Sunday, July 31, 2016

How Loud

How Loud
August 1, 2016
John 10:27  "My sheep listen to me; I know them, and they follow me."

Sometimes we aren't very good listeners.  Most of you would agree others don't listen to you nearly as well as you think they should.   If you've had children this certainly makes sense.  It feels like my children can only hear me if I'm raising my voice, as if they like to see how far it will go before I shout like a water kettle boiling over.  I asked my three year old daughter to sit at the table to eat her breakfast this morning.  I had to asked her several times, with a degree of escalation and number counting before consequences set in if she didn't head the request.  My daughter new the exact point at which she must obey before consequences began.  She waited until that last possible moment before submitting to my request.  She heard me the first time but didn't obey until she absolutely had no choice from the sound of my voice.  I'm sure the Lord would accuse me of being like my children many times, pretending to not hear His voice unless He gets my attention with severe methods.  The Lord will certainly use severe methods if required, but prefers to use His still small voice.

Scripture likens the Lord's voice to a small quiet voice, forcing us to drown out all the other noise in order to hear it.  While other times in Scripture it does say the Lord's voice is like thunder, that voice is used for anger and judgment.  The Lord prefers to be a gentleman and communicate with peace.  But again, this requires us to listen carefully, obeying the first time.  My question is how loud does the Lord's voice have to be in order for you to hear it?  Scripture is very clear we are supposed to care for orphans, foster children, the elderly, and the imprisoned.  It is in black and white; you can read about it in your Bible with no interpretation required.  But how many of you reading this have taken in a foster child or adopted a disabled child or allowed an elderly person to move in with you or visited someone in prison?  I would venture to guess that 99% of Christians have never visited someone in prison to take them the message of the gospel or give them hope.  Why?  Is it not clear in Scripture?  Have you not heard the Lord's voice?  He already asked you once; isn't that enough?  Does the Lord have to yell in order to get you to do this?  How loud does He need to get before you'll finally hear Him, before you'll finally obey Him.

When I read the book of Proverbs, there are many choice morsel's of wisdom I should implement into my life, knowing full well it would go easier for me if I did, if I just listened.  Countless times the author of the Proverbs has to beg us to listen to Him.  He pleads, barters, even bribes us to listen to His instruction.  Anything, if we'd just listen to Him.  The word "listen" or "hear" appears in each chapter of that book.  Apparently we aren't good listeners.  Hmmm.  Are you a good listener?  Can you hear the Lord speaking to you but you're ignoring Him?   My guess is you've heard His instruction, request, or direction but you're just not obeying.  And there is a difference between hearing Him and obeying Him.  How loud does He need to get before you'll listen, or rather, obey?  Does He have to yell in order for you to obey?  Does He need to count and warn you of soon coming consequences?  What does it take to get your attention?

He is speaking to you right now, asking you, telling you, yet you're purposely trying to drown out His voice with the things you want to hear.  You'd rather listen to everything else because you're afraid to listen to Him.  Why?  It doesn't have to get any louder, you just have to submit.  Jesus said if you hear His voice and don't listen, then you aren't one of His own.

Don't take my word for it; look it up:  Deut 4:36, 1 Kings 19, Ps 34:11, Pr 1:5, Pr 4:1, Pr 5:7, Matt 25:36, John 14:15-23 

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Can't Relate

Can't Relate
July 25, 2016
Psalm 71:15  "My mouth will tell of your righteous deeds, of your saving acts all day long--though I know not how to relate them all."

Speechless.  Very few of us are left speechless on a daily basis.  We're full of words, opinions, commentary, and personal insights.  Though we may seldom be right, we still think our inspirations for others are choice morsels, nuggets of wisdom.  I, personally, find if I hold my tongue for a few seconds and really think before I speak, I end up having nothing to say.  In fact, I bet I could only speak five or six minutes a day and that would be enough to communicate the only worthwhile things I should say.  Instead, we fill the air with nothingness, trivial chatter that looks closer to gossip than spiritual insight.  The psalmist writes that he tries to fill the dead space in the air with retelling of the Lord's good work in his life.  He says something peculiar at the end, suggesting he doesn't even have the ability to communicate it all.

