Advertisements

Blog Archives

Three keys to the restoration process

LifeFromDeath

Article copyright by Bob Rogers.

When someone falls into sin, we often speak about repentance and a “restoration process.” But what should the restoration process look like? Having been through the process myself, I believe that it requires three things:

1. The restoration process requires a balance of grace and truth. See Psalm 85:10-11. This usually means counseling (strong on grace) and accountability (strong on truth). It is imperative that the fallen person have people pour both grace and truth into their lives very early in the restoration process.
2. The restoration process requires a “renewing of the mind” (Romans 12:2). This is the literal meaning of the Greek word for repentance, metanoia. There are three parts to this new way of thinking:
A. First, one learns to focus on praising God, which lifts from depression. See Psalm 42.
B. Second, one learns to forgive oneself. This usually takes time. C.S. Lewis said, “If God forgives us, we must forgive ourselves. Otherwise, it’s like setting up ourselves as a higher tribunal than Him.”
C. Third, one learns to reject living in the past. See Philippians 3:13-14. Frank Pollard says, “To dwell on past sins is to invite one of two things: thinking about it will lead you to sin again, or you will spend your time in self-destructive despair. God has placed our sins in the sea of His forgetfulness and has put up a sign: ‘No Fishing Here.’”
3. The restoration process requires activity. A fall into sin usually results in being cut off from an activity the person loved; the sinner is acutely conscious of what he or she can no longer do. Within a few weeks of the fall, they must become busy doing something good to replace the former activity; otherwise, they can fall from idleness to depression and worse sin. This is the replacement principle found in Matthew 12:43-45. For example, a fallen coach can volunteer to help Little League baseball, a fallen pastor can volunteer to teach the Bible at a prison. Charles Spurgeon said, “Sedentary habits have a tendency to despondency.”

The restoration process can reclaim fallen people to service. Just ask Moses, David, Peter and Paul! But it will take time and personal investment in their lives.

Advertisements

3 ways to avoid falling into sin

Shame

Article copyright by Bob Rogers.

When another minister or other public figure resigns in disgrace, many people ask, “Could that ever be me?” How can we avoid falling into sin ourselves?
As a sinner who has fallen and gotten back up again, let me share three ways to avoid falling:

1. Be warned of the seriousness of sin. Proverbs 5 vividly warns the foolish man of the trap of adultery. I encourage you to read that chapter regularly. There is an old saying, “Sin takes you farther than you want to go, it stays with you longer than you want it to stay, and it costs you more than you want to pay.” The devil gets up every day seeking someone to devour, so we must get up every day and put on the spiritual armor of God (See 1 Peter 5:8; Ephesians 6:11).
2. Be accountable and have a regular spiritual check-up. James 5:14 says to confess your sins to one another. I believe all Christians should have a fellow believer of the same gender whom they meet with from time to time for prayer and support, a person who will speak truth in love and ask him or her the honest, hard questions to keep them accountable. The analogy of Satan as the lion on the prowl to devour someone (1 Peter 5:8) should remind us that lions don’t attack a herd, or they will get stampeded. They attack an animal who has wandered off or left behind. Likewise, Satan attacks when you are alone. Stay accountable to fellow believers, so Satan won’t pounce!
3. Don’t rest on past laurels; you are either growing closer to Christ or drifting farther away. You are rarely standing still. David Jeremiah said, “Our spiritual fitness is just like our physical fitness; we cannot rely on yesterday’s workout to keep us strong today.”

A person can live in the hypocrisy of secret sin for a time, but it always ends in tragedy. Nathaniel Hawthorne said, “No man, for any period, can wear one face to himself and another to the multitude without finally getting bewildered as to which is the true one.” The three practices above can help you avoid that tragedy.

Top Ten Rewards of the Christian Life

crowns

“God…rewards those who seek Him.” – Hebrews 11:6b, HCSB

I like rewards.
I’m a member of the Holiday Inn Priority Club, and I like getting rewards for staying at the Holiday Inn. They give me a gift bag when I arrive. They let me check out late.  I earn points and occasionally get to stay one night free.
But no rewards program can compare with God’s rewards program. Yes, we’re saved by grace, not by good deeds. The greatest reward is our salvation and eternal life in heaven. However, God also grants amazing rewards for serving Him. Here’s my top ten:
1. Reward for good deeds. First Corinthians 3:11-15 says that Jesus is the foundation of salvation, but if anybody builds on that foundation, “he will receive a reward” (v. 14).
2. Reward for giving up sin. Moses gave up “the fleeting pleasures of sin” for Christ, “for he was looking to the reward” (Hebrews 11:24-26).
3. Reward for humility. Jesus repeatedly said that if we do our good deeds humbly and in secret, that “your Father who sees in secret will reward you” (Matthew 6:4, 6, 18).
4. Reward for generosity. Jesus said that if you invite the poor, crippled, lame and blind to dinner instead of your friends, family or rich neighbors, “you will be repaid at the resurrection” (Luke 14:12-14).
5. Reward for discipline. The apostle Paul said that athletes receive a temporary crown that fades away, but if we live a disciplined Christian life, we receive an “imperishable” crown (1 Corinthians 14:12-14).
6. Reward for service. Colossians 3:23-24 says that if you work heartily for the Lord, “you will receive the inheritance as your reward.”
7. Reward for enduring trials. The “crown of life” is mentioned twice in scripture (James 1:12; Revelation 2:10) for the one “who remains steadfast under trial.”
8. The prophet’s reward. The shepherd (pastor) of the flock of God is promised “the unfading crown of glory” (1 Peter 5:1-4). Jesus says this reward is also available to all, for “The one who receives a prophet because he is a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward” (Matthew 10:41).
9. Reward for looking forward to the Second Coming. “Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord… will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing” (2 Timothy 4:8).
10. Reward for leaving a legacy. Abraham, the father of faith, was told, “Fear not, Abram, I am your shield; your reward shall be very great.” Think of Abraham’s legacy of faith as Father of the Hebrew nation, ancestor of Jesus, and role model of faith for all people. There can be no greater reward than a legacy of faith that leads others to faith. There can be no greater reward than seeing others in heaven because we shared our faith with them on earth.
How about you? Are you in God’s reward program?

