Monday, November 30, 2009

To God Be The Glory

The praise of men can be intoxicating. When it is not held in check by a healthy dose of reality regarding our own limitations and faults, it can lead to our destruction. A good example of this is King Herod in Acts 12. A rift had arisen between the king and the people of Tyre and Sidon, prompting them to send a delegation to Caesarea to make an effort to win back the king’s favor (v. 20). Part of their strategy included heaping praises upon him for his oratory skills (v. 22). Herod made the mistake of accepting the praise for himself rather than giving God the glory and he paid a steep price for his prideful arrogance (v. 23).

It is much better to remain humble and maintain a proper sense of priorities when we are blessed with the praise of others. In his book “Expository Reflections on the Gospel of John,” Leon Morris shares a story from the life of Marian Anderson, one of the most celebrated singers of the twentieth century. He writes: “I have read that the singer Marian Anderson was once told by Toscanini that she had the voice of the century. On one occasion she gave a concert at the White House for the King and Queen of England and the Roosevelts. On one Easter Day she sang beneath the Lincoln statue in Washington to a crowd of more than 75,000, including many of this world’s great ones. So, when a reporter asked her what was the greatest moment of her life, she had plenty to choose from. But her answer was, ‘The day I went home and told my mother that she needn’t take in washing anymore.’ For all her greatness, Marian Anderson had her sense of values right” (pg. 160).

The wise counsel of the apostle Paul is still appropriate today: “For through the grace given to me I say to every man among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think…” (Romans 12:3).

God loves you!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Tearing Down Walls

This past Monday, November 9, marked the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall in Germany. How did the wall come to be? Following the fall of Nazi Germany near the end of WWII, most German territory, including the city of Berlin, was split into 4 parts, with each area coming under the control of one of the four Allied forces (United States, Soviet Union, Britain, and France). As time passed, tensions grew between the Soviets and the west, ultimately resulting in what became known as the “Cold War.” The city of Berlin became a flashpoint in the ideological battle. In the early 1950’s, multiplied thousands began to emigrate from areas under communist control in East Germany for freedom in the West. The resulting loss of human economic and intellectual capital became a serious problem for East Germany. Eventually, in an effort to stem the tide of those leaving, a physical wall began to be constructed in Berlin in 1961. With the completion of the wall, most East Germans were no longer permitted to travel freely. For the next three decades, the Berlin Wall was a highly visible symbol of battle between communism and capitalism. But due to the internal strain and ultimate collapse of Soviet domination of Eastern Bloc countries, the Berlin Wall eventually came crashing down. November 9, 1989 is commemorated as the day to celebrate its historic collapse.

The Bible speaks of another wall that needed to be torn down. I’m speaking, of course, of the wall separating the Jews and the Gentiles. This division had been fostered by centuries of exclusivism and hatred. Most Jews had built a mental boundary that excluded Gentiles from participation in God’s kingdom. But Jesus Christ (through His death, burial, and resurrection) completely demolished this carefully constructed wall (Ephesians 2:11-16).

In honor of our Lord’s accomplishment, can you think of any walls separating you from a brother or sister in Christ that need to be destroyed? Like our Savior, let’s be known for tearing down dividing walls instead of building them.

God loves you!

Monday, November 9, 2009


In a devotional titled “Flunking Witnessing,” John Fischer shares some valuable insights into a task that frightens many followers of Jesus. Please let me share some of what He says with you (note: if you are uncomfortable with the term “witnessing,” then feel free to substitute the words “sharing the gospel” or “evangelism” whenever you see “witnessing”).

“Why do we often find this so hard?…(Witnessing) is usually presented as if we were at a sales conference getting pumped to sell our product.. I don’t know about you, but I’m a very poor salesman. I’m the kind of guy whose sales pitch would be, “You don’t want to buy this, do you?” I don’t like interrupting people. I don’t like infringing on their space. I hate it when people do that to me, so why would I engage in it myself? Plus, I don’t like pretense. I don’t like being nice to someone just to make a deal. I wouldn’t want anyone to think they are a means to an end.

