Sometimes I Deceive Myself

https://rhm.podbean.com/e/sometimes-i-deceive-myself/

 

Sometimes I Deceive Myself

Slogan: Deception Infection

I don’t watch a lot of television but I do watch on You Tube parts of American Idol

I am careful, since it does sound kind of … idolatrous

If you were to watch the first few shows of the season — when the judges travel around the country for auditions

You soon become aware of how easily people are self-deceived

You watch people trying out for a spot on the show when competition starts in ernest

It is seriously difficult to comprehend how many horrifically bad singers truly believe they deserve to be the next vocal superstar! Read more

Preach To Yourself!

Sometimes we have no one to encourage us at the break of day, so we have to speak to ourselves, saying something like: “This is the day the Lord has made; I will rejoice and be glad in it” (Psalm 118:24). Try saying that aloud with enthusiasm upon rising each day. It will make a difference to the way your day unfolds because you are looking at your day in a positive light.

Outside of praying, your most important words are the ones you say to yourself. These words are most often silent but significant. Pop psychologists call this positive self-talk, but I’m going to skip the trends and go straight to Scripture. Did Paul, the apostle who wrote over 1/3 of the New Testament, ever talk to himself?

He said he strove to “take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5 NIV). He said, “For in my inner being I delight in God’s law” (Romans 7:22 NIV). He said, “I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day” (2 Timothy 1:12). And, he also was the one who said, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13).

One of my mentors long ago preached a sermon on how to handle negative thoughts, and I still remember the outline (and can actually locate my notes): Don’t curse them; Don’t nurse them; Don’t rehearse them; Disperse them. That’s still a good formula! Push out your negative thoughts — worry, anxiety, fear, pessimism — by filling your mind with God’s Word, the Scriptures, especially His promises. And then preach those promises to yourself. 

A medical doctor who is also a world-class athlete was asked how he accomplished all that he did even when approaching the age of 60 (including running triathlons). He said, “I’ve learned to talk to myself instead of listening to myself. If I listen to myself, I hear all the reasons why I should give up. I hear that I’m too tired, too old, too weak to make it. But if I talk to myself, I can give myself the encouragement and words I need to hear to keep running and finish the race.”

In Psalm 42 the psalmist said to himself, “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God” (verse 11).

We don’t know the author of Psalm 42, but it might have been King David, because he knew how to preach to himself when needed. As a younger man, a series of disastrous problems had befallen David in a town called Ziklag. His family and the families of his men had been kidnapped, and even his own men we’re turning on him and talking about stoning him to death. 

What did David do? He preached to himself. He “strengthened himself in the Lord his God” (1 Samuel 30:6). And in that strength he rose up to tackle his problems with a positive spirit that came from his belief in God’s watchful care of his life. 

Jeremiah did the same. After watching his city go up in flames and his nation go down in defeat, he said in Lamentations 3:21-23: “But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope:

The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”

This is what we must do. If we listen to the negative tapes looping around in our thoughts, we’ll sink into the pessimism of the devil. How could I have been so stupid? What’s wrong with me? Everything is falling apart. This is a disaster. Why is this happening to me? 

Stop the tape! Here’s a better one: I know in Whom I believe, and I am persuaded He is able to keep what I have entrusted to Him. Why are you cast down? Hope in God. I’ll soon be praising Him again, for He is the health of my countenance. I’m going to recall something and keep it in mind — the Lord is merciful, and His compassions won’t fail me. They are new every morning. Great is His faithfulness. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

We are constantly processing thoughts. Depending on how active your mind is, you may produce more than 45,000 thoughts a day. Whew! It might be compared to a flock of birds flying in and out of your mind.

To complicate our minds more, not all these are conscious thoughts, and sometimes they pass so fleetingly we barely notice them. However, every time you have a thought, it triggers an electrochemical reaction in your body … Each thought sets of a biological process — about 400 billion at once. Because of that thought, chemicals surge through the body, producing electromagnetic waves. These set off emotions, which affect how we behave. Science simply confirms what Scripture has been saying all along: we are shaped, in large part, by our thoughts. 

So, you should be careful what you think and what “preach to yourself.” As Ephesians 4:29 NLT advises: “Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them.” This, of course, includes the words that only you hear as you speak to yourself. 

