Smarter Than God?

I am not sure we do this on purpose… but at times we may think that with our lives, our lifestyle, our daily and weekly plans, our families, our jobs, our mental and spiritual health, etc. etc. we know better than God “how to live and make decision.” In every area of life we can fall into thinking that “we are smarter than God.”

A story from Bits & Pieces relates, “While she was enjoying a transatlantic ocean trip, Billie Burke, the famous actress, noticed that a gentleman at the next table was suffering from a bad cold. “Are you uncomfortable?” she asked sympathetically. The man nodded. “I’ll tell you just what to do for it,” she offered. “Go back to your stateroom and drink lots of orange juice. Take two aspirins. Cover yourself with all the blankets you can find. Sweat the cold out. I know just what I’m talking about. I’m Billie Burke from Hollywood.” The man smiled warmly and introduced himself in return. “Thanks,” he said, “I’m Dr. Mayo from the Mayo clinic.”  (Bits & Pieces, March 3, 1994, p. 24.)

We for sure know that God is Creator, Sovereign, All Powerful and All Knowing, but often times it is easy to slide into this thinking that we are “smarter than God.”  David the psalmist states by inspiration,

“O LORD, you have searched me and you know me.  You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways.  Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O LORD.  You hem me in– behind and before; you have laid your hand upon me.  Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain.  Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?   If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.   If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.  If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,” even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you. .”  Psalm 139:1-14

     May we understand wholly that God is overall and He reigns over all in every way.  With that said, His ways are perfect and His plan for each of our lives is sovereign.  So today as we may think our ways may be better, smarter or more thought-through than God… may we take a step back, remember David’s words and give God our lives, our steps and the Glory for every blessings.
By Andy Burns

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Being DeSensitized

Do you find yourself being desensitized?  “What” you may ask do you mean?  The term “desensitized” comes from the base word “sensitive” which comes from a Medieval Latin term sensitivus meaning “capable of sensation.”  As we, in our successive days of living, slowly but surely lose our sensation for what is unholy and immoral; for what does not encourage but instead discourages a holy mindset in the Lord; and what encourages us to say, “It is no big deal, I can watch, listen or do (_______) and it does not bother me.”  To simply ask the question, “Is it a sin to drink, to watch a rated R movie, to smoke a cigar, to speak a little gossip, to want many material things, etc. etc.?” is to be aware how easy it is to become desensitized.

Andy you are being entirely too stringent!  And we come to the point of this article.  Are we as Christians being desensitized by our culture?  Paul states that our world is “crooked and depraved generation.” (Phil. 2:15) Peter, toward the end of his lesson at Pentecost stated, “With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.” (Acts 2:40)
Here is an example: those of you who own and often use a computer, no doubt if you found out you have a virus or a Trojan horse, you would immediately search for a way to eradicate that infection.  We do not want these things on our computers because it causes them to run less efficiently and to cause multiple problems.  We do not assume, “Its just one virus, one piece of malware; no big deal.  My computer can handle it!”  Instead, we work (and spend money) to have it destroyed.
As well, if you found that you have mice in your home, there is no one saying, “Oh they are so cute; they won’t cause any problems.”  If you are like me, you go out and get sticky pads and “killer” pellets to get rid of those mice.
In the same way God calls us to guard our mental and spiritual data; He calls us to eradicate the world’s virus and the immoral Trojan horse that can harm our spiritual home.  Paul tells us that because we have God’s promise of being his children, we are to purity our bodies and our minds in order to bring about spiritual cleanliness (2 Cor. 7:1).
Do you find yourself making the above excuses?  “I can handle it.  It does not bother me.  Other people do worse.”  We often say this because we allow our spirits and our moral settings to get desensitized.  We want to watch the show, drink the brew, listen to the gossip, buy the objects, etc.  We stop listening to God’s call to be holy, to not reflect the world, but to reflect God’s holiness.
What are some areas that you need to purify, to cleanse and to secure for God’s glory?  It is helpful to 1) write these down in order to be reminded, 2) to offer them to God in prayer and gain his power and 3) be reminded of their destructive power.   Like icons on a computer, may we have God’s strength readily available to keep our minds and heart secure and pure for God’s glory.
By Andy Burns

Are You An Arrogant Christian?

