Do you really think God has time for your tiny problems?

Parking MetersThe blogger was ranting about Christians who claim God got them a good parking spot at the mall. “With people starving, dying from easily curable diseases and lack of clean water, terrorism and hatred on the rise and the world basically going to hell, do you really think God cares about being your personal mall valet?”

At first I cheered him on thinking, “Yeah, how can we be so self-focused to think God cares about us getting a good parking spot.”

Then I remembered a story a Bible translator told me. Continue reading

Where to find God

Gone FishingSometimes it seems like God is hiding. We pray and … nothing. I discovered something in Psalm 146 that might help us find Him the next time He seems away on vacation.

Psalm 146 talks about the “oppressed”, the “hungry”, the “prisoners”, the “blind”, “those who are bowed down”, “the foreigner”, “the fatherless and the widow”. Right in the middle of this suffering and oppressed group of people it says one line about the righteous that seems out of place. Why would this statement about “the righteous” be found among a list of oppressed and broken people?

Perhaps because when Righteousness walked the earth in human form He gravitated toward that group of people. Jesus spent His time among the sick, the sorrowful, those who knew their need of a Savior but felt far from God as He was presented by the religious system.

True Righteousness will always walk among the poor, reach out to the lost one, run to embrace the one who has been among the pigs, wreaks of the slop trough and comes acknowledging, “I am not worthy”.

Jesus could have come as a king, lived in comfort and opulence proclaiming His message to the masses from a solid gold chariot drawn by a team of magnificent horses. Certainly this would have made his divinity seem more palatable, more believable. He could have maintained a respectable distance from the dust and filth of humanity but it was from dust He chose to make man. He chose to once again get His hands dirty to redeem man.

What a remarkable love that caused Him to descend to the lowest depths in order to make it possible for us to ascend to the highest heights. What a Savior! What a God!

So where are we likely to find God? Right at the point of our most desperate need – among the poor in spirit, the broken, the contrite and humble. If that is where you are, go and do something to bless someone who is worse off than you and I guarantee you will find God right there beside you.
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James 1:27
Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.

Slaughter, Savagery and God’s Glory

martyrsFor years Christians have been routinely slaughtered around the world but with the coming of the Islamic State of Iraq it’s finally front page news. The focus on it and graphic awareness that news coverage brings is causing Christians to get discouraged, frightened, angry, saddened and confused. Undoubtedly there has been “a great disturbance in the force” but could it be that the disturbance is one of rejoicing?

Scripture says “precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints” (Psalm 116:15). Wherever the church has gone martyrdom has always followed. As Tertullian stated, “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.”

In fact, we get our word “martyr” from the Greek word translated “witness”. So, when Jesus said, you shall be my witnesses, the first disciples heard, “you shall be my martyrs”. A martyr is simply one who testifies to the truth of his message by his willingness to sacrifice his very life rather than deny the message.

As we see the horrific pictures of butchered Christians we are repulsed and can easily wonder, “where is God, where is our government, where is hope in the midst of this mess?” But there is another level which sees that each of those who bowed their head rather than bow their knee was screaming with their own blood, “Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.”

The first martyr of the church, Stephen, proclaimed forgiveness and witnessed to the truth of his message in a way that surely impacted the future apostle Paul. In the early apologetic story, Octavius points out that Romans praise to high heaven men who suffered great agonies for the cause of Rome but among Christians even the women and young boys “treat with contempt” the tortures heaped upon them rather than deny their faith. In the same way, the death of each of these in Iraq and around the globe –men, women and children – screams to the executioner that Jesus Christ is Lord and worthy of their very lives.

We can be certain that with each death a roar of applause goes up from that “great cloud of witnesses” as these runners cross the finish line and are triumphantly welcomed home by their Lord and Saviour. “Well done. Race well run. Enter in to the joy of your salvation.”

I am not saying we should do nothing to oppose the evil. We are still called to “do justly, love mercy and walk humbly with our God” but we must see this world from a higher plane. The news media will not give us this exalted perspective. We must get it from the Word and from God’s messengers to the church, its leaders.

Pastors, we must draw back the curtain and allow Christians to see a higher, a more glorious picture of what is happening around us. Our response was laid out by Paul in his letter to another church familiar with martyrdom.

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. … Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
Romans 12:14, 15, 21 NIV

Any institution is only as solid as the foundation upon which it is laid. The foundation of this new Caliphate is being laid upon the “seeds of the church” – the death of God’s saints.

Yes, we pray the Lord will “deliver us from evil”. Yes we pray for God to forgive those guilty of these horrors. Yes we take what actions we can righteously take to put a stop to it. But we must never forget God is still at the helm of the universe. These and even greater evils to come were all foretold thousands of years ago but just as surely as these prophetic nightmares are being fulfilled, so will the glorious prophecies of a coming kingdom of peace, justice and righteousness.

