“A ship in harbor is safe -- but that is not what ships are built for.” John A. Shedd. John Shedd was an uber-successful American businessman. In 1901, he started as a clerk, in the Chicago-based department store, Marshall-Field, and worked his way up to become president of the company. He was a philanthropist, funding many museums, libraries and the famous Shedd Aquarium. Mr. Shedd wasn’t just lucky, he knew that if he wanted to rise through the ranks, he had to get out of his safe harbor. I’m sure he had times of disappointment, but he wasn’t going to let temporary setbacks shipwreck his long term goals. How many times have you “set sail” on a new endeavor, full of enthusiasm, only to turn back to the dock when the seas got choppy? Let’s face it, we all have. No one likes to feel adrift in uncharted waters, so we throw our ropes around the moors, and never venture any further. What a waste! John Shedd knew that ships were meant to be sailed. Their whole purpose is to transport people, and cargo, to faraway lands enjoying the journey along the way. As a Christian, I have to admit, it’s scary to sail beyond the familiar, security of my harbor. At this point of complacency, God refers me to the lives of faithful men and women who set sail into deep water, way over their heads. Sure they hit reefs, sandbars and maybe even a pirate or two, but they pushed back into the sea after each setback. Think of all that the disciples, Paul, and Jesus went through. Now think about where we’d be if they had stayed in dry dock. We would be shipwrecked! So raise those masts, trim your sails and let’s all set sail on that gospel ship. After all, it’s what we were built for!! “Cling to your faith in Christ, and keep your conscience clear. For some people have deliberately violated their consciences; as a result, their faith has been shipwrecked.” 1 Timothy 1:19
Thursday, September 27, 2012
“God will give to each person according to what he has done. To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life.” Romans 2:7.
It’s not easy to be persistent, and when I saw this little green shoot pushing through a railroad tie, it reminded me of that fact. Trying to live a healthy lifestyle, for example, takes effort. You have to be consistent about diet and exercise, in the face of fast food restaurants, tantalizing commercials, and friends who tempt you to stray. Now consider your life in Christ. Trying to maintain godly behavior in a godless society is tough. Those same kinds of assaults that try to undermine our physical health, are working to trip us up spiritually.
At first glance, this scripture seems to say that God is going to reward us for doing more stuff, works etc., but that can be done without the help of His son. The next sentence states that he is looking for persistence in doing good. Ah ha! Sure we’re bound to mess up, and fall short in all aspects of our lives, but when we regroup and keep on going, that’s what pleases God. Never forget that willpower alone can’t enable us to persist, only Holy Spirit empowerment can….and it is living within us!! So learn a lesson from that green shoot, despite drought, freight trains and inhospitable terrain, persist in growing towards the sun, or in our case, The Son!!
Wednesday, September 26, 2012
Tuesday, September 25, 2012
Monday, September 24, 2012
“The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” 2 Corinthians 4:4. There are so many conflicting “gospels” in the world, that it is difficult to know what is truth and what is just good talk. Everyone, from Oprah to political candidates, has their own message to spread. Where do we turn, how can we truly know what it real, when so many things sound so right? Here is some good news, God has blessed those who believe in Him with spiritual gifts, one of them is discernment. The dictionary definition of discern is: to perceive by the sight or some other sense or by the intellect; see, recognize, or apprehend: or to distinguish mentally; recognize as distinct or different; discriminate: The English term is derived from the Latin “discernere” to separate. In other words, God wants us to see, with His eyes, through the smoke screen, giving us the ability to separate the valid from the invalid, in all things. Did you ever wonder why unbelievers ultimately reject the gospel? It’s not because God’s love hasn’t been wooing them, but the strong siren song of the world, which is controlled by the “god of this age”, Satan, is actively muddling their minds. Free will allows us to choose between the two. I would encourage all of you, who are still searching, to ask God to open your eyes and intellect to recognize the difference, then make your decision based on the truth, not clever deception.
Thursday, September 20, 2012
Back in the Regan Era, when the National Debt was 3 trillion, I found this explanation of what a trillion is. Keep in mind costs have escalated, but you can get the picture.
Ever wonder what a trillion really is? Well, read this:
If you were to count a trillion $1 bills, one per second, 24 hours a day, it would take 32 years.
