Thursday, June 19, 2014

LIFE IS SOMETIMES DIFFICULT




 

How much do you trust God? I really mean this, how much do you trust God? Do you believe that he cares for you? Do you believe that no matter what happens in your life that he is right there beside you? Do you believe that if you live faithfully he will someday take you home to heaven? As Christians we must believe these things, because that is the hope we have in life; that is what our faith is about!

 

Philip Yancey, in his book REACHING FOR THE INVISIBLE GOD, tells of his father‑in‑law, a Bible teacher and committed Christian. The older man’s faith troubled him in his final years. A degenerative nerve disease confined him to bed, preventing him from sharing in most of the activities he enjoyed. In addition to his own illness, his daughter battled a debilitating form of diabetes.

 

During the most severe crisis, he composed a Christmas letter and mailed it to family members and friends. He expressed his uneasy feelings about many things he had once taught. What could he believe with certainty? The old Bible teacher staked his faith on three realities. Here is his list: “(1) Life is difficult, (2) God is merciful, (3) Heaven is sure.”

 

Is life difficult? Yes! It is rarely any other way, but God's word assures us that we have a loving God who is merciful to his children and that the promise of heaven is sure. We believe it, because he said.

 

Jesus encouraged his disciples with these words found in John 14:1-3: "Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father's house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am."

 

Has that promise ever changed? No, God's promise to us remains the same no matter what difficulties come into our lives. The writer of Hebrews encourages us with these words. "Because God wanted to make the unchanging nature of his purpose very clear to the heirs of what was promised, he confirmed it with an oath. God did this so that, by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled to take hold of the hope set before us may be greatly encouraged. We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure." (Hebrews 6:17-19).

 

What is the anchor for your soul during difficult times, what is your hope? It must be the "unchangeable" promises of God, because those are the only ones that really last!

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

What do you do with Father's Day?


Father's Day is traditionally a day on which we recognize the efforts of our fathers to provide for and care for their families. Many make this a special day with a special breakfast, phone calls to those who are separated by miles or visits if you are near. Perhaps taking them out to eat and even gifts to recognize them. That's great and I am thrilled that so many are able to do that, it is as it should be. Deuteronomy 5:16  told the Israelites (and the example travels on to us) "Honor your father and your mother, as the LORD your God has commanded you, so that you may live long and that it may go well with you in the land the LORD your God is giving you.”

 

There are inherent in this day some problems, the first of which is that there are those of us whose fathers have passed from this life and we can no longer let them know how much they were appreciated. That brings with it another set of problems, as we sometimes get buried under a load of guilt called, "I wish I had". "I wish I had been a better son/daughter". "I wish I had told them…" We can honor them by simply remembering them and living a life that would show honor in our own lives.

 

Then there are some whose fathers are abusive, non-caring, unloving or have even deserted their families. It's hard to show love to someone like that. How do you love the unlovable?

 

And then there are some who never knew their father at all, perhaps they died or departed or refused to accept the responsibility for them before they were ever born. That brings about a position of choosing in our lives. Choosing whether to love them (or at least not hate them). The Greek word used most in the scripture for love is "agape" which literally means to desire the best for someone. It doesn't have the meaning of embracing or even desiring to be with someone, but to truly hope that all things work out to their good, which of course would be for them to have their life right with God, no matter what their situation.

 

So, sometimes even our fathers are unlovable, they are not perfect, in fact sometimes they mess up big time and then what are we to do? Maybe we should ask ourselves, "What would Jesus do?" You see, God loves the unlovable; ("But God has made clear his love to us, in that, when we were still sinners, Christ gave his life for us." Romans 5:8  BBE) Would you think then that he would expect you and I to do anything less, not just on Father's Day, but all days.

