Bethel’s Daniel Fast – Halfway Home!

“So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised.”
(Hebrews 10:35-36)

Ten days into our churchwide Daniel Fast, the novelty has worn off. The cravings are coming back with a vengeance. Time for a little Q & A to inspire you to stay with it all the way through Palm Sunday, March 24th!

Below are some of the questions you’ve asked in recent days. I’ll start with a fascinating, totally frank exchange I had with one of our young women:

Q. “What’s the point of fasting?”

A. It’s denying your physical self in order to focus on the spiritual – your relationship with God.

Q. “But I feel like it’s having the opposite effect on me. It’s like all I think about is food. And every meal takes so much more thought and takes a lot longer to prepare. And I’m constantly exhausted. Like so tired I could sleep all day. And I have a blaring headache. It’s like it’s so much harder to focus on God and pray.”

A. That’s where overdoing it comes in.

“Since you died with Christ to the basic principles of this world, why, as though you still belonged to it, do you submit to its rules: ‘Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!’? These are all destined to perish with use, because they are based on human commands and teachings. Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence.”
(Colossians 2:20-23)

Q. “So what are you saying?”

A. When you experience the symptoms you’ve just shared, that’s a sign that you should probably choose a less harsh form of fasting. Make sacrifices…but not the kind that harm your focus on God.

Q. “Is it my fault that my body feels this way? Is it something that’s wrong with me?”

A. No! Each of us is different. Don’t blindly follow a plan created by some human being. Instead, read the Scriptures for yourself and come up with your own obedient approach.

(When I mentioned this discussion to my wife Judy, she said, “Sounds like she might have a touch of the flu that’s going around!” That makes a lot of sense. Leave it to my wise wife to put two and two together. ;-))

Here’s another question that came from one of our Bethel men:

Q: “Am I allowed to use sweetener that is made from fruit? It has no sugar.”

A. If you look at the 21-day Daniel passage, you see that there is in fact a lot of leeway given.

“At that time I, Daniel, mourned for three weeks. I ate no choice food; no meat or wine touched my lips; and I used no lotions at all until the three weeks were over.”
(Daniel 10:2-3)

No meat or wine is clear.  But then comes the phrase, “no choice food.” What that meant for Daniel would be dramatically different from what it means for us today.  Yes, there are a lot of people out there giving their opinion about what that means, but nobody really knows.  Don’t let somebody else’s interpretation of “choice food” put you in bondage. Once you talk this through with the LORD and determine what you believe He wants from you, let the above passage in Colossians 2:20-23 temper any judgment you may imagine might come from others.

For example, Judy and I are continuing to drink black coffee. It has brain-healthy benefits that we do not believe would be wise for us to give up. Having said that, we certainly support those who have decided they should go without caffeine. We are also continuing to drink our lunch each day – a protein concoction we mix up.  The mix contains 2 grams of sugar.  I wish it didn’t, but it does.  We still believe it’s best for us to continue with it.  Other than that, we are pretty closely following the guidelines on the sheet the church passed out.  So, if you find the fruit sweetener helps you stay on the rest of the Daniel Fast, go for it!  Some people are using a little honey, too – something I have absolutely no problem with – and neither does the LORD.

Frankly, our family has been having fun coming up with Daniel Fast recipes and trying them out.  We’ve also done a lot of text-whining back and forth when we hit tough parts during the day!  Actually, it’s been a wonderful bonding thing – something challenging we have in common. Misery loves company!  I’ve been posting on Facebook pictures of some of our attempts to follow the Daniel Fast, in hopes that it will encourage the same kind of bonding churchwide.  Here’s one of the pics I’ve posted.  It’s one of our favorite Daniel Fast desserts – whole wheat tortilla slathered with natural peanut butter, topped with banana and strawberries:

Daniel Fast Desert

The whole point of the Daniel Fast is to lower our obsession with food and raise our focus on God.  In the first few days of the “fast” (the so-called “Daniel Fast” is not really a fast.  It’s a diet change.  A fast means drinking only water and eating nothing) many of us have actually been obsessing on food far more!  But as our bodies adjust now, hopefully we’ll begin to enter a time when we can start to push our food concerns aside and let our vision be filled with God.

And finally, I share this question that came in from a wonderful Christian woman who is one of our most devoted volunteers.

Q. “This is kind of a loaded question so if you don’t have time to answer, it’s okay. This is the first time I’ve ever engaged in a long term fast. What exactly are the spiritual things you are supposed to be gaining? How does it make you closer to God? We’re reading the daily Lazaroo as a family and trying to see what God is doing through this but I’m not making a connection. All I’m feeling right now is a little more tired and a nasty headache. How do you approach a fast to get what you’re supposed to get out of it?”

