A Reliable Compass

During World War II, a group Air Force soldiers flew south from Italy across the Mediterranean to North Africa. A strong tail wind quickly took them over and past their destination. They didn’t believe their compass and ran out of fuel in the great Sahara Desert. Some years later, their wreckage was found along with their skeletons.

A compass is simply an instrument for showing direction. Outdoorsmen and other navigators know what a compass is and how to use it. Not every compass is in a neat little round case with a moving needle that always points to magnetic north. In a broader sense, our compass is our guide, whatever it is that keeps us on the right path. It’s somewhat akin to a ruler, a tuning fork, a plumb line or an Atomic clock. It’s the correct standard. It tells us when we’re off track and how to set things straight.

Everybody has a compass; maybe not a magnetic compass, but some form of internal guide or code. In life our compass is what keeps us on the right path. For a growing number of people the compass is self. I’m my own guide. It’s my life; I’ll do with it what I want. I’ll decide what’s right or wrong.Sociologists have long taught that there are no absolutes. They say everything is relevant and that everything depends on our own perspective. Hence, no absolutes, no immorality or morality; everything is amoral (neutral). Many political scientists insist that the state is the real compass of any society. The state decides what’s right and wrong. Do what the state says. If you don’t, you are wrong and the state has a right to deal with you accordingly. If the state says it is okay to go against God’s Word and allow abortions and homosexuality, then it is right.

Ignoring a compass can prove fatal. Failure to have a reliable compass can be just as disastrous and lead to dire consequences. Individuals and nations that lean on self, popular opinion or the state for their direction ultimately face confusion and chaos. For example, strong voices in society tell us that an unborn baby is a fetus, not a person. They cloud the issue of the sanctity of the life of a human being with women’s rights. They argue that a woman has a right over her own body but ignore the right to life of the baby. Even our Supreme Court agrees with this line of thinking.

However, the unthinkable occurred. Ariel Castro kidnapped three young girls in Cleveland, Ohio and held them in the basement of his neighborhood house as sex slaves for ten years. They were raped, beaten and tortured. Amanda Barry has a six-year old child by him. Five times Castro impregnated Michelle Knight and then each time he systematically starved and beat her in the stomach until she miscarried. Ohio chief prosecutor Timothy McGinty has now charged Castro with murder.

There is no question that Castro deserves the death penalty. However, the case illustrates the stark inconsistent, contradictory and hypocritical ways of a society without a reliable compass. Every day in America over 3,000 innocent babies are murdered in legal abortion clinics. Who could miss the awful killings by Dr. Kermit Gosnell in Philadelphia? Doesn’t it seem strange that on one hand our society and nation says it is perfectly okay to kill a fetus (unborn baby) in an abortion while on the other hand it says it is murder to kill an unborn baby by beating a mother in the stomach? How can it be a fetus in one situation and a baby in the other? How can a mother and doctor who kill an unborn baby be protected by the law while a person who kills an unborn baby by kicking a mother in the stomach be considered a murder by the same law? Contradictory and hypocritical; no doubt about it, but it’s the sad state of a society and nation which has thrown away its reliable compass!

Any time a nation or an individual depends on an unreliable compass trouble is just ahead! When man does that which is right in his own eyes chaos is certain. “The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the nations that forget God” (Psalm 9:17). Every nation and every man needs a reliable compass. Human reasoning is not reliable. “There is a way that seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death” (Proverbs 14:12).

Today America is repeating what a great many other nations and societies before us have experienced. We’ve deserted the reliable compass upon which we were founded and we are paying a high price. Unless we wake up and reverse this trend things will worsen.

The Bible is God’s Word and it is a reliable compass. “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path” (Psalm 119:105). For centuries it was America’s guide. Multitudes have made the Bible their personal compass. It shows the way to heaven. It points to honesty, unselfishness, humility, a good work ethic, responsibility and general integrity. It guides people to morality, good character, good stewardship and basic human respect and values. Our country and world desperately need this compass.

Do you need a reliable compass for your life? There is just one. I challenge you to follow the Word of God; it will never fail you. It will help you in more ways than you might suspect. “Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths” (Proverbs 3:5-6).

We Are Not All Radicals

Christian is a pretty broad term. The term showed up first in Antioch of Syria (Acts 11:26).Copycats! Disciples of Christ who were mirror images of Him! Since then the definition has been denigrated as a name for most anyone who even remotely professes belief in Jesus Christ. It is not necessary to believe what Jesus believed and taught let alone practice His lifestyle. For most people today Christian is a pretty empty, meaningless name. Except as a punching-bag!

