Saturday, February 28, 2009
People are going to hell now! We can't be preparing to do the gospel, we must be doing it now!!
Jesus had: 1. a divine passion
Passions get you up in the morning and keep you up at night. They cannot be derailed by other things. Passions have a special energy about them. They are not duty. Duty is tiresome. Passions drove Jesus to the point of forgetting to eat. His love for the Father drove Him.
His passion caused a submissiveness and surrender to the Lord. His spirit was more important to Him than His body. He was motivated by the Father's will.
Jesus had: 2. a divine urgency
The time is now! we must be winning the lost. They don't time! The harvest is ready. We need a spiritual revelation of the lostness of humanity, not a mental knowledge. Seeing is very important in gospel work.
We can witness suffering in a photograph and it may move us momentarily, but when amongst suffering in person, it leaves a lasting impression.
Jn. 20:5-8 Seeing makes all the difference.
v. 1,5--seeing is translated to see with open eyes, it's just normal seeing
v. 6--the word used for seeing is to observe AND perceive
v.8--the word used for seeing is to notice and experience the thing. A mental and spiritual seeing.
We need a mental and spiritual seeing and perception of the lostness of humanity. Only this generation can reach this generation.
Jesus had 3. a divine work
Soul winning is a divine work. Some sow, some water, some reap, but the increase is all God's. We must work together. We are like a bucket brigade. It takes teamwork for a bucket brigade to be effective. It takes humility to be part of a bucket brigade. There is a division in work, one gets from the source, others pass along the bucket, one actually puts out the fire, but the reward is shared alike amongst all those that worked. God's first priority now is evangelization. Secondly is the reign of Christ and His followers. Too many people are focusing in on the reigning, which is slowing the return of Christ to reign. We need to be about the Father's business, His first priority and that is saving souls.
Thursday, February 26, 2009
On February 24, 1995 Colin Andrew Egolf was born. I fell instantly in love. Can you tell why?
He came to be known as "Bubby", a fitting name for a 10lb. 3oz. wonder. His sister couldn't say "baby", so she called him "Bubby" which turned into "Baby Bubby", and the name stuck. Through the years, I've asked if he wants to be called something else, but he has found his identity in his nickname, even though his teachers at school think it a far too juvenile name for a middle schooler. But I feel it's none of their business so he has my permission to ignore them when they insist on calling him Colin. Shhhh....don't tell them!
As you can see, he was quite fascinated as a child with cowboys and the law. He was, and is all boy! That smile can light a room faster than GE and he is still a joy to us even as a teen.
Through the years he grew and became quite athletic, loving baseball most of all. It's true, he's not the biggest one on the team, but he carries a big stick, which earned him the nickname, THE BUBBINATOR! When he hits a long ball I stand up and yell "The Bubbinator" as loud as I can and this is what he does. The mothers at the ball field are insanely jealous that he acknowledges me from the field and that he likes it when I yell!
Now he's 14! But as you can see, still just as sweet as ever. Below is the cake he decorated. A later Egolf tradition--let the kids decorate their own cakes! It's easier and they love it! Isn't that what birthdays are all about?
Even though I miss those days of rocking my little cowboy to sleep, I am blessed because he is still just as cuddly (almost) as he was when he was a baby. He has listened to me as I have taught him that he's never too old to hug his Mom. He's an obedient boy! :-) Soon he will have a growth spurt and become a man and a fine one at that. He's kind, except to his siblings, compassionate, in a quiet sort of way, friendly, and has a unique sense of humor that keeps us either falling over laughing or wanting to strangle him. We love him very much and are proud that he's our son!
Happy Birthday Bubster! We love you!
Wednesday, February 25, 2009
But lately, I am wondering if there is a balance to find within faith. Now generally I have to ask myself, "is this a even a valid question or am I entering into some kind of sanctified psycho babble?" I worked in psychiatrics as a non Christian and since finding Christ have come to the conclusion that most of it is just that--babble!
I also see on Christian t.v. many examples of self proclaimed "preachers" who yell, stomp, spit and use all kinds of big words to come up with catchy phrases that stimulate the emotions, but in all reality make no sense at all and are anything but Biblical! The other day one of them had just finished using one and looked at the audience who was not reacting with the amount of exuberance that the preacher desired, so the preacher said, "you're not getting this", and I was quick to yell, "that's right, because what you just said makes no sense spiritually or grammatically!" Unfortunately, they couldn't hear me.
But as you might have noticed from the things my Pastor has been sharing on Sunday mornings, he is calling us to a time of reflection and I have been going through a bit of a revolution myself. As I read of those in foreign countries who have so much less than I have, I am looking at my life almost with disdain.
I have so much. How much is enough? How much is excess? I have two cars, I own a home, I have two bathrooms with indoor plumbing, running water (hot and cold), a machine that washes my dishes, my clothes, and even a special hose that washes my dog. I have three computers, 2 cars, 4 t.v.'s, 5 cameras, 17 pairs of shoes, boots, and bedroom slippers, I have a Sunday coat, an everyday coat, and a work coat, I have good jeans and work jeans, I have a Sunday bag, a backpack, a purse, and a fanny pack and I have enough money left over after paying for all these things to be able to go out for ice cream with friends without pre-planning for the expense. We have enough clothing that I can do laundry everyday and there are still clean ones in the drawers. I can go to church openly, I can share my faith with my customers without fear of losing my job--I may lose them as a customer, but I would rather cut their grass in heaven than down here anyway--, I can refuse things on the grounds of my faith.
I have never been beaten or threatened because of my Christianity. Even when funds are "tight", I don't worry that I won't have something to put on the table at dinner time. If I am sick, I don't have to worry about getting medical attention because I have insurance. I don't have to fear what would happen to me and my children if my husband died because we have life insurance. I have all these insurances PLUS the assurances of God's continued blessing and care of my life. I've got it good but so much of it is starting to look so frivolous. (Just this morning I thought about the millions who have no food as I gave my dog her vitamin. How many people could have a bowl of rice for the price of a bottle of vitamins?) I have to ask myself if my greatest blessing has not become my greatest curse.
For years, the Lord has been helping me simplify my life, and I thought that I was making good strides. But lately, as I think that with every beat of my heart one soul, just from Asia, drops into hell without ever having heard the gospel once, I have to wonder if my life could possibly be simplified even more so that someone could get to them before my next heartbeat. What can I give up so that others may hear?
