Harry S. Truman once asked this series of questions:
How far would Moses have gone if he had taken a poll in Egypt? What would Jesus Christ have preached if he had taken a poll in the land of Israel?...It isn't polls or public opinion of the moment that counts. It is right and wrong and leadership.
In a day of polls and approval ratings, we often lose sight of the main point. Doing what's right no matter what. I've heard it said many times, and it bears repeating, "It's always right to do right, and it's always wrong to do wrong." We might add to that, "It's always right to do right, no matter what public opinion is."
Think about it for a second. If Noah had listened to the popular voice of his day, he never would have built the ark and consequently would have died in the flood along with his family and every other person on the planet (Gen. 6-7). If Lot had not listened to God's messengers then he would have been consumed in the destruction in Sodom, right along with his wife and daughters (Gen. 19-20). Had Peter continued to deny the Lord, the popular thing at the moment, he never would have preached the gospel, unlocking the doors to the kingdom of Christ (Acts 2).
Are we concerned more about public approval than the approval of God? In the book of 1 Corinthians, the apostle Paul writes about three courts of approval: one's own court, the people's court, and the court of God. Listen to the inspired penman's words:
But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged of you, or of man's judgment: yea, I judge not mine own self. For I know nothing by myself; yet am I not herby justified: but he that judgeth me is the Lord (1 Cor. 4:3-4).
We need to be careful that we do things and say things in such a way that we can live with ourselves--the court of our own conscience. Paul said that he wanted to act so as to have his conscience "void of offense" (Acts 24:16).
When it comes to the people's court, it's okay to have the approval of our peers. It is said of Jesus that he increased in the favor of man (Lk. 2:52).
But more importantly than these two courts is the courtroom of God. He is ultimately the one who judges us, and at the end of the day, the only one who really counts (2 Cor. 5:10). He will judge us openly even for what we do secretly (Rm. 2:16).
Public opinion should concern us very little, provided we have the approval of God. That goes for citizens, world leaders, church leaders, preachers, and you and me.
Have a blessed day!
Preachers have said a lot of strange things about the grace of God over the years. I recently read where a preacher stated, "Because of God's grace, I sin all I want!" As the story goes, I think the preacher realized that something just didn't sound right about that statement so he paused and then said, "In fact, because of God's grace, I sin more than I want."
I don't really care for either of those statements, but the second one got me to thinking about how God's grace affords me opportunity after opportunity to return to God after I sin. It's not that God's grace, His merciful and loving kindness toward me, is so that I can sin more. Rather, it's because God knows I will sin from time to time, that He grants me returning power when I do.
The apostle, Paul, spoke about this very thing in his epistle to the Romans. He said, "What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may about? God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?" (Rm. 6:1-2). Christians have been called to live a new life--a life away from sin. Not that we will be sinlessly perfect, but that we will sin less.
God doesn't want us to sin, but since times of weakness come, and we sin, thanks be to God for His grace!
I hope you have a blessed day.
David E. Garland said, "We are mistaken if we think that people are simply looking for friendly churches; they are looking for friends."
Churches will often receive notes from visitors who are passing through town that say things like, "thanks for the warm reception" or, "you're such a friendly church." But, what about folks who visit our churches from the community, or are transplants looking for a new church home? Being a "friendly church" will catch their attention, but what will keep them coming?
I'd like to think that folks keep coming because they see the church's benevolent spirit, evangelistic outreach, biblical soundness in the pulpit and in the Bible classes, or personal opportunities to serve. While all of these things most definitely play a part in one's decision to stay in a local congregation, I suspect Mr. Garland was correct. Folks are looking for relationships. Anything wrong with that?
The early Christians didn't seem to think so. The Bible says that the folks who became Christians on the first day of Pentecost following the resurrection, "...were together, and had all things common...they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart" (Acts 2:44,46).
These guys didn't have "surfacey" relationships with one another. It wasn't "church building only" time that they spent together. They were true friends, spending time together, and building up the church together. In the Ephesian letter, no less than nine times you find words like "together" or "one" in reference to Christians' commonality.
If there's any group of people that should have close relationships, it ought to be Christians. Why? They are called together by a common thread--the Gospel. Paul said, "That the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel" (Eph. 3:6).
Cultivating strong relationships in the church is just one of the keys to a growing congregation. Acts 2 concludes with these words, "Praising God, and having favor with all the people, And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved" (Acts 2:47). Perhaps, we could be more, do more, and win more if we established stronger bonds with our brethren.
I hope you have a blessed day!
When a math professor at Vanderbilt handed out a test to his students he said this, "Today I am giving two examinations; one in trigonometry and the other in honesty. I hope you will pass them both. If you must fail one, fail trigonometry. There are many good people in the world who can't pass trig, but there are no good people in the world who cannot pass the examination of honesty."
As parents, Emily and I often struggle in the area of child rearing. We do our best, but we sometimes fail. There are times that we have to ask God to forgive us and sometimes we must sit our children down and let them know that we've messed up on something, we're sorry and we plan to do better. I suppose it's the matter of discipline that is most difficult at times.
