Posted On 05/24/2019 - When my son Jonathan was in his early teens, we were driving somewhere when he turned to me and said, “Dad, what is a conscience?”
Defining a conscience isn’t as easy as it might seem. I tried to illustrate it for him. I explained that a conscience is a lot like our ability to feel pain. If you’re walking barefoot and start to step on a piece of glass, you sense pain. You get that signal from the brain telling you to stop. It’s a warning of something that could be far worse. And though you may not enjoy the temporary discomfort of partially stepping on a piece of glass, it beats the alternative, which is to puncture your foot and risk infection and other complications. Yes, there is pain involved, but it’s warning of something that could be far worse.
Our conscience can work that way as well. It alerts us to danger. It warns us of something that’s wrong in our lives. And working in conjunction with our conscience is something called guilt. Guilt is a spiritual pain in our souls that tells us something is evil and needs to be confronted and cleansed.
We all know what it’s like to have a guilty conscience. The story is told of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, who stated at a dinner party one night that everyone over the age of 40 had at least one skeleton in their closet, so to speak. This led the group to perform an experiment on a mutual acquaintance whom they all agreed had an impeccable reputation. They sent the man a telegram with this message: “All is discovered; flee at once!” The next day he disappeared and was never seen again.
What if you were to get an anonymous text that said, “All is discovered; flee at once”? Would you run? Is there something that you’re afraid would be found out?
That is called having a guilty conscience.
One person defined conscience as “the inner voice that tells you the IRS might check your return.” Another defined it as “that still, small voice that makes you feel still smaller.”
The Greek word for conscience is found more than 30 times in the New Testament and means “coknowledge.” In other words, conscience knows our inner motives and our true thoughts.
The Hebrew word for conscience is usually translated as the word “heart” in the Old Testament. So when we read in Old Testament passages about having a tender heart toward God, this is referring to a sensitive conscience. When it speaks of being upright in heart, it means having a pure conscience.
That is not to equate the conscience with the voice of God, necessarily, because our conscience can be wrong at times.
At the same time, our conscience often will point out what is right or wrong long after we have rationalized our actions. We all know what it’s like to say, “I know this is OK for me to do. …” We talk ourselves into it and have it all worked out. Then as we’re on the way to doing that thing, the conscience kicks in, saying, “I don’t know if you should do this.” It serves an important purpose. And when we ignore our conscience and do the wrong thing, guilt will kick in.
We are living in a time, however, when no one wants to accept guilt anymore. We are a society of victims. No one is responsible for his or her actions anymore.
A number of years ago I heard a news story about a man who was suing the American Dental Association, claiming it had failed to warn consumers about toothbrush abrasion from brushing too hard.
That is the way it is in our litigious society. The prevailing attitude is when in doubt, sue. Never accept responsibility for what you’ve done. It’s always the other person’s fault.
But there is that nagging thing called guilt. People who are often troubled by guilt will go to a therapist, who is supposed to boost their flagging self-image or help them realize there really is no such thing as guilt. People don’t want to feel guilt in our culture today.
The media have confirmed this, publishing articles with headlines such as, “How to Stop Being So Tough on Yourself”; “Guilt Can Drive You Crazy”; “Getting Rid of the Guilt”; “Don’t Feed the Guilt Monster.” The list goes on and on. The common thread is treating guilt as some irritant we need to get rid of. Guilt is bad – or so people say.
Ann Landers, whose syndicated advice column was read by millions, made this interesting statement about guilt: “One of the most painful, self-mutilating, time- and energy-consuming exercises in the human experience is guilt. … It can ruin your day – or your week or your life – if you let it.” She concluded, “Remember guilt is a pollutant and we don’t need any more of it in the world.”
I disagree. I think guilt has an important part to play. I think God can use guilt in our lives. Guilt can be something that can remind us that we have crossed the line, that we have done something wrong. God can work with guilt in the human conscience to bring us to our senses.
Maybe your conscience has been troubling you lately. You know you’ve done something you shouldn’t have. Instead of trying to ignore it, listen to it and examine it. If there is something you have done, then God is only awakening you to it so that you can acknowledge it and turn away from it.
