A Springboard for You

For a better life and a better eternity

“Be Good for Goodness’ Sake” the Atheists’ Pitfall

Doy Moyer got me thinking

Last week, Doy Moyer, had an outstanding post about a couple of new campaigns by atheists to evangelize their anti-God faith. He pointed out  how contradictory and illogical this is because they want to talk about being good, but they have no standard for goodness. Who gets to decide what is good? Them? Me? I’m guessing they wouldn’t want me to be the standard of goodness.

This post got me thinking. There is an even more fundamental problem with this philosophy coming from atheists. Please understand, I too believe we should be good for goodness’ sake. I hunger and thirst for righteousness and do not simply want to be good so God won’t slap my hand or so I can get a reward in the end. I want to be good because I want to be good. Frankly, I’m glad to hear atheists do also. 

Atheists’ have the same problem Christians do

The big problem is atheists face the same downfall I do. We have botched it and continue to botch it. I’m guessing every atheist, though he hates to hear his feelings so accurately expressed in the Bible, knows the exact feeling Paul expressed in Romans 7:15-24:

“…I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.

“So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am? Who will deliver me from this body of death?” (ESV).

Of course, I recognize atheists don’t believe in “the law of God” and therefore don’t have an objective standard of goodness. However, I’m sure each one has a personal standard of goodness. Whatever the standard, atheists who actually want to be good hit the same wall Christians hit. They want to be good. They have decided to be good. They long to be good. But they keep doing what they hate. Perhaps they decided they would quit coveting as Paul had decided. But they just keep going back to it. Perhaps they said they would stop their angry outbursts, but they just keep blowing up. Perhaps they said they would quit being arrogant, but their pride keeps rearing its ugly head.

Like Christians, they want to be good and they want to do it because being good is the right thing to do. Like Christians, they just can’t pull it off. They keep falling short at being completely good. Thus, they fuss at themselves and may even despair.

The Christians’ answer and the atheists despair

When Paul uttered his despairing cry, “Wretched man that I am? Who will deliver me from this body of death?” He had an answer: “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord.” 

The sad part for the atheists who finally have the courageous honesty to admit they just can’t reach their goodness goal is they have no answer to this dilemma. “Who will deliver me from this body of death?” All that comes back is eery silence. Or perhaps they say, “Me. I’ll do it.” But wait, didn’t you get you in this mess your in? What makes you think it will be any different tomorrow? Go ahead, keep relying on your own reserves of strength. Keep researching your own weakness and pain. When you finally get to the point of despair and the pain is finally too great, then perhaps you can turn to Paul’s answer. Once you finally run out of faith in yourself, maybe, just maybe you can start having some faith in God because if you will surrender to Him, He will deliver you. As you grow in Him, you will become good for goodness’ sake. It will take time. It is about progress, not perfection. But in God, there is hope and He is waiting for you, giving you time to realize He is where your hope for being good for goodness’ sake really is.

So, for my part, I hope atheists keep pressing their “good for goodness’ sake” campaign. Sooner or later that will drive them to despair. Then because they have increased their desire and hunger for goodness, some of them will begin to realize they can only accomplish their goal if they surrender themselves to God.

Christians need to learn this too

Of course and sadly, there are many Christians that need to learn this lesson as well. If we are seeking goodness as a means to merely avoid hell or be rewarded with heaven, we will likely fall short. That leads to a legalistic approach of trying to figure how much is enough and what are the rules to help earn your way to the reward. That simply won’t cut it. Instead, if you want to be good because you hunger and thirst for righteousness, you will learn you can’t make it unless you just surrender to God. Then you will be seeking God’s way, not to earn your way out of hell or into heaven, but rather to simply be like God recognizing God’s way works.

November 17, 2008 Posted by | A Springboard for Your Spiritual Life, Atheism, surrender, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

How Not to Be a Lukewarm Christian

icefire

Introducing Laodicea

The church in Laodicea is famous, though I’m sure if they knew it, they would not be pleased with their legacy. We all know Laodicea was the lukewarm church and Jesus was ready to spit them out of His mouth (Revelation 3:16). But what exactly does this mean and how can we use their example as a springboard for our own spiritual lives?

For a long time, I read and preached this metaphor as I had heard it from others. Perhaps you have heard it presented this way. The temperatures represent a scale of spirituality. Hot was being on fire for the Lord with amazing zeal. Cold was being as absolutely uninterested and unconcerned about the Lord and spiritual things as possible. In fact, it was more than a lack of interest, it would represent a positive animosity to God and His things. Lukewarm, on the other hand was somewhere in the middle. It was not complete animosity or apathy. But, it wasn’t complete zeal for God either. It represented the person who cared enough to “go to church” perhaps but was just resting on their laurels and not working for the Lord at all.

With this reading, Jesus is saying He would rather the Laodiceans be His complete and utter enemies than act like they are His friends but not really serve Him.

Perhaps that is Jesus’ meaning with this metaphor, but more recently, I have read it differently.

The Tale of Two Drinks

This metaphor is a picture of useful drinks versus useless drinks. We have to ask what makes hot and cold drinks useful. Hot drinks are useful, especially on a cold day because they are comforting and warming. I drank a hot cup of coffee while driving in my cold, heaterless car this morning. It was most useful and I wish had more even now. The cold drink is useful on a hot day because it is refreshing and cooling.

But what happens if the useful drinks are left to sit on the counter for an hour or two? They lose their distinction. As we learned from high school science, the difference in temperature between the drink and its environment will begin to regulate each other. The energy from the hot drink will dissipate. The warmth from the air will heat the cold drink. They will both become tepid, lukewarm and useless.

Now, stop and think. What happened to these drinks?

They lost their distinction. I needed a hot drink on that cold day. I wanted a cold drink on that hot day. These drinks lost their usefulness because they had become just like their surroundings. Instead of having a great impact on their environment, their environment had an impact on them.

Do you see now what Jesus was telling Laodicea. His point was not that He would rather they be His clear enemies than just so-so. He was saying He wanted them to stand out and be different from their environment. He wanted them to impact those that surrounded them. Sadly, the reverse had been true and so they were to Jesus like the tepid cup of coffee–disgusting and useless.

The Springboard for Us

What’s the springboard for us? Stand out. Be different. Don’t try to blend in. Don’t try to make everyone like you spiritually. If that happens, you have probably become useless to the Lord. We are only useful to Him to the degree that we are different from our environment and therefore make an impact on it. Today, don’t worry about what everyone else thinks about your spirituality. Embrace it. No, don’t flaunt it Pharisaically as if you are special for your spirituality. But don’t hide it either, embarrassed that someone might find out you are a Christian. Let your light shine before men so that they might see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.

