Monday, July 31, 2017

When A Friend Is Killing You


"So then, brothers, we are not obligated to the flesh to live according to the flesh, for if you live according to the flesh, you are going to die. But if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live."
Romans 8:12-13

I live with a liar. I've known him all my life. We have done everything together. He was my best friend for years. I did everything he wanted, got him anything he wanted; alcohol, drugs, food, lust, entertainment, self-promotion. It didn't matter if it was good for me or not. I have literally gone into debt to satisfy him, damaged my health for him, damaged relationships for him, and put my eternal destiny at risk for him. He is demanding, selfish, deceitful, destructive and abusive to me and everyone else in my life. And still, when he says he wants something, I battle not to give it to him. I have no worse friend than him, and he has no better friend than me.

One day, a person came to me. He saw the shape I was in, how messed up my life was, and asked if I wanted to be free from it all. He showed me how catering to my old friend was killing me, and told me that he could set me free. He would empower me to say "No!" to all the demands. He would empower me to say "Yes!" to life and freedom. He would walk with me all along the way. He would never leave me, never forsake me, and would be a friend closer than a brother. I simply had to choose between a friend who was killing me and one who offered me life.

I chose life. I chose Jesus. He did what He promised. He has never lied to me, never abused me, never made any demand on my life that would destroy me. He destroyed the power of my old friend, but made it clear that the old friend would be around until I died or until He (Jesus) returned. Jesus is with me, in me, empowering me to say "No!" to the old man and "Yes!" to Jesus and life.

I still have to choose who I will believe. Will I feed the demands of the flesh, believe the lies of the so-called friend who tried to kill me, bow down to the threats? Or, will I trust the friend who died for me? I spent all those years destroying my life for a so-called friend, and sometimes I still believe him. Jesus came along and died for me, and sometimes I still doubt him. How crazy is that?

I hope these words shed light on the struggle we face in this world. More than that I hope they encourage you to believe in the only true friend you will ever have, Jesus. Don't believe the lying promises or lying threats of your old friend. Trust in Christ. Depend upon His power as you say "No!" to sin, self, and the devil, and "Yes!" to God, Jesus, and life.

Photo Credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/brandbook/17964174402

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

When You're Married To An Unbeliever


If any brother has an unbelieving wife and she is willing to live with him, he must not leave her. Also, if any woman has an unbelieving husband and he is willing to live with her, she must not leave her husband. . . For you, wife, how do you know whether you will save your husband? Or you, husband, how do you know whether you will save your wife?
1 Corinthians 7:12-13, 16

My dad didn't follow God. My mom did. So, I watched it first hand. My wife married me when she probably shouldn't have. I claimed to be a believer, and probably thought I was, but I wasn't. So, I've lived it first hand. This is not an exhaustive treatment of the topic, "How to live with an unbeliever or backslider." It's just some observations that I hope help someone.

1. Confess your sin.

Scripture tells us not to be unequally yoked. If you're a Jesus follower and you married someone who wasn't, you sinned. You can beat yourself up or ask for forgiveness. Beating yourself up won't do one good thing. Confessing your sin will result in your forgiveness and your cleansing.

2.  Love your spouse, but don't follow them spiritually.

You have to strike a balance, but you don't have to walk off into spiritual oblivion with a lost or worldly spouse. Your spouse may be a "good" lost person, but they have a different worldview than you. Follow Jesus. You have to do life together and you want to. You're married. So, ask for wisdom and pray for strength so you don't follow a lost person down the road to hell.

3.  Commit to your church.

It's amazing how much I found to do on Sunday mornings when I was lost. You want to do life with your spouse, but you're part of an eternal family, too. As a matter of fact, you were never intended to be successful in the Christian life apart from a church family. Commit to your church. Find a small group with people of the same gender who can pray for you and support you. Ask for wisdom to know how to love your spouse and your church.

4.  Abide in Christ.

Sometimes we ride our spouse's spiritual coat tails. We loaf while they love Jesus. You can't do that if your spouse doesn't love Jesus. Really, we can never do it. If you're married to a lost person, you need your daily walk with the Lord more than ever. Discipline yourself in scripture, prayer, meditation, and obedience.

5.  Don't go there.

The world will drag you down. If you're married to someone who is walking in the world, be aware that you will probably be tempted to walk the same road with them. If you love your spouse, and you should, it's going to be hard not to get sucked into the worldliness.

6.   Pray, pray, pray for your spouse.

Never underestimate the importance of your intercession for your lost spouse.

7.   Humbly live it out (meaning you repent when you're wrong).

Your life is the great tool God wants to use in the life of your spouse. If you're faithful to Christ, it will cause conflict with your spouse. That's why humility is so important. If you're not faithful, they will see that there is no real reason to believe in your God. How you handle your failures before your spouse is just as important as how you handle your successes. Do both with all the humility you can muster.

I hope this helps someone. It's tough, but God is greater. Hang in there. Don't give up. Trust in and follow the Lord. He is faithful.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

How Hospitality Built Our House


"No. I want to do this for you," was a phrase we heard often in the year we spent planning and building a house.

Hospitality is simple. It's sharing what you have for the good of others - drink for the thirsty, food for the hungry, shelter for the homeless, love for the rejected, and care for the broken. It's opening our hearts and homes to the brother, the sister, and the stranger.

To be Christian is to have been shown hospitality. To be Christian is to practice hospitality. We who've been welcomed into Jesus' home, cannot help but welcome others into ours. At the core of Christian hospitality is our attitude toward our houses, our homes.

We had been blessed to live in a parsonage for 17 years, but knew we needed our own home. It was not as much an investment issue as it was practical. If I retired or could no longer be a pastor, my wife and family would have nowhere to live. For years we looked for a house. Nothing worked.

Today we live in our own home, but that reality was only possible because of the generous hospitality of so many. Contractors worked with little or no profit. God led us to sub-contractors who were believers who wanted to bless us. A men's Sunday School class bought us tools to use. I cannot give you many details because they all asked us not to tell others what they had done. They were not hospitable to us because they wanted recognition. They were hospitable to us because Christ had been to them.

From the land to the final product, our house was built by hospitality. We have been given a great resource that we can now use to practice the same hospitality toward other brothers and strangers. May God never let us forget. May he never let us become selfish with his generosity.

(The picture was our wonderful framing crew, John Pollard and the Hernandez brothers.)

Monday, July 10, 2017

A Loaner, a Cabin, a Call from the Game Warden and Hospitality



It's hard to define hospitality. It does mean a "warm greeting," in other words a handshake or neck hug. But, when it comes to God's definition, it's beyond the handshake. Here's what I think, Biblically, it is. It's seeing someone with a need, possessing what it takes to meet that need, and then meeting that need with a generous heart. It's all that, because that's what Jesus did for each of us. He saw our need. Had what it took to meet our need. Then He met our need because He loved us. I'm going to spend this week talking about times others have practiced hospitality toward me and my family. Maybe that will help define how I can be hospitable to others.

I was out of state with my son. My wife and daughter totaled a car. A Christian friend in that town showed up at the wreck sight, helped them through the process, made sure they were ok, and then gave them a spare car he had so they could continue on their trip.

Friends owned a beautiful vacation cabin in the mountains. We could never afford a place like that. We really couldn't even afford to go on a vacation, except to stay with friends. The people with the cabin made it available to us whenever we wanted to go and take a retreat from ministry. The picture above is my son fishing on the river where the cabin was located.

In our first church, we were nearly starving in ministry. A local game warden used to bring us animals he had confiscated, both for us and to give away to people worse off than we were in our church and community. Sometimes it was the only meat we had for weeks.