Why Am I Here? And Other Easy Questions to Answer

Life appears complex, but occasionally you get glimpses of clarity that demonstrate life’s simplicity. The Bible is pretty good at boiling it all down.

“Vanity, vanity, all is vanity” is one good summation!

But when it comes to why we’re here, what the point of life is, the Bible makes it simple for us. We don’t need a humanly devised book telling us how to find our purpose driven life, or how to get our best life now.

Nope, all of that is merely humanistic deism. The Bible tells us what our purpose is and what our best life consists of, it is summed up in this

1) Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, body and strength
2) Love your neighbor as yourself.

Boom. That’s it! How easy it is to get sucked into all manner of other occupations and goals., but these merely keep you from what is vitally true and worthwhile.

Whatever it is you are doing, does it help you fulfill these commands? If not, don’t do it. If so, go for it. Much of our lives are lived for me, me, me. I do what I want, when I want, for what I want. And this is all vanity.

Loving God is an all the time goal, loving others fits into the first. You can’t love others if you are not loving God with all your self.

The way to know if you love God is to see how you love others. Are others an inconvenience to you? Do they get in your way, keep you from accomplishing your purpose and goals in life?!

Or do you give up your desires that they might be served? Your life is not your own, you’ve been bought with a price, therefore, glorify God in your body.

“Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.”

The Special Love of God on Display in Believers

The love that God has for the believer is different from the love God has for the unbeliever. If this were not so, then all would go to heaven and none would be eternally in hell (see Rob Bell’s book Love Wins where he makes this exact point and concludes that all will end up in heaven, On second thought, don’t see his book, it is wrong.).

If it is true that God loves people differently, then it must be true that we love people differently. This would have to be the case if we were being perfect as our Father in heaven is perfect or if we were born into the image of Christ.

So, the question to consider now is: Are we told to specially love one group above another?

We are told unequivocally to love. We are to love our enemies. As we love others we are to let God do the judging and vengeance. God loves the world, but He also has special love to those in His family, His faithful children.

I think we operate on the same principle.

I am never told to love my enemies as Christ loved the Church, but I am told to love my wife as Christ loved the church. Do I love all women like I love my wife?

What about this one:

“As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith.”

There is a benevolent love for all, and an especial love for those in our Christian family.

There is also a warning about taking care of widows. We are called to care for them all, but especially for those in our family. If you don’t show this special love for your own widows, you are worse than an unbeliever!

“But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel.”

The bottom line is this:

God is loving and willing to forgive anyone (love covers sin–forgiveness is based on love). His love is available for all as He loves all.

To reject this love, to not love back, short-circuits God’s love and you’ve now moved into the realm of being hated by God.

The believer–the one who faithfully follows God–loves all just as God does. We are not to hate anyone, but to let God take care of them in His just judgment and vengeance.

At the same time, there’s a special call to love those we are especially obligated to love. To deny this is to deny the faith because it does mockery to the character of God.

“therefore we both labour and suffer reproach, because we trust in the living God, who is the Saviour of all men, specially of those that believe.”

God’s Love and Hate

A couple days ago I was thinking about how God loves believers and unbelievers. The central question is: does God love them differently or do they merely stop the flow of God’s love because of their rebellion?

I imagine this is an unanswerable question to some degree, trying to define an attribute of God that is deeper than our comprehension.

At another point, I think Scripture reveals some things that can help us think better on the issue.

God’s love is demonstrated many ways, some of which don’t always look loving to the external view–having His only begotten Son crucified looked pretty mean, but was in actuality a great demonstration of love.

So, right off the bat we have to admit we are poor judges of what true love really looks like.

We also must take one of God’s attributes in light of all His attributes. God is love and God is also holy, holy, holy. God is righteous and just. You can’t just rip an attribute out of the whole and elevate it or press it out of measure.

God’s love is holy, righteous, and just and all attributes are those things perfectly. God does indeed love all people in the world. Based on my understanding of Scripture, Christ died for the sins of the world. Rejecting His offer of salvation, trampling under foot the Son of God, puts you in a very bad place and indeed you have stopped the flow of God’s love.

At the same time, we have to understand a couple other verses on the subject like Psalm 5:4-5

For thou art not a God that hath pleasure in wickedness: neither shall evil dwell with thee.The foolish shall not stand in thy sight: thou hatest all workers of iniquity.

And we’ll throw in Psalm 11:5 for good measure:

The Lord trieth the righteous: but the wicked and him that loveth violence his soul hateth.

God doesn’t just stop the flow of His love toward the wicked person; He hates them!

Does man merely thwart God’s love, or does God remove His love based on the faith/obedience of the person?

I would answer this question with a resounding YES!

Miley Cyrus is a Symptom, Not the Problem

One of America’s growing church phenomenons is a youth group called The Basement. It’s everything you would assume the most popular youth group in the USA would be.

Very cool. Very hip. Very awesomely loud.

The main guy who runs this deal, Matt Pitt, looks very cool and hip and awesomely loud. He puts on a good show.

As I’ll state one more time on my blog, youth pastors are not a biblical concept.

Mr. Pitt has recently been arrested AGAIN for impersonating a police officer. This after he ran from police while impersonating them and jumped off a cliff. Seriously. I can’t make this up.

