Looking Inside

I was driving to work the other day when I noticed a car that had a church bumper sticker on it, and a second bumper sticker which said “I know I drive badly”. Well that person was fulfilling that bumper sticker to the letter.

A few days later I was reading Oprah Winfrey’s magazine (don’t’ ask). When I came across this quote from Actress Laura Linney.

“ I was dating a charming, intelligent , handsome, and athletic man-one of those guys everyone loves. But one day when we were out hiking the Appalachian Trail, we came across a mother whose child had fallen and scraped his knee. They were both scared and panicking, practically in tears. As we approached them my date kept saying “They’re fine, They’re fine”. When he wouldn’t stop to help, my heart sank. I thought, I don’t want to kiss this man anymore.”

Later on in the article she was thinking about this and says the following. “Charisma is not character”. A magnetic personality doesn’t necessarily indicate a good heart. I’d always assumed they went hand in hand”.

In the news we all have been seeing what is going on with Congressman Anthony Weiner, with the explicit sex tweets and lying. At the heart of the matter is the one word character.

An example of my own life; I was driving home late one night. As I exited the highway I came to the top of the exit and stopped at the red light. There was a sign that said no right turn on red. Well I disregarded that sign and did it anyway. But boy I felt guilty after the fact. Thinking about it later it was a matter of Character.

Character is:
“Everyone tries to define this thing called Character. It’s not hard. Character is doing what’s right when nobody’s looking.” ( internet website).

This definition hits the nail on the head, character is what we do, how we do it, and who we do it to. Character reveals what is on the inside of person. Character seems to be lacking in our culture, we see it on the television with scandals, reality TV shows that seem to condone a lack of Character. One particular show I am thinking about is Bridezillas. This show reveals women “behaving badly”, if I was one of the Grooms, I would seriously reconsider marriage to these women. If they act like that in public what goes on behind the scenes? If they act this way only for the Television ( which is possible to increase ratings) it still encourages bad character.

But as I think about the definition of character previously, it’s incorrect. There is one person that is always watching, the Lord Himself.

1 Chronicles 28:9 9 ¶ “And you, Solomon my son, know the God of your father and serve him with a whole heart and with a willing mind, for the LORD searches all hearts and understands every plan and thought.

We are kidding ourselves to think no one knows, when that is not the case. We can’t fool God we might deceive others and those around us but never God. So character does matter and can have a positive influence on us, our families and the world.

We tend to look at people and assume that what we see is what we get. But history has showed us that is not the case, if we look at our Country’s recent history we see scandals, crime, and thefts that we never knew these people where capable of. We need to develop a healthy realization that perception is not necessarily fact.

I need to examine my own life to see if what I am doing is something that would be detrimental to Character. Are my actions behind the scenes is something I would not be ashamed of if they were exposed in public?

But how do we develop character? Scripture also indicates that character development goes hand in hand with suffering.

Romans 5:3-4 3 More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope,

To me it sounds like a mathematical equation; rejoice in suffering plus endurance plus character, equals hope. As mathematics is a science that’s a sure and true thing, and something you can count on. Same thing with this equation it’s a sure thing. We can count on this verse to create character in our own lives through suffering and in the process of this suffering we get Character and Hope.

Shake, Rattle, and Roll

Since the start of 2011 we have see earthquakes, tsunami’s, major unrest in the Middle East we see governments there toppled, in Libya and Syria we see a bloody unrest with these governments killing their own people.

Here in the United States we have faced the biggest outbreak of tornadoes in over 30 years, with the death toll and the amount of tornadoes in one day reach historical numbers. We face flooding in the southeast, with flood water cresting at record levels. This disaster is not lessening but seems to be getting worse. My personal condolences go out to all these people who are suffering in the nation and the world.

We face inflation within our own economy with unemployment at 9% (at the time of this writing). The price of gas is up to almost 5.00 per gallon in some parts of the United States. Food is going up as well due to gas price increases. Our government appears to be in denial and not really doing anything about our economy. So as a Christian I have been mulling these events over and trying to understand the big picture and how I would like to put a God-view on these events.

A number of months ago I was reading in the book of Daniel and came across the following verse.
Daniel 7:9 9 “As I looked, thrones were placed, and the Ancient of Days took his seat; his clothing was white as snow, and the hair of his head like pure wool; his throne was fiery flames; its wheels were burning fire.
At the time I came across this verse I was going through some tough times. I was sitting in my car at a stop light and was hit from behind by a drunk driver. My car was totaled I suffered major whip lash and neck pain, as well as brain injury, and loss of wages. This verse resonates with me in that the Lord is in control of all things and that my accident was allowed, not caused by Him. This gave me great comfort while going through physical therapy and facing these physical obstacles.

