Friday, December 30, 2016

The Purpose Of January At Calvary


"Some years ago I attended public worship in a certain church. The pastor was absent on holiday, and a lay elder led the pastoral prayer. He prayed that the pastor might enjoy a good vacation (which was fine), and that two lady members of the congregation might be healed (which was also fine; we should pray for the sick). But that was all. The intercession can hardly have lasted thirty seconds. I came away saddened, sensing that this church worshiped a little village god of their own devising. There was no recognition of the needs of the world, and no attempt to embrace the world in prayer." (John Stott, Guard The Truth)

There are good habits and bad, but even good habits can become less than the best habits. A rut is a rut is a rut. Even a good rut is still a rut. It's easy for us to get into ruts. Even churches get into ruts. Every now and then we need to take time out to examine ourselves, as Paul wrote, "Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test!" (2 Cor. 13:5)

For months I've felt that we, Calvary, needed to take time to examine ourselves. I always like to hit the ground running the first of January, but that almost never works. People are just too busy from Thanksgiving through Christmas to prepare for a new year. So, we're not going to hit the ground running. We're going to hit the ground and stop.  There are five Sundays in January, and we're going to use them to seek the Lord. He has people for us to embrace and Paul made it clear that that group of people is a lot larger than just our own church.

A church glorifies God when its members function together as God designed. So, we're going to spend time together. Rather than meeting in home groups, we'll spend the last four Sunday nights in worship together. Each Sunday night will be different, but focused on seeking God together.

A church glorifies God when it listens to God. So, we're going to spend time listening in prayer and worship.  While I'll do the majority of the preaching, we'll hear from four different preachers this January, and we'll even spend one night hearing the testimonies of dozens of persecuted believers. There will also be two special gatherings before worship to hear from one another.

A church glorifies God when it embraces His vision. Since no individual or church has arrived, we know we always have to be willing to embrace change if we're going to carry out His vision in this world. There's no joy apart from the vision of God. There's just a rut. So, prepare yourself. It may be that God is preparing to set us on a new path.

See you Sunday.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

God Rescues His People


There are times when you need to be rescued. Daniel was right in the middle of one of those times. The king in the land had ordered all the people of the land to worship him as god or be put to death. Daniel already had a God, the one true God, and he refused to bow to any other. His faith was great, but he was still thrown into a pit with lions who would quickly devour him. The God Daniel served is a God who rescues. The next morning, when the king went to the lion's den to see if Daniel was dead, he was not. Not only did God rescue Daniel, but the pagan king gave God glory, pronouncing an edict that all in the land "must tremble in fear before the God of Daniel: For He is the living God, and He endures forever; His kingdom will never be destroyed, and His dominion has no end." (Daniel 6:26)

This Sunday in our 9:15 groups for children, studentsadults, and senior adults you'll see how God glorifies Himself through the rescue of those who trust Him, and how the rescue of Daniel points toward God's rescue of us all through the death and resurrection of His Son, Jesus Christ.

If you're a young adult, you'll discover a similar truth how the Bible helps us to discover and follow Jesus who is the ultimate Word from God, who brings salvation and rescue to all who believe.

See you Sunday in 9:15 groups at 9:15am as we live for Christ.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

New Year Resolutions


When these events were over, Paul resolved in the Spirit to pass through Macedonia and Achaia and go to Jerusalem. "After I've been there," he said, "I must see Rome as well!"
Acts 19:21

Some people make them. Some don't. Few keep them, but I think it's a good thing to make New Year Resolutions. Paul resolved, after prayer and seeking the Holy Spirit's leading, to do something new in ministry. Now, just like our resolutions don't always work out like we think, his didn't either. But, if you never make a decision to change, you won't change. And, unless you're a airplane on the tarmac, you haven't arrived,  So, spend some time this week in prayer and thought. Ask God what resolutions you need to make for a better 2017. You only have a week, so you better get started.  Here are a my top four. The first two are universal - eat better and exercise more. By the way, I've already started those. The next two are pray more and read more. If I act on them it will be a pretty big adjustment to my schedule. But, I'm looking forward to them.

Merry Christmas, and Happy New Year! 

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Don't Lose Your Own Battle For Christmas

Now the goal of our instruction is love that comes from a pure heart, a good conscience, and a sincere faith.
1 Timothy 1:5

     The birth of Jesus is the incarnation, God with us in the flesh. The purpose of the incarnation and of Christmas is, "Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners - and I am the worst of them." (1 Tim. 1:15)  When we believe in the Gospel, He purifies our hearts. We know we are still sinners, but we trust that He's forgiven us. We know we're sinners, but His grace gives us courage. When we wake up in the morning and engage in spiritual battle, we do it with confidence. When we fail and fall, we confess our sin and find grace and mercy for the battle.
     What happens, though, when we deliberately choose to sin?  When we ignore the Holy Spirit speaking to our conscience, we quench Him. We know we've sinned, and we know we've ignored Him. We know we are hypocrites at that point, even if no one else does. There's no confidence in that, no courage, and no strength for the battle. 
     We can know that the world is wrong, and still live wrong. We can fight for Christmas, and fail to fight for our own good conscience. At that point, we're not just personally weakened. We are spiritually weakened. We've rendered ourselves spiritually anemic and ineffective. Even if we win some external battle, we've lost.
     So, guard your conscience this Christmas. Confess and turn from sin as soon as convicted. Forgive others quickly. Don't join the world. Invade it with the message of Christmas, that "Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners," and make Paul's confession your own, "and I am the worst of them."

Monday, December 19, 2016

The Worst Of Sinners Loving The Politically Correct This Christmas

Now the goal of our instruction is love that comes from a pure heart, a good conscience, and a sincere faith.
1 Timothy 1:5

     One of the enemies of Christ, the faith, and the church is the world's anti-God view. The Bible calls this un-believing, Satanically inspired and designed way of thinking simply, "the world." If you don't believe it is real, open your ears. "Merry Christmas" or "Happy Holidays?"  Since the word "Christmas" might offend those who do not believe in Christ, schools and businesses force students and employees to use "Happy Holidays" in place of "Merry Christmas."
     Well, removing Christ from Christmas is no longer enough, so "holiday" which is an abbreviation of "holy-day" is now an unacceptable word. Since some celebrate no "holy-days" this time of year, it's better just to call that "Christmas Tree" a "Giving Tree" and that "Christmas Party" and "End Of Year Party."
      So, how do we fight this battle?  Should we confront all this anti-religious correctness? While it seems like no big deal to some, I believe we should resist any attempt to remove Christ from anything since He, and He alone is the hope of mankind. The question is how to fight this particular battle.
     The Bible tells us that the weapons of our warfare are not carnal. They tear down more than words. They demolish the theology behind the words, the strongholds of our minds. Our primary weapons are prayer and the Word of God. The battle never ends, so make sure you begin the day with God and His Word.
     What next? You've chosen not to bow to this worldview that rejects Christ. How do you resist? I think it's important to ask another question first. Why are you resisting?  When you go out and intentionally say "Merry Christmas" rather than "Happy Holidays" or nothing at all, why are you saying "Merry Christmas?"  What's the motivation of your heart?
     Is it love for the lost who inhabit this lost world, or is it to be a warrior for Christmas?  See, a huge part of the purpose of God's truth is to create in us "love that comes from a pure heart." So as you go out into the world, after first having spent quality time with God in His Word and prayer, focus first on "love that comes from a pure heart."
     "Merry Christmas" from an unloving heart is nothing more than a carnal club used to beat the enemy. It can, however, be an expression of faith in the Christ who came to save sinners. The battle is not just in the world, but also in our own hearts and minds. If we're going to do battle in these culture wars, it must be for God's purposes. He loves deluded, deceived, politically correct and unbelieving people and wants them to be saved. That's actually the purpose of the incarnation which we celebrate at Christmas, as the Apostle Paul wrote, "Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners - and I am the worst of them." (1 Tim. 1:15)
     So, fight the politically correct, anti-Christ world. Refuse any demand to deny Christ, at Christmas or any other time, but do it because you love Jesus and those He came to save. And, don't just say "Merry Christmas," but proclaim the Gospel of Christ. Proclaim it because you love Him, you love the Gospel that saved you, and you love the sinner. Proclaim it because maybe you are also one of the "the worst of them" and His Gospel saved you.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Merry And Sad Christmas


Christmas can be the most wonderful time of the year. It can also be one of the saddest. Jesus' birth was in a stable, since there was no room for his parents in the inn. The angels sang praise to the Prince of peace while the King of the Jews plotted his murder. Rather than returning home to family and friends, he spent his earliest years in Egypt as a fugitive from the wrath of Herod. Even when he did return home, it was to a little backwater village about which people said "can anything good come out of Nazareth."1

The traditions, sights and sounds of Christmas help us to remember. Many of those memories are filled with joy, and many of them with sadness. If you have lost a loved one, the holidays intensify the loss. There are losses other than death. The loss of relationships. The loss of health. For anyone who cares about the body of Christ there is great sadness over those who once served His body faithfully, and loved Him fervently who seemed to have become satisfied with spiritual mediocrity. Christmas intensifies those losses. It is not wrong to mourn the loss of a loved one, of a relationship, or the falling away of a brother or sister.  It is wrong to forget that Christmas holds the remedy for our loss.

