Monday, March 31, 2014

What does your church say about interracial relationships?

I recently invited a person to attend worship at our church and was pleased to see them that following Sunday in our morning worship service. They attended with a parent and the person they are dating. The person they are dating is of a different ethnic background but I hadn't paid any attention to it. When I ran into them at their job, this person asked me a question that caught me a little off guard because I hadn't been asked it in a while. The person asked me "What does your church say about interracial relationships?"

When it comes to interracial relationships the Bible is clear on three things we must keep in mind.

1. Interracial relationships are not addressed in the Bible.

When it comes to different races marrying the Bible is silent on the topic for followers of Christ. I'm guessing the reason is because it doesn't matter to God what race a person is when it comes to relationships and marriage. Before some people jump on a certain set of verses I want to address them. Yes, in Deuteronomy 7:3-4 God does command the Israelites not to marry a different race of people called the Canaanites. It says, “Do not intermarry with them. Do not give your daughters to their sons or take their daughters for your sons,  for they will turn your sons away from following me to serve other gods, and the Lord's anger will burn against you and will quickly destroy you.” The reason God didn't want the Israelites marrying another race was a spiritual reason. He didn't want the Canaanites to lead the Israelites into idol worship. No where in the New Testament do we see commands on interracial relationships. So we see that the matter of relationships is less about the outward parts of a person and more about the inward parts.

2. It's about faith not about race.

Paul warns in 2 Corinthians 6:14 that when it comes to relationships, what matters is the spiritual condition of a person's heart. He writes, “Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?” When it comes to relationships believers should realize that many times the one who wins out in an unequally yoked relationship is the one who is not as spiritually strong. Relationships are about growing together and growing closer to God. If two people are pulling in different directions spiritually, then it is impossible to grow close together or closer to God. Again, race has nothing to do with it. As a minister of the Gospel, this verse from 2 Corinthians 6 is used for one of my two qualifying questions before I marry a couple. That question is "Are the man and woman both followers of Christ?" If one isn't then I won't perform the marriage, regardless of race. If they both are believers, I will be glad to officiate their wedding, again, regardless of race. In fact I've already performed one interracial marriage and never thought twice about it. (The other qualifying question, in case you were wondering, is whether the couple is willing to sit down for premarital counseling. That's the other deal breaker!)

3. God looks at what is on the inside, not the outside.

The prophet Samuel, in 1 Samuel 16:7, heard God speak to him about what really matters when it comes to a person. God told Samuel, “The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart." Yes, Samuel was looking for a king for Israel, but the truth of that statement from God can be applied to relationships as well. When it comes down to it, what matters to God is what is on the inside of a person not the outside. That means God is more concerned about our spiritual condition than anything else. If we have a relationship with Him through Christ, He is overjoyed. If we do not, then He is saddened. When it comes to relationships that is what God is concerned about. He wants a man and woman to be deeply in love with Him so they will know how to deeply love each other. When it comes to race and relationships, if it doesn't matter to God then it shouldn't matter to me, regardless of longstanding cultural or societal views. From my perspective I would much rather my sons date and marry a person of another race who is a strong follower of Christ than for them to marry a Caucasian woman who is a non-believer.

So when that person asked me that question I nonchalantly shrugged and said it didn't matter. I told them that the Bible doesn't say anything about it and that since it doesn't matter to God, then it doesn't matter to me. The response I received was what you would expect. The person said something to the effect of "Well I know some churches have problems with that sort of thing." Unfortunately that is sad, true, and completely against the truth of God's Word.

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Friday, March 28, 2014

What is Sin?

The other day I read a great article by Billy Graham on his answer to 'What is Sin?' In the article he hits the nail on the head. He also answers the question 'Are all sins equal in God's eyes?' I would never imagine myself to be on the same level as Dr. Graham but I could give you my responses to the same questions. Instead I want to share with you Dr. Graham's responses. They are great responses that I agree wholeheartedly with and believe they are beneficial for the believer to read.

