It’s A Mad, Mad World!

That’s my impression from my stroll down the main drag of Gatlinburg, TN, recently.

  • Few people smiling or laughing.
  • Harsh words being spoken to others, especially to children and other family members.
  • One woman spewing out foul language because she has pulled into a blocked street and folks are not “parting the Red Sea” for her to back out onto Parkway.
  • Impatience on display.
  • Many store clerks looking like their job is a misery to their soul.
  • T-shirts declaring the woe-filled and proud hearts of so many.

All this and more in one of the vacation capitols of America!

This is supposed to be “the happy place!” Right?

Really????

But, this is the case almost everywhere you go today. Why?

1. Man tries to fill his empty, eternal soul with temporal, earthly things. There is nothing in the world that will ever completely satisfy mankind. There may be momentary satisfaction, but it leaves a desire for more or something else.

In the midst of all this unhappiness, I saw new attractions, new restaurants, a gazillion moonshine stores (Isn’t that what brings great joy, so we’re told????), new stores, new products on the shelves, etc. This should make people happy, full of joy, right?

2. Man without a personal relationship with Christ does not have the fruit of the Holy Spirit.

Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, 21 envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. (Galatians 5:19-24)

As my wife and I strolled up and back down Parkway, our hearts were saddened and grieved by the thousands who are choosing to live this way without the Prince of Peace, The Joy of Jesus, the Savior of our souls.

May I encourage you to read the three links given in the last sentence above?

When the angel announced the birth of Jesus to shepherds in the field, his first words were “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people” (Luke 2:10). That “great joy” was the truth that the God who had seemed far off had come to them in human flesh. He was to be called “Immanuel,” which means “God with us” (Isaiah 9:6–7; Matthew 1:23). Those who saw Him saw the face of God (John 14:9). He had come to rescue, to save, to heal, and to make mankind right with God (Isaiah 61:1; Luke 4:17–21). That was cause for great joy! (gotquestions.org/joy-to-the-world)

The only cure for a mad, mad world is the Gospel! The Good News!!

(Photo from trekearth.com)

“I Don’t Care Anymore!”

“It’s time for me to quit!”

“I’m so weary and tired.”

“I need a break from the ministry!”

“The past two years have been my worst ever in all these years of ministry.”

“What’s the use?”

“The financial struggle has gotten the best of me.”

“I didn’t know so-called Christians could be so mean!”

“My family has gone through hell!”

“Loneliness in ministry is severe.”

These and a hundred more statements have been heard and made by pastors over the years, some recently and others frequently.

Pastor, I am right there with you.

Many years ago in a ministry in another state, the deacon chairman lived directly across the street from the parsonage. He and wife watched us “like a hawk.” They rose up against my wife and me, even leading others to join them. At seemingly my wit’s end one morning, my wife standing in the bedroom with me, I grabbed a pillow from the bed, hurled it across the room, and yelled, “I CAN’T TAKE IT ANYMORE!!

Now, some thirty years later, many more blessings than battles, I can say, “I made it, and we are continuing to make it, take it, move forward, . . . all by the sufficient grace and unfathomable love of God, plus the multiplied “ravens” (e.g. Elijah, 1 Kings 17) He has sent our way.

Pastor, may I help you today?

Perhaps one of the things that is “killing you” today, breaking down your body, and harming your marriage and family as well as the ministry is your own set of expectations.

Psalm 62:5, My soul, wait silently for God alone, For my expectation (my hope) is from Him.

Can you honestly say that?

Who or what sets your expectations?

  • That “To Do” list that never is completed?
  • Some church members/board or your perceived/assumed viewpoint of the church members’ thoughts about you?
  • Your false identity that you think you have to live up to as being the “man of God”?
  • Your own deceptive heart?
  • That “super conference” you just attended and heard of many success stories?
  • Your Twitter feed?
  • Your recent track of success that must be continued or you will look like a failure?
  • That text notification you just received?
  • Your idea of being “superman” pastor who never takes a day off?
  • A sense of guilt when you do take a day off?
  • Wanting to perform every Sunday, being on your “A” game?
  • Fear?
  • Pride?
  • Lust?
  • Criticism?

Pastor friend, may I suggest two things?

