Sometimes, God says no

God Cares

Proverbs 24:5 A wise man is strong, Yes, a man of knowledge increases strength;

Proverbs 24:10 ¶ If you faint in the day of adversity, Your strength is small.

A wise person knows that his strength is in Christ, and not in his flesh.  A wise person knows that they cannot live a godly life through their own self-effort, but through the power of Christ alone.

Three times the apostle Paul prayed and asked God to remove from his life what he called “a thorn in the flesh” (Take a look at the context of Paul’s prayer in 2 Corinthians 12:7-9, and note that Paul was being demonized – “the messenger of Satan” was a demon), and three times God answered Paul’s prayer.  Note, however, that the way God answered Paul was not the way that most of us consider answered prayer.

God answered Paul’s prayer by choosing not to remove the “thorn” from Paul’s life. Although God did not answer Paul by giving him relief from the tormenting demon, what He did give him was much better. God gave Paul His personal assurance that by His empowering presence, and through His amazing grace, he would make it.

God said to Paul, “My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness.” As a result Paul boasted, not in his healing and deliverance, but in his weakness. Paul said, “Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.”

God’s presence and His grace are more than enough to see us through any situation. Boasting about God’s empowering presence and grace is true wisdom, and the key that unlocks the door to abundant living.  As it is written:

Jeremiah 9:23 ¶ Thus saith the LORD, Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty man glory in his might, let not the rich man glory in his riches: 24 But let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth me, that I am the LORD which exercise lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness, in the earth: for in these things I delight, saith the LORD.

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Bad Medicine?

alcohol hook them while they are young

Proverbs 23:29 ¶ Who has woe? Who has sorrow? Who has contentions? Who has complaints? Who has wounds without cause? Who has redness of eyes? 30 Those who linger long at the wine, Those who go in search of mixed wine. 31 Do not look on the wine when it is red, When it sparkles in the cup, When it swirls around smoothly; 32 At the last it bites like a serpent, And stings like a viper. 33 Your eyes will see strange things, And your heart will utter perverse things. 34 Yes, you will be like one who lies down in the midst of the sea, Or like one who lies at the top of the mast, saying:
35 “They have struck me, but I was not hurt; They have beaten me, but I did not feel it. When shall I awake, that I may seek another drink?” (NKJV)

Although the Bible does not explicitly say, “Thou shall not drink adult beverages,” it makes it very clear that we should be very, very careful how we use this freedom of choice. Personally, I believe that while living in a culture where 10 thousand persons a year are killed drunk drivers, and where thousands upon thousands of others are seriously hurt or maimed by the same, where the misuse of alcohol is directly responsible for the neglect of children, and the abuse of both moms and dads, that using alcoholic beverages is not a smart way to use my Christian liberty.

As a Bible believing Christian, I would rather use the liberty that God has given me to engage in activities that build up and encourage others, and activities that promote life and peace.  As it is written:

Romans 14:16 Therefore do not let your good be spoken of as evil; 17 for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. 18 For he who serves Christ in these things is acceptable to God and approved by men.
19 Therefore let us pursue the things which make for peace and the things by which one may edify another. 20 Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of food. All things indeed are pure, but it is evil for the man who eats with offense. 21 It is good neither to eat meat nor drink wine nor do anything by which your brother stumbles or is offended or is made weak.


Sweet ‘n’ Sour – Words Have Power

original_screen-printed-gossiping-cow-tea-towel

Proverbs 16:24 ¶ Pleasant words are like a honeycomb, Sweetness to the soul and health to the bones.

Proverbs 26:20 ¶ Where there is no wood, the fire goes out; And where there is no talebearer, strife ceases. 21 As charcoal is to burning coals, and wood to fire, So is a contentious man to kindle strife. 22 The words of a talebearer are like tasty trifles, And they go down into the inmost body.