We all struggle with sin. So it's important that we have a firm understanding of 'What is Sin?' Follow the link below to go to Dr. Graham's response.

Click Here.

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Wednesday, March 26, 2014

"I love it when a plan comes together!"

One of my favorite television shows to watch when I was growing up was the A-Team. This band of misfit Army Rangers went around the country doing good deeds to help out those in need. For a kid in the 80's, the only show any better than the A-Team was MacGyver. You could always count on three things in every episode of the A-Team. First, a vehicle of some sort would end up flipping during a chase scene. Second, there would literally be thousands of bullets shot and usually not a single person would be injured. Thirdly, Colonel Hannibal Smith would always light a cigar, when all was said and done, and say “I love it when a plan comes together!” He always had a plan, executed it precisely and then reveled in the fact that it had successfully been completed.

When we start down the path that allows us to follow God, we should quickly learn that God has a plan for our life. Jeremiah 29:11 starts off by saying "For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord," (NIV). God has an individual plan for each of us. It's our responsibility as His children to seek out that plan. His plan for each of us isn't some mediocre, run-of-the-mill plan to just get us through this life. God’s plan for our life is one that is far superior to any plan we could ever come up with on our own. His plan helps us avoid the things in this life that will destroy us but also gives us the things in this life that are for our good. When we consider the fact that God, who loved us enough to send His Son to die for us, has a plan for us to follow, then we should pursue it. We should take care to make sure we execute His plan precisely and then give Him the glory when it succeeds. Because in the end, it is His plan that is being accomplished by His child, for His glory.

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Monday, March 24, 2014

People can see where you don't fertilize.

Saturday was a busy day around the farm. We worked to saw up part of a tree that had fallen on the edge of a field. We also worked to get a few of our fields fertilized before the spring rains arrive. While fertilizing a field that is on the "main drag" in Dry Ponds, a neighboring farmer stopped by to chat with my dad while I was on the tractor. That farmer jokingly pointed out that if I didn't do a good job fertilizing that field then everyone would know. He was right. If I didn't spread that fertilizer over the entire field then it would show when the hay starts to grow. If I let the tractor drift one way or the other I could easily leave gaps of unfertilized hay or double cover some areas.

When it comes to our spiritual life we need to be careful to properly fertilize ourselves with God's truths. If we constantly get on a soapbox about a particular area of our faith when we discuss our faith, then chances are that we are over fertilizing in that area. When we drift too far from a daily time in God's Word, then everyone can tell. It's vitally important to our spiritual growth that we maintain a straight and narrow path through the field of life, being sure to properly fertilize ourselves with God's Word. When we do, it will be like the field I fertilized on Saturday. No one will take notice for quite a while, but they will notice the fertilize job once the hay has grown. As we grow in our faith it may take a while for people to catch on to what growth has occurred, but once they notice it God can use us to impact the lives of others.

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Wednesday, March 19, 2014

What's your preference? Over or under?

Several years ago I heard that some people take the direction that their toilet paper roll faces very seriously. It was either in an article online or on the radio but from what I understood some take this very seriously! Some are very adamant that the only way for a roll of toilet paper to work is with the paper coming over the top of the roll and down in front. There are others that think you should only install a roll of toilet paper with the paper coming down behind the roll and ultimately under the roll. I have to admit that I think its an unusual thing for people to get worked up over but we all have our preferences. These preferences that we have can divide us or draw us together. When I first heard about this particular preference, it was shared how couples would have fights over it. Seriously, arguments between spouses would occur over something as unimportant as the direction of the toilet paper roll. My only preference, and I feel there are plenty with me in this neutral area, is that as long as there is toilet paper in the bathroom, that's all that really matters! 

