Sunday, December 27, 2009

Christmas Is Only the Beginning


The Christmas season has come and gone.    Once again families are parting and returning to their own homes.  Houses that were temporarily disassembled in the hubbub are being put back into order.  Christmas trees are stripped bare and discarded and the ornaments and decorations that adorned them for a brief time are placed carefully back in storage until next year.  The magic that filled the minds of the participants begins to fade as each day passes and the year draws to a close.  

How swiftly time passes, especially amongst the excitement and anticipation of Christmas day and all of the revelry and joy it bears.  It is a time of year when we are called to remember the importance of its significance.  And as we pause and reflect upon the meaning behind this special day that has been set aside, we cannot but wish that the joy its message brings would remain forever fresh in our minds with nothing to dispel it.  But as it comes to a close, the world comes crashing back in and the realities of the harshness of life on this earth can often discourage or depress us.  All we have to do is turn on the television set or read the latest headlines.  The brief vacation we enjoyed is over and we must re-enter the lives we have created and the hardships that surround us, whether we like it or not.

Our hearts were opened during the Christmas season.  We shared.  We generously gave.  And we united to partake of the Holy Communion and fellowship with our God.  But it should not end there.  The willingness to worship Him and to delight in the Gift He so graciously bestowed upon all mankind should continue within us each day of the year.  We should return to the world with renewed resolve and a desire to serve Him even more.  The Spirit that enveloped us in a loving embrace as we pondered God’s glorious plan of salvation should not fade as a mist into the air.  And like the ornaments that are packed away in boxes until the next Christmas season, we should not store away the importance of Christ's message, but continue to give and to share the great Gift that was given us.

When Christ was born, it was only the beginning of the story of God’s vast plan of salvation.  The fullness of the Gospel does not end there.  The end of the story has been written and many more chapters are waiting to be read that are equally as exciting and worth waiting for.  And as we watch the events foretold unfold before us, let us wait with the same joyful anticipation and faithfulness we experience when celebrating our Lord’s birth.  There is much work to be done for Him.  Let us carry forward into the New Year the Spirit of joy Who dwells within us and continue His journey to the Cross.  And as we do, may we continue to faithfully serve Him and remain in prayer for the persecuted, the hungry and homeless, the sick, and the despairing souls in need of a Savior.

To Christ be all glory, honor and praise EVERY day of the year and forever!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

MERRY CHRISTMAS, EVERYONE!

Our Christmas Eve visitor looking for a handout!



May the Lord richly bless you and yours as we unite in spirit to celebrate His birth!


In Christ's Love,


Karen

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Father Tim Jones: Re-writing the Eighth Commandment

"Thou shalt steal when the need arises."

What? 

You heard me right.  It is okay to steal if you are poor.  But only steal from the rich, the large corporate chains who pass the loss down to customers in higher prices, not from the small businesses run by families.  Their loss would be too great and inflict too much damage to their livelihood.   After all, stealing from the rich does no harm, right?  They can afford it.  And the result is that you get what you want and no one is the wiser.

Sound ludicrous?  It does, but that is what one so-called Anglican "Christian priest" who resides over the St. Lawrence Church in York, England is preaching from his pulpit.   In his nativity sermon of all things, he encouraged the "poor", those who are suffering through the current recession, to steal from large store chains.

"My advice as a Christian priest is to shoplift," he said, insisting that it was better than "prostitution, mugging, or burglary."

He also stated that he believes he is not violating God's eighth commandment, "Thou shalt not steal".  Rather, he is of the mindset that "God's love for the poor outweighs his love for property rights of the rich."

Jones' response to the condemnation he quickly received, not only from law enforcement but also from the Archdeacon of York, for his misguided advice was this:  "This is simply a call for our society no longer to treat its most vulnerable with contempt."

At this moment, I could not feel more contempt.  And that contempt is for a supposed "man of God" who is encouraging his congregants to violate one of God's laws; contempt for a "priest" who is advocating sinning against God; and utter contempt for re-writing Scripture that clearly opposes what this man is preaching.

Is this what Christ's church has come to?  Do we continue to add to the multitude of offenses that are being committed against our God and preach a doctrine of thievery, along with the other abominations that are currently being embraced within the church?  And if we do, do we expect God to remain silent and not bring swift and utter destruction down upon us for our disobedience?

As Christ was telling the parable of the judge and widow in Luke 18, He concluded with, "However, when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?"  If He was to return to Jones' parish at this moment, I doubt He would discover much in the way of true faith in the heart of this man who is a wolf in sheep's clothing teaching his congregants a false doctrine of theft and deception.  His irresponsible brand of preaching defies the truth.  It reeks of lies, even within this one sermon, and tells of him leading his charge down a destructive path.  I can only hope that the pews will be empty this coming Sunday.

God made His case about stealing quite effectively as He gave the Law to Moses.  In Leviticus 6:1-7, we see that stealing involves much more than just merely taking from someone else something that does not belong to you.  The remedy far outweighed the crime for the Lord commanded that restitution with interest be made, and be made quickly.  Only then would the offender be forgiven.

Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5 discovered what happens to those who steal from the Lord, then lie about it.  "You have not lied to men but to God."  The property that was sold did indeed belong to them prior to its sale.  But it was their sin in "test[ing] the Spirit of the Lord" by not giving all the promised proceeds to Him - their greed and covetousness, their lies, their theft - that condemned them.

