God’s Answer to Islam

BA2274-001This past Wednesday, I got to see God’s answer to Islam.

At Highview Baptist Church in Louisville, KY, I witnessed 34 new missionaries being commissioned by Southern Baptists to carry the fame and name of Jesus the Christ to the peoples of the world.

Though I did not keep a formal tally, I’m estimating well over half of those missionaries said they were headed to Muslim peoples in Central, East and Southeast Asia, as well as various Muslim nations of Africa.  Some of the missionaries were young couples with children.  Some were older.  Some were former businessmen and farmers. One even grew up as a Muslim in an Islamic nation, only to be driven from that country by war.  Upon landing in Europe, she met her future husband, who began sharing the gospel with her.  Jesus changed her life and now the two of them are headed back to her Muslim people to make His glory known and treasured!

This is God’s answer to Islam: Men and women with the flame of Holy Spirit God in their hearts taking the good news of Jesus to those who have never heard.  The redeemed of God in Christ willing to go and give and do whatever their Sovereign Lord asks of them.  Christians.

Political solutions will come and go.  And we can debate those freely, at least for now, in America.  But one thing we who love Christ surely must agree on is that the ultimate answer to the worship of false gods, whatever those gods be called and where ever those gods be named, is the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.

And this answer, this response, is the one we must crave and cry out to God for in desperation:

For You, Lord, are good and ready to forgive, and abundant in lovingkindness to all who call upon You . . . There is no one like You among the gods, O Lord, nor are there any works like Yours.  All nations whom You have made shall come and worship before You, O Lord, and they shall glorify Your name.  For You are great and do wondrous deeds; You alone are God (Psalm 86:5-10).

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What Not to Say to Your Wife (Part 2)

HeiferIn honor of mothers and godly women everywhere . . . I offer up this second blog post in the series.

Samson was a man’s man.  This dude took the jawbone of a donkey and slew one thousand Philistines with it.  Now, that’s warrior ingenuity!  Trust me, men, nobody in the UFC today could even hope to last more than a minute in the octagon with Samson.

But, like so many manly champions, Samson’s weakness was, you guessed it, women.

His first wife was a Philistine.  He arranged a large feast for her on the wedding day, and really liked how she looked. So far so good.  Keep it up, Sammy.

Then, Samson decided to put a riddle to the enemies of Israel, the Philistines.  The deal was, if they figured out the riddle Samson would give them thirty linen wraps and thirty changes of clothes.  OK, this just got weird.  But, that was the deal.  But if they could not solve the riddle, they owed Sammy the linen fashion wear.

Well, the Philistines threatened to kill Samson’s wife and family if she did not tell them the answer to the riddle.  So, she begged for a week and Samson finally gave up the goods.  But, here’s where it gets really hilarious and sad.

When the Philistines solved the riddle, Samson said:

If you had not plowed with my heifer, you would not have found out my riddle (Judges 14:18).

Men, please, please never call your wife a heifer.  In fact, you should probably avoid any and all references to animals when speaking of your wife.  Just sayin’.

“Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones” (Proverbs 16:24).

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What Not to Say to Your Wife

BA2274-001With Mother’s Day on the near horizon, ladies dear to me are on my mind.  My wife is amazing.  She is my favorite mom and woman in the whole world.  I mean no offense at all to my own mother, whom I love and try to honor.  She brought me into this world!  But I also know that God says a man is to leave his father and mother and cling unto his wife (Gen 2:24; Matt 19:5).  So, I don’t think my own mother would even expect me to say anything other than, “My wife is the best woman I know!”

All this pondering of inner and outer beauty in my wife has led me recently to hone in on some phrases in my daily Bible readings.  Coincidentally enough, my wife actually jokingly referred to one of these comments just this morning, as she had come across it in her daily readings, too.

These comments are what we might call, “Things not to say to your wife.”

For my first example, I introduce you to one Elkanah.  He is not as well known as his wife, Hannah.  Now, don’t get me wrong, I am not saying Elkanah was ungodly.  He seems to be a god-fearing man.  He, along with Hannah, agreed to give up their son, Samuel, to the Lord’s service (1 Sam 1).  So, he definitely got some things right, by God’s grace.

But, he also got something very wrong.  When Hannah was grieving deeply over her inability to have children, Elkanah quipped, “Hannah, why do you weep and why do you not eat and why is your heart sad?  Am I not better to you than ten sons?

Uh, well, no, Mr. Insensitive.  

