Tuesday, October 17, 2017

OCTOBER 17 "DON'T THROW IN THE TOWEL YET!"

"Don't throw in the towel yet" ....This idiom comes from the world of boxing, when a boxer's manager or coach throws the white towel into the ring, signaling that his boxer is done, he can fight no more. We should have this idiom up on our fridges, up on the mirror in our bathroom or we could simply read the Word of God and get it there. "It will be a time of trouble for my people, yet in the end they will be saved." How important it is to know that.  If we can see the goal in sight, it re-invigorates us to keep pushing forward. We've all heard the story of the world distance swimmer that stopped short of the beach because it was hidden by the clouds and fog. Had she seen the shore was so close in sight, she would have pressed on, but exhausted and discouraged, not be able to see the shore, she gave up. Praise be to you, who does not need the shore in sight to keep pressing on, but for the rest of us, we do. Hold on there are better days ahead. As I mentioned a few days ago, this is not something we can just speak to anyone in any situation. However, concerning God's people, who are repentant, who are genuinely serving and seeking God, yet going through rough times or reaping from some bad decisions, God will say, "though sorrow may last through the night, joy comes in the morning".  The idea of only one night of sorrow, of course is not to be taken literally, but simply to imply that with God, there's always hope, that He will turn things around for us, in our favor, if we don't let go of Him or "Throw in the Towel". No Christian in their right mind will ever look back and say, "I'm glad I threw in the towel" back then......it will always be regret, more than anything. Every Christian who did not throw in the towel, but held on to God's Word for better days to come, will always confirm that they are so glad they did so. Whether that was throw in the towel for a marriage, a church, a convert, a job, a healing, or even your own salvation, those who heard God's Word's, "It will be a time of trouble for my people, yet in the end they will be saved" are those who found themselves back in the City of God (God's will and blessing).  And we know, through history, that the captivity did end and the people who held, who did not throw in the towel, did, as God said,  find themselves back in Jerusalem! We would be naive to think that everyone who heard Jeremiah's words of hope from God held on to them. I'm sure there were those who still gave up, I"m sure there are those who turned bitter and angry against God, but there are also those who held on to every word. Which will you be, which are you?  No matter where you are at today, the Hope, with God is that if you hold on,  He will bring you back to Jerusalem!

Monday, October 16, 2017

OCTOBER 16 "ARE YOU A FALSE PROPHET?"

Who would know, that one of the most famous passages of the bible "For I know the plans I have for you,” says the lord. They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope." was spoken to a people that were exiled, captives in Babylon. There were probably two groups of responses the day this word went out from Jeremiah. One group would have greatly resented these words, almost as if Jeremiah was patronizing them. Here they are, at rock bottom, have just been taken from Jerusalem to Babylon, their city has fallen and they are now captives in a foreign land, "and you Jeremiah are going to tell me about the goods things God has for us, is this captivity part of that great plan...get out of here Jeremiah, before we stone you!".  The other group of people would have believed Jeremiah; and taken those words as words of hope for a better future.  I wonder which group I would have been in? The classic mantra of Christians and Non-Christians, to people that are down on their luck is always, "hold on, the future is bright" This saying has pretty much become cliché to say, in hard times. However, just because someone says it, just because it has become cliché, doesn't mean it's true!! There are times when we are being false prophets, just like Ahab, wanting to prophesy good news  and we become false prophets for God because events get worse for that person, not better and then they remember what we had spoken to them about things getting better and they either resent us or God for it. Yet God is in the back round saying, "I never told them to say that!" There is not a rainbow at the end of every storm. There is not always light at the end of the tunnel. Sometimes people die in the storm, sometimes people never come out of the tunnel to see the light. As Christians we have to be careful of what we say and what we speak, less we too become false messengers of hope. Many times events are actually going to get worse for people, because though we may love them, and wish the best for them, they are still unrepentant in their ways and it doesn't matter what you prophesy to them, it's not going to get better for them until they learn the lesson God is trying to teach them. Jeremiah is the true prophet in our story and Ahab is the false prophet.  Ahab, is more like us. He does not hear from God and just wants to say nice and comforting things to people in distress. Jeremiah, unlike us, is not so concerned about speaking comforting words as he is speaking what God wants him to speak. Jeremiah has a keen ability to hear from God and prophecy's what is true, not what is comforting.  Jeremiah does not prophecy out of the inclinations of his own heart, as many wannabe prophets do. Jeremiah tells them you might as well establish yourselves here, because you are gong to be here for quite a while. There is a hope, there is a future, but for now, this is where you are at and you might as well make the most of it because you are NOT leaving anytime soon.  Most of us don't have the ability to hear from God the way Jeremiah did and often find ourselves being the false prophet Ahab, instead of the true prophet Jeremiah; and we don't do this on purpose, it is simply because we are trying to be what we are not and trying to predict a future that simply is not, for the ones we love and care for. But until they learn the lesson God is trying to teach them, they they'd better get used to where they are because they are going to be there for a while...., would you prophesy that to them?

