WONDERS & WOWS

I’m at that age where I get to enjoy the blessings of grandchildren. This has helped me notice again how life is full of wonders and wows. Everything is new, special, and fun for children. This past week, my 6 month old grandson, Charlie, found out about the wonders of Cheerios. He looked them over, picked them up with his tiny fingers, and attempted to get them into his mouth to experience their texture and taste. WOW!  A couple months ago, I assisted my 5 year old grandson, Brady, in the wonder of riding a bicycle without training wheels. The look on his face when he knew he had mastered this was priceless. WOW!

Here are a few more wonders and wows of childhood you may remember: building a sand castle, catching a firefly, sucking an ice cube, hearing a cricket, picking a bouquet of dandelions, making a snow angel, losing a tooth, roasting a marshmallow, chasing a butterfly.

While wonders and wows seem especially true for little ones, they are present throughout our lives. There is still much to wow us and make us wonder, even as we grow up and move through adolescence and adulthood. Do you ever wonder now? Do you ever wonder enough to be wowed?

Take a good look at God’s wonders—they’ll take your breath away.  Psalm 66:5

Do you ever wonder about GOD and His creation? Things like a volcano, a coral reef, a galaxy? Do you ever wonder about the uniqueness’s of a walking stick, a sea horse, a humming bird, a giraffe, a blue whale? How about a rainbow, a snowflake, a shooting star, the morning dew, the ocean tides? Have you ever wondered about a spider’s web, a chicken’s egg, a bee hive? WOW!

Do you ever wonder how GOD gave us human beings the capacity, the intellect, and the ambition to imagine, invent, engineer, build, and manufacture? Things like the Panama Canal, the Great Pyramids, the Mackinaw Bridge, the Channel Tunnel, and Hoover Dam? Do you ever wonder how the power of hundreds of horses is harnessed into automobiles that everyday take us everywhere we want to go? How huge, heavy airplanes are able to fly through the air at unimaginable speeds and altitudes? How ships the size of a Midwestern town can float across the ocean? How we can communicate with people all over the world on devices that have no wires attached to them? WOW!

Wonders and Wows are all around, but most of us just don’t take the time to notice them. We’re too busy, too much in a hurry, too distracted, too dull. Instead of wonders and wows, our lives consist more of worries and woes. We can choose otherwise, though. And here is perhaps the greatest wonder ever:

 For Christ died for sins once and for all, a good man on behalf of sinners, in order to lead you to God. 1 Peter 3:18a

WOW!  

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TOO GOOD FOR JESUS

Too good for Jesus – this sounds strange doesn’t it? But isn’t this the way it is with some people? A few posts back I wrote about how The Bible separates people into two main categories: GOD-fearers and fools. One of the places this is referenced is Proverbs 1:7  which reads:

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.

GOD-fearers deliberately choose to acknowledge GOD as GOD and His Word (The Bible) as truth, they attribute all that is good, right, beautiful, and true to GOD, admit dependence upon GOD, accept that GOD is sovereign in all matters, and adore GOD by worshipping, thanking, and praising Him. Fools deliberately refuse to do these things. So all of us are either GOD-fearers or fools, right?

In addition, there are two basic things that keep people away from Jesus, one is ignorance, the other is arrogance. Fools then, come in two varieties – ignorant fools and arrogant fools. Now before someone gets their underpants knotted up, and thinks this is too insensitive, allow me to present a bit of personal disclosure. I used to be a fool of both types. First, I lived as an ignorant fool for many years before I investigated Jesus for myself. After that, I became an arrogant fool by allowing religion to justify my life rather than Jesus. I’m happy to say I am no longer a fool, but I am a first-degree jerk and jackass at times, since I am still very hard-hearted and hard-headed (just ask my wife). Thankfully, GOD grants many opportunities to help me develop, mature, and get over myself. I read a good book about Jerks a couple years ago titled Don’t Let Jerks Get The Best Of You, by Dr. Paul Meier, Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1993. It’s a good read for anyone who is interested.

