What Is A Fundamentalist... Really?

This is the day after our church softball team played its first game of the season.  We are the newbies in the league so my expectations this first year out were not that we would dominate the season!  I expected we would lose some games, especially early on. Well, we lost.  What can I say but they just flat played better than we did.  They also knew some of the nuances of the co-ed setup and the particulars of the playing field that we didn't yet know, but even so, we lost on the fundamentals of the game. 

Life is like that.  Sometimes we struggle with the basics.  The fundamentals of any sport, trade or profession must be mastered if we are to perform well.  A mechanic or a plumber must learn certain basic skills before he can go on to be a master at his trade.  An artist must learn certain fundamental concepts and how to perform them before he can go on to explore the more innovative and complex aspects of his craft.  There are certain fundamentals associated with business, accounting, food preparation, Medicine, Law, and any other discipline you want to name.  Learning these basics is the key to success.

As Christians, we have certain fundamentals as well.  The core elements of the faith cannot be forsaken or ignored without weakening the entire structure of Christianity.  Some have mistakenly claimed that we can make room for those who, for instance, refuse to accept the doctrine of a literal Resurrection.  However, the Apostle Paul demonstrates in his first epistle to the Corinthians (Chapter 15) that without this core element of our faith we have no faith left at all! 

What fundamental disciplines are necessary for successful Christian living?  I think we can name three: Bible Study, Prayer, and Corporate Worship.  These three, if practiced regularly, will ultimately result in the practice of other Christian works such as evangelism, giving, showing mercy, and living a pure life.

How are you doing with the fundamentals?  How about today?  It's not too late to get into the Word, all by yourself, to let God speak to your heart.  Now is as good a time as any to make sure God hears from you in prayer.  If we fall short in softball, we still had the benefit of the exercise and enjoyed some fun with the team.  Win or lose, we can say we had a good time and it was worth the effort to play.  There is no real eternal value in a game of softball.  Our faith, however, holds the promise of a life of joy for now and the promise of eternal rewards.

Every true Christian is a fundamentalist, in the sense that he believes and practices the core elements of his faith.  Let's be continuous students of these great truths and continuous practitioners of these basic Christian disciplines.


Who Will Cry at Your Funeral?

I read somewhere about a pastor who was stressed and weary with trying to please everyone and accomplish many things.  He finally came to the realization that it was most important for him to be with and serve "the ones who will be weeping at my funeral."  He had allowed himself to be stretched so thin that he lost sight of those closest to him, and while trying to serve everyone he was not doing much good for anyone.  He was ignoring his own family while trying to reach other families.  His testimony was that he "came to himself" and began to spend the quality time necessary to nurture his own closest relationships and then discovered that he was much more effective at reaching others.

In Christian service, we are called to be selfless.  We are to flesh out the gospel in ways that demonstrate the grace of God in our lives.  Our own close personal relationships represent the first arena of Christian devotion.  Indeed, as the Apostle Paul put it, "But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel."  (I Tim. 5:8)   I do not think this just means physical needs.  We are to provide love, encouragement, prayer, and emotional support to our loved ones.  Too often we use people to perform our programs rather than use the programs to build people.

Who will be weeping at your funeral?  Those dear ones are your family and closest friends.  We can make an effective witness to non-Christians by being better at life than those without Christ.  More people will be impressed with the life changing gospel if they can see some improved lives!  Notice that Christ, while certainly available to the multitudes, spent most of his time with twelve intimate friends called "disciples".  These men who had spent such time with Jesus went out to literally change the world!  They were the ones who wept at his funeral.  They were also the ones who went on the practice love and worship with their brothers and sisters in the church setting.

Paganism eventually gave way to Christianity because the teachings of Jesus proved to be a better way to live.  In these times in which we live, not unlike that of the first century church, we must present Christ and his truths in both word and deed.  Let's strengthen our relationships.  Open the doors that have been closed too long.  Express the feelings that have been bottled up too long.  Ask God to help you be the husband, wife, father, mother, son, daughter, or friend that you should be.  Make your best service of all toward those who will be weeping at your funeral.


