Saturday, October 11, 2008

The Titanic

The story of the Titanic is certainly a tragedy. Many lives were lost, the so-touted "unsinkable" ship sunk, and reputations were tarnished. I recently read an article that said the reason the Titanic sank so fast was that the rivets on the forward hull were inferior. Imagine that. A 900 foot long ship sinks in two hours because of faulty rivets. Care was evidently not taken to make sure those rivets were made of the right material in the right way. Sometimes the smallest pieces cause the biggest troubles. Assumption and arrogance are the real culprits to the tragedy of the Titanic. The captain and the owners assumed that nothing could harm their ship. Warnings were ignored that could have saved lives or even completely avoided the collision. Pride goes before a fall says Proverbs.

I wonder how many times we live as though we are the Titanic, unsinkable. We feel invincible. We are Christians and have everything under control. Ha! We too have inferior little rivets. It is called our flesh, the old sin nature. We hit a temptation and a rivet snaps as we spiral downward into an ocean of sin. Someone cuts us off in traffic and a rivet snaps sinking us into a fit of rage. Someone at church hurts our feelings and we plunge headlong into self-pity which might even keep us home from church.

How can we keep those rivets from popping so easily? Paul asked a similar question in Romans chapter 7 where he asks who would deliver him from the body of this death. He realized that even though he was born again, he still had an old sin nature that wanted to sin. His flesh was weak as is ours. That is why Paul said in Galatians 6:14 that he would not glory in anything except the cross of Christ. How much more then should we rely on the Holy Spirit and take no pride in ourselves?

God gifts each of us. His Spirit indwells us. We have all spiritual blessings available to us and yet we sometimes let pride well up and a rivet pops. We forget that the power to live successful Christian lives does not come from us. Philippians 2:13 teaches us that both the desire and the ability to please God comes from God. As long as life is going well we often rely less on God. We figure we can handle things for a while. Then when trouble comes, as it will for us all, we race back to God pleading for His help. God loves hearing from us and helping us but we ought not treat Him like a genie in a bottle, hoping He will rescue us from the consequences of our wanderings.

We can be strong in the Lord and the power of His might but we must always remember that the power is His. Left to our own devices we will steam straight into an iceberg of sin and worldliness that so easily pops our rivets causing us to rapidly sink. Like Peter on the water, let us keep our eyes on Jesus, knowing we are weak without Him. Our rivets are faulty too. We must heed the warnings and steer away from temptation so we do not sink into the chilly depths of sin.

Because He lives,


Friday, October 10, 2008

Man on Fire

Man on Fire is a movie about an intelligence officer who becomes jaded and disillusioned with people until he regains his fire for life while attempting to rescue a little girl who he was protecting and had befriended. That's the movie. America is full of men who too have become jaded, disillusioned, and apathetic. Is that such a big deal? Does it really matter what the character of America's men is like? Has it affected our families? Does it impact our future? I say YES it definitely does make a huge difference.

Scandal rocks seemingly every facet of the corporate world and governmental agencies. By and large, fairness and integrity have been tossed out the window if another dollar can be made. The average working man is taught to go along to get along rather than being encouraged to stand for his principles. So, he does what he feels he must and loses his trust for leadership and authority. That attitude then spills over to other areas of his life.

He looks for and finds injustices everywhere. His boss is a jerk to him while the boss' cronies get treated nicely. His kid does not get to play enough on the little league baseball team. When his wife asks him about his work day, he feels threatened and becomes sullen and withdrawn. He thinks to himself that she is really asking him if he has yet mustered the guts to ask for that overdue raise he was promised two years ago but somehow never got.

In the end, he becomes numb and stops caring. He doesn't care if he performs well on the job. He doesn't care if his wife is happy. He doesn't care if his kids are doing well in school. He figures life drones on until we die, all marriages get stale, and kids will eventually muddle through school like he did. He turns on the TV and tunes out til bedtime. He teaches his family his new dogma of "you leave me alone and I'll leave you alone, just let me be." Does any of that sound familiar? Did I miss the mark too far? I must not be too far off. The divorce rate is alarmingly high, teen violence is on the rise, single-parent homes are becoming the norm, and the men of America seem to be missing in action.

Would more money solve the dilemma? No, but better money management would help some. Do we need more stuff to make us happy? No, we have more material possessions than ever and yet we are unsatisfied with what we have. Maybe we need more leisure time. I don't think that is the problem either. We already spend too much time and money on empty activities such as all-access, digital, high definition, forty-football-games-a-week cable programming. I love watching football too, especially if the Cowboys aren't fumbling and stumbling, but come on, enough is enough.

