Tuesday, November 7, 2017
When tragedy strikes, it is very normal to ask the question, “Where was God while this was happening? Why didn’t God stop the tragedy that happened at Southerland Springs, Texas?" In times like these, it is important to be open and honest with ourselves and with the truth of what God’s Word teaches us. What we know for a fact is that we live in a sinful, broken, and evil world. Our society is filled with selfishness, hurt, pain and destruction. We live in a fallen world where people intentionally choose to disobey God and hurt others, usually because they have been hurt in some way themselves. The recent shooting of our friends at FBC Southerland Springs is a stark reminder of these facts.
This was not God’s plan! From the beginning, God created a perfect world full of life, joy, fulfillment, peace and love. God gave people the free will to choose their own paths. Because Adam and Eve chose to disobey God, sin and brokenness entered the world. We are all sinners by nature and by choice. We can choose to do the right things or the wrong things in every situation. Too often, we choose to do the wrong thing, even if the wrong thing hurts us or others. Sin and evil entered into this world and one of the very first things we read is that Cain became filled with rage, jealousy, anger, and hurt to the point that he lashed out and killed his brother Abel. You see, that is what sin and evil do. They hurt both the innocent and the guilty. Sin and evil affect all of us. We have the freedom to choose to do good or evil. God did not create us to be robots who mindlessly are forced to love and obey Him.
Because of our sin, God sent his Son Jesus to live a perfect life, die on the cross to take the penalty for our sin, and rise from the dead proving that he was God in the flesh and the one who can give us eternal life. Jesus is the way of life that is both abundant and eternal. When a person turns away from their sin and surrenders their life to Jesus as Lord and Savior, they are forgiven of their sin and God makes them new. They are changed from the inside out and are saved by God’s grace.
Tragically, too many people reject this offer of salvation. They choose to follow a different path. We all know this is true because often we are the ones who personally choose the wrong path. Even we choose to do the wrong things in this life. What we forget is that any path away from God is a path that leads to destruction.
So, you wonder where God is in tragedy or why God allowed this to happen? I’m confident that God’s heart was broken to see His people murdered in Texas, just like his heart is broken over every act of violence, all of the needless suffering we cause in the world, and every person who ignores His love and acts like or lives like He does not exist. God loves us so much that He gives us the freedom to choose to follow Him or to choose to reject Him. And, it’s not surprising to find followers of Jesus are right there when tragedies occur! God’s people are right there in the midst of the mess, bringing comfort and hope and compassion and love to people. God’s people are pointing others to the hope of eternal life found in Jesus. And in a very real sense, when God’s people are there, God Himself is there, helping to restore broken lives. God is there now giving peace and comfort to hurting families. God is there providing for the needs of these hurting people and He is using many of God's people to do it.
While the tragedy is absolutely shocking and heartbreaking, I do not understand why we are always so surprised when these things happen in the US while this is happening to people of faith everyday around the world. Jesus assured us that His followers are going to face trials and tribulations in this world. He warned that God’s people would be treated like He was treated knowing He would be killed and die on a cross for our sin. Jesus warned that evil is out there and it is real. Jesus warned that Satan is doing everything he can to attack God’s people, not just in Texas, but in also in Tennessee and throughout this world each and every day.
Sadly, people are quick to politicize these tragedies. We talk about this being a gun issue, or we talk about a mental health issue. Well, as a minister of the gospel I want you to know the issue is not any of these things. The issue is a heart issue. While the lips of Americans give acknowledgment to God, our hearts are far from Him. All of us are far too focused on worldly things instead of the things of God.
Let’s be really clear…We have pushed God out of our schools, out of our communities, out of our government, out of our courtrooms, out of our families and marriages, and ultimately out of our lives. Why are we so surprised that the enemies of God walk freely into the doors of God’s house to bring about destruction? Why do we blame God? Why do we point our finger at Him when God rarely even makes the top 10 on our list of priorities?
We in a spiritual battle in this world every day. God’s people may often become victims of evil in this world, but ultimately God’s Word shows us clearly that we are the victors because of Jesus. We must be diligent to show Jesus’ love to one another. We must be all the more diligent to put plans in place in the Christian community to deter future tragedies like this. We must not bury our heads in the sand and act as if we should hide in the corner. Rather, we as God’s people should mount our forces and go boldly into our communities with the good news that in Jesus there is hope, forgiveness, and eternal life. We must not back down or back up. We must not be politicized or pushed around.
Where is God? God is where you have left Him! You choose today how close or how far you are from God! He has never moved!
Tuesday, September 26, 2017
On Sundays at FBC, Lexington, Tennessee, I am preaching out of the book of James and the series is called “The JAMES Experiment: Does Faith really work?” We are talking about growing our faith. Last week I wrote that God tests our faith through trials. This week I want us to think about how God tests our faith through our tithe.
