Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The Secret Weapon of Worship...

In his book, The Hallelujah Factor, Dr. Jack Taylor cites some wonderful attributes of praise toward God. He states:

"Praise is the God-given provision to ward off the spirit of heaviness. Depression, despair, discouragement and hopelessness are incompatible roommates with Praise! The liars from the pit of hell cannot effectively market their wares in an atmosphere of Biblical Praise."

In the book, Same Kind of Different as Me, Ron and Deborah Hall worked with indigent people in a tough section of Dallas, Texas. They discovered one homeless man who always seemed to beam with a contagious smile. One day, Debbie asked the man why he was so happy; his answer? "I woke up!" His life was so dangerous, and so on the edge with addiction issues, criminals abounding, and violence an everyday occurrence, that to wake up was a bonus.

Ron and Debbie were so taken with this saying, that they adopted it, and every day from then until Debbie's untimely death, they began each morning with, "We woke up!"

Like the song by Brooklyn Tabernacle, "You woke me up this morning...." It's hard to get negative and think about all the negativity in our world currently, when you are focused on the Lord and His mercies which are great to us each and every morning!

In one of the most negative book of the Bible, Lamentations, Jeremiah wrote, "Because of the LORD'S great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, "The LORD is my portion; therefore I will wait for Him." Lam. 3:22-24

Learning from your Critics

Abraham Lincoln said about criticism, "If the end brings me out all right, what is said against me won't amount to anything. If the end brings me out wrong, then ten angels swearing I was right would make no difference." What did President Lincoln know about criticism and self justification. This man like so many other great leaders knew that refuting your critics would be a good waste of paper and pen. If they are wrong, people who know and love you will know that, and the other people will likely forget about it before the ink dries.

Billy Graham would not spend time answering his critics, it wasted his emotional energy and drained him from the strength needed to do his work. This does not seem reasonable, yet God honored this man of God for keeping this value over the many years of ministry!

Dawson Trotman, founder of the Navigators wrote,"There is a kernel of truth in every criticism. Look for it, and when you find it, rejoice in its value."

Solomon wrote, "A fool shows his annoyance at once, but a prudent man overlooks an insult." This is preceded by, "The way of a fool seems right to him, but a wise man listens to advice." Proverbs 12:16,15

Billy Graham once said, "Hot heads and cool hearts never solved anything."

We would do well to see criticism, when it fits, as a friend to train us toward excellence in areas where we are aspiring to mediocrity!

Loving Harsh Critics...

Charles Haddon Spurgeon was an incredible preacher and a great man of God. One of his secrets is found in this quote:

"Get a friend to tell you your faults, or better still, welcome an enemy who will watch you keenly and sting you savagely. What a blessing such an irritating critic will be to a wise man."

One of the best books on Leadership I have ever read is: The Leadership Secrets of Billy Graham, by Harold Myra and Marshall Shelley. In that single volume are some powerful chapters. One chapter is entitled, Loving Harsh Critics.

Criticism is one of the hardest areas of ministry for me. I have had so much criticism over the 34+ years of serving Christ. I will tell you some of it has been harsh and loveless. The tendency is to thicken your skin, listen and then go on doing things the way you've always done them. However, this is a big mistake. In Myra and Shelley's book, they say, "One of the natural reactions to criticism includes emotions ranging from woundedness and indignation to desire for revenge. Deserved or undeserved, inane or thoughtful, criticisms hurt."

However, the genius of a man like Billy Graham is that he welcomed criticism as a friend, and grew from it. And, even greater self-control was shown when he was savagely criticized unfairly, and he did not answer his critics in kind.

The quote I began with from Spurgeon, the great English preacher, was not written in a vacuum. He was the subject of terrible gossip and slander. At one time some older ladies in his church complained that he sold eggs,which his chickens laid, at a higher than retail price, insinuating that he was making a fortune from his business. However, what those gossips did not know was that he was using the profits from his "egg business" to support poor widows and orphans! How it would have taken monumental self-control not to answer in kind.

Here are a few thoughts on this subject:
1. Turn your critics into coaches.
2. If you get criticism, ask God if He is in it somewhere.
3. Thank God for the opportunity to reflect Christ back to people.
4. When you think you are at the end of your rope, reflect upon the perfect Son of God who was even mocked on the Cross!

