Posted in John

The Narrow Way

“I am the way, the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father except through Me.” John 14:6

Alice and I were flying back from a conference in New York a few years ago, and the lady across the aisle was flipping through index cards, so I asked her what she was doing.

“I’m learning to speak German,” she said. “My son married a German woman and we’re going over to Germany soon for her ordination as a Lutheran pastor.”

She was more than willing to talk, so I asked about her own background and found out she was raised Southern Baptist but had since become a Unitarian.

“As I grew intellectually I realized that all religions were equally sincere and therefore, equally true,” she explained.

So I asked her about the resurrection, and she said she wasn’t sure about it and didn’t know if anyone could be. I gave her a couple of historical arguments for Jesus’ resurrection and then asked her to rethink her premise of “sincerity” being the proof of truth. We know that in mathematics one plus one equals two and that it doesn’t matter how sincerely someone may think it’s three – there’s only one right answer. Truth, by definition, is narrow. If Jesus rose from the dead then He was who He said He was, and if so, He is the only way to God.

At this point the man in front of me turned around and asked me to keep my voice down because it was “projecting.” I finished talking with the woman, trying to keep my voice down, by sharing C.S. Lewis’ Liar, lunatic, or Lord argument. We don’t have the intellectual option of believing Jesus was a good man, or even a great prophet.  Jesus claimed to be God in the flesh so He was either a liar, He knew He was just a man so lied about being God; a lunatic, He really thought He was God but wasn’t; or He was and is Lord of all.

At this we finished our conversation and after a minute of silence, I felt a tug on my sleeve from the man directly behind me. When I turned around, he told me he wished that our conversation had lasted for two more hours.

Some believe, some don’t believe, and some aren’t sure what they believe. But the truth stands on its own regardless of how people react to it. The sun still exists on a cloudy day whether we believe in it or not!

Posted in 2Kings

Generations Coming Together

The company of the prophets said to Elisha, “Look, the place where we meet with you is too small for us. Let us go to the Jordan, where each of us can get a pole; and let us build a place there for us to meet.” And he said, “Go.” Then one of them said, “Won’t you please come with your servants?” “I will,” Elisha replied. And he went with them. 2Kings 6:1-3

Every year, Alice and I go to our National Conference where we hear a number of speakers. The final message of last year’s conference was from the above text. The first message of this year’s conference was also from this exact text. Can you imagine how we felt when the second night’s message this year was also from 2Kings 6:1-7? Three straight speakers all speaking from the same obscure text! Only God could arrange this, so the question becomes, why? I think it has to do with the generations coming together.

Here are three encouragements for the older generation:

  1. Have something to give from God that the younger generation needs. Elisha had burned his plow and pressed in for a double anointing which he had received from Elijah. The younger generation doesn’t need information from us – they can just Google to get that. But Google can’t supply the wisdom that comes from an ongoing relationship with God. We must keep pressing in for all God has for us to be “relevant” to the generations behind us. They asked Elisha to come because they needed what he had.
  2.  Release the younger generation to go beyond where we’ve been. The idea to build bigger came from the young prophets. The place they were currently living in was probably built by Elisha and now it wasn’t good enough. Instead of being offended, Elisha releases them to do something more than he’d done. King Saul had become jealous of the next generation and feared they would be greater than he was, so he tried to kill David. Elijah believed that God could take His anointing and double it in the next generation – let’s believe as well and release the coming generation into even more grace than we’ve experienced.
  3.  We need to go with the next generation to ensure their success. In their zeal, mistakes are made, but Elisha was there to show them that every problem is actually an opportunity to encounter the faithfulness and power of God.
Posted in Romans

Believing God

“Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him, ‘So shall your offspring be.’ Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead-since he was about a hundred years old-and that Sarah’s womb was also dead. Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised.” Romans 4:18-21

There’s a difference between believing in God and believing God. Let’s look at Abraham’s process of believing God, so we can learn how to believe God as well.

He heard from God. “So shall your offspring be,” was a reference to Abraham gazing at the stars and hearing the voice of God. This is the beginning of faith – God speaking. (Romans 10:17)

He faced his circumstances. He was a hundred years old, and Sarah was barren – it would take a miracle. All human hope of the promise coming true was extinguished; it would take direct intervention from God. Faith never asks us to live in denial of our circumstances, but it often does ask us to believe God in spite of them.

