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Preview: Henry's Musings

Pastor Henry's Corner

thoughts about theology and practical applications of the bible from Henry Haney Jr

Last Build Date: Tue, 14 Oct 2014 08:34:18 +0000


The Realist And The Optimist

Sat, 23 Oct 2010 14:51:00 +0000

2 Cor 1:88 For we do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, of our trouble which came to us in Asia: that we were burdened beyond measure, above strength, so that we despaired even of life. (NKJ)Some may be surprised to know this verse is even in the bible. Even more surprising is that these words were spoken by the Apostle Paul himself. But I'm very thankful that they are included in the canon of scripture. They have the power to resonate with each and every one of us at various times and seasons of our lives. I'm sure I've been guilty of throwing out some cliche' such as "He'll never put more on you than you can bear". Theologically this may be true, but Paul gives us a "real world" scenario. There are three phrases here I want to look at in more detail.Paul tells the Corinthians that he and his companions were "burdened beyond measure". He literally felt as though the burden was so heavy, it was beyond what words can express. The next phrase is "above strength". Literally, it was more than they felt that they could physically (and probably emotionally) handle. Next, Paul says that they "despaired even of life". There really is no way to sugar-coat the situation. Paul says that realistically it looked like they were not going to make it! Here is where many of us struggle with emotional honesty and transparency. Paul was anything but a pessimist. Some of his most encouraging words were spoken to others during times of his own imprisonment. And in the midst of that, Paul never refers to himself as the prisoner of Caesar (or any other human leader)- but always the "prisoner of Jesus Christ". Paul was a man of tremendous faith and belief in the sovereignty of God. And yet he is honest enough to assess the situation without some facade of faith which denies reality. Paul admitted that things were so bad, they seemed hopeless in the natural. Luke made a similar declaration in the book of Acts while he and Paul were aboard a ship during a terrible storm (see Acts 27:20). God delivered Paul (on both occasions) from what seemed like impossible perils. This gave Paul the ability to remain optimistic despite the "realities" of his situation(s). Notice his words in subsequent verses:2 Cor 1:9-109 Yes, we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves but in God who raises the dead,10 who delivered us from so great a death, and does deliver us; in whom we trust that He will still deliver us, (NKJ)And now we gain some insight into why God (at times) allows us to go through such trials of faith. Through these instances, we learn who is really in charge. Most of us are hardwired to be self-sufficient. This thinking overlaps into our spiritual lives as well. We become tempted to be self-reliant and to think we have "arrived". These situations are often painful and uncomfortable (Heb 12:11), but they remind us to look to the One who is able to raise the dead! Notice the tenses in verse 10 (pasted above). God delivered (past tense) Paul from his trouble. God is even now (present tense) at work delivering Paul (and us)- even if we don't see the outward evidences. And finally, there is hope (and faith) that God will yet (future tense) deliver you and me. You may feel that you are in a place right now where things look bleak. Maybe you feel (just like Paul) that you're not going to make it through. But try to remember the miraculous interventions of the past. If you are a believer in Jesus Christ, God has already delivered you from the worst possible fate (eternal death!). God is at work in your life now. He is working behind the scenes, causing things to work together for good if you are called by God and love Jesus Christ! (Rom 8:28). And you can trust that the same One who saved you and is presently at work in your life, will be faithful to complete the work He has started in you! (Phil 1:6).So in summation- don't be a religious phony who wears a pretentious mask of faith. If things are bad, you're not going to make it worse by being honest about it. Bu[...]

The Conclusion of the Matter

Sun, 16 May 2010 13:34:00 +0000

Ecc 12:13 Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man. Ecc 12:14 For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil.Today, we conclude our series of blogs on the book of Ecclesiastes. In verses 1-6, Solomon gives a really insightful metaphor for the aging process and then gives the final outcome: dust (our bodies) returns to the earth, and the spirit returns to God who gave it (Ecc 12:7). Since we are all headed for the same physical outcome then we should take heed to the final words of the Preacher. The only thing that really matters is living a life marked by the fear of God and a mindset to let our works align with His commands. To really appreciate Solomon's words, we need to take just a moment to reflect on Solomon's life and what it should have been. In these last words, we basically here Solomon telling us "don't do things like I did them!". So where did Solomon go wrong? It wasn't any one thing that he did, but rather a series of bad (sinful) decisions. In Deuteronomy 17, God outlines the requirements of the Israelite king. He (the king) is forbidden from multiplying horses and chariots, amassing huge amounts of gold, and multiplying wives unto himself. And yet I Kings 10 & 11 record that Solomon did exactly what was forbidden. Solomon had many horses and chariots (I Kings 10:26, 28-29), acquired tons of gold (I Kings 10:14-25), and had many wives and concubines (I Kings 11:1-8). He eventually worshiped other godsChapter 2 of Ecclesiastes really illustrates Solomon's pursuit of happiness "under the sun". He tried laughter, women, wine, song, accomplishments, achievements, and basically any thing his eyes wanted, he took (Ecclesiastes 2:10)! But none of these things made him happy. Ironically, the wisest man in the world who had everything he could ever want (and then some) came to this conclusion...."I hated life"!!!!!! (Ecc 2:17a emphasis mine). Why did Solomon hate his life? Because he took all of the commands that God had given him....and did exactly the opposite!!! Many of us go through life with such frustration. We feel that "if only... (fill in the blank)" would happen, then we could be happy. But here is a man who got everything he ever wanted and realized that it wasn't enough! And I wonder how many of us get what we wanted and then realize that it really wasn't what we wanted after all? That's one of the great lies of Satan. He has been telling this lie ever since the Garden of Eden. The lie is this- you would be much happier if you just had the thing that God withheld from you. Adam and Eve got what they "wanted". And they quickly realized that it wasn't what they really wanted at all. God gave them the command to save their lives, not to withhold pleasure from them.Solomon realized at the end, that the only things that matter have to do with living life with God as the focus, not on the periphery. His admonition to "fear God" is one that we should not take lightly. I think we (preachers) have really tried to soften these words by saying "you shouldn't be afraid of God". Well, obviously there is a sense in which we are to come boldly before the throne of grace (Hebrews 4), but there is another dynamic and facet to God's character; holiness. When Jesus calmed the storm, the disciples were more afraid of Him then, than when the seas and winds were raging. When John (the disciple that Jesus loved...the one who leaned on his breast at the Last Supper) saw Jesus on the isle of Patmos- he fell at His feet as a dead man (Rev 1:17a). Any time men had encounters with God in the bible, they were notably and visibly shaken. The point is, that we need to live our lives with a reverential fear of the LORD which is the beginning of wisdom. Finally, Solomon concludes with a reminder about judgment. There are two notable judgments in scripture: one for the believer in Christ, and one for the unbeliever. T[...]

Don't Wait Until Everything's Perfect

Wed, 12 May 2010 14:34:00 +0000

Ecc 11:4 He who observes the wind will not sow, and he who regards the clouds will not reap. (ESV)We are quickly reaching the climax of The Preacher's sermon to us. These last few chapters are deeply emotional and charged with reflective moments. There are few things as gripping as the final words of wisdom from godly men. I feel much the same way when I read some of Paul's final words to Timothy. Especially when he urges him to "come before winter" (II Tim 4:21). I'm not exactly sure how old Solomon is at this point, but one certainly infers that these words are informed by years of experience. Unfortunately, much of it being bad experience. But before we talk about Solomon's failures (we'll likely do some of that next time), let's take some of his parting advice.He tells us to cast our bread upon the waters, for we will find it after many days. Much could be said about this, but a general principle is that liberality and generosity are never a waste of time. When we reach the end of our journey, it is doubtful any of us will regret any acts of generosity. Furthermore, very few men on their deathbeds wish that they had spent more time at the office, or that they had made a few more dollars. There is a spiritual principle in the bible often referred to as the "law of sowing and reaping". This is certainly in view here, as we see that the bread we cast upon the waters will come back to us. In verse 4 Solomon instructs us not to wait for all conditions to be favorable before taking actions. Solomon was certainly not known as a procrastinator,and was responsible for the creation of many projects and proverbs. There are very few things in life that come with 100 percent guarantees of success. There is risk involved in almost anything and everything. Some young people are waiting to get married "until they can afford it". Still, others are waiting until they are "more financially secure" before having children. I'm certainly not advocating a high-risk scenario where we live beyond our means in the name of faith. But how many of us that are married with children were actually truly prepared for the challenges? Honestly, some lessons are learned in the school of hard knocks. Some people are waiting to do ministry until everything falls into place. I once heard a wise minister say "never forget that the Promised Land was not a vacation for the children of Israel". While they wandered in the wilderness, one of the greatest challenges for the children of Israel was overcoming their own issues. However, when they came into the land of promise, there were all kinds of opposing nations that had to be subdued. And so it is with life- God doesn't remove all of the obstacles in our way before issuing directives to us.In verse 5, we are reminded that God is in control. All of our forecasting and predictions come with limitations. Truly, only God knows the future. We are still seeing through a glass dimly. I like to summarize verse 6 by the old adage "don't put all your eggs in one basket". Solomon advises diligence in many matters, because we never know what will prosper, what won't, or if two different options will both prosper. Many view diversification as a lack of faith. But we are constantly reminded in scripture that God's will supercedes even the best of plans and intentions. It's a good idea to be skilled in as many areas as possible and to broaden every possible horizon. Not only does this make sense in the natural, but it also opens other doors for God to use your life in different ways. Many ministers end up in financial ruin because their areas of study are so specialized and they never learn any useful (to the secular world) skills or trades. When their ministry comes to an end (either by retirement or by some unforeseen unfortunate event!) they are often left unprepared.Verse 8 is somber, yet real and truthful advice. "The days of darkness" will be many. We can make every attempt to avoid risk and harm, but life has a way of[...]

