The Commodity of Heaven

The writer of Hebrews tells us that “without faith it is impossible to please God.” It is also true that a Christian cannot conduct God’s business, “His kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven,” without faith. As Dr. Charles Fowler recently taught my church during a prayer conference, “Faith is the commodity of heaven.”

Faith is simply trusting God. However, that simple definition can cause much confusion. As is rightly stated in Ewell’s Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, “Faith in God involves right belief about God.” It is vital that we have a biblical view of who God is.

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Celebrating Me

This past Easter weekend I heard a K-LOVE disc jockey tell her listeners that on occasion we should celebrate ourselves. For those of you not familiar with K-LOVE, it is a Christian radio station that plays great music and often delivers bad theology.

The young lady’s main point I believe she was trying to get across is that every once in a while, it is good to pamper ourselves. Although that is not at all what she conveyed, I’ll give her the benefit of the doubt. Her exacts words were, “Celebrate you, because Jesus does!”

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Satisfaction

Recently, a brother-in-Christ approached me and asked me to pray for him because he was battling with a sense of not fulfilling his potential. He believed that while he knew God was providing, he felt that he could be doing so much more. I told him that was a man thing.

God has wired men to be hunter-gatherers and we always have a sense of needing to provide for our family. If that sense leaves a man, that is usually a sign of spiritual sickness. However, the longing for more can simply be idolatry, but in many men, it is a longing to do more for the Lord and for his family.

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A Web of Confusion

We are three weeks from electing a new president. I will be so grateful (if the Lord wills it) to wake up on Wednesday morning, November 9th knowing God is still on the throne. He will be on the throne regardless the outcome of our national election. While many will be shocked and dismayed by the outcome, whatever it is, God will not be among them.

Last week I caught myself entangled in a web of confusion weaved by my own emotions. I’ve allowed the cacophony of opinions to flood my soul and spirit to the point I felt I was drowning. Thankfully, God has provided my church with a pastor who is one of the wisest men I know. He wonderfully has summed up how every conversation should begin: “Meet me at the cross.”

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No More Feelgood Sermons

Yesterday during at the beginning of his sermon, our Associate Pastor Rev. Pete Belmain made the following declaration:

“I’m sure there are lots of churches up and down this highway giving feelgood sermons. This nation doesn’t need anymore feelgood sermons.”

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Training or Trying

Besetting sin is the one that keeps coming back. You return to it like a dog returns to its vomit, to borrow a phrase from the Bible. That may sound disgusting, but you are disgusted with yourself every time you recommit this particular sin. The problem is you try so hard not to. That is the problem; you’re trying not to instead of training not to.

It takes discipline to live a holy life. The Apostle Paul says we are striving for a crown. We are in a race and there can be only one victor. Victory over sin has already been won; Jesus defeated sin and death at the cross and leaving the tomb empty. So we need to live our lives in such a victory. Even though there can be only one winner in a race, we can experience victory in Jesus if we will commit ourselves to loving and obeying Him. We need to run the race because in the end we have an everlasting crown waiting for us on the other side:

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Sullied Sacrifices

Imagine your loved one giving you a Christmas gift that looked as though it took him or her three minutes to throw together. There was no effort put into getting your gift, no cost or value, no sacrifice of time or resources. Now if it’s your two-year old child doing so, that is cute and heart-warming. If it is your spouse, then you’d be in a heap of trouble.

So why do we give such ungrateful gifts to the Lord our God? Why do we give Jesus the scraps from our table when we’re finished with the day? In some cases, we don’t even do that. The reason is we don’t love our Lord enough. We express our love to one another in the sacrifices we make for each other. To do otherwise is to be guilty of the same sullied sacrifices for which the Prophet Malachi confronted Israel:

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Foolish Heart

A very popular song from the 80’s was Foolish Heart by Steve Perry. Perry is warning his heart against foolishly falling in love, warns his heart that it has “been wrong before, don’t be wrong anymore.”

Many people live their lives as “one and done” if they are hurt in a relationship in order to protect themselves. Perry is wisely recognizing that our hearts can deceive us. We believe we know ourselves and yet Scripture tells us otherwise:

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Cutting Through the Deception

Random House Dictionary defines deception as, “The state of being deceived.” It further defines deceive “To mislead by a false appearance or statement; delude.” The biggest deceivers in our lives are usually us. I can convince myself that I am living a life pleasing to Christ, all the while going back to a besetting sin like a dog returns to his vomit.

Self-deception is not a 21st Century phenomenon; the Apostle John addressed this delusion from which many in the new church suffered:

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Stopped Loving God

At a recent men’s Bible study, we had split up into small prayer groups when one of the gentlemen in my group said that he had once fallen out of love with God. I told my group I once believed that is what happened, but in actuality we stop loving God.

When someone falls out of love with another, that relationship is usually over. This is how so many divorces happen. However, if a person has stopped loving another, they’ve allowed their love to grow dormant, and that can be rekindled with purposeful effort.

