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Saturday, September 29, 2012

The Taming Of Anger



"It is significant that when our Lord describes the stream of iniquity as it flows out of the heart He begins with the thoughts.  For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies... Matthew 15:19.  It is doubtful whether any sin is ever committed until it first incubates in the thoughts long enough to stir the feelings and predispose the will toward it favorably.  Even the sudden flash of anger, which of all sins would appear on the surface to have the lowest mental content, is anything but a sudden eruption of the emotions.  The quick-tempered man is one who habitually broods over wrongs and insults and thus conditions himself for the sudden fit of temper that seems to have no mental origin.  The heart that has had the benefit of broad, sane thinking on moral questions, especially long meditation upon mans sin, Gods mercy and the goodness of Christ in dying for His enemies, is not conditioned to blow up when occasion arises.  The worst reaction to an affront or an injustice will be annoyance or mild irritation, never a burst of sinful anger."  A. W. Tozer

Monday, September 17, 2012

From Prison To Praise



Bring my soul out of prison that I may praise thy name:  Psalms 142:7

Who among us has not, at least for a time, found our soul in prison, cordoned off from praise.  The steely bars of spiritual captivity with their cold hard reality making spiritual blessings seem very distant.  The separation from praise is a self perpetuating dungeon that robs of us joy and peace.  Our soul shivers in the darkness, cowers in the corners, and satisfies itself with a meager menu that barely sustains life.  The feeling of solitary confinement becomes overwhelming.

The depression dirge becomes our lamentation:

Will the Lord cast off for ever?
      and will he be favorable no more?
Is his mercy clean gone for ever?
      doth his promise fail for evermore?
Hath God forgotten to be gracious?
      hath he in anger shut up his tender mercies?
            Psalms 77:7-9

That dreadful prison that keeps us from praise!  But this is not a prison of brick and mortar.  It is a prison constructed of things much more sinister.

Doubting
Bitterness
Envy
Suspicion
Worry
Secret Sin, etc....

We watch the walls go up around us and bemoan the separation from praise in a prison of our own making!

In such an hour as this may our prayer be that of the Psalmist:  Bring my soul out of prison that I may praise thy name.  Having prayed the prayer let us begin the demolition of the prison we erected around our soul and even then begin the process of praise as we prostrate the prison walls!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Forgetting God

Israel had a very tempestuous existence in the wilderness.  It was a hard existence.  It was a wandering existence.  It was longer than it needed to be.  It was more discouraging that it should have been.  It was the occasion of more temptation than they should have had.  Such is the nature of wilderness wanderings, physically and spiritually.



There are a number of reasons that could be provided as a reason for their wanderings.  Of course unbelief is immediately recognized as a primary cause of their wilderness experience.  They simply did not believe God and it cost them dearly!  I wonder, though if there may be something even more fundamental than unbelief?  Maybe forgetfulness.

Psalms 106:21 informs us that, They forgat God their saviour, which had done great things in Egypt.

It would seem if one forgets God it becomes increasingly difficult to believe God.    Being preoccupied with our problems produces a subtle shift in our perspective.  God is more easily forgotten in the context of pondering our problems.

How much do we forget of what God has done for us?  It is interesting that God is here referred to as their saviour.  Indeed he was.  He delivered them from Egyptian bondage!  They had forgotten.  It seems fitting to make a stirring application.  If we are not careful we can make a habit of forgetting the wrong things and remembering the wrong things and before you know it we will just be all wrong, wandering in a wilderness that is harsh, unforgiving, discouraging, and be there longer than we need to facing temptations we should have never had to face.

God did great things in Egypt and they had forgotten.  I know we like to think we would not have forgotten.  But name ten great things God has done for you personally.  Not ten great things God has done for other people at other times.  Ten great things God has done for you!  When our focus is on our problems we will find it hard to remember the great things God our saviour has done for us.

When we forget it does not make God weaker it makes us weaker!  Just because we forget doesn't mean it didn't happen it just means we will be more likely to suffer the discouragements of the wilderness instead of enjoying the bounty of the Promised Land.

Saturday, September 08, 2012

Can God?



Psalm 78:19 - Yea, they spake against God; they said, Can God furnish a table in the wilderness?

This verse is at the beginning of a lengthy Psalm relating Israel's notorious history from Egypt to their dividing of the Promised Land.  The sad hallmark of this time period is that often they did not deal truly with God.  They were a fickle, insincere people.

There are many ways a man can speak against God.  Taking God's name in vain which is the most recognizable form of speaking against God is commonly accepted and passed by without hardly a thought.  It should come as no surprise that more subtle ways of speaking against God are not even recognized as such.  This is why the verse before us is so compelling.  It reminds us of how susceptible we are to speaking against God.

If we are not careful our fallen minds will create a dichotomy where one does not exist.  Two things are equated that are worthy of more than just a passing notice. ". . . . they spake against God: they said, Can God . . . ."  Conclusion:  asking can God is the same as speaking against God.

This subtle truth demands sober reflection.  It is important to note they were not doubting a promise but questioning his person!  It is not, "Yea, they spake against God; they said, Will God".  No, they did not say "will God" but "can God".  Those two words, "can God" does not call into question any particular promise but rather the promise maker.

The reality is that if we can settle the question of, "can God" believing the particular promises takes care of itself.  The question is easy to answer, just reverse the words.  Can God?  God can!

What is going on in your life right now that is tempting you to say, "Can God?"  Remember the order in which we place these two words determines whether we are speaking against God or for God.  Can God?  God can!

Friday, August 03, 2012

Homosexuality Is Sin!

There I said it with an exclamation point.  I have taken the bait, I am officially a hater, a bigot, and homophobic.  If I ever decide to run for President the title and words of this post will come back to haunt me, but it is a chance I am willing to take.  For anyone in my congregation who may decide to run for President this blog title and the words of this blog will come back to haunt you; I am sorry!

I have read and watched with interest the commotion generated by Dan Cathy's statement in support of biblical marriage and family.  And yes I did show up at our local Chick-Fil-A to show my support.  This was quite a step for me.  I don't generally engage in boycotts.  But this was different.  It was an opportunity to support something.  I have never been a big fan of Chick-Fil-A, I think I have been twice before this past Wednesday.  It was good, but kind of expensive in my world.  I ate there mainly because Mr. Cathy stated his beliefs in an interview and then when a ruckus arose surrounding the comments he stood by them.  This was refreshing in a culture where "christian" leaders are often sent running for the hills for stating a biblical position on a cultural issue.