Christmas is merry because it reminds us that God came to be with us. He knew the sadness of a sin-broken, sin-filled world, and so "The Word became flesh and took up residence among us." He saves His people. He shows the Father to us. as "the glory as the One and Only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth." 3  How sad that the babe would grow to be the Man of Sorrows on the cross, and yet how joyous that in that act He took "away the sins of the world." 4  The sadness of this life is a reality, but so is the comfort of Christ who "had to be like His brothers in every way, so that He could become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For since He himself was tested and has suffered, He is able to help those who are tested."

Sadness is inevitable, but Christ is available. He is available to comfort those who grieve. He is available to deliver us beyond the merriness of Christmas to the place of joy unspeakable. "You love Him, though you have not seen Him. And though not seeing Him now, you believe in Him and rejoice with inexpressible and glorious joy, because you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls." 6  The answer to the sadness of Christmas is not a perfect tree, but dependent faith in Jesus who hung on the tree and rose again. The answer to the sadness of the world is not a positive or merry attitude, but the power of God with us in Christ Jesus the Lord.

1   John 1:46
2, 3  John 1:14
4   John 1:29
5   Hebrews 2:17-18
6   1 Peter 1:8-9





Tuesday, November 22, 2016

1 Timothy - God's Family Values


I got chewed out. I didn't do it the way he wanted it done, so my boss chewed me out. The only problem was that he had never told me how he wanted it done. He was the kind who gave you just enough rope to hang yourself, and then pulled on the other end. 

God's not like that. He spent far too much on you, on all of us. The Bible says that He purchased the church with the blood of Jesus. He has a specific plan for how His church is to be designed, how we are to treat one another, and how we are to do ministry together and a big part of that instruction is in Paul's letter to Timothy.

Last Sunday we learned a little about Timothy. Paul doesn't waste any time in his instruction to Timothy and the church, so we won't waste any time. Sunday morning we'll get right to it in 1 Timothy 1:3-7, and we'll see that the first of God's Family Values is the Truth. God's family values the truth of God, and doesn't tolerate falsehood. There's no life in falsehood. There's only life in the truth of God. So, read up, bring your Bible, and let's make sure our church is designed by God.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Relax, God Is In Control

The fact that God is firmly seated on His throne is one of the greatest comforts and encouragements to the Christian. No matter what happens we "know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose." (Rom.8:28)  Our comfort is not "this too shall pass", or simply that all things will work out in the end, but that the one true God has the authority to make all things work for our good and does that very thing.

God is sovereign in all things, including all the affairs of man. The prophet Daniel (2:21) wrote that God changes times and seasons, raises up and deposes kings, gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those who have understanding. The Holy Spirit moved the apostle Paul to apply the sovereignty of God to those in authority, as he wrote the Romans (13:1), "Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God."  So, when it comes to the election of presidents, we don't have to worry. God is in control.

In a conversation about the election, I heard "Don't worry. God's still on his throne. Vote for the right person, but trust God." Another said, "I'm not even voting. God's gonna put the person He wants in office anyway. So, I'm not even going to worry about voting." That conversation made me think about how we apply the fact that our King is on His throne. Is the sovereignty of God meant to give me a vacation from action, or is it meant to empower and embolden me to righteous living?

The next president will be part of the sovereign plan of God. No matter who is elected, and how badly that seems to work out for godliness in this nation, God will make it work together for good for those who believe. Yet, unless God does something He has never done in the history of this nation, He will carry out His sovereign plan through the votes of the American people. He will use the form of government He instituted in this country to place the person in office.

Think about the sovereignty of God and evangelism. Some believe that God chooses who will and will not be saved, citing what Paul wrote "So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills."(Rom.9:18) Paul also wrote that "Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame... For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved." (Rom.10:11, 13)  I'm not writing to discuss Calvinism or Arminianism. I'm writing to say that God clearly commands both Calvinists and Arminians to go into all the world and preach the Gospel.  If we are to believe statistics, few Calvinists and few Arminians obey that command, yet both groups would say they believe God is on His throne. He is sovereign.

Whether you are a staunch Calvinist or Arminian, you must preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ, going into all the world, making disciples who follow Him. It is the command of our sovereign King to do so. The challenge of the Great Commission begins with His authority, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me." (Mt.28:18)  And it ends with the assurance that of His kingdom there is no end, "And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age." (Mt.28:20)

Faith in the sovereignty of God sets us free from worry. Relax, God is in control. It sets us free from the devastating questions that arise when bad things happen to good people. God has a purpose to make all things work together for the good of His children. Faith in the sovereignty of God also sets us free to courageously and boldly obey God.

The sovereignty of God should never be taken as an excuse for a lifetime vacation of passive Christianity. The fact that the omnipotent God is seated with full and eternal authority on His throne is meant to empower us and embolden us to live courageously obedient Christian lives, even if that obedience leads to our persecution or death.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Perfect Spiritual Soil . . . It's So Simple

"The 11 disciples traveled to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had directed them. When they saw Him, they worshiped, but some doubted." Matthew 28:16-17

Peat moss, pine bark mulch and vermiculite. That's it. Last Spring I grew my entire garden in potting soil bags. It was weed-free, easy to harvest, and gloriously productive. I piled up the bags on platforms I had made, cut them open, planted the seeds and plants and had more Romaine lettuce, salad greens, and spinach than we could eat. And, guest what? That potting soil was so simple. It had only three ingredients: peat moss, pine bark, and vermiculite.

Obedience, worship and humility. As I read Matthew 28 and the Great Commission I was fascinated to see the condition of the apostles when Jesus gave them this life-changing mission. Jesus had given them a command through the women who visited the empty tomb, "Go and tell My brothers to leave for Galilee, and they will see Me there." (Mt.28:10), and they obeyed it as they "traveled to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had directed them." When they saw Him,  "they worshiped." And, apparently, those of them who doubted Him were open enough that their doubt was observable and became part of the Biblical record, "but some doubted."

When Jesus observed these men, worshiping and doubting, He "came near and spoke to them." How awesome is that, how fruitful our life is when the Lord draws near. 11 men obeying His command. By the way, there is no fruit or power in disobedience. 11 men worshiping Him. The most common word for worship in the New Testament means to fall on your face before God. There is no fruit or power in some of our worship, but there is when the worship is whole-hearted. Those who didn't worship, or did so with doubt, were humble enough to admit it. 

We don't know why they doubted. Was it really Him? Was it a ghost? Was in an imposter? Who knows? What matters here is that they were open and honest about their doubt. Hidden doubt is discouraging. Prideful doubt is deadly. "God resists the proud." But, admit your doubt honestly before the risen Lord, and it can become a root of humility. And, you know what God does with humility, right?  "God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble." (Jms.4:6)

Mix obedience, worship and humility together and notice what God will do. He will come near, and speak, and what He speaks will change your tomorrow. The whole scene reminds me of that previously mentioned passage in James that we started above. Here's the rest. "Therefore, submit to God. But resist the Devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you." (Jms.4:7-8a)

So, how's the spiritual soil of your life? Prepare it for what the Lord wants to do: obey, worship, and humble yourself before the Lord.