The good news is this: The Bible says that “if we confess our sins, [God] is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9 NKJV).
God wants us to have a clear conscience. So when that warning signal of guilt goes off, it means that your conscience is working. Listen to it. Don’t put off clearing your conscience.
Posted 04/18/2019. The teenager whose supernatural recovery is at the center of the new film Breakthrough says he hopes his story helps moviegoers understand that miracles do happen and God does exist.
John Smith, now 18, fell through an icy pond in 2015 and was thought dead until his mother began praying for him at the hospital. Only then did his heart start beating.
Incredibly, 45 minutes had passed between the time he plunged through the ice and the moment he regained his pulse. CPR and shock treatments had failed. The doctor called it a “bonafide miracle.”
Chrissy Metz of This Is Us plays the mom in the film.
The real-life John Smith says he wants the film to be a “beacon of hope” for moviegoers.
“There's 300-plus pages of medical documents of why I should be dead. But I'm alive,” Smith told a panel of Christian media members. “And so unbelievers see that and go, 'Oh, it can't just be another God-based film.' We have doctors that are on our side to pull more unbelievers in to get them to believe that this is a bonafide miracle and the only person that can do this is God.”
Smith says he’s been amazed by the responses he’s received from atheists and unbelievers about his story.
“This has sparked curiosity regarding faith,” he said. “... And I think also the science part of it [has helped attract attention].”
Acknowledging he shouldn’t be alive, Smith said: “There's no answer for me.”
Breakthrough follows Smith’s miraculous recovery but also tackles the often-asked unanswerable question: Why did God heal Smith but not others?
Smith says he gets asked that question a lot.
“The one thing I always say to them is, ‘I'm sorry but respectfully, I don't know, but I'll be praying for you and your situation.’ … You can ask probably the number one pastor in the world and he may not even not know the answer,” he said. “But I always remind them that God is definitely alive and that God definitely loves them and their family.”
Posted on 04/19/2019 - Sometimes people get angry with God and say they’re never going to talk to Him again. They’re never going to go to church again. And they’re never going to read the Bible again.
As Jesus hung on the cross, he cried out, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” (Matthew 27:46; Mark 15:34 NKJV). I don’t think these were the words of someone in doubt. Jesus asked why, but he also cried out to the Father.
People have asked me if it is wrong to ask God why. Some would say it is, claiming it indicates a lack of faith. But Jesus asked God “Why?”
So go ahead and ask away. Just don’t expect an answer. And even if God were to answer, I don’t think you would be happy with what He said.
When the prophet Habakkuk didn’t understand why something was happening, he asked God about it. In effect God said, “I’ll tell you,” and then He gave Habakkuk the answer. But Habakkuk didn’t understand. It made no sense to him.
When we cry out to God and ask Him why, here is God’s basic answer: “I’ll tell you later, when you’re ready for it.”
It’s like explaining something complex to children. You could try to explain it now, but if you wait until they’re a little older, they will be able to understand it. In the same way, God could explain things to you now, but as you listen, you’ll say, “I don’t like that at all. I disagree.”
So God effectively says, “Let’s wait until you get to heaven, and then I’ll tell you. Then you’ll get it. Until that day, just trust me.”
When Jesus cried out, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken me?” he was dying as a substitute for us. The guilt of our sins was imputed to Him, and He was suffering the punishment for those sins on our behalf. In the very essence of that punishment was the outpouring of God’s wrath against sinners.
Last year, a terrorist who identified with ISIS killed four people in southern France. Among them was Lieutenant Colonel Arnaud Beltrame of the national police. Beltrame was the first to respond when the terrorist stormed a market, killed one person, and took hostages. As police negotiated with the terrorist, Beltrame offered himself in the place of a hostage, and the terrorist agreed. In the end, the terrorist mortally wounded Beltrame. Beltrame gave his life for others. He saved a life by giving his own.
Jesus died because we were the hostages of the devil, and Jesus took our place on the cross. In some mysterious way that we can never fully understand, during those awful hours on the cross, God the Father was pouring out the full measure of His wrath against sin. And the recipient of that wrath was Jesus.
