Dec 19, 2013

My thoughts on the Duck Dynasty Dilemma

Duck dynasty is a great show.  Ratings prove its popularity.  I think the show has been a great window into the reality of right wing Christian southern lifestyle.  I laugh at it so much of it because I see my family through the different scenes and scenarios.  I love the faith, family, and ducks worldview that the Robertsons adhere to.  That’s been the unspoken motto of the home I grew up in and the home that I am raising.  It’s a good show that has broken many records and, in my opinion, that’s because it’s a rare TV combination of humor, silliness, redneck living, family values, and faith.  You just don’t see many shows like this one anymore.  There aren’t many shows anymore that an entire family can sit on the couch and watch together without worrying about whether the content will be appropriate for everyone sitting and watching.

I had Phil Robertson preach for me when I pastored in Louisiana.  He’s genuine and down to earth.  He, his wife, and entourage stayed until 1:00 AM signing autographs and talking with people. After everyone else left He and I visited for about an hour.  The man is on a mission to preach the gospel.  He’s also someone who thinks.  He has a lot of opinions.  He is one who is outspoken with his wide range of opinions.  The night he spoke for me he covered topics ranging from duck conservation, duck call styles, hunting methods, homosexuality, manhood, alcohol, crawfish boils and the gospel.  I loved his insight and candor, but I didn’t agree with everything he said. What mattered to me was that we agreed on the main thing, Jesus. He gave a compelling and convicting presentation of the gospel of Jesus Christ and several men were saved.  I’m grateful he and his family have been given the opportunity to preach the same message he shared that night in Milton, Louisiana to millions of Americans.

The truth is, there are a lot of Phil Robertsons out there, I am one of them.  Millions of viewers and evangelical Christians agree with what he said, maybe not the way he said it or the magazine he said it to (I find GQ to be an incredibly immoral and offensive magazine), but none the less, millions believe homosexuality is a sin.  The Bible is very clear on what sin is and homosexuality is one of them.  There a lot of us out there, and we are not going away, nor are we changing what we believe.  As a result, things like this will happen.  We should not be surprised, it's happened before.  It happened to Jesus, Peter, Paul, and in one way or another over 2000 years to every disciple of Jesus that radically seeks be light in a dark world.  Hollywood is a tough dark place for the Christian, but I’m proud of people like Phil and his family who still give it a shot and use the avenue that God gives them in Hollywood to tell people about him. 
Certainly this has caused pressure and stress on this family and on Phil himself.  I hope Phil and his family will stick together, trust in God, and continue to show grace and love through this while at the same time not back down or compromise.  I want to encourage his fans  who are outraged, like myself, to pray for him and his family.  I want to encourage you also to keep the mission and message of the gospel at the forefront of your discussion.  Protest, boycott, rant, or whatever, but don’t forget that Jesus called us to reach the lost with His gospel.  We should stand up for what we believe in, be salt and light, don’t back down, but don’t be unloving as you do.  Use this event to have friendly debates but do it with the purpose of winning the lost to Christ.  Don’t treat them the way Phil Robertson has been treated.  Our mission is not to bring a TV channel down because they messed with our favorite duck hunter.  Our mission is to build the kingdom of God by making disciples (Matthew 28:16-20).

We are told to “speak the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15).  Both the truth we share and the way we share it is important.  You must do both, too many do one without the other.

All of this has reminded me of something that Jesus said, “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you.” John 15:18

I close with this: 
The Bible is also very clear on this:  God loves sinners.  God loved us all so much He sent His own Son Jesus to die for our sin and to free us from our sin.  To forgive and save people who practice the same sins I do and people who also practice the sin of homosexuality.  I think that's awesome.  That no matter who you are or what you do, God loves you and Jesus can save you.

Dec 16, 2013

What Every Dad Should Learn from the Christmas Story

Dad, what an incredible task we have been given as fathers.  Studies, statistics, and reality continue to show that dads are the most influential person in our home.  Being a dad is a high calling and a tough responsibility in our modern society.  The enemy and the world he controls want to demolish your family.  His best plan of attack is to go through you.  He wants you to fail.  He wants to see your wife lose all love and respect she has for you and your leadership.  He wants to see your kids spend eternity with him in hell.  The enemy hates you, the world hates you, and maybe even your kids will hate you too.  Being a dad is not an easy job today.  But the truth is the spiritual success of our family rises and falls on our shoulders.  But listen dads, God knew what he was doing when he chose you to be a father.

In the Christmas story we see a dad who is given the responsibility to raise a child.  It’s a heavy responsibility being a dad to any kid, but can you imagine the weight of responsibility in having to raise the Savior of the world, the Son of God, the King of kings??!!  We don’t know a lot about Joseph, we only see a brief snapshot of who he is and where he came from in the story of Jesus’s birth.  But in the brief snap shot we have of Joseph we see some character traits that every dad should have if they want to win at fatherhood.  God knew exactly what He was doing when he gave Joseph the responsibility of raising his Son.

Character Trait #1 - Meekness

Matthew 1:18-19
“Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit.  And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly.”