A Side Order of Stupidity

I have been preaching the Gospel for almost 50 years and with every year that moves by (and they are going quicker these days), I am more and more convinced that too many of us, me included, fail to focus on the main meal and get sidetracked on a side order of stupidity. I believe the main course of the meal is the love of God and that I need to be focused on that instead of the many “side orders” that come along regularly and systematically like waves on the shore of the sea. 

I have seriously grown less interested in the side issues (orders), the niceties, and the doctrinal trivia. This world desperately needs for us to keep the main thing the main thing. So, I have determined that my central message must be God’s astonishing love. It is a message that is always new, never old, never dusty or musty.

In many ways I am inspired by John, the last living apostle or the original twelve. His great topic, needless to say, was love (see the daily blogs for the past ten days). He featured love in his Gospel, and love dominated his first epistle. They say that as he got older, he reached the point where he preached nothing else. Occasionally, some impatient member of the audience would interrupt him: “Brother John, you’ve already preached that one. Tell us something new!”

“Very well,” the beloved disciple would say with a smile. “A new commandment I give to you — that you love one another.”

John was not senile. He simply understood more deeply than the rest of us that there is one item of news that never stops being new; the life-changing love of God. 

God’s love should flow from us in practical and real ways. In every relationship we have — with God, self, friends, neighbours, and enemies — Christians have a foundational, non-negotiable responsibility spelled l-o-v-e. There is no person in the world — including God Himself — whom God does not expect us to love.

And that is why I can say that God’s love changes everything. Think of it: What is life except relationships? And what are relationships without love? If we lack the ability to love, we lack the ability to truly live. Or, at least, to live the “more abundant” life God wants us to enjoy (John 10:10b). 

So, let me note a few relational benefits of being loved by God:

1> Because God loves us, we can love Him

“In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins … We love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:10, 19).

2> Because God loves us, we can love ourselves

“You shall love your neighbour as yourself” (Matthew 19:19).

3> Because God loves us, we can love one another

“Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another” (1 John 4:11).

4> Because God loves us, we can love our neighbour

“And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbour as yourself” (Matthew 22:37-39).

5> Because God loves us, we can love our enemies

“You have heard that it was said, You shall love your neighbour and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust … You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:43-45, 48).

So, let’s stop looking at all the somewhat stupid and pointless things that occupy our time and emotions and let’s go back to the main thing – that God loves us and then learn, as disciples of Jesus, to walk in love and give it away.

Answer Questions – Ask Questions

Too often as the church we are answering questions instead of asking questions. Worse than that – we are answering questions no one is asking. We are that far out of touch with the society in which we live and work. And the church has fewer answers than it realizes, or it would demonstrate more impact. But I get ahead of myself.

The book of Acts is the story of Jesus working powerfully through frail and broken humanity to aggressively expand His Church. But Acts wasn’t written to show us how to do church. It was written to show us how to advance the Church in an unreached world. Talk about reaching the unreached! Nobody has had the challenge that the early church did. As the world’s first Christians, they were the only Christian in the world. All the vast unconverted pagan empires lay before that small pack of Jewish men and women that Jesus commissioned. If anybody should be counted experts at reaching the unreached, it was they. Because to them, everybody they came into contact with was unreached. 

But they took Acts 1:8 (see note) seriously, and lived that verse out to fulfillment. If we want to witness Kingdom expansion like the apostles did, it’s not enough to know what they did. We need to do what they did. Two thousand years later, we flatter ourselves over and above our first-century counterparts, imagining we have the advantage of superior knowledge. But knowledge does not get people saved. Nor does it expand the Kingdom. We know a lot about a lot of things and we certainly know how to make profound statements about current issues. However, now is not the time in Church history to wax lyrical. Ours is a day for living out, not sounding smart. Besides, the Church has fewer answers than it realizes, or it would demonstrate more impact than it has. We should be asking the right questions instead of providing wrong answers to questions no one is actually asking. 

As a rabbi, Jesus’s method of teaching involved asking searching questions. In the gospels, Jesus asks 307 questions but only answered two. Why? Because Jesus knew that when we start asking questions, we begin to experience breakthroughs and gain deeper insight into our situation. 

