Friday, October 3, 2014

I Ruined My Garage Door

I had to replace our garage door because of an unplanned accident. I was hoping to install a garage door opener soon, but had still not invested in one, so I simply had a rope hanging from the bottom of the door to pull it shut. I had backed the pickup into the garage and was leaving one morning when the rope caught on something that I had in back of the truck. I did not realize what had happened until I heard a crash and looked behind me to see that I had pulled the whole garage door off the track and out of the garage. At least I had not pulled the whole garage down.
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My wife had heard the crash as well and came from the house to see what had happened. She offered to help me get everything loose and see how much could be salvaged. I simply reached in my pocket, took out my knife, cut the rope, and told her we could worry about it later.
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Actually I said, “let’s deal with this when I am more calm.” My wife said that I sounded fairly calm as I said that, but inside I was feeling a mixture of shame, discouragement, uncertainty, and despair.
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I left the garage door lay in its crumpled mess, jumped in the truck, and proceeded to my destination. The drive gave me time to put things into perspective. First, no one was hurt. That was reason to rejoice. Further, the pickup had not been damaged. That was good. Further the rest of the garage was fine. That was a positive as well.
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Philippians 4:8 says, “Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy--meditate on these things.” (NKJV)
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The short drive gave me time to pray and to think of many things that I could praise God for even though a discouraging event had just taken place. As I drove I thanked God that things were not worse.
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I also had time to realize that in the big scope of things, this accident really wasn’t that big of a deal. Sure, it would take an extra day of my life to order, pick up, and install a new door. Furthermore, the new garage door would be an added expense that we were not planning at this time, but those were really just minor distractions. How many times hadn’t a cold or the flue taken a day of my time? How many times hadn’t God provided for us financially in ways we had not even expected? The answers to these questions brought comfort as I thought on those things that are good and I remembered that I had much reason to be praising God.
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After I got back home I was anxious to figure out how much of the old door could be salvaged. I quickly found out that very little of it was worth saving. That was okay, though, because I was now looking at the whole situation with thankfulness, rather than despair. I priced new panels and hardware and quickly realized that it would be cheaper to just buy a whole new door. Then I found out that the new doors were on sale and were 20% off regular price. I was then able to praise God for the timing of this small disaster.
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As I look back, I am much calmer now and I actually laugh as I think about the pickup pulling the garage door behind it. I actually wish that someone had caught the event on video camera. I am confident that it would have become a Youtube sensation. Even as I laugh, I am reminded that there are many reasons to praise God, even when our lives are disrupted by unplanned events. I pray that this lesson will be far more valuable than the cost of the garage door and that it will remind me to have the right attitude when the next trial comes along.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Submitting To Each Other

Nearly 8 years ago, I married a wonderful woman and we lived happily ever after. Well, actually, there have been a few moments- though rare- that have not been as happy as we would like. In real life, couples marry hoping for the happily ever after, only to find out that they do not always agree when a decision must be made.
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Ephesians chapter 5 is one of the passages that explains that wives should submit to their husbands and that husbands should love their wives. Many books have been written on these subjects, but not all of them look at the whole counsel of God on these matters. Many of those books miss Ephesians 5:21 where it says, “Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God.”
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For example an author named Debbie Pearl has become quite popular for writing to women about submitting to their husbands, but she has taken her ideas to a level that actually goes against the teaching of scripture. Her book suggests that a wife should submit to her husband even if he wants her to do something that would be wrong. Further, her teaching encourages the wife to enable the husband to continue sinful behavior rather than to confront it. This was not at all what God had in mind when he told wives to submit to their husbands.
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Colossians 3:18 provides some further clarity on this matter when it says, “Wives, be subject to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.” (NASB). It is not fitting in the Lord to disobey the scriptures in our submission.
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The next verse then says, “Husbands, love your wives, and do not be embittered against them.” (Colossians 3:19 NASB)
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A wife is to submit to her husband, but she is not to disobey God as she does so. The husband is to love his wife and not to be bitter against her. Imagine a newly married couple trying to make a decision and they each get one vote and they are not in agreement. Soon a fight starts.
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Imagine instead that the wife just always submitted to whatever the husband decided. Soon she would not even vote and would likely become sad and discouraged.
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A much better option would be if each got a vote and the husband then cast the tie breaking vote. He must cast that vote in love without being bitter against his wife. It would make it much easier for her to submit to his decision if she knew that he had at least considered her thoughts on the matter. Because of his love, sometimes his tie breaking vote should even be in her favor. Sometimes he would even realize that his ideas were wrong after hearing his wife’s reasons for her position. Other times he would weigh the matter and lovingly disagree with his wife, and go forward with his original plans. This allows them both to submit to each other, while still letting the husband provide loving leadership.
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Because the husband gets the tie breaking vote, he also must take the responsibility for the decision, even if he voted in her favor instead of his own. If the decision does not work out as planned, he should not be bitter against his wife for voting as she did, but instead should take the responsibility for having made the final decision. This also takes a lot of pressure off of the wife, because she is able to share her ideas while not having to worry about getting the blame if things do not work out.
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The marriage relationship is not always perfect, but if we properly apply the principles of love and submission it will be much smoother.