In 1969, in Pass Christian, Mississippi, a group of people were preparing to have a “hurricane party” in the face of a storm named Camille. Were they ignorant of the dangers? Could they have been overconfident? Did they let their egos and pride influence their decision? We’ll never know.
What we do know is that the wind was howling outside the posh Richelieu Apartments when Police Chief Jerry Peralta pulled up sometime after dark. Facing the Beach less than 250 feet from the surf, the apartments were directly in the line of danger. A man with a drink in his hand came out to the second-floor balcony and waved. Peralta yelled up, “You all need to clear out of here as quickly as you can. The storm’s getting worse.” But as others joined the man on the balcony, they just laughed at Peralta’s order to leave. “This is my land,” one of them yelled back. “If you want me off, you’ll have to arrest me.”
Peralta didn’t arrest anyone, but he wasn’t able to persuade them to leave either. He wrote down the names of the next of kin of the twenty or so people who gathered there to party through the storm. They laughed as he took their names. They had been warned, but they had no intention of leaving.  It was 10:15 p.m. when the front wall of the storm came ashore. Scientists clocked Camille’s wind speed at more than 205 miles-per-hour, the strongest on record. Raindrops hit with the force of bullets, and waves off the Gulf Coast crested between twenty-two and twenty-eight feet high.
News reports later showed that the worst damage came at the little settlement of motels, go-go bars, and gambling houses known as Pass Christian, Mississippi, where some twenty people were killed at a hurricane party in the Richelieu Apartments. Nothing was left of that three-story structure but the foundation; the only survivor was a five-year-old boy found clinging to a mattress the following day. (Source: Storm Warning, Billy Graham)      Are we arrogant about God’s warnings toward Satan (1 Pet 5:8; Jn 8.44; Rev. 12:9)? God warns us about Satan and what his intentions are.  But sometimes we may get arrogant and think, “He’s not that bad…”  How often may we think, “It’s my life, I can handle it!  I don’t need any help.” May we recognize God’s wisdom and knowledge and heed His warnings and flee Satan’s efforts and pursue God’s holiness (Jms 4:7,8; 1 Tim. 6.11; 2 Tim. 2.22; 1 Pet. 3.11).  By Andy Burns

What Is Your Mission Statement?

Bob Logan states, “A clear mission statement answers three questions: a) who is your ministry focus group? b) what needs are you seeking to meet? c) how will you accomplish your mission?”   Mission statements can be helpful and important for organizations in deciding who their focus group is, what the needs of this focus group are and how they will serve this focus group’s needs.  In your ministry who are you working to serve and how are you meeting their needs?  The Holy Spirit tells us that we each have talents and gifts from God given to serve people (1 Cor. 12:13f).

If you are not sure, here are some easy question to answer that can help you find your gift and talent.  1) What do I enjoy doing to serve people? (Do not think of what you assume others want you to do, but what God has gifted you to do.)  2) How are you or can you use that gift to serve people?  3) Who are people that you feel called and gifted to serve?  4) Make a list of the people and situations you desire to serve.  5) Make a timeline of when you will use your gift to serve this focus group.  6) Keep your mission statement close to your heart (who, what and how) so you can keep your ministry focus of why you are ministering.  Satan can encourage frustration and a feeling of not being appreciated.  But a mission statement keeps us close to God’s Spirit and the reason we are serving (Matt. 20:28; Jn 13:12-14).   By Andy Burns

Evangelism by Proxy?

     How much do you like hard work?  Some do and some do not, like anything else.  How many would go into medical school or law school and assume to do little and still get by, still get their degree and practice.  How many would go into these works and assume that the professor or the smartest student in the class would do the work for these, but they would still draw a paycheck?  Andy, you are not thinking correctly.  When you go into one of these areas you must do the work in order to reap the rewards, both financially and otherwise.

However, when we speak of our lives in God’s church, we have a program called “Evangelism by Proxy.”  What exactly is this program?  Well, evangelism means to proclaim a great message, which is what God’s people are called to do (Matthew 28:19-20).  The word proxy means a substitute or an alternate.  So, evangelism by proxy means proclaiming a great message by a substitute or an alternate.  When a person becomes a Christian, it is understood that they simply need to live a life that is up to par with the Bible, but that is all.  We have a “Minister” here who does the work of evangelism.  I am not trained, nor schooled, nor talented enough to preach and teach and minister.

