Friday, July 27, 2012

The Bible and My Cell Phone

What if you took care of your Bible like you did your cell phone? I see people on their cell phones all the time. Whether it is checking email, surfing the internet, listening to music, social networking, texting, playing games, or checking their calendars the cell phone has revolutionized the way we communicate and live. And I didn’t even mention talking on it! I cannot remember life without cell phones. My first one was huge and had very limited talk time – emergency use only.

Face to face communication is almost a thing of the past. Kids as young as five now have their own cell phone. I saw a parent of a preschooler drop her child off at school and tell them, “If you need mommy, just call me on your cell phone.” We have become addicted to cell phones. Some people spend several hours each day on them and check them in some way every five minutes or less. They want to stay connected. What if we searched the Bible like we do our cell phones? What if we checked it for new messages every five minutes? What if we carried it around everywhere we went? What if we turned around to get it if we left it somewhere? What if we used it like we couldn’t live without it?

In Acts 17:11, a group of people, the Bereans, searched the scriptures daily to see if Paul and Silas were teaching it correctly. They desperately dissected the Bible and used it for daily living. Hebrews 4:12 says, “The word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” God’s Word is powerful!

The Bible tells us everything we need to know about God, life, relationships, and even problems. It is “useful to teach us what is true and make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do right” (2 Timothy 3:16).

Take your Bible with you wherever you go! Certainly we should memorize it, hiding it in our hearts (Psalm 119:11). I keep a Bible in my car all the time. I also have a Bible app on my cell phone so I can read and search it at any time. Here is a challenge: the next time you are drawn to use your cell phone “unnecessarily”, read a few Bible verses or a chapter instead. Instead of turning instantly to your cell phone to get help what about turning to the table of contents or performing a topic/word search to get guidance from God? The psalmist said we find comfort and life in God’s Word (Psalm 119:25, 52). What if you got direction from God instead of the GPS on your phone? After all, the Bible is “a lamp to our feet and a light to our path” (Psalm 119:105).

When I exercise, I use my cell phone to listen to a sermon or two from another church. I have several church apps on my phone to study Scripture and listen to other pastors. My cell phone is my pocket Bible. I constantly use my cell phone to search the internet for scriptures. I read several daily devotionals emailed to me on my cell phone. I even occasionally text verses and post on social media Bible verses God has shown me.

Would your life change if you looked at your Bible as much as you do your cell phone?

Monday, July 23, 2012

Don't Rush Love

You will never be fulfilled with sex outside of marriage. What most people are looking for in sex is love. Still others are only looking for lust. Our culture will lie to you about what love really is and how you obtain it. Don’t think culture lies? Remember bellbottoms and parachute pants? What about fanny packs and leisure suits? Culture lied to us and said they were stylish. Kidding aside, if we look to culture or television to find real love, we will be disappointed. The pseudo love that dominates the airwaves and mainstream media will leave you unfulfilled and full of regret.

There is a hole in your heart that neither you nor any other person will be able to fill. John 4 tells about a woman who had a myriad of relationships-gone-bad. She already had five failed marriages and was living with a guy. What she needed, and Jesus gave it to her, was “living water.” Moving in together, premarital sex, relationship hopping, and the world’s way of dating will not fulfill you. Neither will a marriage apart from Christ. Only a relationship with Jesus will sustain and enrich your life and allow you to have fruitful relationships. If you have had one bad relationship after another then what you need is the Lord first and foremost. He will never leave you nor turn His back on you.

If you are single, don’t be obsessed with trying to find the right person. Sometimes people settle for whoever comes along just so they won’t be lonely. Doing so may compromise discovering God’s best. God will bring the right person to you at the right time. He took the initiative to bring Eve to Adam to complete Him (Genesis 2). Start seeking the Lord’s righteousness and Kingdom first and then He will give you the desires of your heart (Matthew 6:33).

What do you need in a mate? First is inner beauty. That only comes through a surrendered life to Christ. For the Christian, you should look for someone who is already serving the Lord and faithful to His church. A woman or man whom God is changing is a magnetic and beautiful thing. Get your eyes off outward beauty. The more media influences you the more unsatisfied you will be with your body and that of your mate. Why? Spend more time in prayer and in the Bible than you do working out or looking in a mirror. Beauty is fleeting but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised (Proverbs 31:30).

Don’t rush your relationship. Love that is genuine will last. In Genesis 29:20 Jacob worked for Rachel’s father seven years before he could marry her. 1 Corinthians 13 reminds us that love is patient. “Agape” is the unconditional, sacrificial, covenantal love that doesn’t seek its own or desire anything in return. “Eros” (where we get the word erotic) is merely physical attraction where you want something from someone. “Phileo” is friend and family love but also desires something in return. You must base your relationship, especially marriage, on agape. Sex is a good thing. God created it, but for His context. That is where it brings blessing and fulfillment.