Friday, September 5, 2014

You Can’t Manipulate God

Working from a home office has some advantages, but it also has some challenges. For example, the other day as I was preparing mailings to send out, my boys came in with their Legos asking me to build them an airplane. Occasionally I will take the time to do that, but there were 3 little boys standing there- each expecting me to build them something- and I had a lot of work to get done so I had to tell them, “not today.”
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What would have happened if the boys had whined and cried until I built them their airplanes? If you know me, you would understand that would not work. We decided that as soon as they were old enough to communicate without crying that we would not reward such behavior.
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Some children, however, have conditioned their parents to give them whatever they want, simply by throwing a tantrum. We are trying to teach our children that when they ask for something we will decide whether or not to give it to them based on what is best at the time. Sometimes we will give them what they ask for, other times we will tell them no, and sometimes we will tell them to wait.
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What about when we ask God for something? Do we expect to get what we want by figuring out how to push the right buttons with Him, or do we simply trust His wisdom to either tell us yes, no, or wait?
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When Jesus ministered here on earth, He was asked how we should pray. Consider this portion of the Lord‘s Prayer- “Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.” (Matthew 6:10) As we pray, we must trust God enough to say, “’Thy’ will be done, rather than ‘my’ will be done.”
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As we bring our petitions to God, we must consider the role of the Holy Spirit. Romans 8:27 says, “Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God.” (NKJV) Notice that this passage says that the Holy Spirit makes intercession in our prayers according to God, not according to what we want. It is a great comfort for me to know that I cannot manipulate God with my prayers. As I go to prayer I can always trust Him.
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Imagine if I wanted the rain to stay away because I did not want to have to mow my grass, but the Christian farmer was praying for rain for his crops. God does not answer our prayers based on who can cry the loudest, throw the biggest temper tantrum, or give Him the most money. God cannot be bought off or manipulated. Instead He answers according to His will. That is also a comfort to me even as I pray for the sick. For example a year ago I was praying for a friend. My desire was that she get well and stay alive, but instead God healed her by letting her die so she could be with Him (she was and is a believer). As we grow closer to God, His desires should become our desires.
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I fear that too many Christians have the view that being filled with the Holy Spirit involves being able to get the Spirit to do what you want Him to do. Instead we should learn that being filled with the Holy Spirit means that we are ready to do and accept whatever He wants rather than what we want. I believe that explains 1 John 5:14, “Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.” (NKJV)
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As Christians, instead of trying to get God to do what we want Him to do, let us strive to do what He wants us to do.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Christ's Yoke & Light Burden

