Ani Kolleshi photo.

Let’s talk about COVID-19 or the Wuhan flu. What should the Christian response be?  Certainly, it should not be fear or panic nor should we be suspicious or view this with disdain.  I have to admit that I tend to view this as if we are burning the ship to save the passengers.  However, I’m wondering if this crisis isn’t more about God’s divine hand in using something bad to slow people down a bit and make us focus on what is really important.  What is important is knowing God and loving people, and the present distress gives us an opportunity to do both. 

We are in slowdown mode!  No school, no church service.  Staying home more.  What a great opportunity for families to just be families again and spend time together.  What a great time for dads to step up and lead their families spiritually.  What a great time to memorize some Scripture together.  What a great time go for a walk as a family.  The outdoors are not off limits, get out and enjoy God’s creation.  What an opportunity to read some good books and more importantly The Good Book! What a great opportunity to take some real time in prayer.  So dear Christian, don’t brood over what you can’t do, rather rejoice in what you can!

The second aspect of this is how we can respond to our neighbors. 

Franklin Graham posted this on social media a couple of days ago.  I think it is an excellent point of view: Many years ago, the great writer and theologian A.W. Tozer made this profound statement, “A scared world needs a fearless church.” That is so true. During this time with the coronavirus, fear is gripping the hearts of people around the world. There is a mountain of anxiety and alarm, and it is still building. It is as real as the virus itself—but it is treatable. There are people in need that we can reach out to help. Like a fireman runs to the fire, the church needs to respond to crises around us. We who are the church need to stand up and be the hands and feet of the Lord Jesus Christ. During these days of less group activity and gatherings, we could all take time to call and check on the elderly or others who are alone. Maybe you could offer to drop off some food or necessities they might need. Talking with someone on the phone, listening to what they are going through, and most importantly, praying with them, could change not only their day, but their entire outlook. We need to share the “reason for the hope that is in you” (1 Peter 3:15). Jesus Christ is our hope, our anchor, our comfort, and our peace. Let’s share His love with as many people as we can, making every day count. Christians, God can use you. The virus isn’t the only thing that’s contagious. What if we had an outbreak of people helping people and a sweeping eruption of prayer?

We can be the hands and feet of Jesus here and now.  We just need to see the opportunities.

I was encouraged by this passage this morning: 1 Peter 1:3-9, Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ, whom having not seen you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, receiving the end of your faith—the salvation of your souls.


Photo by Ev.

Sometimes, my devotions send me in the wrong direction.  If you read the Daily Bread devotional booklet, you might remember the one entitled “Jesus in Disguise” by James Banks.  (August 13, 2019). Mr. Banks told the story of his son participating in a “homeless simulation.”  He basically camped out on the city streets for a couple to days to help identify with homeless people. That sounds very noble, but I wasn’t so convinced and so my mind wandered.  The point of the devotional was to be like Jesus and care for people.  That I agree with, but the real issue we have is why are people homeless and does camping out with them really help you identify the problem? 

So I go to the word to see what does the Bible have to say about this subject?  Here are a couple of Biblical references to see God’s mind on this issue.

Deuteronomy 15:7, If there is among you a poor man of your brethren, within any of the gates in your land which the Lord your God is giving you, you shall not harden your heart nor shut your hand from your poor brother.

Psalm 41:1, Blessed is he who considers the poor; The Lord will deliver him in time of trouble.

And there are many others text we could reference here.  God expects His people to be compassionate.  He expects us to help those who due to circumstances beyond their control need a hand up.  God also says…

2 Thessalonians 3:10, For even when we were with you, we commanded you this: If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat.

Proverbs 6:6, Go to the ant, you sluggard! Consider her ways and be wise.

God expects those who can take care of themselves to do so and to have the wisdom to plan for the future.

God isn’t sending us mixed messages here.  He expects people to work hard and not depend on others for their existence.  He also expects us to help those who are helpless.  We see both sides expressed to us in the book of Galatians. 

Galatians 6:2, Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.

Galatians 6:4-5, But let each one examine his own work, and then he will have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another. For each one shall bear his own load.

It seems to me that the issue within modern Christianity is that we are not addressing the right problem. In Jesus day, people were poor or even homeless because of circumstances beyond their control.  A widow in the ancient cultures may well lose all. An orphan had no one to care for him and thus become a beggar.  Drought and famine could take the prosperous farmer to a state of homelessness, as could injury or disease. It seems to me that we need to realize that the poor and the homeless of Jesus’ day wasn’t exactly the same as in our modern culture.  Our problem is drugs and alcohol from which homelessness is a result. The vast majority of the homeless in our culture are homeless because of drugs. Yes, there are some who become homeless because of adverse circumstances not of their own doing, but that is a very, very small number.  If you watched the documentary “Seattle is Dying,” you can’t miss the point.  Drugs are the problem.  It seems to me as long as we continue to identify homelessness as the problem we are missing the real problem and so come up with the wrong solution.  You will not solve the homeless problem in America until you first deal with the drug issue; and you won’t solve the drug problem until you deal with the heart problem. 

So when someone “pretends” to be homeless in order to better identify with the homeless, I tend to be skeptical.  Until you know the power of the drugs, the overwhelming urge to stay high, and the bodies longing for the next fix, you aren’t really identifying with the homeless.  You may realize some of their hardship, but you really can’t identify.  If I was homeless and someone was out there pretending to be homeless, I’d resent it.  I’d feel like it was demeaning, besides the fact that it’s basically a lie!  I don’t want to question this young man’s heart or his motives.  I’m sure they were pure, but I feel they were misplaced. 

So what can we do?  Well, we can follow the Biblical mandate.  Take care of our own lives first so we can care for others.  Don’t covet and don’t horde.  Take care of your family, don’t expect the government or the church to do so.  Take care of those in the body that may need help if you can.  Take care of your neighbor. Help the helpless.  Realize that if we are talking drugs, alcohol or mental illness you can’t fix this.  Throwing money, food, clothing or even housing at the problem won’t fix this.  In fact, it may make it worse.  In these cases we have to deal with the core heart issues or mental issues that are beyond physical Band-Aids. 

Why the Violence?

Christopher Lemercier photo.

A few days ago, America was rocked by yet another mass shooting.  Everyone is asking why, what has happened to America?  In my opinion, we are missing the obvious answer. God’s Word is clear why this happens.  Romans Chapter One gives us a clear picture.

Because of the nature of man, vs.18

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness,

Ungodliness’ is living like there is no God.  It’s simply doing our own thing and telling God to take a hike.  It’s loving our sin more than reverencing God.  God hates sin!  God judges sin.  We sin because it’s our nature, but it’s also our choice. In Genesis Chapter Four, we see that Cain chose to murder his brother because his brother displeased him. He lived and acted like there was no God. He chose to murder his brother.  When we yield to the fallen nature, the result often is violence.  We see it in the smallest child to the grown man who abuses his wife.  We are sinful by nature and by choice.  When we accommodate that nature, violence often happens. 

