A Boll Weevil Experience

In his book It Is Toward Evening, Vance Havner tells the story of a group of cotton farmers in the deep South. Year after year these men grew cotton, put their profits back into it, and set all of their fields in it. Then tragedy struck in the form of the devastating boll weevil. All of the cotton was destroyed and it looked as if the farmers were headed for the poorhouse.

Being farmers, though, the men persevered. In the wake of their disaster with cotton, they shifted gears and planted peanuts. Amazingly, they ended up making more money with peanuts than they ever had with cotton. When the farmers realized that what had seemed to be a disaster had actually turned out to be a boon, they erected a large monument to the very thing they thought had ruined them: the boll weevil.

Havner concludes the story by saying:

Sometimes we settle into a humdrum routine as monotonous as growing cotton year after year. Then God sends the boll weevil; He jolts us out of our groove, and we must find new ways to live. Financial reverses, great bereavement, physical infirmity, loss of position – how many have been driven by trouble to be better husbandman and to bring forth finer fruit from their souls! The best thing that ever happened to some of us was the coming of our boll weevil.

When God either causes or allows you to go through a boll weevil experience, you might think it is the ruin of you. You might say, “I will never get over this. This is more than I can overcome. These wounds are too deep to ever heal.” But that is a wrong assessment of your situation. If you will turn things over to God and allow Him to help you, you won’t just get past the experience; you will come out the other end of it a better person who will, as Vance Havner said, “bring forth finer fruit.”

The book of Genesis gives us the record of Joseph’s boll weevil experience. He was sold into slavery by his brothers (Genesis 37:12-36) and taken from his homeland of Canaan and transported south to Egypt where he became the servant of Potiphar, the captain of Pharaoh’s guard (Genesis 39:1-6). There, he was falsely accused of rape by Potiphar’s wife (Genesis 39:7-18) and thrown into Pharaoh’s prison where he remained for two years (Genesis 39:20-41:1). Talk about devastating times!

But God took that whole experience and used it to bring incredible fruit from Joseph. After interpreting two dreams for Pharaoh, Joseph was made second in command of all Egypt (Genesis 41:1-46), and because of Joseph’s foresight and administrative skill, Egypt prospered through a seven-year famine (Genesis 41:48-57). Ultimately, his position in Egypt allowed him to reunite with his family and bring them from famine-ravaged Canaan to Egypt, where they thrived (Genesis 42:1-47:27).

I can just hear Joseph saying when his brothers sold him into slavery, “Lord, don’t let this happen to me.” I can just hear him asking when Potiphar’s wife told her lie, “Lord, are you going to let her get away with this?” I can just hear him praying as he languished in Pharaoh’s prison for those two years, “Lord, it seems as if my life is over.” But then I can also hear him, as an old man, looking back over his life and admitting, “When I was going through that experience, I thought it was the end of me. But now I see that God used it to make me better than I was.”

Perhaps you are in a boll weevil experience right now. Something has happened that has absolutely devastated you. If that’s the case, don’t give up hope. Times may seem hard now, but God isn’t finished working the process. He’s been clearing the fields of your old crop of service so that He can make room for your new and more fruitful crop. So, don’t begrudge whatever it takes for Him to do away with your cotton because that cotton has to go to make room for your peanuts.

Is a boll weevil experience pleasant? Certainly not. Is it something you want to volunteer for? Not if you have any sense. But is it something that God can use to make you a better servant? Most definitely. He won’t expect you to follow those farmers’ example and erect a monument to your experience, but He will expect you to see the value in the experience. And there will be value in it. As a matter of fact, you will never produce a certain quality and quantity of fruit in your life until your boll weevil wipes you out and you are forced to rethink the way you live and serve.

Posted in Adversity, Change, Disappointment, Encouragement, God's Omnipotence, God's Omniscience, God's Work, Ministry, Perseverance, Service, Suffering, Trials, Trusting In God | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Patience

Chuck Swindoll’s preaching is marked by wonderful illustrations. He has compiled hundreds of these into a book entitled The Tale of the Tardy Ox Cart. That title comes from my favorite illustration in the book.

An old man and his son once farmed a little piece of land. Several times each year they would load their vegetables into an ox-drawn cart and go to the nearest city to sell their produce. The trip was usually marked by disagreement because the son was always in a hurry and the old man couldn’t be rushed.

One morning the two headed out on their trip. The son calculated that if they walked fast and pushed on through the night they’d be in the city early the next morning. In order to stay on that schedule, he kept hitting the ox with a stick, prodding the animal to move faster. Finally, after a few rounds of that, the father said, “Take it easy, son. You’ll last longer.” The boy said, “But if we get to market ahead of the others, we’ll get the best prices.” To that, the father just pulled his hat down over his eyes and fell asleep on the seat of the cart. The boy kept hitting the ox, but the ox had a pace all its own.

Four hours into the trip they came to a little house. The father roused from his sleep and said, “This is your uncle’s house. Let’s stop in and say hello.” The boy replied, “But we are already an hour behind schedule.” “Then a few more minutes won’t matter,” said the father. “My brother and I don’t get to see each other much.” And so, for the next hour, the boy sat and stewed while the brothers laughed and talked.

