The difference in failing and being a failure.

Everyone has experienced it. You are rocking along, walking with the Lord, doing great, and things could not be better. Then, BAM! Life happens. There is a job change and a relocation, and you get out of fellowship with other believers. Or you discover your spouse has been unfaithful, or you mess up and find your-own-self in an improper relationship with someone. Or you mistreat a person you love. In general, you find that you have failed.
 
Once I heard a preacher say in a sermon, “The devil is the most passionate preacher of grace when he’s tempting one to sin, and he’s the most passionate preacher of condemnation after one falls into sin.” This is so true. We fall into sin believing that we will be okay, that God will understand, that we can be forgiven. Then, after we fall, we condemn ourselves as an irreconcilable, unredeemable, and miserable failure.
 
In the season following a moral failure, it is extremely important to check your thoughts of condemnation with Scripture. Is it fair to label yourself as a failure just because you failed? Is what you did so horrible that you are unredeemable and irreconcilable? Are you really disqualified to be a child of God? Is there another way to think about your situation and what you have done?
 
Scripture teaches us that there was only ever one human being who had the ability to live life flawlessly—Jesus. Jesus was able to live life flawlessly because He was born the son of God and born without sin. All other human beings were born the sons and daughters of Adam with an inherited nature bent toward sin and failure. We were all doomed to sin by the very nature of our birth. (Romans 5:12-14)
 
When you back up and look at scripture, you find that failing doesn’t make you a failure. It makes you a human being. If you could live life flawlessly, there would have been no need for Jesus to come live a perfect life, die on the cross, and be resurrected. He came because God loved you even while knowing that you would fail. (Romans 5:6-11)
 
Scripture teaches that no sin is unforgivable if it is confessed and repented. He cleanses sin, by His grace, through faith in the person and work of Jesus Christ as a free gift to those who trust in Him. He casts sins “as far as the east is from the west” (Psalms 103:12). God has never done wrong. He is completely just and faithful to His promise. As such, His justice and faithfulness call for Him to forgive and cleanse the confessed and repentant (1 John 1:9).
 
Scripture also teaches that those who receive Jesus as Savior are born again as children of God and by the will of God (John 1:12-13). They are adopted into His household with the legal rights of inheritance to His Kingdom (Romans 8:16-17). Nothing can undo what He has accomplished by His great love for those who trust in Him (Romans 8:31-39). Certain failure may disqualify a person from certain areas of service in the kingdom, but no failure disqualifies a true Christian from receiving His love. No Christian is ever disqualified from being a child of God.
 
When Jesus is a priest whose holiness, and unstained innocence allows Him to save “to the uttermost those who draw near to God through Him… He always lives to make intercession for them” (Hebrews 7:24-26). By his great mercy, they are “born again into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, into an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading…” (1 Peter 1:3-4).
 
If you have failed, then the point is to acknowledge your failure, but don’t beat yourself up. Take your failure to the foot of the cross and leave it there. The cross of Christ is where Christian failures die and are forgotten. Then go pay a visit to the empty tomb. The empty tomb is the place were believers are assured that they have life. Understand that God is a master at taking the mess we make and turning it around for His glory honor and praise.
 

All that is required for His redemption is repentance. What does it mean to repent? To repent is to ask for forgiveness and determine to do your best, in the strength He provides, not to make the same mistake again. To be sure, you will fail again, but prayerfully you won’t fail in the same way twice.


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Let Go and Grow Old

Most people dread the thought of growing older. We resist it. We do everything we can to feel young, look young, act young, and stay young. Women keep their age a secret. Men style their hair to cover their bald spots. People spend millions on cosmetics and procedures to cover up the effects of aging on their faces. 
 
We fear growing older for a couple of reasons. First, we fear that when we become old we won’t matter anymore. Our culture marginalizes the aged, and there is nothing a human being fears more than being marginalized and unknown. Second, we fear growing old because we fear death.  Each year that passes is one more that we will never get back, and no one knows when their years will run out. 
 
For Christians, these fears are irrational. There never comes a time when children of God cease to matter or be useful in the eyes of their Heavenly Father. They never cease to be useful in His hands. Also, death does not exist for those who have trusted their lives to Jesus. For Christians, death is just a gateway into a new and glorious state of being that lasts for the rest of eternity. 
 
