It’s All in a Song

notes

It’s funny. If you take a song, any one song, and play it at different times of the day, it can have a whole different meaning, or evoke different feelings.

Let’s take Jackie Wilson’s “Your Love (Keeps Lifting Me Higher)” for example.

That song works best in the car, at night with the windows down. It’s just got that old-time feeling to it, that can’t help but make you smile and tap your feet.

It’s also a fun song to have on while you’re doing chores around the house, or if you want to get your wife or kids out of a bad mood.

It can also be very lulling as it quietly plays somewhere in your bedroom at night as you fall asleep.

Maybe it reminds you of an old flame, or a loved one who passed.

It can also hold up as a party song, or even as elevator music.

No matter where you play it, or when you listen to it, it’s the same song, sung by the same guy.

The same can be said of God. He works in different ways, and speaks in different volumes, but no matter what He’s saying or how He says it, it’s the same God speaking those words.

The same God who spoke the world into being.

And the same God who spoke the words of Scripture.

So the next time you find yourself asking if it’s God’s leading or your own, match it up with what He has already said in the Bible, and see if it matches up with what you think you hear God saying to you.

And always keep the music playing. (Except when you’re praying, of course.)

Don’t Go to Church on Easter

emptypew33Easter is just one week away.

Have you invited anybody to church?

Easter is a time for believers to gather together and celebrate the Lord’s resurrection from the grave and our redemption through Him.

But it is NOT an exclusive holiday.

When Christ returns a second time, it’s not going to be done in secret, quietly, behind the doors of a church, nor in the privacy of a stable.

No. Not this time.

It’s going to be loud and explosive and every knee will bow and acknowledge Jesus Christ as Lord of the earth.

Folks, Easter is a dress rehearsal for Christ’s second coming, and all the world will see Him. So what are we doing keeping Easter a private family affair? When we signed up to become Christ’s followers, we agreed to take His message to the ends of the earth. The least we can do is take His message to the other end of our workplace, or down the street.

So here’s my challenge, unorthodox as it may be.

Don’t make plans to go to church on Easter Sunday if you don’t invite a lost person to come with you.

Here’s why I make this challenge. First, it is a reminder that Easter is not about you. Second, how intimidating would it be to have to explain to someone that you didn’t go to church on Easter because you didn’t invite someone else join you?

Now, I may be wrong, but how much less intimidating would it be to just throw out a simple invitation?:

“Got any plans for Easter?”

“No.”

“Want to come to church with me and my family?”

“Naw, that’s fine. Thanks, though.”

Easy peasy.

Now you just need to keep praying for them and witnessing to them since they now know you’re a Christian. Cat’s out of the bag.

Now you can celebrate the Lord’s resurrection with a clear conscious, knowing that you did what you could (and by all means, if the Lord is prodding you to do more, do it). And who knows? The most unexpected thing could happen and they might accept your invitation! And maybe… just maybe they’ll accept the bigger invitation to accept Jesus as their Lord and Savior and there will be an even bigger celebration in the celestial halls of Heaven than we could ever dream of here on earth.

Don’t make Easter about you. Make it about Jesus. And the thing Jesus is about, is bringing people from death to life.

Note: I understand that some readers may have faced (or may face) persecution or insults or hardships, especially my international readers. I do not mean to make light of inviting people to church and passing it off as something that is easy to do. But that does not negate the challenge (not mine – Christ’s). All of us believers must pray for the lost as well as fellow believers that God may grant them courage and strength.

 

If I Were Noah

noahs-ark-reconstructionYou know what the most fascinating thing about the true-life story of Noah’s ark is?

It’s not that all the animals were able to co-exist on one vessel for a long period of time.

It’s not that it took just a handful of people to build such a large ship all by themselves.

It’s not even that Hollywood was able to find a way to dumb down the story with Evan Almighty. 

Fascinating as those things are.

But the thing that catches my attention the most is that Noah didn’t argue.

There is no recorded mumbling or groaning or complaining by Noah, his wife, his kids, nor his kids’ wives.

Let’s put this in perspective, and you’ll see why I find it so fascinating.

Take my lead and put yourself in Noah’s sandals and feel the heaviness of the moment weighing down on you as you hear God speaking to you:

Then God said to Andrew, “The end of all flesh has come before Me; for the earth is filled with violence because of them; and behold, I am about to destroy them with the earth.” 

So at this point I’m thinking, “Sounds fair. It’s what I’ve been thinking should happen all along what with the 50 Shades and Twilight phenomenons.” 

