Soul Danger

I’m very disturbed. Last Thursday I watched part of the Judge Kavanaugh/Dr. Christine Ford hearing, and the more I watched, the angrier and more discouraged I became. Over the last few years, I’ve watched the soul of America unraveling, and I’m concerned that we’re getting close to the point of no return. Regardless of your political persuasion, I hope that you share my concern. This concern is not as much about Kavanaugh, Ford, Trump, or Feinstein as it is about the not so slow deterioration of honesty, virtue, righteousness, and integrity. The fact that in order to confirm or not confirm a Supreme Court justice we have to stoop to such shameful measures and tactics is truly a disgrace to the nation and offers a peek into the rotting condition of our national soul. We have come to a place where ideology is more important than truth and the means seem totally justified regardless of the end, as long as the end supports one’s political or philosophical purposes.

Here’s an opinion statement: I don’t think the uproar over Kavanaugh is as much about the judge or even the position as it is about philosophy or even theology. Politicians on all sides have agendas, and it seems that people are willing to go to any extreme to accomplish those agendas. If there is something deeply wrong with Kavanaugh’s character, then he needs to be disqualified. If not, then he needs to be confirmed. I personally think the battle is mainly over issues like abortion and same-sex marriages. I do not believe that abortion or same-sex marriage are political issues. They are spiritual issues. I don’t know Kavanaugh and therefore I don’t know if he is a Christian. However, I feel as if a great spiritual battle between the heavenlies is being waged before our eyes. Over the years, we have passed some laws that blatantly contradict the teaching of Scripture. Whether Kavanaugh should be on the court or not is to be seen, but I think the real battle is for the soul of America.

I don’t see myself as a Democrat or Republican. I vote for the person who best represents the truth of God’s Word. I agree strongly with Proverbs 14:34, “Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a disgrace for any people.” Because righteousness is defined by laws, and the Supreme Court is the final law of our land, we should not be surprised to see the intensity of the battle for who will control this court. Because unrighteousness destroys a nation, I believe the hosts of hell are lined up trying to figure out how to lead our country farther away from the truth upon which this country was built. If you believe the Word of God, then I encourage you to pray for our political leaders that they will pass laws and our judicial leaders that they will uphold laws and the Constitution in such a way that we as a people are walking in righteousness. This means we should pray for God’s intervention and leadership, and we should vote to put people in office who will help us to be a righteous people. We have a lot at stake. If we slide far enough down the slippery slope of unrighteousness and disobedience, it will be very difficult for us to come back.

Mountain Climbing

“Did you enjoy your hike?” I bet I’ve been asked that at least 50 times since returning from my most recent backpacking trip on the Appalachian Trail. My first answer is “No!” I didn’t enjoy my trip because it was a really tough hike. The definition that comes to my mind with the word enjoy is “to take delight or pleasure in.” On this last hike, I covered a section called the Roller Coaster, and I don’t think the name does it justice – especially when the region was experiencing a heat wave that made five of the eight days feel like a hot summer day in July, and the last three days were cold and windy with driving rain.

I started some years ago trying to accomplish the goal of hiking the entire 2190 miles of the Appalachian Trail one section at a time. With this last hike of 100 miles, I have made it from Springer Mountain in north Georgia to the Pennsylvania state line. When I first started, I would hike only 3 or 4 days a year, but now I’ve started trying to hike at least a week or more at a time. Unfortunately, I get older every year, and I don’t want to have to climb Mt. Katahdin in Maine with a walker.

I looked up enjoy in the dictionary and discovered that I did enjoy my hike after all. The second definition says that enjoy means “to possess and benefit from.” The fact is that hiking 100 miles on the A.T. brought me great benefit: I’m closer to accomplishing my goal, it was great exercise, I faced a tremendous challenge and won, I did a lot of praying, I met some great people, and I got to spend time with my father, who met me at the end.

I reminded myself numerous times through my hike that life is not just about having fun. It is about personal growth, victories, character, and facing challenges. It is about becoming the person God wants me to be. The fact is that we can’t become the person God wants us to be without struggle and pain. God wants to shape our character, and mountain climbing is part of the recipe for personal growth. Your mountain may come in the form of financial struggles, parenting challenges, or setbacks with your health. We’ve all got mountains to climb, and they’re all part of God’s divine plan to help us to become the person that not only He wants us to become but also the person we want to become.

