Saturday, December 31, 2011

The dark side of success

Sometimes success is harder to deal with than failure. Sounds weird doesn't it? Considering that most people long for success.

Who does not want a big job, with a big salary, so they can buy a big house and live a prosperous life?

Solomon had it all. God gave him wisdom, gold, silver, international fame, influence and power. Most of all Solomon had women: 700 wives and princess, and 300 hundred concubines (I Kings 11: 3). Unfortunately too much of a good thing ruined his devotion to God (I Kings 11:4).  

For a season, Solomon walked with God, and served God. But overtime he began to drift. A few compromises here and there and before he knew it, he stopped following God and paid more attention to what his many wives desired (I Kings 11: 7-8).

Solomon teaches us that we cannot rest on yesterday's blessings, or even yesterday's obedience. Every day is a new day to walk with God in the light of his word.

Solomon's downfall also teaches us about the enduring nature of God’s word. Remember the "if, then" statements? God said, "If you walk with me and obey my word, my precepts and my statutes as did your father David, then, I will bless you  and establish your reign (See 1 Kings 9: 4-5). But the same formula applied if he disobeyed the words of God: if you turn aside from following me, you or your children, and do not keep my commandments...and worship other gods, then I will cut off Israel from the land that I have given them (1 Kings 9:6-9). God’s word endures forever and does not diminish or change because circumstances change.

Why then did Solomon's season of blessing end? He turned away from the word of the Lord.

Almighty God calls us to daily obedience. May the Lord help us in 2012 to walk moment by moment in full-hearted devotion to his word.

Question: Do you agree that success is harder to deal with than failure? Why is this so?

Friday, December 30, 2011

The church unmasked

Real people...Real problems...Real answers

The first Sunday of the New Year marks the start of a new sermon series at First Pres. Evanston. I will be preaching through all 16 chapters of Paul's first letter to the church at Corinth, a series I am calling Real Church.

This was a real church, with real people, grappling with real problems.

If this church was present in our community would you attend a church racked with so many of the following problems?

Internal conflicts
Lack of confidence in the efficacy of Paul's leadership
Worship problems around the Lord's Supper,
The rightful role of men and women in worship
Spiritual immaturity
Questions about singleness, marriage, divorce
Members suing each other in court
Scandalous sexual practices
Controversies about speaking in tongues and the place of spiritual gifts
And many more problems

Why study such a negative church? Here are my reasons:

1. Reading Paul keeps us from thinking that the early church was perfect, or that the 21st century church has unique problems. I love Paul's honesty. He does not sugar coat the problems of the church. Where ever God's people gather, you can be sure problems will follow. 

2. Some of the most important NT Christological teachings are found here. Whenever the church loses its way it is often caused by a diminished view of Christ. 

3. Every discouraged leader needs a healthy does of this letter. Paul's optimism about the future of this church is infectious. Instead of growing weary or becoming jaded by their problems, he points to Christ: The power of his cross is the only means of salvation and the glory of the resurrection is the basis for the gospel and the foundation of the church

4. Paul speaks the truth in love. We all need to learn how to do this well. Truth must never be sacrificed in the name of tolerance.

5. What does it mean to be faithful to Christ in a pagan culture like Corinth? Paul gives some important clues for our time!

Pray for us and come and study I Corinthians at First Pres. 

Question: What questions do you want answered from I Corinthians? 

How to read through the bible in 2012

The good folks at Ligonier Ministries have compiled a wonderful list of bible reading plans that will help you read through the bible in 2012.

Of course, the goal is not getting through the bible in a year; the goal is getting God's word into our hearts so that we will find pleasure in loving and knowing God. So how about it? Are you ready to take the plunge?

If so, click here to find a variety of reading plans that may fit your life-style. There is one more that I use and would commend to you. I use because I not only read through the bible, I can make journal entries of what God word says to me each day. The bottom line is, find something that works for you.

Here's God's promise to us: The unfolding of your words gives light; it gives understanding to the simple. Psalm 119: 130

Question: What bible reading plan do you use? Share your answer in the comment box. 

Thursday, December 29, 2011

God sent an evil Spirit on Saul?

What’s a possible answer to this question: Why did the Lord send an evil Spirit or a harmful Spirit on Saul? 
The Spirit of the Lord departed from Saul as soon as the Lord’s Spirit came upon David to anoint him for kingship (see v. 13). This statement is not relevant to the issue of whether people can lose their salvation; it is not describing the Holy Spirit’s role in individual regeneration in a NT sense.

Rather, in light of v. 13, it should be seen as being about gaining or losing the Spirit’s empowering for the role of king (see Ps. 51:11). From this point, to the end of his life, Saul will continually make futile attempts to govern without the empowering of the Holy Spirit.

