Keep On Asking

We finished The Q Series yesterday morning, but I hope the questions keep on coming. I always love answering questions, and doing it in the open forum like we did was both challenging and fun (at least I had a good time!).

But I also encouraged the Calvary Assembly of God family to keep on asking questions. It’s fine if the questions are directed to me, but the most important questions are the ones we ask of ourselves.

The Holy Spirit makes all of our lives a work-in-progress. This is what is called sanctification. That word really means to make a saint out of us (think of it as saint-ification).

That means He will constantly challenge us with questions that we are wise to answer. Things like:

  • Why are you thinking that?
  • What does the Bible say about that?
  • Is doing that for your comfort or for God’s glory?
  • Is that the wise thing to do?
  • How would Jesus handle that situation?

Over time the answers to these questions will change, as we should all be growing up in our relationship with God (1 Corinthians 13:11; Ephesians 4:15).

The Apostle Paul tells us that we should take every thought captive (2 Corinthians 10:5), because our minds will either be set on natural desires or set on spiritual truths (Romans 8:5).

So don’t tune out the Holy Spirit. Don’t stop asking those maturing questions. Don’t stop growing in your relationship with your Heavenly Father.

Keep on asking, and you’ll keep on growing!

How Betsy Made A Memorable First Impression

After this story, I’m encouraging my wife to start a blog of her own! This is a note from her Facebook page from about 3 years ago, but it is too good to keep limited to just her Facebook friends.

Okay so let’s begin.

Last night Craig was speaking at a church for the purpose of evaluating whether or not it would be a good fit for us to pastor. So, just before the service began I ran to the ladies room. It was occupied and I had to wait quite awhile until it was available. By that time, service had already begun. I naturally hurried to get back into service.

Upon entering the sanctuary, Craig was in the middle of praying. I didn’t want to walk up front while he was praying, so I remained in the back until he was finished. I then very gracefully proceeded to the front pew to take my seat.

As is my natural custom, before sitting down, I always smooth out the back of my skirt to avoid unnecessary wrinkles. Upon doing this, I discovered that my skirt was ever so daintily tucked inside my underwear. Yes, it’s true.

My first response was embarrassment, then total mortification, then complete laughter. I was silently laughing for several moments in the front pew. Craig finally leaned over to ask me what was going on. I told him about the situation and he said, “It’s a sign, this can’t be the right place.”

I really don’t know if anyone saw or not, I’m guessing someone did. Thankfully there were no comments to me.

So… I’m telling you, if you want to create a memorable impression this is one way to do it — however, I don’t recommend it.

What do you think? Good first impression? Was this indeed a “sign” for us?

Dealing With Anonymous

[Insert tongue in cheek] I have never met Mr. Anonymous, but I sure would like to!

It appears to me that Mr. Anonymous is one of the wisest people in the world. He has an expert opinion about everything. And apparently he’s never wrong and never at fault for anything. [Remove tongue from cheek]

Have you ever received a letter or an email from Mr. or Mrs. Anonymous?

How do you respond when you get one of these letters? Does it make you angry? Defensive? Depressed? Do you feel like you need to defend yourself against this expert?

Personally, I think Mr. Anonymous is a coward, so I choose not to respond to anything that he says. Although that’s easy to say because I don’t even know who he is! So even if I did have something to say I would have no one to say it to.

Anyway you look at it, it’s frustrating!!

Here’s how King Hezekiah in the Bible chose to respond to a letter. Although the letter was not anonymous, the principle is still very good for us today:

Hezekiah received the letter from the messengers and read it. Then he went up to the temple of the Lord and spread it out before the Lord. and Hezekiah prayed to the Lord: “Give ear, O Lord, and hear; open Your eyes, O Lord, and see; listen to the words [he] has sent to insult the living God.” (2 Kings 19:14-16)

God knows who Mr. Anonymous is! And He is the only one who can justify you in Mr. Anonymous’ eyes.

So the next time you receive a letter from Mr. Anonymous, read it and allow God to show you anything in there that may be true. Then lay the letter before the Lord, and let God take it from there!

Thursdays With Oswald—A Moral Lavatory

This is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Oswald Chambers. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Oswald” in the search box to read more entries.

A Moral Lavatory

     The Bible does not deal with sin as a disease; it does not deal with the outcome of sin, it deals with the disposition of sin itself. … We have cheapened the doctrine of sin and made the Atonement a sort of moral ‘lavatory’ in which men can come and wash themselves from sin, and then go and sin again and come back for another washing. …

     All Heaven is interested in the Cross of Christ, all Hell terribly afraid of it, while men are the only beings who more or less ignore its meaning.

