Saturday, December 12, 2009

Christmas 496

There are a few unique moments in history included in Christmas. My grandparents were married on Christmas day. Though they have long passed on. Their teaching and love they shown to me influences my life to this very day.

Around the year 481 a young 15 year-old become king. After the break up of the Roman Empire King Clovis came to power of a small kingdom in the corner of Gaul. The young king quickly took over the adjoining lands and united Gaul. Later King Clovis moved his capitol city to Paris. Later he founded the nation of France. In the year 493 the king married a Christian woman. Queen Clothide wished their newborn son to be baptized and the king agreed. The child died in his baptismal robe. King Clovis blamed God. Their second child was also baptized yet grew ill shortly after. Queen Clothide was said to have prayed earnestly and the child recovered. King Clovis was said to have been impressed. When the king was now 30 years old in the midst of a loosing battle cried out to Jesus Christ on behalf of his faithful wife and queen. It is said he asked God for victory and would be baptized. Soon the battle turned to his favor. In the Cathedral of Rheims on December 25, 496 King Clovis was baptized along with 3,000 of his troops. Known in church history as one of the first great mass conversions in Europe.

It was on Christmas Eve of 2006 during the Christmas Evening service that God revealed to me the purpose that I must serve. So clear, so simple but that is a different Christmas story.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

To Endure:

Going through the trials, tribulations and persecutions is hard if not heartbreaking. Satan wants us to give up hope. He wants us to turn away from God. He does this so often by making us look inward rather than to God. I admit the last few weeks have been difficult for me. Being poor as a church mouse and the holidays coming. On the surface it seems all around are celebrating and preparing a feast. For those with little or none the holidays can be the most painful times of the year.

But the one who endures to the end will be saved.
Matt 24:13 (NLT)

God gave me this verse to focus on this week. It is one that is often taken out of context. Jesus here is really talking to his apostles about the events to come within the second coming. Many read this verse and think if they can endure that they will be saved. It sure reads that way. Author, Larry Richards says it best, “Those who endure are not saved because they endure to the end, but they endure to the end because they are saved.”

Being able to endure also follows side-by-side with Christian joy. It is easy to be joyful when financial problems are of no concern. When health matters are not an issue. When relationships with family members and friends seem ideal. It is when you are alone. When you feel as if the world is crushing down on you. Worry consumes you when you have no idea how you are going to pay your rent this month. A husband, and a father, struck with fear when your wife and kids are in need of food. It is when “hope” is just another four-letter word that joy is in very short supply. It is when we have nothing that our joy of salvation in Christ Jesus abounds. When we are stripped away of all worldly possessions and worldly views we come to see things as they really are. We finally realize our situation is hopeless and we have absolutely no control over it. Some may say we have no choice but to hand it over to God. And they are right. Who better? Does it take this kind of hard pounding to accept God’s control of our lives? For some the answer is Yes. Many filled with pride fail and continue into death ignoring God’s wonderful gift and face forever torment in a devil’s hell. This life is just a mere moment compared to what awaits us through our Lord. We are here not for ourselves but to help others achieve what Christ has already given us. The Apostle Paul tells us of his own situation in Philippians 4:12.

I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little.
Phil 4:12 (NLT)

It is the trials, tribulations and persecutions that make us grow as a Christian. Yes it is very painful at times. If you were to buy an expense houseplant you certainly would not take it home and put it in a closet? Wanting to keep it away from the harsh sunlight. Exposing it to the unpredictable conditions of the world? It is the harsh sunlight mixed with the right amount of moisture and nutrients that make it grow. It is the harsh realities we face daily and the life giving moisture of God’s Word that makes us grow as a Christian. We need to be reminded that we are not in control. God is. There in lies our joy and our ability to endure through Christ Jesus.

I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.
Phil 4:13 (KJV)


Saturday, November 7, 2009

The Toughest Commandment:

When studying your Bible, which commandment would you say is the toughest to obey? Many would say I certainly have not killed anyone yet in 1 John 3:15 God's Word explains that if you hate someone you are guilty of murder. So when that car pulled in front of you without looking did you hate them for just an instant? That is all it takes. That is a tough lesson.

Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life residing in him.
1 John 3:15 (HCSB)

How about loving your enemies? You know sometimes a friend betrays you. A bully at school. An unhappy neighbor. In my case recently our home was vandalized. Hard to forgive one who is bent on causing you harm. What does Jesus command us to do? Another tough lesson to learn.

But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you
Matt 5:44 (HCSB)

Here is one I know we all deal with daily. How many times do we worry? Worry about if you will have enough money. Worry about your health. Worrying about your job and career. Again Jesus is very specific on what we are to do.

This is why I tell you: Don’t worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Isn’t life more than food and the body more than clothing?
Matt 6:25 (HCSB)

Therefore don’t worry about tomorrow, because tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
Matt 6:34 (HCSB)

In fact all of Matthew 6:25-34 is devoted to teaching us the cure for anxiety. It is a hard lesson to learn and to put into practice.

Witnessing is the life blood of a church and of a fellow Christian. Yet few of us including myself obey our Lord's commandment in doing so.

And then he told them, Go into all the world and preach the Good News to everyone. Anyone who believes and is baptized will be saved. But anyone who refuses to believe will be condemned.
Mark 16:15-16 (NLT)

What is your toughest commandment to obey? Leave a comment.


Monday, October 26, 2009

A Quest for Vengeance:

Just last night our house was Rolled. What that means is the trees rain down with toilet paper usually just harmless fun. Here in the South it is deemed a compliment. I do not know why.

This time it was different. Not a compliment but a vicious attack. Using spray paint they painted the words, "Hail Satan" along with other vulgar words and satanic symbols across the cement driveway and on the front lawn. It was a malicious attack against our family and our God. Upon seeing the damage I was expectantly angry. Why would one do such a thing? To be such a coward to attack in the middle of the night hiding their faces and their wicked deeds. What do you do? The cowards have left. They have no dignity to come to you face to face. Then the anger quickly turns into a thirst for vengeance. A natural reaction you are attacked and you want to strike back.

Just a few weeks ago in our Sunday School class we studied Psalm 56, which I would like to point out verse 7.

Don’t let them get away with their wickedness; in your anger, O God, bring them down.
Psalms 56:7 (NLT)

What we learned in the lesson is that David was not asking for vengeance, which we would expect one would ask for. Instead we learn how David gave it up to God asking for justice from the Lord upon the wicked who seek to destroy His children.

I pray for those who attacked our home the other night. They will face the Throne of Judgment. They face God’s wrath. If I am to expect my Lord to forgive me then I must forgive those who seek to persecute me. For I know their fate unless they repent and accept Christ as the Lord of their life they will endure for all eternity pain and suffering the likes of which we cannot possibly imagine.

One thing is for sure by this attack. They realize that we are Christians. Confirming that they see Christ in us even though it offends them. Pray we serve Christ and not ourselves.


Saturday, October 10, 2009

The House Church Book

I just finished reading Wolfgang Simson’s new book entitled, “The House Church Book.” Right from the start is does a great job in pointing out what is wrong with our modern congregational church model that was established in the later part of the 3rd century. He defines the congregational system as, “plot plus building plus pastor plus salary plus programs.” Which in a nutshell does describe the modern church of today.

