I believe that a ditty is actually supposed to be a poem or a song, but I grew up with the Carolina colloquialism of a ditty being any short, pithy saying or writing. Having written only one noteworthy poem in my life, I’m definitely not a poet, but I do hope that these few thoughts I’m sharing in this little book will prove to be short and pithy enough to inspire a little something into your life each day.
I once read that it’s plagiarism if you steal from one person, but it’s research if you steal from several writers. Another thing that I firmly believe is that none of us really has an original thought. Every thought we have is a result of all the input we have received. For most of us, the old saying of the computer programmers might apply very aptly: GIGO–“garbage in, garbage out.” If there is any good thought that comes out of our minds, it is because some good influences have entered our hearts; the most important of those positive influences would be the Word of God and the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.
As you read my little ditties each day, I encourage you to enjoy each place where I have plagiarized (ah, done some research) and each place where something other than garbage has come out due to the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.
The best way to get even is to forget.
God wants spiritual fruit, not religious nuts.
Some folks wear their halos much too tight.
Unless you can create the WHOLE universe in five days, then perhaps giving “advice” to God, isn’t such a good idea!
Sorrow looks back, worry looks around, and faith looks up.
Standing in the middle of the road is dangerous. You will get knocked down by the traffic from both ways.
Words are windows to the heart.
A skeptic is a person who when he sees the handwriting on the wall, claims it’s a forgery.
It isn’t difficult to make a mountain out of a molehill — just add a little dirt.
A successful marriage isn’t finding the right person; it’s being the right person.
The mighty oak tree was once a little nut that held its ground.
The tongue must be heavy indeed, because so few people can hold it.
To forgive is to set the prisoner free, and then discover that the prisoner was you.
You have to wonder about humans, they think God is dead and Elvis is alive!
You’ll notice that a turtle only makes progress when it sticks out its neck.
If the grass is greener on the other side of the fence, you can bet the water bill is higher.
A youth minister died giving a sermon illustration when he shot himself in front of an audience of two hundred fifty people. He was illustrating the danger of drug use and violence by comparing it to Russian roulette. For the illustration, he put a blank cartridge in a revolver and, as he made each point, spun the cylinder and fired it above his head. At the end of the sermon, he put the revolver to his head and pulled the trigger. The blank cartridge flew apart and shattered his skull in front of the audience, which included his wife and four daughters. The associate pastor explained, “We were absolutely stunned. Nobody moved. We thought it might be part of his sermon and he would pop back up.”
Sometimes our plans backfire on us, leaving us at a total loss; however, it is God’s plan that our lives turn out as a backfire on all our enemies’ plans. “Whoso causeth the righteous to go astray in an evil way, he shall fall himself into his own pit: but the upright shall have good things in possession.” (Proverbs 28:10) In Siberia, the bricks of a prison which once held Christians were used to build a church. The believers once sat inside their cells looking at these same brick walls, but now they can look at those same bricks and smile because they are now part of their church.
Always remember “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end,” (Jeremiah 29:11) and “But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good.” (Genesis 50:20)
Once when we were working our way through Dubar Square in the old city of Kathmandu, Nepal, we were privileged to see Sajani Shakya, the living goddess. Known as the “kumara,” or vigin goddess, she was latest in a long line of pre-menstrual girls who have been worshipped as incarnations of the powerful Hindu deity Taleju. Chosen from the Shakya caste of goldsmiths at age four, she had been examined by a panel of judges following a series of ancient ceremonies in which her horoscope was checked, she was examined for any physical imperfections, and finally she was forced to spend the night in a room filled with more than one hundred freshly decapitated animal heads. Once she had passed the test, she lived in isolation and only mixed with the public for Hindu and government ceremonial events. She was carried everywhere she went because was considered to be so sacred that she her feet were never to be allowed to touch the ground. She was to hold this position until she reached puberty; at which point, another virgin goddess would be selected. Several years later, I was surprised to read that she had been fired from her position because –despite the fact that she was to never leave Nepal — she had traveled to the US and even toured the White House as part of a promotion for a film about the tradition.
My question is how do you fire a god? Who ever hear of an unemployed god or a god who was out of a job? Unfortunately we try to put God out of work every day when we refuse to let Him be the Savior, Healer, and Deliverer as He is described in His resume. “They…limited the Holy One of Israel. (Psalm 78:41)
As a child, I heard the expression that we must all eat our pound of dirt. Of course, as my mother was constantly trying to keep me in a hygienically pure environment, I wondered how I would ever be healthy without my allotted quote of dirt. I’m not sure about the physical ingestion of dirt, but I do know that we will all have our fair share of dirt dished out to us as we go through life. When we get that mud slung at us, we must remember that God knows and even determines the end from the beginning (Isaiah 46:10) and knows what pattern He is working out in our lives. Corrie Ten Boom said it this way, “Life is like a tapestry which God is weaving. We look at it from the bottom side where all the ends of the threads are dangling loose. God sees it from the top side where the pattern is developing.” Someday, we’ll also see that pattern. As we look at some things from our limited time frame, they may look like bad events: but from God’s eternal perspective, He can see the good in them.
When a subsistence farmer in a little Chinese village told his friend about his uncle’s death, his friend offered condolences, “Oh, that’s too bad.” The farmer’s immediate response was, “But, he left me his horse which I really need here on the farm.” The friend replied, “Oh, that’s good,” but the farmer continued, “When I sent my teenage son to get the horse, the animal bucked and threw my boy causing him to break a leg.” The friend answered with, “Oh, that’s too bad,” but the farmer countered with, “No, that’s good because the Maoist rebels came that very night to conscript all the local young men into their forces, but they didn’t take my son because of his broken leg.”
According to researcher George Barna, American churchgoers don’t feel they are communicating with God. About seventy-five million Americans attend church every Sunday but many don’t believe they have experienced God’s presence. Less than a third of those who go to church feel they are interacting with God during service and an additional third said they have never experienced God’s presence. “Most of them leave the church disappointed, week after week,” Barna said. His research showed that mixing different music styles during worship and sermons that are too complex or impractical can restrict people’s spiritual experience. “A church cannot make a person worship, but it can facilitate a worship experience if it is sensitive to the dynamics of the worship event and those who are coming for a God-experience.”
It has been said that just like sitting in a garage will not make you a car and sitting in a doughnut shop will not make you a policeman, sitting in church will not make you a Christian. But the analogy goes even deeper. Even if you are already a Christian, sitting in church will not make you a worshipper. Worship is not a spectator sport where we come and expect the experience to be presented to us from the leaders. Instead, we must bring the worship with us as we enter the sanctuary. “Come before his presence with singing, … enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise,” (Psalm 100:2, 4)
Prior to the rise of anti-Semitism and the devastation of Nazism, the Jews of the West were satisfied to remain in the familiar surrounds. Most had no desire to relocate to the frontier regions of Palestine and take up the pioneer life. Yet, when they lost their homes, possessions, and families, there was nothing left for them in Europe. Israel seemed their only hope of a future.
God allowed the horrors of Nazism and the Holocaust to exist just long enough for the Jews of Europe to decide that they wanted to go back to Israel and for the nations of the world to decide that they ought to be allowed to go back. With the horrors of Hitler’s Germany fresh in their minds and the stench of burned Jewish flesh still in their nostrils, the United Nations moved quickly as one of its first acts to establish a home for the covenant people in their covenant land.
As I write this example, I’m sure that it will raise more questions than it will provide answers. No, I’m not suggesting that we let evil run rampant in our world assuming that God will somehow make it all turn out good in the end. The Bible is bursting at the seems with examples of God’s people’s taking aggressive action to eradicate evil men, governments, and influences. My simple thought here is that we should never allow the questions and inequities in life to cause us to doubt God’s control over and concern for our world. He is ultimately in control and His way will eventually be revealed, leaving Him completely justified in every aspect of human history. (Romans 3:4)
Have you ever noticed, when reading the story of the Exodus, the number of times the people told Moses that they wanted to go back to Egypt? The fascinating idea with this story is that these people were begging to go back to slavery! On the other hand, Moses who had grown up in the palace never even hinted at wanting to return.
Those poor ex-slaves needed to encounter God the Moses had met Him at burning bush. Unfortunately when God was willing to speak to them directly, they refused to hear Him and settled for a second-hand communication through Moses. (Exodus 20:19) Aaron and the elders were invited to tarry close by on the mountain while God was speaking to Moses for forty days (Exodus 24:11-155), yet they chose to go back down to the people and wound up making the idolatrous golden calf.
Romans 10:17 teaches us that faith comes from hearing the word of God; but Hebrews 4:2 explains that these Hebrew slaves refused to let that word become productive in their hearts and it was of no profit to them. Because they lacked the power of the word of God in their lives, they also lacked the life-changing faith of their leader Moses. “By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter; Choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season; esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt: for he had respect unto the recompence of the reward. By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king: for he endured, as seeing him who is invisible.” (Hebrews 11:24-27)
If you woke up this morning with more health than illness, you are more blessed than the million who will not survive the week.
If you have never experienced the danger of battle, the loneliness of imprisonment, the agony of torture or the pains of starvation, you are ahead of five hundred million people around the world.
If you can express your beliefs without fear of harassment, arrest, torture, or death, you are more blessed that almost three billion people in the world.
If you have food in your refrigerator, clothes on your back, a roof over your head and a place to sleep, you are richer than seventy-five percent of this world.
If you have money in the bank, in your wallet, and spare change in a dish someplace, you are among the top eight percent of the world’s wealthy.
If your parents are still married and alive, you are very, very rare.
If you hold up your head with a smile on your face and are truly thankful, you are blessed because the majority can, but most do not.
If you can hold someone’s hand, hug him or even touch him on the shoulder, you are blessed because you can offer God’s healing touch.
If you own just one Bible, you are abundantly blessed. One third of the world does not have access to even one.
If you can read this message, you are more blessed than over two billion people in the world that cannot read anything at all.
Yesterday’s thoughts were about what we have that so few in the world around us share. Today, I’d like to focus on how we should appreciate what it is we do have. Maybe you can imagine with me an ancient Irish peasant sitting down with his little family around a bowl of meat and potatoes and reciting this simple little prayer before the meal was served:
Some hae meat and canna eat,
And some wad eat that want it,
But we hae and we can eat,
And sae the Lord be thankit’.
The Selkirk Grace
Robert Burns 1759-96
I think of the story of the man who ate only hamburger all his life because he could not afford steak; when he finally could afford steak, he had lost his teeth and still had to eat hamburger. I also remember the story of the conversation between the eight-year-old Lester Sumrall and the wealthy school superintendent. When the lad said that it must be nice to have a big house, fancy car, and European vacations, the reply was, “I have severe stomach ulcers and would give it all to be able to enjoy a good meal.”
In everything we have — no matter how small or simple it is — we must learn the attitude of gratitude.
By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name. (Hebrews 13:15)
Have you ever noticed sailboats on a lake? It’s puzzling to me how they can be moving in different directions while all being propelled by the same wind which is only blowing in one direction! The answer is in the simple laws of physics. If the sails are set to catch the wind and transfer the energy properly, the boat can actually sail in the opposite direction from the wind.
The same is true in our lives. We can’t control the winds that blow in our lives, but we can control how our sails are set and, therefore, how those winds will effect us.
When Paul was headed to Jerusalem, he was very much aware that adversity and prison awaited him there. Friends, even speaking under prophetic anointing, repeatedly tried to dissuade him from his mission. However, the apostle was determined to set his focus on the reward ahead rather than the struggle he would have to go through to get there. The same Spirit that blew into the lives of Paul’s friends and made them try to discourage Paul was also blowing in his life; however, his sails were set for Jerusalem and eventually Rome, and those same winds blew him straight toward his goal — even through storms and shipwreck.
“And now, behold, I go bound in the spirit unto Jerusalem, not knowing the things that shall befall me there: Save that the Holy Ghost witnesseth in every city, saying that bonds and afflictions abide me. But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God.” (Acts 20:22-24)
Have you ever thought of the vastness of our universe? We read of space probes that have discovered stars, galaxies, and solar systems that are millions of light years away. With each light year being almost six trillion miles, it is impossible for me to even conceive of how immense our universe is. Wow, I get exhausted when I fly for just a couple days on an airplane to go a few thousand miles on a mission trip!
My thought today is that even though Satan is described as the god of this world, his authority is still relegated to this almost insignificant speck called planet Earth in the vastness of the limitless universe! What an insult to his pompous desire to become equal with the God who measures the waters in the hollow of His hand, and metes out heaven with the span, and comprehends the dust of the earth in a measure, and weighs the mountains in scales, and the hills in a balance. (Isaiah 40:12)
Even in the earth where he exerts his authority, he is powerless before those who know how to put him in his place. Because Jesus has spoiled — literally meaning “to strip naked” — him (Colossians 2:15), all believers have the power to resist him and make he flee — literally meaning “tuck his tail between his hind legs and run like a whipped dog” (James 4:7).
Decide today to put the enemy in his place and embarrass him every chance you get!
Ten little Christians standing in line, one disliked the preacher, then there were nine.
Nine little Christians stayed up very late, one overslept Sunday, then there were eight.
Eight little Christians on their way to Heaven, one took the low road and then there were seven. Seven little Christians singing praises so perfect, one disliked the music, then there were six. Six little Christians seemed very much alive, but one lost his interest then there was five. Five little Christians rowing for Heaven’s Shore, but one stopped to rest, then there were four. Four little Christians each busy as a bee, one got his feelings hurt, then there were three. Three little Christians knew not what to do, one joined the sporty crowd, then there were two. Two little Christians (our rhyme is nearly done) differed with each other, then there was one. One little Christian — can’t do much ’tis true — brought his friend to Bible study. Then there were two. Two earnest Christians, each won one more. That doubled the number, then there were four. Four sincere Christians worked early and late. Each won another then there were eight. Eight splendid Christians, if they doubled as before in just so many Sundays, their would be one thousand twenty-four.
In this little jingle, there is a lesson true: you belong either to the building or to the wrecking crew!
In every challenge of life, the prize is given only to the one who finishes the course. The promise of salvation is relegated to those who endure to the end. We must be like Joshua and Caleb who, even though they had to put up with forty years in the desert because of other people’s unbelief, kept their faith and eventually entered and possessed the Promised Land.
Winston Churchill once addressed a class of graduating college seniors at their commencement by gruffly charging them, “Never give up!” He took a deep breath and bellowed out a second time, “Never give up!” Then after his third demand that they never give up, he took his seat.
Dr. Lester Sumrall will forever live in the hearts of this generation as the man who would not quit. His testimonial tape entitled “I Did Not Quit” has inspired and challenged countless ministers and laymen to keep at the task God has given them.
When someone says, “It can’t be done,” it only means that he’s not going to do it. There is nothing that is impossible to those who truly believe in the ability that God has placed inside them. Paul confessed that he could do all things through Christ who strengthened me (Philippians 4:13) because he knew that it was Christ who was living in and through him (Galatians 2:20) and that the things which are impossible with men are possible with God (Luke 18:27).
If you want to be a success, you have to become a fanatic about the thing you believe in — a person who cannot change his mind and will not change the topic.
From the book of First Samuel, we all remember the story of David’s battle with Goliath, but we often overlook some other battles he had to fight before he could even get to the giant. One of them was with his own brother. Verse twenty-eight of chapter seventeen, records how the older brother disdained and ridiculed the lad when he showed up at the battle field, “Why camest thou down hither? and with whom hast thou left those few sheep in the wilderness? I know thy pride, and the naughtiness of thine heart; for thou art come down that thou mightest see the battle.” David’s simple answer was, “Is there not a cause?” He was not interested in the adrenaline rush of the battle or even the reward the king had offered to anyone brave enough to take up the fight; he saw that there was a cause worth fighting for — defending the honor of the name of God and the dignity of His people. Because he had a cause, not because he was on a military salary, a little shepherd boy was able to do what the mighty warriors were afraid to attempt.
God wants all of us to also have our own cause in life. You never begin to live until you live for a cause bigger than yourself. If you live for God’s cause, He’ll give life to your vision. Once you have a vision of who God wants you to be and what He wants you to do, the cause will possess and consume you. That vision will create excitement, energy, and power to fulfill the cause.
Ain’t hardly nobody in this here town ever cum to Jesus cept they was went after.
Parking for members only — trespassers will be baptized!
Free trip to heaven — Details inside.
Try our Sundays. They are better than Baskin-Robbins.
Accompanying a picture of two hands holding stone tablets on which are inscribed the Ten Commandments, “For fast relief, take two tablets.”
People are like tea bags — you have to put them in hot water before you know how strong they are.
Come in and pray today. Beat the Christmas rush!
Fight truth decay — study the Bible.
How will you spend eternity — smoking or non-smoking?
Dusty Bibles lead to dirty lives.
Come work for the Lord. The hours are long and the pay is low, but the benefits are out of this world!
If you’re headed in the wrong direction, God allows U- turns.
If you don’t like the way you were born, try being born again.
Looking at the way some people live, they ought to obtain eternal fire insurance soon.
This is a ch__ch. What is missing? (UR)
In the dark? Follow the Son.
Running low on faith? Stop in for a fill-up.
Can’t sleep? Don’t count sheep; talk to the Shepherd.
Home improvement center
There have been so many rewarding experiences in life that it not normal for me to even think of the few disappointments I have experienced; but I can honestly say that, as a teacher, the biggest disappoints come from having poured my life into a student only to see that student fail because he made choices contrary to everything I have tried to teach him. Of course, the discouragement is only compounded to think that I could have had a much better paying job but had settled for a teacher’s salary because of my love for helping influence the next generation.
Imagine how you would feel if you were a doctor walking among people who could be cured if they would just take their medicine or how you would feel if you were an industrialist and walked among unemployed who could have a job if they would just apply.
If we as humans can be disappointed by such situations, imagine how much more it must break the heart of Jesus as He sees the condition of the human race when He came from the heavenly throne room to walk among us as Jehovah Rapha, yet we continue in our sicknesses; Jehovah Jirah, yet we continue in our lack; Jehovah Shalom, yet we continue in our turmoil; and Jehovah Tsidquenue, yet we continue in our sinfulness and guilt.
“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, … how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!” (Matthew 23:37) “He came unto his own, and his own received him not.” (John 1:11)
God is interested in every detail of our lives and He wants to help us develop each department of our lives. Here are about a dozen areas He wants to dominate for us.
Destiny: God wants us to find our destiny in life.
Donations: Our faithfulness in giving is the key to deliverance from the devourer.
Doing Right: Sinning earns us the wages of death, but in Christ, the sting of death is destroyed. We can defang death by refusing to let sin dominate us.
Direction: An old expression goes, “Forewarned is forearmed.” When God gives a prophetic warning, we can be certain that following His direction will save us from the enemy’s plan to devastate us. We can divert devastation by following His directions.
Demonstration: The whole purpose behind the coming of Jesus was to destroy the works of the enemy. We must allow Jesus to manifest this deliverance in and through us.
Declaring & Denouncing: Declaring the truth and denouncing error brings freedom. Through Christ, we can demask deception.
Determination: We can defeat discouragement through determining to see ourselves as victors rather than the victims.
Dedication: Dedicating ourselves to the Master to obtain deliverance from the demons which try to harass us.
Devotion: We can defend our destiny by determining to not lean on our own understanding but rather to acknowledge God in all our ways.
Dying to Sin: We can derail disaster through repentance. Education
It has been said that if you think education is expensive, you should try ignorance. There is a price to find fulfillment in life; it’s call “education.” As a college dean, I often encountered students who chose which classes to register for based on the reputation of how easy the teacher was. My response to them was, “Get an education, not just a degree.”
But the cost of a good education is not only paid by the student; the teacher has a true investment to make in order to genuinely educate the student.
It has been said that if you think education is expensive, you should try ignorance. There is a price to find fulfillment in life; it’s call “education.” As a college dean, I often encountered students who chose which classes to register for based on the reputation of how easy the teacher was. My response to them was, “Get an education, not just a degree.”
But the cost of a good education is not only paid by the student; the teacher has a true investment to make in order to genuinely educate the student. Excellence
Discipline Utilization of resources of all resources available, such as parents, church, and community Christian principles Attention Tender but tight; the teachers must know how to make the students love them while still respecting them. Interested in child, not job; a true teacher will pray and cry for the students. Overcoming obstacles; no child’s challenge is too big for a true teacher. No compromise
There was a story that made the rounds several years ago about a wife trying to get her husband out of bed to go to church on Easter Sunday morning. He grunted and complained about the lousy music, the hypocrites who only came to be seen, the boring preaching, and any other excuse he could muster. She countered with every possible reason about showing our love and respect for God but finally had to resort to, “But YOU’RE the pastor!”
Weekly church attendance can prolong life. A study published by the National Science Foundation showed that people who attend a church, mosque, or synagogue regularly live seven years longer than non-churchgoers. Black people who attend services can increase their lifespan by as much as fourteen years, the study showed.
I doubt that King David knew these facts when he declared, “I was glad when they said unto me, Let us go into the house of the LORD.” (Psalms 122:1) However, I’m sure that he understood that coming into the presence of God made life better — regardless of if it made life any longer. In fact, he described it this way, “Thou wilt shew me the path of life: in thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore.” (Psalms 16:11)
For many years, the numbers 9-1-1 have stood for our emergency network throughout the country. In September of 2001, those numbers took on an even deeper meaning for our country as terrorists invaded, taking hundreds of innocent lives and permanently changing the lives of all the rest of us. However, even in the tragedy of that day, we began to hear stories of many whose lives were miraculously spared. Some were behind schedule because their alarm clocks failed to work; others stayed home sick; some were delayed because of traffic or other problems with their commute; when one man at the Pentagon had to discuss a project with someone else on the other side of the building, he decided to walk to the other office rather than picking up the phone and discussing the issue from his own desk — which happened to be the exact impact point where the jetliner entered the building!
Not only on 9/11, but in every trauma our nation has experienced, similar stories emerge. Two young men made last-minute decisions to change their plans as they were in the process of handing their boarding passes to the agent of a fated Jet Blue flight; a husband called his wife and asked her to change her plans about going to a mall which became the scene of a rampage killing. Out of all the churches a deranged young man with an assault rifle and a thousand rounds of ammunition could have chosen, he picked the one with armed plainclothes security guards.
For believers, 9-1-1 should have a different meaning from emergency, it should mean security: Psalm 91:1, “He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.”
A Christian friend from down the hall came to my dorm room one evening, beaming from ear to ear. He announced, “I want to introduce you to an new brother that I just led to the Lord!” I was, of course, happy — but, at the same time, experiencing an inner remorse that I could not possibly share. The reason was that just a few months before I had sat next to this young man as we waited in the registrar’s office at the school. As we sat there, I had been prompted to share the gospel with him — but had denied that prompting! I couldn’t fully rejoice with my friend in his moment of celebration, knowing that I should have won the young man to Jesus months before! Instead of being in the game, I was a spectator — a benchwarmer.
Second Kings chapter seven records the story of a high-ranking official in Samaria whose doubt and unbelief robbed him of being able to celebrate when the Lord have His people a great victory. When the prophet visited the king announcing that within twenty-fours hours, the city’s starvation would be turned to an over-abundant supply, this officer responded with scorn that it was impossible. The end of the story is that God did miraculously supply but this man — who had likely been involved in high-level strategy trying to alleviate the famine’s effect upon the city — was trampled by the masses rushing to get their allotment. He saw the miracle, but didn’t get to participate. He was a benchwarmer.
I understand that when Paul referred to the possibility of becoming a castaway in I Corinthians 9:27, he was praying to never become a benchwarmer rather than an active player.
My guess is that there must gave been a grinch in a decision-making position at the toy manufacturing company. Otherwise, why would they ever package toys without batteries? In the days before all the stores were still open on Christmas Day, it was impossible to find batteries at any point after 6 PM on Christmas Eve. God only knows how many little children woke on Christmas morning to toys they couldn’t use because “Santa” had failed to notice that small print on the side of the box, “Batteries not included.” Their smiles quickly turned to tears and a dad’s frantic rush to try to find a gas station, of pharmacy, or even a neighbor who might have the treasured battery.
In our Christian lives, God made sure that we knew that batteries would be necessary and He saw to it that they would be readily available. Jesus warned us not to go out until we were sure that we had our batteries fully charged (Luke 24:49) and he guaranteed us that He would be right with us to see that we were always charged up (Matthew 28:19-20). He did not tell us to go except that He promised to be with us. He left a rather simple formula:
Lo–I am with you
Go–into all nations
Mow–bring in the harvest
Grow–build body of Christ
The sentence of a child rapist was overturned because the judge quoted from the Bible when imposing punishment. The First District Court of Appeals in Cincinnati, Ohio, reversed the fifty-one-year sentence of a defendant who had pleaded guilty to ten counts of rape involving an eight-year-old girl. The appeals court ruling said that the judge used the Bible as a source in determining the severity of punishment and, therefore, denied him the right to due process by violating the guarantee of separation of church and state. The judge had quoted from Matthew 18:5-6: “But whosoever shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it would be better for him that a millstone were hanged around his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.”
Of course, there are ongoing battles over Ten Commandment displays at courthouses, nativity scenes on public grounds, Bible reading in schools, prayers at public assemblies, “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance, “merry Christmas” as opposed to “happy holidays” spoken by any government employee, and mention of the name of Jesus in any public forum; but the release of a confessed child rapist after the full legal process has been followed is proof that America is suffering from what the Bible called “confusion of face,” a result of living so long in sin that we don’t have our right senses any more. (Daniel 9:8)
If the whole world were a village of one hundred people
There would be:
Fourteen from North and South America
Fifty-two would be female.
Forty-eight would be male.
Seventy would be nonwhite.
Thirty would be white.
Fifty-nine percent of the entire world’s wealth would belong to only six people, and all six would be citizens of the United States.
Eighty would live in substandard housing.
Seventy would be unable to read.
Fifty would suffer from malnutrition.
One would be near death.
One would be near birth.
Only one would have a college education.
Only one would have a computer.
When one considers our world from such a compressed perspective, the need for both acceptance, and understanding becomes glaringly apparent.
Let’s go to all one hundred and share the one message worth hearing — that Jesus came to save every man, woman, and child.
When the missionary came to our office manager’s door to explain that some valuables were missing from his apartment, the manager knew immediately who must be at fault. In an attempt to save embarrassment, he told the young custodian that the police were on their way but asked him to look for any intruders who might get away before the officers arrived. A few minutes later, the young man returned with the missing items and a story about scaring off the thief who threw down the loot in his attempt to escape. We all knew that it was a made-up story, but at least the stolen goods were returned to their rightful owner. Rather than becoming a villain, the young custodian was allowed to play the role of a hero that day. Unfortunately, the seeds that were sown into his life that day reaped a tragic harvest a few months later. Because he sinned and “got away with it,” he began to think that he could continue to live a superficial Christian life with lots of dirt hidden under the carpet. One evening, after having been in a church service, he stopped by a convenience store and pulled a gun on the cashier. As the clerk pretended to open the cash box, he was actually reaching for his own weapon. Seconds later, the young custodian lay dead in a pool of his own blood. Even though he had been lifting his hands and voice in prayer at church only minutes before, he had harbored greed in his heart.
I often think that we could have saved his life had we only confronted him with the truth on the day he tried to take the goods from the missionary’s apartment. Instead, we allowed him to believe a lie and be damned. (II Thessalonians 2:11-12)
Notice how God gives each of us something good, but follows it up with something better and then adds His best to it:
The widow whose sons were to be taken as slaves
Out of debt
Money to live on
Took care of others with her
Live in health
All families of earth are blessed in him
The demoniac of Gadara
Bringing others to Jesus
Out of jail
Shaved and cleaned up
Ruler over Egypt
Place to live
According to I Corinthians 2:8, if the princes of this world had known what they were doing, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. The scriptures are full of examples of how the devil just doesn’t seem to be able to see far enough in advance to recognize that he is digging his own grave when he messes with God’s people. Haman wound up hanging from a noose on the gallows he build for Mordecai. Pharaoh made a decreed to kill all the male Israelite babies but wound up raising Moses, the very one of those Israelite boys which was to undo the his evil dominion.
It is necessary that in every situation, we keep the positive attitude of a conqueror and the confidence that God is eventually going to make every situation turn out in our favor. When David was at his lowest point with his wives and children having been taken hostage and his men threatening to stone him, there was no way that he could have ever imagined that he was only seventy-two hours short of being pronounced king! (I Samuel 3:6, II Samuel 1:1, 2:4) If we will do as he did and encourage ourselves in the Lord, we’ll also see all the devil’s plans collapse before us.
The Mid America Heart Institute at St. Luke’s Hospital in Kansas City studied almost a thousand coronary patients and discovered that the heart patients who were prayed for had fewer complications in recovery. The first names of half the patients were given to believers who prayed for four weeks that they would have a speedy recovery with no complications. The prayed-for patients had ten percent fewer complications. The interesting thing about this study is that there was no contact between the patients and those praying for them. In addition, the patients were not aware if they were in the selected group to receive prayer; therefore, there was no possibility of a placebo effect.
Another study found that regular churchgoers live longer than non-churchgoers. The nine-year project involving twenty-one thousand adults showed that people who never attend church exhibit fifty percent higher risks of mortality over the follow-up period than those who attend most frequently and those who attend weekly or less than once a week display about a twenty percent higher risk of mortality than those who attend more than once a week. The study also showed that those who don’t attend church are about four times as likely to die from respiratory disease, diabetes, or infectious disease.
Luke 6:37-38 says, “Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven: Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again.” Though we generally associate this passage with giving and receiving money, Jesus was actually telling us that we should not criticize others because that same critical judgment would come back on us pressed down and shaken together. I don’t know about you, but I don’t need or want that in my life!
This directive does not relieve us of our responsibility to call those people over whom we have some spiritual or physical responsibility into accountability to the Word of God. According to II Timothy 3:16, if we simply share the Word of God with honesty and simplicity, it will bring the needed correction: “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.”
As I walked along the riverbank in Kathmandu, a little man stepped out of a Hindu shrine and offered to explain to me the “true mythology” about the sacredness of this particular spot. I declined his offer and kept my rupees in my pocket; but I did walk away wondering if this oxymoron was a result his lack of understanding of the English language or it was that he was that deceived that he couldn’t understand that mythology is not true.
Back in the US the next week, I was awake in the middle of the night fighting the jetlag from the trip home form Nepal; I flipped on the television in hopes of catching up on some of the news I had missed while I was out of the country. Instead, I found a science program in which some of the leading brains of America were discussing the “Big Bang Theory.” One said that the Big Bang Theory was neither big or a bang and then added that it’s not a theory either. He said that at one time the entire matter of the universe was compressed into a mass less than one atom in size and that its expansion to the present immeasurable universe was a “fact of total human experience of observation.” I thought, “If we can believe that the whole universe came from one sub-atomic speck, why can’t we believe that it came from nothing? And if we can believe in that one pre-existing sub-atomic speck, why can’t we believe in one eternal God?”
I then remembered the little Nepalese man and decided that it wasn’t a lack of education or intelligence that made him believe in “true mythology.” Even the most-highly educated men in the world can’t tell the truth from a lie except the Spirit of Truth reveals it to them.
I once read the story of a pop quiz that was given in a college class. The student who wrote about the test explained, “I was a conscientious student and had breezed through the questions, until I read the last one, ‘What is the first name of the woman who cleans the school?’ Surely this was some kind of joke. I had seen the cleaning lady many times. She was a tall, dark-haired black woman in her 50s, but how would I know her name? I handed in my paper, leaving the last question blank. Just before class ended, one student asked if the last question would count toward our quiz grade. ‘Absolutely,’ said the professor. ‘In your careers, you will meet many people. All are significant. They deserve your attention and care, even if all you do is smile and say hello.’ I’ve never forgotten that lesson. I also learned that her name was Dorothy.”
Every individual is important to the Lord. Jesus died for the unlovely, the unlovable, and those who hated Him just as much as He did for the most distinguished and accomplished members of society. In fact, the scripture even explains that He gave His life for us while we were yet His enemies. (Romans 5:10) If Christ died for all, should we not also live for them?
Seek the will of God. Until you know the Lord’s will on a matter, you will wind up “spinning your wheels” and wasting your life; however, once you know His will on any matter, the rest is “a piece of cake.” Five simple keys can help you understand God’s will: 1) The Word of God — spend time in searching the Bible for God’s written directives to you. 2) The Holy Spirit’s direction — spend time getting to know the voice of the Spirit and becoming sensitive to His nudgings. 3) Supernatural signs and wonders — God often interrupts our natural lives to authoritatively speak into our lives. 4) Godly counsel from spiritual leaders — God has placed certain people in our lives who are close enough to Him and to us that they can hear from Him and help us understand what it is that He is saying. 5) Circumstances — This is the weakest of all the indicators, but it is non-the-less important; if God wants something to happen in your life, He will see that all the conditions are in line for it to come to pass.
Surrender to the call of God. Once you have heard God speak to you about His plan, you need to immediately acknowledge that direction and accept the calling. Even if His plans may not seem to be what you had in mind for your life, you can be assured that they will be far more fulfilling that what you have dreamed up.
Submit to the man of God. Though we are ultimately following God, He generally places a human “sub-contractor” on the job to help shape us to His blueprint.
Succeed through the Word of God. “This book of the law shall…make thy way prosperous…” (Joshua 1:8)
In a business school commencement address, Indra Nooyi, CFO of PepsiCo, said, “The USA is a long, middle finger of the world.” A recent survey in fifteen countries found that the favorable view rating of the United States had seriously dropped. In Britain, the scores were down from eighty-three percent in 2000 to fifty-six percent. In Germany, the rating was down from seventy-eight percent to thirty-seven percent. A survey of consumers in thirty-five nations concerning national brands found that US products ranked tenth. Concerning our government, we ranked twenty-second. This is not a very encouraging report for any of us who love our country and consider it to be the greatest nation on earth. I believe that our problem is that we have begun to rely on our past victories and accomplishments rather than to continue to daily prove ourselves as good neighbors in the global village. Proverbs 18:24 declares that for a man to have friends he must show himself friendly. Notice that it doesn’t say that he must have shown himself friendly. Friendships must be won on a daily basis. We cannot expect that our friendships will remain any more vital without daily cultivation any more than we would expect our plants to survive without being watered on a regular basis.
On a much more significant plane, we must be aware that our friendship with God demands a daily cultivation. The passage in Proverbs goes on to say that God is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. He doesn’t leave us or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5), but we must constantly be aware of our own tendency to let our passion toward Him grow cold (Matthew 24:12).
When a young ministry novice asked for advice from a wizened old pastor, the response came, “Preach as long as you are anointed.” At first that seemed like a good kernel of advice — that is, until he asked how to know when he was anointed and how to make sure that it happened to him each time he was to minister. Many ministers and those of us in the pews have some really varied ideas as to what the anointing is. Some think that they must feel some unusual sensations or have some superhuman physical manifestations in order the enter the realm of the anointing. Jumping pews, shouting loudly, preaching with a different tone of voice, or experiencing a tingling in the hands could all stand as proof positive that the minister is anointed. A calm, methodically delivered message, on the other hand, would have to be relegated to human effort falling short of the anointing; however, I really have a hard time imagining Jesus pacing back and forth across the bow of Peter’s boat while He taught the people, nor can I envision His wiping sweet with a towel or swinging a Bible around as He delivered the Sermon on the Mount or gasping in breaths mid-sentence as He taught the Parable of the Sower. But — no one would ever dare to question the anointing upon Jesus’ ministry. Interestingly enough, the word “anointing” appears only three times in the New Testament, and only two of these times is it a noun with the meaning of a spiritual presence upon someone’s life. Both these references appear in one verse which actually communicates that the anointing is not a special temporary unction for ministry, but an abiding presence of God for our day-to-day living. (I John 2:27)
A careful reading of Ephesians chapter six will reveal that Paul taught us to put on the armor of God, not so that we can fight, but so that we can stand. Actually, standing our ground is a major objective in the New Testament. Just look at the list of directives given us in the scriptures:
Stand in faith (Romans 5:2, I Corinthians 16:13, II Corinthians 1:24)
Stand in election (Romans 9:11)
Stand in God’s ability (Romans 14:4)
Stand in the power of God (I Corinthians 2:5)
Stand in the gospel (I Corinthians 5:1)
Stand in liberty (Galatians 5:1)
Stand in one spirit (Philippians 1:27)
Stand in the Lord (Philippians 4:1, I Thessalonians 3:8)
Stand in the Word (II Thessalonians 2:15)
Stand in the will of God by intercessory prayer (Colossians 4:12)
Stand by the grace of God (I Peter 5:12)
Stand in the day of wrath (Revelation 6:17)
Stand against the wiles of the devil (Ephesians 6:11)
The truth of the matter is that Satan is a defeated foe who lost the fight some two millennia ago. Jesus has won the victory and given us a solid foundation upon which to stand. If we ever feel that we have to fight and win a territory, it is only because we have surrendered ground that we should have stood for from the beginning.
I was visiting with a pastor friend when a boy from his congregation stopped by. He looked rather depressed, so the pastor asked him if anything was wrong. He replied that on Monday his dog had died, on Tuesday his belly button piercing had gotten infected, on Wednesday his girl friend had left him, on Thursday his parents announced that they were getting a divorce, and on Friday he woke up sick. I left the two of them to talk privately for a few minutes, but when the pastor came back I questioned him if the guy was for real or if all those stories were made up. When my friend assured me that the boy’s problems were legitimate and not exaggerated, I couldn’t help but think that when it looks like things can’t get worse — they do!
When difficulties seemed the pile up and “the bottom would fall out,” my mother would always quote her favorite Bible verse: “It came to pass.” Even though this phrase appears four hundred fifty-seven times in the Bible, she was always quoting it out of context to mean something that it didn’t say — but her interpretation was true regardless of how she came about it. No matter how bad things might get, there is always light at the other end of the tunnel — and it isn’t a freight train headed toward you! The Lord has promised to deliver us out of all our troubles. “Many are the afflictions of the righteous: but the LORD delivereth him out of them all.” (Psalms 34:19) “The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptations, and to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to be punished.” (II Peter 2:9) Even if we don’t see that deliverance in this life, He guarantees it in the world to come. (Revelation 7:17, 21:4)
I once baptized a young girl in the turbulent surf of the Atlantic Ocean. After I pulled her up from the frothy waves, she remarked that she felt like she had been baptized in a washing machine and was sure that her sins had been washed out to sea.
A church used a fire hose to baptize people. Church elders from The United House of Prayer for All People, sprayed two thousand people in the parking lot of a church in Charlotte, NC, which was built to resemble Noah’s Ark, with elephants, gorillas, and other animals painted on the outside wall as a sign that the church offers shelter to all in need. The mass baptism occurred during a denominational gathering which brought fifteen thousand believers to the city. A hose from a fire truck was hooked to a hydrant and set on a fine mist so no one would get hurt. “The method of baptism isn’t the main thing,” a denomination official said. “It’s not the water. It’s the belief you have in it.”
Many battles have been fought over immersion, sprinkling, and pouring; but the real question concerning baptism should be, “Did you do it in faith that your sins have really been eradicated and that you now have a new life through Christ?” “Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead.” (Colossians 2:12)
Here’s a little acrostic to help us remember the true significance of baptism: Bury All your Past with a Tombstone Indicating that Sin is only a Memory.
Some days I feel so blessed that I’m sure I’d have to be twins if it got any better.
I was a bit surprised when my friend pulled up in a brand new Lincoln Continental. He told me that he wanted to share the testimony of how he came to have such an expensive car. He and his wife were trying to shuffle their schedules so that she could get to work and the kids could get to school each day and he would still have a car available for his pastoral responsibilities. After looking around for an economical car that would suit their needs, he had prayerfully approached his church board with the proposal that the church buy a car for him to use for his pastoral visits and hospital calls. At that exact time, a miracle was brewing. Totally unaware of the request before the church board, one of the couples in the church was shopping for a new car. They settled on the Lincoln and signed all the paperwork. As they were driving it home from the dealership, the husband began to cry. Turning to his wife, he said, “Honey, this isn’t our car.” She was, of course, puzzled wondering if he was thinking that they should have picked another model. He then went on to say, “I think that the Lord is telling me that this car should belong to our pastor.” She immediately agreed, and they drove to the pastor’s home to present him with the gift — no strings attached! It was an amazing story, but it also had one funny little aspect — because the garage at the parsonage had been designed to fit a compact car, the new Continental would not fit in! My friend explained that this car was his Malachi 3:10 blessing — one that he didn’t have room to contain!
During an exceptionally long layover in the Johannesburg (South Africa) airport, we befriended a gentleman from the Congo who offered to take us into a business deal in which he was marketing “conflict diamonds.” Of course, we declined to get involved in anything with a total stranger, but did not totally comprehend what was involved. He had simply explained that the gems he was marketing were ones that had been mined in the Congo during the civil war there and were, therefore, not able to be taken to the normal markets due to the instability in the country. It was not until I saw the movie Blood Diamond several years later that I realized how many people’s lives were lost in the diamond fields as the insurgents and rebels pocketed the money to finance their cause and procure the illegal arms necessary to continue their bloody mission. Not only was I torn by the tragedy of the innocent people caught in the crossfire of the warlords, but I was also gripped with the sensation of how I would have felt had I actually purchased some of those conflict diamonds. Every time I saw one of them, I would not have seen the luster of a brilliant stone but the agony of the victims of the African civil war.
In the same way, we must remember that all the free gifts we have received from God are truly blood diamonds — beautiful gifts purchased with the very life’s blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. I say this — not to make us afraid, unworthy, or embarrassed to receive them — but to help us recognized the ultimate price paid and, therefore, to properly value them.
It was really news when one man held a whole town hostage. He parked in the middle of the main intersection of the tiny community and pulled out his gun. No one was able to move around the business district as he held the whole community under his power for several hours. The following day, I received a phone call asking me to meet with this man’s family. They had already had major issues to deal with, but this episode had traumatized them to the point that they felt that they needed counseling. At first, I thought that the family might not have had a church background and was, therefore, just contacting us because our church was well-known in the area. As the phone conversation progressed, the caller mentioned that she had tried to contact her own pastor, but he was too busy to meet with them since his church was so small. I almost had to bite my tongue to keep from laughing. Here was the pastor of a small church declining to meet with members of his own congregation in a very traumatic time in their lives because he was too busy. As a result, the family was having to turn to pastoral staff of another church that not only had a couple thousand members to care for, but also managed several television stations, maintained a publishing company, and ran a world-wide humanitarian ministry.
Something in that picture just didn’t seem right. It was an issue of misplaced priorities. If we learn how to properly prioritize our responsibilities, no task will be too big and we will never be too busy for the things are truly significant to us. After all, the President who runs the whole country, has the same twenty-fours hours each day that we do!
“Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you…that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you.” (John 15:16)
The Greek language is probably the most precise language that has ever been spoken by the human race. With multiple words for each concept to express all the various nuances of each thought and a complete array of tenses and voices to pinpoint each action as to timing, duration, and intent — there is little question as to why God chose this language to convey the truths of the New Testament. He wanted to make them unmistakable.
John 15:16 would be a great example of the exactness of the language and the uniqueness of the message it conveys. This verse is in written in the middle voice — something which doesn’t even exist in English. The point of this special voice is to express that an action is being taken, not necessarily for the benefit of the person for whom the action is taken, but the benefit of the person taking the action. In other words, our Lord chose us for His own benefit. The point of this verse is that, no matter how much we are blessed by having been chosen by God, the real benefit in His having chosen us is the blessing that He receives from having us as His children.
Honestly, it is hard for me to even imagine this concept, but I rejoice in it even though it is a quantum leap beyond my comprehension. No matter how much I enjoy being His, He enjoys having me even more; no matter how much I enjoy His gifts to me, He enjoys giving them even more than I enjoy receiving them!
We often use the words “circumstance” and “situation” interchangeably. We feel equally comfortable of speaking of our condition as being “under these circumstances” or as being “in this situation.” These two words are not the same. In fact, they are radically different in their spiritual significance. “Circumstance” comes from two Latin words meaning the things that stand around us. “Situation,” on the other hand, refers to where we are placed or where we sit. As Christians, we are seated with Christ in heavenly places far above all the principalities, powers, and wicked spiritual forces. We must never forget that we are situated in a superior position with every advantage over any difficulty which tries to defy us. If we fail to focus on this victorious truth, we may find ourselves believing that we are “under the circumstances.” The first error with such a thought is that we have already abdicated our position of authority above the enemy by confessing that we are under the circumstances. The second error is that we have allowed our advocacy to gain equal ground with us by allowing him to stand around us rather than be subjected under our feet.
The last problem is that we have allowed him to get around or surround us. Since all our spiritual armor is described as frontal gear, we are equipped only for head-on confrontation with the enemy. The moment we give up that posture of direct confrontation and allow him to begin to surround us, we have exposed unprotected areas in our lives to him and have made ourselves vulnerable to his attacks. We must learn to aggressively maintain our situation and never allow ourselves to fall under the circumstances.
We have all heard the old adage, “For evil to prevail, all that is necessary is for good men to do nothing.” While the scriptural term for a good man doing nothing is “lukewarm,” we may be more inclined to use the modern term “complacent.” This lack of positive motivation bears horrible consequences:
And it shall come to pass at that time That I will search Jerusalem with lamps, And punish the men Who are settled in complacency, Who say in their heart, “The LORD will not do good, Nor will He do evil.” (Zephaniah 1:12 NKJV)
For the backsliding of the simple shall slay them, And the careless ease (“complacency” in the NKJV) of fools shall destroy them. (Proverbs 1:32 ASV)
He becometh poor that dealeth with a slack hand. (Proverbs 10:4)
The hand of the diligent shall bear rule: but the slothful shall be under tribute. (Proverbs 12:24)
The soul of the sluggard desireth, and hath nothing. (Proverbs 13:4)
Rise up, you women who are at ease, Hear my voice; You complacent daughters, Give ear to my speech. In a year and some days you will be troubled, you complacent women; For the vintage will fail, The gathering will not come. Tremble, you women who are at ease; Be troubled, you complacent ones; Strip yourselves, make yourselves bare, And gird sackcloth on your waists. (Isaiah 32:9-11 (NKJV)
The European Commission recently announced an agreement whereby English will be the official language of the European Union rather than German, which was the other possibility. As part of the negotiations, Her Majesty’s Government conceded that English spelling had some room for improvement and has accepted a five-year phase-in plan that would be known as EuroEnglish: In the first year, s will replace the soft c. Sertainly, this will make the sivil servants jump with joy. The hard c will be dropped in favor of the k. This should klear up konfusion and keyboards kan have one less letter. There will be growing publik enthusiasm in the sekond year, when troublesome ph will be replaced with the f. This will make words like fotograf twenty percent shorter. In the third year, publik akseptanse of the new spelling kan be expekted to reach the stage where more komplikated changes are possible. Governments will enkorage the removal of double letters, which have always ben a deterent to akurate speling. Also, al wil agre that the horible mes of the silent es in the language is disgracful, and they should go away. By the fourth yar, pepl wil be reseptiv to steps such as replasing th with z and w with v During ze fifz year, ze unesesary o kan be dropd from vords kontaiining ou and similar changes vud of kors be aplid to ozer kombinations of leters. After zis fifz yer, ve vil hav a reli sensibl riten styl. Zer vil be no mor trubls or difikultis and evrivun vil find it ezi tu understand ech ozer. ZE DREM VIL FINALI KUM TRU!
