Monday, May 6, 2019

Under Attack


There have been recent reports in the news about an upswing in persecution against Christians around the world, primarily in China and the Middle East. Even in the United States the government is considering extending funding for churches to enhance security, due to the recent rise of violence. However, we as believers have always known that the we are under attack. So what can we do to protect ourselves?

1 Peter 5:8-10 (ESV)  advises, “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world.  And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.”

We should be alert and when we identify our enemy we need to be on our guard against him remembering we do not fight our foe on our own but with a strong throng of fellow believers. For enduring we will be restored, strengthened, confirmed and established by our loving Father.

2 Thessalonians 3:3 (ESV) encourages us, “But the Lord is faithful. He will establish you and guard you against the evil one.”
[Prayer]: Lord, make me wise to the schemes of my adversary and strengthen me to resist him firm in my faith. Protect my persecuted brothers and sisters around the world who are living their lives for you in the midst of great peril. Preserve your people and establish your church. In the mighty name of Jesus I pray, amen.

Thursday, May 2, 2019

Take Time to Train

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About six months ago, I started going to the gym, after nearly 3 decades without a fitness regime. It is quite inspiring and a little intimidating how dedicated some individuals (even older than me) are about maintaining their physical form. This truly is good for both a healthy body and mind, however 1 Timothy 4:8 (ESV) reminds us, “for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.”

So godliness is of greater value than even our physical exercise, but like going to the gym we also need to train our minds in order to better walk the walk of faith. 2 Timothy 3:16 (ESV) outlines that “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,”

In order to truly excel in our Christian faith we need to pursue training in righteousness. This includes daily time in the Word for personal edification as well as some sort of organized group Bible study to both learn from and share your insights with others.

My muscles don’t get stronger just because I have a gym membership, but because I go there three times a week and lift heavy weights. It’s not always fun but the benefits, like regular prayer and time in the scriptures, provide a blessing I can enjoy every day.

[Prayer]: Father, help me to become a better student of Your Word. Teach me and train me daily to learn your ways so that I may grow stronger and better able to mentor others. In Jesus, mighty name, amen.

Monday, April 29, 2019

Let Things Settle

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If you take a jar and fill it nearly to the top with small rocks, then pour in sand, the sand will quickly overflow out the opening. However, if you take and gently shake the glass, the sand that pooled at the top will settle between the rocks to the bottom. In much the same way, we can often be tempted to react too quickly to an event because it seems overwhelming. In kind, if we allow the emotion and intensity of the initial situation to subside, we will find that the glass truly is only half full.


The other day I woke up feeling very angry with my wife. Wisely, I gave myself some time and space to process the situation. It took the better part of the day for the intense emotions of the early morning to finally settle down. My wife and eventually discussed things and resolved the issues that bothered me.


James 1:19 (ESV) instructs, “Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger;” and Proverbs 15:18 (ESV) also adds, “A hot-tempered man stirs up strife, but he who is slow to anger quiets contention.”


When we take time to assess our circumstances before we act or speak, we exhibit great wisdom and mirror the very character of God our Father. Psalm 103:8 (ESV) extols, “The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.”


Great regrets can be avoided by simply giving yourself the gift of time whenever faced with overwhelming strife or struggles.


[Prayer]: Father, help me to plan now for how I will respond in the heat of the moment later, so that my patient reply will be practiced and perfected. Allow me to reflect your demeanor of mercy and  grace to all I encounter in every circumstance. In Jesus mighty name, amen.

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Control the Flow

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When I was a kid I used to take baths and would stay in the tub until the last drops of water circled down the drain. I would create waves toward the drain trying to make the water swerve away faster, however no matter how hard I tried, the water still drained at the same speed.
What I didn’t realize was the simple science at work which was the drain size dictated the speed of the water volume passing through it. As long as the size remained constant so would the speed of the escaping water.


In our modern age of mass media and up to the second news reports, we often try to process information the same way I tried to make the water in my tub disappear, as fast as we can. And just as the drain size dictated the speed of flow of the H20, our heart, mind and spirit can only absorb and process information at a certain rate. Our fact digestion speed is also affected by the severity of the news (tragic events like 9/11 or Columbine) and whether or not we are personally impacted by those circumstances.


Philippians 4:9 (ESV) reminds us, “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”


It’s not always easy to find honorable, pure and lovely things to balance the wicked, cruel and unjust reports that daily bombard us. In order to balance the flow sometimes we just need to turn off the news and take a break from current events. Don’t worry, if it’s really important, someone will share the headlines with you. We can’t control the rate at which we process information, but we can manage the quality of the water that flows into our souls.