So, while we downplay and preach against denominational “Pastors” because it is clearly not scriptural (Acts 20:17,28).  We, in the Lord’s church, have the same mindset we just call him a “Minister.”  Now, you say this is not true.  We would never do anything that is not scriptural and by the book.  But when you talk with many of our older members, 60 years and older, they clearly speak of “The Minister” like he is the “Pastor.”  I suggest to conservative members of the church sitting in your homes and reading this that the “Pastor” system is alive and well in the Lord’s church today.  We simply call him “The Minister.”  Now, if you do not agree, what is the difference, with the exception of doctrine?  We have created, over the past 6 or 7 decades, “Evangelism by Proxy.”

What then will help us to get out of this situation of giving the work, the responsibility, the calling and the higher place to “the minister?”  First, we must change our language. There is no “The” “Minister” in the Lord’s church.  Are not all Christians ministers in the Lord’s church?  The term minister, deaconos, simply means servant. Are not all Christians ministers and therefore servants?  There is not such place as the Head Servant, or Senior Servant, or any such office.  Sometimes I wish we would call the preaching position, The Servant. It is not quite as elevated and distinguished in sound.  Second, we must understand what the word means.  It has no special or lofty hidden meaning that men get to enjoy this name individually.  A minister, all ministers, are servants, slaves and people in service.  Once we understand the word and humble ourselves before God, we will then all be ministers – and look to see no “Ministers” because they do not exist.  By Andy Burns

What Would the Spirit Look Like?… Joy, Galatians 5:22

And the one on whom seed was sown on the rocky places, this is the man who hears the word, and immediately receives it with joy; Matt 13:20  

The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in the field, which a man found and hid; and from joy over it he goes and sells all that he has, and buys that field. Matt 13:44

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! Phil. 4:4 

But the fruit of the Spirit is, JOYGalatians 5:22

      We are challenged by the concept of joy in the New Testament.  What is joy and what is the cause of joy?  The Greek word states simply that joy is gladness.  However, the challenge comes by the source of our joy.  What is the source of joy for you in your life?

1. Jesus expresses that a man finds a treasure and is filled with joy.  Jesus here is speaking of the gospel which a person may find, and through the gospel obtain salvation from Jesus.  This is joy! (Mat. 13:44-46)

2.  Paul speaks of joy that is based in the Lord.  Paul’s relationship with Jesus had progressed to the point that his joy did not contain roadblocks.  He rejoiced all the time…in the Lord (Phil. 4:4). We find him in Acts 16:25 praying and singing hymns of praise to God.  Paul’s joy was not based on circumstances, but in the Lord.

3.  Jesus experiences great joy by suffering and dying on the cross.  What was His joy actually based upon?  He was the source of man’s salvation.  This gave Him great joy (Heb. 12:2).  Our God is the supreme example of giving.  His giving gave Him joy.

4.  As bizarre as it comes to our ears, suffering for the Kingdom is a cause for joy.  Yes, this is true.  James tells us that trials and suffering are a cause for joy.  These items cause us to rely on Jesus for strength and the build our character with those items of James 1:2f.

5.  Can our joy be misplaced and come from wrong sources?  Yes.  Often times we receive a majority of our joy from the world.  When we receive our joy from the world only, we are in for a downfall and for disappointment. You may already be experiencing disappointment and simply not admitting it to yourself.   He who made us expresses that our joy truly and primarily is gained by being in Him.

     Where is the source of your joy?  Our source book (The Bible) tells us plainly and repetitively where it should be. Are you listening?  The fruit of the Spirit; an outgrowth of the Spirit is…joy. By Andy Burns

The Medicine of God

     Our life does have and will continue to have challenges.  We live in a world where there is one constant – and that is change.  However, there is one other Constant – and that is God.  The sons of Korah wrote a Psalm about our ever-present aid during challenges in life (Psalm 46). 

     This Psalm begins by describing God as a “refuge and strength…a very present help in trouble.”  How many times in your life do you need a “very present help in trouble.”    Even if we are not in actual need of it, there is a great comfort of knowing that it exists.  It is like our parents – we always knew they were/are there for us, even if we do not presently need them.

     This Psalm also describes the challenges and changes of life.  “Though the earth be removed, though the mountains be carried into the midst of the seas…”  The psalmist them claims, “There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God.  God is in the midst of her, she shall not be moved.”

