Category Archives: Christianity

Why Church?

1 Kings 6

I guess I didn’t realize the Temple Solomon built was only 90 feet long and 30 feet wide. I had it pictured much bigger in my mind. My house is just short of 80 feet long, and my living area is about 27 feet wide. The church I belong to is building a new structure much larger than 90X30 on the north end of this island.

Of course, Solomon’s temple was ornate, extravagant. Nothing was too good for the House of the Lord. But it occurs to me it was built for worship. It was not built for social gatherings.

It didn’t include a coffee bar or comfortable seating areas for casual conversation. It was built solely for the purpose of meeting God, not each other.

I know people will say that in 2022, if a church doesn’t offer programs, classes, fun activities, and entertainment it will die. And I’m sure that is true. So I’m not saying we shouldn’t have comfortable chairs and a children’s wing, fellowship dinners and celebrations. In fact, I hope these things are actively a part of the church you attend.

But I wonder if we haven’t strayed a bit too far from what God wanted to see in His house. Is He just one of the things we worship, along with programs, music, fellowship, and fun? Or is meeting God the only reason we gather?

I think He should be.

To Be Like Jesus

1 Kings 2

In our love-crazed, tolerant, accepting, empathic world of 2022, it’s hard to read about Solomon’s handling of law breakers. His execution of his brother Adonijah for simply wanting to get married, and the executions of Joab and Shimei, may seem unnecessarily harsh.

But Solomon, as the hands of God, pronounced judgment on those who defied God. Adonijah’s request for a wife came from a rebellious heart. His rebellion led to his death sentence. Joab was an unrepentant murderer, and Shimei had sinned against God’s anointed, King David, then defied King Solomon’s grace. None of them were innocent.

There’s a lesson here. When it comes to sin, God may be patient, but that doesn’t mean He turns a blind eye to sin. I believe God views sin much more seriously than any of us realize. And I think that’s a problem.

Of course, God doesn’t zap us the first time we sin. On the contrary, when we sin we feel remorse, guilt. We come under the lovingly convicting hand of God who wants us to repent of sin and accept His forgiveness. He doesn’t execute the guilty immediately.

In fact, God executed His own Son so the guilty can go free and never suffer the death penalty our sin deserves.

There are certain buzz-words going around these days, even proclaimed by some preachers and Bible teachers, and used by Satan to make Christians feel guilty for taking a stand against sin in any form. Those buzz-words are: Empathy. Tolerance. Love. Acceptance.

“If only we would put ourselves in one another’s shoes.” “If only we would be tolerant of other people’s beliefs and actions.” “If only we would love everybody.” “If only we would just accept all people as equals before God.”

Sounds Christian. But is it?

As I was preparing for this week’s Sunday School lesson, I read something that has stuck with me. So often today we are told to use Jesus as our example of love, empathy, tolerance, and acceptance. And I agree.

But too many people are twisting Jesus’s life and ministry on Earth to be something it was not. The fact is, Jesus did NOT accept everyone. He came down hard on some. And, although He IS love, that love sent Him to the cross because of the serious consequences of sin. It didn’t simply erase sin. Jesus’ love paid a high price for the forgiveness of sin available for anyone who will receive it.

So this week I read someone who said something like: I want to be as tolerant of sin as Jesus was – and He never tolerated sin.

Chew on that for a minute.

If Jesus is our example, we will love each other enough to be honest about sin, and the serious consequences of sin. If Jesus is our example we will not tolerate sin, but rather point the sinner to the Savior, to their only hope.

Solomon’s death sentence for the three men I read about this morning may seem harsh. But I’m telling you it is not as harsh as the sentence God imparted on them after they died.

To be like Jesus is to take sin and the consequences for sin very, very seriously.

Quitting Is Not An Option

Psalm 51; 78

I want to quit. I haven’t felt like I have anything worthwhile to post on my blog these days. I have failed to share Jesus when I’ve had the opportunity. I recognize the fact I’m not doing a good job at my children’s ministry responsibilities. My heart is not in playing the organ at church any more. I’ve sat back and been carried along by popular opinion rather than standing up for what I know is true. I’m a hypocrite.

