Friday, September 22, 2017

SEPTEMBER 22 "HOW BADLY WE WANT THE APPROVAL OF OTHERS"

Hezekiah has just come off a great experience and victory with God. Hezekiah was told by Isaiah that he was going to die, "to put his house in order", but yet Hezekiah turns his face against the wall and begins to cry and petition God for his life.  God speaks to Isaiah, tells him to go back to Hezekiah and tell him He has heard his prayers and will add 15 years to his life. Today, however, is a different day and a different story. A not so desperate Hezekiah. He is visited by some dignitaries from a place he would least have expected. Sometimes the people that dislike us the most are the people we want to like us the most. It's amazing to see how often people fall into this trap of wanting the popular kids at school, or the in crowd, to so desperately like them. Sometimes in order to gain favor with these unrighteous, but popular people, many of us did things we were ashamed of later or that went against our conscience. There is a tendency in every one of us (the people of God included) to want to be liked by the powerful, inflectional and popular. Hezekiah is mesmerized by these powerful men, even though they are the heathens of all heathens. These are men, from a nation that opposes everything the God of Israel is for. They are an immoral, ungodly, perverse people and nation, but they are also a powerful and well respected one too. Just like the ungodly today. The ungodly, immoral, unclean celebrates of today are not looked down upon, but rather, looked up to. Nothing has changed much! Hezekiah does not seek God this time, he is enamored by this entourage and flattered that they have come to visit him, just the lowly King of Israel and he shows them all the treasuries of God. Little does Hezekiah know, they will one day come back and attack Israel and take away all those treasuries. God confronts Hezekiah, through Isaiah, "what did these men say and where were they from?".  Isaiah is going to have Hezekiah incriminate himself here, "they are from Babylon". He gets Hezekiah to confess, that he knew where they were from and from there Isaiah begins to pronounce the judgement that will now follow. The question to ask ourselves is, when the enemies of God come around us, flattering and schmoozing with us, how do we respond. Are we so enamored by them, like the rest of the world that we just fall down and worship (so to speak) or do we not worship at their altar and not desire their approval. Many Christian celebrities and athletes that do truly have a genuine conversion experience, never make it, because they so desire the approval of the rich, mighty and powerful of this world. It is the Hezekiah effect in them and it lives in each and every one of us, if we will be honest. The difference between them perhaps, and the rest of us, is we fight it, resist it and stand our grand. Read Psalm 1, "blessed is he that does not stand in the counsel of the ungodly or sit in the seat of scoffers". When we yearn so desperately for their approval, we will constantly fall and be tripped up and if we desire it so much, we may trade in, a genuine salvation experience with God, for the approval of the ungodly and immoral and sad as that may be, it happens more often than we would like to admit.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

SEPTEMBER 21 "THIS ONE THING DO RIGHT?

     IF there's one thing King Hezekiah did right, was HE PRAYED.  Twice in our text today we read, in response to Hezekiah's prayers, Ch. 37 verse 21, "This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: Because you have prayed to me...."  and  Ch. 38 verse 4, "This is what the Lord, the God of your father David, says: I have heard your prayer and seen your tears".  BECAUSE YOU HAVE PRAYED....remember those words. And it could equally be said that, because you have NOT prayed....that we can rightly say, events have just easily, taken a turn for the worse. We cannot pretend, just to appease our own conscience, that prayer does not impact our lives and the lives of others. This would be just short of insanity. There is to much circumstancial evidence to every point to any other verdict, than the verdict that prayer does change events and lives as we know it.  We have to accept that because we have prayed our lives are different and we must also accept that because we have NOT prayed our lives are also different.  Prayer is the difference maker. Hezekiah did some foolish things in his life, but there's one thing he did right and that was he was a praying man and it is when he stopped praying and seeking God that he falls flat on his face.
     Many of us have our priorities backwards. We are committed, we are faithful and reliable people and faithful to church, we do many things right but the one thing we do not do right is....PRAY.  "Why?", you may ask...to many reasons to consider, but we know there are seasons when prayer pays great dividends and there are other seasons we wonder why we pray at all and those are the seasons that take many out and once we have come out of the lifesytle of prayer, and managed to do without, it is hard to get back into it. Every congregation hates a sermon on prayer as much as they love a sermon on prayer.  They love it for the part that tells of all the possibilities through prayer, but they hate the part that in all reality, truth be known, they still will not pray.
     The bible commands us to "pray and pray without ceasing". The bible promises us that "the fervant prayers of a righteous man availeth much".  There is no two ways around those scriptures and many more that admonish us to pray. We must make sure that we don't pray to be religious as perhaps our parents did. That we don't pray to be seen of men, as some disciples do. That we don't pray to appease our consciences, as sinners do. We pray because we have a clear conviction and understanding that prayer can change the course of lives and the lives of others. We pray because we know it is our civic duty and responsibility as a Christian and not to pray is to neglect the greatest power ever divested to any being on earth or in Heaven above.  Not to pray is to be negligent in the most critical area of our Christian lives and only eternity will reveal to us, what could have been, had we only....PRAYED!  If there's one thing you ever do right as a Christian, let it be that you prayed.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