[Prayer]: Father, help me to be more discerning about what I allow to enter my mind. Allow me to retrain my focus upon things commendable and worthy of praise. Above all may I meditate upon your Word day and night. In Jesus, mighty name. Amen.

Friday, April 19, 2019

Hard Truths of the Bible: Homosexuality

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Welcome to the Hard Truth’s of the Bible series where this week we will tackle the topic of homosexuality. Today we’ll answer the divisive question: Does God hate homosexuals? We’ll explore what the Bible says about homosexuals and clarify some of the misinformation surrounding Christianity and this topic. As always before we begin, let’s first pray in order to invite the Holy Spirit’s guidance as we look at this Hard Truth of the Bible.


[Prayer]:Jesus, thank you that we can ask you anything, even about the most difficult topics of our day. Holy Spirit reveal the Father’s heart that openly shares His love to sinners that we may know you better. Give us understanding about the subject of homosexuality and how we can best share your love with everyone. In the mighty name of Jesus I pray, amen.


As we begin, let me first set some parameters for our exploration. We’re not going to address the subject of nature vs nurture, meaning are people born as a homosexual or do they become that way from the influences around them as they grow. This is an often asked question, but one that I believe falls under the definition of a detail about homosexuality, whereas today I’d like us to look at this topic from a more broad view.


Before we look at what’s not allowed, let’s first look at God’s plan. He established marriage between a man and a woman and within marriage the physical act of making love is blessed. As the old saying goes, God created Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve.


Genesis 2:24 directs, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.”


God didn’t say it wasn’t possible for people to have sex in other ways, He just stated that the way He created sex to be blessed was between a man and a woman within the bond of matrimony. There is no hate ascribed to those from God if they choose sex in another manner.


Likewise in Leviticus 18:22 where God says, “Do not have sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman; that is detestable.”


He is not making a broad statement directed to those who decide not to follow God’s plan for sexual relations. God is specifically talking to the Israelites, His people, who He wants to live differently than the other nations around them, who practice different ways of having sex along with worshipping other gods.


Likewise in the New Testament we read in 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 (ESV) “Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.”


The Apostle Paul clarifies God’s heart to Christians. He’s not preaching to those who don’t subscribe to the precepts of God. Paul is pointing out that we should be careful of saying we are followers of Jesus and then live in a way that is not in keeping with Christ’s ways. Having sex different from the way God described in Genesis is only one on a long list of ways people could deceive themselves by living contrary to the life they say they are following as a Believer.


In the big picture this is no more a bash against homosexuality than it is berating people who steal or get drunk. God’s message is simply, be authentic. If you claim to be my people, than live in such a way that bears witness to this reality.


In Philippians 1:27 (ESV) Paul challenges, “Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel,”


Unfortunately these same scriptures are often used by people who say God hates homosexuals. This is Biblically untrue.


Scripturally, along with sin, there are seven things God hates, found in Proverbs 6:16-19 (ESV). “There are six things that the Lord hates, seven that are an abomination to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil, a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers.”


Notice there is no mention here at all of homosexuality. Why then is homosexuality such a heated and controversial subject?


Once again, we need to look at this from a bigger picture perspective. Ever since sin entered this world there has been enmity between God and the devil.


In Genesis 3:14-15 (ESV) The Lord God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, cursed are you above all livestock and above all beasts of the field; on your belly you shall go, and dust you shall eat all the days of your life. I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”


This is the root source of the divisiveness on this and every other topic. Satan has simply taken this matter and made it personal, yet we know from scripture, we don’t fight against flesh and blood.


Ephesians 6:12 (ESV) clarifies, “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.”


People that stir up controversy around this subject act as pawns of the enemy.


Romans 16:17 (ESV) warns, “I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them.”


People who don’t know or follow Christ have no other option because their hearts are enslaved by the world and the things in it. We who are no longer of the world should no longer live according to it.


Romans 6:18 (ESV) extols our condition, “and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness.”


Sadly, some who claim to be Christians speak in a way that Christ would never when they tell unbelievers that “God hates homosexuals.” Homosexuals are sinners like you and me and Christ died for all sinners.


1 Peter 3:18 (ESV) proclaims, “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit,”


No one would die for someone they hate, but the devil spreads this lie to sow dissension and discourage sinners from believing and receiving Christ’s love unto salvation.


This is the battle we as Believers must wage against the powers of darkness.


We must answer hate with love as it says in Matthew 6:35 (ESV) “But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil.”


When others want to argue with us about our stance on gay marriage we are not to engage them but simply kindly exit the conversation.


