18 Jul 2018
To many people, the suggestion that worship and religion unite us is absurd. They point out that millions have been killed in the name of God through religious wars, the Crusades, and the Inquisition. They argue that religion has been a great source of division and suffering in the world—and in some ways they are correct.
Religion focusing on “do’s and don’ts” kills the spirit. It is a set of rules and regulations that people use to show God that they are acceptable to Him. By keeping a set of rules and regulations, they mistakenly feel they have done something good—and God is obligated to accept them. They count on their performance to earn God’s love. Jesus had harsh words for rule-keepers—people like the Pharisees—because they missed the Gospel message: God loves and accepts us, even though we are sinners who offend Him. Jesus paid the penalty for our sin. While we were still sinners, Jesus came to die for us (see Romans 5:8). When we fully understand this undeserved gift, we respond by doing good things and avoiding sinful acts. Religion tied to regulations leads to arrogant self-righteousness.
However, a relationship with Jesus leads to a life of service to others in love.
When we worship together, knowing that our sin has been covered, our worship unites us. It deepens our sense of brotherhood and sisterhood by pointing out our common needs. True worship reminds us that we are all sinners, making it difficult to point a finger of accusation at someone else. The fruit of the Spirit grows in each one of us, resulting in unity and loving attitudes.
Jesus came to abolish religion and replace it with a relationship with Him. We cannot earn His love; He gives it to us for free.
04 Jul 2018
Music contains great power both to soothe us when we’re anxious and to stir up our emotions. Dentists’ offices play soft music. NBA pre-game music is loud and piercing. Advertising companies work overtime creating catchy jingles to remind us of their products.
Music plays an important role in our walk with God too. It can either help us combat evil, or it can lead us into evil. Like a rudder on a boat, music can set our frame of mind and steer our attitudes and actions toward something good or evil.
Music that degrades male or female dignity and glorifies drug use will poison our minds. Music and words create images in our brains. We visualize shameful stuff in our heads. And what we think is what we do. Bad stuff—wrong direction!
The opposite is also true. Rising from our beds with the words to “Awesome God” running through our heads makes it easier to sidestep the devil’s assault in the office. Quietly singing “Amazing Grace” as we walk to lunch with a friend focuses us on God’s gift instead of our worries. Martin Luther, who wrote “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God,” felt music was not our invention but rather a gift from God. He taught that the devil hates it because music drives evil out of us. Luther was right.
We must be extra careful about the music that goes into our ears and into our brains. We don’t eat garbage, so why feed it into our heads through our ears? When we put wholesome spiritual food into our bodies, we can expect good spiritual health as a result. We need to discover the power of music and its effects for good or evil in our lives. After we start the day in prayer and in God’s Word, let’s add His music to our souls.
20 Jun 2018
Someone said, “The real disasters in life happen when we get what we want.” We can relate to that. Some of you women readers wanted a man in your lives so badly you would have done most anything. Then, you got one, he verbally abused you, ignored you and treated you with contempt, all the while expecting you to cook, clean and sleep with them! You soon discovered you were better off without him.
Although that statement is true in some human circumstances, it’s not true in our relationship to God. Sometimes the problem is that when God speaks to us, He says things we don’t want to hear. Our idea of what we want God to say is different from what He says. We pray that “Thy Will be done,” but really would like to know what God’s Will is BEFORE we agree to obey and follow. This is not surrender to God but our attempt to keep control over our lives, while asking God for directions.
Our plan may be for God to give us financial security so we can mentor young men and women to help them avoid the mistakes that could send them to prison. A worthy and noble aspiration! But what is our reaction when God speaks to us and we hear Him plainly command us to minister to the homeless community that resides in a tent city a block from our house? Whoa! We immediately think, God must be mistaken. We turn it over in our minds, looking for a sign that we didn’t hear correctly. This is wrong!
Oswald Chambers writes in his book “My Utmost for His Highest” about trying to rationalize that we didn’t hear God correctly. “When I have to weigh the pros and cons, and doubt and debate come in, I am bringing in an element that is not of God, and I come to the conclusion that the suggestion was not a right one.” Our unwillingness to pay attention to what God says may very well lead to disobedience that disappoints God. But obedience leads to a richer and fuller faith. When we hear God’s voice, we must move on it and begin to obey. Let God’s hand be played out on His card table. When it’s over, we may be privileged to witness the results of His work through our efforts. If so, we’ll finally see that He was correct.
In closing, ask yourself, what attitudes lead you to discard your ideas of what you think God has planned for your life and really hear and accept His leading
09 May 2018
Famous scientist Albert Einstein was asked what he believed was his greatest discovery. He replied, “Compound interest.” Loan sharks know about compound interest and how it works. A person borrows $1,000 from a loan shark at 30% interest per week. After the first week, the person owes $1,300. Without a payment, after two weeks, the victim owes $1690. After three weeks, $2,197, and on and on.
