Category Archives: Christian living

“God Is Real”

   For children who grow up in church, it is very easy for them to view it as nothing more than a religion if they never see the evidence of God at work. This fact was brought home to our church in a very real, but positive, way this past week.

   Bro. Jackie and his wife were a dear couple in their seventies. After he had a stroke about a year and a half ago, they moved down from Illinois to live with their daughter. The stroke affected his speech and his mobility, causing him to be mostly confined to a motorized wheelchair and leaving his speech somewhat halting. Additionally, he was dealing with Parkinson’s disease and a number of other ailments.

   Over the last few months, Bro. Jackie had two or three close calls with death, going in and out of the hospital and nursing home.

   Sunday before last, he was able to be in church. It was always a pleasure to see him there. He had a million-watt smile and an obvious hunger for the Word of God. He was one of those people who could make a preacher hurt himself preaching.

   At the end of the service, he motored his way down to the altar and requested that I and the elders of the church pray for his healing according to James 5:14. I called the deacons to the front and we gathered around Bro. Jackie and prayed for God’s hand to raise our brother up.

   That night, Bro. Jackie slipped into a non-responsive state. Over the next three days his vital signs began to slip and it was obvious that the end was nearing. On Wednesday, about an hour before prayer meeting, he went home to be with the Lord. His family, as well as the church, felt a real sense that God had answered the prayer of faith and given him ultimate healing.

   This past Sunday, one of our young boys at church, age 11, approached his Sunday School teacher and told him he needed to be saved. This young man had been raised in church and had actually been baptized at an earlier age. When I talked to him about his decision, he shared with me that his earlier baptism had not been based upon a genuine profession of faith. He further testified that seeing Bro. Jackie come forward for prayer, and then seeing God take him home had convinced him without a doubt that God is real.

   Most of us have seen the staggering statistics about 85% of those church members who reach the age of 18 leave church, never to come back. Could it be that in their entire lifetime in church they have never seen God working in a manner that proved His reality? This is certainly not the fault of God as we know that He responds to faith.

   The answer to reaching our young people is not another program, trip, rally, camp, car wash or (dare I say it?) class. They need to see real faith in the lives of those who are older, real faith that produces real results from a real God.

   This song says it best, listen and be blessed.

I Then Shall Live

Over the last few days, I have been receiving a large number of hits on this video. It appears to be blessing a lot of people at this sensitive time. For that reason, I am going to stick it at the top of the blog for a while. Newer posts will appear below it.

This song has been blessing, as well as challenging me, for the last couple of months as I have listened to it. Give it a listen, not just for the beautiful harmony, but for the power of the words.

Movie Review: Fireproof

   This last weekend, my family and I had the opportunity to view the newly-released movie, “Fireproof“. I had read several reviews by those who had screened the film prior to its release and was looking forward to the chance to see it for myself.

   I’ll have to say, I certainly was not disappointed. Produced by the members of Sherwood Baptist Church, in Albany, GA, (the makers of “Facing the Giants”) it illustrates the story of a captain of a fire department who is seeing his marriage crumble.

   Caleb, played by Kirk Cameron, is a self-absorbed public hero who eventually turns to his father (Harris Malcolm) for guidance. At his father’s request he embarks on a journey that teaches him to demonstrate a love to his wife that reflects the love of God for us.

   The movie, shot on location in Albany, moves along very well. The quality of the acting is very good for a low-budget film, greatly improved over that of “Facing the Giants”. The dramatic moments are genuinely suspenseful and the comedic relief provided by the interaction of the firefighters, while a bit contrived was funny nonetheless. The film quality was by far the best I have ever seen in a Christian production (we have come a long way since “Thief in the Night”).

   While the focus of the movie is the strengthening of marriages, the message of the Gospel is central to the plot making this worth seeing for the family. The film is rated PG due to the intensity of a couple of events the fire department faces as well as the “religious” content, but there was absolutely nothing objectionable that I found in it.