Jones relates a time when he encountered an ex-prisoner who was made to live on a paltry 100 British pounds for six weeks upon his release.   He uses this man's situation as a demonstration to defend his position that theft is acceptable when you are hungry or homeless.  Perhaps Jones, instead of insisting it is okay to steal from those who have, should have reached into his own pocket, encouraged his congregation to reach into theirs, and assisted the man in the way God has called us to serve Him.  The offer of a job, regardless of how menial and trivial, would have far-better served this man and those like him then preaching a doctrine of theft and disobedience to God's laws.  Or perhaps the Lord had this man right where He wanted Him in order to turn Him to salvation - but a man like Jones got in His way.

It is my contention that Tim Jones is the violator worthy of contempt.  He is the enemy within the camp who is bent upon the destruction of God's Word, and who leads his congregation with untruths and deception.  He mocks God and His laws that are intended to convict us of our sins - including the sin of stealing.  It is not a trivial matter that should be overlooked when a man proclaiming himself to be a servant of God encourages others to disobey the very God he claims to serve.  He should be removed from his position - immediately - before he inflicts more damage upon the hearts of those whom he leads.  


 

Sunday, December 20, 2009

I am really disappointed that I had to remove the daily Bible verse widget from the blog.  For some reason, its format and translation changed and I didn't like it!  For those of you who enjoyed reading them when you stopped by, I am currently looking for another that doesn't have pop-up ads.  They are so annoying and they draw away from the message that is being given.

Bear with me for a while until I can find a suitable widget to replace it.  I hope it doesn't take long!

In Christ,

Karen

Friday, December 18, 2009

O Holy Night

David Phelps is perhaps one of the most talented and blessed singing artists I have come to love and appreciate in a great while.  There are many versions of this song that I love, one that is sung by Selah, but I hope you also delight in listening to Phelps version, its clarity, and the beautiful message the song portrays.  Besides, having played piano all of my life, the piano accompaniment to the song stirs a longing to be back at the keys.  The late Anthony Burger was born to play the piano and he demonstrates it here as he tears up the keys!

Enjoy!


Wednesday, December 16, 2009

It's Called Christmas For a Reason


This year within the rotunda of the Capitol building of Illinois stand four monuments that were erected for the Christmas celebration.  Surrounding the Christmas tree are a crèche, or manger scene, a Jewish menorah, a statement from atheists expressing all religion is a myth, and one from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) that proclaims what they see as their judicial responsibilities to protect Americans, including citing First Amendment rights.  However, I doubt they are, or will be any time soon, defending Christianity and the right to worship our God.  Rather, they have chosen not to challenge the upheld 1989 decision by Chief Judge James B. Parson of the Federal District Court in Chicago.  His decision stated that it is unconstitutional to discriminate against religious expression because it falls under the First Amendment right to free speech.  I think the ACLU sees it as a battle they cannot win - at least at this moment in time.

Last year, Washington State had their own battle when their governor, Christine Gregoire, welcomed with open arms the local atheist organization's doctrine of no faith to be displayed next to the crèche, Christmas tree and menorah.  Although she stood her ground and made a weak attempt to defend it, it outraged many of Washington’s citizens.  To make matters worse for her, Bill O’Reilly publicly aired on his FoxNews show her indiscretion to millions of viewers who then flooded the Capitol building with so many calls they stopped answering the phone.

The right to freedom of speech and expression of religion is a privilege afforded to all Americans, regardless of their political or religious affiliation.  The politicians who have to make these choices are under the strictures of our constitution and First Amendment rights.  They must always adhere to the legal rights of all citizens.  We may not like what is being said, but we must all respect others right to say it.  But the problem is bigger than that of allowing others of different beliefs to speak freely.  When it becomes an issue of treading heavily upon the rights of those who oppose your way of thinking and your beliefs, and an attempt is made to silence you and remove all aspects you hold dear, I believe that is the time to strongly object and speak out.

Although Christmas has been made a secular “holiday”, Christians view it in a completely different way.  It is the day chosen to be set aside each year to celebrate the birth of all mankind’s Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  Christians view it as a day to be revered and honored because it is the day on which God Almighty chose to come to us as a man and redeem the lost.  But because there are those whose agenda it is to diminish and destroy Christmas and to deny its vital importance to those who believe in its significance, the results are disturbing in the least and destructive at best.  Rather than Christmas being a time of rejoicing and worshiping God, it has become a battlefront and the chaos that ensues draws attention away from its true meaning.

Our God is not to be mocked.  He is a jealous God and an all-consuming fire for those who would minimize and ridicule Him (Deut 4:24).  Man’s attempt to appease everyone has done nothing more than fuel the fire of God’s wrath.  Instead of standing up for Him, our politicians and judges have decided to allow the secular crowd to overrule Him by displaying their idols and their forms of religion next to Him.  When I hear politicians try to justify their actions by proclaiming their “religious” affiliation, I am nauseated.  Keeping their cushy jobs and the power, wealth and prosperity they afford has become more important than fearlessly defending Him as the One and True God.  They will one day discover they have run out of excuses and defense, and their shame will be their condemnation.

God Almighty’s voice cries out loudly through the ages that He is the Sovereign Lord:

“To whom will you compare Me or count Me equal?  To whom will you liken Me that we may be compared?…I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like Me.” (Is 46:5, 9)

“For My own sake, for My own sake, I do this.  How can I let Myself be defamed?  I will not yield My glory to another.” (Is 48:11)
 
 A crèche, menorahs, Christmas trees and all other objects that symbolize the holiday are nothing more than that - mere objects.  We would get along just fine without them adorning our homes, yards, or Capitol buildings.  Christmas resides in the hearts of all Christians who love their Lord, their King, their Savior Jesus Christ, and if they were permanently removed as a part of our celebration, little harm would be done.  But by allowing unbelievers to seize Christmas and make it into something it is not by calling it a lie, we are allowing them to “defame” Him.  By allowing the placing of their secular, pagan, or atheistic symbols alongside Him is asking Him to “yield” to them and perpetuating genuine lies that do nothing to serve Him.