A. (This Bethel member has been in counseling with my wife Judy, so she directed the question to her. I’ll share with you Judy’s reply):

judypic“I understand! We human beings tend to think that if we make some sacrifice for God it will produce an immediate noticeable benefit In our relationship with God. We are shocked to discover that initially, our sacrifice seems to have the opposite effect. The pain and discomfort we experience – along with the irritability – seem to hyperfocus us on the physical rather than the spiritual, creating the exact opposite result we anticipated.

“Worse yet, there’s no immediate gratification such as a candy bar or a few chips or a cookie to help us get over our frequent feelings of discontent through the day. So we feel a little panicky! But actually, this is exactly what fasting is supposed to accomplish: desperation! For most of us, as long as we are fat and sassy and well fed and experiencing no significant challenges in our lives, we are content to put God on the back burner. It is only when we get desperate that we break through into a deeper relationship with God.

“Fasting creates a self-imposed crisis. When we cry out to God in our discomfort, we peel away the layers of complacency and experience new levels of intimacy and connectivity with God.”

I couldn’t have said it better myself. Hope this helps, Bethel! Hang in there. If we persevere, the spiritual benefit is coming…and it will be well worth it.

“Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.”
(Matthew 16:24)

Ignite your prayer life! www.Lazaroo.com

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80 years and counting: We LOVE the Cross!

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If you find yourself driving on the near east side of Evansville, Indiana at night, you’re going to come to an inescapable conclusion:

The people of Bethel love the cross.

There it is, brightly lit, rising ten stories into the nighttime sky for all to see –

giving hope
taking a bold stand
defining our mission

pointing the people of our city, tri-state, nation and world to Jesus.

When we built our building, we asked the architect to break with the tradition that says all such structures should face the street. Instead, we asked him to shift the orientation of the building so it was facing southeast – toward Lawndale and Washington Square Mall.

Raising 4400 cross

We didn’t want the cross to face the street.
We wanted it face the people.

To everyone who wondered, “Why did they face their building at that angle?” we wanted to send a clear, Biblical message:

“The One Who hung on the cross
died for You.”

And then we did something else.

We designed a prayer garden at the very top – right under the cross.

Across the entire southeast wall of the Prayer Garden, we positioned huge windows facing out toward the hustle and bustle of humanity, so that everyone who stepped into that hallowed place could look out over the thousands of people below for whom Christ died…

and pray for them

at the foot of the cross.

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On a hill far away stood an old rugged cross,
The emblem of suff’ring and shame;
And I love that old cross where the dearest and best
For a world of lost sinners was slain.

So I’ll cherish the old rugged cross,
Till my trophies at last I lay down;
I will cling to the old rugged cross,
And exchange it some day for a crown.

– George Bennard

The Apostle Paul wrote:

“May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.”
(Galatians 6:14)

But in addition to this great truth, there’s another:

The symbol of the cross
must never replace the message of the cross.

Christians the world over are chagrined when we see a gold cross dangling on a gold chain from the neck of someone whose lifestyle desecrates the very meaning of the cross they wear. To them, the cross is nothing more than a quaint piece of jewelry, perhaps a good luck charm…just in case.

“Father, forgive them,” prayed Jesus as He hung in agony on the real cross – one fashioned not from gold, but of rough-hewn wood, “…for they know not what they do.”

But lest we adopt a holier-than-thou attitude, we Christians face our own challenge. Do you remember what happened to God’s people when they were in the desert?

“They traveled from Mount Hor along the route to the Red Sea, to go around Edom. But the people grew impatient on the way; they spoke against God and against Moses, and said, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the desert? There is no bread! There is no water! And we detest this miserable food!”

Then the LORD sent venomous snakes among them; they bit the people and many Israelites died. The people came to Moses and said, “We sinned when we spoke against the LORD and against you. Pray that the LORD will take the snakes away from us.” So Moses prayed for the people.

The LORD said to Moses, “Make a snake and put it up on a pole; anyone who is bitten can look at it and live.” So Moses made a bronze snake and put it up on a pole. Then when anyone was bitten by a snake and looked at the bronze snake, he lived.
(Numbers 21:4-9)

As you can imagine, God’s people grew quite fond of that snake on a pole. It had saved their lives! Did you ever wonder why God chose such an unexpected method to spare the lives of His people? So did I…until I came across Jesus’ own explanation more than 1,400 years later, which introduces the most famous verse in the Bible:

“Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life. For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
(John 3:14-16)

The snake on the pole was God’s Old Testament symbol of the cross! Understandably, the people in Moses’ day became as enamored with the symbol of the snake on the pole as we Christians have become with the symbol of the cross.

