Monday, July 25, 2016

The Mess in the World is Getting Me Down

Today I was meeting with a strong brother in the Lord, and he shared with me how he was feeling a cloud of despair and almost depression due to all the bad things happening in the world right now.  I don’t think he is alone in this feeling.  Many are discouraged, anxious, fearful and sad.  What is the world coming to?  How many more bad things can happen?  Is it even safe to go to the shopping center? 

What does God’s Word say to us in such bleak times?  What truths can we focus on to give us hope and encouragement?

1.    Remember that God is in sovereign control. 
I define sovereignty as He “so” “very” “reigns”.  Yes, He gives us a free will, and our exercise of that free will brings about a lot of terrible things, but through it all, God is still in control.  Joseph, who knew hardship well, said, “What man meant for evil, God meant for good, for the saving of many lives” (Gen. 50:20).  Speaking of the “saving of many lives”:
2.    Use the bad news as a platform for the Good News.
All that is going on can be a great conversation starter.  Ask people, “Why do you think so many bad things are happening these days?  What do you think is the root cause of all these problems in our world?”  And from there you can offer the ultimate solution in the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  For only Jesus changes a heart, and a heart change is the answer to all the problems in the world.
3.    Let all negative emotions drive us to the Word. 
When I am down, I read the Psalms, because there I find a “man after God’s own heart” (Acts 13:22) who is often struggling, but also finding hope in God.  I love the honesty of the Psalms.  And I love how they all end in praise, despite how they might have started. Worship is a great way to lift the human spirit.  God wants us to come to Him every time we struggle, so that we might experience Him in a new way.  He is the God of hope (Rom. 15:13). His Word is the truth we need amidst all the uncertainty in our world.  Spend a lot of time with God.
4.    Be connected with a redemptive community. 
Fellowship with Godly people is so helpful during hard times. We need the support of others. We need a place where we can be brutally honest about our struggles.  We need the wisdom others can provide. We need to find out what others are doing to stay strong.  We are called to “bear one another burdens” (Gal. 6:1).  I think my friend left our meeting today feeling a little better, because he had been with two brothers who loved him and the Lord.
5.    Keep our eyes fixed on Jesus (Hebr. 12:2). 
This one is what I need the most right now.  I can so easily “fix my eyes” on the elections, terrorism, mass shootings, racism, etc.  So much is happening so fast in our world, that it is tempting to fix our eyes on the news instead of on the Lord Himself.  Hebrews 12:2 comes after verse 1 where it says to “put aside every weight and the sin that so easily entangles us and run with endurance.”  We must not only put aside sin, but we must also put aside any weight that holds us back.  What weight do you need to lay aside in order to run more freely?
6.    Ask God what He wants you to do. 
We can easily get overwhelmed by all the sin and problems in the world that it almost immobilizes us.  We can feel like there is nothing we can do to help. But this is not true.  One of the best ways to fight depression is to do something positive.  There is a role for each of us to play in providing solutions and help.  We must find our niche in the work of God. We must put our hands to the plow, and discover what God would have us do to make a difference, even if in just one life!
7.    Maintain an eternal perspective.
Do not forget that we know how it all ends. We have read the final chapter of the Book (Revelation 21). There is a heaven, and this is not it. But there is a heaven that does await all Christ-followers.  Jesus said, “Let not your hearts be troubled …. For I go to prepare a place for you” (John 14:1-2).  Jesus encourages our troubled hearts by reminding us of heaven.  All evil and sin and Satan will one day be destroyed …. Forever.  And one day righteousness, peace, joy and the Presence of Jesus will reign forever!  Be certain that you are going to heaven by repenting of your sins and trusting in Christ alone for your salvation.  And if you are one of His, lift up your head and rejoice at what awaits you!

“Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.  For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”  Mt. 11:28-30

Saturday, July 23, 2016

The Heart of Jesus

What is the heart of Jesus, and what kind of people does He gravitate toward?  Of course He loves all people (John 3:16 “so loved the world”), but there are some that His heart particularly goes out to. 

He tells us exactly who those are when He began His public ministry in Luke 4:18, and suprising to many it wasn’t the religious, the righteous, or the ritualistic, but rather He said, “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed.” 

It is clear that the heart of Jesus is to those who are poor, oppressed, blind, downcast, struggling, hurting, etc.  After all, He said elsewhere “it is not the healthy who need a physician but the sick.  I have not come to call the righteous but sinners” (Mk. 2:17).  And this is why He hung out with the sinners, tax collectors and social outcasts. 

I am so glad that God has a heart of compassion for those who are hurting.  Why? Because I am so needy, and therefore I can draw near to Him, and He will draw near to me (James 4:8).  Just as God comes running toward the returning prodigal (Luke 15), I can be confident that He comes running to meet me when I repent of my sin.  When I am lonely, struggling and feeling very unrighteous, I can come to God and know, He will in no wise caste me out!

Do you come running to God in your sin and pain, or do you feel that you have to wait until you “get your act together” first?  Come to Jesus just as you are, and then He can help you.  If you are in sin, struggling, blind, in prison to some addiction, etc. then you are the very person Jesus’s heart particularly goes toward.  Even though this is counter-intuitive to our flesh, it is exactly what the Spirit of God is saying!  Don’t miss it.  What a Savior!