 

Whatever your situation, I pray that you will honor your father while you have him with you. If you can't do that, then love them with a love that hopes for the best for them in their relationship to God.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Dealing with stress




 

In 1999, 36 year old Akira Hareuya filed bankruptcy for his electrical contracting business. He immediately bought a pair of boxing gloves and went out on to the streets of Tokyo with a plan. He knew that there were lots of very stressed people on the streets of Tokyo so for $9 a minute he would allow people to punch him. To further deal with their stress they could yell at him as they punched him. The report said he made about $200 per day doing this.

 

Have you ever had to deal with stress? It's a reality of life isn't it, everyone has some kind of stress about something. How about you, how do you deal with your stress? Some folks seem to do just fine; they let the stress that enters their lives just roll over them, not seeming to affect them at all. But, then there is the rest of us who don't cope quite as well sometimes. Actually, I've found that how I deal with stress varies quite a bit and is sometimes even coupled with my physical condition. If I am not feeling well, then things seem to bother me that at other times would be no problem at all.

 

I think the same principle can be applied to us on a spiritual level also. If we are strong spiritually then we are not nearly as stressed as when we struggle spiritually. Have you ever been to a meeting of your church family or maybe a special meeting where lots of folks attended where you were especially uplifted? Maybe you came away feeling that you could handle almost anything that the world threw at you; depression wasn't an issue, because you were so high on spiritual adrenalin.

 

Now we know that God's word encourages us to meet with other Christians and that we are to encourage each other at all times. Why is it then, that when we are stressed, depressed and discouraged, that we stay away from church meetings and other Christians? In my experience it is because others seem so perfect, so godly; so spiritual, that it makes us feel even worse about ourselves. Now if that is true, then we have a real problem with our perceptions of others, because I have yet to meet anyone who is not struggling with something; we just are not aware of it. Paul writes in Romans 3:23, "For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God's glorious standard."

 

What about getting rid of stress, how do we do it? Well, personally I'm still working on that, but I have a direction to go in my life. Paul writes in Philippians 4:6-7, "Don't worry about anything. Instead, tell God about everything. Ask and pray. Give thanks to him. Then God's peace will watch over your hearts and your minds because you belong to Christ Jesus." (NIrV) I'm working on bringing more of God into my life all of the time through study, prayer and association with others of like mind. What about you, do you have a plan?

 



 



 

 

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

WHAT ARE YOU WILLING TO RISK?

It was a small and rather poor town with a small and rather poor church, so poor they could not afford their own meeting place. The only place they could find to meet was on the lower floor of a dilapidated old building with a dance hall on the second floor. It was a terrible situation, as the dance hall was almost always full of people with loud music accompanied by the stomping of many feet and boisterous shouts.

One Sunday the church was meeting and the usual melee was going on above them. Suddenly there was a loud crack and plaster falling from the ceiling as well as the lower portion of a woman hanging through a hole in the ceiling.

Immediately the preacher called out, "Any man that raises his eyes to the ceiling will be struck blind by the lord." Dead silence descended upon the congregation as everyone wondered what would happen next. Then in a shaky quivering voice an old man in the back of the hall was heard to say, "Well, I think I might risk one eye anyway."

I know it's a humorous story, but it speaks to a very serious problem in our world and sadly in our churches today. We are constantly bombarded by nudity and fowl language in the sanctity of our own homes now. The television programs seem to be trying to push a liberal view of what is acceptable and what isn't. Honestly, we have had to turn off and stop watching several programs in the past year, because of the sinful content of the programs. They know that sex and nudity grabs people and causes them to watch the programs. They know exactly what they are doing, but not living lives guided by God they really don't care.

One of the problems is that it is possible to become hardened to what is being shown and honestly we don't realize that we have been watching something wicked. God demands that we change the way we think, act, live and what we allow to influence us.

Paul writing in Romans 6:1 reminds us of the transformation we made when we decided to serve Christ. Notice his words, because his question is still valid for us today:  "Well then, should we keep on sinning so that God can show us more and more of His wonderful grace? Of course not! Since we have died to sin, how can we continue to live in it?"(NIV) The old King James Version says, "God Forbid" that we should do such a thing.

