Saturday, August 31, 2013

What are you trying to hide?

It's circled in red on your calendar, that dreaded next visit to the dentist.

As the days near, you begin to brush your teeth more regularly. You even dig out the dental floss and use it a few times.

As you sit in the waiting room for your appointment, you refine the lie you're about tell, the one about how you brush and floss routinely.

But the truth will find you out. What the dentist sees will tell more than your rehearsed lie. The story you've made up won't change the truth about the condition of your teeth.

Just as the dentist sees the truth about your dental health, the Great Physician sees the truth about your soul ...

"The Lord looks down from heaven and sees the whole human race. From his throne he observes all who live on the earth. He made their hearts, so he understands everything they do," Psalm 33:13-15.

"Nothing in all creation is hidden from God. Everything is naked and exposed before his eyes, and he is the one to whom we are accountable," Hebrews 4:13.

"For all that is secret will eventually be brought into the open, and everything that is concealed will be brought to light and made known to all," Luke 8:17.

What are you trying to hide?


Friday, August 30, 2013

The God who stoops ...

The stock brokerage firm E.F. Hutton used to run a television ad with the tag line, "When E.F. Hutton talks, people listen."

The ad was certainly a little exaggerated, especially in our busy and loud world where it's difficult to get even the people closest to us to listen well. We all can understand a desire for wanting to be heard.

That's what makes our interaction with God so amazing. Our Maker, the holy Creator of all things, stoops down to listen when we talk to Him ...

"I love the Lord because he hears my voice and my prayer for mercy. Because he bends down to listen, I will pray as long as I have breath!" Psalm 116:1-2.

When you speak to God, He listens intensely, He wants to hear every word you're willing to share with Him. Are you taking time to talk with God, and to listen to Him as attentively as He listens to you?


Tuesday, August 27, 2013

What's your motivation?

A couple of years ago, a mega church here in Texas tried to lure people to come to its Easter services by promoting the give-away of more than a dozen cars and other "prizes" (you can read more about it here

I'm sure that kind of "motivation" helped to boost attendance numbers ... for that weekend.

But how many lured to church by the hope of winning a new car now live lives that are transformed forever as disciples of Jesus Christ?

I don't know the answer to that, but if this attempt at false motivation is like other attempts to externally motivate people, chances are the lure had very little real life impact.

Motive has everything to do with real, lasting change. That's a simple truth captured in the story of how a priest at the village church of Kalonovka, Russia was able to boost Sunday School attendance by handing out candy to the peasant children. One of the most faithful attending newcomers was a pug-nosed, pugnacious boy who recited scriptures with proper piety, quickly pocketed his reward, then fled into the fields to munch on it.

The priest took a liking to this boy and persuaded him to attend the church school. It took little persuasion since attending school was preferred to doing his household chores, which his devout parents excused him from so he could attend classes. By offering other inducements, the priest managed to teach the boy the four Gospels. In fact, he won a special prize for learning all four by heart and reciting them non-stop in church. Sixty years later, he still liked to recite scriptures, but in a context that would horrify the old priest. For the prize pupil, who memorized so much of the scriptures, was Nikita Khrushchev, the former Communist czar.

The "why" behind what we do is vital. The same Nikita Khrushchev who nimbly mouthed God's Word as a child, later declared God to be non-existent --- because his cosmonauts had not seen Him. Khrushchev memorized scriptures for the candy, the rewards, the bribes, rather than for the meaning it could have had for his life.

Simply put, artificial motivation will produce artificial results.

Are you trying to lure people to Christ? Or using the pure motivation of Gospel truth for pure results? And what is your motivation regarding Christ: are you looking for the sweet things He can give you, or are you motivated by love because He first loved us?


Monday, August 26, 2013

The answer to "how" ...

The "how" is one of the most common questions asked by pastors, especially younger pastors less experienced in ministry.

"How do we get people to want to serve in the church?"

"How do we get people to want to serve people in the community?"

"How do we get people who call themselves Christians to behave like Christians?"

There's a long (more detailed) answer, and a short answer. I'll share with you the short answer:

Teach them to fall in love with Jesus Christ.

By doing so, you will see real change. They will stop blocking the Holy Spirit from transforming their lives, and they will pursue different desires. Kind of like this ...

A group of teens were enjoying a party when someone suggested they take their party to a certain restaurant for a good time.

"I'd rather you take me home," Jan said to her date. "My parents don't approve of that place."

"Afraid your father will hurt you?" one of the girls asked sarcastically.

