Tag Archives: God

Perfection Not Required

“Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican.”

“And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner.” – Luke 18:11, 13

Looking for Perfection?

God doesn’t use perfect people; He uses REAL people. Yet sadly, within the church, there are many men and women who have felt inferior and useless because of sinful and broken pasts.

They are the people who sit on the pews, week after week, doing all they can to be faithful in life, but are forbidden to hold positions in the church.  

They are much like the Publican, men and women who know they have failed before, but want to be forgiven and start new.  They are not the ones that look down on others for mistakes they’ve made. 

Genesis of Dysfunction

A while back I read through the book of Genesis in a couple of sittings.  Reading a book of the Bible that way, especially in a different translation, can help you see the story from a new perspective.  This time I was just astounded at how messed up these people really were!  There was so much “stuff” going on that if it were today, it would make an episode of Jerry Springer look tame!

Consider, if nothing else, the sad story of Jacob, Leah, and Rachel. This was a seriously messed up family with real marital problems.  At one point, Leah and Rachel get into a jealous argument over a son’s mandrakes.  Just imagine you were a marriage counselor and listened in to the following story…

Reuben went out during the wheat harvest and found some mandrakes in the field.  When he brought them to his mother, Leah, Rachel asked, “Please give me some of your son’s mandrakes.”  But Leah replied to her, Isn’t it enough that you have taken my husband?  Now you also want my son’s mandrakes?”

“Well,” Rachel said, “you can sleep with him tonight in exchange for your son’s mandrakes.”  When Jacob came in from the field that evening, Leah went out to meet him and said, “You must come with me, for I have hired you with my son’s mandrakes.”  So Jacob slept with her that night. – Geneses 30:14:16 HCSB

Check this out…

  • Twice Abraham told other people that his wife, Sarah, was his sister so that he would not be harmed.
  • Joseph’s brothers hated him and sold him to traveling salesmen.
  • Jacob and Esau were seriously at odds.
  • Leah, poor thing, kept trying to have children so that her husband, Jacob would love her.

And there’s more!

  • Jacob’s father-in-law, Laban, got him drunk on his wedding night and gave him the wrong wife – on purpose.
  • The son’s of Jacob (founders of ten of the tribes of Israel) lied to a bunch of men about making a covenant, then proceeded to slaughter all of them after they had convinced them to be circumcised.

It just goes on and on.  Messed up, I am telling you! MESSED UP!

Nevertheless,

God told Abraham in Genesis 12:2-3: “And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing: And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.”  How is this even possible?  

If God can use Abraham and his family with all their problems to bless the nations, then He can use ANYBODY!

 

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Filed under Abortion, abuse, Christian Living, Do not judge, Faith, General Observations, legalism, Relationships and Family, Struggles and Trials, World View

The Lie of “God Helps Those Who Help Themselves”

An Old Saying

There is an old saying that has floated around for ages. Have you heard it? Have you quoted it like you were quoting the Bible? It goes like this…

“God helps those who help themselves.”

Oh, I understand the thinking behind this statement. We have always had too many people who would rather ask for handouts than work for anything. As a matter of fact, the Bible has a few things to say about those who refuse to work…

People who refuse to work are: 

  • Brothers to those who destroy (Proverbs 18:9)
  • Big dreamers, but don’t do anything (Proverbs 13:4)
  • Worse than unbelievers, or “infidels” (1 Timothy 5:8)

However, it is terribly UNBIBLICAL to suggest that “God only helps those who help themselves.” Ask yourself the following questions…

  • When Isaac was on the altar, who provided a sacrifice?
  • When the children of Israel were pinned between a blood-thirsty Egyptian army and the Red Sea, were they told to go ahead and try to swim first?
  • Before Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were thrown into the furnace, were they expected to use some diplomacy and bow down just a little?
  • Before the aforementioned Jewish boys were thrown into the fiery furnace, were they expected to spit into the flames?
  • When Daniel was thrown into the den of lions, should he have smacked the lions around before God closed their mouths?
  • Did Jesus ask the crippled man to crawl a little first?
  • Did Jesus ask the blind man to go get an eye exam after trying a little saline solution?
  • Did Jesus ask for a plan from the hungry 5,000? Did He ask for an offering?
  • Did God ask Paul and Silas to first yank on their prison chains, then kick a little on the gates?
  • Did Jesus expect the demon-possessed man to watch his mouth, clean himself up, and get his act together?
  • Should Lazarus have made some effort on his part before Jesus raised him from the dead?

No, I didn’t think so! 

The Truth Is..

