Gun Control, God Forgotten

Over the past week, we have seen the tragedy of children being gunned down by one, who portrayed evil in a physical form.  From this, discussions of gun control, amped up security, school safety and insults from all sides have permeated our lives through social media and news agencies.  We have seen the ugliness of hatred, the fearfulness of insecurity and the inability to think in a productive manner.   Political leaders, law enforcement officials and those we view as “in the know”, have inappropriately blamed agencies, people groups and individuals for a heinous act which was caused by a single person, who clearly had mental illness and emotional problems.  No matter who you may be, no matter where you may be reading this, we have all been affected by this tragedy.  But have you considered the problem within our society is much bigger than gun control, school safety or individuals whom we feel have allowed this system of hatred and bigotry to continue?

What about the other immoral behaviors that permeate our society?  I’ll give you a few.  Millions of unborn babies are massacred annually.  Immoral sexual behavior oozes out of the pours of our TVs and movies.  Violent behavior has become acceptable since the birth of video games.  We have allowed our evil fantasies to become our reality.  So why would we allow this to occur?  Why do we thrill on the ills of others?  How has our society come this far this quickly?  Simply, we have rejected the message of the Good News.

The issue concerning all of our society’s problems is not with the individual evil acts we might be marching against, rather it is our broken hearts.  Hearts that have forgotten in Whom we have been created in.  Hearts that have blocked out love.  Hearts that have become corrupted by fantasies and wonders of amazement which have tried to destroy a belief in an Almighty, Ever-Present, All Knowing God.  Our hearts have become blackened by evil desires, temporarily trying to fill the God sized void we all have inside of us.

Do we need to discuss how to make our society safer?  Yes.  Do we need to debate gun control?  Sure.  But we also need to discuss mental health issues, insurance involvement, over taxing, over spending and even political offices and the corruption involved there.  But let me ask this question:

“For what profit is it to a person if they gain the whole world, and lose their own soul?  Or what will a person give in exchange for their soul?”

These questions were brought forth by a man long ago.  His society was similar to ours.  His society said, “You can take the life of your enemies”, yet he taught to pray for those who persecute you.  His society said, “If you want to divorce your wife, just give here the paperwork”, yet he taught what God has joined together, let no one separate.  His society taught, “Don’t waste your time with beggars and diseased”, yet he spent time with them.

Don’t we say the same thing?  Our society says, “Destroy entire groups who are violent.”  Yet He says, “Lift your enemies in prayer and pray for their eternal souls.”  Our society says, “Love whomever you want, whenever you want, how you want.”  Yet He says, “Intimate love is between a husband and wife.”  Our society says, “Play your violent games, listen to your hate-filled songs, enjoy everything while you can.”  Yet He says, “Out of the heart of a person, the mouth speaks.”  Our society says, “Separation of church and state.”  Yet He said, it is God who places those in power.  Our society says, “Remove ‘In God we trust’”.  Yet He said, Trusting in God is the only thing that can keep your society in place.

The heart of the matter in our society today is we have removed God from everything.  We no longer allow our children to pray in school.  We no longer stand up for Godly, moral behavior.  We no longer promote civility.  We no longer promote family values.  What we do promote are things that take God out of the equation:

  • Evolution: God is removed when we believe we evolved from primordial slime.
  • Sex: God is removed when we allow ourselves to be led by emotions rather than His Word.
  • Music: God is removed when our lyricists promote drug use and violent behavior.
  • Family: God is removed when we spend more time at our jobs than with our spouse and children.
  • Church:  God is removed when we forget our mission to lead others to the cross of Jesus Christ and make decisions based on our own desires.

We have removed God in all aspects of our lives and these are the results that we see today:

  • Increased violent crimes
  • Increased disease
  • Increased natural disasters
  • Increased drug abuse
  • Increased hatred
  • Increased feelings of hopelessness

God said, “Whatever a person sows, they also reap.”  We are reaping the fruit of removing God from our lives.  But we don’t have to stay there either.  We can change but we also can’t make this change alone.

The Bible says, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.”  When we call on Jesus Christ and acknowledge His sovereignty, His sacrifice and His love, our old ways get changed.  They become new.  It is Jesus Christ who can change us, make us into a people He desires us to be.  Only He can make an old life into a new life.  Only He can change the hearts of people, like you and I, and make us into a new creation, giving us a new heart and a new mind.  It is only by the power of Jesus Christ and His Holy Spirit can we change.

We can debate all we want.  We can discuss any topic you wish.  We can encourage and we can discourage.  We can build up or we can destroy.  None of these matters if we do not have the love of Jesus Christ in us.

