Monday, October 20, 2008

5 Facts About Life Every Christian Needs to Come to Grips With

It was June 12, 1994 and I watched with surreal interest the chase of O.J. Simpson in his white Bronco, fleeing the police after his wife was murdered. I could hardly believe it. O.J. was a celebrated former athlete and actor. He seemed to embody the decorum and stature of an honest, hardworking man. Now, he is accused of murder. And he is running away from the law. I didn't want to believe it. I thought surely this must be a misunderstanding.

But the incident was real. And O.J., well, he wasn't entirely innocent. In fact, he has gone from bad to worst in a lot of respects. But at that time, very many people felt as I did. He couldn't have done something so horrible.

Can't we all just get along?

But this illustrates the point that most of the world would disagree with. Everyone, from the nicest person we know to the street hustler, has the potential to do some horrible things. And this world is messed up because of this. Not messed up because of the government, nor the economy; not the lack of fairness, nor the weather. We are just plain evil. And the sooner we accept that, the sooner we can accept God's solution.

But, nowadays it is the followers of Jesus who need this wake-up call. Like Peter, we really don't believe what Jesus has to say about this. In fact, we live our lives like it just isn't true. And we are shocked when we experience what he said would happen.

Here are 5 bedrock truths believers can count on — and we, as disciples of Christ, need to be keenly aware of them in these dark times:

  • The righteous and the wicked will never get along. (John 15:18-25) The reason this is true is that they have opposing worldviews. The wicked generally don't think they are, unless they are purposefully self-destructive. They generally seek to redefine what is evil, or explain it away. The righteous desire righteousness. (What is right and just and within the will of God.) (Proverbs 21:15) The wicked have no such desire.

  • Everyone is evil. (Romans 3:9-20) Whether we accept it or not, God has declared us all his enemies, as evidenced by our evil behavior. (Colossians 1:21) Whether we like it or not, we are all held accountable to God. Whether we believe it or not, God will judge us all.

  • The natural tendency of everyone is towards evil. We have been declared by God to have a tendency and desire to do evil. (John 3:19-21) We love to sin. We love to rebel against God. Therefore, we are depraved, and the only real solution is to be saved and renewed by God.

  • If you or I determine to do what is right, we will have resistance. For those of us who have been saved, we are now on a different path. A path of faith which hungers for righteousness, desires the will of God, and focuses effort on pleasing God. But, because of this, we are out of step with the world. And the world hates us for it. (2 Timothy 3:10-13; John 15:18-25; Matthew 5:10-12) We shouldn't be surprised. Also, we are out of step with what we have habitually done all our lives previous to our salvation. (Galatians 5:16-18) Therefore, we must resist our evil tendencies.

  • The devil is real. We must resist the devil. (Ephesians 6:10-18) For he is real and our ultimate battle is with him and his forces. Forget this, and we become fodder. (1 Peter 5:8-9)

We can't afford to be asleep in this world. We can't afford to be drunk with pleasure, entertainment, or materialism. We can't afford to accept whatever the world feeds us as truth. We can't afford to sit idly by with the mockers and skeptics. We can't afford to fear whatever they fear. We must be alert, unafraid, and watchful. Not only for Jesus return, but for opportunities to influence our world for the cause of Christ.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Why Only One Question Really Matters

Susan is a busy mom. She has three kids all under the age of 10. She tries to manage her home, but without a husband she often falls behind on the bills and basic home maintenance. She lives very far from any relatives, and has considered moving because of this. But it is just too expensive to move right now. She attends church, but she often misses what's going on while she is so busy with her kids. Her evenings are exhausting, and she has less than an hour to herself after the kids are in bed.

Then the phone rings, and it's the test results from the doctor. She has cancer.

In our daily lives we can name several priorities that capture our attention. A scientific study found that we become more fatigued and less productive when faced with a number of choices or priorities. How do we make sense of our lives when there is so much to be concerned about?

The solution is simple, but hard to implement when faced with so many decisions everyday. The solution is that we need to ask the right questions to know what's important. In fact, few people really do this. Usually, with the world's help, people either ask the wrong questions or don't ask anything at all. But this is critical. How are we to know what is priority if we don't? And only one question really matters.

The only question that really matters is this: What does God want me to do? This is the most important question. The question helps us make the right choices, prioritize what is truly important, and leads us to transformation that counts. After all, God created us for a reason. And what is more important than fulfilling that reason?

Why is this the most important question?

This question is the most important because we will all die some day. We will have to all settle the matter of God's existence, God's character, and God's desire for us sooner or later. We must deal with our ultimate destiny. Where is this all headed? Is death the end or the beginning of something? And last, if we accept God's existence and character, we must deal with our destiny with a final judgment, where we stand before God without pretense or protection and give account to him who made us.

