Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Prayer for President-Elect Obama

Yesterday Senator Obama was elected President of the United States. Once again, the country was pretty evenly split in their choice but this time the Democrats won some key States that decided the election. Whatever you're political views, Sen. Obama will soon be our President. With that, we have a responsibility to pray for him and ask God to protect and direct him.

Today my wife got her hair cut. The Berlin girl she uses likes to practice speaking English so Priscilla talked with her about the election. The girl then said something that immediately got her attention. While Germans like Obama, this girl was worried about him. In broken English and with a very worried look on her face she said, "He could be like Kennedy." Priscilla realized the girl was referring to the assassination of President Kennedy.

The United States has now elected the first African American to be it's President. While this is a huge step toward racial equality, if something sinister happened to our President elect, theUnited States could explode into unbelievable civil chaos. 

President-elect Obama and his family really needs our prayers! Let's not let him and our country down! Let's cover President-elect Obama with prayers of protect and let's ask God to expose any and all evil plots against him. Now's the time for all Christians to drop any politically oriented fever and join together in prayer as God has instructed the Church to do.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

The Ultimate Bailout!

Today there's a lot of fear about the world economy. Most of the trouble began when house loans were granted to people who, in the long run, couldn't pay. There are millions of loan contracts that will now need to be discarded or changed. As a result many huge companies have failed and the government has had to step in to bail them out of this mess.

God made a contract with Israel. He explained the terms of the contract to Moses which we call the Old Covenant or Testament. But Israel was unable to meet the demands of that contract. In the same way people and companies today have contracts they can't fulfill and therefore need new ones, so to a new contract was needed in order for people to be in proper relationship with God.

God stepped into the human problem and offered the ultimate bailout by issuing a new contract. This new contract didn't depend on the actions and abilities of the people it was signed and paid for by the blood of Jesus. The Bible calls this contract the New Covenant or Testament. Unlike the old contract, man is now able to successfully relate to God and it is freely offered to everyone by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. It's exciting to receive the new life, forgiveness of all wrongs and the fresh relationship with God the new contract provides. 

Unfortunately many Christians are still focusing on the old contract with God and don't seem to realize a new contract has been issued. They continue trying to fulfill the terms of the old contract and can't understand why it doesn't bring the results they expect. They need to realize the old contract is no longer in effect. Jesus came to fulfill (complete) the old contract and establish a new one that really works.

Here are some clear differences between the Old Covenant and the New Covenant:

Old Covenant

1) Presented by Moses for Israel

2) God’s presence lived in a Tent

3) People couldn’t make personal contact with God

4) It’s based on what you do for God

5) It focuses on your actions

6) It’s applied by keeping rules and regulations (The Law)

7) It depends on your love for God

8) It depends on your faithfulness

9) It is sin conscious

10) The motive is duty to God

11) It deals with outward conduct

12) It can’t bring in inward transformation

13) Lawbreakers were judged, some put to death 

14) It produced servants and slaves to God

New Covenant

1) Presented by Jesus for the entire world

2) God lives in His people through the Holy Spirit

3) People can be in personal contact with God through the blood of Jesus

4) It’s based on what God does for you

5) It focuses on Jesus’ actions

6) It’s applied by Grace through Faith

7) It depends on God’s love for you

8) It depends on God’s faithfulness

9) It is Jesus conscious

10) The motive is love for God

11) It deals with inward heart

12) It brings in inward transformation resulting in outward change

13) Sinners are forgiven when they repent

14) It produces sons and daughters of God

Tuesday, September 30, 2008


When I was young I was a skinny weakling. I didn’t know how to fight and was constantly picked on by bullies. While playing basketball in our neighborhood park one Saturday afternoon, an older boy picked a fight with me. Although I lost every fight I ever had, I wasn’t a coward so I stood my ground. My face soon became a punching bag for that mean kid. It wasn’t pretty and I needed help.

After being hit several times, someone finally came to my rescue. I wish I could say it was my macho big brother or a kind-hearted muscle man who stepped up to save me but unfortunately that wasn’t the case. It was someone who brings shame to every young man who needs help, it was my younger sister. She saw what was happening and came running to my rescue. She got right in the bullies face and started hitting him. He realized her fury and took off. I was thrilled that I was no longer being punched but I was also humiliated. There is nothing more embarrassing for a boy than to have his younger sister win a fight for him.