During the day of the Judges (Old Testament), bandits and enemies had the Israelites’ backs to the ropes, beating their self-dependency out of them. There are eerie parallels between the days when “everyone did what was right in their own eyes” (Judges 21:25) and our gimmicks, antics, and over-confidence today. Gideon may have been a coward, hiding in the bottom of a winepress against the onslaught of what was befalling his culture, but he turned the tide when he started asking the right questions.

“If the Lord is with us, why has all this happened to us?” (Judges 6:13).

“Where are all His wonders that our ancestors told us about?” (Judges 6:13)

I have a sneaking suspicion God’s been waiting quite a while for us to ask the right questions. But the important questions don’t sell books or make the writer or preacher popular. The right questions are seldom popular. Asking them often guarantees that you won’t be asked back to speak again. I don’t have the corner market on the right questions, but some of them might sound like:

      • Why does the Church seem to be losing when we’re on the winning team?
      • Why does the average Christian seem bored when Jesus is suppose to provide life more abundant?
      • Why do most of the stories we hear about God working powerfully, like He did in Acts, tend to come from those working in unreached areas of the world?
      • Has the dynamic faith we read about in Acts been tamed into an impotent ghost of its former self?
      • Have we replaced the power of the Holy Spirit with automation, processes, systems, money, and crowds?
      • Why have we stripped outreach of risk and faith, and opted for security instead of dependence upon God?
      • What’s the way back to becoming the dynamic force that Jesus unleashed on the world two thousand years ago? 
      • Does the Church even know it has lost its way, or is it like the Laodiceans, blind, poor, and wretched without realizing it? (Revelation 3:14-22)

So, I think it is time to ask questions and not continue to answer questions no one is even asking. Just a thought. 

Note: Acts 1:8 reads, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

Hyper-conquerors

God’s love is so amazing. It is constant and unfailing. And, amazingly, it is also triumphant. Not only will it endure all circumstance, it will overcome all circumstances: “Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us” (Romans 8:37). We are not merely conquerors; we are more than conquerors. What can this mean?

The Greek word for “conquer” is hypernikao, a compound word made up of ‘hyper’ (“more, above, beyond”) and niko (“to conquer or prevail”). The term is a unique one, occurring nowhere in the Bible but this particular verse. It has no single-word counterpart in English, so we must cobble together two or three words to get the sense of what it means. Scholars have tried such phrases as “overwhelmingly conquerors” and “beyond conquering,” but my favourite by far is “more than conquerors.” Many of the more recent translations contain that familiar phrase. 

But let’s try another one: “hyper-conquerors.” If has a modern ring to it and suggests the idea of a new league of superheroes — “The Hyper-Conquerors”! I think I like it. Let’s try it out on what Paul is telling us:

    • In the midst of all these things that try to bring us down (tribulation, distress, persecution, you name it), we are hyper-conquerors.
    • When facing any problems that life can dish out — you are a hyper-conqueror.
    • In struggling with that problem you’re worrying about this very day, which is ____________ (fill in the blank), you are a hyper-conqueror.

The very term lifts our spirits and seems to infuse us with a ray of hope. But there’s more to being a hyper-conqueror than just emotional hype. If we were merely conquerors, we would have nothing to complain about. We would neutralize the forces that opposed us. We would prevail. But as more than conquerors, whatever comes against us actually ends up working in our favour. Every difficulty that challenges us finally serves to prove the love of God, from which nothing can separate us. When those evils lie in chaotic rubble, God’s love stands high and unfazed like an immoveable monolith.

How does this work in real life? Here’s a story that gives us the answer.

During his reign of terror, Italian dictator Benito Mussolini turned his war machine on Ethiopia and expelled all the Christian missionary there. Christians everywhere began praying immediately. The answer came in two waves: first, in the protection of the expelled missionaries; and second, in reopening the doors of Ethiopia to the Gospel after the military pride of Italy lay broken in the dust and Mussolini was executed by his own countrymen. 

But during the missionaries’ absence, the Word of God multiplied in Ethiopia, and the returning missionaries found a larger, stronger church than the one they left. One group, the United Presbyterian Mission, had only sixty believers when the missionaries were expelled. On their return, the sixty had grown to thirty churches with a membership of sixteen hundred! These believers were more than conquerors.

With God’s love holding us when evils attack, we don’t merely prevail; we turn every dramatic event to our advantage. We feed on adversity and grow stronger. The greater the problem, the more we gain wisdom, spiritual power, and maturity. That’s what it means to be a hyper-conqueror. 

