If, or when, you get robbed…

Have you ever been robbed? A dear couple in our congregation recently had their apartment broken into, and much was stolen: computers, jewelry, credit cards, etc. I’ve never had that happen to me.

My car was broken into years ago; all that was taken was some loose change. But a couple of years ago, through identity theft, Lacey and I funded someone’s Christmas… over $800 of electronics at a Radio Shack in California! Fortunately, Discover believed us when we said we didn’t Christmas shop at that Radio Shack on the West Coast and removed the  charges from our bill. All it ended up costing us was the hassle of getting new credit cards.

How should we react when we get robbed? If it ever happens to me again. I hope I respond the way noted Bible scholar Matthew Henry did after he was robbed. Henry was mugged once when he was traveling on foot, the thieves getting away with his wallet. Later, as he reflected on his experience, he wrote in his journal:

“Let me be thankful first, because I was never robbed before; second, because, although they took my wallet, they did not take my life; third, because, although they took my all, it was not much; and fourth, because, it was I who was robbed, not I who robbed.”

Be thankful in all circumstances. – 1 Thessalonians 5.18

Choose gratitude!

Interstellar, C. S. Lewis, and 2 Peter 3:8

We recently watched the sci-fi drama Interstellar starring Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chasten, and Michael Caine. (**Spoiler Alert**) Sometime in the not-so-distant future, Earth is on the verge of becoming inhabitable. The human race will die unless someone can figure out how to colonize another planet. In the process of searching for a potential planet to colonize, Matthew McConaughey’s character, Cooper, enters a black hole. Expecting to perish, instead he finds himself in a tesseract. Inside the tesseract, Cooper is somehow on the other side of his daughter’s bedroom bookshelves. He is able to peek through the bookshelf and see different time frames of his daughter’s life in that room. Amazingly, he is also able to cross the space-time continuum and actually cause books to fall off the shelf. Using Morse code, he is able to communicate to her via a wristwatch lying on the bookshelf, a watch he gave her prior to leaving on his space journey. Through Morse code he delivers to her quantum data collected from the black hole. This data provides the solution to a gravitational equation that is the key to successfully saving the human race from extinction.

How does this relate to the eminent author C. S. Lewis and 2 Peter 3.18?

When Cooper is in the tesseract, he is able to see into, and even communicate, with his daughter, at various times through her life. He is able to see history not as a progression of sequential events, but, in essence, all at once. He even sees himself in the room (think Marty McFly seeing himself in Back to the Future II). At first, Cooper thinks that he has been aided by some five-dimensional alien beings which are obviously more intelligent and advanced than humans. Eventually, though, he realizes that it is not aliens, but a more evolved humanity that has learned to master the space-time continuum.

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Quotes below are from Book IV, chapter 3, “Time  and Beyond Time”

Consider these concepts from Interstellar with what C. S. Lewis wrote back in the 1940s, as found in the book Mere Christianity:

“We tend to assume that the whole universe and God Himself are always moving on from past to future just as we do. But many learned men do not agree with that. It was the Theologians who first started the idea that some things are not in Time at all: later the Philosophers took it over: and now some of the scientists are doing the same.”

Lewis is addressing the very principle on which much of the movie Interstellar is dependent: it is possible to be outside of time as we know and experience it. The difference is that Interstellar envisions a God-less, evolved humanity being the ones who will experience and master the implications of such an eternal view. Lewis, instead, believes God is the One dwelling outside of time. Lewis uses the concept of God hearing and answering prayers as an example of how He stands outside of time:

“His life does not consist of moments following one another. If a million people are praying to Him at ten-thirty tonight, He need not listen to them all in that one little snippet which we call ten-thirty. Ten-thirty – and every  other moment from the beginning of the world –  is always Present for Him. If you like to put it that way, He has all eternity in which to listen to the split second of the prayer put up by a pilot as his plane crashes in flames.”