If you are looking for a “How To” book on establishing your own House Church this is not the book and Simson is the first to tell you that. He does a great job in telling of the history of the church and how we have moved away from the first church in the Book of Acts. Before we were known as Christians we were know as, “The Way.” It was living the way Christ had instructed us. Thousands if not hundreds of thousands paved the way for us with their very lives. Today would we be so willing?

The author spends much time comparing the differences between cell groups and house churches. While cell groups are part of a larger congregation house churches are fully independent and operate without a hierarchy. It is this lack of hierarchy that confuses such as me who knows nothing different than the established congregational church model.

Here in the South when you mention House Church we think foreign missionaries getting together in a home to avoid persecution from an anti-Christian government. Has America become any different? Surveys show that people in the USA are interested in God but not church. House church as Wolfgang shows is a growing outreach truly based on Christ’s teachings the church going out to the people instead of the people coming to the church.

The author points out that when a house church reaches 20 members it is time to establish a second house church and so on. Unlike the congregational church model that focuses on ever expanding its flock. House Church is a lateral expansion as we see in the Book of Acts. Planting of churches within the communities. Working and serving those communities in a way today’s modern church cannot or has forgotten how too.

Can someone like me establish a house church? One who has been brought up in the modern congregational church model? The author points out that would be difficult since there is no established hierarchy within a House Church. In other words a regular church member might have too much baggage with them for such a ministry. Yet House Church does not always mean in one’s house. Church can be in an office, restaurant or meeting hall. Is there a difference between a bible study group and House Church? Yes, and the author does go into great detail about it.

Being established in the congregational church model and a recent graduate of seminary I had my predispositions before reading this book. It was hard during the first few chapters but I highly recommend reading this book. It does not take a lot of head scratching to realize the congregational church model is broken. Fewer souls are being won for Christ and it appears the evil one has the upper hand. House Church is a growing movement around the world and here in America. There might be a house church in your neighborhood and you do not even know it. House Churches run below the radar same as in foreign missionary work. Focusing on Christ and engaged in fulfilling the Great Commission.

Go into all the world and preach the Good News to everyone. Mark 16:15 (NLT)


Saturday, October 3, 2009

Me and My Broken Wagon

If you were to see the car I drive then you would agree the name “Broken Wagon” sure fits. You have heard of walking by faith but driving this vehicle is truly driving by faith. It is not much but it is all I have.

The other day I was driving to work and had to stop at a light. I had to keep my foot on the gas just to keep it running. Praying to God for help so I can just make it to work. Then along side of me a guy in a brand new Dodge pulls up besides me. Talking on his cell phone not a care in the world. You would think he has it made. I started thinking that I sure would like to own a car not having to worry about making it to the next stoplight. Looking back just a few years my life was once like that. Seemed like everything I touched turned to gold. Success was the norm and business was the game. But wait! Back then like that guy in the car next to me. God was the last thing on my mind.

How blessed I am for my “Broken Wagon” of a car. Each day is a struggle. Asking God for help to carry me through yet another day. Only now do I truly realize that there is no way I can make it on my own. Without God I cannot even breathe let alone make it through to the next day. Sure there are times when I ask Him to let this day be the one He takes me home. I thank Him for all the blessings He has given my family and I. Might not be the success and riches the world has us believe as accomplishments. I am just a visitor to this world. That is why I must always have God first on my mind and in my heart.

Listen to me, dear brothers and sisters. Hasn’t God chosen the poor in this world to be rich in faith? Aren’t they the ones who will inherit the Kingdom he promised to those who love him? James 2:5 (NLT)

Saturday, September 19, 2009

The Gospels should be separate:

Investigative reporter and famous author Lee Strobel in his book “The Case for Christ” points out that when witness’ stories are one and the same they are suspect. In fact it leads one to think about collusion and or conspiracy.

Only since the 17th century have we had an English translation of the Bible that includes the four gospels side by side. Many of us Christians will point out the harmony of the gospels while critics accuse us of conspiracy and contradiction. Because the gospels are grouped together it gives our critics easy opportunities to point out what they feel are direct contradictions in the story of Jesus. One might point out that in the Gospel of Mark 2:25-28, Jesus refers to Abiathar the high priest when in 1 Samuel 21:1-6 the Old Testament clearly tells us that Ahimelech is the high priest. Is Jesus miss-quoted? That is a whole other article.

The four gospels were written separately in different areas of the world and at different times. As Lee Strobel points out it is this reason that gives the Gospels validity. The idea of collusion has no basis to stand on. When the Gospels were written the authors had no idea in time their books would be collected together. God did.

The Gospel of Matthew was written for the Jews. Scholars still debate if the original was first written in Hebrew or Greek. His Gospel is rooted in Hebrew tradition beginning with the lineage of Jesus. The order of events is situated of importance to a Jewish audience. The accounts focus on accuracy in relationship to prophecy within the Old Testament rather than focus on chronological order.

The Gospel of Mark was intended for the Romans. The Roman culture was one of action. They admired individuals who exhibited strong character and determined action. We see Mark using words like “immediately” and points out unequivocal results. Appealing to the Roman culture.

The Gospel of Luke was written for the Greeks. Intellectual minded with a desire for the facts. Greek culture was looking for perfection. With that Luke presents Jesus as the ideal man of that perfection. Also revealing to the Greeks that perfection is one who is not selfish but selfless. Showing Jesus’ love for the poor.

The Gospel of John tends to be written for a general audience. Which makes sense. We often use John’s Gospel in witnessing today nearly 2000 years later. Verse 3:16 are well known. John’s focus is on the fact that Jesus is the Son of God. Reporting on His miracles and deity while Matthew presents Him as the Messiah. Mark presents Jesus as a man of action and Luke describes Jesus as the perfect man. One we should all strive to be.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Why did Jesus have to die?

When you visit the nursing homes you hear a lot of conversations on death, religion and God. There you find parents, sons and daughters, grandparents and great grandparents. You also will see children. Children ask the best questions in my opinion. One question I hear many times over is, “Why did Jesus have to die?” The answer I hear spoken by many is, “Honey, Jesus died for our sins.” Think about that statement for a moment it means absolutely nothing to a child. The worst thing is that same statement means absolutely nothing to a teenager or an adult who is a not-yet believer. I know. I was taught that very same statement. So why are we surprised when a teenager or an adult suddenly becomes defensive when we talk to them about Jesus? By now they have come to believe there are other people far worst than them. In his or her minds the death of Jesus has no value or meaning. We need to tell others the truth. When one asks, “Why did Jesus die?” Look them in the eye and say, “Jesus died for you.”

There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.
John 15:13 (NLT)

Why did Jesus die for me? We need to give them an answer. An answer they will understand. If I do not feel guilty of a crime then I will not feel responsible for the consequences of that crime. Even worst if I do not realize I have committed a crime or an offense how can I feel responsible for it? In the unbeliever’s mind they have not committed a crime or an offense. How can you call me a sinner if I do not believe that I am a sinner? There is the root of the problem. What did Jesus do?

