We who preach and write, do so in a manner different from which the Scriptures have been written. We write while we make progress. We learn something new every day. We speak as we still knock for understanding...If anyone criticizes me when I have said what is right, he does me an injustice. But I would be more angry with the one who praises me and takes what I have written for Gospel truth than I would be with the one who criticizes me unfairly. -Augustine

Unexplainable God

I live in the Northeast, and during the summer of 2009, it rained 50 out of 58 days! That’s more consecutive days than Noah had! But certainly not the same amount of water. Did you know that during the Flood, both the underground water supply and the atmospheric reservoirs were released? Atmospheric reservoirs, you ask? Yes, according to the book of Genesis a canopy of water enveloped the earth, providing a kind of terrarium effect. This allowed plants and animals and man to live in a perfect environment.

Did you know that when God created the heavens and the earth, He created light before the sun? Not possible, you say. But that what makes Him God-for with God, nothing is impossible!

Life on planet earth is dependent upon God and God alone. Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived, writes in the book of Ecclesiastes: “Then I saw all the work of God, that man cannot find out the work that is done under the sun. However much man may toil in seeking, he will not find it out. Even though a wise man claims to know, he cannot find it out” (Ecclesiastes 8:17).

Life on planet earth is not dependent upon the function of the sun, nor can it be explained away by theories of man. The simple truth is that there is a God.

“And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who diligently seek him” (Hebrews 11:6).

Published in: on November 29, 2010 at 4:11 am  Leave a Comment  

Quit Ye Like Men

I find it ironic today, that while audiences long for reality in their media that is filled with aggressive & violent behavior, their own lives are becoming less real and more complacent. Now this may surprise you, but I don’t think this propensity toward violence is entirely bad. Let me explain: Men are warriors are heart. That is why they love their football teams, they love to watch the ball hit out of the park, or that diving save at the goal. Men in the 21st century have been tamed and reduced to mere spectators.

I love what John Eldredge wrote in his book, Wild at Heart, a must read for every man:

“A man must have a battle to fight, a great mission to his life that involves and yet transcends even home and family. He must have a cause to which he is devoted even unto death, for this is written into the fabric of his being. That is why God created you–to be his intimate ally, to join him in the Great Battle.”

The Apostle Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 16, “Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong.” It is noteworthy to mention that this quote comes from a Philistine out of the book of 1st Samuel who is challenging his comrades to step up and act like men so they don’t become enslaved to others. In the NT the Apostle Paul quotes this same truth but the meaning of the words change in the Greek. To “quit ye like men” implies the gathering of moral conviction with the exercise of manly valor.

It is time for us to join the King of kings and Lord of lords in this Great Battle that requires our complete devotion–it is time to quit ye like men!

Published in: on November 28, 2010 at 4:09 am  Leave a Comment  

Cleaning Fish

“The slothful man roasts not that which he took in hunting: but the substance of a diligent man is precious” (Proverbs 12:27).

I love fishing, but I hate cleaning the fish afterwards! Many times I have brought my stringer-full home only to carve up the first few and then convince myself that the reward was not worth the work. Cleaning fish takes a long time, and I am usually left frustrated, with an unappetizing pile of guts, scales, and bones. Once the guts and scales are disposed, then you have to flour and fry them and clean up another mess of an oily kitchen!

Recently I went ice fishing with friends and together we caught seventy-five fish! The thought of cleaning them almost put me over the edge-but my friend Charlie was with us. With his razor-sharp knife, he cut quickly and skillfully, resulting in a perfect filet–with no bones, no scales, no guts, and no mess!

Within moments the tender filets were floured, sizzling in the frying pan. The substance of our catch was indeed precious!

In Proverbs, Solomon describes the slothful person who neglects to roast that which he hunted; as a result he does not enjoy the fruit of his labors. In contrast, the hunt of the diligent person is indeed a thrill, and to eat the fruit of his labors brings total satisfaction. He never just hangs his trophy in a tree only to come back the next day to realize the meat is spoiled. The diligent person applies his skill from the beginning to the end; he catches, cleans, and cooks his game and finds that his “substance” is precious.

Many of life’s goals can be fulfilled if we work diligently to sharpen our skills. The sharper the skill, the greater the joy and fulfillment.

Published in: on November 28, 2010 at 3:14 am  Leave a Comment  

Praying in Jesus’ Name

What does it mean to pray in Jesus’ name? The third chapter of Colossians sheds some light on what often becomes a cliché phrase thoughtlessly tacked on to the end of a prayer. To pray in Jesus’ name simply means that you are requesting to represent Jesus, just as an ambassador, or representative, of the US meets with leaders from other countries in the name of our president and our country. In the Old Testament a message would be delivered with the words: “I come in the name of the king,” meaning “I come as a representative for the king.”

