Saturday, August 19, 2017

AUGUST 19 "MASTER ORCHESTRATOR"

This is our hope, when there is no hope. That God is a "Master Orchestrator", orchestrating events on our behalf, in our favor. Though God is not "specifically" mentioned through-out the Book of Esther, He is interwoven through-out the whole book. God is not speaking directly to Esther or Mordecai. God is not even sending Angels to speak to his people; as in other stories. The story of Esther is  a story that the 21st Century Christian should be able to relate to, more than any other story in the bible.  In our day and age, we are not seeing appearances of God nor speaking with Angels. We pray and we believe God; once we've prayed and sought his help to guide by divine guidance and to orchestrate, we, the 21st Century Christian, rely heavily on Providence! Often we quote Mordecai as saying to Esther "for such a time as this you have come to be Queen", but the actual quote is "who knows if perhaps you were made queen for such a time as this".  Mordecai is very much like us, a man with a relationship with God, but does not claim to have a direct line with God and neither does he claim to audibly hear from God. Mordecai is a man that prays and tries to reason and does not claim to know all, Mordecai is simply stating, "this sure seems like God here, I don't really believe in coincidence, you must be there for a purpose". Mordecai's hope is that God is at work and God is involved in their lives. His hope is that God has put Esther in the position she is in and his hope is that God will use her there as they pray. And while Mordecai is praying and believing, God is behind the scenes being the conductor of their lives, the Master Orchestrator. The very night, before the "Big Banquet" the King cannot sleep so he orders his attendant to bring the book of the history of his reign so it could be read to him" (Really!). This is divine orchestration. And don't you know he finds out, that night about a plot that Mordecai had exposed and saved the King from being treacherously assassinated. It will be less than 24 hours later that Haman is petitioning the King to have Mordecai hanged on the gallows while the King is asking Haman what to do to honor Mordecai, talk about being at opposite opinions. Our hope as believers, like our brother Mordecai, is not in "the arm of the flesh". Our hope is in Jehovah, the Master Orchestrator of our lives from start to finish. Our job is simply to seek him, use the positions and places He has set us up in, to the best of our ability, do what we can and believe Him to orchestrate the rest and if that means that God needs to keep a King up at night, not able to sleep and have him request to read exactly what God wanted him to read, than that's exactly what God will do. Mordecai prayed, challenged, Esther used the place/position "that perhaps" God had put her in and God did the rest! This example should sum up the experience of every faithful Christian that ever passes through this life and in hindsight, we will see, that it was so!

Friday, August 18, 2017

AUGUST 18 "YOU'RE BOTH RIGHT & YOU'RE BOTH WRONG!"

     How can we both be right?  Easy, happens all the time.  Where do you stand in this story?  If you're a man then you probably will take sides with the man, "can't have a woman dissing her husband in front of all those people, especially a man of that authority, what kind of precedent would that make?  Hmmm, true.
     If you're a woman then you will probably take sides with the woman, "you have to stand up for yourself, if you don't respect yourself, then who will. He thinks he's going to get all drunk with his friends and then call me over in front of his drunk friends and parade me in front of them....I don't think so!"  Hmmm, true.
He should not be getting drunk with his friends and then for entertainment be thinking of having his wife come parade in front of them so they can all gawk and grope at her, c'mon....she should not be disrespecting her husband in front of all his friends and setting a bad example for other woman to follow that probably look up to the Queen. If you just take the side of your gender, it's an easy decision to make of who's right and who's wrong. But if you want to judge fairly and put gender preference aside, it is very difficult to rule in this matter, except to say, "you're both right and you're both wrong!". Some of the fiercest fights between couples are based on the fact that each side has a legitimate claim, against the other spouse and neither is willing to back down. Who's right, who's wrong? In this case they're both right and both wrong. I'm looking at this from the outside in, so it's easy for me to see that they are both right and both wrong, but as you know, when you're in the thick of it, and you're all fired up, it's not so easy to step back and judge your own conflict without partiality. Difficult, yes, impossible, no! This is why every marriage needs the trinity of you, your spouse and Jesus. In every fight, every argument, Jesus can be and will be, that impartial, neutral witness than can illuminate to each individual their wrong and right. Many times after a heated argument, when i finally settled down and went to pray or sometimes not even when I was praying, the Holy Spirit was faithful to convict me of my actions, my words and totally dismantle the case I had set up in my mind, acquitted me of all wrong doing. Many, many times the Holy Spirit has shown both my wife and I, "you're both right and you're both wrong" now stop fighting, apologize, kiss and make up. I truly do feel sorry for couples desperately trying to make a go at marriage, trying hard and failing, without the help of Jesus in that marriage. It is not surprise the divorce rate is over 50% and quite frankly I'm surprised it's not over 70%. We will fight to the death of our marriages to prove we were right and we were done wrong. Every crumbling marriage has a person in each corner, with their arms crossed, very angry, pointing the finger at the other spouse and shouting, "I'm right, they're wrong", that's all their is to it. It's a sad state of affairs in many homes today and what's worse is kids get stuck in the middle. Can it be, you're both right and you're both wrong?