From Biblical Ethics

This hits me in two areas.

First, as a sinner saved by grace. I am so grateful for the gift of grace. I want to treat this gift with all of the gratitude I can. It was purchased for me with such a high price: The blood of the sinless King of kings. May my sin break my heart as much as it breaks my Heavenly Father’s heart. I’m grateful grace is there when I blow it, but I don’t want to blow it ever again.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer described cheap grace like this:

“Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession, absolution without personal confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the Cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate. … Cheap grace is the grace we bestow on ourselves.”

Second, as a pastor who teaches about the atonement and grace. I know that I will have to give account before God if the people who hear me teach about these gifts are ones who “ignore its meaning.” I want to do everything I can to make sure everyone who listens to me understands the inestimable value of the Cross of Jesus Christ.

In his book Costly Grace, Jon Walker writes:

“Costly grace justifies the sinner: Go and sin no more. Cheap grace justifies the sin: Everything is forgiven, so you can stay as you are.”

Grace is powerful stuff. May we always treat it that way.

Free To Be A Slave

I just love the oxymorons in the Bible! Without the spiritual component, these statements appear to make no sense at all. But through the lens of God’s Word, they are energizing!

Like this one: I can be free to be a slave.

Usually we think of freedom in terms of, “I’m free to do whatever I want to do.” In the natural this is freedom; but in the spiritual it’s slavery.

Think of it this way. When I say, “I’m free to do whatever I want to do,” I’m saying that I am in charge. But I am sinful … selfish … envious … short-sighted … petty … vengeful … and a whole laundry list of other nasty things. So when I want to do what I want to do—when I think I’m free to control my own life—I’m still a slave. A slave to sin.

There’s a price for this “freedom” to be my own boss. The price is death (see Romans 6:23).

But because of what Jesus did for me on the Cross, I don’t have to have this “freedom” that leads to death. I can be free to be a slave. Check this out:

But now you are free from the power of sin and have become slaves of God. Now you do those things that lead to holiness and result in eternal life. (Romans 6:22)

I have a choice to make:

  1. I can choose to call my own shots (so-called “freedom”), and have to pay the penalty of death; or,
  2. I can choose to be a slave of God, and receive His gifts of holiness and eternal life.

I’m choosing option #2!

How about you?

Got Hope?

In my position as a pastor, you can probably imagine that many people come to me with pretty desperate situations. One of the common things I hear from these hurting people is something along the lines of, “I really thought God had directed me on this, but it seems like it’s not going to work out.”

In other words, their hope is wavering.

For a Christian, hope is not blind trust. It’s not a feeling that things might work out. It’s not even holding on tighter.

For a Christian, hope is about a promise and a Person.

It’s about what God said and Who God is.

It’s about believing that His Word is true and that He is trustworthy.

Let me stitch together a few phrases about Abraham—

Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed. …Without weakening his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead… yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what He had promised. (Romans 4:18-21)

Abraham didn’t deny the facts, but he trusted the promise and the One Who gave him the promise!

And then there’s this promise for us about hope—

And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. (Romans 5:2-5)

Do you need hope? Get the promise from God’s Word, and then trust the One Who spoke that word. Hang on—God IS doing something great!

Revelation Or Speculation

In answering questions that have been submitted for The Q Series, I noticed a recurring trend: How much of our “conventional thought” in church circles is not revelation, but speculation.

Yesterday I had some tough questions on Heaven, Hell, suicide, our resurrected bodies, the after-life, and so on. In answering these questions, I used many passages from the Bible, but I also quoted from Charles Spurgeon, Charles Dickens, and C.S. Lewis. There’s nothing wrong, per se, with quoting from extra-biblical sources, but we have to be very careful what we do with those.

I once heard renowned evangelist C.M. Ward say something like this:

“The Word of God is completely good; you can devour all of it. But reading anything else is like eating chicken. There is some meat that’s good, and there are some bones, and gristle, and fat that you should spit out. Be very careful of what you take in, unless it is the pure Word of God.”

The Bible reveals so much for our lives, and we put ourselves in a place God can bless us when we are obedient to the revelation of His Word. But we put ourselves on shaky ground when we live by speculation of what we think may be truth.

