Yes, It Is Him!

Visiting with an older gentleman one day, the discussion turned to faith. I asked him outright, “Do you know Jesus as your Lord and Savior?” The man was very kind and said, “Let me tell you what I know about Jesus.”

We were sitting on his porch while he was rocking in his rocking chair. I had visited this man several times while I was pastor in the little community. Life had not been good to this old gentleman, it was plain to see. He had farmed the land around his home for over 50 years. He was rugged and had worked in the fields most of his life and his skin was well parched. His eyes showed wear from years of squinting in the sun.

The old man began by saying, “My daddy farmed this land for many years before me and taught me all I know about farming. When I was a child, the preacher used to come visit us often, much like you have been doing. My momma and daddy attended church regularly on Sundays and took me with them. I listened to preacher deliver those messages and sometimes I would get that feeling that he was talking to me, but I mostly ignored it.”

“I grew up going to that church and listened to many a pastor preach over the years. I even became friends with some of those pastors when I grew up and took over the farming. Farming came natural for me and I could grow practically anything. It didn’t take much effort from me. Oh sure, farming is hard work, don’t get me wrong. Either it’s in you or it ain’t!”

I heartily agreed with the old man. I said, “I feel the same way about being a pastor. It’s either in you, or it’s not!” I will say that I have enjoyed the fruits of the pastorate, wherever I served. I said, “continue with your story.”

The old man sat back in his rocker and continued telling his story. “My upbringing taught me to respect the pastor and his family. I did that and became very close with one pastor. For years, he would come visit now and then and we would have great conversations. Oftentimes we would talk about Jesus and I would get off on another subject. I felt like I knew Jesus pretty well.”

I told the old man, “I’m sure you heard plenty about Him when you attended church. But what I want to know is, do you know him intimately, in your heart?” I could tell that the old man was becoming somewhat uncomfortable. He would change the subject every time he felt the Holy Spirit working on him.

As many times as I have visited this man, I knew when the Holy Spirit was working on him. It was clear to me that day that he was definitely under conviction and I did not want to leave until this man knew Jesus intimately.

I decided it was time for me to take control of the conversation and I began to share my testimony about how I experienced the touch of the Master Himself. After sharing with him, I could see his eyes beginning to tear up. I paused for a moment and watched a tear trickle down this old man’s cheek. He quickly grabbed his handkerchief from his overalls and wiped the tear. Perhaps I was a little melodramatic about my testimony, but it meant that much to me. I looked at the man and he was looking directly into my eyes and I simply said to him, “I sense that you have never had an intimate relationship with Jesus. Do you want to know Him that way today?”

“I don’t know preacher, I think Jesus must have given up on me years ago. I got to where I would go to church and it was the same old thing and I was just not feeling anything,” he said.

I told him, I had heard that same story over and over during my years as a pastor. Then I reached over and placed my hand on his arm very gently and as I did, I felt the power of the Spirit go through my arm into that man’s body. I was reminded of the woman who had touched Jesus’ garment. I truly felt as though God’s Spirit was present at that moment.

I said to the man, “Do you want to know Him, right now? You can! He never gave up on you and He has been here guiding you every day and He says today is your day! Don’t let this day go by without reaching out to Him and asking Him into your heart. You can do that! Won’t you do it?”

Tears began to stream down his cheeks and this time, he did not wipe them away. He said, “Yes preacher, I do!”

With that response, I quickly said, “would you pray with me and accept Jesus right now?” He replied with a hearty YES! I then led him in the sinner’s prayer and felt the power of the Holy Spirit take over that man’s life, immediately.

When we were through praying, he said, “Is that it? That’s all I had to do?”

I said, “Yes, it is that simple. Even a child can do it. So, how do you feel?”

The man was so overjoyed and he said, “It is Him! It is Him! I feel him right here!” He pointed to his chest and said again, “It is Him! I finally know Him!”

We embraced and praised God together.

He told me how he had always read the story and even heard it preached about how Thomas had doubted that the disciples had seen Jesus. He said, “I’ve often wondered what it would be like to reach out and touch Jesus and today I now know what it’s like! Thomas, you finally showed me what happened to you. It certainly is Him!”

Isn’t it strange that so often people live this kind of life not really knowing what it’s like to know Jesus that intimately? Anyone who is open to hearing the truth and accepting it, can have that feeling today.