 Meekness is not weakness.  It is harnessed power.  Meekness is humbly submitting our freedom, strength, power, influence, money, and ego to the will of God.  The ball was in Joseph’s court and he had the freedom and right to do what he wished with Mary who was carrying a child that wasn’t his.

There were 3 routes Joseph could have legally taken at this point:  Stone her to death (Leviticus 20:10), claim the child was his and go forward to save embarrassment, or publicly divorce her.  But, Joseph showed meekness when he chose to divorce her quietly.  Joseph maintained his cool, didn’t lose his temper, he didn’t try to get even, and didn’t kick Mary to the curb.  Even though he was in the position and had the right to ruin her life and the life of her seemingly illegitimate son, he took the route of a good man, a real man, a Godly man.  It was a path of grace, a path of character, a path of Godliness…a path of meekness.  And it was this meekness that enabled him to be used greatly by God to be the earthly father of Jesus.

Dad’s we need to learn to show meekness to our wife and kids.  We constantly need to let God harness our freedom, authority in the home, power, influence, strength, success, money and time by submitting to the will of our Heavenly Father.  Showing our children that even though we have a right to be angry or have the right to get it our way, we control our temper and handle the matter with meekness.  We must show meekness to our kids when we arguing with their mother, disciplining them, in dealing with the blind umpire at their ball games, the slow waiter, the idiotic driver that just cut us off, the boss that is unfair, or our child's carelessness with the cup of milk.

If you want to produce good children, then be a meek man.  Showing grace, patience, kindness, and gentleness can ALWAYS be done without showing weakness.  That’s what meekness does.

Character Trait #2 - Obedience
vv.20-22 “But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” 22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: 23 “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son and they shall call his name Immanuel”

Crazy story, crazy dream.  If I had a dream like that I might wonder what my wife mixed into our lasagna from the night before.  The amazing thing is that he did exactly what the angel said to do.

This story fits so well into the Bible.  Joseph was commanded to give Mary’s son the name Jesus, it's derived from the Hebrew name Yeshua, the name means “Yahweh is salvation.”  The first time we see the name Yeshua in the Old Testament is when we meet Moses’s right hand man and understudy, Joshua.  Joshua was the man that got to lead the Israelites into the Promise land.  He was a great leader, a man’s man, a warrior, a hero.   Listen to the faith and conviction of Joshua:

Joshua 24:15  But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD."

 Now, there are a lot of men who will say, “As for me and my house”

"As for me and my house…"we’ll make a lot of money"…"we’ll be a successful"…"we’ll kill a big deer or bunches of ducks"…"we’ll catch a big fish"..."we’ll drink with the boys"…"we’ll be liked by everyone"…"we’ll be great athletes"…"we’ll win the lottery"…"we’ll run our roost"…"we’ll never back down"…"we’ll never lose a fight"…"we’ll never be wrong."

But what is missing from most American homes is men who like Joshua and Joseph who will say, “As for my an my house, we will serve the Lord”

Guys, what is your family known more for?  Serving the Lord or killing big deer?  Serving the Lord or being successful?  Serving the Lord or being great athletes?  Serving the Lord or showing our influence?
Dad's when our children stand before God one day he's not going to ask them how successful they are, how much money they made, what their GPA was, how fast they could throw or how far they could hit a baseball, how many tackles or touchdowns they had, what was the biggest deer they killed or fish they caught, how cool they were, how many girls they dated.  He's going to ask them one question:  "What did you do with my Son Jesus?"

Being a family that is known for serving the Jesus begins with being a man who is known for serving the Jesus.

Character Trait #3 – Spiritual Leadership

vv. 24-25 “When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him…And he called his name Jesus”

Joseph believed the angel, he believed in his Son, and he did everything he was instructed to do and everything he knew he could in order that his son could “save his people from their sins.”

Joseph led the way in listening to God’s will for his family:  notice Matthew 2:13-14 when moved his family to Egypt, Matthew 2:19-23 when he moved his family back to Nazareth

Notice how Joseph led the way in worshiping with his family:  Luke 2:22-38, 2:14, when he took his family to the Temple

He made priority of his child’s spiritual life.  He took it seriously.  He got involved with it.  Joseph was the dad who took his children to church (the temple), he didn’t just drop them off or let them go with Mary while he slept in, worked, or hunted.  Joseph was the dad who prayed for his children and worshiped with his children.  Joseph was the dad that made sure they were growing in knowledge of the word.  The spiritual growth of his children was important to Joseph. 

Dad’s we need to lead the way when it comes to the spiritual growth of our children.  Lead.  Don’t just leave it up to their mom, your parents, the church, the pastor, the children’s minister, or some other father or family.  Lead.  Worship with them, pray with them, pray for them, read God’s word to them, serve with them, witness to them.

God knew what he was doing when he put his own Son under the earthly fatherhood of Joseph.  Men, God knew exactly what he was doing when he put your children under your earthly fatherhood.
Hey, be a fun dad, a loving dad, a protecting dad, a successful dad, a disciplining dad, a killing ducks and deer dad, a coaching dad, a friendly dad.  These are great kinds of dads to be and I hope you are one.  But don't miss out on being the kind of dad God chose you to be.  Be a dad that leads your kids to Jesus. 


