Is God Frivolous?

September 16, 2018

Recently, as I was making my way through traffic, I spied a bumper sticker, “JESUS NEVER FRILS”.  I was immediately intrigued and fascinated by this slogan, and tried hard to get my head around it.

I finally came to the conclusion that this is a very powerful and insightful concept expressed in three little words.  As I got closer to the vehicle, however, I noticed the lettering was not “R”, but an “A” instead, that looked a lot like an “R”.  This made the bumper sticker, “JESUS NEVER FAILS”.  Ahhhh, I laughed at myself for misunderstanding, but the original thought persisted, and as you can see resulted in this blog posting you are now reading.

The concept, “JESUS NEVER FRILS”, is really just as powerful and important as the correct rendering, “JESUS NEVER FAILS”.  We serve a Lord and God who is not frivolous or careless.  If He was, there would be chaos and disorder throughout the earth and universe, to the extent that our tiny little planet would not be able to sustain life as we know it.

If God was frivolous, no doubt we would all be in significant trouble.  It would indicate He didn’t care, which is absolutely untrue.  If God was frivolous, then how would we ever know when He was serious?  The very act of being frivolous would mean things we consider to be important might not be that important to Him.  How sad would that be?

In writing these blog postings I never know what God intends to accomplish with my meager writing skills, but hopefully this will minister to someone’s need, and get them a little further down the path.  It is important to know that He never ‘fails’ and He never ‘frils’ either.

 

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The Perfect Evangelist

September 7, 2018

This post could talk about perfect teachers, ministers, pastors, and other Christian leaders.  But, the question would be the same, “what would it look like if they were perfect?”

well, we could put away such things as dress, style of clothes or shoes, hair color, of if they had hair, if they are male or female, of if they are married, or single.  We could dismiss if they were rich, poor, or anywhere in between.  We could dismiss nationality and language.  We could also dismiss if they were beautiful or ugly, tall or short, fat or skinny.

there is really only a single measure that is meaningful in this exercise and that is how Christ-like are you?  Do you love the way He loves?  Do you talk the way He talks?  Do you conduct yourself the way He conducted Himself?  Do you have the faith He has?  Are you as obedient to the Father as He is?

being a perfect minister is not about preaching a “knock-down” message where everyone was shouting and slain in the Spirit.  It is more about delivering message under the guidance and direction of the Holy Spirit.

but, even greater things than messages can be delivered.  How do you live?  How do you solve problems?  How do you treat others?  Are you able to forgive,or do you hold grudges?  Are you able to treat people without favoritism?  Can you love those who are unloveable?

what are you willing to give up in order to accomplish God’s will for your life?

what dreams will you lay aside in order for God’s will to be perfected in your life?

thr measure of these questions and your answers will largely determine how close you may come to being the “Perfect Evangelist”, pastor, teacher, leader, etc…

Chances for Success

August 9, 2018

Generally, when faced with a challenge or problem we might think, “I wonder what my chances for failure are?”

And, no doubt, with any challenge or problem there is always a chance for failure, either through unforeseen circumstances, forces out of our direct control, or our own limitations or mistakes.  But, what about the chances for success?

It is built into our human nature to worry about problems, and to sometimes assume the worse.  For some, this is a self-protection mechanism – “I don’t want to be surprised, if things go badly.”

Problems, though, can provide their own opportunity for success.  It may not always be apparent or clearly understood, but often they are there.  Sometimes the successful solution only becomes clear after you get further into working a problem.  Sometimes the ‘benefits’ of a problem only become apparent sometime later, when we have a chance to look back and assess the situation and outcome.

There is generally a positive and negative side of every situation.  Take as a simple example David and Goliath.  We take it for granted that this was a giant victory for both David and Israel, and it was.  But, also embedded in David’s victory over Goliath were the seeds for jealousy from King Saul, Abner, and others.  In other words, not everyone was pleased with David’s victory.  There were some negative results from this event.

So, does this mean that David’s victory over Goliath was bad?  No, certainly not.  This only illustrates that with any action or effort there is not only the chance for failure, but also there may be some negative results to go along with the success and positive results.  However, this should not dissuade you from taking the steps to perform what is right and proper.

It is interesting to note that during Jesus’ three and one-half years of ministry, He focused on teaching, healing, feeding, and restoring people physically, mentally, and spiritually.  But, even with that success record there were people who wanted to see Him dead and removed from the earth.  What crime did He commit, that would warrant death?  That’s right – none.  It becomes clear that even with doing good, some people may hate you, despise you, and want to see you come to harm.

With every action or effort there is a chance for failure, but there is a bigger chance for success.