The Fly In The Ointment

Fri, 07 May 2010 00:00:00 +0000

Ecc 10:1 Dead flies cause the ointment of the apothecary to send forth a stinking savour: so doth a little folly him that is in reputation for wisdom and honour.(KJV)We are nearing the end of our series of blog entries on Ecclesiastes. Chapter 10 contains some great pithy sayings as well as good old-fashioned common sense. As I mentioned earlier, one of the great appeals of wisdom literature is the universal application of these principles. We can read the words of Solomon and they resonate with us, because we are just like him. Well, maybe not in the sense that we're the wisest people of our day, or that we're royalty. But we're like Solomon in the sense that we are all human beings with common interests and conflicts. Paul says that there is no temptation that we face except that which is "common to man". Solomon says basically the same thing with the phrase "there is no new thing under the sun." So let's begin a brief look at chapter 10.The Preacher begins with a parable about the fly in the ointment. It only takes one dead fly to ruin costly and precious perfume. Similarly, it only takes one blemish or moral failure to undo a lifetime of work. Sadly, many wonderful Christian men and women will be remembered only for their mistakes. There is a saying that goes something like this: "the bigger they are, the harder they fall". In the end, our gifts, talents, and abilities won't be what we will be remembered most for. Instead, we will be known for our character. No doubt Solomon did some wonderful things. He built a temple for God, wrote many proverbs, possessed great wisdom. Unfortunately some of the things we remember most about him deal with his multiple wives, worship of other gods, and over-the-top lavish lifestyle.In verses 2 & 3 Solomon extols the value of wisdom. Those who are wise value wisdom at the "right hand"- a place of dignity, honor, power, and authority. Consequently, foolish people don't put a premium on wisdom, and publish their folly for the whole world to see. It is difficult to hide foolishness. One might be able to hide it for a while if they remain silent, but eventually the truth becomes evident. In verse 4, we are given some great advice on how to deal with angry superiors. We are told to "yield" and "leave not thy place". There is a verse in Proverbs that tells us that a soft answer turns away wrath. A similar thought is conveyed here, but with even more specifics. Whereas the exhortation to give a soft answer applies to everyone, here Solomon gives advice on how to deal with those who are over you. There are times when our superiors become displeased with us (sometimes deservedly so, perhaps other times not so). The temptation is to "leave our place". Many quit and throw in the proverbial towel at the first sign of discomfort or displeasure. Most relationships in life survive not because of an absence of conflict, but because of the ability to find compromise.In verses 5 through 7 Solomon observes how the world is sometimes "upside down" from the way it should be. Often folly or foolishness is set in high places of authority and renown, while wisdom is not regarded and treated with contempt. Verses 8 & 9 are admonitions to respect the feelings and property of others. We can be sure that if we seek to harm our neighbor without provocation, we will reap the same calamity that we have sown, if not worse!Verse 10 is a call to "sharpen the axe". We sometimes confuse frantic activity with productivity. There is an old parable about two men who were in the woods cutting down trees- a young man, and an older gentleman. The younger man was much stronger, faster, and vibrant. Yet at the end of the day, the older man had cut down many more trees than the young man. Puzzled by the day's results, the young man asked the old man what was his secret. The old man smiled and replied:"You were working very hard today. In fact, I watched you and you never once took[...]

The Race Is Not To The Swift

Sun, 25 Apr 2010 21:58:00 +0000

I apologize for my delay in updating the blog. If you've been following along, you know that we are scheduled to talk about Ecclesiastes chapter 8 today. Because I'm already a week behind, I'm going to do a quick wrap-up on chapters 8 & 9 in hopes that I can finish on schedule. Chapter 8 has a few major themes. First, there is a discussion about how to interact with those to whom you answer. Paul reminds us in Romans that the "powers that be" are ordained of God. That doesn't mean that God approves of or sanctions the actions of governmental rulers, but it does mean that He is an advocate of order and justice. Solomon reminds us that there are some who rule over others to their own hurt (Ecc 8:9). The bottom line is this- we all answer to someone. We should respect those in authority over us and we should also be kind to those we are supposed to be leading. We all ultimately answer to the Highest authority. Paul says that one day "every knee will bow" and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.The remainder of chapter 8 describes conditions of inequality and unfairness that exist in this present age. We have all lamented the fact that bad things happen to good people. And good things happen to bad people. But Solomon's advice is not to dwell on these things. Many are not in relationship with God because they are angry over the injustice and inequality that exists in this world. The bible makes no denial against this claim. As a matter of fact, the scriptures are filled with examples of "bad things" happening to "good people" (the relative goodness of any of us is possibly suspect since Paul says "there is none not one" in the book of Romans). Solomon's advice is to enjoy the life that God has given you (Ecc 8:15). Of course, Solomon desired to understand the mysteries of life and so he applied himself to "know wisdom" (verse 16). But in the end, he was content with the answer that there are some things that only God understands. And we would do well to take his advice regarding matters that we absolutely cannot make sense of.Chapter 9 begins with a strong statement of the sovereignty of God. The Preacher says that our lives are in "the hand of God". This is both a comfort, and at the same time, a source of struggle for us. Struggle, I say, because there are times that we wish God would immediately intervene and remove our suffering or eradicate injustice. But as Solomon will explain, there are things that happen in life because people are at the right place at the right time. First, he laments that one event happens to everyone- good, bad, religious, agnostic, devoted or lazy. And that event is death. If there is one recurring theme in Ecclesiastes, it is the brevity of human life. James compares it to a vapor. Solomon frequently refers to it as a shadow. The wicked of this world are attempting to experience all of their joy in this present world. This attitude stems from a belief that this life is all there is. Now if I can paraphrase verses 7-10 in chapter 9 it would be "take time to stop and smell the roses". There is an unfortunate and erroneous perception that many have regarding the nature of God. Some view Him as merely some far-removed deity who seeks to make men miserable. We get some clue about the nature of God from Jesus however. His decree on earth was that He had come to give life, and give it more abundantly (John 10:10b). Obviously Solomon understood this before the New Testament had even been penned. And so his instructions are to be happy, enjoy your food, enjoy your family, wear your nice clothes and good-smelling fragrances. And above all, be thankful because this is the portion that God has assigned to you. These simple things that bring us pleasure, are actually God's design for us. He doesn't want us simply to endure life- but to enjoy it!He then describes something that we have all observed time and time[...]

Longing for the good old days?