November 10, 2008 Posted by | A Springboard for Your Spiritual Life, Christian living, Discipleship | , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

5 Keys for Standing Out in the Crowd

Have you ever read the first ten chapters of I Chronicles? Talk about chloroform in action. I generally just scan through them and try to get done with them as quickly as I can. However, stuck smack in the middle of this droning roll call of humanity stands I Chronicles 4:9-10.

Now Jabez was more honorable than his brothers and his mother called his name Jabez, saying, ‘Because I bore him in pain.’ And Jabez called on the God of Israel saying, ‘Oh, that You would bless me indeed, and enlarge my territory, that Your hand would be with me, and that You would keep me from evil that I may not cause pain!’ So God granted him what he requested” (NKJV).

Apparently, when God got to Jabez’s name, He wanted to call attention to it. It is as if when God was going through this roll call and He got to Jabez, He stopped and said, “Whoa! Wait a minute. You need to know about this guy.” But what was it that made him so special? Why did he stand out in the crowd? As I consider these two verses, I notice five keys in Jabez that will help us also stand out in the crowd.

1. If you want to stand out in the crowd, don’t let the crowd determine where you will stand.

Can you imagine being named “Jabez”? That sounds bad enough for us today just because it is so archaic. But when you recognize that it meant “Causes pain,” you suddenly realize how bad it really is. Every day of his life, just by hearing his name, Jabez was called “causes pain.” Can you imagine hearing day in and day out that you are nothing but a pain to those around you? After a while, you might begin to believe it. Jabez’s mother prophesied his life for him. She told him over and over again that he would be nothing more than a pain. But Jabez refused to listen. He prayed to God that he would not cause pain.

These kinds of prophecies go on all the time. Every day parents, professors and peers prophesy our lives. Some times it is positive. Some times it is negative. Each day some children are told they will be doctors, lawyers and even presidents. Others are told they will be hoodlums, thieves and crooks. Some are called the class star, some the class clown. Some are Daddy’s girls, while others are Momma’s boys. When we hear these message over and over again, we begin to believe them. 

Don’t.

You do not have to be limited by the prophecies of your parents, professors and peers. You, like Jabez, can stand out in the crowd if you will simply throw yourself on God’s mercy and let him help you be all He has planned for you. Don’t let the crowd determine where you will stand.

2. If you want to stand out in the crowd, stop standing still and start going somewhere.

Jabez had goals. He wanted an enlarged territory. Within the context of his mother’s prophecies for him, this is impressive. It demonstrates a great mindset. He wasn’t trapped within his circumstances. He would step out of those and pray that God give him a blessing to help him with his plans. 

What plans do you have? While we are not of this world, we are in this world. God has not demanded that we hole up in monasteries and have no involvement or plans within this world. We are allowed to have goals. We are allowed to have plans. Yes, we must keep them within the confines of God’s will understanding that we will be judged. However, if we just stand still, we will never stand out. No, don’t get bogged down in worries about the future. But look ahead. Plan ahead and ask God’s blessing on your future as well as your present.

3. If you want to stand out in the crowd, stop standing and start kneeling.

Sadly, so many have focused on what Jabez prayed, even turning it into a mantra of sorts to be repeated as if the words themselves are magical that they have missed the real point. We must not so focus on what Jabez prayed that we miss the important point is that Jabez prayed. Jabez was not more honorable because of what he prayed. He was more honorable because he prayed. He was more honorable because the fact that he prayed represented that he relied on God.

When God wanted us to know about Jabez, he didn’t tell us a out his property, his prowess, his predecessors. He told us about his prayer. If God were going to point us out to the world, would He have anything to say about our prayer life? The fact is, we can only stand out if we rely on God.

I think that is why these two verses are even here. In the books of Chronicles, God is going to tell all kinds of stories about all kinds of people. In reality, they are all judged based on how they measure up to Jabez. Do they rely on God or on idols? Do they pray to God or to false gods? That will be the dividing line between those God blesses and God condemns.

If you want to stand out in the crowd, you can’t do it alone. God has to be on your side. So, stop standing and start kneeling.

4. If you want to stand out in the crowd, recognize you aren’t standing on your own two legs but on legs God has given you.

Jabez recognized that he could not enlarge his own borders. From the beginning of God’s dealings with the Israelites, He pointed out that He would be the one to enlarge borders. Jabez grasped that and instead of relying merely on his own strength, he relied on God’s strength.

Too often today, we have a “pull myself up by the bootstraps” mentality that says we don’t need help. We have this idea that we can do things all on our own and only need God for really big things. That just isn’t true.

You realize, of course, that the only reason you are breathing today is because God is letting you, right? You realize, of course, that the only reason you are moving today is because God is letting you, right? You realize, of course, that the only reason you are walking today is because of the legs God has given you, right?

The fact is, apart from God we can do nothing. Therefore, if we want to stand out in the crowd, we must start recognizing any real strength comes from God and not from us. We can’t do this on our own. We have to rely on God.

5. If you want to stand out in the crowd, don’t let Satan cut off your legs.

Jabez understood that committing evil would be contradictory to what he was asking of God. He did not expect, as too many do today, to live however he wanted and still receive God’s blessing. However, he also knew evil was too powerful for him. Therefore, he asked God to keep him from evil so that he would not be a pain to others.

We need to recognize this. We may have all kinds of plans. We may even say we are relying on God and offering all kinds of prayers. However, if we are going from our prayers to simply walk in sin, Satan will cut our legs out from under us and we will not stand out in the crowd. Sin is diametrically opposed to what God wants for us. If we want to stand out in the crowd, we need to turn from our sins.

Keep in mind the last two points, however. We will not overcome sin on our own or by our own power. We will only be able to do that by relying on God. This is not about proving to God how great we are. This is about recognizing how weak we are and just surrendering to Him to help us overcome.

 

What a great example Jabez is. He stood out in a crowd and we can too. But we have to follow these same five steps.

If you would like to read more about this or hear a sermon I have presented on these very same points. Feel free to check out the presentation made to the Franklin Church of Christ at the link below.

Jabez: A Man Who Stood Out in the Crowd

November 3, 2008 Posted by | A Springboard for Your Spiritual Life, Christian living, Overcoming Sin, Success | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Three Questions for a Real Disciple Learned from Someone Who Was Only Almost a Disciple

The Rich Young Ruler

We’ve all heard of him. The man presented himself as a great disciple who had kept God’s law from his youth. But in the end, we find out that really he was only almost a disciple. I don’t want to be in that boat. I want to be a really, truly, totally and all the way a disciple. How about you? 

When I examine his story in Luke 18:18-23, I find three questions that will force us out of the shallow end of discipleship and push us into the deep end of true discipleship.

Three Questions

Question #1: Do I live as though Jesus is merely good or truly God?

The Rich Young Ruler called Jesus “good teacher” and Jesus called him on it. Jesus wasn’t questioning His own deity. Rather, He was highlighting a problem the man had. He called Jesus good, but did he really believe Jesus was the ultimate good? Did he recognize that Jesus was actually more than a good teacher and that He was God in the flesh?

