Meanderings of a Minister


The Trouble With the Tongue
April 26, 2017, 3:20 pm
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In the 1970’s, the show, Star Trek, introduced an episode entitled, “The Trouble with Tribbles”.  The problem with tribbles was not that they were cute or even useful, but that they multiplied until they were everywhere.  Once everywhere, they disrupted the ship’s crew and even the ship’s physical plant.  The clogged up everything and caused the crew to be at each others’ throats.  Our tongue is much like a tribble.  A little slip here, a little slip there and, before you know it, the effects have multiplied and our progress in the faith has completely stopped and we are upset with everyone.  James knew this to be a difficulty as well and he wrote about the trouble with the tongue in James 3:1-12.

The first trouble with the tongue James mentions is that it can take down those that desire to be teachers and leaders in the church.  James makes the statement that we all fall in the use of our tongues, but when teachers fall, the impact is multiplied simply because of the influence they have over others.  When you read 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1:5-9, and see the high standards Paul, at the direction of the Holy Spirit, put on pastors and teachers, it is amazing to think that they would meet all of those high and lofty ideals only to be taken down by careless use of the tongue.

Additionally, the trouble with the tongue is that it can lead you to a changed life.  It can lead to changes that are good or changes that are bad.  James uses the illustrations of directing a horse with a bit and a ship with a rudder.  Both use small things to change the course of much larger vessels, but think about it.  A horse can be used to rob a bank (in the Old West) or it can be used to deliver mail (Pony Express).  A ship can be used to deliver humanitarian aid or it can be used by Somalian pirates to take lives and demand ransoms.  Our tongue is similar.  It can be used to steer us into deeper relationships (courtship) or it can be used to destroy those same relationships (testifying in divorce court).

Another problem with the tongue is the fact that it is so hard to control.  The example James uses is that of a fire starting with a small spark.  Smokey the Bear used to say it only takes a spark to start a forest fire.  In the 1990’s, a discarded cigarette started a blaze in California that claimed over a million acres, homes and even lives.  The tongue can do this as well.  Think about a time when a careless remark or a word that was not well chosen had serious ramifications for you and you understand completely.

The tongue can also blow hot and cold.  This is what James meant by saying we use it to worship God (hot) and we use it to tear down or curse others (cold).  Sometimes, if we are not careful, that usage can happen in the span of a few seconds.  We use it to sing Jesus Loves Me and use it to criticize, gossip or destroy a person’s reputation.  This may seem normal, but James says it should not be so.

Finally, James closes this section with the biggest trouble of the tongue.  It merely reflects what is in our hearts.  Jesus said so in Matthew 12:34 when he said, “For the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart.”  Do you wonder why you are critical?  It is what your heart is filled up with.  Why do you struggle to control cursing?  It is what you fill your heart up with.  Why do you find it hard to focus on Jesus throughout the day?  You are not filling your heart up with Him.

Try something different.  Try spending time in God’s word today and leave off the TV.  Try listening to only Christian music for a week and see if your tongue improves.  Make a list of the good attributes of your spouse and see if you don’t begin to see them in a more positive light.  Spend time thanking God for all He has done for you and see if grateful speech does not come easier.  Try it.  It just might change your life.

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God Never Gives Up On His People
March 16, 2017, 1:53 pm
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I was recently reading in Exodus about Nadab and Abihu.  Now, I realize that most people must look up those names, but they are very important figures in the Old Testament.  Let me tell you about them and why they are so important.  First, they were important because they were the sons of Aaron whom God personally chose to become priests to serve before Him in the Tabernacle.  Imagine being the first priest called by God to serve.  But go further than that and imagine being called by God’s own voice! (Exodus 28:1)

Next, they were important because they were part of the seventy that had worshipped God on the mountain and had come down and had prophesied before the people and helped Moses shoulder the load of speaking to the people on God’s behalf. (Exodus 24:1)

Lastly, they were important because they decided, in spite of the instructions God had given, to offer strange fire on the altar and God killed them on the spot. (Number 3:4)

Okay, so you are thinking…” Thanks!  Now I’m depressed.  If God could do that to them, then what about me?”  I want us to learn from Nadab and Ahibu, but I want us to learn from their lives, not their deaths.  God personally called them.  Since I believe in the omniscience of God (omni=all, science=knowledge…God knows everything), then I have to believe that He knew they would fail, but HE CALLED THEM ANYWAY!  What does that mean?  What does that mean to me?

