Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Post Election Thoughts

Here are some thoughts from Bob Russell about the election.  Good stuff!

Giving Thanks In The Wake Of The Election

Obviously, I’m very disappointed in the results of Tuesday’s election. Some saw the election as a battle between Republicans and Democrats. Others viewed it as a contest between blacks and whites or rich and poor. I didn’t. From my perspective the spiritual issues were clearly defined and, in the end, the majority of Americans voted against life, marriage, freedom, Israel and fiscal responsibility. The people of three states approved gay marriage. Two states voted to legalize marijuana.
I’m tempted to be depressed and whine about all that’s wrong with this country. Martin Luther once said when he was angry he preached better. That’s not true with me. When I’m angry or depressed I overstate my case and wind up later apologizing for saying foolish things. Yesterday I wrote a negative harangue titled, “America is terminally ill.” I didn’t post it and today I’m glad I didn’t.
I am commanded in Scripture to, “…give thanks in all circumstances for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thess. 5:18). So today, two days after the election, two weeks before Thanksgiving, I’d like to list some things I’m thankful for.
I’m thankful the election is over. No more negative ads. No more false accusations and grossly exaggerated claims. Yea!
I’m thankful that I live in Kentucky. I’ve never been prouder of my adopted state. Over 60% showed some common sense.
I’m thankful I don’t live in Ohio or Florida. Some of my preacher friends living in one of those two swing states (my son included) are frustrated that the thousands of churches in their state didn’t make more of a difference. Those preachers are asking if they did enough.
I’m thankful I don’t live in Washington State. Two friends of ours were visiting from Seattle this past weekend. They lamented that they were going back to a state that had approved gay marriage and legalized marijuana. They asked, ‘How would you like to raise your children in that kind of liberal environment?”
I’m thankful for bold preachers who took a strong stand. A number of ministers retreated from the fight. But some very influential ministers with national ministries and others who preach in small country churches were perceptive enough to understand the battle and took a strong, courageous stand in this election. They took some heat but I’m confident the Lord will say, “Well done, good and faithful servant”.
I’m thankful my prayers have been answered according to God’s will. My prayers weren’t answered according to my will but I always pray the words of Jesus, “Not my will but yours be done.” Most political analysts are convinced the timing of Hurricane Sandy helped sway the country toward re-electing the President. I’m going to accept that as God’s will.
I’m thankful that God’s justice prevails in His time. Maybe The Lord’s will is best understood according to Psalm 81:11-12 “But my people would not listen to me; Israel would not submit to me. So I gave them over to their stubborn hearts to follow their own devises.”
You know the result of Israel’s spiritual rebellion. The nation was soon divided, then overrun by the Babylonians and the people were taken into captivity. Maybe God is allowing us to follow our evil devises to our own detriment. A.W. Tozer wrote, “The wheels of God’s justice grind slowly; but they grind exceedingly fine.”
I’m thankful I don’t have to justify having a Mormon in the White House for the next four years. I didn’t like our choices this past election. I believe Mormonism is a false teaching. It would have been difficult to support a president while explaining the errors of his Mormon religion for the next four years.
I’m thankful that a president can just serve just two terms. Our president has made it clear that his goal is to, “fundamentally transform America.” It’s obvious that his vision for our country is to move toward socialism and a more powerful government. That is not what our Founding Fathers had in mind and not what I want to see happen. I’m thankful a President can serve only eight years.
I’m thankful for our founding Fathers who set up a system of checks and balances. As powerful as the President is He isn’t a king. He isn’t a dictator. His powers are limited by the congress and Supreme Court. The liberal press is pushing hard for “Bipartisanship,” which in their definition usually means, “give in and let the president have his way.” The writers of the constitution sought to restrict power by creating three equal branches of government.
I’m thankful that my hope is not in the United States of America. I believe that America is very sick, maybe even terminally ill. Every nation in history has had a shelf life. I think we are fading fast. But my hope is not in this country but, “On Christ the Solid Rock I stand all other ground is sinking sand.”
I’m thankful that I’ve been privileged to live in a wonderful period of our nation’s history. I’m almost 70 years old. I’ve seen so many incredible inventions and witnessed so many great accomplishments. America has been the most prosperous, the most “free,” and the most magnanimous nation in the history of the world. And I got to be a part of it.
I’m thankful for my family. I’m so thankful for my wife, my sons, my daughters in law and my seven grandchildren, all of whom know the Lord.
I’m thankful for the permanency of the church. Jesus said, “I will build my church and the gates of hades will not overcome it.” Nations come and go but the church still stands.
I’m thankful that Jesus is going to return soon. The Bible says when the Lord returns every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. When that day comes, I’ll be on my knees acknowledging that Jesus is King of Kings. So will Michael Moore, Bill Maher, John Stewart, Barbara Streisand, Whoopee Goldberg, Rachel Maddow, Chris Matthews” and any who sneer at God’s truth – all will be humbly acknowledging that Jesus is Lord. Even so, Lord Jesus, come quickly.
I’m thankful for the hope of heaven. I’ve been reminded again to fix my affections on the things above and not on earthly things.
I’m thankful God is patient and full of mercy. He can still forgive our rebellion and immorality. While Psalm 81:11-12 warns that God releases people to the consequences of their own evil desires, the next two verses promise, “If my people would but listen to me, if Israel would follow my ways, how quickly I would subdue their enemies and turn my hand against their foes!” (Psalm 80:13-14). A miracle-working God is patiently waiting for His people to repent.
I’m thankful for this day. “This is day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it.” We have this day to live in freedom. We have this day to honor the Lord Jesus Christ. Let’s make the most of it.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Should Christians Care About The Upcoming Election?

Wanted to share this from Bob Russell.  This is an important issue for many Christians.  Please read and consider.  May God guide us all.

Imagine you and your family are aboard a cruise ship sailing from Alaska to Vancouver. There is serious trouble on board. Valuables have been stolen. Several children have been molested. Two young girls are missing. Obviously some foul characters are circulating among you.

You register a complaint with the ship’s head of security and demand an immediate investigation. What if he flippantly responds, “It doesn’t really matter, you’re going to be docking in Vancouver and flying home in a few days”? That’s true, but the next three days are crucial to you and your family. You have an obligation to protect your wife and three children. You don’t want them to experience terror or be thrown overboard! You want the very best investigator to be appointed so that corrective action is taken quickly and your family can be secure and enjoy the remaining days of the cruise.

I’ve encountered an increasing number of well-meaning Christians who display an indifferent attitude toward American politics. “I may not even vote this year,” one disgusted seventy-year-old minister grumbled. “All politicians are crooked!” He argued that we shouldn’t be too concerned about who wins the upcoming election because politics is dirty business. After all, he insisted, God is in charge and He will accomplish His will regardless of who is in the White House.

