Wednesday, July 18, 2018

JULY 18 "BE KIND TO THE POOR"

     In our reading today we are admonished by God to be "kind to the poor". I believe Christians today are confused on this whole issue of "the poor". Perhaps it stems from Jesus condoning the breaking of the alabaster jar on himself and when the disciples criticize this act and say, "what a waste, the bottle of perfume could have been sold and the money given to the poor", Jesus rebukes them and says, "the poor you will always have with you, what she has done is a good thing".  We almost see a disregard for the poor being reflected in Jesus' statement. Sometimes the Church can project an anti-sympathy for the poor, "the poor are like that because they refuse to serve God, or they deserve it or they are just lazy people that want to collect welfare, they don't want to work....blah...blah..." and what this can create in Christians is a lack of empathy for the poor. Christians may be insensitive to the needs of the poor and we are wrong in trying to justify are callousness thru Jesus. Jesus is not showing a disregard for the poor, nobody cared more about the poor than Jesus, He gave his life to the poor. The poor we will always have amongst us, is for sure, even within God's house. We are apt to think that a Christian should have money and always be prosperous, but the poor we will always have amongst us. Even in the Old Testament, God had different sacrificial provisions for the poor amongst the Israelites. Were these not "God's Children", were these not Jews..., yet not all were prosperous. Some God required to sacrifice a bull, a ram,  a sheep, others simply a pigeon or dove because God knew, that's all they could afford. Not all who are poor are lazy and trying to exploit the system. God will one day judge us for our stinginess and ignoring the needs of the poor amongst us.  "Amongst us" is the key word. It may seem like a noble act to give money to some poor man on the street that you do not know and somehow think that that will glorify God, but I don't believe this is what scripture teaches. Do we ignore the needs of the poor outside the church? No not necessarily, but scripture does command us to give preference to those amongst us. Who are the poor "in the church"? Are they suffering unduly?  Is their financial hardship really more than God would have them to bear? Is the church responding properly to the poor amongst them or are we spending "our blessings" all on ourselves and dismissing their needs as "their own fault?".   God's promise that we have read today is 17 Whoever is kind to the poor lends to the LORD, and he will reward them for what they have done".  Nobody understands human nature more than God, you don't have to try to convince God that some are poor because of their own doing, but yet God acknowledges this is not the case with all and God is watching to see what we do with the resources that come into the hands of those of us that "are not poor". Will you be found a worthy steward? "Well I give to my church, I give to this and that", you may say. Well that is great, but that is "not enough" we still must set aside a portion for the poor amongst us, whenever it is possible. God knows whether or not we have done our best, or if we have at least responded when prompted to give, to bless or to let go. Can you say with a clear conscience that you have helped, when you could, the poor amongst you?

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

JULY 17 "TELL ME GOD'S NOT FAIR"

"They were assigned to their duties by means of sacred lots, without regard to age or rank. Lots were drawn the presence of King David". And just before that, we read "all tasks were assigned to the various groups by means of sacred lots so that no preference would be shown, for there were many qualified officials serving God in the Sanctuary". I wonder if we are doing a dis-service in our Sanctuaries today by doing the complete opposite of what David did. "I will pick and choose by preference, so you'd better ship up!" I'm sure is the mantra in many sanctuaries across North America. "If Pastor, the Worship Leader, the Assistant Pastor, The Children's Church Director, don't like you, you aint getting a chance at nothing!"  We would say, "surely there is more qualified people than this?"  And the answer would be, "yes there are, but these are the ones being shown preference!".  Our text reveals to us "there were many qualified" and to avoid hurt feelings, to be sensitive to other people, they made sure "lots were cast" so that everyone knew, that whomever ended up in service and/or Leadership, it could not be said that "favorites and politics" factored in to the decision making. In all, 24 ministry workers are selected and 24 leaders.  I am going to "assume" here that David is being guided by God, in the wisdom he is using here, in the casting of lots. You can say, "ah, that's garbage, I will pick who I want and if the others don't like it, let them leave".  However, even in the New Testament when they must pick an Apostle to replace Judas, they cast lots.  I'm sure Peter had a preference, we all do, but he did not let it factor in, Peter, in wisdom, in fairness, cast lots.  We cannot always beckon to the sensitivities of man, but when we can, we should. When we can extract our preference, for the sake of all and the better good of the Congregation or ministry, we should.  The good thing here is there are many qualified people and many qualified leaders. The good thing here is  there is a great response to want to be involved. How different this is than many Churches today where few want to be involved in ministry and service in the Church.  Could it be that they have been turned off by constant preferences and politics in the picking and choosing of who is going to be involved in what and who is going to lead? I wonder.......If we will be honest, we all have favorites, just be honest with yourself. And while we are being honest with ourselves let us also admit, that it is hard, if left to us, not to let our bias factor in, when picking and choosing, whether that be at Church, at work, in sports,  or at home, this applies everywhere. Often the picking and choosing was not at all fair and everyone that was involved, knew it. Will this affect the morale of the whole, of course! Will this affect the outcome of this next "roll call" for help, of course!  Are you finding yourself with less and less volunteers and finding yourself working more and more with the same 2 or 3 and getting closer to them and drawing further away from the rest?  Can you look at that and say, "this is a good thing".  I would hope not. Take a step back and dare to ask yourself, have I been going about this the right way? Have I allowed my bias and preference to factor in to the decisions and choices I have been making? The wisdom of David in our text and the wisdom of Peter is that when choosing workers, helpers, leaders and you are finding yourself with more than enough qualified individuals, take a step back and figure out a way, that your bias and your preferences, will not factor in and you will find over time, that you are never lacking for volunteers and helpers for the work that is before you and/or under your leadership. "all tasks were assigned to the various groups by means of sacred lots so that no preference would be shown, for there were many qualified officials serving God in the Sanctuary"

