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#Ingratitude#Guilty?

Friday, November 20th, 2020

I read something recently I thought was good. One man wrote:

Wearing shoes is optional. But eating is not. Driving a car is optional. But once you choose the option, driving on the right hand side (in America) is not…I’m not saying these things are impossible. You can choose to go without eating, but if you do you must take the consequences. You must be willing to exist at a low energy level, to invite infection and disease, and, if you persist, to die. You can choose to drive on the left but will pay fines and cause accidents.

In our life as a Christ-follower, we have an option of being good stewards with God’s blessings, or using His gifts for purely selfish means.  It is sad that because Thanksgiving Day is approaching that we find ourselves focusing on gratitude and God’s blessings when, if fact, that gratitude and those blessings are all-year around.

I’m going to make a very blanket statement which I firmly and 100% believe: we who follow Jesus ought to be THE MOST GRATEFUL people of all. Bar none. This Sunday I am going to recap some thoughts about God’s blessings I spoke about last week, but then I aim to draw attention to some examples in the Bible of people who were ungrateful.  What strikes me even more are the words Moses spoke in Deuteronomy 6 where he reminded the people what they had to be grateful for but added these words: then take care lest you forget them. Do you think God had an idea about His people? About me? About you?

This is the last in my series called Q & A and it has a simple title: What about Ingratitude?  Obviously I appreciate your prayers, but let me challenge you to take one step more: spend some time in gratitude for all God has done and given you.

#Blessed#CountThem

Friday, November 13th, 2020

Many of us can remember the old song “Count your many blessings name them one by one/Count your many blessings see what God has done.” It was especially pulled out of mothballs every Thanksgiving. And rightly so. But then again, it is sad. Why focus on blessings and saying thanks for them only when the holiday comes around?

British preacher, Charles Spurgeon, once said, “Memory is very treacherous, by a strange perversity-it treasures up the refuse of the past and permits priceless treasures to lie neglected.” I’m afraid that is true for many of us. We get so caught up in the bad of the past that we often forget the good that has happened.

Psalm 103 reminds us to “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me bless His hold name…Forget not all His benefits.” Here are four thoughts about God’s blessings that we should be aware of and I will be highlighting this week:

  1. God’s blessings are numerous and varied.
  2. God’s blessings are beyond what we deserve.  {Ain’t that the truth!}
  3. God’s blessings are poured out on the just and the unjust.
  4. God’s blessings have a purpose.

This Sunday I am going to begin a two-part sermon series on thanksgiving as part of my Q & A series. It is titled What about Being Blessed?  If you happen to live near us and attend or plan to, we will not be meeting in person this week. Strictly online.  You can find the links on our church’s website.  Our live stream will begin at 10:45 and will be scaled down to an opening song (prerecorded), a communion thought and the sermon. There will only be 3 of us in the building-me, Jo and Ryan.

Your prayers would be most appreciated.

#4Truths#ClingTo

Sunday, November 1st, 2020

I mentioned in my last post that I was deeply influenced by 4 truths taught in Jesus Revolution by Greg Laurie and Ellen Vaughn. Before I share those 4 truths, I think it is important to give you the backstory to them. Greg and Cathe Laurie are the parents of two sons. The oldest, Christopher, had gotten into drugs and the way of the world. But one day he recommitted his life to Christ and it was real. He became a good husband and father. He also worked alongside his dad, who was and is the pastor of Harvest Christian Fellowship in Riverside, California.  One day they were waiting for Christopher to show with water for a ministry they were doing when it became later and later. Finally Greg received word that Christopher had been killed in a car accident. He said he collapsed on his front porch and and wept. But as he wept he said, “You gave him to me in the first place, and now I give him back to you.”  Would the faith they absorbed during the Jesus Movement days and practiced since the ’60s sustain he and Cathe? The reality of faith didn’t anesthetize the pain. Trusting Jesus wasn’t an emotional Xanax. But faith did make the pain bearable. 

They knew four truths, not just intellectually, but deep in their souls. These truths were what they could hold on to in the midst of their storm.  Here they are:

#1- Life is full of trouble, just as Jesus had promised.  John 16:33 comes to my mind when I think about this.

#2- They knew God loved them.  I personally think this is where we get tripped up the most. Sometimes we think we are owed something because of the life we have lived-both good and bad (our childhood for example). We might be going through a tough season-mentally, physically and spiritually-but we have the assurance of God’s love.

