There are Christians who love to hear sermon after sermon after sermon. Is this Christian entertainment? Do they ever have the chance to put into practice what they hear?
The purpose is the sermon is to affect actions; church is about change. There are things we should DO and things we should NOT DO. Christians must ACT in this world. Faith without works is dead. – James 2:20. If never translated into action, what good is it? It’s like the super obese. Food is good, but it’s purpose is to give us energy to DO. Too much food is unhealthy.
If you ponder who is the greatest footballer of all time, Lionel Messi would be a contender for the title. Thanks to Messi, FC Barcelona are the team to beat, the standard-bearers of magic on the pitch, a distinction formerly held by nemesis Real Madrid.
But there would have been no Messi, and Barcelona would have remained always in the shadows of white uniforms of Spain’s capitol city, had it not been for a legend from the past. Johann Cruyff is almost forgotten in the radiance of today’s stars. But it was Cruyff who made the way for Messi.
Wanted at Real Madrid, the Dutch dazzler opted to move to then-underdog Barca. Immediately he won the championship and two Ballons d’Or. Later as coach, he won four consecutive titles and one European Cup. He devised the farm training team for future stars to rise in. It was there that Messi discovered his own greatness.
Today, Cruyff fades into the background as the steamroller Messi continues to smash records. Who is greater? The one who became great or the one who forged the path for him to find destiny.
Maybe your ministry is waning, your influence declining. Fret not. What you have done for God has brought others into their own destiny and greatness.
… but the evil things get blamed on God.
If chance reigns, then any evil is purely chance — or worse, there is no reason to not act evilly I can benefit myself by it. But if God made this great and wonderful world, then men who reject God are responsible for the evil that happens.
What impressed me most about UCLA’s 17-7 victory over University of Arizona was not Jordan Payton’s 70-yard touchdown reception. Jordan is a member of my church, the Lighthouse Church in Santa Monica, and attended Lighthouse Church School.
What impressed me most was how not only Jordan prayed in endzone but several UCLA players. Such a display of unafraid devotion to God receives only mocking attention from the media. It’s not that God favors one team against another, as the jeers suggest. But there are young men willing to proclaim their love of God, superior over love of football, in front of thousands. They pray to do their best. Of course, they want to win and maybe even pray to win, but if their faith is deep enough, they know that ultimately the only victory is making it into Heaven.
What’s startling about this statement is that kings GET gifts from their subjects.
If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! — Matt. 7:11 NIV.
The greatest gift you could ever receives is NOT a Lamborghini. Nor is it a date with Brittany Spears. Nor is it a trip to Tahiti.
It is forgiveness.
God’s forgiveness is available only for the asking.
Unfortunately, many are too busy arguing that there is no need to ask for forgiveness.
To us, He asks us to build one with broken hearts.
John Donne cries in anguish about his inability to please God. Concurring with Paul’s flesh-vs.-spirit war described in Romans 6-8, the metaphysical poet says that God has been too gentle in dealing with him.
Something more drastic is needed “knocking, breathing, shining and seeking to mend.” Donne says nothing less than a violent overthrow can help him, beset by sin. In witty oxymoron, he says, “I’ll never be able to stand unless you knock me down.”
Despite the war talk, the poem is about love. It is a holy sonnet. “Dearly I love you, and would be lov’d fain,” he says. But such love is troubled by a triangle. I “am betroth’d unto your enemy,” and only a divorce can resolve.
The poem is chock-full of conceits, startling — even disturbing — paradoxes. But it ends with the most striking. For Donne to be free, God must imprison him. For Donne to be (spiritually) chaste, God must ravish him (insinuation: rape). So violence, love, unfaithfulness and longing for faithfulness are all tied into one.
This is the human condition. Temptation lays hold of even the best of us. Serving God, then, is desiring to do so and praying for God’s help. Here’s the whole sonnet:
People want only go. They want a green light for sin. But the reality is that you can’t have go without stop. Otherwise, you’ll crash your life.
The Bible is NOT a list of DON’Ts as is so often alleged. To the contrary, it is a guidebook of how to live your life with happiness and success and make it to God’s Heaven.
There’s no use fighting against each other.
Jacob had issues with trusting God
He couldn’t trust God with his future. He had to assure it for himself. God helps those who help themselves. — Doesn’t the Bible say that?
So he took advantage of his brother to wheedle out of him the birthright. Then he impersonated his brother in front of his blind (and probably half deaf) father to steal the blessing.
When he runs away, Jacob cuts up wooden limbs into stripes and spots to again try to assure his future when he’s going to be paid wages of striped and spotty animals. (Jacob does this because he’s a master geneticist.)