  1. Please take some time to rest; learn to rest. Most pastors do not know how to “take their foot off the accelerator.” Ministry is 24/7, even on vacation. Nevertheless, you need to set in your calendar a morning or day to rest during the week as well as at least four times a year go away to a cottage or some other get-away to, yes, get away! You are worn out! Even when you do take a vacation, it takes three days to unwind, then you haven’t taken the upcoming Sunday off, so you are back in “get ready to preach, get prepared for Sunday mode,” and you have not properly rested your body and soul. If you don’t learn to rest, you are headed for potential failure, a downfall in ministry. I will write more about this in the days ahead.
  2. Wherever you go to rest, take a list of any of the expectations mentioned above, adding those from your own personal collection and lay them before the Lord in honest, crying out, transparent, conversational (you talk and then listen to God) prayer. Find a place by the lake, along the hiking trail, at the dock, on your back deck, someplace you can be alone. undistracted. Wherever you are, honestly talk out loud to the Lord about each one of these. Christ is your Shepherd and the Head of the Church. He’s your intercessor. Let Him redirect your focus, your motives, your goals, your passions, your dreams, your heart!! Be sure to write in a journal what He reveals to you and add the scriptures He brings to your mind for each one. Don’t be in a hurry! Leave your cell phone alone, please. Don’t use it to search the scriptures. Bring a printed Bible with you.

Pastor, go to the cross, then the empty tomb, and settle in at the Throne. Don’t be in a hurry at either place. Rest there awhile and soak your soul in Matthew 11:28-30, Romans 8 and Hebrews 12:1-3.

You see, when your expectations come from God, He gives grace to accomplish His will (Philippians 2:13), and He’s responsible for the outcome.

Burdened, Not Amused

The longer I strolled through the amusement park, the more burdened and sad I became. Everywhere I turned, people were trying to fit in, wanting to be accepted, living a lifestyle of sin, provoking their children to anger, flaunting their assumed freedom, living for the moment, trying to buy happiness, bowing down to the idols of their heart, motivated as described in Jeremiah 17:9

Then, the next morning while reading Ephesians 4:17-19, my mind was transported back to the day before and those dear soul’s greatest need . . . the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ!

Why? Because they are living in the futility of their mind, having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart; who, being past feeling, have given themselves over to lewdness, to work all uncleanness with greediness (4:17b-19).

If it were not for the grace of God, Ephesians 4:17-19 would describe me. But, how marvelous is the mercy and grace of God that has transferred me from darkness to light! As an old song written by Rusty Goodman says,

Had it not been for a place called Mount Calvary,
Had it not been for the old rugged cross,
Had it not been for a man called Jesus,
Then forever my soul would be lost,

The change this world needs can only be found in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ!! But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast (Ephesians 2:4-9).

Protesting on the street corner, shaking your head in disgust, or responding in anger or arguing will not change sinful hearts. These dear souls, just like you did, need someone to love them enough for God’s glory to share the love of God through the cross work and resurrection of Jesus Christ that can radically change their life for eternity. Real life and adventure is only found in following Jesus Christ!

If you are searching today, my friend, read these scripture verses again and again until your eyes are opened to see your condition before God. Watch the video “How can I go to Heaven?” at the top of the sidebar.

I share this because I care for you. No critical judgment toward you. Jesus is the only way, the truth and the life (John 14:6) Everyone must go by the way of the cross or forever be lost, . . . and Jesus Christ did all that was necessary for you to have a life worth living here and for all eternity!

21 Days of Prayer (Day #6)

God’s Sovereign Compassion in the Midst of Man’s Decisions. (Pastor Andrew)

The book of Jonah is quite an interesting book because there are so many interesting literary uses by the author. For instance God’s prophet, Jonah, twice is willing to be killed but the pagan sailors and the people of the sinful city are found worshipping God after they are spared from death. The pagan sailors and the people of Nineveh worship Jonah’s God. Jonah prays in the whale and most likely repents. However, his actions do not back up his repentance in the chapters following his prayer. He gets angry about the plant dying that covered him, but he cared less about the sailors, people of Nineveh and animals dying. 

Several times the phrase “go down” is used.  He went down into the ship, down to Joppa, down into the fish. Several uses of personification are used as well. In verse 4 the original reflects that the ship was thinking or considering breaking up. It is a very interesting book that uses several literary devices in order to help the reader have certain characteristics of the story emphasized in certain ways

We need to see this theme in Jonah:  God’s sovereign compassion in the midst of man’s decisions.

