Is It Time For You to Make a Change?

People often fall into one of two camps in regards to making changes. One camp holds that change is never good, and the other camp holds that it is always good. The truth, however, is that sometimes change is of God and sometimes it isn’t. The problem is that we have trouble discerning the difference.

Churches, of course, are not immune to this problem. Sadly, it is all too common for churches to fight or even split over changes to: music (traditional vs. contemporary), Bible translations (the King James version vs. any other version), and missions giving (local vs. foreign). And then there are those fights over more practical changes: pews vs. chairs, hymnals vs. video screens, choir robes vs. regular attire, a piano/organ vs. a praise band, and blue carpet vs. red carpet.

I once met with the pulpit committee of a certain church. After our initial discussion the members of the committee took me on a tour of the church building. When we came to the sanctuary, they pointed out that it featured two different types of light fixtures. The differing types were set in a pattern of alternating rows in the sanctuary’s ceiling.

On the plus side, the fixtures did the job of lighting the sanctuary. On the down side, they made for a pretty odd looking ceiling. I understood perfectly, though, when the committee members explained that there had been a major disagreement among the church members over replacing the sanctuary’s original fixtures. So, as a compromise, half the rows of the original fixtures had been kept and the other half had been updated with a more modern style of fixture. The pastor that had moderated that compromise must have had a knack for politics.

Perhaps right now you are facing a decision regarding a potential change. It could be a change in where you live, where you work, where you go to church, or where your child goes to school. Or, the change could involve some other area of your life. Whatever your potential change is, my advice to you would be to pray what David once prayed when he found himself in a tight spot. He prayed:

…cause me to know the way wherein which I should walk; for I lift up my soul unto thee (Psalm 143:8, K.J.V.)

Notice that David’s request was built around three implicit truths. Truth #1: There was a singular, specific course of action that David should take. It wasn’t a multiple choice type of deal where God didn’t have a preference which path David chose. Truth #2: God knew precisely what that course of action was. David was a bit overwhelmed by his circumstance, but God knew exactly what David needed to do. And truth #3: God would cause David to know exactly what that course of action was. David wouldn’t have been asking God for guidance if God wasn’t the type to give it.

David was smart in that he knew that he didn’t have to figure everything out for himself. All he had to do was ask God to show him the way and be obedient to whatever answer God gave him. What a marvelously simplistic way to live! It’s a way that worked for David, and it’s a way that will work for you as well, no matter what potential change you are facing.

So, is God for that change that you are dealing with these days? I don’t know. What I do know is that He has a will in each situation and He’ll make it known to you if you sincerely seek it from Him. This, then, is your assignment. Seek God’s will regarding your potential change and do whatever He says to do about it. Anything less than that and you might just wind up with two different types of light fixtures in your ceiling.

Posted in Change, Choices, Church, Desires, God's Will, Obedience, Personal, Prayer, Submission, Trusting In God | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Keeping the Main Thing the Main Thing

Many of us have heard the term “the social gospel.” This is a term that has been coined to describe the idea that Christian evangelistic efforts, rather than simply just quoting John 3:16, should include providing food for the hungry, medical care for the sick, clothes for the needy, shelters for the homeless, and a voice for victims. The basic premise is that lost people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.

And let’s get one thing straight: Jesus is about all those things and more. If you think He isn’t, you really need to go back and read the gospels again, this time looking for such subjects. However, what Jesus did was use His ministry efforts as a platform to literally open His mouth and ask the people who had received the help if they were willing to believe in Him as Messiah/Savior. In other words, He kept the main thing the main thing. The main thing was always the individual’s salvation, not the relief the individual received from the aid and comfort.

Unfortunately, here is where most (not all) modern efforts fail at following Jesus’ example. We Christians can build hospitals, staff soup kitchens, help the homeless, donate to clothing drives, and speak out against injustice, but our tendency is to stop short of actually speaking the gospel. For example, ask any pastor if he’ll get more volunteers to hand out backpacks for underprivileged school children or to go door to door sharing the gospel. I dare say that 100% of them will give you the same answer and it won’t involve a back-to-school item.

Again let me say that Christians should help those who need help. I’m not arguing otherwise. But if all we do is make this world a better place to go to hell from, we’ve missed the point completely. Therefore, we must press all our ministry efforts through to their logical conclusion: speaking the gospel to lost people and asking for a decision. Remember, Jesus didn’t say to His followers, “Go into all the world and do good things.” He said, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel.” That’s why we must always keep the main thing the main thing.

