Monday, March 30, 2015

Jesus' Four-Letter Word

There is a four-letter word that describes Jesus. This same four-letter word is the reason Jesus came to earth. This four-letter word explains why Jesus stayed on the cross when He had the power to save His life. This four-letter word is love.

As Christians, when we think about the cross we can become desensitized to the facts of what Jesus endured during His crucifixion. See the pain the human body endures during crucifixion is unbelievable. It's practically unbearable. It was so bad that they didn't even have a word to describe the anguish and pain someone went through during a crucifixion. They had to develop a new word meaning “out of the cross.” We know it as excruciating. Excruciating describes the pain Jesus endured during His crucifixion. When Jesus was being prepared for His crucifixion, His arms would have been dislocated at the shoulder and stretched 6 inches beyond his normal reach (fulfilling the prophecy in Psalm 22:14). Then while His arms are pulled outward, 5-7 inch tapered spikes would have been driven through His wrists to keep him from falling off the cross. Another spike would have been driven through His overlapped feet. Those spikes would have destroyed nerves in the feet and wrists. Those destroyed nerves would have caused a permanent sensation much worse than but similar to the pain when a person hits their “funny bone.” During crucifixion the body is placed in a constant position of inhalation. Jesus would have to push His body upwards to exhale and lowering His body would be able to inhale again but forced to move up again to exhale. He did all of this as His back, mutilated from His scourging, rubbed against the cross. He did it while pulling against those spikes driven into His wrists and pushing against the one in His feet. And finally, His heart would have beat erratically and He would have known when He was at the moment of death. This would allow Him to say “Lord into your hands I commit my spirit” (Luke 23:46) and "It is finished" (John 19:30) just before suffering cardiac arrest and dying from exhaustion and suffocation.

But why go through the gory details of what Jesus endured while He was on the cross? First off, so we don’t forget and take for granted what Jesus did for us on the cross. If we are a Christian then when we sin we take for granted what Christ did for us. When we sin we make a mockery of Him as badly as those standing at the cross on that day. Secondly, to remind us of the love He showed us on that cross. Jesus could have easily saved Himself and came down off of the cross. But He didn't come down from the cross. He didn't because He wanted to show us His love. William Barclay once wrote “Jesus came to tell people of the love of God; more, he was himself the incarnate love of God. If he had refused the cross or if in the end he had come down from the cross, it would have meant that there was a limit to God’s love, that there was something which that love was not prepared to suffer for men and women, that there was a line beyond which it would not go.”

There was no drink to ease the pain or ridicule from His enemies or fear of death that could get Jesus to come down off of that cross. Why? Because His love for you was greater than anything else. His desire for you to have a relationship with God meant more to Him than His own life did. He died on that cross as a sacrifice for you so that your sins could be forgiven, so you could have a relationship with God and spend eternity with Him in heaven. That’s why He stayed on the cross. That’s why He endured the pain. That’s why He became sin for you and me. It was all because of Jesus' four-letter word. L-O-V-E.

If you're a believer in Christ and have wondered from God, then take time right now to seek His forgiveness and turn back to Him. We call it repentance. He'll gladly take you back.

If you've never heard before that God loves you and that Jesus died on the cross for all the wrongs you've ever committed, then I encourage you to seek His forgiveness. God is willing to forgive you of your sins. All you have to do is believe that Jesus is the Son of God, that He died for your sins, and that God raised Him from the dead. If you believe that all you have to do is ask Jesus to forgive you of your sins and to come into your life as your Lord and Savior. If you have more questions then check out or email me at

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Monday, March 23, 2015

Don't be a Church Baby!

Back some time ago, after dealing with a difficult situation at church, I tried to give my boys some helpful advice for when they are older. As we rode down the road I gave them this sage advice. I told them, "When you grow up don't be a problem for your pastor. Be a help to him." Without missing a beat, Cooper, our wise cracking smart aleck, says "What has [Chairman of Deacons name] done now?" I started laughing and told him I would tell that person because Cooper likes and respects him. Cooper was only joking about our friend but my advice to the boys was no joke. 