Violence can also happen in cultures that suppress the truth. Genesis 6:11-12, The earth also was corrupt before God, and the earth was filled with violence. So God looked upon the earth, and indeed it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted their way on the earth.

Back in Romans 1:18, the end of this verse is very interesting.  “Suppress” here is the word “ka-tekh-o” meaning to “hold down.”  Isn’t that exactly what we do as a nation?  We ignore God’s word, we reject it, we oppose it!  There are consequences for doing so. When an entire culture chooses to live like there is no God, the culture will suffer, which leads us to our next point. 

Because of deterioration in the culture, vs.19-25

Vs. 19-20, Because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man—and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things. Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves, who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.

God says, all of mankind is without excuse.  No one can say “I had no idea God existed.” Here is why that is true.

(1) Within every person is a God awareness, the “moral code” written on our hearts.

(2) The creation proves the existence of God, so there is no excuse for not acknowledging God as the supreme authority.  The design of the creation proves beyond a doubt there is a creator who must by definition be God.  The God of creation has reached out to us through His Word, His Spirit and by His Son. 

The text tells us “They knew God.” Everyone who got off the ancient ark, knew God, their descendants knew God.  But along the way, the truth of God was rejected for a lie.  What people tend to do is “change the glory of God” by corrupting the truth of God,  putting the focus on the creation rather than acknowledging the creator.  The theory of evolution is the highest form of this.  It is a belief system! Evolution is the worship of the creation rather then the Creator.  It is the religion of atheism.  This is where the problem in America lies.  We can trace all the ills of our culture back to embracing the origin of our beginning to evolution! 

Romans 3:10-18 quotes various texts in Psalms and Isaiah.

As it is written:

“There is none righteous, no, not one;

There is none who understands;

There is none who seeks after God.

They have all turned aside;

They have together become unprofitable;

There is none who does good, no, not one.”

“Their throat is an open tomb;

With their tongues they have practiced deceit”;

“The poison of asps is under their lips”;

“Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness.”

“Their feet are swift to shed blood;

Destruction and misery are in their ways;

And the way of peace they have not known.”

“There is no fear of God before their eyes.”

No fear of God!  This is exactly what embracing the theory of evolution has produced! 

When you lose your fear of God, you devalue human life.  The result is violence!

From this came the sexual revolution of the 60s whose mantra was “God is dead.”

From that came abortion as a method of birth control, which is the modern day equitant of offering our children to Molech.

From this also came extreme Environmentalism, literally making the creation god.  This produces a culture with no moral compass and no respect for human life.

The result is HOPELESSNESS!  With the hopelessness, some have been ostracized.  Young men who have no hope and see no future despair and a certain element become violent.

I believe there is also a dark spiritual element as well. 

Ephesians 6:12-13, For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.

It is incumbent upon us to be light to this lost world. Don’t get distracted by the politics!  The real issue is morality.  So we must stand for truth! Kneel before God and Stand against sin. Stand up for what is right!

Considering all we learn from the Word of God and observe in our culture, we should not be surprised at evil outbursts in our culture. This lead sus to our next point.

Because we reap what we sow, vs.26-28

For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature. Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due. And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting;

We see here the results of a culture the does not fear God.  Sexual preversion is one of the results of a culture that has lost its way, and no longer fears God.  So God gives them there way:  Uncleanness, vile passions, a debased mind. That mind rules over them.  It then becomes the norm, and so does violence. 

Vs. 29-32.  Hits the nail on the head. 

Being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness; they are whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful; who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them.

This is exactly what we have become. But please realize this is not unusual.  The Church was born under Roman rule, a very similar moral culture to the one we live in.  God has ordained for us, the people of God to shine as light to a hopeless culture. 

Romans 1:16-17!  For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “The just shall live by faith.”

Don’t allow the darkness to overwhelm you, walk in light! 

Isaiah 60:1-2, Arise, shine; For your light has come! And the glory of the Lord is risen upon you. For behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, And deep darkness the people; But the Lord will arise over you, And His glory will be seen upon you.

What can we do?

(1) Pray! The great Welch Revival of 1904 began with prayer!

(2) We can act. Speak out about the underlying moral issues that cause these terrible acts.

(3) We must evangelize!  The only hope for our culture is to turn back to God! 

(4) Turn your eyes on Jesus!


People are fascinated with treasure.

People are fascinated with treasure.  We dive on ancient shipwrecks in hope of finding treasure.  We put on headphones and dance with a metal detector trying to find treasure.  We obtain old maps hoping to figure out where the treasure was buried.  It’s like an Easter egg hunt on steroids.  I’m wondering, have we ever considered the treasure found in the Word of God?  Yes, it’s buried, but it’s not hard to find.  Even a child can partake of it.  Let’s discover what the Word of God says about its treasure.

2 Corinthians 4:6-7, For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in earthen vessels that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us.

The first and best treasure is salvation. God, in His mercy, shines the light of His presence into our hearts and minds that we might partake of the treasure of eternal life.  The light of God shines on the face of Jesus!  He is the treasure!  He is the way, the truth and the life.  He is the Redeemer, the Savior!  In Him, we know the glory of God. 

God takes the treasure of His Son and places it in earthen vessels. Not in a beautiful treasure chest, not in a glorious Chinese vase.  He places His treasure in plain old ordinary people like you and me.  In so doing, the power of God and wisdom of God is on display because God is saving, using, and mobilizing regular people for His glory.  If you step back and look at what God has done in the world through the redeemed, it’s remarkable!  God takes the plain, the ordinary and hides His treasure deep within that the extraordinary things done through the lives of ordinary people might be understood to be only by the power of God through the person of Christ.

The Word of God also warns us about false treasure.  Not every things that glitters is gold.  When I was a child, we use to wander up on “Spud Hill” behind my grandmother’s house.  There we often discovered mica that sparkled like gold but was worthless. We liked to pretend we had discovered hidden treasure. 

Matthew 6:19-20, Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.

Earthly treasure is fleeting. It may be stolen or decay.  Fame and fortune are fleeting.  In light of eternity, earthly treasure is but a moment in time.  That is why it is so important that our worldview is beyond this world. 

The verses in Matthew are a warning about false values.  Earthy treasure gives the things of this world too much importance in life. The downfall begins with coveting, which lead to greed or lust and ends in a love affair with stuff or fame.  When we love “stuff,” we cease to love God.  As Christians we must constantly police our hearts and examine what we love. 