When the father and son finally got back onto the road, the father took his turn leading the ox. They came to a fork in the road, and he led the ox to the right. The boy piped up, “The left way is shorter.” The old man answered, “I know, but this way offers prettier scenery.” The boy bellowed, “Don’t you have any respect for time?” “Yes, I do,” said the father, “that’s why I want to use it to enjoy the beautiful scenery.”

The winding path led through picturesque meadows, wildflowers, and alongside a babbling brook. But the son missed it all because he was too busy moaning from impatience. He didn’t even notice how perfect the sunset was that afternoon. The father pulled the ox to a halt in a particularly gorgeous spot and said, “Let’s sleep here tonight.” Through his frustration, the boy raged, “I’m not going to take any more trips with you. You are more interested in watching sunsets and smelling flowers than in making money!” He meant for those words to hurt his father, but the old man just smiled and said, “Why, that’s the nicest thing you’ve ever said to me.” It wasn’t long before the father was snoring and the son was staring up at the stars, restless for the morning to come and the trip to begin again.

The sun wasn’t even fully up when the young man shook his father awake. They hitched up the ox and headed down the road. They had traveled about a mile when they came upon another farmer who was trying to pull his cart out of a ditch. The father said, “Let’s give him a hand.” “And lose more time?” the boy shot back. “Relax,” said the man, “you might be in a ditch yourself sometime.”

It was almost 8:00 a.m. by the time they got the other cart out of the ditch and back onto the road. Suddenly a great flash split the sky. What sounded like thunder followed and the sky grew dark beyond the hills. “Looks like a big rain in the city,” said the father. “Yes,” said the son, “and if we’d hurried we’d be almost sold out by now.” “Take it easy, you’ll last longer. And you’ll enjoy life so much more,” said the father.

It was late afternoon by the time father and son made it to the hill overlooking the city. They stood there and stared for a long, long time. Neither of them said a word. Finally, the son put his hand on his father’s shoulder and said, “Now I see what you mean.” Then they turned the oxcart around and began to slowly roll away from what had once been the city of Hiroshima.

Christian, do you think that God is dragging His heels in taking you some place? Do you think that He is needlessly delaying the answer to your prayers? Do you think that He is wasting time with your life? Trust me, He isn’t. What you think are crippling delays might just be that which is necessary to keep you out of harm’s way.

Posted in Disappointment, God's Timing, God's Omniscience, Impatience, Patience, Waiting, Worry | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Vengeance is Mine,” Says the Lord

For we know Him who said, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. And again, “The Lord will judge His people.” (Hebrews 10:30, N.K.J.V.)

If you have any fight in you at all, it can be almost impossible not to seek revenge when you have been done wrong. Even worse, it’s not like God always metes out His vengeance in a manner that we consider timely or on par with what has been done to us. Speaking for myself, it really does seem like whatever vengeance God repays oftentimes seems to be a day late and a dollar short.

We read stories in the Old Testament about the waters of the Red Sea drowning Pharaoh’s army (Exodus 14:24-28), the ground opening up and swallowing those who were opposing Moses (Numbers 16:1-40), Samuel hacking the Amalekite king Agag to pieces (1 Samuel 15:32-33), David slaying the Philistine giant Goliath (1 Samuel 17:1-58), Elijah ordering the executions of 450 prophets of Baal (1 Kings 18:17-40), the wicked queen Jezebel being thrown out of a window to her death (2 Kings 9:30-37), Haman being hung on the gallows he had built to hang Mordecai (Esther 7:1-10), and those who plotted to get Daniel eaten by lions getting eaten themselves by those lions (Daniel 6:1-24). These stories appeal to our basic human longing for revenge and justice. We read them and think, “Now that’s a God who knows how to deal with those who are working to thwart His will and harm His servants.”

But then we come to the New Testament and find that those type of stories pretty much dry up altogether. Herod Antipas has John the Baptist beheaded, and God doesn’t do anything about it (Matthew 14:1-9). The Jewish Sanhedrin stone Stephen to death. and God doesn’t do anything about it (Acts 7:54-60). Herod Agrippa I has the apostle James executed, and God doesn’t do anything about it (Acts 12:1-2). The apostle Paul gets stoned almost to death by unbelieving Jews, and God doesn’t do anything about it (Acts 14:19-20). These stories leave us wondering, “Where is the God who repays in vengeance when His enemies are conquering over His servants?”

Going even deeper into the matter, not only does God not do much vengeful repaying in the New Testament, He commands His people (Christians) to do things like: love our enemies, pray for them, turn the other cheek when they strike us, give them our shirt as well when they sue us to take our coat, and go a second mile when they force us to go one (Matthew 5:38-48). Even Jesus, who was literally God in the flesh, said concerning the very people who were crucifying Him, “Father, forgive them because they don’t know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34). Additionally, He wouldn’t let Peter fight to defend Him when He was arrested (Matthew 26:51-54; Mark 14:46-47; Luke 22:47-51; John 18:10-11), and He rebuked James and John for wanting to call fire down upon a village that had refused to let Him enter it (Luke 9:51-56).

