When Your Soul Is Crushed

What do you do when life threatens to crush your very soul? All along the Texas Gulf Coast, people are dealing with the some of the most heart-wrenching pain imaginable….losing everything, unable to even go to work, losing loved ones in the hurricane and flooding. And Florida may be in for the same kind of heartache.

When devastation hits you it’s sometimes easy to turn from God – and that’s precisely the wrong place to be.  I have no magic words or simple answers for what folks are going through, but these four things might be of help – be sure and read to number four:

#1. Remember God is good. 

He created everything, and He created it good. Why? Because He is good.

Adam and Eve brought sin into the world, and that corrupted EVERYTHING. Even creation.

Right there in Romans 8, God says all of creation groans to be set free from the corruption. 

Jesus gave Himself to make us good again. Because He is good.

Think sin is no big deal? Get a grip on this:

IF there were no sin in the world, there would NEVER be a hurricane, a flood, or death. All is a result of sin corrupting God’s good and excellent creation.

Every time you see a horrific death, a terrifying flood, or a powerful hurricane, stop and think, “God is good, and sin is horrible.”

#2. Remember God is near.

Phil 4:5 says, “Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.” That was the whole point of my last post here.

God is near, and He knows WHAT is around the corner, but even more than that – HE is around the corner, around the bend, up there in the future in that land we call “uncertainty.“ And He is always able to take care of business.

Where you are right now,

God was here yesterday.

Where you will be tomorrow,

God will be there. He is good, and He is near.

But I get it.

Some days you get up and think, “I don’t have the emotional, physical or spiritual strength to make it through today!” And I’m sure there are folks all along the Gulf Coast and in Florida right now who feel that way. So you have to understand…

#3. God will provide as you go

Most often God does not provide before we go, but as we go.

The Red Sea is a perfect example: the sea didn’t part until they got there. I’m sure they felt great stress with the Egyptian army bearing down on them. “What will we do? We are going to die!” No – when they got to the Red Sea, God used Moses to part it, and they walked across on dry ground.

Same thing happens Luke 17. Ten lepers cry out to Jesus for healing. Jesus tells them to go show themselves to the priests who served as the health inspector and could declare them healed.

But they weren’t healed at all. They STILL had leprosy!

Why go the priest? They’ll just be told, “You’re going to die!”

But they went. And the Scripture says as they went, not before, and not until, but AS they went, they were healed.

In the same way, God who is good and near will provide for you in

good days,

bad days,

hard days

and disastrous days –

as you go.

HE will provide the emotional, physical or spiritual strength to make it through today, the help you need…along the way.


But I understand…

it’s still hard to believe this information when your heart is breaking and your soul is crushed, and you really are in a bottomless pit. And so do this…

#4. Preach it.

But I’m not a preacher!

Sure you are. Everyone preaches. The question is, what is your sermon? God preached a sermon in the garden, and so did Satan.

You preach to yourself all the time. But what is your message?

David preached to his own soul: “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise Him, my salvation and my God.” Psalm 43:5 (ESV)

I heard Steffany Gretzinger say, “Sometimes we sing something because we believe it because we’re sure. And sometimes we sing UNTIL we’re sure.”

Sometimes we sing until we’re sure. 

That may be a word from the Lord for you today.

Maybe the devastation is strong in your life, and you want to believe that God is good and God is near, and God is powerful, and He is going to provide for all the uncertainty in your life right now – you WANT to believe that…

…but it’s not your experience right now.

Preach it to yourself! Cry out, “My soul – why are you cast down. Hope in God – ever will I praise Him! Ever will He be good to me! Ever will He be my salvation. God, You are my rock and my salvation and my strong tower in the storm!”

Maybe you’ve been singing the wrong song, preaching the wrong sermon, thinking the wrong thoughts…change your tune!

Sing it and speak it and preach it and keep on until…you believe it.

And then keep on declaring His goodness and nearness and provision to yourself over and over and over again and don’t quit doing it. Ever.

And the day will come when He will wipe every tear from your eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. Forever.