For too long people have minimized the benefits of growing older. A survey of elderly characters in the Bible teaches God’s people that age should be embraced by God’s people. Let me give you a few examples.
 

1. People get smarter as they grow older.

A common objection to the flood narrative in Genesis arises when skeptics question how Noah was able to build this huge boat according to the exact plans of the Lord. However, when you think about the length of human life at that time in history, you can imagine how technology could advance so dramatically. Genesis 5:22 tells us that Noah was 500 years old before he ever fathered any children. Imagine how much a man could learn in 500 years. Think of the modern-day genius, Steve Jobs, and imagine what he could have accomplished if he were given upwards of 800 years to learn and advance in his understanding.

 
Not everyone is a genius, but the longer we live the more we learn. The more we learn, the more intelligent we become. I recently read one author who declared this truth, “young people learn new things faster, but old people know more.” For this reason, aging is a process to be embraced, not avoided.
 

2. God affords the aged an opportunity to invest the next generation.

In Numbers 20:12, God revealed to Moses that he was barred from entering into the promise land because he failed to follow the Lord’s clear instruction at the waters of Meribah. Moses, however, was not left without a legacy. He did not cease to matter just because he would not live to see the promise land dispossessed from the Canaanites. God simply modified His mission for Moses’ life. In Deuteronomy 3:28, we learn that God immediately tasked him with preparing Joshua, his assistant, to lead the people after him.
 
The Bible teaches that all are bound to die because of sin (Romans 5:14-18), but this does not mean that we will ever cease to matter or be useful to the Lord. We, like Moses, were commissioned to invest our lives in the future of God’s people. We leave a legacy by making disciples, baptizing them, and teaching them to be obedient to Christ. The more time the Lord gives us on this earth the more opportunities He affords to invest in a legacy that stands to live for all eternity.
 

3. The elderly possesses the aptitude to intimately appreciate the love of God.

 
John 21:22 and the early church tradition leads us to believe that John was the only disciple to survive persecution and die as an old man in exile. Beyond the opportunity to live longer, what was John afforded by surviving into senior adulthood? He grew to understand more intimately the love of God. In the second chapter of his first letter, he wrote: “See what kind of love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are.”
 
Every day the Lord gives us is another day that we are allowed to experience the love of our Heavenly Father. The more we experience His love, the more we appreciate it. The more we appreciate His love, the better we are able to share it with others.

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What does it take to be a peacemaker?

Our God is a God of peace. He created a world of peace and harmony in the garden of Eden. When man disrupted peace with sin, He sent His Son to be the manifestation of peace on earth. He died on the cross to establish peace, then He sent the Holy Spirit to be the agent of that peace. Through the Holy Spirit residing in the hearts of believers, He wrought in them the fruit of peace, made them the ministers of peace. One day Jesus will return to finally restore creation back to its original peace and tranquility.
 
Jesus calling peacemakers blessed sons of God (Matt 5:9) should not be a surprise. Every family has a heritage and God’s family has a heritage of peace. Much like when people think of the Kennedy’s as a political family, the Rockefellers as an oil family, and Queen Elizabeth’s family as the royal family, the family of God should be known as the family of peace.
 

If we know that Jesus said “blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called sons of God,” then a peacemaker is what we should individually strive to be. Let’s spend some time, then, thinking through what it takes to be a peacemaker.

 

1. To be a peacemaker, one must first make peace with God through faith in Jesus Christ.

 
Apart from Christ, there is no peace with God. Scripture teaches that before we came to faith in Christ, we were enemies of God. We were dead in our trespasses. We were children of wrath like the rest of mankind. (Eph 2:1-3) We had gone our own way. The way of peace we had not known. (Roman 3:10-18) We do not find peace with God until our hearts are awakened and we place our faith in what Jesus did to reconcile us to God.
 

Having peace in one’s life does not begin and end with faith in Christ though. Peace comes through living by faith and obedience to God. To be a peacemaker, one must have peace in his or her life, and one cannot have peace if they are living in disobedience. Where willful secret sin is present, even in the life of born again believers, fellowship with God is strained making the enterprise of peacemaking difficult to impossible.

