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Tuesday, December 26, 2017

I PUT MY LIFE IN MY HANDS

PUTTING MY LIFE IN MY OWN HANDS



Judges 12:3, “And when I saw that ye delivered me not, I put my life in my hands, and passed over against the children of Ammon, and the LORD delivered them into my hand: wherefore then are ye come up unto me this day, to fight against me?”

I Thessalonians 4:11, “And that ye study to be quiet, and to do your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you;”


One of the most amazing statements made in the Bible is that statement made by Jephthah, “When I saw that ye delivered them not I put my life in my hands…” One day you will need this truth so please pay attention to this article. One of these days you are going to come to a heartache, burden, sorrow, battle, and you will need this truth.

I am not going to in this article deal with the vow of Jephthah about sacrificing the first thing that came out of the gate if God would give him the victory. I want to bring to your attention when Jephthah was fighting against the Ammonites how he was that great general conscripted by the people to fight the Ammonites. He contacted the tribe of Ephraim, one of the favored tribes in the Bible, and he told them of the battles yet the Ephramites did not come to his aid. He fought the battle for he even said; “I put my life in my hands.”

He fought the Ammonites without his own people’s help. After the victory is won, which is so often the case, the Ephramites said, “Why didn’t you come and ask us to help?” They wanted the spoils without fighting the battle. Jephthah told them that he did call for their help! “When I was at the crisis point I called for your help but you didn’t come! You didn’t show up at all!” Thus we have the statement by Jephthah; “I put my life in my own hands.”

There are two things that he did that brought the victory. He divided his problem into two areas with the first area being what he could not do about his problem or what he could not control. The second area was what he could do about his problem. 

Jephthah divided his problems into two areas of what he could not control or could not fix plus what he could control or could fix. Whichever area you choose will determine your joy and success in life and victories in life. When you look at things you can’t control or you can’t fix, then you look at things you can control and you can fix, you must decide at that point where to expend your energy.

If you live in the things you can’t control or fix you will despair, complain, and have self-pity. In this area of choice you will become the victim. We have a society, which has evolved into a victim society or a victim of circumstances. 

Modern psychiatrists say we need to look for the blame! Hogwash! They say you are a victim but God says let’s find a cure because you are a victor! You can live in the first area or you could choose to live in the second area?

JEPHTHAH CHOSE TO FOCUS ON WHAT HE COULD CONTROL

Jephthah chose to live in the second area. He had a problem! He faced a big problem so Jephthah divided his problem into two areas. The two areas are "What I cannot control or fix or "What I can control and fix.

Jephthah choose the second area and he focused on what he could control and what he could fix. In essence he said it will do me not one bit of good to live where I cannot control. I can blame Ephraim, I can fight Ephraim, I can write hot letters, and I could tell everyone about how Ephraim treated me but that will not accomplish one thing. Ephraim is not going fight with me and if I focus on what I cannot control I’m going to fail.

However, I can focus my energies on what I can control and put my life in my own hands! Jephthah is saying I have two good arms, two good legs, a good mind, some men who are with me, and a country that is loyal to me so I’m going to focus on what I can control!

Every problem we have can be divided into these two areas. If we choose the first we will be miserable for sure. If we choose the second area we will overcome. If I become bitter and let my enemies dominate my mind and my life I can’t control them. I can’t fix them and that will not help me. 

I can’t help, encourage, and love people if I’m bitter. I can’t encourage if I am discouraged! I can’t love if I hate! I can’t focus on others if I’m focused on me! I cannot keep people from attacking me or criticizing me, but I can prove them wrong!

That is why we fight back because we are wrapped up in areas we cannot control or fix. Do not spend your life focusing on what you can’t control and fix. Spend your life focusing on what you can control and fix.

All the critics in the world cannot stop me from helping, giving, soul winning, reading my Bible, praying, giving tithes and offerings, and from supporting soul winning ministries.  If I can make it after 61 years of being saved and 46 years in the ministry then you can make it too! I have made it because I do not live in area number one with things I cannot control and things I cannot fix.

Anyone can make focusing on the cure, while no one can make it focusing on what you cannot cure! Anyone can make it by focusing on what you can control or fix. No one can make it focusing on what you cannot control or fix.

Let the heathen rage! Let the critics criticize! Let the scandalizers scandalize! Let the gossips gossip! Let the attackers attack! Let the liars lie! Let the enemies hate, but you live fixing what you can control.

The truth is if you want to really get back at your enemies ignore them and do something big! Let the works speak for you! I’m going to spend my life focusing on what I can control and not on what I cannot control.

Jephthah said I’ve been betrayed by the Ephramites and I have two choices. One to spend my life becoming critical, bitter, vengeful, or I could forget about Ephraim and figure out how to win the battle and put my life in my own hands fixing that which I can control.

We also have two choices to make. You can feel sorry for yourself, get despondent, get bitter, get angry, or you could decide to expend energy in working on what you can control and ignore what you cannot control. You can cry how unfair life is or you can tackle life as it is!