And therein lies the danger – for them and for us. Less than 700 years after that experience in the desert, God’s people were found worshiping the symbol…rather than the God who had used it to spare the lives of their ancestors. But God is a jealous God. He will not share His glory with an inanimate object! So He raised up the great King Hezekiah to make this truth crystal clear:

“He broke into pieces the bronze snake Moses had made, for up to that time the Israelites had been burning incense to it. (It was called Nehushtan.)”
(2 Kings 18:4)

Is it any wonder that today – 2,000 years after Jesus paid for our sins on the cross – many of His followers make the same mistake? If we are not careful, we can venerate the symbol of the cross…at the expense of the message of the cross!

In addition to the ten-story cross that stands atop our building, we reverently display crosses all throughout the buildings of our seven-acre campus. However, we understand that as precious as they are to us as believers, they are still mere symbols – and must never take precedence over the delivery of the message of the cross.

From time to time, therefore, we will move one of the scores of crosses within our campus from one wall to another…from one room to another…from one wing of our campus to another – whenever the effectiveness and increased impact of our proclamation of the message of the cross – in sermon, lesson, drama, video or song – demands it.

When we move one of our crosses – or replace it with some ministry tool – have we in any way desecrated the cross? Absolutely not! In fact, just the opposite. We have demonstrated to God, to one another and to every unbeliever who walks through our doors that we value the eternal message of the cross…over its inanimate, material symbol.

If the day ever comes when we value the symbol of the cross so highly that we are afraid to move one of our crosses – even when our proclamation of the message of the cross calls for it – we will have crossed the same line God’s people in Hezekiah’s day crossed: from respecting the symbol of the cross…to worshiping it.

God forbid.

May He never look down on us and utter the word, “Nehustan.”

Ignite your prayer life! www.Lazaroo.com

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Did the eleven apostles make a mistake?

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In those days Peter stood up among the believers (a group numbering about a hundred and twenty) and said, “Brothers, the Scripture had to be fulfilled which the Holy Spirit spoke long ago through the mouth of David concerning Judas, who served as guide for those who arrested Jesus—he was one of our number and shared in this ministry.”

(With the reward he got for his wickedness, Judas bought a field; there he fell headlong, his body burst open and all his intestines spilled out.   Everyone in Jerusalem heard about this, so they called that field in their language Akeldama, that is, Field of Blood.)

“For,” said Peter, “it is written in the book of Psalms,

“ ‘May his place be deserted; let there be no one to dwell in it,’

and, 

“ ‘May another take his place of leadership.’

“Therefore it is necessary to choose one of the men who have been with us the whole time the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from John’s baptism to the time when Jesus was taken up from us. For one of these must become a witness with us of his resurrection.”

So they proposed two men: Joseph called Barsabbas (also known as Justus) and Matthias. Then they prayed, “Lord, you know everyone’s heart. Show us which of these two you have chosen to take over this apostolic ministry, which Judas left to go where he belongs.” Then they cast lots, and the lot fell to Matthias; so he was added to the eleven apostles.” (Acts 1:15-26)

Q.  I may be misinterpreting this Bible passage, but I’ve always felt that the “eleven” pretty much missed the whole target in making this important decision (no big surprise since they jumped ahead of Jesus’ clear instructions to simply WAIT until they had “received power from on high”).  They wound up choosing someone whose name is never mentioned again while God chose an “outlier” named Saul who went from persecuting the Church to writing most of the New Testament, but never was accepted into the inner circle in the church at Jerusalem.

A.  I hear you!  For years, I wondered the same thing.  Lately, I’ve taken a fresh look at it – while not totally abandoning my earlier position.  I’ve begun to wonder if the decision of the Eleven was fine with God, since they obviously made it with utter sincerity of heart.  Then, too, there’s the clear statement of Jesus about the authority He entrusted to them:

“I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” (Matthew 16:18-19)

I can’t help wondering if we’ll hear a lot more about Matthias in heaven!

The other thought that gives me pause is the awareness that there were more than 12 apostles – Barnabas (Acts 14:14), Andronicus and Junias (Romans 16:7) and Jesus’ brother James (Galatians 1:19).  Counting Paul, that makes at least five more – and if Matthias’ selection was legitimate, that makes six!

How did they know those men were apostles?  Was it because of the signs that mark an apostle (2 Corinthians 12:12)?  I’ve often wondered if Peter Chun – one of Bethel’s missionaries – is an apostle.