 

2. To be a peacemaker, one must lead others to make peace with God.

 
John Macarthur writes in his commentary on Matthew 5:9, “To preach Christ is to promote peace. To bring a person to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ is the most peacemaking act a human being can perform. It is beyond what any diplomat or statesman can accomplish.”
 
To lead others to peace with God, we must humble ourselves. If we look down on others’ weaknesses and are blind to our own… if we discount our faults while elevating the faults of others, then we actually lead people away from the gospel and peace with God.
 
 Peacemakers boast in their absolute inability to save themselves. They glory in the strength and righteousness He gives. They acknowledge Him as the One who keeps them from evil. They make much of the mercy He has shown them and the grace He has gifted to them. Peacemakers speak of the promises He has kept in spite of the promises they have broken and in so doing, show the world the peace of God.
 

3. To be a peacemaker, one must lead others to reconcile conflicts.

 
Peacemaking involves helping conflicting parties see what they have in common. A conflict where no common ground can be identified is a rarity. All people are created in the image of God, valued by Him, and are neighbors at least in that way.
 
Once common ground is identified, the peacemaker must do the dirty work of dealing with sin both in his brother and in the enemy of his brother. At the root of every conflict is a festering cyst of sin that must be identified and mashed out. The process can be painful, so the conflict often gets worse before it gets better.
 

Finally, peacemakers mediate the process of bridge-building. Bridges are built over vast gulfs when hurts on both sides are aired out, acknowledged by the wrongdoers, and forgiveness is offered. Bridges have two sides, the same is so where a conflict exists. Very rarely is a conflict one-sided. Both sides must participate in building their respective side of the bridge.


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What is to be learned from the news of more mass shootings?

Last weekend two mass shootings occurred over the span of 13 hours and 1,600 miles apart. Thirty-one people are dead and dozens more were maimed and wounded. One shooter is dead and one taken into custody. 

 

The spin doctors on the right and the left are hard at work exploiting these recent losses to advance their own agendas. This close to a presidential election, we can expect that there will be a heated competition to put a label on these events. You can count on this, right now campaigns are testing labels on their focus groups to see which words elicit the most emotional reactions. Expect to hear more debate about “White Nationalist Terrorism” and “Domestic Terrorism.” What will ensue is another Black Lives vs Blue Lives vs All Lives matter.

 

Understand that by assigning these labels, politicians and pundits are trying to tell you what you should think about these events. By forming your thinking, they want to point you to who is to blame. Some labels will infer that the president is to blame, others that gun control activists are to blame, others that second amendment defenders are to blame. 

 

This political posturing is not helpful but only serves to polarize the nation even further. Polarization is not the answer to the problem. More vitriol is not the way to bring an end to these gruesome acts but only breeds more division. More division leads to more violence, not less. 

 

What is desperately needed in our country is for those who profess Christ to look at these events through the lens of Scripture. Scripture is truth, and truth, when believed, brings us together. Those who believe the truth of Scripture find peace and make peace. 

 

The recent mass shootings, when viewed from Scripture, illustrate that people are broken. We, like Cain, inherited sin from our parents, Adam and Eve. Like Cain, our inherited sin manifests itself in the form of hatred, anger, and violence. The Lord knows that the wickedness of man is great in the earth and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart is only evil continually (c.f. Gen 6:5).

 

Romans 3 teaches us that the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every man. Paul, in this letter to believers, injects this truth by quoting from the Old Testament, “’Their throat is an open grave. Their mouth is full of bitterness. Their feet are swift to shed blood; in their paths are ruin and misery and the way of peace they have not known’” (Romans 2:13-17).

 

We like to think that people are generally good and incapable of doing horrible things like shooting up a Wal-Mart. This thinking does not line up with the truth of Scripture. Scripture teaches that people are bad, evil, violent, and hateful apart from Christ. We are all broken, and we all need Jesus.

 

Most would agree that murderers need Jesus, but what must be acknowledged is the truth that we are not much different than the murderers. The evil that led those shooters to kill resided in all of us at one point or another. The grace of God is the only thing that delivers us from the depravity of our flesh. 

 

What our country desperately needs is for every professed believer in Christ to cling to Him and to Him alone. Believers need to study their Bibles more than they study headlines, tweets, and social media posts. Rather than relying on politicians for peace, they should cast their anxieties upon Christ and receive the peace that surpasses all understanding, and then they should share the peace that they receive with others who don’t have it.