 

Doctrinaire atheists and other haters of the God of the Bible have had great success in painting real Christians as radicals. In general they have tainted and be-smirked the term and portrayed us to be what we are not. Yes, there are some radicals among true Christians, but they are the rare and exceptional cases.  (Every group has those who embarrass them and who are not at all representative of the beliefs and practices of the whole. It is not uncommon to hear of a rogue policeman, fireman or doctor. Surely the fraternity as a whole cannot be condemned because of a few thugs within its ranks. To condemn and damn a group as a whole because of the misdeeds of a few is the rankest form of discrimination and bigotry.)

 

Furthermore, Christians after the order of Jesus Christ and His first-century followers should not be lumped into one big hopper with those whose beliefs and practices barely resemble those of Christ. As a whole, current Christianity barely resembles first-century Christianity; and first-century Christianity is the real thing.

 

It is certain that the teachings and practices of Jesus Christ were quite radical in comparison to the general teachings of humanity: love your enemies, return good for evil, forgive, work hard, pay your taxes and bills, carry your own weight and the list is long. However, Jesus Christ was no radical. Neither were his first-century followers and neither are those who follow Him today. In fact, it is the heart of true Christians to do good and never hurt anyone. We care about others and love them. Love is our #1 characteristic and not just thetouchy/feely kind. The love that motivates true Christians is the kind that does right because it’s right to do so. We stand resolutely against those who do evil and hurt others.

 

What is radical about loving people with a wholesome, unselfish concern for their welfare? What is radical about paying your bills and living within your means? We believe in the sanctity of life for all people including babies. Helping poor, needy people is our idea; it’s vintage Christian. The Good Samaritan story is ours. Mercy, compassion, integrity, honesty, forgiveness, giving, unselfishness, dependability, hard work and obedience to civil law are Christian positions. We reject racism, discrimination, bigotry, hatred, irresponsibility, laziness, injustice in any form and abuses of all sorts. Nothing in this picture is radical. We are not violent people. We do not kill or attack those who differ with us. In fact freedomespecially freedom of conscience is at the heart of true Christianity. Jesus said, “Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free”(John 8:32). He continued, “If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed” (John 8:36).

 

Yet, true Bible-believing and practicing Christians are increasingly portrayed as the radical, dangerous religious right. We are the most peace-loving, caring people on the planet, yet many would like to eradicate us from the face of the earth. The liberal press viciously slanders us and blames all of us for the evil ideas and actions of a very small few who claim to be Christians but who do not at all represent true first-century Christianity. In spite of such evil and injustice against us, we remain true Christians with the beliefs and practices of our founder, Savior and Lord Jesus Christ.

 

Society needs more real Christians, not fewer. In an America and world torn with violence, financial crisis, crime and hatred Christian values are sorely needed. If we were radicals, we’d do bad things to those who lie on us and who want to erase us from the world; but we are not radicals. We are caring, peace-loving people who seek the welfare of all people, even our enemies who spitefully misrepresent and misuse us.

Are You Listening

Two ears, two eyes and one mouth! There appears to be a message; listening seems to be more important than talking. What a rare concept! It seems downright divine; however it is extremely rare and hard to learn.

The White House surely isn’t listening; there’s an agenda there that is heedless of the consequences. And, there are always consequences! Politicians have never been known for listening and there seem to be politicians in government, at work, at home and even at church; only their occupations are different. They all seem to have agendas and think they’re smarter than everybody else.

They butt right in when other people are talking. Really! Right in mid-sentence! Advice! Reproof! (Especially reproof!) Who is it that is conceited enough to tell ME anything? About morality, about rearing children, about how to worship God, about smoking (or any other drug), about money management, certainly not about right and wrong! Somehow each generation thinks it’s light years ahead of the one just before. Those ancient and stupid parents and founding fathers! Those old, out-of-touch preachers and “old people;” they really didn’t know how to have church till we got here.

How many dads have wished with anguish that they had listened to their sons when they were young, but dad was too busy with more important thinks like work, sports, reading the newspaper and TV? How many sons have grown up and wished to God that they would have listened to dad? Yes, a dad that is now in the grave! How many parents have wished they had listened to their parents? And, we could talk about work places, friendships, churches and pastors and even governments that should have been listening. But!