Amen amen amen amen.

 

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Arkansas, God and Execution-4 Points

Arkansas is big in the news right now because the state is trying to get through some executions before their execution drugs expire. And some Christians are upset about it and arguing that God is against it (for the record, I love prison ministry, I share Christ with inmates several times a year and I love taking Communion with Christian inmates who are my brothers in Christ).

Now to be clear, reasonable people can disagree on the death penalty. It is harder to get executed if you’re rich and can buy the most expensive lawyer around. Every pro-bono attorney is not Atticus Finch. I’d argue those are obstacles to be overcome, not reasons to do away with capital punishment.

But there is one thing you cannot do if you take the Bible seriously:

You cannot argue that the God of the Bible is against the death penalty.

Last week Shane Claiborne, social activist, tweeted that the death penalty is a disgrace to Jesus.

FullSizeRender (2)
Sorry Shane. Not the Jesus of the Bible. Read Genesis 9:6.
Is that true? Is the death penalty a disgrace to Jesus?

I also came across an article a while back by a “pro-lifer” pleading that Christians MUST reject the death penalty in the case of people like Jack Jones (he raped and strangled Mary Phillips to death in front of her 11-year-old daughter who was tied to a chair) if they are truly pro-life.

Is that true? Does pro-life equal rejection of the death penalty?

On both questions the answer is, “No.”
Here are four reasons why:

1. God is FOR capital punishment.
No ifs, ands or buts. If you want to oppose capital punishment, don’t use God as your source. In fact, you could preface your argument with “I don’t care what God says about it!” Because that’s where you are. And that’s OK! Just be honest. I’m weary of people claiming Christ is against it. It’s in black and white.

The Words of God Himself:
 “Whoever sheds the blood of man, d8488-gen96
by man shall his blood be shed,
for God made man in His own image.
Genesis 9:6 (ESV)

“But that’s Ooooooold Testament. We’re in the age of grace.” Ok. A statement made from ignorance. But I’ll play along.

New Testament:
For he (the govt authority) is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s
wrath on the wrongdoer. Romans 13:4

That’s New Testament. And God says “if you do wrong, BE AFRAID“. And just in case you’re unclear on the weapon, the sword was not used:

  • to shackle a person,
  • to give a person mercy,
  • to taze them,
  • to rehabilitate them,
  • or to write them a citation.

9be0a-esau
Some brutal weapons of destruction.
The sword is a brutal, painful and bloody weapon of destruction, used to “run a person through” so to speak. In short – to execute them. And the sword bearer in Romans 13:4 is God’s instrument of justice and wrath.

So Old Testament, New Testament, God never, ever gives any indication that He is against capital punishment, and in fact, endorses it. Why? Because God values life – He made man in His own image. And He punishes the taking of it. 

2. It is a grave injustice to equate abortion and capital punishment.
When someone argues that to be truly “pro-life” you have to be anti-capital punishment, they are making a horrendously (and I’d argue inhumanly) unjust statement. It’s saying that the murder of an innocent baby is the same as the Biblically endorsed execution of a man who brutally raped and murdered a woman in front of her daughter.

That is sick and twisted and is an indication of a morally compromised mind.

unnamed (4)
This statement is evidence of a broken moral compass.
An innocent baby is not equal in any way to a guilty murderer.

They are not the same. Not in God’s eyes. Not in any sense of justice. Only in a skewed “God’s so impotent and weak that justice is just not even in His framework” sense does this view work.

3. Pleading mercy for a murderer is not necessarily noble OR pro-life.
This point I find most offensive. There’s something particularly unsettling and untoward about Christians who are not the injured party pleading mercy for a murderer.

If you are injured, you have standing to plead for mercy for the aggressor. If your loved one is murdered, I suppose you have some standing to argue for mercy for the murderer.

But if you sit in another state, unaffected by the crime, suffering no loss, suffering none of the pain of the crime, pleading mercy for a murderer does not make you noble or necessarily pro-life. In fact, I’d argue it makes you:

arrogant,
unjust,
lacking in compassion for the true loss of the victim’s loved ones.