When was the last time you were speechless about the upcoming political election or regarding your boss's behavior, or describing why you have the right to complain about your lot in life?  Very rarely are we speechless.  But I've found, in a small group setting, if I put people on the spot and ask them to recount the good things the Lord has done in their lives, the list is started with a long pause, filled only with two or three bullet points, then ended with pondering silence.  People, even those who have been a Christian for any length of time, are speechless when it comes to telling of the Lord's goodness.  The psalmist can't relate.  He says the list is so vast that he cannot relate them all.

Some Biblical scholars debate why the psalmist couldn't relate the stories of the Lord's goodness.  Some say it is because he wasn't educated and didn't know how to write them down or express them appropriately.  Some say it is because the psalmist wanted to be vague, saying there are too many to count or retell.  Some say it is because the psalmist didn't fully understand the Lord's goodness, that it was and is beyond comprehension.  I would suggest all of those insights are accurate.  You and I do not speak or write in the Heavenly language therefore we do not have the ability to truly capture or communicate the Lord's goodness.  There are so many to tell, and the list is so long, that to write them all down for each person's life would take literally a lifetime per person.  And lastly, all of the Lord's work in your life and mine are beyond our ability to understand them and therefore we don't have the ability to communicate what the Lord truly has done.  

I would suggest when we get to Heaven we will finally understand.  We will understand how we should have been thankful for all of our unanswered prayers.  We will understand what the Lord was doing when we allowed us to walk through the valley of the shadow of death.  We will understand why are lot in life was actually good for us instead of the life we tried to achieve.  We will understand how and what the Lord was doing when nothing seemed to make sense, yet realize in hindsight how perfect it really was.  Christian, your life and mine are highly choreographed and scripted and planned and finitely executed with the utmost of care, goodness, and righteousness.  You must believe that; if you did, you wouldn't have enough time in the day to communicate all the Lord's workings in your life.

If I'm right, and the psalmist suggests this is correct, then you and I should speak out of the Lord's goodness and righteousness even when we don't currently believe it to be true.  Because in the end, we'll realize it was right and then regret complaining when we should have been retelling of the Lord's goodness.  God is good, Christian, even when you don't perceive it.  Start telling of His goodness in your life.  I think if you get started you'll not be able to truly relate them all.

Don't take my word for it; look it up:  Psalm 34:1, Psalm 78:38, Psalm 89:1, Psalm 103:10, Ps 127:1, Is 64:4, Lam 3:24, Rom 8:28-31, Rom 11:33, Eph 1:9, 1 Cor 3:6-7

Sunday, July 17, 2016


July 18, 2016
Matthew 24:6  "You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed."

In light of the violence around our world lately, it is necessary to get the right perspective.  Sure, it is appropriate to be concerned for the individuals affected, but we must be concerned for them for the right reasons.  Those reasons are actually not just for the physical safety of specific peoples groups but rather the condition of their souls and yours and those immediately around you.  Friends, brothers, and fellow Christians, these are the times spoken about in Scripture regarding the birthing pangs; they are happening right now, leading up to the last days.  While the violence is tragic, it has been predicted and should not be a shock to you.  I do not condone violence and hatred, but I cannot change anyone.  Let this be a wake up call for  all Christians around the world.  Your focus and mine should not first be on peace but on the condition of their souls.  As people die in the wake of such violence, their souls will be condemned to hell unless they have a personal relationship with Jesus the Christ.

Jesus said in the last days there will be wars and rumors of wars.  If you really want to be scared at night, I suggest reading the book of Revelation, understanding what will be coming.  Paul warns of some more signs the end is near.  Read alongside his list in 2 Timothy 3.  He writes, "But mark this, there will be terrible times in the last days."  He said people will be: lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderous, without self control, brutal, lovers of evil, unfaithful, impulsive, conceited, and lovers of pleasure.  I'm not a sociologist, but I would think society can check every item off the list of accomplishments.  Something is interesting about the way the Bible talks about the last days.  Jesus said we should not be alarmed.