I have read with interest the things that have been posted on facebook and the comments.  I have read at least a couple of articles/blog posts directed at the christian response to the homosexual community.  It is always a bit surprising to me when people are shocked to find people in this country who believe the bible and have the audacity to apply their biblical worldview to cultural issues.  The reality is that just a few decades ago most people were in agreement on these issues.  I realize this is one of the arguments for letting up or mellowing the tone.  The times have changed.  We live in a different age.  Yes, we do.  Some would say, myself included a Godless age.  I guess the culture is uncomfortable with those that hold out, don't buy in, happen to believe that while the culture changes the Bible does not.  Is morality really that transient?

It just does not make sense to accuse someone of hate, or bigotry, or homophobia for stating their belief that homosexuality is wrong, and yes a sin, and yes even an abomination.  If I say murder is wrong, a sin, does that make me a hater, or a bigot, or does it mean that I have a phobia related to murderers?  If I say stealing is wrong, a sin, does that make me a hater, or a bigot, or that I have a phobia related to thieves?  If I say lying is wrong, a sin, does that make me a hater, or a bigot, or that I have a phobia related to liars?  You say well those things are wrong and involve choice.  A couple of things.  1.  Homosexuality also involves choice.  2.  Why are those things wrong?  What ever answer you provide as proof that those things are wrong I am going to ask you who says?  On whose authority are murder, stealing, and lying wrong?  Whether you admit it or not it comes back to a moral code that has its origins in a God that has moral character.  The same one who tells us that murder, stealing and lying is wrong also tells us that homosexuality is wrong.  These things are sin.  Homosexuality is classified as an abomination.  We all know in our own hearts these things are wrong.  We can sin against conscience to the point where it becomes seared and we lose our moral compass.  But just because we lose our moral compass does not mean the moral standard has changed it just means we can't find it anymore.  A rather dangerous place to be.  A simply anatomy lesson should raise questions about homosexuality.

I have seen in several places those who have either directly or by insinuation complained that Christians stand against homosexuality while giving adultery, fornication, gluttony, pornography, and other sins a pass.  I am sure there are some out there who do this.  But most people that I know are equal opportunity condemners when it comes to sin!  No prejudice here, we are against all those things.  Is it even logical to think there are people who condemn homosexuality and not these other transgressions?  The recent uproar was not created by Christians but by government officials who picked up Mr. Cathy's sober answer and tried to make political hay with it.  If the Mayor of Boston had not grandstanded the issue it is unlikely that much at all would have come from this.  I believe Mr. Cathy actually said he was for the biblical proposition of one man and one woman for life.  This actually makes him a hater of fornicators and adulterers as well according to the reasoning of some.  It was the politicians who focused the attention on only one perversion of God's plan.  That became the question, the legitimacy of homosexuality as an alternative lifestyle.  Not because of Mr. Cathy's answer but because of the politicians who involved themselves.

There has also been this insinuation that if you have any sin then you should not be condemning homosexuality?  Well, there has only been one sinless man that ever lived and he died for our sin (every one's and all of it, even homosexuality).  He was perfect and they killed him!  God's word condemns sin.  In the bible Prophets, Priests, Kings, Apostles, and Preachers condemned sin.  Not because they were perfect but because they were called of God to proclaim his truth.  If only sinless people can condemn sin then no one can.  Even a casual reading of the bible would dispel such a notion.  We have an inspired record of God using imperfect men to condemn the sins of their generation.  The failure to do so is not tolerance it is cowardice.

I have also seen in several places a subtle attempt at moral equivalency.  You condemn homosexuality but you have been guilt of some other sin.  Let me just say that any sin and just one of them is enough to secure a reservation in hell for eternity.  But, that does not translate into moral equivalency.  God tells us numerous things to do and things not to do.  The Bible condemns drunkenness, homosexuality, fornication, adultery, lying, stealing, gluttony, idolatry, covetousness, incest, sorcery, etc . . . .  But some of these things merit the special disapprobation of God.  Some sins are categorized as an abomination.  Homosexuality is one of these.  Homosexuality is an abomination.  Two cities were destroyed in the Old Testament because of the acceptance of this sin, Sodom and Gomorrah.  Thus the term sodomite, sodomy, etc. . .  Romans chapter one identifies homosexuality as the lowest point of human depravity.  This is a sin that is deserving of condemnation!

I have worked with and for homosexuals.  I have had homosexuals visit in my church and have interacted with them on a few other occasions as well.  I have always treated them kindly and respectfully.  Just as I have the fornicators, and adulterers, and liars, and thieves, and idolaters, and drunkards, and gluttons, and child molesters, and hypocrites, and well, just men and women in general.  They did not ask me what I thought about their lifestyle and I did not volunteer the information, they probably already knew.  If they had asked me I would answer them truthfully, just as I would any other inquisitive person.

Many people came to Mr. Cathy's defense.  People did so for many different reasons.  A good number did because they agreed with the sentiments he expressed.  Yet in standing with his sentiments they often seem to do so in a way that said, Homosexuality is not that bad but I do agree with Mr. Cathy.   Or, Homosexuality is no worse than anything else you could do, but I think marriage should be between a man and a woman.   There seems to be an underlying fear of roundly condemning behavior that the bible so unmistakably condemns in the darkest and most threatening of terms both by precept and precedent.  People are not responding to the appeal of grace because the thunder of law has been muted.  The glories of Calvary are not fully appreciated because the voice from Sinai has been silenced.  The important question is not about where the next Chick-Fil-A is going to be located but where are the souls of our friends, acquaintances, co-workers, and family members going to be located in eternity?  In a world that grows increasingly dark we must fan the flame of Sinai in order to light the way to the sinners only hope, Jesus dying on a cross for their sin!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

The Happy Life




Matthew 5: 1-12 contains some of the most thought-provoking, challenging words in all of the gospels.  In these few verses Jesus hands us the keys of happiness.  Jesus identifies the virtues that produce a blessed life.  Yet, with such a treasure house to be unlocked and with the keys in hand we may at times still struggle to find the lock.  

Jesus is presenting the principles that make for happiness.  People are not happy because they are looking in the wrong places for it.  For the unbeliever we should not be surprised but for us who know the Lord there is no excuse.  The tendency is to think we know what will make us happy, this is often not true.

There are three general issues related to this passage that we must consider in order benefit from the key chain we have been handed.  The passage contains a series of paradoxes and a series of promises.  the master key that brings the promise to bear on the paradox is the little word "for".


First the paradoxes.


 Paradox – A tenet or proposition contrary to received opinion; a sentiment seemingly absurd or contradictory; that which in appearances and language is absurd, but yet true in fact.


What is related in these short statements are contrary to received opinion and seemingly absurd and contradictory.


Blessed are the poor in spirit.