Dec 10, 2013

Immanuel: God with Us!

There are a lot of devastating things in this world that cause us to ask:  WHERE IS GOD?  Where was God when I lost my child?  Where was God when I lost my job?  Where was God when I lost my house?  Where was God when the drunk driver hit that car?  If God was here, if God was real, then I wouldn’t be facing these things, right? …where is He?


 Where is God?  God is with us. That was the message of the very 1st Christmas so many years ago. An angel appeared to Joseph in a dream and said that Joseph’s fiancĂ© Mary was to have a baby.  But it wasn’t going to be just any baby, it was THE baby.  The Son of God, the promised Messiah.  And the angel said that he would be called Jesus, that he would save is people from their sins.  All this happened because of an old prophecy from the book of Isaiah (Isaiah 7:14) that said that the Messiah would be called Immanuel.  Immanuel is a combination of Hebrew words meaning, “God with us.”  So Jesus was born, Immanuel came.  That night in Bethlehem God was literally and physically “with us.”

Immanuel means that God loved us so much that he would come and dwell among us.  He has firsthand experience with our pain, tragedy, and suffering.  He would walk through the same things we do and feel what we feel.

The incarnation of Jesus Christ, Immanuel, illustrates the truth that God is with His People!  It shows that God is (and has always been) with us in every situation we face whether it be pain, grief, anger, frustration, unemployment, divorce, bankruptcy, poverty, illness, surgery, hurt, cancer, and even death. Immanuel is here to surround us with His love, encouragement, comfort, and His Spirit. 

Immanuel means that we don’t have to face the reality of pain, anger, lose, fear, or even death alone.  HE IS WITH US.  The baby that was born that night, the light of the world, is the one who continues to shine his light in our night.

We find Immanuel all through the scriptures:
Joshua 1:9 "Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord you God is with you wherever you go"
Psalm 23:4 “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me.”
Matthew 28:20 “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
Romans 8:38-39 “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

That’s Immanuel!

St. Patrick said this…
Christ be with me, Christ within me,
Christ behind me, Christ before me,
Christ beside me, Christ to win me,
Christ to comfort and restore me.
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ in quiet, Christ in danger,
Christ in hearts of all that love me,
Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.

You see, the Christmas reminds us that God is no stranger to our sufferings.  God understands our pain.  Rather than just answering our questions like “why does this happen?” from afar, he came down to us and walks with us through them.  He feels what we feel. 

We all have questions.  Good questions, real questions, valid questions.  We find ourselves getting overwhelmed by the questions, but let me encourage you to look past your questions, and pursue the One whose name means that HE IS WITH YOU.   You can ask your questions, but don’t for a second think that you are asking a cold heartless God, who has no clue what you are going though.  HE IS HERE AND HE KNOWS!  Reach out to Immanuel, He’s with you.

I once heard a story of a father, who had told his son he would send him to sleep in the attic, with only bread and water for his supper, if he broke the laws of the home once more.  (A little harsh if you ask me and the story is probably not true, but at look at what happened next)

The child disobeyed again and was sent to the attic to spend the night.  That evening the father could not eat. He had the boy on his mind and his heart. His wife said: "I know what you are thinking. But you must not bring the boy from the attic. It would cause him to disobey again. He would have no respect for your word. You must not cheapen your relation as his father by failing to keep your promise."

To which her husband replied: "You are right. I will not break my word. But he is so lonely up there." He kissed his wife good night, entered the attic, ate bread and water with the boy, and when the child went to sleep on the hard boards, his father’s arm was his pillow.

That is Immanuel.  That is God’s presence in our lives. That is one of the messages of Christmas.  That is why we can have hope in hard times.  God chose to suffer for us and with us, and He still chooses to suffer with us. 

So you can either focus on all the questions and as result come up empty and cold towards God, or you can reach out to the Immanuel, who understands and can heal your loss, who is with you.

Immanuel didn’t just come to sympathize with us and hold our hand.  He also came to answer our questions and heal our pain.  He came to deal with the fear, evil, sin, and death that haunts every one of us.  In fact, it is Immanuel’s suffering on the cross that is His ultimate answer to all the suffering we face!  The resurrection of Jesus reminds us that there will be an end to suffering, pain, death, and loss!

 Psalm 30:5 reminds us this “Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning.” 

Pain and suffering won’t last forever…there is an end to it.  God has handled it through the cross of Immanuel and through the resurrection of Immanuel.  In his time the reality of his “handling it” at His cross will show up in your life, but until that perfect timing, remember that He is with you and He is here for you!  So bring your questions, bring your grief, bring your pain, bring your hurt, and bring your loss…HE IS IMMANUEL, HE IS WITH US!

Dec 2, 2013

Christmas: Holy or Hectic?