No, the problem is much deeper. It is a matter of the heart. I believe many American men have stepped away from the plate because we have lost our sense of purpose. We have taken our eyes off the eternal and fixed them on the temporal. God through Christ Jesus gives us eternal purpose. I want to mention two here.

First, we are here to glorify Him. To do that we must first be in right relationship with Him. That is, we need to be saved. We need to place our faith and trust in Christ, ask Him to forgive our sin, and ask Him to be our Lord and Savior. Then we need to be in right fellowship with the Lord. Unconfessed sins need to be confessed and forsaken so that the Lord will hear our prayers and so we can hear His Spirit leading us. The psalmist David said in Psalms 66:18 that if I regard sin in my heart the Lord will not hear me. Now we are ready to let our lights so shine before men that they may see our good works and glorify our Father which is in Heaven (Matt. 5:16).

Secondly, we are to emulate Him. We are supposed to be growing into Christlikeness. He told the apostles in the upper room as He washed their feet that the one who would be greatest of all would be servant to all. Men, we are too often waiting on someone to wait on us when we should be leading in the care of those near us. Paul, in Ephesians 5, says that, yes, men are the head of the home as Christ is the head of the church but we like to stop there and misuse that verse to lord over our wives and families. Paul went on to say that husbands must love their wives as Christ loved the Church and gave Himself for it. Do you see the service aspect of our position as head of the home? Men, our wives would follow us more willingly if we would first willingly follow the Lord. Let us set that example. God has called us to be His children and He has called us to SERVE as leaders in our homes. Who He calls He empowers to accomplish.

The Philippian jailer asked Paul what he must do to be saved. Paul said believe on the Lord Jesus and you will be saved, and your house. Each member of the jailer's family had to trust Christ as well but when Dad believed, the family followed his lead. I was saved at age 11, in large part, because when I was 10 my Dad got right with the Lord and got us in church so we could hear the gospel.

Guys, our wives need to depend on our leadership and strength. Our kids are desperate for our love, attention, and example. Let me use an oil lamp as an analogy. The lamp's flame burns low when the wick is dirty and when the oil is old. Trim your wick. Confess and forsake that sin that has dirtied your heart. Replace the old oil. Ask God for a fresh anointing of His Holy Spirit on you. Then set that lamp where it sheds light on all around it. Our lamps may be dim but God is faithful and eager to make them burn bright IF we will let Him. For our sakes, for our families sakes, and for our country's sake, we need to once again be men on fire, on fire for the Lord.

Because He lives,


Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Paying the Bills

Today is bill paying day here at my house. It is one of my least favorite days of the month. The bank account goes from looking fat to looking thin all in a few keystrokes as my wife pays bills online. I always feel as though my personal stock market has just crashed. However, I surely am thankful that we have the resources to pay those bills. There may be very little left over after the payments clear but I remember days when paying bills was like running my own lottery. There were a few winners and several losers each month.

The thing that galls me most about our bills is all the little credit accounts we have open. Those $15 and $25 bills add up quickly to a significant amount if one is not careful and disciplined. The euphoria of instant gratification from buying on credit turns into a painful sting at the end of the month when the bill comes due. The misery is heightened by the interest added to the balance. I know it feels good to get what you want when you want it. And I know it can be easy to disregard the added expense of credit buying. After all, who does not need QVC's special value of the day? Sometimes I think I do. I may even need two since they are offering "easy pay" on my credit card.

Do you remember the old commercial where the mechanic says you can pay me now or pay me later? That later payment was always more expensive. That is what buying on credit is like when the balance is not paid off each month.

With that economics lesson in mind let us consider our spiritual lives. Care and discipline are needed there too. Our flesh, the old nature, wants instant gratification. It is selfish and short-sighted. The flesh does not care about end costs. It may want love (physical relations) but is willing to substitute lust for love. Lust is the inordinate fulfillment of any desire but what I mean here specifically is illicit physical relations between people who are not married to one another. The flesh may want rest but is willing to be lazy and put off until later some work that needs to be done presently. These are just two examples. The Bible says in Galatians 6:7 to not deceive yourself because a person will reap what they sow.

To use our examples, love and rest are good and necessary things. There are costs involved with both. Love requires a person to give himself to another. Rest costs time. God has declared in His word right ways of enjoying both love and rest. Married couples enjoy physical love with one another as a blessing and benefit of their union. The resulting satisfaction is guilt free and fulfilling. Sadly, I feel the need to state that when I speak of marriage I mean the union of one man and one woman. Rest is another good and needed thing and when properly taken rejuvenates the whole person.