Jephthah had the answer of “I put my life in my hands.”


Friday, December 22, 2017

DEGREES OF SEPARATION


On December 12, I had just returned from preaching the gospel in Haiti and was standing in the security line in the Miami Airport when I received a link to Josh Teis’ recent article on The Six Degrees of Separation. I read, with interest, his observations and conclusions on Independent Fundamental Baptists and his own experiences relating to them. Josh is a pastor of Southern Hills Baptist Church in Las Vegas, NE. He has led the church in Sin City to reach many with the gospel. For this I am grateful.

A quick online glance will reveal that Josh has a positive spirit and a spoken desire to reach many people for Christ. In the past few years, he has revealed a growing desire to influence preachers through his own Idea Day. This is a gathering of men in the ministry, both old and young, who are eager to share new ideas in current day ministry. I applaud his passion for the gospel and his passion to influence folks to be effective ministers.

However, when it comes to his ideas on separation and the view he promotes in this article, he is wrong – Biblically wrong. I do not take issue with him personally. I simply have a problem with some of his ideas. They are inaccurate, unscriptural, and worldly; and silence is no longer an option.

In this article, Josh asked, “Am I wrong?” Our answer is yes! 

First, this article is factually wrong…several times over. Independent Baptists did not begin as a protest against the Southern Baptist Convention in the 1900s. They trace their history back to men like Adoniram Judson of missionary fame in the 1800s, Shubal Stearns of North Carolina in the 1700s, Roger Williams of Rhode Island, and John Bunyan of England in the 1600s. Then there is Peter Waldo of northern Italy and the Waldensians of the late 1100s through the 1500s, the Albigensians of France, the Lollards of England and the Donatists of Northern Africa. This is just to name a few! This conclusion is based upon an extremely limited understanding of our roots.

Other factual errors include his conclusion that “The Death of John R. Rice” was the beginning of division among Independent Baptists; his assumption that Independent Baptists are a Denomination; his idea that separation is punishment; and his postulation that it is a sin to refuse to unify with those who hold to aberrant and unbiblical doctrines. This list is just a portion of the plain factual errors that exist.

Second, an objective reader of the blog is left to wonder if Josh is enamored with the Southern Baptists as well as other theological compromisers and disdains Independent Baptists while trying to convey the opposite. He leaves this impression via phrases like “the rapid crumbling of the IFB” and his statement that “several vocal leaders within the SBC took exception with the idea of raising 75 million dollars” to reach the world, and his question “why is it a problem for me to have an actual Baptist Calvinist like John Piper preach in my church” and his conclusion “I relate to Criswell more than Norris,” are all indicators of a directional shift away from one position and toward another. No one is stopping him, if that is his desire, but he cannot head one way in action and claim another in word and expect folks to believe him.

Third, the straw men that emerge from this make you think you have come into a zombie scarecrow convention! Josh Teis blows them away in this virtual video game world, all the while presenting them as pictures of how things really are…when they are not. Generalizations with the first-person plural “we” leave the impression that Independent Baptists are collaborating on every decision relating to separation or any other matter. Not so. Other statements like Independent Baptists are “demanding absolute and complete agreement on every matter,” or “a man must separate himself from anyone who doesn’t completely and utterly agree with him,” or “if you happen to disagree with anyone in the family of God, about anything in the universe, you have a right and obligation to separate yourself from them as soon as possible,” or “3rd degree, 4th degree separation,” are all off base. Are there some among us who demand perfect agreement on everything? 

I have been traveling for two decades preaching across the country and around the world in hundreds of Independent Baptist churches. I have found very, very, very few. Do we have strong opinions? Yes. Do we have solid Bible convictions? Yes. Do we have preferences? Of course. Yet one of our tenants as Baptists is Individual Soul Liberty (Romans 14; I Corinthians 8) and Priesthood of the Believer (Hebrews 4:16; Revelation 1:6). Both truths point to the freedom of conscience and immediate access to Heaven’s Throne so that we, individually, from the Bible, can determine what is right on questionable matters. That is the spirit of Independent Baptists I have discovered again and again.

Fourth, there is a disconnect in Josh’s thinking between doctrine and practice. He wants to appeal to the Rodney King in us all: “Why can’t we all just get along?” He mentions the importance of a theological position but undermines the importance of one’s associations. This ignores and violates Scripture. Jehu asked the good king Jehoshaphat after he allied with wicked Ahab, “Shouldest thou help the ungodly, and love them that hate the LORD” (II Chronicles 19:2)? Associations. “He that walketh with wise men shall be wise: but a companion of fools shall be destroyed” (Proverbs 13:20). Associations. “Make no friendship with an angry man; and with a furious man thou shalt not go” (Proverbs 22:24). Associations. Our theological position matters so much that it affects our…associations.