I guess you could say I’m in a funk. And the lower I go, the easier it is to sin in thought and deed, and the further away from God I am. It’s a downward spiral I’m afraid I don’t have the energy to fight.

And that’s right where I need to be.

I read some psalms this morning and was encouraged to remember God’s faithfulness to me in the past. And He has been faithful! I can look back and recognize the many blessings that have come my way through good times and bad, through open doors and closed doors. I can remember times when He answered my prayers, when He showed up in undeniable ways.

As I re-read what I’ve just written, I am convicted at how often I use the word “I.” I am so focused on me and my failures that it’s no wonder I’m in a funk.

I took a break from writing this just now, and spent some time pouring my heart out to God. The truth is, I love having Him in my life. The truth is, He is patient and gracious and forgiving. The truth is, He delights in me as I submit to Him. I know the truth, so why am I falling for Satan’s lies?

So I confessed my sin, I admitted my helplessness, and asked Him to…

Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit in me. Do not cast me from your presence, or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit to sustain me. (Psalm 51:10-11)

Here’s what I notice about those verses:

  1. The need to confess my sin and allow God to cleanse me whenever He reveals sin in me. Even my feelings of failure can be a sin if they are not from God, but from Satan who wants to discourage me. And if I am focused on myself, I’m focusing in the wrong direction. That’s a sin that needs confessed.
  2. The importance of a steadfast spirit. God never promised lollypops and roses. Life is hard. I will succeed and I will fail. But quitting is never an option when I am determined to follow my Lord.
  3. God’s presence is available. I don’t have to go it alone. God, in all His power and awesomeness WANTS to walk with me today. The Holy Spirit is my guide and protector. The question is, am I paying attention?
  4. Joy isn’t a result of good times, but rather in the fact that God has saved me through the precious blood of His Son Jesus. It’s a joy the world doesn’t understand because it’s a gift from God Himself.
  5. I need to be willing to let God do His thing in me. I need to be willing to submit to Him, to trust Him, and to get out of His way and let Him be in control.

No, quitting is not an option. And right now I am thanking Him for hearing and answering my prayer. I sit here with a clean heart, knowing He’s forgiven me, and my resolve is to serve Him with everything He gives me. I’m not alone. I am not defeated because God has and will continue to give me the victory for His sake and His glory.

Please understand, this is not about the power of positive thinking. This is all about the power of God in me as I submit to Him and allow Him to be everything I need in every situation. There is a huge difference.

Daddy, Help

Psalm 86

We are told that we are powerful and capable individuals who can do anything we set our minds to. It’s a great thought. But it’s a lie. And I bet most of you, if you’re honest, would say it’s a lie, too.

Because we aren’t all that. We were never intended to be all that. We were created to need, and receive from God. The truth is, the most empowering thing an individual can do is to submit to God, admit a need, worship him, and receive His power to meet the need. There is something very freeing about admitting we need God.

Like a 2 1/2 foot child stretching, reaching, straining to get to the cookie jar on the kitchen counter. No amount of stretching is going to gain those extra inches he needs to reach his goal, no matter how much he believes in himself.

But let that child say, “Daddy, help!” and that father will take that child into his arms, lift him up, and place him in a position to open the cookie jar. And, more than likely, that daddy who loves his child, will hug that little one and give him a smooch.

Psalm 86:1-7 did that for me today. It reminds me my Heavenly Father is standing at the ready to forgive, to show mercy and love, to make me happy and help me in times of trouble. I just need to call out to Him.

Now, I know my example is imperfect. You might point out the child could pull a chair over to the counter and crawl up there himself to get to the cookie jar. Possibly. (especially if your name is Caleb and you are my great-nephew). But that child would miss out on that special moment with his daddy, the hug, the love expressed by his father who is bigger and much more capable than he.

And, if we’re pointing out the possibility the kid could crawl up there himself, we could also point out he could fall. The tragedy of that is, there is no need to go through the pain of a fall when all he had to do was ask his Daddy for help in the first place.

