Tuesday, April 29, 2014

When Troubles Come

Horrible storms passed through our area Sunday night. By now you may know that a tornado touched down in Ferndale, then Mayflower, then Vilonia, then points beyond. Images and video are heart-wrenching.

More than a dozen people are dead. Countless families have lost property. I heard this morning that a man near where I live lost six horses...he has no idea where they are.

The insurance industry will one day tell us the cost of this storm. But the impact is much greater than money. Sometimes it takes a tragedy to realign our thinking.

Matthew 6 is part of Jesus' Sermon on the Mount. The Lord spoke about doing religious things for the right reasons. Then he said that what we treasure exposes where our hearts are.

Treasure on earth will rust, decay, and be stolen. If we love worldly things we'll be disappointed and heartbroken. But a desire for godly, heavenly, eternal things will be blessed. Then our treasures will last. Each person has to choose whether to value the temporal or the eternal; you can't value both.

Jesus then said that we ought not worry about the temporal things because God cares for us to an even greater degree than he does the birds in the sky or the grass in the fields.

It's hard not to worry when your home is damaged by a storm. It's hard not to worry when your family has suffered the loss of a loved one. It's hard not to worry when emergency sirens sound in the middle of a storm.

But can we trust God to care for us? Will he be there when we are hurting? Will he comfort us in our sorrow? Will he provide in our great need?

I've found the answer to be YES! And I've found the key to be in Jesus's words recorded in Matthew 6:33. "But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well." God will take care of your worries.

I've experienced troubles that might have overwhelmed me but I chose to seek the Lord rather than deal in worry. He has always been faithful and I trust he will be now and the next time.

This doesn't erase the sorrow and pain we feel when tragedy strikes. But it helps us deal with it. Each day has plenty of trouble as I see it. God sees it as opportunity to express his love and care for you.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014


My morning Bible study included readings from the book of Judges. Two great leaders of Israel had died: Moses, who led them out of Egypt, and Joshua, who led them into the Promised Land.

What next? Have you ever experienced the end of an era in leadership? The affects of the previous leader lingers but diminishes with time.

So it was in Israel. Joshua's contemporaries carried on in the spirit of his leadership. But they soon died, too. Then the writer of Judges records this observation:

"Eventually that entire generation died and was buried. Then another generation grew up that didn't know anything of God or the work he had done for Israel." (Judges 2:10 MSG)

I look at the situation in our world now and wonder where we are in this cycle. My generation is surely further from God than earlier generations. Will the next generation be even further away?

It's not inevitable that every generation slides further away from God. The Great Awakenings are proof that God can move and stir in hearts and bring people to him. In a micro view, I have personally experienced revival that brought me closer to God.

If enough Christians seek to please the Lord, and if enough others come to Christ for transforming salvation, then maybe we can slow the slide away from God or even turn our culture around.

We must keep telling the stories of God's love and goodness to our children. We must keep telling the stories to anyone who will listen. How else will they know?

Consider the great cost of Christians remaining silent.

Monday, April 14, 2014


Our dog Lexi loves to get into the trashcan in the bathroom. Because of that, we close the door when we leave the house to keep her out of there. Except sometimes we forget.

Yesterday, we forgot.

Deana found the mess and hollered from the bathroom, "Lexi!"

I was sitting in a chair in the living room. Lexi came quickly and sat beside the chair. She peeked around it toward the bathroom door. She knew what she had done and she knew she was in trouble.

I can't help but think about Adam and Eve. They sinned by not obeying God's instruction to not eat from a particular tree in the Garden of Eden. As soon as they did it they knew they had done something wrong.

Do you remember what they did then? They hid in the bushes. They tried to hide from God.

"Adam, where are you?" God said. Do you really think God did not know where Adam was? Sometimes I know that Riley is somewhere in the house but I have to go room to room calling for him before I find him laying on his bed with earphones in and listening to music. I don't really know why he needs to wear the earphones, I can hear the music just fine and I'm not wearing them.

God didn't have to search the garden to find Adam and Eve. He knew they were hiding. He knew they were hiding in the bushes. He knew which bush they were hiding behind.

God asked, "Where are you?" not so he could learn where Adam was hiding but so Adam could realize that God loved him and wanted to be with him even though he had sinned.

Not only did God come to the garden to be with Adam and Eve, he also prepared clothing for them. And he protected them from ever eating from another tree in the garden. They had eaten from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil and they were now aware of what they had been protected from. The other tree was the Tree of Life. If they ate from that tree they would live forever.