At every point along the way, the grandson of the father of the faith has none himself. As a result, he misses his mother’s funeral, never has a good relationship with his brother and reaps what he says. His uncle Laban swindles him like he swindled others.
Not until he’s a wit’s end does he start to trust God. Not until there’s nothing left that he can do to save himself. Esau, his brother, corners with 400 Special Forces in the desert. Jacob can’t fight, can’t run, can’t hide.
Then and only then, he prays a real prayer, and God shows Jacob why he should have trusted Him from the beginning.
How much pain and suffer would he have avoided if he simply would have trusted God from the beginning? You too, maybe?
The image comes thanks to Colorado Landscapes on Google+. I don’t own the rights, and I’m not making any money on it.
We were missionaries in Guatemala where they don’t really celebrate Halloween. One year our annual Bible conference coincided with Halloween, so Rebekah, then 10, got to go door-to-door trick-or-treating for the first time. It happened to be immediately upon arrival. She was young enough to not remember the previous years.
The next day, she asked, “Can we go door-to-door again and get more candy?”
Rebekah thought that everyday in the United States, kids go door-to-door and gather candy. It’s just a normal part of everyday American life. Because she couldn’t remember the previous year’s experiences, she didn’t realize we didn’t do that the year before.
We ought to come to church expecting candy every time. God has a treat for us if we want it. If you come to church miserable, you’ll probably go home empty-handed. God wants to delight you every time.
First of all, the devil has no day. Every day belongs to Jesus.
Second, Christians are told to crucify their flesh, to live spiritual, not carnal lives. The sinner gives free reign to his flesh. There’s no death going on as you’re getting drunk with plastic vampire teeth in your mouth. The blood is fake.
But what Christians are doing is real. These verses sounds pretty Halloweeny:
We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.
For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin—
In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. — Ro. 6:4, 6, 11 NIV.
Do you think your party celebrating death-things is cool once a year? You should celebrate a real death 52 times a year (every Sunday).
It was over for them, and they knew it. If they couldn’t stop Jesus by killing Him, they couldn’t stop him anyway.
Personally, I don’t like horror movies. Even the picture I selected for this blog repels me. But there are people addicted to the adrenaline rush of scary.
Demons are supposed to be scary. But do you realize that they got scared the day their plan to eliminate Jesus collapsed? They had killed Him, but He resurrected. It was a devil’s day for the devil.
I guess I can’t say it scared the hell out of them, because they’re still hellish, and Hell’s their home eternally.
The unscary news is that YOU don’t have to go to Hell. You can go to Heaven. And pretty much all you have to do is ask for forgiveness for sins to Jesus. Receive Him in your heart. And start a new life with Him.
It’s more wonderful than scary movies.
Jesus endured the whiplashes and the crucifixion to forgive you and me of our sins.
Ummmm, I guess I shouldn’t loathe zombies so much.
In my generation, zombies were the bad guys. They were to be feared.
To my chagrin, when I come back 16 years after being on the mission field, and now zombies are good guys. Everybody is fascinated by them. They dress up like them for Halloween. Lots of movies and video games are about them.
So I’m trying to understand the cultural shift. And as I think about zombies, I realize they’re kind of Christian. I mean, what is Christianity about except coming back from the dead.
So… I’m going to be a zombie.
But unlike the zombies of popular culture, I’m not going to be bloodied and gored. In fact, I’m going to have the best most youthful version of my body, made of glorified matter, in Heaven.
As you celebrate Halloween, I invite you to think not on the fantasy but the reality of coming back from the dead. As you prepare for Halloween, why don’t you also prepare for the reality of the Judgement before Christ.
Accept Jesus into your heart today. Ask forgiveness of your sins. Begin to pursue God in your thoughts and actions. Be a real zombie.
When it comes to viewing God, some people are like the dog and others like the cat. The dog loves his master, waits patiently for him, serves him gladly. The cat thinks he is the master, that all the care and food that his owner lavishes on him means he is god.
Sadly, too much of American Christianity is self-serving. Now it’s true that God wants to bless his children. But sometimes He gives them trials. And ultimately, we are to serve Him, even sacrifice ourselves to get the gospel out.
I’m not talking about “losing yourself” in love. That’s easy.
I’m talking about getting rid of self-importance, putting others first, giving of yourself and not minding if no one takes note. Yeah, not standing up for your rights.
Perhaps this is the hardest. Satan’s temptation to Eve and Adam was to put themselves first: God was being a killjoy not letting them “become like Him knowing good and evil.” Wow, that’s alluring, to be like God!
Don’t degrade the human race’s father and mother though. We all do it every day.
