Monday, January 16, 2017

Are You Going DEEPER?


Are you growing in your walk with God?  Are you going deeper with the Lord?  Are you progressing from a child to a young man to a father (see 1 John 2:12-14)?

God wants all of us to be going deeper.  We are to move from just drinking milk to eating meat (Hebrews 5).  We are to “grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ” (2 Pe. 3:18).  As we “behold the glory of God” the Spirit will transform us from “one degree of glory to another” (1 Pe. 3:18).  Are you experiencing this?

So many Christians are either stagnant in their walk, or just plain lazy when it comes to doing what is needed to grow.  I actually think that if someone is not growing, and doesn’t desire to grow, they may not be saved.  If the Spirit of God is truly living in someone, He will be working “both to will and to do for God’s good pleasure” (Phil. 2:13).  Furthermore, if a supposed Christian is living in sin, and not repenting, or being disciplined for that sin, they also may not be truly saved because Hebrews 12 says that God disciplines those who are His children, and if someone is not disciplined then they are an illegitimate child and not a true son.  Ouch.  Better consider that carefully if it applies to you.

One of the ways we grow is through suffering.  This is not fun, and we all wish it were not so, but it is.  Therefore, when hard times come, we need to press in to God.  For it is in those hard times that we often grow the most, because “in our weakness is His power made perfect” (2 Cor. 12).

To learn more about God’s call for us to go deeper in Him, the stages of growth, and how suffering produces Godly character, check out my 3 sermons on “DEEPER” at

http://www.livinghopeathens.org/category/sermons/.  Ask God to give you a greater hunger to go deeper with Him.

Friday, November 11, 2016

With Trump as President, Now What?

With this crazy election over, now what?  People’s reactions vary from depression to rioting to celebrating.   It has been a long time since our nation has been so divided.  Here is my perspective:

1.    God is still on His throne and in total control! 
He has not become any less sovereign!  He raises up one and puts down another.  He ultimately decides the election results, and we may or may not know the reasons.  We are responsible now for how we respond, and not for who is in office.
2.    We are not commanded to like who is in office, but we are commanded to pray for those in office. 
I have already been praying for President-elect Trump to have wisdom in selecting his cabinet, and for his salvation.  Wouldn’t it be awesome if he became a devoted Christ-follower, exhibited by true humility and dependence on God?  The whole world would see the difference in his life!!
3.    I am actually hopeful for our nation for the following reasons, and bear with me here because I know some of you don’t like Trump. 
Let me say this loud and clear:  I have major concerns about Trump’s character and the Bible is clear that “pride comes before the fall” so I really hope he doesn’t fall due to his obvious pride.  However, here is what I am encouraged about:
a.     Trump seems to be surrounding himself with some really good people, such as his running mate Pence, Dr. Ben Carson, Newt Gingrich, Herman Cain, etc.  I am hopeful these people will help to keep him in check and provide biblically sound input.
b.     Trump has said he will appoint strong constitutionalists to the Supreme Court, and pro-lifers!  The Bible says “righteousness exalts a nation” and we have definitely been walking in unrighteousness by killing so many babies through abortion.  I realize you cannot ultimate legislate individual morality, but we most certainly should have legislation that aligns with biblical morals, and abortion is murder.   We have been worthy of God’s judgment for years for the sin of abortion, and if we can turn that one around, it would please God.  No doubt in my mind about this.  Personally I could not vote for Hillary for the abortion reason alone, though there were many other concerns as well.
c.      Trump has said he will protect religious liberty, and this is long overdue.  Our religious freedoms have been under attack for years, and hopefully we will begin to get back to what our Founding Fathers wanted for this great nation, and that is the freedom to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  The whole “separation of church and state” has been twisted to mean something it was never intended to mean.  It was to keep the state out of the church, and never meant to keep the church out of the state.  The Founders wanted biblical values and prayer in the state.
d.     Trump has said he will aggressively go after the evil of ISIS.  He is not afraid to call it what it is: “Radical Islamic Terrorism.”  The role of government is to punish evil and reward good (see Romans 13).  It is time we do that with ISIS, and the entire world will thank us, like they did in WW2 when the evil of Hitler was defeated, largely by the U.S.