As our nation mourns the loss of life in Syria today, oh wait, we’re not mourning that. As our nation mourns the loss of class in our favorite young “Christian” superstar, Miley Cyrus, let’s examine again the Church tragedy known as “youth group.”

I can’t help but point out that the slogan on the top of The Basements web site is, and I quote, “Not perfect. Just forgiven.”

Although we know the reality of the first part, the second part is unknown.

Let me point out once again on my blog the absolute inanity of such phrases. I know they sound good and your grandma probably uses these phrases in a fine way. But trust me, most people who use such phrases are merely justifying their sin and staying a long, long way from the biblical command to live soberly, righteously and godly in this present world.

Youth ministry isn’t working. Wondering when the Church will pick up on this.

Lay off Miley, and let’s question what in the name of Jesus Christ is the church doing to our youth?

Cell Phone Usage Is Sin. Yeah, I Said It. Here’s Why

Love is the central virtue of Christian faith. Love is a giving of yourself to another. We give ourselves to God and reflect this by giving ourselves to others.

This is common Christian knowledge. We know this. Yet we use cell phones.

Cell phone usage is sin. It’s the opposite of love. Especially smart phones. Allow me to pontificate upon my non-cell-phone using high horse. I do not own a cell phone and I do have Luddite tendencies, and there are reasons why.

1) Cell phones interrupt. I can’t tell you how many times during a conversation the one I am talking suddenly reaches into their pocket, pulls out a phone and starts talking to someone else. Our conversation is over. Ruined. Never to be restored. I hate that.

2) Cell phones feed pride. Are you really that important to be so readily available for communication? Good Lord, are you running a country or something?

3) Cell phones make you rude. People bump into others while looking at their dumb phone. People need to yell into cell phones interrupting everyone else in a four mile vicinity.

4) No one enjoys the now. Pretty sunsets must be photographed. Cute kids must be pictured and shoved in my face on facebook. All your pretty pictures are posted to feed your pride, you know it, I know it, everyone knows it. Just look at the sunset and praise God. People can’t just enjoy stuff with God anymore, everything has to be public. Stop it!

5) Fellowship destroyed. During a conversation the subject of The Beatles comes up, “When did the White Album come out?” There is debate, then the phones come out. Everyone checks wikipedia to find out the answer, which then leads to the checking of email, facebook, etc and the conversation is over. Fellowship is broken. Can’t we just talk and have an argument and enjoy ourselves? Why so much need for wikipedian certainty? Can’t we just talk?

6) You look stupid. Ok, looking stupid isn’t a sin, but I believe you are doing a disservice to the image of God by walking around staring at a little, glowing screen, bumping into people and ignoring the life and lives around you.

7) Lacks manners. Can’t tell you how many guests I have had in my house who spent more time looking at their dumb phones than looking at my family. Seriously? You come here to see me and then stare at a dumb phone? You should have just stayed home and emailed me.

8) I can’t hear you. Cell phones are notoriously horrendous for hearing what in the world you are saying. This is why you yell into your phone, see. Saying “what?” every 10 seconds is a waste of all things precious and dear. You are wasting my time and your breath.

9) Cell phone inattention. People on cell phones often call from places as a way to waste time. Driving home, waiting at a restaurant or any number of other activities have your attention, so you call me to pontificate on who knows what (I can’t hear you remember). In the middle of my sentence “Oh, my table is ready, see ya.” And off you go to eat your meal with the people YOU ARE WITH who are wondering why you were talking to someone else when they were right there!

10) Leads to sinful communication. Texting and talking on a phone is recipe for disaster. The Bible recommends we speak sparingly (read Proverbs). When we do speak, we are to speak with spiritual discernment, bringing thoughts captive to Jesus Christ. When you spew off and shoot out the junk in your head quickly, you will sin. You will gossip. You will cuss. You will say something you should not have said. Use some restraint. Think about what you want to say, then arrange a time to go say it to the person. It’s the best way and would cut down on much hostility in our world if people spoke face-to-face.

There is no way a person can be demonstrating Christian, Christ-like love while using a cell phone. I will not back off that statement. It is a tool of the devil and you are now accountable for having been informed of The Truth.

Thank you. Have a fine day.

God Doesn’t Really Love You Just The Way You Are

OK, one more quote from the thing I read the other day about God’s love. One more bit to be exorcised before I leave it and move on. He goes on to say,

“God perfectly loves me, as I am, and longs for me to be the me He created me to be.”

Now, again, it might just be the words he uses, but I feel like puking after reading that. I cringe that it is now on my blog. We are all dumber for having read that.

He does go on to say in the article that we are to be conformed to Christ, but he also stops and defends the “but I’m not there, and God loves me, so you should too.”

And, again, this is true, and yet from what I know of this guy, I can guess what he means. In full disclosure, he’s a Christian who defends his homosexuality.

His point is this: don’t judge my homosexuality, Jesus loves me. Which again, Jesus does love him, but we need to be careful.

Although people like to talk about the Bible’s descriptions of God’s love, there is one (at least) huge verse we skip all the time in talking about God’s love.

“Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”

Wait, people quote that verse all the time about God’s love. Yeah, I know, that’s not the verse yet, it’s the verse that comes immediately after this verse.

Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you.”