Blessed are they that mourn.
Blessed are the meek.
Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst.
Blessed are the merciful.
Blessed are the pure.
Blessed are the peacemakers.
Blessed are they which are persecuted.
Blessed are ye when men shall revile you.

In practice we often reject the premises set forth here as improbable.  We find ourselves in a quandary being taught to yield to the Word of God yet believing these words of God to be impractical.  As much as anything it reveals our lack of faith and the fact that we assess the Word of God from a carnal perspective.  Unfortunately such a perspective hinders us from seeing and accepting spiritual realities.


Now the promises:


Theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

They shall be comforted.
They shall inherit the earth.
They shall be filled.
They shall obtain mercy.
They shall see God.
They shall be called the children of God.
Theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Great is your reward in heaven.

There are two potential problems here.  1. We miss the promise not being able to negotiate the paradox.  2.  We focus on the promise to the exclusion of the paradox.  The promise must be viewed in connection with the paradox.  Could it be we want the promises on our own terms?


The master key "for".


It is the word “for” that ties the paradox to the promise.  In fact it is the word “for” that removes the mystery of the paradox.


Blessed for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed for they shall be comforted.
Blessed for they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed for they shall be filled.
Blessed for they shall obtain mercy.
Blessed for they shall see God.
Blessed for they shall be called the children of God.
Blessed for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed for great is your reward in heaven.

We are happy because of the promise.  The rub comes when it is revealed what behavior/attitude procures the promise.  Happy, not because the pursuit is pleasant but because the reward is to be desired.


Who wants the kingdom of heaven?

Who wants to be comforted?
Who wants to inherit the earth?
Who wants to be filled?
Who wants to obtain mercy?
Who wants to see God?
Who wants to be called the children of God?
Who wants a great reward in heaven?

Then you must understand these spiritual realities.  The process may be painful but the fruit will be sweet.  It is important to understand the source of happiness. 


We are not happy because we are poor in spirit but because ours is the kingdom of heaven.

We are not happy because we mourn but because we shall be comforted.
We are not happy because we are meek but because we will inherit the earth.
We are not happy because we hunger and thirst but because we shall be filled.
We are not happy because we are merciful but because we will be shown mercy.
We are not happy because we are pure but because we shall see God.
We are not happy because we are peacemakers but because we shall be called the children of God.
We are not happy because we are persecuted but because ours is the kingdom of heaven.
We are not happy because we are reviled but because great is our reward in heaven.

The question is, are we willing to do what is required to claim the promise?  The promises are conditional.









Saturday, March 31, 2012

If That Nation?



At what instant I shall speak concerning a nation, and concerning a kingdom, to pluck up, and to pull down, and to destroy it; if that nation, against whom I have pronounced, turn from their evil, I will repent of the evil that I thought to do unto them.  Jeremiah 18:7,8

I don't think there can be much doubt that God has pronounced concerning the United States.  Killing babies has been decriminalized for almost 40 years now.  Perversion has been redefined as an alternative life-style.  It is hard to tell the difference between most churches and the local shopping mall.  God's people are no longer called upon to separate themselves but rather to blend in.  Marriage vows no longer represent a promise but a desirable although unlikely outcome.  (we don't really mean for better or for worse) Marriage itself is slowly becoming a relic of the past as people opt for fornication and whoredom rather than a covenant relationship.  We have painted, pierced, and scarred our bodies till we bear more resemblance to pagan cultures than we do a Christian culture.  We have given ourselves over wholesale to sorcery.  Churches permit open scandalous sin to go unchallenged, loving the doctrines and the deeds of the Nicolatians.

We are guilty before God!  Unfortunately many of God's preachers and people are like the generation of Malachi:


Malachi 1:6 - A son honoureth his father, and a servant his master: if then I be a father, where is mine honour? and if I be a master, where is my fear? saith the LORD of hosts unto you, O priests, that despise my name. And ye say, Wherein have we despised thy name?


Malachi 1:7 - Ye offer polluted bread upon mine altar; and ye say, Wherein have we polluted thee? In that ye say, The table of the LORD is contemptible.


Malachi 2:17 - Ye have wearied the LORD with your words. Yet ye say, Wherein have we wearied him? When ye say, Every one that doeth evil is good in the sight of the LORD, and he delighteth in them; or, Where is the God of judgment?


Malachi 3:8 - Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings.

God levels a charge and we basically say, "Who me?"  Instead of addressing the issue the messenger is attacked.  Expecting ourselves first and others to obey the bible, all of it, has become legalism instead of holy living.


There is hope yet!  "If that nation, . . . turn from their evil, I will repent of the evil that I thought to do unto them."


The answer is to be found not in justifying sin and disobedience but repenting of it!  America can be saved but only in the context of repentance!  Oh, how we should pray that God would give us such a fresh anointing of his Spirit that it would cleanse our lives and make us doggedly committed to pleasing him and being his instruments of calling those around us to repentance.

The fate of the nation hangs in the balance!

Friday, March 16, 2012

Labels


 

I was looking through some of my old blog posts and came across one from April 2007 entitled Why I Am A Baptist.  I was reading through the few comments at the bottom of the post and thought one exchange was worth re-posting here.  An anonymous comment was questioning the use of labels in the religious world, such as Baptist.  Following is the comment and my response:

Anonymous said...
Would "A Follower of Christ, a New Testament Christian" be an adequate label for one who holds to all of the points that you listed by which compel you and many others to label yourselves a Baptist? It just seems to me that by insisting on labeling one's self, as in this instance, "a Baptist", could provide a distraction from our primary mission and that being the preaching of Christ crucified and risen from the dead, His Gospel. It seems to me that if we are to take a label it ought to be one so closely connected with scripture that this world could not not even for a moment mistake us for none other than a Christian. If one asks who I am, I respond that I am a Christian, a follower of Christ as taught in the scripture of the New Testament. How many "Baptist" churches are there in the world today. Flavors of all kinds in varying degrees of submission to sound Biblical doctrine. I think it true to say that that labels are a thing the world finds important. The New Testament churches were know by the doctrine of being followers of Christ. They were local in locality and identified by name as "the church of such and such a place." The new testament even gives the name of the city in which these followers of Christ were by others "first called Christians" Adherence to sound doctrine ought to be the cohesive agent that binds believers together in fellowship and to a corporate desire to further the Gospel Message and bring honor to our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ and not a label.

Pastor McEntire said...
Anon

Thanks for your thoughtful response. I suppose that you do not have the same aversion to labels when you go grocery shopping. In fact you probably look for certain labels. The reason being that you have come to trust certain labels as being reliable in quality and value. You probably appreciate labels when you go to the doctor because it helps identify the kind of doctor you are seeing and helps ensure it is one with the proper training to meet your specific need. You probably appreciate labels when it comes to medicine and in fact would probably not take any medicine unless you had confidence it was properly labeled.

