Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Elephant in the Room

According to information on Wikipedia (so you know it must be true), the phrase “elephant in the room…is an English idiom for an obvious truth that is being ignored or goes unaddressed. It is based on the idea that an elephant in a room would be impossible to overlook; thus, people in the room who pretend the elephant is not there might be concerning themselves with relatively small and even irrelevant matters, compared to the looming big one.”

The first known use of the phrase was found in The New York Times on June 20, 1959: “Financing schools has become a problem about equal to having an elephant in the living room. It's so big you just can't ignore it.”

A common useage of the phrase may occur in the context of addiction denial. Often family and friends refuse to deal with a loved one’s addiction, refuse to talk about it and pretend it’s not there. They carefully avoid the subject as if the addict weren’t destroying himself and those around him or her.

The phrase may be used in relation to some kind of abuse, as those closest to the situation – for whatever reasons – choose to ignore it. Instead they go about life with this huge reality staring them in the face while they avoid it and keep suffering.

In either case (and a host of others could be cited), the problem never goes away by not doing anything about it. Rather, the deafening silence usually makes it much worse. Those who take no action on behalf of an alcoholic become enablers to his or her addiction. Those who fail to speak up for victims of abuse enable the evil to continue. Such looming issues rarely, if ever, resolve themselves.

Why are so many people so careful to squeeze around the elephant in the room but never look it in the eyes? And even while the thing grows and occupies more and more space and crowds the very life out of them, still they ignore it. Why?

Dealing with that question would no doubt generate an array of answers. And I don’t pretend to know your situation, but I’d guess that the underlying theme would have to do with fear. “I’m afraid that if I confronted my husband about his drinking then he’d leave me. I’m afraid that if I spoke up about the abuse then he’d come after me. I’m afraid that things would blow up if I dealt with this problem. I’m afraid the cost will be too great if I get involved. I’m afraid of what might happen.”

Fear has a way of silencing the truth. All of the “what-ifs” and “I-can’ts” bind our hands and feet, seal our lips and sear our hearts, but the elephant keeps growing.

You know what drives out fear? Love. Love is greater than fear. Are there risks to love? Yes. May it cost you dearly? Yes. Might the situation get worse before it gets better? Yes. But is it worth it? Yes!

Can you imagine if Jesus refused to confront the issue of sin? Can you even imagine Him saying to the Father: “What?! You want Me to go down there? Do you know what’s like on earth these days? They won’t like what I have to say. They’ll reject me. They might even kill me. The cost is too great. I’m afraid of what might happen.”

But, O, the love of God! “For God so loved the world…” (John 3:16). “But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). There is no fear in love.

There’s another elephant in the room. It’s Jesus. You can pretend all you want that He doesn’t exist. You can avoid Him, neglect Him, overlook Him and dismiss Him. You can fill your life with anything and everything else and refuse to deal with Him. And do so at your own eternal demise.

Or you can come to Him in repentance and faith and receive Him today. Jesus is the looming issue, the obvious Truth, the One to whom we must give account. He is salvation and eternal life to those who trust and follow Him.

Christian, do not keep silent about the elephant in the room while others slip away into destruction without Him. Do not let your fear of what might happen prevent you from speaking the truth in love. Let the love of Christ compel you, being convinced that we no longer live for ourselves, but for Him who died for all and was raised.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Revive Us Again!

We need revival in this land. Those who claim the name of Christ Jesus need to return to a wholehearted loving devotion and joyful obedience to the Lord their God. Those who do not obey the gospel need to repent and turn to God. We need revival.

In a powerful little book titled, “How to Pray,” R.A. Torrey writes: “A revival is a time of quickening or impartation of life. As God alone can give life, a revival is a time when God visits His people and by the power of His Spirit imparts new life to them, and through them imparts life to sinners dead in trespasses and sins.”

That’s it. That’s what we need. We need God to visit His people and revive us by the power of His Spirit to return to Him with wholehearted devotion and obedience. We need God to act through His people to reach and save sinners with the message of the gospel. We need revival.

I don’t think I have to go into great detail to show how far our culture has drifted from the ways of the Lord. Nor do I think it would take much space to show how far much of the church in this nation has wandered from the ways of God. We need a visit from God!

I want to be part of the church that catches the fires of revival when God chooses to fan the flames of His glory in this land once again. I want to be a part of the church that runs full-steam ahead faithful in obedience to her Savior. I want to be part of the church that steps out from her worldly pursuits and lives in holiness.

I want to be part of the church that is infused with a fresh spirit of prayer. I want to be part of a church that is re-energized to win lost souls to Jesus. I want to be part of a church that gets swept off her feet once more by the love of her life – her Bridegroom, Christ Jesus. I want to be part of a church that is filled anew with an insatiable hunger and unquenchable thirst for the Word of God.

I want to be a part of the church that God uses to bring salvation to coalminers and truck drivers and schoolteachers and construction workers in Ridgway and our surrounding communities. I want to be a part of the church that God uses to save office workers and farmers and homemakers and retirees all across Gallatin County and beyond. I want to be a part of the church that God uses to rescue sinners from death and hell and give them abundant and everlasting life instead.

I want to be a part of the church that glorifies her Lord and Savior, delighting in Christ Jesus and proclaiming His praises all the day long.

Is that what you want? If you’re a Christian how could you not want revival?

