Let God Use You Like He Made You

The other day I went to run on the treadmill at a local gym. I packed my shorts, shoes and other stuff and headed off. When I got there I noticed that I picked up 2 left shoes. I have 2 pairs of running shoes that look similar and I must have picked them up. I was already in my shorts, so I thought I’ll just put my left shoe on my right foot and see how that works. Ouch! It doesn’t work. Shoes are not interchangeable. Each is uniquely fitted for each foot.

This reminds me of a sermon I heard in Columbus, Ohio a while back. Tony Evans, pastor of Oak cliff Bible Fellowship in Dallas, spoke at a Pastor’s Conference.  What a sermon!  He was very encouraging to about 600-700 pastors. There’s no way I can remember all he said, but let me share a few things that impacted me:

1. Let God use you like He made you.  This is the sub-title of a new book by Dr. Evans, Destiny.  I started reading the book and it’s fantastic.  Each of us is a unique creation of God and He has a plan to use us in His world. When He created you, He chose every piece about you and planned for you to use it to fulfill your destiny. God often uses the weaker and less likely peole in this world to accomplish the greatest things. That way He gets the glory and He knows you will depend onHim to do it. Tony said, “Your destiny is the customized life calling God has ordained and equipped you to accomplish in order to bring Him the greatest glory and achieve the maximum expansion of His kingdom.”

2. The church is God’s officials on the ‘field of life.’Tony used a football game to illustrate life. During a football game there are three groups on the field – 2 opposing teams and the officials.  We are the officials who are trying to establish order in a conflicting world.  We represent the ‘Commissioner’ and possess all the power of the governing entity.  Though officials are out-numbered, out-muscled, and not always popular, we have a book (Bible) that we must use to officiate the game. When an official shows favoritism toward one team, he ceases to be effective.

3. Jesus and Politics.  So many things divide Christians. Race & Politics are two that currently keep Christians apart.  But Tony reminded us that Jesus doesn’t ride a donkey or an elephant.  In fact, Jesus is the ultimate independant – He always votes for Himself.  Too many Christians have deeper ties to political parties than they do to Christ Himself.

4. Current American Problems. Tony made a comment at a Q&A about the problems in America. The problems of our culture are due to pulling away from God. (How can we get mad at a God, who we’ve kicked out of our schools & government, when He doesn’t intervene when we have problems in our schools & government?) When you aren’t for God you’re against Him. If God is your problem, God is your only solution. So God has let us live in a world without His protection. Our job is to bring God back into the situation.

5. My Favorite Tony Evans quote. “Live your life in such a way that when you get up in the morning, the devil and your enemies say, “Oh crap! He’s awake!”

The Most Exciting Play in Baseball

I love baseball! It’s one of the few sports that has no clock. And that’s what causes non-baseball fans to hate it. It runs too slow.

But there are a lot of exciting plays in baseball. A double play. A home run, especially a grand slam home run. A no-hitter or a perfect game. But the most exciting play, for me, is the squeeze play.

The squeeze play happens when a player is on third base. The batter bunts the ball at the same time the third base runner tries to steal home. The dilemma is that if the batter doesn’t make contact, the runner is caught easily at home and makes an out. There have been some exciting game winning squeeze plays.

The bunt is an interesting option for a baseball hitter. Rather than trying to make it to on base himself, he sacrifices his turn at bat to move another runner closer to home. Though sometimes the bunter makes it to first, he is almost always called out.

I think each of us needs to consider sacrificing our turn to move others ahead closer to home (Heaven). We live in a world where everyone wants things for themselves. But a fulfilling life is spent by investing in others.

It is said of Jesus, that He thought not of Himself, but thought of others first. He did not consider who He was (God), but gave His life as a ransom for all. Even the Son of God spent His life for others. He sacrificed His life that we might have eternal life.

You can do nothing better with your life than sacrifice for someone else to move them closer to God. Will you sacrifice yourself for someone else today?

What is your favorite play in baseball & why?

Help For Whatever Hurts You

Where do you hurt today? I’m not talking about your hip or your back. But do you hurt spiritually, physically, emotionally, mentally, financially, or relationally. What causes you to say, “I hurt. I am sick. I don’t feel well.”

The same Jesus who let the sick touch Him wants you to touch you and make you whole today. We are just like the people who came to Jesus in Genesaret in Mark 6:53-56. There were at least three steps they took to Jesus that if you take will lead you to healing and wholeness in our life today.

