Saturday, March 31, 2012

Band-aids and bullet holes



Most people don't think our problem is as serious as it really is.

Most people believe a band-aid is all that's needed to fix the problem. I might like a plain one, but you want a pretty flower band-aid. We each choose the band-aid that we think works best for us.

All around us we have the idea that a band-aid can solve my problem, that it's not as bad as it really is. Any old band-aid will heal the wound, but it's not true. The wound is much worse than we believe. The problem much more serious.

What we need so desperately is not a band-aid, but a surgeon. We need someone to remove the problem, the bullet that has caused the wound. We only see the open wound and dress it with a band-aid and wait for it to heal, but there's something deeper that must be taken care of.

All around me I read and talk to people of different faiths who have the perfect band-aid for the problem. "If you will use our band-aid," they say, "your wound will heal." Some even claim there is no wound, but we all know there is.

One faith says the problem is much deeper than we know. One faith says we need a surgeon to remove the bullet, to take out the source of the wound or it will never heal as it should. Yes, the wound might heal superficially, but the source of the wound remains and will cause problems for the rest of the person's life.

We are in a world that tries to dress bullet holes with band-aids. It's not enough. We have a deeper problem. It's the bullet that has cut into each one of us, it's called sin. No band-aid will remedy that problem. We need a surgeon. We need the source of the problem removed and then the wound can heal as it should.

All around are people proudly wearing their band-aid of choice, but the problem remains. Until we address the sin
problem (and only the great surgeon Jesus can do that) we still have not dealt with the source of the wound.


Romans 6:23- For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.










Saturday's cartoon

Friday, March 30, 2012

One day...


"...there will no longer be any mourning or crying or pain." -Revelation 21

Revelation 21 describes a day, a day not too far off, when all mourning, crying and pain will end. Those few words speak so much more than we can imagine.

As a pastor I deal with these three enemies of the soul on a daily basis. They are my enemies as well. All three- mourning, crying and pain, are the results of an action of another, a wound of a friend, a betrayal of a husband or wife, the loss of a child. All three describe the results of sin in the human race and in our world. Sin that would cause us to hurt another soul that God made.

When the bible speaks of mourning, crying and pain coming to any end it means as well that the causes that brought them will be gone! We won't mourn anymore because there will be nothing to cause it. We won't cry again because there will never again be a reason to cry. We won't feel pain again, physical or emotional, because the causes of pain will be forever gone.

The ending of these three results of sin declare to the human race that there will be an end to sin's rule on planet earth. One day a new government will rule and mourning, crying and pain will never be known again. I can't even imagine how great that will be. I can't wait!


Thursday, March 29, 2012

The Rules

By Mike Messerli

RULE #1- It’s ALL about me! I’m the “god” of my world, the “lord” of my universe.

This would work for most people, except for the fact that Rule #2 is also true, it says:

RULE #2- Everyone else also thinks rule #1 applies to them.

The reality is that Rules 1 &2 do not “work”, thus Rule #3:

RULE #3- We all need a new God. The one we “worship” now is not working. We need to allow God, the one who made heaven and earth, to be the only God in our lives, and Lord of our lives. We must stop trying to be our own “gods”.

RULE #4- Sin is defined as any attempt I make to reestablish rule #1.

It's all perspective

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Is He able? Is He willing?


Isa. 44:24 “This is what the LORD says—
your Redeemer, who formed you in the womb:

I am the LORD,
the Maker of all things,
who stretches out the heavens,
who spreads out the earth by myself,

Last night my wife and I were talking about prayer. It's a difficult subject because we honestly know that prayer often is unanswered. We ask God for something and see nothing. We pray for someone and nothing changes. We ask and wonder....honestly wonder....does God answer prayer? Does it matter if I pray? I know God is able to answer prayer, but I often wonder if he is willing. It's a most difficult subject to talk about.