I hope, that if you are going through a difficult time right now and you think you have it in you to get through it on your own, think again. You don’t have to. There is no intrinsic value in sucking it up when God is standing there waiting for you to call on Him. And, my friend, the benefit of receiving His help goes way beyond whatever you are going through at the moment.

You have a Father who loves you. Allow Him to pick you up in His capable arms and BE the answer to your problem. I’m praying that today you will pray:

“Daddy, help”

Living With The Presence of God

Psalm 36:5-9

We were talking about Hell last week in Sunday School as we studied Paul’s second letter to the Thessalonians. The horror of an existence without God is truly frightening, Our minds can’t even imagine the excruciating pain that will be.

People who reject God in this life, who fashion a god of their liking, or who convince themselves there is no God have no idea what their choice is going to cost them. Some think they’ll be able to handle whatever God throws their way. Scripture tells us they won’t have a choice about that. They will have to handle it forever. But it will be far worse than anything they’ve experienced in this life. Far worse.

Right now all people, all of creation, exist in the Presence of God. Verse 6 of Psalm 36 says God cares for people and animals alike. Verse 7 says all humanity finds shelter in the shadow of His wings, that God feeds us all, gives us all drink, life, and light.

Did you wake up this morning, shower, eat breakfast, and enjoy a cup of coffee? That was God. Did you feel the warmth of the sun on your skin, hear the birds sing, smell newly cut grass? That was God. Did you hug your child, kiss your wife, say hello to your neighbor? You were able to do all of those things because God is in the world.

Have you ever cut yourself, broken a bone, had a headache, or survived a serious medical condition? You healed because you live in a world where God exists. Have you gone through loss, experienced difficult circumstances, felt discouraged and alone before things worked out for you? If you can look back and say you’d never want to go through those tough times ever again, hear me…

You got through those things because God is present in this life, whether you acknowledge Him or not. You are living on the coattails of His Presence.

Take it all away. All of it. No light, no taste or smell, no touch or laughter. No birds or breeze or healing, no love, and no hope of ever experiencing any of it ever again. Total isolation, total darkness, and total agony, all because you decided you didn’t need God while you had Him.

C. S. Lewis said that there are two kinds of people. Those who, in this life say to God, “Thy will be done,” and those to whom, when this life is over and they face the judgement, God will say, “Thy will be done.”

If you haven’t repented of your sin and accepted what Jesus died to give you: forgiveness and eternal life, please do it. Please don’t face eternity without God. Nothing is more important than your submission to God while you have the chance, while you are still living in His Presence on earth.

Calling All Godly People

Psalm 12

I read this psalm and think, “I get it, David. We are facing the same thing in 2022.”

It’s not just our neighbors who lie. It’s governments, the media, preachers, parents, teachers… the list goes on. They say:

We will lie to our hearts content. Our lips are our own, who can stop us?”

Right now I wonder if ANYONE can stop them. Like David, I too wonder if the godly are vanishing from the earth. The godly are the only hope for this world.

I could get on my soapbox. But instead I’m going to pray that those of you reading this post will recognize the lies you are being fed every day. Whether it’s your preacher saying worshiping God should be fun and make you feel good, or someone saying tolerance is love, or truth is relative, or the government promising illegals free stuff and a good life, or anyone saying a person can choose their sex, or that abortion is not murder, or the media isn’t biased, or global warning is a result of poor stewardship of the earth…

Oh man, I just stepped up on my soap box, didn’t I? I won’t go on. Instead I’m pleading with the godly people out there:

Pay attention.

Stand up for the truth according to Scripture.

Don’t accept what the loudest voices are saying. BE the loudest voice.

Once again, I am speaking to godly people, not just “Christians.” People are being told that a Christian is someone who believes certain things about Jesus. That’s a lie.

If you haven’t confessed your sin, repented (which means to turn from sin), if you aren’t growing more holy every day by of the choices you make as a result of your relationship with God through the blood of His Son Jesus – you are not a Christian. Therefore, this post does not apply to you.

Harsh? Yes. But I for one am tired of the lies. The truth hurts. But it is the truth.

If we who KNOW the truth are out there making ourselves heard, if we are living the godly lives we are called to live, if we are leading people to the saving grace of Jesus, there may be hope for this world yet,

even though the wicked strut about, and evil is praised throughout the land.