There is a reason it is called CHRISTmas.  It is not about freedom of speech.  It is not about the rights of others to express their own belief system.  It is not Kwanzaa, “festivus”, or any other ill-contrived notion or holiday.  It is about the birth of Jesus Christ and the beginning of His journey to the cross where He would make atonement for all mankind.  At the expense of suffering derision and scorn, let us all make sure we loudly proclaim the message of truth and salvation behind it and refuse to allow it to be denigrated to a mere holiday.  Let us put Christ back in Christmas.

Merry CHRISTmas, everyone!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Hallelujah!

Although Christmas is still ten days away, I felt it was fitting to start praising Jesus early and often while we await the day we celebrate as the day of our Lord's birth!  I hope you enjoy the music and videos!
Hallelujah!  Our God reigns!  To Christ be all the glory!


Friday, December 11, 2009

Missing Zeros



For some time now I have been forwarding, via email, China Aid updates on Gao Zhisheng, a Chinese Christian attorney who represents the rights of Chinese Christians against an oppressive and often violent regime.  For those of you who are unaware of Gao's plight, he has once again been arrested, persecuted, and his whereabouts and well-being are unknown (for information, please visit http://www.freegao.com/index.html?refnum=695007).  Yet, within the context of the message I received this morning in my inbox is something that causes me deep concern.

China Aid is a very large organization, one that has proven itself to be effective in putting pressure on governments that persecute and oppress their Christian citizens.  I am confident that their letters, emails and updates reach into the homes of millions of Americans.  Although the response to their petition to free Gao was apparently successful, they note that only 5284 Christians have responded to their plea to contact their Representatives and ask them to become involved in helping free him.  At first, I thought it was a typo, that a zero or two had been omitted.  How could a mere 5284 Christian hearts be moved when a brother in Christ is suspected of being physically brutalized and persecuted for his belief and his whereabouts unknown?  Demographically, that is only one congregation of a large church, and 1/6th of what is considered a "mega-church" in America.  To me, the number was staggering and disturbing because it also speaks of what resides, or fails to reside, in the hearts of those who claim to know Jesus Christ.


I often read accounts of Christians in dark nations who tell organizations like China Aid or VOM they are praying for us.  Astounding, isn't it?  They are praying for Americans in spite of suffering the loss of their possessions, homes, jobs, and often being forced to flee and hide from those who would kill them.  Yet, they are praying for us.  That should strike the hearts of every Christian in America where we are still afforded the right to worship our God in the way we desire and not fear reprisal and severe persecution.  I also have read of Chinese, North Korean, and other Asian Christians whose desire it is to come to America and evangelize here.  One may ask why they think it is necessary that they do so, but perhaps it is not so far-fetched that Americans are in need of it, especially when the apathy and complacency of many is glaringly evident in their failure or refusal to become involved in standing alongside our brothers and sisters in Christ who live in the dark corners of this earth.

Zero is a non-number.  It means nothing unless other numbers are added to it.  The more zeros, the greater the number; but they first must have the number "1" placed before  or after them to give them value.  When the Pharisee's power and authority was challenged by Jesus and they demanded He silence the praise of His disciples in Jerusalem, He told them, "I tell you...if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out." (Luke 19:40 NIV)  There may be silence in the missing zeros, but the faithful "stones", those who have added their "1" before them, will have their voices heard.   

" 'I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,' the Lord replied.  'Now get up and stand on your feet.  I have appeared to you to appoint you as a servant and as a witness of what you have seen of Me and what I will show you.  I will rescue you from your own people and from the Gentiles.  I am sending you to them to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in Me.'(Acts 26:15-18) 



Gao Zhisheng and faithful Christians everywhere have answered God's call to present His Gospel to others, "to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light".  Whatever the cost to us, we should stand with them in prayer and act when the occasion to do so arises.  I pray you will take two minutes of your time and add your name to the 5284 Christians who have contacted their Representatives on behalf of Gao.  Perhaps, then, the zeros I thought were missing will become a reality - for God's honor and glory.


Monday, December 7, 2009

Did You Mean It?


How many times have you made a promise to someone and not kept it?  It is an easy question, one that should gender an immediate response from all of us.  Whether the promise was made in confidence, or simply a task another has asked us to perform, no one is innocent of having made one and then not broken it.   We all too often make rash vows to each other without thinking about our ability to keep them.  Because we are human and for various reasons allow ourselves to be overcome by temptation, idleness, or a wagging tongue, the oaths we make to others become empty and meaningless.  We would have been better served by not making them in the first place rather than committing ourselves and then letting down the person to whom the promise was made.

Perhaps the most often used and broken vow is the one man makes to God.  “I’ll come someday, Lord.  I have plenty of time.  But first, I want to taste of the world and experience what it has to offer.  After I’ve done all of that, I promise, then, I’ll come.”

No, you won’t.  And God knows you will be unable to keep that promise because the deeper you delve into the world and the farther you stray from Him, the harder it will be to return to Him and fulfill it.  Man carelessly tosses tidbits of promises now and then to God; appeasing his own conscience by making them and thinking He will be satisfied.  But God knows the depth of the hearts of men and how shallow and empty they can be.

Bargaining with God can bring about circumstances that are hard to accept.  Hannah knew this when she promised to dedicate Samuel to the Temple and the Lord’s service (1Sam 1-2).  Our prayers, especially during times of trial and distress, are sometimes full of bargaining chips.  “I will do this or that, Lord, if You will only do this or that for me.”  God answered Hannah’s prayers because He knew her heart was sincere and that she would keep the oath she made, regardless of the pain it caused.  We should use extreme caution when we attempt to barter with God because He may just take us up on it.  We should ask ourselves, before we make the promise, if we really mean it and will be true to Him and follow up on the vow we have made.  God keeps His promises and if we make one to Him, He expects us to keep ours.

