This is a bit long, so if you get exhausted and want to stop reading, at least scroll down to the end where there are some pictures for you to enjoy.
This is a bit long, so if you get exhausted and want to stop reading, at least scroll down to the end where there are some pictures for you to enjoy.
Last month we were playing soccer with a group of friends. Before the game started, a bunch of guys were on the field stretching. I advised them that stretching cold muscles isn’t as good as people think, and walked off.
Less than five minutes later, take a wild guess who pulled a muscle in his leg and was sidelined for the rest of the night? My leg was in bad shape for two weeks!
My silly theory may have sounded plausible to someone who doesn’t know anything about muscle or stretching, but it quickly became very apparent that I was the one who didn’t know what I was talking about. What a dufus!
People make the same types of mistakes when it comes to how they relate to God. We can come up with all sorts of ideas about who God is, what his nature and character are like, how he views us and what he expects of us. Many of those ideas sound reasonable and believable, but often they are just not true.
You can have one person who finds it inconceivable that there is a God who hates and punishes sin, while another insists that God is a harsh taskmaster who delights in it.
I was having this discussion with a young man the other night. He thought that truth is relative, everyone is entitled to their own beliefs about God and that whatever you believe is what happens to you. Really? I pointed to the street and asked him what would happen if I walked out in front of a car? “You’d be crushed,” he said. “Okay, so what if I believe it’s a marshmallow car? Then what?” He laughed and said I would be an idiot but I would still die.
“Exactly,” I replied. “What’s important is not what I believe, but what is actually true.”
People can conceive all sorts of personal beliefs about God, but what’s important is what is actually true about him. God hasn’t hidden it from us. He’s revealed himself through creation and through His word.
Don’t let your own personal thoughts about what you would prefer God to be like (or what you may be afraid he is like) get in the way of pursuing the truth about who He is and what He thinks about you.
A smart person will seek out the truth, and follow it.
“There is a way that seems right to a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.” Proverbs 14:12, 16:25
A couple days ago, on a very busy morning on base, Beth called me and said she had a big problem. On the way home from dropping the kids at school, she got a flat tire. Apparently, as she was making a turn, an oncoming car caused her to take the turn too tightly, and she hit the curb.
We didnt have time to deal with this. I have to confess that the first thing that came to my mind was to ask her how she could have been so careless. But of course I didnt say that, especially since it was only two months ago when I hit a curb and flattened a tire myself!
Instead, I asked where she was stranded and drove over to pick her up. Guess what, she had hit the exact same curb that I did, and popped the exact same tire! She had pulled down to the exact same intersection. I too was driving back from dropping the kids at school when it happened, and the same circumstance had caused me to take the corner too tight.
Now I was feeling pretty rotten for how I responded in my mind when she first called. I was relieved that I hadn’t said anything critical to her, but convicted that the thought was there.
Have you ever gotten angry with or criticized someone else over something that you are guilty of yourself? Its called hypocrisy, and no one likes a hypocrite! Jesus often rebuked the religious leaders of his day for their hypocrisy with scathing words. He would say things like, “Woe to you, scribes and pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness. So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.” Matt 23:27,28
The book of Romans also addresses hypocrisy in chapter 2 when it says, “you then who teach others, do you not teach yourself? While you preach against stealing, do you steal? You who say that one must not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? You who boast in the law dishonor God by breaking the law. For, as it is written, “The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.” Romans 2:21-24
There is nothing more disgusting than a hypocrite. And God will deal with those who practice it. Romans 2:1-5 shows us his disdain for it. “Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things. 2 We know that the judgment of God rightly falls on those who practice such things. 3 Do you suppose, O man—you who judge those who practice such things and yet do them yourself—that you will escape the judgment of God? 4 Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? 5 But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed.”
Wasnt it the kindness of God that led YOU to repentance? Because of his kindness, he bestowed great long-suffering and patience with you until you repented, and now you cast judgment on someone else? Yikes, Thats a bad heart condition to have.
So todays lesson is simple. Don’t be a quick to cast judgment on others, especially if you are guilty of the same things. Don’t be a hypocrite!
I remember before I was converted, that often I would feel guilty just driving by a church or if I saw that someone I knew was saved. They didn’t even have to say anything and I would feel conviction. Something inside of me was repulsed by them, even hated them. I felt judged by them.