I'm sure you're wondering why the unusual start to today's post. Well the views that people have, their preferences in certain areas, are things that can sometimes either cause division or draw people close together. Worship of God is one such area. We all have our preferences when it comes to worship. Some prefer a more low key worship style, while others want an exuberant style of worship. Some prefer the old classic hymns, while others prefer a more modern approach to praise and worship. Some prefer "fire and brimstone" preaching, while others prefer a more relaxed style of preaching. Some prefer to fellowship and greet during a service, while others prefer to stay in their own personal area.

The point is we are all different and we all prefer different things. Can you imagine how boring worship would be if every church across the world did everything the same? Talk about boring! It's great that God has given us a variety of people who worship in a variety of ways. I'll be the first to tell you that my church isn't for everyone. My style of preaching isn't for everyone. And personally, I'm glad that they aren't. Because, as a pastor, I see that diversity in the Body of Christ creates a worship of God that is multi-dimensional. And I think that God enjoys the varieties in which we worship Him. Like I've always told people, I hope that my church is what a family prefers, but if it isn't, then only one thing matters. The thing that matters is that the family is going to church. That church needs to preach the truths of God's Word, be a place the family can authentically worship God, a place where the family is ministered to, and a place the family can get involved in the ministries of the church. As long as they are going to a church like this, that is the only preference that really matters! Be thankful that God has made us all different. Be thankful that every church isn't the same. Be thankful that God has given us diversity in so many ways.

Let's make today's post fun and interactive. When you finish reading today's post, if you have a preference on the toilet paper issue, then Share today's post on your social media accounts with a simple one word comment, Over or Under. If you don't have a preference then simply put "I don't care!"

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Monday, March 17, 2014

God won't give us more than we can handle, right?

Yesterday while mindlessly surfing my Facebook News Feed, I came across a link to an interesting site. The site shared 10 facts about St. Patrick's Day related things that go against what everyone believes to be true. Now remember, as with anything on the internet, these facts can be true or may be false. That's because computers will sit still long enough for you to write anything on them! So here are the 10 facts shared on the site.

10. St. Patrick wasn't Irish. (Thought to be born in Scotland/Wales/England.)
  9. St. Patrick's color is blue.
  8. St. Patrick's Day was invented in America.
  7. St. Patrick died on March 17. (Many believe it is his birthday.)
  6. St. Patrick didn't drive all the snakes out of Ireland.
  5. The shamrock isn't the symbol of Ireland. (It's actually the harp.)
  4. St. Patrick's Day used to be a dry holiday. (Many use it as an excuse to drink excessively.)
  3. Corned beef and cabbage isn't a traditional Irish dish.
  2. There are more Irish people living in the U.S. than in Ireland. (There are 4 million people
       living in Ireland and 34 million people of Irish descent living in the U.S.)
  1. Your odds of finding a four-leaf clover are slim to none. (Actually 1 in 10,000.)

So what's with the useless information? Well many times we hear things and repeat them without taking into consideration that the truth may not be the same as what we've just heard.

Let's take the often quoted phrase "God won't give me more than I can handle." First off many will relate this to 1 Corinthians 10:13 where it says "No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it" (NIV). That verse is true when it comes to the temptations we face in life. God always gives us a way out. That way out is by relying on Him and not our self.

But when it comes to the difficulties of this life, divorce, death, finances, raising children, work, etc., we regularly seem to receive more than we can handle. Why is that? Because God is allowing us to deal with more than we can handle. He is giving us more than what we can endure. The reason He does that is because if we could handle it then we wouldn't need Him. We could be our own God if we didn't have to rely on Him for help. God has created us as finite, limited, frail and fragile beings for a reason. He did it so that we could have a relationship with Him. Not so we could be another god. He wants us to rely on Him. He wants us to come to Him with our problems. He wants to show us His love by helping us carry our burdens.

In Philippians 4:13 God tells us how we can really handle every situation we face in life, the good and the bad. It says "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me" (NKJV). We can handle the enormous burdens of life when we have a relationship with Christ and allow Him to give us strength. My encouragement to you today, especially if you are dealing with one of life's major difficulties, is to give it to God in prayer and ask Him for the strength to endure. He is faithful and will provide every ounce of strength that you need!