Obviously, there are some things that are "weightier" than others and of course demand a stiffer punishment. Knowing when to let certain things go with a "lighter sentence" and be tougher on other things can be a difficult balancing act.
There is one area that we're quite tough on however, and that's lying. I remember the first time that our oldest told a lie and knew what he was doing was wrong. It's been some time ago, but he remembers it well. He also remembers the punishment and how he felt when he knew that he let his mommy and daddy down. It's a feeling that he doesn't want to experience again.
Parents, it's difficult isn't it? But hang in there, and be tough. Don't let your children win the battles. And never ever let them slide when it comes to lying. Remember that you're setting a precedent for those kids for the future. Don't let them lie about the little things because eventually they'll do the same with the big things. Ignore the temptation of thinking that little Susie is so cute because of the "fibbing phase" she's going through. Start correcting her now.
Lying is a big deal to God (Rev. 21:8). Likewise, it should be a big deal to us as we rear our children.
I hope you have a blessed day.
Proverbs 6:16 says, "These six things doth the Lord hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto him." The word "abomination" is used to describe something that is disgusting. In this case, it is something that makes God sick--that repulses the Almighty.
Among the things in this context that God can be repulsed by is our speech. Specifically, lies and sowing discord (Pro. 6:17,19). When we deliberately mislead, spread rumors, engage in idol talk, spread malicious stories, or share unverified information from an unconfirmed source, we're doing something that offends God.
Everyday, God puts us on the witness stand and examines our heart, our actions, and our speech. As we sit on trial will we be found innocent when it comes to our speech?
I recently ran across the following:
Aesop, the ancient storyteller, told this fable: Once upon a time, a donkey found a lion's skin. He tried it on, strutted around, and frightened many animals. Soon a fox came along, and the donkey tried to scare him, too. But the fox, hearing the donkey's voice, said, "If you want to terrify me, you'll have to disguise your bray." Aesop's moral: Clothes may disguise a fool, but his words will give him away.
What are your words saying about you? Think about it.
I hope you have a great day!
A Jewish teacher by the name of Julius Gordon said, "Love is not blind--it sees more, not less. But because it sees more, it is willing to see less."
An inspired man once said, "[Love] doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil" (1 Cor. 13:5).
It's easy to hold a grudge against those who do us harm, or wrong us in some way.
Husbands and wives go days without speaking because they just can't overlook a minor issue in their mate.
A church member won't make eye contact with another because he refuses to ignore what he sees as a personality flaw.
A preacher can't get over the fact that his elders decided to go a new direction and that his services as their local preacher are no longer needed.
A co-worker takes credit for every good thing you do and you're stuck receiving the criticism for everything that goes wrong at work.
A friend's tongue gets away from him and he says things about you to someone else that you wish would have been kept confidential.
It's difficult in times like these to practice true biblical love. The kind of love that says, I will "think no evil." But we must. That expression means that we will not keep an inventory of the wrong things that someone does to us. We will be willing to "see less" because despite what others do to us we will love them the way Jesus loved us.
Have a blessed day!
This morning I read about a rough and tough sergeant who told his Army Ranger School boys at Fort Benning, Georgia that some of them would not make it as rangers. They would not have what it takes to finish their training in preparation to head off to Vietnam.
He was right as less than half of the trainees finished school and stood in formation on this particular day. Now, some may think his words were harsh, but I doubt a single veteran would. You see, he was trying to save their lives. In fact, in the article I was reading it quoted the sergeant who said,
We're going to see to it that you overcome all your natural fears--especially of height and water. We're going to show you just how much incredible stress the human mind and body can endure. And when we're finished with you, you will be the U.S. Army's best. You will not only survive in combat, you will accomplish your mission!
Yesterday, before worship I talked with one of our many veterans at church. This fellow, who I did not realize was a veteran until yesterday, served us in Vietnam. We did not talk about his training, so I don't know if he went through this same school or trained under this instructor, but I know that he made the cut, served our country faithfully and is worthy of our admiration.
Today, this Vietnam veteran is a soldier in a different kind of army. Obeying the Gospel only a few years ago, Frank Miles is a member of the Lord's Army. Now, he's learning what it means to be a soldier for Jesus. I'm honored to stand beside him and to be his fellow soldier.
In this article I was reading the sergeant told these boys that they needed to find a buddy and stick next to him. Never leave his side, he said. Why? Well, the days to come would be challenging and each soldier would need someone to help him make it through those difficult days ahead.
In the Lord's Army, we would do well to follow the sergeant's advice. We need friends who can pull us through the tough times. The Bible says, "A true friend is always loyal, and a brother is born to help in time of need" (Pro. 17:17).
Today, as we honor our veterans and lift them high with our words of appreciation, let us likewise remember our responsibilities as fellow soldiers in the army of the Lord.
Have a blessed day!
Not once, but twice did my mother have to battle the disease called cancer. She fought and fought, but in the end the battle was too great and her weak body could take it no more. I HATE cancer! I hate cancer because of what it did to my mother. I hate cancer because of how it hurt my father. I hate cancer because of what it took away--a wife, a mother, a grandmother, a friend, a confidant. I HATE CANCER!