God is pretty smart. He said, “Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee”(Exodus 20:12). “Honour” Give weight, put value, esteem, it’s important! Natural parents; yes! Fathers in the faith too! There’s wisdom in the ages. The people who wrote our constitution weren’t dummies. It should be noted that ALL of the 10 Commandments (including this one) are just that; commandments, not suggestions. It’s also pretty important to remember that this is the “first commandment with promise” (Ephesians 6:2). Those families (churches, nations) which intend to survive had better listen to the old folks. Old Testament Rehoboam (1 Kings 12) is a classic Bible example of one who didn’t listen. He was young and full of himself. He surrounded himself with people just like him. They told him to change, change, change. Don’t listen to those old men. You’re in charge now. This is a young people’s world. So, Rehoboam cheated himself of the great wisdom of his own father, Solomon. He did it his way. He didn’t listen! The price was enormous; for him personally, for all around him, even for the innocent victims and families that were mangled because of him.

Take a walk through Yad Vashim, the holocaust museum in Jerusalem. The German people and the world should have been listening. Spend a little time in a drug rehabilitation center and you will witness the consequences of closed ears and eyes. Look into the face of that person standing on the corner at the red light. Many of them (not all) were the rebellious kids who knew everything and didn’t want to listen to mother or daddy or the preacher who tried to warn them of the consequences of riotous living. Shall I speak of divorced and mangled families, gasping and fragmented churches, shattered dreams and devastated lives and the endless stories of addicts and overdoses?“Poverty and shame shall be to him that refuseth instruction” (Proverbs 13:18). That’s still true. “Correction is grievous unto him that forsaketh the way: and he that hateth reproof shall die” (Proverbs 15:10).

The truckers used to say, Hey good buddy, you got your ears on? Good question! Very few do. So the misery and carnage continue! Strangely nobody seems to think he’s not listening. Somehow it always seems to be the other person who should listen. Hum! Strange indeed!

Listening! What a good thing to do! Everything you hear won’t help; more than you think will. Just eat the chicken and throw away the bones. However, don’t assume that it’s all bones before you think it through. Listen with your ears but listen with your eyes. Read the language. And the body language! Listen to the white heads in your life. Pay attention to the people who have been there and done that. Listen to the one around you. Glean from those who have gone before; many of them left books. Just listening can save you lots and lots of grief, not to mention those around you.

God says listen. It’s pretty hard to say you are listening to God when you don’t listen.

What About You?

Though the numbers are dwindling there are still millions of people world-wide who claim to be Christians. We saw that at the recent installation of another pope. They come in many shades from Catholics to Baptists to those who despise “organized religion” and have their own brand of Christianity.

Claims and reality are not always one and the same. Calling a bitter-weed a rose does not make it so any more than calling a sin a sickness makes it so. No one is a Christian merely because he claims he is (or because he joins a church, says a prayer or is baptized). In His Word God explained that a true Christian is someone who has been “born again” which is translated into English from the Greek verb gennao. The word literally means to procreate. It is noteworthy that when this word is used the emphasis is on the father. It is closely akin to the Bible word “regenerate” which also speaks of rebirth, recreating or making again. The idea is obvious. People who are saved have been made anew. They have been “born again,” regenerated, born from above. This process is not merely an intellectual belief that God is real and His Word is true. It is that, but it is far more. It is a conscious and deliberate embrace of God as one’s only eternal hope based upon the person and work of Jesus Christ. It is a full surrender of self to Him in the heart. One gives up on who he is and embraces God through Christ. He surrenders his thinking to the thinking of God as set forth in His Word.

The Bible calls it “repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ” (Acts 20:21). Repentance is not what many think it is. It is not deep sorrow, although deep sorrow may accompany repentance. It is not naming all of your sins and turning from and quitting them. Repentance is a genuine change of mind. To be saved (born again) a person in his heart must turn from his thinking and ideas (and all other thinking and ideas) to the thinking of God. To be saved one must come God’s way. Until that happens one is still lost and with no hope beyond this mortal scene. He may say a prayer in which he names all of the sins he knows, be baptized, join a church and quit as many sins as he possibly can; but he is still not saved. The wrath of God still rests on him and at death he will face eternal damnation. He may say he’s saved and a Christian, but that doesn’t make it true. The reality of a regenerated heart made new by the saving power of God must be there.

