Thursday, June 30, 2011

JUNE 30 "I AM SO CONFUSED...ARE YOU???"

     I'm so confused..are you?  They worshippped the Lord (well that's good) BUT, they also served their own gods...."
     At least there's a "but" in betweenl, but that's a big butt.....I mean, which is it, did they serve God or not? I'm confused.  Confusion, that's what we get when we try to serve God along with our own gods along the way.  Confusion, is what you get when you try to serve God along with your own religion.  The world looks on and they are confused. The world ought to be able to look at an individual and either see a sinner or a saint, Christian or Heathen, which one is it? Choose, make a decision and then let it be clear what you are. I am confused by this.....they worshipped the Lord...BUT they also served their own gods. This confuses me just as much as our duplicate lives confuses the world that looks on at us in the church. And to add to the confusion Verse 34 says, "They neither worshipped the LORD nor adhered to the decrees and regulations, the laws and commands that the LORD gave..."  So now I'm really confused!!!  Just a couple of verses prior we are reading "they served the Lord, then we are reading they didn't".
     The grim reality is that those that try to serve The Lord alongside all their other mini gods and idols, well in the end, don't really serve The Lord after all, do they! Jesus said, "you break the commandments of God to follow the traditions of men" and of course Jesus was speaking about religion, religion is the mini gods. We can only cling to one thing tightly.  We will either cling to God tightly and hold loosely everything else, or we will hold on to our little gods tightly and hold loosely  to God. Trying to serve God with a death grip on your...livelihood, family, money & possessions is not going to work well.  How can you adhere to the decrees, regulations, laws and commands that the Lord gives and yet still be true to your fellow man, your family, your religion and all your family customs. Some traditions are just sacred to our unsaved families and you will be regarded as a traitor if you should ever skip out on those traditions, even if it is "in the name of God", it will not be excused. Family, careers, companies..., they are all in favor of you being religious, until it interferes with their agenda and traditions. Go ahead and miss the sacred Sunday night family dinner for church and see if you are not cast off as a betrayer of the family. Tell your boss you cannot work overtime because you are committed to a ministry at the church.  Tell your company you cannot join them in Vegas for their annual Sodom & Gomorrah fest and see now how thrilled they are. The best way it seems to us, to please both God and the world is to "serve the Lord and then set up our own priests and gods along the way". This is the best way we think. Favor with both, we think....The perfect scenario. But if you do this, don't fail to see how God concludes the matter, God's conclusion is that you are not serving him and you truly do not know him. "Send them a priest to show them what to do to please their God", they just don't get it. It is not about learning Christian cliches, making sure we say Grace, join a church (do the things that please God) and then set up on the side; the gods we really want to serve. This group of people who went into Samaria to occupy the land did not get it, do you? Are you confused by reading this text? You should be, it is meant to be. Does it read like a contradiction.....it was meant to read like a contradiction. Make sure your life does not read like a contradiction. Make sure you don't present a confusing message to your audience. Choose whom and what you want to serve and then make it clear to your audience, what you believe, who your God is and whom you serve.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

JUNE 29 "MY CHRISTIAN LIFE IS PRIVATE"

     Always be very Leary about an individual who stresses to you that their Christian life is private, it is between them and God. Every Christian must possess both a private and a public life with Jesus Christ. Jesus woke up early in the morning, privately, to pray with the Father. The rest of his day was very public.  Even his sufferings were not in private. And of course his death and crucifixion was very public. Jesus could have been slain in private and He would have still died for our sins, The Father could have orchestrated his death a private death, but God orchestrated Jesus' death to be public.  We want our Christianity to be private and we want it not to have to "cost us" anything. Our text from the book of Acts today gives us a lesson in making our Christian life and profession...PUBLIC.  The word "publicly" is specifically used in verse 19. "A number who had practiced sorcery brought their scrolls together and burned them publicly."  Now let's look at the 2nd half of verse 19, When they calculated the value of the scrolls, the total came to fifty thousand drachmas".   "Who cares about the value", we may ask....God does. You will find examples through out the whole bible of God revealing "costs" to and in.....serving him. Again, we want a Christianity that is private and will cost us nothing. God is pushing us into a Christianity that will be public and will cost us something. We want our Christian life to be private and we cannot bare to let go of our hold relics and idols because they cost us so much, we cannot fathom burning them or throwing them away. Surely we will not worship them the way we used to, but I cannot bare to part with them, there is to much value invested, what am I to do?", we ask.  Well, in our text we find that they publicly burn them and it is not coincidentally that the value is also mentioned. I have seen people hold on to wet bars, pictures, booze, postures, idols, clothes, books, music, careers and all manner of ungodly, carnal stuff because of the financial investment that was made in these things prior to their coming to know Christ as their Saviour.
     We want to answer altar calls in the pews (this is why they are called "altar calls" not "pew calls", we want to pray at home, repent at home, confess our sins to God and only to God. We want to avoid shame and we want to avoid material and financial loss in serving God. However, this is not the salvation you will find in God's word.  The Apostle Paul suffered much shame and much loss in his salvation.  Why did the not just go home and throw their scrolls away in their own trash, in private, why did this have to be done "publicly"?
Well, no where in our text does it say "they had to" so apparently this is something they wanted to do publicly. This is true conversion, my conversion is "not a secret" and my conversion is going to cost me financially and I am more than glad to suffer loss for the salvation of my soul and more than glad to make it publicly. Today the church has lost this heart and unfortunately the church often is finding itself as the enforcer of things that should have come from the heart. Is this the answer, perhaps not, but what then? There is no easy answer for this. I don't think anybody in this group, with annoyance asked, "do I have to burn my stuff publicly".  "I don't see why the church is making me throw all my stuff away, it's not like.....", we say. It can be very discouraging being in the ministry today and working with people. Perhaps what we are lacking more and more so today, (as the Church tries to market and sell Jesus) are genuine, holy ghost conversions. When the heart is converted and the mind renewed, I believe public profession/confessions and material loss are of no consequence.

