Junk Food

Junk FoodI am amazed at the things people believe and follow these days. When I was younger, it seemed that the world was drifting away from spirituality. Today, it certainly seems that there is a great appetite for spiritual things. What concerns me is the “diet” that many people are consuming. It seems our spiritual consumption is paralleling our culinary choices. Who doesn’t like eating Big Macs, fries, and a big gulp of sugary soda to wash it all down? And let’s top it off with a super sized chocolate sundae! When we hit middle age and stare in the mirror, we wonder where all that poundage came from.

Spiritually, it seems some folks prefer to learn about God from Facebook or Oprah rather than going to the true source of spiritual truth, the Bible. Paul wrote to Timothy and described the days we are living in:

For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables. (2Timothy 4:3-4)

Be careful, my friends, when the only source of truth you are listening to is coming from people who are simply telling you what you want to hear. Truth is not always comfortable or convenient. God is not who you think He is, God is who He is. He has revealed Himself through the scriptures. Be careful about people who steer you away from clear Bible verses only to cherry pick obscure passages in order to teach you something “new”. If you want to be healthy, you need to eat healthy.

All Grown Up

GrowingUpThere are some passages that once we understand them, we tend to think that they don’t apply to us.  Or at least not to me.  Paul writing to Timothy about the qualifications of an elder is one such passage.  It’s a passage that some look at only when they are looking for a new pastor for their church.  It’s a passage that some see as qualifications for a church board member.  But what if it’s more?  Paul wrote, So an elder must be a man whose life is above reproach. He must be faithful to his wife. He must exercise self-control, live wisely, and have a good reputation. He must enjoy having guests in his home, and he must be able to teach. He must not be a heavy drinker or be violent. He must be gentle, not quarrelsome, and not love money. He must manage his own family well, having children who respect and obey him. (1 Timothy 3:2–4 NLT)

Years ago a fellow named Gene Getz wrote a book called “The Measure of a Man”.  In his book, Gene laid out what a mature believer ought to be like.  He based his book on this passage in 1Timothy.

Your goals in life might not include being a pastor or a church board member.  But that doesn’t mean that God doesn’t want you to mature. They say that if you aim at nothing in life, you’ll surely hit it.  What are you aiming for in your walk with God? Look again at what Paul considers to be a mature believer.  It has to do with family life.  It has to do with living a life of self-control and stopping addictive behavior.  It has to do with personality traits that display a true love for God and others.  This is what maturity looks like.

Our Hope

ReunionBenjamin Franklin said that there were only two things certain in life, death and taxes.  And no, I’m not going to talk about taxes.  You know death is coming one day, and try as you might, you can’t avoid it.  You will die one day, and your loved ones will die one day.  Nobody wants to be reminded of it, yet there is no avoiding it.  Because I’m a pastor, I often find myself in the middle of someone else’s family, having been invited to help them walk through the loss of their loved one. I’ve watched people breathe their last breath.  I’ve been there as the nurses are pulling the tubes out of the lifeless body.  I’ve had a sister and both parents die.  I’ve done memorial services and graveside services.  From all my experience, I have to tell you one thing – as horrible as it is to lose a loved one, there is no greater consolation than knowing that you will absolutely see them again one day.  That is the hope for the believer who has lost a believing loved one.  Paul wrote, And now, dear brothers and sisters, we want you to know what will happen to the believers who have died so you will not grieve like people who have no hope. (1 Thessalonians 4:13)

The Bible teaches that when the believer takes their last breath on earth, they will take their first breath in heaven (2Cor. 5:8).  The Bible teaches that in heaven, there will be no more pain or sorrow (Rev. 21:4).  The Bible says that we can count on heaven because we are counting on Jesus (John 11:25; 14:1-3).  For the believer, death is not the end, it’s just a doorway into eternity (1Cor. 15:54).

We may have sorrow at our loss, but we also have hope.

Thoughtful Prayer

PrayingScriptureI think we can learn a lot by observing the prayer life of some of the great saints that have gone before us.  Listen in as Paul prays for the church in Colossae:  “For this reason we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God” (Colossians 1:9–10).

The single thing that Paul is asking God for is that the church would know God’s will for them.  He doesn’t pray that they would just have a hint of it, but that they would actually be “filled” with the knowledge of God’s will.