“That’s why I’ve been very encouraged to find out that true witnessing doesn’t involve any of these things. It doesn’t even involve having a memorized speech. Witnessing is really nothing more than befriending people and telling them your story at the right time (usually when they ask you).

“Witnessing is being so in love with God that you eventually end up talking about Him. Witnessing is being so overwhelmed by the undeserved nature of your salvation that you can’t contain your joy. Witnessing isn’t coercing anyone; it’s quite the opposite. It’s having someone coerce the gospel out of you, because they can’t stand not knowing what’s going on with you anymore.

“If you want to prepare for anything, think about your own story, how you can tell it, and how you can connect it to the events that are happening around you…But don’t worry about not being prepared. Probably some of the best witnesses around are people who would flunk a witnessing course, but make excellent friends.”

God loves you!

Monday, November 2, 2009

How Would Jesus Handle It?

"A North Carolina pastor plans to host a Halloween event at his church to burn heretical books. At the top of the list — the Bible. Pastor Marc Grizzard claims the King James version of the Bible is the only true word of God, and that all other versions are "satanic" and "perversions" of God's word. On Halloween night, Grizzard and the 14 members of the Amazing Grace Baptist Church will set fire to other versions of the scripture, as well as music and books by Christian authors. "We are burning books that we believe to be Satanic," Grizzard said. The list will include books written by "a lot of different authors who we consider heretics, such as Billy Graham, Rick Warren… the list goes on and on,” Pastor Grizzard said. Also on the pastor's list of heretical authors — Mother Teresa…" ("Pastor To Host Halloween Bible-Burning Event,", 10-22-09).

The purpose of this article is not to debate the pros and cons of various versions of the Bible. I'm not here to promote or criticize certain religious authors. I'm more concerned about the message this kind of thing sends about "Christianity" in general. I realize that faithful disciples of Jesus will never totally fit in to their surrounding culture, but can't some care be taken not to give any unnecessary ammunition to critics?

Pastor Grizzard and the members of Amazing Grace Baptist Church are certainly free to express their convictions on these matters in the particular way they have chosen. That is a privilege, at least for the time being, that we still have in this country. I doubt that anything I or anyone else could say would sway them from their course of action. But if given the opportunity, I would encourage them to think carefully about the kind of attention they are attracting. Is this how Jesus Christ would handle it?

By the way, the article does say that "…the book-burning is being promoted as
a social event with a barbecue dinner." And God must shed a tear…

God loves you!


“Vision” is a hot topic in leadership circles. Men and women who desire to make a difference in the business world are often told that they must be visionaries – those who can look beyond the present, set concrete and measurable goals, and then motivate those around them to strive to reach for those goals. Businesses compete for visionary leaders who can lead their company to greater and greater success. Churches have adopted this popular business model as their blueprint for growth as well. Congregations also compete for driven, visionary leaders who have the potential to lead them to success in the spiritual marketplace. Is this wise?

Jim McGuiggan has some words of caution for the body of Christ in this area. He writes: “It’s critically important that the Church sees itself in God’s terms; not as the world sees it, not as it sees itself but as he sees it. It’s nature and mission is what he says it is and what we dream after that – our goals and programs and “vision” – must be in line with and completely identified with what we are in his sight. Too soon our own (often) fleshly desires (“growth,” “acceptability,” “feeling blessed,” “happy” and such) become our “vision” and who we truly are in Jesus is forgotten or yawned at” (“God’s Vision and Our Vision”;

When you boil it all down, our “vision” really doesn’t matter. What matters is God’s vision for us individually and corporately. He sets the agenda; he provides the goals; he gives the motivation. We are called to follow His visionary leadership.

“A system of ministry leadership may be organizationally efficient, impressively accomplished, and statistically amazing, but if those who work within it are not being changed into the likeness of Christ and increasing their awareness of and participation in what really matters to him, it is spiritually lacking” (Carlus Gupton).

Truly visionary leaders will always point others away from themselves and toward God and His vision for their lives. Remember, it’s God’s will that is to be done and not our own.

God loves you!