Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Righteousness Exalts A Nation

“Righteousness exalts a nation…” (Proverbs 14:34).

While America was founded upon Christian values and Biblical principles, we have slowly become unfaithful to God. You can plainly see it in things like removing prayer from schools and the Ten Commandments being stripped from the courts that were founded on them. When political correctness becomes more important than the life of the unborn, you know we’re in trouble. Unfaithfulness to God has become evident in the chambers of our lawmakers as well. Our nation has been unfaithful to the God whose name is chiseled on our monuments and engraved on our currency.

The Bible says "When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice, But when a wicked man rules, people groan." (Proverbs 29:2). I know you have heard them. People are groaning everywhere these days. From the restructuring the troubles of our battered economy to the urgent need for tax reform in our government, people desire change. But how does true change come? What can build up our nation? Do we want America to benefit from practicing Christ-like righteousness or be further disgraced by sinful practices and politicians? The Bible says in Proverbs 14:34 that “Righteousness exalts a nation but sin is a disgrace to any people.” Sin has brought us to the current state of our country. Whether it’s greed on Wall Street or laziness on Main Street, our governmental structures as a whole aren’t built on the principles of God any longer.

Righteousness must be the standard by which we build our nation. Christians cannot simply vote the economy on Tuesday and hope for Godly change on Sunday. For Christians, there is no such thing as a “church life” and a “political life”. They are one and must be governed by righteousness. Christians must vote righteousness and even run for offices in which they desire Christ-like change and integrity. Righteousness simply means to be in right standing with God. It means you are honoring Him and following His ways. Christians must always side with Biblical standards and never compromise.

The Reverend Charles Finney said, "The time has come that Christians must vote for honest men, and take consistent ground in politics or the Lord will curse them... Christians have been exceedingly guilty in this matter. But the time has come when they must act differently... God will bless or curse this nation, according to the course Christians take."

President James A. Garfield said, “The people are responsible for the character of their Congress. If that body be ignorant, reckless, and corrupt, it is because the people tolerate ignorance, recklessness, and corruption. If it be intelligent, brave, and pure, it is because the people demand these high qualities... If the next century does not find us a great nation... it will be because those who represent the enterprise, the culture, and the morality of the nation do not aid in controlling the political forces."

If Christians desire for America to once again be shaped and governed by righteousness, now is the time to step up. While we must pray and seek the Lord in private about the state of our nation, we must publicly take action if we desire true change. Christians must stand up for righteousness, not political correctness. Biblical principles must fashion our political agendas, not political parties, affiliations, or economy.

Minister and civil rights leader Frederick Douglass said, “I have one great political idea... The best expression of it I have found in the Bible. It is in substance of scripture, 'Righteousness exalts a nation; sin is a reproach to any people'. This constitutes my politics -- the negative and positive of my politics, and the whole of my politics."

If you truly want true change then stand for righteousness. God’s Word promises that righteousness will exalt our nation, but only if Christians take a stand. Biblical principles are a must for change we can believe in. If we really want to put our country first, then God must be truly first. Vote Righteousness.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

How Embarrasing

Well...what happened to me tonight would be in the top of my most embarrassing moments. Kylee and I left church tonight after locking up. We pulled out of the church driveway and Kylee started yelling for help. She is learning to buckle her own seat belt and was having trouble since the buckle was covered up by a compound miter saw I had in my backseat. I know I shouldn't have, but I turned around while driving and tried to help her. I knew I was in trouble when the altitude changed. My car left the Highway in front of the church and, of all places, I got stuck in the ditch of the church. No one was hurt, but I didn't know what I was going to do. I was so embarrassed. I thought I'd just call a tow truck since everyone had left church, but little did I know there were good Samaritans left at the church building. There to rescue me were a group of loving souls, led by our fearless youth pastor. Embarrassed, I stumbled around trying to explain what happened. They thought I had blacked out. One of them asked me to take a sobriety test. Pastor Ken pulled up and all he did was hand me an AOL (Acts Of Love) card. We use these in our church when we help people in need. Its an invitation to church as well. I humbly and sheepishly accepted. We hooked up my car with a tow chain that Pastor Ken had (I am impressed and thankful he carries those kind of things around). Kylee and I got out safe and sound. I'll never hear the end of this one at church. Kylee was very encouraging as she laughed and said Pastor Ken saved the day. Here's to you Pastor Ken!

