Teach the Children

Have you noticed how many children from Christian families go off to college and return minus their faith in God? Good, humble, church-going kids go out into the world and agnostic (or downright atheistic) kids return home. And it's all our fault!
It's easy to blame the atheistic professor, the worldly education system or someone else's 'wild children'. But the fault lies with us: parents, uncles and aunts, youth ministers. We tell the children what to believe, but not why they should believe it or even why it's believable! We give them scripture verses and Bible stories and think that's enough. They go away strong in faith but weak in theology and reasoning skills. They show up at college easy prey for atheistic professors who question their faith. They don't know how to defend their faith with sound doctrine and logical, reasonable arguments and cave to public humiliation. You can bet their professors are ready with logic and reason to defend their godless  arguments!
The Bible warns us to be ready to give a defense of what we believe. We need to be ready with an answer for why we believe what we believe. Faith is not the opposite of logic and reason. The Christian faith is both logical and reasonable. Our children are looking to make sense of this crazy world and if we don't answer their questions biblically, someone else will answer them for us.
Encourage your children to question their faith. Encourage them to ask questions and teach them that their faith is logically and reasonably defendable. Don't stifle their curiosity, but feed it. Of course if we adults don't study to show ourselves approved, then how will we be able to answer our children's questions?


Warned from the Start

 "When the world hates you, remember it hated me before it hated you. The world would love you if you belonged to it, but you don't. I chose you to come out of the world, and so it hates you." John 15:18,19

 "And everyone will hate you because you are my followers." Mark 13:13

 "For you will be expelled from the synagogues, and the time is coming when those who kill you will think they are doing a holy service for God." John 16:2

Where in the Bible do we get the idea that this world is going to like us? What scripture do we use to show how this world system is supposed to agree with us and tolerate our biblical ideals and embrace us as friends? Jesus warned us 2000 years ago how it would be. Why are we so surprised that it is as he said it would be? And why are we surprised that it is getting worse the closer we get to His return?
This world will tolerate everything except Jesus (and therefore us, if we truly follow Him). It hated Him then and it hates Him now. He tells them they can't do things they want to do. He places moral restriction on them and they don't like it! The world will tolerate everything except the intolerant. Play along, be nice, accept everything that comes along, keep your opinions to yourself, don't make a stand for anything being 'the way it should be' and the world will take you in and love you. Follow Jesus, stand for the truth, voice your opinions, call evil evil and you are sure to be persecuted, hated and shunned. 
During the recent Duck Dynasty debacle, one 'reporter' said he was surprised that the patriarch of the family would say such awful things about homosexuals because he thought this show was "supposed to be about good, God-fearing, hard-working, likeable sorts of folks." Apparently 'good, God-fearing, hard-working, likeable sorts of folks' aren't supposed to be against homosexuality. My answer is that good, God-fearing folks have to be against homosexuality because the Bible calls it sin and because they follow Jesus, not man. The world sees Christians as either 'good old boys and girls' who are peaceful and quiet, who get along with everyone and who are not willing to get into controversial areas (you know, humble and meek and all that stuff) or as homophobic, racist troublemakers who can't keep their backward, conservative opinions to themselves and want to force their religious ideas down everyone's throats. They falsely accused Christians of wanting to take all the homosexuals and lesbians and putting them on an island somewhere by themselves when the truth is they would do that to Christians in a heartbeat!  
Anyone who hates another human being for any reason is not following Jesus' teachings. We are to love our neighbor as ourselves and treat everyone with respect and courtesy regardless of whether we agree on everything or not. God created us all in his image and gives us life and therefore we are all equally important. But we must not be bullied into backing down from the truth. We must follow God and not men. We must agree with God and call sin whatever He calls sin regardless of the consequences. Be assured, you will be hated and despised; You may be ostracized or even jailed for obeying God. But we were warned. 