"No," Jan replied, "I'm not afraid my father will hurt me, but I am afraid I might hurt him."

To be  a Christian is to have a love relationship with God, our heavenly Father. Because His love fills our lives, it grieves Him when we are willfully disobedient or pursue desires different from His. But because we love Him, we desire to please Him rather than cause Him grief.

"If you love me, obey my commandments," John 14:15.

Earnestly fall in love with Jesus Christ and you will find yourself sharing His desires.

And no preacher will have to plead with you to serve Christ's church or the lost!


Sunday, August 25, 2013

It might be time to change your identity

If you've been a Christian for any length and time and still insist that you must always approach God
as a lost and wretched sinner, it might be time to change your identity.

Or, to state it another way, God already has changed your identity, so perhaps it's time you learned to embrace that wonderful change!

There's no doubt there was a time you were that lost and wretched sinner (we all were!), but if you have become a disciple of Jesus Christ, then God has changed your identity from what you once were to what you are now, and are in the process of becoming.

"Don't you realize that those who do wrong will not inherit the Kingdom of God? Don't fool yourselves. Those who indulge in sexual sin, or who worship idols, or commit adultery, or are male prostitutes, or practice homosexuality, or are thieves, or greedy people, or drunkards, or are abusive, or cheat people --- none of these will inherit the Kingdom of God. Some of you were once like that. but you were cleansed; you were made holy; you were made right with God by calling on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God," 1 Corinthians 6:9-11.

There's nothing pious or noble in insisting on continuing to see yourself as a pathetic sinner when God has transformed you into a saint; not a perfect saint, but one who is free from sin, and is now an ambassador for Jesus Christ.

You will try to live up to the identity you embrace for yourself. Why not live up to the one God has given you rather than the one God has set you free from?


Saturday, August 24, 2013

No time to think ...

Are you so busy you feel like you don't have any time to think?

A lot of people feel that way. You likely feel that way because from the moment you awake, you click on the TV for the morning news while you rush to get ready for work ...

You start up the car and immediately turn on the radio to check traffic, then slide in your new favorite CD ...

Or ...

The long wait in the doctor's office becomes the perfect chance to play Angry Birds ...

At the gym you have your favorite playlist blasting in your ears or you're watching a favorite TV episode as you sweat on a treadmill ...

At break and lunch you're catching up with Twitter ...

After work you're catching up with Facebook ...

In between you're checking out the latest links and videos your friends emailed you ...

And when you finally have a few minutes with the family, everyone has their hands filled with tablets and smartphones so they can catch up with texts ...

We've given our think time to our electronics.

Not that many people ever really developed much of a habit of taking a little time each day to think, but we at least had those moments. Times when we didn't always reach for the magazine while waiting in that doctor's office or while the car was getting an oil change.

Sometimes we chose to use those unfilled minutes in our lives to think, if just a little.

Today, we're cramming every minute with some means of entertaining ourselves by constantly having a smartphone, tablet, or laptop in our hands. Not only has this made us less personally interactive, but we've given that time to think, to be quiet, to listen, over to our electronics so we can be constantly entertained.

By taking away our think time, we're less prepared for life. We think on the go, and that kind of thinking doesn't always produce the best decisions. We've strayed far away from the peaceful position David describes in Psalm 131:2 when he states:

"Instead, I have calmed and quieted myself, like a weaned child who no longer cries for its mother's milk ..."

By giving our think time to our electronics, we've forgotten how to calm and quiet ourselves. Instead, we fill those still moments with something that takes away any need to think, to just be still and be quiet.

When do pause to think and be quiet?


Friday, August 23, 2013

How much can you handle?

It often isn't the size of our burdens that wears us out, but what we do with them that has the greatest impact on our lives. Consider the following story ...

A psychologist walked around a room while teaching a stress management seminar. As she raised a glass of water, everyone expected they would be asked the "half empty or half full" question. Instead, the psychologist asked, "How heavy is this glass of water?"

Answers called out ranged from 8 to 20 ounces.

The psychologist replied, "The absolute weight doesn't matter; what does matter is how long I hold it. If I hold it for a minute, it's not a problem. If I hold it for an hour, I'll have an ache in my arm. If I hold it for a day, my arm will feel numb and paralyzed. In each case, the weight of the glass doesn't change, but the longer I hold it, the heavier it becomes."

