Tuesday, March 30, 2010

What God Believes

"Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen" (Heb. 11:1). We have heard this definition of faith all of our lives. We understand that faith has substance, and evidence, and yet at the same time it is trusting in something without all of its physical attributes present.

How you ever thought about what God believes? You might think that this is not a Biblical idea. After all, if faith involves believing in something that you cannot see, and God sees everything, how could God believe in anything?

I submit to you that God does believe in many things, if indeed we are discussing His will. In fact, I am quite convinced that the whole human experience has something to do with us believing in that which God believes, or allowing His will to become our own.

We have abused faith. We have made it too much about us personally and not enough about God. So I am asking you for a minute to consider what God believes, and to ask yourself if you believe the same:

1. God believes in people – do you? Elijah had given up on people in 1 Kings 19, but God had to remind him about Elisha and 7,000 more.
2. God believes people can change – do you? The apostle Paul learned that John Mark could change for the better. The man who was once worthless in ministry in Paul's eyes later became useful to him (2 Tim. 4:11).
3. God believes in complete and total and continual forgiveness – do you? Peter had to be taught that there was no limit to true forgiveness (Matt. 18:21-22).
4. God believes in impartiality – do you? If we are partial we commit sin and convicted by the law as transgressors (James 2:9).
5. God believes in longsuffering and patience- do you? We account that the longsuffering of God is our salvation (2 Pet. 3:15). Because of the Lord's mercies we are not consumed; his compassions fail not, they are new every morning (Lam. 3:22-23).
6. God believes in loving people when they are unlovable – do you? Jesus died for us when we were at our weakest. Christ's death in the midst of our sin is the supreme demonstration of God's love (Rom. 5:6-8)
7. God believes in life after death – do you? Paul learned how to believe in heaven and embrace death (2 Tim. 4:7-8)
8. God believes anything is possible - do you? (Matt. 19:26; Phil. 4:13) The anser to the question in Gen. 18:14 - "Is anything too hard for the Lord?" is..."NO!"
9. God believes that the definition of love is making the ultimate sacrifice – do you? (John 3:16-17; Matt. 16:24-26). If we are going to be disciples of Christ, we have to deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow him. To save our life we must lose it. To gain everything we must give everything.

Do you believe in that which God believes?

"Jesus said to him, 'If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes.' Immediately the father of the child cried out and said with tears, 'Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!'" ~ Mark 9:23-34

Monday, March 22, 2010


As I was recently studying for a lesson on parenting I came across an older book by J.J. Turner that included the following information:

In a study conducted nearly 50 years ago by British author and psychologist R.F. Hertz, 100,000 children between the ages of 8-14 in 24 different countries were asked to make a list of ten rules for their parents. This was the final list that was compiled.

1. Do not quarrel in front of your children.

2. Treat all of your children with equal affection.

3. Never lie to a child.

4. There must be a mutual tolerance between parents.

5. There should be a comradeship between parents and children.

6. Treat your children's friends as welcome visitors in the house.

7. Always answer children’s questions.

8. Don’t blame or punish your children in the presence of their guests.

9. Concentrate on your child’s good points; don’t emphasize his failings.

10. Be constant in your affection and in your mood.

It is an interesting concept to consider what our children are thinking about us. If we want to have a good relationship with them, and be a powerful influence in their lives, we will listen to what they are saying.

Parenting is more than handing down rules and being a disciplinarian. What most parents are missing out on is relationship building.

Our children want our time, our affection, fairness, the truth, and a good example. They want to be able to respect us for all the right reasons. They want to know us, share with us, and be proud to call us theirs.

It is a documented fact that children are always wanting to know whether or not they are pleasing to their parents. Maybe it is time for some parents to ask themselves whether or not their behavior is pleasing their children.

"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, March 16, 2010

Answering Questions Concerning Fasting

Did anybody really fast in the bible? How about Moses, David, Elijah, Esther, Daniel, Anna, Jesus, Paul, the apostles, various nations including the Israelites, and the New Testament church?

What about fasting in the Old Testament? There was actually a commanded day of nationwide fasting for the Jews. It was the Day of Atonement (Lev. 16:29-31: 23:26-32; Num. 29:7). The purpose was to remind the Jews of the sins they had committed, and God’s grace in spite of their lawless deeds. The removal of food was for the afflicting of the soul. It was a purification process. It forced God’s people to realize that they depended on Him for everything, both physical and spiritual. If one were to fully examine fasting in the Old Testament, they would find several instances in which individuals or groups did so and various reasons why: wartime, illness, enemies, death, forgiveness, uncertainty, and remembrance.

What about fasting in the New Testament? Jesus was questioned about fasting, and he taught about how to do it properly (Matt. 6:16-18, 9:14-17). He fasted for forty days before his trial in the wilderness (Luke 4:1-2). He assumed his disciples would also fast (Matt. 9:14-15). The primitive church engaged in fasting regularly (Acts 13:1-3; 14:21-23). Paul mentions it as something he engaged in often (2 Cor. 11:23-27). Reasons for fasting in the New Testament include: performing miracles, obtaining peace of mind, help in marriage relationships, missionary journeys, overcoming temptation, requests for boldness in preaching, and many more.