Now back to the topic of fools. Here is something else that is found in Scripture:

Don’t respond to the stupidity of a fool; you’ll only look foolish yourself. Answer a fool in simple terms so he doesn’t get a swelled head.  Proverbs 26:4-5

This sounds like a contradiction at first, but it isn’t, for the fact of the matter is ignorant fools and arrogant fools need to be handled in different ways. So it’s important to know the fool you are dealing with. Ignorant fools don’t deserve a response since they are clueless in what they are talking about, and if you attempt to enlighten them you will look just as ignorant as they are. On the other hand, arrogant fools deserve a response – a response that is in clear, plain terms that exposes their silliness and keeps them from getting even more full of themselves.

Ignorance can only be used as an excuse until information is presented. Once the GOOD NEWS message of Jesus is shared ignorance instantly changes into arrogance if it not accepted. Arrogant people struggled with Jesus since they thought they were already good – too good for anything He had to offer. They were unwilling to admit they were diseased and broken with sin, and they were infuriated that He would even suggest such a thing about them.

Jesus answered them, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor—sick people do. I have come to call sinners to turn from their sins, not to spend My time with those who think they are already good enough.”  Luke 5:31-32

Not much has changed. Today, arrogance (pride) is probably the greatest obstacle to Jesus as many people think they are already good enough. What a foolish notion. But this is the way arrogance operates – it lives, works, and plays in the arena of comparison. Arrogance is quite aware of everyone else’s deficiencies, but disinclined to consider its own – the very things Jesus came to save people from. And here’s the irony of it all, real fools actually think GOD and GOD-fearers are the fools:

 For people who are stumbling toward ruin, the message of the cross is nothing but a tall tale for fools by a fool. But for those of us who are already experiencing the reality of being rescued and made right, it is nothing short of God’s power.      1 Corinthians 1:18

Nothing but foolish arrogance resists Jesus, rejects His message, and refuses His gift of salvation. Only arrogant fools believe they don’t need saving – that they are too good for Jesus.

Do they really believe they are already perfect? They must. What else could keep people from believing how someone else (Jesus) has already taken their punishment and paid their debt to make them free and clear, as well as clean and new? But still they say, “No Thanks, Jesus, I’ll take what I deserve.”

 Better to meet a grizzly robbed of her cubs than a fool hell-bent on folly.                                         Proverbs 17:12

ENTER JESUS…

Life was never supposed to be so hard…full of fears and failures, diseases and disasters, pains and pressures, sorrows and sufferings, worries and wars. Life was never intended to end in death either. But since “The Fall” in Eden, these things have become part of our everyday experiences. This is the way it works with sin. Truth is exchanged for lies, as the devil, the father of lies and chief thief, wrecks havoc upon the earth. Unfortunately, we humans are all too eager to aid and abet him in his dirty deeds.

For you are the children of your father the devil, and you love to do the evil things he does. He was a murderer from the beginning. He has always hated the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, it is consistent with his character; for he is a liar and the father of lies. John 8:44

Perhaps you disagree. Maybe you have been able to “dodge the bullet” so far, and your life has been pretty easy going. But what about those in your extended family? What about your friends? What about your neighbors and co-workers? What about your classmates? What about those people in other counties, other countries, other continents? Life is hard; really, really hard for an awful lot of people. It’s a world of hurt, and all these hurting people need saving from their situations and circumstances, from their brokenness and rebellion, and whether you believe it or not, so do you and me. And as for me, it always seems that the hardest thing I have faced, is the stuff I am dealing with right now.

Enter Jesus…

Jesus told them, “Go back to John and tell him about what you have heard and seen – the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised to life, and the Good News is being preached to the poor. And tell him: ‘God blesses those who are not offended by Me.’”  Matthew 11:4-6

Jesus came upon the scene and drastic changes began to occur. Even though miracles still happen every day, we also know that Jesus doesn’t always provide physical healing, and He doesn’t always fix our problems. Instead, He walks beside us through our hard times, He shoulders our sorrows, He carries our burdens, He directs our path.

Enter Jesus…

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”  John 10:10

Jesus came and brought GOOD NEWS. Jesus came to bring life back to its original condition. Jesus came to save us from sin, death, and the devil. He told us where to find salvation, how to receive salvation, and what to do in order to flourish in salvation.

Enter Jesus… 

Jesus told her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in Me will live, even after dying.  John 11:25

Jesus came to help. With Jesus, you and I receive forgiveness for yesterday, courage and strength for today, hope for tomorrow. Rather than life ending in death, Jesus made a way for us to transition into bigger and better life – full, abundant life.