Christian, I’m telling you this to warn you against expecting God to go “Old Testament” on anyone who does you a bad turn. Even if the perpetrator makes a habit of regularly treating you badly over a very long period of time, I doubt the ground will ever open up and swallow that person whole. You say, “But isn’t it true that God never changes?” Yes, it is (Malachi 3:6; Hebrews 13:8; James 1:17). However, that refers to His character and nature, not to the specific ways in which He deals with mankind during the various dispensations and eras that make up human history. As I have pointed out, there is clearly a major change in the way that God deals with His enemies in the New Testament as opposed to the Old Testament.

Or is there? Let’s keep in mind that the same Jesus who gave us The Sermon on the Mount and all those teachings about forgiving others (Matthew 18:21-35, Mark 11:25; Luke 17:3-4) had a lot to say about the horrific eternal judgment that lost unbelievers will endure (Matthew 5:29-30; 7:13-14; 8:12; 13:36-43; 13:47-50; 18:8-9; 23:33; 25:31-46; Luke 13:22-30; 16:19-31). And let’s also keep in mind that every saved believer will have to stand before The Judgment Seat of Christ in heaven to receive what he or she has coming in regards to heavenly rewards gained or lost for the bodily deeds done on earth after getting saved (Romans 14:10; 2 Corinthians 5:10-11). That is why our text verse makes a point of saying that God will judge His people.

Based upon all this, it is correct to say that whatever vengeance God repays in this life — whether that vengeance be paid upon a lost unbeliever or a Christian — He will settle all accounts fully in the afterlife. Remember this, Christian, the next time that someone does something truly awful to you and seems to get away with it. That person hasn’t gotten away with anything; it’s just that God’s timing hasn’t rolled around yet for His vengeance to be repaid.

Posted in Adversity, Coming Judgment, Disappointment, Forgiveness, God's Timing, God's Judgment, Heaven, Hell, Justice, Persecution, Perseverance, Revenge, Reward, Suffering, The Judgment Seat of Christ, Trials, Trusting In God | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Keep the Message Simple

And I, brethren, when I came to you, did not come with excellence of speech or of wisdom declaring to you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. I was with you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling. And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God. (1 Corinthians 2:1-5, N.K.J.V.)

A country boy was on trial for stealing a pig. Through the help of his public defender, he managed to beat the charge. To close the trial, the judge looked at the country boy and said, “You are exonerated.” To that, the country boy said, “Judge, does that mean I don’t have to give the pig back?”

The world has plenty of educated, highly intelligent people who know the definition of “exonerated” and scores of other words. In point of fact, though, the world also has people who don’t know either the definition of “exonerated” or the definitions of various other words rarely used in everyday language. This is why it is so important that we Christians use down-to-earth language, the language of the masses, when we talk about Jesus.

Jesus, being God in the flesh, was the most brilliant person who ever walked this earth, but when we read His teachings and His sermons, we find that He always used simple terminology to convey His message. He told stories (parables). He talked about nature (birds, lilies, fruit trees, etc.). He used exaggerated illustrations such as the one about the person whose eye has a plank in it. It’s no wonder the common folks flocked to hear Him.

The apostle Paul was no slouch in terms of intellect, either. He was a highly educated theologian/apologist who studied under the scholarly Jewish rabbi Gamaliel (Acts 22:3). To find evidence of Paul’s lofty brilliance, all we have to do is read his epistles (Romans, 1 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, etc.). But what does Paul say in our text passage about his preaching? Thinking back upon his ministry in Corinth, he says that he didn’t use excellency of speech, excellency of wisdom, or persuasive words of human wisdom. That’s what you call keeping it simple. He does admit later that he preached a different type of message when he was with mature believers (1 Corinthians 2:6-8), but such messages were not his norm for the masses.

The challenge for us Christians today is to keep the gospel of Jesus simple and share it with the world. Somehow we’ve got to be not only doctrinally sound but also easily understood. We don’t have to make the gospel relevant to this culture because it is inherently relevant to every culture. But we do need to explain to people why it is relevant to THEM. As Paul said, the best way to accomplish that is to rely upon the Holy Spirit’s help. When we share the gospel in the Spirit’s way and in the Spirit’s power, allowing the Spirit to use us as His vessels for evangelism, our sharing becomes more than just a religious sales pitch. Instead, it becomes nothing less than telling spiritual corpses who are bound for hell how they can become spiritually alive and bound for heaven. Obviously, that’s a message that needs to be not only heard but also understood, and there is no message anywhere that is even remotely as important.

Posted in Communication, Evangelism, God's Work, Heaven, Hell, Ministry, Preaching, The Gospel, Witnessing | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Two Different Agendas

When my son Ryan was in high school and trying to get a chance to play college baseball, I took him to a Prospect Camp at a small college in Georgia. The college had a successful DII baseball program, and its coach had a good working relationship with many of the coaches from similar-sized schools. The two-day event was just a chance for Ryan to get seen by some recruiters/coaches and possibly get a nibble of an offer from one of them.

For me, the highlight of the event was a panel discussion that was held for the parents. With all of us crammed into the college’s auditorium, and with seven or eight of the college coaches sitting at a table up on the stage, the host school’s coach provided a very informative presentation regarding the ins and outs of how to get your kid recruited to play college baseball. Afterward, any parent who wanted to ask a question was given the opportunity to do so, and each coach on stage was expected to give his answer to the question. As I think back on that night now, two questions in particular and the answers they evoked are still etched in my mind.

