November 26, 2010

The Parable of the Deleted File

Luke 15:8-10

There once was a man who had lost all of his files when a virus wiped everything from his computer system. Suddenly he realized that an important file – a rare picture he had scanned - had been lost. This precious file preserved an old, fading and cracked black-and-white picture of his family. There was no other copy or negative. The original had decomposed beyond recognition. So, it was with urgency and desperation that he checked the various files, data-bases, directories, hard drive and discs for the lost file. When he failed to find the file, he sent an email to his family members to see if anyone had a copy of the photo. No one had a duplicate. In a final attempt to recover the lost file, he spent hundreds of dollars to purchase an expensive recovery software program to search the hard drive for the lost file. He downloaded and installed the program on the computer and watched the blank screen with his fingers crossed. The cursor blinked for what seemed an eternity and then the file popped onto the screen. With a shout of joy, the man saved the file in multiple discs and afterwards called his family to share the good news.

This parable mirrors much of the sentiment of the woman who lost her silver coin, seeking diligently for it until she found it (Luke 15:8-10). This effort represents the various means and methods God uses to bring lost souls home and the Savior's joy on their return to Him. The parable reveals to us the pains which God takes in His search. The light is brought in. Things are moved. All other work is ceased. The house is swept until the piece is found. And so, it is His love that seeks and doesn’t quit until what is lost is found.

Further on in the same chapter, Jesus recounts the parable of the prodigal son who traded in his inheritance for riotous living. The nearer the repentant son drew to his father’s house, the heavier his heart became at the thought of seeing his father again. I imagine that the son thought about what he would say to his father, and how he would say it. The son might have wondered about his father’s reaction. How angry would his father's anger be? Would he receive him or reject him? How would the son respond? A dread might have burdened his heart about being forsaken by his father. But the father anticipates his coming, and moves towards him, not based on his son's actions, but according to his own heart as a father. He is on his son's neck even before the son can open his mouth, even before the son has had time to say, "Make me as one of thy hired servants." This is the measure of God’s joy towards us when we come to Him in repentance.

Where there is repentance, there is a turning away from sin. Why? When God’s grace attracts us, one moves towards God and away from sin (John 8:3-11).

Indeed, Lamentations 1:20 states, " ‘See, O Lord, how distressed I am! I am in torment within, and in my heart I am disturbed, for I have been most rebellious.’ ”

And Psalm 31:10 says, “My life is consumed by anguish and my years by groaning; my strength fails because of my affliction, and my bones grow weak.”

And so, in our misery, we are received by God’s love and we are clothed with Christ’s blood to enter the house. We do not bring the robe; God supplies us with it. This is heaven's best robe. It is an entirely new thing. And the angels know this because they share in God’s joy. This is heaven’s attitude: Rejoicing. The word rejoice comes from the Hebrew word, suncairw, which is an old and common verb for mutual joy, which demands fellowship. In other words, it is an uncontainable joy that overflows so much so that others can’t help but share in the overwhelming gladness.

What an expression of God’s love! How painfully and wonderfully clear does Jesus make it known to us by His work at the Cross!

The recovery of even one such outcast is watched with interest in heaven and hailed with joy. The great Shepherd is going after His lost sheep. The Owner is searching diligently for the lost silver coin. The Restorer is extricating the family picture from the clutches of oblivion. The lost one is being brought back home with a joy whose cup overruns with all that heaven will allow. Won’t you come to Christ and join His family? He hasn’t given up the search for you. Won’t you come home now?

October 23, 2010

The Happy Man

"Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them: they shall not be ashamed, but they shall speak with the enemies in the gate." (Psalm 127:5, KJV)

This message could be considered a belated Father's Day message, but I couldn't wait until 2011 to write about the happy man who has many children. Recent events have caused me to ponder about this matter. You could say, three little blessings arrived quite suddenly in our home and that made me stop and take in the reality of parenthood. You see, any man can sire a child. But, it takes more than a hombre to raise a child, let alone into a godly one. From where I stand as a father, the view is a long one, arcing over the next meal, bedtime stories, prayers, and scraped knees and into the eternal question: What kind of child do I want him to be? Parenthood is a lifelong state of existence because you never stop being a parent; you never stop hoping the best for them; you never give up in believing that things will be better for them; and on and on and on. It never stops. This isn't a complaint; it's a fact of life.