Why do we skip that one? Wouldn’t we want to know who His friends are to know who He did this greatest showing of love for? I would think so.

Does God love you just as you are? In one sense yes, but He loves you so much He doesn’t want to leave you there. I love my kids and my love will not let them stay just how they are. My love exists to change them into adults who leave behind childish things.

The father who loves his son chastens his son. God’s love is not content with me as I am; it is content to change me into who God wants me to be–into Christ–NOT A BETTER ME!

That’s where the quote above train wrecks. God wants my flesh crucified and the life of Christ in me! He doesn’t want a better me; He wants Christ. No longer I but Christ! That is love!

Do All Have God’s Perfect Love? I Don’t Think So

I read this thing about love the other day and I tried to ignore it. I really did. I was just gonna let it go, but it keeps sitting there in my brain waiting to be exorcised.

I have lots of problems with the way people talk about God, love and Christianity. Most of what is said just irritates me, which is the opposite of love, I know, I know. But seriously.

Here is one bit that I read:

“If I am to possess the kind of love for people that God holds, how is that going to happen?

“The beginning of love is to let those we love be perfectly themselves, and not to twist them to fit our own image. ¬†Otherwise, we love only the reflection of ourselves we find in them.”

The struggle is to figure out how to love others as God loves, which is a fine thing to think on. The author goes on in the next paragraph to say,

“Before each of us comes to trust in Christ we are already perfectly loved by God. He does not require that we change who we are as individuals in order to first receive that love.”

Now, OK, let me say I agree to an extent. But then there’s this whole other extent to which I don’t.

Does God love everyone? Yes He does. “For God so loved the world.”

Does God love in a way that does not make them fit His own image? No. The whole point of the Gospel is to conform us into the image of Christ from glory to glory.

Is it true that God does not require that we change in order to first receive His love? Yes, He does not make us change to be loved, we love Him because He first loved us.

However, I take exception to the statement that “before each of us comes to trust in Christ we are already perfectly loved by God.” I don’t think so.

Now, again, maybe, depending on how you define words. An unbeliever is not “perfectly loved by God.” He just isn’t and there’s no way he could be. “Love covers a multitude of sin” yet the unbeliever does not have his sins covered, therefore he must not have God’s perfect love.

What about John when he says, “If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us.” If you are an unbeliever, you can’t love others, and thus, God does not dwell in you and His perfect love is not shown through you cuz it aint in you..

Again, I tried to let this go because I know the quote above is common knowledge in Christianity today, but it just hits me as being off.

There is a general sense in which God loves all people, and then there is a particular sense in which He loves His people. It’s the difference between how I love my wife and how I love the women in my church. It’s the difference between how I love my kids and how I love your kids.

The quotes above sound nice, who would argue with such things? Apparently I would. I’m probably a jerk, but alas, it had to be exorcised.

Faith Is Not About Achieving Goals and Dreams

Generally when we talk about faith and risks, we tend to think I should have faith to do the things I want to do but am too afraid to do.

In other words, we think faith is riding a mountain bike down a steep, rock strewn hill or writing a book and selling it. Although this may require some faith to accomplish, it’s really not biblical faith.

Biblical faith has very little to do with convincing you to do stuff you’re too afraid to do, it’s more to do with obeying God.

For instance, I wrote a book about the Bible’s perspective on money. Here’s the problem with the book, a criticism I heard repeatedly–it’s not practical.

Indeed! At least I know they read it!

If believers listened to the Bible’s advice on money we wouldn’t have much of it and people would take advantage of us constantly.

It is highly impractical. Leading me to my point:

Faith is impractical.

We walk by faith not by sight. Walking by sight means everything is laid out before us and is all clear and rosy, very hard to diverge. It’s like a train on a train track. You know where you are going and you know where you aint going.

But walking by faith is just you and the wide open spaces. Oh, and God telling you where to go and what to do, and He might wait 25 years in between guideposts.

Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God. Faith does not come by humanistic, rah-rah sessions of go-getterism. “You just need to believe and go get what’s yours!” Nu-uh. That’s not it.

Faith is all about, “Thus saith the Lord.” You can conjure up some notion of faith to accomplish a self-serving goal, but what requires true faith is to see that I am crucified with Christ, I am crucified to the world and the world to me.

Not only am I not living my life to achieve self-serving goals and ambitions, I am now living for a better country, setting my affections on things above and looking at what is unseen.

Totally impractical aint it? Yup, and that’s faith.

If Faith is Real, Then Whining Is Out!

Faith is proved by risk and generally involves waiting. Therefore, waiting and suffering are the most beneficial things for our faith.

Which is why as soon as suffering or waiting occur we begin to complain. It’s also why our prayers consist of telling God to end the suffering now.

Our flesh has no interest in us growing in faith. Our flesh wants its comfort and its normalcy. It has no use for risk and certainly has no use for waiting for someone else to provide. Let’s just go get it, man!

At some point you will face waiting and suffering and there will be nothing you can do about it. Perhaps it won’t surface until your deathbed, but it will come.

At that point, when your flesh can no longer deliver, what will be your response?

I have seen many grow greatly impatient, turn on others and melt into despair on their deathbeds. Most of these people are those who lived their life fighting for their own, being all they can be, using all human means to achieve all too human ends.