Then the psychologist explained, "The stresses and worries in life are like that glass of water. Think about them for a while and nothing happens. Think about them a bit longer and they begin to hurt. And if you think about them all day long, you will feel paralyzed and incapable of doing anything."

What do you do with the burdens of life that you carry? Jesus encouraged us to give them to Him right away, so that we don't paralyze ourselves with something we are too weak to bear ...

"Then Jesus said, 'Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest ..." Matthew 11:28.

What are you carrying around with you now that is wearing you down? What are you going to do with it?


Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Here's one of the greatest things you can ever do for your children ...

When I walked into the classroom, I was immediately in childish awe of the hand-made paper stars sprinkled with colored glitter hanging over each student desk, with someone's name clearly printed on each one.

I immediately sensed the third grade was going to be different.

But then there was Mrs. Avery.

She already had streaks of gray in her hair, which was worn in a seriously tight bun near the back of her head. Her conservative appearance was embellished with the black horn-rimmed glasses she wore. It didn't take long to discover Mrs. Avery was old school even then --- she demanded attention and obedience in her classroom and she wasn't hesitant about rapping a child's knuckles with a ruler when someone wasn't living up to her behavioral code.

But behind the serious approach to her classroom was a woman dedicated to sharing her love of learning. That year, she shared that gift with me. It was from this elementary teacher, in my third grade class, that I learned to love learning, and my life has never been the same.

Students across the country are returning to classrooms this month, but not all of them will have teachers who help them learn to love learning. One of the greatest things you can ever give your children as a parent is a love for learning. If you wait for a teacher to introduce your children to a love of learning, your children may never discover a life of wonder, exploration, and perpetual growth by being a life-long student.

Don't leave it up to teachers to instill a love of learning in your children. Instead, fuel their imaginations and encourage discovery and exploration at the earliest ages. Read to your children, then read with them, and model the value of reading by letting them see you turn off the TV and pick up a book. Make learning fun, as well as a positive challenge for your children before they ever start school and you will be setting them up for success once they are in school.

Mrs. Avery was my stepping stone to educational success. When I graduated from high school, I took a drive to Supai Elementary School in Scottsdale, Arizona and got permission from the principal to be on campus. I discovered Mrs. Avery in a different classroom, hair a little grayer but still looking serious. But when I told her I had come just to thank her for teaching me to love learning, she smiled the most brilliant smile and blushed just a little.

"You know, I've had several students come back over the years," she said, almost mischieviously.

I bet she has!

As the new school year begins, it's an opportunity for parents to re-evaluate what they're doing in the lives of their own children to foster a desire to learn. The influence you have in the lives of your children already makes you their primary teacher. How are you using that influence to nurture a love for learning in children?


Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Try answering this question ...

Would you rather have people praise you for your accomplishments, or speak well of you personally?

When we work hard to accomplish something, it's nice when people take note and even comment. But ultimately, to be thought well of as a person can bring getter value than just being acknowledged for what we do.

Have you ever thought about this in terms of God?

I know, what God has done already, and continues to do, strikes us with awe. His story is truly beyond amazing. His "accomplishments" of redemption and unparalleled love, mercy, and grace, are "accomplishments" we must never stop talking about.

But we spend an inordinate time talking about what God does in comparison to who He is. What we sometimes fail to fully grasp is that God does what He does because of who He is!

When we keep our conversation about God focused only on what He does, it stirs gratitude and thanksgiving. But when we include in our conversation an awareness of who He is, it stirs us to worship, praise, adoration, hope and love --- it moves us more to a relational desire for God than just seeing ourselves as receivers of His great accomplishments.

To best understand and relate to God, we need to understand that His actions flow from His character; we need to know who He is to understand why He has done what He's done. But often we tend to lack in meditating on who He is, and instead simply enjoy what He has to offer.

The enjoyment you receive from what God has for you will be enjoyed much more greatly when it is received with an understanding of who it is that offers such great blessings.

What do you know of God's character? How would you describe Him to others? Based on the character of God, what can you expect from Him?


Sunday, August 18, 2013

Which kind of leadership success are you after?

It was yet another article on leadership, this one focusing on how to achieve excellence in ministry.

Like many articles on "pastoral leadership," the few sure steps to success it was offering were straight out of the secular world ...

... You must be passionate ...

... You must be the expert ...

... You must work harder than the other guy ...

... You must be focused ...

... You have to sacrifice for success ...

Each item could be explained in such a way that it sounded good, and even sounded right. And they are, if the kind of Christian leadership "success" you want is what you are humanly capable of.