Tithe…now isn’t that a fun word? A Baptist pastor can say the word “tithe” and watch people cringe, cry, coward, or cop-out. Ha! I am, of course, talking about the topic of faith and our money. Did you know that money is one of the greatest tests of faith in your life? Our material possessions test our character and our faith. For a lot of people, their possessions have become the god of their lives. Possessions or the pursuit of possessions has become the priority and focus of their lives. I have found that this issue of money is one of the greatest tests we face because many people do not want to give up their own self-made god to worship and give to the one true God, who is the creator of all things.
Once Jesus said this very thing about money in Luke 16:11, “So if you have not been faithful with the unrighteous money, who will trust you with what is genuine?” When the Bible clearly teaches that we are to give, we often do not realize that we are being tested. The spiritual maturity of our Christian lives is clearly revealed the moment we are asked to open up our hearts and wallets to tithe, give, or to trust God with our possessions. To tithe is a demonstration of our faith. To give 10% of your total income to the Lord instead of to the mortgage payment, your credit card debts, your personal entertainment, food, or going the places you want to go, is a way of showing the world that the Lord has top priority in your life. When I’m willing, ready and able to generously give the Lord knowing that this money could be spent for other things, it is a test. Just like God uses trials to test our faith, He also uses our tithe (money) to test our faith.
Paul spoke clearly to this issue of money when he wrote this in 2 Corinthians 8:7-8, “7 Now as you excel in everything—faith, speech, knowledge, and in all diligence, and in your love for us—excel also in this grace. 8 I am not saying this as a command. Rather, by means of the diligence of others, I am testing the genuineness of your love." What we learn from Paul is that our money tests our faith and it is really a test of our love! Every time we give, we grow! Our faith grows…our love grows…our hope grows…our spiritual maturity grows. Every time we give we break the cycle of materialism in our lives. Giving demonstrates who and what we really love. We give that that which is of most priority in our lives. Follow your money trail and you will discovered the destination of your love and devotion.
Get really honest right now and answer these 2 questions:
1. If God looked at the giving that you give to Him would God say that you really trust Him?
2. If God looked at your giving would he say that have you been afraid to do what His word says?
Rick Warren once said, “In this area of giving the most sensitive nerve in the human body goes from the wallet to the heart.” I think he is right! God tests our faith through trials, but also through our tithe! Will you pass the test?
Tuesday, September 19, 2017
Right now, at First Baptist Church, Lexington, Tennessee, where I am the pastor, I just started at new sermon series called “THE JAMES EXPERIMENT: Does faith really work?” The Bible is filled with many things to say about faith. I thought I might write a few things related to this series to help encourage others in their faith.
Today I want to share a few words about how God tests our faith through Trials:
Trials test our faith as the people of God! The New Testament alone is filled with God’s commands for believers to obey. These commands are the things God tells us we should do or not do. These commands are not presented to us as options, but as obligations. Someone has said there are just over 1000 commands in the New Testament alone. Some of them seem irrational or even crazy to us. Others are very inconvenient, hard, trying, time consuming or they seem quite impossible. These commands are trials in our lives. What is on trial? Our faith in on trial to determine if it is real or not. They are there to try our faith.
When we face a trial of our faith in relationship to God’s commands, what we are ultimately deciding is this: Who am I going to trust? Am I going to believe what God says to do or am I going to believe what feels right to do? For example, when Jesus tells us to “Turn the other cheek” or the “Love your enemies”, we are on trial. Our faith is being challenged at its very core because on the surface we might disagree with the command, not understand it, or find it to be really hard to accomplish. It is at that point in our lives when we decide, “Am I going to trust what God says to do? Am I going to obey what He says is right? Or am I going to trust my own opinion or my feelings and do what I think is right in my own eyes?"
The Bible is filled with examples of God putting the faith of His people on trial. One that is hard for me to grasp is God demanding of Abraham to sacrifice his only son Issac. That makes no sense to me. I cannot wrap my mind around that. Still, ole Abe trusted God. He exercised faith in God, went with his son to the top of the mountain, and there on the mountain God provided a ram as the sacrifice rather than the son. Wow! Would I have been willing to have done that or would I have rationalized it and chose to bury my faith rather than exercise it?
Often God asks us to do the impossible or the difficult. He often asks us to take action without us having a lot of advanced details. Why? He wants to grow our faith. Our faith is on trial. What we do next shows in whom we truly trust!
Sometimes God commands us to build a boat in a desert because he’s going to send a rain storm. We might not be able to see a cloud in the sky and the long-range forecast may look dry, but God always has a plan! Just ask a guy by the name of Noah. We realize that Noah not only obeyed God, but he did so immediately. Everyone laughed at his faith. No one else would obey God, but Noah persevered. The result of his faith is that he and his family lived! When we exercise our faith in God it brings new life to our otherwise dry, desert lives!
So maybe today God is talking to you, calling you, commanding you, or convicting you about something. Maybe you do not have all the answers. Maybe, just maybe your feelings and emotions are conflicted. When this happens, it is a trial. Your faith is on trial. Will you trust God or trust yourself? The issue is your faith! What will you choose?