I have also seen others approach suffering with calm assurance. Yes, there is pain and frustration, the pains of death should not be taken lightly, but their resolve was unshakeable. It stemmed from a faithful life.

Eternity is a long time and this life is short. The development of patience, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness and the Spirit’s whole fruit, only result from faith–Faith that is strengthened by what weakens the flesh.

Faith is a way of life–the just shall live by faith. It is not a one time nod toward God. We walk by faith not by sight. Faith is what gets us through and what forms us into Christ and allows us to show His love and fruit to others.

“Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong.Let all your things be done with charity.”

Struggle Proves Faith

Faith is easy thinking about it in a chair.

Faith is tested when you are living, facing a temptation, a trial, when an unexpected obstacle presents itself. Then what? Is your faith activated or is it the furthest thing from your mind?

Back in college I used to mountain bike. I took some chances. I was young, a little dumb, but I was also uninsured, so I wasn’t that dumb.

I graduated from college 17 years ago. Haven’t done much mountain biking since. But lately they’ve built new mountain bike trails about 4 miles from my house. They use these trails for serious mountain bike racing.

They are tough. I haven’t mountain biked in 17 years. I am out of shape and a chicken. There are many parts of this trail that freak me out. I turn into a little girl.

This photo is taken on these new trails by my house. This photo is not me.

My problem is that I have no faith in my skills, my conditioning, nor in the makers of the trail. I have seen enough of their tricks to know I should be worried.

My rear brake pads are about worn into nothing now.

Thinking about mountain biking is nice. Reading books about mountain biking is nice. Riding on the smooth roads to the trails is easy. What is not easy is mountain biking.

I fear this is the way many feel about their Christian faith. They speak of it as so easy, so breezy. This clues me in that they have no idea what faith really is.

Faith is a race to be run, a fight to be fought. It’s not easy. It’s hard, which is why faith requires faith! If faith is easy, it’s not faith.

I fear that many people’s “Christian faith” is merely head knowledge, fine thoughts and impressions, spewing platitudes with no bearing in reality.

I’ll know a person has faith when they struggle with it!

Suggestions to Test Your Faith

Faith is tested by time. My family and I made a rare excursion to Kentucky Fried Chicken last week. The nearest KFC is about 60 miles away and I personally don’t really care for it that much–too greasy.

But one of our kids likes it, so for the fourth time in their life we went out of our way to go there. We had a busy day of tromping around and it was hot and the kids were tired and the chicken was taking FOREVER!

The slouchy moping began. “Where’s our food?” “Uh, I’m so hungry I could die.” “I could eat a whole cow right now.” “Is this food ever coming?”

We waited about four minutes, that was it, but to these young minds it was an eternity. Four minutes for chicken, potatoes, cole slaw, biscuits, potato wedges and drinks. Four minutes for all that.

Israel wandered in a desert for 40 years eating bread and drinking occasional water. We struggle to wait four minutes for a plenteous buffet of food (albeit very greasy food).

I think we miss that whole 40-years thing. We love judging Israel for their whininess in the wilderness, for whining about bread and meat and water. But yeah, KFC takes four minutes and we’re fit to be tied.

Not to mention this was one of approximately 150 restaurants in a two-mile radius we could have gone to.

Faith is tested by time. It is so easy for us to shortcut faith and take care of stuff on our own. Yeah, we get our desired end, but is our faith stronger?

Perhaps we could do to exercise some faith. Here are a couple suggestions to exercise faith in our on-demand-society. Don’t do these all at once! Just suggestions to help us exercise some faith, turn our minds to the One who truly provides and perhaps unplug from our hyper-consumer culture:

–Next time you want something, don’t buy it, pray about it and see if it shows up some other way. This is a cool one, I’ve been amazed at how this one works.

–Determine not to eat until someone offers you food. Every time your stomach growls thank God for providing all those meals in the past!

–Take a favorite hobby/interest and decide to never buy anything for it again and see if you can still make it work.

–Make your possessions last as long as you can, resist the urge to get the update. God also let Israel’s clothes last for 40-years. Do you pray for God to sustain your possessions or just run out and get the next pair?!

–Next headache, don’t take the meds, suffer through it in prayer and think of the poor people who lived before aspirin and ibuprofen were invented!

Yeah, I know, these are cheesy, but only necessary because we have so disconnected our lives from faith that it takes stupid suggestions like this to even consider being dependent on God. It’s easy to say “God answers prayer” when you never need Him to.

Testing Faith

Faith is an easy thing to claim to possess. Most people say they “believe in God.” Many would say they “believe in Jesus.” The words are easy to say, what is difficult is to have them be true.

God tests people’s faith. One of the reasons life drags on is so God can tell just who we are. Words prove nothing; how we live proves everything.

When Abraham did get his son, after 25 years of waiting, God tells him to sacrifice his only son, the son he waited 25 years to get. The son who would carry on his line to produce a great nation.

So, and this still amazes me, Abraham went ahead to sacrifice his son! We’ve heard the story so much it has lost its remarkableness. Imagine that morning.

What did Abraham tell his wife? Did he tell her anything? Did he just leave the house with the boy? What did they talk about on the way? What sorts of “daddy issues” did Isaac carry with him after all this?

Another amazing aspect of this story, besides the story itself, is when Abraham is about to sacrifice his boy, God says:

“Lay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou any thing unto him: for now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me.”