Or, to put it another way, it has been figured that with a $1 trillion, you could buy a $100,000 house for every family in Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma and Iowa. Then you could put a $10,000 car in the garages of each of those houses. There would be enough left over to build $10 million libraries and $10 million hospitals for 250 cities in those states. There would be enough left over to build $10 million schools for 500 communities. And, there would still be enough to put in the bank and from the interest alone, to pay 10,000 nurses and teachers, plus give a $5000 bonus for every family in those states. Now, multiply those statistics by 16 to get an idea of what a hole we have dug ourselves into today with a whopping 16 trillion (and growing) dollar debt!! Some “quick math” tells us that dividing 16 trillion by 300,000,000 (the US population) equals $53,333, which if it were possible to be paid by every individual would put us back in the black. Trouble is, the amount keeps piling up, and can never truly be “paid off“. This massive deficit reminded me of the sin debt that began accruing with Adam. It grew larger everyday, with no conceivable way for man to pay it off by his own means. No amount of fatted calves, or blood sacrifices, of any species, could make a dent. Neither would an outpouring of “good deeds”, or improved behavior. It was humanly impossible to eradicate. Worst of all, it left us separated from God. Enter God, in the form of the man Jesus, writing a check , in his own blood, completely covering our lack. Can we ever fully comprehend that kind of generosity? It simply boggles my mind that someone would be willing to pay off a debt he didn’t owe to bail me out. But he did. Remember the story of Mary Magdalene when she worshipped at the feet of Jesus. She, just like you and I, shared in that debt, but here’s what Jesus told those “religious” people who were watching the scene. “"I tell you, her sins--and they are many--have been forgiven, so she has shown me much love. But a person who is forgiven little shows only little love." Luke 7:47. We have been forgiven a lot, let’s never forget that. Now, does anyone have 16 trillion to spare?
Wednesday, September 19, 2012
You won’t find a list of requirements in scripture outlining precisely what it takes to be a healthy, growing church, but I think the following would please God. 1. Welcoming to community. 2. Living out the Bible. 3. Equipping for service. 4. Giving glory to God. 5. Uniting in membership. 6. Experiencing real worship. 7. Bringing people to Jesus. And 8. Inviting the nations. I wrote these core values down, which are boldly written on the walls of the Vine Community Church, in Carbondale, IL. Does the church you attend strive to meet similar goals? For instance, when is the last time you invited anyone to church; would they feel welcome? Would there be someone at the door to greet them with a smile and a handshake, maybe even a cup of coffee? “Welcome him with Christian love and with great joy.” Phil. 2:29. Are the church members being encouraged to live out the Bible by being involved in scripture study and small groups? “Therefore encourage one another and build each other up…,” 1 Thess. 5:11. How about equipping the body for service? Is everyone able to promote and defend their faith? Are they fully trained in the understanding, and use of spiritual gifts? “Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage--with great patience and careful instruction. …” 1 Ti. 4:2. Is there a conscious effort towards unity? “Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” Ephesians 4:3. What about the worship? Is there a genuine desire to be in God’s holy presence, or is it merely fulfilling an obligation. “Sing joyfully to the LORD, you righteous; it is fitting for the upright to praise him. …” Psalm 33:1. And lastly, are you, yourself, eagerly, joyfully sharing the gospel with everyone? “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.” 1 Peter 3:15. Don’t be upset, God doesn’t keep a check list, and neither should we. But, these statements offer Biblically sound, God-pleasing principles that will cause any church, and person, to flourish.
Tuesday, September 18, 2012
“For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands.” 2 Timothy 1:6. A fire requires fuel to continue burning, and Paul is urging young Timothy, here, to keep putting logs on his. What are you feeding your fire? Do you even have one, or are you down to smoldering ashes? Imagine a roaring campfire. My kids and grandkids enjoy seeing the flames shoot up by throwing on dry leaves, or paper. While it might be bright for a moment, the big old log that Grandpa places on the embers, lasts for hours. Consider our own, inner fire, the one God kindled when he filled us with His Holy Spirit, we can’t keep it alive on the small twigs and dry grass the world offers. No, the fuel God intends for us to use is found in his word. It is the solid wood of scripture knowledge, wisdom and spiritual discernment, everything we need to keep those fires burning. Years ago, before central heating, wood stoves or fireplaces needed to be continually stoked and restocked. If they went out, it was quite a chore to get them going again. So, be vigilant about keeping that precious flame alive, keep your Bible and a pair of bellows close by!