Sunday, October 15, 2017

OCTOBER 15 "SHOULD I SPEAK MY MIND?"

I'm feeling for Jeremiah, this morning! Are you? If you're not, than you're pretty cold.  The statements that God is having Jeremiah speak to these people is likely to leave him without any friends at best, and get him beat up or killed, at worse. If I spoke my mind, I would have a very hard life too. At work, at school functions, family get togethers, If we spoke our minds we would find ourselves the most hated in the neighborhood. People would talk about us. When they saw us coming they all would scatter or block us out of the conversation. We would be deemed as "haters", "insensitive", religious fanatics. My heart goes out to Jeremiah, it always has. If ever I feel sorry for myself or feel bad for any persecution I may face, I think of Jeremiah. Let me ask, does God still  ask us to speak our minds? Are we withholding more than we should? Should we be speaking out more? My guess is, the answer is yes to some of those questions. We should speak out more and we do withhold to often. However, should we speak out minds? I would say the answer to that is NO. Jeremiah did not speak his mind, he spoke God's mind. Listening to a conversation about a teenager that died in a car accident, partying one night, I might think, "and as tragic as that is, what's worse is he is probably in Hell".  Imagine voicing those thoughts, even if true, to a crowd of mourners and those mourners may even be saying, "at least his in peace right now".  Do I speak my mind? When do we speak our minds, when do we speak truth? Is there ever a right time or a right place? You will find that often the answer to that is also "no". There never seems to be a right time or a right place. I have in the past, tried waiting and waiting for the perfect time to speak and it never seems to come. Just when I think, "here is the right time" some kind of interruption comes. Some Christians are bold and insensitive and say whatever comes to their mind. Other Christians don't say anything they know is true, for fear of the people. Could there be some place in the middle we can meet? Those that are bold and speak out "the truth" no matter what the situation, will claim "Jeremiah" as their defense. And who can argue with that? Jeremiah did speak some crazy judgments and pronouncements in his day and was not one bit, politically correct. Jeremiah offended and spoke doom and gloom to the people. We cannot deny Jeremiah, a man of God did this and so did John the Baptist and many other Prophets. The question to ask ourselves is...."are we prophets?".  We know God will raise up Prophets in the end times and the book of Revelations makes mention of two prophets at the Wailing Wall. The Bible refers to us as Priests, not necessarily prophets. Priests intercede for others, help others, encourage and yes, speak God's Word too. The Priest incorporates all methods, he exhorts and he corrects. The Priest is neither silent, nor is he a constant voice of Judgment. The Prophet Jeremiah, had a clear calling which he was told from very early on in his life, that he would boldly speak the truth and the judgment to come upon Israel. The 21st Century Christian, you can say, is all, he/she is the Prophet, Priest, Shepherd and Evangelist. Some how, with the help of the Holy Spirit and a sensitivity to the Holy Spirit we have to discern what role we are to play on any given day or time. I can deem myself to be the Prophet one day and show up at a funeral of someone who everybody knew was a hard core sinner and begin preaching about the judgment of the wicked and see myself being bold for God as Jeremiah; and walk away feeling tremendously used by God, but was I? I think we can all agree that it is difficult to discern what to say and what not to say and at what time. As Christians we do have allot of knowledge, insight and revelation that many people in the world are completely ignorant to. The question is, "should I speak my mind, should I speak out, should I really say this?"  the answer to that question is what we are going to say, where we are going to say it and at what time never matters, what really matters would be, is God asking you to speak that at that time?" Not should I speak my mind right now, but should you speak God's mind at that moment. We will never go wrong speaking what God has asked us to speak, no matter what it is or no matter what time or place. However, the question now is, "is God asking me to speak this or is it me?"  And that, is where you have to learn to discern God's still small voice and it will only be learned, unfortunately, through trial and error.  Jeremiah was rough, Jeremiah spoke rough words, but it's important to remember, Jeremiah was always clear on who was asking him to say these things & why. Jeremiah always knew, he was not speaking his mind, but God's and that is the same place we need to be as Christians, Prophets, Priests & Evangelists, in the 21st Century.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