We were having this discussion a short time ago here with a couple of leaders and a group of students. They were saying that the number one reason nonChrisitans don’t go to church is that they feel judged by the church. So basically the strategy became, “How do we make ourselves seem less judgmental and more accepting?”
But I had to disagree with them. If the truth were told, I think that in our day, the church has gone a bit overboard on trying to be accepting and culturally relevant. We are so seeker sensitive we hardly mention words like sin, judgement, hell, repentance, etc. (all words that Jesus used frequently) because we are afraid of scaring people away.
A typical reaction when people feel judged is that they blame the church, or certain individuals. Oftentimes we equate conviction with condemnation or judgment. But I would submit to you that the conviction is coming from another source.
When Jesus was about to be crucified he told his disciples that he must go so the Comforter can come. We wouldn’t be able to receive the Holy Spirit unless he left. Then he explained the what the Holy Spirit would do when he came.
“But very truly I tell you, it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. When he comes, he will prove the world to be in the wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment: about sin, because people do not believe in me; about righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer; and about judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned.”
John 16:7-11 NIV
It’s clear that to the world, the Holy Spirit has one primary dominant role: to convict them of sin, righteousness, and judgment.
I concede that there are a few renegade guys out there who act as though they are supposed to be the junior Holy Spirit, sniffing out sin in everyone they meet, but those people are few and far between.
The truth of it is that people are under conviction already because that is what the Holy Spirit is doing within them, convincing them of their need of a Savior.
I see this all the time in witnessing. People who aren’t Christians tell me things like, “I’m a good person. I try to do more good than bad, to make up for my wrongs.” I had one guy tell me he baptized himself in his shower. Why would they do that? Because they are
1) convicted of their sin (they know they have done wrong)
2) they want to be made right
3) because they know there is a judgement coming
Sound familiar? Exactly what Jesus said the Holy Spirit would do.
So I’m not too quick to blame the church for being too judgemental in all situations. It’s the Holy Spirit preparing the hearts of people to receive the good news. Instead of nodding in agreement and consoling people that the church is too harsh, I’ve learned to recognize that God is already at work, and use that to meet them where they are at and lead them to the cross, where they can find freedom and forgiveness.
Not too many years ago, I was the foreman of a concrete construction crew. I had hired an employee that just didn’t work out so good. He was a big guy so I thought he would be a valuable asset, but he didn’t make the most out of his size or strength.
During his first week, I had left him to strip some forms from a recent pour. Soon afterwards, my boss called me in an angry tone wondering who was the fairy out stripping the foundation. He had seen a guy out there standing by the form trailer with his shirt off, and when he drove over to investigate, he found him with a bottle of suntan lotion. He introduced himself as the new concrete guy and promptly asked the big boss of the company if he would help him out by rubbing suntan lotion on his back!
My boss wanted me to fire him immediately, but I wanted to give him a chance to toughen up.
Within a few days, this guy showed up one morning trying to get out of work with a doctor’s note. You won’t believe what his excuse was. The note was for a hangnail!
“A hangnail?” I asked! “This isn’t high school! You don’t show up with doctors notes to a construction crew! Get to work or get out of here!” And that was the end of him.
He was a big disappointment.
People can come up with all sorts of flimsy excuses for not doing the things they are supposed to do. A hangnail certainly isn’t a valid excuse for not working on a concrete crew. And regardless of the guy’s size or ability, no one was impressed with him any longer when he decided to sunbathe when there was a job to do.
Christian, the Big Boss has given us a clear mandate of what we are supposed to be doing here on earth. God has things for you to be doing. Ephesians 2:10 says that “we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” All we need to do is discover what they are and walk in them. You and I have tremendous potential when it comes to doing great things for the kingdom of God. He has given us everything we need for life and godliness. (2Pet 1:3)
The world is sinking into hell all around us, and Jesus very clearly gave us the great commission of going into all the world and preaching the gospel to every creature, yet many of us are like a guy more concerned with tanning oils and sunbathing than we are about getting the job done.
My friend Danny Lehmann, in his book “Stoked”, wrote, “far too many Christian’s behave like elderly folks sitting at a bus stop waiting for the rapture than they do like an army of disciplined soldiers who are occupying until the Lord returns.”