God also speaks to us of true treasure.  Matthew 12:35, A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good things, and an evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth evil things.

It’s what’s inside that counts.  True treasure is to value the things of God above all else.  To value God, to value His name, to value His Word and to keep his statutes is true treasure.  To surrender to the Spirit, to pray earnestly, to love well, this is true treasure.  With this treasure comes joy. If you look at people who have earthly treasure, are they really joyful?  I read a statistic years ago that 80% of all lottery winners’ marriages ended in divorce. If earthly treasure was so satisfying, the number should have been well below the 50% national average, not abovt it.  Earthly treasure does not truly satisfy; true treasure does.

True treasure produces righteousness in the person who possesses it. Righteousness is simply “right living.”  Godly living comes from God loving. 

We want to mine out that good treasure that bears eternal value and reject the “fool’s gold” that has no real lasting value. 

How do we know that we are really mining the real gold and not the false?  Jesus gives us a test to evaluate our treasure. 

Matthew 19:21, Jesus said to him, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.”

As you examine this interaction of Jesus and the rich young ruler, it seems Jesus is testing his values. The young man felt he had given all and done all until Jesus asked him to literally give all he had, then he had second thoughts. The test is really “what do you love more than Me?” Are you willing to give it all up to be a follower of Jesus? It’s easy to say “absolutely” until Jesus asks us for something specific like sports, or hobbies, or a job. Why would He ask us to give up such wholesome things? Because they are getting in the way of our truly following Jesus with a whole heart. The point of your salvation is not your happiness; it’s your holiness. The point of it all is the glory of God. So the test is, are you willing? Some are; many are not.

One day, we shall all stand before the Judgment Seat of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:10). On that day, our treasure will be judged. 

1 Corinthians 3:11-15, For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is. If anyone’s work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.

From this passage, we understand that Christ is the foundation of our lives and that He ultimately is the treasure!  From the foundation, we build either with worthless materials or precious materials. What makes the difference? The heart. This building is our life, and we are putting it up brick by brick. Our building is our life events or works that are established on the Rock the Lord Jesus Christ. What kind of works are they? Will they stand the test of time? Are they works that are eternal or just superficial that will be lost in judgment?  The works that last are the works that Jesus does through us! It’s not about what we do for Him. It’s all about what He desires to do through us. So the lasting works are those moments in time when we surrender our lives to Christ and He works though us by the person of His Holy Spirit. 

So dear Christian, where is your treasure?  We live in a culture that is crazy about stuff and fluff. We, as followers of Jesus, have a higher calling.  It’s not about the stuff; it’s about treasure in heaven.  It’s about things that will last for eternity. Wherever our heart is, that is what we truly treasure, either the thing of the culture or the things of God. 

What About Marriage?

We live in days of great confusion about morality, gender, rights, marriage.

We live in days of great confusion about morality, gender, rights, marriage. 

I thought it might be profitable in this era of confusion to meditate a bit on Christian marriage.  We must recognize that marriage is not just a Christian institution; it’s a human institution! Marriage was ordained of God before the fall of man; and thus, it was given to all men for all time, not just Christians.  However, today, let’s go beyond the basic institution of marriage to “Christian Marriage.” Just as God has called us to the “higher calling” in life, so we also have a higher calling in marriage. Ephesians chapter 5 is a great text for us as we consider what it means to be a Christian within the covenant of marriage.  I realize this epistle isn’t about marriage; it’s about living the Christian life. However, as marriage is a big part of our life, let’s study through this text with marriage in mind. 

Sanctification in Marriage. The need to protect Marriage

Ephesians 5:2, And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma.1

Please consider carefully the phrase, “Walk in Love,” What does that look like? 

When you see a couple strolling along holding hands, you think, “Ahh, there is a couple in love,” but in reality they may not be in love at all.  They may just be going through the motions. “Walking in love” looks like Jesus! Note what Paul exhorts here, “As Christ also has loved us.”  Christ is our example. He walked selflessly.  If we want an exceptional marriage, we first need to die to self!  There are always marriage conflicts and life conflicts as two sinners come together under the covenant of marriage. These conflicts can be traced back to loving self.  James 4:1, Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members? 1

When a couple constantly point their fingers at their spouse and spout a litany of grievances without owning their own wrong doing and bad actions, they are consumed by self.  To protect your marriage and to allow it to prosper, you have to overcome self!

Vs.6-7, Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not be partakers with them.1. Don’t be deceived by “empty words.” The secular view of marriage is just that, empty words that have no understanding of what marriage really is. To the secular world, marriage is optional; it really doesn’t mean much.  God’s view of marriage is that marriage isa divinely instituted lifetime covenant whereby a man and a woman become one.  Marriage literally means “joining.”  A covenant is an “agreement” we enter into, a sacred bond to love, honor and cherish one another until death do we part.  Marriage is something we should take very seriously, but also joyfully! It is God’s gift to us. It separates man from the animal kingdom and reiterates that we are indeed made in the image of God. There is a need for us to protect our marriage by not buying into the worlds view of marriage but rather keeping God’s view of marriage in the forefront. 

Vs.8-10, For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth), finding out what is acceptable to the Lord. 1 One of the key phrases here is finding out what is acceptable to the Lord.” What does God want our marriage to be?  As we view the Scriptures, it becomes pretty clear. (1) God wants two people to become one; one mind, one goal, one standard, one force. This doesn’t mean that Christian couples lose their individuality or don’t disagree or disappoint, but rather that they are able to overcome obstacles and walk this road together in unity because they love their mate more than themselves.

(2) God wants us to fulfill our God given “roles” as husband and wife.  Ephesians 5:23, For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body.1

Headship does not mean a dictatorship. Husbands are to be heads of our home as Christ is the head of the Church. That means sacrificial love.  In the Christian model of marriage, we see husbands bearing the burden of life and wives coming along side to buoy him up. Think of riding a bicycle built for two. Both people are working toward a common goal, but only one can steer. 

Vs.14, Therefore He says: “Awake, you who sleep, Arise from the dead, And Christ will give you light.”1

Our key phrase here is: “Give you light.” If you really want a good marriage, we have perfect instruction, the Word of God. We have perfect illumination, the Holy Spirit.  The problem is we usually want the other person to change rather than really wanting to work on changing ourselves.  God gives light, you must walk in it! 

1 Jn. 1:7A, But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another.1 Who is the “we” here? Is this communing with God or fellowship with men? It works for both.  When we walk in the light, we have fellowship with God and that fellowship then translates into divine fellowship with fellow Christians, and hopefully our spouse.  If you want a thriving marriage, you have to intentionally work on it by working on you. This is the best way to protect your marriage from complacency, discord, and alienation. 