There's a song by Randy Travis that clearly points out what the parent, the father in particular, has to face:

"I’ll provide for him,

Walk beside of him,
I am strong enough.
'Cause it's time he knew
What a son can do
With a father's love:

He could change the world."

[from "Raise Him Up" lyrics found in "Rise and Shine" album, released: Oct 15 2002 ]

Because children are a heritage from the Lord (Ps. 127:3), they are not ours to keep. We are simply their stewards. So, if children are a gift of the Lord, what are we to do with them?

1. We are to teach them who God is. Gen. 1:1; Ps. 139:14-16
2. We are to teach them about God's Law. Deut. 6:1-9; Exo. 20:1-17
3. We are to discipline them. Prov. 22:6, 15; Eph. 6:4
4. We are to teach them about Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Jn. 1:1-4; Jn. 14:6

These are just a few Scriptures I'm quoting. There's more to be sure because God's Word is a treasure and inexaustible.

If you have children and you are not training up your kids according to God's Word, you will be called to account your time with them when you meet God, assuming you're a born again believer. If you're not, then you've got an entirely different problem; that is, you are spiritually dead and in need of salvation through Jesus Christ. Applying the principles of the Bible will not get you anywhere with God unless you are born again (John 3:3,5).

One final thought: Training up a child is NOT easy. It requires a strong commitment to God, placing faith in His awesome grace, and involves a lot of prayer, especially as they grow older and began exercising their will. There will be a lot of things you will not like in their choices, but take heart that they will have the Word of God in them. Once they become adults, they are out on their own and will have to live with the consequences of their choices. My heart goes out to those parents who have wayward adult children who have walked away from God. My only advice to you is to keep your faith and know that what is impossible for man is possible for God (Luke 18:27). Happy is the man whom the Lord blesses with children!

See here for more information: The Plan of Salvation

August 22, 2010

An Old Country For Old Men (Part 3 of 3 in the MACHO! Series)

So, you think you've got it under control. The problem you think no one knows about. It could be gambling, pornography, stealing at your job, adultery, gossiping, homosexuality or rage. It could be just about anything. And it's all under cover, away from prying eyes.

You know it's a problem because your conscience rubs you the wrong way. It might happen as you're thinking about doing it, as you're doing it or after you've done it. Either way, there's something happening inside that turns your stomach and mind, so that there's no peace. Of course, if you're not feeling anything at all then it's too late. Your conscience has been seared; that is, burned to the point of not having any remorse or regret at all.

What is a conscience? Charles Finney, a great 19th Century preacher, stated the definition this way: Conscience may be regarded, either as a power or as an act of the mind that affirms and enforces moral obligation, and that pronounces upon the paucity of obedience as disobedience. Thus, one's conscience calls you on your choices and you act accordingly to address and correct the straying from the right path (Here, I'm assuming you're Christian and have already concluded that Jesus Christ is the way and the only way, John 14:6).

If you're convicted of your sin [that problem you think you've hidden so well], then you can get right with God through Jesus Christ (I John 1:9). If you choose not to get right then you're down the path of searing your conscience to the point of no return.

What keeps you and me from getting right with the Lord? The source of your problem, whatever that may be, boils down to one simple word. This word has kept you in bondage. This word is what prevents a clean start for you. This word was the downfall of Satan. And this same word will be your doom if you let it dominate your thinking. The word I'm referring to is PRIDE.

Pride keeps you from asking for help. It freezes your mind and locks your knees so that you have a hard time acknowledging your sin before a holy and mighty God on your knees and face. Pride blinds you to the point that you believe the lie that you won't get caught. Again, God will not be mocked (Galatians 6:7) and be sure that your sin will be found out (Numbers 32:23).