God has the master plan for your life. Look to Him for it and don’t rush. Rushing anything usually leads to pain and destruction. Live a life fully devoted to Him and He will direct your path. Let Him fill that emptiness in your heart. Afterwards, everything He adds to it will bring a blessing.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

I Am Daddy

I love being a dad.  I'm glad God gave me girls.  They are a blast!  They love seeing daddy come home and are still at the age where they run up to me and hug me when I come in the house.  They let me toss them in the air and use them as my free weights to do "daddy-workout". 

I am learning something - I only get one shot at this time in their life.  They are growing up too fast!  I have to admit, I still get a little weepy when I hear songs like "Cinderella" by Steven Curtis Chapman or "It Won't Be Like This For Long" by Darius Rucker (yes, I listed a "secular" artist - Heaven forbid I list "She Thinks We're Just Fishin'" by Trace Adkins - LOL).  Seriously, this era of my life is passing fast.  One day they will be grown, married, and out of my house (not till age 30 though). 

The past couple of weeks have been a counseling marathon for me.  Last week's phrase was, "you aren't sorry.  You're sorry you got caught."  This week's phrase was, "stop acting like a jerk".  I replaced "jerk" with "punk" one day.  Why?  These dad's are missing it!  I don't know how many dads I've begged to get right and not leave.  I've lost count of how many husbands who I've pleaded with over and over to step up and be a man of God and love their wife and kids. 

I don't want to look back with regret.  God is full of grace.  My wife and kids don't have to worry about if I'm coming home or not.  They don't have to worry about if we are going to have supper together most every night.  I'm going to lead them to the Lord, not away from Him.  When I look back in life I don't want to have regrets in the time I've spent with my family or how I've done it.

I've got a lot of aspirations in life.  Some I've completed, but others are still in front of me.  I want to write books, lead and plant churches, reach thousands of people for Christ and many other noble tasks.  Right now is a pretty busy time in my life for several reasons.  I'm meeting with about 25 different people for counseling right now.  I have five weddings in two months.  I'm leading our 10,000 sq ft. building project at church.  I want to be great at them all - but most important to me is being dad and husband.  Why?  Isn't the church more important?  If I don't take care of my bride, how can I take care of His?  If I don't love and lead my family, How can I love and lead Family Church?  What a poor testimony of someone who is a great pastor but a terrible husband and father!

I am Stevie to my wife.  I am daddy to my kids.  Everyone else knows me as Stephen or Pastor but only they get Stevie and daddy.  This week is CRAZY on the construction end at church.  Ceilings, flooring, masonry, electrical, concrete, painting, kitchen installation, you name it has been scheduled.  I've organized, coordinated, prepped, and planned as best as possible.  The tug-of-war yesterday was this:  I'm scheduled to be off a few days with my family next week but feel the pressure of what may happen and who may need me next week.  My conclusion:  I've done all I can to prep for next week.  I know all our contractors by name and I enjoy seeing them at the job site.  But those girls mean more.  I realized this - the job site will function without me because I've prepared it well.  My family won't and no excuse in the world, no matter how "important" I make it to my girls, will suffice. 

Jesus told the disciples in John 14 that they had seen the Father.  Phillip longed to see the Father and said, "Show us the Father and that will be enough."  In other words, "I long for a Father so much that one glimpse of the real thing will fulfill my deepest desire."  Jesus told them they see the Father through Him.  I desire to be like Christ and show Him through my life to my girls.

I pray three things for my girls every day:  1.  They give their lives to Christ.  2.  They are called into full-time ministry.  3.  They marry men who love Christ and His Church and not settle.  I must set the bar high for them by living the life of the type of man they should marry.  One who values them over work.  One who values them over prestige.  One who values them over power and money.  One who looks and loves like Jesus.  I'm not perfect in this and have to say no and know when enough work is enough.  But I'm trying.

After all life is done and finished I may say I pastored a great church and loved thousands of people.  I may say I have done and built great things and fulfilled many aspirations.  But the greatest thing I'll say is I was Stevie and daddy.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Jesus Wept

When crisis or tragedies come, we often ask God why. Listen, God is concerned about you. He loves you! He understands your pain, heartache, and heavy heart. He wants to soothe the emptiness and despair inside and give you great peace in the middle of adversity. When Lazarus, a close personal friend of Jesus was sick and died, Jesus wept (John 11:35). Most people know this verse as the shortest verse in the Bible but Jesus doesn’t want it remembered for that. He wants you to know he too understands loss, pain, and grief. I often wondered why Jesus cried when He knew He was going to raise His friend from the dead. The short answer is Jesus isn’t some mechanical deity void of compassion and feeling who merely dispenses healing like a gumball machine. He is relational and loves like no other.