Yes, it is Him!

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Why Me?

This is a question that I hear quite often. Why me? I presume people ask the question because something bad has happened to them or something wrong has happened to them. Some people even venture to blame God for their misfortune. It is easy to blame God. Some do it out of disgust while others do it out of shame. Many even claim to be Christian and yet they don’t understand why these things happen to them.

Let me offer my suggestion regarding three teachings in the Bible that just don’t seem to fit together.

  • God is good. This simply means that God is absolutely pure. Not only is God pure but He also hates evil. He has to deal with everything that is in rebellion to Him.
  • God is great. God is all-powerful and He can conquer anything that challenges Him.
  • Evil is real. There are things out in the world that are in rebellion to God and that are at this very moment challenging Him.

So, here is the problem, God would know about evil. If God is really good, then why doesn’t He condemn it and do something about it? Also, if God is truly great—in other words, if He is all-powerful—then why wouldn’t He actually do what His goodness demands and destroy evil?

Do you see the problem? As Christians we believe God is good and He is great, and yet evil still exists and on a magnificent scale. How do we understand this?

Here are some examples of solutions by people who deny the existence of God.

  • Deny God’s existence—and, with it, the reality of evil.

This sounds simple enough, wouldn’t you think? If God is good and great, the He would certainly destroy evil. And since evil is not destroyed, there must be no God.

Here is the problem with that thinking—a lot of people seem to miss the fact that if you throw out the idea of God, you have also thrown out the meaning of evil. You see, in an atheistic universe there is no actual good or evil, and therefore no absolute standard by which to judge anything as being ultimately right or wrong. So, all we are left with is are preferences. I have mine and you have yours. Robbery and murder are not my forte, but they might be somebody else’s. Who are we to say what others do is wrong? On the same token, who are they to judge what we are doing?

Now, we can do and make up rules and laws to try to help us get along with one another. But if these rules and laws are not grounded in any objective reality or standards beyond mere human opinion, then what makes them right versus wrong? They are just human preferences.

We should not forget that Adolf Hitler and Saddam Hussein, for example, had their preferences, which they imposed on their nations. Now, we can say we don’t like it and we can fight to try to stop it, but we’re left with the unanswerable question, “why accept our values over theirs?”

We know—unmistakably and undeniably—that evil is real and that some things, whether legalized and legitimized by society or not, are simply wrong. So, if evil is real, if it truly goes against a set of universal moral standards, it is a powerful indicator that there must be a transcendent moral lawgiver.

  • Deify evil.

This comes primarily through Eastern thought, especially Hinduism and Buddhism, and through the New Age teachings in the West. Everything is part of God, these religions tell us—so the thing we call evil is actually, as we saw in the Eastern-influenced story of Star Wars, just the “dark side of the force.”

But if everything is part of god—not a personal God as the Bible teaches, but an all-encompassing impersonal god as is taught in these pantheistic worldviews—then evil and suffering are part of that god too. So, the problem then is that we are supposed to join with the very thing that contains evil within itself!

  • Diminish God’s power. Deny God’s greatness.

This viewpoint says that God does exist but is limited. He is good and He sees the evil, but He lacks the power to do much about it. This simply comes from various strains of liberal Christian theology.

We see this idea that God is not all-powerful at a popular level in the best-selling book When Bad Things Happen to Good People, by Rabbi Harold Kushner.

There are major problems with this teaching. First, it denies what the Bible tells us—in both the Old Testament (including the Jewish Torah) and the New Testament—about a God who is unlimited in His power; who is unchanging; and who has Satan, the ultimate embodiment of evil, under His feet, ready to crush him at any moment.

How can we know that ultimately there will be any victory over evil? If God is limited, how do we know anything solid about the future? This is simply a weak and unbiblical attempt to explain evil.

  • Diminish God’s goodness.

This only suggests that God knows about evil and has the power to vanquish it, but apparently doesn’t care enough to deal with it. He lacks the goodness to take action, letting evil just go on.

A lot of people in the midst of pain and suffering are, consciously or unconsciously, tempted to flirt with this idea. They have privately shaken their fists at God and said to themselves, “He must not be good; He must not care; He must not be loving—why else would I be going through this?

You see, during those difficult times, it is easy to overlook all the ways God has been good to us. It is common in the middle of a drought, for example, to forget that rain is the norm.