When we look at Luke 18:18-24 Jesus tells us how to witness. Pastor Ray Comfort uses Jesus’ teachings in his TV series “The Way of the Master.” Have you ever told a lie, half-truth, a white lie, or an exaggeration? What does that make you? A liar. Have you ever stolen anything regardless of its value? Even when you were a kid? What does that make you? A thief. Ever-used God’s name to express discuss? Instead of using a four-letter word that starts with “S” you use God’s name instead. It is called blasphemy a very serious offense in God’s eyes. You are starting to get the picture. A un-believer must be convinced of their transgressions against God before they can ever come running to Christ in repentance. The rich man walked away from Jesus. Jesus’ objective was repentance not conversion. We must learn repentance first.

Put it another way. You are standing in a courtroom before a judge. You admit to being guilty. Just before the judge pronounces sentence a man you have never met before stands in front of the judge and says, “Judge I have paid for this man’s crime. I have taken and paid in full for this man’s punishment.” The judge looks at you and says, “You are free to go.”

For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 6:23 (NLT)

If I myself do not realize my crimes against God how can I come running to our Saviour in repentance to escape the wrath to come? This is why we have so many false converts in our churches today. They are not running to Christ to save their lives. They are walking up to him for life enhancement. A gospel of prosperity is what they are being told.

The truth is Jesus took my place. I deserve to be on that cross. You deserve to be on that cross. He did not die for my sins. He was punished and died for me. It is my sins that required my death. That is God’s law. Jesus died for me. Jesus died for you. Payment made in full. This is why a personal relationship with Christ Jesus is the foundation of our faith. What did it say in John 15:13 above? It did not say no greater love than to die for one’s sins. It says no greater love than to die for one’s friends. Jesus died for you.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

I am already dead:

Not the most positive title for this message. As I write this I am under demonic attack. Continuing physical problems, financial stress and I find myself really at a loss. It is at such a time in one’s life that the truth of Christ moves from just belief to actual experience.

Reading the scriptures of the life Paul some might say that he lived his life recklessly. I would say boldly myself. He was constantly under attack. He constantly followed the Lord no matter what the consequences.

In fact, we still feel as if we're under a death sentence. But we suffered so that we would stop trusting ourselves and learn to trust God, who brings the dead back to life. 2 Cor 1:9 (GW)

It is in the previous verse (v:8) we find Paul admitting to being crushed and overwhelmed beyond their ability. Thinking they would never live through it. The question I ask is if I am dead to this world and living for Christ then why allow doubt to attack me? The fact is that it is hard to hurt someone who is already dead. So I ask the question, “If I were to die today I would be with Jesus. If allowed to live I am still with Him and in His service.” Where is the downside in all of this?

For the past three or four weeks I have been involved in a study in what I would call Spiritual Combat. Ephesians 6:10-20 Paul tells us the details of this unseen war. Author Chip Ingram points out that we are fighting from victory and not for victory. It has taken me some time to realize what that all means. It is perhaps for that reason I have come under such demonic attack in the past few weeks. The fact is the war is over. Jesus died on the cross 2,000 years ago for your sins, my sins, and for our sins. Jesus rose from the dead. The devil was defeated. Then how do you explain the ongoing attack of Satan and his demons of hell? At the end of World War II Japan surrendered yet for months our troops continued to fight in the Pacific. Fighting island by island as Japanese troops continued to fight a guerrilla war. For our troops the War was over. Japan had surrendered right? Our troops were fighting from victory not for it because they already had it. Did that make the bullets and the bombs less deadly? No, of course not but you can see the difference in attitude and mission in life. Satan has lost the war and wants to take as many of us as he can down with him. He has nothing to loose and no mercy for you and I.

As I learn more and go deeper into God’s Word the attacks come more often. Learning and applying God’s instructions makes the devil very nervous. The best time to attack a soldier is before they have time to prepare for battle. When they are at peace. Paul warns us of this in verse 18. (Eph 6:18)

It is prayer that puts the whole armor of God to work. You may not know me but as a Christian brother I am asking you for your intercessory prayers for my family and I. Thank you and peace be with you.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

A lesson in the Gospel of John

When you are involved in witnessing you probably are given the opportunity in giving out a copy of the Gospel of John. Where we fail in witnessing is in discipleship. Continuing follow up and follow through so our new Christian brother or sister does not backslide into Satan’s grip once again.

The new Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. Life Application Bible Studies Gospel of John is a tool worth using in discipleship. This is what I would call a true soup to nuts application. Contained within the book is the complete Life Application Study Bible of the Gospel of John. Now I own the 1996 edition of the New Living Translation Life Application Bible. This newest edition is a wonderful and major improvement in my opinion. Within this study book you receive it all. Included are the Life Application notes, maps, articles, cross-references and a guide in using all the tools of what makes a study bible truly a modern asset for today’s Christian. If you do not own such a study bible this is a great inexpensive way to get a hands on feel for it and decide for yourself if it is right for you.

The book contains 13 lessons. They are more than just read a passage of scripture and jot down an answer. The study takes a little different approach than most other bible studies I have been involved in. Since this is a Life Application study the first question always involves an open reflection on a personal life lesson. Though the book recommends a timeframe of 5 to 10 minutes for the opening question I have found it to take much longer depending on the group size. It is an important way to open things up. Many of the lesson questions deal with the Life Application Study notes. Opening the door in how to maximize the use of this study bible. Another key point in the study is the “Realize the Principle” question in each of the 13 lessons. This gets you thinking of how to apply to your life and to share with others what you have learned from the scriptures you are studying. It is a well thought out study program.

Before you hand this bible study to someone make sure you have gone through it yourself first. You personally will benefit from this well thought out and in-depth study of the Book of John.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

That was Pilate’s day:

Near the end of our church service each Sunday morning we have what is traditionally known as the “Altar Call.” For some of you it has been or still is a white knuckle on the pew experience. It is at this time when we are confronted face to face with Jesus. You make the decision or not. For those who do not you might think you need time to think it over. It is not like deciding on buying a couch. This is your eternal destiny you are facing. The hesitation is understood but many a Christian knows how deadly the consequences can be in waiting.

While reading a sermon of Dwight Moody given in the spring of 1871 he personally stresses the urgency of making the decision for Christ now. He had preached to one of the biggest crowds he had ever preached to in Chicago. Instead of making an Altar Call he asked the crowd to think about it and return the following week. It was one of Moody’s greatest regrets. Moody points out the plight that Pilate faced in Matthew 27:11-26.

Pilate was faced with what to do about Jesus. When we experience that white-knuckle grip on the pew we too are faced with the same decision. Pilate knew who Jesus was. It was hard not too. He was governor and anything happening in Jerusalem the Roman governor would have been informed. Pilate knew whom he was dealing with. His wife had warned him in verse 19. Many speculate that Pilate’s wife’s dream may have been about him in front of the Seat of Judgment. That alone should strike fear into one’s heart. Whatever the dream it was serious enough for her to intervene. As a General in the Roman army Pilate had crushed many an opposing force. Pilate had executed many men before. Why should this one be any different unless he knew the truth about Jesus? Pilate even tried to do away with his responsibility for the death of Jesus in verse 24. In Matthew 27:3-4 Judas admits to betraying an innocent man. In the same chapter, verse 54 even the Roman officer declared Jesus as the Son of God. They all knew who Jesus really was!

