Obedience is Not Optional

“To God’s elect … who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, to be obedient to Jesus Christ and sprinkled with His blood…” (1 Peter 1:1-2 NIV emphasis mine).

mo9vkbg5csg-ben-whiteThe above passage is rich with theological implications. It contains trigger words that light the Bible student’s heart on fire such as ‘elect’ and ‘foreknowledge’. It also mentions each member of the Trinity; Father, Son, and Spirit. However, when I read it this morning three other words grabbed my attention …

“… to be obedient …”

Why were God’s elect chosen according to the foreknowledge of God? To be obedient. Too often, Christians see obedience to God’s Word as optional. We tend to pick and choose the passages we’ll respond to. I’m not talking about the things we rule out after careful study and exegesis. It’s a truth of Scripture that not all commands within its pages apply to Christians today (hint: think shellfish!). What I’m talking about are the no-brainers — commands to worship God with all our heart, soul, and strength; to love others, worship together, and to be holy in all our conduct. We tend to pay attention to commands such as this when it’s convenient to do so, but the moment things get rough or difficult we abandon them.

When reading 1 Peter this morning I wrote the following words in the margins of my Bible:

Obedience is not optional. 

That phrase — obedience is not optional, is my new mantra. I will repeat it when things get rough. I will repeat it on the days I don’t feel God’s presence in my life. I will repeat it on those days I’m not feeling particularly Godly. Obedience is not optional!

It’s hard to justify disobedience when God’s Word says we were chosen to be obedient!

 

 

My Goals and Prayers for 2017

ef1h5yttmz8-annie-sprattNew Year’s Eve provides a wonderful opportunity to review the past year spiritually. Where has God taken you? Where have you grown? Are you more like Christ now than you were at the beginning of the year? These are the questions I asked myself as I compiled my list of goals for 2017:

 

  • I want to love people more. Not only the people God has put in my life but everyone. Strangers. Sinners. People that God loves and Christ died for. Yeah, those people. When asked what was the greatest of the commandments, Jesus replied, “’You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the great and foremost commandment. 39 The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 22:36-40). You simply can’t love God with all your strength if you aren’t loving the people He loves. I want to get better at this.
  • I want to tend to my holiness. God’s Word says, “15 but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; 16 because it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy” (1 Peter 1:15-16). I don’t use the word holy in a holier than thou sense … I simply want to be more holy than I am now … because God is holy.
  • I want to write more. I want to get better at writing. Sometimes I read the things others have written and it feels like they are communicating at a whole different level. I want to write more devotionals, more blog posts, finish a fiction project, and finish a non-fiction project. Why? God chose to communicate through the written Word … and I feel like I can honor Him through my writing if I apply myself.
  • In 2016, I managed to lose a great deal of weight. Over one-hundred pounds actually. I did this after I was diagnosed with Type II Diabetes. I started walking then running and tending to my diet. I managed to get off all my medications (diabetes and high blood pressure). At the time of this writing, I’ve gained a little back but am still doing fairly well. In 2017 I want to build on my progress. I’m praying God will give me strength and endurance as I address this goal. There’s a lot of “I’s” in this goal, however, I am well-aware this cannot be accomplished apart from God.
  • I want to continue to serve. God has provided me with a wonderful avenue to serve Him. I am the Director of Education in my local church, a Sunday School teacher, and a fill-in musician on the Praise Team. I am grateful for these opportunities to serve and I pray that God will continue to bless me in my service.
  • I pray God will temper my frustration. ’nuff said.
  • I pray for my church and the Church. In 2017, I will be praying for both my local church and the global Church. I am praying for the people in my church to grow in faith, love, knowledge, and service. I pray they will allow God to use them. I am also praying for the global Church. I pray the Church’s influence for Christ will increase. I pray for the Church in the United States to stand strong in the face of adversity. I pray for the Church to reflect the love of Christ.
  • Finally, I pray for the world and our Country. I pray for the United States. I pray for the spirituality of our country. I pray that as a people we will come to love and honor God. I pray for the divide in our country to diminish and for us to unite in purpose and prayer. I pray for our President-Elect and the incoming government. May they honor God with their leadership and decisions. I pray for the United States to honor God in its foreign relations and I am specifically praying for the country of Israel.

There are other goals and hopes I have for 2017; probably too many to list, however, I have grown comfortable allowing God to work them out. What are your goals and prayers for 2017?