Sheep Who Stray

All of us, like sheep, have strayed away. We have left God’s paths to follow our own. ~ Isaiah 53:6

There are times when we stray away. Life is so full of distractions and busy is our middle name. How often do we look up from our busy lives and find that we're not where we thought we were and certainly not about the Father's business. Like sheep who get so caught up in the next juicy bite of green grass that they walk right into danger, we look up and find we are far from where we planned (and want) to be.
There are times when we walk away. It's not that we absent-mindedly wander off track, we know exactly what we're doing. We're doing what we want to do, all the while knowing it's contrary to God's will. We take control of our lives and assert out independence.
There are times when we fade away. We get tired. We get frustrated. Life can be tough. We can handle life one day at a time, but it seems like life often throws two or three days at us at a time. We get overwhelmed and it's so easy to just sit down. Unfortunately, it's not so easy to get up again. Objects at rest tend to stay at rest. Often it seems like we can't find the strength to get up and get started again.
All these 'times' are common to us all. We all find ourselves in one of them at points in our lives. It helps me to stay out of these 'times' by remembering this: when we disobey God's will and command,  it is treason. We can call it by nicer names, but a rose by any other name..... Well, you know the rest. It is what it is no matter what you choose to call it. God is our Sovereign, our Head, our King, our Lord. It is our responsibility to be obedient. As our creator, the author of our lives, he has the right to command us, to obligate us. We have the responsibility to obey. When we choose what we want over what he commands, it is treason against our Sovereign. It is no little thing. We make it sound insignificant by saying we strayed from the path or missed the mark or maybe got out of line. But when a subordinate disobeys a Sovereign, it is treason!
We should all be thankful that God is merciful and forgiving. He allows us time to see what we have done and to repent of it. He doesn't owe that time to us, it is his grace. He doesn't have to accept our repentance, that also is his grace. We need to be better overcomers and we wouldn't have to be such good repenters! We need to be vigilant and obedient and remember that treason is a capital offense. It is an offense that shows arrogance and ingratitude to a Sovereign God.



I don't know how many times I have started a discussion about God with someone only to hear them say "How can there be a good God when there is so much evil in the world?". I recall the words of atheist Sam Harris who said “Either God can do nothing to stop catastrophes like this, or he doesn't care to, or he doesn't exist. God is either impotent, evil, or imaginary.". I tend to look at the whole question of evil from the other side: "How can there be any good in this world without a good God?".
Just look at how evil people can be. Look at the atrocities they can commit. It seems like each new outbreak of violence pushes the envelope a little further as if evildoers were trying to one up each other! Just try to imagine how evil a person could actually be, what atrocities they could think up to do. I believe it is God who keeps people from being as evil as they could be. 
God, in times past, has removed his restraining hand from certain individuals and allowed them to fulfill the evil in their hearts: Pharaoh and Hitler and the like. It's not that God put evil thoughts into their minds or evil desires into their heads, but he allowed them to live out the evil that was already present in them. I can't say that I fully understand why God has allowed these evils to occur, but I know that it is part of an overall plan that, because of my limited capabilities as a finite human, I can't see. 
Some people believe that humans are inherently good. They believe that children learn to be bad. I believe the Bible teaches us that we are born evil and only 'learn' how to express the evil that is in us.The Bible teaches that "The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is?". (Jeremiah 17:9).
When something terrible and tragic happens, it's easy to find someone asking how God could have allowed such a bad thing to happen to innocent people. But wonderful things happen to people everyday and I rarely hear anyone asking how God could have allowed such a nice thing to happen to sinful people. It's an act of God when a tornado kills 100 people or a Tsunami kills 3000. But few take the time to thank God and recognize him for his generosity when the sun shines and the sky is blue and the crops grow tall and the children are healthy and happy. No one seems to question where the good comes from, only the evil. 