 

Jesus said that believers “are the salt of the earth.” If the world is headed to hell in a handbasket, then we are called to take responsibility. It is a dereliction of Christian duty to cast blame on others when we are not willing to share with the world the one answer to all hatred and violence. If we want peace on earth, a secure future for our children, and for God to bless America, then we had better be on our knees praying, and on our feet sharing the hope that comes from knowing Christ.


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Mission Week Update

July 18

I want to thank everyone who has been praying for and who signed up for Mission Week (July 28- Aug 2). The Lord has really been working to bring everything together. I am excited to share this news with you, give you some updates on each project, and let you know where we have further needs for volunteers. 
 

SES Project

Our team has been asked to paint all the bathrooms in the elementary school. Suzanne Hudson is taking lead on this project. We could still use some helpers even form people who cannot participate every day.
 
 

 Blessing for Teachers

This project started as an add on to the elementary school painting project but has since, by God’s blessing, morphed into something bigger and all on its own. We will be providing meals for all the faculty and staff at the elementary school, middle school, and high school. Patty Rogers is taking lead on this project along with Diane Roberts. I’m sure they could use a lot more help if you are interested.
 
 

Block Party in Finkbine

The block party team is fully staffed, and Larry is making plans. If you signed up to help with the block party, then he will be contacting you with instructions.
 
 

South Ms Regional Center (SMRC)

The team is full except we don’t have a leader yet and we could use a guitar player. Anyone interested? I’m sure some sort of rehearsal will need to be organized. Ann Kendrick is working on getting goodie bags together for the residents.
 
 

Basketball Camp

The event was posted to Facebook on Monday. The word “free” has generated a huge amount of interest on social media. We will need many more helpers. Even if you know nothing about basketball, we can use you. Love for kids and love for Jesus is the only prerequisite.
 
 
 

Bag Stuffers

Michelle Rogers will be leading the team of bag stuffers. If you signed up, then she will be contacting you about next week’s schedule. If you did not sign up but are interested in helping with this project then please touch base with her. Call the church office if you need her contact info.

 

Visitation

I cannot stress to you how desperately we need more people to sign up for the visitation. I know this is uncomfortable for many of us, but I promise it will not be as bad as you think. In fact, you are going to be surprised how friendly and open your neighbors are to getting a visit from people who love and care about them. I assure you that you do not need to be an ace evangelist to participate in this project. You just have to love Jesus and love people. Any person of any age and level of Bible knowledge can help. You could help just by smiling and being present because we will go out there as teams.
 
You will notice that there are many blanks on those visitation signup sheets. We need lots of people to help with this so that we can accomplish the mission the Lord has assigned to us. I am asking for you to take courage if only for this one time. You will emerge on the other side of the experience as a better more caring person. And if you have the worst experience ever, then hey… you never have to do it again. One strong push toward courageously going out in the name of Christ is all I am asking.

 

Pray-Give-Go

Please continue to keep these efforts lifted up to the Lord in your daily prayers. Be ready to take the opportunity to participate in the prayer vigil coming up in a couple weeks. Consider giving to the Mission Week fund. The more resources we have, the more ministry we can accomplish. Finally, if you’ve not signed up to go on mission with us, please don’t wait to respond to the Lord. If He is tugging at your heart concerning one or even more of these projects, then be quick to be obedient. 

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4 Reasons to Practice the “Billy Graham Rule”

 Last week, actions taken by a gubernatorial candidate to avoid being alone with a female reporter sparked a debate over what has been dubbed the “Billy Graham Rule.” The “Billy Graham Rule” is a principle that the famous evangelist developed in 1948 during a crusade in Modesto California whereby he covenanted with God and his fellow evangelists never to be alone with a woman who was not his wife (https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/evangelical-history/where-did-the-billy-graham-rule-come-from/). Vice President, Mike Pence, is well known to practice this principle as well. 

 

I am also a practitioner of this axiom with only two slight adjustments. I have made two exceptions in my nearly 18 years of marriage and both were through much prayer and in mutual agreement with my wife. Also, my counseling ministry requires me to be able to meet with women one on one. I do so under the watchful eye of a security camera that captures on video (not audio) everything that happens in my office. 