Enter Jesus…and hard life becomes whole life.

IN AN INSTANT…

In an instant life can change. Most of us already know this.

Things can go from delight to devastation…in an instant

One minute everything is awesome, the next awful. Our days are filled with news – both good and not so good.

In an instant…terrorists strike.

In an instant…a natural disaster occurs.

In an instant…a crime takes place.

In an instant…the caller tells us that our parent or child has died.

In an instant…the doctor explains that it’s cancer.

In an instant…the officer at the door says “there has been an accident.”

In an instant…your boss shares with you that your position has been eliminated.

In an instant

So what do we do in these instances? How do we deal with disease, disaster, and death? Where do we turn when troubles and tragedies come?

But just as life can get real bad in an instant, it can also become instantly brighter…especially when JESUS is involved.

Here are a few recorded instances:

Matthew 8:3    Jesus reached out and touched him. “I am willing,” he said. “Be healed!” And instantly the leprosy disappeared.

 

Matthew 15:28    “Dear woman,” Jesus said to her, “your faith is great. Your request is granted.” And her daughter was instantly healed.

 

Matthew 20:34    Jesus felt sorry for them and touched their eyes. Instantly they could see! Then they followed him.

 

Mark 7:35    Instantly the man could hear perfectly, and his tongue was freed so he could speak plainly!

 

Luke 13:13    Then he touched her, and instantly she could stand straight. How she praised God!

 

John 5:9    Instantly, the man was healed! He rolled up his sleeping mat and began walking! But this miracle happened on the Sabbath,

 

Maybe you haven’t personally witnessed such instances, but maybe you have. Miracles like these still happen each and every day. And here is another instant that is near on the horizon:

It will happen in an instant, in a split second at the sound of the last trumpet. Indeed, that trumpet will sound, and then the dead will come back to life. They will be changed so that they can live forever.    1 Corinthians 15:52

 

Jesus will soon return…in an instant.

For some this will be the ultimate light ever seen and life ever known, but for most it will be the uttermost darkness and unending death ever imagined.

In an instant…life will change. What will this mean for you?

 

OPINIONS MATTER

There is a barrage of opinions being aired everyday about everything and this is good. Everyone is entitled to both have and to voice their own opinion about the various issues, items, and happenings going on, and everybody’s opinion is a valid one. Some opinions are right, some are wrong, and some are totally irrelevant, but still, opinions do matter. Differing opinions are not a problem, people should have different opinions about various matters because we are different – we have different needs, we have had different upbringings and experiences, and we view the world in different ways. Differing opinions drive people to talk, to test, and to try new approaches.

Yet few things in life are worse than having an opinion without knowing why you have it.

Problems arise from people without their own opinions who attempt to silence those opinions which oppose theirs. These people can provide no reason of their own for supporting the opinions they have adopted because their opinions belong to somebody else, i.e., they have an opinion without knowing why they have it.

Thus, these people are threatened because they know they cannot accurately explain or defend their opinion, since they have never really thought it through, so they resort to using force, generating fear, employing terror, and/or playing the role of the victim to accuse those who differ in opinion as being haters.

Really? Because I have a different opinion about a matter means that I hate? How and why can I hate people I don’t even know?

GOD-FEARERS & FOOLS

The wisest and richest human being who ever walked this earth, King Solomon of Israel, said these things:

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction. Proverbs 1:7

That’s the whole story. Here now is my final conclusion: Fear God and obey his commands, for this is everyone’s duty.   Ecclesiastes 12:13

King Solomon’s father, King David, who is known as “a man after GOD’s own heart” and also a great leader and warrior, said this:

Fools say to themselves, “There is no God.” They sin and commit evil deeds; none of them does what is right.   Psalm 14:1

Thus, human beings who inhabit our planet can be broken down into pretty simple groups: We have males and females, and we have GOD-Fearers and Fools. The differences between males and females used to be as obvious and basic as anything can ever be, but even now that is being dissected, debated, and determined by high courts and science laboratories. So this post will focus on the main differences between GOD-Fearers and Fools:

  • GOD-Fearers acknowledge GOD as GOD and His Word (The Bible) as truth. They proclaim that He is the One, True, Triune GOD who is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; our Creator, Savior, and Sustainer of life.
  • Fools make up a god of their own by forming an image, fabricating a notion, or formulating a scheme within their own imagination.
  • GOD-Fearers attribute all that is good, right, beautiful, and true to GOD.
  • Fools give credit to Mother Nature, Father Time, Lady Luck, Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, and the Tooth Fairy – just to name a few.
  • GOD-Fearers admit dependence upon GOD, openly surrender control to Him, and yield their free will to His will.
  • Fools boast of their independence, strive for power, and force their will upon others.
  • GOD-Fearers accept that GOD is sovereign in all matters – the good, bad, and ugly, as well as life and death. They allow and invite GOD to work through all things for their good and His glory whether or not they agree with or understand why.
  • Fools panic, complain, and attempt to control and manipulate situations and circumstances in order to “fix” things and “avoid” all pain and strain, so they forfeit their opportunities to grow and develop through such happenings.
  • GOD-Fearers worship GOD. They give Him thanks and praise for who He is and for what He does.
  • Fools worship and praise the things GOD created – nature; people who are popular, powerful, and peculiar; and themselves.

So what group are you in – GOD-Fearers or Fools?

SHUT THE FRONT DOOR! PLEASE!

I wonder if there is anybody anywhere – any pastor, elder, deacon, council member, or anyone else – who has the nerve, the guts, the balls (sorry girls) to say “enough is enough” and just shut the church doors and keep them locked? Because something has got to change in the way “church” is being done. Has anybody anywhere had enough yet? Had enough of the week after week cutesy, cliché, clever, crowd-pleasing song and dance? Had enough of pacifying egos, patting backs, padding asses, promoting programs, purchasing properties, pitching pennies in offering plates, and giving applause to performers? Had enough determining if we will be a contemporary, traditional, blended, emergent, seeker, …type of congregation?

How about this:

Let’s refocus, reform, and return to being relevant and useful to GOD and to the people around us instead of just being another form of entertainment and recreation.

Let’s get back into the salt and light business, where we influence, affect, and lead the culture instead of conforming to it.

Let’s take back from the government the people-care businesses of healthcare, welfare, childcare, elderly care – you know the “orphans and widows” stuff talked about all throughout the Bible.

The government doesn’t know how to care for anything but itself and its primary function is to protect our borders and to police our land.

Let’s let the government do its job and we’ll do ours. The Church’s job is to witness of Christ in our lives and evidence this by our love for other people through our helpful words and good deeds – how we sacrifice for others, how we serve others, and how we share with others – all the things that Jesus modeled as He walked upon this earth.

So let’s stop building churches and let’s start being churches.

How about this:

What if all the Jesus followers in each community all worshipped together every week? What a novel idea!

Because we don’t need padded pews, theatre lighting, surround-sound, video screens, stained glass, and coffee & donuts to worship. We can worship Almighty GOD anyplace, anytime – if we have the want to.

In good weather worship can take place at a park, a beach, a football stadium, a parking lot, an open field, etc…

In poor weather worship can take place at an arena, a theatre, a barn, a warehouse, a gymnasium, etc…

As it is right now we have thousands of individual congregations all doing the exact same things, yet each has the perception that it is somehow special and unique. Each is wasting resources of time, money, property, and energy.

Just imagine what it would look like, and all the good that could be done, if each zip code had one common unity (community) of believers sharing their common union (communion) in, with, under, and through Christ.

Let’s stop playing church and actually play the church.

Let’s turn our buildings into things like orphanages, homeless shelters, hospitals, medical clinics, counseling centers, daycare centers, elderly care homes, community centers, after-school centers…

Let’s get back into the people care business which is what making disciples is all about – you know “The Great Commission.”

There are weak, sick, broken, hurting, dying people all around us.

Let’s tell them about Jesus and touch them with His love.

Let’s re-model our buildings and re-define our building programs and put our millions into people caring activities that do more than take up an hour or two of our Sunday mornings.

Anyone who sets himself up as “religious” by talking a good game is self-deceived. This kind of religion is hot air and only hot air. Real religion, the kind that passes muster before GOD the Father, is this: Reach out to the homeless and loveless in their plight, and guard against corruption from the godless world.

James 1:26-27 (The Message)