Praying for the Lost

  We should all have a heart for the lost. We should all be praying for the lost to be saved, those we know and those we don't know. I believe the Holy Spirit gives all true believers a burden to see people saved. After all, Jesus came "to seek and to save that which was lost" (Luke 19:10). 
  I think a lot of times we just aren't sure how to go about praying for the lost. Some of us believe that human beings have 'free will' and must use that freedom to choose to be saved. So how do we pray for God to save them when God can't save them until they decide to be saved? Some of us believe that God has predetermined the 'elect' from before time. So since we're not sure who's of the elect and whose not, who do we pray for to be saved; If God elected them, they'll  be saved and if He didn't no amount of praying will change that. It can certainly be confusing.
  I believe that no one in his natural state, that is, in his flesh, ever wants to be saved or have anything to do with God. The Bible tells us that in our flesh, "nothing good dwells" (Rom 7:18). I believe the Bible teaches that sin has corrupted us beyond repair (there remains no ability to want the things of God left in us) and that is why we need to be reborn of the Spirit. I believe that God must give us the will to want him and the ability to desire to do his will. The Bible tells us that it is "God working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him" (Phil 2:13). I believe in 'free will', in that we are free to choose what we want. But I also believe that what we want is not (and without God's intervention, will never be) God. The Bible says that we love him because he first loved us. We need God's help to be saved.
   I believe we need to pray and ask God to give lost people the desire to be saved, the ability to repent and the will to follow Jesus.


Thy Will Be Done

When it comes to theology, I confess that there are many things I don't know. I'm quite sure there are many, many more things that I don't know than I do know. Often, when asked my thoughts on a certain subject, I have had to answer honestly, I don't know.
But there is one thing that I know I know: God is sovereign. Everything that happens is his will, it is ultimately good and ultimately brings him glory. Notice I said ultimately. God doesn't promise that everything that happens is good, but that everything works together for good. Things happen that I don't understand; Things happen that I don't like; Things happen that make me sad; Things happen that hurt me at the time of their happening. But because I have settled the question of God's sovereignty in my heart, I can go on in peace and have hope no matter what happens.
Life can be hard. The world can be a miserable place sometimes. I'm not saying that I'm always happy; Happiness is too easily manipulated by circumstances. It's easy to be happy when everything is going right. It's more difficult to be happy when times are tough. I said I could go on in hope and peace. When hope is lost and peace can't be found, life isn't worth living. We see it everday - people who have money, fame, and all the trappings of 'the good life' commit suicide and we wonder what could have caused them to do such a thing. Having things may make you happy, but having things doesn't give hope or bring peace.
Knowing that everything that happens to me has been filtered through God's loving hands and will eventually be for my good brings me peace. Knowing that the day is coming when all my tears will be dried and all my fears, worries and struggles will end gives me hope. I want God's will to be done in everything, even when I don't understand it or even like it.


Time for a Trade-In

Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.”
   ~ Matthew 11:28-30

Here once again, Jesus makes a compassionate offer to everyone to come to him. He says plainly that everyone is welcome, that there are no heavy, condemning requirements and that rest is guaranteed. What an offer!

No doubt this was welcomed news for the people standing around him. The Pharisees had been quite busy making new rules and regulations for 'religious' Jews to live by. Jesus said that they "load people down with rules and regulations, nearly breaking their backs, but never lift even a finger to help.". Jesus was telling them something that we need to learn today: morality and righteousness can't be legislated; Rules and regulations will never make people live like they should. But human nature will always tell you to work and earn your salvation.
Jesus said his yoke is easy and his burden is light; Two rules covered everything - "You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind. A second is equally important: Love your neighbor as yourself.The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.”
Are you tired of the 'religious rat race'? Are you tired of the 'rat race' in general?Are you ready for a lighter burden and an easier yoke? I like the old-time song we used to sing that said "take your burdens to the Lord and leave them there".Trade the burdens for rest. Trade the worries and fear for peace.Trade the rules and regulations for justification and sanctification in Jesus. Trade your heart of stone for a heart of flesh. Trade condemnation for acceptance. 