Before the question, “Did you mean it?” is forced upon you, pause a moment and consider what Jesus taught about making vows (Matt 5:33-37).  Because we live in a sinful and distrustful society, a man’s word is no longer looked upon as a bond of truth and a surety of promise.  It is no longer enough to have a man’s word that he will perform satisfactorily.  Instead, our litigious society has removed the handshake of good faith and replaced it with a burdensome legal system.  But Jesus Christ emphasized in this passage the importance of staying true to your word.  He condemned casual and careless oaths, especially in God’s name, and instructed His followers to let their “ ’yes’ be ’yes, and [their] ’no’, ’no’.”  If you give your word as a pledge but have no intention of keeping it, you break trust, not only with the one the promise was made, but also with your God Whom you have offended.  Keeping an oath is not easily accomplished.  So it is best, according to Jesus who sets the standards, not to make one.

If we remain truthful in all our dealings, if our reputation for being honest in everything we say is recognized as commendable and trustworthy, there will never be a need to back it up with a promise or an oath.  And if you find yourself in the position of making a promise to accept and serve God, be prepared to keep it, or the question, “Did you mean it?”, may come to bear heavily upon you.

Additional reading:

Leviticus 5:4
Numbers 30:1-2

Sunday, December 6, 2009

A Hebrew Lesson

I have had a desire to learn Hebrew for many years now.  However, I can honestly say that it is probably not going to happen!  I have searched the internet for lesson plans, such as the one offered by The Rosetta Stone, and they are usually too far out of my budget.  Besides, learning a new language at my age, I have been told, is not easy.  But every now and then I run across a word or a phrase in Hebrew and it moves me and renews my desire to be able to speak and understand the language God's chosen people used to communicate with Him.

Since I am too old and too poor to learn the language (there is a smile in that phrase!), I thought it would be fun to share the Hebrew words and phrases I have run across by posting them here on the blog.  Now, if I could just retain them (and learn their syntax, accents, and pronunciations!), I would be on my way to learning Hebrew! (another smile!)

If you have any Hebrew phrases or words you would like to share, I would be most grateful if you would just drop them in the comment box for me and others to enjoy!

a-ha-vah (Love),

Karen

Lesson 1:

"Kadosh, Adonai Elohim tz'va'ot, asher hayah, v'hoveh v'yavo"

"Holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come" (Rev 4:8)

Friday, December 4, 2009

Is America a Christian Nation? - David Barton - In Touch Ministries - Dr. Charles Stanley 2009

I received this video in an email from Pastor Paul and thought it was vital that everyone who visits us takes the time to watch it.  David Barton teaches a brief, but valuable, history lesson on just how far America has fallen since her birth.  I guarantee you that you will hear words from our founding fathers that have never been heard before and are systematically being removed from our history books through revisionism.  When you do hear them, you will never again believe that America is not a Christian nation established and blessed by God.

Pastor Paul has joined Mr. Barton in a call to prayer for our nation and for restoring our God and Savior to His rightful place over it.  Please set aside an hour of your day and watch this important message, then ask the Lord to return His blessings upon America.

(As a post script, this would be a fantastic history lesson tool for all home schoolers!)


Is America a Christian Nation? - David Barton - In Touch Ministries - Dr. Charles Stanley 2009

Posted using ShareThis

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

The Most Excellent Way

The holidays have a way of throwing off my timing when it comes to routine.  A four-day holiday turned into five days when I found myself unwilling to tackle the chores Monday usually brings.  Unseen circumstances have caused my Tuesday to become my Monday this week.

This particular Thanksgiving brought sorrow to our family at the passing of my husband’s mother, Barbara.  Perhaps this unexpected event contributed to my lethargy because when the death of someone comes, it usually causes us to over-tax our minds by recalling memories of their life and hoping their relationship with the Lord was one that secured them eternal peace.  Because my mother-in-law and I were not close, it also caused me to examine myself and question whether or not I had done all God required of me while she still lived.  Years ago I cleared my conscience, forgave, and moved on.  But with her death, the unanswered questions and unspoken words were once again dredged up - words that could have healed a multitude of wounds - and the opportunity to address them is forever gone.

If Barbara’s passing has brought any enlightenment to me, it is that human relationships are a tricky and often troublesome part of our lives.  The only formula provided in dealing with them is designed by God.  We are the ones who look for other ways in responding to those who interfere, cause problems, or bring pain.  The human response is the desire to give tit for tat.  But that is not God’s way.  He expects much more from His children.  We are to love them.

As the Apostle Paul expressed in 1Corinthians 13, love is the greatest healer of wounds, even if the other party refuses to embrace it.  Love “keeps no record of wrongs” (v5), even if the wrongs committed cut to the very marrow of our soul.  Love is the comforter that helps us set aside our past and soothes the burning pain of wrongs committed against us and those we love.  Love drives back the whisperings of hatred and retaliation.  It is the “greatest” spiritual gift God can give us in times like these, and one we should pass on to others because only then can healing begin.

Each day in my walk with Christ, I am learning more of that valuable lesson of loving my enemies (Matt 5:43-48).  Indeed it has been and will be an on-going struggle each time I am faced with a situation that requires it.  And as we approach Barbara’s funeral tomorrow and a brief meeting with my husband’s estranged sister, my encouragement to my husband is for him to allow Christ’s love and light to shine upon her.  That is the way our God would have it.  It is a certainty that displaying his love for his sister in “the most excellent way” (v1) is one that is guaranteed to bring far-better and far-lasting results and a more satisfying conclusion to Barbara’s life.