A man will not ask for help, not because he doesn't know he has a problem, but because he won't admit he needs any help in solving the problem. There's something about falling on your knees and confessing that you're helpless and hopeless and need help that turns men off. It's a showing of weakness, which is wrong-headed, really. True weakness is choosing to struggle in the sin-problem, hoping that the outcome will be different the next time temptation comes around. My friend, that's called being mentally retarded. Down South, we say you're slow in the head.

Brothers, please don't let your pride get in the way of coming to the Lord. He is ready and able to forgive your sins if you just humbly ask for forgiveness (I Jn. 1:9). To be sure, if you're not saved, no amount of confessing will do you any good. You need to first ask Jesus into your life and confess Him as your Saviour (Romans 10:9, 13).

The alternative is hell. You will die in your sins and end up in eternal separation from the One who loves you and gave Himself for you (John 3:16). Here's the Good News; in Romans 5:8, Scripture says, "God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." That means that He loved us while we were yet sinners. I don't know about you but that's a mind blowing statement. Think about someone you hate, I mean really hate their guts and then imagine loving that person with all you've got in spite of all the wrong they've done to you. If you can grasp this illustration, then you've got a little perspective on how God loves you.

C'mon, man! That sin of yours is going to eat you up from inside like a cancer and leave you a hollow old man on the outside. The only thing keeping you from God is pride. And the only One bringing you to God is Jesus Christ, His Son. Do it before it's too late. Leave the old country of sin and enter into His peace and goodness. O taste and see that the LORD is good: blessed is the man that trusteth in Him.(Psalm 34:8). The New Country awaits you.

July 02, 2010

May 11, 2010

The Dog Fight Inside (Part 2 of 3 in the MACHO! Series)

Men are particularly susceptible to certain types of sin than women are. And that's because men are wired differently than women. Even our word choices are different. God made us this way and there's no going around this fact. Consider Genesis 3:16-19 in relation to the consequences of sin as well as to each person's role in relation to one another.

Part one of  the MACHO! series focused on anger. This second part will focus on lust.

There is an ugly battle going on in the mind. It's a dog fight (sorry, ladies, not a cat fight). And it's certainly not a disagreement between the flesh and Spirit. It's WAR. In Galatians 5:17 it says,

"For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would."

The book of Romans 7:21-23 sheds light on this issue a little clearer,

"I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me. For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members."

So, it's war and it's brutal, winner-take-all. And this battle is taking place in our minds. You see, our bodies don't act of their own volition; that is, we're not like plants that simply react to the sunlight and move toward it. Nope. Our minds first make a decision to look at a passing woman or at a picture in a magazine or to go surfing on the web. The Bible says,

"For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he:" (Proverbs 23:7a, KJV)

So, the body follows the mind and its decisions. And the heart of the matter is the heart. Who can know the heart? Jeremiah 17:9 says, "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked:"

It's a terrible one-two punch: The heart lusts; the mind decides. To be sure, the consequences are tragic when the body follows the mind: Sin is the nail in the coffin. The book of James 1:13-15 clearly warns:

"Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man: But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death."

In other words, don't blame God when it hits the fan. If you don't think it won't, here are a couple of promises from the Good Book:

1. "Ye have sinned against the LORD: and be sure your sin will find you out.", Numbers 32:23

2. "Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.", Galatians 6:7

Brothers, I quote Scripture so that you can look it up yourselves and see that I'm not making these things up. Read God's Holy Word for yourselves. Is God a liar? No, He isn't. And for those of you stupid enough to say there is no God, He has something to say to you too:

"But the fearful, and unbelieving [my emphasis], and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death." (Revelation 21:8, KJV).

Don't say I didn't warn you, brother man.

But, if you're wondering how to overcome this battle for the mind that occurs in the mind then I have the hope you've been looking for; His name is Jesus Christ. If you believe that He is the Son of God and that He died on the cross for your sins and invite Him into your heart as your Lord and Savior then you will be saved (from judgment and hell fire) and the Holy Spirit will indwell you, guide you, help you and comfort you.