So the harmful spirit sent by the Lord to torment Saul was a form of judgment for his sin of turning against the Lord (1 Sam. 15:22–29). Though God himself never does evil, he sometimes sends evil agents to accomplish his purposes.
Would God still work this way? I think the answer is yes. Rebellion against God's will and word in our lives strips us of inner peace and joy. When we stand opposed to God's will we experience deep levels of unhappiness. In essence, we quench the sweet, sweet Spirit of God in our lives. This is what happened to Saul and yes, the same can happen to us and even to a congregation. 
The only way to turn this around is repentance. Come before the Lord; acknowledge the sin of rebellion and beg for his forgiveness. In Psalm 51:11, David prayed like this, "Take not your Holy Spirit from me; restore to me the joy of your salvation, and renew a right spirit within me."
Let the Lord have his way in your life everyday; there's no rest, there's no peace until the Lord has his way. Place your life in His hands; rest secure in God's plan and let the Lord, let the Lord have his way (Old time Jamaican hymn).
Question: Have you ever quenched the Spirit of God in your life? How did you find renewal in your life?

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

5 Reasons Why Leaders Fall

Kings Saul and David are sobering examples of why God's leaders stumble and fall, bringing harm to themselves and others. Here are 5 possible reasons why leaders crash and burn. 

Three times in 2 Samuel 1: 19, 25, 27, David laments, "How the mighty have fallen." He is of course referring to the deaths of Saul and Jonathan. It was Saul's opportunity to do great things for God but they eluded him due to disobedience. 

Later in 2 Samuel 11:27, the chapter ends with this ominous statement ( But the thing that David had done displeased the Lord), regarding his sin with Bathsheba. How the mighty have fallen! 

What their failures teach us (in no way an exhaustive list!)

1. All leaders are flawed human beings. Both were kings, anointed with incredible power and authority. I Samuel 10: 1; 2 Samuel 2:4

2. Leaders fail for not stewarding their position and power as gifts from God.  Both men abused their power and failed to submit their power to the power of God. I Samuel 13: 9-11; 2 Samuel 11: 1-27

3. All leaders fail when they disobey God. Both men disobeyed the God who anointed and appointed them. I Samuel 15:10; 2 Samuel 12:7-9

4. Failure to obey God always incurs loss. Both men suffered loss. Saul lost his life and David lost his reputation and the child that was born to Bathsheba. I Samuel 31: 3-6; 2 Samuel 12:14

5. Leaders fall when they go off mission. Instead of being focused on leading the nation of Israel, Saul spent considerable time trying to kill an innocent David (I Samuel 19:11). 
In David's case, instead of leading his army into battle, as most kings do, David stayed home, idle, restless and became the bull's eye of the devil's temptation (2 Samuel 11: 1-5).

The big difference between these men was in their practice of repentance. Saul expressed remorse on many occasions for his sin but he never showed the fruit of repentance (See I Samuel 15: 17-30). 
David, when he transgressed God's laws, also showed remorse, but he seemed to turn to God and showed the fruit of repentance (Psalm 51: 1-12).

Question: What in your mind are some of the reasons why leaders fall? How might leaders prevent moral failures?

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Jesus the Faithful One

The confidence we have...
    the trust we hold...
        the hope we carry...
        rest in His Faithfulness. 

Every promise He has made
       He purposes to fulfill. 
He has the authority
      to accomplish all
       He has spoken

His power is limitless...
     His character changeless...
         His love endless!

Merry Christmas! Joy to the world...the Lord has come...let every heart prepare him room. 

Monday, December 26, 2011

10, 222 days and counting...

2011 First Pres Advent Workshop
I first met her when I was 14 years old. My good friend Bill Perkins invited me to his Anglican Church youth group in Spanish Town, the old capital of Jamaica. It was a Friday evening in the summer of 1974, when Bill introduced me to Judith Thomson. I was a rather shy kid at that time and did not have the conversational ease like many of my friends. But that was not a problem for Judith. She was kind, friendly, loved to laugh and was very interested in knowing more about me. We became fast friends. Our families were very comfortable with each other and this paved the way for us to become soul mates.

After almost 10 years of friendship and learning how to develop friendship with God, we got married in 1983. We both wanted to do something unconventional and so we married on December 24th. People in America are always shocked when they discover our wedding date. But a Jamaican wedding on Christmas Eve in 1983 was really not a big deal. We did not have a lot of money any way, and we were vehemently against going into debt just to have a splashy wedding. After a simple wedding ceremony at my Pentecostal church, we drove around in a friend's brand new Red Corvette and then went back to my house for our wedding reception.