 

Not only am I a practitioner of the “Billy Graham Rule,” but I am also an apologist. I counsel all the couples for whom I do pre-marital counseling that to be alone with a member of the opposite sex other than your spouse is never a good idea for the reasons I shall enumerate below. First, let me just say, I also make it a practice never to endorse any candidate for political office (my reasons for this rule is material for a different article). This principle for living, though, is at the forefront of the current water cooler conversation, and I want to tell you why practicing it is a good idea. 

 

1. Guarding the marriage bed honors God.

 
The Spirit instructs us in Hebrews 13:4, “Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous.” To hold the “marriage bed in honor” is to assign to it the highest value. Anything that you can do to keep it undefiled is honorable, wise, and prudent. Why does God tell His people to honor the marriage bed and keep it pure? Because God’s heart is to honor the marriage bed and keep it pure, hence the reasons for the prohibitions around sex and His judgment upon those that offend those prohibitions. God wants married people to enjoy intimacy, and for intimacy to be enjoyed it must be honored and set apart as holy.

 

2. Married people belong first to God and then to their spouse

Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 7:2&4, “But because of the temptation to sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband. For the wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. Likewise, the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does.” Here we see that God desires for a husband and wife to be joined together in intimacy, thus He grants both authority over each other’s bodies. He does this so that each spouse would submit themselves to their “own” spouse. As a husband, by my refusal to be alone with a woman who is not my wife, I am really guarding any temptation to defile the body that belongs to my wife.

 

3. Affairs are painful and destructive.

In my 12-year career as a pastor, I have witnessed the heart-wrenching destruction of many marriages because of extramarital affairs. These affairs do more than just destroy a marriage. They destroy people. Affairs destroy children. Affairs destroy workplaces, and they destroy churches. Faithfully practicing the “Billy Graham Rule” is an almost sure way to avoid becoming an instrument of destruction in the hand of Satan.

 

4. While it may seem that interactions with the opposite sex (not your spouse) are innocent, you must understand that most affairs begin innocently.

Hardly anyone who has an affair does it on purpose. Most affairs begin with a platonic relationship that develops sometimes over the course of several years. Just like in any other platonic turned romantic relationship, friendly talk leads to spending time together (eventually alone time), which leads to confiding in one another, and soon chemistry develops and love, or at least the feeling of love, is born. By making it a practice not to be alone with a friend of the opposite sex, you disrupt that formula that leads to an affair and ensures that you stay just that, friends.


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Mission Week Update

July 10

I want to thank everyone who has been praying for and who signed up for Mission Week (July 28- Aug 2). The Lord has really been working to bring everything together. I am excited to share this news with you, give you some updates on each project, and let you know where we have further needs for volunteers. 
 

SES Project

I met yesterday with Mrs. Krista Sablich, principal of Stone Elementary, to get an idea of how we would best be able to serve them as a part of our Mission Week outreach. I learned that the school district has a team of painters, but that team is shared by all the schools in the district. The elementary school needs a lot of painting, more than they can get done in time. For those who signed up for this project, painting will be a big part of your mission. I am scheduled to meet with Mrs. Sablich again on Monday to identify a specific project that we can take on. It would be very helpful to know what size team we will have, so please if you are interested and have not signed up, do so by this Sunday on the table outside the library.
 
Another part of the elementary school outreach will be blessing the teachers on their first day back at work (Thursday Aug 1). Mrs. Sablich indicated that the best way to be a blessing to the teachers is to do a breakfast for them, so a breakfast will be at least part of our plan to minister to them. We’ll still be working to identify other ways to encourage the elementary school teachers. Patty Rogers is in charge of the breakfast. If you want to help with the breakfast, please write your name on the signup sheet and indicate that you want to be a part of the breakfast team.
 
 
 

Block Party in Finkbine

Yesterday, Larry and I identified two homes in the neighborhood who were willing to host us for the block party. These homes are side by side, and we will be able to set up between the two properties (pending the landlord’s approval). It is a great location because the homes are sort of centrally located in the neighborhood. 
 
We have three members signed up to help with this project. We need at least that many more. Another burger/hotdog cook, someone to chaperone the bounce house, and someone who could use a soccer ball to present the gospel to the residents. (Sharing the gospel with the soccer ball is super easy, a young person could easily do it.) Let’s try to have this team filled by Sunday.
 