So, yes, bad things do happen, but a lot of good things do, too. Perhaps this is one of the reasons the Bible stresses the importance of gratitude—so we will remember God’s many acts of goodness in our lives.

There are many recorded revelations all through the Bible that assure us God is good. And the historical record of God’s patient dealings with His people certainly bears out those claims.

There is nothing we can say to make people suddenly okay with the evil around them or the suffering in their lives. Because—to be honest—we are not okay with it, either! Christianity offers the most satisfying answer to this problem.

Kingdom of God

This is a question that has come up often: Are we living in the Kingdom of God now? So, allow me to try to address the Kingdom of God first. What is it? Psalm 103:19 says, “The Lord has established His throne in the heavens, and His sovereignty [kingdom] rules over all.” (NASB) I like what John Piper says, “the basic meaning of the word kingdom in the Bible is God’s reign — R-E-I-G-N — not realm or people.” He follows that up with “The kingdom creates a realm, the kingdom creates a people, but the kingdom of God is not synonymous with its realm or its people.”

God does sit on His throne of the universe and He rules His kingdom and His reign. In Revelation 19:6, the Apostle John writes: “Then I heard something like the voice of a great multitude and like the sound of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, saying, “Hallelujah! For the Lord our God, the Almighty, reigns.” The Greek word “Pantokrator” is our English word “Almighty,” which means “Omnipotent.” This means God is the ruler of all or ruler of the universe.

The Bible says Jesus answered Pilate when he asked Jesus the simple question in John 18:33, “…are you the king of the Jews?” Jesus replied in verse 36, “…My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, then My servants would be fighting so that I would not be handed over to the Jews; but as it is, My kingdom is not of this realm.” The emphasis here is “My kingdom is not of this world or realm.” In fact, Mark 1:14-15 tells us, “…Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”

The prophet Daniel said in chapter 2:44, “In the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which will never be destroyed, and that kingdom will not be left for another people; it will crush and put an end to all these kingdoms, but it will itself endure forever.” The kingdom of God will replace the governments of this earth. The kingdom of God will be established on the earth when the Lord Jesus returns. Revelation 11:15 states, “Then the seventh angel sounded; and there were loud voices in heaven, saying, ‘the kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ; and He will reign forever and ever.’” We prepare for that kingdom by living according to rules of the kingdom now. Our task is to learn what God’s laws are and then to begin living in accordance with the rules of that Kingdom.

We simply need to pray for God’s kingdom to come. It is not here yet. It is present in your midst, upon you, at hand. How can that be? The answer is, the kingdom of God is God’s reign. God’s sovereign action in this world is to redeem and deliver His people and then at a future time, He will finish it and renew His people and the universe completely.

Life Demands All

M. Scott Peck begins his inspiring book The Road Less Traveled with this profound statement: “Life is difficult!”

Many people today have a different perspective on this. It is easy for us to sit back and want to believe that life should be easy. Instead, the road most travelled is full of complaining about life’s difficulties.

I find that life with Jesus Christ makes life so much easier. However, when one decides to follow Jesus, life is very costly. I believe it is pretty clear in the Sermon on the Mount that living with Jesus actually means walking a road less traveled. Matthew 7:13-14 (NASB) very well describes it. “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.”

Jesus also makes it very clear that He promises abundant life to those who will follow Him, while at the same time following Him is difficult and very costly. So if we elect to follow Him, we will travel the road less traveled.

It is one thing to be following Jesus for quite some time and then all of the sudden, He drops this question from Matthew 16:15 on us: “…But who do you say that I am?” If you are like me, you want to quickly say, as the disciples said, “You are the Messiah–the Son of the living God.” What we do not expect Him to say is that He must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law; and that He must be killed and after three days rise again!

In fact, the Apostle Peter could not handle those words and so he said in Matthew 16:22, “…God forbid it, LORD! This shall never happen to you.” Suffering and death just did not fit Peter’s concept of the Messiah. Does it fit in ours?

So what is this cost to follow Jesus? He put it very simple in Mark 8:34-35, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it.” Denying oneself is probably one of the most misunderstood and misapplied commands of our Lord. The word “deny” means “to resist,” “to reject,” or “to refuse.” In essence, it means to say “no.”