   I would encourage each family to go see this movie. It is well worth the time and the price of the ticket.

Pitfalls of Cynicism

Cynicism: An attitude of scornful or jaded negativity, especially a general distrust of the integrity or professed motives of others.

A recurring theme in the New Testament is that of hope. We are to have hope in the provisions and promises of God, the return of Christ, a glorious future and especially the great salvation that is given to us. The fifth chapter of Romans reminds us that our hope will not be put to shame because the love of God is working through us to accomplish our hope.

Sadly, too many of God’s children live a life devoid of hope. While they give mental assent to the contents of my previous paragraph, their general outlook on life is characterized by cynicism. As I have contemplated this, I have identified what I believe to be a few pitfalls that cynicism presents, that Christians should avoid.

1.  It abandons hope.

As Christians we should live daily in the hope that I have already described. A person who has given up hope allows their faith to become an easy target. Romans 8 describes the strength of faith that a person who has hope can develop.

2.  It pulls our focus from God to man.

Peter began to sink after he took his eyes off Jesus. While he was looking at the storm around him, it occurred to him that this was bigger than him. Those whose hope rests in politicians, doctors, lawyers, parents, family, friends or self will certainly see their hope eventually turn to cynicism.

3.  It accentuates the negative.

While the concept of “positive thinking” may be a bit overblown at times, it is something that is vital to a Christian perspective on life. Paul reminds the Philippian believers to think on things that are lovely, pure, of good report, etc. It is hard to be cynical when one is contemplating the goodness of God.

4.  It leads one to be judgmental.

By its very definition, cynicism assumes the worst about people and circumstances. It causes us to overlook our own flaws and concentrate upon the mistakes (either actual or imagined) of others. It will drive us to pass judgment upon the motives of others, even though we cannot see our own hearts, let alone theirs.

This is something that should never take place in the life of a Christian. James raises the question, “Who art thou, that judges another?”

5.  Cynicism spreads.

Paul uses the analogy in Hebrews 12 that we should not allow a root of bitterness to spring up as it will cause many to become defiled. It is impossible for us to hold this negative perspective inside. A cynic will see himself as simply being “realistic”, better informed than others or simply caught up in the refrain of “same song, second verse.” Unfortunately, everyone around them will be exposed to the hopelessness that pours out of them.

Are we abandoning hope? Is our focus on man instead of God? Are we focusing on the negative and becoming judgmental of others motives? Is our cynicism spreading to those around us?

There is still hope. God’s grace is strong to deliver, not only from the power of sin, but also from the negativism of this world.

Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you than he that is in the world.  I John 4:4

Another Thought On Christian Liberty

I appreciate the input from the readers in the last post. As I have given further thought to being able to distinguish between moral absolute/mandate/principle or matter of liberty, this thought occurred to me:

If there is any loophole in the issue, if there is ever a circumstance in which it might be considered “ok” to do it (or not do it), then it becomes subjective and by default must be considered a matter of Christian liberty.

What do you think?

Pondering Christian Liberty

I have been involved in a couple of discussions recently where the topic of Christian liberty came up. While it was not the point of the conversation, it definitely became a factor in the arguments presented on both sides of the conversation.

I have been giving a lot of thought since then to the concept that we call “Christian liberty”. I want to share with you some random musings that have passed through the old noodle during that time. Feel free to analyze, criticize or transdemogrifize (ht to all “Calvin and Hobbes” afficionadoes) what I present.

For the sake of the conversation, I am classifying anything that is not clearly stated or principalized in the Bible as a matter of Christian liberty. I believe this is consistent with what scriptures teach about the concept as well as being relevant to the context of the discussions I referenced earlier. I am not going to share the details of those conversations as I do not want their substance to become the point of this discussion.

1.  Rarely does someone on the negative side of an issue see it as a matter of “Christian liberty”.

By “negative side” I mean when they look at an issue, they see the endorsement of that issue to be a sin. In the debate presented in the Epistle to the Romans, they would be the ones who view eating meat sacrificed to idols as being sinful.