And I’d say you have an unhealthy appetite for mercy that doesn’t cost you a thing.

At the very least you have diminished the value of the life taken and the pain and suffering of the victim’s loved ones.

4. Capital punishment doesn’t keep a person from repenting and finding Christ.
Some, with a warped view of justice, argue that when a person is convicted of murder, that we should seek their salvation instead of their just end (according to God’s Word: Gen. 9:6, Romans 13:4).

The two are not mutually exclusive. It’s not either/or. You can give the death sentence in a court of law (no one’s talking about vigilantism here) and still share Christ with someone. As mentioned before, I share Christ with inmates several times a year. I love it when anyone gives their life to Christ!

And the truth is, death sentence for a brutal crime could be a great motivator for repentance. Who wants to stand before God with the stain of brutality and murder on their soul?

You have to look no further that the thief on the cross in Luke 23. It was on the cross, hours away from death…when faced with his own mortality that the thief repented and was granted salvation by none other than Jesus in the flesh. Jesus didn’t save him from execution. Jesus saved him from hell. A much better salvation. 

Why does this matter?

Because Christians need to be people of the Word. People who know it, understand it, and follow it. People who do not misquote it or use it as a shill for their own agenda. And Christians need to be people of justice. Seeking justice and mercy for the victim, whether the victim is a baby killed in the womb, or a man or woman murdered on the street.

God is very clear on capital punishment. He offers salvation to all – the liar, the gossip, the thief and even the murderer. But nowhere in Scripture, NOWHERE in Scripture, does He offer rescue from the just punishment for crime. Rather He sets up governments to institute that justice and defend the defenseless.

God is for capital punishment.

 

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#BestChristmasEver

best-christmas-ever_title

Q: How do you get the best Christmas? 

A: With an excellent Christmas list.

“Like this David?

  • A list of food to be bought.
  • A list of parties to go to.
  • A list of presents you want.
  • A list of presents your kids want.
  • A list of Hallmark Channel movies to watch.
  • A list of Christmas shows to watch.

Is that the kind of list required for the #BestChristmasEver?”

No. Do not pass go. Do not collect $200. go-to-jail

Those things are fine and fun and nothing wrong with any of them. But not one of them is essential for the Best Christmas Ever. In fact, for most of the last 2000 years, Christians all over the world have worshiped without any of those things!

I think there’s a better Christmas list. It’s found at the beginning of Matthew. It’s the genealogy of Jesus. “Yawn,” right? The word “genealogy” does not excite me at all.

What if I told you that:

  1. It’s the “family of Jesus list,” and
  2. It has the grandpa and great grandpa and great great grandpa of Jesus, and
  3. A bunch of the folks in His family are reprobates?

Would that make it more interesting? Because that’s the real deal. In the list of Jesus’ family (Jesus who is perfect, sinless, wholly God and wholly man), there is:

  • Ruth – a descendent of incest – the Moabites are descendants of Lot and HIS DAUGHTER- (all caps because I am yelling in horror) “having relations” (Gen. 19:33).
  • Tamar – who dressed up as a prostitute so that her father-in-law would GET HER PREGNANT (all caps-yelling again) because her husband died before they could have children.
  • Judah – who unknowingly had sex with his daughter-in-law because HE WAS HAVING SEX WITH A PROSTITUTE (all caps again-so much to yell about)!
  • Rahab – who WAS a prostitute.
  • Jechoniah – was so horrible that God actually cursed him.

Not exactly what you’d expect if you’re thinking, “family of Jesus.”

Imagine Tamar’s kid – first day of first grade:

Kid sitting next to Tamar’s son: Who’s your mom?
Tamar’s son: Tamar.
Kid sitting next to Tamar’s son: Tamar??? REALLY?? The one who had sex WITH YOUR GRANDPA??????

Horrifying.

But there they are. Right in the family of Jesus. Complete moral disasters. He’s got major league outcasts in His earthly family.