LOL! This picture is so funny. Thanks: https://plus.google.com/u/0/+Sanitaryum/posts “I wish I could lose weight as easily as I lose my keys, my pen, my cell phone, my temper and even my mind.” That’s a good laugh.
But it’s sobering to think about losing self. Help me, Jesus.
Honestly, guys need comforting too! (I googled images for comforting and they were all girls. Not one single guy helping a guy.)
When we go through anguish, when we’re frustrated, when we feel like a failure, the Holy Spirit can comfort us.
He’s like a hug, a word of affirmation, a friend who supports you no matter what.
Many find comfort in liquor. Others in wild living. Still others in money. Some disconnect from harsh realities by T.V. or internet.
For God to get Jacob into right relationship with Him, He literally fights against the mortal.
Jacob was a acute and chronic bad boy. He took advantage of this brother, Esau, in a moment of weakness. He deceives his dad and steals his brother’s blessing. He’s the most unscrupulous conniver of the Old Testament.
God works on him. First, he sends him away from his family for 20 years. He can’t attend his mom’s funeral. Then he’s tricked by his uncle, for whom he worked seven years to marry Rachel. When he wakes up the morning after the wedding (lighting was bad in those days), it’s Leah, the ugly older sister. He must work another seven years for Rachel.
Then he’s cheated on wages. When he flees, his uncle comes after him and very nearly kills him.
Still, Jacob is unrepentant.
Then Jacob’s brother comes out with a small army to kill the defenseless Jacob. That night, it finally occurs to Jacob to pray. He literally wrestles with God, a symbol of how his relationship with God has been. God, obviously, wins, but not without some stubborn resistance from the stubborn man.
The next day, Esau’s 400-man army comes upon him — and God miraculously intervenes. Instead of killing him in short order, Esau breaks down and kisses him. It wasn’t the bonds of family that beat the bonds of bitterness. It was God.
How far will God have to go to get your attention?
But the good intentions soured. Dark ambition took over his heart. When the king visited his castle, MacBeth killed him and made it look like it had been the king’s own guards. As next in line to the throne, MacBeth got the crown.
All his bases were covered except his conscience. He hallucinates that his hands are covered with blood. Then he argues with the ghost of the king in front of his friends. His kingship was short. What’s ill-attained quickly will go up in smoke.
No sooner was the cupbearer freed from jail than he forgot his promise to help Joseph, who had interpreted his dream. Joseph had been imprisoned under false accusation. God was with nevertheless, even though the cupbearer forgot his debt for Joseph’s interpretation of the dream that Pharaoh would free him.
TWO YEARS LATER, Pharaoh has a dream that none of his sorcerers can interpret. Only then does the cupbearer remember his faults and tells Pharaoh about Joseph, who is promptly freed, washed, shaved and ushered into Pharaoh’s presence. He interprets Pharaoh’s dream, and his fortunes are changed.
Sadly, most of us fall in with the cupbearer. God has given us so many good things, and we don’t want to remember or acknowledge our debt of gratitude to Him.
Go out on a limb… for God
Be led by faith.
I get discouraged by my own circumstances.
But when I think about other rising disciples in the church, I rejoice to see God blessing and using them.
Lesson learned: think about others.
Hope your family. Chance to get married. Dismal finances. Failing health. Forgiveness.
You may feel its too far gone. Happy days or wonderful dreams now seem other-worldly.
Such was the case of Jacob. His favorite son, Joseph, disappeared years ago, apparently victim to a savage animal. His other sons brought him proof of the horrid incident: a bloodied garment.
FOURTEEN YEARS later, Joseph surfaces in Egypt. He never was killed. He was sold in slavery. He’s been promoted to prime minister of Egypt. Jacob simply can’t believe his ears. He gave up hope so long ago and resigned himself to bitterness that now he dares not believe the report.
God has a way of bringing back to you impossibly lost days and dreams. That’s why you need to keep believing.
Jepthah was run off by his brothers. He was an illegitimate son. When he became a man, he carried out great exploits, vanquishing Israel. But he never healed his hurting heart, and in consequence rejected his daughter. His lack of family love led him to a wrong-headed idea of an unloving God. He made a stupid vow (to sacrifice whatever came first out of his house to greet him when he returned victorious from battle) and instead of repenting and recanting his vow, he stupidly carried it out. He killed his daughter.
The greatest danger of rejection is NOT how lousy we feel. It is that we will do the same to others. As the saying goes, hurting people hurt people.
Supposedly, the church is a refuge for hurting people. Instead, it turns into a lair of cruel critics. I don’t leave the church because there is no where better to go. After all, Christ left His church. Nothing else.