It is unfortunate that gossip is an acceptable sin among too many Christians. There are two things that make the sin of gossip so hard to pinpoint and difficult to deal with: First of all, we like to hear rumors and stories of other people’s affairs. Lastly, we chose to be ignorant of the truth, and pretend not to understand that listening to a gossip (some one that digs up evil and sows strife) is just as bad as being the one who does it.

One of the greatest lessons in life that I ever learned was this one:

“Being Ignorant of the law is no excuse to break it.

I learned this lesson when I was 12 years old, and I learned it the hard way as I was tried and convicted of a crime that I had deluded myself into thinking that I was innocent of.  Let me explain.

gossip tutorial

When I was 12 years old I was caught riding in a stolen car with some friends (that I will affectionately call my friendly “Neighbor-hoodies”).  Consequently, I was booked accordingly, and given a day in court.  To say the least, I was both embarrassed and scared, because I always considered myself to be a good kid, and took pride in myself that I was not as bad as others.  So, how did this happen to me?

When my “friends” offered me a ride home in a car that they had stolen, although I knew in my heart that this was wrong (and that they were hoodlums), I convinced myself that simply riding in a stolen car was not the same, or as bad, as stealing it. Therefore, I convinced myself that simply riding in a stolen car was OK, and therefore I was innocent of a crime.

Fortunately, when the judge considered my case she thought otherwise. Judge Phillips rightly condemned me for being “Party to a crime”, and she sentenced me to probation with the understanding that if I stayed out of trouble until I was 18 this offense would be expunged from my record.

In the eyes of Judge Phillips, my participating in (and benefiting from) a crime made me just as guilty as the person that actually did it.  If being party to a crime is itself a crime according to human law, how much more is it a crime according to the Law of God?

Colossians 3:25 But he who does wrong will be repaid for what he has done, and there is no partiality.
1 Peter 1:17 And if you call on the Father, who without partiality judges according to each one’s work, conduct yourselves throughout the time of your stay here in fear;

My prayer today is that God will give me the wisdom to discerned between the pleasant words of the righteous that are “like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the bones”, and the evil words of the wicked that are “like tasty trifles.” May God give me the strength to cling to the former, and the power to shun the latter. As it is written:

1 Thessalonians 5:21 Prove all things; hold fast that which is good. 22 Abstain from all appearance of evil.

Epilogue – I thank you Lord that this sad episode in my life scared me straight.  I also  thank You for the last forty-six (and counting) years of my life I have lived crime free.  I thank you Lord because I know that it was, it is, and it will continue to be only by Your grace!

Three Crosses and Silhoutted Person in Prayer at Sunrise

Anger Management?

self control

Proverbs 16:32 ¶ He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty,

And he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city.

There is a legitimate time and place for anger.  One day when Jesus walked into the temple and saw that men had turned God’s house into a crooked mall he got angry.

Mark 11:5 So they came to Jerusalem. Then Jesus went into the temple and began to drive out those who bought and sold in the temple, and overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who sold doves.
16 And He would not allow anyone to carry wares through the temple. 17 Then He taught, saying to them, “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations’? But you have made it a ‘den of thieves.'”

Why was Jesus angry?  Let me suggest that one aspect of his anger was his seeing how the poor and needy were being treated in God’s house.  Take a look at the parallel passage found in Matthew 21:12-14, and observe that after Jesus kicked the religious merchants out of the temple, the Bible says, “Then the blind and the lame came to Him in the temple, and He healed them.”  It seems from this text that the blind and the lame (a generic description of the poor and needy in Jesus’ day) who could not afford to buy the stuff that was being sold in God’s house were not welcomed inside.  Jesus hated seeing people treated poorly, and we should too.  We should hate the things that God hates, and when we see the weak being hurt or discriminated against, we should be moved to passionately do something about it.  This kind of anger is OK with God.  Being angry when we see God’s truth being distorted, or Christianity being prostituted and merchandised is also OK with God.

