressure, chaos and crisis, the only thing God asks of us is to hang on and never let go of His hand. If we hang on, we will endure the storm and be saved. If we freak out, snap or give up—we lose.

I wish I could say the promise of God is that we never have to endure storms in this life, but that is a lie. For as long as we live, there will be times of tranquility and times of storminess. There will be times of quietness and times of intense turmoil. Our job is to first seek to eliminate the storm but if we can’t, then it is to hang onto the hand of God and never let go. When we hang onto Him, not only will we endure the storm but we will enjoy the glorious light at the end of the storm–which is our hope.

26
May
13

If the fire is hot enough will you bow or burn?

When the three men were threatened with being thrown into the furnace if they refused to worship the image of the king in Daniel chapter 3, their response demonstrates what should be the way believers in all generations handle the pressure to compromise. There is much that can be learned from what Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego said to King Nebuchadnezzar in Daniel 3:16-18:

“ Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered and said to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not fear to answer thee in this matter.

17 If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us out of thine hand, O king.

18 But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up.”

Hidden within these verses lies the great truth many Christians fail to see when it comes to persecution, affliction, threats and compromise. The three men first voiced their absolute faith that God would deliver them from the fiery furnace, but then they went on to say that even if God did not deliver them, they would still never serve or worship the golden image he had set up.

Of course we know how the story ends, how they were cast into the furnace which was heated seven times hotter than normal. Instead of burning up, the king looked into the furnace and saw not only the three men but a fourth who was like the Son of God. God not only delivered them from the furnace but He also proved Himself to a bunch of rank unbelievers.

Unless our attitude is one of absolute faith God will deliver us, we are sure to falter and fall apart when the pressures of life cascade upon us. Unless we are so committed that we are willing to lay down our lives for the truth, we can never truly say we are fully His. Faith and commitment are both needed if we desire to fully manifest for all to see just who is our Lord and God.

That which is most important to people is their life. Of all the things that people cherish, protect and love; a person’s life is at the top of the list. From God’s point of view, one’s life is NOT what is most important but rather one’s heart. What good is life if it is wrought with compromise and lack of fidelity toward God? Why bother drawing breath if our heart is not fully committed to God?

When confronted by the threat of this world to “bow or burn” and when the pressure to compromise is greatest, we must be absolutely committed to God within our hearts or we will fold like a house of cards. Only when we value pleasing God more than life itself can we truly say that the three men in Daniel 3 are not only our inspiration but were our brothers in faith and commitment.

19
May
13

The commitment that is love

The very first thing I learned from God about God is that God is love. God is many things but the two which define Him in the greatest way are that He is love and He is light. Without love and light, there is no life.

Every day, countless couples decide to split up because they have “fallen out of love” with each other. I have often wondered what exactly this means and if the same thing happens to people in their relationship with God.

To fall out of love implies one first fell in love. To fall in love is mainly an infatuation prompted by the emotional response to physical attraction. As long as it remains, there will be love there, but once the fire dies the love grows cold. People wake up one day and realize they no longer love the person they are married to.

If a person comes to know God through an emotional experience and then does not build upon that experience with knowledge from the Word of God, it is inevitable that in due time the emotions will wane and the person will “fall out of love with God” and move on to something else in life. How tragic it is that people would file for divorce from God.

Just as in marriage, our relationship with God takes hard work, commitment, patience, forgiveness, communication and love. A deep relationship moves past the fleeting emotions of the moment to an absolute commitment to make things work. Marriages as well as relationships with God wither and die when that commitment wavers or “escape routes” are tolerated.

A solid marriage is built upon open communication and absolute commitment. A solid relationship with God is build upon open communication (prayer) and absolute commitment (trust). Without these two things, the pressures and pleasures of life will either cause a person to cave in or chase after fantasies.

Love is the commitment of the heart that supersedes anything that comes up in life. Love is the absolute commitment that no matter what, nothing will splinter or separate those involved. There is no way any relationship, earthly or spiritual, can endure without the deep roots of love. Love refuses to allow the enemy to enter, entice or end a relationship.

God is love. There is no issue with Him loving us. The issue is whether we love Him enough to trust Him with our very life. If we are willing to lay down our pride and crawl under the shadow of His wings, we are then able to receive the benefits the love of God brings. Without the love of God reigning in our hearts we are restless, dissatisfied with life and unhappy. Truly it is the love of God that brings rest to our souls, gives us deep satisfaction in our hearts and allows us to walk in the joy of the Lord.

15
May
13

Never letting our guard down

When something or someone who is called by God turns away from Him unto error, selfishness or anything contrary to the truth; very bad things start to happen. Life alienated from the truth leads to deception, delusion, misconceptions, illusions, fantasies and ultimately apostasy. Most of the time this horrible road to spiritual oblivion starts with a misstep here and a misinterpretation there; over time these mistakes build up and error usurps the truth.

Anyone who ministers to God’s people, whether one at a time or in a congregation, must do everything within their power to make sure their words are seasoned with salt and the focus of their heart remains fixed on God and His Word. If lies are allowed to enter, deceit will surely follow. If distractions are allowed to fester, defeat will surely be the final outcome. Honesty, integrity and truth absolutely must be at the heart of a ministry and a minister.

It is so very easy to get off track. It is so easy to make a wrong turn and soon end up totally lost. It is so easy to allow a wrong decision to become the new basis for truth. It is so easy to justify that which is wrong because it has become what is right. This is why we must stay vigilant and never harden our hearts toward God or become sloppy, lazy or naïve.