Aren’t you glad that the gospel always remains the same simple truth!
Just before midnight on a rainy night, an older black woman was standing on the side of an Alabama highway trying to endure the lashing storm. Her car had broken down and she desperately needed a ride. Soaking wet, she decided to flag down the next car. A young white man stopped to help her, generally unheard of in the conflict-filled 1960s. The man took her to safety, helped her get assistance and put her into a taxi cab. She seemed to be in a big hurry, but wrote down his address and thanked him.
Seven days went by and a knock came on the man’s door. To his surprise, a giant console color TV was delivered to his home. A special note was attached, “Thank you so much for assisting me on the highway the other night. The rain drenched not only my clothes, but also my spirits. Then you came along. Because of you, I was able to make it to my dying husband’s bedside just before he passed away. God bless you for helping me and unselfishly serving others. Sincerely, Mrs. Nat King Cole”
“Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.” (Hebrews 13:2)
In ancient times, a king had a boulder placed on a roadway. Then he hid himself and watched to see if anyone would remove the huge rock. Some of the king’s wealthiest merchants and courtiers came by and simply walked around it. Many loudly blamed the king for not keeping the roads clear, but none did anything about getting the stone out of the way.
Eventually a peasant came along carrying a load of vegetables. Upon approaching the boulder, the peasant laid down his burden and tried to move the stone to the side of the road. After much pushing and straining, he finally succeeded. After the peasant picked up his load of vegetables, he noticed a purse lying in the road where the boulder had been. The purse contained many gold coins and a note from the king indicating that the gold was for the person who removed the boulder from the roadway. The peasant learned what many of us never understand. Every obstacle presents an opportunity to improve our condition.
In the parable of the Good Samaritan, it was not the priest nor the Levite who earned spiritual merit, but the unsuspecting Samaritan merchant. He stopped to do the right thing, never expecting a return from his efforts, but he was the one who was rewarded with a significant place in history and whose name has become a household term even among non-Christians as an individual of humanitarian merit and spiritual worth.
The New Testament is not a theology book, although it is the only reliable book on theology. When I say that it is not a theology book, I am intending to say that it is not a systematic study of theology. Rather it is a book of applied theology; is a practical application of theology to the everyday problems of life. For example, Paul did not write the book of Galatians to impart theological lessons to the believers in Galatia but to correct errors and misconceptions in their church. In doing so, he had to explain a lot of theology along the way. The only letter which he wrote as a theological statement was the epistle to the Romans. This church was not one he had founded; in fact, it was not one he had even visited. Since he was not involved in their lives like he was in the other churches, he could not speak to them in the corrective manner he used with the other churches. To the Romans, he imparted his spiritual gift of teaching in a more methodical manner by laying out a systematic explanation of the theology of salvation. Interestingly enough, he gave a condensed version of this same theology in the book of Ephesians and an even more condensed synopsis in the letter to the Colossians. One interesting observation about the synopsis as recorded in Colossians is that the apostle does not mention the wrestling with spiritual principalities as he does in Ephesians chapter six. Is there a reason why? It seems clear that a truly spiritual believer should not have to be taught how to wrestle since our real position is one of authority over the forces of the enemy. As Dr. Lester Sumrall used to say, “Flies don’t land on hot stoves.”
Luke 15 records the story of the prodigal son and his return to the father’s house. Over the years, we’ll all heard lots of sermons explaining the father’s love for his wayward son. We’ve learned that the father was the one who rushed to meet the son when he was still a distance away from home. We’ve also probably been made aware that it was the father who initiated a blessing toward the son while the boy was still declaring his unworthiness to be counted as a son in the household. Of course, we are aware that the father did not let the son negotiate the deal he had proposed of coming back into the home as a hired servant. However, there is one thing that we may have overlooked in all our years of reading and studying this passage — the fact that everything the father did was a covenant symbol, confirming the immutability of his gifts to his son. When the father gave his son a pair of shoes, it was somewhat the reverse of the story in Ruth chapter four where Naomi’s near kinsman took off one of his shoes. In Ruth, he was negating his position as a covenant partner; in Luke, the father re-affirmed his covenant bond to his son. The ring that the father gave his son was one of his signet rings which bore his name or family seal. The right to use another’s name is the ultimate expression of covenant unity. By placing a robe on his son, the father fulfilled an ancient practice depicting a covenant of protection. Killing the fatted calf established the covenant in blood, and the subsequent banquet publicly sealed the covenant relationship. Just like the father in this parable, our heavenly Father not only forgives and accepts us back after our failures and sins — He covenants His love to us.
Have you ever made a purchase and noticed that there was a declaration on the box, “Some assembly required”? I’m certain that you had the same anticipation that I have in such a moment: that there will be four or five pieces which need to be bolted together in order to finish the project. However, when you get the carton home and pour out its contents, you discover that there are a zillion little parts and a huge manual which you at first mistake for a copy of War and Peace but later discover to be the assembly instruction manual. Hours later, as you screw the final piece into place, you are puzzled as to why there are a couple spare parts still on the work bench — only to discover that they were to have been used in step four or five, which means that you will have to essentially disassemble your entire day’s work in order to get them into their functioning place.
With this experience in mind, let me ask you if you have ever considered why we call church an assembly rather than a gathering or a crowd. It seems to me that there is a divinely appointed use of words in this phrase. A true church is not just a bunch of people who happened to show up at the same place at the same time. It is a carefully — actually a divinely — orchestrated assembly of believers who all have their individual place to serve and function in the whole. If any one part is left out, then meticulous reconstruction is necessary in order to fill the void so that the whole will function properly. When we comprehend the interdependence of the members, it is easy to understand why loyalty and dependability are such indispensable requirements in the church assembly.
Being prepared to die is part of being prepared for living. Can we determine when we will die? Paul seemed to be in decision position in Philippians (verse 1:23); later, he said that he had finished his course and was now ready to go (II Timothy 4:7). Peter also seemed to indicate that he felt that he was at least somewhat in charge of his departure. (II Peter 1:13-14)
“Your time” may be far off, but it’s never too early to arrange your paperwork and get it into a logical location. Make a will and leave a written list of your wishes for the memorial service. Prepare an estate checklist and update this information every few years. On this checklist, include the location of your will and contact information for your attorney, your financial advisor, your pastor, and the funeral home where you wish to be taken. The list should contain all your assets such as trusts, investments, real estate, bank accounts, insurance policies, IRAs, pensions, and any debts owed to you. The list should also include all debts such as credit cards, loans, and mortgages. Important papers such as deeds, military records, auto titles, bank statements, tax returns, birth certificates, marriage certificates, divorce papers, passport, Social Security records, pension records, insurance policies, military records, VA records, and organ donor permission forms should be filed in a safe but easy-to-find location.
make sure that you are prepared to meet your Maker. “It is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment.” (Hebrews 9:27)
After service one Sunday morning, I was praying for a woman to receive healing from a rather serious disease. Following the directions of James 5:14-16, I was praying as fervently as I know how. Suddenly she interrupted me and asked, “Is this when I’m supposed to fall down?” Suddenly, my intensity in prayer was replaced with an all-out effort to control myself from bursting out in laughter. On another occasion, I watched a young girl who had come to the altar for salvation one night; she was carefully led through the sinner’s prayer and was gloriously saved. After the prayer, she was asked if anyone had ever presented the plan of salvation to her before and whether she had ever received Jesus into her heart prior to that night. Her negative response literally made cold chills run down my spine because I had watched that same girl come to the same altar time after time over the previous several weeks. Each time, she was ministered to by laying on of hands followed by her falling in the floor. The horror was that she had never met Jesus — just the church carpet!
When the Egyptians invaded the temple in Jerusalem and took away the shields of gold that Solomon had placed there, Rehoboam replaced them with shields made of brass. (II Chronicles 12:9-10) The new shields may have looked very much like the originals, but they were nothing like real thing. In our quest for God’s blessings, we must always insist on the real thing and never accept the substitute brass for gold. In fact, God is eager to see that we have the real thing. “For brass I will bring gold, and for iron I will bring silver, and for wood brass, and for stones iron.” (Isaiah 60:17)
If it isn’t a scientist or politician threatening us with global warming, it is an evangelist warning us of the last days — but we are getting the same message from every side: we are headed for TETWAWKI, the end of the world as we know it.
Forty percent of all Americans and forty-five percent of Christians believe that there will be a final battle between Jesus Christ and the Antichrist at Armageddon. A recent poll showed that seventy-one percent of evangelical Protestants, twenty-eight percent of non-evangelicals, and eighteen percent of Catholics believe that the scenario will take place. About half of those who share the belief said that they think that the Antichrist is living today, and forty-five percent said Jesus Christ will return before they die. Most who believe in the Second Coming of Christ say that the world is experiencing the “end times.” Many believe that current events signify that the end is near: eighty-three percent cited the spate of natural disasters, sixty-six percent noted diseases such as AIDS and Ebola virus, and sixty-two percent said outbreaks of violence are signs of the end. Ninety-five percent of believers in the Second Coming said that it is important to have a saving relationship with God when the end comes, and sixty-five percent said that it is important to evangelize others.
When Jesus was questioned about TETWAWKI, He replied, “See that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet…this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.” (Matthew 24:6-14)
Matthew 24:14 declares that this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations before the end comes; and Revelation 5:9 promises that heaven will be populated with worshipers drawn from every kindred, tongue, people, and nation. Every day, we come a little closer to seeing these scriptures come to fulfillment. Each day sees the gospel message reaching farther and further. Today, portions of the Bible have been translated into more than one-third of the world’s 6,500 languages. The efforts to make the Bible available in every mother tongue are making progress, but the mission is still far from accomplished. According to the United Bible Societies the number of languages into which at least one complete book of the Bible has been translated reached 2,426 at the end of 2006. Approximately ninety-five per cent of the world’s population theoretically have access to Scripture in a language they can understand, although not necessarily their first language. The remaining five per cent add up to three hundred million people. In the single year of 2006, translations were completed in twenty-three new languages and dialects and the New Testament was published in thirty-one new languages, of which five had never had any portion of the Bible previously. Additional Scripture portions were registered for thirty-four languages which did not have either an Old or New Testament and for twenty-one languages which had the New Testament
It is important for us to function within the Body of Christ to be able to do spiritual warfare. Very few times do we read of successful soldiers who went out on “Lone Ranger” expeditions; yet history is full of the success stories of soldiers who functioned within the entire army. We cannot just go out and do spiritual warfare on our own. Instead, we are commissioned to link together for security, support, and success.
In biblical times when the Roman soldiers went out to war, they had shields with an interlinking hook-and-eye system. By interlocking their shields, the soldiers formed one great mobile wall. They became a human tank marching forward toward their enemy with their shields as one solid wall of protection. If one man stood alone and held his shield in front of himself, he was still in grave danger from his enemy because the blows could come at him from every direction. Unless he was very agile and quick, he could be struck from the left when he was using his shield to guard himself from a blow from the right. However, when he was joined by soldiers on his right and left, his companions and their shields guarded him on the right and left — making him invulnerable. The fascinating realization is that neither of his companions needed to be great muscle men; all that was needed was for them to be in their places, securely fastened to him. Just the fact that they were there covered his vulnerable spot.
Ephesians 4:15 tells us that as the whole body is strengthened as every individual part is securely joined together and supplying its unique input.
Here are some great quotes from Bible teacher Andrew Wommack:
We are all in varying degrees of failure.
Mary had a little lamb. It would have been a sheep, but it joined the church and died from lack of sleep.
Are you a human being or are you a human doing?
When we go through the heat of life, we will get melted, but it is our decision which mould we will get poured into. “Conformed” means to be poured into the mound. Don’t be poured into the world’s mould.
Our lives are not behavior modification, but transformation in the very core of our being.
The Lord makes you look good by giving you supernatural wisdom which you will not even recognize as something out of the ordinary at the time.
Any problem we have is really a knowledge problem; if we know God and His word, we find the solution to any problem which might arise.
Don’t worry when you are out on a limb; that’s where the fruit grows.
With a heritage from the Deep South, I sometimes come out with terms that no one around me seems to understand. Perhaps, it’s the use of “fixing” to mean that I’m planning to do something a short time later or the reference to putting something into the “boot” of the car rather than the trunk. One of those instances was when I started to count by using the word “aught” rather than “one.” Everyone seemed to confuse my counting with the term for something that I should do, “ought.” As we tried to ferret out the difference between the word I was using and the word they thought I was using, it dawned upon me that our number one responsibility could be considered our “aught ought.”
A good family man might say that his aught ought is to care for his wife and kids. A conscientious businessman might say that it is to guarantee to security of his employees. A devoted political figure might list upholding the Constitution. A genuine Christian might add serving the Lord. And the list could go on and on; however, there is one clear statement in the Old Testament and a beautiful declaration in the New which we cannot ignore when looking for our aught ought: “He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?” (Micah 6:8) “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment. And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:30-31)
In defining “anger,” one preacher called it a “flesh flash.” Wrath is included as one of the works of the flesh mentioned in Galatians 5:19-21, “Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like…” However, a perfect remedy for these fleshly works is found in the following verses, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.” (verses 22-26)
Notice several things that these verses suggest about controlling flesh flashes — whether they be anger or any of the other works of the flesh. First, these manifestations of the flesh are considered to be works (or efforts) as opposed to fruits (or natural outgrowths of a healthy life) as in the case of the spiritual manifestations. If we are really living spirit-led lives, we will find it demanding and taxing to live by these carnal impulses. Next, those of us who are in Christ have crucified — or put to death — the fleshly nature out of which these impulses originate; therefore, there shouldn’t be an active source from which these flesh flashes can arise. But most importantly, we must notice that Paul says that it is possible to be living in the spirit yet not walking according to its direction. As Christians, we must make an active decision to not only live but also walk in the spirit rather than to manifest such flesh flashes.
Psalm 91:11 promises, “For he shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways.” In most translations, the term “angel” is translated with the meaning of a heavenly being; however, there is a legitimate possibility that it can be translated “messenger” as it is in the Young’s Literal Translation. In chapters two and three of the New Testament book of Revelation, letters are addressed to the angels of each of the seven churches located on the peninsula of Asia Minor. In this context, the angels or messengers are often understood as the pastors over those seven churches. Today, I’d like to apply a bit of deductive reasoning and ask if it is possible that we might apply this same interpretation to the passage in Psalms resulting in the interpretation that God has placed pastors over us so that they can keep us and protect us from stumbling.
Although I truly believe that God has commissioned supernatural angelic messengers to guard and protect us and to intervene on our behalf when necessary, I also realize that the role of a true pastor is also to stand in the gap as a spiritual protection over his flock. Take a few minutes to read the introductions to Paul’s letters and you’ll see that the Apostle consistently declares that he is constantly praying for the churches which he has fathered — no matter how many miles and years have separated them. He adds that he would very gladly spend all that he has and even all that he is for the well-being of the church. (II Corinthians 12:15). With such men caring for our spiritual well-being, we can have a renewed confidence that we can be kept in all our ways.
Several years ago, some students from our church went to a revival and came back home manifesting what they considered to be the presence of the Holy Spirit. They were continually shaking and trembling as they felt the tangible presence of God, leaving those of us who weren’t shaking with the impression that we were not as sensitive to the Spirit as they had become. As a born-and-bred Pentecostal, physical manifestations were not new to me; but this trembling seemed excessive, so I decided to do a little Bible study in the matter. My research yielded pages of verses on the topic of shaking and trembling — almost everyone of which was related to the response of sinfulness when exposed to the righteous judgment of a holy God. Ezekiel 38:20 says that fish of the sea, the fowls of the heaven, the beasts of the field, the creeping things upon the earth, and all the men upon the face of the earth will shake in the presence of God. Haggai 2:7-8 speaks of causing all the nations and the very heavens and the earth to shake. Hebrews 12:27 says that everything that can be shaken will be removed and only the things that cannot be shaken will remain in the presence of the Lord. Only in Jeremiah 33:9 did I find a verse suggesting that the nations of the earth would tremble for all the goodness and prosperity of the Lord, but even this verse seemed to suggest that their trembling was because they were left out of the blessing that they saw in the lives of others.
My conclusion was that I am not impressed by the external manifestation but by whether we allow the Holy Spirit’s presence in our lives shake out the sinfulness and carnality we have allowed to hide inside our flesh.
Bob had hundreds (actually, it think that it was thousands) of acres of corn at stake when he can to the church for prayer. We all knew that we were having an exceptionally dry summer and it did’t look like relief was in the picture anytime soon. But, not being farmers, most of us were probably not too aware as to exactly how critical the conditions were. Bob’s request made it all too clear when he said that if there was no rain within the next two or three days that he would lose his entire crop–meaning his entire year’s income. For him, it was a matter of a lot of zeros or just one big zero on his income check that year. We understood what he was saying and prayed and agreed with him for the rains to be released. And rain it did–not just a sprinkle, but a drenching rain that soaked deep into the soil and nourished the corn producing full ears with rows of lush, sweet kernels. It’s been many years, so I don’t remember the exact details; but I believe we had about two inches of rain over the next couple days, after weeks without a single drop.
But the miracle of the story does’t end here. Although the Bible clearly teaches that the Lord causes it to rain on the just and the unjust alike, it seems that He made an exception this season to prove that He specifically takes care of those who put their dependence upon Him. The rains stopped at exactly the boundary line of Bob’s farm! The neighboring farms just across the highway did’t get a drizzle of water except whatever run off there was from Bob’s farm. Like Isaac who sowed in famine and received one-hundred fold increase while his neighbors got nothing, Bob proved the importance of constantly depending on God.
One of the most humbling experiences in my life came at a conference in Katmandu, Nepal, when I was told that some of the delegates had traveled for eight days to attend the meetings. Because they lived in very remote areas in the Himalayas, they had to walk for six days to get to the main east-west highway that spans the country. Once they arrived at the road, they had to sit by the side of the pavement overnight waiting for a bus to pass by. When they were able to catch the bus, they still faced a thirty-hour ride in the overcrowded vehicle which was hauling goats and chickens as well as human and cargo. No, it was’t because I was the speaker; they actually did’t know me from Adam’s house cat. It was just that they were that eager to hear the word of God.
Possibly, a more startling story comes out of the Congo in central Africa where a young pastor walked two hundred forty miles to copy a few pages of the Bible that he then used as his source for preaching after he walked back to his home village.
When I come across experiences like these around the world, I am shamed to think of the nonchalant attitude we often exhibit to the word that is so readily available to us. How often do we skip church just because the weather is not exactly right or we are a little tired and would rather sleep in those extra few minutes? How often do we neglect to study our Bibles simply because we would rather invest our time in some other activity–or, even worse, in no activity at all!
However, every bit of time we invest in reading and learning the Bible is like trying to haul water in basket–even if we may not understand it all, it is still cleansing us.
Just prior to the turn of the millennia, leaders of twenty religions met at the Vatican to discuss possible collaboration in the new millennium. More than two hundred clergy and laypeople from almost fifty countries met to discuss discrimination because of race, religion, language, social status, or sex; the wealth of the rich nations in relationship to the poor; injustice toward women and children; AIDS; and drug abuse.
Attendees included Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs, Zoroastrians, Mandaeans, Jains, Shintoists, Confucians, Baha’is, practitioners of traditional religions, practitioners of several Japanese religions, Orthodox Christians from the Greek, Armenian, Romanian, and Assyrian traditions, Anglicans, Lutherans, Reformed, Mennonites, and even a few evangelical churches. The goal was to agree on a joint declaration on the role of religion.
In that their objective was to discuss the role of religion, I suppose that there was no real harm done in such an ecumenical gathering. After all, religion was all these world leaders had in common. They had abandoned the gospel in an effort to be politically correct and all-embracing. As one observer stated it, they had become so open-minded that their brains must have fallen out. Apparently, they had forgotten that Jesus had said that it was only through Himself that anyone could come to the Father (John 14:6) and that Peter, under the direction of the Holy Spirit proclaimed that there was no salvation in any name other than that of Jesus. (Acts 4:12)
We were driving to our church leadership Christmas dinner when I turned to my wife and said, “I hope we don’t have to sit with Brother B—– tonight. Because the seating at this particular banquet was always pre-assigned, you never knew who would be sharing the meal with you, and the previous year we had found our place tags next to Brother B—–’s seat. The situation with Brother B—– is that the was one of those old fellows who can’t change his mind and won’t change the subject. His problem was that the only topic he could talk about was how bad everything is and how that every one of our political, economic, or social woes is a sign of the end time. Making things worse, he had no concept of personal space and would get right up into your face–bad breath and all–when he was making his points. He was a fanatic of almost the same intensity of a Jihadist suicide bomber. In fact, you could almost say that he was worst because he refused to self-destruct.
We also had another wild-eyed right-wing extremist who would also be at this leadership dinner, Auntie Ruth. But it was always a joy if we wound up being assigned to her table, even though Auntie was insistent that everything be done and said exactly her way. I don’t know how many times she corrected me that people are not “slain in the Spirit” because they are not dead; rather, they are “out under the power.” The difference between the impassioned Auntie Ruth and ornery Brother B—– is that she was an enthusiast rather than a fanatic. “Enthusiastic” literally means “with the Spirit within.” If you are going to adamantly share your faith, make sure that your witness is confirmed with the spirit of joy bubbling up from your insides.
Fred Smith, founder of Fed Ex, made a most insightful statements concerning destiny: “Best way to predict the future is to create it.” Though it may seem a bit humanistic and self-centered, I think that it is worthy of a bit of Christian reflection.
Certainly we would have to add to anything that we might want to learn from Fred that it is always God who makes the future. No matter how well we may plan, it is always God’s final decision whether it will rain on the day we have picked for the parade. So now that we have decided to give God a little input, we can go on to the next evaluation that God helps those who help themselves. In other words, once we have done all the hard work and proper planning, He will send the sunshine for the parade but will also send some rain for the farmer who has worked and planned just as diligently as we have. Now we have a problem–or is it God who has the problem. Two different people are creating two different futures, which incidentally happen to be mutually exclusive.
Perhaps we might reconsider the idea of God’s help and decide that He helps those who can’t help themselves! This re-evaluation might be closer to the truth, but we must be careful not to subconsciously substitute the word “don’t” for “can’t.” I don’t believe that God is in the business of doing what we don’t put forth an effort to do; however, He definitely is in the business of doing what we can’t do if we first ask Him what He has in mind for the future and then actively seek to create it. Remember that when He raised Lazarus, He had the people move the stone from the grave but He took responsibility for calling the dead man to life.
The story is told of a man who had spent his life building houses and was ready to retire. A friend of his came to him and prevailed upon him to build just one more home before he retired. Having already made up his mind that he was finished with his contracting career, he did a rather poor job on the project. When he finished the job, he went to the friend to hand him the keys. To his utter amazement, the friend refused the keys and told him that he had had the house build as a retirement gift for the carpenter. The poor man had to live the last days of his life with windows that leaked cold air when the wind blew, a roof that dripped water when it rained, doors that didn’t exactly close all the way, stairs the creaked when he walked up them, and cracks in the plaster that showed when the sun shown in at just the right angle.
Servants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh; not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but in singleness of heart, fearing God: And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men; Knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ. (Colossians 3:22-24)
Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as unto Christ; Not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but as the servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart; With good will doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men: Knowing that whatsoever good thing any man doeth, the same shall he receive of the Lord, whether he be bond or free. (Ephesians 6:5-8)
The pessimist may see the glass as half empty while the optimist views it as half full, but the man of faith will envision it as full to the brim and overflowing. Psalms 23:5 says that your cup will run over, and Luke 6:38 promises blessings which are pressed down, and shaken together, and running over.
Did you hear about the man who bought a bulldozer and named it “Faith” because it could move mountains?
Faith is the key that opens doors while works can be seen as a crowbar that you use to try to gain forcible entry.
Real faith requires a backbone, not just a wishbone.
If you keep the faith, your faith will keep you.
Did you ever notice that a turtle has to stick its neck out to go forward?
True faith is a fear extinguisher.
Living by faith is walking so far out on the water that you can’t even see the boat.
The Greek original of Galatians 5:6 says that faith is activated or made effective by love. In other words, faith and love work together with love as the motivator and faith is the activator.
To believe that God can but question if He will is sin.
Never waste your faith on something that is possible through hard work.
Faith is God’s way of saying, “Have a nice day.”
Remember the pits full of snakes that Indiana Jones always falls into? Well, we as Christians have the power to tread on more serpents than Indy has ever dreamed of. Our secret is that we have to keep our focus on Jesus, not snakes.
In the second chapter of Galatians, Paul tells the story of a confrontation between himself and the Apostle Peter. A problem arose when Peter, who had been fellowshipping and eating with the Gentile believers at Antioch, suddenly withdrew himself when a delegation of Jewish Christians from the mother church in Jerusalem showed up. Following his lead, other Christian leaders–including Barnabas, who was instrumental in bringing the gospel to the Gentiles–separated themselves from the non-Jewish brethren. More than an affront to the shunned brothers, Paul saw Peter’s hypocrisy as an insult to the Lord and a contradiction to the message of the gospel. He used the occasion as a platform to present a powerful teaching on the transformation we have received through the grace of our Lord. In verse sixteen, he explained that no one is justified by his actions and that it is only by faith in Christ that we can be brought into right standing before God. He then adds in the following verses that any action similar to Peter’s attempt to live by Old Testament legalism once he had realized that he was released for it will make us transgressors against the good work that God has done in our lives. He sums up our new position in Christ in the powerful wording of verse twenty, “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.” Then in the concluding verse of the chapter, he uses graphic terminology to illustrate how offensive it is to try to earn our merit by saying that such actions are a frustration to the grace of God.
Each Sunday, there are more Christians at home than in church. In fact, if everybody in America went to church at one time, there would only be seating for five percent of them. Over sixteen hundred pastors leave the ministry every month and almost ten thousand churches close their doors each year. Within five years of graduation from Bible school or seminary, only one percent of the new ministers will be in the ministry. Approximately one million Americans per year quit going to church. Seventy-eight percent of the growth in the churches that are increasing is from transfer of members from other congregations.
No, I’m not being negative — just reporting the facts. However, I’d like to report an even more powerful fact: God so loved the world that He sent His only begotten son that whosoever would believe on Him would have everlasting life. With such high stakes on the table, I’m sure that He has a keen eye on the game and is just waiting to make his winning move and cash in His chips. Remember what He did in the first century? Within just a few decades, the gospel had been fully preached throughout the then-known world and people were responding in such numbers that the idol makers were concerned because their businesses were going bankrupt and there were enough devotees to support the pagan temples.
If He knows how to plan such a good hand early on in the game, just imagine what He’s got up His sleeve for the last hand. Get ready for a revival like you’ve never even imagined!
It’s an old story, evidenced by the prices you’ll see as you read it; but it teaches a great lesson: always bless those who serve you–and always bless those whom you serve. In the days when an ice cream sundae cost much less, a ten-year-old boy entered a hotel coffee shop and sat at a table. A waitress put a glass of water in front of him. “How much is an ice cream sundae?” he asked. “Fifty cents,” replied the waitress. The little boy pulled his hand out of his pocket and studied the coins in it. “Well, how much is a plain dish of ice cream?” he inquired. By now more people were waiting for a table and the waitress was growing impatient. “Thirty-five cents,” she harshly replied. The little boy again counted his coins. “I’ll have the plain ice cream,” he said. The waitress brought the ice cream, put the bill on the table and walked away. The boy finished the ice cream, paid the cashier and left. When the waitress came back, she began to cry as she wiped down the table. There, placed neatly beside the empty dish, were two nickels and five pennies. You see, he couldn’t have the sundae, because he wanted enough left to leave her a tip.
Ephesians 5:16–Redeeming the time, because the days are evil
Matthew 12:35–A good man out of the good treasure of the heart bringeth forth good things: and an evil man out of the evil treasure bringeth forth evil things.
I Corinthians 3:16-17–Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are.
James 3:2–For in many things we offend all. If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man, and able also to bridle the whole body.
Psalms 34:13–Keep thy tongue from evil, and thy lips from speaking guile.
Psalms 35:28–And my tongue shall speak of thy righteousness and of thy praise all the day long.
Matthew 25:28-30–Take therefore the talent from him, and give it unto him which hath ten talents. For unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath. And cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
When her daughter stopped by to check on the flower garden her mom had just planted, the senior lady proudly pointed out what she had put into each section of the flowerbed–except for one small section. No matter how hard she tried and no matter how many suggestions her daughter made, she could not recall what she had planted there. Eventually, they resolved that they would have to simply wait until the plants came up to figure out what was there. Finally, the plants matured enough that they could be identified as–of all things–forget-me-nots!
We all have our moments of forgetfulness when we are sure that we have found proof positive of the black hole theory as our car keys just seem to disappear into thin air. As we age a bit, we label them our “senior moments,” or begin to feel that we are suffering from “old-timers’ disease.” Sometimes we begin to feel that we should list our place of residence as the Land of Forgetfulness mentioned in Psalms 88:12.
Forgetting can actually be seen as a diabolic bondage. Matthew 16:9 tells us that the disciples forgot the miracle of multiplication of the loaves and fish, while Psalms 106:7 describes those who came out of Egypt as having forgotten the miraculous opening of the Red Sea. This sort of disregard for and forgetfulness concerning what God has done in our lives can literally tie the hands of God from any future help He would desire to render to us and can totally erase His blessings out of our lives. (Deuteronomy 4:9) This is why Jesus commanded us to frequently receive the communion as a remembrance of His sacrifice for us. (Luke 22:19)
In Hebrews 13:17, we can find four things which we need from those in leadership over us. “Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls (Acceptance), as they that must give account (Accountability), that they may do it with joy, and not with grief (Affirmation): for that is unprofitable for you (Authority).” If anyone is going to be a genuine leader, he must first show true heart-felt acceptance for those whom he is leading. To lead simply for the privilege of being the one who gets to be out front without actually accepting the responsibility of watching over the souls of one’s subjects is only an exercise in pride, not true leadership. Unlike dictators and despots who impoverish their subjects while enriching themselves, true leaders are accountable for the welfare of their subjects. Whether the human accountability exists within a official accountability structure or in a some informal system, the true leader will realize that his ultimate accountability is to God. Joyful and ready acceptance of leadership and the responsibilities it entails is an affirmation to the subjects that they are of value. I heard of a group which appoints its pastors by random selection, forcing them into the role even against their wills. This practice produces unqualified leadership; it also perpetuates an internal dissatisfaction among the congregants who lack any sense of self-worth knowing that those in authority over them are only fulfilling obligations rather than investing in their lives out of genuine concern. Having leadership with true authority means that he can legitimately correct any errors or shortcomings in our lives, making them profitable.
Writers, speakers, communicators of all sort are constantly looking for ways to make what they say stick in the minds of their audience. In the quest to find the keys to such communication skills, they have identified six simple chrematistics that help make their messages permanent in the minds of their subjects. These same suggestions came be powerful tools when we share important messages–whether it be communicating our love to our family or the love of Christ with someone we are wanting to win to the kingdom of God. (1) Simplicity: When witnessing, avoid theological arguments. You don’t have to disprove all the wrong teaching from their religious background; simply show them how much God loves them and wants them in His family. (2) Unexpectedness: Of course, your wife expects candy on Valentines Day, your anniversary, and her birthday–but an unexpected gift on a random Tuesday will always stand out. (3) Concreteness: Your kids know that you love them; after all, you tell them every night when you tuck them in–but the day that you take them to the amusement park rather than finishing up on your work projects will always have a special place in their memory. (4) Credibility: You’ll never win anyone to Christ unless your own life shows them that it really works. (5) Emotion: Emotion come from down inside your inner self. It doesn’t have to be mushy and gushy; it can be a simple beaming smile–but it must show that it really comes form the heart. (6) Stories: In speeches and in writings, there must be human-interest stories rather than just tables of facts. In interpersonal relationships, these stories are more likely lived out than recited.
In Florida, an atheist became incensed over the preparation of Easter and Passover holidays. He decided to contact his lawyer about the discrimination inflicted on atheists by t he constant celebrations afforded to Christians and Jews with all their holidays while atheists had no holiday to celebrate.
The case was brought before a judge. After listening to the long passionate presentation by the lawyer, the Judge banged his gavel and declared, “Case Dismissed!”
The lawyer immediately stood and objected to the ruling and said, “Your honor, how can you possibly dismiss this case? The Christians have Christmas, Easter and many other observances. Jews have Passover, Yom Kippur and Hanukkah …. yet my client and all other atheists have no such holiday!” The judge leaned forward in his chair and simply said, “Obviously your client is too confused to even know about, much less celebrate his own atheists’ holiday!” The lawyer pompously said, “Your Honor, we are unaware of any such holiday for atheists. Just when might that holiday be, your Honor?” The judge said, “Well it comes every year on exactly the same date — April 1st! Since our calendar sets April 1st as ‘April Fools Day,’ consider that Psalm 14:1 states, ‘The fool says in his heart, there is no God.’ Thus, in my opinion, if your client says there is no God, then by scripture, he is a fool, and April 1st is his holiday! Now have a good day and get out of my courtroom!!”
C. S. Lewis once said that there are only two responses one can have to Jesus: either you choose to simply ignore Him or you find that you must adore Him–there is no middle ground.
To me, there is no area where this truth is more evident than in the role of Jesus as the great teacher. Of course, I must admit that that I am prejudiced in this opinion since I am a teacher myself. I’m sure that those who stand in other offices of ministry would say the same thing about His role in the office which they occupy.
Jesus never used Greek roots to prove His points, but was always able to get to the very heart of every issue. Usually, he did so by using real life illustrations. Through His simple but insightful teaching, He was able to relate to every strata of society: children, women, the religious, the illiterate, the gentiles… Everything He said was in agreement with the previously recorded scriptural truths even when He didn’t specifically say, “It is written…” Even when He made statements which seemed to contradict scriptural teaching, or at least the current interpretation of scripture, He showed that His concepts were founded on biblical truth. His teaching on divorce did not take its footing in Moses but went all the way back to creation. He seemed to contradict the Law by saying, “You have it said…but I say to you…” However, even in these teachings, He framed Hi teachings in such a way to parallel the heart relationship of hatred and lust to the physical actions of murder and adultery in the same way that the Law had already coupled the heart attitude of covetousness with the physical action of stealing.
During the Easter season, we often see Passion plays which depict a scene between the death of Christ and His resurrection. This episode in the story takes place in hell where Jesus and the devil engage in a hand-to-hand struggle over a ring of keys. The incident climaxes as Jesus rips the keys from Satan’s grasp and triumphantly throws the enemy to the floor, placing his foot on his neck and victoriously waving the keys above His head. The scene is based on two scriptural passages: Revelation 1:18 in which Jesus says, “I have the keys of hell and of death,” and Matthew 28:18 where He says, “All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.” The assumption is that Jesus didn’t have all the power or the keys of hell and death until He went to the cross and then ascended into the devil’s realm to take them from him. A further assumption is that the devil had these keys and the power associated with them in the first place. Let’s consider one important idea about the nature of God Himself–that He is omnipotent. If the keys to death and hell and the power associated with them were in the hands of the devil, then God was lacking in this area and no longer omnipotent. Thus, regardless of how moving as this scene might be in the Easter pageant, it is actually heresy! Secondly, we must remember the second chapter of Philippians which teaches us that Jesus was equal with God but gave up that authority to become a man for a certain period of time and was then exalted to the divine level again by God Himself. Thus, we must conclude that Jesus did not win those keys as a prize in a cosmic wrestling match, but that they were graciously handed to Him by the Father Himself.
Everyone has goals, but not everyone acts on them. We all set goals, perhaps even without knowing it. The more intentional we are in setting our goals, the more likely we will be to achieve them. When we include God in the process, we are assured success.
Goals provide direction and purpose. If you don’t know where you are going, you’ll never know when you get there. Goals are our finish lines. When we set goals, your choices for activity become purposeful. Otherwise, circumstances, other people, and feelings determine where you wind up. Goals help us crystallize our thinking. If we aim at nothing, we will hit it every time. When we set goals, we focus our thinking on what we want to accomplish. Our goals should be written, rather than merely thought or talked about. A written goal gives an instant focus and reminder. Goals provide personal motivation by engaging all that you are, all that you stand for, and all that you strive for. A true goal is a statement of God’s will for your life since goals are stated as future objectives and only God lives in the future. So when we set goals, we have implicitly made a statement that says, “God willing, I believe I should achieve the following…” Otherwise, for a Christian, a goal is merely a presumption.
“Go to now, ye that say, To day or to morrow we will go into such a city, and continue there a year, and buy and sell, and get gain: Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away. For that ye ought to say, If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that.” (James 4:13-15)
1. Spend time with God. Seek His will and direction and He will respond by giving you that direction.
2. Record your impressions. As you spend time with God, you need to record what He seems to be saying to you. As you write those things down, assurance and conviction will result. Continually ask God, “What would You have me do?”
3. Make the goal measurable. After spending time with God and recording what He says to you, you are ready to set a faith goal. A faith goal is a statement of God’s will. For example, “To be a good father” is not a goal but a purpose statement. “To spend fifteen minutes a day with each of my children” is a goal that can be measured.
4. Take action. Faith is acting on the basis of what God wants you to do.
5. The means of accomplishment may not be evident. But, if it is based on God’s will, you can count on Him to show you the means.
6. The goal may be set with “apparent” inadequate resources. If it is God’s goal, it is God’s responsibility to provide the resource. And He will because He is faithful.
7. The goal may require you to set an objective without fully understanding it. “By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to the place which he would afterward receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going.” (Hebrews 11:8)
If you are going through hell, keep going. (Winston Churchill)
I couldn’t wait for success, so I went ahead without it. (Jonathan Winters)
The time is always right to do right. (Nelson Mandela)
If you want to test a man’s character, give him power. (Abraham Lincoln)
If you aren’t fired with enthusiasm, you’ll be fired with enthusiasm. (Vince Lombardi)
The real glory is being knocked to your knees and then coming back. (Vince Lombardi)
The true measure of a man is how he treats someone who can do him absolutely no good. (Ann Landers)
Produce after your own kind. (Dr. Lester Sumrall)
It takes leaders with vision to help people with dreams. (Hubert Humphrey)
In the Bible, patience is not a passive acceptance of circumstances. It is a courageous perseverance in the face of suffering and difficulty. (Warren Wiersbe)
Be hopeful! Tomorrow has never happened before. (Robert Schuller)
Man’s capacity for justice makes democracy possible, but man’s inclination to injustice makes democracy necessary. (Reinhold Neibuhr)
He climbs the highest who helps another up. (Zig Ziglar)
Grasp the things of life loosely so that it won’t hurt so much when God has to pry your fingers off of them. (Corrie ten Boom)
The best way to get even is to forget.
Feed your faith and your doubts will starve to death.
God wants spiritual fruit, not religious nuts.
Some folks wear their halos much too tight.
Some marriages are made in heaven, but they ALL have to be maintained on earth.
Unless you can create the universe in five days, Then giving “advice” to God, isn’t such a good idea!
Sorrow looks back; worry looks around; faith looks up.
Standing in the middle of the road is dangerous. You will get knocked down by the traffic from both ways.
Words are windows to the heart.
A skeptic is a person who when he sees the handwriting on the wall, claims it’s a forgery.
It isn’t difficult to make a mountain out of a molehill, just add a little dirt.
A successful marriage isn’t finding the right person; it’s being the right person.
The mighty oak tree was once a little nut that held its ground.
Too many people offer God prayers with claw marks all over them.
The tongue must be heavy, indeed, because so few people can hold it.
To forgive is to set the prisoner free and then discover the prisoner was you.
You have to wonder about humans, they think God is dead and Elvis is alive!
If the grass is greener on the other side of the fence, you can bet the water bill is higher.
When Elijah called for the draught in Israel, he actually put himself in the same jeopardy as the rest of the people because he was as dependent upon water as any other person. However, God had a plan to provide for the prophet. God’s first provision was at the Brook Cherith. If you stop to think about this arrangement, it was very unusual because a brook would be the first body of water to dry up during the draught. The Sea of Galilee or the Jordan River would have been a relatively secure source of water since it would take a while for these bodies of water to be depleted; however, a tiny brook would normally have disappeared after only a few weeks without rain. God used this little brook to prove that He is bigger than any curse that can attack His people. While the prophet was hold up at the brook, God saw to it that he had plenty to eat because a raven came twice each day to bring him bread and meat. It is totally against the raven’s nature to bring food to anyone else. This scavenger’s natural function would be to consume everything it could find until it gorged itself. In fact, I’ve heard it said that these birds are not even very keen on sharing the carrion they find with their own chicks! Finally, God send Elijah to Zarephath where he was to be cared for by a little widow woman. Again, we see a divine plan which goes against all human logic. This poor woman was “scraping the bottom of the barrel” and didn’t have enough for herself and her son–much less the prophet! But the miracle of the whole story is that it was God who continually led Elijah into these impossible situations in order to prove that nothing is impossible when you walk with Him.
Mizoram, India, is 85% Christian. The state between Myanmar, Bangladesh, and Assam has 700,000 people. Almost 100% of the indigenous population is Christian and about 60% of those who have migrated there have been converted by Mizo missionaries. A series of spiritual renewals at the turn of the century and recent revivals have kept the Presbyterian, Baptist, and other large denominational churches full. The state has sent 1,000 missionaries to the rest of India and other Asian countries. “No nation on earth has sent out a higher proportion of their people as missionaries,” Operation World said. About 80% of the population attends services weekly and most churches have a daily prayer meeting. Teen pregnancy, prostitution, AIDS, and divorce are rare.
A spiritual transformation continues in Goiania, Brazil. The city is experiencing increasing receptivity to the Gospel and evangelicals have grown from 7% to 45% of the population in the last 7 years. Every Saturday, about 150 people reportedly become Christians and a new church is started most weekends. The prayer also changes the spiritual atmosphere, increasing people’s openness to the Gospel. One day, several women stood in front of a bar at which men were drinking. “At first, they made jokes, asking us if we wanted a glass of milk,” Cornelio said. The women told them they wanted to preach the Gospel to them. One man began to sob quietly, and they preached to the entire bar, Cornelio said. “That evening, all 20 men decided to follow Jesus.”
The end-time revival is genuinely changing cities, nations, and individual lives!
In a Barna Group report which examined the self-image of Americans, the distinctions within Christian believers and non-believers were analyzed. Among the findings: evangelical Christians comprise only eight percent of the population, but stand out from the rest of Christianity as more spiritual and active in faith. Evangelicals are more likely than non-evangelical Christians to see themselves as fulltime servants of God; deeply spiritual; more likely to seek to persuade others to adopt their views; and less likely to have an ‘open mind’ toward alternative moral views. George Barna said in the report, “There are important distinctions between evangelical Christians and other segments within the Christian community. That small eight percent segment of the public is substantially different from others in how they apply their faith principles to every dimension of their life. The only other faith group demonstrating similar consistency between faith and practice were atheists, whose fundamental dismissal of social conventions and participation in favor of more self-centered views and behaviors helped them to stand out from the crowd in a different way.”
It’s interesting that the people who have nothing to believe in are just a serious about not believing in anything as those of us who have everything to believe in.
1– Need a daily time to be alone with God – Jesus was our example. Mark 1:35
2– Need to keep a servant’s heart. Matthew 20:26-28
3– Need to stay humble – guard against pride. 1 Peter 5:6 Proverbs 16:18
4– Need to be submitted to someone. Hebrews 13:17
5– Guard against offenses. Luke 17:1 Ephesians 4:1-3
6– Fight feelings of inadequacy. Exodus 4:10-12 1 Cor 1:25-31 2 Cor 10:12
7– Fight discouragement. Galatians 6:9 Matthew 25:40
8– Be a leader integrity. 1 Corinthians 4:1-2
9– What you want others to do you must do yourself.
10– A good leader reproduces himself.
A study published by the National Science Foundation showed that people who attend church regularly live seven years longer than non-churchgoers. People of color who attend services can increase their lifespans by as much as fourteen years.
A 1995 survey among Canadians found that couples who attend church regularly are happier and have longer lasting marriages. Those who attend every week have a 50% better chance to have a lasting marriage.
Churchgoers suffer less stress and are less likely to consider lack of love and respect as grounds for divorce.
Only ten percent of the Christians the world live in the United States, but that ten percent control fifty-three percent of all Christian monies. Ninety percent of all money spent on spreading the gospel is spent trying to reach the five percent of the world’s population who live here in the United States?
The average evangelical spends seven times more time watching television than in any form of spiritual development. Fifty-four percent read their Bibles only once a week. The results:
42% know that Jesus gave the Sermon on the Mount.
48% know the first four books of the New Testament. Some think that Joan of Arc was Noah’s wife.
40% know five of the Ten Commandments.
41% believe that the Bible is accurate.
1% live as directed by the Bible.
The spiritual harassment of Christians proved powerless in a Sri Lankan village, Mission India reported. Pagan villagers in a region on the island off India’s southeastern coast devised a plot to harass local Christians. Rather than attack the believers physically, they decided to attack them spiritually. Staunch believers in their local gods, the villagers assembled to put formal curses on anyone who believed in Jesus. They invoked their deities “to bring evil on the Christians by their magic power.” To their dismay, nothing worked. Because of the miracle, numerous villagers, including many who participated in the cursing ceremony, realized that their gods had no power against the one true God, and many have become Christians as a result, the missions worker reported.
Sixty-five miracles saved a North African congregation. Radical Muslims intended to attack and massacre the congregation when they discovered their secret meeting place, but none of the people arrived at the appointed time, not even the special guest speaker. The sixty-five people reported unusual delays — from a flat tire to an unexpected family visit — that prevented them from coming.
Our God has promised to post angels around those of us who fear Him. If we genuinely trust Him, He will see that no harm will befall us. Psalm 91 is a powerful scriptural promise of His constant watchcare over us.
According to “Religion & Ethics News Weekly” the twenty-five most influential religious figures in the past century were (in alphabetical order): Karl Barth, Swiss pastor and theologian; Dietrich Bonhoeffer, German pastor and theologian; Martin Buber, Jewish theologian; the Dalai Lama, Tibetan Buddhist leader; Dorothy Day, pacifist and founder of the Catholic Worker Movement; Mary Baker Eddy, founder of Christian Science; Mohandas Gandhi, Indian spiritual leader; evangelist Billy Graham; Gustavo Gutirrez, Peruvian Catholic who is the father of liberation theology; Carl F.H. Henry, evangelical theologian and first editor of Christianity Today Magazine; Abraham Joshua Heschel, rabbi and civil rights activist; Pope John XXIII; Pope John Paul II; Martin Luther King Jr.; and Ayatollah Khomeini, Iranian Shiite Muslim leader; C.S. Lewis, Christian author and scholar; Thomas Merton, Trappist monk; Elijah Muhammad, Nation of Islam leader; Reinhold Niebuhr, Protestant theologian; Norman Vincent Peale, positive thinking advocate; Walter Rauschenbusch, known as the father of the social gospel; Albert Schweitzer, theologian and humanitarian; Menachem Mendel Schneerson, Lubavitcher rabbi; Mother Teresa; and Elie Wiesel, Holocaust survivor and author.
