Monday, November 26, 2007

The Weapons of Our Warfare

What was Peter thinking? A detachment of soldiers, led by Judas, found Jesus and the disciples in the olive grove across the Kidron Valley, to arrest him. Peter, for reasons that escape me, had brought a sword to the prayer meeting, and swung it. Being a fisherman, not a soldier, the best he could do was lop off the ear of the High Priest’s servant. Jesus told him to put away the sword, healed the servant’s ear, and presented himself to the soldiers, to “drink the cup the Father has given me.”

It would be easy to judge Peter if we did not so often emulate him. He misunderstood the situation and reacted in the wrong way. All Peter did by his sword-swinging attempt to help Jesus was become an obstacle to God’s work.

Peter failed to realize that the arrest of Jesus was part of God’s sovereign plan of salvation. God was working through the tragedy, accomplishing his redemptive purpose. It just didn’t look that way to him. Peter was sure things had gone very wrong. Somebody had to do something about it. Peter took up his sword and went to work to make things right.

Because Peter forgot that God was still in control, he also forgot that human weapons and human ways do not accomplish the work of God. He swung his sword in full confidence that Jesus would applaud his courage and bless his efforts. But Jesus did not applaud Peter, he rebuked him. In Peter’s attempt to “do something for Jesus” he only made a bad situation worse, and caused pain for others.

Consider this: what if Peter succeeded? He would have stopped the Cross! His attempt to help could have doomed us all to eternal hell. God would never let that happen, but it makes you think. How often do we cause kingdom chaos in our efforts to help God? We pick up human weapons of power politics, persuasion, control, manipulation, gossip, and strife, thinking we can do good.

Peter assumed that Jesus was unarmed. But Jesus did have weapons. Jesus was fighting with the most powerful weapon in the world – God’s love. He was on his way to the cross to lay down his life for sinners. By obedience, by submission, by sacrificial love, Jesus did what Peter’s puny sword could not. Jesus, by laying down his life, conquered sin, and death, and hell. He redeemed lost humanity and stepped on Satan’s neck. He accomplished all of that without Peter’s sword.

God has made the weapons of Christ available to us. “The weapons of our warfare are spiritual,” said Paul. When we love our enemies, when we return good for evil, when we lay down our lives for the sake of others, we wield powerful weapons that God uses in mighty ways.

Peter, trying to do good, did evil, because he operated on his own judgment, by his own power, with his own weapons. Jesus was operating on the Father’s agenda, by the Father’s power, with the Father’s weapons. Peter messed up. Jesus saved the world.

Let us put down our worldly weapons and follow Jesus to the cross.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Its a good thing no one reads this

I read my last post and realized I had a typo. I meant to say that we are to give thanks 365 days a year. But what I had written was that we were to give thanks 265 days a year. That's kind of like talking about the 7 Commandments.

Oh well, no one caught it.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

I Hate It When God Does This

Sunday, in my annual Thanksgiving Sunday sermon, I dealt with the topic I deal with every Thanksgiving Sunday. Thanksgiving. I’m funny that way. Looking back over my offerings for that special day over the years, I have noticed a theme. Ten years ago, I preached on “In everything give thanks.” Then nine years ago I undertook to exegete the passage, “In everything give thanks.” Then, eight years ago I switched gears and led my people on an in-depth examination of “In everything give thanks.” Of course, seven years ago…Well, you get the picture.

Sunday, I actually included all three commands in 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18. “Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. In everything give thanks for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” I explained these simple commands. It is God’s will for believers, those who have been redeemed by the blood of Christ, that we live in a constant state of rejoicing regardless of circumstances; that we live in a constant communion with God, practicing the real presence of Jesus Christ in our lives; and that we give thanks to God, regardless of our circumstances, that He is in control and is working those circumstances for His glory and our good.

I pointed out three things about these commands that every person needs to remember. First, God was not kidding. God does not stutter or stammer. There are a lot of scriptures that Bible believing Christians do not believe. “Love your enemies.” It’s a clear scripture that needs little explanation. You are to devote your life to loving and being a blessing to the people who hurt you, hate you and aggravate you. But whenever I point this out to a believer, they start stuttering and stammering. “I can’t do that, you don’t know what that person has done to me.” But God was not kidding when he told us to love our enemies. And He was not kidding when he told us to live in constant rejoicing, constant intimacy with God, and constant gratitude regardless of circumstances. It is sin if I am living any other way.

Then, I pointed out that He not only commanded these attitudes, but He empowers them. 2 Peter 1:3 says that He has given us “everything we need for life and godliness.” When you were saved, God placed in you His Holy Spirit who empowers you to be obedient to the commands of God. So, you CAN rejoice always. You CAN pray continually. You CAN give thanks in all things. The Spirit inside you will empower you.

That leads me to this final point. If you are not living in constant joy, unending intimacy with God and undying gratitude in all circumstances, it is no one’s fault but your own. You have no control over the circumstances of life, but you have been empowered by God to live in love, joy and peace regardless of them. It is not your spouse’s fault if you are not rejoicing. It is yours for not seeking the Spirit’s power to rejoice. No circumstance can pull you away from God, only your failure to walk in the Holy Spirit’s fullness through those circumstances. And complaining, griping and whining is never justified for those who have been redeemed by Christ and indwelled by the Spirit.