All of this makes me wonder…whose name will be written on that 12th foundation of the New Jerusalem (Revelation 21:14)?  With full appreciation for the grace, mercy and forgiveness of God, I have a hard time imagining it will be Judas’ (John 6:70).  Will it be Matthias’?  Paul’s?  Someone we’ve never even heard about?

Tell you what – one day after you and I arrive (solely by the grace of God!) let’s all meet up there and take a look.

What do you say?!

Ignite your prayer life! www.Lazaroo.com

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TIM TEBOW’S UNFAIR ADVANTAGE

Tebow praying

The question I’m about to ask is a bit bigger than sports:

Is God helping Tim Tebow win?

Actually, I believe He is – but not for the reason Tim’s mom and most Tebow-lovers might suppose.

If my guess is right, they think God is helping Tebow’s NFL Denver Broncos pull off upset after stunning upset because Tim’s such a great, Christian guy.

I think they’re wrong – but it’s easy to understand why they believe that: Tim Tebow doesn’t cuss, drink, or smoke. He’s humble and treats everybody with respect. He routinely takes mission trips to third-world countries to serve the poor.

He likes to wear eye black that features John 3:16, along with his other favorite Bible verses. When he scores a touchdown, he points to the sky, to remind everyone that it’s God who gave him the ability to do that amazing thing he just did.

In spite of the fact that he’s a famous multi-millionaire with a chiseled body and rugged good looks, he’s a virgin. That’s right, a virgin. He’s doing what the Bible says and saving himself for marriage.

I could go on, but you get the gist of the Tebow fan club theory: “The Broncos are winning because God loves Tebow best!”

Sorry. That won’t fly.

As far as I can tell, Tebow’s everything they say he is, but they’re forgetting something: Tebow’s not alone. There are dozens of men in the NFL who love God just as much as Tebow does and faithfully follow the same Biblical principles Tebow lives by.

A few of those men play on the last five teams Tebow just beat.

It’s gotta be something else. And I think I know what it is.

Have you heard the football experts talk about Tim Tebow? Until recently, most of them appeared to be furious that he’s winning. I suspect they felt that way because the vast majority of coaches, former players and analysts predicted he wouldn’t be able to cut it. “Nice guy,” they said, “great athlete. But there’s no way he can come into this league and be an NFL quarterback.”

Why? Because the NFL has created a league that favors quarterbacks who can throw the ball with pinpoint accuracy. Think Green Bay’s Aaron Rogers, New England’s Tom Brady, Indianapolis’ Peyton Manning.

He’s getting better each week, but even so, Tebow can’t throw the ball like those guys. Tebow wins with his legs, his fierce competitive spirit, his ability to inspire everyone around him to play better than they thought they could.

“I’m absolutely baffled,” said ESPN analyst Ron Jaworski, the morning after watching Tebow pull off another of his improbable fourth quarter wins against the favored New York Jets.

Jaworski is a former NFL quarterback who took his Philadelphia Eagles all the way to the Super Bowl. His understanding of what it takes to play quarterback at the highest level is respected around the league.

“He’s not an NFL quarterback,” Jaworski flatly declared on ESPN’s Mike and Mike show the following Friday morning. “This can’t be sustained.”

Following Tebow’s latest come-from-behind defeat of the Minnesota Vikings – setting an NFL record for five straight wins on the road against favored competition and landing them in first place in the NFC West – Jaworski has since begun to change his tune. But at the time, his fellow analysts overwhelmingly agreed. In fact, when you listened to them sputtering and scoffing as they ticked off the long list of Tebow’s supposed inadequacies, it’s almost as though they were angry that Tebow kept doing the one thing professional quarterbacks are judged by: win.

Before he signed off, though, Jaworski grudgingly admitted one more thing about Tebow’s improbable string of victories: “It’s magical.”

Which brings us back to the question most of us are almost too nervous to ask: “Is God helping Tebow win?”

If He is – and if it’s not because He likes Tebow best – what is it?

As a pastor – and a guy who reads the Bible from cover to cover a half-dozen times or so each year – I think I may have stumbled across the answer: God doesn’t like prototypes – at least, not the way many of us think of them.

Have you ever noticed? The moment you watch somebody excel and think all you’ve got to do is clone their act to succeed…somebody comes along and changes the rules.

That Somebody may be God.

The NFL thinks it knows exactly what it takes for a quarterback to win in this league. So when college running quarterbacks like Texas’ Vince Young, Indiana’s Antwaan Randal El, or Virgina Tech’s Michael Vick make it to the pros, their coaches immediately try to remake them into pocket passers. If they can’t manage the switch, these former stars are either forced to play a different position…or forced out of football.