SEPTEMBER 20 "SATAN'S TESTIMONIALS"

     I WAS not around approx 3000 years ago when this situation took place with the King of Assyria, but I sure do recognize the voice and the rhetoric, ie: "Don't trust in the Lord".  Pastor's and Spiritual Leaders spend most of their time trying to convince God's people to trust in him while the individual and the masses of Christians face a bombardment of attacks, day in and day out, a voice that speaks to us in our conscience and says basically the same words the King of Assyria Spoke, which are: "don't trust in the Lord, where was He for so and so and where was He for that family, that situation and what makes you think it will be any different for you!". The enemy will remind us of the sister that was not healed of cancer, he will remind us of the family that did have to file bankruptcy, or the single mom that did lose her job, her home and then Satan will come to us and tell us, "what makes you think it will be different for you!".  The enemy strikes us at the heart, he strikes us where are greatest fears lie.  When are security is threatened, our livelihood, our children and of course our lives are threatened, through disease, sickness or threats, these are the areas that leave us most vulnerable to perhaps listen to Satan a little longer than we should and begin to consider twice about trusting in The Lord.  "After all, Suzie trusted in The Lord and she died"  "Jim trusted in God and he was laid off and lost his home", these are the thoughts we will get and they are pretty convincing, they are not at all lies, but true cases that we have witnessed. They are "Satan's Testimonials".  He (the enemy) has a whole arsenal of them and he is ready to launch them at any time when we are attempting to trust God in a difficult situation. Verse 15, "do not let Hezekiah persuade you to trust in the Lord when he says, "The Lord will surely deliver us....who of all the gods has been able to save..."  All the Israelite had to do was their homework (which they had) and they would quickly find out that it was true. 
     So what do we do? Well our options are simple, either we trust or we do not. "Okay" you would say, "I don't trust, I simply can't I am to convinced by "Satan's Testimonials". The problem is "not trusting" in God is not just a state of mind we choose, but it must be followed by action. If we don't trust God to "save us" then that means we must take matters into our own hands, it means trusting in another, it means making alliances with people we should not.  One of two things will happen when we take matters into our own hands, it will either work or fail miserably.  The latter scenario is the best option, although we will suffer we will also learn next time to simply trust in God.  My worry is the first scenario, ie: we take matters into our own hands and it works out for us! (or should I say, it seems to work out). The worse thing that could happen when you don't trust God and make an alliance with someone or something else is that it actually works out for you. This is not good!  What do you think that will do for your faith, not only in the present but for a future trial? What do you think that will do for your relationship with God if your last vivid memory of God was that you were in a sticky situation and God did not come through for you, but you came through for you or so and so came through for you or worse, Satan came through for you.  Verse 16 "This is what the king of Assyria says: Make peace with me and come out to me. Then every one of you will eat from his own wine and fig tree and drink water from his own cistern"  Had the Israelite s opted in for this option (which they didn't thanks to a Godly leader) what do you think the chances of them continuing to serve the God of Israel would have been?  What do you think your chances are of continuing to serve God once you've decided not to trust God and it works out, for what seems to be the best, in your limited understanding.
     In all reality, there is NO... "I took matters into my own hands and it worked out". In the short term it may appear as such but time will reveal that it did not work out like you thought.  There is only one option when the enemy comes to us with his "testimonials" and that is simply to ignore them. The fact that they are true is irrelevant. We simply do not know all and much will be revealed to us in eternity that will leave many of us feeling quite embarrassed that we actually thought for a second that Satan had a valid testimonial against God failing one of his children. God has never failed any of his children "let God be true and every man a liar" and time and eternity will reveal this.  There is only one option and that is always to Trust the Lord and if everything still falls apart, then we keep trusting and as we keep trusting, though all evidence points towards abandonment by God, we will see, whether it be a month, a year or a few years, that God, in the end will be shown faithful and trustworthy. If we bail, if we cut and run, then we simply become one more of Satan's Testimonials that he will use against the next brother or sister that is struggling. Question is, will you be a testimonial to the church, of God's unfailing love and faithfulness to encourage others or will you be one of Satan's testimonials to discourage others?