Friday, October 24, 2008

What a Week

Kylee, my 4 year old, told me the funniest thing this past week. She has some new vitamins and they have Looney Tunes characters on them. We came across one she didn't know - Tasmanian Devil. She asked, "who is that?" I said, "The Tasmanian Devil or Taz." She said she was afraid of the devil. I laughed and said that Taz wasn't the devil, just a cartoon character. I told her the devil is real though but you didn't have to be afraid, only resist the devil and he will flee. She said, "what is resist?" I said it was to tell him "no". She said "what is flee? Is it like a collar for the cat?" Again I laughed and said, no it meant that he would run away from you. She was so excited that you could tell the devil no in Jesus name or quote scripture at him and the devil would run away. She then added, like only a 4 year old imagination could, that she knew the devil's mama and that she could tell on him as well. I didn't ask who the devil's mama was in fear it might be someone I know. hahahaha

This past week has been busy but good. We took some inflatable games to help raise money for one of the local schools (Redfield) last Friday night. I met several families and had some good conversations about the church with them. Saturday, about of us went to help clear some trees and debris off of a church member's house and land from a previous storm. What a great time of fellowship and being the church!

Saturday night church was great. Kids church was great that night as Haley and I led. Sunday night Life Group was great as well. We had a great discussion on the message and how we could be used for the Lord and His Holy Spirit wanted to empower us to do great things for the Kingdom.

Monday, Haley and I tried to take the girls to the pumpkin patch in Grady, but they were closed. Instead, we went to the park and had a great time. I had the privilege to speak to the ladies at the Hope Resource Center in Pine Bluff about the Lord on Wednesday and several of them signed up for things at the church like our Great Expectations program for expecting parents and Single Parent's ministry and Angelfood Ministry. Hope ministers to ladies who are pregnant, think they might be pregnant or have small children. They supply lots of services and Biblical counseling to ladies in need. The ladies that day earned 5 credits towards things like diapers, baby clothing, etc. Hope served us breakfast Thursday morning for Pastor appreciation month.

Wednesday AWANA went well. We had nearly 140 kids age 3-6th grade and saw a couple of kids give their lives to Christ. Thursday night concluded my class on "How To Share Your Faith". I saw several people become bold and confident in sharing their faith with someone they know and a couple of people were saved as a result of the classes. Tonight, we are having a worship service/brainstorming meeting for those age 18 through their 20's. We want to reach that age group for Christ and tonight we hope to develop even more of a core group to do that.

God is good. I was able to lead a lady to the Lord this past week. I have really been trying to talk to more people about their relationship with the Lord wherever I am - especially out in the community.

Fall Festival, formerly known as "Holyween" is next Friday night from 6-9 pm. We'll have pony rides, inflatable games, Segways, hayrides, free food (hot dogs, drinks, popcorn, cotton candy, etc). Angel Food distribution is this Saturday from 10-noon. Our Marriage Conference is this Sunday night at 6pm and is open to all married or engaged couples.

