God is Good

god-is-good

Praise the Lord, for the Lord is good (Psalm 135:3).

God has given me a loving wife, who is not only my partner in life, but a companion in ministry. She sees a life in His service as a privilege and blessing rather than as a burden or a symbol of status.

God has given me a one-of-a-kind son. Daniel is more than a son, he’s my friend, and has been my great source of joy and support through many dark days. He is a better behaved child than I ever was.

God has given me family and friends who make life both interesting and satisfying. Parents, siblings, church mates, and another pastor and his family a world away who are more than friends.

God has given me a home to shelter me from the elements, when so many others don’t have a place of their own.

God has given me more food than I can ever eat, and a greater variety of food than I can ever count.

God has opened doors of ministry via the internet and in various places around the world this past year. He’s shown me how very blessed I am, and how ungrateful I can be.

God has given me His Word, that I might know Him and keep from the pathway of sin.

God has given to me salvation through His Son, a gift so undeserved, beyond what I could ever earn or imagine; eternal life, both now and forevermore.

God has been so good to me … and will be again tomorrow.

HAPPY THANKSGIVING DAY!

The Holiness of God

dark and light

There are those today who call themselves Christians and see little or no difference between the child of God and the child of the devil (John 8:44, 47); believing that all people reflect God in their lives. The Holy God is reduced to common and ordinary, made in our likeness and image.

I was part of a denomination which went so far in its “Church Revitalization” program to require its pastors to invite unsaved people from the church neighborhood to critique and suggest ways of making the church services more acceptable. The heathen shaping the church worship services: it’s akin to having a blind man scrutinize the Mona Lisa or entrusting the children’s Sunday School to an atheist.

In Ephesians 2, Paul listed some of the grim conditions of the unsaved person but also the benefits of being in Christ. Remember that you … were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who were once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ …. Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God (Ephesians 2:11-13, 19).

Rejoice! Child of God. There is a difference because of Jesus.

America Burning

Ferguson, Missouri

Looting.  Rioting.  Stealing.  Theft.  Destruction.  Anger. Burning.  Threats. Violence. Fear-mongering.  Hatred.  Racism.  Disregard for the rule of law. Murder. Rage. Injustice. Inflammatory name-calling. Lawlessness.

These are all summed up in one foul word: S I N.

It is at night when the streets reveal the true state of men’s hearts. The cover of darkness is used to hide the reality of men’s hearts. Whatever else you may want to call it – these are all acts of evil men whose hearts are filled with the darkness of sin. Sin perpetuating more sin and then used as an excuse for even greater sin.

Yet these wicked and evil acts burning from sinful hearts onto the streets of America do not change the simple fact that God is good.

I have a message from God in my heart concerning the sinfulness of the wicked: There is no fear of God before their eyes. In their own eyes they flatter themselves too much to detect or hate their sin. The words of their mouths are wicked and deceitful; they fail to act wisely or do good. Even on their beds they plot evil; they commit themselves to a sinful course and do not reject what is wrong (Psalm 36:1-4, NIV).

Men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed (John 3:19, 20).

But you are sons of light and sons of the day. We are not of the night nor of darkness. Therefore let us not sleep, as others do, but let us watch and be sober (1 Thessalonians 5:5-6).

The Triumph of My Experience

My Teddy Bear

I was only 6-years old when I decided that my King Kong toy needed a hair cut. I carefully trimmed it’s tuft of hair, but my young hands cut a bit too much “off the top.” By the time I was done evening things up, King Kong was bald.

Horrified at the results, I turned to science. I mixed some water-color paints together, applied the concoction to the toy’s mane, and waited. After a few minutes, I was absolutely certain the plastic hair was growing back. I saw it with my own eyes!!!

I ran upstairs to my room and grabbed my beloved teddy bear. After a previous swim in the bathtub he’d lost an eye, much of an ear, and sported a red suture down his back where my mother had replaced his stuffing. I painted my bear with the green paint and waited, fully expecting the eye to grow back and the wound on it’s back to heal. My personal experience was all the truth I needed.