  • Psalm 119:104 Through Your precepts I get understanding; Therefore I hate every false way.
  • Psalm 119:113 ¶ SAMEK. I hate the double-minded, But I love Your law.
  • Psalm 119:163 ¶ I hate and abhor lying, But I love Your law.
  • Proverbs 8:13 The fear of the LORD is to hate evil; Pride and arrogance and the evil way And the perverse mouth I hate.
  • Proverbs 31:8 Open your mouth for the speechless, In the cause of all who are appointed to die. 9 Open your mouth, judge righteously, And plead the cause of the poor and needy.
  • Isaiah 61:8 “For I, the LORD, love justice; I hate robbery for burnt offering; I will direct their work in truth, And will make with them an everlasting covenant.

However, let’s be honest and confess that most of the things that make us angry have nothing to do with God, righteousness, truth, or standing up for others.  Most of the things that make us angry are the (real or imagined) intrusions on our sense of personal entitlement.  Here is a list of a few suggested entitlements:

  1. I am entitled not to wait behind people in the check-out line that try to save money by using coupons.
  2. I entitled to cut a line to ask the customer service person a question that the person I have cut off had to wait in line to ask.
  3. I am entitled not to be skipped in line.
  4. I am entitled to leave for an appointment five minutes later than I should have, therefore:
  5. I am entitled to drive 15 miles an hour faster than everyone else on the road so I won’t be late for the above appointment.
  6. I am entitled to come home to a clean house, have my dinner waiting,  have the kids homework already done, sit on the couch and watch football (Monday, Thursday, Saturday Afternoon, and Sunday … but only during the regular season, then I an entitled to watch the playoffs too.).
  7. I am entitled to having a great night with my wife after cashing in on all of my entitlements listed in number 4.
  8. I am entitled to my wife taking aspirin for her headache at least two hours before I get home.
  9. I am entitled to everyone knowing that my opinion is the only one that is right and valid.
  10. I am entitled to criticize others and pointing out their mistakes.
  11. I am entitled not to be criticized.
  12. I am entitled to be listened to at all times.
  13. I am not entitled not to listen to others.
  14. I am entitled to more entitlements.

The point is: When our personal list of entitlements is threatened or violated by others we get angry.  However, the scripture says to those that are followers of Jesus, “you have not so learned Christ, if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus” (Ephesians 4:20-21).  Therefore, the LORD instructs his followers to:

  • put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, (Ephesians 4:22)
  • be renewed in the spirit of your mind, (Ephesians 4:23)
  • put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness. (Ephesians 4:24)
  • put away lying, “Let each one of you speak truth with his neighbor,”(Ephesians 4:25)
  • “Be angry, and do not sin”: do not let the sun go down on your wrath, 27 nor give place to the devil. (Ephesians 4:26,27)

One aspect of self control is the ability to check our attitude and emotions before reacting.   Thus, the hot buttons that trigger anger inside of us are either removed completely or insulated under a deep layer of what the Bible calls “Long-suffering.”  From whence does self-control come, and where may we find the covering of longsuffering?

Let me suggest that as followers of Jesus fellowship with the LORD, and walk with Him by faith, God transforms them through the power of the Word (The Bible) and by the indwelling Holy Spirit.  Our faith in Christ is what makes it possible for the, “old things [to] “pass away, [and] all things [to] become new”.  Yes, the “old things” that have passed away includes our list of personal entitlements, and with them the triggers that cause us to exhibit ungodly anger.

God wants followers of Jesus, not just to become better individuals, but expressions of the life of His Son in the world. When Jesus’ life is being expressed through his followers, it looks like:

people genuinely loving others …

folk filled with joy …

people at peace …

with their hot buttons insulated by layers of longsuffering ,,,

a spiritual community where random acts of kindness are the norm …

enjoying an atmosphere goodness, …

faithfulness, …

gentleness, and …

self-control. (see Galatians 5:22-24)

Furthermore, when the life of Jesus is being expressed through his followers, “those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires”:

they live in the Spirit, …

they walk in the Spirit …

they are not conceited …

they do they provoke one another ..,

nor do they envy one another. (See Galatians 5:24-26)

When the life of Jesus is being expressed through His followers, their anger is not under management, it is managed.