The problem with far too many of us is that we are "willing to risk one eye," to indulge in just a little sin. Yet, that's not the way it works with God. You must be either 100% for him or you are against him, you can't be lukewarm in your commitment or he will judge you as guilty, (Revelation 3:16). Your kids might scream and holler that they like that show and all of their friends watch it, but God expects us to live differently from the world. The Psalms perhaps say it best in Psalm 101:3 here the writer says simply, "I will set no wicked thing before my eyes."

As for me, I think I'll try my best to keep both eyes where they need to be

Friday, February 7, 2014

Change


We live in a world where (almost) everyone wants change. We want to see new things, do new things, move to a new house, change jobs, learn new things, experience new thrills, challenge ourselves to do things we have never done before. Desiring change is not a bad thing, at least in regards to most things.

 

One of the more familiar quotes we see from time to time is: "If you always do what you've always done, you'll always get what you've always got." (Doug Caufmann). There is truth to that statement. If you keep doing things the same way, you are not going to have change. Our society seems to think that the lack of change is a bad thing, but is that always true? Now, I'm no just being an "old foggy," who doesn't believe in change. I love change in my life and expect it in our world. My wife and I have lived in 7 states as well in Kenya, East Africa. We love to experience new things and different people. We embrace change in our lives for the most part.

 

However (you knew there would be a disclaimer didn't you), I cannot and will not embrace change to God's church or God's Word. I've been disappointed in churches and church leaders throughout our land who want to try and make changes to God's church. They go to extremes to try and make "church" more palatable to our young folks who desire change. And, if they don't get the change they want, they go somewhere they can find it. It's really not surprising, we were warned about it a couple of thousand years ago when the Apostle Paul wrote a young preacher, Timothy. Notice what he said, "For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. (2 Timothy_4:3) 

 

Here is what we see happen so often. People who do not have a lot of knowledge of God's word start to desire change. They want more services that are more entertaining, something that makes them feel good. They approach the leadership and demand change in the church. The leadership either caves in to their request or they threaten to leave.

 

At some point we must realized that, yes, there are some things that we can change, but there are some things that we dare not change. Why? Because God gave us directions as to how things must be in His Word. He was not mistaken, he did not communicate unclearly, he was not just kidding when he told us what he wanted us to do. God doesn't think or act as we do as humans.

 

We tend to forget what we are told in Numbers 23:19, that: "God is not human, that he should lie, not a human being, that he should change his mind." God has given us clear directions regarding what is necessary for our salvation. He it clear on what is morally and ethically acceptable. He is clear about marriage and sexual relationships. He is clear about the worship that is acceptable to him. These things are not given to change just because or society has decided that they want them to change.

 

What about those who demand change to what God has already put into place? Psalm 55:19 speaks of: "God, who is enthroned from of old, who does not change, he will hear them and humble them, because they have no fear of God. You see, it all boils down to having a "fear" for God and His Word. (Hebrew lit. "respect or fear to displease him").

 

Let me encourage you to be careful as to what you change rather than one day standing before God and being brought to your knees in shame, (humbled).

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Different Standards




It's obvious to even the most casual observer that different people have different standards that are acceptable to them. In some cases it makes no real difference in life, yet in other cases it does.

For example; for the past couple of weeks my wife has been ill and because of that I have been 'helping' with some of the household duties. (I offer a special thank you to each of the ladies in our church who have offered to help.) Yesterday I had solid proof that my wife is recovering. How? By the fact that "husband clean," was no longer sufficient for her. It was just little things, but I picked up on them. Things like the comment: "You know; the kitchen floor really needs moped." I thought it looked fine. I had wiped up the spots where I had dropped food! Then there was the fact that she grabbed the hand vacuume and cleaned up flower pedals and assorted other things in the living room that I hadn't even seen. So, "husband clean," was not up to her standards of what is acceptable. I have no excuse; after all, I am a husband and my ways are not her ways of doing things.