Think about all the moves Jonah made and then the moves God makes sovereignly:

  • God’s prophet runs.
  • God brings pagan sailors to himself because of Jonah running.

  • Jonah runs.
  • God creates a storm and prepares a fish to be on call to swallow Jonah.

  • Jonah delivers an 8 word message.
  • God uses that 8 word message to bring an entire pagan city to repentance toward God.

  • Jonah sat outside the city to watch the explosion of the city (popcorn and soda in hand).
  • God builds a plant then destroys it with a worm.

God’s Compassion to the sailors. Those poor sailors they have to throw out all the cargo. How are they shown compassion? It could have been worse they could have died even though they were pagan. Pagan sailors acknowledged Gods sovereignty and they feared him with a great fear and offered him sacrifice and gave vowels. They may have really truly come to God.

God’s Compassion to Nineveh. Nineveh is described as a great city that has great wickedness, but God doesn’t destroy them.

God’s Compassion toward Jonah. He spares his life. He also gives Jonah shade. More than anything He shows great mercy even though Jonah is opposing God’s will for his life.

Here is the application for us. God uses wicked and sinful people to accomplish his purposes, like us. He is God and we are not. Often we seek our own wills rather than the will of God. We believe our decisions surpass God’s, so we sin.  However, even when we seek our own will God is continuously compassionate and merciful to us.  He sovereignly overcomes our bad decisions and works good through us. We can be condemning, critical, selfish, and uncompassionate to people around us. Consider the key verses of the book of Jonah which are 4:10-11, And the Lord said, “You pity the plant, for which you did not labor, nor did you make it grow, which came into being in a night and perished in a night. And should not I pity Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know their right hand from their left, and also much cattle?”

Asked another way, Isn’t God a better decision maker than you because His character is better than yours? Who is the god of your life, you or Him?

Prayer Questions

  • Are there any Christians I will not forgive?
  • Are there any unbelievers I refuse to love?
  • Is there anything in my life that I am choosing my sovereignty over God’s?
  • Are there any current events that I am struggling to entrust to God over what I think should happen?
  • Who do I need to pray for asking God to bring them to salvation?
  • Talk to God about how you have seen his sovereignty in your decisions recently or in the past.
  • Praise the Lord for his specific acts of compassion and rulership to you over the past years.
  • Specially praise God for the Gospel where He has shown His Lordship and compassion in your life!

I Could Punch Him in the Mouth!

Ephesians-4-26

Recently while listening to an angry man, those words were uttered and then ended with a bit of a smile as if it made his indignation acceptable.

Folks, we live in an angry world!  And you are asking me, “Did you just climb out from under a rock?!?!”

Well, truth is, in the past few weeks I have heard and seen the fruit that comes from that root.  Anger, wrath, bitterness from an evil heart destroys.

What does the Bible say about anger?  Please take time to read these passages and let them sink into your heart.

  • Psalm 37:8 Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath! Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil.
  • Proverbs 14:29 Whoever is slow to anger has great understanding, but he who has a hasty temper exalts folly.
  • Proverbs 15:1 A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.
  • Proverbs 15:18 A hot-tempered man stirs up strife, but he who is slow to anger quiets contention.
  • Proverbs 16:32 Whoever is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city.
  • Proverbs 19:11 Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense.
  • Proverbs 29:11 A fool gives full vent to his spirit, but a wise man quietly holds it back.
  • Ecclesiastes 7:9 Be not quick in your spirit to become angry, for anger lodges in the bosom of fools.
  • Ephesians 4:26-27, 31 Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.
  • Colossians 3:8 But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth.
  • James 1:19-20 Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; For the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.

Anger rooted in a selfish, sinful, deceitful heart (Jeremiah 17:9) always produces fruit that damages and often destroys lives, homes, churches, marriages, and the world around you.

If you are person given to anger, please soak your soul in these truths from God’s Word.  Repent, be reconciled, and memorize these passages.  Better to think on truth that sets you free than on the offense that will eat you up inside and cause your heart to be outwardly exposed.

To be angry about trifles is mean and childish; to rage and be furious is brutish; and to maintain perpetual wrath is akin to the practice and temper of devils; but to prevent and suppress rising resentment is wise and glorious, is manly and divine. (Isaac Watts)

Go ahead . . . punch him in the mouth.  Then, who’s the fool?