#3- They knew Jesus wept with them.  Ask for a memory verse in a contest and invariably someone will says, “Jesus wept.” We chuckle (although it is old) but have you ever considered the power in that short verse?

#4- They knew God can be glorified, in some mysterious way, by human suffering.  Job was able to say, “Blessed be the name of the Lord.” The Lauries were able to say that as well.  The proof is in the fruit.

So much there.  Unpack it some more on your own. Want some help? Feel free to contact me.

#SearingLoss#HowLong?#WhatNow?

Friday, October 30th, 2020

Pastor Greg Laurie is a well-known pastor in Riverside California. He has pastored Harvest Christian Fellowship for over 40 years. As you can imagine he has been through probably about everything a person can go through but he will tell you the hardest to deal with was the accidental death of his son in a car accident.  He and his wife, Cathe’s response prompted me to add this sermon to my Q & A series.

C.S.Lewis once wrote:

“God whispers to us in our pleasure, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pain; it is His megaphone to rouse the deaf world.”

I know there are those who have experienced such searing loss that it still affects them many years later. The loss of a child. The loss of a child at birth. The loss of someone you love by suicide. The loss that sears so deeply it is burned into your soul.  I must confess: I’ve not had that type of loss. I’ve lost my mother to cancer at the age of 71.  I lost both my in-laws but felt the loss of my father-in-law the deepest. I have lost friends in the churches I have served. I have seen my long time male friend bury his father and son.  But I’m not going to pretend I understand the ache of searing loss.

This Sunday my sermon is What about Searing Loss? and I will be using Job’s experience as an example. I will also be taking the four truths that Pastor Greg said held them together and expanding on them. I also plan to share those 4 truths with you in a post next week.

This will be a gut-wrenching sermon for some to hear. I am asking you to pray for extra wisdom for me and extra grace for those listening-in person and via live stream. Thanks.

#Worry#Wringhands#Trust

Saturday, October 24th, 2020

Corrie Ten Boom, the Holocaust survivor who for years traveled the globe telling of her experience in the Nazi prison camp and spreading words of God’s love and forgiveness once said:

Worry does not empty tomorrow of sorrows; it empties today of strength.

I think we all know people who worry a lot. We even call them “worry warts.” They wring their hands, bite their nails, toy with their hair, bite their lips, and a host of other physical displays, very often a sign of worrying or being overly concerned about something. 

Oh…then add in this all-important upcoming election which has many up in arms and you can find plenty of people filled with worry. Just listen to them (then again…you may not want to). No matter the outcome, we must realize as Christ-followers that we are not in charge (neither side is) but God is.

All in all, worry is counterproductive to what God has in mind for our lives.  The word worry means “to take a thought” or “to be careful.” The Greek actually takes it a step further and tells us it means “to be divided” or “inwardly distracted.” Boy, ain’t that the truth!

As you might have been able to gather, my sermon is on worry this weekend. 🙂  I’m using two specific examples and Scriptures for my thoughts. Mary and Martha in Luke 10:38-42 and the words of Jesus in Matthew 6: 23-34. It certainly is not the definitive sermon on worry, but if it gets a conversation started among people then I will consider it a good thing. I would appreciate your prayers please as I preach and as people listen-in person and online. Thanks.

#Anger#WrongorRight?

Saturday, October 10th, 2020

The idea of anger is a hot topic (pun intended) especially as we see it played out before us almost on a daily basis. Is it right or wrong to be angry? We hear of stories of people consumed by anger for one reason or another and we cringe when we think of its dangerous interplay in our own lives from time to time. People passed over for promotion; people losing their jobs after years of service and commitment to the company; people feeling like they were abused as a child or taken advantage of in an athletic contest; people who have anger issues that seem to be passed down from grandpa to dad to brother to you; and people who have justified reasons for being angry. They are all there in the mix.

So two views emerge about anger for the Christ-follower: it is either right or it is wrong. To show anger is good; to show anger is bad. To reveal it is not very “Christian”; to hide it is not very “Christian.” Sheesh!

So this week I’m going to speak about anger. Is it always wrong? But, then again, maybe that is not the right question to ask at all. Maybe the right one to ask is “what should I do with the anger I have?” My main Scripture is Eph. 4: 26-27.

