6 Reasons Why You Should Read The Hiding Place

The Hiding Place is the autobiography of Corrie ten Boom. The book gives an account of her life in Holland and then as a Nazi resistance worker. It follows her and her sister Betsie into the Nazi prisons and concentration camps and finally, covers their recovery work after the fall of Nazi Germany. Every Christian should pick up a copy and begin reading it today. Here’s why (in no particular order):
 
1. You will learn what it was like for believers in Holland before and after the Nazi occupation. The ten Boom family was a strong close nit Christian family that began and ended each day gathered around the Bible for prayer. God sustained them through the loss of their matriarch and a beloved aunt, but this was only the beginning of their family turmoil. After Hitler invaded Holland in May of 1940, they fought persecution and starvation. Then, as their Jewish neighbors started disappearing, they made the heroic choice to join the resistance saving Dutch Jews from deportation and even hiding some in the top floor of their home that doubled as a watch shop.  They were eventually arrested, but not before they were instrumental in saving thousands of Jews from the concentration camp.
 
2. You will learn what it was like in the Nazi concentration camps. We’ve all seen movies about the camps, read about them in grade school history books, and watched documentaries. In The Hiding Place, though, you will get an insiders perspective. It is valuable to know the true history of our broken world as this helps us to avoid repeating our darkest days. 
 
3. You will get to meet Betsie ten Boom. Most Christians know a little about Corrie ten Boom because of her work with Holocaust survivors and former Nazis after WWII. What most do not know is that Betsie provided the vision for Corrie’s post-war work. Corrie felt great compassion for her fellow prisoners, but Betsie taught Corrie how to also love her persecutors. Both the home that Corrie founded for Holocaust victims and the one she began in Germany for former Nazis (on the site of a former concentration camp) began with a vision that God gave Betsie in the concentration camp at Ravensbruck. Betsie ten Boom may be the godliest woman I’ve ever met on the pages of any book. 
 
4. You will learn the power of God’s word. Corrie and Betsie’s most prized possession in the concentration camp was a small Dutch translation of the Bible. By the grace of God, they were miraculously able to keep it safe during countless inspections. The sisters would hold prayer and worship services inside the camp which also featured the reading of Scripture. Their fellow prisoners would gather around and team up to translate from the Dutch into all the various languages that were spoken inside the camp. That Bible changed the whole atmosphere in the sisters’ barracks. Thousands of women from nearly every religious background came to cling to God’s word for hope. Corrie ten Boom related what she learned through this, “the light of God shines brightest in the deepest darkness.”
 
5. You will learn the power of prayer. When most people think of a person with a strong prayer life, they think of someone who spends hours a day in their prayer closet. But what you will learn in A Hiding Place is the power of short whispered or silent prayers offered in the heat of the moment. This is the kind of prayer in which Corrie excelled. Anytime she was faced with a life threatening situation, a Nazi inspection, a moment of deep despair, or a hopeless situation, she would say a short prayer. Every time, her “Lord Jesus,” would come through with an answer. 
 
6. You will learn the power of forgiveness. I thought the climax of the book would be Corrie’s release from the camp or perhaps her founding of the homes, but this was not the high point of Corrie ten Boom’s life. The most moving and miraculous moment in the book was when God granted Corrie the ability to forgive her captors. If you are having trouble with forgiveness, then The Hiding Place is a book you need to read now. You will find that there is no greater prison than the inability to forgive, and there is no greater victory than when God gives you the grace to forgive.

Read more...

For Every Season

In Ecclesiastes 3:1-8, Solomon identifies 28 seasons that occur in the life of a human being. 14 of them are positive and refreshing—seasons of new births, fresh planting, building up, laughing, dancing, loving, and peacefulness. The other half of them are negative—seasons of death, loss, weeping, mourning, tearing, and war. All of the 28 seasons whether positive or negative have this one thing in common; they all pass.
 
The seasons of life change like the South MS weather. Like the going and coming of the waves on the southern shore of Ship Island, they roll in, break, wash up to their apex on the shore, then retreat back into the gulf and are replaced by another. Some seasons come in hard and crushing, knocking you down, and threatening to steal your life. Others roll through barely noticed until they’re gone. 
 
When it comes to difficult seasons, I have heard it said, “this too shall pass.” Despite what some well-meaning people report, the Bible does not say that… well not exactly anyway. The Bible does say that “there is a time and a season for everything under heaven” (Eccl. 3:1). That is almost the same idea, but Eccl. 3:1 does not minimize any one season of life. Each one is important. Each one is ordained by God and necessary to mold us into who He would have us to be. 
 
Verse 11 of Eccl. 3 is my favorite verse in the whole book. “He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, He has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from beginning to the end.” Let’s explore the two parts to this verse.
 
First, it says that “He has made everything beautiful in its time.” Notice that the verb is in the past perfect tense, “has made.” It is not that He will make something beautiful out of everything. It is that He has already made something beautiful out of everything. 
 
