THE INSIDE STORY, Part 1

Can you imagine this monologue? “Why can’t I be protected by the law like those already born? What makes my situation so volatile? Time and development are the only differences between me and them. How can a mother decide to have me killed? Shouldn’t that be God’s decision? King David said I was fearfully and wonderfully made. Don’t they agree? Fathers should be protectors of children. Why are so many wanting the unborn done away with? They don’t sound like real men to me. Please tell the doctors that I am more than a piece of tissue. I can hear the noise. I can feel the rumbling. I am growing. Why was I conceived if they didn’t want me? I’m afraid; it doesn’t seem fair.”

“Can’t the laws change to help people like me? Can’t someone do something about it, especially in America? Isn’t there someone out there who can defend us insiders? Wouldn’t my Mom feel badly after she did away with me? She would miss me, wouldn’t she? I thought only bad people like terrorists killed people recklessly. Why am I not wanted? What is wrong with me? What is wrong with my parents? I don’t feel safe in here. I wish I could be somewhere else. I wish I could be rescued. Pastors believe in the Bible. Couldn’t they do something? If I got to be born, I would be wanted, wouldn’t I? If I keep growing, will my parents like me then? Please, I want to keep on living. I don’t want to die. I want a future, a new home. I am scared. It doesn’t feel good to be unwanted.”

When people are devalued, they sometimes try to add value in externals ways, like with cars or fancy clothes. They have been made to feel cheap by being abused or shamed or thrown out by a parent or spouse or boss, so inside they say, “I have more value than that. I’ll prove it. I’ll wear more jewelry.” When Kobe Bryant devalued his wife by sleeping with another woman, he went out and bought her an expensive ring to say, “I value you.” She may have taken it as a compliment; in fact, it was an insult. You cannot put material value to love and faithfulness.

There can be no greater devaluing of life than by tossing it out. The Holocaust was a mass devaluing of life, exterminating millions as being unworthy of life. The silent holocaust is the one that takes place daily in the womb. The most dangerous place in America is not in the inner city; it is inside. Every third child conceived will be thrown away as unworthy of life. Can a woman do as she wishes with her body? Not if it is against the law. Say “prostitute.”

In early Roman days a child two days old was presented to the father. He had the single vote on whether to keep the child or send it away. If he rejected the infant, the mother would take the baby to the forest and leave it there. It was called pater protestus. What criminal injustice! We have the same course of action today for children in the womb. A mother can determine what is only God’s right, and a child is eliminated, a child with a destiny. Sure thankful Mary, with an unusual pregnancy, kept her Baby. Please don’t elect anyone who would vote for the murder of the unborn. (Part 2 in four days).

WHAT ABOUT THE ELECTION?

America is in crisis. Never been an election like this one. I’m voting for Donald Trump. Couldn’t imagine myself doing so a year ago. Why now? Because…

I oppose Hillary. I can’t imagine a woman favoring partial birth abortion. I see the damage that President Obama has done. He has destroyed the health care system. He has supported those that America opposes. He has not protected our borders. His leadership has helped to create gender confusion and anti-religious liberty. Expect Hillary to push it further. Trump is reckless. She is sinister, and hard to pin down.

I oppose the people Hillary runs with and like the people Trump is running with. I do not excuse cheap talk or foolish actions. I trust that the good people he has on his team will continue to influence him. I am voting for the values that Trump supports, not the values he sometimes lives. I am also voting for the values of the Republican platform. A church leader said that one needs to vote character, and neither candidate has character. So he is not able with a clear conscience to vote for either. I am voting for the one I believe will protect the values I affirm rather than opposing them. I can do this with a clear conscience.

Had Samson run for office, I doubt if I would have voted for him. His birth and assignment were foretold by an angel. He was called to be a Nazarite, separated to the Lord, but he did not live a separated life. He was a womanizer and a reckless man. He treated his parents as his servants and made ungodly demands of them. Yet God used him to initiate deliverance from the Philistines as a judge in Israel. He even made it into the “Faith Hall of Fame.” Samson lacked the character to rule a backslidden people, yet God appointed and anointed him for the task. I view Trump as a potential rescuer, even though like Samson he has questionable values. What if God is planning to use him?