The bottom line for me is that though I am optimistic with Trump, my hope and faith and trust is in Jesus.  No matter who is in office and not matter what happens, my ultimately allegiance is to Jesus.  I will love, trust and follow Him no matter what.  I invite you to do the same!

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Sin, Judgment and Jesus

Sin and judgment are not popular topics these days.  We prefer to talk about love, mercy and grace.  And God’s Word has a lot to say about love, grace, and mercy.  However, we cannot fully appreciate God’s love, mercy and grace without understanding sin and judgment.

Good news of grace is only as good as we comprehend the truth about sin and judgment.

We have all done bad things.  We have all fallen short of God’s holiness (Romans 3:23).  We have all sinned against our Creator.  We have all gone our own way and refused to put God first.  We have all broken almost everyone of the 10 Commandments, if not outwardly, then certainly inwardly as Jesus spoke about in the Sermon on the Mount (Mathew 5-7). For example, He likened lustful thoughts to adultery.  He likened hatred inside to murder outside.  Ouch.  Guilty as charged.

And our sin deserves the judgment of God. Our sin deserves punishment.  Our sin deserves death (Romans 6:23).  Standing before God’s holiness renders us stricken to the ground in conviction and judgment.

Hosea 8-10 speaks of this judgment upon God’s people.  After all that God had done for Israel, they still turned their back on Him.  Judgment was looming, and He was giving them fair warning.

And just when it seemed there was no hope or no room to escape, God offers hope in Hosea 10:12, “Sow for yourselves righteousness; reap steadfast love; break up your fallow ground, for it is time to seek the Lord, that He may come and rain righteousness upon you.” 

How cool is this!!!  God offers a chance to avoid judgment.  And to avoid judgment we must allow Him to break up our hard heart, and have Him plant the seed of righteousness (JESUS!) in our heart, and then we will produce a harvest of righteousness.  The Gospel of Jesus is the answer to sin and judgment because Jesus bore our sin and judgment on the cross, so that we can exchange our sin for His righteousness. Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me.

For more about sin, judgment and how to escape through Jesus, check out my sermon on Hosea 8-10 at http://www.livinghopeathens.org/when-judgment-comes/




  

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Sports Just Might Be An Idol if .....




Most of us have heard of Jeff Foxworthy’s “You just might be a redneck if …”, where he gives a list of indications of being a redneck.  Well, in that vain, I want to give a list of “Sports just might be an idol if …” 

I am observing more and more Christians devoting a ton of time and energy into sports.  This is especially true in the south (where I live and enjoy my DAWGS) with SEC football. SEC football is so big not that an entire TV station is devoted to it.  It is big time down here.  But I lived in Wisconsin for 18 years, so you Packer fans (which I am one!) are not off the hook either! The bottom line is that sports is big wherever you go these days.

Now, let me be clear.  I enjoy sports and it can be great fun and fellowship to attend or watch games with friends. It can even be a great form of outreach.  However, it is so important we all keep this in proper perspective.  The Apostle Paul said, “All things are lawful but not all things are profitable … all things are lawful, but I will be mastered by nothing.” (1 Cor. 6:12). Balance is the key, and I am very concerned that many are out of balance today.

