Friday, July 31, 2009
There are several factors we allow to define reality for us. Some define reality based on their circumstances. They live life merely reacting the things going on around them. These postmodernists spend each day checking the baromoeter of events that happen to them and around them, in an effort to determine the current pressure of life and how to live with that pressure. Some define reality based on their emotions - how they feel. These romanticists constantly take their emotion temperature and decide what do think and do as a result.
I think God has given to us a far greater tool for life - our minds. While a barometer and thermometer merely MEASURE what is going on around us, our minds are like a THERMOSTAT that adjusts our emotions and the perception of our circumstances arond a constant or standard of truth, God's Word.
I have learned that much of life, for me at least, is a battle between what I KNOW and what I feel. Proverbs 23:7 is a challenge to me to protect my thinking and my attitude so that I am not effected by my emotions or circumstances, but rather I rise above them and see that God is at work in these things in His plan to mold me and shape me.
Lord, by your grace, please help me keep my thinking pure and focused on you. Help me to think Your thoughts and become who You want me to be.
Friday, July 24, 2009
When you hear the word "REVIVAL" what comes to mind? For some it may be a tent, loud music, and polyester clad preacher bringing hellfire and brimstone. For others, it may be a week (used to be two) or worse yet, three or four nights of meetings a church preached at by a visiting preacher whom we pay to make us feel guilty and change our wicked ways.
However, consider this quote from Stephen Olford: "Revival is not some . . . worked up excitement; it is . . . an invasion from heaven that brings to man a conscious awareness of God."
I think that 21st Century Christians have some serious misconceptions about revival. First, revival is not an EVENT, but an ongoing PROCESS. Revival does not take place in three or four days, but it is rather a lingering time of the Holy Spirit's work in our lives.
In addition, revival does not occur on a churches SCHEDULE but is rather a sovereign WORK OF GOD. We can plan meetings, but without God's anointing, they are just that . . . meetings. A boring, colossal waste of time as well. On the other hand, God can pour out His Spirit at anytime, whether or not we have place Him on our calendars.
Moreover, revival does not happen to CONGREGATIONS but instead it happens to INDIVIDUALS that comprise the congregation. Let me explain. All too often, when we think of revival we hope that something happens to our congregation. What we should be praying for is that something happens in OUR INDIVIDUAL LIVES. We may find it easier to pray, "God, clean them up" than to pray "God, change me."
Since revival is a sovereign work of God, and since we cannot "plan" it, then what role do we play in revival? We can prepare ourselves so that we are ready should God choose to pour out that blessing on us. He wants to. He is looking for people who long for revival.
2 Chronicles 7:14 is the classic Scripture concerning revival:
…if My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.
Notice that God places the onus for revival squarely upon His people, and He shares some conditions simple to understand but difficult to implement.
Humble ourselves – the willingness to admit that I (not others, but me) am not right and I desperately need God to clean me up.
Pray – not once, not twice, but continually. Not giving lip service to prayer, but sacrificing time and effort to devote myself to prayer, I will commit myself to pray until I experience revival.
Seek God's face –Of course, God is a Spirit, but this anthropomorphism reminds me that the goal of revival is not to bring God to me, but to bring me to God. In that figurative sense, wherever God's face is, there He is as well. Therefore, revival comes when I align myself with God.
Turn from wicked ways – "Wicked" sounds a lot like "wicker." Wicker is twisted and contorted to form whatever shape the worker desires. Our ways are wicked when we twist, contort, and shape our lives to please ourselves rather than God. Revival ALWAYS yields changes of mind, heart, and ACTION. We feel differently, we think differently, and an obvious difference in the way we conduct ourselves. True revival bears visible and lasting fruit.
Do you long for a fresh encounter with God? Do you possess a strong desire to experience true revival in your community and in your church? I sure do, but first I am praying, "Lord, let revival come FIRST to the man I look at in the mirror every morning. He needs it more than anyone I know."
Tuesday, July 21, 2009
It is not always going to be this way, you know. I am talking about whatever trial or hardship you are going through – it will not always be that way. Sometimes in the middle of hardship and suffering we lose perspective. It seems as though we are trapped in a quagmire of pain and heartache.