Edification in Marriage, or how to nurture your marriage

vs.15-16, See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil.1

Paul exhorts us to walk carefully! The thought is not like walking on egg shells but rather to walk deliberately. Why are marriages falling apart?  People don’t walk carefully. They often take their relationship for granted; and then one day, it’s too late, the marriage is kaput.  We need to continually work on affection and submission. This is foundational to marriage. We live in dangerous times, and to redeem the time we need to make the best use of it.  We do that by loving well and selflessly. 

Vs.17, Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is. 1

Understanding…Lord is” What is God’s will for your marriage?  That’s easy, stay Married!  But even more important is that your marriage might glorify Him! When we walk well as individuals and as a couple, we are allowing our marriage to be what God intended it to be, a union that bears His image. 

Vs. 19, Speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord. 1

Are you saying we should “sing” to each other?  Well it wouldn’t hurt! I think the thought here is about the emotion of joy, to have a merry heart (Proverbs 17:22). 

Enjoy life together, Enjoy Jesus together! 

Vs.20, Giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.1 Give thanks together! Count your blessings. Remember the good things and be thankful. Joy and thankfulness in marriage will nurture and strengthen your relationship. 

Vs. 21, Submitting to one another in the fear of God.1

“Submit” means to “come under” or put the other person above yourself! 

To nurture your marriage, you need to realize the perils and pitfalls that are out there and that many couples fall into.  Marriage isn’t easy-it’s work-but it’s also very satisfying when we participate the way God intended us to. God will use your marriage to reveal the weakness in your character that He might accomplish His perfect will in you. It’s not just about marriage!  It’s about sanctification. We nurture our union by putting the other person’s needs ahead of our own.  When both husband and wife are living for the other, marriage works! 


Glorification in Marriage. How to glorify God in Marriage.

How wives can glorify God in Marriage:

Key verses: 22-24, Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body. Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything.1

Don’t get so hung up on the “submit” word and miss the key phrase, “As to the Lord” If a wife loves and honors her husband, she will come under His leadership and trust him to lead.  Let him be the head of the home. Allow him to carry the weight. In so doing, God is glorified. 

1 Peter 3:1-5, Wives, likewise, be submissive to your own husbands, that even if some do not obey the word, they, without a word, may be won by the conduct of their wives, when they observe your chaste conduct accompanied by fear. Do not let your adornment be merely outward—arranging the hair, wearing gold, or putting on fine apparel—rather let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God. For in this manner, in former times, the holy women who trusted in God also adorned themselves, being submissive to their own husbands.1

That inward adorning glorifies God!

How husbands can glorify God in Marriage:

Vs.25-29,Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish. So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church.1

Again, don’t miss the key phrase here, “As Christ Loved.” That is sacrificially.  When we love our wives, we put their needs above our wants.  Husbands who love their wives in this way bring Glory to God.  1 Peter 3:7, Husbands, likewise, dwell with them with understanding, giving honor to the wife, as to the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life, that your prayers may not be hindered.1

Here the key words are “understanding and honor.”  Husbands love and honor their wives when they realize that this is the woman God made just for him.  A husband’s attitude should be that his wife is God’ gift to him, just as Eve was God’s gift to Adam; and therefore, he values her. 

At the end of the day, marriage is all about glorifying God.  “Whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”1 1 Corinthians 10:31.  Including Marriage!

Your marriage needs to be about Jesus in you! 

Marriage is about two becoming one.  It is a metaphor of salvation. Vs.31-33, “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church. Nevertheless let each one of you in particular so love his own wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.[1]

As we have become one with Christ, so we become one in marriage.  This is something we need to celebrate and make sure we are getting right by protecting, nurturing and glorifying God in marriage. 

[1] The New King James Version. (1982). (Eph 5:31–33). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

Discipline of the Body

We have been working through the book Discipline The Glad Surrender by Elisabeth Elliot

It is my privilege to meet with a group of elders once a month to learn, fellowship and pray together.  We have been working through the book Discipline The Glad Surrender by Elisabeth Elliot.  This month we were discussing the discipline of the body.  Here are a couple of quotes from Chapter Seven of the book I thought were pertinent. 

Discipline, for the Christian begins with the body.” 

Isn’t that so true! From the discipline of the body comes all other disciplines. If we can’t rule over our own body, we probably aren’t able to discipline much of anything else. 

“We cannot give our hearts to God and keep our bodies for ourselves.”

If Jesus isn’t Lord over our bodies, then Jesus isn’t Lord at all. His dominion in our lives is all or nothing. He did not make us to live independent of Himself. He made us to be dependent and to worship and that begins with disciplining the fallen urges of the body.  I think Romans 12:1 is the optimal text here:

Romans 12:1, I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. 1

The very act of presenting our bodies to Christ as a living sacrifice is an act of worship.  We are acknowledging Him as Lord and giving to Him what is rightfully His, our lives which includes the physical body.  So in presenting the body as a living sacrifice, we discipline the body.

Elliot covers four areas that the body needs discipline in:  1. Food.  What we take into our bodies and how much.  2. Sleep. The body needs rest and therefore we must discipline when we go to bed and when we get up.  3. Exercise. The body needs to move and we must be intentional in this. 4. Sex. The body is designed by God for reproduction within the confines of the marriage covenant.  To quote Elliot here, “If marriage is not included in God’s will for an individual, then sexual activity is not included either.”  I couldn’t agree more.  We must also then define marriage as a God given covenant between a man and woman. Elliot didn’t have to make that distinction when she was writing. How sad that we must.

It occurs to me as I look over this list, food, sleep, exercise and sex, that the world you and I live in has attacked each and every one of these areas of life to such a degree as to almost make it impossible to live the disciplined life.  Take our food, for example.  We have so much highly processes food that is so cheap and easily available that it seems impossible to avoid it.  This highly processed food is at the root of the obesity crisis in America.

As Christians we must consider what we eat and how much if we are truly presenting our bodies to God for His glory.  Moderation in all things is the key. Limit processed foods, eat vegetables, fruit, and meat and you should be healthy.

Then we have exercise. With the advent of modern technology, we have kids and adults that are addicted to games, television, phones, and social media.  That means that kids often don’t go outside and play; they stay in inside and sit. Our new neighborhoods are constructed with no yards for kids to play in and so they don’t.  We might send them to the park, but that also has its threats from drug dealers and gangs.  On the other end, we have people who are so enthralled with the gym that working out has become their idol and their body their temple, their place of worship. As followers of Jesus, we need to walk well, not just spiritually but physically!  Let’s be intentional to make sure we exercise the body.  When you go to the mall park as far from the door as possible.  That way you are giving prime parking spaces to others and you get in a walk.  Make exercise a part of your lifestyle, but don’t let it become an idol! 