Nothing is meaningless in the world of the believer. Everything has a purpose; and in a world ruled by a loving God, the purpose is always to use every encounter to shape us into the perfect image of our Lord. Every difficulty will be turned to our favour and help us to become “perfect and complete, lacking nothing” (James 1:4). Or, in Paul’s words, to become more than conquerors. 

Sometimes I Get Angry

https://rhm.podbean.com/e/sometimes-i-get-angry/

 

Let’s look at the rather dangerous issue of anger:

“Sometimes I Get Angry” – “Rage Rash” 

Mark Twain once said: “Anger is an acid that can do more harm to the vessel in which it is stored than to anything on which it is poured.”

So, we want to look at this commonly occurring issue and see if we can find out what the Bible says about … “Neutralizing the Acid of Anger”

Now I have a few things that make me angry … that makes my blood boil Read more

McDonald’s in Cardiff, Wales

You might say that Luke Pittard relished his job at McDonal’s in Cardiff, Wales. But he walked away from it after winning the UK National Lottery. After all, he was an overnight millionaire.

Luke celebrated his good fortune by marrying his girlfriend, Emma, also a McDonald’s employee. They bought a house and took a long holiday in the Canary Islands. But after returning to Wales, Luke was bored. “To be honest,” he said, “there’s only so much relaxing you can do. I’m … young, and a bit of hard work never did anyone any harm.”

Luke asked for his old job back, and now you can find him flipping hamburgers again at McDonald’s. He makes more money from the interest on his winnings than at the restaurant, but he feels a natural need to work and to be with friends and coworkers. “They all think I’m a bit mad but I tell them there’s more to life than money,” he says. 

Emma added, “I can totally understand it. We both really enjoyed working at McDonald’s and still have good friends there. So it was very familiar for him and something for him to look forward to.”

We all need a break now and then, but we don’t need an endless holiday. Instead, what we need is meaningful work, close friends, and something to look forward to. Those facts will never change, not in this life and not in heaven!

When you have a relationship with God through Jesus Christ, you’re wealthier than the winner of the richest lottery. Remember — much of our treasure is ahead of us in heaven. But many people are afraid they’ll be bored there. It’s remarkable how many people — even Christians —  harbour mixed feelings along these lines. They ask: “What if I get to heaven and I’m bored? After all, there’s only so much relaxing I can do. What if I miss my friends? What if I long for the kind of activity that enriched my life on earth?”

Don’t worry, God is not boring!

Heaven won’t bore you; it will bring fulfillment and celebration! All your dreaming, praying, focusing, risk-taking, and investing — all your growth and maturing that you went through on earth, all your forward momentum — is a prelude to greater service, happier work, and richer fulfillment in your heavenly home. God’s children are always moving forward, even as they depart earth. 

We need to be looking forward to our new home in heaven. The apostle Peter said something important about this. Notice the words in italics, for they reveal the attitude we should have about heaven:

“Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness. So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him.”

Three times Peter told us to look forward, to anticipate what God has for us in the future: the return of Christ, the creation of the new heaven and the new earth, and our eternal home in heaven. Our anticipation empowers us to live holy, godly, and purposeful lives in this present age. 

Just a thought!

SOMETIMES I WORRY

https://rhm.podbean.com/e/sometimes-i-worry/

Today, let’s look at “worry”

“But what if…”

Pastors and Church leaders are suppose to exercise unwavering faith

No matter how circumstances might appear – pastors should rest confidently in the faithfulness of God

As men and women of faith they should not worry or ever be anxious

When everyone else struggles with worry and the resulting anxiety, the fearless leader is expected to step in with just the right faith-filled words

That’s what we are taught in seminary … and that’s what most Christians think, believe, and expect from their leaders

That’s why when a pastor or Christian leader falls into sin everyone is shocked and dismayed

Yet, when someone at work or in the neighbourhood falls into sin – well, its just being human … I mean, what did you expect  Read more

Walt Disney’s Dreams

When you think of great dreamers, we think of people like George Lucas, Elon Musk, or Walt Disney. Anyone who’s seen a Star Wars movie, read about electric cars, or visited Disney World knows that great accomplishments begin with one person’s larger-than-life imagination.

