Category Archives: Biblical Truth

Breaking the Code v. 2

One of the things in the church that is not well understood by many people is baptism. Baptism is one of those acts that was modeled by Christ and commanded by Scripture.
Related imageAfter Pentecost, the day the Holy Spirit came down initially to the disciples and then to the church, the disciples were out preaching with Peter leading the way. All those in Jerusalem were hearing these men preach in their own language. In Acts 2:38, Peter preaching to thousands of people who were in awe that everyone was hearing in their own language when he said, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” He pled with them “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.” Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.

Baptism was modeled by Christ who was baptized by John the Baptist, as he began His ministry. It was important for Christ to be baptized. Luke recorded the event this way, “When all the people were being baptized, Jesus was baptized too. And as he was praying, heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended on Him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.” Jesus was about 30 years old at that time. (Luke 3:21 ff)

In Acts 19:4 ff Paul was talking to some men in Ephesus. Luke writes, “And Paul said, “John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in the one who was to come after him, that is, Jesus.” 5  On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.”

So, baptism is an outward demonstration of heart level repentance and identification with Christ. Even though Christ had nothing of which to repent, nor could baptism make Him any less sinful (He was without sin), He felt it was important to model the step for all of us. When speaking of baptism we talk of following Christ in baptism. In the process of inviting Christ into our hearts, we must, by definition, repent and turn from our former way of life and thinking. New believers have a desire to follow Christ and baptism is one of those outward statements true followers want to make to the world around them.

From the earliest days of the church, baptism has been a demonstration of a new life and an ordinance, like communion, that believers participate in to identify with their Lord and Savior. The acts of baptism and partaking of communion have no redemptive or cleansing power, but rather are outward demonstrations of what God has done in the heart. Remember, man looks on outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart. (1 Samuel 16:7)

Is baptism required for salvation?

A key scene in Scriptures (Luke 23:30-41) gives us great insight into this question. Christ was hanging on the cross and the thieves on either side engaged Jesus in conversation. One hurled insults at Jesus and chided Him, “Aren’t you the Christ? Save yourself and us!” The other admonished the first saying, “Don’t you fear God? … We are punished justly … this man has done nothing wrong.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Jesus answered him, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.”

Here we have the moment of truth for Christ’s presence here on earth. It is the ultimate act of sacrifice for which He came to earth. One man being crucified for his crimes recognizes and acknowledges Jesus as the Christ, the promised Messiah. Jesus, seeing the man’s heart, hears his confession and tells him that on that very day, they would be reunited in paradise (heaven). This man had no opportunity for baptism and Jesus, seeing his heart, welcomes him into the kingdom.  The Holy Spirit has seen to it that this crucial and sensitive moment, is recorded for us as an affirmation of John 3:16 which tells us that whoever believes in the Son of God, will be saved.

Baptism is taught in Scripture, yet it is practiced in many different ways. Some practice infant baptism, some sprinkle, and some immerse. The question becomes whether there is a right way and a wrong way.

Immersion is symbolic of being buried with Christ and raised again to walk as a new creation. While the Scriptures imply that people are being baptized in deep enough water to accommodate immersion, there is no specific teaching that immersion was the only method or the only acceptable method. Many churches that do not have baptistries sprinkle those desiring baptism. Here we must trust the Scriptures again and know that the Lord knows the heart of men, just as Christ knew the heart of the thief on the cross and affirmed they would see one another that same day in heaven.

Yes, churches will have Scripture to support their approach, but the one thing that remains is that baptism is universally seen as an affirmation of one’s faith. Some in the evangelical community baptize infants as identification with parents who are believers, much like circumcision was an identification for Israelite infants. Circumcision did not guarantee the child’s affinity to the faith. It was an identity with God’s chosen people. Since Christ’s atoning sacrifice, the law (circumcision) was replaced with grace (baptism) in its outward manifestation.

Baptism continues from the days of John the Baptist to represent repentance and forsaking our former ways of life. It has always represented a decision that could only be made by a person of sufficient age to consciously decide to follow Jesus.