 "When we stand before God, He's not going to look us over for medals or degrees; He's going to look us over for scars."  Billy Sunday

“Faith makes a Christian.  Life proves a Christian.  Trials confirm a Christian.  Death crowns a Christian.”  -  Anonymous

“If a man cannot be a Christian in the place where he is, he cannot be a Christian anywhere.”  Henry Ward Beecher

 "People talk of the sacrifice I have made in spending so much of my life in Africa....It is emphatically no sacrifice.  Say rather it is a privilege."  David Livingstone

The Main Thing

Someone once said, "The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing."  Priorities are necessary if we are to please God and fulfill our purpose for living.  If we place too much time or emphasis on the trivial we may do so and the expense of the crucial.  When we make the unimportant important, we cannot help but make the important unimportant.
What is the main thing?  Does God give us direction here?  How do we determine what is actually worth our most energetic attention?  How do we discover what things God Himself would have us focus on and what He thinks is not worthy of our interest or passion?
We typically divide our activity into work and hobbies (vocation and avocation).  Both are important for a healthy and well balanced life, but what about when we allow our hobbies to become too prominent?  Can a benign and harmless side matter become malignant and injurious to us if we allow it to subtract from the # 1 thing in life?  I think it can.
God gave us two great big commandments.  He gave us two large and worthy goals to achieve: 1. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. and 2. Love your neighbor as you love yourself.  He went on to define your “neighbor” as including (The story of the Good Samaritan) those you may consider to be outside your comfort zone, yes those "other people".
Surely our personal time with God is the most important thing we do in any given day.  This time alone will cause us to be more willing and able to perform the second great commandment, namely to love others.  Whatever we allow to get in the way of performing these two great commandments is, at best, a poor display of priorities.  At worst it is just plain old fashioned sin.
We who claim to be true followers of Jesus should be so in tune with Him that we do not substitute uniformity for unity.  We do not substitute outward appearance for inward holiness and we do not fight and war to achieve recognition or place others in a bad light.  "Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves." Phil. 2:3
When we have a healthy devotional life and when we worship as sincerely as we should, we will automatically gravitate toward our higher calling.  The small things will mind their places and the vital things will take the places of honor that they alone deserve.
"He who has not forgiven an enemy has never yet tasted one of the most sublime enjoyments of life."  Johann Kaspar Lavater
" 'I can forgive, but I cannot forget', is only another way of saying, I will not forgive.  Forgiveness ought to be like a cancelled note - torn in two, and burned up, so that it never can be shown against one."  Henry Ward Beecher
"To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you."   Lewis B. Smedes
"The weak can never forgive.  Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong."  Mahatma Gandhi(Hey, Hindu or not, when he's right, he's right!)
"Faith is the daring of the soul to go father than it can see."   William Newton Clark

"Faith looks up the stairs that Love has made and looks out the windows which Hope has opened."   C.H. Spurgeon
"Faith is to believe what we do not see, and the reward of this faith is to see what we believe."  Augustine

Inner Light?

Spirituality is a universal human trait.  Although there are those who have tried to suppress or deny their innate spiritual sense by claiming to not believe in God, the truth is that deep down in the heart of everyone there is the awareness of something other than the material world that we can see.  As the French philosopher Blaise Pascal said, "There is a God shaped vacuum in the heart of every man which cannot be filled by any created thing, but only by God, the Creator, made known through Jesus”
When one tries to deny what his own heart knows to be true he becomes frustrated.  This can result in anger, anxiety, depression, and any number of conditions that will deny him joy and cause him to seek solace in pleasures or intellectual pursuits.  When it comes to the unbeliever, the drunkard and the secular humanist philosopher may be both just trying to deal with the pain of an empty life.  The playboy and the workaholic may both be trying to suppress that nagging little voice that says something is very wrong and your soul is in danger.
The light of the gospel is a wonderful thing but it may hurt the eyes of those who have shut them against that light for so long that the darkness is comfortable to them now.  To have to see those things which the light reveals is unpleasant because the lost man does not want to repent of his sins and does not want to submit to the Lord.  The Bible says, in 2 Cor. 4:3-4, "But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them."  Also we read that "men loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil."
Whenever a lost person comes to a place where the light is shone, he is being drawn of God to make a choice to accept or reject the gospel.  The work of the church, our work as individual believers, is to shine the light of God's truth in any and every way we can.  Light will penetrate darkness.  It always wins over darkness and will ultimately abolish darkness.  Let's be sure our lamps are in good working order.  When the wick is trimmed, and the oil reservoir is full, and the lamp is not hidden, but lifted high to shine brightly, the darkness must give way. 
"One learns through the heart, not the eyes or the intellect."  Mark Twain
 "Character is higher than intellect.  A great soul will be strong to live as well as to think."  Ralph Waldo Emerson
"I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with sense, reason, and intellect has intended us to forgo their use."  Galileo
Prov. 1:7"The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction."
Illumination:  “All men's miseries derive from not being able to sit in a quiet room alone.” Blaise Pascal
"Light itself is a great corrective. A thousand wrongs and abuses that are grown in darkness disappear, like owls and bats, before the light of day."  James Abram Garfield
"The thing to do is to supply light and not heat."   Thomas Woodrow Wilson