You know, we may not make it into the top twenty-five, but we are all called to be men and women of influence among our peers. In the Old Testament, we were commanded not to mix with the gentiles (the world) because of peer pressure; in the New Testament, the One who was with us in the OT is now in us, and He is greater than the world–therefore the world is no longer our peer!!!
When his 38-caliber revolver failed to fire at his intended victim during a holdup in Long Beach, California, would be robber James Elliot did something that can only inspire wonder. He peered down the barrel and tried the trigger again. This time it worked.
The chef at a hotel in Switzerland lost a finger in a meat cutting machine and, after a little hopping around, submitted a claim to his insurance company. The company, suspecting negligence, sent out one of its men to have a look for himself. He tried the machine and lost a finger. The chef’s claim was approved.
A man who shoveled snow for an hour to clear a space for his car during a blizzard in Chicago returned with his vehicle to find a woman had taken the space. Understandably, he shot her.
After stopping for drinks at an illegal bar, a Zimbabwean bus driver found that the twenty mental patients he was supposed to be transporting from Harare to Bulaweyo had escaped. Not wanting to admit his incompetence, the driver went to a nearby bus stop and offered everyone waiting there a free ride. He then delivered the passengers to the mental hospital, telling the staff that the patients were very excitable and prone to bizarre fantasies. The deception wasn’t discovered for three days.
NOW, tell me again that you believe that humans have evolved from monkeys!
A man walked into a Louisiana Circle-K, put a $20 bill on the counter, and asked for change. When the clerk opened the cash drawer, the man pulled a gun and asked for all the cash in the register, which the clerk promptly provided. The man took the cash from the clerk and fled, leaving the $20 bill on the counter. The total amount of cash he got from the drawer…$15. (If someone points a gun at you and gives you money, is a crime committed?)
Seems an Arkansas guy wanted some beer pretty badly. He decided that he’d just a throw a cinderblock through a liquor store window, grab some booze, and run. So he lifted the cinderblock and heaved it over his head at the window. The cinderblock bounced back and hit the would-be thief on the head, knocking him unconscious. The liquor store window was made of Plexiglas. The whole event was caught on videotape.
As a female shopper exited a New York convenience store, a man grabbed her purse and ran. The clerk called 911 immediately, and the woman was able to give them a detailed description of the snatcher. Within minutes, the
police apprehended the snatcher. They put him in the car and drove back to the store. The thief was then taken out of the car and told to stand there for a positive ID. To which he replied, “Yes, officer, that’s her. That’s the lady I stole the purse from.”
Honestly, I’ve seen smarter monkeys. If there is evolution, it must be working in reverse.
The Ann Arbor News crime column reported that a man walked into a Burger King in Ypsilanti, Michigan, at 5 AM, flashed a gun, and demanded cash. The clerk turned him down because he said he couldn’t open the cash register without a food order. When the man ordered onion rings, the clerk said they weren’t available for breakfast. The man, frustrated, walked away.
In Kentucky, two men tried to pull the front off a cash machine by running a chain from the machine to the bumper of their pickup truck. Instead of pulling the front panel off the machine, they pulled the bumper off their truck. Scared, they left the scene and drove home with the chain still attached to the machine and their bumper still attached to the chain! With their vehicle’s license plate still attached to the bumper. They were quickly arrested.
When a man attempted to siphon gasoline from a motor home parked on a Seattle street, he got much more than he bargained for. Police arrived at the scene to find a very sick man curled up next to a motor home near spilled sewage. A police spokesman said that the man admitted to trying to steal gasoline and plugged his siphon hose into the motor home’s sewage tank by mistake. The owner of the vehicle declined to press charges, saying that it was the best laugh he’d ever had.
Pardon me if I don’t wait around to see how long it will take for us to complete the evolution process.
1,500 pastors leave the ministry each month.
7,000 churches close each year.
80% of pastors feel unqualified
50% of pastors would leave ministry if they could, but have no other way of making a living.
80% of Bible college and seminary graduates leave the ministry within five years.
80% of pastor’s wives wish their husbands were in another profession.
The majority of pastors wives say that the most destructive event in their family was the day their husbands entered the ministry.
80% of ministers quit within their first 5 years.
80% of the ones who stay are experiencing burn out, resulting in 40% effectiveness.
A poll on the confidence people have in various kinds of leadership revealed the following confidence levels:
Supreme Court 22%
These are very sad statistics, but the wonderful promise is that Jesus is still head of His church. No matter how many of His undershepherds fail or falter, the Great Shepherd of the flock will never fall short.
Believe it or not, someone went to the trouble to take a number of words and scramble the letters to see if anything meaningful would come out. Here are the results:
DORMITORY DIRTY ROOM
PRESBYTERIAN BEST IN PRAYER
ASTRONOMER MOON STARER
DESPERATION A ROPE ENDS IT
THE EYES THEY SEE
GEORGE BUSH HE BUGS GORE
THE MORSE CODE HERE COME DOTS
SLOT MACHINES CASH LOST IN ME
ANIMOSITY IS NO AMITY
ELECTION RESULTS LIES – LET’S RECOUNT
SNOOZE ALARMS ALAS! NO MORE Z ‘S
A DECIMAL POINT I’M A DOT IN PLACE
THE EARTHQUAKES THAT QUEER SHAKE
ELEVEN PLUS TWO TWELVE PLUS ONE
MOTHER-IN-LAW WOMAN HITLER
Other than the one about the mother-in-law (my mother-in-law was an absolutely wonderful woman), I think that there are some really fascinating outcomes. However, these little word games are only a hint at the wonderful way that God can cause something meaningful to come out of our lives when the order that we know is re-arranged. Just think of the example from the life of the Old Testament character Joseph. When every bit of order in his life was by being sold into slavery and then thrown into prison and finally forgotten by his one hope of rescue, God took all the elements of his life and turned him into the savior of a nation and eventually his own family.
Deep-sea explorers have discovered an ancient coastline on the floor of the Black Sea, providing evidence of a sudden catastrophic flood about 7,500 years ago that spread almost overnight over thousands of square miles of land. Explorers led by Robert Ballard and funded by the National Geographic Society captured the sonar images of the coastline 550 feet below the surface of the sea. Radiocarbon dating of the remains of mollusks dredged from the beach was used to determine the date of the flood. Ballard said the findings indicate a flood occurred during that 600-year gap. This discovery offered independent verification to an idea advanced by geologists William Ryan and Walter Pitman who theorized that the Black Sea formed when melting glaciers raised the sea level until it broke through a natural dam at what is now the Bosporus Strait. The resulting deluge quickly submerged massive amounts of land overnight, probably killing thousands of people and billions of animals. Ballard found the ancient coastline almost exactly were their thirty years of research indicated it would be.
Some Christians, eager for scientific proof to back up their belief in the Bible quickly proclaimed this discovery to be evidence of Noah’s flood. As exciting as these finds may be, we must not rush to accept them as documentation of the Bible. The dating is off by three millennia and this was a localized flood, not the universal one described in the Bible. In essence, we must always be careful not to sell ourselves short by believing everything that is offered to us–no matter how sensational–unless it totally aligns with the Word of God.
More Christian themes are being portrayed in movies. Christian Film and Television Commission director Ted Baehr praised the film industry for the increase in Christian-themed movies last year, journalist Dan Wooding said. “There were more movies with a moderate to strong Christian worldview and content released in 1998 than ever before — twenty-six to be exact,” Baehr said. There were fourteen such movies in 1997. There were seventy-five movies with a clear Christian worldview, elements and/or content, up from forty-nine the year before, he said. The commission based its figures on reviews and content analysis of two hundred eighty-six movies released in 1998.
However, a February 16, 1999, report from the Dove Foundation stated that Hollywood continues making films full of sex and violence even though they are less profitable. In the decade 1988-1997, Hollywood made seventeen times more “R” rated films than “G” rated, even though the average “G”-rated film brought in eight times more revenue. After reviewing their report, “Profitability Study of MPAA-Rated Movies,” film critic Michael Medved concluded that the study “proves that the real edge in Hollywood goes to competently crafted family entertainment.”
Since the media is one of the greatest tools in sculpting the mentality of our society, we must pray that god will continue to raise up Christian writers, actors, and producers to bring a godly influence to the film industry and at the same time awaken the secular producers to the profitability of wholesome movies.
“I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.” (I Timothy 2:1-4)
A city delegation in Goiania, Brazil, asked a Christian radio show to return to the airwaves. Elisabeth Cornelio had hosted a daily prayer program with 200,000 listeners, but devaluation of the Brazilian Real pressured the station owner to charge much higher rates for airtime. The prayer movement could not afford the increase, so it stopped broadcasting for three months. During that time the station’s ratings reportedly dropped from 3rd to 17th place among the other stations, and the city’s crime rate rose 40%. City officials, including the mayor and chief of police, asked Cornelio to restart the broadcasts at the original price. Every month the city updates the prayer program on the latest criminal trends so its listeners can pray. Evangelistic efforts are proving fruitful, Christians say. Christian midwives anoint newborns with oil and dedicate them to God. Others visit supermarkets, praying for the shoppers. Some Christians rise at 4 AM to walk among commuters on public transportation and pray for them. Mobile prayer teams are starting churches. Christians go door-to-door offering prayer to those they meet.
Ten-nation study by Pew Forum on Religion Forum that in six nations at least forty percent of Pentecostals said that they never speak in tongues. In the US, forty-nine percent of Pentecostals and thirty-two percent of charismatics said that they didn’t speak in tongues. Brazil, Chile, Guatemala, India, Kenya, Nigeria, the Philippines, South Africa, South Korea, and the US. “More people joining Pentecostal churches for the lively worship and preaching, but not seeing the need to experience the baptism of the Holy Spirit for themselves,” Kenneth Bell, spokesman for Church of God. Dwight McKissic Sr., pastor of Cornerstone Baptist Church in Arlington, TX, has asked the Southern Baptist Convention to include a statement on speaking in tongues in their statement of faith. He criticized the anti-tongues position of the convention’s International Mission Board. His message given at the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminar where he serves as a trustee was not posted on line as is the standard practice due to objections of the seminary’s president, Paige Patterson. When the school issued a statement that they would not endorse charismatic practices or appoint professors who advocate such practices, he was the only trustee to vote against the measure. He predicted a mass exodus, especially among black congregations, if the convention bans speaking in tongues. Present regulations for missionaries who speak in tongues is almost identical to those concerning homosexuality. July 2006, Rear Admiral Robert Burns became the first Pentecostal Naval chaplain chief over 1,100 active duty and reserve chaplains.
It is impossible to rightly govern the world without God and the Bible. Do not ever let anyone claim to be a true American patriot if they ever attempt to separate religion from politics. (George Washington)
What goes in your mouth determines how you grow; what comes out of your mouth determines where you go.
Underpromise, but overdeliver.
Christians are like tea bags; it’s only when they get into hot water that you find out how strong they are.
You don’t have to change the world overnight; but if you do one thing differently each day, you’ll soon see a change In you that will effect he world you live in.
If you lack knowledge, go to school; if you lack wisdom, get on your knees.
Education is preparation to accept opportunity when it presents itself.
Take time to laugh.
Main things are the plain things.
If you miss God, don’t get worried; He is big enough to find again.
You can only coast if you are going downhill.
Jesus didn’t really have twelve disciple; He actually only had eight disciples–along with one traitor, two managers, and one leader.
Jesus treated Peter more severely than others because he was the leader.
Failing to plan is planning to fail.
If you decide to “go with the flow,” you are only drifting.
Do not pray for an easy life; pray to be a stronger man.
Be in your place, full of grace–or fall on your face.
To succeed, ya gotta wanna.
The key to treading on serpents is to keep your focus on Jesus, not snakes.
Value and worth are not the same; the olive wreath awarded in Roman events cost only a few cents, but the athletes were willing to run marathons and fight gladiators to win one.
The employer who is only willing to pay peanuts will get only monkeys on his staff.
Keys to spiritual breakthrough: pray, pay, stay, say, obey.
Secrets to longevity: purpose, power, promise, purity.
Your expression is the most important thing you can wear.
You should be interested in the future because you are going to spend the rest of your life there.
A clown is like an aspirin, only he works twice as fast. (Groucho Marx)
Enjoy the little things in life, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things.
Go the extra mile. That part of the road is never crowed.
One delivery company boasts, “The extra mile is on our regular route.”
I not only use all the brains I have, but all I can borrow. (Woodrow Wilson)
Goals are dreams with deadlines.
At end of rope, the people you have helped along the way will add extra length to get you to your goal.
If I have seen further than others, it is from standing on the shoulders of giants. (Isaac Newton)
Why use a crowbar to open a door when God has given you a key?
Failure is the opportunity to begin again, more intelligently. (Henry Ford)
Life is not worth living until you have something worth dying for.
Just when you think that you have graduated from the school of experience, someone comes up with a new course.
Top cats often begin as underdogs.
We make a living by what we get; we make a life by what we give.
A man who doesn’t stand for something will fall for anything. (Peter Marshall)
The most important thing in communication is to hear what isn’t being said.
The first step toward your future is a step away from your past.
I can live for two months on a good compliment. (Mark Twain)
Experience is the name everyone gives to mistakes. (Woodrow Wilson)
Too much of a good thing is wonderful. (Mae West)
It’s not whether you get knocked down. It’s whether you get up again. (Vince Lombardi)
Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and others hire public relations writers.
Diligence succeeds over intelligence or talent every time.
A genius is a talented person who does his homework. (Thomas Edison)
A master in the art of living draws no sharp distinction between his work and his play, his labor and his leisure, his mind and his body, his education and his recreation. He hardly knows which is which. He simply pursues his vision of excellence through whatever he is doing, and leaves others to determine if he is working or playing. To himself he always seems to be doing both.
When you were born, you were crying and everyone around you was smiling. Live your life so that when you die, you’re the one who is smiling and everyone around you is crying.
You must decide whether you are going to live life as the one who takes the photographs or one who gets into the picture.
Remember that no matter what it is that you are going through, you must have the attitude that you are eventually coming out the other side–you are not stopping in the problem; otherwise you are not really going through the issue.
John the Baptist said that he must decrease so that Jesus could increase. The same is true in all our lives–if we decrease, the life of Jesus inside us will increase. We must sacrifice what we are so that we can become what Jesus wants us to be.
You can’t change history, so go after the future.
“Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.” (Helen Keller)
“Teamwork makes the dream work.” (Bill Wilson)
Catch the waves; don’t make them.
Define issues; refine solutions.
Where Jesus go during those three days between the cross and the empty tomb and what actually happened while He was there? When He spoke to the thief who hung on the adjacent cross, He told him that they would be together in Paradise (Luke 23:43)–not exactly a description we would expect Him to use of the devil’s realm. A paradise in biblical times was an enclosed garden with beautiful flowers, water fountains, and caged or wild birds. The one thing that is significant about this definition is the word “enclosed.” You see, just outside that wall was another world with all its raw reality–death, starvation, disease, and human depravity of every kind. I’ve personally been in many paradises in places like India and Nepal; inside was a beautiful retreat while lepers, thieves, and prostitutes lived in misery just outside the gate. Apparently, God had prepared a paradise for those Old Testament believers who died in hope of a coming messiah where they awaited the news that He had finally come while the unbelievers suffered the torments of hell just outside the boundaries. (See Luke 16:20-31) I Peter 3:19 says that Jesus preached to the spirits in prison. Ephesians 4:8-10 refers to Jesus’ descent in the lower parts and His ascension carrying captivity captive, suggesting that His journey into the realm of the dead was to bring out those Old Testament saints who had died in faith but could not enter heaven until after He made the sacrifice of which all their symbolic sacrifices had prophesied. When He told them that He was the Lamb slain before the foundation of the earth, they were able to believe on Him and go with Him to heaven. (See Matthew 27:52-53)
Millions of people have found comfort in the great gospel hymn “It Is Well with My Soul” since it was written more than a century ago. But few people know the tragic story behind the composition of the hymn–a story of a soul finding peace in God even in the midst of grief and loss. Horatio Spafford was particularly hard hit by the great Chicago fire of 1871 because he had invested heavily in real estate along Lake Michigan. Only a short time before the financial devastation, he had suffered the loss of their son; yet, even worse was to come. Two years later, he and his wife and four daughters were headed to Europe on vacation, where he was to assist his friend Dwight Moody with an evangelistic campaign. When last-minute business kept Spafford home, he sent his wife and children ahead on an ocean liner. Halfway across the Atlantic, an English vessel rammed the liner and cut her in two. Within just twelve minutes the ship had sunk, taking with it the four young girls. Mrs. Spafford was rescued and taken to Wales where she cabled the terrible news to her husband, “Saved alone.” Spafford immediately boarded the next ship and set off for Wales to be with his wife. As his ship approached the mid-Atlantic, he looked out over the billowing waves that had taken the lives of his beloved daughters. Inspired by the sight, the bereaved father penned the words of his now famous hymn: “When peace like a river attendeth my way, When sorrows like sea billows roll, whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say, It Is well, It is well with my soul.”
Quoting from a statement once made to him by a Muslim leader, an Italian bishop told a Vatican synod, “Thanks to your democratic laws, we will invade you. Thanks to our religious laws, we will dominate you.” He said that the Muslim nations are pursuing “a clear program of expansion and re-conquest” in Europe, citing facts such as the oil-rich nations use of their money but to build mosques and cultural centers in Christian countries rather than to create jobs in poor countries of North Africa and the Middle East. He went on to point out that Islam has become the second largest faith in Italy where mosques have been built in several cities. He documented the fact that a fifty-million dollar mosque in Rome was financed by twenty-three Muslim nations, with almost two-thirds of the funding coming from Saudi Arabia. The bishop then called on the pope to convene a special synod to address the issue.
The Catholic Church has attempted to foster better Muslim-Christian relations, and the pope has visited several Islamic nations–including Morocco, Tunisia, and Sudan–preaching a message of religious tolerance. He has asked Muslim nations that forbid Christian worship to afford equal rights to all.
The sad reality is that where we Christians have failed in our responsibility as missionaries to the Muslim world, we have become the mission field of the Islamic faith.
Steve was the starting center on the school football team and also the best student in the college’s Bible class. One day, his professor asked Steve, “How many push-ups can you do?” “I do about two hundred every night.” Then the professor asked if he could do 300 in sets of 10. He had a class project in mind and needed Steve to do about the push-ups for it to work.” With Steve’s okay, the plan was in motion. On Friday the professor pulled out a big box of donuts. Everyone was excited that there was going to be a party. The prof asked the first student if she wanted a donut. When she replied in the affirmative, he turned to Steve and asked him if he would do ten push-ups so she could have a donut. Steve jumped down from his desk to do a quick ten. This pattern went on until one of the athletic guys asked, “Can I do my own pushups?” “No, Steve has to do them.” The young man said, “I don’t want one then.” The professor turned to Steve, “Would you do ten pushups so he can have a donut he doesn’t want?” With perfect obedience Steve started to do ten pushups. Steve continued to do pushups for each person in the room whether the student accepted the donut or not. Even though his body was in trauma, he refused to stop. As Steve laboriously finished his 350th pushup, his arms buckled beneath him and he fell to the floor. The professor turned to the room and said. “So it was that our Savior Jesus Christ. Whether we accept His gift or not, the price has been paid. Wouldn’t you be foolish and ungrateful to leave it lying on the desk?”
When we entered the new millennium, there was considerable confusion about exactly when we should blow the whistles and celebrate. Though the vast majority of us held to the traditional concept that we could celebrate at the strike of midnight on December 31, 1999, some analysts insisted that since there is no zero year the new millennium was due until the close of 2000. Still others confused the issue by pointing to other world calendars and declaring that we were nowhere near a millennial change since the Hebrew calculation placed us in the year 5760, the Islamic calendar at 1420, the Chinese calendar at 4698, the Old Roman calendar at 2753, the Coptic calendar at 1716, and the Buddhist calendar at 2544. It was enough to make us desire a visit from the children of Issachar, who I Chronicles 12:32 says were men with an understanding of the times. Of course, we too can understand the times if we only remember to keep every thing in perspective.
Every second of our lives is a little slice of eternity that God has entrusted into our hands. Today is a gift from God; that’s why we call it the present. But it is likely that very few of us realize exactly how valuable that present really is. To realize the value of one year, ask a student who failed a grade; the value of one month, ask a mother who gave birth to a premature baby; the value of one week, ask the editor of a weekly newspaper; the value of one hour, ask the lovers who are waiting to meet; the value of one minute, ask a person who missed the train; the value of one second, ask a person who just avoided an accident.
In the eyes of the world, America is a religious–even a Christian–nation, but a recent study shows that our relationship with God not very important to most Americans. The Christian Post reported that the majority of Americans do not rank their relationship with God as the most important personal connection in their life. Seven out of ten American adults choose their earthly family over the Heavenly Father when asked to choose the most important relationship to them, according to a new Barna Group study. One-third said their entire nuclear family is most important, while nearly a quarter (twenty-two percent) named their spouse and one-sixth (seventeen percent) pointed to their children. An additional three percent of American adults identified their parents as the most important relationship in their lives. Only nineteen percent–less than one out of every five adults–said that their relationship with God, Jesus Christ, the Trinity, or Allah (specific names) is the most important in their life.
The sad truth is that if we want to have meaningful relationships in other areas, we must first have a true relationship with the Lord. Jesus said that if we would seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, then everything else that we find significant in life would be added. (Matthew 6:33)
Maturity is reaching the age at which you can reproduce. If you are not reproducing yourself in other people, you are a failure. The only reason God doesn’t use us is if we are unusable. Who would build a ship and leave it in dry dock? The world is waiting for you to be bold enough to give them what it is that you have. When some Chinese Christians were called in for interrogation, the police captain asked them how to be saved and then suggested that they have their underground church in his aunt’s house so he could attend undetected.
Evangelism doesn’t have to be door-to-door announcements that the people need to be saved. You can evangelize through just presenting what Jesus can and will do in their lives. By presenting the people with biblical solutions to their problems even if they are not born again. There will come a time when they will eventually realize that they cannot make the principles work without receiving Christ.
If you could win one thousand people per year to Jesus every year for thirty-five years, you would have brought thirty-five thousand individuals into the Kingdom during this lifetime of ministry. However, if you were able to win one each person every six months and discipline these new converts and teach them to also win a new convert every six month, the exponential growth of your evangelism would be that of reaching more than world’s population in less than twenty years.
We can learn an incredibly important lesson from the story of Elijah’s provision during the draught. God first told him to go to the Brook Cherith to wait out the draught. Considering that a small brook would be the first water source to dry up during a draught, any water he was to get in this place would be a miraculous supply. It was a supernatural defiance of the curse that was upon the land. Similar to the time that God told the Israelites who were being bitten by snakes that they must look to a brass serpent to be healed of their snake bites, God was using the very thing that so dramatically symbolized the curse to be his deliverance from the curse. Next, God told the prophet that he would receive bread and meat each morning and evening through the courier service of a raven. This scavenger bird could be seen as a symbol of the devourer that so eagerly consumes everything he can. Throughout the Bible, we see ample examples of God’s sense of justice by making those who would have been our destroyers become our benefactors. Mordecai wound up with all of Haman’s property–likely worth millions; Esau turned from pursuing Jacob and blessed him; Saul came to kill David but had to bless him, Balaam’s curse turned to a blessing. Finally, he was sent to the home of a poverty-stricken widow for her to support him. Just like the feeding of the multitude with one little lunch, the widow’s mite which proved to be more than all the rest of the offerings, and the gushing of water from a rock, God proved that little is much when God is in it.
How do people in our “Christian” nation really feel about God? Here are the results of a recent poll:
There is only one god.
38% strongly agree
10% somewhat agree
15 % somewhat disagree
All gods are the same.
39% strongly agree
22% somewhat agree
13 % somewhat disagree
Christianity is about religion, not loving God and people (the two major commandments).
53% strongly agree
26% somewhat agree
9 % somewhat disagree
Christians get on my nerves.
12% strongly agree
32% somewhat agree
18 % somewhat disagree
The church is full of hypocrites
I never go to church
22%, up from 17% in poll two years prior
The Christian Post reported that new survey has broken down America’s church attendance to reflect the growing number of “church” options that have redefined how Christians worship on Sunday. American Christians are increasingly adopting house churches, marketplace ministries, and cyberchurches as places of worship and ministry. The new Barna survey, contends that popular measures about who is “unchurched” are out of date. “The fact that millions of people are now involved in multiple faith communities–for instance, attending a conventional church one week, a house church the next, and interacting with an online faith community in-between–has rendered the standard measures of “churched” and “unchurched” much less precise,” The Barna Group noted. Another survey found that seventy-eight percent of Americans are willing to listen to someone tell what they believe about Christianity and seventy-one percent believe that Jesus makes a positive difference in people’s lives.
With these facts and figures in mind, maybe we should re-evaluate some of out tendencies to fragment our lives into little pie-chart segments–secular and religious. Lets let out lights sign outside the sanctuary as brightly as it does inside. The world outside the church walls is actually ready to hear what we have to say.
According to CNSNews.com, a Michigan church filed a federal lawsuit after police officers, led by a local prosecutor, entered the sanctuary at least twice without a warrant alleging the church’s music was too loud and, in one instance, threatened to arrest church musicians for disorderly conduct. Faith Baptist Church, with a congregation of about ten thousand members, is suing local officials in the Township of Waterford in a First Amendment case a church attorney said could have national ramifications in establishing what local governments can do in regulating churches. The suit–alleging the township violated the church’s freedom of religious expression, freedom of speech, and freedom of association–was filed earlier this month in U.S. District Court in Detroit after the church had been subject to what it describes as raids by the Waterford Police Department, led by township prosecutor Walter Bedell. At least one of those raids occurred during a Sunday service, according to the suit. The church played contemporary Christian music that included guitars, drums, and other instruments. Township officials contend they were simply trying to enforce local noise laws and that the church is being a bad neighbor.
Sing unto him a new song; play skillfully with a loud noise. (Psalm 33:3)
Make a joyful noise unto the LORD, all the earth: make a loud noise, and rejoice, and sing praise. (Psalm 98:4)
When Larry King asked Joel Osteen why he never preached against sin, he replied, “I never thought about using the word “sinner,” but I probably don’t. Most people already know what they are doing wrong. When I get them to church, I want to tell they that you can change.”
But do they really know that they are doing wrong? Recent studies show how Americans feel about what is sinful or wrong:
Hard drugs: 65%
Not telling a cashier if given wrong change: 63%
Falsifying income tax: 52%
Sex before marriage: 45%
Homosexual thoughts: 44%
Sexual thoughts about someone you are not married to: 43%
Harming the environment: 41%
Smoking marijuana: 41%
Getting drunk: 41%
Not attending church regularly: 18%
Staying in bed and shouting, “Oh! God!” does not constitute going to church
God does not believe in atheists: therefore, atheists do not exists.
Forgive your enemies; it messes with their heads.
Free coffee, everlasting life–yes, membership has its privileges.
Don’t be so open-minded that your brains fall out.
God so loved the world that He didn’t send a committee.
Read the Bible; it’ll scare the hell out of you.
Wal-mart is not the only savings place.
Artificial intelligence is no match for natural stupidity.
There are some questions that Google can’t answer.
Try Jesus; if you don’t like Him, the devil will always take you back
Jesus can heal your achey breaky heart (outside the Pentecostal church pastored by Billy Joel’s grandfather when Achey Breaky Heart was top of charts)
A–Accept others for who they are.
B–Break away from everything that stands in your way.
C–Create a family of friends with whom you can share.
D–Decide that you’ll be happy come what may.
E–Every new thing you try shows more about yourself.
F–Forgive and forget; grudges only weigh you down.
G–Grow by leave the childhood monsters behind.
H–Hope for the best.
I–Ignore the negative voice inside your head.
J–Journey to new worlds by remaining open-minded.
K–Know things always have a way of getting better.
L–Let love fill your heart instead of hate.
M–Manage your time and your expenses wisely, and you’ll suffer less stress and worry.
N–Never ignore the poor, helpless, weak, or suffering.
O–Open your eyes and take in all the beauty around you.
P–Play; success means nothing without happiness.
Q–Questions are your key to learning.
R–Refuse to let worry and stress rule your life.
S–Share your talent, skills, knowledge, and time.
T–Try even when your dreams seem impossible to reach.
U–Use your gifts to your best ability.
V–Value the friends and family members.
W–Work hard every day to be the best person you can be.
X–X-Ray vision deep inside the hearts of those around you will show you the goodness and beauty within.
Y–Yield to commitment.
Z–Zoom in on Bible promises if bad memories attack you.
A number of years ago, I developed a very deep inner desire to go to Israel. I felt as if it was actually more than a desire; it seemed almost like a spiritual mandate that I must go to the Holy Land that particular year. Along with the sensing that I should make the pilgrimage was a “knowing” that God had something special to show are tell me through that trip. Since Dr. Sumrall was taking a group in November, it seemed logical that I would go with his group; so I began preparing myself to go. The major problem was money. I had no extra money in the budget to make such a trip, and I saw no way of earning any extra income. That was until, a friend called and asked me to fill his pulpit one Sunday when he had to be out of town. Immediately, I thought that whatever honorarium he might give me would be the beginning of the Lord’s provision for extra money to put toward the trip. However, when I asked Dr. Sumrall to be away that Sunday, he flatly denied my request! Disappointed in my situation, but not in my God, I called the friend and told him that I could not come.
A few weeks later, I was asked to serve as the tour director for the trip because the lady who was originally coordinating the program had to stay back because of medical reasons. My faithfulness to my duties and submission to the authority over me opened a wonderful door of opportunity. Not only did I get that trip to Israel for free, I also was asked to lead several other trips to Israel and even Egypt and Rome over the next few years!
The house was full of boxes and there was a U-Haul truck in the driveway, when a neighbor came over and asked, “Hey, you moving?” “Nope. We just pack our stuff up once or twice a week to see how many boxes it takes.”
A guy was fishing when a man stopped by and picked up his stringer of bass and asked, “Hey, you catch all them fish?” “Nope. Talked ’em into giving up.”
A man had a flat tire and pulled his truck into a side-of-the-road gas station. The attendant walked out, looked at the truck, and asked, “Tire go flat?” “Nope. I was driving around and those other three just swelled right up on me.”
The driver of an 18-wheeler misjudged the height of a bridge and got his truck got stuck. When he radioed for help, a local cop showed up to take the report. He went through his basic questioning and finally came to the all-important question, “So, is your truck stuck?” The diver declared that couldn’t help himself: he looked at the officer, looked back at the rig, and then back to him, and said, “No, I’m delivering a bridge.”
When a co-worker happened by the work station to find another employee working late at work he asked, “Are you still here?” “No. I left about ten minutes ago.”
Let’s hope that the questions we ask are more meaningful and that the answers we get are at least as appropriate.
George Otis Jr. is a world renowned missionary and teacher, probably best known for his research on cities, regions, and nations that have been totally transformed by the power of the gospel. The following are a few observations he shares concerning the issues within the church which have kept us form being able to see the same transforming power in our nation.
A pornographer advertised on Christian chat rooms and got five out of ten subscriptions; apparently, we are still bound by carnality. We can’t seem to discern between the wooing of Holy Spirit and the manipulation of men when asked to make decisions like giving or surrendering to the gospel. The preacher who loves to be before the public is hardly prepared spiritually to be before them. We try to live above sin by abstinence which does not bring deliverance. It is dependence upon our own ability to save ourselves. We have soulical emotion rather than try worship in what he calls “7-11 worship” when we sing seven words eleven times. We depend upon human creativity when what we really need is to be reflective of the nature of God. Our pulpits are filled with old windbags rather than new wineskins. Godly character is woefully undervalued in comparison to human giftedness. Judging as in recognizing a condition is our business; whereas, judging as in passing a sentence is not. We must learn to recognize fruitlessness as well as bad fruit. We confuse possessions, gifts, and accomplishments with godly success.
Swimsuit” is to low tech a term to describe the item in the article. It was a very high tech “artificial skin” that had been developed for competitive swimmers, especially for the young men and women who are represent our nation in the Olympics. Designed with microfibers woven in a highly specific patter, the swimsuit almost totally eliminates the drag from the water as the swimmer tries to cut every possible nanosecond from his time. The thing that really caught my attention was that this design was fashioned after shark skin. A few days later, I saw a television special about the latest in surveillance technology–a camera which can crawl up a wall and hang from a ceiling to get otherwise impossible vantage points. Again, the thing that really caught my attention was that this latest piece of technology was fashioned after the gecko, in fact, it even looked like a mechanical lizard. Of course we are all probably already aware that Velco, one of the handiest innovations of recent years, was invented after a curious gentleman examined burs which had stuck to his trousers after a walk in the woods. It’s also interesting to me that one of the big campaign slogans for saving the rainforests is that we want to prevent loss of possible a cure for cancer which may be found in some of the exotic plants there. We’ve spent billions of dollars researching the possibility of a cure but can’t invent one however, we think that it may exist in nature.
Why don’t we just give up and admit that God is all wise and we are not. The most brilliant things we can come up with are simply copies of what He has already done.
Only five percent of American adults donated ten percent or more of their income to churches and charitable groups last year. Within the randomly selected group of over a thousand adults surveyed, Christians tended to give more than others. Among the most generous segments were evangelicals (twenty-four percent of whom tithed); conservatives (twelve percent); people who had prayed, read the Bible and attended a church service during the past week (twelve percent); charismatic or Pentecostal Christians (eleven percent); and registered Republicans (ten percent). The segments of society who were highly unlikely to tithe included people under the age of 25, atheists and agnostics, single adults who have never been married, liberals, and adults who make less than $20,000 per year. And we would rather blame the oil companies, the real estate market, or the President.
“Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings. Ye are cursed with a curse: for ye have robbed me, even this whole nation. Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the LORD of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it. And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes, and he shall not destroy the fruits of your ground; neither shall your vine cast her fruit before the time in the field, saith the LORD of hosts. And all nations shall call you blessed: for ye shall be a delightsome land, saith the LORD of hosts.” (Malachi 3:8-12)
It was only two months between trips to Nepal, but I noticed a remarkable difference in the value of my US dollar between the trips. On my first visit this year, I exchanged money at a seventy-to-one ration. This time, I could only get sixty-five rupees for each dollar–a five- percent drop in two months or an annual drop of thirty-percent if the trend continues. Imagine what this kind of deflation of the American currency can mean for American missionaries who receives their support as American money transferred or sent to their international bank accounts every month–every month, they see their actual available deposit shrink. The money they have raised to support their work overseas simply does not go nearly as far as it once did. Add to the deflation of the American dollar the fact that many developing Nations are experience inflation of prices in their local economies. Although Zimbabwe is a radical example, the thousand-plus-percent inflation there makes it unimaginable how anyone can keep stretching his money to cover the ever-increasing prices. And if the price at the pump is hurting your budget, just stop to think that the increase in fuel prices around the world has far outpaced what we are feeling. The long and short of the issue is that we need to be genuinely sensitive to the Holy Spirit as we pray for our gospel workers around the world. Pray that God will give them wisdom, that He will open new avenues for them, that more people will become active supporters for their work, and that we will be honest and responsive as the Holy Spirit prompts us in how generous we are to be in their support.
“A Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor is a strategic possibility.” George Fielding Eliot. “The Impossible War with Japan.” published in the American Mercury, 1938
“As far as sinking a ship with a bomb is concerned, you just can’t do it.” Rear Admiral Clark Woodard, 1938
“While theoretically and technically television may be feasible, commercially and financially I consider it an impossibility, a development of which we need waste little time dreaming.” Lee Do Forest, father of the radio, 1926
“(Television) won’t be able to hold onto any market it captures after the first six months. People will soon get tired of staring at a plywood box every night.” Darryl F. Zanuck, head of 20th Century Fox, 1946
“Landing and moving around the moon offers so many serious problems for human beings that it may take science another two hundred years to lick them.” Science Digest, August 1948
“What axe the Bolshevicki? They are representatives of the most democratic government in Europe…Let us recognize the truest democracy in Europe (and) in the world today.” William Randolph Hearst, 1918
“The war in Vietnam is going well and will succeed.” Robert McNamara, Secretary of Defense, 1963
Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts: and then shall every man have praise of God. (I Corinthians 4:5)
In Genesis 15:13, the Lord prophesied that Israel would be a stranger in a land that was not theirs and would serve them and would be afflicted for four hundred years. We, of course, recognize this to be speaking of the Egyptian bondage. However, when we read the story of the exodus, we find that they actually spent four hundred and thirty years in Egypt. (Exodus 12:40). Why the extra thirty years? Is it possible that Moses tried to save nation ten years prematurely, and his disobedience led to the prolonging of the captivity? Acts chapter seven gives us a chronology of the timing in Moses’ life. Verse 23 says that he was forty years old when it came into his heart to visit his brethren the children of Israel. Verse 30 explains that it was another forty years when he encountered the burning bush. Verse 36 concludes the timetable by telling us that the desert wanderings took an additional forty years.
The question is, was Moses supposed to have acted as soon as he had the idea to visit his brethren in their captivity? Perhaps he should have taken some time to analyze the situation and develop a strategy. Who knows? If he had waited, could he possibly have risen to power and set the people free with a royal command–after all, he was in line for the throne as the king’s grandson. The point is that if this is actually what happened, the whole nation suffered an additional thirty years of slavery and the Egyptians had to undergo ten devastating plagues.
We must not only know God’s plan but also His timing. Blunders made in timing can be expensive to not only ourselves, but also to many others.
We are living in the last days, and it is vitally important for us to know how to focus our attention in these prophetic times.
We must reach up to keep our attention on the Lord. “And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh.” (Luke 21:28)
We must reach out to effect the lost world around us. “And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.” (Matthew 24:14)
We must reach around our brothers and sisters to reassure them and be strengthened by them in these days. “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.” (Hebrews 10:25)
We must reach inside ourselves to make sure that there is no evil lurking there. “Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is. And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure.” (I John 3:2-3)
We must reach down to constantly keep the devil in his place of defeat beneath our feet.
“And the God of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Amen.” (Romans 16:20)
…praise and thanksgiving: Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name. (Psalm 100:4)
…petition: Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. (Matthew 7:7)
…the Spirit: Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God. (Romans 8:26-27)
…power over Satan: Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might…that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil…praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints. (Ephesians 6:10-18)
…words: There is no mention of silent prayer in the Bible.
…the scripture: And take…the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God: Praying always with all prayer… (Ephesians 6:17-18)
…fervency: Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much. (James 5:16)
…confidence: And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us. (I John 5:14)
One of my dear friends in Nepal in Eileen Lodge, a British lady who has spent more than fifty years in the country as director of the Nepal Leprosy Trust. Eileen has so given herself to the cause and the country that she has actually become a Nepali citizen.
One fascinating thing that I learned from Eileen is that effective ministry to lepers must come in two stages: cure and restore. Because leprosy leaves such ugly scars on its victims, those who have been cured but not restored still cannot go back into society. The horrible markings on their faces, hands, and feet make people shun them. As a result, they still live as outcasts–without being able to return to their families or find employment–even though they are no longer contagious and a health threat. Thus, the leprosy mission provides plastic surgery to the victims after they have successfully been cured of the disease.
The amazing parallel in the Kingdom of God is that the atonement also provides not just salvation, but also justification and restoration. “For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified. (Romans 8:29-30) It was part of God’s plan from the very beginning that we not only be saved but that we also have divine reconstructive surgery so that we look exactly like His son! As the old saying goes, we are justified–make to lookjust as if I’d never sinned. Because we are restored as well as cured, we can freely partake of all God’s blessings.
Did you ever stop to realize that our God is not a God with plan B? He doesn’t have a backup strategy in case His original plan doesn’t work. When He sent an angel to visit Cornelius and told him to send messengers to Joppa to find Peter who could share the gospel with them, He had not even checked with Peter. In fact, it wasn’t until twenty-one hours later as the messengers were approaching the door of Simon the tanner’s house that God let Peter know that he had been commissioned to this task–one which was inherently repugnant to Peter since it involved going into a Gentile home. (Acts 10) When God tapped Ananias to go pray for Saul of Tarsus to receive his sight, be filled with the Spirit, and be baptized in water, He had already given Saul a vision three days of earlier in which He revealed Ananias by name as the messenger to come to him. (Acts 9) Even though the prophet balked at the idea of going to the house on Straight Street where this renowned church persecutor has taken refuge, there was no alternate plan. When Jesus petitioned His Father in the Garden of Gethsemane for some other way to save the world other than the cross, the details of the coming crucifixion had already been recorded for centuries in Isaiah 53 and Psalm 22.
“Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you.” (John 15:16) God’s plan for reaching the world is us. Even if we–like Peter, Ananias, and even our Savior–are reluctant to take the challenge, we must; He has no Plan B.
In Jeremiah 18:1-11, the prophet was sent to the pottery shop to learn a lesson. As he observe red the artisan at work, he saw that the potter remade, rather than threw away, the deformed pot. In like manner, God continues to remake us because He truly understands us like a potter understands clay and knows what is really inside us. He knew that Gideon really was a mighty man of valor, that Moses really could speak, that Rahab was more than a harlot, and that you and I are destined to reveal His glory.
Romans chapter nine explains that the work of potter is a work of mercy. Jacob didn’t deserve mercy any more than Esau, and Moses didn’t deserve mercy any more than Pharaoh; but God gave them mercy. It was the mercy of God that either the Jews or the Gentiles exist at all. Israel was destined to be a vessel of mercy but resisted the will of God, and the Gentiles were to come to God through the mercy that was revealed through Israel. Notice that it is God’s plan is to make vessels of honor, and that there is no discussion of dishonorable vessels in the pottery shop. He has predestined His pottery to show forth His glory. Even though Romans proves the lostness of Israel, at the same time it shows the predestination of Israel as the covenant people of God. Through Israel, all other nations are to be led to God, and all Israel will eventually be saved. In essence, the lostness of man is only for an occasion for the mercy of God. It is because of His mercy that we can confidently put our lives on His potter’s wheel because it is only on the potter’s wheel that we can find the will of God for our lives.
When God sent the prophet to the potter’s house, He told him, “I will cause you to hear.” (Jeremiah 18:2) One interesting thought concerning this passage is that God can speak anywhere; it is our hearing that is the problem. Not everything in the visit to the potter’s wheel is because of God’s purposeful intention to break and remold us, but a result of our own natural inclination not to willingly conform to His mold for our lives. Isaiah 41:25 speaks of a potter treading his clay. This process takes place when the clay becomes hardened into an undesirable form and has to broken down to the very basic particles in order to be rewet and remolded. Notice that the context is in reference to the rebellious nation that had to be invaded by their enemies in order to bring them to their senses and to their knees. Let’s look at a few of the processes that occur in the pottery shop and see how we can relate them to our spiritual lives. First comes the molding, the pressing–sometimes very forcefully–of the clay into a desired form, followed by turning, the spinning of the pot on the wheel as the whole structure is smoothed out. God places in us–if not from our birth, at least from our new birth–a special direction to which we are spiritually inclined, even if our human nature may not accept it readily. Take the Apostle Paul for example; he has a natural interest in religious work, but not for the Lord Jesus. Once the pot is fashioned to the desired shape, it is glazed by applying an exterior coating and fired in the kiln at a high temperature to solidify the whole process. The difficulties we encounter and successfully master certainly solidify our commitment to the man that God has determined us to be.
Joel prophesied that young men would see visions (verse 2:28), a prophecy that was repeated in the first sermon in the new-born church (Acts 2:17). It seems to me that this visionary nature of young men may be linked to their ability to overcome the obstacles and challenges of the enemy. (I John 2:14) In other words, if we want to be victorious, we must visualize ourselves as victorious.
David did just that when he went out to fight Goliath. Notice how he answered the giant when the big bully challenged him, “This day will the LORD deliver thee into mine hand; and I will smite thee, and take thine head from thee; and I will give the carcases of the host of the Philistines this day unto the fowls of the air, and to the wild beasts of the earth; that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel.” (I Samuel 17:46) To get the full impact of this statement, we have to consider the fact that David didn’t even have a sword when he declared that he was going to off the giant’s head. There was no way he was going to use what he had in his hand–a stick, five smooth stones, and his sling–to take off Goliath’s head; yet he was able to see beyond the natural to the supernatural. Just as he had taken on the lion and the bear without a natural weapon, he could visualize God’s provision even during the struggle. Just as Samson had found that when the jaw bone of a donkey was all he had, it was all he needed, David knew that when the name of the Lord was all he had, it would be all he needed. We too must visualize ourselves victorious with God’s supernatural weapons which are mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds. (II Corinthians 10:3)
When David discovered that the Philistine bully had been terrorizing the army of Israel for some forty days, he asked one simple–yet powerfully insightful–question, “Who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the armies of the living God?” The power in this question is that it revealed that David had a different perspective on the matter from anyone else. Almost as if David had Superman’s x-ray vision, he was able to see through the giant’s façade to find out that he was uncircumcised. This meant that the oppressor was without a covenant and, therefore, without God. However, David knew that he personally had a covenant and, therefore, the upper hand! I imagine that the young shepherd must have rehearsed Genesis 12:3, “I will curse him that curseth thee,” and realized that Goliath had repeated called God’s personal curse upon himself each time he had lashed out against the people of God. I especially believe that he must have recited Deuteronomy 28:7, “Thine enemies shall come out against thee one way and flee before thee seven ways,” thinking how appropriate that the Philistines had sent only one reprehensive rather that the whole army. They had come out one way, but how would they flee seven ways? Then he saw the plan: cut off the giant’s head (that make two ways) and feed his body to the birds; with the flesh of the slain enemy in their beaks some of the birds will fly to the north, some to the south, some to the east, some to the west, and some straight up (that makes the other five)!
In every challenge in life, we must be equally as insightful to remember God’s covenant promises and know how to draw upon them.
Since the armament described in Ephesians chapter six is all frontal gear, we are actually left defenseless on the sides and from the back. That is why it is absolutely necessary that we have brothers and sisters linked to us on our right and left; otherwise, we are in danger of the enemy’s blows. As we link together, synergism (the whole is greater than the sum of the parts) occurs. This is why we are told that one can chase a thousand while two can chase ten thousand. As individuals warriors, we would each have to struggle against our opponent; however, as a united force, we are able to solidly stand our ground. Notice that Paul addresses “my brethren” when he admonishes us to take up the armor of God. He does not speak to us as individuals but as a corporate body with this plural noun. Putting on the armor of God is a corporate function of the entire body of faith. We must learn to live and work together within the Body of Christ without concern for the carnal differences which tend to divide us. The movie, Wind Talkers, depicted how difficult it was for the soldiers to overcome their prejudices and accept the Navajo recruits. But it was these very native American radio operators who saved their lives and played a significant role in winning the war. What’s true in the natural army is especially true in the spiritual army: we must establish unity within Christ’s Body because our lives depend upon what the other members (very often the ones with whom we don’t want to befriend in our natural selves) can supply. “As the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ.” (I Corinthians 12:12)
Genesis 8:22 tells us that God has designed the universe so that as long as the earth remains there will be summer and winter and day and night shall. Psalms 30:5 adds that weeping may endure for a night but joy comes in the morning. It is true that God had a specific reason for tilting the Earth at its twenty-three-degree angle. By arranging it so that the planet would go through cycles each day as it rotates and each year as it revolves, the planet experiences repeated periods of darkness and light and seasons of heat and cold–uncomfortable times followed by times of relief. There is a reason for nighttime just as there is a reason for the day. If there were no sorrows of the night, the joys of the morning would not be as sweet. It is the tests of the night that produce the testimonies of the mornings. On one of my early mission trips, to the topic island nation of Sri Lanka, a German missionary said something about the “beautiful winters” back in Europe and in America. At first I was taken back by the thought that someone who was able to escape the harshness of the ice and cold for perpetual summer would seem to be complaining. She then added that the cold season got rid of pests and disease germs which continued to proliferate unchecked in the tropics. An anthropologist once presented a theory that it was because people in temperate zone nations had to learn to face the challenges of winter that they became more progressive and were able to dominate the rest of the world in almost every area.