I’m so glad those years are past and I don’t have to stand up against bullies any more. But the battles of life rage on in much the same way as in my young life. I’m constantly faced with challenges both spiritually and naturally. Maintaining healthy relationships, walking pure before God, fulfilling the purpose God has for my life and maintaining my physical healthy – all these and more are daily battles I face. Just like a wicked bully, there is an enemy who wants to destroy me or at least make me ineffective and miss the goal God has planned for my life.

It’s reassuring to know I don’t face life’s battles alone. Jesus stands with me and helps me fight every battle. In fact, He is my strength and He is the one who fights the enemy on my behalf. The Apostle Paul wrote this about the tremendous challenges he had; “…in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.” (Rom. 8:37) When King Jehoshaphat was facing an overwhelming enemy a prophet comforted him with these words, “Don’t be afraid, neither be dismayed by reason of this great multitude; for the battle is not yours, but God’s.” (2 Chronc. 20:15)

Everyday we should renew our committment to the Lord. We should set our hearts to walk with Him and live in Him. When we do, He will fight our battles and He will be the one who rescues us.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Like Jesus

1John 2:6  Anyone who claims to be intimate with God ought to live the same kind of life Jesus lived. (The Message)

While reading through the New Testament during the months of July and August I was continually challenged with Scriptures that instruct Christians to walk and live as Jesus did. I see so many areas of my life that are definitely not like Jesus and need change therefore the main focus of my devotional prayers each morning has been the cry to be made one with God.

Often life becomes a blur. We rush along doing the things we need to do. We have responsibilities, people depending on us and work that needs to get done. Many times we loose focus of the truly important things in life. One of those things is being the person God created us to be. I’m not saying do the work He wants us to do (although that’s also important) rather be the person – have and demonstrate the character God desires from us, character that is in harmony with the life, ministry and teachings of Jesus.

Humans were originally created in the image of God but they were quickly filled with and embraced everything but His image. Reading through Genesis reveals the depth of man’s departure from God. Mankind was so wicked they were all destroyed except for Noah and his family. Then after Noah, even those God chose to become His people were deceitful scoundrels. Jacob (later named Israel) tricked his brother into giving him his birthright and then deceived his father into blessing him instead of Esau (which gave him all of Esau’s power and wealth).

Even after thousands of years, the story hasn’t changed much. People are still deceptive self-servers who seem to love darkness rather than light. If we’re honest, that’s us. But that shouldn’t be us. God has a different plan. He wants us to be filled with Himself, to walk in the light, to love one another and be willing to lay down our lives for His purposes. Not only does God want this, He has provided everything needed for us to experience it.

On the day of Pentecost something amazing happened to the disciples. They had been frightened cowards who ran when Jesus was arrested. Peter even denied Jesus with curses when asked by a girl if he was a follower of Jesus. But the followers of Jesus were transformed on the day of Pentecost. Peter’s boldness that day was remarkable. Without hesitation he proclaimed to thousands of people that they had crucified the son of God. Peter was remarkably transformed and so were the other disciples.

We too can be transformed. God desires to fill us with Himself. He desires us to walk in HIS ways, to love with HIS love and to express HIS character to those we contact in life. This isn’t some idealistic dream. It's truly God’s desire. Let’s open our hearts, cry out to God and believe for a transformation in our lives.When we do so, I have no doubt - HE WILL ANSWER!!! 

Monday, September 22, 2008

The REAL Goal and Purpose of Jesus

This is an article I wrote for an online Christian Writers forum. It wasn't written for a blog so it might read more formal than most blogs.

Have you ever been suddenly surprised with something you read in the Bible? I’ve been a Christian for decades during which I’ve been an avid student of Scripture. I have a Bachelor’s degree in Theology and preached my first sermon more than 35 years ago. I’m not often surprised by something I read in the Bible, but today I was very surprised!

To see Scripture from a fresh perspective, I’ve been reading through the New Testament using the paraphrased version written by Eugene Peterson entitled The Message. I think Professor Peterson has done a magnificent job using the modern English language, with crystal clear terms, phrases and idioms, to capture the heart and intent of Scripture. 

Today I was reading something Jesus said as recorded in the gospel of John in the last part of Chapter 14 verse 28 ”…the Father is the goal and purpose of my life.” I’ve read that verse in the Message many times before but suddenly it captured my attention. Jesus said His goal and purpose in life was the Father. While I know The Message is not a word for word Greek translation of the New Testament, still this wording intrigued me. Could there be something to it? 