If you're sick and tired of being sick and tired then all you have to do is pray and believe in Jesus Christ. The book of Romans 10:9-10 states, "That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation."

God promises. "Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new." (2 Corinthians 5:17, KJV)
So, what are you waiting for, man? Today is the day of salvation!

March 19, 2010

The Man In the Rearview Mirror (Part 1 of 3 in the MACHO! Series)

On one particular fall morning, I drove my children to their school and I was in no rush, enjoying the crisp autumn air. As I pulled out of the driveway, I noticed that a red Jeep Cherokee sped down the street, towards us. I figured that the man in the Cherokee would slow down for us. Wrong. Instead, he began to honk at me as I put the car into direct and drove. You would think that because I was moving along that the honking would have stopped. Wrong again. I looked at him through the rearview mirror and saw that he was yelling and could tell from reading his lips that he wasn't wishing me a good morning. The angry man pounded his fist on the steering wheel and yelled some more; his face was unshaven but it was red. Instead of ignoring him, I chose to slow down the car a little and enjoy the show a little bit longer. All the while, I stared at him through the rearview mirror. At the four-way stop, I waited longer than I should have before turning and waited. Keep in mind, all of this was happening in a matter of seconds, but everything seemed like slo-mo. In the gool ol' days I used to have a little protection under the car seat (you never knew what you were going to come across on the lonely stretches of blacktop in Texas). I thank God that those days are over and that the only things under my car seat nowadays are hamburger wrappers, old receipts and a coffee-stained Bible. I had no idea what I was doing with a car full of kids, taunting an angry man while waiting for him to make a move. I know it was stupid. But, in just that instant, I was back to my old self, my old ways.

Here are a few thoughts of popular wisdom on anger:

1. "Speak when you're angry and you'll make the best speech you'll ever regret." - Unknown

2. "A man is measured by the size of things that anger him." - Geof Greenleaf

3. "Whatever is begun in anger ends in shame." - Benjamin Franklin

Here is the wisdom of the Bible on anger:

1. He that is soon angry dealeth foolishly; (Proverbs 14:17a)
All impulsive, reactionary anger ends up in foolish choices (ie, dealings). We handle matters best when calm and under control. Can you think of a time when you've made a great decision in a time of rage?

2. He that is slow to wrath is of great understanding: but he that is hasty of spirit exalteth folly. (Prov. 14:29)
Again, slow to anger and quick to listen are better approaches to understanding the matter at hand than just reacting angrily and suddenly, which demonstrates a foolish character.

3. A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger. (Prov. 15:1)
He who is soft-spoken can deflate anger, even if the truth is being spoken; unlike provocative words which add fuel to the fire.

4. He that hath no rule over his own spirit is like a city that is broken down, and without walls. (Prov 25:28)
Someone who can't control his anger is someone without boundaries. Watch out for this fella.

5. An angry man stirreth up strife, and a furious man aboundeth in transgression. (Prov. 29:22)
All angry men do is cause trouble for themselves and others, and a man who rages is someone who is in sin and neck-deep in breaking the law.

What does this kind of anger say about you?
It says that you have no self-control; thus, you have no inner strength to overcome your own emotions and reactions to situations. Your internal life is a mess and you're not even at peace with yourself, let alone with others around you. And, because you have no strength to rein in your anger, you are really weak. By blowing up, you think you are tough; all you're showing to the world is that you're like a diseased tree. Tough on the outside, but possessing shallow roots, and hollow and empty and rotting (with anger) on the inside.

Anger can shatter relationships; it ruins both the joy and health of many. Sadly, people tend to justify their anger instead of accepting responsibility for it. It's always someone else's fault. Yeah, sure, bud. That's why YOU end up beat up and holed up in jail, even though it was THEIR fault. Huh! That's why you lose friends, right? THEY shouldn't have said anything to hurt your teeny-weeny feelings. And that's why you get cut loose at work, because THEY caused YOU to lose your anger. Everyone but you controls those worn out knobs to your emotions, right buddy?