Help us, O LORD, to display Your love for us and for the others who are grieving the passing of their mother and friend.  We pray that relationships will be healed and that pain and resentment will be driven from all of our hearts and replaced by Your abounding love. We also pray Barbara is at peace and in eternal rest with You and that one day we will all be reunited in glory and fully understand the love You have shown us.

In Christ be all glory, honor and praise.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Thanksgiving


"Give thanks to the LORD, for He is good.  His love endures forever."


Psalm 136:1-26

The season of giving thanks is once again upon us.  On this one day that is set aside each year, families and friends will gather joyfully together and feast upon the bounties and provisions with which they have been so richly blessed.  Inside homes all across our nation, the delightful aromas of roasted turkey and stuffing and baked pumpkin pies will tantalize the senses and cause some to recall earlier memories of other Thanksgiving holidays.  Smiles and laughter will fill the air and a feeling of celebration will fall over all the participants, uniting them in a brief moment of family closeness and the necessity of it as they think of those who are unable to be with them.

The cause for the Thanksgiving celebration should not be limited to only one day each year.  It should be that we are reminded daily of the blessings God has poured out upon us, and the richness of His mercy and grace.  Each morning we should rise to the heavenly aroma of His gracious presence and look with anticipation to the day when all of His children will rush to the table that has been prepared for them; a table holding delicacies beyond their imagination.  The feast that awaits us defies the meager meal that is prepared by our hands on this day, for it is one that will last for an eternity.  Jesus will have all His family gathered around Him and His greatest delight will be that not one of them is missing.

I pray you will all pause a few moments before tackling the feast that awaits you and remember the ones who have left a vacancy at the table.  Whether they are service men and women in foreign lands, a family member too far from home to be there, or the less fortunate whose daily struggles of survival make it impossible to share in such a celebration, leave an empty chair at your table as a reminder of them and pray that one day they, too, will partake in the greatest Thanksgiving celebration of all time.

May the Lord our God bless you and your families.  May your prayers of thanksgiving be a pleasing aroma to Him.  And may we all be united one bright and glorious day as we are joined at His table to praise and thank Him for eternity!

Have a great day, everyone!  We will be thinking of you!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

"I Can't!"



“ ‘Ah, Sovereign Lord,’ I said, ‘I do not now how to speak; I am only a child.’ ”

Jeremiah 1:6


From the moment we are born, life’s challenges begin.  As infants, our emotional and physical needs are lovingly tended to by our parents.  But there comes a time in our development when we are faced with certain demands that only we can overcome.  My youngest grandson, Isaac, is currently facing such a challenge in learning to walk.  He is able to lift his body from a squat into a standing position, but when encouraged to take a few steps, he adamantly and stubbornly refuses.  We all know he is able and no matter how many times we tell him, “ you can!”, he has not convinced himself.  He would prefer to keep his feet firmly planted, grinning from ear to ear, then quickly frown and sit back down when offered assistance.  He does not yet trust us to catch him if he falls.  

I would prefer to keep Isaac little because he is probably my last grandchild.  I know that one day he will be tearing around the house after his siblings and eventually he will be running out into the world to build his own life.  But for now, Isaac is saying, “I can’t!”, and I have recently found myself echoing his sentiment.

The appearance of standing alone can often cause us to want to sit back down and refuse to take another step.  We are able to fool ourselves into believing there will be others who will offer a hand to balance and assist us, when in reality, we must often brace ourselves and go it alone.  This past week I have been telling the Lord, “I can’t!”  And while I was telling Him, “I can’t!” I found myself stumbling around in the darkness of the past with “what if” and “if only”.  My prayers have been full of pleadings to drive these thoughts from me and to restore and renew my faltering faith and trust.  It has been a struggle wrestling with Him.  But with His help I am overcoming, and by His strength and helping hand, I will take another step, and another, until I am back in the race running for all I am worth.

This morning my “I can’t!” has become, “I can, with Your help, Lord.”  I realize that I am never alone in spite of what I perceive.  Others may fail me.  I may even fail myself and others from time to time.  But my God, Who understands my human frailty, will always be standing in front of me with outstretched arms urging me to take another vital step.  He will also catch me if I stumble and begin to fall.  After all, the finish line is not too far away and the prize that awaits me is beyond my comprehension and worth every obstacle that is thrown in my way.

“I can do all things through Christ Who strengthens me.”  Thank you, Lord.  You just proved to me that “I can!”

Recommended reading:

1Kings 19:1-21
Esther 4:1-17
Isaiah 40:31; 41:10
Jeremiah 1:4-10
John 8:36
Hebrews 12:1-3; 12:12
Galatians 2:20
1Corinthians 9:24-27
Philippians 4:13
2Timothy 4:7-8; 16-18

Friday, November 13, 2009

Ready Or Not, Here I Come!


“Behold, I am coming soon!”

Revelation 22:7


Perhaps the most common game we played as children, and one our children continue to play, was Hide and Seek. One person would be chosen as “it”. He would close his eyes as others ran and hid, count to a predetermined number, then holler, “Ready or not, here I come!” Everyone had to make it safely back to “base” without being “tagged” or they were out of the game. The play continued until all players were in, then another was chosen as “it”.

I love watching my grandchildren play this game, especially the little ones. Their perception of the environment surrounding them is so much different than ours, for they are apt to believe a leafless shrub or a skinny tree trunk will hid them from view. Their concept of time has also not been fully developed and as the others have found their place to hide, they are still scurrying around looking for a good spot. Sometimes they huddle next to one of the older kids - much to their frustration. But the biggest giveaway, and the one that gives me the greatest pleasure, is their giggling that refuses to be contained and bubbles up from their toes, spilling out into the sunshine. It is a sound I will always cherish.