What I don't know, what I can't know is what God is doing. He is working. He made the heavens and the earth and what I don't know is all that he actually is doing because I have prayed. I may not see what I asked, but I don't know all that God knows. I may not know what is really going on, what is really needed, what God is REALLY doing. And so, often in my life to be honest with you, I ask and don't see answers to my prayers. It's not that God doesn't answer. It's just that I don't know what's really needed, what God is really working on. It's hard when you can't see all that God is doing and often don't see the results of the prayers you ask for.

Sorry to be so honest here, but as I thought about this after my visit with my wife last night I realize that, although I don't always see answers to my prayers, I have decided to trust a good God to work it all out. That may seem to leave a lot of these questions unanswered. If that is where I'm at I am comfortable with it. I have decided to trust God rather than myself. I ask and leave the rest to him. My faith is in a God who is able and willing, a God who knows what will best meet each need and work for the eternal good of the one I pray for.

So, have I created more questions than I have answered? I hope so. I hope you are uncomfortable with this whole idea of prayer and come to a place where you pray for big things and leave the rest to God...the results of your prayers, the answers, the prayers unanswered, the reasons, and simply rest in the hands of a big God who made heaven and earth and can mold my simple prayers into great thing.


Sunday, March 25, 2012

Forgiven?





I am constantly amazed as I hear Christians talk about the need to ask God for forgiveness of sin. What they are communicating is a lack of understanding of the cross and what Jesus did.

Are you surprised by that comment?

There is a lot of confusion on this topic of forgiveness. Throughout my Christian life I have been told I need to go to God to ask forgiveness for daily sins. In Campus Crusade they described it as spiritual cleansing, a spiritual bar of soap. It's almost universally accepted that a Christian has an ongoing need to ask forgiveness for sin.

May I tell you this is not biblically correct? This teaching that we need ongoing forgiveness communicates an error in theology that needs to be addressed. I know these ideas run deep in the Christian world and I will get a lot of "Ya, but..." from those who haven't thought through the implications of the cross. Let me see if I can walk through this and give you a different view of forgiveness....

When Jesus died on the cross how many sins did he die for? I hope you will answer "all of them". If you did you are right.

When he died on the cross how many of your sins were still future? Again, your answer should be "all of them".

So, when you trusted Christ as savior how many of your sins did he forgive? I hope you are getting the idea...the answer is all of them.

So, when you trusted him as savior, let me ask this again to make sure it's clear, how many of your sins were forgiven? Yes, again the correct answer is "all of them".

But, you might say, I haven't committed some sins yet, what do I do about those? That's a great question and we will answer that in a minute, but the one thing you can't do, if you followed my reasoning above, is ask for forgiveness. Why not? BECAUSE YOU ARE ALREADY FORGIVEN!

So what do I do about sin in my life? What do I do when I look at a woman? When I lie? When I get angry? How do I deal with ongoing sin? Those are important questions. Let me suggest this response-

When I sin as a Christian my need is not forgiveness, why? I'm already forgiven. What's my need? I need repentance. I've made a bad choice, sinned, lied, gotten angry. I've sinned. But as we noted above I'm already forgiven so what do I do now? I need to deal with sin in the right way. If I'm already forgiven then I need to focus on the real problem that caused my sin- a wrong choice, a bad decision, a wrong direction....I need to turn around, change my mind, I need to repent.

Here's a simple way to pray as we become aware of sin in our lives, "Lord, I just sinned (name what the sin is). Here's another reason I needed a savior. Thank you for forgiving my sins. Thank you for forgiving all my sins, even those I haven't done yet. I'm sorry I sinned. I repent (change my mind). Would you help me change directions? Would you help me repent and walk with you instead? I want to be like Christ, but I need your power to do it. Thank you."

If Christ's finished work on the cross is true then I never need to ask for forgiveness again....I simply need to thank him for what I already have and respond in repentance rather than seeking forgiveness (something that is already mine). We have a host of Christians asking for forgiveness and never repenting. Men and women continuing on in the sin they chose, but asking for God's forgiveness along the way. This is the worse possible theology and choice. Of course we are forgiven if we have trusted Christ, but there are consequences for ongoing sin. There are problems with it. That should be obvious.