Not Born Again, Just Religious Jerks

"Sometimes when jerks become Christians, it's like a bully learning karate. Instead of having Christ transform our hearts and attitudes, we now have a new method with which to beat you up...what was once just 'forcing everyone to agree with my opinion' is now 'forcing everyone to agree with my opinion in the name of God.'" ~ Jon Acuff

The latest Barna survey reports that most born again Christians live just like the rest of the world lives. The divorce rates  for Christians are the same, infidelity rates are the same, most Christians don't pay their bills on time or tithe their income or give any more to charities than anyone else, etc. The survey makes it appear that born again Christians are no more moral or loving or generous than the rest of society! Why would anyone want to be a Christian?
I have said it time and again - no change, no new birth. The problem with the Barna survey (and others like it) is that they are surveying people who are confessing born again believers. Anyone can confess they have been born again - show me the change, show me the fruit! Surveys rely on people being honest and actually knowing what they're talking about when they answer. A lot of people think that because they believe God exists that means they are Christians. And a lot of people really don't know what it means to be 'born again'. Going to the altar, being baptized and attending church does not necessarily mean you have been born from above. Being birthed by the Holy Spirit changes a person; it changes their desires, their attitude, their whole lives! It's not that they're immediately made perfect or made impervious to temptation, but there is a definite change that can be seen. The person will continue to change as they allow the Holy Spirit to sanctify them.
When a jerk is born again, he or she will stop being a jerk as the Holy Spirit convicts them of their sins and gives them the will and the power to change. When a jerk becomes religious, he or she will become like Mr. Acuff states - like a bully learning karate. They will pick and choose the scriptures that, at least in their minds, justify their opinions. The Word of God won't be to them a seed to sow, but a bat to swing.


Hyphenated Christianity

I don't believe in hyphenated Christians. I'm not a Calvinist-Christian because I believe in election and predestination; I'm not a Charismatic-Christian because I believe in speaking in tongues and lively worship; I'm not a Pentecostal-Christian because I believe in miracles, healing and the gifts of the Spirit. I believe the Word of God, the WHOLE Word of God. If the Holy Scriptures contradict my theology, then my theology must change. I don't choke on the 'hard sayings'. If I come upon a part of the scriptures that is hard to understand, I know I need to spend more time reading that particular scripture, meditating on it and praying for the Holy Spirit's enlightenment.
I don't make light of or criticize anyone else's doctrine (unless it plainly contradicts scripture and even then I only quote the offended scripture, not my opinion) and I don't mind confessing that I don't know when I don't know. I believe there are mysteries and paradoxes in the scriptures, but no mistakes. I do, however, believe in going back to the oldest manuscripts for word study in the original language when I have trouble understanding the text.
 I lived my early Christian years basing my theology on what came down from the pulpit of the church I grew up in, embracing what was taught and shunning what was taught against. One day I decided it was time to take the Bible literally when it said "work out your own salvation with fear and trembling". I am responsible for seeking understanding of Biblical concepts and being able to "give an answer" for why I believe... and so are you! We are all called to be disciples - learners of and searchers for the Truth. We are called to dig into the Word of God as if it were a field containing buried treasure. And it surely is!
I refuse to be placed into a man-made category just because I believe a certain thing. I am out for the Truth; the Truth based on God's Holy Word. Wherever it leads, I will go. 