Thu, 08 Apr 2010 13:43:00 +0000

Ecclesiastes 7:10 Don’t long for “the good old days.” This is not wise. (NLT)Chapter 7 in Ecclesiastes is pretty long. It reads a lot like a chapter in the book of proverbs; filled with practical and eternal wisdom. I'm afraid that I could get really mired in a total summary of the chapter so I'm going to choose some select passages to apply today. The beginning of the chapter sets the tone for the rest of it. A "good name" is more valuable than anything else in life (vs 1). The following verses contrast the man with eternity on his mind and the man with partying on his mind. There is a time for celebration. Solomon had already said in chapter 3 that there is a time and a season for everything- including dancing and celebration. But here, he describes the man whose chief aim is to make life a big party. His waking hours are spent looking forward to the next one. The man with eternity on his mind however is likened to the man "in the house of mourning"(vs.4). Solomon doesn't mean that wise men just love to go to funerals. But the lesson here is that wise men are thinking about their mortality and where they will go in the days when life is over. We all have an appointment with death (Heb 9:27).Solomon then gives some good advice about friendship and attitudes. Don't hang around with people who simply flatter you all the time. It's good to have some friends with wisdom who will tell you the truth even when it hurts. And don't be consumed with anger, because anger "lodges in the bosom of fools" (vs 9). The book of Proverbs also warns us not to choose people with angry dispositions as friends (Prov 22:24). Yes, we are all guilty of losing our tempers on occasion, but the point here is that some people are constantly angry (thus the phrase "lodges" in the bosom of fools- anger doesn't simply visit this man- it LIVES with him).Then the Preacher instructs us not to long for the "good old days". I've already mentioned the "Egyptian Fever" that plagued the Israelites that God delivered from Pharaoh, so I won't revisit that story here. But many of us cannot embrace what God is doing in our lives in the present, because we are so preoccupied with the way things used to be. In verse 13, Solomon says "consider the work of God". We can't be obsessed with the past because God is doing something in our lives in the present- even if we can't appreciate it. Someone once told me (and they were probably quoting some other great theologian) "God is always at work redemptively in our lives- especially when we don't feel it". Lives are riddled with frustration because we are trying to "make straight what God has made crooked" (vs 13b). Sometimes (not always of course) the source of our frustration can be traced back to the fact that we do not consider or appreciate what God is doing. This is a lesson much easier for us to discuss than do though isn't it? Agreed.Eccl 7:1414 When times are good, be happy; but when times are bad, consider: God has made the one as well as the other. Therefore, a man cannot discover anything about his future. (NIV)I think we ought to celebrate our victories. I love to acknowledge when good things happen. And I love to hear when someone else receives a breakthrough. One of the reasons I believe we should celebrate these times is because they don't last forever (despite what some false teachers would have you believe). In fact, God has ordained that we also have times that are not so pleasant. If your theology is such that you believe God is only at work in your life when everything is going great, you will become disillusioned when trouble arises. The LORD meant what He said when He promised to never leave us nor forsake us. That includes even the most difficult of times and circumstances.Now I want to take a moment and appreciate some of the humor in the bible. I do find humor there- whether it's intentional or completely unint[...]

Happy Easter!

Sun, 04 Apr 2010 13:38:00 +0000

Mat 28:6 He is not here: for he is risen, as he said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay. (KJV)

I wanted to take a moment and wish everyone a wonderful and glorious Easter Sunday! I'm about to preach a sermon entitled "Resurrection" at my home church (Liberty Worship Center). I'll attempt to get the audio of the service online sometime soon.

Jesus is Alive!!!

Enjoy Your Life

Thu, 01 Apr 2010 02:10:00 +0000

I'm a little behind in giving an update from Ecclesiastes, so I thought I'd combine a couple of chapters so that I can (hopefully) post some content relative to Passion week. This week, we will (very briefly) summarize chapters 5 & 6. We continue to see this phrase "under the sun" popping up throughout the book. Most commentators and theologians use this term in a negative sense, but there is a sense in which we are all "under the sun". That's one of the great things about Ecclesiastes, and wisdom literature in general. The wisdom literature of the Old Testament deals with universal themes. They ring true and resonate with us because we share in this common experience known as "life". I have to be careful because there is so much practical and pragmatic advice contained in the wisdom writings, it's tempting to stay there and neglect the other portions of scripture.Chapter 5 begins with an admonition to let our words be few in the house of God. New Testament Christians don't typically worship in a synagogue or Jewish Temple, but there is a universal principle we can expand on here. The book of James says we should be "swift to hear, slow to speak, and slow to wrath". Our mouths are often the greatest source of our trouble(s). The Preacher advises that we should follow through on commitments made to God. This really isn't the focus of the text, but as a footnote on letting our "words be few", I think we could take this idea into the prayer closet. Prayer often becomes a monologue, filled with lengthy petitions and little time for pause. I wonder how many times I've missed out on hearing important instructions because I never stopped to listen. (note to self: less monologue...more dialogue).Solomon then describes the man who seeks fulfillment in "stuff". He frames it within the context of silver ("he that loveth silver shall not be satisfied with silver" Ecc 5:10a). Whatever we decide to make as an object of affection in place of God, will surely disappoint. Moreover, the more stuff we have, the more people tend to surround us to help us consume (v. 11). Conversely, the man who has learned to work honestly and find a place of contentment has sweet sleep (v.12). The end of chapter 5 is almost a parting of the clouds. Solomon describes the ideal life "under the sun"- one that is lived with contentment and a sense of gratefulness for the gift(s) of God:Ecc 5:18 Behold, what I have seen to be good and fitting is to eat and drink and find enjoyment in all the toil with which one toils under the sun the few days of his life that God has given him, for this is his lot. (ESV)Life is short. James says it's merely a vapor (James 4:14). Chapter 6 of Ecclesiastes contrasts the man who enjoys and makes the most of his life with the one who wastes it. Whereas it is fitting for a man or woman to enjoy the blessings of life- it is sad to think that so many will live a life of regret. This theme of regret dominates chapter 6. There are some very moving and compelling phrases found in this chapter. I want to mention a couple of them I find particularly noteworthy:Ecc 6:9 Better is the sight of the eyes than the wandering of the desire: this is also vanity and vexation of spirit. (KJV)I want to look at that phrase "the wandering of the desire". This is exactly how so many people in this world spend their time on earth. People are obsessed with wanting things they don't (or can't) have. I personally know scores of people just like this. They literally "wander" through life- never finding any contentment- never putting any "roots" down- never stopping to smell the proverbial roses all around them. They always envision some future scenario where they will be happier than they are now. Or they spend the majority of their time wondering "what might have been....if only...". I probably run the risk of of[...]

Two Are Better Than One

Tue, 23 Mar 2010 18:40:00 +0000

Ecc 4:9 Two are better than one; because they have a good reward for their labour. (KJV)Today, we continue our look at the book of Ecclesiastes. By my count, we are in chapter 4 this week. My focus in this chapter summary will be relationships. The beginning of this chapter opens with The Preacher feeling compassion for those who are/were oppressed (and dismay at the strength of their oppressors). This really shouldn't surprise us about Solomon, because the Lord did give him (as the KJV translates) "largeness of heart" (I Kings 4:29). Among his first petitions to God was that he would be given an understanding heart (I Kings 3:9). Suffering is a reality in this present age. Most of us come to terms with the concept that life isn't fair at some point or another. Regardless of our stature or standing in this world, we ought to never lose the capacity to feel compassion for those who are oppressed. For all of Solomon's faults (and yes, he had a few), this is certainly something for which he should be commended. And it is a great lesson for all who are in leadership or places of authority. Next, Solomon contrasts two types of people. Those who are obsessed with work, and those who are obsessed with avoiding it. We'll start with the latter and then discuss the former. The bible, and in particular the book of Proverbs, takes a harsh position against slothfulness or laziness. The sluggard is often characterized as someone who hates work so badly, he can't stand to lift a fork to even put food in his mouth. One of my favorite excuses that people use to avoid work is also found in the book of Proverbs:Pro 22:13 The sluggard says, "There is a lion outside! I shall be killed in the streets!" (ESV)Why not try that excuse next time you feel like taking a day off from work? No seriously, don't try it! And please don't tell the boss that I told you to do it. But while the lazy man is starving himself by refusing to work, the overly ambitious man is starving himself of something just as important as food- meaningful relationships! The bible commends the man or woman that works to make an honest living. But there is a point at which we are no longer working to provide a living for our families. We can become consumed with working simply to acquire more "stuff". It is not for me (or anyone else for that matter) to judge what an appropriate amount of labor is for an individual. But here is a helpful gauge; when you reach the place that you no longer have any meaningful interaction with friends and family (or God) because you are "too busy", then you are indeed "too busy". One of the most difficult challenges in life is to find a place of balance.The Preacher goes on to describe what life is like for the man who is consumed with his work and leaves room for nothing (or no one) else:Ecc 4:8 Here is someone who lives alone. He has no son, no brother, yet he is always working, never satisfied with the wealth he has. For whom is he working so hard and denying himself any pleasure? This is useless, too---and a miserable way to live. (GNB)Sounds like a certain character from a Charles Dickens novel doesn't it? There is a tragic irony for the man (or woman) in this predicament. He is working hard- but never has enough; he has acquired a certain lifestyle- but he can't enjoy it- he may be working to earn the respect of his peers- but has no one to share his accomplishments with- how tragic!!!God created us for community. The Garden of Eden was an earthly paradise of sorts. Adam had the whole pristine world to himself. There was no death, no sickness, disease, or any other tragedy or anxiety to weigh down Adam's soul. He could fellowship with God and enjoy what many would consider an ideal situation. But God looked upon it, and thought "something's wrong":Gen 2:18 And the LORD God said,[...]