I think that ticks God off.

“See?” God says in the Bible, “I am doing a new thing.”

God makes each of us one-of-a-kind. He hates it when we hold up one person as the ideal and demand that everyone else become a copycat. The NFL is infamous for doing just that.

Whatever happened to the idea of shrewdly assessing the mix of people in your locker room, board room or staff and crafting a winning strategy around the unique gifts and talents of the people God has given you?

“What is that in your hand?” God asked Moses, when He prepared to send him to accomplish a seemingly impossible task (Exodus 4:2).

Even the decidedly unbiblical Virginia Woolf tipped her hat to this powerful truth – though she would have likely disdained the Scriptural source of its wisdom: “Arrange whatever pieces come your way.”

That appears to be what the Denver Broncos – albeit somewhat reluctantly – are attempting to do, with their one-of-a-kind quarterback Tim Tebow.

“Watch and learn,” God may be saying. “I’ve got lots of ways to win.”

Well, God, you’ve got our attention.

We’re watching.

________

Ignite your prayer life! www.Lazaroo.com

Ignite your prayer life! www.Lazaroo.com

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Is it okay to divorce your wife, if she has Alzheimer’s?

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Who am I to disagree with famous religious broadcaster Pat Robertson?

But I do.

Profoundly.

As a pastor entrusted with the responsibility of shepherding God’s flock, I cannot remain silent.

This past Tuesday, Robertson was asked by a 700 Club viewer what should be done about a friend who was dating another woman – although still married to his wife, who had Alzheimer’s.

Robertson told his worldwide audience:

“I hate Alzheimer’s. It is one of the most awful things because here is a loved one—this is the woman or man that you have loved for 20, 30, 40 years. And suddenly that person is gone. They’re gone. They are gone…I know it sounds cruel, but if he’s going to do something he should divorce her and start all over again. But to make sure she has custodial care and somebody looking after her.”

When asked by his co-host about a couples’ marriage vows to take care of one another, “for better or worse…in sickness and in health,” Robertson replied:

“If you respect that vow, you say ’til death do us part.’ This is a kind of death.”

When CBN was contacted by the news media the next day, a network spokesman said Robertson had no further comment.

I am heartbroken by Robertson’s response.

I can’t imagine his wife feels comforted by it, either.

But my greatest concern is for the millions of people who love, respect and revere Robinson as a man of God…and who may believe he is giving them Biblical advice.

He is not.

Here are the words of Jesus:

“It has been said, ‘Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a certificate of divorce.’ But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, causes her to become an adulteress, and anyone who marries the divorced woman commits adultery.”
(Matthew 5:31-32)

Is a wife who has Alzheimer’s guilty of “marital unfaithfulness?”

Absolutely not.

If either of them is guilty of marital unfaithfulness, it is the husband who deserts his wife precisely at the time when she needs him most – when she is utterly vulnerable and helpless.

So what could Pat Robertson possibly have been thinking?

At first glance, you might be tempted to suppose he was excusing this husband from his marriage vows because of how hard it is to care for an Alzheimer’s patient.

But that’s not quite it. Robertson didn’t go on to say it was okay to divorce your wife –

if she has cancer
if she has a bad attitude
if she has become an invalid –

all of which are heavy burdens to bear.

Instead, he said it was okay for a husband to divorce his wife –

if she has Alzheimer’s.

Why?

Because she’s “gone,” Robertson said.

But of course, she’s not.
She’s right there.
Needing him more than ever.

So what does he mean, “She’s gone?”

He’s referring to her mental condition.

He’s saying this husband can divorce his wife because she won’t know her husband has abandoned her for another woman.

And suddenly, this terrible advice doesn’t sound new at all.  It’s the exact same reasoning used by cheating husbands for thousands of years:

“What she doesn’t know won’t hurt her.”

Of course, that’s a lie.

Unfaithfulness in any form, for any reason, is devastating – even if the wronged person is unaware.

Though the wife doesn’t know, however…

there is One Who does.

God in heaven is watching.

And this is what that God declares:

“Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.”
(Galatians 6:7)

I wouldn’t give you a plugged nickel for the future of any relationship built on the quicksand of an abandoned Alzheimer’s spouse.

But we’ve spent enough time in this darkness.  Let’s step back into the light.

What of the man who faithfully stays at the side of his Alzheimer’s wife during this long, unimaginably difficult illness – all the way to the end?

You, Sir, are my hero.