Do you understand what this means? Every ugly thing that you have experienced and that you will experience in every stormy season of your life, God has already made it beautiful. The loss of your loved one, the disintegration of a marriage, the consequence suffered as a result of sin. If you have faith, then the whole of all your ugliness has been redeemed, and sanctified, and made beautiful. Chances are you have not seen it yet, but this is true. God makes everything beautiful in time and when it comes to time, He owns all of it. 
 
Next, it says, “He has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from beginning to the end.” This is to say that we have learned by way of experiencing the seasons of life that there is something more… that seasons are only seasons and that they will come like the ocean waves for all eternity. We know in our hearts that there is a forever in the past and a forever in the future. But God keeps the details of what He has done a secret. 
 
Everything that ever happened, everything that is happening, and everything that will happen has been done already (see for reference Eccl. 3:15). God, who exists outside of time and who controls the past, present, and future all at once has already done everything that we experience in this life. Also, God has placed in our hearts to know this intuitively, but it is like watching a master painter at work. Each little stroke and squiggly line does not appear to make sense until the whole work is done. Each season of your life, good and bad, is a stroke on God’s masterpiece. 
 
Based on what is revealed in Ecclesiastes 3, there are two things to remember when you are going through a difficult season. First, be patient. You are in a season, and no season lasts forever regardless of how hard or damaging it ends up being. Every wave retreats back into the ocean. Every storm ends in a rainbow. Every wound heals, even the ones that leave scars. 
 
Second, rest in the sovereignty of God. The season that took you by surprise was not a surprise to God. He’s already redeemed it. He’s already sanctified it. He’s already made it beautiful. You cannot see it yet, but you will in time. Only, you must endure until its beauty is revealed.

Read more...

Godfred’s Story

The man with his back turned in the picture’s name is Godfred. We were instructed to just call him Fred. He lives in a village near Jinja, Uganda. By Uganda’s standard of living, he is relatively well to do. He has a son who will begin University this year, and he owns three cows.
 
I owe my life to Fred. No, I really mean that… I nor my team would not have survived without him. He was our driver you see. For two weeks we traveled nearly a thousand kilometers watching Fred in the rearview mirror of his 15 passenger taxi.
 
It is near impossible for me to describe how treacherous is the traffic in that country. Imagine downtown New Orleans with no traffic lights, no stop signs, no parking lots, no crosswalks, and no traffic lanes and you have as close a picture as I can give you of driving through Kampala. Then once you get into the West Nile/ Congolese border region where we were working, you have the problem of poorly maintained roads that always seem to be either straight up or straight down. To make it even more dangerous, throw in a few Congolese transport trucks on a roadway where the rule of the road is that whoever has the bigger vehicle has the right of way.
 
We were grateful for Fred. We loved him. Fed was not a believer and despite our best efforts. He is still, to my knowledge, not a believer. Not all the stories from our July 2018 trip are stories of harvest. Some, like the one I will share with you now, are stories of seeds that were planted.  I tell this story in remembrance of the grace God granted us to plant and water seeds… seeds that we are confident will bear much fruit.
 
Even though Fred did not believe, he was interested in what we were doing and why we were doing it. He attended each of our morning devotions. He never gave any input, but he was there every morning and listened with interest.
 
He also loved to attend the pastor’s conferences I led while other members of the team were conducting our dental ministry. Unlike the morning devotions which included discussions of daily logistics, his presence in my teaching sessions was not a necessary requirement of his job. He could have very reasonably just sat in the van and waited for us all day. As it was though, he was in attendance at nearly all my events listening intently to my every word as I expounded upon the Scripture.
 
The picture above was taken on the second day of the first pastor’s conference in a village near Paidha. That afternoon while we were waiting for the dental crew to finish up their ministry, Fred thanked me for preaching the word of God. “Our pastors really need the kind of teaching you are providing them. You are doing a good work here,” he said. I thanked him for his affirmation.
 
I suspected that the Lord was speaking to Fred through me, so I leaned in really seeking to be an instrument of his conversion. At the last conference, the Lord gave me the privilege of sharing the gospel in several different ways. On the schedule that day was a baptism and an observance of the Lord’s Supper. To prepare the attendees for the Baptism, I spoke from Romans 6 and how it pictured our joining Christ in His death, burial and resurrection. Then for the Lord’s Supper, I talked about what it symbolized using Jesus’ own words in Mark 14:22-25 and also the need for one to examine themselves before receiving the Lord’s Supper in 1 Corinthians 11:27-32. Fred was there. He was on the edge of his seat, listening with the greatest of intent… but he made no move during any of the times of invitation, and he refused the Lord’s Supper.
 
The next day we made the long journey from that place in the West Nile all the way down to Jinja, near Fred’s home village. Between Kampala and Jinja, I made it a point to sit in the front seat right next to Fred so that we could talk one on one. It was not the best of timing given the condition of the dirt road that our missionary chose out of Kampala, but I just knew I was there for such a time as Fred’s conversion.
 