There are plenty of distractions to keep you from doing the things God called you to do. There are ample excuses, if you’re looking for one.
But if you want to hear the words, Well done, good and faithful servant,” (Mt 25:23) then it requires that you BE good and faithful.
Don’t waste the resources, gifts, and talents God gave you. Use them to win your world for Christ! Go do it!
A couple of months ago my son came to me asking to buy a small skateboard. He had found one online that he thought was so cool-looking that he just had to have it. But the problem is, there is nowhere to ride a skateboard where we live. I tried to talk him out of it, but it was his own money and he insisted that he needed it. He hounded me incessantly for days until I caved in and bought the thing.
Three days later it showed up in the mail. I’m not exaggerating when I say it wasn’t even five minutes after it was out of the package when he asked, “Hey dad, how much do you think I could sell it for on eBay?”
“What?” I asked incredulously. “Why?”
Now that the penny board was in his hands, it wasn’t as cool as he thought, and the realization that there was nowhere to ride it had finally set in.
“Didn’t we just go over this three days ago?”
It seems he was so blinded by his desire to own that board, that he ignored all sense of reason to get his hands on it.
I couldn’t really pick on him over it. Adults do the same thing.We even have a name for it. It’s called “buyer’s remorse.” I have a friend who recently bought a brand new car which he had wanted for some time. It’s actually a neat little car, with all kinds of cool accessories. But after owning it for not very long, he admitted that it was a huge mistake. It’s really tiny compared to his SUV, he’s spending more on payments than he is saving on gas mileage, the ride is hard and bumpy, and it doesn’t feel safe riding in such a small car. He regretted buying it.
There’s the story of Amnon in the Old Testament, a guy who desired a woman he was forbidden to have. Day after day he thought of her and ached for her, to the point where he was even losing weight in his distress, until one day he schemed up a way to have her, and he ended up forcing himself on her. As soon as he had had her, however, his lust turned to hatred and he hated her even more than he had loved her before, and he thrust her out. You can read about it in 2 Samuel 13.
Whether it’s some new gadget, a new toy, a new car, a house, a person, a certain amount of wealth, or whatever else men can desire, we have all fallen into the trap of covetousness. In all three examples above, and perhaps one or more in your own life, giving way to covetousness sets a course in the mind that elevates the object of our affection on some lovely and attractive pedestal, while blinding us to the negative consequences of its fulfillment. Only after our hunger has been satisfied does reason set in, and that thing is seen for what it is. Unsatisfying and unfulfilling.
How many times have you longed for someone or something for so long, but when you finally did all that was necessary to have it, it wasn’t as great as you thought? Have you ever strived for something only to regret it?
Jesus taught to, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” Luke 12:15
I don’t know about you, but I have never found any lasting satisfaction or fulfillment in pleasure or material things. It’s always been the lie of Satan that you will find happiness or contentment in anything or anyone other than the Lord.
Don’t be fooled by the allure and false promises of riches or possessions. The ultimate source of meaning, purpose, identity, fulfillment, and joy is found in knowing and having peace with God.
Psalm 16:11 “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”
A couple of days ago I got a flat tire on the way home from dropping the kids off at school. “Great,” I thought, “here I was in such a good mood, and feeling ambitious to get a lot done today. Satan is trying to rob my joy!” Irritated, I began digging through the back of the car for the jack and the tire iron, and as I did so, the jack fell off of the bumper onto my foot, causing me to shout in pain. I was off to a good start! When I dropped the spare tire, I discovered that it was flat, adding fuel to my frustration. My anger was brought to a full boil when I tried to loosen the lug nuts on the wheel and found that the stock tire iron does not fit my custom rims. I would need a special ratchet.
So there I was on the side of the road, mad as a hornet that the devil was thwarting me and ruining my life, looking through the Internet for a mobile tire service. Guess what? No tire shops in Honolulu have a mobile tire service truck. They all suggested I get a tow into their shop. Yeah right! That’s another two hours of wasted time, not to mention at least $200 for the ride.