Doctrine also affects our practical living. My understanding that God is holy (Isaiah 57:15) helps me to practice personal holiness (I Peter 1:16). This also impacts how we ought to behave in the house of God (I Timothy 3:15). Could this possibly confront a wrong style of music and promote a right style of music for the “house of God”? Absolutely! Does this have any bearing on pulpit attire? Of course! It will influence my spirit, my attitude, my passion, my preferences, my convictions, my behavior, and more. It also has bearing on my personal desire to be less like the world and more like Jesus Christ!

When the church looks and sounds like a nightclub, when the pastor dresses more like the neighborhood teenager seeking to be the next rock star, when Hollywood movie tickets are passed out to church visitors, when preaching is diminished to a sermonette and vested of its authority by a sermon team’s approval or disapproval of it, when Independent Baptist preachers are sitting at the feet of Rick Warren, Chuck Swindoll, T4G, and the Gospel Coalition instead of the New Testament, and when all of this is done in the name of innovation and new ideas something is dreadfully wrong! (FTR, these practices are espoused and encouraged by Josh Teis). Whatever happened to I Thessalonians 5:22 and a myriad of other Scriptures?!? Teis seems either oblivious or unwilling to make the connection between doctrine and practice.

The most egregious and offensive aspect of the article was his misrepresentation of separation. He equated it with division. Not once but again and again! This reveals a glaring ignorance of the Bible. As early as Genesis 1, God separated light from darkness. He separated his people from the Gentiles. Any high point in Israel’s history was when they were separate and distinct from the world, and any low point was when they mixed in with the world and their wicked practices. The same is true with the church of the Lord Jesus Christ! I John 2:15-17, James 4:1-10, and Romans 12:1-2 are all in order here.

When Josh took issue with Ernest Pickering’s book, Biblical Separation: The Struggle for a Pure Church, he laid all the problems among Independent Baptists squarely at his feet. Huh? It seems he is pointing out a problem of politics, (following men) and division (you’re wrong if you don’t see it my way), then ignoring the real cause (the world, the flesh and the devil) and presenting a solution of…more politics (following him) and division (You’re the problem if you don’t see it my way)! This is silly at best and sinister at worst.

In the end, Josh assured us of his love for Independent Baptists and his desire to see us change and practice Biblical separation. I’m for that! The irony is that he only used two verses in the whole blog post…two…only two, and one was used to mock the biblical idea of separation! Josh, may I present to you a few others? Romans 16:17-18 instructs us to “mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them.” II Thessalonians 3:6-15 exhort to “withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which he received of us…note that man and have no company with him, that he may be ashamed.” This is referring to a lazy busybody within the church. I Corinthians 5:9, 11 warn us not to keep company or eat with fornicating, covetous, idolatrous, railing, drunkard, thieving brothers. 

New Testament separation encourages purity in church endeavors, marriage, personal matters and business. It challenges a purity from sin and worldliness wherever it is found. These Bible passages couldn’t be any clearer. Josh Teis, along with others, has sadly either ignored or misunderstood these passages. A brief study of church history shows, when these truths of separation are ignored, the outcome has never been good. Never.

One of the greatest problems I have with his article is that he makes this whole matter centered around men. Much is made of men who have led us, led us astray or not led us. Little is made about the Bible and the Captain of our Salvation Jesus Christ! If the problem is men, point us to the Bible and Christ. If this was his attempt, he failed. The Independent Baptist position is not men-led or men-driven; it is a fixed point of truth. It will always be. Are there men who rise up as leaders? Yes. Are there those who willingly or inadvertently present themselves as popes? Yes! Yet the solution is not more of the same in an opposite extreme! 

The solution is not pragmatic philosophy! 

The solution is not an acceptance of worldliness, ecumenism, and compromise! 

The proper solution is always the same. Turn back to the Bible and its Author!

There is a new generation of Independent Baptist preachers old and young who are not rising up, that has been part of our problem. They are falling down on their face, asking God to forgive us for our humanistic and worldly practices, steering their people clear of false doctrine and those who practice it, and then stepping into their pulpits and preaching, “Thus saith the Lord!” With these, I cast my lot, not the others who have traded us, are trading us, and will trade us in for another “mess of pottage!” 

Dwight Smith is a Theology Without Apology Contributor and a full-time Evangelist.  Over the past 20 years, Dwight has preached all around the U.S. and in numerous foreign countries.  To read his full bio click here: BIO  

To offer Dwight your feedback, please comment below.  

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

STRIFE IS A PART OF LIFE

Getting Along With Others


Genesis 13:7, “And there was a strife between the herdsmen of Abram’s cattle and the herdsmen of Lot’s cattle: and the Canaanite and the Perizzite dwelled then in the land.”

Numbers 12:1, “And Miriam and Aaron spake against Moses because of the Ethiopian woman whom he had married: for he had married an Ethiopian woman.”

Acts 15:36-39,  36“And some days after Paul said unto Barnabas, Let us go again and visit our brethren in every city where we have preached the word of the Lord, and see how they do. 37And Barnabas determined to take with them John, whose surname was Mark.  38But Paul thought not good to take him with them, who departed from them from Pamphylia, and went not with them to the work.  39And the contention was so sharp between them, that they departed asunder one from the other: and so Barnabas took Mark, and sailed unto Cyprus.”