When true “repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ” occur in the heart, a new birth takes place. The person is regenerated, made new, recreated. Things change. Inside! No longer is life about me; it’s about the Lord Jesus Christ. It’s not about what I want; it’s about what He wants. I’ve given up on my thinking and ideas in favor of His thinking and ideas. When a man is truly regenerated his priorities change. Life is no longer about this world and its goods. His values become God, the Word of God, His church and others. His thinking changes about property and time. He realizes that he is not an owner, a proprietor; he’s a steward. It’s not my life, my time, my talent, my money, my property; all of these belong to God. It’s not up to me to decide what is moral or immoral, good or bad, right or wrong; God decides and I’m with Him. When one is truly born again, he knows he’s a servant, not the Master.

To the highly religious church-going people in Sardis, God said, “Thou hast a name, that thou livest, and art dead” (Revelation 3:1). Could God say that about you? It’s possible to be a member fully engaged in a church and still be lost. Yes, you can be baptized, join up, get deeply involved, become quite knowledgeable of church life and the Bible and still die and ultimately end up in the Lake of Fire. The Bible says, “If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature” (2 Corinthians 5:17). A white-wash won’t do. An intellectual decision to be baptized, join a church, embrace the claims of the Bible and clean up your life won’t do. There must be a change of heart. Only God can make you a new person. Only He can regenerate your heart and He does that by His Spirit only when there is a true surrender in your heart. There must come a time when you give up on who you are, all you are and all your ideas and in your heart embrace God by faith in Christ. You accept His Son, His plan of salvation, His ways and His ideas. You accept Him as your Savior and Lord (Boss, Master). It’s a moment of catharsis, a rebirth, New Birth. It’s not something you do or put on outwardly; it’s something that happens by the power of God on the inside of you.

Has that happened to you? Have you ever been truly born again? Does your life show any evidence of a New Birth? Can the people around you see it? Are your priorities different? Who is in charge inside you; is God really in control or is it you? In your heart do you support His moral code, His ownership of property, His role as Master over you? Is there a true core difference in you? Do you know it? Deep down, when nobody’s looking and inside where nobody can see, do you really want what God wants and do things His way? Are you basically the same ole person you were before you supposedly got saved, regenerated, born again?

People who go to heaven do not merely get better at acting like a Christian; instead they get fundamentally changed by God. Has that change happened to you? It could and will when you truly come to God in your heart. It’s a matter of giving up on all you are and trusting Him in view of who He is.

Fundamental Honesty

Webster defines honest as (1)”that does not steal, cheat or lie; upright or trustworthy. (2) got by fair means, not by stealing, cheating, or lying. (3) sincere or genuine. (4) frank and open. Honesty runs deep. It is far more than not telling an outright lie.

I suspect there is at least a little dishonesty and deception in all of us; maybe not intentional, but there none-the-less. In as simple a test of honesty as reporting an incident, it is hard to convey it accurately and honestly, in such a way that the hearer gets a true picture. As people pass along their take on matters, almost without exception they scrub what they say to make themselves and their position look good and the opposition look bad. They conveniently leave out details of what they did or said and the manner in with they did or said it. Nearly always the finger is pointing in the other direction. It is so ingrained that few realize their guilt.

Particularly in matters involving conflict, biases are the norm. Preconceived notions and ignorance tend to dominate the landscape. Facts and evidence are rarely the basis of judgments and alliances. People almost always square off on the basis of self-interests, friendships, rumors and who they like or dislike.

Fundamental honesty is seeing things as they really are. It is not inflation or deflation. It is not direction based on hearsay or false reports. Even from friends! Honesty is facing up to truth even when the truth is painful and the culprit is you or your loved one, maybe even a family member. The man holding the balances of justice is blindfolded; justice is based on honesty and truth. It is blind to the actors in the drama. Discrimination, self-interests, preconceived notions, rumors, hearsay, friendships and all other subjective considerations have no place.

Truth is so illusive yet good people are quick to jump to premature conclusions and act upon them. Yes, good people, Christian people! And, the world is watching: the children and the mate, the neighbors and people at work and even other Christians. Our great, honest and just God says to us,“Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath” (James 1:19).

Of all people, God’s people should be living examples of fundamental honesty. All bystanders (family, friends, fellow-employees, etc.) should know honesty was a part of every decision. Objective investigation was done; the facts were found and considered. Decisions were not made on the basis of family, friendships or personal interests or preferences. Their actions and lifestyles should be reflections of their claims. God said, “So speak ye, and so do” (James 2:12).  It is dishonest to claim to believe something and contradict it with your life. The bystanders all know that. Fundamental honest is a lifestyle; not merely a few true words here and then. It is making scriptural applications that are honest; using them to make the points God makes, not to make your points. Somehow honesty has to do with consistency: words with deeds, yesterday with today, with the Bible, with friend or foe, regardless of the consequences, apples for apples, in spirit and approach, in good times and bad, public and private. Somehow honesty is transparent, with nothing to hide. It is not afraid to be exposed or tested. I recall the young lad who was on the witness stand. The prosecutor was trying hard to break him. He said, “Young man, did your father tell you what to say on this witness stand?” “Yes sir, he did.” “What did he say?” “Sir, he told me to tell the truth.”