We listen to a good teacher when we want to. We listen to a good teacher when we like what he says. We listen to a good teacher as long as we still think he is good. We take a good teacher’s words as advice, something to do when we get around to it. That is not how we take God’s words. Jesus’ words are not just good advice, nice suggestions or possibilities. Jesus was more than a good teacher. He was and is God. Therefore His word is law. 

When we live as though Jesus is truly God, then we surrender to His word. When He says, “He that believes and is baptized will be saved,” we believe and get baptized. When He says “Don’t let the sun go down on your anger,” we don’t let the sun go down on our anger. When He says “Treat others as more important than yourself,” we treat others as more important than ourselves.

Why do we do this? Because we know Jesus is not just a good teacher. He is the Great God.

Question #2: Who is my God?

The Rich Young Ruler said he had followed all the 10 commandments since his youth. He had not committed theft, murder, false witness or adultery. He had honored his father and mother. What a great man he was. How could he not possibly be a great disciple and inherit eternal life?

As we study this text, we realize this poor man actually was lying to himself. One of those commandments said, “Do not have other gods before Me.” Yet the Rich Young Ruler clearly had a god before Jehovah. His God was his material goods. He couldn’t possibly sacrifice them to have the eternal life God offered. Through that, he demonstrated who his real god was.

So, who is your God? Learn the lesson of the Rich Young Ruler. We can easily lie to ourselves and tell ourselves that Jesus is our God and runs our lives. Instead of just trusting what we’ll say when put to the test, let’s examine our lives. Where do we spend our time? Where do we spend our money? Who are best friends? What would we not give up if God asked? These questions can help us cut to the chase.

Or ask a friend. Ask your spouse. If you have kids, ask them. “What do you see is most important in my life?” They’ll be able to tell you and that can help you determine who your God really is. Don’t be like the almost disciple and simply trust your intellectual answer to the question. Dig deep and examine with rigorous honesty.

Question #3: What do I value?

At first glance, the Rich Young Ruler appeared to value eternal life. He came asking about it. Further, he claimed to have scrupulously kept the law since his youth. Even more, he was willing to go beyond that asking what more he needed to do. 

However, as we see the story unfold, we find out that he did not truly value eternal life. Eternal life was not a driving core value. It was merely an aspiration. He would like eternal life if he could get it but not at the expense of his material goods. Through we find out what was his driving core value–Money. He valued money and material goods. That drove his decisions. He would be happy to keep God’s law until God’s law told him to give up his goods. 

What do you value? Again, don’t just accept whatever you say when asked this intellectual question. We all know the right answer and can give it whenever asked. Instead of looking at this intellectual answer, we need to examine our lives. What drives our choices? Is it the pursuit of God’s kingdom and righteousness or is it the pursuit of wealth, fame and influence? 

 

Be careful. As we can see in the Rich Young Ruler, these are tough questions because we can so easily deceive ourselves. Don’t just ask them once. Ask them repeatedly. Question yourself like this regularly. Question your choices with these questions, especially those big life decisions like where will you work, who will you marry, where will you live, with what church will you work. 

Don’t be only almost a disciple like the Rich Young Ruler. Be all the way a disciple.

ELC

October 27, 2008 Posted by | A Springboard for Your Spiritual Life, Christian living, Discipleship, Growth, Spiritual Growth | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

God, the Love (an excerpt)

Walks with God

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Getting our Bearings

“God is love.”

The Romans had cupid and Venus. The Greeks had Eros and Aphrodite. The Etruscans had Alpan, Turan and Uni. The Mesopotamians had Ishtar. The Canaanites had Anath. The Norse had Astrild, Freya and Sjofn. The Egyptians had Qadesh and Qetesh.

In one way or another, each of these gods and goddesses were connected to love by the people who believed in them. Their special province was love. However, the gods and goddesses themselves may not always be very loving. They were like all the gods and goddesses of the pagans–fickle; their devotion had to be won by some merit of the men and women who called on them.

That is not our God. When John said, “God is love,” he didn’t mean God had some special province oer love or some special attachment to those who love. He meant God is love. God’s very nature is love.

No doubt, this boggles our minds. The God who is a consuming fire, is also love. The God who brings judgment on sinners, loves those very sinners. We struggle to see how both can be true at the same time. Let’s not struggle, let us merely accept what God says of Himself. However, this should really not be all that difficult to understand. In fact, it is very much like our parenting. I love my children very much. I imagine if you have children, you love them too. However, we discipline our children for their own good and when they rebel, we punish them. Why then is it so hard to understand our heavenly Father is at the same time a consuming fire and love?

John’s point was to explain why God loves us. The pagan gods and goddesses loved their devotees because they were pretty, rich, smart or had offered good enough sacrifices. Jehovah God, however, love us because He is love, because love is His very nature. Some parents love their children when they do well in school, when they are good at sports, when they are pretty or when they act just like the parent. But not our Heavenly Father. He loves us because He is love.

No matter our looks, wealth, health, strength, physical prowess or even holiness, God loves us. No doubt, God will not accept us if we sin without repentance. He will punish us because He is a consuming fire if we rebel, but all the while He loves us. We know that because I John 4:9 says God sent His Son so we might live through Him. Romans 5:6-8 says God sent His Son while we were ungodly, sinful enemies.

He did not accept us while sinfully rebellious. He did not just save us in our sins. He is a consuming fire. He couldn’t abide with that. However, He is also love. Therefore, though we were rebellious, He sent His Son that we might have the means of salvation. That is love. Can you imagine providing the very means by which everyone who has ever hurt, betrayed or victimized you can be forgiven? That is God’s love.

This is the God we adore. The creating ruler/judge who is a consuming fire is also love. Therefore, despite our rebellion He provided a way of escape from our rebellion so we might be saved and enjoy the benefits of His love.

 

Hand in Hand

If we are going to walk hand in hand with the God who is love, we need to remember that love. We need to remember God has displayed His love in no uncertain terms.

Sadly, too many Christians have been turned from God by the devil’s lies. Satan wants us to believe God doesn’t love us. One way of accomplishing this is to make us suffer. Job is one extreme example. Satan was sure if God moved the hedges of safety, Job would curse God. We can argue about whether or not Job ever sinned within the book; we can’t, however argue with the fact that Job never cursed God and up to the end, Job knew his salvation came from God. he knew who was His redeemer. he continued to hope in God even at his lowest.

Paul addressed this issue in Romans 8:35-39:

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, ‘For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.’ No in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. for I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

This passage recognizes that Christians will face distress, persecution, famine and danger. We will get sick. Our loved ones get sick. We may get fired from our jobs. We may get hurt in accidents. We may get cancer, diabetes, heart disease. We may endure strokes, heart attacks and car wrecks. Enemies will attack us. Friends will betray us. Even our brethren will let us down. Satan has one goal in all this. He wants us to doubt God’s love. He wants us to get upset with God and turn our back on Him.