There Is A Season

Tue, 16 Mar 2010 15:50:00 +0000

Ecc 3:1 To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven (KJV)Of all the wisdom in Ecclesiastes, this is perhaps the most well-known and repeated refrain. Ironically, it's one of the concepts that we often have the most difficulty embracing. One of my favorite pieces in our home is a cross-stitched picture of a flower that has been framed. It reads, "Bloom where God has planted you". Sadly, many of us wish we were somewhere else....maybe even "anywhere but here". Maybe we are in an uncomfortable place because of our own decisions. I'm reminded of a verse in Proverbs:Prov 19:3 The foolishness of a man twists his way, and his heart frets against the LORD. (NKJ)We can become bitter and blame others (even God!) because we are reaping the consequences of our own poor choices. But I want to talk to you today about contentment. This book we've been talking about for the past few weeks deals a lot with the subject of contentment and fulfillment. Part of learning to be content is learning to embrace the seasons of life. Many are stuck in the past. They long for the "good old" days to come back again. I suppose this is human nature. Remember the children of Israel and the story of the Exodus? They were miserable in Egyptian bondage and cried for deliverance. God saw their misery and answered their pleas. But a (not so) funny thing happened once they crossed the Red Sea. They started longing for the "good old days" of Egypt:Num 11:5 We remember the fish, which we did eat in Egypt freely; the cucumbers, and the melons, and the leeks, and the onions, and the garlick: Num 11:6 But now our soul is dried away: there is nothing at all, beside this manna, before our eyes. (KJV)They couldn't embrace the current season of their lives. They were eating angel's food as free men and women, but they longed for the days when they ate fish as slaves. We have a tendency to remember things better than they really were. For the children of Israel, the wilderness and the supply of manna was what God intended for them in that season. God had their best interests at heart. But they couldn't see beyond where they were at the moment and couldn't appreciate that this was all part of "the journey". Life is not just a series of mountaintops and summits to reach. It is a journey- one that we ought to enjoy and appreciate.On the other hand, some are preoccupied with the future. I remember the longest year of my life. Boy, time sure seems to fly now (Mom & Dad always said it would when I got older....guess they were right after all!). But I think the longest year recorded in human history was between my 15th and 16th birthdays. I just knew that once I was able to drive a car all by myself, I would be the happiest guy on the planet. Guys can you relate to what I'm saying? And I'm not going to lie- that 16th birthday was pretty special!!! On a more serious note however, many believers cannot enjoy the present because of an inordinate fascination with the future. Jesus gave us an indication about how we are to live. We are not to worry about the future- all the worrying in the world, won't change it! And most likely, if you cannot find a place of contentment will elude you in the future as well!The Apostle Paul made a statement about contentment that provides a great model for all of us:Php 4:11 Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. Php 4:12 I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. Php 4:13 I can do all things through him who strengthens me. (ESV)I'm not going to go on a huge rabbit trail here (at least I hope not!) but here is where "bi[...]

The World Is Not Enough

Thu, 11 Mar 2010 18:31:00 +0000

Ecc 2:11 Then I considered all that my hands had done and the toil I had expended in doing it, and behold, all was vanity and a striving after wind, and there was nothing to be gained under the sun. (ESV)Today, we're continuing our look at the sermon by "The Preacher" from the book of Ecclesiastes. Chapter 2 reads like a biography of my generation: "we've tried it all, and we're still not happy". Solomon is uniquely qualified to teach us about greener pastures. After all, his pasture was the greenest before "going green" was even considered cool. This man was living (what most would consider) the dream life. And since he was the wisest man of his day, it stands to reason that we ought to listen to him when he speaks. Solomon dispels the "if only..." myth that seems to drive so many of us. What is the "if only" myth you ask? In short, it's the idea that your life would be better- and you would be happy.....if only (fill-in-the-blank) would happen. Let's look at some of the basic tenets of the "if only" myth.First he speaks of pleasure. He looks for fulfillment in amusement, wine, and laughter/entertainment. His conclusion? All is vanity. None of those things have the power to fill the longing of the soul. Very seldom do I share much autobiographical information in these blogs except for the occasional confession (humility is good for the soul). Here might be a good opportunity for me to let you peer into my past for just a moment. There was a time when I looked for fulfillment in all the wrong places. Many of you are aware that I'm a musician. But there was a time when I looked for music (in particular, the music industry) to bring me a sense of fulfillment. I never had what anyone would consider commercial success, but I still had dreams and goals just like anyone else. I played before big crowds, and small ones too. I played guitar in large venues and in some places that were pretty far under the radar. But all of those experiences had one thing in common; an inability to satisfy that deepest longing within my heart, and a real sense of purpose in life. I can remember vividly coming home after a certain performance where things went particularly well. The band was well-received, and applause was in no short supply. But after the lights went down and everyone went home, I was still left with a question ; " is this ALL there is to life?".Solomon then speaks of some of his accomplishments. He was involved in massive building projects. Not the least of which was a magnificent temple for God. Here is a great warning for all of those who seek to find fulfillment in their ministry instead of their relationship with God. Solomon accomplished what even his father, the great King David was not able to do- build a temple for the Most High God! His own palace was magnificent too, some 13 years in the making (I Kings 7:1). He had knowledge about forestry, zoology, and could probably speak knowledgeably in most any environment . People came from all over the world to hear what he had to say (see I Kings 4:29-34). Did this make him happy? Apparently not.And what about his love life? I Kings 11:3 records that he had 700 wives (princesses) and 300 concubines. These eventually led him away from devotion to the Lord and became a stumbling block to him. Solomon describes his acclamation of wealth and how he had the ability to feast with the best of them- with the finest of musicians and singers to provide entertainment at his bidding. By all accounts, The Preacher was living the dream. By his own admission- he declares that he was "the man":Ecc 2:9 So I became great and surpassed all who were before me in Jerusalem. Also my wisdom remained with me. (ESV)He was living at the top of the social strato[...]

What is lacking cannot be numbered

Thu, 04 Mar 2010 19:43:00 +0000

Eccl 1:15 What is crooked cannot be made straight, and what is lacking cannot be numbered. (NKJV) I'm somewhat reluctant to make a commitment like this, but I'm going to attempt to blog my way through the book of Ecclesiastes. That means that most of these entries are not going to be very lengthy. They will be mostly summations of each chapter. Just as a disclaimer, I may preempt this series if there's something else that I deem blog-worthy during the week(s). So having said all of that, let's make some remarks about Ecclesiastes chapter 1. The author of Ecclesiastes refers to himself as "The Preacher". It's fitting because this book definitely reads like a sermon. I think the general consensus is that Solomon is the author of this book. I share this opinion, and he just seems to be a perfect fit based on the biographical information we know about him from the bible. A recurring theme here (and throughout the book) is the phrase "vanity of vanities". Another repeated refrain is "under the sun". This is probably an expression that describes a philosophy. Most likely, this refers to what a world without God's direct intervention or without an eternal perspective looks like. Unfortunately, this is the paradigm through which much of society views the world......meaningless!The Preacher then goes on to describe the cyclical nature of humanity and the earth. No matter how indispensable we think our lives are- regardless of how much of an impact we make while we're here- the world goes on after we're gone. That's not to say the world wouldn't be a different place in our absence. Even secular tales like "It's A Wonderful Life" beautifully illustrate the impact that one man's life can make in the world. Don't ever underestimate the power of one person to make a difference in the world. But also don't fool yourself into thinking that the world will stop turning when you're gone. The Preacher comes to this realization, and it produces in him a feeling of meaninglessness.Solomon really wounds our pride by saying that "there is no remembrance of former things " (verse 11). Many of us are driven by a deep desire to leave behind a legacy. Truly, we have a responsibility to pass on a godly heritage to our posterity. Hopefully, we make some contribution that makes the world a better place while we're here, and even after we're gone. But the Preacher reminds us that even the greatest achievements are forgotten as generations come and go. If our ambition in life is simply "to be remembered" for our accomplishments or achievements, then we are living with an "under the sun" mentality- and we'll ultimately be disappointed.He then begins to speak about the pursuit of wisdom (vs 13). Again, there's nothing wrong with this, tempered with faith in God. As a matter of fact, we know that "the fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom". But the mere pursuit of wisdom, won't provide happiness. The Preacher reveals that exactly the opposite is what happens. He describes it as "trevail" and "vanity and vexation of spirit". At the end of this pursuit, he came to this conclusion:Ecc 1:15 That which is crooked cannot be made straight: and that which is wanting cannot be numbered. (KJV)What a revelation! Being the wisest man in the world provided more problems than solutions. His conclusion was this- the human condition is irreparably broken without God's intervention. All of the education in the world won't solve this problem- all of the money in the world- the acquisition of wealth- the accomplishment of great goals- none of this can repair what is broken in this world. And none of those things can satisfy the longing in the soul that each man and woman in this world is desperately seeking. I have men[...]