Calling all godly people! It’s up to us.

Follow My Example?

I Chronicles 29

King David gave generously from his own treasures toward the building of the Temple in Jerusalem. Then he went to the people and challenged them to follow his example.

That spoke to me today. God has give me so much, blessed me way beyond what I deserve. Not financially, necessarily. Although I have enough to be comfortable. But I certainly don’t have the equivalent of tons of gold and silver to throw around.

Yet God is reminding me how truly rich I am.

I have my health, a working brain. I have hands and feet and a voice. I have Jesus! I have the forgiveness of my sin, and the gifts of having the Spirit of God in me: love, joy, peace…

I have God’s own words at my fingertips!

The questions then, are these: Am I using these things generously toward the building of God’s Church? Am I investing in people, introducing unsaved people to their Savior?

And, would I ever in a million years suggest you follow my example?

I’m wondering if I’d want you to put in the same amount of time I put into serving God; if I’d want you to use your talents in the same way I use mine for the glory of God. I wonder if I exercise my faith in a way I’d want you to exercise yours, or am I serving half-heartedly, giving only what I think I can afford, hoping you’ll not notice?

David said, “follow my example.” Can I say that to you?

If not, why not?

David’s prayer in verses 10-19 reminds me that everything I have belongs to God. It all came from God in the first place. I own nothing. I am nothing. But I am a steward of everything He’s given me.

May God, when He examines my heart rejoice when He finds integrity, when He finds me giving away with both hands what He’s given me, so that someone will come to His saving grace.

I pray the same for you.

So Take This Seriously.

David’s charge to Solomon spoke to me today. It serves as a reminder:

And Solomon, my son, learn to know the God of your ancestors intimately. Worship and serve him with your whole heart and a willing mind. For the Lord sees every heart and knows every plan and thought. If you seek him, you will find him. But if you forsake him, he will reject you forever. So take this seriously. The Lord has chosen you to build a Temple as his sanctuary. Be strong, and do the work. (1Chronicles 28:9-10 ESV)

Too many of us try to hold God to his promises without our doing the work. Maybe we should emphasize the knowing God intimately, the worship and serving God with our whole hearts and our willing minds, if not instead of, at least in conjunction with his wonderful promises to his obedient children.

God clearly tells us IF we seek him we will find him. IF we forsake him, he will reject us.

So take this seriously.

Throwing The Baby Out With The Bathwater

2 Samuel 20

I remember a cartoon from my youth. I think it was Yosemite Sam who was being tormented by a fly. No matter how often he swatted at the fly, and no matter what he used to bat at the fly, the fly kept dive-bombing him. Then the fly landed on the wall. And Yosemite Sam quickly aimed his rifle and blew a hole in the wall.

Problem solved.

Ever hear the saying, “Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater?”

Joab wanted Sheba. Sheba had turned traitor and started a rebellion against King David. Joab knew Sheba had to be stopped, and he was willing to go to any length to do just that; even going as far as destroying an entire city and the inhabitants who lived there.

A wise woman helped him see the error of his ways. The city was saved, and the guilty man paid for his own crimes.

When I was a young teacher just beginning my career, we were encouraged to discipline children gently. If a child misbehaved we were told to say something like, “Some of you are having trouble following the rules. We need a time out. Everybody put your heads down on your desk and stay quiet.”

Did you, as part of a class of children, ever have to stay in at recess because a few of your classmates hadn’t done their homework? You’d done yours. But that didn’t matter. Everybody paid the consequences for the few.

Part of the rationale was protecting the egos and feelings of the guilty, believing they’d recognize on their own they were responsible for everyone missing recess, feel bad, and change their behavior.

Yah. That didn’t work. Those ornery kids soon realized the power they had over all of us, including the teacher.

I think what the wise woman helped Joab to see was the importance of accountability. If a person does something wrong, you don’t slap their child.

I don’t think we Christians are very good at holding each other accountable for our misdeeds, our sins. Yet throughout Scripture I see evidence that is what God wants us to do.