We need to remember God has already shown His love and nothing else will change that. God doesn’t have to heal our cancer to show His love for us. He doesn’t have to steer our car away from a wreck to say He loves us. he doesn’t have to find us a job when we first ask to demonstrate His love. He sent His Son to die for us while we were undeserving sinners. What more could He do to say, “I love you”?

Do not let Satan block your view of Jesus on the cross. He will try. No matter what you face, look to Jesus. I believe this is one of the reasons the Bible indicates we should take the Lord’s Supper every first day of the week. We need the constant reminder. God loves me this much. He loved me so much he shed His own Son’s blood on the cross. He offered up His own Son’s flesh as a sacrifice. 

If we are going to walk hand in hand with God, we need to envision Jesus on that cross every day. We must not let Satan hinder that vision.

October 20, 2008 Posted by | A Springboard for Your Spiritual Life, God's Love, My Books | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Amputation (an excerpt)

The Gospel of the Kingdom: Studies in the Sermon on the Mount

 

Check out the book today!

Check out the book today!

 

from Chapter 13, “Morality and Marriage: Matthew 5:27-32”

 

Amputation

On April 26, 2003, Aron Ralston was trapped between a rock and a hard place. Hiking and rock climbing alone in Easter Utah, his right hand was crushed between a shifting boulder and the rock wall o the gorge he was navigating. Over a period of five days he made various attempts to free himself. He chipped away at the boulder. He tried to construct a pulley with his ropes to move the boulder. Nothing worked. When he ran out of his water supply, he was certain of death. Since no one knew where he was and they would not find him any time soon, he tried one final desperate plan. He broke both bones in his forearm. Then, using what was left of his dulled cutting tool, he amputated his own right arm. He repelled into the canyon and hiked out to meet searchers. Nobody wants to lose an arm. However, when the choice is lose an arm or lose a life, the arm is not so bad.

If we would take such drastic measures to extend our temporal life a few years, how much more ought we do them to preserve our eternal life? Jesus said if our eye or hand makes us stumble, we should amputate and throw them from us. It is better to lose a body part than our soul. Many who struggle day to day to lead pure lives would find immense success in spiritual growth if we would employ spiritual amputation.

To be sure, this is about spiritual amputation and not physical. Hands and eyes do not really make us stumble. The part of our body with the biggest problem regarding purity is the brain. If we take Matthew 5:29-30 at its most literal regarding the body part with the biggest problem, well…you see where that leads.

Consider what these verses teach us to do. When we sin, we must not simply confess our sin, but consider what led to it. How did the fall begin? Do we see a pattern? Because jesus made this statement in the context of sexual morality, I will keep my illustrations there; but the point applies to all sin–from outbursts of anger to lying to gossip to stealing.

When you have fallen into sexual immorality, whether physically or mentally, ask how you got there? Where did it begin? Did it begin with a magazine ad? did it begin with a song on the radio? did it begin with unlimited access to the internet? did it begin with a character on a tv show? did it begin with an emotional relationship at work? What led to the sin?

How many Christians have returned again and again to an affair with a co-worker after repeatedly repenting, mourning and committing themselves to sexual purity? What needs to happen? A spiritual amputation. They need to quit the job. “But Edwin,” someone will say, “I need the money. I won’t be able to find another job that pays as well. And I have to eat. I have to have a roof over my head. If I give up this job, I will lose my house.” This job is your hand caught between a boulder and a rock wall. It is killing you and destroying your eternal life. It is better for you to lose your house and even miss a few meals than to be thrown into hell.

How many Christian men, even preachers, have returned again and again to the sinful world of internet pornography after repeatedly repenting, mourning and committing themselves to purity? What is needed here? A spiritual amputation. At the very least they need to limit their internet access with strict filters and accountability parameters. They might even need to get rid of internet access entirely. “But Edwin,” some will say, “there is a lot of good stuff on the internet. Plus, when I use those filters, there are some good sites I can’t access. After all, Biblical research and finding pictures for my PowerPoint presentations are so much easier with full internet access.” But the internet is killing you and destroying your eternal life. It is better for you to lose access to the decent stuff, it is better for you to have to research the old fashioned way, it is better for you to have boring PowerPoint presentations than for you to be thrown into hell. 

How many Christians have returned to lustful passions because of magazines, movies, tv shows or particular songs on the radio after repeatedly repenting, mourning and committing themselves to mental purity? What is needed here? A spiritual amputation. They need to discontinue their subscription to the magazine. They need to avoid those kinds of movies or stop watching that show. They need to quit listening to that song (perhaps even the entire cd or radio station). “But Edwin,” some will say, “this is just entertainment. I can’t live in a box. I have to live a little and have some fun. Aside from that, everybody is reading, watching and listening to these things. If I quit, I will be behind the times and look like an oddball.” These things are killing you and destroying your eternal life. It is better for you to look like a behind-the-times oddball who can’t join in on the conversations about the latest music, movies or magazines than for you be thrown into hell.

Please notice the little word beginning both of the verses under consideration. jesus began both statements with “IF.” IF your eye causes you to stumble, tear it out. IF your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off. Jesus did not command everyone to tear out their eyes or cut off their hands. Aron Ralston cut off his right arm to survive. That doesn’t mean all rock climbers must.

In our efforts to lead morally pure lives, we all have different struggles. I may have to spiritually amputate something you don’t and vice versa. Just because my eye causes me to stumble doesn’t mean everyone has to tear out their eye, nor should I try to make them.

Allow me to illustrate. When I first watched CSI, I became addicted. I loved the mystery. I loved the detective work. I loved watching how they figured out who was guilty. It was great. Then came CSI: Miami. It was awesome too. However, at some point I realized the repeated sexual themes were impacting my mind. Many times, i was no longer entertained by the detective work but defiled by the immodestly dressed characters  and caused to stumble in my mind because of the sexual scenes. Eventually, I had to excise CSI and CSI: Miami from my life. Does CSI cause everyone to stumble? Probably not. Can I say that because it made me stumble everyone has to amputate it? Of course not. However, if it causes you to stumble, get rid of it.

We must be honest. It would have been pointless for Ralston to say, “I don’t think the problem is my arm caught between these rocks. I’m not going to amputate.” In the same way, it is eternally pointless for us to hang on to the very things that make us stumble.

When we think about Ralston’s story, most of us wonder if we could do what he did. “I just don’t think I could cut off my own right arm,” many of us say. Sadly, there are too many Christians saying the same thing when faced with Jesus’ words. Let’s buck up. Jesus will give us strength. Let’s amputate what will destroy our eternal life.

