Thursday, December 14, 2017

DECEMBER 14 "DOES MAN HAVE A FREE WILL?"

THE problem with the story of Jonah is it causes many lazy Christians to form a wrong Theology. And that theology is, that God will bring to fruition his purposes for my, irregardless of moi. Irregardless of my stubbornness, irregardless of my rebelliousness, irregardless of my uncleanness, irregardless of my undisciplined spiritual life, in essence, irregardless of me. "Look at Jonah, he didn't want to do God's will, he was heading in a completely different direction and in the end, God got him to do what he wanted". And what do we say to that? We cannot deny it is true, we just read it! We cannot deny that God is Sovereign and that his will will always prevail, otherwise He cannot be Sovereign. We cannot deny that God, in being sovereign, reserves the right to "override" our free will when necessary; otherwise he cannot be sovereign. My son, no doubt has a free will and he functions day to day exercising his free will, but I, as his Father, reserve the right when necessary to override his free will for the greater good and purpose of things he does not see. While we cannot deny that God made the decision, "for Nineveh" to "override" Jonah's freewill (to rebel and not to go Nineveh) we cannot apply this to are lives and to everything in life. I am sure God has many times, without me knowing, "overrode" my free will and led me to make decisions that I was not even aware I was making, that were going to lead me to a certain place, a certain person or a certain situation, He wanted me to be in. That being said, we must understand that God does gives us the freedom to exercise our "freewill" even if it goes against what his permissive will would have for us. God allowed David to exercise his "freewill" to commit adultery with Bathsheba. God allowed David to exercise his freewill to murder Uriah. God allowed David to exercise his "freewill" to do these things that God knew would alter David's destiny and future. God allowed Moses to exercise his freewill to strike the rock twice, knowing full well in doing this, Moses would disqualify himself from entering the Promised Land, the very purpose God had was to bring Moses into the promised land, however, in God allowing Moses to exercise his freewill, Moses disqualified himself.  10 And Moses and Aaron gathered the congregation together before the rock, and he said unto them, Hear now, ye rebels; must we fetch you water out of this rock? 11  And Moses lifted up his hand, and with his rod he smote the rock twice: and the water came out abundantly, and the congregation drank, and their beasts also.  12  And the LORD spake unto Moses and Aaron, Because ye believed me not, to sanctify me in the eyes of the children of Israel, therefore ye shall not bring this congregation into the land which I have given them."  God, from the womb had called Samson to be a Nazarite, set apart from birth for himself, but God also allowed Samson the right to exercise his freewill to ruin his destiny and ultimately commit suicide in the end. I have a problem with lazy Christians today who use the story of Jonah to excuse their lazy and undisciplined, spiritual lives; believing that in the end, it will all work out because God is good, He is Sovereign, we are not and He will bring his purposes to pass, irregardless of me. I agree, God will bring about his purposes to pass, irregardless of me. God sidestepped Moses and used Joshua to bring about his purposes. So yes, God's purposes will prevail, but God is not obligated to bring them to pass "thru us" irregardless of our attitudes and behavior. Did He do so with Jonah, yes He did and that was God's choice, He is free to do so. Did God do it with every servant He called in the bible, no He did not. This Theology that God "will force you to do his will" is False. Read Matthew 7:21 and the account of all those Christians who think they're making Heaven their home when to their shock and amazement they are not. And why are they not, the text says, "because they never did the will of the Father". Why didn't God force them to do his will, especially when the stakes were so high? We have to make sure that we do not use stories in the bible to form Theologies that are fitting for us. No theology should be formed by a story in the bible. We form our Theology by knowing the bible as a whole, by knowing God as a whole. People to this very day, are still trying to walk on water and handle deadly serpents and drink poison because of stories in the bible. God never meant for us to take stories from the bible and form doctrines and theologies of them, He called us to know his Word, from cover to cover and to know him and form our Theology from that.


Wednesday, December 13, 2017

DECEMBER 13 "ESAU IS A SAD, SAD STORY..."