I always thought Jesus’ goal and purpose in life was to redeem mankind from their sin, to restore fallen mankind into relationship with God. Suddenly I stopped to think. I found myself reviewing the Scriptures I knew so well stating the purpose of Jesus. Two of the many Scriptures that quickly came to mind were both written by the same person, the Apostle John. He wrote in Chapter 3 verse 8 of his first letter; “…For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil.” In his gospel Chapter 3 verses 16 and 17 John wrote; “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.” 

So what is this? Jesus stating that His purpose and goal in life is the Father. Can a person have more than one purpose and goal in life?

Then I began to think about other Scriptures which support the idea that the Father was Jesus’ goal and purpose in life. The Apostle Paul conveyed the same attitude when he wrote to the Philippians in Chapter 1 verse 21; “For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” He also wrote in Chapter 3 verses 8 through 14 of the same letter that his goal was Christ and that he was willing to lose everything to know Christ and to be in Christ. Clearly the Apostle Paul’s goal was Jesus Christ just like Jesus’ goal was the Father.

Jesus often explained to His followers that everything He did was at the direction of the Father. The things Jesus spoke, the decisions He made and the actions He took – everything, without exception, was directed by the Father. Several times Jesus strongly emphasized to His disciples the concept of beingone. He said He was one with the Father and that we should be one with Him.

As all of these various thoughts ran through my mind, things suddenly began to fall into place. The Father’s purpose for Jesus was to redeem mankind, while Jesus’ goal and purpose in life was the Father. Jesus kept the Father constantly in His mind and heart – the Father was His goal and purpose – not redeeming mankind. While that may sound like a contradiction I can see how they perfectly fit together. 

Jesus wasn’t focused on saving people He was focused on being one with His Heavenly Father - listening to the Father, visualizing (seeing) what the Father was doing and saying what the Father wanted said. Jesus’ goal and purpose in life was the Father - being completely in harmony and at one with the Father. Since the goal of the Father was redemption, by Jesus living with the Father as His goal and purpose, Jesus fulfilled the purpose of the Father, the redemption of mankind.

Upon realizing this about Jesus – that His goal and purpose in life was the Father and not the work of redemption – I began seeing how many of the things Jesus taught His disciples are in perfect harmony with this. Jesus stressed that His followers needed to be one with Him and to abide in Him. He taught His followers to lay down their lives and follow Him. He also taught that those who really love Him will do whatever He tells them to do. 

The things Jesus taught His followers clearly speak to me of His desire for full integration with Him in all aspects of life. Followers of Jesus need to have Jesus as the goal and purpose of their lives just as Jesus had the Father as His goal and purpose in life. When they do, then the work God desires to be accomplished through Jesus’ followers will be realized. 

While the work God has for people in this life is important, they shouldn’t focus on that work, rather on Jesus. Focusing on the work (or calling) is the natural and normal thing to do but focusing on the work can lead people to do things their own way, with their own wisdom and in their own strength. It’s very possible burn-out, breakdowns and failures are the result of people with good intentions trying to do the work God has for them on their own. 

The Apostle Paul used an interesting phrase when he wrote to the Corinthians in Chapter 3 versus 9 of his first letter; “For we are laborers together with God…”. People need to learn to work with God and not just for God. They need to realize how wise God is. If they abide in Christ and focus on Him, the Holy Spirit will lead them to do things that will supernaturally accomplish the work God has called them to do. He is the Master of the universe. He knows exactly what needs to be done and how it needs to be done.

If people focus on oneness with Him and obeying what He instructs them to do – nothing more and nothing less – then the work will be successfully accomplished and He will say to them, “Well done good and faithful servant.”

Thursday, September 18, 2008

It's not Personal

Have you ever struggled when someone criticizes something you’ve done? I sure have.

One Sunday afternoon I found myself slipping into a light depression after a faithful member of our church shared with me some things I’m doing in our church he thought needed to be changed. Eventually I realized what he shared with me was true and needed to be changed, but the impact it had on me was troubling.

At first I found myself defending my actions. It was obvious I was a bit hurt so my friend stated what’s typically said at such times, “It’s not personal.” As I paused and thought about it for a moment, everything within me wanted to shout, “It sure feels personal, and how can it not be personal when I’m the person doing it?” Fortunately I’ve learned enough self-control and have enough wisdom to keep my mouth shut at times like that.