 Anger

His Eye is on the Sparrow …… and me too

Proverbs 15:3 ¶ The eyes of the LORD are in every place, Keeping watch on the evil and the good.

I was really convicted by today’s verse because it reminded me of a conversation that I had with a brother in Christ not too long ago.

  • Question: “Why wouldn’t I open up a Playboy magazine and read it in church?”
  • Answer: “Because you would be embarrassed to do so.
  • Response: “You are right. There are many things that I would not even think of doing publicly because I fear what others will think of me if I did them. Nevertheless, there are many things that I think of doing, and oft times do do privately, that I know God is not pleased with.”

The truth is: We will do things privately that we wouldn’t even think of doing publicly.  Why, you may ask?  Let me suggest to you that it is because we fear what men think of us far more than we fear God.

The verse above is a fresh reminder that whither we are in public or in private, God is there and we need to conduct ourselves accordingly. As it is written:

2 Cor. 5:9 Therefore we make it our aim, whether present or absent, to be well pleasing to Him.

10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ,

that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.

Captain or Crewman?

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Proverbs 13:13 ¶ He who despises the word will be destroyed, But he who fears the commandment will be rewarded.

Proverbs 14:12 ¶ There is a way that seems right to a man, But its end is the way of death.

Ravi Zacharias wrote a book titled, “Can a Man Live Without God.” Although the obvious answer is no, this does not prevent the foolish from trying. Everyone born into the world has brought into lie that we are “gods” (Genesis 3:5), and this makes us proudly believe that we are “master of our own fate and captain of our own soul.”

Truth is, if we are masters and commanders of our own destiny we aren’t doing too good at it (frankly, we are making a mess of things).

wrecked ship png

The reason that God gave us His Son is because He loves us, and He does not want us to live in darkness. God does not want us to walk aimlessly through this life, and then spend eternity in Hell.

  • John 8:12 ¶ Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.”

The wise understand that we are not gods, but through faith in Jesus Christ we’ve become children of God (John 1:12). Our faith in Christ has given us new life, a passion to know God intimately, and a hunger to know and live by His word.

My prayer today is that God will take us deeper into the knowledge of God, and deeper still into the love of God as we feast on His word.

  • Colossians 2:1 ¶ For I want you to know what a great conflict I have for you and those in Laodicea, and for as many as have not seen my face in the flesh, 2 that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, and attaining to all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the knowledge of the mystery of God, both of the Father and of Christ, 3 in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.

Remember, “he who fears the commandment will be rewarded.”

He was cru·ci·fy·ed for our sins,

Thinking of these verses humbles me:
John 1:16 And of His fullness we have all received, and grace for grace.
Ephesians 1:3 ¶ Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, 4 just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, 5 having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, 6 to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He has made us accepted in the Beloved. 7 In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace

A View From PEW

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cru·ci·fy

ˈkro͞osəˌfī/

verb

past tense: crucified; past participle: crucified

  1. 1. – to put (someone) to death by nailing or binding them to a cross, especially as an ancient punishment.

For as long as I can remember I have always loved the impact that taking the Lord’s Supper has had on me. As a boy, and a young believer, I would hold the small cup of wine in my hands before drinking it and solemnly think of the sacrifice that Jesus laid before the Father as an atonement for my sins.

Author Michael Card (A Violent Grace) calls us to reflect on the tremendous display of God’s redeeming love toward us by experiencing the agony of Christ suffering through the power of our imagination.  Card writes,

Josephus (First Century Jewish historian)revealed the ferocity of Roman flogging when, commenting on the fate of a prisoner of the Jewish War, said…

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