Thursday, June 22, 2017

JUNE 22 "A GOOD RETURN ON YOUR INVESTMENT"

     I can't tell you how many times this principle has been applied in my life & circumstances. The good that I did for others, as God moved upon my heart, has ALWAYS come back to do me better good than I did in helping others.  All this woman has done is use the wealth God has given her to build a room for Elisha to stay in and has taken the time to feed him when passing through town. And we do give credit where credit is do, she could have easily made excuses for not doing so, but she didn't. However, look what she gets in return! Never in her wildest dreams did she ever imagine, that by simply doing good to this obvious servant and man of God, that she would reap a son in return.  And not only does she reap a son, but when her son dies years later, that same man, Elisha, restores her son to life. That same man, Elisha, years later, is the cause of this woman having her property restored to her. The dividends, the retribution that is recompensed this woman far exceeds what she did for Elisha. And how often in life, do we find that by our simple obedience to respond to God in helping others does the retribution come back 10 fold what we put out.  We often say that doing good doesn't pay, and that's A LIE.  Perhaps it is the good that you are doing that is the problem. The Pharisees did plenty "of good" but I guarantee there was never any retribution paid by to them for their good. There are two kinds of good. A good that we do for ourselves (those reasons my vary and for sake of time we won't get into that) and a good we do as God prompts us...and that good, the latter good, will always pay back dividends, you can be sure. If you are lacking this experience in your walk with God than you should ask yourself, "am I doing any good; and if so...who and by what pretense am I doing good, for myself or for God".  Is the good I do "what I think is good and beneficial" or is the good I'm doing what God wants?" You may ask, "how do I know what God wants, how do I know the good that God wants me to do?"  And that only comes as naturally as breathing comes to you. As you abide in Christ and He abides in you, the natural outcome is Godly instinct and promptings and then it is up to you not to excuse them away. Do not grieve the work of the Holy Spirit in you. If God puts someone upon your heart, if God puts a certain persons needs upon your heart, than at once, put aside your feeble ideas and attempts of goodness and respond to God's and you will see the dividends of obedience. However, if you only respond to reap the dividends than you have ruined any reward you may have received. Simply respond because God asks of you, and let the rest be..., whether you reap or not should be inconsequential in your decision. The right response is..."Lord you need, and I have, therefore I give". That is the right heart and that is what Jesus meant when he said, "unless your righteousness exceeds that of the Pharisees, you shall not see the Kingdom of God".  Not only doing good for good or for "goodness sake" (as some might say) but doing good for the right reasons and those reasons should always end and begin, with God's promptings, not ours.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

JUNE 21 "UNASHAMEDLY UNAPOLOGETIC"

     You probably would never quote a New Testament Christian saying, "22 I have nothing but hatred for them; I count them my enemies." and then shortly thereafter also asking God to....23 Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. 24 See if there is any offensive way in me..,"  This is almost comical to a new testament Christian, that somewhat would come out and speak about his hatred for another and then in the following sentence ask God, "to search him to see if there is any offensive way in him....HELLO! We would say..."are you stupid?"  Hatred....this is what we try to conceal from God, is our hatred for others. Why would we openly admit it to God and then ask God to search us, as if we were as pure as the driven snow. Are Christians today confused about who they are and what they should feel? Are we trying "to be Christian" or is it more that we "simply are"....Christian.  David never tried to be Godly. David never forced religious thoughts and piety, he simply was David, a man after God's own heart and he did not try to be religious. Let's not try to be more "Godly" than God.  Let's not try to be more spiritual than Jesus. We are trying so hard to "be Christian" that we are running right over the Holy Spirit. I "hate" to speak for God, but perhaps God's response to David's reply in this psalm is...."yeah, I hate them too David and I will destroy them".  To many, this would be blasphemous to even speak this about God. In our flaky Christian world God just loves everybody.  "Didn't God say, "love your enemies"??? Well yes he did, and we cannot pretend like He (Jesus) didn't say that, but it is also the same God who says in Malachi,  “Was not Esau Jacob’s brother?” declares the LORD. “Yet I have loved Jacob, 3 but Esau I have hated"  David is not trying to justify his own prejudices and hatred, he is simply confident that he hates what God hates. David hates the wicked, the unjust and the ungodly, he says himself, "1 Do I not hate those who hate you, LORD, and abhor those who are in rebellion against you?"  We have gone gushy over love, and quite frankly we love those God would have us to hate; and we hate those that God would have us to love. We are trying to hard to force our Christianity, trying to force our piety, trying to force ourselves to be "who we think" or "what we think" a Christian should be, we actually hinder the Holy Spirit from moulding and shaping us into the man and woman of God He would have us to be.  Jesus didn't feel like He had to hide his anger and disdain for what was happening in the temple that day.  Jesus didn't feel like He had to hide his hatred, oops, I mean dislike for the Pharisees.  Jesus told them, "your father is the devil", but yet Jesus also showed compassion to Nicodemus who came in secret by night.  Do you know who you are in Christ? What happens is when we get disconnected from God we being to try to act Christian instead of simply "being" Christian, allowing and trusting that it is God who works through you and you don't have to fake or be pretentious, you can be you and still at the end of the day, have the nerve to say, as David did, "search me and see if there is any offensive way in me".  Let God's spirit move upon you, to love what He loves and unashamedly, hate what He hates.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