As I ponder this, I then am faced with my own materialism, my enjoyment of the blessings and I wonder, why me? Why am I so blessed while others have nothing? What was HIS purpose in giving me the resources that I have? Am I like a spoiled child who receives so much without any thought of why my father chose to bless me? Have I allowed the blessing to cause me to forget the blesser? And the kicker, would I be willing to majorly downsize so that people I will never know or meet can have the opportunity to meet me in eternity? Do I love my Father enough to be totally taken up with the burden of His heart? His heart beats for souls. And if every heartbeat allows another soul to slip into hell, how His heart must hurt.
Although I have never traveled outside of the U.S. unless you count a trip to Niagara Falls on the Canadian side, the Lord has begun to widen my view of the world. My husband travels to Africa occasionally to teach Pastors there, many of whom spend their family's grocery money and walk 3 days to hear him speak. (How humbling. He often says that he feels that he should sit down and let them teach him.) Many of them reside with their families in a space no bigger than my son's bedroom. They have absolutely nothing, but yet they have everything. My husband speaks of their joy, their contentment in Christ, their thankfulness and I am convicted.
I think of the brethren in China, in India, in totally closed countries where sharing their faith can instantly be a death sentence. They live with nothing, materially speaking, yet their lives could not be more blessed.
So I'm asking, where is the balance? How much should I give up here so that others may hear? What can I give up here so that someone can go to the unreached? I live in a culture where excess is the norm, in fact, where it is held in high regard. It is a status symbol of success. I am having to face that my culture on earth has affected me more than I thought. Things that seem "normal" to me are only normal here in America. They are not normal on global terms. And I have to face that my "normal" may greatly differ from the "normal" of the Christian Kingdom worldwide, whose membership I claim. I'm looking to escape the "excesses" of American Christianity and culture to find the balance of a normal Christian life. I fear how far the scale may be tipped in the wrong direction.
And I have to ask, "is there a point where I can cross over into extremes so as to not be effective amongst my own people group?" I don't plan on being the next "cross walker"--a guy who walks around the country looking as wild as John the Baptist in the wilderness pulling a huge wooden cross on wheels--, but certainly there are some changes I could make that would bring me more in line with God's desired purpose for the resources He has entrusted me with.
So I'm asking God for HELP! I certainly don't want to get to heaven and find that I have wasted the Lord's resources. I want to have His drive, His zeal, His passion for the lost. I want to feel compelled in the work of the Kingdom of God. Oh, I can talk the talk and make it sound so good. If I tried real hard, I might even be able to squeeze out a sympathetic tear or two, but I have to ask myself, is my heart really in it or am I just playing a religious game to make myself feel justified? The fruit of a life is certainly evidence enough for evaluation of the location of a heart and I fear what my fruit is showing right now. I fear that I have been living life according to my definitions of what is "normal" without knowing what God's definition of "normal" is.
That said, I do know that some of my shortcomings have been due to lack of knowledge. We see suffering, fake and real, on t.v. everyday. Americans are the most "informed" people on the face of the earth, but we have not been informed by the right sources. Information obviously does not produce compassion and action or the world would be fixed by now. Instead of information, I need revelation-an opening up of my spiritual eyes to see as God sees.
I'm barring throwing the baby out with the bath water, but I am ready to throw it all up in the air, in faith, and trust God to sort it out for me. But at least I'm finally listening. I'm finally ready to be slain. I'm finally willing to be changed, inconvenienced, mortified, and by God's grace to be normal and balanced, according to His definition.
Wednesday, February 18, 2009
You don't have to compromise with our sex-saturated culture. By God's grace you can stay in the sexual safety zone.
There were some raised eyebrows last week on the campus of Southeastern University in Lakeland, Fla., when I hosted a special meeting—the day before Valentine's Day—on the subject of fornication. That's not a word you normally associate with a lecture topic, but hey, I had to get attention. And since the hormones on most college campuses are as dense as Florida humidity, I figured the kids would be all ears when I attacked the subject.
I was right. At times you could hear a pin drop in the auditorium, especially when I talked about how most American young people aren't even sure how to define sexual activity anymore. (Today's college seniors were nine years old when President Clinton tried to redefine sex during the Lewinsky scandal.) At other times the students burst into nervous laughter, especially when I told how I gave my son-in-law a lecture about sexual boundaries in front of 700 of his classmates when he was dating my oldest daughter.
|"Losing one's virginity used to be a serious issue, but today fornication is just a standard sitcom plot device."|
I thought it might be helpful to share these key points with a wider audience, since many of the readers of this column are single. And even if you are married, it would be good to take a quick refresher course in self-control—since we live in a nation that is losing all moral restraint. Here's what I told the group at Southeastern:
1. Don't redefine your morality. I've seen Christian young people roll their eyes when I say the word "fornication" because it sounds so much like King James English—sort of like "sodomy," another word we avoid in our PC culture. But we need to be careful how we bend the meaning of words. Terms that are in the Bible should not vanish from our modern vocabulary just because they offend some of the hosts of The View.
When "fornication" is used in 1 Thessalonians 4:3 ("For this is the will of God ... that ye should abstain from fornication" KJV), the Greek word is porneia. It's the root word for pornography, but it means a lot more than sexually explicit material. It includes sex between unmarried people, homosexuality, bestiality, prostitution, incest and adultery.
According to the apostle Paul, sex as God intended is limited to marriage between one man and one woman. Period. The Episcopal Church has no right to broaden the definition. Neither do Bill Clinton, Newsweek, Oprah or HBO. Don't let moral relativism infect your brain.
2. Don't sell your birthright. Losing one's virginity used to be a serious issue, but today fornication is just a standard sitcom plot device. It's considered normal. People are considered weird if they didn't have sex by age 14; and if anybody dares to teach abstinence in a public school he is labeled a Neanderthal.
In TV shows like Desperate Housewives, Nip/Tuck or Grey's Anatomy, life revolves around who's in bed with whom. There's even a TV series on Showtime called Californication that follows the life of a sex addict. What TV producers don't usually explore are the consequences of immorality. Audiences probably wouldn't laugh if the couples hooking up on these shows had to deal with genital warts, gonorrhea, AIDS, abortions, post-abortion trauma or clinical depression—all real fallout from illicit sexual behavior.