OCTOBER 14 "DREAMS, WHAT DO THEY MEAN?"

      I ONCE had a woman cover over to my house, she wanted to "talk with me", that's always a little nerve wrecking. So I said come on over, my wife is here and we can sit down together,with my wife. Well don't you know she wanted to tell me about her dreams and have me interpret what those dreams meant. Not only what they meant, but what "spiritual" aspect was to be applied.  This is where we get into trouble as Christians; we know as Christians that we are not just functioning in the "natural" but also in the supernatural and we have a hard time knowing where to draw the lines.  Truth is, we will never know "exactly" where to draw the lines, but the New Testament does caution us to discern and "test the spirits", to discern "Prophecy's" and judge them as to whether they be from God or "the delusions of man's own heart".    However this can also lead us down another slippery slope, where the church becomes very cynical to Prophecy's and there is no room for the Holy Spirit to move.  We read that when Mary, the mother of Jesus heard all these "unbelievable" things spoken and prophesied about Jesus, she just treasured them in her heart.  She did not go out and try to make them happen and neither did she change the course of her life because of them. She let God do all that, which He did.  She (Mary) treasured them in her heart.  That's the best we can do with dreams and prophecies.  We want to have a dream and use that dream to catapult us into our "destiny". We will wake up the next morning and quit are jobs, divorce our wives, kick the dog out, sell the house and move up to the mountains to reach.....? How about we store the dream, the prophecy in our memory bank, in our heart and allow God, in his sovereignty to bring about his purposes.  We make horrible amateur providence's. We ought to let God lead us by "divine providence".       If someone prophecies over you, gives you a "word of knowledge" store it away, treasure it in your heart and go on living your life just as you were. If you are going to change anything at all, change the intensity to which you have been pursuing God, to a greater level, you can never lose out doing that!  Do you have dreams, do you want them interpreted? Why?  Do you want a word, do you want a prophecy? Why? The answer...because I want direction, I want clarity of mind, I want to know what I am supposed to do, where I am supposed to be, I'm confused and this would help.  Would it really?
     In our text today, in Jeremiah, God has had it with these so called Prophets, prophesying out of their dreams. Surely the dreams of these men must have seemed spiritual, of some sort, for them to be prompted to prophesy because of them, but in the end, God says, "they are false, their dreams don't mean squat and they are giving the people "false" prophesies. God goes on to say they are prophesying out of their own delusions.  In other words, some of these men are flat out frauds, but even scarier is that some of them think they are prophesying something spiritual, something "right" and something God would have them to speak but yet they are so far off, what they are saying, is actually a lie".  Don't try to find God's path through dreams and prophecies. Yes they have their place but nothing replaces a vital, on-going, vibrant relationship with God when it comes to direction in life. Jesus said, "if you will abide in me I will abide in you" and if we will simply attend to that, God will do the rest, dreams or no dreams, prophecies or no prophecies God will get you to your Jerusalem, you can count on it!

Friday, October 13, 2017

OCTOBER 13 "MAYBE IT'S TIME TO CHANGE?"