Lincoln preferred non-professional office-holders to professional politicians. Trump is a businessman who wants to do something about big spending, big debt, big government. I wish he had the big character of Abe, but he is not a professional politician, and I like that example. I strongly oppose government intervention in state and local affairs like the school system. Good teachers are quitting because they can no longer teach.

I did not vote for President Obama, but I was proud that America could put a black man in office. Sadly, he did not understand the problem of blacks. Race relations deteriorated under a black president. I do believe that black lives matter. His consistent support of protesters has inflamed the problem rather than solving it. It is a problem of the family and the father. I know Trump has said damaging things about Blacks and Mexicans. The irony of this is that a vote for Trump will serve the blacks better than a vote for Hillary.

So there you have it. And I am voting because I believe that Christians have a moral responsibility to submit to its government (Romans 13) and to honor its leaders (I Peter 2:17). One of the ways to show submission and honor is to vote for the people that we want to lead us. Trump is sometimes crazy, sometimes shooting from the hip, which is damaging and dangerous.At other times he speaks with great clarity and wisdom. Extraordinary need calls for extraordinary prayer. Let it be, God.

CARING FOR THE POOR

“Blessed (happy, rewarded) is he who considers (cares for, provides for, shows compassion toward) the poor”(Psalm 41:1). Scripture consistently reflects concern for the disadvantaged. And it warns the rich. We are neither encouraged to be poor nor to look down on the wealthy. But the temptation of being ruined by riches is powerful, and the hardship of the poor is common.

Rather than care for them we sometimes wonder if our generosity will be misused, if they already have enough from others, if we are truly being led to give, if others are in a better position to help, if giving will actually hurt them, if we have the time.

Read the Book. Provision was made in the law to leave portions of one’s field unharvested, so the poor could have at it. How kind of God. Godly women looked after the needs of the Son of Man. The early church provided for the poor.

Six blessings come to those who care:
THE LORD DELIVERS HIM IN TIMES OF TROUBLE.
Prayer is fueled by godliness. God honors those who honor Him (I Samuel 2:30). One way to honor is to demonstrate a bias for the broken–like God. He doesn’t come up with excuses for not caring. And He gives incentive to His children who are better off.

THE LORD WILL PROTECT HIM AND PRESERVE HIS LIFE.
How much are protection and preservation worth? God will give it free to those who think about others more than themselves.

HE WILL BLESS HIM IN THE LAND.
We are blessed to be a blessing, and then the blessings return to us. Cool! We can only keep what we don’t hold onto, whether money, love, or friendship. If you wonder why God blesses people and you just don’t happen to be one of them, start giving yourself away. It is NOT about you!

AND NOT SURRENDER HIM TO THE DESIRE OF HIS FOES.
David, a highly successful king, was also unpopular, even in his own family. Surrendering to God meant God didn’t surrender him to his enemies. If you want to live freely in a society that is not safe, care for the poor.

THE LORD WILL SUSTAIN HIM ON HIS SICKBED.
I would rather err on giving out too much than too little, on buying a drunk a drink than missing a legitimate opportunity. It will mean that I will get the care when I am in the place of weakness and needing outside help.

AND RESTORE HIM FROM HIS BED OF ILLNESS.
Some poor people never get to the place of restoration. With our help, they might. And then restoration will bounce back to us.

Even living by grace, rewards abound for the righteous. It was motivation to Paul to run a good race. How you live now impacts how you will live in eternity. Heaven is a theocracy, not a monarchy. The king decides who rules over cities in the new earth, and it is the faithful. They chose short-term pain for long-term gain. And eternity is a long time. Start building up credits today if you haven’t already. Be a person of character, and care for the poor, and God will repay you. Do it not by grit but by the Holy Spirit!

WHEN YOU COME TOGETHER…

Paul gives us a picture of what worship looked like in New Testament house churches. He writes (I Cor. 14:26):

WHEN YOU COME TOGETHER…
God’s people had been gathering for centuries, first at the tabernacle, then the temple. When it was destroyed, they had no central gathering place, so they met in synagogues, which literally means “assembly.” The early church gathered first at the temple. As it spread throughout the Empire, Christians met in homes.

Paul admonished them (and us) to “not neglect to meet together” (Heb. 10:25). In other words, you don’t need to wake up on Sunday and say, “Shall I go to church today?” I found that out as a sophomore in high school when I asked my dad if I could go to Johnny’s house. He said, “Yes.” Later he asked me how church was. I said, “I went over to Johnny’s, so I didn’t go to church.” He never raised his voice with me–ever! But he made it clear that the people of God (including the Andersons) met together on Sundays. How about you? What is the greatest pull to keep you from gathering? Deal with it. Might not be wise to get up Monday asking, “Shall I go to work today?”

EACH ONE…
Hard for this to happen with two hundred. Works with twenty. Sounds like you come to give. Guess what? You get. Maybe not the usual way to go to church. If we don’t get what we needed, it’s okay because eighteen others did. We are not consumers or spectators; we are participants. “Each one” includes me–and you.

A HYMN…
Is there a song that fits what God is saying today? Sing it. This small group meeting doesn’t mean that we don’t worship. Just means that we don’t need a band. Do need a heart of worship. Let it happen in your heart and in the home.

A LESSON…
Did God teach you something this week about overcoming discouragement? Disciplining your child? A right attitude at work? Somebody needs your testimony. Two minutes worth will do, and attach it to a Scripture. Someone will be thanking God at lunch for your word (rather than having roast preacher).

A REVELATION…
We are listening to one another–and to the Holy Spirit. He will give us words to edify, exhort, and comfort. Keep your ears open. It might make their day–or their month! “For you can all prophesy…”

A TONGUE OR AN INTERPRETATION.
Needs to happen more among God’s people. The gift of tongues is underrated and underused. Speak and sing together in tongues, then be open to a tongue that will be interpreted. It becomes like a prophetic word. Bingo!

LET ALL THINGS BE DONE FOR EDIFICATION.
This is not about me; it is about us. What if we all came to give? We’d all win! Hey, cool way to do church.

FAITH IS NOT A FORMULA

“Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see” (Hebrews 11:1). So Noah built the ark by faith. Abraham left his country by faith. The Israelites passed through the Red Sea by faith. Many “through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised” (33).

Then the mood changes: Others were tortured and refused to be released, so that they might gain a better resurrection. Some faced jeers and flogging, while still others were chained and put in prison. They were stoned; they were sawed in two; they were put to death by the sword” (35-37). “These were all commended for their faith…” (39). Some had faith to live; others had faith to die. Faith is a friendship, not a formula.

Herod “had James, the brother of John, put to death with the sword. When he saw that this pleased the Jews, he proceeded to seize Peter also” (Acts 12:2,3). God had other plans for Peter. The same God who received James by death designed a jailbreak for Peter that beats any escape we see on TV. James had signed on to drink the cup of suffering (Matthew 20), and he became the second martyr. He bore witness (meaning of “martyr”) to Christ’s life through his death, just as Stephen had.

The sons of thunder had found someone worthy of their zeal, and James poured out his life unto death for Jesus. He received a crown for being faithful unto death, while Herod was trying to win a popularity contest and worms ate his body when he died shamefully. We do not order up what we want by faith; we walk with God into His desired end. For some in the great faith chapter they were allowed to overcome; for others they were given faith to endure.

“If you just believe, you will be healed.” Maybe.Faith is not in faith; it is directed to a personal God who knows the outcome. We exercise faith and trust God for the results. Faith is surrender, not demand. It does not tell God what to do. It joyfully submits to the will of a gracious God.

Some people are walking “through the valley of the shadow of death.” That looks different than the green pastures and the still waters. Instead of the faith to rest they need the faith to persevere. Same God–different environment. Faith is not automatic, because God is a person, not a machine. We do not put a coin in the slot and down comes the result. We put faith in a loving God who has called us into relationship with Himself.

Jesus did not teach the disciples to be men of technique but men of the Spirit. He didn’t write a book on the art of healing, but we have a record of how He ministered to people. Some He healed with a word. Ten lepers were cleansed “as they went.” One was healed from blindness with a second touch. A paralytic was healed when it did not appear that he had the faith. We have no record of Jesus healing anyone else that day. God is a healing God, and Jesus is a healing Savior. How and when and with whom He does it remains in His sovereign hands.

This is not meant for a moment to discourage passionate and aggressive faith. It is meant to keep our hands off the control panel. We have no idea what is coming two minutes out. God sees all of history in the eternal present, and He is wise and good.

LITTLE BY LITTLE

We often look for the big change, the fast track to instant sanctification. “God, radically change me–now” Conference ads don’t always help, promising the immediate–impartations, miracles and life-changing encounters. Conferences open new doors, change direction, give fresh experiences, even impartations. Every blessing (like the benediction) promises change–incrementally. We experience growth spurts, especially kids. Growing pains result. But it’s not the norm–in the physical or spiritual. Life-changing experiences usually mean change in direction, not character. That takes time.

We are being changed “from one degree of glory to another.” We are “transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory” “The light of the righteous is like the dawn, that shines brighter and brighter until full day.” We are commanded to “be transformed by the renewing of [our] mind” (Romans 12:2), taking thoughts captive–one at a time.

I built up to a twenty-four minute plank, increasing fifteen seconds every other day. Slow process. We grow physically little by little. So slow it is imperceptible. Quick growth means un-health. Think cancer. Invest little by little. Becomes a lot—over time.

The children of Israel were taught to gather manna daily. Jesus taught, “Give us this day our daily bread.” David promises, “Then will I ever sing praise to your name and fulfill my vows day after day” (Ps. 61:8). Wisdom says, “Blessed is the man who listens to me, watching daily at my doors” (Pr. 8:23). We “encourage one another daily” (Heb. 3:13). We take up our cross daily (Luke 9:23).

Erikka misunderstood the nature of growth in plants. She pulled up ALL the flowers at age four I had JUST planted. “Why?” “I wanted to see if they were growing.” Little by little is the way of nature and the way of God. Rather than asking God to do something massive, use today to gain ground. Take in nourishment that brings growth–over time.

“The testing of your faith DEVELOPS perseverance” (Js. 1:3). “We rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering PRODUCES perseverance” (Rom. 5:3). Process words. Fruit is not given; it is produced, little by little, test by test. Fruit is not given; it is grown.

Hasty is not a good sign (Pr. 19:2). “An inheritance quickly gained at the beginning will not be blessed at the end” (Pr.. 20:21). “If you find honey, eat just enough—too much of it, and you will vomit” (Prov 25:16). “Dishonest money dwindles away, but he who gathers money little by little makes it grow” (Pr. 13:11).

“I will not drive them out in a single year, because the land would become desolate and the wild animals too numerous for you. Little by little I will drive them out before you, until you have increased enough to take possession of the land” (Ex. 23:29,30; Deut. 7:22). Faithful in a “very little” (Lk. 1917) is good with God. We go from “strength to strength” (Ps. 84:7), from “glory to glory” (2 Cor. 3:18).

Exceptions: birth (including new birth), death, infilling, and second coming (“in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet”). “We shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is”–immediately (I John 3:3).

SIX FOUNDATIONS FOR LIFE

Foundations are what we build upon. I operate with these foundational truths.

GOD LOVES ME. I am the object of His relentless affection, and He shows it tangibly. He loves hearing my voice and spending time with me. God’s love received brings a clear identity, and identity drives destiny. The most convincing expression of God’s love is the death of His Son, by whom I am saved for all eternity. Love is a verb, not a vibe. The psalmist said, “Show us your unfailing love, O Lord” (85:7). It is not testing God to ask Him to do that–so I do.

MY OBEDIENCE PLEASES HIM. We have told the kids, “Our love for you is unconditional. Your behavior won’t change it. Whether we are pleased with you is another matter; that is up to you.” Same with God. Disobedience changes the way He shows His love. It hurts. When I disciplined my children, they never said, “That was fun!” Holiness is a better option than happiness, because then I get happiness as a bonus. Love is proved more by obedience than by worship (I John 3 & 4). The first commandment calls me to put God first. Worship is loving God back. Love makes spiritual disciplines spiritual delight. This includes worship, Bible study, prayer, silence, giving, fasting, and exercise. Call it “temple maintenance.” A car lasts longer through regular maintenance; so does a body.

I AM HERE ON PURPOSE. The second commandment calls me to love others as God loves me. I am here on assignment, to advance the kingdom for the King. He now reigns, though in a hidden way through His people on earth. Love and the fear of God are primary motivators for service (2 Cor. 5:10). I need wisdom to do what God gives me. Before I die, I want to say like Jesus, “I did what you told me to do.” That is faithfulness. Take a risk–dare to dream!

SUFFERING IS GOD’S GIFT TO ME. It doesn’t change my outlook of God’s love. If He chooses or allows me to go through difficulty, I don’t question His love. I upgrade my confidence in His sovereignty. God’s love doesn’t always look like love, but faith-filled people know that “God works all things for good to those who love him…” Tension and trials work for my good. I am not talking about suffering that comes from my disobedience, although the discipline also works for my good. Life is harder than I thought it would be–and better!

THE HOLY SPIRIT MAKES IT HAPPEN. I don’t pull off the Christian life by resolve or grit but by the Holy Spirit. He writes the laws of God in my heart. He gives me the power to obey. It’s the mercy system, not the merit system. The fruit of the Spirit is developed by the Spirit, although I am involved in the process. The gifts of the Spirit are given by the Spirit’s sovereign working and in concert with my openness to receive them.

I LIVE FOR THE COMING KINGDOM. “Set your hope fully on the grace that is coming to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (I Peter 1:13). I live for what is not yet, giving me unfading hope and the ability to deal with the stresses of this life. Short-term pain–long-term gain!

GENERATIONAL THINKING, PART II

Scripture teaches us to think generationally, from one generation to the next. The following truths surface regarding generational thinking:

HISTORY AND DESTINY MERGE. We look back to those before and ahead to those who will follow. We worship the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Hey, three generations right there.

The feasts helped Israel celebrate the God who worked in the past and promised faithfulness to a thousand generations. The festivals tied generations together: “Celebrate this day as a lasting ordinance for the generations to come” (Ex. 12:14). Names at one time marked the generations. I am an Anderson—a son of Anders; Ben-Adam—son of Adam. It was so much a part of the way they viewed life that if you wanted to curse someone, you didn’t go after his dad; you went after his descendants. “May his descendants be cut off, their names blotted out from the next generation” (Ps. 109:13).

I have told my children that I am praying for their grandchildren—who do not yet exist. I want to take seriously the responsibility of raising up giants in the land.

IT IS ALL ABOUT FAMILY. Everyone lands on the planet one way—through a father and a mother. God Himself is a Father, and He has a Son. It started with a walk and ends with a wedding. People we call brothers and sisters are joined with us for eternity with Jesus the Bridegroom.

Because family is central, the end-time revival, the big one, will feature a revival of family (Mal. 4:5,6). The prophets knew that a strong family built strong individuals and a strong nation. If we ever needed healthy families, we need them now.

OBEDIENCE IS NOT OPTIONAL. DISOBEDIENCE HURTS. The Lord told Jehu, “Because you have done well in accomplishing what is right in my eyes and have done to the house of Ahab all I had in mind to do, your descendants will sit on the throne of Israel to the fourth generation” (2 Kings 10:30). His obedience brought blessings for a century. Way to go, Jehu.

Hezekiah, on the other hand, while a good king in many ways, came under judgment for foolishly showing envoys from Babylon his whole storehouse. And God said through Isaiah that his descendants would be punished. His response showed strange short-sidedness: “Why not, if there will be peace and security in my days?” (2 Kings 20:19). What a sad and selfish statement, thinking only of his generation and not reflecting on how his folly would impact future generations.

HONOR CONNECTS THE GENERATIONS. Children honor their parents and grandparents. Our culture has worshiped youth and not properly regarded old age. The Greek words “presbys” and “senatus,” (from which we get “senator”), and the Arab word “sheikh” all mean “old man.” Ancient cultures rightly honored age.

Youth don’t get a merit badge for being young. We pay tribute to beauty, brains and brawn. They chose gray hair; we color it. It was a sad day in Israel when “elders are shown no respect” (Lam. 5:12) and “the elders are gone from the city gate” (14). One of the curses for disobedience Moses reviewed with the nation about to enter the Promised Land was that God would send them “a fierce-looking nation without respect for the old or pity for the young” (Deut. 28:50).

Grandparents: tell the stories and pray like crazy. Don’t simply retreat to your rocker. Parents: walk in righteousness and pass the baton. Children: honor your parents and elders. And if you are single, don’t self-eliminate. So were Jesus and Paul, and their parenting changed the face of their culture. You can help do the same with yours.