Now in light of what is going on in the world, He is still on the throne. I see a great shaking going on in the world. This shaking will ultimately bring about the Lord’s goals on the earth. These goals that we can ascertain are to bring people to repentance and to a saving knowledge of His Son Jesus Christ. To motivate believers who are not living the life, to change their ways and to seek an intimate relationship with God. To those who are walking with God, to deepen their walk even more and to endure to the end.

I personally believe that we are facing an alignment of events to bring about the Lord’s return. But some websites and people go further and state a specific date and time of Christ return. The time I have heard on the news is May 21, 2011. This happens to be the one year anniversary of my accident. Now in the Bible Jesus says the following about the End Times.

Matthew 24:36-39 36 ¶ “But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only. 37 For as were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. 38 For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, 39 and they were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.

So the Bible is pretty clear about this, that no one, not even Jesus Himself will know the day nor the hour, but only the heavenly Father knows when that time will be. Then He goes on to compare this fact by explaining what Noah faced, people were going about their daily routine in living there lives. Farming, raising children, getting married, and giving birth to children. They were as Jesus said totally “unaware” until the flood came and swept them all to there deaths. Then Jesus states that this will be the same way when He returns. After Jesus spoke these words we are doing the same things some two thousand years later. People will also go to work, celebrate holidays and birthdays, getting married and having children. Then Jesus will appear suddenly.

But Jesus also says in the same chapter the following.
Matthew 24:44 44 Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.
We need to live our lives as if Jesus will return tomorrow. To be serious about our faith and committed to be the best we can be as believers. It also means that those who are nominal Christians need to re evaluate their lives. Those who are not believers need to come to the cross. Because even if the Lord waits to come back, our days on this earth are numbered anyway, a time will come when all of us will face death. We need to live our lives with passion, have a growing relationship with God through prayer, studying the Bible, and go about “Our Fathers business”. We need to have an eternal perspective and invest our energies in the personal call God has for our lives.

Recipe for Success.

As I was doing my devotionals in the book of Revelation I came across two verses that grabbed my attention. Within these verse’s was one word, and that word was “endurance”. In light of what has been happening in the world these last few weeks, we have seen governments overthrown in the Middle East, a disastrous earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear radiation in Japan, economies faltering and jobs being lost all across this nation. What does Scripture say to us when the world seems to be falling apart?

Revelation 13:10 10 If you are to be taken captive, into captivity you go; if you kill with the sword, with the sword you must be killed. Here is a call for the endurance and faith of the saints.

Revelation 14:12-13 12 ¶ Here is a call for the endurance of the saints, those who keep the commandments of God and hold fast to the faith of Jesus. 13 ¶ And I heard a voice from heaven saying, “Write this: Blessed are the dead who from now on die in the Lord.” “Yes,” says the Spirit, “they will rest from their labors, for their deeds follow them.”

The words preceding these two verses talk about being taken captive, being killed with the sword, and watching other horrible things take place. Through this as believers we are to hang tough, not to quit and to persevere through it all no matter what. But how does one prepare to endure? I will examine this below.

When I think of the word endurance it conveys a sense of motion, forward momentum, and a sense of long term commitment. People run marathons travel great distances while conserving strength to be able to reach the finish line. This word also infers training to develop one to complete a marathon and win the prize. Endurance conveys a sense of commitment and reaching the finish no matter what the pain, cost, or seemingly insurmountable obstacles.

Jesus compares good soil to those who hear God’s word and endure.
Luke 8:15 15 But as for that in the good soil, these are the ones who, when they hear the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patient endurance.

As Christians we need to have the endurance mind set. That no matter what we won’t give up. By enduring we will see evidence in our lives that Jesus calls fruit. This fruit Paul identifies in Galatians 5:22-23 love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control.

To be able to endure we need to know God’s word, by studying the bible, and spending time in prayer. This is how we train for the long haul. God’s word shows us how to live, it tells us about God Himself.

Another way to prepare for hard times is to meet with other believers. By getting together with people we can receive the support we need, and they can encourage us with our Christian faith. In this way, we do not feel isolated and alone, and that we can receive support from others who have gone through similar things.

Hebrews 10:24-25 24 And let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

Sometimes we can help ourselves by looking for jobs, refinance a home, or taking an aspirin for a headache. But there are times when things are beyond our control, when we suffer in a car accident that was not our fault, or when the world around us is shaking. It’s during these times that we need to endure and hold onto our faith and our Lord in the midst of confusion and calamity.

