Shaken

www.bible.com/1713/psa.55.22.csb

How often do you get “shook”? I have to admit it’s not often, but it does happen. I am sometimes subject to stories that curl my toes and cause me to be thankful that I have my family and my wife. I hear some stories that make me question how people can be so cruel to each other. How do people go from one day to the next without God?

But I have also heard stories about the inhumanity of a church to a person, and wonder if the institution that I serve deserves the care and nurturing I offer it. I have seen some churches that dishonor the message of grace and should not call themselves Christian, and they are usually the ones that consider themselves blameless. I just don’t understand sometimes why some people think that the church is their personal power playground and that they ought to be able to do whatever they want without consequences. Should we not at least remember that the Church belongs to God?

But that’s kind of the point to this verse, isn’t it? We ought to cast these kinds of burdens upon the Lord. We know that trusting in His solid foundation we will never be shaken. And that is where we should all be. We can and should never trust in a preacher, or a church. Those, as good as they are, are based on men. They are only as good as their trust in God goes. But when pride enters the picture, well, pride goes before destruction.

I guess I need to speak from humility this morning and remind myself that it’s not about me. It’s not about what I want, or how I want things done. I need to remind myself that this is God’s plan. This is God’s work. And God will put the men and women in the place he sees fit to accomplish His purposes. Some will appear to be greatly successful, but like a turtle on a fencepost, no one gets there because of their own greatness, but by the grace of God. If there is anyone great within the church, anyone of note, it is because God has put them there. And sometimes they need to be reminded. And yes it is a humbling thing to be a pastor.

God help me today to resist shaking by putting my trust and foundation in You. I have no more sure place to establish myself than in Your promises. Thank You Lord for Your grace, and reminding today that all that I am I am in You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Enough

www.bible.com/1713/mat.6.25.csb

What is enough? Something that I’ve discovered over the course of the last few months is that I have enough clothes. I have more than enough clothes, so much so that since Goodwill finally opened back up, I have been able to donate a dozen bags of clothes. I don’t know how I’ve been able to gather so much, but over a lifetime, with a little here and a little there, It’s not much of a mystery.

I suppose this is the first time I’ve had to do a purge. I possessed a hoard of clothes that just don’t fit me anymore, or needed to be discarded for one reason or another. But I’ve never lacked having enough clothes to wear. That is a blessing. And I know that it comes from the Lord. I also know that I am blessed to live in this nation, because there are many places in the world where having a week’s worth of clothing is considered a luxury.

So I’ve never really worried about what I am going to wear. Neither is food that much of an issue here, and there is always plenty of water. By those standards, I have no reason to worry. If there is a land of milk and honey, then we certainly live in it. And I know it is because of God’s blessing over and over, blessing our land for being founded and continued as a Christian nation. I also know that this is eroding, and our ability to supply food and clothing are also being affected.

My wife went to the grocery store last night and told me a grim story. The beef was mostly gone. What was left was overpriced. I have heard this isn’t because of a lack of beef, but the break in the supply chain. COVID19 has affected everything, but in this case, it seems to have affected the processing plants for the big meat packers the worst. I think as Christians we ought to have our eyes open on this. We have been so blessed for so long, that these interruptions become noticeable. Christians should notice when these basic blessings are interrupted. I think we ought to remember this, because when these things take place, we know that our nation is gently coming under judgment.

It is something that is a long time coming. Anyone familiar with the Scriptures know that Israel stumbled repeatedly, and the Lord sent invaders to chastise them until they fell to their knees and repented of their sins, and then then God restored them. This is a cycle we see repeatedly in the Scriptures. In our case, military invaders are always a threat, but not a serious one. Rather, it is the political invaders, the social invaders, and the medical invaders. Our politics are constantly being subverted, to where today we are willingly closing churches (for health reasons). Our social system is being overwhelmed because strangers and foreigners are overwhelming our social structures (and politicians support this subversion) while veterans and homeless are ignored. Our medical system is being overwhelmed, not only by diseases entering in through illegal  immigration but also in more subtle ways, like COVID-19. We may not be a nation overcome with military invaders, but we have invaders nevertheless. Like Rome, our chief problem isn’t that we aren’t the most powerful nation in the world. In many ways we are. But it is the chinks in our armor, the gaping holes where other kinds of invaders creep in and engage in rot and corruption within.