To deny oneself simply means to deny your self-lordship. In other words, it is saying “no” to the god who is me! I won’t bow down to my inward self anymore and I say “yes” to Jesus Christ as my Lord.

“Take up your cross.” Many folks just refer to an illness or a disability as their “cross” to bear. Jesus means much more than that. Jesus carried His cross through the streets to His own crucifixion. When a man carried his own cross through the streets, for all practical purposes he was a dead man. A man on his way to crucifixion was compelled to abandon all earthly hopes and ambitions. Jesus was telling us to think of ourselves as already dead, to bury all our earthly hopes and dreams, to bury the plans and agendas we made for ourselves.

Lose your life for My sake. Here is the mystery of the road less traveled. We finally find ourselves when we lose ourselves for Jesus’ sake. But what does that mean? By investing all that we are and have for Him and His gospel. By saying to Him, “Here is my home, my checkbook, my talents and gifts, my brain, my heart, my hands, my feet, my mouth. Lord, all this is Yours. Use it to glorify Yourself and further Your purpose on earth.

The road to Easter goes through Good Friday. The road to new life goes through the death of the old. The road to resurrection goes through crucifixion. Jesus calls us to walk that road, the road He walked.

I Just Want to be a Blessing

blessings signage mounted on wall
Photo by Bryan Schneider on Pexels.com

A wish, expression, or gift for the wellbeing of another. It can become an act in favor of the one being blessed. Ezekiel 34:26 says, “I will make them and the places around My hill a blessing. And I will cause showers to come down in their season; they will be showers of blessing” (NASB 1995).

Sometimes God blesses us through the hands of friends, relatives or even anonymous donors. The expression of a blessing is one I’ve heard many, many times. A friend of mine was an amputee and a youth director at a local church. He had only one leg and the other was a prosthesis. He had learned to walk very well with the prosthesis, sometimes unknown to others. He was handicapped and had a handicap placard that he kept in his car. Handicap placards are a blessing in themselves to those who need them. One day he parked in a handicap parking space and got out to go in the store. A lady saw him exit his car and walk towards the store and she didn’t even notice his prosthesis and immediately said, “You’re not handicapped, why are you parking there?” With a smile he quickly reached down, raised his pant leg up, and knocked on his leg like you would knock on a door and she heard the thud, thud, thud. Needless to say, she was quite embarrassed. He smiled and said, “That’s ok ma’am, it happens quite often.”

My friend was blessed beyond measure and he praised God daily for the fact that he had a prosthesis and was still able to serve God in his role. The following year my friend died from complications during surgery while still in his 30’s. He left behind a wife and young child. One of his favorite sayings was, “I just want to be a blessing.”

Wouldn’t be great if people had that kind of attitude every day. I know people have bad days and that’s normal. But if everyone would rise up in the morning and thank God for fact that first of all, they still have breath and can arise from bed. It doesn’t matter what time of the day you arise, it only takes a moment to whisper a prayer to God and thank Him for giving you breath and the ability to get up. For there are many who suffer infirmities and are unable to get up. Every Sunday I shake hands with a man at our church and he always says, “I still have breath and I’m able to stay above ground.” He says that with a smile and is always a joyful person.

Every day, whether we realize it or not, we receive a blessing from God. It is always a blessing to live another day. Now I just want to be a blessing to someone. Would you be a blessing to someone today? I pray God’s blessings for you today.

Home – God Is With Us!

What comes to your mind when you think of home? Is it where you live or where you were born or where you were raised? I personally think of home as where I was raised, and yes I was born there as well. Home has a very sentimental value to it, don’t you think?

How long has it been since you’ve been back home? To me, it has been somewhere around 30 years ago. I probably wouldn’t recognize the place anymore. Times are changing and the surroundings are also changing. My house used to be out in the country, but now it is in the city limits. In fact, when I look at Google Earth, the house is no longer standing. A business next to an apartment complex occupy the spot now. The orange grove across the road is now a golf course and the dirt road is now paved. I hate to think of what it looks like to drive by the old home place now.

I think now of the people in the Paradise, California area who are still sifting through their properties trying to find something salvageable due to the fires in that area. It is heart-breaking to think of what they are going through right now. Not only were homes lost but over 85 lives were lost due to the fire. Years of memories have literally gone up in smoke.