I am sure at least some Mormons and Jehovah Witnesses claim to be followers of Christ. Because of all the confusion in the religious world for someone to tell me they are a follower of Christ or a New Testament Christian really does not tell me anything. People who believe you baptize babies and you have to be baptized to be saved would embrace both of these terms in spite of the fact they hold to false doctrine.

In my estimation "labeling" is not a distraction but for purposes of clarification and distinction. Far from distracting labels serve to help people discriminate between different belief systems.

The Baptist name does have a very close connection to the Scripture. The man who baptized Jesus was called by God, John the Baptist.

When I ask who I am in a religious context I say I am a Baptist. This provides more information for the inquirer than simply saying I am a follower of Christ as taught in the scriptures of the New Testament. If you answered me this way I still wouldn't know what you believe. Do you accept the Catholic idea of Christianity, the Lutheran, the Methodist, the Anglican, the Pentecostal???? Many people say they are followers of Christ as taught in the scripture of the New Testament but they are not. I will always need clarification on that broad answer which is a "label" for so many belief systems.

Yes the world does find labels important because they are important. They are instructive and provide information.

The early believers were simply called disciples and churches were, as you point out, identified by their location. But this was before wholesale apostasy had developed among some churches. The disciples did not call themselves Christians, at least initially. They were called that by others. Baptists have never had the luxury of naming themselves. We have always been named by our enemies and those who have opposed our position of rebaptizing those who come to us from other "churches". While we have been called many things by our enemies through the last two thousand years one name that shows up over and over again is Ana-Baptist, or re-baptizers. We have embraced the name because it clearly sets forth one of our primary tenants that sets us apart from most others, the immersion of believers in water symbolically representing the gospel that saves.

I agree that adherence to sound doctrine ought to be the cohesive agent that binds believers together. And a good starting point for me to know if one is holding to sound doctrine or not is if they are Baptist.

If I was visiting a strange city and needed a church to attend or was contemplating a move to a strange city and needed a church the process of choosing one is much easier because of labels. Just like when I go to the grocery store to buy a can of corn, I look for the label. When I go into the city I am going to look for an Independent Baptist church because I know that it is in those kinds of churches where I am much more likely to find a home. I don't even have to bother with the local Catholic, Luther, Assembly of God, Pentecostal, Methodist, Church of Christ, etc. I know because of their "labels" that I will not find what I believe to be New Testament truth in those places.

I have a feeling that religion is the only area of your life where you do not appreciate labels and that is the most important area.

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

A Flaming Fire



Psalms 104: 4 - Who maketh his angels spirits; his minsters a flaming fire.

It was last week that I read this verse during my daily bible reading and the last half  of the verse has occupied a fair amount of my meditation since then, "his ministers a flaming fire".

The "who" has reference back to the LORD my God in verse one.  Most of the chapter is devoted to reminding us of all the things the LORD does one of which is making his ministers a flaming fire.

There are ministers that belong to him.  This at least implies that there are ministers that do not belong to him.

He makes his ministers a flaming fire.  This is what he does with his ministers.  They do not make themselves a flaming fire, he makes them a flaming fire.

Is there such a thing as flaming without fire?  Is there such a thing as a fire without flaming?  There actually is a slight difference here as to what is intended by the use of these two words.  Fire is what it is.  Flaming is what it does.  Fire just has reference to fire with no inference as to its purpose.  Flaming on the other hand involves the idea of to set on fire, burn, kindle, blaze up.  The LORD makes his ministers a flame that burns, sets things on fire, kindles, and blazes up.  God's minister's bring the heat!  Isn't that really what we need, what God's people need, what churches need, what the nation needs; red-hot preaching originating with red-hot preachers!

It's about bringing real passion to what we do.  Not the kind of passion that is manufactured in the flesh with soaring oratory, indisputable logic, rhetorical flare, or homiletic mastery.  Rather the passion that comes from spending much time with God and his word, cloistered away from the world and its deadening, fire quenching influence.

Passion, a flaming fire does not manifest itself in a singular fashion.  It may be in the context of a weeping prophet, or a prophet that calls fire down from heaven, or a voice crying in the wilderness, or an apostle with a vision for world evangelism.  But what they all had in common was a passion, they were his ministers and he made them a flaming fire!

John 5:35 tells us John the Baptist was a burning and shinning light.

In Jeremiah 20:9 Jeremiah tells us that the word of God was a burning fire shut up in his bones.

David relates his passion in Psalms 39:3 when he says his heart was hot, the fire burned, and then he spake.

Should we not be a flaming fire?  Do we not have every incentive to be passionate?  We are dealing with eternal truth!  We are called to minister to people with eternal souls!  The siren song of the temporary drowns out the clarion call of eternity!  Our response all to often is a dry eye, a dispassionate delivery, submitting to the shackles of the clock, and assuming the temperature of those around us.  The flaming aspect of our ministry has been extinguished.

Rise up O preacher, or should I say, Flame Up O preacher!  If we would own our allegiance to God he will make us a flaming fire.  With a flaming fire in the pulpit the ice will begin to melt in the pew!

Friday, March 02, 2012

From Everlasting





This morning in my Bible reading I came across this familiar phrase in Psalms 93:2 - . . . . thou art from everlasting.

I am inclined to think that we could search all the vast libraries of the ages, examine the writings of all the sages that have ever crossed the stage of life and never discover a statement that is more profound than:

"thou art from everlasting"


The antecedent for "thou" is "LORD".  Jehovah, the Self-Existent One, I Am!

This one phrase challenges our intellect beyond its capacity to fathom.  It is a phrase that reveals and yet conceals all at the same time.  It tells us the LORD has always been (revelation) and also hints there is much we do not know about him (concealment).  It is an enigma that could only be true of the LORD.

Do not misunderstand.  We have revealed everything we need to know about him for now.  The Bible does not defend, it simply declares the existence of God and reveals many things about him.  But when we read in this inspired revelation, "thou art from everlasting" we are forced to recognize the existence of someone whose history is largely concealed from view.

We lose sight of him looking back from that lofty declaration "In the beginning God".  Yet even in that startling opening we are forced to ponder the presence of a divine being present at the beginning.  The seed is planted for the coming declaration in the Psalms, "thou are from everlasting".


Before there was a sunrise there was God.
Before there was a twinkling star there was God.
Before the mountains were established there was God.
Before the seas were formed there was God.
Before a breath was drawn there was God.