Why should I fast? This question seems to paramount for most people. What is the purpose? Is it commanded? If I do not fast, is it a sin of omission? The true purpose of fasting in the spiritual sense is to humble oneself. The Psalmist said, “…I humbled myself with fasting, and my prayer would return to my own heart” (Psa. 35:13). When we take away the physical, we force ourselves to depend on the spiritual. We remember that God alone can give us what we need. Fasting gives birth in the Christian to a spirit of contrition and humility which God promises to bless (Isa. 57:15). It is not a question of whether or not one must fast, but rather and understanding that one should.

For how long should I fast? There is no exact time-frame for the execution of purposeful and meaningful fasting. There are biblical accounts of one day, three day, seven day and even forty day fasts. A similar question frequently considered: How often should I pray? It seems that the one who asks for a time-table is in essence working to quit. Fasting becomes effective in the same manner as does prayer. It must be done to be fully discerned. The best way to do anything effectively is to do it often. Ultimately, the frequency and length of fasting is up to the individual. But limiting fasting will not help one to understand it.

What is fasting, really? The present culture misunderstands fasting on many fronts. People rarely take the time to practice spiritually what the bible demands. When people discuss taking something away to begin a spiritual revival of self, what do they offer up? There were no reasons in the days of Christ to fast for health’s sake. People did not fast to cleanse out their digestive tract or to remove toxins. The entire concept of dieting was not present in their society. Fasting, then, was taking their sustenance away. It was not saying no to Krispy Kream donuts for a month. The biblical doctrine of fasting, as with all doctrine, becomes meaningful when it is done according to the divine scheme. One must study and observe it in its original state, practice and evaluate and try again.

Is it okay to pronounce a fast? Christ reminded his followers that fasting is not for show (Matt. 6:16-18). On the individual level, it should be between the person and God alone. But there are numerous examples in which both nations and kingdoms fasted, requesting divine involvement. Visionary leaders will realize the continued need for the church to fast today and ask for God’s providential and intervening activity. We pray for such. Fasting adds to our prayer fervent dedication toward our goal. It raises the stakes. It demands that we prove our desire for that which we are praying. It helps us take an active part in God’s solution.

Whose responsibility is it, to fast? Fasting cannot be a ritual. It cannot be forced or demanded. It is not something done to be seen of men. It takes no effect without repentance as an attachment. It remains as a spiritual opportunity. While it is not an ordinance commanded by the church, it can be of great spiritual benefit to those who are willing to make the sacrifice. The spiritual giants of the past fasted. The Son of God fasted. The early church fasted. The word of God is quick and powerful, and the Holy Spirit continues to sound forth his living message from ages before our own. Are we listening?

Monday, March 8, 2010

Difference Makers

In the heart of every person, in the very essence of their being, is the need to matter. Some people want to be loved. Some people want others to know they are loved. Some people just want to do things that will ensure they will not be forgotten. In some way or in some fashion, we all want to make a difference.

You can make a difference in words. Words of encouragement in their proper time change lives. When a young man gets up for the first time to serve in worship, the right recognition of what he has done will make him want to do it again. Most preachers will tell you that the reason why they are preaching has much to do with people who voiced a belief in their ability to minister.

You can mae a difference in actions. One of the greatest things that was ever done for me was actually done for my father. When he first lost his ability to see well, two of our neighbor's boys showed up at our house, and without even knocking, they mowed our yard. I will never forget that act of kindness. It reminded me that we had friends, and that my father was not going to go through his adjustment alone.

You can make a difference in example. People are often mistaken in thinking that you have to be well known, or somehow very prominent for your example to matter. But I can tell you that people who have had the greatest influence in my life by way of example are people who the majority of the world will never know. The person who is always kind...The person who nevers misses worship...The person who does what they say they are going to do...The person who has never and will never say something negative about somebody else...The person who is unselfish.

When I think of the passing of Jim Bill McInteer this week, I am reminded that he was a difference maker. He changed the world and helped to shape the church for the better. He did it with the right words, with the right actions, and with the right example. "...Do you not know that a prince and a great man has fallen this day in Israel?" (2 Sam. 3:38).

"You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men." ~ Matthew 5:13

Monday, March 1, 2010


As I was driving Sunday evening down the main highway that runs through our little town, I read a billboard for a local business that made me laugh. It said, "SMART CARDS, BUY ONE GET OEN FREE." That was not my typo. That is exactly what the sign said. It was a glaring mistake. So far, to my knowledge, the sign has not yet been changed. It made me wonder if anyone has seen that sign yet and decided to purchase a "smart card."

We are human. We make many mistakes. As a preacher, I sometimes misquote a Scripture. Sometimes I use poor grammar. Sometimes I just call out the wrong text. When I write articles, the good people who work here in our office help to make them better through proofreading and adjusting. I proofread everything I write several times, and still some of the worst mistakes get through.

Being a Christian does not imply perfection. Christianity as a whole is just the opposite in some senses. Claiming Christ is a declaration of dependence. It is a recognition of one's own individual guilt. It is a plea for help, and mercy, and grace!

A large part of what it takes to be a Christian is the humility to let other people proofread your life. Elders, friends, parents, spouses, and others who truly care about you will take the time to look over the book you are writing and help you make some corrections. I used to hate when my mother would look at my schoolwork and tell me I did something wrong. Part of my problem was that I was too lazy to do anything twice. Another part was that I was too proud to accept my imperfections, or that I could try harder or do better.

As time has passed I have learned that being under authority is not a hindrance, but rather a safeguard for my soul. Our God is the chief proofreader of our lives. He is here to make what we think, what we say, and what we do, more excellent. He is helping us to write a better story.

"...I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people." ~ Jeremiah 31:33