One question had to do with academics. The mother of one of the players attending the camp was a teacher who advocated for students to take AP (Advanced Placement) classes in high school. Since she believed that taking such classes was the best way for her son to prepare for college, she figured the panel of coaches would confirm that belief by saying something like, “Yes, we especially look for players who have strong academic resumes.”

Unfortunately for her, however, she got her balloon popped when she discovered that not one coach on that panel was a fan of taking the harder classes. To a man, each coach said that all he looked for academically in a player was a bare minimum G.P.A., SAT score, or ACT score, anything that would allow the player to qualify as academically eligible to attend the coach’s school. Rather than put in the extra study time required for AP classes, the coaches suggested the player devote the extra time to making himself a better baseball player. Even when that educator mom became visibly upset and attempted to argue with those coaches, not one of them backed down from that answer. The gist of what they told her was, “Your son taking the AP classes might enable him to more easily handle college courses, and it might also help him earn more academic scholarship money, but what we are looking for is his skill as a baseball player rather than a student.”

The second standout question had to do with travel teams. One father asked, “If my son has to choose between playing for his high school team and playing for his travel team, which team should he choose?” I have to admit that I almost scoffed when I heard that question. My kneejerk reaction was, “He should play for his high school team because he’ll want to play with his friends and fellow students and represent his school.” I knew that dad’s question had struck gold, though, when every coach on that stage began to blush and sheepishly grin as if he was going to have to admit something that until then had always been kept top secret. Several of them even looked at each other and started laughing as if to say, “Do you want to answer that one first?”

You can probably guess where I’m going with this. Despite the fact that colleges are supposed to work hand in hand with high schools, not one of those coaches would say that it was more important for a kid to play for a high school team rather than a travel team. Their reasons were numerous. Generally speaking, travel teams consistently play better competition, provide better coaching, play on nicer fields, and give a player an overall experience much more on par with what college baseball is like. This is all especially true if a player attends a high school that has a baseball program that isn’t very good.

As I think back on those two memorable questions/answers, I realize that each one serves as a perfect example of opposing agendas. What is the agenda of high school teachers and educators when it comes to getting a teenager prepared for college? It centers around academics, bookwork, advanced classes, etc. That agenda is all about helping the kid become a successful college student. But what is the agenda of college sports coaches when it comes to getting a teenager prepared for college? It centers around the kid excelling in a specific sport, training year-round for that sport, honing that craft, etc. It is all about helping that kid become a successful college athlete.

Likewise, what is the agenda of high school coaches, principals, and administrators when it comes to high school athletics? It centers around high schools having the most successful teams possible in terms of victories, player participation, parental support, community enthusiasm, etc. But what is the agenda of college sports coaches? It centers around colleges having the most successful teams possible.

Now let’s apply all this to the Christian’s relationship with God. What is the Christian’s agenda when it comes to this earthly life? It centers around health, wealth, comfort, pleasure, easy living, etc. It is all about making this world as much like heaven as possible. But what is God’s agenda for the Christian when it comes to this earthly life? It centers around adversity, trials, tests, persecution, etc. It is all about enabling the Christian to grow spiritually and causing this world to look less and less appealing in contrast to heaven. That’s why God doesn’t come riding in and save the day every time the Christian has a problem.

Let’s face it, even though we all want to live in the mountaintop experiences, the truth is that we grow more spiritually and acquire more wisdom in the valley experiences. God knows this about us, and so He either causes or at least allows valley experiences to come our way. Keep this in mind, Christian, the next time you find yourself in such an experience. If you are praying for one thing but God keeps sending the exact opposite, you should acknowledge that two different agendas are in conflict. God can’t grant what you want for yourself without forgoing what He wants for you, and He is simply not willing to give up on what He wants for you. It’s not that He doesn’t love you or want good things for you; it’s just that He has a different set of good things in mind for you. Your job is to figure out what His agenda is for your situation and thank Him for the good things He is accomplishing for you by way of that agenda. You see, when you learn to do that, then you’ll begin flowing with the current of His lesson plan for your life rather than trying to swim upstream against it.

Posted in Adversity, Aging, Complaining, Contentment, Desires, Disappointment, Discernment, Discipleship, Elderly, Faithfulness, God's Love, God's Omniscience, God's Sovereignty, God's Will, Heaven, Loneliness, Persecution, Perseverance, Personal, Prayer, Prayer Requests, Problems, Prosperity, Sanctification, Sickness, Spiritual Warfare, Sports, Suffering, Trials, Trusting In God | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Finding Your Mirrors

Even though I am a free man with no master, I have become a slave to all people to bring many to Christ. When I was with the Jews, I lived like a Jew to bring the Jews to Christ. When I was with those who follow the Jewish law, I too lived under that law. Even though I am not subject to the law, I did this so I could bring to Christ those who are under the law. When I am with the Gentiles who do not follow the Jewish law, I too live apart from that law so I can bring them to Christ. But I do not ignore the law of God; I obey the law of Christ. When I am with those who are weak, I share their weakness, for I want to bring the weak to Christ. Yes, I try to find common ground with everyone, doing everything I can to save some. I do everything to spread the Good News and share in its blessings. (1 Corinthians 9:19-23, New Living Translation)

Dr. Walter Wilson, who was not only a licensed medical physician but later on the founder and longtime pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Kansas City, Missouri, told the story of a wealthy man who lived near an army camp. The man knew that a certain soldier who was stationed at the camp was not a Christian, and he wanted to witness to that soldier. However, the post’s commanding officer had a fairly strict policy about visitation, and that policy didn’t make allowance for anyone to do any personal witnessing on the post.