The implication is that if you are deeply concerned about the election, you’re not really trusting God. Christians should have their focus on Jesus and be above politics. If you get hyped up about what’s going on in government you’re lacking faith because the Kingdom of God will be ushered in soon and Jesus will reign as King of Kings and all this won’t matter.

That view takes the doctrine of predestination to the extreme. While it’s true that God’s will always prevails – righteousness always wins in the end and evil is always defeated – it is hyper-Calvinism to imply that human decisions don’t matter in the interim. We are not puppets on a string. Sin is not programmed by God. Mistakes matter. Governments matter, leadership matters, decisions matter, wise choices matter. Solomon wrote, “When the righteous thrive the people rejoice, when the wicked rule, the people groan” (Prov. 29:2).

When Christian leaders condescendingly imply, “The election doesn’t really matter, after all God is in charge and He is going to accomplish His will regardless,” ask them if they would have the same attitude if they are shortchanged at the bank or if a schoolteacher mistreats their child. Those are minor irritations in the big scheme of things but they matter to you in the course of daily living. And they matter to God who notices when a sparrow falls.
Does it matter who leads the country?

Ask the prophet Samuel if it mattered to God which son of Jesse was anointed King. Samuel didn’t tell Jesse, “It doesn’t matter which of your sons we select. The oldest is an impressive physical specimen, he’ll do. God is more powerful than any king; He will accomplish His will regardless.” No, Samuel rejected Jesse’s seven oldest sons and insisted on bringing young David in from the pasture.

Ask the residents of Jerusalem in 70 AD if governments matter. When the Roman hordes burned their homes, confiscated their property, raped their women, kidnapped their children and murdered their babies no one in Jerusalem concluded it didn’t matter because one day the Messiah was going to return.

Ask Dietrich Bonhoeffer if elections matter. Bonhoeffer didn’t conclude, “It doesn’t matter if Hitler rules, God will see to it that he’s punished.” Bonhoeffer openly opposed the Fuhrer and conducted clandestine seminaries, because he understood as a Christian he had a responsibility to oppose evil and stand for truth. That stance cost Deitrich Bonhoeffer his life. Hitler was eventually defeated, but had more German believers been as courageous as Bonhoeffer, World War II might have been avoided and 55 million lives spared.

I visited Seoul, South Korea three years ago. While I was there I dialogued with a North Korean pastor who lamented the stark contrast between the two countries. South Korea is prosperous, bustling, growing. North Korea is poverty stricken, repressive and filled with terror for its citizens. In South Korea, Christianity is thriving. But religion of any kind is almost non-existent in North Korea, having been suppressed by an atheistic government.

Those two countries are in the same geographical area and the people speak the same language and experience similar climates. What’s the difference? One is ruled by an atheistic dictator, the other is a functioning democracy. Governments make a difference in the expansion of the Kingdom of God.
Do elections matter? Ask a number of respected evangelicals like Billy Graham, Al Mohler, Tony Evans, John McCarthur and others have taken a strong stand for what they call the primary issues that affect Bible-believing Christians: the right to life, the sacredness of marriage and the protection of religious freedom.

What do you think will happen to churches, parachurch organizations and Christian families in America if we continue down the present path of expanding abortion rights, endorsing gay marriage, overriding religious freedoms, mocking Biblical truth and calling darkness light and light darkness? God warns, “The wicked will be cast into the grave and all nations that forget God.”
Charles Colson was right when he said, “Our ultimate hope won’t come riding in on Air Force One.” America needs a lot more than a president who will stand for Biblical values. We need a spiritual revival at the core. However, one indication that followers of Christ are serious about their faith is an understanding that Jesus is Lord over every facet of our lives – including the way we vote, because elections have serious consequences. They matter.

Wayne Gruden, Theology Professor at Phoenix Seminary, recently released a book entitled, Voting as a Christian – The Social Issues. Gruden lists five erroneous views of the Christian’s role in politics and then suggests our view should be “significant Christian influence.” This view says that Christians should seek to influence civil government according to God’s moral stands and God’s purposes for government as revealed in the Bible. But while Christians exercise this influence, they must “simultaneously insist on protecting freedom of religion for all citizens.”

President Theodore Roosevelt wrote, “… freedom is not a gift that tarries long in the hands of cowards: nor yet does it tarry long in the hands of the sluggard and the idler, in the hands of the man so much absorbed in the pursuit of pleasure or in the pursuit of gain, or so much wrapped up in his own easy home life as to be unable to take his part in the rough struggle with his fellow men for political supremacy,” He warned, “The people who say that they have not time to attend to politics are simply saying that they are unfit to live in a free community. Their place is under a despotism.”

(For the full text of President Theodore Roosevelt’s speech, see “The Duties of 
American Citizenship” at PBS.org)

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

"Nones" on the Rise

Here is the link to a recent survey from the Pew Research Center that reveals an ever growing population in our country that relates to no religious affiliation.  Read the survey and consider what it tells us about the job we are doing in the mission field called the United States of America.  And pray about what God would have us do about it.


Tuesday, September 11, 2012

More on the Election Dilemma

This is an excellent article from Dr. David Reagan (who will be speaking at Oakwood on Sunday, January 13th, 2013, Lord willing).

The Election Dilemma

By: Dr. David R. Reagan

Over the past few months we have been inundated with inquiries about the presidential election. All of these have expressed a great sense of frustration about the choice we are faced with. And that is understandable when you consider the fact that neither of the two main candidates is a Christian.

Mitt Romney

Mitt Romney certainly is not a Christian. He has been spiritually deceived into giving his heart to a false religion that masquerades as Christian.

Since its founding back in the 1830’s, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (the Mormons) has taken the position that it is the one and only true church and that all the rest of Christendom, both Catholic and Protestant, is apostate.

The Mormons teach and preach a false Jesus who is not God in the flesh. Instead, He is portrayed as one of thousands of subordinate gods who were created by the super god of this planet, who is an exalted man.

The Mormons thus deny the trinitarian concept of God that is revealed in the Scriptures. They reject the truth that Jesus was God in the flesh, and they view the Holy Spirit as an impersonal force.

The Mormons teach salvation by good works, in direct contradiction to the Bible’s teaching that salvation is by grace through faith, and not by works (Ephesians 2:8-10). And the Mormons teach that their most faithful followers will become gods themselves with their own planets to populate and rule. In short, Mormons are polytheists.

Mormonism thus presents “another gospel” that is foreign to the gospel of the Bible. And the Apostle Paul declared that all non-biblical gospels are an anathema and that those who proclaim them are to be “accursed” (Galatians 1:8-9).

Barack Obama

President Barack Obama is also not a Christian, despite his claims to be one. I proved this conclusively in the third edition of my book, America the Beautiful? (2009).