     At the end of this Psalm we find not only the source of our medicine from the world and all its challenges, but also the action to take.  The statement is powerful, “Be still and know that I am God.  The Lord of hosts is with us, the God of Jacob is our refuge.”  What does this mean today?  God is our strength, not we ourselves! (Psa. 100)  The challenges of life may sore around us, the devil may make war around us daily…but we are God’s children and His church!  God is our very present help – TODAY – in times of trouble.  Be still and allow God to provide spiritual medicine for each challenge in your life – and turn them into victory.   By Andy Burns

A Tale of Two Men

     John teaches us, by inspiration, that the devil is the father of all lies, that he has been a liar since the beginning of time, he is the great deceiver and is a murderer (John 8:44; Rev. 12:9).  All of these attributes come from his basic nature as evil and rebellious toward God. How long has he been involved in leading man to sin?  Soon after the creation of the world and man, we find Satan immediately casting his influence on Adam and Eve.  He lied to them!

     One such other case is found in First Samuel, beginning in chapter 11.  Saul was made king of Israel by the worldly, selfish desires of the people (I Sam. 8:5).  They desired a king in order to be like all the other nations around them.  These were not God fearing nations.  Instead, these were heathen, God-rebelling nations who served themselves and gave no respect toward God.  How sad that God’s people desired to be like nations who did not know nor love God!  In chapter 15 Saul is given a commission by God to destroy a heathen nation.  Saul leads his people into battle – but does not fully obey God nor fully heed his commands regarding the battle.  His instructions were to “utterly destroy” all of Amalek’s possessions (men, women, child, infant, ox, sheep, camel and donkey).  Instead, Saul listened to the voice of the people (15:24) and, as a result, disobeyed God’s direct command.

     The direct result of this, as well as past actions, was the kingdom of Israel being taken from Saul.  God had rejected Saul as king because of his evil done before Him (15:26).  David is then anointed as king of Israel (16:13) and soon becomes the most popular person in Israel.  After his infamous victory over Goliath (17:37-50) David’s popularity began to increase with the people – and especially with Jonathan, Saul’s son (18:1,3).  This growing popularity, combined with Saul’s daughter who loved David (18:20) and all of Israel lauding David’s great deeds (18:7), fueled Saul’s hatred toward David.

     Here we find our tale of two men.  Saul was initially seen highly in the eyes of the people for his great stature (10:23,24).  Yet, the problem was their sight.  They looked only at the outward appearance – not at the inward person of the heart (13:14).  David was a man after God’s own heart – and revealed such throughout his walk with God.

     After his victory with Goliath, we begin to see the differences between David and Saul.  The tale of two men reveals divergent paths taken by men in the same setting.  One man follows the steps spoken of in James (1:13-15).  The other follows the road spoken of in Matthew (7:13,14).  Saul no doubt followed the world and its lusts for power, prestige and pride.  David followed the humble and meek path which leads to obedience before God.  On at least eight different occasions in just two chapters, Saul repeatedly tried to kill David.  This effort was not because David personally hurt or mistreated Saul, but because of Saul’s own jealousy and ungodly selfishness (18:11,17,21; 19:1,10,11,15)

    Saul only treated David in this way because David had humbled himself before God and obtained God’s great pleasure.  Saul had displeased God and lost the throne because of it.  Saul was no doubt being led by the spirit of the world (the devil) and not by the Creator of the world (Jehovah God).

     Who is leading your path today?  Will our tale be one of obedience before our Righteous God, or one of disobedience and pride before a sinful and wicked world leading to destruction?  Jesus came to give us life (Jn. 10:10).  Let us be faithful – unto death (Rev. 2:10)!          By  Andy Burns

Hesitating Between Two Opinioins

 

        It is not easy for people to stay by a belief they have unless they see evidence.  This, of course, is a good thing.  It should only be by evidence that a thing is believed.  God has given us His Word for just such a purpose.  Paul wrote in Romans 10:17 that “faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.”  We obtain our faith by God’s Word and by those things we see in His creation. (Rom. 1:20)   Yet, even with all the evidence the Israelites were privileged to see, they still were not loyal to God.  However, throughout scripture we read of men who are stern and consistent in their beliefs and remain faithful, no matter the situation.  Elijah is one of those men.  The Bible relates to us a series of events, peaking with a grand showing of God’s power and Elijah’s faith.  Ahab was one of the Kings of Israel who gave no heed to God’s laws or commands. (I Kgs. 16:33; 18:18)  He and Elijah meet in order for rain to replenish the earth again.  It had been many years since rain had fallen because Elijah prophesied such. (I Kgs 17:1)

        As Elijah and Ahab meet, Ahab blamed him for all the bad things which had happened to Israel, calling him a “troubler of Israel”.  However, Elijah knew the truth that Ahab has not been faithful to God, but had turned to Baal away from Jehovah.   Now, Elijah expresses in bold fashion his faith in God, and challenged the prophets of Baal and Asherah to a challenge.  Each was to make an altar and call on their gods to answer their call by fire, to consume the sacrifices. (18:23,24)  Of course, all who revere God know what happened.  It is as famous a story as Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the fiery furnace or Daniel and the lion’s den.  The prophets of Baal and Asherah called and called on their gods, but no answer was heard.  In fact they screamed and yelled for many hours. They cut themselves with swords and lances, but still nothing.  