Of Babies and Bathwater

Are there excesses in the Charismatic movement? Are there ungodly people with selfish agendas in the Charismatic ranks? Yes... And yes again. The prosperity message has been corrupted, the healing message has been corrupted and the gifts of the Spirit message has been corrupted. Do we throw the baby out with the bathwater? No. But we definitely need to change the bathwater, the baby is starting to smell a little funny.
I was raised up in a Holiness church. I have been in the Pentecostal faith all my life. I was ordained in a non-denominational, charismatic church. I have seen, heard and been a part of the real work of God and what I'm seeing these days is disheartening to say the least. Anywhere there is the opportunity to be rich and/or famous, there will always be people ready to take advantage of that opportunity. Christianity is not immune.
The Bible teaches that God wants his people to prosper. The Preachers I hear these days seem to have a different definition of prosperity than God does. God wants us to have enough, with a little left over so that we can give to others. And that only comes when we are obedient and faithful. The Bible teaches us that God is our healer. God hears us when we cry out in our painful circumstances and He helps us in our times of need. But God has never promised us a painless, easy life with no hard times. Soft lives make soft Christians. We are told to persevere and endure as good soldiers; To count it all joy and learn to be thankful in whatever state we find ourselves. The Bible teaches that the Holy Spirit gifts believers "for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ..."  The gifts of the Spirit are not for personal gain or personal glory or personal anything else. They are for service to others and for glorifying God.
On the other side of the coin, there are those who are pointing out the faults with Charismatics and overlooking their own faults. Excess is wrong, but so is absence. Not teaching that God will provide for His people according to their earthly needs, teaching that healing is not for today and that miracles have passed away, and squashing legitimate spiritual gifts is just as bad.


Keep it Real

"One of my problems is that I like to be liked. I spend most of my social and professional life around Christians, so it is mostly Christians I want to please. Any "real" Christian must say and do certain things, thus ensuring acceptance by the Christian community. You have to subscribe to a certain standard, and live reasonably close to it; you must use certain catchwords popular in the Christian community; and you must never express doubts or ask questions...
When the requirement for acceptance in any particular group is to think certain thoughts, to act in certain ways, and to fit certain molds ~ and we don't think or act that way, or fit the mold ~ we tend to fake it. We put on a mask that says, 'I'm just like you. Now, will you please love me and accept me?' I can think of hardly anything that will kill your joy and freedom more than wearing a mask geared to get others to accept you because you're acting like them....
Before I gave up, I spent half of my time trying to do something I couldn't do, and the other half of my time trying to convince others that I had done it. It is called hypocrisy, and it's quite human and quite injurious to your sanity...as well as your freedom. That's why I gave it up." ~ Steve Brown

Popeye the sailor said "I yam what I yam and that's all that I yam!". And the Genie from Disney's Alladin advised Alladin to 'beeeee yourself!'. Even cartoon characters know that pretending to be something you're not is just too hard. 'Playing Christian' is stressful, dangerous and unfortunately... common.
I know we are commanded in the Bible to live holy lives, to be humble people, to dress modestly and speak soberley and these things we have in common as believers. But I also know that Christians can be very judgmental and critical of other Christians if they look, talk or think the least bit different. As the Apostle Paul would say - brothers and sisters, this shouldn't be so.
Be yourself. God loves you and real Jesus followers will love you too. Imitate no one but Christ and you'll be just fine.


Working on the Boat

"What James is saying is this: If a person says he has faith, but he gives no outward evidence of that faith through righteous works, his faith will not justify him. We are not saved by a profession of faith or by a claim to faith. That faith has to be genuine before the merit of Christ will be imputed to anybody. You can’t just say you have faith. True faith will absolutely and necessarily yield the fruits of obedience and the works of righteousness…. those works don’t add to that person’s justification at the judgment seat of God. But they do justify his claim to faith before the eyes of man. James is saying, not that a man is justified before God by his works, but that his claim to faith is shown to be genuine as he demonstrates the evidence of that claim of faith through his works." ~ RC Sproul

God decided to save Noah and his family from the flood that would ravage the Earth and destroy all life. God came to Noah, warned him about the flood and gave him specific instructions on building the ark. Noah chose to believe God and began building the boat. The Bible says that Noah believed the Lord and it was credited to him as righteousness.
 Noah was saved by grace, through faith, in a boat. God saved Noah in an ark, but gave the ark building job to Noah! God could easily have provided Noah an already assembled ark; But He decided, in his wisdom, to give Noah the job. Noah was given the opportunity to prove that he believed. Yes, Noah was saved by God's grace, but he still had to build the boat! It pleased God to do it that way. Noah proved he had faith in God by obeying God's command, starting to build the ark and persevering until the job was finished.
The day we were saved by God's grace, through faith in the shed blood of Jesus, we were given the opportunity to start building our boat; The opportunity to put hands and feet to our faith. I pray we continue. I pray that we persevere till the end.