Lord, keep me humble so you can continue to use me for your service. If I ever think its about me, set me straight. Let all praise and glory go to Jesus Christ as we reach people for your Kingdom.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

God Is Love

"But Jesus looked at them and said to them, 'With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.' " - Matthew 19:26

There is a story of an older gentleman who spent a lot of time visiting very sick people in the hospital. As a gift, he would give each person a small, embroidered bookmark. On the back of each bookmark was a group of tangled threads with no apparent pattern. When he would visit with those who were sick, he would hand them the bookmark with the back facing up exposing the tangled mess of string. Then, he would look at those who were sick or hurt and say, "Look at the bookmark and tell me what it says."As they searched for meaning in the tangled threads, they would look back in confusion at the man and say, "I have no idea what it says. It doesn't seem to say anything. It’s just a tangled mess. I do no understand."With compassion in his voice he would say, "Now, turn it over and read the other side." As they would flip that bookmark over, they saw the words, "God is love." The older gentleman would then say, "Many times when we look at life and question our circumstance and what God is doing, we just see tangled threads with no rhyme or reason. But from God's perspective, He has a plan. He is love and His plan is certain inside our difficulty. He is dealing with us in love, and He knows what He is doing." Sometimes we focus too long on the wrong side of the bookmark.The next time you think it is all over for you, just remember how things turned out for Joseph when he was sold into slavery by his brothers. Just remember how things turned out for Daniel as he was thrown into the lion’s den. No doubt things looked pretty dim for them. It probably seemed hopeless as well for Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego when they were thrown into the fiery furnace. Can you imagine how grim things appeared for Peter when he was in prison? And things looked bleak for Martha and Mary when their brother Lazarus died. For those standing at the foot of the cross, the world seemed to end as Jesus hung dying.

But God is sovereign, which means He is in control. He is always at work, even in the midst of trouble. He will not abandon you. Psalm 46:1 says, “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.” David said in Psalm 37:25 “I was young and now I am old, yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging bread.” I wonder if he was thinking about the time God was with him as he fought Goliath. Maybe he was recalling the times God protected him as he feared Saul was going to kill him. Maybe he remembered how God forgave him and still used him after his affair with Bathsheba. Whatever the case, David knew God was good and never left those who followed Him.You see, things can look bad at one moment, but then God will step in and turn events around. Then suddenly you'll look back and say, "Now I understand what God was doing." Maybe your situation seems tough hopeless. You may have been staring at the tangled mess you have been in for a long time. Maybe you have given up.

The Bible says in James 4:8, “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.” I encourage you to call out to Him and allow His love to weave purpose and hope in your life. If all you can see is a tangled mess, turn your life over to Christ and see things from His perspective. He loves you.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

7 Biblical Principles of Money

In the midst of economic crisis, there have to be definitive answers. No one is going to bail you out of your economic troubles. Our recent economic woes have shouted loudly that biblical principles should apply to individuals, families, Wall Street firms, and even governments. What can you do to survive the economic crisis upon us?

#1 God Owns Everything (1 Chronicles 29:11-12)

Remembering that God created and owns everything will keep your finances in perspective. According to 1 Chronicles 29:11-12, everything in heaven and on earth is His, including wealth. Ask yourself, “Am I taking care of what God has given me?” The statement, “You can’t take it with you” is true. We leave it all behind because it never really was ours. God allows us to be stewards over what we have so we can use it for Him.

#2 Develop a Budget (Proverbs 16:3)

You can’t change the price of gas but you can change your spending habits. Learn to live within your means. To do this, you have to establish a budget. Luke 15:8-10 tells of the woman who lost a day’s wages and painstakingly searched until she recovered it. She understood the value of her earnings. Like the widow, you must do whatever you can to recover and wisely spend your daily income. If you are spending more than you make, you are destined for financial failure. Proverbs 16:3 says to commit to the Lord whatever you do and your plans will succeed.

#3 Save and Give (Proverbs 3:9)

Giving money away may not seem to make sense if you want gain in your finances. God’s plan for financial blessings is honoring Him with the first part of your income (Proverbs 3:9). The first thing you should do with your finances is pay God (tithing) and pay yourself (saving). Put aside money for tough times, unexpected breakdowns, and future investments.

#4 – Get Out of Debt ASAP! (Proverbs 22:7)

Proverbs 22:7 says the borrower is enslaved to the lender. How true! For example, if you borrow $100 on your credit card and make only minimum payments, do you know how long it will take to repay the loan? Would you believe up to thirty years? Items charged on your MasterCard can cost you seven to eight times the purchase price! The first step to getting out of debt is stop using credit cards. Next, start paying down your debt.