But then after thinking about it, I realize my earth is going to end. My world. Keep in mind that I’m only 29, and Noah was around 600 years old. His memories, his childhood homes, his whole world was about to be destroyed. Family friends, relatives, cousins he’d grown up playing sticks and stones with. All were going to be destroyed. Six hundred years worth of friends, memorable places, favorite restaurants and other comforts.

The trees he once climbed, the meadows he once flew in, the bridge he shared his first kiss on, the alter where he made his vows. All of it destroyed.

Then God continues, “Make for yourself an ark of gopher wood; you shall make the ark with rooms, and shall cover it inside and out with pitch. This is how you shall make it…”

Noah either had a great memory at 600, or he was smart enough to jot these divine instructions down. I would smile and nod as I usually do, but somewhere in the back of my head I’d be thinking, “This is a lot of work. I barely have time to clip and sell enough wool to sell in the market to make ends meet, and now you’re expecting me to take on a whole new vocation as a carpenter?”

Maybe Noah already had blessed hands and worked well with wood, so it’s hard for me to fathom being handed such a task. Just yesterday I couldn’t even drill a hole correctly to hang the curtain rods up without screwing it up (pun).

It’s overwhelming.

So between the Doomsday prophecy and the extra work load, I’m fascinated that Noah didn’t complain.

But maybe that’s why God chose him.

But then again… Moses talked back, and he was only told to pass a simple message along to the Pharaoh.

… Jonah ran away and he was only asked to evangelize in God’s name.

… the young rich man was only asked to throw a yard sale and give to the poor.

… I’m only asked to pray faithfully for my wife and future kids.

What is God asking of you?

It’s not likely that He’s telling you to quit your job to build a bomb-shelter for the upcoming nuclear fallout and wave adios to your friends and family for forever.

Heck, it’s probably not even likely that He’s asking you to lay down your life for the sake of the Gospel.

Though that day may be coming.

Noah was ready to do all that God had asked him, and he didn’t complain. He was ready. True, he had 600 years to prepare, but he also had 600 years to mess around.

I heard on the News this morning that life expectancy is supposed to go up to 111 years in our generation. If you’re my age, that means you roughly have around 82 years to get ready for what God might be preparing to ask of you. But probably a lot less time that that, because realistically most of us will be lucky to live past 82, so we can now recalculate that we will only have 53 years left to live.

Genesis 6:9. Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his time; Noah walked with God.

Could that be said of you now? Could it be said of me? Because if we’re righteous and blameless now, not taking part in the corruption of the world that’s daily laid out before us on a silver plater, it may just be that we might not have a reason to complain when God asks us of things.

Just have your tools ready for when He does. And no complaining.

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Herod’s Massacre

giovanni-innocentsHome Alone and A Muppet’s Christmas Carol are amongst my favorite Christmas movies. And nothing screams “It’s Christmas!” like Ron Howard’s brilliant version of How the Grinch Stole Christmas (which he actually claims should be called Why the Grinch Stole Christmas). But do you want to know what movies put me more in a Christmas spirit than any of the aforementioned?

Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy.

Bear with me. The reason The Lord of the Rings puts me in a Christmas spirit isn’t so much because they were all released in the theaters days before Christmas, but because they represent more closely than any Hallmark special could, what the first Christmas was like.

Bloodshed followed on the trail of the first Christmas day. God started a necessary spiritual war, and an evil king started an unnecissary earthly war against children. 

The Lord of the Rings is all about war, is it not? And more than that, it’s about good vs. evil. It’s about finding something precious and either destroying it or using it for great power. It’s about the smallest of creatures changing the course of history and saving the world from destruction. It’s about true love, sacrifice, miracles, hope, and the beauty of evil and evil-doers being destroyed for all time.

I tell you, pour yourself a glass of Fresh Market eggnog, nibble on some puppy chow, cuddle up with your loved one, and  you can’t get much more Christmasy than that.

King Herod, who reigned during the time of Jesus’ birth inflicted a war against children because he was jealous of the future reign of this promised baby, Jesus. Any male child two years old or under were choked, drowned, stabbed, beheaded, aborted…

“A voice is heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more.” (Matthew 2:18)

A small town in America suffered its own massacre less than a week ago. Many parents now know the feeling of losing a child. They will daily, and involunterily recount in their minds what their child’s last thoughts were just before they were shot.

But King Herods and Adam Lanzas and Pharaohs are more numerous than we would like to imagine. We walk amongst them everyday. We bump shoulders with baby killers all the time. Abortion doctors, pediatricians who offer abortion as an option to confused couples, politicians who support abortion funding, deadbeat husbands and boyfriends who push their women to “get it taken care of.” Women who willfully decide to “get it taken care of.” Yes, even people who drive around with “Pro-Choice” bumper stickers.