The last time Billy Graham came to Cincinnati, I was on the Prayer Ministry team. This was when tapes of Dr. Graham talking with Richard Nixon had just been made public. On those tapes, Dr. Graham made some rather disparaging remarks toward Jewish people. You can imagine how that hit the headlines in our city. But Dr. Graham showed us his deep humility and Christ likeness! He made an appointment with the Jewish leadership in our city, and deeply apologized for statements made more than 35 years before. Grace was poured out upon Dr. Graham, and this was the most fruitful ministry he ever had in Cincinnati. "God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble." James 4:6

Friday, February 22, 2008

Do You Know Where You Are Going?


Billy Graham is now 86 years old with Parkinson's disease. In January 2000, leaders in Charlotte , North Carolina ,invited their favorite son, Billy Graham, to a luncheon in his honor. Billy initially hesitated to accept the invitation because he struggles with Parkinson's disease. But the Charlotte leaders said, 'We don't expect a major address. Just come and let us honor you.'So he agreed. After wonderful things were said about him, Dr. Graham stepped to the rostrum, looked at the crowd, and said,'I'm reminded today of Albert Einstein, the great physicist who this month has been honored by Time magazine as theMan of the Century. Einstein was once traveling fromPrinceton on a train when the conductor came down theaisle, punching the tickets of every passenger. When hecame to Einstein, Einstein reached in his vest pocket. He couldn't find his ticket, so he reached in his trouser pockets.It wasn't there, so he looked in his briefcase but couldn't find it.Then he looked in the seat beside him. He still couldn't find it.The conductor said, 'Dr. Einstein, I know who you are. We all know who you are. I'm sure you bought a ticket. Don't worry about it.'Einstein nodded appreciatively. The conductor continued down the aisle punching tickets. As he was ready tomove to the next car, he turned around and saw the great physicist down on his hands and knees looking under his seat for his ticket. The conductor rushed back and said, 'Dr. Einstein,Dr. Einstein, don't worry, I know who you are. No problem.You don't need a ticket. I'm sure you bought one.'Einstein looked at him and said, 'Young man, I too, know who I am.What I don't know is where I'm going. ''Having said that Billy Graham continued,'See the suit I'm wearing? It's a brand new suit. My wife, my children, and my grandchildren are telling me I've gotten a little slovenly in my old age. I used to be a bit more fastidious. So I went out and bought a new suit for this luncheon and one more occasion.You know what that occasion is? This is the suit in which I'll be buried. But when you hear I'm dead, I don't wantyou to immediately remember the suit I'm wearing. I want you to remember this: I not only know who I am . I also know where I'm going.'
It is my earnest prayer that you know where you are going when you die! If you have uncertainty, please click on the link at the top of this blog and watch the brief video clip from Pastor Greg Laurie! Then, let me know what you think.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Has the Sky Really Been Falling?

Chicken Little has often gotten bad press. Even though his prophecy did not come to pass, those in the Bible surely will. I read recently about a futuristic insight that Warren Buffet had in 2005 concerning U.S. currency losing its value in the world. Merrill Lynch recently has posted its biggest losses since being founded 94 years ago and joins rival Wall Street investment houses Morgan Stanley and Bear Stearns in posting losses in the last 3 months of 2007. Citigroup, Inc. the nations largest bank, reported a quarterly loss of $10 billion, the largest in its 196 year history! Of course, all the pundits and financial gurus are trying to keep us calm, but can all the king's horses and all the king's men put things back together again.

Let's think of this question: how can I live practically in a world of uncertain financial circumstances?
Here from a blog below are some ways to stay financially sound:
1. Live below your means. Nothing has been less practiced in our culture than this! Most people don't know that the reason White Castle restaurants are so plentiful today is that during the great depression they lived below their means and went on a cash-only basis.
2. Be content with what you have. 1 Timothy 6:6-8 If we base our spending habits on what new stuff we see others having, we're in for trouble.
3. Get out of debt and stay out of debt. Proverbs 22:7; Romans 13:8 The average credit card debt is somewhere near $8,000 per person. This is killing us nationally, and crippling the church from living in the freedom and joy which I know God wants.
4. Have an open hand policy toward being generous. 1 Timothy 6:8 It has been my privilege to participate and know many generous Christians. This always produces joy, and gives God the opportunity to fulfill His promise: "Give and it will be given to you..."
5. Pray in faith, trusting the Lord Jesus to provide every need you have. Philippians 4:19 (Especially do I recommend husbands and wives praying together about this!)Most of these things will not be in the local newspaper, but they are counsel from God on how we can face uncertain and even rocky times. And, if the sky doesn't fall, you will not be sorry.