Galatians 2:11-14,  11“But when Peter was come to Antioch, I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed.  12For before that certain came from James, he did eat with the Gentiles: but when they were come, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing them which were of the circumcision.  13And the other Jews dissembled likewise with him; insomuch that Barnabas also was carried away with their dissimulation.  14But when I saw that they walked not uprightly according to the truth of the gospel, I said unto Peter before them all, If thou, being a Jew, livest after the manner of Gentiles, and not as do the Jews, why compellest thou the Gentiles to live as do the Jews?”

In these passages of Scripture, we learn of four different situations in which people did not get along with each other. Genesis 13 deals with the strife between the herdsman of Lot and Abraham and the eventual separation of Lot and Abraham because of the strife. In Numbers 12, we read about the strife between Aaron and Miriam, Moses’ brother and sister.  In Acts, we learn there was division between Paul and Barnabas and between Paul and Peter.

Why is there so much strife between people?  Husbands and wives bicker between themselves.  There is strife in churches, even between the very leaders of fundamentalism. Pastors become disenchanted with their members, and the members, likewise, become disenchanted with their pastor.  Why is there strife between people?
 
In a question and answer session, a preacher once asked Dr. Jack Hyles, “Why don’t leaders get along with each other as they once did?  I am tired of the fighting between our leaders.”

Dr. Hyles replied, “You mean, like Paul and Barnabas?  They had dissention between them, and they split up. After Paul and John Mark disagreed, John Mark quit and turned back. Paul and Peter quarreled when Peter refused to eat with the Gentiles and Paul rebuked him. John Wesley and George Whitefield could not get along with each other. J. Frank Norris and John R. Rice had a falling out. J. Frank Norris and G.B. Vick, literally, split the Bible Baptist Fellowship down the middle. John R. Rice wrote articles against Bob Jones, Sr., in The Sword of the Lord, and Bob Jones, Sr., retaliated by writing a book against Dr. Rice. John Calvin and Martin Luther would hardly speak to each other.”

Each of us has strengths, but those strengths are always accompanied by corresponding weaknesses.  A person who has the strength of leadership usually has the accompanying weakness of stubbornness. Everything has to be done his way. However, remove the weakness of stubbornness and you will also remove the strength of leadership, and that leader will be destroyed. We tend to forget that the stubbornness of a leader keeps him from being a coward.

A person who has the strength of strong leadership will also have the accompanying weakness of clashing with other strong leaders. A dynamic leader, like Peter, will sometimes demonstrate impetuous behavior. A tender, broken-hearted Jeremiah will experience depression from time to time, and he will even consider quitting.
 
A person who loves Jesus, as John did, will also expect the privilege of sitting beside Him in the kingdom. Moses used his strength to demand that Pharaoh free the Israelites from bondage; then, his weakness was demonstrated with a fit of temper. On the other hand, Aaron had none of the weaknesses of leadership, nor did he have the strengths. He gave in to the children of Israel and allowed them to build a golden calf.

The Apostle Paul was probably the greatest Christian of his day, but he had his weaknesses, too.  He frequently clashed with the other leaders, such as Barnabas, John Mark, or Peter.  He became impatient with John Mark’s weakness. 

When Weakness becomes Compromise Expect Opposition

He deeply loved the Jews and wanted them to be saved. He even wished himself accursed for the sake of his kinsmen. Yet, in his fervor for his fellow Jews, he once compromised, shaved his head, and took a Jewish vow. The line was crossed when his weakness became a compromise. The same is true in our day and time when weakness becomes the father of wrong then do not be upset with those who point it out.

You must learn to accept a person with both his strengths and weaknesses within the realm of right. You must accept the liabilities along with the assets within right. There is no place for leadership to endorse and accept compromise. Realize, you cannot have strong leadership without dominance. You cannot have provision and protection without possession. You cannot have wisdom without opinion, or zeal without impatience. To oppose the Emerging church model is to say weakness in music and weakness in separation from the world cannot and will not be condoned. Why? Because you step outside of the circumference of Scriptures.

Weakness does not encompass compromise. There is a vast difference between a weakness and a fatal flaw. When compromise becomes the norm among leaders then do not be surprised when a strong leader will oppose such. Influence is a powerful attribute and can cause irreversible damage to the followers of compromising leadership. Thus when some adapt and adopt to contrary lifestyles to Scripture do not be shocked when opposition is strong. Egyptian music and morals will destroy God's people. Thus, no one should be shocked or upset when strength is exercised.

If you want a pastor with courage and conviction, then accept his stubbornness. If you want a strong, dynamic, and powerful preacher, do not expect to be able to control him.  You cannot have a bland leader—a dominant Barney Fife, a General Milk toast, an emotional stoic, or a mousy lion.  He cannot preach like the Apostle Paul, and then act like Norman Vincent Peale. If he hollers about sodomy, he will also holler at your children. You cannot have a preacher who is willing to fight, and then expect to pick which battles he is allowed to fight. If he has fire, you will someday be burned. The same water that refreshes you has the potential to drown you. 