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

SEPTEMBER 19 "THINGS WILL CHANGE IN A LITTLE MORE THAN A YEAR"

Things will change in a little more than a year, Isaiah prophesies; and the change is going to be based on our attitudes and decisions we are making today, tomorrow, next week and next month. You think it's not big deal now, but you won't think it's not big deal, a little more than a year from now.  One of the key factors that Isaiah warns us, that is going to affect us, a little more than a year from now, is going to be our complacency. "Rise up" says the Lord. Rise up you people of power. Every sing that in church and wonder, "where are those people of power?"  Is it because we just know too much about each other or they simply are not there? Isaiah continues, "the harvest will not come and there will be no fruit, tremble you complacent. If I told you I could tell you your future and it would not be sorcery, it would be from God, just call me, get with me, my phone would be ringing constantly. Well, here it is....here's your future!  "Thanks" you say, for the negative message today!" NO, it's a positive one! Why? Because of the very reason that we all want to know our future; and that reason is, if we don't like it, maybe we can alter it. And I know the message today is that we can definitely alter our future. A little more than a year from now we can be well, prospering and getting along fine, why? Because we changed our attitude, fore-knowing where it would lead us. We got a startling revelation that complacency will ruin all that I'm striving for and want out of life. Complacency is not red, with horns a pitchfork and a tail. Complacency is not a spirit that we can say, "I rebuke you in the name of Jesus", complacency is an attitude, that we must fight and conquer. If there's one thing we can learn about God through the bible and that is, that He is always more than willing to change his plans, for the better, if His people are willing to rise up, take action, repent, whatever the case may be, one thing we can always count on, God is always more than willing to scrap the script and write a new one, if it's in your favor! He holds the script in His hand and He's asking you, "scrap it, write a new one or goes with this one, let me know when you decide."

Monday, September 18, 2017

SEPTEMBER 18 "EXCESSIVE FORCE"

The NFL (ironcially) issued disciplinary action on one of it's elite players for using excessive force in disciplining his son. His contract with his team was cancelled in lieu of the criminal charges against him, for using a tree branch to discipline his son, leaving marks, bruising and swelling on his son's body. No doubt there are parents out there that are too lazy to discipline their children or worse, simply just don't care! We have to deal with these children every week at Walmart. We pray that we could just have one moment alone with this child that is screaming as if he was being tortured, only to realize it's not that he's being tortured or kidnapped, he is screaming and raving because his mom told him he can't have the candy bar he grabbed by the cash register. So we have excessive discipline to no discipline and somewhere in the middle lies the balance. God is trying to give us wisdom through Isaiah, the wisdom that discipline is good, discipline is needed, but excessive discipline, discipline that is beyond the capacity of the recipient, can potentially crush and destroy, rather than bring the intended and hoped for results. "The farmer knows just what to do...God has given him wisdom, a heavy sledge is never used to thresh black cummin, rather it is beaten with a light stick...grain for bread is easily crushed....thresh it under the wheels of a cart, but don't pulverize it".  God is using all these metaphors to describe the wisdom in punishing. The Lord is getting ready to punish Israel, but in his punishment He will remember not to use excessive force, not to pulverize or He may crush them all together. God's purpose in punishment is always to heal and restore, not crush and destroy. We have churches that have no punishment, no disciplinary actions for anything. The Christians in their Church are like the kids at Walmart, totally undisciplined and unruly Christian they are! We have other Churches who have no discernment in punishing, their punishing often crushes, pulverizes and destroys, rather than redeem. Oh where, oh where do we find the balance? What is excessive and what is negligent? God speaking through Isaiah, says, "this requires wisdom and that wisdom He has given to the farmer, so the farmer can be productive and fruitful. As Parents, as Leaders, as Ministers, we desperately need this wisdom. Not everyone is to be dealt with in the same manner, go back and read the wisdom that God gives to the Farmer. In reading this passage today we should be thinking.... "I wonder if there are any that we crushed in are discipline. I wonder if there are any that could have been restored, redeemed, but we took a heavy sledge to thresh cumin and completely crushed that struggling Christian?" We always have to remember, that discipline is not to satisfy our anger, discipline is not to show everyone "who's boss", discipline is not to be vindictive, it's not a way for us to feel better, discipline is for the purpose of the one being disciplined, and in that respect, it is being administered to save them, not crush them. The discipline is being administered to restore and redeem and if we don't learn the wisdom of the farmer, we may one day have to answer for people that we crushed and pulverized in our discipline; when God wanted to redeem them, through discipline. "Lord give us the wisdom, that you have given the farmer, so we too can be productive and fruitful, Amen!

Sunday, September 17, 2017

SEPTEMBER 17 "DO MEN CRY?"