Oh how I pray for a revival of fundamental honesty among all people, especially God’s people! This world is so full of deception and lies. Dishonesty permeates commercials. Politics and politicians are infamous for smoke and mirrors. Hollywood excels in make-believe.  The mindset of modern church is what the people want, not what God wants. Every day we stand in awe as we learn of the corruption, immorality, dishonesty and deception that went on behind the closed doors of governments, corporations, churches and homes. Isaiah said, “For our transgressions are multiplied before thee, and our sins testify against us: for our transgressions are with us; and as for our iniquities, we know them; In transgressing and lying against the LORD, and departing away from our God, speaking oppression and revolt, conceiving and uttering from the heart words of falsehood. And judgment is turned away backward, and justice standeth afar off: for truth is fallen in the street, and equity cannot enter. Yea, truth faileth.” We are there.

There is no question that God wants us to be like Him and He is fundamentally honest. Justice is His hallmark. We are His ambassadors, people who should shine as beacons of light and “Provide things honest in the sight of all men”(Romans 12:17). Honest work, doing your homework before opening your mouth and making a decision, standing up for what is right even when it costs you, a private life consistent with your public claims and an humble and kind spirit will make you stand out like a sore thumb almost anywhere. As rare as fundamental honesty is, it is the will of God for all of us. “Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul; Having your conversation honest among the Gentiles: that, whereas they speak against you as evildoers, they may by your good works, which they shall behold, glorify God in the day of visitation” (1 Peter 2:11-12).

Honor Thy Father And Thy Mother

God is pretty smart! The Ten Commandments are His. Number 5 on the list says,“Honor thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee” (Exodus 20:12). This is “the first commandment with promise” (Ephesians 6:2). Among other things, with this commandment God says those who want to stay around for a while had better listen to the wisdom of the ages. While the command is personal, it has a loud message for societies. That people (or nation) which disregards the beliefs, principles and practices that brought it the blessings of God cannot expect continued blessings and longevity once it deserts its heritage. That is true of nations, churches, companies and families. Beware America!

History may call ours the age of dishonor. Like an infectious disease, it’s in vogue to turn from and desert most anything or anyone that is old. Take down the Ten Commandments from courtrooms and schools! We don’t believe them anymore. God is dead; he never was anything more that the invention of man.In an America that was once vintage Christian, where is morality, character, integrity, financial sanity and a strong work ethic? What would old men like Washington, Franklin and Jefferson know about how to govern a nation? We can’t be bound by a fixed Constitution or Bible; they must evolve and become what we want them to be. We will decide what is right. What was right for Moses, Granny and Pa is not right for us.

You’d think the current generation is the only one that has ever known anything. Darwinian Evolutions mock the great scientists of the past who believed God created the heavens and the earth. Parents and people in power are far past Solomon and the Bible: you can go to prison for practicing Bible parenting. Even old but reliable translations of the Bible are shelved in favor of those that reflect a more politically correct and palatable language.

Shortly after contemporary church music burst onto the scene (yes, in my lifetime) a rather progressive brother wrote me a 3 ½ page typed letter. He assured me that we had finally learned how to worship God. Somehow all of God’s people from Adam and Eve had missed it. Yes! David, the churches of the New Testament, Jesus, Paul and all of those saints of God for almost 20 centuries! Nothing but the Blood, Grace that is Greater than all my Sins, He Looked beyond my Fault and Saw my Need, Saved by His Power Divine, I Shall Know Him by the Prints of the Nails in His Hands, The Holy City, Blessed Assurance, Amazing Grace and Holy, Holy, Holy don’t cut it – unless maybe yousoup them up and get your hands together or in the air. This brother went so far as to predict to me that all of the old set who failed to get on board would soon be extinct.

Yes. There is a new breed today! It is a breed that smugly holds the past with most of its ways, people, music, values, methods and practices in contempt.Nobody knew how to do it till we got hereChange put our president in the White House (by a landslide) and America has change. Does it ever! Many a couple has thrown out the ideas of mom and dad and the Bible: you don’t need to wait till marriage (or even marry), don’t deprive yourself by being financially responsible, don’t give your children rules and responsibilities, forget sanctification. Most anything from the past must go: music, methods, excellence, standards!