If you are a single person today—whether you have lost your virginity or not—it's time to reclaim your purity and save sex for marriage. We've forgotten the story of Esau, who forfeited his birthright through one stupid act. He traded his inheritance for a bowl of stew. You really can throw your life away through one act of fornication.
3. Get ruthless with your weaknesses. Jesus sounded stricter than a Catholic school principal when He talked to His disciples about self-discipline. He told them: "If your right eye makes you stumble, tear it out and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to be thrown into hell" (Matt. 5:29, NASB).
Jesus was not advocating self-mutilation. He was using sarcasm to emphasize how serious sin is—and He urged His followers to take radical steps to avoid the snares of temptation. In our sex-soaked society, it is more imperative than ever that we draw boundaries.
Got a problem with pornography? If you can't discipline yourself to avoid offending Web sites, get rid of your computer. Do you end up engaging in heavy petting or intercourse with your girlfriend or boyfriend after a few minutes of kissing? Draw lines and stick to them. And if you can't stick to the rules, ask for intervention. If you don't you are headed for spiritual shipwreck.
4. Live a transparent life. The Bible never advocates that we battle sin alone. We need each other. James 5:16 says: "Therefore confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed." In some cases you will never get victory over temptation until you share your struggle with another Christian and seek counsel and prayer.
So many believers today are living with secrets. Many women (and men too) were molested as children by a relative or friend—yet they have never shared their pain. Many young guys are trapped in a dark world of pornography and masturbation but are too ashamed to admit it. Many Christians struggle with same-sex attraction yet they fear that if they confess their thoughts they will be rejected.
You will never discover the abundant life Christ promised until you clean out your spiritual closets and deal with all your dirty laundry. Total forgiveness and cleansing is available, but confession and repentance must come first.
5. Develop the fear of God. Paul had sober words for the Thessalonians who ignored his admonitions about sexual sin. He told them: "He who rejects this is not rejecting man but the God who gives His Holy Spirit to you" (1 Thess. 4:8). It couldn't be clearer: If you disregard sexual boundaries, you are on thin ice.
What we desperately need in the church today is a conscience awakening. Too many Christians have warped judgment—and they don't even feel godly remorse when they break God's law. If you have any form of sexual sin in your life, flee it immediately and make a 180-degree turn. He will grant you the grace to live a life of purity.
J. Lee Grady is editor of Charisma.
Tuesday, February 17, 2009
Sunday our Pastor ditched the sermon and just spoke from his heart! He has been talking about the supreme mission of the church--saving souls. He has been sharing for years his views on the way America does missions and how he feels that it needs a drastic change and upgrade to be functional and effective in the world that we live in. I would venture to say that in the last three weeks, he has kicked over a whole herd of sacred cows. The most memorable thing he said on Sunday was this:
"If the church was a business, and our product was souls, we would be out of business."
He is challenging our thinking and our lifestyles. He is making us answer the question as to why we were put in a position of so much blessing when the rest of the world suffers so? He is telling us that "the main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing." He is exposing our apathy, our coldness for souls, our selfishness, our lifestyle luxuries, our willful blindness to the rest of the world and our deadness in really understanding and having the heart of God for the lost. He is explaining why some things are the way they are in our body. He is forcing us to take a good, long look inward and outward at our lifestyles and motives! He is moving us to action, to change, to the heart of the matter! Ouch! It hurts!
Friday, February 13, 2009
When I go to the bank, I just let them add up my checks because they always have a different answer than me and they're always right! It's embarrassing.
So what did I do today? I was up to my eyeballs in numbers! As hard as it is for me to understand, (God either has a plan or a very different sense of humor), I am the official "bookkeeper" for our business. It's a miracle we're still in business. I'm the artsy/fartsy type, I'm not an accountant! To make matters worse, we don't have bookkeeping software, just excel, which when we were dealing with a couple thousand dollars was no problem, but now that we deal in the 10's of thousands, it's painstakingly long and slow!
But through it all I learned some things today:
--If you are looking for a good investment opportunity, I recommend Sheetz. My husband goes to Sheetz at least twice a day to purchase "gas" for the business. Problem is, he not only fuels up the equipment, he fuels up himself too, so I have to take every receipt and subtract out the food cost and re-figure the tax--ugh, that involves fractions and percentages folks--my greatest weakness!
--I now know why I have biceps! We spread tons and tons of fertilizer, mulch and ice melt!
--One of us, I'm not sure which, does not know how to read the date on a receipt. I kept finding the wrong month's receipts in the slots of our accordian folder. I think it's my hubby. He's the one that needs reading glasses for up close work! :-)
--I should sit down once a month and post our receipts and figure out how much money we made that month instead of procrastinating and waiting to do the whole year at one time. I think I wore out a calculator today figuring it all out! My hubby has all these figures in his head. I don't know how he does it!
--my hubby needs to take a remedial handwriting course! I recorded the items from the checkbook ledger, and when I came across the receipt, it had a totally different date than what I thought. Just proof that he should have been a veterinarian!
--some people need to learn to pay their bills. For the very first time, I had to record losses from non-payment. I can't for the life of me figure out why people have you come and work when they have no intention of paying you! I hate threatening people with small claims court. I think that by now, the mowing we did in October should be paid for! For heaven's sake, I'm not out there just to get a tan!!! If you can fill your recycling bin full of wine and beer bottles, have a new patio installed, buy two new vehicles, two new apartment buildings and have them remodeled, you should be able to pay the poor smuck that mows your lawn, your mother's lawn and the newly purchased apartment building lawns once a week!
--We drove a lot of miles last year! If we had driven all those miles to actually go somewhere other than around and around and around to the same houses every week, we could have driven across the country and back! I wonder if our truck could even actually cross the county line?
--God has been extremely good to us! The only customers I deleted from last year's records were ones that we decided to delete. If you have to lose a customer, it's much better that you fire them then that they fire you! I like this getting rid of those that are too picky. We do meticulous work, which is why we don't lose customers. But when they want you to take out a level and make sure that every blade of grass is exactly the same length, well, that's a bit unreasonable and they have to go. Or when they interupt you enough times that it takes you 3 times as long to mow their property as it should, they need to get a companion, not a lawn company! A goat would meet both of those needs!