How does this impact our prayer lives?

“He has infinite attention to spare for each one of us… You are as much alone with Him as if you were the only being He had ever created.”

Is your brain hurting yet? If Lewis is correct, then his theory enables us also to think about how God seems to be so more patient in dealing with the things we think He should rushing to fix. In other words, it gives us a clue as to why God is sometimes slow to give us the answers to our prayers.  After all, as 2 Peter 3.8 says, “But, beloved, do not forget this one thing, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.

God is awesome and beyond our comprehension! His thoughts are higher than our thoughts and His ways higher than our ways!

12 Scriptures on Walking With God

I recently did a personal Bible study on walking with God. Using a concordance, I found 62 Scriptures that really spoke to me directly on the subject. Over the last few weeks I narrowed the list down to 12 favorite Scriptures on the subject, which I hope to put to memory:

And I will walk among you, and will be your God, and ye shall be my people.  – Leviticus 26.12

For the Lord is a sun and shield: the LORD will give grace and glory: no good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly.   – Psalm 84.11

Order my steps in thy word: and let not any iniquity have dominion over me.  – Psalm 119.133

Cause me to hear thy lovingkindness in the morning; for in thee do I trust: cause me to know the way wherein I should walk; for I lift up my soul unto thee.  – Psalm 143.8

Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not on thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.  – Proverbs 3.5-6

Let thine eyes look right on, and let thine eyelids look straight before thee. Ponder the path of thy feet, and let all thy ways be established. Turn not to the right hand nor to the left; remove thy foot from evil.  – Proverbs 4.25-27

The just man walketh in his integrity: his children are blessed after him.  – Proverbs 20.7

And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them.  – Ezekiel 36.27

The LORD God is my strength, and he will make my feet like hinds’ feet, and he will make me to walk upon mine high places.  – Habakkuk 3.19

For we walk by faith, not by sight.  – 2 Corinthians 5.7

This I say then, walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.  – Galatians 5.16

I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth. – 3 John 4

Seven Scriptures You’ll Never Hear in a Prosperity Gospel Church

One of the ways you know you are in an unbalanced, unbiblical church is by asking yourself are there any Scriptures you would never hear preached, taught, or quoted there?

Prosperity Gospel churches have an extreme emphasis on being wealthy and being healthy. In a Prosperity Gospel church the chances of you hearing one of the Scriptures below is infinitesimal:

Proverbs 30.7-9

7 Two things I request of You
(Deprive me not before I die):
8 Remove falsehood and lies far from me;
Give me neither poverty nor riches—
Feed me with the food allotted to me;
9 Lest I be full and deny You,
And say, “Who is the Lord?”
Or lest I be poor and steal,
And profane the name of my God.

1 Timothy 6.6-10

6 Now godliness with contentment is great gain. 7 For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. 8 And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content. 9 But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition. 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.

Luke 9:58

And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.”

Galatians 4.13-14

13 You know that because of physical infirmity I preached the gospel to you at the first. 14 And my trial which was in my flesh you did not despise or reject, but you received me as an angel of God, even as Christ Jesus.

James 1.9-11

9 Let the lowly brother glory in his exaltation, 10 but the rich in his humiliation, because as a flower of the field he will pass away. 11 For no sooner has the sun risen with a burning heat than it withers the grass; its flower falls, and its beautiful appearance perishes. So the rich man also will fade away in his pursuits.

Matthew 6.19-21

19 “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

2 Corinthians 11.24-30

24 From the Jews five times I received forty stripes minus one. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods; once I was stoned; three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been in the deep; 26 in journeys often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils of my own countrymen, in perils of the Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; 27 in weariness and toil, in sleeplessness often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness— 28 besides the other things, what comes upon me daily: my deep concern for all the churches. 29 Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is made to stumble, and I do not burn with indignation?