You can get into spiritual shape

muscles

Article Copyright 2017 by Bob Rogers

Once I met a guy in the gym who had muscles of steel. I was amazed when he told me that he used to be fat, until he decided to get into shape.
First Timothy 4:7-8 says, “Train yourself in godliness, for the training of the body has a limited benefit, but godliness is beneficial in every way, since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.” Many of us are spiritually fat. But just as my friend got physically fit, you can get into spiritual shape. Here’s how:

I. Put your heart into it.

Dotsie Bausch was riding a mountain bike one day when a group of competitive road cyclists flew past her. Dotsie chased them and stayed on their heels for two miles. That night, she told a friend, “This cycling thing, I’m actually pretty decent at it.” Four years later she was on the U.S. national cycling team. Her heart was all in. (Evan Miller, “Dotsie Bausch: Cycling,” Guideposts, July 2012, p. 47-49.)
Ezekiel 18:31. “Throw off all the transgressions you have committed, and get yourselves a new heart and a new spirit.” You must put your heart into it.

II. Remove hindrances.

In football, the offense has a big obstacle. It’s called the defense.
In the spiritual life, sinful obstacles block us, too.
Hebrews 12:1: “… let us lay aside every weight and the sin that so easily ensnares us, Let us run with endurance the race that lies before us.”
Choose to remove the hindrances to your spiritual life, especially sinful lifestyles that have been dragging you down. Do it!

III. Exercise your spirit daily.

There are two major types of exercise: cardiovascular exercise, also known as aerobic exercise, and strength training, which is usually by lifting weights. Healthy athletes have a balance of both. Likewise, you need a balance of spiritual exercises, often called the “spiritual disciplines.” These include Bible reading and prayer, but they also include meditation and memorization of scripture, service and stewardship, worship and witness. A healthy spiritual life develops from regular practice of these spiritual disciplines.
As the apostle Paul says in 1 Corinthians 9:26-27: “Therefore I do not run like one who runs aimlessly or box like one beating the air. Instead, I discipline my body and bring it under strict control, so that after preaching to others, I myself will not be disqualified.”

IV. Keep your eyes on the prize.

Hebrews 12:2 says, “Keeping our eyes on Jesus, the source and perfecter of our faith…”
In 2008, I was about 35 pounds overweight. I was breathing hard just walking to the second floor. My pants were too tight. I didn’t like how I looked. I made a decision to change, and put my heart into it. It was a lifestyle change, as I got serious about exercise, eating right, and sticking with it. Over a year, I took off the weight. Today, nine years later, I have maintained my lower weight and healthier lifestyle.
I had tried fad diets before, but I finally had success when I kept my focus on a goal and stuck with it.
In a much greater way, the same principle applies to your spiritual life.
How about you? Are you getting into spiritual shape? It’s got to start with a change of heart. Are you ready to begin the journey?

The wonder of the Christ child

BethlehemStable

Article copyright 2016 by Bob Rogers

Barbara Robinson writes in her book, The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, about a Sunday School Christmas pageant. One child heard from Isaiah 9:6 that the Christ child’s name would be “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” Wide-eyed, she responded, “He’d never get out of the first grade if he had to write all that.”
Perhaps we need to return to this familiar prophetic title with the same wonder of a child. We will see:

As Wonderful Counselor, Christ takes away our gloom.
As Mighty God, Christ takes away our doom.
As Everlasting Father, Christ adopts us all.
As Prince of Peace, Christ takes down the wall.

In the verses before Isaiah 9:6, we see how meaningful this really is…

I. Wonderful Counselor takes away our gloom

Isaiah 9:1 says “the gloom of the distressed will not be like that of the former times.” In this world, we often live in gloom and sorrow, but Christ takes it away. Our Wonderful Counselor listens with compassion, helps us see matters in a new light, confronts us with the truth, and guides us in the right way.

II. Mighty God takes away our doom

Isaiah 9:2 says, “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.” Because of our sin, we are living in the land of death, headed to a sinner’s hell. But the Christ child is more than a sweet baby; He is God in flesh, and able to save us from our sins by His sacrifice on the cross. He came to earth, so that we may go to heaven.

III. Everlasting Father adopts us all

Isaiah 9:4 speaks of the oppression and burdens of the people, who have no one to protect them. But God is a good Father, and His Son Jesus has come to adopt us all. When I say, “adopts us all,” I don’t mean to imply universal salvation; I’m speaking poetically of all who trust the blood of Christ, and then are adopted into God’s family, as if we were blood brothers and sisters. “I will not leave you as orphans,” Jesus promised in John 14:18.

IV. Prince of Peace takes down the wall

Isaiah 9:5 speaks of the blood of war, from which Christ came to bring peace. He takes down the wall of sin (Isaiah 59:2), so that nothing separates us from God (Romans 8:38-39). He takes down the wall that separates us from our brothers and sisters in Christ: “For He is our peace, who made both groups one and tore down the dividing wall of hostility” (Ephesians 2:14).

When missionary Don Richardson was trying to explain the gospel to a remote tribe, they could not understand the incarnation of God in flesh or the atonement of Christ upon the cross. But then he learned that when tribes wanted to make peace, they would exchange children to grow up in the other tribe. That was it! He explained that Jesus is our “Peace Child,” the Son of God, born as a Son of Man to make peace through His flesh.
Isaiah prophesied of the Messiah’s birth long ago. As you celebrate His birth, you can also be born again by faith (John 3:3). Have you?