If your family is anything like mine then the tree is already up, the lights have been hung, the gift shopping has begun, and the holiday weight has already rising.  Christmas is such an exciting time of the year with such rich and fun traditions that we always look forward to:  the music, the trees, the decorations, the cards, the special foods, and the anticipated time with family.

But Christmas can also be an extremely hectic time of year:  parties, presents, traffic, year-end deadlines, the spending, family, traveling, and yes, the holiday weight gain!  Suicides go up, debt goes up, blood pressure goes up, and weight goes up!  Though we look so forward to Christmas, we sometimes look equally forward to it ending.

I wonder, did Jesus really intend for his birthday to be this hectic?   Did he really intend for us as Americans to spend over $450 billion every year on Christmas?  Did He really intend us to eat more, travel more, stress more, spend more, and sleep less as we celebrate His birthday?

Did He really intend all of this or have we done it ourselves?

Many Christians focus all their energy during the Christmas season on the hectic traditions of Christmas and yet focus very little energy in comparison on the real meaning of Christmas:  Christ.  Is it any wonder why the “Politically Correct Police” are forcing people to not talk about Christ at Christmas?   Think about it, they are just asking us to do what we’ve already done in our celebration of Christmas:  make it about something other than Christ.

I want to challenge you and your family to do something this Christmas:  spend less time, less money, less thought, and less stress on the traditions of Christmas and focus more upon the reason for Christmas.  Think less about the gifts you are going to get and the gifts you are going to give and think more about The Gift He has given and about The Gift that He wants us to give our friends, neighbors, and family. 

2013 years ago a little baby boy was born quietly in a dirty, smelly manager.  There were no lights, no trees, no ornaments, and no eggnog…in fact very few people even noticed at the time.  His name was Jesus the Messiah.  He was “God with Us.”  He came, lived, died, and lived again so that you and I could have the greatest gift God ever gave:  eternal life.  That’s Christmas…simple, powerful, and eternal.

Nov 19, 2013

The Difference of Thanks

Luke 17:16
“…And he fell on his face at Jesus’ feet, giving him thanks…”

Thanksgiving!  For me that means a ridiculous amount of some of my favorite things: food, football, hunting, family, and pecan pie!  The thought of Thanksgiving Day makes me HAPPY, HAPPY, HAPPY!  But Thanksgiving can give us joy for more reasons than just the fact that we get a day off of work to spend with family. 

Luke tells the story of ten lepers that met Jesus outside a village one day asking him to heal them.  Ten lepers were healed that day, but only one said thanks.  Jesus noticed the lack of gratitude and it caused him to begin asking some questions about the other nine lepers he healed.  His questions hit me as I read them,

vv.17-18 “Were not ten cleansed?  Where are the nine?  Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?”

I wonder if Jesus looks at me and wonders this same thing about me.  Hey, could you more often be listed with the nine or with the one?  I’m not sure that I want to answer that question honestly about myself.

Thanksgiving is right, it’s worship, and it’s worth it.  As we approach the day of giving thanks a close look at three different times in our lives will cause us to overflow with thanksgiving.

Look Back
Look back to the things that God has done for you. 

I love to think back to two significant days in my life.  One of those days is my salvation.  I was six years old, sitting in children’s church at the First Baptist Church of Genoa, TX.  It was that morning that God showed me that I was really a sinner and that Jesus really did come to die on the cross for me!  I believed it and I confessed it and I was saved! The other day is when I was 16 years old.  I was living a rebellious and sinful life; involved in drugs and alcohol.  I hated myself.  I was disrespectful to my family.  I was running and it was in the wrong direction.  I’ll never forget one night on the back porch of our home when the Holy Spirit so strongly convicted me of my foolish rebellion as I looked in my dad’s eyes as he confronted me over my sin.  That night I repented and learned the redundant power of God’s grace.  When I really look back, I see lots of things that I am thankful for.

When did Jesus save you?  Can you look back and remember who you were, where you were?  What trials and struggles that God has brought you through? How has he showed up big in your past?  There is so much to be thankful for that God has done.  It’s a healthy and right thing to occasionally remember.  Sometimes the past can haunt us, but if you look closely and deeply enough you can find the powerful, kind, gentle, and perfect hand of God in your past.

Look Around
Looking back and seeing God’s hand from a retro perspective view naturally causes you to realize what God has given you today.  You realize just how far you’ve come and in doing so you realize how much God is doing today around you and in you.  When I look around I am so thankful for what God has given me today.  My wife, my children, my friends, my church, my house, my health.  I grateful for what God is doing in my life today.  How he is using me.  I’m grateful for his grace as I realize that still today I need his grace, as I am still a man that struggles with my flesh and gives in over and over.  My life is not perfect and I am not a perfect man, but when I look around I realize that God has blessed me through his grace.