Monday, October 31, 2016

An Introduction To Soil Conditioning

I have always wanted a vegetable garden, but gardens are work. When they say, "He's out working in the garden," they're telling the truth. It takes a lot of work to till, plant, water, thin, fertilize and weed in such a way that a crop is produced; especially if you're going to go organic and not use artificial fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides. There's nothing more frustrating than doing all that work and then getting no vegetables.

We bought a little house in Abilene several years after we were married. The yard was small, and we started working on it. I tilled up a section of the backyard for my garden. This was the first garden I had planted in many years. The soil was terrible, composed entirely of red clay that turned to brick when it dried out. I tilled, planted, watered, then watched the garden (and the grass) grow. Then guess what? Nothing. I got a few tomatoes, but mostly I just got disappointed.

I studied, talked to successful gardeners, and went to work again. I found out that I needed to condition the soil in order for the garden to grow. So, I bought a truckload of sandy-loam, bags and bags of organic material, and went to work again. Later that summer my tomatoes were so huge that I turned them into a kind of arbor that arched over onto itself so that I could walk in the shade picking buckets of the juicy things. 

Some of us who are concerned about the church are working extremely hard. As attendance becomes more and more spotty, conversions decrease, and spiritual affections cool, we work even harder. Jesus and the Apostles often used farming illustrations to teach spiritual truths. I believe there was a reason beyond the agrarian culture into which the message of the Word was first delivered. I believe our hearts and churches are very much like soil. What God intends to do in us requires hard work, but very often more hard work is not what's needed. We simply need to enrich the soil.

So, for the next few posts, I'll be sharing some things I've learned about spiritual soil conditioner. If you're a regular reader, let me ask you a couple of questions to get you thinking. Have you ever worn yourself out trying to make something spiritual happen?  Have you ever become disappointed, or even angry with someone who wasn't working as hard as you are to do things at church?

(Part 1 - Spiritual Soil Conditioning)

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

God On The Throne, The USA Down The Drain?

Everyone must submit to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except from God, and those that exist are instituted by God.
Romans 13:1

First of all, then, I urge that petitions, prayer, intercessions and thanksgivings be made for everyone, for kings and all those who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. This is good, and it pleases God our Savior, who wants everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.
1 Timothy 2:1-4

Barring any hanging chads or other "election rigging," we will have a new president on November 9th. Well, it won't be official until the Monday after the second Wednesday in December when the electoral college makes it so, but we'll have a pretty good idea who will sit in the big chair for the next four years.

Thank God there is a throne far above that big chair, and thank God He is on it.  His throne is over all the kingdoms of the earth - elected, appointed, and otherwise. He is rightly called King of kings and the Lord of lords. It is comforting to know He is sovereign. It was comforting for those who first read this letter from Paul to the Roman church.

In those days, Nero was sitting in the big chair. Some say there are similarities, but neither Hillary nor Donald have yet reached his level of depravity. We have lost much and will probably lose much more of our religious freedom, but nothing like what those Roman believers faced. Nero was the instigator of the systematic and brutal persecution of Christians that would ebb and flow for the next 300 years.

It's interesting that Roman believers probably received Paul's letter just a few years before all of that started. So, in His sovereignty, God lovingly prepared them for it all by reminding them that He was still on His throne.

You've heard it said, "No matter what happens on November 8th, God will still be on His throne on November 9th." That's true, but I believe it's also true that America may well be on its way down the drain.  We who follow Christ and believe the Gospel should be preached and lived outloud have already been threatened. We know that our nation is declining morally. This election could be the final straw that breaks us.

I have two thoughts about God's sovereignty? First, God's sovereignty does not dismiss our responsibility. That is clear by what Paul wrote to Timothy. God is on His throne, but we are to respond to that sovereignty with obedience. We are to pray for our leaders. A peaceful society that is open to the Gospel appears dependent upon the prayers of the church.

Second, God's sovereignty is not tied to America's success. If the next president turns against God and our nation continues it's downward moral spiral, He is still on His throne, the Gospel is still the power of God unto salvation, and we are still responsible to live it and preach it to all people. Even if it costs us everything, it is our responsibility. God has often used the judgment of a nation to wake His people up. Maybe that is what is happening right now. Whatever happens, God will use this for His glory. The question is whether we will be part of that glorious kingdom.

Will you seek His wisdom and abide by His precepts as you enter the voting booth? Just as important, will you and your church be on your knees for current and future leaders?

The prayer meeting is the least attended meeting of the church. I have talked to many pastors, and with few exceptions they confirm that. We are all alarmed at what is happening in our nation and in this election. Why, then, are we not filling up the prayer meeting? Why are we not calling out to our Sovereign God? Can we claim the assurance of "God is on the throne" if we do not follow the commands of that same God?

Our church prays at all its meetings, but our church-wide meeting is Wednesday at 6:00 pm. You are welcome at that meeting. If your church has a prayer meeting, be there. If it doesn't, start one.  God is on His throne, so pray.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

He Knelt In Protest - Will We Kneel In Prayer?



It's his right, but I think he's wrong. You have the right to burn the American flag, but I think it's wrong. The nation for which the Star Spangled Banner waves gives you the right to kneel, to even desecrate the emblem itself, and that's why I think it's wrong. When the flag is raised and the anthem played, I place my hand over my heart and I sing the song, not just because I'm an American but because God put me in a nation that has preserved these rights, the freedom of expression and religion. So, yes, I think he's wrong.

I am a patriot. The flag flies at my home 365 days a year, but I believe the only hope for our nation is not an increase in patriotism. So, don't lose your mind over this next statement, but what if Christians had knelt during the anthem? What if, given the grievous moral and spiritual condition of our nation, we all took a knee, bowed our heads, and cried out to God for deliverance and mercy as the emblem of our home was raised and praised? Our courts have outlawed our right to pray together in Jesus' name when we gather in the public square. We've been reduced to a "moment of silence." Some, in spiritual protest, still mouth the Lord's Prayer during those moments, but when the moment is over most of our prayer ends. What if it didn't end?

I'm not suggesting a mass, public protest of prayer. Though I would probably join it if it occurred. I'm suggesting that we may have been stirred up in the wrong direction. Rather than being stirred up over those who take a knee in protest, what if we were stirred up in prayer?  James 5:16 says "The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much." or in another translation "The intense prayer of the righteous is very powerful."  While the Bible warns us against public prayer for the sake of being seen, and vain repetitious prayer for the sake of being heard, it never tells us to pray short, quiet, ineffective, milktoast kinds of prayers. The Bible encourages us to get worked up over the greatness of our God, worked up over the sinfulness of our own hearts, worked up over the desperate conditions we see around us and then worked up in prayer.

What's more serious; a football player kneeling during the National Anthem or the church failing to kneel in prayer? 

What's more powerful; a football player kneeling in protest, or the church kneeling in fervent prayer? I believe the only hope we have is in the humble, repentant prayers of God's people, crying out for God's mercy and forgiveness as they seek God's face. Our only hope is when we believe and obey God.

I'm writing this on a Wednesday. Calvary, it's time to pray, tonight at 6:00pm in the worship center.   


Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Candidates, Admissions, Confessions & True Repentance


Repentance is a discovery of the evil of sin, a mourning that we have committed it, a resolution to forsake it. It is, in fact, a change of mind of a very deep and practical character, which makes the man love what once he hated, and hate what once he loved.
Charles Spurgeon

Unless you've been living on a deserted island, you know that a tape was released of lewd comments Donald Trump made in a conversation in 2005. His comments have changed the minds of many, including many Bible-believing Christians. Some have questioned the sincerity of his apology, and the sincerity of his Christian faith.

In a prepared statement dated October 7, Mr. Trump responded, "This was locker room banter, a private conversation that took place many years ago. Bill Clinton has said far worse to me on the golf course - not even close. I apologize if anyone was offended."  He expanded that in a video apology saying, "I've never said I'm a perfect person, nor pretended to be someone that I'm not. I've said and done things I regret, and the words released today on this more than a decade-old video are one of them. anyone who knows me knows these words don't reflect who I am. I said it, I was wrong, and I apologize. . . I've said some foolish things, but there's a big difference between the words and actions of other people. Bill Clinton has actually abused women, and Hillary has bullied, attacked, shamed and intimidated his victims."