We made a small talk while he navigated the bumps in the red dirt road, his hands firmly grasping the wheel at ten and two. He told me all about his family and his cows, both of which he was equally proud of. I told him about my family and my beekeeping hobby.
 
He complimented me again on my teaching. It was among the greatest of compliments I have ever received. He told me I was more than a preacher. “Bro. Robby you are a teacher. You open the word and tell people what it says. I’ve never seen a pastor do that. Every time I hear you preach, I learn something about God. I love that about you.” I was blown away by the observation from my new friend, and I told him as much.
 
 After a few minutes of silence, I inquired in earnestness, “Fred, what is it that holds you back, my friend? I know you believe in what you have heard me teach all week. You have said as much. What keeps you from giving your heart to what you believe in your mind… to what you have learned?”
 
“I am just not ready.”
 
I paused, not ready to accept his answer, “Okay. But when? When will you be ‘ready?’” I saw a tear in his eye. “The reason why I ask is that I care for you. And the Lord cares for you. I feel that that is why he brought us together. He died for you, and He sent me here to tell you that. He wants your heart. He wants you to follow Him. When will you be ready?”
 
“Before you leave,” he said catching the tear with his finger before it could escape the corner of his left eye. “Before you leave, I will give my heart to Jesus as you have said.” I patted him on the back and told him how happy I was to hear him say that. I told him that I was going to hold him to it.
 
I wish I could tell you that Fred followed through on his promise. He didn’t. The last time we spoke it was through the window of the taxi. I told him that I was going to be praying for him to follow through on the promise he made. Our other driver, Robert, promised that he was going to hold him accountable. Robert is a committed follower of Christ, so I felt reassured by his promise.
 

Three things I would ask you to do. 1. Pray for Fred. Pray that he would believe in his heart what he already believes in his mind. 2. Pray for Robert, that God would give him strength and discernment in how to guide Fred to a relationship with Jesus. 3. Identify the Fred in your own life. If you are a believer, then it is likely that God has put someone on your heart that He wants you to talk to about Jesus. Hasten to be obedient to His voice.


Read more...

The First Five Minutes

00:00- All of creation waits. It’s been 24 hours since the heat of glory made its appearance like a bridegroom coming out of His chamber. He made his way over all creation giving light and life to all who dwelled in darkness. The shadows ran but could not hide from the clear message that rang out declaring the glory of God. Now dawn has come and along with it the time for him to make his appearance once more. All of creation waits for the answer to one burning question… will he come? Will tomorrow come, or will the darkness persist for eternity?
 
01:00- A low flying cumulous cloud in the eastern sky is the first to give witness to the rays proceeding forth from the great light He hung on the fourth day. The cloud and the light compete for the rule of the day while the still waters of the lake wait to proclaim the victor. The contest proves short-lived as the rays of light fatally penetrate the darkness of the cloud which now bleeds orange creating a deep and beautiful purple hue in the space between the cloud and the horizon. 
 
02:00- The eastern horizon yields to the first arc of the sun’s circle. Its heat melts the purple robe offered by the now defeated cloud. The great light will not accept any glory for himself. (His role is to rule the day, to expose every dark shadow, and to proclaim the glory of the One who made him and who made all.) His voice goes out pouring forth speech, but the language and the voice are hidden. What he has to reveal is simply too glorious and holy to understand.
 
 03:00- The robins and sparrows are awakened as the rooster heralds the fresh return of His faithfulness. They begin their song singing, “Great is Thy faithfulness! Great is Thy faithfulness. Morning by morning new mercies we see! All we have needed Thy hand hath provided!” It is a refrain that they will repeat in their own language and key throughout the day. They will spend their day neither sowing nor reaping, but resting only in his provisions for the day. Their daily bread is enough.
 
04:00- The first light from the first rays begin to give color to the flowers of the field. The sunflower made to reflect the image of the great light that rules the day, waves in “Amen.” The Lilies of the field twirl in delight and thankfulness waving the royal robes over which they did not toil or spin. In the field, the grass worries not about what tomorrow may bring. Each blade lives in the present breathing in the provision of the moment and breathing out life to all.
 
05:00- The bottom of the bright circle breaks free of the horizon. A morning dew droplet in the shadow of the tree line eagerly awaits the ray that will give it release from its temporary perch. It will rise up underneath the applause of the oak trees. Having served the purpose of its master, it will make its way back to the place from whence it came. In the air it was formed and to the air, it will return. Tomorrow a fresh new drop will appear.
 
This is only the first five minutes of a symphony that will play until the rider completes his circuit across the sky. Each passing movement of the performance communicates one over-arching theme reminding the children of men that, “This is the day the Lord has made. Rejoice! Be glad in it!” 
 
Only by the grace of God will their hearts and minds be awakened. Even among those regenerated by the blood of the Lamb, few will accept this fresh gift formed for them since the very foundation of the earth. All their days are written in His book, and each one filled with numerous opportunities to decorate their own robes with good works that He has prepared beforehand. Most, still plagued by the darkness of sin, will be too distracted to even notice. Thankfully, His faithfulness is not conditional upon His children’s.
 