He was not only there he had always been there.  For me, it is easier to get to Revelation 22: 21 and think about God continuing to exist into infinity than to start at Genesis 1:1 and think about God having existed from infinity.  To realize that when the bible says, "In the beginning" the LORD had already existed forever!

This is simply deep!

Friday, February 24, 2012

Pulpit Or Whipping Post

The following is a blog post I came across from a fellow pastor.  It is a very fair treatment of what can be a touchy issue.

http://lakewaybaptist.org/resources/pastors-blog/1456-the-cowards-castle.html

"Just because the pastor's sermon hits you right between the eyes it doesn't mean you are his target."

"He is not above acting out of character once in a while. Don't we all? Besides, he has the welfare of the whole church on his heart. When he feels someone is a threat to the church--its testimony or ministry, he gets concerned--sometimes overly so."

"If you aren't praying for him what makes you think you have the right to criticize him?"

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Handling Criticism


 

"Let not thy peace depend on the tongues of men," said the wise old Christian mystic, Thomas a Kempis; "for whether they judge well or ill, thou art not on that account other than thyself." The desire to stand well with our fellow men is a natural one, and quite harmless up to a point, but when that desire becomes so all-consuming that we cannot be happy apart from the praises of men, it is no longer harmless, it is sinful in itself and injurious in its effects. One of the first things a Christian should get used to is abuse. The sweetest soul ever to live in this world was subjected to an ever-increasing barrage of vile calumny during His walk among men; and if they so used the Master of the house, how can the servants hope to escape? The only way to avoid evil tongues is to withdraw entirely from the society of men; and even then there might be those who would raise a meaningful eyebrow and suggest that perhaps after all we may have a pretty good reason for getting under cover! To do nothing is to get abused for laziness, and to do anything is to get abused for not doing something else."

A. W. Tozer

I have learned over the years to not get to worked up over either the flattery or the scorn of men.  Both, at times, reach beyond the truth in order to make a point.  As Tozer points out, whatever men may say of you does not change who you are.  Those who support you will likely at times overstate your virtues while those who oppose you will likely at times overstate you vices.

I have also come to realize that those who praise you today may well be flaying you tomorrow.  Some who scorned you yesterday will celebrate you today.  And then there are some who will bounce back and forth between the two.

My goal has become 1.  To exercise moderation in my consideration of the opinions others voice concerning me.  2.  Strive to live so as to be at peace with God at the conclusion of every day no matter what men may be saying.

In the end what men think of me or say about me will not matter.  If it doesn't matter in the end it should not matter too much today!

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Spiritual Remedies For Spiritual Problems




"The solution to life's problems is spiritual because the essence of life is spiritual.  It is astonishing how many difficulties clear up without any effort when the inner life gets straightened out.  If half the time we spend trying to fix up outward things were spent in getting our hearts right, we would be delighted with the result.  Strange as it may seem, harmony within our own hearts depends mostly upon our getting into harmony with God.  Morning comes not by our pushing out the darkness but by waiting for the coming of the sun.

Church difficulties are spiritual also and admit of a spiritual answer.  Whatever may be wrong in the life of any church may be cleared up by recognizing the quality of the trouble and dealing with it at the root.  Prayer, humility and a generous application of the Spirit of Christ will cure just about any disease in the body of believers.  Yet this is usually the last thing we think about when difficulties arise.  We often attempt to cure spiritual ills with carnal medicines, and the results are more than disappointing."

A. W. Tozer

Friday, February 03, 2012

The Assurance Of Faith










For several weeks now I have been preaching a series on Sunday mornings entitled, The Faith Of Our Fathers. The last several weeks have been spent examining the faith of the Patriarchs: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph. Abraham certainly left a legacy of faith that transcended the generations. These were all men who had the promises of God and yet in so many ways because of the Providences of God it seemed as though the promises of God were becoming more distant, less likely to be fulfilled. In fact the last three of the Patriarchs have their faith mentioned in the context of what they believed or actually was their time to die.

Each of these men believing they were on their death bed creates greater appreciation for Hebrews 11:13 - These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.

Hebrews 11:22 presents Joseph for our consideration. By faith Joseph, when he died, made mention of the departing of the children of Israel; and gave commandment concerning his bones.

Joseph merits special consideration because of all of these men his life seemed most unlikely to be moving in the direction of the fulfillment of God's promises. The Providences of God seemed to separate him from the promises of God.

At the deathbed of Joseph we stand at the threshold of a 400 year sojourn in the land of Egypt. Joseph seems to anticipate a lengthy visit in Egypt at the conclusion of which the children of Israel would leave Egypt and return to what increasingly become known as the Promised Land! What would afford Joseph this apparent insight? Why would he speak with such confidence about the departure from Egypt in the context of a lengthy stay there? It was because of the word of God. It was a matter of faith, believing the word of God. God had on numerous occasions spoken to Abraham confirming the promises to him, the promises that were passed on to his descendants. The promises were so well substantiated that they collectively become known as the Abrahamic Covenant! This recurring promise was made in several different contexts. One of the most striking is found in Genesis 15!

Genesis 15:13 – Know of a surety that thy seed shall be a stranger in a land that is not theirs, and shall serve them; and they shall afflict them four hundred years; and also that nation, whom they shall serve, will I judge: and afterward shall they come out with great substance.

While there had not been much emphasis about the 400 year detour into a land that was not theirs it was part of the revelation concerning God’s promise to Abraham. Joseph therefore takes their presence in Egypt not as a sign of God’s unfaithfulness but rather as a sign of God’s faithfulness. This is part of his plan for them. And as sure as they are now in Egypt they will one day be in the land promised to their fathers! This is the assurance of faith!

Let it first be noted that if we want to die in faith we must live by faith. Why can the scripture declare that, By faith when Joseph when he died. . . . It is because Joseph lived by faith.

Joseph, having by faith accepted the Providences of God, died believing the promises of God!

Genesis 37:5-11 – A prophet of God
Genesis 37:23,24,28,36 – A persecuted prophet
Genesis. 39:3-6 – A subordinated prophet
Genesis 39:11-20 – A slandered prophet
Genesis 39:21-23 – An imprisoned prophet
Genesis 41:1 – A forgotten prophet
Genesis 41:37-43 – A promoted prophet

Genesis 27:2 – Joseph was 17 years when this narrative began.
Genesis 41:46 – Joseph was 30 when he was promoted to stand before Pharaoh.
         13 years
Genesis 45:6 – These two years hath the famine been in the land
         Seven years of plenty and two years of famine equals 9 years.
         13 years plus 9 years equals 22 years!

It had been twenty two years since Joseph had been sold into Egypt by his brethren of whom it had been prophesied that they would bow before him. The Providences of God had certainly seemed to separate him from any real chance of the promise and prophecy of God on his behalf coming to pass. But.....