Husband, if you want your wife to run the finances and the household affairs, then you must accept the fact that she will also try to run you. You cannot expect her to be submissive. If you want her to help you earn a living, you must expect her to want your help washing the dishes. If you want a loving, sentimental wife, expect her to weep when she is disappointed in you. If you want her to be opinionated in other situations, expect that she will, sometimes, disagree with you.
 
Wife, you must accept your husband’s stubbornness along with his leadership. You cannot have a husband who is a Moses at work and an Aaron at home.  He cannot be a giant at work and a mouse at home.  He cannot be Superman at work and Clark Kent at home.
 
The reason we strive with each other is because we want the strengths of another person without his accompanying weaknesses. How can we avoid this constant strife with other people?

Before Entering a Permanent Relationship, Decide What Strengths You Want

Young person, before you go to college, decide what strengths you want in a college, then choose your college based on those strengths. Choose your employment based on those strengths. Before you marry, decide what strengths you want in a mate, and then choose a mate based on those desired strengths.  Recognize that the height of his heights corresponds to the depth of his depths.  If his strengths are not strong, his weaknesses will not be as weak.
 
Church member; realize you need a strong leader who will not move to the left. Choose a church on the basis of a pastor’s strengths, not his personal appeal.  A church needs an old-fashioned, Hell-fire, damnation Baptist preacher who will holler. He will have a temper, and he will be stubborn; but it is better to have a pastor who believes something than to have a pastor who believes nothing. The weakness that makes him stubborn will become strength when he stands firm on the King James Bible or standards.

Preacher; realize you need strong leaders in a movement in order to sustain the successes of that movement. No movement will survive without strong leadership which also has weaknesses. As long as those weaknesses do not violate Scripture you can live with it. Do not follow those who on purpose refuse to mention men of God like Dr. Jack Hyles. No need to reinvent the wheel or the patterns of our fundamental Baptist leaders of the past. 

If You Are in a Permanent Relationship, Accept What You Have 

If you have been in a relationship long enough—whether it is marriage, church membership, or employment—you have already discovered the other person’s weaknesses. Time always exposes our weaknesses.  Learn to accept them! Do not jump from church to church, from pastor to pastor, from employer to employer. Settle down and realize the success that is already found in that relationship. Accept that the success is because of the strengths, even though you do not like the corresponding weaknesses. 

Thank God for the Strengths and the Corresponding Weaknesses within the perimeters of Scripture

We always thank God for the strengths, but we should, also, thank Him for the weaknesses. We should not be content or accept the weaknesses; we should thank God for them. Thank God your pastor is fundamental, he foams at the mouth, he throws songbooks, and he preaches the devil out of sinners!  

More lessons are learned from the results of weakness than the results of strength. With that in mind you need to thank God when your pastor shoots the wrong person because of the lessons learned! Thank God when he nails your hide to the door when you did not do anything wrong! Lessons are learned from every misstep. He is only human, after all, and his strength has an accompanying weakness. In every relationship—between husband and wife, parent and teacher, pastor and member, or boss and employee— accept the strengths with the accompanying weaknesses.

Again, no one is saying we should accept compromising of Scriptures. It is within the sphere of Scriptures and doing right where we find humanity exposed. Those weaknesses are a part of being a human being. But, when it is a violation of the Bible it then morphs into tragedy.

Remember There Are No Strengths Without Accompanying Weaknesses

People cannot get along with each other because they love assets, but hate the liabilities. Accept the liabilities of a strong, growing church that takes a stand.  Accept the bus kids. Accept the Give-It-Alls. Accept the standards and the rules in the Christian school.
 
Accept your spouse’s liabilities along with his, or her, assets. Wife, accept your strong husband’s stubbornness.  Husband; accept your submissive wife’s tendency to cry.  If you reject someone because of his weaknesses, you will also reject his strengths.

Accept Both the Weaknesses and the Strengths 

One time, in a conference in Michigan, Dr. John R. Rice and Dr. Jack Hyles were preaching together. A lady stood behind the pulpit and sang a special in a miniskirt. Afterwards, Dr. Rice stood to preach and said, “Now that the hussy is through singing, I’ll go ahead and preach the Bible.”  His statement caused a furor, and many people refused to come back to the meeting or subscribe to The Sword of the Lord.
 
In another meeting my wife and I attended, a preacher talked about the church starting on the Day of Pentecost. After the preacher was done, Dr. Rice stood and looked at him, saying, “My dear brother, that was a wonderful sermon. Too bad it’s not in the Bible. I suggest you say as much about the church starting on the Day of Pentecost as the Bible says, and that is nothing."  Then he started straight into his message.

On another occasion, Dr. Rice was preaching in near Kankakee, Illinois. A man from the local Nazarene college was playing the organ for the service. When Dr. Rice asked everyone to bow his head for prayer, the man started to play the organ. Dr. Rice asked him to stop, but the organist kept playing.