The longer I am in ministry the more I see that churches really aren't all that different from each other. They may have a different sign out front and some differences in the way they do things, but for the most part you have the same personalities with different names and faces. One personality that can drain the life out of a pastor, church leadership, and the church is the church baby. I'm not talking about the adorable newborn that is passed around during the service. I'm talking about the grown adult that acts like a baby. Think about how baby's act for a second. They're selfish, wanting their way all the time. If they don't get their way they let everybody know about it! They leave a mess wherever they go. Sometimes its toys, other times its food, and sometimes its remnants of an overflowing smelly diaper. They have to be petted and coddled. You have to make sure you keep them happy or they'll throw a temper tantrum. We've all seen babies in action. They can be holy terrors sometimes. You get the picture, right?

The church is not immune from such "holy terrors." You will find people who do the same thing in the name of "the church" or a particular ministry. They have to have their way all the time. When they don't get their way they let everyone know about it. Everyone from the pastor to the church gossip gets an earful. To avoid a tantrum like this many in the church will seek to coddle the church baby. We give them their proverbial pacifier and hope they calm down. We then look at each other and use everyone's favorite line, "Well, that's just the way so and so is." What we usually find in the wake of the church baby is a mess that no one wants to clean up. We find disunity, hurtful remarks, and other actions that are far from Christ-like. So what do we do?

We treat this grown adult like a grown adult Christian should be treated, with love and grace. That doesn't mean we coddle them and side step the issues. It means we speak plainly and lovingly yet tactfully with them about the issue at hand. If they are not mature enough to see you treating them in a Christ-like way, then you have little hope of them ever being spiritually mature enough to grow from this difficult situation. The best thing for the pastor, church leader, or membership to do is to stand their ground. It's just like dealing with a real baby. If you continue to give in you eventually end up with a spoiled child. Lovingly stand your ground and help this brother or sister in Christ see their need for maturity through your actions.

If you're not a church baby, as a pastor, I thank you. Be a help to your pastor not a drain on his time or energy. If you are a church baby, I say this as lovingly as anyone can, "Grow up." It's not all about you, what you want, or getting your way. Its all about Him, what He wants, and Him getting His way in your life and in the church. 

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Monday, March 16, 2015

Dealing with Homosexuality.

Over the last few weeks we've taken a look at some more of the areas of culture and life that are more hotly debated. We've already looked at AbortionSame-Sex MarriagePolitics, and Divorce. Today we look at another. Please understand this isn't about condemning anyone or passing judgment on anyone. It's about a brief look at what the Bible says on the topic and how we should deal with it. So let's get started!

There isn't much more of a hot topic issue in our culture anymore than issues surrounding homosexuality. Whether its LGBT groups seeking legalization of same-sex marriage or seeking city ordinances for transgender restrooms we regularly hear about it in the news and media. We constantly hear about a push for acceptance and equality for those who live a homosexual lifestyle. Our TV shows, movies, and other media have sought to desensitize us to homosexual relationships over the past 20 years to the point that no one questions it when its presented anymore. But the question we ought to ask ourselves isn't what society says about it. It doesn't matter what our friends, family, or co-workers "think" about it. Like every other area of life our basis should be what God says about it in His Word. So here's some brief direction for us on this topic from the Bible.

Homosexuality is a sin according to the Bible.
Sin is “the condition and activity of human beings that is offensive to God” or a “revolt against holiness and the sovereign will of God.” When we go against God's will, regardless of what it is, we sin against Him. He tells us in His word in 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 that homosexuality, along with many other sins, will keep a person spiritually separated from God. That means a person who practices sin and has not received salvation from God will not enter heaven after death. If they are a follower of Christ and struggle with the sin of homosexuality, then they need to seek God's help to deal with the temptation.

Homosexuality is a choice not genetics.
Like Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, we all make the choice to sin. It is difficult to resist temptations to sin but God gives us His strength, through Christ, to resist (1 Corinthians 10:13). When it comes to homosexuality some will claim that God created them as a homosexual and that it is biological. That statement is partially right in the sense that God did create them and their sin nature is biologically passed from Adam and Eve's original sin. But God did not create anyone homosexual. The choice is up to the individual and they must decide whether to sin against God or resist the temptation to sin. In the end it's a matter of taking responsibility for our choices.