Sin compounds too. C. S. Lewis wrote in Mere Christianity, “Good and evil both increase at compound interest. That is why the little decisions you and I make every day are of such infinite importance. The smallest good act today is the capture of a strategic point from which, a few months later, you may be able to go on to victories you never dreamed of. And apparently trivial indulgence in lust or anger today is the loss of a ridge or railway line or bridgehead from which the enemy may launch an attack otherwise impossible.”
Every day at the office, on the road or in our neighborhood tavern, we make decisions. Swearing, bad-mouthing the boss, our wives or boyfriends are just a few bad loans we take from Satan, the ultimate loan shark. Macho trash talk sows a negative seed. That seed grows, and a plan emerges. Once the action plan is in place, it takes only a moment of madness for our world to blow up. On the other hand, when we attempt to love people as Jesus commands, we find ourselves liking them more. As we practice good feelings toward people, we find ourselves liking more people…including those we could never imagine liking.
Walk with Einstein and give Compound Interest a try!
28 Feb 2018
When we discover something for the first time and like what we’ve learned, we usually get excited about it. We can remember the excitement of skateboarding, fly fishing or putting on makeup for the first time. Similarly, many of us recall our excitement when we first came to Christ. We experienced His forgiveness and acceptance. We wanted to shout it from the rooftops.
Many new believers are on fire for evangelism and may impulsively walk into the coffee break room at work and declare the Gospel to every bleary-eyed coffee drinker in the room. Or we take the microphone at a family reunion and preach a ten-minute sermon when all they asked us to do was open with prayer. We buttonhole our team at the bowling league and drive them to distraction with our over-the-top testimonials about Jesus! Ugh! Even seasoned Christians might get tired of this type of over enthusiastic evangelism!
As admirable as this enthusiasm is, the Bible teaches us that we need to mature, allowing older Christians to counsel us. Just as sixteen-year-olds need driver’s training to go along with new driving privileges, newborn Christians need mentoring. Mature believers in our church have the responsibility to recognize that new Christians need help. In their passion for Jesus, new Christians may be judgmental. They may rightly identify sin but could harshly condemn it in others, without the love and gentleness more mature men and women of faith might exercise. Baby Christians can be quite demanding in their desire to be fed. Just as newborn babies demand feeding, baby Christians insist on getting attention. Full-grown believers must teach and offer loving suggestions for contemplation, personal Bible study, prayer, and corporate worship. Allow new believers to mature before electing them to positions of leadership (see 1 Timothy 3:6).
The body of Christ in our world today has many members, and each must nurture the other. New Christians must submit to the authority of the mature members, while the mature saints must not smother the ardor of the new ones. In unity, the work of Christ moves forward.
31 Jan 2018
Do not be misled: “Bad company corrupts good character.” 1 Corinthians 15:33
As we were growing up, we always knew the girls who knew how and where to shoplift the coolest lipstick. We also knew the guys who could hot-wire a car so we could take a joy ride. Those same guys were the ones who tried to get us drunk! We were attracted to their “badness” and power. But when we remember their evil impact on our lives, we can appreciate the role that bad character plays in our lives and why the Apostle Paul wrote: “Do not be misled: Bad company corrupts good character.”
Have we learned our lessons from our experience with the losers in our lives? Or, are we still drawn to the “bad-asses” who know how to manipulate the system? Do we admire the women who can manipulate and get away with murder at work and influence events for their own benefit? Do we overlook the lies and the cover-ups it takes to operate in this fashion? If so, then our companions will lead us into sin.
The people we hang with will definitely have an effect on what we think about life. Friends who seem attractive to us and flatter us may not be the best influence on our attitudes. Our attitudes toward our families, our wives or husbands, our bosses, and ultimately, our own sin, determine how we act.
We must not be seduced into thinking we can keep bad company and still retain good character and a healthy relationship to God. Light and darkness do not go together; one chases the other away. Like the old proverb says, “You lie down with dogs, you wake up with fleas.”
As the new year starts, we need to evaluate our acquaintances and determine if they have a positive or negative effect on us. Do they promote sinful actions or encourage us to stay close to Christ? We need to find other believers who will have a godly influence on us. Good company promotes good character.
15 Nov 2017
Many church choirs are very good. They’re easy on the ears because there is a unified blending between the higher and lower voices. The choir members have common goal, mixing their voices together to create harmony. Sports teams that win championships aren’t always the ones with the most talented athletes. More often, they are the teams that have few superstars but really are united as a team.
Ever wonder why that is so? When people have common goals, like great harmony or winning a championship, they put aside their own agendas and work for that goal. However, if individual egos emerge, disunity destroys the harmony. This is why so many great teams fall apart after big wins. Too many egos want credit and demand bigger contracts. Without unity, the common goal is unreachable.
