Wednesday, December 5, 2012

They Cannot Take Christ Out Of Christmas

Pastor and author, Erwin Lutzer wrote a book called Hitler’s Cross. In it he analyzed the Nazi Party’s plan for Germany and how the Christian church in Germany responded. Listen to this paragraph from the book,

Since Germans had for centuries celebrated Christmas and Easter, Hitler had to reinterpret their meaning. Christmas was turned into a totally pagan festival; in fact, at least for the SS troops, its date was changed to December 21, the date of the winter solstice.  Carols and Nativity plays were banned from the schools in 1938, and even the name Christmas was changed to “Yuletide.” Crucifixes were eliminated from the classrooms, and Easter was turned into a holiday that heralded the arrival of spring. You will recognize the same changes taking place in America today.

 I’ve been alive for just a little over 50 years, and in that time our nation has moved to ban prayer and Bible reading from Schools.  Christian military chaplains can no longer pray in Jesus’ name. Various groups and individuals have worked successfully to remove all reference to Christ from the public square, and our president has even declared that our nation is not a Christian nation.

 There can be no doubt in any sane person’s mind that there is a deliberate and systematic attack on the Judeo-Christian foundations of our society, but what of it?  We are free people, not because our government declares us free, but because our Savior has made us free.

As long as a one living, breathing follower of Jesus Christ lives in this community or this nation, Jesus cannot be taken out, legislated out, or driven out. You see, the only way Christ can be taken out of Christmas or out of our society, is if we, those who follow Christ, take Him out. No matter who worships what this Christmas, you can worship Christ. Sing His praises, tell His story, share the joy you have found because of Him. Let them do what they may, but as for you and your house, glorify Jesus, the only begotten son of God, the Christ of Christmas.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Why Do You Give?

Remember this: the person who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and the person who sows generously will also reap generously. Each person should do as he has decided in his heart - not out of regret or out of necessity, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make every grace overflow to you, so that in every way, always having everything you need, you may excel in every good work.  2 Corinthians 9:6-8

There is serious talk in our government about reducing tax deductions for charitable giving. Does that matter? It will matter to virtually all religious and nonreligious charities in this nation, because it will likely reduce the amount corporations and other large sustaining donors give to those charities.

In an opinion peace published at ChristianPost.Com, Dr. Richard Land put it this way, "The proposal to further cap charitable deductions in the federal tax code is a threat aimed like a dagger at the heart of America's charitable nonprofit entities, secular and religious. It will weaken most, kill many, and harm all" So, it will matter to people served by organizations like the Red Cross, St. Jude's, etc.

Will it matter to you?  The proposals of our government will probably not effect most of our giving, because the cuts in deductions are related to those making over a quarter of a million a year. Most of us don't make that kind of money, but what if the government cuts the deduction for all charitable giving? Will your church see a drop in contributions?  Will missions suffer?

The answer reveals your heart. If you cut your giving when you no longer get a tax break, you were not a cheerful giver in the first place. You were motivated, but only by self-interest. You may have been generous, but you were selfishly generous.

If, however, they take away the deduction and you continue to give as God directs, with cheerfulness of heart, you will have demonstrated your faith. You will prove that you trust Him, that you believe that "God is able to make every grace overflow to you, so that in every way, always having everything you need, you may excel in every good work."

If this happens, it will not be easy or pleasant. It will be a test. Yet, every test and trial is a matter for joy for the Christian. Our Lord promises that He will use every test and trial to prove and improve our faith and the Character of Christ within us, to His glory and for our good.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Thanksgiving Only A Legend

Don't worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. Philippians 4:6

There is a legend that God once sent two angels to the earth to gather all the prayers of His people. One angel was assigned the task of gathering all the prayers of petition, all the requests for God's help. The other was to gather all the prayers of thanksgiving. Each angel departed. Soon the second angel returned to God's throne. The Lord asked him where his companion was. He informed the Lord that the first angel was still on earth, unable to return to Heaven, for his load of petitions was so heavy he could not bear them back to Heaven alone. God then asked the second angel why he had returned so quickly, what he had done with his burden of all the prayers of thanksgiving. He replied, "They are here Lord," and he opened up a single hand where he had been able to carry them all.  (Anonymous)

God does not tell us to only give thanks. To fail to ask is to fail to receive. However, we seem far, far better at asking for help than at giving thanks for it. Trusting Christ is not just asking for help, it is thanking Him for it, especially when we have yet to see the results of our requests with our eyes.

Fill up the second angel's hands, overload him this Thanksgiving season.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Chest Thumping

I have not been a huge college football fan. However, if you have a daughter at Louisiana Tech (#19 in the AP poll), live in Louisiana a.k.a. an LSU fan (#8), a brother-in-law who played for Texas Tech (#23), are now a closet A&M (#9) fan because they beat Alabama (#4 and headed downward), and want something relatively wholesome to watch on TV (relatively), then it doesn't hurt to become one. So, I have.

There is one thing in all professional athletics that makes me laugh and cringe at the same time.  (Don't kid yourself. College football is professional athletics.)  That one thing is chest-thumping.  From Usain Bolt at the Olympics to virtually every college player who makes any kind of play, chest-thumping has become the norm. "Look at me! I am bad! Look at me!" And, we love it. When our team thumps, we thump, too.

