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What is It?

As my wife and I were talking the other day about some of the news events we have read about recently, and being the parents of two girls growing up in a world very different from the one we grew up knowing, we found ourselves discussing this question: What is it that causes such anger that a 14 year old will kill one of his teachers? What is it that causes a 12 year old to take weapons into a school? What is it that causes another 14 year old to open fire at a school killing another teacher? What is it that causes two girls in Florida to continue to post horrible things about a girl, even after they knew their bullying brought her to such despair that she ended her life?

Why the anger? Why the hopelessness? Why the despair? Why the disregard for life? I could sit here and give a simplistic (and true) answer based upon my knowledge of Scripture that Sin is THE major problem. It is, there’s no doubt about that, but I think to a culture and society that has bought all the refuse that postmodernism has shoved down it’s throat, I dare not be so simplistic. So what is it in more complex form?

Here are just some bullet points of my thoughts:

1. We have created a society where things mean more than people. We prefer stuff over people.

2. Lack of respect for authority. I was taught to respect my elders and those who were older than me, just by virtue of the fact they had lived longer than me, deserved my respect. Our society and culture no longer respects those around them, and if you are in a position of authority, all the more reason NOT to be respected. You are to be despised.

3. Dovetailing on that thought is the cynicism that we have espoused in our society. If you hold a position of authority, then it must be assumed you have used some crooked means to gain that power and it is the responsibility, the duty of those under you to somehow expose you as a fraud and bring you down. Furthermore, it is likely that you have abused the power you possess and so you are not to be trusted.

4. We have created a society in which children are shoved off on someone else for hours in a day so both Mom and Dad can work to have the nicest house, the best toys, the latest gadgets and games all in a pursuit for more. When do you have enough? Well…never! Kids are letting themselves into their own houses with no supervision, or they’re just hanging out on the street or at the park with their friends and no adult is affecting any kind of change in their lives for the better. And we wonder why they are wild?

5. Computer access – Kids have way too much unrestricted access, and parents if you don’t know every site your child visits and every password for every site they go to, please confiscate the computer until you have all the information. Oh and that cell phone you bought them so you could check up on them, take it from them and check up on them, because calling them on it is not checking up on them; finding out what they are saying to their peers in their texts is. And, yes, you do have a right!

6. You are not their friend, you are their parent. There will come a day when they will (hopefully) be your friend, but when they are young, don’t try to be the cool Mom or the cool Dad, just be the Mom and be the Dad because they need that more than they need you to be a friend who never tells them what they need to hear. In fact, they haven’t quite learned the lesson yet that a true friend isn’t the one who always tells them what they want to hear anyway. Proverbs says “faithful are the wounds of a friend.”

7. Facebook…it may be fun, and where a third of the planet is, but if you as a parent don’t know what they are doing on there, unplug the computer, remove it from your home while you’re not there and don’t let them on again until you are their Facebook friend. Oh and make sure they have not signed up under some other name that will escape your attention.

8. They have been told that as humans, we are just another part of the animal kingdom. Really? This is science at it’s best, teaching a godless evolution that gives no purpose to our existence, no meaning to the lives of those around you and you are included in that hopeless, purposeless existence. So, following the absence of a Moral Lawgiver, it seems clear that even society’s attempt to create some kind of moral code and rule of law is also nothing more than an establishment that must be eliminated.

These are just a few things that a pastor, husband and father has observed. I’m not an expert in any of those three categories and certainly I’m not an expert in much else. However, I know this, my wife and I love our daughters more than we can even say and want them to grow up to be women who love God and love people around them. We hope we can teach the lesson to love people and use things, not the opposite. The pitfalls are great for our girls and your sons and daughters, but I believe that we can help them navigate those pitfalls so as to never have to be the subject of the question, “What is it…?”

The writer of Ecclesiastes finished his thoughts with this summary of truth: Eccl. 12:13 Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter:
Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole [duty] of man. Eccl. 12:14 For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil.

It’s my humble opinion that the only thing that is going to pull our society out of the hopelessness our youth find themselves growing up in is going to be a powerful move of God in our hearts.
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It's Not You! It's Me!