I recently came to believe that Hide and Seek must be an international children’s game. In one of their newsletters, Voice of the Martyrs told the story of Indonesian children who wear T-shirts with the phrase, “Ready or not, Jesus will come. I am ready. What about you?” imprinted on them. To these children, there is a broader and more important message behind a simple game of Hide and Seek. They have chosen to use it as a means to reach the hearts of their countrymen. With wisdom defying their age, they understand that men attempt to hide their sin from the Seeker Jesus Christ. But the difference between the childish game and the reality of life is even more evident in that they also know there is never a hiding place He can not find. (Rev. 6:15-17)


In a nation that is predominately Muslim, and one that is increasingly persecuting Christians, the boldness and courage of these children leaves me in awe. If our own nation had sunk to the level of Indonesia and their lack of religious tolerance, would we, as parents, put our children in harms way by having them don such a message? As disturbing as the answer seems, I can honestly say most would not. But Christians in places such as Indonesia understand that to be afraid and silent bears no fruit, and to do nothing will not further God’s kingdom.


The message these children bring to the mean streets of their nation is that our Lord could return at any moment. It is a question of readiness, one that asks, “Are you prepared to meet your God because ready or not, Jesus WILL come.” They know it is not a game. It is a reality. It is also an invitation to ask them about the message’s meaning which, I am sure, every one of them is joyfully prepared to give. They understand the futility behind “hiding” and are equipped to point the way to “base” where their Seeker, their Savior, will be waiting with laughter and open arms.


There will be a time, one that I believe is coming soon, when the game of Hide and Seek men are playing with God will end. Although it defies the rules of the childhood game we played, the only way to win is to allow the Seeker to find you and claim you as His own. There is no loss by doing so. What awaits you is a great and eternal reward and a crown of victory placed upon your head.


“The Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come!’ And let him who hears say, ‘Come!’ Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life…
He who testifies to these things says, ‘Yes, I am coming soon.’

Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.” (Rev. 22:17, 20-21)


I am ready. What about you?



 

Monday, November 9, 2009

"Grunge Christianity?" - by John MacArthur

Under the link http://www.gty.org/Resources/Articles/A172 John MacArthur responds to the downgrading of Christian ministers and ministries and its effect on life changing evangelism and discipleship. Please consider this short, but thought provoking article…Pastor Paul Guay.

Grunge Christianity?

James 4:4;John 15:18-19;John 17:14-16

Counterculture’s Death-Spiral and the Vulgarization of the Gospel

John MacArthur


One of the favorite topics on the evangelical agenda these days is how the church should “engage the culture.” Do Christians need to imitate the boorish aspects of a quickly-decaying civilization in order to remain “relevant”? Some evidently think so.

We keep hearing from evangelical strategists and savvy church leaders that Christians need to be more tuned into contemporary culture.

You have no doubt heard the arguments: We need to take the message out of the bottle. We can’t minister effectively if we don’t speak the language of contemporary counterculture. If we don’t vernacularize the gospel, contextualize the church, and reimagine Christanity for each succeeding generation, how can we possibly reach young people? Above all else, we have got to stay in step with the times.

Those arguments have been stressed to the point that many evangelicals now seem to think unstylishness is just about the worst imaginable threat to the expansion of the gospel and the influence of the church. They don’t really care if they are worldly. They just don’t want to be thought uncool.

That way of thinking has been around at least since modernism began its aggressive assault on biblical Christianity in the Victorian era. For half a century or more, most evangelicals resisted the pragmatic thrust of the modernist argument, believing it was a fundamentally worldly philosophy. They had enough biblical understanding to realize that “friendship with the world is enmity with God. Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God” (James 4:4).

But the mainstream evangelical movement gave up the battle against worldliness half a century ago, and then completely capitulated to pragmatism just a couple of decades ago. After all, most of the best-known megachurches that rose to prominence after 1985 were built on a pragmatic philosophy of giving “unchurched” people whatever it takes to make them feel comfortable. Why would anyone criticize what “works”?

Whole churches have thus deliberately immersed themselves in “the culture”–by which they actually mean “whatever the world loves at the moment.” We now have a new breed of trendy churches whose preachers can rattle off references to every popular icon, every trifling meme, every tasteless fashion, and every vapid trend that captures the fickle fancy of the postmodern secular mind.

Worldly preachers seem to go out of their way to put their carnal expertise on display–even in their sermons. In the name of connecting with “the culture” they want their people to know they have seen all the latest programs on MTV; familiarized themselves with all the key themes of “South Park”; learned the lyrics to countless tracks of gangsta rap and heavy metal music; and watched who-knows-how-many R-rated movies. They seem to know every fad top to bottom, back to front, and inside out. They’ve adopted both the style and the language of the world–including lavish use of language that used to be deemed inappropriate in polite society, much less in the pulpit. They want to fit right in with the world, and they seem to be making themselves quite comfortable there.

Mark Driscoll is one of the best-known representatives of that kind of thinking. He is a very effective communicator–a bright, witty, clever, funny, insightful, crude, profane, deliberately shocking, in-your-face kind of guy. His soteriology is exactly right, but that only makes his infatuation with the vulgar aspects of contemporary society more disturbing.

Driscoll ministers in Seattle, birthplace of “grunge” music and heart of the ever-changing subculture associated with that movement. Driscoll’s unique style and idiom might aptly be labeled “post-grunge.” His language–even in his sermons–is deliberately crude. He is so well known for using profane language that in Blue Like Jazz (p. 133), Donald Miller (popular author and icon of the “Emerging Church” movement, who speaks of Driscoll with the utmost admiration) nicknamed him “Mark the Cussing Pastor.”