On Christmas Eve (2011), Judith and I sang a duet in church. I was nervous because we hadn't sung together in quite sometime. Back in the 80's and 90's Judith and I often sang together in churches, weddings, and always at home. But it was still a great feeling to sing in church.

Making music is great metaphor for marriage. In order to perform the duet we had to take several important steps:
1. Agree on a song
2. Practice, practice, practice
3. Allow the other person to make mistakes, then stop and try again
4. Determine who sings melody and who sings harmony.
5. Determine the solo parts and the duet parts

Our twenty-eight years of marriage resembles a duet. Trying to find agreement or unity on everything we do; trying to practice what we preach, not just publicly (that's the easy part), but privately, when no one is home with us, except God. We try to remember that we are flawed human beings. We make mistakes and so we often stop and pray; talk and forgive, and then try again. We have different roles; we go back and forth with all our duties in the home and in life. We are in this covenant for life and for keeps and we do whatever is needed to make things work. Cleaning the bathrooms, washing dishes, caring for our children (especially when they were younger), taking out the trash, raking leaves, or grocery shopping.

People smirk at the thought that God in heaven has a special person for each human being. I know it sounds silly, but I firmly believe that in the plan of God, Judith was destined to be my wife, and I was destined to be her husband. My one desire now is to go the distance; bring glory to God through our lives and continue making "music" that blesses our children and all our friends. Happy Anniversary Judith! With God's help let's  go another 365 days!

Question: What do you do to make beautiful "music" in your marriage?

Sunday, December 25, 2011

The Right Stuff: Inside out Leadership

"But the Lord said to Samuel, "Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart." I Samuel 16:7

Selecting or electing people for positions of leadership is often based on false premises. In our media saturated culture leaders are often chosen for their looks, their eloquence, their education, their ability to attract support or raise money, or grow a church. But from God's vantage point, the standards for leadership, while it may include all of the above, require one key ingredient without which a leader will not survive. Every leader needs to have an inner life that is intact. Scripture calls it, having heart.

The 20111-12 Republican primaries is proof positive. At first, the tide of popularity rose in favor of Herman Cain. But as his many skeletons tumbled from the closet of his private life, he was disqualified by the huge integrity issues about his character. Now the spot light is on Newt Gingrich. He is clearly a very qualified man, but people are raising questions about his inner life, his integrity and his past choices. 

What constitutes fitness for service?  

From God's perspective, the process works from the inside out. What is the inner make up of this person? Is there integrity, love, faithfulness, courage, devotion? The person God chooses will always be second guessed, ignored, and even challenged. This is evident when Samuel goes to Jesse's house to choose the next king of Israel. He looked at the impressive stature of Jesse's seven sons and thought the next king would be one of them. But God told him, "Keep looking." David did not fit the typical leadership grid: he was young, small, and inexperienced. But he apparently had something his brothers did not have: heart.

The person God chooses ultimately shines the spotlight on the glory of God rather on himself or herself. 

The person chosen by popular vote often shines the spotlight on their accomplishments. They are often insecure because so much is predicated on performance. 

May the Lord help us look at each other and those chosen to lead from the inside out. As Jesus said, what's in a person's heart reveals the person's words and character (Luke 6:45). 

Question: What are your standards for leadership? Should a person's inner life be more important than their competencies?

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Friday, December 23, 2011

Worship Changes with time?

Why is it so important to adapt our worship? The answer is that the church has to adapt it because modern culture doesn’t recognize the value of worship done as it was in generations past. Each generation is different in what it resonates with. They are different because over time the culture changes. The culture molds each succeeding generation as new technologies and ideas

Standish, N. Graham. In God's Presence: Encountering, Experiencing, and Embracing the Holy in Worship. The Alban Institute.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Overcoming your fear

I subscribe to a daily devotional from Dr. David Jeremiah. His December 13th devotional was helpful to me and made a lot of sense. 

At the Six Flags Over Georgia theme park outside Atlanta, the biggest roller coaster is Goliath: height on the first drop is 200 feet (like stepping off a 20-story building); top speed is 70 miles per hour; length is 4,480 feet spread out over 8.5 acres. For those standing in line to ride Goliath for the first time, fear is the predominant emotion. But for the diehards awaiting their hundredth ride, fear has been replaced by fun.

The difference? Repetition. Doing fearful acts over and over--learning that you will, in fact, survive--is the secret to living in peace. And that's true even in the spiritual life. If the only time you pray or read your Bible is when a life-threatening crisis arises, you're not likely to have a lot of peace in spite of God's promises. But if you are learning to trust God daily by committing everything to Him in prayer--crises big or small--seeing God's faithfulness repeatedly over time leads to a worry-free life: "God has carried me through countless situations before this. I know He is with me."