1 John 5:1-2 says, “Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and whoever loves the Father loves the child born of Him.  By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and observe His commandments.”

If we love God, then we will love others.  If we love others, we will not go out of our way to destroy them.  We will not feed off of the divisive media.  We will not allow our children to continue down a destructive road of pornography, abuse and violence.  If we love God, we will bury our misery of bigotry and cling to the double-edged sword, which is the Word of God.  If we love God, we show that by our actions.

We must stop this bickering, this divisive spirit and embrace the only One who can save us, the Savior, Jesus Christ.  Without Him, we will continue to go down a road leading to the very pit of hell.  Instead, let us show how much we love God by showing love toward others.  Praying for those who persecute us.  Feeding those who are slaves to drug addiction.  Caring for those who cannot care for themselves.  Helping others become who God sees them as, a person made in His image for His purpose to exclaim His glory.

For those of us who claim to be Christians, we must follow Christ.  This means giving up our dreams for His.  This means no longer doing what we used to do.  This means spending time with Him daily, learning more about Him.  But this also means our actions have to match our faith.

“Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become a sounding brass or a clanging cymbal.  And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.  And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing.” – I Corinthians 13:1-3 (NKJV)

Without the love of Jesus Christ, all we do is like a loud obnoxious sound.  Like the nail scrape of a chalkboard, so is our actions without the love of Jesus Christ in us.  We need to love.  We need Jesus Christ in order to love.  Without Jesus Christ, our society is hopeless.

Jesus Christ changed the world using 12 men who were thought to be nothing in their society.  First He had to change each of them before they could help change the world.  The same holds true for us.  If each of us were to allow Jesus Christ to change us, then in turn we can point others toward the cross of change, the Cross of Christ.  Our country, this world can be changed, if we first allow God to change us.

The journey of a 1,000 miles begins with one step.  Make that first step and allow Jesus Christ to change you.  Once we move toward Jesus and away from our ideals, we will learn that nothing can change our society better than the love of Jesus Christ.  It starts with us first.  Then it flows out to others.  Pray, right now, for God to change you through the power of His Son, Jesus Christ.  Then He will give you His Holy Spirit and He will change you from the inside out.

God bless and encourage someone today.


Love (w)Holy?

The video played.  My notebook was opened ready to take notes on the next section of Church History.  Anticipating the amount of sentences I might write, did not allow me to fully understand the scope and complexity of what I was about to watch.  As I took notes, I would freeze and unfreeze the video, ensuring my notes were detailed and accurate.  It wasn’t until, I watched the video a second time, that I realized my anxiety and worry over life’s turbulence, awarded me the gold medal of “How small am I” champion.

The video series, I am currently studying has little to do with the people involved, rather, it is how those same people suffered in encouraging ambition as they await the fate others had for them.  The two main characters which the videos centered around were Polycarp and Perpetua.  Two Christians who, lovingly and willingly allowed themselves to become martyrs for the faith we continue to live by today.

Polycarp was a student of John, the author of Revelation.  It wasn’t until his later days, that the proconsul of his region and the people of the arena called for Polycarp’s demise.  Although Polycarp tried to avoid capture, it wasn’t until a Roman soldier beat a servant boy into telling him where Polycarp was living.  What struck me was not the brutality of the Roman soldier, nor the intention of proconsul, but the response by Polycarp to the soldier.

It was said, that Polycarp invited the soldier into his home for some food and water.  He was kind toward the soldier, only desiring to fulfill the law of Christ to “love your enemies”.  Polycarp then asked the soldier if he could spend some time in prayer, which allegedly took around 2 hours.  It was after this encounter that Polycarp was brought before the proconsul for judgement.

When the time came for Polycarp to suffer the consequences of his commitment to Christ, he displayed his gentleness toward the soldiers, letting them know that no matter what they do to him, God will give him the strength he needs to suffer patiently through this temporary painful experience.  His gentleness, his humble demeanor and the words spoken showed me that no matter what ills of life may come, nothing can compare to the inexplicable desire to leave this world and bow before the God of creation in humble thankfulness.

The second person my study was focused on was Perpetua.  She was a woman who was highly educated, knowing Latin and Greek and able to clearly write her thoughts in a way for everyone to understand.  What drew me to her most was her willingness, her love toward everyone, including those who desired to do her harm.  While in prison, she cared for her baby and others as they needed.  She was able to keep a diary, thereby documenting her experiences while imprisoned, awaiting her judgement.