JUNE 20 "THE GOOD, THE BAD, THE UGLY SIDE OF EVANGELISM"

One thing you'll notice about the stories in The Bible, is the negative is often mixed in with the good. This is the reality of The Church and the Christian Faith.  It's not 100% victories. Some areas we lose in and other areas we win in. Some places we take a loss, other places we gain. Some are great victories to go home and rejoice over, some are serious defeats and we go home and lick our wounds. If you are going to be involved in evangelism, this will be par for the course, if you do not engage in evangelism, you don't have a clue of what I'm talking about. In Antioch they are evangelizing and many believe and convert, I can imagine they are rejoicing, until another group comes along, rejects their message AND stirs up a mob against them, this is not so pleasant. And so they leave. Then we read at the beginning of the next chapter, "The same thing happened at Iconium. "A great number believed....but another group rebelled and poisoned the minds of those listening.
I have had the minds of people I worked hard with, poisoned by some opposing friend, family member or co-worker. Everything was going fine, I was rejoicing, until such and such person got a hold of them and poisoned their mind, then everything fell apart. Then opposition came, attacks, and pulling more people away. I went from rejoicing, couldn't sleep with so much adrenaline to depression, not wanting to do nothing but sleep. How quickly the tables can turn, either way. What's interesting about the book of Acts, the Pioneering of the early 1st century church is how real it is. It is not candy coated to give us encouragement and warm fuzzies, it is written as it really happened, with all the ups and downs, thrills and disappointments. If all you've ever done is attach yourself to some mega church and join the circus, then you know nothing of this. But if you've ever attached yourself to a grass roots work, fighting and clawing for every soul, trying to get break through and dominion in your city, evangelizing and trying to win souls (He that wins souls is wise) then you pick up the book of Acts and feel yourself immersed in it and it does become a comfort, not because it's filled with false hopes, but because it's real. Jesus said himself, "The Kingdom of God suffers violence, but the violent take it by force". The reality is, the spiritual realm, hits back! For every punch we throw, you often get one thrown back at you. It's a fight, it's spiritual warfare. We have to be careful as evangelists and pioneers of basing our success by the numbers. The is what corporations do, they crunch numbers to measure whether or not, what they are doing is a success. In the Kingdom of God we don't measure quantitatively, we measure by obedience, if not then Jeremiah's ministry and Jesus' ministry Himself, was a failure. The reality of evangelism and pioneering is that it involves the good, the bad and the ugly side of evangelism. Some will convert, love us and make Heaven their home, other's will be poisoned, turn against us and slander. If we measure our success by numbers, then we may quit, if we measure our success by obedience, then we continue and find comfort and solace from the book of Acts.

Monday, June 19, 2017

JUNE 19 "THEY FULFILLED THEIR MINISTRY"

"And Barnabas and Saul returned from Jerusalem, when they had fulfilled their ministry, and took with them John, whose surname was Mark."  We talk and write a lot of about the genuine vs. the disingenuous Christian.  But where are metal is really tested is in "Ministry". So many Christians avoid ministry and I have heard every excuse their is why "I'm not going to get involved in ministry". And there's always a grain of truth in some of the reasons I hear, but at the heart of it, is a reluctance to be put through the refiners fire. Nothing refines a Christian like ministry. You want to see what a man or woman of God is really made up of, put them in ministry with other people. That will test any man, any woman's worth. How do we know Barnabas and Saul (Paul) are spiritual? Ans: They fulfilled their ministry!!! Not enough can be said for that. It was hard, it was more work than they thought, it was people problems, demonically resisted and much more, yet they fulfilled their ministry. It's amazing how many people get in ministry and quit. Always with a good excuse "why they had to get out".  Are you fulfilling your ministry are you in any ministry? Have you stepped into ministry and just as quickly stepped out?  Have a bunch of reasons why you got out? Jesus said right before he died, " I have finished the work you sent me to do".  There is a "work aspect" to serving God that many Christians don't want to fess up to. "Labor while it is day, for the night cometh when no man can labor".  "It's all about loving Jesus"  No, it's all about loving Jesus and working for him. Ministry is the crucible of fire for the Christian, are you willing to step into it?!