As a Christians, I want you to first be aware of when our basic blessings like food and clothing are being affected. This is a sign that God is placing our nation under judgment. But second, like Daniel (Dan 9) and Nehemiah (Neh 1) we must intervene for our nation before God. We must pray for national repentance, and national forgiveness. As citizens of this country, enjoying the freedoms we enjoy, we cannot ignore the fact that our nation is being eroded, and the strongest power we possess isn’t at the ballot box, but at the altar of prayer. You cannot afford to sit by and shake your head. This isn’t something that is happening to someone else. This affects all of us.

I encourage you as a believer to pray for our nation. Pray against this virus, yes, but also pray that the Lord stays His hand on our nation. Pray that the Lord preserve us for a while longer, that we appeal to His mercy, not because we are good, but because He is.

Dear Father, please hear our voice today. Father please spare our nation. Please do not lift Your hand from our leaders or our nation. We know that if you do, disaster follows, because by Your hand we are blessed. Please Lord, hear our prayers today. May You offer mercy. May You heal our land. May Your judgment complete its perfect work, but that You save Your people, and let this nation once again stand for Your great Name! In Jesus’ Name we pray, Amen.

Blessed are the Blameless

www.bible.com/1713/psa.119.2.csb

Would you know if you were blameless? Would you know if anyone has anything to say about you? I remember reading somewhere in the Old Testament (the reference escapes me) about a person who was in trouble if they had done something that someone else didn’t like, and complained to God about it. Now the first person may not even be aware of their trespass, but since the second person took offence, the first person is liable. Have you ever done that?

Having been in ministry, I have stepped in it more than once. I have managed to offend people without even intending to, simply because I used the wrong illustration or didn’t pay enough attention when another thought it should have been paid to them. It reminds me of something Captain Picard once said along the lines of “you can do everything right and still be wrong.”

A few years ago, I had a young woman in my office who was seeking my services to officiate her marriage. I asked some pertinent questions about her living situation, and she admitted she was currently living with her boyfriend (who was also the son of one of our church members). I said I had no problem conducting the service, but I asked that she and her boyfriend refrain from physical relations until the ceremony. Apparently, this was too much to ask, as I had a phone call from the boy’s mother asking why I upset the woman so much. I didn’t feel I needed to explain myself, since as a minister I feel it is important for marriage to be pure. I know we live in a fallen world, and people sin, but I also feel that if a couple desires to be married in a church (as opposed to a courthouse or out on the lawn) and to have their service officiated by a minister (as opposed to a judge or a celebrant) then there are certain requirements of both groom and bride, certain expectations. Its no secret what God expects from His people. If people choose to have their marriage recognized in the eyes of God, God’s nature and holiness calls for certain behavior. I assumed too much. I didn’t end up doing the service because I am cold and heartless.

You can do everything right and still be wrong. That’s why it’s so hard to be blameless. So my prayer today is that the Lord forgive me for being offensive, especially when I don’t realize it. May the Lord smooth the way of others around me, so that in whatever way I have offended others, the Lord may forgive me, make me aware of how I have offended others, and convict me when I am wrong. Lord help me if I have caused someone to stumble because of something I said or done. Though I may stumble often in things I know I’ve done, Lord forgive me for those things I don’t know anything about.

Lord in Heaven, I don’t know enough about this world and her people to know whether I am blameless. Though I try to be and work to be better everyday, I can’t know if I’ve never offended anyone. I know there are times I have offended and caused others pain by my actions and words, and Lord I beg for forgiveness for those. But Father please forgive me for those things I have done that I don’t know how they have hurt people, people who I don’t even know, that because of me have taken a path away from You. Lord please forgive if I have ever caused one of these little ones to stumble. I pray that their hearts may be softened and prepared again for the grace of Jesus Christ. Please Lord guide them back, through some other voice, so that I may ask their forgiveness too. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Lay Down

www.bible.com/1713/jhn.15.13.csb

I don’t know what kinds of friends you hang out with, but I think I’ve got some pretty good ones. But as good as they are, I don’t know if any would lay down his life for me. I am just being honest here. By the same token, I don’t know for which of my friends I would lay down my life for either. You are talking here about a serious commitment to friendship. When push came to shove, would you willingingly intercede for a friend to the point of giving up your life? I’m sorry. For me that’s a tough call. I can’t sit here and tell you that I’ve ever had that put to the test. I am reminded of the text in Romans:

(Rom 5:7)  For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—

Even as well as we know our friends, do we know them to be good? Would we consider them worthy enough to die for?

I am reminded of a situation which occurred in our community a few years ago, when one woman was in need of a kidney. Another woman, found that she had a compatible kidney, and without being forced or under any duress, she willingly gave her healthy kidney to the sick woman. And both are alive today. But giving up a kidney isn’t the same, since you expect to live if you donate a kidney. What would it mean to donate a liver, or a lung, or a heart? Would you be willing to do that for a friend?