However, it was her words which struck a chord within my very soul.  All the while she was imprisoned; she expressed her love toward her father, who begged her to turn her heart away from Christ.  She could not do such a thing.  She then expressed her own desire to live a life just as Christ lived, even unto death, a holy life filled with love toward everyone, including her enemies.  Up until the very end, she showed love and compassion toward others, even the very one who would drive a sword through her neck.  She did not feel condemnation or worry, but satisfaction in knowing that her life was being taken because of something Christ said, “If they hate me, they will hate you as well.”  Yet, she also held to the command by Christ to “love your enemies” and “pray for those who persecute you.”

Both of these people, lived a holy life, desiring only to complete the mission given to them by Christ, to make disciples.  They had a desire not only to complete this mission, but also to ensure they heard, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”  They felt honored to be one’s who suffered for the Gospel.  They did not worry about the temporary pain and suffering.  They worried not about their own future.  They did not worry about what career path to take.  They simply desired to life a holy life, filled with a holy love, even for those who wanted to do them harm.

After all this, a question popped into my mind, “Do I concern myself with the command of Christ or the worries of what this life has to bring?”  If I am going to be fully honest, I care about this life more.  Like others, I worry about silly things, in a silly time for an unholy life rather than concerning myself with a holy life, using holy love to reach an unholy people.

How foolish my thinking has been.  How wicked are my thoughts and actions concerning this life.  This life is not about what I can gain, but rather, what He can gain through me.  This life is not about how much I can acquire, but rather, how many lives He can acquire through me.  As I study Church history, I have been given the gift which cannot be repaid, the gift of understanding why Christ suffered so.  That same love, that holy love can conquer anything.  Our fears, our anxieties, our illnesses, our depression can all be obliterated when we accept and life using the holy love given to us through His Holy Spirit.

We cannot express any holy love unless the Holy Spirit enables us to do so.  The Holy Spirit enabled our ancient brothers and sisters to display a holy love and He desires to continue to display it through us as well.  Can we all take a single moment to thank God for those who showed that holy love despite what circumstance they faced?

Lord, thank you not only for saving my life through Jesus Christ, but also enabling us to love others, even though they do not love us.  Keep us from hatred and lead us toward the holy love displayed through the actions of Jesus Christ.  May your holy love be displayed to a world that needs You.  Amen.

God bless and encourage someone today.

Truly Trusting

Over the last several months, there has been a reoccurring theme which has brought me to a pinnacle of life, do I truly trust?  What is trust?  Do I trust those around me?  Do I trust in those who are over me at work?  Do I trust in a system of thought or do I trust a system of sin?  In whom do I trust?

If you grew up in a church, you have most likely heard the following:

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, with all your mind, with all your soul and with all your strength.”

“The God of my strength, in whom I will trust…”

“Preserve me, O God, for in You I put my trust.”

“I will put My trust in Him.”

So what is trust?  How is it that I can place my trust in someone or something?  When do I know that I truly trust in Him?

According to Mirriam-Webster, trust is assured reliance on the character, ability, strength or truth of someone or something.  It is a place, person or thing on which ones confidence is placed.  It is the ability to totally rely on someone or something which has character, abilities, strength and truth.  It is someone or something we can fully place our confidence in, knowing they have our best interests at the forefront of their heart and mind.

Like many others, I have had to battle the “monster within’ in an effort to trust.  Over many years, I have learned that trusting others has its challenges.  Many break that trust when they share your most inmost desires or flaws with others, without permission.  Some break that trust when they set you up for failure at work or in church.  Others may break that trust by going back on their word.  No matter how you slice the pie of trust, people almost always lose their trust in others.

So what about things?  Can we really trust in things?  Daily, thousands of people fly on planes trusting that the plane will stay in the air until the pilot says otherwise.  Many of us trust our cars won’t break down while we are on the interstate.  Most of us trust our jobs will provide for us and our families.  Some may even trust in objects which represent their religion.  But no matter how we slice this pie of trust, things degrade over time and cause us to realize they are not trustworthy.  We lose our jobs.  The plane crashes.  The car breaks down and the idol disintegrates over time as our lives spin out of control.  We have then learned that we cannot trust in things.  So what or who can we trust in?

It doesn’t sound all that good when we have a hard time trusting in someone or something.  We begin to feel as if we are the only one who is going through a hard time.  Our minds frustrate us with an unending battle of raging thoughts and irrational fictional stories.  We begin to believe that in this world, there is not a single person who can be trusted.  At the same time, we lose hope.  We lose our purpose.  We lose ourselves in the vacuum of distrust and misery.  Over time, we become the very thing we wish to avoid.  We allow our anger and frustration to take root causing us to be disliked.  We become the very object of distrust.