Look around at your life.  Sometimes it’s easy to see the major disappointments, obstacles, and things you don’t have.  We stress and worry over them.  Our prayer life is often consumed by concern over them.  Sometimes our consumption with these negative things and with the things we don’t have causes us to ignore or forget the things we do have.  Often we are so concerned with what we want God to do in our lives today that we fail to see what God is already doing today in our lives.  When you look hard, you realize that God is active in your life and in your world.  He is still showing you his power, his grace, and his love.  Look around and you’ll find plenty today to be thankful for.  When you give thanks for what you have and for what God is doing it will change the way you think about the things you don’t have and the things that you think God isn’t doing.  It may even help you realize by faith that he actually is doing something about those things!  Thanksgiving puts our problems in perspective:  The bigger our thanks is…the smaller our problems seem.

 Look Forward
Looking back and looking around with gratitude will give the ability and vision to also look forward with gratitude.  For the Christian there are things that we can go ahead and give thanks for that we will one day experience.  We have the certainty of heaven!  Our names are written there.  There is a title and deed to a home in heaven with my name on it!  I’ve never seen it, I don’t know what it looks like, and I don’t know when I’ll occupy it, but I am thankful for it.

So, as you gather around the table, sit in a deer stand or duck blind, recline in your chair to watch the Cowboys, or join the Black Friday craze, may Jesus find you at some point along the way “falling on your face at His feet, giving him thanks.”  Be the one, not one of the nine…Take the time to look back, look around, look forward…you are going to be amazed just how much there is to be thankful for.

Nov 15, 2013

The God of All Comfort!

Like it or not, pain finds us all.  Pain has no friends.  No matter how tough or thick skinned that you think you are, pain finds its way through.  I comes in many different ways.  To name a few: words, abuse, loss, loneliness, judgment, illness, bad work/job situations.  At some point and time all of have to deal with pain.  We live in a fallen world, with fallen people…hey, bad things happen and those things that can hurt us deeply.

This past week I came across a verse I’ve read many times that I want to share with you that I think has some help for us when we are facing pain.
2 Corinthians 1:3-5
"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.  For as we share abundantly in Christ's sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too."
I want you to know that there is hope.  Hope’s name is Jesus Christ.  He is our salvation, but he is also a rich well of healing.  

God is the Source of all Comfort
So often when we suffer through pain we look to ourselves, our feelings, memories, we look to empty words, getaways, food, we look to pills, drugs, alcohol…or blame.  None of these things can offer real comfort.  They can only give temporary moments of relief and distraction.  When we try to find help in these things they actually do us more harm than good, they make the wound larger and feed the pain rather than heal it.
When you find yourself discouraged because of circumstances the first step is to look at the Lord and realize that in him is all that you need.  He is a deep and rich well of comfort. 

Isaiah 51:12 “I, I am he who comforts you;

If God can save your broken soul then don’t you think that he can also heal your broken heart?  Of course he can, and scripture tells us that he want too!  Understand this about God’s comfort:

God’s comfort is not just sympathy – Sympathy is not a bad thing per say, but sympathy by itself can actually weaken us rather than make us stronger, it sometimes only reminds us of our despair and offers no way out.  God does not just pat us on the head and give us a piece of candy to distract our attention from our troubles.  His comfort is more than that.  He gives us more than sympathy, he gives us comfort by strengthening our hearts so that we can face our trials and triumph over them.  Jesus knows what pain feels like, he knows what it means to be abandoned, and his father knows what it’s like to lose a child.  It’s from the same comfort he found in himself that he comforts us.

God’s comfort doesn’t take the trial away – One of the first things we pray for when we face a trial is that God would make it all go away.  Rarely does God grant that request.  You see, he usually has work he desires to do on us through the trial.  He doesn’t take it away, but he does something so much better:  HE GIVES US ALL THAT WE NEED through it.  God desires our tragedy and trial to be a building block, not a stumbling block.  He wants you to come out of it with victory and better, not defeated and wounded.

God’s comfort is not a moment, but a walk – God’s comfort is not just a onetime experience.  It’s not like flicking the light on or off.  Why?  Because the pain caused by trials can totally change our lives, we can carry the pain with us for a long time and carry the changes forever.  That’s why God doesn’t offer his comfort in just an event.  His comfort is not a moment, it’s a walk.

 So how does God comfort us?  God helps us victoriously walk with us through our pain in three ways:

We Walk through Pain with His Spirit.

Romans 8:26  "Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words."
The word comfort in the bible literally means “to come along side.” That’s exactly what he does for us.  In fact, the Holy Spirit is called “comforter.    He comes along side us and walks us through the trial and the days, weeks, months, years, lifetime after the trial is gone.  That why he give His Spirit to believers.  Jesus calls the Spirit, “the Helper.”  That’s exactly what the Spirit does, helps.  Helps us see God’s perspective and purpose.  Helps us live the life he intends for us to live.  Helps us get through moments and trials that our own strength and wisdom cannot face.  John 14:25-27, John 16:13-15

We Walk through Pain with His Word
Psalm 119:50 "This is my comfort in my affliction, for Your word has given me life."
God’s word is a rich well of insight and counsel for trials.  We see real examples of people who survive pain and trials through the scriptures.  We see how they failed and how they succeeded.  Furthermore, we hear directly from the voice of God.  I have found many times when I open God’s word to help me, I find just the right thing that speaks directly to my heart.      

