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Sunday, March 22, 2015

One day all barriers will be gone

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. 2 My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. 4 You know the way to the place where I am going.”

    These verses should be read keeping in mind what has happened in chapter 13.  In chapter 13, we see the disciples around Jesus at the last supper.  They have joined him for the Passover meal and Peter has asserted himself that he would not deny Jesus.  To be fair to Peter, all the other disciples also proclaimed the same devotion.  But, Jesus tells Peter that not only will he deny him that it would happen before the rooster crows three times.  In light of this discouraging news, Jesus adds the words we read in verse 1 of chapter 14  "Do not let your hearts be troubled. . . ."
     It must have seemed hopeless for the disciples in those days after Jesus was crucified.  They were hiding for their lives and afraid to meet in public.  Jesus doesn't want their hearts to dwell on fear, but gives them a word that there will one day be a place where they will again all dwell together and he goes to prepare a place for them.
      Jesus further reminds them to place their confidence in Him as they have the Father.  That is what that word "believe" in verse 2 means.  It is to place confidence in Him as the one mediator between God and man.  A mediator role that Jesus earned by dying for us on the cross and becoming both the priest of our confession and the sacrifice that paid our sin debt.  
      That is why it can now say in Romans 8:1 that there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ.  It isn't because of how great we have been.  Some of us think that we must live up to some type of standard and it is true that we should strive to obey God's word, but I don't do this in fear.  I do this in love knowing that when I fall that I can get back up.  When I fail I know my Father's hand is there to help me back up.  When I make mistakes God expects me to learn from them and grow, but never tires of forgiving me.  He actually looks forward to it when we ask for forgiveness and embrace the fact that we can come back to Him.
      Jesus also wanted to encourage us, that even though as Paul says in 1 Corinthians 13, we see through a mirror dimly, one day we will see Him face to face.  Our dwelling place (mone) which literally means a place of abiding, will be with Him.  This is what heaven is all about, it is about a perfect relationship with God where there will no longer be any barriers or times when it may be difficult to believe.  He will be there to wipe away every tear himself.  He will be there in all his glory to see.  There will be no more separation, pain, sin or unbelief in His presence.  It is something that we should keep in mind and look forward to.

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’[b] or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”  Revelations 21:3-4, NIV

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

All Truth is God's Truth

    In my work as a therapist, I am now working with kids who are at risk for out of home placement.  The service we provide requires multiple visits at either home or school every week.  We typically have at least 3 people who work with kids each week.  Almost all of my clients have problems with anger and aggression.  One of the things we use for that is called cognitive behavioral therapy.  I mention it here because I think it really shows us how all truth is really God's truth.  I believe the truths of the Bible are completely consistent with the principles of CBT.   One of the most important is that our thoughts, feelings and behaviors are all interacting and build up each other.

    Typically, most kids I talk to are completely out of touch with their thoughts when they are getting angry.  It is much more likely that they realize that they are getting upset, clenching jaw or fist or turning red or their heart rate increasing.  Unfortunately, a lot of the negative thoughts are much harder for them to identify.  When I tell a kid that every emotion has a thought connected to it they look at me like i am speaking french or something.  But, that is true.  You don't get mad without some angry thoughts behind them.  CBT tells us that when we challenge and then consciously chose to change our thoughts we can change the behavior.

    One of the most important aspects of CBT is what we call "core beliefs".  We refer to this as the "lens" by which we view the world.  Many times, people have "core beliefs" about themselves that are very negative.  It is not uncommon for people to think that they are "stupid", "worthless", "hopeless" or "doesn't deserve anything good".   Like looking through a stain glass window, negative core beliefs like this color everything the person does.  The fact is, that if you continually tell yourself that your not worthy, stupid or will never accomplish something you will end up finding a way to rob yourself of joy and ultimately you will find a way to prove yourself right.  If you think you can't, then you probably never will.

    For the believer, I believe it is important that our core beliefs, those lens be replaced by God's truth.  I think this is why we have to radically challenge those negative thoughts of "nobody loves me", "I'm not good enough",  "I'm stupid" or "nobody will like me" or "I can't do it" with the grace and truth found in Christ.  We have to renew our minds and replace this hopelessness with a more positive message of "With Christ I can."  and "God loves me and that is what is important".  Once self-esteem is based not only just what others may think of you or outward appearances, but on God's truths then a radical transformation can take place.

Some links to CBT sites


Sunday, March 15, 2015

If you want to be forgiven. . .then forgive

    I was driving home today from the gym and passed a little Methodist church with a sign out front.  It said that we should forgive as much as we want to be forgiven.  That got me to thinking about whether or not I have forgiven those who have offended me in my life like I want to be forgiven.  We all want to be forgiven, immediately and completely and without bringing up past mistakes or sins again.  Don't you just hate it when someone brings up a past hurt when they have already said it was forgiven?  Aren't you glad God doesn't do that.

   In Mark 11:25-26 it says, "and whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone; so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your transgression.  But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father who is in heaven forgive your transgressions."  

   I want you to read through the above verses a few times and look at what it says.  It tells us that there is no disconnect with God between our own forgiveness of others and God's forgiveness of us.  That if we expect to be forgiven, then he expects us to forgive others.  That isn't just a principal in this one scripture.  If it was maybe we could discount it. You can see this in verses such as Luke 17:3-4; Matt 18:21,22; Eph 4:32.  This is the consistent principal throughout scripture.

