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.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Thankful After The Storm

Our basement is drying out and there is no longer a small lake in our front yard. Monday June 16th 2014 was definitely an eventful- as well as discouraging- day as water ran into buildings and blocked or washed out roads. Twenty two years earlier when I lived in Murray county in southwest Minnesota, that same day was also discouraging. Many farms as well as the towns of Chandler and Lake Wilson were hit by numerous tornados on June 16th, 1992. Therefore, as I look back a couple of weeks and a couple of decades on the date of June 16th, I cannot help but think of disaster.
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During times of disaster it is easy to complain. Why didn’t the people who built our houses put more tile and larger sump pumps in the basement? Why don’t the stores stock an extra 10,000 sump pumps? Why can’t the county workers fix the road I want to drive on even though there are many other roads that are washed out as well, and the road I want to go on is still 3 feet under water?
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Instead of complaining we should actually be thankful. Our area experienced terrible flooding, but people in Nebraska had their homes leveled by powerful tornados. In other words, it could be worse.
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What about those county and city workers who did not seem to care about my road or the water in my neighborhood? Did we remember to thank them for the long hours that they were putting as they fought a losing battle to keep ahead of the water? The evidence is clear that they lost that battle, but it was a battle that no one could have won. We had some terrible flooding here in Worthing, but I was amazed how much better things looked the next day after the rain had stopped and I am thankful for the city workers and firemen who quickly pumped water away so things could dry up and get back to normal.
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I once heard that thankful people tend to be much more successful than complainers. Though thankfulness can help with success, there is an even more important reason to be thankful- God told us to. 1 Thessalonians 5:18 NKJV says, “in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” It is hard to give thanks when your home is flooded or destroyed by a tornado. That is why it is important to let the peace of God rule in our hearts, realizing we can trust Him even when we do not understand why these things are happening. “And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful. 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. And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.” (Colossians 3:15-17 NKJV)
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Regardless of our circumstances and regardless of what we are doing, we should be thankful toward God and we should be encouraging each other with our examples of thankfulness. “Giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ,” (Ephesians 5:20 NKJV).
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The next time you are tempted to complain, be thankful instead. Remember to pray and thank God and then remember to thank those around for what they have done.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Are Christians Hypocrites?

Are Christians a bunch of hypocrites? When Jesus was on earth, He accused the Pharisees of being hypocrites. These religious individual claimed to have high standards, yet their lives were actually characterized by sin and Jesus rebuked them for that. Would He do the same to many Christians today?
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We know that all have sinned and come short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). We also know that our sin is forgiven when we believe on the Lord Jesus Christ as our savior. “He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love, in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins.” (Colossians 1:13-14 NKJV)
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I Corinthians 6 speaks of some sins that Christians had been involved in and then in verse 11 it says, “And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.” So does that mean that once we are Christians, that the actions that we do are no longer sinful because they have been forgiven? Some would suggest that since Christians have been sanctified by trusting Christ, that then we no longer have to worry about sinful actions since everything is now under the blood. This is a very dangerous error. The Apostle Paul warned, “What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound?” (Romans 6:1 NKJV)
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I John 1:9 tells us, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” The parallel passage from the Old Testament is Proverbs 28:13, “He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy.” Sin is forgiven when it is confessed, but it should also be forsaken.
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Often professing Christians are looked at as hypocrites because they don’t even seem to be concerned about the sin in their own lives. It is true that we are saved by the grace of God without works (Ephesians 2:8-9), but as Christians we are created to do what is good and right (Ephesians 2:10).
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Though we are not saved by our works, there are still a number of passages that command us to do what is right as Christians, so we must be careful not to emphasize grace to such an extreme that we are not concerned with how we behave and live our lives.
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Some false teachers have suggested that since Christians are forgiven that they are automatically blameless before God no matter what we do and thus we do not have to worry about our actions. Hebrews 10:10 makes it clear that we are sanctified through Christ’s offering on the cross. That offering is what allows us to have eternal life with God in spite of our sins and purifies us before God, but that does not mean that every action we do is now blameless. Hebrews 12:4-11 speaks of God disciplining Christians for sinful behavior. If we were so blameless that our actions no longer mattered, why would God discipline the Christian?
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Consider II Peter 3:14, “Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for such things, be diligent that ye may be found of him in peace, without spot, and blameless.” The scripture actually challenges us to put effort into living in a way that we ought to live so we are blameless in our behavior. Consider: Colossians 1:10 and 2:6; I Thessalonians 2:12 and 4:1; Philippians 1:27; and Ephesians 4:1. If we consistently obeyed these scriptures, we would not have be accused of being hypocrites because we would be living the way God expected us to live.

Friday, May 30, 2014

What if You Died Today?