--When they insist that your weed eater string broke their metal downspout and insist that YOU buy the replacement parts and fix it, they have to go. They must think our weed eater string is made of titanium. (That must be why we go through several spools a summer-duh!). Furthermore if we break something, we always tell the owner right away and offer to pay for it. (Just ask our one customer who has had to purchase a new birdfeeder every year because I always break his! I swear that feeder just jumps of the pole when I get close! Last year, we got to buy his granddaughter a new sandbox because we lost control of the zero turn mower on his hill. At least we didn't take out his deck too. It was close. There's only about 12 inches between the sandbox and the steps to his deck. It was one of those "Oh God help" moments when your life flashes before your eyes and you wonder if today's your day for transfer! Of course, we might have killed the ground hog that he wanted us to trap for him. Do I look like a trapper?? Am I wearing a coonskin cap? I don't think so! That hair on my legs is MINE, not some poor animal I trapped!
--Yes, we are a multi-faceted business. When you deal with older folk that trust you, you never know how your business will expand. You may go from Lawns and turf to fence painting, for instance, or better yet, garden party set up. You may even be called to clean out a garage! It's never dull! But they are all so cute, they're hard to resist. And they usually pay us very well for our time! It's nice, especially during a drought when there's no mowing. No mowing = no money and lots of macaroni and cheese!
--There is one thing that numbers are good for. Counting Your Blessings! My Mom used to sing a song, "count your blessings, name them one by one, count your blessings, see what God has done." I have many, many things to be thankful for. If I could, I would list them for you, but I'm not sure that I can count that high!
Thursday, February 12, 2009
Sounds ridiculous, doesn't it? But it happens everyday.....in the local church.
I've heard it preached by t.v. preachers and even local men that the church is a hospital where those who are wounded or dying can come to receive healing. And I have to admit, that is the general attitude of a lot of church attending people. But I submit to you that the church is not a hospital. It is an army that happens to have a medical unit! The medical unit is by far one of the smallest parts of this army!
In order to enter the U.S military, you have to pass a physical. If you have problems, you must have them attended to before you are admitted to the service. The goal being that when you enter the service of your country, you are ready to train and fight. You are equipped with all the things necessary for survival and victory. You are placed in a unit with others like yourself where you become as one, comrades, brothers and sisters. Your life becomes so intertwined with theirs that you would gladly take a bullet to save one of them. If you happen to get wounded, you are sent to the medical unit for treatment and recovery for the explicit purpose of returning to your unit to continue in the struggle against your enemies. The goal and purpose of the medical unit is to return you to health and strength and effectiveness.
Now if you entered the medical unit and refused to receive treatment, or disobeyed the doctor's orders, you would be dishonorably discharged and sent packing. The military does not have time nor resources to babysit or pamper someone who refuses to heal.
The church is very much like the military. The only difference is that there are too many folks sitting in a pew, taking up the Pastor's time, who refuse to heal. Some of those have already been discharged from God's army because of their stubbornness and rebellion, but didn't pay attention to the memo. Instead they choose to sit and suck up as much attention as possible, all in the name of compassion, mercy, caring, and love. "It's what Jesus would give me", they say.
No it isn't!!!!! Jesus sent the rich young ruler packing because he refused to obey the Lord's orders. "Go and sell all that you have and give it to the poor." Was Jesus unloving? No! of course not. But the ruler would not play by God's rules, therefore the Kingdom that he sought was closed to him. Jesus didn't chase after him, tell him he could give most and keep some and gradually adhere to the requirements of the Kingdom. No, scripture says that he let him walk away and that "He loved him." Hmmmmm........perfect love let someone walk away from the entrance to the Kingdom of God. Interesting. Jesus didn't soften it, make it more palatable, or more politically correct, or more "seeker sensitive". He let the guy walk. If the ruler would have died that day, he would have gone to hell. He had refused the rules of citizenship for the Kingdom. But Jesus let him walk away.
When we are saved, Jesus equips us for battle! He washes us clean of sin! We die with Him and are raised NEW! We're not ourselves anymore! Old things pass away and ALL things become new!! Just as we cannot drag our baggage into the service, we cannot have baggage in the Kingdom of God. As we train in the Lord's army, the things of our former life drop off. If we are injured along the way, we recoup under the watchful eye of the Great Physician and those whom serve under Him and then, we get up and go!!!!
This is a fairly gross example, so if you have weak stomach, pass on to the next paragraph. A friend of ours shot a deer. When he hung it, he noticed that it was full of ticks, hundreds of them. As the deer hung and cooled from death, our friend heard a sound like rain drops, but it wasn't raining. He soon realized that the noise he heard was the ticks dropping off the dead deer. The deer was dead and therefore was no longer able to nourish the ticks.
This is a perfect example of what happens at salvation. We die to ourselves, to our old life. Sin, just like those ticks drops off because there is nothing there to nourish their insatiable desires! Then there is a new birth! We are born again, unto a new life, a different way of living! Our nature has changed. The things we used to love we hate. The sins that used to bring us pleasure now nauseate us. God cleans us up, sures us up, equips us with His Spirit and sends us as a soldier into the world! He doesn't send us out there limping, beaten up, and weak. No! His blood is powerful! It is life! It is strength!
There are no better soul winners than the newly saved! They run right back into the fray to declare what God has done for them and it is obvious to everyone that knows them that they are different! They left their baggage at the door and allowed the Lord to dispose of it. They took what the Lord issued them and went with it! Along the way, there will be times when they will need the medical unit. But hopefully they will obey the doctor's orders and trust his assistants. Hopefully they will not try to receive healing on their own terms, but will rest in the knowledge that their physician has never lost a patient that has allowed Him to treat their malady in His own way. Every one has been completely restored and strengthened and returned to the field of battle.
But what about those who won't listen or obey? They are discharged. They lose out with God. Unfortunately sometimes they try to hang around and feed off of those who do have life and if allowed to hang on will suck the life out of every believer in the congregation. They become extra baggage that slows the army of God.
As believers, we must have the discernment of God to identify and deal with these parasites. Allowing them to hang on to the belief that they are still part of the body is like Jesus granting access to the Kingdom of God to the rich, young ruler while he still would not comply with the Lord's requirements. They live a lie that will only be revealed by eternity and we stand with their blood on our hands. We must be willing to allow the sword that Jesus brought to divide the saint and the sinner. We must tell the truth, even when it hurts another's emotions or psych in order to save their soul! Sometimes we have to make them mad before they can be glad! Sometimes we have to let them go in order for them to truly come!