As my wife and I traveled home from church that afternoon there was an uneasy silence in the car. She had been in on the discussion and knew where I was and what I was feeling. She wisely decided to give me space to figure this out myself. From past experience she realized nothing would change in me through her attempts to help me understand things better. A somber atmosphere prevailed throughout the afternoon and into the evening despite the kind and gentle gestures I received from my wife.

My initial attempts to sleep that night were futile. I tossed and turned and felt heaviness and sadness in my soul. Finally I got out of bed and headed for my study. There I knelt before the Lord and opened my heart to share with him my pain. I tearfully expressed my need for Him - to be filled with Him and to live in Him. I gave the situation to the Lord and asked for His will to be accomplished. My heart was consumed with the Scripture from Acts 17:28 “for in Him we live and move and have our being…” I repeated it over and over, “My life is yours Lord. I want you and I want you to fill me completely, Lord.”

Soon a wonderful peace filled my heart. I realized things would be OK. If my brother was right and I needed to change, even if it was embarrassing and humbling, it would be OK. No longer was I feeling sad, disturbed and depressed about the situation. I returned to bed and had a sound night of sleep.

For the next few days I thought about the issues and asked others on our church leadership team what they thought.

Once again, during my devotional time I took this situation to the Lord. That time my concern wasn’t the suggested changes I should make, rather why I was hurt and why I take criticism personally. While I’m still in the process of discovering the answers, some things became clearer to me.

It is very difficult for me to separate what I do from who I am, especially as a minister of the Gospel. I believe strongly that the actions and conduct of a person are expressions of the 'real person'. Many times people say one thing about themselves but that really is not who they are - what they actually do shows who they are. Therefore, separating what I do from who I am is extremely difficult for me. When there is a criticism about what I do, it feels like a criticism about me as a person.

As I prayed about those concepts my eyes began to open a bit. The things I do in life won’t be perfect and continually need adjusting and evaluation. The things I do in life will at times fall short of the mark. But the person God has made me is always unconditionally loved, valued and fully accepted by God. As a person, I’m not looked at by God as one who has failed, even though at times my actions fail. I’m looked at by God as a loved son who is growing.

I thought about my friend who had shared his critique with me. He wasn’t trying to say something bad about me as a person. I know he loves me and values me (he tells me and shows me that all the time). He simply sees something I am doing, that he feels needs to be changed. That’s all. It’s REALLY not personal. Now I’m beginning to understand.

My prayer is that God will continue to open and heal my overly sensitive heart from the tendency to take criticism personally. I’m glad I’ve taken the first step and I know there will be many more as I travel the road of life.

BTW - A few weeks have now past since that encounter. The suggstion my friend made were right and the changes we've made have proven to be a real blessings to the church.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

One Opportunity

…For what is your life? It is a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away. (James 4:14)

In relation to eternity, the lifetime we spend on this earth is like a vapor that appears and then is instantly gone. We need to make the best of the opportunity we have here on earth, whether it’s 19 years or 99 years.  

I first met Ken during a workday for our church. We were roofing a house the church had just purchased next to the University of Santa Clara. Ken and his friend Tim had just moved to California after finishing a two year Electronics Trade College in Arizona. Somehow they heard about our church, joined us that day, worked hard and instantly became one with our young, primarily ex-hippy congregation.  

Ken had an infectious smile, was always seeing the best in people and knew how to listen with sincere interest. Being from West Texas he had an distinct Texas draw that went right along with his laid back personality. It was hard not to like Ken.  

Most of us were around 19 or 20 and without college educations while Ken was 22 and had finished a two year college. That made him one of the older, more educated guys in our troop. Ken was also a real servant with a clear pastoral calling. It wasn't long before he was invited onto the leadership team of our church.  

After about a year Ken traveled back to Arizona to retrieve something very special he left there, his future wife Debbie. Debbie had beautiful long blonde hair and a smile that matched Ken’s. She loved sports and had been a gymnast in college until she injured her knee and was forced to retire from competition. She also deeply loved God and was a perfect match for Ken.  

Within a couple of years Ken was asked to become the assistant pastor of our church. At that time my wife and I were serving as Elders in the church (by now we were about 22). The four of us quickly became friends and over the next couple of years we were best friends. Soon after we had our first child, Ken and Debbie did too. Ours was a girl, theirs a boy.  