 

South Ms Regional Center (SMRC)

The church service at SMRC was by far the most popular one on the table last Sunday. We had six members sign up and indicate that they would like to help with this outreach opportunity. I would say that this team is pretty much full except that we need some musicians specifically a guitar player and a drummer for the jimbe. 
 
As a new development on the SMRC project, I heard that someone is planning to put together some goody-bags for the residents? I cannot remember who or where I heard that from, but it is a wonderful idea! Just let us know what you need from us. It might be helpful to write a little note about it on the signup sheet by Sunday.
 
 

Basketball Camp

I hope to have the registration sheets for the basketball camp available by the end of the week. I’ll post a Facebook event and promotion for this project this week. A huge need we have right now is for a couple more people to sign up. We really need a water and snacks person. It would also be great if someone would sign up to do a gospel centered object lesson with the kids each day at snack time.
 
 
 

Bag Stuffers

We have been working this week to get all the items ordered for the visitation bags. It should all be in in time to start stuffing on the 22. We still need two or three more helpers, and someone who will take leadership on this super important project.

 

 

An Idea from a Member

We received an idea from one of our members about doing some tutoring for kids in the neighborhood. We are working to see if we can make this happen for Mission Week. More details later, but keep this in your prayers and on your heart.

 

 

Visitation

As mentioned in the Facebook post yesterday, we shifted the dividing intersection north to Border Ave. and Magnolia Dr. (roughly). This move makes the quadrants more even. You’ll also notice that there is a little “hump” in the boundary between the eastern quadrants. This keeps every homes north of Clubhouse Dr. in the NE quadrant and south of Clubhouse in the SE quadrant. 
 
I cannot stress to you how desperately we need more people to sign up for the visitation. I know this is uncomfortable for many of us, but I promise it will not be as bad as you think. In fact, you are going to be surprised how friendly and open your neighbors are to getting a visit from people who love and care about them. Some of your visits will not last more than about a minute. Some could last much longer if the person is open and interested. We are just going to let the Spirit lead us in how much we do or say on these visits. Some evenings we will have good “quality” visits and on other evenings we will have a good “quantity” of visits.
 
I am asking for you to take courage if only for this one time. You will emerge on the other side of the experience as a better more caring person. And if you have the worst experience ever, then hey… you never have to do it again. One strong push toward courageously going out in the name of Christ is all I am asking.
 
Remember you can sign up for more than one night of visitation. In fact, I think most people who are willing to go at least one night, should go more than one night. We currently have 10 people signed up. We can do better than that. 

 

Pray-Give-Go

Please continue to keep these efforts lifted up to the Lord in your daily prayers. Be ready to take the opportunity to participate in the prayer vigil coming up in a couple weeks. Consider giving to the Mission Week fund. The more resources we have, the more ministry we can accomplish. Finally, if you’ve not signed up to go on mission with us, please don’t wait to respond to the Lord. If He is tugging at your heart concerning one or even more of these projects, then be quick to be obedient. 
 
 

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What if the God of Acts 2 was the God we worshipped and believed in?

In Acts 2, we read of a God who met with His people as they prayed. He was a God who descended down on them in His Spirit. He gave them the gift of utterance and their hearers the gift of hearing so that everyone heard the gospel in his or her own language. He gave Peter boldness to speak the truth while pulling no punches and barring no holds. His word pierced the hearts of those who heard. The same people could not help but ask, “What must we do to be saved?” 
 
In the end, 3,000 people responded to the call of the Holy Spirit and were saved. The Lord saved them and sanctified them. He moved them beyond the point of conversion and baptism. Those saved at Pentecost became disciples devoted to the Apostles’ teaching and the fellowship of the saints. They became known for the power of their prayers, the common love they shared, their generosity and their worship.
 
What if we believed in and worshipped the God of Acts 2? Oh, we occasionally believe in and worship that God who is the one true God. On Sundays, we sing to and praise a God who is “Mighty to Save” who’s “Blood Will Never Lose Its Power” who’s “A Mighty Fortress.” We sing of a risen Christ who alone is able to make us stand. But the god we believe in and worship during the week is a totally different person.
 
The god we most often think of and believe in is a short-armed god. He is weak—powerless to give us victory in our daily struggles. He is deaf, mute, dead, and spiritless. He’s a god formed in the pits of hell and the one Satan hopes to sell us. Too often we are all too willing customers. 
 