War is hard! Battles are grueling! And we are engaged in the fight of the ages! If we obey the commander's orders, we are guaranteed victory! If we don't, we put everyone around us in jeopardy! If we are wounded, we must take the Master's medicine and run back to the battle. Wallowing in self pity, wondering if the Lord is able, and grumbling, whining and complaining is grounds for discharge. It says that the Blood of Jesus does not have the power to deal with "my" problems. And there you have it! The real problem--ME!
Dr. James Dobson says that dysfunction is another word for sin. He is right! Anything that revolves around "us" is death! Scripture tells us that the soldier does not allow himself to become entangled in the problems of this world, in the problems of everyday life. No, our focus is on the one we serve, HIS purposes, HIS vision. And when our eyes are on Him alone, all those things that would trip us up seem to dim somehow. And when we listen to His voice, obey His commands, and follow His prescription, well, those dysfunctions, those sins, those cares of life seem to somehow get taken care of by and through His powerful grace!
Wednesday, February 11, 2009
So today, in honor of his birthday I want to tell you why I love him so!
1. He is a Godly man. I mean, HE IS GODLY! I have not heard him raise his voice in anger in....well, I can't remember the last time.
2. He is a rock. No matter what is going on around him, he is solid. The winds can blow, the waves can crash down, the water can be smooth as glass and he is always the same. He rarely complains about anything. He rarely speaks of discouragement even though I know there has been much along the way. He never gives up and never gives in to anything less than what He knows to be the will of God.
3. He puts up with me and loves me in spite of myself! I was not always the fun loving, easy goin person I am today. In fact, I was a dysfunctional mess for many, many years of our marriage. In fact that dysfunction almost caused divorce after just one year of marriage. He was miserable. I was on Valium. But God.......ah, yes, the great marriage counselor! Even after salvation, it took the Lord a long time to get me straightened out. It's still an ongoing process, but through it all my husband has remained completely loyal, completely faithful, and completely loving!
4. He ALWAYS tells the truth! Even concerning minor issues like "is this as good as what your Mom cooks? Does this look good on me? Do you like my hair this way?" He loves me enough to ALWAYS tell the truth
5. He's funny! There has never been a time when he has failed to make me laugh. Even while sitting in a hospital with 3 of our four kids in ICU, he found a way to make me smile. He takes life as it comes and when it comes hard, he laughs in it's face and defies it.
6. He is wise. When I see something wrong, I run to fix it because I just can't stand when things aren't exactly right. He, on the other hand, stands back, examines, observes, PRAYS for God's wisdom, and then acts.....sometimes. He always seems to know the right thing to say or not say and the right thing to do, in the perfect time!
7. He is humble. Even after preaching weekly for nearly 25 years, he knows that unless the Lord puts words in his mouth, he cannot preach on his own. And he will not! If the Lord didn't give him anything, he would just say so and send us home.
8. He's a great husband! According to every personality test we have ever taken, we should just grate on each other. Our personalities are the type that never get along, yet we get along famously. It's almost scary! We finish each other's thoughts and sentences. We even know what the other one wants to order at a restaurant before we order. It's uncanny. He sneaks me out to Barnes and Noble for cheesecake at least once every two weeks, or through the drive thru at McDonalds for pie and ice cream, or to Sheetz for a cup of my favorite cuppocino! Chalk it up to time, or fate, or a miracle! But I think it all goes back to the "godly" part. I know he loves me like Christ loved the church. It could only be the love of God that has glued us together so tightly.
9. He's a great Dad! My girls have him wrapped around their little finger, but just one stern look from him sends them surfing in an ocean of tears. They love him so much! Our boys are his constant companions at hunting stores, sporting events, and of course, the ice cream shop! He is taking time to guide them into manhood, including those more nasty aspects of manhood, like burping contests, talks and demonstrations of bodily functions, and food mutilating contests at the dinner table. But when it really counts, they follow his lead and do the right thing. He's teaching them to not take life quite as seriously as I do, but yet to be serious about life.
10) He works hard and never complains! He works three jobs! Crazy, I know, but he has done it for years and rarely complains. He accepts where God has put him and does all he can to be a witness to those around him. He isn't picky either. For example, after nearly 25 years of eating biscuits on a regular basis, in one of his "honest" moments and in response to my inquiry of his opinion of my newest biscuit recipe said, "well, I'm not really a biscuit person!" What!?????? He ate them for 25 years and never said a word!
11) He's handsome! And that's all I'm going to say about that except that sometimes it's hard for me to concentrate on Sunday morning when he's all dressed up!
12) He's genuine! What you see is what you get with him. There's no pretense, no theater, no acting. He's just him, no matter where we are or who we're with. I often say, "he's the genuine article,-- a real man."
So happy birthday honey! Even though you won't read this blog! You hardly know how to work the computer! That just goes to show how smart you really are! You're in bed getting much needed rest and I'm down here blogging!
Monday, February 9, 2009
His Text: Mark4:40-43
40(A)While (B)the sun was setting, all those who had any who were sick with various diseases brought them to Him; and (C)laying His hands on each one of them, He was (D)healing them.
41Demons also were coming out of many, shouting, "You are (E)the Son of God!" But (F)rebuking them, He would (G)not allow them to speak, because they knew Him to be the Christ.
42(H)When day came, Jesus left and went to a secluded place; and the crowds were searching for Him, and came to Him and tried to keep Him from going away from them.
43But He said to them, "I must preach the kingdom of God to the other cities also, (I)for I was sent for this purpose."
"We must do what it takes to get God's power back into the church. We don't need more apologetics to win the lost. We need more power. Nothing converts a sinner faster or more soundly than the power of God, in fact, they cannot be converted without a power experience!
Some say that the gospel, as it has been known for generations, is no longer "relevant" to the modern world. But I say that one of the main needs of people today is healing. And divine healing! There is much sickness in the world today that there is not cure for, that disables people from living normally. Christ is relevant to a sick and dying world!!!
Let's examine v. 43. Jesus said "I must". We, as the church, have to have an "I must" instead of sitting in church getting fat. We MUST preach the "kingdom of God". It was the main message of Christ! He preached on how to enter The Kingdom. Church attendance is not The Kingdom. Church meetings are just a gathering of those who have entered.