My wife’s sister recently got married and our little boys had questions about her honeymoon. Our six year old was quick to share his opinion that a honeymoon should only last one day. His mother told him that his wife would probably like to have it last a little longer. He was not convinced, so she told him that when he got married she would help him plan his honeymoon.
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Our little six year old, then proceeded to tell his mom that she would not be able to help him with his plans because she would probably be dead by then. As if a ‘one day honeymoon’ were not enough to show his lack of understanding of the female gender, he then told her that she would probably be dead because she was getting old. To make matters worse, he then proceeded to tell her that he would have daddy help him. Of course I thought it was hilarious since I am quite a bit older than she is.
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Fortunately my wife saw the humor in it as well. Even though she is still quite young and statistically speaking, she should be able to expect to be alive when her sons get married, we really do not know how long any of us will live.
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This week we received some very sad news. A friend of ours was killed in a head on collision on I-35 south of Albert Lea. He was only 28 years old and engaged to be married next month. As tragic as that event was, it does have a happy ending. Our friend James was a follower of the Lord Jesus Christ and had trusted Him as his Lord and Savior. 2 Corinthians 5:6-8 says, “Therefore, being always of good courage, and knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord-- for we walk by faith, not by sight-- we are of good courage, I say, and prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord.” (NASB)
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James death is sad for those of us who love and miss him, but we realize that he is home with the Lord. That is the happy ending.
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We take comfort in eternal life with the Lord, but let me make this discussion a bit more personal. If you were to be the one who died in a head on collision, do you know for sure where you would go when this life ended?
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The only way to know for sure is to trust Jesus Christ alone as your Lord and Savior. He told us 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.” He also told us, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” (John 14:6).
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These verses make it clear that our hope for the next life is based on our belief in the Lord Jesus Christ. Still, the question remains, can we really know for sure? First of all, let me remind you that Jesus Christ is God and God cannot lie (Titus 1:2). If He promises us eternal life through believing in Him, then we can trust that promise. Further let us not forget another promise that He made in John 6:37, "All that the Father gives Me shall come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out.” (NASB) He gives a warning as well, “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.” (John 6:36)
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As a Christian I desire to stay on this earth as long as God wants me here so that I can serve Him, but I also realize that when my life is over and my time here is done, that I get to be with Him because I have believed on the Lord Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior.

Friday, May 16, 2014

I’m Struggling With Pride

We have small children so that means that they have a fairly small vocabulary. Before having our family Bible study, I realized that we were going to be reading a passage that dealt with pride and humility. One of the statements said, "God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble." (James 4:6b NKJV). I realized that my sons did not know what pride and humility actually were . I explained to them how when we are proud we think we are more important than others, but when we are humble we care about what others want instead of always thinking we have to have our own way.
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That conversation reminded me of how easy it is to be proud- to think that I am the most important person in the world. I remember a friend who used to say that he looked out for himself because no one else would. I found that strange because I really did care about him and was even willing to get the shorter end of the stick to help him. Sadly he ended up alienating a number of people by living out his attitude of pride.
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It is a lot easier for me to see pride in my friend than it is to see it in myself. Why? Because my own pride blinds my assessment of myself. Jeremiah 17:9 reminds me, “ The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?”
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It is bad enough that someone might think that they are more important than their fellow human being, but what happens when we end up thinking we are more important than God? Even though I know that God is more important than I am, I have caught myself living as if I believed the opposite.
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For example I have taken pride in living as a Christian ought to live. Why should I be proud of doing what is my duty to do? (Luke 17:10) Yes, we should obey God, but we must remember that even when we do all the right things, we still fall far short of His glory, “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) As Christians we are supposed to be like Christ, but when I take pride in being like Christ I become more like the devil who said, “I will be like the most High.” (Isaiah 14:14)
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The same pride that gets me in trouble for thinking I am more holy than I really am, can also get me into trouble by convincing me that I am important enough to do whatever I want to do. Let’s face it, sin can be fun for a short time. When I start to think that I am so important that my pleasures are a greater priority than obeying God, then my pride has again pushed me farther from God. I cannot help but quote Romans 7:24, “O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?”
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The answer is Jesus Christ. His payment on the cross has once and for all atoned for our sins. That payment is applied to us when we believe on Him. At that time we must humble ourselves before Him realizing He will draw near to us. I realize that when I take my eyes off Christ and put them on myself I end up either being proud of my spirituality or I end up thinking I am important enough that my obedience doesn’t matter, but when I remember that Jesus Christ is God and that He is the most important one, then I realize that I must obey Him without taking pride in doing what I am supposed to do.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Are There Donkeys in Heaven?

As we were driving to church, I listened to our little boys having a conversation. Our 6 year old said that Jesus knew about donkeys because He rode on one. I reminded him that Jesus knew about donkeys because He created them. John 1:3 tells us, “All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.” Once I mentioned about Jesus making everything, our little boy replied, “I knew that dad.”
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Actually what had led to this conversation was our boys discussing whether or not there were donkeys in heaven. Soon our 5 year old said, “Yes, there are! I know it.” When his answer did not seem to satisfy everyone he then said, “I know it because the Bible says so.” I raised my eyebrows because he had just turned 5 a few months ago and cannot even read yet.
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I was tempted to chuckle; however, I realized that this was a serious matter that needed to be addressed. I told him that there was actually not a specific statement in the Bible about donkeys in heaven and that we should not say something is in the Bible if it is not there.
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Sadly both Christians and non-Christians alike end up believing that the Bible teaches things that it does not teach simply because they have heard wrong information. That is why it is so important to “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15 NKJV)
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It is understandable that a 5 year old might make a mistake about what is actually in the Bible, but sadly some adult religious leaders make mistakes or intentionally deceive others about what is in the Bible. Sometimes they even say something is not in the Bible when it is actually there.
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The average Christian sometimes struggles to know what the Bible really teaches. For example some may wonder if the phrase, “a penny saved is a penny earned” is in the Bible. Help for such answers can be found by looking up words in Strong’s Concordance, which is a large book that lists all the words in the Bible and where they are found. A simpler option would be to do a computer search by visiting a site like Blueletterbible.org.
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Though such tools are helpful they do have their limits. Consider the golden rule of “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Though that exact phrase is not in the Bible, the idea is. Matthew 7:12 says, "Therefore, however you want people to treat you, so treat them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” (NASB)
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Such examples remind us why it is so important to read and study the Bible. They also show why it is important to find a church where the Bible is read and studied. Though our 5 year old cannot read yet, we do read the Bible to him. His confusion should remind all of us to pay attention when the Bible is read or preached so that we not get confused. It is also a good idea to take your Bible along with you to church so you can read along as it is being taught.
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I do not know if there will be donkeys in heaven. I tend to think they will be there, but I want to make sure that I not claim that something is in the Bible when it is not.