Despite numerous requests to be allowed to visit the soldier and talk to him, the wealthy man was never granted permission to do so. Finally, he realized that he was going to have to get creative if he wanted to share the message of Jesus with that soldier. That’s when inspiration struck him. He went to a company that made mirrors and put in an order for enough small mirrors to give one to each soldier on the base. On the back of each mirror, he had “John 3:16” engraved just before the words: “If you want to see who it is that God loves and for whom Christ died, look on the other side.”

The man then took the mirrors to the commanding officer, asked for permission to give one to each soldier on the base, and was granted permission to do so. Because of the man’s creativity in evangelism, not only did he get the message of Jesus to that one soldier that he had on his heart, he got it to all the other soldiers on the base. All I can say about that is, may his tribe increase.

The fact is that many Christians do not have the confidence to verbally share the gospel with others. I’m not saying this is a good thing or something these Christians shouldn’t work to overcome; I’m simply pointing it out as an inconvenient truth. But if you are such a Christian, let me encourage you to find other ways (non-verbal ones) to share the gospel. Here are seven examples of the kind of thing I’m describing:

  • Buy yourself some gospel tracts that are not only tactful but also doctrinally solid and strategically place individual tracts wherever the Lord burdens you to place them.
  • Finance the radio or television ministry of an evangelist or pastor whom you trust.
  • If you have a talent for writing, create your own blog and use it to tell others about Jesus.
  • Give generously, sacrificially, to the missions offerings taken up at your local church.
  • Take out an evangelistic ad in your local paper if that paper allows those type of ads to be placed.
  • Don’t be shy about incorporating evangelistic verses into your Facebook posts and using your page to share your Christian testimony.
  • Use acts of service (yard mowing, baking, car washing, snow shoveling, etc.) as springboards to not only help people who are in need but also to somehow share with them — perhaps through a Christian book or a tract — about the Savior whose ultimate example of service has changed your life.

Going back to Dr. Wilson’s illustration, my question to you, Christian, is: Have you found your mirrors yet? In other words, have you found your ways to become actively involved in evangelism? Remember that Jesus knows how you are wired, and He knows what spiritual gifts and talents you have. Therefore, you should ask Him to reveal to you what YOU can do to share the gospel in your own personalized way. Since Jesus Himself is infinitely creative, He will gladly convey some of that creativity to you if He sees that you are serious about wanting to tell others about Him. And if you are wondering if He has a need for you in this type of work, let me remind you that He once mournfully said, “The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few” (Mathew 9:37, N.K.J.V.).

Posted in Evangelism, Individuality, Ministry, Missions, Service, Spiritual Gifts, Talents, The Gospel, Witnessing | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Corrupting Your Way

So God looked upon the earth, and indeed it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted their way on the earth. (Genesis 6:12, N.K.J.V.)

It is interesting how God Himself described the world’s population of Noah’s day. He said they had “corrupted their way.” The image called to mind is that of a person who was created to live in a certain way, but that person is tainting that way, marring it, defiling it, or perverting it through behavior that is contradictory to it.

In our way of thinking, corruption is something that only happens in the realms of business, government, court rooms, law enforcement, etc. When we hear the word, we think of lying, taking bribes, covering up scandals, or showing bias one way or the other. We typically don’t think of missing God’s will for our lives as corrupting those lives. That is, however, exactly what the Bible teaches in our text verse.

You see, you can corrupt your way without becoming a murderer, a robber, an alcoholic, or a drug addict. When Jesus described the people of Noah’s day, He said they were “eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage” (Matthew 24:37-38; Luke 17:26-27). Is eating a sin? Not unless you commit the sin of gluttony by eating too much. Is drinking a sin? Not unless you commit the sin of drunkenness by drinking too much alcohol. Is marrying a sin? Not unless you commit the sin of bigamy or polygamy by having multiple spouses. Is giving in marriage a sin? Not unless you knowingly marry off your son or daughter into bigamy or polygamy. Still, though, God said concerning those people, “They have corrupted their way on the earth.” As W.A Criswell wrote in The Criswell Study Bible, “Noah’s day was characterized by preoccupation with trivial matters and neglect of spiritual concerns.”

The point is, you can corrupt God’s intended way for your life simply by not giving Him His proper place in your life. When you ignore His will and do your own, you corrupt your way. When you ignore His word and follow your own logic, you corrupt your way. Certainly when you ignore His Son (Jesus) and don’t believe in Jesus as Savior, you corrupt your way not only in an earthly sense but an eternal one.