The LORD promises to be your strength and sustain you each day during this terrible trial:

“He will keep you strong to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God, who has called you into fellowship with his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful.”
(1 Corinthians 1:8-9)

When you have passed your arduous test and one day stand before God, here are the words you can expect to hear from His lips:

“Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!.”’
(Matthew 25:21)

Ignite your prayer life! www.Lazaroo.com

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Is the day of my death already set?

 

“Show me, O LORD, my life’s end and the number of my days; let me know how fleeting is my life. You have made my days a mere handbreadth; the span of my years is as nothing before you.  Each man’s life is but a breath.”
(Psalms 39:4-5)

Q. Is the day of my death already determined?

A. Yes. And there’s not one thing you or I can do to change it.

”From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live.”
(Acts 17:26)

Q. But what if I exercise and eat right? Won’t that lengthen my life? All the health experts seem to think it will.

A. Certainly, you should take care of your body, which is the temple of the Holy Spirit. If you do, it may seem that you have added months and even years to your life.  But God knew in advance you would make this decision!  It won’t catch Him by surprise.  The reality is that He has capped the number of your days.  You can be in the peak of health…and get run over by a car.

“Man’s days are determined; you have decreed the number of his months and have set limits he cannot exceed.”
(Job 14:5)

Q. Wasn’t there a king in the Bible who successfully begged God for more time?

A. You’re referring to King Hezekiah.  When God warned him he was about to die, he wept, reminding God of how faithfully he had followed Him.  God sent Isaiah the prophet back to tell him He had just added 15 years to his life.2

So from Isaiah’s and Hezekiah’s human perspective, God changed His mind and gave Hezekiah another 5,460 days (give or take, based on the Jewish calendar).  Except that God doesn’t change His mind! God knows everything. He knew in advance that Hezekiah would beg Him for more time…and that He would grant it to him.  So the day of Hezekiah’s actual death was known to God all along.

“I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come.  I say: My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please.”
(Isaiah 46:10)

Q. So when did God set the day of my death?

A. Before you drew your first breath.

“All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.”
(Psalms 139:16)

Q. Isn’t this kind of depressing – knowing that with each passing day I’m getting closer to the end?

A. Not at all! It does each of us an enormous favor.  It relieves us from worrying about what we can’t change – counting our days – and focuses us instead on what truly matters:

making every day count.

“As long as it is day, we must do the work of him who sent me.  Night is coming, when no one can work.”
(John 9:4)

______________
11 Corinthians 6:19-20
22 Kings 20:1-11
31 Samuel 15:29
41 John 3:20

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Accusations against Rick Warren and Bill Hybels


 

“Blessed are you when men hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil because of the Son of Man.  Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven.  For that is how their fathers treated the prophets.”  (Luke 6:22-23)

Perhaps you have begun to hear rumors that Saddleback Pastor Rick Warren is embracing Chrislam, which is a blasphemous attempt by a tiny sect in Nigeria to marry Christianity and Islam:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chrislam.  Other rumors attempt to paint Willow Creek Senior Pastor Bill Hybels in a similarly dim light, claiming that he now accepts the Koran alongside the Bible.

These rumors are false.

A while back, Rick was invited to speak to a group of Muslims – not on matters of doctrine, but to try to bring some sort of sanity to this devastating jihad/war on terrorism that is gripping the world.

When Rick did so, he appealed to them to work together with Christians for common causes we can all embrace.  He urged them to remember that Jews, Christians and Muslims all trace our roots back to Abraham.  This is exactly the approach Paul used when appealing to the Greeks in Athens.  Before making his appeal, he first attempted to establish common ground:

“Paul then stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus and said: “Men of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: TO AN UNKNOWN GOD….As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’” (Acts 17:22-28)

Rick was NOT referring to a compromise of Biblical principles.  Instead, he was going to them as an ambassador of peace – without compromise.  This is a Biblical principle that committed Christians have practiced for years.  Through Paul, God commands us:

“If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” (Romans 12:18)

Here is one helpful, evenhanded, Christian response to these rumors that may be helpful to you:

http://www.p341.com/2011/06/my-response-to-pastor-rick-warren-being-labeled-a-chrislam/

It is important for us to keep in mind that when God raises up one of His servants to a place of prominence, there will be many – even among the so-called family of believers – who will attack them out of jealousy and satanically-inspired misunderstanding to try to bring them down.

We’ve seen this in our own time, as many so-called Christian leaders have attacked men of God like Billy Graham, Jerry Falwell, D. James Kennedy, Bill Hybels and James Dobson.

