Category Archives: God

Deception of Depression

Taking Pictures

Last week, as I was standing on a street in downtown Chattanooga, I decided I’d take a moment and play the photographer. Had my daughter Katie been with me I’m sure she would have had no problem finding good shots, but my eye is not as gifted.

I looked around, first at eye level, then upwards, and that’s when this particular shot came into frame.

After a little tweaking, what I had was, in my opinion, a pretty picture of the Maclellan Building …behind a huge, black tree.

Illusion and Perception

Now, you’re smart enough to figure out that the size of the black tree is only an optical illusion, correct? You do realize the size of the tree in relation to the early twentieth-century skyscraper is not a matter of fact, but of perception, correct?

Unfortunately, the way we perceive our problems is much the way this photograph highlights the perspective ground level. As we look up from rock bottom, even the smallest branch can appear gigantic. That’s when we need to forget what we see down here and consider another perspective – God’s perspective.

Depression and hopelessness can make small things look much larger than they really are. But with the eyes of faith, our perspective can change, thereby exposing the deception of false perception.

Don’t let depression or a lack of faith deceive you; God is bigger! 

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Filed under Christianity, Depression, God

Barriers to Church Growth. #5 (Honoring Self)

The following was published several years ago, but since my last post was a quote addressing the worship of Self, this is pretty applicable. 


A very revealing study was done, leading to a book detailing how 300 churches went from declining or dying, to growing. In Comeback Churches, written by Ed Stetzer and Mike Dodson, there is a list of 30 different barriers to church growth. Having received permission from the publisher (B&H Publishing Group), I would like to discuss a different barrier each week.

“People do works for their own honor and not the glory of God (Matthew 5:16).”

“Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” – Matthew 5:16 KJV

Why do we do good works? Why do we feed the poor, shelter the homeless, tend to the elderly, etc. Do we do these things so that our Father will be glorified, or do we do them in order to get glory for ourselves?

To be Seen.

Some people do good works for the sole intention of being seen and considered especially spiritual. Jesus said that “Everything they do is for show” (Mt. 23:5 NLT). Jesus spoke of those who wanted to be seen as pious and holy by wearing boxes containing Scripture on their foreheads or arms. The bigger the box the better. All this was in an attempt to say, “I am keeping the law better than you!” (See Deuteronomy 6:5-9)

Then there are other people who do plenty of good deeds without even acknowledging God. For example,  go to any charity ball held by your local “high society” club. There you will find plenty of people who willingly give thousands to worthy causes, but smile as big as they can when the magazine photographers come around.

They may even be members of local churches and give large offerings to the building fund (as long as it’s named after them); buy the pastor a new car; or pay for a youth mission trip. “And they love to sit at the head table at banquets and in the seats of honor in the [congregation].” – Matthew 23:6 NLT

To be Accepted

Some people do good works in order to be accepted by God. They give away fortunes and spend their lives doing good deeds, but not to be seen of men. They want to be seen by God and thought of as worthy of His love. The only problem is that salvation is “not of works, lest any man should boast.” They work themselves to death in order prove their loyalty, thereby supposedly insuring a place in heaven. But the glory goes not to God, for attached to the works is an expectation of reward based on merit.

Soli Deo gloria

All glory should be to God alone. If our works are done in order to receive praise, then God is not getting the glory. If our works are meant to earn credit with God, then God is not getting the glory. If we work ourselves silly to meet the legalistic requirements placed on us by men, then God is not getting the glory. However, if out of a heart of love we do good works without expectation for reward, recognition, or acceptance, then God will receive the glory.

When all glory, honor, and praise is given to the Lord, He will draw all men unto Himself. Church growth will be unstoppable. Yet, if we expect credit for anything, then what should we expect but further decline? “For mine own sake, even for mine own sake, will I do it: for how should my name be polluted? and I will not give my glory unto another.” – Isaiah 48:11 KJV

We want others to see our good works, but not for our own glory. May they “glorify [our] Father which is in heaven.”

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Filed under book review, God, legalism, Uncategorized

Saturday Sayings

“Purity brings clarity.” 

– J. D. Greear, referring to Matthew 5:8: “Blessed [are] the pure in heart: for they shall see God.”

Do you truly want to know God? Do you really want to know His heart? His will? Then ask yourself this question: “Is there willful disobedience in my heart?” If there is, never expect to “see” God, for your understanding will remained darkened by the sin you desire more than Him.