October 13, 2008 Posted by | A Springboard for Your Spiritual Life, Christian living, Overcoming Sin, Spiritual Growth, Success | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

3 Attitudes and 4 Questions for Life Changing Bible Study

We can study our Bibles for all kinds of reasons. We may want to teach a class. We may want to answer a question. We may want to prove our point. We may want to have a little encouragement to make it through our day. We may want some comfort. We may want to win a debate. At various times, these are all great goals for our Bible study. Sometimes, these are exactly the things we need to do as we study.

However, if these are the only things we do with our Bible study, we haven’t allowed God’s word to be all it was meant to be in our lives. You see, God didn’t give us the Bible so we could teach others. He didn’t give us the Bible so we could prove our point. He didn’t even give us our Bibles merely to comfort us. No doubt, we can use it for these things, and should at times. But God gave us the Bible to change our lives. He gave us the Bible so we might not be conformed to the world but transformed by the renewing of our minds (cf. Romans 12:2). 

How should we use our Bible so it will change our lives? II Timothy 3:14-17 provides the pattern.

But as for you , continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work (ESV).

Proper Attitudes

First recognize three attitudes you need to have as you come to the word of God.

  1. The Scriptures are sacred and holy writings. The pages, binding and cover are not holy. We shouldn’t establish rules about how to treat the bound volume we call a “Bible.” However, the message within is holy and sacred. It deserves our respect as we read and study it.
  2. The Scriptures are a source of wisdom (perhaps “the” source). If I turn to the Scriptures to receive wisdom, I am admitting that I am not all wise and I need help. If I can’t come to the Scriptures with this attitude, then the Scriptures will never help me.
  3. The Scriptures are from God. We don’t like people telling us what to do. When we read the Bible, we are not reading what people tell us to do. We are reading what God has told us to do. We need to remember God is our creator. He knows how we work. We need to understand His way works. We don’t read the Bible to argue and bicker about every little nuance because we need to figure out all the rules in order to make the cut. But we do need to make sure we are simply submitting to the Word because God’s way works.

 

Life Changing Bible Study Questions

  1. What do I learn from this study? If the Bible is profitable for teaching, I should ask what I learnfrom every study I conduct. Whether I’m conducting a text study, a book study, a topical study, a character study or whatever kind of study, I should ask what do I learn. I answer this by asking all kinds of subordinate questions like who was being addressed, who was writing, who was speaking, what was the historical context, etc. Perhaps one of the best ways to answer this question is to study with the view to teach. If you were going to teach someone about this study and have to field questions about it, what would you say. Sadly, this is where most people end their study. This is a very important part of study, but it is not the end. It is not even the main goal. It is only the beginning.
  2. Where do I fall short according to this study? A reproof is a gentle admonition. A reproof is proving or testing something to bring about conviction. It really has the idea of admonishing because of error and proving the error so change can occur. If the Scriptures are profitable for reproof, they are profitable for convicting us where we need to change. If we are going to have life changing Bible study, we have to ask where we are falling short. I know we don’t like this. Most of us want Bible study that simply says where we are doing things right so we can be pumped up to move on with our day. However, we need something to expose where we are falling short so we can grow. If we want life changing study, we have to begin by seeing what we have learned says about how we measure up and where we fall short.
  3. What must I change because of this study? Now we are starting to let the rubber hit the road. If we are falling short, what must we do to correct it? I’m told the word for correct here carries a picture of taking something that is toppled over and setting it upright again. This is where we plan to change what we have been doing. This is where we figure out what needs to be adjusted. We can only have life changing Bible study if we ask this very hard question. What needs to change? How do I fix what has fallen over?
  4. What habits must I develop based on this study? Now we are getting to a life change, because we do not simply answer this question with a pencil and paper. We answer it with action. The Scripture can train us and discipline us. It can show us the habits and lifestyle we need to adopt to be right with God. Having figured out where we fall short and having made a plan to correct it, now we bring it into our daily lives by living out the habits Jesus is encouraging in His word.

When we have done these things, our lives have been changed. It is not an easy process. But it is a worthy process. Don’t just let the Bible be a decoration in your home. Don’t let it simply be something you carry around. Don’t even merely let it be something you use to convince others you are right. Use it first and foremost to be God’s tool to change your life.

 

 

I think this process is so powerful, I highlight in my book “Give Attention to Reading” a simple plan for studying through the New Testament in six months. In every reading, I encourage the reader to ask these questions so every reading can be as deep as you need it to be. Learn more about “Give Attention to Reading” at my daily reading blog. Or purchase the book to have a practical help in having life changing Bible study. Whatever you do, make sure you don’t just read your Bible, but you let it change your life.

 

Have a great week and remember to let God’s word change your life this week.

ELC

October 6, 2008 Posted by | A Springboard for Your Spiritual Life, Bible Study, Christian living, Spiritual Growth | , , , , | Leave a comment

3 Keys for Facing Our Financial Future, Bailout or Not

You can’t turn on the television or fire up an internet home page on Yahoo, Google or some other place without getting a face full of “Government Bail Out.” It’s almost more prevalent than Tina Fey as Sarah Palin. Now, I’m not an economist, so I don’t fully understand what needs to be bailed out. And I’m not a politician, so I don’t fully understand what the government plans to do about it. But, I am a house owning, debt paying off, job working, family raising American who begins to get a little worried when I hear things like “Biggest crisis since the 1930’s” and “Reminiscent of the Great Depression.” 

At the same time, I’m a Christian. Should I face this financial fallout with a Chicken Little attitude? Or should I take another approach? I’d like to share three keys, I think we as Christians need to keep in mind as we hear all this news and begin to get our fears and worries up.

 

  1. Seek first God’s kingdom and righteousness, and all these things will be added to you (cf. Matthew 6:33): Yes, that still applies during an economic recession. It still applies even in a depression. No, God didn’t promise we would live in a nice house, drive nice cars and wear nice clothes. But He did promise to take care of us if we sought His kingdom and righteousness first. We need to remember that stocks, bonds, insurance plans and savings accounts will not take care of us in the long run. God can and will if He is our priority. No, that doesn’t mean throw financial caution to the wind, running up debt, wasting money and then expecting God to bail us out (our government’s example notwithstanding). It simply means make serving God a priority, even if you think it will cost you money and God will take care of you.
     
  2. Take it one day at a time (cf. Matthew 5:34): Let tomorrow worry about itself, Jesus said. We need to simply face today. You know what, the economy may come crashing down next Monday. But it hasn’t crashed yet today. Next Monday may be really rotten. It may be the most horrible day of our lives. Who knows? But today is not so bad. We’ve eaten today. We’re still able to access our internet today. We are living in our home today. Let’s not make today rotten by focusing on how rotten it might be next week. No, as with our last point, this doesn’t mean throw caution to the wind and live recklessly today trying to capture fun in the sun while it lasts. That is just as much letting today be dominated by tomorrow as the fearmongering approach. Rather, live wisely today. Make wise choices with your money and material blessings today. Don’t do it out of a sense of control as if you can somehow make sure that next Monday is not rotten if the economy turns south and we run into a Great Depression and it becomes so bad we are like a third world country. But simply live wisely today and rejoice in today’s blessings. Don’t let today’s blessings turn sour in your mouth because you are worried about what might happen next week. Just take it one day at a time.
     
