Thursday, September 30, 2010

Incompetence or Laziness

In a recent USA Today article, the lack of understand of faith was discussed. The opening of the article reads, “Americans are clear on God but foggy on facts about faiths.” Sadly most people know about God, but understand very few facts about what Scripture teaches concerning Him.

In his controversial book The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind, Mark Noll says, “The scandal of the evangelical mind is that there is not much on an evangelical mind.”

The question I must ask as a pastor: Is this reality due to incompetence or laziness?

When I played basketball in High School, I noticed that my coach was getting on to another player for something he was doing. My concern was that I was doing the same thing and I didn’t understand why he wasn’t yelling at me too for the sake of team unity. He explained that he knew I couldn’t do what he was asking, but the other player could and therefore, should do what the coach was asking.

I do not want to challenge people beyond what they are capable, but I wonder if people are actually capable. The issue may be that people have the ability, but not the commitment and discipline to know and understand their faith.

Regardless of the reason, as long as Christians refuse to understand the Biblical doctrine of the Christian faith, their love for God will be weak. As long as their love of God is shallow, their ability to honor Him and live for Him will be shallow.

If we desire to have a meaningful deep and powerful relationship with God, we are going to have to strengthen our knowledge of Him. That will require time, attention, and discipline. These are the same things that make a marriage or any important relationship meaningful and dynamic.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Big Ol' Sissy

My day started at 2 am yesterday morning when I woke up feeling sick. I was up until about 5 am. I got a couple of hours of sleep before going to work for meetings, but then headed home in the afternoon and slept about three hours before attending the monthly elders meeting.

Getting sick is the worst. I am such a sissy too. It just shuts me down. My family has learned to just shut the door and let me sleep. That's what I do when I'm sick. I just crash.

When I start to come out of it, I always focus on what the Lord has for me in the sickness. There have been so many times that the Lord used a sore throat, a stomach bug or something to give me a word from Him. I believe God has a purpose for everything and that if we are careful to pay attention, God's presence can be apprehended when you drive, brush your teeth, run, or while getting ready for a busy day.

In those quiet moments it is so much easier to listen. So I'm listening, Lord.

Monday, September 27, 2010

What's It To You?

I was recently asked what three qualities/competencies are necessary for leadership. Off the cuff without really thinking about it I listed them in this order:

1. Character
2. Endurance
3. Vision

In order to lead people, people must be able to trust you. They have to believe in you. I have so many people in my life that lead me because of my respect for them. Some of them do not consider themselves leaders. They think because they lack a position or even strong competencies in oversight that what they bring to my life is minor. What they don't seem to understand is that who they are is what inspires me. I follow them because I want to be like them.

In order to lead people, you must be able to tolerate pain. I learned this several years ago: YOUR LEADERSHIP POTENTIAL IS DETERMINED BY THE AMOUNT OF PAIN YOU ARE WILLING TO ENDURE. The people with the greatest influence take the most shots. I know people that I would do anything for because of their leadership in my life that others are literally praying that harm will come to them. It is sad, but the reality is that the more people that you influence, the more you will suffer emotionally.

In order to lead people, you must know where you are going and what you believe God has destined you and your followers to do. Without a vision people waste resources. Without a vision people lose interest. Without a vision leaders lose their leadership. To lead people you must be able to communicate and inspire others toward the goal God has entrusted you to accomplish.

Those are mine. What is it to you? What qualities/competencies must a leader possess?

Sometimes, You Just Make Yourself

I was not feeling it this morning. When I got out of bed, my legs felt weak and my heart was not inspired to run. All I wanted to do was get back into bed and go back to sleep.

Thankfully, my body and emotions do not determine what I do. They may inform my decisions and help make me aware of things that might be wrong with my body and soul, but they are not the primary source of my decision making. God gave me a brain for that. This morning my mind overruled my feelings and decided that Jason Pettus was going to run.

Even while I was running, I wanted to quit, but again my mind stepped in. The pain was not a bad pain that would cause an injury. It was a whining pain that my body uses to try to get me to seek comfort.

God has given us a Word about how we are to treat our bodies. 1 Corinthians 9:26–27 Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. 27 No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.

Not only must we discipline our bodies to work. We must also discipline them to rest.

Like a child that does not want to go to bed, many of us refuse to take time to rest. We just keep going. God designed us to sleep everyday and to rest every seven days. Sometimes you just have to make yourself rest.