2 Timothy 2:23-25 (ESV) instructs, “Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies; you know that they breed quarrels. And the Lord's servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth,”


In all things we are to reflect Christ’s love, taking advantage of any opportunity to share the gospel with those amenable to hear.


In conclusion, God does not hate homosexuals. God hates sin and warns those that claim to be His followers that they need to live in accordance with His Word. Along with many statutes in the Bible that a Believer should follow is the one defining sex as a union blessed only in the marriage relationship between a man and a woman. Those that practice other forms of sexual relations are not villified or demonized any more than those who are greedy, slanderers or idolaters. And the passages in the Bible about such where never aimed at unbelievers but at those that claimed to follow God, but lived a contrary existence.


The only thing Christians need say to homosexuals or anyone else that does not know Christ is, “Jesus loves you, died for you and longs for you to be reconciled to God.

2 Peter 3:9 (ESV) sums it up nicely, “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance”


Let’s Pray. Father, teach us to be wise and discerning of the devil’s schemes. Let us not get caught up in senseless arguments but instead harvest every opportunity to share your love with sinners who so desperately need salvation. In the mighty name of Jesus I pray. Amen.

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Hard Truths of the Bible: Suffering

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Many years ago a controversial man and his friends traveled the world teaching and helping the less fortunate. Year after year the fame of the Teacher grew and so did his clashes with the authorities. One of the Teacher’s friends feared for his future and so for the price of a new set of clothes, made a deal with local rulers to betray his friend the Teacher. On a given night the betrayer was paid and then he led the Teacher right into a trap where he was arrested. The events that followed are graphic as the Teacher was beaten, tortured and eventually brought up on false charges and sentenced to death. The Teacher unjustly and unfairly suffered.

To one degree or another you too may have also experienced suffering in your life. If you have I am truly sorry for the events you have endured. In 1996, I experienced the deaths of three dear family and friends and also the breakup of my marriage. It was a year of unprecedented suffering that has yet to be rivaled in my near fifty years of life. Whenever we encounter such times of crisis, it is easy to wonder where God is in all of this. In today’s message, we will launch a series entitled,: “The Hard Truths of the Bible,” beginning with the topic of suffering.
In today’s message, we’ll aim to answer the question, “Why does God allow suffering?” That may be a tall order, but if God really is the God of the universe than I believe it is just fine for us to ask Him difficult and pointed questions. In so doing, however, we need to be open and ready to receive the answers to the Hard Truths of the Bible.

Let’s prepare our hearts in prayer. Lord, we come to you today wanting to find answers about the most challenging times of life. We want to understand where you fit into them and why you allow them to happen. Help us to keep our hearts and minds open as your Spirit leads and guides us. In Jesus mighty name I pray. Amen.

It’s important that we pray before tackling any of the Hard Truths of the Bible, not because they’re hard for God to answer, but because we can often be hardened in our thinking or in our hearts due to the difficult experiences we’ve had. When we approach God our heart must be open and expectant to receive from Him. No matter what He has to give us we must trust that God will impart it to us in a way we can receive and incorporate into our lives.

Hebrews 11:6 (ESV) states, “And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.”

Now that our hearts are open, let’s first flip this topic on it’s optimistic end and look at a few ways that God uses suffering for our benefit.

Arnold Schwarzenegger has excelled in many areas, acting, politics but before any of that he was a world recognized body builder. Arnold said that when he worked out, he didn’t even begin counting reps until it started to hurt. The burning we feel when we push our muscles to this place is the slight tearing of our muscle tissue. When we allow our muscles to rest and recover over the next 24-48 hours, the muscle heals by building new tissue in the space created by the torn tissue, thus making our muscles bigger and stronger. No one enjoys the pain of working out but the benefits are quite nice, like better health and a more toned physique. In some ways, suffering shares some similarities, although not usually better health and a sculpted body.

1st benefit: We gain strength when we survive our sufferings.

Romans 5:1-3 (ESV) promises, “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance,”

These events can make us wiser and better prepared to deal with future times of difficulty and challenge. I believe it is everyone’s responsibility to become a student of their own experiences, whether good or bad. We are all familiar with Albert Einstein’s successes, however, few recall that although he graduated from university, he was such a poor student that he nearly dropped out. His own father even died believing his son was a failure, a very heartbreaking assessment Einstein lived with for years. Had Albert camped out in this evaluation of his intellect, modern physics may never have benefited from his views on space, time, mass and energy. We gain strength when we learn from the lessons taught when we encounter tumultuous times.

2nd benefit:  Suffering allows us to help others when they go through similar circumstances.