Someone in this position may have arrived at their position through a process of experience, thought, prayer or influence of other believers. For them, even though the Bible may not clearly mandate that the issue at hand is right or wrong, it is a matter of clear morality. Often the process that led them to their point of view has been so dramatic that they even become passionate about their position, not understanding why someone could see it differently, i.e. a matter of conscience or Christian liberty.

I would imagine that most, if not all of us, find ourselves on the “negative” sides of issues at times. I think we would do well in such cases to remember that if the Bible does not specifically give a prohibition or mandate, either through command or principle, that it is a matter of liberty. This does not mean that we would be required to compromise our belief in such cases, but it should lead us to realize that someone on the other side of the issue may not be necessarily wrong.

2.  Those who are exercising their Christian liberty should give great care to make sure they do so legitimately.

I jokingly told a friend recently that my definition of a “legalist” was “someone who preaches against something that I enjoy doing”.

The concept of Christian liberty must be applied with a spiritual, not carnal, balance. The flesh can easily come into play on both sides of this coin. Those who use the reasoning of enjoyment and derivation of pleasure to justify an activity may indeed be guilty of walking in the flesh. If a believer is going to exercise their right of liberty, they should make very sure that what they are doing does not violate the moral mandates of scripture, hinder their walk in the Spirit or provide for the temptations of the works of the flesh.

While some have rightly pointed out that those on the negative side can become legalistic and pharisaitical in their opinions, the same pitfall must be avoided on the side of freedom.

3.  The ultimate test of the rightness or wrongness of anything is the glory of God.

Let me give a good illustration of this. I have actually known people who felt that it was absolutely wrong for a Christian musician to practice or use any type of sound equipment. Obviously they had no scriptural basis for this argument, only their opinion that any attempt to improve one’s “sound” was an effort to exalt self instead of God.

While it would be easy to ridicule this position as being uninformed (not to mention hard on the ears), I would have no basis whatsoever for saying that they were sinning by believing this way. If their intent is to glorify God, then they should do so with a clear conscience. However, it would be just as wrong for them to judge what is in the heart of another musician who may practice hard and use a microphone, believing that God deserves their best effort.

My point in this illustration, is that we cannot judge what is in another’s heart in matters of Christian liberty. We can only examine our own motives to see if they are pure where the glory of God is concerned. I should let God be the judge of others. If I am abstaining from an activity, I should do so to the glory of God. If I am participating in that activity, I should do so to the glory of God. If either my abstinence or my participation fails to give glory to God, I should reexamine my motives as well as the activity.

As I said, these are just some random thoughts on the matter. I would be greatly interested to hear the wisdom of the reader on this subject.

Book Review: God In The Whirlwind

God In the Whirlwind, by Tim Ellsworth

In the circles of the blogworld that I frequent, there have already been a couple of reviews of this book offered, but I feel compelled to add my two-cents worth.

This book chronicles the accounts of several students and faculty of Union University in Jackson, TN, whose lives were miraculously spared from the fury of an EF4 tornado on February 5 of this year.

I have never read a book (the Bible of course being considered separately) that fed my faith like this book. On a night when emergency personnel informed the local hospital that they should be prepared for one hundred casualties, God providentially delivered everyone on campus from dying in this storm.

Testimony after testimony provides a cohesive and gripping account that literally left me with goosebumps on my arms and tears in my eyes. Without a doubt, the faith and lives of those who encountered this twister have been changed forever.

It is a powerful testimony of the grace and glory of God. My recommendation is, “Buy this book.” Read it. Read it again and then pass it along to a friend who may be going through a storm of their own. It just may encourage them to look for God in their whirlwind.

Give It Again

Dr. Adrian Rogers once told the story of a young Indian prince who became the leader of his province while he was still a child. As this was during the time when India was a part of the British Empire, it was customary for such rulers to visit Queen Victoria and pay homage to her.