Monday, January 21, 2008

How to Plan your Funeral

O.K. I confess. I try to use titles that will get you to at least read this stuff! And I also confess that I fear you will treat these blogs like my sermons--don't forget I can see you when you are sleeping, or texting your order to Applebees while appearing to take notes.

Actually, I know I'm getting older, because I read the "obituary" section of my two College periodicals and the newpaper when I have time. And I am amazed at the changes, culturally in how we do funerals. Many of my baby boomer friends haven't got a clue how to face death. They are bummed out that their spouse didn't live to be 105, complete with new hair implant and porcelain teeth.

What elements turn you off about funerals? Not enough music. Too much standing in line to have the grieving family repeat for the millionth time the gracious phrases that can be a little overworn. Then there is seeing your friend, or acquaintance and you having to say something really meaningful like, "Boy, Gene sure does look natural," or "Sarah really lost weight over the past year."

Seriously now, I want to give some helpful hints on planning or participating in a funeral.
Most of the research tells us that there is tremendous healing in the whole grieving process, including the viewing, funeral and graveside services.
1. Having lots of friends and family around, talking about the life of your loved one really does help. There is just something about this process that is healing and wholesome.
2. Also, it is good to think about our own lives, and the brevity of life itself. The Psalmist said "70 years or if by reason of natural strength 80" is the length of life. I am never so shocked as when people say, "well you know, 78 really is young." I'm 61, and I can tell you adding 17 years to my life is not my idea of a visit to Kings Island! I've yet to meet a person 78 who says, "man, I hope I live to be 114!"
3. Having positive things to say about a friend or loved one, without making them into a saint, is very cathartic for us and honoring for them. It is amazing sometimes to see how a family can turn Uncle Ernie into St. Francis of Assisi. Yet, it is good to think about the good things.
4. It is my humble opinion that it is good to have the body to view. My first funeral was when I was 10. It helped me so much to go through that process, and I can remember the comfort it was to have my grandmother's body there for 2 days. It truly brought the reality of God's comfort to me as a 10 year old. Scripture is clear, that the worn out body is going to get a new life one day. The resurrection of Jesus Christ is a guarantee that we who believe in Him will get new bodies one day, glorified and able to dwell in eternity, and take in all that God has for us--without always falling down like dead men, as we see those doing who view the Eternal Jesus as in Revelation chapter 1.
5. Often, funerals are times for the extended family to come together and renew fellowship. This, in our fractured society, is an important part of joining our hearts together to celebrate our heritage. Recently, in a funeral I conducted, a son said, "I learned a lot I didn't know about my dad." In another graveside recently I watched as older cousins renewed their friendship after 10+ years. It was a precious time as they agreed to meet at a local restaurant and remember old times. This gives us a sense of connectedness in an increasingly disconnected world.
6. Some time ago, when we knew we would be losing our granddaughter, we made the grim trek to purchase cemetery lots. I'm glad we did, so our loved ones won't have to do that. It also reminded us of the hope we have in Jesus Christ who said, "I am the resurrection and the life, whoever believes in me, though he dies, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?" John 11:25-26

Friday, December 14, 2007

95% boredom and 5% sheer terror!

I've had the privilege for the past year or so to make bi-monthly rides with our local police department. Police work in our suburb of Sharonville is largely routine. We once rounded up a guy who stole a bicycle from a worker at the local hardware store, and another time took neighbor's statements about a rash of egg tossing on their cars. But there have been some pretty heavy duty assignments that set apart police from the rest of the citizenry.
Sharonville had two planes crash into each other in mid air, leaving a horrible scene in two places. Police had to secure the crime scenes while answering press queries, and dealing with grieving family and friends who were understandably quite emotional, while working with other police jurisdictions and our local fire department--all of this right at shift change! There are many drug arrests, burglary investigations, and a few highly charged police chases going through our jurisdiction. Someone quipped it was 95% boredom and 5% sheer terror- especially when drug crazed people have substantial firepower.
Last night I went to the crime scene of a local apartment where four young Hispanic men had been murdered. They had been stabbed to death over a week ago. The officers did not say, and I did not ask, but it likely was related to drugs. I've wondered about those young men. Could we have somehow reached them with the message of Christ's grace? Do we do enough in our town to be faithful as a witness of God's saving mercy and hope?
Imagine getting up for work, driving to the station and then getting a call from dispatch to go to an apartment and check on the wellness of four individuals. Imagine then walking in on these men brutally murdered, with blood everywhere (according to a neighbor's report in the news).
A number of these officers are fine Christians. I've tried to think about them in light of Paul's words to the Colossian church, "And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him." Colossians 3:17 NIV
It does my heart good to see these officers be responsible, reasonable and very professional. They endure a significant amount of abuse and disrespect, and can be unappreciated by the populace. My hat is off to them. They have my respect, and also my earnest prayers.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

The Sky Really Might Be Falling...