In an interview he gave in 2004, Obama stated point-blank, “I believe there are many paths to the same place [Heaven].” To the contrary, Jesus said there was only one, and He was it (John 14:6)

When Obama was asked, “Who’s Jesus to you?” he responded that Jesus was an “historical figure,” “a bridge between God and Man,” and a “wonderful teacher.” There was no expression of Jesus as God in the flesh, the Savior who died for our sins.

Obama shocked his interviewer by saying that there was one thing in particular about Christianity that he had difficulty dealing with — and that is the tendency of many Christians to engage in evangelism! He said he believed the desire to proselytize was based on a belief that if “people haven’t embraced Jesus Christ as their personal Savior, that they’re going to Hell.”

Obama has obviously never heard of Jesus’ Great Commandment to preach the Gospel to all the world (Mark 16:15-16). Because of highly unorthodox comments like these about Christianity, and because of his obvious enthusiasm for Islam, many have concluded that Obama is a closet Muslim. I don’t think so. Based on his statements and his policies, I have concluded that Obama is a classic Humanist, meaning that he is a person who believes in the essential goodness of Man and his ability to achieve fulfillment on his own through the power of reason.

Remedial Judgments

One of the main points I made in my book, America the Beautiful?, is that when a nation blessed by God turns its back on its Benefactor, God will place remedial judgments upon the nation in order to call it to repentance. And one of those judgments can be that of giving the nation the kind of leaders it deserves.

That was certainly the case in 2008 when Barack Obama was elected president.

The continuing judgment of God upon our nation can be seen in the choice for President we are now presented with. For the first time in U.S. history, neither candidate is a Christian.

A Clear Choice
But despite that fact, we are confronted with a real choice. It is not a matter of Tweedledee and Tweedledum.

On one hand, we have a candidate who is a non-Christian Mormon. He believes in traditional family and moral values, he respects the heritage of America, he supports Israel, he recognizes Islam as our nation’s enemy, and he believes in Capitalism.
On the other hand, we have a candidate who is a non- Christian Humanist. He rejects traditional family and moral values, he despises our nation’s heritage, he holds Israel in contempt, he loves Islam, and he believes in Socialism.

The choice is not an ideal one. But there is a clear choice.

Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani Freed!

I just received this on the email:

According to the American Center for Law and Justice, Pastor Youcef Nardarkhani has been released from prison!

After languishing in an Iranian prison for almost three years, under the threat of execution for his faith, Pastor Youcef appeared before the court this past Saturday morning for the charges brought against him. His hearing lasted almost six hours. But in the end, he was released and able to return home to his family.

Some close to the case report that the court acquitted him of apostasy, but charged and convicted him of evangelizing to Muslims. According to these same sources, the court sentenced Pastor Youcef to three years in prison and granted him time served, which means his prison sentence already has been completed.

Here's the original prayer email that went out a couple of years ago:

Pastor about to be executed by Iranian government

Iranian Pastor Yousef Nadarkhani faces execution anytime from Thursday onwards after refusing to renounce his faith.
September 28, 2011

Iranian Pastor Yousef Nadarkhani is currently on trial in Rasht, Iran. He has appeared in court three times this week and each time has refused to renounce his faith when asked to do so by the court. If he does not recant his Christian faith, he could be executed at any time (on or after Thursday, September 29).
The 11th branch of Iran's Gilan Provincial Court has determined that Nadarkhani has Islamic ancestry and therefore must recant his faith in Jesus Christ.
When asked to "repent" by the judges, Yousef stated, "Repent means to return. What should I return to? To the blasphemy that I had before my faith in Christ?" The judges replied, "To the religion of your ancestors, Islam." To which he replied, "I cannot."

 Wow! Isn't God amazing!  I'm so happy that this pastor can be reunited with his family!  As I was reading the breaking news today I noticed the words at the end "his prison senteence already has been completed".  That's the truth, in more than one way!  Reminded me that Jesus already paid for our sins and we aren't getting what we deserve.  I praise God for this news.  Love it when God flexes His muscles!

Friday, August 31, 2012

The NIV 2011 Update Debate

Maybe you have heard about the NIV 2011 update debates.  Rodney Decker sites the "issues" at hand with this:  "The controversy regarding the NIV11 is due to at least four factors. First, the revision poses serious questions regarding linguistics and translation theory. Second, it raises the questions of language change and the use of gender-related language—a volatile issue due to concerns regarding the radical feminist social agenda. Many are concerned that the NIV11 attempts to mollify such radical concerns. Third, personality issues are involved. Entrenched positions have been staked out by well-known biblical scholars and high-profile advocacy groups. Fourth, theological boundaries and doctrinal bias impact the nature of Bible translations."

All this being said, some denominations that have ties to certain translations because of publishing rights and publishing companies have come out "against" the new NIV.  The accusations are mostly unfounded and with a little bit of study and understanding, I think that most (even scholars) would be impressed by the translation.

This link to this article is the best and most balanced explanation that I've read on the NIV 2011 controversy (if you want to call it that).  And, good thing, this is from Rodney Decker, Professor of New Testament and Greek at Baptist Bible Seminary in Clarks Summit, Pennsylvania.  Read the article, and you'll better understand the issues at hand and be able to knowledgeably converse about it.


Thursday, August 30, 2012

The Accidental Pharisee

As you read the Gospels you see time and time again that the Son of God comes into contact with a group called the Pharisees.  The Pharisees were a collective thorn in Jesus's side as He accomplished His Father's will.  It hasn't been till recent years that I've received a true understanding of what a Pharisee really was.  And as I've studied, I've become more sensitive to Pharisaical attitudes in the church.  Just recently I've had friends, yes, even good Christian people dawn the Pharisaical spirit and attack the Lord's church.

So many times, we are what we eat.  It's true in the body, but also in the mind as well.  If we consume negativity all of the time, we tend to become a more negative person.  If we expose ourselves to a certain line of thought again and again, we can begin thinking along those same lines.  Suddenly, we find ourselves so influenced that we have become what we have consumed.  We must be careful...the teaching we sit under...the shows or podcasts we listen to or watch...the friends that we hang out with.  All of these things influence us whether we want to admit it or not.

So it is with attitudes like the Pharisees had.  They came to know the law.  They came to know a religious system.  Then they came to run the show.  They were full of pride.  They were elite...they knew more and believed themselves to be better than everyone else.  They were exclusive.  They were overzealous in their "faith".  They kept more people out of the Kingdom of God than they ever won to the Kingdom of God.

Jesus put it this way, "Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to."  And Jesus continued in Matthew 23. "Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when you have succeeded, you make them twice as much a child of hell as you are.
16 “Woe to you, blind guides! You say, ‘If anyone swears by the temple, it means nothing; but anyone who swears by the gold of the temple is bound by that oath.’ 17 You blind fools! Which is greater: the gold, or the temple that makes the gold sacred? 18 You also say, ‘If anyone swears by the altar, it means nothing; but anyone who swears by the gift on the altar is bound by that oath.’ 19 You blind men! Which is greater: the gift, or the altar that makes the gift sacred? 20 Therefore, anyone who swears by the altar swears by it and by everything on it. 21 And anyone who swears by the temple swears by it and by the one who dwells in it. 22 And anyone who swears by heaven swears by God’s throne and by the one who sits on it.
23 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. 24 You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel.
25 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. 26 Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.
27 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean. 28 In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.