All sexual relationships outside of marriage are forbidden by God.
As I discussed in my post on same-sex marriage, God's original design for marriage is one man and one woman for life (Genesis 2:24). God's original design for sexual relations was for it to be enjoyed inside the marriage relationship between that one man and one woman. Anything outside of that is forbidden by God as being sinful. That means homosexuality, fornication (sex between two unmarried persons), and adultery (a married person having sex with someone other than their spouse) are all forbidden by God. There is no room for acceptance or approval for any of these sexual sins in God's eyes.

Homosexuality is no worse than any other sin.
My sin of pride, cursing, or lying is no different than another person's homosexuality. Many in the history of the church have tried to vilify homosexuality as being a "major" sin like adultery or murder, as if some were worse than others. But when we look back at how sin was defined earlier, there is no distinction between the severity of different sins. All sins separate us from God. All sins tempt us to turn our back on God. All sins lead to spiritual death unless salvation is received from Christ. When we do receive salvation from Christ then we seek to please God by resisting the temptations to sin and pursuing His holy standards for this life.

The Christian response to homosexuals.
Love. In one word that is the response that followers of Christ should have for those who struggle with the temptation of homosexual sin. We should love the individual as a person not labeling them by their sins. Don't get me wrong we should not approve or condone a homosexual lifestyle anymore than we would that of any other kind of sexual sin, but we must show the same love, grace, and mercy that we've been shown by God. What any sinner needs is forgiveness from God and a loving environment to grow in their faith and understanding of God's Word. The church should be a place where a person struggling with homosexual sin can receive both. 

I'll close with this. My desire with this post is not to be judgmental or criticize a person for the life they've chosen to live. My desire is to share the truths of God's Word with people in the hope that they will pursue the standard of holiness in their life that God desires for them. If you are struggling with homosexuality or any other kind of sin and need someone to talk to feel free to email me, I will be glad to talk with you and go more in-depth with you than I can in a blog post.

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Monday, March 9, 2015

Dealing with Divorce.

Over the next few weeks we'll take a look at some more of the areas of culture and life that are more hotly debated. We've already looked at AbortionSame-Sex Marriage, and Politics. Please understand this isn't about condemning anyone or passing judgment on anyone. It's about a brief look at what the Bible says on the topic and how we should deal with it. So let's get started!

Divorce is an unforgivable sin. Those that get divorced should be shunned from churches and treated like lepers. Divorcees should be looked down upon and treated like second-class citizens. Those are some of the unwritten rules that some people have held about divorce over the years. Whether inside or outside of the church those views were propagated by people for so long that many believed them to be true.

From my perspective as one who has never experienced divorce but has ministered to families considering or experiencing it, divorce is hard. It's probably much harder than I realize. No one goes into a marriage expecting it to end in divorce. They expect their marriage to last. They expect it to grow stronger as the years go by. But that isn't always the way things happen. There are plenty of emotions that occur during the time leading up to separation, during the separation, and once the divorce is final. Those emotions are best dealt with in a counseling type atmosphere rather than a blog. But one question that those emotions can bring up, at least for the Christian, is "How does God feel about my divorce?" Well here are a few things to consider from the Bible when it comes to divorce.

Divorce is not God's plan for marriage.
God's plan for marriage does not involve divorce. God's original design for marriage is one man and one woman for life (Genesis 2:24). Unfortunately, as we all know too well, man does not always follow God's plan. 

God hates divorce.
Yes, God hates divorce (Malachi 2:16). Why? Because it goes against His divine plan for marriage. Notice He doesn't hate those that get divorced just the action of divorce for what it brings into the lives of His children.

Allowances for divorce.
God gives two allowances for divorce in the Bible. One is when a non-Christian spouse deserts the other spouse willfully and permanently (1 Corinthians 7:12-15). The other is a spouse's sexual immorality (Matthew 19:9). People are divorced for other reasons beyond these two allowances given in the Bible and God still loves them and cares for them.

Divorce requires forgiveness.
The Bible tells us throughout it's pages how man goes against God's will in every way of life and that is how man sins against God. The only solution for sin is the forgiveness offered to man by Jesus' death on the cross. Like any other area of our life where we step outside of God's will, divorce requires we seek God's forgiveness. Once we seek His forgiveness and have a right relationship with Him, we can then rightly relate to others, including a future or former spouse.