Imagine living forever but cast out of God's place of perfection. By keeping Adam and Eve from going back into the garden and eating from the Tree of Life, God was making a way for them to return to relationship with him.

Yes, there is a penalty for sin. It is death. It is separation from God.

But there is redemption through death and separation. Jesus' death on the cross and his separation from the Father when he bore all our sins and took the punishment for us. Jesus did not become a sinner but he did become sin. For us.

You can act innocent but the truth is that you are guilty, just like Adam and Eve. And the punishment for sin is death. But the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus. The promise of God is forgiveness and redemption and love when we turn from our ways and toward his.

Following Jesus is the pathway that leads from death to life. If you are on that journey you can be assured that Jesus will deliver you into eternal life. If you are not following Jesus you can begin today. Contact me if you would like to know more about following Jesus from death to life.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

What About Me!

Thursday mornings (early mornings) are reserved for exercise. For the past two years a band of up to six people has taken to the road for a brisk walk or run each Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday. So the alarm went off at 4:30 and my wife and I sprang from the bed.

I used to hit the snooze but that is dangerous. Do you know that you can hit the snooze button for over an hour? Years ago I discovered this. It may not be the same for all alarm clocks but this is what happened on the one I had. The alarm went off at 6:00. I hit the snooze. It went off at 6:09. I hit the snooze. every nine minutes for 63 minutes the alarm went off and I hit the snooze. After the eighth time (it was 7:03 now) I hit the snooze and waited nine minutes. Of course, I couldn't sleep after all that activity over the last hour. I waited and waited but the alarm never sounded. My clock gave up on me. I guess it had a right to.

But this morning, we jumped from the bed and started the ritual of checking the weather app so we'd know how many layers to put on, then dressing appropriately, then getting a swig of water, then heading out to meet the rest of the group.

What was different about this morning was that we have a guest in our house. He spoke in our church last night and occupied the guest room. Like the wonderful hosts we are, we invited him to get up at 4:30 and walk with us.

Actually, Deana and I had already told the rest of the group we would not be there this morning because of our guest. So we had nothing to do with inviting him to get up much earlier than he was accustomed. I won't name names, but they know who they are!

We walked 2.5 miles and about 2 miles in, Forrest (our leader) asked Jesse (our guest) how he was doing. Forrest had asked once before just to make sure we weren't killing our guest. Jesse's in good shape so he was good.

But I couldn't stand it. "What about me!" I asked. Doesn't anyone care about me? I'm in the worst shape of any of us, so what about me!

Forrest understood and laughed out loud. He and I talk a lot while we walk. Sometimes the spiritual and intellectual aspect of the walks are more beneficial than the physical.

Have you noticed how people are so selfish these days? A team wins the National Championship and a player has to beat down the very institution that is handing out the trophy. A teams earns the right to play in the Super Bowl and a player has to rant about how much better he is than anyone else. A woman gets caught on video hitting another person and says she didn't do it. People stand in line demanding "Where's mine?"

It's as if we all think everyone else owes us something...and we owe nothing to anyone.

Our Sunday Night Bible Study last week focused on 2 Chronicles 7:14 - "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 will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land."

We talked about steps to revival. Humility is necessary to be right with God. Instead, we seem to be full of pride. Pride takes root and we no longer praise the Lord and love our neighbor. Pride gets right up in the middle of whatever is going on and says, "What about me!" God will not bless those who are proud but he will hear and forgive and heal those who are humble.

How do we get from pride to humility? What is the pathway? It is service. Jesus is the great example of this. In Philippians 2 Paul tells us that Jesus was very humble, demonstrated by his incarnation and earthly ministry. Jesus is the Son of God but he didn't think he was too good to die for our sins.

I can't imagine this scene in heaven. The Triune God is discussing the plan to save lost humanity. The Father might have said, "Son, you will become a man and live among them. You will die for their sins so they can have eternal life." Then Jesus said, "That sounds good for them but what about me!"

No, I can't imagine that. Instead, Jesus humbly took on flesh, bore the cross, and died for our sins.

Just hours before his death, Jesus demonstrated what love and humility look like. He washed his disciples' feet. That was a task reserved for a household servant but the King of Glory did it. The pathway from pride to humility is service.

I need to serve others more and cry out "What about me!" less. Do you?