It is very much the same with the church. The most effective church is one that has the unified purpose of spreading the love of God. The goal is to preach the Good News and nurture those who hear and accept the Word. When new believers accept Christ, they may think that that is enough. But seasoned Christians know that the devil is prowling around, waiting to cause believers to stumble. It is absolutely necessary for new Christians to have a safe and harmonious refuge where they can be nurtured and taught. Then they can grow in Christ. We must commit ourselves to harmony in our churches so that each believer can be an effective servant of Christ.
24 May 2017
Back in February, there was a really moving story on TV about a young girl in Chicago who was killed by a stray bullet during a drive-by shooting. Her organs were donated to six different persons. Each person came together with the mother of the slain girl to celebrate their happiness and joy because recipients had been given new life because of the death of this young person. There were hugs of gratitude and tears of delight as the recipients celebrated and at the same time, cried for the loss that made it possible.
As tragic and wonderful as this story is, it makes us wonder why don’t we celebrate and feel the gratitude and joy that these donor recipient’s felt when we consider the death of Jesus and the new eternal life that comes to us as a result. If we stop long enough to contemplate that the Son of God was killed so that we all could get a new heart transplant, then the joy we might feel might be contagious.
As we spread the joy to others, we will witness to them that our faith is not a bunch of “Thou shalt not’s” Rather, our contagious, joyful faith will infect and draw people to Jesus. Joyful people are kind people. Kind people are the most convincing evidence of God’s love.
It all starts with gratitude for the undeserved gift of a transplanted heart (grace). When we recognize the new life that new heart offers us, really recognize the enormity of the gift… Joy is the emotion… kindness is the gift to others… and to Jesus.
09 May 2017
Ever consider the real reasons why we obey traffic laws, don’t we cheat on our income taxes, and do not even consider stealing shoes, perfume or other items when we go into a store? We all like to think of ourselves as upstanding, moral human beings. Our answer is most likely, “Because it is the right thing to do!”
But if we are honest with ourselves, a very big reason we obey the police, don’t steal, tell the truth on our taxes and are faithful to our spouses is FEAR. It is the fear of landing in jail… fear of going to prison for tax evasion and fear of divorce… or worse… if we got catch cheating.
So, ask yourself, why do we obey God’s laws? Why are we moral and regular church attenders? Could it be the same reason that we avoid the issues listed above… FEAR? Are we afraid that if we sleep around, do drugs or do not give enough to the church, God will notice and punish us? Are we frightened that if we do not memorize enough Scripture and volunteer the perfect number of hours, somehow we just might not be “good enough” to be accepted into heaven when it is our time to die? Is it a spirit of fear that is our incentive to live good lives?
The Bible speaks about how perfect love drives out fear. (See I John 4:18 and Romans 8:15). It expresses how the Holy Spirit writes the law of God on our hearts and does not make us slaves to fear or bondage. What does that mean for us?
It means that the Holy Spirit will reveal to us that the perfect love of God was coupled with His wisdom and expressed to us with Jesus death and resurrection.
It means that the Holy Spirit will change our incentives and motivations from fear to joyful gratitude.
The Holy Spirit points us towards recognition of the fact that in Jesus we have the perfect example of God’s love. When we recognize and receive this perfect gift our responses change. The fears of losing out, fears of not being good enough, fears of punishment are banished. As God’s heirs, we rest in the kind, loving arms of a God who valued us so much He sent His only Son to rescue us.
Live without fear!
18 Jan 2016
Adjusting our attitudes and seeking to follow Jesus to move on to a better lifestyle is something for which we all strive. But the reality is that the devil as well as our own sinful natures love sin and they make it hard to overcome what some call “besetting sins.” We know they are recurring because we see them showing up in our life all the time. Is there any hope for us when we find ourselves doing the same stupid stuff over and over and over? Yes!
We can take great comfort in the realization that Jesus understands what it’s like to be tempted. His Father didn’t spare Him that experience. Because Jesus went through the agony of temptation, He can be an understanding friend in our agony too. The story of Jesus’ temptation in Luke 4 tells us that Jesus had been fasting when Satan came to Him. Christ had had no food for forty days. Knowing that Jesus was very hungry, Satan tempted Him at His point of vulnerability. “‘If you are the Son of God, change this stone into a loaf of bread.’ But Jesus told him, ‘No!’ The Scriptures say, ‘People need more than bread for their life'” (Luke 4:3-4). On the surface the devil’s request seems reasonable. After all, Jesus could have changed the stones into bread. But Jesus saw beneath Satan’s challenge. He saw that the devil really wanted Him to obey him, to do his bidding. But Jesus refused the temptation to be conned by Satan. Jesus passed the test.
Remember that Jesus knows the score. He faced temptation, and He promises to help us face it too. We can trust that God knows our situation and is concerned about our welfare. That is the concrete slab under our lives. It’s the firm foundation on which all other defenses against temptation are built. Follow Jesus’ lead, and memorize a key Scripture passage… something that is meaningful to your individual situation and temptations. Repeat it out loud when tempted and watch the devil disappear.