Now imagine how you would feel if you returned home to find everything burned to the ground. What feelings go through your mind? Are you angry, sad, grief-stricken, overwhelmed, or what? Going back home for these folks takes on a whole new meaning.

As I’m preparing my Sunday School lesson, these thoughts are running through my mind. Jacob was instructed to go back home after living and working for his father-in-law Laban for 20 years. God had blessed him with wives and children. These folks had never been to Canaan where Jacob was raised. But, because God told Jacob to go back home, he talked about it with his wives, Rachel and Leah, and they agreed to go.

Jacob had realized back in Bethel that God was there with him. Now he realizes that God will be with him even when he goes back to Canaan. There were plenty of unknowns he would face. Would his brother Esau kill him or would he accept him. To me the important thing to remember is that God is with him. That, in itself, would be good enough for me, as it was for Jacob.

Patiently Waiting!

second-coming

As I was teaching the Sunday School lesson this past Sunday, I mentioned how James tells us in James 5:7, that we’re to be patient “…until the coming of the Lord.” We hear that often, don’t we? Today we use the term, “just around the corner” when we refer to something about to happen. I’ve heard that the Lord will be coming soon all my life and I’m pretty sure you have as well.
That was God’s plan from the beginning to send His Son Jesus to save the world of its sin. Few Old Testament verses are better known than that of Isaiah 7:14, “Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign; Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel” (NASB).
The New Testament writers profoundly believed that in Christ the great messianic promises of the Old Testament found supreme fulfilment. The records of both Matthew and Luke support the belief that this prophecy had specific fulfilment in the birth of Christ.
Isaiah’s prophecy was given during the reign of Ahaz when Jerusalem was suffering pressure from a confederacy formed by Rezin, king of Syria, and Pekah, son of Remaliah, king of Israel (2 Kings 16:5; 2 Chronicles 28:5-6; Isaiah 7:1). The fall of the Northern Kingdom, then called Israel, had not yet taken place.
To protect himself against Rezin and Pekah, Ahaz sought an alliance with Tiglath-Pileser III, king of Assyria, sometimes called Asshur, and was depending on that alliance for help. The prophet Isaiah was vigorously opposed to the alliance. Ahaz was placing greater confidence in the assistance of a heathen king than in the help of God. Isaiah told Ahaz to believe that if the people would turn to God, then God would deliver them out of this crisis. He simply told Ahaz to ask for a sign from God as a guarantee that God’s assistance would be given.
Ahaz refused to ask for a sign and Isaiah gave him a sign anyway and told him those famous words in chapter 7:14, “Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign…” We all know that the sign was a child would be born of a virgin and his name would be Immanuel.
Looking back upon this marvelous assurance in the light of the New Testament, we must interpret the prophecy as having its highest fulfilment not in an event in Ahaz’s day, but in the coming of Him who is the Word that “…became flesh and dwelt among us…” (John 1:14). The New Testament affirms, Christ truly is “…God with us…” (Matthew 1:23). The name Immanuel means exactly that, “God with us.”
So how near is God? If you know Jesus as your Lord and Savior, you know that God and Jesus and the Holy Sprit are all One and the same. What we speak of now about the Lord coming is His second coming, when He will rule the world. And that time is known only by God Himself. By having the Holy Spirit within us helps us to live a life “in Christ” here on earth. We now have the assurance that we will live with Christ forever! That is worth rejoicing over!

Decisions! Decisions!

Decision to Accept Christ

Life is full of decisions. We make them every day. We decide whether we want or need to get up in the morning. We decide whether we want to eat breakfast or grab something to snack on. We decide what we are going to wear today. These are just a few of the decisions we make each day. Suffice it to say we will make several decisions just today. In fact, you will decide whether to continue reading this post or you will dismiss it and go on about your business.

We began making decisions back when we were tiny little tots. We made some bad decisions too. Do we stick that toy with a point into that wall socket or not? Do we climb out of our crib or not? Do we use our crayon to write on the wall or not? I could go on and on about that too. We are just going to make decisions today. In fact, if you think about it, you have already made many decisions today.

We are tempted in every way to make decisions. Once again, we have been making those decisions all our life. And if you think about it, we often make the same decisions every day. As we mature, our decisions are often predicated on temptations. We are faced with many major temptations as we reach maturity.