Whatever happens today, commit it to God in prayer and walk in peace. Then repeat daily for the rest of your life.

What do you do to overcome your fear or nagging, negative thoughts? Share you ideas below!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

God Jealous?

For the Lord your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God. Deuteronomy 4:24

Jealousy is an ugly word. “It is the green-eyed monster,” said Shakespeare in Othello. It has overtones of selfishness, suspicion, and distrust, and implies a hideous resentment or hostility toward other people because they enjoy some advantage. It is possessive, demanding, and overbearing; and that is repulsive. It stifles freedom and individuality, it degrades and demeans, it breeds tension and discord, it destroys friendships and marriages. We view jealousy as a horrible trait and we hate it. If all of this is true, why is God called a "jealous God?"

God is not jealous in an insecure, human way. God is jealous in that God has claimed us as his own and he will not share us with idols. This is holy love. See also Deut. 5: 9

God is passionate about his relationship with you and will not share you with another. This is why Scripture says the Lord is God. God will not take second place in our lives.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Best Wedding Sermon?

In my time as a pastor, I have preached plenty of wedding sermons. I honestly believe that the following sermon, given at the wedding of Phillip and Catherine, is one of the best I have read. What do you think? Click here to read the rest of the sermon.

Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire.” So said St Catherine of Siena whose festival day it is today. Marriage is intended to be a way in which man and woman help each other to become what God meant each one to be, their deepest and truest selves.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Christ is King!

Dietrich Bonhoeffer:
Revival of church life always brings in its train a richer understanding of the Scriptures. Behind all the slogans and catchwords of ecclesiastical controversy, necessary though they are, there arises a more determined quest for him who is the sole object of it all, for Jesus Christ himself.
What did Jesus mean to say to us? What is his will for us to-day? How can he help us be good Christians in the modern world? In the last resort, what we want to know is not, what would this or that man, or this or that Church, have of us, but what Jesus Christ himself wants of us.
The Cost of Discipleship, 1937, (New York: Touchstone, 1995), 35.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Words to live by!

“If Jesus rose from the dead, then you have to accept all that he said; if he didn't rise from the dead, then why worry about any of what he said? The issue on which everything hangs is not whether or not you like his teaching but whether or not he rose from the dead.” 
― Timothy KellerThe Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism

“The early church was strikingly different from the culture around it in this way - the pagan society was stingy with its money and promiscuous with its body. A pagan gave nobody their money and practically gave everybody their body. And the Christians came along and gave practically nobody their body and they gave practically everybody their money.” 
― Timothy Keller

Friday, November 11, 2011

Persecuted Church

Randy Alcorn has written a thought provoking article reminding us that Christians around the world are still be attacked and persecuted for their faith. Here's what he said:

This Sunday, November 13, is the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church, a global day of intercession for persecuted Christians worldwide. It’s a day to remember and pray for the hundreds of men, women, and children killed for Christ each day, ignored by the world but watched by the eyes of heaven—those of whom the world is not worthy. (You can listen to my 49-minute message on the persecuted church, “Those of Whom the World Is Not Worthy.”)

Click here to read the entire article

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Not for the faint of heart

Being a leader in today's culture is not for the faint of heart. At this year's 2011 Leadership Summit, Pastor Bill Hybels responds to allegations that Willow Creek is anti-gay and hates homosexuals. He also exhibits the attitude of Christ toward Howarh Schultz, the founder of Starbucks, who reneged on his contract to speak at this  year's Summit. Schultz was threatened by homosexual advocates to boycott his business if he spoke at the Summit. Take a listen. Do you think Hybels handled this issue correctly?

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Why do you serve?

Not long ago, as I was driving home after completing a wonderful memorial service for a family at our church, I saw the most precious sight: I saw a member of our church with two clear plastic bags in hand, walking around our parking lot picking up an assortment of trash.

I eventually pulled out onto Chicago Ave wondering what would prompt this person to take time out on a Saturday afternoon to pick up trash around the church. There were numerous college football games on TV, places to go and people to see. 
Yet step by step his clean up job covered the entire parking lot, even reaching in and around the bushes. This was not a committee or ministry team at work; this was a single person acting on some unknown impulse to make our facility look clean and free of debris and presentable for all who visit our church campus.

I did not take the time to speak to this person but I did wonder what prompted this man to serve our church in this way. I will never know because I did not ask him.

You can do the same too! Look around you. Is there something with your name written on it just waiting for your touch? Find it and do it!

Matthew 5: 16 is a great text to ponder. 

Friday, May 27, 2011

What do you say next?

This is a thought provoking article by Tony Payne, Publishing Director at Matthias Media. He talks about what we can say next to help our friends understand the gospel. Read and be encouraged!

