Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Worrying is atheism because...

I am signed up to receive an email each day with quotes pertaining to the Christian faith. Some are people I've heard of before like Billy Graham, Augustine, Calvin, Luther and others. Some are people I've never heard of yet their insight into the Christian faith is rather profound. Just the other day I read one that caused me to pause and reread it to make sure I fully grasped the simplicity yet profound nature of the quote. It was a quote by Bishop Fulton Sheen and it said "All worry is atheism, because it is want of trust of God." What the late Catholic Bishop is telling us is that worry at its core is atheism. Worry is atheism because we doubt the ability of God to care and provide for us. If we doubt the ability of God to provide and care for us then we, in essence, doubt His very existence.

According to Webster's dictionary atheism is the "disbelief in the existence of deity." When we worry we go from a point of faith and trust in God to a point where we doubt His existence. The point being made is not that worrying believers somehow renounce their and enter into some level of apostasy. What I am saying is that we should not overlook the power our worry has over us. It causes us to go from sane and rational believers who praise and worship God to irrational people who think the wringing of our hands and the pacing of our feet will change things. The only One who can change things is God and if we start to doubt His ability to do anything for us then we find ourselves in a severe downward spiral. 

Worry is a sin. Point blank, it's a sin. We should avoid it like we would any other sin. Jesus even tells us how useless worry is and how we should avoid it in Matthew 6. He says in Matthew 6:27 "Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?" (NIV). If we can't add a single second to our life, which seemed to be a simple thing to Jesus, by worrying, then why should we do it? He goes on to say in verse 34, "Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own" (NIV). Each day has enough worries and stressing over what may happen tomorrow is unproductive and ineffective. We should replace our worry with worship and praise of the One who cares and provides for us. He's the One who can change things and the last thing we need to do is doubt in His abilities to do so.

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Monday, April 28, 2014

Don't Live a Distracted Life

This past week our family took some time to get away. We spent the week at the NC Baptist Assembly's retreat at Fort Caswell. It's an awesome place that God has definitely anointed, but that is a discussion for another blog post. One morning I returned from my morning walk and sat down at the table to eat breakfast with my sons. When I sat down I pulled out my devotional & Bible study material along with my Bible so I could read while eating breakfast like I do at home. It didn't take me long to realize that this task would be much more difficult than it is at home. One son was watching TV on his tablet while the other was playing an annoying sounding game on his tablet. If you know me you know that I don't deal well with distractions while trying to focus. I struggle to focus, especially on reading, if there are a lot of noises and distractions going on around me. I struggled through my devotional. I persevered through my Bible study. But when it came to my daily Bible reading, I couldn't go on. I had to give up. I knew that I would not be able to accomplish what I hoped to do because there were too many distractions around me.

In this world we have plenty of distractions that vie for our attention on a daily basis. Work, family, kid's sports, finances, TV, relationships, books, Facebook, Twitter, and the list can go on and on and on. There can be plenty of noise around us that can distract us from what should be our primary focus. Our primary focus should be God and what He is doing in our lives. I don't mean what is God doing in our lives to make it more comfortable and make life easier for us. On the contrary. We should be keyed in on what God is doing to conform us to the image of Christ. Simply put, we should be paying attention daily to what God is doing to change us from a rotten and sinful person into a reflection of His perfect and sinless Son. It's easy to get distracted and miss what God is trying to do in our lives. The problem is that too many believers only look for what God can do in their lives during a one hour period on Sunday mornings. What happens when they allow travel ball, sunny days or the lure of the lake to distract them from worship on many Sundays during the summer? They live an even more distracted life because they aren't seeking God's transformation in their lives daily.

God's goal for us is to make us more like Christ. Our goal for ourselves should be for us to be more like Christ today than we were yesterday. The only hope we have attaining to either goal is to be sure we don't live a distracted life. The only way to do that is to be focused on God daily.

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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Satan, A Boy, and Things to Avoid

"The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn't exist."
Kevin Spacey as Verbal Kint in the Usual Suspects

I had an interesting conversation yesterday as I headed home with my boys after picking them up after school. They said that a young boy they both knew said somethings that sort of worried or confused them. The boy, who is the same age as my sons, said that he sees the devil every night. The boy went into some descriptions of what he sees and they relayed that to me. The young boy even went so far as to say he gets possessed during the night too. Hearing stuff like this coming from my 8 and 9 year old sons was a little unsettling, even for a pastor. I hope and pray that this young boy is simply trying to scare my boys in a childish way, but you can't play around with this type of stuff. I used this opportunity to teach the boys how they should avoid any and everything that has to do with the devil. I told them that if this young boy is ever talking about this stuff again they need to encourage him to learn about God and His love rather than Satan and his lies.