We Walk through Pain with His People
2 Corinthians 1:4 “…so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction”
Have you ever had someone say to you, “been there done that”
It's actually true!  Whatever you are facing…realize that others have been there and done that.  Many walk around us everyday with the scars to prove it.  Whether you realize it or not I bet that God has placed someone near you that has “been there and done that” and can show you what they have learned from their scars.  God’s comfort for you comes in flesh and blood.
Paul experienced God’s comfort in flesh and blood through his friend Titus

2 Corinthians 7:6-7 "But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus, 7) and not only by his coming but also by the comfort with which he was comforted by you, as he told us of your longing, your mourning, your zeal for me, so that I rejoiced still more."
Hey, believe it or not… but you are a comforter.  You are God’s source of encouragement and comfort for someone else.  The experiences and pain that you have survived give you credibility and opportunity to help someone else.  You know exactly what a person in similar circumstances is going through and you know what they need to hear.  Use your experiences to speak the gospel, encouragement, and hope into other’s lives.  God comforts us not to make us comfortable, but to make us comforters.
God doesn't want us to walk alone with no help, no hope, and no purpose.  He doesn't just leave us to be kicked when we are down...whether it's Satan, the world, others, or yourself that is doing the kicking.  He wants us to walk through pain victoriously.  He has help, he has hope, and he has purpose!  He's the God of All Comfort! 

Nov 5, 2013

The Promise in Prayer

“Ask, and it will be given to you”
– Jesus, Matthew 7:7

“You need more than just a prayer.”  Have you ever been in such a hopeless or pointless situation that you have thought this or someone has said this to you?  There is some truth in this statement.  God desires more from us than just prayer.  But we also need to realize that prayer is more than “just a prayer.”
We have reduced prayer to a last resort, a sacred/religious practice and we look at prayer as if it’s just not enough.  Maybe we misunderstand the basis for prayer.  Prayer is more than just a last resort, a spiritual discipline, a moment of reverence, or good way to start a meal/finish the day/open and close a service.  Prayer is a big deal.  It’s significant because we are talking to the God of the universe!  The power of prayer is not found in our well-crafted poetic words, the number of people praying, the number of prayer lists we are on, or in the way we pray.  The power in prayer is found in the one we pray to!  The Mountain Mover, the Promise maker, Promise keeper.  Prayer is powerful because a Powerful God has made us a promise.  Jesus makes a special promise when he gave us access through him in prayer.  It’s a bold promise Jesus makes concerning prayer.  His promise is that when we ask him, he will answer.  In fact, to clarify his promise, he states it twice! 
Read Matthew 7:7-11
Take note of the redundancy: 
v.7 “Ask, and it will be given to you”  v.8 “For everyone who asks receives”,

 v.7 “seek, and you will find”  v.8 “and the one who seeks finds”

 v. 7 “knock, and it will be opened to you”  v.8 “and to the one who knocks it will be opened”

Every word that Jesus says he means and Jesus never makes an empty promise that he may or may not deliver on.  He always backs up his word with action.  Hey, anyone that predicts his own death and then promises he will raise from the dead three days later has made a bold statement.  But when he actually delivers on it…that person should be taken seriously, especially when he makes promises!  Furthermore, Jesus is not often redundant in the scriptures, so I think it should be noted that when Jesus repeats himself like he does here in Matthew 7:7-8 we ought to really listen to what he is saying.

He also makes other similar statements about prayer:  John 14:13-14, John 15:1, John 15:16, John 16:23-24, Matthew 18:19, Matthew 21:22, Mark 11:24

But he goes even further to make his promise certain in our hearts by defending that promise!

9) Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? 10) Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? 11) If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!

The other day my son Hudson came inside after playing outside with the neighborhood kids.  He was hot and sweaty, like he had just finished running a mile, and asked for a glass of water.  What do you think I did?  Let me tell you first what I did not do.  I did not give him a glass of gasoline and say, “Drink up son!”  Nor did I say, “You are barking up the wrong tree, go ask your mother.”  Why didn’t I do that?  Because I’m not stupid, nor am I a horrible parent.  I am certainly not the best parent, my wife is a much better parent than I am, but I’m smart enough and love my kids enough to at least attempt to give them what they need when they need it rather than harm them.  My son asks me for help because he knows this and trusts me.

As a parent you expect your children to trust you.  Why?  Because you love them and you have their best interest at heart!   The question that Jesus is posing is this:  Don’t you think that a perfect Father with perfect love and perfect power can and will take care of his children even better than an earthly father can and will?  Jesus is actually giving a defense for trusting our Heavenly father.  Why does he need to defend his father?  Because, Jesus knows us better than we think.  Though we may not want to admit it, the truth is that we often don’t trust God. 

James 4:2  “You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask.”

It could also be said “that you ask not because you trust not.”  We too often and too quickly trust ourselves, our means, our motives/intentions, our money, our doctors, our friends, our spouses, our parents before we trust God. We rob God of the trust that he so rightly deserves!  The crazy thing is that God is more trustworthy than any of these other things.  In fact, He is really the only one that we can trust, the only one that will never let us down, the only one that delivers on EVERY promise that he makes.  In reality, we are robbing ourselves!

