Monday, December 17, 2012

When the Problem Hits Home

This week there have been so many things written and said regarding the terrible event that took place in Newtown, Conneticut. I have been very slow to comment and very measured with my words out of respect for the victims and their families. I appreciate many of the points made by several preachers whom I respect, and there have also been some good reflections from others that have helped me to process this situation.

What I have witnessed the most from this tragedy is the compassion people have for children and families. The world should not be as it is, where the innocent are slain and people are left childless and devastated. Every prayer I have heard for these victims has caused the one saying the prayer to choke up, to pause and struggle as they talk to God about such a horrendous and unspeakable crime. This event has caused every parent to hug their child and not want to let go. Let's face it, this was every parent's nightmare. This really hits home.

And yet, home is the problem. I believe sincerely that the breakdown of the home in our scoiety is what leads to many of these issues for our teens. Divorce, latch-key children, parents who are too busy to look deeper into the lives of their children and address their problems - when the home breaks down society breaks down with it. The first institution God created to solidify a workable and manageable world was the home (Gen. 2:18ff). Let's given Satan the blame, for it is the darkness that he has introduced into this world that causes families and relationships to break down. These events are not of God, but they are devoid of Him in a world that is blackened by the sickness and death brought about by sin.

Where are you, parents, when your children are begging for your attention? Where are you, parents, when the weekend comes and your children go out and do what they want without supervision? Where are you, parents, when your children post whatever they want on facebook and twitter? Where are you, parents, when your children are picking friends? Where are you, parents, when your children simply want to spend time with you in the formative years of their life? Where are you, parents, when your children are sick mentally or physically and need your support?

I received a text this past Sunday morning before services from a family in our congregation that is doing it right. The text was asking if I was going to mention anything about the tragedy from the pulpit. This family has young children and they wanted to be there beforehand to prepare their kids for whatever might be said by their preacher. This is the answer: Parents who care so much about their children that they are dedicated above all other things to be there for them no matter the situation, and especially in a time of question or crisis.

The problem hits home. It is the home that God ordained that needs to be reestablished in our country and in our world. May God bless the families who have been torn apart by this terrible situation. We all know that we have no words that can truly express our emotions and our love for them at this time. May God bless every family and may we learn to respect His Lordship over our lives and over our homes and over our relationships. We need God's help! We need His guidance and care! We need Him in our homes!

"And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord." ~ Ephesians 6:4

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Mountain Moving Faith

“Is anything too hard for the Lord?” (Gen. 14:18). This was the Lord’s answer to Abraham when Sarah laughed. The text reveals that Sarah was nearly 90, far passed the age of child bearing. Yet God promised that she would have a child. This promise came true in the birth of Isaac (Gen. 21:3).

Although we often recognize God as omnipotent, we rarely treat Him as such. We often forget that God can do whatever He wants whenever He wants. It is not that we do not live in an age of miracles. It is just that we do not live in an age where miracles are done by men. But God still is in the miracle business. Souls are saved. Healing occurs. Prayers are answered.

On at least one occasion, when miracles were still being done by men through the power of the Spirit, the apostles failed to cast a demon out of a child (Matt. 17:16). Jesus responded, “O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I bear with you? Bring him here to Me.” (Matt. 17:17). After rebuking the demon, He continued, “…for assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there,' and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you” (Matt. 17:20).

This answer of Jesus to His disciples was in response to their question concerning why they had failed in casting out the demon. He told them they didn’t have enough faith (Matt. 17:20). We often find ourselves in a similar position. We must understand that faith believes in the seemingly unreal, unseen, unnatural impossibilities that are possible with God (Matt. 19:26).

A Biblical examination of the heroes of faith (Heb. 11) reveals some characteristics of these great people. One was their willingness to be obedient to God. Another was their decision to believe in God’s ability despite the conditions that stood in opposition to His promises. Noah built an ark though it had never rained. Abraham left his homeland for the land of promise which he had never seen, looking for his descendants though without an heir. Moses chose the slavery of Israel rather than life in a palace that ruled the world. They did these things because they believed in the power of God. They knew God could change current circumstances. They trusted that He loved them enough to change them.

Even Christians struggle to find mountain moving faith. When the doctors tell us the illness is terminal, or that our wives will never give birth, we need to remember God is in control. This is the faith of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. This is the faith we seek. This is mountain moving faith. The answer to the question, “Is anything too hard for the Lord?”….. “No!” 

"(as it is written, "I have made you a father of many nations") in the presence of Him whom he believed--God, who gives life to the dead and calls those things which do not exist as though they did; who, contrary to hope, in hope believed, so that he became the father of many nations, according to what was spoken, "So shall your descendants be." ~ (Romans 4:17-18)

Monday, December 3, 2012

Live Prisoners

If you were a prisoner of war, would you rather be eliminated by your enemy, or forced to do his bidding? It seems that if your are going to be killed anyway there would be less pain and anxiety in death than there would be in the torture that would come before it. Perhaps you are thinking that if you were alive, there might at least be some hope of release or escape.

When Paul wrote to Timothy concerning his ministry to the church, while he was giving him tips on how to be a gentle servant in the kingdom he included these verses - "in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth, and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will" (2 Tim. 2:25-26).

Pay special attention to the phrase, "Having been taken captive by him to do his will." The original language of this text expresses the fact that Satan is taking live prisoners! Many people think that the battle between God and the devil is being played out just between the two of them. They think that whatever influence the devil may have is only going to be seen in judgment.

But the devil is not waiting for judgment! He already knows he loses on that day. The devil's work is in lives that exist today. Paul is saying that most people don't realize that they are the devil's live prisoners. But Satan has them and they are doing what he wants them to do. The only way they can "come to their senses" or "escape" from their terrible situation is through the wonderful gospel of Jesus Christ which will bring them to repentance.

Satan is deceptive! He wants you to think that you are free when you are really his slave. He wants you to think that your life is really going fine when in actuality the life that you are living is full of problems which if not dealt with will eventually lead you to hell. The devil means business. Don't be foolish. He is working on you. He won't just kill you when he gets a hold of you. He has no interest in that. He wants to keep you alive so that you can serve him.

"But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered. And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness." ~ (Romans 6:17-18)