This was the "purpose" He came! When we forget our purpose, we get taken up with lesser things.
"Rise up O men of God,
Have done with lesser things,
Give heart and soul and mind and strength
To serve the King of kings!"
Francis Xavier stood on an island and looking toward what seemed to him to be the rock-hard resistance of China's millions. As this missionary looked toward China's mainland he cried, "Rock, rock, when will you open to my Savior? Xavier sent word back to Europe urging the dispassionate students of his day to be missions addicted. He pled with them, saying, "Tell the students to give up their small ambitions and come eastward to preach the gospel of Christ!" What are you giving your life for? And why?
1) We are distracted from our focus. We have substitute or replacement visions in the church of today. Our only vision, as Christians, is God's vision found completely in the Great Commission. Our joy should be connected to heaven's joy and heaven's joy is the salvation of souls. The angels rejoice over just one soul.
We have secondary visions and purpose in the church today. We have political czars, sports "ministries", health gurus, money and prosperity experts. The better has replaced the best. It has been said that "the good is the enemy of the best." We use God to make us better. That is self centered, focused on "us." Much of what is taught and preached in churches and on Christian t.v. provides a substitute for our real calling and purpose and vision and gives us "fixes" to keep us addicted. David Shibley calls this "the cult of self" and believes that this cult permeates the fabric of the American church. He says, "American churches are by far the most self-absorbed believers in the entire world. We whine, "I just want to know my purpose; I've got to reach my destiny." We race all over the country to attend "destiny conferences" and we devour tapes and books on "reaching your full potential." It would be amusing if it were not so appalling. Even cloaking our self-centeredness in Christian garb and jargon cannot cover the nakedness of this cult of self that has infested much of the American church. Many Christians cannot put in the sickle and reap because they are in a dense spiritual fog. They are drowning in trivia and choking on minutia."
D. L. Mooody said "pursuing God's purposes, not our own, is the path to personal fulfillment."
When asked if the unreached are saved if they don't hear the gospel, C. H. Spurgeon replied "the bigger question is are we waved if we don't passionately desire to get the gospel to them?"
Shibley said "The new center of attraction is self! Many today are completely unmoved by the fate of the unconverted....The greatest impediment to world evangelization today is our own carnality!....Stop coddling the carnal and re-enlist for ministry as missionaries!"
Every great man of God in history has had this drive for the salvation of souls! But in America, we have created addicts of dysfunction. We feed them carnality from our pulpits and sell them carnality growth hormones. We are dysfunctional! James Dobson wrote that "another word for dysfunction is sin". We have dysfunction and we sit around talking about it. You cannot get better until you get deader! The blood fixes dysfunction! The Word alone fixes dysfunction! It doesn't take conferences, seminars, books and tapes. That's what the Blood does at salvation! We die and our dysfunction dies with us!!!
We are absorbed by the natural, by the physical. We have "Christian nutrition" instead of divine healing. We have "Christian exercise" in an effort to live longer. Why????? We as Christians should be looking past death and be willing to die early for the gospel! We have "Christian cooking" shows--I'm not even going to go there! They are pathetic! If you want to learn about cooking watch Emeril--BAM! We are relationship crazed! We focus on the mental and the emotional instead of being focused on relationship with God!
Salvation fixes relationships! When my wife and I got saved, we were in the process of getting divorced. But salvation fixed our relationship. As we began to read and practice the Word of God, our relationship healed, without any human, outside help!
The moment anything is about you, you begin to die!!! The fruit of our selfishness can seen in the types of meetings that we have. There are no evangelistic meetings anymore. Subtly, other things have taken over. How to be a better wife, husband, family,.........and the list goes on and on. It's all about us! We have millions of marriage seminars, but our divorce rate is higher than it's ever been. We have spent literally billions trying to reach the younger generation, but we have lost them anyway! A lot of you went to see the movie "Fireproof" and are all excited about saving your marriages. Tell me, why weren't you just as excited about saving your marriage by reading and doing the Bible? Why doesn't the Bible speak to you in a deeper way than secular entertainment. Folks, it's not working! Since 1945, the percentage of Bible believing Christians has dropped in America from 64% to 4%.
We are carnal fat cats that sit and suck it up, suck it up, suck it up! Did you know that too much edification will kill you? Christianity has been described as a bird. One wing is edification, the other evangelism. If one wing is chopped off, the bird will die.
The church is not a medical unit! It is an army that has a medical unit!!!
We do not need a financial czar! It's not in the New Testament. You don't see the Apostle Paul going around doing Christian exercise programs. OUR ONLY MESSAGE IS THE KINGDOM OF GOD AND HOW TO GET THERE!
We are called to help preach to every person......period! And if you aren't preaching it, you should be supporting someone who is!
2) We must get back on track!
Lk. 9:22-25 Deny yourself and take up the cross!! Support those that are going somewhere where they have never heard. There are 4000 people groups who have never heard the gospel once! 13.2 million die every year without ever hearing the name of Jesus Christ. We have a responsibility. We don't have time for all this nonsense! The last thing we need is another conference!
The U.S. has the third highest population of unbelievers in the world! We must "preach the gospel, and if necessary, use words." DO SOMETHING! HAND OUT TRACTS! LEAVE THEM IN PUBLIC BATHROOMS IF YOU'RE TOO SHY TO HAND THEM OUT! Write tracts and distribute them! We are to be a light, not worry along with the world.
A reporter stood at his hotel window and watched the burning of Shanghai. He wrote "Shanghai is burning. I'm dying too. Some die from shrapnel, others go down in flames, but most men are dying inch by inch, while playing games."
To sum this up, LIVE FOR WHAT MATTERS!!!
Tuesday, February 3, 2009
Another celebration of Groundhog Day has concluded in Punxsutawney, PA. I can't say it was riveting, but it was so bizarre it held my attention. Of course, being a resident of Pa, groundhog day is not a new phenom, Yet I can't help wondering how low human dignity can go, all in the name of sport.
Who in the world came up with this tradition? Granted, any town named Punxsutawney has to be a former Indian tribe area and the Indians did have some strange beliefs, but I would think that after the buffalo disappeared that ground hogs would have been popular tepee fare for the evening meal. So, I have to ask myself, is this Mother Nature's way of rewarding the worship of the groundhog or is this just some towns desperate attempt to get on the map? (Whichever, it certainly got them on the map!)
