Archive for June, 2013

28
Jun
13

Are we really ready for what is coming or just say we are?

Every day, everywhere and in every way, everyone who dares to profess what the Bible says is truth is considered more and more of a freak or a dangerous renegade. It seems as though our culture drifts farther away from God’s commands daily. Every day it is getting harder to remain faithful and not give in or give up.

Most days, I find myself feeling like Lot as I look around at what is happening in our “civilized” society. My soul is vexed because of the evil surrounding us. Laws are passed and upheld that condone or promote behavior contrary to what God’s Word advocates. Things appear on television and movies that glorify the most sordid and contemptible behavior man is capable of producing.

We know that in due time Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed by God because they had crossed the line He had drawn in the sand. We know that God wiped out Israel and Judah many times because they wholly gave themselves to worshipping idols while totally forsaking the God who had saved and blessed them. There is little question the same could be said of most western countries today.

The erosion of morality, spirituality and true Christianity has turned western civilizations into cesspools of sin and iniquity overrun by powerful people immune from the very laws they pass. With each day, those who are morally corrupt and spiritually abhorrent gain more and more power and influence. With each passing day, those who dare to stand upon the written and revealed Word of God are getting closer and closer to being actively defamed, persecuted and destroyed.

We say that we would gladly give up everything, including our very lives and families, for God; but would we, or would we be as Peter and deny we even know the Lord? We say that we rejoice in the evil overtaking the world for it means the Lord will be returning soon. But, are we really ready for what that means in a practical as well as spiritual sense?

Most of us are very good at sitting back in our spiritual easy chairs proclaiming our undying allegiance to our God. Most of us are very adept at staying out of the crosshairs of zealots and revolutionaries, but unfortunately, we are also adept at lurking in the shadows of proclaiming the truth. Unless we are willing to lose EVERYTHING we own, possess and call dear to our hearts for the sake of the Lord, how can we really proclaim we are totally His?

I feel that any day we will awake to news that indicates the worst of times is commencing. I fear that most of us will cower in fear when that day comes instead of boldly remaining faithful as we say we will do. I believe the Lord has already started the winnowing process that will sift out those who are committed in word only. I believe, with all of my heart that we who remain faithful will SOON see our Lord face to face, whether in death or at His return. Are we ready for what is coming or too comfortable in our present lives to care?

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25
Jun
13

Beware of charlatans everywhere

During my time working with victims of Hurricane Katrina, I talked to many people who had first suffered great loss to their homes during the storm and then even greater financial loss due to swindlers who claimed they could repair their homes but in reality took the money and ran. For many, losing their life’s savings was worse than losing their home.

Every day senior citizens fall for schemes and scams promoted by imposters who capture the trust of unsuspecting and gullible people regarding their money. Using promises of safe returns on their investments and/or putting their money in a safe place for their children; people willingly turn over all they spent a lifetime accumulating to con artists who are experts in deceiving people.

In every realm of life, there are people who make their living claiming to be someone they are not and able to do things they cannot do. The key to their success lies in their ability to mimic the genuine. As such, they are experts at being counterfeits. Without a trained eye and great wisdom, these charlatans will succeed in tricking people every time.

The worst imposters are those who manipulate people’s minds through false promises or use threats to get what they want. Those who are experts at mental manipulation prey upon people who are in a weakened state. They present themselves as a knight in shining armor or the messenger of gloom and doom who can provide deliverance—for a price.

Spiritual charlatans are nothing more than wolves in sheep’s clothing. These counterfeits play upon the hearts of naïve Christians whose only desire is to do the right thing and help others. The key to a charlatan’s success is their ability to present themselves as someone who can be trusted and believed. A charlatan appears to have all the credentials, expertise and recommendations to be genuine, but in reality everything they do and say is a lie.

My heart aches for those who have fallen under the spell of someone who presented themselves as the savior of a situation but in reality draw people’s faith away from THE Savior Jesus Christ. It pains me greatly when I see naïve and gullible Christians give their heart, soul, money and even their families to people or groups that promise them the moon but only deliver wilted flowers.