Men, do not say this, or anything like this, to your wives!  When she is hurting or grieving, the best thing you can say is probably nothing at all.  But O, how many times have I screwed this up myself?!  I’m amazed that my wife is still loving me and living with me, given how many times I have traveled the path of Elkanah.

Men, seek God’s sensitivity training.  “A soft answer turns away wrath.”  Or, “weep with those who weep.”  How much better would Hannah have felt if Ogre Elkanah had simply wrapped his arms around her, cried with her, told her he was sorry, and offered to pray with her?

P.S.  For a hilarious take on this theme, check out Tim Hawkins’ song.

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Hurtful Pastoring

BA2274-001Doctors take an oath to “do no harm.”  Pastors can empathize.

We (Pastors) really do not relish the thought of hurting or harming anyone.  The truth of God in His Word sometimes does inflict wounds of conviction upon souls, but we pray for God’s mercy to accompany such conviction to bring about repentance.  But what happens when a Pastor hurts one of the sheep in ways that could have or should have been prevented?

Well, a few days ago I had one of the most painful experiences of my ministry so far.  My heart literally still aches from it.  I do not expect to get over it quickly.  I am so disappointed in myself.  I hurt a brother.  Wounded him unnecessarily.  I said something from the pulpit many months ago that hurt him and made him feel humiliated.  The fact that I do not remember saying it does not change his hurt, nor excuse my thoughtlessness.  I am so sorry for my words.  I cannot retract them.  I can only ask for forgiveness.  From God.  From the hurt brother.  This I did when the brother confronted me.  But I will continue to do so for quite some time.  I need forgiveness.

As I’ve reflected and tried to recall the situation and sermon, I’ve come to conclude I was probably just trying to be funny by way of sarcasm.  I am 100% sure I meant no personal harm or humiliation to this man.  But God is teaching me through my brother that preachers need to use sarcasm with extreme caution.  Sarcasm does not land softly or humorously upon every listener.  God forgive me.  God please keep teaching me how to most effectively communicate the eternal truths of Your Word without needlessly hurting the sheep.  Without feeling like I must be funny.  Without any desire other than to see Your Holy Son Jesus magnified, dead sinners brought to life in Him, and saints farther conformed to Him.

For any preachers or Bible teachers out there reading this post, be warned.  Words matter.  Seek the Holy Spirit’s bridle (James 3).

For any church members out there reading this post, please know that your pastors need the same Jesus, the same grace, the same forgiveness that you do.  We will fail from time to time.  Jesus never fails.  We will from time to time need you to love us enough to confront us.  We will need you to render “faithful wounds of a friend” (Prov 27:6).  We will need you to forgive us “just as God in Christ has forgiven you” (Eph 4:32).  Please do not harbor ill will or allow bitterness to grow in your heart simply because a pastor or preacher has (likely unintentionally) said something that hurt you.  Go seek reconciliation.  Give your pastor the opportunity to hear you, to discuss the matter, and most importantly, to repent if needed.

To the brother who finally took that courageous step with me, I want to say “Thank you.”  I do not deserve to be your pastor.  I’m deeply grateful for your grace.  Giving me a second chance brings glory to our Savior who gives us those “second” chances each and every day.

“Let a righteous man smite and reprove me, it is a kindness to me; it is oil upon my head.  Do not let my head refuse it” (Psalm 141:5).      

 

 

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Stephen Cox - Guilty a thousand times over, but His grace is suffcient for us all.

The heavens declare the glory of God!

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This video was created from actual photographs NASA has taken of the sun over the last five years. Prepared to feel very small and give big praise to the Creator of all things. Our great God made the sun and continues to sustain it as He made and sustains us. To watch this video and not give praise to God is to deny the plain and clear truth. It is just another reminder that God, the maker of all things, is worthy of more praise than we could ever give. It is ludicrous to believe that just by accident, just coincidentally, this incredible star is just the right distance from Earth to sustain life. Countless explosions dance upon the sun’s a massive surface because it was designed to do so by our sovereign Lord. I encourage you to watch this and then spend some time in prayer. Praise Him for His incredible creativity and perfect planning of the universe. Praise Him for Jesus who not only created all things and sustains all things, but humbled Himself to become a man, live a perfect life and die for sinners like us! Praise Him!

The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.
Day to day pours out speech, and night to night reveals knowledge.
There is no speech, nor are there words, whose voice is not heard.
Their voice goes out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world.
In them he has set a tent for the sun, which comes out like a bridegroom leaving his chamber, and, like a strong man, runs its course with joy.
Its rising is from the end of the heavens, and its circuit to the end of them, and there is nothing hidden from its heat.

(Psalm 19:1-6 ESV)

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