Where do they find these grey headed, distinguished looking gentleman to make such fools of themselves--whispering with groundhogs--Come on! This goes way beyond the believable! Are they part of some secret society or something? Or are they just escapees from the local mental institution? And who provides and pays for the tuxedos and top hats? Perhaps there is a more than pork in the current congressional bill. (Groundhog bologna, anyone?)
Why oh why is there so much hoopla over an animal that most of us would rather shoot than look at? They eat our flowers, dig holes under our decks, cause a large percentage of broken and sprained ankles in the summer time, and make us to run off the road as we try to avoid hitting them. (I don't think they work for the car insurance companies--the squirrels and the gecko have that gig locked up).
Why in the world would people travel from Iceland, England, Australia, and beyond to attend this ceremony that lasts an hour at best? For heaven's sake, the place is almost impossible to find, lost in the mountains where some don't even speak English yet! (My theory is that they are towns people who have spent the year learning accents who dress up like foreigners and carry signs that say they are from some country). This is their yearly trek to the "mecca" that brings them out of the woods and into civilization for the census count, so that they can submit their town's budget to the PA congress to insure that the tuxedo rental will be secured for next year.
I mean seriously, does this guy look foreign to you??
I would wager that these men who allow themselves to be seen on national t.v. reading the sacred groundhog scrolls and uttering the timeless nonsense would not do something even 1/1000 as silly in church to bring honor to God and honor HIS sacred scroll. (It never ceases to amaze me to see what entertains and interests the world!) To be honest, I'm almost ashamed to admit I'm from PA! Not only do we hold onto guns and God, but evidently groundhogs as well!
And let's not forget the most innocent victim in this scheme---the groundhog! Sure it must be a nice conversation topic on the groundhog school yard if you are related to the famous "Phil". But seriously, where is PETA when you need them the most! Does this groundhog look happy and secure to you?????? Frankly to me, he looks drugged and terrified. Here this poor fellow is just trying to do what comes naturally this time of year--it's called HIBERNATION! But, these fool people have to yank the poor guy from his long winter's nap, hold him up in the air and scare him half to death while bright lights shine in his face and the voices of thousands of humans that he runs and hides from when he's awake thunder in his ears. It's got to be a groundhog's worst nightmare! It's a wonder he's never had a heart attack and died! (I bet that poor guy's biological clock is beyond repair!) Then to make matters worse, before he can get back to sleep, he has to have his picture taken with a bunch of people that are so drunk, that the only way they will remember that they were there is the unusual groundhog photo they find in their developed film.
To me, it's just all foolishness! The dumb animal's prediction hasn't been right once in my lifetime! He's probably happy that he's not human, for many reasons, but one being that if he was, he would've been shamed by the community a long time ago! I guess we cut him some slack since he is, afterall, only a rodent. And probably, if Phil could have his way, he'd choose to hibernate all year round just to avoid having to mess with the crazy people in this world who celebrate with gusto on Groundhog Day. (I highly doubt that the groundhogs of America get this hyped up over groundhog day.) It just goes to show you that there is no such thing as human dignity--not in PA anyway!
First, tough times are not about what happens to you-- they’re about what you do with what happens to you. God, in knowing all things, was not ignorant about this era of your life. In fact, He has spent your whole life preparing you for this moment and others that you are yet to face. Will you keep believing that He’ll use everything you go through for His kingdom purposes? Or will you sour along with so many others who base their relationship with God on their prosperity? Tough times prove our faith.
You: Influencing others.
Second, tough times are about influence. How you handle these times will have great influence on two sets of individuals: those who watch how you handle your own adversity and those who will be changed by the counsel you give them. Now, I don’t mean the answers you may or may not have for them--everyone has answers, usually of the negative kind. But here I mean counsel that gives them hope. Hope that helps them discover a God who knows their potential, a God who’s taking them on a journey of discovering new adventures and possibilities they may never have thought about. Hope that aids them in making different choices than they may previously have made. Hope that allows their creativity to spring forward when others around them are in despair. Perhaps you need this kind of hope as well.
God allows tough times to happen so that massive, lovely, brilliant, you’ll-want-this change is the result. And He will use you to deposit this hope in others. He birthed you, created you, shaped you for such a time as this. You won’t only make it, but you will be an example for others, and as such you will have more influence than ever.
The stuff of champions.
Third, it is the people who focus on others and guard their words—that is, people who order their conversation to reflect the provision and kindness of God, even in the midst of the storm--who will see His salvation.
There isn’t a single generation that hasn’t gone through tough times. Yes, some are tougher than others, but as the Lord once told me, “Little battles produce little victories and result in little champions. Great battles produce great victories and result in great champions. Which do you want to be?”
The justice of God and a faithful heart.
Fourth, the first thought most Christians have when tough times hit is to diminish or even stop their giving. Wow--wrong move! It was the widow of Zarephath’s faithful, sacrificial giving in the middle of a severe drought that threw open the door for her to prosper. Paul exhorted the church in Philippi to give so that fruit would be added to their account. He urged the church in Corinth to be like the poorest church in Macedonia, which had given to the Lord’s work even in the midst of deep poverty and affliction (see 2 Cor. 8:1–4). When Paul returned to the Macedonian church a few years later, he found them prospering.
It is the gift you willingly give that allows God’s justice to be active on your behalf. In tough times especially, you really want God to act on your behalf! This is why Paul told the church in Philippi that, more than the financial gift he needed, he desired that heaven’s fruit would abound in their lives. That fruit is what God gives to feed and bless and meet the needs of all who give to Him.
Written by J. Paul Jackson
Monday, February 2, 2009
Yes, he is my husband. No, I do not think these are good sermons because "he" preached them. I live with this man and I can honestly say after meeting numerous t.v. preachers and well know preachers and traveling the country to numerous churches, this man has had more influence on my Christian life, in a positive way, than anyone I have had the privilege of knowing. He has more character, more Biblical knowledge and a hundred times more humility than anyone I have ever met. He has not preached to me only from the pulpit, but from the living room, the bedroom, the workplace, the play ground, and everywhere that is goes. He's the real thing, the genuine article.
Our Sunday sermon was aptly named "Crocheting on the Football Field or The Supreme Task of the Church. How do the two relate?