30 If I must boast, I will boast in the things which concern my infirmity.

What Will Bring Revival? It’s Really Quite Simple…

Now that I’ve been a Christian for 29 years as well as a pastor for 21 years, I have seen a lot of trends in American Christianity over the past few decades. One of the more disappointing trends has been the amount of hype surrounding certain books, movies, conferences, movements, Bible studies, and, even, “revivals.” I cannot recall how many times a of these various mediums were going to possibly usher in a revival which would transform our nation.

Let me mention a few examples. From each of these examples, God has certainly done a whole lot. People have been saved. Lives have been changed. I do not want to minimize that fact. Praise the Lord for how He used these tools to reach people!

In each of these cases I can recall Christian people enthusiastically suggesting, or hoping, that this particular “thing” would be the catalyst for national revival or spiritual awakening.

(1) 1990… A Bible Study… “Experiencing God” featured the teaching of Henry Blackaby, and consisted of a VHS video series matched with a workbook. The premise of the study is to find out where God is at work and to join Him there. Excellent counsel! But national revival from the study itself? Twenty-five years and counting… not yet.

Continue reading What Will Bring Revival? It’s Really Quite Simple…

Great Prayer… Wrong Verse?

In that classic film The Princess Bride, Inigo Montoya says to Vizzini, in regard to his frequent use of the word “inconceivable”:

“You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”

I’ve increasingly been hearing evangelical Christians, in prayer, say something like this: “Lord, you told us to ask for the nations and You will give them to us as an inheritance, to the ends of the earth. Lord, we’re asking.” The point of the prayer is great: petitioning for global evangelization. Far be it for any reader to read into this post that I am not excited about this emphasis!

My point is that the verse referenced, Psalm 2:8, is the wrong verse for this prayer.

Psalm 2 is a prophetic Psalm that makes perfect sense when you see it in the light of God the Father and His Anointed, God the Son. When you read the whole Psalm you soon realize that God the Father’s offer to give all the nations to His Son is so that He might pour out His wrath upon them. Verse 9 is clear: “You shall break them with a rod of iron; You shall dash them to pieces like a potter’s vessel.”

This is a prophetic Psalm of the coming judgment of the Son of God when He returns in glory. Only those who fear the Lord and bow their knee to him now will escape His wrath, as verses 11 and 12 reveal:

“Serve the Lord with fear,
And rejoice with trembling.
Kiss the Son, lest He be angry,
And you perish in the way,
When His wrath is kindled but a little.
Blessed are all those who put their trust in Him.”

So, as much as I love the spirit of this prayer I’m increasingly hearing, I must say to those who are quoting Psalm 2:8 in reference to global evangelization…

You keep quoting that verse. I do not think it means what you think it means.

Mother’s Day Pain for Women… It’s Very Real

My friend Christa wrote this yesterday and I was so impressed I incorporated into my message this morning at Harvest. I hope it will encourage you or someone you know as we close out this Mother’s Day:

Be aware that Mother’s Day can be a very difficult day for many women (women who are single; women who are trying to have children, but can’t get pregnant; women who know they will never have children; women who regret having had an abortion; women who have prodigal children; women who have lost a child to death; etc.). Be empathetic to these situations as you give your Mother’s Day blessings tomorrow. Be cognizant of the fact that, when only those who have physically given birth to children are recognized by way of their standing or being given a rose, it is awkward at best and painful at worst for those women left sitting, who are excluded. I love that our pastor…recognizes the nurturing gifts of all women on Mother’s Day. I find this to be very inclusive, redemptive, and right in line with the fact that some women are called primarily to bear spiritual offspring (Isa 54:1). And to you, my lady friends, for whom pain may threaten to undo you {on Mother’s Day}, the promise of God’s nearness is yours, as one who is broken-hearted! He hears the cry of your heart (Ps 34:18). Hang in there!” – Christa Friel (5/9/15)

Abundant Life (Jn.10.10) … Abiding Life (Jn.15.5)

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