Spiritually, it is also true that the seasons of our lives and the victories that come out of them are determined by our relationship to sun (Son).
I had only been dean of the Bible school for a few years, and I admit that I was rather young in comparison to some other men who would have been in similar positions; but I was a seminary graduate, a married man with a child, and experienced in my job. However, not of that mattered when the lady came for her acceptance interview at the college. She took one look at me and exclaimed, “You’re just a kid!” She then got up and left the office, refusing to submit her application for admittance to the school.
As a college student, I had dressed like a hippie as part of a skit to be presented in a youth rally. I was to be planted in the audience and make a scene during the middle of the program. In order to avoid drawing attention, before the proper time, I arrived early and took a seat before most of the people arrived. As the people began to arrive and fill the room, I thought it very humorous that they left a circle of four empty seats in every direction around me.
While traveling in the interior of India once, I ran out of Indian rupees and could not find a bank that would change American dollars, so I was functionally broke even though I had plenty of money in my pocket. After using the last of my local currency to by a train ticket to the next station, I sat down on the railway platform to wait. When a beggar asked for a handout, I showed him that I was totally penniless. His response was to sit down right next to me and set out his alms cup. My traveling companion took a photo which he entitled, “The Two Beggars.”
“Wherefore henceforth know we no man after the flesh.” (II Corinthians 5:16)
Before coming to Christ, many of us felt that the way to financial security was hard work, ingenuity, and possibly a bit of cheating. All too often, after we come to Christ, we begin to think that the only key we have to prosperity is giving and receiving. However, the Bible gives us many principles–keys to opening the doors of prosperity and the windows of blessings. One key that many of us already knew from investing in stock or even depositing money in a savings account is patience (Galatians 6:7-9). A second principle should be self obvious: do the will of God (Hebrews 10:36). The next key shouldn’t take a rocket scientist to understand: faithfulness (Matthew 24:45, 25:21, Luke 16:11-12). Nor should we have to look for a brain surgeon to grasp the next key: love (I Corinthians 13:3). When we come to praying in the Spirit (Romans 8:26-26) as a key to prosperity, we must be careful not to confuse this with petitioning God for money; it is actually allowing the Holy Spirit to pray for us rather than making up our own prayers. When He prays, great things–including prosperity–are in store. While we are praying, we must remember that intercession for the peace of Jerusalem (Psalm 122:6) is a special directive that insures prosperity. Giving thanks (Philippines 4:6) comes next, followed by one command that many of us might wish to overlook and fail to follow: forgiveness (Mark 11:25, Matthew 5:24, 6:12-15) Of course there is always confess and believing (Mark 11:23-24) and filling our hearts and minds with the Word of God (Joshua 1:8, Luke 6:45).
Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. (II Corinthians 5:17)
There is No condemnation. (Romans 8:1)
We have Eternal life. (John 3:16)
We are Working out our salvation. (Philippians 2:12)
The new creature is Cleansed in his conscience. (Hebrews 9:13-14)
The new creature has a Relationship. The old creature may have had religion and rules, but the new one has a relationship. (John 1:12)
The new creature has Expiation. Although the King James Bible uses the word “propitiation” (meaning to cover up) a number of times, more modern translations exchange it for the word “expiation” (meaning to eliminate). An old creature may have had his problems covered up, but a new creature has them totally removed, washed away. (I John 2:2, Romans 3:25, I John 4:10)
The new creature has a spirit of Adoption. His spirit cries out, “Daddy God.” (Romans 8:15-16)
The new creature is Transformed, not conformed. Instead of living conformed to this world, we have been transformed into a new relationship. (Romans 12:2)
The new creature is Under a new law of the Spirit of life. (Romans 8:2)
The new creature has Revelation, not education. (Ephesians 1:17-23)
The new creature is Empowered by the Holy Ghost. (Acts 1:8, John 14:17)
The first key when taking a challenge bigger than yourself is to refuse to see yourself small in your own eyes When the spies saw the giants in the Promised Land, they saw themselves like grasshoppers; and the scriptures record, “and so they were.” (Numbers 13:30) On the other hand, David refused to be intimidated by any off the demeaning circumstances in his life–right up to facing a giant that had held the entire army a bay for over a month.
When the prophet came to his house to anoint a new king, David’s own father didn’t even call him for the lineup because he didn’t consider him worthy to even be considered. This Cinderella-stepchild discrimination and two-ugly-sister favoritism has destroyed many potentially great men and women–but not David because refused to see himself as the diminutive, ruddy, insignificant, kid brother. When he showed up at the encampment, his oldest brother “let him have it with both barrels,” accusing of coming out to the battlefield to make trouble out of pride and naughtiness in his heart and attempting to demean is place in the family business by referring to his “few sheep in the wilderness.” Yet, David didn’t even bother to answer his brother’s railings; instead, he went directly ahead to matter at hand–sizing up the giant task he was to challenge. When he was brought to the king’s tent, this little shepherd boy refused to be intimidated by the monarch’s discouraging words, “Thou art not able to go against this Philistine to fight with him: for thou art but a youth, and he a man of war from his youth.”
Finally, he met Goliath himself with total confidence that he was big enough for the challenge!
I’m sure that we all thought that the three-strike policy was invented with the game of baseball, but the truth of the matter is that it is a biblical principle that dates back to the garden of Eden. Remember Eve’s conversation with the serpent in which she was given three chances to get a base hit: she saw that the fruit was good for food (the physical temptation–strike one), and that it was pleasant to the eyes (the soulical temptation–strike two), and a tree to be desired to make one wise (the spiritual temptation–strike three). She was out! Jesus was also at bat for three possible strikes: “Command that these stones be made bread” (the physical temptation–ball one), “Cast thyself down” (the soulical temptation–ball two), “Fall down and worship me” (the spiritual temptation–krack! a home run!) Peter’s turn at bat the night of Jesus’ arrest was his first strike out: three times he was questioned about being a friend of Jesus and three times he took a strike and you’re out!). Fortunately, he had a second turn at bat on the shores of the Galilee after the resurrection when Jesus asked him if he had agape (divine) love for him. He struck twice by confessing only philios (human) love but made a hit on the third pitch when Jesus asked if it was onlyphilios love that he had for the Master, and Peter recognized exactly what the Lord desired from him.
In our lives as well, our times at bat always come in sets of three before we have to concede defeat. I John 2:16 warns us about the three pitches about to be thrown at us: the lust of eye, the lust of flesh, and the pride of life. James 1:15 shows us how these three pitches can lead to a strikeout: lust, sin, death.
I was glad when they said unto me, Let us go into the house of the LORD. Our feet shall stand within thy gates, O Jerusalem. Jerusalem is builded as a city that is compact together: Whither the tribes go up, the tribes of the LORD, unto the testimony of Israel, to give thanks unto the name of the LORD. For there are set thrones of judgment, the thrones of the house of David. Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: they shall prosper that love thee. Peace be within thy walls, and prosperity within thy palaces. For my brethren and companions’ sakes, I will now say, Peace be within thee. Because of the house of the LORD our God I will seek thy good.” (Psalm 122)
One of David’s major accomplishments as king of Israel was to turn the Jebusite city of Jerusalem into the focal point of Jewish life. Under his direction, the city became the center of the military, the politics, the culture, the education, the administration, the economy, and most of all the religion of the nation. Although it was his son Solomon who would eventually build the great temple there and import so much wealth that the city would be coined “Jerusalem of gold,” David made the city to prosper in every physical dimension and established it as the focal point of the nation’s spiritual life. When he said, ‘I was glad when they said unto me,” He was celebrating the fact that his followers had become leaders because they had caught what their leader had taught. His leadership had come to fruition as they had gotten hold of his spirit and his spirit had gotten hold of them!
True leaders rejoice when they no longer must lead!
May 9, 1999, between twenty and twenty-five thousand workers at Gujarat shipyard in India fled when a doomsday article appeared in a Delhi paper predicting that the coastal town would be submerged under water. The company lost $35 million due to the labor stoppage.
It’s not only mystic gurus in exotic far-flung corners of the world who come up with such errant predictions. In fact, the Bible–both New and Old Testaments–is filled with warnings against those who prophelie (a term someone coined from the words “prophesy” and “lie”). Jeremiah 14:14 says, “The prophets prophesy lies in my name: I sent them not, neither have I commanded them, neither spake unto them.” Jesus personally warned us about such false prophets. Matthew 7:15, 24:11, 24:24, Mark 13:22) The apostles furthered His admonitions saying that such lying prophets are already among us. (II Peter 2:1, I John 4:1) The biblical mandate is not only to turn away from their untrue counsel, but to judge them with the most severe of all possible punishments–death. (Deuteronomy 13:5) Even more astounding is that this punishment is to be inflicted by their closest of relatives–parents and siblings! (Deuteronomy13:6, Zechariah 13:3).
As I meditate on these passages, I am challenged to re-examine all that I say to others. Even though I may not point out people in church services and call them forward to receive a “Thus sayeth the Lord” word, all my words can have prophetic impact on people’s lives. Do I discourage them from being who they really can be and doing what they really can do? Do I falsely encourage them when I really should warn? Do I prophelie?
It’s an amazing story of incredible coincidence. Peggy Brown saved Kevin Stephan’s life when she was able to use CPR after he was injured in a Little League baseball game. Years later, he saved her life when he used the Heimlich maneuver when she choked on food in a restaurant where he worked. Even though we don’t see this kind of good deed and repayment with the same individuals involved happen on a daily basis, the principle of sowing and reaping never ceases. Jesus taught us to sow without expecting a harvest but to be aware that we would certainly receive one. “But love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest: for he is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil. Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful. Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven: Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again.” (Luke 6:35-38) Paul taught us to generously sow good deeds. “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting. And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not. As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith. (Galatians 6:7-10)
I’m not sure whether it reflects the poor spelling abilities of our present crop of high school students or their moral inclinations, but I just have to share with you a sentence out of one high schooler’s report on prevention of sexually transmitted diseases: “The only way other than abstinence to be sure that you will not contact an STD is to remain in a monotonous relationship.”
Yes, the grass often does look greener in the other guy’s pasture; but we have to remember that there is a really good reason for building fences–not only to keep the neighbor our of our yard, but also to protect us from going after that seemingly greener grass. Someone once said that temptation usually comes through a door that has been deliberately left open. In other words, build a fence and make sure to keep the grate securely closed.
The Word of God gives us five “R”s for dealing with those who are trapped through temptation: reproof, rebuke, repentance, reformation, and reinstatement. In I Corinthians 5, we read the story of a man who had fallen prey to heinous sin through having a relationship with his father’s wife. Paul instructed the church to call him on his sin and bring him under judgment for his error. In his follow-up letter to the church, Paul tells them that enough is enough; it is now time to restore and reinstate the errant brother. (II Corinthians 2:5-11) The passage that we all love so much describing how we have been totally pardoned is actually part of his instructions on dealing with the man. “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” (II Corinthians 5:17)
Have you ever moved a piece of furniture that has sat in the same spot for a long period of time only to discover that the carpet underneath it is a different color form the flooring all around it? Even worse, did you notice that one side of the sofa was a different color from the other side? This decoloration is a result of what we call “fading.” With the exception of a few things such as Madras cloth which is deliberately designed to fade or “bleed” when washed, fading is a sign of deterioration. Fading can be delayed even for thousands of years in some cases. I’ve seen mosaics in Israel, pyramid paintings in Egypt, and frescos in Sri Lanka which have retained their color for centuries; but even so they were still subject to natural deterioration. It is a reoccurring theme in both the Old and New Testaments that everything–even the very foundation of the earth–is doomed to fade and wax old. (Psalm 102:25-26, Isaiah 51:6, Hebrews 1:10-11, Ezekiel 47:12, James 1:11) Even the glory on Moses’ countenance that caused the people to require him to wear a veil over his face and the Old Testament Law itself are subject to this self obsolescence. (II Corinthians 3:7, Hebrews 8:13)
The wonderful promise we have is that we are destined for another world which is not subject to destruction. The apostle Peter promises us an inheritance which is incorruptible, undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for us (I Peter 1:4) and a crown of glory that fadeth not away. (I Peter 5:4)
A friend of mine once begged the Lord to reveal His total plan for his life to him. The Lord’s answer was that He could reveal it like a road map with all the twists and turns; but if He did, my friend would wind up worshipping the road map rather than the God who drew up the map.
Psalm 37:23 tells us that the steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord and that he delights in his way. It’s a bit difficult to tell who the “he” and “him” are in this verse. Is it that the Lord delights in the way of a godly man or that the godly man delights in the way that the Lord directs. Personally, it seems that both interpretations are just as appropriate. If a man walks in the way that the Lord directs, both he and the Lord will be pleased.
One other thing to note about this verse is that it is the Lord’s intent to direct our very steps, not just our general direction. Two interesting revelations can be drawn from this fact. First, we must not be too eager to run with any general plan that we feel that we have received form the Lord. Even when He has shown us the general direction for our lives, we must still be dependent upon Him for a day-to-day (even moment-to-moment) direction for each individual step. We grow in His grace and direct as we follow Him step-by-step. The second revelation we can gain is that even if we don’t see where the path is taking us, we can walk confidently in His step-by-step direction; He is not going to mislead us. In fact, there is actually more adventure in following Him into the unknown and letting Him surprise us with each turn along the way until we finally come to our final destination!
“I confess that my imagination refuses to see any sort of submarine doing anything but suffocating its crew and floundering at sea.” H. G. Wells, 1901
“May not our mechanisms be ultimately forced to admit that aerial flight is one of that great class of problems with which man can never cope? The construction of an aerial vehicle which can carry even a single man from place to place at pleasure requires the discovery of some new metal or some new force. Even with such a discovery, we could not expect one to do more than carry its owner.” astronomer Simon Newcomb, 1903 (the same year that the Wright brothers flew their first plane)
“No rocket will reach the moon save by a miraculous discovery of an explosive far more energetic than any known. And even if the requisite fuel were produced, it would still have to be shown that the rocket machine would operate at 459 degrees below zero–the temperature of interplanetary space.” Nikola Tesla, US inventor, 1928
“I will never see the day when the 18th Amendment is out of the Constitution of the United States.” Senator William Berah, 1929 (The 18th Amendment–Prohibition–was repealed in 1933, and Berah did not die until 1940 “That is the biggest fool thing we have ever done…The (atomic) bomb will never go off, and I will speak as an expert in explosives.” Admiral William Leahy, speaking to President Truman, 1945
When Jesus announced His intention of establishing His body on Planet Earth, He specifically called it the church–not the churches. In reality, there is only one church even though there may be multiple locations where various manifestations of that universal church gather for worship and instruction. In similar manner, there is only one message which He wishes to communicate to this one universal church. Interestingly enough, if you search your Bible from cover to cover, you will not be able to even find the word “messages”–simply because there is only one message; but it embodies all the points found throughout the Bible. The Apostle John describes this message in I John 1:5 and 3:11: “This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all…For this is the message that ye heard from the beginning, that we should love one another.” In other words, Jesus is calling for a love from us is that is as consistent as His very nature. God is not erratic nor incomplete. He is light–total light, without the slightest ting of darkness. He has always been light and will always remain to be light. There is never any possibility that even the slightest pinch of darkness can or will appear in Him. In the same manner, He asks–no expects of us that we manifest unmitigated and unwavering love for one another. The full impact of the Lord’s message is embodied in Haggai 1:13 where the scripture emphasizes that the prophet is the Lord’s messenger and that his words are the Lord’s message to His people, “I am with you!” If God is not with us there is now way we can experience and demonstrate this unfailing love.
No, this story is not about a Halloween costume, a preacher who joined the Klu Klux Klan, or whatever else you may have in mind. Just read on. I first met Pastor James when he had a very large, thriving church in the capitol city of one of the major nations in Africa. But, his beginnings were humble–you might even say, humiliating. He was trying to plant a church in a very resistant Muslim community. No matter how many homes he visited or how much literature he distributed, or how many people he talked with, there didn’t seem to be even the slightest glimmer of promise that the people were receiving their witness. Yet he labored on, trying to plant gospel seed in the sweltering heat of sub-Sahara Africa. His tiny apartment not only was without air conditioning; it didn’t even boast of having an electric fan. Because of this extreme heat, Pastor James usually slept with out pajamas. One night, as he lay naked on his cot, he was aroused by a frantic knocking at his door. Wrapping himself with the sheet off his bed, he rushed to see what was the matter. At the door he found a neighbor who beckoned him to come quickly to their little apartment where a young woman had given birth and the baby and mother were both on the verge of death. The family, neighbors, and Muslim cleric were all praying, but nothing was happening. Now, they wanted him to solicit help from his God. James did pray, and the baby was instantly revitalized. He prayed again, and the mother miraculously recovered. Then he preached, and the roomful of people–including the Muslim cleric–accepted the Lord. All this while he wore only a bed sheet wrapped around his naked body!
Did you realize that there is actually no such thing as cold? You can have lots of heat, even more heat, super-heat, mega-heat, unlimited heat, white heat, a little heat or no heat, but we don’t have anything called “cold.” We can subtract heat to the point of 458 degrees below zero, which is no heat, but we can’t go any further after that. If there were such a thing as cold, we would be able to go colder than the lowest -458 degrees. Everybody or object is susceptible to study when it has or transmits energy, and heat is what makes a body or matter have or transmit energy. Absolute zero (-458 F) is the total absence of heat. Cold is only a word we use to describe the absence of heat. We cannot measure cold. Heat we can measure in thermal units because heat is energy. Cold is not the opposite of heat, just the absence of it.
Did you realize that there is actually no such thing as darkness? Darkness is not something; it is the absence of something. You can have low light, normal light, bright light, flashing light, but if you have no light constantly you have nothing and it’s called darkness. “Darkness” is only a word we use to define the absence of light. In reality, darkness isn’t. If darkness were an actual thing, we would be able to make darkness darker.
Likewise evil does not exist in and of itself. Evil is simply the absence of God. It is just like darkness and cold, a word that man has created to describe the absence of God. God did not create evil. Evil is the result of what happens when man does not have God’s love present in his heart. It’s like the cold that comes when there is no heat or the darkness that comes when there is no light.
I was in Yangon, Myanmar (Burma), just days after the monk-led protests against the ruling junta. What had started out as peaceful marches turned into bloody massacres as the police opened fire on the unarmed civilians and their saffron-robed leaders. The one thing that was blatantly obvious to me as I walked around the city was the absence of monks who normally seem to be omnipresent. This time I was hard-pressed to find a monk even in the temple. I’m not sure how many were under arrest, how many were in hiding, or how many had just abandoned their robes for a safer appearance in civilian clothing. However, I did see one news article about the monk who had initiated the protest movement. He had escaped to Thailand to seek asylum from the dictatorial government in Burma. The thing that really caught my attention in the article was that he was wearing a crucifix when he crossed the border. Of course, it was only a disguise as far as he was concerned; but I saw something more in the story. It was a powerful testimony to the liberating power of the cross. Even though this man had not accepted Christ as his eternal savior, he understood something of the power of the cross to save his temporal life.
There is power in the cross! That is why Paul boldly declared, “For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified…But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.” (I Corinthians 2:2, Galatians 6:14)
When I was a kid, the preacher in our Pentecostal church used to make remarks about traditional churches with printed programs for the Sunday service. His point was that everything was so organized that they could publish the schedule in advance. Well, our program was just as set as theirs; the only difference was that it was not written down. We had a certain number of fast songs out of the paperback chorus book, a certain number of songs out of the hardback hymnal, a certain sister would always give a message in tongues, a certain brother would always interpret it, and so on.
Actually, there is nothing wrong with tradition, or form, in worship. It is like a water bottle; it serves the purpose of transporting water. In the case of tradition, the water is the living water of the Holy Spirit. And just like a water bottle, when it no longer holds water it should go to the recycle bin. Have you ever noticed that when you go to the store to buy water, you are influenced to a certain degree by the bottle. How big a bottle do you want? Do you want one with a re-sealable sports cap? Do you want one made of durable enough plastic that you can refill and reuse it? Other than that, your real concern is the water inside. Is it reverse osmosis, spring water, or distilled? Is it sodium free? Does it have minerals added for flavor? The same is true of styles of worship. Certain traditions are matters of personal preference, but the really important matter is whether the worship experience conveys a quality encounter with the Living Water.
We traditionally speak of the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden as an apple; however, the Bible never identifies it as any particular kind of fruit. In other parts of the world, the people have their own interpretations as to what the problem fruit might have been. In Sri Lanka, it is identified as the mangosteen, a vitamin-rich fruit native to this island which some consider to the actual location of the Garden of Eden. I have also heard one teacher comment that he thinks that the culprit could have been the fig since it was the leaves of the fig tree that they immediately started plucking to manufacture the first human clothing. With all the discussion of the memory-enhancing benefits of ginkgo biloba, I wonder if the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil could have been a gingko tree. After all, the serpent did way it would make them wise. Since ginkgo trees are either male or female, and since people in the U.S. usually plant only the male trees, we rarely see the fruit in this country; however, the female trees do bear a fruit with a large pit which when roasted is considered a delicacy in Asia.
But the real problem in Eden wasn’t the apple on the tree; it was the pair on the ground. The real problem wasn’t the fruit exposed on the tree, but the seed hidden in their hearts. “Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man: But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.” (James 1:13-15)
Did you ever notice that Jesus never used Greek roots when He was teaching? Did you ever notice how He always used real-life illustrations (parables) to get His point across? What about the fact that His teachings always related to every strata of society–children, women, the religious, the illiterate, the gentiles–all at the same time? Have you ever noticed how He seemed to always know what the Bible said about every issue? These are some of the things that made Him such a great communicator of the Word of God. But I want to pick out just a couple additional points that might warrant a bit of extra consideration.
First, let’s consider that He always took things back to the basics. For instance, when He was asked about divorce, he didn’t haggle with the issues on the level that His challengers wanted to pursue. Instead, He went all the way back to creation, “But from the beginning of the creation God made them male and female. For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and cleave to his wife; And they twain shall be one flesh: so then they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.” (Mark 10:6-9) When we get to the basics, we avoid all the complications that have developed as others have worked through the questions.
Next, let’s consider that He didn’t just teach; Jesus was the originator of “show and tell”! Nicodemus said that it was the miracles which accompanied His teaching that validated His words. (John 3:2) Luke testified that the gospel is an account of what He taught and did. (Acts 1:1)
Remember the story in First Kings chapter nineteen of when the prophet heard the voice of God? First, there was a wind so great and strong that the mountains and rocks broke; then, there was an earthquake; next there was a fire; finally, the still small voice resonated so powerfully in his soul that the prophet wrapped his face in his mantle and went to stand before the Lord. When God spoke to Elijah, He gave the prophet three directives: anoint Hazael to be king of Syria, anoint Jehu to be king of Israel, and anoint Elisha to be prophet in his place. It is interesting to read the following chapters and notice that Elijah didn’t fulfill the majority of these directives.
He immediately fulfilled one of the commands by anointing a new prophet. I Kings 19:19 records the story of how Elijah found Elisha and cast his mantle upon him. It isn’t until II Kings chapter eight that we read of Hazael’s anointing for the throne over Syria; however it isn’t Elijah who does it–it is his replacement, Elisha. The next chapter records the how Jehu was anointed king of Israel, but it is neither Elijah nor Elisha who does the job; it was a young prophet in training under Elisha. What’s the point of the story? Although some Bible teachers use these passages to fault the prophet, saying that he was disobedient and that others had to fulfill his commission, it might be just as legitimate to consider that it was God’s plan all along to have others complete the prophet’s mandate. Perhaps God wants us to be more interested in developing disciples than in reaching goals. If we deposit our heart solidly enough in others, they will certainly see that our dreams and visions eventually come to pass.
I cdnuolt blveiee taht I cluod aulaclty uesdnatnrd waht I was rdanieg. The phaonmneal pweor of the hmuan mnid. Aoccdrnig to a rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it deosn’t mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoatnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer be in the rghit pclae. The rset can be a taotl mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit a porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe. Amzanig huh? yaeh and I awlyas tghuhot slpeling was ipmorantt!
No, it’s not a message in tongues, but I will interpret it for you in case you didn’t figure it out. The gist of the paragraph is that researchers at Cambridge University have discovered that as long as we have the first and last letters in the proper order, the sequence of the other letters in a word doesn’t matter because our brains have a way of figuring out what is intended. Considering how poorly I type, this is good news for all my readers. This might be a reality check for us. If our brains can ignore what is right in front of us and try to unravel errors and correct them so that we think we are seeing things the way they ought to be rather than the way they really are, maybe we have the same situation with life in general. In other words, are we ignoring the errors that are right in front of us while I brains are telling us that everything is okay? Are we spiritually like the Laodicean church who saw themselves as rich, increased with goods, and in need of nothing when they were actually wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked? Do we need to do as the Lord directed them and anoint our eyes with eye salve so that we can see clearly?
I was leaning toward the Pacific salmon, but the waiter was really trying to sell me on the Alaskan halibut. After he recited all accolades of the taste and texture, he began to expound on how fresh it would be. He informed me that the restaurant had an agreement with the supplier that guaranteed that the halibut would be in their kitchen within thirty-six hours of the time that it was pulled from the sea. Well, that prompted me to question how long the salmon had be out of the water. Without a pause in his cadence, he answered, “About a day and a half.” I politely refrained from laughing out loud and ordered the salmon.
Ironically, our whole lives are full of those moments when we can’t distinguish between six and a half dozen. For instance, if someone cuts us off in traffic, we instantly “lay on the horn.” Well, if it was rude for him to change lanes at short notice without a signal, why is it not rude for us to blast him with our horn? I guess it it is all a matter of the little adage I learned as a child about the pot that called the kettle black. It is easier to see other’s faults when we totally ignore that we have much the same–and usually, much worse–problems.
Jesus asked, “Why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but perceivest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Either how canst thou say to thy brother, Brother, let me pull out the mote that is in thine eye, when thou thyself beholdest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, cast out first the beam out of thine own eye, and then shalt thou see clearly to pull out the mote that is in thy brother’s eye.”
The Passion Week began with what we know of as the Triumphant Entry when Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey. The celebration that day was birthed out of the banquet in honor of Lazarus’ having been raised from the dead; however, there was a sinister undertone to the whole event as the religious leaders of the day actually began to concoct a plot to kill both Jesus and Lazarus; they wanted to get rid of not only the Messiah but also the evidence of His miraculous power. A couple interesting truths concerning this episode in Jesus’ life can be gleaned by looking back at the prophecies concerning it. First, the proclamations the people were shouting that day came form the Hallel Hymns, passages from the Psalms which were sung during the time of the slaying of the Passover lambs–something more than a mere coincidence! It is this section of scripture which included the statement about the stone which the builders rejected, a clear prophecy that Jesus was to be rejected but later recognized as the Messiah. When the religious leaders tried to convince Jesus to stop the people from proclaiming His praises, He quoted part of Psalm 8:2 which goes on to declare that the praise out of the mouth of babes and sucklings stills the enemy and avenger, indicating that Jesus realized that this event was a spiritual conflict, not just an impromptu celebration. Of course, the very passage that the whole event is predicted by is Zechariah 9:9 which declares that the one who comes on the donkey will be the king. Even as the people were plotting His death, they were paving the way for Him to become the Everlasting Ruler!
The story of Jesus’ ride into Jerusalem on the donkey during the Triumphant Entry is really a case study into the condition of the heart of man. Paradoxically, even the ones who so joyously acclaimed Him wound up calling for Him to be crucified just a few short days later. When He entered into the temple, Jesus was confronted by the Pharisees and the Herodians who had teamed up to try to trick Him with the question about paying taxes. Next came the Sadducees who tried to test Him with the question about the resurrection. Following them was the lawyer who attempted to trap Him with a question about the greatest of the commandments. None of these were legitimate questions; rather they were all well orchestrated attempts to catch Jesus in His own words. The revelation of the perverseness of the human hearts led Jesus to stop and look over the city with a broken heart crying, “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, how oft I would have gathered you under my wings but you would not…If only you had known the day of your visitation…” He then gave what we have come to know as the Olivet Discourse in which He predicted the city’s destruction and the signs of the end of the world as we know it–the Great Tribulation and Armageddon. Interestingly enough, when we continue our study of these eschatological events, we find Jesus again mounted on the back of a horse–only this time it a white stallion, not a humble donkey. (Revelation 19:11-16) Because men hardened their hearts against the humble messenger on the donkey, He will return on His conqueror’s steed to judge their wicked hearts.
The huge rock had sat in plain view on roadside geological display for some seventy years before it was moved to the Morrison (CO) Natural History Museum where it sat in plain view for another couple years until one day a museum curator decided to take his lunch break next to the exhibit. While casually glancing at the boulder between bites of his sandwich, something happened to catch his eye. On closer examination, he realized that he had made a significant paleontological discovery–a set of tiny footprints from a baby dinosaur. How many eyes had looked at the rock but not seen its unique treasure? A man paid seventy-five cents each for a stack of old glass photographic plates in garage sale. He later discovered that these plates may be the negatives of some of the photographs by the famous photographer Ansel Adams. If further studies prove his discover, his plates will be worth many thousands of dollars each. Of course, that garage sale bargain is negligible to the man who bought an old painting for three dollars to find that behind the matting of the picture was a priceless copy of the Declaration of Independence. I was in a meeting when the speaker was throwing out samples of items from his book table. I looked down for just a second, only to be hit in the head by a t-shirt he had tossed my direction. When someone else grabbed it, I decided that I should keep my focus on what was happening. In the very next service, I caught book that made a curve-ball turn and came directly to me.
The moral of the story is to always pay attention to what is right in front of you–otherwise, you may miss some of God’s greatest surprise blessings.
In John 16:7, Jesus said that it was expedient for us that He should go away because unless He left, the Holy Spirit could not come. The word “expedient” means fitting or proper. In other words, it was a good thing for Jesus to leave–and the reason that it was good for Him to leave was so that the Holy Spirit could come.
What is the advantage of having the Holy Spirit? The first thing that Jesus said was that He would work in conviction or cross-examination. (John 16:8) Cross examination is when the attorney asks questions about the same event in a way to elicit a whole new set of answers and a way of looking at the issue. This is like what Jesus did when He wrote in the sand as the woman was being tried for adultery. The Holy Spirit does exactly the same thing in our lives by giving us God’s perspective on issues so that we can soar about the limited human vantage point. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:9)
Probably the next most important advantage of having the Holy Spirit in our lives is that He gives us the ability to bear the fruit of the spirit. (Galatians 5:22-23) In the same way that you are not attracted to an apple tree until it has fruit on it, people are not attracted to us until we start to bear the fruit of the spirit.
Of greatest significance is the Holy Spirit’s ability to help us live above sin. (Galatians 5:16) Wow, what a promise! It doesn’t matter whether you speak in tongues if you still lie in English or if you fall out in the Spirit if you still stand in the way of sinners when you get up!
Have you ever noticed that our society identifies sex with fire? We speak of sizzling sex, sexual things as being flashy and dazzling, sexual encounters as steamy, and women–and even guys–as being hot, maybe even red hot. But believe it or not, such terminology wasn’t invented by Sex in the City or even television at all for that matter. It actually goes all the way back to the Bible. Close to three thousand years ago, Solomon wrote, “Can a man take fire in his bosom, and his clothes not be burned? Can one go upon hot coals, and his feet not be burned? So he that goeth in to his neighbour’s wife; whosoever toucheth her shall not be innocent.” (Proverbs 6:27-29) He made his analogy even more dramatic in the next chapter when he wrote about the prostitute’s house as the way to hell, going down to the chambers of death. (verse 27)
Notice the contrast when he speaks of the sexual relationship within marriage. Instead of fire, he likens it to refreshing water–a symbol that was especially powerful in the desert land of Israel. “Drink waters out of thine own cistern, and running waters out of thine own well. Let thy fountains be dispersed abroad, and rivers of waters in the streets. Let them be only thine own, and not strangers’ with thee. Let thy fountain be blessed: and rejoice with the wife of thy youth. Let her be as the loving hind and pleasant roe; let her breasts satisfy thee at all times; and be thou ravished always with her love. And why wilt thou, my son, be ravished with a strange woman, and embrace the bosom of a stranger? For the ways of man are before the eyes of the LORD, and he pondereth all his goings.” (Proverbs 5:15-21)
I was sitting patiently in an airport waiting for my flight when the little guy in a nearby chair looked up and asked me, “Are you a nice man?” After a bit of a chuckle, I responded, “Well, I certainly hope so. I do try to be.” That little conversation reminded me of another incident with a little guy on a street corner in Washington, DC. It was very early on a Saturday morning so there were none of the weekday workers traveling and most of the tourists hadn’t make it out onto the streets yet, so you could look a mile in every direction and see no oncoming traffic. I came to the crosswalk at the same time as did a family with a couple young children plus one in a stroller. In the absence of any cars on the road, we all stepped off the sidewalk and just kept walking across the street ignoring the fact that the “don’t walk” sign was illuminated. Just then, the little boy–well, man–insisted, “Stop! The light’s not green!” We all jumped back up onto the curb and waited for the light to change and all non-existent traffic to clear.
At times like these, we’re reminded that what little ears hear does make a difference. The boy in the airport had been taught not to talk to strangers because they might not be nice men, and the little guy at the crosswalk had learned his lesson well concerning crossing streets. Perhaps that is the reason that Jesus asks us to be like children in order to receive the kingdom of God (Luke 18:17) and why He is so protective of these little ones (Matthew 18:6, 10, 14) “Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings thou hast perfected praise.” (Matthew 21:16)
I spend a lot of my time in countries which seem to make it toward the top of the list of governments known for human rights abuse. When I see how the poor people of these nations suffer under the hand of the dictatorial governments, it challenges me to try to understand how these precious people should respond to their situation. I often think of the illustration that Jesus gave with a coin when He was asked if the people should pay taxes to Rome. His simple answer was to show them the image on the coin and tell them to give the coin to the one whose image it bore. The more challenging part of His response was that they should give to God whatever bore His image. What Jesus did was to get the people to see the bigger picture. Throughout the Bible there were those who lived under oppressive governments but saw the bigger picture–what God was doing for eternity through the temporary governments. Joseph and Daniel were taken to Egypt and Babylon as slaves, yet they both prophesied their way to places of great influence. Esther was nothing more than a sexual toy in the king’s harem, but she submitted to the embarrassment and humiliation, knowing that God had placed her in exactly the right place at exactly the right time. These men and women in these oppressive nations may never rise to places of political power, but their presence is salt and light in these hurting nations and their prayers certainly change things. “I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty.” (I Timothy 2:1-2)
We often say that money is power, but we also feel that knowledge is power. The Wizard of Oz is just one example of how a man with no real power was able to appear essentially omnipotent because of his knowledge. But the real truth is that power does not reside in your brain nor in your pocketbook. It resides in your heart.
Take King David for example. He gained his position as leader of the nation because God looked at his heart and liked what He saw. (I Samuel 16:7) On the other hand, David fell from his position because God judged his heart after he had allowed it to become corrupted. (II Samuel 12:7-15–esp. 12, see also Luke 12:2-3 & Romans 2:16) The glory of the story is that he was restored to his position because God cleansed his heart. (Psalm 51–esp. 10, see also Isaiah 1:18) David was subsequently preserved in his position because God honored the guard he placed on his heart. (Psalms 119:11 and 139:23, see also Proverbs 4:23)
In Ephesians 3:20, Paul speaks of the power that works in us. This passage follows up his teaching on love in the two previous verses in which he makes the statement concerning knowing the love of Christ, which passes knowledge as we are filled with all the fullness of God. If we also remember what he said in Romans 5:5 concerning the fact that the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts, it seems obvious that the power he is taking about that is working in us is the love of God that has taken residence in our hearts. If we want real power, we will find it only in our hearts and only when the love of God has its rightful place of authority there.
We’ve all heard it said, “Like father, like son.” I’m certain that this is true, but it is equally, if not more so, true that sons are made by their mothers. Mothers change the future of their children and then change the future through their children.
Jocabed was a woman of courage who produced Moses, a man of courage. (Exodus 2:1-9) Hannah was a woman of determination who produced Samuel, a man of determination. Even when Eli’s sons were wicked, he was determined to be righteous. (I Samuel 1:1-28) Eunice was a woman of vision who produced Timothy, a man of vision. (II Timothy 1:5, II Timothy 2:2) Mary was a woman of obedience who produced Jesus, a man of obedience. (Luke 1:28-30, Philippians 2:8) Sarah was a woman of faith who produced Isaac, a man of faith. (Hebrews 11:11) Lemuel’s mother was a woman of wisdom who produced a wise king. (Proverbs 31:1) A prostitute who appeared before King Solomon was a woman of love who produced a son which was probably a man of love. (I Kings 3:16-27)
Mothers can have positive or negative influences. We have to make certain that our heritage is of the spiritual mother, not the mother of carnality. “…Abraham had two sons, the one by a bondmaid, the other by a freewoman. But he who was of the bondwoman was born after the flesh; but he of the freewoman was by promise…Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are the children of promise…So then, brethren, we are not children of the bondwoman, but of the free.” (Galatians 4:22-31)
I recently heard of a man who had a pacemaker installed. Afterwards he commented that he might have been able to have avoided the surgery had he had a peacemaker installed several years prior.
Peace is an almost universal prayer from the apostles for the churches and individuals under their care. Paul opens every one of his letters with the request that the recipients would experience peace. (Romans 1:7, I Corinthians 1:3, II Corinthians 1:2, Galatians 1:3, Ephesians 1:2, Philippians 1:2, Colossians 1:2, I Thessalonians 1:1, II Thessalonians 1:2, I Timothy 1:2, II Timothy 1:2, Titus 1:4, Philemon 1:3) Both John and Jude echo this request (II John 1:3, Revelation 1:4, Jude 1:2), while Peter expands it by calling for the recipients of his letters to have peace multiplied toward them. (I Peter 1:2, II Peter 1:2) According to Acts 10:36, the whole focus of Jesus’ earthly ministry was to preach peace–a statement that was verified by one of His last words to the disciples, “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you.” (John 14:27) The scriptures clearly instruct us to pray for the peace of Jerusalem. (Psalm 122:6)
I can vividly remember my college days when the “Peace Movement” swept through the college campuses of America like a tornado. I will never forget the one “peace” rally at which I heard one “peacenic” threaten to set the campus ablaze–a really peaceful move as best I could tell. He was seeking the kind of peace the world gives–the absence of tension. But he was missing the kind of peace that Jesus give–the presence of righteousness.
We often say that money is power. Without it, we are disenfranchised and powerless. I have had an number of situations when I found myself without it and was, therefore, powerless. On a couple occasions in India, I was stranded in places where I ran out of rupees and could not change my American currency. I remember sitting on the platform of a train station feeling very at home with the beggar who shared my spot. In the state of Kashmir, I was embarrassed to not even have enough local currency to buy a glass of juice and had to accept the hospitality of a stranger. On another occasion, I gave away all my money in the airport, but discovered that I was not able to board flight. That meant that I was stranded in India for the next seven days with no money. You can imagine how powerless I felt that whole week. One time, I arrived in Rwanda on the weekend when I could not get any money changed. Because my baggage had not made it with me, I was stuck with no change of clothes and no was to get any new ones for several days. Not wanting to wear the same clothes I had worn for two days on the plane, I had to swallow my pride and accept hand-outs from strangers to make it through the weekend. Another experience left me on the side of the road with only fifty cents in my pocket when my car was totaled in an accident near Baltimore. Fortunately, the other people in the accident took me to dinner and then on to my destination. But looking back at these situations, I can say with all assurance that no matter how powerless I might have felt at the time, my real power was not money–I didn’t have any of it! My power was the presence of the Lord who cares for me.
Bah, bah black sheep have you any wool?
Yes, sir. Yes, sir. Three bags full. One for the master, one for the dame, and one for the little boy who lives in the lane.
Remember that nursery rhyme from your childhood? My guess is that you are just as puzzled as I am concerning its origin and meaning, but today I want to look at it from a little different perspective–not what it actually means, but what it could possibly mean.
I have no idea if the creator of the rhyme intended to infuse any meaning into the fact that he called the sheep black, a common expression for a misfit; but I’d like to suggest that it adds meaning to the story since this misfit is showing responsibility equal to, if not exceeding, that of the normal flock. Jesus taught us that it would be the misfits of society (prostitutes, tax collectors, and gentiles) who would make up the kingdom of God while some of the religious looking and acting folks would be left outside. Notice that the sheep was diligent to be generous to his master. In the church world, we see this symbolic of taking care of the pastor. In fact, there is even a bit of advice that I give to pastors, “If you feed the flock, you can ask for the wool, but not fleece them.” Beyond his generosity to the master, he also is generous to the dame, or the master’s wife. I see this as the double honor spoken of in I Timothy 5:17–a blessing so generous to the pastor that his wife and family recognize the generosity of the sheep. Finally, there is a bag of wool for the little boy who lives in the lane, symbolic of the homeless and under-privileged–the true proof of the heart touched by Jesus.
After the goosebumps have faded, there are many significant benefits to having the Holy Spirit in our lives. One of the really important aspects is that He gives us assurance in our prayers and decisions. (Romans 8:26-28) He also gives us boldness in our witnessing and lives in general. (Acts 4:31) On the top of the list as far as I’m concerned is His guidance–especially in life’s important decisions, but in our daily lives well. (John 16:13) Of course we must not overlook the fact that His main objective is to glorify Jesus–something that I am pleased to let Him do through my life. (John 16:14)
One major factor that Paul stressed was the Holy Spirit’s role in bringing us revelation of who we are in Christ and who Christ is in us. (Ephesians 1:16-19, I Corinthians 1:9-10) It is the Holy Spirit who sees that the love of God is implanted into our hearts (Romans 5:5) and that the kingdom of God is birthed inside us (Romans 14:17). The Holy Spirit declares the fact that we have been adopted by God. (Romans 8:16) He also helps us overcome our weaknesses in prayer (Romans 8:26), and He strengthens and empowers us (I Corinthians 14:4, Jude 20, Acts 1:8)
My advice–and Jesus’ directive as well–is that we should have the American Express attitude concerning the Holy Spirit, “Don’t leave home without it.” (Luke 24:49) We have a job to do, but we can’t do it without Holy Spirit. As great as education and organization may be, they won’t do the job any more than the best power tools without an extension cord!
In the book of Philippians, Paul emphasized joy. He uses the word “rejoice” ten times (verses 1:18; 2:16, 17, 18, 28; 3:1, 3; 4:4) and the word “joy” six times (verses 1:4, 25: 2:2, 17, 18; 4:1) in the short four-chapter book. He could write to the church about practicing praise and rejoicing in the midst of persecution because that is exactly the way he lived and was actually the foundation of his ministry in the city of Philippi.
The story of Paul’s prison “P”s in the Philippian penitentiary is recorded in Acts chapter 16. Notice how each step is characterized with a word starting with “P.”
Prison Verses 23-24
Praise Verse 25
Provision Verse 26
Protection Verses 27-28
Pentance Verses 29-30
Promise Verse 31
Preaching Verse 32
Purging Verse 33
Purging of wounds with water
Purging of sins with baptism
Party Verses 34
Proposition Verses 35-36
Privileges Verses 37-39
Parting Verse 40
His praise and rejoicing precipitated in his deliverance and the salvation of the jailer and his whole family, not to mention the multiplication growth that eventually produced a great parish in Philippi.
Someone once said that a paradox is two places to moor your boat (a pair ’o docks). Well, I don’t know about that, but I have seen a lot of things in life that are truly paradoxes. For instance, the state with the highest number of terrorist targets is down-home Indiana. Of course, when you include such places as the Amish Country Popcorn Factory, it probably doesn’t take long to add up to the 8,591 potential targets listed within the state’s borders.
But life actually has much more significant paradoxes than this. The greatest paradoxes are found in the spiritual realm where we learn such things as:
“But many that are first shall be last; and the last first.” (Mark 10:31)
“But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant.” (Matthew 23:11)
“For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.” (Matthew 16:25)
“Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18:4)
“And I, if I be lifted up from the earth (crucified), will draw all men unto me.” (John 12:32)
“Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ.” (Acts 2:36)
“For whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance: but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that he hath.” (Matthew 13:12)
Yogi Berra once said, “We’re lost, but we’re making good time.” That’s the way most of us live life, rushing headlong toward the unknown. We don’t know where we are going, but we are wasting no time getting there. We’ve laid plans for our lives, but we have no certainty that these plans will really work since we cannot predict what lies around the corner. As Robert Burns wrote in To a Mouse, “The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry.”
Either Solomon was getting a bit senile or he was distracted by those seven hundred wives and three hundred girl friends or he just thought that it was such an important point that he thought he should make it twice, knowing that most of us wouldn’t catch it on the first time round. At any rate he wrote, “There is a way which seems right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death,” in Proverbs 14:12 and then repeated the exact advice a couple chapters later in Proverbs 16:25. A more modern proverb which makes much the same point goes, “Want to make God laugh? Tell Him your plans.” We all have our own plans, but the problem with them is that they are based on a very limited scope of vision. We cannot see what is waiting for us down the road. God, on the other hand, will never be surprised or caught off guard by anything that happens. He declared, “I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure.” (Isaiah 46:9-10) Since He knows the future–in fact, He even orchestrated it–if we follow His plan, we will be walking into the future along a path that leads to life rather than death.
In many parts of the world, merchants do not have price tags on the items for sale. When you see something that you’d like to have, you ask how much he wants for it and then begin a haggling contest to see how much you can get him to come down. The thing that I’ve learned about this barter system from my many experiences in places like India where this is the accepted practice is that the merchant isn’t happy unless you give him a real “run for his money.” If you take his first price, then he walks away from the deal with a few extra rupees in his pocket but also with the feeling that he should have asked more since you were such an easy target. If you really press a hard deal, he walks away knowing that he has wrangled every cent possible out of you. In other words, if you give in too soon neither you or he are happy because you probably paid too much and he is certain that he got too little. The moral of the story is, don’t give in too quickly.
This same principle applies to our spiritual lives. I’m not implying that we have to barter a deal with God; my point is that we too often accept too little when God is ready to give us more. On many occasions when I’ve prayed with people for healing and asked them if they could tell any difference they have replied, “It’s better.” When I remind them that Jesus didn’t take stripes on His back for us to be better but for us to be healed, they have decided to expect more–and they always receive more! Dr. Lester Sumrall used to always say that the problem with the church is that we are too soon satisfied. Ask yourself today if there is more that you should be receiving from God. If so don’t be satisfied until you receive it!