I had to laugh at myself. Within 10 minutes, I went from singing praise music to the Lord over the stereo, looking forward to the rest of my day, to fuming hot mad because of some unexpected circumstance, and I was lashing out in anger blaming the devil, the stupid people who built my ford, the idiots who designed the curb I had hit, the inept tire shops of Hawaii for not having mobile tire service, and the dummies who made custom wheels that can’t be removed.
I think all too often, we give satan more credit than he deserves. Much of the time, our circumstances aren’t his doing at all. We are just big babies who want everything perfect all the time. And instead of placing blame where it belongs, it’s much easier to blameshift and accuse someone else.
Who’s fault was my situation, really? Let’s think. I was the one who wasn’t paying attention and took too tight of a turn, resulting in my tire smashing the curb. I was the one who placed a clumsy tire jack in a precarious place before it fell onto my foot. The spare tire was flat because it’s a 13 year old vehicle and I have never taken the time to properly maintain it. The tire iron didn’t fit the lug nuts because I prefer custom wheels and never bothered to buy the right ratchets in case of a flat. The truth is, if there was anyone to be angry at, it’s me!
Christians love to blame the devil, and nonChrisitans love to blame God. Sometimes even Christians shake their fist at the heavens, wondering why? A wise king gave us the truth of it in Proverbs 19:3, “A person’s own folly leads to their ruin, yet their heart rages against the LORD.”
Before accusing God or blaming the devil as the source of your problems, maybe sometimes you should look in the mirror.
It’s a lot easier to deal with life with a bit of honest humility than it is if we are always angry with our circumstances. Your attitude towards many of your struggles will change dramatically when you realize they are your own doing!
I know I certainly gave myself a lot more grace than I was giving to everyone I was accusing in my mind the other day. I laughed at myself, while moments earlier I was raging at everyone else. It’s a lot easier to pray for grace, for forgiveness, and for strength than it is to act as though we are being treated unfairly, unjustly, or demanding that our problems evaporate.
What situations in your life are you frustrated with, that in actuality can be traced back to decisions that you made?
This morning, like most other mornings, it was another battle to get the kids out the door to school. You’d think after all this time they would stop fighting it, but just about every day someone is refusing to go and demanding to stay home.
Sometimes one of them will defiantly proclaim that they are NOT going to school! Funny thing is, no matter how adamantly they protest, mom and dad don’t bend and give in. Why? Because we are more interested in their growth than we are in their comfort. We’d rather see them gain an education than watch them sit around and watch Netflix or play their beloved video games.
Christians are often guilty of this type of behavior when we are faced with various trials. None of us wants to endure difficulty. Nobody enjoys hardship. Some even defiantly stand in the face of trial or trouble and protest that their position in Christ demands that they are free from all adversity. Surely God would never see them suffer.
Often we don’t see things the way God does. He’s looking at the bigger picture. God is much more interested in our growth and maturity than he is in our comfort. He’s more interested in others seeing Christ in us than his ability to provide constant goodies. He’s more interested in his glory being revealed in us than seeing us perpetually entertained. He’s more interested in teaching us to rely on his strength than he is in our childish, selfish desire to have an easy, trouble free life.
Hebrews 10:7-11 gives us some insight on what God is doing in those moments of difficulty. The last verse contains the key to looking at the bigger picture.
“Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? If you are not disciplined—and everyone undergoes discipline—then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all. Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of spirits and live! They disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.”
1 Peter 1:6,7 reveals more of God’s purpose behind suffering. “In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.”
No matter how much my son may beg to stay home, or even if he declares with confident authority in his voice that he shouldn’t have to go to school, his dad loves him enough to do what’s best.
Has God been taking you to school? If you’ve sincerely prayed about it and there’s no breakthrough, perhaps there’s something bigger going on. Maybe it’s time to stop kicking and fighting all the way and look at the bigger picture. Your Father knows what he’s doing. Trust Him.
A number of years ago I was speeding down the freeway on my way home from work. I was late, so I was going pretty fast. As I rounded a corner, there was a police officer taking his sweet old time. I came up on him so fast, I knew that he knew I must have been going way over the limit, so I slowed it down just a bit and passed him up.
I was immediately pulled over. He came to the window with a dumbfounded expression and asked incredulously, “What were you thinking passing me? I mean, I’m a cop!”
I didn’t have much of an excuse, so I just told him the truth, that I had been speeding and that he must have known it. Do you think I got out of a ticket that day?