Esau is the sad story, that never gets better. Wouldn't make for a nice movie where everyone likes a happy ending. I think the problem with watching movies and always having a happy ending is we begin to identify life like that. It will work out, it will end well, it's all good. Well, that maybe Hollywood, and that may make a much better movie, but in real life, some stories, some lives are tragic saga's and sad endings. Isaac has two boys, Esau and Jacob. Esau comes from a good family, Esau has great opportunity, but something is in Esau, that is not right and he does not seem to do right, or chose right. He is like Cain whom God confronts and tells him, "if you will do right will you not be accepted as well?" Sometimes we make decisions that are going to set us in a certain direction and put us on a course we may not want to be on. Jacob, Esau's brother has his name changed to Israel. Esau never does return or get back on track, one bad decision leads to another. Esau purposely begins to marry women that are from tribes that Israel has always been at war with. Esau marries a Canaanite woman, Esau also married a Hittite woman. He joins in allegiance to the enemy's of Israel (Jacob) through marriage. "Because of the violence you did to your close relatives Israel". God is reminding the Edomites of who they are. They are from the blood line of Isaac, from the brother of Jacob, now named Israel. It's hard to believe how far Esau ends up straying and the great enemy he becomes of his own family. It all started one day when Esau sold his birthright to Jacob over a bowl of stew. "What good is my birthright". Jacob, no doubt took advantage of the situation, but God is able to work all things out, if Esau had limited this one bad decision. But Esau doesn't stop there, that bad decision, leads to another, Esau becomes estranged from his family and eventually becomes an enemy of his own flesh and blood. In our reading today, God is judging the Edomites, of who Esau is the father of the Edomites, for the crimes against their relative, Israel. Esau is the sad story, that never gets better. It's all decisions. There's an immense amount of Grace with God, for bad decisions, Lord knows, we all make them. The problem is not a bad decision, the problem is an incessant, almost determination, to keep making bad decisions that will turn our lives into the same story line as Esau, from bad to worse. Have you made some bad decisions in your past or recently? No problem, turn, get on the right path, choose to start making right decisions and God will bring you to a better place. Or, you can be like Esau, we can in spite of our bad decisions, defiantly determine to make more. Jacob, was by no means an Angelo or free of bad mistakes. Jacob had issues, but he was not bent on continuing in that direction, whereas Esau was. The problem is not God, the problem is not that there's no Grace, the problem is possibly you. Rather than admit to God, "you messed up, you made a bad decision, you sold you birthright" you insist on persisting on your course, rather than admit you messed up and ask God's forgiveness and Grace. Two brothers born from the same womb, from the same line of Isaac. Both brothers have issues, both brothers make bad decisions, but one turns to God, the others turns away from God. Are you Jacob or Esau is the question you want to ask yourself today? Will you turn to God and admit you've made a bad choice, a bad decision or will you be Esau and continue in your defiance and continue to build upon your bad decisions. If you're having a hard time deciding, read the rest of the story, the Edomites don't win, they are judged and destroyed by God. Esau never wins, you will never fight God and win. If only Esau had died to himself, but he didn't, he left behind the Edomites. Esau's always leave behind, unfortunately, a legacy of trouble and tragedy. I think of so many men that are incarcerated today or on their way to being incarcerated in the near future and as you get to know them you realize most of them came from a legacy, a lineage of the Edomites. What we produce, lives on after we die, for good or for bad. If the man or the woman today, that is bent of defiance would only think ahead and see their daughter, their son, their grandchildren one day be part of the Edomites, being destroyed by God, perhaps they would consider twice, the decisions and direction they are heading in. From one womb, came the Israelites (Jacob) and the Edomites (Esau) and these two nations are still at war today! The Palestinian/Arab war against Israel still rages on today. Esau is the sad story, that never got better, don't be an Esau, whatever you in life, don't ever chose to become an Esau!


