Saturday, May 20, 2017

Do We Really See Ourselves?

"You are of purer eyes than to see evil and cannot look at wrong, why do you idly look at traitors and remain silent when the wicked swallows up the man more righteous than he?" - Habakkuk 1:13

This verse is somewhat difficult for me to fully comprehend but AW Tozer offers this insight below:
"I must come to the point where I view iniquity as God views it, and treat it as God treats it.  I am not thinking of looking on other people's iniquity, but on the iniquity that haunts the corridors of my own soul.  It is one thing to point on iniquity in someone else's life, and tell him what God thinks of it; but it is another thing altogether to point out the iniquity in my own life and understand that God cannot look on that iniquity." - AW Tozer

You see, God cannot stand the sight of evil.  We often picture evil as thieves, adulterers, murderers, and other criminals.  And while doing so we neglect to see the faults in our lives, the evil and wrong inside of us.  We are all sinners (Romans 3:23) and have darkness in us that we often times refuse to look at and see.

And during these times of political correctness and the values that are being fought for on the national stage, we often are very quick, and sometimes too harsh, on attacking the wrong we see in others.  I am in no way saying that Christians should not be standing up for what the Bible says about the wrongness of abortion, sins of sexuality, and other things; but I am saying that we cannot approach others with a "holier than thou" attitude and expect solutions.  These answers must be given in love and humility knowing that we too have our own faults.

I cannot read and write this without examining myself and my own life.  I believe that my worst sin is pride.  Yes, I've done some good things and I do believe that I would have an impressive resume of achievements per say (See, I told you so).  But I also know what happens when I get too many pats on the back.  I get comfortable and cocky.  I begin to think that work is easy, that staying in shape is easy, that ministry is easy, that life is easy; and worst of all that I AM good at it.  I must be reminded and remind myself that if I can do all things through Christ, that I can do nothing in and of myself.  HE MUST be my source of strength.  I want to be successful at everything and able to always shoulder the load, but there are times when I can't.  I hate those times, but they are often when God is reigning me back in and reminding me that he is the worker and I am merely the tool. 

Tozer's prayer closed like this, "O Heavenly Father, help me to view my sin from Thy point of view.  Do not allow me to underestimate the horror of my sin.  Let me never become adjusted to the error of my way, but may I lean heavily upon Thy grace.  Amen"

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Worship > Fellowship

I believe that worship, true worship of God, is more important than fellowship with other believers.  Now I'm not saying that fellowship and relationships aren't important.  But I am saying that if I'm not worshiping God, if I'm not right with him, then my other relationships can't be right.  My fellowship and worship with him is more important than my relationship with my wife, my son, family, friends, my church, and my community. 

Think about it.  How can I love my wife like Christ loved the church if I don't love Christ?  I wouldn't know how to love without knowing him. 

Why should she submit to me if I'm not worth submitting to?  And yes I do believes wives should submit, but I also believe that won't be an issue as long as she's submitting to a godly husband.  (Ephesians 5:22-25)

Our love for others must flow from our love and worship of God.  1 John 4:19-21 reads, "We love because he first loved us.  If anyone says, "I love God," and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.  And this commandment we have from him: whoever loved God must also love his brother."

Monday, May 15, 2017

What is Church?

I am part of our church's pastor search committee.  As a member of that committee I have spent more time recently in thought and prayer about what a worship service should be like, about pastor styles, and even about church styles.  I don't know if my personal beliefs about church and worship are considered by some to be right or wrong.  But that's the thing, they are MY personal beliefs and how I feel led to worship our Creator God.

In having the opportunity to hear a few different pastors preach, and see some different services while visiting family churches, I have learned that you don't know your best/favorite/greatest personal worship style until you try several out.  The most effective worship style for you is one that brings you into the closest presence of God that you can experience.  That may be traditional hymns, long prayers, soft background music, or loud music, hand raising, and lights.  Or it could be some blend of the two that brings you into God's presence.  The most important thing is that you get there, not how you do it.

I'm a small town and small church kind of guy.  But that doesn't mean that "big" churches aren't right for some people.  It was really interesting for me to watch people at the large church we were at recently and see young people in suits, old people in jeans and t-shirts, some folks in shorts, and others in khakis and polo shirts.  To me, church is supposed to be a group of people with the same beliefs, not the same styles.  You can dress in the finest three piece suit they make and show up at church, but if your heart isn't right, you won't be there to worship.  Likewise, you may go in shorts and a t-shirt and have one of the most moving worship experiences of your life.  As Christians, we all know, and preach, that it's what's on the inside that counts.  But then we get upset over what so and so wears to church and we wonder why the world sees us as hypocrites. 

I strongly believe in leading by example.  As a Christian, I am supposed to pattern my life after my example, Jesus Christ.  I'm supposed to follow him and set an example for my friends, my family, for the lost around me, and especially for my son as he grows up.  So Sunday at church, I don't know what kind of clothes I'll show up in.  But I do know this, I will have done absolutely everything I could that morning to prepare my heart to be there to worship God.  My job has a dress code, my church will not.

Will you join me in gathering to worship God, learn His Word, and fellowship with believers regardless of what it all looks or sounds like? 

Monday, April 24, 2017

Wait on God - Proverbs 19:2

"Desire without knowledge is not good, and whoever makes haste with his feet misses his way." - Proverbs 19:2.  Another version of this verse I read went this way, "If you are too eager, you will miss the road."

