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?

 

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.’”

A Day Without a Woman

“A Day Without a Woman” – Women’s rights groups organized a march on Washington today to celebrate International Women’s Day, and they encouraged women to stand together against inequality and injustice against women. They marched against President Trump and “the decades long economic inequality, racial and sexual violence, and imperial wars abroad.” The organizers asked women to take off work, avoid shopping, and basically not do the things they would normally do in a day. Thrown into the mix of all of the platforms of the movement was the platform of “reproductive justice,” which basically is a call for the right to kill unborn children at any point during pregnancy. The International Women’s Strike group included this statement on their website: “We demand free abortion without conditions.” Without conditions includes abortion at full-term just before birth, partial birth abortion, convenience abortion at any point during the pregnancy, and any other form of abortion the woman wishes to have without consideration of the baby’s rights. What about reproductive justice for the unborn?

I must hasten to say that I believe if a woman is doing the same job as a man, she should be paid the same, and women should be respected and regarded highly at all levels. In my opinion, this focus today had nothing to do with honoring women. It had everything to do with hatred of President Trump, pride, arrogance, self-servitude and self-aggrandizement. These attitudes are a total 180 from what the Bible teaches about love, servanthood and humility. Organizers of the event referred to themselves as an “army of love,” but I only see hatred (toward President Trump and maybe all men in general).

The only way our country will find healing during this terrible time of upheaval is if we will apply the golden rule (Do unto others what you want them to do unto you) and the Great Commandment (Love your neighbor as yourself). Marching with an agenda of hatred, acting with a motive of malevolence, or speaking with a goal of besmirching political leaders does not honor God and does not make for a strong Republic.

I would like to encourage a day that we would not call “A Day Without a Woman,” but maybe “A Day for a Woman.” Let’s serve the ladies in our lives and give them the respect that they deserve. Let’s thank God for the wonderful gift of women in our lives. If you’re a woman, it is my hope that you are appalled at what transpired today and would recommit yourself to the attributes and character qualities that best represent Jesus Christ. Then let’s have “A Day for Unity” where people of both sexes and all ethnicities stand together as Americans – not white Americans, black Americans, male or female Americans, Mexican-Americans – just Americans. Maybe we could follow that up with “A Day for Jesus” where all Christians share the wonderful stories of how Jesus Christ has changed our lives.

It’s time to come together. Psalm 133:1 says, “How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity!” Let’s all recommit ourselves to community and love. Let’s look around today to see who we can out serve. Focus on giving instead of receiving. Think of serving others instead of reclaiming our rights. That would be a real day worth celebrating.

What Now?

americaprayWhat now? It seems like an eternity ago, but it’s only been a week. Many of us stayed up all night on November 8 to await the outcome of the presidential election. I couldn’t go to sleep. I sat glued to my television until after 4:00 in the morning. I’ve gone on the record a few months ago by saying that I didn’t like either option for a president (that is Republican or Democratic candidates), but voters obviously narrowed it down to two possibilities, so I had to choose between the two. My vote for president this year had more to do with policies and positions rather than personalities.

I do not believe God can bless a nation who passes laws contrary to His Word. God cannot honor a people who dishonor His people. By this, I mean that I want a president who is not a part of the movement to persecute Christians and to withdraw from Israel. I want a president who will help insure my religious freedoms and not force Christians to stand against government policy because it is contrary to God’s policy. I want a president who will appoint Supreme Court justices who will abide by the Constitution and not try to rewrite it. I believe that life starts at conception, and I want justices who will protect life from its inception. I have other political priorities and opinions, but these issues are close to my heart. Will Donald Trump bring all of these things to pass? I hope so, and will pray to that end.

So, what must we do now? We must do the same thing that I hope we’ve been doing our entire life: pray for our nation and pray for our leaders. First Timothy 2:1-2 states, “First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity.” It is our responsibility to pray for our leaders. The Scripture indicates that the consequence of the persistent prayers of the faithful people of God is that we will be able to lead tranquil and quiet lives. While many of us prayed fervently before the election, we must double our efforts now after the election. President Elect Trump and all of Congress are counting on us. The people of the United States are depending on us. James 5:16 states, “The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.”