Tuesday, December 12, 2017

DECEMBER 12 "LOSING IS NOT AN OPTION"

WHY is everything about being Victorious, about overcoming?  21 To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I was victorious and sat down with my Father on his throne." Is there not a place anywhere for the fainthearted, is there not a place anywhere for the man who wants to quit, for the man who is going to lose? Apparently, not even Heaven, of all places has a place for the loser or the quitter. Why does Jesus have to remind us that it will not be those that simply said a prayer one day, long time ago, that will inherit the Kingdom of God, but only those that overcome and are victorious?
 I was in a Football Tournament this week-end with my son. I was coaching and my son was the quarterback. The only teams that moved on for the prize were the teams that were victorious. Why couldn't those that lost move on? We, my team, were not victorious. I stood on the field and watched before my own eyes, my defense collapse on me. Almost every other play was leading to a touchdown, the defense just fell apart and what followed is our offense then fell apart too because we were so far behind. In my mind I thought, "we must win, we are facing elimination if we lose this game, we must be victorious". No matter how much I thought this, not matter how much I wished this, it simply was not going to come to be. And why is that? Well it was not because we lacked the talent, it was because we were defeated in our spirit. We could not conjure up enough faith to believe we could overcome the odds that were now stacked against us and we crumbled, embarrassingly in front of a rather large crowd. I believe this is what has happened to many of our brothers and sisters in Christ. They have come up and faced such insurmountable odds that in their spirit they say, " this I can't come back from". It's not that they can't (just like it was not like my team couldn't) it is that their spirit is broken, something has died within them, the will to keep trying, keep moving forward has died. I distinctly remember hearing one player come back into the huddle saying, " I don't want to play anymore". This was a kid that loved football, was good at it but he was mentally defeated and he was for all intensive purposes done. It was a bad loss, we were eliminated and we were not victorious that day, as Jesus would say. How many Christians are out there today that are down for the count. They are defeated, the odds are overwhelmingly against them and just like in sports we can come to a place where we say, " it's over,why even bother trying anymore". In a war, they raise the white flag, in sports they simply stop trying and wait for the clock to run out, but Jesus says, "losing is not an option" "quiting is not an option" " giving up is not an option". Jesus is not saying, it would be better if you made a comeback here it would really help you standings. Jesus warns us, "only those that are victorious, just like I was, will inherit the Kingdom of God." Now Jesus makes it personnel. Why did Jesus have to throw in, "Just like I was". Answer: you'll find that coaches that over the years have had a winning record will not accept defeat, they will not accept people on the team that have a defeatist mindset. They want people on their team with a winning mindset because they know that with them and their experience, they can be victorious. They are not intimidated by being down or behind in a game. Jesus has been through it all, he's seen it all, experienced it all but yet came out Victorious and this is what qualifies him to say, "you must be victorious like I was" Jesus goes further to say, "in this life you will have tribulation, but be of good cheer, I have overcome [I have been victorious] the world". Jesus is saying, "you can make a comeback". Jesus is saying, "I know what it is to be down so low, you think it's over, but I got up, took one step at a time, did not allow myself to accept defeat and I overcame". And Jesus is saying with him, you can make a comeback, just don't quit on him. "For we are more than conquerors through Christ Jesus who strengthens us". We have a Saviour, who has a perfect winning record. He knows what it is to win, He knows how to win and He will not accept defeat for himself and He will not accept defeat for you. Jesus says, "you must be Victorious". This is one fight, you have to win, losing is not an option, you lose here, you lose for eternity". The great Apostle Paul at the end of his life said, "I have fought the good fight of Faith" and would could add to that.... And I won, I was Victorious!
 I have seen people so psyched out in sports that they cannot compete anymore and I have also seen Christians so psyched out that they cannot compete anymore. The difference..., sports is a simple game that if lost, it is simply an ego that is crushed. With Christians it can be a soul that is lost and not just that one soul but all the souls that were going to be influenced and/or were being influenced. The stakes are much higher and this is why Jesus is saying, "Losing is not an option, get back up, just as I did, keep trying, keep contending and you will win, TRUST ME!" I knew the game was lost on Saturday when I had a team that no longer believed they would win and I no longer had a team to coach. Jesus can do all things, no doubt, but the one thing he needs from you to win, is that you still believe there's hope, you still believe you can overcome, you still beleive in him and if you hold on to that, no matter how far behind you are, you watch the miracles God will do for you to overcome and be victorious, losing is not an option!!!