No one has more clout in the eyes of a person struggling than someone who has similarly struggled in the same area. A friend of mine regularly attends AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) meetings and also meets with a sponsor (a seasoned AA member who mentors new members). His sponsor speaks with authority because of the trials he has conquered and even failed concerning his addiction. Never underestimate the opportunities you will have to help others simply for having survived your suffering. This is God’s economy in action.

2 Corinthians 1:3-4 (ESV) encourages, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.”

3rd benefit: Suffering allows us to experience God.

James 5:13 (ESV) simply states, “Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray.”

In 2018, Southwest flight 1380 experienced an engine explosion that tragically killed Jennifer Riordan (from Albuquerque) and had to make an emergency landing. Passengers interviewed after the crash reported that during the terrifying minutes before they landed everyone prayed, even if they didn’t know how, they would simply pray the Lord’s prayer they’d memorized as a child. God uses trials and calamities to show us both His ability and willingness to render aid.

Psalm 46:1 (ESV) extols, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.”

We’ve seen how God can use suffering to our benefit, now let’s dig into why God allows suffering at all. To answer this we must go back to where suffering first began. Genesis 3 details the entrance of sin into the world when man rebelled against God. The result of sin is affliction, suffering and death.

Genesis 3:16-19 (ESV) reports, “To the woman he said, “I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children. Your desire shall be contrary to your husband, but he shall rule over you.”
And to Adam he said, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you,‘You shall not eat of it,’cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”

The answer to our question is God never intended man’s suffering. He even tried to keep us from it by giving us guidelines on what not to do. The answer we may have difficulty accepting is we have suffering because man rebelled and all men have inherited this sin nature and the curse of affliction, suffering and death.

The good news is from the very inception of sin into the world, God was ready with a rescue plan in His son Jesus. Through Christ’s birth, death and resurrection we have a way of escape from an eternity of separation from God to a future of unending fellowship with the Father.

We opened today with a story about the Teacher who unjustly and unfairly suffered when his friend betrayed Him. In case you missed it, the man I mentioned was none other than Jesus. His disciple Judas turned on Him for a mere 30 pieces of silver (worth about $200 or the cost of a suit of clothes). Later, when Jesus hung on the cross, dying for humanity’s sins, His own Father, God also turned his back on His only son. Jesus can more than identify with us when we suffer.

Now suffering can hold the light of hope, instead of the dreariness of doom. This is not to say that now we should insanely look forward to afflictions or view them as fun. It just means that in the perspective of all things, we can find our strength in Christ and trust the hand of God to use the events of our trials for our and others ultimate benefit.

Romans 8:28 (ESV) promises, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”

As we conclude this first message on the Hard Truths of the Bible, maybe you aren’t satisfied with the answer I’ve outlined as to why God allows suffering. If that’s you, I encourage you to continue asking God to give you what you need until you better understand.

James 1:5 (ESV) instructs us, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.”

We may not fully comprehend God’s ways or plans until we see Him face to face. In the meantime, He invites us to give everything to Him that we don’t understand and that we can’t handle.

Matthew 11:28-29 (ESV) beckons, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”

When we suffer, remember we are not alone or without help or hope.

Let’s pray. Jesus, thank you for suffering and dying for me so that I might live. May I draw strength from you in my times of trouble and let me help others when they struggle. Give me wisdom when I encounter my trials and understanding about why we suffer. In Jesus, mighty name. Amen.

God, Hate & Homosexuality

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Many people hold the belief that God hates homosexuals. Biblically this could not be further from the truth. Proverbs 6:16-19 (ESV) details the things God hates and homosexuality is not listed among them, it states, “There are six things that the Lord hates, seven that are an abomination to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil, a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers.”


God established sex to be enjoyed between a man and a woman within the bond of marriage. In Leviticus 18:22 (ESV) where God says, “Do not have sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman; that is detestable.” He is not making a broad statement directed to those who decide not to follow God’s plan for sexual relations. God is specifically talking to the Israelites, His people, who He wants to live differently than the other nations around them who practice different ways of having sex along with worshipping other gods.


Homosexuals are sinners like you and me and Christ died for all sinners. 1 Peter 3:18 (ESV) proclaims, “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit,” No one would die for someone they hate, but the devil spreads this lie to sow dissension and discourage sinners from believing and receiving Christ’s love unto salvation.


The true message the Father would say to homosexuals or anyone else that does not know Christ is, “Jesus loves you, died for you and longs for you to be reconciled to God.”


[Prayer]: Father, help us to break through the lies of the devil with your truth that you hate sin, not sinners and that salvation is for all people. May we validate your love by reaching out to everyone that is hurting and struggling and embrace them with the kindness and compassion of Christ. In Jesus, mighty name. Amen.