In the conversation we had I made 3 main points with the boys that I think can benefit us all.

1. Stay away from everything satanic.
If we allow even a small satanic influence in our lives we are opening up ourselves to Satan's influence on a larger scale. Ephesians 4:27 warns us not to give Satan a foothold. That's because once he has even the slightest grip on our lives, he will ravage our lives and try to destroy everything that God has done in us to make us like Christ. I warned the boys not to read horoscopes, play with Ouija boards, or even discuss things of a satanic nature. Even watching movies about demonic influences and spirits or TV shows about ghost and spirits opens you up to satanic influences that followers of Christ should avoid at all cost.

2. Satan tries to get people to think he doesn't exist.
During our conversation Cooper quoted our revival speaker's remarks about how Satan isn't some cute little figure in a red suit with a pitchfork. I was shocked to hear him remember such a deeply theological truth. That's when I paraphrased the quote given above from the movie The Usual Suspects. Satan wants us to think he's harmless. He wants us to rationalize our sins that draw us away from God. He wants us to think his influences on us are minimal. The exact opposite is true. John 10:10 tells us Satan's game plan when it says "The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy" (NIV). If he can get us thinking that horoscopes, medium shows and paranormal shows or movies are no big deal then he has done his job. Jesus didn't call Satan a liar and the father of lies for no reason (John 8:44).

3. Satan Loses, Jesus Wins, End of Story!
If you've ever read the book of Revelation in the Bible then you know that in the end Satan loses and Jesus wins. Satan may have some control right now (and only what God allows him to have), but one day in the future Satan will be destroyed by Christ.  As I told the boys yesterday Jesus will give Satan the worst butt-kicking of all time. But Satan is simply trying to take as many people with him into hell as possible. The great thing about the Bible is that it tells us that we don't have to go down in flames, literally, with Satan. God freely offers us His unconditional love and grace, all we have to do is accept it.

One thing that we should all do from time to time is to ask God to reveal to us those places in our lives where Satan has taken a foothold and then seek God's wisdom for dealing with it. In the end we will avoid Satan and his influence and draw closer to God, by conforming more to the image of Christ.

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Monday, April 14, 2014

How (not) to kill your husband!

The other night I was called out around 8:30 PM to go make a hospital visit at the ER. As I walked into the living room to tell Misty goodbye I turned toward the TV to see what she was watching. I mainly looked because the name of the show was said and it really caught my attention. The title of the show is "How (not) to kill your husband." After I looked at the TV, I then looked at Misty and she had a mischievous grin on her face. She reassured me it was just a commercial for the show and not the actual show. She then said that she may need to watch it though! This TV show is similar to others where they basically show you what a person did in their attempt to murder their spouse and why they were caught. I guess you could consider it a how not to get caught guide, which is pretty unnerving!

Marriage is a fickle thing. There are some marriages that are so bad they actually do want to kill their spouse (and in some cases actually attempt it). There are some marriages that last for 70 years and we are amazed at how they have done it. Regardless of how great a marriage seems to be or how badly it seems to be going, marriage is a struggle. See, marriage is God's perfect union being attempted by two imperfect people. And because we are imperfect people we bring our own baggage, our own selfish desires and our own issues into a relationship made for more than just us. When you add two people with their own baggage, selfish desires and issues, then mix in kids, finances, jobs and family issues, we have the ingredients for a very explosive bomb. This bomb has the potential to leave collateral damage for years to come. So how do some couples diffuse the bomb and others can't seem to put the burning fuse out before its too late?

My answer is this, I don't know. I do know this, marriage takes the work of two people not just one to make it work. I also know that marriage is work, it's not easy to make marriage work. The hardest job in the world is raising kids. The second hardest is marriage. Misty and I have had our rough patches in marriage like all couples, but we've been committed to doing what was necessary to make our marriage work. If both spouses aren't committed to making the marriage work, then the fuse will continue to burn until it sets the bomb off. 

To make a marriage work you also have to change your perspective. Just like when a child is born, a parent's perspective changes from a self-centered perspective to a perspective that focuses on someone else's needs. When we get married, our perspective has to change. Our marriage isn't about what it does for us. Our marriage is about glorifying God and what we can do to make our spouse the greatest man or woman they can be. It's about putting their needs above our own and constantly working to show our love to them. Can any of us do it perfectly? No we can't. Should we strive every day to do all we can to edify and build up our spouse? Yes. Otherwise we are simply watching the fuse burn towards the bomb.

I'll end with this. Last year I stood in the ER with a man who had just lost his wife of 71 years. They had a great marriage. Was it perfect? No. Did they both work hard to make their marriage work, especially when he served in WWII? Yes they did. That night I saw the picture of what a great marriage is all about. I saw a man who had loved his wife completely tell her that he should have loved her more, that he should have done more for her. He understood what it meant to set aside his self-centered desires and put the wants and desires of his wife ahead of his own. That's how you diffuse the bomb. That's how you make a marriage not just good, but great.