This matter is treated much more extensively by theologians, but for our purposes here, we simply need to understand the teachings of Scripture.

Breaking the Code v. 1

In the community of Christ followers, there is a language that can be confusing and for Image result for Christianthe most part misunderstood. Just as there is a culture in any organization, there are acronyms, phrases, and words for which insiders can have differing definitions and leave outsiders bewildered, to say the least. To further the confusion, Christianity has conceded labels that are core to defining who we are to those who have distorted the truth and the heart of Christ.

I have friends who are apologists and who would write lengthy papers on defining some of these words and phrases. Still, I think there is value to putting a stake in the ground for our purposes and our discussions. These definitions are not intended to be all-encompassing but rather, what I hope will be, a biblical place to begin our thinking on such matters.

Let’s start with the word Christian. The word Christian was first recorded in the book of Acts of the Apostles chapter 26 verse 28 when King Agrippa tells Paul that he is almost persuaded to become a Christian. The term Christian was used to describe people who were committed to following Christ in the days of the early church. Included with this label was the concept of those who adhered to the teachings of the Scriptures and accepting Christ as part of the triune God. Jesus claimed to be God. He said I and the Father are one. Either He was who He said He was or He was a liar and not God. So the word Christian in its original context defined a devoted Christ follower.

In Romans 12:9-21 Paul challenges the Roman church to Christian lifestyle and virtues. The ESV Bible titles this section, “Marks of the True Christian.”

Today we ascribe the label of Christian to anyone who is not Jewish or atheist. If you are not opposed to the idea of God you have earned the label of Christian. Adherence to the teachings of the Bible is no longer a part of the definition. Jude wrote in his letter addressed to those who are called, beloved in God the Father and kept for Jesus Christ these words, “For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.”

The world is influencing the church through various means, without us even noticing, to redefine and pervert the gospel of Jesus Christ. In so doing, they have redefined, in the public square, the real meaning of Christianity. Many churches that once held to a biblical standard, have abandoned the truths of Scripture, for the logic of the “intellectual elites.” Indeed, the Scriptures are no longer held to be God’s words for mankind. This gives the world credibility as they continue to further pervert and erode the gospel and grace of God.

We have now chosen to call ourselves “Christ followers.” But make no mistake about it, I still identify with the Christians spoken of by the New Testament writers. One final word on this topic …

Jesus said in John 14:15 “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” As Christians who love and follow Jesus, we need to know and keep His commands rather than distorting and perverting those commands to meet our own desires.

You Won’t Want to Miss This Concert!

Did you know how loved you are by God? Do you understand how much he delights in his people? God wants his people to rejoice and be glad. There is a joy and satisfaction that Image result for god rejoices over uscomes from the peace that passes all understanding. There is a calm that he gives his people in the face of trial and trouble. Those things will certainly come our way, but if we give all our worries and anxieties to him he will lead us beside the still waters and will restore our souls.

Why does he do this? The Bible tells us he does this because he cares for us. Can you recall the last time he restored your soul? Do you know where to go to have your soul restored and refreshed? You can find safety and solace in the words of Scripture. These words contain his promises and tell the story of how much he loves us. These words, which are actually God’s words, talk of joy in the midst of trials. They tell us that he cares for us like a Shepherd cares for his flock, by protecting, leading and guiding.

Pastor Tony Evans tweeted today, “Peace doesn’t mean that you will not have problems. Peace means that your problems will not have you.” God delights in his people and wants them to place all their concerns at his feet and let him work them out. He may work them out by giving you the wisdom you need to navigate a choppy relationship, or he may change the other person’s heart. When we let him work things out we need to remember that his ways are higher than our ways and his thoughts higher than ours.

Knowing full well that this world is filled with sin and bad things are going to happen, he wants us to have joy that is unspeakable, or difficult to describe. He delights in his people. He is waiting to help us be his hands and feet here on this earth. He wants us to do good and to feel the inner joy that only he can provide.