The Steelers were in the Superbowl because they are focused on football. From the first day of training camp til the last tick of the clock on the last game of the season, they are completely focused on and immersed in football. The Steelers wouldn't have won the superbowl had Hines Ward, or Big Ben brought their knitting or crocheting to work on while the defense was taking their turn on the field. More than likely, they wouldn't even have a job if they tried that stunt. The Pittsburgh Steelers are real men--they don't multitask. They aren't trying to win a conference championship or a world title while they are also trying to enrich their lives with something outside of football. No, they are completely focused on football because that is what they love, that is what they feel they were meant to do and they feel privileged to be able to do what they love.
Duplicity weakens and confuses. Did you ever wonder why a lion tamer takes a chair into the cage with him to train a lion? It's not so that he can sit down and talk to the lion, that's called lunch on a plate! No, it's because if the lion presents himself to the trainer in a threatening way, the trainer will lift the chair and point the four legs at the lion's face. The lion tries to focus on all four chair legs at one time and becomes docile and confused, thereby weakening his ability to attack.
We learned last week that the church is blessed by God to be a blessing to the world. And the greatest blessing that God has given the church is salvation! So we are saved to be the conduit of the salvation message to the world. That is our primary calling and our greatest privilege.
The church in America is trying to do too many things and has forgotten it's main purpose. That is why it is not having great revival and seeing the power of God, as a whole. Leonard Ravenhill said, "you can greatly increase church attendance without increasing the Kingdom of God." Jesus main message was the Kingdom of God; what it is and how to enter it.
Mk. 16:15-18 is a familiar passsage. "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned. And these signs will accompany those who have believed; in My name they will cast out demons, they will speak with other tongues: They will pick up serpents and if they drink any deadly poison, is shall not hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick and they will recover."
If we work backwards through these verses, we see in v.17-18 that the church had power to back them up. They did not have big name preachers falling left and right from moral failures, more aptly called sin. That is the main problem of the church today--sin. One cannot have power to preach freedom from sin unless you have been delivered from sin yourself. Our little message "Jesus came to set us free from sin" has no credibility because in a lot of cases, "the church" is worse than the world. The divorce rate is higher in the church than in the world! Shameful! The world looks at us, what we preach and what we practice and it doesn't add up. In fact, there are many sinners who live more morally than a lot of Christians! The Bible says that "he who sins is a slave to sin", so if you are sinning, you are a sinner. Period. You can call yourself a Christian, but that doesn't make you one. I can call myself a frog. I can even go to the pond, sit on a lilypad and croak all day, but that doesn't make me a frog. To be a frog, I would need a new nature, new DNA. After that, football wouldn't appeal to me at all. Neither would driving a car or eating at a restaurant. If you are in habitual sin or choosing to sin even though you know it is wrong, you have not the grace of God to overcome and deliver you, and that is what He gives at salvation. You have not been born again. Your nature is still the old one, but your conscience is more alive. Conviction is not salvation. It is the precursor to salvation. Salvation is a spiritual DNA change. Things that once interested you that are worldly, are no longer attractive to you. It just happens. We can "pray the prayer" all day long, but it's not the prayer that changes us or the fact that we said it. It's when the heart is changed, thus changing the actions, that salvation occurs.
We make the Blood look powerless to overcome our sins, addictions and attitudes, but scripture tells us it is just as effective today as it was in the Bible. We had better hope so, because if it has lost it's power to deliver from sins, it has also lost it's power to deliver from sin and we no longer have a sacrifice for sin and we are of all men most desperate!
In v. 16, we see that they had a message. Scripture tells us that not everyone will accept that message. In fact, it tells us that "some" will believe, and that "the road that leads to destruction is wide and many there be that find it. The road that leads to eternal life is narrow and few there be that find it." Not everyone will recieve the gospel message as soon as you share it with them. But what we have done in America is only tell them half of it--the pleasant part. Unfortunately you can't make someone glad with the good news unless they know the bad news. If they've known us BC (before Christ), they had better see a lifestyle giving credibility to our gospel message. Otherwise, we will rightly be branded a hypocrite. We need a revival of holy living.
In v. 15, We see the purpose and vison of God for the church. We don't need to be fasting and praying for our own personal vision! It's right there in v.15. Go and preach the gospel. That's why God left us here. It's His vision. We are dead!
We live in a time where "personal faith" is above "body life". The church has become "all about me, me, me." Our conferences and seminars are all about "us." When was the last time you saw a conference about "How to mortify your flesh and daily take up the Cross" of "How to Die Daily"? And who would attend them? I dare say the numbers would great decrease! Yet scripture tells us that the happiest people are those that are the most selfless. I hope I rock your world when I say that God does not exist for you! YOU exist for God. We have allowed edification to crowd out evangelization. If your ear was 90% of your body mass, you would be a freak! The ear is good and has it's proper place and size. Spiritually speaking we have become spiritual freaks when all we are concerned about is edification.
We are too into education. We are educated way beyond our usefulness. We sit around wanting to be blessed, wanting Holy Ghost goose bumps, but never being a blessing. Our personal growth has become more important than the growth of Christ's church. If our seminars would just preach the gospel, we could have won the world by now. I don't understand why "mature" Christians become so enthralled by evangelistic books that explain "purpose", or evangelists who are doing what they are called to do. These are for the immature and the unsaved. Why are Christians filling up the seats that should be filled by sinners? Billy Graham's sermons were not that great. That's because they weren't preached to appeal to the saved!!! That's the way it should be! We're like a bunch of big, fat babies! We have to separate our whiskers to get the nipple from our next bottle in our mouths!
We are wasting to much time and money in America. Christian t.v. is the biggest waste of money and a shameful example of poor stewardship. If we took the literally billions of dollars, equipped missionaries indigenous to their areas to go out and preach, we could win the world in a year. But most Christian t.v. is for entertainment, enjoyment and edification of Christians. Very little of it is actually "gospel" television. If we truly believe that the great commission is the supreme commision, we must put our money there. Oswald Smith, who had the greatest missions minded church in history says it this way. " Every Christian is a missionary. If you don't "go" yourself, then you should be financing someone that is." Our sucess comes as we do the task. It is our responsibility! We must die. Christ is the only "unique" one. We are dead! Lost and found in Him!