Just as worldly swindlers take people’s money and run, so spiritual charlatans take people’s spiritual dignity and trample it under their filthy feet. Woe unto those who through spiritual deceit and trickery destroy innocent lives who simply wanted to help others.

I have no tolerance for charlatans of any type, but especially those who parade around in long flowing robes making themselves out to be representatives of God but who in reality only serve themselves. Woe unto those who cast their spell on God’s people for the purpose of self enrichment, fame or gratification.

God help those who through spiritual intimidation scare God’s people into believing their sins are forgiven or their punishment reduced through financial means. Accepting bribes puts these charlatans at the top of the list as far as being most disgusting and dangerous. Jesus Christ paid the price for our sins and anything short of this is a lie.

Beware of those who appear to be too good to be true for they are frauds. Beware of those who through fair speeches and false promises deceive God’s elect. Both 2 Peter and Jude speak of these spiritual frauds arising in the last days and certainly Christianity is rife with them even today.

24
Jun
13

The refreshing breath of God

When something is refreshing, it restores energy and vitality. It is stimulating, uplifting and invigorating. Haven’t we all enjoyed the refreshment that comes after a thunderstorm has rinsed the air of all the dirt and grime? Haven’t we all been invigorated by the cool breeze that follows a summer storm? When storms move through, they are refreshing not only to the weather but also to every living thing.

Yesterday was one of the lovely days we enjoy in the summer here in the St. Louis region. The actual temperature was in the mid 90’s with a heat index was over 100 degrees. It was the kind of day both man and beast has a difficult time being motivated to do much of anything except to try and stay cool. Late in the afternoon a line of strong storms pushed their associated clouds well out in front. By early evening the storms moved through and dropped the temperature all the way down to the lower 70’s within minutes.

Isn’t it interesting how God uses a storm full of lightning and thunder, wind and rain to refresh the atmosphere? I think it would serve us well to consider this the next time our spiritual life mimics the oppressive heat and humidity summer brings. The only way to push the oppression away is through a storm many times.

What is oppression anyway? Oppression is the state one is in when being subjected to the stress of domination or trouble. Sickness many times is a breeding ground for oppression. Financial woes most definitely bring on oppression. Any harsh, stressful or disturbing situation many times ends up oppressing.

Where depression is internal and is brought on by things within our minds; oppression is a more general state brought on by situations and circumstances many times outside of our ability to control. We cannot control the weather when it is oppressive. We cannot control the economy and when it is in a recession, as it many times breeds an oppressive atmosphere in a country, state, city or family.

Honestly, we all periodically find our relationship with the Lord getting stale, stagnant and unfulfilling. Whether through the oppression of a stressful situation, laziness or just going through the motions; there are times when our walk with the God is like the day we just experienced here. When this happens we need to beseech the Father to blow through us His holy breath of life and renew us, revive us and refresh us.

When we feel like closing all the curtains and locking the door so as to wallow in our pitiful existence, that is when we need to throw open the windows and doors and ask God for a spiritual thunderstorm to blow through. Believe me when I say that such things can and do happen and they are GREAT. I leave you with a classic hymn to ponder and consider.

BREATHE ON ME, BREATH OF GOD – by Edwin Hatch (1835-1889)
Public Domain

Breathe on me, Breath of God,
Fill me with life anew,
That I may love what Thou dost love,
And do what Thou wouldst do.

Breathe on me, Breath of God,
Until my heart is pure,
Until my will is one with Thine,
To do and to endure.

Breathe on me, Breath of God,
Till I am wholly Thine,
Until this earthly part of me
Glows with Thy fire divine.

Breathe on me, Breath of God,
So shall I never die,
But live with Thee the perfect life
Of Thine eternity.

21
Jun
13

The Lord knows the way out of any wilderness

A dead end does not have to be THE END. All a dead end means is that there is a better way to your destination. A dead end forces us to seek out the best or right way. Unfortunately, most people look at a dead end as the end of their dream, their hope or their life.

Many years ago I delivered pizzas for awhile to help make ends meet. Time and again I would follow the directions given to me only to find myself lost or at a dead end. Of course now days with GPS this may not happen, but 25 years ago it happened all the time. Was it the end of the world? Of course not, it was only frustrating.

My dad, as was the case with most men of his generation, absolutely would NEVER stop and ask for directions. It was deemed “unmanly” to admit one was lost. I remember many times we would end up utterly lost in very bad parts of towns fearing for our very lives because my dad would not even stop to find out where we were, let alone how to find where we looking for.

Anyone who thinks that just because we are saved we will never run into dead ends or end up lost is sadly mistaken. Because we are humans, we will inadvertently find ourselves wandering around in the pasture when we should be in the city and vice a versa. Getting lost is not a sin but staying lost is.

Pride prevents us from admitting we have lost our way and fear makes us believe a dead end is the end of the world as we know it. Humility allows us to find our way out of the wilderness and faith leads us past the dead ends to the way that is never ending.

Forks in the road many times cause us to end up on the wrong road. When the road splits and there are no signs to say which road leads to our destination, we have to make a choice. Sometimes we make the right one and all works out well. But, sometimes we make the wrong choice and end up exactly where we didn’t want to be.

Forks in the road provide us with opportunities to trust God for guidance. When we do not know what to do or which way to go, we are forced rise up and believe that God knows everything and trust that He will lead us safely home.

Whether dead ends, forks in the road or bad directions; ultimately our ability to move on and reach our destination lies in our ability to practice what Proverbs 3:5 and 6 tell us to do:

“ Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.

In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.”

19
Jun
13

The 5 eternal crowns Christians should strive to receive

When all is said and done and we are left with nothing except what we have accomplished in this life; will be as the Apostle Paul and say “I have fought the good fight, I have kept the faith” or will be as Judas and rue the very moment of our birth? When the day comes when we stand before our Lord Jesus Christ to receive our wages for what we have done in this life; will we look forward to receiving the praise for what we did in this life or…?

What awaits us at the end of our life is determined by what we think, say and do in this life. If we live for this life only we may reap the temporal rewards this life has to offer, but at what price? Is it worth jeopardizing our eternal rewards to enjoy the world’s rewards for a season? If we allow the world and the empty promises it makes to tear our heart away from God, we may think we did well now but we will find out later that we were played as a fool.

The New Testament lays out five crowns available to enjoy for eternity based on how we think, what we say and what we do in this life. These five crowns provide the ultimate motivation to do things God’s way now even if it is at the expense of temporary corruptible rewards. The five crowns mentioned are:

1. The crown incorruptible found in 1 Corinthians 9:24-27 is for those who keep running in the Christian race and are not rejected from the competition. This crown is given to those who are willing to exercise self control and self discipline in this life.

2. The crown of rejoicing found in 1 Thessalonians 2:19, 20 is awarded to those who lead others to Christ.

3. The crown of righteousness found in 2 Timothy 4:8 is given for those who remain faithful in this life, never compromising one’s integrity, fulfilling one’s ministry and most of all—who love the appearing of Jesus Christ. Only those whose eyes are fixed on the coming of Jesus will remain faithful in this life.

4. The crown of life found in James 1:12 and is given to those who resist temptation in this life. It is abundantly clear in various places in the New Testament that God’s people will face a multitude of temptations in this life. This crown is the reward for resisting these temptations even if it means suffering, poverty and loneliness.

5. The crown of glory found in 1 Peter 5:4 is for Christian overseers who faithfully watch over and feed the flock of God.

Doing the Christian walk may be difficult, result in earthly rejection and even persecution and suffering. What makes it worthwhile? Knowing that as we remain faithful to the Lord in this life, we have crowns and other rewards awaiting us for all eternity gives us both comfort and motivation to do things Christ’s way and not the world’s way every day of our lives.

18
Jun
13

Take the ball and run with it

In 1971 I served on the drug abuse counsel in Wichita, Kansas. I was 18 years old at the time, never been near a drug in my life and knew nothing about the subject. Why was I there? Because my youth minister had recommended me and made sure I got the post.

I recall sitting through a few very boring meetings and wondering how anything being talked about could possibly help anyone with a drug problem. Basically it was some older psychologists, ministers and other “clean” adults talking about fixing a problem running rampant among teenagers. Nothing ever came out of those meetings and the counsel shut down after a few months.

The one good thing that came from being on that counsel was that I got to go on a field trip to Hollywood, California to look into a new phenomenon just starting in California at the time. We went to a large Presbyterian church in Hollywood to witness the birth of the “Jesus People” as it related to the concept of Christian coffeehouses complete with entertainment etc.

The reason we were there was because of the genuine help these coffeehouses had provided for hard core drug addicts in the Hollywood area. Unlike secular programs that helped no one, the concept of bringing people to the church to hear their kind of music and offer them coffee etc. opened the door to providing genuine help to those in need through presenting the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Although this concept is in operation in churches all over the world today, 42 years ago the idea of a church sponsoring a coffeehouse for drug addicts was about as well received as promoting a three ring circus in the sanctuary. Much of the resistance to the idea was because of the hippie movement and war protests that had engulfed the country for years. Of course there was also the resistance to anything new that still persists even today.

That trip made a deep and lasting impression on me. It marked the first time I saw a program actually helping those held in chains to the bondage of addictions. I was so excited when I got back. I was ready to turn my church into the biggest coffeehouse in Wichita. Of course the church would not even listen to the idea let alone consider it. It is interesting that just a few months later I was excommunicated from my church for being a “radical” and a “revolutionary” disruptive influence.

It takes conviction and persistence to take a dream from the idea stage to reality. I wish I could have done it in Wichita in 1971 but it was not to be. Interestingly, I and two others did indeed do this just one year later in Wisconsin and we saw incredible results. The point of this is that if God puts a dream in your heart, GO FOR IT and never look back. The only way to get from here to there is to take the ball and run with it.

18
Jun
13

Don’t let life get in the way of love

Yesterday our dog Shadrach was lethargic, depressed and did not look like he felt good. Being very concerned, I spent some extra time with him last night and after a short time of playing and pets, lo and behold he was no longer lethargic at all. As it turned out, all he wanted was some attention and his little world turned from darkness to light in a few minutes.

Since then, I have thought about how true this is with all of us. God designed us to crave attention and when we are deprived of it we tend to retreat within ourselves, grow pensive and sullen. From the moment we enter this life we are 100% dependent upon the love and nourishment of our mother to survive. As we grow older, we thrive through the love of our families and friends. Take that love away and we first get grouchy, then we get depressed and finally we get despondent.

It takes work to make the time to fellowship with those we care about. Time constraints, pressures of life and a million other issues compete for the few minutes or hours we have available to share our heart, time and attention. When the pressures of this life win out, those we truly love suffer the consequence of being left out, left behind or even forgotten.

Love dictates that we make the time for those who are most important to us. Love dictates that we go that extra mile to make sure our spouse, children, parents and friends know that we have not forgotten about them, still love them and miss them if we are busy or tired. A few minutes of quality time is usually all it takes for someone to know they are still important to us.

How do friends, siblings or couples grow apart? It happens when life gets in the way of love. It happens when the pressures of living deprive us of our ability to give of ourselves. It happens when we become too busy or tired to care about those most important to us.

Make no mistake about it. Love takes work and sometimes very hard work. It takes work to forgive, look past someone’s shortcomings and not take offense at something someone says or does. It takes work to make and take the time to communicate and share of all that is within our hearts. It takes work to get on the phone and talk to someone, get on the computer and email someone or get together with someone to discuss life over lunch.

Laziness, fatigue and the burdens brought on by pressure conspire together to prevent us from manifesting the love of God. Although it is hard work and not what we want to do at times, when we rise above these things and make the time to communicate and share fully of ourselves; we can stay close to those we love and many times “make someone’s day”.