At the end of the day will come the night… and again the heavens will declare the glory of God. One great light will give way to a thousand lesser. Their unheard, unintelligible voice will go out once again until the morning breaks forth anew.

Read more...

One Story from Our Uganda Trip

This brother is the pastor of Paidha Pentecostal Church of Uganda (PPCU). I met him at a pastor’s conference in his village two weeks ago. I want to tell you a story about how God transformed his marriage through our ministry in Uganda. I pray that God might be glorified and that you might be encouraged.

 

For our journey, my assignment was to conduct these pastor’s conferences in the very remote villages on the Uganda/Congo border. I would have two days in two different villages, and one day in a third village to pour into the local pastors. I’ve learned that the best way to prepare for teaching in these types of situations is mostly to pray and trust God for direction. Only God knows what teaching these men need the most, so weeks before the trip I began asking for clear wisdom from God and for Him to show me where to begin.

 

God’s answer did not come until the day we met with the Baptist leaders at our lodging place in Paidha, Uganda called, The Country Cottages. This meeting took place only minutes after we filed out of the van taxi and sat our luggage down in our rooms. Chairs were arranged in a semi-circle of The Country Cottages court yard. My mission team from FBC Wiggins along with our host missionary couple sat opposite the leaders as we went over plans for the dental clinic and the pastor’s conferences we planned to conduct over the next five days.

 

When the subject of the pastor’s conferences came around, I asked a question I had learned was important from my previous trips to the country. “What kind of Bibles to the pastors use? Do they have both the Old and the New Testaments in their own language?” I was assured that the pastors possessed full copies of scripture, so I would not have to limit my teaching to just the New Testament.

 

Next, the wife of our host missionary, who also planned to do some teaching with the pastor’s wives, asked if the women owned Bibles. The chair of the local Baptist Association informed her that most of the wives do not have Bibles. The missionary inquired as to why if the men had access to the scriptures, were their wives not afforded the same opportunity. That is when another prominent leader of the association spoke up and said, “Most of them cannot read, so they do not need Bibles anyway.”

 

That answer rocked me. I had expected that the most pastors wives did not own Bibles would be related to some financial constraints on the pastor’s families, or that there was a Bible shortage among the Alur people in Northeastern Uganda. No, the answer was that a pastor’s wife did not “need” a Bible, nor did they need to be able to read.

 

I wanted to scold the church leader, but our missionary beat me to it. He said, “oh yes sir, they most certainly do need bibles. And they need to be able to read. They need to be taught to read, and they need to be taught to read the Bible! That is the duty of their husbands and no one else’s.”

 

Then and there, I settled in on my teaching topics for the week. I would first walk through the Biblical qualifications for pastor, being careful to point out how important it was for a prospective pastor to have his priorities in line before he could enter into that sacred office. Then I would take them through the foundation for marriage (Genesis 2:18-25), the fall of marriage because of sin (Genesis 3:15-19), and how the Genesis 2 marriage can be recovered through devotion to Jesus and through a husband and wife’s unified devotion to fulfilling their biblical roles (Ephesians 5:22-33, 1 Peter 3:1-7). My prayer was that God would do a work in their own marriages and families, and that they would teach these same passages to their congregations who would be impacted as well.

 

On the second day of ministry, I had made it all the way through Ephesians 5 and the biblical roles of husbands and wives. I had taken care to explain how a husband was to love his wife as Christ loved the church and lay down his life for her. A question came from the pastor of PPCU. He wanted to know what a husband was to do if his wife suddenly “went mad” and left the home. I replied, “what would Jesus do if you suddenly went mad and left Him?” I could tell my answer made him uncomfortable. This is normal when the sharp sword of the word divides joint and marrow.

 

The pastor pressed the point. “But what if she left and went far far away? Is he just supposed to pick up and leave and go after her? And what if he was a pastor? Is he just supposed to leave his ministry field to go after his crazy wife?”

 

To his questions I responded, “How far did Jesus go for His bride, the church? He went all the way from heaven to earth… and even to the cross. According to the scripture a husband is not required to go any farther for his wife than Jesus went for church.” I added, “And a pastor especially should know that before he can manage God’s church, he must first manage his own household.”

 

The sword was clearly into his heart now. He asked, “Well, what if she never comes around? What if he doesn’t convince her to return to the home? Is he just supposed to give up his whole life for her?” I directed him again to Ephesians 5:25 and implored him to answer his own question with God’s word.

 

My exchange with the pastor ended on a positive note as did the conference in that first village. The pastors rejoiced that such clear teaching was found in God’s word. They thanked me for bringing them this message, and promised that they would take steps to order their lives and their families around the word of God. They also promised to teach what they had learned to their own congregations.

 

On the third day of ministry, I found myself in a different village with a fresh new group of pastors. The attendees in the second village were more diverse. I even had four Episcopal pastors in the new group. Since there were all new faces, I felt obliged to proceed with the same teaching I had shared in the first village– 1 Timothy 3, Genesis 1, and Genesis 2 on the first day; Ephesians 5 and 1 Peter 3 on the second day.