The difference in success and failure

Copyright 2016 by Bob Rogers


Above are photographs of fans of the pro football team, the New Orleans Saints. One is a photo of Saints fans in 1980, when the Saints were consistent losers. The fans wore bags over their heads and called the team the “Aints.” The other photo was taken in 2009, when the Saints won the Super Bowl, and fans chanted, “Who dat? Who dat? Who dat say dey gonna beat dem Saints?” What a difference between the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat!
Scripture gives us a powerful example of the difference in success and failure in the story of Joshua and the Israelites in the first and second battle of Ai. After their great victory over Jericho, when the walls came tumbling down, The Book of Joshua, chapter 7, tells the story of how they went up to the small city of Ai with only a small army of 3,000 men, and were soundly defeated. When Joshua cried out to the Lord in prayer, the Lord told him that the entire nation was suffering the consequences of the sin of one man, Achan, who had hid for himself some of the loot from Jericho which was supposed to be sacred to the Lord.
Joshua and all of the Israelites took drastic action, destroying Achan and his family, and then went up a second time to fight Ai. The Book of Joshua, chapter 8, tells how this time, they involved the whole Army, and devised a battle tactic that tricked the men of Ai into chasing a small Hebrew army. When the men of Ai abandoned the city to pursue the Israelites, a larger Hebrew army of 30,000 attacked the city, burned it down, and then both armies attacked the men of Ai from both sides, catching them in the middle with nowhere to run. It was a total victory– all of Ai was destroyed. Afterwards, Joshua took the people to Mt. Gerizim and Ebal and read to them to law of Moses and had them repeat the blessings and curses that Moses had told them to repeat.
For many years, my father, U.S. Army Chaplain Robert H. Rogers, preached a message on this passage called, “The Difference in Success and Failure.” Here are some important lessons that this story teaches us about the difference in spiritual success and spiritual failure:

HOW TO FAIL SPIRITUALLY

1. Belittle the task God gives you. In Joshua 7:3 they said, “Don’t send all the people… since the people of Ai are so few…”
2. Leave God’s work to a few people. In Joshua 7:3 they said, “but send about 2,000 or 3,000 men to attack Ai… don’t wear out all our people there.” The attitude of spiritual defeat says, “I don’t need to share the gospel or minister; that’s what we pray the preacher to do.”
3. Rest on past laurels. Victory at Jericho did not guarantee victory at Ai. Just because you have experienced spiritual victories in the past does not guarantee victory in the future. Celebrate the past, but don’t linger there.
4. Do no more than necessary. They were lazy, trying to get by with minimum effort to conquer Ai. Spiritual losers are apathetic like that, lacking passion for the word of God.
5. Ignore the slide into sin. This is very important. Notice the gradual slide into sin in four steps. Achan confessed in Joshua 7:21: “I saw,” “I coveted,” “took,” “concealed.” First he saw the gold and silver, then he desired it, then he took it, and after he took it, he hid it. This is exactly what I did in major sin in my past. I saw something, then I desired it, then I acted on that desire, and then I tried to hide my sin. People rarely plan ahead to get addicted to drugs or commit adultery and embezzle funds. Instead, they fall slowly into temptation. We cannot ignore those early warning signs against sin.
6. Ignore sin in your midst. This final caution is one that we Americans struggle with, because America is highly individualistic. We red in Joshua 7:1, “The Israelites… were unfaithful… Achan… took some of what was set apart, and the LORD’s anger burned against the Israelites.” How is it that God held all of Israel accountable for one man’s sin? This is the Biblical concept of corporate sin. Because we tolerate sin in our midst, and turn a blind eye, we are all complicit. Don’t you think somebody saw Achan hid the loot in his tent? If we fail to address sin in our own families, our own churches, and our own nation, we we fail spiritually.

HOW TO SUCCEED SPIRITUALLY

1. Become deeply concerned. When they were defeated by Ai, Joshua 7:6 tells us how Joshua responded: “Then Joshua tore his clothes and fell before the ark of the LORD…” We, too, must become deeply concerned about sin and spiritual apathy.
2. Depend upon prayer. Joshua 7:7 tells us that Joshua expressed his concern by prayer. He didn’t run out and get the latest book on “10 Easy Steps to Church Growth.” Instead, he knew it required the hard step of humble prayer. This is a lesson he had to learn again, as we read in Joshua 9:14 that he and the Israelites failed to inquire of God in prayer in the matter of Gibeon, and they were deceived. We must depend on daily prayer to succeed in the daily spiritual battle against sin.
3. Remove sin from your midst. Joshua 7:10-11, 24-26 tells the graphic details of how they discovered that Achan was guilty, and they stoned Achan and his family to death in the valley of Achor. The judgment seems harsh to the modern reader, but it is a reminder that sin cannot be taken lightly. Jesus warned that if the right eye causes you to sin, to gouge it out, and if the right hand causes you to sin, cut it off (Matthew 5:29-30). Yes, the wages of sin is death– that’s the harsh reality of sin. But the good news is that the free gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ (Romans 6:23).
4. Follow Godly leadership. After facing the sin, it says in Joshua 8:3, “So Joshua and the whole military force set out…” Joshua chose to be obedient to God, and the people chose to follow his godly leadership.
5. Enlist everyone for God’s work. The word “all” is repeated frequently in these two chapters. Joshua 7:25 says, “all Israel stoned them…” Joshua 8:3 says, “the whole military force set out to attack Ai.” Joshua 8:11 says,“All those who were with him went up…” At the first battle of Ai, they sent a small army of 3,000 against a city of 12,000 and were defeated. At the second battle, they went over 30,000 to ambush the city from behind, while an army of 5,000 attacked and withdrew, then attacked again in a well-planned tactic to entrap Ai. This required the involvement of all of the people. Families and churches that involve everybody in the spiritual battle will win every time.
6. Re-commit to God. Joshua 8:30-35 tells how they went to Mt. Gerizim and Mt. Ebal and renewed their covenant with the Lord, to obey His laws. If we wish to see a lifestyle of continual spiritual victories in our own lives, we too must continually return to God’s Word and pledge ourselves anew to faithful obedience. The end result for them was the conquest of the Promised Land. What will it be for you and me?

Poem: “Pinned and Wriggling”

Copyright 2014 by Bob Rogers

“I am pinned and wriggling on the wall.” – T. S. Eliot, The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock

PrayJAlfredPrufrock

Oh! Beastly burdened groan

Piercing pain in my side

Blood dribbling from my mouth.

 

I shot the arrow and missed the mark

Boomerang cutting back at me

I am pinned and wriggling on the wall.

 

Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?

 

The incomprehensible creature comes

To pull our arrows out

But what will it be like?