You've heard those words before, right? Somewhere, in the archives of your past relationships, someone so desperately wanted to get out the relationship that they lied to you. At least they were kind of enough to try and spare your feelings! But you got older and wiser, and well, let's face it, you had to use the line on someone else!

So is this a little blog entry about lying? No. About relationships? No. Actually, maybe. Let's see where this one goes.

In 1 Samuel 8, the people of Israel came to Samuel and asked for a king. While they put they seemed to place the blame on Samuel and his sons the true nature of their request comes out in the passage. Samuel was getting older and unable to lead Israel as he had in the past, and his sons were derelict in the duties, bringing corruption into their leadership. Samuel maybe felt that there was some element of failure on his part. He couldn't control the fact that he was getting too old to lead and he obviously couldn't control his sons who brought a sense of distrust over the people. It would almost seem logical that the people would ask for a king to give them leadership that they, at that point didn't feel they were getting. Really, if Samuel's sons were so out of control, the people of Israel almost look holy and righteous in their appeal.

However, their request that Samuel appoint a king to rule over them was not so noble. The Bible says in 1 Samuel 8:5 They said to him, “You are old, and your sons do not walk in your ways; now appoint a king to lead us, such as all the other nations have.” And there it is. "Such as all the other nations have." It had nothing to do with Samuel getting old or Samuel's basket-case sons! Israel, just wanted to be like everyone else. It would be prophetic and eventually pathetic! They would not only become like other nations by having a king rule over them, but they would stray so far away from God that idolatry would become so common that God would (a few hundred years later) have to purge them of their sin by a Babylonian invasion. It's not that they hadn't dabbled in idolatry prior to asking for a king, but by Jeremiah's time, the practices and rites of idol worship involved such unspeakable human degradation, there was nothing else for God to do but to allow judgment for their sin.

So, what about the "it's not you, it's me" speech. Where does that come in? For once, this speech was used to encourage...and it was the truth! Here's the speech. It comes straight from God to Samuel. Samuel was so upset by what the people had requested that he prays to the Lord (verse 6). Here is God's answer, 1 Samuel 8:7 And the LORD told him: “Listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king. God just told Samuel, it's not you, it's me! He was right. It had nothing to do with Samuel, it was God that they were rejecting. He desired to be their King. He led them, nurtured them and kept them, but now they wanted to be like other nations. They didn't want to be peculiar. They didn't want to be different. They wanted to blend in and look like everyone else. The people were using Samuel and his sons as an excuse to distance themselves from God. It seems that throughout history, man does whatever he can to put more miles between himself and God.

Today,the idea that God should be in charge of our lives grates against the 21st century mindset. We don't want God to tell us what to do. No, we'd rather have some philosopher, hanging on the brink of insanity lead us toward some mind-numbing, hopeless mantra that "everything is relative" and "what's true for you, may not be true for me." Or, we want some entertainer to speak on our behalf and provide a public platform for our skewed moral compass. Even in many churches, we prefer a show, rather than actually meeting to find out that there is a God who desires to change us so that we can shine His light in a dark world. It seems that we are giving the "it's not you, it's me" speech to God. I wonder if His reply isn't simply, "you're right!"

You may try to shake free from God and place distance between you and Him, but it cannot change His love for you! The people of Samuel's day rejected God, but He still loved them, as He will love you no matter how far you try to go to get away from Him.

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What God Sees!

One of my favorite accounts in all of Scripture is the account of Gideon. The opening scene in Judges 6 is nothing less than a contrast between what we see and what God sees!

Because of their sin, Israel was under the oppressive rule of the Midianites. It wasn't like the Midianites ruled with dignity, they just waited for the Israelites to plant their crops, get read to harvest it and then would come marching in and either destroy their food supply or take it from them. It is likely during this time that the people of Israel were beginning to starve. This is where we pick up with Gideon. We find him threshing wheat in a winepress in order to hide it from the Midianites. Gideon saw pain, suffering and injustice. He was hiding in order to have just a small amount of food by which to survive. He saw weakness...that which was around him but also his own. This is where most of us are stuck. We see pain, suffering, injustice, sin and our own weakness. We think there is nothing we can do, so let's hide and try to eek out a living in a survival mindset.