Chicken Little has often gotten bad press. Even though his prophecy did not come to pass, those in the Bible surely will. I read recently about a futuristic insight that Warren Buffet had in 2005 concerning U.S. currency losing its value in the world. Let's think of this question: how can I live practically in a world of uncertain financial circumstances?

Recently, the noteworthy speaker, David Brandts while speaking about financial freedom here at New Life listed 5 things we can do to stay financially sound:

1. Live below your means. Nothing has been less practiced in our culture than this! Most people don't know that the reason White Castle restaurants are so plentiful today is that during the great depression they lived below their means and went on a cash-only basis.

2. Be content with what you have. 1 Timothy 6:6-8 If we base our spending habits on what new stuff we see others having, we're in for trouble.

3. Get out of debt and stay out of debt. Proverbs 22:7; Romans 13:8 The average credit card debt is somewhere near $8,000 per person. This is killing us nationally, and crippling the church from living in the freedom and joy which I know God wants.

4. Have an open hand policy toward being generous. 1 Timothy 6:8 It has been my privilege to participate and know many generous Christians. This always produces joy, and gives God the opportunity to fulfill His promise: "Give and it will be given to you..."

5. Pray in faith, trusting the Lord Jesus to provide every need you have. Philippians 4:19 (Especially do I recommend husbands and wives praying together about this!)

Most of these things will not be in the local newspaper, but they are counsel from God on how we can face uncertain and even rocky times. And, if the sky doesn't fall, you will not be sorry.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Flee temptation and don't leave a forwarding address


The statement in the title was forwarded to me recently from a dear friend. It calls to my mind the years of 'episodes' I've had in facing temptation. How I wish that I could give you a litany of valiant fights with that rascal temptation and victorious scenarios I've had. Rather, I find the truth is temptation is a daily battle, in a lifetime war. Some battles have been easy and some have made me feel like pond scum. Have you ever noticed that temptation is strong by times, and then it seems to take a vacation? Jesus faced this. We read in Luke's gospel after Jesus faced fierce combat, "When the devil had finished all this tempting he left Him until an opportune time." Luke 4:13 NIV.

Have you thought about that? There are opportune times for satan to come at us. For me it usually follows a powerful time of ministry in preaching, or sharing Christ, or ministry to the needs of people. I'm quite often tired and weak, and he seems to know just when to attack.

So are we then, just left to fend for ourselves? Absolutely not! God has given us both defensive and offensive weapons. Jesus shows us in Luke 4 and in other passages like James 4 and Ephesians 6 the key to fighting the many battles of this life-long war. Here are a few keys:

1. It is noteworthy that Jesus' great battle in this fierce war with Satan was precluded by the Father affirming who Jesus was, and then following his baptism(an act of submission to the will of the Father) he was mightily anointed by the Holy Spirit. So, knowing who we are in Christ, standing on the ground of Christ's finished work and the victory of His death, burial and resurrection and a vital dependence on the Holy Spirit's power are very important.

2. Also, we see the vital place of the written Scriptures in deflecting the frontal assaults of the devil. We read the repeated phrase, "It is written..." This is how Jesus met satan, with the Word of God. He gave him no commentary, no reasoning, no nonsense. He simply gave Him the sure promises of the Father, and a keen, clear understanding of what the Father has said. Remember, "the weapons of our warfare are not worldly...they have divine power to demolish strongholds..." Paul wrote in2 Corinthians 10:4 NIV. Also, I would call to your remembrance that we only have one offensive weapon given to us: the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God. That's why 2 hours of a movie imbedded into our brain, versus minutes memorizing the Word of God cannot be compared. Sobering lines from Shakespeare or laugh lines from David Letterman are no match for "It is written."

3. Finally, the phrases "Make no provision for the flesh" and "I die daily" are key. Paul is giving us some powerful insights. We often are defeated because we leave a bookmark on the computer of our hearts--thoughts we'd like to revisit or attitudes we love to nourish in a moment of weakness. This is called making provision for the flesh. It is like not taking a stand on internet usage, when you have fallen prey to its lusts. For Christians this is something we cannot toy with. We cannot leave our computers unprotected! We have to be ruthless in dealing with this. Paul uses the phrase "die" and he tells us how often we will need to do this when he writes, "daily." Jesus spoke radical words about this: "poke out your eye, cut off your hand". Make no provision...none whatsoever! Here is the key- to not leaving a forwarding address, by submitting to the will of the Father, and then resisting the devil.