The United States of America is the greatest nation on the earth, but our greatness is not just for our benefit. God has made us great so we can bless the world. He gave us light so we can shine it throughout the darkened recesses of our globe. I urge you to join with me as we pray for our political leaders and for our spiritual leaders. I also urge you to join in with me in recommitting yourself to shining your light into the darkness. We have much work to do for God’s glory.

 

If My People Will…Pray

pledge

2 Chronicles 7:14 “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”

Solomon obeyed the Lord and built a magnificent temple in Jerusalem. At the conclusion of this great project, all of the people of Israel gathered to celebrate the completion of the temple and to dedicate it to the Lord. After the people left and Solomon was alone, the Lord appeared to him one night and told him that He heard Solomon’s prayer. The Lord then made an interesting statement, “When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command locusts to devour the land or send a plague among my people…”

Why would God shut up the heavens so it didn’t rain or send a plague on His people? It sounds to me like he was pointing to the reality of judgment upon Israel. God knew that even though they had just dedicated the temple, His people would waver and fall away from Him. Israel’s history and humanity’s disposition shows that as sure as night follows day, sin follows obedience. Israel lived out a cyclical pattern of obedience, submission, and pleasing God followed by a period of sin, rebellion, and dishonoring God. In response to this reality of human weakness, God made two promises. The first one is stated above: He will bring judgment upon humanity. The second one is contained in the next verse (2 Chronicles 7:14): “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”

This famous verse was part of a conversation God had with King Solomon in the middle of the night about Israel, but God included it in His Word for us. Israel is not the only people with a propensity to sin, and God’s promise still rings out true for us. If we will turn to God, God will heal our land.

Our nation is at a crossroad, and the people of God must fall on their faces before Almighty God and seek him as never before. The path we have taken for many years is a path leading us away from our Creator. The consequence of rebellion is judgment. If we do not repent and come back to God, His hand of protection will be lifted from our great country, and we will encounter His wrath.

We are in the final stages of electing a president for our nation. This election process has been shameful and embarrassing, but the differences between the candidates are stark. As Christians who have a voice in the electoral process and who are seeking the face of God, we must vote and we must ask God for mercy and healing as a nation. We should vote for the candidate who will best lead us to be a nation who honors the Lord. While economic prosperity is important and while military strength is essential, the Bible says that a nation is blessed “whose God is the Lord” (Psalm 33:12).

This next president will be selecting at least one new Supreme Court justice and will have considerable influence upon the future direction of our land. In the past, we have passed laws that stand in direct contrast to the clear teaching of the Word of God. Our next president will be making choices about future laws. Will we continue to move down a path away from God or will we come back toward being a people who submit to God’s sovereign rule? If we move away from God, we can expect “the heavens to be shut up and locusts to devour the land.” God’s judgment will come in a variety of ways, but it will come.

I’m writing to call us to pray. We must seek God’s face and intercede for our nation. We must turn from our sin and turn to God. I’m asking you to join me in these final three days of the election process in prayer, crying out to God for help and mercy. If you can fast, I encourage you to fast. Will you set apart a significant amount of time during the next three days to cry out to our Creator for His help and intervention. If we as a people will pray and seek the face of God and turn from our sin, then we will hear from heaven, and God will heal our land.

Family Devotion

Getting Started: As a family, name ways that we can talk with someone who is not in the same room as us. When we talk with people, we can get to know who they are and what is important to them. It is the same with God. God wants us to talk to Him, so we can know him better. What are some ways we can talk to God?

Bible Time:

God loves it when we talk to Him. Another name for talking to God is prayer. When we pray, we are talking and listening to God. We can talk to God anywhere about anything.

Read 2 Chronicles 7:14 and Jeremiah 29:11-13

After the temple had been built, God appeared to Solomon. God told Solomon that there would be hard times ahead for the nation of Israel. He promised that if the people prayed and followed God, He would hear them and heal their land. In the book of Jeremiah, God again promised that he had a plan for Israel and promised to hear their prayers. Just like God had a plan for Israel, God also has a plan for each of us and listens to us when we pray. We can talk to Him about anything!