Sleep also is under attack from technology.  We stay up late and watch the tube and wonder why we or our children can’t sleep.  The body was made to go to sleep when the light fades, so plan on turning off all the electronics well before bed time and let the brain settle down before lying down for the night.  It’s a great time to read a book to the kids or to settle in with a cup of tea.  Be intentional in preparing for sleep. 

And last, but not least, there is the issue of sex!  Where do we start in describing the attack of the culture on the sexual relationship? It’s everywhere and it is exploited to the place that it has become the driving force of the society. In many ways, we are reaping the results of the sexual revolution of the sixties.  The results are death and divorce. As Christians, we must guard the mind to protect ourselves from lowering this wonderful gift of God to married couples to something animalistic.  Discipline what you take into you mind for the glory of God. 

So you see, dear friend what we are up against when it comes to disciplining the body.  Everything is under attack and out of proportion.  We have gone from moderation to over indulgence.  So what do we as the children of God do?  We become even more intentional in disciplining the body. We don’t want to over react and become hermits; but we do need to realize that if we are going to bring our body under subjection, we have to recognize the threats of the culture.

Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 9:27, But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.1

His thought here of being disqualified from ministry was to be “benched,” unable to participate.  When we don’t intentionally rule over the body and its longings, we are then unintentionally worshipping ourselves rather than the God who made us. 

So there is a war out there for the mind and the body.  We have to engage the war for the good not just of the body but the soul. 

The New King James Version. (1982). (1 Co 9:27). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

Surviving or Thriving in Ministry

Ministry, in general, and the pastorate specifically, can be a joy or a grind.

Ministry, in general, and the pastorate specifically, can be a joy or a grind.  Those of us in pastoral ministry tend to blame the flock if it’s a grind and pat ourselves on the back if it’s a joy.  In reality, it’s not about the flock. I realize that some flocks are easier to shepherd than others.  I realize that some days it’s a grind and some days ministry is a joy.  But when we consider a body of work, what is the overall view?  Has your ministry been a joy or a grind?  In the big view of things, it’s not about the flock; it’s about you.  Jesus died to deliver me from me so that He could live through me. That is true for you as well. That means the ministry isn’t about my satisfaction or happiness.  It’s not about the flocks satisfaction or happiness. The ministry is all about the work of God through you, and so the point is to thrive in that ministry rather than just survive.  I think there are five activities that need to be true in the lives of those who minister to thrive.  When these aren’t true, we are merely grinding our way through our days of ministry.  That’s a tragedy!

1. Preach the Word!

2 Timothy 4:1-5, I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom: Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables. But you be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.1

This exhortation to young Timothy is as relevant to us in the modern era as it was in the first century.  We live in an age of great apostasy, some of which is very subtle.  It is so easy for pastors to get sucked into the spirit of the age and leave the fundamentals of the pastorate, that being Biblical preaching!  The truth of the Word of God is always relevant; it never becomes outdated.  Yes, sometimes the truth of the Word hurts, but only for a season.  When it has accomplished its perfect work, the true disciple will receive it as intended, the work of the Holy Spirit.  As a minister, you are an opportunity in the body for the Holy Spirit to do His work.  If the sound teaching of the Word is rejected, don’t take it personally.  They aren’t rejecting you; they are rejecting Christ.  So preach the Word without fear and see what God will do. 

I think Jesus’ words to Saul on the road to Damascus are instructive to us. 

Acts 26:16 & 18, But rise and stand on your feet; for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to make you a minister and a witness both of the things which you have seen and of the things which I will yet reveal to you. To open their eyes, in order to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who are sanctified by faith in Me.”1

What a sacred calling we have.  What a glorious task, to be used of God to transform lives.  That is why 2 Corinthians 5:19is so precious to us.  That is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation.1

He has committed to us, those who preach the Word, the ministry of reconciliation!  This is not about reconciling men to men, but men to God!  What an awesome and holy calling.  If God has called you to this, He will empower you for the task.  As you are empowered for the task of preaching, the Word of God will be at work in you first.  As you minister the Word by the power of the Spirit, you will find great satisfaction in your ministry because it’s not about you, but about God in you. 

2. Keep yourself in love with Jesus.

Philemon 4-7, I thank my God, making mention of you always in my prayers,  hearing of your love and faith which you have toward the Lord Jesus and toward all the saints, that the sharing of your faith may become effective by the acknowledgment of every good thing which is in you in Christ Jesus. For we have great joy and consolation in your love, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed by you, brother.1

What was the first characteristic that Paul praised in the life of Philemon?  His love toward the Lord Jesus!  It’s so easy in ministry to get our eyes off the prize. The prize is not glory nor fame, nor fortune, nor full pews.  The prize is knowing Jesus and loving Him well.  When we love Jesus well, we love ourselves little.  That sort of love results in what we see in Philemon, “the hearts of the saints have been refreshed by you, brother.” 

While loving Jesus allows us to love the flock well, it also help us to endure the hardships of life and ministry. 

1 Peter 1:7-8, That the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ, whom having not seen you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory.1

Don’t miss what Peter is saying here.  Even in those times of testing, our heart issues are what really matter.  It seems that testing just brings out what is really in our hearts.  So, if we love Jesus well, if we love Him more than anything or anybody, when the time of testing comes (and it will), the character of Christ in us will come to the forefront. When we keep ourselves in love with Jesus, we thrive in ministry despite our circumstances. 

Jude 21, Keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life.1

3. Guard your heart.

One of the dangers of ministry is becoming cynical. The problem with shepherding is that we shepherd sheep not doves. Sometimes, sheep can be blessing; and sometimes, sheep can run over you. If you get run over a couple of times you start putting up walls and expecting the worst.  Your view of the church becomes tainted and “stinkin’ thinkin’” rules the mind.  If we go back to our quote from Philemon, the second characteristic Paul praised was Philemon’s love for the saints!  “Hearing of your love and faith which you have toward the Lord Jesus and toward all the saints,”

Paul also said of Philemon that he was a blessing to the saints. “For we have great joy and consolation in your love, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed by you, brother.” 

It’s hard to refresh the saints if we have hard hearts towards God’s people.  There is a constant need to check our attitudes in ministry. Paul wrote the following to Timothy in 1 Timothy 3:15, I write so that you may know how you ought to conduct yourself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.1

If we are going to conduct ourselves well in the house of God, we have to make sure our hearts are open to God’s work in us first that we might be used of the Spirit to make a difference in the lives of others. 

Paul wrote to the Church at Philippi, which would include their shepherds.  Philippians 4:1, Therefore, my beloved and longed-for brethren, my joy and crown, so stand fast in the Lord, beloved.1

While they were standing fast against oppression, we as pastors sometimes must stand fast against our own thinking. Negative thinking does not further the Kingdom of God. 