Isaiah was prophesying to a group of people who would lose their homeland, their freedom, their dignity, and of course be taken away from their temple – the place where God resided. They would be taken to a strange land, assimilated into a strange culture far from home, far from familiarity, and yes, seemingly far from God.
But Isaiah was telling them that it would not always be that way. God would come and save them from their desperate circumstances. In fact from his prophecy to them we can gain encouragement that through all of our trial God promises us three things.
First we are promised restoration. In the first 2 verses of the chapter, Isaiah paints a word picture of a place that once was a barren wasteland now suddenly verdant and blooming and fruitful. The same wasteland that they had traveled over on their way to exile would look far different on their way back home. Isn’t that the way it always is? Circumstances on the front end of a struggle look so different than they do coming out of the struggle. God promises that the dry, barren waste that we may feel spiritually will not always be there, but He will replace our wilderness with His wonder.
Also, we are promised reward. Look at that description: weak hands, feeble knees, fearful hearts. Been there, done that, have the scars. How about you? God is saying to those who feel beaten down, used up, and vulnerable through and through that He will make things right. That is what retribution is all about – not necessarily getting even with those who have wronged us, but making the wrongs right again. He promises to do that. So be encouraged.
Then finally we are promised rejoicing. He promised those exiles that they would go back to Zion. Zion was one of three mountains on which the city of Jerusalem was built, and it was the mountain on which was built the temple – to the Jewish heart it was the dwelling place of God. He was promising more than a return to a premises, He was promising a return to a presence – the presence of God. He was promising a return to the fellowship between God and His people. The return to Zion would be marked by singing, everlasting joy, gladness, and the absence of sorrow and sighing. In other words, a joyful return. A song that was sung at the temple’s dedication includes the verse “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.” (Psalm 30:5). Things may be painful right now, but eventually God will bring you through your trial and make it a blessing. What is causing you pain now will result in joy soon. Hang in there!
In your difficulties, hold on. God knows, God hears, God sees. God is coming. He will come and save you!
Friday, July 17, 2009
I received some sad news this week. A grandson of some good friends of mine from North Georgia died as a result of injuries he sustained in an automobile accident. He held on with the help of life support for several days, but eventually went home to be with the Lord. He was only 30 years old.
Tragic events like this always bring to the surface a question that has plagued humanity for millennia: how could a loving, all-powerful God allow bad things to happen?
While the narrative of God's Word takes us all the way back to the beginning at creation, many scholars believe that the book of Job was actually the first Bible book written. The entire book deals with the same question – why does God allow suffering.
Job was a righteous man, yet he experienced a great deal of sorrow. First, he lost his wealth, then his family, then his own health. To make matters worse, his friends gathered around not to offer encouragement, but to question his integrity. People of Job's day were the ultimate pragmatists: if things were going your way, you must be a good person; if things were going against you, you must be a bad person. In their eyes, Job must have been hiding something. Job, however, knew his integrity was intact and could not understand why all these things were happening to him.
The story reached its climax when Job finally spilled his emotions and questions to God and received an answer from God. God reminded Job of His sovereignty and Job's lack of same. Gripped with conviction, Job responded thusly:
Then Job replied to the LORD: "I know that you can do all things;
no plan of yours can be thwarted.
You asked, 'Who is this that obscures my counsel without knowledge?' Surely I spoke of things I
did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know.
You said, 'Listen now, and I will speak; I will question you, and you shall answer me.'
My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you.
Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes." – Job 42:1-6
What can we learn from Job that helps us makes sense when tragedy strikes? May I suggest five truths to which we can cling?
First, we can know that God ALWAYS has a plan. Nothing is NEVER happening; something is always going on. Job recognized that God was doing something all along, even though he could not discern it.
Second, we can know that nothing can thwart God's plan. God is ultimately sovereign and nothing ever catches Him by surprise. Everything that happens, even tragedy, first passes through the filter of God's sovereign will. If human hands could mess up God's plan, He wouldn't be God, now would He?
Third, we can know that human minds cannot always understand God's plan. God thoughts are way above ours, and we only see a part of the bigger picture. God sees all and knows all; we certainly do not. Often when something bad happens, God is producing a blessing in disguise – preventing something worse, or teach us a lesson that we would not otherwise learn.