I have grown accustomed to chopped flesh

No! I will keep my arrow

How else can I keep close contact with the wall?

X

X

X

X

X

(If you see a video ad below this post, please understand that I have no control over these ads, and that I do not necessarily endorse the product.)

What the greatest men in the Bible have in common

Copyright by Bob Rogers

Peter-weeping   If somebody asked you to name the five greatest men in the Bible, other than Jesus, who would you name?

Most people would name Abraham, Moses, David, Peter and Paul.

It occurred to me that there is something surprising that all five of them have in common: failure.

Yes, they all failed. Blew it. Messed up big time. Did things so bad that if we did them today, we might consider our lives destroyed, over, kaput.

Let’s review, class. First, we have Abraham. He agreed to the foolish request of his wife Sarah to make love to her servant Hagar and try to leave a legacy through the servant girl, since it seemed like God would never fulfill His promise for Abraham and Sarah to have a son. Major mistake. Caused all kinds of problems: jealousy, broken hearts, abandonment, and ultimately, hatred between the Arabs and the Jews. And it just gets worse after Abraham.

Next up is Moses. He gave us the Ten Commandments, but he was already guilty of what most of us would consider the worst violation of the commandments. He murdered an Egyptian and hid his body in the sand. When his crime was discovered, Moses ran for his life, and went from being an Egyptian prince to being a herdsman in the middle of nowhere.

Third, we have King David. He not only murdered a man named Uriah, but did so to cover up his adultery with Uriah’s wife, Bathsheba. When the prophet Nathan confronted him, he turned white as a sheet and could only weep and confess he was a sinner.

Turning to the pages of the New Testament, we come upon Simon Peter. He denied the Lord Jesus. Yeah. Even used profanity. When he was confronted, he went out and wept bitterly.

And last but not least, we have Saul, later known as Paul. He assisted in stoning to death the first Christian martyr, and then went all over Israel and even to Syria to drag Christians out of their homes by the hair and throw them in jail. When Paul was confronted, he went blind.

The fact that all five of the greatest men in the Bible failed so miserably gives me incredible hope and encouragement. Abraham went on to become the father of Isaac, and a nation, and is considered the father of faith. He was called the friend of God. Moses saw God face to face, and set his people free from slavery and gave us the Ten Commandments. David became the greatest king of Israel, the ancestor of the Messiah, and was known as a “man after God’s own heart.” Peter became the leader of the early church in Jerusalem, forgiven by Jesus and charged by Christ to “feed My sheep.” Paul became the greatest missionary and theologian of the early church, who was sent to take the gospel to the Gentiles, and wrote half of the New Testament.

Could it be that part of the reason for their success was their failure? Could it be that the experience of painfully facing their own weakness caused them to depend more completely on the power of God– perhaps more so than people who think that they have it all together and they could never fall? As Paul said, God’s “power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9).

Let that be a reminder to all of us who are burdened by our sinful past and who feel that our lives are failures. God uses broken people! As David wrote in his great prayer of repentance, “The sacrifice pleasing to God is a broken spirit. God, You will not despise a broken and humbled heart.” (Psalm 51:17).

So if your spirit is broken and your heart is humbled, if you feel that you can’t go on anymore, just open the pages of the Bible. From the Old Testament to the New Testament, God shows how He often accomplishes His greatest successes through people we would consider great failures. (And I didn’t even mention how God used the prostitute Rahab, the unwilling missionary Jonah, the bad girl Mary Magdalene, or tax collectors and cheats like Matthew and Zacchaeus.)

If God can use them, then need I state the obvious? He can also use you and me, if we will put ourselves into His hands, and trust Him.

X

X

X

X

(If you see a video ad below this post, please be aware that I have no control over these ads, and that I do not necessarily endorse the product.)

The Closet of Mirrors

Mirrors

Copyright 2014 by Bob Rogers

I was comfortable in a dark closet

Thinking dark thoughts

Doing dark deeds.

Then a brilliant burst of light revealed

That I’m in a closet of mirrors

I see my ugly, naked body everywhere

I cannot escape in any direction

Every wall is a mirror.

Outsiders can see me through the mirror

But I cannot see them

I wonder what they think and what they see

But I can only see me—

The one person I do not want to see.

I want to cover myself

But I have nothing.

I want to drive a nail through the mirror

But I have nothing.

I fall to my knees, curl into a tiny ball

Wailing, whining, whimpering.

Oh, God, kill me! I have nothing! I need you!

Ting…ping…ping…ting…

Softly a nail falls by my side, skipping on the glass

Then two…three…ten…fifty…a hundred…

Nails crash down, crack open

Cutting me — and covering me.

But now I have something

I have a covering—a covering of rusty nails.

And the mirror is broken at last.

x

x

x

(If you see a video ad below this post, please understand that I have no control over these ads, and that I do not necessarily endorse the product. If you see an inappropriate ad, you can email me at BobRogersThD@gmail.com.)

The cycling pastor eats humble pie

LongLeafPrentissToddBob Five years ago I started riding a mountain bike a few miles in the morning to work out at the YMCA. I figured with gasoline at $4.00 a gallon, I could pay for the bicycle in gas saved and be exercising while riding. Soon I was addicted to cycling, and started riding longer distances on Saturdays for fun. When I got up to nearly 20 miles, serious cyclists told me I should upgrade to a road bike, and I was blessed to receive one on permanent loan from a friend. Soon I was riding 30 and 40 miles on the weekends on the road bike, which is a lot easier and more fun to ride, with its light weight and narrow tires.
Then my brother, who lives in Louisiana, got into cycling. We decided that we would ride the 41-mile Longleaf Trace (near our parent’s home in Hattiesburg, Mississippi) over the Christmas holidays. Since I had been cycling a lot longer than Todd, I was sharing my expertise with him and comparing notes on Facebook and in phone calls. Soon he was riding 40 miles each weekend. I got up to 52 miles on my longest ride.