 

The first day in the new village went extremely well. On the second day, I noticed a familiar face. It was the pastor of PPCU. We happily greeted on another. I thought to myself, Oh no. He’s back with more questions. I just knew that he was going to challenge me even more having had three days to think about our last exchange.

 

I did receive a challenge that day, but it was not from the pastor of PPCU. It was from one of the Episcopal pastors. He asked, “what is a husband to do if his wife stops respecting him? If he gets home in the evening and she does not have supper cooked and she does not have the house ready for him, how is he to respond?”

 

Now to our western ears that question may sound absurd, but I have spent enough time in Uganda to know that in their culture, this is a serious offense. Many Ugandan women are regularly beaten for not getting housework or supper done to her husband’s expectations. Unfortunately, Christian and Muslim men are among the worst offenders.

 

I asked the inquirer, “Do you always live up to Jesus’ expectations? How does He react when you fail to pray; when you fail to give witness; when you fail in your devotion to Him? Does He beat you up? Or does He care for you as His own flesh? The same kind of patience and long-suffering He shows you is what scripture calls you to show to your wife.” I could not hide my passion and my twinge of righteous indignation as I finished my response, and this moved several men in the room to laugh nervously.

 

It was at this moment that the pastor of PPCU stood up. I could tell by the way the rest of the group reacted as he stood to his feet that this man was genuinely respected by his peers even in this village that was not his own. I thought, here we go. I swallowed hard, took a deep breath, and cleared my mind to make room for what he was going to say while fully expecting that it was going to require me to give yet another defense of the hope that is within me.

 

The rebuttal I was poised to prepare turned out to be unnecessary as the pastor of PPCU simply wanted to give a testimony about what the Lord had done in his marriage two days earlier. He explained that he had attended the conference in the previous village and that God had spoken to him through me.

 

I listen intently as this brother relayed his story. He had left the conference on his motorbike and traveled home to his wife where he found her slaving over the fire to prepare his supper which was not yet done. When he motioned her to him, she came running over, fell on her knees, and immediately began apologizing for being tardy with supper. He interrupted her apology and explanations by gently placing one finger over her lips. Then even more gently he placed the palm of his hand on her elbows so as to beckon her up off her knees and onto her feet. He kissed her. Then, he hugged her. Then, he told her that he loved her and did not care about supper. He told her she was the most important thing in this world to him.

 

The whole room, including me, was hanging on his every word as he related the story. When he began to describe the smile on his wife’s face and the joy that they both felt in that moment, handclaps and shouts of praise were lifted up to the Lord. Afterward he challenged the men to not be hearers of the word only, but to be doers of the word.

 

I share this story with two point out two invaluable truths. 1. The inspired word of God is sufficient and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness. 2. God is in the business of restoring and reconciling relationships. It is our business to do what He says even when it goes against our culture and what we think.


Read more...

Need a Reset?

Several weeks ago, Chris Babb recommended an audio book for me in titled RESET: Living a grace paced life in a burnout culture. The book was written by pastor, professor and life coach, David Murray. He devotes his life to teaching ministers and other professionals how to live “a grace paced life.”

 

I listened to RESET over a couple of long road trips and a few evenings while working in the garden. It truly challenged me with the revelation that I have not been living a grace paced life. So, I purchased a hard copy, and intend to journal my way through it while traveling to Africa next week. It is one of those books where you really have to interact with the material to receive the full benefit intended by the author.

 

If you are a lady, David’s wife, Shona Murray, has also written a sister book in titled REFRESH: Embracing a grace paced life in a world of endless demands. I listened to this one too, hoping to understand the plight of my sisters in Christ. Shona follows the same basic outline as in David’s RESET but from the perspective of a woman.

 

If you are a man, I would like you to journey with me through RESET and ladies, I would like you to go through REFRESH. There is no way that you will not benefit from a season of reset or refresh. All of us need to examine our lifestyle and situation, and many of us need to change life gears and slow down to a grace pace. If we don’t, then we will burn out.

 

As an encouragement for you to take this journey with me, I will quote and paraphrase one small section in the introduction of RESET found on pages 12-15 under the heading “Five Deficits of Grace.”

 

There are five types of grace that are in low supply in our burnout culture. First, there is the motivating power of grace. Motivating grace is what gets you out of bed in the morning. It is what gets you running the race of life. For many Christians, motivation comes from a need to gain success, approval from peers or superiors, and money. A Christian’s motivation should come from God’s grace. Their daily question should be this: “In view of God’s amazing grace to me in Christ, how can I serve God and others [today]?”

 

Second, there is the moderating power of grace. Where moderating grace is lacking, the Christian beats himself up over the slightest mistake. He becomes overly frustrated with himself and others which leads him to operate at a burnout pace. Moderating grace leads the Christian to take his imperfections to the perfect God who forgives every sin and heals every shortcoming. Just as motivating grace “recognizes Christ’s fair demands upon us,” moderating grace “receives Christ’s full provision for us.”