I’d appreciate your prayers. If you won’t, I must get just a tad upset. 🙂

#Disgusting#Ending

Wednesday, September 30th, 2020

I’ve decided to end my discussion of the following book with this post. First, I am not sure it serves much good in reviewing this book. While many who are involved in the church in a more “official” capacity might find the book important, I’m not sure the “rank-and-file” folks will. Those who read here seem to be more of the latter. Second, I found a much better and much more concise review here. Tim Challies is a much better writer and analyzer than I am. So I suggest you read his review.

Strange Rites: New Religions for a Godless World

But, for what it’s worth, here are some of my thoughts from the latter half of the book:

#1- I had to stifle a gag reflex as I read the chapter on “Our Sexual Utopias.” I don’t blame Ms. Burton. She was “writing as she sees them.” But what she says is happening and will probably happen was enough to make me gag. I felt dirty when I was done. The acceptance of polyamory is chilling. (I have only one to keep happy. I can’t imagine having more than one…in the same house!!)  Polyamory calls our culture the “toxic monogamy culture.” WOW! I wonder what God thinks of that? A 2015 poll shows 25% of American adults find polyamory acceptable and that number skyrockets to 58% among adults who consider religion “not at all” important.  Adults interested in BDSM (bondage, discipline, sadism, and masochism) find it acceptable. Kink is in. Open marriage. You can say “thanks” to Fifty Shades of Gray for popularizing the whole kink thing.  Their philosophy is “If we had a god, that god would be consent.”  But one little line says it all: “My number one relationship is with myself.” (p.161)  Gag reflex subdued only by coming to the end of the chapter and taking a break.

#2-The whole influence of Silicon Valley on the grand scheme of things. Politically and financially potent this mostly godless climate has run amuck on traditional values. Just ask FB, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, and others. Disagree and you are wiped clean as if you don’t exist.  And, oh yeah, let’s not forget #Black Lives Matter, the Marxist organization whose goal is to ruin families and our country. Too bad a good message (by the way..all lives matter) got hi-jacked by godless, Marxists who want nothing more than to tear apart our country.  The rise of “social justice”-the idea that American is at its core built on white supremacy, patriarchy, repression, and hatred- is the hot topic of the day. Even in churches…churches which have lost their focus on Jesus and the Gospel.  They (feminist utopians) see “white men as banks just giving money to fund their s***…Everything would be female, queer, Black, trans art…Every club a drag bar.”  (King Princess-p.179)  Can I gag now?

#3- Atavism (nostalgic, masculinist vision of animal humanity). It is largely an agnostic faith, with little time for gods beyond nature.  In a nutshell to the new Utopians (Unitarians fit this), atavism  is a reimagined, renewed world in which human beings transcend our moral and physical limitations.  The atavists are looking backward.  New atavists are followers of Jordan Peterson and others like him.  Nietzsche disciple, Julius Evola, condemns Christianity for fostering a religion based on womanly qualities like emotion.  Follow that thinking and you have Hitler and Mussolini to name a few. Welcome back Fascism.  Not that all of Peterson’s advice is bad. In actuality, some of it is good: “Stand up straight. Clean your room. Avoid people who drag you down. Treat yourself with dignity. Live for something.” (p.217) Alt-right atavism-unlike its more conservative Petersonian incarnation- is a religion of meaninglessness, one that worships violence and destruction for their own sake. Makes you wonder if we are watching that on our streets and TV’s at this very moment.

#4- New Thought/New Age garbage. AOC even released her birth time to eager astrologers-and the mainstream media breathlessly covered it (surprise surprise). This is called Remixed spiritualism. Norman Vincent Peale, Joel Osteen, the health/wealth proponents all figure in this mix as well.

The church needs to be aware of the struggles it will face in the future due to the shifting cultural stance toward God, the Bible and the church in general.  Reading this book gives a chilling picture of what has been and will continue coming down the pike.

#Storms#SinkorSwim

Friday, September 25th, 2020

Several days after an earthquake hit the San Francisco area, the story is told that a young boy was seen rocking and swaying on the school playground. His principal asked him if he was okay and the boy nodded and said, “I am moving like the earth, so if there’s another earthquake I won’t feel it.” He was trying to prepare himself for what he thought was soon coming again.