He kept believing. The beginning of faith is exciting, but what if what was promised doesn’t happen right away? “He did not waver through unbelief.” He didn’t but he could have. He could have questioned whether God had really spoken at all, or whether He really meant what He said. He could have thought of all the others who had prayed and didn’t seem to be answered. It’s easy to waver through unbelief. He chose to believe God and to keep believing God.

What has God promised you? If nothing, then get into His word and ask Him what He has for you. Position your life to hear the whispers of the Holy Spirit and you’ll be surprised at how alive Jesus is today. When He speaks, I encourage you to go from believing in God to believing God. Whether it’s for salvation, healing, restoration, provision, or a direction He’s leading you in. Time in His word and in His presence will purify our thoughts, so we can know the difference between what God is actually speaking and what we are only imagining. Take what is truly of God and believe Him for the great things He wants to do in us, for us, and through us.

Posted in Hebrews, Luke, Romans

Dealing with Differences

“‘Master,’ said John, ‘we saw a man driving out demons in Your Name and we tried to stop him, because he is not one of us.’ ‘Do not stop him,’ Jesus said, ‘for whoever is not against you is for you.’” Luke 9:49-50

When I first came to Christ, I was part of a church that believed we were the only pure expression of Christianity in our city. Every sermon featured some way we were better than everyone else. We only used the King James Bible, for instance, and believed every other translation was defiled and leading people into heresy. We were “it,” and everyone else was deceived at some level.

Looking back, I feel sadness for how proud and blind we were; not just about ourselves, but about who God is. We had made the God of all grace so small and picky that if you didn’t believe exactly like we did you were on the outside. The truth is that we were small and picky, not God.

John is clearly proud of his rebuke of this man who wasn’t, “one of us.” Jesus had a wider circle of those who are with Him.

People come to me with accusations against Christian leaders across the body of Christ. Sometimes it’s about what a leader said and sometimes it’s about something questionable they did. I’m almost always in agreement with those who are bringing the charge, leaders are flawed and often say things and do things that are a little off. But once in a while the person bringing the accusation wants more than agreement, they want me to publicly renounce that leader and their group.

At this point I become a disappointment to them. Jesus is not ashamed to call me His brother (Hebrews 2:11) with all of my flaws and errors, so I want to be unashamed to stand next to brothers and sisters who love Jesus, but aren’t just like our group.

I understand and value the desire for truth and the need to be on guard against deception, but we must be very careful before pointing the finger at others lest we condemn someone who Jesus accepts and delights in. May God help us be humble and generous toward all those who are different from us. “Accept one another,” Paul says to Christians who were judging each other over minor differences, “just as Christ has accepted you.” (Romans 15:7)

Posted in Galatians

The Glove

“I am crucified with Christ and it is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me. The life I live in this body I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself for me.” Galatians 2:20

A few years ago at a men’s conference, a speaker told of a Sunday school teacher he had when he was in middle school. This teacher used magician’s tricks to keep the students’ attention, so everyone was intrigued the day he brought in a magic glove and declared that the glove was able to pick up the Bible.

He laid the glove on the Bible and started saying magic words but it didn’t work; the glove did nothing. What’s wrong? He picked up the glove and looked it over, put it back on the Bible, said the magic words, but once again, nothing. What’s wrong with this glove?

Finally, he took the glove, turned it around and put it on, said the magic words and lo and behold, the glove picked up the Bible. One of the kids in the class was not impressed: “Do you think we’re stupid?” he asked. Everyone in the class recognized that even though the glove did pick up the Bible, it wasn’t really the work of the glove. It was all about the hand inside the glove.

Then the teacher read Galatians 2:20 and explained that we are the glove and Jesus is the hand inside the glove. We are powerless to live the Christian life on our own, but if we will identify our lives with Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection, and then trust Him day by day, He will live in us and make all things possible.

The speaker went on to say we would hear many things during the day about how we could be better Christians, better fathers, and better husbands which would make us feel worse than we already did unless we remember the hand in the glove. The Christian life isn’t about us trying to live like Jesus, it’s about Jesus living His life in and through us.