1. Recognize Jesus can help you.

And when they were come out of the ship, straightway they knew him, (Mark 6:54)

When Jesus got out of the boat, people immediately recognized Him. The people knew who the Lord was. They knew His awesome power.

We who have a personal relationship with Jesus know Him and know His power in our lives. We know what Jesus has done for us, He can do for others.

2. Run to Jesus.

And ran through that whole region round about, and began to carry about in beds those that were sick, where they heard he was. (Mark 6:55)

The people ran throughout the entire region and brought their sick to Jesus. The word ‘run’ not only implies speedy but immediate obedience. These people were prompt by running to bring their hurting friends to Jesus.

When we hesitate to obey what we should do, we can harden our hearts to the point where it becomes extremely difficult to either come to Jesus ourself or bring others to Jesus. For Jesus to touch us and make us whole, we need to be quick to obey Him the instant His Spirit moves within our hearts.

3. Respond to Jesus with faith.

and as many as touched him were made whole. (Mark 6:56)

Faith was first displayed by those who literally picked up the sick to bring them to Jesus. This teaches us that we need to be inviting people who are far away from Jesus to hear about Him.

Faith was displayed by those who reached out and touched Him. This was an act of faith. It is not enough to recognize intellectually that Jesus can help, we must demonstrate through an act of faith. Those who touched Him were made whole.

Jesus is our Great Physician. He can change any circumstance. Sometimes His power is manifested in complete healing, but other times He gives the sufferer power to endure hardships, pain, sickness, difficult circumstances. Sometimes He moves mountains. Sometimes He moves you. Whatever the case may be, reach out and ‘touch’ Him today.

Do Children Go To Heaven When They Die? Part Three

The Bible appears to teach that babies and children go to Heaven when they die. In earlier posts, I gave an Bible illustration (David and his infant son) and explained the Bible’s teaching on children, sin, and the atonement.

Not everyone has the same opinion. A very popular opinion is that only babies of Christians go to Heaven.

Why didn’t God make it perfectly clear in the Bible what happens to babies when they die? John MacArthur gives two sensible reasons: “One reason, surely, is that if God’s Word plainly promised instant heaven to all infants who die, some cult would try to make infanticide a sacrament (as the Molech worshipers in the Old Testament actually did), or some twisted soul might think such a promise justifies or mitigates the sin of abortion. So the Bible leaves enough in the realm of mystery to deter fanatics who might be prone to such abominations, while reassuring us God is gracious and compassionate and his tender mercies are over all his works.”

The Age of Accountability.

What about an “age of accountability”? The Bible does not teach a special “age” at which children are accountable for their own sin. However, we do know by observation and experience that as children mature they develop a capacity for moral reasoning. As children grow in their moral development, they begin to know the difference between good and evil and willingly choose to sin.

The history of the children of Israel may be enlightening. In response to Israel’s sin and rebellion, God condemned that generation of adults to death in the wilderness, never to see the Promised Land. “Surely there shall not one of these men of this evil generation see that good land, which I sware to give unto your fathers.” (Deuteronomy 1:35). However, God specifically excused infants and young children from this condemnation and explained His reasoning. “Moreover your little ones, which ye said should be a prey, and your children, which in that day had no knowledge between good and evil, they shall go in thither, and unto them will I give it, and they shall possess it.” (Deuteronomy 1:39). These children were not punished for their parents’ sin. God deals with children differently than He deals with those who commit deliberate and conscious sin.

The Book of Life.

The Bible indicates that God has a “Book of Life” (Exodus 23:33; Psalm 69:28; Malachi 3:16-18; Philippians 4:3; Revelation 13:8; 17:8; 20:12-15). In it is recorded everyone going to Heaven. However, some are ‘blotted out’ of the Book of Life (Exodus 23:33).

The Biblical references indicate that rather than a name added to the Book at conversion, the names of everyone conceived is included in the Book. However, if an individual dies physically having rejected the gospel (which assumes the capacity to understand and accept or reject the Gospel) then at the moment of his physical death his name is erased from the “Book of Life” in heaven. The concept of being blotted out of the “Book of Life” as a result of being held accountable for sin is seen in Revelation 3:5: “He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels.” Since an unbeliever when he is accountable for his life has rejected the need for receiving by faith alone the gift of God’s perfect righteousness through Jesus Christ, then he has not received forgiveness of his sins. At the end of his life, since he never chose to trust in Christ alone but rejected this gospel message, his name is blotted out (erased) from the Book of Life and he comes under condemnation. However, children and others without the capacity of understanding remain in the “Book of Life.”