We don't need more forgiveness. We have all we are going to get. What we need is repentance. We need Christians passionate to become like Christ and willing to change directions, as sin is revealed. Don't ask for what you already have. Repent and ask for God's help so ongoing sin is not part of your life.

Forgiven? YES, completely! And because of that our choices should be dramatically different.

Bible references for these thoughts: John 3, Romans 6-8, Hebrews 9-10, 2 Corinthians 5.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Great quotes

This afternoon I was reminded of one of the great quotes of the Christian faith. It's a wonderful overview of the Christian life.



Jesus gave his life for you
so he could give his life to you
so he could live his life through you


-Major Ian Thomas



Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The blessings of God

As I read Numbers 6 this morning I came to the end of the chapter and this rich blessing given by God for the priests to extend to the people,

22 The LORD said to Moses, 23 “Tell Aaron and his sons, ‘This is how you are to bless the Israelites. Say to them:

24 “‘“The LORD bless you and keep you;
25 the LORD make his face shine on you
and be gracious to you;
26 the LORD turn his face toward you
and give you peace.”’

It struck me that these are the same words used by the New Testament writers as they begin their books, "Grace and peace to you...." These are not just words of greeting, but are words of blessing.

Grace encompasses the rich blessings and favor of God in relationship with us. Peace describes the results of grace in relationship with God and with others. These two words describe all we need to live well. As I read the blessing of the priest in Numbers 6 it struck me that this is the ongoing blessing of the Christian, this grace and peace.

It also became clear that if you're not experiencing grace you won't have peace either. Peace rests on the foundation of grace. Without an experience of grace peace is not available. As I write this it clears a fog for me about the world around me....if those we know have not trusted and experienced the grace of God they don't know peace either. It's only in God's grace that true peace is revealed.....peace with God and peace with others. And, it's only as I give grace to others that they experience peace in relationship.

Grace and peace....foundations of faith and a rich relationship with God. That's what I'm dwelling on this morning. I know there is much more to this than I have written here, but it's just now starting to bounce around in my head. I'll share with you what comes from all of that as I work through it, but for today,

Grace and peace be to you in the name of Jesus Christ!

Quote of the day


Bruce Barton-
"When you're through changing, you're through."

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Waves


Life comes at us in waves. Waves of blessings and sometimes waves of problems.

This morning, with the wonderful blessing of rain comes flooding in our garage. We spent the night manning the sump pump to keep it out of the house. Tired, but victory is ours!

This morning I took my car into the shop. It's not working right. I've tried everything to fix it, but with no success. Now for the pros to work on it.

Waves come and go. We so easily think that when we are crushed by a wave that this is the way it will always be. We're wet, beat up, tired, off balance with the force of the wave, but the wave will pass....another will come soon, but that will pass as well. The challenge for us is to realize that these waves of both good and bad are part of the normal tides of life on a fallen planet. Don't let one wave knock you off your feet and defeat you. It will pass and the next one might be an amazing blessing.

One thing for sure....life on our little world is never boring! There's always another wave coming to make your life exciting. Anticipate what's ahead, don't dread it. God is in charge of your life and if the wave brings flooding and broken cars it's just one wave. It will pass, you will grow in faith and God will work in your life.

Enjoy the waves. They are part of a life lived well.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Photo dictionary: Modernism

Credit where credit is due


One of the repeating themes in the bible is God's name mentioned with his grandest work. Here's what it looks like from one passage among many,

"May the LORD bless you from Zion, he who is the Maker of heaven and earth."

The repeating name of God sown all through the bible is "God, maker of heaven and earth."
It's a description of his name and his work. It's defining and descriptive. It's directive and declarative. It gives the God of the bible credit for creation. That credit is his due.

This name and description of his work also gives encouragement that if he can do all that he is able to help me. It paints a picture of a big God. As I come across this title all through the bible it is a declaration of who is responsible for all of this and it's a claim to authorship. Just as a work of art has the painter's signature on the bottom so the creation has a signature on it as well. God made it.