Sunday, June 18, 2017

JUNE 18 "I've had enough"

     Elijah finally lets it slip that he is human after all. He has been on quite an impressive run of Faith. He closes the heavens from rain for 3 years, he is fed by the ravens, the goes to Zarephath and challenges the widow to feed him with her last morsel of food and proclaims to her that she will not run, then he, by himself, stands on Mt. Carmel and boldly challenges the prophets of Baal to a dual, soaks the altar with water and believes God to consume it with Fire and consume his sacrifice, which God does. My faith probably would have failed when I arrived in Zarephath, only to find that the person God told me would provide for me is worse off than I. However, Elijah is not me.  Elijah is a serious man of faith, seems almost super human, but finally we see that his spiritual armor, like yours and mine, is penetrable after all.  When Elijah hears that Jezebel has put a hit on his life, this sends him in to a downward spiritual roll. Whether it is his one fear, that is attacked, or it is just a culmination of one attack after another, we are not sure why this so affects Elijah, but it does. Elijah does give us a hint though, in verse 4 we read, "I have had enough Lord". I have been here and so have you. This story shows us that we all have our limitations and often God allows us to be pushed to our limits. Elijah says, "Take my life".  In other words, I just want to die, I'm tired, so tired. I could handle the first trial, the second trial, the third, but Lord, they just keep coming......and I'm done! You ever push your kids to their limits and sometimes they respond in a like manner and what do we do? We often turn in our approach, pamper them, because we know that they are at the end of their ability to cope. God has sent Elijah all over for a single meal, but know God changes his approach, God knows he has pushed Elijah to his limits, God knows Elijah is serious about quitting and what does God do? Verse 6 "Get up and eat, he looked around, and there by his head was a cake of bread baked over hot coals, and a jar of water".  This is amazing.  No longer is God pulling the ..."go all the way to Zarephath and there a widow (who is about to die) will feed you.  Now it's, wake up, I've cooked for you and you don't have to move an inch to eat or drink. This is the mom knowing she has pushed her child to far and is now baking cookies and putting a glass of milk her son. Verse 7, Get up and eat, for the journey is too much for you".  This is God making a complete turn around, showing compassion and empathy for this man. "The journey is to much for you"....never are these words spoken before as he's running all over the place. Now the conversation starts...first the cookies and milk, put some food in the man's belly, calm him down a little, after all he is asking to die, not a good state of mind, and now God moves on with some conversation..."what are you doing here, Elijah?"  Elijah, is not going to hold back, which he shouldn't, earlier he said "I've had enough Lord" and now he's going to vent....."I have been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, broken down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too".  Look at the patience of God here, as a parent dealing with an upset child, God is exercising the same kind of care and compassion. He does not rebuke Elijah here for self pity, but works with him and he is very understanding of how Elijah feels. Elijah has no other reason to believe that he has been left alone, he has not seen anybody else standing up for The Lord, so what does God do..."The Lord said, go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by".  God begins to work with Elijah in his broken down state..then in verse 17-18 he gives explicit direction to Elijah concerning help that is on the way and confirms to him that He has reserved seven thousand who have not bowed down to Baal.  We have to know/discern when people have been pushed to their limits, when they say "I've had enough" we need to listen and be sensitive to that and many times we are not. We quote a simple scripture to them, tell them to handle it and move on. And often they jump off a spiritual cliff and we say "oh well, they were weak". Elijah was anything but weak, but yet even he reaches his limit and God handles this situation with care, consideration, compassion and empathy and because of that, Elijah goes from "I just want to die" to moving on for God, doing more great exploits for God and anointing a great successor, Elisha. We could learn much from today's reading on how to deal with people that have been pushed to their limits. How many could we have saved if we had exercised the same compassion God does towards Elijah? How many would still be serving God today, how many people would still be in church today.  We don't cater to self pity, but we ought not to be cold and calloused either, read over today's reading and get some forethought on how to deal with your brother or sister next time they cry out, "I've had enough".

Saturday, June 17, 2017

JUNE 17 "HARD TO LISTEN TO LEADERS"

I have been in this situation more than once! I have learned over the years be careful about coming all humble to your leader, asking them what you should do and then walk away and don't listen because you think the advice they gave you is crazy.  You walk away wondering, "why did I even ask, that's the last time....he's crazy if he thinks I'm going to do that". Obadiah runs into somewhere he really admires, Elijah! However, once his excitement wears off, Obadiah is wishing he had not run into Elijah! What can I do for you, anything my leader.  Elijah asks him to go get Ahab and tell Ahab he wants to meet with him.  Obadiah is outraged at the position Elijah is putting him in. "Why are you asking me to do this, you want me killed?".  And of course we know that Elijah wants Obadiah killed, right?  Well obviously "no", Obadiah is a good man and Elijah knows that, but sometimes it does seem like our leaders don't care about us, they only care about what they want. "You just want to meet Ahab, well how about if it costs me my life?" and Obadiah begins to tell Elijah how he has served God from his youth and the good he has done for God and Israel. Elijah does not change his request, "go get Ahab for me". The relationship between disciple and Pastor is a difficult one. In the world if you don't agree with your leader you tell him where to go or just ignore him.  Not to say people don't do this in the Church with their leaders, but in the Church, it can hinder your growth as a Christian and hinder what God wants to do, in and through your life.  The events that transpire because Obadiah did listen, are pretty amazing. It's one of the classic victory stories of the Bible. Obeying someone who doesn't think like you is very hard!!! However, it's not just our leaders that don't think like us, God doesn't think like us. "My ways are not your ways, neither are my thoughts your thoughts" says the Lord.  As a Christian, certainly as a disciple, you will never get anywhere, until you learn to obey and do the things that don't make sense to you. Obadiah proves his true faith, his true allegiance to God, by risking his life, to obey this man. Esther did the same, Moses did the same and many others through out history. Ever gone to a spiritual leader and/or Pastor, asked, "what can I do or what should I do?" and walked away disillusioned by the whole experience and did nothing? If you're looking for a reference point as to where your growth stopped or where you began to regress as a Christian, you may find that it traces all the way back, to your Obadiah/Elijah encounter with your leader, the difference is, Obadiah obeyed and you did not.

JUNE 16 "TWO DESPERATE PEOPLE"

  There's a number of interesting thoughts on this passage.  # 1, Elijah is suffering at his own hand, what I mean by that, is he is the one that pronounced there would be no rain, this has caused a drought, which has caused a famine which has not only left the people without food or drink, but ALSO HIM.  However, we see that God is supernaturally providing for him. God tells Elijah to go to Zarephath and there I have directed a widow there to supply you with food.  But if God has directed her then why does she seem somewhat unwilling? If God had told us this, we would have asked and then when we had received the response that Elijah received, [ 12 “As surely as the LORD your God lives,” she replied, “I don’t have any bread—only a handful of flour in a jar and a little olive oil in a jug. I am gathering a few sticks to take home and make a meal for myself and my son, that we may eat it—and die.” ] This is not the response we are expecting from someone The Lord has said, "I have directed them to...".  Can we learn from this that there is people The Lord has prepared, directed and set up, that are still going to need prodding from us? The answer of course is "yes". This widow's first response to Elijah asking her to feed him is.."you're crazy, get lost, impossible...." Elijah's response is, "just do it, God will bless you if you do". How many blessings & miracles have we walked away from and left empty handed and then blamed it on God. If it is God's will, then it should ALWAYS BE like when the disciples walked up to the man and asked for his donkey, simply said, "the Lord needs it" and the man said, "go ahead and take it". That's the way every story should start and end. If it is something God has purposed, than it should always work like the story of the Colt.  I can only imagine Elijah's mindset when he arrives in Zarephath to meet the woman that is supposed to help him, only to find out that she herself is just as needy and is getting ready to die herself, how peculiar Elijah must have thought this situation was. Elijah has something to offer her that is going to save her life and she has something to offer Elijah that is going to save him. God uses these two to save each other. It's not just one saving another, but God using two desperate people to save each other. By Elijah challenging this woman to faith (which Elijah has) he saves her from dying and by her sharing her food (which she has) she saves Elijah from dieing. It seems odd challenging someone to step out in faith when you yourself have nothing and it seems odd to share and think of another when you barely have enough for yourself. It's hard to talk spiritual and speak faith when you have nothing, but yet you must.  It's hard to think of others and give, when you have nothing, but yet you must. There is an opportunity in this story for a great disaster or a great miracle. These two will either find themselves dead, one along side the other or they will find themselves both invigorated by a mighty miracle. Can you keep speaking faith and believing God and challenging others when you have nothing and can you give and think of others when you have nothing, if so than you have a great demonstration of God's provision that is on the way!