Are you climbing a mountain right now? Is life kind of difficult in this current season? You’re probably in just the right place, so enjoy it.

If You Always Do What You’ve Always Done…

I just watched the University of Georgia score another touchdown against Alabama increasing their lead to 20-7. That’s the good news. The bad news is that I happen to be at a restaurant which is playing a rerun of the college football national championship game. I happen to know that Alabama came back to beat Georgia, so I don’t think the outcome of the game I’m watching today is going to change what I know to be a sad history.

Do you ever do the same old thing hoping for a new outcome? We do it all of the time. We eat the same fattening food hoping that this time we can enjoy calories without consequences. Unfortunately, it’s no different this time than it was last time. We pull out plastic to pay for something we shouldn’t buy promising to pay it all off at the end of the month. The problem is that we find that we have more month than money. That happened last month, too. We walk precariously on the pinnacle of temptation hoping that this time we can maintain our resolve and not fall into sin. Oh, well. Our resolve doesn’t seem to be any stronger this time around as it was last time.

Here’s the lesson I’ve gained by sitting here watching Alabama slowly come back on Georgia and take the lead. If you want the outcome of the game to be different, you’ve got to change the plays. What plays do you need to change in your life so that today is not a rerun of yesterday?

 

Which Way Should I Go?

How many of us have ever struggled with discerning God’s direction for our lives? I think I just saw everyone’s hand shoot into the air. I really don’t think that God has made His voice so indiscernible and will so elusive that knowing His will should be so difficult. Maybe the problem is not with God. Maybe it’s us. My church is currently involved in a fall spiritual growth emphasis, and we’re using Craig Groeschel’s book, Divine Direction, as our small group study. His book is AWESOME. It will possibly make my best book of 2018 choice. I am also preaching a short series to go along with the study. The first two messages are posted now, and the third should be up by the end of the week.

In my first message, I emphasize the fact that we are writing our life’s story every day that we live. I’ve got to confess that at times in my life, I have written a few lines carelessly. I wish I could find the delete button and re-write a few pages. While I can do that with the books I write, I can’t do that with the life I’m living. My life’s book is permanent as it’s written, and so is yours. Our challenge is to think ahead to what we want the final chapters of our lives to say. Is the chapter you are writing today going to get you to those final chapters you have envisioned? The chapter we are writing today will determine the chapters we write tomorrow because we are becoming today who we will be tomorrow. The choices and decisions we make today determine everything about our final chapters.

Stop and take a little inventory. Think ahead to what you want in that final chapter of your life. If the decisions you’re making today or the sentences being written by your current actions will not get you to your desired conclusion, you’ve got to change your story now. You can’t wait a year or two. I encourage you to consider what changes are needed now so your story has the best conclusion years from now.

 

Can God Do Anything?

I’ve always known that there is nothing that God cannot do, but is that statement true? Before you think I’m writing heresy, consider the words of Mark 6:5: “And He could do no miracle there except that He laid His hands on a few sick people and healed them.” Has that story ever bothered you? In response to that scripture, you could easily say that Jesus’ miraculous power seems to be dependent upon people’s faith. When something in the Scripture seems to disconnect from something else in the Scripture that has been presented as truth, we should be careful not to build a theology on a casual reading of a passage. For example, the angel Gabriel told Mary in Luke 1:37, “For nothing will be impossible with God,” yet in Mark 6:5 we’re told, “He could do no miracle there…” Let’s consider what message Mark 6:5 has for us today.

When I come across a “fuzzy” passage, I first look at other translations. ESV, NIV, KJV, and others all carry the same message: He could not do miracles in Nazareth because of the lack of faith of the people. In this case, the English word that is translated “could” seems to be consistent. When I consider my own use of the English language, is it possible I can use the word could to mean different things? Yes. I might say, “He could not lift the heavy stone,” which is to say it was impossible for him to lift the object because it was beyond his human capacity to do so. Consider this statement about Dr. Billy Graham, “He could never mislead the American people.” While Dr. Graham technically could be deceptive, we know that such actions would stand in stark contrast to the character we have come to know and love in this awesome man of God. We would be correct in saying he could never do such a thing. The statements about the stone and about Dr. Graham are true, but they portray different messages.