In the English Standard Version (ESV) we read from Colossians 3:17:

“And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”

Or in the New Living Translation:

“And whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father.”

To pray in Jesus’ name is to say that you desire to represent Jesus. If you are praying for a restored marriage, you are asking God to give you the strength to represent Jesus as you pursue reconciliation. If you are praying for the changed heart of a teen, you are asking God to help you represent Christ in your outreach to him/her.

It’s time to drop the rehearsed ending, and move it to the front. When we come to the throne of grace requesting the privilege of representing our Lord from the onset, it may shift our emphasis from our needs to His desires. And if you need a new ending, how about, “God, thank you for listening to me this morning.”

Published in: on November 25, 2010 at 3:12 am  Leave a Comment  

Blinded by Love

Blinded by Love

Those who know me know that one of my favorite Bible verses is found in Romans 5, which states that “Suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope makes us not ashamed.” As I have been pondering this verse lately, I realized that I have been omitting the last sentence which states, “because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit which is given unto us.” What does this mean?

I think I have an illustration that might help. You see, hope is the barometer of our spiritual condition. Little hope…little character…little endurance. It is only until we are willing to endure difficulty, that hope is realized. I’m talking about a confident hope that motivates and empowers you to endure the most difficult of storms. How? By love…the love of God that is poured out, or better, gushed out in your hearts when you endure.

Here’s the illustration. When I was about three years old we were visiting family who lived on a farm. All that I remember about that trip was when I fell down a steep hill that was filled with briers, chickens, and goats. Before I stopped rolling, I felt my dad pick me up, holding me safely in his arms. I don’t know if this was in my imagination but I also remember him kicking a goat that was coming toward us with his horns in the butting position.

You see, my dad didn’t hesitate to consider the danger, or the difficulty of rescuing me. His love for me was greater than the suffering he would have to endure. The measurement of our character and hope can be found in the endurance of difficult relationships and circumstances. If we’re complaining about the thorns and briers of life, then it is an indication that our love for ourselves is greater than our love for others and our love for God. Jesus was willing to be injured by the thorns to be able to reach us with his love. It’s our turn now to do the same for others.

Published in: on November 24, 2010 at 3:07 am  Leave a Comment  

The Amnon Principle

The Amnon Principle

Boys need to be preparing for marriage as early as kindergarten! At an early age our boys must see themselves as the protectors of a damsel in distress. They should be encouraged to be the first to run and pick up a girl’s dropped books. They should make a special effort to open the door for ladies. Our boys need to go against the culture and see that girls are a special. A boy should be in prayer for the one who will someday be his wife, companion, and in many ways, his earthly completion.

Our boys must also learn that the first year of marriage needs to be different than all of the rest. God commanded that a young man who had taken a wife be not charged with any business, or go to war, but be free at home for one year, to bring happiness to his wife (Deut. 24). I believe that this passage is teaching that a young man should not take on anything extra during his first year of marriage. He should be financially secure. Since financial stress is one of the most damaging conflicts in a young marriage, our boys need to understand the importance of hard work and savings before they even consider marriage. Proverbs 24:27 teaches that we are to prepare our fields first and then build our house.

Lastly, it is crucial that our boys learn the Amnon principle. In I Samuel 13, Absalom’s sister Tamar was loved deeply by her step brother Amnon. His love for her was so great that he thought he could not live another day without her. Unfortunately, his lust was greater than his love and he lost both her and his life; and Tamar lost her purity and honor. Our boys need to understand that when they engage in a physical relationship prior to marriage, they actually damage–and may even destroy–any future relationship with the one they love.

Published in: on November 23, 2010 at 3:03 am  Leave a Comment  

Jesus is God

Jesus is God

Recently a Christian young man asked me to help him understand the deity of Jesus. In Philippians 2 Paul states that Jesus did not regard his equality with God a thing to be grasped–to be held onto. While on this earth, Jesus was known to be someone much more than a man, or a prophet, or an angel; Jesus had the power to heal, to give sight, to calm the sea, to raise the dead, and to forgive sins. Only God can give life and only God can forgive sins.

With open eyes, an open heart, and a desire to find, you will soon discover that the Scriptures are filled with abundant proof that . . .

. . . Jesus was indeed God in the flesh. In John 1 we read: “In the beginning was the word and the word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1).

. . . Jesus was God before the world existed. In Colossians we read: For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth . . . all things were created by him, and for him: And he is before all things, and by him all things consist. (Colossians 1).

. . . Jesus is equal with God. In John 5 we read that “the Jews sought all the more to kill Him, because He . . . also said that God was His Father, making Himself equal with God” (John 5:18).