Notice God doesn’t say “Now you know you fear me.” God says “Now I know you fear me.” What a statement!

Explanations of this tend to throw it back on “Well, God just said that so Abraham knew he feared God” but that’s not at all what it says. God wasn’t sure before this whether Abraham really feared him or not.

I don’t think this puts a shot to God’s omniscience, I think this shows that God uses what we do to determine what we believe.

It’s why every single future judgment in the Bible is based on works, it’s not based on words you said.

Yes, God knows the heart. Yes, God hears your words. And out of the heart springs everything. What in your life right now is a test to see if you truly believe? I bet there’s something!

Faith Involves Waiting

When Abram was 75, God told him he would father a nation. Only problem was Abram had no kids.

So, Abram and his wife sat around waiting for the kid. Abram turned 80. No kid. Abram turned 85. No kid.

Abram and Sara probably wondered, “Um, were we supposed to do something here?” Sara came up with the idea of letting Abram impregnate her handmaid Hagar.

When Abram was 86, Ishmael was born. But God made it clear he was not the intended kid.

Abram turned 90. Still no promised son. Abram turned 95. Still no kid.

Abraham was 100 years old when Isaac was born.

God waited 25 years before He fulfilled the promise made to Abraham. Why?

I suppose there are many reasons why God waited. I can’t possibly speak for God on this one, but I have a theory.

God likes to wait. Abraham wasn’t the only one who has to wait for promises to be fulfilled. Hebrews 11 is filled with guys who had to wait.

Waiting is a test of faith–that’s my theory. Hebrews 11 is a chapter celebrating faith and most of these faithful few had to wait. Waiting is integral to faith.

We live in a world of “give me and give me NOW!” Faith is rarely seen in our on-demand society. God takes forever. It’s easier to use human means to get our human ends than it is to wait for God’s timetable.

There are few who are saved.

Faith Makes You Lonely But Not Alone

Although the life of faith can be lonely, there are always more than we think there are. Caleb had his Joshua. Elijah had thousands of others he was unaware of. Daniel had his three friends.

But even in all this, it feels lonely and there certainly aren’t a plethora of companions on the way.

Perhaps this few and far between-ness of faith is what makes the Church so special.

Unfortunately, most of our churches are filled with lukewarm people who know little of Christian faith and much of secular humanism.

Our world is filled with distraction. Today people are “busy” all the time and yet their busyness is largely filled with fluff stuff that really has no bearing on anything of true value.

The church has become so much like the world that when push comes to shove, you might as well take the world as it does entertainment much better. The church is supposed to be separate, calling people apart to be still and know God.

It’s difficult to call busy people who are surrounded by yelling. How do you grab the attention of those who have no attention?

You don’t, which is why faithfulness is a minority. There is way to much competition for your attention. I have looked at about 37 web sites since I began pecking away at this blog post. Perhaps you can tell!

Be still. Lead a quiet and peaceable life. Feel free to feel unwanted and useless in the face of all the world’s frantic “usefulness.” Don’t ever tell people you are “busy.” It’s rude and really means “I have no time for you, but I do for me and the stuff I want to do.”

Eliminate distraction. Pick some stuff in life that is pointless and eliminate it. This looks different for everyone, so I won’t tell you what. Boil your life down to a few things you want mastery of, then free up time to be there for others.

I think this is what church is for–a bunch of people who have made time for each other. It’s a shame the church chucks this for worldly busyness.

The Life of Faith is Lonely

Caleb got to go into the Promised Land when even Moses wasn’t allowed to enter.

Caleb is a great story of a guy who stuck with God despite being in a huge minority. People around him did not have the faith he had and left off where Caleb’s faith took over.

Everyone and their mother thinks they have faith in God. “God” can mean any number of things to people. “Faith” means any number of things to people, too. Saying you have “faith in God” can mean any number of things and probably means next to nothing for most.

The true test of faith, and one of the reasons kids in Christian homes have a hard time knowing if they have it, is when your faith makes you do what everyone else is not doing.

At the same time, some people are just weird and always do the opposite of what everyone does and faith has nothing to do with it.

Faith means hearing God’s Word. Faith and hearing imply obedience and the Bible goes further than imply it, the Bible even uses the words interchangeably at times.

Caleb knew the land was good and he knew there were giant bad guys in it, but Caleb also knew God said they would get it if they went in it. So, Caleb said, “OK, let’s go.” For Caleb, this was an easy decision.

I imagine he was stunned at the balking of his nation. “What? Am I the only one?” Yup Caleb, you are.

Faithfulness is always a minority. The road to destruction is broad. There’s always been a remnant. If you find that everyone around you does what you do, trust me, you aren’t living by faith.

Listen to Caleb’s take on his situation and tell me this isn’t one of the coolest testimonies in the world!

“Nevertheless my brethren that went up with me made the heart of the people melt: but I wholly followed the Lord my God.”

Leave the whiners behind and follow the Lord. Have the faith that strengthens you to rise above the esteem of man, the faith that sees Christ and Him alone. Then go do what He says.

Oswald Chambers on Being Carefully Careless

“So many of us think only of the visible things, whereas the real concentration, the whole dead-set of the life, should be where our Lord put it in the huge nugget of truth which we call the Sermon on the Mount.