The prophecy of his brethren's obeisance came to pass just as God had revealed.

Genesis 42:5-9 – His brethren bowed before him
Genesis 43:26 – Bowed themselves to him
Genesis 43:28 – Bowed their heads and made obeisance

Joseph was not bitter about the Providences of God but recognized them as part of the plan of God for his life.

Genesis 45:3-5 – God sent me to Egypt before you
Genesis 50:18-21 – Spake kindly unto them

Joseph was one, who as a young man, believed God and had his faith tested. He died in faith because he had lived in faith. Don’t think that a life of worry and anxiety will be turned into a life of courage and faith at the end! Every day, in all that we experience, we are preparing to die. All the trials, hardships, difficulties, and disappointments are opportunities to believe God. Trust his promises and his providence. Mature faith does not just believe the promises of God it also accepts the Providences of God.

Joseph gave commandments concerning his bones. This commandment was given on the premise of God's promise. True, genuine, strong faith embraces the totality of God.

It embraces his promises.
It embraces his Providences.
It embraces his precepts.

 Faith believes God in everything he says, everything he does, and everything he allows! We quickly stand upon his promises while complaining against his Providences and ignoring his precepts. This is an immature faith that is always thinking about what God is going to do for me and hardly ever about what I am going to do for God! It is a faith that loves to consider what God is going to do for us but recoils to think about what God wants to do through us! It is a faith that smiles about God doing for us and frowns about God doing to us!

This is not the faith of a Joseph!
This is not the faith of our Fathers!
 And it is not the faith that pleases God!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Not A Slave But A Child

Having just last night composed a blog entry entitled What Does It Mean To Be Under Grace I found this interesting this morning.

The following is from C. H. Spurgeon's evening devotional:


"Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law."-Romans 3:31         When the believer is adopted into the Lord's family, his relationship to old Adam and the law ceases at once; but then he is under a new rule, and a new covenant. Believer, you are God's child; it is your first duty to obey your heavenly Father. A servile spirit you have nothing to do with: you are not a slave, but a child; and now, inasmuch as you are a beloved child, you are bound to obey your Father's faintest wish, the least intimation of His will. Does He bid you fulfil a sacred ordinance? It is at your peril that you neglect it, for you will be disobeying your Father. Does He command you to seek the image of Jesus? It is not your joy to do so? Does Jesus tell you, "Be ye perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect"? Then not because the law commands, but because your Saviour enjoins, you will labour to be perfect in holiness. Does He bid his saints love one another? Do it, not because the law says, "Love thy neighbour," but because Jesus says, "If ye love Me, keep My commandments;" and this is the commandment that He has given unto you, "that ye love one another." Are you told to distribute to the poor? Do it, not because charity is a burden which you dare not shirk, but because Jesus teaches, "Give to him that asketh of thee." Does the Word say, "Love God with all your heart"? Look at the commandment and reply, "Ah! commandment, Christ hath fulfilled thee already-I have no need, therefore, to fulfill thee for my salvation, but I rejoice to yield obedience to thee because God is my Father now and He has a claim upon me, which I would not dispute." May the Holy Ghost make your heart obedient to the constraining power of Christ's love, that your prayer may be, "Make me to go in the path of Thy commandments; for therein do I delight." Grace is the mother and nurse of holiness, and not the apologist of sin.

 

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

What Does It Mean To Be Under Grace?


Often times error is simply the embracing one aspect of truth while failing to recognize another aspect.  For example, it has become commonplace to find fault with those who have standards by arguing that they are simply trying to put us back under the law.  I suppose that in a few rare cases that is probably true.   The minute anyone seeks to define modesty from the bible instead of the culture they are considered a legalist.  If anyone insist on gender distinctive clothing they are trying to put us back under the law.  How long is long, how short is short??  We are told over and over again that those who arrive at convictions concerning such things are trying to rob us of a life of grace and bring us back into the bondage of the law?


Is this really what is happening?  Well, there are probably a few isolated cases where this is true.  Just like there are a few isolated cases where people will claim grace as a license to do practically anything.

There is a verse of scripture that is often brought to the table the minute any one develops a standard of behavior to contrast what is holy with what is worldly.


Romans 6:14 - For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace.

I would like to give you my simple, and I believe biblical, logic concerning this verse.  It is the last part of the verse that is held up as the standard, but it really does not tell us much.  Ye are not under the law, but under grace.  This is a true statement and I thank God for it.  If this were not true we would have no hope of going to heaven.

The first part of the verse says something also:  For sin shall not have dominion over you.  What is sin?  We can look it up in the Greek and Hebrew.  We can look it up in an English dictionary.  We can look it up in a thesaurus.  We can also look it up in 1John 3:4 - Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law.   I suppose it is here where the Holy Ghost defines sin.  Sin is a transgression of the law.  Therefore when the bible says, for ye are not under the law, but under grace, it is giving us the reason that sin does not have dominion over us.  It seems the verse is saying because we are under grace we will not be dominated by transgressions of the law.  Personally I like the thought of that kind of grace!

The very next verse seems to support my conclusion:  Romans 6:15 - What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid.  In other words shall we transgress the law because we are not under the law but under grace.  The answer is a resounding "God forbid".


In fact grace is not a passive influence in our lives.  It is a very active influence in our lives.  Grace teaches.  The Bible says so!  Titus 3:11,12a - For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, Teaching us . . . .  What kind of grace teaches us?  The same kind that brought us salvation.  So it doesn't seem that far off base to say, saving grace teaches us.

The question then becomes what does it teach us?  This is not left to speculation.  Once again the Bible comes through with great clarity.  Titus 3:12 - Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; . . . .  So the grace that saves us also teaches us some things.  It teaches us that we SHOULD live soberly, righteously, and godly.  It even teaches us how we are to do this, by denying ungodliness and worldly lusts.  It even teaches us where we are to do this, in this present world.

So, we are not under the law but under grace.  And that grace teaches us that we are to live:

Soberly
Righteously
Godly

I'm guessing the bible probably has quite a bit to say about all three of these characteristics.  It would be helpful if we filled our minds with the Scripture related to these virtues rather than defining these virtues through the lens of the culture.  This can only result in a distorted view of sobriety, righteousness, and godliness.

We do this by denying:

Ungodliness
Worldly lusts

Again, I am thinking the bible probably has a lot to say about ungodliness and worldly lusts.  And, again, it would be helpful if we filled our minds with the Scripture related to these characteristics rather than defining them according to the world who the scriptures warns us has had their "understanding darkened being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart."