So if they knew who Jesus was then why did they continue in what they did? The same reason we failed to release our grip on the pew during the Altar Call. The reason is PRIDE. We know the truth. Pilate allowed his pride to stop him. He wanted to please Rome and the Jewish authority over what he knew was right. We too worry what others might think. You might have been a Christian for years and suddenly the Holy Spirit takes you in its grip calling you forward yet we resist. What will others say? How might this look? What will others think of me? These are all words from the Devil and not of God.

Pilate was suddenly face to face with Jesus. The decision had to be made right then and there. We too face that same decision. As Dwight Lyman Moody said in that “The Fire Sermon” of 1871, “There never will be a time when we can do more for Christ than now.”

Saturday, July 11, 2009


This is not the article you think it should be. The question has come up. Have I committed idolatry? The answer is YES. Look at my writings over the past few years. You see a pattern. I am very quick to defend pastors and preachers. Therefore have I placed my pastor on a pedestal? When have we not? It makes me think do I want to become a pastor? If you had asked me that question 6 months ago I might of answered yes. Ask me that today and I would diffidently say No. What I want is to be what every pastor and preacher aspires to be a servant of God. By idolizing the position of pastor we have done all we can in preventing this man of God from in fact serving God.

Pastors receive enough pressure from associations, periodicals and other pastors on growing their congregations. Look at the back of a baseball card. We Americans are obsessed with numbers. When it comes to church and determining how well a pastor is doing we look at “the numbers.” You know what I am talking about. Numbers published on how many baptisms your church had last year. How many new church members, attendance records, Sunday School enrollments, and let’s not forget the most important one, MONEY. Money received. Money given. Money spent on church operations, buildings, maintenance and so on. Just where in the Bible does it state that is how we measure the success of a pastor? Where?

I am guilty too. Thinking my pastor has some obligation to me to listen to my whining. We expect our pastor to be on call 24/7 without any thought to their families and personal life. Don’t get me wrong. I agree that the Christian life and being a servant is a life of servitude and poverty. Look at the recipe for failure we as followers of Christ have created for pastors. We demand them to have an education that surpasses any CEO of a Fortune 500 company. They need to be great communicators with the ability to draw in the masses like a celebrity. They need to be the CFO so the money is better spent. A degree in counseling and we expect them to repair our marriages and relationships within minutes that took years to destroy. Did I forget to mention years of experience too? How can one man be expected to meet such expectations?

We measure the success of a pastor by the numbers. When the church is packed and the money is flowing in everything seems to be great. Do we dare say a blessing? Sounds like college football to me. One losing season and you are out. When did corporate America suddenly dictate how the church is to be conducted? Have we moved from church members to shareholders? Are we looking for serving Christ and saving the lost or just looking for a return on our investment? I cannot tell you how many church meetings I have attended that spent more time reviewing a balance sheet than focusing on missions or discipleship.

How do we measure the success of a pastor? The same way we should measure the success of a church.

  1. Is the pastor’s faith stronger with the Lord than when he first begun? Whatever the answer we as a congregation need to minister to our ministers.
  2. Is the congregations’ walk with the Lord stronger now than before? Ask the Sunday School teachers and they will tell you who is thirsting for God’s Word and who is there for the social meeting.
  3. Is the congregation participating in worship? Ask the choir members for they see first hand who is engaged in worship and who is there for the entertainment value.
  4. Are lay leaders being trained and actively involved in part of the overall ministry of the church?
  5. Is there an active new church member class being conducted each month?
  6. Is the church supporting the development and making opportunities for members to enter into the ministry?
  7. Is outreach a habit of the congregation rather than a chore?
  8. Is the church actively involved in new church planting or a cooperative program?
  9. Is the church part of the local neighborhood or part of the highway road show with signs rivaling those of an Indian Casino or Wal-mart?
  10. Do the sermons contain more text from God’s Word than jokes and illustrations?

Not one of these 10 measurements involves the American Corporate yardstick of what they call success. Just ask a cattle rancher. You might have more cows than the other ranch but that does not mean better beef. You need to decide if your goal is raising hamburger or steak.

If you agree or disagree with me have the guts to leave a comment. Just click the comments link below.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

The Rabbit and the Elephant

This is a new book from Tony and Felicity Dale and George Barna. They introduce us to the growing wave of house church. It is much more than that and now being called simple church. Where I live when you mention house church you think foreign missions. Missionaries in a far off land teaching about the Kingdom of Heaven. Avoiding persecution by meeting within the homes of new believers in Christ Jesus. This is biblically correct as we see in Acts 2:46. Here in the United States is it any different? The authors show us that Simple Church is all around us. Not just the four walls of a person’s home. Church can be at work, in a restaurant, a coffee house, on the street or where ever people meet. See Matthew 18:20. You might be conducting a simple church now and not realize it. Is simple church a bible study group? Yes, and much more. Is simple church and outreach program? Yes, and much more. What is simple church not? Great question. It is the one I was thinking while reading through this book.

Simple church is not the legacy church we are all used too. There comes the title. The rabbit represents the simple church small quick and growing fast. The elephant represents the slow moving difficult to change legacy church. Bogged down by confusing rules, traditions, and committees. I remember a few years back we started a small bible study group at our home. It quickly grew from just a few adults to families and their kids. All of us were involved. No real hierarchy just Christians meeting and studying the bible. Lives where being changed through Christ. Then rumors began to fly throughout the church that we were creating our own church and so on. So we stopped and let God’s work in us die. There lies the real problem with legacy churches throughout America. It has become about control and not about Christ Jesus.

What is Simple Church? Tony and Felicity Dale tell us, “Since simple church is utterly dependent on the leading of the Holy Spirit and the participation of all of its members, it can never be reduced to a program.” “This is not a movement of superstars; their day has passed.” “These leaders are nobodies, unrecognized by the world and the church. They do not care about their own reputations, only that the glory goes to God.”

One of the best parts of this book is the testimonials' throughout its pages. That alone is worth the price of the book. Simple church is more of an outreach than a replacement for legacy church. It appeals to what the authors call the not-yet believers. The following would be a good example. After we go to church most of us will go out to lunch. At the restaurant there are many waiter and waitresses there to serve you. Cooks and staff busy working to make your experience pleasant. Ask yourself, when do these people get to experience church? They cannot because of their work schedule. Are we just to ignore them and deny them the love that Christ has shown us? You start to see the appeal and the real need for simple church.

The Rabbit and the Elephant is a great book that all Christians need to read. If you are in support of simple church or not you need to read this book. Simple church is here to stay. To quote the authors, “Rabbits are small, live underground, and multiply really fast. Even when attacked by predators or disease, they reproduce and make a comeback.” To sum it up I agree with Tony and Felicity Dale, it is time to give back God’s church to His people.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Church a Spectator Sport?

What have we done? We invite friends, neighbors, family members or fellow co-workers to church. This might be something absolutely new to them. Then again it might not. We require them to sing along with us to songs they have never heard of let alone have sung too. We expect them to join the crowd and sit down and stand up three or four times, perhaps even more depending on the service. Listen to what appears to them as a lecture or monologue. How are they supposed to know we call it a sermon? We expect them to open a bible from the pew. A book they may have never seen before until now. Listen to the preacher and somehow understand what is going on. Then after all that we expect them to rush forward and give their lives to Christ. Yes, it has happen before but not often enough. We come in. We sit down. We watch and listen. We cheer once in a while. Then we go home. Have we made church a spectator sport?