You’re reading your Bible on the train, and you get chatting to the guy next to you. And as you quietly pray that God would give you an opportunity to share the gracious, salty words of the gospel, your new friend says, “You know, I don’t mean to offend, but to be honest I’ve never really understood why people read the Bible and go to church and all that. I’m a Christian, but to me it’s about the life you live, and how you treat people. Respecting others. Being ethical. But studying the Bible just seems to lead to disagreements and arguments.”
Now you are somewhat surprised to find such an engaging and articulate person sitting next to you, but this is a scenario, and people are like that in scenarios. In a flash of inspiration, you realize exactly what you should say next. “I think you’re right — people have lots of opinions about what it means to be a Christian, and sometimes they argue about it. But I read the Bible because I figure that if anyone really knows what it means to be a Christian, it would be God. And this is his book.” 
Thus comes the key moment. There are only three more stops before you have to get off the train. In the brief time that remains, what can you say next that will help your friend to understand the gospel?
You swallow a little nervously and say, “Actually, one of my favorite passages in the Bible describes in a nutshell exactly what it means to be a Christian. Do you mind if I show it to you?”
So here’s the question, and the point of the scenario: which Bible passage would you turn to?  And how would you explain briefly from it what a Christian is?
It would need to be a passage that said something about who Christ is, and what God has done for us in him. It would need to say something about the response that the gospel calls for — what it means to become a Christian. And it would need to be fairly simple and straightforward to understand at first reading, so that you could read it easily with a friend and point out the main points without fuss.
1 Peter 3:15 says that we should always be ready to do this; that is, to make a defense to anyone who asks us for a reason for the hope that we have. Here’s a chance to get ready (if you’re not ready already).
Where would you turn, and what would you say?

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Four reasons why the Presbyterian Church is "Deathly ill" Rev. Jim Singleton

The Presbyterian Church needs our prayers. We must fast and pray that God would revive our churches and bring us from death to life. Listen to Rev. Jim Singleton's analysis of the problem in this short video. Do you agree with him? Does any of this apply to First Pres Evanston?

Jim Singleton - PCUSA Fellowship - video 2 from Jim Singleton on Vimeo.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Pray these words if you have the courage

Lord Jesus Christ,
I beg you to take
sovereign dominion,
custody and control
over my life today,
over my senses,
appetites, emotions
feelings, fears,
thoughts, and
broken will.

Lord, I am
willing to be
made willing.
Do not allow me to waste
one second mourning
the loss of anything
that is not your will
for my life.


Friday, May 20, 2011

Why do you serve?

Not long ago, as I was driving home after completing a wonderful memorial service for a family at our church, I saw the most precious sight: I saw a member of our church with two clear plastic bags in hand, walking around our parking lot picking up an assortment of trash.

I eventually pulled out onto Chicago Ave wondering what would prompt this person to take time out on a Saturday afternoon to pick up trash around the church. There were numerous college football games on TV, places to go and people to see. 
Yet step by step his clean up job covered the entire parking lot, even reaching in and around the bushes. This was not a committee or ministry team at work; this was a single person acting on some unknown impulse to make our facility look clean and free of debris and presentable for all who visit our church campus.

I did not take the time to speak to this person but I did wonder what prompted this man to serve our church in this way. I will never know because I did not ask him.

You can do the same too! Look around you. Is there something with your name written on it just waiting for your touch? Find it and do it!

Matthew 5: 16 is a great text to ponder. 

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Lessons from the ants

Proverbs 6:6 says that wisdom can be gained by studying ants. Ants? yes. What could insignificant insects teach sophisticated human beings? 

Place a single fire ant in water and it would probably die; pour thousands of fire ants in water and they form a water repellent floating raft that allows them to survive for days.  
A team of researchers at Georgia Tech has established that fire ants bind together to create a water-tight raft. This research could have application to the construction of man-made flotation devices.

The video below proves once again that just as the ants cannot survive the challenges of nature alone, human beings cannot survive the challenges of life alone. What a wonderful rationale for the church in our lives. At its best, the church, bound together in the love of God and the power of the Holy Spirit, also forms a temptation-repellent, or despair-repellent raft that helps us all to overcome this world, the flesh and the devil. 

Let us recommit ourselves to being in community with each other and with the Lord. How are you  linked to your church? How does your community bind itself to you and help you stay afloat? Let me know what you think!   

application to the 

construction of man-made flotation devices.


The following is a brief devotional written by Dr. Chuck Yopst, a retired pastor in our congregation. It blessed me and I hope it does the same for you. 