We are in an interesting time when the world is espousing a view of creation that attempts to erase God's signature from his work of art, but the bible is clear that one of the defining marks of his power and greatness is the universe he made. It's also a visible evidence of his existence. And, third it gives me confidence that he is more than able to help me when I call on him.

God, maker of heaven and earth. It's a repeating theme in the bible. It's important. It's reassuring. In spite of the world's claim that no one made this amazing work of art God claims he did it all. Let's give the artist credit for his work. Let's give credit where credit is due. It's his artistic hand that made all you see. It's his grand and glorious work of art. He is the God who made heaven and earth.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

If we could see...


We all wear masks. Masks that tell others we are "ok" when we really aren't. In public most of us pretend we have it together, all is well, but if we could see what others struggle with it would change how we interact with each other.

If we could see that a friend is insecure how would we treat them?

If we could see that a neighbor is afraid what would we do?

If we could see that a co-worker is depressed what would you say?

If we could see what's really going on with each other it would change everything......but we can't. We all wear masks to make the world think we are "ok", but imagine how our relationships would change if we could see what's really going on in a life? It would change everything!

What's fascinating to me is that Jesus did see. He heard the unspoken words, he knew the unheard thoughts, he knew. And because he knew he dealt with people in a merciful and gracious way. He loved them. Here are his words for us, profound words for us who can't see what the other person is going through, but if we could see this is what we would do....

"Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”"

So, here are your instructions for the day as you encounter the host of fallen mankind that will make your day crazy- be merciful, don't judge, don't condemn, forgive, and give. These are Jesus' words to us because we can't see....

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Problems and Perspective


Problems. We all have them. Bills to pay, children to raise, parents, work, illness, worries, struggles, relationships, LIFE!

One of the things we most need when we deal with problems is perspective. Do you see that third cab on the left in the photo? In that cab is a woman who is dealing with a dying child and a broken marriage. She's crushed under the load of it all. She doesn't know what to do, where to turn, how to deal with all the brokenness in her life. Her heart is breaking.

But what you see from your perspective is a much bigger picture, a much broader view of things. This woman's problems are big in her life, but small when you step back a bit. That's true in our lives as well. In the midst of our crisis, our problems, we feel overwhelmed and burdened with the weight of our problems. But those around you barely notice. They are busy with their own issues, their own problems. So who sees you? Who understands all you're going through? Who really cares about YOUR problems?

You know my answer already, don't you? The bible is rich with a right perspective on problems and the things that are big to us. Jesus addressed them often and told those listening, "Come to me, bring your problems, your burdens....I'll carry them, I care about you, I love you. Walk with me while I carry your burdens and I will give you rest." When no one else sees you or understands you God does. He cares. He knows. He's not mad at you, he's not punishing you, he loves you.

Is there a reason for problems? Yes! And when you have time for a cup of coffee we can sit down and talk about it, but know that when no one else sees you God does and he cares. Take your problems to him.....whatever they are....you will find someone who sees you, loves you and will help you.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Could heaven have it right?


I love to see new places, places I haven't been before. A new country, a different city, the people of that country all fascinate me. The great adventure of discovery is alive and well in this old pastor!

One place I'm looking forward to visiting is heaven itself. In fact I already have a condo there and hope to see it soon. There are brief glimpses of this place throughout scripture. One that fascinates me is in Revelation as John tries to describe what he sees,

Rev. 4:9 Whenever the living creatures give glory, honor and thanks to him who sits on the throne and who lives for ever and ever, 10 the twenty-four elders fall down before him who sits on the throne and worship him who lives for ever and ever. They lay their crowns before the throne and say:
11 “You are worthy, our Lord and God,
to receive glory and honor and power,
for you created all things,
and by your will they were created
and have their being.”

The picture is one of active and intentional worship of God by those around him. Whoever these elders are they worship God, giving him worth, because he created all things and because he sustains the creation he made. Praise for God's creation work is the theme of these 24 elders.

What a contrast this is to our day when the culture around us credits time and chance with creation! The secular world lauds evolution as the cause of life while in heaven the elders praise God and declare that he made it all. What a fascinating contrast this is! It's clear that these are two very different views of creation and the universe. It's clear that only one can be true.