Discussion:

  1. How can we talk to God?
  2. What are some things we can talk to God about?

Family Activity:

Stock a basket with index cards, markers, and stickers. Have children decorate the cards and write a prayer request on each card for our country and leaders. Place the basket on the dinner table. Each night at dinner have a child choose a card and pray for that request. Remind the kids how God promises to hear our prayers.

How Do You Say Goodbye to your Mother?

momHow do you say goodbye to your mother? My mother passed away last week. I kissed her the night before she died, told her I loved her, and told her that she would soon see Jesus. It was a sad time when she died the next day, but our sorrow was not for my mom. It was for us. My mother loved Jesus with all of her heart. The scripture is clear that “to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5:8). Even with Alzheimer’s, my mother lived out her faith. Just months before her death, she was not able to talk about much, but she could carry on a conversation about the Word of God. She would sing hymns and pray. A month before she passed, I was at my parent’s house doing some repairs, and my mom walked into the kitchen and said, “I need to pray for you.” We bowed our heads, and she started a prayer. My mother didn’t get past “Dear Heavenly Father,” but God knew exactly what was on her heart. I am confident that the Holy Spirit finished her prayer somewhere in the portals of Heaven.

My mother was passionate about sharing the gospel with everyone in the world. She lived out her passion and influenced thousands and thousands of people all over the world. I know that she personally led over 1000 children to Christ during the 13-year period she was a camp director. I learned last week that she had written a song or chorus. I can’t believe I didn’t know that. Many of the grandchildren knew it. All of the grandchildren and great grandchildren (at least those who were old enough to sing) sang her song at her funeral:

Everyone, everywhere needs to know of God’s love; for everyone, everywhere, Jesus came from above
To die on Calvary; His great love for all to see. Everyone, everywhere needs God’s love.

My oldest daughter told me yesterday that her two-year-old daughter asked her daddy to sing to her Grandma’s song. I am confident that my mother’s heart and life’s passion will continue to influence my family and the world for generations to come.

How do you say goodbye to your mother? If you and your mom are Christians, you don’t have to. The Bible is clear that we do not grieve as those who have no hope. Our hope is in Jesus Christ. I have no doubt my mother is in Heaven. I don’t have to say “goodbye” but rather “I’ll see you later.”

Make America Great

2016election“I’ll make America great again.” We’ve heard that a lot over the last months of the presidential campaign from a number of candidates. I think we all realize the serious place we are in as a nation, and many of us believe that this election may be our last hope to turn around. I also believe that we all want America to be great again. There is a misnomer, however, in the midst of all of the campaign rhetoric. God is the only person who can make America great again. I fully believe that the reason America was great in the past is because America had a greater commitment to following God and His Word. We have now banned God from public places, He’s no longer welcome in our public school system, His Word is openly violated as our nation’s leaders have passed laws that diametrically oppose the teaching of Scripture, Christians are scorned, and God’s truth is belittled. Should we be surprised that America has lost her luster? The Bible is clear: “Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord” (Psalm 33:12). I believe that many Americans are tired of political correctness and dishonest politicians. We long for a leader who is principle centered, tough against terrorism, and strong in the face of financial challenges. We will all be going to the polls soon to vote in primaries across our land and ultimately to elect a president. While a strong military is needed and a stable economy is essential, the Bible is clear about the source of a nation’s greatness: “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God” (Psalm 20:7).

 

We can listen to politicians as they try to convince us that they are the best candidate. I would encourage us to look at their message and consider their past positions. We need leaders who will not lead our nation away from the Lord. America is only great when we declare the greatness of Almighty God and surrender to His sovereign rule.