What kind of grace are you under?  Saving grace?  Saving grace teaches us some very important principles about holy living.  Turns out grace is even more amazing than we give it credit for sometimes!

Monday, January 23, 2012

A Holy Man

The following is from J. C. Ryle's Holiness It's Nature, Hindrances, Difficulties, and Roots




"A holy man will remember . . .

that Christ would continually deny Himself in order to minister to others;
that He was meek and patient under undeserved insults;
that He thought more of godly poor men, than of kings;
that He was full of love and compassion to sinners;
that He was bold and uncompromising in denouncing sin;
that He sought not the praise of men, when He might have had it;
that He went about doing good;
that He was separate from worldly people;
that He continued instant in prayer;
that He would not let even His nearest relations stand in His way, when God's work was to be done.

All these things, a holy man will try to remember. By them, he will endeavor to shape his course in life."

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

For What Purpose Do You Inquire?


Why do we read our bibles?  Why do we go to church?  Why do we hope to attend church where a prophet (preacher) occupies the pulpit each service?  Is it simply for the satisfaction of saying we sought a word from God?  Is it so we can have our conscience soothed just by being mature enough to take the truth?  Is it so our lives can be transformed?  Our motives in respect to these issues are important and will ultimately be reflected in the fruit that is borne in our lives.  Are those that hear the word of God and dismiss it more noble than those who have no interest in hearing the word of God?


Consider Ahab and Jehoshaphat in 1 Kings 22.  Ahab was of course the notoriously wicked king of Israel, he was and is infamous for his idolatry and wickedness.  Jehoshaphat on the other hand was the good and mostly godly king of Judah.

Ahab requested Jehoshapat's help in reclaiming Ramoth-gilead from Syria.  Jehoshaphat unwisely argued that there was no difference between Israel and Judah. (1 Kings 22:4)  Jehoshaphat being a lover of Jehovah and not a worshiper of Baal asked Ahab to inquire at the word of the LORD.  (1 Kings 22:5)  Ahab called together 400 false prophets to seek their counsel about going to war with Syria.  The false prophets encouraged the action claiming Syria would be delivered into their hand.  Jehoshaphat was not satisfied.  He wanted to inquire of a prophet of the LORD.  (1 Kings 22:7)  Jehoshaphat was right to be concerned.

Ahab indicated there was a prophet, Micaiah by whom they could inquire of the LORD; but Ahab hated him.  Why?  Because he never prophesied good concerning him but evil.  (1 Kings 22:8)  At Jeshoshaphat's insistence Micaiah was summoned. Micaiah was informed that the other (false) prophets had prophesied favorably concerning the potential venture and he was instructed to fall in line. (1 Kings 22:13)  When Micaiah arrived he too prophesied that they should go up.  Ahab must have sensed the sarcasim in his voice and rebuked him for his obvious patronizing. (1 Kings 22:15,16)  Micaiah therefore prophesied that it would be unwise to war against the Syrians (1 Kings 22:17) and he even prophesied concerning the events that unfolded in heaven that brought about the lying prophets for the ultimate destruction of Ahab. (1 Kings 22:19-22)  How was the prophet of the LORD treated for speaking the truth.  He was imprisoned and fed with the bread and water of affliction.  (1 Kings 22:26,27)

Jehoshaphat was present and heard and watched all of this unfold.  On one hand we have Ahab who did not want to hear a prophet of the LORD because he always prophesied evil concerning him.  On the other hand we have Jehoshaphat who insisted on hearing from a prophet of the LORD.  He wanted to hear what God had to say about it.  They both heard the word of the LORD through the prophet of God.  Jehoshaphat heard Micaiah prophesy defeat.  He heard Micaiah explain the chain of events that led to the inaccurate prophesy of the false prophets.  He saw Micaiah imprisoned and ill-treated for giving them a word of God.  But.....at least he had sought and heard the word of God.

So what happens?  1 Kings 22:29, So the king of Israel and Jehoshaphat the king of Judah went up to Ramoth-gilead.  The end result was the same for both of the men.  Ahab who did not want to hear what the prophet of the LORD had to say went up to Ramoth-gilead anyway.  Jehoshaphat who did want to hear what the prophet of the LORD had to say went up to Ramoth-gilead anyway.  They both went up to war against the Syrian in spite of the prophet warning against doing so.  One went not wanting to hear the prophet.  The other went having desired to hear the prophet.  But they both went.

It very nearly cost Jehoshaphat his life. (1 Kings 22:31-33)  It did cost Ahab his life.  (1 Kings 22:34-38)

We must be careful about delighting to hear the word of God but ultimately dismissing the word of God!

James 1:22 - But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.

Saturday, January 07, 2012

Have Your Eyes Checked




Saul was a big man with a little heart!  He was head and shoulders above the rest of his countrymen in relation to his stature but he was petty and petulant in his treatment of others, especially David!
There was a natural tension that would exist between these two men!  Before we get to 1 Samuel 18 several things had already been divinely decided.  Saul had been rejected as King over Israel and David had been anointed as the next king of Israel.  One was leaving the throne and one was assuming the throne.  It was a long process wherein their paths would cross.  They would meet each other; one on the way down, the other on the way up.

Their divinely appointed end was known to each of them respectively.  God had told Saul the kingdom was to be taken from him.  David had already been anointed the next King of Israel.  The question becomes how do each of these men manage the information?  They should both accept the will of God with humility.

Saul would continue on the throne as long as God intended with the humble realization that because of his own disobedience God would be preparing another to take his place.  He would not take offence at indications that God was grooming another for his place.

David would not press the issue but realize that God would give him the throne in his time.  He could wait because he had the promise and anointing of God.  He would feel no need to raise a rebellion to supplant the present king.  He would in fact honor the present king knowing that one day he would be king.

One man rose to the occasion and acted as he should under trying circumstances.  The other man sunk to new lows as he sought to circumvent God's decree.  This of course brought them into conflict.  David conducting himself with dignity and honor in spite of the ill treatment he received at the hand of Saul.  Saul conducting himself with malice and bitterness in spite of the honorable treatment he received at the hand of David.

The growth of the contagion that seized Saul's heart toward David has for years been a point of reference for me to guard my own heart.

1 Samuel 18:9 - Saul eyed David
I actually like to call this "the evil eye".  Having heard the women sing Saul has killed his thousands and David his ten thousands had served to remind Saul of his divinely decreed decline.  David suddenly became suspect.  This in spite of the fact that David had been nothing but faithful to Saul and Israel.  Yet, his elevated prominence in the nation caused Saul to perceive him as a threat.  He allowed his suspicion to rule his heart.  Now it mattered little what David did, it would never be right in King Saul's eyes.  His failures would be highlighted.  His successes would be scrutinized.  If he did the wrong thing Saul was not surprised.  If he did the right thing he had sinister motives.  David was corrupt in Saul's eyes.  But the real problem was Saul's eyes, not David's behavior.  David was not doing anything wrong, Saul was simply seeing everything wrong.