If a blind man walked in front of you and tripped over your foot would you kneel down to help him up and say, “Watch where you are going?” Of course not you know he is blind. You know he cannot see. Why do we expect unbelievers to understand us? Understand the scriptures? Understand the hymns we sing? Understand what living for Christ is all about?

No wonder many point fingers at us saying look at those people. Look at that church. What are we doing wrong?

I am sure it has happen to you. You have read one verse over and over again. Then suddenly without warning it hits you like a bolt of lighting. Crashing down on you like an ocean wave an unstoppable power demanding you to take notice now.

Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Matt 28:19-20 (NLT)

The Great Commission, we have read it many a times. Heard many sermons preached on it. What could possibly have gotten my attention? See the word “GO?” It does not say to ask to come to church, to come to a meeting, to come to an event. It says GO. Go and make disciples. There is that word again, “Disciple.” Spreading the teachings of Jesus Christ. Is that the preacher’s job? No, Jesus is talking to all of us. This week it hit me like a brick.

All my friends here are Christians. I work at the church where we are all Christians. So, like Jesus told His disciples I need to go out there and share the good news. Learn to meet and talk to complete strangers about Jesus. Will I be rejected? Yes, I expect that. Will I give up? No and I need my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ to help me up when I am pushed down. Does this mean running around downtown with a sign chanting out scriptures and acting like a crazy man? Absolutely not, that is not biblical nor is that how Jesus taught us. Keep watch on this Blog as my life story continues.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

What Produces Faith?

Be careful this might be considered a theological question. The focus is on Luke 16:19-31, the story of the rich man and Lazarus. This story raises many theological issues. Here Jesus names one of the individuals by name, Lazarus. Many then conclude that this is not a parable but perhaps a real story of a real experience.

We find the rich man enjoyed all the best that life had to offer at least materially speaking. The rich man could have eased the suffering of Lazarus without really interfering with his own lifestyle. In fact little effort would have been required if the rich man really wanted to help the poor man.

They both die. The rich man finds himself in torment. The KJV says Hades. The NLT says he went to the place of the dead. The poor man was not. It is verse 31 (vv. 31) that is the focus of this article. The rich man asks Abraham to send a messenger from the dead to his brothers so they will believe and repent to escape such punishment. Abraham tells him flat out no. Miracles will not change them.

Here is a story. I met a man and shared my faith in God with him. After talking a while he still told me that he just does not believe in God. So I asked him, “What would it take for him to believe.” He looked around the room for a moment then at his jacket hanging over the chair. He said, “When my green jacket turns red then I would believe.” Looking at me as if I could snap my fingers and poof it is done. We soon parted ways. Later that evening there was a heavy rainstorm. The hillside behind the man’s house which he had lived for years was saturated and broke loose mud spilling towards the back of the man’s house. The next morning the man came downstairs to survey the damage. The coat closet had some damage. Within the muck he pulled out his jacket. At first he did not recognized it. The green jacket was now red. Did he immediately believe in God? No, instead he tried to explain what had happened. By chance they had had a very heavy rainstorm. By chance the hillside behind his house, which had been stable for years some how, gave way. By chance the iron rich mud slid to the back of his house where the coat closet was located. By chance the red mud mixed with the pigment of the green jacket changing it from green to red. Did he deny that the jacket had turned from green to red? No. He simply denies that what had happen was by chance and not by God. So do miracles produce faith? No, that is what Jesus is telling us in Luke 16:31.

So what produces faith? In Romans 10:17 faith comes from hearing by the Word of God. We see in Genesis that Satan attacks Eve by manipulating God’s Word. We see atheist groups trying to manipulate God’s Word to further their cause. When we fail to regularly study God’s Word we find ourselves attacked more and more. Studying God’s Word regularly keeps us in communication with Him along with prayer. Knowing the scriptures and knowing the author are two different things. Many atheists know the scriptures better than us. The bible tells us that Satan himself knows them better than we. I find it interesting that in Romans 10:17 the word “hearing” is used. We need to hear God’s Word. That means out loud. Shared among us through group study, reading aloud, song and worship. Yet our streets are void of God’s Word.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Training of the Twelve:

This week I have been going through a bible study entitled, “The Training of the Twelve.” While going through it I was reminded of the many lessons we have gone through during seminary. Let's get right into it. First off there were more than just 12 disciples. In seminary our professors instructed us to back everything we say with scripture very good advice. So how do we know their where more than just 12 disciples? See Acts 1:20-26. The replacement for Judas was to be a man who had been with the other apostles from the time Jesus was baptized by John to Jesus' ascension. Therefore there was more than just the twelve we commonly refer to. We also see in Luke 10:17 that Jesus refers to 72 disciples returning from their missionary work.

Perhaps we should look at the word “Disciple or Discipleship” more closely. In the first century Judaism discipleship was a well-established institution. It was the only way of gaining the recognition as a rabbi (teacher) and often refers to as lawyer. Unlike today's seminary, discipleship was very similar to an apprenticeship. The disciple would live with his master observing and listening to his teachings and discussions with others. Establishment of elementary schools for Jewish boys dates back as early as 75 B.C. Very few students went beyond their basic elementary schooling. Yet it was the responsibility of the parents to instruct them in scripture memorization from as early as age 3. It was in the synagogues that served as a community center in the teaching of the adults. We see this in our churches today. Unfortunately I have seen a growing trend of church members attending church with no desire in bringing their bibles with them. This indicates a growing trend in the lack of continuing bible education.

In Luke 6:12-13 we see where the twelve moves from disciple to apostle. The interesting point is that Jesus went to pray and consult with God first before deciding on the choice of the twelve. While reading in the Book of Mark one might interpret that Jesus choose the twelve at random or spontaneously. This is where we get the questions that Jesus only choosing twelve to be His disciples. The truth as mentioned above is much different.

In Matthew 8:1-4 and in Mark 1:40-44 is the story of Jesus healing a leaper. Here the disciples are taught that compassion is a critical element in ministering to anyone in need. Though many of our professors try to teach this to us without such a real experience how can any of us really teach such a critical element? Missionary work is one real example. Actually going out of your comfort zone and meeting the needs of others is a great way to learn from experience. Perhaps going out as group to witness to others would be a wonderful teaching experience too. We see Jesus sending out His disciples in Mark 6:7. In Luke 10:1 we see Jesus sending out 72 other disciples in pairs to share the Good News of the Kingdom of Heaven. You might think about it as on the job training. A point we lack in today's seminaries.

In Matthew 10:16-41, we see Jesus instructing the apostles on what is going to happen as their ministry begins. They will be delivered up. (10:19) Meaning they will face persecution before the Jewish and Gentile courts. Their preaching and teaching will cause division among people. (10:21-25) They are to speak with boldness. (10:26-27) They are to fear God rather than men. (10:26-33) Telling them that it is not going to be an easy journey in fact just the opposite. In one of our textbooks in seminary author Gene Mims comments that seminary teaches us how to run a church. It falls short in teaching how to fix a broken church. Let's face it today most of our churches are in fact broken.