When you are studying passages in a Gospel, you can look for parallels in other Gospels. God’s word will never contradict. Matthew 13:58 is a parallel passage: “And He did not do many miracles there because of their unbelief.” Matthew’s version provides an interesting contrast that may help us to better understand Mark’s version. Maybe while Jesus literally could do anything, including miracles in His home town, He would not because of their unbelief.

You can also look at the original language, if you can find the proper resources. One writer described the Greek word translated as “could not” as possibly denoting that someone deliberately purposed not to do something as opposed to being physically unable to do it.

With all of this in mind, is it possible that while Jesus can do anything, He purposed not to do it because it stood in opposition to how He chooses to work. Scripture is clear that faith and surrender are key ingredients to God’s plan, and since the people of Galilee would not believe, performing miracles in that context would be contrary to God’s plan.

What does this understanding mean to you? Is there something that God would like to do in your life, but He can’t (or won’t) because you are not surrendering to His leadership in your life?

 

Can Christians Just Be Fans?

I was passionate, emotional, and a little exhausted Saturday night sometime close to 11:00. I watched Georgia defeat Notre Dame, barely. I saw a bunch of guys in South Bend, Indiana who were also passionate, emotional, and maybe more than a little exhausted. There was a big difference between me and them. They were all in, committed, giving it up for and with their team. I’m glad Georgia won (though I still like Mark Richt), but in the end, I’m just a fan. Just because I cheered, got excited, and sustained a small injury during the game (pulled muscle when I got a little excited at the end of the game), I’M NOT ON THE TEAM. I’m just a fan.

Christians are more than just excited about Jesus and loosely connected to the church. They are all in, totally committed, sold out followers of Jesus Christ. I shared Matthew 7:22-23 in my last post where Jesus points out the surprise fans will experience when they find out too late that they are not on the team. They never left the stands. They never surrendered their lives to Jesus. Christians are not just fans. You cannot be a Christian unless you have surrendered your life to Jesus as your Lord (Romans 10:9-10).

Does that mean that followers never give less than 110%? We should always give everything in our act of following, but sometimes we don’t. The difference between a fan and follower, is that a follower really loves Jesus and wants to live a surrendered life. When followers realize something is askew in their Christian life, they repent and respond to God’s prompting to get back in the game.

So, are you a fan or a follower?

Not A Fan

Not a fan, but a follower. I’ve heard about Kyle Idleman’s book, “Not a Fan,” for several years, but I began reading it a few months ago. It offers a crisp distinction between being casually enamored with Christianity to being a full-blown follower. I am now sharing a teaching series on the subject, and our small groups are going through Idleman’s study. There’s a big difference between being a fan and being a follower. In my message Sunday, I said…

  • Fans like Jesus; but followers love Jesus.
  • Fans are willing to cheer for Jesus but followers are willing to die for Jesus.
  • Fans focus on the benefits, but followers focus on the benefactor.

Jesus doesn’t want fans. He wants followers.

Consider this question. If you are a fan, are you a Christian? That’s an important question. The issue to consider is whether or not someone who is not “all in” is truly a believer. Jesus said in Matthew 7:22-23, “Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you who practice lawlessness.’” Were the people Jesus was talking about merely fans?

Think about this question: “Are you a fan or a follower?” Why not spend some time making a list of the differences between fan and follower. I highly recommend the book and the small group study. I will address this issue later this week as we consider the possibility of being a Christian while only being a fan.

Breaking the Ten Commandments

Governor Mike Huckabee tweeted yesterday, “Some idiot in my home state broke all 10 commandments at the same time.” His tweet referenced an incident that happened at the Capital in Little Rock, Arkansas. A man drove his truck into the newly erected Ten Commandments monument, breaking it into pieces. The man posted a video on Facebook that he was going to destroy the monument because it was a violation of the separation of church and state. He then streamed the criminal act live on Facebook as his 2016 Dodge Dart raced across Capital grounds, and as he crashed into the monument, he shouted, “Freedom.”

Ignoring the fact that the man has to be deranged to blatantly break the law and ram a nearly brand new car into a state monument, two things strike me as interesting about this incident. First, the man obviously doesn’t understand the whole concept of separation of church and state. I’ll write in more detail about that in my next blog, but the whole issue was initially discussed out of a desire to protect the church from the state, not the state from the church.