I pray that I have helped you understand the implied teaching of the Bible that babies, young children, and adults with mental impairment go to Heaven if they should die.

If you are mature enough to read this, you are mature enough to be held accountable for your sins. Though Jesus died and shed His blood for all your sins, you are now responsible for repenting of your sins and receiving Jesus as your personal Lord and Savior. Just as you will not be punished for your parents’ sin, you will not be rewarded for your parents’ obedience. We are commanded to receive Jesus as our own Lord and Savior.

I invite you to cry out to God for mercy and receive His Son as your Savior and Lord. I believe if you are alive your name is still written in the Book of Life. God still wants you with Him in Heaven. However, should you die never to have received Jesus as your Lord and Savior, you will be blotted out of the Book of Life and suffer the darkness and terror of an eternity without God in Hell. Surrender today!

Do Children Go To Heaven When They Die? Part Two

In an earlier post, I stated that I believe that those who die as infants and early childhood go to Heaven when they die.

But what about children being sinners? Doesn’t the Bible teach that we are “all sinners” and deserve Hell? Isn’t Jesus the only way to Heaven and unless an individual receives Jesus as Savior, they have no hope of Heaven? Those statements are all true. However, certain aspects of sin, children and the atonement need to be considered to formulate a Biblical conclusion.

An understanding of what has been termed “original sin” needs to be considered.

The Bible teaches that the sin of Adam has caused all to be sinners. “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned…For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners…” (Romans 5:12, 19). Original sin is not only the inclination toward sin, but Scripture teaches that sin is an individual, spiritual condition. Sin is the inbred disease of the human race. Through the sin of our central ancestor Adam, we all became sinners. Every baby born into the world is born a sinner, guilty of Adam’s sin, deserving eternal punishment.

However, the Bible never teaches that anyone is sent to Hell because of Adam’s sin. Hell is reserved for those who transgress against the truth God has revealed. Every promise and warning in the Bible is given to people who are responsible for their own actions. All the threats of Hell in Scripture are given to those who have sinned knowingly and willingly (Romans 1:29-31; Galatians 5:19-21; Revelation 21:8). Though all deserve God’s wrath because all are sinners by nature, none are ever said to be judged guilty except those who willfully transgress His law. It appears that God will not eternally condemn anyone solely on the basis of Adam’s sin. The Lord said, “The fathers shall not be put to death for the children, neither shall the children be put to death for the fathers: every man shall be put to death for his own sin” (Deuteronomy 24:16).

An understanding of children needs to be considered.

Jesus taught that “unless ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:3). He also said about children, “…of such is the kingdom of Heaven” (Matthew 19:14). By comparing believers to infants, Jesus was teaching that we must come to God with a spirit much like that of an infant – completely dependent, without any resources of our own, and with full trust. God is favorable to children who have no choice but to depend on others for all their needs. I cannot imagine that the same Jesus who blessed little babies and said, “…of such is the kingdom of Heaven,” would not see they went to Heaven.

An understanding of the atonement needs to be considered.

Jesus died on the cross for the sins of the whole world. “And he (Jesus) is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world” (1 John 2:2; also 1 Timothy 4:2). This passage teaches the unlimited atonement of Christ’s death. Since Christ died for all sin, the only sin that can keep a person separated from God is the sin of unbelief or rejection of Christ. But a baby or young child cannot understand that he or she is a sinner nor can they reject Christ. So, since Christ paid for their sin by His death on the cross, those little children enter Heaven on the basis of the atonement of Jesus Christ.

I realize that some of these explanations may bring up more questions than you had before. But I hope this helps you understand a few concepts about children, death, and Heaven.

I will talk, in a later post, about ‘the age of accountability’, the Book of Life, and why the Bible isn’t clear about the eternal destiny of children.

Also read Do Children Go To Heaven When They Die? Part One

Do Children Go To Heaven When They Die? Part One

The death of a child is one of the most tragic events in the life of a family. The infant mortality rate still stands at several million babies per year. The grief experienced by every family is almost unbearable. Many take consolation that the child has been taken to Heaven.

The death of children poses a difficult question that touches on many core teachings of the Christian faith. What happens to children after death? Do they go to Heaven or to Hell? I believe that those who die as infants and early childhood (as well as those who are mentally impaired) go to Heaven when they die.

Does the Bible teach that babies go to Heaven when they die?

To answer this, we must find an example in Scripture. The only example of the death of an infant in which his eternal destiny is stated is King David’s newborn son. In his grief, David commented, “… Can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me.” (2 Samuel 12:23).