When Evil Prevails

terror

 

“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm.” Ephesians 6:10-13

 

We all stand in shock at the terrorist attacks in France yesterday. While acts of terrorism are becoming normal in our global culture, it still amazes me that people can go into a theater and start shooting innocent people in the name of their god. I could share my political opinions or even comment on what I think world leaders should do in response to this act of terror, but I prefer to address a deeper issue. We must realize that what we are watching is simply spiritual warfare. The god of this world is wreaking havoc on our world, and we are moving ever closer to the end of time that was prophesied throughout Scripture. Jesus said in Matthew 24 that perilous times would come before His return.

How do we respond to this? Our first obvious response is prayer for those who have been personally impacted by this devastation and for our leaders as they consider a proper response. Secondly, we should not be surprised. God told us in His word that calamity would come and evil would show its ugly head. We must remind ourselves that terrorists are not really our main enemy. Even ISIS is not our ultimate enemy. We do not wrestle against flesh and blood. The god of this world is our enemy. There is a spiritual battle that is being waged, and ISIS is but a pawn in the hands of the master deceiver.  There are certainly things that our national leaders must do to stop evil in its tracks, and it is my prayer that our president and other political leaders will have the substance needed to take bold stands against this global evil. However, we must see the bigger picture.

Real spiritual battle takes place in other ways. For starters, it begins on our knees. This terrorist attack should call believers to a time of great prayer. Ephesians 6:10 commands us to “be strong in the Lord.” I wrote about this passage in my book Immovable: Standing Firm in the Last Days, and I find that it has special relevance today.  Any preparation we take for spiritual conflict is built upon us yielding to the power and presence of Christ in us. Then the Ephesians 6 passage continues by telling us to take some steps in our preparation: put on the full armor of God. I urge you to consider the teaching of this passage in light of the spiritual conflict that is going on in our world. The Church of the Lord Jesus must prepare spiritually for what is going on around us. Do not be surprised by terror and persecution; be equipped. God is on His throne, and He will guide you to find strength and hope in the days to come. If you are strong in the Lord and equipped with His spiritual armor, you will be ready for whatever we will face in the days to come.

I have lowered the cost of the digital version of Immovable in hopes that it will be a guide and an encouragement for you during this time. Take steps toward preparing yourselves for the spiritual conflict that will only increase before the return of Christ. Study Ephesians 6:10-18 and Matthew 24 in light of what is going on in our world today. The Bible is clear that God will ultimately win this conflict, so we do not face these battles with hopelessness. We have great hope in Jesus Christ. Let’s pray as never before, prepare for what is to come, engage our enemy on spiritual grounds, and comfort those who hurt. Trust that our faithful God, our Leader in battle, will prevail in the days to come.

What On Earth Am I Here For?

bookWhy am I here? Has that thought ever entered your mind? Are you fulfilling the purpose for which you were made? A couple of Sundays ago, I shared a story about my wife and I getting on the wrong road while in route to my grandmother’s house in Florida. Because we missed the turn, we spent an extra two to three hours in route to Ft. Pierce, Florida. What would it be like to take the wrong road in life but not discover your mistake until your life was over? There are a lot of important topics for us to consider, but this one is right up at the top. As I look back over my life, I have made so many mistakes. Some of them were a result of ignorance, others came from obstinance, while still others happened simply because of sin. I can’t go back and change any of my failures from the past. I can, however, change the mistakes in my future that have not yet been made. One of my favorite poems is this: “I can’t go back and start over again, but I can start from here and make a brand new end.” Are you willing to start today to change your destiny? Over the next 40 days, I plan to share several blogs a week to challenge us to think about our real purpose. I encourage you to pick up a copy of Rick Warren’s book “What On Earth Am I Here For?” and read a chapter a day (It was formerly called “The Purpose Driven Life”). Read my blog and share some thoughts as we journey together. I would love to hear from some of you who have already started this journey. You may have read chapter two today (which is the chapter you should be on if you started the journey with the SonRise Baptist Church family on Sunday). What are your thoughts so far? Have you been to small group yet? Is God doing anything special in your life so far? You may have read “The Purpose Driven Life” a while back. How did God use Dr. Warren’s book in your life when you read it the first time? I look forward to hearing from you.