I know God is still right. It is still right to “Honor thy father and thy mother:”to ascribe value and weight to the wisdom of the ages, to be very careful before you write off the generation or generations before you, along with most (if not all) of what they embraced. There never has been a perfect generation which got it all right however nobody, old or young, is smart enough to ignore the wisdom of the ages or shut his ears to God. I suspect that somewhere ahead there is an unpleasant day of reckoning for all who dishonor their father and their mother.

Responsibility

The lady interviewing for a job makes us chuckle. “Are you a responsible person?” “Oh, yes! I am very responsible. At my last job they said I was responsible for almost everything: a messy office, gossiping, missing items, a hot temper and a lot more.” Oh boy! At least she admitted it.

Taking responsibility sounds good and everybody knows it’s the right thing to do; doing it is akin to chasing a shadow. Some wise-crack said that prisons are full of the most innocent people in the world. Even the ones who admit that they did it almost always say it really wasn’t their fault. Somebody tempted them, framed them or started it. It’s really not my fault. We have no fault insurance. On FM 1960, a major Houston highway, I saw a billboard. It said, “It’s not your fault but it is your problem.”

Our nation is in a financial crisis; head over heels in debt and spending like there are forests of money trees everywhere. Who is to blame? Nobody! It’s Reaganomics. Blame Bush. The Tea Party put us here. And John Q. Citizen who just filed for bankruptcy has the audacity to throw the first stone! Upside down in a car note, borrowing on one credit card to pay on another and still eating out, but it’s not my fault. I’m not responsible for where I am.

Sigmund Freud must be proud. If you are on drugs, your marriage is in shambles or you can’t hold a job, you must have had a lousy childhood. Somebody sexually molested you 30 years ago and he is responsible for all of the problems you have today. Blame, blame, blame! Your parents! Your mate! The boss! The government! God! Even preachers do it. The deacons! Troublemakers in the church! Bad location! The times in which we live!

Why does it never occur to people that the problem might be me? Any moron knows somebody is at fault. Why imagine that the fault is always elsewhere?

After the affair with Bath-sheba David’s house began to fall. God’s man confronted him with his sin. As famous and powerful as David was, he was big enough to admit, “I have sinned.” I’m responsible! I can’t blame my mom for spanking me when I was a kid, the pressure I’ve been under as a head of state or Beth-sheba for seducing me. It’s my fault. Pure and simple! I’m to blame.

Irresponsibility is a downhill trip. Things get worse instead of better. Consequences multiply. Apart from diagnosis improvement rarely comes. Bad habits and practices grow stronger. Relationships continue to degenerate. Financial consequences get worse. Bitterness deepens. Churches continue the trip to the graveyard. Health problems don’t go away; they worsen. We pay doctors big money to pinpoint our problems yet we deny any responsibility for the woes that are upon us. Strange indeed!

The story of the man sitting on a long, sharp tack is strikingly true to life. A Freudian counselor passed by and said, “Too bad man. Somebody did you bad. You have every right to be mad. You ought to sue.” A positive thinker came by and said, “It’s not as bad as you think. If you will think positive and quit dwelling on the pain you’re in, you will feel better.” Finally a Christian with a little common sense walked up. “Man, you are sitting on a tack. Get up and you will feel better.”

Yes! Face the truth. It’s amazingly liberating. Irresponsibility is a prison. It locks you in, but when you stand up and take responsibility for your own decisions and actions, you can start getting better. Responsibility takes away blame and such spiritual cancers as resentment, bitterness, revenge and hatred. You can get forgiveness, change your ways and crawl out of your pit. But, irresponsibility will keep you where you are and dump you into a deeper pit, possibly a premature grave. It will take you down in shame, disgrace and with a shaking fist in the face of God!

Responsibility is medicine for life. Honesty with self is a great victory, particularly when it is consistent. Try it. Get out of the window and into the mirror. It’s a painful move but the dividends are extremely high.

Sanctified Living

“This is the will of God, even your sanctification” (1 Thessalonians 4:3). Sanctification! Now there’s a 50 cent word which will generate lots of “Amens” in church. Seems that everybody’s for it but not many know what it is. Only a few practice it; and for those who do, there’s always a preacher around who will condemn them for being Pharisees because they have standards. Sanctify means to consecrate; to dedicate; to keep holy; to set apart. Inherent in the idea is that of a difference.

