Roll Away Words

walking teeth

Dan opened his mouth to speak. Across the table rolled his dentures. He scooped them up and popped them back into his mouth before most of us realized what had happened.

Be careful with your words … they can’t be scooped back as quickly as Dan’s teeth.

You are snared by the words of your own mouth; you are taken by the words of your mouth (Proverbs 6:2).

Sunsets for You

Montana mountain sunset

Ask most Christians, “Why did God create things of beauty?” and the answer is that He made them for our pleasure.

The world around me, though corrupted by sin and sin’s curse, still has a remarkable beauty. I’ve traveled nearly 40,000 miles this summer, and everywhere I’ve been there is great beauty. Blue and purple alpine flowers. Sunset skies of blue, violet, red, yellow, and orange. Waterfalls plunging into crystal clear lakes. Sagebrush rolling across the Wyoming prairies. An old Mexican woman holding a newborn baby. Kenyan children, with smiles as big and bright as the full moon, pointing, laughing, and waving at the “white man.” A wet donkey that didn’t want me to stop petting it.

I look at all God has created, and despite the cruelty and destruction of man and man’s sin, I see beauty. It’s impossible not to look at the world around me and tearfully offer thanksgiving to the One who ordained such unique and amazing design. Yet God did not form and fashion this world to please the hearts and eyes of mankind.

The wonder of His Creation reveals His existence and power so that no has an excuse for rejecting Him (Romans 1:20). And Matthew 6:28 reminds us not to worry about either necessities or desires, but to consider the lilies of the field, how they grow, they neither toil nor spin; and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.

Yet the purpose of the beauty around you isn’t for you. You are worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things, and by Your will and for Your pleasure they were created (Revelation 4:11).

God’s purpose in this world isn’t to make you happy or pleased; it’s to demonstrate His glory and honor and power to His praise.

Please, Not Another Gimmick

Gimmick Guy

Pink rubber bracelets. Ice bucket challenges. Growing and then shaving off your beard. Angels on clothes pins. Men wearing high heal shoes and dresses. “And for your gift of only $25, I’ll pray for you and send you a genuine packet of sand from the very beach where Jesus fed Peter after the Resurrection.

Seems everyone has a gimmick anymore for raising money for their special program. Sometimes I struggle making the connection between the gimmick and the message. Like the man who lived locked in a window display for 3 weeks with 400 poisonous spiders to raise money for a children’s charity (click here for the story).

I understand that charitable (and not-so charitable) groups are making up new ways to raise awareness of their causes. I understand that the number of dollar bills out there seems insufficient to meet the demand of every good-deed doer.

What bothers me immensely is the disconnect between the gimmick and the charity or cause. Charity has become a perpetual world of commercialism, selling a product which then requires an explanation to determine what you’re being sold. Even worse, gimmickry has invaded the church.

In Jesus there are no gimmicks. No commercialism. No slight of hand deceptions. No con games. He is what He is. He offers what He promises. This is the Christian way.

I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, and by which you are saved … Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures … He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures (John 1:4; 1 Corinthians 15:1, 2, 3, 4).

 

Breaking His Promises

shaving

I’ve often said that the only thing worse than shaving is having facial hair.

I’m one of those fellows who can shave at 6 in the morning and by 8 am needs to shave again. Thankfully, shaving today isn’t as bad as when I was a teenager. Back then I cut my face nearly everyday; today, with five blades in the razor, a clean, close, bloodless shave is the norm.

This morning I put a new blade cartridge in my razor and began hewing the forest of facial growth. Something didn’t feel right. I rubbed my fingers over the area now nude of shave gel to find that the hair was still standing at attention and tall as could be. I ran the razor over the same patch … no difference.

I rinsed the razor off and discovered the problem: I’d put the razor cartridge in upside down. I couldn’t get a close shave – or any shave at all – because I’d mis-applied the blades.

We’re prone to doing this is many areas of life, not the least in spiritual things. We open the Bible, put our finger down on the page and there proclaim: “This is God’s promise to me!” Then we question God when He “breaks” His promise. More often than not, His promise doesn’t become reality because we’ve put the promise in “upside down”; we’ve taken God’s Word in a way He never intended it to be used.

For example, in John 5, Jesus met a man crippled for 38 years. Jesus said to the man: Rise, take up your bed and walk (v 8). The Bible says that the man did just that! But the same passage says that there were many other sick and diseased people all around that one man. There were others in need as much or more than he; yet Jesus chose only that one man, spoke to only that one man, and healed only that one man.