What this means to me is that, in spite of my worst failures, God will continue to give me chances.  In spite of my worst stumbling, He never gives up on reaching out to me.  No matter how little faith I have, God, the author of faith, is always there and always offering His Hands.  If I will spend more time looking up for His help and reaching out for His forgiveness, I can spend less time carrying a heavy guilt load and a bunch of shame I was not meant to carry.

Here’s the best part.  If you are a new creature in Christ, you can do the same.  If you have surrendered your life to Christ, He will never turn away.  (Romans 5:9-10) He will never put you to shame and He will in no wise cast you out.  (John 6:37) I don’t know about you, but that is great news to me.  I feel more like Paul all the time in Romans 7,

“For what I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate. But if I do the very thing I do not want to do, I agree with the Law, confessing that the Law is good.  So now, no longer am I the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not. For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want. But if I am doing the very thing I do not want, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me. I find then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wants to do good.  For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man, but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, on the one hand I myself with my mind am serving the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh the law of sin.”  (NASB)

Isn’t it good to know God won’t give up on you?  Why not take the time today and thank Him for just that reason?  Having thanked Him, let’s hang on and get it right so that we don’t end up like Nadab and Abihu.



We Are Not Worthy!

worthy-title

It never ceases to amaze me how I can read a passage of scripture I have read a number of times before and have it hit me in ways that it might not have all of those many times before.  One such scripture is the story of the Prodigal Son.  The story is found in Luke 15.

To get the setting of the story, one must read verses 1 and 2.

Now all the tax collectors and the sinners were coming near Him to listen to Him.  Both the Pharisees and the scribes began to grumble, saying, ‘This man received sinners and eats with them.’”

So, the story of the Prodigal Son was told because the Pharisees were upset with Jesus for spending time with sinners.  Jesus actually tells three stories with one lesson.  We see this lesson stated in verse 10, as well as other places in this chapter,

“In the same way, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”

Jesus told these stories as proof of His love for and ministry to those who were far from God.  When Jesus gets past the story of the lost sheep, and the story of the lost coin, he then turns to the story we know as the story of the Prodigal Son.    While it is not my purpose to go through this whole story in this brief article, let’s summarize it.

A young man came to his father and basically said, “I wish you were dead already and I could my inheritance money.”  Surprisingly, the father grants the inheritance.  The young man quickly liquefies his assets and heads out of town to the “far country”.  It doesn’t take long of living high on the hog before the man is broke and has to turn to feeding the hogs.  This is something a good Hebrew simply could not abide, but the man was desperate, so he takes the job.  After serving in this capacity for an undisclosed amount of time, he changed his mind about how bad his father might have been and how bad his life with his father might have been.  He decides to go home.

In preparation for going home, the son comes up with a speech he is planning to deliver to his father in which he would ask not to be restored, but only to be allowed to work for his father and have a place to stay and food to eat.  Here is his speech from verses 18b and 19:

“Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in your sight; I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me as one of your hired men.”

As the son makes his way home, the father sees him coming and runs to him and starts to hug him and kiss him.  Notice what speech the young man gives his father.  It is found in verse 21:

“Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.”

The Father, seemingly not even hearing this confession, shouts orders to his servants about restoring the young man to his position in the house as a son.  What was the difference between what the young man had rehearsed so many times along the way and what he actually got to say?  He did not get a chance to ask to be made a slave, but was reinstalled as a son.  The Father was glad to have the son home, well, and under his protective roof once again.

The rest of the story shows the older brother upset that the father will receive the wayward son.  Jesus told this story to help the religious people to see that He had come to reach the very people the religious people were upset He was reaching.  They had missed the point.

So, when I read this story again, what popped out to me?  The religious leaders of Jesus’ day were upset that Jesus was ministering to people who were not worthy of Him, but they did not realize that is the description of all of us.  None of us are worthy of God’s love.  Whether we wear a business suit, jogging suit, or loin cloth, none of us are worthy.  Whether we have a billion dollars, or are in debt trillions of dollars, we are not worthy.  Whether we have a doctorate degree, or dropped out of elementary school, we are not worthy.  That is why it is grace!