     DON'T remind me of who I am or don't try to label me!!! We hate that, when people say, "you've always had a temper"  or whatever it is they try to label on us.  I'm not sure I like being labeled or told "you've always..." however sometimes it's true and cuts like a knife, but then there are times that the individual who voiced his or her opinion is completely wrong in his or her judgement.  I think it's safe to say that if God himself says, "this is how you are and this is how you've always been" then it's time to listen and begin to look introspectively at ourselves. He might just be right!!!  This verse would be quite a shock for any of us to hear, it is Verse 21 in Jeremiah, "21 I warned you when you felt secure, but you said, ‘I will not listen!’ This has been your way from your youth; you have not obeyed me.".   In most cases this is where we would say, "who do you think you are, telling me...." but in this case, it being God, we might just want to listen and take it. This scripture shows us that God has known our ways since our youth, whether we have been living for him or not, He is well acquainted with our ways and He also is not neutral on us but has an opinion of every human on the earth.  What is God's opinion of you and I? His opinion of Abarim is one that Abarim has never listened to Him, one that, since his youthhas never obeyed him.  So that means that since this man was a kid God has been at work in his life.  I would say I always felt this "unseen force" working in my life since I was a kid. My presumption was that "this force" was always working against me, but it was actually God working on my behalf. Jesus describes this to Saul of Tarsus (before he's converted to Paul) as "why do you kick against the goads". In short, why are you fighting me Paul???  In our stubbornness, in our rebellion and disobedience often it is God we are fighting against.  For sure God would look upon my youth and say, "He never obeyed, never listened". I hope that He (God) would look at my life now, as an Adult and say, "He does listen and obey, more than not".  For this individual it is not the case, God says, "you haven't changed one bit. You didn't listen to me when you were a youth and you still don't listen". 
     Maybe it's time to change, maybe it's time to stop being stubborn and rebellious.  Maybe it's time to change God's opinion of us. It's not hard to hear God's voice, it's only hard to listen. If a short time after you yell at and belittle your wife you begin to feel convicted (Holy Spirit) and voice in your conscience says, "then go tell her your sorry and apologize" you can know that's not you speaking.  If you are ripping your employees off and a voice in your conscience says, "stop ripping these people off, they work hard for their moneyyou can know, that's not your voice but the voice of God.  It is not hard to hear the voice of God, if you want a clue, often times God's voice runs contrary to how we think and what we would do.  In our text, God's voice is saying, 13 “Woe to him who builds his palace by unrighteousness, his upper rooms by injustice, making his own people work for nothing, not paying them for their labor."  It is obvious to the King that this is not his voice but God's voice speaking.  His voice (the King) says, "it is smart to get a head by ripping people off, getting free labor, just because he can.  God's voice is "you're unrighteous, you're not paying these people for their labor".  However, this King will not listen, He has never listened and he never changes.  I've met people like that and I mean, I've met people like that in the church.  They have become somewhat religious and part of the church, but they still have the tendency not to listen to God's voice in key areas and key decisions of their life.  The result is the same result as in our text. I dare to see where they find themselves in their 70's & 80's should Jesus tarry.  Maybe, just maybe, it's time to change. That God would be able to look at our lives and say something differently than what He said about this King. That God would say about us, "he did not listen to me in his youth, but as an Adult he grew up and lived and obedient life and because of such, I blessed him".

Thursday, October 12, 2017

OCTOBER 12 "IS SOBRIETY STILL A CHRISTIAN VIRTUE?"