One person prayed to Mary and the prayer came true, so Mary must answer prayers! Another “planted a seed” by sending his rent money to the television evangelist; thirty-days later an unexpected check arrived in the mail. Someone else had a vision of a steam train rushing through a dark tunnel and was convinced it was a sign from God he was going to get married. Another had a bird poop on his head and started selling it as a hair-growth formula.

We live in an age when Christians have replaced personal experience for the Bible as truth. Some folk once looked in the Bible for a shred of  twisted “evidence” to back up their experiences, but not even that trick is used any longer. Now a million people have a million different experiences and each one is touted as spiritual truth.

God’s Word is now a secondary source of truth, if considered at all.

Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the Word of Truth. But shun profane and vain babblings, for they will increase to more ungodliness (2 Timothy 2:15-16).

Signs and Salvation

miracles and healing

Growing up a Pentecostal, I heard it bemoaned that if Christians got right with God and experienced His power as in the Book of Acts, unbelievers would come to faith in Jesus in hoards. A return to the miraculous is all it would take to convert the world.

Acts 3 tells the story of a lame man healed in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth (3:6). This healing and Peter and John’s preaching about Jesus caused a great stir among the people and the religious leaders. The result was the arrest and trial of both Peter and John.

The facts of the case were undeniable. The Jewish leaders seeing the man who had been healed standing with them, they could say nothing against it …. “a notable miracle has been done through them is evident to all who dwell in Jerusalem, and we cannot deny it” (4:14, 16). They also knew by what power the man had been healed, for they commanded the Apostles not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus (4:18).

The fact that a miracle occurred in the name of Jesus could not be argued, but the facts led to persecution rather than revival. The leaders knew Peter and John were speaking under the power of the God of Israel, but that didn’t convert anyone; it hardened the hearts of the unsaved even more.

Dead people do nothing but lay in their coffins. They can’t believe, no matter what miracles they see or what facts confront them. No one dead in his trespasses and sins (Ephesians 2:1) can be converted until the Holy Spirit first brings him to life through new birth. Miracles only harden the already hardened heart (think of pharaoh and the Egyptians in Exodus), increasing the condemnation already upon them (Matthew 11:20-24).

The persecution of the Church, coupled with the courageous and un-compromised preaching of the Apostles, encouraged only the believers.

It’s not irrefutable facts or a return to the miracles and signs of the Book of Acts that will save the lost; only the sovereign election of God changes the human heart. As many as had been appointed to eternal life believed (Acts 13:48).

New Paths

divided path

God sometimes leads us in paths we find impossible, uncomfortable, or overwhelming. They might be places, situation, or to people we are fearful or uncertain about. He may even direct us into the valley of the shadow of death or in the presence of my enemies (Psalm 23:4, 5).

As He takes us into the great unknowns, what is our hope and stay?

First, there are no “unknowns” to God. He knows what He is doing, where He is leading, and to whom He is sending. He knows because He created them all. Each of your days and ways have been ordained by Him (Psalm 139:16; 2 Kings 19:25; Isaiah 37:26; Lamentations 2:17). He knew the way Peter would die (John 21:18-19) and the path of evangelism Paul would walk (Acts 22:10; 9:15). How? Not because God is a fortuneteller, but because He ordained them all to be so.

Second, remember that God is with you. He doesn’t lead from behind like popular politicians; our Shepherd walks before us and with us (Psalm 23:2, 3).

Moses feared leading the Israelites into Canaan unless God accompanied him (Exodus 33:12-16). God’s promise to Moses was: I will do this thing that you have asked; for you have found grace in My sight, and I know you by name (Exodus 33:17).

Third, don’t make the journey about success. The world’s idea of success is the goal of the prideful life: things like money or fame. Obedience is the desire of the surrendered heart. What seems like success in any given moment may not be success; the apparent battle won may actually be the war lost.