When the chains are unbreakable…When the disease is irreversible…When the money is unobtainable…When the marriage is unsavable…When the enemy is unstoppable…

When all hope is lost…

God helps those who CAN’T help themselves!

Help me, O LORD my God! Oh, save me according to Your mercy, That they may know that this [is] Your hand–[That] You, LORD, have done it! – Psalm 109:26-27 NKJV

In a fire? Lions ready to pounce? Bound by chains? Hungry and without hope? There is Help!

  • When I was lost, He found me!
  • When I was dead, He gave me life!
  • When I was blind, He made me see!
  • When I was an orphan, He adopted me!
  • When I was condemned, He took my place!

Thank God! He helped me when I COULDN’T help myself!

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Filed under Christianity, grace, politics, Work

I’ll Tell You What I Want, What I Really, Really Want

Spice Girls

Do you remember the Spice Girls? Here today, gone tomorrow girl band from the U.K.? They were the ones that made famous the song “Wannabe” (I’ll spare you the video).

What was the catchiest part of the whole song? The part that went “Tell me what you want, what you really, really want. I’ll tell you what I want, what I really, really want.” As a matter of fact, just for fun, here’s a link from the movie Chicken Little. The pig and chicken characters do a pretty good cover.

Honestly, I am not totally clear as to what the Spice Girls wanted. I wouldn’t know a “zigga” from zagga. On the other hand, I bet what they wanted was not what poor Job (in the Bible) wanted, but we’ll get to him in a minute.

Heaven

Have you ever thought about what you would want to see most in Heaven? Assuming Heaven will be your home after this life (don’t assume – eternity is too long for a mistake of that nature), what would you want to see first? Tell me what you want, what you really, really want.

Do you look forward to walking on a street of pure gold? Are you excited about seeing things that can hardly be imagined, much less described? What about gates of pearl? An emerald sea? Do you really, really want to meet all the saints of old, including relatives who have gone on before. Angels? A mansion?

Job

Do you remember Job? He was the guy in the Bible (with the book named after him) that lost everything he owned, including his wealth, family, and health. He even lost his friends, especially if you consider all they did was accuse him of wrongdoing.

Job wound up in such a state that his own wife even begged him to just curse God and die (Job 2:9). Job was a miserable wreck of a man who had every reason to want to go to Heaven. Yet, what Job really, really wanted to see first was not golden, bejeweled, or even a thing…He wanted to see God.

Remember, what you want tells a lot about your heart. Instead of wanting to exchange his suffering for a new body; his poverty for wealth; his loneliness for a reunion with loved ones, all Job wanted was to see God with his own eyes, in his own flesh. This was his hope and desire all wrapped up in one.

For I know [that] my Redeemer lives, And He shall stand at last on the earth; and after my skin is destroyed, this [I know], That in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another. [How] my heart yearns within me! – Job 19:25-27 NKJV

What we fail to think about is that when we see God, all the other joys of Heaven will have to seem secondary! God, the highest of all that is good and lovely, the depth of Whose attributes can never be plumbed, will one day look into our eyes in a moment of total realization, understanding, and belonging. What else could compare? Sure, there will be other things in Heaven, but who will care if it takes a million years to get around to some of them?

Tell me what you want. What do you really, really want.

Do you want Heaven, or Him? There is a difference.

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Filed under Christian Maturity, Future, God, salvation, the future, Uncategorized, worship

Objectives for My Life

If a fruit fly was asked to submit a list of things he’d want to accomplish in life, it would probably be pretty short and sweet.

If he could write, it would go something like, “Eat, procreate, and die.”

I am not a fruit fly. Yet, back in 2012 while in seminary I was asked to provide a list of my personal ministry objectives. Wasting no opportunity, I wrote a blog post about them and even incorporated them into my resume (where they remain to this day).

But as I was reviewing them this morning, I realized they were points that defined something more than just ministry: they are my life!

Ministry (including preaching, teaching, counseling, etc.) is more than just a job, a career, or a chosen field of service; it is my calling, my personality, my way of life. It’s who I am.

The following “objectives” shouldn’t only describe the things I want to accomplish; they should be a description of the man God has molded me to be.

The only question, then, is how well am I being ME in the context in which I’ve been given?

When people say “Just be yourself,” it’s good to know who yourself is.

