Thursday, February 26, 2009

The Bullet of Reckoning: Tough on Love

But back to our first question, “Is the Good News of Jesus Christ more negative or positive?” Really it’s some of both, for one has to know there’s “bad news” before “Good News” can be good. My contention is that honest people know there is something wrong with them that needs spiritual fixing. They are not looking for problems but for answers. A dishonest person lies to himself and is condemned to a life of problems.

The Gospel is the greatest positive force on earth. For the person who is quick to admit need and the “creature-dependent” status of human life the “Good News” of Jesus Christ is an inexhaustible source of power, truth and love.

Here is an illustration: One of our men was talking to a woman sometime ago about spiritual things. When he mentioned our church, she lit into him on the hypocrites she knew who were members. She named mistakes, remembered failures and condemned attitudes. She then moved to the sins of the church in general and preachers in particular. (Incidentally, I wouldn’t deny many of these charges.) Finally after listening to all this for several minutes my friend politely broke in on her triad and said, “Lady, if you’ll excuse me, you seem to know more about what’s wrong with people than what’s right with God!”

What a fantastic response and what a great definition of the Gospel! A person doesn’t improve his or her life by studying the mistakes of others but by becoming an expert on the performance of Christ. Knowing “the truth” about what’s wrong is worthless unless you are pursuing “the Truth” about what’s right! The sooner we realize this the quicker we will embrace maturity.

So we’ve come full circle. Those who are seeking truth know their sins and need to know the love of God as the answer! Those who are not seeking truth will not be satisfied with any answer … positive or negative!

Soft on sin? No, just label me “tough on love!” Christ didn’t come to condemn people in their sin but to save them from it! (John 3:17). That’s about as positive as you can get!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The Bullet of Reckoning: Am I Soft on Sin

Through the years I’ve taken a lot of hits from people because, they said, I was too positive. Comments would run like this, “You talk great about love, but you need to say more about sin.” Or again, “You’re soft on sin!”

Just for the record I hate sin, both for what it does to people and what it’s done to me. Every bit of hurt, agony, loss, suffering and despair any of us experience comes from sin. My failures, depressions and regrets all trace back to that little word that is the source of so much havoc!

My bottom line definition of sin, if you will excuse the expression, is telling God, “He can go to hell, because you are quite capable of living in His universe without bothering with Him or His desires.” People do this either passively or aggressively. In either case, the Bible calls them fools.

American Christians desperately need a greater conviction about the horror and tragedy of sin. My heart breaks at the hundreds of folks I know where sin is wrecking the lives of wonderful people with so much potential.

The fool says in his heart, "There is no God." They are corrupt, their deeds are vile; there is no one who does good.” (Psalm 14:1)

Thursday, February 19, 2009

The Bullet of Compassion: A Ministry Open to All

We resist, if not resent, anyone who tries to penetrate the fog of our private world, our self-centered thoughts and activities. The apostle could not have been more accurate when he said, “In the last days … men shall be lovers of their own selves” (II Timothy 3:2a).

What will we tell God on Judgment Day? I can hear us now, “… When saw we thee hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked or sick, or in prison and did not minister unto thee?” Then shall He say, “Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the lease of these, ye did it not to me” (Matthew 25:44-45).

Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister … but whosoever will be chief (the greatest, the most respected and admire), let him (or her) be your minister. (Matthew 20:28 and Matthew 20:26)

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

The Bullet of Compassion: A Modern Day Good Samaritan?

Have you heard the true story of an experiment a small band of seminary students carried out on the fellow members of their class? The class was given an assignment on Luke 10:30-37, the familiar account of the Good Samaritan. The assignment was due the next day. Most of the men in the class traveled along the same pathway leading to the classroom the next morning. One of the seminarians wore old, torn clothing, disguised himself as though he had been beaten and bruised and placed himself along the path, clearly in view of all the young students making their way back to class. With their assignments neatly written, carefully documented and tucked under their arms, not one seminarian so much as paused to come to his assistance or wipe the catsup off his neck and chest.

Intellectually, the assignment on love and caring was completed. But personally had they really learned the lesson Jesus was teaching in Luke 10? Well, you decide. What’s happening? How can we explain the gross lack of involvement in other people’s lives? We well-taught Christians know (intellectually) Bible truth, but why are there so few “ministers”? Why so little application of truth we’ve “known” for years?

Thursday, February 12, 2009

The Bullet of Choice: Becoming God’s Champions

All of us are adding and subtracting things, ideas, directions, etc. from our lives every day. The choices of what we keep or discard make us what we are.

The definition of sin I like most is, “refusing to accept the good gifts of God.” The Heavenly Father wants us to experience joy, meaning, satisfaction and worth. As Joshua put it, “Chose today Who you will serve.” The Bible is filled with God’s choices. Not to know God’s options leaves one in the dark walking down a dead end street.

Pursuing the essentials and rejecting the refuse of life brings strength for living. It is a shame so many have it reversed. We cling to the choices that make us losers. We seem to be blind to the power that produces champions. I pray you and I will choose well.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The Bullet of Choice: Strength Through Gain and Loss

During his tenure as Head Coach of the Arkansas Razorbacks, Lou Holtz made a great statement at one of his daily practice talks to the football team. I’d like to pass it on.

He said, “Men, you grow stronger in two ways. You gain strength by adding something you need or getting rid of something that is hurting you. Understanding that distinction marks the difference between a champion and a loser.”

Exactly! What a man or woman chooses to get rid of or to add to his or her life determines in the long run what he or she becomes. Surrounding yourself with “weak” friends contributes to your weakness. Choosing “strong” friends, “strong” ideas, “good” options, “moral” alternatives and “God” goals can only make a person stronger.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

The Bullet of Thanksgiving: The Glorious Word of God

When I stop to count my blessings one of my top items for gratitude is the opportunity I have to possess, study and hear the Father’s Voice through the Scripture.

Written by over forty authors, about many subjects, in three languages, over a period of 1,500 years … the wonder is that the Bible exists at all! Yet for centuries it has been recognized as one book with a central theme beginning with Genesis 1:1 and consummating with Revelation 22:21! These chapter and verse distinctions were not even added until much later. The current system we know so well first appeared in the Sixteenth Century A.D.!

The Bible has existed, as it is now, for 1,600 years with relatively few changes despite being translated into more than 18,000 languages and dialects as well as many English revisions. Every revision, incidentally, strives to more accurately reflect the original language texts and the intention of the authors. We must also mention the relentless efforts of the Bible’s critics and antagonists through the centuries. Their aim has been to destroy it literally … or to discredit it totally … a task which has preoccupied some of the finest non-believing intellects from generation to generation!

In spite of everything the Bible remains today, as it has for centuries, the best annual seller year after year! More copies are sold in any one year than all the other best sellers put together! Some time ago, one publisher indicated that more than five hundred million copies of the Bible are sold annually in the world. Its timelessness … its perseverance … its popularity … its perennial relevance … its universal influence … is the unmatched phenomenon in the history of all book publishing.

The Bible contains the Mind of God … His reasons, His desires, His attitude, His thoughts … for His creation. It is His “love letter” to all who know they need love to survive and thrive in a fallen world of hurt! I believe I’m as grateful for this Book as almost anything else on earth.

All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. (II Timothy 3:16-17, RSV)

Let me paraphrase the Greek: “Every word of Scripture has in it the breath, energy and life of God. We can experience this reality if we are hungry for His Presence. Every word will be of benefit to us … profit us in any circumstance … and give us the advantage no matter what our situation might be. These words from the Father’s Heart tell us what to do, what not to do, what to do better and what to do that’s best. These words of Scripture are essential and critical … needed in large doses … if you truly plan on the Father putting your life together in such a way that you most perfectly look like Him and become a complete human being … a man or woman of God. Only then will you be in shape to achieve and finish the Lord’s purpose for your life!”

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

The Bullet of Truth: Freedom in God’s Limits

While He was on the earth, Christ Jesus could have done it all! He could have done everything possible for a human to do – but He didn’t! This is even more true of us! We can’t begin to do it all … even think it all … and we shouldn’t even try. Let’s leave that to the religious fanatics and/or the self-acclaimed political saviors. For me, and I pray for my house, we will pursue only God’s "everything" that is specifically for us. I have determined that the "everythings" of the world are going to have to make it without me! And I hope without you!

"… don’t think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you" (Romans 12:3). Likewise, don’t think of yourself more lowly than you ought! Think right … think His thoughts … about who and what you are. Note our Lord’s pattern, "I do only what the Father tells Me to do!" (John 5:19, paraphrased).

The greatest Life ever lived on this planet was "gloriously limited" to doing only the "everything" that the Father wanted Him to do. Looking at how Jesus lived, you and I would be fools to try it any other way. Hence, our primary life decision should be to strive to do and be only the "everything" that He desires of us! Nothing more and nothing less. In my book that’s the truth and, frankly, that is life as our Lord intended life for us to be! The amazing "grace truth" here is that yielding to our limits will result in finding our liberation. "If the Son sets you free you will be free indeed!" (John 8:36).