As I said, Ken was hard not to like. Much different than myself. I would give people a hard time without cause simply because I was insecure and self-centered. I remember getting angry with Ken for calling me 'Bubba'. I hated it and I let him know it. He gently explained that in Texas 'Bubba' is a form of endearment but I wouldn’t have anything to do with it. Even so, he always smiled and was understanding with my childish behavior.  

One Christmas Ken and Debbie decided to spend the holidays with her parents in Arizona. They called us and asked if we would water their plants and take care of their Canary (which sang more than I could stand). 

We met with them and Priscilla went through the house with Debbie to learn about all the plants while I visited outside with Ken just before they left on their trip. I can’t remember what the argument was about, but I remember that I was angry with Ken and made it known in no uncertain terms.  

The next evening we had a Christmas musical production at our church. As I walked in I could tell something was wrong. Our pastor had a lost look on his face and nothing was being done or said. Then he slowly walked to the microphone and broke the news, “There’s been a terrible car accident. Our brother Ken and his son are now with Jesus and Debbie is in critical condition.” I immediately collapsed to the floor in shock and grief. I’m not sure how long I was on the floor and I don’t remember much else at the church after that.  

The next day my wife and I left for Bakersfield to be with Debbie while she lay in a hospital bed. We spent the next few days with her until she also slipped away to be with the Lord having never regained consciousness.  

For months I was in deep, deep pain. Not only had I lost my best friend, my last words with him were angry, unkind and self-serving. I remember one day lying on my living floor crying with remorse about my actions and the loose of my dear friend. Then I began to picture Ken in heaven. If there is any truth I knew about Ken it was his immense love and forgiving heart. I suddenly realized, no matter what I had done, Ken would forgive me and still love me. I then pictured Ken in heaven, I asked his forgiveness and I pictured him forgiving me. From that moment on, my heart began to slowly heal.

That situation taught me two extremely powerful life lessons. First, tomorrow is not guaranteed. Life is extremely fragile. It could be gone in an instant whether we are spiritual or not. We have no idea how long we have on this earth so we need to make the most of the short time we are given. I am determined to use the opportunity I have in this life to reach as many people as possible with God’s amazing love and grace.

Second, I need to be as kind and loving to every people as I possibly can at all times. There is no guarantee I will have a second chance to make things right later. Therefore, it's vital to maintain right relationships.

I must confess, as the years have gone by, I haven't been as diligent about those commitments as I could have been but as I write this story, recalling the details for the first time in more than 30 years, I am deeply moved again to make the best out of the ONE opportunity I have been given in this life.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Is Jesus MINE?

There's a wonderful hymn many Christian know well; “Blessed Assurance, Jesus is mine, oh what a foretaste of glory divine…” While I love that song, I’ve recently had questions about its words. This started when I read a poem which suggested people interested in a relationship with God should pray, “Jesus be mine”. While I know the poet was innocent and well-meaning, when I read the words of that poem something didn’t seem right to me. But what could possibly be wrong with people praying, “Jesus be mine”?

As I meditated on it, I slowly began seeing a subtle flaw in that beautiful phrase Jesus is Mine. Jesus is not mine - I am His. That might sound picky and insignificant, but I see a world of difference between the two. When we say ‘Jesus is mine’ we make ourselves the possessor of Jesus. Instead, we should be making Jesus the possessor (our Lord) by saying ‘Jesus I’m yours’.

Most Christians would be shocked to learn that the Bible doesn’t teach people to invite Jesus into their lives. The Bible instructs people to surrender their lives to Him - to make Jesus Lord of their lives. The Bible teaches Christians they are no longer their own, they are God’s possession.

Even though Blessed Assurance was written in 1873, it’s catchy phrase ‘Jesus is mine’, reflects a dangerous thinking among many Christian oriented people today. For many people, life is made up of various parts; profession, family, friends, recreation, God and country. They view Christianity simply as another part of their lives – the spiritual or God part. They may attend church, worship on Sunday and even give offerings but often Jesus not the Lord of their life, He’s simply a part of their life. It’s much easier for people to fulfill their weekly or monthly religious duty and then get on with their ‘normal’ lives than to make Jesus their Lord. Unfortunately they have made Jesus their possession instead of being His possession.

This realization has affected the way I now pray. I’m beginning to recognize how self centered much of my praying has been. Now, instead of focusing on prayers that benefit and serve my life, I’ve started praying that Jesus will have complete control of my life - that I will be His possession. Not my will, but His be done!