1 Peter 1:22, Since you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit in sincere love of the brethren, love one another fervently with a pure heart.1

This applies to us as pastors as well as to the congregation. Maybe even more so. 

4. Crown the True King!

We have been called to shepherd the flock, not to be the “king of the hill.” 

1 Peter 5:2-4, Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers, not by compulsion but willingly, not for dishonest gain but eagerly; nor as being lords over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock; and when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that does not fade away.1

Peter exhorts elders to shepherd with a correct attitude, that being love for God’s people, not a pay check.  He also explains that we are not the “Lord” over the flock; we are simply God’s shepherd for that flock.  He is the “head” shepherd; we are under Him.  I have seen pastors who were convinced they were doing God’s work; but in reality it was their work all along.  It was their pulpit, their church, their kingdom; and if any one rocked the boat, it was their way or the highway.  How tragic!  We are called to lead the flock, not drive it.  We are not the sovereign over God’s people; He is. After all He is the one who died to save His own.  We didn’t. 

I think sometimes pastors get caught up in the hype.  They take to heart all the praise that comes following a Sunday service and really think it’s about them when in reality they are being praised for what the Holy Spirit is doing in the hearts of men and women.  While you have been a blessing to the flock, you are not the one who blesses.  It is God who is doing the work; you are just the hammer in the Master’s hand.  Appreciate that you are appreciated, but don’t buy into the hype. 

Satan’s downfall was that he became proud and lofty and thus, lost his way.  His thought-process is recorded in Scripture. Isaiah 14:14, I will ascend above the heights of the clouds, I will be like the Most High.’ 1

I’m afraid that sometime we as pastors have this same attitude. We are convinced we are doing the Lord’s work when in reality we are serving ourselves.  We need to place the crown on its rightful head. The crown belongs to Jesus, not us.

Matthew 23:12, And whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.1 We need to take this to heart. We can’t expect to thrive in ministry when we usurp God’s crown.  Instead we should live out a previous truth found in the same gospel. Matthew 6:33, But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.1

This doesn’t just apply to our secular life, but our spiritual and ecclesiastical life as well. Seek God’s kingdom above your own and you will thrive in ministry. 

5. Know when to walk away

This concept cover two separate aspects of ministry, living in ministry and leaving a ministry.  As we think of living in ministry it’s important that you don’t live and breathe ministry. We need distraction from ministry or we will burn out early.  I think it’s important to have outside interests that occupy your mind. Some pastors hunt or fish, some like to play soft ball.  I enjoyed homing pigeons.  Whatever the hobby, do something besides ministry or you will go crazy!  But be aware that hobbies can become idols!  Don’t let that happen. 

I realize that as a pastor you are always on call, and that is as it should be.  But you need to limit those who will continually demand your time.  They will eat you up. Don’t let 5% of your flock take up 95% of your time. Learn to say “No” gracefully, for your sake, your family’s sake, and for the sake of the high maintenance member.

You also need to take time to rest and rejuvenate spiritually.  Psalm 23:1-3, The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul He leads me in the paths of righteousness For His name’s sake.1

Let Jesus lead you so you can lead the flock!  Take some time off.  Take time to rest.  Take time to pray.  Learn to be quiet. 

Matthew 11:29 Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”1 This is a wonderful promise from Jesus to us, but please note there is a yoke to be taken.  That means we come under His tutorship continually and find rest. 

I love what God said to Moses in Exodus 33:14, And He said, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.”1

That is exactly what we want.

The second aspect of walking away is literally walking away, leaving a ministry.  Sometimes pastors leave because they just can’t take it anymore. The flock has treated them badly and they are hurting and battered and have had enough. Make sure you aren’t leaving for the wrong reasons. Leaving should be about the calling of God.  He called you to this ministry and He will call you to another. If God is moving you on, then embrace it, but don’t run from a difficult pastorate.  God may be making you restless because the flock needs someone else’s gifts for this particular body and another flock my need your specific gifts.  Be aware of the moving of the Spirit in your life.  Where God is leading you, follow.  If He leads you to stay, then stay; and if He leads you to move on, do so graciously and leave the flock healthier then you found it. 

2 Peter 3:13-14, Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. Therefore, beloved, looking forward to these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, without spot and blameless;[1]

[1] The New King James Version. (1982). (2 Pe 3:14). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

Vacation Time!

It’s summer vacation time! Time to get away! But do we take a vacation from God?

It’s summer vacation time!  Time to get away! But do we take a vacation from God?  I hope not. God goes with us wherever we go.  That means that even when we are away on vacation, we still worship God, we still serve God, we still represent God.  While you may be on vacation from your secular life, let’s make sure we aren’t also on vacation from our spiritual life.  Take your Bible with you and while you are on vacation, take a vacation to God! 

When we take a vacation, we usually ask four questions: 

(1) Where will we go?

(2) What route will we take?

(3) Where will we stay?

(4) What will we do?

1. Where will we go? 

This is usually our first problem in taking a vacation, where to go?  One of our favorite places is the Pacific Ocean.  By the seaside we find peace and rest.  What a great way to get away from it all and just listen to the waves roll in. 

Matthew 11:28, Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.1

We find that place of spiritual rest in Jesus.  The labor He is speaking of here is the burden of religion.  Religion can be a lot of work!  Religion is all about us reaching up to God, while true Christianity is God reaching down to us. It seems to me that is what Christ is speaking of here. So while you are on vacation make sure you take some time to be alone with Jesus. Don’t be so busy that you don’t truly rest. By all means, have a good time but also refresh your soul. 

Isaiah 55:1, Ho! Everyone who thirsts, Come to the waters; And you who have no money, Come, buy and eat. Yes, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.1

Wow, think of it, going on vacation without expense!  That is what we can do when we take a vacation to God!  Here is the offer, just come to me and find rest for the soul.

Revelation 22:16-17, “I, Jesus, have sent My angel to testify to you these things in the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, the Bright and Morning Star.” And the Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let him who hears say, “Come!” And let him who thirsts come. Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely.1

Come and drink freely!  No expense to stay, no motels to book, no food to buy.  Just come as you as are and drink deep from the blessings of the Bright and Morning Star! 

Ephesians 5:1, Therefore be imitators of God as dear children.1 An “imitator” is another way of saying a “follower.” To find that place of refreshment, we have to be willing to follow God!  Spiritually, we will go towards God or away from God. I don’t think you can stay in the same place. Not moving forward is moving back. If we want to lead our families, if we want to lead our church, we lead by following!  If we don’t lead by following then we are leading by wandering! Where are you leading?  To God or away from God? Make a conscience effort to lead your family toward God. 