We have David’s eternal destiny recorded in Psalm 23:6: “…I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” So, the eternal destiny of his baby boy was “the house of the Lord.”

David looked forward to the time he would see his son again in Heaven. That is the hope of every parent who has lost a child in death. There is absolutely nothing in this text, nor the rest of the Bible, that gives any indication that Hell is the final destination for any baby or child.

If you have lost a child in death, may you take comfort, as did David, in their eternal destination in Heaven. Also, may you prepare yourself to meet them again.

But if babies are born sinners, how can they go to Heaven without a personal faith in Jesus? And what about the supposed ‘age of accountability’? I will tackle these issues in an upcoming post….

Be My Valentine – History of St. Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day is one of my favorite holidays.  It is a day that we Celebrate our love for one another, and God’s love for us.  Even as a little boy I always looked forward to our celebrating Valentine’s Day, making boxes and giving little cards to my school friends. And now it is even more special as I have Judy, my four children & spouses, and my grandchildren to show love.

Have you ever heard the history of St. Valentine? St. Valentine was a Christian minister near Rome in about the year 270 A.D. At that time the Roman Emperor was imprisoning Christians for not worshiping the Roman gods. During this persecution Valentine was arrested. Some say he was arrested because he was performing Christian marriages, but others say it was for helping Christians escape prison. (The emperor. Claudius II, prohibited young men from marriage because he felt bachelors made better soldiers)

During the trial they asked Valentine what he thought of the Roman gods Jupiter and Mercury. Valentine said they were false gods and that the God that Jesus called Father was the only true God. So the Romans threw him in prison for insulting the gods.

While in prison Valentine continued to minister. He witnessed to the guards. One of the guards was a good man who had adopted a blind girl. He asked Valentine if his God could help his daughter. Valentine prayed and the girl was given her sight. The guard and his whole family, 46 people, believed in Jesus and were baptized. Because these people had come to know Jesus, Valentine praised God right there in his prison cell. When the emperor heard about this he was furious that Valentine was still making converts even in prison, so he had Valentine beheaded. (Legend says that Valentine fell in love with the guard’s daughter and before he was executed sent her a note ‘from your Valentine)

The Bible Says: “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.”(John 15:13) God showed us this love by coming in Christ to die for our sins. And St. Valentine demonstrated this love when he died for his Lord and his friends. This is the kind of love that Valentine’s Day is really about.

The Best Advice I Ever Got on Marriage

I read a book that had an intriguing title and premise. Jim Day, leader of Focus on the Family, simply asked several Christians to state ‘the best advice I ever got on marriage.’ Wow! There is some great wisdom in this book.

However, since you read a blog for just a few minutes, I want to give you the advice without commentary. I’ve included the person who wrote the chapter.

1. Keep your commitment to your commitment (Ken Blanchard)

2. Make love a verb (Andy Stanley)

3. Recognize God is my Heavenly Father-in-Law (Gary Thomas)

4. Practice non-random acts of kindness (Paul & Teri Reisser)

5. Lighten up and laugh (Ted Cunningham)

6. Be your partner’s best friend (Les and Leslie Parrott)

7. Communicate how much your mate means to you (H. B. London)

8. Stop, drop and roll – when faced with trouble, stop thinking negative, pray, respond in a different way (Dewey Wilson)

9. The art of affirmation – use words to build up (Joni Eareckson Tada)

10. Ask older couples what works for them (Bill & Pam Farrel)

11. Nine words that have helped us stay married – Don’t ever threaten your spouse with divorce or separation (Bob Waliszewski)

12. Grow as a couple and as individuals (Frank Pastore)

13. Put sex on the calendar (Jill Savage)

14. Attitude is a choice (Stormie Omartian)

15. Deliberately seek the Lord (Phil & Heather Joel)

16. Believe your spouse wants your best (Jeff & Shaunti Feldhahn)

17. The power of taking a time-out (Michael & Amy Smalley)

18. The convicting question that’s changing our marriage – How would I like to be married to me? (Lee Strobel)

Do you have a ‘best marriage advice’ statement?

Dare to be like Daniel

One of my favorite Old Testament characters is Daniel. I remember hearing stories about him and the lion’s den when I was in Sunday School as a child.

What I love about Daniel is we see him as a teenager completely sold-out to God in Daniel 1.  Then, we see him nearly 70 years later (Daniel 6) as an old man still sold-out to God willing to go to the lion’s den rather than stop praying to God.  What a guy!