A couple of months before the ride, it dawned on me that my brother was going that distance on a mountain bike, while I was riding a road bike. I decided to be fair to him, I should also ride the slower, heavier mountain bike, and I started training again on my mountain bike. I had never been farther than 22 miles on a mountain bike. A couple of weeks before our ride, I got up to 35 miles on my mountain bike, and I thought I was going to die.
I should have seen what was coming, but my pride got in the way. On December 31, our Dad dropped us off in Prentiss at the beginning of the Longleaf Trace, with our mountain bikes. (That’s a picture of the two of us on this page, with Todd on the left, and me on the right.)

The idea was to ride in each other’s draft, taking turns leading one another. I led the first seven miles, with Todd right behind me in my draft. It was largely uphill, and then we took a break. I felt fine, but Todd said my pace seemed slow. He led the next 12 miles. Forget about staying in his draft, after about 5 miles, it was killing me to keep up with him. I had to make a decision: was I going to be in pain trying to keep up his pace, or just enjoy the ride? I decided to enjoy the ride and soon he was half a football field ahead of me, constantly looking back. After the next stop, I was feeling humiliated. I had to put the bicycle in a low gear to handle the slightest uphill slopes, while Todd started meandering on the path, over to the left and then to the right, just to slow himself down and keep from going over the horizon out of my view. Then he started telling me that he needed to reset his music on his mp3 player, and told me to go on ahead and he would catch up. Soon he was flying past me. I felt like the little engine that could, but I wasn’t so sure that I could. The last 10 miles were pure pain and determination. I think I saw a turtle pass me. After five hours and 41 miles on the trail, I finally crossed the line, muttering that I HATE mountain bikes. My brother was circling around the parking lot waiting for me, saying he could go another 5 miles. But I couldn’t be mad at him, because he was trying to be nice about it the whole time, thanking me for riding with him and saying how much fun we had. That evening he went out to a movie. I took ibuprofen and rubbed my sore thighs and knees at home.
The experience reminds me of the way we often see ourselves spiritually. We think we are really good people. We compare ourselves with others, and we look pretty good. But the Bible says, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) When we compare ourselves with God, He runs circles around us, and leaves us in the dust. It’s an humbling realization, but an important lesson for us to learn.
That long ride on mountain bikes with my brother taught me that I’m not nearly as great a cyclist as I think I am, and also encouraged me to keep on training. Getting a glimpse of God’s glory should teach us a similar lesson: we aren’t nearly as holy and good as we think we are, but we have a loving God who is waiting on us up ahead, accepting us for who we are encouraging us to do better.
However, there is also a difference. My brother can do nothing to help me, except give encouragement. My God can give me power to do what I cannot do myself. “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13)
I’m looking forward to the ride with God in 2013.

UPDATE: When I got back to Georgia, I noticed that my rear tire was lose and rubbing against the rim, so I took it to my bike repairman. He said the bearings were shot, and he said, “I don’t know how you even finished 41 miles with a wheel in that bad shape.” Soooooo…. maybe, just maybe, I wasn’t in as bad a shape as I thought! Looks like I need to challenge Todd to another ride on the Longleaf Trace!

The big preacher who made a grand entrance

Copyright 2012 by Bob Rogers

A large church had a rather large guest preacher one Sunday who made a grand entrance like none other.
The congregation had just heard a concert by a gospel band. The big preacher had been sitting behind the stage, enjoying the music. The music was over, and it was time for him to preach.
Since he was sitting behind the stage, the preacher had to step over wires and chords running to the keyboard, electric guitars and speakers that were used by the band. Unfortunately, as he made his way to the pulpit, his foot caught in one of the wires.
As he lost his balance, the portly preacher stumbled, but did not fall. Almost in slow motion, the preacher prevailed and sailed across the stage, maintaining enough balance to keep from falling, but not enough balance to straighten up. With arms flailing, he finally made it to the edge of the stage, and landed his large frame with a thud upon the keyboard, arms hanging over the keys. A discordant sound of many notes played at once as he landed, sounding even louder against the hushed silence of the congregation.
Slowly raising his head, the preacher looked up at the two thousand worshipers and said, “I have fallen for this church.” By the time they had finished laughing, he had regained his dignity, gained their attention, and began his sermon.
Proverbs 16:18 says, “Pride comes before destruction, and an arrogant spirit before a fall.” However, it also says, “Whoever humbles himself will be exalted” (Matthew 23:12), and “Though he falls, he will not be overwhelmed, because the Lord holds his hand” (Psalm 37:24).
So like my fellow preacher who so conspicuously fell, don’t think it can’t happen to you or me. But if does happen to one of us, let’s learn from that preacher. Even if you are lying flat on your face in front of thousands of people, if you will humble yourself, God stands ready to lift you up.

What the Bible Says about Homosexuality May Surprise You

Copyright 2012 by Bob Rogers

Does the Bible encourage hatred toward homosexuals? Much of the problem people have with the Bible on this issue is not what the Bible says, but what people think it says. What the Bible says about homosexuality may surprise you.

I. Homosexuality is not the worst sin

While homosexuality is sin, the Bible does not say it is the worst sin. For some reason, many Christians and churches act as if the sin of homosexuality is the one sin that cannot be forgiven. But the Bible simply lists it along with many other sins. For example, 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 lists these sins: “No sexually immoral people, idolaters, adulterers, or anyone practicing homosexuality, no thieves, greedy people, drunkards, verbally abusive people, or swindlers will inherit God’s kingdom.”

Homosexuality is just one of many sins in this list, right alongside thieves, greedy people, drunkards and verbally abusive people, etc. If you cheat on your income taxes, you are just as much a sinner as a homosexual. If you have a drinking problem, you are just as much a sinner as a homosexual. If you yell and scream at your family all the time, you are just as much a sinner as a homosexual.

Don’t misunderstand me. I’m not denying that homosexuality is a sin. The Bible is very clear on that. From the sin of Sodom and Gomorrah in Genesis 19 to the law against sex with the same sex in Leviticus 18:22, to Jesus’ affirmation that sex is supposed to be between a man and a woman in Matthew 19:4-6, to Paul’s lengthy passage in Romans 1:24-27 about how unnatural it is for men to be with men and women with women, as well as 1 Corinthians 6:9 and 1 Timothy 1:10, it is clear that the Bible says homosexuality is a sin.