I thank Jesus that the Holy Spirit held me back that morning. I am no longer that man, even if I still look the same. The Bible says that I am a new man in Christ (II Corinthians 5:17). In fact, the more you study the Bible, and I mean all of it, the more Scripture will come to your rescue in times of trial and troubles. On that fateful morning, this is what came to mind:

"Be ye angry, and sin not." (Ephesians 6:26)

Instead of continuing on my foolish track to confrontation, I turned on my blinker and turned toward the school and got out of the way of the raging man behind us. After I dropped off my children, I pulled over on the next street and asked God for forgiveness of my behavior. In prayer, I remembered this Bible passage:

"Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good." (Romans 12:21).

So I continued in prayer for the angry man in the rearview mirror and asked for him to come to know the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ, who is the only One who could change him. After all, He changed me. And everytime I see myself in the mirror, I'm reminded about what Christ gave me that I didn't have before.


February 17, 2010

The Theory of Relativity

My children are memorizing Scripture because my wife and I feel it's important for them to know the Truth. When I asked my eldest daughter which Scripture she had memorized, she told me Proverbs 8:20 and quoted it correctly. Then I asked her what that verse meant and she paused and scratched her head, started to say something then backtracked and finally said, "I don't know."

It's one thing to quote from the Holy Bible. And it's an entirely different matter when it comes to knowing the Truth and understanding it. I could easily memorize Albert Einstein's famous equation on relativity. People recognize it as E = mc2 (the little 2 is supposed to be a superscript of c, but I can't get the format to work). Anyway, Einstein derived the equation of energy and mass, and how they are equivalent. Now, ask me what it all means and I'll give pause, scratch my head and eventually mumble, "I don't know."

So, it's important to know Scripture and know Scripture.

It's important for our little ones to know the Truth and carry It with them wherever they go. In fact, Scripture serves like a sword, cutting through all of the red tape, hogwash and other nonsense this world throws at us. In fact, Hebrews 4:12 says, "For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword..." So, God's Word guides us into all Truth, cutting to the chase. Hebrews 4:12 ends by saying, "...piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart." In other words, when you read God's Word, it also reads you.

Here are examples of lies and the Scriptural references to counter the lies:

1. Try this drug/alcohol, you'll like it. - "Can a man take a fire in his bosom and his clothes not be burned?" [Proverbs 6:27]

2. Don't get mad, get even. - "Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord." [Romans 12:19]

3. Follow your heart and you will be happy. "The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked: who can know it?" [Jeremiah 17:9]

I won't belabor the point, but you see how wonderful God's word is in protecting us from the lies of the devil, the world, and even our own selves. The key, though, is not only knowing Scripture, but also understanding the context of the Bible passage as well as how it applies to our own lives.

But, the thing is this: The Bible can be understood only by those are who saved. You see, the Bible is God inspired. Those who are born again have His indwelling Spirit living inside to help us understand His word. So, for those who aren't saved, reading the Bible will not yield any type of change of the lasting kind. To the unsaved, Scripture is a bunch of dead letters. That's why we read the Bible; not just for wisdom, but for real change in our choices. Plus, it's vital to be connected to a Bible-believing church (I Timothy 3:15)

There is Good News for the unsaved who want to read the Bible; the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John are intended for them. These four books can be read by the unsaved because they give one simple message: Repent. It is the message that Jesus Christ spoke to sinners of that time and speaks even now to you and me.

Ultimately, the purpose of knowing and understanding the Bible is to know Jesus Christ, who was the Word; He was with God and He is God (John 1:1).

Which brings up the question: If you were to die today, do you know if you would be going to heaven or to hell? Scripture teaches that in order to enter into the kingdom of God, you must be born again (John 3:5, 7). Jesus is the Way, the Truth and Life. There is no other name under heaven whereby men can get saved (Acts 4:12). Choosing or rejecting Jesus Christ will be the most important decision you'll ever make in your life. I hope and pray you choose wisely.