Thursday, November 17, 2016


Hebrews 12:2-3
    Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. [3] Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

                I think it is safe to say that the elections last week were a huge distraction. I read more articles on the internet last week than I have ever read in one week. The elections preoccupied my mind, which was not a good thing. I found myself traveling down numerous rabbit trails. It didn’t make for a productive week in many ways.

                Recently I finished reading The Screwtape Letters, by C.S. Lewis. I was fascinated by how looking at life from the other side of the veil can change our perspective. In one of the letters, Screwtape instructed his nephew in how to use distractions to keep his “patient” from focusing on Christ. Screwtape told Wormwood to inflame petty grievances and inflate superficial pleasures. By doing this, he could keep his patient from realizing that he was slipping away from his faith in the Enemy (Christ). I felt that pressure on Sunday, as there were a number of things that distracted me from being focused on worship and the Word.

                Screwtape tipped his hand when he unwittingly gave the antidote for dealing with distractions. He told his nephew to keep his patient from realizing that they were distractions. He was to keep his patient off balance by making him think that he was focused on the right things.

                The way to deal with distractions is to recognize them for what they are; peripheral issues. Distractions are always secondary to the main point. We cannot avoid them, but we can guard against them draining us of our energy. We need to deal with them, but not allow them to dominate our lives.

                The key is to always be alert to Satan’s subtle schemes. 1 Peter 5:8 Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Satan is always looking for ways to get us off course. If he can get us to veer by just a degree or two, we are soon way off track. The things he uses may not really be significant, in and of themselves, but if they grab our attention they can blur our spiritual vision. Here are a few suggestions for dealing with distractions.

- Don’t allow circumstances to dictate your thoughts and attitude. We have all experienced it. Things seem to be going along rather well, then someone makes a comment or a minor incident happens and our whole demeanor changes. One of the gifts of the Spirit is self-control. We are not victims to our circumstances. As someone once said, we are not live under our circumstances, but over them.

- Be aware of the areas where you are most easily distracted. All of us have areas in our lives that we might call hot buttons. If these hot buttons are pushed, we are instantly drawn in. We most often think of these hot buttons as negative things, but they could be positive or even neutral things as well. For me, one of those hot buttons is college football. The more aware we are of our hot buttons, the better we are able to manage them well.

- Keep refocusing on what is most important. I know it sounds trite, but we need to work hard to keep the main thing the main thing. Once we are aware of a distraction, we need to adjust out thinking. This needs to happen even as we deal with the distraction. Our reaction should be shaped by the main thing, our commitment to Christ.

- Deal with distractions quickly. Not all distractions are bad or wrong. Often God uses distractions to awaken us to something that He wants us to be aware of. The real problem with distractions is that they are time consuming. If we are not careful, a distraction can eat up huge chunks of time that we really need to be investing elsewhere. Getting upset over something is an example of a negative distraction. In Ephesians 4, Paul instructs to recognize what is going on and deal with it in a timely fashion.  "In your anger do not sin": Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold. Ephesians 4:26-27

                Distractions are a part of life. We will never live a life free of them. But we can live in such a way that they do not dominate our lives. Every distraction is an opportunity for us to grow in our faith.


Tuesday, November 8, 2016


                As I am writing this, people are streaming by my office door to vote in the 2016 General Election. As citizens of the United States of America, it is our duty to participate in the democratic process. The results of this election will affect all of our lives. Whatever the outcome, we have a responsibility to respond in a civil, respectable manner.

                As followers of Jesus Christ, we have a higher and far more important loyalty. We are citizens of the Kingdom of God. This citizenship also includes certain duties and responsibilities. The way that we fulfill these responsibilities will affect our lives for the present and for eternity. So here are a few implications of our dual citizenship.