Jesus Himself gave us the guidelines in Matthew 18:15-17.

If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.

Paul, in Galations 6:1 says it like this:

Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted

God tells us we are to address sin, confront it, remove it from our midst. We should never allow sin to get a foothold in our fellowships. The Church has to remain holy.

But you don’t give up on the Church. You don’t walk out just because you recognize a hypocrite in the pew in front of you. You don’t get angry and start a rebellion. You go to that person and lovingly confront the issue, like Jesus taught us.

The guilty party may need to be disciplined, but you don’t destroy a church (or a city in the case of Joab) to deal with the problem. You don’t blow a hole in the wall to kill a fly. And you don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.

Let’s hold each other accountable. You may save a brother or sister from a world of hurt, and at the same time strengthen the body of Christ. I believe with all my heart that is what would please our Lord.

Don’t Pass It On

2 Samuel 16:1-4; 19:24-30

I have to admit that yesterday, when I read what Mephibosheth said to Ziba, I was disappointed in Jonathan’s son. You remember that, because David and Jonathan had a close friendship, David promised to take care of Jonathan’s crippled son, even though Mephibosheth was the grandson of David’s enemy Saul, and according to custom, the rightful heir to the throne.

David took Mephibosheth under his wing, invited him to eat at the king’s table for the rest of his life, and treated him like a son. Now, when David’s son Absalom is posed to take the throne by force from his father, Mephibosheth thinks it’s his chance to step in and regain the throne for himself. I mean, I heard it straight from Ziba who says he heard Mephibosheth say that. (2 Sam 16:3) It must be true. Even David believed it.

Ungrateful, power hungry, back-biting Mephibosheth. That’s what I thought. But was I right to think that? Is that what was really going on here?

2 Samuel 19 throws a different light on the subject. Mephibosheth himself tells David that Ziba slandered him by telling David a lie. He tells David he never refused to leave Jerusalem or follow David. Ziba had deceived Mephibosheth. And Ziba deceived David. Ziba deceived me, too.

Here is why I believe Mephibosheth’s account can be trusted:

All my relatives and I could expect only death from you, my lord, but instead you have honored me by allowing me to eat at you own table. What more can I ask? (vs 28)

Doesn’t sound like a man who wanted to overthrow David, does it?

In fact, when David said he’d give half of Saul’s land back to Mephibosheth, Mephibosheth told David to let Ziba have it all.

I am content to have you safely back again, my lord and king! (vs 30)

So what I’d heard “about” Mephibosheth in 2 Samuel 16, that which disappointed me about Jonathan’s son, wasn’t even true. My disappointment was misplaced because I had listened to gossip. It wasn’t until I actually heard from Mephibosheth himself, that I got my story straight.

A family in my neighborhood lost their daughter this week in a tragic accident. The paper did not give details about the accident, and I don’t know these people well enough to knock on their door and ask. Was she driving too fast, had she been drinking, did she swerve to miss a deer, was she texting at the time? I don’t know. So therefore I am not going to even try to guess.

But there was a woman standing in line at the grocery, loudly talking on her phone, making sure everyone in the area could hear her. She was obviously talking about the accident and said, “I heard she was drunk.”

People, LISTEN TO ME! We’ve all heard people say things like that: second, third hand accounts. And we’ve probably all repeated what we heard at some time or another.

STOP!

That is gossip, and gossip is a sin. Is our need to come across as someone “in the know” more important than our responsibility to be compassionate and kind to those who are hurting, to those who are facing hardship, trials, and loss?

Shame on us.

Whatever caused the accident is unimportant next to the one fact we know for sure: that family lost their daughter, their sister, grandchild, niece, cousin, and many young people lost a friend. Should they grieve less if this young woman had been drinking? What does it matter how she died? The fact is she died.

You can’t control what you hear. But you can control what you do with what you hear. Let the gossip die with you! Don’t jump to conclusions or make a judgment based on what somebody said somebody said…

Don’t pass it on!

Will you pray with me for this family? Their pain cuts deep, and will for the rest of their lives. May God wrap His arms around them, strengthen them, give them peace. And may God be glorified even in this.