Adam Lanza. Pharaoh. King Herod. Pure, unadulterated evil.

But that’s only one side of the Christmas story. You see, God came down as the one thing the king was after. He came down as a baby. I think that’s why our world is so lenient with baby killing, because somewhere deep in our conscious, we associate babies to the long-awaited Messiah. I bet if a study were done (and I’m sure it has), the same people who are proponents of kicking God out of school and the Bible from the White House, are the same ones who advocate for abortion.

But you see, Herod, in all of his rage and madness, couldn’t stop the Christ-child from growing up to be King of Heaven. It makes me wonder just how many other children have been saved by the divine hand of God. It’s easy to point to God when bad things happen and blame Him, but just how many crimes are conceived in minds that don’t bear fruit because of God’s intervention?

Just like in Lord of the RIngs, the smallest creature is chosen to save the world and do away with evil. God chose the most helpless of things, a baby, to grow up and become the most humblest of beings – humble enough to submit Himself to the authority of the corrupt politicians and willingly be stapled to a wooden beam and die an agonizing death, beaten, bloody, and naked, for all to see and mock.

That’s the Christmas story. The baby Jesus was an unwrapped gift from God tucked away under, not a tree, but a manger. And that gift loved the children who came to Him, felt the thumping of a pregnant woman’s belly, and made way for the Kingdom of God to open the gates for all of the children of the world, young in years and young in spirit.

And here’s the best part! The gates of Heaven are opened to the abortionists and corrupt politicians and King Herods, if only they would repent from their sins, turn to God, and accept Jesus as their Lord and Saviour. Make Him the best Christmas gift you will have ever received, and He will forget your sins like they never happened and accept you as a weeping child searching for a home.

That, my friends, is a Christmas story worth hearing.

Please help us get one step closer to adopting a child by purchasing my novel here. We’re trying to sell 1,600 copies by 2013.

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A Letter to Christians

Dear Christian,

I came across many of your kind in my life. Many of you were kind and gentle, you offered words of encouragement and inspiration. You lifted me up when I felt down. You were the nicest people I worked with, but the dorkiest people to hang around. But still, somehow you seemed happier than I felt. I guess I just assumed you were pretending just like I was.

But still, some of you were jerks. You were bigoted, and forceful and condescending. You lied like the rest of us, you sometimes cursed, and you treated your spouses rudely. I’m sure you know by now that you were wrong, and judging by your life-pattern, I’m sure you are sorry. But I was just as much at fault for expecting you to be perfect. One of you said to me once, “We’re not perfect, we just follow a perfect Leader.” I thought that was so cheesy.

I didn’t know it, but I was following a perfect leader too. He was perfect in his cunningness, never missing an opportunity to darken my blindfold, or trip me up. He was perfect at lying to me, at tempting me into trouble, and accusing me for the crimes he presented to me to commit. And I was perfect at following him every step of the way.

I was great at winning arguments with you guys. I would bring up scientific facts to stump you (though I see those were just lies too… you didn’t know it, but science was your biggest ally), or cause you to trip over you tongue when I asked meaningless questions like “Can your God create a rock so big…?” I can see now that that was my way of sneaking out of the debate. And every time I used a lie as my backdoor exit. Every. Single. Time.

And your Perfect Leader – your God – let me. Because He is perfect. He is perfectly just and perfectly fair and perfectly willing to grant me freedom whenever I want it. I know you would hate for me to victimize you, but really, you were caught in the middle. You were commanded by your God to tell me the truth. But you also didn’t want to offend me – another stupid barrier we put up against you. And I don’t know about anyone else, and I wouldn’t have admitted it, but I kind of wanted you to offend me – after all, who’s not up for a hearty debate?

But a lot of you refused to. A lot of you kept silent. A lot of you knew you had to tell me about your God, but you refused. You would have rather talked about TV shows, or the latest movies, or argue politics. And honestly, I appreciated that. But now I hate you for that. That was the biggest, most unforgiving offense of all – keeping silent.

I’m not saying I would have accepted your God as my God – I’m not. I’m just saying, at least you would have been loving me the way you were supposed to. And at least I would have had more to ponder on those many nights I laid awake tossing and turning in bed, wondering if putting all my stock in multiple gods and flawed prophets is the wisest choice.

But here I am – you know where. You can tell, because of how old and charred and illegible this paper is. I’ve been here for decades, and I’ll be here for trillions of centuries and more. Every now and then I take a peak upward and see miniscule shafts of light pouring in from your World and I cry out to your God to save me – SAVE ME! – but He has trapped His echo in this furnace with me for all eternity: “You had your chance. I did My part. I offered My gift, but you refused it every single time.”