I Am Not Ashamed Of The Gospel

Wed, 24 Feb 2010 04:22:00 +0000

Rom 1:16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. These words resonate with me deeply. But every once in a while, I need to remind myself that these words are more than just something I say in the presence of those who believe just as I do. It takes little courage for me to boldly proclaim that I am not ashamed of the gospel in front of the congregation where I serve as pastor. They already accept that as a given. But what about saying it in the midst of an unbelieving world? Isn't that what the "gospel" (i.e, "good news") is all about? God wants to save everyone who believes. That truly is good news.Paul declared that he was a debtor to all men in that he owed them a presentation of the gospel. He had an obligation. I realize Paul was an apostle, and not an ordinary guy like myself, but I'm a debtor too. You see, God transformed me and gave me new life. He demonstrated that even a person with a miserable past can be saved and actually become a useful part of the kingdom of God. What kind of person would I be, if I kept that all to myself? No, I believe I have a responsibility to share the testimony of this powerful transformation. Paul goes on to say that the gospel reveals the righteousness of God and His saving activity. Believe it or not, salvation was God's idea all along. So why would anyone be ashamed of this good news? Well, if we continue to read the first chapter of Romans, we also learn that there's another side of the equation which is the wrath of God. It's difficult for some to reconcile the idea that a loving God who saves can also have wrath. But it is the holiness of God that illuminates our own unrighteousness and need for salvation. Paul would also say that God has revealed Himself to humanity. The creation of the world itself is a testimony to God's existence and power. Frankly, it takes much more faith than logic to believe that the world we live in came together due to a random explosion and fusion of molecules. Or that men gradually came out of the sea and eventually stood up on two legs and evolved from monkeys. That would truly require faith since no one has ever actually seen any of these supposed events take place; but I digress....Men were created to worship. Each one of us comes into the world with a need to reach out to something bigger than ourselves. It is inevitable that we are going to worship something. Even though we may not call it "worship" or use religious semantics, we will devote ourselves to something- knowledge, power, possessions, pleasure. The letter to the Romans tells us that even a refusal to acknowledge the Creator doesn't mean that worship is abandoned. Instead, we will turn and worship the creation instead of the Creator (Romans 1:25). The results are always disastrous (just read Romans 1:26-32).That brings me back to my original thought. I'm not ashamed of the gospel of Christ. I have an obligation to share God's story of redemption with those in my life from every circle and sphere of influence. There are times when committing time to update this blog seems very burdensome. But I do it because I know there are some who will stumble upon it while surfing some random corner of the world-wide web. And hopefully when they do find it, they'll find Jesus too (and sometimes, believers need to be encouraged- hopefully this blog serves that purpose as well). I earned my degree in business management, but God saw fit to call me into full-time ministry. And now my "work" is to share the gospel each week and serve as a pastor to a local congregation. I'm in the process of working on sever[...]

Making The Best of a Bad Situation

Fri, 05 Feb 2010 13:09:00 +0000

Jer 29:11 For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end. (KJV)I think it's a good idea to be familiar with the promises contained in the bible. This is probably one that many of us are familiar with. I would be willing to bet that out of all the things that Jeremiah wrote/prophesied about, this one stands alone as the best recognized (and most quoted). I often caution my readers and listeners about how they read and apply passages of the bible. We quickly embrace quotes like Jeremiah 29:11, but we are more hesitant to embrace Jesus' promise that we will have trouble in this world (John 16:33) or Paul's promise that godly people will be persecuted (2 Tim 3:12). I know what you're thinking..."Henry, are you trying to depress me worse than I already am?". Hang on, we'll get to the good stuff in just a moment.Now Jeremiah 29:11 says that God is thinking thoughts about us (yes, I believe that we can broaden the application, and that these words are not just written for ancient Israel's encouragement). However, I do believe it's important to consider the context of this particular promise, because it will affect the meaning or the interpretation. In order to explore this further, we need to go to the beginning of the chapter.Jer 29:4 Thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, unto all that are carried away captives, whom I have caused to be carried away from Jerusalem unto Babylon; (KJV)So these words were being delivered unto Israelites who were now captives in Babylon. Now if the scripture went from verse 4 right to verse 11 there would be no need for this blog today. But because it doesn't, I think we owe it to ourselves to dig a little deeper. So let's continue:Jer 29:5 Build ye houses, and dwell in them; and plant gardens, and eat the fruit of them; Jer 29:6 Take ye wives, and beget sons and daughters; and take wives for your sons, and give your daughters to husbands, that they may bear sons and daughters; that ye may be increased there, and not diminished. Jer 29:7 And seek the peace of the city whither I have caused you to be carried away captives, and pray unto the LORD for it: for in the peace thereof shall ye have peace. (KJV)Now, wait just a minute. It sounds to me like the Lord is telling them to put down some roots where they are. I wonder if this is the prophetic word that they were hoping for? I can tell you that if they were like the average Christian in the year 2010, this is not the prophecy they would want to hear. Instead, we might hope to hear something like "hold on just a little longer, and I'm going to deliver you from Babylon and take you back to the promised land". After all, remember they are captives- they're not on a vacation (I resisted the temptation to use the popular buzzword "stay-cation" there). Instead of hearing that their deliverance was at hand, they were told to make themselves at home in Babylon. Furthermore, they are told to pray for the city and seek the peace of it. Now at this point, God cautions the people against receiving false prophecy.Jer 29:8 For thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; Let not your prophets and your diviners, that be in the midst of you, deceive you, neither hearken to your dreams which ye cause to be dreamed. Jer 29:9 For they prophesy falsely unto you in my name: I have not sent them, saith the LORD.Before I get into the content of the message of the false prophets, I want to make a few remarks. First of all, the people of God must always be vigilant about the truth. False teachers and prophets do not only function in times of prosperity, but (dare I say it) also in times of re[...]

Somewhere Right Here

Sun, 03 Jan 2010 20:34:00 +0000

1Co 7:20 Let every man abide in the same calling wherein he was called. (KJV)This is the time of year when many of us are more contemplative, reflective, and willing to take inventory of our lives. It's only natural for us to do so. A new calendar year is the equivalent of a clean slate. Some of us will make resolutions that will actually "stick". Others will start strong out of the gates, only to fade away within a few weeks. Many Christians, even entire congregations, begin the year with a special campaign of prayer and fasting. Renewed interest in spiritual disciplines like prayer, bible reading, and stewardship are also part of the typical vision for the new year. All of these are designed to help us better "hear from God" and clarify our vision for the upcoming year. In no way am I trying to diminish that, or dissuade you from exploring any of those disciplines. In fact, I encourage you to do so! But I do want to issue a caveat to accompany all of these great things. Be on guard against the "somewhere out there" mentality!Even in the natural, our tendency is to believe that the grass is greener on the other side of the fence. Is it any wonder that we apply the same logic to spiritual things? I'm going to offer a few suggestions today, but none of them are original. As a matter of fact, Paul already addressed them to a group of Christian converts in the ancient Greek world. But the same truth that set the Corinthians free will also liberate us today. And it will help us realize (if we've lost sight of the fact) that our ministry is not "somewhere out there"'s somewhere right here! Paul's remarks in I Corinthians chapter 7 are largely in response to inquiries that they made to him in writing (verse 1a). It becomes clear from the context that some of them had the idea that their ministry was "out there" somewhere. Paul reminds them that they need not look far and wide for ministry opportunities; they were right before their very eyes! We'll look at three basic ministries that seldom get the publicity that citywide crusades demand. But their importance cannot be overstated. Where do we start? Where else? The home!!!1Co 7:12 To the rest I say (I, not the Lord) that if any brother has a wife who is an unbeliever, and she consents to live with him, he should not divorce her. 1Co 7:13 If any woman has a husband who is an unbeliever, and he consents to live with her, she should not divorce him. (ESV)New life, new wife? Not according to the scriptures. Paul addresses those who had become believers subsequent to their wedding vows. Were they now to live a life of celibacy, or perhaps try to find a suitable Christian mate to replace their pagan spouses? Paul answers with a resounding no! But Paul doesn't simply tell them that they shouldn't abandon these spouses- he reminds them of what's at stake.1Co 7:16 For how do you know, wife, whether you will save your husband? Or how do you know, husband, whether you will save your wife? (ESV)Paul is not teaching salvation by osmosis. The idea that someone is saved simply by living in a Christian home or by being related to a believer is foreign to this text. Paul is, however, stating that for the Christian, marriage is ministry! Notice how he frames the idea within the context of calling and assignment:1Co 7:17 Only let each person lead the life that the Lord has assigned to him, and to which God has called him. This is my rule in all the churches. (ESV)Here's the truth about ministry- there's nothing glamorous about it! Unfortunately, we often think of high-profile "ministries" where leaders live opulent lifestyles, speak to large crowds in huge arena[...]