Thursday, August 17, 2017

AUGUST 17 "DO THAT AGAIN AND I'M GOING TO BEAT YOU!"

     I think, God gave man an ego and I believe God gave man an ego so he could use them as leaders of his people, specifically, Shepherding his people. As you have heard before, Pastor's have ego's and God capitalizes on that to draw them into the call. Why else, would any man ever want to Pastor? I know, I know...it's rewarding, it's service to The Lord, it's "a calling" and it is "all that" BUT at the end it will also drive you crazy and cause you to "lose it" over and over.  I know you are more spiritual than Moses, but Moses would agree with me and so would Nehemiah, our subject at hand. Many young men have the glare in their eyes of one day being called "Pastor" and God will use that as bait. No doubt, God will also make sure there is a shepherd's heart and character in that man, but ego will play a big part. This statement is offensive to both receiving ends isn't it.  The people are insulted to be told they cannot serve God without a leader and the leader is insulted to be told he has an ego and that his motives are not pure as the driven snow. The war in the church right now is the constant struggle for power and individuality.  More and more people are trying to prove, today, that you don't need a Pastor to serve God and neither to you need a church, while the Pastor's are preaching constantly over the pulpit that you do.  The people rose up constantly against Moses, "what makes you think you're so great, you're not the only one that God speaks through you know!"
     The capacity for people to backslide without God's chosen leader is beyond belief. The state of affairs after Nehemiah's departure is unbelievable. He writes in Verse 8 "I was greatly displeased and threw all Tobiah's household goods out of the room"  Displeased....is an under statement!  But it doesn't end there...one of these Israelite men actually marries Sanballat's daughter. This nauseates my stomach just reading this.  These two men, Sanballat & Tobiah, the very two instruments of the devil, who fought and wickedly apposed and threatened Israel in their attempt to rebuild Jerusalem are now living there and Sanballat is actually a father in law to one of the Israelite men???
     To add to that, they have no regard for the Sabbath, which was part of the original problem. Nehemiah must be thinking, "I thought I took care of all this, I thought we got our hearts right, I thought we had reinstated the Sabbath?"  So Nehemiah locks the gates and puts at stop to the breaking of the Sabbath. So what do the men do..repent and ask God forgiveness? NO, they camp out at the gate to be the first ones in the next day.  Nehemiah's response, "Why do you spend the night by the wall? If you do this again, I will lay hands on you"  When Nehemiah says he will, "lay hands on them" he is not speaking about praying for them!  Nehemiah is slowly unraveling, bit by bit.  Verse 25, "I rebuked them and called curses down on them. I beat some of the men and pulled out their hair".  I'm not sure who has to repent here? The people or the Leader, perhaps both.  I don't want to be the one to judge, but perhaps it is safe to say that this was not the best Christian conduct here? Perhaps it's safe to say that this is not specifically how God told Nehemiah to deal with the situation, ie: beating them and pulling out their hair, ouch!!!
     We can never overstate the need for God's people to be led by a Shepherd and we can never understate the people's immense capacity to sin and drift when no leader is present. For this formula (so to speak) to work there really needs to be humility on both sides of the camp. When one side or worse, both loose their humility, this is a recipe for disaster.  The people need to be humble enough to understand they do need a leader and the leader needs to be humble enough not to Lord the fact over their heads and understand he cannot lead unless God helps him. No matter what side you are on today, allow humility to have it's work in you, as the Apostle writes, "why make it hard for them (the leaders) what benefits is that to you) and why as a leader make it hard for those you are leading. If the people see humility in the leader and the leader sees humility in the people, this can work.  God's plan in this is that as many people as possible make it to the promised land and that nobody GETS BEAT, along the way!