I don't have an inside track on the true condition of Trump's, the President's, or Hillary's hearts. I don't hold the moral high ground. Before believing in and following Jesus, I was an immoral man who had sinful conversations in locker rooms and board rooms with other sinners. And, if I choose not to work out my salvation with fear and trembling, I could easily slide back into the cesspool or moral mediocrity. I seem to remember Jesus saying that when we who follow Him pray, we should say, "And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil."

I am not writing to judge Mr. Trump or Mrs. Clinton, but this very public debate brings out the preacher/teacher in me. It raises this question. What is true repentance? Is it an apology, admitting to a mistake, confessing to a sin, or is it something else?

Many admit they've made mistakes. Fewer admit they've sinned. Admitting we are sinners is a good thing, since God only saves sinners. Those who think they have no sin will die in their sin. Confessing that we have sinned is also good thing. Only those who admit their sin and confess it can be forgiven and cleansed by God. Repenting of sin is a very good thing. Repentance offers no excuses, no defense and no self-justification. Instead, repentance admits its full guilt and throws itself upon the mercy of God, trusting in His righteousness and grace. When we confess, we admit we have sinned. When we repent, we admit our sin and turn from it. Proverbs 28:13 says, "Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy."

It is good to admit our mistakes. It is better to confess our specific sins. It is best to confess and forsake them. That's when we find mercy. As Spurgeon said, "When we discover the evil of sin, mourn over having committed it, resolve to forsake it, and surrender all we know to God," we find ourselves living in the freedom of a repentant life. So for the glory of God and the freedom we desire, let's take our eyes off the politicians, face the man in the mirror and ask, "Have I truly repented of my sin?"

(Please know that these are my personal views and not necessarily those of Calvary Baptist Church.)


Thursday, October 6, 2016

Don't Be An Ignorant Voter


Don't be a duh!  There are thirteen candidates for President on the ballot in Louisiana. There are twenty-four for the office of Senator and nine for the 4th Congressional District. Unless you get informed you won't have a clue who you're voting for. You can't even vote straight party because there are so many from each party. By the way, there are also six amendments.

Don't be an ignorant voter. Get informed. Here's how.

Go to the Louisiana Secretary Of State Voter Portal, click on the Search By Voter button, enter your name and Zip code, and you will be able to download a sample ballot. Then use the internet and get informed.

I know, this is a crazy year and we don't trust government, but that's no excuse not to vote. Don't be a duh! Get informed.

Monday, October 3, 2016

A Word Spoken In Due Season


A man hath joy by the answer of his mouth: and a word spoken in due season, how good is it! (Proverbs 15:12)

Sometimes people come up after preachers have preached and say something like this, "That was exactly what I needed to hear." That kind of comment can be a real ego booster. While we need encouragement, we don't really need any boosting of ego. So maybe that's why preachers occasionally hear something like, "Well, preacher, at least we don't have to worry about getting a seat at the restaurant." Ok, back to "that's exactly what I needed to hear."

When humility is exercised by the preacher, when he has planted his confidence in the help of the Holy Spirit and the power of the God's Holy Word, and when he hears that what he has preached has been used by God to make an eternal change in another human being's life, he has reason to rejoice. A preacher can preach, but only God can guide His word in such a way that another can say, "how good is it!" How good it is to be used by God!

Last week my wife and I attended a national renewal conference Denver, Colorado. We had been blessed to spend a few days prior in a cabin owned by my aunt and uncle in Creede, Colorado. After unwinding in the majestic Rocky Mountains, seeing the Aspen in full Fall color, and enjoying the quietness of the place, I was tempted to stay in Creede. I am so glad we didn't.

I have enjoyed many conferences, but seldom has one been so personal. Seldom has God spoken to me through so many with such clarity and with such accuracy. So, to all the preachers who preached to me last week, I believe you have given God glory and I hope you found great joy in the preaching. It was a word in due season for me and my wife. How good is that?

(For a short time, you can see these sermons online at: http://livestream.com/64streaming/national/. These are the sermons from the 2016 National Renewal Conference at Harvest Bible Chapel, Denver, Co.  The preachers, in order, were H. B. Charles, Jr., Jeff Schwarzentraub, John S. Dickerson, Al Toledo, Don Whitney, Robbie Symons, and Paul David Tripp.)

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Birdhouse Gourds, Red Wasps, And The Destruction Of Enemies


A massive red wasp nest had been constructed in the gourd I had hung for birds to nest in in the tree outside my study window. I sprayed one can of wasp killer in the hole of the birdhouse gourd. It didn't work. I bought another brand of spray and used it. It didn't work. I thought, "Perhaps these wasps have been genetically modified by some secret government lab. It would be best just to watch them for awhile." And, besides, I couldn't afford another can of ineffective wasp spray.

Well, watch them I did. I watched these chemically resistant wasps come and go, multiply, and run off invaders. This morning as I sat at my desk and looked out the window this is what I saw. The whole lower half of the gourd is gone, destroyed, and the wasp nest has been devoured. Some thing came, destroyed their fortress, ate their nest, and now my enemies are gone. God bless whatever raccoon, possum, or Sasquatch did this. What I could not do with the best of chemical warfare has been accomplished entirely without my assistance.

The removal of my enemies and the destruction of their fortress and home was accomplished while I slept, and it reminded me of the 3rd Psalm, and it filled my heart with hope.

"Lord, how my foes increase! There are many who attack me. Many say about me, 'There is no help for him in God.' But You, Lord, are a shield around me, my glory, and the One who lifts up my head. I cry aloud to the Lord, and He answers me from His holy mountain. I lie down and sleep; I wake again because the Lord sustains me. I am not afraid of the thousands of people who have taken their stand against me on every side. Rise up, Lord! Save me, my God! You strike all my enemies on the cheek; You break the teeth of the wicked. Salvation belongs to the Lord; may your blessing be on Your people."  



 

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Divine Appointments: There's Someone Waiting For You

Whatever house you enter, first say, 'Peace to this household.' If a son of peace is there, your peace will rest on him; but if not, it will return to you. . . Whoever listens to you listens to Me. Whoever rejects you rejects Me. And whoever rejects Me rejects the One who sent Me.  (Luke 10:5-6, 16)

My wife was getting her hair cut, colored, and whatever else happens in the hour and a half that this process takes. I don't hang out in the salon with her. I'm just not that brave. So, I drove across the street and settled in at a McDonalds that had free wifi. I feel guilty using it without buying anything, so I purchased a coffee, sat down, and started reviewing my sermon notes (on the Lord of the Harvest) while keeping my ears and eyes open for opportunities to share the Gospel. 

A man and his little boy sat down next to me, but they were pretty preoccupied. An older pair of black ladies sat on the other side. I started to talk to them, but they bowed their heads and prayed. No one else came around for 15-20 minutes, so I decided to talk to the ladies about some of the racial unrest but they finished their breakfast and left. I had noticed an employee sweeping, a lady in her mid 30's. I was about out of options as I got up to leave, so as I dumped my empty coffee cup I asked her if I could ask her a question about working at McDonalds. That conversation ended 30 minutes later after the assistant manager (another Christian), joined us and we talked about the Lord and encouraged her as she worked and raised three school-age children.

Jesus sent out 70 of his followers in pairs into the villages and places He was about to go on his way to Jerusalem. He gave them clear instructions on how they were to go, who they would encounter, the message they were to preach, and the ministry they were to carry out. They didn't have to know anyone in the village. They didn't have to have a place to stay. They didn't even have to carry food. He had prepared all of that in advance. He had prepared it all through a person He called a "son of peace."

A "son of peace" is a person who God has prepared to be receptive to the Gospel. There isn't a son of peace in every location. There's nothing you can do to create a son of peace, or entice someone to be one. God is in charge of preparing the hearts of the "sons of peace" and all we have to do is be faithful to look for them and share with them when we find them.