Monday, July 16, 2018

JULY 16 "MINISTRY OF PROPHECY"

Some men were set a part for the ministry of prophesying? That's interesting....the text goes on to say  "the sons of Asaph were under the supervision of Asaph, who prophesied under the king" Imagine your ministry is always to prophecy? I wonder if they ever just prophesied something, for the king, that really was more them, then it was, actually God speaking?  Do we ever do that? Do we ever prophesy, "thus saith The Lord" but it really is "thus saith me". It's not necessarily is evil, blatant lie like the false prophets during Jeremiah's time, but yet, they are not really words from God either. God actually speaks on this issue, The Lord says, "they prophecy out of the premonitions of their own heart"  It's not "necessarily evil", they hear a sermon, are moved by it, think of a few scriptures that could attach to that sermon and they are really in agreement with the sermon and next thing you know, "they are prophesying out of the premonitions of their own heart".  Some prophecies that are specific, of course have the chance to pass the true test. Any prophecy from God will come to pass, no if's, when's or but's...about it. If the prophecy is, "thus saith The Lord, you will be pregnant next year this, time, then if it's God, that's what will happen. If the prophecy is, "within two years this church will double in size/attendance, then that's exactly what will happen. The fact of the matter is, all prophecy is intertwined with human personality and imagination. So prophecy would be part God, part human. Some prophecies may have less of God and more human thought and others vice versa. My son recently asked me, "why 3 different people prophesying, why doesn't God just say it all through one person?"  Good question! And the answer is, ....because prophesy is mixed with human personality. It's not just all God. So 3 different people can be moved, according to their own persona by a situation and give a different prophesy than the person before them. The prophecies will each have their variation, according to the filter that Holy Spirit goes through, in that unique individual. The prophecies should not contradict each other, they should compliment or just add to one another. The Word of God teaches us to "test the Spirits". It is up to reverently listen to prophesies, not disparage them, or mock them or by cynical, but simply to listen to them, and store them in our hearts in mind. If they are true, they will come to pass, if not, they won't. If they are not prophecies of specific future outcomes, but merely to encourage, or rebuke or challenge, then all we can do is listen and treasure them. God will bring them back to our memory, if they indeed were of God, when He impresses a challenge on us in the future. No doubt these men in our text, that prophesied before David, I'm sure just spoke out something they read or something on their heart. We cannot just stand before God and conjure up prophesy at a whim, just because the king says so, unless we just start making stuff up or prophesying out of the inclinations of our own heart. I believe in prophecy and I believe God still prophesies through His people today, as He did back then. But I also believe, that just like back then, sometimes, we are hearing more from that person, than we are of God, we must discern, that, consider that and test the spirits, to see if they be of God, but never become cynical towards prophecy, it is a good thing!

JULY 15 "ARE YOU A JEW?"