 

Third, there is the multiplying power of grace. When one understands that it is God who gives the increase, they are encouraged to pray more. They depend less on their own efforts and more on God’s. A Christian with a tank full of multiplying grace lives at a slower pace and yet produces both a greater quality and a greater quantity of fruit through their dependence upon the Lord.

 

Fourth, there is the releasing power of grace. Releasing grace helps the Christian humbly submit to life’s setbacks and see them as refining tests of their faith. Rather than obsessing and worrying over everything that is wrong with the world, they release their anxieties to their sovereign God knowing that they can trust Him with all the nuts and bolts of life.

 

Fifth, there is receiving power in grace. Many Christians are low on grace because they haven’t taken the time to receive it. They do not eat well. They do not get enough sleep. They do not exercise. Worst of all, they do not observe a Sabbath Day’s rest. Christians who know the receiving power of grace understand that good nutrition, sleep, exercise, and Sabbath rests are means to receiving God’s grace. They are willing to deny their flesh in order to have communion with God.

 

“As long as these five grace deficits exist in the lives of Christians, the wrecker’s yard is going to keep filling with broken and burned-out believers. But by connecting God’s grace more and more to our daily lives—by growing in these five graces—we can learn how to live grace paced lives in a burnout culture. That’s what this book will train you to live out.”


Read more...

One devil who needs to be cast out of your psyche today.

In John 10:10 Jesus says, “The thief comes to steal, to kill, and to destroy, but I have come that they may have life and life abundantly.” The thief comes in different shapes and forms. Each of his minions has a name. They all have this in common; they will do anything to keep the children of God from experiencing the abundant life that Jesus intends for them.
 
In our day there is one demon who is especially active. He entices girls to make themselves physically sick. He is a bully who steals the spirit of our little boys like a schoolyard bully steals lunch money. He accuses Christian men and women and leads them to doubt their salvation. He even attacks ministers in the church and leads them to lose their focus on the things that really matter. The devil’s name is Comparison. 
 
Devils generally like to keep their real names secret. That’s because when you learn their name, you can call them out, and cast them out. They love darkness. They love to lurk in the shadows, sneak up on you, steal, kill, and destroy the life Jesus has given you. This is why I feel it is important to expose Comparison for who he is.
 
Comparison’s most active playground is on social media. He hunts in a pack with his cousins, Pride, Jealousy, and Selfish Ambition. As fellow users of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and SnapChat put their best face forward, Comparison sneaks onto the psyche of the viewer. Once in their head, he wreaks havoc with his whip and pitch fork like the proverbial bull in a china shop.  
 
Comparison makes shadowy rounds in our schools, families, neighborhoods, and workplaces. Rather than rest in the abundant life, we’ve been granted, we look at the lives of others. We see their talents, gifts, and blessings, and Comparison whispers in our ear that we need what they have. He gets in our head. He slashes and dices our centers of contentment causing us to make unhealthy and ill-motivated changes to become a person who we were never meant to be.
 
Even the church building is not safe from Comparison. He sneaks into the pastor’s head as he considers the size of his congregation and the notoriety of his name. He slips up weak-minded and unarmored saints as they study the gifts, accomplishments, and titles of their fellow brothers and sisters. Under Comparison’s influence, children of God will either burn themselves out or fall victims to other devils who move in after Comparison has stolen their joy. 
 
Now that you know his name and the way he operates, let me tell you how this devil can be routed. You’ve heard that the word of God is living and active and sharper than a two-edged sword. You should also know that devils flee at the command of Jesus’ word. If you will commit to resisting Comparison, he will flee from you.
 
Remember, God’s word says that you are a new creation (2 Cor 5:17; Gal 6:15). I recently heard someone say that resurrection is not something that happens after death. While we do await the resurrection of our physical bodies, spiritually we have already received the resurrection from the dead. We have new life. So… LIVE it! 
 
He saved you and created you again to live in victory. Individually, you are His workmanship. There are good works that He has prepared for you, and only you, to walk in (Eph 2:10). There is a race that He has set out before you, and only you, to run (Heb 12:1). You are becoming a unique expression of the love of Christ (Rom 8:29). 
 
You are an individual who is loved by God and nothing can separate you from His love. He doesn’t love you less because you are a different body shape or because you are at a different point in your race to sanctification. Others may have different talents, gifts, or blessings, but God loves and cares for us as individuals first.
 
Don’t try to be someone else’s expression of Christ. Quit trying to run someone else’s race. Do a lot of what you are good at. Don’t make a home for Comparison in your heart. Let it be filled with the Spirit of God. Allow Him to rule your heart and mind, and you will find what it is to live life and life abundantly.

Read more...

“Help my unbelief.”