  3. Share (cf. II Corinthians 8-9; Hebrews 13:16): This is the hard one. Financial ruin looms around the corner. Our natural reaction is to hoard. If I don’t take care of me, who will? I need to look out for #1. We need to remember instead that sharing on an individual level is how God expects us to take care of each other, not government bailouts. When times are good, we need to share those blessings. When times are bad, we need to share what blessings we have. I think of the story that I’m sure I read in one of those “Chicken Soup for the Soul” books of “The Poor Family in our Church.” As the story is told in first person–
    The preacher had announced that he had learned about a poor family in the congregation and wanted the church to do something good for them. On the following Sunday, they would take a special collection for this poor family. Our family took it very seriously. We knew we didn’t have much, but we wanted to help out the poor family. So, we made some sacrifices. We cut and scraped. Mama bought cheaper meat for supper. Daddy put some of his overtime money in. The kids cut some neighbors’ yards. By Saturday, we had scraped together $20. (This obviously took place several years ago.) On Sunday, we were so proud we all sat up on the second pew. We were beaming as Daddy dropped in the $20 bill. We knew there were so many better off than we were and they would do so much more. But we had done what we could. That afternoon, the preacher knocked on our door and handed Daddy an envelope, saying he hoped we would accept this gift with the love he had intended it. The preacher was smiling as he left. Daddy slowly opened the envelope. $25 fell out.–
    The sad fact is, it is often those who have the least to share that are the most generous. We as Christians need to share. Whatever we face in the future, we need to remember that the blessings God has given us are meant to be spread around, not hoarded. 

 

Hey, I don’t know what’s going to happen in America’s financial future. Frankly, I have the feeling that sooner or later, we’re going to have to pay the piper. Band-aids like government bailouts won’t fix the problems. They will only postpone the inevitable. But God has shown how we should act no matter what comes our way financially. Let’s quit facing this like Republicans or Democrats and start facing it like Christians.

ELC

September 29, 2008 Posted by | A Springboard for Your Spiritual Life, Finances | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

For Whom Should a Christian Vote?

On September 14, 2008, I presented a lesson for the Franklin Church of Christ in Franklin, TN. We asked the question “For Whom Should a Christian Vote?” The answer may surprise you.

If you would like to see the lesson in its original formatting or listen to the audio, then click the link to the website for the congregation below, otherwise you can read it as I’ve pasted it in below.

Franklin Church of Christ

 

Introduction:

I don’t expect a show of hands on this one. I just want you to think. For whom are you planning to vote in the upcoming presidential election? Perhaps it is John McCain as he now leads the Republican party. Or maybe you have become enamored with the stardom of Barak Obama. Then again, maybe you are leaning outside the box and are going to vote for Chuck Baldwin who is this year’s Constitution Party nominee. He is staunchly pro-life, will outlaw embryonic stem cell research, thinks a constitutional amendment should be passed defining marriage as between a man and a woman. Maybe you are leaning to the Libertarian party and plan to vote for Robert Barr, Jr. He will put an end to the war in Iraq and the military efforts in Afghanistan, thinks states should decide regarding the definition of marriage, will put an end to illegal immigration, opposes socialized medicine, wants to remove entitlement programs and will uphold your right to bear arms. Or maybe you lean to the other extreme and want to vote for the Socialist Party nominee, Brian Moore. He will also remove troops from Iraq and Afghanistan and outlaw all weapons of mass destruction, he will provide a National healthcare plan, perhaps most importantly he will legislate a 30 hour work week with six weeks of paid vacation every year and a full pension and guarantee all American families an income of $35,000 per adult per year. Or maybe you remember Alan Keyes who once ran for Republican nomination. He is running for President again, but as the nominee for America’s Independent Party. He will promote an amendment to protect marriage as between a man and woman, he will outlaw abortion, repeal the 16th and 17th amendments which will take away the government’s ability to tax our income. He is in favor of limited government and specifically states his dependence upon God. Or maybe you want to go way out on a limb and vote for veritable unknown 42-year-old Steve Adams of Lexington, KY, running as an independent. He is pro-life. Will push for a marriage amendment and promises in his first 100 days to work on producing a congressional report card to let us know how our Senators and Representatives are voting. He will balance the budget, secure Social Security, bring troops home, secure the border and reduce our dependence on foreign oil. Or maybe you are leaning to one of the other 350 some odd candidates who have announced their intent to run. Wow! According to Project Vote Smart at votesmart.org, more than 350 people have announced their intent to run for President and even more are thinking about it. Interestingly, this doesn’t even include Christian and gospel preacher Shane Scott who has publicly announced his bid for the presidency on YouTube at ShaneforAmerica (Yes, he is just joking…I think).

With all these candidates and almost all of them vying for the vote of Christians, what are we to do? Is there a candidate we should support because we are Christians? Or maybe we should back up and take a look at this whole election thing in a different light.

 

Discussion:

I.      First, can a Christian vote?

A.    I do not believe a Christian has to vote. There is no command in Scripture for a Christian to be at all interested in politics or government. I find it interesting despite the New Testament’s complete silence about voting that some Christians who have never talked to another person about the gospel, almost never visit their sick brethren, rarely invite anyone into their home will become sanctimonious in an election year and talk about the Christian’s responsibility to vote. And then even further about the Christian’s responsibility to vote for their favorite candidate. Perhaps we are missing some of the Scripture’s actual priorities for us.

B.    Romans 13:1 and I Peter 2:13-14 teaches that God establishes the governing authorities; we do not. I recognize some brethren believe this means they shouldn’t vote because that would mean they are trying to establish government instead of letting God do so. Others simply think this means voting is pointless because God will establish the government He wants for whatever purpose He wants it to accomplish, therefore our own vote doesn’t really count. I respect that position, and as I said, I don’t think anyone has to vote.

C.    However, I think we need to remember God works through us. Consider the salvation of souls. We know for certain that God does the saving. That is God’s work. He saves souls. But consider I Corinthians 3:5. God did the saving, but He worked through men by giving them the opportunity to teach. Consider also the great Old Testament example of Esther. No doubt, the point of Esther is that God saved the Jews. However, Esther was not to sit tight and simply say God would take care of it. Rather, Mordecai said, “Who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this” (Esther 4:14, ESV). When it was done, God would be praised for this deliverance. If Esther did nothing, God would still accomplish His will. However, the fact that God was the deliverer did not mean God’s child must refuse to act or that her action was pointless. Therefore, the claim that God is doing something, does not mean men must stay uninvolved. The fact is, in a democracy, God establishes the government, but He does so through the votes of people. Who knows whether you have not come to the United States for such a time as this that God through your vote might install your candidate as president. Maybe not, but who knows?