Along similar lines, some bloggers and religious leaders have ignorantly and irresponsibly maligned signers of Yale University’s open letter to Muslims (http://www.yale.edu/faith/acw/acw.htm).  This document isn’t perfect.  No document is.  If I had been asked to write it, I would have worded it differently.  I’m sure the same can be said by many of the Christian leaders who signed it.

The Yale letter is an attempt on the part of courageous Christian leaders to stop the madness of worldwide terrorism by pointing out the Biblical common ground that exists among Christians, Jews and Arabs as a basis for living together in peace, in spite of our irreconcilable theological differences.  The letter points out that since Jesus commands His followers to love their enemies, we have no choice but to figure out how to obey Christ’s command, without compromising our obedience to God and Scripture.

Instead of applauding their imperfect efforts to obey Scripture, many have risen up against their brothers and sisters in Christ by spreading half-truths and malicious rumors.  These long-suffering leaders can take at least some comfort in the fact that King David and Jesus suffered this kind of abuse from their fellow Jews.  Paul suffered it from both sides – fellow Jews and so-called fellow Christians:

“Alexander the metalworker did me a great deal of harm. The Lord will repay him for what he has done.  You too should be on your guard against him, because he strongly opposed our message. At my first defense, no one came to my support, but everyone deserted me. May it not be held against them. But the Lord stood at my side and gave me strength, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. And I was delivered from the lion’s mouth. The Lord will rescue me from every evil attack and will bring me safely to his heavenly kingdom. To him be glory for ever and ever. Amen.” (2 Timothy 4:14-18)

As Peter warns, we are right to expose those who pervert the gospel:

“These men are springs without water and mists driven by a storm. Blackest darkness is reserved for them. For they mouth empty, boastful words and, by appealing to the lustful desires of sinful human nature, they entice people who are just escaping from those who live in error. They promise them freedom, while they themselves are slaves of depravity—for a man is a slave to whatever has mastered him.” (2 Peter 2:17-19)

But our task is to exercise the Godly gift of discernment to be able to tell whom to expose…and whom to defend.

I don’t agree with everything Rick Warren, Bill Hybels and other evangelical leaders say and do.  I don’t agree with everything anybody says or does!  My closest friends and I have plenty of areas on which we respectfully disagree.

However, Rick Warren is my brother.  So is Bill Hybels.  In spite of their imperfections and occasional misjudgments, both men are faithful to God’s Word.  They are doing everything in their power to obey the LORD in everything they think, say and do.

Therefore, I will defend them against all attackers.

I hope you will, too.

Ignite your prayer life! www.Lazaroo.com

2 Responses to “Accusations against Rick Warren and Bill Hybels”


  • Wonderfully crafted response! Hope all is well Steve.

  • Thank you for this well stated response. I have had many to point out various accusations regarding Rick Warren and had not known what was the truth. This will help me with my response to others. What I have been saying is that what I do know is truth is this man’s Purpose Driven Life Book is what changed my life in recent years. It forced me to re-evaluate my life and see that I was not putting Christ first and myself second. For that alone I am indebted to Mr. Warren.

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End of the world?

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As of this writing, on Friday, May 20th, the end of the world is one day away – May 21st, 6pm, to be exact.  At least that’s what Family Radio Network’s Harold Camping says.

In stark contrast, here’s what Jesus says:

“No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.”  (Matthew 24:36)

So, no.

According to the Bible, Mr. Camping will be as wrong about this day and hour as he was back on September 6, 1994 – the last time he predicted the second coming of Christ would occur.

But make no mistake.  Mr. Camping is only half-wrong.  Jesus makes it crystal clear that one day He will return for those who have placed their faith in Him alone for their salvation:

“At that time the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and all the nations of the earth will mourn. They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory. And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other.

“Now learn this lesson from the fig tree: As soon as its twigs get tender and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near. Even so, when you see all these things, you know that it is near, right at the door. I tell you the truth, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.” (Matthew 24:30-35)

So why didn’t Jesus tell us exactly when He was going to return?  Because He doesn’t want us to wait to get our lives right five minutes before He shows up.

He wants us to get ready now – and stay ready.

So what do you and I do with this?

Let me share with you what I told the Fox News reporter who interviewed me a few minutes ago -

“If the least likely time for Christ’s return is tomorrow night at 6pm…what about the day after tomorrow?  Nobody will be expecting His return then.”

Then another thought occurred to me.

“Wouldn’t it be wild if thousands of people decided to get in another 24 hours of sinning just in case Jesus came back tomorrow…

“…and instead, He came back tonight?!”

If you’re reading this sometime later, you’ll already know the answer to that spur-of-the-moment thought.