Matthew is the writer. Also an outcast. And rightly so. He was a Jew and a crooked tax collector who took money from his fellow Jews, for their enemy the Romans. Matthew was a traitor before he started following Jesus. Everybody hated the tax collector.

And I have to wonder, (pure speculation on my part) maybe Matthew’s thinking about being an outcast as he’s carried along by the Holy Spirit writing this…

Matthew: “I’m going to air some of my people’s dirty laundry right here at the beginning – to set the stage for the rest of the story.

Because when folks hear about the woman caught in adultery being saved and Zacchaeus the crooked being saved, and the thief on the cross being saved, that’s going to cause some self-righteous heads to spin.

So let’s be clear dear reader – Jesus has outcasts in His earthly family and they are right here in this geneology!”

Praise God He has outcasts in His family. Because we are all outcasts. All Every one of us.

Jesus died to wash the outcast clean, and bring her or him into His family.

Maybe you’ve felt like an outcast before. Left out. Left over. Awkward. Uncomfortable. Maybe you have some secrets in your past, or in your family history and you think, “If people only knew the real story – they wouldn’t want anything to do with me!”

No no no. Jesus is Lord of the outcast.

There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus. Galatians 3:28 (NLT)

In Christ, you’re no longer on the outside. In Christ, you’re on the inside.

Christmas means no matter what your situation, background, secrets, or history – Christmas means through Jesus, you are included in God’s great family. Not as a black sheep, not as an unwanted child. But as a man or woman deeply loved by Jesus.

You. Are. Included.

Amen and amen. And Merry Christmas!

 

 

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Antichrist: 12 Things to Know

When is the AntiChrist coming? Who is he? Is he alive right now? The Bible doesn’t tell us WHEN the Antichrist will come. In fact, it’s a secret, because it’s tied in with the second coming of Christ, and Jesus said no one but the Father knows when that will happen.

But…there are some things we CAN know, and probably should. Here’s 12 for you.

1.There are many “antichrists.” According to 1 John 2, anyone who denies Jesus as Christ is “an” antichrist.” Means they are “anti-Jesus.”

dishes
This make me so happy.

2. There is also a singular “Antichrist” who will rise to power during the Great
Tribulation   (according to 1 John 2 and Revelation 13).  He’s the supreme “anti-Jesus.” Whatever Jesus is, he’s the opposite.

Kind of like Bizarro Superman. He’s Bizarro Jesus. Meaning he’s not for you, but against you. Doesn’t love you, hates you. Doesn’t give you living water, but a dead soul. Doesn’t forgive your sins, but multiplies them. Doesn’t cast out demons, but wants to fill you with them. Doesn’t give you rest, but gives you turmoil. Doesn’t go to prepare a place for you, but will be sent to a place God prepared for him…hell.

And he wants you to join him.

3. His big chapter in the Bible is Revelation…wait for it…wait for it…13! As in, “Friday the 13th” and, unlucky number 13, and that disaster of a space journey (but an inspiring movie with Tom Hanks) Apollo 13! Is that amazing or am I the only one that thinks so?

So…if anyone asks you, “Where in the Bible is the Antichrist?” Just think, “what was that unlucky number? Number seven – no no it’s, ‘Come on lucky seven! I’m gambling the away diaper money!’ What about one –that would be snake eyes and sounds unlucky but I don’t think that’s it. What’s that movie about Friday? Freaky Friday, Friday Night Lights, FRIDAY THE 13TH!  That’s it!!  It’s in some book in the Bible, chapter 13.

Now you can always remember it. You’re welcome.

4. He won’t look like Eddie Munster or have a hairy werewolf face but will more than likely be very handsome, or at least have an appearance that makes you think, “what a great guy. I don’t why, but I like him (2 Cor. 11:4)!”

5. His name is probably not Damian. That’s from the book/movie, The Omen. Never saw it but knew about it because there was a kid in school with the same name who also happened to be stoned most of the time because of glue sniffing. So, of course, everyone in school made comments about the name. Because kids are kind and helpful.