With that said where does one go from here? As Jesus teaches us the first is to pray. Commune with God first. Who better? This is also the point when the issue of “Being Called” comes to mind. When I tell someone that I am attending seminary his or her next word is, “So are you going to become a preacher?” It is my belief as Christians that we are all called. (John 6:44) Not all of us are willing to meet that call. (John 6:60-71) Preaching is just one part of ministry. We often fail to realize that. Thinking that the pastor of our church is responsible for witnessing for us. We expect our pastor to know the bible and respond to our questions like some sort of search engine on the Internet with lighting fast answers. We expect our pastors to be cheerleaders and cop at the same time. It is neither right nor biblical.

For we are each responsible for our own conduct. Gal 6:5 (NLT)

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Lost in Translation Revisited:

This week I have taken upon myself a study of the various English translations of the Bible. So far I have been privileged in sampling over twenty biblical versions. Conducted an in depth study of formal equivalence or word-for-word as well as dynamic equivalence or thought-for-thought translation theories. Been through the debate over gender-inclusive language. Still I have not cast my vote on the “King James Only” controversy.

Those who know me know that I am not a great supporter of the KJV. Over 300 words in the KJV have changed in meaning. Example in James 5:11 the word pitiful today means “deplorable or pathetic.” Yet back in 1611 the meaning was, “one who has pity on others.” Today the verse can be easily mis-interpreted. We also see in James 2:3 the phrase “gay clothes” may be interpreted with a homosexual meaning whereas in the KJV its true meaning is “fine clothes.” For those of us preaching God's Word you can see some of the problems the late 16th century English language can negatively impact the message being conveyed. Add to it that back in the 16th and early 17th centuries the Hebrew and Greek texts available were deficient to what scholars have access to today. Many critics of the KJV point out translation differences such as Matthew 23:24 which the Greek text is now interpreted as “strain out a gnat” and not “at a gnat.” To me it is just splitting hairs. Even with all the attacks the KJV has received it has stood the test of time for nearly 400 years. In seminary our professors have advised us to always be prepared to give your sermons in the King James version. This has been hard for me to accept but after reading some of the findings of my latest study you too will find it to be sound advice.

During the past ten to twenty years there has been a deluge of new English bible translations. With it like computer software we have witness numerous updates and revisions. My favorite is the New Living Translation which in my opinion has no real association with the infamous Living Bible than in name reference. The second edition is a major revision compared to the first one that I fell in love with. Even the English Standard Version published in 2002 was revised in 2007 with over 360 changes to it. The New American Standard Bible has been updated several times the latest in 1995. The NASB is seen as the measure that all word-for-word translations are compared too. The New International Version with its combination of word-for-word and thought-for-thought translation combination began to outsell the KJV in the mid-1980's. A sales force focusing on direct sales to churches rather than just individual retail sales helped push more than 110 million NIV's sold to date. America loves its numbers.

One of the problems being created with so many translations out there is with Bible verse memorization. Which translation is best to teach our kids? The KJV is rated with a twelfth-grade reading level. Add to it the need to translate the archaic language back into modern English and then interpret its life application. As Southern Baptists should we use the Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB) as our primary Bible of choice? First published in 2004 which is ultimately a product of the Southern Baptist Convention. This is a personal issue for me being a Southern Baptist myself. The HCSB is a bit more literal than the NIV yet less than the NASB or the ESV.

This whole thing reminds me of standing in front of the counter at Starbucks and asking for just a plain coffee. Nothing is plain anymore and good old vanilla does not seem to be on the top of anyone's list.

So now I have come full circle. My first bible was the KJV. I found it hard to read and understand. Today I find it still complicated and that complication has forced me to study more and seek out God's Word. That has lead to the collection of a personal biblical library and a thirst to seek God's will daily. What is the best Bible? The one that moves you into His service.

Friday, May 22, 2009

The Power of Pride

The other day I was driving home following one of those luxury vehicles with a bumper sticker on it of all things. Welcome to the South. The background of the sticker was the American flag and in bold print it read: “The Power of Pride.” No better statement to describe the terrible condition our country is in right now. Pride has taken down more countries than any war. Pride has ruined more companies than any economic downturn. Pride has destroyed more families and marriages than drugs or alcohol. Pride has split more churches and crushed more Christians than any terrorist attack. The fact is that pride kills. Why?

Our country of today is selfish not selfless. We are tuned into the most popular radio station of all time. Running in our heads 24 hours a day each day of the week. It is WIIFM. (What's In It For Me) We see it on our television screens. I want this and I want that. I want the bigger house. I want the bigger car or the better boat. In churches across the nation we hear I want to be moved. I want to be filled by the Spirit. I want a message that tells me how good I am. I want music that moves me. I want a church that meets my needs. We hear people crying out I, I, I.

Look at the word “Pride.” What is the middle letter? Yes, that is right it is “I.” Pride is about self. Pride brought down King David. Pride brought down Solomon. Pride is killing America. Pride is killing you. Now look at the word “Sin.” What is the middle letter? Right again, it is “I.” Now here is the kicker. What is the middle letter in the word “Lucifer?” Go ahead and say it.

In this MTV generation it is hard not to desire a bathroom so big you can play baseball in it. Cruising down main street on a motorcycle that costs more than the average home. We push our children to get better grades so they can go to college so they can get that high paying job. Learn to climb the corporate ladder. Telling them not to care about the people they step-on while on their way up because they have no intention of ever stepping back down. Do it for yourself. If it is going to be then it is up to me is the saying. Look at what the prophet Micah told the leaders of Israel.

I said, “Listen, you leaders of Israel! You are supposed to know right from wrong, but you are the very ones who hate good and love evil. You skin my people alive and tear the flesh from their bones. Yes, you eat my people’s flesh, strip off their skin, and break their bones. You chop them up like meat for the cooking pot. Then you beg the Lord for help in times of trouble! Do you really expect him to answer? After all the evil you have done, he won’t even look at you!” Micah 3:1-4 (NLT)

Are we really much different from the 8th century B.C.? The problems facing Israel nearly 3,000 years ago still face us today. The power of pride is a power not from God.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Forgetting what it was like being lost

Do you remember what it was like when you were lost? I was saved in my early 30's. I refer to those years of darkness as the forgotten years. The time apart from God. The key to reaching the lost is not to forget what it was like and thank God for bringing you through it. This is where your testimony comes into the picture.

Thousands die every hour going straight to hell. You and I were once heading straight for hell too. Now do you remember the things Christians once said or did to you that made you despise them? Yes, many was the truth that at the time we just did not want to listen too. Some actions we still despise to this day.