Posted in Esther

The Role of Mordecai

“If you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to a royal position for such a time as this?” Esther 4:14 (Esther’s uncle Mordecai is the one who gave her this message.)

Without Mordecai the story of Esther becomes a tragedy because Esther is so much like us. News comes about Haman’s plot to destroy the Jews and Esther feels bad about it and even wishes she could do something about it, but “any man or woman who approaches the king in the inner court without being summoned by the king has but one law: that he be put to death.” (Esther 4:11) Esther is saying in essence what many of us believe about ourselves: “I’m sorry that the world is going to hell, but circumstances are such that I can’t do anything about it right now. Wish I could, but I can’t.” Without Mordecai, Esther probably would have done nothing, wouldn’t have become a heroine, and most likely, there wouldn’t even be a book of Esther.

Think for a moment about the role of Mordecai. He’s the one who calls Esther to fulfill her God ordained destiny. He’s the one who encourages her to risk her life and promises to fast with her as she steps way out of her comfort zone. Because of his encouragement, she moves from an attitude of self-preservation to a willingness to lay her life down. The one who initially says, “I can’t,” now says I’ll try and “if I perish, I perish.” (Esther 4:16)

We are called to be Mordecai to the people in our lives. We are to see their destinies and to speak into them. We’re to encourage them to take risks and to know that God loves them and will help them. We’re to pray and fast for others, so they will seize the day and not let their lives pass by with the regret of never doing anything heroic to help those around them.

Posted in Matthew

Profitable Lives

“What will it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?” Matthew 16:26

God wants us to see the big picture and give ourselves to those things that will ultimately lead to our own profit. So what will lead us to a profitable life before God and man? Here are four observations from the passage in Matthew 16 where the verse above is taken from.

  1. It involves a revelation of who Jesus is. “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by My Father in heaven.” (Matthew 16:17) The foundation of a profitable life is Jesus Christ. Building your life on anything else will eventually be revealed as sinking sand.
  2. It involves a personal cross. “If anyone would come after me he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me.” (Matthew 16:24) Thank God that Jesus went to the cross for us, and made the payment for our sins required by a holy God. But that doesn’t change the fact that each of us will have a personal cross and a Gethsemane where we will either choose to trust God in the midst of our pain, or turn from God and reject His purpose for us. Joni Erickson Tada said: “Sometimes God allows what He hates to accomplish what He loves.” This sounds like a good definition of the cross.
  3. It involves freedom from self preservation. “Whoever wants to save his life will lose it but whoever loses his life for Me will find it.” (Matthew 16:25) Don’t try to make your own life; grab a hold of Jesus and He will make you exactly who you were originally designed to be.
  4. It involves a process. “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.” (Matthew 16:23) Shortly after Jesus speaks into Peter’s destiny, Peter must be rebuked for going the wrong way, a way that came naturally to him. We must accept the fact that our natural way of thinking is often wrong. This is not a one time event, but a way of life for a disciple. Jesus wasn’t discouraged with Peter. He was only keeping His promise to him: “Follow Me and I will make you…” He makes the same promise to you and me.
Posted in James, Luke

Right Leadership

“Peter asked, ‘Lord, are you telling this parable to us, or to everyone?’ The Lord answered, ‘Who then is the faithful and wise manager, whom the master puts in charge of his servants to give them their food allowance at the proper time? It will be good for that servant whom the master finds doing so when he returns.’” Luke 12:41-43

Many in the church today have been hurt by leaders. Leaders have at times abused their God given authority by manipulating, profiting, abusing, and/or politicizing instead of serving. This has created a response of cynicism in many Christians and has caused some to question whether we even need leaders other than Jesus Himself. 

In the text above Jesus has just warned people that He’s coming back unexpectedly like a thief in the night, so they need to live ready. Peter is asking who the parable is directed towards – is this for the leaders, or for the general public? Jesus then applies what He has said specifically to the leadership; those He’s putting “in charge.”

The first thing I want to point out in our text is that Jesus says God is going to put some people “in charge.” The church Jesus is building has elders in it who are responsible for the care of His people.