He is leading you for His name’s sake (Psalm 23:3), for the praise of His name – not yours. Where He leads and what He does were all prepared beforehand that we should walk in them  (Ephesians 2:10). This fact removes the pressure from you to make it all work out the “right way.” Make the journey about His glory and your obedience; that is the true measure of success.

Last, be mindful of learning God’s ways. The first day of class a student announced, “I already know this subject.” He wasn’t ready to learn anything. Set aside preconceptions and truly be a student. Be prepared to be taught by the Master of all things. I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will guide you with My eye (Psalm 32:8).

Home

Home in Mutalia, Kenya

In Kangundo, Kenya, homes are made of sheet metal, rocks and concrete blocks.

In Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, people construct their homes of concrete blocks.

In Hillsboro, Oregon, USA, homes are built of wood.

What is God’s home made of?

The eternal God doesn’t need a home; He exists outside of time and space. Yet at the same time He’s determined to make a home here within time and space. Where? and what building materials has He used?

Solomon built Him a house. However, the Most High does not dwell in temples made with hands (Acts 7:47-48).  You are the temple of the living God. As God has said: “I will dwell in them and walk among them. I will be their God. And they shall be My people” (2 Corinthians 6:16).

A Better Plan

A better plan

I received an email invitation from my mobile phone company to visit their website. The company had created a better plan than I already had and I would save about 20% on my monthly bill.

I checked out the plan, and indeed, it was better than I had.

Did I hesitate to take the better offer?

No, I switched my plan immediately. I’m not a fool when given a offer to save me.

He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life. These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life (First John 5:12-13).

 

Climb from the Boat

walk on water

Dean boasted that God would never, and had never, tested his faith.

Matthew 14:22-33 tells of the time when Jesus walked out to His disciples during a storm on the Sea of Galilee. When the boat load of disciples saw Him, they cried out in fear, thinking they’d seen the spirit of a long-departed drowning victim.

“Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water” called Peter. And when Peter had come down out of the boat, he walked on the water to go to Jesus (vv 28, 29).

But when he saw that the wind was boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink he cried out, saying, “Lord, save me!” (v 30).

I’ve often heard the Apostle Peter criticized at this point for being impetuous and faithless, but think of the great lesson Peter learned by the testing of his faith.

Think also on what the other disciples lost by not climbing out of the boat with Peter.

You will never know the quality or genuineness of your faith until it is tested.

... you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ (1 Peter 1:6-7).

Phoney Baloney

phoney baloney

Phoney baloney is a phrase used since 1936 to describe something which isn’t genuine. We might also call it a “knock-off”, a counterfeit, a fake.

The Secret Service is responsible for tracking down counterfeit money within the United States. In 2011, $261 million in counterfeit bills were seized within the borders of America.  However, two-thirds of all American money is used in foreign nations … so the amount of counterfeit money worldwide is much, much higher.

Strangely, many people are satisfied with a counterfeit as long as it doesn’t personally cost them.

There is even counterfeit in the world of Christianity. Fads of so-called evidences of the Holy Spirit like uncontrolled drunken laughter, miracles, and eating grass are rampant, deceiving many away from the truth of God to lies. The Scripture reveals that Satan, demons, and those controlled by them can perform lying signs and wonders (2 Thessalonians 2:9; Revelation 16:14; 19:20).

As with anything true, there will be counterfeit. So how does one determine genuine from counterfeit? There must be a standard. In a bank, tellers become so familiar handling genuine money that they can tell a fake merely by touch. For the Christian, the standard is the Word of God rightly divided (2 Timothy 2:15). We must know the Scripture so well that we can spot a fake easily, avoid it, and warn others of the dangers.

If you instruct the brethren in these things, you will be a good minister of Jesus Christ, nourished in the words of faith and of the good doctrine which you have carefully followed. But reject profane and old wives’ fables, and exercise yourself toward godliness (1 Timothy 4:6-7).