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Wednesday, April 9, 2014

God's NOT Dead!

By now you've more than likely heard of the great response to the movie God's Not Dead. Having gone to see the movie with my family, I can attest to the fact that this movie is a great movie with a great message. But the title of the movie, and awesome song by the Newsboys, is the direction of today's post. There are plenty of people around the world who believe that God is in fact dead, or maybe more accurately He never existed. To them He's a fairy tale made up by man to explain away drought and disease. They see Him as a crutch for mentally, emotionally and spiritually weak people. To them, God is dead. To them, I believe God would share the often quoted words of Mark Twain. "The rumors of my death have been greatly exaggerated."

To millions of people around the world, God is in fact alive. There is no mistake about it to them. They know Him to be alive based on their observation of the relationship they share with Him. They see Him interacting with them. They speak to Him and He speaks to them. It's impossible to have a relationship with someone who is dead. The same is true for those that believe in God and have a relationship with Him through Jesus Christ. If God didn't exist or were dead, then how could believers carry on a relationship with Him. They couldn't. We would all be here by chance with no purpose for our lives. Instead we are here by the design of a loving and righteous God who wants a relationship with us.

In the Bible we find 31 places (NKJV) where God is referred to as "the living God." We hear it from men who had a deep faith in a great God and men who encountered Him in their daily lives. Moses in Deuteronomy and Joshua in the book that bears his name, both call Him "the living God." Both saw Him perform many miracles and had special relationships with Him. David, in his fight against the Philistine giant Goliath, asks "For who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the armies of the living God?" (1 Samuel 17:26, NKJV). To the man after God's own heart, there was no doubt that God was alive. Prophets such as Isaiah, Jeremiah, Daniel and Hosea knew God to be alive because of the messages He gave them to share with the wayward people of Israel. Jesus' own disciples knew that God was alive, even referring to Jesus as "the Son of the living God" (John 6:69, NKJV).

For those that want to claim God is dead, to them I say, "Examine the facts honestly and watch God stir your heart. Then claim He is dead." To me, their claim that God is dead has no more bearing on me than for them to claim the sky is green and the grass is blue. Their claim doesn't change the truth. My prayer is that they would encounter the God who shaped and changed the lives of millions and that can change their lives too. To those who know God's NOT Dead, keep proclaiming the truth!

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Monday, April 7, 2014

We've turned into our parents!

This past week I had two earth shattering revelations that confirmed what I feared might one day happen. I've turned into my parents! I caught my self one morning walking barefoot through our house wearing my slacks and shirt for work, half ready for the day, and thought back to my adolescence when I saw my dad doing the same. Last night I found my self lying half awake, half asleep on the couch about nine o'clock and remembered how my dad would "watch TV" while doing the same thing. Don't get me wrong, this isn't the first time I've came to this realization. Anyone who's had children have, at one time or another, caught themselves disciplining their kids like their parents did. And we've all had that dreaded moment when we look at our kids and say something our parents used to say that would absolutely drive us nuts! It's a vicious cycle that I am convinced is perpetrated by the curse of parents when they say "I hope you have one just like you!"

I have to admit that when it comes to "turning into my parents" I'm okay with it. I had great role models of what parents should be like. Were my parents perfect, far from it. Did they try their best to love us, discipline us, teach us, and develop us as followers of Christ? Yes they did. When it comes to parenting we have to remember that kids don't come with an instruction manual, so for some, parenting is more difficult than they expected. We also have to remember that our only sources of parenting knowledge are examples we've witnessed, our own wisdom and God's wisdom.

Some of us have great examples to learn from. Others have poor examples to follow. Whether our parents were good or bad at parenting, it's our responsibility to take the good examples and use them, and learn from the bad examples as to what we don't want to do with our kids. No parents are perfect. My parents taught me many good lessons about parenting. Did I also see things that I would do differently, sure. Parenting is the greatest example of "On the Job Training" there ever was. We have to learn and adapt but we have to learn from the good and bad examples we've been given.

Our own wisdom is limited but can be effective at helping us make wise parenting decisions. Sometimes our best guess is all we can muster. Sometimes we take a shot in the dark because we haven't faced a particular situation before. Our finite wisdom can be a good resource be have to remember that it is finite and that we don't know it all.

God's wisdom is the greatest resource we have for parenting. We can gain that wisdom in two ways. One is through prayer and the other through His Word. As a pastor, I find my self regularly praying for godly wisdom. We as parents should do the same. He tells us in the Bible that He will freely give us wisdom, all we have to do is ask (James 1:5). So ask for it. The other source of His wisdom is through His Word, the Bible. The Bible is full of godly wisdom for parents on how to parent. In my opinion, two of the greatest examples of godly wisdom from the Bible that I can quickly pass along to you are these. 1. Raise your child to be a man or woman who has faith in God (Proverbs 22:6). 2. Discipline your children (Proverbs 13:24). There are plenty of others in the Bible so mine it for every valuable nugget of wisdom for parenting. (Proverbs is a great place to start!)

Parenting is the toughest job EVER! We can't go it alone and we definitely need some help. So rely on your examples, rely on your wisdom, and most importantly, rely on God.

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Friday, April 4, 2014

The REAL Story of Noah

I used to love watching shows on History Channel or Discovery titled something like "The truth about Noah's Ark" or "Biblical Secrets Revealed." I always thought they would be a great show to watch that would help build up my faith. PSYCHE! They baited you in and switched things up on you like an unethical used car salesman. You start watching and they have "experts" who have no interest in proving the truth of biblical accounts but instead they want to disprove them. They would say stuff like "Jesus didn't walk on the water, He walked on ice" or "The Israelites walked across a swampy marsh called the Reed Sea" or "The flood of Noah was a local flood and the boat wasn't as big as the Bible claims." To them I would say "Ice in the Middle East?", "Praise God because He drowned the entire Egyptian Army in 3 inches of water!" and "Why would every kind of animal need to be on a boat that affected a small area?" These shows are much like the recently released movie, Noah. They advertise one thing but deliver another.

Now I have to preface the following by saying, I have not yet seen the Noah movie. That being said, reviews are fairly accurate to the content of a movie and this one seems to be lacking in biblical authenticity. As someone has said, "The only thing the movie and the biblical story have in common are a guy named Noah, a boat, and some animals." The problem with this is that people will walk away from this movie thinking this is really the story of Noah. Yes, it will get some to read the Bible because they didn't remember the story that way. I'm glad it will cause some to do that. The vast majority will walk away thinking that the movie is basically what happened. The old bait and switch has worked again!

My encouragement to you is this. Before watching the movie, which I plan to do at some point but not while in theaters, be sure to read the story of Noah as found in Genesis 5:28-9:28. That way you can see how the tricks of the devil are being used to confuse and mislead so many on the truth of the Bible.

UPDATE: Since writing this blog back in April I have since watched the movie. The only thing the movie is good for is showing how Hollywood can butcher God's Word. It really isn't worth the watch. (11.3.14)

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Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Planting Seeds and Disciplining Kids

Today I had the opportunity to visit my oldest son at his school as he participated in a project planting cabbage plants with his class. It was great to watch my son dig in the dirt and see him be proud of the job he did on planting his cabbage. There were kids all over the place that were planting their cabbage plants and having a great time. Then I heard a teacher reprimanding a kid who was going around purposefully stepping on other kids plants. 

As I drove back to the office to, among other things, write today's post I thought about the kids planting and the boy ruining the hard work. It caused me to think about what kind of seeds we are planting with our kids. Are we planting seeds of respect that are watered with discipline? Or are we allowing our children to run wild like kudzu that can't be stopped?

The Bible is clear on what it takes for parents to raise children to respect others. Every time I read Proverbs 13:24 I can't help but be saddened. Mainly because I realize that there are parents who avoid disciplining their kids only to the detriment of the child. It says "He who spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is careful to discipline him" (NIV). I bet Solomon wrote this after a tough day with his kids! Now I'm not going to get into a debate in this post over whether you ought to spank your kids or not. Personally I was spanked as a kid growing up and it taught me actions have consequences. I think I turned out all right. My kids have been spanked since they were small and we are regularly told how well behaved our children are. I also see children that aren't spanked or disciplined at all and they generally run wild. I don't think Solomon wrote such wise words for no reason, you know he was the wisest man to ever live! 

I want to talk more about the last part of that verse. It basically tells us if we love our children we will discipline them. This verse is so true when it comes to the love of a parent. If we want our children to grow up to respect us and respect others they need to learn how the world operates when it comes to consequences for bad behavior. Otherwise we raise our children to be spoiled brats that know no limits and are holy terrors for the rest of society. Think about the opposite view of what Solomon wrote. It would mean that if we don't discipline our kids then we are actually showing hatred toward them. I don't know many well-meaning parents that would want to show hatred towards their children. When we don't discipline our children that is exactly what we are doing.

As a parent I know disciplining kids is a tough thing to do. Sometimes you want to just give up because they don't listen and you're tired of hearing yourself fuss. Like I've counseled parents for years, be firm, be consistent and stand your ground. In the end you'll be showing them a type of love that will far outlast the time they spend under your roof.

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