Monday, May 30, 2016

Thank you!


Thank you!

Thank you to all those who served our country and gave their lives to protect it.  We are in their debt.  It's a debt we can never pay.

All we can do is remember and say "thank you!" 


Saturday, May 28, 2016

Difficult days


When the Son of man comes, 

will He find faith on the earth?” 

(Luke 18:8)


These are haunting words.  

These words have bothered me for years.  

I can't imagine a day that faith is rare, but Jesus saw that day as he looked ahead.

What would cause such a day?  

Apathy? 

Arrogance? 

Affluence? 

How could it be that faith would be a rare thing?

As I watch the world around me implode I see, for many, a response of fear rather than faith.

They have already abandoned God so all they have left is fear.

Will Christ find faith in me when he comes?

Will I let fear overwhelm me?

Has my faith already been eroded 
by the culture I live in?

Difficult days demand a rekindling of faith in God, trust in him alone.

These are days when our faith will be tested.

Will it become stronger or will it fail?

As Peter said to Jesus, "Where else can we go? You have the words of life?"

Where else can we go?  

Faith in Christ, faith in God is our only hope, but what a wonderful hope it is!

The Getty's wrote a wonderful hymn that gives help when faith is weak. Let me close these thoughts with the words from this wonderful song,

In Christ alone my hope is found
He is my light, my strength, my song
This Cornerstone, this solid ground
Firm through the fiercest drought and storm

What heights of love, what depths of peace
When fears are stilled, when strivings cease
My Comforter, my All in All
Here in the love of Christ I stand

In Christ alone, who took on flesh
Fullness of God in helpless Babe
This gift of love and righteousness
Scorned by the ones He came to save

Till on that cross as Jesus died
The wrath of God was satisfied
For every sin on Him was laid
Here in the death of Christ I live

There in the ground His body lay
Light of the world by darkness slain
Then bursting forth in glorious Day
Up from the grave He rose again

And as He stands in victory
Sin's curse has lost its grip on me
For I am His and He is mine
Bought with the precious blood of Christ

No guilt in life, no fear in death
This is the power of Christ in me
From life's first cry to final breath
Jesus commands my destiny

No power of hell, no scheme of man
Can ever pluck me from His hand
Til He returns or calls me home
Here in the power of Christ I stand







Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Christian lepers


This morning I had coffee with an old friend who recently got "kicked out" of his church because of sin in his life.  It always surprises me when a church, the place where sinners are supposed to find help, kicks those sinners out of church for the sins they most need help with!

What is wrong with us?  How do we think this is anything like Christ?


His comment to me (edited for your ears) was simply this, "It's a great church, just don't f--k up or be honest about your problems."

Did he sin that bad?  Oh yeah, he did!  But how would Jesus have dealt with the same thing?  He forgave!  He forgave the woman caught in sin, he forgave the leper for breaking the law by reaching out and touching him, he forgave Judas...he forgave me!

There are Christian lepers among us, people who sin, and are trying to deal with the sin, repent of it and walk with Christ, but we seem to have trouble with sinners, we expect everyone to have this whole Christian thing figured out, but no one does.  We are all messed up, we are all working on it....and no one gets it right... no one.

I'm forgiven, but I still mess up.  I still sin.  I don't want to, but I still do (Romans 7).  I'm forgiven, but I'm not perfect.  I will be one day, but for today, I'm a work in progress...a Christian leper, forgiven, but still dealing with some of the sin that has ruined my life.  One day, when Christ returns, I will be like him, but until then give me grace, give me space.  Forgive me, because I'm going to sin....and I might hurt you.  I'm not doing it on purpose, I would rather not,  but I know I will.  

As a pastor I know that we all struggle, we are all lepers becoming like Christ (Heb. 10:14), but until we are complete here are our instructions from the master, (Luke 6:27-38)-


27 “But to you who are willing to listen, I say, love your enemies! Do good to those who hate you. 28 Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who hurt you. 29 If someone slaps you on one cheek, offer the other cheek also. If someone demands your coat, offer your shirt also.30 Give to anyone who asks; and when things are taken away from you, don’t try to get them back. 31 Do to others as you would like them to do to you.
32 “If you love only those who love you, why should you get credit for that? Even sinners love those who love them! 33 And if you do good only to those who do good to you, why should you get credit? Even sinners do that much! 34 And if you lend money only to those who can repay you, why should you get credit? Even sinners will lend to other sinners for a full return.
35 “Love your enemies! Do good to them. Lend to them without expecting to be repaid. Then your reward from heaven will be very great, and you will truly be acting as children of the Most High, for he is kind to those who are unthankful and wicked. 36 You must be compassionate, just as your Father is compassionate.
37 “Do not judge others, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn others, or it will all come back against you. Forgive others, and you will be forgiven. 38 Give, and you will receive. Your gift will return to you in full—pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, running over, and poured into your lap. The amount you give will determine the amount you get back."