It’s one thing to speed when we think the law isn’t watching us. We can easily get comfortable with a little bit of traffic violation here and there. It’s quite another to go ahead and do it right in their face! That demonstrates a level of arrogance that isn’t going to impress any officer to ignore.
Many people choose to do the same thing with the laws of God. It’s not hard to get comfortable with some ‘minor’ violations here and there, (white lies, blue collar theft, lust, etc.) thinking that God has either accepted our faults or is simply overlooking our offenses. But some people take it to a whole other level. Some people are so hard hearted, they will brazenly and deliberately commit their sin, being fully conscious that the eye of the Lord is on them.
Do you think God ignores this? Some people really do think He does.
See, if I choose to walk in some sin, whatever it may be, conscience will always accuse me that what I did was wrong. At first, I may feel a bit guilty, but if after doing it over and over and over again, lightning doesn’t strike me dead, and I have effectively deadened the pesky voice of my conscience, I might actually convince myself that either God doesn’t care or that He has accepted my behavior.
Nothing could be further from the truth. What’s actually happening is that God, in His great mercy, is allowing me to live as the free moral agent He created me to be. I get to choose my behavior. The fact that He hasn’t given me what I deserve isn’t a demonstration of His apathy towards sin, but of His great long suffering and patience with me. He’s giving me time to repent before He executes His judgment.
2 Peter 3:9 addresses this: “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.”
God wants everyone to come to repentance. The fact that He withholds his anger at sin doesn’t mean He is lazy or that He doesn’t care. He loves people enough to allow them to live and hopefully repent and turn to Him for forgiveness.
Have you taken Him up on His offer? Do it soon, because you aren’t guaranteed tomorrow.
We are on the last few days here in India. After finishing up the teaching at YWAM Tiruchurappali, we took a midnight bus down to Coimbatore. It was a actually a new experience for me here in India. We arrived at the area where the buses leave, and it was so chaotic it was almost scary. Loads of buses and people honking and shouting and pushing their way around, and here there are two white guys in the middle of it all trying to figure out where they are supposed to be. Luckily for us, the bus was an hour late.
It was supposed to be a five hour ride, but the driver was a bit of a maniac, which trimmed it down to about 4 hours. We were dropped off at a nondescript corner in the middle of the night in Coimbatore. No identifying marks that it was even a bus station. Just the average corner of the slums. 4 a.m. Our hosts in Coimbatore picked us up and we were able to get a few hours of sleep and a shower before a 12:00 meeting with the leadership team from a local church, where we spoke on leadership principles and team building.
Sunday morning, Kyle spoke at a local church to about 50 people, and Billy spoke in the evening at City Rock Church to about 60 people. Then Monday morning we caught a flight back to Chennai, took a few hours rest, and drove to Chengalpet for a pastors meeting, where we taught on the subject of the results of pride and humility in ministry.
Tuesday, we drove 3 hours to Pondicherry to speak to another group of about 60 pastors on the importance and methods of evangelism, and how to train people in their church to do the work of reaching the world. Wednesday, we had another pastors meeting with about 30 pastors in Chennai. They have a fellowship called SCY (South Chennai Youth pastors fellowship) This was the 5th time in the last 6 years that we have gotten these guys together for a meeting, so these were all familiar faces to me. Kyle taught on finances in ministry, and I spoke on the importance of having long term vision or long term goals in ministry.
Although we have had the most meager budget of all the India trips I have ever gone on, we have had the most packed out schedule and I have been doing the most speaking. We have been doing a lot of equipping young leaders, encouraging the churches, teaching at YWAM, and pastors fellowships. The only actual evangelistic outreach we have done was the crusade, which turned out to be very effective for that village.
Our last two days are going to be busy as well. Tomorrow we have another large pastors meeting, at which we are supposed to be speaking on the topic of evangelism, and Friday morning we have a new church dedication, followed by a visit to some gypsy people, and then another meeting with 20 or so leaders from another local church here in Chennai. Then we head to the airport by midnight because our flight out of here leaves at 3 a.m.
I know this was probably long and boring but I wanted to give you a quick rundown on the ministry here in India. Next week I should have some more typical blogs up for you!
Blessings, and thanks for your continued prayers as our goal is to finish strong!