Monday, May 31, 2010

No Exemptions

I got this from Greg Laurie and wanted to pass it along. Great thoughts on suffering in life. Check out the scripture. Why do we think that it's so strange...and why does the health, wealth, prosperity crowd think they are exempt?

Dear friends, don't be surprised at the fiery trials you are going through, as if something strange were happening to you.
— 1 Peter 4:12

We can accept the idea of suffering in general, especially when it happens as a consequence of bad behavior. But when bad things happen to good people, we don't get it.

Being a Christian is not a guarantee that we will be exempt from suffering, however. Christians will suffer. Christians get cancer. Christians have heart attacks. Christians die in automobile accidents and plane crashes. Christians face the same tragedies as everyone else.

Yet we are surprised, even shocked by that. As 1 Peter 4:12 reminds us, "Dear friends, don't be surprised at the fiery trials you are going through, as if something strange were happening to you." In other words, don't be shocked that it is happening to you.

Since my son Christopher went to heaven, I have had people come up to me and say, "Why did this happen to you of all people?" The implication being that I get a free pass because I am a pastor. But I suffer along with everyone else. Jesus said, "I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world" (John 16:33).

As Chuck Swindoll has wisely pointed out, "God never promised He would inform us ahead of time all about His plan. He's just promised He has one. Ultimately, it's for our good and His glory."

So that is not to say there are no answers as to why bad things happen to good people. It is just to say I don't know them at this point in life. But I know that God works all things together for good. I know that He is in control. And I know that He is good.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010


We are starting a new Sunday School class in two weeks (June 6th) called Designed for Discipleship. The teachers of the class are great spirit-filled Christians whose hearts beat with passion for seeing people become life-long fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ. DFD is a curriculum series of 7 books from the Navigators that specifically teaches people about their faith in Christ and how it can grow deeper, stronger, better. I'm excited how God has lined everything up to get this class started. It's really going to stretch people and help people grow spiritually. This preacher is pretty jazzed about this!

Speaking to discipleship...I've had some thoughts on that lately. I also want to share some things that I've read lately. I got this from Greg Laurie the other day and thought that it was so appropriate and timely:

"If you are a true disciple of Jesus Christ, if you are living the Christian life as it was meant to be lived, then please talk about it. Some Christians who believe that if others observe the way they are living, if others see they are honest and love their family and work hard, then they will notice and will come to Jesus.

While it is true that others will notice, true disciples also need to step it up and tell others about what they believe. As Romans 10:13 says, "How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher?"

In addition to being salt in the world, Christians are to be light as well. Jesus said, "You are the light of the world . . ." (Matthew 5:14). Someone who is being salt is stimulating in others a thirst for Christ. Someone who is being a light is someone who is proclaiming Christ. So let's be both. There is a place for living it, and there is a place for telling it.

But I would also add that if you are not living it, then please don't talk about it. If you are not going to really try to live as a Christian, then don't go tell others about Jesus, because you actually will do more harm than good.

The world needs to see true disciples of Jesus. What it doesn't need to see are any more bad examples. It doesn't need to see any more watered-down commitments. It doesn't need to see any more bland Christians who are trying to live in two worlds. What we need are living, breathing disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ."

And...if that didn't give you a spiritual kick in the rear then maybe this quote will. My children's minister sent this to me after I shared in staff meeting about a discussion that I had with my Catalyst Men's group. I was challenging our guys with the thought of the will of God. So many of us want to know God's will, but we look at it as some long-term game plan or map. I was trying to simplify it and make these men think about in these terms: What is God's will for me in the next hour? What does He want from me right now? Then I got this from Amanda. Check it out.

The real issue in life is not the search for God’s will, it is the search for God. The issue in faith is not knowing what God is doing, rather it is knowing that God knows what He is doing. The issue of faith is seeking God’s presence, not God’s plan for my life, because there is no plan outside of my knowing Him. We don’t need to know the will of God, we only need to know God…which is, strangely enough, His will.
-Michael Yaconelli

Just some food for thought this Wednesday! (Got enough to chew on? Take it to prayer and ask God in lieu of these things that I've read and are processing today, what are you calling me to do? How do I need to change to be more fully Yours and used by You? it!)

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

A Step Further

It's amazing to me how we can rationalize our own sin sometimes, and yet when someone else does the exact same thing, it's wrong. We have little bouble standards that we develop, thinking that what is acceptable for us isn't acceptable for someone else.

When you are struggling with whether you should do something or not, remember to pray about it and ask God. It's hard to rationalize sin in the presence of God. Let Christ's light through the Word of Scripture shine on your question or request. Light exposes. Will God bless me on this? Is this something that makes me any more vulnerable to temptation?

For example, your would never pray, "Lord, bless us tonight as we go out and party and get drunk. We pray that no one will get a DUI and that I won't say or do something that I will regret in the morning." Or, "Lord, please bless my divorce from my husband- my faithful, decent Christian husband who has loved me through everything. Just bless me as I divorce him because I met someone that I have stronger feelings for and want to marry instead."

We would never verbalize such prayers, yet some Christians will do these things because they rationalize them in their mind. When you pray about some things you are about to do, bringing them into the clear light of the presence of Jesus Christ is wise. It might just help you more than you know.

Something else to think about is how you would feel if you saw a brother or sister in the Lord doing the same thing. Would that sound or seem wrong to you? The Bible tells us to avoid the very appearance of evil. So it is not only a matter of doing the wrong thing, it is even doing something that would look like you are doing the wrong thing. Avoid even that, God says. Be smart about the choices you make. And as much as possible, stay away from the source of temptation.