II.     What is God’s position?

A.    Having established that you are allowed to vote if you so choose, I want to move on to consider this idea that there is some candidate out there that is God’s candidate. I am amazed at the number of people who claim to be Christians who vote all over the political spectrum, but they all act as if all Christian’s must vote exactly like them. Really? Do we really know God’s position on all the issues that play a part in the President’s role?

B.    Consider the following issues and give me book, chapter and verse on God’s position.

 

  1. State’s rights versus federalism?
  2. Education?
  3. Socialized medicine?
  4. Immigration?
  5. Healthcare?
  6. NAFTA?
  7. Taxes?
  8. The Patriot Act?
  9. Social Security?
  10. Personal Privacy vs. Government surveillance to protect national security?
  11. The right to own a gun?
  12. Capitalism versus Socialism?
  13. Democracy versus Imperialism?
  14. Confederacy versus Union?
  15. Foreign policy?
  16. Energy policy?
  17. The environment?
  18. The line item veto?
  19. Defense spending?
  20. The trade embargo of Cuba?

C.    Brothers and sisters, if our choice for the next president is so important to God that we as Christians should vote for a particular person because God wants us to, why hasn’t He filled us in on His position on all these presidential issues?

III.   But my issues matter to God?

A.    No doubt, most Christians will point out they vote based on values and moral issues about which God has expressed opinions. Interestingly, they can’t seem to agree on which issues are the ones upon which God really and truly wants to base our vote. If we take the two major parties, Republican Christians (and for all you Democrats out there, Christians really can be Republicans) say we need to vote based on the candidates’ positions on abortion and homosexuality. No doubt, God considers harming the unborn child the same as harming anyone else. See the Old Testament law in Exodus 21:22-25. Obviously, God is opposed to the practice of homosexuality. Romans 1:26-29 clearly states that homosexual practice is against nature and against God’s law. On the other hand, Democrat Christians (and for all you Republicans out there, Christians really can be Democrats) say we should focus on what the candidates view is on caring for the poor. No doubt, taking care of the poor is very important to God. Jesus said Christians should sell their goods and give to the poor in Luke 12:33. When Paul received the right hand of fellowship from James, Cephas and John to go work among the Gentiles, their one statement was, “Remember the poor” (Galatians 2:10). You will recognize that when God established His own nation, He actually levied a 10% tax on all the Israelites in order to support not only the Levites, but for the widows, fatherless and sojourners (Deuteronomy 14:29). Have you ever read God’s policy through Nehemiah when many in that kingdom had gotten overstretched with bad debt? In Nehemiah 5:9-13, Nehemiah, the governor of Judah, commanded the Jews to forgive the debts and give back the mortgaged property and stop charging interest when folks borrowed. The people responded that they would require nothing of the folks who had borrowed. God is absolutely concerned about the care for the poor and has even favored government and legal involvement in making sure the poor were cared for. So, which of those issues is God really more concerned about? Which should win out?

B.    Further, does voting for a Presidential candidate actually mean God’s will is going to be done about anything? Let’s take one of the most often cited issues among Christians—abortion. I will admit that it is an issue upon which my vote has been based almost consistently. For six years we had a Republican president and a Republican congress, many of whom were elected because they garnered the pro-life votes of many Christians and abortion is still legal. Yet, here they are again claiming they should get the Christian vote because they are pro-life. Does our vote actually translate into God’s will being done? Apparently not.

C.    Further, which of the candidates is really for God’s will being done. Can anyone let me know which of the candidates is the prohibition candidate (cf. Proverbs 31:4)? At one time, some Christians would have argued tooth and toenail that a Christian could only vote for a guy if he was really opposed to alcohol. Somewhere along the line we gave that one up. Did we cease to be God-fearing Christians because we quit voting based on that issue? Which of the candidates wants to make sexual immorality illegal (cf. Hebrews 13:4)? Which one wants to make divorce unlawful except in cases of sexual immorality (cf. Matthew 19:3-5)? Which one wants to enforce baptism for the remission of sins (cf. Acts 2:38)? Which one wants to point out that churches are only authorized by God to provide benevolent aid to Christians and then only when their families can’t or won’t help (cf. Acts 4:32-37; I Timothy 5:16)? I guess I’m just unsure how we can pick one or two biblical issues, ignore the rest and then act like we are voting for God’s candidate.

D.    Finally, do you remember what Jesus came in the world to do? Jesus came into the world to establish His heavenly kingdom (Matthew 16:18-19; Mark 9:1). He did not come to establish policy for earthly kingdoms. He did not direct Christians to change their earthly kingdoms, but to spread the heavenly kingdom one person at a time by teaching. According to Luke 19:10, Jesus came to seek and to save those who are lost. That is the job we are to carry on. To all Republicans, how many people have ever been saved by the gospel of Jesus because you voted for Ronald Reagan, George Bush or even John McCain? To all Democrats, how many people have ever been saved by the gospel of Jesus because you voted for Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton or Barak Obama. For all you independents or third party endorsers, how many people have ever been saved because you voted for Ross Perot, Ron Paul or Chuck Baldwin? If people could be saved by the gospel based on the politicians for whom we vote, then I’m sure God would have told us for whom to vote. But God is not concerned about national policy. He is concerned about His saints getting the gospel out to one more person.

IV.   Has God asked us to spread His will through political means?

A.    I think the heart of the matter comes down to this question. So many Christians act like voting a certain way is our Christian duty because God has called us to make our national laws correspond with the Bible. Brothers and Sisters, that just isn’t true. Interestingly enough, God never once told the first century Christians to do anything about national policies and laws. In fact, the only governmental policy God remotely suggested the Christians do anything about is found in I Timothy 2:1-2. The only policy God encourages us to be really concerned about is whether or not the government allows us to serve God peacefully. And then, the action He encouraged us to take was to pray.

B.    Further, think back to when the New Testament was written. Under what kind of government did the Christians live? The Romans had ended the Republic some time before the birth of Jesus even though they tried to maintain vestiges of it for a time. They were under an emperor. I can’t help but notice that God did not encourage His children to do anything political to spread His will. In fact, II Corinthians 10:3-7 stands out to me. This is more than just saying we don’t stick a gun to someone’s head and force them to be baptized. The point behind this is our kingdom is not a material one, therefore we don’t use political machinations to force someone to obey God at all. Instead, we persuade people with reason from the Word. If that impacts the laws of our nation, then so be it. The fact is, however, God never once asked His people to do anything political about the laws of the land. He simply commanded that we pray for those who rule over us (I Timothy 2:1-2). And then He commanded us to submit to them, whoever they ended up being (Romans 13:1) unless they ask us to disobey God (Acts 5:29). Finally, He commanded us to honor the governing authority (I Peter 2:17). Allow me to remind you this was written when the governing authorities were anything but God-fearing.