The word endurance contains suffering as a part of the recipe. Some Christians ascertain that believers are exempt from pain and suffering, that there is something wrong with those who suffer. Scripture clearly points out this is not the case. To live life as a follower of Christ includes suffering. To endure we need to develop our pain threshold. To endure, our faith needs to be unwavering, and established on a strong foundation. Because the race is a marathon and not a sprint, we need to keep our eyes upon the finish line of faith, which is our eternal reward.

An Upside Down World

As Christians we face a tension of living the life God has called us to and facing the day to day realities of life on this earth. Part of that reality is we are flesh and blood beings. We need to work, pay our bills, support our families, and provide for all the necessities of life.

Our American culture tells us that fame, fortune and success is important to life. We are told to seek after these things and these things will bring us happiness. We will find happiness by purchasing a car, computer or any other material things. Our culture through movies and TV tells us that pre-marital sex whether heterosexual or homosexual will fulfill our lives. Our culture also says if someone wrongs us or hurts us that we should seek out revenge and justice for ourselves.

We are also told that the Government has all the answers. That government can provide for us, that the government has my best interest in mind. The government can give me health care, provide for me in my old age, and help with food, shelter. In some circles the Government is portrayed as a benevolent entity with the desire to take care of us, and it know what’s best for us.

But what is the truth behind all this? The truth is found in Scripture.
1John 2:15-17
15 ¶ Do not love the world or the things in the world. The love of the Father is not in those who love the world;
16 for all that is in the world– the desire of the flesh, the desire of the eyes, the pride in riches– comes not from the Father but from the world.
17 And the world and its desire are passing away, but those who do the will of God live forever.

The Bible tells us that we should not have affection for the world or anything that is in it. John boldly states unequivocally, that if anyone does love the world, that God’s love is not in him. John goes on to describe what these worldly things are; the physical appetites such as sex, food, clothes and the latest tech gadget, according to the Bible these things do not matter. If anything they stand in direct conflict with God Himself.

Why? Because these things that we have around us are all temporary, there hot now, but give it a year and its considered old school. That everything in this world is in one form or fashion dying, it’s passing away. Within this passage John eludes to something else, the eternal and this are what’s important. The very last sentence states those who do God’s will shall be eternal.

1 Peter reminds us of this things. 1 Peter 1:24-25 24 For “All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls, 25 but the word of the Lord endures forever.” That word is the good news that was announced to you.

In regard to the government scripture tells us. NRS Romans 13:1 ¶ Let every person be subject to the governing authorities; for there is no authority except from God, and those authorities that exist have been instituted by God.

But the government is made up of people who are fallible, they have there own agendas, and do not really have our own best interest in mind. Throughout history government has stood against Judeo-Christian values. In the very beginning of the Christian faith the Roman Empire persecuted Christians. When the Roman Catholic Church had governmental influence it corrupted the Church. We also need to remember the reason why the Puritans initially came to the New World, for religious freedom from a corrupt government.

I have heard people justify governmental influence in our lives based upon the scripture found in Acts.

Acts 2:44-47 44 All who believed were together and had all things in common; 45 they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need. 46 Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, 47 praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.

It’s beyond me where they can explain this passage and say it supports governmental intrusion in people’s lives, when it states just the opposite. It was the believers sharing what they had with each other not the Roman or Jewish leaders at the time providing the support.

So in closing what am I saying? First that we need to have an eternal perspective as believers, and not fall into the trap the world has to offer. Since anything our culture, government or the economic structure provides is only a temporary band aid. The economy has its ups and downs, the culture goes through fads, that are constantly chnaging. The government sooner or later will change through elections and laws that are passed from day to day.

James 4:14 14 Yet you do not even know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.

We need to have God’s perspective and keep the eternal always before us. This can only be done through a step of faith in asking Christ into our lives to provide us with a reminder of our own mortality, as well as to save us from our sin and self destructive tendencies. Then to invest in the eternal by fulfilling God’s call in our lives.

Forgotten? or…..

I have been reading the book of Revelations as part of my devotionals each day. The book of Revelations was written by the apostle John when he was confined to the Island of Patmos, by the Emperor Domitian during persecutions in Rome.

The purpose of Revelations is to reveal what the end times will be like, leading up to Jesus return to earth. But before John begins to tell us how the end will occur, he writes down specific messages from Jesus to the Church’s that were in existence two thousand years ago.

In chapter 2 Jesus is sending a personal message to the Church’s. Each message to these church’s starts out with a “I know” or to be known intimately and is well acquainted with these church’s.

Some examples are, to the Church in Ephesus Jesus says, “Revelation 2:2 2 ¶ “I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance. I know that you cannot tolerate evildoers; you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them to be false.”
Or to the Church at Smyrna, “Revelation 2:9 9 ¶ “I know your affliction and your poverty, even though you are rich. I know the slander on the part of those who say that they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan.”
Jesus also identifies specific groups and people within these passages to the Church in Pergamum. “Revelation 2:14-15 But I have a few things against you: you have some there who hold to the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the people of Israel, so that they would eat food sacrificed to idols and practice fornication. 15 So you also have some who hold to the teaching of the Nicolaitans.”
Or to the Church in Thyatira, “Revelation 2:20-21 20 But I have this against you: you tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophet and is teaching and beguiling my servants to practice fornication and to eat food sacrificed to idols. 21 I gave her time to repent, but she refuses to repent of her fornication.”

I have been going through a physical challenge over the last nine months and it provides me comfort to know that He knows. Jesus is aware of my emotional and physical pain intimately. He has seen the day of my car accident, He knew of the physical therapy I went through over the next three months, He was well acquainted with the development of my neurological issues, the loss of income and the emotional battles I am facing since the accident. The text in Revelation also tells me that God is a very personal God. He knows names and specific activities of the people in various Church’s.
Since I have established that He knows my suffering, He also knows of my day to day activities. He knows of my sin and disobedience, He knows when I fall short either through overt sin or covert sin. But even in this, the passages reflect a time of repentance, which the Lord gives me.

But He also says the following to the Church at Smyrna the following. “Revelation 2:10 10 Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Beware, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison so that you may be tested, and for ten days you will have affliction. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.”

Sometimes I will face life and suffering without deliverance. That by standing strong and being faithful even in the midst of injustice, persecution and attacks of the enemy. I will be rewarded and delivered. Suffering I have faced has a purifying aspect, by making me more in the image of Jesust. Since we are eternal beings I will face periods in my life where it does not make sense, and I will have no answers to give.

In the book by John R.W. Stott entitled “The Cross of Christ” he says the following about pain and suffering.
“Biblical teaching and personal experience thus combine teach that suffering is the path to holiness and maturity. There is always a indefinable something about people who have suffered. They have a fragrance that others lack. They exhibit the meekness and gentleness of Christ.”(p.311)

But to be able to face these times I will need to have my spiritual foundation built upon the rock of Christ. “Luke 6:48 48 That one is like a man building a house, who dug deeply and laid the foundation on rock; when a flood arose, the river burst against that house but could not shake it, because it had been well built.”

So I receive great comfort to realize that Jesus knows what I am facing and all of my most intimate issues. He knows the end from the beginning, He is intimately aware of what I am going through, what I will face, and how it will all end. I also must realize that, if I let Him, He can redeem this and use it in the lives of others.

“Hebrews 5:7-9 7 ¶ In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to the one who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. 8 Although he was a Son, he learned obedience through what he suffered; 9 and having been made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him, “

Soul Wars

When we think of the word war we think of World War 2, Civil War, World War 1, Vietnam, and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. We have seen these wars on television, studied them in school, or actually experienced it directly. War is bloody, physically, and emotionally taxing. There are casualties, those that are taken prisoner and others are killed in action. War takes an emotional and mental toll, with scars which last for years to come. War is a messy and nasty business; wars are fought against tyranny, evil, and for freedom.

I was reading in 1 Peter and came across this verse, which grabbed my attention.

1 Peter 2:10-11 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. 11 ¶ Beloved, I urge you as aliens and exiles to abstain from the desires of the flesh that wage war against the soul.

The verses are expressing what I was before Christ and what I am in Christ now. Peter says I was not a person of God, and then I became a person that God claims for Himself. When I was in this state prior to Christ, I received not a bit of mercy, compassion or blessings. But when I became a God person through Christ, God gave me an abundant amount of mercy, compassion, and blessings.
When I became this God person by praying and asking Christ into my life Peter says I became an alien. I am an alien that lives in a foreign country while showing allegiance to another country or government. While in this state I am to wage war against the” desires of the flesh”. These longings are outlined in

Galatians 5:19-21 19 Now the works of the flesh are obvious: fornication, impurity, licentiousness, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions, 21 envy, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these. I am warning you, as I warned you before: those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

Peter says I am to fight these desires as I would if I were a soldier in a war. As a soldier in a war I am to seek to kill these desires. I am to seek total victory and to be ruthless in dealing a death blow to my desires. I am to show no mercy and to understand that this war has been declared against us and we need to fight back to protect ourselves and our families.

But this war is not a struggle we face by ourselves rather any war is a team effort. There are Generals, Captains and a chain of command. Same with us as Christ followers, we fight this battle as a part of a greater Army.

1 Peter 2:1-5 NRS 1 Peter 2:1 ¶ Rid yourselves, therefore, of all malice, and all guile, insincerity, envy, and all slander. 2 Like newborn infants, long for the pure, spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow into salvation– 3 if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good. 4 ¶ Come to him, a living stone, though rejected by mortals yet chosen and precious in God’s sight, and 5 like living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.

Our struggles are faced by reading and studying the Bible. In prayer we come to the Lord and tell Him about our struggles. We also seek out fellow believers in our lives that we can trust and ask them to stand with us in our own personal war.

So what is an issue you are struggling with? Is it sexual temptation, greed or gluttony? Whatever it is remember you have the great High Priest Jesus himself that can help you face your Soul War.

Hebrews 4:14-15 14 ¶ Since, then, we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast to our confession. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sin.

The No In Your Life

Before I go into my blog, I would like to offer my prayers and condolences to all that died and were injured from the shooter in Tucson AZ. I also pray for the Loughner family, who are facing a different type of suffering.

This past week I have been dealing with feelings of “NO”! What I mean by this, is as part of my healing process I have been spending time in the Bible doing a group study. One question in this study is, to write down your feelings about God not what your intellect tells you about God, but how you feel about God at this moment.

I wrote down that God has said no to finding a full-time Pastoral position, God has said no to completing my ordination process, God has said no to seeking a promotion at my secular job, God has said no to my physical well-being, by this I mean before my accident I had been able to run, bike, and work out at the gym. Now after my accident I have gained 40 lbs and can only walk for my exercise. God has said no even to be able to attend Church and minster as an unpaid Pastor at my Church. Since I am not able to work full-time, the only part-time shift has me working Sunday mornings.

So how do I separate my feelings from what I know intellectually about God? I have heard some TV Evangelist say, God has my best interest in mind. I just need to repeat over and over again that God is good. As if it’s some kind of mantra, that will magically change my life, and make things alright.

In the Bible we see people face trials of faith. One that comes to my mind is Abraham. His test was God asked him to:

ESV Genesis 22:1 After these things God tested Abraham and said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here am I.” 2 He said, “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.”

I came across a website that provides a Jewish perspective of this test of Abraham.
“G-d called on Abraham to make the most extreme sacrifice:
Many religious people would be prepared to die for their beliefs- in the hope that they’d then get a comfy reward on the “other side”.
Abraham’s challenge was more extreme than that. He had dedicated his life to spreading awareness of G-d to as many people as possible- to him this was the most important thing in life. The one and only person who could carry on his life’s mission was his son, Isaac.
Killing Isaac would mean killing everything he stood for and believed in.
Abraham wouldn’t have even gained publicity for this sacrifice, because nobody was on the mountain to see his great show of faith.
This test was simply G-d’s way to illustrate to Abraham (and to us) how far he could actually go in dedication.
Reading this story should prompt us to ask ourselves how far we’d be willing to go to show our commitment.” (http://www.answerbag.com/q_view/1014534)

Abraham is faced with a dilemma, here is the promise that God made to him. This son Isaac will be the one that will be the start of a new nation, Israel. This is the son that God had promised Abraham to carry on his name. This is the son that Abraham and Sarah had in their old age, which their physical bodies could not have had without divine intervention. Abraham’s son of promise God asked him to sacrifice. Abraham went out immediately to obey what God had asked him to do. The text reveals no arguments that Abraham had with God. Abraham did not try to dissuade Him to change His mind or make a deal. But why did Abraham not have an argument with God? The clue to this is found in another part of the Bible in the Book of Hebrews.

Hebrews 11:17-19 17 By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was in the act of offering up his only son, 18 of whom it was said, “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” 19 He considered that God was able even to raise him from the dead, from which, figuratively speaking, he did receive him back.

Abraham was facing a test, one that would decide the future. That test he passed with flying colors since he knew that God was able to do the impossible, even raising His son from the dead. Reading this text helps me believe that God can even raise my life from the dead, figuratively speaking. That what I seemed to have lost is only temporary, and God will replace it all. That I am also going through a test of faith.

Finally in closing I want to share the following verse.

2 Corinthians 1:19-20 19 For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, whom we proclaimed among you, Silvanus and Timothy and I, was not Yes and No, but in him it is always Yes. 20 For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory.


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