Could it be that others have more knowledge about creation than we do? Could it be that God really did make it all? At least everyone in heaven thinks he did. Haven't they heard of evolution? Don't they read Dawkins? Don't they know that science has "proven" evolution to be true? Apparently not! In heaven there is universal consensus that God made everything and he's praised for it.

In the first book of the bible God tells us he created everything. In the last book of the bible he's praised by the hosts of heaven for the creation he made. Could it be that science is wrong? Could heaven have it right? Apparently we don't know as much as we think we do....maybe praise to the one who created everything would be the perfect response.


Monday, March 12, 2012

Identity


The movie "Toy Story" has some wonderful imagery in it that fascinates both children and adults. One of the key elements of the movie is the idea of identity, belonging. It's a big deal to the toys that they belong to Andy and are part of his life.

This idea of identity and belonging is big in the bible as well. It's key to the story of the gospel that because of Christ I now belong. I have found my identity in Christ and my belonging in the family of God. We all want identity and belonging, we all long for it and God knows we need it. The last book of the bible talks about this in an interesting way,

Rev. 3:12 The one who is victorious I will make a pillar in the temple of my God. Never again will they leave it. I will write on them the name of my God and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which is coming down out of heaven from my God; and I will also write on them my new name.

Clearly, when Christ is done and we have been claimed by him he will mark us as his own. All will know who is our Lord, what is our Location and who has given us Life. Ownership, identity, belonging will finally be settled once for all. We will eternally be His.

"Who are you?" someone might ask. You can now answer with clarity from Jesus, "I belong to God, my home is in the new Jerusalem and my relationship is with Jesus himself." If that doesn't give you an identity, a belonging then nothing will!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

The truly consistent life


The Atheist Quote That Inspired a Missionary


(An interesting article by Dr. Michael Brown. Worth sharing here. How do you respond to these thoughts?)

"After C. T. Studd had committed his life to Jesus, he came across a tract written by an atheist that made a radical impact on his life. The tract read as follows:

Did I firmly believe, as millions say they do, that the knowledge and practice of religion in this life influences destiny in another, religion would mean to me everything. I would cast away earthly enjoyments as dross, earthly cares as follies, and earthly thoughts and feelings as vanity. Religion would be my first waking thought, and my last image before sleep sank me into unconsciousness. I should labour in its cause alone. I would take thought for the morrow of Eternity alone. I would esteem one soul gained for heaven worth a life of suffering. Earthly consequences should never stay my hand, nor seal my lips. Earth, its joys and its griefs, would occupy no moment of my thoughts. I would strive to look upon Eternity alone, and on the Immortal Souls around me, soon to be everlastingly happy or everlastingly miserable. I would go forth to the world and preach to it in season and out of season, and my text would be, what shall it profit a man if he gain the whole world and lose his own soul?

Studd was convinced that this atheist did, in fact, describe “the truly consistent life,” but when he looked at his own life, he saw “how inconsistent it had been.” And so he determined that, “from that time forth my life should be consistent, and I set myself to know what was God’s will for me.”

Studd gave his life for the poor and lost on the mission field, dying in Africa after years of faithful service. It was Studd who wrote, "Only one life, 'twill soon be past; only what's done for Christ will last."

Are you living in the light of eternity? As Leonard Ravenhill often asked, “Are the things you are living for worth Christ dying for?”"

Friday, March 09, 2012

A wonderful story

I found this story and fell in love with William's odyssey. His story will inspire you. What fascinated me is how one young 14 year old boy, unable to go to school because of money, found a way to do something special. As a result he has traveled the world and is now at Dartmouth College. He now has his own wikipedia page, a blog site and has spoken at TED. Fascinating.

Thursday, March 08, 2012

Love redefined


Love is an interesting word in our culture. It's usually connected to emotion, feelings, and passion. But the Bible paints a completely different picture of what love is all about. As I read 1 John this morning I came to a passage and realized, as I read, that love (as the bible describes it) is a verb filled with action and demonstration. Our culture fills love with feelings while the bible describes actions and unselfishness. Here are John's words,

1 John 4:7 Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9 This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.