"Oh what a weariness!"

Thu, 19 Nov 2009 14:14:00 +0000

Mal 1:13 Ye said also, Behold, what a weariness is it! and ye have snuffed at it, saith the LORD of hosts; and ye brought that which was torn, and the lame, and the sick; thus ye brought an offering: should I accept this of your hand? saith the LORD. The book of Malachi challenges both the priests and the laymen. In typical fashion, the prophet (Malachi's name means "my messenger") calls the people to personal responsibility. The LORD has some hard things to say to these people (the priests in particular for starters). But before He rebukes them for their iniquities, He reminds them of His love.Mal 1:2 I have loved you, saith the LORD. Yet ye say, Wherein hast thou loved us? Was not Esau Jacob's brother? saith the LORD: yet I loved Jacob (KJV)Israel could look to their preservation and election as a nation as proof that God loved them. We can look to an even greater demonstration of God's love for us. It can be found in the book of Romans. For many of us, love is an abstract concept. When the modern mind thinks of love, it often thinks of emotion. Certainly love involves emotion, but the biblical concept of love also is defined by action. One of the most frequently quoted passages of scripture in weddings comes from I Corinthians chapter 13. What I find interesting is that Paul describes love (the biblical kind of love) in terms of demonstration. What does love look like? It is kind, patient, not insisting on its own way, etc. etc. It should come as no surprise, that when Paul describes God's love to the Roman church he also speaks in terms of action:Rom 5:8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (ESV)Now, back to Malachi for a moment. As we read further into the first chapter, we learn that the priests had become disillusioned with working for God and ministering on behalf of the people. They decided that God's standards were too high, and they had no intentions of honoring them. (ref Mal 1:7,8). They were content with giving God a type of sub-standard service that they would never dream of giving to a mere earthly ruler (Mal 1:8b).Apparently this didn't happen overnight. As is the case with many of us, it probably happened by degrees. When they are called into account, they sincerely ask the question "How have we despised your name?" (Mal 1:6b). I believe at times we suffer from the same spiritual apathy and lethargy that they experienced. How do we go from being passionate about our walk with Christ to the attitude of "oh what a weariness"? Probably easier, than one might expect!Religion is not a dirty word. As a matter of fact, James says that we must have a "pure religion" (James 1:27) that is more than simply lip-service. Having said that though, there is an inherent danger that we must guard against. Our religious duties can become so routine and ritual, that we simply go lifelessly through the motions. For many, Christianity has become nothing more than "attending church", singing a few choruses, hearing a sermon (often with little scriptural content) and then punching out until the next time we "clock in" for duty. After a while, even these disciplines will become a weariness to us. Instead of earnest prayer, we will say "what a weariness!". Instead of gathering to fellowship with other believers we will respond "I'm just too tired". So what is the solution? I believe the prophet Malachi's method of delivering the message from God was intentional. How do we go from frustration, discontentment, and apathy, to passionate worship and service again? I believe the answer is love. Now here is where a little honesty wi[...]

Snapshots in Time

Mon, 21 Sep 2009 18:00:00 +0000

Col 4:10 Aristarchus my fellowprisoner saluteth you, and Marcus, sister's son to Barnabas, (touching whom ye received commandments: if he come unto you, receive him;) Col 4:11 And Jesus, which is called Justus, who are of the circumcision. These only are my fellowworkers unto the kingdom of God, which have been a comfort unto me. Col 4:12 Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ, saluteth you, always labouring fervently for you in prayers, that ye may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God. Col 4:13 For I bear him record, that he hath a great zeal for you, and them that are in Laodicea, and them in Hierapolis. Col 4:14 Luke, the beloved physician, and Demas, greet you. (KJV)We recently finished a study of the book of Colossians. Sections like this one often prove difficult from a teaching standpoint. After all, it's just a collection of final greetings and salutations right? Or maybe....a snapshot in time. Have you ever looked at an older photo of yourself and wished you could go back in time? Or maybe you're on the other end of the spectrum, and you're thankful for the changes in appearance the years have provided. Regardless of your personal preferences, one thing remains the same- life is filled with change!There are several names listed above, but I'm just going to deal with two of them- Mark (Marcus/John-Mark) and Demas. In order to fill in the gaps with their stories, it will require us to go outside of the book of Colossians. First, we'll look at the story of Mark. Now Paul singles out Mark (Col 4:10) and instructs the church people to "receive him". What could possibly require this extra emphasis on John Mark? We get a glimpse into Mark's story from the book of Acts. We'll begin there.In Acts 12:25, we find that John Mark became a companion to Paul and his cousin Barnabas. In Acts 13:13, we see that Mark abandons Paul and Barnabas and returns to Jerusalem (obviously many of the details in this story do not appear in this blog and I'm giving you a very very brief survey of what happened). Acts 15 records a split that occurs between Paul and Barnabas. And, as you might have guessed, Mark is the major point of contention. Barnabas wanted to take his cousin Mark along on their mission, but Paul felt like it was a bad idea, probably in light of Mark's earlier desertion (Acts 15:36-39). When we read the closing remarks of Paul in Colossians, obviously the two of them had been able to overcome their obstacles. Paul instructs/commands the Colossians to receive Mark in the event of his arrival. Paul's second letter to Timothy also reinforces the idea that Mark became a valuable member of Paul's ministry team:2Ti 4:11 Only Luke is with me. Take Mark, and bring him with thee: for he is profitable to me for the ministry. (KJV)Now, as a contrast- let's look at Demas and his story. We have even fewer details about Demas, but we have enough to see that something had changed for Demas as well. Again, we'll go outside of the book of Colossians and look at two other mentions of Demas. First, we'll look at Philemon.Phm 1:23 There salute thee Epaphras, my fellowprisoner in Christ Jesus;Phm 1:24 Marcus, Aristarchus, Demas, Lucas, my fellowlabourers.We see some names familiar to the benediction in Colossians- Aristarchus, Mark, and Dr. Luke (as I affectionately call him). Demas is referred to as one of Paul's "fellow-laborers" (in the Greek, the word is sunergos- probably where we derive our English word "Synergy"). The idea is a companion, helper, or work-fellow. The word is used in I Cor 3:9 to describe our partnership with God in the [...]

Putting Off, Putting On, and Putting Up

Thu, 10 Sep 2009 02:09:00 +0000

Col 3:12 Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, Col 3:13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. Col 3:14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony (ESV)In my last blog entry, I discussed some of the practical implications of a new life in Christ. There is a dynamic tension that exists with so many biblical truths. For instance, we are admonished to "put off" those things that are incompatible with new life in Jesus. But positively, we are to "put on" those qualities that are consistent with our new nature in Christ. There are a few things I want to discuss about the passage of scripture listed above today.First of all, notice that these qualities or attributes that we are to "put on" are identical to the nature of God. Humility, kindness, compassion, forgiveness- these are all Divine attributes. Perhaps it could be said that we are most like Him, when we display these lovely characteristics. It goes without saying, that these attributes do not seem to come about naturally for us. In fact, they are quite a struggle without the help of the Holy Spirit (especially that stuff about "bearing with one another"). Thankfully, we are not left on our own to develop these attributes, but rather we are encouraged to put them on. They are available to us based on our relationship with Christ. They are His attributes- and ours....because we are...."in Christ" and Christ is "in us" (Colossians 1:27). There is certainly a theme that should be obvious from Colossians 3:12-14. Having a relationship with God, involves interacting with other people! Some of the greatest challenges to our sanctification will arise from our ability (or inability) to relate well to others within the community of faith. I encourage you to read and meditate on this small passage of scripture in the coming days. After reading verses 12-14, you should come away with this conclusion; there is no personal conflict that the church faces that it cannot overcome!!! Sadly, many of us tend to paint the church with a brush of idealism. Paul is a realist, but he's also an optimist. Not blind optimism, based simply on some notion of luck that magically all will simply "work out in the end". But rather an optimism based on the ability of God's grace to intervene and heal any given situation. Look at the scenarios Paul presents- putting up with each other's attitudes- dealing with complaints and quarrels with one another. Does it happen in the church? You betcha! So how do we overcome these things individually and corporately? We must constantly remind ourselves that we are the beneficiaries of longsuffering, gentleness, humility, kindness, forbearance, and (thank God!) forgiveness. Paul reminded the Colossians that Christ had forgiven them, and thus they have a command to forgive one another. I don't know about you, but I've been sufficiently challenged by all of this. Until next time....[...]

