Thursday, January 31, 2013

Untruth Is Not Truth

I enjoy reading the tweets from UberFacts. Some are funny. Some are informative. This one came through today: "The chemical structure of crystal meth is almost identical to that of Vicks Vapor Inhaler." I'm not a chemist but I did stay in a Holiday Inn Express last night. Not really! But it seems like this is saying - if true - that a very destructive drug closely resembles a very useful drug.

As frustrated as I sometimes get with the decisions of the Food and Drug Administration, it serves an important role of protecting us from harmful drugs or the harmful use of drugs.

But here's what caught my attention. Satan does the same thing by disguising his advice to closely resemble God's Word. Satan arranges his traps to seem so benign, even beautiful and favorable. Satan's questions make sense; his arguments are compelling.

But Satan is completely opposite of God. His ways are absolutely not God's ways. Worse than a comparison between crystal meth and Vicks Vapor Inhaler! Nothing about Satan compares with God no matter how attractive or sensible or appealing it seems.

Unfortunately, Satan's ways do not come labeled with a warning label with a big red "X" marked across them. We do, however, have God's Word to help us. Ultimately, everything godly honors God and proclaims that Jesus is the Christ. Nothing Satan offers does either.

To avoid a dangerous chemical you have to know a little about chemistry or trust those who do. To avoid Satan's traps you have to know a little about God's Word. So pick up a Bible or download a Bible app and spend a few minutes each day in the Word. This will help you identify the truth of God and the lies of Satan. It will help you steer clear of trouble. It will help you out of trouble you may already be in.

If you aren't sure where to start, I suggest you download the Bible app from because it has many Bible translations and reading plans. I typically read the New International Version (NIV 1984) but also like several other modern translations. And I'm using the "Reading God's Story: One-Year Chronological Plan" to read through the Bible this year. If that's more than you want to jump into right now, check out the devotional or topical plans. Or just open up to the Gospel of John.

The main thing is to read the Bible each day so you'll be able to discern between God's truth and Satan's lies. And join a Bible study group at a local church. What others are learning can also help you. Don't let the Impostor fool you.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

An Urgent Need

Just saw a tweet from a local news station. The weather radio transmitters are out for a portion of the state that is expected to get severe weather in the next day or so. The tweet said that the problem was expected to be fixed soon.

I hope it's fixed soon enough!

Do you realize that each person has only a limited amount of time. Nobody knows how much time he has but it is limited. The Bible teaches that a time is coming when Jesus will return to earth to initiate a reign of peace that will last one thousand years. That will be followed by a great battle between the Lord and Satan. Satan is completely defeated and the end of time as we know comes to pass.

We don't know when that will be. Christians have been guessing and expecting for the past two thousand years. All who have guessed have been wrong. All who have expected went to their graves without realizing their hopes of seeing the Lord's return.

That has led many people to reject the idea of "the end of time" or the Jesus has anything to do with it. But I hold to the Bible's teachings as true so I believe a time is coming when time will be no more and Jesus will be the focal point of that time.

The return of Christ marks the end of the opportunity to begin following him. When time is no more, each person's fate is sealed for eternity. In fact, when any person dies his eternal destiny is forever determined. No chances exist to turn to Christ after death.

Somebody ought to warn them. Somebody has to tell them about Jesus and the hope of forgiveness and redemption. Somebody must let them know that Jesus loves them and will save them from their sins and from eternity in hell.

That's the church! We who now follow Christ are commissioned with the task of telling those who don't follow him. The uncertainty of the future is precisely why the task is so urgent. You may think we have plenty of time. "It's already been two thousand years since Jesus said he would return and it hasn't happened yet. Why should I think it will happen in my lifetime?" If that's what you think then you are no better than the lost person using the same reasoning as an excuse to put off turning to Christ.

We don't know when or how the end of a person's life will happen. Read the news and notice the number of people who die suddenly and unexpectedly. With no guarantee of another day - even another breath - the need to tell people about Jesus is urgent.

But it seems the warning system is out of order. "I'm OK. I'm not in harms way. I'm saved. So what?" Really? You don't care?

What if that's what the tweet said about the weather warning system? Imagine the public ridicule for being so self-centered and insensitive!

A greater danger is coming for everyone who is not a follower of Jesus Christ. We must fix the warning system in time to get the word out. People just down the hall from you need to know. People you'll never meet in places you'll never go need to know.

How do we fix the warning system? Christians should pray and Christians should go.

"Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field" (Matthew 9:38).

"Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, 'Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?' And I said, 'Here am I. Send me!'" (Isaiah 6:8).

Monday, January 21, 2013

Religious Intolerance

Today is President Obama's second Inauguration Day. I've watched some of it on television and read much about it in social media and regular online media. This is a fascinating spectacle of America.