My ministry objectives:

  1. To bring glory to the name of Jesus Christ in all that I do,[1] and all I go through.[2]
  2. To “give attendance to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine,”[3] and “to prayer, and to the ministry of the word.”[4]
  3. To affect future generations yet to come as children are grounded, parents become responsible, singles are emboldened, and the aged get a second wind.[5] [6]
  4. To be known as a humble and consistent husband and father whose household serves the Lord;[7] [8] a forgiven sinner who understands grace;[9] and a fearless soldier of the Cross[10] who never compromises the truth.[11]
  5. To promote the preaching and teaching of the Gospel in every part of the world.[12]

Update: Literally, just minutes after I posted this, a friend sent out a group text (which I received) that included the following sermon by Tony Evans. Awesome.

http://subspla.sh/x7f9wq9

Confirmation 🙂


[1] Psa 19:14 – Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O LORD, my strength, and my redeemer.

[2] 1Pe 1:7 – That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ.

[3] 1Ti 4:13 – Till I come, give attendance to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine.

[4] Act 6:4 – But we will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word.

[5] Jos 4:21-24 – And he spake unto the children of Israel, saying, When your children shall ask their fathers in time to come, saying, What [mean] these stones? Then ye shall let your children know, saying, Israel came over this Jordan on dry land. For the LORD your God dried up the waters of Jordan from before you, until ye were passed over, as the LORD your God did to the Red sea, which he dried up from before us, until we were gone over: That all the people of the earth might know the hand of the LORD, that it [is] mighty: that ye might fear the LORD your God for ever.

[6] Pro 22:6 – Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.

[7] Jos 24:15 – And if it seem evil unto you to serve the LORD, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that [were] on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.

[8] 1Cr 15:58 – Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.

[9] 1Ti 1:15 – This [is] a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief.

[10] Mar 8:34 – And when he had called the people [unto him] with his disciples also, he said unto them, Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.

[11] 1Ti 4:16 – Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee.

[12] Act 1:8 – But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.

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Filed under Christian Living, Christian Maturity, ministry, Preaching, Uncategorized, World View

Regardless

All I want to say today is that regardless whatever happens in this life, God is good!

All the time!

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Filed under Christianity, Faith, God

He Made My Day

“You Made My Day!”

Not long ago I performed a wedding service in which the whole wedding party and myself were brought to tears. Now, there were only 3 people in the room (the groom, the bride, and myself), but everyone of us were finding it difficult to keep water out of our eyes.

It was a very simple ceremony, one with no decoration, no cake, not even a tuxedo or wedding dress; just a wedding chapel, wedding rings, a man and a woman, and a pastor.

But what made this little ceremony so special was the reason behind it: the couple were getting re-married.

Long story short, they had gotten a divorce, but because of their love for their four children and the fear of how growing up in a split family might affect them, they determined to find a way to come back together. Whatever differences they had which led to their divorce were evidently able to be overcome, at least they were going to try – because they understood there were more important things than their own feelings.

As I stood there with them, I could sense the seriousness, the somber mood, and the need to go off script when it came to my normal wedding ceremony. In every wedding ceremony I conduct I always talk about how marriage is to be a reflection of God’s love for us, but I went full marriage-counselor mode/preacher this time.

As I referenced the selfless, unabashed love God displayed for us on the cross of Calvary, and how that true love, the unconditional kind, can forgive even as Jesus said, “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do,” the tears began to flow down the brides face…then mine.

With tears on everyone’s face, as I continued into the part where the vows were to be exchanged, the bride held the groom’s hands and said, “And if Jesus can forgive us for all we’ve done, we can forgive each other, too.” I literally about lost it! (I’m getting teary-eyed just typing this!)

Ryan and Catherine after getting re-married

When all was said and done, I extended my hand to thank them, saying, “I just want you to know, you made my day.”

The bride bypassed my hand and rushed me with a bear hug, then said, “No, YOU made OUR day!”

Then right before I was able to take a picture of the two as they stood on the stage, a newly re-married couple, the bride whispered to the groom, “God was here today.”

Amen to that!

He Made My Day

The fact of the matter is that even though we may make each other’s days, like I did for that couple and they did for me, God has LITERALLY made our day!

This [is] the day [which] the LORD hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it. – Psalm 118:24

God doesn’t just do things for us that make us happy, therefore giving us a reason to praise Him for making our day memorable; He literally makes the day – every day – in which we live.

Think about this for just a second… the Hebrew word used in this case is in the perfect tense, meaning that the act of making the day was done, finished, once and for all completed. In other words, in God’s eyes, though it may appear to us as being as in the process of being made, it’s a done deal – finished. This is the day that the Lord has made.

Therefore, instead of worrying about the outcomes, the challenges, the twists and turns, why not rejoice in the moment, in the day, as we watch with amazement how God unfolds the gift that He has prepared for us?