What I have been learning recently is not what or who I cannot trust in, but what do I actually truly trust in that is keeping me in a prison of misery and disappointment?  In my normal day, I listen to KLove twice a day.  Once going into work and once coming home.  Usually, I sing along to all the songs and bellow out a “joyful noise”, but recently, I find myself listening to the words of each song and thinking about life.  Here are some of the lyrics from a few songs I normally belt out:

“You want me.  The King of heaven wants me.”

“For the prodigal son.  Grace wins.  For the worst part of you and me.  Grace wins.”

“Come meet this motley crew of misfits.  These liars and these thieves.  There’s no one unwelcome here.  So that sin and shame that you’ve brought with you, you can leave it at the door and let mercy draw you near.”

Life is full of problems and misfits.  But what these songs have taught me was that I was trusting in my efforts, my strength and my abilities.  The heart of my life hasn’t been one of trust but one of pride and selfishness.  Rather than trusting in the Lord for everything, I only trusted Him when reading His word and in prayer.  And even then, did I really truly trust in Him?

Remember the definition of trust?  Trust is assured reliance on the character, ability, strength or truth of someone or something.  It is a place, person or thing on which ones confidence is placed.  Can God be trusted that much?  Let me break it down this way.  Does a thing have character?  Does a thing have ability or strength or truth?  Of course not.  A thing is given its power by when its creator loses sight that he/she is the creator and the object is nothing more than their ability to imagine fantastic dreams of wonder.  Not reality or truth, just dreams.

However, can a person be trusted?  Every person has character but is that character flawed?  Probably.  Do they have abilities or strength?  Probably.  What about truth?  Most people believe truth is a relative word.  They believe their truth is one of many truths that can be relied upon.  Unfortunately, many of those truths are in conflict and demand that if one exists the other cannot.  You cannot have one religion say, “There is only one god” while others believe hundreds exist.  If someone rolls through a stop sign, they are liable for breaking the law.  Under the perception of all truth is relative, we allow ourselves to break the very law created to keeping the peace and safety of both ourselves and others.  We cannot both stop and roll through the same stop sign and expect the police officer will be gracious to let us go.  One demands a price be paid, the other does not.  Therefore, we conclude it is extremely difficult to trust in people, so how could we possibly truly trust in others?

What about God?  Can we fully trust in Him?  First, let’s look at His character.

“…in the hope of eternal life, which God, who cannot lie, promised long ages ago.”

If God cannot lie, then he can only tell the truth.  Therefore, his character cannot be compromised by sinful behavior, like lying.  God also cannot sin…

“For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.” – Hebrews 4:15 (NKJV)

So if God is without sin and cannot lie, then His character cannot be flawed.  But can we honestly truly trust Him?  What about ability or strength?  How can that help us to understand if we can truly trust Him?

“The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer; My God, my strength, in whom I will trust; My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.” – Psalm 18:2 (NKJV)

“Jesus answered and said to them, ‘Are you not therefore mistaken, because you do not know the Scriptures nor the power of God?” – Mark 12:24

God has more power, more strength than anything we could ever imagine and then some.  No matter strong we may think we are, God is infinitely stronger.  No matter how much power a single person or government may have, God is that much stronger.  No matter how we fight and fight and fight to live, in the blink of an eye, God has the power to take and give life as He pleases.  God has the character, strength and ability.  So what about truth?

”Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, ‘If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed.  And you shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free.’” – John 8:31-32 (NKJV)

Jesus is the Truth.  If we study His word and live by His word, then we are his disciples.  Once that occurs, we know Jesus and He knows us.  And it is the power, character and ability of the truth that will set us free.  It is Jesus who is Truth and it is Truth that sets us free.

So can we truly trust God?  The answer is a resounding yes!  He is the only one we can truly trust.  His character is flawless.  His strength is unmatched.  His abilities are far beyond what we could ever imagine or think.  His Truth has set us free.  Therefore, we can whole-heartedly trust in Him.

Over these last number of months, I have learned that when I don’t truly trust in Him, I am in sin.  Can I give him everything or do I need to hold onto everything.  Life is uncontrollable.  Bad times and troubling times will come.  However, I needed to learn that truly trusting in God is not a blind trust but an active one.  It is a trust that allows us to give everything to Him, yet act according to His will.

Like me, you may want financial security and comfort, but that was never guaranteed to us.  Those things are a byproduct of our trust and faith in Him.  They may or may not fit into the plan God has for our lives.  What we do know, beyond any shadow of doubt is that God wants us to make disciples.  In everything we do, in all the places we visit, our goal should be the same, make disciples.