Posted in Doing Good, Evangelism, God's Work, Hell, Ministry, Missions, Salvation, Witnessing | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Traveling With Jesus

My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. (John 10:27, N.K.J.V.)

During my teenage years I ran around a lot with my friend, Jerry Willis. Jerry had a 1970 Chevy Nova Super Sport muscle car with a 350/300 horsepower engine. Man, that was a sweet ride.

Jerry is one of the funniest people that I’ve ever met and we had some good times, but there was one thing about him that was a constant: When you got into the car with him, you never knew just exactly where he’d be taking you. Oh, sure, you’d get to where you were supposed to be going: the ball field, the restaurant, the concert, town to do some cruising, etc. What you didn’t know is what other stops Jerry would be working in along the way.

It always started with him saying, “We’ve got one stop to make along the way.” Or he might say, “I need to pull in here for just a minute.” Sometimes he’d say, “We’ve got a few minutes to kill so we might as well run by….” And there I was, in the passenger’s seat, helpless. Sometimes I objected by saying something like, “No, I don’t have time to do that.” Such objections were always nullified by the comeback, “Oh, what else have you got to do?” And I always went along with him. I understood that it was the price of riding with Jerry.

In the years since, I’ve learned that walking with Jesus can be like riding with Jerry. Yes, Jesus is taking me someplace, but He very rarely uses a point A to point B approach to get me there. When He says, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me,” it implies two things. First, He has His sheep on the move. Second, He provides scant few instructions for how He will get them there.

Today’s g.p.s. systems are designed to get us to our destinations via the shortest route possible. If there is one thing I know about Jesus it’s that He isn’t very interested in the shortest route possible. You see, we’re all about the destination. He, on the other hand, is more concerned about the development we acquire as He takes the long way to get us to the destination.

And why is this? It’s because Jesus knows that delays and detours build patience and perseverance. They also give us experience, which in turn helps us acquire wisdom. So the next time that you feel like Jesus is taking way too long to get you to where He is taking you, just remember that He values the journey itself every bit as much as the arrival at the destination. Now, if I can just get Him to let me do my traveling in a 1970 Super Sport Nova.

Posted in Commitment, Disappointment, Discipleship, Faith, Faithfulness, God's Timing, Impatience, Patience, Problems, Trials, Trusting In God, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Are You Willing to Pay the Cost?

Author Lafcadio Hearn was known for his books about Japan. In particular, his collections of Japanese traditional stories and legends were very well received. One such story involved a Japanese farmer who owned a valuable rice field that covered a hilltop overlooking the sea.

As the story goes, one day an earthquake struck the area of the rice field. The farmer was working in the field at the time, and from his vantage point atop the hill he noticed that in the wake of the tremor the ocean water started withdrawing from the surrounding shoreline. He realized what this signified: a tidal wave.

The farmer knew that somehow he had to quickly get his neighbors evacuated from their low-lying homes and fields beneath him. But how? Thinking quickly, he set fire to his rice field, ran to the local temple, and rang the bell.

His neighbors, upon hearing the bell and seeing the fire and smoke, all raced up the hillside to help put out the fire. Once the fire was out, with much of the valuable field ruined, it was discovered that the farmer had deliberately started the blaze. His neighbors were furious with him for wasting his field and putting their lives in danger.

The farmer then told them to look down to the shoreline. There they saw that while they had been consumed with putting out the fire, the ocean had come crashing in upon their homes and fields. Everything beneath the hilltop was flooded, and if the farmer had not gotten the people to come to higher ground they would have been drowned by the massive wave. In an instant the farmer went from madman to hero.

Jesus said, “The greatest among will be your servant.” Oh, how this world needs servants! It needs the volunteer who will look at a situation that cries out for help, roll up his sleeves, and get to work, no matter how hard or unpleasant the work is. Think Jesus stooping down to wash the dirty, smelly feet of the chosen 12 and you’ll get the idea.

You see, the thing about being a servant is that it comes at a cost. It costs you your pride and ego. It costs you your time and energy. It costs you your ease and comfort. It might even cost you your money or reputation. It’s no wonder that the line marked “servants” is always short.