Fourth, we can know that even in our heartache, God is always present with us. He is our VERY PRESENT help in time of trouble (Psalm 46:1). Job said, "I had heard of You, but now my eyes have seen You." Through this experience, Job discovered the power and presence of God in a way he never had. God is always with us – rain or shine.
Then finally, we can know that God is ALWAYS right. Job's friends were wrong about Job's integrity, Job was wrong in His calculation of God's care, but in the end, we all see that GOD is right to do what He does; it is a part of His essential nature always to do what is right, good, and best. We can trust Him even when our circumstances scream at us to do otherwise.
So, for all of us who struggle from time to time to make sense of things happening around us, we can anchor our faith squarely and firmly in a God who knows all, sees all, and always does best.
Tuesday, July 14, 2009
As I got to thinking about that episode, it reminded me of a spiritual reality we all face: we want to do right, but sometimes doing right is difficult. Even Paul had this problem:
For I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my flesh. For the desire to do what is good is with me, but there is no ability to do it. For I do not do the good that I want to do, but I practice the evil that I do not want to do. – Romans 7:18-19
Basically Paul was saying the same thing that you and I experience on a regular basis: I don't do the things I know I need to do, and I constantly do things I know I shouldn't do. I can't seem to find the gumption to resist the bad and to do the good. I think we can all identify with that struggle.
So, what is the answer? Let me suggest three truths for consideration:
First, we need to recognize the power of sin in our flesh. Born again or not we need to recognize that our flesh still wages war against our spirit. We are sinners by nature and that sinful nature does not give up easily, if at all. On Calvary Christ saved us from the penalty of sin, but until we find our home in heaven we will always deal with the presence of sin.
Second, we need to remember the power of grace found in Christ. While our bodies battle our spirit, we know that ultimately victory is ours in Jesus. The blood of Jesus has covered our sins, and in His name, we can claim victory over temptation when we call on Him for help in those tempting times. Grace doesn't just provide forgiveness, it also give us the power to resist sin. Grace is both curative and preventative.
Third, we need to realize the process of sanctification through the Holy Spirit. Sanctification is one of those big theological words for the process of growth that God wants to do in our lives. Day by day, as we read God's Word and apply it to our life experience, God causes us to become more like Jesus. That is why Bible study and daily prayer is so very important. As we grow and become spiritually stronger, God enables us to experience more and more victory over sin. Thanks be to Him.
The process of sanctification requires discipline on our part. Even when we don't "feel" like it, we forge ahead. Amazingly, with practice, our mind and heart can overcome our fleshly urges, but we must choose to take this gift given to us through Christ and His Spirit living in us.
So even when you don't feel like doing good, tell your body that you are going to do good anyway. Pray and ask Christ to give you the strength to stand and He will.
Tuesday, July 07, 2009
I remember during my childhood, the going thing in church-life was End Times Prophecy. During the late sixties and through the seventies, books such as Hal Lindsey's Late Great Planet Earth, and movies like Thief in the Night supplemented preaching on the return of Christ. Questions about how and when the world would end captivated the imaginations of Christians and non-Christians alike. The books, movies, and sermons warned us – often and emphatically – that Jesus could return at any moment and we best be ready.
This emphasis had begun to wane when in 1988 a man published a book titled 88 Reasons Why the Rapture Will Be in 1988. He claimed that Jesus would return in September of that year and that World War 3 would begin on the evening of October 3rd. Of course, none of that happened, so the same man wrote another book in 1989 titled The Final Shout: Rapture Report 1989 in which he explained what went wrong. He made a rather "bold" (insert sarcasm here) statement at the books conclusion when he wrote, Jesus is coming, and I would give it at least a 50% chance in 1989..." I guess he covered his bases with that one.
Preacher after preacher, book after book, movie after movie warned us that Jesus was returning at any moment. Yet, He didn't. Unfortunately, the result is that the church has treated the message in a "boy who cried wolf fashion." I believe that we have lost the sense of urgency we once felt.
We do not know when Jesus is returning, but the Bible clearly teaches is that HE IS. In fact, He is returning when we least expect it – like these days – and we need to be ready. Eventually one of two things will take place, and could happen at a moment's notice without any warning whatsoever: either Jesus will return or we will face death and slip off into eternity to meet Him there. Think about the following and assess your readiness.
