Saturday, September 28, 2013


Most Christians are familiar of with the biblical account of how God judged Egypt with ten plagues to glorify Himself and force Pharaoh to let His people, (the children of Israel), go.

The second plague was one of frogs coming up from the Nile River and infesting the land - in the palace of Pharaoh and in the homes of his servants and the Egyptian people. They were rampant in their beds, kitchens and ovens!

Pharaoh called for Moses to pray for a release:

8 Then Pharaoh called for Moses and Aaron, and said, “Entreat the Lord that He may take away the frogs from me and from my people; and I will let the people go, that they may sacrifice to the Lord.”
9 And Moses said to Pharaoh, “Accept the honor of saying when I shall intercede for you, for your servants, and for your people, to destroy the frogs from you and your houses, that they may remain in the river only.”
10 So he said, “Tomorrow.” And he said, “Let it be according to your word, that you may know that there is no one like the Lord our God.
Exodus 8:8-10

In the midst of his suffering, Pharaoh asked for prayer and PROMISED to let the children of Israel go if the frogs would just go away!

12 ...And Moses cried out to the Lord concerning the frogs which He had brought against Pharaoh.
13 So the Lord did according to the word of Moses. And the frogs died out of the houses, out of the courtyards, and out of the fields.
14 They gathered them together in heaps, and the land stank. 
Exodus 8:12-14

We often come to the Lord for help only when we are confronted with pain, suffering or stressful situations!

The testimony of many Christians is that they came to the Lord in a time of great crisis.

Loneliness, loss of employment, divorce, grief and guilt are just a few of the many difficulties which push us to seek God for help! Conversely, when things are going well, we may be uninterested in God or are content with the fact that He is more of a far-off concept than a close-at-hand personal God!

David expressed thankfulness in His writings that God afflicted him. Like most of us, David did not enjoy affliction but he knew that God had a purpose for it - to draw him closer to God! (for example Psalm 119:71)

Alas, our human nature also has another unfavorable characteristic. That is, that when our circumstances improve, our need for God is no longer felt as acutely as when we were in the heat of the trial.

15 But when Pharaoh saw that there was relief, he hardened his heart and did not heed them, as the Lord had said.
Exodus 8:15

The English Standard Version of the Bible translates the word "relief" as "respite."

This has been called "fox hole conversion." When we are in the midst of war, hiding in our "fox holes," we cry out to God and promise him never to smoke, gamble, curse or cheat on our wives again - if only God will get us out of this situation.

Later, when we have survived, the battle cools down and we find relief or respite, we quickly return to our old ways!

Have you ever been in this cycle? Even as believers, we can find our spiritual lives and the time we spend with God waver according to our current felt need!

We can break this cycle!

The key is learning to be consistent in two areas:
1. Seek the Lord!
     We should continue to participate in the spiritual disciplines in which God imparts His life to us.
     These include Bible study, prayer, listening to God, church attendance, community with other
     believers, obedience and following God in the particular ministry to which God has called us!

2. Reevaluate our view of circumstances.
     Being close to God will help us to level out the highs and lows of life. We all feel stress and I don't
     think we can reach the point where we are are like the Vulcans of the Star Trek series - training
     ourselves to have no emotions and acting purely on logic!

    We can, however, work toward developing an inward determination to not let our
    circumstances dictate our walk with God! In other words, we will not be "roller coaster" Christians
    who draw close in times of stress and troubles, and then pull away when things get better!

    Angry at God one moment because He didn't do what we wanted, happy the next because we  
    received a promotion or bought a new car. Turning up the intensity level of seeking God in times of
    crises then returning to mediocrity when the crisis abate!

Personally, I am not a big fan of vows - promising God to "read my Bible every morning for "x" amount of time, plus another "x" amount for prayer etc. This may be helpful to some but I find myself seeking God out of obligation, wanting to prove how faithful I am to keep my promise, rather than out of love for Him!

I can't imagine telling my wife that I will spend one hour with her every day and then looking at my watch to see when the hour is over! There may be days when we are both too tired to have a quality conversation and we just sit together. At other times, we may spend the whole day together or go away for several days!

But if we are in a love relationship with God,  a daily commitment of time is merely the starting point!

If our love grows for a person,  we will naturally want to be with that person. We will not feel forced to come to them for help in times of need and then want to be away from them in the good times. We will want to be with them whether times are good or bad!

We may not get there overnight, but we can make it our life's goal to develop and deepen our love for God rather than merely seeking his help in times of need.

We will grow from a relationship with God, changing with the seasons and ups and downs of life, to a walk of intimate love with Him!

A strong, inmate love bond with God will break the vicious cycle of "fox hole"and "roller coaster" Christian lives!