Mark 9:14-27 records a most interesting story. It takes place just after the event of Jesus’ transfiguration. Jesus and the disciples who had accompanied him on the mountain came down to a great crowd and a scene of chaos. Central to the chaotic scene was an intense argument that was underway between the scribes and the disciples.

 

When the crowd saw Jesus they ran up to Him. He asked what all the commotion was about. A man stepped forward and explained that he had a son who was possessed by a spirit that made him mute, and whenever the spirit seized him, it caused him to flail about and foam at the mouth. He explained that his body would become rigid and that he would gnash his teeth. 

 

The man had come to the disciples for help, but they were unable to cast out the demon. The Jewish scribes accused them of being fakes. The scribes must have been arguing that since the disciples were not able to cast the demon out of this boy, who was known to be possessed, perhaps their previous works had been performed in trickery rather than truth.

 

Jesus expressed his displeasure with the group and asked for the boy to be brought near. When the boy saw Jesus, the evil spirit seized upon him. Right there at Jesus’ feet, the boy began to flail about, rolling around in the dirt, foaming at the mouth, and gnashing his teeth. Jesus initially does nothing. He just observes. Imagine that. Imagine the father and his panic.

 

Jesus asks how long this has been going on. The father who must have been desperate to get the words out said, “From childhood. It has often cast him into the fire. But if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.” Do not miss the “if” in the father’s request, “‘If you can do anything…’” His faith was being rocked in this moment. He had brought his son to Jesus because he believed Jesus had the power to cast out the demon, but now his confidence was wavering.

 

I love what Jesus said in response to the father’s statement. Jesus repeated the father’s words “’if you can!’” I am not sure if Jesus meant it as a question or a statement. Was he asking “what do you mean ‘if you can? You know I can, else you would not be here!” Or was Jesus turning the father’s question back on him? Perhaps he was pointing to the father saying, “if YOU can.” Either way, Jesus was confronting this father’s lack of faith. 

 

Jesus then challenges the father with this statement “All things are possible for one who believes.” The father’s response is most profound, “I believe; Help my unbelief.” Say what? Is he saying he believes, or is he saying that he does not believe and thus needs help believing? The answer to both questions is yes. The father both believes and does not believe all at the same time.

 

Who cannot identify with this poor father? Who has not had a crisis of faith where you are trusting Jesus but at the same time plagued with doubt wondering whether or not Jesus will help? The testimony we receive in this passage is that it is okay to believe and still have doubts. It is okay to ask God to help you believe. There is nothing wrong with going to God in prayer even when you wonder if He even hears or cares. He will show you that He is good.

 

Upon the father’s request for Jesus to help his unbelief, Jesus rebuked the spirit and commanded him to come out of the boy. He did. The boy fell limp and lifeless. The crowd thought he was dead, but Jesus took him by the hand and raised him up. The boy was healed, and the father’s faith was restored.

 

I wonder what it is that might be shaking your faith today. Is there something that you are believing God for, and yet at the same time you are struggling to trust Him? Would you be so bold and honest as to ask Jesus to help your unbelief? Scripture teaches us that if we will be honest before God, then He will work mightily to heal us of our unbelief.


Read more...

When a Falsehood of the Tongue becomes One of the Heart

Thomas Jefferson once said, “He who permits himself to tell a lie once, finds it much easier to do it a second and third time, till at length it becomes habitual; he tells lies without attending to it, and truth without the world’s believing him. This falsehood of the tongue leads to that of the heart, and in time depraves all its good dispositions.”
 
The longer I live, the more I discover the truth in this saying. Everybody lies sometimes. They lie to themselves. They lie to God. They lie to the people they love. We all walk on a razor edge in danger of falling off into the pit that Jefferson termed a “falsehood of the heart.”
 
The condition, falsehood of the heart, is an even darker more desperate condition than the falsehood of the tongue. Falsehoods of the tongue can be confessed and repented of. Forgiveness can be received and amends can be made. However, when the lies go unconfessed, unrepented, and unconfronted, they become a falsehood of the heart that “in time depraves all its good dispositions.”
 
We see in the Scripture how numerous individuals transitioned from the falsehood of the tongue to the falsehood of the heart. Adam and Eve hid from God. Their hiding was an act of deceit… a falsehood of the tongue. When God questioned them about their fig leaves, it was a perfect opportunity for them to come clean about their deceitfulness. They didn’t. They played the blame game. Darkness had penetrated their hearts and deprived them of any good disposition.
 
David sought out another man’s wife. He lay with her and he lied to hide his sin. With his sin, unconfessed darkness penetrated his heart so that he was even driven to murder the woman’s husband. Falsehood of the tongue gave way to that of the heart and deprived him of his inhibition to murder. Were it not for the grace of God and his friend’s willingness to confront him, David would have been destroyed.
 
Ananias and Sapphira sold a field and did not pay all that they vowed to the Lord. When confronted by Peter, they lied again. Their hearts were blackened by their lies so that they were no longer disposed to tell the truth. God, in His infinite wisdom, showed them no mercy. He was right to take them, just as he would have been right to destroy David, Adam, and Eve.
 