Christians want to fight for their right to drink. Of all the battle grounds that a Christian must choose to fight on or not, this is one that Christians will fight 'till their death, their right "to drink". We all know, some Christians drink and other Christians don't.  We all know, some Christians get a good buzz and other Christians don't, some Christians get drunk and other Christians don't. Which Christian are you? Is sobriety still a Christian virtue? As we read in Thessalonians, we are reminded of who we are; we are Children of the Light, Children of the Day, Children of Sobriety.  There's nothing more embarrassing than the drunk uncle at the wedding, the drunk father or mother at the family gathering. As Christians, we of all people should be sober and practice sobriety. Drunkenness is an altered state of mind. I have not heard of too many Christians that will push for their right to smoke weed, but they are the same. Whether you are stoned or drunk, you are not sober, you are in an altered state of mind. You will do things when drunk that you would not do sober. You will say things when you are intoxicated, that you would not do when sober. You will flirt, compromise, and do many other things that you would not do sober. We as Christians are called to be sober minded. It doesn't take too many glasses of wine or too many beers to start to decline into that altered state of mind. No doubt, drinking loosens us up. "Here, have a drink, loosen up" is the phrase we often hear. And once we loosen up, all self restraint, goes out the window. We have all heard of the horror story of Michael English and  Marabeth Jordon (Group First Call) who went on tour together and did just fine through out the tour, until the last night of the concert tour, decided to celebrate with a bottle of wine. Both were married at the time to other spouses, perhaps there was a mutual attraction between the two through out the tour, but sobriety allowed them to exercise self restraint. "Have a drink, loosen up" is the mantra, well they had a drink and really loosened up, loosened all their clothes off and the rest is history. Is sobriety still a virtue of the Christian? A righteous, moral life is hard enough to live when we are sober and in our right minds, how can we even think we will succeed when intoxicated. We wish (at least I do) that it plainly stated in the Bible that drinking is a sin, but we know it does not. Drunkenness is a sin and is plainly stated. And so because it does not plainly state, "drinking a glass of wine is a sin" we will then have a glass, or two or three...". However remember, it does state in the bible that those that wanted to be "consecrated unto God" were not to drink any kind of wine.  Why would God have made that a requirement? Why would God have written, "if you want to come to the next level with me, abstain from alcohol, give up your right to drink!" Is sobriety still a virtue of the Christian? You'd better darn well believe it is. I'm not a Baptist and I'm not and Apostolic Pentecostal, but yet I can still make a stand, in my house and in my life, that some things in life we are better without and the best place for me to be, each and every day, is in sobriety and If I feel the need to "loosen up" I have a whole list of things I can do in life, that allows me to loosen up, that does not involve me flirting with alcohol and seeing how far I can push my freedom as a Christian. Paul wrote, "I am free to do all things, but not all things are profitable for me to do".  Paul also wrote, "that I must be careful in exercising my freedoms that I don't cause ones that a weaker to stumble."  You'd better make sure, that in your fighting for your right to drink, you fighting for your right to exercise "your Christian freedoms" that you don't cause "one of these little ones to stumble" whether that's your own children or a new Christian in your church, you'd better be careful because Jesus' warning is stern to those who cause others too stumble just because they want to exercise their freedoms......in Christ!"

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

OCTOBER 11 "SEXUAL SIN IN THE CHURCH?"

Our society is obsessed with sexual immorality. Our society is not obsessed with sex, just immoral sex. There's no headline news about any monogamous, married couples having sex; no that's boring, that's sanctioned by God.  What we like is the notty, the immoral, the illicit, affairs, sex videos, anything that defies God's moral laws; is really what our society is about. Sexual perversion is was the reason for the original flood, but nobody knows or cares about that. Now sexual sin is being pushed upon the church and to be accepted as "the norm" in the church because it's so flagrant outside the church. We want to blame sexual sin on "the last days". However, if Paul is writing about the subject a few thousand years ago; and God flooded the earth because of it at least a millennia before that, then we know that sexual sin has nothing to do with "the last days" it's simply part of our fallen nature. Paul is addressing the church, challenging them to live holy and pure lives and to exercise control over their bodies and not giving in to their lusts and sex, "as the pagans do". This is the sharp contrast that Paul is trying to make. So listen up, "this is what pagans do!". Sexual sin is not to be tolerated in the church because it's "what pagans do".  If you will not (the choice is yours) control your body and your sexual passions than you are a pagan.  I heard of a Pastor recently who was baptising a couple that is shacking up together and fornicated and he told them, "you two really should get married" and then baptized them! How different this is from John the Baptist who sent those away that were coming to get baptized and told them, "first, go show fruits of repentance, then come back and I'll baptise you". Paul would have told this couple, "you are no better than pagans, no I'm not baptising you, as a matter a fact, if you don't repent, you will be kicked out of the church". That's what Paul would have done and that's what he suggested to the leaders of the Corinthian church to do, "cast the fornicator out from among you". If we want to talk about the last days, then let me say, what will separate the church from the world, in the last days, will be the church's stance on morality. The hallmark of the Christian Church is "morality". Prior to Jesus, Israel, Rome, Italy, Egypt and many other nations were filled with religion and deity's. What Christianity brought to the world was not another religion, but rather Christianity brought morality to a pagan, religious culture. The day we give up our stance on morality, sexual purity, then we become just another noise, among the many, many religions that fill the earth, but are nothing more than man's deluded attempt, to reconcile himself with God, on his terms, not God's.