Many of us church people forget that we are saved by God’s grace and; thus forgetting, we fail to show that same grace to others.  Maybe we had better come back to God on our knees and cry, “We are not worthy to be called your sons or daughters.  Make us like a hired hand.”  And then, we will realize the blessings of God’s grace that, in Christ, we are called His sons and daughters.



God Never Gives Up On His People
June 23, 2016, 12:13 pm
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Your Grace Amazes Me

I was reading in Exodus today about Nadab and Abihu.  Now, I realize that most people will have to look up those names, but they are very important figures in the Old Testament.  Let me tell you about them and why they are so important.  First, they were important because they were the sons of Aaron whom God personally chose to become priests to serve before Him in the Tabernacle.  Imagine being the first priest called by God to serve.  But go further than that and imagine being called by God’s own voice! (Exodus 28:1)

Next, they were important because they were part of the seventy that had worshipped God on the mountain and had come down and had prophesied before the people and helped Moses shoulder the load of speaking to the people on God’s behalf. (Exodus 24:1)

Lastly, they were important because they decided, in spite of the instructions God had given, to offer strange fire on the altar and God killed them on the spot. (Number 3:4)

Okay, so you are thinking…”Thanks!  Now I’m depressed.  If God could do that to them, then what about me?”  I want us to learn from Nadab and Ahibu, but I want us to learn from their lives, not their deaths.  God personally called them.  Since I believe in the omniscience of God (omni=all, science=knowledge…God knows everything), then I have to believe that He knew they would fail, but HE CALLED THEM ANYWAY!  What does that mean?  What does that mean to me?

What this means to me is that, in spite of my worst failures, God will continue to give me chances.  In spite of my worst stumbling, He never gives up on reaching out to me.  No matter how little faith I have, God, the author of faith, is always there and always offering His Hands.  If I will spend more time looking up for His help and reaching out for His forgiveness, I can spend less time carrying a heavy guilt load and a bunch of shame I was not meant to carry.

Here’s the best part.  If you are a new creature in Christ, you can do the same.  If you have surrendered your life to Christ, He will never turn away.  (Romans 5:9-10)  He will never put you to shame and He will in no wise cast you out.  (John 6:37)  I don’t know about you, but that is great news to me.  I feel more like Paul all the time in Romans 7,

“For what I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate. But if I do the very thing I do not want to do, I agree with the Law, confessing that the Law is good.  So now, no longer am I the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not. For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want. But if I am doing the very thing I do not want, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me. I find then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wants to do good.  For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man, but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, on the one hand I myself with my mind am serving the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh the law of sin.”  (NASB)

Isn’t it good to know God won’t give up on you?  Why not take the time today and thank Him for just that reason?  Having thanked Him, let’s hang on and get it right so that we don’t end up like Nadab and Abihu.



What Right Do You Have to Be Angry?
June 16, 2016, 12:13 pm
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Ever Been This Angry?

In the book of Jonah, we read about how God used a prophet who did just about everything wrong.  He used Jonah in spite of his disobedience, disdain for others, and his distraction from God’s purposes.  I know that you already know the story, but here is a quick review.

God told Jonah to go to Nineveh, the capitol of Assyria, to tell them that they needed to repent of their evil ways or God was going to destroy them.  Nineveh was known for its harassment of Israel as well as its cruelty in battle and in victory.  Jonah did not want to go to Nineveh.  It is later in chapter 4 that we find this was due to the fact that Jonah knew God would forgive them if they repented and Jonah did not deem them worthy of God’s forgiveness.  Jonah went down to the sea and booked passage on a ship heading for Tarshish.  Most scholars believe Tarshish was in Spain which is the opposite direction from Nineveh and a long distance.

The ship had not been underway very long before God sent a storm to afflict the comfortable prophet.  It must have been a doozey because the weathered sailors became panicky.  They tried praying, sacrificing, throwing their precious cargo (for which they would have to pay) over the side, rowing back to land, and weathering the storm the way they had so many other times, but to no avail.

Finally, they ask Jonah and he tells them it is his fault and tells them to throw him over the side.  They try everything else first, pray and ask God for forgiveness, and then they throw him over.  God appoints a great fish to swallow Jonah whole and keeps him alive for three days in the belly of the fish.  Jonah prays and asks God to deliver him.  God delivers Jonah on dry ground and calls him again to go to Nineveh.  He goes, but does not do exactly as God had said.  He tells them nothing about the option of repentance and just that God was going to destroy them in 40 days.  The people repent.  The king repents.  And Jonah gets mad.

This is the point where God asks Jonah, “Do you have good reason to be angry?”  Perhaps by looking at this question for Jonah, we can also ask ourselves the same question.  Jonah had sinned against God by not going to Nineveh in the first place.  Romans 6:23a says the wages of sin is death.  God could have killed Jonah on the spot.  (See Acts 5:1-16 and how God did just that with Ananias and Sapphira.)  God was merciful.  God had rescued Jonah from the storm, from drowning, and from the belly of the fish.  God was compassionate.  Jonah had disobeyed God, but God gave him another chance to obey.  God was slow to anger.  God had sent Jonah to preach to a people who did not worship or know Him.  God was abundant in lovingkindness.  Keep in mind also that Israel was sinning greatly against the Lord at this time.

With all that God had done for Jonah, Jonah got angry because God forgave the Ninevites with the same mercy He had shown Jonah.  Jonah did not think they were worthy of forgiveness and he got mad at God.  He was mad at the Ninevites and he was mad at God.

God simply asked Jonah if he really had a good reason for being mad at anyone or anything.  Jonah answered that he had a very good reason to be angry.  He really didn’t.  And neither do you or I.  When you consider all the ways God has provided for, protected, and propitiated you and your sins, how could we possibly be mad at God or anyone else with whom He is working?  The modern health and welfare movement seems to teach people that God owes them something.  If they have enough faith, God owes them all of their wants and desires, including health, wealth, friends, comfort, and ease.  When God doesn’t meet their demands, they feel like they can be mad at God.  They often forget that we all deserve death (Romans 3:23, 6:23a), but we have been given the gift of eternal life through Jesus Christ (Romans 6:23b).  God has already given us more than we could hope for, so who in their right mind could get angry with a God Who has done so much more than we could ever hope for?  Jonah wasn’t thinking right and neither are we if we do not fall on our faces before Him and tell him, “Thank you!” from grateful and sincere hearts.



Who Is This Jesus We Worship at Easter?
March 21, 2016, 3:13 pm
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Jesus-Christ-on-the-Cross

I first wrote this article many years ago, but people have asked me to republish it time and time again, so here it is:

In Genesis…He is the Creator and the Seed of Woman that would overcome the Serpent

In Exodus…He is our Passover Lamb

In Leviticus…He is our High Priest, the Sacrifice for our sins, and our Cleanliness before God

In Numbers…He is the Cloud by day, the Fire by night, and the One High and Lifted Up

In Deuteronomy…He is the One True Prophet

In Joshua…He is the Captain of the Lord’s Army

In Judges…He is the Lawmaker, Judge and Jury

In Ruth…He is our Kinsman Redeemer

In 1 and 2 Samuel…He is the Prophet of the Lord

In 1 and Kings…He is our only King

In 1 and 2 Chronicles…He is the Source of Righteous Decisions and a Cleansing from Wrong

In Ezra…He is our Inerrant Scribe

In Nehemiah…He is the Repairer of Broken Down Walls and Lives

In Esther…He is our Advocate and Deliverer

In Job…He is our Dayspring and Living Redeemer

In Psalm…He is our Shepherd and our Song

In Proverbs…He is Wisdom Personified

In Ecclesiastes…He is the Goal of All Pursuit for Meaning

In the Song of Solomon…He is the Shepherd-Lover of our Souls

In Isaiah…He is the Coming Messiah and the Prince of Peace

In Jeremiah…He is the Righteous Branch

In Lamentations…He is the Weeping Prophet and the God of Faithfulness and Truth

In Ezekiel…He is the Son of Man and the Wheel within a Wheel

In Daniel…He is the Striking Stone and the Fourth Man in the Furnace

In Hosea…He is the Husband and Healer of the Backslider

In Joel…He is the Baptizer in the Holy Spirit

In Amos…He is the Heavenly Husbandman and Burden Bearer

In Obadiah…He is Our Savior

In Jonah…He is the Resurrection and the One Who Forgives

In Micah…He is the Messenger with Beautiful Feet

In Nahum…He is the Avenger of God’ elect, the Stronghold in the Day of Trouble

In Habakkuk…He is the Great Evangelist, and the God of Our Salvation

In Zephaniah…He is the One Who Restores the Lost Heritage

In Haggai…He is the Desire of All Nations and the Cleansing Fountain

In Zechariah…He is the Fountain of Life and the Son Who Was Pierced for us

In Malachi…He is the Sun of Righteousness rising with healing in His wings

In Matthew…He is the promised Messiah

In Mark…He is the Wonder-working Servant

In Luke…He is the Son of Man

In John…He is the Word Made Flesh and God the Son

In Acts…He is the Ascended Lord, Voice from the Heavens and the Source of the Church

In Romans…He is the One Who Justifies

In 1 and 2 Corinthians…He is our Sufficient Lord

In Galatians…He is the One Who Brings Liberty from Sin and the Law

In Ephesians…He is the Christ of Great Riches and our All in All

In Philippians…He is our Joy and the Meeter of All Our Needs

In Colossians…He is the Fullness of the Godhead Bodily

In 1 and 2 Thessalonians…He is our Blessed Hope and the Coming King

In 1 and 2 Timothy…He is our Mentor and Mediator

In Titus…He is our Example and Devoted Pastor

In Philemon…He is our Friend and Brother

In Hebrews…He is our High Priest That Understands

In James…He is the Great Physician and Our Pattern for Daily Living

In 1 and 2 Peter…He is the Chief Cornerstone of Our Faith

In 1, 2 and 3 John…He is Love Everlasting

In Jude…He is the Lord coming with Ten Thousands of His Saints

In Revelation…He is the Lamb that was Slain, the Triumphant King, the Bridegroom, the Lord of Lords and the Final Say

How do you respond to a Savior like that?  You surrender in worship to Him!  No wonder we shout “He is Risen!”



Where Do God’s Blessings Come From?

blessing

Chances are good that, if you turn on the television and tune into a religious channel, you will hear a lot about God’s blessings.  You will hear that God wants to bless you beyond your wildest imagination.  You will hear that God’s main concern is that you be happy, fulfilled, wealthy and blessed.  Actually, they are right!  But, many times, they are just as wrong.  Allow me to explain.

First, we need to understand what blessing means from God’s perspective.  The word for blessing in the Old Testament actually comes from a root word that means to prepare.  It is a word that, properly translated, means much more than just stuff.  So many times we think blessing means that we get a new car, new home, lots of money, etc.  Sometimes this is the case because God gives us those things in preparation for what He wants us to do and do with them.  This is not always the case.  God equally blesses the person that has nothing as He works in his or her life to prepare them for the ministry He has ahead of them.  Sometimes God even uses difficulty to prepare us to be useful for His Kingdom!

Consider the story of the widow in 2 Kings 4:1-7.  Her husband has died, the food is gone, and the creditors are going to take her two sons away as payment for her husband’s debts.  She is at the absolute end of her rope.  She has nowhere to turn; however, she does have one last desperate choice.  She goes to Elisha, the prophet, and asks for his help.  With the desperation that we can only see in a mother that trying to keep her family together and her home intact, she cries out to God through His prophet.  Much to her chagrin, the prophet asks what she wants him to do?  She has no answer.  He asks what she has left in her house.  She replies that she only has a little bit of oil and that is it.

This is the chance where she has a choice to make.  She has presented her request to God and He has responded by asking her to give up the little she has.  That would probably not make for a successful television ministry, but it was what God wanted.  Faced with this call to action, the widow had a chance to obey or not obey.  By not obeying, she could protect the little she had and continue to find a way out that was more appealing or popular.  If she obeyed, she would have to trust that God knew what He was doing and would take care of her.  She chose to obey even though it made no sense from a human standpoint.  What did she receive?  God’s blessing.  In this case it was stuff, but it was not the stuff that mattered.  It was her obedience that taught her to trust God and provided her example for us that mattered and still does.  Her difficult circumstance was the blessing!

What are you facing right now that is tempting you to question the goodness of God?  What are you going through right now that is not what you wish it would be?  What difficulty is threatening to crush you?  Perhaps, just perhaps, this might be God blessing you, not with stuff, but with the opportunity to obey and learn about Him, grow closer to Him and be used more by and for Him.  Maybe instead of searching the television channels for a person to make you feel guilty and inferior because of what you are going through, you should spend that time talking to the One in charge of your circumstances and ask for Him to guide you through it.