My Desperate Need

I don’t know about you, but I suffer sometimes. You don’t have to live long to realize that sometimes life can be tough.   However, no matter how bad it gets, God’s grace sustains me and keeps my head above water.  I desperately need and depend on the Grace of God to sustain me during life’s dark days.   Annie Johnson said it better than I ever could:

He Giveth More Grace 

He giveth more grace when the burdens grow greater,

He sendeth more strength when the labors increase;

To added affliction He addeth His mercy;

To multiplied trials, His multiplied peace.

 

When we have exhausted our store of endurance,

When our strength has failed ere the day is half done,

When we reach the end of our hoarded resources,

Our Father’s full giving is only begun.

 

Fear not that thy need shall exceed His provision,

Our God ever yearns His resources to share;

Lean hard on the arm everlasting, availing;

The Father both thee and thy load will upbear.

 

His love has no limit; His grace has no measure.

His pow’r has no boundary known unto men;

For out of His infinite riches in Jesus,

He giveth, and giveth, and giveth again!

 

–Annie Johnson Flint–

2Corinthians 12:9        And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

Yours in Christ,

Larry Epps

The Value of Steadfast Love

Heart on Fire

I love Valentine’s Day.  A whole day set aside in which we honor the value of solid relationships and love.   I love everything about it: that look on someone’s face when they realize that the bouquet of flowers really is for them, the look in couples eyes at the romantic restaurant when they are holding hands across the table from each other, and those other thoughtful moments in which we celebrate true and lasting love.  But let me challenge you a bit:

  1. Why not love each other like that all year long?  Maybe you do share that sort of intentional love all year, and if so, that is awesome! Flowers given on Valentines day are somewhat expected.  Why not give flowers, gifts, and cards on March 14th?  Those unexpected expressions of love mean more than anything.  Invest time and energy into your marriage every day and you will have a marriage (or relationship) that will bring you much joy and happiness.
  2. Even if you are not a good poet, write down some thoughts on paper that tries to describe just how you feel about your spouse or mate.  Wrestle with it; take the time to choose each word carefully.  Even if you only wind up with one short paragraph that came from your heart, it will mean so much more than any Hallmark card could.
  3. Remember how you treated each other when you were first dating?  Treat him / her at least that good now.  This may include personal hygiene, controlling bodily functions (Men! — come on!),  taking the time to prepare a special meal, or remembering to turn on some romantic music and light a candle before sitting down to eat. We can still romance and pursue one another no matter how long we have been married.

 

Any of the above suggestions will result in you making an investing in the “love bank” of your spouse.  Who will benefit from this investment?  You, your spouse, your entire family, and those who are around you every day will all benefit from your efforts.  You will be happier, more at peace, and generally easier to get along with.  So, get to it!  Really!  Why are you still sitting here staring a computer!  Get going and get started!

 

Yours in Christ,

Larry Epps

Are You Perfect?

God is in the business of using many flawed and imperfect people.  God’s people are not perfect (or any less human) they are just in relationship with a merciful and loving God.

Jacob was a cheater, Peter had a temper, David had an affair, Noah got drunk, Jonah ran from god, Paul was a murderer, Gideon was insecure, Miriam was a gossiper, Martha was a worrier, Thomas was a doubter, Sarah was impatient, Elijah was depressed, Moses stuttered, Zaccheus was short, Abraham was old, and Lazarus was dead….

God doesn’t call the qualified, he qualifies the called!

You don’t have to be perfect; you just need the mighty hand of God working in and through your life!

Remember that the next time that the devil (or someone working for him) tries to discourage you or remind you of your shortcomings as you try to serve God and others from a humble heart.  I am not giving permission to sin, I am simply saying that everyone that has ever lived (except Jesus Christ) struggles with sin and is far from perfect.  Let’s pursue holiness, pursue God, and dedicate our lives to Him in humble and obedient service.