One of the things about standards is that they often change. You don't have to look to hard to understand that our society's standards have shifted dramatically concerning what is right and wrong or what is acceptable or unacceptable. God has set standards in regards to what is acceptable in terms of morality, acceptable worship and ethical behavior.

Our society, for the most part, says there are no hard fast standards for morality; just do whatever makes you feel good. Our society says, there are no standards for worship, just do whatever makes you feel good. Our society says there are no standards for ethics; just go with whatever profits you the most. Look at the corruption of our world. Think about the thoughtlessness of our government leaders for the people they govern. Think about the immorality that is flaunted by the world's entertainment community and is mimicked by those they influence.

These standards of living and action are not acceptable to our God, even though men say it makes no difference. God said through the prophet Isaiah, "'For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,' declares the LORD." (Isaiah 55:8)

The problem is that there are so very many in our world who either don't take the time to read what God says concerning His standards, or they disregard His words as being old fashioned and say that God wouldn't possibly expect us live by those standards proclaimed in His book today.

Paul writes these words of warning in 1Corinthians 6:9-11, "Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God."

Now I'm pretty sure that some who read these words will take offence at them, but you know what, you aren’t offended at me, you are offended at God. He wrote them, I just pointed them out to you. God tells us basically, "My standards are not your standards, and your ways are not my ways, what you call right is not really right, what you call clean is not really clean." You see, it's no different than my cleaning the house for my wife, what is an acceptable standard to me is not to her. And if truth be told, I like her standard of cleanliness and God's standard for living better.

Russ Lawson – Messages From The Heart


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Wednesday, January 15, 2014

HOW DO YOU DEAL WITH HURT IN YOUR LIFE?




This week posted by one of my Facebook friends was the following question: "So what do you do when you REALLY want to tell someone off who hurt you badly so that they realize the damage they've done, but you know they won't care?"

There were a great number of responses to this question, most of which urged the person to pray about it or in someway turn to God about the problem. Several people urged the perplexed person to write them a letter, so as to confront the other person with the issue. All of the answers they received were good answers, each with a personal insight, all involved God in the answer.

I can relate to this question as probably each of you who read this can. Is there any "one" right answer, probably not as long as we keep God's Word in mind as we struggle with this question on a personal level. It’s the idea of asking ourselves the question, "What would Jesus do in my situation?" However, there are a couple of scriptures that come to mind as I consider this.

The first is Romans 12:18-21, where Paul writes, "If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: "It is mine to avenge; I will repay," says the Lord. On the contrary: "If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head."  Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good."

How we treat others is not dependant upon how they treat us, but on how God would have us to treat them. It may be that our first thought is, "But that's not right!" "Where is the justice in that, you are just letting them get away with bad behavior."

Understand that if it is a matter of hurting others, breaking the law, hurting God's church or weakening the power of God's Word, I will stand up and confront someone. But if it is a personal relationship issue, I may just deal with it between me and God.

A scripture that goes along with this idea is Act 8:32-33a, where a Old Testament scripture is quoted: "This is the passage of Scripture the eunuch was reading: "He was led like a sheep to the slaughter, and as a lamb before its shearer is silent, so he did not open his mouth. In his humiliation he was deprived of justice."

We are told that this scripture was fulfilled by Jesus, who was humiliated and deprived of justice. Did he have the power to require that justice was served? Yes, but he chose to suffer the humiliation and injustice for the good of others.

I don't know where you are at in your spiritual life, whether you can do that of not, it's not for me to judge. I believe that is why Paul wrote in Romans 12:18, "If it is possible, as far as it depends on you." It could be that our prayers for others should included the words of another scripture concerning ourselves as the man said to Jesus in Mark 9:24; "I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!" He still had room for growth and so do I, how about you?