I wish to be different: loving, accepting, patient, comprehending, optimistic with people, seeing the positive and not the negative.
Don’t think I’m touchy-feeling. The naked truth is I have rejected too many people in my time. God, forgive!
I am determined to change. I am determined to praise my children instead of criticizing them. I am decided to see good in everybody, to be patient with problems, to love the unlovable. It is not easy. I must pray every day before the day begins because, if not, bile flows from this wicked mouth of mine.
True change is not a glib meme or a mantra. It takes work and, I believe, divine assistance.
A jigsaw puzzle piece decided he didn’t want to hang out with his brothers. He wanted to go off and discover his destiny elsewhere. Things were too rigid in the jigsaw puzzle. He wanted freedom. He knew that in the world he would make a huge splash and he didn’t need his fellow pieces.
And so, the beautiful picture had a glaring omission. Fellowship was broken, and God’s anointing, which flows where there is unity, was blocked. And the puzzle piece never was beautiful anywhere else.
God designed you for a purpose. You may have other dreams that can draw you away. You are most beautiful where God has placed you. Don’t drop out of church.
You may be involved in the most prosaic business or ordinary life, and God is looking for you to give you the most extraordinary life.
Many people aren’t looking for God (maybe they’re trying to avoid Him). But God is going to find them.
All over the blogosphere, and talking to people outside of church, I find people who have been hurt in the very place where they should’ve been helped.
Honestly, we look more like the Pharisees than Jesus, who ate with tax-collectors and stopped stone-throwing at prostitutes. Of course, the Bible points to a moral standard that must be upheld by the church, but many times it’s simply a pastor’s ego, a leader’s power trip, that offends.
If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea – Matt. 18:6 NIV.
I haven’t left the church. I wish and pray to see the church changed.
Expecting to get some money, the crippled temple beggar directed his attention to Peter and John. Silver or gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk, Peter said in Acts 3:6 NIV.
He jumped to his feet and began to walk. Then he went with them into the temple courts, walking and jumping, and praising God — Acts 3:8 NIV.
He got MUCH more from God than he expected.
Why do we downsize our prayers? Why down scale down our faith?
God is NOT:
- offended if we ask big.
- unable to give.
- displeased by too much faith.
- upset by our audacity.
- budgeting his company.
- on a diet Himself.
- scrimping to make ends meet.
- requiring coupons.
To the contrary, we are ordered to move mountains, not molehills.
Slaves were expected to perform grudgingly, only under fear of whipping, so when Joseph showed up whistling at his work, his boss was taken aback. Joseph made all the other slaves look bad because he did more work, did a better job, got things cleaner, cooked better. Whatever task he was assigned, he outdid expectations.
Eventually, Potiphar promoted him to managing director, in charge of his entire household.
As Christians, we should exceed expectations regularly. In our service in church, on outreach in the field, taking care of the needy of the world, we must strive for excellence and not offer a second-best or good-enough “sacrifice with blemish.”
At the end of 13 years of this trial, Joseph went from slave to vice president. God saw his faithfulness and excellent service and promoted him. We can expect good things if we exceed expectations.
The marathon — 26 miles — is divided into two parts: 1) the first 25 miles, then 2) the last mile.
Forget about who’s first. Just finish the rest. Too many Christians burn out, get confused, get bitter or otherwise fall out of their orbit.
He who persevere to the end shall be saved. — Matt. 24:13.
With Ebola on the one hand and beheadings on the other, Santa Monica-based Lighthouse Medical Missions cancelled its Fall trip and instead is sending a container of food and medical supplies to West Africa this week.
Dr. Robert Hamilton – a Santa Monica pediatrician who’s braved dangers since 1998 to provide care to some of the neediest people on the planet – was originally eying a trip to Lebanon to care for Syrian refugees. But then jihadists began killing Westerners in retaliation for the U.S.-led air war against the Islamic State.
On the other hand, the usual Fall trip to West Africa was also ruled out because of rampaging Ebola infections.
So Dr. Bob, as locals affectionately call him, figured he could do the most good by simply sending supplies to Sierra Leone, where he has contact with 100s of pastors and church members who virtually work as permanent Lighthouse staff to help local needs 365 days a year. Lighthouse Medical Missions has realized 20 clinics, almost all in Africa, at a total cost of $1.5 million, Dr. Bob said.
Read the rest of the article and find out how to pitch in: Help with Ebola.
I would have been destroyed myriad times. But God has rescued me with his agents: Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit and His angels. It’s shocking how hell-bent and sin-prone I honestly am. I would have left the straight and narrow path many times. But I pray that God keeps me on track.