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Friday, March 14, 2014

Forging Signatures

This morning, like so many mornings, was a whirlwind of trying to get the boys ready for school. One thing we normally have to do in the mornings is sign each son's agenda for school. It's basically a notebook that the kids write their homework down in and the parents sign it to show the kids did their homework. This morning I sat down to sign agendas and signed Dru's and waited for Cooper to bring me his. When I opened Cooper's agenda, I was a little surprised and a little humored at what I saw. Cooper had printed my name on today's line and then erased it. To me it was a little reminiscent of a time when my younger sister forged my name and got me in deep trouble when we were growing up. But that is a story for another post. I asked Cooper why he had done it and he hemmed and hawed and wouldn't tell me. I told him I wasn't going to punish him because he had erased it when he realized it was wrong. He finally confessed that since I had forgotten to sign it on Thursday, he was worried I wouldn't sign it today. Basically he had lost faith in his father to do what his father was supposed to do.

Many times in our spiritual walk we lose faith in God. We have moments of doubt and unbelief. We wonder if God even remembers us or much less cares about us. We read the promises God has given us in His Word and we try to squeeze every bit of faith we can out of them. But nevertheless we fall into those moments where we try to do what our Father is supposed to be doing. In the end it doesn't work out to well for us.

Take Abraham as an example. God promised Abraham he would be the father of a great and mighty nation (Genesis 15). So numerous would Abraham's descendants be that you wouldn't be able to count them all. Abraham waited on God to fulfill His promise. And he waited. And he waited some more. Abraham, after he thought he had waited long enough, finally took things into his own hands with some prompting from his wife Sarah (Genesis 16). After having a child with his servant, Abraham came to eventually realize that God had not rescinded His promise, He simply hadn't fulfilled it yet. Fourteen years after Abraham took things into his own hands God blessed Abraham with the son he had promised. But the effects of trying to do things his own way haunted Abraham's family and still does to this day.

If we would learn from Abraham's mistakes our lives would be better off. We would learn to trust God more completely. Our faith would be stronger. And ultimately we wouldn't find ourselves messing things up and making them harder on ourselves. Like the old hymn says "Have faith in God, He watches over His own."

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Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Kiss it for Good Luck!

The other day I was bowling with a guy from church. As I picked up my ball, I watched an older gentleman a few lanes over kiss the ball in his hand. He then proceeded to throw the ball down the lane. The man was too far away for me to ask why he had kissed his bowling ball. The only sane reason, if you want to call it that, for him kissing that ball would be that he did it for "good luck."

Now let's get serious here for a moment. In some superstitious way this man believes, on some level, that the smooch he gives to his bowling ball is going to positively affect the way the ball acts after it leaves his hand. Now you and I both know that there is no way that his "good luck" kiss has any bearing on the roll of the ball. His kiss, the "lucky" rabbit's foot, unwashed sports gear, a four leaf clover, and a horseshoe over a doorway have nothing inherently "lucky" about them. So why do we do silly, superstitious things? Do we honestly believe that there is some way that our golf swing can be corrected or our chances of winning the lottery will change because of a ritual we perform or something we wear? When we step back and look at it rationally we know there isn't anything that is really "lucky." But some still swear by it.

The reason Christians have to be careful about foolishness like "lucky" things is that we step away from God when we believe in them or rely on them. What we are doing is telling God that we put more faith in the dismembered foot of a dead animal to provide something good for us than the faith we put in Him. God can and does choose to bless us at different times and in different ways. But there is no such thing as luck or chance. If we believe that there is such things as luck or chance then we limit our view of God and we ultimately say God is limited. If we believe in luck or chance, we end up saying that there is something that is beyond God's control. Colossians 1:17 tells us that Jesus holds all things together, meaning He is in charge of everything. If luck were true then the Bible would be wrong.