From the first mention of Daniel, I find several great thoughts.  Take a few minutes and read the chapter…go ahead…. I’ll wait…….. (Link to Daniel 1)

Here’s what I find:

1. The world always wants the best from us (v. 3-4) but Daniel and his friends determined to give their best to God.  

People often think it is impossible to really serve the Lord and live for him in our society.  But if Daniel can give his best and consecrate himself to God in the pagan society of Babylon, we can do it today. Don’t complain about where God has put you or the circumstances that surround you.  Ask Him to use you where you are as long as you’re there.

2. The world wants to change those who are trying to live for God.  

The world wants to ‘conform’ us, but God can ‘transform’ us (Romans 12:1-2).  Daniel and his friends found themselves in a new home, strange names, language, teachings and even new food.  But they kept their heart’s dedication to God.  Don’t let anyone or anything pressure you into fitting into a mold that is not godly.

3. God can give favor in difficult places to those who have the courage of their convictions to stand up and say no to the pressure to conform.  

Daniel and his buddies must have had some natural and learned traits to be hand-picked for their training. But it wasn’t until he ‘purposed in his heart’ to say no to the wine and meat that God put him in a good spot with his superiors.  Notice Daniel was not rude.  He was courteous to his guards and did not create problems for them. So, God blessed him. Live your life with favor for God and He will give you favor with others.

There’s an old song called ‘Dare to be a Daniel.’  It goes like this…

Dare to be a Daniel,

Dare to stand alone!

Dare to have a purpose firm!

Dare to make it known!

I hope you’ll live, young or old, like Daniel today. Godly. Courageous. Strong. Blessed.

How to Handle the Storms of Life

In Mark 6:45-52, the disciples were left to face a storm alone on the Sea of Galilee. However, the greatest storm that night was not in the sky; it was in the disciples’ hearts.

Just like the disciples, Jesus sends us on a journey. Between where we are and where we will be is a storm. But Jesus is bigger than any storm you are going through. As a matter of fact, He knew the storm was there before you did.

What are you facing today that seems like a storm?

  • A storm of addiction – trying to break free from a bondage you have had for years?
  • A storm of sickness – praying believing God for healing?
  • A storm of financial pressure – trying to get out of debt?
  • A storm of relationship challenges – trying to restore a broken relationship?
  • A storm of doubt and hopelessness?

Everyone who gets to the other side will go through storms. So since everyone experiences storms in their life how should we respond? I think we need to have three attitudes to successfully handle life’s storms:

Obedience. Sometimes we go through storms because we obey Jesus.

Ironically, the disciples were in this miserable trouble because they obeyed Jesus. Imagine what disobedience could have gotten those men that night: perhaps a full stomach, a warm be in someone’s home, an opportunity to tell stories about Jesus. But it was obedience that made them so uncomfortable.

If you submit your life to Christ in obedient commitment, you expose yourself to a variety of sorrows and storms. Your caring, your commitment to Biblical living, will make you vulnerable to things which the uncommitted heart will never experience.

Yet while obedience will bring contrary winds, it also brings joy. Never climb a mountain and you will won’t bruise your shins, but you will never reach the peak see the view. Never play baseball and you’ll never strike out, but you will never hit a home run either. Never obey Christ and you may miss some of life’s storms, but you will never know the breeze of the Holy Spirit in your sails moving you in service and power.

Trust. Sometimes in a storm, we know Jesus is with us. Other times we need to trust Him.

In a previous stormy trip across the Sea of Galilee (Mark 3:35-41), Jesus was with them in the storm (although they had to wake Him up to get any help). However, this second time He was alone on the land praying. The disciples were left to fend for themselves (or so they thought) against the raging storm. He was teaching them to live by faith.

Many times in difficult situations we feel a closeness to Jesus. However, other times we just feel like He has abandoned us. Like many of the Bible personalities, we feel forsaken. These are times we must trust in His presence. Feelings are great. But the fact is He will never leave us nor forsake us. He will take you to your intended destination in life.

Insight. Storms help us see our self and Jesus better.

Self. Sometimes God lets us come to the end of our human resources in order to get our attention. As long as we have a shred of our own strength or confidence, we hand onto it and hold off God. Those who quit relying on self and start to have confidence in God will discover storms to be more manageable.

Jesus. You can know very little about God until you go through a storm. It is the middle of the storm that you meet God. Jesus comes in our most desperate moments. If we know that He is personally present with us in the middle of the storm, the stilling of the sea and the stopping of the wind are incidental.