Another reason this is the most important question is that we can't control everything. Life happens. Sometimes we can be on top of the world, and suddenly it crashes all around us. How do we prepare? There is One who knows ahead of time what is going to happen, and how we can be prepared to withstand difficult times. God made us, and knows what we need. And he wants us to make it through, as well as to be transformed into something wonderful. We need to know what he would have us do in tough times, because he not only knows what's best for us, but he is determined to mold us into what he designed us to be. After all, it's God who matters.

This question is also important because we have limits. We can't do everything. We have limited time. We have limited resources. We have limited abilities, skills, talents, and gifts. We must use what we have wisely. But who determines what is wise? God. Again, he made us and he has a plan for us and for this whole world. Doesn't it make sense to live our lives to please him?

The last reason this question is the most important is that we all have pressures. We have competing priorities, family obligations, societal expectations, expectations from our friends and acquaintances, and even our own expectations. We have dreams that are yet fulfilled and obligations we need to keep. We have failures we wish we never had. We have opportunities we wish we never missed. How do we put all these in their proper perspective? Let God set the priorities. Then focus our lives to please him. Then whatever doesn't get done, doesn't get done. Whoever doesn't get pleased, doesn't get pleased. But on that day, when you or I see him for who he is, he will say to us, "Well done, good and faithful servant!" What God thinks matters the most.

For Susan, this meant giving her worries and concerns to God in prayer. She joined a group of godly women who could help her with her kids. She needed to prioritize her time to allow for space for herself and her God. And even if the kids wanted her, she determined to maintain her commitment to the Lord, and it paid off in becoming a better mom for her kids. She has peace, because the maker of her soul is Lord in her life.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Obama the Messiah?

Not much Farrakhan says surprises me. It doesn't necessarily impugn Obama. But—like any cult—it is worth watching out for developments.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Which is Easier?

"Which is easier? To tell this man that his sins are forgiven, or to tell him to pick up his mat and walk?"—Matthew 9:1-8

Jesus was making a point. It is obviously easier to say, "You are forgiven," than it is to command a paraplegic to get up and walk. But to demonstrate his authority to do the first, he proved it by accomplishing the second. He commanded a paraplegic man to get up. And he did. He was healed by the command of Jesus. Only God can do something like that. And only God can forgive sins. Jesus was making clear what type of authority he really had. It was the same authority that God has.

But there is something interesting here. A principle, if you will. It is easier to fake who you are, than it is to prove who you. In fact, most people would rather do the easier thing for risk of being exposed as a fraud. What I mean is, it is easier for me to say that I will stick by you no matter what, than it is to actually do so when my reputation is on the line. It is easier to say that I am an honest person, than it is to remain so when it may cost me more than lying.

  • I can appear like a very loving person. I can be patient, helpful, and accommodating. But am I consistently like that with those who are nasty to me, or even with my spouse?

  • I may appear as a politically astute person. But am I really going along to get along? Simply following the party lines and sound bites of my immediate culture?

  • I may appear as a rebel, or as a maverick. But am I that way when no one is looking?

  • I can come across as gregarious and out-going. But if it requires genuine intimacy, do I retreat or do I rise to the occasion?

  • I may appear patient. But how long have I prayed for that non-Christian friend or relative?

  • I may be bold on Sunday. But I also keep my faith "private" on Monday.

This article is not designed to make you feel guilty about not living up to what you desire to be like. It's about being honest, and becoming real. If you care about God's Word, and you believe the Bible is God's Word, how is that demonstrated in 3D (real life)? This should challenge us, not make us feel guilty—unless you are guilty of something. Instead, lets use these tests to get a more accurate picture of ourselves, and what we want to become. Then we can begin to pray with intention and to go on to maturity.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Why I Don't Like the Government Bail-Out Plan

Economics 101.

Don't issue loans to people who can't afford to pay them back. Eventually, you will run out of he ability to issue loans at all.

The problem was that since 1992 the mortgage industry under government mandate, and to pump up numbers of the less-advantaged, artificially accepted people with bad credit or no credit using various lending schemes. This has produced a number of badly backed mortgage loans, that are not going to produce any income.

If you want to help people who can't afford a home. Teach them how to SAVE. Teach them a skill, in order to produce wealth. Support programs that build homes for underprivileged or handicapped people (rather than preserving animal habitats). Support more qualified organizations, like the church or humanitarian organizations, to do what they do best: helping people who can't help themselves. And support families along with medical and community organizations in order to help the mentally incapable. (They shouldn't be given loans anyway without a proper co-signer.)

The government should support these efforts, not run them. The government is only good at punishing evil, and protecting and encouraging the right behavior in society. It is good that the government says that housing-discrimination is wrong. And it is good for the government to enforce laws that protect credit-worthy individuals from being either priced out of the market or being denied loans for reasons other than credit-worthiness.

However, the government is lousy at enforcing wealth and prosperity.