Archive for July, 2013

29
Jul
13

Confronting “comfortable Christianity”

When the things we accumulate in this life become OURS that is when our love for God grows cold. When the things God has blessed us with become a way to bless others, our love for God becomes passionate and white hot.

If there is one common denominator found in all the men and women mentioned in the FAITH HALL OF FAME in Hebrews 11 it is their willingness to sacrifice something that meant more to them than life itself. Whether money, offerings, pride, friends, family or their physical life; those who are the real believers literally live as though their life is not their own.

Doing what God wants done is rarely easy and always demands sacrifice. This is the lesson Jesus communicated time and again during His earthly ministry. I think we have become so laid back in our faith that we have lost sight of just how profound the sacrifice was Jesus demanded from the twelve men he called to be His disciples.

In each case, Jesus demanded the man immediately forsake his livelihood, family and friends and follow Him. Have you ever stopped and considered the ramifications of this in the particular situations these men were involved in? Matthew was a well paid tax collector who had to immediately quit his job and work for free. Peter, James, John and Andrew were fishermen who provided income for their father’s businesses. What happened when they just walked away from the fishing business?

Peter had a wife for we know he had a mother in law. I am sure many of the other twelve had wives and children. Can you imagine the impact it would have on these families for the husband/father/breadwinner to just drop everything and follow Jesus?

The case for “comfortable Christianity” calls for a life of leisure with no demands placed on one’s life. This pseudo faith promotes self glory, self righteousness and self prosperity. Any talk of sacrifice is immediately debunked as being devilish for somehow the faith has been twisted and turned into being all about ME instead of all about HIM.

Did Jesus sit down with each prospective disciple and offer them a guaranteed contract worth millions of dollars if they just signed on with Him? Did Jesus have a huge compound built to bring his disciples to where they would sit in comfortable chairs and receive instruction on His doctrine? Did Jesus and His disciples travel throughout the Holy Land in a nice air conditioned bus, holding meetings in plush resorts and after the meetings all go play golf?

NO, NO, NO to all this foolishness. The lifestyle demanded by Jesus was marked by self sacrifice and the willingness to do without so as to help others receive God’s blessings. Nowhere in Gospel is there anything that would indicate that the reason to become a follower of Christ is to RECEIVE but rather to GIVE.

How have we become so twisted and turned around in our thinking to believe that the reason for accepting Christ as Savior is to receive blessings, honor, wealth and glory IN THIS LIFE? This whole sordid mess makes me physically nauseated for it is completely wrong and opposite to the truth.

The more abundant life Jesus came to bring is the promise of eternal life that we receive when we turn our hearts over to HIM. By placing all the emphasis on laying up treasures in this life Christianity has succeeded in diminishing the real reason for Christ coming to begin with. Jesus came to save us from our sins which separated us from God. Jesus did NOT come to hand us the key to some mystical place full of golden faucets and private jets and huge Swiss bank accounts.

The heart of our Christian faith is found in the SACRIFICE of our Lord Jesus upon Calvary’s cross. May we never in this life forget the price He paid for our redemption and salvation and may we never in this life fall prey to the selfish belief that He gave His life for us to become rich in this world. Riches beyond our wildest dreams await us for all eternity if we are willing to lay down our lust for them in this life at His feet. By doing this we prove we really do love God with ALL our heart, soul, mind and strength.

24
Jul
13

THE Word of God

I am and remain absolutely committed to the integrity of the Word of God. What God has said in His Word is the truth as far as I am concerned. All things must be measured according to the standard set in God’s Word. Anything that contradicts, belittles or compromises the integrity of what God has said in His Word is nothing more than personal opinions, myths and flat out lies
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I believe there are many things not recorded in God’s Word, for as Jesus said, if they were there would not be enough books on earth to hold it all. But, what IS written in the Word of God is in fact the will of God revealed for all to see and live by. In other words, I believe that it is possible for God to speak His Word outside of what is written, but that which is written is absolutely the Word of God.

Over my lifetime, I have witnessed the degrading and diminishing of the influence of the Word of God both culturally as well as within the church. The Word of God has been taken out of day by day living and except for an occasional “fish sign” or cross, there are few things in our culture that are Godly. Television, movies, books, music and art have all been scrubbed references to the one true God, His Son Jesus Christ and His glorious Word from their material.

Within the church there has been a slow erosion of respect for and proclamation of the living Word of God. Very few people still bring their Bible to church anymore. Sure there are huge screens with the verses on them, but those screens will never replace the feel of having God’s Word in your hands. In far too many cases, the church has chosen to de-emphasize and water down the Word of God so as to not offend anyone. By doing this, they succeed in offending God.