When I hear of a war or senseless violence, I automatically, like the majority of people, become concerned and saddened.  The Bible says it should not shock us or cause us to be afraid.  Why?  One possible reason: if the Enemy can distract us then we won't be focused on what really matters, the condition of our souls.  We think it is a condition of society, trying to fix things with politics or social reform, thinking we need peace.  It has nothing to do with any of those things and everything to do with the state of our hearts in relationship to God.  Violence in our society is Satan's way of creating a distraction away from God a wedge between Him and the world.  In fact, I've seen many people lately, even Christians, blaming God for allowing such disaster.  I've seen people get angry at God for seemingly walking away, turningg his back, and refusing to intervene.  God didn't go anywhere; the out-pour of violence is from people rejecting God.

There are two things you can do about the unfaithful condition in society, resulting in the violence today.  The first thing is to reach every lost soul with the message of salvation and hope in Jesus Christ.  Don't just pray that people get saved, do something about it; take the message to them.  The second thing you can do, as instructed by Paul after he lists off the condition of society, is to reject those kinds of people in your lives.  He doesn't suggest hating anyone, he doesn't suggest rejecting them as people, but he clearly warns that you should be different from them, set apart and holy.  This isn't isolation, but a recognition you should live and breath differently.  The Bible says you should have nothing to do with them.  Obviously, none of us are friends with the violent offenders, but what about those who are lovers of money or conceited or impulsive?  The point isn't to walk away from them the point is to not be like them, not indulging in their ways or entertaining their way of life.  Then, after you've realized how foolish they live, you'll be better equipped to care for their souls.

There is a war right now and there are rumors of more.  Don't be alarmed.  Instead, rise to action, being different and taking them the message of salvation.  Put some perspective on what is happening around you.

Don't take my word for it; look it up:  Matthew 24:4-8 2 Tim 3:1-5, Revelations

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Measure Differently

Measure Differently
July 11, 2016
James 4:2  ". . .  You do not have because you do not ask God."

"You have not because you ask not."  Wow, such a powerful phrase, a possible theme for many people's lives.  You do not have something because you have not yet asked God for it.  It suggests many of us haven't been asking for what we've been missing in our lives.  It suggests we should just ask for it and we will probably receive it.  Stop right there and starting asking God, we reason.  Most people who quote that verse however forget the second part of the verse warns we might not get it if we ask with selfish motives.  Clearly, the Giver (God) has to measure your heart first.  So, let's pretend your motives are right AND you've asked for it, what if you still don't have it?  Are you missing something from the formula?  Obviously, the formula for getting something doesn't always work out. Or maybe we're still missing it a little.

If you dive further into your Bible and search out another Scripture telling you how to get something, it says, "give and it will be given to you."  OK, this also makes sense, maybe we don't always have to ask for something, maybe we should just sow what we want into other people's lives and it will come back to us; the spirit of reciprocity is alive and well, we reason.  Maybe that also is part of the formula, or maybe that is a better formula than the one found in James?  I would suggest the two verses are more closely tied than you'd suspect.  If you read fully in Luke chapter 6 it talks about judging, forgiving, and giving.  It tells us that it will be done to us in the manner we dole it out.  But all three items are only reciprocal in context of the measure a person uses.  Basically if your forgive a lot, then you will be forgiven a lot.  If you judge a lot, you will be judged a lot.  If you give a little, you will get little.

Go back to the verse in James telling you to ask and you will receive (whatever it is you need: health, finances, relationships), and remember the Lord judges your heart and motives first.  God, being the Giver, is the one who manifests the same reciprocity in your life for judging, forgiving, and giving.  He says your measure will be used for you and against you in that spirit of reciprocity, sowing and reaping.  If He uses your measure, for you and against you, will He not use your same measure when you are quoting the Scripture "you have not because you ask not?"  Maybe your measure of "have not" does not agree with His measure your "have not." Maybe you have more than He thinks you need?  Maybe you have more than you've given, and therefore won't get more even if you ask for it with pure motives?  Maybe you are still giving with impure motives, just to get something in return, and therefore nullify your entire measure?  Maybe getting and asking are completely irrelevant unless you give without the idea or thought of something for yourself in return?  Maybe if you're waiting for it to come back to you, then you've missed it completely and will be waiting your entire life, no matter how often you ask the Lord for it?  Maybe your unit of measure is way off base?  Maybe you are so selfish, like me, that you can't even see you've been missing the Lord's point altogether in getting your needs met?