Every time we had a cool snap in the middle of the summer or an unseasonably warm day in the middle of the winter, my grandmother would always say, “It’s a sign that the Lord is coming back soon because the Bible says that in the last days you won’t be able to tell summer from winter.” No matter how many times we tried to tell her that this particular omen wasn’t included in the list of signs of the end, we were never able to convince her. Likewise, every time we hear about natural catastrophes such as earthquakes, cyclones, hurricanes, and tsunamis, there are prognosticators who surface to predict that the end is near. Of course, all it takes is a report of the widespread decline in morality, the onslaught of the global AIDS epidemic, or the increase in the crime rate for church people to start panicking over the impending doomsday. Global warming and the failing economy, not to even mention politics (including elections in the US and despots in power around the world) are also great fodder for apocalyptic forecasts.
Unfortunately, we seem to constantly overlook one of the very signs that Jesus Himself listed, “Then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another…then shall the end come.” (Matthew 24:3-14) It seems that as we keep surveying the whole world for signs of the end, we have failed to look into our own hearts to see if we are indicators of His imminent return. Someone recently said that the spirit of offense is so omnipresent in the church that it seems to have become the legal drug of Christians.
“I exercise myself, to have always a conscience void of offence toward God, and toward men.” (Acts 24:16)
Someone once said that the shortest distance between two points is always under construction. We can certainly see this principle at work in the story of Joseph’s dreams. In his case, he had major run-in with Murphy’s Law, “Anything that can go wrong will.” He started off at point A with a couple dreams that promised him a bright future, but then he wound up in a pit, followed by being sold as a slave which took him to a strange land where he wound up in prison. Finally, he had a chance to be released, but the guy holding his “get out of jail” card forgot to play it for a couple years. Ultimately he made it to point B when he was released from prison and instated as second in command of the kingdom, but he had been through a lot of bumps in the road and over some amazingly deep potholes in the meantime.
How did he make it? The same way we all make it through the construction zones of our lives. He never gave up on the goal he had in mind. If you ladies are headed to the outlet mall or you guys headed toward your favorite fishing hole, there is no amount of construction that can deter you–detour maybe, but definitely not deter! The same has to be true with the life goals we have set for ourselves–and especially for the ones that we feel have been set for us by God. Joseph realized that his destiny was not of his own making, but that the dreams were actually God’s mandate for him; therefore, nothing was going to stop him from getting through the construction zone to his goal. He summed up his hardships in life as, “God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive.” (Genesis 50:20)
Ephesians 4:11 enumerates the five different ministers which Christ has set in the Body of Christ to bless the church. However, many of us have difficulty even recognizing who these different ministers are much less knowing how to draw upon their ministries to best benefit our spiritual lives. The apostle is a man or woman whom God has given a special heart for a certain area and he or she becomes a pioneer who forges into this area to establish the Kingdom of God in that area. Generally we think of this as a geographical area such as a certain city or country; however, it could be a certain arena of activity such as technology, sports, entertainment, business, education, government, or military. The prophet is a minister whom God has given a special heart for the church in general. He or she sees the direction that the Lord wants the church to move in and will speak out to show the way and intercede so that others will also catch the vision. The evangelist is an individual with a special heart for the lost. He or she will do whatever it takes to see that the unsaved are presented with the message of God’s grace. The pastor is the one who has been given a special heart for the sheep of a specific flock. He or she will, like a good shepherd, lay down his or her life for those sheep. The teacher is the one who has a genuine heart for the truth. He or she loves to communicate truth, regardless of the audience. This person knows what God is saying and is eager to be His mouthpiece.
Once we recognize who these individuals are and what their orientation is, we need to submit ourselves to their ministries to receive the benefits as needed.
When Peggy and I attended the orientation meeting for a group of people who were planning a mission trip to Africa, we were the “new kids on the block” since the others had already met a couple times to discuss the trip. As we went around the room for introductions, I especially took note of one gentleman who introduced himself as “Prophet Bob.” As the discussions progressed that afternoon, Peggy and I began to sense a real uncertainty among the group. Finally Peggy asked everyone to just put their cards on the table, “Who is really committed to going on this mission trip?” One by one, they each began to explain that they wanted to but were unsure. When we got to “Prophet Bob,” he explained that he was going if God provided the money. It was all I could do to restrain myself from blurting out, “Well, if you are a prophet, then why don’t you prophesy as to whether He is going to give you the money or not!” It turned out that neither “Prophet Bob” nor anyone else in that room other than the mission organizer and Peggy and I actually wound up in Africa.
The problem with “Prophet Bob,” most of the people in that room, and a major portion of the Body of Christ is that we really don’t know who we are and so we make up our own identities–not too unlike school girls who put on grown-up makeup long before they are ready and schoolboys who walk around looking macho when they are still developing a few muscles. Perhaps we could all take some good advice from Dr. Lester Sumrall who said that we shouldn’t wear tags–just live our lives and let others decide how to label us. He pointed out that a banana tree doesn’t wear a label, it just produces bananas.
I recently heard of an experiment in which ice crystals were frozen while being exposed to different sounds. According to the report, the ice crystals which froze while harsh, angry sounds were blasted toward them formed distorted figures while the ones which froze while exposed to gentle, soothing sounds formed symmetrically and orderly. This experiment simply goes one step further into research which has been going on for decades. It has been well documented that plants which are grown under the sound of classical music are healthy and develop well while plants exposed to rock and roll music grow to be crooked and malformed. If these reports are to be believed, we can learn something about the power of our words.
To me the development of the plants is not too surprising since they are living things, and we can understand that live is influenced by sound and rhythm. If it works in plants which have life so they can be effected by music but do not have intelligence to analyze the meaning of the sounds, imagine how powerful our words can be to other humans who do have reasoning power. This why Paul directs us, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.” (Colossians 3:16) The amazing thing is that even the non-living ice crystals are influenced by the power of sound. This means that we can use our words to change everything that effects us. “Death and life are in the power of the tongue: and they that love it shall eat the fruit thereof.” (Proverbs 18:21)
Although Paul had many achievements and a lifetime of accolades to boast of, he discredited everything for only one attainment–the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus. His goal in life was to be found in Him with only the righteousness which is of God by faith, desiring to know Him and the power of His resurrection. (Philippians 3:8-11) This was not just his prayer for himself but also his constant intercession for the saints–that they would have the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him so that the eyes of their understanding would be enlightened so that they could comprehend the mighty power available to them because of Christ’s resurrection. (Ephesians 1:16-23)
Notice how prominently the resurrection plays into the ministry of the apostles in the book of Acts: they were called witnesses of the resurrection (1:22, 4:33); their sermons were centered around the theme (2:31, 23:6, 24:15); they were singled out from the other religious leaders of the time because of this teaching (4:2, 17:18, 17:32, 24:21).
My question is, “Do we really see the resurrection as the central focus of our faith today?” Oh, certainly we celebrate the resurrection every Easter, but do we see it as the main–no, only–defining characteristic of our faith and spiritual lives? Is our Christianity just a way of life that brings us to a better day-to-day existence because we follow a good moral standard, or is it a victoriously overcoming life founded on the fact that Jesus Christ came up out of the tomb with victory over death, hell, and the grave–a victory that He then passed on to us?
We all know that patience is a virtue, but did you realize that it is actually listed thirty-three times in the New Testament?
It is listed as a key to bringing forth fruit. (Luke 8:15) It is necessary if we want to possess, or take charge of, our souls (our very lives). (Luke 21:19) It is the means by which we take the disappointment out of tribulation. (Romans 5:3-5) It is the avenue that leads to likemindedness in the Body of Christ. (Romans 15:5) It is one of the ways we prove ourselves as worthy ministers. (II Corinthians 6:4) Patience is an apostolic sign listed right along side of mighty works, signs, and wonders. (II Corinthians 12:12) It is necessary for inheriting the promises of God. (Hebrews 6:12, 10:36) Right along side of laying aside sin, it is considered a key ingredient in running a successful spiritual race. (Hebrews 12:1) It will bring us to the place that we are perfect and entire, wanting nothing. (James 1:4) Also identified as “long suffering,” patience is the additional key with a good conscience that keeps us from making shipwreck of our faith. (I Timothy 1:16-19)
Patience is what works in the White House Christmas tree for many decades as it prepares for one short season of glory on the nation’s front lawn. In the same way, patience is the necessary ingredient in our lives as we go through our years of preparation for our appointed time of ministry.
There is a joke that helps us understand the life and commitment of a true missionary. When a fly would land in his rice during the first month that he was on the field, he would throw the whole bowl away. During the second month, he threw out only the handful of rice that the fly had actually touched. By the time he had been on the field for three months, he was picking out the fly and taking all the rice. When the fourth month rolled around, he had decided to mix in the fly to add a bit of protein to his diet. The fifth month found him picking out the fly and discarding the rice in favor of the non-veggie morsel!
To me this dietary progression speaks of the various levels we may go through in our missions involvement.
The M in “mission” speaks of the initial level of involvement–giving money to support others who go.
The I stands for the next level of involvement, intercession for the workers and the ones they are reaching.
The first S speaks of service, such as helping raise funds or supplies to send to the workers on the field.
The second S represents short-term mission trips to visit the field and get acquainted first-hand with the work.
The next I leads us to the next level, internship on the field–spending a year of so in the trenches getting to know what it’s really like eating flies.
The O represents living on the field with the people–the step where you change your mailing address, learn their language, and raise your family among them.
The N speaks of the final goal of all missions, nationalization–the process of turning the work over to locals who have been trained and equipped.
In a small Texas town, a new tavern started a building to house their business. The local Baptist church started a campaign of petitions and prayers to block the bar from opening. Work progressed, however, right up until the week before opening. This is when a lightning strike hit the bar and burned it to the ground. The church folks were rather smug in their outlook after that–that is until the bar owner sued the church on the grounds that the church was ultimately responsible for the demise of his building, either through direct or indirect actions or means. The church vehemently denied all responsibility or any connection to the building’s demise in its reply to the court.
When the case made its way into court, the judge looked over the paperwork. At the hearing he commented, “I don’t know how I’m going to decide this, but as it appears from the paperwork, we have a bar owner who believes in the power of prayer, and an entire church congregation who doesn’t.”
I doubt that the congregation didn’t believe in their prayers; rather, they just didn’t want to take responsibility for them. I think that this is often the way we Christians live. When God does things the way we think that He ought to, we are quick to step forward and claim credit for being part of the faith movement that brought it about; however, if God does something different from the way we would have chosen to solve the problem, we don’t want to have any part in it. Remember the exodus from Egypt: the people rejoiced when Moses announced that he was going to lead them out, but they murmured every time things didn’t go so smoothly for them.
Have you ever thought of Caleb and Joshua’s forty years in the desert with the rest of the people of Israel? Out of all the spies who surveyed the Promised Land, they were the only ones who came back to Moses and the congregation of the Israel with a positive report. They were men of true faith who reported that they were well able to take the land. Unfortunately, they were hindered for a full forty years because of other people’s unbelief. Sometimes we experience delays in what we want to do for God, not because of our disobedience or unbelief, but because of the people who surround us.
I remember on one of our mission trips that we had a real financial struggle and eventually had to put part of the expenses on our credit card to pay off later. Long after our return, a lady came up to my wife with an offering and an apology, “I felt to give you this before your last trip but never got around to it.” Had she been immediately obedient, she could have saved us much trouble and concern. Certainly, the Lord proved Himself faithful in that all the money came in and the credit card was paid off, but the delay in the lady’s obedience created a few bumps in the road as we were getting there.
When Moses was building the Tabernacle, the instructions were simple, “Take…an offering (from) whosoever is of a willing heart.” (Exodus 35:5) The results were so overwhelming that Exodus 36:5-7 records that Moses had to ask the people to stop giving because he had too much! Here is a great truth, if we have willing hearts, we can readily advance the kingdom of God; otherwise, we can delay the good that God wants to do.
Did you hear the story about the Sunday school teacher who asked her children why it is necessary to be quiet in church? It seems that one bright little girl replied, “Because people are sleeping.” Actually, we often associate silence with worship, mostly based on a couple verses. “Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth,” (Psalm 63:10) and “For thus saith the Lord GOD, the Holy One of Israel; In returning and rest shall ye be saved; in quietness and in confidence shall be your strength: and ye would not” (Isaiah 30:15). However, both of these verses are taken out of context if interpreted to refer to worship services. The passage from Psalms talks about the raging of the heathen and makes a contrast with the quiet confidence God’s people can exhibit toward Him. The Isaiah passage is in context of the people’s determination to make treaties with ungodly nations in an attempt to find political and military security. God says that they are loud and boisterous as they clamber for these treaties. On the other hand, they could quietly show their trust in God without having to chase after ambassadors and statesmen of pagan nations. In actuality, most of the passages about praise and worship indicate a lively spirit of celebration when we come together to honor our God. “Sing unto him a new song; play skilfully with a loud noise.” (Psalm 33:3) “Make a joyful noise unto the LORD, all the earth: make a loud noise, and rejoice, and sing praise.” (Psalm 98:4) “Praise him upon the loud cymbals: praise him upon the high sounding cymbals.” (Psalm 150:5) Sounds like it might be a bit hard to sleep in these services.
When I went to work for Dr. Lester Sumrall, I was actually his second choice. Another dean had actually been hired. He had better credentials than mine: and he had years of experience, while I was just out of seminary. But he canceled out on the contract at the last minute, leaving only one candidate in the running late in the season. My introduction to ministry in the African nation of Rwanda came in much the same way. A guest speaker canceled at the last minute, leaving the conference host with no one to fill the void. In a telephone conversation with one of my students, he learned that I was actually on my way to Kenya, the neighboring country, and contacted me about filling in. When I was directed to go to Nepal, my original contact had to back out due to having another foreign guest at the same time. He did meet me at the airport, but suggested that I connect with an alternate host, who eventually became one of my closest friends and the director of our mission work in Nepal. My ministry in Sri Lanka was based on another second-hand–well, in this case, third-hand–contact. When the young man who originally invited me to the country left to go to college in India, he made arrangements for someone else to host me on my initial visit. That person wound up with a previous commitment and passed me off to a third person. The result was a life-long friendship and ministry.
The message I see in all these events is that we should never be discouraged if things don’t work out as we would hope. God always has a better plan. Even if we try it our way first, He’s still willing to show us the perfect program if we just keep at it.
An old gentleman was watching some birds which had gathered in his back yard during a terrible blizzard. He could tell that they were soon to freeze to death because there was no shelter for them. As they huddled close to one other to share body heat, he wanted to bring them into his house where a roaring fire provided ample warmth. At first, he tried tossing bread crumbs to entice them toward his door. Unfortunately, they wouldn’t dare come near his house. Then he shoveled a path through the snow, hoping that they would feel confident in the clearing. This approach didn’t help either. Exasperated in his repeated failed attempts, he muttered to himself, “If only I could become a bird, I could go out there and tell them how to come inside to save their lives!”
This is exactly what God has done for us–He became one of us so He could bring us to Himself and salvation. But in addition to becoming part of the human family to redeem us, He offered for us to become part of His family so that we could inherit the benefits of that redemption. He has an incredible inheritance available but must have a legitimate means by which to pass it on; therefore, He has adopted us into His household and made us His legal heirs. This means that everything that belongs to God is rightfully ours. Since God possesses righteousness, so do we. Since He possesses divine health and healing, so do we. Since He possesses joy, so do we. Since He possesses prosperity, so do we. Since He possesses eternal life, so do we. We only need to stop huddling in the blizzard and enter the Father’s house to take our places as rightful heirs.
One particular professor was very demanding in his requirements and expectations of his students. One of his assignments was a research paper which required an incredible amount of work. When one of his students finally completed the assignment and turned it in, he was terribly apprehensive about how the professor would grade it. After waiting “on pins and needles” for several days, the student received the paper back. As he flipped through page after page, he saw no red marks. Finally, he came to the back page to find only one comment from the austere professor, “Is this the best you can do?” Immediately, the student went to work revising and reworking the paper. After burning the midnight oil for a couple nights, he anxiously returned to the professor’s office to resubmit the paper. Again he nervously awaited his results. Again, he received the paper back with no comments except the terse note on the last page, “Is this the best you can do?” Again, he rewrote the paper and turned it in only to get it back with the same note. After three or four revisions, the student was so angry that he barged into the professor’s office and slammed the paper on his desk with the exclamation, “Yes, this is the best I can do!” The professor looked up and with little emotion replied, “Good, then I’ll read this one.” Although God is nothing like an austere, demanding professor, we can learn a little lesson form this story. Our spiritual lives and acceptance by God are not earned by our good works, but the moral of this story can be a lesson that we should never use the grace of God as an excuse to just “get by” when we should always strive to excel with every gift He has given us
There’s an interesting threesome in the New Testament: Paul, Barnabas, and John Mark. Barnabas, known as the “Son of Consolation,” was the one who introduced Paul to the church leadership because they were all suspicious of this one who had been so adamantly opposed to the gospel. Perhaps they suspected him to be acting as a double agent trying to get inside their ranks as a spy. Eventually, the union between these two men proved so strong that they became missionary partners. Completing the threesome, they invited John Mark, Barnabas’s nephew; however, he proved not to be missionary material according to Paul’s standards and left the group. When Paul and Barnabas set out on their next mission venture, they argued over the inclusion of John Mark and eventually decided to separate over the disagreement. It is rather surprising that they would have experienced such division immediately after God used them in such a powerful way to bring reconciliation at the church council in Jerusalem. (Acts 15) The scriptures never records that Paul and Barnabas ever joined ranks again even though Paul frequently referred to him in his letters, suggesting that there was a reuniting in the spirit even though there may have never been a physical reunion. (I Corinthians 9:6; Galatians 2:1, 9, 13; Colossians 4:10) The really remarkable (no pun intended) part of the story is how the relationship between Paul and John Mark was restored. It was not until Paul was writing II Timothy, one of his last letters, that he realized what was missing in his life since this brother had been ostracized. “He is profitable to me for the ministry.” (verse 4:11)
In Ephesians 2:14-18, Paul discusses what he calls the “middle wall of separation.” In this case it is prejudice between Jews and gentiles; but the principle can apply to any racial, socio-economic, cultural, religious, or personal barriers that divide men. Paul says that Christ Himself has become our peace and has literally abolished the animosity between individuals so that we can now live together in peace. He then concludes that this is only a physical manifestation of what happened in the spiritual realm when Jesus destroyed the barrier of sin which separated us from God. In the parable of a king who forgave one of his subjects a great debt, but the debtor refused to forgive a small debt owed to him by another subject as recorded for us in Matthew 18, we find an additional aspect of this theme. Because the servant refused to forgive in the same way he was forgiven, the lord delivered him to the tormentors and demanded that he repay all of his debt. We see this same theme repeated time and again in scripture. Even in the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus emphasized the point that answered prayer is directly linked to our willingness to forgive those who have offended us. (Matthew 6:14-15) In the powerful teaching on mountain-moving faith in Mark 11:23-26, Jesus concluded the discussion with the admonition that our prayers must be accompanied with forgiveness–getting rid of the divisions between individuals and even entire social groups. The whole book of Philemon is Paul’s attempt to get his friend to forgive Onesimus, a run-away slave who could have legally been put to death. However, the fact that the master had found forgiveness in Christ dictated that he extend the same grace to the young man.
I heard an interesting story several years ago about some folks who came home one day to discover that all their lawn furniture was missing. Several days later, the furniture reappeared, accompanied with a note claiming to be from the thief. In the note, the perpetrator said that he was not a “professional crook” and had only taken the furniture on a whim. He went on to say that he had had a change of heart and stated that he wanted to not only return the furniture but to also repay the family for their inconvenience and anxiety by sending them a new television. He said that the delivery was arranged for the next day and asked that a door be left unlocked so that the delivery crew could get in with the TV. Well, when the couple arrived home that next evening, not only did they find that there was no television in their living room, there was nothing in their living room, or any other room in their house for that matter. Not only had their lawn furniture been taken again, but everything in their home was now gone! The story helps us understand the tactics of our enemy, the devil. He is a thief and a liar who has uses deception to steel his victims “blind.” If we believe even one of his lies, we will open the door to let him into our homes and lives. One of his popular lies is to offer fame, fortune, and fun without telling us that he intends to exact the price of our future in payment. The devil is even willing to “heal” you of diseases which he originally put on your body in exchange for the opportunity to get a stranglehold on your soul–and eventually your spirit man–through requiring that you believe in some occult philosophy to obtain the “healing.” Don’t leave the door unlocked!
Imagine the pride of the father of a newborn son. The young man holds the baby for the very first time and, looking into his firstborn’s wrinkled little face, proclaims, “Son, I believe that you are really going to make a mark in this world. I expect you to succeed and someday actually be listed among the top ten on the FBI’s most wanted list!” Of course not! Instead, we always pronounce high anticipation of good achievements over our children. Then we actually start putting things in motion to make our proclamation possible. We open a college fund to provide for the child’s education, we make regular appointments with the pediatrician to insure that the child’s body is properly cared for, and–interestingly enough–studies show that we actually start attending church more regularly to guarantee that our child’s spiritual life is secure. If we as humans have that instinct, certainly God would never proclaim evil destinies over His creation. If we look at all the passages concerning God’s foreknowledge and predestination, we will find that every one of them is in the context of His anticipation that we would succeed. There is never a hint that He purposely or randomly predestined some to be saved and blessed and others to be lost and damned–as some people teach when considering the doctrines of predestination and God’s sovereignty. Ephesians 1:5, for example says that He has predestinated us unto the adoption of children according to the good pleasure of his will–which isn’t to be on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted List! For further study, please read Jeremiah 29:11, John 3:16-18, Acts 2:23, Romans 9:1-33, Romans 11:2, Ephesians 1:3-14 , I Peter 1:2, and II Peter 3:9.
My family loves the city of Colorado Springs. We have a world of natural beauty all around us; plus, the winters are not nearly as harsh as what we had grown accustomed to in the Midwest. More importantly, it is the place that God has ordained for us at this point in our lives. We have many wonderful friends who have the same desire as us to spread the gospel around the world, and we have incredible opportunities to be ministered to by some of the top leaders in the Christian world; we get to personally meet men that others only see on television.
In contrast, I recently read of a play called “Beautiful City,” which is an anti-Christian spoof on the fact that the city is a mecca for evangelicals. In preparing for the production, the cast spent seven months in the city interviewing over one hundred people to get quotes to use in the script which is mostly quotes from people. It just so happened that they were in town at the time of the Ted Haggard scandal, which gave them some real fodder for their work. Concerning the assignment to come here, one of the cast members is quoted as having said, “I was scared to go there. It was the Hate State. Jesus Springs.” One lady who has never visited our city but saw the play, summed up her feelings about the city, “After seeing the show, yeah, I am a little scared. Would I ever want to live there? Probably not.”
“For we are unto God a sweet savour of Christ, in them that are saved, and in them that perish: To the one we are the savour of death unto death; and to the other the savour of life unto life. (II Corinthians 2:15-16)
One Sunday morning an old biker entered a church in a very upscale and exclusive part of the city. Although the old man and his clothes were spotlessly clean, he wore a leather jacket, jeans, a denim shirt and boots that were worn and ragged. In his hand he carried a worn out old helmet and an equally worn Bible.
As he took a seat, the others moved away from him. No one greeted, spoke to, or welcomed him. They were all appalled at his appearance and did not attempt to hide it. At the end of the service, the pastor approached him and asked the biker to do him a favor. “Before you come back in here again, have a talk with God and ask him what he thinks would be appropriate attire for worship.” The biker assured the preacher that he would.
The next Sunday, he showed back up for the services wearing the same leather jacket, ragged jeans, shirt, boots, and helmet. Once again he was completely shunned and ignored. The minister approached the man and said, “I thought I asked you to speak to God about what to wear in our church.” When the biker replied, “I did,” the preacher sniffed, “If you spoke to God, what did He tell you the proper attire should be for worshipping in this church?”
“Well preacher, God told me that He didn’t have a clue what I should wear because He’d never been in this church.”
August 14th, – What Do We Believe, Anyway?
Younger non-believers typically view Christians in a negative light, such as judgmental (87%), hypocritical (85%), and old-fashioned (78%). Even among young churchgoers, Christianity is seen as judgmental and hypocritical (50%) and old-fashioned and out of touch with reality (33%). Furthermore, studies also indicate that these more open-minded young believers hold views which are radically different from traditional Christian values. Thirty-three percent of young Bible believers support abortion rights, compared to twenty-seven percent of older believers. Forty-seven percent of born-agains under forty-one say that efforts of conservative Christians in politics are a problem. Dramatically, seventy-percent responded to the survey that they believe that many religions lead to eternal life, while fifty-seven percent the overall church answered that many religions lead to eternal life. However, when a follow-up study rephrased the question to make a distinction between religion other than Christianity and denominational affiliation only thirty-one percent agreed. That still means that almost one out of every three of us believes that people can still get to heaven without accepting Jesus!!
It seems to me that it is time for the church to come back to the truth that Jesus was either a liar, a lunatic, or Lord of all. When He said that no man could come to the Father except by Him, either He was lying or delusional (either of which would totally discredit Him) or He must be the Lord of All. Can’t we learn to proclaim this truth in a loving, non-judgmental way with sincere, non-hypocritical lives giving us permission to speak so authoritatively?
The members of a group that had just returned from a Holy Land pilgrimage were asked to share some of their experiences in the church service. One man shared that he was surprised to see modern cars in Israel. Others talked about the hotel, the food, the weather, the long plane ride, and the strict security. I sat in the audience wondering how it was possible for people to so totally miss the whole point. I guess that Albert Einstein wasn’t that far off from the truth when he said, “There are only two things that are infinite: the universe and human stupidity.” Then he added, “…and I’m not sure about the former!”
I’ve had plenty of opportunity to test this hypothesis in my many years as a teacher. God only knows the number of times I’ve heard students give summations of articles or lectures and wondered exactly which class the students had attended because the report didn’t vaguely coincide with the material in the course. My conclusion after years of observing this phenomenon is that we all have a huge filter located somewhere between our eyes and ears and our brains. Everything has to first pass through that filter before it can enter our brains. In the process, anything that we don’t want to believe is filtered out and only what we want to accept is allowed to pass on. The student who adamantly believes in predestination can hear the same lecture as the student who believes strongly in free-will; however, when one gives his critique, he will focus on his theological persuasion while the other will see the lecture from the exact opposite end of the spectrum.
We must ask God to help us remove this filter so we can truly understand the truth we see and hear.
“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” (Romans 12:1-2)
How many sermons and Bible lessons have we all heard about presenting ourselves as living sacrifices? Probably hundreds–and it is almost one-hundred-percent certain that all of these sermons made some reference to “placing ourselves on the altar for God.” Often, we are admonished with such instructions as, “Do not climb down off of that altar.” But let’s take a moment to reflect on what the passage really says. It speaks of a living sacrifice–not a dead one. If we are on the altar, like Isaac–a very popular theme when this message is preached–we are not going to wind up being a living sacrifice. I suggest that we can find a much more likely Old Testament expression of the living sacrifice in the life of Samuel who was given as a servant in the tabernacle. His mother took him from the normal environment for a child where he would have been conformed to the norm and placed him in a sacred environment so that he could be transformed into the extraordinary. Unlike Jephthah’s daughter in Judges chapter eleven who became a human sacrifice, Samuel was allowed to live to a ripe old age and bless the nation by appointing and blessing their first two great kings.
Being a sacrifice doesn’t have to be seem as something unpleasant or painful; rather, it is an adventure!
I’ve read several different studies lately concerning the attitude of Christians toward homosexuals. One stated that the most common perception among non-Christians is that present-day Christianity is “anti-homosexual.” Overall, ninety-one percent of young non-Christians and eighty percent of young churchgoers say this phrase describes Christianity. Non-Christians and Christians explained they believe that Christians show excessive contempt and unloving attitudes towards gays and lesbians. One of the most frequent criticisms of young Christians was that they believe the church has made homosexuality a bigger sin than anything else. I find this really confusing since most of my research shows that the church has actually embraced homosexuality more than the world has. According to one survey among Catholics under the age of thirty, seventy-two percent of them view homosexuality with tolerance. Other research shows that only half of the general populace show the same level of tolerance. This means that young Catholics are actually one and a half times as accepting as the average person on the street. Another study revealed that twenty-eight percent of born-again Christians under age forty-one believe that it is morally acceptable to have sex with someone of the same sex.
My point has nothing to do with accepting homosexuality; we must love the sinner while hating the sin. My concern is that if the world sees us so differently in this issue, perhaps they are just as confused in understanding what we are really about. Somehow we must let the world know who we really are!
An American missionary serving in the African country of Chad wrote an article which was published here on Independence day asking if the United States was as free as the country in which he serves. He listed a dozen freedoms the people of Chad enjoyed and asked if we had equal rights in the US:
1) To build a home out of any materials you fancy?
2) To butcher a sheep and leave the entrails in the street?
3) To arrange marriages for your children?
4) To smoke in public places?
5) To close off streets to accommodate a three-day funeral?
6) To have people work and pay them as little as they will accept?
7) To sell medicines you know nothing about?
8) To be an electrician or pipe fitter with no education or license?
9) To open a barbecue without a health inspection and sell meat to passer-bys?
10) To take four kids to school on a motorcycle without helmets?
11) To carry an unregistered gun or dagger?
12) To preach jihad?
Of course we don’t have these freedoms–nor do we even want them. And we especially don’t want our neighbors to have them! The truth is that having freedom doesn’t mean being free to do anything at any time. This is especially true of the spiritual freedom we have through Christ. “But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life.” (Romans 6:22)
A recent study reported that among Americans who say they are not evangelical, only twenty-four percent of Americans say that they know an evangelical very well; however, fifty-three percent of them say that they know a gay or lesbian very well. These numbers are more startling when contrasted with demographics statistics: homosexuals are estimated to comprise less than ten percent of the population, while seventeen percent of Americans describe themselves as evangelical. The researchers suggested three possible reasons for this inequality: possibly homosexuals are more open than evangelicals about who they are; possibly Americans are more open to knowing a homosexual than an evangelical; and possibly evangelicals themselves are less likely to reach into the broader community to form relationships. I personally believe that all three of these factors play a part. I think that all of us who would be honest with ourselves would have to admit that as evangelicals we have a tendency to cloister ourselves into little circles with other Christians. This is on of the salt of the earth that Jesus said we are, we must get out of the shaker and if we are to be the light of the world we must get out from under the bushel basket and get up on the lamp stand. We must let the world know who we are and that we are here to help and bless them. “Ye are the salt of the earth…Ye are the light of the world. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick.” (Matthew 5:13-15)
In the battle over gun control, the supporters of the right to bear arms have coined the phrase, “Gun don’t kill people; people kill people.” Regardless of which side you might take on this issue, you have to agree with the slogan. The real issue isn’t the gun, but the person using it.
The same is true in the church where our doctrines and teachings can actually become powerful weapons which can be constructive or destructive depending on the person pulling the trigger. I occasionally hear people make reference to certain doctrines as being “dangerous”; however, I contend that–just as a gun is only as dangerous as the person holding it–there are no dangerous doctrines, only dangerous people using doctrines. Take the doctrine of predestination for example. If a positive, optimistic person is teaching it, he will say, “The world is full of people who are predestined to be saved; let’s go get them! I am predestined to greatness; therefore, I am determined to be all I can be!” If a negative, complacent person gets hold of this teaching, he will make it come out something like this, “Que sera sera. Whatever will be will be, so why bother? If God wants them to be saved, He’ll do it without my help.” Likewise, the message of God’s grace can become either a blessing or a curse depending upon who is teaching it. For some it can become a license to sin since God is so all-forgiving. Paul realized this when he first introduced the doctrine in the book of Romans. In fact, he had to twice warn us against this interpretation. (Romans 6:2, 15) On the other hand, without this message we are doomed to eternally trying to merit our own salvation when Christ has already paid the penalty for our sins.
According to Leviticus 15:25, a woman with an issue of blood would be unclean during the duration of her affliction. Leviticus 15:19 made her fate even worse by adding that not only was she unclean, but she would pollute anyone whom she touched. This means that the woman in the story recorded for us in Matthew chapter nine, Mark chapter five, and Luke chapter eight should have made Jesus unclean when she grabbed hold of the hem of His garment. The Old Testament law emphasizes this point in Haggai 2:10-13 when the prophet asked the question concerning a priest with holy meat in his skirt touching unclean thing. The implication is that the unclean thing would pollute the holy thing rather than the holy thing sanctifying the unholy thing. However, in the New Testament story, exactly the opposite happened–the pure overpowered the evil rather than being overcome by it. Understanding this aspect of the story can awaken us to a whole new level of interpretation of its message: we do not have to fear our sinful nature any more. How often have we cowered down to the intimidation of the enemy when he has terrorized us with the idea that our shortcoming have negated what good has been done in our lives. Instead, we need to boldly believe that there is virtue inside us that flows out and overcomes the evil, arresting it just as thoroughly as Jesus’ healing touch did for that poor woman. Colossians 2:14 tells us that Jesus has blotted out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us and nailed it to His cross. Because of this conquest, we can do as Romans 8:13 and Colossians 3:5 admonish us to do and actually put our sinfulness to death!
Two kids were on their way home from Sunday school where the lesson had been about the devil. One asked, “What do you think about this Satan stuff?” The other one thought a moment and replied, “Well, you remember Santa? This could turn out to be your dad too.”
Actually, Jesus did say that the devil is some people’s father. “Jesus said unto them, If God were your Father, ye would love me: for I proceeded forth and came from God; neither came I of myself, but he sent me. Why do ye not understand my speech? even because ye cannot hear my word. Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it.” (John 8:42-44)
However, He also offered us the possibility of being born a second time so that we would have a different father. (John 3:3-7) The scriptures clearly tell us that it is easy to distinguish whose sons we are. “Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever.” (I Peter 1:23) “He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil. Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God. In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil: whosoever doeth not righteousness is not of God, neither he that loveth not his brother.” (I John 3:8-10)
“Wherefore henceforth know we no man after the flesh…Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation; To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation. Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God.” (II Corinthians 5:16-20)
If we really understand this passage, we will see that reconciliation–both reconciliation of the individual to God and then the subsequent reconciliation of men to one another–is the whole purpose of the new birth. The context of this passage goes all the way back to I Corinthians chapter five where the apostle told the church to judge a member who was living in fornication with his father’s wife. In the second epistle to this church, he wrote to them that their corrective action was sufficient and that they should confirm their love toward him. (II Corinthians 2:6-8) It’s funny how the Corinthians had gone from one extreme to the other: At first, they welcomed him with his sin and even boasted about how gracious they were toward him. Once he was brought under correction, they shifted to the extreme end of the spectrum–unforgiving judgment. As a church and as individuals, we must learn to live like God–hating sin and judging sinful acts while loving sinners and actively reconciling them when they repent.
The Great Ape Project in Spain had submitted a resolution to the national parliament which if made into law would grant rights to “our nonhuman brothers.” The object of the initiative is to declare that apes may not be killed or arbitrarily deprived of their liberty. The proposal would require that the government end the involuntary use on apes in circuses, television, and dangerous experiments. If made into law, it move would “pave the way for the extension of rights to all primates, or all mammals, or all animals,” says Peter Singer, co-founder of the Great Ape Project. Singer goes on to say, “ There is no sound moral reason why possession of basic rights should be limited to members of a particular species.”
Calling an animal “our nonhuman brother” reminds me of the question that was raised in a debate between a creationist and an evolutionist, “Am I my brother’s keeper or am I my keeper’s brother?” Wesley Smith of the faith-based Discovery Institute commented concerning this legislation, “Once people accept the premise of ape rights, Judeo-Christian philosophy goes to the guillotine.” He warned that apes could become viewed as more important than some humans. I amen his observations and am especially concerned that we give no rights at all to the unborn while fretting over the rights of tigers, seahorses, owls, whales, and apes. Unfortunately, I disagree with his statement that the premise will lead the Judeo-Christian philosophy to the guillotine. On the contrary, it is because we have already neglected the truths of the gospel that there has been a big enough void in the human mind and heart for such ideas to be conceived at all.
The little boy was especially proud of the little toy boat he had made. Unfortunately, when he took it to the pond to try it out, a strong wind blew it out of his reach and eventually out of his sight. A couple days later, he saw another boy playing with his little boat on the pond’s edge. When the little boy told the other lad that the boat was his, the new owner refused to relinquish the boat. Instead, he insisted that the boy buy it from him if he wanted it. Hurrying home, the boy broke his piggy bank and then collected all the other spare change he could find lying around his room. Returning to the pond, he readily turned over all his money and happily reclaimed his toy boat. Cuddling the prized boat in his arms as he headed home, the boy sang to his little toy boat, “You are now twice my boat because I made you and also bought you.” This is exactly how Jesus feels about us. We are twice His–first because He created us; and secondly because He redeemed us with His own life.
Not only has He redeemed us, He had also justified us. A little play on words is often used to help define “justified”: Just as if I’d never sinned. In other words, He renews us to the point that there is no lingering evidence of our ever having been out of His hands. Assume that the young lad who found the missing boat had repainted it or put decals on it. When the first owner got it back, He would immediately sand off the paint and markings and repaint to the fresh new appearance it had when he first fashioned it. So it is with our Lord, He makes us totally new–just as if we had never been out of His possession and care.
When I was mowing the lawn I accidentally ran over a little plant my wife had put in next to the back steps. When I confessed my offense, her gracious response was, “Did it pull up the roots?” Thankfully, the roots were still in tack so she had hope that her little plant would come back. In Matthew 3:10, Jesus says that the way to deal with a tree that has bad fruit is to chop it down at the root. Not only did He talk about this principle, He also demonstrated it when He cursed the fruitless fig tree in Mark chapter eleven. He didn’t just cause it to die, He made it wither right down to its roots–proving that it would never get another chance. Two particular roots that the Scriptures warn us against are the love of money (I Timothy 6:10), and the root of bitterness (Hebrews 12:15). On the other hand, we are admonished to have good roots for out of them will come the life that produces good fruits in our lives. (Romans 11:16, Ephesians 3:17, Colossians 2:7). Jude 1:12 makes an interesting comment about roots, saying that certain trouble-makers in the church are like trees “without fruit, twice dead, plucked up by the roots.” Their first death was the disappearance of fruit, but their second death was when their roots were pulled out of the ground. In both a positive and negative sense, we have to realize that there is more to life than meets the eye. As long as the godly desire in our hearts has not been plucked up, there is still hope for righteousness and godliness to spring back. However, as long as we are only dealing with the fruit of our sinful nature rather than the root cause, we have not truly mortified the sinful nature. (Romans 8:13, Colossians 3:5)
Do you remember how each day of Sesame Street was brought to you by a certain letter from the alphabet? Well today’s thoughts are brought to you by the letters “P” and “F.” In Luke chapter eleven, we learn the story of the prodigal son. His demise is characterized by the letter “P.” First he experienced Prosperity when the father gave him an early inheritance. With his Pockets bulging, he set out to Party–a Phase of his life which was characterized by Prostitutes, Promiscuity, Profanity, and Pride, ending in Poverty. Had the story ended there, there would be no reason for its having been included in the Bible; it is a story that is repeated in real life on a daily basis. Every day the same script is played out with a different leading man. However, there is another part of this particular story that makes it worth the space it takes on the pages of scripture. This part of the story is characterized by the letter “F.” His life at this point was labeled as one of Failure, but something rose up inside him; it was Faith which caused him to return to his Father’s home where he discovered his Father’s Faithfulness. Even though he had no physical reason to expect his son to return, the old man never gave up his hope as he stared down the road daily looking for the wayward lad. Even though the Forgiving Father did not require it or even accept it, the son demonstrated his willingness to take Financial responsibility for his actions by coming back as a household servant rather than expecting to be treated as a son. He also demonstrated Forth rightfulness, when he honestly admitted his errors. The result was Forgiveness and Fulfillment.
In a previous meditation, we talked about how other people’s unwilling hearts can delay what God is trying to do in our lives. There are also other hindrances which can postpone or even cancel out God’s good plan for us. I Timothy 1:19 speaks of the possibility of making shipwreck of our faith–a total derailment of God’s intentions through our rebellion. It is also possible to be detained in the process of fulfilling God’s plan. A great example is Joseph in Egypt. He had to go through the pit, Potipher’s house, and the prison before he reached the fulfillment of his dream. In such cases, we have to remember that even though people may plan evil against us, God has a good plan which will eventually come to fruition. (Genesis 50:20) In I Thessalonians 2:18, Paul spoke of his mission as having been deterred, saying that Satan had twice hindered him. Slowed down, but never willing to be stopped, the apostle pressed on with determination. One other sad hindrance is when we allow ourselves to be detoured on our path to destiny. A friend of mine was doing a wonderful work in India, often preaching to crowds as large as one hundred thousand. However, his wife who had spent many years in America could not readjust to life in India and constantly badgered him to return to the States. The last I heard, he was pastoring a congregation of about fifty people in Ohio. Another story comes from one of my Bible college students who had a remarkable calling. To help pay his college expenses, he took an advancement in his secular job which eventually demanded so much time that he had to drop out of Bible school. Fourteen years later that he got back on track.
As we headed into downtown San Francisco for dinner, my wife muttered a simple prayer, “Oh Lord, help us find a parking place.” Still at least eight blocks from the restaurant, she pointed out an empty place and acted a bit agitated when I passed it. As we got closer to the location, her frustration began to show as we drove past block after block of filled parking spots. Finally, I slipped into a slot right in front of the door to the restaurant! As we were escorted to our seat, Peggy remarked to the attendant, “I can’t believe we found a parking place right in front of your restaurant.” I avoided spoiling our lovely dinner with an argument by biting my tongue rather than pointing out that she had asked God to give her a good parking space.
Of course, this sort of flux between belief and unbelief is not unique. Acts chapter twelve tells the story of Peter’s miraculous release from prison. When he came to the house where the believers had gathered for an all-night prayer meeting on his behalf, Rhoda ran into the meeting to report that someone with the key needed to open the gate and let him in, but they all said that she was crazy. When she insisted that he really was at the gate, they conceded that if anyone really was at the gate it would have to be his angel, not Peter himself. When the knocking persisted, they finally opened the door only to discover that Rhoda was indeed correct–it really was Peter. Luke sums up the story with the statement that they were astonished.
Maybe we should all pray as did the father who brought his demon-possessed boy to Jesus, “Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief.” (Mark 9:24)
Have you ever heard the commercials where the guy talks about how Preparation H had cured him of the discomfort of hemorrhoids? Well, there is a spiritual Preparation H that will cure us of all the discomforts of life. It comes in three easy applications:
Application #1: Prepare your heart. In Matthew 10:25, Jesus said that it is enough for the disciple that he be as his master and the servant as his lord. In other words, if we look at Jesus and prepare our heart to live and act like Him, we will be relieved of all the self-imposed discomforts of having to make our own mark in life. Living life as a servant is ultimately more comfortable than being one who expects to be served.
Application #2: Prepare your head In II Timothy 2:15, we learn that we should study to show ourselves approved unto God, a workman who doesn’t need to be ashamed because we are rightly dividing the Word of truth. I Peter 3:15 continues by instructing us to always be ready to give an answer to every man who might ask us for a reason of the hope that is in us. In addition to having a right heart which will produce that blessed hope, we must train our minds through constant study of the Word so that we understand what God is doing in our lives and can share it with others.
Application #3: Preparation through the Holy Spirit In Luke 24:49, Jesus told us that the Holy Spirit is like American Express, we shouldn’t leave home without it. It is the Holy Spirit who reveals the truths of God to us and gives us the power to live up to them; therefore, without His help we can never have a truly prepared heart or head.
How many times have you heard pastors or worship leaders encourage you to offer a sacrifice of praise–prompting you to praise the Lord even if you don’t feel like it. You may have even heard it said, as I have so many times, that we have to “prime the pump” with our praise so that we get to the place that true praise will easily flow out. Now, please don’t get me wrong–I believe in praising God at all times and in all circumstances, even when it may not seem easy. I also believe that anything we do in faith will result in God’s blessings; therefore, praise–even when it may seem out of place–will result in God’s blessings and move us into a place where continued praise can flow very naturally. However, none of this is what the passages about the sacrifice of praise in Jeremiah 33:11 or Hebrews 13:15 are speaking of.
In the Old Testament, the bringing of a sacrifice to the Lord was a joyous event, full of celebration and topped off with a banquet of the animal which was offered. In a time when meat was not part of the daily diet for anyone except the exceptionally wealthy, a good steak dinner in and of itself was enough to make the people happy to make their sacrifice. In the New Testament, we no longer have animals to sacrifice because Jesus has become the ultimate sacrifice for us. However, the Lord promised that the new covenant would be superior to the old–and how could it be equal, much less, better if we lost the element of the celebration associated with sacrifice. God has, indeed, made our covenant better because He substituted praise–which we can offer at any time–for the animal sacrifices which we could only offer when we could afford it! We are invited to a heavenly barbeque as often as we wish!!
One of the “perks” of living in Colorado is that we share the territory with the wild animals. We enjoy the almost-daily visits of deer who come to munch on our shrubs and flowers (well, Peggy doesn’t enjoy that part of their visit). We’ve also spotted the bear and mountain lion in the neighborhood; but when Jeremy found a rattlesnake coiled up in the garage the other day, we thought it was time to call in assistance. Soon, a brave young man arrived to bag the viper and transfer it to a wilderness habitat. The incident reminded me of a news article I had run across in India. It seemed that the government had decided to impose a tax on the snake charmers who perform their art on the streets of most of India’s major cities. In retaliation, the charmers threatened to release cobras in the Parliament chambers. It didn’t take long for the lawmakers to decide to repeal the tax because they didn’t know how to handle the snakes.
Christians have been given special authorization by God to operate as snake handlers in this world. In Luke 10:19 and again in Mark 16:18, Jesus promised that we could deal with serpents and be unharmed. Paul experienced the physical fulfillment of these promises on the island of Malta (Acts 28:3-4), and some sects still practice snake handling to try to prove that they are filled with the Holy Spirit. However, our real authority over serpents is in dealing with that old “snake in grass” who tries to poison us spiritually. From Genesis (verse 3:15) to Revelation (verse 20:2), the Bible confirms that Jesus has victory over him. If He lives in us and we live in Him, we can continually share in that victory!
Remember the little nursery rhyme about Simple Simon who met the Pie Man on his way to the fair? When Simon asked for a pie and the vendor asked for his penny, Simon replied, “I have not any.” Just as we cannot do business in this world without money, we also need to have heaven’s commodities of commerce–faith, hope, and love–if we want obtain spiritual “pies.”
“And he said, I will hide my face from them, I will see what their end shall be: for they are a very froward generation, children in whom is no faith.” (Deuteronomy 32:20)
“And he said unto them, Why are ye so fearful? how is it that ye have no faith?” (Mark 4:40)
“That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world.” (Ephesians 2:12)
“But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope.” (I Thessalonians 4:13)
“Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.” (I Corinthians 13:1-3)
Statistics from a survey of over five thousand evangelical Christians show that just over half of us (54%) read the Bible once a week. Forty-one percent of us believe that the Bible is accurate, and forty-two percent of us know that Jesus gave the Sermon on the Mount. Just less than half (48%) can name the first four books of the New Testament, and only forty percent of us can list five of the Ten Commandments. Some of us said that they think that Joan of Arc was Noah’s wife, and only one percent said that their lives were directed by the Bible. It’s no surprise considering that we spend seven times as much time watching TV than in spiritual development! “This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success.” (Joshua 1:8) “The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple. The statutes of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes. The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring for ever: the judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold: sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb. Moreover by them is thy servant warned: and in keeping of them there is great reward. (Psalm 19:7-11) “And ye shall teach them your children, speaking of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.” (Deuteronomy 11:19)
I recently ran across some quotes from just over fifty years ago. How times have changed since then!