Have you noticed how the tactics keep changing? For years people have been trying to prove that the biblical Jesus didn't exist, that he was a fairytale or a myth; They denied his existence. Then, the majority report seemed to say that he did exist, but he was just a good teacher and a wise man who had good ideas, but still just a man; They denied his deity. Now we're hearing that he did exist and he was God, but he didn't really say what the Bible reports him to have said; They deny his message.
Someone once said that it's easy to tell the difference between the truth and not the truth; It's much harder to tell the difference between the truth and almost the truth. They say Jesus didn't mean what we have always thought he meant when he talked about Sin or Hell or his being the only way to the Father; He was misquoted, missinterpreted and misunderstood. It's been a misunderstanding all these years! And what's really scary is that this foolishness is not coming from atheists, it's coming from....... preachers! This apostate rhetoric is actually being espoused by so-called 'men of God'! "Yes Jesus said it, but that's not what he meant" has become the new lie from the Devil. Be careful. 
Is it any wonder the Bible warns us to not be ignorant of the devil's devices. 


Heart and Head

It takes your heart and your head to be a good Christian. The Bible tells us that "without faith it is impossible to please God"; God expects us to not only believe in Him (that He exists), but to believe Him (trust Him even when it doesn't seem possible). Faith allows us to go beyond what is tangible and know what our senses cannot know. But we mustn't think that we have to check our brains at the church door. Christianity is reasonable. It really does make sense! Apologists spend their entire lives explaining Christianity with reason and logic. Just watch a debate between atheists and apologists and you will see that both employ the same rules of reason and logic to make their points. Neither will allow the other to slide by with unreasonable or illogical arguments. Their opinions may differ, but both seek to prove their argument with reason and logic. Reason will keep us from falling prey to religious nonsense.
The Bible tells us to be disciples (learners, students) of Jesus. We are told to be ready with an answer when we are asked why we believe. That answer should be logical and reasonable and always based on the scriptures. Faith doesn't mean we accept every religious-sounding idea that comes down the pike whether it makes good sense or not! Just because a man is called Minister or Pastor doesn't mean he gets a pass on the requirement to be reasonable and logical (and especially biblical!). The Bible warns us to "try the spirits to see if they are from God"; In other words, make sure everything passes the head test and the heart test. Is it logical and reasonable (and by reasonable I don't necessarily mean does it make sense, but rather, does it pass the laws of reason); Is it biblical (do the scriptures bear it out); Does it sit well  your spirit (does the Holy Spirit bear witness in your conscience that it is faithful and true)?
Keep your head and your heart both in the game. There will be mysteries you can't humanly explain, but that doesn't mean they are illogical or unreasonable; Let your Faith guide you. There will be things preached to you that sound religious, but stretch the scriptures awkwardly or are downright contrary to scripture; Let your head guide you. Faith and Reason are not mutually exclusive.



I find myself torn. I'm torn between two paths. On the one hand, I love people. I believe that we are all created in God's image and are equal in his eyes, created with purpose and meaning, created with value. I don't want anyone to perish. I don't want anyone to suffer or be absent from God's presence. I want everyone to see God for who he is and love him and be loved by him. I want us to love each other and put away our differences (and our indifference) and put an end to racism, hate and "man's inhumanity to man".
On the other hand, I'm so tired of trying to tell people about Jesus and being called intolerant, phobic, insensitive, unreasonable and simple-minded for my trouble. Part of me wants to just be quiet, keep it to myself and let them find out the hard way. I know that one millisecond after they die, they will believe in God. And I know that it will be too late for that knowledge to benefit them.
It is only the love of God that the Holy Spirit has "spread abroad in my heart" that keeps me going. It is that love that keeps me preaching a Gospel that I know most people don't want to hear, don't appreciate, and will revile and ridicule me for. I pray that I never give in to my emotions, my human frailty. I pray that I keep on preaching, expounding, being a living witness to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.