Saturday, September 24, 2016

For I Know the Plans I Have For You

Every Bible verse is to inform us but not every promise is for us.

I remember the first time I heard “’For I know the plans that I have for you’, declares the LORD, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.’” Jer 29:11 (NASB).  I  had just gotten on the Va Beach Expressway at Little Neck Rd driving to work at the Norfolk Naval Base and was listening to John MacArthur on the radio when he spoke that verse to ME!   God had a PLAN for ME! 

I was a young Christian struggling to make sense of the Bible, God, faith, … life.  As a concrete sequential kind of person (i.e. engineer), the mere fact that God had a “plan” gave me hope there was some possibility of understanding it, and my place in it, by careful study of His Word!  That the verse seemed to say the plan was personal for ME was gravy on the biscuit.

As I grew in my study of the Word I learned that God does have a plan.  In fact, there is the big plan – the sweep of His-story from before Creation, man, the fall, the rescue plan (Jesus), all the way to the New Heavens and Earth and eternity – that runs from Gen 1:1 through Rev 22:21.  I also came to understand His personal plan for me was in Romans 8:28-39 - particularly in the phrase “to become conformed to the image of His Son.”  His plan for me is to lead me to become more like Jesus.

Many people claim Jer 29:11 as “their” verse and promise.  Some even see God promising them “welfare” as in prosperity and good health.  This is a verse often used by Health, Wealth, Prosperity false-gospel hucksters, but this flies in the face of reality, doesn’t it?  How many great Christians have been poor?  How many, sick?  How about Christians are being persecuted - even to death - in our times?

Reading the verse this way puts false words into God’s mouth, makes the Bible say what it never said, and wrongly claims a promise made for others - ancient Israel in captivity. 

Misreading Jer 29:11 like this sullies God’s Word and dims the beauty of a loving God speaking hope and His plan to people in a specific time and place - Jews exiled by God in a foreign land.  That’s our unchanging God speaking and revealing His unchanging character to us!  That’s the message of Jer 29:11 for us today.  In this case, as often in the Old Testament, it’s not the promise that carries forward to us but the consistency of God’s character.

Good Bible interpretation is NOT just for preachers and Sunday School teachers - it’s our responsibility, too.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

What is God Up To Right In Front of Your Eyes?

Sometimes it could be a small Divine appointment like mine yesterday.   Actually, "small" and "Divine" is an oxymoron - nothing God ever does is "small".

I had been thinking about "What is God doing right in front of your eyes" on the 40 minute drive to the office in Monroe, LA.  First order of duty on arrival is always to warm up the coffee I brought from home.  The microwave had been broken the previous week when I was last in the office, and today I was aggravated to find the broken microwave in the office area had not yet been replaced - I mean, don't these people know what's important? 

Then I guessed there was probably a microwave in the break room in the plant, so I head out there. 

I see the cleaning lady, Mary, and we exchange usual pleasantries in passing as I am singularly focused on my mission (male trait).  Yes!   There is a microwave, so I heat up my coffee.  Then it occurs to me I have some new photos of granddaughter Sydney in her first Huntsville snow that I just know Mary would want to see. 

Mary had moved to cleaning the men's bathroom across the hall.  Since she had the door propped open, the proud Papa (me) proceeds right in and I show her the picture on my phone.  I notice Mary's eyes welling up with tears.  My immediate thought was, yes, Sydney is that beautiful, but tears? 

Then Mary told me she had been depressed thinking about her departed mother and that simple picture was a gift from God to brighten her day. 

Just a small thing, right.  I felt more an unwitting accomplice than intentional, but perhaps I might have been tempted to think I had done something rather than God. 

And it's not that after this encounter, the thought "What is God doing right in front of your eyes?" was continually plastered in front of my mind the entire day.  But, it did pop up occasionally and every time it made me look at people and consider the desperation of God-less lives most are living ... and then pray for them.

Maybe God will continue breaking this hard selfish heart.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

God's Gift to me this Christmas

God and I have this thing at Christmas.  He almost always surprises me with a gift.  He knows how much I love music - especially Christmas music - so little wonder most of those gifts have been centered around a song.

All the more remarkable that this year I didn't even think to start listening to Christmas music on the radio until sometime around the 8th of December.  There have been a lot of distractions late this year.

Driving to work this past Friday, as I turned onto Industrial Drive, a beautiful soaring duet came on the radio - a soft piano opening,  the female lead's pure solo, the confident male accompaniment delicately blending and balanced so perfectly.  Gave me chills.  Sometimes in beautiful music you can hear Heavenly reverb.  That's what I heard.

The song was the first in a set, followed by 2 others.  I waited for the radio announcer to name the song and the artists, and ... guess what?  He mentioned the last song, but not the others.  This has happened before, and like the other times, I was not a happy camper.  I have actually called radio stations to find out what song played on a certain date and time!

So here I was given a wonderful and beautiful blessing, and I'm upset because I can't listen again and share the song with my family.

Sunday morning I'm at my computer trying to find my way to the name of the song and the artists.  I found many beautiful Christmas songs ... but not that one.  Later as I started the car for the drive to church, there was a Christmas song playing on the radio.  Then, as I neared Highway 167, the next one began - a soft piano opening, a soaring female voice ...

This time the announcer named the artist, and with a few words of the song, I was able to look it up!  I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.





Yes, God gave me a gift, and, as most of us with longer associations with Him know, the gift is almost always Himself - whether wrapped in a song, a deeper glimpse into His Word, or a peek at a baby in manger on a cold night.

Saturday, August 01, 2015

What's Wrong with our Culture in a Picture


The Bible is no longer authoritative.  It now sits on the library shelf between Fairy Tales, Ghost Stories, and Mythology.