But what you won’t know – and neither do I – is when that day will actually arrive.

The only thing we do know is this:

When it happens, it will be a shock:

As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man.  For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man.  Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left.

“Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come.  But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into.  So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him. (Matthew 24:37-44)

I don’t know about you, but that’s what I’m determined to be:

Ready.

Ignite your prayer life! www.Lazaroo.com

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My Last 2 Cents

2 cents

“As he looked up, Jesus saw the rich putting their gifts into the temple treasury.  He also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins.  ‘I tell you the truth,’ he said, ‘this poor widow has put in more than all the others.  All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.’”
(Luke 21:1-4)

Ten years from now, it’s entirely possible that we will look back at what God did in our hearts during those life-shocking, God-drenched worship services of May 15 and 18…and identify it as the time when this 78 year-old church was forever changed.

If you missed it, experience it here.

“These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation.  I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other!  So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth.”
(Revelation 3:14-16)

“Elijah went before the people and said, “How long will you waver between two opinions?”
(1 Kings 18:21)

“But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.”
(Joshua 24:15)

Ignite your prayer life! www.Lazaroo.com

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Bethel’s new High School Pastor!

Chuck and Ashley Elliott

Thanks to your hard work, trusting patience and the financial faithfulness of God’s people, it is our joy to announce that God has answered our prayers:

We have a new High School Pastor!

Chuck Elliott has accepted God’s call to join the Bethel staff as fulltime High School Pastor.

Those of you who know Chuck have to agree that God is definitely in this decision.  He had just received another promotion and raise with his current company, further advancing his fast track career.  But God had other plans.

If you’ve had the opportunity to serve alongside Chuck and Ashley, I know you’re thrilled with this news. Hopefully, the following information will help the rest of you get to know this great couple better.

Chuck and Caden

Charles “Chuck” Elliott is 28, an ordained minister with the Church of God. He has a B.A. in Psychology/Minor in Bible, from Lee University. His ministry internship was with North Cleveland Church of God, a 2,000+ attendance church that gave him opportunity to serve with children, youth, singles, married couples, nursing homes, evangelism, sports outreach, nursery and administration. He is currently working toward his Masters in Marriage and Family Therapy from Western Kentucky University.

Chuck has served in several churches as Youth Leader, also helping with middle school and small groups ministries. Shortly after coming to Bethel, he and his wife Ashley began volunteering in our High School ministry, until we asked them to launch our Young Adult Ministry, called “QuarterLife Connection.”

Several years ago, Chuck was hired by Ireland Home Based Services as a youth counselor. Among other services, IHBS provides in-home counseling services for at-risk youth.   For the past year, Chuck has served as supervisor/trainer and was recently promoted to one of the top ten leadership positions in this 200-employee company.   Since joining IHBS, he has helped launch several of their key programs and developed strong relationships with most of the schools in the Evansville-Vanderburgh School Corporation. He has a working connection with counselors in all of our local high schools. Chuck is experienced in handling the full gamut of youth-based crises, helping families return to normalcy, balance and health.

Ashley and Caden

Ashley Elliott
Chuck’s wife Ashley is 26. They have a year and-a-half old son, Caden. Ashley has a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology and a Masters degree in Mental Health Counseling. She has been a Christian School teacher and served as Adjunct Faculty Member at Oakland City University. She is currently teaching Psychology courses and serving as a faculty adviser at Ivy Tech, where she meets frequently with incoming high school seniors.

Ashley’s dad was his church’s youth leader for decades, which helps explain her love for and experience with high school students…and students’ love for her. During her graduate studies, she developed an abstinence education curriculum, which she and Chuck teamed up to teach to the local Boys and Girls Club.

At Castle Middle School and High School, Ashley leads a program called PEERS (Peers Educating and Encouraging Relationship Skills).  She screens, selects and trains dozens of students to present skits and teach abstinence to their school classmates.

Chuck and Ashley have spoken several times in our Sunday and WFW services and been warmly received by our congregation. They are great behind-the-scenes connectors, helping students and their parents feel welcomed, included and needed. Their rock-solid commitment to God’s Word coupled with their strong counseling background make them a God-send to Bethel…for such a time as this.

When you see them, I hope you’ll join our pastoral staff and me in giving them a warm, Bethel welcome!

Chuck, Ashley and Caden

“They have devoted themselves to the service of the saints. I urge you, brothers, to submit to such as these and to everyone who joins in the work, and labors at it.”
(1 Corinthians 16:15-16)

Ignite your prayer life! www.Lazaroo.com

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