My most powerful testimonies have come when I have knelt before the throne of God, confessed my sin and my pathetic weakness, then simply standing up in the work of Jesus Christ for me, I put back on the armor quickly and return to the fray, in contrite humility and gratitude for what God has done in Christ. Know this: Satan cannot stand before the power and victory of the shed blood of Jesus Christ offered for all who will confess Him as Savior and Lord!

A Godly woman told of her repeated battles with bitterness. It is a besetting sin and ongoing battle in her own life. She has repeatedly sought victory in each battle she faces when she simply does what James prescribes in chapter 4: "Submit, resist, come near, wash, purify, grieve, change, humbles yourselves". These are the words used to bring us power over sin, the flesh and the devil! I encourage each of you to know that your place is to be "seated with Christ in the heavenlies..." and that you are to stand there in each battle of the war, or return there quickly in repentance when you are knocked down by failure! Proverbs says, "The righteous fall 7 times, and gets up again." So, get up and go for it in Christ!

[If you are seeking answers to life's questions, why not click on Pastor David's blog for more informative help.]

Monday, November 26, 2007

It's the Vision Thing...

Been thinking a lot about what vision is in recent months. Recently, I heard one of the most powerful messages on this topic. Actually, it was a taped message given by Dr. Jerry Falwell, challenging incoming students of Liberty University to consider a series of questions to be a guiding force in their lives over their school years:

1. What significant thing do I want to do with my life?
2. What would I be willing to do if I knew that success was guaranteed?
3. What price am I willing to pay to bring the vision to pass?
4. What sacrifices am I willing to make in order to succeed?

Then he stated things which define vision:

1. Vision is a bridge from the past to the future.
2. Vision is the eye of faith to see in reality what does not yet exist.
3. Vision is the power that causes people to make huge sacrifices for the right goal.
4. Vision is the God-given energy to make you a risk taker.

Two further thoughts:
  • The journey is worth the cost. Psalm 30:5
  • Victory (achieving the desired goal) is worth the effort. Lamentations 3:25

When you think of your life, what do you want to accomplish? What goals do you have that can only be accomplished with God's help? Have you been guilty of setting only goals that are reachable in your strength, wisdom and control?

All of the visionaries of the Bible were those who heard from God, moved in obedience to what He said, and trusted Him for the outcome. Moses who was backed up against the Red Sea with almost 2 million followers. Paul seemingly wasting away in prison yet, having written the majority of the New Testament and beginning churches in every area he preached. David believing God for a throne upon which the Messiah would rule forever. Hannah trusting for a child, when pregnancy was not happening. All were people of clear vision.

What significant thing do you want to do with your life? What would you be willing to do if you knew that you could succeed? What price are you willing to pay to bring this to pass? What sacrifices are you willing to make?

Friday, November 16, 2007

Brad Pitt's Conversion

According to Parade Magazine, Brad Pitt's journey to stardom started in 1986 2 weeks before graduation from the University of Missouri, when he dropped out and moved to Los Angeles.
What most people do not know is that before Brad Pitt had entered college he was active in a very evangelical church youth group.

His conversion took place during his final years of high school. "I thought you had to experience things if you want to know right from wrong. I'd go to Christian revivals and be moved by the Holy Spirit, and I'd go to rock concerts and feel the same fervor. Then I'd be told 'That's the Devil's music! Don't partake in that!' I wanted to experience things religion said not to experience."

But in this article in Parade, Brad Pitt tells on himself. His conversion began actually when he was in Kindergarten. "A big question for me was fairness. (for example) If I'd grown up in some other religion, would I get the same shot at Heaven as a Christian has?....in high school I started to realize that I felt differently from others."

What does a young man who grew up in a Southern Baptist church believe now? "...I've defined my beliefs and lived according to them," he says. "One of those is my belief in family. I still have faith in that."

To be honest, some of the things Pitt says indicate a lot more grounding than many stars you hear from. His family and church background show through in his response to fame's cost. But it is sad to me to think that all the while Brad Pitt was in his church, no one adequately probed his thinking, or Biblically answered his questions.

Honest questions are not only allowed, but should be encouraged in God's house! But in the final analysis, our response to the reasonableness of the Gospel resides in our will, in response to the revelation of the truth of God's written Word.