When transfer of power takes place around the world and we see it here in America, we often comment on the military victory that took place to enable the power grab. Sometimes America benefits from the change of leadership, sometimes not. The display of power gets our attention and we make conclusions about the advanced status or backwardness of the culture.

I wonder what the world thinks about the USA today. Do they want to be like us? Do they think these constant elections are silly? Do they celebrate that the President gets a second term or do they think the world is coming to an end? Just something to think about.

My curiosity led me to a Google search for quotes from Inaugural addresses. Hear from Thomas Jefferson from March 4, 1801.

"Let us, then, fellow citizens, unite with one heart and one mind. Let us restore to social intercourse that harmony and affection without which liberty and even life itself are but dreary things. And let us reflect that, having banished from our land that religious intolerance under which mankind so long bled and suffered, we have yet gained little if we countenance a political intolerance as despotic, as wicked, and capable of as bitter and bloody persecutions."

Religious intolerance was once banished from our land, so says our third President, but that is no longer the case. Today, if I say that I am against gay marriage because the Bible teaches that homosexuality is a sin, my religious beliefs are not tolerated. If I say that I support the life of the unborn child because of the teachings found in the Bible, then my religious beliefs are not tolerated. If Jefferson was right about freedom of religion in 1801, he would not be able to say the same thing about America in 2013 because religious liberty has come to mean "freedom from biblical Christianity."

Christians, as you pray for The Persecuted Church you should think about including Jesus-followers in America. And do not treat people who have opposing views with contempt. Instead, speak the truth in love. Interact with them as Jesus would - with grace.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Weekly Devotional - January 18, 2013

"You are witnesses, and so is God, of how holy, righteous,
and blameless we were among you who believed."
1 Thessalonians 2:10 NIV
People are watching you. This is not some conspiracy theory about aliens or rogue governments. People all around you, normal (for the most part) people, people you know. They are watching Christians.
Some want to know if you are a hypocrite who plays the church game but doesn't really have a transformed life. When was the last time you heard someone say, "I'm better than most Christians I know so I don't need anything their church has to offer"? It wasn't that long ago was it. I hope they weren't talking about you...or me!
How you live matters because your choices, actions, words, and attitudes are a testimony to those outside the church of what it means to be part of the family of God. Does your testimony compel them to listen to the gospel or does it give them another excuse to ignore the gospel?
People within the family of God are also watching you, too. They may be skeptical of being "all in" and you could be the one to nudge them closer to Christ. They may be lonely and you could be the one to draw them into the warm fellowship found in the church. They may be confused and you could be the one to help them get a better grasp of how wide and deep and long the love of God is. They may be timid and you could be the one to encourage them so that they plug in to the joys of service and ministry.
Or you could be the one to push them away, leave them alone, create further misunderstanding, or remain the wallflower. So how you live matters. Was Paul trying to convince Christians in Thessalonica that he was perfectly holy, righteous, and blameless. Of course not. But he strived to be a good example.
What about you? Are you trying to be a good example for others? Pray that God will help you live a holy, righteous, and blameless life in front of others.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Listening to Jodi Foster

I didn't watch the Golden Globes but saw lots of tweets about it. Some were touting the greatness of Jodi Foster and some were wondering what she was trying to say in her acceptance speech. So I watched the speech on YouTube. Twice.

Now, this is not about whether or not I like Jodi Foster. I'm not much of a movie-goer so I probably should not comment on her career. However, it is impressive that at about my age she received a lifetime achievement award.

This is about something I heard in her speech. Early in the speech she said this:

"If you had been a public figure from the time that you were a toddler, if you'd had to fight for a life that felt real and honest and normal against all odds, then maybe then you, too, might value privacy above all else. Privacy."

People who put themselves in the public eye do forfeit their privacy for whatever reasons. For most of them (especially actors, athletes, authors, and politicians) it is a necessary part of the job. Public relations can be nothing but public.

In our culture, the infatuation with stardom has gotten out of hand. Does anyone even know how many reality shows are on the air these days? And how many "entertainment news" shows are there? We even have at least one cable network dedicated to telling us everything about everyone who shows up on the TV or silver screen. And what is Sports Center about, really?

Stars can't go to a grocery store or restaurant without having to fight a crowd of sight-seers and news hounds. Their vacations and weddings can never be a private affair. Their families aren't protected either. Their lives is far from private.

Hear this from the end of Foster's speech:

"[I want the rest of my career to say that] Jodi Foster was here, I still am. And I want to be seen, to be understood deeply, and to be not so very lonely."