Right now, here at the onset of this new year, you should do an assessment of your life to see how much deviation there is between it and the life that God wants you to be living. Again, the fact that you haven’t been arrested recently and aren’t in rehab doesn’t mean that you are living in your God-approved way. Remember the people of Noah’s day. Many of them were just eating, drinking, marrying, and giving in marriage, and yet somehow through all of it they were corrupting their way. Like W.A. Criswell said, they were preoccupied with trivial (worldly) matters while they were neglecting spiritual ones. If that doesn’t describe a whole lot of people today, I don’t know what does. Just be sure that you aren’t one of them and that you are living a life that is in line with your God-intended way rather than a corruption to it.

Posted in Backsliding, Disobedience, Dying To Self, Faithfulness, God's Will, Obedience, Priorities, Rebellion, Sin, Submission | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Year-End Report (2021)

In recent years on this blog, I’ve provided the readers with a year-end report such as the one you are about to read. I’ve done this as a way of celebrating how God has used the blog over the previous year. I’m not sure that I will continue to do this — because I certainly don’t want to come off sounding like I’m bragging on me — but I will at least do this one more round of it. Here goes.

As of this moment today, December 31st, 2021, the blog’s total number of hits all time stands at 357,936, and the total number of views for 2021 stands at 86,446. That’s up from last year’s 68,970. The total number of visitors for 2021 stands at 57,471, up from last year’s 42,927. Obviously, these are good signs.

One problem that I had to deal with this past year much more so than in previous years was spam. I attribute this to the site getting more popular. To counteract the illegitimate number of visitors and views created by all the spam, I spent time a whole lot of time blocking each spam commenter. That, at least, prevented that commenter from registering any more fake views and thus skewing the blog’s true numbers. In the end, there’s no doubt that some of the 86,446 views for the year didn’t come from legitimate viewers, but I think I did a pretty fair job of keeping the spam curtailed. That means that the numbers are about as reasonably accurate as I could make them.

As for the blog’s most viewed posts for 2021, eight of the top ten remained the same from last year with just a bit of reshuffling in regards to the order. The list reads as follows:

  • #1: The 10 Times Israel Tested God (6,431 views) (#1 in 2020)
  • #2: What a Bird’s Nest Can Teach Us About God’s Will (3,776) (#2 in 2020)
  • #3: What Satan Did to Peter: Sifting (2,855) (#3 in 2020)
  • #4: Does God Want Everyone to Get Married? (2,714) (#6 in 2020)
  • #5: The Beasts at Ephesus (2,496) (#7 in 2020)
  • #6: What Will Life Be Like in Christ’s Millennial Reign? (2,067) (#10 in 2020)
  • #7: How Would You Describe Your Walk With the Lord These Days? (1,173) (#4 in 2020)
  • #8: The Plowing of the Wicked Is Sin (1,050) (not in top 10 in 2020)
  • #9: What Satan Did to Judas: Possession (962) (not in top 10 in 2020)
  • #10: How Does a Worm Get Inside an Apple? (879) (#5 in 2020)

As for the list of the top 10 posts in terms of all-time views, here are the rankings:

  • #1: Does God Want Everyone to Get Married? (22,098 views) (#1 in 2020)
  • #2: The 10 Times Israel Tested God (17,548) (#2 in 2020)
  • #3: What a Bird’s Nest Can Teach Us About God’s Will (11,855) (#4 in 2020)
  • #4: How Does a Worm Get Inside an Apple? (9,920) (#3 in 2020)
  • #5: What Satan Did to Peter: Sifting (4,920) (#8 in 2020)
  • #6: How Would You Describe Your Walk With the Lord These Days? (4,770) (#5 in 2020)
  • #7: The Beasts at Ephesus (3,953) (not in top 10 in 2020)
  • #8: What Will Life Be Like in Christ’s Millennial Reign? (3,884) (not in top 10 in 2020)
  • #9: Lessons from Habakkuk (2,845) (#6 in 2020)
  • #10: What Satan Did to Joshua: Accusation (2,718) (#not in top 10 in 2020)

In regards to the countries that registered views in 2021, the top 10 remained the same except for a slight reshuffling of the order. The list looks like this:

  • #1: The United States (56,707) (#1 in 2020)
  • #2: Nigeria (2,816) (#6 in 2020)
  • #3: Canada (2,675) (#3 in 2020)
  • #4: The United Kingdom (2,576) (#2 in 2020)
  • #5: Philippines (2,457) (#5 in 2020)
  • #6: India (2,331) (#4 in 2020)
  • #7: South Africa (2,027) (#7 in 2020)
  • #8: Australia (1,458) (#9 in 2020)
  • #9: Kenya (877) (#8 in 2020)
  • #10: Singapore (769) (#10 in 2020)

In closing, let me say the two words that I always say to my readers at this time of year: THANK YOU. I operate this blog as a way of being obedient to God, and that applies regardless of whether or not anybody but Him reads what I write. But it’s certainly encouraging to know that a lot of people read this site and glean spiritual help from it. So, whether you are a regular visitor or just an infrequent passer-by, please know that I appreciate you spending some time on the site and reading something that I have written. I’ll admit that at times the work gets hard and some weeks I just don’t feel like writing anything, but the work pays off when I can provide a positive year-end report like this one. Like I said, I don’t know if I will ever do another one of these, but if this is the last one, then it sure is a good one to have as a caboose.