God was punishing Jesus as though He had personally committed every wicked deed of every wicked sinner. In doing so, God could treat and forgive the redeemed ones as though they had lived Christ’s perfect life of righteousness.
I think for Jesus to bear the sins of the world was worse than the scourging, worse than the mockery, worse than the blows to his face, and worse than the crucifixion itself. He who had never had even a single thought out of harmony with the Father was having all the horrific sins of humanity placed upon him as He died for each of us.
It was God’s most painful moment, and He went through that in our place. Jesus did all of this for us.
From the cross Jesus uttered, “It is finished!” (John 19:30 NKJV). In the original language, this statement was composed of a single Greek word, tetelestai. It was a commonly used term in that day. After you finished a job, you would say, “Tetelestai!” It’s completed. It’s accomplished. It’s done.
Jesus opened the way to Heaven for us.
One day we will die. We will give our last statement and breathe our last breath. We will face death. But when Christians die, they don’t cease to exist; they simply move from one place to another. And, by the way, they move to a much better place. If you’re a Christian, you don’t have to be afraid to die.
In the book of Acts we find the account of a young man named Stephen who preached the gospel to the religious leaders. As a result they decided to execute him. As Stephen was being stoned to death, he said, “Look! I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!” (Acts 7:56 NKJV).
God gave Stephen a glimpse to the other side. Then Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit” and “Lord, do not charge them with this sin.” The Bible tells us that “when he had said this, he fell asleep” (verses 59–60 NKJV).
The word “sleep” in the Bible is a metaphor for death used only in connection with Christians. It is never used to describe the death of a nonbeliever. If you’re a Christian, one day you’ll fall asleep and go to Heaven, directly into the presence of God.
If you’re not a Christian, however, you should be scared to death of death. It should terrify you. It should mortify you.
Jesus died and rose from the dead so we could know that we would live forever in Heaven. He did all of this for us, but we must come to him and say, “Lord, I’m sorry for my sin. I thank you for dying on the cross for me and rising again. Now I want to know You in a personal way.”
Death is different for a Christian because Jesus rose from the dead after he died on the cross. Death died when Christ rose.
Posted April 25, 2019
“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.”
- COLOSSIANS 3:12
Every day I ask myself the question, “What should I wear?” I have my favorite clothes that I choose based on color (my favorite is blue) or comfort (stretchy pants) or a need to “dress for success.” What we wear says a lot about us, and I think the same is true of what we “clothe ourselves in” as Christians.
Clothing reflects our personality and tends to make a statement to the world around us, either that “I am a well-dressed, confident person who likes herself,” or “I don’t really care what others think of what I’m wearing, because I like it!” For Christians, we may dress to please ourselves, but perhaps we need to think about how what we are wearing affects those around us.
Imagine going to your closet tomorrow morning, and having a choice between anger or compassion, critical spirit or kindness, pride or humility, legalism or gentleness, frustration or patience. Whether you realize it or not, you choose from this list every day by deciding either to live for yourself or to invite the Spirit to manifest his fruit through you. Some of these clothes look really good on you, but some definitely do not! Some make you feel more secure about yourself, but if you are honest, as a Spirit-filled Christian, some just don’t seem to be “fitting” anymore.
We might question why some of these garments would even be found in a Christian’s closet. Perhaps it is time that we started getting rid of some of these old clothes and do a bit of “spring cleaning.”
Holy Spirit, please help me to do some honest closet cleaning and to choose to wear spiritual clothes that honor God and are a witness to the world of my transformed life in Christ. Amen.
Go Deeper — As you stand at your wardrobe or closet today deciding what to wear, also decide what attitude you are going to put on, especially if you are concerned about something that will happen that day.
Posted on 05/11/2018 - Last year the film “Wonder Woman” was released. But the Bible talks about a real wonder woman: the woman of Proverbs 31.
The woman described in this passage is the longest description of any family member in the Bible. That should tell us a lot about what God thinks of mothers and how important they are.
The chapter is an acrostic, which means that each verse begins with the succeeding letter of the Hebrew alphabet. What we’re given is an A-to-Z description of what a wonder woman – a woman of virtue – is like.