Dr. Rice asked him again to stop playing, but the organist kept playing.  Finally, Dr. Rice walked over to the organ and yelled, “Shut that box off, now!” but the organist continued to play. Dr. Rice threw a fit, and the organist told him he was trying to set the mood for prayer. Dr. Rice said, “God is not moved by it, so quit it. We are going to pray.” People accepted Dr. Rice’s strengths, but they rejected his weaknesses.
 
Paul, the greatest missionary that ever lived, had his strengths and weaknesses.  The greatest Christians in the history of mankind, Peter and Paul, fussed with each other.  Many of the great leaders in history could not get along.  We must realize that we, too, must learn to get along with each other and accept each other’s strengths and weaknesses.
 
In every area of life, the same strengths that are assets cause the same weaknesses that are liabilities.  You must have both; you cannot have one without the other. Do not reject your relationship with a person because you cannot accept his weaknesses. Do not try to correct the weaknesses; in so doing, you will destroy the very strengths that make a person great.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

ARE YOU IN A SLUMP?

Advice to Those In a Slump




Psalm 55:6, “And I said, Oh that I had wings like a dove! for then I would fly away, and be at rest.”

At some point in every baseball player’s life, he experiences what is known as a “hitting slump.”  He swings and swings and swings, but the bat just does not connect with the ball. He practices and practices, but to no avail. This is simply a normal part of every ball player’s career.

Similarly, every Christian hits an emotional and spiritual slump. You wake up one day feeling you are in the middle of a losing streak. The charm of life is missing. You remember the days of being on the mountaintop, but you cannot seem to climb to those heights, again. You realize instead of having a joyous Christian life, you are simply going through the motions. Yet, you desperately want to feel what you once felt and what others are still feeling.

There was a time when your heart would burn as you read the blessed Scriptures; you used to weep over its pages, and you would tingle and rejoice.  Now you no longer feel the same. You once enjoyed your prayer time, your audience with the King of kings and Lord of lords. You realized you were talking with the mighty Creator of the universe. You had a joy and a thrill when you went boldly before the throne of grace to present your petitions and find grace to help you in times of needs. However, something has happened, and that thrill is no longer there.

When the pastor asked you to take a Sunday school class, you were overjoyed with the privilege of teaching the eternal Word of God to the eternal souls of those pupils. Now, however, it is a drudgery to teach that class.  When you brought a bus full of children to Sunday school, you were so excited that they would have the opportunity to hear the message of grace.  Now you wish you could feel that way, again. What is wrong with you?

Maybe you have an overwhelming urge to leave a note on your boss’s door and just disappear. You would like to keep driving into the sunset. You would like to dispose of your spouse, your mother-in-law, and your children. This feeling is not unique to you. It is not unique to preachers or lay people, to men or women, to teenagers or adults. Everyone has similar feelings at one time or another. Some simply have learned to fake it and not let their faces show their feelings.

The great prophet Elijah found himself in a slump.  He stood against 450 prophets of Baal and called down fire on his sacrifice. Afterwards, he directed the people of Israel to slay the false prophets. Then, he called down rain on a parched land.  

Yet, in I Kings 19:4 we read of Elijah, “But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a juniper tree: and he requested for himself that he might die; and said, It is enough; now, O LORD, take away my life; for I am not better than my fathers.”

In verse 14 he said, “…I have been very jealous for the LORD God of hosts: because the children of Israel have forsaken thy covenant, thrown down thine altars, and slain thy prophets with the sword; and I, even I only, am left; and they seek my life, to take it away.”

Moses, the great leader of Israel, also had a slump.  In Numbers 11:11‑12, we find him talking to God. 11“…Wherefore hast thou afflicted thy servant? and wherefore have I not found favour in thy sight, that thou layest the burden of all this people upon me?  12Have I conceived all this people? have I begotten them, that thou shouldest say unto me, Carry them in thy bosom, as a nursing father beareth the sucking child, unto the land which thou swarest unto their fathers?”

Moses was complaining that God had given him the burden of caring for the Israelites.  He was complaining that he had to babysit them and deal with the troublemakers.  Why was he complaining?  He was suffering a time of depression, or, if you please, a slump.

Notice this statement: “The future appalls me. I dare not think of it.”  Can you imagine who would have written such a depressing statement?  It was made by John Calvin, the reforming preacher.  Martin Luther, the man who spearheaded the Protestant Reformation, once said, “I am sick of this life, if it can be called life at all.”

I am not talking about a period in your life when you are overtaken by sin.  I am not talking about being backslidden. You are not getting drunk or running around on your spouse.  I am talking about times when you are going to church and serving God. You are doing the best you can, but nothing seems to be the same.  

You read your Bible and pray, but your walk with God is not exciting to you. Church attendance is drudgery. The thrill has gone out of choir practice.   You feel like you are running around in circles, and you seem to be going nowhere. You are going through a slump.  Here is some advice about what to do while you are in your slump that will help you through this period of time. 