“Why me? Why now?” Jesus learned his friend was sick (John 11:3) but waited and eventually got to Lazarus after he was dead and buried. Sometimes is seems God is far away in the midst of tragedy. Jesus was never absent in this situation. After being told Lazarus was sick, Jesus risked being killed by going back to Judea, a place where the Jews tried to stone Him (John 11:8). Jesus didn’t care about His safety, He cared about His friends. You see, Jesus wanted to do something greater than heal Lazarus. Mary and Martha wanted a healing but Jesus wanted a resurrection. It foreshadowed Jesus’ ability to be raised from the dead, our ultimate path of victory over sin and death. He is the resurrection and the life and those who believe in Him will live forever (John 11:25-26).

Sometimes God’s plan is not exactly ours, but it is best. He will reveal it to us if we wait on Him. By staying where He was, Jesus was able to teach His disciples greater faith in Him (John 11:14). Sometimes we want God to move when we are unwilling to move ourselves. Could Jesus have healed Lazarus from a distance? Absolutely. Did He not know Lazarus was going to die? He knew. So what was He up to? Jesus asked something from everyone before this miracle could take place. Could He not do it on His own? Yes, He is all-powerful. He asked His disciples to follow Him so they would grow in their faith. He asked those present to roll away Lazarus’ tombstone. He asked Lazarus to rise up. He asked people to take Lazarus’ grave clothes off. Why didn’t He just do everything Himself? After all, He is all-knowing and all-powerful.

Romans 5:3-5 tells us that we can rejoice in trials and problems because they develop our endurance, character, and confidence in our salvation. We will not be disappointed as God fills us with His Holy Spirit and love. Bigger than Lazarus’ healing was God’s glory. Everyone’s happiness, while important, was secondary to their growth and His glory. What stones do you need to roll away? Will you follow Jesus beyond the tragedy, waiting on Him to bring peace and a resurrection to your situation? When He calls your name, will you rise up? Will you continue to grow in Him by stripping off the dead things that have held you back (grave clothes) after the resurrection comes? Are you willing to wait on His timing despite your uncertain, stinking situation (dead Lazarus stunk and the people questioned Jesus’ plan but still obeyed). Don’t give up in the middle of adversity. Jesus is weeping beside you as He walks you toward resurrection.

Friday, July 6, 2012

The Curse of Comparison

“At least I’m not as bad him. I wish I had what they had. I’ll never measure up to them. Why did God bless them and not me?” All these are statements of comparison and comparison is a curse and will ruin you! In John 21, after Jesus gave Peter the great task of feeding His sheep, Peter compared himself to John. Jesus told Peter that he would die following Him. This caused Peter to point at John and say, “What about John?” After all if Peter had to die, shouldn’t John have to die as well? If Peter got bad news then everyone else needed bad news as well. Jesus addressed this needless comparison by saying, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me.” Whom God blesses is none of our business. Our business is following Him.

We must stop comparing ourselves with others and start following Christ. The curse of comparing yourself with someone else will either produce insecurity or pride (both sins). You will either see yourself as inferior or superior. Sometimes it bothers us when those we do not like prosper. Resenting them eventually leads to resenting and being angry at God. Envy and jealousy are the roots of comparison. They open the door to deception and destruction. Being jealous of people and envious of their things will ruin you.

Comparing yourself with others will distract you from God’s purpose for your life. Focusing on others strengths and blessings cause you to miss out on your strengths and blessings. Feeling inadequate or inferior to others blinds us to who we really are in Christ. The only way to make yourself look better is search for someone you think you are better than. 2 Corinthians 10:12 warns us, “We do not dare to classify or compare ourselves with some who commend themselves. When they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are not wise.” Comparing yourself with someone else is not wise!

Comparison is also bathed in greed and covetousness. Comparison tells God, “I want their life because I don’t like the one You gave me.” Comparison demonstrates ungratefulness toward God and throws a rebellious fist in His face. Desiring something someone else has is idolatry. You say, “Really pastor? You are carrying this too far.” I don’t think so. Colossians 3:5 tells us to put to death covetousness, which is idolatry. Do you realize that the sin of comparison could be stopping God from blessing you?

What cures us from the curse of comparison? Glorifying God is number one. Glorify means magnify. When you make God big it makes what you think you don’t have small. Magnifying anything other than God opens the door to the sin of comparison. Secondly, you need to be thankful to God. Remembering that everything good in your life is a direct result of God’s goodness and grace. Stop right now and thank God for five good things in your life. Lastly you need to renew your mind. Start setting your mind on things above, not on earthly things (Colossians 3:2).

Peter learned this lesson of comparison. When he died thirty years later, history tells us he was crucified upside down. Why? He refused to be crucified like Jesus. He did not want his death to be compared to that of His Lord because he thought it would have robbed Jesus’ glory.