Do You Reciprocate​ God’s Love?

sunset-hands-love-womanIn his post “A Key Ingredient for Friendship“, blogger and pastor Lyn Perry identifies reciprocity as a key ingredient for friendship. He does so after reading about William Shatner’s damaged friendship with Leonard Nimoy in the book Leonard. Perry writes, “Without reciprocity, friendships fail.” And he’s right … it’s hard to love someone that doesn’t love you back.

It’s so hard, in fact, that I suspect even the best of us would eventually tire of an unreciprocated friendship. Heck, I’m only going to care for so long. Eventually, I’m going to write you off if you fail to love me back. I say that even though God role-models something much different.

The oft-quoted verse John 3:16 begins with the words “For God so loved the world …” God loved the world that would crucify His Son. God loved the world that would, by and large, reject Him. Yet God doesn’t write us off. In response to His unrequited love for the world, God displays patience and desires the best for us (2 Peter 3:9).

God’s unrequited love for the world is the most remarkable kind of love ever displayed. The Apostle Paul put it this way, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). God didn’t just love sinners, He put His Son on the cross for sinners.

That is remarkable!

I write all of this to arrive at a point. It’s not just an unbelieving world that fails to respond to God’s love. There are many of us Christians who are still failing to reciprocate God’s love for us. We give lip-service to our faith in Christ yet continue to live in a way that doesn’t reflect our profession of faith. This is what James was saying when he wrote, “For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead” (James 2:26).

In the cross, Christ displayed the most remarkable kind of love for the world and Christians, of all people, should be responding to and reciprocating that love. If I’m being honest, I go through periods where my life doesn’t reflect God’s love. I am prone to selfishness. I sometimes allow my mountains to take my eyes off My Rock. My prayer is for that to change dramatically in 2017. I want to love people more. I want to serve myself less than I serve God. Mainly, I want to reciprocate the love God has shown me. Because His love is truly remarkable.

Mini Book Review of ‘The End of Reason’ by Ravi Zacharias

endofreasonThe End of Reason by Ravi Zacharias was written as a response to what has been dubbed ‘New Atheism’. Primarily, it was written to refute the philosophy of atheist Sam Harris who wrote The End of Faith.

Zacharias’ arguments in this book are logical, concise, and articulate. I love the way his brain works! Zacharias is an evangelist and apologist that brings a unique perspective to theology and philosophy. He is an “Indian-born Canadian-American” with a Master of Divinity, several honorary doctorates, and an undergraduate degree. He brings to the table a command of logic and language that is unparalleled along with a cultural experience that is uniquely his own. Because of his unique background, Zacharias writes in a voice that is distinctly his own – and I appreciate that.

This book makes short work of the philosophy championed by Sam Harris and others. Zacharias places the worldview of new atheism alongside that of Christianity and exposes the hate, despair, and hopelessness of the new atheist. As Zacharias unravels the arguments of Sam Harris, he exposes them as illogical and unfulfilling.

On a side note, Zacharias writes as a former atheist who was once on the brink of suicide. His experience seems to have ignited in him a passion for revealing the illogical endgame of the new atheist and in this book he does so in remarkable fashion.

 

In Pursuit of the Truth: Is the news media capable of just reporting the truth?

nawkmlp3tvs-samantha-sophiaI watch a lot of news — probably too much if you ask my wife. I’m conservative, so most of the time my TV is tuned to Fox News, but I also try to be responsible and glean my news from additional sources. One of my favorite phone apps is “NPR News” because it instantly notifies me of breaking stories.

I must admit, however, that I have a problem with all my news sources — I don’t believe any of them anymore. Television, print, radio, internet … I’m convinced they’re all more concerned with peddling their personal agendas rather than reporting the news. One source wants to convince us that anyone who supports Obama and Hillary is a communist while the other tries to portray every Trump voter as a white supremacist. I simply refuse to believe such nonsense, however, the people that report the news seem to really believe it — and that’s a problem.

In the good old days, the news came on at six — the local news was first followed by the national news. The news anchors read the story and then moved on to the next one. They had to move quick because they generally had only a half an hour to get through it all. There was an order; news, weather, sports, goodnight.

I kind of miss those days.

With the advent of 24/7 news coverage, networks became pressured to fill time. That pressure resulted in more opinion pieces being woven into the news. When such “editorials” proved popular they began to dominate the timeslots more and more until there was no such thing as pure, unbiased news. Newspapers, blogs, and radio all followed suit. Some of the sources I see otherwise intelligent people cite actually frighten me with their bias. With all the talk of “fake news” in the media these days I feel like screaming, “It’s all fake news!”