I remember sometime before either my sister or myself, came to know Christ, my sister had changed her Dog Tags (we were both in the Marine Corps) to read “Jewish” as her religion. I was dumbfounded by this. My Dog Tags had “Roman Catholic” in scripted on them. My sister was always eccentric, but this was odder than ever to me and to a family that grew up in the French Province of Quebec, we were Caucasian French Catholics, where did Jew fit in with that? And who would want to be a Jew anyway? In my eyes, Jews were strange people. I grew up around many Jews in Montreal. We had a whole Community in Outremont, of Orthodox Jews, with their side locks or side curls, black hats and long black trench coats. They seemed to be the most religious people in the City. Who would want to be religious, who would want to be a Jew? What was wrong with my sister? In our text today Paul makes this profound statement, “For you are not a true Jew just because you were born of Jewish parents or because you have gone through the ceremony of circumcision. No, a true Jew is one whose heart is right with God.”
The Religious Jews that I grew up with, who had all the Laws and outward appearances, but just as their predecessors; had not the Heart of the Law. God was not drawing my sister to be a “religious Jew”, like the Jews I grew up, God was drawing my sister to be “a true Jew” (if I can borrow that phrase from Paul) one that has a right heart with God. It would not be much longer before my sister gave her life to Jesus. Neither my sister, nor I knew anything about being Born Again, about Salvation or “being saved”. All we knew was religion and sin. The Word of God teaches that “no man” comes to Jesus unless he/she is drawn by the Father. God surely was drawing my sister during this time. She may not have understood why she changed her Dog Tags to read “Jewish”, I certainly did not understand, but God did and Paul the Apostle would have fully understood what my sister was going through and doing. I asked my sister, why would you do that? Her answer to me, “because the Jews are God’s people, I’m not doing it for the religion, but because the Jews are God’s people”.  This still went over my head.  My thought was, “who cares who God’s people are and where did you get that anyway, the Bible? Who reads the Bible?” I thought.  Here I am years later, writing a blog, based on one, who “reads the Bible Daily”. Here I am years later, a true Jew, according to Paul. Are you one of God’s people? If your answer is “Yes” and I will show you by law I follow, by my sacraments and religious duties.  I am by my birthright, I am born a Jew, born a Catholic, I have done all the sacraments, Paul would say, “so what!”.  True circumcision comes not merely by obeying the letter of the law (which none of us can fully obey) but by a change of heart produced by the Spirit

Saturday, July 14, 2018

JULY 14 "PIVOTAL MOMENT IN CHURCH HISTORY"

Mark this day in your bible, this is the establishment of “The Church” as we know it today. David has the best of intentions, but the best of intentions from the best of people does not always produce the best of results. We can begin to view certain people, especially of “the clergy” as people that can do no wrong and say no wrong. Nathan himself is caught up in this and is so quick to tell David, “do whatever you have in mind, for God is with you”, but Nathan is completely wrong.  The Temple is built, this we know, by David’s son and we are still recovering from the effects of this decision to put God in a building. In the middle ages, also known as the Dark Ages, the structure, the edifice, the building became man’s sole connection with God. It was a cold existence; man’s relationship with God became the structure, stained glass windows, cathedral ceilings, sacraments, and ceremony. All this was introduced to substitute the inner relationship man was intended to have with is God. Instead of God dwelling in our hearts, man tried to replicate a holy experience by walking into a building that would have a splendor and holiness of it’s own. It was made that when you walked into one of these Cathedrals and/or Temples, you felt like you were in a Holy Place, in God’s presence. The Saints on the walls, Angels painted in the glass, Holy music, stained glass windows set up so that when the sun shined in it mimicked God’s glory coming in and people allowed this to replace an inner relationship. The end result was when you left this glorious structure, temple or Cathedral was you left your relationship (which was no relationship) with God in that building.  Two thousand years later we are still struggling with this, trying to teach people that you don’t leave God and your relationship with him, in the building after Sunday Morning’s service, you take  God with you everywhere you go in everything you do. We still struggle to teach people, God can and does want to dwell in your heart, not in the building. As much as we preach it, as much as we teach it, it still remains a struggle to ingrain this in God’s people; God is not in the structure. And by and large, Christians know this in Theology, but they don’t live it. Christians still act/behave much more Christ Like in The Church than they do at work and at home with their families. And why would that be; unless, there’s still some kind of mental block there, that puts God in a building more so than at their home. Even in the days of The Great Temple of Solomon, God speaks through Jeremiah saying, “This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel after that time,” declares the Lord. I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts.” Building a Temple, a structure for God’s presence was not the best idea in the long run, but it served a purpose for the time. The Christians in the New Testament decided they could spin off of this idea of a building, a place to meet, to congregate as long as they taught the people that it was they that made up the Church, not the building. The idea of a building, a place to Congregate is still the best idea, with Pastors and Teachers in that building and a congregation in that building, waiting each Sunday to serve and minister to one another, but we must always fight and contend, to keep to the forefront of our minds and hearts, that God is as much with us Monday night, in the privacy of our home, as He was with us on Sunday, in our glorious Church building. We become the greatest of hypocrites and the biggest religious devils when we embrace this mindset that God’s presence and dwelling remains in the Temple, the building, the structure, the Cathedral. This mindset has done more damage to the cause of Christianity than anything else I can think of. I grew up in this environment. We were the worse sinners on our street, but when we walked into that beautiful Cathedral every Sunday, we became the most Pious and Holy people you knew. However once we left that building we reverted to being profane and immoral because God remained in the Cold Cathedral and never traveled outside of it. If you had asked us if in our Theology we believed that, we would have said “No, God is everywhere” but it was hard to live otherwise, it was hard to believe as beautiful and holy as that Cathedral was, that God’s presence was not there and as ugly and sinful as our home was, that God obviously was not there. Today, we read a pivotal, monumental turning point in the history of The Church as we know it and the question to ask is, “have we ever truly recovered?”