Verse 1 introduces this proverb as “the sayings of King Lemuel – an inspired utterance his mother taught him” (NIV). We don’t know a lot about this king, but we do know that he had a mother who gave him some great wisdom, which he wrote down.
According to verse 10, a real wonder woman is priceless and quite rare: “A wife of noble character who can find? She is worth far more than rubies” (NIV). We live in a time in which worth, especially for a woman, is determined by outward appearance. The more beautiful she is, the more valuable she is in the estimation of modern culture. The less beautiful or older she is, the less valuable she is. But that is the exact opposite of the way God sees things. In fact, pretty girls are a dime a dozen, but a woman of virtue, honor and character is priceless.
In Proverbs 31, we have a description of a woman of character and integrity. I can say, without any doubt, that my wife, Cathe, fits this description of the woman of virtue. A word to single guys: This is the kind of woman you need to be looking for. Start with Proverbs 31 and look for a woman who fits this category … or is at least is seeking to live this way. This is your standard, because the most important decisions of your life are: 1) the Lord you serve; and 2) the woman you marry. The first decision will determine whether you have heaven or hell in the afterlife. And the second decision will determine which one you’ll have in this life.
And a word to single women: This is the woman you want to be. Forget the magazines, their articles and their emphasis. They are so out of sync with what the Word of God says. Forget what you see on television and in commercials and instead look at what the Bible says about the real wonder woman, because this is God’s plan – and it’s better than any other plan. This is the perfect balance of beauty, brains, and spirituality. The woman who lives this way will be a happy woman because she’s a godly woman.
The wonder woman of Proverbs 31 is also trustworthy: “Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value” (verse 11 NIV). Trust is so important in a marriage. So is communication. You need to be honest with your mate. You need to tell the truth to your mate. If you have a trustworthy wife, then you have a wife of such great value.
Also, the wonder woman loves her husband: “She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life” (verse 12 NIV). She is his greatest cheerleader. She encourages him. She doesn’t tear him down in public. She doesn’t tell an embarrassing story about him in front of their friends. (And to the point, a husband should not do that to his wife, either.) Build up your spouse in public. If you have something critical to say, then say it privately.
The wonder woman of Proverbs 31 also loves her family. We see from this proverb that she finds wool and flax and busily spins it. She is like a merchant ship, bringing her food from afar. She gets up before dawn to prepare breakfast for her household and plans the day with her servants. Wool would speak of clothing for the winter, and flax would refer to clothing for the summer. In this day, they wouldn’t buy clothes; they made them.
I think the emphasis here is not that a woman has to start making all the clothes for her family (though some do that very well). Rather, verse 13 says that “she works with eager hands” (NIV). It speaks of a delightful willingness. She enjoys this calling God has given to her. She is also a shrewd investor. She goes to inspect a field and buys it with her earnings. This woman is an entrepreneur, a businesswoman.
Another thing we see about the wonder woman of Proverbs 31 is that she’s wise: “She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue” (verse 26 NIV). The words of a mother are so powerful, and they will stay with her child throughout his or her life. My wife taught our sons the Word of God and helped them with everything from manners to being tidy and so forth. If we were to look back over our lives, we would realize there are a lot of things our mothers taught us.
For example, our mothers taught us about anticipation when they said, “Just wait until your father gets home.” Our mothers also taught us about genetics when they said, “You’re just like your father.” They taught us about justice when they said, “One day you’re going to have kids, and I hope they turn out just like you. Then you’ll see what it’s like.”
There’s something about the bond of a child with his or her mother that is so special. When little children fall down, who do they call out for? Mom. Now if mom is not around, then dad is distant second. But they really want mom. When a football player scores a touchdown, he turns to the camera and says, “Love you, Mom!” And stories have been told of young men who, as they lay dying on the battlefield, they were calling out to their mothers.
We thank God for mothers, and we bless them. Let your mother know today that she is appreciated. Yes, a gift is fine. A card is good, especially if you write something in it. But she needs to know that you love her and notice all the things she has done. The best thing you could say to your mother or your wife who’s a mom, “You’re doing a great job.” If you thought of giving her some flowers on top of that, it’s even better. Verbally say to her, “I love you. I appreciate you. Thank you for all that you do.” It’s an important thing to do for the wonder woman in your life.