Yours in Christ,

Larry Epps

True Friends: A Gift From God

I, like many of you, have had my fair share of difficult days in life.  There has been pain, sorrow, loss, betrayal, and so on.  During these times, I have come to value my true friends as a true gift from God to help me bear the load, to help me limp along until I could walk on my own again, and to treat the  battle wounds of life.  It is to those friends that I dedicate today’s post.  Thanks for always being faithful and true…..  And for ringing the bell for me during my dark days.  Here is a story that says it better than I could:

The Bell

            “Just up the road from my home is a field, with two horses in it.  From a distance, each looks like every other horse.  But if you stop you car, or are walking by, you will notice something quite amazing.  Looking into the eyes of one of the horses will disclose that he is blind. His owner has chosen not to have him put down but to make a good home for him.  This alone is amazing.  If nearby and listening, you will hear the sound of a bell.

            Looking around for the source of the sound, you will see that is comes from the smaller horse in the field.  Attached to her halter is a small bell. It lets her blind friend know where she is, so he can follow her. 

            As you stand and watch these two friends, you’ll see how she is always checking on him, and that he will listen for her bell and then slowly walk to where she is, trusting that she will not lead him astray.  When she returns to the shelter each evening she stops occasionally and looks back, making sure her friend isn’t too far behind to hear the bell.

            Like the owners of these two horses, God does not throw us away just because we have problems and challenges.  He watches over us and even brings others into our lives to help us when we are in need.  Sometimes we are the blind horse being guided by the little ringing bell of those who God places in our lives.  Other times, we are the guide horse, helping to see.

Good friends are like this….  You don’t always see them, but you know they are always there, praying for us and watching, and that, they will never leave us.  

Listen for my bell and I’ll listen for yours. 

Be kinder than necessary for everyone you meet is fighting some kind of battle.” 

-Author Unknown-

Remember friends…. we need each other.  Life can be tough, let’s make the journey together.

Yours in Christ,

Larry Epps

Breaking God’s Heart

Heart-of-God

I am a sinner.  I sin.  There, I said it.  I hate to admit it, but I hate it even more that I do sin.  But how do I defeat the monster of my own sin?  I can tell you that I have found out the hard way that my own human will and determination are not enough…… it is just too strong and rooted too deeply in my wicked heart.  You will never gain complete victory over a habitual sin by gritting your teeth and swearing that you will never do it again.

Jeremiah 17:9               The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?

I have realized is that my sins don’t just hurt me, they hurt those that love me (those close to me), those that I sin against, and most importantly, they hurt God.  What do you mean that my sins hurt God?  If you want to really hurt someone, don’t attack them directly, but attack, and hurt them indirectly by turning someone they really care about against them.  That is what Satan did with God when it comes to man.  Adam and Eve were in perfect harmony with each other and with God before sin entered into the picture.

Genesis 1        27So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him;male and female he created them.  28 And God blessed them….     31 And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good.

But after they sinned, Adam and Eve hid themselves from God and God eventually drove them out of paradise as a consequence of their sin.  Sin always causes division and separation.

Genesis 3        8 And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden.

Satan knew that he could not hurt God directly, so he hurt him indirectly by hurting those whom God loved; mankind.  Therefore, when I sin, it cooperates with the plan and will of Satan to break the heart of God.  I should not stop sinning because I am a good boy.  I should not stop because I don’t want to get into trouble.  I should stop sinning because I love God and don’t want to hurt God any more.

John 15    23 Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.  24 Whoever does not love me does not keep my words.  And the word that you hear is not mine but the Father’s who sent me.

Beloved, God loves you, he paid the price to give you the power to say no to sin, and we should all pursue the heart of God by obeying His words (the Bible), prayer, and worship.  Let love be the motivating factor in causing you to say no to your fleshly desires that are contrary to God’s will and plan for your life.