I know this verse is often quoted around Memorial Day to remember those who gave up their lives for our nation. And I believe they do deserve such honor. But would say they didn’t die for their country so much as for their mothers, their wives, or their children. “I will stop of the enemy horde here if it means my family will live.” Many no doubt died not for someone they longed for back home, but for the person beside them, their battle buddy, their friend and comrade. Training, battle and foxholes make for powerful friendships.

I think for each of us, where the line is drawn that we cannot cross is drawn in different places for different people. Your ability to tolerate inconvenience is probably different for different people in your life. But this little post may be a way to get that thought going in the back of your head. All of us will die of something. But it is up to you to choose who you will die for.

but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
(Rom 5:8)

Live like Jesus.

The Way of Jesus

www.bible.com/1713/luk.9.23-24.csb

The way of Jesus follows the way of the cross. The path of the cross begins at the place of torture and beating, and ends with the impaling of nails into flesh. Jesus says this path, as a disciple, is to be taken daily. The path itself is one of humiliation, which the crowds who witnessed Him mocked him for the criminal they assumed He was, shouting at Him that He deserved His fate. So it should not surprise us when the crowds do the same. Jesus says from the outset that His path isn’t one of glory and joy, wealth and blessing. We are blessed surely when we receive such, but that shouldn’t be our expectation. Our problems don’t go away in Jesus. In fact the temptation becomes much harder, because once the Enemy has lost us, he has to work twice as hard to try and get us back. And he will.

But while the path of the cross is painful, it is brief. There is an end to that path, and once achieved, you will receive the reward of a life lived for Jesus. In some ways it seems Jesus works very hard to reveal to us that this life isn’t our ultimate goal. This life is merely temporary. It is the next life, the eternal life in heaven that should inspire us and give us hope.

So the question laid to us is this: If I am not experiencing any of the suffering normally associated with being a Christian, am I really being a Christian? Am I truly living the life He has called me to?

I have asked myself these kinds of questions for years. It is one reason I desired full-time Christian service, feeling that was one way to put myself at the Lord’s mercy for work. Of course asking the rest of my family to live with my choices is another matter.

I feel in part that because I live in America, I do not receive the kinds of threats to my life and faith as I would in Indonesia or Iraq. In this nations all points of view are tolerated. It’s live and let live. And even though churches have been forced to closed due to the pandemic, we still worship and function, and in my part of the country, being a Christian is socially approved. Lucky me, I guess.

But my temptations come in other ways. My Christianity is more sorely tested, because my living and lifestyle must stand out more to be distinct from the world around me, and it is far easier to be a “nominal” Christian. If Jesus were the only words from my lips, I would be considered “crazy” and “hyper-religious.” Neither of those are particularly winsome or persuasive. I am more free to be a Christian, but it is far harder to stay a Christian.

But I want to encourage you fellow believer, wherever you are, that Christ is for you. Christ has work for you to do, in whatever walk you are in, because the path of Christ is for all of us. be watchful today for those opportunities to share with others the faith that is within you. God bless you all today!

God, show me today those opportunities that are unique to me and my station that only I can do to share the hope that is within me. May You work in me to share a gift so gracefully given. Thank You Jesus. In Your Name I pray, Amen.

 

Trained

www.bible.com/1713/heb.12.11.csb

In order to do a job right, you need to be trained for it. While you can be trained by being cast into a situation and forced to come up with something with your wits alone, but it isn’t the best way. Rather, everyone who undertake a new task or position is employed in some training to discipline themselves to follow a new protocol. However, with faith in Jesus, it’s a little different.

When you come to faith in Christ, it does seem like you are thrown into the deep end. Suddenly all these expectations are placed upon you: how you are to dress, talk, act, and witness. It’s not exactly fair, largely because most people in that position have not been properly trained even as the New Testament instructs. Jesus told his disciples this way:

Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
(Mat 28:19-20)

Did you notice the sequence? First, as apostles, they go into all the world (technically, it is “as you go”, meaning that “as you go about the business of life”), then second, make disciples. Making disciples in those days meant finding those willing to learn and taking them alongside, instructing them and teaching them as you go about your work, much as Paul would working as a tent-maker. Then, once they have a recognizable commitment, third, you baptize them into the Name (of the Triune God, Father, Son and Spirit), and then fourth, teaching them everything to observe everything Jesus commanded of the Apostles, i.e., going out and making disciples.

