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.