This trusting in God is a journey.  It is not the end all, heaven is that.  We all need to trust in God fully.  With all we are, with all our being, our action is that of trusting He has all that we need.  Our future is not known to us, but it is known to him fully.  He knows when we are born, he knows when we will die.  He understands our suffering, he understands our fears.  When we trust in Him, we no longer need to fear the unknown.  It is not control of the situation that eliminates fear, it is the trust we place in the Almighty.  When we place our entire being, in trust, in His hands, fear no longer can stand the light of Christ.

Let’s begin our journey together, learning how to truly trust in the Creator of all, Jesus Christ.  Then and only then will we live a life free of fear and we will be able to overcome our life situations.  Truly trust in Christ and be set free.

God bless and encourage someone today.

The Dunkirk Hope

Have you ever been in a situation that felt helpless?  You couldn’t do anything to fix the problem.  The problem overwhelms your thoughts, your nights and creates a feeling of hopelessness.  You not just lose sleep, but sickness knocks at your door.  Your immune system begins to fail, causing your body to break down causing more anxiety and hopelessness.

What about those who have seen the horrors of war?  There are countless stories of veterans coming home who have difficulty adjusting to a “normal life”.  The nightmares haunt them nightly.  The visions of those they have killed create a nightmare that cannot be forgotten.  No matter how much time goes by, the faces of those killed are forever plastered among the archives of the mind.

We can talk about cancer and the feelings of despair that accumulate in the subconscious.    We can speak about the disaster of how famine not only degrades the body but the mind as well.  We can imagine the despair one feels as they flee their country, which is overrun by terrorists.  We can discuss all of these things, but the question remains, what will keep us going?  What will we look towards to bring hopelessness to hopefulness?

Today, I had the honor of watching the movie “Dunkirk”.  It is a story of World War II British and French soldiers who faced hopelessness over and over again.  Whether they served on land, at sea or in the air, each of these soldiers faced insurmountable odds just to try and get “across the pond” and back into the arms of their loved ones.  I will not ruin the story for you, but I will point out there are several scenes which clearly show the hopelessness of those who were in Dunkirk.  Hopelessness turned into despair.  Despair turned into actions without thought.  Those actions then turned into disaster.  But how did those who faced this hopelessness survive?  They found hope.

A picture of a loved one, a friend who gives a glass of water or even a story of conquering a small territory, each of these can bring our minds from hopelessness to hope.  They create in us a feeling that it’ll be alright, even when we may not believe it.  We remember that there are those at home, who are praying we come back and even they are anxiously waiting to hear a single word from our mouths.

We too live in days of hopelessness.  Political turmoil, discrimination, murder and drug use are our battles which we face daily.  If we do not know the horrors of drug abuse, we understand the ills of discrimination.  We may not know the disgusting fear murder creates, but we see the turmoil in our nation’s capital.  No matter who we are, no matter where we come from, we all face the sense of hopelessness each and every day.  So what is the solution to all this hopelessness?  How can we overcome this sense that it won’t be alright and discover how it can be alright?

As Christians, we have a message of hope.  The problem with our message is not with the message but with us.  Today, I was speaking with one who is part of the LGBT community and an older gentleman who hates religion because, in his words, “what’s the point?”  Both of these individuals have suffered greatly at the hands of Christians.  In fact one of them told me that he can’t believe in God because most Christians aren’t nice and friendly.

Although I tend to disagree with his statement, it led me to consider, am I a friend of sinners?  Am I the one who hinders the message of hope or am I the messenger who gladly shares it with all, even if they hate God?  In my conversation with the LGBT member, I was able to reassure her that not everyone who calls themselves a Christian is one.  In fact, the Scriptures say that the road to salvation is very narrow, so narrow that there is only one way through Jesus Christ.  However, in all this, I explained that even Jesus dined with those who were hated by their society.  Terrorists, angry people, thieves and one who betrayed Him, were all people who Jesus spent His time with.  So if it is good enough for my Savior to spend time with those who are lost, then why do I discriminate and not spend the time I need to with them as well?  Because idolatry has entered into the hearts of the Christian community.

Instead of sharing the hope filled Gospel of Jesus Christ, we share our feelings about our society because we believe we have the right to.  Instead of sharing the Gospel, we verbalize our distain towards a small percentage of the community who have the ears and voice of our media.  Instead of sharing the Gospel, we spend our time thinking of ways to protest instead of invest.  We allow our national right to be ahead of our spiritual requirement.  So how do we overcome this?  How can we change the minds of others about the Gospel?  The simple answer is we can’t.  Only the Holy Spirit can do this, but this does not mean we should be arrogant about it either.