That day in Bossier, the lady sweeping the floor was the son of peace. Not only did she hear the Gospel, but so did several people sitting around where we were talking. I got to encourage her, share the Gospel with her, and help her work through issues she had with a previous church. Then her assistant manager, who was already a faithful Christian, was encouraged in the whole interaction.

Some of us today call these conversations "divine appointments." They are arranged by God, prepared by Him, and all we have to do is keep our eyes and ears open to them as we obediently step into them with the good news and love of Jesus Christ.


Tuesday, August 30, 2016

What If Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, And All The Rest Don't Have The Answer?



What if no one running for office really has the answer for the disrespect, hatred, and violence that fills the twenty-four hour news cycle? What if there is an answer, and the one who has it isn't running for office? And, what if the people who know Him would proclaim the answer as loudly as the politicians proclaim their own worth?

Jesus came to preach the good news of His kingdom, to die to take away the sin that keeps all people from it, to rise again to prove His deity (his ability to fulfill His message), and to offer this kingdom to anyone who would hear His good news and believe.

In His kingdom the poor are made rich, captives are delivered from captivity, the blind see, the oppressed are released from oppression, and all debts are cancelled (Luke 4:18-19). In His kingdom there is no poverty, no blindness, no lostness, no hopelessness, no worry, no fear. In His kingdom there is no injustice, no offenders, no drug dealers, no addicts, no cop killers nor killer cops, no black nor white nor brown. In His kingdom there are no criminals, no victims, no enslavers nor slaves. In His kingdom there is no confusion over gender, no betrayal from adultery, nor emptiness from sexual immorality of any kind. In His kingdom there are no orphans, no abandoned, no abused, no neglected.  In His kingdom there are no walls, no wars, nor even rumors of wars. In His kingdom there is no sickness of any kind, and so there are no graves because there is no death.

All of this is true in His kingdom for one reason. It is HIS kingdom. His kingdom is ruled by the Prince of Peace who is also the Lord of lords. His kingdom is not an unattainable city on a hill. He brought it near when He came near. His kingdom is closed to no one, no race, no sinner of any kind, but it may only be entered through a single door - that door is Him.

He did not come to win an election, but to proclaim His Lordship over all the problems all our politicians claim to be able to overcome. He came to preach the good news that, while the kingdom is closed to all because of all of our sin, He had opened it up. He not only came to preach, but to die to buy us out of the kingdom of darkness in which we all now live. He rose from the grave and ascended back to Heaven to prove He is not running for office, but rather runs the universe.

He left His children behind for awhile, not because He is in any way a bad Father, but because He is a also the King of a kingdom that is not yet full. He left them to act like citizens of His kingdom and proclaim the Good News of their King, so that anyone who was willing to believe and follow that King could also enter that kingdom freely. 

I do not know who will win in November. I know that they have great plans, and offer great solutions, but I know who has the answers to all the solutions and consider it the greatest privilege to know that King and make Him known. That is the Good News of the kingdom of God. That is the Gospel that saved us, and the Gospel we now have the privilege to proclaim. Know Him and make Him known.

Monday, August 29, 2016

As You Go Today

You're already taking the first step to follow Jesus. "Go, therefore, and make disciples..." (Matt.28) You're already going to school, to work, to the coffee shop, and to a dozen other places. Make a list of all the places you go in a week. You will be amazed at how many people you encounter. How many need to hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ?  After Jesus commanded His disciples to "pray to the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest.” (Matt. 9), He sent out His 12 into the Harvest. As they went, He told them to go and as they went they were to simply go house to house greeting people. If a person welcomed them, they were to stay and share the Gospel. If a person rejected them, they were to go on, shaking the dust off their feet to the next village, the next home.  Stop worrying so much about "who" you will talk to about Jesus. Just go, ask the Lord to keep your eyes and ears open to those He has prepared for you to meet, and then share the Good News of Jesus Christ with them.

(If you're not part of Praying For Every Home yet, click on Pray 4 Every Home, follow the signup procedures. He sure and select Calvary Baptist Church, Peterson, Many, LA as your church, and be sure and check the box that will show you as a Praying Neighbor. You will receive your customized list of 100 neighbors to pray for - 5 a day for 20 days. If you have any questions, email us at calvarymany@gmail.com and we'll help you sign up.)

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Calvary Response To The Louisiana Flood


The floods in our state are historic. We are all impacted. Many of the families in our church are directly effected as their family members have been flooded. At least a dozen churches in our area and other groups are gathering supplies and taking them to the floods. I want to encourage you to help in any way you can, but after talking to people involved in the efforts I want to make some recommendations. These efforts are significant and will make a direct impact in the lives of our fellow Louisianians now and in the coming days, weeks, and months as our state rebuilds.

PRAY . . . THEN CLICK ON: 

1st - GIVE MONEY - CLICK THE DONATE BUTTON 
There are thousands of Louisiana Baptists already on the ground doing mud-out, clean-up, feeding, and helping in hundreds of ways. These men and women are already there doing the work and sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ. THEY ARE ALMOST EXCLUSIVELY VOLUNTEERS and our donations take care of the things they need to purchase, food, water, etc.

2nd - GIVE SUPPLIES 

READ THE LIST ON THE LBC DISASTER RELIEF SITE 
BRING YOUR SUPPLIES to Calvary during regular office hours (M-F, 9-12, 1-4).
or BRING YOUR SUPPLIES SUNDAY 
We will put supplies in the fellowship hall.

DO NOT BRING ANY FOOD AT THIS TIME

3rd - VOLUNTEER FOR MUDOUT

Click on Training (Mudout & Assessment) on the LBC site to find out how you can be trained so that you can help in the floods.








Monday, August 1, 2016

Baptisms, Guns, And Miller Beer


Disclaimer: I'm chasing bunny trails with this post, but they are all connected, if only in my own mind.

It was wonderful to baptize two girls yesterday. Both had heard the Gospel in church and through their families, had believed, and stood with us and with Christ in the public proclamation of their faith through baptism. My thoughts . . . baptisms are always good.

Those baptisms, the first in our newly remodeled worship center, made me think about many more baptisms. The last two years have been pretty sparse, and the vast majority of those we have baptized in the last several years have been our own. In other words, they were people who were already part of the social network of our church - family, kids, etc.  So, why am I pointing this out?  I had a friend who used to say, "We need to quit fishing in the livewell." What he meant was, we mostly share the Gospel with our own and we mostly try to grow by getting members from other churches to come to our church. My thoughts . . . I do my very best not to seek the members of other churches, and I have no respect for pastors or parishioners in any church who do that. If we are not systematically preaching the Gospel to the lost out in the world, our church will die.

A priest in Normandy, France, had his throat cut by a terrorist last week. Last year a person filled with evil entered a prayer meeting in Charleston and murdered the Senior Pastor and eight others. Several years ago we were working with a couple who had a bad marriage. The husband went to his car to get a gun to come back in for his wife. I stood in the doorway stopping him, not because I was brave, but just because. He backed down, the police had already been called, and all went down with no one getting hurt. Violent crimes at church are increasing, and usually it's the pastor who gets shot. (No jokes, please.) I can honestly say I'm not really worried about getting killed in church. I can't think of a much better place to die, but I do think about my parishioners - especially the children and senior citizens. So, we are developing a security plan for our church that may (I repeat, "may") include armed internal security. Should we have armed security at church? The elders, deacons, and our church will receive wisdom from God and decide what to do about our safety.

This morning when I drove by the church on the way to a prayer breakfast for pastors, the beer truck was out front getting ready to unload something in a business across the street. Does a beer truck in front of the church fire you up? I'm sure some would love it if we served free beer. Others think it's disrespectful that the delivery man would think it fine to park his truck there. The street isn't ours, by the way. It belongs to the city. We resurface it, stripe it, and I get frustrated that delivery trucks keep tearing it up, but what's a preacher to do?

My thoughts . . .

I wish all the trucks would stop tearing up our front parking, but that's just small stuff. We're working on a security plan. That's not small stuff, but it's still not the most important stuff. If we're failing to preach the Gospel to the lost in our world . . . that is the big stuff. If we are failing to do so (we being you and me individually) then we are failing as followers of Christ. 