I realize that I am more in the want it now mentality than I should be.  I want our house completed sooner, I want my career to advance quicker, I want my fitness to get to the next level faster, and I could go on and on.  The problem with all of these statements is not the end results, it's the subject, "I."  These are things that I want.  They are not necessarily the things that God wants for my life right now.  That doesn't mean that I won't be back out of my parents' house soon, that I'll begin to flounder from job to job with little success, or that I'll get fat and out of shape in the next few months or years. 

But it does mean that I may be putting my wants ahead of God's plans.  God puts us where He wants, when He wants, how He wants.  I was listening to a devotional by Charles Stanley Monday morning that talked about how David was anointed king long before he would ever assume the role.  He spent many years serving God in seemingly insignificant ways while developing into a great man.  Through his story, we too can see that following God's purpose and timing for your life is the surest pathway to success.

Forgive me for not being more patient with your plans and for not trusting your timing always.  Thank you for pulling back the reins when necessary and preparing and equipping me to face the obstacles coming my way.  Help me not to be too eager Father, and to never miss the road of life that you have planned out for me.  Amen.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Happy Easter 2017

Think about the events of the past few days some 2000 years ago.  On Friday, Satan managed to kill Jesus Christ, the Son of God.  I believe that on that Friday the devil was rejoicing and believed that he had won a major battle against God.  Then Saturday is relatively quiet and uneventful when Satan is still likely riding on cloud nine.  But then Sunday morning comes...

As Satan checks the tomb along with others they see that the body is gone.  The game of chess has turned.  Satan had just a day before said "check" to God while Jesus was taking the brunt of our sins on His body and breathed his last.  But then that glorious Easter morning, God replies, "checkmate."  He has conquered sin and death.  He took the devil's best shot and overcame it!

But it gets better.  "Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends" - John 15:13.  We know that Jesus laid down his life, but who are his friends? 

We know, the Bible tells us.  This is not a mystery.  John 15:15-16 read, "No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.  You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you."

The breakdown:
- Jesus laid down his life for his friends.
- We are his friends, no longer called servants.
- He has told us what He knows through the Bible, prayer, and the Holy Spirit.
- Our faith and belief in God does not start with us.  It starts with Him, He chose us.  He chose to suffer, chose to die, chose to rise!
- He wants us to be fruitful and abide in Him.
- He will give us what we ask for in the Father's name.

Heavenly Father,
Forgive me for not celebrating Easter more than Christmas.  I know that without the birth there could be no resurrection.  But I also realize how amazing the resurrection is.  It's the biggest victory in history, the biggest comeback ever.  Jesus was dead, it was finished.  But God wasn't done.  He had a plan and raised His Son from the grave in a nearly incomprehensible show of strength and power.  Thank you Lord for that victory.  And thank you for choosing a sinner like me to call friend.  Amen.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Love One Another

"By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another." - John 13:35

"John 13:35 says the world will know we are Christians by our love for each other.  If a nonbeliever were to observe the relationships within your small group, your ministry team or your church, what would they conclude about Jesus?" - Disciples Path

Many churches will have visitors for activities on Saturday and worship services on Sunday.  Many of us will be stressed from cleaning, cooking, and planning for the crowds and events.  But that stress doesn't give us the option of not showing love to one another.  We must love one another always in order to show Jesus in all ways.

I know that I fail far too regularly at slowing down and letting people know that I care.  I get too caught up in getting things done, checking off the task at hand, or focusing on the next goal to sometimes slow down and realize that if it weren't for the PEOPLE around me, none of those things would matter.  What good are accomplishments or success without others to share it with?  The stuff that we (as in I) get most worked up and worried about are often truly interchangeable.  Loans, workouts, cars, house stuff...all of those can be swapped and moved around with little consequence.  But the people around me at work, the gym, and especially at home are what really make any success or enjoyment in those things matter.

So to all my co-workers, friends, and family, thank you.  I'm sorry that I don't slow down and show love and compassion enough.  But I'm thankful for times where God brings my faults to my attention and extends His grace and mercy.  Show love to others this weekend.  Easter is the greatest moment in history, the moment when Jesus (man) defeated sin and death.  What's not to love about that?

Friday, April 7, 2017

My Thoughts on Syrian Air Strike

I have a tendency at times to over-simplify things.  I understand that there are many big things at play beyond my comprehension in this strike but let me attempt to break it down a little better.  Here is a quote from an article on this morning: "The Obama administration threatened to attack Assad's forces for previous chemical weapons attacks, but never followed through."  That has gone on for several years since around 2013.

Here's the simple personalized breakdown: If I tell my 2 year old that if he misbehaves I'll give him a spanking and he keeps doing it but I fail to spank him, what lesson do you think he will learn?  The USA had to respond to Syria's continued refusal to follow warnings.  Folks, they used this air base to launch a nerve gas attack on civilians including children.  They say a picture is worth a thousand words and maybe those pictures of innocent children struggling to breathe are what finally pushed the USA to action.

Now I don't want us to be at war anymore than someone else.  Heck, my brother-in-law is currently deployed with the Marines somewhere, most likely near Syria if I had to bet.  I don't want that for him or my family, especially my wife.  But consider this.  If there is going to be a fight, do you want the fight to be at the expense of someone else or your own family?  Do you want a war in your backyard or somewhere else?

I will take care of my family and I believe our country should take care of our citizens first.  "But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever." - 1 Timothy 5:8

We need to pray for the innocent victims of this act (if any), the war in Syria, the war on terror, and those directly involved in the action.  We also need to pray for our leaders, our soldiers, and our citizens.  I don't know what will happen next, but I pray that we are in God's hands.