The second incongruity is that the man shouted the word “freedom” as he hit the monument. Why did he shout that word? Does he really think that we are free without God’s law? The fact is that we are free because of God’s law. It’s obvious that the hoodlum doesn’t realize that one reason we enjoy the freedoms we have in our country is that our Founding Fathers built our great nation on the Law of God. The Ten Commandments and the Word of God provide for us the moral code and foundation of our nation that is woven into the fabric of our country. This guy has no regard for law, or otherwise, he never would have driven his car across the Capital grounds. For some reason, he thinks that our society would be better if everyone could just create their own system of law. In other words, if our government passes a law that we don’t like, we have the right and privilege of disobeying it. Really? That’s called anarchy! The unstable man streamed his act of disrespect to the law because he thinks it made him out to be a hero, but in truth, it showed him to be a fool. Psalm 14:1 says, “The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God.’”

Shake the Salt

“You are the salt of the earth.” Jesus told His followers that we have a role in our world to season and preserve. Notice that Jesus said “You are.” Influencing our world should be as natural for the believer as breathing or sleeping. So, how do you influence the world? We all have countless opportunities, but in this blog, I am going to address one area about which I am passionate.

Technology has opened a whole new world to all of us through social media, blogging, and even writing and publishing books. This thought led me to write a series of books called “The Published Pastor.” To date, I have two books in the series (Book 1 – “Expanding Your Ministry Through Writing and Publishing” and Book 2 – “How to Write and Publish Books”), and I will soon be releasing a third book on the topic of marketing Many of you who read my blogs could become a published author, and that would be one way you could be salt in our earth.

While the title of the Published Pastor series suggests these books only apply to pastors, the information is applicable to anyone who would like to write and publish. If you are a pastor, small group leader, Sunday School teacher, or Bible study leader, the books will have easy application to some of the things you do on a regular basis. You will see that I speak directly to pastors about how to turn a sermon series into a book, but the principles are easily applicable to every circumstance. Dr. Gerald Harris recently reviewed this series in the Christian Index. He said, “The book is extremely well written, extraordinarily helpful, and as practical as a Bible is to a Gospel preacher.” You can click this link to read the entire review.

In this series, I wrote to encourage Christians to use the resources availed to them through technology today to make a difference in the world. I also wanted to remove the mystery of becoming a published author and show that if you have ever considered writing a book, you can certainly do it. I originally published these as digital books and then combined books 1 & 2 into one paperback book. If $2.99 will stretch your budget right now, feel free to contact me, and I’ll send you a copy for free.

Whether you want to write books, record CD’s, paint pictures, blog, or create another product with a Christian message, I encourage you to find your avenue to make a difference in the world. Don’t keep saying that you will make a difference one day through your gifts or talents. Do it today. If you are interested in writing, I am happy to help you any way I can. Our challenge is to shake the salt, and God’s Kingdom will shine through us.

Israel in Prophecy

We’ve heard a lot of talk lately about moving the U. S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem. Does this issue have anything to do with Bible prophecy?

Without a doubt, Israel will play an important role in the last days, and it will eventually serve as the capital city of the world (Zechariah 14:9-11). Anything that happens in our world that keeps Jerusalem on the forefront of our minds could be considered prophetic. If we move our embassy to Jerusalem, we are certainly drawing attention to the city that will one day be center of the world, it it’s not already.

Scholars have differed over the meaning of the word Jerusalem, but it seems to mean “City of Peace.” Israel has not lived up to her name, but the Bible says that in the last days, Israel will experience peace for a season. Ezekiel was led by God to tell us that during a time of peace for Israel, their defenses will be down. It is during this time that the 5-nation coalition, along with Russia, will attack Israel in a battle the Bible calls the Battle of Gog and Magog (Ezekiel 38-39).

So, what can we watch for in the news regarding Israel? We will see continued attention placed upon Jerusalem, and we will eventually see a period of peace for the Jewish people. It is hard for us to imagine peace for Israel right now with all of the tension in the Middle East. It leads me to wonder what will happen so that Israel will have peace. It could be a treaty with the Palestinians and the destruction of Hamas and other factions. Regardless of how it happens, Jerusalem will finally live up to her name – at least for a season.

What about Russia? What role does Russia play in the last days? I’ll write about that next. In the meantime, keep your eyes on Israel. God is moving us toward an amazing conclusion.