Like that Japanese farmer from lore, however, we Christians are called to be people who will make great personal sacrifices so that others may benefit. Christ’s death on the cross is our ultimate example of this. Of course, Jesus probably won’t ask you to literally follow His example by dying for others. What He will do, though, is ask you to live for them. And according to His definition, living for them means serving them, no matter what it costs you personally.

Posted in Christ's Death, Commitment, Discipleship, Giving, God's Work, Good Works, Humility, Ministry, Service | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Rainbows

“Thus I establish My covenant with you: Never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of the flood; never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.” And God said: “This is the sign of the covenant which I make between Me and you, and every living creature that is with you, for perpetual generations: I set My rainbow in the cloud, and it shall be for the sign of the covenant between Me and the earth. (Genesis 9:11-13, N.K.J.V.)

No portion of the Bible has been attacked and denied more than its opening chapters concerning the seven 24-hour days of the creation week, the literalness of the story of Adam and Eve, and the whole story of Noah, the ark, and the worldwide flood. For example, a theory has been set forth in recent years that the great flood was actually a localized event that only involved the flooding of the Black Sea. But does any theory that relegates the flood of Noah to a localized flood actually hold water (pun intended)? No, it doesn’t.

As Christian apologist Dave Hunt has pointed out, the fact that rainbows are seen all over the world proves that the great flood really was a worldwide deluge. He argues that if the flood was localized to the Black Sea (or anywhere else, for that matter), rainbows would only appear in that part of the world as a phenomenon unique to that area. Therefore, since rainbows can be found all over the globe, the floodwaters must have been found all over the globe.

Hunt also notes that 2 Peter 3:5-13 teaches that God will one day destroy this earth again, this time not with water but with fire. Following this fiery destruction, God will usher in a “new earth” (2 Peter 3:13; Revelation 21:1). According to Hunt, if the fiery destruction of the end times will be an event that involves the entire planet, the preceding bookend event (the great flood) must also have involved the entire planet.

For the record, some commentators interpret the “new earth” to be a brand spanking new planet, one that replaces the obliterated former earth in the universe. Others understand “new earth” to refer to this same earth completely purged of all vestiges of sin, the phrase being akin to the born-again Christian being described as a “new creation” who has seen old things pass away and all things become new (2 Corinthians 5:17). I myself hold to the latter interpretation, my primary reason being that God promised to give the land of Canaan to Abraham’s descendants as an everlasting possession forever (Genesis 13:14-15; 17:7). Also, that interpretation aligns better with the fact that God didn’t obliterate the planet by way of the flood.

To get back to the point, though, the rainbow is the covenant sign of God’s promise to never again destroy the earth by way of water. So the next time you see a rainbow, don’t casually dismiss it or relegate it to life’s category of the humdrum. No, a rainbow is special. It’s important. It’s BIBLICAL. It shows that its creator is a God who makes promises and keeps them. Thousands of years may pass, but God never forgets His promises.

As further evidence of this, guess what God’s throne in heaven has around it. If you answered, “A rainbow,” you’re correct (Revelation 4:1-3). It’s an emerald rainbow, to be precise, and it extends in a circle all the way around God’s throne. This rainbow being green symbolizes life, in this case the eternal life that every saved believer will experience throughout eternity. The rainbow being circular symbolizes completion, the believer’s salvation at last being fully claimed, realized, and manifested.

Needless to say, the emerald rainbow around God’s heavenly throne is the ultimate rainbow that anyone can ever see. If you lay your eyes on it, you’ll know beyond the shadow of all doubt that you are a member of God’s eternal family and a citizen of His eternal kingdom. Whatever pain and sorrow you experienced on the earth will be over at that moment, and you’ll be able to say like David, “I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever” (Psalm 23:6). But until we Christians get to see that heavenly rainbow, we’ll just have to settle for the earthly version. Really, though, considering the history and the promise behind the earthly version, that’s no small consolation prize.

Posted in Creation, Eternity, God's Judgment, God's Mercy, God's Sovereignty, Heaven, Prophecy, Restoration, Salvation, Scripture, The Bible, Weather | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Fresh Spark

Dr. G. Curtis Jones tells the story of a board meeting he once sat in on at a city church where he was serving as pastor. The focus of the meeting was the church’s lackluster performance at winning people to Christ. Everyone in the meeting was in agreement that the church’s evangelism program needed a fresh spark, but no one was willing to volunteer to be that spark.