 

It would be really difficult to read the Bible with any sense of objectivity and fail to see that God expects a practical, everyday difference between His people and world’s people who are lost. That difference is never to be ugly, mean, haughty, judgmental or prideful; but it is to be clearly observable, saturated with humility, love, selflessness, goodness and compassion. The thinking of God about His people is well seen in this statement about His priests. “And they shall teach my people the difference between the holy and profane, and cause them to discern between the unclean and the clean” (Ezekiel 44:23). An identifiable difference for the better because of a higher standard is the intent of God for His people, regardless of the age in which they live. To His New Testament people (including us) He said, “Ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light . . . Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul; Having your conversation honest among the Gentiles: that, whereas they speak against you as evildoers, they may by your good works, which they shall behold, glorify God in the day of visitation” (1 Peter 2:9, 11-12).

 

In any age it is never difficult to grasp the reality of a world whose ideas and practices are far from God. Place the world’s views and God’s views side by side; the differences form a chasm. Compare the two views point by point: God, origins, biological classifications, economic systems, the purpose of life, the sanctity of life, morality, greatness, values, worship, sexuality, marriage, child-rearing and the list goes on. The world’s positions constantly shift ever farther from God who never changes. In hopes of reaching the world’s people, many who claim to represent God move to the turf where the world just was; they don’t want to seem too pious, stiff and untouchable to the world. They thus try to be as much like the world as possible so no one will be offended and turn away. Together the lost world and those hoping to convert them unknowingly drift farther and farther from the holiness of God as revealed in His Word. However for those who face reality (on either side) it is never difficult to see the difference between the holy and the profane, the clean and the unclean, the sanctified and the worldly. Simply look around, and then compare what you observe to the standards of the Bible (not the church). The differences will be obvious. Through the centuries the chasm between the world and Christendom stays essentially the same as the two waltz ever farther to the left because both are moving in the same direction; but the chasm between the world and biblical Christianity grows ever wider and deeper.

 

Today and through the centuries, lack of sanctification (separation) has been one of the greatest hindrances to the cause of our great God. In church we sing with such enthusiasm and passion, “What a wonderful change in my heart has been wrought, since Jesus came into my heart.” We speak unequivocally of the transforming power of the blood of Christ and entice sinners with the claim that meeting Christ will change them for the better forever. Oh, could that really be true? Could He really change me? Show me, Christian friend, show me a changed person. And the look begins. They look for the difference in the moral lives and sexual habits of Christians and those who are not. They compare spending habits, language in the workplace, responses to adversity, fundamental honesty, moderation, dispositions, attitudes, values, where Christians are investing their lives and other everyday practices. With few exceptions the differences are almost non-existent: in divorce rates, credit scores, dress codes, humor, entertainment, temper control, response to evil treatment, consistency, child-rearing, work ethic, relationships with others or elsewhere.

How can it be that we talk so loud about a life-changing meeting with Jesus Christ while bystanders compare us to lost people and see almost no difference? How empty rings our claim that our life was changed when we got saved while those who knew us before can see almost no difference now! Oh, it’s easy to hide behind the positional sanctification we received by faith when we were forever set aside into the family of God. Every honest Christian knows that’s a defenseless defense. The truth is that rather than our position in Christ being a license to live unholy, profane lives with little or no difference from the world, our new position should commit us to a day-to-day life of holiness and service to God. As saved people, we are living letters “known and read of all men” (2 Corinthians 3:2-3). We are literally God’s “ambassadors” with the specific assignment of representing our King in this profane and godless world (2 Corinthians 5:20).

 

God expects His people to interface with the world and win lost sinners. In order to win the world, He does not allow His children to blend in and embrace the world’s standards of language, economics, dress, humor, response or other common (profane) ways of living. “For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works” (Titus 2:11-14). It’s hard to imagine language calling for holiness and sanctification being any more straightforward and clear.

Retirement

By today’s social standards I am retired. For the vast majority of people retirement seems to be the ultimate goal. Kick back. Do nothing but goof off and play. A life of ease and no responsibility!

Few illusions are greater than retirement! It usually takes only weeks (sometimes days) for this bubble to burst. No point, no purpose, a steady diet of golf or fishing, babysitting the grandkids, constant sight-seeing and nothing-of-value-to-do get old in a hurry. In less than 12 months the vast majority of retirees are bored stiff; large numbers are already in a 6 foot hole. Heart attack, stroke, gave up!

No person was made to vegetate, fossilize, aimlessly wander, waste life in self-indulgence and laziness. Low or high class! Men were created by God for a purpose. We are not here to merely occupy real estate till we die; we are here to contribute, serve, give and work.