Inner Geography:  Discouraging Days

"What gain is there in my destruction, in my going down into the pit? Will the dust praise you? Will it proclaim your faithfulness?  O Hear, O LORD, and be merciful to me; O LORD, be my help."   (Psalm 30:9-10)

"Should you then seek great things for yourself? Seek them not. For I will bring disaster on all people, declares the LORD, but wherever you go I will let you escape with your life."   (Jeremiah 45:5)

"Jesus saw that they wanted to ask him about this, so he said to them, 'Are you asking one another what I meant when I said, "In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me"?  I tell you the truth, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy.' "   (John 16:19-20.  After His Passover Lord's Supper on Maunday Thursday evening before His crucifixion in Jerusalem.)

"We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about the hardships we suffered in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life.  Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead.  He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, as you help us by your prayers. (2 Corinthians 1:8-11)

My dear friends and fellow believers, I have had my share of discouraging days.  Death of my sister 50 years ago this month.  Out of work a couple of time because of jealous supervisors.  Automobile breakdowns in isolated places.  My self-esteem felt quite low in those times.  I could bore you with the list.  And you have your own uncomfortable lists.  What could I learn from this?  What could help me?  I share your feelings.  Been there.  Done that.  But how to improve?? 

I was pointed to some others who have suffered major let downs.

Joseph kidnapped and throw unjustly into an Egyptian prison (Genesis 37:23-25; 39:20, 21).

Moses exiled from Egypt where he was considered the Pharaoh's son (Exodus 2:15-21).

Elijah after championing God at Mount Carmel (1 Kings 18:15-19:11).

Jonah at the repentance of the Assyrians after his swallowed and released from a whale in the sea (Jonah 4:1-11)

The Psalmist moaning at his feelings about being thrown into the pits. (above)

Jeremiah sitting at the bottom of a damp well in hiding (Jeremiah 38:1-6)

Jesus weeping at Lazarus's grave (John 11:33-35).

Jesus' disciples after His crucifixion and death (Luke 24:13-33).

Paul the Apostle prohibited from sharing the gospel in Asia Minor, not knowing yet about Philippi (2 Corinthians, above).

The list of these people is endless.

And what happened to them??   Their discouragement was a prelude to even greater success and witnessing.  There are, of course, some exceptions, more than a few but not many.  Even then they were urged to look ahead to God's heaven.  "Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.  Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you."  (Matthew 5:11-12)

Now, what did you say was discouraging to you now???

Grace and peace and from the praising God-for-His-phoenix-out-of-the-ashes-promises, improvisational church.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

How should Christians respond to the death of Usama Bin Laden?

Today I read a very thoughtful article by Pastor John Piper about the death of Bin Laden. From the day I heard about his death and the resultant euphoria by many, I wondered what should be an appropriate response. Should we rejoice? Should we take pleasure when our enemies die? Please don't misunderstand these questions; this man was bent on the destruction of America and her allies. He was the mastermind of the 9-11 attack on America where thousands of innocent people died. He was an evil person. But I am not sure if those who follow Jesus should simply join with the world and rejoice in the death of our enemies. Would love to hear your thoughts on this.

Here's the link

Monday, April 25, 2011

Take this one to the bank

Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the son of man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise. Luke 24: 5-7
Jesus is the only person I know who has 100% accuracy in predicting the future. He told his disciples about his suffering, his death, burial and resurrection long before it happened. 
If he is accurate in this area, what are the chances that he is 100% accurate in everything else that he said? 

For example, he said he will come again one day and every eye will see him,  even those who pierced him; and all the peoples of the earth will mourn because of him. So shall it be! Amen. Revelation 1:7
If his resurrection prediction was spot on, what are the chances that this prediction will be fulfilled? I am putting all my hopes on Jesus!
The Lord is risen! The Lord is coming again!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Marriage is not for the faint of heart

God asks husbands to do one of the most important things in marriage: Husbands love your wives. Easier said than done. I want you to watch this very short clip of one man who took the word of God to heart and loved his wife, in sickness and health. When the dreaded disease of Alzheimer’s made its uninvited entrance into their marriage, they still never wavered in their commitment to one another. In fact, their love deepened even further. Find out how their love and marriage survived until "death do us part."

Dr. Robertson McQuilkin was the President of Columbia International University but needed to resign so that he could care for his wife, Muriel, as she was increasingly in decline due to Alzheimer's disease. His story is a sobering reminder of the joy that can emerge from the very painful things we experience in this world. His story is also a magnificent portrait of what faithfulness in marriage can look like. Read more about them in their book, Promise Kept: A story of unforgettable love

What are some of the challenges facing married couples today?

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Three Reasons Why I Believe The Resurrection

The power of God: I believe that God has the power to do more than we could ever ask or think.
Acts 2: 24-32: God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it.
Acts 3: 15: and you killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead. To this we are witnesses.
Acts 5: 30: The God of our fathers raised Jesus, whom you killed by hanging him on a tree.
Romans 8:11: If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.