These basic functions are spiritual activities. In making our bodies work and rest we subject our members to control. The more we make our bodies obedient to our will and the more our will is shaped by Christ, the holier our practice of the Christian life will be. We have already been made righteous in Christ by faith, but God is now sanctifying us. Disciplining our bodies to work and rest sets us free to be obedient to God.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Oh, To Forget...

I heard about this story a while back and was reminded of this poor woman recently. I imagined what it would be like to be able to remember every bad hurtful memory. And then I was so thankful that I have a savior that has redeemed my past. This woman can be free from her past in Christ.

"Memory looks back upon past sins, with deep sorrow for the sin, but yet with no dread of any penalty to come; for Christ has paid the debt of his people to the last jot and tittle, and received the divine receipt." Charles H. Spurgeon

Friday, September 24, 2010

Wow! What an Honor

2 Corinthians 13:14 May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.

What a wonderful truth and way to encourage those that love the Lord. It is a reminder to keep in our hearts as we go through busy lives filled with temptation, evil, opportunity, and challenges.

If we remember that we are under the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, we have no reason to be concerned with were we stand with God. We can know that our sin is forgiven and that our lives are hidden in Him. We are redeemed by the sacrifice of Christ and there is nothing left for us to do, but to glorify Him and enjoy Him forever.

Knowing that we are loved by God releases us from needing stuff and the praise of man. The Almighty loves us. We do not have to prove anything to anybody about our value. There is no need to doubt our purpose. God loves us and cares for us. Even in hardship and pain we can know that God is watching over us.

Because the Holy Spirit fills us, we have a constant comfort and guide. No decision will come to us where we do not have the One who can and will show us the way. As we are tempted, He will tell us how to live. God's truth is now written on our hearts because the Holy Spirit dwells in us.

What joy is ours! We have hope because of the grace of Jesus, the love of the Father, and the presence of the Holy Spirit.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Wash Your Mouth Out with Soap

I was recently in a public area and heard a young woman string together curse words in a way I hadn't heard since my locker room days in college football. I was astounded with not only the inappropriate and crass nature of her language, but also with the volume. There were "ladies" and children present that heard her.

My first thought was to correct her, but then I remembered that my job in the world is not to change people's behavior, but to simply present the Gospel so that God can transform them from the inside out the way He did me. There was not a real comfortable way for me to present the Gospel at that time and in that environment. She would have taken it that I was just being judgmental of her and she looked like she wanted a fight so I passed on it.

Driving off I was reminded of how powerful words are and what they do to those that hear them and say them.

For those that hear that kind of garbage there is nothing good that comes from it. It just feels like someone poured sewage into your brain and it seeped down into your soul.

For those that talk like that it reflects a heart filled with pride and disrespect and it reveals a loss of personal honor. It reveals a heart that has not surrendered to the King of Kings. A soul that has be conquered by Christ does not curse boldly, walk arrogantly, or sound-off judgmentally. Redeemed people confess humbly, step meekly, and seek peace.

We need to guard our mouths. And we need to guard our hearts and minds from those that don't guard their words.

The Day the World Is Straight Up

Today is the Autumn Equinox. That means the tilt of the earth's axis is not inclined away from or toward the sun. The center of the sun is at the same plane as the earth's equator. The name "equinox" comes from the Latin aequus (equal) and nox (night), because around the equinox, the night and day are approximately the same length. So tonight at 10:09 CDT, fall begins.

When I think of how this works, I am amazed. It causes me to stand in awe of all that God made in six days. God spoke into creation all that is and we are here now to glorify and enjoy Him forever.

My prayer is that I will worship the maker of heaven and earth and honor him with my life that He has graciously given me. I pray I will not waste this day. For His great name and for His glory my desire is to make the most of all that He has blessed me with and honor Him with it.

Thank you, Jesus. John 1:1–3 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

To Victory Dance or Not To Victory Dance

I have never been a big fan of the victory dance when a player scores or accomplishes something significant in a sporting event. It may be because I never had many opportunities to participate in one, but for whatever reason I don't care for them.

There is nothing more intimidating to me than for a person to do something phenomenal and then walk away as though it is something that happens all of the time. When a girl scores a goal or a man sacks a QB and they just walk off like, "Yea, that's what I do. No big deal." It makes me think, "Oh, my. This is going to happen all day."