In Jesus day, the Pharisees were notorious for adding to God’s law while refusing to obey it themselves. I remember hearing that they were so concerned about following the rules of not working on the Sabbath that they came up with rules about how far they could walk on that day. Because some of them wanted to travel farther, they ended up implementing a rule that said they had to stay within a certain distance of the dirt of their home. In order to get around that rule, some of them would then carry a bag a dirt with them and then drop that dirt on the ground allowing them to increase their distance of travel.
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The bag of dirt story shows us how easy it is for man to think that he can ignore God as long as he working hard to do something to please God. That is not how the Christian life is to be lived. Jesus said, "Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light." (Matthew 11:29-30 NKJV)
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Even though Christ’s burden is light, He still tells us to take His yoke. In other words, God’s expectations are much easier to bear than man’s are, but God does have expectations for us. Consider Colossians 3:5-10 NKJV, “Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. Because of these things the wrath of God is coming upon the sons of disobedience, in which you yourselves once walked when you lived in them. But now you yourselves are to put off all these: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language out of your mouth. Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old man with his deeds, and have put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him,.”
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Though Christ’s burden is easy, it still must be carried. In other words we need to be concerned about living for God’s glory and sometimes that can be a challenge. The end of the above passage (verse 10 of Colossians 3) tells us to put on the new man. In other words, once we are Christians we should be different than we were before. We should be changing to be more like Christ. The reality is that even as faithful Christians we sometimes struggle to live like we are supposed to live. It is sobering to realize that the letter that says not to lie anymore was addressed to the faithful Christians in Colosse (Colossians 1:2).
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So how is a faithful Christian to live the Christian life without having it become a heavy burden? Part of the answer is in verse 10 of Colossians 3. Notice it says to be renewed in knowledge according to the image of Jesus Christ our creator. (See Colossians 1:16). We are renewed in knowledge as we study God’s word. We are renewed in knowledge as we pray. We are renewed in knowledge as we think about God’s word. There is however a very important way that we are renewed in knowledge that is found right in the book of Colossians. “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.” (Colossians 3:16 NKJV)
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Christians are renewed in knowledge as they come together and hear the teaching and warning of God’s word and as they sing songs that teach Biblical truth. This is one of the reasons why we should go to church. Currently there are no churches meeting regularly on Sunday mornings in Worthing, SD. We hope to soon start a church here in Worthing, so that Christians have a place to go so they can be taught and encouraged to follow Jesus Christ and to take on his yoke in a way that is not overwhelming. For more information please visit www.southtownchurch.com.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Legalism and Lawlessness

We have been picking green beans- actually they are purple beans this year. My wife decided to plant a variety that that is purple instead of green. I like them because they are easier to see when we pick the reward of our labors.
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I have learned that some rewards are given for hard work and other rewards are given for just showing up. For example, the reward of our purple green beans comes from the hard work of gardening. On the other hand, our little boys often get the reward of Gummy Bears for simply showing up at Grandma’s house.
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Whether the reward was earned or just given because “Grandma loves you,” imagine how you would feel if someone tried to keep you from getting a reward that was meant for you.
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In the book of Colossians, we read of a wonderful reward that is given to Christians. That reward is the realization that we are complete in Christ. Colossians 2:10 says, “and you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power.” (NKJV). Because we as believers are complete in Christ, we are no longer under the Old Testament law. “Having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.” (Colossians 2:14 NKJV)
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Sadly some were trying to deprive the Christian Colossians of their reward of salvation and completeness in Christ. They were distracting them from Christ by putting their focus on angels instead. Furthermore, they were not only trying to make them think that they needed to obey the Old Testament ordinances, but they were also adding other man made ordinances as well. Consider vs. 16, “So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths,” (NKJV) The scripture is even more blunt in vs. 20-22, “Therefore, if you died with Christ from the basic principles of the world, why, as though living in the world, do you subject yourselves to regulations-- ‘Do not touch, do not taste, do not handle,’ which all concern things which perish with the using--according to the commandments and doctrines of men?” (NKJV)
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If we continue to read into chapter 3 of Colossians, we find that God does have expectations for Christians. “Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.” (Colossians 3:5 NKJV) Further we read, “But now you yourselves are to put off all these: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language out of your mouth. Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old man with his deeds,” (Colossians 3:8-9 NKJV)
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I fear that the reward of the faithful Christian life is often robbed in a couple of ways. The first way is to put a heavy yoke upon Christ’s followers that he never intended for them to carry. This yoke is added by telling people that they have to do things that God does not require of them. Adding the earthly requirements of man as if they had come from God is a dangerous form of worldliness. (see Colossians 2:20-22 above). This worldly distortion of Biblical doctrine is often referred to as legalism.
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As damaging as legalism is, chapter 3 of Colossians shows us that lawlessness can be just as damaging. The Christian must study the Bible to understand what God expects and to know the difference between man’s demands and God’s. Without such diligent study, the believer is left to the whim of teachers who may either heap unneeded rules upon the backs of their followers, or encourage them to do things that are clearly forbidden in scripture.
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Because Christians must sort out the difference between legalism and lawlessness, it is important for them to study God’s word, but it is also important for them to find a church that preaches through the scripture verse by verse and explains what God wrote and why.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Treat Your Children Well