1 Samuel 18:12 - Saul was afraid of David
Because David was suspect he was to be feared.  He was a threat.  He had to be addressed.  Remember Saul actually attempted to kill David on several occasions.  On the other hand David had at least a couple of opportunities to kill Saul and refrained leaving vengeance to God.  But from Saul's perspective the threat had to be eliminated.  David was such a bad man that he needed to be dealt with in the harshest terms.  There was only one problem.  David was not a bad man it was Saul that had bad eyes.  It became so bad that anyone that even appeared to aid or defend David became a fit object of Saul's scorn.  Saul had a whole family of Priest killed for innocently helping David.  But Saul was sure they were in on a conspiracy that did not exist.  Saul even threw a spear at his own son!  He spent the last years of his life hating David.  He was preoccupied with bringing David down.  And all of this toward a man that till the end saw him as the anointed of God and even lamented his death on the battlefield as a great loss to Israel.

1 Samuel 18:29 - Saul became David's enemy
Saul was not David's enemy because David had declared war on him, but because he had declared war on David.  All David could do was run and keep space between him and he who had chosen to be his enemy.  Saul had an enemy of his own making!  He became enemies with one who wanted to do him the most honor.  He had made an enemy out of one who would not even engage him on those terms.  In Saul's eyes David was the enemy.  In David's eyes Saul was the Lord's anointed.

Saul had a vision problem that was precipitated by his own sin and disobedience.  Because he was not right he began to see others around him as not right.  Even he who was most right, a man after God's own heart, was suspect, was to be feared, and was ultimately counted as an enemy.

The arrangement kept David on the run for fifteen years hiding from Saul, waiting on God and it kept Saul in a constant state of agitation knowing that David lived and that he was a better man than he (which he admitted at one point) and that he would likely one day assume the throne.

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Step It Up A Notch



Well, here we are January 3rd 2012.  I was beginning to think the day would never get here, but alas it always does.  It is that first real day after the holidays.  Don't get me wrong I like the holidays as much as the next guy.  From the end of November till the very first of January everything is different.

The food is different
The schedule is different
The weather is different
The spirit is different
The whole world just seems different

It is probably this phenomena that heightens the yearning of a new year.  We finish Christmas and find a New Year staring us in the face and we find ourselves thinking, "You know this year I want to be different." Because somehow "different" takes on a very pleasant quality in December.

Some people make a list every year outlining the way they intend to be different, the way they know they ought to be, a better way.

Some people claim they don't make lists.  I don't completely trust those people.  Do they really exist?  Oh, they may not write their list down, but do they really not have a list; even mentally?  Do they somehow manage to escape the common lot of man and the yearning that accompanies each new year to do better? to be better?  OK, they probably exist somewhere, somehow.  I think they are the minority.  I can't prove it I just feel it......strongly!

There is something about a new year that fills us full of hope and just a good ole' fashion "can do" attitude.

But then today comes!

It is usually on the 2nd of January, unless like this year New Year's day falls on Sunday then the day gets pushed back a day to the 3rd.  It is the day when things get back to normal.  We go back to work, school, pay the bills, start thinking about having the valve cover gaskets replaced on the car and the tires replaced on the truck and thinking too bad I don't have all that money I spent on Christmas.  We have to start dealing with the boss again and it seems his or her festive mood must have accidentally got put on Santa's sleigh and ended up in the North Pole (I've been there, such a place exist).  After a month of feasting I'm not too excited about a year of self-imposed famine, more commonly known as a diet.  Already we are feeling like, can I really keep the list?  Have I over committed myself?  I have probably been too hard on myself!  The "can do" attitude is already slipping in the direction of the "who cares" attitude.

I don't really have to read my bible though in a year.
I'm not that overweight.
I get exercise going to and from the car.
Why read about it when I can watch a documentary about it.

Funny what a difference a week can make.  From I need some work to I pretty much have it all together.

I like list.  I like a challenge.  I don't want to adopt the attitude I fail therefore I will not challenge myself.  I do fail, sometimes miserably.  Even in failure I learn some valuable lessons.  1.  I am weak and frail.  2.  I need to have patience with others weakness and frailty.  After all we are all basically the same.  Our weakness and frailty may reveal itself differently, but it is what it is and we all battle it.

I challenged myself to read the bible through last year, and I did!  I finished a month early.  I would have read my bible a lot last year and most every day but it is not likely I would have read it through without the commitment to do so.  I enjoyed it.  This year I'm going to read my bible through twice.  A year ago I would not have believed that was likely.  This year I know it is possible.  Only the passing days will determine if it happens.  If it doesn't I'm pretty sure I will at least read it through once.  I want to as Spurgeon said, "bleed bible".

My lists of years gone by probably mark more failures than successes.  That's OK.  Not that I am OK with failure, I despise it in myself as much as in anyone.  But even failure means you tried!  Trying is better than not trying.  Success never came in the absence of a challenge.  There have been some success over the years.  Successes that would not have happened had it not been for the self-imposed challenge.

I have a list this year too.  I'm not telling you what it is.  It's really none of your business ;-)  And you won't help me reach the goal.  You will just see me fail and secretly delight that you are not the only one that fails.

I have shared my goals with three people.  My wife and two of the men in my church.  My wife can be brutally honest.....ouch that hurts kind of honest!  Is it possible to be brutal and loving at the same time?  She is!  But at least she is my wife and she already knows that I am a frail, weak creature, so my failures do not surprise her in the least.  Two of the men in my church know.  I don't want them to see me fail, but they probably will on some level.  But really they already know I am just mortal flesh anyway.   I need to quit fooling myself....  I have told others my goals before in hopes that they would help hold me accountable.  They haven't.  I'm pretty sure they didn't because they were struggling with their own goals.  Sometimes we don't ask people questions because we don't want them asking us questions.  So incorporated into my objectives for this year is the commitment to volunteer an update every couple of weeks.  That way they don't have to ask me about something specific but just mention that it has been a while since they have seen an update.  Update, what update?  Oh, that update!  Now I either have to  fudge the truth or be honest and do better.  I hope I never opt for the former.

This year at the church I pastor we are going to emphasis a Determined Discipleship.  I encouraged my people on Sunday to "step it up a notch".  I told them I was not asking them to sell all they have and give to the poor, but just to step it up a notch.

That is what I hope to do!  That is what I must do!  And if I fail, I will fail trying!

Philippians 3:14 - I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.