Having said that, there is one place for boasting extravagantly in life. God has provided a time for a victory celebration. It is when a child of God honors Jesus for what the Lord has done. Scripture tells us in 2 Corinthians 10:17–18 But, “Let him who boasts boast in the Lord.” 18 For it is not the one who commends himself who is approved, but the one whom the Lord commends.

When it comes to celebrating Jesus, I say go for it. If God has blessed us to do good, we shouldn't get too excited except in thanking God for giving us the ability and the opportunity.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Who Will Carry You?

Last night we had an amazing event for men. Living Hope is partnering with The Uprising. It is a ministry just for men that my friend Tim Brown founded. They provide a kick-off event for churches and then accountability groups called "fire teams". We have seen amazing fruit from this ministry.

Last night we hosted a "Facemask" event. This is the first step in launching men into accountability groups. Men are challenged to see the problems we face as men, they are shown God's way to overcome, and encouraged to connect with other men to stay on course.

As the event was wrapping up, a man in the crowd had a medical emergency (he is fine). A group of men stepped up to care for him and carried him into the lobby where a physician was able to look him over.

The irony of that was not lost on me.

Here were hundreds of men gathered together being challenged to get into groups to stand together in their faith. Meanwhile a real life example of why we need each other erupted in our midst. This man needed other men to be there for him to get him to a physician. Everyone needs a group of friends that will be there for them and get them to the Great Physician, Jesus, in times of need.

It reminded me of how a group of men helped their friend get to Jesus in his time of need. Luke 5:17–19 One day as he was teaching, Pharisees and teachers of the law, who had come from every village of Galilee and from Judea and Jerusalem, were sitting there. And the power of the Lord was present for him to heal the sick. 18 Some men came carrying a paralytic on a mat and tried to take him into the house to lay him before Jesus. 19 When they could not find a way to do this because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and lowered him on his mat through the tiles into the middle of the crowd, right in front of Jesus.

Who do you have in your life that will take you to Jesus when you need him most? Who is praying for you? Who has your back? Who is holding you accountable?

Friday, September 17, 2010

What Is Your Tendency?

John 11:20 When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went out to meet him, but Mary stayed at home.

Luke 10:41–42 “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, 42 but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”

We all have our tendencies. Mary and Martha certainly did. These sweet friends of our Lord were also the sisters of Lazarus, the man Jesus raised from the dead. They were very different in the way they responded to life's pain and opportunities.

When Jesus was visiting with them once, Mary sat at our Lord's feet and received instruction. Martha was busy making preparations and complained about Mary's lack of activity, but Jesus made it clear that He was happy about Mary's choice to sit and listen.

But when Lazarus died and Jesus came, Mary was found sitting again. Martha got up and went to meet the Lord in faith.

Spurgeon provides a useful insight about these ladies that reminds us to be aware of our tendencies:
Martha had earnestly expected the Lord’s coming, and her active spirit led her to meet him. In this she is an example to us: our faith and hope and prayer, should go forth to meet the Lord in his ways of providence and grace. We may not judge Mary, but we may do well to remember that it is a temptation to contemplative Christians to sit too still in hours of sorrow. Martha was cumbered with much serving, and there have been Marys who have been cumbered with much fretting. (C. H. Spurgeon, The Interpreter: Spurgeon's Devotional Bible. p 553.)

If we tend to find solace in quiet solitude with Jesus, we must be careful that we do not miss out on opportunities to get to our feet and fulfill the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20) and the Great Commandments (Matthew 22:37-40).

If it is our joy to be busy on our feet serving our King, we must be careful that we do not miss out on those moments to sit quietly at our Lord's feet and meditate on His grace to us in fervent prayer. Jesus spent time alone in prayer and reflection and we need that as well (Mark 1:35).

Thursday, September 16, 2010

"Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep.."

"Parents, if you love your children, do all that lies within your power to train them to have a habit of prayer. Show them how to begin. Tell them what to say. Encourage them to persevere. Remind them that if they become careless and slack about it. Let it not be your fault, if they never call on the name of the Lord.

“Remember, that this is the first step in religion which a child is able to take. Long before he can read, you can teach him to kneel by his mother’s side, and repeat the simple words of prayer and praise which she puts in his mouth. And as the first steps in any undertaking are always the most important, so is the manner in which your children’s prayers are prayed, a point which deserves your closest attention. Few seem to know how much depends on this. You must be careful that they don’t say their prayers in a hasty, careless, and irreverent manner.