6. He probably wasn’t born with a birthmark on his head that reads “666.” Can’t guarantee that. It just doesn’t say so anywhere in the Bible. He probably won’t have any explicitly Satanic identifying marks. That would make it hard to fool folks. “Hey, Beast! What’s that weird 666 unibrow you have going on there? Weird!”

beast
Pretty confident this is NOT the antichrist. Just a goofy X-Men character.

7. People will not call him, “The Beast” or, “Antichrist.” He’ll have a regular name. The world will think he’s a wonderful, wonderful world leader who’s able to bless all of mankind.

8. He could be alive right now. He could be a teenager renting umbrellas on a beach, selling froyo,  or working at the car wash. At one point in his life, Adolf Hitler lived in a flop house. The man who would murder six million Jews and try to take over the world was once a nobody in a flop house.  Nobody would’ve guessed that young Adolf would get close to ruling the world.

And it’s the same with the Antichrist.

9. Obama is not the antichrist. Shocking for some I know. How do I know? Simple. The Antichrist will unify the world and be worshiped by the world. The President doesn’t seem to be unifying anyone right now, and I don’t think Putin (or the President of the Philippines-who just called Obama pretty harsh name) is worshiping our president anytime soon.

10. He will be miraculous. So much so that he will imitate Christ’s death and resurrection. He’ll be mortally wounded, but recover or be revived and all the world will be amazed and follow him (see Revelation 13).

11. He’ll persecute and murder Christians. Persecution has happened before but this time, it will be on a worldwide scale.

12. He will give people hope and they will love him. They will follow him. And they will worship him. At the beginning of his reign, he will appear to be the savior of the world.  And people will think he’s like a god. 

How can people be so deceived you ask? Deceiving people is easy. Right now, some
12.9 MILLION people dfsabelieve that “shape-shifting alien reptilian people control our world by taking on human form.” I think that’s hilarious until one of them moves in next door…just saying.

But that belief is just a result of people being ignorant, crazy, gullible, or all three. The Antichrist will be empowered by Satan himself, and everyone who has not embraced Christ will have no protection from his power of deceit. Their minds will be given over to his leadership.

So what are you going to do? How do you keep from following the Antichrist?
Stake through the heart? Silver bullet? Garlic around your neck? No no no.

The best and only protection against the Antichrist is to embrace and follow Jesus with your life, and follow Him by obeying His Word. Do that and you’ll know the real thing (Christ) so well, you won’t be confused by a counterfeit like the Antichrist.

One more way that Jesus…will make it worth your while.

Amen, amen.

 

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God of War?

Ares-Greek God of War, my costume last Halloween.

When some folks think of God’s anger, they think it means He’s like a God of war. Now certainly if you enslave His people for 400 years, He will be a warrior (Exodus 15:3), but let me see if I can bring some clarity to the issue of God’s anger.

God’s Anger Is (highlighting with red today because it’s a fighting, “war-like” color that makes bulls angry and upsets “progressive” teachers (this is a great link) wanting to outlaw red for checking papers):

#a. Not malicious, but just.

I read Percy Jackson and the Olympians – got it from my daughter. It’s a fantasy/fiction about a current day boy who has all these adventures with the gods of Greek mythology. Pretty entertaining.

The Greek gods were malicious and spiteful – like school kids at times. The God of War, Ares, loved a fight. He loved to stir it up just for the sake of stirring it up and he didn’t care who got hurt (had a buddy like that in high school!).

The Canaanites – neighbors of Israel – worshiped the god Molech. Molech was considered to be a fierce vengeful god who demanded child sacrifice – and the people of Judah to some extent joined in the child sacrifice! Molech was an angry vengeful god.

That is not our God.

 God is a righteous judge, a God who expresses His wrath every day. Psalms 7:11

RIGHTEOUS is the operative word here.
God’s anger is always just.

Judah rejected God’s grace for hundreds of years, worshiping by having sex with prostitutes and murdering their children as a sacrifice. And God was patient. He waited not years, but centuries to bring mete out His justice. God’s anger was not malicious – it was just.