The 21stCentury American church desperately needs a 1stCentury-Acts 2-Spirit-filled-revival. Our church culture needs a reset. How do we get there? It all begins with prayer… prayer to the God of Acts 2 and the God to whom we sing on Sunday mornings.
 
Pray for God to bring us together in one place. The first disciples understood that revival had nothing to do with who ruled the nation or which judges sat on the courts. Every revival in scripture and in history began with the people of God gathering together in one heart and mind to seek life from the Giver of life.
 
Pray for His Spirit to fall on us. In Acts 2, the Spirit descended on the disciples in tongues of fire. That sounds absolutely terrifying to me. I am probably not ready for it, but I want to be made ready. Join me in praying that God will move us to want to want Him to totally upend our lives with the power of His presence.
 
Pray for Him to give us the gift of utterance. In Acts 2, every people group heard the gospel in their own language. This gift that was given to the disciples was a big part of what amazed their hearers so. Pray that God would give us the gift to speak the language of the lost people all around us. Pray that God would give them ears to hear. 
 
Pray for Him to give us boldness. When Peter spoke, he did so with boldness. Read his sermon. You will see no timidity, no fear, just direct and confrontational truth. He made the astounding claim, “God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified” (Acts 2:36). Peter could not have said anything more offensive to the Jews gathered for the feast. Sure, some were offended, but then many of them were also saved! For Peter, it was worth it to offend some (or even most) so that many could be saved. We need God to give us this kind of boldness in the 21stCentury where the custom is to avoid offending at all costs. 
 
Pray for a lot of people to get saved. In the end, God is the one who pierces hearts. He is the one who calls out and gives life to cold dead hearts. We need to see Him do a lot of that. Pray that unsaved people in the church would be saved. Pray that unsaved pastors would get saved. And pray that those who are saved would be transformed into disciples of Christ.

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Meekness Vs. Weakness

Many people believe that to be meek is to be weak. As children, we are told to stand up for ourselves. “You better not start a fight,” our parents warned, “but if someone starts a fight, then you better finish it.” Aaron Tippin sang, “You’ve got to stand for something or you’ll fall for anything.”
 
Many have internalized this advice as gospel truth, but we have to ask… what is Jesus advice when you are wronged? The answer is not a comfortable one. He says, “but love your enemies, and do good, and lend expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for He is kind to the ungrateful and the evil.” Then He adds, “Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful” (Luke 6:35).
 
Did you catch that? Jesus said that there is great reward in meekness. He says that through showing mercy, loving your enemies, giving freely and doing good, you prove yourself to be “sons of the Most High.” By being kind even to the ungrateful and evil you demonstrate that the Lord is your Father and the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.
 
We have to consider the converse of Jesus’ advice to the wronged because the converse is the advice that we commonly receive. What reward is there in returning evil for evil? What blessing comes from seeking vengeance? What is edifying about taking the opportunity to tell somebody off? Jesus answered that very question in the sermon on the mount. “If you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors (the worst sinners of all) do the same? Do not even the Gentiles (people outside of God’s covenant) do the same” (Matthew 5:46-47)?
 
Meekness and selflessness do not reveal a weakness in you. It reveals strength. When you show kindness to those who would do you harm, you demonstrate the selfless love of Christ and Christ’s love is the most powerful force in the universe. It points people to the Most High God rather than the little god of self. His love changes hearts and minds in some, in others it makes them more angry and hateful. Either way God’s mercy and justice are shown through the love of Christ demonstrated by His followers.
 
I would add one more piece of advice in support of meekness versus weakness. Whenever you allow another person’s actions or words control over your own actions and words, you forfeit the very thing that makes you uniquely human—the freedom to choose. We are not animals. Our choice is not to fight or flight. Humans have a third choice which is to reason with one another and talk things out. Whenever the other person insists on being unreasonable, you have a fourth choice—to forgive.
 
In his book, I’m Okay, You’re Okay, author Thomas Harris explains that every human is controlled by at least three different inner-voices. The first is the child. The child is selfish and insists on its own way. The second is the parent. The parent is formed by our perception of our parents and how they raised us. The parent is most concerned with punishing bad behavior. Finally, we have an inner adult. The adult mediates between the parent and the child and leads us to make mature decisions.
 