Finally, quite unexpectedly, a prominent physician stood up from the group and said, “I don’t know much about evangelism, but I love Christ and His church. Pastor, if you will teach me how to become an evangelist and if you, the members of this board, will cooperate, I will head up our evangelism program for next year.”

As Jones describes it, “It was an exciting statement! Like a blood transfusion, he injected new life and enthusiasm into the group. We experienced a great ingathering of souls that year. Moreover, the physician grew in Christian grace and loyalty, as did the congregation.”

Christian, are you willing to be such a spark in your church, your home, or your workplace? Like that physician, you don’t necessarily have to have a ton of ability. What you have to have is availability. You have to be willing, willing to learn, willing to put in the required time, and willing to devote the necessary energy.

The fact is that there are situations all around you that need a fresh spark. Even as you’ve been reading this, it’s possible that God has already brought a situation to your mind. So tell me, are you willing to be the vessel that He works through to bring restoration and revival to that situation? While it’s true that God loves doing new things, it’s equally true that He loves reinvigorating tired, old things and taking them to a level they have never known. But, as always, He needs workers.

Posted in Change, Church, Doing Good, Evangelism, Family, God's Will, God's Work, Influence, Problems, Restoration, Service, Work | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

We Can’t Have the Best of Both Worlds

A Sunday School teacher told her children’s class the story of the rich man and Lazarus the beggar (Luke 16:19-31). She said, “The rich man was very, very rich. He wore expensive, bright-colored clothes that were made from the finest linen. He had a beautiful house that was surrounded by a large gate. And he lived in luxury every day.” The children’s eyes danced with excitement at the thought of getting to live such a life.

Then she continued. “But Lazarus was very, very poor. He didn’t even have any money to buy food for himself. That’s why he laid at the gate of the rich man’s beautiful house and asked to be fed with the crumbs that happened to fall to the floor under the rich man’s table. And Lazarus was sick, too. He had sores all over his body and no money to buy medicine for them. So, he let dogs lick them to try to get them better.” The children’s faces turned to horror at the thought of having to live such a life.

“Everything changed, though,” said the teacher, “when both men died.” “The rich man went to a place where he was tormented by hot flames all the time. He was thirsty constantly but could not get even one drop of water to drink. Lazarus, on the other hand, went to a place of perfect happiness. He was healed, comforted, and all his troubles were over. ”

Then the teacher asked, “Now, class, which person would you rather be? The rich man or Lazarus the beggar?” After a second or two of thought, one little fellow piped up and said, “I’d like to be the rich man right now and Lazarus when I die.”

Oh, that’s it, isn’t it? That’s what we want, too. We want an earthly life of wealth, splendor, ease, and good times to segue seamlessly into an afterlife of joy, bliss, comfort, and even better times. Unfortunately, in case you haven’t heard, being a follower of Jesus doesn’t work that way. If you think it does, you are setting yourself up for a ton of disillusionment and disappointment.

The Bible says that Christians must enter the kingdom of God through many tribulations (Acts 14:22). We must endure with Jesus before we can reign with Him (2 Timothy 2:12). We must suffer with Him before we can be glorified with Him (Romans 8:17-18).

We are told to bear one another’s burdens (Galatians 6:2). That implies that we’ll have them. We are told that God comforts us in all our tribulation (2 Corinthians 1:3-4). That implies that we’ll experience a lot of it. We are told that God is a very present help in time of trouble (Psalm 46:1). That implies that trouble will find us. We are promised that God will wipe away every tear from our eyes in the eternal city of New Jerusalem. That implies that we will have cried many of them on earth (Revelation 21:4).

Needless to say, this isn’t popular preaching. It’s not the kind of information that people, even Christians, rush to share. Show me a preacher who preaches about Christian suffering every sermon, and I’ll show you a preacher who is preaching to a small congregation.

Nevertheless, it’s Bible truth, and it’s truth that helps us make sense of this confusing and painful earthly life. It’s not that God is a sadist who enjoys watching His people suffer. It’s just that He knows this world intimately, and He is very up front with us about how life on earth works. The good news, of course, is that He is equally up front with us about how the afterlife works. So, who would you rather be? The rich man or Lazarus?

Posted in Adversity, Death, Disappointment, Eternity, Heaven, Hell, Human Life, Money, Persecution, Perseverance, Problems, Prosperity, Reward, Salvation, Scripture, Suffering, Sunday School, Trials, Truth | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment