Friday, October 31, 2014

Dial-up in a High Speed World

We don't like to wait. Some of us remember what it was like to have a home-cooked, made-from-scratch meal. I actually remember making pizza with my family as a Friday-only treat.  Those home-cooked meals progressed to TV dinners baked in the oven and then progressed further to TV dinners cooked in the microwave. The Friday family pizza making evolved into pizza delivery while eating in front of a TV watching a movie on video tape that we rented from the movie rental store. Then we began to pick up other fast food and a DVD or ordered a pay-per-view movie which has now evolved into a streamed movie via the internet.  All we need now is for the food to be delivered via teletransport so we don't even have to pick it up on the way home. We just don't like to wait!

So...this makes it difficult for the believer when we serve a God who has always existed and has all the time in the world to see His plan unfold, not only for our lives but for all people for all time. "But do not let this one fact escape your notice, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day" (2 Peter 3:8). Our thought might be, "I don't have a thousand years to wait for God's plan to unfold." However, God's timing is perfect whether our circumstances while waiting are good or bad. God holds all time in His hand.  

In Hebrews 11 we read what is typically referred to as the "Hall of Faith". It speaks about the great saints of old who accomplished great things by faith in God. However, if you are paying close attention, the focus is not on their faith in the things that God was accomplishing in that moment. The focus was on their faith to walk through those things with an eye to the future. As a matter of fact, as you read through the chapter, you will see that some of them did not meet a glorious end. Many died horrific deaths and yet all of them ultimately died physically whether by natural causes or by the hand of mankind. Hebrews 11:13 says, "All these died in faith, without receiving the promises, but having seen them and having welcomed them from a distance, and having confessed that they were strangers and exiles on the earth"and Hebrews 11:39-40 says, "And all these, having gained approval through their faith, did not receive what was promisedbecause God had provided something better for us, so that apart from us they would not be made perfect."

So, why did they endure? Why did some of them suffer even though it did not benefit them in their life on earth?  Because they saw something better.  It was invisible, but they saw it with eyes of faith. They abandoned the good things that they could have had on earth for the best things in heaven. They delayed the immediate for the benefit of the long term.

Many people are in debt financially because they didn't want to wait to get that car, or that house or that _____________ (you fill in the blank). However, most of those people struggle to make it from paycheck to paycheck not because of the debt, but because of their unwillingness to wait. Many people are denying the very existence of God because if they accept it, then they know there is accountability for the way they are living today. They are forfeiting their eternity for pleasure today. 

For those who are believers, many are forfeiting inner peace because of constant anxiety over events which God has in control. Many are forfeiting fellowship with God or even future heavenly rewards by compromising on moral or ethical issues in order to get something today rather than waiting for the greater things God has in store.

I always hated dial-up  internet and was exited to see the of day high-speed internet. However, as I have used the high-speed connection, I have become discontent with it and want it to be even faster. If I get a faster connection, I eventually will be dissatisfied with that. My point is, that there are some things worth waiting for, but I just have to make up my mind that I will have to wait. If we are willing to deny ourselves some temporary comforts and pleasures, there will be a reward greater than we can fathom when Christ comes back. 

For those who have not accepted Christ as Savior, Please go here and consider the message given and don't delay on that one!  God is good and He has a perfect plan with perfect timing. As a matter of fact, you are one of the ones He is waiting for: "The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance" (2 Peter 3:9). Running to Him is the only thing worth you getting in a hurry.

For God's Glory,
Chris S. Sweet

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Two Laws

I heard the following illustration on the radio some time ago. I thought it was a great picture of God’s grace and wanted to share it with you. I hope it helps you understand the way God had two laws to meet: the law of love and the law of justice.

*“They tell the story about a great Russian tribal leader in the early days who had two laws. The first was that all the tribe were to love their parents and the second was they were not to steal. This man's leadership and these laws made his tribe the greatest in all of Russia.

Now one day they discovered that someone was stealing. This angered the leader greatly and he brought all the people together. He said, "Let the thief come forward and receive 10 lashes for his crime." No one came and he upped the ante to 20 lashes. Then 30, then 40 lashes. He stopped there for he knew that the only one strong enough to survive such a lashing was himself for he was a very strong man.

Within a week they brought the thief to him and to his amazement and grief, the thief was his own mother. The people and the guards were wagering among themselves as to what this great and wise leader would do. How would he keep his word: obey his second law and whip his mother, or obey the first law, love his mother and let her go free, thus disgracing himself and the laws he sought to enforce?

The leader gathered the tribe together. They brought his mother forward and the people wondered what the leader would do.  Just then the whip master came out with his whip in hand and ripped the shirt from her frail back. "Ah, ha," thought the people, "he's going to whip her." Their eyes darted from the leader to the whip master waiting to see how the leader responded. Would he follow his law of love or his law of justice, he HAD to decide and the fate of his tribe and even more the fate of his mother, hung in the balance.

Then, as the whip master bore the whip for the first lash, the leader held up his hand to stop the whip master and the people thought “Ah, ha, now he is going to overlook his own law to free his own mother”. Just then the leader strode over to his mother, tearing his shirt off as he went and wrapped his arms around her frail body,  and took the 40 lashes himself.

That's exactly what Jesus did for us. Jesus took our punishment on the cross. We should have rightly died for our sins, but Jesus took our place. ‘But God shows his love for us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.’” (Romans 5:8)
*Source Unknown

I hope this encourages you and I pray that if you have not accepted His love gift, please don't delay.

For God's Glory,
Chris S. Sweet


Saturday, October 18, 2014

"Theocracy Limits Liberty"

I was driving in Dallas this week with my son and saw a car merging from the on-ramp. There was a sticker on the rear bumper that read "Theocracy Limits Liberty". I found myself both agreeing and disagreeing with this statement. The veracity of this statement really relies on how one would define liberty and one's understanding of theocracy. Your perception of what kind of rule a theocracy would be is dependent on your perception of the character of God. Whether that perception is right or wrong, it will effect how you react or respond to the concept of a theocracy.

However, first, so I don't assume too much, we need to answer the question: What is a theocracy? In my case, a theocracy is a government in which God is the ruling (sovereign or all powerful) authority. For others the government would be ruled by whatever deity they choose.

Regarding the possible definitions of liberty: I am going to keep it to two basic definitions that are fairly broad yet I believe to be accurate. The first definition is the freedom to do whatever we want, whenever we want, as long as we want to do it within the limits of our own conscience of what we believe to be right and wrong as long as we are willing to accept any consequences that may arise from our pursuits. The other definition regards freedom from a life bound by flesh and blood, freedom from the sorrows of our earthly existence, and freedom that includes self-denial for a short period in order to receive an eternal reward. The first view regards liberty for as long as this life endures and the second is liberty forever.

Regarding the perceptions of who God is: For some God is all love, for others He is all justice and judgment. For some He is distant and disconnected, for others He is personal, intimate and loving. For some He is waiting for them to make a mistake so He can punish them, for others His grace allows for anything. None of these by themselves is true and some are not true at all. God is much more than we can really describe, but due to our life experiences and our finite view points we sometimes see God one dimensionally. However, the Bible is very thorough in revealing all of His character qualities. Sometimes you have to pay closer attention to the context than others to see various traits.

If you see God as domineering and mean, you feel that you will have no liberty under His reign. If you see God as all loving, you believe you can live in complete liberty with no eternal consequences and no accountability. If you see God as a loving God, but a perfect, holy and just God, then you believe that because of His perfection and justice He demands perfection and justice from His creation.  However, you also know His love for you causes Him to seek a fair way to deal with the just consequences of sin.

Let me share what the Bible has to say about liberty verses slavery.  In John 8:31-36 Jesus addresses this topic:

31 So Jesus was saying to those Jews who had believed Him, "If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free." 33 They answered Him, "We are Abraham's descendants and have never yet been enslaved to anyone; how is it that You say, 'You will become free '?" 34 Jesus answered them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is the slave of sin. 35 "The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son does remain forever. 36 "So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed. 

Romans 6:15-23 says:
15 What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? May it never be! 16 Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone as slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin resulting in death, or of obedience resulting in righteousness? 17 But thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed, 18 and having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness. 19 I am speaking in human terms because of the weakness of your flesh. For just as you presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness, resulting in further lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness, resulting in sanctification. 20 For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. 21 Therefore what benefit were you then deriving from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the outcome of those things is death. 22 But now having been freed from sin and enslaved to God, you derive your benefit, resulting in sanctification, and the outcome, eternal life. 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
The last verse says it all: We EARN death because we violate God's law, but God FREELY GIVES eternal life by paying our fine (death) through Christ. That is the perfect, just, and holy God finding a way through His love to satisfy His justice. He paid the penalty Himself so that everyone my experience eternal liberty.  Really think about how long eternity is and think about how long most of our pursuits of pleasure last and determine which definition of liberty has the greater value.

Here's the bottom line: Yes, theocracy does limit liberty and no, theocracy does not limit liberty. Theocracy will only limit your liberty if you choose to accept God's gift of salvation and then SUBMIT YOURSELF to His rule and authority. He never forces anyone. However, when the judgment comes, He MUST deal with sin because He is perfect. But, He loves you so much, He provided the cost. If you submit yourself to this theocracy, then you will experience a liberty in eternity that you cannot even begin to imagine right now.
 1 Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. 3 For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, 4 so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. (Romans 8:1-4)
God's liberty results in God's praise to God's glory. Come experience the rule of this Great King and accept His free gift of liberty!

For God's Glory,
Chris S. Sweet

Saturday, October 4, 2014

"I'm Not...Enough": The Lament of the Hopeless

Have you ever found yourself saying the words "I'm not _________ Enough"? Fill in that blank however you have used it. It's usually not at the moment that you feel the greatest confidence in your ability to complete the task, fill the position or fulfill the responsibility in question. It's usually at a low point in your day or in your life or at a point of complete desperation. It's not a phrase you feel good about yourself. 

Some people remain in a constant state of feeling this way about themselves. It is often because they have not had people around them in their lives to give them positive affirmation. On the contrary they have usually been surrounded by people with very negative attitudes and such a low view of themselves that they feel the need to bring others around them to their level. 

Some common words we tend to use when we feel like this are: "I'm not strong, smart or good enough."The culture of our current day says that people with this view of themselves will not succeed. This culture says that you must exude self-confidence in order to succeed. You won't get the promotion,  recognition or notoriety that you deserve unless you fit this pattern.

However, did you know that the Bible says that this is the perfect attitude to have to succeed in God's Kingdom. Now, let me pause a moment to say that this DOES NOT mean that we are to abase ourselves and walk around defeated. If we come to God with this attitude, we should actually gain confidence and be full of joy and know that we have won.  

Why? Because for the believer, when we empty ourselves of all that we are and can be in our culture and surrender to God, then He lives in us and empowers us and supplies all we need to succeed in His plan.  Let's look at these three words above and see what the scriptures have to say about them.

  1. “I’m not strong enough”
    9 And He has said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness." Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. 10 Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ's sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong. (2Corinthians 12:9-10)
     When we give up our struggle to live for ourselves or even to sustain ourselves and trust God’s strength, then we will see great things take place.  This doesn’t mean we just concede that it is hopeless and we stop trying, this means we stop fretting over the things that we cannot control or the things that are too much for us and we rest in the hope and promises that we find in God’s word. 

  2.  “I’m not smart enough”
    18 Let no man deceive himself. If any man among you thinks that he is wise in this age, he must become foolish, so that he may become wise. 19 For the wisdom of this world is foolishness before God. For it is written, "He is THE ONE WHO CATCHES THE WISE IN THEIR CRAFTINESS "; 20 and again, "THE LORD KNOWS THE REASONINGS of the wise, THAT THEY ARE USELESS." (1 Corinthians 3:18-20)
    The ways of God are contrary to the ways of the world. The Bible says that Satan is the god of this world (2 Corinthians4:4) and therefore he will do all he can to get people to walk in opposition to God, the Father. The world’s wisdom is foolishness compared to the greatness of God’s wisdom. Even God’s most “simple” thought is greater than man’s greatest thought. (1 Corinthians 1:25)
     5 But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him. 6 But he must ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind. 7 For that man ought not to expect that he will receive anything from the Lord, 8 being a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways. (James 1:5-8)
    Where we fall short, we just need to ask and God will supply. We must stop stressing ourselves beyond our limits trying to figure it all out and let God reveal it to us in His perfect time (Psalm46:10). 

  3.  "I’m not good enough.”

    Luke 18:19 says, “And Jesus said to him, ‘Why do you call Me good? No one is good except God alone.’” and Psalm 53:3 says, “Every one of them has turned aside; together they have become corrupt; There is no one who does good, not even one.” Sounds pretty hopeless doesn’t it?

    The bad news is that we cannot be good enough to get to God (or heaven). When we sinned (broke God’s law) the first time, we were guilty and unworthy because God is absolutely perfect and holy. His perfection is beyond our understanding.

    However, there is good news:

    “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)

    “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23)

    “…that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; 10 for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.” (Romans10:9-10)


    I think this says it all. We are not enough. God is our supply and He has taken the entire cost for our sin upon Himself. He delights to see us come to Him to be saved from His wrath. He delights to provide whatever need we have. Does this mean we will get whatever we ask for? No, but we have to trust that He only has good plans for us, and sometimes the circumstances we are in will do much more to exalt His name than we will ever understand.
    Jeremiah 29:11 assures us, “'For I know the plans that I have for you,' declares the LORD, 'plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.
    Romans 8:28 echos this same thought when it says, “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.”
    Here are two things we need to know:

    1.       We don’t have everything under control, but God does and will provide 
    for all we need and for every circumstance we face.

    2.       God’s love outweighs our sin and His wrath, but you have to give Him 
      permission to add His love to the scales which weigh justice for you.

    Don’t beat yourself up and don’t live a defeated life, rather live in God’s strength, wisdom and goodness and know that He has provided victory that will last long after this world and its self-seeking culture is gone.  If you have not already surrendered your life to Him, what prevents you from doing so now. Just talk to Him and ask. He will hear you. If you have already surrendered your life to Him, you need to invite as many as possible so they can join us on this journey!

    For God’s Glory,

    Chris S. Sweet