If you are judging others and holding them to your own standard...woe to you.  If your expectations are higher than God's...woe to you.   Woe to you that truly care more about your snow white hands than a red hot heart for God.  Woe to you who do not follow what the Word of God says.  Woe to you if you think that you know it all.  Woe to you...yes, woe to you.

I don't think that people set out one day and say "I'm going to be like a Pharisee!" It's bit by bit and piece by piece.  The attitude of superiority toward other Christians, God's church and its leaders is like a slow fade.  You barely even realize it's happening and boom, you're already there.

So, keep your eyes on Jesus and what He taught and preached.  Strive to understand the whole counsel of the Word of God, not just the parts that you like or that are more comfortable to you.  Approach everything with the love and hope of Jesus Christ in your heart.  Avoid the hypercritical attitude of the church, God's leaders, God's people, the music that's not your favorite...anything that the devil would use as a stumbling block.  May the grace and peace of God reign in your hearts and minds.  May we ultimately be pleasing to God in all we say and do.  May we not find ourselves an accidental pharisee, keeping others from God.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Above and Beyond Duty

As you read the New Testament, you can't help but notice how little it says about the major events of world history. You might think Scripture would mention Rome and all its mighty conquests. But it doesn't. Instead, God brings out nuances that are entirely different. What's important to God is not what's important to man.

Check out Matthew 26, for example. We find a unique story that God wants us never to forget. It was the incredible sacrifice that a woman made for Jesus. What was it that she did that so impressed the Lord? Was it a miracle or some great teaching? No. It was a heartfelt act of love and service.

Matthew 26:13  “Truly I tell you, wherever this gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.”

Here’s the framework. There in the home of a man named Simon, this woman took a jar of expensive perfume and anointed Jesus with it. Why is this so significant? Her actions are memorable because she seemed to recognize that Jesus needed to be anointed for His burial (see verse 12). So with complete abandon, she gave Him everything she had.

Mark's Gospel tells us her perfume cost more than 300 denarii (see Mark 14:5). In these times, 300 denarii was the equivalent of nearly a year's wages.

But it wasn't the gift that mattered. It was her heart behind the gift. It was her motives that touched Jesus, because He knew she sacrificed nearly everything for Him.

Are you doing all that you can for the Lord? Some people, like many of the dutiful Pharisees, will only give what is required. They will try to get by with the bare minimum. In many ways, we can be exactly like that too.

Today, would you commit to serving the Lord above and beyond what is required—like this woman did?

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Should a Christian Vote for a Mormon for President?

I received this via email from a friend here in the church.  Bob Russell is deeply respected and admired and brings out my thoughts exactly on this subject.  Read and consider.  And pray for this election in November.


Friday, August 24, 2012

Blessed By a Funeral

What a crazy week.  I've driven about 1,500 miles this week as I went to KC, MO to my aunt's funeral on Monday and went to Arkansas for a conference on Wednesday.  Lots of miles, but lots of blessings too.

I was deeply impacted at my aunt's funeral.  There were many things that were impressive about the whole experience there.  First of all, this church (Woods Chapel) was so loving to my uncle and the family there.  You could feel it and sense it.  They had their guest services team there.  They were opening doors, greeting, directing people.  I asked someone if this was normal.  They said yes.  They do it for most funerals for church members.  That was really impressive.  A long line formed to offer condolences to my uncle.  It went on for about 90 minutes.  Person after person expressing concern and love for my uncle and his loss.  I must admit, it was not what I expected at all, but it was really neat to watch.

The funeral service was equally impressive.  You talk about a life celebration service!  That's exactly what it was.  If you knew my aunt, then you knew that she was the epitome of kindness and goodness and love.  She just had that way about her.  It wasn't how she acted, it was who she was.  She lived out her faith and commitment to Christ everyday.  At the funeral there was story after story after story that people wrote in or shared at the mic about her impact and Christian example.  Friends and acquaintances alike shared how they were touched by my aunt's life.  It was amazing.

Several take aways for me.  First, this church expressed love and care in a big way.  The guest services team was even there and this was one of the most well attended funerals I've ever attended.  The church lavished concern and caring on my uncle and the family.  This is how churches should respond when someone among them loses a loved one.  Just showing up so the family knows you care is huge.  When in doubt...if it's someone in your church family...show up.  Just showing up says we love you and we care for you.  It means a lot to a mourning family or individual.

Another take away is that a Christian's funeral should be joyous.  I really enjoyed celebrating her life at the funeral.  Christians should not mourn as those who have no hope.  (see 1 Thessalonians 4:13)  There will always be mourning at any funeral, but the Christians should remember that the deceased is with Christ and there is no better place to be.  Knowing this, we find a celebration of Christ's love for us is appropriate.

Overall, let me just say...well done.  The whole experience was well done.  I saw Christian brothers and sisters serving, loving, and sharing life together in such a way that it made me think, this is what koinonia (deep fellowship) must have been like in the early church.  To Woods Chapel, I commend your Christlikeness.  It blessed my soul.  Thank you Lord for this example of the way things ought to be when you're a part of the family of God.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

It's Not About the Cookies

The couple was near the cookies, in the snack aisle.  The tension was thick between them as I saw the man put the cookies back on the shelf.  Their body language was stiff, angry.

“Fine.  Just go ahead and get them,” she said impatiently.

They were young, maybe mid-twenties.  Clearly not wealthy, but not below the poverty-line either.  Their cart had mostly necessities.  But, he had a hunger for something sweet.  She probably manages their budget.

$2.98.  Not very much in the grand scheme of things.  But, when things are tight a few dollars can make all the difference.

He pushed the cart, without the cookies, on down the aisle, while she stood near them, waiting for him to comply, with her arms demonstrating frustration.  She doesn’t want to be the miser, but someone has to pay attention to the finances.

Nobody really wants to wage a war over cookies.  And, of course, it’s not about the cookies.  It’s about mounting financial pressure.  It’s about fear of the unknown.  Maybe it’s about not being on the same page when it comes to running their household.  Maybe it’s about her Mom and the looming visit.  Maybe it’s about his incorrigible boss and the pressure he lives under every day.

We don’t really know exactly what’s going on beneath the surface.  But we do know that our day can turn on a dime over cookies.  We can say things we don’t mean and give dreadful looks that are impossible to take back.  We can build prideful walls that are terribly difficult to dismantle.  We can end up pushing the people we love further away from us.