Monday, September 17, 2012
Friday, September 14, 2012
Thursday, September 13, 2012
In chatting with someone recently, they told me that they had never questioned their religion/faith. They never had questions or doubts, in fact it was their belief that Jesus had been really honked off at Doubting Thomas, because he had wanted to see proof. I think it’s amazing when anyone tells me that they have complete, unwavering, faith in anything without ever having tried it out, or asked a question. Now that is a true gift of faith. Trouble is, I don’t buy it. Who would buy a car, or a house without ever viewing, asking questions or inspecting it? That’s a vital part of the purchase process, or at least it should be! What about in a learning situations, isn’t it important to ask questions? Questions show the teacher that you are attentive, and earnestly trying to understand, they are expected and encouraged. There will be times when you might even disagree, but that is part of education. Faith is a special, supernatural gift from God, based on our belief in Him, and obedience to his word. How can we truly believe unless it is proven to us? How can we have faith unless we have tested and retested Him? Does that tick God off? I sure hope not, because I’m like one of those kids in class with my hand raised all the time! While I don’t doubt God, I have doubts and murky areas that require clarification, and He’s more than happy to enlighten me. Jesus taught his disciples by going over and over a topic. He not only declared his word and plan to them, he demonstrated it as well, until they “got it”. Don’t ever confuse mindless, unquestioning acceptance with faith. Luke tells us about the Berean people in Acts 17:11, “Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.” Go ahead, question, examine, even kick the tires, all of which pleases God, and increases our faith.
Wednesday, September 12, 2012
The Roman’s Road. No this isn’t an Italian highway, or a street in a swank new subdivision, it’s a simple way to explain or understand God’s plan of salvation. Let’s start by opening you Bible to the book of Romans. If you don’t have one, get one. Many places and churches give them away. Now, with a highlighter and pen/pencil in hand, yes I want, and encourage you to write in the Bible, open to Chapter 3:23. “For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God's glorious standard.” There it is, original sin, our legacy from Grandpa Adam is holding us back from God‘s fullness. So what does mean and what do we do? Well, flip over to chap. 6:23. “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.” Sounds like a good news/bad news scenario, doesn’t it? This lousy inheritance comes attached to a death sentence, but God offers a free gift. Hmmm, there must be some fine print on this deal, so let‘s take a closer look. Fair enough, turn back to 5:8. “But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.” Wrap your head around that statement for a minute. Jesus died for us, repairing the damage our sins had incurred, even while we were still sinning!! Wow, that’s pretty hard to comprehend, but it sounds like an offer one would be foolish to refuse. Where do I sign up, and what do I have to do? Keep going to 10:9. “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by confessing with your mouth that you are saved. As the Scriptures tell us, “Anyone who trusts in him will never be disgraced.” Jew and Gentile are the same in this respect. They have the same Lord, who gives generously to all who call on him. For “Everyone who calls on the name of the LORD will be saved.” If this appears too good to be true, be reassured it‘s legit. Our sins have convicted us to death, but by God’s grace, combined with our confession, earnest repentance and solid belief in his plan, we are pulled out of the fire! The road continues in 5:1-2 “Therefore, since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us. Because of our faith, Christ has brought us into this place of undeserved privilege where we now stand, and we confidently and joyfully look forward to sharing God’s glory.” And the confirmation letter is written in 8:1. “So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. And because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death.” The shackles are removed, sin is gone and the gift of eternal life is ours, where there was once a hopeless, joyless void. So with total confidence in what God has done we can say, “And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.” By His blood the debt is paid, and eternity is secured for all who believe. What are you waiting for, the road is open, get out of the driveway and spread the word!