That's the problem with so much of what is taught about leadership in the church --- it's largely based on secular approaches to achieving what you can humanly manipulate into being.

But ministry is not about human success, and the church isn't a business where is a product is churned out.

Ministry is a supernatural work of the Holy Spirit, with God making His appeal through us (2 Cor. 5:20). In that case, Christian leadership is more about being the follower God wants us to be so that He can work in and through us the way He desires to achieve what He wants, all for His glory.

That changes things.

Instead of focusing on what we can achieve from the raw gifts and talents God has blessed us with, Christian leadership looks more like this ...

... You must be holy as God is holy ...

... Walk humbly with God ...

... Love each other in the same way Christ loved you ...

... Study to show yourself approved ...

... Hold fast to the Word of God ...

... Preach the Gospel ...

Holiness. Humility. Love. Being committed to the Word of God. Preaching the Gospel. These are the kind of elements that have more to do with "success" as a Christian leader than secular methods because these things are about what God is doing in and through you instead of what you are accomplishing from your own efforts.

And it's what God accomplishes in and through you that will ultimately be the real outcome of your spiritual leadership.

In that case, it might benefit Christian leaders to spend less time learning how they can maximize results from their own talents and more time in scripture searching out how we can fully submit our lives to God for Him to make His appeal through us.

Which kind of leadership success have you been chasing: achieving what you're humanly capable of, or being a conduit through which God's love and truth reaches others with His desired outcomes?


Friday, August 16, 2013

Which of these will transform your life?

The times we're living in are known as the "information age," where information is more abundant and easily accessible than any time in human history.

In spite of that fact, the most information can do for us is contribute to making some changes in our lives (sometimes radically), but it cannot transform our lives. If it could, we would not need God.

If all we needed to fix our broken selves was information, then an ability to read and a diligence to do so would result in a lot of perfect people. But even the greatest scholars among us remain imperfect.

Yet, many seek information for change, thinking that will ultimately result in transformation. But the Bible teaches us transformation comes only by surrendering our entire lives to God so that, through the power of the Holy Spirit, we can be transformed from sinful to holy.

Real transformation is the power of God unleashing us from the stranglehold of sin and death and, through a new birth, being born-again as holy children of God.

Simply put, God transforming you into the holy person He desires you to be is the only means of total life transformation; information is just a tool for partial and imperfect change. The pursuit of gaining information cannot bring the change God provided through His Son at the cross:

"For by that one offering he forever made perfect those who are being made holy," Hebrews 10:14.

Growing in knowledge is a good thing, as it helps us understand how to live out the holy lives God has called us to. But if you really want a transformed life, the sinful must become holy, and that can happen only through a whole life surrender to Jesus Christ.

So which is the greater pursuit in your life: seeking more information, or seeking to be holy as God is holy?


Wednesday, August 14, 2013

BOOK REVIEW: Is college worth it?

The idea of going to college is so deeply enmeshed into the American dream, it would seem silly to ask if college is worth the overall investment.

But things have changed, and it has become an important question to ask.

Former Secretary of Education, William Bennett, and co-writer David Wilezol ask, and attempt to answer, this question in their new book, "Is College Worth It?" (published by Thomas Nelson).

The answer is maybe ... and maybe not. It depends on a variety of factors, and the authors do a compelling job of presenting their readers with a myriad of facts to educate them that going to college isn't the simple decision it used to be.

Some of the issues people need to consider before sending their kids off to college, or returning to the classroom themselves, include the staggering cost and enormous debt a college education today often creates. Many students are finding themselves with a degree that cost them the equivalent of a mortgage, but doesn't come with the same old "guarantee" that they'll get a good job if they just graduate college. Many aren't getting those good jobs when they do get the degrees, and many others aren't getting the degrees because they can't stay in long enough to graduate.

Others aren't graduating because a failed K-12 education system did not adequately prepare them to go to college, and find themselves unequipped for higher education. Others are dropping out because they are discovering the quality of higher education has plummeted dramatically.

Still others are finding themselves holding a degree without having learned much because they bought into the party attitude prevalent on many campuses. Many young people find their lives spiraling downward into binge drinking and sexual promiscuity as they explore their new freedom away from parents.

Others are hesitant to go to college because many professors preach (not just teach) a politically liberal ideology which they expect their students to accept.

There are also many who fail at college because they should have never gone in the first place. They are not students and do not thrive in an academic setting. Other opportunities such as trade schools, internships, apprenticeships, or possibly
online education or community college would be more beneficial for them.