So when you physically go on vacation, follow well to lead well.  Don’t take a vacation from the spiritual.  Have family devotions. Attend church wherever you are.  Pray together.  It will be the best vacation you’ve ever had! 

2.  What route will we take?

Usually when we are headed out on vacation, we get out the maps or we bring up Google on the computer and research the roads we will be driving to reach our destination. It’s important for us to know how to get where we are going or we will spend all our time needlessly wandering about. 

God’s Word says a lot about the path we should take. 

Psalm 16:11, You will show me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.1

Proverbs 4:14-19, Do not enter the path of the wicked, And do not walk in the way of evil. Avoid it, do not travel on it; Turn away from it and pass on. For they do not sleep unless they have done evil; And their sleep is taken away unless they make someone fall. For they eat the bread of wickedness, And drink the wine of violence. But the path of the just is like the shining sun, That shines ever brighter unto the perfect day. The way of the wicked is like darkness; They do not know what makes them stumble.1

I like the writer of Hebrews’ take on this: Hebrews 12:1-2, Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.1

The “cloud of witnesses” are all the folks listed in Chapter 11 of Hebrews who walked by faith, no matter the cost. We are exhorted here to lay down the weights of life and the burden of sin that keep us from running the race and look at Jesus! 

Once we are on that path we need to stay on it.  Ephesians 5:2, And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma.1

The path of love is way to go. It is interesting that we are brought together by truth, but we are kept together by love!  Love overcomes. Let’s not forget the verses just before this exhortation to love. Ephesians 4:30-32. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.1

Love overcomes the flesh! The flesh keeps us from following Jesus.  The path Jesus asks us to walk is the same one He walked. Love says: “Take up your cross and follow.”  Salvation is free, but Christianity will cost you something.  Travel this path, dear friend, knowing there will be a toll!  Yet, the joy of the journey! So be willing to pay the price.  Do we love Jesus enough to follow?  To pay the tolls?

But there is another route.  It may seem easier, it may seem faster, it may seem like a shortcut; but in the end, it leads us away from the destination, not to it.

Ephesians 5:3-7, But fornication and all uncleanness or covetousness, let it not even be named among you, as is fitting for saints; neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks. For this you know, that no fornicator, unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not be partakers with them.1

Here we see the exhortation “Be not partakers with them.”  Yet, we find all of these things among God’s people!  How can that be?  Many have chosen the route that appears to have no toll.  Yet, there is a hidden tax!  The idea of a “no cost” Christianity is a falsehood.  In reality, the price of wandering is far greater.  The loss of fellowship, the loss of relationships, the loss of family, the loss of joy and the loss of love. It’s a very steep price to follow the wrong path. 

3. Where will we Stay?

We know where we are headed and we have the route planned. Now where will we stay along the way?  On my fiftieth birthday, my sweet bride surprised me with a trip to the Oregon Coast where we stayed in a hotel right on the beach. It was wonderful!  To look out at night and see the moonlit waves rolling in, to hear the breakers and to smell the sea, it’s almost heaven on earth. 

When we take our vacation to God, it is important that we stay in one and only one place.  John 15:4, Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me.1

When we abide, we stay put. Jesus is teaching us here that we need to continue to draw our strength from him by surrendering our lives daily to His Holy Spirit.  When we abide we produce good fruit, the fruit of the Spirit.

John 16:33, These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”1

When we abide in Christ, the brokenness of the world, while it may well hurt, cannot overwhelm us.  We are in Christ and He has overcome! 

But if we choose to take the easy way, the “no cost” Christianityroute, here is where we stay; Ephesians 5:8-12, For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth), finding out what is acceptable to the Lord. And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of those things which are done by them in secret.1

The exhortation here is not to have “fellowship with darkness.” When we fellowship with the darkness, we are dwelling there.  We are choosing to stay in a very dangerous place.  We have the light of God, but sometimes we let it get pretty dim. 

We have a couple of biblical examples.  Lot, Abraham’s nephew who dwelt in the gates of Sodom, found himself in a dangerous place.  The light had gone dim.  The prodigal son who left the abode of his father to embrace riotous living found himself starving and eating with pigs.  The light had gone dim. What happened with these two? They chose to abide in the wrong place. When you go on vacation, the last thing you want to do is put yourself and your family in danger. Don’t put yourself and your family in spiritual danger by abiding in the wrong place!

Where will we stay if we desire to truly follow Christ? According to vs. 8-10, above, we will abide in the light! 1 John 1:7, But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.1

Our fellowship with God and with one another is based on walking and dwelling in the light of God. The only way I know to do that is reading the old Book! God’s Word is a lamp to our feet, (daily guide) and a light to our path (for a lifetime). (Psalm 119)  If you really want to stay in the light of God, spend time in His Word and time on your knees. Ephesians 5:13-14! But all things that are exposed are made manifest by the light, for whatever makes manifest is light. Therefore He says: “Awake, you who sleep, Arise from the dead, And Christ will give you light.”1

4. What will we do? 

It seems to me there are two types of vacationers out there.  Those who really work at play and those who don’t!  Kathy are I are in the latter category.  When we go on vacation, we like to eat, sleep, and walk on the beach.  When we take a vacation to God, what will we do?  What is the activity? Worship! 

John 4:14, God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”1

Psalm 29:2, Give unto the Lord the glory due to His name;

Worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness.1

Psalm 95:6, Oh come, let us worship and bow down; Let us kneel before the Lord our Maker.1

Revelation 14:7B, Fear God and give glory to Him, for the hour of His judgment has come; and worship Him who made heaven and earth, the sea and springs of water.”1

When you take a vacation to God, you leave the world behind and you worship!

So if we truly want to enter into to worship, we have to be intentional in where we are going spiritually.  Ephesians 5:17-18,See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit. 1

Vs.18 is talking about control.  When a person gets drunk, they are out of control.  They do stupid things. What influence will control your life? That is the exhortation here. 

What will we do? We will worship and walk in the Spirit!  The word “circumspectly” means “exactly” or with a purpose.  Not wandering like Israel in the wilderness.  Not driving around aimlessly like a lost tourist.  God has purpose for your life.  That purpose is His glory. So we will redeem the time….or let it slip away. Redeeming the time isn’t making every moment productive in a secular sense. It’s using the time to know God, to worship Him, and to then live in a way that makes a difference in the culture. 

So in taking a vacation to God, we ask the same questions we do in taking any vacation. 

Where will we go? Either to God or from God. It’s our choice. 

What route will we take? Either the way of love or the way of the flesh.  It’s our choice. 

Where will we stay? Either in Christ in the light or in the world in the dark.  It’s our choice.