“There our Lord says, in effect, to take no thought for your life; be carefully careless about everything saving one thing, your relationship to God. “

–Oswald Chambers
The Love of God, p. 67

Who Are You Praising When You Praise God?

Samson, as we all know, was a piece of work. God used him to judge the Philistines and seemingly used Samson’s stupidity to further His plan (which is encouraging!).

Samson’s final mistake was revealing the secret of his strength to his conniving wife. His weak frame was easily captured by the bad guys and Samson was humiliated.

The Philistines got together to celebrate and said, “And when the people saw him, they praised their god: for they said, Our god hath delivered into our hands our enemy.”

There are a lot of people in the world who are not worshiping and praising the One True God. There are even many Christians who are not worshiping the One True God.

I do not know who they are worshiping, but I know it isn’t Him. The reason I know it’s not Him is because of what they praise Him for.

The assumption is that when things go well, God is doing the good stuff. Just like the Philistines finally got victory and assumed their god was the reason why. Little did they know, God had a plan that would kill many of them.

We can certainly thank God for good things in life, but we are also to thank Him for the crummy stuff. Job is a great example of this. “Though He slay me yet will I trust in Him.” “The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away, blessed be the name of the Lord.”

Philistines praised their god for victory over Samson: I wonder if they praised their god when Samson wiped out many of them. I doubt it, they were probably too much like us.

If the only time we praise God is when our cause is furthered, when we get our dreams fulfilled, or when our humanistic ideals have been achieved, we may want to check our doctrine of praise, faith, God and life in general.

God is not Santa Claus; He’s ruler of the universe. God is worthy of praise even if your life is in shambles, maybe even more so, because now you think less of yourself.

God Judges Gods

Everyone is familiar with the plagues God leveled against the Egyptians, if not because of the Bible, then at least because of Charlton Heston.

Later on, the deliverance from Egypt is described thusly:

“the Egyptians buried all their firstborn, which the Lord had smitten among them: upon their gods also the Lord executed judgments.”

It’s the second part of that verse that intrigues me.

I once knew a guy who adamantly believed the Bible taught there were other gods, not false gods, but actual, real, lesser gods. 1 Corinthians 8:5 was his favorite proof text, “It says right there, there be gods many, and lords many.”

There are indeed other gods and lords, none of whom are real, I think the Bible makes this point very clearly. But I find the second part of this verse fascinating, “upon their gods also the Lord executed judgments.”

The judgments that came on Egypt were also judgments on the gods they trusted in, the gods who were impotent to keep them from Jehovah’s judgment.

Whatever you are trusting in that is not God is going to eventually get God’s judgment. False gods, riches, other people, or whatever else you are trusting in is going to fail you. You will be judged, as Egypt was, and thus what you trusted in will be judged as well.

Those who trust in God will, like Israel, go “out with an high hand in the sight of all the Egyptians.” Not only does God judge His opponents: God delivers His people with a high hand that the bad guys will watch.

I anxiously await God’s high hand deliverance.

Follow Jesus by Judging How Much Others Donate to the Church

There is a portion of the Gospels that has gotten much use over the years. The story goes that Jesus was watching people put money into the temple treasury and saw a poor widow put in a couple pennies. He makes a point to His disciples that she put in more than the rich guys.

The point of this story is always about how even the poor can give sacrificially and that sacrificial giving is truly good.

One thing that is never the point, and I’m not sure why, is that Jesus was sitting there watching people put money into the treasury! He was staring at people while they made their donations! That was His activity for the day!

Is that not odd?

Is there an application for us about this fact?

–Jesus sat watching the people put money into the treasury and He hasn’t stopped watching.

–Jesus sat watching the people put money into the treasury and pastors should watch how people make offerings in their church, maybe even single a few out for a sermon illustration.

–Jesus sat watching the people put money into the treasury and make sure you watch how much money the guy next to you puts in the offering plate.

–Jesus sat watching the people put money into the treasury, so you can be a judgmental tither too!

It seems odd that the Messiah, the Son of God, would sit and watch this activity, or does it? He obviously had a point, one which was counter-intuitive to His disciples and probably to us too.

There was a point to be made and He made it. I just wonder when we talk about “What Would Jesus Do” or “follow in the footsteps of Jesus” if we really mean that!?

The Blessing of Cynicism

“Love believes all things” is one of the toughest verses in the Bible for me to deal with. Really? All things? In my one Bible I have a cross-reference I wrote in next to that verse–Proverbs 14:15.

There is a way to reconcile both verses. I can give people the benefit of the doubt even as they speak what is false. I can believe them knowing that they are saying what they believe, and perhaps that’s where I can step in and help them believe what is right.

Over the years, I have been blessed to have people in my life who called me on stuff I said. I didn’t feel blessed at the time they pointed it out, but I see now, in hindsight, how blessed I was.

I was very sloppy with my thinking. I was sloppy with my biblical knowledge. I was sloppy with ways I communicated. I’m certainly not perfect in these things now, but these guys have truly helped me grow.

No one likes to be told they are wrong. No one likes to speak out what they believe only to be questioned on whether what they said was right.

It’s annoying. But hey, truth hurts! But the truth sets free!