It’s almost as if we’re no longer concerned with truth. We’d rather our opinions be validated than to learn the truth.

Scripture tells us that God is the God of Truth (Deuteronomy 32:4). Psalm 19:9 tells us that God’s judgments are true and righteous. Jesus even said that He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life (John 14:6). When you read the Bible you can’t escape the idea that truth exists and is important to God. And if truth is important to God, it should be important to us.

By its very nature, truth is objective. I don’t get to determine truth. Truth is also no respecter of persons. What’s true for you is true for me. Because of its nature, only an objective God can determine what is true. Scripture teaches that Jesus was the Truth (John 14:6), that He spoke the Truth (John 18:37), and that He was executed for speaking that Truth.

Because the truth is objective, it is often offensive. When Jesus says “No one comes to the Father, but through Me” you may find it offensive, but that doesn’t make it any less true.

It’s the same with all truth. When we don’t like the truth we get offended. We attack. We argue. We cast aspersions. We do everything we can to nail the truth to a tree. Why? I suppose it’s easier to fight against the truth than it is to change our hearts.

We live in a day and age where news sources will knowingly report lies and then defend those lies by hiding behind the First Amendment. This will not change until we, as consumers of the news, begin to demand the truth.

Personally, I would rather my news sources just tell me what happened. Just tell me the truth so I can then turn to God through Scripture and prayer to discern how I should respond to that truth.

Then again, maybe Tom Cruise is right. Maybe we can’t handle the truth.

 

 

Google Chrome Was Killing My MacBook!

Last night I was trying to work on a sermon using my MacBook Pro. During the course of my work, I was switching between my Logos Bible Software, Microsoft Word, and a number of tabs on Google Chrome when my MacBook grinded to a near halt. If I clicked on anything, and I mean anything, I got the dreaded beachball of doom for several minutes. Just trying to empty my trash was futile. Needless to say, after four hours of dealing with my uncooperative Mac, I was no longer in the mood to write a sermon.

This morning I woke up on the verge of ordering a new Mac that I really can’t afford. Fortunately, my common sense kicked in and  I decided to revisit the situation and try to figure out what was going on. I had already tried to restart the computer several times with no success in speeding it up. This morning I ran diagnostics which revealed there was no problem with my hard drive. I then googled diagnostic options and found a recommendation to run the Activity Monitor to see what processes were eating up my CPU. Low and behold one single process was using 120% of my CPU – Google Chrome Helper. 

A quick web search led me to this article on elanmorgan.com, ‘How to Fix a Slow Mac: Your Chrome Browser Might Be the Problem‘. As it turns out, Elan sped up her Mac by simply quitting Google Chrome. So I gave it a shot. Just by quitting Google Chrome and using Safari instead, my speed issues seem to have been resolved.

Apparently, it may be possible to kill Google Chrome Helper without giving up Google Chrome itself (see this article), but as much as I like Chrome, it was much easier to just turn it off.

Having problems with the speed on your mac? Turn Chrome off and see if it helps.

 

Book Review of ‘Flight to Heaven: A Plane Crash … A Lone Survivor … a Journey to Heaven — and Back’ by Dale Black

flightI have a love/hate relationship with audio books. While I love the idea of them, I typically hate actually listening to them. This book was an exception to that rule. Read in the author’s own voice, Flight to Heaven: A Plane Crash … A Lone Survivor … A Journey to Heaven — and Back is pilot Dale Black’s story of surviving a horrific plane crash.

As the title suggests, Dale Black submits that after his crash he visited Heaven. This fact alone almost caused me to dismiss the book. Why? Perhaps I’m just a cynic, but there are numerous titles in bookstores everywhere that suggest similar stories. The odds alone suggest many of them are false. I’m glad, however, that I gave this book a chance. This book is less about Dale Black’s visit to Heaven and more about the life he led after his visit to Heaven.
Black’s injuries were devasting. nearly every bone in one leg was shattered and he was left unable to walk, much less fly a plane. However, his faith in God allowed him to not only recover, but to thrive amid such darkness. Dale Black’s life was changed and, as a result, he changed the lives of others.
I should add that listening to his story in the author’s own voice added to my enjoyment. I got the sense that Black was less telling a story and more sharing his testimony – at times, almost reluctantly, but at all times humbly. Black never seemed to glorify himself but rather seemed more concerned with glorifying the One who saved him from his crash.
I enjoyed this audiobook a great deal and highly recommend it to anyone who needs to hear an inspirational story of hope and survival.