Furthermore, the prophet Isaiah is emphatic that God will not share or give his glory to another (Isaiah 42:8). Since God, who cannot lie and did give His glory to His Son on the mount of Transfiguration, it can only be concluded that they are one and the same, yet distinct. The beauty about the unexplainable distinct cooperation of the Godhead (Father, Son, and Spirit), is that if God could be explained, He would no longer be God.

Lastly, Jesus angered His opponents quite severely when he said that “before Abraham was, “I AM.”” The “I AM” of the OT was none other than God Himself and everyone who was standing there, knew exactly what Jesus was communicating. But that only stands to reason, that if you are the creator, then you must also be the God of the OT.

Published in: on November 22, 2010 at 3:10 am  Leave a Comment  

Pounding Nails

Fifteen year old Kevin was helping us with the construction of our house, and doing a great job! But one day, I found Kevin pounding a dozen nails into a 2 by 12 truss system that didn’t really need any extra support. When I asked him why he was pounding the nails, his response astonished me. When he finished all of his work for the day he went to his dad and asked what he should do when he was finished with all of his work. His dad said, “Go pound nails and be productive!”–and Kevin did exactly that! I have never forgotten that moment.

Ten years later I see a contrast. I see government spending itself into oblivion without being productive. A society that consumes more than it produces cannot long remain great. It is such a simple concept. We must start being productive. It is time to restore and invigorate the cultural standard of excellence and hard work. I was talking with a very successful businessman who is now in his mid seventies. I asked him what formed the foundation of his success and he told me: he is still working 14 hours per day, six days a week. There are no short cuts!

How much more can we consume before we ourselves are consumed? Other nations are not our biggest threat–we are. It is time to heed Solomon’s proverbial wisdom: “Prepare your work outside; make it fit for yourself in the field, and after that build your house” (Proverbs 24:27).

There are too many today trying to build their homes and their futures without the preparation and perseverance of a solid framework of biblical values. It’s time to start doing something, even if its pounding nails into a board. Maybe someone will see you who can open a door to future work–that’s what happened for Kevin! He became my most valued employee and now ten years later continues to be one of the most admirable workers I’ve ever known.

Published in: on November 21, 2010 at 2:53 am  Leave a Comment  

New Every Morning

It seems that night time is the most difficult time for most people who are lonely, depressed, angry, or needy. One of the reasons night time is so difficult is that we so desire resolution. We want our needs to be met, the relationship to be restored, or the hurt to go away.

In Lamentations 3, God tells us that it is because of his mercies that we are not consumed and that His compassion is new every morning. Now most of you have heard that it is his mercy that is new every morning, but that is not how the text reads. It is because of God’s mercies that we are able to wake up in the morning. So if you are breathing in the morning then you experienced God’s mercies during the night. In the morning we get to experience his life-giving compassion. In the Hebrew language, the word compassion means soft, gentle, a mother’s womb. What a beautiful word! Each morning when we awake, we can experience God’s compassion.

The text goes on to say, “Great is his faithfulness.” It continues with, “‘The LORD is my portion,’ says my soul, ‘therefore I will hope in him.’ The LORD is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him” (Lamentations 3:24-25).

The problem is the waiting! We want everything now, thinking we can’t make it through another day, or another night. We desire to receive from human sources the satisfaction that only God can bring.

But despite the despair and struggle, there is hope. You just need to hold on until morning, because in the morning you will experience the promise of your Father’s compassion that will restore and renew your hope.

My mentor Charlie once shared that when he experienced anguish of heart and couldn’t fall asleep easily, he would listen to soft worshipful music and read the Word until God, who always rescues His children, gave his beloved sleep.

Published in: on November 20, 2010 at 3:08 am  Leave a Comment  

The Miracle Choir

What kind of skill-set do you need to serve God?

Each of us have been given gifts by a loving God. I believe it is one of God’s greatest pleasures to see His children use His gifts in productive and creative ways.

I happen to know of some gifted individuals who are among the most productive and creative I have ever known. Yet they also possess some severe limitations.

They are part of an adult choir called “The Miracles”– and actually, not one of them is all that gifted musically.

But what makes this choir unique is that every member has a mental disability. Often these men and women are judged as unproductive, helpless and of less value than the rest of us. Yet each one truly represents a miracle in that they sing and tour together, and share the love of Jesus Christ with everyone they meet.

“The Miracles” represents the Baddour [BAD-DOER] Center, a residential care facility in Senatobia, Mississippi. At Baddour, individuals are not labeled by their limitations, but are encouraged to fulfill their potential – by holding down full-time jobs, taking on as much personal care as they can, and finding ways to serve others.

The Apostle Paul wrote that because God’s strength was perfected in his weakness, “I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me” (2 Corinthians 12:9b).

God often uses our greatest weakness to accomplish great things. All we need to do is be willing serve Him.

Published in: on November 19, 2010 at 3:09 am  Leave a Comment