Saturday, May 21, 2016

Deserving


Last week we were out of town visiting family.  I got to do something I rarely do....visit another church.  It was a great service.  The worship was God focused, the teaching was biblical and well done and the church family was warm and engaging.  I pretty much loved the whole thing....

...until the pastor closed in prayer with these words, "Thank you, Father, that we are deserving of your love..."  

Wow!  I thought for a moment, "did he really just say that??"  I couldn't believe it!  

First of all, it's profoundly untrue.  That alone should have been obvious to him if he had read almost any of Paul's letters...Romans, Galatians, Ephesians...well, you get the idea.  In all of them Paul makes it clear that what God did was totally undeserved by us!  In fact, we deserved wrath not grace.  To see God's grace when we were his enemies is a totally undeserved gift of God.

Second,  if his prayer were true it would put God in debt to us.  It would mean that he owed us salvation, because, by God, we deserve it!  Clearly, apart from Christ, all we "deserve" is wrath!

Third, this simple idea of us deserving God's love elevates us above God.  Imagine that!  We, the fallen sinful rebellious creatures are elevating ourselves above God.  We deserve his love, look at us God, you owe us!  Now step up!  This idea assaults the nature of both God and man.

And, last, in my little tirade,  when I believe I deserve God's love I am not seeing myself clearly.  It makes it really hard to grow in faith when I think I am better than God reveals I am.  To esteem myself worthy of God's love clouds the truth about my nature and where I am in my walk with God.

I do not deserve God's love!!  Neither do you!  The fact that he gave it at all is amazing, wonderful, glorious and gracious...because he gave it when we were his enemies, when we hated him, when we hung him on a tree and spit on him.  It is totally undeserved, totally free...and, it's available to any one of us unworthy undeserving sinners who will receive it.

Am I deserving of God's love?  Not at all!  But I'm so thankful he gave it anyway.


Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Why focus on Jesus?


I'm constantly having to refocus,
recalibrate my thoughts and priorities because I wander.

I wander from the main issue of life and get in trouble.  

We face a culture that is forcing us to focus on the main thing or get lost in the confusions of the day.  So we struggle to somehow balance the ideas of grace and truth, of being gracious to those who disagree while still telling the truth about right and wrong, but we always fall on one side or the other.  When we try to balance grace and truth we always lose our balance and fall.

To get this right we have to keep our focus on Jesus.  

John 1 says this,

"grace and truth came through Jesus Christ."

If I am going to keep grace and truth balanced I can't focus on either one, I have to focus on Jesus...only in him do they balance, only as I walk in him can I stay on the tightrope of grace AND truth balanced in love.

Why focus on Jesus?  Because when I do, when I live as Hebrews 12 invites me, 

"Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us,  fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith."

Then I am able to love others well, teach grace clearly and model Christ rightly.  

Why focus on Jesus?  
Because in him we all find the grace we need and the truth that will correct the errors we each get into so easily.

Why focus on Jesus?
There is nothing more important!  No topic more relevant, no question more important than this one,

What do you think about Jesus?  Who is he?


You are my God!

"You are my God, and I will praise you.
You are my God, and I will exalt you."
Psalm 118:28

My God.  What a thought...to know, serve, love and talk to the one who made you is an idea that's not part of any other religion or faith.

Only the God of the Bible invites us to know him, to love him, to walk with him and be his child.

You are my God.  This morning I rejoice in this simple truth- The God who made everything is MY God!

I bow before him and willingly offer my life to him
because he gave his life for me.


Sunday, May 15, 2016

Guns, Government, God and bacon


A friend of mine asked my views on Christians, guns and government.  He's inviting me to give a biblical view.  This is a task that would take tomes to accomplish, but let me briefly address these incendiary issues of our day. (But I do wonder if my friend is just trying to get me in trouble.  He does like a good argument!)

Each of these topics is divisive no matter what your views...except for bacon.  

Each of these create passion, opinion, anger and conflict...except for bacon...although it does create passion for me.  

(I'm adding bacon because everything is better with bacon.) 

As I address these topics I will find those who agree with me and others who will sharply disagree.  They are difficult topics if you are a Christian in this culture, but let me try to address them from a biblical view.  You may disagree, I only ask that you give these thoughts consideration.

The primary question with all of these issues (except for bacon) is this-  How big is your God?  Is your God the God of Daniel? The God of Esther?  Is your God as big as Paul's God?  

OR....does he need your help?  Are you safe in his hands, can you trust him to care for you, or must you do that yourself?  Does he need your help?