In an effort to impress her, he ignored the the counsel of his advisors and presented, as a gift to the Queen, a very large and precious diamond. This diamond was without question the most valuable item that was in his province.

Years went by and the prince became a man. Twenty years or so passed before he visited London again. The Queen’s counsellors told her that it was possible that this prince would request the return of the diamond. If he did so, protocol demanded that she oblige him.

Sure enough, as he received his audience with the Queen, he asked her if he could have the diamond. She commanded that the gem be returned to the prince. Upon receiving it, he turned to Her Majesty with the stone in hand and said, “Your Highness, when I gave this diamond to you, I was only a child. I did not understand the value of this gem and what it represented for the people I rule. Now that I am a man, I do realize the value of it and what it means. As a man, I now give you this stone again.”

Many of us have made commitments to God at earlier times in our lives. Perhaps at a revival, concert, youth camp or some other event, we made a “decision” for Christ that we might not have fully understood. Since that time we have come to a fuller awareness of exactly what was at stake. Maybe it is time that we renewed that commitment to God with the full knowledge of what we are doing, motivated by love for Him.

“He that loseth his life for my sake shall find it.”

A Call For Civility

It is with a burdened heart that I write this post. I am concerned about something that is occurring among Christian blogs even as I sit at my keyboard.

Over the past month or so I have observed and even participated in an ongoing discussion among evangelical bloggers. This conversation has primarily been among those who would identify themselves in alignment with Free Grace theology or a more centrist soteriological position. These are people that I believe are sincere in what they believe and I look at them as my brothers and sisters in Christ.

Debates among bloggers are certainly not unusual occurrences. Having often engaged in them myself, I find that they can be stimulating, challenging and generally enriching when conducted in a gracious spirit.

What concerns me in this particular situation, however, is the devolvement of the dialogue into a playground brawl. I have observed name-calling, childish attempts at deceit, intimidation tactics, taunting, false accusations and even people questioning one another’s salvation. Instead of getting better, the problems are escalating, even spilling over onto blogs that are not even a part of the discussion. Not everyone involved in the debate has stooped to such tactics, but many have.

I have watched as pastors, teachers, theologians, students, authors and lay-persons alike have sullied themselves in this fray and are doing so head-long with little regard to possible consequences.

Brothers and sisters, I implore you in the name of our Lord, let us put an end to this maliciousness. I am not asking anyone to compromise their beliefs, or even end the discussion. The truth of the gospel is always worth proclaiming, but let us do so in a Christ-like spirit.

Let us keep in mind that while we may consider this to be an intramural debate, this forum is visible before the whole world. We must remember that this is being observed by those who do not know our Lord. Do we honestly think that this will have the effect of drawing them to Him?

I am sure that each person involved is convinced of the rightness of their particular theological position. That is between them and the Lord. But nowhere does God ever give us license to treat each other with such acidic behavior, even if the other person is a “heretic”.

I do not write this to sound arrogant or judgemental. This is merely a plea from my heart to those who will hear it. Let us treat one another with the same grace that God has extended to us.

Merry Christmas

Due to a busy holiday schedule and fighting a bad cold the last couple of weeks, I haven’t had a lot of time for productive blogging. Hopefully, after the new year, things will settle down and return to normal (whatever THAT is). 😉

 In the meantime, I want to wish all who come by this site a very Merry Christmas. I hope that the hope, joy, peace and love that characterizes the birth of Lord fills your life. I pray that you and your family will be warmed and filled with the bounty of God’s graciousness.

I pray for our troops. May they be successful in their endeavors, safe in their tours of duty and may our leaders agree upon a reasonable plan to get them home as soon as possible.

I pray for our missionaries. May they know the presence of their Master in a very special way. May God bless them and keep them and give them souls for their labors.

Most of all, I pray that everyone who reads this has received the greatest Christmas gift of all, the eternal life that is found only in the Jesus whose birth we are celebrating. Unto Him be all glory, honor and praise.

 Merry Christmas.