I preached that. I preached it good. (I preached it long.)

Then, I woke up Monday. That is never a good thing. But we have been facing a $5500 expense for replacing our septic tank in our back yard. They showed up Monday to do the work. That was actually a good thing. It did not stay good. The septic tank guy (how does one decide to enter the septic tank business?) broke the bad news. The drain field cannot go in our back yard, or our front yard. Since the house was built 30 years ago, there have been several changes in codes and our septic system does not meet any of them. So, we have a septic tank with a collapsed drain field, and no legal way to replace it. We are asking the church next door (Assembly – hope the Spirit moves) if we can put it in their wilderness land.

Then, in the evening, we got the mail. Ben just went to Liberty to try out for a position on the ministry teams there (traveling singing groups) that would pay his tuition. I make just enough money to not qualify for much financial aid, and not enough to afford college. He got the letters from Liberty. Thanks for trying out. Maybe next year.

I found something out about myself. I preach this principle better than I live it. I was stressed, upset, worried, mad. There was little of the joy, the presence of God, and the thanksgiving I had preached 24 hours earlier.

I hate it when God does that. It seems like when I preach about forgiveness, He gives me a chance to practice it. When I preach about sacrificial love, I get a chance to sacrifice. I hate that.

But my sin doesn’t change the principle. It is God’s will that we live in obedience to the commands of the Word. It is great to take a day and give thanks (though I am afraid it has become more about the turkey, the football and Black Friday ads). But we are called to live out thanksgiving 365 days a year. Whatever comes.

So, I have a new message this year for thanksgiving.


Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Is Anyone Out There?

I had several requests to continue this blog, but now that I am doing it, I have no way of knowing if anyone is reading it. I took two breaks (one month with West Nile and another when my back went out and I was heavily medicated), and it seems like now that I am blogging again, no one is reading it.

So, I need to know if anyone is reading the blog. I enjoy writing, but if no one is reading it, I will probably not continue posting. So, if you are checking and reading the blog, let me know. If not, I will put it into hibernation.

I will still probably continue to post on the "Big Loser" blog - that is more of a personal journal, and I don't really care if anyone reads that one, though people are welcome to peruse it.

I have not been able to find a hit counter for this blog, so I have to ask for your insight.

Is anyone out there?

Monday, November 12, 2007

Goin' Fishin'

Peter was a fisherman. He had done it all his life, even when he was a disciple of John the Baptist. Then, one day, Jesus walked by. “Follow me, and I will make you a fisher of men.” And Peter followed him. He left the nets behind and followed Jesus for more than three years, throughout Galilee, to Jerusalem, to Gethsemane, and to the Sanhedrin. There, it all ended.

“I swear to you, I never knew this man.”

With those words, Peter denied the Lord he had sworn to serve. And even when the most glorious miracle of history occurred, even when Jesus was raised from the dead, even when Jesus appeared to the disciples, Peter could not forget the fact that he had failed.

And so, he told the other disciples, “I’m going fishing.” The present tense verb used in John 21:3 helps us understand what Peter was saying. This was not a vacation. This was not recreation. Peter was not taking a fishing trip. He was returning to his life as a fisherman. He was giving up. He had failed Jesus and he was through.

Ever felt that way? It happens to me often, usually on a Monday morning. When I fail, or when the pressures of life pile up, or trials and opposition come, I have the impulse to throw it all in, resign my job, and go fishing. Metaphorically, at least. Actual fishing is not a temptation to me.

I bet sometimes you feel like giving up. It may be because of your own failure, or because of the hurtful actions of someone else. You gave your best, and no one recognized it. You poured yourself into ministry, but nothing came from it. The pressures of life have snowballed to the point you just can’t take it anymore. Like Peter, and me, you want to go fishing.

But Jesus won’t let that happen. He appeared to Peter by the Sea of Tiberias. He took Peter back to where it all began. He renewed the miracle of his provision. “Cast your net on the other side of the boat.” Jesus did it all over again. He took Peter right back to beginning, and renewed his faith and the wonder of God’s power. That’s where healing begins with us. We must return to the presence of the Lord and renew our minds and hearts in him. The good news is that Jesus always begins the process of healing.

Jesus did not ignore Peter’s failure, or sweep it under the rug. He made him face it. Three times Peter denied Jesus. Three times Jesus asked him, “Do you love me?” Jesus renews us by making us deal with the sin and failure that drew us away from him. When we repent, the blood of Christ covers our sin and brings us renewal.

Then, Jesus gave his command to Peter. “Feed my sheep.” God renewed Peter by giving him an assignment. Take care of God’s sheep. Jesus renewed Peter, then sent him out to serve. The fallen soldier was back on the front lines.

Jesus will never let you give up. As his child, he won’t let you go fishing. He will come to you, inviting you back into his presence. He will help you find forgiveness for your failure, and will restore you to a life of fruitful service.

