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
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."
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.
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,
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
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
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
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.
"Why do the nations conspire and the peoples plotin vain? The kingsof the earth rise up and the rulers band together against theLordand against his anointed,saying, “Let us break their chains and throw off their
The One enthronedin
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...
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