This terrifies me, and it should you as well. We live in a time when it is so easy to lie. You can satisfy any number of filthy lusts anonymously with just a few clicks of a mouse. You can justify your lies with the assertion that everyone does it. Our politicians lie as do our journalists, our pastors, our coworkers, and our denominational leaders. It is vogue to be deceitful. Truth is in low demand. Truth-telling is seen as a weakness rather than a strength. Falsehood of the tongue is a terrible darkness that has penetrated every area of our lives.
 
Everywhere we look, this disease is depriving people’s hearts of every good disposition. I have no doubt that there will be people reading this article who are living with this condition… lying to their spouses, their bosses, their clients, or their children. I hope this serves as a wakeup call. 
 
Coming clean is not easy. It is like ripping a Band-Aid off of a wound that should have been stitched closed by a doctor but is now festered and irritated. It is scary. It is ugly… not to mention painful. But it has to happen for things to get better and for wounds to be healed.
 
Your betrayal is not easily forgiven either. Coming clean is going to hurt the one you have betrayed, but it will hurt worse if you wait until you get busted in your betrayal. Do not wait until you get caught. By then your explanations and apologies will have lost much of their meaning. Confess now while there is still some “good dispositions” in your heart to do so. 
 
Falsehood of the tongue (betrayal) can be forgiven. Hurts can be healed. Relationships can be restored. Once a falsehood of the tongue turns to a falsehood of the heart, the chances of healing and reconciliation diminish significantly. Do not wait until your heart is deprived of all its good dispositions to seek forgiveness and reconciliation. 

Read more...

This Life in Vanity Fair

In The Pilgrim’s Progress, John Bunyan wrote about a fictitious city named Vanity Fair. In that city, all vain temporary things of the world were assigned the highest value. Its citizens treasured fancy clothes, comfort, and entertainment over virtues such as truth, wisdom, and the joy of the Lord. When a pilgrim, whose name was Faithful, came into Vanity Fair, he was asked by one of the fair’s peddlers, “What will you buy?” Faithful promptly refused to even look upon all the vain wares and vices available for purchase. Instead, he said speaking for himself and Christian, his traveling companion, “We buy truth!”

At that moment the whole city began to rise up in derision and mocked Faithful and Christian for their value of truth. The king of the city, named Beelzebub, incited the citizens to bring false charges and accusations against them. Faithful was burned at the stake, while Christian made a narrow escape.  

I have been greatly troubled as of late because I feel like I am living in Bunyan’s Vanity Fair. The news of what is happening in national politics, what has come out of the Southern Baptist Convention in the last few weeks, the mass shootings, the drug crises etc. leads me to believe that our culture is a city that peddles vanities and vices. Demand is at an all-time high for honors, titles, pleasures, and delights of all sorts. The merchandizers of our culture, much like those in Vanity Fair, peddle blood, bodies, sex, silver, and gold.

For pilgrims like myself, the message is clear, you can have it all if you are willing to part with your values and your good character. You can lust your little heart out if you are willing to sell your purity. You can have all the glory you would ever dream if you will release your inhibitions and pull that trigger. You can have any position you would like if you will just burst your bond with the truth. And comfort… why you never have to sacrifice comfort if you are willing to sacrifice doing what is right.

It is lonely for the pilgrim making his way through Vanity Fair. We look different because we are clothed in the garments of truth and righteousness. We look like barbarians to them and they look like barbarians to us. We speak the language of Canaan, the promise land, while they speak the tongue common to the children of men.

They hate our Master and they hate us as an extension of their hatred for our master. They will cage us up and make us a spectacle. They will blaspheme all that is good with their false charges and insults. They will even kill us if they can… all this because we will not buy their wares… all because we value truth over the vain things of this foreign country.

I will be glad when my pilgrimage is done; when like Christian I cross that river and enter into the celestial city. My spirit will be made whole. Relieved of the burdens I carry through the streets of Vanity, I will be able to feast on the truth in the freedom of that good country. I will not have to concern myself with the motives of the citizens there because we will all be clothed in His righteousness. All envy and slander will cease, and there will be only the eternal things for which I have been so long searching: love, joy, peace, kindness, patience, gentleness, self-control, and life without end.

I digress. To all my fellow pilgrims, be encouraged. There are thousands of others in Vanity Fair who have not bowed the knee to Beelzebub. We have the greatest most valuable treasure of all… we have the truth. We have our values. We have our good character. The merchandizers would have you trade it for the sake of vain things. Don’t do it. When they call out, “what will you buy,” answer back with confidence, “we buy truth!”

What our modern-day Vanity Fair needs is more pilgrims suffering for good instead of evil. We should do what is right, stand for the truth, and go to the cage and or to the stake falsely accused instead of going there  as disgraced hypocrites. The thousands who have not bowed the knee must needs come out from their closets, from the byways and hedges and make a public stand in this Vanity Fair. Otherwise, we will never live up to the names he gave us, Faithful and Christian.


Read more...