We often think of idolatry as people worshiping a golden calf or some statue of Buddha.  And those things certainly are idolatry, but the Bible describes idolatry as putting anything or anyone before God in our life.  Therefore, sports just might be an idol if:
1.     You have greater affections for your team than you do for the God who loves you and sent His Son for you.  You can shout on Saturday but not sing on Sunday?  Something is wrong with that scenario. 
2.     You spend more time with your sports’ team than you do with the God who longs for you to know Him.  Calculate the amount of time watching the game, reading the articles, searching online for anything about your team, and then compare it to the time you spend with God in the Word and prayer.  Ouch.
3.     You spend more money on your team than you give to your church or world missions.  Which is more important to God?  Which is a better investment in eternity?
4.     You are emotionally derailed when your team looses, instead of the joy of the Lord being your strength.  This past Saturday, Georgia lost a heart breaker to UT in the final second of the game. Many fans have been in severe depression ever since.  It is really sad when you can sense the mood of the congregation on Sunday, depending on the outcome of the Saturday game. 
5.     Your relationships with others are adversely affected based on the outcome of games.  While pastoring in Wisconsin I served as a police chaplain.  I learned that the local police department would receive the fewest calls during a Green Bay Packer game.  And they received the most domestic violence calls after a Packer lose.  How sad.  I know of churches in Alabama where the Auburn fans sit on the opposite side of the sanctuary from the Bama fans. This is taking it way too seriously.
6.     You get greater joy when your team succeeds than from the God who eternally saved you.  I have seen people’s entire emotional stability come from the outcome of their game.  They are on top of the world after a victory, and in the pits after a loss.  I heard a UGA fan call into a radio talk show after a tragic loss, and literally sound on the verge of suicide. The talk show host said, “Do you realize you are putting your entire emotional stability into the hands of a bunch of 18-21 years olds?”
7.     You read more about your team than you do God’s Word.  When your spare time is spent on your team instead of your God, this is an indicator of a heart problem.
8.     Your thought time is more centered on your sports team than the Lord who calls you to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thess. 5:17).  What our mind dwells upon is a great indication of where our heart is.  Ask anyone who recently “fell in love” with someone who they think about the most, they will tell you it is that person. 
9.     You can memorize and quote all kinds of stats on your team, but you cannot memorize verses from God’s Word.  I have people tell me all the time, “I just don’t have a knack for scripture memory.”  But moments later they can quote all kinds of stats about their team.  The problem is not the mind, but the heart.  "From the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks" (Mt. 12:34).
10. You are more focused on what is temporal than what is eternal.  Having an eternal perspective is the one thing that that has helped me the most in this area.  Often I ask myself, “Who will even remember the outcome of this game in 3 months, much less 3,000 years, much less 300,000 years?”

So if you are now seeing that sports just might be an idol in your life, or quickly headed there, I offer the following suggestions:
1.    Confess your sin to God.  We begin to change by admitting that we have a problem.  Agreeing that this is an issue is the first step toward healing.  “If we confess our sins, God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us of all unrighteousness” (1 Jn. 1:9).
2.    Ask God to change your heart.  I remember asking my daughter how she gained a hunger for God, and she said the key was simply admitting to God that she did not have that hunger, and then asking Him to give it to her.  This is a prayer God loves to answer.
3.     Stir your affections for God by spending time in the Word, prayer, worship, fellowship, reading Godly material, fellowshipping with Godly people, etc.  This is the principle of positive replacement.  The best defense against an idol is a good offense of pursuing God.  How is that for a sports’ analogy?!
4.    Ask someone to hold you accountable.  Give a Godly person permission to ask you how you are doing in this area.
5.     Wean yourself from excessiveness.  An idol is like an addiction.  We get so accustomed to being absorbed in it, that we need to discipline ourselves away from it, lest it increasingly occupy our life.  You can do this by setting some limits to the amount of time and energy you devote to sports.  For example, set a time limit on how much TV you watch; turn off the “ESPN alert” on your notifications; and/or pledge to spend equal amounts of time with God as you do with your games.
6.     Watch this 6-minute video by David Platt about the cross and sports and allow it to further challenge you.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ve9jPfJeT2k


“Love the Lord with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and love your neighbor as you are already loving yourself.”  Mk. 12:28-32