     Then, Elijah called out to God, to let all know that “You are God in Israel.”  God, of course, consumed the altar, the water around the altar, and the sacrifice; all was consumed in a matter of seconds.  Immediately after, the people all fell on their faces and said, “The Lord, He is God;  the Lord He is God.”  You may ask, “How long did this loyalty last?”  Good question.   How long would you think?   You are right if you answered not very long.  Throughout the books of First and Second Kings, we see disobedience and lack of loyalty to God, regardless of His abundant blessings toward them.

         What about you and me….today?   How faithful are we?  Do we make excuses or do we stand confident and assured through God’s Word.  Elijah stood confident and assured.  He knew it was the power of God that kept the rain from the earth.  His faith in God (by God speaking to him) assured him to believe that God would be faithful.  And – God – was !!

         What has God done since?  He has sent His Son (John 3:16).  His Son gave Himself on a cruel cross for you and me (Roman 5:8).  He raised His Son from the dead, so that you and I could also be raised after immersion into water to walk in newness of life (Romans 1:4; 6:4).  He, through faithful men, wrote the Bible for us to read, learn, and pattern our lives after (Psa. 119:105; 2 Tim. 3:15-17; 2 Pet 1:3,20,21).  He enabled each person on the earth the opportunity to be added to the church through baptism (Acts 2:38,47).  As well, He established the church of His Son, the church which Christ said He would build (Matt. 16:18).  We have His Word with which we are commanded to fight false doctrine and given the knowledge, strength and wisdom to do so (Eph. 6:10f).  This and much more is what Christ and His Father has given to us.  We have every spiritual blessing in Christ Jesus as baptized believers (Eph. 1:4).   Does this cause us to seek people in order to teach them concerning salvation through the blood of Christ?  It should!  Do we serve the Lord, or the god of this world?  How long will we hesitate between two opinions?  Brethren, let us stand for Truth, hate ever wicked way…….and be strong in the Lord, and in His mighty power as did Elijah His prophet.         By Andy Burns

Losing Our Saltiness From Bad Leaven

     Since the beginning of time, God has blessed man with a great privilege – the privilege of choice.  Unfortunately, we do not always use this great blessing to be right in God’s eyes.  We allow – by our own choice – various things to influence how we think, talk and behave toward evil.

In a discussion with His disciples, Jesus told them to take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees (Matt. 16:6).  Luke’s inspired narrative states that this leaven was that of hypocrisy (Lk. 12:1) The Pharisees taught one thing, that of allegiance and holiness before God, and yet did not trust nor follow him with their hearts and minds.  For this reason, the disciples of Christ were warned to not follow the influence of the Pharisees. The teachings of the Pharisee made a person more shallow in their relationship to God.  This was their influence!

How often have you thought or even said, “Well, that activity I do has this or that which is not really good.  But I can handle it.  It does not really bother me as a Christian.”  We hear this about movies, music, people we may associate with, books and magazines we may read, etc.  If a movie has some language and/or violence, are we going to permit that leaven (influence) into our lives to hinder our growth toward God?  What kind of leaven are we allowing – by choice – into our minds to influence our walk everyday?  Are we losing our saltiness because of the bad influence?

When we say to ourselves and to others, “Well, it had some bad language and some violent scenes, but other than that, it was a good movie.”  At this point, who has won the battle?   Righteousness has not!  If we are going to allow the devil to influence us to call something filled with ungodly language and the deaths of people just for our amusement good, we have come a long way in the wrong direction.  Jesus told His disciples to watch and beware of the leaven or the influence of the Pharisees. Today, He warns us of the evil of an increasingly humanistic world in which less and less righteousness dwells.  Two thousand years ago, the Bible writers warned us of the devil.  John wrote that the devil was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the Truth because there is no Truth in him.  When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it (Jn. 8:44).  Be careful of what influences you.                       By Andy Burns