Monday, December 11, 2017

DECEMBER 11 "IS YOUR CHURCH THE LOVE CHURCH?

Kudos to the Church in Thyatira. If I was the Pastor of that church I would frame these words from Jesus and hang them in the Church foyer for everyone, especially visitors to read, “I have seen your love, your faith, you service and patient endurance. And I can see your constant improvement in all these things”. Of course I would leave out the next part, “ But I have this one complaint against you, you are permitting that woman Jezebel….to teach them to commit sexual sin”. We know that “Love” is the primary objective, the primary goal of a church. The church in Thyatira seems to have reached this high and lofty goal. I think we can agree, there’s a few churches today that are seriously lacking in love. It’s unfortunate that the very objective that the Thyatira church has strived to be, now brings with it a serious fault. They have tried so hard to be “the love church” that in doing so they have completely avoided any kind of behavior that might be taken as “unloving”. I have never once confronted someone for “sexual sin” in the church and had them say, “Pastor, I know you’re doing this because you love me, I can just feel the love coming from you”. It was normally the opposite; they left the church, with all sorts of inflammatory accusations and of course accused me and/or the church of being “unloving”. The love church in Thyatira will never behave in any way that would leave any room for interpreting them as being unloving. Have you even been in one of these churches? There is no judgment of any kind, anything goes, it’s all about love, encouragement and acceptance. Sounds like the ideal church doesn’t it! Then you have the other church that says, “we need to exhort, encourage but also need to chasten and rebuke” and most often what they really are is a church of constant rebuking, rules and legalism and there really is no encouragement and/or love. The church that is full of love is corrected by Jesus for allowing flagrant sin to go on (very typical) and the church that judges all sin and keeps a tight rein will be accused by Jesus for having no Grace and no Love (very typical). This should have you wondering, “what church do I serve God in, how would we be characterized by Jesus?” I ask myself that question all the time. Jesus may not write letters to the churches anymore, but He still keeps himself well acquainted with His churches and always will; until His return at least. Jesus has an opinion of your church, the question is, would you ever ask him what His opinion is and would you be able to hear what He is saying? “Anyone with ears to hear must listen to the Spirit and understand what He is saying to the churches”. God is speaking in many churches, trying to help them, sometimes through encouraging words sometimes through rebuking words, but many churches go on to function and remain the same, never being changed, never being transformed into the church that they could be because they have ears, but not ears that hear and certainly not ears that listen. But if we have ears to hear and listen our church(s) can be changed and transformed into great churches; and isn’t that what we all want, we know it’s what Jesus wants, we know He is speaking but are we listening?


DECEMBER 10 "RETURN TO YOUR FIRST LOVE...I DON'T WANT TO HEAR IT!"

"Return to your first love" it's the sermon older Christians hate to hear. It's like men listening to a sermon on lust "oh here we go again", they think to themselves. Lust is the Achilles heel of every man (though hopefully triumphant) and "go back to your first love" is the sermon that can be preached any Sunday, and most older converts will be convicted! Because we do stray in our relationships, the fire does dwindle in our relationships and whether we want to hear it or not it is true and needs to be said. We do need to return to our first love, it's not a cliché, but true! We are no longer the "down and out" person we were when we first came to Christ. We are now married, have kids, have sports on week-ends, have good jobs and life is good, for the most part and oh yeah, Jesus, sure, he's good, church is alright, however I don't think I'm gonna make it this Sunday my son has a soccer game out of town and I didn't make it last week because my work had our Christmas party and the week before, I was just awful tired and thought I needed a day off to rest. Finally that Christian makes it to service for the 1st time that month and what do they hear....but a sermon on "returning to their first love" or accused of being "lukewarm" and really, who wants to hear it?! So then, what do we do with this verse in the Bible, what do we do with this staunching rebuke from the one we love. If you're a smart preacher, you avoid it. If you are an obedient preacher, obedient to the Holy Spirit, you still preach it and let the cards fall where they may. Should it be preached every Sunday or every month, of course not, but the preacher should not be afraid or intimidated from preaching the Words of Jesus Christ, as the Holy Spirit prompts him. And so, with all that said, do you need to return to your first love? Are you so caught up in your life now that Jesus is but a shadow of what He used to be in your life? Do you still pray? Do you still pick up the bible? Do you still desire to be in church or is it just your duty now? If you're human and you've been a Christian for any number of years, the answer to all those questions will be in your favor. at certain seasons in your life. And it is a good sermon, or a good blog or a good friend, that because they care for us, reminds us to keep the flame alive, don't let it dwindle; keep the flame alive with Jesus because we know that the natural course of any fire, if you've ever had a fireplace, is to dwindle down and eventually go out, that is the natural course of any fire, no matter how bright, how powerfully it once blazed, without care, every fire, eventually goes out!