Over the course of a speech that lasted seven minutes, she longs for privacy AND publicity. What is most interesting is that Jodi Foster - who has spent her entire life in the spotlight - seeks intimacy and acceptance.

That's true for all of us. We long for close relationships that last and matter. We ache for someone to love us as we are in spite of our "issues." How one person goes about searching for intimacy and acceptance might look much different than how the next guy does it. But how each person finds it will be the same.

Jesus Christ loves you just as you are and desires an intimate relationship with you. No matter how famous or obscure you are, Jesus loves you. Your success or lack of it doesn't matter. If everybody knows your name or if nobody knows your name, Jesus does and he loves you.

We all find intimacy and acceptance only in Jesus Christ and fully in Jesus Christ.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Outside the Box

I'm not sure we use the phrase "think outside the box" very much anymore. It's become a tired phrase but we all know what it means. And we know what it implies.

The implication is that we are stuck in a way of doing things that may not be the best way anymore. All sorts of organizations get in a box and then start trying to find ways to get out of it. Odd thing is, the organizations jumped into the box freely just a few years ago.

Then things changed. A new business model comes along and every business operating under the old model is at a disadvantage. To use another cliche, business have to stay on the cutting edge to remain successful and maintain or grow their market share.

Then things change again. And again. Organizations stuck in a box get left behind.

Now let's think about the church. They get stuck in a box, too. And they get left behind, too. And for the same reasons a business gets left behind. Things change and we don't. A church that is willing to change anything except the Word of God will always impact its community and the world. A church reluctant to change will only impact those within the group, and that number will shrink as time goes on.

I'm not promoting change in order to grow a church but in order to maximize its impact. A church of 50 people could grow to 100 but make little eternal impact on those people or anyone else. A church of 50 seeking to make a lasting difference will make a huge impact and will likely grow. But numerical growth is not the goal, gospel impact is. And growth is a by-product.

I'm thinking through a lot of this. Not exactly sure what this will look like for me, my family, or my church. But I do know that I'm getting out of the box. And I'll be careful not to simply jump into another box. We live in an ever-changing world where the only constant is Jesus Christ.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Weekly Devotional - January 11, 2013

"I waited patiently for the Lord,
he turned to me and heard my cry."
Psalm 40:1 NIV
French playwright and actor from the seventeenth century, Moliere said, "Trees that grow slow bear the best fruit." We like the fruit but don't like the wait. My dad planted peach trees but said it would be three years before they produced fruit. I wouldn't say the fruit was very good that third year; it was going to take a little longer.
Waiting is not so bad when you're not in a hurry. I put the last toner cartridge in the copy machine about three months ago. A cartridge usually lasts about three months so I figured I had plenty of time. Ordering more cartridges was not an emergency. This morning I went across town to the supplier to get one because we will not be able to copy anything for this weekend's services without it. It was easy to wait to place the order three months ago. But when the lady squinted her eyes as she look through the list of inventory on her computer screen I thought, "I have no time for this. You have to have one!" I hope my outer countenance showed more calm than I really felt.
David wrote Psalm 40 and was probably referring to a military crisis in the first verse. Imagine the enemy closing in around the king and his army. Perhaps he had tried a couple of maneuvers that had always worked in previous battles but not this time. His men may have noticed their lack of power. Surely someone came to David with suggestions. Maybe the conversations weren't pleasant.
Yet David waiting patiently for the Lord. You've tried all you know to try and haven't gotten the results you expected or needed, haven't you? You're out of ideas to make the marriage work, aren't you? What are you going to do now?
Wait patiently on the Lord. Trust that he will hear your cry. You are crying out to him for help, aren't you? He loves you and will help you. Pray that God will help you trust him and wait patiently for his help to arrive.

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Deposit Correction

I'm pretty good at math. When Riley needs help with his homework, Deana defers to me. Granted, that's just 6th grade math, but I made good grades in math in high school and college. As far as our family goes, I'm the go-to guy.

So I was pretty irritated with myself when I opened the hand-addressed envelop from our bank today. Inside was a notice that a deposit correction had to be made on our account because I ADDED THE CHECKS WRONG ON THE DEPOSIT SLIP!!!

We don't have much money so it wasn't that big a deal. But you'd think I could add two numbers together and get the right answer. Maybe if I had not been filling out the deposit slip while driving down the road, texting, and eating a sausage biscuit...

No, no, no! I wasn't doing any of that. I filled out the slip in the bank parking lot with my car's transmission in park. So I have no excuse. I just messed up.

Remember the card in the Monopoly game that says, "Bank error in your favor. Collect $___"? That must only happen in board games. Why can't the mistakes go in my favor? Have you ever noticed that? When you make a mistake in the checkbook the correction almost always goes in the bank's favor. The next time it goes my way I'll be sure to be thankful!