Thursday, September 26, 2013


Often we look at the big picture and think, "that's just the way things are." Human tendency is to let life go on as it is until it spills over into our own lives or effects us directly.

But Jesus took time to look at the details!

The religious leaders of Jesus' day were tolerated and accepted by many as being approved by God. They were perhaps not really embraced in the hearts of the people but they were the leaders and should not be questioned.

Jesus, however, as He so often does, turned this concept on its side. He did not look at the education level of these leaders, their dress, their resumes or their references from others like them. He saw into their hearts and He saw the truth about the details in their lives!

23 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith...
24 Blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel!

25 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you cleanse the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of extortion and self-indulgence.
26 … first cleanse the inside of the cup and dish, that the outside of them may be clean also.

27 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness.
28 … you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.
Matthew 23:23-28

The church is notorious for being afraid to look at the truth in the details. We are greatly discouraged from being critical thinkers and are encouraged instead to "go with the flow" and keep the "status quo."

Wisdom is needed here! We are not to be troublemakers, always questioning our leaders on ever minor point. At the same time, we must learn to discern between that which is minor from that which is major but glossed over!

Love is cited as the motive behind sweeping details under the rug! Again wisdom and discernment come into play. We must know when we do not need to broadcast someone's faults and shortcomings and when they must be addressed!

Many have been hurt by overzealous legalism in the church. Legalists feel the need to call a meeting about every violation of written, or unwritten code in the church. This error in this thinking is often stated in the current church. Because this hurt has been observed or experienced, we are told we must stop this kind of overzealous legalism at all costs.

However, as so often happens in the church, we allow the pendulum too swing too far in the other direction! As many as are hurt by a judgmental spirit, an equal number has been victimized by allowing offenses to be overlooked!

Mercy is a wonderful blessing and giving those who have sinned another chance is godly. Yet at some point, if an offender is given unlimited mercy, we allow them to continue to victimize the innocent or to create new victims!

What if we give unlimited mercy to the bully? We are allowing him to continue hurting his victims! 
What is we extend a criminal unlimited mercy? He will continue to steal, assault or murder his victims!
What if the church treasurer steals from the church - should we allow him to continue in his position?

There are times when we can show mercy but still act to remove that person from his position! A person can be removed from a position but not cast out from fellowship. There are other times when we have no choice than to cast out the person!

We must avoid allowing the pendulum to swing to far in the other direction!

Joseph McCarthy was a US senator. In the 1950's, he went on a rampage against communism. He made over-the-top claims that "communist subversives" were rampant in the US. He accused many of being communist because of even the smallest connections. If your cousin's friend's maid attended a communist meeting, you also were probably a communist!

This is obviously not the kind of critical, detail-oriented thinking I have in mind!

But just because there are extremes does not mean that we should go to the opposite extreme and sweep  everything under the rug.

We must develop wisdom and discernment to know when we should overlook and when we should bring the truth out in the open.

We should always act in love but should not be overly influenced by those who imply that any kind of critical thinking or careful examination is pharisaical!

When the time comes to confront sin and wrong, we should not be "guilted" into thinking that we are sinning by doing so. We should not be quick to act against another or to lock them out of our lives, but we should be willing to do so when necessary!

Great men from Martin Luther to Martin Luther King, Jr. have acted in opposition to the "status quo!"

They were criticized and ostracized for doing so but their decisions to think an act critically have resulted in freedom for many!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013


In my previous post, I suggested that every desire or passion is not necessarily from God. Passions can be merely passing feelings or whims which come and go. These passing passions do not accomplish God's will for our lives or His Kingdom purposes!

When we do surrender our own passing desires to God, and submit to His perfect will for us, God does give us legitimate passions and inspiration to do His work.

The question is: "Do these legitimate passions result in a consistent state of unwavering "bubbly enthusiasm" to fulfill God's calling?"

Let's see what the Apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthians!

7 But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us.
8 We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair;
9 persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed—
10 always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body.
11 For we who live are always delivered to death for Jesus’ sake, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh.
12 So then death is working in us, but life in you.

I believe it is safe to say that Paul had a great passion to preach the gospel!

Yet he wrote of the Christian life in terms like "hard-pressed," "perplexed," "persecuted," "struck down" and even "death!"

Paul's passion did not necessarily result in trouble free living, overflowing in every moment with constant emotions of joyful enthusiasm.

Friday, September 20, 2013


The word "passion" has been a buzz word for some time in art, business, sports and even in the church.

Music is said to be played with "passion." An athlete has a "passion" for his sport. We are advised to find something we have a "passion for" when choosing a career.

There is certainly some truth in finding our "passion" but we must also realize that passions may come and go. A friend of mine wanted to become a doctor when he was young. He did achieve his goal and as far as I know is still finding fulfillment in his field.