Your job is to forgive, judge not, give, restore relationships, pray for the healing and provision of others, all without hoping it might return to you, all without thinking of yourself.  This must be your lifestyle, your everyday job as a Christian, in service to others, without measure.  Do it joyfully and with consistency.  If you've done that first, beyond measure, then sure, be bold and ask the Lord for something in return.  My bet, though, is you'd not even have to ask the Lord for anything.  My guess is He'd already have met your need before you needed to ask.  Measure differently.  In fact, don't measure at all.

Don't take my word for it; look it up:  Matthew 6:8, Mark 4:20, Luke 7:1-2, Luke 6:32-38, James 4:2-3

Monday, July 4, 2016

Scary Awesome Future

Scary Awesome Future
July 4, 2016
John 21:15  "When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, 'Simon son of John, do you love me more than these.'"

It'd be great to know your future, wouldn't it?  Everyone has dreamed of this, desired it, even prayed for it.  Yet I doubt it has come to fruition, being allowed to know your future.  Life would be so much easier if we just knew what was in store, then we could walk into it perfectly, without struggle.  My guess is we'd pee our pants if we knew what was up ahead.  Think back twenty years ago.  If someone told you all the good and the bad that was going to happen to you, you'd probably try to make different decisions, avoiding what you didn't want to go through.  Consequently, you'd also be avoiding all the good the Lord desires from those difficult situations.  Think about Peter for a moment.

Jesus asked Peter if he love Him.  Peter resoundingly answered with a yes, each and every time.  Jesus questioned him several times about it, "Peter, do you love me?"  It actually frustrated Peter, why the Lord would be asking him.  Jesus was making sure that Peter was determined to love Him, no matter what.  It's easy to love Jesus when there is no sacrifice involved, when there is no stress or pressure in the room, no forces pulling you elsewhere.  Jesus was making sure Peter understood that true love for Him meant loving Him through adversity, difficulty, and self-sacrifice.  Peter was slightly arrogant with his "yes" response, just like you and I would have been.  But then real life was about to set in for Peter.  Jesus asked Peter to feed His sheep.  Peter was more than willing, thinking it would be easy.  It wasn't easy.  In fact Peter faced torture up ahead, all for the namesake of Jesus, just for feeding His sheep.  The only way Peter could make it through that situation was through determined love for Jesus.  It was a scary future that Peter might have tried to avoid if he knew what was really in store for him.  But it was awesome at the same time.

The story of success and the result of Peter's ministry is still echoing in our lives today.  The reward for Peter in Heaven was and is astounding, yet couldn't be had unless Peter traveled through the adversity, through significant self sacrifice that only came from loving Him.  Jesus knew Peter's future when He asked Peter to love and serve Him, but wasn't willing to share it with Peter.  Peter might have had second thoughts if he knew what Jesus was asking of Him.  All Peter knew was that he thought he loved Jesus.  Then later, he had to prove it.  It was scary what Peter went through, yet awesome at the same time.

Years ago, you promised to love the Lord, just like Peter did.  You also promised to serve Him, just like Peter did.  Are you serving Him now through the adversity?  Are you willing to serve Him if things get tougher, if there is self sacrifice involved?  Some of you wouldn't even serve the Lord had you to do it all over again, that's how difficult your life has been.  I understand.  Some of you think you love Him even now, but only because it is slightly comfortable.  There is more up ahead and the Lord isn't willing to share your future.  But He is asking you now if you love Him, if you truly love Him.  It is easy to say, but what He might have for you could be difficult.  Are you willing to love Him if He asks the seemingly impossible from you?  Are you willing to serve Him if He asks something dreadfully scary of you?  Are you willing to feed His sheep if it requires self sacrifice?  It's not me asking you, its the Lord.  What will your answer be to the question?  Will you arrogantly reply in the affirmative, but ignore Him when the time comes for the self sacrifice part?  Will you avoid the scary and inevitably avoid the awesome, just because you don't think it will be worth it?

If you could ask Peter if he'd do it all over again, I guarantee the answer would be a yes.  Reaffirm your love for Him today and be willing to go through the scary, because it will be awesome.

Don't take my word for it; look it up:  John 21