One should note, that success is not always measured in volume, numbers, or dollars.  There are other measures for success that are more meaningful.  How many people have you helped?  How many people have you encouraged?  How many people have benefited from your being in this place and time?  Those are more significant measures of success than merely numbers or dollars.

The chance for failure should not keep us from also viewing our chances for success.  It might even be said, that the only failure is in not trying at all, and that as long as a person tries they cannot be labeled a failure.

When Emotions Collide

August 8, 2018

We know when we are happy, sad, or somewhere in-between.  But, what happens when we are both happy and sad at the same time?  This can be a very strange state, but is not really that unusual in life, and probably happens more frequently than we think.

Let’s look at some examples of when a person can be both happy and sad at the same time:

  1. When a son or daughter leaves home for the first time.  Sometimes they are going off to college, and sometimes just moving into their own place.  Sometimes they leave home to get married.  Whatever the reason – we are both happy and sad.
  2. When a loved one dies.  Even when we know they will be in the arms of Jesus we are often happy for them, but sad for us.  We want them to be free from the pain they may have suffered in their body, but we really don’t want them to go away.

Those are just a few, but there are many more.  Leaving a secure job to take up a new job with increased pay, benefits, and position can be both a happy and sad event. All at the same time.

Now, someone may say this is not what God intended – that is, for us to be both happy and sad at the very same time, but I think the scriptures show something different.

I see several places where Jesus was both happy and sad, but perhaps the most notable was when he raised Lazarus from the dead.  There was no doubt this situation made our Lord sad.  But, since He knew that Lazarus would be brought back to life, why would He be sad?  Although many reasons have been put forth for why Jesus wept, I think at least one of these was to show that God understands our feelings when we lose a loved one.  At the time Jesus wept we have to remember that Lazarus was still dead.  After Lazarus was raised then we can be happy.

When Moses was called to ministry from the burning bush it is clear he was not completely thrilled with God’s plan.  So, it was with mixed feelings Moses headed back to Egypt.  There were feelings of apprehension, some fear, confidence, and purpose.  There must have also been a feeling of recovering what had been lost 40 years prior.

While having mixed emotions can cause to feel slightly ‘off-center’ and unbalanced, it is a normal part of our life experience.  We do our best to make plans, and to execute those plans, but many things can come into our lives that change or even erase those plans.  We then have a new plan.  Some detours have a way back, and some do not.  Some course changes will forever alter our life path.  But, rest assured – God knows what He is doing.

So, if you feel both happy and sad at the same time do not think it something unusual or unnatural.  It is a part of life, and God understands.

Understanding End-Time Prophecy

July 2, 2018

The Bible is full of prophecies, some already fulfilled, and many yet to be fulfilled.  There are also many authorities on this subject, and I’m not one.

Some prophecies are easy to understand, especially if they have already been fulfilled.  But, prophecies that are yet to be fulfilled are not so easy to interpret.  This doesn’t stop the ‘experts’ from trying, though, and there are quite a few tons of books written which will tell you exactly what they mean.  Of course, there is also a lot of disagreement.

And, of course, I have my own opinion about prophecies and their purpose.  It’s doubtful the experts will agree with me on this, but I suspect the primary purpose of biblical prophecy is to assure us that God has a plan, and that He is executing His plan.  This would seem to be more important than the specifics of the prophecy itself.  Do I really care if the prophecy in Revelation depicts helicopters shooting weapons of war?  I suppose to some people this is really important, but it is a distraction.  What is more important is to understand that God’s plan for His creation includes a final chapter which will be played out just as depicted in the book of Revelation.  I’m not so sure it is important to understand if the destruction depicted is from a nuclear explosion or some other source.

I understand this posting flies in the face of those who are deeply involved in prophecy interpretation.  But, the simple fact is this – concerning the prophecies that were set forth for the first coming of the Messiah we missed the mark badly, and only a very few were able to put the prophecies concerning Christ together correctly.  What makes us think we are smarter than they were?

That’s right – prophecies are best understood in hindsight.  Does this mean they should be ignored, or that we cannot search to understand them?  Of course not.  But, we should understand there are aspects of prophecy that probably will not be completely understood until they are fulfilled, or about to be fulfilled.  So, speculating about the the weapons of mass destruction depicted in Revelation is fairly meaningless, at least in my view.  What is important is to understand that God’s plan for this world includes such destruction, and that there is a literal Great Tribulation as depicted in Revelation.  That is important.

So, what is my point?  Let’s not get sidetracked and distracted by the various interpretations of the prophetic Word.  Let’s embrace the ‘big picture’ which is to acknowledge God’s plan and power at bringing the prophecy to fulfillment.  That’s more important than determining if there is a helicopter or atomic bomb described in Revelation.  At least, in my humble opinion…

What Will Be Our “Glory”?