I know many who are pacifist and many who are "packin'" all the time.  One dear Christian brother carries a small backpack with a desert assault pistol in it.  He carries it everywhere he goes!  I told him once, "I bet your biggest regret will be carrying that thing all these years and never getting to use it."  He is former military and told me, No, he hopes he never needs it, but just in case....he's ready.

The other reason many carry guns and build an arsenal is to "defend themselves against the government."  But I wonder...how would Jesus respond to that?  What would he say to your trust in enough guns verses your trust in Him?  (And, when you're talking about government are there ever enough guns?)

This is such a difficult issue to discuss and there are so many passions and passages that deal with it, but let me just focus on one.  
This passage deals with a biblical response to God, guns (self-defense) and government.  It's the story of three men who trusted God in a pagan culture and found opportunity, by trusting God alone, to change the culture they lived in.  Here's a portion of their story....but I will skip to the end because most know it so well.  It's found in Daniel 3.

Then Nebuchadnezzar said, “Praise be to the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, who has sent his angel and rescued his servants! They trusted in him and defied the king’s command and were willing to give up their lives rather than serve or worship any god except their own God. Therefore I decree that the people of any nation or language who say anything against the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego be cut into pieces and their houses be turned into piles of rubble, for no other god can save in this way.”

This response of the king is a complete change of direction for him and the kingdom.  It wasn't because they were "packin'" or defending themselves, it happened because they trusted God risking their own lives to do it!  

In one act of faith, being willing to give their lives for what they believed, they changed the course of the nation they were living in.

So, again I have to ask, how big is your God?  Is he the God who made heaven and earth and rules everything or does he need your help? Are you safe in His hands or do you need a little extra protection?

Paul addressed our attitude towards government in Romans 13.  It's a very clear and demanding chapter for a Christian. It's a chapter that tells us governments are in place by the hand of God.  They are HIS servants and therefore we are to be submissive to them.  Most Christians I know would reply,  "Yeah, but...." and what would follow would be all the problems of the government they refuse to submit to.  No ruler could be worse than Nebuchadnezzar!  No nation had more apostate rulers than the one Paul wrote these words from.  The Roman Caesars were wicked rulers demanding the subjects of the nation bow to them as gods.  We have not lived in a country as bad as either of these in our lifetime.

So, should you carry a gun?  Yes, if you wish. That's a freedom you have, but make sure it isn't compromising your faith in God. Personally, I choose not to own a gun.

Should you obey the government?  Yes, until it goes against the word.  At that point you have a decision to make....and once more it involved the size of your God.

But never forget that this life is only the beginning of your life, the shortest part.  If, and it has happened to many, you must give your life for your faith, trust a big God to take care of you.  Martyrdom is not the worst thing that can happen to any of us.

And what about bacon?  Eat all you can and trust a big God to care for you.  May your God be as big as the God of Daniel and his friends.  May you trust the God Paul trusted and stand for your faith in him...even if it costs your life.

Oh, and I can't forget the bacon....





Saturday, May 14, 2016

Battle for the Throne


There is a battle for the throne.
Men and demons want it.
It's a battle for sovereignty.
It's a battle for control.
It's a battle that began in the garden.

No one can tell me what to do!
I'm the master of my fate,
I'm the captain of my ship.
My life is my own.
I can do as I please!

But do you realize the throne
is not available for purchase
or conquest?

Do you know that the throne 
is already taken?

We are witnessing man's
attempts to siege the gates of heaven,
to take the throne of God!

Man, in our day, is saying to God, 
"We will not bow, we can do as we please!
We can be whatever we wish.
We are accountable to no one!"

But God is not threatened.
He is still Lord of heaven and earth.
He is still the one who rules
EVERYTHING!

He made it all, it's all his...
including YOU!

That makes men angry.

David wrote about it in Psalms 2,

"Why do the nations conspire
    and the peoples plot in vain?
The kings of the earth rise up
    and the rulers band together
    against the Lord and against his anointed, saying,
 “Let us break their chains
    and throw off their shackles.”
 The One enthroned in heaven laughs;
    the Lord scoffs at them.
 He rebukes them in his anger
    and terrifies them in his wrath, saying,
 “I have installed my king
    on Zion, my holy mountain.” Ps. 2

He is not threatened, he's not afraid.
His word is still true...
whether you like it or not.

HE made them male and female.
How can we now demand 
to be other than he made us?

HE made us to worship HIM.
How can  we now demand
to worship no one?

HE made it clear to everyone that 
creation is his artistry.
How can we say it just happened?

HE is King of heaven and earth.
You will worship him,
You will bow to him...
maybe not today, but one day...

"Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
    and gave him the name that is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
    in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
 and every tongue acknowledge that 

Jesus Christ is Lord,
    
to the glory of God the Father." Phil. 2