Our calling is to share the Gospel and disciple those who repent.  We are to help those who are helpless.  Feed those who are hungry and provide shelter for those who are homeless.  Nowhere in Scripture does it say that our political views supersede our spiritual obligations.  In fact, when Israel forgot their God, they became corrupt, by allowing the political views of their day to infiltrate their beliefs.  Some sacrificed their children.  Many intermarried with those who did not believe the same thing.  Not because of love but because they forgot their God.

We too have forgotten our God.  We have forgotten that our God is holy and we are sinful.  We have forgotten that our God created all that we can see and cannot see.  We have forgotten that we were once lost and were found by God.  We need to remember that it was God who saved us.  It was God who freed us.  It is God who sustains us.  It is God who forgives us, even when we sin knowingly.  We need to remember that those who do not know God are lost.  Those who don’t know God are living lives of hopelessness.  Those who do not know God hate God but have a sense that something is missing.

Jesus said that the world will hate us, but He also said we are to pray for our enemies.  Jesus told his disciples that they will be hunted and killed, yet He also told them to feed the hungry, care for the widows and orphans and share this Gospel with everyone who will listen.

Our job as Christians is not to be the political voice of our society but we are to be the arms, hands and legs of Jesus Christ.  We are to use what we have, our talents, our resources and our minds to think of new ways we can share the Gospel through action.  We need to realize it is not only our actions but our attitude toward those who are lost which is important.

Let me place this into perspective.  Those who don’t know Jesus Christ as their Savior are doomed to eternal life without God.  No light.  No love.  Just fear and hatred.  Thoughts of I wish I didn’t reject God will one day flood their minds in the eternal darkness of hell.  But Jesus Christ can change that.  The Gospel can give hope to those who are hopeless.  The Gospel can bring people from death into life.  The Gospel can show the light of Christ to a dark world.  It is only the Gospel of Jesus Christ which can change lives.

Like the messages given to the soldiers at Dunkirk, we too must share the message of hope.  We must pray for those who don’t know Him and ask Him to change their hearts.  Our job is to simply share the Gospel.  It is God’s job to change the hearts.  Even when they hate us, they don’t hate us because of what we have done, but because of what He did.

Our Savior lives!  Our Savior lives!  No one else can give that message.  Not Hinduism, not Shintoism, not Muslim, not atheism.  Only Jesus Christ lives!  Only Jesus Christ saves!  Only Jesus Christ can give this world of hopelessness a light which can outshine anything and bring hope to those who are lost.  Instead of voicing our distain, let’s voice the message of our Savior.

God bless and encourage someone today.

Creator of the Eclipse

There is something about watching the wonders of the heavens that makes mankind realize how small we really are.

Today, across the United States, we had the extreme privilege of watching a solar eclipse.  For some it was a glimpse of how God has placed order on the universe.  For others, it was a totality of awe and wonder.  No matter how we may have experienced this event, one thing is for sure, there is order to our universe.

I remember in 1979 when I first experienced what a solar eclipse was like.  Our teacher had each of us create a shoebox pinhole viewer.  We watched as the bright small dot, became encompassed by the darkness of the moon.  It wasn’t a total eclipse but it began my interest and love of nature and the heavens.

As I watched today, I thought of Psalm 8.  As a nation, we looked up to the heavens and applauded in amazement as God’s creation did exactly what it was commanded to do on this very day.  No longer did we ask about racism.  No longer did we fear the terrorist.  No longer did we wonder what the Republican or Democrat was standing for.  No longer did we focus on our fears, anxieties or problems.  We focused on God’s creation, thereby focusing our attention on what He was doing at that very moment.

When we focus on our problems, we take our eyes off of the heavens.  When we focus on our anxieties, we no longer look up and wonder what God is doing.  When we focus on what God is doing, we forget about our problems.  When we focus on God and His creation, we realize that our problems are a mere flash of existence that doesn’t even make a dent in the view of eternity.

For 2 minutes today, each of us made a conscience decision to look up to the heavens, forget about our problems and re-focus our attention to the Creator of the Eclipse.  Read Psalm 8 and exclaim, “Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!”

God bless and encourage someone today.

*Psalm 8[a]

Lord, our Lord,
how majestic is your name(A) in all the earth!