“Oh, dear friend, if you love your children, I charge you, do not let the early impression of a habit of prayer slip by. If you train your children to do anything, train them, at least, to have a habit of prayer.”

~ J.C. Ryle

This quote comes from the book The Duties of Parents by J.C. Ryle.

This book and this quote in particular reminds me of the importance of preparing children spiritually. As parents, we work hard to teach our children to talk, walk, eat, use the rest room rather than a diaper, read, write, and get a job. But do we prepare them for what is most important? Do we train them to know and love God?

We can not make them love God, but we can show them how.

This Sunday I am going to preach about the fact that Peace at Home and Work Is Possible and hope to speak to the role of children and parents in the home. It is vital for our health, the health of the church, the health of our cities, nation and world that families be strong and filled with the peace of God. This is something we all need to learn and be reminded of how to do.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Why Do You Love God?

“Does Job fear God for nothing?” Satan replied. “Have you not put a hedge around him and his household and everything he has? You have blessed the work of his hands, so that his flocks and herds are spread throughout the land. But stretch out your hand and strike everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face.” Job 1:9-11

My prayer:


My life is in your hands and although my burden is a burden, it is light compared to those that carry pain and guilt living life on their own, dead to you, and responsible for not only their sin but the out come of their life. You have called me and made me your son and for that I am eternally grateful.

In this world I am often tempted to love you for what you give me and do for me rather than simply loving you because you are you. There are none more wonderful than you. There are none more kind, true, gracious, merciful, patient, powerful, amazing, breathtaking, worthy, and loving than you.

I pray that I will wholeheartedly love you and trust you as I go through trials knowing that you have a plan for them. Do not let my attitude or my hope be determined by my circumstances. Let me live in the security of your grace and find rest in you alone.

I ask this in my savior's name, Jesus, Amen.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Not Too Difficult

Have you ever had something that you wanted to see happen and knew that it was God's will that it happen, but had to wait for it to happen? I have a few things like that and I know a number of people that know God's will is to provide what it is we are praying for, but God's plan up to this point has been not to do it.

In times when we are required to wait and hope, there are some things that help me.

Remembering God's Word to Abraham when Sarah laughed about having a baby in her old age: Genesis 18:14 "Is anything too hard for the LORD?" The answer is of course no. God can do all things.

Another thing that encourages me is Luke 18:27 Jesus replied, “What is impossible with men is possible with God.”

What we can't do, God can do. There is nothing too hard for God. We must trust Him for it. We must continue to seek His face to know His will and count on Him.

If it is God's will, it will happen. We must remain faithful, hopeful, and confident in our King. We don't need to panic, force the issue, trust in anything else, or seek salvation or answers in another source.

As we sang Sunday at Living Hope,

Our God is greater, our God is stronger
God You are higher than any other
Our God is Healer, awesome in power
Our God, Our God…

Into the darkness you shining
Out of the ashes we Rise
There’s no One like You
None like You.

And if Our God is for us, then who could ever stop us
And if our God is with us, then what can stand against?
And if Our God is for us, then who can ever stop us
And if our God is with us, then what can stand against?
Then what can stand against?
Then what can stand against?

"Our God" - Chris Tomlin

Monday, September 13, 2010

God's Don't Ask Don't Tell Policy

One of my favorite stories in the Old Testament is found in 2 Samuel 9. It is the story of Mephibosheth (pronounced Me-phib-o-sheth).

David is now king of Israel and has defeated his enemies. He is sitting on his throne thinking about his best friend Jonathan that had died. He remembered what they'd promised each other and asked if there was anyone remaining of Jonathan's family that he could show kindness to.
2 Samuel 9:3 The king asked, “Is there no one still left of the house of Saul to whom I can show God’s kindness?” Ziba answered the king, “There is still a son of Jonathan; he is crippled in both feet.”

In the usual worldly way Ziba answers with a, "yes, but..." comment. Yes, but he's crippled in both feet. Ziba was in essence saying, "Yes, but you don't want some cripple walking around the castle oh, king. He's not good enough for us."

But David didn't ask about the condition of his best friend's family. He just wanted to know if there was someone surviving that he could be kind to.

God does not ask if we are worthy to been shown kindness to. The answer to that question is no. No person on this planet is worthy of the kindness of the King of Heaven and yet in His grace and according to His covenant promise, He welcomes spiritually crippled people into his family.