We tend to read the bible and think about what is written, but we don't think about "who wrote it". This is very nice and comforting read, in Psalms 61, "listen to my cry.....I cry to you for help when my heart is overwhelmed..." I'm sure many women read this in their affliction and find comfort that they are not alone. And they are not alone, they are in great company; and who is their company, DAVID. King David, the Warrior, Conqueror! Women are finding great comfort in reading, poetic metaphors, not written by Ruth, Rebecca, Mary, Esther or any other woman, but by David. If today we found these writings in a private journal of a man, we thought to be a man's man, we would ex-communicate him.The only problem is, we cannot find more of a man's man, in the bible, than David. Today, we have this persona, that men do not cry and are not overwhelmed. So then why do they drink so much? Why are they so violent, so abusive? Why are they so unfaithful? Why do they come to church for a while and then disappear?  Why are they such substance abusers, why are jails & prisons mostly filled with men? David was in jail, David did not drink himself into an oblivion, David did not take out his frustrations by abusing his wife and/or children. So what did David do? He cried out to God and told God he was "overwhelmed".  Overwhelmed with responsibilities, overwhelmed by his enemies, overwhelmed by the problems in his family, in short, he was overwhelmed with Life!  We sing this song in Church, "when my heart is overwhelmed, when my heart is aching....lead me to the Rock, the Rock that's higher than I."  The women are engrossed in this song, the men are thinking, "what kind of pansy of a man would lift his hands and sing this?"  Little do they know that the song was written by a Warrior, a man that chopped of Goliath's head and killed thousands of men, a man's man, tougher than most men would ever dream to be. The question is, "do men cry, do men get overwhelmed" the answer is most definitely, "yes", the difference is, men will not admit it, rather than cry out to God as David did and get victory and dominion, they cover it up through alcohol, drugs, physical and verbal abuse towards those they love and they engage themselves infidelity to try to reassert their manhood. It causes them to quite their jobs, forsake their families and run; and yet somehow a man doesn't view that as being weak or acting like a pansy, but some how crying out to God is? The strongest men, are those who do admit they cry, even if inside; and do admit life overwhelms them and then cry out to God. I guarantee you, any Christian man that you see in your Church that seems very strong is a man who knows he is very weak He is a man that cries out to God, day in and day out and is not ashamed or embarrassed to sing, "listen to my cry, when my heart is overwhelmed, lead me to the Rock" and in so doing , God takes that man and puts him on top of the rock while other men get crushed at the bottom of the rock by the waves and storms of life.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

SEPTEMBER 16 "HOW'S YOUR RETURN ON YOUR INVESTMENT?"

In the financial world, we monitor our investments and if the return is not what we anticipated or if we suffer to many losses, we pull our money out and reinvest in something else with greater dividends. Only in The Kingdom of God do we continue to invest, on what often is not yielding the returns we would want. Only in the Kingdom of God would we continue to invest where we continually take losses. Paul is writing this letter to the Galatians, trying to save a major loss, from a major investment he has made.  Paul himself quotes "the Lord's investment in me was not in vain!".  Paul understands investment and that there should be a return on investment. Paul has greatly invested in this Church, he writes, "Oh foolish Galatians! Who has cast an evil spell on you? For the meaning of Jesus Christ's death was made as clear to you as if you had seen a picture of his death on the cross. How foolish can you be".  He's frustrated, he's vexed, after all the investment he made in them, that they would so easily and so quickly, be swayed back.  To be honest, I don't think Paul's letter accomplished what he perhaps was hoping it would.  It could be that Paul also realized that his letter would not change the course for them, but God inspired Paul to write it so it could change the course for us. The lesson we can learn from Paul and Jesus, is that we invest in lives with no promise of any return. We invest in lives knowing full well, there will be betrayal!  We invest in lives knowing at times it will be in vain. We continue to invest in lives when there is no dividends to cash in. We must be reminded that we invest in people's lives not for people, but for Jesus. Jesus will always be grateful for our investment in other people's lives and our dividends, for the most part, will not come to us here on earth, but are being stored up in Heaven. And that is not some sappy cliche just to make us feel better, next time someone stabs us in the back or walks away after much investment. In the physical realm, investment yields dividends here on earth, in the spiritual realm, investment yields dividends in Heaven. If what we do, we do for people, we will quickly quit the fist time we suffer loss on our investment.  If what we do, we do for Jesus and because of what Jesus did for us, then we will continue to invest, until we die, in the lives of other people because we do it not for them and we do it not for physical and earthly rewards/dividends. No doubt, there are many lives in many churches doing quite well, because of the investment of another Christian; and may that encourage us and be a portion of our reward, but if we begin to lean and depend upon that, to spur us on to invest in another life, eventually that will fail and then what, we stop investing? Take your rewards, your encouragement from wherever you can get it, but always hold to the core of your being, that you invest in others, not for them, but for Christ, and He is always grateful and He will always reward, "for great is your treasure in Heaven", says The Lord.