The power of eye-witnesses: I believe that a witness is a powerful source for establishing truth from error. Many people saw Jesus in his resurrected state. How could so many people be wrong?
I Corinthians 15: 3-11
Christ died for our sins
He was buried
He was raised on the third day
He appeared to Peter and the 12
He appeared to more than 500 people at one time
He appeared to James, then to all the apostles
He appeared also to me (Paul)

The power of changed lives
I Corinthians 15: 9-11
For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. Paul was a murdered and a man with great hatred and hostility to the early Christian movement. How did he change from his hostility and hatred to a radical follower of Jesus Christ? He met Jesus and Jesus changed him. There are literally billions of people around the globe, in all places and all times who have met the risen Christ and there lives were changed.
Find a church this Sunday and worship the risen king.
Christ is Risen! He is Risen Indeed. Hallelujah!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Lies of Planned Parenthood

My heart broke when I watched a young female staffer for Planned Parent coach a man and woman on how to break federal laws that protect minors. In this video, actors posing as a pimp and one of his women are coached by a Planned Parenthood worker in New Jersey on how best to carry out several criminal acts including how to bypass parental consent laws with their 14 year old prostitutes.
Pass this on so others will know to work and pray for an end to abortion. 

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Bill Bright’s contract with God

Bill Bright’s contract with God - Ministry Toolbox - Pastors: " by Rick Warren

One of my mentors was Bill Bright, who founded Campus Crusade for Christ. Through the worldwide Crusade staff, his tract, The Four Spiritual Laws, and the JESUS film (seen by over one billion people), it’s estimated that over 150 million people have come to Christ and will spend eternity in heaven.
I once asked Bill, “Why did God use and bless your life so much?”
He said, “When I was a young man I made a contract with God. I literally wrote it out and signed my name at the bottom. It said ‘From this day forward, I am a slave of Jesus Christ.’”
Bill surrendered to God and he agreed to it in writing. 
Even though we’ve surrendered to ministry, we sometimes still argue and struggle with God over his right to direct us in ministry. But Jesus calls us to his ministry, not one of our own choosing.
It is always the right time to surrender – to God’s grace, love, and wisdom."
Have you ever considered a contract like that with God?

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Our greatest Challenge

The following are very helpful thoughts on forgiveness written by C. S. Lewis.
We say a great many things in church (and out of church too) without thinking of what we are saying. For instance, we say in the Creed " I believe in the forgiveness of sins." I had been saying it for several years before I asked myself why it was in the Creed. At first sight it seems hardly worth putting in. "If one is a Christian," I thought " of course one believes in the forgiveness of sins. It goes without saying." But the people who compiled the Creed apparently thought that this was a part of our belief which we needed to be reminded of every time we went to church. And I have begun to see that, as far as I am concerned, they were right. To believe in the forgiveness of sins is not so easy as I thought. Real belief in it is the sort of thing that easily slips away if we don't keep on polishing it up.

We believe that God forgives us our sins; but also that He will not do so unless we forgive other people their sins against us. There is no doubt about the second part of this statement. It is in the Lord's Prayer, it was emphatically stated by our Lord. If you don't forgive you will not be forgiven. No exceptions to it. He doesn't say that we are to forgive other people's sins, provided they are not too frightful, or provided there are extenuating circumstances, or anything of that sort. We are to forgive them all, however spiteful, however mean, however often they are repeated. If we don't we shall be forgiven none of our own.

Now it seems to me that we often make a mistake both about God's forgiveness of our sins and about the forgiveness we are told to offer to other people's sins. Take it first about God's forgiveness, I find that when I think I am asking God to forgive me I am often in reality (unless I watch myself very carefully) asking Him to do something quite different. I am asking him not to forgive me but to excuse me. But there is all the difference in the world between forgiving and excusing. Forgiveness says, "Yes, you have done this thing, but I accept your apology; I will never hold it against you and everything between us two will be exactly as it was before." If one was not really to blame then there is nothing to forgive. In that sense forgiveness and excusing are almost opposites. Of course, in dozens of cases, either between God and man, or between one man and another, there may be a mixture of the two. Part of what at first seemed to be the sins turns out to be really nobody's fault and is excused; the bit that is left over is forgiven. If you had a perfect excuse, you would not need forgiveness; if the whole of your actions needs forgiveness, then there was no excuse for it. But the trouble is that what we call "asking God's forgiveness" very often really consists in asking God to accept our excuses. What leads us into this mistake is the fact that there usually is some amount of excuse, some "extenuating circumstances." We are so very anxious to point these things out to God (and to ourselves) that we are apt to forget the very important thing; that is, the bit left over, the bit which excuses don't cover, the bit which is inexcusable but not, thank God, unforgivable. And if we forget this, we shall go away imagining that we have repented and been forgiven when all that has really happened is that we have satisfied ourselves without own excuses. They may be very bad excuses; we are all too easily satisfied about ourselves.

