Friday, December 12, 2014

Jesus Proved He is Good

Our little boys watched soccer on TV for the first time. They had already watched football and one of them wanted to know if the team with the horses on their helmets was playing because he wanted to watch the Broncos. I explained that they did not wear helmets in this game and then proceeded to explain the rules.
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After explaining that the players could not use their hands unless they were the goalie, my five year old quickly stated that he wanted to be the goalie so that he could use his hands. His brother also agreed. Ironically, neither of them has ever even played soccer.
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In order to be pro soccer players, my sons would have to prove that they were good enough. In order to play the position of the goalie, they would really have to be good. Imagine however that years from now, one of my sons showed up for tryouts for a goalie on a soccer team. Imagine then that he was so quick and so coordinated that no one was ever able to score a goal. Then the coach was so impressed with his performance that he called in the best soccer player in the world to try to make a goal and that player was still not able to score against him.
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Such a performance would prove that this young man should be on the team. It would prove that he is a worthy player. It would prove that he has what it takes.
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However, imagine that instead of a new soccer recruit, the world was looking for a new king. Not only were they looking for a king, but they were looking for a savior to rescue them from the curse of sin. In order to provide a rescue, this savior/king would have to perfect. He would have to sinless. He would have to be totally righteous. He would have to be so in touch with the will of God that His behavior would prove He is God.
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When Jesus was temped by the devil, He was able to prove all of this. Just as a great soccer goalie is able to prove his skills by showing up on the soccer field, Jesus was able to show His goodness by going to a place of temptation. We must be careful not to think that we should follow His example in this. Our very sinfulness proves that we have already given into temptation many times.
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As we consider the temptations Jesus faced, His goodness is contrasted with the sinfulness of all mankind. Romans 3:23 says, “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;”
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The first temptation in Luke 4 was to turn the stone into bread. Why would that be sinful- especially considering that Jesus later used a miracle to feed thousands? It would be sinful because He would have been giving into the will of Satan rather than the will of God. Because Jesus as the son of God is God, He understood God's will perfectly. You and I do not always know every last detail of God's will and this is further proof of how far we come from God's glory and why we need a savior.
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The next temptation involved the kingdoms of this world. As we look at the corruption of world leaders both then and now, we are again reminded of the sinfulness of mankind and of our need for a sinless savior and king. Jesus proved that He is that kind of a king as He resisted temptation.
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Finally Satan tempted Jesus by quoting Psalm 91:11 which speaks of the angles protecting Jesus. When the devil quoted that verse, he left off the words “in all they ways.” In other words whatever Jesus does, he will be protected, but we have to remember that whatever Jesus did was the will of God. Satan was trying to get Him to follow another will, but Jesus proved that He would always do what was right and never come short of the glory of God. By passing the test, Jesus proved that He is worthy to pay for our sins.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Let Us Always Be Thankful

I love leftover turkey. You can make it into sandwiches, hot dishes, eat it cold, or warm it up. You can cut it into little pieces and put in a salad. You can chop it up and add it to a soup. I love leftover turkey.
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I hope you can see that I am thankful for leftovers. The Thanksgiving holiday is a wonderful time to be thankful, but our thankfulness should not be reserved for just once a year. Now that “Thanksgiving” is over for the year, our giving of thanks should still continue.
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The holiday season is a time when we are able to gather with friends and family. I am very thankful for them. The Apostle Paul was thankful for the people in his life too, but I really like how he expresses his thankfulness in Philippians 1:3: “I thank my God upon every remembrance of you,”. Notice that he was thankful to God.
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We teach our little boys to say, “thank you,” to the people around them, but ultimately we all need to remember to be thankful to God. Without Him we would not have an earth to live on or a sunset to admire. “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.” (Genesis 1:1) Even the creation itself is to praise God. “Praise him, ye heavens of heavens, and ye waters that be above the heavens. Let them praise the name of the LORD: for he commanded, and they were created.” (Psalm 148:4-5)
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God reminds us that not only did He create the heavens and earth, but He created us. “I have made the earth, and created man upon it: I, even my hands, have stretched out the heavens, and all their host have I commanded.” (Isaiah 45:12) We should thank God for our very existence.
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Remembering that God created the whole world and everything in it, I thank God for turkey leftovers. I also thank Him for the water that I drink and the place where I live. Knowing that I should be thankful to Him, I also want to have the right relationship with Him, but I realize that as a sinner I come short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23).
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That reminds me of another reason to be thankful. I am thankful for His grace and mercy. “But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble.” (James 4:6) God extends His grace upon us through the Lord Jesus Christ as we believe on Him. 1 Corinthians 15:57 says, “But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
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I am therefore thankful that Jesus paid for my sins. “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 2:23). I realize that I have a lifetime of reason to give thanks to God.
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Thanksgiving is not just for November. Thanksgiving is not even just for this lifetime. It is for forever. Because I have believed on the Lord Jesus Christ- trusting Him as my savior-, I look forward to thanking God for eternity. “And I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels around the throne and the living creatures and the elders; and the number of them was myriads of myriads, and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice, "Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing." And every created thing which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all things in them, I heard saying, "To Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, be blessing and honor and glory and dominion forever and ever." (Revelation 5:11-13 NASB)

Friday, November 14, 2014

Why Did God Order Killing?