I don’t know what Driscoll’s language is like in private conversation, but I listened to several of his sermons. To be fair, he didn’t use the sort of four-letter expletives most people think of as cuss words–nothing that might get bleeped on broadcast television these days. Still, it would certainly be accurate to describe both his vocabulary and his subject matter at times as tasteless, indecent, crude, and utterly inappropriate for a minister of Christ. In every message I listened to, at least once he veered into territory that ought to be clearly marked off limits for the pulpit.

Some of the things Driscoll talks freely and frequently about involve words and subject matter I would prefer not even to mention in public, so I am not going to quote or describe the objectionable parts. Besides, the issue has already been discussed and dissected at several blogs. Earlier this year, Tim Challies cited one typical example of Driscoll’s vulgar flippancy from Confessions of a Reformission Rev. The sermons I listened to also included several from Driscoll’s “Vintage Jesus” series, including the one Phil Johnson critiqued in October.

The point I want to make is not about Driscoll’s language per se, but about the underlying philosophy that assumes following society down the Romans 1 path is a valid way to “engage the culture.” It’s possible to be overexposed to our culture’s dark side. I don’t think anyone can survive full immersion in today’s entertainments and remain spiritually healthy.

Let’s face it: Many of the world’s favorite fads are toxic, and they are becoming increasingly so as our society descends further in its spiritual death-spiral. It’s like a radioactive toxicity, so while those who immerse themselves in it might not notice its effects instantly, they nevertheless cannot escape the inevitable, soul-destroying contamination. And woe to those who become comfortable with the sinful fads of secular society. The final verse of Romans 1 expressly condemns those “who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them.”

Even when you marry such worldliness with good systematic theology and a vigorous defense of substitutionary atonement, the soundness of the theoretical doctrine doesn’t sanctify the wickedness of the practical lifestyle. The opposite happens. Solid biblical doctrine is trivialized and mocked if we’re not doers of the Word as well as teachers of it.

We could learn from the example of Paul, who engaged the philosophers on Mars Hill. But far from embracing their culture, he was repulsed by it. Acts 17:16 says, “while Paul waited for [Silas and Timothy] at Athens, his spirit was provoked within him when he saw that the city was given over to idols.”

When Paul spoke to that culture, he didn’t adopt Greek scatology to show off how hip he could be. He simply declared the truth of God’s Word to them in plain language. And not all of his pagan listeners were happy with that (v. 18). That’s to be expected. Jesus said, “If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you” (John 15:18-19).

Even Jesus’ high priestly prayer included a thorough description of the Christian’s proper relationship with and attitude toward the world: “I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world” (John 17:14-16).

Whenever Jesus spoke of believers’ being in the world, He stated that if we are faithful, the world will be a place of hostility and persecution, not a zone of comfort. He also invariably followed that theme with a plea for our sanctification (cf. John 17:17-19).

The problem with the “grunge” approach to religion is that it works against the sanctifying process. In fact, in one of the messages I listened to, Driscoll actually boasted that his sanctification goes no higher than his shoulders. His defense of substitutionary atonement might help his disciples gain a good grasp of the doctrine of justification by faith; but the lifestyle he models–especially his easygoing familiarity with all this world’s filthy fads–practically guarantees that they will make little progress toward authentic sanctification.

I frankly wonder how any Christian who takes the Bible at face value could ever think that in order to be “culturally relevant” Christians should participate in society’s growing infatuation with vulgarity. Didn’t vulgarity and culture used to be considered polar opposites?

Sunday, November 8, 2009

The Divine Conductor

“And He who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will.”
Romans 8:27


Like a symphony conductor, God orchestrates circumstances in the life of a saint. He either sends another to you with a message, or He directly sends the one for whom the Holy Spirit is interceding. It is at this crossroad that division is apt to come because it depends on the willingness of the saint who is being asked to assist in the intercession on God’s terms. He does not need our help, but He has asked us to be participants.

We often think it strange that we find ourselves thrust into situations affecting others; commonplace and ordinary circumstances that have little or nothing to do with us. Our patience is sometimes tested and brought to frustration levels because of the conditions of the lives of others and the choices they have made that adversely affect them. Their refusal to break the pattern of sin and discard their old way of life brings them back time and time again to the same point of failure. It is at this point of weakness and vulnerability that God may ask our assistance. But if, at that juncture, we maintain an attitude of superiority, or we are indefinite in our response, we will never be the effective witness He desires.

We are apt to wonder why it appears God places such hard cases before us when other saints seem to have an easier time of witnessing and see results we never see. We all want to rejoice in results, to the glory of God, but we are called according to His purpose, not our own. We should never question the orchestration of circumstances and people God brings into our lives for we may just be one of many He uses, and besides, God’s timing is His own. Nor should we assume the position of amateur providence and attempt to sort through and pick our own methods of intercession. Our intentions may be sincere but, if left to ourselves, we could talk until we were blue in the face and never reach the heart of a lost sinner; or we could inevitably make matters worse. Instead, we should bring that person before the throne of God where true intercession begins and step back to allow the Holy Spirit to do His work. In other words, we must never attempt to do His work for Him; rather we should allow Him to do His work through us.

The human side of intercession is the position we find God has placed us, or someone He has sent to make contact with us. It is there at that crossroad where the saint must make a decision. It is there where the human side of our involvement ends and the divine work of the Holy Spirit begins. If we choose the wrong path, someone may suffer impoverishment.