You have set your glory(B)
in the heavens.(C)
Through the praise of children and infants
you have established a stronghold(D) against your enemies,
to silence the foe(E) and the avenger.
When I consider your heavens,(F)
the work of your fingers,(G)
the moon and the stars,(H)
which you have set in place,
what is mankind that you are mindful of them,
human beings that you care for them?[c](I)

You have made them[d] a little lower than the angels[e](J)
and crowned them[f] with glory and honor.(K)
You made them rulers(L) over the works of your hands;(M)
you put everything under their[g] feet:(N)
all flocks and herds,(O)
and the animals of the wild,(P)
the birds in the sky,
and the fish in the sea,(Q)
all that swim the paths of the seas.

Lord, our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!(R)

*Taken from the NIV

From Thanks to Amen

The other day, my wife shared with me a very interesting story.  My wife had a friend and her son over.  At some point during their time, my youngest son sits on the stairs and says, “Pray”.  He folds his hands, bows his head and says, “Thanks.  Amen”.  

Although we were able to have a giggle about this, there were some truths out of his short prayer.  Many times, we enter into prayer with “Lord, please supply our needs” or “Lord, please heal those we love.”  Many times in the Psalms, David pours his heart out to God and asks God to supply a need or desire.  Job cries out to God asking Him “Why is this happening to me?”  Paul even asks God to “remove this thorn”.  However, we rarely hear ourselves cry out to God in thanks.  

Many might say they thank God every day, but do we really thank God and what do we thank God for?  When Paul wrote to the Thessalonians he writes:

“In everything give thanks, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” – 1 Thess. 5:18

Do we really give thanks in everything.  Notice Paul never said, “For everything”.  Rather he said, “In everything.”  This proclamation for “in everything…” is one that is not commonly spoken of today.  We thank God for the positive things in life, our family, our jobs, our children.  However, do we also give thanks when we are sick, in the hospital or the loss of someone close to us?  Do we give thanks for those things that hurt us?  Do we give thanks for our tribulations and pain?  Even I would have to admit that most times, I do not thank God for the bad times.

Paul makes this distinction because when we thank God for everything, we tend to thank Him for individual items.  Our focus is not Him but rather the circumstance we are experiencing or the thing we desire.  When we change that distinction to “in everything”, we re-focus our thoughts toward God.  No longer is the circumstance or item or person the focus, but rather God is in focus.  

When we focus ourselves on the circumstance, our thankfilled attitude changes based on our feelings toward the circumstance.  When we focus ourselves on God, our thankfilled spirit will pour out and affect others in a positive way.  Focusing on God enables us to have that relationship with Him that He so desires for us.  Focusing on God allows us to realize that our will is meaningless without His guideance.  Focusing on God allows us to do His work, regardless of outcome.

However, the other portion of my son’s short prayer was even more interesting.  The word Amen means, “Truth or certainty”.  It is not just a word we say, but when we say this, we let God and others know that whatever they said, we are in full agreement of because it is truth and certain.  This means that if we say Amen when someone says, “Jesus is coming back”, we are pubilcly admitting we are in full agreement with this.  On the flip side, when we hear someone say, “Just name it and claim it” and say amen, we let everyone know that we are in full agreement with that, even if it is a misguided concept based on us rather than God.  

There is nothing mystical about the words “thanks” and “amen” but both are very important in our walk with God.  If we approach God without thanking Him in everything, we do our relationship with him a disservice.  If we say Amen without realizing why, we stunt our relationship with Him.  

God does not desire sacrifice but us.  God does not desire committment to the cause, but rather dedication and devotion to Him.  God does not desire robots who will obey without question or understanding, but rather desires for us to use the brains He provided to us.  In a nut shell, God desires US.  He desires a relationship with us.  He desires for us to call on Him and focus on Him and what He desires.

In Revelation, Jesus said that some will say, “Lord, Lord, I did this or that in your name” and He will say, “Depart from me you evildoer, I never knew you.”  It will be a very frightening moment for those who hear that.  They will have lived their lives, doing things for God rather than being with God.  We can do a whole lot and never have that relationship with God.  However, we cannot be in a relationship with God and not do something for Him.  It is the relationship first, then the act.  

If I did things for my wife, but never spent time with her, talking with her, listening to her, holding her hand, she would never know my love for her.  Those actions would be self fullfilling not others fulfilling.  God has made us to have a relationship with Him.  He has created us for relationships.  He has given us His Son to provide the only way into that relationship.  

My son may not have really understood what he said by saying, “Thanks. Amen: but I was taught a very valuable lesson.   My relationship with God needs to have thankfulness in all situations and my amens need to be carefully understood before I say it.  I am glad that God still teaches through the mouths of babes.

God bless and encourage someone today.

People Can Change

This past Sunday, I preached on the book of Philemon.  The book of Philemon is a single chapter book with only 25 verses.  However, the information contained in those verses is life changing.