“I’ll tell you one thing, if things keep going the way they are, it’s going to be impossible to buy a week’s worth of groceries for twenty dollars.” “When I first started driving, who would have thought gas would someday cost twenty-nine cents a gallon? Guess we’d be better off leaving the car in the garage.” “No one can afford to be sick anymore, at thirty-five dollars a day in the hospital it’s too rich for my blood.” “I’m afraid to send my kids to the movies any more. Ever since they let Clark Gable get by with saying ‘damn’ in Gone with the Wind, it seems every new movie has either ‘hell’ or ‘damn’ in it.” “I read the other day where some scientist thinks it’s possible to put a man on the moon by the end of the century. They even have some fellows they call astronauts preparing for it down in Texas.” “It’s too bad things are so tough nowadays. I see where a few married women are having to work to make ends meet.” “It won’t be long before young couples are going to have to hire someone to watch their kids so they can both work.” “I’m afraid the Volkswagen car is going to open the door to a whole lot of foreign business.” “The drive-in restaurant is convenient in nice weather, but I seriously doubt they will ever catch on.”
Times have certainly changes, and things are changing at an even more marked pace now. There is no question that the pace will only accelerate as we continue. Isn’t it wonderful that there is one unchangeable constant in our universe? “Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever.” (Hebrews 13:8)
Jesus had four different relationships with the Holy Spirit during His earthly life. According to Matthew 1:20, He was born of the Spirit. In Luke 4:1, we learn that He was filled with the Spirit and led by the Spirit. But in Luke 4:14, we discover that He was empowered by the Holy Spirit. We also need to have the Holy Spirit working in our lives in all of these dimensions. According to the conversation Jesus had with Nicodemus in John chapter three, we must be born of the Spirit to enter the kingdom of heaven. Being filled with the Holy Spirit is such a necessity that Jesus made the requirement like having an American Express card when He told the disciples not to leave home without it. (Luke 24:49) In Romans chapter eight verse fourteen, Paul insisted that being led by the Spirit is a hallmark characteristic of being a child of God. Jesus felt that being empowered of the Holy Spirit was so important that He made it the topic of His last conversation with His followers. (Acts 1:8)
Someone once asked Andrew Wommack if it was possible for a Christian to go to heaven without being filled with the Holy Spirit. Characteristic of his dry humor, Andrew answered that it was certainly possible and that the individual would actually probably make it to heaven sooner than those who are filled with the Spirit! It has been my observation that salvation gets us ready for heaven but the baptism in the Holy Spirit gets us ready for life hear on earth. Life in the Holy Spirit gives us victory over sin, authority over the enemy, and wisdom in making daily choices which not only effect the present but also impact our futures–and whether we will even have one.
One marked difference in the life of a Spirit-filled believer is that he can be led by the Spirit. (Romans 8:14) The result of this leading is that we can actually live above the controlling power of sin. (Galatians 5:16) Another powerful effect of the endwelling of the Holy Spirit is that we can manifest the fruit of the Spirit. (Galatians 5:22-23) These qualities help us show forth the personality of God to a godless generation. Just as a fruit tree laden with luscious fruit attracts all living things from bacteria to bumblebees to humans, so a spiritually ripe life attracts the attention of even the most skeptical of our society. If we lift up Jesus through our lives, we will certainly attract notice. (John 12:32) Another significant result of having the Holy Spirit in our lives is that we are given the ability to operate in the gifts of the Spirit. (I Corinthians 12:8-10) Through the manifestation of these supernatural abilities, we are able to demonstrate to the unbelieving world around us that God is still very much alive. On a personal note, the Holy Spirit enhances our ability to recall the promises and instructions of the Lord–powerful tools that help us deal with our daily struggles and decisions. (John 16:26) He is also called the “Comforter,” a title signifying that He will give us the tranquility necessary to live peaceably and make calm decisions. (John 16:7-11) One of His functions as the Comforter is to “reprove”–literally meaning to cross examine as does a trial attorney. The power of having our lives cross examined by the Spirit is that we are always insured that we are seeing all the issues from God’s eternal perspective rather than only through our limited viewpoint.
Have you ever noticed that the twelve men who followed Jesus were almost always called “disciples” in the gospels, but became “apostles” in the book of Acts? This name change signified the radical change that occurred in their lives when they were empowered by the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost. Jesus repeatedly promised His disciples that they were to receive the baptism in the Holy Spirit. (Matthew 3:11, Mark 1:8, Luke 3:16, John 1:33) Even though the disciples saw healings, miracles, the raising of the dead, the multiplying of the fish and loaves, the transformation of water into wine, and the walking on the water, they never experienced the promised baptism in the Holy Spirit. They must have doubted the promise when they saw their Master taken in arrest and eventually executed without giving them the Holy Spirit. I’m certain that they were thrilled when Jesus renewed this promise after His resurrection. (Acts 1:5) The promise was finally validated in the Upper Room when the Holy Spirit descended upon them and empowered them all. (Acts 2:4) But this wasn’t the end of the story, for the Holy Spirit keep showing up and empowering more and more believers. (Acts 4:31, 8:17, 9:17, 10:44, 19:6) Of course, this continued outpouring of the Spirit was of no surprise since Peter had promised it in his very first sermon on the Day of Pentecost, “I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh…For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call.” (Acts 2:17-39) Are you called of God? If so, you can also be anointed and become an apostle as well as a disciple.
In many of the Asian countries that I have visited in my mission work, there are public bazaars where street vendors offer name-brand designer products for a fraction of the price that they sell for in the stores here in the USA. The reason that these products are so inexpensive is that they are “knock-offs” or counterfeits. The same is true in the spiritual dimension, where many of us settle for “knock-offs” of the genuine operation of the Holy Spirit. Jesus taught us that the whole purpose for being filled with the Holy Spirit was so that we would become effective witnesses for Him. (Acts 1:8) If the experience we have received has not enabled us to be more effective in our witness, perhaps we have settled for a “knock off.” I do not believe that God is interested in our speaking in tongues if we can’t talk about Him in our normal language. I don’t think that He is interested in our falling in the Spirit if we can’t stand up for Him. I doubt that He is interested in our laying hands on the sick if we can’t reach out our hand to hurting brother. I suspect that He is not interested in our shaking under the power of the Spirit unless we also have the power to shake our neighborhood for Him. Being filled with the Holy Spirit is a lifestyle, not just an experience. It is a lifestyle that should be marked with soberness and balance, not uncontrolled excess. (Ephesians 5:18) It should be a lifestyle that is characterized by boldness (Acts 4:29-31) and wisdom (Mark 13:11), not irrational or illogical behavior. According to Matthew 9:17, God has made us new creatures for the express purpose of holding the new wine of the Spirit. Live a life worthy of the Designer label you bear, not a “knock-off.”
Someone pointed out that the cure for a headache is printed clearly on the aspirin bottle, “Take two. Keep away from children.” In fact, the observer noted that the cure many times may not even need step one; just getting away from the children for a few minutes may be all you need to heal your headache. Nothing makes us better parents than having the kids away for a couple days. Someone else commented that parenting was a life-time grounding from the moment the wife is pregnant–apparently, God’s way of punishing couple for having sex. I doubt that there is a lot of truth to that conclusion, but it certainly can seem like it when going through the two AM feeding, the endless trips in the “mom taxi,” the school projects and mountains of homework. Another commentator suggested that raising kids was like living in a three-ring circus. I can agree with that one! My personal rule of thumb (although I violated my own philosophy on this one) is that there should never be more children in a family than there are adults to chase them. Actually, it doesn’t matter what all these “someone”s might say; the only true source of knowledge about the value of parenting is the Bible which says some wonderful things about children. “Children are an heritage of the LORD: and the fruit of the womb is his reward. As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man; so are children of the youth. Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them: they shall not be ashamed, but they shall speak with the enemies in the gate.” (Psalm 127:3-5) According to Proverbs 10:1, a wise son makes a glad father; according to Proverbs 31:28, the children of a godly woman will arise up and call her blessed.
Hebrews 4:14-15 tells us about Jesus’ care for us, “Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession. For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.” Three thoughts can be extracted from this scripture. The first is based on the word “infirmities.” The truth is that we actually have the ability to deal with any temptation or challenge because the Greater One lives inside us; however, we have a tendency to feel as though the problems are too big for us to handle. At this point, He intercedes on our behalf–taking His own initiative when we are too timid or dumbfounded to take the initiative ourselves. The next thought is based on the word “tempted.” There is a well-circulated story about Martin Luther who was awakened in the night to find the devil sitting on the end of his bed. Rather than panicking as most of us would do, he replied, “Oh, it’s just you,” and went back to sleep. A similar story comes from the life of Dr. Lester Sumrall who awoke in the night to find that his bed had been moved to the middle of the room. His response was to rebuke the devil and tell him to leave the room. “However,” he added, “before you leave, be sure to put my bed back to where it came from.” Jesus faced every attack the enemy could muster up, but didn’t give him any ground–neither should we. The last thought, based on the words “without sin,” is summarized in the life of Watchman Nee who once said that he couldn’t play poker because he had no hands; the ones on the ends of his arms belonged to Jesus.
Flip Wilson popularized an expression which encapsulated a general feeling among us humans, “The devil made me do it.” All the way back to the Garden of Eden, we have been passing the buck. Adam blamed Eve, and then Eve pinned the blame on the serpent. Well, it’s about time that we join President Harry Truman and admit that “the buck stops here.” The Bible plainly tells us that any sins, failures, or misdeeds are really our own fault, not the devil’s. “But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.” (James 1:14-15) Put into modern terminology, we might say, “What you do when you are tempted is what you made up your mind to do before you were tempted.” The truth is that God created us as humans with more authority than the devil. If we never give up our authority to him, we needn’t be afraid of his attacks. Let’s take for instance illegal drug usage. The first time a person is offered the drugs, he has total control over the situation to say yes or to resist. It is only after he has yielded once that he begins to develop an appetite for the drug. Eventually, he will develop an addiction which will enslave him. I’m not suggesting that we have the natural ability to live above sin. Using only human will power against the law of sin like holding somebody up against the law of gravity; you will eventually cave in. Remember that there is no win in sin. But if we always let the Jesus inside of us answer the door when temptation comes knocking, we will always come out smelling like a rose–the Rose of Sharon.
Synergism is the principle that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. Take, for instance, a match, a rough surface, and a fire cracker. We can place these three elements near one another and leave them for years without seeing anything happen. However, if we actively integrate them, we suddenly have Fourth of July! Take a thousand teenagers and scatter then across the city and place a rock band in an empty auditorium; what do you have? Nothing except a great setup for a lot of text messaging. Now pile all those teens into the auditorium with the rock band and just watch the energy rise and the mayhem begin! It will be even more exciting than the synergism of tossing a bag of pop corn into the microwave.
In much the same way that a human body cut into pieces is simply an anatomy lesson as opposed to a living soul, the fragmented Body of Christ is anything but a functioning manifestation of the life of God in our world.
“For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ…But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him…That there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another…Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular…From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.” (I Corinthians 12:12-27, Ephesians 4:16)
In her book This is That, Aimee Semple McPherson wrote about notices she had seen posted in trains and subways during World War I. These announcements warned people of the severe penalty awaiting anyone who should try in any way to break the morale of soldiers by talking of possible defeat or failure or by lauding the strength of the enemy. She commented, “This should be a warning to Christians also.”
We have been given the sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God not only as a weapon with which to wage battle against the enemy, but also as a surgical instrument to use in cutting out malignancies within the Body of Christ. This same Word of God which is sharp enough to disarm our enemy is also sharp enough to divide between the soul and the spirit. (Hebrews 4:12) We need to use it to help ourselves and others to recognize when we are responding in the soul rather than in the spirit. The main thing that is necessary is to recognize that surgery and battle are two very different activities even though we are using the same instrument. In surgery, we are careful to avoid cutting the arteries which deliver the life-giving blood; in battle, the objective is to slash these same blood vessels. In surgery, we are focused on cutting out only the harmful and leaving everything else intact so that it can heal as quickly as possible; in battle, the focus in on severing everything that could possibly sustain life. The Word of God is a weapon which is mighty through God to pull down strongholds and bring our thoughts into obedience unto Christ; use it to defeat the enemy but to edify yourself (I Samuel 30:6) and the saints (I Corinthians 14:26).
It had been a couple years since our paths crossed; but now that we were together again, I couldn’t believe my eyes. He seemed to have aged twenty years. He was swollen in some places and almost emaciated in other parts of his body. His hair had fallen out in spots, leaving him looking like a mangy dog. Large sores dotted his skin. The Lord had directed him to come to me for prayer as well as just to visit–and there was no question that he needed prayer; but as we shared together that day, I realized that he had a much bigger need than the obvious. He needed not only a physical healing from the diseases which were ravaging his body but also a spiritual healing from an inner malady that was even more devastating. Even though he had been raised in a religious home, at one point he had turned to a life of crime. As a result, his family had shunned him. Even after his salvation and call into the ministry, they had refused to be reconciled, even to the point of returning his Christmas and birthday card unopened. When he shared with me about the bitterness inside him, I instantly knew that we first had to deal with it and that it would be the key to his physical healing. I insisted that he forgive them and make attempts to be restored. It was a difficult decision on his part, but he eventually realized that holding a grudge is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die. In a miraculous turn of events, he was reinstated and his father even joined him in his ministry! Even though my friend did eventually succumb to the disease, he experienced a remarkable recovery which even the doctors listed as a miracle–all because he stopped drinking spiritual poison!
Often we use the words “situation” and “circumstances” interchangeably when the truth is that they are exactly opposite in their meanings. “Situation” refers to where we are seated, and “circumstance” refers to what surrounds us. As Christians, we have a wonderful situation regardless of the circumstance. According to Ephesians 1:20-21 and 2:6), we are seated with Christ in the heavenly places at the right hand of God Himself, far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come. That means that we have a powerful advantage over any enemy which may choose to surround us. I am reminded of the fortress of Masada in Israel. Although the Romans had conquered the rest of the Holy Land, they found themselves unable to take the last bastion of Jewish resistance barricaded in this fortress. Situated on a gigantic rock mesa some 1,300 feet high, just under one thousand Jews (including women, children, and clerics) defended themselves for several months against the full force of the Roman army. When the Romans used other Jews as a shield in their approach, the resistance refused to endanger their brethren and committed suicide rather than surrender. When the Romans eventually breached the fortress, they discover sufficient food and water to have sustained the resistance for months to come had they chosen to continue their fight. In Christ, we also have protection and provision to withstand our enemy as long as we are willing to. Remember that circumstances don’t make you or break you; they simply expose you for who you really are.
One day in Japan, during the early days of the occupation following World War II, three American GIs boarded a train. One of them noticed that only the men were seated. All the women with all their baggage and babies on their backs were attempting to keep their balance by hanging onto the overhead straps. When an older woman boarded with several heavy packages, one of the soldiers started to give her his seat. But before she could move, a young man pushed his way in and took the seat. Without thinking, the soldier grabbed him by the collar and hoisted him to his feet. He then took the woman’s elbow and directed her to sit down. Next, he reached for the next man and assisted him to his feet also and gave his seat to a woman. Suddenly another stood up, then another and another, until every man on the train was standing and every woman was seated. Everyone acted as if it were the most natural thing in the world.
Some forty years later, the soldier was back in Japan, this time as a missionary. One day, a Japanese lady shared a story with him. She explained that as the war was ending, the Japanese government, trying to sustain the will to fight, warned that if Americans invaded Japan they would rape all the women. “But one day,” she said, “three Americans got on a train and made all the men stand up and let the women sit down. We knew then that we had nothing to fear from the Americans.” The missionary was dumbfounded. This lady had not even been born when that happened. She had heard it from a television anchorman who had been a boy on that train and told the story one day on the air.
In the eco-friendly world we live in today, the scientist are constantly developing new ways to avoid using chemicals which may harm our environment. One of these “green” alternatives to insecticides is introducing sterilized boll weevils into the cotton field of the South in hopes that the female boll weevils will mate with the sterile males and therefore not produce any baby weevils. If enough of the lady weevils are attracted to the non-productive suitors, there will be limited damage to the crops since there will be fewer larvae to eat the bolls before they produce the cotton.
It seems like a great plan; and I suppose that it is effective. I know at least that the same approach has proven to be an effective tool in the devil’s arsenal against the church. For many years, he has been introducing sterilized weevils into the church to keep us from producing new generations of Christians who can destroy his kingdom. I just read an article in a daily devotional based on the passage from Acts 4:33, “And with great power gave the apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus.” Expecting an encouraging testimony of how the gospel is impacting the world today, I was shocked by the comment that the writer made on this passage, “Unlike the apostles, I do not see sudden changes coming in the people’s lives as I testify to God’s work.” In a generation which teaches that Jesus doesn’t heal today, that homosexuality is okay, that individuals can still be good men even if they live in sin because God is looking at the heart, and that the gifts of the Spirit are just our own human abilities, it is no wonder that the writer was not seeing any sudden changes as he shared!
I recently heard a sermon by a minister who had been on a safari in Africa where he had some close encounters with lions. Based on I Peter 5:8, the sermon made some very powerful points by paralleling what the preacher had learned about these big felines and what he already knew about the devil. First, he pointed out that the Bible verse states that the devil is seeking whom he may devour, implying that there are some whom he may not devour. Those who are immune to his advances are the ones who are sober (self-controlled) and vigilant (watchful but not fearful). He then went on to point out three significant characteristic of lions. Number one–they are nocturnal. This is an important principal because we know that darkness belongs to the devil. If we walk in the light, we are safely outside his domain. (Ephesians 5:8, I John 1:7) For his second point, he coined the word “peri-visual,” meaning that lions don’t see individual persons as long as they stay in the Land Rover. However, as soon as a person would step outside the vehicle, he comes into the cat’s vision and is in grave danger of losing life and limb. As believers, we are safe as long as we remain in Christ. (I Corinthians 1:2, 30; II Corinthians 2:14; Ephesians 1:3) His third observation was that lions are territorial and that their roar is intimidating, trying to get you to give up your territory. Once an opponent stands up to them and shows them that he is not willing to yield the territory, the lion will cower down and back off just like the devil did when Jesus withstood him during the Temptation (Matthew 4:1-11) and as he will do when we stand against him. (Ephesians 6:10-13)
When the Jesus Movement hit our college campus in the 70s, we experienced a phenomenal revival that swept many of our campus “druggies” into the kingdom of God. One particular young man was probably the biggest drug pusher on the campus. He went after the Lord with the same intensity he had shown in his previous life as a “dealer.” Because he was the connection point for so many students on campus, he had fairly constant traffic in and out of his dorm room. As students would ask him for marijuana or LSD, he’d reply that he didn’t happen to have any stash of the particular substance they were looking for; however, he would add quickly that he had something that was even better. Thinking that he had progressed to “the hard stuff,” they would start to ask more questions to which he would reply, “Well, this will give you the highest high you’ve ever been on!” Then he would reach into the secret drawer where he used to hide his drugs and pull out the Bible! Talk about a new creature–he was the poster boy of the revival on our campus. Because his testimony was so outstanding, the pastor at our church was always eager to “show him off” when we had guest ministers. One evening, the pastor patted him on the back and said something like, “This is our drug dealer for Jesus,” when presenting him to the visiting evangelist. When the young man heard those words, they cut like a knife to the core of his soul. He was no longer a drug dealer; he was simply for Jesus! The lingering identity with the old man devastated him.
“Wherefore henceforth know we no man after the flesh…He is a new creature.” (II Corinthians 5:16-17)
When I write, I do my own typing and proofreading–a surefire recipe for mistakes in the final copy. As a result, most of my books have come out with some rather notable bloopers, but you should have seen the errors in the original versions! Well, actually there were never any errors because the definition of an error is a mistake that you refuse to correct. I’m perfectly willing to correct any mistake I make as long as I am made aware of it. In our spiritual lives, the wonderful promise is that God has given us the Holy Spirit as a constant proofreader (John 16:8) to point out our mistakes before they become errors. Our job is to be sensitive to His promptings and respond when He points out our shortcomings. (Ephesians 4:30) However, we humans have a tendency to feel that we are getting by because we don’t get caught right away, but we must remember that our sins will eventually catch up with us. (Numbers 32:23). Noah preached for a hundred years about a coming judgment, and the people thought that his warnings were only idle rantings until the flood came and it was too late.
When we do realize that we have made a mistake, we need to humbly confess it and boldly take action to correct it, not just try to make a superficial cosmetic make-over. If you board the wrong train, running down the aisle backward isn’t the solution. Adding more of the wrong ingredients isn’t the solution. Remember that if lust conceived is what brings forth sin then the only real solution is to get to the root of the matter and perform an abortion. When the Holy Spirit points out our mistakes, we must either get right or get left!
Several years ago, I had the bittersweet privilege of ministering to an elderly gentleman on his deathbed. The sweetness of the experience was that I saw him restored to his sister whom he had not seen or spoken to in over forty years. There had been an argument over a family inheritance which forged a wedge between them. I’m certain that the money didn’t last nearly as long as did the family feud. The bitterness of the experience was that he waited until the last minutes of life to restore the relationship. His children had all grown up not knowing their aunt and uncle or cousins. Though they lived only thirty miles apart, it was as if they had inhabited totally different planets. I thought of Jesus’ words, “Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” (Luke 12:34) What is the most valuable treasure we have–our money or our relationships? Philippians 2:4 says, “Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also the interests of others.” Therefore, it would be in keeping with the biblical pattern for us to train our children from the moment they begin to take responsibility around the home to clean up after himself/herself and to also help others with their areas, developing a caring heart for other family members. Sharing in the smallest things in life, like helping put away toys, can build bonds and prevent future separations which can be caused by making unrealistic expectations of others while not expecting the same from ourselves and making laws we cannot keep ourselves. One good rule to bonding relationships is to always under-promise and over-deliver. In other words, never promise something that you may not deliver and always deliver more than you promise.
After the christening of his baby brother in church, Jason sobbed all the way home in the back seat of the car. His father asked him three times what was wrong. Finally, the boy replied, “That preacher said he wanted us brought up in a Christian home, and I wanted to stay with you guys.” Hopefully, our children will be a little more apt to recognize that we are actually the Christian parents that the pastor was speaking of. For this to be the case, we must consistently apply biblical standards as we raise them. Luke 2:52 lists four areas in which Jesus parents fostered His maturity: wisdom (his mental development), stature (His physical development), favor with God (His spiritual development), and favor with man (His social development. Proverbs 22:6 suggests that we must find each child’s bent and then train him according to the way that most naturally takes into account his personal temperament and inclinations. With big challenges like this ahead of us, it is no wonder that so many of us conclude that we thought we knew everything about parenting–and then we had children. Actually, parenting is the most challenging job we are never prepared for. Probably the greatest lesson we can all learn comes from James Dobson’s father who gave up four years of traveling ministry, sold his home, took a small church, and sacrificed the opportunity to re-enter the field of evangelism in order to invest himself in his son when he became rebellious. The lesson is that what kids need is not a professional approach with all the answers pre-calculated; rather, they need loving parents whose lives demonstrate enough of the life of Jesus that they can see Him in them.
Paul instructs us twice that we must have a desire for the spiritual gifts. (I Corinthians 12:31, 14:1) He instructed us to actually covet the best gifts, meaning the best ones for your particular calling in life. However, it doesn’t matter how much you desire the Spirit-filled life, you simply will not have it without taking the next obvious step–ask for it. Jesus taught us to ask with the same sincerity and simple faith that we would ask our earthly fathers for a piece of bread and expect that he would give us bread and not a stone. (Luke 11:13) Paul piggybacks on this idea by teaching us that faith is a key factor in receiving this blessing. (Galatians 3:2) There is a biblical pattern of having church leaders lay their hands on those who are seeking to be filled with the Spirit as a form of impartation of the spiritual gifts. (Acts 8:17, 18, 19; 9:17; 13:3; 19:6; I Timothy 4:14; II Timothy 1:6) I have observed that even some who have desired, asked in faith, and had hands laid on them have failed to receive the infilling of the Holy Spirit. I believe that this is because they failed at the very last step–activation. According to II Timothy 1:6, we need to stir up the gift that came inside of us when we were prayed over by the church leaders. I believe that stirring up that gift can come at the initial infilling of the Spirit by allowing the Holy Spirit to give you a new language. Many people insist upon continuing to speak in their native language and expect the Holy Spirit to override their words. Others refuse to say anything and just wait for the Holy Spirit to make them begin to speak in tongues. On the Day of Pentecost, the apostles set the pattern when they did the speaking as the Holy Spirit gave the utterance.
The gifts occur in three categories. First are the gifts of revelation. The word of wisdom is knowing how to act wisely now because of how it will affect the future. The word of knowledge is knowing something that is impossible for you to discover at the moment. Discerning of spirits is knowing what motivates people–their human spirits, demonic spirits, or the Holy Spirit.
Next are the gifts of power. The gift of faith is a supernatural level of believing God to work on your behalf. The gifts of healing is supernatural authority over various diseases. The working of miracles is the supernatural ability of God working through you.
In the last category are the gifts of inspiration. The gift of prophecy is a divine ability to speak words of edification, exhortation, and comfort. Speaking in tongues occurs in three different operations. The personal use of tongues is to offer prayer or praise to God and is not for use in a church service. (I Corinthians 14:2, 14-16, 28) It needs no interpretation since God understands it. Tongues can also be a sign to unbelievers. (I Corinthians 14:22) This was the operation functioning on the Day of Pentecost when people of sixteen different languages heard the apostles speaking in their languages without having learned them. (Acts 2:8) Obviously, this usage of tongues needs no interpretation since the hearers understand automatically. The third manifestation of this gift is in giving a message for the church. (I Corinthians 14:13, 27) Unless there is a supernatural interpretation of the message, this gift is being used outside proper its scriptural order. The interpretation of tongues is the supernatural ability to translate the message given in tongues.
Paul speaks of the Spirit only four times in the first seven chapters of Romans, but twenty times in chapter eight. He ends chapter seven in defeat, but moves into chapter eight in great victory. The progression of the book in chapters one through five sets the theological stage for salvation, chapter six gives the salvation experience, and chapter seven describes the attempt to live one’s post-salvation existence in our own human power. This chapter is full of the first person pronoun, “I.” Some Bible scholars try to suggest that Paul may have had an eye problem; this theory cannot be proven, but it is certain from this chapter that he definitely had an “I” problem. In chapter eight Paul gives his victorious answer to his dilemma through the power of the Holy Spirit. He concludes in chapters nine through sixteen by giving practical applications of these truths to our Christian lives.
Paul suggested that our ability to live victorious Christian lives was through the power of the Holy Spirit. As early as verse six of chapter seven, he admonishes, “But now we are delivered from the law, that being dead wherein we were held; that we should serve in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter.” But it wasn’t until the first couple verses of chapter eight that he spelled it out, “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.” In Galatians 5:16-25, he makes it even plainer, “This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh…If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.”
Jesus called the Holy Spirit the Spirit of truth. (John 14:17, 15:26, 16:13) He went on to add that the Holy Spirit would speak to us all that He learned from Jesus and that the result would be that He would be able to reveal things that are to come. Jesus is the truth (John 14:6; Revelation 3:7, 14; 19:9, 11; 21:5; 22:6), but it is the Holy Spirit reveals Him to us. Paul made a special point of praying for the believers at Ephesus that they would have the advantage of the revelatory power of the Holy Spirit because he knew that it is only through the Holy Spirit’s enlightenment that we will ever know what power resides in us through having Christ alive in us. “[I] cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers; That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him: The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints, And what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power.” (Ephesians 1:16-19) Writing to the Corinthians, he quoted the prophet Isaiah, “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.” (I Corinthians 2:9) But he then immediately added, “But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God.” (verse 10) Even the great prophet Isaiah didn’t have a clue as to all the victories we can experience when we are led by the Holy Spirit’s wisdom and revelation–the truth of Christ.
In a recent experiment to see how connected the world is, the researchers analyzed cell phone and email usage of people all over the world. For the purpose of the experiment, two people were acquainted if they had sent one another a data message. The researchers then looked at the minimum chain links it would take to connect one hundred eighty billion different pairs of users in the database. In other words, if Matthew knows Mark (meaning that he has emailed or sent Mark a text message) and Mark knows Luke (having made data communication with him), then Matthew and Luke are connected by one link. Add John, whom Luke has sent a data message, and now Matthew and John are connected by a two-link chain. When the analysis was run, it was discovered that the average length was 6.6 links and that seventy-eight percent of the pairs could be connected in seven links or less. The longest chain contained only twenty-nine links. Amazing! Just think that each of us is only seven connections away from any person in the whole world. Of course, there are still a few places in the world that are yet to be connected with cell phones and emails; but these are becoming more and more rare every day. I’ve been to some of the most remote places on our planet and found that they are just as eager to get connected as American teenagers are!
The thing that excites me about this research is that it shows us that we are so close to the possible fulfillment of Jesus’ command to tell the Good News to every creature. If each one of us would only do as the old telephone commercial used to say, “Reach out and touch someone,” within just a few links, everyone would know!
When the park rangers showed up at the front desk of the lodge where I was working in Yosemite National Park and asked to speak privately with one of the other desk clerks, we could tell by the solemn looks on their faces that something serious was on their minds. It turned out that they were bearers of really bad news. The clerk’s husband had been involved in a mountaineering accident. Although he was a top-notch climber and one of the leading members on the park’s search and rescue team, he had taken a fall. While on a rescue operation, he had stepped on a rock which dislodged and sent him tumbling hundreds of feet down the cliff to his death. In an accident which has never been fully explained, this ace rock climber met his death by falling from a trail that average tourists hike every day. He was not doing some complicated dare-devil maneuver on the face of one of the park’s monoliths or one of the heroic rescue operations for which he was so famous. He was simply climbing the trail to get to a vantage point from which to rappel down the face of the cliff to help an endangered climber.
From this tragic story, we can learn a life lesson about the dangers we face in life–not just in our physical lives, but in our spiritual lives as well. Many times, it is the simple things, which become so common that we do them without any special consideration or caution, that destroy us. Scaling the face of Half Dome would have taken the climber’s concentrated attention, but walking a public path seemed too mundane for precaution. Solomon warned us to watch out for little innocent-looking foxes because they do real damage. (Song of Solomon 2:15)
Neither the fulfillment companies that process rebates for retail purchases nor the retailers themselves give out information on rebates; however, some researchers have suggested that only about half of rebates over $50 are cashed in and less than one tenth of rebates under $10 are claimed. Being an avid rebater myself, I’ve looked at the system and discovered that it is truly built in the favor of the retailer who sells the product, expecting that the customer will be lured in by the rebate but will never cash it in–thus putting more money in the retailer’s pocket. Most rebates have a limited time for redemption, causing customers to miss the deadline. Allowing longer redemption time actually pushes the redemption rates lower due to hum, an procrastination and the tendency to misplace rebate forms, store receipts, and proofs of purchase during the wait. Even rebates that are received are often not cashed because they come in mailers that look like junk mail which gets discarded. It also seems that the addresses are even deliberately chosen to make customers misaddress their returns; for example, when the post office box contains four or five zeros, it is easy to miss one and send the rebate request to the dead letter box.
Well, that’s the way of the world–to promise you something while all the time planning to cheat you out of the goods. It is wonderful that even though we are in this world, our citizenship is of another world which operates on a totally different system–one where the system is stacked in YOUR favor! “For all the promises of God in him are yea, and in him Amen, unto the glory of God by us.” (II Corinthians 1:20)
Patience and doing the will of God: “For ye have need of patience, that, after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise.” (Hebrews 10:36)
Faithfulness and wisdom: “Who then is a faithful and wise servant, whom his lord hath made ruler over his household?” (Matthew 24:45)
Love: “Though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.” (I Corinthians 13:3)
Pray in the Spirit: “Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities…He maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God. And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:26-28)
Pray for Jerusalem: “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: they shall prosper that love thee.” (Psalm 122:6)
Give thanks: “Let your requests be made known unto God.” (Philippines 4:6)
Forgive: “And when ye stand praying, forgive, if ye have ought against any.” (Mark 11:25)
Confess and believe: “What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them.” (Mark 11:23-24)
Hold fast to the Word of God: “This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success. ” (Joshua 1:8)
All of us have difficult times; however, when we face these times, it is good to remember a couple lessons from our kitchen: 1) You only get juice from an orange when you squeeze it. 2) A cake may be in the fire, but it can certainly smell good while it is baking.
Pressure shows us what we are on the inside. Unfortunately, some storms reveal that there is a storm inside. If this is the case–that the real conflict is internal rather than external–we may use all our resources in the conflict and have no energy left to enjoy the victory. If we are at peace internally, we will be able to make it through the incident with stamina enough to celebrate afterward. In fact we may find that the victory was so great that we would have wished that the storm had been bigger so we could celebrate an even bigger victory. So the really pivotal issue isn’t what challenges we face in life, but what we have inside when we face those challenges.
In his letter to the Philippians, Paul spoke of an internal fortification we could have through the peace of God which would protect our hearts and minds. (verse 4:7) He went on to speak a couple of verses later of the promise that we would have not only the peace of God but the God of peace Himself with us. (verse 3:9) The key to having this unconquerable combination of the peace of God coupled with the very God of peace is found in the intervening verse–consciously monitoring what we allow ourselves to think on: things which are true, honest, just, pure, lovely, of good report; virtuous, and praiseworthy. If only these good things are inside, only good can come out when we are squeezed.
Having only flat land around me was one of the real difficulties of the quarter century I spent in Indiana. But it seems that I’m not the only one who loves mountains; the Bible is full of references to God’s affinity to them. He had His own mountain called the Mountain of God. (Exodus 3:1, Isaiah 2:2, Joel 2:1) There was also a Mountain of Inheritance referenced in Exodus 15:17; Deuteronomy 1:20, 32:49; Joshua 14:12; and Isaiah 57:13. Numbers 13:17; Deuteronomy 1:24, 34:1; Ezekiel 40:2; and Revelation 21:10 speak of what could be called the Mountain of Surveillance while Matthew 4:8 and Luke 4:5 tell us about the Mountain of Temptation. A Goodly Mountain is mentioned in Deuteronomy 3:25, and a Mountain of Victory can be found in Isaiah 13:2. Mountains of Perversion can be found in Jeremiah 3:6 and John 4:21 John 4:20, and a Glorious Mountain in Daniel 11:45. The Mountain of Instruction is revealed in Matthew 5:1, 8:1, 15:29; and John 6:3 while Prophetic Mountains appear in Daniel 2:35, 2:45; Zechariah 14:4; Revelation 6:14, and 8:8. Jesus’ Mountain of Prayer can be found in Matthew 14:23; Mark 6:46; Luke 6:12, 9:28; and John 6:15, and His Mountain of Transfiguration can be seen in Matthew 17:1, 17:9; Mark 9:2, and 9:9. He promised His disciples Mountain-moving Faith in Matthew 17:20, 21:21; and Mark 11:23 and took them to the Mountain of Commission to give them their marching orders (Matthew 28:16, Mark 3:130) It was on the Mountain of Deliverance that He set a demoniac free (Luke 8:32) but on a hill called Golgotha that He won deliverance for all of us (Matthew 27:33, Mark 15:22, Luke 23:33, John 19:17).
A recent study done by the University of Pennsylvania found that frontal lobe activity which is associated with language and willful control of the body decreases during speaking in tongues. In other words, there really is a force other than the speaker who is motivating the speaking. Another interesting discovery in this study was the difference between the experience of glossolalia (speaking in tongues) and Buddhist and Catholic meditation; these other activities actually increased the frontal lobe brain activity, indicating the participants’ active involvement.
It has been estimated that over one forth of world’s two billion Christians speak in tongues and that twenty-three percent of Christians in America have experienced this gift from God. Among Catholics, it is estimated that about half million practice speaking in tongues and that almost ten million have had this experience since the charismatic movement began within the Catholic Church in the 1970s.
In order to understand what the Bible says about this supernatural phenomenon, let’s start in a book which doesn’t mention speaking tongues–Hebrews: “For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat.” (Hebrews 5:12) The Greek wording used in this verse literally means to learn ones ABCs. The next three days we will learn our ABCs concerning speaking in tongues by seeing that the gift is Available for us, that it has many Benefits, and that here are Conditions for its use.
In Luke 11:11-13, we find the very words of Jesus Himself, telling us that the gift of the Holy Spirit (including speaking with tongues) is a present that the Heavenly Father will willing give to His children. In Mark 16:17, Jesus added that this gift was readily available to all who would believe. Notice that the promise wasn’t to pastors, elders, saints, or people in any specific time period; it was all who would believe. In fact, Peter clarified the promise in Acts 2:39 by saying that it was for the people present, their children, and to all that are afar off–even as many as the Lord our God shall call. As we go through the book of Acts, we find a number of times when people received the Holy Spirit’s infilling and can see a close association with speaking in tongues as initial evidence. In Acts 2:4, the apostles on the Day of Pentecost all spoke in tongues. In Acts 4:31, the believers were filled and the house was shaken. They did begin to speak with boldness, even if tongues were not specifically mentioned. In Acts 8:18, Simon the magician saw something miraculous when the people of Samaria were filled with the Spirit. Most Bible scholars believe that it was speaking in tongues. In Acts 9:17, Paul was filled with the Spirit. Although it is not mentioned here that he spoke in tongues, we know from I Corinthians 14:18 that he did. In Acts 10:46, all the members of Cornelius, household received this gift as did the believers at Ephesus in Acts 19:6. So why shouldn’t all the believers in Acts chapter twenty-nine (those of us who continue the story after the close of the New Testament) also receive this blessing?
According to James 3:8, the tongue is the most uncontrollable member of our entire personality; however, when the Holy Spirit begins to give us an utterance, the tongue is then under control–God’s supernatural control. Speaking in tongues is for our personal edification (I Corinthians 14:4), a benefit not only for the individual believer but also for those around him. How can I expect to help anyone else when I’m in the dumps myself? Isaiah 28:11-12 prophesied that tongues would be a refreshing for the believer, and Romans 8:26-28 teaches us that praying in tongues will empower our prayer life to the point that we will know that everything in our lives will work together for good. Jude says that use of this gift is a way to build ourselves up on our most holy faith. (verse 20)
Speaking in tongues is also a benefit for unbelievers because it can be a sign to lead them to salvation. (I Corinthians 14:22) The gift of tongues is a reversal of the confusion of the languages that occurred at Babel. In Genesis 11:9, God made it impossible for men to understand one another; but in Acts 2:4 He gave the apostles a supernatural ability to speak in at least sixteen languages which they had never learned. The result was three thousand conversions in one day. When I was a student at North Carolina State University, I was able to lead a young man of Italian decent to Christ after he heard a fellow student speak in Italian under the Holy Spirit’s anointing.
Another benefit is that God can speak a message to church through one person followed by an interpretation from another. (I Corinthians 14:5)
As wonderful as the gift of speaking in tongues may be, there are certain conditions set forth for proper use of this gift. One rule we should remember is that we must not simply put our prayer life on “autopilot” just because we are able to speak in tongues. Paul said in I Corinthians 14:15 that we should pray in the understanding as well as in the Spirit.
In terms of the public use of tongues in a service, we must remember that we don’t have to give a message in every service. In I Corinthians 14:19, Paul stressed the importance of speaking understandable messages in a known tongue rather than supernatural messages in tongues in a church service. I Corinthians 14:26 asks a question, “How is it then, brethren? when ye come together, every one of you hath a psalm, hath a doctrine, hath a tongue, hath a revelation, hath an interpretation?” and then gives the answer, “Let all things be done unto edifying.” Many people feel that they must speak out any time they sense the presence of the Holy Spirit; however, I Corinthians 14:32 clearly teaches that the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets. In other words, we can decide if we are going to speak out or remain silent. The scripture also teaches that there should not be any message given unless there is an interpreter present. (I Corinthians 14:28) The interpreter also functions under a supernatural gift just as does the one who speaks in tongues. I have personally experienced this when a lady spoke in Hindi without knowing the language and the interpreter who also was unable to understand the language gave an exact translation of her message.
In Numbers chapter nineteen, God gave the Israelites commandments concerning the preparation of the waters of separation which were to contain the ashes from the red heifer. When a person was defiled by touching a dead body, he was to wash with this specially formulated solution for purification. There were specific instructions concerning the times when this purification was to take place: on the third day and on the seventh day. It seems that these two washings were probably symbolic of New Testament realities with the first representing the death of Jesus and His resurrection three days later, the key reality of the Christian faith which is also represented in the waters of baptism. The washing on the seventh day seems to represents the believer’s necessity of resting in the completed work of God, another key principle in our faith which is also symbolized by the Sabbath day rest.
One other interesting thought concerning the waters of separation is that the earth is physically separated by water. Oceans separate the continents, rivers make the boundaries on many nations, and even tiny creeks divide property lines between neighbors. So it is in the spiritual world. When converts from other religions make the decision to be baptized, they are often ostracized from their families and societies. To believe in Jesus may be acceptable, but becoming a baptized believer marks the point of no return. In the concluding verses of the Bible, we read of a time when there was no more sea. (Revelation 21:1) There will be no more need for waters to separate men because the new earth will be totally populated with regenerated men.
Go the extra mile; there’s no traffic jam on the second mile.
The story of the prodigal son began with “Give me,” but ended with “Forgive me.”
With God’s favor, you can become the exception to the rule; Daniel was given extra time when it was denied to other soothsayers.
Your income can only grow to the extent that you do.
No thought lives in your head rent free.
Save for a rainy day, and a rainy day will come; save for the day of opportunity so it will come.
If you put both of your hands on plow, you won’t keep one in partner’s pocket.
A blessed ministry is one that gives rather than takes. At the miraculous catch of fish, the disciples called their partners to come take fish; but ministries today are always calling on their partners to give to them.
Do we train our people or drain them?
Ministry is my life, not my livelihood.
Deal with poison outside before it gets inside.
Whatever you do, do it with excellence. Jesus was not called “a carpenter”; He was “the carpenter” (Mark 6;3), signifying that He was an expert at the trade.
Many churches are no different from a circus; people gather every week to watch the minister perform and he collects gate fee for the show.
The world owes no man a living, only the opportunity to earn one.
When God shows up, He doesn’t take sides; He takes over.
In I Kings 3:5-14, we find the story of Solomon’s visit from the Lord before his inauguration as king of Israel. In this visitation, the Lord gave him the “magic wish list”–ask what you will, and Solomon replied, “Give therefore thy servant an understanding heart to judge thy people, that I may discern between good and bad: for who is able to judge this thy so great a people?” The passage goes on to say that the Lord was pleased with his request so much that He responded that he would have the wisdom he desired plus wealth and long life. In other words, he was to be healthy, wealthy, and wise–even if he didn’t adhere to the “early to bed and early to rise” rule! The scriptures describe his phenomenal wisdom as “exceeding much” with “largeness of heart even as the sand that is on the sea shore” and wisdom that “excelled the wisdom of all the children of the east country and all the wisdom of Egypt.” (I Kings 4:29-34) When Solomon asked for wisdom and got wealth as well it was because you can’t have wisdom without gaining wealth. The strongest currency on earth is human knowledge and experience. There is no such thing as a lack of capital–only a lack of ideas because ideas produce finances. Unfortunately, the richest wasteland in world is probably the church who is intended to be the custodian of wisdom but has failed to develop and use the God-given wisdom available to us. Deuteronomy 8:18 promises us the power (wisdom) to get wealth, not necessarily wealth itself; however, if we do not activate it and act upon it, we will remain foolish and broke. “Why is the price of wisdom in the hand of a fool since he has no heart for it?” (Proverbs 17:16)
Most of the time we hear Proverbs 29:18 which says that where there is no vision the people perish interpreted to mean that we have to set goal or we will never succeed. Although, I certainly believe in the power of envisioning our goal as a major factor in any achievement, I believe even more in properly interpreting the scripture. A quick comparison of the alternate translations will give us an immediate sense that the verse must mean something else. Most versions translate the verse to say that the people cast off restraint, The Bible in Basic English says that the people are uncontrolled and Young’s Literal Translation says that they are naked. There must be a different message here than just a good motivational speech. Among there are many powerful visions in the Bible, there are four that show an unmistakable progression. In Ezekiel 8:1-18, there is a remarkable vision of sin in which the prophet is given a glimpse into the inner sanctum of the temple to see the abominations that the priests hid behind their closed doors. The next powerful vision I’d like to mention was Isaiah’s theophany in Isaiah 6:1-8 which gave him a glimpse into his own polluted inner sanctum, but it also provided an immediate remedy. In Ephesians 1:15-23, we find a third vision, the heart cry of the Apostle Paul that the church would have a revelation of the redemption and restoration provided through the cross. The final vision is the one given to John on the Isle of Patmos in which he saw the consummation of all things when those who had dealt with their wickedness were redeemed and given eternal rewards while those who had failed or refused to do so were damned to eternal judgment.
Billionaire investor Warren Buffett once said that in the business world the rear view mirror is always much clearer than the front windshield. Unless God happens to give you prophetic insight into a situation, the same is true in all of life. That’s why the Lord requires that we live by faith rather than by sight. However, when we walk by faith, there are always two questions which always seem to be just beyond our grasp: “Why?” and “How?” The Bible is full of people who just couldn’t figure out how things would work out. Zechariah wanted to know how he would know that Elizabeth would conceive, Mary wanted to know how a virgin could have a child, Jesus told a parable about a sower who did not know how the harvest would come, God asked Job if he knew how that life came, and Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego knew that God was able to deliver them but not how He would do it. We need to learn to leave the how to God–just like they did. If we let God take care of the how, we’ll soon discover that He is also taking care of the why behind all the events we go through. Just as with the three Hebrew children, we will find that God will choose the option that will give Him the greatest glory. Three times in the first chapter of Ephesians, Paul speaks of our lives and the events in them as being to the praise of the glory of God. Even if we can’t see how some events are going to be to God’s glory as we are going through them, we will certainly understand when we come out of them. I’m sure that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego could see a lot better in the rear view mirror coming out of the fiery furnace than they did through the front windshield going into it.
In the covenant He made with Noah after the Flood, God specifically promised the blessing of summer and winter along with cold weather and hot weather, “While the earth remaineth, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease.” (Genesis 8:22) As I endured twenty-five Februarys of shoveling my drive in the subzero weather of Indiana, I often questioned how this could be part of a covenant blessing or how the Psalmist could consider the creation of the summer-winter cycle to be one of God’s praiseworthy accomplishments, “Thou hast set all the borders of the earth: thou hast made summer and winter.” (verse 74:17)
An anthropologist once presented a thesis that most of the progressive nations of history have arisen out of the temperate zones of the planet where the people had adapt to changing seasons and learn to face the difficulties and challenges of winter weather. Though I’ve never made a real study of the idea, it does seem to be a fairly true observation. If it is true, then there is a definite benefit to enduring discomfort as it prepares us for greater victories. Psalm 30:5 addresses the daily cycle of change and compares it to the temporary discomforts of life and the eventual blessing that come out of them, “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.” In reality, the seasons and the phases of the day mentioned in the covenant are all directly related to the relationship of the earth to the sun. Spiritually, all the significant changes and the way they change us are also related to our relationship to the Son. If our lives revolve around Him, we will eventually come to a season of blessing.