There are just too many temptations out there for young people to say “yes” or “no” to. One decision they may have to make is to say “yes” or “no” to drugs and alcohol, just to name a couple. Many young get started because they just want to see what it’s like. To some, it will teach them that it tastes awful or it’s not too bad.

The second decision they make is will they remember what their parents told them about drugs and alcohol? Then they must decide to just say “NO” and walk away from it.

Another decision is whether they want to belong to a certain group. Many groups are really up to no good! If they follow that group, then they may end up in some trouble or even worse. Gangs are so prevalent today. Our young people really need to watch who they like and want to follow.

Proverbs 2:1-22 teaches that the pursuit of wisdom brings security. Very plainly it begins with the words, “…if you will receive my words and treasure my commandments within you.” There are several other “ifs” mentioned in the first four verses. Isn’t this what we try to teach our children? When there is the word “if” mentioned, there is most always the word “then” that follows. Verse five begins a series of “then’s” that follow.

The “if” represents a decision that every young person must make. He can either go in the way of Wisdom and find life, true love, and most importantly God, or he can turn his back on her and find only bitterness, isolation, and death. Here’s the important fact: one cannot opt out of making this decision or choose a little of one and a little of the other. If we fail to present this stark decision to young people, many will go in the wrong way and never even know they had a choice.

Here is the one decision every person must make in life. Will you admit you are a sinner and accept Christ as your Lord and Savior, or will you deny Him and spend eternity in the depths of hell? If you accept Jesus as your Lord and Savior, then you will have eternal life with Him. If you refuse to accept Christ, then you will live in eternal punishment in hell. This is the decision only you can make. God gave you the ability to choose. This decision now belongs to you!

The Pastor and Discouragement

Praying For Pastor

I’ve heard it said many times, “the pastor has the easiest job!” Well that depends on what you’re referring to as a job. As a retired pastor myself, I never looked at my position of pastor as a job, even though I was paid for doing it. The position of pastor is a calling. And that calling is to serve God when and wherever the Lord calls him. The calling of pastor is not something you seek but you accept.

Jeremiah 1:5 says, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; . .” (NASB). The Lord was telling Jeremiah that He had planned his life and it radically impacted him. Even the Apostle Paul was told that God had “. . . set me apart even from my mother’s womb and called me through His grace, . .” (Gal. 1:15 NASB).

Pastors are not super human nor are they exempt from sin or even discouragement or depression. A long time ago Job cried out in his despair in Job 3. 24“For my groaning comes at the sight of my food, and my cries pour out like water. 25For what I fear comes upon me, and what I dread befalls me. 26I am not at ease, nor am I quiet, and I am not at rest, but turmoil comes” (NASB). In fact, no one is exempt from discouragement.

Tom Landry, former coach of the Dallas Cowboys said, “I spent the first thirty-five years of my life, like most men in our competitive American culture, thinking success, fulfillment, and happiness would result from what I could achieve. My feelings of self-worth and my identity as a person were dependent on what I could do—first as a professional athlete, then on the sideline as a coach.

I’ve spent the last thirty-five years learning that God is far less concerned about what we do than He is about what we are. So what truly matters most in life is not our professional achievement, but our personal relationships—first with God, second in our families, and then with others we work and live among.

I’ve known a lot of guys who have tried to prove themselves ‘a man’s man.’ But it’s so much more important to be ‘God’s man.’”

Even with the success Tom Landry had, he still faced discouragement when Jerry Jones bought the team and soon fired him.

Pastors can be immeasurably hurt by unfriendly, unwarranted criticism. He can fall into despair over the apathy, indifference and lack of cooperation on the part of his congregation.

Perhaps one of the most troubling things people don’t realize is that when the pastor enters into a private counseling session with a church member and listens to the member unveil the hardships or heartaches that member is experiencing. As pastor, that has to remain confidential and he must learn to leave it with the Lord. Otherwise, it will eat at his heart and mind and lead to depression.

After I retired and joined a local church I became quite pleased and so blessed by our pastor. He was such a tremendous teaching pastor and the Lord used him mightily.

My wife and I had been members for some time when out of the blue, one Saturday afternoon we received word that our beloved pastor had taken his life at a remote location. I had learned he had been suffering from depression, but we never knew it. This was not only devasting for our church but for his family.

Yes, pastors suffer discouragement and depression. I knew the repercussions of sitting and listening to church members unload their minds in confidence. I thank God for taking the private sessions off my mind and heart so that I would not have to deal with them alone.