Monday, June 27, 2011

JUNE 27 "FIND SOME COMFORT TODAY"

     You can find some comfort today, in reading about God's inspired description of Joash. We read at the beginning of Joash, 2 Joash did what was right in the eyes of the LORD all the years Jehoiada the priest instructed him. "2 Joash did what was right in the eyes of the LORD all the years Jehoiada the priest instructed him." However, as we go on to read about Joash we find out that his life was not so stellar after all. Immediately after that verse we read..."3 The high places, however, were not removed; the people continued to offer sacrifices and burn incense there."  And it doesn't stop there, further on we read...
 "17 About this time Hazael king of Aram went up and attacked Gath and captured it. Then he turned to attack Jerusalem. 18 But Joash king of Judah took all the sacred objects dedicated by his predecessors—Jehoshaphat, Jehoram and Ahaziah, the kings of Judah—and the gifts he himself had dedicated and all the gold found in the treasuries of the temple of the LORD and of the royal palace, and he sent them to Hazael king of Aram, who then withdrew from Jerusalem."  This was an awful cowardly act and I'm sure not the way The Lord would have had him handle the situation, by bribing his way, out of this situation with this enemy of Israel. We don't read much about Joash seeking God's counsel or direction. I'm sure had Joash sought his counsel God would not have said, "..you know what, this king is a pretty bad dude, i can't handle him, you'd better bribe him". This is obviously a failure on Joash's part. In spite of that, overall, I see Joash as a pretty good guy, seems to be a natural born leader, seems to take initiative and get things done that nobody else was getting done. Seems to care about The Temple of the Lord when nobody else did and he seems concerned about accountability of the church resources and making sure they were used for what they were appropriated. Joash is not all bad...and neither are you! Overall, as I said, we know Joash is not this stellar man of God. But you know what the good news is, he doesn't have to be this stellar man of God to please God! Joash has some good qualities but God is not shy to list the things he did wrong and messed up, but THE POINT IS...when God chooses to inspire the author of this book to describe Joash, we find Joash described as someone who "by and large" did right in the eyes of the Lord.  And this ought to bring comfort to you that perhaps God is not so disappointed in you as others might seem to make you feel. That you don't have to be the Apostle Paul to please God or any other spiritual guru's that are in Christendom today. Many Christians live under horrible condemnation that they simply don't measure up. The question to ask is, who do they not measure up to? Is it our peers, our spouses, our Pastor's or church's standards? I'm sure there were many "in the camp" that thought Joash  was a coward for not fighting the King of Aram, and thought it quite unspiritual to bribe him instead. I'm sure there were many who thought he was not spiritual for not taking down the altars in the "high places". I don't know how Joash evaluated himself, he may have given in to what others thought and felt quite unworthy as a King, but if only Joash had known what God thought of him.."Joash did right...." if only more people in the church knew what God thought about them instead of everyone else, they would be allot happier and have allot more joy. Take comfort today that God probably doesn't think of you as people have convinced you he does. Perhaps God know your flaws but he also knows your qualities and irregardless of either, his love is unconditional and perhaps he also says of you today..."he/she hasn't done this I know, they haven't done that I know...but still my summary of their lives and heart is ....they do right (overall) in the eyes of The Lord. Not in the eyes of their peers, but in The Eyes of the Lord, take comfort in that!

Friday, June 24, 2011

JUNE 24 "IT WILL NEVER HAPPEN!"

