Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Just How Far Can You Go?

Just who can we, who follow Christ, ally ourselves with? This question has been brought to the forefront because of the nature of one Fox News personality, Glenn Beck. This Mormon held a rally at the Lincoln Memorial last Saturday that sounded more like a call to Christian revival than a political statement. His values sound conservative and they sound Christian, at least to the American Christian ear. Yet, most of the values he preaches are also conservative Muslim values, at least to the American Muslim. I like Beck. I like some of the things he has said on his TV show. I like a call to return to conservative Christian values in our country, but I have questions. If you are an orthodox Christian, you should to.

If you want to think through this, from an orthodox Christian perspective, I ask you to do three things. First, read my previous blog. Second, read this article by Dr. Russell Moore. He is the dean of the school of theology at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. Third, don't drink the kool-aid. What I mean is, don't just accept everything at face value. Don't buy in just because it sounds good. Think your life through with Bible in hand and Jesus in heart.

Monday, August 30, 2010

The Privilege Of Bearing The Gospel

In July 2004, nine U.S. soldiers were returning from Iraq for a two-week leave. The soldiers had tickets in coach class. Before they boarded, one of the first class passengers went to the ticket counter and arranged to exchange his first-class ticket for the soldier's coach class fare. As the plane boarded, eight more first-class passengers did the same so that all of the soldiers came home in first-class, not coach class. The flight attendant on the American Airlines flight, Devilla Evans said, "it was a privilege to be flying with those two groups of unselfish people: those who would put their lives on the line to protect their fellow citizens' freedom, and those who were not ashamed to say thank you."

Not long ago I was asked to stop by and see Doretha. She is dying and sent word that she wanted to see a preacher. That can mean many things. For Doretha it meant she was scared to die. She had no idea what would happen to her in eternity. She knew she had not been what she should have been and knew that somehow she wasn't going to make it once she died. I told her what God said about her condition and his offer of forgiveness and hope for her. She believed. We prayed and cried. All through this encounter, I kept thinking, "Anyone, anyone can do this. Anyone can carry the gospel and share it. What a privilege to carry it. What a privilege to be here with her."

Jesus is the hero who laid down his life for the world. He is the soldier who defeated our mortal enemy. And, He has offered us the incredible, incredible privilege of carrying the gospel, the good news of His salvation to the world. Anyone can do it, anyone. Every believer is commanded, but the only ones who experience the joy of the gospel are those who give up their privilege to accept His. Those who do find that coach class is the best seat on the plane.

Friday, August 27, 2010

What Dreams May Come

I was at a multi-day conference with several people I know. We made a side trip to a beautiful river. At first, we were the only ones there.

Then two women, fisher-women came to the stream and geared up. Before they began to fish, another older man came down from the parking lot and moved below the riffles which were just below the pool we were standing beside. He stepped into the water, waded out, and on his first cast caught a beautiful trout. Just a moment later, one of the women, had a monster on.

I talked with both of them, found out what they were using, and decided I would skip the last day of the conference and fish instead. Another one of the men who was with me had never fly fished. We went back to our hotel suite, got him geared up and made plans to stop by the local fly shop on the way to the river.

Just at the moment I found my sunglasses in my equipment bag, my alarm went off. My first thought, this morning, as I woke up in own my bed and not on that river was, "This just ain't right."

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

I Can Be Thankful And Not Give Thanks

For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. ~ Romans 1:21
You say grace before meals. All right. But I say grace before the concert and the opera, and grace before the play and pantomime, and grace before I open a book, and grace before sketching, painting, swimming, fencing, boxing, walking, playing, dancing, and grace before I dip the pen in the ink. ~ G. K. Chesterton
I cannot be thankful and not give thanks. What would that be, thankfulness without thanksgiving? The thought of it is too twisted to even exist in the rational mind, and yet it exists in the practice of us all at some point. We "think" about the goodness of God but fail to thank Him. We appreciate the goodness of another but fail to open our mouths and say, "thank you." What is that? What can I possibly mean if I say "I am thankful" and yet do not give thanks? No wonder so few of us see the power of God manifested in our lives. We forget to practice the spirit-filled life by the giving of thanks for and in all things.

Monday, August 23, 2010

I Can Praise God And Not Praise God

Ask the earth and the sea, the plains and the mountains, the sky and the clouds, the stars and the sun, the fish and animals, and all of them say, "We are beautiful because God made us." This beauty is their testimony to God. ~ Augustine of Hippo

These objects have no choice but to worship. They are created by God, but not in His image - not with a will, an ability to choose. And now, involuntarily, creation is subjected to a curse because of our sin. Yet, even cursed by sin, it accomplishes its purpose - the praise and glory of God. We are not earth or sea, plain or mountain, sky or cloud, star, fish, or animal. We are created in the image of God, meaning that we have been given a mind and a will. Sadly, outside of the devil and the demons, we are the only things in creation that do not praise Him.

We are the only ones who can enter a house of worship and refuse to lift our voices in praise. We are the only ones who can look at the purple, red, orange, and yellow hues of a sunset and fail to praise the Creator. We are the only ones who can sit down to a meal and mumble a meaningless prayer without even thinking of the good God-given gifts of food, and table, and roof over our heads. We cannot praise God and not praise God. Woe to us when we excuse our silence because of a pitchless voice or a shy spirit. Woe to us when we remain silent because we do not like "the song." Woe to any who refuse to lift their voice in praise and thanksgiving to the God who gave us our voices, and the will to use them or not. And, praise be to this God who made us with the full knowledge that most would fail to follow Him, and more still would fail to offer Him the praise and thanks due Him.

I Can Practice Sin And Still Expect God's Blessings And Power In My Life

Mark Souder resigned as an Indiana congressman after confessing an affair with a staffer. WORLD magazine reported some of his comments as he reflected on his moral failure. He shared how difficult it is to keep people in power in check, "Politicians and many top professionals are skilled manipulators and smooth with words. Holding us accountable is hard." "My sin," he wrote, "while forgiven, is greater in that God put me in a position of public trust, so I deserve whatever criticism I receive." He talked about his life while in the middle of this affair, "I prayed multiple times a day, sang hymns with emotions and tears, felt each time it would not happen again, read the Bible every morning . . . So, how in the world did I have a torrid - which is an accurate word - many-year affair? How could I compartmentalize it so much?" He then said, "Bottom line, however, is that the problem is sin . . . the problem is getting the will subordinate to the Holy Spirit early enough that the Spirit is not quenched."

Comedian, Fred Allen, said,"Most of us spend the first six days a week sowing wild oats, then we go to church on Sunday morning and pray for a crop failure."

It really doesn't work like that with God. Grace is not permission to sin. Grace, when understood and received frees us from the power of sin and motivates us to hate our sin by loving the One who died for our sin.

"What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?" ~ Romans 6:1-2

I Do Not Need Church To Follow Christ

D. L. Moody was visiting a prominent citizen of Chicago when the issue of church membership came up. The man said, "I believe I can be just as good a Christian outside the church as I can inside of it." Moody said nothing, but stood and moved to the hearth where a fire was blazing. With the fireplace tongs, he removed a single coal and placed it outside the fire on the hearth where the two men watched it quickly cool. "I see," said the man.

"And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near." ~ Hebrews 10:24-15

Monday, August 16, 2010

Some Reasons I Don't Believe In Luck

Three months ago I decided that I would preach a series of sermons about the family between VBS and the start of school.

Two weeks ago I was preaching about the powerful influence of the submission of a Christian wife to an unbelieving husband. A young Christian mom happened to be there. Her husband is resistant to the gospel. She followed me out of church, gently touched my arm and said, "Thank you so much. I really needed to hear that. It has helped me so much."

A week and a half ago, our satellite went out. They sent another receiver. It was messed up, too. They scheduled a technician for last Monday. I rescheduled because I thought I had an appointment for that afternoon. I felt stupid when I realized I had looked at the wrong date. They could have come. Oh well.

Yesterday I taught about God's plan for singles, including the struggles of being married and serving the Lord. I had prayed for God to bring singles to church. There were alot. A mother, whose children were about to go to college, stopped me after and said, "You could not have picked a better Sunday. I'm so glad my kids heard that right before we take them to college."

Today the satellite troubleshooter showed up. He was a young believer. He believes that unless a conversation begins and ends with God, it's not worthwhile. His wife and his pastor don't understand his passion. As he talked, we talked about taking care of our wives. We prayed for wisdom for him as he serves his wife. We talked about some ways he could use his home and his life as it is to minister, without planning events that take him away from home so much.

These are some reasons I don't believe in luck.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

How Long Would You Love?

Mike Walker is a friend of mine, because we share a common interest in seeing people who do not believe in Jesus become His followers. For the last three and one-half years he has been praying for just One person. He has reached out as a friend, hoped, tried, and prayed.

Last week, he had his first real spiritual conversation with the man he has prayed for for three years. They took an hour and a half walk. During those 90 minutes, they talked about God. Mike shared the gospel. In the end, his One said, "Well, you believe what you believe and I believe what I believe." While you might consider that a failure, Mike considers it a success.

It took three and a half years but he finally got to talk to a dying man about life. Mike is still praying for that One. He will try again. The only way Mike could have failed is to have quit praying, quit trying, quit being a friend, and quit sharing the gospel. That's not my opinion. It's Gods, "And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up." (Gal. 6:9) And, Jesus said of those who do not quit, "I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for my name's sake, and you have not grown weary." (Rev. 2:3))

Monday, August 9, 2010

What Is It To Glorify God?

It is not possible to add to the glory of God. He is perfect, infinite and eternal. His glory fills the heavens and the earth (Isa. 6). So, how can we glorify Him if we cannot add to His glory? Creation manifests His glory passively, meaning that creation does not make a conscious choice to glorify Him. It merely does so because He has created it to do so, "For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities - his eternal power and divine nature - have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse." (Rom.1:20). In this way, the heavens and the earth declare His glory. The creation of man, the intricacies of the human body and mind, declare the glory of its creator, but our purpose is not to passively glorify God. We have been created in His image with a will and a mind, and we must choose to glorify Him. We are "a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that we may proclaim the excellencies of him who called us out of darkness into his marvelous light." (1 Pet. 2:9) This is how we accomplish our chief end. (1) We strive to fill our hearts with confidence in Him, the greatest love for Him, and the greatest honor for Him. (2) We glorify Him with our lips, lifting His praise out of our hearts and minds and going public with our praise. In short, we live a life that praises Him with open mouths that praise Him. If the exaltation of His Name in our lives and with our praise is not our chief end, we are not truly enjoying Him. If it is our cheif end, we will enjoy Him forever.

The End Defines The Means

The shorter Westminster Catechism states that the chief end of man is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever. Jesus said that the greatest command and aspiration in the world was for a man to love God with all his heart, soul, mind and strength. That is glory to God and that is joy.

Joy in Him and glory unto Him are found by working to provide for ourselves and our families. (1 Thess. 4:11-12). Joy in Him and glory unto Him are found in eating, drinking, sleeping, marrying, making babies, raising children, loving grandchildren, and all other lawful things when they are done for His glory (1 Cor. 10:3). Joy in Him and glory unto Him are found even when we enjoy the things of life, in moderation, and when they are enjoyed for His glory. (Ps. 123:25-26).

All men die, but not all men truly live. Faith in Christ is not the end, but the beginning of life. Life is not what you do, life is why you do it and who you do it for. All men work, provide, eat, drink, marry, procreate, and die, and they do it for a million different reasons. Those who know Christ, and whose chief end is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever live. They really live, because they know why they live; for the glory and enjoyment of God.

Don't just live. Live!

* adapted from The Shorter Catechism Explained From Scripture, by Thomas Vincent

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Real Men Pick Their Battles

Jesus never threw a punch, yet never backed down. It's hard to put those two thoughts together. We think that a failure to engage in a fight, physically or verbally, is backing down. We think it's cowardice. Picking your battles is not cowardice. It's wisdom, and a real man is wise.

Jesus had nothing to prove to those who were against him, because he was already approved by God. He was on a mission for the glory of God, "If I (Jesus) glorify myself, my glory is worthless. The one who glorifies me is my Father, about whom you people say, 'He is our God.' Yet you do not know him, but I know him." (John 8:54-55a) So, he picked his battles to glorify God. More than once he avoided confrontation because it was not time for confrontation. More than once he told people not to proclaim his identity, because it was not yet time for that. The timing would not have glorified His Father, it would not have fulfilled God's plan.

A real man, like Jesus, has nothing to prove, because he knows he is already approved by God. A real man, like Jesus, has nothing to prove, because he is living a life that is greater than himself. His mission is the glory of God in all he does. A real man is a "thinking man," not a "reacting man." He picks the battles that God picks and he fights them in a way that glorifies the One who has already approved of him.

Pick the hills you are willing to die on, and die only on those hills that will glorify God.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Jesus, Real Man, Never Threw A Punch

"Son, if you've gotta fight, fight to win and fight dirty. If you think he's gonna hit you, kick him in the groin as hard as you can. He'll go down and the fight will be over." Coarse, but sound advice if you want to win a fight. After all, a real man has to stand up for himself. Right?

Wrong. The real man, Jesus, never threw a punch. I know, he made a whip to drive moneychangers out of the temple, but two things about that. First, scholars say he did not hit the moneychangers, he merely drove the animals. And second, he wasn't upset about himself, but about the people who could not get to God to pray because of the business that was set up in the court of the Gentiles. It was about God and people, not him.

The only fist fight Jesus was ever in he lost so badly that, after it was over, he was so beat up he didn't even look human. He had every reason to throw a punch. They questioned his character, called him a liar, and basically called him an illegetimate son. "Yes, but he was Jesus. He had to do that because it was part of his suffering." Yes, it was part of God's plan, but if you think that Jesus' teaching to "turn the other cheek" was some sort of object lesson, look again.

Real Christian men follow the example of their Captain. They let their lives do the talking, because, in the end, the only proof about the manhood of any man is in the life he lives.

Jesus, Real Man, No Truck

Ok, I know this is really random, but humor me. I was just thinking about the real man, Jesus. I don't mean, "He he was a real historical person." I mean that he was a real man, the living example of real manhood. Amazingly, he had no truck. He walked everywhere he went, except a couple of short donkey rides, and he didn't have a pair of Skechers or Nike's. Think about it. The average American male walks about 900 miles per year. Some estimate Jesus walked over 6,000 miles per year. That means that Jesus covered as much ground on foot in his 33 years as three average American men cover in an average American lifetime. Jesus, real man, no truck.