So, for the next several weeks, I'm going to focus on the most important things.

     First, I'm meeting with the elders and deacons to discuss all of this, including the development of a security plan for our church.
     Second, I will be leading us to utilize a ministry call pray4everyhome.com. It is a tool we will use to help us pray for our 100 closest neighbors - that's our mission field. We're to be a house of prayer for all nations.
     Third, I will provide equipping opportunities for every person in our church to learn how to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We're to make disciples of all nations by preaching the Gospel.
     Fourth, we will work together to develop plans to share the Gospel with our mission field - our neighborhoods and our parish.

Look, Hell is horrible, Heaven is glorious, and Jesus is the only way. Hearing the Gospel is the only way to believe in Jesus. So, let's get it done till Jesus comes.










Baptisms, Guns, And Miller Beer


Disclaimer: I'm chasing bunny trails with this post, but they are all connected, if only in my own mind.

It was wonderful to baptize two girls yesterday. Both had heard the Gospel in church and through their families, had believed, and stood with us and with Christ in the public proclamation of their faith through baptism. My thoughts . . . baptisms are always good.

Those baptisms, the first in our newly remodeled worship center, made me think about many more baptisms. The last two years have been pretty sparse, and the vast majority of those we have baptized in the last several years have been our own. In other words, they were people who were already part of the social network of our church - family, kids, etc.  So, why am I pointing this out?  I had a friend who used to say, "We need to quit fishing in the livewell." What he meant was, we mostly share the Gospel with our own and we mostly try to grow by getting members from other churches to come to our church. My thoughts . . . I do my very best not to seek the members of other churches, and I have no respect for pastors or parishioners in any church who do that. If we are not systematically preaching the Gospel to the lost out in the world our church will die if we don't.

A priest in Normandy, France, had his throat cut by a terrorist last week. Last year a person filled with evil entered a prayer meeting in Charleston and murdered the Senior Pastor and eight others. Several years ago we were working with a couple who had a bad marriage. The husband went to his car to get a gun to come back in for his wife. I stood in the doorway stopping him, not because I was brave, but just because. He backed down, the police had already been called, and all went down with no one getting hurt. Violent crimes at church are increasing, and usually it's the pastor who gets shot. (No jokes, please.) I can honestly say I'm not really worried about getting killed in church. I can't think of a much better place to die, but I do think about my parishioners - especially the children and senior citizens. So, we are developing a security plan for our church that may (I repeat, "may") include armed internal security. Should we have armed security at church? The elders, deacons, and our church will receive wisdom from God and decide what to do about our safety.

This morning when I drove by the church on the way to a prayer breakfast for pastors, the beer truck was out front getting ready to unload something in a business across the street. Does a beer truck in front of the church fire you up? I'm sure some would love it if we served free beer. Others think it's disrespectful that the delivery man would think it fine to park his truck there. The street isn't ours, by the way. It belongs to the city. We resurface it, stripe it, and I get frustrated that delivery trucks keep tearing it up, but what's a preacher to do?

My thoughts . . .

I wish all the trucks would stop tearing up our front parking, but that's just small stuff. We're working on a security plan. That's not small stuff, but it's still not the most important stuff. If we're failing to preach the Gospel to the lost in our world . . . that is the big stuff. If we are failing to do so (we being you and me individually) then we are failing as followers of Christ. 

So, for the next several weeks, I'm going to focus on the most important things.

     First, I'm meeting with the elders and deacons to discuss all of this, including the development of a security plan for our church.
     Second, I will be leading us to utilize a ministry call pray4everyhome.com. It is a tool we will use to help us pray for our 100 closest neighbors - that's our mission field. We're to be a house of prayer for all nations.
     Third, I will provide equipping opportunities for every person in our church to learn how to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We're to make disciples of all nations by preaching the Gospel.
     Fourth, we will work together to develop plans to share the Gospel with our mission field - our neighborhoods and our parish.

Look, Hell is horrible, Heaven is glorious, and Jesus is the only way. Hearing the Gospel is the only way to believe in Jesus. So, let's get it done till Jesus comes.










Wednesday, July 20, 2016

How Should You Correct Others?



"Brothers, if someone is caught in any wrongdoing, you who are spiritual should restore such a person with a gentle spirit, watching out for yourselves so you also won't be tempted."  (Gal.6:1)

If you have children, you have spent or will spend a great deal of your life correcting them. Don't put the needle nose plyers in the electrical plug. Don't play in the street. Don't color on the wall. Don't stay out past midnight. It's what you do to raise kids. As they grow older, you also learn to pick your battles. I'm learning how to do that since both of my children are now young adults. I may still say, "don't", but mostly it's from a coaching perspective. It's a hard, but necessary transition.

If you follow Christ, your desire is to be part of His Great Mission to "Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you." (Matt.28:19-20a)  You are not just called to preach the good news of salvation, but also the good news of His Way and His Life.

The Gospel isn't just how to be saved, but how to live saved. We must be taught the Gospel to be saved, and we must also be taught the Gospel to live saved. (2Tim.2:10-17) If we are to live renewed lives, we must have renewed minds. Our minds are renewed by God as the Holy Spirit works through His Word. His Word is available through the Bible, and is applied through the Body of Christ. We are iron sharpening iron. (Pr.27:17)  We are not parenting one another. We are to be sharpening one another. That sometimes requires correction, sometimes rescuing from wrongdoing. There's far too much in the Bible about this to put in a short article, but I want to give you some basic guidelines using Galatians 6:1.

Brother - If you love the truth, and care enough to correct, you're probably committed to the truth of God's Word. You see someone caught in a violation of His Word. Don't let your zeal for the truth turn them into an enemy of the truth.

Wrongdoing - Make sure you're correcting a clear violation of God's Words and Ways. A person may irritate you, but that may not be grounds for correction. It's not about your preference, but God's.

Restoration - The goal is to restore the person to a walk with the Lord. It's not to dominate them and make them like you. That was the sin of the Pharisees.

Gentle Spirit - Get over yourself first. You have to spend time in prayer, with the Word, and with the Lord before you begin this process. You must be spiritual = filled with, controlled by, and manifesting the Holy Spirit. 

Humble Yourself - Someone told me that they could never do this, because they just weren't spirit-filled enough. That's not humility and that's not an excuse. If you're not qualified to restore a brother caught in a wrongdoing, get with God and get qualified. "Watching out for yourself" isn't an option, and not something we do just before we go try to rescue someone. It's something we must always do. This is too important. The body of Christ is too important. The mission is too important.

Pray, Abide In The Word, Love The Brethren - None of the above will be done unless these three things are your regular practice.

What would church be like if we expected this, that our brothers and sisters would love us enough to come alongside us and rescue us when we were caught in a wrongdoing? What would it be like if we were committed to the mission to proclaim His Gospel, be taught His Ways, and to obey them? What if obedience to Christ was the goal of our life and our churches? What if we were so committed to the glory and honor of God that we loved the brethren with a holy love that would not let us rest while they walked in sin?

No. No one is perfect, but One. We are called to follow that One, to become like that One and to do that together. May God give us the grace and humility to be corrected and to correct, to be rescued and to rescue. May we fear God and not man, for only then will man see and hear the Gospel that saves.

(Part three of a three-part series entitled, "Christian Correction")


Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Who Has The Right To Correct You?


Does anyone have the right to correct you? I'm not talking about correcting your spelling. I'm talking about correcting your life. Like a Russian nesting doll, there are questions within this question.

First, Have you given anyone permission to correct you? We throw around the term accountability a lot. We have accountability partners. We ask people to hold us accountable, but what is that? If you intend to be a faithful follower of Christ, you must be accountable. Mutual accountability is the result of mutual submission, and we are commanded to be "submitting to one another in the fear of Christ." (Eph.5:21)  To do that, you must choose to allow others to correct you. So, have you?

Second, Who has the right to correct you? If you seriously ask this question, you may have revealed a lack of spiritual maturity in your own life. See, one of the most popular answers to that question is "You have no right to say anything to me, because you, too, are a sinner."  The mature believer has made the decision to allow others to correct him or her. So, if you are humble, you don't care who helps you live a godly life. Even if someone points out your sin maliciously, and that hurts, you decide not to care. You're humble. You've sinned. You hate your sin because you love Jesus, and are thankful that someone jarred you out of your spiritual slumber by confronting your sin. It's just nice when they do it the way the Lord instructed.