I was reading the words of our God as he gave them to the prophet Zephaniah. Here is just a taste of what God gave Zephaniah, “Do not fear, O Zion; do not let your hands hang limp. The Lord your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing.” (Zeph 3:17)

God is telling us not to fear. We should give all our fears to him. The picture he gives us is not to let our hands hang limp and helpless as we often feel like doing when we are overwhelmed and don’t know what to do in our current situation. If he is with us there is nothing to fear! He is might to save. There is song written by Hillsong that we have often sung in church that our Savior can move the mountains, and he is mighty to save. He will quiet us with his love. Do you remember being quieted by the love and protection of your mother or father? God’s love is so much greater and stronger and more consoling than any of us have ever felt from a family member or friend here on earth. Let your soul be quieted.

This next part is so awesome that I am not going to miss it! To have God so pleased with his people that he will rejoice over us with singing! Think about it! If you list all the best singers you could possibly name, then remember that our God made each of them and gave them their talents. Now think about this God, our God, the Creator, so happy with his people that he is going to sing over us!

I have friends out tonight at a private concert of a world renown singer. I gave one of my friends my ticket to the concert. But, tonight’s concert won’t be able to hold a candle to us hearing our God singing over us. There are no tickets for that concert. Everyone who has placed their faith in Jesus will hear this concert! No good deeds to be done. The price has already been paid. Place your faith in Jesus and come to the concert! It will be the best thing you’ve ever heard!

In times that are filled with fear, uncertainty and doubt, we need to be strong and courageous as God told Joshua over and over again, because the Lord our God is with us and is so delighted with us that it makes him sing. He will quiet us with his love. It is going to be a concert that you won’t want to miss!

Scarecrow in a Melon Patch

Where is our confidence? Where is our trust? Jesus said, do not worry about tomorrow because each day has enough trouble of its own. He told us not to worry about what we Image result for scarecrowwould wear or what we would eat. Look at the birds of the air and the flowers of the field that are beautiful to watch and to look at. We are more valuable to God than all the other parts of creation. Don’t get all hung up over something that will impress others. Who are you living for and what will all these things do for you? They won’t bring you happiness!

Many of us in the Baby Boomer generation are spending a lot of time engaging people who will help us plan to make sure our finances will last as long as we do. Many have accumulated collectibles, homes, toys, etc. that are the result of planning and playing out our personal passions. The proverb says, “Without counsel plans fail, but with many advisers they succeed.” (15:22) And another, “The plans of the diligent lead surely to abundance, but everyone who is hasty comes only to poverty.” (21:5) We need to know that God applauds planning.

Yet, in recent years, many have become uncertain about their security or the future of those things we’ve collected being placed in the hands of their beneficiaries. We must however keep all these things in proper perspective. The prophet Jeremiah wrote, “Like a scarecrow in a melon patch, their idols cannot speak; they must be carried because they cannot walk..Do not fear them, they can do no harm nor can they do any good.” (Jer 10:5)

Our stuff is just stuff. All our collectibles may be good hobbies which keep us active and capture our interest, but the things and money that are the results of our diligent planning are just things. They are inanimate and exist in our lives much like a scarecrow which serves only to scare off the birds that would otherwise eat the fruit of the garden. The scarecrow can’t hear you. In fact if you talked to it, some might begin to wonder about you and your ‘friends’.

Jesus also said that it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. (Matt 19:23) That is because these things begin to own us. We allow them to become part of who we are and a path for acceptance among people. The only path for acceptance we should be pursuing is to be accepted into the kingdom of heaven by God. Another proverb on planning tells us that “Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but the Lord’s purpose prevails.”

Let’s not let the scarecrows run our lives. Enjoy the fruit of your diligent planning. Know that the Lord has honored your diligence for a purpose. Consider what he wants you to do with your resources to further his purposes. When we commit our lives to God, that includes our assets and resources. Let’s give it all to him and let God direct our paths.

Lots more to say on this subject, but for now, be wary of the scarecrows in your melon patch.

The Parable of the Hole

Portia Nelson penned a brief story that will be familiar to many of us. The moral of the story lines up with the instructions of Jesus as recorded in Matthew 5. In the Sermon on Image result for the parable of the holethe Mount, Christ tells us regarding lust, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.”