 Do Not Change a Thing

When you are in a slump, you should not change anything. Keep the same schedule. Keep reading your Bible, praying, and going soul winning. God is testing you to see why you really serve Him. He wants to know if you serve Him out of love or feeling. Do you serve Him because you love Him, or because you want to feel that tingling feeling?

This is what separates mature Christians from immature Christians. If you serve God just because you tingle, then when the battle gets hot, you will run. If you serve God for applause, then you will quit when people want to crucify you.
  
You should not read the Bible for the thrill of learning something new; you should thrill because God tells you to read His Book. When the day arrives that you no longer want to teach your Sunday school class, become a mature Christian and continue to teach and build that class. Teach that class because you love God, not because you want a thrill. When your motivation for serving God is based on love for Him rather than a thrill, you are maturing.

Are you in a slump? Pray as you have always prayed.  Keep having your devotions every day. Keep going to church and tithing. Keep going soul winning. Do not change a thing. God wants to know if you are real. Do you serve Him out of love and obedience, or do you serve Him just for the thrill of having 100 riders on your bus?  Do you serve Him just because you have 10 baptisms on your bus route or you break your Sunday school attendance record?  Do you serve Him for fun, or because you love Him?

The thrill is a by-product of serving God, but it is not the reason to serve God. Not every week can be a big day. We enjoy the thrills of the campaigns, but not every week will be a thrill. There will be weeks when it is 100 degrees, and no one on the bus has taken a bath for a week. There will be times when you do not want to pray. Nevertheless, do not change a thing; just keep doing what you have been doing.

Do Not Make Any Major Decisions 

Most of our decisions are made when we are in a slump, yet that is the worst time to make decisions.  When you are blue, sick, or bereaved, it is not the time to make any major decisions. When church members are in a slump, they often become upset and quit. They never stop to consider that the problem may be their lack of obedience to God in reading the Bible, praying, going to church, and going soul winning. Many lives have been destroyed because someone made a bad decision while in a slump.

Do Not Run to Anything New

When I was in high school, Dick McCullough, a left-handed player, was playing for the Detroit Tigers.  He held his bat high in the air, and did everything just the opposite of the way it was supposed to be done, yet he batted .298 and .300. When he was playing for the Tigers, they were world champions.

During those years, I was playing baseball, and I was the leading hitter on the team. I hit a bit of a slump, and, deciding to try something new, I tried to hit like Dick McCullough. It did not work, and I could not hit anything. It was a mistake for me to try something new.

The world’s solution to a slump is trying something new. However, if you keep running to something new, eventually you will run out of new things to try. If you have to buy a new toy every time you are in a slump, you will quickly find yourself in trouble. There are not enough things in the world to perpetually keep you out of a slump. That is not the answer to your problems.  Keep doing what you have been doing.

Do Not Blame Anything or Anyone 

If you find yourself in a slump, do not blame your spouse, your parents or grandparents, your foreman, your pastor, the church, or anyone else.  God is the Author of these slumps.  When you point your finger at someone else, you are simply admitting you are afraid to point your finger at God.  Grow up and face your slump; realize God is using it to expose the real reason you are serving Him.

Forget Yourself and Help Someone Else 

When Dr. John R. Rice was six years old, he went to his father and told him he wanted to be saved.  His father told him he was too young, that he could not get saved until he was ten years old.  Rather than mope about the fact that he could not get saved yet, the young Dr. Rice said ok then I will look for children who were ten years of age or older.  He told them about Christ and showed them how to be saved.  He was able to lead about 90% of the children in his school, who were ten years or older, to the Lord before he was even saved.

You can do nothing about the slump you are in; help someone else, and make it easier on him.  Take a bus route and keep people out of Hell. If you are in slump with the Bible, you can still teach your children the Bible and to be decent young people. If you are in a slump about your pastor, you can still learn from the sermons he preaches. Look for something in the sermons rather than slumbering through the sermons.
 
When you are wrapped up in someone else, you will forget about your own problems. Your burdens will not seem as heavy. If you are in a slump, you are thinking about yourself too much and not enough about others.

Everyone falls into a slump from time to time.  Forget about yourself and help someone else. Stay in church. Enter your closet and talk to God about it; He is the only One Who can help you. Then, stand up and face your problem and keep going for God.

 

































Thursday, December 7, 2017

HOW TO FIGHT DEPRESSION

The Valley Of Depression


Romans 8:28, “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.”

One day I was counseling with a man who made this statement, “I wish I were like you and I never got depressed. After all, preachers never get depressed.”  He did not realize how wrong he was.  All of us have bouts of depression on the roller coaster of life. Never buy a book that tells you how to avoid depression.  It is a waste of money.  There is no way to avoid depression; it is simply a normal part of life.
 
We must all experience the highs and lows in the cycle of life. Life is not a straight ride without valleys and mountains.  In fact, depression is actually good for you. You cannot enjoy the mountaintop without experiencing the valley. Only by experiencing a cloudy day will you appreciate the sunny days. Depression is only bad if it becomes a permanent way of life.