If others around the pool of Bethesda had claimed Jesus’ promise, would they have been healed? No. Christ’s promise was to that one man alone, not to the others in desperate need around the pool, and not to you or me.

Next time I change my razor blades, I’ll be careful not to put the cartridge in the wrong way. I’ll be even more careful with rightly dividing the Word of Truth (2 Timothy 2:15).

Desire of the Saints

Heaven

Ask most people – Christian or otherwise – what will be the best thing about Heaven, and the answer will overwhelmingly be to see their friends and family who have died.

Strangely, however, the Bible doesn’t speak directly of that as a glory of Heaven. Oh, it’s a popular sentiment in sermon, song, and society, but really there’s not much Biblical theology to go along.

Will we see loved ones when we get to Heaven? If they made it into the Lamb’s Book of Life, yes, but is that what makes Heaven Heaven?  Is that why you want to go there?

Heaven is the abode of God where we will know Him intimately in unlimited bliss. It is the place where Jesus is creating a habitation of eternal fellowship for the Father with His sons and daughters by faith.  It is where we shall see the Saviour face-to-face, no longer separated by the limitations of physical reality, the corruption of sin, or any hindrance to faith. Experiencing God’s full presence is what makes Heaven the desire of the saints.

If going to Heaven means seeing friends and family, you’ve missed the meaning, purpose, reward, and exceedingly great joy of God’s Heaven.

And we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words (1 Thessalonians 4:17b – 18).

Kenyan White Tea

white tea

Sitting here this morning with my hot cup of Kenyan white tea, remembering some of the benefits of God’s grace in my life.

Bless the Lord, O my soul; and all that is within me, bless His holy name! Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits:

  • Who forgives all your iniquities,
  • Who heals all your diseases,
  • Who redeems your life from destruction,
  • Who crowns you with lovingkindness and tender mercies,
  • Who satisfies your mouth with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s (Psalm 103:1-5).

What a glorious day to know Him and revel in His goodness in my life!

Detoured

detour

Driving home from a wedding one night, my wife took an unexpected turn off the highway. She took the exit just before the one which leads home. I trusted her driving and didn’t say anything. I figured that she had a purpose and wanted to take a scenic detour, something I like to do myself at times.

It may be true that all roads lead to Rome, but they don’t all lead to Helvetia. Her detour was okay because I knew we’d still get home despite the unexpected route.

Life is full of unexpected and unintended detours. The serene house on the lake becomes living on a farm in a small Iowa town. A first-born son is delivered as twin girls. That small bump on the arm is diagnosed as the “c” word. The perfect man you love with all your heart morphs into a stranger you never knew. Your congregation gets evicted by another church.

The God of the Bible is so great and awesome … more than we can ever realize. It is by His will that the sun and moon stay in their courses through the heavens (Psalm 19:6). He causes the water to evaporate and return to the ground as rains (Job 36:27-28). Before man was made upon the earth, God determined the boundaries and histories of every nation in history (Acts 17:26). Before time began He chose some people to be for honor and glory, while others He chose for dishonor and destruction (Romans 9:21-23).

Whatever road of life you may find yourself travelling, those unexpected and unintended detours aren’t accidents; there is a Divine purpose involved. Trust the Pilot of your soul. He knows the destination He’s determined and He’ll get you Home. Child of God, He has ordained all things to work together for your good and to His glory.

There are many plans in a man’s heart, nevertheless, the Lord’s counsel – that will stand (Proverbs 19:21).

Freedom of the Will

free will

People – including Christians – like to talk about free-will. However, free-will is not a Biblical term.

A dog roams where it pleases, but not by free-will. It seeks out food and water, wanders for shade and companionship, all motivated by its nature, not by freedom. Everything that dog does is because of its base instinct, its natural passions.

There may come a time when the dog is trained to behave in a certain way. It can be put on a leash and taught to go in the same direction and at the same pace as its master. As the dog is brought into obedience to the master, the leash is put away. It’s at this point, and only this point, that the dog is truly free. It may give in to the base instincts to which it is by nature bound or it can obediently follow the new path taught by the master.