Ziba went and took the Good News to Mephibosheth that king David had invited him to come and return to the palace and be a part of the king's family.

David didn't make him the court jester or make a spectacle of his condition. He didn't talk about it. Instead he made Mephibosheth a family member.
2 Samuel 9:11 ...So Mephibosheth ate at David’s table like one of the king’s sons.

God does the same with those of us who receive His offer of grace. We are made His children and he does not talk about our sin. It is covered and forgiven. The conversation in heaven about the redeemed in Christ revolves around what the King has done to bring healing and hope to those who believe. Those of us who have humbly come to live under the King's authority as His adopted children are given eternal life in Him. We are made heirs that call on God as our "Abba" - Daddy.
Romans 8:15–16 (NIV) — 15 For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” 16 The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

If She Can Do It...

This month at Living Hope we have encouraged everyone to bring someone with them to church. I had the best time getting to meet some of those guests today. It was also good to know that so many people were praying for me while I was preaching. Those that brought guests were praying not only for the message to impact them, but especially for God's Word to impact their friends.

Of all of the people that brought guests today the one that warmed my heart and inspired me the most was one of our senior adults. She was sitting on the second row just like she does every Sunday at 8 am. This morning she had two teenage boys sitting with her and she was proudly introducing them to everyone in her section. (Our church is funny... people sit in the same section of seats every Sunday and get to know each other. They become like family.)

I came over during the welcome time and shook their hands. This sweet saint introduced these young men to me and told me the story.

It turns out that she'd contracted these boys to rake her leaves last fall and had gotten to know them pretty well. She'd intended to invite them then, but never had the opportunity. Because of our emphasis this month she created the opportunity and went and got them this morning.

As I write this tonight, I am smiling thinking about this seasoned saint sitting with those two fifteen year old boys in church. It is a beautiful picture and a reminder of what we all need to be doing. We all need to be bringing people to worship with us and sharing the Gospel with them.

If this lady can bring two young men some sixty years younger than her, you and I can bring someone too. We must simply make it a priority.

2 Corinthians 5:20–21 We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. 21 God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Praying the Pieces Come Together

"Beware in your prayer, above everything, of limiting God, not only by unbelief, but by fancying that you know what He can do. Expect unexpected things, above all that we ask or think. Each time you intercede, be quiet first and worship God in His glory. Think of what He can do, of how He delights to hear Christ, of your place in Christ; and expect great things." --Andrew Murray

My Father in Heaven,

In the quiet of this morning my mind is filled with thoughts of your greatness. A billion light years a way from where I sit there is a star burning and you are there. Somewhere in a hospital in Nashville in the heart of a young mother there was a tear that occurred in a routine surgery that is healing and you are there. In my life and family and church there are plans and hopes and you are there.

Not only are you there, but you are working to sustain and accomplish your perfect will.

It is to you, the Almighty, that I pray knowing that just as you are able to care for the universe, so you can care for this precious mom, me, and all that I love. You can do more than I can hope or imagine. I do not see all of the picture nor can I put the pieces together, but I trust you. Enable me to simply believe.

I pray in the power of the Holy Spirit in the Holy name of my Lord Jesus. Amen.

Ephesians 3:20–21 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

Friday, September 10, 2010

I Still Remember. Do you?

According to wikipedia...

"The September 11 attacks (often referred to as September 11th or 9/11) were a series of coordinated suicide attacks by al-Qaeda upon the United States on September 11, 2001. On that morning, 19 al-Qaeda terrorists hijacked four commercial passenger jet airliners.[2][3] The hijackers intentionally crashed two of the airliners into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in New York City, killing everyone on board and many others working in the buildings. Both buildings collapsed within two hours, destroying nearby buildings and damaging others. The hijackers crashed a third airliner into the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia, just outside Washington, D.C. The fourth plane crashed into a field near Shanksville in rural Pennsylvania after some of its passengers and flight crew attempted to retake control of the plane, which the hijackers had redirected toward Washington, D.C. There were no survivors from any of the flights.

The death toll of the attacks was 2,996, including the 19 hijackers..."

I was getting ready to head into the office that morning when the attacks took place. The news was reporting the fact that there was a hole in one of the World Trade Center buildings. I had no idea what kind of plane it was. My wife asked me what was going on and I remember telling her that I thought some poor pilot had accidentally crashed into a building in New York. It was about that time that the second plane crashed into the other building. In that moment I knew that this was a planned attack on our country.