You through faith are SHIELDED by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. – 1 Peter 1:5 NIV my caps. More often than not, it is God who shields me from harm.
When you are a Christian, you come to depend on God’s loving protection, His grace, His conviction and re-orientation. We are not fighting alone. God is with us.
Flashy fashion or walk worn. What’s your ideal of beautiful feet?
How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things. — Rom. 10:15 KJV. Paul evokes the messenger of antiquity who came running with news of military victory. With the coming of his feet, anxiety gave way to exhilaration. Good news brought great joy.
The spreading of the gospel is like news of victory. We didn’t stand a military chance against Satan and sin, but Jesus intervened and won us the war. With the news, there is great rejoicing.
The first carriers of the gospel walked long distances to break pagans out of the ignorance. Instead of paparazzi, they were met with stone-throwers. They sacrificed because the bore good news and hungered to share it.
Even today, there is much sacrifice to do to get the good word out.
Judas Iscariot reasoned that it was time to cash out on Jesus. He reasoned Jesus wasn’t going anywhere after all, and that he should make the most of three years of following the loser named Jesus.
Job’s friends reasoned against their friend. Instead of consoling him, they blamed him. You must have sinned because look at the proof: God’s not with you anymore.
The very same logical fallacies atheists accuse us of using, they too use! (When a pseudo-intellectual brandishes an exotic Latin fallacy, it tends to quiet the non-Latin speaker.)
As Christians, we too can “reason” ourselves out of the will of God. We can “reason” our way of out going to church, tithing, outreaching, our marriage, etc.
To avoid this pratfall, bathe your decisions in prayer. Make sure you don’t spend your time praying trying to convince God that He ought to approve your previously determined decision.
Useless is the team that defends well, keeps possession, gets to goal, but then can’t put the ball in the net. Every team has the need for a strong finisher, someone who consistently strikes on target, someone who bamboozles the goalie.
The finisher may not dribble well, may not pass well, may not have great stamina. That’s not his job. His is to finish all the work up to the goal.
As Christians, we need to be strong finishers. It’s useless to a meteoric rise, a glorious carrying forth, only to die out at the end. God help me to be a strong finisher.
Larry Page, the leader of Google, tells his employees that every product they make must be 10X better than the competition. Next on the list of things for Google: self-driving cars, wearable computers, mapping the human race’s DNA code. He’s eternally dissatisfied, and that drives him to pursue greater heights. Mediocrity and modest gains be damned. Shoot for the moon.
As Christians, we should have vision and dream big. What is keeping us from bigger things? Many times our own scaled-down vision. Read more about Larry Page. It inspired me.
Truly I tell you, if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in their heart but believes that what they say will happen, it will be done for them. — Mark 11:23 NIV.
As a sandanista, Alex had a super strict commander. Good thing too, because other platoons woke up to find two-thirds their throats slit. The contras in the Nicaraguan civil war of the 1980s took advantage of any platoon with sleeping guards. They slipped in, put one hand over the sleeper’s mouth and with the other cut his throat. It was a noiseless death that allowed them to move to the next and the next, killing 100s, and slink out before dawn. Because Alex’s commander maintained strict discipline, his platoon never fell victim. They were vigilant.
And if he shall come in the second watch, or come in the third watch, and find them so, blessed are those servants. – Luke 12:38 NIV.
As a Christian, I feel like I’ve dropped my guard, eased off the gas pedal — now in the second watch of my life. I’m 47.
On my first watch, as pastor in Guatemala, I was diligent in prayer and the word. Forced to return to the United States four years ago, I don’t get much “playing time.” Consequently, I’ve toned down the regimen. And I feel bad.
We go through different seasons in life. In my “first watch,” the souls of Guatemala took priority. Now in my “second watch,” my kids get it. God is doing wonderful things in their lives. Can I keep following hard after the Lord?
There’s no monkeying around. If you want to win, you have to work at it. No matter what you do. Don’t practice until you can do something. Practice until you cannot fail at something.
When Henry got saved, he announced his intention to play football next year. I know football runs deep in our church and school since our head pastor was an NFL player, but is football part of conversion?
Not only did the 100-pound kid follow through, he also convinced three other Chinese students in our Santa Monica Christian school, the Lighthouse, to also play. At first these inexperienced players weren’t much help. They stood around and wondered what to do. Their limited English impeded their learning the game. Game after game, the Saints got overrun.
No more. In fact, it was the Chinese to tilted Saturday’s game. Raymond, a student I host, snagged not one but two late interceptions that helped the Saints overcome the deficit and win. Woohoo! This is the way to evangelize!