1 Thessalonians 5:21-22 "Test all things; hold fast to what is good. Abstain from every form of evil."

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The Danger of Facebook

Social networking on the internet is one of the most popular and growing areas online. Millions of people log onto Facebook and other social networking websites everyday to see...well...who they can see. It's a way to get connected to old friends and colleagues, to catch up with classmates, to see old friends from high school or college. Sounds good right? Facebook and other social networking websites in and of themselves are not bad. We must admit that there is capacity for both good and evil in these engines. And what happens on Facebook doesn't always stay on Facebook, and the devil is using the "social network" sites to lure some people into places they shouldn't be relationally. Sin is crouching at the door (or bookmark)!

There's a good Christian counselor I know who has worked and counseled many Christians through tough times for decades. He recently made the comment that Facebook is keeping his calendar full. Over the past year almost every Christian that he had seen who had an affair or some type of inappropriate relationship with a person other than their spouse told him that it had all started on Facebook.

Here's how it works. You decide to look up an old classmate, maybe from high school or college. You find them and before you know it you are communicating. In that communication you find yourself sharing your life hadn't quite turned out exactly as you had imagined. Let's stop here and be honest. Nothing good is going to comes from that!

One of my good friends in this church had this happen about two years ago. He got reconnected online with his first girlfriend. She wasn't really happy in her marriage and life. Before he knew it, he had an email with an invitation for a meeting and rendezvous. Needless to say, that's exactly where it stopped praise God, but don't think that he didn't at least consider it.

It boggles the mind that an electronic social networking site that specializes in brief bursts of "updates" and information can have so much destructive power. However, we must remember that it's not Facebook's fault. The problem is not in the broadband. It is in the people communicating over it.

There's something wonderful with social networking sites. They make communicating quick and easy. That's the point, isn't it? The screen and the keyboard seem so safe and harmless. "I'm just making contact with an old classmate, that's all!" Yeah...right. Maybe at first, but that's probably not where it's headed.

Technology changes and usually is helpful to us in many ways. But in so many others ways it's helpful to the devil as well. Be careful out there. Don't allow yourself to get sucked in. If you will avoid the source of the temptation, you will find it much easier to resist the evil one. Technology may change, but the human heart stays the same. Guard it well. Don't become another broken marriage. Don't bear your soul to your old high school flame. The price of it may be dear.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Choices, Choices

Run from anything that stimulates youthful lusts. Instead, pursue righteous living, faithfulness, love, and peace. Enjoy the companionship of those who call on the Lord with pure hearts. — 2 Timothy 2:22

From the moment you get up in the morning to the moment you lay your head down on your pillow at night, you will have made hundreds, maybe even thousands, of choices.

That is why ordering at some restaurants is no easy task. The menu resembles a small telephone book. There are too many options. One of the reasons I like little hamburger joints is that your options are simple: a hamburger, french fries, a drink, or maybe a shake. Of course, there are some variations to that, like adding cheese or certain condiments, but that is pretty much it.

Life is filled with choices. There are some choices that don't mean a lot, while other choices mean a whole lot. And it comes down to this: we make our choices, and our choices make us. So if you want to grow spiritually, you will. And if you don't want to grow spiritually, you won't. Either you will go forward as a Christian, or you will go backward. Either you will progress, or you will regress. Either you will gain ground, or you will lose ground. And if you stand still, then you will lose ground and you may not even clue into it. I think that many Christians think that staying still is okay, but it's really not. Just as the gospel is to be progressive, so our lives and discipleship as Christians should be progressive.

The reason some Christians succeed while others who make a profession of faith fail miserably comes down to choices. It is not the luck of the draw or something that happens randomly. It is because people make the right choice to do the right thing. There are choices that will impair our spiritual growth, and there are choices that will enhance it.

That is why we need to make a commitment to seek to grow spiritually on a daily basis—not to just hold our ground, but to gain ground in our relationship with Christ. Let's commit ourselves to spiritual growth. It starts by making that choice.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

The Christian Atheist

Men's group started "The Christian Atheist" today. Believing in God, but living as if He doesn't exist. Convicting, isn't it? Great book so far. You may know from experience the pain of trying to get grown men to talk about God. Not in our group! We had men participating the whole hour in very candid discussion. I think that the leader talked about 2 minutes. The premise of the first chapter is that many Christians believe in God but don't really know him. God wants a relationship with us and a heart bent toward Him. In the middle of the chapter I came across what I blogged about last week, Matt. 7:21-23. This sparked a great discussion in our men about Lordship Salvation, faith and works, and what it looks like to know God intimately versus just believing in Him. We must remember that James says that even the demons believe in God...and shudder! God wants our hearts to be His and I'm afraid that there are many Christians that simply don't get that. They think that if they just do the checklist: believe, confess, repent, and be baptized, that's all they need to do. They've arrived and they are through. But we find out that on "that day" as scripture states, on that judgment day, that Jesus says that He doesn't even know them. Crazy to wrap your mind around, but very true.

Men's group is going to be a home run over the coming weeks and months. I'm praying for a spiritual awakening and revival in the men of this church. I believe that if the men will go God's way, the women and children will follow. If you are reading this, please stop and pray for the men's group at Oakwood. And maybe you should pick up a copy of The Christian Atheist and chew on these concepts for yourself.