There is a passage that teaches the requirements for those who correct others. The question is, are those requirements 1) an evaluation form that we use before we listen to someone who corrects us, or 2) a goal that we should all grow toward. Let's look at what Paul writes about this and break it down.

"Brothers, if someone is caught in any wrongdoing, you who are spiritual should restore such a person with a gentle spirit, watching out for yourselves so you won't be tempted also."  (Gal.6:1)

Brothers - the redeemed of Christ who love one another
caught - someone suddenly caught up in sin
spiritual - manifesting the fruit of the Spirit as opposed to the legalist
restore - to put back into place, like a limb that was out of socket
gentle spirit - meekness, kind
watching out for yourselves - humble

So, does this mean that I should only allow fellow Christians, who have the right attitude and are watching out for themselves to rescue me when I have stumbled into sin?  Of course not. If my goal is to be like Christ, then I should welcome every opportunity to be made aware of any way in which I am not following Christ. Don't shoot the messenger, even if he or she has an attitude.

I believe the instruction in this verse is to the corrector, not the corrected. It's not an evaluation I use to judge someone before they rescue me from the trap. It is a guide to encourage me to be a humble spirit-filled follower of Christ so that when I see a brother or sister caught in a trap, I can, with gentleness and kindness, speak the truth in love and help them out of the trap for the glory of God and the health of the body of Christ.

Who has the right to correct you? Well, if you're a faithful follower of Christ whose desire is to be Christlike, then it really doesn't matter who speaks the truth to you. It's incredibly helpful when our correctors do it the way God's Word teaches, but it's not required. If our goal is to be like Christ, then our goal is not to be pampered. If you want a holy heart and a holy life, you will develop a thick skin. If our goal is to be like Christ, we also make it our goal to be filled with the Spirit and the fruit of the Spirit so that when we speak the truth it is with the humble love of Christ. 

(The second of a three-part series entitled, "Christian Correction")




Monday, July 18, 2016

When Someone Points Out Your Sin



One Christian angrily said to another, "My sin is not your business. You're just as much a sinner as I am."  If someone corrects your sin, and you respond by defensively pointing out that they are sinners, too, it was probably a good thing they pointed out your sin. Granted, some of us are fault finders, but few of us really enjoy correcting someone else who is walking in sin. For most, the only thing less enjoyable than being corrected, is having to correct.

Yet we have to correct brothers and sisters in Christ who are wrong or who are living wrong. That last statement goes counter to this "live and let live" generation in which the greatest sin of the day is to think another person is a sinner, but God says we must correct those who are walking in sin.  Faithful followers of Jesus recognize they are sinners, but they also recognize sin. And, they love God, His truth, and their Christian brothers and sisters enough to speak the truth in love. We are people who are saved by the truth, grow in the truth, and love because of the truth.  So, we love enough to correct when the truth says something is wrong. Here's just some of what God says about it. 

"Brothers, if someone is caught in any wrongdoing, you who are spiritual should restore such a person with a gentle spirit, watching out for yourselves so you won't be tempted also." (Gal.6:1)

"Some have rejected these and have suffered the shipwreck of their faith. Hymenaeus and Alexander are among them, and I have delivered them to Satan, so that they may be taught not to blaspheme." (1Tim.1:19-20 - concerning those who have rejected the truth of the faith)

"All Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, for training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be complete, for every good work." (2Tim.3:16-17)

"My brothers, if any among you strays from the truth and someone turns him back, he should know that whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way will save his life from death and cover a multitude of sins." (James5:19-20)

So, what's your reaction when someone points out your sin?

(The first of a three-part series entitled, "Christian Correction")

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Race Wars, Cops, And Christians

I don't know how to solve the current issues between different ethnic groups, good and bad cops, etc., and I'm not even sure to what extent God expects His children to "fix" these problems. I do know, however, that we who follow Christ are supposed to "obey all" that He has commanded. By the grace of God we are citizens of the Kingdom of God, and that means that no matter what happens around us, we follow the commands of our king.  And, He has many that, if the followers of Jesus would follow, would seriously change the climate of our nation.  So, here are a few things we are to do.

Respect And Submit To Authorities - Romans 13, 1 Peter 2
So, when a policeman pulls you over, you do what he or she says. Respecting also means honoring. Yeah, ok, there are some bad cops just like there are some bad preachers, bad teachers, bad bankers, and bad politicians. But, there are so many good ones. Respecting means honoring. What are you doing to honor and respect the good cops?

Pray For Those In Authority - 1 Timothy 2
Praying for those in authority doesn't mean a Christian can't hold those in authority responsible for their actions, but it does mean we are to pray for the good of those who are in authority. Prayer is commanded. Voting and holding people accountable is secondary.  Are you praying?

Do Not Abuse Authority - Matthew 20
If you're a parent, a teacher, a pastor, or a cop, if you're a Christian, God holds you accountable for the abuse of your power. Authority is given to prevent abuse. What are you doing to prevent abuse?

Love Your Neighbor As Yourself - Matthew 22, Mark 12
It doesn't matter what religion, color of skin, sexual orientation (yes, sexual orientation), or which flag he or she flies, you are to love them as yourself. No, it's not condoning sin, it's loving the sinner. That's the way Jesus loves you, and you are seriously not like Him. What are you doing to love?

Love Your Enemy - Matthew 5
It's human to love your friends. It's Christian to love your enemies. What are you doing to love your enemy?

Do Not Hate Your Enemy Or Murder - Matthew 5, 1 John 2-3
You have to forgive, because you've been forgiven. Reestablishing trust is another thing, but you must forgive. If you don't, you hate and hate is just a short step away from murder. Who do you need to forgive?

Do Not Treat People Differently Who Are Ethnically Different - Galatians 3
The Kingdom of God is the most ethnically diverse society that has ever existed, because the people in the Kingdom are from every tribe and nation. Don't treat people different because they have different colored skin or come from a different country. If they're in Christ, they're your family. If they're not in Christ, they are your mission field. This would certainly mean that a Christian should never disparage another because of the pigmentation of their skin. Do you treat people of different ethnicity differently? What are you doing to change that?

Take Action To Seek Justice - Matthew 25, Mark 9, Luke 4
Again, I'm not sure how far we are to go to fix society, but we are to feed the hungry, shelter the homeless, cloth the naked, care for the widow and orphan. Certainly we should add our voice and our actions to protect lives, whatever the color of their skin. How are you acting to seek justice and act mercifully? What are you doing to demonstrate the compassion of Jesus?

Preach The Gospel To Everyone - Romans 1
The only thing that changes anything is a changed heart. That's what the Gospel does. It changes the very heart of the person. Are you sharing the Gospel?

If we who follow Christ were doing just these things, things would be significantly different.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

When Your Bucket Is Full



Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint. (Isaiah 40:30-31 - ESV)

There are times when we just can't take anymore. Life builds up and then the proverbial "straw that broke the camel's back" happens, and we spill out. Sometimes we spill out by ourselves. Sometimes we spill out on everyone else. 

We're all built to different tolerances. I think it is by design that women have babies and not men. I'm not saying that men have a lower pain tolerance than women, but I do believe there would be no human race if men had babies. We would have died out long ago. Men may have had the first child, but I think none of my gender would have gone through that a second time. Some tolerate massive pain. Others cry at a paper cut. Some juggle a dozen tasks at a time, and some handle only one thing at a time. We're like different sized containers. Some of us are five gallon buckets and some are like tea cups. 

There are things we can do to increase our capacity. There are things, like reprioritizing, that we can do to keep our buckets from filling up. Yet there are times when a huge bucket and right priorities are not enough. There are times when the last cup of water that's poured in our bucket is the tipping point. In those times, only God will do.  So, what are we to do about it?

First, humble yourself. No one can handle it all. God does not say He will not give you more than you can handle. He says, "Even youths shall faint and be weary."  Pride will not help you carry more. It will help you spill more. Humble yourself daily by admitting to God, yourself, and another human being that life is more than you are capable of handling.

Second, seek the Lord. That's what "wait for the LORD" means. It doesn't mean paddle as fast as you can till He rescues you. Waiting upon the Lord means to seek him actively. Seek Him early and often. Fill up on His Word, worship Him early and often (magnifying Him puts problems in perspective), and get yourself into fellowship where you can be supported by His people. 

Third . . . well, there really is no third step. There are only two. Humble yourself, seek the Lord, and then He will renew your strength. He may not increase your capacity. He is your capacity. He may not decrease your load. Rather, He will strengthen you to bear up under it. He may even increase your effectiveness through it. He will renew your strength so that you "mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint."

If your bucket has tipped over lately, or if your bucket is just a tea cup, there's hope and help. The Lord your God.

(Wrote this to encourage a friend of mine who's going through a tough time right now, and to encourage myself to seek Him continually.)

Monday, June 27, 2016

Attitude And People


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 6:5)

I called a business the other day for some information. The person who answered the phone clearly didn't have a very high opinion of me. Her tone was condescending. She sighed heavily as I tried to clarify. It was clear she didn't want to help me, so I let her off the hook. I told her I would call back. Five minutes later I did. Another person answered the phone. We had never met, but she clearly thought I was worth talking to. She found what I needed, and we had a great conversation.

Attitude toward others is huge at home. Ever heard a husband speak condescendingly to his wife (or a wife to a husband)? It's embarrassing. Ever heard a wife or husband speak with love in their voice? It's encouraging. Attitude is huge at work. It sure made a difference in my dealings with the business I mentioned above. Attitude toward others is everything in a Christian's life.

Yesterday as I sang during our worship service, God seemed to speak to me, reminding me about Isaiah. When Isaiah saw the Lord glorified in Heaven, his attitude changed. His opinion about himself was humbled, "I am a man of unclean lips." But, what about his attitude toward the people he served, "and live among a people of unclean lips"?  You could read that as a pastoral rebuke, "I live among dirty, rotten, rebellious people," but not if you read the context.

Isaiah was humbled, and while he confessed the sinfulness of his people, he also confessed that he and they were standing on level ground. In the presence of God, it became clear that no one was holy. No one superior. He was not a God follower condescending to godless people. He was a God follower by the grace of God alone.

While every follower of Christ needs the boldness of the Holy Spirit to speak about God, we also need something in addition. We need to be humbled about ourselves. We must not think we are superior to those we serve, lead or those to whom we witness. If we are, they will know. We need boldness, humility, and compassion. Compassion caring for another person because you identify with them

We need to be regularly reminded that the only difference between someone who is lost and someone who is saved is this. One is a sinner with a Savior. The other is a sinner in need of a Savior. Get that attitude in you, and your heart will be filled with the Love of Christ, and they will know that, too. Oh, by the way, it won't just change your witness or your home. It will change your life.


Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Don't Let It Go, Learn From The Past


Then Job replied to the LORD: I know that You can do anything and no plan of Yours can be thwarted. You asked, "Who is this who conceals My counsel with ignorance?" Surely I spoke about things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know. You said, "Listen now, and I will speak. When I question you, you will inform Me." I had heard rumors about You, but now my eyes have seen You, therefore I take back my words and repent in dust and ashes.  (Job 42:1-6)

When it comes to a person's past most people break into a spoken word rendition of "Let It Go" from Disney's Frozen. Let it go. Let it go. That's not always the best thing to do. What if the way you have interpreted your past is wrong? What if you're like Job, and you've misinterpreted God by means of misinterpreting your past?  What if you never take the time to reinterpret the past in light of who God really is?

Job was a great, godly man who hated sin and loved God. Satan told God that Job was only godly because God had blessed him. God allowed Satan to test Job, taking all he had except his life and his wife (who encouraged Job to curse God for the losses). Job became the poster child for When Bad Things Happen To Good People. While he didn't curse God, he began to accuse God of being unfair and unjust. If God had not come and caused Job to reevaluate his past in light of the reality of who God really is, Job would have died in despair. Instead, when he saw who God really was and who he really was, he was able to repent of his past and move into the future with God.

Sometimes we don't need to let it go. Sometimes we need to bring it back up with God and ask Him to reinterpret our past in light of who He is and how He does things. That's what I've been doing for several weeks now as I've preached through the book of Job. I've come to realize that much of how I viewed the past was through pessimistic eyes. I wasn't pessimistic about God as much as I was about myself, my own abilities. As I've asked God to show me Himself, I've tried to understand and reinterpret my past in light of God, His truth, and His plan. It's been sobering, and it's led to repentance, but it is also leading to levels of personal freedom that I believe will help me glorify God and be filled with greater joy as I serve Him in the future.

So, maybe you don't need to let it go. Maybe you need to bring it back up, only this time bring it up with God. 



Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Cynicism, Satan, And You


Satan answered the Lord, 'Does Job fear God for nothing? Haven't you placed a hedge around him, his household, and everything he owns? . . . But stretch out Your hand and strike everything he owns, and he will surely curse You to Your face."
Job 1:9-10a, 11
Job was a good, righteous man. God loved him. Satan disdained him. Listen to the accuser's words,  as if he says, "Sure he loves you, God. Sure he serves you. Who wouldn't? You've bought him off with love, blessings, and protection." Satan stands in the court of Heaven, knowing the greatness, grace, and power of God and proves himself the ultimate cynic.
Cynicism is the "inclination to believe that people are motivated purely by self interest." It is a state of mind that's dominated by mistrust, and many who serve God are at risk of developing it. Some call it "healthy skepticism." After thinking about Satan I'm questioning that skepticism can ever be healthy. 
Life tries to steal optimism, and people are the ultimate thieves. We think the best about new jobs, new friends, and new marriages and then people happen. We believe the grass is greener, and then find it's just as full of weeds as our current lawn. Our reaction to the failure of people is crucial. Satan had seen thousands of so-called believers question and curse God when things went south. So, in his arrogance he thought he was sufficiently wise to judge the heart of Job. Don't we often do the same? 
Call it healthy skepticism if you want, but cynicism about people is just a small step from cynicism about God. God calls us to take a leap of faith in Him. Satan calls us to take a step of doubt. While he accused Job, he was really accusing God. He believed no one would worship and serve God simply because God is worthy of worship. You can almost hear him say, "You're just like me, buying people off so they will love you."
We have been disappointed, even betrayed. We've witnessed selfishness and self-motivated behavior. We know people don't measure up. In a section of Romans where Paul was dealing with Christians who were questioning the motivation of others, he wrote this, "Why do you criticize another's household slave? Before his own Lord he stands or falls. And he will stand. For the Lord is able to make him stand." (Rom. 14:4) Do you believe "the Lord is able to make him stand"?
What will you do? You can take the Satanic step of doubt, or the leap of faith, not in man, but in the master of man. You can believe in the sufficiency of God's worth, or you can believe only in the selfishness of mankind.
Maybe I'm cynical, but could it be that this attitude has far less to do with others than with ourselves? It could be that when we take an honest look into our own hearts, we see the residue of self-motivation and wonder if we ever really serve God from pure motives. We remember that when the trial came, we did not stand up in faith and say with Job, "The Lord gives and the Lord takes away, praise the name of the Lord."  We've failed, so all others must be failures, too. Cynicism could be nothing more than an attempt to drag all of humanity down into the mediocre pool of lukewarm faith. And, behind that is the real secret. We don't speak it, but if we did it might sound like, "Well, God, I trusted in You and you haven't done much to change me." 
Satan is miserable. He doesn't trust God or man. He sees the worst, because he is the worst. He is beyond redemption, because he believes only in himself.
We are not beyond redemption. God is able. God is sufficient. We can love and serve Him simply because He's worthy. When we do, we are delivered by His great grace from great skepticism, the cynical belief that we ourselves cannot change. 
Do not become a Satan. Guard yourself against cynicism. All people are sinners, and God is able to redeem all who call on the name of the Lord. Job lost everything and still praised God. He hurt. He questioned, yet in the end he stood. He stood because God was able to make him stand. He is able to make the worst stand, even you.