Yours in Christ,

Larry Epps

One Key to Inner Peace

contentment

Sometimes I become aware of a drive deep within me to always want more than I have.  I am reminded of the old proverb that says; “he who dies with the most toys wins.”  It seems that the whole human race is in a competition with each other on who has the nicest house or the fanciest car.  And it is not like you have to go to college to learn this mentality; we are born with it.  Let me illustrate that point with the following:

A Toddlers Creed:     

If I want it, it’s mine. If I gave it to you and I change my mind later, its mine.  If I can take it away from you, it’s mine.  If I had a little while ago, its mine.  It it’s mine; it will never belong to anyone else, no matter what.  If we are building something together, all the pieces are mine.  If it looks like mine, it’s mine.

We are all born with this drive for more which is described succinctly by one dirty little word:  Greed; we are never satisfied and no matter how much we have, we still want more.  Any why are we so greedy?  Because one side effect of the presence of sin within every human heart is the lust to have more.  We kill ourselves working away like robots or machines to have “stuff” that we don’t even really need.  For example:  TV’s that get larger every year, newer and faster computers every year, the latest Apple “I-pod” or “I-phone” that comes alone.  And does it really ever bring us lasting happiness?  I think the answer to that is obvious.  So, to get this stuff, we work extra shifts, longer hours, and sacrifice more of what really matters in life: Time with our family and friends, time with God, time for rest and leisure activities, and time to help others in need.

So, what is the answer to all of this?  I think the answer is contentment.  To have true contentment, we must learn to trust that God will provide for our needs, and that God designed us to work hard, but also to rest and enjoy life.

Philippians 4:11-12    11 I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.  12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty.  I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.

“Contentment is natural wealth, luxury is artificial poverty” – Socrates

Think about it friends.  Let’s slow down, smell the roses, and be content with what we have.

Yours in Christ,

Larry Epps

Don’t Be So Emotional!!

As human beings we are created in the image of God.  So, how are we to factor in human emotions into that?  I mean, we are emotional beings, but sometimes we act as if our emotions are a bad thing that we must try to hide or be ashamed of.  But as Christians, aren’t we supposed to strive to be more like Jesus?  The New Testament portrays Jesus as someone who was very comfortable with His emotions.

“I am spellbound by the intensity of Jesus emotions” not a twinge of pity but heartbroken compassion; not a passing irritation, but terrifying anger: not a silent tear, but groans of anguish: not a weak smile, but ecstatic celebration. Jesus emotions are like a mountain river cascading with clear water. My emotions are more like muddy foam or a feeble trickle.” – G. Walter Hansen

Jesus wept freely over the death of his friend, Lazarus:

John 11           33 When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. 34 “Where have you laid him?” he asked. “Come and see, Lord,” they replied.  35 Jesus wept.  36 Then the Jews said, “See how he loved him!”

Jesus was frequently invited to parties and weddings.  Please don’t think that Jesus was the long-faced stick in the mud that brooded quietly at these parties.  Instead, Jesus laughed freely, loved to talk, tell stories, and was probably “the life of the party.”

John 2             1 On the third day a wedding took place at Cana in Galilee. Jesus’ mother was there, 2 and Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. 3 When the wine was gone, Jesus’ mother said to him, “They have no more wine.”

God created you just the way you are, and He loves you deeply.  You are beautiful and carefully made in the image of God.  Let’s worship God freely and expressively.  Learn to appreciate your emotions.  Even the darker and heavier emotions will shape you, mold your heart, and remind you of your need for God and others.

Yours in Christ,

Larry Epps

Be Careful How You Hear

I recently heard the story of a man named Charles Templeton.  Mr. Templeton was a close friend of the Reverend Billy Graham.  Mr. Templeton preached a lot and even shared the platform and the pulpit with Billy Graham. However, later on in life, Mr. Templeton completely abandoned the faith and became an atheist. As an atheist, Templeton wrote a book called: Farewell to God.  After the book was published, Lee Strobel came and interviewed him.  Toward the end of the interview Strobel asked Templeton, “What about Jesus?”  Templeton replied, “I miss Jesus.”