Thermometer or Thermostat?

As I am writing this, it is a very cold January morning.  It is somewhere around zero.  Boy, am I glad for "global warming" or it might be even colder!  :-)

Yes, all over the world there are reports of unusually cold weather.  People living in places that hardly ever freeze are seeing their rivers become ice.  Southern farmers that grow citrus are suffering the loss of those crops due to abnormally low temps for their area.  Some people have even died of hypothermia, and it is feared more may die due to the arctic blasts that are hitting much of the nation.  Around the world, similar reports are made of freakishly cold weather for their areas.

Long term weather forecasters are the most gutsy people in the world.  They are sometimes right on the money, but other times they miss it by a mile!  Shorter term predictions, on the other hand, are getting surprisingly more accurate.  Those guys at the meteorological centers seem to have their craft fine tuned to the point that they can almost tell you what side of the street it will rain on and for how long.  But even the short term forecasts aren't always accurate, as we have seen this year.  Several times lately an "inch of snow" has turned into several inches of snow followed by several more inches of snow.  I don't envy the job of the weather man.  All the best tools of science at his disposal still set him up as an educated guesser.

We may try to guess or predict what the future holds, but just like the weather, things can happen that we didn't foresee.  Only God knows the future, and with the exception of scriptural prophecy, He has not chosen to reveal it to us!  We are to live in the present moment with certain unchanging principles that are to serve us in whatever times we may live.  Honesty, courage, diligence, courtesy, faith, hope, and love work all the time!  The winds of societal fads may blow, and the temperature of cultural acceptance of the gospel may be cold or hot, but Christians are called upon to be the one great constant as a witness to this world of the love of Christ.  This means we have to be more of as thermostat than a thermometer.  The mechanism for each of these is similar, but the thermometer only has a pointer attached to it.  It reflects and records the temperature.   It is passive.  The thermostat, on the other hand, is attached to a great power source.  When it sends the signal, the connection is made, and that power source kicks in to actually change the temperature of the air.  Therefore, it is active!

Are you a thermometer or a thermostat?  Both need to be in the air space to work, and both need to be sensitive to the environment.  However, to affect needed change, one must be in tune with something more powerful.  God alone knows the future and its needs.  He alone can affect change.  As believers, we are called upon not to reflect the world, but to change the world.  As an individual believer, this means that I am to help bring God's power into play to affect my environment.  The scriptures refer to this concept as being "salt" and "light".

The secret to effective Christian living is to stay in tune with God.  We are affected by our environment, but we are not to be controlled by it.  Instead, we are to partner with God to challenge the darkness with light, and bring some needed heat to a cold world.  Let's be thermostats!  Let's work together to warm people's hearts toward Christ.


 "It is not scientific doubt, not atheism, not pantheism, not agnosticism, that in our day and in this land is likely to quench the light of the gospel.  It is a proud, sensuous, selfish, luxurious, church going, hollow-hearted prosperity."  Frederick D. Huntington, 1890(Did you notice the date...1890!)


"As any action or posture long continued will distort and disfigure the limbs; so the mind likewise is crippled and contracted by perpetual application to the same set of ideas."   Samuel Johnson


"Our Father in heaven...help us to see that it is better to fail in a cause that will ultimately succeed than to succeed in a cause that will ultimately fail."   Peter Marshall