If Jesus returned RIGHT NOW . . . in what condition would He find your soul? Do you belong to Him? Has there been a discernable time in your life when you recognized that your sin separated you from God and that Jesus' death paid the price for that sin? Have you asked Jesus to come into your life, forgive your sins, and take over control? If not, why not do that right now, where you are. There is no reason at all that your soul cannot be ready to face Jesus at this very moment.
If Jesus returned RIGHT NOW . . . in what condition would He find your heart? Have you drifted away from God? Have things or other people become more important to you that Him? Have bad attitudes and thoughts crowded Him out of your life? If you ask Him to forgive you, He will help clean out all of that and take His rightful place in your life.
If Jesus returned RIGHT NOW . . . in what condition would He find your life? Are you doing those things He has told you to do? Are you availing yourself to the opportunities your days present on the job, at school, as you go about your way to serve others in Jesus' name? To stand for God's truth? To speak a word of testimony about the grace of God found in Jesus?
Does the thought of Jesus returning right now bring JOY or FEAR?
Are you ready?
Friday, July 03, 2009
Most of us are aware that Betsy Ross sewed our first flag in May of 1776. But why the particular design and why the particular colors? Were these the only materials she had available to her? Were they just her favorite colors? The colors bear significance, and we do well to remember the significance every time we see a U.S. flag.
First, red reminds us of a price. Red is the color of blood and the red stripes remind us of the many men and women who have shed their blood to win, maintain, and spread this blessing that we call freedom. The price paid was expensive – no value can be assigned to a human life; and the worth of something is measured by the price paid on its behalf. So we remember that freedom – liberty – is of inestimable worth, because thousands of men and women have paid for it by their own lives. We must never take our freedoms for granted. In addition, having tasted that freedom for ourselves we must not rest until people everywhere have the same opportunity to enjoy freedom's benefits.
The white on our flag reminds us of principles. Regardless of what those who attempt to rewrite history may say, the Founders established our country on God's moral principles. God blesses us when we walk in His path. We enjoy today the benefits of a society firmly rooted and grounded in God's principles of right, wrong, justice, and mercy. God said in Deuteronomy 30:19-20:
Today I have given you the choice between life and death, between blessings and curses. I call on heaven and earth to witness the choice you make. Oh, that you would choose life, that you and your descendants might live! Choose to love the Lord your God, and to obey Him and to commit yourself to Him for He is your life.
As long as we uphold and live by God's standards, His blessing will be upon us. Should we continue to choose to walk another path, live according to our own desires and understandings, the windows of heaven can and will close.
Finally, the blue on the flag reminds us of the product of the paid price and the principles on which we have stood. The product is our affluence. God has indeed blessed this country unlike any other on the face of this earth. I think it is safe to say that even the poorest among us have a better life than many who live on the earth today. Many who fall beneath the poverty line in our country would be worse of to trade places with most people in third world countries. Our affluence carries with it two awesome responsibilities. First is the responsibility to be thankful – to recognize that God the source of all that we have. Unfortunately, our affluence often turns our attention to ourselves. We seek to gain more or at least protect what we have. We get a silly notion that our hard work, ingenuity, skills, or even just plain "luck" have provided for us. Nothing could be further from the truth. "The earth is the Lord's and all the fullness in it," the psalmist tells us. We would do well to remember that and to be thankful.
Our affluence also carries the responsibility of sharing our blessings with others. God made Abraham three promises: He would bless him, He would make him a blessing to others, and He would bless those who blessed Abraham and curse those who didn't. I think that promise comes from the central nature and character of God. He also has blessed us so that He can make us a blessing. He has invested in us so that we can be His tool to bless others. Moreover, I have noticed that God has a way of protecting His investment.
We as individuals as well as collectively as a nation have the responsibility to use our affluence to reach down and lift those less fortunate. We lift them so that we can walk side by side shoulder to shoulder through this life. God has blessed us, we are thankful, and we should be proactively generous as well.
I challenge you, when you see the U.S. flag, remember the price paid for our freedom, recommit to the principles God has established for our good, and recognize our responsibility to share in the product of God's blessing on our country.
May God continue to bless America so that we can be a blessing to Him and for Him.