C.    Consider also Jesus’ statement in John 18:36. Jesus’ kingdom is not of this world. Why on earth do we keep trying to make America Jesus’ nation by acting like there is a candidate for whom all Christians have to vote because he/she will help the United States be a Christian nation. God did not do away with His chosen national kingdom merely to get us to try to set up another one. Brothers and sisters, Jesus did not die to make America a Christian nation. He died so Americans could become Christians (along with members of every other nation). Our job, therefore is not to make American a Christian nation, but to take the gospel to our neighbors so they can be saved. Which do you think God cares about more, what our law codes say or what our people do?

D.    When Paul had the opportunity to speak to policy makers, was his goal to get them to pass God’s laws? No. His goal was to teach them the gospel. See him before Felix in Acts 24, before Festus in Acts 25, before Agrippa in Acts 26. He didn’t petition them to establish biblically based laws, he tried to teach them the gospel. No doubt, if these men became Christians, their policies and laws might change. But Paul’s point was not to change national policy, Paul’s goal was to save individual souls.

E.    Finally, do we think abortion, homosexuality, poverty and all the other issues we bicker over politically were any less part of the Roman culture? Homosexuality was such a part of the culture Paul had to write against it specifically in passages like Romans 1:26-27. There were poor people all over the Roman Empire and it was even worse then because socio-economic class was often established at birth and could hardly be changed. Abortion and infanticide were practiced among the Romans. Where are the passages that show the Christians what to do about these political atrocities that kept Rome from being a Christian Empire? They just aren’t there. Instead we have passages like I Corinthians 6:9-11. What was God’s answer to these moral ills? Not changing national laws and policies but teaching individuals the gospel so they can be saved and then redeemed from their immorality.

V.    Let’s get back to just spreading the gospel.

A.    I think it is sad that all the politicians play the religious card. They all want us to know how Christian they are as if that gives them God’s endorsement. What is worse, however, is that we Christians sometimes get caught up in it and act like our vote has to line up with some kind of teaching from God so we can further His plans. That just isn’t in the Bible.

B.    I know it is hardly “religiously correct” to say this. I know I am probably upsetting almost everyone who hears this sermon because we so want to prove that everyone has to vote like us to serve God properly. But that just isn’t in the Word of God. The fact is, I don’t think we can make one single claim from the Bible that suggests God really cares how we vote. Our job in serving Him is not about our nation’s laws and policies. Our job is to get the gospel out. If you really want to further God’s will regarding caring for the poor, get out and help someone who is poor. If you really want to further God’s will regarding abortion, teach people the gospel truth about sexual responsibility and then help support them as they choose to keep a baby if they have made a mistake. If you really want to further God’s will regarding homosexuality, show love and concern for someone who struggles with that sin as you help the overcome by the grace of God. What good will it do if we change national policy by our votes but never convince anyone to love God enough to obey His will on these issues.

C.    To be honest, I think one of the reasons we get so up in arms about voting is because voting is so easy. We go into a booth and push some buttons where no one can see us and try to elect officials to pass laws to force people to obey God. Then we pat ourselves on the back for doing our part in God’s fight against immorality. We haven’t done anything in God’s fight against immorality when we vote. We haven’t done anything in God’s fight against immorality until we start talking to the immoral about the freedom from sin they can have in Christ Jesus.

Conclusion:

Brothers and Sisters, I don’t know that God cares whether or not we are a Republic, a Democracy, a Monarchy or a Dictatorship. However, I must admit that my own personal view of politics is that the ability to elect representatives is the best form of government. That, however, is a political and social view, not a spiritual or biblical one. I view the ability to vote for representatives who think like me is one of the greatest privileges we have in our country and I take it seriously. Frankly, I believe we are allowed to favor a candidate for any reason or reasons we think are most important to help protect and preserve our country. With that, I recognize that because of experience and situation, each of us may see different issues as the most pressing ones in our nation. The fact that you don’t see the same issues as pressing as I do, doesn’t mean you are less of a Christian than I am and vice versa. So then, for whom should the Christian vote for president or in any other election for that matter? The Christian should vote for the candidate he/she thinks will most represent their opinions if elected based on whatever issues he/she decides are most pressing.

Before I end this lesson, I have no doubt someone who is not exactly happy with this sermon is going to come up when I’m through and try to get me to somehow sideways admit their candidate is the right one by saying, “I appreciate all you said, but don’t you think Christians should take their Bibles with them into the voting booth?” Of course I do, I think Christians should take their Bibles with them everywhere. I think Christians should let God’s moral law impact every decision they make. I just have recognized there are more biblical issues at play than the one upon which you or I have hung our electoral hats. Further, when you leave the voting booth, don’t think you have done God’s will about whatever issue caused you to vote the way you did, because God has never told you how to vote. He has told you how to live, how to teach and how to bring others to salvation through His Son. So, between now and November 4, if you want to really do something for God’s kingdom and even for our nation, quit trying to convince others to vote like you and start sharing the gospel message of salvation with them.  

September 22, 2008 Posted by | A Springboard for Your Spiritual Life | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 17 Comments

What You Can Do With Your Meager Talents?

I can imagine it now. The apostles can sense the crowds are getting restless. They are hungry and have nothing to eat. It seems only one little boy gave any thought to preparation. He had five loaves and two fish, but there were 5000 men, not counting many of their wives and children. When Jesus told them, “You feed the crowds,” they were stunned. John 5:9 contains the important question:

“There is a boy her who has five barley loaves and two fish, but what are they for so many?”

Have you ever looked at the overwhelming crowds: maybe you are looking at people you need to help, maybe you are looking at temptations you need to overcome, maybe you are looking at goals you need to accomplish. Whatever you are looking at, you feel paralyzed. You see all this work but feel like the one talent man. Perhaps not even one talent, maybe you feel like only half of a talent. You wonder, “What is my talent for so many?”

Notice what Jesus did in John 5. He sat the people down. Blessed the meager meal and then passed it out. When the meal was done, the apostles gathered in 12 baskets of scraps and leftovers. They had more leftovers than they had original meal. 

Let’s face it, if the only people present that day were the crowds, the boy and the apostles, folks would have gone hungry. That little meal couldn’t feed many, probably just the boy. But Jesus was present. When Jesus is present, He can make the littlest go a long way.

Let’s face it, if the only people present in your life are the crowds, your family and you, folks are going to be in trouble. You can’t possibly have enough talents to do much good. But if Jesus is present, He can take even your smallest gift and use it in extraordinary ways.

This is the heart of Ephesians 3:20. “Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us…” If we try to go it alone, we will accomplish nothing…nothing of real value anyway. With Jesus running the helm, He can use our meager talents to accomplish more than we could ask or think.

So, step out with your five loaves and two fish and get to work.

ELC

September 15, 2008 Posted by | A Springboard for Your Spiritual Life, Get to Work, Success | , , | Leave a comment