DECEMBER 9 "DO YOU MIND IF I HAVE SOME JOY?"

I know that the Christian Life is not the perfect life. That if I expect my life to be ever so bliss because I’m a Christian is wrong. However, I still cannot get away from the scripture that continuously tells me, “my life should be blessed because I fear the Lord and obey him. So while I should make room in my theology or life, for hard times, I must also understand that it isn’t my lot in life to be miserable and beaten down. In both Psalms and Proverbs today we are told that “ how joyful are those who fear the Lord, how joyful and prosperous they will be, may you live to enjoy your grandchildren” then in Proverbs we read, “whoever obeys the law is joyful” it is almost a duplicate of what we read in Psalm 128. And so I get it, I get it, my life isn’t going to be perfect, I know, I’ve been told enough times, through radio talk shows to sermons, books and from friends. I got that part, it’s been made loud and clear. It’s almost the strategy they use in “sales”. Set expectations low and hope to produce high, like that nobody is disappointed. It’s almost like our Christian Community is using the same methodology with us. Let’s set our expectations low about this Christian life and if you so happen to have a good year, then all the better! The problem is as I continue to read my bible I am not getting the same message from God. Through the Word of God I believe God is telling us to set “expectations high!” God is telling us believe for the best, believe for a prosperous and blessed life. So why does everyone in Christianity want us to set our expectations low? Why are they so afraid we are going to be let down “by the Almighty?” Cannot I not believe God for a long, fruitful and prosperous life, can I not believe God to be able to be blessed and enjoy my grandchildren some day? “Well, brother you don’t want to get your hopes to high”, someone might say. And I say, “why not!” It is as if people are taking their personal experience as a Christian and redefining the Word of God through their experience. Instead of taking the Word of God and redefine their lives to conform to it, they do the opposite. They take the experience of their life and redefine the Word of God. Thence, my beaten down life, my losses, my lack of victories can only make me have to change the bible or look at it with a skeptical eye. It is not the bible that we should be looking at with a skeptical eye, but our own lives. As the Word of God says, “let God be true and every man a liar”. We will always paint ourselves in the best light. However, upon closer examination, we will find it is our lackluster performance that has caused many of God’s promises to fall the ground and rot. I understand trials may come, I know Jesus said, “behold in this world you will have tribulation” but Jesus also said, “BE OF GOOD CHEER, for I have overcome the world”. The life of a Christian is not doom and gloom, but at least I’m going to Heaven. And just as sinners have a taste of Hell here on earth, so should Christians have a taste of Heaven here on earth. If the agenda of the Christian Community you are surrounded by is also to set low expectations then you will have to consider why and what is going on because it simply is not what God wants us to do. According to our reading today He wants us to set and expect A Good Life, A Blessed Life, A Prosperous Life and to dumb down or water down or lessen any of God’s promises to accommodate or validate or excuse our lack luster Christian experience is wrong.

Friday, December 8, 2017

DECEMBER 8 "I DON'T UNDERSTAND ONCE SAVED; ALWAYS SAVED?"