There are some qualifiers when it comes to the Colossians knowing God’s will.  Paul prays that they would know God’s will with wisdom and understanding.  It’s one thing to know God’s will, but it’s another to know just how we ought to be carrying out God’s will.  God’s will may be for you to speak to your friend, but the best way to speak to your friend requires that you use wisdom and understanding.

When you truly know God’s will, three things will follow: Obeying God’s will enables you to walk in a way that pleases God.  Doing God’s will makes it possible for you to bear the right kind of fruit in all that you do.  Following God’s will ultimately allows you to grow to know God more intimately.

I think God appreciates thoughtful prayers.  Get to your knees church; it’s time to call on the Lord and pray.

Unclean Lips

IsaiahIsaiah lived in a day filled with wickedness.  Through the first five chapters of his book he talks about the various ways in which the nation of Judah had strayed from the Lord.  Isaiah’s ministry involved warning the nation of the judgment that was coming their way because of their evil deeds.  Each time I read through Isaiah I can’t help but wonder about our own nation and just how far we have gone from God’s ways.

It was in the middle of this national moral crisis that the long reigning King Uzziah dies.  In many ways, Uzziah brought a sense of stability to a nation that had lost its way.  And now he was gone.  It was then that Isaiah has a vision of God on His throne.  Isaiah catches a glimpse of God surrounded by His angels, and the worshippers crying out “Holy, holy, holy”.  In the presence of a holy, pure, Almighty God, Isaiah responds.  So I said: “Woe is me, for I am undone! Because I am a man of unclean lips, And I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; For my eyes have seen the King, The Lord of hosts.” (Isaiah 6:5)

Sometimes I think that if I was Isaiah, I might have responded with, “God go out and get those wicked people!” But that’s not how Isaiah responded.  Isaiah realized that he, too, was a man with sin that needed cleansing.  That didn’t stop God from using Isaiah, in fact, Isaiah’s admission of guilt only made him more useful.  Friend, in this wicked, immoral world we live in, don’t be quick to condemn.  Be quick to confess.  Take that plank out of your own eye before working on the splinter in the other fellow’s eye.


WeatherI think that most of us would like to know what’s coming around the corner.  We want to be prepared. We want to know what to expect.

We take polls to predict who the next presidential candidate will be.  We look at baseball statistics to predict who will be the winning pitcher of tonight’s game.  We have weather apps to tell us what today’s weather will be like.  Yet, to be honest, our prognostications don’t often pan out the way we expect.  The person who wins the first presidential primary is not always the one who wins his/her party’s candidacy, let alone the presidency.  The wonderful thing about baseball is that any team with poor statistics can get hot and go on a winning streak.  And I can’t tell you how many times my weather app has predicted rain that never came, or told me it’s going to be a dry day, as I get soaked on the way to work.

Solomon wrote, “As you do not know what is the way of the wind, or how the bones grow in the womb of her who is with child, so you do not know the works of God who makes everything”. (Ecclesiastes 11:5)

I tend to make predictions in my life every day.  I feel an ache or a pain and I begin to predict a diagnosis before I even contact my doctor.  Someone looks at me with an angry face and I begin to fear that a close relationship is about to end.  If I were to be honest, my prognostications are about as accurate as the weather report.  Your circumstances might look grim, but you never know what God is actually going to do.  So here are a few things we can really count on:  God loves us.  He is good.  He is coming.

Standing in Awe

OpenToGodThis week’s Pastor to Person was written by Dan Looney…

Awe is a feeling of reverential respect mixed with fear and wonder. That definition falls very short when we are discussing creation.  Additionally, this definition is extremely anemic when discussing God the Creator.

This week, while reading in the book of Job, chapter 38, where God speaks to Job, I found myself re-evaluating creation. In verses 4-8 (NLT), God asked Job: “Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth?…Who determined its dimensions and stretched out the surveying line? What supports its foundations, and who laid its cornerstone as the morning stars sang together and all the angels shouted for joy? Who kept the sea inside its boundaries as it burst from the womb…?” These are just a few of the questions God asked Job.

In reading this, I found myself awestruck with creation itself, when it hit me that God the Creator is so much more wonderful, beautiful, and powerful… He loves us, and we worship Him.