There is a cure for divorce.
Philippians 2:3-4 gives us the cure for divorce. It says, "Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others" (NIV). If everyone lived up to the counsel given in these verses divorce would never occur. If both spouses desired to put the other's needs before their own and to do nothing out of a selfish heart then we would see marriages last. If couples showed each other the love of Christ in every part of life then marriages would become stronger rather than weaker. It's not an easy process, and it requires daily dying to one's self, but with God all things are possible (Matthew 19:26).

A Christian response to a divorcee.
The key is not to get hung up on divorce being some black mark on a person for the rest of their life. Divorcees deal with enough emotions during and following a divorce that they do not need unnecessary judgment and condemnation from others who should be supporting them and loving them. As Christians we are called to love God and love others (Matthew 22:37-39). For our brothers and sisters dealing with divorce, love that reflects the heart of God is exactly what they need.

These are just a few of the facets of divorce that we could discuss. There are plenty of other aspects that could be addressed and be helpful to people. As divorce is a difficult situation for any person, be sure to be in prayer for those you know who are dealing with divorce.

* For this particular blog post I did refer to the Billy Graham Training Center Bible to help supplement my own work. The topical resource in that Bible on divorce is a great resource for those going through or having experienced a divorce.

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Monday, March 2, 2015

Dealing with Politics.

Over the next few weeks we'll take a look at some more of the areas of culture and life that are more hotly debated. We've already looked at Abortion and Same-Sex Marriage. Please understand this isn't about condemning anyone or passing judgment on anyone. It's about a brief look at what the Bible says on the topic and how we should deal with it. So let's get started!

If you want to divide people bring up either politics or religion. If you really want to divide people bring up politics and religion and watch what happens. Some people are very passionate about politics. Other's don't care enough about it to even vote. But in our current political climate of red states and blue states or one side of the aisle against the other, we see that the idea of how the government should be run and how it affects the people is important to many. We all have an idea of how the government ought to be run and how it should affect us as citizens of this great land. Whether you are conservative, liberal, moderate, Republican, Democrat, Libertarian, or a registered independent (like myself) the government on the local, state, and national levels all have some bearing on our lives. But the real question isn't what side of the political fence should I fall on. To me that doesn't really matter. But what does matter is how the Bible says we should respond to our government.

When we consider the government that leads our country at any level there are two key scriptures we need to consider. The first is Romans 13:1 where it says, "Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God" (NIV). It's crucial that we keep in mind that God who is sovereign has allowed government officials to take office. Whether we like a particular governor, mayor, or president has no bearing here. What does matter is that we remember that God has placed them in authority for His sovereign will to be fulfilled. Here's an example to consider. We would all agree that Hitler had no business leading Germany. We know of how he killed 6 million Jews. So should we question God's choice to allow him to govern. No. We can see, some 70 years later, that through the horrors inflicted on the world through the Nazis that the nation of Israel was brought back together in their homeland in Palestine. We should also see how that plays into God's plan for the end times. All of that to say this, God used a government that we would consider atrocious to bring about His sovereign will for mankind. So as long as our government does not require of us something that goes against scripture we should submit ourselves to the government because it has been put in place by God. (As a side note, if the government does require something of its citizens that goes against scripture then we are to remember that our allegiance is first to God then our country.)

Another verse we must consider is 1 Timothy 2:1-2 where it says, "I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone— 2 for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness" (NIV). Your responsibility as a citizen of your town, county, state, and nation is to pray for your political leaders. God has placed them in authority, as we just stated, and they are in need of godly wisdom to lead us. The only way they will have godly wisdom to lead us is if they open their hearts to it through their own prayers and the prayers of the citizens. As a pastor, I don't care if you like or dislike President Obama. As a Christian you still need to pray for him. It does not matter if you like your state's governor or not. As a Christian you still need to pray for that person. Your duty to pray for elected officials does not end when that person is of a different political affiliation or even a different religion (remember the Romans were not Christians when Paul was alive). Your duty to pray comes from your obedience to the Word of God and your desire to see your political leadership governing with godly wisdom.

Politics is a difficult subject to discuss because many are passionate about their political views. But don't get so caught up in your own political views to the point that you forget that every government leader is placed their by God and you have a responsibility to pray for them.

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