What is Christ suggesting here? I believe it safe to say that he is presenting options to us. We can continue to sin and miss the glory of heaven or remove those things that cause us to sin and be welcomed into the presence of God.

It would definitely be true that to lose an eye or a hand would be better than for our souls to end up in hell and miss spending eternity with God in the new heaven and the new earth. There is nothing here on this earth worth missing out on the treasure of that hope.

In the bigger picture, however, Christ is telling us that if we frequent a particular coffee shop so that we can lay eyes on an attractive woman who works there with the fantasy that her favors might be ours, quit going to that coffee shop. If you find ways to spend time with a particular colleague with the same intent, set different habits that will remove those tempting thoughts. Or consider something that an increasing problem, internet pornography, which devalues both the men and the women who lead us into a fantasy world.

In other areas of life, we can choose to associate with those who propose a different view of truth and the origin of things than what God has given us, thus opening ourselves to accepting their views. Or the even more subtle, “You have your truth and I have mine.” This ends of with neither one of you being right. The point is that we have choices to make regarding the voices we will take in on a regular basis.

With this concept in mind, Portia Nelson wrote The Parable of the Hole. It goes like this.

I walk down the street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I fall in.
I am lost. I am helpless. It isn’t my fault. It takes forever to find a way out.

I walk down the same street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I pretend I don’t see it. I fall in again. I can’t believe I’m in the same
place, but it’s still not my fault. It still takes a long time getting out.

I walk down the street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I see it
is there, but I still fall in. It’s a habit. My eyes are open. I know where
I am. It is my fault. I get out immediately.

I walk down the same street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I walk around it.

I walk down a different street.

Proverbs 25:28 tells us that a man without self-control is like a city broken into and left without walls. That is quite a word picture. In those days, a city without walls was defenseless. The walls were not intended to keep people in, but rather to keep invading marauders out. The gates to the city were the only path into the city and could easily be defended. In the same way, we as God’s people need to recognize that we are in a battle.

Remember the battle of Jericho when the people of Israel began to take the land of Canaan after their journeys in the wilderness. The key to the battle was to take the walls down. Many years later, God used Nehemiah to lead the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem because that city was lying defenseless. The walls of the city were instrumental to the safety of its inhabitants.

In the same way, a man or woman who does not prepare for upright living by taking in the teaching of wisdom, by listening to what God has to say about all that the world throws at us, is leaving themselves open to the situational ethics proposed by the world. As we have seen in our short lives, the lines between right and wrong have all but vanished and ethical behavior is being redefined by the loudest voices in our society. Truth, like beauty, is thought to be found in the mind of the beholder.

Peter writes, in his first letter to the churches, that we are to be sober-minded and watchful because our adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for those of us who have let our walls fall into disrepair, because that person is an easy target and defenseless. Without a foundation of truth we’ll buy into whatever someone thinks is right.

Let’s be men and women who chose on each and every day, to focus our minds on those things that are true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, and commendable. And if there is anything that is excellent or worthy of praise, think about these things. (Phil 4:8) Solomon reminds us that the path of wisdom is to keep our hearts with all vigilance. James reminds us that if any of us lacks wisdom we simply need to ask God who will give us wisdom.

Follow the path of wisdom, know where your holes are, and walk down another street.

Can’t We Just Get Along?

Many people are really getting tired of all the verbal dart throwing that is dominating our news feeds on social media and the news feeds from the so called news media. Several in Image result for loving vs judgingmy circle of friends have recently posted in social media that they just want us all to get along with each other. During the Christmas season we are longing for the promise of the angels, “peace on earth, good will to all men.”

As much as our world wants to believe that mankind is inherently good and that our world is improving and will continue to improve, reality is not showing that to be true. Instead, tensions seem to be increasing and our respective views are being used for division rather than building unity. Forgiveness and understanding seem to be in short supply. Many seem to be wandering into their own peculiar world of isolationism alienating those who disagree and even casting doubt on the intelligence, integrity and even the character and faith of “those people.”

I have come to believe that as much as many of us really do want to get along with the rest of the world, somehow the world of dialog has been reconfigured for us. It seems that it is socially acceptable to love our neighbor so long as they agree with us. Love is a choice, therefore, the prevailing patterns show that we will love those who agree with us and castigate and eviscerate all who disagree, or at the very least avoid interactions with them. It is as though there are other forces at work in our world. As many as there are that say they just want to get along, it seems that lines are being drawn for us that are beyond our control or at least at work in our subconscious. Those lines tell us that as long as you agree with me, we can get along. It is not even alignment of truth systems that matter. If you can’t support my train of thought or behavior, we can’t have rational discussion or cordial relationship, and I may even take you to court. Even though we profess to value congeniality, we seem to have lost our ability to disagree with civility.

I am going to suggest that we need to be careful about discerning what is going on in our world. As much as we claim to be in control of ourselves and our destinies, the Bible tells us that there are other forces at work. Ephesians 6:12 tells us that “we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against rulers, against the authorities, against cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” We need to keep in mind at all times, who and what we’re really fighting against.

It is not “those guys.” There is a spiritual battle that is being waged and, if we allow it, we will be pawns in the battle between good and evil. The end result that until Christ returns to this earth, the purposes of evil will sway heavily in our world. The Apostle Paul wrote that we once lived following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. What Paul is saying here is that the world is and has been following the lead of Satan (the prince of the power of the air) and that pursuit takes us in a downward spiral. We need to acknowledge that.

Our current mindset and behavior does not line up with the teachings of Jesus, nor should it be representative of Christians or evangelicals, Catholics or whatever brand a person of faith has these days. How can I say this? Jesus was criticized by the Jewish leaders for having dinner and socializing with those who didn’t live up to the standards the leaders of the faith had interpreted from the Scriptures. To be sure, some of them had made up a lot of rules that were not part of God’s word, and they replaced the relationship that God desires to have with us with a code of rules upon which man would be able to assess our true spirituality. When asked which is the great commandment in the law, Jesus replied, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” (Matt 22:34-40) Think relationship, not works, not rules.

In another scene, the Jewish leaders challenged the disciples because Jesus was dining with “tax collectors and sinners.” When Jesus heard this, he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Matt 9:9-13) How would Christ hope to draw sinners to himself if he disassociated himself from any who sinned? The reality is that he would not have come to this world because we are all sinners. Paul wrote in Romans 5:8 that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. He paid the ultimate sacrifice of love before we believed and while we were still sinners. The self-righteous condemnation of others has no place in Christian circles. It only plays into the hands of the forces of evil engaged in the heavenly battle. It destroys the message of love that Christ brought into this world when he came as a baby, and died on the cross, out of love, for our sins. We are the sick and the sinners that Jesus came to call, and continues to call.

So why can’t we all get along? There is a very real battle being waged for the minds and souls of mankind. In his first letter to the early church, the apostle Peter wrote, “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion seeking someone to devour. Resist him …” (1 Peter 5:8) It is a battle of good and evil that was set before this world was created when Lucifer, now known as Satan, rebelled against God and led a group of angels to challenge God. This battle is ongoing and is being waged over the souls of mankind. It is interesting to note that God could have obviated this battle over the souls of men by creating us to be automatically obedient to him. But he loved us so much that he created the human species to be unique among all of creation as the only beings capable of making choices of love, hate, indifference, conscious obedience, or rejection. He wanted us to have the ability to love him in return and that ability also required giving us a choice for obedience or rejection of our Creator.

We need to discern and acknowledge which battle we are fighting. It is not against “those guys.” People who make different choices than some of us have made, have ultimately been directly or indirectly influenced by the rulers and powers playing in the heavenly battle over our souls. When all is said and done, we are all human beings put here on this earth for a purpose. Those of us who love God (the first great commandment) need to learn how to pass along the love with which God has loved us to love our neighbors as he has loved us. Does this mean that all of our behaviors are in keeping with his commandments? No, but it means that we still need to love each other so that we aren’t inhibiting others from seeing the God who loves us all, and gave himself up for us.

Would I like to see us all get along? Absolutely. Do I acknowledge that there are forces at work dividing us as people? Yes, for sure. Are there behavior patterns that go against God’s design for us? Yes, there are. Is it my job to poke a finger in your eye to point out those behaviors? No. It is God’s job to judge. It is my job to love the person next to me so that they can see God through me. It is God’s truth that brings light to our path. Don’t take the toothpick out of your brother’s eye before you have taken the log out of your own eye.

Yes, many, if not most, will not accept the truth of God’s word. But let’s not put ourselves in the position of being the arbiters of who has and who has found grace under his truths. Scripture tells us to work out our own salvation with fear and trembling. This is taking the log out of your own eye before worrying about the speck in your neighbor’s eye. I have many logs to remove. Perhaps you do as well. Let’s learn how to love one another and be distributors of God’s grace in generous amounts as has been given to us. Let’s help our neighbors see who God really is.

On Being Thankful

All around the USA today will be a day when we pause to give thanks. We know that those who traveled here from Europe in the 17th century, together with their Native American Image result for thanksgivingfriends, paused to give thanks to God for their first harvest in this new land. George Washington issued a proclamation of thanksgiving during his Presidency. In 1863, with a country torn apart by the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln declared a national day set aside for “Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens.” The setting is an interesting one for the declaration of a day of thanksgiving.

In case you were wondering, we are not the only country that takes a day to give thanks. At least 11 other countries have similar holidays. It is important to have a thankful heart. We need a time when we can set aside our anxieties and remember to give thanks. A time when we can give thanks to God for each other. A time when we can give thanks for life itself. Yes, even a time when we can give thanks for those things that God has provided for us.

I think it is no stretch to say that a thankful heart makes us glad. Happy people tend to live longer. There is another side to it as well. It’s been said, “Harboring bitterness (not being thankful) is like drinking poison and hoping the other person dies.” A thankful heart is a healthy heart. We have so much for which to be thankful. According to a February 11, 2016 Time magazine article, happy people are not as prone to sickness, are healthier over all, and as a result live longer.

Thankfulness is an attitude of the heart. In the fourth chapter of Philippians, Paul writes about thankfulness and contentment. He writes, “The Lord is at hand: do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your heart and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Nearly all of us face some sort of personal challenge on a regular basis, whether it be sickness, financial, work, or relationships. Yet even in this we can give thanks. Give thanks to a God who will carry us through these times. There are people in this world who are much worse off than nearly any American but they have learned how to be thankful. There is an old Dutch proverb that says, “They are not poor that have little, but they that desire much. The richest man, whatever his lot, is the one who’s content with his lot.” Where do we find our contentment? How many of us grew up dirt poor, but we were rich because we didn’t know we were poor.

Paul wrote this, “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation.” What is that secret?

I go back to the two great commandments which are that we should love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, and love our neighbor as much as we love ourselves. That secret is buried in these two great commandments. The first helps us know that there is a God who is sovereign, who created the universe, and cares about us at an individual level, and we love and worship Him. The second helps us take our eyes off of ourselves and our own pity party and look out for the needs of others. No matter how bad our situation, we can always find those who are in a worse position than the one we are in. In that fourth chapter of the letter to the church at Philippi, Paul gives us the foundation for his contentment and thankful heart. In verse 19 he writes, “And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.”

Can we take that promise by faith. Can we believe that the God who created this universe, the far reaches of which are still being discovered, cares enough to meet your needs and my needs? If we can do that, we can live a life of thanksgiving. We can be thankful that we know our God who rules this mighty universe cares about you and me enough to make sure that all our needs are covered. Let’s choose to be thankful this holiday season.

Thanks for taking time to read today’s ramblings.

Why Do I Do The Things I Don’t Want To Do?

Romans 7 is a classic passage for those who fight against our human reactions and responses to different situations. The Apostle Paul begins by telling us that the wages of sin are death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus (6:23). None of us wants to sin, but as long as we’re in these earthly bodies and until we inherit our glorified bodies we will have a battle with sin. Paul says beginning in 7:18, For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good that I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.

So what’s the point? This week I received an article regarding a well known golfer who, while he is a believer, is known for brash comments, angry reactions to poorly played golf shots, and a reputation in the club house of being less than cordial at times. The media have pretty much diminished this man’s Christian witness by pointing out his judgmental and behavioral shortcomings as a juxtaposition against his claims of faith. It is a sad situation, indeed, when the media pick up on such things to point out our behaviors that don’t honor God. Yet, if we all lived in the public eye as this man does, how would we be appraised in the public square?

I, for one, am reluctant to pass judgment on such a man because I too have banged my club to the ground when a golf shot is poorly hit. No, I’m not a professional like he is, but at times, I experience the same frustration. The frustration is unwarranted because I don’t commit the time to the game that might limit the number of errant golf shots. In this arena and others, I find Paul’s words to be so appropriate for me and my life. I am just glad that I’m not in the public eye like the tour pro is. But wait! Is that the end of the story? Is this all there is to the story of redemption and forgiveness that we find in Christ? To use the words of Paul again, may it never be!

This same Paul wrote in his letter to the church at Philippi (3:12 ff), not that I’m already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Jesus has made me his own. I forget what is behind me and strain forward to what lies ahead. Let those of us who are mature think like this. Let’s not be discouraged by our past failures. Let’s press on, asking the Holy Spirit to guide us into right thinking and the resulting behavior. Let’s grab hold of the progress we’ve already made and claim that land.

Now here’s a bold statement, Paul tells the Philippians to imitate him. Imitate those who are following our example. Don’t follow those who walk as enemies of the cross of Christ, and whose end is destruction. Don’t follow those who celebrate their accumulated wealth, or are proud of their “don’t give a damn” attitude and lifestyle. Live as a citizen of heaven whose priorities are aligned with the teachings of Scripture.

Paul writes, “But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it [heaven] we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him to subject all things to himself.” (3:20-21) We ought to live as though we are anticipating the arrival of Jesus returning to take the people who have placed their faith in him, to heaven to be with him for eternity.

Are you living in expectation? Are you living in realistic anticipation, believing that he will come like a thief in the night, knowing that he will come without two weeks notice? None of us is perfect, but are we confessing our sins so that he can forgive our sins as he has promised? (1 Jn 1:9) You know confession is good for the soul. It keeps us mindful of our true condition as unworthy recipients of God’s grace. At some point we’ll talk about not living in a perpetual pity party, but for now let us understand that it is healthy for us to understand what we have done … or not … to deserve our salvation. God showed his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Rom 5:8) It is by grace (undeserved favor) we have been saved, through faith. And this (faith) is not of our own doing, it is the gift of God.

My friends and family, please let us live lives in such a way as to express our love and appreciation for the love that was so lavished on us.

Grace and Peace …

Preparing the Next Generation

This past Sunday evening I had the privilege of participating in a rare type of ceremony. Six men had gathered together to welcome one of my grandsons to manhood on the eve of


his 18th birthday. We had held a similar event for his brother three years ago on his 18th birthday. The young mens’ father believes strongly in positioning men for success in all aspects of life, including how to be a man who is successful in life.

In this circle of men were gathered, both of his grandfathers, his brother, his uncle, his track coach, and his dad. These are all men who are committed to helping Matt succeed in life. Such success begins with a thirst and search for wisdom. These men are available to Matt as resources from whom to draw wise counsel and direction when confronting decisions that we all know he will face. This special evening generated some reflection on how we prepare the next generation for the world they will face. Some of those thoughts would be:

  1. Without a biblical worldview and a level of absolute truth they will be tossed about by the leanings of the loudest voices in their world. We all know how stable those voices will be in providing a foundation for truth and values. Even churches who profess to value tradition find themselves being tossed to and fro as the demands of society weigh on those traditions.
  2. An intentional committed group of mentors and elders will be an invaluable resource for someone figuring out his or her role in life. Breaking down barriers to communications across the generations is essential to the success of learning from the wisdom of our forefathers.
  3. A peer group firmly grounded in a biblical worldview with a firm grip on an eternal truth system is essential. There is a reason that the Bible continues to be the best selling book year after year, generation after generation. There really are  eternal absolute truths and values. Choose your friends well.

Understanding our world from God’s view is essential to navigating the challenges put before us in a fallen world. Man was created in the image of God. In this image he has the ability to make choices. From the very first man and woman (Adam and Eve) the choices we’ve made have strayed from God’s desires and wishes for our welfare.

God gave us Scripture so that we could know Him better and learn from the way He has loved us and given Himself for us. All Scripture is God-breathed and profitable for teaching, reproof and  correction. If indeed Scripture is God-breathed, wouldn’t it be prudent to develop our worldview around His instructions?

As we prepare our children and grandchildren to lead in their world we should position them to win with truth and commitment to being available as counselors to help guide them until our days are completed. We need to make the most of every opportunity to invest in the future leaders of the world we will leave behind. We need to teach them to be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. We need to help them change the trajectory of relative truth to a system where there are some foundational truths that are not circumstantial nor do they have the flexibility of bending with the loudest voices or even the vast majority of voices.

I consider it an honor to have been invited into my grandson’s world through his celebration of his 18th birthday and launching into manhood. I hope and pray that I made the most of that opportunity.

I would urge all my readers to consider by what vehicle, event, or method they will launch their successor generations into responsible manhood and womanhood.

Preach the Gospel …

There is an old saying that counsels us as believers to preach the gospel and if necessary to Image result for Word of Goduse words. Christ advised that the two great commandments were (1) that we are to love the Lord our God with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength, and (2) that we are to love our neighbors as much as we love ourselves. Christ later challenged us to love our neighbors in the same way that He loved us. So what are we to do with these commands? How then, should we preach the gospel?

First of all, we need to have the word of God hidden in our hearts so that we would not sin against God (Ps 119:11). With God’s word as a foundation and guide for our lives, we have a body of truth on which we can conduct lives and interactions with others. Following God’s word we will do such things as leaving the judging of the world to God. We will do everything in our power to point people to Jesus in such a way as to not be a hindrance to God’s desire to draw all men to Himself (Jn 12:32). I’ve told this story before, but there was a time when I carried the burden of being God’s salesman. One day He showed me that no one comes to the Father unless the Father draws him (Jn 6:44). This changed my entire approach. This gave me the freedom to set aside my agenda and focus on being a friend and pray earnestly that God would use our interactions to draw my friends. It really is the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives that opens the eyes of our hearts to the truth of the gospel and the battle that we are waging against evil.

Secondly, when Christ was dealing with the world, he knew their hearts and knew how to address their heart needs. In the same way, we need to know our audience. We need to learn to speak God’s word in such a way that will shed light rather than confuse. Remember we are to be salt and light in this world. Our job is to facilitate the seeing of God’s truth and through our love to help others see God. The Bible calls this speaking the truth in love (Eph 4:15). Recent history is filled with stories where well-intentioned Christians simply point hurting people to scripture, without loving them first and guiding them to the truth of scripture later. Yes, we know what the Bible says, but the writer of the book of Hebrews penned these words, “For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child.” (Heb 5:12-13). And the Peter wrote in his letter to the church, “Like newborn infants, long for pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation.” (1 Peter 2:2)

So we see that we are all on a journey. Some of us are ready for the meat of the word  but others who are just beginning, are needing the milk to nurture their growth into salvation. Children, grandchildren and friends, let us be men and women who, under the power of the Holy Spirit, are able to discern the needs of those with whom we come in contact and communicate Gods’ word (truth) in love. Jesus said in his prayer recorded in John 17, “Your word is truth.” Communicating the truth in love does not mean hiding the truth. It means speaking God’s word like we believe that it is living and active, sharper than a double-edged sword penetrating to dividing the soul and spirit, joints and marrow, judging the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Allow God’s word to flow through you by your actions and allow it to flow in love.

Hopefully this will help encourage us to rightly handle the word of Truth.