Job 37: 23-24 “We cannot imagine the power of the Almighty; but even though he is just and righteous, he does not destroy us. No wonder people everywhere fear him. All who are wise show him reverence.”

Luke 19:38-40 “‘Blessings on the King who comes in the name of the LORD! Peace in heaven, and glory in highest heaven!’ But some of the Pharisees among the crowd said, ‘Teacher, rebuke your followers for saying things like that!’ He replied, ‘If they kept quiet, the stones along the road would burst into cheers!’” I stand in awe.

Wise Advice

AdviceEvery once in a while we all find ourselves in the place of offering a little advice.  It might be something technical we actually know about, such as how to install a new kitchen faucet.  It might be something medical, like the things some of us non-doctors are prone to suggest. It sometimes involves spiritual things, like the friend who is struggling with guilt.

I like the good feeling that comes when you help someone with a bit of advice.  I remember as a teenager sitting with my friends and dishing out all sorts of advice.  My best friend and I had read our Bibles more than most, and when it came to all sorts of problems, we were the go-to guys.  At the time, I felt that the fifteen Scriptures I had learned could solve just about any problem.  Oh, to be so young and naïve.

Job’s friends had their own set of answers to life’s problems.  Since Job was having the worst day ever, it seemed obvious to them that he had done something to offend God.  It might be true that sin can create difficulties in life, but their pat answer wasn’t appropriate to Job.  Job was actually a blameless man in God’s eyes.  At one point Job commented sarcastically, “How have you counseled one who has no wisdom? And how have you declared sound advice to many?” (Job 26:3)

There actually was no wisdom in the advice Job’s friends gave.  Sometimes the advice we give others contains that same lack of wisdom. Don’t be quick to fix people.  The problem may be more complicated than you think.  Ask God for His wisdom.

Send a message

CommunionThere are many ways to send a message without words.  Indians used to communicate across long distances with smoke signals.  Parents have long warned their kids that if they dress a certain way, they are “sending the wrong message”.  If you sit there frowning at me with your arms folded, it will seem to me that you are “sending a message”.

Paul said that when we take communion, we too are “sending a message”.  He wrote, “For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes.” (1 Corinthians 11:26). The word that is translated “proclaim” means to “announce, declare, or proclaim publicly”.  It’s about sending a message.  Two messages actually.

The first message of communion is about the Lord’s death.  This is the “gospel” or “good news”.  How is it good news that Jesus died?  It’s good news because He died in order to pay for our sins (1Cor. 15:3), and what’s even better is that He didn’t stay dead, but He rose from the dead.  When we take communion we are remembering that Jesus gave His body and His blood to pay for us.  We are sending a message that God loves us, and He loves us so much He was willing to pay a great price to save us.

The second message of communion is that Jesus is coming again.  We will continue to celebrate communion together until the day that we celebrate it with Jesus in His kingdom (Mat. 26:29).  This world might look pretty depressing at times, but the good news is that Jesus is coming soon.  Come and join us in communion.  Come and send a message.

Rush to Judgment

GavelIt’s a term you often hear from the lips of smart defense attorneys.  They use it when there is a perceived misunderstanding of the facts of a case.  It’s a warning to slow down and examine the facts carefully before the jury is allowed to cast its vote.  “Rush to judgment” might be a popular colloquialism for mishandling of justice, but it’s something we do all the time.

Sometimes our judgment is based on what our eyes see, instead of what is going on in a person’s heart.  Sometimes our judgment is based on observing a person commit certain acts over and over again.  Sometimes we wait to gather evidence and build our case.  Yet, in each instance, there comes a time in our head where we slam the gavel down and proclaim a person “guilty”.  And to be honest, sometimes the person is indeed guilty.  The question is, are we in the place to condemn them to a life sentence of harsh treatment from us?

Paul wrote, “Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord comes, who will both bring to light the hidden things of darkness and reveal the counsels of the hearts. Then each one’s praise will come from God.” (1Corinthians 4:5)

There is certainly a place for guilty people to be held accountable for their actions. There is a place for protecting yourself and your family from people who could cause harm.  But don’t forget that Jesus’ blood can make the foulest clean.  The worse sinner could still repent.  If the person is still breathing, they might still turn around.  Let God be the final judge.