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Filed under Christian Maturity, God, Love of God

Just Be Thankful You’re Alive

It is a little after 1 PM in the afternoon, and I’m sitting in our van reading my Bible. Not long from now I will go back to work and drive the school bus, completing my afternoon routes. 

As I was reading I came across a verse in the book of Lamentations, and I thought I would share it with you. 

Lamentations 3:39 (CSB) Why should any living person complain, any man, because of the punishment for his sins?

Here the idea is that if you have been punished for your sins by a Holy God, and are still alive, you have nothing to complain about! Seriously, too often we gripe and moan about the circumstances which we must endure, and yet those circumstances are so often the result of our own sinful decisions. Is it not a wonderful thing that we are so loved by our heavenly Father? He does not pour out on us the punishment we deserve, because he is rich in mercy. We are alive! We should be grateful!

Let us search and try our ways, and turn again to the LORD. Let us lift up our heart with our hands unto God in the heavens. – Lamentations 3:41-42

There are so many things in this world we could complain about. So often those who complain the most are the ones who have the most. But if there’s anything worth rejoicing about, it is the fact that we serve a God who is rich in mercy. We don’t deserve anything good, no matter how small or insignificant; we deserve judgement. 

However, if I just turn back one page in my Bible I can read verse 22, where it says, “Through the LORD’S mercies we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not.” And, thankfully, they are new every morning! 

If you are reading this, then you are alive! Why not take a moment and praise Him?

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Filed under Bible Study, God, grace, Uncategorized

Oh, Rest Will Come…One Day

The following was taken from my other blog, ProverbialThought.com.


Proverbs 29:9

“If a wise man contendeth with a foolish man, whether he rage or laugh, there is no rest.”

The first thing we should understand is that this proverb’s setting, according to most commentaries, is in something like a courtroom. The word “contendeth” implies such. However, as we watch the “wise” contending with “fools” in courtrooms around the world, it is becoming harder and harder to determine which is the defendant.

In most situations, if you were to walk into a courtroom, you would expect the “wise” to be on the side of the prosecution, while the “foolish man” would be the other guy: the one slobbering on himself, freaking out, and making outrageous, unreasonable arguments for his case. But sadly, especially in the cases where God is on trial; where morals, faith, and family are under assault; where Christ is deemed an unnecessary and offensive part of Christmas, the “wise” are on the defense.

Consider the following commentary on Proverbs 29:9. As you read it, think of those who want to remove any resemblance of faith and religion from the public square, such as the Freedom from Religion Foundation, American Atheists, Richard Dawkins, etc.

He makes his argument not by logic, reason, or clear evidence but in a range of wild responses in which he “rages [a verb for “earthquake” in 30:21; Amos 8:8] or laughs,” probably in a mocking, sneering fashion to try to sway the verdict. The “peace” that ought to come from reconciliation, or at least a sound decision, is impossible. The matter bubbles on interminably to the pain of the wise and the distress of the community.[1]

English: Professor . Español: Profesor Richard...

In a public speech to his fellow atheists gathering in Washington, D.C., Richard Dawkins gave some suggestions. When contending with those who believe in God, especially Christians, he advised: Mock them. Ridicule them. In public…with contempt. Chillingly, in predictive fashion, the Bible says “that in the last days mockers will come with their mocking, following after their own lusts…” (2 Pet. 3:3). We must be getting close.

One day the Righteous Judge will hold court, but don’t lose hope. Even though we may have acted like fools in one way or another, those of us who’s Advocate is Jesus Christ (1 Jn. 2:1) have nothing to fear. Wisdom personified will argue on our behalf.

The foolish man, however, will be able to argue his own case. And once again, with rage and contempt, spewing out all manner of hatred and vile, he will attempt to justify himself.

But on that day, God will not be mocked (Gal. 6:7). 


[1] David A. Hubbard and Lloyd J. Ogilvie, Proverbs, vol. 15, The Preacher’s Commentary Series (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc, 1989), 462.

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Filed under Future, God, Life/Death, the future, wisdom

If We Could Only Comprehend!