To those of you who spoke of your God to me: Thank you. To those of you who didn’t: Shape up and open your mouths, and ask your God to prevent more cages from filling up down here.

- Eternally Lost

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For Whom the “Bell” Tolls: My Thoughts on Velvet Elvis – Part 2

For the first part of this review, click here.

“Is the Bible the best God can do?” asks Bell. Apparently not, because he doesn’t seem to be sure God even wrote the Bible to begin with. He wonders if Corinthians, for example, is written by Paul or God or God through Paul or Paul through God. I wonder, as he’s standing at the pulpit on Sunday mornings preaching through 1 Timothy what he does with chapter 3 verse 16 (“All Scripture is inspired by God…”), but there’s really no reason for him to preach out of the Bible anyway, according to him. 

“The Bible is open-ended,” he says. “We cannot simply do what it says,” because it first must be interpreted. Meaning, “Someone has to decide what it means.” Yes, he’s saying that the Bible can be interpreted in any way we’d like. “When someone tells you what the Bible means, it’s not true.” It’s just their interpretation. Yes, this man is the pastor of a mega church. If you’re not yet wondering about the devastating effects of the gut-wrenching statements here, take the time to read some reviews on this book online. People really think this is deep, sound, theological teaching and many say it has changed their lives. I have no doubt their lives have been changed because Rob Bell the “superpastor” is releasing people from the obligation of obeying the Words of God. No one ever said a changed life is a holy life. 

To take this hellish theology further, he gives the example of a leader in his church who had a question about a section found in the Bible and after asking many learned people and consulting many references to no avail, she in the end, decided to just go right back to the Bible to see what it had to say about this topic. Bell’s response? That’s “toxic.” And if that’s not far enough, he says that Jesus Himself gives His followers permission to make new interpretations of the Bible (somehow he gets this idea from Matthew 16:9 and 18:18).

Earlier in his book he admitted that Jesus came to fulfill the Word of God by giving it flesh and bones. Now he’s telling his readers to do what they think Jesus is saying, not what He is saying. After all, it wasn’t until the 300’s the sixty-six books were agreed upon, according to Bell. “This is part of the problem with continually insisting that one of the absolutes of the Christian faith must be a belief that ‘Scripture alone’ is our guide. It sounds nice, but it is not true.” 

If you want to irk Bell, tell him that you attend a church that teaches the Bible. According to him a church that’s growing has an easy yoke. Do you want to know why that church has “easy yoke”? Because it’s not holding its congregation to the standards of the Bible. The church may present an easier yoke on Sunday, but what are the attendee’s lives like the rest of the week, being starved for the Word of God, and having it withheld time after time?

Many yokes seem easy, which is what people will likely flock to. People want the easiest dieting books, the simplest instructions, the lighter load, the church that has very few standards and does not convict with the two-edged sword of the Holy Word of God. Many churches like this will grow. And why shouldn’t they? They’re giving out milk and honey! But over time that trampoline will get overcrowded and the few springs holding everyone up will give way and the party will end when the whole thing comes crashing down. Did I mention that not once, if my memory serves correctly, does Bell make any reference to Satan and the unseen world? 

To be concluded…

 

Fullness In Christ

The following is taken from The Valley of Vision by Arthur Bennett. To those of us trying to find fulfillment in passions, pleasures, satisfactions, cravings, needs, and wants other than in Christ: 

O God, though hast taught me that Christ has all fullness and so all plenitude of the Spirit, that all fullness I lack in myself is in Him, for His people, not for Himself, alone, He having perfect knowledge, grace, righteousness, to make me see, to make me righteous, to give me fullness; that it is my duty, out of a sense of emptiness, to go to Christ, possess, enjoy His fullness as mine, as if I had it in myself, because it is for me in Him; that when I do this I am full of the Spirit, as a fish that has got from the shore to the sea and has all fullness of waters to move in, for when faith fills me, then I am full; that this is the way to be filled with the Spirit, like Stephen, first faith, then fullness, for this way makes me most empty, and so most fit for the Spirit to fill.

Thou hast taught me that the finding of this treasure of all grace in the field of Christ begets strength, joy, glory, and renders all graces alive.

Help me to delight more in what I receive from Christ, more in that fullness which is in Him, the fountain of all His glory.

Let me not think to receive the Spirit from Him as a “thing” apart from finding, drinking, being filled with Him.

To this end, O God, do thou establish me in Christ, settle me, give me a being there, assure me with certainty that all this is mine, for this only will fill my heart with joy and peace.

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