Friday, December 30, 2011

DECEMBER 30 "DO I HAVE TO FULFILL AN EMOTIONALLY CHARGED VOW?"

     VOWS are often made under much emotion, do I have to fulfill them?  THE LAW states that any contract signed under "pressure" is invalid, it is called "duress".  Want to get out of fulfilling a legal obligation...., claim you signed or agreed to it "under duress".  Could we also say then that a vow is some kind of promise made under "emotional duress"? 
     Let's look at when vows are made.  They are made when we are either very high in spirits or very low.  Do we know when we are making them that we are "surely" not going to fulfill them, definitely not.  We are drunk with emotion and we are not making decisions that we would make if sober minded.  We see this even in the case of Ananias and Sapphira who obviously were high in jubilation when they made their vow to donate ALL of the proceeds of the sale of their property. Should someone have stopped them and confronted them about the ramifications of their decision.  Should someone have said "all are you sure you want to donate all of it, how about half or something?"  Would they have listened to wise counsel in the midst of their spiritual euphoria, probably not!  And who is to say that giving the whole amount was not wise?
     When we are at an emotional low or seized with great fear we are also just as likely to vow what we will never fulfill. We are not making decisions in a right state of mind.  An individual that is depressed or gripped with fear will make a VOW to sell all their possessions and go to Afghanistan to start a missionary work, should God get them out of their situation.  Question is, "will they sell all and go to Afghanistan" when the situation changes or will they think a little more carefully about the endangerment of their lives and their children, once the pressures of their dilemma have lifted? Of course they will and they will renig on their vow.  Question to ask then is are vows really lies and are we responsible to fulfill these emotionally charged vows/promises?  Does God hold us to them vows?  In out text...... He does! 14 “Cursed is the cheat who has an acceptable male in his flock and vows to give it, but then sacrifices a blemished animal to the Lord."  God says, "you vowed and I'm keeping you to it!".  We would say, "c'mon God, give the guy a break" but God doesn't see it that way.  When Ananias and Sapphira re-nig on their vow, they are killed, both husband and wife.  Were they killed because they renegged on their vow or because they lied to God, that is debatable, but the issue started with a vow that was made and that's where the issue often starts and ends. Another vow that God holds them accountable for in our text is "the marriage vow".   Once again, we would say, "c'mon God, they've given it their best shot, they're miserable together, the kids are suffering, this is what's best" but God, once again, doesn't see it that way.  Does not the Word of God warn us not to make irrational vows, does it not say that it is better "not to vow" than to make a vow and break it.
     If there's one lesson we all need to learn in life as we "grow on to maturity" in the Lord, is that we never make a vow when are emotions are high, when are emotions are low and when we are immersed in fear. Secondly, we must learn that once we make a vow we need to honor it. Third and last, we need  to learn and know, that if we make a vow to God and dishonor it, we can expect consequences and we must learn to deal with the consequences, move on and not be bitter towards God but look ourselves in the mirror and say, "this is my fault, not God's" He is good and I am simply reaping the consequences of my own foolish and immature decision(s).  When God is going to judge David for his irrational decision to number his troops God says, "I'm gonna judge you for this, this are your options".,
David takes the option to fall into God's judgment in lieu of man and never once utters a sentence or even a word about the "injustice of God".  David accepts God as a judge and also accepts God's love for him at the same time, how's that!?
     How many vows have you made in the eyes of God but yet never fulfilled them and just tried to move right on with life as if nothing had ever happened?  Ever feel like your "kicking against the goads"? Maybe you are, maybe there's some thing(s) you need to reconcile with God, accept his judgment and then prepare to move on with a fresh start, but that "fresh start" doesn't begin until you reconcile with God rather than go on each day pretending like everything is okay.  It is not you who made a vow to God and you broke it, without even thinking twice about it! What you need to do is make things right with Him today, so you can move on with him.....TOMORROW!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

DECEMBER 28 " OH MY GOD, HE'S CREATED A FRANKENSTEIN"

     "HOW far is this kid going to take this before I have to knock him off his feet", ever wonder that?  How far will an employee take his insolence before his employer is left with no choice but to fire him? How far will a soldier take his insubordination before his superior must write him up or court martial him? And the question of all ...is how far will the creation (man) take his arrogance, pride and audacity against his creator?  And the answer to that is "to no ends".   Will he (the created) defy the creator? Yes
Will he rebel against his creator, Yes.  Will he shake his first at his creator, Yes!  But will he go so far as to FIGHT his creator....???? YES 19 Then I saw the beast and the kings of the earth and their armies gathered together to wage war against the rider on the horse and his army." 
     "Are you serious, you are going to wage war against God?"  This is the end, the culmination of man's pride to his own destruction. How far will man take his pride and arrogance, to no ends, to the point where if left to his own way, he (man) would attempt to destroy his own creator. Is this a bad nightmare or a Hollywood horror show? No, it's real. Perhaps this is where the writer/director received his inspiration for Frankenstein.  This is what God has created in many ways; His creation has literally  turned into a monster and in our text wants to kill him (again). The only thing is this is not fictional Hollywood but real life! Is this an insult to God? I think not, God himself said in Genesis that he regretted making mankind and would destroy them all, except for Noah and his family. 
     There are only two types of "man" on the earth; the one that says, "Lord, thy will be done" and the man that says, "God, may my will be done".  One will submit unto his creator and do his will and be blessed; the other will rebel against his creator, be cursed, force his will and die.  Which are you?
Most will say, "well those are two extremes, I fall somewhere in the middle".  Oh really, is there a such a thing as a middle?
     Oprah Winfrey once said on her television show, "what is it with God, it seems like he has an ego problem that he constantly wants to be worshipped, I have a problem with that".  Was that the start of a mood that would swing across our nation and world that would one day say "Amen" to that, "who is this God anyway that we should worship him and do His will?!".  Frank Sinatra way before Oprah sang a song that resonated with Americans all across the country, "I did it my way".  The lyrics go as follows...."I took the blows, but let the record show, I did it my way".  What was Frank's way?  Immorality, mafia connections, illegal activity, drugs, alcohol abuse, divorce, wrecked lives, devastated children, etc...etc....Had Frank been alive, if Oprah is alive at the battle of Armageddon, will they join ranks with these they want to wage war against Christ? Which side will you be fighting on if you are alive....oh yeah, I forgot, you're in the middle.
     There is no end to the arrogance of man, left to his own, but fortunately God does not leave man to his own for ever, here in Jesus Christ's awesome conquest, he crushes the arrogance of man and the beast that fuels the pride of man.  What man doesn't realize, is that when he rages against his creator he does not represent a superior being at all, although in his pride he seems himself as better, more educated, enlightened and sophisticated, but in all reality he shows himself to be a fallen being, he shows himself to be as low, as hideous as Lucifer himself who was the first to fight God. He associates himself with the lowly, the scoundrel, the hideous, the host of which he will himself spend the rest of eternity with.  A place that God himself says was not prepared for man but for the devil and his angels, but man in the spirit of the devil (rather than his creator) has chosen to align himself with this fallen creation, this beast and in so doing he confines himself with this creature, to the depths of hell for all eternity.  Is there an end to the arrogance of man? Yes, and we can literally "THANK GOD" for that one!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

DECEMBER 22 "THE NETHERWORLD OF THE BIBLE"

     IT is amazing to me as we come to the close of the year readings, in our One Year Bible that often you can't tell if you're reading in the Old Testament or New Testament portion. Today, I have to admit, I might have been drifted a little while reading (long night), but when I reigned myself back in and got re-focused I assumed I was reading the New Testament portion (yes I spaced out). 1 [a]Then I looked up, and there before me was a man with a measuring line in his hand. 2 I asked, “Where are you going?” He answered me, “To measure Jerusalem, to find out how wide and how long it is.”  3 While the angel who was speaking to me was leaving, another angel came to meet him 4 and said to him: “Run, tell that young man, ‘Jerusalem will be a city without walls because of the great number of people and animals in it. 5 And I myself will be a wall of fire around it,’ declares the LORD, ‘and I will be its glory within.’  
     If that doesn't read like Revelations than I don't know what does.  I thought for sure I was in Revelations but then it dawned on me I was still in Zechariah.  Is this coincidence that as we come to a close in our reading through of God's Word that somehow the Old begins to mesh with the New? How odd it is that we would be reading such marvelous & incomprehensible imagery in the Old Testament and then go on to read the same in Revelations. In the earlier part of the year we would never find this similarity between the Old and New Testament.  You will not find to many similarities in January as you are reading in Genesis and then in Matthew, but somehow, by divine orchestration, (I would guess) as you read through the bible and get to the end, somehow it all comes together. 
     And what is it "really" that is coming together???  I would say the answer to that is, insight into the next world, referred to sometimes as "The Netherworld". There is nothing I read today in Zechariah or Revelation that I can really apply to my life today, it is beyond me. It is imagery that makes for great movies of which Hollywood has definitely tapped into with movies such as the Epic Tale of  "The Lord of the Rings".  CS Lewis also used his God given imagination and talent to bring to print (and now also in the theatre) some of his thoughts on The Netherworld in his Epic Story of "The Chronicles of Narnia". Interestingly enough Tolkien and Lewis were mutual friends. In these movies & novels, we get a small, very small glimpse of things that are to come and also beyond our minds.  We are speaking of Beasts, Angels, Spiritual warfare, talking animals and fierce creatures.  I believe this is part of the fascination and cult following of Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings.  There is something in man that these movies resonates with. It is as if in one part (the natural) of us we say, "that could not be" but the God part (or spiritual part) of humanity says, "it's real, some place, some day, there is something like this".  And the proof is in the scriptures like we read today in Zechariah and Revelation.  There is another world where there are mighty beings, speaking animals and beasts beyond even Steven Spielberg's, Tolkien's or C.S. Lewis' imaginations.  There truly is an EPIC Battle that consists of good and evil and dark lord's of the night that must be conquered.  There truly is a world of flying and talking beasts and God chooses to reveal to us, to give us a glimpse of this world as we come to the conclusion of His Word and the question He whispers to us as we come to the end of his Word is...."do you believe?"  Do you believe in this EPIC Battle, do you believe in "The Netherworld of The Bible" and then once you answer that question then you must also answer this question.  "What part do you play now and what part will you play when you step through the painting (Chronicles of Narnia).  Death is our entrance into the Painting, our entrance into The Netherworld and whether or not you believe now, you will surely believe then.  It will be frightfully Awesome even to those that are washed and new robes have been given (as Joshua in our text) but it will be frightfully dreadful to those who sins have not been forgiven, who stand before God, filthy and stained with sin when all the opportunities were before them to be cleansed and receive a new robe.  Do you have a new robe for this Netherworld that you will one day enter?  An enchanted place it is, a wonderful place of awe and wonder, but there is a dress code for the occasion, make sure you do not show up dressed in anything other than what is required.  What is it?  Ans: It is a white robe, it is without spot or blemish and you can only purchase it from Jesus Christ , "behold I am coming quickly".

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

DECEMBER 20 "JUST HOLD ON GOD, I'LL BE RIGHT WITH YOU!"

     I DON'T know to many people that would be so bold as to tell God, to "just hold on a minute" and then to keep Him waiting for days, weeks, months and some even years.  We are much more diplomatic about it, we simply say to ourselves, "now is not the time".  In Haggai we read about God's people doing exactly so.  They do not say that they don't want to or don't have interest in building another temple, they simply justify that "it's not the right time".  It's not that I don't want to go overseas, but "it's not the time".  It's not that I don't want to get involved, it's just that "it's not the time".   It's not that I don't want to forsake all and follow you, "it's just not the time".  When the kids are older, when my finances are better, when my marriage is better, when I pay off some debt, when I get my act together, but yet we manage to have time for our purposes, but not God's.  In Haggai we read, “These people say, ‘The time has not yet come to rebuild the LORD’s house.’”  3 Then the word of the LORD came through the prophet Haggai: 4 “Is it a time for you yourselves to be living in your paneled houses, while this house remains a ruin?”
     Time, time, time....I would say "time" is best described by "an allocated window of opportunity to get something done".   Time is not still, time is not eternal (on earth) and time is not at our disposal.  Even Solomon wrote, "there is a time for everything under the sun".   In our text the people said, "now's not the time" and God says, "yes it is, if not now then when" (my interpretation).  "Okay, so how do I know when the time is NOW?", you may ask.   Well, I do believe that God is faithful to impress upon us that inclination.  Just as God has not left women to guess for themselves when the time of childbirth is due, so He has not left us to ourselves to guess.  The woman will feel severe urgings and birth pangs, that whether she wants to or not, will drive her to the hospital and many times, just in time for the baby to be delivered.  And if we who claim to know Jesus cannot discern these birth pangs than I would say our communication with God has been short circuited.  These people in our text have felt the urging, the prompting to rebuild God's temple, they simply have put it off for their own affairs.  We have all been guilty at one time or another of putting off the affairs of God to pursue our own.  And we have felt God's hand against us the whole time.  Listen to what God speaks to these people, He is basically saying, in essence, "are you so dense, that you cannot see that all this is my doing" (sorry, my translation, now here's the real translation) Give careful thought to your ways. 6 You have planted much, but harvested little. You eat, but never have enough. You drink, but never have your fill. You put on clothes, but are not warm. You earn wages, only to put them in a purse with holes in it.” 
     A woman and man have a window of opportunity (a time) to have children and after so many years that window of opportunity (that time) passes.  Many woman now are trying to have children in their late thirties and early forties, after they have pursued their dreams, their goals only to find that they have passed their opportunity to be fertile.  Could it be that after we are done pursuing what we want we will then turn to God and say, "okay I'm ready, now is the time" but  He will say, "no the time has passed for that". Would we have the audacity to tell God, "just hold on a minute, I'll be there in a sec" and to make matters worse, never open the door? Of course not, we simply justify "now's not the right time to do this".
     I embarrassed to say that many Christians are spending their time binding the devil when it is really God they are fighting.  Could we be so dense? Of course we could.....or perhaps not dense, but self deceived.  Perhaps you are fully convinced that NOW is not the time, but God has been dealing with you otherwise.  With these people, their crops had failed, they were broke, nothing was working but they never make the  connection, NOW is the time to build God's temple.  Today would be a good day to consider this.....are you in a trial? Or are you simply fighting God?  Do you have time for "your house" but not God's?  If so, you may want to reconsider who the antagonist is in your life.  Jesus told Paul, "why do you kick against the goads, it is I (Jesus) you are persecuting (or fighting).  What a revelation that must have been to Paul.  What a revelation it must have been to these people that God, was the reason for their failing crops and dwindling finances, who would have thought???
But that's what we need to do, ..."think" where have I been disobedient, when or what has God prompted me to do that I ignored and/or forgot about? Is there anything?  What did God deal with me about that I simply dismissed "now is not the time" and moved on, but yet God has not moved on!  He is still waiting.  “Is it a time for you yourselves to be living in your paneled houses, while this house remains a ruin?”   Only you can answer this question for yourself.  What is it time for right now at this juncture in your life?  In your mind and self absorbed nature you may say, "it's time for this", but God may say, no, it's not time for that, it's time for ____________ " (and you fill in the blank!)