In Acts 20, Paul stopped at Miletus and sent for the leaders of the church at Ephesus. During his time with them, Paul spoke the following words in Acts 20:28-30:

“Take heed therefore unto yourselves and to all the flock, over which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God which He hath purchased with His own blood.

29 For I know this: that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock.

30 Also from among your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things to draw away disciples after them.”

Anyone charged with the oversight of even one of God’s elect must first and foremost take heed unto themselves. Keeping oneself pure and strong in the Lord is necessary to ever watch over and feed the flock.

Paul warned of grievous wolves who would enter and devour the flock at will. Paul also warned of men arising from within the church who would speak perverse things and lure people to become disciples of them. Anyone who really cares about the state of the church needs to wake up and realize that wolves stand at the door licking their chops anticipating a feast of the weakest believers.

Anyone who is charged with the oversight of God’s flock must always be vigilant for people rising up from within who seek to draw away disciples after them and in so doing divide the assembly. We must always be keenly aware of the threats surrounding us yet completely trusting in God to be our source of strength, protection and wisdom.

12
May
13

Is your heart 4 sale to the highest bidder?

I recently read a story about a famous NFL player who is now my age. He has had 14 operations on his right knee. His right leg is 3 inches shorter than his left leg. To make matters worse, he is uninsured and his former team who he played with for 12 years refuses to help pay his bills. He has paid $500,000 in medical bills out of his own pocket.

I mention this secular story only because it serves to illustrate the futility of earthly fame and the fleeting nature of worldly wealth. When a person sells his body, heart or mind to anyone or anything other than God, they may reap the temporal benefits promised to them but in the end, they will languish in pain, anger and regret when they finally realize it was all for naught.

Anyone who plays professional sports has sold their body to the entertainment kings who dangle outrageous sums of money to entice people to devote the best years of their lives to training, grueling schedules, injury, rehabilitation and ultimately inglorious retirement. Anyone who works 70 hours per week at any profession, at the expense of their family and fellowship with God, has sold their lives to the highest bidder and in due time they will wake up one day and realize it was not worth it.

The Bible says to guard your heart above all things. NEVER allow anyone to entice, deceive, enslave or purchase your heart. When we get saved, we made the commitment to give the Lord Jesus Christ our heart, mind and soul. This is what it means to confess with our mouths that Jesus is LORD. How then, if Jesus is really our Lord, can we willingly allow our heart to be stolen or given away to anyone or anything other than God?

Of course we are to work hard in this life for the Bible says to do so. Of course we are to love our spouse, children, parents and each other for the Bible says to do so. Of course we are to willingly give of our heart as we manifest God’s love for the Bible says to do so. But, the Bible never says to give away your heart or allow anyone to purchase it.

In a million different ways, the question we must always ask ourselves when confronted with anything that demands our heart’s allegiance is; is it worth it. No amount of money, fame or pleasure could ever compensate for the shame, guilt, disgust and condemnation that will come with selling out to anyone besides God.

As for me and my household, long ago we placed a “NOT FOR SALE” sign on our hearts. We cannot be bought, bribed, threatened or enticed into comprising our allegiance to God. The question I pose today is very simple: Are you for sale or have you been bought with a price and therefore belong to God alone?

09
May
13

The power of forgiveness

I was an “only child” from the time my brother left home in 1963 and I graduated from high school in 1971. During those years, I witnessed the two people I loved and utterly depended on literally fall apart. My mom and dad came to the brink of divorce (or worse) over and over again during those 8 years. Usually their fighting was either about money or my dad’s addiction to alcohol.

I remember countless suppers where my dad was drunk and my mom was so exasperated that she burned the meal up. Of course that set my dad off and they would yell and scream the whole meal. Time and again my mom would storm off to her room in tears and my dad would storm down to the basement to drown his sorrows in more alcohol.

Neither of my parents ever thought of what their ongoing war was doing to me. All they knew was that I was growing more and more introspective and less and less social. By the time I was 16 I had the social skills of a 10 year old. I had few friends and spent much of my time in my safe house (my bedroom) where I cried, ate and wished I could be someone else’s kid.

Of course I was not the only child to endure such a childhood—not by a long shot. But, in my case the problems my parents were facing drove me to the dark brink of insanity more than once. With no one to talk to, no friends to hang out with and no relation with God; I was truly alone and a mess. I, like countless others like me, spent the most important years of my life living in a prison called my home.

Many times I would call out to the God I did not know asking Him to help my dad. Many times I would pray things would get better, but in my heart I knew they wouldn’t because I did not believe in the God I was praying to.

Because I was so introverted I never got into drugs etc. In fact, I was a pretty good student and made the honor roll a couple of times. Any recognition from any source made me feel good and thus I would seek out ways to get it. Deep in my heart I just wanted to be loved and appreciated.

When God reached in and touched my life in August of 1969, one of the first things I did was ask for forgiveness for all the times I had thought bad thoughts about my parents. I spent hours crying my eyes out as God washed away all of my bitterness and pain. I vividly recall spending hours writing down all the things I was thankful for and at the top of the list were my parents.

In spite of everything, I truly did love my mom and dad and once I was saved, that love poured forth like a fountain. Looking back, one of the most incredible things God did for me on that mountain in New Mexico in 1969 was to not only forgive me, but show me that I could do the same for my parents.

Forgiveness is the greatest yet most difficult thing any of us must do in this life. But, if we are willing to accept God’s forgiveness in our lives then we can in turn forgive those who have hurt and abused us while making our lives miserable. God’s love as manifested in and through forgiveness is indeed the greatest testimony we have to the power, grace and mercy of our God.