For more on the "Heart of Jesus", listen to my sermon by that title at

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

5 Biblical Truths to Help With Racism

With all the recent events in our nation, and all the current tension among those of different races, it is an important time to look at what God’s Word says about such matters.  Here are a few truths from God’s Word to consider, so that you are transformed by the renewing of our mind and are not conformed to this world (Rom. 12:1-12)!  Don’t let the media nor fear dictate your response.  Let’s go to God’s Word, and His Word is clear that:

1.    Jesus is not white.
Jesus was born in Bethlehem and grew up in Nazareth.  Therefore, Jesus was a Middle Eastern male.  To some WASPs (White Anglo Saxon Protestants) this might be a surprise. I have never liked most modern pictures of Jesus, and this is one reason.  Most pictures do not even get the skin color correct, and the bottom line is we don’t know what He looked like in most respects, but skin color was very likely brown.

2.  Jesus’ marriage is inter-racial.
Jesus is the groom and the church is the bride of Christ, and His bride is composed of people of every tribe, nation, tongue and people (Rev. 7:9).  I like to point this out when people ask what I think of an inter-racial marriages.  I usually respond, “Well, theologically this can really glorify God, because marriage is to be an earthly picture of Christ and the church, and Jesus is married to a very inter-racial bride.” That usually makes them say, “I have never thought about it that way.”

3.    Jesus’ bride is very multicultural.
Since the church, the bride of Christ, is composed of people of every tribe, nation, tongue and people, then the church is the most diverse organism on the planet.  If someone is in Christ, they are my brother or sister, regardless of their skin color or language.  I will be spending eternity with them, so it would do me good to get along well with them here on earth.  Some will object, “But what about those heathens of other colors?”  My answer?  “Let’s love them extra well, so that they might come to know Jesus and become a part of this amazing multi-ethnic body, called the bride of Christ!”

4.    Jesus’ people should be the most loving on earth.
God created everyone in His image. God loves all people.  God doesn’t see one race as different than another in the grand scheme of things.  Therefore, God’s people, more than any other people, should see others the same way He does. 

Our ultimate concern about people is that they come to know Jesus, and we should do everything we can to help that happen.  We should never allow such trivial things as skin color to affect how we treat them.  If anything, we should go out of our way to be extra loving and sensitive to those who are different than us.

Paul said that he sees no man according to the flesh (2 Cor. 5:16).  This doesn’t mean he was ultimately “colorblind,” but rather that he chose to be more concerned about their spirit and their standing with God, than external things such as race, size, gender, etc.

5.    Jesus’ people should be proactive to identify with those who are different.
Paul said, “I have become all things to all people” (1 Cor. 9:22).  There are many applications of this biblical principle, but one that challenges me right now is to really seek to understand what an African American is going through at this time in our country.  Therefore, I met this week with a black pastor in our area and asked him, “Help me understand better what the black community is feeling right now.  Tell me about times when you have felt judged or mistreated by the white establishment.”  I learned a lot in that 2-hour discussion.  I do not know what a person of color is going through right now, but I can seek to better understand by asking good questions, and then really listening.

These are just a few of the many biblical truths we should think about. What other truths help to guide you in these difficult days?  Email me at and let me know your thoughts.  May God heal our land!

Saturday, July 9, 2016

8 Tips to Maximizing Your Sunday Worship Experience

1. Prepare on Saturday night.  Don’t stay out too late on Saturday night, so as to be well rested for Sunday worship.  If you have young children, have them sleep in the clothes they will wear to church, so as to avoid the battle over what they will wear.  Have a Saturday night and Sunday morning ritual that the children get used to, and build in some special things they can look forward to (i.e., donuts on Sunday morning, lunch out after church, etc.).
2.  Spend time with God before heading to church.  Read the word and pray to prepare your heart.  If you know what your pastor is preaching on, read that passage when you wake up.  Pray for your own heart and for those who will be leading the worship service.  Come to the worship service to love God and love others.
3. Arrive early so as to meet some people and be ready when the service starts.  When you walk in late, you miss what has already happened, and you distract others from what is taking place at that moment.
4. Turn your phone off so as not to be distracted.
 Avoid using a Bible app on your phone so as not to be tempted with other things that might come over your phone (i.e., texts, Facebook, etc.).  I think it is a better model for our children to see us using a paper copy of the Bible instead of an electronic version. 
5. Fully engage in whatever is happening in the service.  This takes mental and spiritual discipline.  When there is singing, sing with all your heart!  When there is prayer, pray!  When there is a reading, listen intently!  When there is a message, receive it with an open heart! When there is the partaking of the Lord’s Supper, search your heart and meditate on Christ’s suffering for you.
6.  Avoid an “evaluative spirit.”  This one is really hard.  If we are constantly evaluating things during the service (i.e., volume of music, song selection, attire of those on stage, who is sitting near us, etc.), we will miss out on loving God and loving others.  Focus on the Lord.  Concentrate on Him.  Discipline your mind away from evaluating things.
7. Maintain a humble and receptive heart throughout the service.
 God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.  The more humble we are, the more grace He gives us.  It takes humility to worship the Lord, regardless of how you feel. It takes humility to keep your focus on God and not on things that can distract you.  It takes humility to ask God, “Is there someone here you want me to pray for or give a word to?” It takes humility to say to God at the end of the message, “Lord, What are You saying to me today?” 
8.  Love your neighbor as yourself.  There are two main purposes for attending a corporate worship service:  to love God and love others.  After all, these are the two greatest commandments!  I have mostly addressed loving God, but how might we love others at church?  Here are a few suggestions:  Find a place of service so as to avoid coming with a “consumer” mentality; taking a genuine interest in another person as you greet him/her; looking for someone who seems lonely or downcast; or praying for someone your heart is drawn toward.

Each of these take intentionality, but it is all worth it, because the “eyes of the Lord move to and fro throughout the earth, that He may strongly support those who hearts are completely His” (2 Chron. 16:9).