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

AUGUST 16 "DON'T YOU LOVE DOGMATIC CHRISTIANS"

If you don't have time to read Paul's discourse on Christian benevolence, let me sum it up for you today! Stop being dogmatic with each other; especially young Christians, if you want to be fruitful and see people saved. This is all nit picking and petty stuff, the kind of stuff that repels people, not draws them in. Paul writes that his end focus in everything, is to see people saved.  It's not about you, it's about them.  But I wonder if his words are falling on deaf ears, I wonder if our words today, are falling on deaf ears.  It would be like gathering a group of men together in a room and delivering your dissertation on bargain shopping and how to find the best sales at Macy's and the best yard sales to find great deals. You may have all the wisdom and expertise in the world on the subject matter, but you just don't have the right crowd to share that with. "Well, the church is definitely the right crowd to share this with!"  Is it?  I wonder how many took Paul's advice and calmed down on their stance on not eating certain foods for the sake of others or vice versa?  "The Church" is one of the rare organizations that exists mainly for it's "non-members". It's not about the congregation members, it's about those that God is drawing in.  Jesus said, "none have I lost that you brought me" can we say the same? This is not a redundant statement, Jesus didn't make redundant statements, if Jesus said that then it IS possible that we can lose people, even though God was the one that drew them to us. And how do we lose them? By being dogmatic with them!

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

AUGUST 15 "WAS PAUL A CALVINIST?"

     WAS the Apostle Paul a Calvinist?  While we can debate all day long; as to whether Paul was a Calvinist in theory, more importantly is how he lived. And when we look at how he lived it appears more than anything, that he believed in Arminiusism. Jacobus Arminius was a Dutch Pastor and Theologian who  rejected his teacher's theology (John Calvin) that it is God who unconditionally elects some for salvation. Instead Arminius proposed that the election of God was of believers, thereby making it conditional on faith. The scriptures that John Calvin used to prove his theory of "predestination" mostly, if not all, came from the Apostle Paul's writings.  No doubt many of Paul's writings do refer to the "elect in Christ" and those "whom God predestined and chose", but yet while Paul might have seemed Calvinist in theory, look at how he lived his life! For a guy who taught allot about "the elect" & predestined" he lived his life as one trying to reach and save anybody he possibly could. Paul himself writes, "I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible".  Paul goes on to more explicitly write, "I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some".  If Paul was such a Calvinist, why did he try to save all? Why did he become all things to all men? Why such an effort  to save if God had already predestined those that would be saved?
     We will never know on this side of eternity what exactly Paul meant in his writings, although some already reading this are saying, "yes we do" but for every clever argument you have, someone on the other side of the spectrum has just as clever an argument.  Suffice it to say, that Paul did not allow his intellect to get in the way of his Faith and ability to serve God.  Paul did not allow his knowledge to render him impotent for God, as many other Theologians do! Paul himself wrote, "knowledge puffs up!".  Paul knew better than anyone that theological knowledge could easily instill pride and render someone useless in God's hands.
     Paul had some deep revelations and theological exhortations, but yet he never allowed them to hinder him in his usefulness for God and the saving of souls.  I once overheard some men in a restaurant speaking and was quit thrilled that I had run into some Christians in the city that I had just been launched to pioneer a church in. It was an ungodly city, but here sat next to me a group of Christians, a group of men. Perhaps they could give me some insight and direction. I quickly got up from my table and introduced myself. My intuition was right, they were indeed Christians. We shared a few thoughts and introductions back and forth and then  I decided to share with them a very exciting outreach my wife and I had planned. We had special tracts ordered for the Passion of the Christ and we were going to go inside a very busy movie theatre and reach out to the folks coming out from the movie. We were hoping and believing to see some saved, as Paul would have said.  To my surprise the shot my idea down.  The leader of the group said, "ah, we don't believe in that, God is going to do what he's going to do and we just leave that to him".  Sadly enough, the man who's scriptures they would use (the Apostle Paul) to back of their apathy & laziness, was the man who spent himself more than any other human being for the saving of souls.  "I will be all things to all men that I might save some". 
     What was Paul, what would he be considered today, was his theology Calvinism or Arminianism?  It doesn't matter. NO matter what side of the fence you find yourself on, one thing is for sure, Jesus Christ commanded us to Preach the Gospel unto the ends of the earth, to every tribe, tongue and nation. That is...every one, everyone that will listen. Paul, irregardless of his deep theological beliefs, responded dutifully to the call of Jesus Christ more seriously than any other disciple who ever walked the earth.  Do you have great revelation and theological ideas? Are those revelations and ideas making you a greater servant in the master's hands or are they rendering you impotent for him, something to consider....