However, as much as I hate the disease called cancer, it's spiritual cancer that I hate all the more. While you'll not find the word "cancer" in your Bible, you will find it's synonym--sin.
John Henry Jowett once wrote:
Sin is a blasting presence, and every fine power shrinks and withers in the destructive heat. Every spiritual delicacy succumbs to its malignant touch...Sin impairs the sight, and works toward blindness. Sin benumbs the hearing and tends to make men deaf. Sin perverts the taste, causing men to confound the sweet with the bitter, and the bitter with the sweet. Sin hardens the touch, and eventually renders a man "past feeling." All these are Scriptural analogies, and their common significance appears to be this--sin blocks and chokes the fine senses of the spirit; by sin we are desensitized, rendered imperceptive, and the range of our correspondence is diminished. Sin creates callosity. It hoofs the spirit, and so reduces the area of our exposure to pain.
Like cancer, sin changes a person from the inside out. Sin so corrupts a man's heart that his actions become equally as repulsive as that which grows within his spiritual body.
When my mother was stricken with her first form of cancer, Waldenstrom's macroglobulinemia, we did not know how or why her body contained this disease. It was a rare cancer and one that if discovered within a person's body would typically be found in older men. My mother was young, and obviously a woman. Though we were told there was no real cure and only treatment for the disease, after a number of treatments she went into complete remission. The second cancer, coming more than seven years later, a form of acute leukemia, was thought to have been caused by the treatment for the first cancer. So, with one of the cancers we had no idea how she got it, but with the other, we had a pretty good idea of the cause.
I'm not sure why, at least every reason, someone chooses to let sin eat away at their heart. However, I have some ideas:
1. Perhaps they fail to remember who they are and whose they are. They're Christians saved by grace and children of the Heavenly Father (Eph. 2:8; Rm. 8:15).
2. It could be that they've lost sight of the benefits of being a Christian (Eph. 1:3ff).
3. Some may forget what they've been saved from--all manner of wickedness. Now, they stand pure and white by the blood of the Lamb (Isa. 1:17-18).
4. Others may have dismissed all thoughts of punishment on the Last Great Day if that sin is left unrepented of (2 Cor. 5:10).
Oh, I hate cancer. I hate everything about it. But I hate spiritual cancer all the more. It destroys lives, relationships, and one day will destroy souls in hell.
May God help us, and He promises to, if we find ourselves with a malignant disease growing on our soul, to reach for the one thing that will cure us--the blood of Jesus (Mt. 26:28). Too, may we apply it on a regular basis so as to free our hearts of this dreaded disease, this cancer called sin (1 Jn. 1:5-9).
Have a blessed day!
Dan Reeves wrote, "I learned during my year out of coaching that, regardless of what business you're in, you're going to have problems. How you deal with them is what counts. You don't turn your back on them."
There will be problems in business, no doubt. Likewise, there will be problems in marriages, elderships, church relationships, friendships, and so on. If problems are not dealt with as they arise, then marriages will end, elderships will collapse, churches will lose members, friendships will dissolve and so on.
We cannot, must not, turn our backs on problems. We have to deal with them. "But it's just a little problem," you say. Have you ever heard the expression, "many littles make a muckle"? It means that lots of small things can add up to one huge thing.
Here are some things that will help:
1. Go to God for help (Phil. 4:6).
2. Remember who will get you through each difficulty (Phil. 4:13).
3. Keep in mind that you can't work through everything yourself, no matter how smart you are (Pro. 3:6).
4. When you ask for God's help, step back and let Him work (Mt. 7:7).
Have a blessed day!
While preparing for Sunday's sermon I discovered a Greek word for worship that I was unfamiliar with. Before I get to that, here's a review of some of the words the Greek New Testament uses for worship:
There is proskuneo (Mt. 2:2). This word means worship and is the idea of reverentially blowing a kiss to God. It's as if we're giving something to God that He longs to receive.
Then, there is sebomai (Mt. 15:9). In short, it means to revere. It's also translated worship. When we worship, we stand in awe of the One who made us, sustains us, and will save us in the end.
There is the word latreuo (Phil. 3:3). This word is translated in two ways in our New Testament. It can mean worship or service. Or, it can be both. Context must determine how it's to be understood. For example, in Romans 12:1-2 we are to transform our lives to that which will live for Jesus because it's our reasonable latreuo. Does that mean service or worship? It means service. Not all of life is worship but all of life should be lived in service to God.
But here's the word that was unfamiliar to me. It's the word therapeuo. It is also translated worship. In Acts 17:25, speaking of the worship of angels, you'll find the word therapeuo. Does it sound like any english word you're familiar with? Of course, it's the word therapy, or therapeutic.
Now, if we combine all four of these words, notice what you have. When we reverentially approach God by participating in the acts of worship which He authorizes, make a sacrifice of our hearts in service to Him, He's pleased with us. When we've put our entire being into that worship the result for us then is the best therapy session one can ever have, because it's a therapy session with God. God designed worship not only to be something which He will enjoy but as something that benefits us as well.
Can't wait until Sunday to worship God--for the therapy session you need? Don't! Pray today. Sing today. Have family devotions today.
I hope you have a blessed day!