Christian, if it’s been a long time since you’ve experienced the joy of your salvation, if it’s been forever since you’ve assembled with God’s people to worship, and if it’s been so long you can’t even remember the last time you felt the love of Christ flood over your soul, then please accept my personal invitation to join the Ridgway First Baptist Church (if you're close enough to come) for our revival services this coming Sunday through Wednesday. We want you to be there. You will receive a warm welcome and you’ll feel like you’ve come home.

If you’ve never experienced the love of God, then come and find out how you can. Come and discover what it means to have your sins forgiven and cleansed. Come and see what it means to receive the gift of God, which is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. I promise you this: no Christian has ever looked back upon a life of love and obedience to the Lord and regretted a single moment of it. Far from it! They’d probably say their only regret was not following Him more faithfully.

O Lord God Almighty, for Your glory, revive us!

“Revive us again; fill each heart with Thy love; May each soul be rekindled with fire from above. Hallelujah! Thine the glory. Hallelujah! Amen. Hallelujah! Thine the glory. Revive us again.”

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Patience Now, Judgment Soon

Man, how patient God is with us! If it were up to me, I would have lost my cool a long time ago with this corrupt and wicked generation. There would have been plenty of times I would have lost my cool with myself. But God is patient – thanks be to God!

After this most recent shooting in Maryville, where a guy walks right into the middle of a church worship service and kills the pastor, I’m ready to say, “That’s enough!”

After reading about yet another child being abused as the hands of her own parents, I’m ready to say, “Enough!”

After another year of legalized abortions in this nation where now over 50 million babies have been killed before ever having a chance to draw their first breath, I’m ready to say, “Enough already!”

But God is patient. We wonder, “How long, O Lord? How long will the wicked pour out their arrogant words? How long will the evildoers boast as they carry out their evil schemes? How long will you look on, O Lord, while the ungodly continue to mock your holy name?”

The souls of those who have been slain for the word of God and for the witness they’ve borne cry out with a loud voice, “O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” (Rev. 6:10).

Friend, you can be sure that there will come a Day of Judgment. The patience of God toward wickedness will soon reach its fullness, and the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed against all ungodliness is on the way!

We’re already seeing signs of His wrath upon sin as God gives man up to his own sinful desires and shameful lusts and depraved minds, to do what ought not to be done (see Romans 1:18-32).

The Lord sent the prophet Isaiah to testify against His own people: “For Jerusalem has stumbled, and Judah has fallen, because their speech and their deeds are against the Lord, defying his glorious presence. For the look on their faces bears witness against them; they proclaim their sin like Sodom; they do not hide it. Woe to them! For they have brought evil on themselves” (Isaiah 3:8-9).

It’s not too difficult to see in our day that we have brought evil upon ourselves! Everyone does what is right in his own eyes, and there is no fear of God before them.

“But mark this: there will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God – having a form of godliness but denying its power” (2 Tim. 3:1-5).

Does that not describe our generation? Is there a greater wrath than God giving us up to our own devices? Surely the judgment of God is not far off!

But God is patient so that He may save those whom He has chosen. “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed” (2 Peter 3:9-10).

God was patient in the days of Noah, waiting while the ark was being built to save Noah and his family though the “wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Gen. 6:5).

God was patient with the city of Nineveh, and with His prophet Jonah, and relented from the disaster He had in store for them when they turned from their evil ways and called upon God.

And He’s patient with you and with me. What will you do with His patience? “Do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?” (Rom. 2:4). Or will you fall humbly on your knees before Almighty God, repenting of your sin and seeking the Lord wholeheartedly – before it’s too late?

Friday, March 6, 2009

A Tough Act to Follow - So Let's Follow

"As I have loved you, so you must love one another." - Jesus (John 13:34)

Wow! To say "That's a tough act to follow," would be the understatement of the century!

The love that Jesus showed us is the love that brought Him from heaven to earth, making Himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness...humbling Himself and becoming obedient to death - even death on a cross!

The love that Jesus showed us is the love that knelt down as the lowly servant washing the feet of His friends.

The love that Jesus showed us is the love that took a righteous man to the cross, paying the penalty for mankind's sins.

That's how we're supposed to love each other? If only we could! Not in a million years could we love others like that. Our friends - maybe. Our enemies - never!

And yet - here's the power of Christ in us - the Bible says that "God has poured his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us" (Romans 5:5).

The example of Jesus is how we're supposed to love, and the power of the Spirit enables us to do it. God's love has been poured into the hearts of those who belong to Him. Yeah, it's a tough act to follow, but we have no excuse not to love like Jesus. The Bible commands us to love this way, and we've been given all we need to carry it out.

I wonder...

How many marriages could be mended if we loved one another like Jesus loved us?

How many fractured friendships could be fixed if we loved one another like Jesus loved us?

How many poor and hungry people, and widows and orphans, and lonely and outcast and despised and broken down men and women and boys and girls would find hope and joy and rest and peace and forgiveness and salvation in Christ if we loved one another like Jesus loved us?

To love like Jesus is a tough act to follow, so let's follow faithfully, in the steps of our Savior, and love one another with His love.

Teach us to love like you, O Lord! Give us a sincere, fervent love for others - a supernatural love - and help us to love not just with words and pretense or even with good intentions, but in actions and in truth. May the world see the light of Christ shining brightly as your people love one another just like you have loved us, and draw them to Jesus, that your Name may be glorified!

"For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life." - John 3:16