Having my errors pointed out to me has taught me to think better, it has driven me to God’s Word desiring to know more.

Through this process, I have also been attuned to listening to what others say. I can’t stop my brain from analyzing what I hear. Even in this, I am learning how to do this. I can be wrong in my assumptions, my cynicism.

Part of me wants to apologize for calling out what I see as questionable statements. I hate being the bad guy, the guy who has a problem with everything.

I also hate stupid and I can’t keep quiet. I am grateful people have corrected my stupid and I merely desire to pass on the blessing!

The problem arises in doing so with love, that believes all things.

Oswald Chambers on the Love of God

“The love of God. We have lost it today; we have turned our back on the ocean and are looking out over barren, colorless hills for the ocean’s fullness. We need converting again–turning round, and there basks the ocean whose waves sparkle and ripple on fathomless deeps and fullnesses.

“We are too introspective today. We mourn and wonder, then lifted on waves of feeling, we glow and say we love God. But again our feelings ebb and flow and we mourn.

“Christianity is not a thing of times and seasons, but of God and faith.

“Drink deep and full of the love of God and you will not demand the impossible from earth’s loves; then the love of wife and child, of husband and friend, will grow holier and healthier and simpler and grander.”

–Oswald Chambers
The Love of God, p. 17

Child of God Cynicism

I might be all wrong on this one, I’ll start with that.

This may be mere evidence of my cynicism than anything real.

But, speaking of religious generalities, lately I’ve been noticing on the internet, people describing themselves as “a child of God.”

Let me first say, that all believers are indeed God’s children. No problem there. This is sound biblical theology. (Although even here, the phrase “child of God” does not show up in the Bible (KJV, ESV, NASV).

I assume this is what people mean.

If it was what they mean, here are two questions:

1) Are you sure?

2) Jesus didn’t even brag about being God’s Son. He told people not to tell anyone who He was. Although there are reasons why He said this, I think one of them was humility.

Now, it is possible they mean something more general than saying they are a believer, an adopted son into God’s family. Maybe they mean more along the lines of Acts 17, “we are also His offspring.”

In a very general sense, all people are God’s children, His offspring, ones He brought into existence. This is kind of cool, but I doubt an unbeliever would brag about that.

My point being–what does that mean? Do people who say it know what it means, and if so, is it actually true?

Generally Speaking, Generalities are Too General

I’ve listened to Christians for many years, long enough to see outcomes in reality. I have learned that it is easy to say anything. Anyone can claim anything anywhere at anytime. Only time will tell if what they said is actually true.

Christians have a way of speaking where you clearly get the idea they are telling you what they think they should say rather than telling you the truth.

Since you can’t always tell what others want to hear, you speak in generalities, generic statements that sound impressive. The advantage of doing so is that no one has any clue what you are saying, but it sure sounds good and does a nice job making everyone impressed with your spiritual awesomeness.

Religion is easier if you speak in generalities. It sounds impressive and can’t be verified!

Much of this speech I consider to be Christian Fiction–stuff that sounds way too good to be true. Stuff I’ve heard enough and long enough ago to see it wasn’t true.

I have met exceptions to the rule, but they are few and far between. So, what are the general statements I am referring to? Here are a few to give the idea:

“I am spending time seeking God’s face.”
“I love God.”
“I just enjoy knowing Him and loving Him.”
“I need to get away and spend time with God.”
“I’m never lonely, Jesus is always with me.”
“God is always good to me.”
“I leave it all at Jesus’ feet.”
“I want to go deeper.”
“I gave it to God.”

I could go on, but I imagine I’ve offended you already, so I shall stop. I imagine a person could be sincere in saying these things, but in all honesty, I have no idea what any of these phrases really mean, practically speaking.

Since I don’t know what they mean, I certainly don’t know what you think they mean, therefore, they are meaningless generalities.

One of my favorites in regards to this was a person who said to me, “I won’t be at church because I am spending time with God. I do not know when I will be back.” I have no idea what that means, but it sure sounds like hooey.

People do long to know God more, and it is hard to put into words that don’t sound hokey to others. In the end, it doesn’t matter what you mean, I just hope there is actually something spiritual going on.

I’ve heard these phrases enough to know that generally speaking, they represent an ideal you wish were true and this is the fatal flaw–Symbolism over substance.

Hast though faith? Have it to yourself. Avoid general statements about your spiritual life. Keep it to a minimum. Have stuff you go through with God that only you and He know about. Don’t turn all your meetings with God into facebook posts.

No one knows what you are talking about anyway, but you’ve annoyed everyone by making us all feel inferior, and, in the end, I think that’s what most of these statements are designed to do.

God’s Point in Job–His First Book

Job is believed to be the first book of the Bible written. I do not know how this could be confirmed, but I know I’ve heard it enough, so repetition makes all things true, right?

No? Oh. Huh, you learn something new every day.

Well, anyway, I’m going with the believed fact that Job is the first book of the Bible ever written. If that is the case, I wonder why? Here’s my theory.

Although the book of Job can make many points, it seems a main one is that people really don’t have a clue what God is doing or why He is doing what He’s doing.

Job’s friends pontificate for many a chapter, telling Job exactly what God is doing and why. Job isn’t sure what God is doing, but hangs in there anyway cuz he didn’t have much choice but to hang in there.