We sat their amazed by what we were seeing. My children were just two and four. They did not have a clue as to why we were so shocked and perplexed.

I missed my morning meetings that day. The staff and I gathered for prayer around mid-day. Once the towers had fallen and the skies over our nation were cleared and it was obvious what had happened, several pastors from our city planned prayer vigils at our churches and a joint one later in the week. All we could do was pray.

Do you remember that day and where you were and how you got through it?

Let's be sure and pray for the families that lost loved ones that day and in the subsequent wars that were caused by those attacks. Let's be sure and pray for our nation's security and for the men and women in uniform that are protecting us today. Let's also pray for the salvation of Jesus Christ to come to these angry lost people that see no greater value in their life than to create death with it. Their hope, our hope, and the hope of the whole world hinges on a world-wide spiritual awakening where families of all colors and nationalities turn to Jesus.

Thursday, September 9, 2010


Life is full of ups and downs. Like it or not we all have ideas of what we want to have happen, but as the song goes, "you can't always get what you want." We are taught to "dream big" in Western Society and those that make their dreams a reality are celebrated and everybody else is, well... not.

Things are not always going to be the way we planned or hoped they would be. That stinks. It hurts. No one likes to swallow that pill. There are some people that do get what they always wanted and good for them, but lots won't. Even when our careers aren't great, our kids struggle, our marriage is tough, or our health fails, we can still enjoy the lives we've been blessed to live.

God is still in control and ultimately things will turn out right. We cannot see all the moving parts of God's plan, but we can know that God wins in the end. Those that are with Him win in Him. It may not be among the cheering crowds or with gazing admirers, but we can live meaningful joyful lives. We may face one struggle after another day after day, which can be disappointing, but those that trust in God can be encouraged and full of hope. Our confidence comes from knowing that we are loved by God and that He is going to reveal His power to provide through our challenges. This brings Him glory and saves us from despair.

2 Corinthians 4:7–9 But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. 8 We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; 9 persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.

Why Make It More Difficult

Yesterday, someone very near and dear to me stepped out in faith and shared the Gospel with a Muslim friend. The Muslim was confused on a number of basic doctrinal issues that the Christian was able to easily answer and explain. The Muslim was able to share the tenets of the Muslim religion and answer pointed questions about the Islamic faith system. By each person feeling free to share the unique characteristics of their faith a clear distinction was recognized.

Once they got to the grounds for entering into God's presence, the difference was made clear. At this point the doctrine of the atonement of Christ became appealing to the Muslim.

This Muslim person is now planning to attend worship with the Christian and consider the truth claims of the Christian faith.

The question is why? What was different? This Muslim lives where churches are all over the place. Why will the Muslim enter a church now?

Here are some reasons:
1. The Christian had been praying for the Muslim and God is at work.
2. The Christian simply shared the hope of the Christian faith clearly and honestly.
3. The Christian respected the Muslim's intellect and faith tradition and in love and grace shared the truth of Scripture.
4. The Muslim was able to disagree without being attacked and receive answers to questions without being judged.
5. The Christian asked the Muslim to attend and be with the Christian. It is a friend going with a friend to hear what gives them purpose, hope, joy and peace.

The one question the Muslim did have was why the Christians in Florida were burning the book the Muslims hold as sacred. This Muslim did not understand why people that claim to be like Jesus would do that because that did not seem to be the way of Jesus.

The Christian shared that the Muslim was accurate and that Jesus came to share truth in love. As they talked, the Christian was able to explain the way evangelism was done in the Bible showing the love and sacrifice of God's people and assured the Muslim that there are a lot of confused people that do not always honor the name of Jesus even though they claim to speak in His name.

How sad that this Christian in North America had to overcome that last hurdle. The Gospel is offensive and needs to be the only offensive thing about a Christan.

This encounter makes me think about how difficult it will be for the people from my church that are in Muslim nations sharing the Gospel trying to plant churches to be effective. I imagine the greater danger they could be in because of these angry people burning books in Florida. How sad that the Gospel message is being muddied needlessly. Why make it more difficult for Muslims to know the love of Jesus?

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

When It's Ok to Hit Somebody

Yesterday my son Jackson put on pads and a helmet and hit someone on purpose and I applauded him for it. It is a strange thing to see you son line down with the intended goal of striking another person to bring them to the ground. He did it. He loved it. He’s playing football.