Yes, work! Because the years take an incessant toll on the body the approach to work may shift but it must not end. Never! As the tree matures and ages its fruit gets better and sweeter. What a lesson! May the goal for all of us be more and sweeter fruit; never barrenness!

Long before retired I had to come to grips with retirement. I looked in our manual for life, the Bible. I couldn’t find it. Jesus never retired. Neither did Moses, David, Daniel or Paul. It’s just not there. Hum! Maybe there’s a silent message. It does seem that wasted years by those who still have a mind and body sound enough to produce are inconsistent with everything taught in the Scriptures.

For me it is a no brainer. I belong to God. I do not belong to me, own myself. I’ve been bought with the blood of Jesus Christ. I’m a slave for life! I must serve Him till I die. I must! He owns me. He has given men enough sense and honesty to know I cannot do all of the things I once did but I can do many things I never did. And, I can do some things better than I ever did. Furthermore I intend to do all I can with all my might till my Master reassigns me to heaven.

On June 7, 2009 I stood in the pulpit of Berean Baptist Church which it was my privilege to occupy for 33 years. “Today I am resigning the pastorate of Berean Baptist Church; I am not resigning the gospel ministry. I shall never do that. Today my ministry is merely changing directions.” Has it ever! In the 24 months since, I have preached and represented the Christian Law Association in 135 churches in 12 states. That’s over 200 sermons and representations. I have also completed 18 chapters in my newest book. I am also making progress editing my History of Churches book. I am working on a number of other projects.

Retirement! What’s that? My goal and full intentions are to be effectively used of God until I see King Jesus face-to-face.

A Heart To Help

This is my first blog. Bear with me. My heart is to help. In the days ahead it will be my effort to say things and offer insight that will bless, encourage and help you. God has been so gracious in giving me a lifetime in His service. He saved me by His grace when I was 13. Before my 14th birthday He called me into the gospel ministry for which I thank Him.  My entire adult life has been in the service of the great God of this Universe – my God. He afforded me the privilege being a pastor for 52 years. I now represent the Christian Law Association nationwide. I also preach revivals, conduct seminars, write books and speak in many churches.

 

I do not claim to have arrived; I am still a work-in-progress – still a student. I will be a servant until the day I go to heaven, never a Master. I want love to be my strongest characteristic, real godly love, the Agape love of God. When people see and get to know me, my deepest desire is that they will see true, genuine humility and selflessness. I want bystanders to see the character of Jesus Christ in me. I do not want the true meaning of Christian to be lost on me. Yes! I want them to see it. God forbid that they would not know short of me telling them.

 

I have no experience at blogging; I do have something to say. I am a long, long way from knowing it all or from knowing all about anything. The years have taught me some things. Some of them will appear in these blogs. You may or may not agree. Whether you do or don’t, I will still love you and want true friendship with you. Your feedback will help me do a better job and that is my desire. For a long time my life’s motto has been Routine Excellence. I think God always deserves our best. In all things! At all times! I want these blogs to be good and honoring to God. I hope they will bless you too.

 

Sometimes they will be personal. Obviously this first attempt is quite personal. Some of them will be nostalgic. I suspect I will do lots of preaching here; it is in my system and I don’t think preaching is bad – even when it is preaching but it doesn’t seem like a sermon. Politics will doubtless make it into these blogs. After all I am an American and mighty proud and thankful that I am. As an individual I have every right to speak up and every one of God’s people ought to speak up! Our Christian silence is costing us dearly. I for one am not ashamed to be an American. I’m free and glad I am. I don’t intend to stand by in silence and let freedom die on my watch. Some of these blogs may provoke you. I hope they do. The issues addressed in these blogs will not all be political. Somebody needs to speak up for morality. God is still right – about sex, money, child-rearing, gambling, hard work, preaching, education and everything else.

 

I don’t mind telling you that I am committed to the Bible. I have a personal relationship with God through His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. He alone is my personal Savior. He governs my life; His Word is my guide. I am pro-God and pro-Bible. To the best of my ability I take His side on everything – hopefully with genuine love. These blogs will reflect my views but behind all of them will be the Bible. I am a preacher. I represent the Christian Law Association. Most of all I represent the God of heaven and earth – the only real God there is. I am first and foremost His representative, His ambassador.

 

Thank you for reading this blog. There are more to come, about one new one each week. I’d like to hear from you. Thank you too for visiting my website. I hope you find it to be a blessing.