I wanted to follow them the rest of their shopping trip.  To see how they navigated the rest of their purchases.  I wanted to sit in the back seat of their car, after they got the groceries loaded up, and listen as they sorted out the cookie decision (I know, creepy).  I imagined that they took a few minutes to talk about why the tension rose so quickly over something so insignificant.  I wonder if they listened closely to each other and reached a new level of understanding.  I wonder if they gently helped each other uncover the layers.

“You know, I feel like I am going to buckle under the pressure of our monthly bills.”

“I feel like I am a horrible provider.  Seriously, we can’t even afford Oreos.”

I hope that happened.  But, I’ve lived long enough to know that the couple may have simply moved on without ever really understanding that it wasn’t really about the cookies.

Received this from a friend via email.  Good stuff.  I believe it originated from a pastor's blog in Colorado.  Have you ever had this same experience and wondered what the rest of the story would be?  Me too.  Wish I could help this young couple.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Bridge or Barrier?

When nonbelievers visit a church, they are not only checking out what is happening up front, but they are also checking out what is going on around them. They are watching your reaction. Do you care? Are you paying attention? Is this important to you? Should it be important to them?

And maybe there are times when visitors don't know the protocol. But before we start to judge, let's stop and ask ourselves, do we know their story? Is this their first time at church? They don't know what they are supposed to wear. They don't know what slogan is acceptable on a T-shirt. They don't know what to say.

Some Christians might turn them away and say, "I am sorry. You can't come in here. You are not dressed appropriately." And guess what? That makes God angry, because the church is a place to hear the Word of God. The church is a place to worship the Lord. The church is a place to pray. And the church is a place for sinners to come and find God.

If someone comes to church who doesn't know the protocol or the dress code or the secret language of Christians, and they are turned away or made to feel uncomfortable because of some judgmental stare from a believer, then we are missing it. We should look at those people and go out of our way to welcome them, to make them feel loved. We should never keep people from Christ. We should always be drawing them to Christ.

Are you a bridge or a barrier to people coming to Christ? Every Christian tends to be one or the other. We are all examples, whether we want to be or not. The question is, are we good examples or bad ones?

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Why I Haven't Been Blogging So Much

Well, it's been awhile, I must admit.  It's been so long that they've changed the interface on this blogger page and it's hard to navigate....again.  And I guess that will be my excuse for not blogging in some time.  It's been hard to navigate some of the changes going on here at Oakwood.  It's been hard to find the time, even a few minutes to blog some stuff.  So, here is my attempt 9 minutes before my lunch meeting today!

In a word it's been merger.  I have had more meetings in the last 4 months than I've had all of last year.  They are important and necessary and good, but they do take time.  As I've been helped with priorities by my elders, I've found that this is number 7 on my list of priorities.  Some weeks I'm only getting to the top 3!  So, there's my excuse, whether it sounds legit or not.

I'm looking forward to sharing more in the coming days, weeks, and months.  The church merger with Davis Park has been awesome and we can all see God working through everything that is going on.  We will have our first official service together this Sunday at 10:30am.  It will be a great time of celebration of what God has done and is doing in the lives of people from 2 churches becoming one.  We are excited to see God's move in our hearts in this special way.

So, I'm hoping to start blowing up the blogosphere more as this merger settles down.  I appreciate all of the prayer and support I've received from everyone.  May God get even more glory for the great things He has done!

(9 minutes is up, got to get to my next meeting)

Monday, July 9, 2012

Above and Beyond

Assuredly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be told as a memorial to her. — Matthew 26:13

As you read the New Testament, you can't help but notice how little it says about the major events of world history. You might think Scripture would mention Rome and all its mighty conquests. But it doesn't.

Instead, God brings out nuances that are entirely different.

Here in Matthew 26, for example, we find a unique story that God wants us never to forget (see verse 13). It was the incredible sacrifice that a woman made for Jesus. What was it that she did that so impressed the Lord? Was it a miracle or some great teaching? No. It was a heartfelt act.

There in the home of a man named Simon, this woman took a jar of expensive perfume and anointed Jesus with it. Why is this so significant? Her actions are memorable because she seemed to recognize that Jesus needed to be anointed for His burial (see verse 12). So with complete abandon, she gave Him everything she had.

Mark's Gospel tells us her perfume cost more than 300 denarii (see Mark 14:5). In these times, 300 denarii was the equivalent of nearly a year's wages.

But it wasn't the gift that mattered. It was her heart behind the gift. It was her motives that touched Jesus, because He knew she sacrificed nearly everything for Him.

Are you doing all that you can for the Lord? Some people, like many of the dutiful Pharisees, will only give what is required. They will try to get by with the bare minimum. In many ways, we can be like that too.

Today, won't you commit to serving the Lord above and beyond what is required—like this woman did? May it be a memorial of the grace of Jesus in your life!

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Culinary Delights of the Gospel

This is a prayer from a guy named Scotty Smith.  Good stuff.  Pray it and mean it for yourself.
     Let me hear in the morning of your steadfast love, for in you I trust. Make me know the way I should go, for to you I lift up my soul. Ps. 143:8

     Jesus said to them, “Very truly I tell you, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is the bread that comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” “Sir,” they said, “always give us this bread.” Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. John 6:32-35

     Heavenly Father, this early morning cry from King David makes me hungry, and I cannot conceive of a better (and continue!) way to begin every day than feasting on the gospel. Given the choice of any culinary delicacy imaginable, and I’ll choose words of your unfailing love for me in Jesus, every time.
     For there’s no nutrient I need more than the fresh manna of your grace. Nothing tastes as sweet as the assurance of your welcome, presence, and affection. I love carbohydrates, but none compare with bread from heaven—the Bread of Life, himself, the Lord Jesus.
     Feed me till I want no more, heavenly Father. I’m not just looking to be a satisfied consumer of the gospel. I need copious amounts of your unfailing, contra-conditional, heart-transforming love for the challenges of the day—this day.
     Apart from the gospel, I’ll whine more than I’ll worship. Apart from the gospel, I’ll judge people more than I’ll seek to understand them. Apart from the gospel, I’ll get my feelings hurt too easily, and I won’t consider serving others a privilege and joy. Apart from the gospel, I’ll waste this day, rather than steward it.
     Apart from the gospel, I’ll react selfishly to irritants rather than responding graciously. Apart from the gospel, I’ll talk more than I listen. Apart from the gospel, I’ll think about me much more than I think about you. Apart from the gospel, I won’t risk anything; I’ll do just enough to get by. Apart from the banquet of the gospel, I’ll be reaching for junk food all day long, literally and figuratively.
     Father, because of your unfailing love for me in Jesus, I have put my trust in you. I do lift my soul up to you, right now. Show me the way I should go this very day. Show me what thinking, feeling, and choosing in line with the truth of the gospel requires of me, and then give me that supply. So very Amen I pray, in Jesus’ beautiful and bountiful name.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Saying Goodbye to a Good Friend

Monday of this week, I experienced the death of a good friend.  Pumpkin, our 3 pound, 14 year old Pomeranian was put to sleep.  It was one of the toughest things that I've ever had to do.  My wife and I said goodbye and wept.  We were still crying last night.