Football was an important part of my life. I was a good high school player and got a football scholarship, but found that I was not cut out for the college game – too fast for me. The things I learned in football have helped me as a Christian called to lead and shepherd God’s flock.

Football is a team sport and so is the Christian life. Football requires sacrifice and so does the Christian life. Football has superstars that make the headlines, but the real work is done upfront in the trenches. The same is true in the church. Football requires you to have compassion and at the same time the ability to confront and defend and so does shepherding God’s flock.

One of the most important lessons I learned in football was to go all out or not at all. If you go all out, you rarely get hurt or hurt someone else. People get hurt in football when they ease up. If you lose your form or soften your stance in a hit, you will get hurt. You can never put your head down. Good contact comes from a straight back with the head and shoulders leading the way. The legs do the work and the arms follow to finish the task of arresting another player to the ground.

The same is true of the Christian life. You must go hard or you will get hurt. The devil hates God and all those that reflect His image. There is nothing the enemy wants more than to cause the downfall of as many people as possible.

The Christian must approach each day ready to fight. Each morning as my feet hit the ground I say to God, “Here we go, Lord. I am yours and will serve your purpose.” That gets my mind focused in the right direction. Throughout the day I have to keep my head up looking for opportunities to join God where He is at work. His Holy Spirit will inspire me and enable me to do all that He commands. Once contact is made I have to move my feet and grab on to what the Lord has for me.

Living this way is liberating. I don’t have to worry. There is no time to complain. God has things for me to do today. So whether it is praying, reading, speaking, or helping someone in need I must go all out. I do this not because I am smart or brave or good, but because God has enabled me to by His grace. He has chosen me to be on His team and enabled me to live in His love and strength. When I live in the joy of the Lord, I do not give the enemy a foothold in my life and avoid injury and defeat.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

The Highs and the Lows

If God allowed us to live on the “mountaintop,” we would not experience trials, but neither would we achieve any victories. -Blackaby. You can read the whole devotion from September 7, by clicking here.

This is a truth that I know, but often forget when it's time to descend into the valley. On the mountain I feel safe. On the mountain life is fun. On the mountain God feels as accessible as my next breath. On the mountain sin seems as stupid as it really is. On the mountain those I love are well. I hate to leave the mountain.

I took Asher to the park the other day. The more I think about it the more I realize how much like a three year old I can be. Asher rarely wants to leave the park with all the fun, laughter, and fellowship that it provides. He wines and complains and even works against my will to detain us. I do the same thing when its time to leave the mountaintop.

At the end of this Labor Day weekend where I have been with family and friends it is now time to get back to hard work. There will be needs, schedules, temptations, and pain. It's life.

Like my Heavenly Father, I persist and require Asher to go back to the real world where there are schedules to keep, more stringent rules to follow, and places to be that are not fun. In this world Asher has to make hard decisions. He fails, but also succeeds. This is the world where he will learn the most.

My Heavenly Father has led me to many mountaintop experiences. He has also led me to many valleys. In both experiences He has proven faithful. I am trusting Him today with my life.

I am also praying for friends that are in hospitals praying for those they love. I am praying for those that need jobs. I am praying for those that are heartbroken. I am praying for those that are afraid. I am praying for those that are in the valley trusting that God will see them through and thinking about that next mountaintop for them and the refreshment they will find for their soul.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Peace Is Possible in the Midst of Pain

Here is the rest of the story from the video we showed this morning.

Friday, September 3, 2010

God All to Myself

"...every believer may and must have his time when he is indeed himself alone with God. Oh, the thought to have God all alone to myself, and to know that God has me all alone to Himself!" --Andrew Murray

One of the great tragedies of life is the little time that we children give to our Heavenly Father. We rush about stressed out worried about so many things, when only one thing is needed that will not be taken from us when we engage in it. As we rest in God's presence meditating on His Word and His love for us, we receive a gift that nothing on earth can supply. There is in that sweet place strength, peace, joy, hope, forgiveness, inspiration, encouragement, truth, renewal, creativity, courage, and so many other blessings that to list would take all morning.

Each morning I read these free devotions:

I use the M'Cheyne Reading System, which supplies a minimum of four chapters a day and enables me to read through the entire Bible each year.

How do you spend time alone with God?