Maybe you are hiding behind past hurts and failures while life seemingly continues to march forward. You might look around you and feel that others are not just surviving, they are somehow thriving...but not you. No, you've been weakened by your frustration, your bitterness, your anger and your resentment. Someone, somewhere over the course of your life hurt you and brought you under their rule. The pain they caused steers your life, determines your trajectory and you find yourself limping along all the while thinking that no one really notices your pain.

But, in the story of Gideon, an angel of the Lord appears and calls Gideon a "Mighty Warrior" or as the King James Version puts it, a "Mighty Man of Valor." Clearly, the angel had the wrong address! The idea that Gideon was a mighty warrior was something that Gideon could not see. Seriously, he's threshing wheat in a winepress. He's in hiding, he's afraid and then goes on to argue with the angel about God's plan.

Yet, in this story as in other places in Scripture where man tends to get in the way of God's plan, it is not what we see that counts, it is what God sees that matters most. We see pain, but God sees potential. We see frustration, but God's remedy is faith. God, at that moment was not looking at Gideon for what Gideon saw or was even projecting or saying about himself, God was looking at Gideon for what He was going to help Gideon to become. So how was that going to happen? Gideon just had to get on board with what God wanted and let God guide him through impossible odds to show that what really mattered in his life was what God sees.

So it isn't what you see about yourself that really matters most, it is what God sees in your life. God sees great things! God sees potential! Rather than hide behind something, get ready to be part of God's solution to the problems you find around you. Begin to see what God sees!
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The Wrong Kind of Thankfulness

And so here I am after a long time of not posting anything, trying now to get someone, anyone to read what I’ve written. Maybe you’ve checked once or twice and just thought to yourself - “Ha, I knew he wouldn’t keep it up.” Well, I’m back… for now! I make no guarantees for the future.

These thoughts arose as I was preparing for a message entitled “Time to Fill Your Thank Tank” to be given November 20, 2011 at Praise Tabernacle. In the sermon, I make reference to a story Jesus told about a Pharisee and tax collector who went up to the temple to pray. Since the sermon is about thanksgiving and being thankful, the words of the Pharisee’s prayer jumped off the page at me. Here are his words so you can see for yourself:
Luke 18:11 The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men — robbers, evildoers, adulterers — or even like this tax collector.
Luke 18:12 I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’ (NIV1984)


I’m not sure if you saw it, but let me point out a couple of things he says in verse 11.
  • He addresses God as the object of his thankfulness - Good place to start. I’ve been saying for years that to be really thankful, it’s best when thanksgiving is directed in the appropriate direction - most appropriate is God. However, this is where the positives for this religious leader comes to an end.
  • He thanks God that he is not like other men - I’ve heard and said the expression before “there for the grace of God, go I.” There’s nothing wrong with that when there is a sense of humility and realization that God is the one who has delivered you and brought you out of your sin. But really? He thanks God that he’s not like these sinful people? This guy clearly thought he was better than everyone else around him, “even this tax collector,” he says.

Let me just go on record at this point and say, this is the wrong kind of thankfulness! The story Jesus told was to teach those in the crowd who trusted in their own righteousness that repentance and humility gets God’s attention, not being thankful at how good you think you are in your own eyes. What this man failed to see was that he was exactly like those “other men” because his heart wasn’t right with God and all the outward expressions of religion don’t change that.

His most egregious error was that of actually attaching thankfulness (a quality we are reminded at least once a year to possess) to his supposed position with God; and then to thank God, as if somehow God had something to do with him being so prideful, stuck-up and horribly deceived. He was thankful alright, but he was the wrong kind of thankful.

Let’s be thankful to God that He has delivered us from sin, but stay away from the comparisons to others because that’s the wrong kind of thankfulness.
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Thirsty?

When Jesus was on the cross, He said, "I thirst." Viewed from the physical perspective, He no doubt needed something to quench His thirst. He was becoming severely dehydrated through all that He was suffering. But we also have to wonder if He wasn't sensing the great spiritual thirst of all of mankind as the sins of the whole world were placed on Him. It was the thirst felt by billions of people around the world.

The solution? Get a drink. John 7:37 (NIV) "... If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink." The One who felt thirst on the cross, is the answer for quenching the spiritual thirsting of your soul. Nothing else will ever satisfy your thirst like He will.
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