Posted in Personal | Tagged , | 2 Comments

What Donald Trump Jr. Has Figured Out

Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not from here.” (John 18:36, N.K.J.V.)

News broke this week about a speech that Donald Trump Jr. gave on December 19th to a Turning Point USA gathering in Phoenix, Arizona. In case you didn’t know — and don’t feel bad if you didn’t because I didn’t, either — Turning Point USA is a nonprofit organization that caters to young political conservatives on the high school and college fronts. Its goal is to motivate those young folks to get involved in politics and fight against the leftist liberal agenda.

Turning Point USA believes the following three things: 1. The United States of America is the greatest country in the history of the world. 2. The United States Constitution is the most exceptional political document ever written. 3. Capitalism is the most moral and proven economic system ever discovered. According to their website, the organization’s political strategy can be summed up with the following sentence: “We play offense with a sense of urgency to win America’s culture wars.”

Okay, now that we know a little about Turning Point USA, let’s get back to Donald Trump Jr.’s speech. Speaking to an enthusiastic crowd of supporters, most of whom would describe themselves as being Christian evangelicals, Trump Jr. said the following about “cancel culture”:

If we get together, they cannot cancel us all. OK? They won’t. And this will be contrary to a lot of our beliefs because — I’d love not to have to participate in cancel culture. I’d love that it didn’t exist. But as long as it does, folks, we’d better be playing the same game. OK? We’ve been playing T-ball for half a century while they’re playing hardball and cheating. Right? We’ve turned the other cheek, and I understand, sort of, the biblical reference — I understand the mentality — but it’s gotten us nothing. OK? It’s gotten us nothing while we’ve ceded ground in every major institution in our country.

That last part about how turning the other cheek has gotten us nothing really riled some professing Christians. It was as if Trump Jr. was saying that Christ’s teachings from the Sermon on the Mount are for losers and we’ll never win the cultural war unless we start playing by new rules. As for me, though, I didn’t get upset about what Trump Jr. said. I just thought to myself, “Oh look, Donald Trump Jr. has finally figured out that biblical Christianity and American nationalism aren’t after the same goals.”

One of the things that disappoints me about Christians in America is that so many of us have bought into the mentality that following Jesus always makes you a winner in terms of worldly accomplishments. Do you want your team to win the big game? All you have to do is tell the team chaplain to evoke the name of Jesus over your players. Do you want your business to grow numerically and monetarily? All you have to do is put pictures of Jesus on the walls of your office. Do you want your Presidential candidate to win? All you have to do is assemble together a prayer team and have the members pray in agreement for Jesus to put your candidate into office.

While the image of Jesus as a blond-haired, blue-eyed, undefeated champion from the heartland of America plays well in not only conservative political rallies but also certain churches, the reality of following Jesus typically looks very different. That reality includes Christians being in the minority, experiencing persecution, being constantly engaged in spiritual warfare against Satan and his fellow fallen angels, and (in the worst-case scenarios) getting martyred for the faith. Try selling that to a crowd of young political conservatives who want to take America back and make it great again.

Just to be clear, no one who knows me would call me a flaming liberal. In regards to how I feel about America, I love baseball, hot dogs, apple pie, and have owned several Chevrolets in my lifetime. I would have even driven those Chevys to the levee if there had been a dry levee in my vicinity. In regards to how I feel about political issues, I am a registered Republican who preaches against abortion and homosexuality. I’d love to see Roe vs. Wade overturned, and I have never wavered in saying that the LGBTQ movement is anything but thoroughly unbiblical and sinful. In other words, I’m a conservative Christian who would feel much more comfortable at a Turning Point USA rally than I would at a Planned Parenthood rally. However, with that said, I am under no delusion whatsoever that the kingdom of the United States of America and the kingdom of Jesus Christ have ever been or ever will be one and the same.

Please allow me to be blunt: In regards to the realm of this world, Donald Trump Jr. wasn’t wrong in what he said. The truth is that turning the other cheek will cause you to take it on the opposite chin, give up ground to your enemies, and come off looking like a loser. After all, nobody ever lived the Christian life better than Jesus and it got Him unjustly persecuted, betrayed, arrested, and nailed to a cross. Why, then, do we modern-day Christians get so surprised when we come out on the short end of the stick in our dealings with the world? Jesus couldn’t have been any clearer when He said to His apostles:

If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of this world, but I chose you out of this world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word I said to you, “A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you. If they kept My word, they will keep yours also. But all these things they will do to you for My name’s sake, because they do not know Him who sent Me. (John 15:18-21, N.K.J.V.)

You see, what Donald Trump Jr. has figured out is that Jesus’ teachings don’t align with playing political hardball, even when the stakes are as high as they are in America’s cultural war. “An eye for an eye” really is a more effective way to win elections, but Jesus still says, “Turn the other cheek” (Matthew 5:38-39). Speeches about hating your enemy really do fire up your constituency, but Jesus still says, “Pray for those who use you and persecute you” (Matthew 5:43-44). Doing your charitable deeds when the cameras are rolling really does make for good publicity, but Jesus still says, “Do those deeds in secret where only God can see you do them” (Matthew 6:1-4). Praying impressive sounding prayers in public really does put you in good standing with the Religious Right, but Jesus still says, “Pray privately in your secret place where only God the Father can hear you” (Matthew 6:5-8). Accumulating monetary war chests really does enable you to effectively lobby and advertise for your political agenda, but Jesus still says, “Lay up for yourself treasure in heaven, not on earth” (Matthew 6:19-21).