The flesh wants to distort God's rules and causes the costs to rise dramatically. Lust (as stated above) adds interest to the costs by causing guilt due to infidelity, lost fellowship with God (not lost relationship) due to sin, and lost self-esteem due to disappointment. Laziness adds to costs by guilt over missed opportunities and wasted time and also affects one's self-esteem. God's word and His ways can not be ignored without the penalty of additional and, sometimes, painful costs.

In Proverbs 10:22 God says, "The blessing of the LORD, it maketh rich, and he addeth no sorrow with it." Just like the sorrow of paying bills loaded with added interest, there is sorrow from paying for choices that ignore God's principles. Do not fool yourself. Bill paying day is coming.

Because He lives,


Friday, October 3, 2008


Have you ever wished to be like Spiderman? If you are a Christian, you may be more like him than you thought.

The story of the comic book hero Spiderman begins as the teenager Peter Parker gets bitten by a radioactive spider. The next morning after the bite, Peter wakes to the initially painful reality that he is now different. He is the same guy but he has new abilities. The circumstances of his life have not changed but along with his new abilities, Peter realizes he has new opportunities which turn into new obligations. At first, Peter is confused about his overnight change. The confusion quickly yields to exhilaration as he swings from building to building. His keen new senses inform Peter when injustices arise to which he races to lend aid. A new mission is born in him. He saves peoples' lives. He rights wrongs. He becomes a protector of the people from those who would steal, kill, and destroy. And he is misunderstood by the general public. He is portrayed as a villain by the local newspaper editor whose main concern is circulation driven by fantastic headlines and equally fantastic photos.

Misunderstood and even unjustly vilified, Spiderman remains undaunted. He knows who he is and that he must keep the vigil of his new calling. While he senses great joy and fulfillment with his new life, he also deals with the temptation to be like everyone else again. There was no great struggle in his old life except for making money and pursuing the girl he loves. His new life has not changed those struggles and at times he feels the weight of responsibility bearing down heavily upon him. At his darkest moments he even contemplates denouncing his new calling to return to life as it once was. In the end, Peter Parker, Spiderman, chooses the destiny to which he has been called knowing that the good of others outweighs his old, personal, selfish desires. He has a job to do and is determined to finish it well.

Spiderman is fiction conceived in the minds of Stan Lee and his associates. In real life, spider bites do not impart to us their attributes. We are the people we were born to be. But, there is someone who can impart to us new life with new abilities and new responsibilities. Jesus Christ came to this world to save the lost and we all fit into the category. When a person comes to faith in Christ as his or her Lord and Savior then life is new. They are born-again, born anew with new powers and responsibilities. As a saved person grows in grace, those responsibilities turn into opportunities. The got-to's turn into get-to's.

The Christian's power is not from a spider bite but from the Holy Spirit of God who dwells within the believer. This power enables the believer to understand the spiritual principles found in the word of God, the Bible. Also, the Holy Spirit gives Christians boldness to share with others what God has done in them. Christians can and should grow in the grace and knowledge of Christ. Christians can speak directly to God Himself and hear back from Him in the still small voice in their minds. The believer is part of God's family and thus connected to all blessings from God through the Lord Jesus.

Life has new purpose even though, like Spiderman, life's circumstances have not changed. There can be times when a Christian finds himself looking back at his old life with some amount of envy. The old desires remain in the Christian and are at war with the new self who has a new set of desires and priorities. That struggle is constant and can wear out a person. In Romans chapter seven, Paul said he was worn out from that struggle. He understood that only the power of God residing in him could win the battle over the flesh, the old desires. When we feel the weight of responsibility, we are faced with a choice. We can either run away to the old way of living and live a frustrated defeated life or we can rely on the Holy Spirit to strengthen us to face what is before us and live in victory and joy.

Will life then be easy and prosperous? Probably not. Remember when God saved you, He did not lift you out of your circumstances. He gave you hope beyond your circumstances and promised to never leave you to face those circumstances alone.

Finally, let us choose to finish well what we have been set to do. Jesus said in John 4:34 that His sustenance was to do God's will and finish the work God sent Him to do. Dear Christian, you have been saved for and with a purpose. You have a job to do. You will be vilified and even hated. You will be misunderstood. Your struggles may not get any easier. But the reward is great. God can use you to aid in saving people from eternal damnation. You can encourage other Christians. You can openly praise the name of God. There is too much at stake to stop. Finish well what God has empowered and called you to do.

Because He lives,