      Does God, the one who is sustaining the whole universe, really care and respond to the stupid things that come out of the mouth of this puny, microscopic (in light of the size of the universe) human being? It is hard to believe, but whether it is hard to believe or not is irrelevant because scripture shows us time and time again that God DOES respond & react to the stupid things we say. So much so that by our own admonitions, we curse ourselves and our future. In our text today, Elisha prophecies that there is great blessing & provision  down the road (both figuratively and literally) for all who live in Israel; except for one person. That one person is the Officer to the King of Israel, with his mouth he ignorantly proclaims,
  "even if the LORD should open the floodgates of the heavens, could this happen?” ..to which Elisha responds, as prompted by God, “You will see it with your own eyes,” answered Elisha, “but you will not eat any of it!”  We can hear the echo of God's voice in the back round saying, "is anything to hard for the Lord?"  How many times do we hear God's people say, "It will never happen!"  It would be one thing to hear this at work, but not at church, amongst God's people. Could we be cursing our future and what God has for us by our negativity and unbelief?  Does this attitude anger God?  This man who uttered this negativity and unbelief is (with Poetic Justice) trampled to death by the very people running towards the great blessing that he never believed would be, how fitting that was. In the book of Hebrews the author writes,  "17 And with whom was he angry for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies perished in the wilderness? 18 And to whom did God swear that they would never enter his rest if not to those who disobeyed? 19 So we see that they were not able to enter, because of their unbelief. "
     We know how much people like to be right, so next time you hear someone speak negatively towards their future and the promises of God, you can tell them, "you know what, you're right, you're exactly right, it will never happen, just as you have said it, so shall it be on to you".  Many of us believe that if we think something we might as well say it and when will we learn that thinking and saying are not the same. For example, why can't we think ourselves into salvation? Paul, in the book of Romans writes, "with the heart we believe and with the mouth we confess on to salvation". With our mouth we confess, or in other words, we confirm the matter! When we are thinking negatively we are waging a war of opinions in our minds and  when we succumb to speak it, we have chosen a side, we have confessed and confirmed and chosen a side on those thoughts, and more often than not, that which we confess will be what comes to be; except by the mercies of God.  "It will never happen", you say and God says you're half right, it will happen it's just that you won't partake of the blessing. So in essence you're half right, it will never happen.... to you, but you will see the blessing fulfilled in many others and you will have to stand and watch as they are blessed and you are not.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

JUNE 23 "SIR, YOU'RE WAY TO NONCHALANT!"

     We are way to "nonchalant" about life and to willing to accept circumstances as they are. If there's one principle we can learn from this story of the Shunammite woman is things don't always have to be the way they are. We have two individuals, two parents in this story. If it were left solely to the father, this boy would have remained dead. The father would have grieved, thought it was unfortunate and always wondered why God let his son die at such an early age. The father is the nonchalant believer who just takes what life throws at him and rolls with the punches. Nonchalant means, indifferent, dispassionate, blase, detached....but probably the best definition is "dispassionate". This is a scary characteristic of any individual, even more so, a believer in God. We are way to nonchalant about our walk with God and the circumstances of life. The Shunammite woman, the mother, is a woman of passion. She is the direct opposite of her husband and aren't you glad, I know the boy must be. The difference between passion and no passion can be life and death. Life to those that possess it, death to those that don't. Are you proud of your laid back, laissez-faire attitude about life.  Perhaps it prevents you from getting too down and low in life, but it also prevents you from experiencing the great highs of victory! If I don't venture out for much, I will not be disappointed. If I don't believe for much, I will save myself from much let downs, but what a miserable way to live. It certainly is not the life God has called us to live. This man is clueless to his wife's passion and does not even understand why she is going to Elisha.  Imagine how convicted (I hope) he was to see his son raised from the dead, restored to life because of his wife's passion, zeal and faith. I wonder if it sank in to this man that had it been left to his nonchalant ways, the boy would still be dead.  What circumstances and events of life have been thrown at you that you simply accepted?  I wonder if things could have been different if you had contended otherwise??? Will we reverse every catastrophe and hardship in life, I think not. But there are many that we can, if we will have passion, zeal and faith in God and not be so quick to simply accept what life throws at us. David fasted and prayed that his son would live, prayed and fasted that this catastrophe would be reversed...and it was not, his son still died, but David contended nevertheless.  Our job is to contend and beleive God for reversals and then, and only then, accept what comes. If we have not done our job to contend, how then can we know and have a peace that things could not have been different. How would David ever have known if perhaps the boy could have lived had he not contended? We need to throw off this nonchalant attitude towards our Christian life and contend and fight for what we believe is ours, our heritage, our destiny, our blessing and our inheritance in life; and once we have contended, once we have fought, then we can rest, that the outcome is what was meant to be and nothing less. The Shunammite woman contended and got her son back, David contended and did not get his son back, but both exhibit that same spirit, the complete opposite of nonchalantness, to not simply accept the fate that life throws at us, and to always believe God for a miracle in the midst of catastrophe, tragedies, upsets and difficulties of life.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

JUNE 22 "A GOOD RETURN"

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

JUNE 21 UNASHAMEDLY UNAPOLOGETIC!