Warren Wiersbe, who is on a short list of my all-time favorite preachers and commentators, used to say that God isn’t trying to save this world; what He’s doing is saving people out of this world. I think that’s a lesson that a lot of professing Christians in America need to learn. If we don’t, we will fully embrace the “win at all costs” mentality of Donald Trump Jr. and all the other political mouthpieces (not only from the right but also the left) who earn a living by keeping their bases at a fever pitch.

Here’s a question that’s worth asking: If we have to kick the Sermon on the Mount to the curb in order to win the cultural war, what have we really won? Jesus didn’t say, “If you love Me, talk about My commandments and use them as screen-savers on your computers.” What He said was, “If you love Me, KEEP my commandments” (John 14:15). You say, “But if I do that, I might not come out on the winning side of things.” Oh, you mean like John the Baptist getting beheaded by Herod Antipas, Stephen getting stoned to death by the Jewish Sanhedrin, James getting executed upon the order of Herod Agrippa I, Paul getting arrested by the Romans, and John getting forced into exile on the penal island of Patmos by the Romans? Is that the kind of “losing” that you think is so unappealing, so unamerican, and so unbecoming of a follower of Christ?

Look, I didn’t write this post to go on a tirade against Donald Trump, Jr. I just wanted to point out that all he did was say out loud what some evangelical Christians have inwardly thought. You’ve heard that old saying, “The end justifies the means,” haven’t you? Well, that’s the mentality that some professing Christians seem to take when it comes to who gets to dictate the rules for American culture. Even though these Christians would never admit to thinking this way, their mindset seems to be, “Once we have won this cultural war, then we’ll hold our Bibles high and live by them, but for now the priority is to win the war by any means necessary.”

Of course, the problem with that mentality is that living by Christ’s teachings isn’t something that we Christians can just take or leave depending upon the situation. Even if it means that we don’t always come out victorious in this life, our duty is to faithfully live out those teachings as best we can regardless of where we happen to be at the time and what we happen to be doing there. Once again let me say that Donald Trump Jr. wasn’t wrong in what he said. What he was wrong about was the implied assumption that it must be God’s will for Christians to win the cultural war and that God doesn’t mind us laying Christ’s teachings aside in order to do it.

Jesus Himself says in the text verse for this post that His kingdom isn’t of this world. Once you understand that, then you’ll understand why His followers aren’t guaranteed victory in everything we do on this earth. The good news, though, is that Christ’s kingdom is coming to this world one day. That will happen when Jesus returns to walk this earth again and establishes His 1,000 year reign upon it. But until then we Christians are called to be the salt and light that this lost world so desperately needs (Matthew 5:13-16). Sometimes the Lord’s influence through us will be enough to turn the courses of events the way we want them to go, but other times it won’t be. No matter what happens, though, we will receive eternal rewards for having faithfully followed Jesus, and those rewards will be infinitely greater than any earthly accolades we might accumulate by forgetting about the Sermon on the Mount altogether and using worldly tactics to fight for our causes. That’s why, Christian, I’m sticking with the Sermon on the Mount, and if you are smart you will too.

Posted in Abortion, Christ's Second Coming, Commitment, Current Events, Discipleship, Doing Good, Faithfulness, God's Will, God's Work, Government, Homosexuality, Influence, Persecution, Personal, Politics, Priorities, Prophecy, Scripture, Service, Spiritual Warfare, Suffering, The Bible | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Today

A newspaper asked its readers to send in responses to the question: “If you could have back one hour of your past, which hour would it be?” As could be expected, readers sent in a wide variety of answers. Some people wanted to relive hours of good times, but others wanted to redo hours in which major mistakes were made.

I myself would have had a difficult time responding to the question due to the fact that I have memorable hours from both categories. If push came to shove, though, I think that I would choose to redo an hour in which I made a poor decision. I’ve never been the type to say, “I wouldn’t change anything about my past because it all worked together to make me the person I am right now.” No, as I see it, if one of my mistakes could be rectified, I’d like to rectify it.

Of course, the whole purpose of the newspaper’s exercise was futile anyway, right? No matter how much we’d like to somehow revisit the past, we can’t. All of that history, either for the good or the bad, is engraved upon our permanent record for this life. If the history was good, we can be thankful for it. If it was bad, we can learn from it. But what we cannot do is change it.

It has often been pointed out that God calls Himself “I AM” (Exodus 3:13-14; John 8:58). That’s different than calling Himself “I WAS” or “I WILL BE.” “I WAS” would place Him in the past, and “I WILL BE” would place Him in the future, but “I AM” places Him firmly in the present. And that is where He wants you to join Him. He has business that He wants to do with you today. He has blessings that He wants to bestow upon you today. He has work that He wants you to do for Him today. So look around you right now and appreciate all the beauty and wonder of what is happening today. Then join Him in the present moment and live it to the fullest with Him.

Posted in Discipleship, God's Omnipresence, Personal, Service, Trusting In God | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment