The Natural Order

February 17, 2019

I’m not sure I can explain in a few short sentences the concept of what I’m calling ‘Natural Order’, and how Natural Order can be changed or altered.  But, once again, here we go….

First of all, I need to put a definition to what I’m calling ‘Natural Order’, as I think there may be all kinds of different ideas about what that term means.  In this blog, I define ‘Natural Order’ thus – “Natural Order is a system of rules and laws that have been put in place by God, that largely govern how things work in our earthly existence.  It describes the normal rules of nature, physics, how we are born, how we age, and how we die.  Although, there are differences in individual lives and experiences, overall the Natural Order God has put in place prevails.”

In other words, God has placed certain things into a sphere of operation that has changed little from the beginning.  For example, gravity doesn’t come and go on a random basis.  Seasons generally follow certain basic rules.

Now for the interesting part….

For the most part God does not alter or change the Natural Order of things.  But, there are exceptions.  These exceptions create what we call ‘miracles’.  When Jesus walked on the water, this act changed the Natural Order of things, at least for a short season.  When Jesus raised the dead, this act altered the Natural Order associated with disease, age, and death.  When Jesus healed the blind, this changed the Natural Order.

Now more than ever we need God to change the Natural Order of things.  We might even call this ‘intervention’.  We need God to change the Natural Order of things, in order for miracles to continue to take place.

Now, I believe God doesn’t just change the Natural Order on a whim, or without reason.  I also believe it is the fervent, effectual prayer of the righteous that engages God in changing the Natural Order of things.  In other words, someone somewhere is praying for God to intervene and change things.

Yes, it is a mystery that it appears some prayers are answered and some are not.  I say ‘appears’ because we do not yet have all the answers as to why God seems to answer some prayers and not others.  We may yet find that all prayers of faith God answers, although the answers may not be what we want or expect.

Without God’s intervention we can expect the Natural Order will continue as it has for thousands of years, and thousands of generations.  But, with God’s intervention the Natural Order of things can be changed.

The Bible is full of examples of where God changed the Natural Order of things, and He did it mostly by the prayers of His people.  I have every confidence He is still in the business of changing the Natural Order, but it is not going to just happen because we wish it to happen.  It will happen through our persistent and fervent prayers, and the exercise of our God-given faith.

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Relationship

February 12, 2019

There are as many views about God, who He is, what He does, etc… as there are people in the world.  But, if we use the Bible as our baseline then there is really only one way to ‘know’ God, that is by having a relationship with Him.

It is quite different knowing about God, and having a relationship with Him.  To make matters more interesting, everyone’s relationship is unique and a bit different, although there are some common characteristics.

To add even more to the conversation, it is clear you cannot have a relationship with God that contradicts the Word.  Of course, that doesn’t stop people from saying something different, or believing something different.  In fact, there are people who claim to have a close relationship with God who want nothing to do with the Word or with Jesus Christ.  But, according to the Word this is impossible.

In the Book of John there is quite a series of arguments and disagreements Jesus had with the religious leaders of the time about this very subject.  They did not accept that Jesus was the Christ, the Savior of the world, the Son of God.  Jesus tried to tell them that if they did not accept Him they did not know the Father, either, because Jesus was sent by the Father to the world.  If we take this as our base then it is clear a rejection of Jesus as the Savior also means a rejection of the Father who sent Him.

Look at it this way – God had a plan.  The plan was to send His Son to be the Savior of the world, and to be the supreme sacrifice for sin.  When we reject Christ we are not rejecting only Christ, but the Father who put the plan into action.  There is no Plan B, or Plan C, or alternate option.

Actually the plan is quite old.  After Adam and Eve were ejected from the Garden of Eden, there was only one way to gain access to God, and that was through faith.  We see this in Noah, and we see it in Abraham who was the Father of Faith for all who would follow.

Faith has always been the blade that separates believers from unbelievers.  It is also the basis on which a relationship with God can be established.  Since the Father has put all into the hands of the Son, the first step is whether we accept (believe) God’s plan of salvation that involves His Son.  Rejection of this first step, or trying to insert some sort of substitute (good works), is simply not going to work.  It is fundamental.

Of course, not everyone believes this.  But, we shouldn’t be surprised, because they didn’t even believe it when it came straight out of the mouth of God.

The world is moving in a general direction of a ‘universal God’.  A God who accepts all religions and beliefs, and puts no boundaries or rules between people or their belief systems.  In this ‘universal world’ there are many paths to God, and to heaven.  While this sounds quite good, it is not borne out in the scriptures.  They actually say something different.  They say God had a plan for the redemption of mankind, and that plan included sending His Son to die for the sins of the world and to reconcile man to Himself via this sacrifice.  He (the Father) did not set up alternate plans.  One plan.  One Savior.  Period.

This seems harsh to some.  It also puts fundamental Christianity in conflict with the prevailing world view.  But, understand, at some point it will be the prevailing world view the Anti-Christ will use in controlling the world and pushing the world to war with God in the final conflict that is revealed in the scriptures for the end times.

Believing in Christ is the ‘beginning’ of the relationship, and doesn’t stop there.  It must continue through prayer, reading the Word, and service.  It is the beginning of a journey that will only be completed when we pass from this life to eternal life.

Patience – Persistence – Pursuit

January 20, 2019

We finally get to talk about 3 subjects I know very little about.  Or, should I say 3 subjects that I have not yet mastered.  Why would someone want to talk about something they are not expert in?  Good question, but it has never stopped me before, so here we go…

Patience is not an easy word.  For one thing patience doesn’t come as a neatly packaged gift ready to be opened and put to work immediately.  It’s a bit more complicated than that.  Patience is gained through trial, and tribulation.  In other words, hard times, unpleasant times, times we’d rather skip over.

Persistence is an interesting word.  It speaks of a certain stubbornness, unwillingness to give up, the ability to keep going when everyone else says its time to quit.  Persistence in some matters may be the only thing that can turn certain failure into success.  Persistence may trump wealth, brilliance, strength, and other attributes.

Pursuit is a daring word.  Pursuit implies stepping out, taking a risk, and doing something.  Pursuit involves effort, work, and sometimes danger, with no certainty of the outcome.  Pursuit requires one to step up, and to sometimes fail.  Pursuit is an action word, not filled with flowery prose or promises.

Patience, persistence, and pursuit are brothers, and work together towards a common purpose.  They don’t always win the battles, but they will win the war.  If we look at the antonyms for these words it tells us what we don’t want to be:

Patience – Impatience.  Unwillingness to give God time to work out a solution.  A lack of faith that God knows what time it is.

Persistence – I tried once, and that is enough.  If it doesn’t work the first time I’m through with it.  I will never do that again.  I simply can’t do it.

Pursuit – I won’t go.  Too much danger, too much risk.  Not only that it takes too much work.  And even if I pursue my goal and get there, what guarantee will there be that I’ll receive my just reward?  The road is not clear, the path seems uncertain, and there are bound to be pitfalls, I think it safer to stay home and watch another episode of Golden Girls.  Better yet, let someone else do it.

Teddy Roosevelt said it better than I can say it….

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
― Theodore Roosevelt

Giving

January 4, 2019

[Note:  This post may not apply to everyone.  I’m only addressing our traditional customs of Christian tithing and giving, mostly to the churches where we attend and worship.  There are many other kinds of ‘giving’ which are not addressed here, maybe for another post.]

There are as many opinions on giving as there are people, so take this posting with that in mind.  In this post I’m mostly concentrated on our giving to God and His work, but there are many other types of giving that at least some of this may also apply.

To start the ball rolling here are Chuck’s rules he has learned about giving, or at least the rules that apply to his life experience:

  1. Impulse or emotional giving is fine, but is small in comparison to ‘committed’ giving practices.  In other words, committed giving is powerful and invokes self-discipline and can yield more consistent results than impulse or emotional giving.
  2. I believe most people fall into the impulse or emotional giving practice, and only a few actually learn the benefits of committed giving, and the special blessings God has for them.
  3. The amount is important, but only as a measure of your relationship and commitment to God.  God is not impressed with how rich or poor you may be, or in the actual monetary amount involved.  He is impressed with what is going on inside your heart, and what your giving means to you.
  4. The primary motivation for giving should be from the standpoint of love and not of commitment.  Commitment and love go hand-in-hand, however, and both are required.  But, the point is – God loves a cheerful giver.  If the commitment is going to cause you to be bitter you need to reevaluate things.

Giving is such a private matter between one’s self and God that I hate to give specific examples, but in the interest of illustrating a point on commitment I offer the following snippet from my life going back about 15-20 years ago.

Years and years ago, God had challenged me to change my giving in the offering plate that came around every church service.  Instead of the token dollar, He challenged me to give a minimum of $5 every time the plate arrived at my spot.  Ok, fine.  But, since there is Sunday School, Sunday morning worship service, Sunday evening worship service, and Wednesday night worship service, that $5 does add up.  But, since God challenged me I began my journey.

Sometime later God told me, “I think you can do better.  How about $10?”  So, I accepted and began giving $10 every time the plate came around.  Things went along fine.  It was sometime later when God approach me again, “What about doubling that to $20?”  Now this was becoming serious.  I was not a wealthy man, and still raising a growing family, but I accepted the challenge, and off we went.

Then we went through a financial ‘downturn’.  You know the kind.  Unexpected unemployment, bills rising, unexpected repairs and medical expenses.  Things were beginning to look grim.  Any savings were being quickly depleted, and there were few options left, but I had maintained my $20 commitment.

I remember sitting in my pastor’s office talking about the situation, and all of a sudden I felt a strong spiritual push and proclaimed,  “Pastor, it looks like I’m going down, and there is little hope for a recovery, but if it comes down to it the last $20 I have left in the world is going in the plate as my commitment to God.”

While some may think this ridiculous and have no common sense, I can tell you with truth and accuracy, that from that moment forward things began to improve, and we did come out of our financial crisis, and I never had to put up my last $20.

Now, what does this mean?  Is this a pat on my back?  No, you will miss the point.  The real point here is that God honors commitment, small or great.  He honors the individual who will lay their life and resources ‘on the line’ and put full trust in Him.  Does this mean you should take all your money out of the bank and give it to God?  No.  Does it mean you have to make your own offering commitment?  No, unless God directs you so.  It simply means that giving is a relationship between you and God.  If giving becomes something that is only done to make us feel better about ourselves we have lost the true meaning.

There are other things that I’ve learned about giving, but my time for this post has run out….

Top – By Way of the Bottom

December 30, 2018

This posting is another attempt at explaining the unexplainable things we sometimes encounter in life.

I believe that most people, perhaps, not all, reach a place in life where they feel they have reached ‘bottom’.    When I say ‘bottom’, as I do many times in this post, it could mean many things to many people, and is hard to pin down as a definition.  But, let’s just say that reaching ‘bottom’ can take a variety of forms – medical, health, financial, relationships, pressure/stress, unemployment, under-employed, debt, problems with the law, etc…

To summarize reaching ‘bottom’ means a loss of hope, loss of self-esteem, sometimes loss of possessions or money, and leaves one feeling empty or in despair.

But, sometimes — just sometimes — the only only way to reach the top is by way of the ‘bottom’.  In fact in Navy Seal training if you don’t know how to reach bottom you will die during some of their endurance trials.

Take a swimming pool with about 12 feet of water in it, tie some men’s hands behind their back and throw them in the deep end for about 5 minutes.  The proper method for surviving this test is to follow a simple procedure.  You let air out so your body will drop to the bottom, once on the bottom you shove off towards the surface where in the brief moment your head is above water you take in more air.  And then you repeat that process for at least 5 minutes, bobbing up and down.  If you panic or struggle to try and reach the surface any other way, you might just drown or at minimum flunk the test.

Reaching bottom is not the end.  It may look like the end, and it may feel like the end, but if you don’t panic and use the bottom to shove yourself upwards, you just might make it.  Things, however, don’t change overnight, and sometimes patience and commitment are also required.  But, take hope, my friend, many have reached bottom and have managed to come out ok.  There are things to learn while on the bottom.  There are lessons to be applied.  There are changes we need to make.  We must find the courage to press on.

I know — a little unusual posting this time, but there is someone, somewhere who just might need this.

Different Strokes For Different Folks

December 28, 2018

After writing over 600 blog postings I feel I have probably covered this subject before, so bear with me if this sounds like a possible repeat.  The good news to my faithful readers, is that though I may talk about the same subject multiple times, I rarely duplicate the exact same language or sub-topics, and even introduce new ones.

It occurs to me that it would be simple to apply the same rules to everyone, and to somehow think God does the same.  While there are areas where God applies the same rules there are many areas that are very specific to the individual.  What God requires of me, may not compare with what God requires of you.  Much of what God requires of me depends on what He has tasked me with doing, what resources I have at my disposal, what my capabilities are, and what ‘curve balls’ life sends my way.  These are very individual things, and cannot be placed in comparison with anyone else.

Only God knows what each individual faces, the trials they endure, the temptations they fight, the opportunities they are given, and if the final result meets His expectations.

The simple fact that I was born and raised in the United States versus Ethiopia gives me both opportunities and obligations that someone born in another part of the world may not have.  I didn’t earn this right, nor do I somehow deserve this blessing, it was part of God’s plan for me.

Let’s not get confused — with great blessings come great responsibilities.  To whom much is given, much is required.  So, it also stands to reason that to whom little is given, little is required.

So, what is my point?  Well, I have several that I would like to make in this short posting:

  1. It is not right, nor expected, that you should measure your life against someone else’s.  Whether you think you are better or worse than they are is not your call to make.  Be careful how you judge others…
  2. You don’t know what other people are facing in the their life.  They may be facing financial hardships, relationship hardships, health issues, mental or emotional distress, or a myriad of other things.
  3. In the final analysis only God, Himself, will be able to make the statement, “well done thou good and faithful servant”….  Why?  Because only He understands all the elements of our life, and what challenges we have faced, where we have failed, and where we have succeeded.  He is the only one qualified to make the call.

All that said, we must also understand we must agree to follow certain rules, and that these rules are applied to everyone.  Just because I’m facing personal hardships does not give me the right to mistreat someone else.

God gives us a code of conduct to follow, and regardless of intelligence, wealth, poverty, or health issues, He expects us to apply ourselves to this code.  When the time comes to face Him and give an account, it is doubtful that excuses will factor in.  What is clear is that it will only matter what we have done with what we have been given that will make a difference.  And from everything I can gather, burying your talent and thinking everything will be ok, is the worst thing you can do.

 

Who’s Keeping Score?

December 11, 2018

Sometimes it can feel like our best efforts are not yielding any positive results.  We do the best we can, but it often is simply not enough, or at least, not enough to make a difference.

We sometimes pray for individuals and see no visible results.  We even visit hospitals to find the patients we went to visit have either been released or have been moved.

We give to the homeless and less fortunate, but seldom see the results of our efforts.  We give words of encouragement, but are not really sure if they made any impact, or changed anything at all.

We say, “Thank you”, to the checker for giving us our receipt and change, but they’re typically too busy or distracted to take notice.

We help the little old lady to carry her groceries to her car, or open the door for her.

No one is seeking reward for these things, and we often do these things, and many more, not for the thanks, but just because it is the right thing to do.

But, on occasion, it is normal to ask, “Is anyone keeping score?”, or are my words and actions without meaning or significance?

The answer is, yes, there is a score keeper, and He keeps very fine details.  There is nothing that goes unnoticed by Him, no matter how large, or how small.  There is a small catch, though….

You are not likely to see 90% of the results of your efforts, prayers, or giving in this lifetime.  In other words, the vast majority of the results of your words, actions, and prayers will not be fully seen until the Great Accountant tallies up your final score card.

In fact, the things that are done without show or visible reward, will receive direct compensation from God Himself.  You are gathering ‘treasure’ that is stored and waiting for you in heaven.

Of course, we’d like to receive all the benefits now.  And we do receive some benefits now, but the vast majority is laid up in store to be given by God Himself at the proper time.

The scripture tells us that Abraham looked for a city, whose builder and maker was God.  However, we seldom discuss the fact Abraham never found that city while he was alive.  But, rest assured, Abraham was not disappointed, and will live forever in that city built by God.

The real question is do we believe, or is it only the things we can see with our physical eyes that we believe in?  Remember the words of Paul the Apostle – “the things which are seen are temporary, but the things that are not seen are eternal”.

How Do You Spell Greatness?

October 25, 2018

It’s not that hard to search out ‘great’ figures.  They are famous, or wealthy, or have achieved great things.  They may be political figures, or they may be philanthropists.  They may be business tycoons, royalty, or movie stars.  It’s not really hard to determine who is ‘great’ or who is ‘small’, right?

Of course, it is not that simple.

The way the world views individuals is quite different from how God views them.  And in the end, when all is said and done, isn’t His view the one that will count?  All the greatness the world has to offer will pale in comparison to who God honors.  The finest houses, gold, diamonds, and fancy clothes will appear as dirty rags in comparison to the glory that God bestows on those He chooses to honor.

There are going to be some reversals, which is clearly revealed to us in the scriptures.

“The first shall be last, and the last first..”

or

“he who would be greatest shall be servant to all”

These, and other passages, make it clear that what we think is ‘Great’ may actually be ‘Small’, and what we think is ‘Small’ may be ‘Great’.

Of the poor widow woman who had only two mites to give in the offering plate the Lord said, “she has given more than them all.”

Greatness does not come from position, wealth, or fame – at least what God considers ‘greatness’.  John the Baptist never performed a miracle, and yet Jesus said of him, “Of those born of a woman, there is none greater than John the Baptist.”  What made John so great?

I believe it was simple obedience.  Not once, not twice, not once in awhile, but every day, every week, every month, and every year.  He did what God had required of him, and was accounted as ‘great’ because of his obedience to the call.

It is not clear, at least in the present time, to determine who will be bestowed with high honors from God, but it is something to strive for, for even if we fail wouldn’t the result be worth the effort?

 

Is Our Thinking Too Narrow?

October 22, 2018

As Christians we sometimes think too narrowly about who God accepts, who He rejects, and what He allows or disallows.  I say this with some caution, as God is not ‘loose’ in His expectations for us.

But, consider this…

In the Gospels we can gain a wider understanding of what God’s focus is, not only by what Jesus said and did, but what He didn’t say and didn’t do.  For example, He did not separate people by what jobs they performed, or what their station in life was, or how much money they made.  He did not single people out for how righteous or unrighteous they were.  He did not make a big deal over whether they were were a ‘small’ sinner, or a ‘big’ sinner.  His approach was much simpler than that.  There were more important things to focus on.

As a further example consider this – when Jesus was giving final instructions to Peter, He said simply, “Feed my sheep”, and “Feed my lambs.”  What about all the instructions about how to run the church, and to ordain new bishops, and church discipline, and how to organize things?  Why didn’t He cover those things?

Jesus accepted people who were not really qualified.  Many of the ones Jesus took into the fold knew nothing of how to live righteous.  Some were harlots, some tax collectors, some Jewish rulers, some unlearned fishermen, and some scholars.  Entrance to this club was easy, with no lengthy questions or forms to fill out.

But, sometimes we make things hard for those wanting to get closer to God.  We expect them to live up to our own code or standards.  We expect them to talk, dress, and act like we think they should.  But, if a person is accepted by God who are we to condemn or say they are unjust?

This is not to say God is lax, or doesn’t care.  On the contrary, He is a strict God.  However, His strictness is designed to be custom-fit for each individual.  In other words, what He demands of me, may not be the same thing He demands of you.  His rules on me depend on my ability to understand and comprehend those rules.  My comprehension, though, may be more limited than yours.  Therefore, His requirement on you may be more demanding than on me.  God does not expect you to do more than you are capable of.  His plan fits every living soul on the planet, from those with IQ of 25 to those whose IQ is 180, or beyond.  His requirement is custom-made for each individual.  A careful reading of the Gospels will clearly reveal this truth.

Or we might simply quote – “to whom much is given, much is required”

Growing Is Not Your Problem

October 3, 2018

One of the difficulties these days in Christian ministry is understanding our role and responsibilities correctly.  If we attempt to take on those things that are not our job then we can expect problems to follow.

One area that has received a lot of attention is in the area of ‘growth’.  How to grow your church body, or how to grow your ministry group, or how to grow your bible study group, on and on.

Actually, ‘growth’ is not our problem or responsibility.  ‘Growth’ or ‘increase’ is God’s domain.

Paul explains this best in 1 Corinthians 3:4-8, which is simply summarized as:

We plant, we water, but God gives the increase.

This concept is further explained in the parable described by Jesus in Mark 4:26-29.  It is clear from this parable there is a ‘mystery’ concerned with how things ‘grow’, but no mystery in understanding God is responsible for that part, and we in turn handle the rest – planting and harvesting.

So, instead of spending time trying to figure out how to grow things, we might want to concentrate more of our time on planting, watering, and harvesting, and let God handle the ‘growing’ or ‘increase’ part.