There are two remedies for this danger. One is to remember that God knows all the real excuses very much better than we do. If there are real "extenuating circumstances" there is no fear that He will overlook them. Often He must know many excuses that we have never even thought of, and therefore humble souls will, after death, have the delightful surprise of discovering that on certain occasions they sinned much less than they thought. All the real excusing He will do. What we have got to take to Him is the inexcusable bit, the sin. We are only wasting our time talking about all the parts which can (we think) be excused. When you go to a Dr. you show him the bit of you that is wrong - say, a broken arm. It would be a mere waste of time to keep on explaining that your legs and throat and eyes are all right. You may be mistaken in thinking so, and anyway, if they are really right, the doctor will know that.

The second remedy is really and truly to believe in the forgiveness of sins. A great deal of our anxiety to make excuses comes from not really believing in it, from thinking that God will not take us to Himself again unless He is satisfied that some sort of case can be made out in our favor. But that is not forgiveness at all. Real forgiveness means looking steadily at the sin, the sin that is left over without any excuse, after all allowances have been made, and seeing it in all its horror, dirt, meanness, and malice, and nevertheless being wholly reconciled to the man who has done it.

When it comes to a question of our forgiving other people, it is partly the same and partly different. It is the same because, here also forgiving does not mean excusing. Many people seem to think it does. They think that if you ask them to forgive someone who has cheated or bullied them you are trying to make out that there was really no cheating or bullying. But if that were so, there would be nothing to forgive. (This doesn't mean that you must necessarily believe his next promise. It does mean that you must make every effort to kill every taste of resentment in your own heart - every wish to humiliate or hurt him or to pay him out.) The difference between this situation and the one in which you are asking God's forgiveness is this. In our own case we accept excuses too easily, in other people's we do not accept them easily enough. As regards my own sins it is a safe bet (though not a certainty) that the excuses are not really so good as I think; as regards other men's sins against me it is a safe bet (though not a certainty) that the excuses are better than I think. One must therefore begin by attending to everything which may show that the other man was not so much to blame as we thought. But even if he is absolutely fully to blame we still have to forgive him; and even if ninety-nine per cent of his apparent guilt can be explained away by really good excuses, the problem of forgiveness begins with the one per cent of guilt that is left over. To excuse, what can really produce good excuses is not Christian charity; it is only fairness. To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable, because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you.

This is hard. It is perhaps not so hard to forgive a single great injury. But to forgive the incessant provocations of daily life - to keep on forgiving the bossy mother-in-law, the bullying husband, the nagging wife, the selfish daughter, the deceitful son - How can we do it? Only, I think, by remembering where we stand, by meaning our words when we say in our prayers each night "Forgive our trespasses as we forgive those that trespass against us." We are offered forgiveness on no other terms. To refuse it is to refuse God's mercy for ourselves. There is no hint of exceptions and God means what He says. 

Essay on Forgiveness

by C.S. Lewis

Macmillian Publishing Company, Inc., N.Y, 1960

QuestionMust I forgive if a person continues to hurt me?

Thursday, January 27, 2011

How to give

God told David that he was not the one to build the temple for the ark of the covenant. Instead, his son Solomon would be called to fulfill this great work. The project will take lots of money, workers, and material to build the house of the Lord. 
David exercised great leadership and first gave an extremely generous gift. Then he then turned to his other leaders and invited them to do the same. He did not force them; giving is a matter of the heart. He asked them to give a free-will offering toward God's great work (I Chronicles 29:1-6). 
The response was overwhelming and David praised God for his goodness and greatness:
All good things come from God! Sometimes I forget this. God owns everything. I know this is true from an intellectual sense, but in practice, in my daily living, I often forget. All that is in the heavens and in the earth is yours. 
Both riches and honor come from you and you rule over all. In your hand are power and might, and in your hand it is to make great and to give strength to all. And now we thank you, our God, and praise your glorious name. 
For all things come from you and of your hand we have given you. This one of the most important principles for giving. What you have in your house, in your wallet, in your bank account, the car in your yard, your furniture, your clothes, your food in the refrigerator, the place where you work, your family, your health, your retirement savings, everything, comes from the hand of God. So when we give, we are really giving back what we received from the Lord in the first place. 
David says, O Lord our God, all this abundance that we have provided for building you a house...comes from your hand and is all your own. 
These are great principles to remember when thinking about how to give our lives, our resources and our gifts.