#b. God’s anger is Not capricious or erratic, but measured. 
The definition of capricious anger, or erratic anger is anger that is expressed at the wrong time and/or at the wrong things.

Testosterone destroying car.
Even THINK you like
it- you lose your man card.

A guy is at work – things get messed up. He’s angry. On the way home, traffic is backed up. He fantasizes about having a bulldozer blade that will plow through the folks in his way, but he’s in his Smart Car so that would be unwise. Now he’s seething. He’s seething because of the traffic, work, and because of the fact that he’s driving a ridiculous car that is actually sucking the man force from his very being. His man card was confiscated at the dealership.

No cats were hurt in taking of this picture.

Then finally…home at last. He walks in and the cat just walks in front of him – barely in his way and BOOM – “meeerroooowwww” – flying cat! Everyone in the room – especially the cat – is thinking “where did that come from???” He’s angry at the wrong time at the wrong thing. Little Mortimer asks “Father…why so capricious and erratic?

God is never like that.  His anger is always accurately measured – it is at the right things at the right time.

A just weight is His delight.  Proverbs 11:1  

When God makes a judgment, when He is angry, His anger is right and true. It is His direct, calculated and accurate response to sin.

#c.  God’s anger is not selfish or impulsive, but selfless and patient.

Much of our anger is selfish. I didn’t get MY way, MY tv, MY food on time, MY, MY, ME, ME. And when do we get angry? After our selfish desires have been patiently simmering for a long, long time? Heck no! I want it NOW.

But Psalms 145:8 says The LORD is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. 

2 Peter 3:9
 He is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish  but that all should reach repentance.

#d. God’s anger is against wickedness and the wicked. 

Clearly Jesus loves sinners (Romans 5:8). For God so loved the world. God loves me, a sinner.

But many extend that to say that God does not get angry at the sinner – you and me. Ridiculous. REALLY ridiculous.

The Lord was angry with Aaron, angry with Hebrews at Sinai  and with the Hebrews in the wilderness. Not just with their rebellion, but with them!

Mark 3:5 says Jesus looked at the Pharisees “with anger”. He wasn’t angry at their sin – He was furious at them? Called them things like “white washed tombs full of dead men’s bones”. Fighting words! Now He’s God, so remember – His judgment in using those words is right and true.

Jesus made a whip and drove the money changers out of the temple! “Excuse me, not mad you, just what you’re doing. Pardon me while I thrash you.”

Ridiculous. He turned over tables and popped his whip around. He was angry at the money changers.

God’s anger is real. You cannot strip God’s wrath of all emotional content and present it as a completely dispassionate and cerebral thing (Moment of truth-think I read that somewhere-not sure it’s original with me). God is not angry just with the wicked things we do, but with the wicked things we are.

And while it may seem odd to you until I explain it, the fact that God is angry at the wicked things we are is extremely comforting to me. Here’s why:

There is unspeakable evil in the world today. Children molested, children enslaved. Girls captured in India and sold into brothels for life. And not all who commit such crimes are brought to justice. So if God is sitting idly by, unmoved by this great and horrific evil…if He is not ANGRY with those who hurt children in this way, then He is NOT a good God. He’s like the judge who let’s the criminal go free. He’s an evil and wicked God. If God is not angry at unadulterated evil, where is hope in the universe? Alas, all hope is tragically gone, we are undone and God is impotent!

But (and I’m shouting triumphantly in my head right now) He is angry with the wicked.
He is a Man of War  Exodus 15:3
And while justice may not get served
everywhere on this earth in this life,
He promises that at the end of the age, justice 
will prevail for all and His goodness will triumph. 
Praise Him! He is Mighty! He is Good! And He is Victorious! 
Amen.
 
This is my Father’s world. O let me ne’er forget
That though the wrong seems oft so strong, God is the ruler yet.
This is my Father’s world: the battle is not done:
Jesus Who died shall be satisfied,
And earth and Heav’n be one.

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