What will we do? Either worship and fellowship with God or go our own way.  It’s our choice. 

Matt. 11:29, Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.[1]

Summer Vacation time is here!  When you go on that vacation, take a vacation to God!!   ENJOY HIM! REST IN HIM!  FIND RESTORATION FOR YOUR SOUL! In so doing, you glorify Him!

[1] The New King James Version. (1982). (Mt 11:29). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

Why do bad things happen to good people?

Why does God allow suffering

The question is often asked, “Why does God allow suffering?” Disease strikes the good and the bad equally, accidents happen to great people and innocent folks. Oftentimes, missionaries suffer while serving God in a foreign land. We wonder, why? Couldn’t God protect them? Couldn’t God have kept them safe?  In this article we want to make the connection between suffering and sin; God and suffering; and lastly, the Christian and suffering.

Suffering and Sin

Ecclesiastes 3:11, He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also He has put eternity in their hearts, except that no one can find out the work that God does from beginning to end.1

In the beginning, God made everything perfect. There was no suffering, no death.  What happened?  How do we go from no suffering to mass suffering?  In Genesis 3, we see the disobedience of Adam and Eve, and with their disobedience came consequences.  With their sin came suffering and death. 

Genesis 3:7-8 & 16-19 Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves coverings.And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden.

To the woman He said:“I will greatly multiply your sorrow and your conception; In pain you shall bring forth children; Your desire shall be for your husband, And he shall rule over you.” Then to Adam He said, “Because you have heeded the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree of which I commanded you, saying, ‘You shall not eat of it’:“Cursed is the ground for your sake; In toil you shall eat of it All the days of your life. Both thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you, And you shall eat the herb of the field. In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread Till you return to the ground, For out of it you were taken; For dust you are, And to dust you shall return.”1

Suffering is directly related to sin.  If man would never have sinned, there would be no suffering, but man did sin and ushered in all manner of suffering. 

God is not the author of sin nor is He the author of suffering.  Suffering is the result of man’s rebellion.  That said, you may suffer, not as the direct result of your sin, but simply because you live in a sin-cursed world.

John 9:1-2, Now as Jesus passed by, He saw a man who was blind from birth. And His disciples asked Him, saying, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”1

The disciples believed that all suffering was directly related to one’s sin.  Their assumption was simply not true.

There are 3 categories of suffering:

(1) Natural causes. Birth defects, disease, accidents may or may not be directly related to your actions.  If you smoke, you may well get lung cancer.  Unfortunately, you may be perfectly innocent and still get cancer. This does not seem fair to us; however, we must accept that this is part of living in a sin cursed world. 

(2) Man-inflicted suffering. Cain killed Abel.  The Holocaust happened. School shootings take place.  Abortion is a common birth-control method. All of this is by the evil actions of men.  We wonder why would anyone do such things.  The answer is because they yield to their fallen nature.  Their minds have become reprobate, without moral conscience. 

(3) Mental and emotional suffering.  Consider what Adam and Eve must have gone through after the murder of their son by his brother. Worry, anguish, anxiety, stress, depression were probably all emotions they experienced. The human condition is conducive to this because of the fallen nature.

So there is plenty of suffering to go around because we live in a sin-cursed world!  Those who have active faith are better able to cope with suffering than those who do not.  People of faith realize God is sovereign, and the sovereign God cares for me! Job said “Though He slay me yet shall I trust Him.” (Job 13:15)

God and Suffering

In returning to the interaction of Jesus and His disciples concerning the man who had been born blind.  John 9:3-5, Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God should be revealed in him. I must work the works of Him who sent Me while it is day; the night is coming when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”1This suffering was for a purpose.  “That the works of God might be manifest”. 

We also have the example of Lazarus death. John 11:1-4, Now a certain man was sick, Lazarus of Bethany, the town of Mary and her sister Martha. It was that Mary who anointed the Lord with fragrant oil and wiped His feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was sick. Therefore the sisters sent to Him, saying, “Lord, behold, he whom You love is sick.” When Jesus heard that, He said, “This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through it.”1

Suffering always has a divine purpose, ultimately God’s glory.  God uses the suffering to bring us or others to Himself.  (Your suffering may allow you to minister to others who are themselves suffering 2 Corinthians 1:3-4).  God may heal those who are suffering for His glory. God may use suffering to purge rebellion from the life of the believer.  While ultimately suffering is the result of living in a broken world with a fallen nature, God does use it for His own divine purpose. 

Suffering often brings us to our knees. It is through the difficult times of life that we learn dependence on God. While sin is the cause, God is in control!  He chooses to allow us to suffer for a purpose. 

We also need to consider the Law of Sowing and Reaping:

Galatians 6:7-8, Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life.1

There are consequences for our actions. If you eat poorly for many years you shouldn’t be surprised if you have bad health.  God expects us to use the brain He gave us!  He expects us to care for our bodies, our minds and our spirits.  Oftentimes we sow a mess, and then expect God to clean it up, but we must reap what we have sown. That is true for nations as well. 

We also need to understand that bad things happen to good people

Ecclesiastes 9:11-12, For man also does not know his time: Like fish taken in a cruel net, Like birds caught in a snare, So the sons of men are snared in an evil time, When it falls suddenly upon them.1

Life isn’t fair. God allows life to happen. God’s will isn’t that people should suffer and die.  He originally made mankind perfect and eternal.  But the wages of sin is “suffering” and death.  Because we live in a sin cursed world, we suffer and Christians are not immune. In fact we may suffer because we are Christians.  Infact, that is normal in most cultures in our world. 

1 Peter 4:12-14 & 16 & 19, Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy. If you are reproached for the name of Christ, blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. On their part He is blasphemed, but on your part He is glorified.

Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in this matter.

Therefore let those who suffer according to the will of God commit their souls to Him in doing good, as to a faithful Creator.1

The Christian and Suffering

So when suffering comes our way how should we respond? 1 Peter 2:9, But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light;.1

Let us never forget what we have been saved from and to!  When suffering comes our way, let us remember that we are in Christ redeemed! 

Hebrews 4:14-16, Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.1

We must hold fast to Jesus.  We must come boldly to his throne. We need to see Jesus with fresh eyes!  He knows our suffering.  He suffered on our behalf! 

Paul wrote of this in Philippians 3:10, that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death,1

When we suffer we have a living glimpse of the wages of sin. 

If we are suffering, let’s not blame God but blame sin.  Could God have prevented it, or taken this suffering away? Yes!  This we know GOD HAS CHOSEN NOT TO. That’s all we need to know. 

Romans 8:28, And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.1

2 Corinthians 12:9-10, And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.[1]

We don’t have heaven on earth, but we do have Jesus! 

[1] The New King James Version. (1982). (2 Co 12:9–10). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.