By nature, we are all sons of Adam, fallen and corrupted by sin. Through one man’s offense judgement came to all men, resulting in condemnation (Romans 5:18) … you were slaves of sin … (Romans 6:17) … dead in tresspasses and sins … by nature children of wrath (Ephesians 2:1, 3). There is no free-will for the unsaved one whose heart and soul and nature are bound tightly by sin in death.

In the new birth, however, we are given a new nature. It’s what the Apostle Peter calls the divine nature, having escaped the depravity that is in the world through passion (2 Peter 1:4).  In Christ we become a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things become new. Now all things are of God … (2 Corinthians 5:17-18).

We are predestined to be conformed to the image of God’s Son (Romans 8:29), transformed by the renewing of your mind (Romans 12:2), not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit (Titus 3:5).

In salvation we become “free” to follow Christ, trained by the Master, no longer bound by the power of the sinful nature and its passions. Free-will is the experience of the redeemed alone.

He whom the Son sets free is free indeed (John 8:36).

The Oregon State Fair

State Fair 2014

One of my favorite outings, and the swan song of summer, is the Oregon State Fair. Held the last two weeks of August, the Oregon State Fair offers interacting with a variety of farm animals, gawking at farm produce, admiring or wondering over arts and crafts displays, getting taken at the carnival games, and spending money at vendors selling everything from Sham-Wow cloths to alligator jerky. It’s more all-day fun than you can poke a stick at!

My favorite area is the farm animals! I’ve never met a cow I didn’t love or which didn’t love me. This year a small donkey took a liking to me and when I tried to leave it stomped in anger until I returned!

One thing I’ve noticed, and you probably already know, is that animals don’t change their kind. The young Future Farmers of America girl who offered to sell us one of her goats wasn’t concerned that she’d return the following day and find they’d each turned into parrots. The 4-H boy who entered his rabbit into competition didn’t worry about it becoming an elephant overnight and squishing its cage.

A sheep is always a sheep, a goat is always a goat, a pig is always a pig, and that spider crawling up your leg is always a spider (sorry, but I had to do that!).

It seems so obvious, yet we still fail to understand the similarity in God’s design physically and spiritually concerning “animals.” We think that in salvation God changes man’s spiritual species from “goat” to “sheep.” The fact is – according to Jesus – not that goats become sheep in the new birth, but that the new birth happens because one is a sheep.

In John 10, Jesus spoke about His spiritual sheep. The Jewish religious leaders were furious with the Master’s constant farm talk and demanded a plain answer from Him: “Are You the Messiah?” (v 24). Jesus replied that He’d already told them, but they could not believe in Him. Why not?  You do not believe, because you are not of My sheep (v 26). Being a sheep comes before belief in Christ Jesus as Saviour! Sheep believe because they are sheep. What is needed isn’t the evolution of goat to sheep, but a re-birth from dead sheep to living sheep (Ephesians 2:1).

One Million Dollars

pch million dollars

If tomorrow you woke up and discovered that you had won a million dollars in a contest, what would you do with the money?

  • Pay off your house or buy a new one?
  • Get that new car you’ve always wanted?
  • Set aside money for your granddaughter’s college education?
  • Take a dream vacation to Toledo, Ohio?
  • Have a brow lift, a tummy tuck, and a rear-end alignment?

I read an article in the news today about two famous political figures of our day, both very wealthy and from opposite ends of the American political spectrum. One man plays golf on his days off; the other man provides free eye surgery procedures in his home state and in third world nations. This got me thinking ….

One of my heroes of theology once wrote that God doesn’t judge His children on how much they give, but on how much they have left over after they give.

We may be very careful to pencil-out our ten percent each month and lay it in the offering plate. We’re confident that we’ve given God exactly what He deserves and asks, but is this giving from the heart or from the head?

After being in Kenya for two weeks, I was reminded of how gracious God has been: I was born in a land of over-abundance (even among the poor). I live in a land where farmers are paid by the government to dump milk down the drains and people buy clothes and jewelry for their dogs. Our toddlers use i-pads, our pre-teens have cell phones, and we spend hundreds of dollars on cable tv for channels we never watch. Before we can get out day started, some of us fork-out $8 each morning for a cup of coffee. Evangelists own jets. There’s nothing necessarily wrong in any of these things, and yet I wonder …

What would I do with a million dollars?

Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also (Matthew 6:21).

John Wesley once said, “Money never stays with me long, I give it away as fast as I get it lest it burn a hole through my pocket and into my heart.”