“After this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands; And cried with a loud voice, saying, Salvation to our God which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb. And all the angels stood round about the throne, and about the elders and the four beasts, and fell before the throne on their faces, and worshipped God, Saying, Amen: Blessing, and glory, and wisdom, and thanksgiving, and honour, and power, and might, be unto our God for ever and ever. Amen.” (Revelation 7:9-12) This passage describes the ultimate goal of the human race–a chorus of redeemed individuals from every ethnic group and background worshipping and praising God. This scene depicts the consummate fulfillment of the Great Commission in which Jesus sent His disciples to all nations and to every creature to share the Good News. In essence, missions exists for the purpose of recruiting this regenerated praise team. It will cease to be necessary once this choir is full.
True worship has always been the essence of God’s plan. Notice for instance God chose the psalm-composing shepherd boy David to become a great warrior and king. This harp-playing minstrel was a sincere worshipper long before he won any military decorations or regal crowns. Likewise, we will never be more authoritative in warfare than we are intimate in worship.
Worship is the essence of our relationship with Him. Even while still possessed by demons, Legion instinctively responded with worship when Jesus came near. (Mark 5:6)
Some college buddies of mine were from a very wealthy family; however, they lived and dressed just like all the other students on campus. One day, they were in local fast food restaurant after having been out doing some sort of outdoor activity. Because their clothes were muddy and ragged, some of the customers were visibly keeping a distance from them. I’ve always wondered what went through those people’s minds when my friends walked out side and drove off in their grandfather’s Rolls Royce!
In John chapter four, we learn the story of Jesus’ conversation with the Samaritan woman at well. One of the significant points in this encounter was the reaction of the disciples upon their return. (verse 27) They couldn’t believe their eyes when they say their beloved teacher sharing with this woman. He was violating a long list of taboos. Jews didn’t interact with Samaritans, Jewish men didn’t make social contact with women outside their own families, and above all else, this particular woman was an outcast from society who was not even welcomed by her own people.
It’s amazing how we can so easily categorize people and differentiate between individuals, establishing their worth in our own eyes. Remember Jack the Ripper? He didn’t consider his heinous crimes to be evil since he only murdered prostitutes! Surprisingly, Jesus said that the prostitutes would actually enter the kingdom of heaven before many religious people. (Matthew 21:31) We must learn that if we close your eyes while “bad” people pass by, they will still be closed when “good” people come along. They may actually be the same people!
I once heard that there are two reasons why people don’t come to Christ: 1) they don’t know a Christian, and 2) they do know a Christian. The church has actively been sending missionaries into all the world in an attempt to remedy the first issue. Most churches have also encouraged their members to become active in their local communities rather than becoming isolated in the “Christian community.” After all, what good is salt as long as it is in the shaker? However, the second issue may need a bit more of our attention. Many times the lives we present to the world prove to be rather “salty” instead of being salt. In fact, someone once concluded that most Christians could actually help the cause of evangelism more by telling people that they are atheists–and helping reverse. I remember hearing of one Jewish sales lady who said that she did not want to be a Christian because of the hassle and aggravation she encountered in her store every Christmas. On the other hand, I was recently told by a lady at cashier counter in our local pharmacy, “Boy, it really makes me feel better just to have you come in!” I hadn’t done a thing except let the life of Jesus flow through me when I checked out. Maybe we should begin to ask ourselves some serious questions about what people see when they meet us: Is my life a justification of the price that was paid for it? To what degree is my life a reflection of my full potential? Am I a God magnet? Am I a challenge to or an advertisement for the Kingdom? Does my face look like the devil took out ad space on it? If I were arrested for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict me?
I was recently captivated by an article about how gold is extracted in some areas of Africa. Rock and soil bearing gold deposits are crushed and mixed into a mud which can be passed through a sluice to separate the heavier strata which contains the gold flakes. Once this residue is separated, the gold has to be pulled out of the remaining mud. This step in the process involves adding pure mercury which attracts the gold and separates easily from the rest of the mix. Once the beads of gold-coated mercury are pulled from the soil, it is a simple process to heat the two metals and separate them. Since they have two different weights, they form two distinct layers which can easily be divided. The thing that caught my attention about this process was the fact that this whole process is done by hand using child labor. The little children actually handle the raw mercury in their bare hands, exposing them to very high levels of the toxic substance with absolutely no protection from its harmful effects. In another article, I learned that gold and other precious metals are reclaimed for used computers, televisions, and cell phones by a process of melting down the electronic component–a process which releases inestimable poisonous fumes from the molten plastics and toxicity from the heavy metals. The horror of this process is that it done by poverty-stricken villagers in India in little kettles over open fires in front of their huts–with no protection from the dangerous effects of the process. Innocent children and villagers suffer and die for others to enjoy the glitter of their golden status symbols. What are the true riches of this earth–a bit of gold on your finger or a bit of God in these lives?
I was recently helping my dad look through some of his important papers when I ran across the life insurance policy my grandfather had taken out on him when he was born. It has a face value of one hundred twenty-five dollars–no, I didn’t leave out the word “thousand.” That’s the total value of his policy: $125. Of course, in 1920 one hundred twenty-five dollars was enough money to do more than buy a basket of groceries. My, how the economy has changed–and it keeps on changing. All the talk about the economy lately has been nothing but bad news: bear market in stocks, mortgage foreclosures, real estate devalued, recession, weak dollar on international exchange, oil prices up, national deficit up, personal debt up, unemployment up, personal savings at almost zero, corporate downsizing, outsourcing of jobs, and factory closings. My wife and I just went through a re-evaluation of our investments and found that recent economic downturns had actually “eaten up” all the increases we had made on our investments over the past several years of diligent good stewardship–and that was before we took into consideration that the value of the dollar had actually dropped by fifteen percent in the past year and close to forty percent in the last five years. In 1955, “In God we trust” was added to all US paper currency as a Cold War statement against the communists who didn’t believe in God. Today, there is a movement to remove those words because they offend our atheistic fellow citizens. I suggest that we need them even more now than ever, not as reminder to those who do not be believe in Him, but those of us who claim to believe but really trust mammon.
A story is told of a very wealthy man who appeared at the Pearly Gates carrying a suitcase. When Saint Peter questioned him a to what it was that he felt was so important that he would haul it with him to heaven, the man opened the case to reveal ingots of solid gold. Peter’s reply was, “Why would you go to all that much trouble to bring paving material?” We often speak with great anticipation of the time when God will subdue all our enemies and put them “under our feet.” However, have we ever thought that when we walk on streets of gold in heaven, we will literally have money under our feet? The logically conclusion we can draw from this truth is that we should actually see money in the category of those enemies which are destined to be trodden down. Of course, we all know I Timothy 6:10, “For the love of money is the root of all evil”; however, I would question how many of us have really conquered our affinity for wealth to the point that we can see our possessions as paving materials that build roads to where we want to go rather than being the end of our journey. When having money becomes the objective in life rather than a means to accomplishing a set goal, then we have confused gold for goals, mistaken the road for the destination, mixed up prosperity and posterity, and misunderstood net worth and self worth.
Perhaps this was the point in Jesus’ commissioning of His disciples. The first time He sent them out without purses (Luke 10:4); later, He told them to carry their money belts (Luke 22:3). Apparently, the first trip had proven that they understood the value of the destination rather than the pavement on the road that got them there.
To many, the concept of Jesus’ abandoning His divine position and becoming a human is quite a mystery. They are puzzled by the question, “Why did Jesus come?” The scriptures directly address this issue at least four times. In John 18:37, Jesus explained to Pilate, “To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth.” In the first epistle of John we read, “For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil.” (verse 3:8) In His first public sermon, Jesus explained, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor,…to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, to preach the acceptable year of the Lord.” (Luke 4:18-19) He later explained, “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.” (John 10:10) But the question still remains as to why He had to become flesh; wasn’t it possible for Him to do all these things as a deity just visiting our planet without becoming a citizen of the human family?
The modern parable of a man who was concerned for a flock of birds outside his window which were destined to freeze to death in the winter snows can help explain. When all his attempts to draw the birds into the warmth of his home had failed, he exclaimed in exasperation, if only I could become a bird so I could communicate with them. Jesus took on the form of sinful human flesh in order to speak directly into our lives so that we could understand His love for us.
Yogi Beara is credited with having said, “You observe a lot by looking.” Even though this pithy little sayings seems to be a redundancy at best and total nonsense at worst, it actually points up a truth about the difference between seeing and observing. A similarly, catchy phrase goes, “I don’t understand nearly as much as I know.” We have to recognize that God often uses secular people to put His plans in motion because they can see what’s happening even when they don’t understand the spiritual nature of it. Caiaphas prophesied the crucifixion even though he had zero comprehension of his own words. (John 11:51) Pharaoh had the dream that mapped out the conditions of the next fourteen years (Genesis 41:15), and Nebuchadnezzar had a dream that plotted the course of human history for centuries (Daniel 2:26). However, it was Joseph and Daniel who gave meaning to these dreams. Even though God sometimes gives visions to people because of their office, not their spirituality; He gives the interpretations to His people. In other words, a politian, a statistician, or an economist may be able to forecast what is going to happen in the political or economic future; however, without the Spirit of God they will not be able to have insight into the true meaning and significance of the events or how to best prepare for them. Often we Christians foolishly err in the ditches on both sides of the road when it comes to taking secular counsel. Some of us ignore secular counsel all together while others of us take it “hook, line, and sinker.” Our true position should be to hear what they have to say, but rely on the Holy Spirit insight inside us to reveal the real truth and meaning.
According to Proverbs 13:22b, the unrighteous have wealth that will be transferred to the just. From James 5:3, we learn that this wealth is stored up for the end time. In Matthew 13: 24, 36, and 49, we find that the end time harvest of the planting of the Lord when the wicked and the just will be harvested and separated is illustrated in the parable of the wheat and tares. Putting all these thoughts together, it seems that the resources which the wicked control are to be transferred to the just at the time when the wicked are actually plucked out of earth. In other words, those who are constantly speaking of a transfer of the wealth of the wicked into the hands of Christians are probably a bit premature in their thinking. It seems that this transfer of wealth is to come at the end time, not during our present period of history. If this parable is speaking of the final harvest and the ultimate destruction of the wicked, what will be the use of the transfer of wealth to the righteous? Apparently it will not be for the purpose of evangelizing the world as is often thought. However, this transfer of wealth could simply be a way of establishing the millennia kingdom. Matthew 13:43 goes on to say, “Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father,” a statement that seems to refer to the manifestation of the metamorphosis that we believers will experience when we are gloried in the presence of the Lord. (I John 3:2) What does this mean for us today? Simply that we should stop counting on winning a lottery or other get-rich-quick theology and focus on the time-proven biblical principles of prosperity to finance our personal needs and our plans for world evangelization.
Having dealt with the wealth of the wicked, it is only proper that we also consider the wealth of the righteous. It has been said of Christianity that: in Jerusalem, it was a movement; in Greece, it was a philosophy; in Rome, it was an institution; in Europe, it was a culture; but in America, it became was an enterprise. How sad a comment concerning our present culture! It is true, we have developed a very business-minded approach to doing ministry. I remember reading one very popular book by a very successful church planter. One of the statements he made in the text was that his staff had developed a stereotype profile of their target audience. They had drawn up a model of the man, showing his age, the type of clothing he would typically wear, the kind of car he would show up in when he attired at church, his income range, etc., etc. This profile sheet was distributed to all the staff and leaders of the church. It was posted in offices and conference rooms where the church leadership could constantly be reminded of their target audience. Surveys were made of representatives from this target audience to see what type of music would be appealing to them, how long (or short) the service would need to be to hold their attention, and what type of atmosphere they would find most conducive. The whole approach of the church was readjusted to fit the model constructed from the results of this survey. Even if every church is not this blatant in their enterprising of the gospel, it is true that that the church has turned to secular business for a prototype. Our success and wealth are a result of business skills, not our ability to trust God and follow His leading.
In a recent study among one thousand adults on end-of-life medical care and seven hundred seventy-four doctors and other medical workers who care for them, it was discovered that more than half of American adults believe in divine intervention at the hospital. Fifty-seven percent of the patients said that they felt that divine intervention could save them even when medical treatment appears hopeless, and almost twenty percent of doctors and medical workers surveyed agreed.
So, we have a country full–well, at least half full–of people who when they are terminally ill, with their backs against the wall, believe that God can heal them. If this is the case, why don’t we see more miracles in the ICU? Perhaps we could find an answer in the story of King Asa. According to I Kings 15:11, Asa was a good man who did that which was right in the eyes of the LORD, just like his ancestor David had done. However, three verses later, we learn that his heart was not perfect toward the LORD. This heart attitude is the pivotal issue in his life–and death. In II Chronicles 16:9, the prophet Hanani pronounced one of the most encouraging words in all the Bible, “The eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to shew himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward him.” Unfortunately, the rest of his message was a warning that Asa did not qualify for this kind of divine intervention. Three verses later, we read that Asa had a foot disease and that he went to his physicians rather than the Lord–and died. Imagine, it wasn’t a brain tumor that killed the king, but it really was a heart problem, one that wasn’t perfect toward God.
When it seems that everything is going against you, there are a number of biblical steps to take in getting things turned around:
1) Admit it if the problem is your own fault. Jonah had to confess that he was running from God to calm the storm at sea. (Jonah 1:12) II Chronicles 7:14 tells us that the first step in getting God to heal our land is for His people to humble themselves.
2) Don’t fight back with carnality. David did not kill King Saul when he had two chances to do so even as the king sought to take his life. (I Samuel 24:4, 26:8) Ephesians 6:10 tells us that we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, and II Corinthians 10:4 reminds us that our weapons are not carnal but mighty through God.
3) Expect God to deliver you. God is no respecter of persons (Acts 10:34); if He delivered Daniel from the lions’ den (Daniel 6:22) and the three Hebrew children from the fiery furnace (Daniel 3:17), He’ll do it for you.
But the most important thing to remember is: 4) Use common sense. Joseph asked butler to help him get out of prison (Genesis 40:13-14), Paul had his nephew get him out danger when men plotted to kill him (Acts 23:16-17), and Elijah retreated to the Brook Cherith (I Kings 17:3). If these men of faith had to take physical action, we also need to use whatever human resources we have available to us.
5) Recognize that you might be part of God’s answer and use your resources–physical and spiritual. Mordecai reminded Esther that she had been set in place in the kingdom for action at the precise time. (Esther 4:14)
More biblical clues to getting things turned around when it seems that everything is going against you include:
Even if you have to ask for others’ help, determine to bless them. Elijah asked the widow for a cake but gave her a miracle. (I Kings 17:13-14)
2) Look beyond the physical. When Elisha was surrounded by the enemy, the prophet had to pray that the Lord would open his servant’s eyes so that he could see the angelic forces at work on their behalf. (II Kings 6:16) When Peter was in prison, the Lord sent an angel into his cell to release him. (Acts 12:7) Psalms 121:1-2 reminds us
“I will lift up my eyes to the hills. Where shall my help come from? My help comes from the LORD, who made Heaven and earth.” (MKJV)
3) Get into unity with other believers. Esther asked all the Jews to join her in a three-day fast before she approached the king on their behalf. (Esther 4:16) Jehoshaphat called all the people together to pray and fast when they were under attack by an unchallengeable coalition of enemy forces. (II Chronicles 20:4)
4) Fast and pray. When Esther and the Jews fasted for three days, God brought a great deliverance from the genocide planned against them. (Esther 4:16)
10) Take your problem to the Lord. When the enemy king sent an ultimatum to King Hezekiah, he spread the threatening letter out before the Lord and received his deliverance. (II Kings 19:14)
11) Seek advice from godly counselors. When Hezekiah sought a message from Huldah the prophetess, he received a divine answer. (II Kings 22:13-14)
More biblical clues to getting things turned around when it seems that everything is going against you include:
1) Trust God that He knows what He’s doing. If anyone had a reason to question what was going on in his life, it would be Joseph who wound up in slavery and prison when he was promised a position where his brothers would bow down to him. One of his keys to victory in these adverse situations was that he kept believing that even though men meant these things for evil against him, God meant them for good. (Genesis 50:20)
2) Listen for divine direction. When David’s family had been kidnapped and all his possessions plundered, he inquired of the Lord, “Shall I pursue and overtake?” God not only answered him, He also made him victorious in spite of his physical and emotional exhaustion. (II Samuel 30:8) God spoke to Joseph in a dream that he and Mary should flee to Egypt to escape Herod’s wrath. (Matthew 2:13)
3) Rely upon God’s Word. King Jehoshaphat recited the covenant of God when he was under assault by an alliance of three enemy armies. (II Chronicles 20:6-12)
4) Praise. Jehoshaphat sent out the musicians to praise God for the victory in a battle which they hadn’t even fought yet. (II Chronicles 20:22) Paul and Silas praised in prison, and the Lord sent an earthquake to tear down the prison so they could go free. (Acts 16:25)
5) Activate the miraculous gifts of the Spirit. Elijah stopped the rain (I Kings 17:1), and Moses called ten different plagues upon the Egyptians (Exodus 9:14). In both cases, their oppressor eventually capitulated.
More biblical clues to getting things turned around when it seems that everything is going against you include:
1) Stand your ground. Even though they repeated tried to wear him down and make him feel as if he were at fault, Job didn’t give in to the accusations of his so-called friends. (Job 32:1)
2) Be bold. Elijah challenged the prophets of Baal to a show-down. (Kings 18:19) I John 4:4 reminds us that we also have the upper-hand advantage because greater is He who is inside us than he who is in the world.
3) Let the peace of God keep your heart and mind. (Philippians 4:7) Remember that Jesus slept in the boat during a life-threatening storm (Matthew 8:24), and Peter slept in the prison while facing capital charges. (Acts 12:6)
4) Go fishing. When Peter went fishing after crucifixion, Jesus met him at the sea shore. (John 21:3)
5) Surrender. Even though Paul had received prophetic warnings and was spiritually aware of the danger awaiting him in Jerusalem, he responded that he was ready not to be bound only but also to die. Finally, his friends agreed, “May the will of the Lord be done.” (Acts 21:10-14)
6) Remember a heavenly reward awaits you even if you don’t get your physical deliverance. Paul said that the present light affliction (shipwrecks, beatings, being stoned and left for dead, etc.) he endured was not worthy to be compared to the promises he would attain. (II Corinthians 4:17) James 1:12 and Revelation 2:10 promise us that a crown of life is laid up for us, and Hebrews 11:35 guarantees that martyrs will receive a better resurrection.
One last key to living above the hostilities of this life is don’t be surprised when God delivers and promotes you. Joseph went directly from prison to palace, yet we never hear him say anything about the sudden advancement or about not being ready to make the instantaneous transition. (Genesis 41:41) Jacob, on the other hand, couldn’t believe that his son was alive. (Genesis 45:26) Even though he had hoped and prayed for so many years that his son would be restored to him, he was totally caught off guard and taken back when his answer was manifest. The disciples couldn’t believe that Jesus had been resurrected (Luke 24:11), and Rhoda had a hard time convincing the believers that God had actually answered their prayers when Peter was supernaturally released from prison. (Acts 12:15) Of course, Peter himself had asked if the celestial visit were a dream. (Acts 12:9) According to Psalm 126:1, when the Lord turned again the captivity of Zion and released them for the Babylonian captivity, they were like them who were dreaming. The story is told of a special prayer meeting which was called to intercede for an end a prolonged draught; only one participant showed up with an umbrella!
We must remember that God is a perfect marksman. Once we make ourselves targets for His blessings, He will hit the bulls-eye. The truth is that God is more desirous to bless, protect, and deliver us than we are desirous of His intervention. So we shouldn’t expect anything less than what we ask for–and actually be ready for more! Ephesians 3:20 promises that He will do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think.
It was almost impossible to believe my own ears as I sat in the living room with my hostess in Rwanda as she recounted her experiences during the genocide in which almost a million people died in a period of just less than three months. The Hutus had declared all-out war against the “tall trees”–the Tutsis. Jane’s personal story was that even though her husband was a Hutu, he had not done as many Hutus who had Tutsi wives had decided to do–slaughter them in cold blood. Instead, he had taken some of the children who looked more like Hutus and left Jane and the more Tutsi-looking children to fend for themselves as the blood-thirsty mobs neared their section of town. Yes, this story of African tribal genocide is a barbaric extreme; however, all we need to do is look across town, down the street, or even into our own lives to find blatant instances of living prejudice and tragic disregard for other humans. We see it in varying degrees every day–manifested as racism, sexism, and socio-economic prejudices. The most pitiful of all places to find it is in the church, but it is still rampant there. No, we may not be abandoning people to the machetes of crazed tribal warfare just because they have the wrong facial features, but we do toss them to the sharks–or at least the roaring lion (I Peter 5:8)–to devour just because they don’t fit our social or theological mould. Of course, this is no new problem. It is said that William Booth, the founder of the Salvation Army, would not fellowship with the great pastor, theologian, and evangelist Charles Spurgeon because he smoked–even though they ministered in the same town. We must remember that man’s rejects are God’s selects!
After enduring the blustery winters of Indiana, I was really taken back when the German missionary in Sri Lanka said something about the “beautiful winter” we had back home. I, on the other hand, was thinking about the heavenly experience of endless summer on their tropic island paradise. When the missionary explained that the ice and cold was God’s way to get rid of the pests which continued to multiply year round in the tropics, I understood what she meant about the “beautiful winter.”
In all of life, there are things for which we often just don’t know how to assign the proper value. To me, there was no value in the fridge winter; to her, it would have held great value. A simple olive wreath can be bought for ten cents, but to a Roman athlete it was worth running a marathon or fighting gladiators to earn.
When we talk about an individual’s possessions of property, stocks, bonds, and other financial holdings, we often use the term “worth,” in such expressions as “He was worth a million dollars,” or “He had a net worth of a million dollars.” However, the real measure of a person’s wealth is how much he’d be worth if he lost all his money. You see, our real value or worth isn’t in what we have, but in what we contribute. Winter temperatures contribute to the insect control, olive wreaths contribute to the recognition of excellence, and a man’s character contributes to the good of the community in which he lives. Our true worth is not in our pockets but in our hearts. If we are able to give fiscally, the true value of the gift is not in the zeros on the check but the One that is in our hearts.
In 1890 Emma Crawford was laid to her eternal rest atop Red Mountain just outside Manitou Springs, Colorado–or so everyone thought. Some thirty-nine years later, her coffin slid downhill into the city, causing quite a stir. In fact, such a stir that the event is commemorated every year on the Saturday before Halloween by the Annual Manitou Springs Coffin Race, an event in which hand-built coffins complete with a young female occupant are raced through the city streets. Manitou Springs, already listed in Ripley’s Believe It Or Not for the Manitou Fruitcake Toss, will be listed in the 2009 edition or Ripley’s annual of oddities for these coffin races.
Halloween, now the second most popular holiday in America, is based on the belief that the spirits of the dead may visit the habitat of the living. Believe it or not, the Bible actually records three accounts of such posthumous visits. First Samuel chapter twenty-eight tells the story of King Saul’s visit to the witch of Endor who conjured up the spirit of the prophet Samuel. Her surprise at the fact that he actually appeared confirms that her general practice in these séances was one of trickery. On the Mount of Transfiguration, two Old Testament figures appeared and conversed with the Lord centuries after their demise. (Matthew 17:1-13, Mark 9:1-13) Matthew 27:52-53 records the story of Old Testament saints who came out of their graves at the time of Jesus’ resurrection and appeared in Jerusalem. The truth is that all the dead will eventually come back out of their graves–some for eternal salvation, others for eternal damnation. You’d better believe it!
“If this is the way God made me, then this is the way I’m going to live…I really feel closer to God because I no longer hate myself,” a once-famous Christian songwriter and recording artist writes in his “coming out of the closet” statement announcing that he is a homosexual. In other words, it’s all God’s fault. That is exactly what Adam did in the garden. Adam pointed an accusing finger at Eve saying that the problem was with the woman that “You gave me.” Certainly, Even was given some blame, and the serpent was acknowledged as part of the problem; but the bottom line was that it was God’s fault–after all, He was the one who made the woman!!
It is interesting that God has such a dislike for the practice of homosexuality that He has banned it from His kingdom. (II Corinthians 6:9-10, “Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.”) Yet this supposedly well-versed former spokesman for the Christian faith can say that God made him that way. How could God deliberately make someone into an object which He purposely intends to reject? Certainly, I’m saddened by this gentleman’s fall and his sinful lifestyle, but my real concern is for his discrediting the name and nature of our loving and righteous God. In like manner, we must always be cautious in our own lifestyles and testimonies not to present our Heavenly Father as anything less than He is–almighty, all loving, and all holy.
Attending a wedding for the first time, a little girl whispered to her mother, “Why is the bride dressed in white?” The mother replied, “Because white is the color of happiness, and today is the happiest day of her life.”
The child thought about this for a moment then said, “So why is the groom wearing black?”
A Sunday school teacher was discussing the Ten Commandments with her five and six year olds. After explaining the commandment to honor your father and mother, she asked if there was a commandment that teaches us how to treat our brothers and sisters. Without missing a beat, one little boy answered, “Thou shall not kill.” A little boy was overheard praying, “Lord, if you can’t make me a better boy, don’t worry about it. I’m having a real good time like I am.”
As their mother was preparing pancakes, five-year-old Kevin and three-year-old Ryan began to argue over who would get the first pancake. Seeing the opportunity for a moral lesson, the mother asked, “If Jesus were sitting here, He would say, ‘Let my brother have the first pancake; I can wait.’” Kevin turned to his younger brother and said, “Ryan, you be Jesus!”
A mom had invited some people to dinner. At the table, she turned to their six-year-old daughter and said, “Would you like to say the blessing?” “I wouldn’t know what to say,” the girl replied. “Just say what you hear Mommy say,” her mother answered. The daughter bowed her head and said, “Lord, why on earth did I invite all these people to dinner?”
“Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision: for the day of the LORD is near in the valley of decision.” (Joel 3:14)
A pastor friend of mine often refers to this passage in Joel, but always misquotes it as the “valley of indecision.” Whether he does this on purpose to make a point or out of ignorance of the actual verse, I don’t honestly know; however, the phrase does have a bearing on the world we live in today. Take for instance the following quote from politician Walt Handelsman, “I’m thinking about possibly analyzing the viability of maybe, perhaps, in the not too distant future, preparing to begin to seriously contemplate the actual steps needed to move forward with an announcement of my intentions to study the feasibility of a national response to current polling data that could move me into a position to assess the viability of the electorate’s mood for a potential independent candidate who can’t make up his mind.” I’m note sure if Walt decided to toss his hat into the ring or not, but at least he put his finger on the pulse of many Americans–deciding if they wanted a candidate who couldn’t make up his mind.
Jesus was displeased with one of the churches in Revelation because they were lukewarm. He said that they should be either hot or cold. To Him, neutral was worse than radically wrong! Our most important choice is to choose the Lord. All other choices flow from this one.
“I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life.” (Deuteronomy 30:19)
“Choose you this day whom ye will serve…but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.” (Joshua 24:15)
In recent election campaigns, we’ve heard a lot about “the evangelical right.” But the truth is that only seventy percent of evangelical Christians are even registered to vote and only seventy percent of those registered voters actually make it to the polls. This means that we are only expressing forty-nine percent of our potential voice and exerting less than half of our potential influence in society. On the other hand, a highly-motivated voting block of seven percent atheists, ten percent “other,” and ten percent unaffiliated Christians can exert over half as much influence as our poorly-motivated evangelical right. God has given us a voice, and we need to make it heard. He has made us light, and we must shine into every dark corner. Brave men and women have given their life blood for us to have the right to freely express ourselves on election day. Take the time, make the effort, and shake off the bondage. Be free, live free, speak freely. Although we are able to make a difference everyday of our lives, this is our one day to make a difference in the selection of our local, state, and national leadership. Seize the day, exercise your power, and celebrate the victory.
Then as soon as you cast your ballot, take your Bible and turn to II Timothy chapter two and dedicate yourself to pray for whichever candidate might win. “I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour.” (verses 1-3)
Aimee Semple McPherson, one of the great women of God of all ages, once wrote of the spread of revival fire in one of her meetings, “Faith and praise is contagious. The fire of unwavering confidence in God that burns within the temple soon leaps over its parapets, spreads first to those in the seats nearby, then on to the farthest corner of the room, inspiring, encouraging, lifting up drooping heads, strengthening feeble knees, and in a moment every eye is fixed on Jesus…the Latter Rain is heard pattering on the roofs, running down the troughs, overflowing the rain-barrels, the dry ground is saturated, and the wilderness and desert places are blooming as the rose!” (This is That,1923)
Wow! What a poetic description of the move of the Holy Spirit upon thirsty souls! Notice that she speaks of faith and praise as the catalysts which precipitated (pardon the pun–I just couldn’t pass it up) the Latter Rain of Holy Ghost revival. As I read her words, I couldn’t help but think of how many of us feel about the outpouring of the Holy Spirit; we simply feel that God will do it at His own discretion without our input or involvement. However, Sister McPherson’s experience was that praise and faith from the hearts of sincere believers set the stage for the move of the Holy Spirit. I think of the flood that came during Noah’s day. According to Genesis 7:11 and 8:2, there were no torrents of rain from above until there were eruptions from the fountains of the deep. In order to see revival, we must first let the rivers of living water flow from our innermost bellies (John 7:38). At that point, God will open the floodgates of heaven and inundate us.
The Jon Frum cargo cult on Tanna Island, Vanuatu, based on the visit of a spirit by that name, believes that the spirits of 150,000 American soldiers from WWII live in the volcano on the island. Each time America goes to war, they march around the volcano carrying sticks that resemble guns and paint “USA” in red on their chests and pray for the US to win the war. Isaacone, the cult leader, recently came to Christ and has led 500 members to salvation.
Mizoram state in India is eighty-five percent Christian. Located between the Buddhist country of Myanmar, the Islamic nation of Bangladesh, and the Hindu state of Assam in India, Mizoram has seven hundred thousand people. Almost all of the indigenous population is Christian, and about sixty percent of those who have migrated there have been converted by Mizo missionaries. A series of spiritual renewals at the beginning of the last century and recent revivals have kept the Presbyterian, Baptist, and other large denominational churches full. The state has sent over a thousand missionaries to the rest of India and other Asian countries. No nation on earth has sent out a higher proportion of their people as missionaries. About eighty percent of the population attends services weekly and most churches have a daily prayer meeting. Teen pregnancy, prostitution, AIDS, and divorce are rare.
Buddhist monks at the Kagyu Monastery in Tibet listen to gospel radio programs as part of their debate class. One lama (actually considered a living Buddha) has declared that he realizes that God has a son and His name is Jesus.
Most people who want to argue against tattoos use Leviticus 19:28, “Ye shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor print any marks upon you: I am the LORD.” The context of this passage is the prohibition against following the pagan ritual of cutting oneself as a sign of mourning after the death of a family member–not exactly the current practice of tattooing and body piercing. Personally, I prefer to look at the origin of the custom to determine if it something to be avoided. Tattooing originated in the South Pacific as a way of showing ones sexual readiness–the more the markings, the more sex.
When sailors started docking in Tahiti, they soon discovered that they would have to be tattooed in order to get what they wanted. In fact, there are places where you can get invisible tattoos for this exact purpose — you can still be sexually attractive even if you don’t have visible markings. You’d think that a good Christian would not want to display this kind of carnal motivation. Body piercing originated with demon worship in Hindu and pagan circles where people walk on hot coals and get various impellings to atone for their sins and to prove that they are full of the spirits.
Christians have had their sins atoned for by the cross and are filled with a totally different spirit; therefore, they shouldn’t be interested in this sort of stuff. On the other hand, we must remember that many of our beloved traditions such as Christmas trees and Easter eggs also originated in pagan practice. If we can accept them without question or conviction, we must also be ready to accept our tattooed and pierced friends and brothers without hesitation or condemnation.
In the Greek New Testament, there are two different terms which are translated the same way into English. The Greek words “logos” and “rhema” both become “word” when translated into English. By going back to the original meaning of the terms in Greek, we get a powerful insight into some significant truths which we will overlook if we are not able to look into the minds of the original writers. Logos is a general message while rhema is a specific, individualized word for the individual hearer at the specific moment. For example, the seed sown in the parable of the four soils is spoken of as logos. Thins is likely the reason that only one of the four soils was productive. However, rhema words are always productive and never return to the Lord without accomplishing their purpose. It was with the rhema of God that Jesus withstood during His temptation, and it is the rhema word that we can use as our sword in spiritual battle. Let’s just take a peek at some of the specific truths concerning the rhema that we can receive from God:
Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every rhema that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.–Matthew 4:4
Simon answering said unto him, Master, we have toiled all the night, and have taken nothing: nevertheless at thy rhema I will let down the net.–Luke 5:5
Jesus said, “The rhema that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.”–John 6:63
Simon Peter answered him, Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the rhema of eternal life.–John 6:68
He that is of God heareth God’s words (rhema): ye therefore hear them not, because ye are not of God.–John 8:47
Sometimes we try to explain spiritual things with our carnal minds, engendering either no answers at all, weak answers, or false answers. Because we have looked at the issues from a human viewpoint, we come up with such pat answers, or should I say non-answers, as “We’ll understand it all by and by,” or “You just never know what God might do.” We can only answer as much as we have revelation on, and we have to walk by faith the rest of the way. I don’t understand what makes a television or a microwave or a telephone or a computer work, but I work with each of them everyday. However, the more I learn about how to work them, the more effective I become with using them. The same is true with the gospel. I may not totally understand it, but I must live by it each day. And as I do, it will become more and more revealed and more and more relevant to my daily life.
It has been said that ignorance of the law is no excuse. I was once stopped by a traffic patrol because I failed to slow down after entering the city limits. I had failed to note the change in the speed limit, but that did not negate that I had every opportunity to read the properly-posted sign. So it is with the gospel: the signs are all posted; if we fail to observe them, we must pay the consequences. David spoke of his adultery with Bathsheba and murderous plot against Uriah but acknowledged that the sin was against God alone. Here we get an insightful clue into the mystery of God’s perspective: the acts we see as temporal are actually offenses against the eternal God Himself. We must see every aspect of life as a relationship with Him. Otherwise, we miss God and the essence of life.
Probably the most powerful relationship in human history is the covenant. A covenant binds two individuals together with a stronger commitment than any form of legal contract or agreement. The power of the covenant is not so much in the agreements made, but in the individuals who bind themselves together in those agreements. When we think of covenants, the first biblical character to come to mind is usually Abraham because his covenant with God established him as the father of a nation, an heir to a country, and a partner with divinity. When we think of this covenant partner, two unusual episodes in his life come to mind. First, he told Lot to pick what part of the land he wanted for himself, when all of it was actually Abraham’s through his covenant right. Next, he was willing to sacrifice Isaac even though his son was the promised covenant heir through whom the covenant promises were to be fulfilled. Like Jesus who thought equality with God nothing to be grabbed, Abraham didn’t grab the covenant blessings. The only logical explanation for such actions was that his faith was in the God of the covenant more than in the covenant itself. The power of the covenant is in the relationship of the partners in covenant–unlike a contract whose power is in the wording of the legal agreement.
For us to truly benefit from our covenant relationship, our focus in life must be on getting to know the One with Whom we are in covenant. “I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord…that I may know him,” was Paul’s culminating prayer in Philippians 3:8-10.
Old Testament covenants were ratified by a number of different symbolic acts, each one speaking prophetically of the covenant we would eventually have through Christ. Covenants were established by the proclamation of an oath. In Genesis 2:16-18, we see an example of the proclamation made by God after the trial of Abraham’s loyalty when he was asked to sacrifice his son. Today, we still practice such verbal proclamations every time we make wedding vows, a symbolic reminder of the Lord’s proclamation of love for His Bride. In Genesis 26:26-33 we find an example of a ceremonial meal to confirm a covenant.
The practice of a marriage feast originated in this covenant expression. In fact, anytime we share a meal together, we are expressing our relationship with–or at least our desire for a relationship with–the other guests; hence, the significance of a business lunch or a romantic meal for young lovers. In like manner, we can understand the historic racial eruption sparked by a group of young black men who refused to leave the Woolworth’s lunch counter in Greensboro, NC, back in 1960. For whites to allow these blacks to share their lunch bar was tantamount to partnering with them. They had no problem with blacks cooking their food, but they were not about to share a meal with them. The segregated South was not ready to integrate, much less covenant, with the black populace. When the right to sit together over a meal was finally established, the wall of partition had been broken down. For us, the spiritual wall of separation is removed every time we share in communion, and the physical separation will be removed at the Marriage Supper of the Lamb.
Covenants were established by giving of gifts. In Genesis 21:26-32, we read of a gift exchange between Abimelech and Abraham. Even though the men had already exchanged cattle, a special gift of seven ewe lambs was significantly different from all the other cattle which had been exchanged, for these specific lambs symbolized that the men were now entering into a covenant. Although I have given many gifts to others all throughout my life, there is one unique gift which stands out above them all–a diamond ring followed by a wedding band that I gave to my wife at our engagement and wedding. This singular gift signified that we were now ready to share a covenant relationship. Likewise, God gave one unique gift to man, to signifying that He was willing to take us into a covenant relationship with Himself–His only begotten Son! (John 3:16)
As Abraham and Abimelech continued in their covenant relationship, they planted trees as a reminder of their pact. (Genesis 21:33) Unquestionably, this was a symbolic foreshadowing of the tree upon which Jesus was to bare our sins in his own body. Acts 5:30, 10:39, 13:29, Galatians 3:13, I Peter 2:24)
When God established a covenant with Abraham, He participated in an ancient custom of walking among the divided carcasses of slain animals. (Genesis 15:9-17) Jesus asks us to remember the covenant relationship He has established for us each time we take the Lord’s Supper. “The Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread…and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me.” (I Corinthians 11:23-24)
In Genesis 31:43-53, we learn that Old Testament covenants were established by building memorials. Though Laban and Jacob were not on the best of terms, they felt it obligatory to make a physical marker to perpetuate their agreement. In stark contrast, Jesus has left us a physical memorial in the communion to constantly bring us into remembrance that we are now in a positive and beneficial relationship with Him.
When Abraham delivered the king of Sodom from his enemies, he established a covenant with the king through raising his hands. (Genesis 14:22) In the new covenant, we also lift our hands to confirm that we have entered into a wrath and doubt free relationship with God. (I Timothy 2:8)
In the love story of Ruth and Boaz, we find one of the most unusual of all covenant seals–taking off one’s shoe. (Ruth 4:7-8) In the new covenant, this seal still applied when John the Baptist proclaimed that he didn’t even see himself worthy of loosing the latchet of Jesus’ shoe (Luke 3:16) and when Jesus stooped to remove his disciples’ shoes and wash their feet (John 13:5).
Jonathan and David sealed their covenant by exchanging coats. (I Samuel 18:3-4) What a beautiful illustration of what God has done for us in the new covenant when He exchanged the filthy rags of our own righteousness (Isaiah 64:6) for the robes of His of righteousness (Isaiah 61:10) and showed us how to put off the old man and don the new one (Ephesians 4:22-25 and Colossians 3:9-13).
In I Samuel 18:3-4, we learn that Jonathan and David made a covenant by exchanging weapons. We, too, are given the privilege of exchanging our carnal weapons for ones that are mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds. (II Corinthians 10:4) When God called Abram into covenant relationship with Himself, He gave him a new name which was actually a combination of their two names. (Genesis 17:5-8) When I married my wife, I gave her a new name by combining her first name with my last name. This new name gave her all sorts of benefits, like being able to sign checks on my bank account and use my credit card. In our new covenant privileges we have been given the right to use the name of Jesus to ask for anything we need. (John 16:23) The most significant mark of the Old Testament covenant was circumcision. (Genesis 17:10-14) In the New Testament, God makes an equally indelible mark in our hearts. (Romans 2:29) At Mount Ebal and Mount Gerizim, God established a covenant with Israel by announcing blessings and curses. (Joshua 8:30-35) In like manner, the communion cup can be not only a cup of blessing (I Corinthian 10:16) but also a cup of damnation if taken unworthily (I Corinthians 11:27-31). II Chronicles 13:5 tells us that covenants were established by salt. In like manner, the fact that believers become the salt of the earth is proof that they are in covenant relationship with the God of the earth. (Matthew 5:13) Probably the most characteristic element of covenant establishment is the shedding of blood, seen repeatedly through the pages of the Old Testament. (Exodus 24:8) Each time blood was spilled, it spoke unmistakably of the coming cross.
The cute statements below are said to have been written by actual children and are genuine, authentic and not retouched or corrected.
In the first book of the Bible, Guinessis, God got tired of creating the world, so he took the Sabbath off. Adam and Eve were created from an apple tree. Noah’s wife was called Joan of Ark. Noah built an ark, which the animals come on to in pears. Lot’s wife was a pillar of salt by day, but a ball of fire by night. The Jews were a proud people and throughout history they had trouble with the unsympathetic Genitals. Samson was a strongman who let himself be led astray by a Jezebel like Delilah. Samson slayed the Philistines with the axe of the Apostles. Moses led the Hebrews to the Red Sea, where they made unleavened bread which is bread without any ingredients. The Egyptians were all drowned in the dessert. Afterwards, Moses went up on Mount Cyanide to get the ten amendments. The first commandment was when Eve told Adam to eat the apple. The fifth commandment is to humor thy father and mother. The seventh commandment is thou shalt not admit adultery. Moses died before he ever reached Canada. Then Joshua led the Hebrews in the battle of Geritol. The greatest miracle in the Bible is when Joshua told his son to stand still and he obeyed him. David was a Hebrew king skilled at playing the liar. He fought with the Finklesteins, a race of people who lived in Biblical times. Solomon, one of David’s sons, had three hundred wives and seven hundred porcupines.
When Mary heard that she was the mother of Jesus, she sang the Magna Carta. When the three wise guys from the east side arrived, they found Jesus in the manager. Jesus was born because Mary had an immaculate contraption. St. John, the blacksmith, dumped water on his head. Jesus enunciated the Golden Rule, which says to do one to others before they do one to you. He also explained, “A man doth not live by sweat alone.” It was a miracle when Jesus rose from the dead and managed to get the tombstone off the entrance. The people who followed the Lord were called the twelve decibels. The epistles were the wives of the apostles. One of the opossums was St. Matthew who was also a taximan. St. Paul cavorted to Christianity. He preached holy acrimony, which is another name for marriage. A Christian should have only one spouse. This is called monotony.
A Sunday School teacher asked her class why Joseph and Mary took Jesus with them to Jerusalem. A small child replied, “They couldn’t get a babysitter.”
Three-year-old Reese recites the Lord’s Prayer, “Our Father, Who does art in heaven? Harold is His name.” One four-year-old prayed, “And forgive us our trash baskets as we forgive those who put trash in our baskets.” One young lad presented a picture he had drawn to his Sunday school teacher for Christmas. When the teacher looked at the graphic of the Nativity, she questioned a big circle along side the Holy Family. “That’s Round John Virgin,” he proudly answered.
Researchers gave two groups of headache suffers placebos and asked them to rate the effectiveness of their “medication.” One group was told that the tablets cost $2.50 each. These patients almost unanimously reported relief. The second group was told that their pills only cost ten cents. This group reported only fifty percent effectiveness from the “treatment.” The power of the “medicine” was not in it’s chemical content, but in it’s price.
In another test, the subjects were offered a choice between purchasing an expensive truffle candy or a common chocolate kiss. When asked to pay fifteen cents for the truffle or one penny for the kiss, seventy-three percent went for the truffle. When the price was lowered by just one penny so that the truffle cost fourteen cents and the kiss was free, only twenty-seven percent of the subjects chose the truffle. The value of the candy was not in its actual cost or quality but in the concept of getting something for nothing.
Another true story centers around the sale of a boat and trailer. When the boat was marketed at $200 and the trailer at $100, no buyers inquired; however, the same boat and trailer sold instantly as soon as the asking price was reposted at $300 for the boat with a free trailer.
In an experiment in which subjects were asked to rate the flavor of beer with vinegar added, almost no one wanted it when they were told about the additive. Other subjects who were not told that the beer contained vinegar actually preferred the mixture over their regular beer.
The point of the story is that our thoughts and imaginations are deceivers. They must be brought under subjection to Christ. (II Corinthians 10:5)
Love–It’s not just gifts and anointing that makes a leader–it’s also the human side of love that counts. (I Corinthians 13:1-3)
Every joint–You’re not a leader unless you have someone to lead and understand how to allow each person to use his gift and fulfill his calling. (Ephesians 4:16)
Authority–He has to be able to make decisions and recognize that the “buck stops here.” (Acts 15:6)
Dedication–A true leader will endure hardships in order to blaze a trail for his people to follow. (II Corinthians 11:23-28)
Example–People never work harder than their leader. All great leaders, from King David in the Bible to our great generals today, have led by being the first one in the battle. (I Peter 5:3)
Ruling their own families–If your leadership doesn‘t work in your own house, how do you expect it to work in God’s house? (I Timothy 3:4)
Shepherd–A good shepherd lays down his life for his flock. (I Peter 5:2)
Humble–True leaders never have a “Big I and Little U” attitude. (Mark 9:35)
Involvement–A true leader is one who is willing to invest his life in the lives of the ones he is leading like a father does with his son. (I Timothy 1:2)
Prayer–You can’t talk to men about God until you first talk to God about the men. (Colossians 1:9)
Followers–When we are leader with these qualities, may we also develop the qualities of genuine followers.
I asked my horse riding instructor why we only had one horse out in the riding range even though there were several students taking the lessons. In addition to the obvious fact that she couldn’t watch more than one of us novices at a time, she gave me another insightful revelation. She explained that the other horses in the stall were her and her husband’s personal horses, and no one else was permitted to ride them. Well, at first, I thought that this was a bit selfish and picky. Then she explained that these horses had been so well trained and had become so accustomed to their individual owners that they responded to verbal commands and gentle nudges without having to use the reigns. My instructor went own to say that even a short ride by another rider would ruin the horses’ responses, and they would have to be trained all over again.
As I listened to her explanation, I thought how true this principle is in our spiritual lives as well. Jesus said that His sheep would know His voice to the point that they would not follow anyone else. But just imagine what would happen if those sheep were herded away by another master and treated roughly. It is possible that they might forget the voice of their master or become so defensive that they would hesitate to respond to his call. A recent analysis of Americans’ views of God showed that Blacks see Him as harsh, Southerners view Him as authoritarian, Midwesterners perceive Him as benevolent, folks from the East think of Him as critical, and out West we sense Him as distant. My guess is that they have all been listening to others talk about Him rather than getting to know Him for themselves. Be careful what rider is holding your reigns.