June 6, 2018

There can be no doubt that our biggest ‘glory’ will be to spend eternity with our Lord and Savior.  But, I’m looking beyond that at the accomplishments of our life or entire lifetime here on this earth.

Of course, I don’t know exactly what our ‘glory’ will be in that regard, as much of what we achieve is not visible to us, at least not while we are still alive.  The people we have helped, witnessed to, lead to Christ, etc…  Those things, and the associated rewards or ‘glory’, are mostly hidden from our view at this time.

But, I do think there might be something we can discuss in this area.

You see, I doubt the size of your achievement will really matter too much.  What will matter is what you have done with what you have been given.  Size is relative, at least according to the scriptures and the teachings of Jesus.

In the parable of Lazarus and the rich man, it appears that Lazarus never accumulated any wealth or personal possessions.  He died in the same shape he lived – in poverty, want, and sickness.  This should cause us to reevaluate what it means to be ‘successful’.

You won’t be measured by what you didn’t have.  You won’t be measured by the opportunities that passed you by in life, and landed on someone else.  You won’t be measured by your wealth or poverty.  But, you will be measured by what you did with what you were given, whether it be little or great.

Whether we are rich or poor we all face difficulties, disappointments, grief, sorrow, and setbacks.  Some have many, and some have few.  But, regardless, our glory may be measured not by the size of the difficulties we face, but in how we face them, and overcome them.

In the case of Lazarus we can gain some insight into the fact he never gave up.  According to the parable he was at the gate of the rich man every day until he died.  He didn’t just stay home, which might have been far easier.  He was engaged.

So, instead of wishing our problems and difficulties would go away, maybe we should be looking for a way out, or a way to overcome.  With every difficulty there is a purpose.  We may not fully understand what that purpose is, but there is a purpose.  In many situations God will give us the ability to work our way through.  In others, only God can perform the work required.  But, in all cases, there is usually something that is required of us.  God wants us to be a participant, not a spectator.

Understand, there are some life situations that cannot be solved with simply applying effort or courage.  But, there is always something to be gained.  And, the glory belongs to those individuals who refuse to give up, to sit in defeat, or get their hands dirty.  The glory belongs to those who are grimy, face covered with sweat and mud, and who live according to the grace given to us from God.  Those are the victors, and will receive their ‘glory’ in due time.

Where is that Perfect Teacher?

May 11, 2018

Whether it be teacher, preacher, writer, director, author, pastor, or boss, it all comes down to a single precept – they are ALL significantly flawed.

Yes, that’s right, it’s a topic no one wants to talk about or admit.  After all, admitting that we are flawed is a sign of weakness, right?  But, it is the truth.

However, even if we are told and reminded that no one is perfect, we still would like to see perfection in those who are in leadership, and we are disappointed when they show signs of weakness, or heaven forbid, when they fail.

Their failure stuns us, causes us to reevaluate, causes us to doubt, makes us unsure about placing our trust in anyone in the future.

But, what is that old saying, “To err is human; to forgive Divine?”  How quickly we forget that we ourselves are also flawed.  We may be saved, and anointed, but you are still human, too.  Humans make mistakes.

So, how does that work?  How does God expect humans to carry forward His perfect plan, and His perfect message, when the vessels He uses to deliver His plan and message are flawed and less than perfect?  Yes, the mystery….

When Christ died on the cross, the torch for delivering the gospel was passed into the hands of fallible and flawed humans.  Was this a mistake?  No.  Now, let’s be perfectly clear.  We are to strive for perfection.  And there are times when we may act, think, and speak perfectly.  All of this is good, but there are also times when things don’t go as well.  We don’t say the right things.  We don’t act in a perfect way.  Our thinking is flawed.

The remedy is two-fold – 1) forgiveness for the person involved, and 2) tolerance by others that are involved.

We probably understand #1, but there seems to be much less understanding on #2.  Let me see if I can illustrate.

If someone does me wrong and asks forgiveness, I may forgive them.  If they continue to repeat the offense my tolerance decreases, and I may reach a point where I do not forgive them.  Unless…..

Unless, they are my child, or my parents, or my spouse.  Then things are different.  My tolerance limits have changed.  In other words, I don’t apply the same tolerance to all people – it is selective.  I choose how much tolerance I’m willing to commit to.  I apply more tolerance when it is ‘family’.

So, here’s the rub…   In the family Christ has created, we are all family.  So, why can’t the same tolerance be applied as if they were our own flesh and blood family?