The Apostle Peter said it this way:

For no prophecy ever originated because some man willed it [to do so — it never came by human impulse], but men spoke from God who were borne along (moved and impelled) by the Holy Spirit. (2 Peter 1:21 AMP)

So whether you are looking for an answer yourself—or you are asking someone for an answer—make sure you are getting revelation from God’s Word, and not the speculation of man’s opinion.

Check out other questions in our Q Series by clicking here.

Do You Know Your Community?

Jesus called His followers to be salt and light. It’s pretty easy to figure out that the salt cannot season the food if it stays in the saltshaker, and the light cannot illuminate the darkness if it stays covered up. In order to season and shine in your community, you have to know your community.

And, pastor, that starts with you.

What you do is a much more effective sermon that what you say. Pastor, you need to know your community, so that you can be involved in your community, so that you and your church can season and shine in your community together.

So let me ask a couple of questions:

  • Do you know your Mayor / City Manager / Township Supervisor? If you don’t know them, how can you affirm their leadership (Romans 13:1-7)?
  • Do you attend City / Township Council meetings? If you don’t, how will you know what issues they’re wrestling with? If you don’t know those issues, how can you pray effectively for them (1 Timothy 2:1-2)?
  • Are you involved in your community? Don’t just assume people in your community will come to your church to sit among stranger to hear a stranger speak; instead, be so involved in your community that they will come to church to fellowship with friends and hear a friend speak (John 2:1-2).

I opened with the question, “Do you know your community?” But maybe a better way to ask this is, “Does your community know you?”

Does the community come to you to ask for help? This may be the best barometer of your involvement in your community: how often they seek your help or assistance in addressing issues within your community.

If you’re not as involved as you should be, the good news is that it’s never too late to start! Go get involved—go season and shine!

Thursdays With Oswald—How To Think About Sin

This is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Oswald Chambers. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Oswald” in the search box to read more entries.

How To Think About Sin

     We have to face the problem that our hearts may be right with God while our heads have a startling affinity with a great deal that is antagonistic to the Bible teaching. What we need, and what we get if we go on with God, is an intellectual re-birth as well as a heart re-birth.

     The trouble with the modern statements regarding sin is that they make sin far too slight. Sin according to the modern view simply means selfishness, and preachers and teachers are as dead against selfishness as the New Testament is. Immediately we come to the Bible we find that sin is much deeper than that. According to the Bible, sin in its final analysis is not a defect but a defiance, a defiance that means death to the life of God in us. …

     According to the Bible, sin is doing without God. Sin is not wrong doing, it is wrong being, deliberate and emphatic independence of God.

From Biblical Ethics

Sometimes I just have to read Oswald Chambers, let it soak in, read it again, and then sit back and exhale deeply. His profound insights into how a Christian should live always seem to hit me right between the eyes.

Here’s what I’m pondering: “The trouble with the modern statements regarding sin is that they make sin far too slight.” Do I make excuses for sin? Do I say, “It’s not that big of a deal”?

And this: “Sin is not wrong doing, it is wrong being, deliberate and emphatic independence of God.” Am I living each and every moment totally dependent on God? It’s when I think I can do it on my own that I am the most vulnerable to sinning.

The Treasure Principle (book review)

One of the knocks I often hear about the church is that we talk too much about money. I don’t feel that’s an accurate assessment, especially considering that Jesus talked about money and possessions more than He did about Heaven and Hell. In The Treasure Principle: Unlocking The Secret Of Joyful Giving, Randy Alcorn shares the keys that Jesus taught about this important topic.

In just the first few pages, Randy sets the stage for this book by stating:

“Why did Jesus put such an emphasis on money and possessions? Because there’s a fundamental connection between our spiritual lives and how we think about and handle money. We may try to divorce our faith and our finances, but God sees them as inseparable.”

The Treasure Principle mixes biblical instruction on handling our money, Randy’s insights into those scriptures, as well as Randy’s own personal experiences with finances. These are all used to support six treasure principle keys.

One of my favorite parts of the book comes at the very end. Randy shares “31 Radical, Liberating Questions To Ask God About Your Giving.” This is where the rubber meets the road (or the principles meet the pocketbook!). This is setup for you to read one question daily for a month, to really allow God to speak to you through His Word and through this book about your financial perspectives and practices. I thoroughly enjoyed the book, and I’m looking forward to continuing my month-long journey through these radical questions.

I am a Multnomah book reviewer.

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