#5 – Avoid Indulgence and Hasty Decisions (Proverbs 21:5)

Proverbs 21:5 says, “The plans of the diligent lead to profit as surely as haste leads to poverty.” Do the math: if you spend less, you’ll have more. Believe it or not, our lives are surrounded by luxuries we swear are essentials. Luxuries like cable TV, brand names, internet, and eating out should be some of the first things to go if you can’t afford groceries and gas. Don’t purchases items you don’t need! Pray about major purchases before jumping in over your head. Save up for things and pay cash. What’s better: the constant stress of being indebted to stuff or enjoying financial freedom with less stuff?

#6 – Establish Goals (Habakkuk 2:2)

Have a vision for your finances. Set a time period for paying things off like your house and cars. Simply paying a little extra each month can cut years off your debt. How much do you need to save for your kids’ college expenses? How much do you need for retirement? What about planning and saving for the next vacation instead of charging the whole thing? If you set reasonable goals, you’ll reach them.

#7 – Learn Contentment (Philippians 4:11)

Paul writes in the book of Philippians that he has learned to be content in all areas of life. If you feel as though you have to keep up with neighbors’ purchases, you’ll never be content. Saying the words, “I don’t need it”, can bring you great freedom. Remember that things are meant to serve you, not the other way around. Learn to be content with what you have. You’ll never be satisfied with obtaining more because possessions cannot satisfy you. Contentment and peace are achieved only through a relationship with Christ.

Set some Biblical principles today in your finances and allow God bring you true financial peace.

Monday, October 6, 2008

The Snare of Sin

Saturday, I spotted a something out of the ordinary on my neighbor's property.  A deer that had its back leg caught on the top of a chain link fence.  From the appearance of it, she had been caught for awhile and looked dead.  My neighbor is in her late 80's and so I knocked on her door to let her know that I was going to remove the dead deer before it started stinking.  I grabbed some rope and tin snips and proceeded with plans to free the dead deer and bury it with a backhoe in the adjacent field.  

When I poked the deer with a stick, SHE MOVED!  I thought it was a reflex, but she was still alive!  I cut her leg free, hoping she would run away ( I backed up a good distance because I've seen too many "when animals attack" videos).  She didn't move.  I tried several times to get her to move, but she refused.  Thinking she was just tired from her struggle,  I decided to leave her in hopes she would rest and later run away.  She never moved and eventually died.  

I thought about how that deer, who once was free, died from getting such a small part of her body entangled.  If I had been there sooner, maybe she could have recovered and gone free, but who knows.  

That's how sin snares us.  It could be a "small" sin that affects (we may think) only a small part of us.  The truth is that it affects our whole person and eventually leads to spiritual death.  The Bible says "By transgression an evil man is ensnared, But the righteous sings and rejoices. Proverbs 29:6"  Sin ensnares our whole lives.  Like the deer, I know some who have struggled for a long time on their own hoping to break free from the power of sin.  They need someone to cut them free.  They need a Savior.  

There is no small sin.  Sin is sin.  It doesn't just affect a small part of us, but all of us.  Sin affects our eternity!  Left unconfessed and unchallenged, it leads to eternal separation from God.

A liberating verse is Romans 6:23: "For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord."  It was too late for the deer, but never too late for us.  Some stop at the first part of that verse thinking they are too far gone for God to rescue.  But the last part of the verse frees us from sin's enslavement.  Jesus' sacrifice frees even the worst of sinners.  In fact, we all have sinned and need a Savior.  (Romans 3:23)  

If you are entangled in sin and think you have no hope of escape, I pray you'll let Christ set you free from the sin that has ensnared you.  I pray you'll give your life to Christ and accept God's free gift of eternal life in Jesus our Lord.  Romans 5:8 says, "God demonstrated His love for us in this way: while were were still sinners, Christ died for us."