Walking Where You Live

Fri, 28 Aug 2009 03:36:00 +0000

I recently completed an online survey which claims to find the perfect city to match your lifestyle. I was somewhat surprised by the results (which I won't share here), but I understand how the website calculated the results. Based on a series of questions about your personality and preferences, the program is able to generate a response with some degree of accuracy. For example, people who enjoy mountain climbing are less likely to be a perfect fit for a beachfront condo. Likewise, those who love watersports probably wouldn't pick the Great Plains as their ideal dwelling place. So what does any of this have to do with theology you ask?I mentioned in my last blog that we're studying the book of Colossians. I thought it would be proper to pick up where we left off last week. The Colossians were given a nice theology lesson about the supremacy of Christ (and consequently the futility of angelic worship and asceticism). Now, as is often the case, Paul shifts from the doctrinal to the ethical. That's not to say there is a huge dichotomy between the two- really there isn't. What you believe will determine how you behave. Now that the Colossians are fully versed in Christology, they will also be introduced into the ethical demands of that theology. Again, doctrine and praxis are closely linked in the bible. Paul will go on to use a clothing metaphor to describe the contrast between the old man and the new man. Hence, he says there are things we must "put off", and subsequently things we must "put on".But today, I want to draw your attention to a phrase found in the 7th verse of the 3rd chapter:Col 3:7 In the which ye also walked some time, when ye lived in them. Paul has just described some things which are incompatible with new life in Christ ; sexual immorality, lust, covetousness (which is linked with idolatry). And lest we think God winks at those things, Paul reminds us that they bring about the wrath of God (Col 3:6). Now before we start pointing fingers and constructing soapboxes, let's not forget that Paul says that's the way we used to be. The major difference is that we no longer "live" there anymore. One of the reasons people find it so difficult to live the ethical demands of the bible is because they don't "live" there. And we are going to "walk" where we "live". Let me further illustrate:Gal 5:25 If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. In Galatians chapter 5, Paul contrasts the "works of the flesh" with the "fruit of the Spirit". Admittedly, the fruit of the Spirit listed there, sets the bar pretty high. And the only way we can "walk in the Spirit" is if we "live" in the Spirit. It's about having a new nature-not one that is incapable of sinning or falling short of the mark- but one that has been radically transformed from above. I'm convinced we have many people who come to our churches week after week, and seemingly never are able to "walk" straight. Instead, their walk is a continual reflection of the works of the flesh. It could be (and I'm speculating here) that they are simply walking where they live.It would be natural to see a man or woman with a surfboard at the beach. But a man with ice skates on at the beach would likely be laughed to scorn. Romans 7 is a depiction of what life is like without the Spirit. And sadly, this is the place so many are at; trying desperately to live a life of victory, but feeling hopeless. But the clouds part in chapter 8, and Paul describes life in the Spirit. He begins with these words:Rom 8:1 There is therefore now no condemna[...]

"Touch Not, Taste Not, Handle Not"

Fri, 21 Aug 2009 11:48:00 +0000

Col 2:21 (Touch not; taste not; handle not;) (KJV)We're studying the book of Colossians at LWC. This book reminds us that we are complete in Christ. He is all we really need, and the source of all wisdom. Apparently some false teachers had gained some traction in the church there, and were introducing some erroneous ideas. And it appears one of their mantras was "touch not, taste not, handle not". They had a unique brand of asceticism that they wanted everyone else to adopt in order to be a "real" disciple. Asceticism (in case you are not familiar with this term), is basically defined as rigorous self-denial or abstinence from certain things. In a theological sense, it usually carries with it the idea that a person can become a "better" Christian by adopting these disciplines. It is important that we have balance in our theology. We have a tendency to polarize certain issues that we are passionate about. When we use or hear the phrase "doctrines of devils"- we typically think of doctrines of excessive indulgence and liberty. To that end, Jude warns that we must not "change the grace of God into a license for immorality"(Jude 4 NKJV). And Paul also was quick to point out that the appearance of grace didn't mean the end of holy living:Rom 6:15 What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid. (KJV)However, when the bible speaks of doctrines of devils, it can also refer to doctrines of abstinence. When Paul wrote to Timothy, he warned him about these dangerous teachings that would infiltrate the church, and attempt to take the focus off of Christ, and put it on rules of rigid abstinence that God didn't command.1 Tim 4:1-31 Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils;2 Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron;3 Forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth. (KJV)I think most of us are familiar with the concept that it is dangerous to take away from what God says. But equally dangerous, is the notion that we can add to what God has said, and make rules and regulations where there are none. (Prov 30:5-6, Rev 22:18)The irony of this discussion, is that this rigid asceticism actually provides no lasting benefits to resisting the urges of the flesh. Look at what Paul says to the Colossians regarding their "touch not, taste not, handle not" approach to denying the flesh:Col 2:2323 These things indeed have an appearance of wisdom in self-imposed religion, false humility, and neglect of the body, but are of no value against the indulgence of the flesh. (NKJ)There are things the bible says we should abstain from. Abstinence in and of itself is not a bad thing. The error we must guard against however, is the idea that a rigid self-denial can somehow supplement or supplant the sufficiency of Christ (I didn't mean to use such alliteration in that phrase, but it flowed nicely). If we follow Christ and obey the Word of God, we will have enough to keep us busy without having to add anything else. Let me leave you with Paul's statement of Christ's sufficiency.Col 2:9 For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily; 10 and you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power. (NKJ)Until next time....[...]

The Gourd of the Lord

Sat, 08 Aug 2009 02:48:00 +0000

Jonah 4:6 And the LORD God prepared a gourd, and made it to come up over Jonah, that it might be a shadow over his head, to deliver him from his grief. So Jonah was exceeding glad of the gourd.(KJV)Today, we're going to take a final look at the book of Jonah. We opened this series of blogs by talking about 3 things the Lord did. And guess what.....that's how we're going to end it too! When we last left Jonah, he had preached his message of destruction, and the people of Nineveh responded by turning to God in repentance. Subsequently, God turned from His intentions and pardoned the people of Nineveh. Jonah should be happy now, right? Not exactly.Jonah 4:1 But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was very angry. (KJV)I won't spend much time dealing with Jonah's shallow and selfish response. But I will say this; there are times when our expectations and God's will don't converge. Yes, there are some who say if you simply have enough faith, you can make anything happen by saying the magic words or following the right formula(s). This too, is a shallow expression of faith. From our vantage point, it is often difficult to understand the "big picture". Jonah had just experienced the "altar call" of a lifetime. He saw more converts in one day than many of us will see in a lifetime. But he wasn't happy. He obviously didn't "get it".At this point, we might expect the ground to open up and swallow Jonah alive. How dare he take such an attitude, after God went to such great lengths to preserve him for this very mission. But, as is always the case- God is much more merciful than we give Him credit for. Even in the midst of Jonah's pity party, God is doing a redemptive work and teaching a lesson. So let's look quickly at 3 things that the Lord did.#1- God prepared a gourd (4:6)- This gourd provided shade from the intense heat of the day. Psalm 145:9a says "The Lord is good to all". Jesus says that God sends sun and rain on the just and the unjust (Matt 5:45). God is good to everyone! When we see injustice, we often ask the question "why do bad things happen to good people?". Such questioning ignores the fact that God allows good things to happen to everyone- regardless of whether they deserve it or not.#2- God prepares a worm (4:7)- The worm reminds us not to hold too tightly to the things of this world. Paul told the Corinthians that all that we see in the material world is temporary (2 Cor 4:18). Life is filled with change and various seasons. Our lives can easily be devoted to the temporal. I recently had a laptop failure which reminded me how quickly years worth of work can be lost forever (here's a friendly reminder to always back up your data!). Ask yourself this question- how much of your time do you devote to issues of no eternal value? Obviously, I'm not suggesting that we spend every waking moment teaching or preaching. It is my opinion that God wants us to enjoy life- not simply endure it. But where are our priorities?#3- God prepared a wind (4:8)- The wind reminds us that our only defense is faith in God. Our security does not rest in the amount of possessions we can amass in this life. We can do our best to insulate ourselves from disaster, but truly our lives are in God's hands. The gourd of yesterday, can be destroyed by the worm of today- offering no protection from the winds of tomorrow.All of this makes Jonah wish for death. Again, at this point, we might expect the Lord to simply grant his request. At the very least, we might[...]

Quick update & random remarks

Sat, 01 Aug 2009 03:57:00 +0000

I apologize for the hiatus since my last post. A few weeks ago, I took a much-needed vacation to beautiful Longboat Key Florida. I've always been fond of sunsets, and this trip provided a few great photo opportunities. This one was taken with my cell phone, which isn't exactly the best quality, but still conveys the great scenery there. Truly one of the most beautiful places on the Gulf coast!