The book begins by Paul encouraging Philemon, letting him know that he has heard all of the positive work Philemon is doing in Colosse.  Philemon was one of the leaders of Colosse.  In fact, it is safe to say that Philemon was well to do.  He had slaves that worked for him.  One of those slaves is named Onesimus.

According to the text, Onesimus was a slave who may have stolen from Philemon.  During that time, slaves who were thieves were not considered worthy of life.  We know this because Jesus was crucified between two thieves.  In this letter to Philemon, Paul says that whatever Onesimus stole, place on his account to be repaid. 

As I read this and prepared my sermon on this text, some things came to light that are worthy of sharing.  First, the overall idea of this text is “Do you love God more than anything or anyone?”  Although Paul doesn’t explicitly ask this question to Philemon, Paul does imply this by way of encouragement, reminding Philemon that he was transformed by salvation through Jesus Christ.  Then Paul says to accept Onesimus back not as a slave but as a brother.

Think about that for a moment.  Here we have a boss, who’s employee stole from him and the penalty for that, according to the law is death.  However, Paul encourages Philemon to forget what the law says and show grace and mercy to Onesimus.  If Philemon truly loves God more than anything or anyone, then Philemon would have to accept the fact that Onesimus was a new man in Christ.  Therefore, the law of man no longer was in play here but the law of grace and mercy was.  

Second, Onesimus was considered useless before but useful to Paul now.  In the Greek, Onesimus means profitable.  What Paul did here was to play on Onesimus’ name and let Philemon know that this man, whose name means profitable was originally useless to Philemon, but now that Onesimus is a brother in Christ he has become useful.  Paul explain this by using words like “formerly” and “once was” and “has become”.  All of these are words of transformation.  Paul expalins to Philemon, that just like him, Onesimus has been changed because of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Here is what I thought about when I read this.  Philemon is in Colosse when Paul preaches there.  Philemon converts to Christianity and becomes a leader in Colosse.  Philemon has a thieving slave who runs away, aware that his sin’s penalty means death.  Then this same slave runs into Paul, IN PRISON, and then becomes a convert as well.  Paul works with this slave and then returns him to Philemon.  The same man who brought the Gospel to Colosse is the same man who helped in saving Onesimus.  Which brings me to my third point.  Sometimes we need to be removed or those around us need to be removed for the sake of the Gospel.

It wasn’t a coindence that Onesimus ran away and ran into Paul.  In fact Paul let’s Philemon know that there is a very strong possibility that the reason why Onesimus ran away was because he needed to hear the Gospel from Paul.  There is another side to this as well.  Sometimes those who have wronged us need to be separated from us because we will get in the way.

If Onesimus stayed, Philemon would have probably had him killed because the law allowed it.  This would mean that Onesimus would have died and suffered in hell for all eternity because he had not heard the Gospel.  However, because of God’s providence, Onesimus was allowed to escape only to find Paul who led him to Christ.  Then after working with Onesimus, Paul sends him back to Philemon.

How many times do people in relationships run away?  How many times have we run away because we have wronged the one’s we love and care for?  As sinful human beings, we all have a tendency to run away from conflict.  However, what we need to do is the opposite.  We need not to run away, but listen for the voice of God and work out our problems with those we love.  

There will be times, where God will allow separation for a time, but only to point that person back to the cross.  Never is this separation supposed to be permanent.  At the same time, if we are separated from those we love, we may need ot consider that it is us who need to run to the cross and take time to learn who God is and what He has done for us.  

If we are the one’s who were hurt, have been separated from that relationship for a time, there will be a moment where we need to restore that relationship.  We need not look at their past but how God has transformed them into a new creation.

Paul had told Philemon to accept Onesimus back.  Paul told Philemon that Onesimus has been transformed by the same power of God that transformed him.  We need to take the same approach with others that have hurt us.  Was Philemon going to accept Onesimus based solely on Paul’s words?   Probably not.  But Paul encouraged Philemon to look at Onesimus with they eyes of transformation rather than his past.

When relationships fall apart and want to be restored, we have the right to be careful concerning the other party.  However, we need to stop for a moment and ask God to show us the transformation He made in that person’s life.  If God has truly transformed that person, the fruit of the Spirit will show.  However, we need to give them a chance.  No matter how long we have been hurt or how badly, we owe it, not to the other party, but to ourselves to allow God to show us how He can transform lives.

As we face hard times and harder relationships, let us consider that the other party or ourselves, needs to evaluate our own relationship with God and consider that God can and does change people for His glory.  People can change.  All we are asked to do is give them another chance like God has given to us.

God bless and encouage someone today.