Christians can no longer assume a listener has a common understanding on God, Jesus, faith, sin, salvation or other Biblical themes.  We now have to do the hard work of backing up and laying foundations to understanding through Apologetics and appeals to common ground through general revelation.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Be Not Ashamed - Be Confident



15 So, for my part, I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome. 16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “But the righteous man shall live by faith.”
Romans 1:15–17 (NASB95)

 We've heard "For I am not ashamed of the gospel" quoted from the pulpit and may even have used it ourselves ... but what does it really mean?  What idea was Paul trying to communicate here?

First, what it does not mean.  This is not about a parent telling a child, "I'm so ashamed of what you did (or did not) do."  God is not saying He is ashamed of you for not witnessing.  To use this passage to make that point is a total misuse of scripture.  This is actually an affirming scripture, not one that condemns!

Rather, Paul is expressing his confidence in the Gospel - that it will not let him down.  What is the Gospel?  It's the message about Jesus, perfect Son of God who died for our sins that we may have forgiveness and restoration.  Paul is also saying that the message is universal - Jew to Greek - and consistent in that it takes "faith" and that faith is consistent over time - "faith to faith".  There is only one object of true faith - God - progressively revealed from the Jewish "faithfulness" (there's no word in Hebrew for "faith")  starting with Abraham to completion in Jesus and the Gospel of the New Testament.

So, this is really about the fact that we can and should be Confident that the Gospel message is True.  But, how does this confidence arise and grow?  Stay tuned for my next post.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Noble Sentiments in a Sound-Bite Age

"If you are being fed to the lions, it is tempting for one to believe that victory is defeating the lions, when in fact, real victory is dying in such a manner that those watching repent, because they now know that it is wrong to feed your brethren to the lions."

I love noble sentiments but there are things about this one that trouble me.  Yes, perhaps the main point is that the lions are not our enemy, or maybe the lions are and the crowd are the ones we are dying for.  Maybe I'm overanalyzing but here are a few thoughts.

1.  When it comes to dying, it's just me and the Lord.  No lions.  No crowds.  I hope I can die in such a way to honor Him.  The grace to die well will come from Him.  There's even precedent for shutting the mouths of hungry lions. 

2.  "... because they now know that it is wrong to feed your brethren to the lions."  How my death is perceived is up to God, not me.  Yes, I agree there are things you can't not know (a few psychopaths aside), but put that in the context of millions killed in Nazi camps.  Was it the example of their deaths the ended the Holocaust?  How many times has that been repeated?  Truth is the way forward, but Truth can come in many ways even military might.

3.  America is running full tilt toward another Nazi society.  Already the philosophy of "if you don't agree with us and celebrate what we celebrate even if it violates your conscience ... we're going to hurt you" is rising.  It's not hard to see that leading to a repeat of Christians vs Lions, but I do not believe that is a foregone conclusion.

4.  I know this is not the point of the above sentiment, but I don't think God has told us to put our affairs in order and go volunteer to die in the arena.  I do believe He is and always has called His people to stand up for Him in all things - to stand visibly against what is wrong, to be the lawyer fighting to protect First Amendment rights, to be the pastor rightly equipping his congregation and youth to be effective in their times ...

5.  If it comes that I am taken to the 21st century arena then I hope it's because I was a Mordechai standing in the gate while others bowed (Esther 5:9) and not that the FBI had to work hard to find enough evidence to convict me.

Noble sentiments are meant to provoke thought.  However, in our time, it may just be the shortfalling of Noble sentiments that they are pithy in an age of sound bites where people are used to being told what to think.  No real thought required.


Disclaimer.  A friend posted this sentiment as a Facebook comment and I posted the above (98%) as a response.  He subsequently posted an excellent response.  He did not negate my comemnts but explored some different aspects of the sentiment.  BUT I'm not going to give him equal air-time on my blog until he starts a blog and posts his response there - then, I'll link to it.  He needs to be writing to a bigger and potentially hostile audience than just his FB friends.

Sunday, January 04, 2015

Broken to Unbroken

I was initially disappointed seeing the movie, Unbroken. It only tells half the Louis Zamperini story. But, maybe that's not a bad thing ...

If I hadn't read the book and just saw the movie, I would think it was an ok war story of the indomitable human spirit in the face of desperate odds and extreme cruelty. One would think the flag-waving happy reunion of Louis and his family at the end shows him as the returning Unbroken American hero.

In fact, Louis came home Broken - ...filled with rage, anger, and hatred outworking in a quest for revenge against his chief torturer, "The Bird". These emotions all but destroyed Zamperini and his family for years.

Louis' Brokenness wasn't healed until his wife talked him into going to a Billy Graham evangelical rally. There he turned his Brokenness over to Jesus, and Louis found the power to forgive his captors - even "The Bird." Louis had been made whole - Unbroken.

The book, Unbroken, is really the story of a man's journey into the pit of Brokenness and the way back to wholeness through Jesus. It's really an extreme version of everyman's problem and the only Way out.

I hope there's a sequel to tell the greatest part of the Louis Zamperini story. Still, more broken people will see this part of Louis' story than would ever come to a Billy Graham crusade or even your church. Maybe some who would never pick up a Bible will read the Unbroken book out of curiosity, identify the need of their heart with Louis' brokenness, and be pointed to the solution Louis found.

Read the book.

Go see the movie. Recommend it to your friends - especially those who do not know Jesus.

Recommend they read the book.

Be ready to discuss the Broken to Unbroken pictured by the book - about finding the power that can change a life so broken as Louis Zamperini and give it the ability to forgive even in the face of unimaginable wrongs.