As the eyes of musicians remain fixed on the orchestra conductor as he draws by direction the instruments to a glorious finale, we, too, should keep our eyes and ears fixed on God as He orchestrates opportunities to bring other sons and daughters to glory. If we yield to what God has orchestrated and allow the Holy Spirit to direct us as He intercedes on behalf of the one He sent, we have performed our part to His satisfaction and the honor and glory remain His, as it should be.

Friday, November 6, 2009

The Gift

If you were being offered a gift that was beyond any other a man could give, one that was so precious, so priceless because the cost of it was beyond comparison; a gift that you could not only delight in now but for always; one that would give you endless joy, security, and peace and would make you richer than any king - would you reject it?

If the gift meant that you would never again have to struggle, never again have to fear, that all sorrow, worry and trials would cease - would you take it then?

If this priceless gift would mean a renewal of life, health never again affected or damaged, and peace of mind beyond comprehension - would you take the gift being offered?

The price of the gift has been paid in full by another, the conditions surrounding it have been met, and there is nothing more you need do except receive the gift and begin to enjoy it - would you still refuse to take it?

Many have refused it. Many have turned from the hand offering it, preferring instead to amass their own wealth, seek pleasures on their own terms, set their own standards and conditions, and attempt to attain life by their own merits. But they will always fail.

At the end of their lives, they will mourn for their refusal of the gift that was once offered. They will long to go back to the time when they still had a choice before the offer was withdrawn. Then they will know the true value of the gift that had been offered them and they will forever grieve because they rejected it.

If you are reading this and you have yet to seize the gift that is being offered you, there is still time. The Gift Giver is patient and He will not force you to take it. But it is His will that you take it from His hand and begin to enjoy it now while you still have the opportunity. Continued rejection of His gift will eventually drive Him away, and what you could have had will be lost forever.

So, what are you waiting for? Take the gift He is offering you and begin to truly live. And while you are at it, invite Him in to stay, for the gift He is giving is only the beginning of wonders to come.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

The Church Divided

I recently heard a Pastor recount an event he recently experienced. He received a request to come to another town and give his aid in planting a new church. When he arrived, he took it upon himself to investigate the number of churches that currently existed in the community. The final tally revealed there were already one hundred Christian congregations that served the area. The result of his investigation forced him to ask the question why it was necessary to add one more. What progressed from that point, he did not say, but it compelled to the forefront a problem that has been nagging me for a long time. Why is Christ’s church divided, and what is it that makes it so?

Of course, there are obvious reasons that cause a split in congregations. To list them all here would require more space than is prudent and there is no need to write a thesis on them. The most legitimate reason is to plant a new church in an area that is in need, and the most disturbing, a turning away from sound doctrine and preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ in its fullness. There is no shortage of preachers who teach health, wealth and prosperity. Their message, “God has a plan and a purpose for you” is usually void of any solid teaching of what God expects from Christians. Then there are the churches that teach God’s Word evolves as times change, perverting it to suit the sinful natures of the congregants and giving them license to continue in their sin. The consequences of a sinful life are rarely taught, hell is never mentioned, and a head-count and full coffers are all too often the driving force in filling the pews. The list is endless and, I might add, nauseating.


However, I found it troubling that the Pastor I mentioned above also has a divided congregation. Two identical sermons are preached each Sunday because the older generation prefers hymns and dirges to the contemporary music the younger generation desires. Instead of the worship leader placating both by providing a good mix of each, this congregation of less than one hundred people has chosen to part company, and as one group files out, another group files in. In other words, the Pastor can see beyond and into other church’s shortcomings, but he fails to recognize a petty and disturbing problem within his own. If he has recognized it, he has chosen to let the flock lead the shepherd rather than the other way around.


There is never a valid reason for division in the church that is preaching the fullness of the Gospel and providing sound Biblical teaching. If this qualification is met, the congregants should be satisfied. However, because of the importance placed on certain things such as the type of worship service that is led (great music provided by big bands and large worship teams that stir the emotions, and entertainment that pleases the congregants), the real message is being missed. There is one church and it is Christ’s church which is comprised of all true believers who are in Christ Jesus. Christ’s church represents “one body” which is “not made up of one part but of many,” and is unable to function effectively if one part dictates its will over the other parts. To put it in simpler terms, no single part is more important than another. “If one part suffers, every part suffers with it… If the “ligaments” that hold the body together are weakened by division, the result is an unfruitful church. But if the body is held together, drawing its strength from its Head Jesus Christ, then there is unity and a common goal. (1Cor 12:12-27)


Satan has been very effective in causing unrest, petty arguments and breeding contention that tears apart the body of Christ. When Christians allow him to assume control over their emotions, the result of his interference spills over into the rest of the body. The conclusion is always division, and it is usually catastrophic. I have personally witnessed the destruction of a church that became divided. The Apostle Paul cautioned the Romans “to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles” in their way to disrupt and destroy their unity in Christ Jesus (Rom 16:17). If in our commonality we remain devoted to Him and His will, the “obstacles” that are thrown in front of us are easily overcome by reason and through the strength of the entire body.


Jesus, in response to the false charges the Pharisees brought against Him, responded with this: “Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation, and every city or house divided against itself will not stand.” (Matt 12:25, NKJ) When a church finds itself in this position, the reaction is to divide itself and go their separate ways rather than to unite and solve the problems within it. Paul asked the Corinthians, “Is Christ divided?” (1Cor 1:13). The answer to his question should be clear to us: Never! His question should pierce the heart of every Saint and cause us to re-examine the petty complaints or arguments we may have that causes separation.

Jesus Christ is building an eternal kingdom, one that will last and never be divided. However, at this juncture, it is up to us to help hold it together until that great day, remaining united in all things of Christ. And if we are faithful in our endeavor to hold Christ’s body of believers together, there will not be a need to build another church.