In the end, God’s message to Job is “Who are you in comparison to Me?” He tells Job to intercede for his friends because they were all wrong–God doesn’t operate the way they thought.

This is a fascinating point for God to make to begin His Book. It’s as if Job is a warning that we really have no clue and we really need a giant book to fill us in on what God is up to.

God is not easy to figure out. He can mix things up and He knows a lot of stuff behind the scenes we’re never aware of. Our need for faith is proved by our lack of awareness as to what is going on and why.

I like this theory. The Bible is here to fill us in, to keep us from assuming we know everything there is to know about God.

The Bible presents God as an individual, and although He is trustworthy, there are times when God seems to enjoy throwing people for a loop, just to keep us on our toes and depending on Him. I like that about Him!

The Godly Suffer Persecution. Do You Suffer Persecution?

Lots of people think they like the writings of the Apostle Paul. They mainly think they like them because they haven’t read them much.

Most of the time, when people read Paul, they only hear the bits they want to hear and tend to justify their way out of everything else he said. Here’s a classic example:

“Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.”

Not many fans of Paul take this verse at face value. It’s a verse of absolutes. The word “all” means “all.” All who live godly shall. “Shall” is another word for “will.” There is no equivocating in this verse.

If you live godly you will suffer persecution.

Paul knows this because this is Paul’s experience as well as what the Spirit revealed to him. Acts 9 covers Paul’s conversion and one of the things revealed to Paul at this time was “shew him how great things he must suffer for my name’s sake.”

Fans of Paul will say, “Well, yeah, Paul had to suffer, he was an apostle and the Jews hated him. Doesn’t mean I’ll suffer.” Except that Paul said all who live godly will suffer persecution.

The common “refutation” of this verse is “well, I’ve never suffered any persecution so this can’t be true.” Yeah. Or it might be true and you may have just admitted something.

It’s always important to not let our experience dictate what Scripture means. It means what it says and if it’s not true for you, the conclusion you should reach is not “the Bible must be wrong here,” but rather “I must not be living a godly life.”

Do we have a desire to know Christ as Paul did? Do we desire to know the “fellowship of His sufferings” or do we not really want to know Christ? If you know Him you will act like Him and be treated like Him.

How Often Should We Say God’s Name in Prayer?

The Lord’s name is frequently taken in vain. Pretty much every time you turn the tv on you will hear someone vainify His name.

Christians do the same thing, sometimes in the same way, but even more subtly they will flop out the name of God in vain ways.

One of the ways is by constant repetition of His name in prayer. This is a point I have made before, pointing out how some people use “father” or “God” or “Jesus” 1,400 times in a single prayer. It’s almost like a prayer filler word, like “um” is in normal conversation.

I have often heard this point made by pointing to a conversation between friends. When you talk to me, you don’t put the word “Jeff” in every four seconds, why do we do this with God?

I would nod my head in agreement with that statement, until I started paying attention to prayers in the Bible!

In John 17 Jesus prays to His Father and uses the word “Father” six times!

In 1 Chronicles 16, David issues a Psalm of praise, a public form of prayer, and says “Lord” 16 times 29 verses! Many of the Psalms follow this pattern. “Lord” appears 699 times in Psalms! “God” shows up 386 times!

One of the verses in this psalm says, “Glory ye in his holy name: let the heart of them rejoice that seek the Lord.” He has a name above all names. At His name every knee shall bow.

There is power in His name. His name isn’t just a word, it represents who God is in all His full, divine characteristics. It is worthy of our mention.

Yes, we should be careful not to throw it out when we can’t think of anything else to say, but the constant reminder that we are speaking to the Almighty God and Creator is not a bad thing for our little minds that forget so easily.

“I am a great King, saith the Lord of hosts,
and my name is dreadful among the heathen.”

Forgiveness Shows God’s Power

In Numbers 14, God is very upset with the nation of Israel, threatening to wipe them out. Moses intercedes for them, tells God the nations will think He wasn’t able to bring them to their Promised Land.

Moses doesn’t want this. Moses wants God to display His power. He says,

“I beseech thee, let the power of my lord be great, according as thou hast spoken, saying,The Lord is longsuffering, and of great mercy, forgiving iniquity and transgression, and by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation.”

One would think wiping out a whole nation would be a great way to demonstrate power! But Moses calls on a greater power, a divine power–the power to forgive sins!

This is cool because Romans says, “I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation.”

The power of God is not fully on display when sin is judged. Judging sin is indeed a sign of power and has been and will be revealed in powerful ways, but true power is in forgiving.

Many people wish God would demonstrate His power today and heal their miseries or fill their wallets. But true power is shown in forgiving.

Many people wish they had God’s power and assume that if they heal, or speak in tongues, or dream visions they have the power of God. But true power is shown in forgiving.

The power of God is greater than the ability to rearrange physical material. Yes, He can certainly do that, but true power is able to remove sin.

God’s power on display in His creation is supposed to clue us in on His immense power that can do so much more. Most settle for temporal proofs, never seeing their eternal need. God is on display so that people might come to Him for forgiveness.

“whether is easier, to say, Thy sins be forgiven thee; or to say, Arise, and walk?But that ye may know that the Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins, (then saith he to the sick of the palsy,) Arise, take up thy bed, and go unto thine house.

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