 

From Promise to Fulfillment

May 8, 2018

In Acts 23:11 we read (in KJV):

“And the night following the Lord stood by him, and said, Be of good cheer, Paul: for as thou hast testified of me in Jerusalem, so must thou bear witness also at Rome.”

What a comfort.  Paul had been abused by the Jews of Jerusalem, arrested, and thrown in jail.  But, now the Lord, Himself, gave Paul a promise that he would go to Rome and testify there.  End of story.  All’s well that ends well.

Not quite.

The next few chapters describe that the following events occurred between the ‘promise’ and its ‘fulfillment’:

  1. Paul is in bonds (chains, shackles) and prison for another two years.
  2. Paul is aboard ship and in a storm that is so strong everyone thought they were going to die.
  3. He is shipwrecked, and must swim to an island.
  4. He is snake-bit by a venomous snake, while gathering wood for a fire

What happened???

The promise seemed so simple and direct, what had gone wrong?

Nothing.

Christians who have studied this passage sometimes come up with their own version of the events, that might go something like one of these:

  1. It wasn’t that difficult for Paul.  After all, he knew the promise and who made it.
  2. There was a purpose in every event, so it’s no big deal.

Ok, let’s look at this differently then….  “You” know the promise that has been made you, and “You” know that there is purpose behind every event that comes your way – so, what is YOUR problem?

Yes, it feels differently when put that way doesn’t it?  Of course it does.  The truth is that this was a very difficult and trying period for Paul.  Paul, the evangelist.  Paul, the church planter.  Paul, the church encourager and overseer.  Now, Paul the prisoner.  Not for a few hours, days, or even months.  We are talking about years here.  Oh yes, we could do that.  Really?

The truth about Paul’s experience may be a bit more complicated than it appears on the surface.  There is an enemy of the gospel, and this enemy was determined to see Paul stopped.  However, Paul had an advocate (attorney), who saw to it that Paul survived any obstacle thrown at him.  Now here is the clincher to this discussion — while God delivered Paul from every obstacle and challenge, He did not stop them from coming his way.  He did, however, give Paul the power to overcome every challenge that came his way, and Paul was assured nothing would keep him from the promise that was made earlier.

So, my friend, do not think you are immune to the storms, imprisonments, beatings, snakebites, and poking of the enemy.  You are not.  But, you are also not a rug to be walked on, trod on, beaten down, or destroyed.  God has given you the provisions and training necessary to win.

It’s Not a Cake-Walk

May 7, 2018

I would suppose one of the biggest confusion factors in the Christian realm, might go something like this, “If I’m a Christian, and God loves me, then why am I going through what I’m going through?”

And, let’s be fair – this is not just a whining complaint from someone who is never satisfied, there are serious situations involved – death, injury, relationship, marriage issues, children issues, loneliness, grief, chronic pain, disease, need I go on?

While we can put our imagination to work on this, and we often do, I suspect our conclusions are more wrong than right.  We come up with all kinds of reasons why things happen, especially bad things.  “God is trying to teach me a lesson.”  “God is punishing me for my wrongs.”  “God is upset with me.”

We sometimes forget that all throughout the Bible, people had problems.  Good people.  Anointed people.  Of course, their problems seem small when compared with our own.  And, we can clearly see the outcome of their problems, whereas we cannot see the end of the road for our own.

I’ve seen enough suffering by ‘good’ people to understand the answer lies elsewhere.  Even our imagination fails to unravel the mystery behind these things.  In fact, regardless of the ingenuity of man’s mind, there are only a few things we can say with certainty:

  1. Even when the storm is raging, God is still in control
  2. When the storm has subsided, and all that is left is rubble and destruction, God is still in control
  3. When it appears the storm has destroyed everything and there is no remedy or repair possible, God is still in control
  4. When there is no one to help or lend a hand, or even understand, God is still in control
  5. When our world turns upside-down, God is still in control

While we often do not understand the reason, or comprehend the purpose, God still has a plan.  God is not behind everything that happens.  Nor, is He the reason for everything that happens.  Nor, is He happy for everything that happens.  But, once again, God is still in control.

Some disasters are our own doing.  Some disasters come from natural causes (earth quakes, storms, etc…).  Some disasters are man-made.  And, still, some disasters are fostered by the Devil, or those working for him.

Regardless of the source or cause, God is still in control.

When Jesus told the thief, “This day you will be with Me in paradise”, it must have provided some mental relief.  However, the physical pain continued.  It even got worse.  For after Jesus died, the Roman soldiers broke the thief’s legs to hasten their death.  That doesn’t sound much like paradise to me.  Yes, I think he made that journey that day, just like Jesus promised.  But, in between the promise and fulfillment was some very intense suffering that we often forget.