Walt Disney’s dream began with cartoon sketches, two failed companies, and a borrowed book on animation. In time, he brought beloved characters to life, created classic films, and built Disney World, Disneyland, and Epcot. He created “the happiest place on earth” and because known as the man who made dreams come true.

Disney’s public persona was “Uncle Walt,” a smiling man who kindly signed autographs in a tweed jacket while puttering down Main Street in a fringe-topped car driven by Mickey Mouse. But behind the scenes, the real Walt Disney was a demanding, hard-charging man of a million ideas who exasperated family and colleagues. His life was a whirlwind of visionary projects that exhausted his associates and changed our world.

When Disney was diagnosed with lung cancer, he was still planning movies, developing theme parks, and mulling over his newest idea — an “Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow,” or EPCOT. As he lay on his deathbed with his brother Roy sitting nearby, Walt looked up at the hospital ceiling tiles, raised his finger, and traced his plans for Epcot by pointing to them. Every fourth tile represented a square mile, he told his brother. Using that mental map, he suggested routes for his envisioned highways and monorails.

Having said al that, I believe Walt Disney’s dreams were too small. Believe it or not, you and I can dream bigger dreams than Disney ever conceived. It’s one thing to invest one’s life in a magic kingdom but quite another to play a part in the Kingdom of God. As followers of Christ, we can cultivate a dream for our lives that outlasts the world, transforms time, changes eternity, and advances His cause and His Kingdom for His glory. 

In fact, that’s the story of the Bible. The Bible is filled with people who saw what life could look like in God’s Kingdom and then moved forward in faith. Abraham dreamed of a great nation when he was yet childless. Moses envisioned a free people when the Israelites were still making bricks without straw. Joshua envisioned an occupied land, Samson, a defeated enemy; David, a temple on a hill. Nehemiah built miles of reconstructed walls in his prayers before a single stone was laid. Daniel glimpsed a future kingdom; Peter, an established church; Paul, a global mission. 

All these stories — the dreams of men and women of God thousands of years ago — still inspire, guide, and affect us more than we know. And they remind us God wants to do the same with you and me. The Lord’s dreams for us are just as real and all we have to do is ask Him to reveal His plan and purpose for our life, grab hold of the dream, and then step out in faith believing.

Our Legacy Will Be…

Some time back I purchased a new study Bible. Not that I needed another Bible but I collect and use study Bibles so that I can benefit from the knowledge, information, and insights of men and women of God who have spent a lifetime studying God’s Word. Often they provide me with new insights and help me to see things that I have missed or, at least, give me a slightly different perspective on familiar verses and stories.

The one I am using currently is the Tony Evans Study Bible. One of many I own. Good insights and understanding. Not recommending it or even suggesting that I agree with everything in it because I don’t. But, as a person who studies God’s Word daily I am always looking for new tools to help me along. 

All that to lead up to the true story I read recently regarding Tony Evans who has a powerful and impactful ministry. There would have not been a ministry had it not been for his parents. 

He writes, “My father came to Christ when he was thirty years of age and I was ten. Immediately he became a passionate follower of Christ. My mother didn’t like him as a sinner, and she resented him as a saint. Many times my dad could be found praying and studying the Word in the middle of the night.”

About a year after Mr. Evans’s conversion, he was studying one night and he heard the steps creak as his wife began making her way from the upstairs bedroom. She saw her husband studying his Bible, but instead of berating him she had tears in her eyes.

Tony recalled, “She told Dad how she had been observing his transformed life over the past year, and that whatever it was that was responsible for it, she wanted it too. That night my father led my mother to Christ. Our home was transformed. After that, Mom and Dad led me, my two brothers, and my sister to Christ.”

That evening as he heard the steps creak, Mr. Evans had no idea his simple love for Jesus would transform his home, set his son on the road to ministry, and touch untold thousands of people. 

You know, our days are numbered, and we are moving quickly from today to tomorrow. All our pleasures and possessions are temporary, but the legacy we leave for Christ will endure forever. It’s been said many times in many ways, but never better than with these simple words:

This one life will soon be past. Only what’s done for Christ will last.

Our love and labour for Christ is never in vain. Let’s not waste a single day. Let’s live with eternity in mind!

The Scriptures state:

“Now also when I am old and grayheaded, O God, do not forsake me, until I declare Your strength to this generation, Your power to everyone who is to come” (Psalm 71:18)

That is my prayer for today and every day.