3 Things we need to remember here:
God loves us.  The illustration that Jesus uses of a father and son communicates the basic truth that God loves us more than even the deep love that human parents have for their children.  God’s love is perfect because he is perfect.  Out of his love for us he desires to meet our need and answer our prayer.
God will to give us what we need, not necessarily what we want.  Jesus mentions the children ask for bread and fish.  These things are basically necessities of life.  God promises to provide the same!  He may not provide us with the life of ease and luxury that we all want, but he will certainly make provision for us with what we need!
God is good.  Jesus’s point is that if we as humans, who are sinful and tricky, can muster up the ability to give good things to our children, why would God who is holy, good, and perfect not do so much more.  God is good and he will be good to his children.
  • James 1:17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.
  • Romans 8:28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good
God will always give us exactly what we need when we ask.  He loves us and he is good.  He wants us to ask.  And when we ask, he promises to answer.

He always has an answer and his answer is always the best thing for us!  He’ll tell us “yes,” “ no,” “wait,” or “you need this, not that.”  He’s God, He’s Good, and He love us.  TRUST HIM, ASK HIM!

So when you pray, realize that it's more than "just a prayer."  You are tapping into the promises of God.  Prayer is taking the need of man by the pursuit of faith, and bringing that need to the unending and powerful supply of a God who is loving and good and promises to answer.   When you put all of that together…you get something great.  You find...the door is opened for you.

Oct 24, 2013

Asking, Seeking, Knocking, Part 2

Prayer is not a 40 yard dash, it’s a marathon. 

 Prayer is a Pursuit
Matthew 7:1-11

“Ask, seek, knock.”  These are all active verbs denoting continuous action
We often treat prayer as a brief moment when we say something to God.  But prayer is not a moment, it’s a pursuit, Paul said “pray without ceasing.” 1 Thessalonians 5:17

David said, “Evening and morning and at noon I utter my complaint and moan, and he hears my voice” Psalm 55:17

Prayer is not a moment, meeting, or a memo.  It is not a merely a point in the service, a good way to begin and end.  The church today as reduced to a have to and supposed to, not a get to…not a journey, a ministry, a pursuit.  Prayer is something that we so often throw in because…if we don’t then the puzzle won’t be complete.  We make dream, plan, organize and then finally we pray asking God to be in what’ve we’ve come up with and to bless it.  Like prayer is the final piece of the puzzle.  Prayer is not a piece of the puzzle, but it is the box that guides us to putting the pieces together.  Without it nothing that we attempt or do can happen!

I’m not sure that God is desiring just a moment of Prayer from us…but rather I think that what God desires is a movement of Prayer!

Billy Graham said “To get the nations back on their feet, we must first get down on our knees.” 

The pursuit is of prayer is what our nation needs and personally it is what we need!  Prayer is a pursuit, and adventure.  As in any journey and pursuit there are a few things you discover and learn along the way.

Through the pursuit of prayer we learn:

We learn about ourselves

As sinful people are seeking the face of a holy God, we realize who we are.  Through prayer God takes us from where we are to where he wants us to be.  Maybe this is why prayer is such a struggle for us, we want the need met, but we don’t want to be any different.
It’s like going to the doctor if you are hurting, sick, etc.  You have questions, you need answers, you have problems you need solutions.   Your job is to take yourself to the doctor.  The doctor’s job is to find out what the problem is.  So he examines you up and over, in and out.  He takes your temperature, blood pressure, he asks you all sorts of questions about our lifestyle and habits, he even weighs you (I hate it when they do this…I mean really?  What does my weight have to do with a sore throat??!!)  In the pursuit the doctor discovers and sees parts of you no one else has.  He’s going to find the problem and when he finds it he’s going to tell you what must be done about it.  Sometimes the solution is something he will do (medicine, surgery, etc).  Sometimes it’s something you must do (health, diet, exercise).
Prayer is somewhat like this.  We take our questions, problems, dreams, and dilemmas to the Great Physician and do you know what he does?  He examines us, up and over, in and out.  He takes the temperature of our attitude, the pressure of our activities, he asks us all sorts of questions about our lifestyle and habits, he even weighs our heart.  Our Heavenly Doctor knows and sees part of you no one else has…not even yourself.  He is going to find the problem and when he finds it he’s going to tell you what must be done about it.  Sometimes the solution is something he will do (healing, intervention, blessing, etc).  Sometimes it’s something you must do (confession, repentance, changes).

We learn about our God

Psalm 63 is a great example of this.  As David sought God he learned a great deal about the one whom he pursued.

We learn about our need

Have you ever prayed for some you need God do and then found yourself as you pursued God for an answer that your request for the need changes?

 As we embark on the pursuit of prayer our prayers often change

In Matthew 15:21-28 we see a great example of a woman who pursued Jesus asking for him to heal her daughter.  By the end of the pursuit we see that her prayer changed to “Lord, help me.”