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Behavior Betraying Beliefs

One of my greatest challenges as a Christian is being judgmental. At times it seems like there is a fine line between standing on the word of God and casting my personal judgments upon another. If I am going to be a dispenser of grace, I have to take into account the dual nature of a Christian. This does not mean that I excuse sin, but I should not be quick to judge a person as lost because of their behavior. As my pastor says, “Sometimes are beliefs don’t match our behavior.”

Pastor Dennis was talking of the time when David pretended to be insane in the land of Gath, the home of Goliath. Saul had been pursuing David to kill him out of jealousy and David fearfully fled to enemy territory instead of relying on God to protect him. This is why in his later years David could write:

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A Shrinking God

In the past week it has become abundantly clear that the American church is in a state of panic. We are panicking about the outcome of an election that is still over four months away. We are making predictions as though we have eyes into the future. The sad part of all this is these predictions of doom and gloom are the same ones I’ve heard in the last eight years. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Oswald Chamber once wrote that fear is calculating without God. For some reason, Christians cannot imagine God intervening into the affairs of man, including our elections. It is sad that of all the Founding Fathers who were Christians, it took a non-believer in Benjamin Franklin to remind them of a sovereign God:

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Recognizing Love Again

Recognizing Love AgainYesterday I was meditating on a bible lesson I had taught the previous night about failure. I sensed a great spirit of hurt in my group, some of it visible on faces.

It occurred to me that some in the room had been hurt while in love. Failing at love can cause you to never want to love again. The hurt can be so devastating that you imagine never recovering. A part of you does not want to recover because it means giving up. That’s only half-true; you may be moving on from a love lost forever, but you’ve not given up on love.

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Joining the Were’s

Men are using ladies’ bathrooms. Government is so corrupt that we willingly support morally corrupt candidates. Society is so debased that it opposes any biblical standards. Christians compromise their beliefs because it is the road less traveled. Is there any hope remaining for this nation? The answer is, of course, yes.

However, for that hope to be realized Americans in general, and Christians specifically, are going to have to understand the root of America’s problems. America is not facing a political or economic problem. If that were the case our country’s issues would have been resolved long ago. America’s national malady is that we are spiritually sick. We no longer, outside and inside the church, allow the Bible to be our moral compass.

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Measuring Our Gift

The true value of a gift is not in its price tag; it is in the cost to the giver. If your child saves part of his or her allowance to buy you a special birthday gift, would you not treasure that more than a gift given out of abundance?

We too often place value in things that on the surface may seem expensive or rare, yet they are superficial when we closely examine them. Even in the gift described above, the value is not in the gift itself but in the sacrifice of your child. Jesus explains it this way:

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Shallow Pleasure

Outside of Islam, the greatest threat to America is our national debt. The amount of money our government spends on trivial and unconstitutional entitlements is the product of a deep-seated malady. Americans have a stuff problem, otherwise known as materialism.

Of course, material goods on their own are not bad. Goods and services produced and provided for are needed for a society to flourish. It is the engine to a free economy. So I am not talking about the private sector when looking at our nation’s woes. I am talking about when government tries to pick winners and losers in a free market economy.

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Profitable Words

So now the Republican Presidential Primary race has gotten personal, where a political action group opposing Donald Trump posted a tasteless tweet about Mr. Trump’s wife. Mr. Trump responded in kind by threatening Ted Cruz’s wife and then posted a classless tweet about Heidi Cruz. This is why Ronald Reagan once said, “Politics is supposed to be be the second-oldest profession. I have come to realize that it bears a very close resemblance to the first.”

The nastiness of our national dialogue has descended into the sewer, in no small part because of social media. People who would never think twice about saying something to a person’s face, eagerly posts vicious and vitriolic words. I understand that our politics has always been dirty, but now we’re like pigs in a sty. We no longer notice the mud.

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Saved from the Snare

Fear is one of Satan’s favorite and most effective weapons. Whether it is fear of the future, fear of the unknown, or fear of man, our enemy wants to entrap us with our own fear so that we do not trust the Lord in all things. The devil may wrap fear in the illusion of pragmatism, but it is still fear. It is relying upon our own wisdom instead of obeying the Word of God. Solomon connects this dichotomy:

“The fear of man brings a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord shall be safe.” (Proverbs 29:25)

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The Greatest Thief of Joy

I know people who make worrying an Olympic sport. I don’t mean to insult those who worry, but I want those who are habitual worriers to lean in a little closer and listen carefully. Never in the Bible are we told to worry; quite the opposite. Throughout both the Old and New Testaments we are told to “fear not” and “do not worry.” When we are commanded to do something and we do the opposite, we sin.

No doubt none of you worriers consider yourselves a sinner for this reason. I understand that, but just as important as overcoming sin, I want you to realize that worry steals your joy and affects your health. The Apostle Paul was a man greatly persecuted for his faith and in fact he wrote the following words from a Roman jail:

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Abandoning What We Know

Anger and fear are two emotions that can overtake our lives and bring us to destruction. There are cases of righteous anger and healthy fear, but usually those are not what consume us. Our imaginations can be preoccupied with fret, worry, and thoughts of revenge that lead us down the wrong path. Those paths always lead to wickedness:

    “Do not enter the path of the wicked, and do not walk in the way of evil. Avoid it, do not travel on it; turn away from it and pass on.” (Proverbs 4:14-15)

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