Friday, July 13, 2018

JULY 13 "DOING IT THE RIGHT WAY"

IN our reading today we get some insight about what happened in the past,...that didn't work! Wouldn't we all like to get insight into why our efforts have failed in the past! Today, we get insight as to why they failed to bring in "The Ark of The Covenant". The insight is that they didn't do it "the right way" and because they didn't, they fell flat on their faces and failed. We, in our super-spirituality say, "well, let's just do it and God is God, it will all work out". However it doesn't all work out, they fail and God never says a thing! Are we catching this! There's Grace, God will cover.......not this time! People actually died! God says, "you didn't seek me about "the right way" to do this; and you didn't even seek me after you failed, so I will just sit here and watch you fall flat on your faces".
The confession/admittance in our text today is that "we didn't do it the right way and that's why we failed". It's not because of the Devil or worldly opposition, it was because of them. Everything in The Kingdom of God, from marriage, finances, evangelism to church structure, there is a right way and a wrong way and many times we are failing because we have not sought God; read His Word or heeded to our headship about the right way to do it. Grace is not always going to be the net that catches us. There will be times that God will remove the safety net and let us hit the ground and hit the ground hard so that we may learn a valuable lesson, ie: There is a right way to do this!

Thursday, July 12, 2018

JULY 12 "FROM GREAT JUBILATION TO DOWNRIGHT SORROW & FRUSTRATION."

Sometimes the most joyous of occasions are met with disappointment and grief, so much so, that I'm often to get too excited about anything. David makes a decision to bring back the Arc of the Covenant, to Jerusalem. This is a festive celebration with great fanfare and David is in high spirits, until the Arc wobbles, Uzzah reaches out to stabilize it and gets killed.  The Bible tells us, "And David became angry that day".  Was he angry or was he festive?  Was he in a good mood or a foul mood? Was this a good day or a bad day?   I remember some years ago, my neighborhood and I did I festive Christmas Trailer Caroling around our block.  Many of us were on the trailer, sitting on the hay, drinking hot cocoa and singing Carols and others were alongside, walking with us.  It was quite a festive occasion, everyone was in high spirits, until one of the kids got his leg under the moving trailer and the trailer went right over it.  The kid screamed his head off, the driver pulling the trailer stopped.  He heard he had ran over the boy, so what did he do? He reversed and ran over the boys leg again. The boys leg snapped and broke in two. The festive occasion came to a screeching half, from joy to sadness, from jubilation to anger. How could God allow such a thing to happen as we were going around singing Christmas Carols, how could such a celebratory occasion turn so awful. I don't know, ask David. David left the Arc and gave up the cause. David is most definitely a relative of ours. Because we do the same. We set out with such great enthusiasm in the things of life, but often allow ourselves to be slapped down. We allow our mood to turn from joy to sadness, happy to angry, optimist to pessimist. The Arc ended up with Obed-Edom and the Bible tells us he was blessed, not David.