Remember this the next time you are engaged in a conflict or confrontation. You control which inner-personality is in control of you. Just because the inner-child is in control of the other person does not mean that your inner-adult cannot be in control of you. When the inner-child is speaking through the other person, resist the urge to let your inner-parent come through. Remember, you can be the adult. You chose how you respond.
 
Meekness is not weakness. Meekness is Christlikeness. Meekness is edifying. Meekness glorifies God for His mercy and His justice. To display meekness, show mercy, and forgive is to prove that you are a child of God and this world is not your home.
 
When you make the choice to turn the other cheek, go the extra mile, lend expecting nothing in return, you lean into what makes you uniquely human. When you are kind and loving to your enemies, you actually display great strength. Reframe what it means to “stand up for yourself.” By not returning evil for evil you stand up for the person God created you to be.
 

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How does God visit the iniquities of the fathers on their children?

A phrase that appears four times in the Old Testament has caused many Christ followers, a great deal of consternation. What does the Holy Spirit mean when He speaks of God “punishing the iniquities of the fathers on the children and the children’s children to the third and fourth generation” (Exodus 34:7; see also Exodus 20:5, Deuteronomy 5:9, and Numbers 14:18)? I did not come to a plausible interpretation of this phrase until very recently. 

 

Here I have broken it down for you:
 
1. The phrase has to do with the fundamental role of the parents in the development of their children even into the fourth generation.
 
Parents would like to believe that the consequences of their sins will do no lasting harm to their children. Nothing could be farther from the truth. God designed human beings so that that they learn by the example of their parents how to do life and family. Children learn from their parents how to be parents. They learn how to do marriage by observing the husbands and wives around them doing marriage. Children learn how to treat their siblings by watching how other adults manage sibling relationships. They learn how to properly (or improperly) worship God by attending to the way their parents worship God. In this way, the “iniquities of the fathers” are perpetuated into the future even to the third and fourth generation.
 
2. The phrase indicates that you are likely making the same mistakes as your parents.
 
That your parents were not perfect is an uncomfortable truth to admit. In general, want to believe the best about their parents. However, if you really want to be the parent, the husband, or the wife that God created you to be, then you must set aside all naivety and take an honest assessment of your upbringing. Resist the temptation to forget the past and just move forward. You cannot move forward and away from your parent’s mistakes unless you are willing to look back and acknowledge those mistakes in the first place. If you move blindly along the timeline of eternity without looking back then you are destined to have the iniquities of your fathers visited upon you, and upon your children and grandchildren. Look even deeper into the upbringing of your parents, and I’ll bet you’ll see similarities in their mistakes with you in the iniquities of their parents as well. 
 
3. This phrase indicates that it is likely that your children and grandchildren will make the same mistakes you are making.
 
I know this all sounds very fatalistic but bear with me. Look at the family of father Abraham in Genesis. Abraham showed favoritism to Ishmael over Isaac (cf. Genesis 21:11-13) which fueled a sibling rivalry between Isaac and Ishmael that persists to this day. Isaac showed favoritism to Esau (cf. Genesis 25:28) which fueled a sibling rivalry between Jacob and Esau. Jacob showed favoritism to Joseph (Genesis 37:3) which fueled a sibling rivalry between him and his ten brothers. The iniquities of Abraham were visited in the generation of Isaac, and in the generation of Jacob, and in the generation of Joseph as the same mistakes were repeated over and over. 
 
What’s the good news?
 
The good news is that the same passages that speak of God’s visitation of the iniquities of the fathers on their children to the fourth generation also speaks of the grace of God. It says that the Lord is “a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin” (Exodus 34:6-7; see also Exodus 20:6, Numbers 14:18, Deuteronomy 5:10). We have so many reasons to be thankful that this phrase accompanies the one just discussed in its every occurrence in the Old Testament. It means that the curse of the fathers does not have to persist indefinitely into the future.
 

You can choose to lay down the baggage that was handed to you by your parents. You do not have to load it onto your own children’s backs. You can repent, place your hope in what Jesus did on the cross and His ability to forgive and cleanse you of all unrighteousness. You will never be the perfect parent, but by making the decision to lay down your family baggage, you will be the best parent you can be in Christ.


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