I SIMPLY don't understand Eternal Security and I understand it even less after reading today's passage in Jude. The author provides a clear cut case against eternal security. He writes, "let me remind you". I think part of the problem is we forget and probably worse, most Christians just don't read The Bible, seems like an oxymoron if I've ever heard one, but it's true. If you were to try to have a debate over this subject and say, "well you know what it says in the book of Jude (as I have many times) about this" many "self-professed" Christians/back-slidden Baptists, would give you that stare...."hmmm, Jude, I think I've heard of that book, I'm not quite sure where it is...is that old testament?" And for those that have read the book of Jude and read the arguments of the author they would simply say, "well, that's because they were never really saved". However the author deals with that in Jude. He reminds us that God has no problem judging his people. One might say, "yes, I agree, but judging is one thing, condemning a Christian to hell for eternity is another". Who then is Paul writing to in Corinthians? Does he not address his Epistle to" the Saints at Corinth?" And does he not proceed to tell them, "be not deceived, no fornicator, adulterer, drunkard, etc..etc... will inherit the Kingdom of God". The key phrase " be not deceived". Those that are caught up in eternal security (once saved always saved) are clearly deceived. Just to take a few moments to recap what we read in Jude. " 5 Though you already know all this, I want to remind you that the Lord [ c ] at one time delivered his people out of Egypt, but later destroyed those who did not believe. 6 And the angels who did not keep their positions of authority but abandoned their proper dwelling—these he has kept in darkness, bound with everlasting chains for judgment on the great Day. 7 In a similar way, Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding towns gave themselves up to sexual immorality and perversion. They serve as an example of those who suffer the punishment of eternal fire." And if that isn't enough to convince you here is the case and point: "they pervert the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord." At the heart of the matter is this, people who are out sinning like sinner's, but yet claiming to be Christians, claiming that they will make Heaven their home because they once got saved when they were ____ years old are simply people who pervert (twist) God's Grace into a License for immorality. They think they have God in a "catch 22". And those that are preaching this damning heresy will be equally responsible for the people they've encouraged in their sin rather than a call to repentance. Grace is there for us because God knows we will slip, but like we read in 1 John just a few days ago, "as Christians we ought not to sin, but if we do, we have an advocate in Jesus Christ and if we will confess our sins He is just and faithful to forgive us and cleanse us from all unrighteousness." But where will the Grace be for the man or woman who dies in their immorality; which is really the issue in Jude, immorality and rebellion. Aren't those always the issues?! The Hallmark of Christianity in the 1st Century A.D. was that Christianity, amongst all the other masses of religions was the one that brought morality to a very religious, pagan and unclean culture. Christianity taught men to retrain themselves, to keep their bodies pure. If we take morality out of Christianity we have nothing. If we are going to be Christian than first and foremost we must be moral. What do "Eternal Securists" do with this passage in Hebrews 10:26,  26 If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, 27 but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God. I did not write that just to make a point, that's straight from God's word. The author goes on to write,  29 How much more severely do you think someone deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified them, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace?  I would have to agree, this is an insult to God, they have insulted his Grace and Mercy and have used it for a license to sin and think that somehow they have got one over on God.
 As with my children, it is both a Love and a Fear of God that keeps me. There are times where I feel close, loving and obedient towards my Heavenly Father and on those days, I am sustained by love. There are other days, other weeks where the cold winds of life come in an chill my love and on those days, Fear keeps me. As with my children, love works on some days, fear works on others. The last thing any Christian should ever be taught is that they a guaranteed a pass into Heaven, for the simple reason that our sinful, fallen nature, will exploit that every time. How many times did God tell his people to repent or he would judge them. Never did God tell his people, "you love me don't you, then c'mon, repent". There is Grace for sure in Christ, but know your scripture and know there's no Grace for those that pervert God's Grace into a license to sin; to be immoral. I don't understand Eternal Security because there's nothing to understand about it. I don't want to understand Eternal Security anymore than I want to sit down and try to understand how Satan could have rebelled against such a good God because the moment we think we understand than we think we can empathize with those that believe their heresy's and once we have taken that step we are one step closer to embracing the heresy.