Here's a way to work this new understanding of luck and chance into your life. Try and catch yourself every time you say that you, someone, or something is lucky then replace it with fortunate. It's a real challenge at first, but well worth it when you realize that you've made it a habit.

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Monday, March 10, 2014

4 AM Alarm Clock

As if the change associated with Daylight Savings wasn't bad enough, our dog has decided to make it even worse. The past two nights our dog has decided it needed to bark at something about 4 AM. The dog doesn't bark once or twice but barks continually for 30 minutes or more. He doesn't seem to take time to breathe, but he does slow down the pace after nearly an hour of constant barking. To say that I am aggravated at the dog is a gross understatement. Although I generally run on less sleep than some, I still value what little sleep I do get. Sleeping in the recliner, at the other end of the house, does little to muffle the noise. If I were to go outside and reprimand the dog, he would be back at it before I laid back down. I can do nothing about the neighborhood dogs coming into our yard and causing our dog to bark. There seems to be very little that I can do to remedy the situation.

When it comes to certain situations in life, our peace can be robbed from us. We look at the situation around us and we are confident we have no way of regaining our peace. We think we have to bare with it and just deal with it. But that isn't necessarily the case.

God promises us that His peace can work in our lives. Philippians 4:2-9 is a great place to start when we need to seek out God's peace for our lives. Last night, we went through this set of scripture during our evening service. After another restless night, thanks to our dog, I thought it might be good to share the points of the message in regards to us keeping peace in our life, our church, and with God.

1. Agree with each other. (Phil. 4:2)
2. Seek Help with a Disagreement. (Phil. 4:3)
3. Rejoice in Everything. (Phil. 4:4)
4. Be Gentle with Others. (Phil. 4:5)
5. Quit Worrying & Pray! (Phil. 4:6)
6. Allow God’s Peace to Work. (Phil. 4:7)
7. Meditate on Godly Things. (Phil. 4:8)
8. Follow Godly Examples. (Phil. 4:9)

When we follow God's directions for anything in life, even gaining peace, we know we will be successful. We know that His plan is always perfect and if we follow His lead we can achieve the peace we so desperately crave.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Homemade Black Angus Beef

Yesterday, while driving to my parent's house for lunch, Cooper made one of those comments that just left us laughing and shaking our heads. As often as he does this you would think we would be accustomed to it by now, but he always seems to amaze us. Misty made a comment about stopping by the grocery store to pick up something for supper this coming week. Cooper only hearing part of the conversation said "Don't buy hamburger at the store. It's disgusting! We need some homemade Black Angus beef." Raising beef cattle does have it's advantages when it comes to knowing where your meat comes from and having a regular supply of "homemade" meat as he put it. As for Cooper's comment, I have a feeling that if we fixed store bought hamburger he would never know the difference.

How are you when it comes to biblical teachings? Can you tell the difference between the good stuff and the imitations? Do you take a smiley televangelist at his word or can you discern when someone isn't teaching the truths of God's Word? The only way to know whether what you're being taught is wrong or not\ is to have a firm grounding in what is right. It's a matter of growing in your faith and developing your faith outside of the corporate worship setting at church.

Here's an example of how this works. If I were to stand before my congregation and quote that the bible says "God helps those who help themselves" or teach that "Cleanliness is next to godliness" then I am sure some would assume that I had pulled it out of the Bible. Why not, he's the pastor he has to be teaching from the Bible, right? Not exactly. Those two phrases are often quoted lines but they aren't in the Bible. One is from a 17th century discourse on government and the other is a Babylonian proverb, respectfully. 

The problem is biblical illiteracy forces us to accept false teachings as the truth. The Apostle Paul regularly warned his churches to watch out for those that taught anything other than the truth. He even went so far as to call some who taught a false gospel dogs and mutilators of the flesh (Philippians 3). The point is that if we don't have a good working knowledge of what the truth is, then we will easily be sold a false truth that isn't what we want or need. My encouragement to you is to grow in your own walk with Christ so that when you hear something or read something that isn't quite kosher, you can easily pick it out.

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