Is the baptism in the Holy Spirit really necessary? Yes. Jesus promised it and commanded the believers to receive it. “[Jesus] commanded them that they should be baptized with the Holy Ghost.” (Acts 1:4-5)
Was the baptism in the Holy Spirit for just the New Testament times? No, it is for all believers. “For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the LORD our God shall call.” (Acts 2:39)
How will the baptism in the Holy Spirit help me?
1) It will make me a more powerful witness. “But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses…” (Acts 1:8)
2) It will strengthen my prayer life. “Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities…but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us…” (Romans 8:26)
3) It will strengthen my faith. “Building up yourselves on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Ghost.” (Jude 20)
4) It will make me able to bless and minister to the church. “But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal.” (I Corinthians 12:7)
What must I do to receive the baptism in the Holy Spirit? I must ask in simple faith. “If a son shall ask bread of any of you that is a father, will he give him a stone? … how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?” (Luke 11:11-13)
Must I speak in tongues to be filled with the Holy Spirit? It is the biblical pattern. “They were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.” (Acts 2:4)
The current physical population of the world numbers in the billions because almost every mature person has helped. We can do the same in the Kingdom of God. If each one of us matures and reproduces spiritually, we can soon repopulate the planet with believers. It has been said that birth control is a problem among believers. Let’s stop preventing the growth of the Christian population.
Have you ever stopped to think that the signs which are supposed to follow believers can’t follow unless the believers are going somewhere?
Here’s a great truth: you do not become a missionary by crossing the sea, but by seeing the cross!
Here are some ominous statistics: Only ten percent of the Christians the world live in the United States, but those ten percent control fifty-three percent of all Christian monies! Additionally, ninety percent of all money spent on spreading the gospel is spent trying to reach just five percent of the world’s population here in the United States!
When it comes to the Great Commission, we have three options: be a goer, be a sender, or be disobedient.
Did you ever notice that Jesus’ statement about Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the uttermost parts of the earth was not a multiple choice option? Since the world is going to hell in a hand basket, we have only two profitable alternatives: either preach the gospel or get into the hand basket business.
Two important truths to remember are:
1) open doors are for going through, and
2) the anointing comes in going.
What part of GO do we not understand?
Experience is the one thing that you can’t get for nothing.
Obstacles are the things a person sees when he takes his eyes off his goal.
An expert is someone who is in the top one percent of knowledge on a topic. If you read five books on a subject and you know more than ninety-nine percent of people, this makes you an expert.
Intellectual growth should begin at birth and cease at death. (Albert Einstein)
If you do not know where you are going, any road will get you there. (Lewis Carroll)
Your attitude toward life determines life’s attitude toward you.
Democracy does not guarantee equality of conditions; it only guarantees equality of opportunity.
Real conversion is when you become a believer from the neck down.
We make a living by what we get, but make a life by what we give. (Sir Winston Churchill)
Good enough never is. (J.W. Marriott)
It’s not over until you win.
I don’t know how to give up; I just know how to win.
Success is when preparation meets opportunity.
A short pencil is better than a long memory.
God is not running an antique shop; He makes all things new!
If you are called to be a missionary, don’t stoop to being king. (Charles Spurgeon)
There is no limit to what a man can do if he doesn’t care who gets the credit.
Evangelical Christianity is the world’s fastest-growing religious movement. There are six hundred forty-five million evangelicals in the world; that’s about eleven percent of the world’s population. The movement is growing at a rate three and a half times faster than the world population, and Pentecostal and Charismatic churches are growing four and a half times faster. That means that evangelical Christianity is the fastest-growing major religious group and the only movement growing significantly through conversion.
Just one organization, the Gideons, reports that they distribute two hundred thirty-one Bibles every minute, while one other organization, Every Home for Christ, reports that they are seeing fourteen thousand four hundred forty-one decisions for Christ every day–over ten times the number recorded just seven years earlier!
However, this growth is not without challenge. While Christianity is on the rise in Asia, Africa, and Eastern Europe, Islam is on the rise in Western Europe. Other challenges exist in such places as India where, for example, Hindu priests are busily reconverting Christian tribal people to the Hindu religion. Recently one hundred fifty men and women in Dindori came forward in groups of fifteen to receive the prayers and blessings of a Hindu priest who encouraged them to be true to the faith. Dilip Singh Judeo, a federal legislator and Hindu political party member who participated in the event, has led protests against Christian missionary activity. “There are enough Christians in the world. There is no need to convert Hindus to Christianity,” he said as he washed the feet of the tribes people.
Q. What kind of man was Boaz before he married Ruth?
Q. What do they call pastors in Germany?
A. German Shepherds.
Q. Who was the greatest financier in the Bible?
A. Noah. He was floating his stock while everyone else was in liquidation.
Q. Who was the greatest female financier in the Bible?
A. Pharaoh’s daughter. She went down to the bank of the Nile and drew out a little prophet.
Q. What kind of motor vehicles are in the Bible?
A. Jehovah drove Adam and Eve out of the Garden in a Fury, David’s Triumph was heard throughout the land, and the apostles were all in one Accord.
Q. Who was the greatest comedian in the Bible?
A. Samson. He brought the house down.
Q. What excuse did Adam give to his children as to why he no longer lived in Eden?
A. Your mother ate us out of house and home.
Q. Who was the most flagrant lawbreaker in the Bible?
A. Moses. He broke all ten commandments at once.
Q. Which area of Palestine was especially wealthy?
A. The area around Jordan. The banks were always overflowing.
Q. Who is the greatest babysitter mentioned in the Bible?
A. David. He rocked Goliath to a very deep sleep.
Q. Which Bible character had no parents?
A. Joshua, son of Nun.
Q. Why didn’t they play cards on the Ark?
A. Because Noah was standing on the deck.
The other day, I gave my wife a magazine article to read. It spent at least four pages explaining how insignificant the difference is between the purity of properly filtered tap water and bottled water. Additionally, it showed the impact that the plastic bottle disposal is having on our environment. Hoping to save a few dollars per week and to help the landfill epidemic by getting her to revert to the water that freely flows into our kitchen, I asked her what she thought of the article. To my amazement, the only line she commented on was the one mention it made of the detrimental effect of chemicals leaching from the plastic bottles when the water is stored for long periods of time. Her observation was that I was subject to these leached chemicals because I reuse the same bottle repeatedly by refilling it with tap water. I couldn’t understand how she could miss the message of four pages and zero in on the one sentence that applied to me rather than her. Of course, we humans have an extraordinary ability to do just that–miss the point. I’ve taken people to Israel whose only memories of the trip were about the hotel, food, cars, and weather. I also know one gentleman who returned from a mission trip with his only memory being about the long plane ride. Even worse, I once heard a TV interview with a family member of a soldier who was being held hostage in a war zone. When the question was asked about how the family was coping with the situation, the lady replied, “Well, I know that we won’t be celebrities forever.” Somehow, the TV interviews were more important than her family member whose life was on the line. In life, let’s not miss the real point–Jesus!
Each year our President presents to the people of our nation a State of the Union Address, summarizing where we are as a nation. The following statistics may be a sort of State of the Church Address, analyzing what is happening in the Christian arena of our country.
The overall religious affiliation in our country is that seventy-eight percent of us consider ourselves Christian while sixteen percent claim to be unaffiliated (including 2.4% agnostics and 1.6% atheists) and five percent list themselves as “other” (including 1.7% Mormons, 1.7% Jewish, and 0.7% Muslim). One interesting fact that came out of a US News & World Report study is that seventeen percent of Christians consider themselves part of the prosperity movement. This is especially puzzling in light of the fact that tithing is decreasing. The percentage of tithers dropped from 8% in 2001 to 3% in 2002–less than half in one year! In 2007, one third of Christians gave nothing and another third gave less than $500. Between seventy and eighty percent acknowledged that they did not understand the important role giving and generosity play in their spiritual lives. Jehovah Witnesses, Roman Catholics, Southern Baptists, Mormons, and Assemblies of God are the only denominations presently showing increases in membership. Interdenominational change accounts for a major portion of these statistics since twenty-eight percent of people will change denominations in their lifetime, with forty-four percent of these changes being within the Protestant churches. One last note is that forty-seven percent of women and thirty-nine percent of men say that they attend church regularly.
A study of people around the world who had hit the century mark uncovered several significant traits which likely contributed to their longevity.
1) Stay connected. If you become disconnected, isolated, and withdrawn, you begin to deteriorate emotionally and physically.
2) Have children late in life. Women who give birth after age forty more than quadrupled their chances of making it to the century mark.
3) Stay married. People who have never been married have a fifty-eight percent chance of dying earlier than their age-matched group who were married. For divorced or separated individuals, the chance is twenty-seven percent.
4) Have regular religious beliefs and practice.
5) Think on positive, healthy thoughts. The human body responds to thoughts just as readily as to actual stimuli. If you imagine lying on beach, your hands will become warm. Skiers who are thinking about downhill runs will have the same EMG responses as if actually taking jumps. Doctors say that between thirty and seventy percent of successful results from treatments can be credited to the patient’s belief that the treatment will work. It has been proven that marital spats can delay wound-healing and that the stress from caring for Alzheimer’s patient leaves the caregiver physically vulnerable for years. Those people who have mastered the art–or science–of keeping their minds focused positively live longer and fare better physically in the aging process.
For biblical promises concerning long life, study Exodus 20:12; Psalms 91:16, 143:3; and Proverbs 3:2, 16.
Did you realize that if everyone in America would turn down their thermostat by just one degree in the winter, we would save almost a quarter billion barrels of crude oil? That is essentially one full year’s worth of imported oil from Iraq. Did you know that just one gallon of oil makes an eight-acre oil slick and pollutes over a million gallons of water? Were you aware that one hour of leaf blowing produces the same amount of greenhouse gases as driving your automobile over four thousand miles? Can you believe that if every elementary school child in America would recycle just one aluminum can, it would save enough metal to produce twenty-one 737 airplanes?
On an even more significant note, do you realize the impact that each of us can have if we do only a small part for the kingdom of God? It is estimated that every person you impact will impact ten more (five inside his family and five outside the family). By the sixth level of this influence, the effect is one million people! Here’s another powerful way to understand how just a little can go a long way. If you could win one thousand people to Jesus every year for thirty-five years, you would have brought thirty-five thousand individuals into the Kingdom during this lifetime of ministry. However, if you were able to win one person every six months and discipline these new converts and teach them to also win a new convert every six months, the exponential growth of your evangelism would be that of reaching more than the world’s population in less than twenty years! Remember that the entire world population came from one couple. Likewise, one person can set in motion a world-wide effect. Why not you?
Arthur Ashe once defined true heroism by saying that it is “not the urge to surpass all others at whatever cost, but the urge to serve others at whatever cost.” A more colloquial rendition goes, “To be a hero, become a zero.” True heroes certainly are the ones who throw themselves on grenades to save their fellow soldiers, rush into burning buildings to rescue trapped victims, or step between violent criminals and their intended targets. But there are also everyday heroes who make a difference in others’ lives without having to be “Superman.” They make a by living for what’s right, even if they do not have to die for what is right.
In fact, each of us has a chance to be a hero in someone’s life. It may be as simple as sharing the gospel with a friend or even a stranger. By mustering up the courage to face the possible rejection or ridicule we might encounter, we actually do save their lives just as realistically as if we had thrown ourselves upon a grenade. We do literally rescue them from the unquenchable flames of hell. We essentially step in between them and the raging enemy who craves to devour them. In reality, just sharing the simple message of salvation has made us take the risk of becoming zeros as we have served the other at whatever the cost. In doing so, we may not rush into a phone booth to rip off our Clark Kent identities to become Superman, but we do manifest the supernatural man who is hidden inside our human identities.
One last word of encouragement comes from missionary Clarence Wright, “Until you gain confidence, do it afraid.”
The law is a schoolmaster (Galatians 3:24), but the Holy Spirit is our teacher. (John 14:26) Faith is the root, and works are the fruit that it produces. The wife is the weaker vessel (I Peter 3:7) like a wine glass is weaker or more delicate compared to a coffee mug. Both are functional in the role for which they are made. Most marriage problems (and kid problems) are actually communication problems. If their children are not under the parents’ authority, how can the parents be a leaders in the church? What we need is more free speech worth listening to. Have an affection for perfection. Your job isn’t to motivate people–it is to keep them from de-motivating you. Success does what failure hates to do. You can teach what you know, but you reproduce what you are.
What is your BAB (basis acceptable bottom)–the lowest offer you will accept? Keep it high; match the standards God has set for you. Dreams are the God-inspired blueprint for your future. Procrastination is rooted in the spirit of fear. The main thing is the plain thing, and the plain thing is the main thing. In your relationship with God, are you married or just out on a date? Run ministry like a business and business like a ministry, or you won’t have either one too long. (Fred Price) You can have a spirit of normal and still be a success.
Peter and Paul both recognized Jesus as the cornerstone of the church (Ephesians 2:20, I Peter 2:6-7), but this metaphor may not carry its full meaning in today’s society. Let’s look at the many possible facets of this term. A cornerstone may actually be a capstone, the triangular stone at the top of an arch. Also known as a keystone, this uniquely designed stone is the one that makes the whole building stand even though a doorway or window has left a void in the structure. Without Christ, our entire lives will collapse. On the other hand, He makes up for all we lack.
The cornerstone could also be the coping stone which is the standard by which every other stone in the building is measured. We have no standard against which to measure ourselves other than Christ alone. The cornerstone could also be seen as the naming stone which identifies the building. It is only in Christ that we have any true identity. The cornerstone can also be defined as the foundation stone upon which the building rests. We have no solid foundation upon which our lives can stand other than Christ Himself. The cornerstone was also the first stone to be laid in place, defining the orientation of the building. Likewise, Jesus is the defining foundation for our lives. One of the most intriguing possibilities is that the cornerstone could refer to the stone that the builders rejected. (Psalm 118:22, Matthew 21:42, Mark 12:10, Luke 20:1, Acts 4:11) The legend is that in the construction of the temple, a stone which was thought to be defective was thrown down the hill and had to be retrieved at much effort and expense. When we reject Christ, we invite laborious and expensive challenges into our lives.
A young boy visiting an art museum noticed the fact that many of the old masterpieces depicted people with little or no clothing and concluded that global warming must not be true since the people back then would have needed more clothes before the planet’s temperatures elevated. Well, I must admit that that one was a joke, but the following story is a real life joke on the scientists who paid an undisclosed amount of money to buy a block of ice which supposedly contained a frozen Bigfoot. When the block of ice which was supposedly found in the northern Georgia mountains was thawed, it was found to contain a rubber gorilla suit. When I heard the story, I wondered exactly how scientific these scientists must be to believe that the block of ice was genuine to begin with since the Georgia mountains don’t get an excessive amount of snow nor long enough periods of below-freezing weather to produce a massive enough ice block to preserve their supposed specimen of the missing link. One thing for sure, I understand why they were not willing to disclose how much they paid for their “treasure.”
The real truth is that the majority of the theories being presented in most scientific circles today are being accepted with just as much evidence as the trip to the art museum and the frozen gorilla suit. Take global warming for example: John Coleman, meteorologist and founder of The Weather Channel, has spoken out strongly against the man-made global myth, calling it “the greatest scam in history.” In actuality, there is more proof for global cooling than for global warming. This year our planet’s climate has changed by a full degree–cooler, not warmer!!
A clown is like an aspirin, only he works twice as fast.–Groucho Marx
I not only use all the brains I have, but all I can borrow.–Woodrow Wilson
Goals are dreams with deadlines.–Diana Scharf Hunt
At the end of the rope, people you have helped along the way add extra length to get you to your goal.
If I have seen further than others, it is from standing on the shoulders of giants.–Isaac Newton
If you are going through hell, keep going.–Winston Churchill
I couldn’t wait for success, so I went ahead without it.–Jonathan Winters
The time is always right to do right.–Nelson Mandela
If you want to test a man’s character, give him power.–Abraham Lincoln
If you aren’t fired with enthusiasm, you’ll be fired with enthusiasm.–Vince Lombardi
What goes in your mouth determines how you go; what comes out of your mouth determines where you go. The real glory is being knocked to your knees and then coming back.–Vince Lombardi
The true measure of a man is how he treats someone who can do him absolutely no good.–Ann Landers
Diligence succeeds over intelligence or talent every time.–How the Cadillac Got its Fins
Jesus had eight disciples, one traitor, two managers, and one leader. Peter was treated more severely than the others because he was the leader.
Dr. John Brinkley had a booming practice from 1917 to 1939. The unfortunate thing is that he was operating with a fake medical license and performed a surgical procedure which he had developed with no actual proof of validity. His specialty was transplanting goat testicles into humans to boost their virility and stamina. Beginning as a town-to-town tonic peddler, he later opened a clinic in Milford, Kansas, and eventually moved across the border to Mexico to avoid investigation here in the US. To promote his practice and lure people across the Rio Grande for his services, he built a border-blaster radio station which played country-and-western music and transmitted propaganda about his services. Although many people died as result of his operations; masses flocked to him, and it wasn’t long until he was a millionaire.
His life reminds me of a truth that is presented in two different New Testament passages. Colossians 1:16 and Revelation 4:11 affirm that everything that exists was created for the glory of God. In fact, in Paul’s rendition, he states that even dominions, principalities, and powers (the demonic forces) were created by Him and for Him. In spite of all the malpractice, deception, and down-right evil associated with this charlatan, we can look back to him and see two lasting results in our current society: the popularization of country-and-western music (from his radio station) and the initiation of modern research into the functioning of hormones (based on his idea of gland transplants). Some good (if you can call country-and-western good) came out of even the most evil of men. Yes, God did create him after all.
Many Christians speak of trying to witness or minister in some other way, possibly through operating in the gifts of the Holy Spirit, by getting out of their “comfort zone.” However, it is important to remember what Jesus said in John 14:26–the Holy Spirit is our Comforter–and what David said in Psalm 139:7–that there is nowhere we can go to get away from the Holy Spirit. If the Comforter goes with us everywhere we go, then it is impossible to be outside our “comfort zone”! This may seem like a novel way of thinking about things, but the truth is that Jesus expressed the same truth when He gave us the Great Commission. One common characteristic in each of these four different encounters is that a divine presence is promised as we respond to His mandate. Matthew 28:20 states, “Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.” Mark 16:20 records, “And they went forth, and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following.” Luke 24:49 says, “Behold I send the promise of my Father upon you.” Acts 1:8 confirms that it is after they were to receive the Holy Ghost that they would have the power to be witnesses.
The entire Trinity has promised to be involved with the believer who responds to the call upon his life. Jesus committed Himself to be with us; the Father has extended a promise of filling us with His Spirit; and the Holy Spirit has obligated Himself to empowering our witness. The Trinity’s presence in the ministry of a called witness results in signs and wonders that confirm the words of that witness.
Unlike all the members of Saul’s army, when David saw Goliath, he didn’t have an exclamation point, “See how big! See the armor! See his war record!” Instead, this little shepherd boy responded with a question mark, “Who does he think he is?” You see, David was looking at the situation from a divine perspective. If you take the time to look at the story carefully, you’ll see that all the soldiers and even their opponent continually saw the army as “the men of Saul” or as “the army of Israel.” It was only David who defined them as “the army of the living God.” He was the only one to look beyond the physical relationship and see the divine connection. Because he recognized the divine nature of the conflict, David did not doubt that he was on the winning side. David also recognized that he had a divine relationship that made him different from the antagonist who stood before him that day. The Philistine was uncircumcised, meaning that he was not in covenant with the Living God; David, however, was a circumcised member of the covenant community with such covenant promises as knowing that anyone who would curse him would be cursed himself and that every enemy would have to flee seven different directions. I believe that David must have visualized the scenario which was to follow when he would decapitate the giant and leave his body to be devoured by the birds. The head would go one way and the body would fall to the ground. The birds would fly to the north, south, east, west, and straight up–taking his flesh in five other directions. David was also a warrior with divine experience. The Lord had stood with him against a lion and a bear, and David knew that He would do it again!
Enjoy the little things in life, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things.–Robert Brault
It takes leaders with vision to help people with dreams.–Hubert Humphrey
In the Bible, patience is not a passive acceptance of circumstances. It is a courageous perseverance in the face of suffering and difficulty.–Warren Wiersbe
Be hopeful! Tomorrow has never happened before.–Robert Schuller
If you lack knowledge, go to school; if you lack wisdom, get on your knees.–Vance Havner
Man’s capacity for justice makes democracy possible, but man’s inclination to injustice makes democracy necessary.–Reinhold Neibuhr
He climbs the highest who helps another up.–Zig Ziglar
Go the extra mile. It’s never crowed.–Executive Speedwriter Newsletter
The extra mile is on our regular route.–FedEX
It is impossible to rightly govern the world without God and the Bible. Do not ever let anyone claim to be a true American patriot if they ever attempt to separate religion from politics.–George Washington
Do not pray for easy lives; pray for stronger men.–Phillips Brooks
God is not running an antique shop; He makes all things new!–Vance Havner
Grasp the things of life loosely so that it won’t hurt so much when God has to pry your fingers off of them.–Corrie ten Boom
Your expression is the most important thing you can wear.–Sid Archer
Just when you think that you have graduated from the school of experience, someone comes up with a new course.–Mary Waldrip
Top cats often begin as underdogs.–Bernard Meltzer
We make a living by what we get; we make a life by what we give.–W. A. Nance
A man who doesn’t stand for something will fall for anything.–Peter Marshall
The most important thing in communication is to hear what isn’t being said.–Peter Drucker
Failure is the opportunity to begin again, more intelligently.–Henry Ford
I can live for two months on a good compliment.–Mark Twain
Experience is the name everyone gives to mistakes.–Woodrow Wilson
Too much of a good thing is wonderful.–Mae West
It’s not whether you get knocked down. It’s whether you get up again.–Vince Lombardi
Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and others hire public relations writers.–Daniel Boorstin
When I was a kid my parents moved a lot; but I always found them.–Rodney Dangerfield
A genius is a talented person who does his homework.–Thomas Edison
My interest is in the future…because I’m going to spend the rest of my life there.–Charles Kettering
When my wife and I were invited to join a team that was planning a mission trip to Kenya, we came to a meeting to meet the team and work out the trip details. As we went around the room meeting the dozen or so folks, one individual really caught my attention when he introduced himself as “Prophet Bob.” As the meeting progressed and we began to pick up on the less than confident tone in most of the people’s voices, Peggy boldly asked, “Who here is definitely going on this mission trip?” As we went around the circle, most of them confessed that they weren’t sure they could go because of the amount of money they would have to raise. It took every ounce of self-control I had to contain myself when “Prophet Bob” responded, “I’m going if God provides the funds.” My flesh craved to blurt out, “Well, if you’re such a prophet, why don’t you just prophesy if the money is going to come in or not!”
At least he didn’t seem to have the kind of “signs and wonders” ministry in which he signs the checks and then wonders if they will clear the bank. Unfortunately, it isn’t just Bob who has what I call a ministry of the “pathetic prophetic” or the “sighs and blunders” ministry.
The world is desperately in need of those of us who have the real thing and can produce genuine verifiable Holy Ghost gifts. They have seen enough of the imposters like Simon the sorcerer who wanted to purchase the gifts so that he could parade them for his own benefit and recognition. Ask God to release the gifts through you and determine to use them for legitimate ministry to a needy world. (I Corinthians 12:7) By the way, neither Bob nor any of the others in the room made it to Africa.
The best way to get even is to forget.
God wants spiritual fruit, not religious nuts.
Some folks wear their halos much too tight.
Unless you can create the universe in five days, perhaps giving “advice” to God isn’t such a good idea!
Sorrow looks back; worry looks around; faith looks up.
Standing in the middle of the road is dangerous. You will get knocked down by the traffic from both ways.
Words are windows to the heart.
A skeptic is a person who he sees the handwriting on the wall but claims it’s a forgery.
It isn’t difficult to make a mountain out of a molehill, just add a little dirt.
The mighty oak tree was once a little nut that held its ground.
Too many people offer God prayers with claw marks all over them.
The tongue must be heavy, indeed, because so few people can hold it.
To forgive is to set the prisoner free and then discover the prisoner was you.
You have to wonder about humans, they think God is dead and Elvis is alive!
It’s all right to sit on your pity pot every now and again. Just be sure to flush when you are done.
You’ll notice that a turtle only makes progress when it sticks out its neck.
If the grass is greener on the other side of the fence, you can bet the water bill is higher.
The following are actual excuse notes sent to public schools by real parents. I laughed out loud when I read some of them. I couldn’t help but think that God must also laugh at some of the excuses we try to pass off on Him.
My son is under a doctor’s care and should not take PE today. Please execute him.
Please exkuce Lisa for being absent. She was sick, and I had her shot.
Please ecsc’s John being absent on Jan. 28, 29, 30, 31, 32 and also 33.
Please excuse Roland from PE for a few days. Yesterday he fell out of a tree and misplaced his hip.
John was absent. He had two teeth taken out of his face.
Carlos was absent yesterday because he was playing football. He was hurt in the growing part.
Megan could not come to school today because she has been bothered by very close veins.
Chris will not be in school cus he has an acre in his side.
Please excuse Ray from school. He has very loose vowels.
Please excuse Tommy for being absent yesterday. He had diarrhea, and his boots leak.
Irving was absent yesterday because he missed his bust.
Please excuse Jimmy for being. It was his father’s fault.
I kept Billie home because she had to go Christmas shopping because I don’t know what size she wears.
Please excuse Jennifer for missing school yesterday. We forgot to get the Sunday paper off the porch. When we found it on Monday, we thought it was Sunday.
Sally won’t be in school a week from Friday. We have to attend her funeral.
In the only line I remember from the Christmas special of a long-forgotten sitcom, a Jewish lady who was trying to adjust to the Christian-dominated society made a statement about something which had to do with one of our holiday customs. Because Hanukah–the Jewish holiday which roughly coincided with our Christmas–is often spelled with a silent “C” at the front, she pronounced “Christmas” as if its initial “C” were also silent. When corrected, she replied, “‘Hanukah,’ ‘Hristmas,’ what’s the difference?” The question inspires this month’s thought, “Who put the ‘C’ in ‘Christmas,’ anyway?”
The “C” in “Christmas” stands for curiosity–the standard ingredient which has tormented each of us from the first time we eagerly waited to see what would magically appear under the tree to this very year when we are still trying to guess what is in that one special package in its bright wrapping paper. Curiosity is the quality of Christmas which is so aptly described in the line of the popular song, “Every mother’s child will find it hard to sleep tonight wondering if reindeer really know how to fly.”
But where did curiosity come from? It was part of the very first Christmas when the shepherds suggested to one another, “Let’s go see this thing that the angels are talking about.” It was curiosity that led them to Bethlehem and to the baby Jesus! The shepherds put the “C” in “Christmas.”
Well, if the “C” came from the shepherds, who put the “H” in “Christmas?” “H” is the element of hope which makes Christmas different from any of the other three hundred sixty-four days of the year. Christmas always seems to bring with it a new level of hope and expectation. We hope–and really believe–that we will hear from that long-lost friend or relative. We hope–and actually dare to expect–that there will be new relationships with those who have been distanced. We all have our Christmas wishes which we imagine will become reality–no matter what the odds.
But where did hope come from? Hope became part of the story of the first Christmas when Simeon and Anna blessed the Baby in the temple. The elderly twosome had served in the temple for years in the hope of seeing the Lord’s messiah. Now, in the twilight years of their lives, the dreams and prayers which had been the burden of their hearts for decades were fulfilled before their age-dimmed eyes! To them, the whole message of Jesus’ birth was a loud proclamation of hope! Anna and Simeon put the “H” in “Christmas.”
Now, it was Anna and Simeon who gave the “H,” but who provided the “R”? “R” stands for rejoicing–the hallmark of the holiday. As if the whole world has been injected with “Joy the World” to the point that the “city streetlights, even stoplights, flash a bright red and green,” joy indelibly marks the season. From the music in the shopping mall to the carols of the church choirs to individuals whistling a tune as they go about their holiday chores to the general feeling which pervades the atmosphere–rejoicing is the very thumbprint of the season.
But where did rejoicing come from? Rejoicing was birthed into the Nativity story when an angelic choir put on a private concert for a little band of shepherds on the Bethlehem hillside to announce tidings of great joy. It was the heavenly host who put the “R” in “Christmas.”
Well, if we got the “R” from the celestial choir, where did we get the “I”? The “I” stands for insight–a quality of Christmas which may not be discussed as often as it is experienced. Although we seldom use the word, we could each testify to having had at least a little visit by the Ghost of Christmases Past, the Ghost of Christmas Present, and the Ghost of Christmases Yet to Come. Just like Ebenezer Scrooge, we can all point to something in the holiday season which had helped us to see our world from a new perspective.
But who introduced insight into the Christmas story? This job fell into the hands of the angel Gabriel who was sent from his comfortable heavenly quarters to the dusty little town of Nazareth to give a little virgin girl a new insight into God’s overall plan for man: He was interested in man’s needs and his condition, He could make a girl pregnant without her having human relationships, and He would use a little Baby to save the human race. Next, Gabriel had to visit her boyfriend and give him a totally new insight into the scheme of things: God wanted him to bear the humility of a questionable marriage and share the dignity of raising the very Son of God. The angel Gabriel made insight a part of Christmas.
If it was from Gabriel that we got our “I,” where did we get the “S”? The “S” stands for spirit–the most obvious component of the holiday. In fact, the expression, “the Christmas spirit,” enjoys universal usage. Even those who may not believe in God, accept the story of the virgin birth, or believe that the manger held the Incarnate Word of God willingly recognize that there is more than just merchandise and emotion involved. Even though they may call it the “magic of the season,” they must admit that Christmas has its own unique synergy, in which the holiday is far greater than the sum of its components of gift wrap, sleighs, men in red suits, and wooden camel cut-outs standing next to the manger scene on the front lawn of the church.
But how did the spirit become part of that first Christmas day? When the pregnant virgin visited her elderly cousin who was also supernaturally with child, Elizabeth’s baby leapt inside her womb. The explanation was that the Holy Spirit had filled John the Baptist while still inside his mother’s belly. Simply being in the presence of Jesus–even though He was still inside Mary’s womb–was enough to activate a spiritual anointing upon the unborn prophet. Today, even though the real Jesus may be buried under a very thick façade of commercialism and myth, His presence–right through the camouflage of contemporary society–is enough to give a new sensation to the season. It was John the Baptist who brought the spirit to Christmas.
If it was John the Baptist who put the “S” in “Christmas,” who was it that added the “T”? The “T” represents the treasures–the stuff that the “shoppers rush home with” in that favorite seasonal song. The very theme of the holiday seems to be, “Gifts and presents for everyone,” as we frantically count the shopping days until the Christmas deadline. The giving of gifts and exchanging of presents are such in integral part of the holiday that everyone in the retail business knows that he can always redeem himself from eleven months of poor performance with the sales of the one month leading up to Christmas.
We really don’t have to ask how treasures became part of the original Christmas because we all instantly remember that the wise men trekked hundreds of miles for the privilege of presenting their treasures before the One who was born king of the Jews. It was the wise men who added the treasures to our holiday.
So, if it was the wise men who put the “T” in “Christmas,” where did we get the “M”? The “M” represents memories–a part of the holiday which no one could overlook. In fact, there is probably no other emotion which is more profound at this season than the power of memory, and there is probably no other season of the year which is more ripe with memories. We all have a full bank of memories associated with the holiday: memories of those magical mornings when, as children, we found those special surprises under the tree; reminiscences of Christmases past with those loved ones who are separated from us this present Christmas or who are no longer here to share any future Christmases; remembrances of Christmas milestones such as the first Christmas of your married life, the first Christmas in a new home or new city, a baby’s first Christmas, the first Christmas when the kids came back home after moving out of the house, and the first Christmas you had to share some of your family members with their spouses’ families. Certainly, memory is part of the very fabric of Christmas.
But who introduced memory into the original Christmas recipe? It was the Mary who took all the events of that first Christmas and “pondered them in her heart”–creating a store of memories for Christmases yet to come. It was the Virgin Mary who put the “M” in “Christmas.”
If the Virgin Mary brought us an “M” for Christmas, we must ask where did we get the “A”? This letter brings us to a part of Christmas which we would all love to skip; but without it, our word would not be complete. “A” stands for animosity–the hard feelings which have been simmering against a sibling, another family member, an old girlfriend or boyfriend, or an ex-spouse. Unfortunately, it is all too often the case that it is only at holiday get-togethers that these latten conflicts are given occasion to vent. The crowded malls with long check-out lines and not enough parking spaces are also great breeding grounds for sudden flashes of animosity. You must certainly be asking why we are taking time to focus on such a negative facet of the holiday when there are so many happy aspects we could consider. The short answer is that the antagonistic feelings of the letter “A” are just as real as the warm, fussy memories represented by the letter “M.”
But who brought animosity to that first Christmas morn? It was King Herod who showed up with a giant “A” in his heart and hand. When he tried to trick the wise men into leading him to the baby Jesus and when he decreed the Slaughter of the Innocents in his malicious attempt to destroy the Christ Child, King Herod infected our blessed holiday with the black plague of animosity. It was King Herod who put the “A” in Christmas.”
If King Herod put the “A” in Christmas, who finished out the word by adding the “S”? This final installment represents Savior–the whole point of Christmas anyway.
“Behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, ‘Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins.’ Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, “Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.” Then Joseph being raised from sleep did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him, and took unto him his wife: And knew her not till she had brought forth her firstborn son: and he called his name JESUS.” (Matthew 1:20-25)
“And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, “Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.’” (Luke 2:9-11)
It was Jesus who put the salvation in Christmas!!!
The Wise Men seem out of place in the Gospel of Matthew. Why are these Gentiles who practice abominable religion and star gazing introduced in this Jewish gospel? Perhaps the very fact that they are called “Wise Men” holds a key. In the book of Daniel, we find several confrontations between the Hebrews and the astrologers of Babylon. From the beginning, Daniel and his friends prove to be ten times wiser than the wise men of Babylon. On several occasions, Daniel is pitted against these astrologers and always comes out ahead. The wisdom of Solomon set him far ahead of the thinkers of all his surrounding nations. His book of Proverbs exalts the precious qualities of wisdom. Perhaps the appearance of the Wise Men (soothsayers, magicians) was to bring the Jewish people back to their foundational concept that they, not the Gentile nations were to be the wise ones on Planet Earth. All other nations who did not recognize Jehovah were fools. “The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none that doeth good.” (Psalm 14:1) It was only in beginning to acknowledge and reverence the one true God, that anyone could obtain wisdom. “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom: and the knowledge of the holy is understanding.” (Proverbs 9:10) With this thought in mind, the story of these out-of-place magi suddenly takes on new meaning. Perhaps these strangers are not so out-of-place after all. In fact, their visit actually sets the stage and determines the tone of the whole book. This gospel becomes a commentary on who is a wise man and who is a foolish man. How wise are you?
During the Christmas season of 1897, a short note to the editor appeared in The New York Sun. Virginia O’Hanlon wrote, “Dear Editor: I am eight years old. Some of my friends say there is no Santa Claus. Papa says, “If you see it in The Sun, it’s so.” Please tell me the truth: is there a Santa Claus?” The editor’s response was masterful as he wove his words to describe the magic of Christmas and the spirit of the season. He confirmed, “Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.” The missive and its reply soon became a classic and made a place in journalism history.
Today, there seems to be little question concerning jolly old Saint Nick. Every mall, every product catalogue, every commercial, and every television holiday special shouts at the top of its voice, “Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.” Somehow I wonder if Miss O’Hanlon would be writing the same letter were she to address the editor today. A more in-touch question might be, “Dear Editor: I am eight years old. The ACLU, my school system, all I see in the stores and on TV, and all I hear from my little and big friends tells me that there is no Jesus. Please tell me the truth: Is there a Jesus?” It seems as though our whole nation is making a deliberate attempt to take Christ out of Christmas. Courthouse lawns and school plays are not permitted to present the Bethlehem story. One school even prohibited the students from bringing Christmas candy canes to the classroom because the crooked sticks are said to represent the shepherd’s staffs and, therefore, were religious symbols. However, we continue to cry out, “Yes, Virginia, there is a Jesus! Yes, ten thousand times ten thousand times–yes, yes, yes! Yes, there is a Jesus.”
One line from Clement C. Moore’s A Visit of St. Nicholas conjures up a secure, serene picture of children with the blanket pulled tightly up to their faces as they sleep in innocent bliss. It’s a scene into which each of us would wish to find our way. Unfortunately, that is exactly what has happened to far too great a percentage of the church today. We’ve crawled into the warm covers of the church and let the devil lull us to sleep with visions of sugarplums. Our minds have become so enthralled with visions of sugarplums and our blessings of prosperity that the real visions God wants to give us are crowded out. But what is a true vision from God? It bears six characteristics which are easily remembered in that they are represented in the letters of the word VISION.
V is for “vital.” Visions stir the body of Christ to move from lethargy and come alive. They stir the church to evangelism and soul winning. I stands for “insight.” When there is no vision or insight into who God is and what He is doing, His glory cannot abide. S represents “showing.” A true vision from God gives direction. “Intimacy” is represented by the letter I. When you really catch a glimpse of hell or heaven or Jesus on the cross or God on the throne, your life will be shaken to its very core. O denotes “our.” God is giving visions; it is our privilege to receive them. N means “needs.” Visions draw us into the hurts, fears, disappointments, problems, sorrows, sicknesses, sins, and needs of the world around us. Once you receive a true vision from God, you’ll never be the same; the dance of sugarplums in your head cannot change you like that.
Simeon the priest was “righteous and devout, looking for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him.” He had been told by the Spirit that he would not die until he had seen the Christ. Imagine how his heart must have pounded each time one of the self-proclaimed messiahs came to Jerusalem. He must have looked at each one with great hope–but each time the Spirit spoke to his heart and said, “No, this is not the one. Wait. He is still coming.” Then came that day when a little baby boy was placed in the old priest’s arms. Just a little eight-day-old boy; far from the great leaders Simeon had seen marching in Jerusalem; just a little back-woods carpenter’s son–but THE TRUE MESSIAH! Hallelujah! The old priest’s heart really pounded this time! The Spirit of God witnessed that this was the “light to lighten the Gentiles and the glory of thy people Israel.”
Simeon’s revelation of Christ came from the Holy Spirit. This is the same Holy Spirit that reveals Christ to us even today. The key is listening when the Spirit speaks! Simeon was prepared for Christ’s first coming because of his dynamic relationship with the Holy Spirit. In the same way, our charismatic life in the Spirit should prepare us for His second coming. Jesus stated that the Holy Spirit would “take what is mine and declare it to you.” (John 16:14) As we live each day deeper and deeper in the Holy Spirit, we will have more and more revelation of Christ. Thus, our lives in the Spirit will prepare us to see Him on the day of His manifestation. Praise God! Let’s be Simeons and listen when the Spirit speaks to us this Christmas.
In this Christmas season, we need to reflect on the mystery of the incarnation of Jesus–the hard-to-comprehend truth that Jesus was 100% God yet became 100% man. Even though we often see Christmas cards with Jesus depicted as a baby with a halo shining above His head; in the biblical account of the Christmas story, we meet a little baby who didn’t stand out from the crowd. Herod had to ask the wise men to show him where to find the child. When he realized that they had tricked him, he had to kill all the babies in the region in an attempt to execute the one he was looking for. Even though there were supernatural events surrounding the disclosure to the shepherds and the wise men, they had to have explicit directions in order to find the Christ child: the one wrapped in swaddling clothes and the one in the house over which the star came to rest. The mystery of the incarnation is that Jesus could blend into the mass of the human race and become as indistinguishable as a needle in a haystack. But just as a needle is not straw no matter how mingled it may become in the hay, Jesus remained totally God even though He was totally enmeshed in humanity. He was still the High Priest even though He was touched with every feeling of infirmity common to man. Even though He was tempted by every sin we humans know, He was totally untainted by human sinfulness. It is so easy for us to get our attention on the little baby in the manger and to lose the incarnate God dwelling among men. It is all too easy to lose the needle in the hay stacked in the manger. This Christmas, let’s not miss the point of the incarnation–Emanuel, God with us.
The average American with a credit file is responsible for $16,635 in debt excluding mortgage. The personal savings rate, which was approximately ten percent in 1980, has hovered close to zero for several years. Consumer spending has risen to just over seventy percent of the US economy from a bit more than sixty percent in 1965. It is dropping now, but only due to economic downturn. American consumers are so “glutted on everything that they have acquired and all the time that was robbed from them…that they almost saw this [downturn] as a great opportunity to stop,” says Faith Popcorn, chief executive of her eponymous consultancy. Ninety percent of the people she interviewed are considering options for a “simpler life,” and eighty-four percent said that they will buy “less stuff.”
On the spiritual level, sin is like using a credit card, driving us into moral and spiritual bankruptcy. We enjoy the present but then we have to pay later–and with interest! The ironic thing about the sin credit card is that it is just like the plastic one–you no longer enjoy the stuff it brought you but you are still paying for it. Maybe it takes a spiritual downturn, just like an economic downturn, to make us aware to the fact that all the things we have been gratifying our flesh and souls with should be cut out of our lives so that we can pursue the things that make for a fulfilling and purposeful life.
Hebrews 11:25-7 tell us that Moses forsook the pleasures of sin which are only for a season to obtain the reward of greater riches which were in Christ. Let’s make an end-of-the year resolution to do the same.
A master in the art of living draws no sharp distinction between his work and his play, his labor and his leisure, his mind and his body, his education and his recreation. He hardly knows which is which. He simply pursues his vision of excellence through whatever he is doing, and leaves others to determine if he is working or playing. To himself he always seems to be doing both.
When you were born, you were crying and everyone around you was smiling. Live your life so that when you die, you’re the one who is smiling and everyone around you is crying.
Define issues; refine solutions.
Remember that when you are going through something you are doing just that–going through! Don’t stop there; determine to come out on the other side victorious!
In life, you can either take the photograph or get into the picture.
You can’t change history, so go after the future.
Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.–Helen Keller
John the Baptist said that he must decrease so that Jesus could increase. The same is true with us. If we want Jesus to increase in our lives, we must sacrifice what we are to become in favor of what we can be through Him.
Teamwork makes the dream work.–Bill Wilson
Catch the waves; don’t make them.
The first step toward the future is always a step away from the past.
Be in your place, full of grace, or fall on your face.
We all know the story about the apple and how it got Adam and Eve kicked out of the garden. But wait! Is that what really happened? I’m sure that your Sunday school teacher taught you that God kicked our great-great-great-great-grand parents out of the garden as a punishment for eating the forbidden fruit. Just think for a minute, the deed was already done, so what good did it accomplish to drive them away from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil? Actually Genesis 3:24 explains that it was because of the tree of life that God evicted them. He did not want them to eat of that tree while in the fallen state and, therefore, live forever in the fallen state.
But why was it that God was so concerned about the human race having the knowledge of good and evil? After all, in Hebrews 5:14, He commends those who exert themselves in the ability to understand both good and evil and to be able to discern between the two, “But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.” The problem was that God knew that once man tasted of evil, he would no longer be satisfied with good. Prior to that fatal bite, Adam and Eve knew only good. Unfortunately, once their eyes were opened to the reality of evil, the human race gravitated like a moth to a light bulb to that knowledge. Look at God’s assessment of the human condition at the time of Noah’s flood, “GOD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of hisheart was only evilcontinually.” (Genesis 6:5) Man had stepped on to the slippery slide that was to take him to total depravity.
We all remember the story of the little shepherd boy who fought Goliath as “David and the Giant”; however, to get the real meaning out of the story, we need to drop the “and” from the title. Actually, this is a story about “David, the Giant.” This little narrative shows how this little boy proved to be bigger than any number of obstacles which were thrown in his path.
First of all, he was bigger than criticism. The first thing that David encountered when he showed up at the encampment was his oldest brother’s scorn. Verse twenty-eight of I Samuel chapter seventeen records Eliab’s bitter scathing against the young David. The accosting would have been enough to discourage most of us, but not this giant-hearted shepherd boy! Next, he proved to be bigger than the reward. Although the king had offered a bountiful ransom to anyone who would step forward to fight the Philistine, David seemed totally unmoved by the reward. His question, “Is there not a cause?” showed that he was motivated by the cause, not the cash. Next, we see that he was bigger than the situation. Though his challenge was a giant, he didn’t shrink back, but actually ran to the conflict. As soon as the giant collapsed before the miniature warrior’s slingshot, David proved that he was bigger than himself because the entire army instantly sprang to action and routed the enemy. Lastly, we can conclude that David was bigger than time. Had David not arrived on the scene, the story would have ended with just the forty days that the Israelite army stood cowered into the corner, but David stepped into history with a story that is still recounted in every Sunday school class some three millennia later!
I recently read a testimony of a man in a Latin American country who was so angered by having been given a gospel tract that he ripped the pamphlet to pieces; however, that night he couldn’t sleep as his mind kept replaying the incident. Eventually, he got out of bed and pieced the tact together again, read its message, and prayed the prayer to receive salvation. The fascinating story reminded me of another similar incident in South America many years ago. A Protestant missionary was giving away Bibles in a predominately Catholic region. The local priest was so enraged that he had “invaded his territory” that he snatched one Bible and ripped it to shreds which he then threw into the gutter. A local vegetable vendor reclaimed the pages to use as wrapping paper for the produce he sold at his stand. As the local women unwrapped their vegetables, they began to read the pages and visit their neighbors to try to find the rest of the story. Before long, the entire village was engaged in a giant game of jigsaw puzzle as they tried to reassemble the testament. The result was that the entire village came to Christ.
Over half of Christians in the world attribute their salvation to the printed page, a form of evangelism that doesn’t lose its power with time. One furniture mover came to Christ by reading a tract he found under a sofa he was moving out of a house. That little voiceless witness had been hidden there for about twenty-two years. One gospel publishing company reported receiving mail at an old address which they hadn’t used for twenty-four years, indicating that their tracts were still in circulation and doing their job almost a quarter of a century later.
The following are actual headlines out of real newspapers. Even if it is just because of the poor structure of the wording, I do find it a relief to be able to laugh at the news since it seems that all that ever gets reported is bad news.
Something Went Wrong in Jet Crash, Expert Says
Police Begin Campaign to Run Down Jaywalkers
Panda Mating Fails; Veterinarian Takes Over
Miners Refuse to Work after Death
Juvenile Court to Try Shooting Defendant
War Dims Hope for Peace
If Strike Isn’t Settled Quickly, It May Last a While
Cold Wave Linked to Temperatures
Enfield (London) Couple Slain; Police Suspect Homicide
Red Tape Holds Up New Bridges
Man Struck By Lightning: Faces Battery Charge
New Study of Obesity Looks for Larger Test Group
Astronaut Takes Blame for Gas in Spacecraft
Kids Make Nutritious Snacks
Local High School Dropouts Cut In Half
Hospitals are Sued by Seven Foot Doctors
Typhoon Rips Through Cemetery; Hundreds Dead
Proverbs 25:25 tells us about some refreshing news, “As cold waters to a thirsty soul, so is good news from a far country.” Isn’t it wonderful to know that there is some news that can make us smile when we hear it–not because of the mixed-up wording, but because the news is actually good! The gospel is good news in and of itself. In fact, the word “gospel” literally translated means “the almost-too-good-to-be-true news”!