If you are a devoted fan of Jesus, you will notice that he never thumped his chest. He said his ministry would be invalid if he did . . . "If I testify about Myself, My testimony is not valid." (Jn.5:31)  Instead, he glorified his Father, trusting his Father to glorify him . . . "The Father who sent Me has Himself testified about Me." (Jn.5:37a)

His statement, "I do not accept glory from men," (Jn.5:41), was epitomized in his life in his refusal to thump. He did not thump after the victory over temptation in the wilderness, nor after the deliverance of demoniacs, nor after the healing of thousands, nor after the feeding of thousands, nor after walking on water, nor after rising from the grave. Jesus refused to thump.

He didn't have to. He thrived on glorifying his Father . . . "My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me and to finish His work," (Jn.4:34a) He thrived on humble obedience to his Father.

None of us will thrive any other way.

Monday, November 5, 2012

I Bow Before You As God

But at the end of those days, I, Nebuchadnezzar, looked up to heaven, and my sanity returned to me. Then I praised the Most High and honored and glorified Him who lives forever: For His dominion is an everlasting dominion, and His kingdom is from generation to generation. All the inhabitants of the earth are counted as nothing, and He does what He wants with the army of heaven and the inhabitants of the earth. There is no one who can hold back His hand or say to Him, "What have You done?"  Daniel 4:34-35

For it is God who works in you, enabling you both to desire and to work out His good purpose. Philippians 2:13

Looking Into Our Own Lives - Day 2 - 21 Days of Prayer and Fasting

Nebuchadnezzar was a pagan king who, in his pride, was granted an opportunity by God. God caused him to lose his mind. This earthly king lost his mind, lived with the wild animals, feeding on grass until he bowed down to the God of heaven. At that point, his sanity returned and he proclaimed over all his kingdom who God is. It does not take insanity to drive us to sanity if we will acknowledge what Nebuchadnezzar had to learn this way. God works in the hearts and minds of his children, giving us the desire to do His will and the power to carry it out, if we will bow before Him, acknowledge His Lordship, asking for Him to do in us what we cannot.

Prayer Starter: I bow before You as God. You are in charge of everything. Please give me the desire and power to obey You every moment.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Professional Ethics For The Born Again Christian

Almost every profession has an ethical code, and almost every code prohibits the professional from expressing their personal religious faith. There are also clear ethical codes regarding being deceptive and lying to a client, patient, or student. If the professional is a born again believer in Jesus Christ, follows Christ, and is serious about his or her obedience to the commands of Christ, is it not deceptive to hide his or her faith? Can a teacher knowingly deny his or her faith and be a moral/ethical teacher? Can a psychologist, physician, or attorney knowingly hide all their religious beliefs and still maintain ethical integrity? Is not not more ethical to be honest about one's faith as a professional than to be dishonest about it? Take, for instance, a chaplain. Is it ethical for a chaplain to deny his own faith in order to help a person of a different faith? Is that not, at the very core, deceptive? If a chaplain is not convinced of his own moral and ethical center, then he cannot possibly be a person who can truly help another. He is unethical because he has no convictions. So, when he enters the hospital room of a patient of another faith, would it not be better to be honest than to deceive that patient? Would it not be more ethical for the chaplain to say, "I know that you are Buddhist. I am a Christian chaplain, a Baptist. I cannot deny my faith. To do so would make me deceptive. I am here to help you in any way I can, as long as you are comfortable with that and will allow me. I would rather be honest with you than to be deceptive." If Christ is everything to me, whether I am a pastor, teacher, psychologist, attorney, doctor, barber, CPA, or mechanic, then it is unethical and immoral for me to pretend that He is not everything to me.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

How To Handle Bullying

The Jews responded to Him, "Aren't we right in saying that You're a Samaritan and have a demon?"  "I do not have a demon," Jesus answered. "On the contrary, I honor My Father and you dishonor Me."  ~ John 8:48-49
Charlotte Dawson is a beautiful, talented, and successful model and TV personality in Australia. Recently she attempted suicide because she was bullied on Twitter. There is no excuse for bullying. It is not manly, but mean. It is not funny, but cruel.  We should teach our children that it will not be tolerated in our homes, our churches, or our schools.
We should teach them something else, too. We should teach them how to handle the inevitable as Jesus did, because they will be bullied, ridiculed, mocked and critcized.  Jesus was bullied. How did He handle it?  There are three specific ways:
First, He handled it by having a greater mission than his own self-worth.  He was about His Fathe'rs business, so what men thought about His actions mattered little to Him.  As long as we teach our children that the world is about them, we will never be able to teach them to ignore what the world says about them.
Second, He handled it by having a greater identity.  Being called a 'Samaritan' in Jesus' day was equivalent to being called the 'N' word in our society. He was also called a demoniac, which meant he was labelled as spiritually and mentally ill. His answer:  "I honor my Father and you dishonor me." Notice that while Jesus was God, He did not draw his identity or worth from Himself. He drew it from ONE relationship. The one He had with His Father.
Third, He handled it by having a greater goal.  His goal is revealed in the verses that followed the accusation of bullies.  "I do not seek My glory, the One who seeks it also judges."  (John 8:50) Jesus' goal was the glory of His Father. Since His goal was not His own glory, what others said about Him mattered much less. If the glory of God is our ultimate goal, when others belittle us it matters much less.
This does not mean that we develop a tolerant attitude toward those who bully. Seeking the glory of God means protecting the weak and innocent.  That does not mean we take vengeance into our own hands. If you want to protect your children and your friends against the inevitable ridicule of this life, help them know Jesus. Help them make His mission, rather than their own self-worth, their mission. Help them learn who He says they are.  Help them make His glory, not theirs, their life's purpose.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

An Offensive Prayer

I asked God for strength, that I might achieve;
I was made weak, that I might learn to humbly obey.
I asked for health, that I might do greater things;
I was given infirmity, that I might do better things.
I asked for riches, that I might be happy;
I was given poverty, that I might be wise.
I asked for power, that I might have the praise of men;
I was given weakness, that I might feel the need for God.
I asked for all things that I might enjoy life;
I was given life, that I might enjoy all things.
I got nothing I asked for but everything I hoped for.
Almost despite myself, my unspoken prayers were answered.
I am, among men, most richly blessed.

This prayer was found in the pocket of a wounded confederate soldier. It is an offensive prayer to those who believe that great faith removes all weakness, sickness, and poverty. It is offensive to those whose treasure, and therefore their hearts, are stored up on this earth. It is offensive to the one who believes that God's discipline is out of spite, and not love, who says, "Be careful what you ask for. You just might get it." 

I do not think it offends God. Jesus said He had no place to lay his head, and that those who followed Him would likel experience the same. I do not think it would offend his Apostles. They taught us that to follow Him did not exempt us from suffering, but virtually guaranteed it. None of them died safely at home in bed.

Tha mature believer is not the one who has the most or sings the loudest, but the one who trusts Christ explicitly. He has "no matter what" faith in his Redeemer. He does not just trust God for what He may do, but trusts Him no matter what He does. He is the one who expriences the abundant life Jesus promised, because his hope is build on nothing less than Jesus blood and righteousness. His life is continually filled, not with treasure that moth and rust destroy, but with that which cannot be taken away by anything or anyone on this earth.

Lord, may I  grow up in You so that one day I trust you explicitly.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Pity The Worship Leaders

I saw the Lord seated on a high and lofty throne, and His robe filled the temple.  Seraphim were standing above Him; each one had six wings: with two he covered his face, with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew.  And one called to another: Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of Hosts; His glory fills the whole earth. The foundations of the doorways shook at the sound of their voices, and the temple was filled with smoke.  Then I said: Woe is me for I am ruined because I am a man of unclean lips and live among a people of unclean lips,  and because my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of Hosts. (Isaiah 6:1-5)

It is not their fault. We have done this to them. We have expected their sill to lead us to worship. Most of us will not sing if they do not hit the right emotionally nostaligic chord. We expect them to set the mood. Isn't it true that we expect them to fill the church with musical glory?

Some of it may be their fault. They are, after all, human. And, as human, they perform. And, anyone who performs seeks the adulation of the crowd. Humble or not in spirit, the flesh seeks it. They are especially at risk if they are highly skilled at music. They are even more at risk if they are able to manipulate emotion with their craft.

R. Kent Hughes wrote, "The height of devotion is reached when reverence and contemplation produce passionate worship, which in turn breaks forth in thanksgiving and praise in word and song."  Worship cannot be drummed or strummed up. Worship rises when we finally recognize who we are and who God is.  Worship rises when we are no longer drunk with the skill of music, but filled with the Spirit because we have seen Him in our private devotions and in our hearts high and lifted up. He is the glory, not the music, not the leader. 

I pity the worship leaders, because we expect them to create a glory-filled atmosphere. They are not God. They cannot, and that is why our worship is often so pitiful. Great worship is not the result of great music, but the result of a recognition and admiration of a great God. So, if you want to experience great worship this Sunday, spend all week focused on the One True and Truly Great God.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Racism: The Old Elephant In The Church Parlor

What God has made clean, you must not call common. (Acts 10:15)

God had to repeat Himself three times in a supernatural vision to prepare Peter to step over the racial divide and preach the Gospel to Gentiles. Then it took a divine sign, the pouring out of the Holy Spirit accompanied by speaking in tongues, to convince him that the Gentiles were truly capable of receiving the Gospel and being born again.

Racism is nothing new to humanity, and it is nothing new to the church. Even after the glorious salvation of the Gentiles in the home of Cornelius, a Roman centurion home, Peter's ministry was called into question by those of the Jewish ethnic in Jerusalem. Peter had to defend preaching the Gospel to and baptizing Gentiles. When he relayed the story to the Jewish church, the initial reaction was shock, "When they heard this they became silent."  Finally, however, the Holy Spirit's work was accomplished in them and "Then they glorified God, saying, 'So God has granted repentance resulting in life to even the Gentiles!" (Acts 11:18)

I could go into great detail here about my upbringing, how far it was from the racial tensions of the deep south in which I now pastor, how I became aware of my own racist prejudices even though I thought I had none. Yet, that is not important. What is important is the issue of racism raised by the election of an honorable, and godly black pastor from my state to lead my denomination.

In 1995, my denomination issued an apology for its support of slavery and the civil oppression of black people in this nation. In 2012, it elected Fred Luter, pastor of Franklin Avenue Baptist Church in New Orleans as its president. All I know of Fred Luter leads me to respect him and rejoice that he is our president. Not all, however, in our convention will rejoice. A few will probably leave. A few will shake their heads and wag their tongues.

Fred Luter knows the significance of his election, and is much more aware than I am of the issues within the entire church over race. So, there is no reason to avoid this old elephant, or pretend that it has gone away.  This elephant is as old as the human race, and he is multicolored, for racism is a series of two way streets which run in all directions. 

It took God awhile to work on Peter, longer to work on the Jewish Christians in Jerusalem, and apparently longer to work on some of us. May He never stop, and may we, all us followers of Christ, never settle for anything less than the image of Christ being fully developed in us . . . red and yellow, black and white.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Love Needs No Angle

By this all people will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another. (Jn.13:35)

There used to be only a few varieties of salad dressing -- Ranch, Italian, French, and Thousand Island. You might find Blue Cheese in a fancy-shmancy restaurant. Now, there are more varieties of each one than there used to be dressings -- Buttermilk Ranch, Garlic Ranch, Spicy Ranch, Southwest Ranch, Bacon Ranch, Cucumber Ranch, and the beat goes on.

There used to be only a few church brands, and you knew what you were getting when you went -- Baptist, Methodist, Catholic, Presbyterian, Pentecostal, Church of Christ. Now, there are as many varieties of each as there were denominations --  Reformed, Cowboy, Biker, King James Only, Contemporary, Traditional, Liturgical, Emergent, Emerging, and the beat goes on.

You know when my mom made Ranch dressing from those powdered mixes, I don't remember one single conversation like, "Mom, I really wish we had another flavor of Ranch dressing."  I just remember how good Ranch was.  My point is this. All those different flavors of Ranch are simply the marketing attempts of dressing makers to keep people interested in Ranch dressing.

I wonder if all these different varieties of church aren't just man's attempt to keep people interested, to play to the flesh in an attempt to excite the spirit, to find an inroad into a lost world, to get a few disinterested lost people interested. A friend pointed out that love really doesn't need an angle. If we love one another like Christ commands and enables us to through the Holy Spirit, then we will love the others like He commands and empowers us to.

Maybe that's what all those varieties are about, at least to some degree. Maybe they aren't some human attempt to market Christ and His Church. Maybe they are, at heart, an expression of His love. Maybe . . .

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Longing For An End And A Beginning

"For we know that if our earthly house, a tent, is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. and, in fact, we groan in this one, longing to put on our house from heaven, since, when we are clothed, we will not be found naked. Indeed, we who are in this tent groan, burdened as we are, because we do not want to be unclothed but clothed, so that mortality may be swallowed up by life. And the One who prepare us for this very thing is God, who gave us the Spirit as a down payment. Therefore, though we are always confidence and know that while we are at home int eh body we are away from the Lord -- for we walk by faith, not by sight -- yet we are confident and satisfied to be out of the body and at home with the Lord." 2 Corinthians 5:1-8

I was reading this passage while listening to worship music on Pandora when the Shane & Shane song, played. Here are the lyrics . . .

Why since you've wounded my heart, don't you heal it?
And why, since you stolen my heart, do you leave it so?
Oh, this heart of stone.

Why don't you carry away my heart,
You have stolen and left here broken?
Why don't you carry away my heart, already taken?

The dawning of a new heart where stone begins to bleed.
For the arrow of God that runs through me,
Leaves me in need, here in need.

Why don't you carry away my heart,
You have stolen and left here broken?
Why don't you carry away my heart, already taken?

How long, how long, how long?
And how long, how long, how long?

Thursday, June 7, 2012

At Peace In An Unmarked Grave

The hillside is unkempt. Weeds, dead but still standing from last spring, are the only sentinels. The orderliness one expects of a cemetery is missing, graves arranged haphazardly as if the diggers cared little or were in a rush to be done with their task. A few weather-worn wooden crosses are scattered here and there, many fallen. Most graves are marked with old temporary metal markers that have faded so that no name can be seen. Some have nothing more than a crude stone, a rock really, stained red by the clay soil. Very few are marked by a proper granite or marble headstone.

Well, perhaps we should be grateful that someone cared enough to put any marker down. At the same time, the thought occurs that it may have been done more from a practical concern than from an attempt to honor. After all, who wants to dig a grave and find bones already in the hole?

Would you be at peace in such a grave? No one knows. No one remembers. There are no flowers, no visitors except the flora and fauna and even they seem to care little. There is One who knows, though. One who remembers.

"I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. In the future, there is reserved for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give me on that day, and not only to me, but to all those who have loved his appearing." 2 Timothy 4:7-8

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Don't Swim In The Water

"I am the vine; you are the branches. The one who remains in Me and I in him produces much fruit, because you can do nothing without Me. If anyone does not remain in Me, he is thrown aside like a branch and he withers. If anyone does not remain in Me, he is thrown aside like a branch and he withers. They gather them, throw them into the fire, and they are burned. If you remain in Me and My words remain in you, asks whatever you want and it will be done for you." (John 15:5-8)

The last few months have been interesting. Barach Obama became the first sitting president to declare his support for homosexual marriage. His justice department has refused to defend the DOMA, and just last week a federal appeals court found the Defense Of Marriage Act unconstitutional Continuing his presidential policy, he has once again proclaimed June LGBT month,

Miss Rhode Island won the Miss USA pageant. Many attribute her win to the answer she gave when asked if she thought it fair that a transgendered contestant could win the pageant. She said, yes, "because it's a free country." One of the judges who crowned her, Cat Cora, is a lesbian raising four sons with her partner. Another of the judges, Arsenio Hall, beat out Clay Aiken recently in Pageant Owner Donald Trump's reality show, Celebrity Apprentice. Aiken professes to be a born again homosexual artist. Rounding out the entertainment news, DC Comics has outed the Green Lantern, making him their first gay character.

There is even more bizarre news in this bizarre culture. People have been eating people in a string of zombie-like attacks. And, conservative Christians are lining up behind our nation's first Mormon presidential candidate.

And, here we are, swimming in this water, this culture. Is it safe? This is a culture in decline, not because of one issue like homosexual marriage, but because it has abandoned God. Personal choice has been deified and God's truth diluted to the point that we find it tolerable, if not acceptable or even laudable, that a person can profess faith in Jesus while following the teachings of Lucifer.

We are not immune. We have trusted our minds, and the minds of our children and grandchildren to this culture. We swim in it like catfish in a septic pond. Our culture is toxic to the truth, meaning to the Christian faith. There is no longer any room for passivity in the area of what we believe.  We've been told that our younger generation is abandoning the faith. I meet just as many adults and senior citizens who are as morally relativistic as my daughter's agnostic college professors. Professing Christians of every age are passively sliding toward apostasy.

We must love the people, live in this world, and preach the good news of freedom in Christ without embracing the culture. It is possible. It has been done for two millennia.We have to live in this world, but we do not have to be part of it. That, however, requires tough choices: choosing to believe in the Gospel, choosing to immerse our minds in His Word, and then choosing to follow His teachings.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The $20,000 Trailer House $40,000 Truck Syndrome

The house is worth about $50,000. That truck, though . . . well it listed for $70, but he got it for $65,000. They needed it to tow the fifth wheel camping, but that would keep them from being able to bring the boat along. So, they bought a new truck for his wife (yep, for his wife). He can even roll the Harley up in the truck bed before they hook up the boat. The twin four wheelers (for the kids), have to stay at home, though. So, they are spending $50,000 on the only thing of lasting value, and $200,000 on rapidly depreciating stuff.

This world is designed to proliferate the $20,000 Trailer House $40,000 Truck syndrome. Both retail sales and hell benefit greatly from it. Don't pick on this family. Even if you're a sound financial investor, most of what you are investing in will not last forever. Remember, one day you won't need all the stuff out in the yard, under the shed, and in the retirement account. One day, you won't even need the house, but you'll still want some place to live. And on that day, you won't be thinking about the next 10 or 15 years. You'll be thinking about eternity.

So, follow God's eternal investing advice, and "Don't collect for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal. But collect for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves don't break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." (Matthew 6:19-21)

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

That's Not Me, Exactly

Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind... (Rom.12:2a)

"Hey, you were here yesterday, right?" asked the pastor.  "Yes," he said, "great message, pastor." "So, did you do it?"  A puzzled look and then, "What?" Pastor, continuing, "Did you do it? Did you share the gospel with people yesterday and today? I mean, that's what I preached about - the power of the Holy Spirit that enables us to share the Gospel everywhere we go?" Have you ever seen human skin turn from pink and healthy to cold, clammy and pale in just a moment?

I love asking people to do the things Christ asks them to do. I love asking them to pray, to read the Word, to gather together in corporate and small group settings to study the Bible. I love asking them to give and serve and witness. I love this, because I represent Christ when I ask those questions. Often, however, the response is like the one above. Sometimes I even hear, "Well, that's just not me, pastor."

I want to say, "Exactly. I know it's not you. That is precisely why you need to do it. No man naturally believes. No man naturally bears witness after believing. No man denies himself, takes up his cross, and follows Christ. No man naturally mutually submits himself to a body of believers, lays down the remote and takes up the Bible, lays down the fishing rod and takes up the hammer at work day, lays down his yard work and takes up children's ministry, lays down his free time and spends it on sharing the Gospel. That is exactly why you desperately need to do so, so that you can begin to walk in the abundant life Jesus promised - not the kind of life you've been living, but one infinitely deeper, wider, and more satisfying than any you have yet experienced."

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Invictus Running With The Wind

"'Come!" He said. And climbing out of the boat, Peter started walking on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the strength of the wing, he was afraid. And, beginning to sink he cried out, 'Lord, save me!'" ~ Matthew 14:29-30

The winds always blow, and most blow with them. They build their lives like tall ships in full sail running with, rather than against the wind. The ride is thrilling. Sins indulged. Philosophies considered and embraced. Worldviews developed. Lifestyles entertained and approved. Religion is even part of the mix. They captain their ships, believing they are in charge of their destinies. They are inspired by others who run with the wind, like William Ernest Henly. This poet faced great trials in life without God. He wrote Invictus (latin for invincible), a poem that has inspired millions to continue running with the wind.

Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds and shall find me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.

Those who run with the wind may successfully stear their course around the rock all their lives, but in the end they will not avoid Him. They will tragically discover that they were not the masters of their fates, the captains of their souls. There is another Captain, another Master, who is also a rock. No ship avoids Him in the end. "Look! I am putting a stone in Zion to stumble over, and a rock to trip over, yet the one who believes on Him will not be put to shame." (Rom.9:33)

Are you running with the wind?

Monday, April 30, 2012

And you can't trust God for what?

E100 - Day 61 - Luke 9:1-36

"You give them something to eat," He told them. "We have no more than five loaves and two fish," they said, "unless we go and buy food for all these people." ~ Luke 9:13

Jesus called a meeting of the twelve, gave them power and authority over demons and sickness, and sent them, empty handed, to walk the roads proclaiming his authority. He told them that people along the way would take care of their needs. They did what He said, He did what He said He would do, and word about Him spread. Then a crowd of 5,000 men plus women and children chased him down at Bethsaida. He preached all day till the people were hungry. The twelve encouraged him to send the people to buy their own supper. Jesus told the twelve to feed them, at which they balked. So, Jesus took 5 loaves and 2 fish and fed this huge crowd. He multiplied so much food that there were leftovers. 12 baskets. Could those 12 baskets be for the 12?

He had given them authority and guaranteed provision. They had cast out demons, healed the sick, and found free food and lodging. Yet, when faced with a hungry crowd, they were faithless. I think the 12 baskets were a huge, in your face, "Oh, my goodness," rebuke of their unbelief. Worry and faith do not dwell together. So, in the Sermon On The Mount, Jesus speaks directly to the issue. He asks how we can believe He feeds birds and clothes the fields with flowers and can still worry that He will not take care of us (Matthew 6:25-34)

Jesus is not sympathetic or therapeutic about worry. He is as straightforward as 12 baskets of leftovers. The only answers He gives are 1) don't worry, 2) trust your Father who loves you, and 2) get your focus off of all the stuff you are worrying about and on His kingdom and His righteousness.

In the words of Yoda in Star Wars, "Do or do not. There is no try." We either trust Him, or we worry.

Monday, April 16, 2012

The Darkness Cannot Overcome The Light

e100 - Day 51 - John 1:1-18

By You and through You we were created. We sinned against our Creator, we pleased our flesh, and fell into the darkness of depravity. We have called evil good and good evil, we have substituted darkness for light and light for darkness, bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter. We have become wise in our own opinion and clever in our own sight (Isa.5:20-21).  We have walked in darkness, but we have seen a greater light; light has dawned on those living int he land of darkness (Isa.9:2). That light could not be overcome by the darkness. All praise and glory and honor and thanks to You, Lord, for the Word made flesh, Jesus, the light that shined in the darkness of all men. Thank You, Lord, that He was the fullness of You, full of grace and truth, a never ending supply of light that has forever pierced all darkness. Thank You, God, that You have been so gracious to us, so merciful, that we who were not a people are now Your people. How is it that Your own rejected You, and we received You? Thank You, Father and Your Son, the Lord Jesus Christ!

Monday, April 2, 2012

An Attack Against The Gospel In Uganda

The ministry of our friends and IMB missionaries, George and Geraldine Smith, is contantly under attack by the enemy as it reaches into the lost, anamistic, and Islamic culture of East Africa (Read more about them at George & Geraldine).

Well, this weekend, they were directly attacked.  The Pastor Training school on Bavuma Island in Lake Victoria was burned out. Someone doused the building with gasoline, set it afire, and everything but the walls are gone: all mission equipment, solar power cells, kitchen supplies, musical instruments, sound systems, clinic supplies, everything.

This is a crucial time for the ministry. Volunteer teams are coming, and they need all these things. Supplies that had been laid up in preparation are now gone.  They need financial help now to rebuild. What the enemy means for evil, God means for good. Be part of the good.

If you will help, contact our church at

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Broken Bow Videos

Rees catching a Bow on Broken Bow . . . don't forget to scroll down for more pics

Monday, March 12, 2012

Broken Bow Trip

It was a short trip to Beavers Bend, but very successful. Here are a few shots.


Monday, February 6, 2012

Christians Without Christian Minds

"The mind's activity has been compared to 1,000 switchboards, each big enough to serve New York City, all running at full speed as they receive and send questions and orders. Put another way, there is more electronic equivalent in one human brain than in all the radio and television stations of the entire world put together!"

"The dizzying potential of the human mind reaches its apex in the possibility of possessing the mind of Christ through the ministry of the Holy Spirit - a possibility affirmed by Paul when he said, "But we have the mind of Christ" - a mind which is constantly renewed (cf. 1 Corinthians 2:16 and Romans 12:2). No computer will ever be able to think God's thoughts, nor will any device ever be able to know the heart of God or do His works. But the mystery which resides between our ears has this capacity. Indeed, it was created for this - to have the mind of Christ."

"This cosmic potential of the believer's mind introduces the great scandal of today's church: Christians without Christian minds, Christians who do not think Christianly - a tragic fact is far more true of professing Christian men than woman, as we shall see."

R. Kent Hughes, Disciplines of a Godly Man, pp. 71-72

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

There Are No Preachers In Heaven

Therefore, brothers, since we have boldness to enter the sanctuary through the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that He has inaugurated for us, through the curtain (that is, His flesh); and since we have a great high priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed in pure water.
Hebrews 10:19-22

The thought struck me today that there is no need for my calling in Heaven. There is no record of a preacher being transported in the Spirit to Heaven in order to preach a well-constructed sermon. There is already a preacher in Heaven far superior to all here. There is also no need for any deacon there, nor any Sunday School teacher, nursery worker, kitchen committee member, greeter, missionary, property committee member, encourager, prophet, etc., etc.  Any work that needs to be done there is immediately accomplished by an innumerable host of angelic warrior-servants.

There is no record of us coming there now, in the Spirit, to do anything for our great God. There is, however, an encouragement for us to enter that place for one reason . . . Prayer.  Maybe that is why Jesus said that His Father's house would be called a house of prayer.  He was zealous to teach that fact, driving money-changers and animal-sellers out of the temple with a whip of cords.

So, as I thought, it struck me. If I want to be well-known in Heaven today, I should focus less on preaching, and more on praying. And, if you want an audience with the King, you will not gain it through your works, but only through faith in His Son and by prayer.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

No Other Name

This Jesus is the stone despised by you builders, who has become the cornerstone. There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to people by which we must be saved.  (Acts 4:12)

The last two days I attended the Louisiana Baptist Convention's annual Evangelism Conference. It was a Baptist meeting held on the campus of a Baptist college, filled with Baptists. And, in spite of this being the bicentennial year of Baptist work in our state, Baptist was not the name lifted high. There was much talk about what God is doing among Baptists in our state. There was much promotion of the Baptist Convention's vision of spiritual awakening in the state this year. Yet, Baptist was not the thread that ran through every presentation. The thread was scarlet, not Baptist. The name was Jesus.

What name do you value above all others? Are you a nonconformist, nondenominational, Pentecostal, Baptist, Catholic, Republican, Democrat, Calvinist, Arminian, Reformed, Christian, or just spiritual?

There's nothing wrong with a name. There is everything wrong in thinking that any other name other than the name will save.  Today I am thankful that being a Baptist in Louisiana means lifting up the name of the one and only name that matters . . . Jesus.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Keep It Simple Stupid

The term, "Keep It Simple, Stupid!" originated with an engineering team that has developed some of the most complex flying machines known to man. Lockeed Martin's Skunk Works has given us the U2, SR-71 Blackbird, F-117 Stealth Fighter/Bomber, and the new F-35 Strike Fighter. Those machines to not accomplish what they accomplish because they are simple. Yet, their creation required thousands of simple solutions.   

We think that if life is complex, it is significant. We believe that if we can fill our lives with ideas, facts, events, and knowledge, we will have great and significant lives. One of our greatest thinkers knew that simplicity was the solution to complexity, so he, Albert Einstein, wrote, "Out of complexity, find simplicity."  One of our most beautiful composers discovered the same, and so Chopin wrote, "Simplicity is the final achievement. After one has played a vast quantity of notes and more notes, it is simplicity that emerges as the crowning reward of art."  

Why then do we continue to worship busyness and complexity? Why do we look down on people and churches with empty schedules?  Why are we thrilled by complex doctrine?  I, a pastor, have never heard, "We are so glad to be here. Things are so simple."  It is always, "Wow, it's great that you have so much going on."

Simplicity, you see, requires humility. Humility is the enemy of the human ego, and we are all ego-maniacs at heart. All we like sheep have gone astray, thinking our way was better than His way.  The original ego-maniac, Satan, knows this. He has always wanted to be greater than himself, even greater than God. So, I believe he has become adept at making life complex, even influencing the human mind so that we think that the more complex our doctrine, the more spiritual we have become; the busier we are, the more important. The Apostle Paul wrote, "But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve in his craftiness, your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity and the purity that is toward Christ." (2Cor.11:3) 

God in unfathomable, and yet, in Christ, He has made Himself knowable. He is infinitely more complex than any human mind will ever comprehend, and yet His kingdom is populated with little children. And, the only way to be part of it is by humbly coming to Him as a child and believing the simplest of truths.

Life is not simple, but the answer is not in discovering its complexicty. To live life as it was intended, we need only to walk in it with the Creator, by faith in His Son, hearing His voice and following Him as Adam and Eve did before they listened to the ego-maniac, Satan.

God's goal is not a shallow life or shallow faith, but complexity does not equal depth. The key to life is in knowing the infinitely complex Creator of the Universe personally. Don't be stupid like Satan. Keep it simple. Make knowing Christ the beginning and end of your quest.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

I Think Joseph Smith Did See An Angel & That Mitt Romney Believes That, Too

I just finished some study on angels and demons and that brings me to Mitt Romney and the founder of his faith, Joseph Smith. Romney is a Mormon. Mormon was the name of an angelic prophet, the father of the alleged angel Moroni.  Moroni told Joseph Smith where the buried golden plates were that contained the restored truth of God. Joseph Smith believed the angel, wrote a book, founded a religion.

I don't think Joseph Smith made it up. I think he was deceived, believing what angels told him. Only, these angels were not the ones who stayed in Heaven, but the ones who were kicked out. We call them demons.

The Bible says it is possible for demons, appearing as angels, to speak to men and deceive them. Note 2 Corinthians 11:13-14, "For such people are false apostles, deceitful workers, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. And no wonder!  For Satan himself is disguised as an angel of light." And, while Paul may have been engaging in hyperbole, he still wrote "But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel other than what we have preached to you, a curse be on him!" (Gal.1:8)

Why do I believe the Book of Mormon is false?  Well, because it's founder, if that was the angel Moroni, was false. He said he was an angel and the son of Mormon. Jesus said angels can't have babies. They don't marry. There are no children born in Heaven. Angels don't become men and men don't become angels. Mormons teach we marry here, die, go to the Celestial Kingdom and have spirit babies and populate our own world one day, becoming a god.. This conflicts directly with the teachings of Jesus, who said, "The sons of this age marry and are given in marriage. But those who are counted worthy to take part in that age and in the resurrection from the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage. For they cannot die anymore, because they are like the angels and are sons of God, since they are sons of the resurrection."  (Luke 20:34-36)

So, how in the world did Joseph Smith come up with this, and how is it that otherwise sane, rational, and even brilliant people like Mitt Romney believe all this?  Satan is an angel of light, and he's good at what he does, and someone is always willing to believe.  Even presidential candidates.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Praying When My Pond Is Full, But The Lake Is Low

It's been dry, really dry. It's been so dry back out in my home country of West Texas that all the fish have got ticks. It's even been dry here in Louisiana, so dry some Baptists have been sprinkling and some Methodists have gone to spittin'. So, we've been praying for rain, and God has answered.

My pond was almost dry, but it's been full for two months. It's raining now. Why I haven't heard a request for rain since Thanksgiving.  Course, the lake is still low.  Toledo Bend, 20 miles from here, is one of the largest man-made lakes in the country. While it's been coming up a little, it's still dangerously low. But, what do I care. I don't live on the lake. I don't fish from a boat on the lake. I don't get my water from the lake.

My family is fed. My bills are paid. My marriage is stable. My children are saved. My friends were at church yesterday. And, my pond is full. Why do I need to pray? That's the way we are, isn't it. As long as our pond is full and our bills are paid, the heat is off and so is the urgency to pray.

Right now, thousands of Louisiana Baptists are praying for spiritual awakening in our state. Tens, perhaps hundreds of thousands are praying for awakening across our nation.  And, right now, many, many more are not praying. What about you?  Are you satisfied when God is not?

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Avoid Friendly Fire - Fight The Right Enemy With The Right Weapon

Late last year US forces near the Afghan-Pakistan border came under from a ridge line above them. Flares were dropped from an F-15 and an AC-130 gunship that should have made Pakistani Military aware these were Americans. Yet, they continued to fire. Before US forces could defend themselves, they were assured that there were no Pakistani Military personnel in the area. Apparently both thought they were fighting the enemy, when, in reality, they were fighting an ally. The result was 24 Pakistanis dead, damaged relations with an ally in the war against Al Queda.

Now hear this. "Our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the world powers of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavens." (Eph.6:12)  That means that no matter what you hear from your husband, your wife, your children, your boss, your friend, or anyone else in the world, they are not the source of the battle . . . they are not really your enemy.

So, listen to this, "This is why you must take up the full armor of God, so that you may be able to resist in the evil day, and having prepared everything to take your stand." (Eph.6:13)  You must be spiritually prepared to fight a different battle with a different enemy. That means you must be "strengthened by the Lord and by His vast strength. Put on the full armor of God so that you can stand against the tactics of the Devil." (Eph.6:10-11). I know it sounds sort of hocus-pocus, super-spiritual, or mystical. Yet, God is the only one who has a clear line of sight of the whole battlefield, and this is what He says.

You fight this battle primarily with the Word and with Prayer by taking up "the sword of the Spirit, which is God's word. Pray(ing) at all times in the Spirit with every prayer and request," (Eph. 6:17-18)  Remember, this is important, "For though we live in the body, we do not wage war in an unspiritual way, since the weapons of our warfare are not worldly, but are powerful through God for the demolition of strongholds." (2 Cor. 10:3-4)  The only way to win is to fight the real enemy in the real battle with the right weapons.

Who are you fighting today?  How are you trying to win?

Avoid friendly fire. Fight the right enemy with the right weapons.