Great Leaders In the Bible Fought depression
 Many great leaders in the Bible have been known for their bouts of depression. Jeremiah became so depressed that he quit preaching. He even refused to speak to anyone in God’s name.  After winning a great victory over the prophets of Baal, Elijah fled from Jezebel.  Later he sat under a juniper tree and desired to die.  David became depressed because he thought God had cast him off and would never use him again.  Jonah became depressed after the great revival in Nineveh because the people were saved and God did not kill them. The disciples became depressed after Jesus was crucified, not knowing He had been raised from the dead.

Even great leaders, in more recent times, have suffered bouts of depression. I have seen Dr. Jack Hyles when he came face to face with depressing things. I have seen Evangelist Lester Roloff, Dr. Lee Roberson, and Dr. Wendell Evans battling depressing things in life.  At one point in Charles Spurgeon’s life, when his health was failing and his wife was an invalid, he went to France for a while and sent his sermons back to his church so they could be read from the pulpit. 

I, also, have experienced problems that have brought on times of depression. One Monday morning I went to the airport to fly to a preaching engagement in Atlanta, Georgia.  My wife had just undergone surgery to install a pump for pain control.  She returned to the doctor to have the staples removed, and the doctor found that she had a staph infection. Several years earlier she had suffered a deadly staph infection that never completely left her system, making her susceptible to recurring staph infections. The doctor said he would have to remove the pump. She would, then, have to wait 3 months to have another surgery for a new pump.  That was a depressing time for us.

When our grandson, R.G., was born, the doctors found he had severe physical problems. That was a valley, not just for my son Bob and his wife, Kelly; it was a valley for us, as his grandparents, too.  

Yet, R.G. has been such a blessing to our family. He is so happy, and he thoroughly enjoys life. A few years after the birth of R.G., our granddaughter was stillborn to Scott and Jenny. That was another time of depression for us.
 
God does not tell us, in the Bible, how we can avoid depression.  However, He does tell us that, when those times of depression come, we should not stay in the valley.  The depression should be a visitor, not a tenant; a renter, not an owner.  It can be a tourist, not a citizen; a vagrant, not a dweller; a wayfarer, not an inhabitant; a sojourner, not a host; a guest, not a family member.  It should be temporary.

Depression is necessary for Joy

Psalm chapter 126, verses 5 and 6 promise,   5“They that sow in tears shall reap in joy.  6He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him.”

Joy comes in the morning, after the nighttime. The valley increases the joy of the mountain peak. Clouds increase the joy of sunlight. Wintertime increases the joy of summer. There can be no peak without a valley, no sunrise without the setting of the sun, no harvest without a time of sowing.  Depression will come.

Do not think depression is a sin or that you are backslidden. It is part of your emotions. We are in a war in this world, and there is no joy in the loss of soldiers’ lives when they fight for freedom. However, we must find a way to keep depression from staying in our lives. We cannot avoid its presence, but we can avoid its permanence. We need to make sure morning will come and the sun will rise.

The 7th and 8th chapters of Romans are contrasts of depression and mountains. In chapter 7, Paul is suffering from depression. In verse 24 he cries, “O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?”  He is in the midnight hour, in the middle of winter.  He is discouraged.
 
Then, in chapter 8, Paul comes out of the depression.  He climbs the mountain and awakes to the sunshine.  He has victory, and it is summertime.  He is now encouraged. He tells us in verse 28, “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.”

When depression comes and you are in the valley, start doing what God made you to do. Pick up your rifle and jump back into the battle. Otherwise, you will be finished, and you will be knocked down. If you sit around feeling sorry for yourself, you will never pull yourself out of the depression.

If you do not have any money, go find a job.  If you are having problems with your wife, do what God made you to do and love her. If your grades are bad in school, try studying and doing your homework and if you are in trouble at work, start working harder.

DIVERSION IS NOT AN ANSWER TO DEPRESSION

When you are depressed, diversion does not work because it simply delays the inevitable.  It will not help to go to the amusement park. A wife’s depression is not alleviated when she goes shopping, or when she stays in bed and neglects the housework.  It does not help to watch a video, go fishing, or play ball. The only way you can escape the depression is by doing what God made you to do.  Do not withdraw; attack. Do not go away for a few days; get with it for a few days. Man your post. Do your duty, and carry out your assignment for God.
 
When my wife was in the hospital with the staph infection, the doctor decided to discharge her at noon on a Saturday. I called one of my staff men to take over the Saturday meetings at church so I could pick her up.  The hours went by, but she was not discharged until 5:00 in the afternoon. While I was waiting, I went to Subway to buy a sandwich. I approached a family who was eating there and gave them the Gospel, and several people were saved.
 

Highs and lows are a normal part of life.  When you hit a bout of depression, learn to pull out of it and climb on topside. Do what God made you to do. Go soul winning, tithe, and attend church.  You can pull out of it if you want to.