However, nowhere does the Bible say that homosexuality is the worst sin or the unpardonable sin.

If there is any sin that can be called the worst, it would be blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, which is a denial of the Spirit’s call to follow Christ, according to Mark 3:29-30.

II. Homosexual feelings are not sinful

Many people with homosexual attractions have felt excluded from the church, instead of helped by the church. But the Bible does not say homosexual feelings are sinful. Feelings are feelings. The sin is in how we act on those feelings. For example, Psalm 4:4 says, “Be angry and do not sin.” Ephesians 4:26 quotes this psalm, again saying, “Be angry and do not sin.” The sin is not the feeling of anger, the sin is what you do with the feeling. Likewise, if a person has homosexual urges and feelings, but decides to abstain from homosexual acts, he has not sinned.

Notice at the end of 1 Corinthians 6:9, it names the sin this way: “anyone practicing homosexuality.” It does not say “anyone with homosexual feelings.” The original Greek refers specifically to partners in the act of homosexual behavior.

This is a very important distinction that has often been overlooked in conservative, Bible-believing churches today. Missing this point has caused many people who struggle with homosexual attractions to assume that they cannot come to faith in Christ. If you are struggling with same-sex attractions right now, please hear me. You can come to Christ. All of us must come to Christ just as we are, and allow God to make us into what He wants us to be.

Conversion to Christ does not mean that homosexual urges will immediately vanish, any more than other immoral sexual urges will vanish when a heterosexual is converted, but it does mean that the homosexual, just like the heterosexual, is called to abstain from sexual relations that are not between a man and a woman married to one another.

III. Homosexuals can change!

Our culture constantly says that homosexuals are born that way. They say that the homosexual did not choose to be that way. They say that it is simply genetic. Is that really true? If all homosexuals were born that way, then shouldn’t nearly all identical twins have the same sexual orientation, since they have the same genetic makeup? Yet research shows that only about half of the time when homosexuals have an identical twin is that twin also homosexual (exodus-international.org/exodus_faqs.shtml).

First Corinthians 6:9-11 lists “practicing homosexuality” as one of the sins that do not inherit the kingdom of God. But the passage also says that homosexuals can change. Notice that verse 11 says, “And some of you used to be like this. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” Did you hear that? Paul said, “Some of you used to be like this.” But they had changed! Some of them used to be thieves, but they stopped stealing. Some of them used to be verbally abusive, but they quit yelling at their wives. And some of them used to engage in homosexual acts, but they stopped!

A female Christian counselor I know in Macon, Georgia, shared with me how she talked to a young lady recently who was struggling with same-sex attractions, and the counselor saw God completely and radically transform her. Asked how this happened, the counselor simply said, “by taking her by the hand and walking her to the Redeemer.”

A male Christian counselor I know in the Florida panhandle told me that he has counseled many homosexual men, and he begins by letting them know that he loves them, not in a sexual way, but just wants them to know that he loves them. He says many of them have never had an appropriate love shown to them by a father or another man. He helps them see that our Heavenly Father loves them, and can change them, and he often sees men break down and weep in his office, desiring a change.

If you would like help with same-sex attractions, visit the website of the Restored Hope Network: http://www.restoredhopenetwork.org/.

I knew a man who lost his job and lost his family because he was caught in a homosexual act. He was a believer in Jesus Christ, but he struggled with the gay lifestyle. We had a mutual friend who referred him to me, not so much for counseling as for accountability. He wanted to change, but he needed a healthy relationship with a male friend to encourage him in that direction. So we would meet for breakfast or lunch, and talk, and talk on the phone sometimes. It was hard for him, because he found that the people who accepted him the most were homosexuals, when he needed Christians to accept him and help him to change! Although it was hard, he managed to abstain from the gay lifestyle, got another job, and began to rebuild his life. When he got a better job that required him to move out of state, he brought me a plaque with a rope on it, and said, “Thanks for being there for me when I was at the end of my rope.”

If you are at the end of your rope, the Bible has good news for you. Hang on. Jesus is ready to help you when you are at the end of your rope, if you will trust your life to Him.

 

If you see a video ad below this post, please be aware that I have no control over what ads show up, and that I do not necessarily endorse the product.

Good Friday, day of sacrifice

Copyright 2012 by Bob Rogers

On Friday of Holy Week, Jesus was crucified for our sins. The crowd cried “Crucify Him!” and so Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor, did exactly that. They flogged Him, mocked Him, beat Him, and crucified Him. Mark records six times that Jesus was mocked: once by the Sanhedrin (14:65), twice by the Roman soldiers (15:18, 20), by those who passed by (15:29), by the religious leaders (15:31), and by the criminals crucified with Him (15:32). Six is the number of evil in the Bible. But Jesus overcame evil by his sacrifice on the cross. Luke records that Jesus asked the Father to forgive them, and one of the criminals was apparently so moved by Christ’s forgiveness that he became repentant (Luke 23:39-43). John records that as He died, Jesus said, “It is finished!” (John 19:30) Jesus paid the price for sin and won the victory over evil. When he saw how Jesus died, the Roman centurion declared, “Surely this man was the Son of God!” (Mark 15:39)
While Good Friday inspires us to live sacrificial lives, our primary response is one of faith. By sacrificing Himself for our sin, Jesus did what none of us can do for ourselves, and no religion can do for us. It’s no longer about religion; it’s about a relationship based on faith in Jesus Christ’s sacrifice for our sin. We can’t pay for our sins; we must trust in the payment already made by Jesus upon the cross.
British preacher Dick Lucas recounted an imaginary conversation between an early Christian and her neighbor in Rome.
“Ah,” the neighbor says. “I hear you are religious! Great! Religion is a good thing. Where is your temple?”
“We don’t have a temple,” replies the Christian. “Jesus is our temple.”
“No temple? But where do your priests work and do their rituals?”
“We don’t have priests to mediate the presence of God,” replies the Christian. “Jesus is our priest.”
“No priests? But where do you offer your sacrifices to acquire the favor of your God?”
“We don’t need a sacrifice,” replies the Christian. “Jesus is our sacrifice.”
“What kind of religion is this?” sputters the pagan neighbor.
And the answer is, it’s no kind of religion at all. (Timothy Keller, King’s Cross, p. 45-46)
Friday, the day of sacrifice, teaches us to believe in Jesus to find forgiveness and eternal life.

Why Jesus Is Dangerous

Copyright 2012 by Bob Rogers

Jesus is dangerous.

He is so dangerous that we read in Mark 3:6 that the Pharisees and the Herodians, who were total opposites and enemies of one another, plotted together to get rid of Him.

Of course, that a long time ago. Jesus is pretty harmless today, isn’t He? No, He’s not! Not the real Jesus. The real Jesus is more dangerous today than He was two thousand years ago.

As the Gospel of Mark tells his stories of Jesus in chapters 2-4, we see exactly why Jesus is dangerous.

I. Because He upsets our social status (Mark 2:17)

One of the most popular movies in 2011 was The Help. It is historical fiction, based on the novel by Kathryn Stockett. Set in Jackson, Mississippi, in the early 1960’s, it tells about life when black women worked as maids for white women all over the South, and were often treated as less than human. The help were never allowed to sit at the same table or even use the same restrooms as their employers. Yet the maids were the ones who actually brought up the white children. One of the maids repeatedly tells a little white girl who is neglected by her mother, “You is kind, you is smart, and you is important.” Even though the maid was being treated as unimportant herself, she reminds the little girl that she has value.

Jesus upset the social taboos of His own day when he went to eat dinner at the house of a tax collector named Levi. We read in Mark 3:15: “While He was reclining at the table in Levi’s house, many tax collectors and sinners were also guests with Jesus and His disciples… When the scribes and Pharisees saw that He was eating with sinners and tax collectors, they asked His disciples, ‘Why does He eat with tax collectors and sinners?’”

Notice that the same phrase is repeated three times: “tax collectors and sinners.” When they used the word “sinners,” they were using it as a technical term. This was a category of people. “Sinners” were people who failed to follow the religious law. Pharisees said the word with disgust in their voices. And nobody liked tax collectors, because they cheated people and worked for a foreign government.

Yet Jesus was eating with “those people.” The Pharisees tried to pressure Him to stop. The Old Testament law said to keep oneself pure. How could Jesus associate with such people?

Jesus said in verse 17: “Those who are well don’t need a doctor, but the sick do need one. I didn’t come to call the righteous, but sinners.” Today, that would be like saying, “I came to call prostitutes, not Sunday School teachers.”

Do you see why Jesus is dangerous? Why, if we acted like Him, we might have to go down to Savannah and love on homeless people. If we acted like Him, we might have to go out in the streets of Rincon and hand out food to people, and tell them, “You is important—to God.” This gets way outside our comfort zone. Dangerous stuff.

II. Because He replaces our religion (Mark 2:27-28)

Later in chapter two, Mark says that Jesus makes a shocking statement about the Sabbath, showing Jesus replaces our religion.

The Fourth Commandment says to keep the Sabbath Day holy (Exodus 20:8-11), because God rested on the seventh day of creation. The word Sabbath means “rest.” The Sabbath was very unique to Jews. No other religion had a day of rest like the Jews, and keeping the Sabbath set them apart from all other people. We need Sabbath rest today. With the craziness of our busy lives, we could all benefit from times of rest, worship, and reflection. But over the years, the Jewish rabbis had made up hundreds of rules about how to not work on the Sabbath. The rabbis had rules about how far you could walk before it was considered work, and how much you could harvest or cook before it was considered work. Their rules went to ridiculous extremes. So Mark 2:23 says that Jesus disciples picked some heads of grain on the Sabbath and ate it, and the Pharisees cried foul. “You can’t do that! That’s working on the Sabbath! You harvested wheat!”

Jesus replied, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” This statement in verse 27 is only found in the Gospel of Mark. The Sabbath was supposed to help people rest, not to be a burden to them. But it had become a rat race. Lily Tomlin said the trouble with the rat race is that even if you win, you are still a rat. (David E. Garland, The NIV Application Commentary: Mark, p. 124)

Unfortunately, religion often becomes an end in itself. People think if they keep all the religious rules, they are right with God. Jesus upsets the apple cart, and says it’s not about religion. Then He goes even farther, and claims that He Himself has authority to change it all, as He says in v. 28, “So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.” Remember, “Son of Man” is Jesus’ term for Himself. So Jesus is saying, “It’s not about religious rules. It’s about a relationship with Me.”

Do you see why Jesus is dangerous? If this kind of teaching gets out, people will think they don’t have to keep the religious rules. They might run wild! They might think they can work on Sunday and who knows what else they might do.

III. Because He passes over our politics (Mark 3:6)

We are in the middle of a presidential election. Later this fall, the Republicans and Democrats will be fighting it out. In Jesus’ day, they had political parties, as well. The Pharisees were the defenders of traditional values. They stood for the nation of Israel, independent from Rome. The Herodians were the supports of Herod the Great and his family who ruled after him. King Herod were under the authority of the Romans and supported the empire.

In Mark 3:1-5, what Jesus said about religion turned political. It was against their rules to heal on the Sabbath, but Jesus asked whether it was lawful to do good or evil on the Sabbath, and then He went ahead and healed the man. That was more than the Pharisees could take. So they went out and made an alliance with their political arch-enemies, the Herodians. Read it in Mark 3:6: “Then the Pharisees went out and began to plot with the Herodians how they might kill Jesus.”

Wow! Jesus was considered so dangerous, that it could bring the Republicans and the Democrats together for a joint session and a unanimous vote. Kill Him!

No political party has a monopoly on Jesus Christ. Politicians should not think they can press a certain hot button and have the evangelical vote. Christianity cannot be contained as a wing of a certain party and told to behave and sit down. When the Republicans are wrong on an issue, Christians must speak out, and when the Democrats are wrong on an issue, we must speak out. We must pray for our president, but our ultimate loyalty is not to him. Our ultimate loyalty is to Jesus Christ, not a government. Jesus is Lord over the Sabbath, and He is also Lord over all political alliances. Christ passes over politics.