      I think there is even more to the story than this.  I think this is why there are so many baby christians in the church today.  They want God's forgiveness, but are unwilling to forgive others.  So, God stops speaking to them, things grow quiet and God waits.  God waits for us as believers to apply what we know scripture says in obedience before giving us more of himself.  And sadly, some people stop right there and never grow anymore, walking in disobedience to this command to forgive.  Whole churches could be healed, marriages restored, relationships between children and parents healed and friendships restored if we would simply swallow our pride and forgive and forgive and forgive.

     So how are you doing with this?  Is there anyone you need to forgive?  God waits for us to trust and obey His Word. 

Sunday, March 8, 2015

When God is silent

      Have you ever noticed how many times in the book of Psalms the Psalmist mentions that God is silent?  Or the psalmist will ask how long God will wait before he acts.  I have had that struggle myself many times in my christian life as I have sought God's guidance only to hear nothing in response.

       Quite a while ago I created a prayer journal in order to record thoughts during Bible readings and also prayer requests.  It is a good way to look back and see how God has indeed answered many prayers.  Perhaps he did not answer them the way that we expect though.  It reminds me of a lady that went to the church in Hull, Texas that I was a pastor of.  We prayed for her healing as she was dealing with cancer.  It was literally all over her body.  You could just see the fatigue on her face the day she came to the altar and others laid hands on her and we prayed for her.  She ending up dying soon after that.  That wasn't the end that we wanted for her.  But, God did in fact end her suffering.

       Paul mentions prayer also often in his letters to the churches.  In one, he mentions a thorn in the flesh that he asked the Lord three times for it to be removed.  It sounds from what he said that it was some kind of physical problem.  For his own humility; however, the thorn was allowed to remain for the rest of Paul's life.  I am sure that is not the answer that Paul wanted.  But, part of praying in Jesus's name means that we pray with the attitude that we acknowledge that God has the authority to answer any way he choses.  We are his and not the other way around.  Part of who He is means that He has the authority to do with His creation as He wants.

       It bothers me to hear prayer used by many christians today as a tool to get God to do what we want.  I see things all the time saying that God want to give wealth or other things to believers.  You need to remember that the apostles and Jesus himself were relying on other people for even a bed to sleep in.  Paul himself was often risking his life for the gospel and living near poverty.  Many of the early christians had all of their possessions taken from them as a result of being a christian.  Read Hebrews 11 and see how many of the early believers suffered during their time on earth and realize God doesn't promise us comfort, wealth and prosperity here on earth.  He promises us eternal riches, glory and honor, but during our time on this earth there will be troubles.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

The Saul Principal

     I am going to say something that if you don't look at the scriptures I refer to you may think is a bit controversial.  I have intentionally stayed away in this blog from discussing anything political.  I don't want to alienate anyone who has views in politics different from my own.  But, I do believe I am seeing something in American politics today that has happened in Israel and in other countries since the church began.  I am calling it the Saul Principal.  That is something that I came up with to name the principal I am going to mention.
     You can see this in the book of Judges clearly and also in how the King Saul was chosen to be the first king of Israel.  There are times in Judges when the people stray from God and chase after idols.  During that time, God gives the people of God poor leadership and they are overtaken by their enemies.  Yet, at other times, the people of God rise up and turn to God and God appoints judges to lead them and save them from their enemies.
    One good example of this also is the person of Gideon.  In Judges 6 you see that the people of God did "what was evil in the sight of the Lord; and the Lord gave them into the hands of Midian seven years." (verse 1).  Then the angel of the Lord went out, when the people of God cried out to God and found Gideon bating out in the wheat in the wine press (verse 11).  He was from the tribe of Manasseh and youngest in the family.  He wasn't in line of any throne or leadership position.  But, God looked at the heart and saw what was inside of him.  Gideon didn't even see this within himself.  Yet, God brought about a deliverance through him and this led to 40 years of peace for the people of God until they again rebelled against God.
     This happens also with the King of Saul.  The people rebelled against the heart of God and asked for a human king, even though God was their king (1 Samuel 12:12).  And God gave them exactly what they asked for rather than what he wanted for them.  He gave them a king that was like the nations around them with all the demented thoughts that come with that.  They missed out on God's best because they got their focus off of God.  I see the same thing happening in America.  America has turned into a nation of materialism and sensuality that worships things rather than God.  The economy has become the God that this nation worships.  And yet you also notice that our debt as a nation has never been higher as a nation and as families.  The more people chase after what they want rather than what God wants the more distorted things get and the more we stray as a nation away from the kind of leadership God wants for us.
    With the elections beginning to heat up starting this coming spring, as christians we need to pray not that we will have a Republican or Democrat as a leader.  But, that we will have the men and women that God wants for us.  We need people like David in leadership who had a heart that God approved of (1 Samuel 16:7).  Sadly, I don't think that will happen.  We will end up electing another leader that isn't qualified for office and doesn't have a heart for God.  God will continue giving us what we want until we become like those Israelites that in the misery started to call upon the name of the Lord (Judges 2:11-18).

    Pray for our country that we will as a nation turn from idols to serve God again.  Pray for our churches that God would wake up what is dead and dying and revive His church.  Pray that God would give us leaders who have wisdom and guidance from Him rather than the foolish leaders that we have had for many years now.  God have mercy on us.