Don’t you wish you knew when the next storm would hit?  Not weather. Life storms.  We have an old cliche’ which says, “Into every life some rain must fall.”  Have you ever felt snarky enough to say, “Yeah rain.  But this is a storm! A downpour with lightning and thunder accompanied by a monsoon!” I think it is relatively safe to say that storms affect us all…to some degree. Some seem to always be in a storm, while others seem to skip some major ones.  There is no doubt we have been and are still in a storm called Covid-19.  I think the fear caused by it which has resulted in a shutdown of our economy, our work, our churches, our schools, businesses, and in some ways our whole way of life, has led to multiple other storms.

Sunday I am continuing my Q & A series with the question What about Storms?  (Bet you didn’t know that did you?) 🙂 I’m going to talk about some storms which were chasing David and then why that makes Psalm 13 such a rich chapter for us to study. I’ll show you in another post how every one of David’s haunting questions is answered by a solid answer.

Join us if you would like to. The church has a FB page and also streams on YouTube.  I’d love to have you join me/us.  And I’d appreciate it even more if you would commit to praying for us.

#SticksandStones#Words

Friday, September 18th, 2020

There is absolutely no doubt, and I mean NO DOUBT, that words affect us. Call someone a name and it sticks.  We used to say the old adage to make people think we weren’t affected by their words: “Sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me.”  The only way I want to respond to that ditty is “Liar, liar, pants on fire.”

Someone has said the average American speaks about 700 times per day. If that sounds high, chop it in half (350). If that still sounds high cut it in half again (175). Face it, there are very few things we do 175 times a day, at least voluntarily. I’m sure I blink or swallow or breath more than 350 times a day but that is all part of God’s magnificent creation called the body.

Harmful words damage relationships and reveal a heart out of tune with Jesus.  Physical wounds often heal before emotional wounds. There are words said to us in the past which still haunt us.  Our heart flutters and our stomach turns when we hear them or think about them. Proverbs 18:21 says, “The tongue holds the power of life and death.”

This Sunday my question is What about Words? (as if you couldn’t tell).  Prayers would be appreciated for this Sunday. Consider this quote by Ben Franklin: “A slip of the foot you may soon recover, but a slip of the tongue you may never get over.” ‘Nuff said.

#Forgiveness#Childhood/AdultTrauma

Sunday, September 13th, 2020

I’m going to take a break from my posts on Strange Rites: New Religions for a Godless World to do a far more enticing and exciting book. There is one thing for sure about old age: unless you write something down you are sure to forget it. It isn’t that earth-shattering but I cannot, for the life of me, remember where I saw this book for the first time. I don’t know if I was reading a book and it was mentioned, or was just passing by it on Amazon but I stopped, read the short blurb on it and decided to get it. Or I may have seen his book on The Uniform of Leadership, decided to buy it and saw this one right beside. No matter. 🙂  I just want to say one thing: GO BUY THIS BOOK!!

Live to Forgive: Moving Forward When Those We Love Hurt Us

Jason Romano is with a Christian sports magazine called Sports Spectrum.  He also has a podcast that I have started listening to.   Before that he was involved behind the scenes at ESPN for close to 17 years. Before that he was an abused child-mostly verbally abused (never physically) by an alcoholic father.  It is quite a story.

I’m not going to tell you the nuts and bolts of the story. It is much too involved than I have time to get into here, but I will tell you that this is Jason’s story of struggling with his father’s alcoholism; his own response to it because of his Christian faith; and moving forward when those we love hurt us the most.

This is a FANTASTIC book for you or anyone you know who is struggling with forgiving someone who has hurt you/them in the past by their behavior or even continuing to do so.  It took Jason lots of years to finally forgive his father and…well I can’t tell you how it changed things or if it did.  I guess you will have to read the book to find out.  🙂  Since I’m a sports fan, I enjoyed some of his stories of Darryl Strawberry and Doc Gooden and their candid talk about their drug abuse and how it ruined their careers.  Both have found Christ and are doing their best to warn others of their path. But I want to make this clear: you do NOT have to be a sports fan to read this book.

I am buying an extra copy of this book to have in my office to hand out. I am that sold on this book.  By the way: have I told you that you ought to get a copy of this book and read it?  Warning: you may need some tissues handy.