Our little four year old is very determined to try to keep with his bigger brothers. That often means that he will push himself to run and climb beyond his level of strength and coordination, thus he will often fall and hurt himself. He then comes running to me saying, “Daddy, I have an auwee!”
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When I hear that one of our children has been hurt, my heart aches. My desire is to protect them and to keep them safe. I worry about them falling and getting seriously hurt. I worry about them crossing the street and getting hit by a car. I worry about bad people hurting them.
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As much as we have to worry about here in South Dakota, I am thankful that we do not have the worries that people in other parts of the world face. For example, in the Middle East, fathers have to worry about ISIS capturing their children, torturing, and killing them. I cringe to even write this, but children are actually being decapitated.
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The news reports of the atrocities of the Mexican drug cartels are just as brutal as those of ISIS. I do not bring up these issues to sensationalize violence, but rather to point out the presence of evil in our world.
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Imagine that you were a father or a mother living in the middle east and you had witnessed the terrible deeds of ISIS in your area. Imagine that you were fearful that your family would be the next news report. Now imagine if some soldiers who were opposed to ISIS came on the scene and destroyed the whole ISIS army along with their wives and children. You would likely be quite relieved.
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You could argue that the wives and children should be spared, but imagine that they were fighting right along side the grown men. Image that they were supportive of everything that the men were doing. Imagine that their destruction just saved your family from being the next victim of their slaughter.
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In an ideal world, the women and children would not have to be killed along with the fighting men. In an ideal world, no one would have to be killed in order to stop a murderous rampage.
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We live in a sin cursed world not an ideal world. Many non-Christians have been critical of God because He ordered the absolute destruction of the Amalekites. Deuteronomy 25:17-19 explains why, "Remember what Amalek did to you on the way as you were coming out of Egypt, "how he met you on the way and attacked your rear ranks, all the stragglers at your rear, when you were tired and weary; and he did not fear God. "Therefore it shall be, when the LORD your God has given you rest from your enemies all around, in the land which the LORD your God is giving you to possess as an inheritance, that you will blot out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven. You shall not forget.” (NKJV)
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The Amalekites were murderers of innocents much like ISIS. As the Israelites were fleeing slavery in Egypt (as Moses was leading them through the wilderness) the Amalekites came and attacked the weakest of the people. God then gave them years to repent, but they continued to be an evil people. God understood that the children would grow up to be just as evil as their parents were, so He ordered them all to be destroyed. This is not an evidence of an evil unloving God, this is evidence of a God of justice who wants to protect the innocent.
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Years later, God actually sent the prophet Jonah (the man swallowed the whale) to the city of Nineveh where many evil people lived, to give them a chance to repent so that God did not have to destroy them. They did repent and were saved. Jonah was actually upset because he thought they should be destroyed. God does not throw around His justice for no reason and even when justice is deserved, He shows mercy.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Why Have Sin and Suffering?

The days are getting shorter- well actually the days are still 24 hours long, but the amount of time that we have daylight during those 24 hours is getting to be less and less. As it gets dark earlier I have learned to appreciate the light. Because of electricity it is easy to take light for granted. Today all we have to do touch a switch and the light comes on. Not too many generations ago, a lamp or candle had to be lit to pierce through the darkness of night. In places without lights, the morning sunrise still brings an amazing transformation of brilliant light to a dark landscape.
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As we look at scripture, the analogy of light and darkness helps us to understand the contrast between evil and righteousness. When Jesus Christ walked on this earth, His sinlessness and holiness shined like a bright light in contrast to this dark sin cursed world.
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Just before Jesus was born, the father of John the Baptist spoke of how his own son, John, would tell about the savior of the world. He said, “To give to His people the knowledge of salvation by the forgiveness of their sins, Because of the tender mercy of our God, With which the Sunrise from on high shall visit us, TO SHINE UPON THOSE WHO SIT IN DARKNESS AND THE SHADOW OF DEATH, To guide our feet into the way of peace." (Luke 1:77-79 NASB)
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Notice how he talks of Jesus Christ coming to shine upon those who sit in darkness and how He is called the “Sunrise from on high.” This is a beautiful picture of Jesus coming into the world to shine forth His holiness and righteousness just like the sunrise shines forth its light.
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Many have asked why God even allowed sin and sickness into this world. I believe God allowed sin for the same reason He allowed darkness. If God had created a world where darkness does not exist and where we never had to turn on a light, we would not appreciate the light. If God had made a world without sin, we would not be able to fully appreciate His holiness and righteousness. Without suffering, we could not fully appreciate deliverance.
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Notice how the Psalmist uses the analogy of light and darkness to describe how God brings light to life. “For You will save the humble people, But will bring down haughty looks. For You will light my lamp; The LORD my God will enlighten my darkness.” (Psalm 18:28 NKJV)
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Long before Christ was born in Bethlehem, the prophet Isaiah wrote: “The people who walked in darkness Have seen a great light; Those who dwelt in the land of the shadow of death, Upon them a light has shined.” (Isaiah 9:2 NKJV)
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More than 700 years later, Matthew’s Gospel connects the prophecy of Isaiah directly to Jesus Christ and His ministry. “The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, And upon those who sat in the region and shadow of death Light has dawned." (Matthew 4:16 NKJV)
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Isaiah also records the words of the Lord when He says, “I form the light and create darkness, I make peace and create calamity; I, the LORD, do all these things.'‘ (Isaiah 45:7NKJV) When we understand that God’s light shines through the darkness to show how good He really is, we can better understand why God would create calamity.

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.