Monday, December 19, 2011

DECEMBER 19 "DON'T EAT BEFORE COMING OVER!"

     DON'T eat before coming over, please!  Have you ever invited someone over for dinner and somehow there was a miscommunication and they thought it was just for coffee? "Please eat, it really is good, it's one of my best dishes", I've begged.  The reply has always been, "I'm sure it is good, I am simply stuffed and I just don't have room for anything else right now, give me some time".  I have been on the receiving end of that situation and I have been on the guilty part of that situation.  I know that no matter what they served that night, no matter how good it was, I would have no appetite for it.
     When we are full, not hungry, nothing in the world, at that moment is appealing. "Don't talk to me about food right now", is often the reply we get when we are forcing someone to eat that is full.
Every heard someone say that you were trying to stuff "the bread of life" down their throat say, "don't talk to me about Christ right now, I am FULL".  But we don't listen do we, we keep trying and trying to cram "the bread of life" down some one's throat who is full with the delicacies of this world, we are just to stubborn to face the fact that they have no interest or no appetite for our Christ.
     If our message (the Gospel) is to be received, there is going to have to be an appetite for it. There a thousands upon thousands of people that are perfectly content with their lives without Christ. In their thought process they think, "If they are good, moral and successful people without Christ, then what good is your offering Christ to them?  This is a good question to ask ourselves.  It is as if you are standing outside a Buffet Restaurant offering bread (free at that) to all those that are coming out.  Chances are the folks coming out of a Buffet Restaurant are full and bloated and your offer to give them bread is not much of an appeal to them.  Take that same bread and offer it for free in Uganda and you may be trampled upon, to death!  It is the same bread, same offer but the difference is only the people that it is being offered to.  One group is full and stuffed the other group is starving and empty.
     Is your message is of any use? Ans: depends upon the hearers to which it is being presented.  Jesus said, "I am the bread of life".  Jesus does relate to himself as food. "Taste of me and see that I am good".  Again, we have the analogy of food and eating.  See this message may be counter intuitive to what you believe or perhaps what you have been taught, ie: "everyone has the need".  Is that right though? What did Jesus mean then when he said, "I have not come for the righteous, but the unrigteous?"  What did Jesus mean when he said, "the healthy are not in need of a doctor, but the sick?".  What did Jesus mean by, "do not cast your pearls to the swine?".  Now we know according to Jesus that "there is none righteous, no not one".  So what does Jesus mean then when He says, " I have not come to call the righteous, but the unrighteous"?  Well the answer to that can be partly explained by the text we read in Proverbs today.  "12 those who are pure in their own eyes and yet are not cleansed of their filth;"
     The fact is allot of times we are pounding the Gospel Message down someone's throat who is full. They have just come out of a Buffet and there we are trying to give them something else to eat.  No matter how good the food is, we will have no appreciation of what is being offered if we have stuffed ourselves prior to going over to our friends home for dinner.
     In  high school & college I personally (and I only speak for myself) was quite full with myself, my life and my sin. My sin was still tasting sweet and had not yet turned sour in my stomach. Fast forward 3-5 years and now I'm not so full with myself and neither am I so thrilled with my sin. So even though the same sins are available to me, I am looking up to the sky and saying to God, "there has got to be more to life than this". Now, there's an appetite, now I am not so full.  Now the message will not be unappealing to me and that was when God in his wisdom and foreknowledge brought "The Message" to me and I quickly accepted it and have continued to accept Christ as a need in my life ever since.
      Before your message is of any use, to anybody, there must be a sense of need in that individual's life. There must be an appetite if you are going to try to feed them.  Are you frustrated to no ends about the response (or no response I should say) you are getting from somone you are desperately trying "to  save".  Perhaps you just need to step back a bit, pray for them and wait. If they are full, your message is of no appeal right now. Wait and pray....and not that you hope that all hell breaks loose against them, we are not cursors or doomsday prophets but simply pray that the sin that once tasted so sweet become sour in their belly.  Pray that the sin that once so filled them now leaves them empty.  All hell never broke loose against me, it was simply over time, the sins that so once filled me and made my happy, now left me empty and longing for something else, something more.
     There is nothing wrong with "your message", do not despair, what is wrong is the heart that it is falling upon. Don't offer me diet pills if I'm not overweight and don't offer me Christ if I am not down trodden. If I am doing well, if I am perfectly content with my life, why do you try to offer me this Christ, this saviour of sinners.  If I am moral why do you offer me a saviour of the immoral?  If I am righteous, why do you offer me one who has come to call the "unrighteous" to repentance?  If I am successful why do you offer me a religion that is for the downtrodden, the prostitute and the drug addict, how is this for me?"
     We must be careful that we do not lose confidence "in the message" as time passes, but remember always "that the message, the word of God, is foolishness to them that are perishing, but it (the message/the Gospel) is the power of God, unto Salvation to them that beleive".   Where we have a hard time, is accepting that some are perishing. Remember, the Gospel has "no power, it is useless" to those that are perishing. There are millions upon millions that will be offered "the bread of life" and politely say, "no thank-you" and that person may be your own mother, brother, or child and there's no way way you can force them to eat when they are full.  Are they going to perish then? Well, if they died today, they would, but the Good News is they're not and God knows when they're going to die, He is fully aware of their time "constraints" and He is working alongside those restraints. Rather than try to cram "the bread of life" down some one's throat who has gorged himself on this world's buffet, why don't you try praying and praying that the food, the sin they are gorging themselves on no longer fills, no longer satisfies; then and only then, will your message have appeal!

Friday, December 16, 2011

DECEMBER 16 "COULD I HAVE ISSUE WITH THAT CUTE BABY IN THE MANGER?"

     THERE must be thousands of Christians that God wants to ask this question to. In our Old Testament reading (Micah) we read 1 Listen to what the LORD says: “Stand up, plead my case before the mountains; let the hills hear what you have to say. 2 “Hear, you mountains, the LORD’s accusation;
   listen, you everlasting foundations of the earth. For the LORD has a case against his people;
   he is lodging a charge against Israel.  3 “My people, what have I done to you? 
     The image God is trying to present here is one of a court scene where God is on defense/trial.  He is "the accused".  Accused by who?  Ans:  His people.  This is a court case where his people are prosecuting him and God must make a defense for himself.  Silly isn't it.....or maybe not!!!  Maybe this is often how God feels. And who makes him feel this way?  Ans:  We do!  We do it to our wives, we do it to our husbands, we do it to our children and we most certainly do it with God.  What is it that we do? Ans: we make them/he/she feel like than can never do enough to please us.  In our text God is making a defense for himself and reminding his people of all that He has done for them.  3 “My people, what have I done to you? How have I burdened you? Answer me. 4 I brought you up out of Egypt and redeemed you from the land of slavery. I sent Moses to lead you, also Aaron and Miriam. 5 My people, remember what Balak king of Moab plotted and what Balaam son of Beor answered. Remember your journey from Shittim to Gilgal, that you may know the righteous acts of the LORD.”  
     Ever find yourself having to remind your wife, your husband or your children of all that you have done for them? Isn't that a frustrating exercise and usually not a really profitable one.  Very rarely are we going to remind some ungrateful person of all that we have done for them and then all of a sudden they are going to realize how much we have done for them and just turn into these grateful and fun loving people.  How do I know? Ans: Because I have tried and so have you!  That's okay, because even God tries in our Text, but it didn't work for God either, so don't feel bad.
     As many people enter into the Holiday Season this year they will struggle with the paradox that the one they are "supposedly" celebrating is the one they kind of..... have a chip on their shoulder with.  Ever been in a situation where you had to celebrate the birthday of a friend, spouse or family member that you had an issue with?  You knew it was the "right thing to do" but you did it with much discomfort.  We know that "the right thing to do" is to celebrate Christ, that's what Christ Mass means,  Celebrate Christ!  We know that that baby in the manger was born only to die a brutal death for our sins, but yet, deep inside many Christians this year, there lies a animosity, a bitterness towards this cute baby in the manger. We know that the Israelites were furious with Jesus because He did not do what they thought He would do for them, ie: overthrow the Roman Government. Many Christians this year have no resources to pay their bills, never mind buy gifts for others when they don't even have enough to buy their own children gifts.  Many Christians during this season have lost their homes.  A lady (Christian) was just telling my wife the other day that they have just had the home of their dreams, the home they built, foreclosed on them, with Christmas just around the corner.  These are rough times, the greatest depression sense "the Great Depression" and often in rough times, it is human nature to make someone or something, "the object" of our anger, our dissatisfaction and angst with life.  Christians tend to turn that anger towards God.  We see God as the source of all are unhappiness and lackluster lives. Why? Ans: because we know he controls everything and He is able to circumvent our circumstances.  We know He is able TO BLESS, we know He is able TO PROSPER, we know He is able TO DO MIRACLES and with all this knowledge of God we can't help but wonder...."then why doesn't he, why hasn't He...why...why...why? Why did He let this happen, why do I have nothing this Christmas, why did we lose our home this Christmas, why do we have so little this Christmas, why, has God allowed my circumstances to become so miserable and almost intolerable when all I have done is try to serve him and be faithful to him????
     God senses when we have "an issue" with him and he says back to us, "what have I done to you?".  This is a question we must face this Christmas, not just a question to face, but an "emotion or mindset" to face.  What has God done to you?  And the answer we will probably come up with is, "it's not what he has done to me, but what He hasn't done for me".
     There will be a little disappointment and perhaps a little anger from my children this Christmas because they will find out that I was not able to get them what they wanted.  For all that I've done for them, they will still be angry for what I haven't done for them, this Christmas.  My love and faithfulness to them over the years will be obscured by their present state of mind and circumstances.  God is the same, He cannot provide and give to us everything we want.  He has provided much of what we have wanted, but no doubt, there are many needs God has left unmet and many prayers He has not answered.  My kids think Dad can provide anything, little do they know and understand the concept of money,  bills & responsibility, it is beyond them.  We think God can provide anything, but we don't understand the sovereign workings of God and why He doesn't give us certain things or why He let us go through hard and what we could easily describe as "miserable times", but the fact is He does. We, as his people must in those times, yes even at Christmas, be able to overlook the present circumstance; and unlike our children, still be able to see how God has loved us, has been good to us in the past and will be in the future, even if for now we do not find under  the Tree what we wished (metaphorically and for some literally).  The question you must ask yourself is the one God has proposed in our text, "what has he done to you". Do not make God feel like he must put himself on trial to defend himself, as the children of Israel did.  Take the good with the bad and don't make God feel like he has to rehash to you every prayer He has answered and every good thing He has done for you, for this is not a profitable exercise for anyone to have to perform and please don't put God through that.  As a side note, remember that the original celebration of Christ (Christ Mass) was us "bringing gifts to Christ" not Christ bringing gifts to us.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

DECEMBER 14 "GOD'S SOVEREIGNTY VS. MAN'S 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 fruitian 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 Ninevah" to "override" Jonah's freewill (to rebel and not to go Ninevah) 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. 10And 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?
 11And 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.
 12And 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 behaviour.  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.

Monday, December 12, 2011

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 touch down, 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, embarrasingly 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 beleive 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!!!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

DECEMBER 8 "I DON'T UNDERSTAND ETERNAL SECURITY???"

     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 oxi-moron 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. 

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

DECEMBER 7 "CONFLICT WITH THE BROTHER OF LOVE"

     THE reason we have conflict in the church is because some people are just jerks.  Surely it has nothing to do with us! It's always the other person that has the issues, it's always the other person who is causing the conflict. It's always the other persons conceit and arrogance that has caused us not to lie him.  He's this and she's that and if they weren't like that we wouldn't have such problems. If the Pastor wasn't so .........than I could submit to him, I would even like him.  If my ministry leader wasn't so headstrong, than I could get along with her.  But c'mon, how can you have a problem with the Apostle of Love? If there's anybody in the church you could expect not to have any relationship problems, it would be the Apostle John, the disciple whom Jesus loved the most.  However that's not the case is it?!  Somebody in the church had major issues with John.  "9 I wrote to the church, but Diotrephes, who loves to be first, will not welcome us. 10 So when I come, I will call attention to what he is doing, spreading malicious nonsense about us."  This man is talking all sorts of trash, not against you or I or some jerk in the church, he's talking trash, and feeling quite justified against The Great Apostle John, how can that be?  What in the world could he have against the apostle of love?
     What this shows me is that I, just like Diotrephes, am vulnerable to projecting the issues in my own heart against someone else and then feeling quite justified.  It shows me that sometimes my anger against a brother and/or leader can be unjustified.  No doubt, Diotrephes made quite a case for himself, in his own mind.  No doubt, if you were to ask Diotrephes, "what is your beef with John" he would have a whole slur of nonsense to spout out, that he, himself was fully convinced, was nothing but the truth, so help him God.  I wouldn't be surprised if Diotrephes even prayed to God, to help John out with his insolence, arrogance & pride, "oh Lord, please help that prideful man out, John is his name!".
     What this shows me is that being a loving brother/sister is not going to exempt us of conflict in the church.  What it shows me is that my heart, if I'm not careful, can turn against someone that really is a good guy and if not careful, I can ruin a relationship with a good brother because my own heart isn't right.  How did this man come to think that he was more righteous than one of the original of the 12 apostles of Jesus Christ.  How did this man come to think that he was more noble than one of the 3 disciples of Jesus' inner circle?  There are people right now who are totally bent towards another brother or sister in the church and of all those that are holding somebody in the church in contempt, talking trash and spreading malicious lies about them, I wonder how many are justified?  I wonder how many, it's really "the other person" that is the problem and not you!  Are you acting like a Diotrephes?  Have you put yourself in a place where you think you are more just than your leader, more caring than your Pastor, more righteous than your brother?  Could it possibly be that the other person is not as bad as you have characterized them to be? Is it possible that your resentment towards this individual stems from some issues of resentment in your heart?   When you read this text today and you read how convinced and how bent Diotrephes is towards this great man of God, always remember to check yourself and make sure you never find yourself in a position where you have completely demonized someone in your mind, so much so that you will have nothing to do with the though of reconciliation. It could very well be that you are behaving much like Diotrephes.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

DECEMBER 4 "JUST GO AHEAD AND PUNT THE BALL"

      BEAR with me those of you that are less than sports enthusiasts because there is a valuable lesson in life to be learned here.  I was recently coaching my son's (Jeremy) football team in a game and I'll can still vividly remember his face when I told him, "Jeremy, we're gonna have to punt".  Jeremy looked at me as if it was the end of the world, as if he had loss the game.  And I believe that many times in life, this is also how we react when we have to concede to a less than perfect outcome from our best intended efforts.
     The aim in football of course is to get First Downs and the ultimate aim of course is to SCORE, to score touchdowns specifically. However, not ever drive is going to lead to a first down or a touch down.  The fact is ssometimes in football we must concede that our efforts have not brought us a touch down and not even a first down conversion and we must accept, rather than blow it all, we must accept that we have to punt the ball and drive the opposition that much further into their territory and wait for another opportunity to build upon the gain we have acquired.
     Recently I was in a situation where I made a very good effort, unfortunately my efforts did not produce the intended outcome I had anticipated, in other words, no touchdown, no first down.  At that point, I was tempted to just let it the situation go... I'm just gonna......(and it was not good) and then this thought came to me, "don't be fooled, you've made some good ground, just punt the ball" and I was reminded of convincing my son, just the day before that we had made good ground, we should accept that, punt and wait to get the ball back. Football is taking the field inch by inch, yard by yard from the opposition. It's a 100 yard field, and if you're going to be a realist and succeed in this game, you must realize that you are not going to go a 100 yards in once possession of the ball.  Does it ever happen? Yes, at times it happens, but it is not the norm.  At times in life your one time effort does bring some pretty amazing results, but by and large, in life, just like football, it is one good effort after another that finally brings the intended result.  As you continue to steadily advance and make progress, eventually you find yourself in his end zone with a touchdown.
     What efforts have you made lately to get a head, either in your health, marriage, finances and/or a relationship and your efforts have failed to produce what you had hoped for and now you are ready just to become undone, to quit, to give up? My advice to you today is don't do that, why don't I just suggest to you... "just punt the ball, the game is not over!! You will get another opportunity and then I encourage you to make another effort. Still not the results you had hoped for, punt again; believe it or not, you are making ground. Eventually if you are consistent in this you will eventually get a 1st down or a touchdown. 
    Simply said, sometimes in life with  the best of our efforts we need to accept that we have to punt; accept the gains we have made and wait for the next opportunity to make some more gains.  Punting in not concerting to defeat, it is simply an acknowledgement that your efforts at this particular time have not knocked down the wall, they have not opened up that persons heart, they have not finally put you over financially, they have not convinced that individual and not have put a miracle in your physical health, but you know you are going to get another opportunity and you will once again take advantage when you do get the chance, to drive the opposition, the strife, the contention, oppression and sickness, back again.
      The problem is we treat every bad event, circumstance & relationship like there is only seconds left in the game.  Having to concede to a punt, when you are losing, with only seconds left in the game is pretty much acknowledgment that you have lost the game, but in life, we don't have just seconds left, time is on our side if we will not squander it.  Not to say that any of us are guaranteed tomorrow, but chances are, unless we are in our 80's or 90's, that we have time, we will have another opportunity, we will get the ball back one, two, three or more times and we will make more gains, we will press the opposition that much further back and if we do not score a touchdown, we will punt, accept that we have made more gains, more progress and wait again for the next opportunity.
    

Thursday, December 1, 2011

DECEMBER 1 "WHY DO SAINTS, CALL THEMSELVES SINNERS?"

     I'M tired of hearing Christians, call themselves sinners.  Paul never wrote in his Epistles, "to the Sinners at Corinth" even though he probably very well could have done so, based on what we read about them and maybe they were, some of them. Buy he gave them the benefit of the doubt and wrote, "to the Saints at Corinth".  Paul always addressed his letters to the less than perfect people in those churches as "The Saints, The Saints at Ephesus, Corinth, Galatians, etc...etc...
     I have Evangelicals allowed ourselves to succumb to the false doctrine of Catholicism that to be a Saint you must be enshrined and have performed so many miracles and be voted in to "sainthood" by the Archbishops?  So then why did Paul write to living, imperfect beings, "To the Saints at Corinth, to the Saints of Ephesus? The mantra today within the church is, "well, we're all just sinners".  I don't think so, maybe you're a sinner, but I'm not.  I was a sinner, now I've been redeemed, I've been washed, cleansed and forgiven. I am Born Again, I am an heir to God's Kingdom, I am a Child of a King, adopted into his family, with my past erased, forgotten, thrown into the sea of forgetfulness, according to the Psalmist, sins separated as far as the East is from the West, need I go on??? 
     And so of course the question that begs to be asked is, "you telling me you don't sin anymore" and the answer is of course I sin, but I am not a sinner.
      The Sinner wakes up with the intent to sin that day and he does.  I wake up with the intent "not to sin" and some days I am successful.  A sinner has no desire to please God with his actions that day, a Saint does.  I sinner wakes up, pre-meditating, lusting with anticipation of the sins he will commit that night, with absolutely no reservations or guilt.  The sinner wakes up with adulteries, drunkenness, fornication's, hate and/or vengeance on this mind. He wakes up with the intent to sin, the intent to get high that night, the intent to "hook up" that night.  The sinner is bent towards sin, enjoys his sin and lives for sin. His delight is in sin, not in God, he is... A SINNER. Does the person I just described sound like you, I hope not.
  The Saint is a redeemed sinner, his has been Born Again, he is a New Creation, his mind has been transformed.  Does he sin, yes, but is it pre-mediated? No!  This is what John is trying to explain in our text today.   1 My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One."  Why does he say "if" we sin.  Isn't it safe to assume that if we're sinners we are going to sin that day? Or is John assuming the opposite, that we are Christians and we who claim Christ ought not to sin?  Why doesn't he just say, "ah, we're all a bunch of dumb helpless sinners, i know you're going to sin today and when you do, ....."  If you go on to read all the way through 1 John and 2 John you will find that John's stance is that we, who claim the name of Christ, "ought not to sin, we should not be sinning".  We will sin, yes, because we fall, we have our not so good days I'm sure, but when we are on our game, we do not sin.
       Even the Courts of Law understand that there is a much higher sentence for one that kills with the intent(murder) vs. someone who kills without premeditation (manslaughter).  Even though we still have a human being's life that has been taken from him (which we have no right to do except in war and even then there are rules and conduct for that which we don't need to get into here) The Law determines that, "yes, a life has been taken, this is sin, this is wrong, but we will judge the man, the woman much more severely who woke up today, or whenever it was, with the full intent of committing this sin, verses the man who woke up that day, not knowing that by the end of that day he would have taken some one's life.  Perhaps he lost his mind, got into a fight, things got carried away, and next thing you know he has committed a great sin, but it was not his intent when he woke up that day to murder anyone.  The Christian does not wake up with the intent to sin, a sinner does.  Do I sin? Yes I do, but it is not pre-meditated, and if it is, it's because my heart is not right and that's another blog.  Perhaps as the day went on, I lost my temper, perhaps I cussed, perhaps I was stern and mean, perhaps I got backed into a corner with an issue and ending up lying...., these are all sins, sins that need to be repented of, sins that need to be forgiven, and John says, "there's Grace, there's forgiveness through Christ. We ought not to sin, but if we do, then....". 
     To listen to Christians put us in the same boat as sinners is both an insult to those of us that have repented and it is an insult to God who has forgiven us and called us redeemed.  Sinner's dont' get into heaven, so if we are all sinners than I guess Heaven will be empty.  "Well you know what I mean", no I don't know what you mean! "Well, what I mean is we are redeemed sinners", exactly, and the Bible name for that is SAINT, not sinner.  Do I go around calling myself a Saint?  No, but I don't go around calling myself a sinner either.  When the sinner sins, he licks his chops, when the Christian sins he feels guilty and repents.  I live everyday trying not to sin, and some days are fare well, especially if I am praying, in communion with God and in His Word. 
     One last metaphor here to drive the point home. I have acted in a play or two, but I do not act for a living.  When applying for a Loan with a Bank or a job, I do not put "actor" because I do not act for a living.  Yes I sin, but I don't sin for a living.  The sinner does sin for a living, it is his life, take away his sin and he would not know what to do with himself.  I remember when I was first confronted with my sin, as "a sinner" I remember thinking, "if I gave up my sin what in the world would I live for?" this is the mindset of "a sinner".  Am I being redundant, I hope so because we "the redeemed" need to stop this nonsense of trying or thinking we will gain favor with sinners by admitting we are just like them, that is crazy!  God says, "come out from among them!"  "Come out from who?" you may ask and the answer is come out from "the sinners" because you are not one, anymore! 
     There's another motive behind this mantro too and I believe that the underlying factor in this whole "we're all sinners" is an allowance for us not to have to live up to Godly expectations from the World and if this is your underlying motive in proclaiming all of us as sinners it is probably because you have some issues, n'est ce pas?(as they say in French). The apostle Paul says "examine yourself to see if you be in the faith, unless of course you fail the test".  Paul says, "if" you have the Holy Spirit you will not commit these sins".  Paul also says, "why do you live a mere men do?" Well how should we live?"  We should live supernatural lives, through the Holy Spirit, the supernatural is made natural in us by God's Grace and His Spirit we are able to live a life free of the power of sin, free of bondage.  "We're all just sinners..."  I think not, maybe you are, but I'm not.  I am redeemed, I am heaven bound, I'm Born Again, I am a Saint of the most high God and I don't plan on sinning today, tomorrow or the day after and I will do my best, by the Grace and  His Strength, but IF I do sin (and that is a possibility) then I will confess my sins and He (Jesus) is just and faithful to forgive me and cleanse me from all unrighteousnes I move on with God as his mercies are renewed upon each day.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

NOVEMBER 30 "IS ALL REVELATION FOR SHARING?"

    
 28 “This is the end of the matter. I, Daniel, was deeply troubled by my thoughts, and my face turned pale, but I kept the matter to myself.”  WHAT then is the purpose of this crazy revelation if he is just to keep it to himself, ever wonder that? Isn't the revelation we receive to share with others? We'll get to that later, for now I would say, of course Daniel kept it to himself, who would have believed him?  Had he shared "the matter" with others they would have thought he was crazy?  Is all revelation for sharing? Not according to Daniel! What are these crazy, Steven Spielberg revelations for anyway, if not for sharing? What are the prophecies and almost "fictional" like revelations written in the book of Revelations for...if not for sharing?  Have you ever heard another Christian trying to share what I call a "Revelations Witness" to another person that is not a Christian? To what effect is that, other than to leave them with their head spinning and thinking you are crazy. Why not rather "share" with them what Jesus told us to share with them, The Gospel!
     Not everything in the Bible is meant for public consumption and sharing. The Bible is predominately written for the edifying of Christians. Paul even writes in the letter to the Corinthians that the carnal mind has no understanding of spiritual matters, has no understanding of God's word. If we will be honest, the average Christian does not even understand the revelations found in Ezekiel, Daniel and the book of Revelations, why would we try to share them  with non-believers?  Daniel kept it to himself, it was for him.  There's revelation that is "just for us, just for you".  You try to share with others, explain to others with exitement and quickly find out that they are not so enthralled by it, as you are, and then you ask, why Lord?  And the answer is, for you....that's why, just from me, to you.  I always remember the scripture about Mary that says, "when she heard all these things (concerning Jesus) she treasured them....in her heart".  That's it? Yes, that's it! She did not try to share with others, it was to deep for others to even digest, it was for her, for what she would be going through in the near future.  She stored them away for future date. We feel that intense revelation is to be shared, but often it is to be stored away, treasured in our heart for a future date or to get us through a particular season in our walk with God.  It may or may not benefit someone in the future, who knows....but what we can know is God says, "that one was for you, go ahead and store that away, you will benefit from it".  I'm not quit sure how Daniel benefited from his revelation and I'm not quite sure how you have benefited.  How many of you can honestly say, "oh yeah, the ten horns of the beast really helped me through that horrible crisis, tragedy and trial I went through last year".  How many of you can say, "oh yeah, when my loved one passed away, my finances tanked last year and my daughter backslid, it was the scripture in Revelations, the lion with the seven faces, when I read that revelation, it just helped me get through a period I didn't think I could have survived otherwise".  I am not mocking The Word of God in anyway, I just know, as David wrote in the Psalms, "these things, are to wonderful (complex) for even I to consider (contemplate)."
     I can hear the screaming question "THEN WHAT ARE THEY FOR?!" Well, what are the quadrillion stars in the sky for?  It's a revelation of some sort. What is the vastness of the Universe for, did God really have to make it that big?  What is the knowledge of Jupiter, Venus and Mars for? God could have concealed those planets from us, but he didn't . We spend year after year and millions of dollars exploring these planets and still 2000 years later we are still scratching our heads.  We have so many problems in our world,  a global economic crisis, but we are obsessed with the revelations of outer space and trying to figure it out. We as Christians can also become pre-occupied with revelations that are to wonderful for us, while we ignore and fail to practice, that Word of God that is available for us to understand and apply.  What are these revelations for, they are for "we that believe" to have a glimpse of how big and awesome this God is that we serve and of incredible things to come.  But we must first believe in Him (God) before we believe in what He (God) promises, otherwise it's all non-sense.  Before my wife can believe in the dreams I have of our future, she must first believe in me.  We put the cart before the horse when we try to share God's dreams of our future, the New Jerusalem, when they don't even believe in God. First preach Jesus, preach The Gospel, then once and if they believe, then perhaps they will believe in revelations that "are to wonderful for me to even comprehend".

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

NOVEMBER 23 "IGNORANCE IS BLISS"

     WE know the courts have higher sentencing for pre-meditated crimes vs. manslaughter or self defense. Our court systems, whether they realize it or not have obtained their foundation from the timeless principles found in God's word. Ezekiel outlines for us, through God's direction, a policy, you could say, on how to deal with people that have sinned "unintentionally or ignorantly".  God is stating what we have always thought to be true, "that there should be a difference between a person that sins with full intent vs. someone who sins ignorantly.  And the Good News is....God says, "Yes". 
     I lived for many years as an ignorant sinner. I knew that I wasn't an angel or saint, but I never thought that the life I was living would be one that would send me to Hell.  After all, I had not committed any of the "cardinal sins". I had never raped, murdered or robbed a bank.  I did not shoot heroine and break into innocent people's homes looking for more drug money.  I was just your average, little, Catholic,  mischievous kid.  I remember the FIRST time I walked into a Christian Church and heard the Gospel for the FIRST time, I repented.  I distinctly remember  God's voice speaking into my conscience, saying, "the party is over".  I had relentlessly sinned since I was 14 years old and now I was 21.  I had done many foolish things in that period of 7 years, life threatening many times, but yet my life, my soul had been spared.  If I left that church and continued to deliberately sin after that night, I felt strongly that God's Grace would lift. No longer would I be sinning in ignorance. As I mentioned earlier, I truly thought I was Heaven bound.  I am so glad for this text in Ezekiel "You are to do the same on the seventh day of the month for anyone who sins unintentionally or through ignorance".  I truly was ignorant of how offensive my life, my sin was before God.  However, once I heard, I did not try to "frustrate or test God's Grace", but I repented.
     There are many more folks out there that are really living a sinful life, in complete ignorance and were they to hear the Gospel, they, like I, would be convicted and repent.  There are also many folks out there that are living a sinful life that have full knowledge and should they hear the Gospel, would only harden their hearts more. These folks, are actually in complete defiance and rebellion towards God and simply don't have enough desire to quit or repent.  Paul says in the book of Hebrews, "there is no more Grace for those that willingly go on and sin once they have come to taste of the goodness of God and experienced fellowship with him. They are crucifying Christ all over again"
     A common argument of sinner's is "hey, we're all sinners", what's the difference between you and me?  My answer to that is, "we are not all sinners".  We may all sin, but we are not all sinners. The sinner lives a constant, habbitual life of sin.  The sinner lives to sin, the Saint avoids it at all costs.  Yes, I was "a sinner", but when confronted with my sins I repented. Do I sin now? "Yes".  The difference is, I do not wake up with the intent to sin that day. I do not wake up that Friday with the intent on getting absolutely drunk that day and with the absolute intent on being or hoping to be, immoral that night.  These were my thoughts, my intents before I got saved. The sinner wakes up with a gregarious appetite for sin. He craves and longs for sin all day long. The Saint wakes up with the exact opposite intent, he wakes up with the intent to avoid sin, at all costs and as much as within his power and ability. 
     When we as Christians, find ourselves in a place when we are waking up with the intent to be sinful that day, than we know that our hearts are beginning to go astray.  What is on your mind, your heart today. Are you waking up with lust on your mind for someone at work, a schoolmate, friend, neighbor, are you waking up with vengeance on your mind for that day. Are you waking up with the intent to deceive someone that day, to lie or to cheat on a test?  Are you waking up with an intent to lie and deceive in a business meeting or transaction?  The idea of the Child of God, whether a Jew back a couple of thousand years ago or a Christian in the 21st century, the idea of a Child of God is that when he/she sins, it is an "unintentional or sin of ignorance" and in our text, God has a special Grace and provisions for such, but when we willingly, wilfully sin we enter a completely different domain with God.
     For those of you that want to "keep it real", let's be honest, not all sins that "Christians" commit are sins that are of ignorance or unintentional, if only, that was truly the case, but we know it is not. However, that being said, it does not change the fact, that as believers, are sins should become less and less premeditated and more and unintentional and ignorant. If this is the direction you are heading in, then you are on the right path, if it is not, then you are on the wrong path and there is also a chance you may have never genuinely repented.  As Paul writes in his epistle, "examine yourselves to see if you be in the faith; unless you fail the test!"

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

NOVEMBER 22 "WHEN THE HOLY BECOMES UNHOLY"

     WHERE were they?  Where did the priests take off to and who's hands have they left the responsibility of the Sanctuary & Temple in?  Surely not just anybody???  Can you imagine when these young boys, young men were first given the honor to bear the responsibility of the Temple!  They probably couldn't sleep the night before, so excited that they finally would be trusted with the Temple and Sanctuary of God, Wow!
     We have all been there, a place we never imagined we would have the honour of filling, but through time, faithfulness and God's Grace we find ourselves in that place, in that ministry. At first we pamper it, at first we treat our new found responsibility with honour, at first we treat it as a "holy thing".   I wonder if the first few times the Priests had the duty of caring for the Temple and Sanctuary, if they sang and prayed to The Lord all day and/or all night?  I wonder if they were so honoured to be there they never thought about what was going on else where in the city.  I wonder if they thought they might see God, hear God or sense his presence.  I wonder if they thought they would have visions that would make them known all over the region.  Reality is, eventually they would come to realize that it is not all they thought it would be.  These men would often find themselves in the Temple alone, while all this excitement was taken place outside the 4 walls of the temple, they were stuck inside with their duty. The one they had once "longed for". They can hear screaming, laughter.....in essence, they can hear FUN!!!  Fun, they are not having and add to that, the excitement of this ministry has now faded and it is becoming drudgery, wasted time, a wasted day. So what do these men do, the priests begin to delegate responsibility to some young Jewish boys, and if not available, then some young gentile boys to watch over the Temple. They don't even both to interrogate the boy to see if he is an honourable, God fearing boy, they simply get any sucker than can get to sit in the temple and do whatever he wants in there and bring whatever he wants inside.  Where is God after all? How many times have I been there and where has God been?  I thought surely God would show up from time to time, after all, it is "The Temple & Sanctuary of God".   Eventually the Priests find themselves for the wiser by ponding off this ministry to some other sucker, as if God is going to notice, who has never showed up anyway.  How many sermons have you preached, how many ministry practices have you been too, band practice, worship team practice, drama practice, choir practice, Children's Church practice, Christmas play practice, over and over and over again we have showed up to The Church, to minister in what we once held as a sacred ministry, a Holy Ministry, now the ministry has lost it's vibrancy and allure and God has yet to ever show up, as a matter of a fact, the devil seems to be there more than anything, disrupting, creating discord and fighting, feelings get hurt, people getting offended, people quiting, people crying, surely this is not the ministry that I was was so honoured to be part of, to be trusted in, by God. However we don't see God in it anymore and we, like The Priests begin to disregard it and delegate it out to whomever we can get.  We have churches that will outsource for talent in order for their ministries to remain functioning because everyone has realized, after the veneer has come off, that there is very much work in this, and very little God (or so it seems). However it is interesting that God does show up here and take notice as to what has happened, He says to the Prophet Ezekiel, 7 In addition to all your other detestable practices, you brought foreigners uncircumcised in heart and flesh into my sanctuary, desecrating my temple while you offered me food, fat and blood, and you broke my covenant. 8 Instead of carrying out your duty in regard to my holy things, you put others in charge of my sanctuary.
     In other words, you've let anyone in here and you've put others in charge of what I had put you in charge of....and I remember, when you were quit thrilled and honoured with that duty & responsibility!"  What has happened that now you just let anyone in and you yourself have put others in charge while you are off wondering around doing other things (supposedly better, more exciting things).  However, before we are to quick to jump on these men and condemn them, let's remember, that it is not mentioned how long they did dutifully carry out their responsibilities in the Temple. What if they had been faithful for years? Does that excuse it, no, but it can help us see ourselves in this story.  Have you ever been in a ministry and been faithful to that same ministry for years?  Have you ever been in a ministry where you are faithful week after week, after month, after year and yet your services seem to go unnoticed, unappreciated and if not only by men, what makes it worse is sometimes by God himself. Let's face it, had God appeared in that Temple from time to time they would have had a line up of men to serve in that ministry, however, it is evident that God was not appearing in any shape or form and often times in our ministries God is not showing up in any shape or form.  And what can happen is what was once regarded as Holy is now regarded as common, drudgery, thankless & burdensome and we begin to think we could be doing better things.  The point we need to remember is God was watching all along and did very much care about how the Temple & Sanctuary were taken care of and when things fell by the wayside God is quick to interject and express his displeasure. 
     No doubt, God uses a tremendous amount of energy and emotion in us to get us to a point of repentance & salvation, but you notice afterwards he allows those emotions to dissipate. At first every prayer is answered, every need is met, miracle after miracle but then things change. Then God calls us to a walk of Faith.  The same is with a calling or luring into a ministry. God will use much to get us there but once we are there he does move on and expect us to labour faithfully and treat his ministry as Holy, whether He is there, standing by your side holding your hand or not.
     I am not God, but even I expect my stuff to be watched over and taken care of (especially my expensive stuff), by my children, whether I am at home or I'm on a trip a thousand miles away, is irrelevant.  My kids better have enough sense to know, "that's dad's stuff, don't let anyone touch it and let's watch over it too".   Everything God has is expensive, it's all Holy and sometimes, the hardest thing to remember is exactly that!  This song service ministry is not just a bunch of talented people joined together to sing, it's God's ministry, it's Holy and 5 years down the road it may become drudgery to you, and there may be places you'd rather be, but to God, it's as Holy as the day your first entered.  God may seem distant and aloof to the particular responsibility you have been given within the church, but don't ever be fooled, He is not. Simply walk away, disregard it, desecrate it and you will be quick to find out, one way or another, that God was not aloof and neither was He that far off. Try to remember today that what has been entrusted to you in God's Kingdom is sacred and Holy and time can never depreciate that within the eyes of God.
     The Priests should have just quit, resigned, rather than to violate what is holy and this is what God is judging them for.  They wanted to keep the prestige and office of the ministry but did not care to carry out their duties and hold it up as Holy anymore.  When we reach this point in our ministries we have two options: 1. Check our hearts, recalibrate our hearts and bring the sacredness of what we are doing back into what we are doing or 2. Simply get out and make way, make room for others who can come in with that fresh sense of Holiness and God's anointing.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

NOVEMBER 15 "DON'T DO IT!!!"

     THE most disobeyed thought that comes to our minds, more often than we would care to admit is, "Don't do it!"  How many times have you and I heard that voice and ignored it.  When I am angry....I'm not listening to that voice.  When I am filled with lust...I am not listening to that voice.  When I am filled with "my way"....I am not listening to that voice. When "I'm tired" I'm not listening to that voice. Isn't that dangerous?!  In the times when I need to listen to that voice the most, my feelings override every other faculty of the mind.  Don't do it! This thought, may even be screaming to some that are reading this blog today.  Everything I feel, everything I sense, everything within me (except for that thought) is urging and pressing me to doing this.  I'm tired, I'm fed up.  I'm tired of being broke, I'm tired of not having enough, I'm tired....I'm tired, I'm tired....and yet the answer is the same, Don't do it! 
     People do not rob banks because they are rich.  Most people who steal, don't steal because they have plenty, most people who do drugs don't do drugs because they are filled with joy.  Most people who get drunk don't get drunk because life is going great.  Most men who cheat don't cheat because things are going great at home.  In almost ALL cases where we are about to do something we are going to regret, we do them not because things are going well, but because we are in a crisis, but yet, God will always whisper to you, Don't do it!  And our answer back to God would be, "why not, why not!" And God's answer would be, "because you are going to regret it".  We have to be able to endure hard times, we have to be able to endure suffering.  As a good soldier (prisoner of war) is expected not to give in and give up key combatant information, but suffer torture, so is the Christian Soldier expected to suffer and not give in.  "Suffer", the Apostle Paul says.  "Suffer as a good and faithful soldier".  "I'm hungry, I'm tired, I'm broke",  Paul would say, "suffer through" don't do anything haste, it will pass.  I've lived through some excruciating pain in my life and also lived through some excruciating depression and it would have been nice just to die in those times, but I am glad I didn't because the pain passed, as bad as it was, and the depression broke, as dark as it was.  Elijah also cried out to God to let him die, but God did not grant him that request.
     We must be tough enough to suffer and not take action.  Esau reflects the opposite of all I've written.
What we think of Esau's predicament, doesn't matter.  In Esau's mind he was desperate and he was tired.  Everything within him urged him to get what he was lusting after.  Did Esau have that still small voice in the back of his mind saying, Don't do it!  Of course he did!  Endure for now, suffer through it.....would have been the right thing and why?  The reason why is because later he would regret it and later so will you regret it.  In the book of Hebrews today we read, 17 Afterward, as you know, when he wanted to inherit this blessing, he was rejected. Even though he sought the blessing with tears, he could not change what he had done."  Remember that word....."afterward".  When you go ahead and do, what that still small voice said "not to do", there will always be an afterward that you will have to face and that day will seem and feel worse than the day you felt, you had no choice but "to do it".   Our text says "tears" could not change what Esau had done.  Regret, could not change what Esau had done.  Our text makes it clear, nothing could change the decision Esau made that day.  This is why, whenever we hear that voice whispering "don't do it" that we don't.  No matter how hard things are, no matter how much we are suffering, we must endure and not do anything haste, especially when we know better because there will always be an afterward, that is filled with tears and regret, but tears and regret, will not change, what you have brought into being, by ignoring, God's still small voice and council.  Today, if you are on the edge, you're on the brink, you're tired and ready to react, give in, do something that you know you shouldn't do, take heed to God's voice that speaks in your conscience, "don't do it" if not for the sake of simply obeying God, than at least for your own sake because you will regret it if you do and you will shed tears afterward, but you won't be able to reverse what you've done. Endure for just a little longer, pray a little harder and the cloud will pass, TRUST GOD.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

NOVEMBER 12 " IS THERE SUCH A THING AS SECULAR FAITH?

      THE Secular and the Christian World sure don't agree on much, but one thing they do believe in is that if an individual has Faith, whether that is, Faith that they will be healed, faith that they will succeed, faith that they will not die, often times, even Doctors will testify that the catalyst to the persons recovery & survival was driven by their faith, no matter what or whom that faith was in.  Christians say, "you need to have faith" and non-Christians say, "you need to have faith". Don't you find that odd?  It seems like there is this universal code, imprinted in humanity, that somehow understands the premise and the power of Faith.  Paul describes Faith as, "Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see".  Jesus said, "if you have the faith of a mustard seed you could say to this mountain, "be moved and cast into the sea" and it would be done.  What do you do with a statement like that?  Do you try it?  Do you accuse Jesus of exaggerating?  Put simply, I don't think we really understand or grasp, the meaning and power behind Faith.  We know that Faith healed a blind man. We know that faith healed a dying woman.  We know Faith changes people's future.  Faith helps people apprehend what they would have never apprehended without it.
      When you break it down, you realize that there are different kinds of faith that some people think are all synomous, but they are not! There is Faith in one's own ability, there is Faith in an event to come to pass, a dream to come true, there is faith in faith itself (oddly enough) and of course, last but certainly not least, there is Faith in God!  When the secular world is speaking about Faith they are more often than not, speaking about Faith in one's own ability or Faith in Faith itself.
     Is Faith what changes the future or is it the belief in Faith that gives us that extra drive to push on, hang on and believe for one more day?  Is the Faith that Christians are exercising today a secular Faith or a Faith in God?  I can have Faith that one day I am going to be a "somebody", I can have faith in my own self, my ability and that faith can get me there.  We have heard many tesitomonies of secular, successful people that will tell you, "they never lost faith" and somehow, their faith propelled them to where they are today.  Explaining how that works could take more space to write than I have here, suffice it to say, this kind of Faith is not the kind of Faith that we are being called to in the book of Hebrews.  There was a book written some time ago by Normand Vincent Peale, it was called, "The Power of Positive Thinking". It was on the New York Times best seller list for quite some time.  A friend of mine handed the book over to me and I tried to read it, but I could not make it through.  The theme was, "if you believe, if you have enough faith, anything is possible". Any many people would attest and ascribe to that theory, but Abraham was not having Faith in his own ability or in Faith itself, Abraham was excercising Faith in God Almighty and the Bible is clear that it is God himself who brought those promises to pass. There was not mystery to it.      Many religious people today spout around the word Faith, but what you will find is often they have convoluted the word Faith, as described in the Bible, with a secular Faith that anybody can believe in.   
What is the premise of your Faith? "I just have faith it's all going to work out, I'm just trying to keep a positive outlook".  This is a common statement I've heard. Now you tell me, who said that statement, was it someone who was Born Again, saved, serving God or was that statement made by a secular person.  The answer is, it is made by Christians. If you'll notice there is no reference to God, no reference as to what entity is going to make things work out (like God) all the statement mentions is faith and more often than not, it leaves God out.
     God has not called us to a secular faith, a mystic faith or faith in faith itself. God has called us to have Faith in him. In His ability to move in the "supernatural" on our behalf.  God has called us to believe, by Faith in His promises. To believe in God, by Faith to apprehend what he has apprehended us for. How different this is from the world, that comes up with their agenda for their lives, they come up with their own promises for their lives and than they say "it was faith" that got them there, but they never clarify "what faith", "faith in whom or what?" It is all mystical and most important, it is all "self-serving".  Faith in the bible is often calling us to do the opposite, it calls us to deny ourselves. The Faith in the bible is used to further God's purposes in the earth, not ours.  Next time you hear someone say, "I just kept faith that....", politely ask them, faith in whom or what? And I hope the answer you hear is God, but more than likely you will get a blank stare because they really don't know what their faith was in. To them it is magical in a sense, mystical, new age or sorts, but Faith was never meant to be that, our Faith is in God himself!