Look up saints. Lift your head. Your Deliverer is coming.

 

I don’t care what you think.

Babe RuthBabe Ruth was one of the greatest hitters and perhaps one of the greatest baseball players of all time. I recently read a story about this great hitter striking out.  He let the pitch pass and the umpire screamed, “Strike three. You’re out.” Babe turned to him and said, “There are 40,000 fans in this stadium that all think that was a ball.” The ump calmly responded, “That might be true but my opinion is the only one that counts.”

The 40,000 voices from the stands today make some pretty bold declarations about what is moral and what is immoral, about what is right and what is wrong, about what we should tolerate and what we should not tolerate. The majority of the experts proclaim God’s Word to be outdated, out of touch and irrelevant. As a believer it may seem like you are swimming upstream against Niagara Falls.

But, there is only One whose opinion counts. Disagree with Him and “You’re out!”
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Proverbs 21:30
There is no wisdom, no insight, no plan that can succeed against the LORD.

Psalm 2:2, 4
The kings of the earth prepare for battle; the rulers plot together against the LORD and against his anointed one. … But the one who rules in heaven laughs. The Lord scoffs at them.

Kill the Giant Killer!

hopeAnd David was greatly distressed; because the people spoke of stoning him, because the soul of all the people was grieved, every man for his sons and for his daughters: but David encouraged himself in the Lord his God.
1 Samuel 30:6
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David had been through some rough times but this was the lowest point of his life. He had led his men off to a battle that they had no business being involved in. Then, they return home to discover an enemy has raided their home town stealing everything, taking their wives and children and burning all their homes to the ground.

David was discouraged. He had lost everything. His men were grieving. They had lost everything and everyone knew it was David’s fault. The men became so angry that these loyal friends of his considered killing him.

I’m not sure what I would have done in this situation but we know what David did. Times like these separate the victors from the victims. He could have rolled over and quit. He could have “cursed God and died”. But “David encouraged himself in The Lord his God”! Continue reading

Stop lying to yourself

Stop the liesPsalm 101:7, 8
No one who practices deceit will dwell in my house; no one who speaks falsely will stand in my presence.
Every morning I will put to silence all the wicked in the land; I will cut off every evildoer from the city of the Lord.
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I absolutely love this passage. Here’s why. A number of years ago my family was enduring a brutal time. The church I pastored had severe financial pressures (we had nothing to do with creating the debt we just “inherited” the consequences of someone else’s “faith”).

I had outspoken critics in the congregation who with syrupy sweetness regularly told me all I was doing wrong as a pastor. (The most vocal of them had been saved almost 3 years so surely had great insight into church leadership.) Some of the critics were self-proclaimed prophets who would spout as “the Word of the Lord” any bird-brained idea that flitted through the canyons of their cranium. Others thought nothing of slandering me and harassing my kids because they actually acted like children. Though their children were in rebellion and running from God, they knew exactly how “pastor’s kids” should be raised. Continue reading

Ever feel God failed you?

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What went wrong?!Joshua 15:63
…the sons of Judah could not drive them out; so the Jebusites live with the sons of Judah at Jerusalem until this day.
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The Jebusites were one of the tribes God told Israel to drive out of the land and apparently the Israelites tried to do it but just did not have what it took to get the job done. So, how does that work?  Have you ever felt God called you to do something and when you gave it your best effort you just couldn’t pull it off? What a frustrating situation. It feels like God let you down. Wasn’t this His idea? Why didn’t He come through?  But you know you can’t blame your failure on God. But you can’t figure out what you could have done differently either. Continue reading

Why do the wicked win?

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Defeated KingsJoshua 12 is a list of kings Moses and Joshua dispossessed to give the land to God’s people. It is tough to read thoroughly – actually I usually just skim it giving half an effort to pronouncing all those weird names.

But these were kings, powerful men, greatly feared. The stroke of their hand meant life or death. Their word was law. Surely they seemed like gods and probably were treated as such. Now, they are just nobodies in a list of nobodies that nobody wants to read because, frankly, nobody cares? Continue reading

The Greatest Miracle in the Bible

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Sad sun“So the sun stood still, and the moon stopped … the sun stopped in the middle of the sky and did not go down for about a whole day.”                    – Joshua 10:13
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The sun stopped for a day! This is even more miraculous than raising Jesus from the dead. For Moses he stopped some water but here, the sun stopped! Did all the stars and planets stop rotating, too? What of the tides and gravity and all the implications of this complicated cosmic system suddenly grinding to a halt. How about folks on the other side of the planet who had two nights back to back. Absolutely amazing! Why would God do such an astounding thing? Why does it get so little press coverage in the rest of the Bible? Continue reading