Innocent as it may seem to fellow brothers and sisters of Christ I still despise those who quote scripture as if they are reading me the Miranda rights. Even the police will take out a card and read from it just to make sure there is no mistakes made. Often that is not the case with fellow Christians. I like what Reverend Billy Graham once said on the matter. When he quotes scripture he first states, “My bible says this.” Guess what, he then produces his bible to show you. If you quote scripture you might just be called on it. Before I was saved when one of those religious people came down on me quoting scripture I would ask them does the bible really say that? Of course I had already noticed that they were not carrying their bible with them. Better to have the sword of God in hand than to trust our little old minds. We make mistakes. It is easy to argue about our words coming out of our mouths. Open your bible and point out the scripture and read it aloud. Hard to argue with God's Word directly. I keep a small pocket bible with me nearly all the time. See Ephesians 6:17 ...the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

When you were lost and you actually entered into a church did you feel a whirlwind of meet and greet? Many young adults and teenagers see this as chaos today. Near the beginning of the church service everything seems to stop and people run around shaking hands with a laser beam to anyone new in the audience. You are trying not to be noticed but deep inside you are crying for help. You smile and now have no idea who is who and if they really wanted to meet you. Perhaps an announcement towards the end of the service that assigned greeters are waiting in the lobby to meet you and to just hand you a gift from our church would be a little more personal. The person who brought you to the church often gets swept away with the crowd.

One thing we usually remember is that Christian person who was so pushy. The moment they looked at me they started condemning me. Never took a moment to get to know me. In fact they never really seemed to even care if I existed. I was just a target they wanted to hit and hit hard. A human punching bag perhaps. In Luke 18 beginning in verse 18 we see Jesus being straight forward but not offensive. Using God's law he lets the person realize for themselves what is wrong in their life and the need for Christ. Jesus did not beat around the bush about it. He used God's law to pierce the hard heart. Getting right to the root of the problem. Like a Doctor. The doctor does not just walk in and tell you when he has scheduled surgery. He first comes in and shows you the evidence on what has been found. After you are fully convinced of the urgency of the matter does the doctor start to talk to you about treatment. Do we really come to the lost with the same reverence of a doctor seeking to cure and save the lost? Many times we wipe off the sweat from our forehead thinking wow I am so glad I just made it being saved. Instead we need to say thank you Jesus now help me lead someone else to you.

Christian actions that intimidated you probably still intimidate others as well. Sometimes later in our Christian life do we realize why they are done. Walking around like a lunatic in my opinion is not very biblical. It might get the message out but to who? Many times street preaching or open air preaching tends to condemn rather than rally for Christ. Perhaps we are approaching it in the wrong way? When was the last time you heard God's Word read aloud on the streets?

Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching. 1 Tim 4:13 (ESV)

For most of us we do not want to look back. I understand that. Remember your past for it is your testimonial from the darkness into the light of Christ Jesus. The lost are looking for what is real. Give it to them.

Be the Best

My father told me long ago, “Son, no matter what you do. Be the best.” Some of you might interpret that phrase to be arrogant or assertive. Your interpretation is incorrect. My father knew I would have failures in my life. To be the best means to strive to become the best at whatever you do. Even if you come up short and still have done your best you have no shame or regrets. If you have done your best what more can be asked of you? Let us look at my favorite verse of scripture.

For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many. Matt 20:28 (NLT)

Jesus sacrificed His glory to come to us. He is the King of kings and Lord of lords yet became a servant for us all. Not just a servant but the best servant. He is the example for all of us to follow. Yet that is the best we can ever expect from ourselves is to follow. No matter how hard we try. No matter how many things we accomplish. No matter how many others we try to help we still will come up short in God's eyes.

For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. Romans 3:23 (NLT)

Many times we fall into a trap. We believe if we just study our bible hard enough. If we just memorize enough scriptures. If we just pray often enough. If we go to church and try to live a good life God will make things right for us. If we just try to make God happy our marriages will be wonderful, our kids will grow up perfect. Our job will be a utopia. That is not what God's Word tells us.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. Gal 5:22-23 (KJV)

As author Chip Ingram wrote: We may not do it consciously, but our expectations make God out to be a cosmic vending machine.

Whatever you do be the best. If you come up short you have nothing to be ashamed about. You did your best. For our salvation our best is still not good enough. Heaven would be a boring place if we were able to enter on our own accomplishments. Think about it. We would have to sit there and listen to others brag about what they did to get into Heaven. We hear enough of that junk (putting it lightly) here on earth.

Riches profit not in the day of wrath: but righteousness delivereth from death. Prov 11:4 (KJV)

Being the best means often stepping aside in the service of others. Doing the job no one else wants to do. Taking that extra step knowing in advance that no one is watching or will even care about what you have done. God is watching. Be the best.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Apple's Bad Rap

We all remember the story of how Eve gave Adam the apple and they ate the forbidden fruit. Wait a minute; how did the apple get into the picture? It certainly did not come from the Bible. So where did it come from?

Recently I have been reviewing some of the children's bibles around our church. Each of which contain some type of image showing Adam and Eve under an apple tree. Some showing red apples while others show some green and yellow or golden apples in the tree. Where does this come from? Correct me if I am wrong, but my bible does not mention the word apple or apple tree.

But the Lord God warned him, “You may freely eat the fruit of every tree in the garden except the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. If you eat its fruit, you are sure to die.”
Gen 2:16-17 (NLT)

So she took some of the fruit and ate it. Then she gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it, too.
Gen 3:6 (NLT)

Sorry the word apple is not in the above scriptures. So why are all the illustrations of the event set under an apple tree? The scriptures say fruit. It could have been any kind of fruit. So why is the apple so prevalent in our understanding of this critical event in human history?

The technical answer: Etymologists, one who studies the origin and historical development of linguistic forms, would say that the word apple is a generic word for the word fruit. If true, you could say that each time you see the word fruit you could replace it with the word apple and be correct. OK, nice but I am not buying it. Take the potato for example. It is also known as the apple of the earth. The French name for it is pomme de terre. The word pomme is from the Latin word pomum which means fruit and/or apple. If the apple is the symbol of the fall of man then we should see references to that effect throughout the bible? Just the opposite it is true. Examples can be found in Proverbs 7:2, 25:11, Psalm 17:8 and others.

So where did the story of the apple tree come from?

Scary version: In Greek mythology The god, Zeus is to marry Hera. Mother Nature, also known as Gaia gives the new married couple a gift. A tree of golden apples in a garden which is guarded by a serpent. A serpent who never sleeps.

What kind of fruit was it then?

My personal theory: Let us jump forward into the New Testament.

In the morning, as Jesus was returning to Jerusalem, he was hungry, and he noticed a fig tree beside the road. He went over to see if there were any figs, but there were only leaves. Then he said to it, “May you never bear fruit again!” And immediately the fig tree withered up.
Matt 21:18-19 (NLT)

Here we find the only destructive miracle performed by Jesus. Many commentaries will state that this is a lesson for the people of Israel. They were growing but not bearing any spiritual fruit. Therefore they would be cursed. Sure I agree with the lesson. Why was a fig tree chosen? If the symbol of the fall of man is an apple then why not an apple tree to be cursed? It would have made more sense and emphasized the symbol of the fall. Now let us jump back to the Old Testament.

At that moment their eyes were opened, and they suddenly felt shame at their nakedness. So they sewed fig leaves together to cover themselves.
Gen 3:7 (NLT)

The scriptures tell us they sewed fig leaves together not apple leaves. Another question I have in this particular verse are the words “eyes were opened.” Opened to what? Well that is another article to write about. Back to the subject at hand.

The word apple first appears in Deuteronomy 32:10 in the King James version of the Bible. The verse does not contain a negative connotation of the apple or an apple tree.