So in this many of us I am afraid have made a few mistakes. We have tried for the “win” of the baptism or the prayer of faith or whatever your church does. We count that as a “salvation” and then expect that person to suddenly know what to do. We forget there is a time of discipleship, both showing and teaching what a Christian is, both what he believes and how he lives. These are both important, as many of our Christians today would rather not people follow them into the workplace. We are to be examples everywhere we are, so that others know how to become Christians everywhere they go.

Therefore as Christians, we could actively be teaching others about our faith, the reason for our beliefs, so that we can encourage others to become Christians and grow in turn to teach others. I believe that baptism can occur both early and late, as there is not set time to baptize a person in this process. But this process must include “counting the cost” of salvation in Jesus (which can be very costly for some coming out of other cultures), but also learning basic discipleship, prayer, Bible study, etc. When a person is finally baptized, they are not thrown into the deep end of the pool unprepared, but they are thrown into the deep end. It’s just that by the time they take the dip, they know how to swim.

Why do you think there is such rescividism among new Christians, especially in our culture where they quickly become Christmas-Easter attenders? Its because they’ve never had the chance to witness Christianity in a person’s life. It’s only been on Sunday morning. They didn’t follow the pastor home, or an elder home, or another believer to find out what it means to live as a Christian before they gave their life to Jesus. That is a critical and vital piece that has long been missing from our modern “revivalist” mentality in the Church. We yearn for the altar calls and the decisions, but we don’t take the time to make disciples.

And making disciples is painful. But as Jesus taught, if we are going to make disciples that make other disciples, we have to make disciples first. That starts with you. That starts with you living your life in an obvious way that shoes others what living in Jesus means. It takes time and deliverate effort, but it is worth it.

So heavenly Father, help me to grow in You and show others today how I have grown so that they will want what I have. Let Your Name be on my lips so that I can draw all men unto You who is lifted up in my life. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Do Not Be Deceived

www.bible.com/1713/gal.6.7.csb

If there is a command is Scripture we need to heed today it is this one: “Don’t Be Deceived!” Now I could go on about reaping what you sow, but I don’t think that is as important here as the first. I certainly believe you will reap what you sow, and don’t think you won’t If you sow corruption, you will receive corruption. If you sow resentment, you will receive it back in kind. But if you sow love, grace, and encouragement, these things will also come back to you. If you sow the gospel, I can’t imagine the reward that you will receive in heaven.

But first things first. Do not be deceived, which also means, know the truth. Don’t be gullible. Don’t go with the first witness, but carefully examine all the witnesses you can before you come to an conclusion. I cannot stress this enough with the Corona Virus. We have been indundated with witnesses, both scientists, doctors, medical professionals, politicians, news pundits, etc., etc. about how best to deal with the “outbreak”. Do not be deceived. Do not be hoodwinked. Listen for truth. Coonsider that God does sometimes send these things along to chastise nations, and we have certainly been chastised as a nation. I believe families have been brought together in ways during all of this that God approves.

But I also know that this is an election year. The Democrats, despite having a field of 20 something candidates, came down to a predictable few, and those just don’t have what it takes. I’m sorry if you are a Democrat, but neither Biden nor Sanders just don’t feel presidential. What happened to the noble statesman? Why are we always talking about scandals? Where are the noble policies to motivate Americans to do better, to be better than we are, instead of all of this class conflict and racism?

Being an election year, and knowing that we have had deadly illnesses in the recent past given no more than a column in the paper, I have to wonder if we are being deliberately deceived? Just a few years ago, Ebola was in the news. Our hospital prepared for it, wrote our special protocols, and some Americans were affected by it. We did not lock down the nation. That idea never came up. Who was president at that time? President Obama.

Ebola was a far more serious and dangerous disease than Corona Virus 19, including hemorrhagic fever, a horrible term of illness, and possible death. No one mentioned lockdown. No one even talked about quarantining the nation, or closing schools or businesses. Life went on as normal.

But now we have COVID-19 (ooh scary!) and it’s like the comet is coming to destroy the earth. Are there parts of the country having a horrible time of it? Certainly. Is the entire country having an equal bad time of it. Absolutely not! Therefore you do not need to treat the whole country in the same way. Do not be deceived.

How many people have you been to talk about Jesus to since you entered quarantine? More or less? How many times have you been able to gather with believers? To fellowship and worship? Has an invisible virus kept you from an Almighty God? I hope not.

As Christians, we are to be vigilant. The Devil goes around seeking who He may devour. Without our fellow Christians and accountability, have we been as strong “alone together” as we ought to be together?

Thanks for reading. Keep your eyes open. Don’t give up.

Thank you Jesus for calling us to truth.