I can be thankful in this, too, because the error was brought to my attention quickly so we didn't spend money we didn't have. I guess what I first thought was bad news is really good news.

If you'll try looking for the good news among what seems to be the bad, your day will probably go much better.

Friday, January 04, 2013

Weekly Devotional - January 4, 2013

"But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord."
Genesis 6:8 NIV

In my daily Bible reading this morning I read the story of the flood during the days of Noah. It's a familiar story yet an amazing one as God demonstrates his grace by saving a faithful man and his family from punishment and destruction. One thing that caught my attention was the short phrases describing Noah.

"But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord." (Genesis 6:8)
"Noah did everything just as God commanded him." (Genesis 6:22)
"And Noah did all that the Lord commanded him." (Genesis 7:5)

Many of us would want something a little more wordy said of us. Celebrities have their publicists prepare an introduction to be used during their appearances. Authors and speakers provide a list of their works so the person introducing them can wow the crowd with the information.

On the other hand, some people need very little said of them. Have you ever watched the State of the Union Address? The President stands outside the Congress chamber. In a loud voice the announcement comes, "Ladies and Gentlemen, the President of the United States." The doors swing open and the President enters to a standing ovation.

There wasn't much to say about Noah. He was a simple man without much acclaim at that time. It's not that the author of Genesis didn't want to say more about Noah, there just wasn't much else to say. But what he said in describing Noah to us is profound.

We learn who Noah is by hearing about his relationship with God. Is there a better way to introduce a person? Wouldn't you like to have your relationship with God be the identifying mark of who you are?

Our world is much like Noah's. It's a sinful place with little regard for God. But you can be different. You can honor God and know his favor rests upon you and your family. Pray that God will help you be faithful as you follow Jesus.

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

Reasons to Read the Bible This Year

Most Christians want to read the Bible. I believe that is a true statement although I have no research to back me up. If the data is out there, please send it to me so I can stop making this unfounded statement and begin saying it with proof to back me up! Regardless, I believe most of you want to read the Bible. And many of you do.

Do you find the resolution to read the Bible everyday or to read it through in a year is easy to make but hard to keep? I've made the resolution countless times only to fizzle a few weeks later. Then I beat myself up for a few weeks. Then I forget all about it until January 1 next year!

Reading God's word shouldn't be felt as a task but should be engaged as a love affair. I've had jobs where I just hit the alarm clock, showered and shaved, punched the time clock, and served my time. What a shame to approach the Bible with an attitude like that.

Spending time with my wife makes me happy. I look forward to it. I plan (I can do better) for it. And I'm better for it. That's how reading the Bible should be. Is reading the Bible something you feel you have to do or something you love to do? There's a huge difference.

So why should you read the Bible this year? First, the Bible is God's word to us. It is his primary way of speaking to us. His Spirit inspired its writers and makes it come alive to its readers. God has a plan and purpose for your life. Where will you find them? In the Bible.

Second, the Bible has answers to the problems you face, questions you ask, and situations you're in. A word of wisdom from the Proverbs, encouragement from the histories, instruction from the letters, or hope from the gospels is waiting on you. Those who read the Bible regularly can testify to the timely way the message comes to them. The message may come the day before so that you are prepared. It may come the day of as a lifeline. Or it may come the day after to help you make sense of it all. But the answers are there in the Bible.

Third, the Bible is good reading. The writers held nothing back. You get the whole story. The sin, the seduction, the mischief, the mistakes. You see the good and bad sides of people. You see heartbreak but you also see restoration. You see brokenness but you also see forgiveness. You see hopelessness but you also see hope. The Bible is much more than a storybook, history book, or novel, but it is a good read, nonetheless.

Maybe you've discovered other reasons to read the Bible. Please share them with me. I'm still at the point that I need encouragement to make and keep this commitment.

Now let me add one thing about reading ALL the Bible. We are often drawn to our favorite parts. You may read the Psalms or the Gospels or Paul's letters but skip the histories and prophecies and genealogies.

Read it ALL. Don't neglect what you think are the hard or boring or convicting parts. Everything in the Bible is there for a reason. God speaks through all of it. And throughout the entire story is woven a theme of the BIG story: redemption. The things you need to know about God are that he loves you, sent his son to die for your sins, and offers you forgiveness and redemption. That's the story of the Bible, cover to cover.

Reading plans are available to help you get started and keep you on track. Some help you read the entire Bible in a year, 6 months, or even 90 days. I like the one-year plan but I'm not that concerned that you read the Bible through this year. I'm interested in encouraging you to read all of the Bible on a regular basis. So let's get started!

2013 holds many challenges and opportunities. God's word holds the keys to surviving the thriving through them.