I enjoyed hearing someone say, “You made my day.” I would bet God is no different. And since He knows what’s best for me, what I need, and how I can bring Him glory through my thoughts and actions in the next few hours, it will surely be a day worth remembering if I just pay attention and hold His hand.

Lord, You made my day!

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Filed under Defending Traditional Marriage, Divorce, Relationships and Family, worship

Imagining the “Copacavaca”

The Name

Deep in the black forests of Romania there may live a scary animal. The locals have a name for it: Vaca Care Locuieste in Copac. 

I call it: Copacavaca (because the other name is too long).

The Creature

In the early 90’s, shortly after the fall of Nicolae Ceaușescu, I had the privilege to spend about a month in Romania. There I visited many cities, including Bucharest, Alexandria, Timișoara, Arad, Pitești, etc. The people were more than wonderful. The forests, however, were darker than any I had seen before. Literally, they soaked up light like a sponge.

One day, while walking through one of these dark forests, I was made keenly aware of the possibility of some creature in the trees above me. Being mindful of the legends associated with Transylvania, I could not help but imagine myself as one of those hapless tourists pounced upon by some non-mythical monster heretofore thought imaginary.

I thought to myself, “What could be above me, right now, which I might never expect? What kind of creature would be impossible to believe, therefore capable of living in obscurity, except for when it feeds?” It couldn’t be a vampire or werewolf. It had to be something totally off the wall. It had to be something as unthinkably dangerous as Clark Kent was powerful…then it hit me (not literally)… “Vaca.”

Vaca

Just the day before I had learned the word. “What do you call those big animals in the field that go mooooooo?” I asked.

“Vaca” was the reply.

My mind now imagined an animal so dangerous, so heavy, so tired of being milked and eaten between buns, and in the trees right above me – the Vaca din Copac…

the Romanian Tree-Dwelling Vaca… 

the Copacavaca!

The Horror

Should you ever walk through the dark woods of Romania, be very careful. Just because you can’t see them, that doesn’t mean the Copacavaca aren’t there. They could be. If so, you could be in danger.

One thing you should know about the Copacavaca is that they cannot see very well – they hunt by hearing. It is when you walk through the woods and make noises like other animals (especially humans) that the Copacavaca realize you’re potential prey.

They wait for you to walk under the tree they are in, then fall from on high to crush you beneath their massive weight. Therefore, it is critical you sound like them when walking among the pines (or whatever leafy, woody, thingy that is nearby).

I asked a friend who was with me if she had heard of tree-dwelling vaca. When she told me “no,” I demanded, in order to be safe, that she make a sound to imitate the vaca. If not, the camouflaged, nearly invisible Copacavaca may have mistaken us for dinner.

Computer rendering of a Copacavaca attacking prey.

With a puzzled look she responded to my request with a nonplus “Mooo.” 

“Do it again!” I said. “But louder!”

“Moooooooo!”

“LOUDER!”

“MOOOOOOO!”

Finally, with a tone of quizzical frustration, she asked, “Why am I making the sound of a cow?”

“Because that’s what the Copacavaca is – a man-eating, tree-dwelling cow.”

For some reason the Romanian girl didn’t believe me. Later that night, shortly after she invited me to a knock-off discotheque (a one-room joint with a few tables and a mirrored ball hanging from the ceiling),  I was poisoned and nearly died (no joke – I got sick and nearly died).

Coincidence??

Here’s the Point

The imagination can be profitable, just as long as it magnifies truth.

Used properly, as God designed it, the imagination can help us to see God from different perspectives, in different colors, with different expressions. Just think of what C. S. Lewis was able to do with the Narnia series. But replacing the God that is with a god of of our own creation is more than dangerous; it’s idolatry.

Because that, when they knew God, they glorified [him] not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. – Rom 1:21 KJV

Some people say, “My god would never judge anyone.” Others say, “My god understands me…he made me this way.”

Still, others are convinced that “God doesn’t care what road you take, just as long as you’re sincere.”

But what kind of god are they thinking up? Maybe a creature that lives in the woods, but certainly not the God of the Bible.

For More Information

If you want to know more about the Copacavaca, I can think of something. Who knows, we may be looking at the next Dracula, only with four legs and udders (quick, somebody contact Chick-fil-A).

However, if you want to know more about the God who really is, I suggest you read the Gospel of John in the Bible.

And if you’d like, imagine yourself huddled next to a campfire, late at night, as an old, old man shares the amazing story of what he saw take place long, long ago…that you might believe (John 20:31).

I imagine the Truth will blow you away.

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Filed under General Observations, God, Humor, legalism, worship