                We must always remember that we are citizens of God’s Kingdom, which supersedes all other citizenships.  But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body. Philip. 3:20-21

                We must place our citizenship in God’s Kingdom ahead of any earthly citizenship. When the values of our earthly citizenship collide with our heavenly citizenship, we must choose to follow Christ. When the Apostles were threatened by the leaders of their community, they chose to stand with Christ, rather than bow to the pressure. Then they called them in again and commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John replied, "Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God's sight to obey you rather than God. For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard." Acts 4:18-20    
                We have a responsibility to submit to the authority of those God allows to be in leadership over us. We live in a combative world. Instead of cooperating with one another for a higher goal, we tend to compete with one another for power. This year’s election process unmasked the ugly side of the democratic process. Yet God is in control of those who are in control, so we must submit to their authority. Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and he will commend you. For he is God's servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God's servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also because of conscience. Romans 13:1-5

                We are to actively pray for those who are in authority over us. When Paul instructed the church to support those in authority, Nero was on the throne, actively persecuting Christians. Yet, Paul instructed the church to take all of these secular leaders before the throne of God. We need to do the same thing. The most powerful tool we have to change our government and our world is fervent prayer.    I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone-- for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. 1 Tim. 2:1-4

                We are to be the best citizens that we can be, without compromising our faith. Sometimes we are tempted to just withdraw from society and not be an active part of what is going on. We take a passive-aggressive approach to life. But the Bible doesn’t give us the option to sit on the side-lines and criticize. We are to be full participants in the life of our community and nation. Give everyone what you owe him: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor. Romans 13:7 Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us. 1 Peter 2:12    

                We are to put our hope in that which is eternal and not in what is temporary. We have heard much about the negative consequences of whichever candidate is elected as the next President. There is much fear and anxiety from both sides of the aisle. Yet as Christians, we need to keep our perspective. Our hope should never be in a political party or in a national government. Our hope is in the Lord and in Him alone. All political parties, governments and nations will pass away, but the Kingdom of God will prevail. We indeed may face some new hardships because of the outcome of this election, yet we can take heart. This is not the end of the story. Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.  For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. 2 Cor. 4:16-18

                By the time you read this, the election may be over. But whatever the outcome, remember that God is in control of those who are in control!


Tuesday, November 1, 2016


                How would we act differently if we knew, with certainty, the end of the story at the beginning of the story? Tonight is game six of the World Series. Cleveland has a 3-2 lead on Chicago. But I’m still apprehensive about the outcome, because in baseball anything can happen. But what if I could know for sure that Cleveland will win the World Series this year? I would approach the game tonight with calm assurance.

                We often live our lives with low levels of fear and anxiety. It is not that we are in a panic or are running scared. Yet we have an uneasy feeling that everything is going to fall apart. Satan continually sows the seeds of fear and doubt into our minds. This makes us timid and reluctant to take risks. Instead of being bold in our faith, we are tentative. Instead of experiencing the joy that Jesus promised us, we experience anxiety. Instead of tapping into the power of God, we see ourselves as weak and vulnerable.

                I want to let you in on a little secret: we win! Team Satan is on the losing side of the equation. Team Jesus has already secured the ultimate victory. So we have nothing to fear. When Peter gave his amazing confession of faith in Jesus, in Matthew 16, Jesus declared game over.   

   "But what about you?" he asked. "Who do you say I am?"
    Simon Peter answered, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God."
    Jesus replied, "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. Matthew 16:15-18

                At the very end of Jesus’ earthly ministry, Jesus told his disciples to proceed with abandon because nothing could stop them from winning. Then Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." (Matthew 28:18-20) Notice how Jesus bookends the Great Commission. He declares that He has been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Then He ends with the promise that He will be with us to the end of the game.

                Throughout scripture, God continually instructs us to abandon fear and replace it with confidence in Him. As Paul reminds us in Romans 8:31, “If God is for us, who can be against us?” We should never forget that we are on the winning side of life’s ultimate game. Because of what Jesus did for us on the cross, we can face every challenge with courage and determination. Even if we face setbacks along the way, we will prevail in the end. That was the message that God gave to Joshua, as he prepared to lead the people of Israel into the Promised Land.

    "Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their forefathers to give them. Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go." Joshua 1:6-9
                The same promise that God gave to Joshua He extends to us. We can face the future with bold confidence that we will have all the resources we need to face the challenges ahead and prevail.

                With the Presidential election looming on the horizon, there is much fear and anxiety circulating. Christians are very anxious about the implications of this election, no matter who gets elected. But this past week, I was reminded of a truth that we should never forget. God is in charge of those who are in charge. We can trust God to lead His church to the ultimate victory; it’s in the bag!

Romans 8:28
    And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.