No, my friend, it is not time to go fishing.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Another Blog

I am going to be writing a sort or personal blog - a weight-loss battle diary. So, if anyone wants to read my musings, I will be posting at

I will continue to post on this one as well.

Culture of the Moral Negative

America has now become a “Culture of the Moral Negative.”

I am not talking about “negativity,” the bogie man of the new age. Actually, I am convinced negativity can be honorable. Of God’s ten laws, eight of them are stated in the negative. “Thou shalt not.” That is an 80% negativity rate. Flawed human beings need limits to inhibit our sinful behavior. But that is another topic.

I am talking about the kind of negative you develop a picture from. On the photographic negative, dark colors appear as light and light looks dark. The image is reversed. A moral negative exists when right and wrong, good and bad, moral light and dark, are reversed. There have always been people with morally negative consciences. The culture of the moral negative develops when this kind of conscience becomes prominent in a society.

In Isaiah 5:20, God spoke through the prophet and said, “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter.” Woe to the culture of the moral negative.

Is America such a culture? When a Christian denomination denies the clear teachings of scripture and elects an active, unrepentant homosexual as a bishop, when that bishop beams into the cameras and gushes about the maturity it took to take such a step, we are becoming a culture of the moral negative. When any judicial nominee who does not believe women have the right to kill unborn children is labeled a radical and is filibustered, morality is reversed into a negative. When tolerance of all things is seen as the highest moral virtue, when a local clergyman calls evangelism “hate speech,” when courts declare “one nation under God” unconstitutional, our culture is becoming a moral negative.

The Cedar Rapids Gazette ran an article about a young couple trying to find a church to marry them. This couple lived together and wanted a church wedding. They did not want any biblical counsel, or to come under the ministry of a local church, or to alter their lives in any way, but wanted the blessing of the church on their union. Only in a culture of the moral negative would such a couple be viewed sympathetically as victims of intolerance.

Contrary to the pronouncements of the media elite, biblical Christians do not want to do away with religious freedom and force everyone to comply with our beliefs. It is debatable whether America ever was, or was ever intended to be, a Christian nation. It is hardly debatable that Christian moral standards were the cultural underpinning of this nation throughout its history until the 1960’s. America may never have been utopia but it was a moral nation, and that morality was based on Judeo-Christian ethics, on the scriptures themselves. Light was light and dark was dark. Sin was called sin and goodness was good.

The moral negative has developed because the church has refused to do its job. We are supposed to be the salt of the earth, inhibiting the decay that wickedness brings. We have a prophetic role, confronting sin and wickedness, and presenting Jesus Christ as the solution. But too many Christians have compromised biblical conviction to conform to the ideas of popular culture. We have let the sinful world shape our thinking instead of conforming to the revelation of scripture,

My own denomination is a powerful example of this. In the 1840’s, Southern culture embraced slavery. Instead of confronting slavery, Southern Baptists conformed to the prevailing mindset of the day. They twisted scripture and proclaimed slavery from the pulpit. I stood with thousands of Southern Baptists a few years ago to publicly and sincerely repent that our forefathers twisted the Bible to justify slavery. When the church twists biblical teachings to conform to the ideas of popular culture, the moral negative develops.

Now other denominations are falling into the same trap. Our culture has embraced heterosexual promiscuity and homosexuality as normal, even admirable. No one would search the scriptures and come to those conclusions. Few ideas are as clearly presented in scripture as the idea that marriage is a man and a woman joined in a monogamous relationship, and that any sexual activity outside that relationship is sin.

But because churches have compromised biblical truth, and because we have twisted scripture to make it conform to popular culture instead of the moral standards of scripture, we are entering a culture of the moral negative; everything is reversed. The prophets no longer challenge culture to conform to God’s ways, instead they have become enthusiastic participants in depravity.

“Woe to those who call evil good and good evil.” The culture of the moral negative is a symptom of a sick and depraved society, teetering on the brink of collapse. Great civilizations of history have reached the point of the moral negative, and have devolved into oblivion. Our nation is in deep trouble. The problem is not political, or economic, or educational. The problem is moral and spiritual. No society can prosper, or even survive, in a culture of the moral negative. How long can we stand without a moral backbone?

Are things hopeless? Not at all. Israel, at the end of the period of the Judges, had embraced debauchery in a way that might have made Larry Flynt blush. They were a culture of the moral negative. But, Israel’s greatest days were only about 50 years in the future.

How did things change? One man, a prophet named Samuel, gave himself to God and his ways. He led Israel and proclaimed truth for many years. He anointed a king who was “a man after God’s own heart.” David led Israel to its greatest days of glory.

America is in danger, but is not hopeless. As unpopular as it might be, men and women of faith need to stand strong, refusing to compromise truth to please our culture. We must not succumb to the moral negative, but live in the brilliant color of God’s light. The change will not come through legislation or coercion, but the power of God can and will still change hearts.

I pray that in the coming election year, God might raise up in this land leaders with clear moral vision – who see right as right and wrong as wrong. May the full color of God’s truth replace the culture of the moral negative in our land.

Another Blog

I am going to be writing a sort or personal blog - a weight-loss battle diary. So, if anyone wants to read my musings, I will be posting at