Monday, August 14, 2017

AUGUST 14 "LIVING WITH THE STIGMA OF OTHERS"

Paul, in his writing to the Corinthians opens up about this stigma, that he has had to live with. As hard and faithful as he has been, Paul is still not considered an "Apostle" within many circles. He is not regarded as being in the same class and group as Peter, James & John. They are the "Apostles".  Paul is like the black sheep of the Apostles, at best. Paul writes himself, "even if I am not considered an Apostle to others, I am to you!". In other words, "don't you start treating me like that too, enough is enough!". We think that to be able to flourish in our Church, to be able to flourish in the Kingdom of God, we have to be that Christian that everybody loves, everybody excepts and everybody thinks the best of. "It's easy for them, everybody thinks they're so great, let them try living with the stigma that I have to live under". Paul teaches us that we can flourish as a Christian, despite what others think, God can and God does, still want to use us. Paul came later, Paul was not one of the first, selected by Jesus, Paul doesn't have the 3 years one on one with Jesus, Paul wasn't there through the trial & Crucifixion and not only was he never part of that, he persecuted Christians and was in part, responsible for some of their deaths.  Paul has to live with this stigma, but he doesn't have to allow it to render him useless. Paul admits himself, he has labored harder and done more than any of the other Apostles. Paul ends up being the greatest missionary of any Apostle and ends up writing three-quarters of the New Testament, Peter only has two books, James only has one. Maybe Paul used this stigma to his own advantage, maybe it was this stigma of "you're not an Apostle" that stirred him to labor that much more, not do nothing, what's your excuse?!

AUGUST 13 "DON'T BE SO FREE TO EXERCISE YOUR FREEDOMS"

     DON'T be so free to exercise your freedoms lest you cause others to stumble, Paul warns us, what a lost concept this is. Actually it's not just a concept, it's a command. Paul goes on to write, "when you sin against your brothers by doing this and wounded their weak conscience, you sin against Christ. It's almost as if God makes sure it is phrased like this, "you sin against Christ" because otherwise we would not change our behavior. If all the scripture said is that we sin against our brother, most would say, "oh well, to bad, he/she just needs to suck it up, grow up and mature. I believe God really knows human nature very well, doesn't he!
      I have been a Christian for 20 years and have yet to meet a Christian that practices this.  Have you?  I have met the opposite. Christians who refuse to stop drinking, because it is their right to drink and nowhere in the bible does it say having a drink is a sin. I have met Christians who rent and go to the movies every week-end, not once limiting themselves to what they would watch, lest it offend or cause a younger, weaker Christian to stumble. All I hear is, "it's my right and nowhere in the bible does it say I cannot...".  Truth be known, most don't really know what the bible does say on many issues and secondly, chances are even if it was written in the bible it would be dismissed as legalistic. Whatever we don't like we dismiss as legalistic or Old Testament.
     I once was given a pack of O'Doul's non-alcoholic beer for my birthday (why...I'm not sure) and it sat in my fridge, in the garage for about a month.  One Saturday, a young Christian and I were doing some landscaping at my house, here in the desert. We were quite thirsty standing in my garage trying to cool off. I thought, "let's see what we have in the fridge". All there was in the fridge to drink was the O'Douls. So I said, "we could drink this, it's all I have, don't worry, it's non-alcoholic".  The young Christian was scandalized that I would even want to drink beer, even if it was non-alcoholic.  The individual was so offended I said, "it's okay, I don't really care, give it to me" and I poured them out and threw the rest of the pack in the trash can. I thought to myself, "wow, this really threw him off, that's the last time I allow myself to be associated with even "non-alcoholic" beverage." Imagine the even greater damage had I had alcoholic beer in my fridge? Most Christians will say, "that's my right, and if he/she doesn't agree with it, that's their problem".  The issue with that attitude is that the bible says the complete opposite. Paul says, their problem know becomes your problem (so to speak) and if you don't do anything to curve your habits & supposed freedoms, that you are now sinning against God.
      Paul writes, "be careful, however, that the exercising of your freedom does not become a stumbling block to the weak."  I think we've lost our tolerance for "the weak". I think we've lost our tolerance for people in general. I am noticing as time goes on that people are becoming more and more irritated by people, more so than ever before. This is to the point where people just want to co-exist with their families, maybe a few select friends, and THAT'S IT!.  And I'm speaking about those inside the church of Jesus Christ, not those outside the church!  The response of many, with the young/weak Christian that I mentioned earlier, probably would have been, "that's the last time I invite him over!"  Rather than curb our habits, for the benefit of another, we would rather just cut them off.  If you read the context of this whole passage, the predominant message is "brotherly love".  At the root of all the issues here is this, we are becoming very deficient in "brotherly love". This is a sign of the last days, "that men will become lovers of themselves" and that "the hearts of many will wax cold".  The warning here is deeper than, "have some Grace with people" the warning here is against our hearts turning cold toward one another.  The old commandment still remains, "by this they will know that ye are my disciples, that ye have love for one another".