This morning, as I preach from the third chapter of Ephesians, my prayer for you (and myself) will be the same as what the apostle Paul prayed…

I pray that he may grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with power in your inner being through his Spirit, and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. I pray that you, being rooted and firmly established in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the length and width, height and depth of God’s love, and to know Christ’s love that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. – Ephesians 3:16-19 CSB

Oh, that we might comprehend the the width, the length, the height, and the depth of God’s love through Jesus Christ! If we could only even slightly comprehend the vast, expansive spread before us, mercy and grace for every need; the never-ending, eternal, infinite promise of his love and care; the heights to which we are raised, far above the lowly, humble truth of our natural condition and state; and the the depths of Christ’s love – humble depths to which the love of God had to reach down in order to pluck us from the pit of sin… If we could only even slightly comprehend them!

Yet, through His strength (v. 16), and being rooted and grounded in His love (v. 17), it is possible! Hallelujah! Because He “is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according the power that works in us! (v. 20 NKJV)

This morning, and every morning, to God the Father be all glory in the church by Christ Jesus, to all generations, wherever they may be, forever and ever, “world without end” (v. 20).

And all the people said… “AMEN!!” 

 

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Filed under Bible Study, Christianity, Church, Faith, God, Love of God, Preaching, worship

Keep Looking Up

Totality

Now that it’s been a little while since the Great American Eclipse of 2017, permit me to share with you a thought.

Do you remember the first time you saw something for the first time face-to-face, something which before you had only seen in pictures? For example, how excited were you when you drove over a hill and caught your first glimpse of the Washington Monument, the entrance to Disney World, the tops of a mountain range, or the ocean horizon? Didn’t you heart leap within you?

My daughters and I took part in a meeting at Bryan College on the day of the eclipse. Little did I know – because we had forgone attempts to make it to Hopkinsville, KY (the perfect viewing spot) – that in Dayton, TN, we would also be able to view “totality.”

Fortunately, my wife had gotten some viewing glasses a few days before, so we were ready when the moon started creeping across the sun. We, along with hundreds of others, stood around in the field adjacent the college and hung out in the heat, continually wondering if this was going to be worth all the hype. After all, it was hot outside that day.

But it got darker…and darker…and cooler…and cooler. It wasn’t too long before the crickets started singing and the street lights started coming on. It seemed all the world was confused at what was happening, all except for those of us who were… looking up.

I could stop right there and preach! It just occurred to me what I wrote as I was writing it. Hallelujah!

Anyway, the light from the sun grew dimmer and dimmer as the moon slowly crept in front of it. We kept looking up… more constantly, now… and then all of a sudden all of the light disappeared. I could see nothing as I looked through the glasses.

Then it happened… I was totally unprepared for what I was going to see with my own eyes… no darkened lenses… (is there anyone out there feeling the way I’m feeling as I write this for the first time?) … with my own eyes I saw the splendor of totality… like a light switch just came on and all of a sudden a big, blazing, golden ring hung in the darkened sky!

What I was then viewing made me immediately realize that all the waiting was worth it. No picture in a book… no description… nothing anyone had said about it from a scientific standpoint… nothing could have prepared me for what I saw, for it was like nothing on this earth could ever capture or replicate.

A once-in-a-life-time event that was totally worthy of the hype.

Heaven

As I stood there looking up at the eclipse, the following thought (not very spiritual) went through my mind: “This must be what it would feel like should a person actually be confronted with an “Independence Day-like” alien encounter…like, I never believed, but there it is.” Being a preacher of the gospel, I don’t know why I thought that, other than the fact that I was completely dumbstruck.

Later, when I describing this to an older, fellow believer, he replied, “Imagine what it will be like when we first see heaven.”

DUH! ABSOLUTELY!

Dear friend, there is coming a day when all descriptions will go out the window like worn-out chewing gum. Heaven, the place we’ve heard about all our lives, will actually come into view. And not only that, the Person who created us, loved us, and saved us, will step out, eyes blazing brighter than “totality,” and say, “Welcome, child, to your new home! Come see what I’ve prepared for you!”

[shouting time]

There, right in front of your eyes, totally beyond the description of eyes and ears, will be the ultimate reality…it will be real…it won’t be a dream…what Jesus Christ has gone to prepare. Totality like you never could have imagined!

But just think of stepping on shore
And finding it heaven
Of touching a hand and finding it God’s
Of breathing new air and finding it celestial
Of waking up in glory and finding it home

– from “Finally Home,” by Don Wyrtzen and L. E. Singer

Just keep looking up! TOTALLY worth the hype!

 

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