That’s dangerous talk. People might think they don’t have to obey the government if we keep talking like that. Didn’t the early disciples say to their government, “We must obey God rather than men!” (Acts 5:29). Jesus is dangerous.

IV. Because He scares us about our sin (Mark 3:28-30)

Jesus said something in Mark 3:28 that may be the most dangerous thing we have read yet. He said, “I tell you the truth, all the sins and blasphemies of men will be forgiven them. But whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; he is guilty of an eternal sin.”

Wow! The unpardonable sin. That is a frightening thought, that we could commit an eternal sin that could never be forgiven. We read about it again in 1 John 5:16: “There is a sin that leads to death.”

There have been all kinds of speculation about what is the unpardonable sin. Many people think it is murder or rape or child molestation. Some churches teach that suicide is unpardonable, since it is self-murder and there is no opportunity to repent afterwards. But according to Mark 3, none of these are the unpardonable sin.

Look at the context of Jesus’ words. The Jewish religious leaders took another pot-shot at Jesus in Mark 3:22. They said the reason he had driven out demons was that Jesus was demon-possessed Himself. “By the prince of demons he is driving out demons,” they said. It was in response to being accused of being a demon that Jesus said that blasphemy against the Holy Spirit cannot be forgiven. Then just to make it clear this applied to the words of the religious leaders, read Mark’s comment in verse 30: “He said this because they were saying, ‘He has an evil spirit.’”

Thus, they committed blasphemy against the Holy Spirit because they said Jesus had an evil spirit. Clearly, the unpardonable sin is rejection of Jesus Christ.

That scares us. This goes completely against politically correct thinking. This means murderers and rapists and child molesters can be forgiven. It means a person can be forgiven of suicide. It also means that a law-abiding citizen who rejects Jesus Christ will not be forgiven and will go straight to hell. How narrow-minded is that? The world thinks we’re crazy with that kind of thinking, but that’s what Jesus says.

We would like to think that we can handle our own sin. We think as long as we’re not murders or something we don’t need to worry about our sin. But Jesus says we can’t handle it without Him. Without Him we’re hopelessly lost. Dangerous stuff.

V. Because He petrifies us with His power (Mark 4:41)

Yet there is one more reason that Jesus is dangerous. In Mark 4:36 we read that Jesus and his disciples got in a boat on the Sea of Galilee. The Sea of Galilee is 700 feet below sea level, and is surrounded by mountains. Mt. Hermon, located only 30 miles north of the sea, is 9,200 feet high. The cold air rushing down from the mountains hitting the warm air coming up from the water can turn into a sudden storm, and that is what happened to Jesus and His disciples that day.

Mark 4:37 calls it a “furious squall” that nearly swamped their boat. But verse 38 says Jesus was at the stern, sleeping on a cushion.

But what happened next was even more amazing. Jesus got up, rebuked the wind and waves, and said, “’Quiet! Be still!’ Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.”

You know what most Sunday School classes do with this story? They spiritualize it. The teacher says, “Jesus calmed the storm.” Then the teacher looks around the room and says, “What storm are you going through?” Then people talk about Jesus helping them through their problems. But this is not a story about Jesus making us comfortable when our problems make us uncomfortable. This is a story that says with Jesus, we’ve got an even bigger problem.

When the storm started, the disciples were afraid. Jesus even asked them in verse 40, “Why are you so afraid?” But when Jesus showed His power to still the storm, verse 41 says they were “terrified.”

There is a story of King Canute, the King of Denmark in the eleventh century. His courtiers were flattering him excessively, and he said, “Am I divine?” He walked to the seashore and said, “Stop,” but the ocean waves kept coming in. What he was saying was, “Only God can stop the sea, and I’m not God.” (Timothy Keller, King’s Cross, p. 50).

If Jesus is Lord over the storm, He’s Lord over everything. We can’t tuck Him away during the week and pull Him out on Sunday. He won’t stay tucked away. He is Lord over our social relationships and Lord over our religious rules and Lord over our politics. But He is much more! He is Lord over our eternal destiny and able to pardon us forever to Heaven or sentence us forever to an eternity in Hell for rejecting Him, because He is Lord over all.

The storm had a power they could not control, and Jesus had infinitely more power, and they had less control over Him. That’s dangerous. No wonder they were terrified. But here’s the difference. A storm doesn’t love you, but Jesus does.

A storm is indifferent; if you are in the path of the wind, you get blown away. But if you are in the path of the untamed love of Jesus, you are filled with His protection and care. A storm doesn’t love you, but Jesus does.

Likewise, social rules and social taboos don’t care about you. If you don’t fit in with the right crowd, then tough luck. But Jesus cares about you and accepts you; He will break the social barriers to get to you and love you.

Religion doesn’t care about you. If you don’t fit into the rules, you’re out. Religion doesn’t love you, but Jesus does. He didn’t design the Sabbath to burden you; He designed it to give you rest in His grace. He said, “Come to me, and I will give you rest.”

Political parties and political machines don’t care about you. When they don’t need you, they will discard you. Political parties don’t love you, but Jesus does. Make Jesus your resident president and you will never have to fear the unpardonable sin. In fact, you will be pardoned, forever.

Timothy Keller says that if the disciples had really understood that Jesus was both powerful and loving, they would not have been scared. They thought if Jesus loved them He wouldn’t let bad things happen to them. They were wrong. He can love somebody and still let bad things happen to them, because He is God, and He knows better than they do.

Keller says, “If you have a God great enough and powerful enough to be mad at because he doesn’t stop your suffering, you also have a God who’s great enough and powerful enough to be have reasons that you can’t understand…. If you’re at the mercy of the storm, its power is unmanageable and it doesn’t love you. The only place you’re safe is in the will of God.” (Timothy Keller, King’s Cross, p. 52)

Yes, Jesus is dangerous; you cannot control Him. But in the storm, there’s no safer place to be than in His arms. He’s dangerous, but because He’s so powerful, He is able to take care of you. Will you trust your life to Him?

Preached at First Baptist Church, Rincon, GA January 15, 2012 A.M.

Dr. Bob Rogers, pastor.