God's love is filled with actions, activity, giving, and sacrifice. It's the defining mark of a Christian....at least it should be the defining mark of the Christian. It seems our culture today sees us as judges, Pharisees, critics and killjoys instead of lovers of the lost ones.

As I look for a photo to use for these thoughts all I can find are culturally connected photos. None of them show what this should look like lived out in our lives. It's difficult when all we see and hear about love is touched by feelings, emotions and desires. Love done well is described in decisions and actions, a demonstration and example of what God has done for us. Love is giving, sacrifice, and action.

In another of John's books he writes, "by this (love) all men will know you are my disciples." Love for others is the defining mark of a Christian. The problem is that we have redefined both the word "love" and the word "others".

Imagine if we took others to mean others different than us? Others who disagree with us, others who abort their babies, others who vote the "wrong way", others who drink, others who are divorced....and on the list goes. Imagine how different the Christian would be viewed if our definitions changed just a little.....

"By this (love) they will know you are my disciples."

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Good morning

I'm back after two and a half days away for a staff retreat. It was great to get to know our staff better. There are only two of us who were here 6 years ago. All the rest of our staff are new. It was a very interesting time together listening to their visions of where we should go. It's a whole new world. I'm looking forward to seeing what God does with us as a church. I am encouraged!

Monday, March 05, 2012

Quote of the day

"A religion that promises the fulfillment of all needs is distorted into a religion that manipulates God for the satisfaction of all wants." ~ Eugene H. Peterson

Joy in his presence





Psalm 16:11
You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.



Joy in his presence....what an amazing thought, that joy, as it's meant to be is lived out is experienced in the presence of God. That's not a someday far away thing, but it's a reality, or should I say possibility right now. Joy in his presence is possible in our daily lives even as we wait for his return. His presence is not a somewhere else place, but it's right here, right now living in the presence of the God who is and rejoicing in him. Joy is the result.

I have glimpses of joy now, but I so wish I could grasp this reality moment by moment...this joy in his presence thing. I'm enticed by the possibility that joy can be part of my life now. Not because of something I have, a place I go, something I buy, or how I feel, but the fact that I'm his child in his presence and joy is the reward. Joy in his presence....one of the great blessing of knowing God.

Sunday, March 04, 2012

Question for the day

I've never done this before, but since I'm teaching an apologetics class right now the question is on my mind today, so let's talk about it....

Can there be only one way to God? Or, said another way, Is there only one right answer to the question "How do I find God?"

It's the question of our day, let's talk about it....

Saturday, March 03, 2012

Jonah's prayer


This morning I had the great honor of speaking at our mid-school bible conference. I really love these kids. They are all struggling with identity and acceptance, but they are awesome kids.

My portion of the weekend was chapter 2, Jonah's prayer. I have taught through it a number of times, but had never really seen one line of this prayer before. It's in verse 8. Here is the passage that caught my imagination,

"Those who cling to worthless idols
forfeit the grace that could be theirs."

It suddenly struck me that what Jonah is describing is our amazing ability to create idols in our lives. When we set anything before God we miss the grace that could be ours. That very thought has my mind racing as I think about how often I miss grace simply by trying to please God my way. I set up worthless idols that do nothing and I completely miss all that God has done for me, I miss his grace completely!

It's amazing the insights that come while you're waiting in the stomach of a big fish.

Thursday, March 01, 2012

Smile for the day

A guy had been isolated on an island in the South Pacific for 10 years.

He lit a signal every night for 10 years but no one saw it and no one came to rescue him. Finally a passing boat did notice the signal and sent an officer and men in a small boat to investigate.

The castaway explained that he had been on this island for 10 years waiting to be rescued.

The boat captain ask "If you are all alone, what are those three huts I see built in the lagoon?

He answered "The first hut is my home. The second hut is where I go to church. And the third hut is where I went to church before I got mad and changed churches ..."