The Word of God is not just another book on the shelf. The Word of God is not a nice collection of stories that provide fodder for some new television series. The Word of God is in fact the revelation of everything that is important to God in relation to His will for us. If we desire to know the will of God we must know and understand His Word for therein is His eternal will revealed.

Do I worship the Bible? God forbid. Do I think the Bible is more important that Jesus Christ? God forbid. Do I think the Bible is infallible? God forbid. Do I believe the WORD OF GOD is perfect? Absolutely and undeniably.

I have devoted more than two thirds of my life to learning, speaking and living God’s Word. There is no way to remove the Word of God from my life for it is as much a part of me as my heart, brain or blood. I am not ashamed of these things but rather I thank God that in these uncertain times, I have the rock of truth to not only hold onto but to nourish and sustain me.

22
Jul
13

At rest in God’s Word and not consumed by this world

While perusing the day’s headlines, I was once again struck by all the junk going on in the world. Debates about eschatology aside, it should be obvious to anyone with eyes to see and ears to hear that this world cannot keep going as it is going without exploding or imploding. Whether natural disasters such as earthquakes, forest fires or floods, political shenanigans or man’s inhumanity to man; this world is a mess and getting messier every day.

If the state of the world were not bad enough, the conflict and animosity between members of all the world’s major religions is growing more caustic day by day. Brother against brother is no longer a phrase used to describe Cain and Abel but Christian against Christian, Jew against Jew, and Moslem against Moslem etc.

While visionaries talk of “peace on earth” and revolutionaries speak of “peace at any cost”, the inhospitality of people and nations toward each other grows harsher daily. The world is spinning out of control as contrary forces seeking their own agenda do whatever it takes to win hearts and souls by words or by force.

Most of the world’s happiness is tied to economic conditions. The more wealth people have the happier they become. The less wealth people have the more anxious and disgruntled they are. Happy people don’t care what anyone else is doing as long as they can stay happy. Disgruntled people are sensitive to everything amiss and skeptical of everyone in positions of power.

The Bible makes is crystal clear in Romans 12 that we are NOT to be conformed or fashioned to this world but rather be transformed by the renewing of our minds. Our joy is absolutely NOT dependent upon the circumstances surrounding us. We can have joy and peace in the midst of a depression and conflict if we keep our minds on things above and put on the new man.

We can live above the fray, outside of the turmoil and untouched by the confusion and anger surrounding us. This only happens as we set our affections on things above and not on the things of this world. Of course we are aware of what is going on around us, but we are not consumed by the ups and downs of people intent on the manipulation and destruction of others.

If there ever was a time we should buckle down and receive with meekness, retain with conviction and release with authority the Word of life—it is NOW. May we all make a deliberate effort to spend more time in the Word of God so there is more Word of God flowing through us as we make our decisions and live our lives.

No matter what happens in this world, we can maintain the peace of God in our hearts, filled with His presence and joy as we keep ourselves in Him as He is always in us.

21
Jul
13

Beware of frauds, counterfeits and charlatans of every ilk

If I went to the salvage yard and towed a beat up car to the body shop where the outward appearance was made to look good, then clean all the burnt oil off the engine, give it a quick tune up, put new tires on it and finally roll back the odometer; I would have what APPEARS to be a good clean used car. Every day there are thousands of unsuspecting people who pay a fortune for what APPEARS to be good vehicle only to find out later it was a fraud.

When people put on a facade and become someone they are not, they are no different than the unscrupulous car dealer who deliberately deceives the customer through saying something is what it is not. God hates fraud, hypocrisy and lies. The devil is the father of lies and he is the expert at turning pure trash into an APPARENT treasure.

I could find a bum living in a cardboard box and with time and work turn him into what would APPEAR to be a fine upstanding citizen. In medical offices there are people who claim to be Doctors who never set foot in a Medical School. They forged documents and lied their way through the hiring process to get the job.

Professional liars are hard to spot and harder yet to capture. By nature,they are excellent at what they do and rarely slip up. Those who are convicted of fraud are usually the amateurs for the true professionals seem to always find a way to never get caught or convicted. It is unbelievable how many people in all walks of life are nothing but wolves in sheep’s clothing, making their living through pure deceit and fraud.

How do you feel after finding out someone you trusted was lying to you all along? You feel betrayed and like someone took a dagger and thrust it into your back. There are few feelings more powerful than those produced by betrayal. .

“Hell has no fury like a woman scorned” was supposedly penned by Shakespeare and perfectly describes the attitude of anyone, male or female, when they find out they have been betrayed. It is beyond my mind’s ability to comprehend how people honestly think those they defraud, lie to and steal from aren’t going to be a little upset when they find out. It is also unbelievable to me to see how people who got caught, supposedly repent, and then turn around and do the same exact thing over again with a new set of unsuspecting people.

True repentance does necessitate true forgiveness, but to show how much love our Lord Jesus Christ had; He forgave WITHOUT any repentance (“Father forgive them for they know not what they do”). As deeply as the betrayal of Judas must have hurt Jesus, I know He would have forgiven him and taken him back if he would have just repented. Another subject for another time.

It takes incredible sharpness and vigilance to be able to separate the real from the counterfeit. When Jesus sent out His disciples, He told them to be wise as serpents yet gentle as doves. Jesus was urging them to accept nothing at face value yet remain guileless. In other words, don’t believe everything you hear and see but do not “cop an attitude” just because of what you hear and see. Just because someone looks like they crawled out of the nearest sewer doesn’t mean they are bad person any more than the guy in the expensive suit is a good person.

There are some within the Body of Christ with the special “gift” of being able to sniff out those who are trying to deceive and defraud God’s people. Those with this ability can spot a fake a mile away. It would do us all well to listen to these “spiritual Geiger counters” and take heed to what they are telling us. I have met and been close to some of these kinds of people over the years and they almost seem to be able to “see through” people right off the bat.

To avoid “being taken” we must slow down and honestly evaluate and if need be investigate what we are hearing or seeing. We must compare spiritual things with spiritual to make sure they line up. Just because something “looks good” does not in any way make it good. Just because something looks bad does not mean it is bad inside. The ability to discern good from bad and truth from the lie is absolutely essential to winning in our walk with God. It should be our sincere desire to not be counted among the victims of the multitude of charlatans standing on every corner tempting us with their wares.

17
Jul
13

The power repetition has on our minds

Have you ever heard a song that with each time you hear it, the tune and words become etched in your mind to the point you are playing it over and over again all day long? Of course you have, for every one of us has to deal with this “problem” at least a few times in life. I say “problem” because it can be both aggravating as well as embarrassing at times to be playing the drums on your leg or whispering the words when you are supposed to be listening or concentrating.

Well, I heard a song about a month ago that was nice but it went in one ear and out the other. Over the past month I have heard this song numerous times and now because the tune is catchy, the words communicate a nice simple message and the performer has a unique and wonderful voice—I can’t get this song out of my mind.

We were driving somewhere the other day and my wife asked if I had a nervous twitch or was playing a song in my head because I was playing the guitar, drums and keyboard all at once on my leg. It was the latter. Just when I think I have driven the song from my mind I turn on the radio and THERE IT IS. It is uncanny how it just happens to be playing every time I am trying to replace it in my mind with something else.

Many years ago Mr. “one hit wonder” himself, Don McLean recorded the song “American Pie”. To this day, when I hear that song in a restaurant or store, I curse the establishment for I know I will be running that stupid song through my mind for the next few days. Even now, just writing about it, I hear it in my mind. Grrr.

A few years ago we attended a production of “Oklahoma” by a group of Christian Home Schoolers. It was an excellent production except that for the next three weeks neither my wife nor I could get certain tunes out of our minds. One thing about those old musicals, they knew how to produce songs that would stick around for awhile in a person’s mind.

Whether it be music, words or images; the mind responds to repetition. The more we hear or see information, the more we tend to remember it. Studies have shown that very few people remember much of anything they only hear or see once. But, with repetition, more and more of the information is stored in the memory.

This is why we diligently keep reading the Bible. This is why we seek to listen to sermons, messages, songs and teachings. The more we hear and see God’s Word, the more it will live in our hearts and minds.
Here is the song that I referred to earlier. Listen to it at your own risk. I take no responsibility for it doing to you what it did to me. Enjoy.

15
Jul
13

Overcoming the spirit of conflict surrounding us

I have never understood why people believe rioting solves anything. The current wave of violence spreading over America’s cities is crazy, unwarranted and obviously sparked by something other than a verdict in one court case. What is happening now is totally disproportionate in relation to the cause. In other words, the court case involved was NOT important enough to justify the rage, hatred and violence taking place.

Among the many things God frowns upon, rioting (or wantonness in the New Testament) ranks near the top of the list. There is absolutely no justification, from God’s point of view, for a crowd to run wild, throwing rocks through windows, setting vehicles on fire and physically injuring bystanders. God never told His people to riot against Pharaoh or against the Roman occupation. Rioting is never God’s way of dealing with a situation.

Riots are self-serving, disruptive and injurious to whatever the cause is. Riots solve nothing and in reality make a situation worse. I lived through the horrendous race riots of the late 1960’s and I can verify that nothing good came out of them. All they did was foster hate and destroy property.

People are simply looking for an excuse to riot. When a team wins the World Series, Super Bowl, NBA championship etc, there seems to always be a riot afterward. Why and how could winning a championship justify the destruction of property? It is all so absurd to me.

I see nothing wrong with having a demonstration as long as it is peaceful and does not break any laws. But, when a demonstration turns violent, the very cause being demonstrated against (or for) is quickly forgotten and replaced with the pent up desire for revenge. Are not the riots currently gripping this country merely the manifestation of the incredible anger and bitterness millions of people feel with respect to race?

In God’s sight there is neither male nor female, bond nor free, black or white etc. Within the Body of Christ, Christians are supposed to be “color blind”, but how many really are? Some of the most vicious examples of prejudice, bigotry, hatred and the desire to injure or destroy are found within the faith that is supposed to preach peace and manifest love.

If God’s people would stop attacking each other and instead reach out in honesty, understanding, love and compassion; we could do our part to generate an attitude of peace instead of a climate of animosity. This world is so full of hate that if Christians don’t watch out, they will become a part of the problem instead of a catalyst for finding solutions.

Just because the world is full of bad things should not give us an excuse to do bad things to each other. Just because the world is full of rage, anger, sarcasm, pride and injustice does not justify us manifesting the same things. We are supposed to be separate from this world and live on a higher plane which is the love, mercy and grace of God manifested in forgiveness, honesty and reconciliation.

12
Jul
13

My life’s story written in one day on August 24, 1969

I look at August 24, 1969 as the date my life started for that is when I had my first encounter with the God of all creation. What I experienced that day in New Mexico was intensely personal in nature and in some ways similar to what Saul (Paul) experienced on the road to Damascus. There is absolutely no guarantee God will provide an “experience” for a person when they come to know Him, but if He does; the person better realize how phenomenal it was and stand fast upon what took place throughout their lifetime.

It took God the better part of 24 hours to turn a disgruntled, depressed, afraid and angry kid into the most joyful, exuberant and loving young man anyone had ever seen. The change God wrought in my life was undeniable and indisputable. Everyone who knew me stood in awe at what happened to me which opened great doors for me to share the love, grace, mercy, joy and peace of God.

I did not go to a stream that Sunday morning in 1969 asking for anything. I only went because of an undeniable calling I felt to go. It was as if some gigantic hand was gently prodding me to where God wanted me to go. Far removed from the camp, in an isolated spot beside a gently moving stream, God set out to convince me that He was for real and that He loved me. Through His patience, mercy and love He waited me out and then personally helped me become what He wanted me to become.

I spent an entire afternoon sitting by that stream releasing 16 years of anger, fear and disillusionment before God. I spent an entire afternoon being convicted of my many sins and repenting of them. I spent an entire afternoon pouring out all the junk in my life that separated me from God. I spent an entire afternoon being cleansed of everything that defiled me.

I spent an entire evening and much of the night in a sleeping bag on a porch listening to it rain while writing down every possible thing I was thankful for in my life. God spent an entire evening and much of the night filling me with His goodness, grace and love. What was empty became full. What was defiled became pure.

I spent an entire morning wandering among sunflowers glistening in the sun providing beauty I had never experienced in my life. God spent an entire morning blessing me with peace which surpassed all understanding and joy unspeakable. When He was done, God in just 24 hours, had succeeded in totally transforming me into a new man, full of His spirit, love and light.

When I came down from the mountainside with sunflowers in my hair and enough for each person to have a bunch, everyone there stood was amazed and in wonder. More than one person equated what they saw in me with Moses coming down from the mount with his face aglow.

I spent an entire train ride from New Mexico to Kansas reading and teaching the group about the love of God from 1 John. I had never read 1 John in my life before then. I spent the entire trip laughing, crying and praying with the same people I had despised and wanted nothing to do with just 2 days earlier.

By the time we got back to Wichita and I stepped off that train, I will never in a million years forget the expression on my mom and dad’s faces when they saw me. They knew the instant they saw me that their prayers had been answered and that I was delivered from the demons which had afflicted me for years and nearly destroyed me.

If I lived another thousand years, nothing could ever surpass the joy, peace, thanksgiving and love I felt and manifested in August through December of 1969. The only thing that can be better is the joy of seeing my Lord face to face, which day I long for with every fiber of my heart and soul.

God’s blessings 2 you and thank you for allowing me to share my life’s story.