So what happened to Templeton?  He had made friends with many skeptics and liberals and began to listen to what they had to say.  He gave up the faith after listening to their well reasoned logic that began to make sense to Templeton.  In the end, it cost him everything.

Luke 8:18        Take care then how you hear, for to the one who has, more will be given, and from the one who has not, even what he thinks that he has will be taken away.”

Think about it.  Choose your friends carefully.  It does matter who you are listening to.

1 Corinthians 15:33    Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners.

Yours in Christ,

Larry Epps

The Danger of Having Good Faith But Bad Theology

I recently heard the story of a man named John Liberber who had a daughter who was very sick.  Rather than take her to the hospital, he trusted God to heal his little girl, and prayed faithfully.  When the girl got worse and not better, he only prayed harder, but never took her to the hospital.  His daughter died, he was charged with manslaughter.  John’s only defense was, “God is my judge.”

Having faith in God is necessary as a starting point for the Christian life.  Without faith in God, no one can be saved.  We all base our actions, attitudes, and values on how and what we believe.   But if we base our life and values on bad theology, disaster is the result.  

When you stand before God, he will not ask you how you did on a theology exam, but will care about how much you trust him.  But belief without good theology can do great damage.  In fact, the more deeply you trust, the more dangerous you are — if you don’t have good theology.  If I have a concept of God that is radically false, it is possible that I am are gambling my life and soul on a lie.  This is where cults are born that lead people away from the truth of God.

Let me create an illustration that may help make this clear:  You have a pain in your stomach and go to a doctor.  You ask him what is wrong, and he says, Look, I did not pay much attention to all that medicine stuff in school….  I focus more on bedside manner and my interaction with my patients.  Let’s just cut you open and see what is going on in there.  Would you say ok?  Or run out of there?

So, let’s have not just strong faith, let’s have good theology too.  We must discipline ourselves enough to become students of the Word of God, study it, and base our lives and decisions on it.  It will be a benefit to you and to everyone else too.  God will not overlook unbelief.  and bad theology leads to disaster.

Luke 10:27      And he answered, “you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.”

What do you think?  I would love to hear your ideas.

Yours in Christ,

Larry Epps

The Cult of Ignorance

It seems as if there is a strange thing happening in some circles of the Church.  There is this idea going around that higher learning is bad for your spiritual health.  I am a Bible student working on my Master’s Degree in Bible (the degree is called an M.Div.).  You would be surprised at how many people have almost reacted with hostility when they hear that I am pursuing this degree.  I hear questions like: “Why don’t you just rely on the Holy Spirit to tell you what you ought to preach or teach?”  Or “How are you leaving room God to get all the glory for what you preach if you are getting so well trained in how to understand and communicate the Bible?”

I suppose some of those questions are good ones, but it also seems to expose some underlying beliefs about ministers:  It is ok to love the Lord with all of my heart and soul, but the mind is off limits.  But that idea seems to be contrary to Biblical teaching.  Jesus said this:

And he answered, “You shall Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself  (Luke 10:27). 

Don’t be afraid to love God with all your mind.  You will not make God nervous. Let’s explore the deep things of God.  Let’s meditate on God and His Word.

I love this quote by A.W. Tozer — “There is, unfortunately, a feeling in some quarters today that there is something innately wrong about learning, and that to be spiritual one must be stupid. There is a cult of ignorance.”

 Most of us would not be comfortable in trusting a doctor to surgically remove our gallbladder if he had not been to medical school and spent many years in residency.  However, we seem to think that those who care for our eternal souls do not need any preparation or training.  It is a strange paradox that we must rethink.  There is too much at stake for us to just go at the job of leading God’s people without sacrificing our time and energy to seek proper preparation to do the job with care and caution.

What do you think?  I would love to hear your ideas.

Yours in Christ,

Larry Epps

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