It broke my heart when we told the girls.  All 3 of them wept with us on Monday after school when we told them.  It's tough to see them taking it so hard.

As Pumpkin aged, she slept about 23 hours a day, literally.  She was starting to have a lot of physical conditions and wasn't eating very much.  It was just time and we had to let her go.

Why has it been so hard?  I've thought, "It's a dog, for crying out loud!"  I'll tell you why it's been hard.  We did life together.  And we loved.

Life together.  For 14 years she was there for us.  Every time I left to go coach football or basketball when we lived in Colorado, she stayed home and kept Amy company.  When I got home late from a lock-in, she was there.  I would sometimes get home from a trip at 3 in the morning, and Pumpkin would be there in bed with Amy keeping a watchful eye.  She was with us right after we got married.  One of the first things we picked up after we tied the knot was the puppy.  She was there when all of our girls were born.  She was pushed around in strollers, dressed up like a baby, carried here, there, and yonder.  She cleaned the food dropped on our floor at the kitchen table.  She was a lover and a cuddler.  She was content to sit on your lap and just lay to keep you company.  She would sit and shake and do 360's till she got a treat.  She sensed when we were sad or stressed and would always show care and concern for us as best a dog can.  She was there for us, no matter what.  We shared SO many good times and bad times through the years.  She loved us unconditionally.  She was fiercely loyal.  She was a part of the family.  She will be sorely missed.

Why so hard?  Because we shared life together.  As all Christians should do; as all Christians need to do.  But we don't open up to each other like we should.  Too careful to keep up appearances, hiding our sin and our struggles from one another.  We don't share life together, all of it's joys and pains, bearing one another's burdens.  "Man's best friend" shouldn't be a dog, but one of us. A brother or sister in the Lord that loves us no matter what, scars and wounds and all.  A brother or sister that's there for us through thick and thin.  We need a Christian who will be there for us no matter what we say or do.  Someone who will accept us and do life with us.  Loyal.  Loving.  By our side.  Never leaving us, even at our worst.  Always caring for us, like family.

I thank God for the time we had with Pumpkin.  So many great memories....

Saying goodbye to a good friend is so hard.  But I think that's the way it should be.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Books I Recommend

I've created a list of books that I recommend through Amazon.  Here's the link: http://astore.amazon.com/ericsbook-20

I have a few books on there right now and I will be adding more in the future.  The "Not A Fan" book is a must read for any serious Christian.  The other books on there are excellent too.  I don't think that you can beat Amazon's pricing, so I'm trying to make it easy on people to not only get information about the book, but get it in their hands as well.  Check back because I will be adding more all the time.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Why I Love Church Camp

For many years I was a dean at church camp.  I did kid's camps and teen camps and lead in various capacities of leadership: worship, speaking, directing, spiritual formation, etc.  I know of no other work that I have done through the years that has yielded a greater harvest for the Kingdom of God than church camp.  Decisions were made at camp that changed lives forever.

Those 5 days of focused spiritual growth can define a spiritual journey.  And that's just for the faculty and staff!  For the campers it is even more significant.  The growing up years are so impressionable, and the impact of a powerful week of camp can serve as one of those defining moments in life.

It was a Thursday night at church camp when I yielded my will and gave my heart to Jesus.  I remember it vividly.  It was at an outdoor chapel area at Camp Sooner in Pink, Oklahoma.  The chapel speaker was Paul Crosby and the sermon he spoke that night literally broke my heart for the Lord.  I felt like he was talking to me.  I wept.  I was deeply moved.  I felt God's presence for the first time in my life and my relationship with my Savior began.  The whole week of camp built up to that moment for me.  All of the classes and scripture, the activities and times with family groups.  God had been speaking and preparing my heart all week.  I remember making the walk in the dark from the chapel area all the way over to cabin #2, where the Oakwood boys called home for the week.  I was walking with friends who were like blood-brothers in Christ.  We were talking about how overwhelmed we were by God's grace and love.  I was changed forever.  I would have been baptized that night in that camp pool, but my mom and dad wanted to see their first child be baptized, so I waited till I got home for my baptism.  I'm forever grateful for that week of camp.

Statistics say that a week of church camp is like a year of Sunday School.  A week at church camp exposes our kids to a lot of scripture.  You and I know that God's Word changes lives, so we know that exposure is so important.  The church camp environment is set up to affect spiritual awareness and change in attenders, whether they have placed faith in Christ or whether they are contemplating that decision for the first time.  The opportunities at church camp are just amazing!  We need to get our kids "unplugged" from the social media, gaming, and phones for a week so they can hear God again.  Trust me, they won't get bored at camp, but they will find their mind's attention and their heart's affection turned more toward the things of God.

Little known fact, but Christian churches were the pioneers of the church camp idea and model.  The church camp idea started in the late 1800's.  Other denominations knew a good idea when they saw it and followed suit.  With more and more teens getting jobs today and being overactivitied, there are fewer and fewer attending camps.  Numbers today remain strong for the younger kids, but trail off for those getting ready to leave home and embark in life on their own.  I wish it were not so.  I know of no other venue that sets the table for life like a good week of church camp.

So, camp season is almost upon us.  There are many opportunities for you and your kids to be involved.  When you are asked to go as a sponsor or volunteer for a week, to teach or serve in some capacity, do not hesitate.  God moves in incredible ways at church camp.  And the life change you experience...may be your own.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Missionary Update

This is an update that I just received from Paul and Mary Wilson, our missionaries to the Philippines.  Please be in prayer for them as they walk through this time.  Reminds me that Satan is alive and well around the world.  Just like He tries to divide us here in our churches, he also tries to divide in the Philippines as well.  Let's really take this before the Lord and pray that His desires would prevail in this situation.  Thanks for your prayer support for Paul and Mary.

Dear Eric,

Please ask the elders and church to really keep us in prayer the next couple weeks.
There is a growing conflict in one the churches, lots of ill will, talking to lawyers, and
things like that are happening.  I am trying to encourage calmness and patience currently
and will try going there next week again.  

There are also other challenges happening; conventions, camps, VBS, two construction projects and lots of things.

Yesterday was the burial our most respected leader here in the central Philippines, Ronito Lisas.

I lost a close friend and a fellow worker.

We could use your special prayers! We need God’s wisdom.

In His service,

Paul and Mary Wilson

Monday, April 16, 2012

Christ's Physical Suffering

I've had many a person inquire as to what exactly happened the day that Jesus died.  What did he suffer?  What were the physical things that were happening to Him and His body.  I hope that you will be amazed at what Jesus suffered for our sin that Friday.

The Beating
-Jesus' robe was removed to expose bare skin and He is tied to a pole.
-He is beaten with a leather whip with metal, rock, and bone in it designed to shred skin and muscles, open huge wounds on His back, chest and legs.
-Jesus is swollen, bruised, and losing blood.
-His body is going into shock from pain and blood loss
-Jesus is nearing the hospital classification of critical condition

Dead Man Walking
-Jesus is forced to carry the 75-100 lb. crossbeam of the cross through the streets of Jerusalem to the execution site.
-He is too weak to finish the journey.
-Jesus watches as the crossbeam is nailed to the vertical pole.

-Nails 5 to 7 inches long are driven through Jesus' wrists and feet into the cross, putting pressure on the median nerves.
-Every breath is now excruciating as Jesus pushes up to get some air.
-Raw, bleeding tissue on His back rubs against the rough wood of the cross.
-Carbon dioxide builds up in Jesus' lungs and bloodstream as He struggles to breathe.
-Jesus' muscles cramp from fatigue and lack of oxygen.

Breath of Life
-Jesus' tortured lungs struggle to get small gulps of air.
-Every time He pushes up to exhale, deep, crushing pain radiates from Jesus' chest.
-The sack around Jesus' heart, the pericardium, slowly fills with serum from damaged tissues and begins to crush His heart.
-Jesus' heart struggles to pump heavy, thick blood to the tissues.
-Loss of fluids reaches a critical level.
-After 3 hours on the cross, already weak from blood loss and shock, Jesus allows His body to die.
-Cause of death: a heart wall ruptured from severe heart attack or a combination of blood loss and respiratory failure.

-Soldiers drive a spear into Jesus' side to confirm His death.
-By this time, shock has separated the blood into cell clusters and amber-colored serum.
-"Water" seems to pour out of Jesus' side when He is speared, but it is actually serum from inside and around His heart.

Remember that everything He suffered He did for us.  We are the ones that deserve this punishment for our sins.  But Jesus took it on for us freely because of His great love for us, even though He never sinned.  Praise the Lord for His great love!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012


Have you ever felt lonely? Have you ever felt as though your friends and family had abandoned you? Have you ever felt like you were misunderstood? Have you ever had a hard time understanding or submitting to the will of God for your life?
If so, then you have an idea of what the Lord Jesus went through as He agonized at Gethsemane.

Hebrews tells us, "This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin. So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it" (4:15–16 NLT).

The Bible tells us that Jesus was "a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief" (Isaiah 53:3 NLT). But the sorrow He experienced in Gethsemane on the night before His crucifixion seemed to be the culmination of all the sorrow He had ever known and would accelerate to a climax the following day. The ultimate triumph that was to take place at Calvary was first accomplished beneath the gnarled old olive trees of Gethsemane.

It is interesting that the very word Gethsemane means "olive press." Olives were pressed there to make oil, and truly, Jesus was being pressed from all sides that He might bring life to us. I don't think we can even begin to fathom what He was going through.

But look at what it accomplished. It brought about your salvation and mine. Because of what Jesus went through at Gethsemane and ultimately at the cross, we can call upon His name. Though it was an unfathomably painful, horrific transition, it was necessary for the ultimate goal of what was accomplished.

Maybe you are at a crisis point in your life right now—a personal Gethsemane, if you will. You have your will; you know what you want. Yet you can sense that God's will is different.

Would you let the Lord choose for you? Would you be willing to say, "Lord, I am submitting my will to Yours. Not my will, but yours be done"? You will never regret making that decision.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Zombie Churches

I recently read an article where a guy was talking about having zombies in church. I would normally throw that away without giving it another thought because it's so absurd, but I decided to read on and to my surprise the article was excellent and made some very good points about church. There are some zombie churches among us. Zombie churches are where genuine Christian life has been lost and in its place we find something scary and lifeless. The zombies of film and literature are moving corpses that imitate life. Know as the living dead many times, zombies act like they are alive, but they are not. While zombie churches might not look any different from healthy churches, they are missing one key ingredient: life.

We know that Jesus is the source of life. When we are disconnected from Jesus and what He is doing in the world around us, we become disconnected from life. Just because a church loses its connection with Christ doesn't mean it closes its doors.

Think of zombie churches as churches that have been infected. They are contagious. Instead of offering people a real, transforming relationship with the Creator of the universe, they offer hollow rituals and pointless routines. The motions seem right, but something is missing.

Zombie churches have been infected with unbiblical mindsets, traditions, rules, regulations, and rituals. When such things become more important than the growth of God's Kingdom, then problems ensue. Then the church is more about us than it should be, it's because we've removed Jesus from the center and placed ourselves there instead. When this happens among individuals we call it selfishness. When it happens corporately in a church it becomes toxic.

Here are some warning signs that a church fellowship might be going the way of the zombie:

A zombie church worships idols. An idol is anything we treat as more important than God. As vital as communion, baptism, service, prayer, and worship are, we cannot elevate any of these above God himself. God is to be highest and best and the main focus of the church. This is God's church and He should be the only one worshiped in His church. We need to maintain a high view of God and be sure to lift Him up only.

A zombie church guards its rules and rituals. Traditions are not evil, but when traditions exist simply for the sake of tradition, it is likely a result of a church’s attempt to compensate or appease some people. When our personal relationship with God deteriorates, we often try to fill the void with religious practices so we still feel "connected to the divine." However, you know as well as I do that these rituals are often trite and give us a false sense of connection to God when we are really just feeling nostalgic.

A zombie church lacks intimacy among its members. People in some churches are friendly, but they do not provide a true community that offers a safe place for believers to grow, learn, fall down, repent, get up, and support each other. Community is key for a healthy church.

A zombie church has an inward focus. It’s important to take care of the church family. Members of Christ-centered communities support and encourage each other. The danger comes not when this happens, but when this is all that happens. Christians encourage and support one another not so we will feel better about ourselves, but so we will be better able to go into the world and show people the love of Jesus.

A zombie church focuses on human involvement rather than divine activity. It emphasizes works and personal effort rather than grace. We need to sense where God is already moving and join Him in that work. Our salvation is not about what we do; it’s about what Jesus has done for us. Good deeds happen as a response of our changed lives in Christ, an evidence of our salvation.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Excel in the Grace of Giving

2 Corinthians 8:1-7 1 And now, brothers and sisters, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. 2 In the midst of a very severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. 3 For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, 4 they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the Lord’s people. 5 And they exceeded our expectations: They gave themselves first of all to the Lord, and then by the will of God also to us. 6 So we urged Titus, just as he had earlier made a beginning, to bring also to completion this act of grace on your part. 7 But since you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in the love we have kindled in you[a]—see that you also excel in this grace of giving.

Today we live under a new covenant established by God through the shed blood of His Son Jesus (Heb. 9:15). Based on what Christ did, Romans 12:1 tells us to present ourselves “as a living and holy sacrifice, [which is] acceptable” to the Lord. If you are a child of God, all of your abilities, time, and money belong to Him. We are called to "sacrifice", but it's really just returning to God what is rightfully His anyway. Apart from Him, we can do nothing (John 15:5).

The principle of sacrificial living can be seen in the early church. Those new believers eagerly sold their possessions and property to meet the needs around them (Acts 2:45). In response to their generosity, God blessed them with glad hearts, favor from the people, and increasing numbers.

Macedonian churches also understood the priority of giving. Even though the believers there were extremely poor, they begged for the opportunity to help financially. Scripture says they excelled at the “grace of giving” (vs. 7 above).

Under Old Testament law, God required a tithe (a tenth of one’s animals and crops) to support the temple (Lev. 27:30-32). When the nation drifted away from this practice, the Lord sent Malachi to warn them of the consequences for disobeying. By not giving their tithe, they were robbing God of what was rightfully His (Mal. 3:8). We certainly don’t want to be guilty of withholding the Lord’s money from Him.

Having appointed us to be His stewards and entrusted us with resources, God expects us to give generously. Jesus praised the impoverished widow in the temple for her sacrificial giving (Mark 12:41-44). When we trust the Lord with our finances as the widow did, we’ll excel at the grace of giving.

Monday, March 19, 2012

We Should Be Aware and In Prayer About This

This is some very disheartening news if you are not aware of it already. To some of us it comes as no surprise. We must be on our knees praying and asking God to run holy interference in these situations and that His will be done. God help us all as we face such threats.


Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The Extra Day

So, ya, it's February 29th, the extra day of the leap year. It's exciting because it only comes once every 4 years. My daughter has a teacher at school that's birthday is actually February 29th. Weird! That means that she's like 8 and teaching 10 year olds!

This year is unique in another way. We have 53 Sundays. That's right, you didn't hear me wrong, 53 Sundays. That only happens every 40 years or 28 years depending on some cycle. In this year's case, the last time we got an extra Sunday in a year, that would be 1972! So ya, 40 years this time.

As a preacher with a preaching calendar, this presents a challenge. As I was planning my preaching and series for the year, I kept being off. Then I started actually counting Sundays. Yep, 53. Weird! There are 5, 5-Sunday months this year. That doesn't happen too often, ya know. Now that I have it all figured out I'm feeling good and really kind of blessed at this opportunity. It's like God has provided another opportunity for lives to be changed and for me to teach His Word to His people.

Benjamin Franklin said, "Do not squander time, for it is the stuff that makes up life." Let's not squander the extra 24 hours that God has given us this year by not sharing Christ's love with someone. Don't squander the time away on stuff that doesn't matter. Do something of eternal value.

We've had some great guest speakers at the church the last several weeks. Excellent messages preached. Check out the one from Mark Worley on February 12 called "The Bus is Leaving". Maybe it will motivate you to share with someone. www.myoakwood.org/teaching

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Dealing with Troublemakers

If you've been around almost any church long enough, it seems that they have their troublemakers. A thorn in the side of their leaders, a stumbling block to others, they squeak and squawk and cause trouble. How should we deal with these people biblically?

Be patient with them.
One of my favorite instructions about dealing with difficult people (and church members) is this principle from Paul:
“We urge you, brethren, admonish the unruly, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with everyone.” (1 Thessalonians 5:14)

Being patient with people is something that I really struggle with. Of course, even Christians are going to manifest problems sometimes. We can’t be in the business of seeking and saving sinners and then be startled by their sins! Many Christians are fainthearted, many are weak, and some are downright unruly.

The Scriptural principle above expects church leaders and mature Christians to have enough wisdom and experience to discern which people and situations require admonition, encouragement or help. No matter how we respond, we should do so in love, being “patient with everyone.”

If the situation does require your intervention or correction, do it with the hope of defusing the situation rather than making things worse. “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger” (Prov 15:1).

Confront them.
There are certainly times when the right thing to do is to confront. To fail to confront when the situation calls for it is to fail to do your job as a Christian. Sometimes honest confrontation is necessary not only to defend yourself and the ministry of the Gospel, but to protect the church. As the bride of Christ, the church is to remain pure and blameless, different from the world. Sometimes we must confront sin in the camp to remain as God intends so we can minister the Gospel with His blessing. Remember "...that a little yeast leavens the whole batch of dough..." (1 Cor. 5:6). Sometimes confrontation is a necessary step.

Many people dread confrontation. Too awkward. Too painful. Easier to ignore the problem and hope (and even pray) it goes away. However, often the problems we ignore tend to only get worse.

Jesus instructed that when a Christian brother sins (Mt 18:15-17) or has something against us (Mt 5:23-24) we should speak to that person privately, seeking to be reconciled. Such a loving confrontation may lead to a positive outcome. Maybe you will discover that you have been misinformed about what the brother said or did. Maybe you will learn the rest of the story. Maybe the brother will confess and ask for your forgiveness.

However, there is wisdom in picking your battles. There is a big difference between a thoughtless slight and a malicious attack. Are you able to let the little things go? If we confront every sin head-on, we will have time for little else.

Learn from them.
Is another church member criticizing you? Have you stopped to consider whether there is any truth to their complaint? Good Christians are good listeners. "Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry..." (James 1:19)

Even ministers can respond so swiftly and defensively to a church member’s “attack” that he or she may fail to see that the criticism actually has merit. None of us are perfect -- not even me!

Psalm 139:22-24: “Search me, O God, and know my heart. Try me and know my anxious thoughts, and see if there be any hurtful way in me, and lead me in the everlasting way.” Are you allowing God to speak to you through your circumstances and learn from them?

Pray for them.
Has a church member betrayed you? Turned against you?

On the evening of His arrest, Jesus knew that Peter was about to betray Him (Lk 24:31-34). How did Jesus respond? He prayed for Peter -- for his faith, for his repentance, and for his ministry. Jesus taught: “Bless those who curse you pray for those who mistreat you” (Lk 6:28).

When a problem erupted in the Jerusalem church, the apostles set a marvelous example of mature spiritual leadership. A church fuss arose over the distribution of food, which was a symptom of the underlying ethnic tension that existed between the Greek and Hebrew Christians (Acts 6).

Notice that the apostles did not jump right into the middle of the fuss. Rather, they told their members to work the problem out among themselves.

Didn’t the apostles care? As the leaders, shouldn’t they have responded? They did respond, in this way: “We will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the Word.” Surely at the top of their prayer list were requests for peace between the fussing believers and wisdom for the newly selected leaders.

Often the very best thing a brother or sister can do about a difficult person is to pray for them. If you resist your own strong reaction and place the difficult person in the Lord’s hands and wait upon the Lord, you may be surprised at the different ways God can deal with a problem. Remain faithful to God through it all. Perseverance is a call of every saint.