Sorry in my opinion, the forbidden fruit was not an apple nor an apple tree. I guess that would mess up good old American marketing about give the teacher an apple. I am sure Apple Computer has no desire to change its logo to a juicy gooey fig. In fact how many teachers would like to receive from their students a bowl of figs?

When we study the Bible we need to also study what is not in the scriptures to better defend the faith.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

What To Do When Your Friends Abandon You

It happens. We do not want to admit it. We do not want it to ever happen but it does. I am sure you have heard the following as many times as I have. When you need help is when you really find out who your friends are. Actions speak louder than words. God’s Word gives us great counsel.

Putting confidence in an unreliable person in times of trouble is like chewing with a broken tooth or walking on a lame foot. Prov 25:19 (NLT)

There is no doubt in my mind that all of us have been on both sides of this dilemma. We never wish to abandon or hurt somebody's feelings especially that of a friend. Yet we cannot avoid that feeling of bedrail or abandonment. When we are pushed our gut reaction is to push back. If we do not push back and keep it all inside a greater battle within grows to a point like a boiling teakettle. If it is not allowed to let off a little steam a greater explosion is certain. In my experience, when you have this ticking time bomb within you it is best to avoid contact with others and seek the only one who can help you. God.

Christians are not bullet proof. We are not perfect in fact just the opposite is true. It is realizing our weakness and sin that point us to Christ. For some strange reason the world thinks that the children of God have it easy that they have no worries or doubts. That their problems are trivial. Their relations with others are perfect and free of conflict. They have God and that is all they need. You know something, they are right. All we need is God. Perhaps it us that just do not see it. We are so close to the forest that we fail to see the trees. Let alone take the time to admire the beauty of God’s creations.

So what do you do when friends abandon you? Pray for them. Let’s be honest about it. We become so burning mad that prayer is the last thing on our minds. It should be the first thing in our hearts. Again God’s Word gives us great counsel.

Wounds from a sincere friend are better than many kisses from an enemy.
Prov 27:6 (NLT)

Do the wounds just go away? No, like any injury it takes time to recover. The scars remain. It is easy to become bitter. Yes, you will be cautious the next time. Let us tell it like it is. You will be doubtful next time. Doubt is a weapon of the Devil.

The Devil was having a yard sale. There were many items on display for sale. Yet one in particular in the back had a large sign on it stating, “This item is not for sale.” Of course everyone who came to the yard sale asked about this particular item. When asked the Devil explained that this was his favorite tool. He called it “Doubt.” He went on to explain that he uses it to pry open men’s hearts. Once he is able to that he can fill them with what ever he wants.

The best weapon the Devil has is a friend specifically a Christian friend. When the evil one can get one Christian fighting or angry with another the Devil is winning.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Soap Opera of the Lukewarm church:

Any waiter at a restaurant will tell you that when serving others do-not-be surprised by the comments your patrons may openly say out loud. The same goes for the church.

While in the middle of searching for a new Pastor many questionable comments have been made from senior church members. Comments I have found disturbing, but describe the problems facing our churches for the past 40 years. Many older church members are afraid of a new young pastor fresh out of seminary. Claiming their inexperience will be a hindrance. Nearly all churches these days require their senior pastors to have at least a doctoral degree(s). You would be hard pressed to find such a requirement for the CEO’s of the Fortune 500 companies. We have a hard enough time getting church members to attend a 40-minute Sunday School class let alone attending seminary. Ask yourself this question, “Does our church encourage or sponsor our members to enter into the service of the Ministry?” Some may sponsor Missionary work and give a missionary offering once a year.

Each month we hear more and more pastors leaving the ministry. At the same time we hear reports of fewer and fewer students enrolling into seminary. This has been going on for decades. What did Jesus tell us?

He said to his disciples, The harvest is great, but the workers are few.
Matt 9:37 (NLT)

Church enrollment has been sliding downward for decades. Baptisms too. The church has lost its influence but more important it has lost its respect within society. We are Americans. We love numbers. So much so we feel it is the only way to keep score. Is that what Jesus taught?

In the same way, there is more joy in heaven over one lost sinner who repents and returns to God than over ninety-nine others who are righteous and haven’t strayed away! Luke 15:7 (NLT)

Over the last 10 months I have been watching the employment section of a major Baptist publication. Over and over there are requests for Senior Pastors, Associate Pastors and Music Ministers. Asking for years of experience and degrees in education. In the last 10 months I have not seen one ad from one church calling for a man of God. Not one yet. What does God’s Word have to say about this?

When I first came to you, dear brothers and sisters, I didn’t use lofty words and impressive wisdom to tell you God’s secret plan. For I decided that while I was with you I would forget everything except Jesus Christ, the one who was crucified. I came to you in weakness—timid and trembling. And my message and my preaching were very plain. Rather than using clever and persuasive speeches, I relied only on the power of the Holy Spirit. I did this so you would trust not in human wisdom but in the power of God.
1 Cor 2:1-5 (NLT)

Paul clearly shows us that the qualifications are not eloquent speech. A man of God is not an entertainer. Not one of long words that few can understand. He focused on Christ. Without Christ he had no purpose or reason. Paul came to us plain and simple before God. Relying solely on God the way all of us should.

We set standards we cannot live up too, let alone God’s standards. Let’s stop trying to reset the bar expecting our pastors, preachers, and servants of God to jump through flaming hoops to serve us. Instead let us follow their lead in serving Christ.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Dealing with Loss

This week I received a call that a dear friend, back in California, who’s wife had passed away from cancer. We grew up together during high school. He and his wife were high school sweethearts. Married afterwards. They were both dear friends. They have 3 boys now teenagers. The same age we were. A time we called the good old days. Those were hard times but we looked forward to the future. Death was never in our thoughts.

Just how do we deal with loss? It would be nice to say that just reading a few verses of scripture would some how take away the pain. Through my experience it does but it can take months or years.

My mother once told me that funerals were for the living. Yes they are and I find it sad how we try to sum up one's life in just a few words. It is a time of saying goodbye I guess. Each time I have attended a funeral within the tears I have been given a smile. Knowing they are safe with Christ and time will come when we will see each other again. This is the confidence that comes with being a Christian.

Death comes in many forms. The loss of a job cannot only hurt financially but can cut deep into one's confidence. Killing a man inside. Too often we are defined by where we work. If that were true then Paul would have been known as a tent maker and not a great servant of God. Paul suffered yet he rejoiced in his suffering. When dealing with loss the last thing that comes to our mind is rejoicing. It is when things are at there worse that we come to realize the light of Christ Jesus shines brightest. Too often I have missed it by keeping my eyes closed on this world instead of keeping them wide open on the Kingdom of God.

When dealing with loss, I am no expert; one cannot afford to look inward. The resources within self are just not there. We need to reach out for help. On the other side we need to be prepared to help others. In the Gospel of Matthew our Lord tells us how important it is to be a servant.

For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Matt 20:28 (NLT)

If I am to be like my Lord then I must focus on serving others. Just a simple smile at times can make all the difference in one’s life. Taking time to listen. Offering a helping hand. Even a rebuke is needed when done in love for one another.

When you hurt be willing to ask for help. Be willing and keep your eyes open to help others.

If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble. Eccl 4:10 (NLT)

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