Today, I was devastated to read of another pastor taking his own life in California.  The church there was devastated and so was his family. Yes, pastors do get discouraged and depressed!

Let me encourage you to pray for your pastor daily. You will not know how much it means to him and at the same time, he needs your support. I may not be pastoring a church now, but I serve a risen Savior and pray daily for my pastor.

May God bless you my pastor and my brother in Christ!

The Bible’s Surprise

THY-WORD-IS-TRUTH

While reading from a book entitled Devotional Doctrine by Aaron Armstrong, from the Gospel Project, I read about something that brought me back to an experience in my life as a young boy. I wanted to give credit to Aaron Armstrong for returning me to the following experience.

When I received my first Bible as a young boy I was very excited, not because I wanted to read it, but I wanted people to know I had one. My assumptions when I first began to read it were probably like most people. I assumed it would be a list of commands and moral platitudes that probably didn’t have much relevance to my day to day activities, especially to a young 8 or 9 year-old boy who had recently been baptized. I will openly admit it was very hard to read, much less understand. I found it much easier to just not attempt to read it and therefore, I laid it down and never picked it up again.

Then when I reached maturity and began reading my Bible again, I found moral proverbs and commands that made sense to me. But to my surprise I found something else too. I found a story of the world that made sense, a story of hope for broken people living in a broken world. Not only that, but I found it in a book I could understand. This is a book that rang true unlike any other book I had read.

After years of pretending to be a Christian, I realized at the age of 37 that I was not a Christian at all. I had only been playing the game. When I was faced with the reality of my lostness, I had to make it right as quickly as I could. With that thought in mind, I reached out to my pastor to explain my situation and that I wanted Jesus in my heart. As a great pastor that he was we got on our knees and I prayed that Jesus would come into my heart. Much to my surprise again, the calmness of God’s Holy Spirit opened my heart to allow Jesus to come in and take up His residence.

I believe I’m not the first person to have this experience. I remember early in my ministry when I was green behind the ears and doing some door to door visitation and evangelism. One man I encountered just couldn’t seem to get past the idea that the Bible really was God’s Word. Thanks again to Aaron Armstrong for stating the situation so plainly and nearly describing exactly this man’s case:

  • It was written by human beings. (True.)
  • Human beings are imperfect. (True again.)
  • Anything we’re involved with is going to be imperfect. (Yep.)
  • Therefore, the Bible must contain errors, which means it can’t be God’s Word. (False.)

 

So, here’s the question that presents itself: Why does true plus true plus true equal false? And the answer is really quite simple. It fails to take into account one more very vital truth: God’s involvement in writing the Scriptures, or what we as Christians refer to call inerrancy.

It is my opinion then that because God inspired the writing of Scriptures, He protected it from error by the human writers He inspired to write them in the first place. From the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy, Article XII, it is important to point out that every word they wrote was free from error, without a shred of falsehood or deceit to be found in it in any way. It was God’s supernatural involvement in its writing that protected the Scriptures from error. Every word is true! What the Bible says about everything is true.

Suffice it to say, God wants us to understand His Word. Let me say it this way: the Bible can be understood with many of the same basic principles of interpretation we use when we read any other book. We intuitively pay attention to context clues, verb tenses, and the literary forms in the text we’re reading.

I will agree that some parts are still hard to understand. Even I continue to struggle with some passages. The problem is that we are simply trying to comprehend the infinite God with finite minds. But since God wants us to know His Word, He helps us understand it. Today, the Holy Spirit illuminates the Scriptures in our hearts and minds (John 14:15-18; 16:7-15).

The man I was witnessing to still couldn’t see how God gives us the desire to be transformed by the truth of His Word. Before the Holy Spirit opened my eyes, I really didn’t understand it either. Aaron so eloquently put it this way: “The idea that God’s Word, the Bible, is true is a struggle for many to believe. But if the Scriptures contain the good news we say it does, let’s never be afraid to call it what it is. God’s Word is true, not because any human being declared it to be so but because God is trustworthy. And because He is trustworthy, we can trust the Word He inspired and helps us to understand (see Matt. 5:18; John 10:35; Titus 1:2; Heb. 6:18). And as we trust the Word and move forward in sharing the message God has given, we can have confidence that many will come to know and believe.”