There's much more to the question of whether college is "worth it," and the writers do a concise job of laying out all the different factors of considering whether going to college today is still a good idea.

If you thought you would send your kids to college, or have been considering going back yourself, then "Is College Worth It?" is simply a "must read" for you.


I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Monday, August 12, 2013

A little off the top, please ...

In one of the malls in the north Dallas area is a hair salon called "Visible Changes."

The concept for this salon is to place the chairs for clients right by windows so mall shoppers can see the "visible changes" they are undergoing as their stylists make them more beautiful.

As I walked past the salon, it reminded me somewhat of the work of the Holy Spirit in the lives of Christians. As He is transforming our lives, God places us in full view of the world so they can observe the beautiful work He is doing in our lives ...

"You are the light of the world --- like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden ... let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father," Matthew 5:14,16.

Is your life a public display of the tranforming work of the Holy Spirit and the beautiful handiwork of God?


Sunday, August 11, 2013

It's not too early to start thinking about Christmas ...

Christians and churches do many great things for people around the world every Christmas. I wanted to share with you something you could be a part of this coming Christmas.

Living Bread Ministries plants churches among the global poor, and this Christmas they will be ministering to about 1,000 children. To do so, they need your help!

You can learn more about this opportunity to become part of "Share Christmas" at this link Please take a look and see if this is a way you would like to share God's love this coming Christmas.

Thank you!


Is that any of your business?

Often called the "father of modern missions," William Carey repaired and sold shoes by trade before going to India.

Carey kept a map of India in his shop, and he would often stop to study and pray over it during his work day. Sometimes his preaching ministry resulted in his shoe business suffering from a lack of his attention. One day a friend scolded him for neglecting his business.

"Neglecting my business?" responded Carey. "My business is to extend the kingdom of God. I only cobble shoes to pay expenses."

What is your business?


Friday, August 9, 2013

It isn't finished ...

Jesus could say from the cross, "It is finished."

As disciples of Jesus Christ, we cannot say "it is finished."

Jesus could make that grand statement because by shedding His own blood, He once and for all paid the debt of humanity's sins. That great work of His is finished!

We can't make that great statement because we have to live out --- each day --- the privilege of being a disciple of Christ.

And it is a daily thing.

"Then he said to the crowd, 'If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross DAILY, and follow me'," Luke 9:23.

Many seem to have the attitude that once the work of man's redemption was completed by Christ on the cross, it was "finished" for us, as if we could sit back and simply wallow in grace and peace.

Not so.

"Dear friends, you have always followed my instructions when I was with you. And now that I am away, it is even more important. Work hard to show the results of your salvation, obeying God with deep reverence and fear. For God is working in you, giving you  the desire and the power to do what pleases Him," Philippians 2:12.

"Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you ..." Matthew 28:19-20a.

"And all of this is a gift from God, who brought us back to himself through Christ. And God has given us this task of reconciling people to him. For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people's sins against them. And he gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation. So we are Christ's ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, 'Come back to God!'" 2 Corinthians 5:18-20.

So you see, for us, it really isn't finished.

Are you doing your part?


Wednesday, August 7, 2013

"Even if" moments ...

Who God really is to you is best revealed in those "even if" moments.

The kind of "even if" moment Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego faced as told in their dramatic story in Daniel 3. When the king threatened to throw them into a furnace if they didn't bow down and worship a gold statue of his image, here's their response:

"If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God whom we serve is able to save us. He will rescue us from your power, your majesty. But even if he doesn't, we want to make it clear to you, your majesty, that we will never serve your gods or worship the gold statue you have set up," Daniel 3:17-18.

These three men knew God was more than able to rescue them, but they also knew God doesn't always rescue us from our circumstances. Whether or not God would provide a physical escape had nothing to do with their loyalty to Him. Even if they faced death in a furnace, they would remain true to God alone.

Do you have an "even if" loyalty to God? What does it take to get you to bow down to someone or something other than the true and living God?


Sunday, August 4, 2013

This is the putrid attitude in the church the world hates ...

Even those who aggressively and energetically reject God know that when someone who has fallen on hard times is hungry, we should feed them. That's basic human caring, it's a simple yet profound expression of love. It is simple kindness.

But today I had yet another conversation with a church leader who didn't grasp this most basic concept. Instead, he spoke of "not casting your pearls before swine" (his exact words), and fumbled at excuses for judging people prior to extending any help to them. He even spoke of Jesus not helping everyone who came to Him.

All this around a simple conversation of helping someone who was homeless.

This is the putrid attitude in the church the world hates. Even the Godless world understands when the needy are hungry, they should be fed. Yet, they see a church that speaks of the love of Christ, but far too often fails to demonstrate it in the most simplest of ways.

"It's hard," this church leader said to me.

I pushed back and told him it's not.

Jesus will judge by a very simple measure, which includes loving and caring in the most simple and basic ways:

"Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world. For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me'," Matthew 25:34-36 (see Matthew 25:31-46 for a fuller context).

It is impossible for Christians to be a light to the world with such a darkened heart toward others. Unless we learn to see people with the same attitude and same heart that Christ has for them, we'll never have a chance to reach them with the Gospel.

"You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had," Philippians 2:5.

So if you see someone in need who is hungry, feed them. If they're thirsty, give them something to drink. If they need clothes, provide them. If they are sick, care for them. If they get in trouble, visit and help them.

In other words, if you're going to wear Christ's name, then live like Him.

And toss out the putrid attitude, along with the excuses.


Friday, August 2, 2013

Worse than the Titanic ...

Wouldn't you know it, the one and only time I've taken a cruise, it turned out to be an adventure in a hurricane!

I boarded the Carnival cruise ship in the Los Angeles area for what was supposed to be an enjoyable cruise along the Mexican Riviera.

We sailed down to Puerto Villarta and had an enjoyable day there. But then had to rush back to the ship. A hurricane was reported to be barreling down on that area, and we needed to try to outrun it.

We didn't.

Instead, we spent much of the remainder of the cruise rocking and rolling back and forth in the midst of the storm. We bypassed our scheduled stop in Mazatlan while the hurricane did a lot of damage there. We also had to forego our stop in Cabo San Lucas. We finally dropped anchor in Ensenada, where more than a third of the passengers, suffering from seasickness, left the ship and flew home.

Finally, we arrived safely back in port in Los Angeles.

I was grateful!

One experience I wouldn't like to have is that of being aboard a sinking ship.

Just imagine what that would be like. The ship is sinking, and you're trying to help people get into lifeboats. But fear and disbelief cause people to go the wrong direction and perish.

The image of a sinking ship is similar to the condition of our world, which isn't getting any better; it's sinking in sin. God has provided you with a "Gospel lifeboat" for every passenger who will accept it. Your responsibility is to lead the people to the lifeboats so they don't perish.

How should we live as servants of God? As if we're on a sinking ship, and have a supply of lifeboats. We never stop trying to get people into the lifeboats so they won't perish.

Or do we?

The world around you is sinking. You DO have "Gospel lifeboats" to share. Are you diligent about helping people into them? Or oblivious to those perishing around you?


Thursday, August 1, 2013

I hope this provokes you ...

A young man enlisted in the Army, and was sent to his regiment. The first night he was in the barracks with about fifteen other young men, who passed the time playing cards and gambling. Before going to bed, he fell on his knees and prayed, and the others began to curse, laugh at, and throw boots at him.

So it went on the next night and the next. Finally, the young man went and told the chaplain what had taken place, and asked what he should do.

"Well," said the chaplain, "you are not at home now, and the other men have just as much right to the barracks as you have. It makes them mad to hear you pray, and the Lord will hear you just as well if you say your prayers in bed and don't provoke them."

For weeks after that, the chaplain did not see the young man again, but one day he met him, and asked, "By the way, did you take my advice?"

"I did, for two or three nights."

"How did it work?"

"Well," said the young man, "I felt like a whipped hound and the third night I got out of bed, knelt down and prayed."

"Well," asked the chaplain, "How did that work?"

The young soldier answered, "We have a prayer meeting there now every night, and three have been converted, and we are praying for the rest.

This story is a good example of what may happen if we persevere through difficult challenges to our faith.

Sadly, the poor advice from the chaplain is all too common. We're often told "don't rock the boat" and keep your faith personal. But that's not the kind of advice the Apostle gives us ...

"Let us think of ways to motivate [provoke] one other to acts of love and good works," Hebrews 10:24.

The world is never slow to provoke us to sin ... to anger, cursing, revenge, or hate. And we are not naturally inclined to the way of the Lord.

You and I need to provoked to holiness. Provoked to love. Provoked to good works, and kindness, and the qualities of Christ.

Do you have someone in your life who provokes to follow Christ? Do you provoke others to glorify God, or to walk in the ways of the world?