My family and I recently spent two weeks at a Bible camp. We were able to minister to kids from a variety of backgrounds. Some of the kids were homesick, others did not want to go back home. Our boys were among those who were not real anxious to go home. They had a lot of fun playing on the playground, swimming in the lake, and watching the older kids play games. Many of the kids who wanted to say longer had similar reasons, but for some the reasons were not as pleasant.
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Anyone who has worked with large groups of children quickly realizes that not every child has a happy family life. It is heartbreaking to see tears in a child’s eyes because their parents are constantly fighting. Some children have learned that alcohol is more important to a parent than they are. Others have actually become the victims of physical and sexual abuse.
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As an adult, I would not want the stress of having to live in such an environment, yet many children have no choice in the matter. The scriptures have a lot to say about children obeying their parents- in fact the command to honor them is the first command with a promise (Ephesians 6:2), but they also have a lot to say about treating children with respect.
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Ephesians 6:4 says, “And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord.” (NKJV) Colossians 3:21 warns, “Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged.” (NKJV)
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Some parents simply view their children as an inconvenience to be tolerated. Jesus was very clear that children were important to Him. “Then they brought little children to Him, that He might touch them; but the disciples rebuked those who brought them. But when Jesus saw it, He was greatly displeased and said to them, "Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God.” (Mark 10:13-14 NKJV)
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Bible says that children are to obey their parents, but what happens when a parent uses that scripture to manipulate a child into sinning? They are ignoring that even Peter and the disciples said that they ought to obey God rather than men (Acts 5:29). Those who use scripture to manipulate children to sin should heed the warning of Matthew 18:6, "But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to sin, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were drowned in the depth of the sea.” (NKJV)
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Though children should never be abused, they should be corrected. Such correction shows that the parents do care about them. “For whom the LORD loves He corrects, Just as a father the son in whom he delights.” (Proverbs 3:12 NKJV)
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Parenting is not always easy, but it is important. To do it right we have to set aside selfishness. The two greatest commands of scripture- to love God and to love others- involve putting aside our own selfishness for someone else. This is especially true in parenting. We must invest time in our children to be consistent in training and loving them. Proverbs 29:17 says, “Correct your son, and he will give you rest; Yes, he will give delight to your soul.” (NKJV). But we must also make sure that we not become brutal in our correction so that it becomes abuse. “Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged.” (Colossians 3:21 NKJV)

Saturday, July 12, 2014

The False Self Love Gospel

I recently met a man who told me that the way to heaven is to love yourself. I told him that Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” (John 14:6 NKJV) He then went on to say that he gets his teaching directly from angels rather than from the Bible. I reminded him that there are both good and bad angels- that demons are the bad angels.
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Sadly this man considered himself a reverend and said he was trying to help people with the messages he was receiving from these dark angels. You may ask how I know that they were not good angels. The apostle Paul wrote in Galatians 1:8-9, “But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed.” (NKJV)
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The message of loving yourself in order to get to heaven is a false gospel. “I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel; which is really not another; only there are some who are disturbing you, and want to distort the gospel of Christ.” (Galatians 1:6-7 NASB)
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The gospel is summarized quite well in John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” Further clarity is given in I Corinthians 15:1-4, “Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you--unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, (NKJV).
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Notice that Jesus died for sins. That means that we are sinners who need our sins forgiven (see Romans 3:23). Notice that not only did Jesus die, but He rose again. That means He is alive and that we believe in a risen savior. Believing in Jesus means we believe we need to have our sins forgiven and that He died and rose again in order to forgive them. But John 3:16 makes it clear that we must believe in Him in order to have eternal life. Consider John 3:18, "He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” (NKJV)
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The most important command for the believer is to love God and the next most important is to love your neighbor as yourself (see Matthew 22:37-40). As important as love is, loving yourself is not part of the gospel message. In fact, selfishness causes us to love ourselves more than God or others and we need to set aside that selfishness to put God first.
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2 Timothy 3:1-5 warns of those who love themselves, “But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away!” (NKJV)
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Turn away from false gospels and false preachers, and turn to Christ. God loves you even though you do not deserve it. Having the love of the all powerful creator and sustainer of the universe is far more valuable than having a love for yourself.