 C.S. Lewis said this, “I pray because I can’t help myself.  I pray because I’m helpless.  I pray because the need flows out of me all the time – waking and sleeping.  It doesn’t change God- it changes me.”

Prayer is probably why we aren’t effective day.  When I look at the influence of the church in America today and especially in my community something is missing.  When I think of the power that is my life and the lives of many people I worship with weekly, something is missing.  We are weak, diminishing, and worn out.  Why?  Because we are in great need.  We need his power, his presence, we need God to do what we cannot do.   We need prayer! "Well, then let's throw a prayer meeting together" we often say.  Unfortunately, in my experience most prayer meetings that I've thrown together have not been well attended.  Throw a fall festival, have a concert, give something away and people show up in droves, but when a prayer meeting is organized there are plenty of available seats.  I think we are missing something.  We’ve reduced our prayer to a moment and meeting rather than a movement.  A necessary box to check rather than a lifestyle.  We are making a point before God, but we’ve not made a pursuit of God.  Now, don't get me wrong prayer meetings can be great, but only if they as they are part of our journey and pursuit of God in prayer.

Prayer is something we pursue and we don’t stop until He answers.  Treat your prayer life like a marathon, not a 40 yard dash.  Take a voyage with God through prayer, not just a quick trip around the corner.  Ask, seek, and knock...He will open the door, you will find Him, He will answer.

Oct 18, 2013

Asking, Seeking, Knocking

“God is great, God is good, let us thank Him for our food.  Amen.” 

Probably a prayer that you learned early in life if you grew up with church in your childhood.  We learn to pray at an early age and we teach our children to pray as soon as we can.  We said a prayer of confession, repentance, and faith as we began our relationship with Christ, the “sinner’s prayer” as we call it.  Prayer is the first spiritual discipline that we pick up on.  We’ve done it most of our lives, we believe in it, we know that we that should do it.  The concept isn’t hard to grasp, the practice isn’t hard to learn, yet a solid prayer life is so difficult to have.  Speaking honestly, I’ve struggled with prayer.  Part of my profession is praying for others…yet in no way do I believe that I’m a professional at it.  Sometimes I drift off and ramble in my prayer.  Sometimes I try to shape my prayers with exaggerated and eloquent speech.  Sometimes I have no idea what to pray.  And shamefully I admit that sometimes I don’t want to pray and just don’t pray. I’m hoping I’m not the only one!  I also don’t think that I’m the only one who wants a rich prayer life.  I want to see the Lord answer my prayer.  I want Him to be pleased with my prayer life.  I want prayer to be a serious and vital part of my life. 

Something Jesus said about prayer caught my eye recently and I want to share with you some things I thinks Jesus wants us to understand about this simple and powerful spiritual discipline.

Matthew 7:7-11
7) “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 8) For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. 9) Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? 10) Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? 11) If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!

I’ll discuss some thoughts about this passage over the next couple weeks, but let’s start with this…

Prayer is Born Out of a Need

“ask, seek, and knock” 
The most basic reason that we pray is that we need something.  You ask for something you don’t have.  You seek for something because you don’t possess it. You knock on a door because you want what is on the other side of the door.  There are a lot of reasons we pray:  thanksgiving, praise, adoration. But the most basic reason is that we have needs.  There things in our lives that we cannot do on our own, otherwise we would not have to ask, seek, or knock

Prayer admits at least 3 basic things about our need:

·         It Admits Our Weakness – we usually pray because a need has risen in our lives that either too intense for us to bear with sanity or because the solution and answer is out of our power and hands, we cannot do it.

·         It Admits His Power – that He can supply what we need

·         It Admits His Control – things and matters are ultimately out of our control.  Prayer confesses that He is in control.

Some of you are facing a need in your life that you cannot handle on your own.  Your power is insufficient, you’ve done all you can, but it’s out of your control.  Prayer is the solution to your dilemma.

·         Here’s what I’ve often thought when I get to a dilemma where I tried everything I can, but realized things are out of my hands:  “Well, ya should have gone to him in the first place and maybe you wouldn’t be where you are!”…maybe this is true, but I’m not sure it matters to God as to how you got to him, but that you have finally brought it to him.

·         Prayer is transaction of the offering of your need to a God who can supply all your needs.

We have a need, and we have a God who can, who wants to, and who will meet that need if we ask, seek, and knock…

The Bible is full of examples of talented, faithful, mighty people who did incredible things for God but also deeply needed and used prayer.  Jacob, Moses, Joshua, David, Solomon, Elijah, Daniel, etc.  Great men with great needs, who at some point in their journey realized their weakness, his power and his control.

Bottom line is this:  we are people with lots of real needs.  Things that we can’t do, questions we don’t know the answers to, and necessities that we cannot get.  That’s why we pray, because we need him.  We are weak.   We need a powerful and able God to intervene in our chaos and mess.  We need his help.  We need what only he can give.  Things are spinning out of our control, but they are not out of his control.  He is in control.  So, ask, seek, and knock.  Jesus tells us to, he encourages us to, he want us to!