Tuesday, September 11, 2012
Monday, September 10, 2012
Thursday, September 6, 2012
There used to be a show on TV, where average folks would submit to numerous plastic surgery procedures in an attempt to make themselves look like a favorite movie star. Crazy you say, well, yes, but how many times have you wished to be like someone else. Perhaps it wasn’t as drastic a move as these people made, but I’ll bet you can think of a few instances. What boy wouldn’t desire the athletic talents of Albert Pujols, Tiger Woods or Tony Parker? I, myself, always wanted the singing voice of Linda Ronstadt, and every girl has a famous model or celebrity they want to be. “Oh, if only I could be filled with just some of their beauty, talent, brains etc., then I’d be happy for the rest of my life”, is the longing of so many hearts. Let’s imagine there was a way to siphon off desirable traits from other people, and intravenously place them in ourselves; would you do it? It’s tempting, isn’t it? I would be a beautiful, young, smart, rich chanteuse. Alas, no matter how good I looked or sang, eventually it would fade. Even those plastic-surgery altered bodies will sag, or they’ll desire to look like some new “hottie“. God made us all in His image, His spiritual image. So, while our exteriors vary wildly, we all have the option to invite His Holy Spirit into our interiors. Sadly, many of these dissatisfied people would mock that eternal invitation. If I were to tell these same folks that I knew how fill myself with wisdom, knowledge, faith, healing, miraculous powers, prophecy and much more, their ears might perk up for a while, then chuckle smugly when I told them they were all freely available from God…no scalpels needed! Oh the lengths we go to find happiness, temporal as it may be, when eternal joy, with all its supernatural gifts, is genuine and costs nothing . Why settle for an infilling that will crumble, fail, sag and die…instead, be like Micah 3:8 as he proudly urges us, “But as for me, I am filled with power--with the Spirit of the LORD.”
Wednesday, September 5, 2012
“Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord.” Ephesians 5:21-32. If there is one verse, that most women would love to eliminate from scripture, this is it. That little misinterpreted word, submit, is the culprit, and we can’t get beyond it. Let me “submit” to you what God really wants us to know about this controversial phrase.
When Paul wrote this, the worldwide state of marriage, within the three major population groups, Jewish, Roman and Greek had fallen into a horrible mess. The Jews, and by that I mean the men, had had only one reason for obtaining a divorce, indecency. “If a man marries a woman who becomes displeasing to him because he finds something indecent about her, and he writes her a certificate of divorce, gives it to her and sends her from his house..” Deut. 24:1. An indecency originally meant only adultery, but as “learned” men intervened, it became anything a husband found unpleasing about his wife. The Greeks kept their wives at home, in private apartments, where they raised children and saw to the household. Wives didn’t get out much, but the men rounded out their own lives with prostitutes and concubines. The lusty Romans, men and women, married over and over, some up to 20+ times.
Needless to say, the idea of a loving, equally beneficial, covenant-based relationship was unheard of. Enter Christianity with a brand new doctrine of equality and mutual submission: wives to husbands, husbands to wives and both to Christ. Which brings us back to that pesky word, Submit. You’ll notice it says, “as unto the Lord”. Jesus has all of our best interests at heart, he wants to fulfill, encourage and love us, always. Who wouldn’t want to yield or submit oneself in that kind of a relationship? Now, here’s the clincher, our husbands, who are to be in submission to Christ, are to love us exactly the same way as Jesus does, even to the point of laying down their lives.
We should be celebrating, instead of balking at a misunderstood word. Sadly, we are not taught our true roles, within Christian marriage, very well. Submitting does not mean the wife becomes a doormat for the husband, nor that she has no say in marital decisions. Under God’s perfect plan for marriage all things work together for the common good. Get in the word and check it out for yourself, then begin, you and your spouse, to implement this fantastic plan.
Tuesday, September 4, 2012
Scripture says that God “draws“ us to him. “For no one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them to me, and at the last day I will raise them up.” John 6:44. It’s interesting that of the three Greek words for the verb “to draw“, helkuo, the one used here, is the strongest. Literally it means “to tug, draw, or compel,” and is found 6 times in the New Testament. In each usage, the thing that was drawn, came; there is never a suggestion or hint that whatever was drawn was not accomplished. If you can imagine pulling a burlap sack of rocks across a long, rough expanse, you can get a better picture. The one doing the drawing has to use enough force to overcome the friction between the object drawn, and the surface on which it rests. Jesus, in essence is telling us that he knows how difficult it is for us to totally relinquish the hold we have on our lives, and things of this world. It’s what we know, and what is so familiar, no matter how appealing or rewarding life in Christ might be. Still, as long as there is even a tiny bit of interest, or searching, on our parts, God keeps pulling us in that sack, over rocky spots, mud puddles and briar patches, until we are safely home. Yes, the draw may leave us bumped and bruised, but the joy of being raised with Christ one day, makes it all worthwhile!