But many children who dream of being fireman, athletes or doctors end up doing something far different in life. Some out of necessity or circumstances, others because the passions which so powerfully drew them in their youth were merely a passing fancies which they outgrew with time!

Recently in the church world,  passion seems have become synonymous with a call or leading from  God.

There are aspects of this view that we should be concerned with:

Tuesday, September 17, 2013


Be careful what you ask for!

There is a lot of controversy in the church world about what God wants for us as Christians. Some believe we are "King's kids" and deserve the best, most expensive and most luxurious of everything!

Others believe in the simple life for Christians. To them, a small place to lay our heads, one or two pairs of shoes and some stale bread should be enough. Any extra will puff us up in pride and make us too comfortable  to be useful for God's kingdom here on earth.

I'm sure that, like many theological concepts, the truth is in the middle. I believe it is also somewhat individual. Some may need to live more simply while God may allow some move to move somewhat more toward the other spectrum.

Perhaps the more cogent question is, "What are we to do with whatever blessings God gives us?"

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

9/11 ONE RACE!

Today is September 11th, 2013. It has been 12 years since the attacks on the twin World Trade Center Towers in New York City.

Emotions vary greatly on this day. Some had loved ones who died in the attacks and the memories of their sudden, tragic deaths return vividly.

To others, particularly many who were very young, the day will be forgotten until it is brought to mind by newscasts or social media posts.

For still others, it stirs up hatred for those who committed these heinous acts. The problem is that this hatred is so often directed at others who were not involved. I live in a a changing neighborhood in the Chicago area and people of many diverse nationalities have moved into the area.

Monday, September 9, 2013



For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.
John 3:16

This is perhaps the verse in the Bible most widely used by Christians! God wants to give everlasting or ETERNAL LIFE to those who believe in Him!

But what is eternal life? The immediate response would be to live forever and that would be the correct, but not complete, answer.

Thursday, September 5, 2013


In Him was life, and the life was the light of men.
John 1:4

What kind of life is God talking about? Does everyone have it? Is eternal life merely living forever?

Two Greek words that the New Testament uses for the English word "life" are bios and zoe.

Bios basically means our natural, human life. Sometimes a short blurb used to describe a person is called a bio, a short form of biography. The bio may list one's date and place of birth, education and accomplishments. In the case of an entertainer, it would usually list of some of the songs, plays, TV shows, movies, etc. which made that person famous.

So bios is our biological life and the particulars of our lives. Our physical appearance, where we live, what we do and the fact that we are physically alive would all be a part of our bios.

When the Bible declares that THE LIFE WAS IN JESUS, it uses a different word, ZOE!

Wednesday, September 4, 2013


When joining a fraternity or sorority in college, there is often a required "hazing" for new recruits. This usually involves "pie-in-the-face" type pranks but in some cases, has evolved into very dangerous activities or at the very least, extreme humiliation.

This can happen when you become part of a team in sports. It can even happen at a new job. Others feel the need to "prank"or humiliate the new person because that is what happened to them when they arrived.

The thinking is that if I went through that when I was new - so must you! Why should you escape the pain and humiliation I felt? It's your turn now!

But the Jesus way is always different isn't it?

Jesus would have us to look at any suffering we endured and decide to NOT PASS IT ON!

Instead of mocking the new person, we should make them comfortable, going the second mile to make sure they don't feel the same pain or humiliation we felt.

Instead of deriving pleasure from knowing that now I am the person who is comfortable and accepted, and someone else is the person who is feeling awkward, we ought to place our arms around them to alleviate that discomfort.

Many seem to bask in the comfort of knowing that others suffer!


Put an end to some of the misery in the world and be the one who stops the vicious cycle!

Monday, September 2, 2013


What do you value most in life?

For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
Matthew 6:21

We can try to hide our value system but it is usually known to those close to us. It is perhaps best revealed by the choices we make!

24 By faith Moses, when he became of age, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter,
25 choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin,
26 esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt; for he looked to the reward.
Hebrews 11:24-26

Moses' values were clearly revealed when he gave up the prestige and material blessings of Egyptian royalty for the afflictions and bondage of his fellow Hebrews as slaves.

We may claim that God has first place in our lives but when the opportunity comes to prove it, what will we do?

Will I put God first if it will cost me my job, my reputation or a relationship? What if choosing God cause me to lose my home or even my life?

From time to time, we should reexamine the balance scales in our lives. What tips the scales for us? For Moses, it was the greater reward of serving God rather than the comforts of the passing pleasures of sin!

Is obedience to God the heaviest thing on your scale which cause it to move downward past the balance point? Or is there something else that is heavier on the other side in your estimation?