I want to blog about other things, but feel like I need to wrap up the series on Jonah. So look for that next, and then we'll look at some other topics in the coming days. I had to move my sermon podcast, because my previous host decided to vanish from the web without notice. The new podcast site is and the feed is if you decide to subscribe that way. I lost all of the episodes on the previous podcast, so right now there's only one message uploaded....but more to come! Thanks for your patience. The podcast should have iTunes subscription capability within the next week or so.

I've been working on a lot of things this summer, including recording my first instrumental CD of original music I've written on the guitar. I've met some wonderful people during this process, and I appreciate all of the feedback and support I've received during this time. And it's always neat to hear from people who are familiar with my ministry. If you interact on the social networks on the web, feel free to add me as a friend on myspace , or Facebook . I'm not a robust 'tweeter', but I do occasionally update on Twitter, so you can follow me there at if you want to as well.

Well, that about wraps up my random thoughts early on this Saturday morning. I hope to hear from you soon. As always, I appreciate your prayerful support. I sincerely covet your prayers as Pam and I endeavor to do the work of the Lord in these last days. God bless you!

Until next time....

Who can tell what God will do?

Fri, 03 Jul 2009 15:09:00 +0000

Jonah 3:9 Who can tell if God will turn and repent, and turn away from his fierce anger, that we perish not?

We will continue today in our installment of blogs regarding Jonah. The story of Jonah is truly remarkable on so many levels. The mercy and grace of God often gets overshadowed in discussions about Jonah's ride in the big fish. When Jonah was finally released from the belly of the fish, a revival of biblical proportions took place. Jesus says that Jonah's arrival in Nineveh was a "sign" to the people (Luke 11:30). This prophet of God arrived in the city with a message of destruction; "Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown". Jonah's message was not of the "repent or else" variety. It was merely a pronouncement of impending calamity.

And yet something remarkable happened. This city known for its wickedness and opposition towards the people of God had a great awakening. The king of Nineveh proclaimed a fast and instructed the people to "cry mightily unto God". When we fast-forward to the end of the chapter (3), we see that God changed his intentions based on their response. The book of Jonah sometimes presents a problem for those of us who demand that every ounce of theology be systematic. In this book, a prophet's message of doom does not come to pass. In this book, God changes his course of action based on human response. Did this take God by surprise? Of course not. But this shows that a relationship with God is dynamic- not static!

For me, one of the highlights of chapter 3 is this example of the king of Nineveh taking a chance on God's mercy. Remember that the people of Nineveh had no guarantee that anything would change their outcome. At this point, they could have simply mocked Jonah, or taken the attitude of "let us eat and drink; for tomorrow we die" (I Cor 15:32b). But instead, they risk everything and cast their hopes upon the mercy of God. And they were not disappointed! Now contrast the people of Nineveh (those who had no promises or guarantees) with believers in Jesus Christ (those who have been given "exceeding great and precious promises" -2 Peter 1:4).

You cannot go wrong with God. Among our greatest fears, is the fear of rejection. But we have some wonderful and comforting promises from scripture that I want to share with you in closing.

Joh 6:37 All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.

Jam 4:8 Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded.

Salvation Is Of The Lord

Fri, 26 Jun 2009 04:18:00 +0000

Jon 2:9 But I will sacrifice unto thee with the voice of thanksgiving; I will pay that that I have vowed. Salvation is of the LORD. Last week we talked about 3 things that the Lord did on Jonah's behalf. This week we're going to look at Jonah's prayer from the belly of the fish. Jonah's prayer reads like a survey of the Psalms. If you have a reference bible, you will see that the prayer in Jonah chapter 2 contains many quotations from the Psalms. I won't bore you with providing all of the references- check them out for yourself! I do want to bring a few things to your attention however, and here they are:Jon 2:3 For thou hadst cast me into the deep, in the midst of the seas; and the floods compassed me about: all thy billows and thy waves passed over me. Remember how we emphasized the great lengths God went to in order to deal with this one reluctant prophet last week? Here, Jonah acknowledged that it was truly the LORD who threw him overboard (He just used the men on the boat as His hands and feet). So often we fail to see God's redemptive hand print on our lives. Jonah had some time to reflect on his situation, and acknowledged that God has a way of bringing us where He wants us to be.Jon 2:4 Then I said, I am cast out of thy sight; yet I will look again toward thy holy temple. Jonah's current situation is dark, uncertain, and probably smelly! But in his prayer, he demonstrates faith that things will work out in the end. Jesus instructs us that when we pray, we should indeed believe that we will receive those petitions that we desire (Mark 11:24). Jonah probably had no verbal guarantees that he was going to worship in the temple again, but he had a confidence in the abilities of God. Many of us have a "wait-and-see" attitude towards faith, but the true order of faith is believe-then-see .Jon 2:8 They that observe lying vanities forsake their own mercy. This is the tragedy of a life lived independent of God's will. One of my favorite teachers on prayer is Douglas Small. I once heard Mr. Small say (regarding prayer and the lack thereof) that often God is more disappointed for us, than He is "in us". Jonah's statement about those who observe or regard false ideologies is revealing. Those who do so, forfeit what could be theirs, if they would only receive it by faith. I'm reminded of how Jesus wept over Jerusalem and lamented their rejection of His offer of peace (Luke 19:41-42).Jon 2:9 But I will sacrifice unto thee with the voice of thanksgiving; I will pay that that I have vowed. Salvation is of the LORD. Jonah praised God for his deliverance, and is ready to fulfill his obligations. He also confesses that salvation is all God's idea. This is Good News for each one of us. The bible declares that while we were yet sinners, alienated from God, unable to do anything about our plight- Jesus died for our sins! (please see Romans 5:6-8). We love Him today, because He first loved us! (I John 4:19). God took the initiative to save Jonah, even though Jonah ran as far as he could in the opposite direction.In the dark confinement of the belly of a fish, Jonah reflected on some pretty deep theological concepts. No matter how dark or lonely your situation is, please don't stop praying. We too, will realize (through prayer) that God is always at work in our lives redemptively, even through the most painful of processes.Until next time....[...]

Jonah and 3 Things the Lord Did

Wed, 17 Jun 2009 12:01:00 +0000

Jon 1:17 Now the LORD had prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights. Even if you're not a theologian, you are probably somewhat familiar with the story of Jonah and the big fish. I guess it's only natural that the idea of a man living inside of a fish for several days captivates us. Now before you relegate this story as merely an allegory, understand that Jesus (the Son of God) interpreted the story of Jonah as being historically accurate and literal.Mat 12:40 For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the whale's belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. 12:41 The men of Nineveh shall rise in judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and, behold, a greater than Jonah is here. So not only does Jesus validate the preaching and repentance that took place in Nineveh, but He also confirms the account of Jonah in the belly of the whale. Ok- now that I've gotten that out of the way....let's proceed! The story of Jonah and the big fish is typically applied as simply a man running from God, and God getting him to do His will. There are many preachers who can relate to the story of Jonah because they wanted to do everything else but preach the Gospel, until God finally arrested them. But I have grown to appreciate the story of Jonah beyond the obvious implications of a man running from God. To me, it's a story about a God far more Sovereign than we could ever imagine- far more merciful than we could ever deserve, and far more loving than our finite minds could ever try to comprehend (try as we might)! I'm not going to address Jonah's "vacation" to Tarshish today. Instead, I'm going to focus on 3 things the Lord did in chapter 1 of Jonah.#1- God sent a stormJon 1:4 But the LORD sent out a great wind into the sea, and there was a mighty tempest in the sea, so that the ship was like to be broken. This was no ordinary storm. This was not a result of atmospheric conditions being optimal for storm-production. This was a "Sovereign Storm". Now the beautiful thing about this storm, is that God designed the storm to save Jonah. Jonah has run as far as he can in the opposite direction of where God wanted him to be. But instead of allowing Jonah to "do his own thing", God pursues him. I don't enjoy the storms of life any more than you do. But I'm learning (ever so slowly) that God uses the difficulties of life to bring us closer to Him- not to destroy us!#2- God caused the lot to fall on JonahJon 1:7 And they said every one to his fellow, Come, and let us cast lots, that we may know for whose cause this evil is upon us. So they cast lots, and the lot fell upon Jonah. These pagan men on the boat with Jonah were crying out to their gods and decided to use the method of lot-casting to discern who was the troublemaker. God intends for Jonah to go overboard, so the lot falls on Jonah. There is an interesting scripture in Proverbs that illustrates this point:Pro 16:33 The lot is cast into the lap; but the whole disposing thereof is of the LORD. Sometimes what seems like such a random occurrence, is not a coincidence at all! God orchestrates the events of our lives and uses whatever methods He deems necessary to get us where He wants us to be. (disclaimer: this should not be used as a proof-text [...]