Just because someone has been hurt by leadership in the past doesn’t mean they get a lifetime pass from being part of a local church. People need to learn how to forgive, and if necessary, find a different fellowship where they can trust, serve, and be fruitful in. Why do you think God tells people who are sick to call for the elders of the church? (James 5:14) I think it’s because when people are desperate and nothing else is working, they become willing to do anything, even making their attitude right toward leadership who has offended them. God doesn’t just want your body healed, He wants His body healed.

The second thing we observe in our text is that the manager who is put in charge of the servants is also called a servant himself. He/she is called to serve the master by serving the other servants and giving them their food at the proper time. 

Leadership is for the purpose of servanthood, not entitlement. May God raise up leaders in this hour who are willing to wash the feet of those who are under their care.

Posted in 1Corinthians, 2Corinthians

Idolizing Leaders

“For when one says, ‘I am of Paul,’ and ‘I am of Apollos,’ are you not mere men? What then is Apollos? And what is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, even as the Lord gave opportunity to each one. I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth. So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God who causes the growth.” 1Corinthians 3:4-7

We are in danger of erring in two ways in our attitude toward those leading us. We can dishonor them and lose the benefit God wanted to bring through them, or we can idolize them and lose the benefit God wanted to bring through other leaders who are different from them. Let’s look at the second one today.

Paul says that when we identify with only one leader and set Christian leaders in some type of a contest against each other, we are acting like mere men. God has called us to the high calling of favored sons or daughters who are carriers of God’s own presence.  We are the very temple of God! (2Corinthians 6:16)  Yet when we reduce Christianity to our favorite speaker we have missed the whole point. 

To say you follow Paul instead of Apollos means that you are missing out on what God wanted to give you through Apollos. From God’s perspective, Paul, Apollos, and Cephas (Peter) belong to you; they were raised up and anointed for your benefit so you could come into fullness. To choose one over another or exalt one over another is to miss what the other one was supposed to bring to your life.

To idolize a leader is to set them up for a fall. A few years ago a man was set up as the greatest prophet in America so much so that it was thought he didn’t even need to be part of a local church. He would come from his place of being alone with God and tell us the word of the Lord and we honored his unique place; many times in an idolatrous way. He succumbed to an addiction to alcohol and also was found to be involved in sexual sin. Would this have happened if we had prayed for him more instead of idolizing him? I don’t know.

What I do know is that at the end of the day those who plant and water, however gifted they may be, are nothing, but only instruments that help you grow in the grace of God. Honor leaders, receive from leaders, but please don’t idolize them. It puts them at greater risk and it keeps you from seeing the reason for their existence.

Posted in 1Samuel, Romans

The World’s Mold

“Don’t let the world around you squeeze you into its own mold, but let God re-mold your minds from within.” Romans 12:2 Phillips Translation

I was in Belize sitting at a picnic table with six fifth grade boys. We had just done a drama of Samuel coming to Jesse’s house to anoint the next king. Jesse didn’t know which of his eight sons it would be but he had decided which son it wouldn’t be. David, his youngest, wasn’t even invited to the party because someone needed to stay with the sheep.

So the question I asked these fifth graders was: “Give a time when you felt left out, lonely, or rejected.”

The boys spent a lot of time looking at each other, but no one would answer me, so I finally called on the one next to me. His answer was “never.”

“Let me get this straight,” I asked. “You’ve never felt lonely, left out, or rejected, in your whole life?”

Nope; and the funny thing was, as I made each answer, it turned out that none of them had ever felt lonely, left out, or rejected – amazing.

Then we moved on to the part of the story where God tells Samuel: “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” (1Samuel 16:7)

“For instance,” I told them, “God knows that every one of you lied to me a few minutes ago. You might be able to fool me and each other, but God sees your heart, and you can’t fool him.”

These weren’t bad kids, they were just being squeezed by peer pressure to maintain a certain image so they didn’t want to be vulnerable in front of each other. When our time was ending I asked them to close their eyes and put their heads down.

“God saw David when man didn’t,” I told them. “He saw that David wanted to please Him so God chose him and poured out the Holy Spirit on him. If you want to please God and have God pour His Spirit on you, I want you to lift up your head and look me in the eyes.”

Do you know that every one of those six boys looked up without hesitation! They knew they had lied, but that’s not who they wanted to be. They wanted to please God and knew they needed the Holy Spirit to help them do that. What a privilege it was to pray over each of them.