So, let’s take a moment and talk about ‘Victory’.  This is a much more pleasant thought than suffering.  But, even that term is cloaked in confusion, as we sometimes don’t see the ‘victory’ for some individuals.  What we often see is disease, pain, and deterioration instead.  Where is the ‘victory’ for these folks?  Well, it is in the same place as it was for the thief on the cross with Jesus.  It is at the end of the journey, not in the beginning, or in the middle.  Obviously, we want our ‘victory’ NOW, if not sooner.  But, in some cases the victory will come beyond the curtain of this life.  Because the curtain obstructs our view, we have trouble grasping it, but this doesn’t make it any less real.

In summary, Christians have a difficult time sorting out the ups and downs in their life – myself included.  We want to know the ‘why’, and most often this question cannot be adequately answered.  But, while we may grope for answers, I’m assured that God is still in control, and that somewhere there is a reason and a purpose for everything.  I may not fully comprehend it, though, until I make that final journey.

Searching for the Joy

April 30, 2018

As a man searches for buried treasure, hidden riches, or secrets of the unknown, I’ve been searching for joy.

You know, the ‘joy’ spoken of in the Word of God.  Of course, we know ‘joy’ is different from ‘happiness’.  In my limited understanding ‘happiness’ is more of a fleeting thing, whereas ‘joy’ is something deeper, something stronger, something more permanent and unchangeable.  With that understanding we can be unhappy, but still have joy.  But, on the other hand, remove the joy, and even if we are smiling we may be quite sad inside.

So, I’ve been on the hunt for joy.  For the ‘joy unspeakable and full of glory’.  Not that I haven’t had joy, but wanting to understand it better.  And in this journey I’ve discovered something that is really quite hard to explain, but we will give it a shot…

“Joy” – is not what most people think it is.

The truth is this – most people are selfish, and the selfish nature can never find the joy spoken of in the Word.  Now understand – when I say ‘selfish’ I’m not talking about the little boy that wants all the candy for himself.  I’m talking about we seek those things that bring us pleasure and enjoyment, and sometimes that process short-changes others.  In other words, “us first, and everyone else second”.  Of course, we most often deny this ‘tag’, but reality often speaks for itself.  Most everyone would deny they are selfish, instead we are caring, giving, self-sacrificing, always thinking of the other person.  But, the real puzzle is you can be both giving (and those other things), and also selfish, too.

But, let’s be clear – the ‘joy’ I’m talking about is a lot more than just being giving and helpful, and thinking of the other person.  In other words, not selfish.  It’s deeper than that.

This deeper ‘joy’ only comes from an awareness that we are part of a much bigger whole.  It comes from an awareness that even though we are small, and seemingly lost in a sea of humanity, somehow our very existence is important to the ‘big picture’.  I may even be as bold to say that the world needs you.  I know – that seems a little too much, but to understand the ‘joy’ I’ve been talking about requires us to acknowledge the fact that although we don’t always understand our purpose in this crazy world, and we don’t always feel loved and appreciated, nevertheless we are important to God’s plan and in His plan NOTHING is insignificant.

So, this ‘joy’ I’m talking about really has very little to do with pleasure seeking, or temporary happy moments.  It has more to do with understanding that we are important to God’s plan, and that although things are not always to our liking, He is guiding our life in the way that pleases Him, and that is enough.

It’s not about getting what we think we want, or getting those things that we think will make us ‘happy’.  Those things will change, some will fade, and some will simply go away.  No, those are temporary things, that may bring us happiness and enjoyment, but the ‘joy’ I’m talking about is much deeper than that.  This ‘joy’ is not affected by circumstance, situation, persecution, sickness, riches, or poverty.  It not affected by position, fear, or even the happiest of times.  This ‘joy’ is rooted in being written in the Lamb’s Book of Life, and that when all else is over and done, that is all that is really going to matter.

We often feel our situation is unique, and that whatever feelings we may have – loss, grief, relationship problems, children problems, parent problems, stress, anxiety, fear, depression, and on and on – are feelings that we, alone, have.  But, this is not true.  And, even if it were true, God feels our distress and knows exactly where we are at all times.

‘Joy’ is not about everything going right, or everything working out like we planned.  It is not even about winning all the time.  ‘Joy’ is not about prosperity, or poverty, or anywhere in-between.  It is not about what you have, or don’t have, or wish that you had.  This ‘joy’ I’m talking about is rooted in the simple fact that God loves you, He has a plan for you, and He is working His plan, and though the storm may rage and waves and wind try to tear you apart, all will be good.