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

Saturday, June 18, 2011

JUNE 18 "I'VE HAD ENOUGH"

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

Thursday, June 16, 2011

JUNE 16 TWO DESPERATE PEOPLE

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

Thursday, June 9, 2011

JUNE 9 KEEP UR HEART RIGHT

     As Stephen recounts Israel's history, the story of Moses is definitely one to learn from.  At 40 years old Moses feels he is called to be Israel's deliverer. He fights and defends the Israelite against the Egyptian and the key phrase in this text is  "25 Moses thought that his own people would realize that God was using him to rescue them, but they did not."  Moses didn't do this on some kind of ego trip or selfish ambition, it clearly states "they would realize God was using him" Moses is attributing what he is doing as a "call from God".  How many men & women have set out on a quest for God and have fallen flat on their faces? Surely Moses falls flat on his face...."27 But the man who was mistreating the other pushed Moses aside and said, ‘Who made you ruler and judge over us? 28 Are you thinking of killing me as you killed the Egyptian yesterday? 29 When Moses heard this, he fled to Midian, where he settled as a foreigner and had two sons"
      Moses falls flat on his face and goes from feeling called by God to be a great deliverer to going into the desert, living a seclusive life and living as a basic nobody, living day to day with no specific purpose. And this is how must of us respond too when we step out with great expectations for God and fail. Screaming out to God and demanding He let you know why He let you fail/fall flat on your face is a futile exercise. God will never answer that question on this side of eternity. Although God has revealed much of himself to us through his word, he still very much remains a mystery and so why He allows this we don't know (although I'm sure many think they know).
    Decades later, when God does visit Moses, to get Moses to do what he had tried to do before, of course, like most of us, Moses, in as nice and excusable way possible, tells God NO! Churches are filled with men and women who once felt called to do great things for God, that failed, flopped, fell flat on their faces and now when God re-visits them, through a sermon, a word, a scripture or in a time of devotion, they makes excuses and say NO.
     The one thing Moses did do is keep his heart right with God.  He remained a man of principle and Holy, otherwise God would not have used him. So Moses, though confused, disappointed and discouraged in God, keeps his heart right and remains a Godly man. This is perhaps what differentiates Moses from others. We, when disappointed and facing failure in out attempts to step out for God, not only retreat, but we let all standards and moral principles fall by the waste side. Some even turn from God and become staunch opponents to the Faith. Moses, though he does withdraw, keeps his heart right and God is able to use him and bring to fruition those stirrings that God had originally put in his heart and Moses is able to become the greatest deliver in history, aside from Jesus Christ himself.
  In my opinion, the most encouraging Christian you can ever meet is one that you know that stepped out in faith, believing to be used by God and fell flat on his face, but yet when God calls and God stirs later on, steps out once again. This is truly amazing and the most encouraging example we can ever have of a believer in Jesus Christ. He/She goes out once again, with no more guarantees than the first time, we the thought of failure raging in the back of the mind, even greater than the first time, yet he or she steps out regardless. This is exactly what Moses does and begins failing right from the start, again, but this time keeps responding to God's promptings, keeps going back and eventually becomes the man of God that he was created to be.
     If you truly want to be used by God than you will have to be willing to allow yourself to be showcased as a failure and allow yourself to be humbled far more than you would ever want or even imaginably conceive; this is the cost and if you won't pay the cost you will never see, what God has put in your heart, come to pass. Jesus warned over and over again, "you'd better count the cost!" 

Saturday, June 4, 2011

JUNE 4 GREAT TASTE OF VICTORY

     There are those that know neither the woes of defeat neither the joy of victory, they just dwell in a perpetual state of mediocrity . Who could be more qualified to write the words that are written in our text; other than David himself.  "with your help I can advance against a troop; with my God I can scale a wall...He trains my hands for battle....you armed me with strength for battle"  Ever wonder how David went into battle after battle and was never killed, not only was he never killed, he was never injured, not only was he never injured but he killed thousands in the process.  A warrior for God is either going to feel God's supernatural, sustaining Grace or he is going to feel abandoned. He will either kill or be killed himself in the process. David not only fought amongst warriors, he fought against barbaric, at times, demon possessed men, yet in all of his fights he was never killed, but he killed many. If I sound redundant here it is because it needs to sink in exactly what David experienced from his viewpoint and then re-read the song he has written in our text. This is not some song or poetry of a man who has taken lucid drugs and just lets his mind wonder and his hand pen fantasies, this is written from a first hand experience. David does not play video games on war, video games are made of his life. David is a man of war. David has done so much killing and shed so much blood that God won't let him build his house.
     We cannot deny that many who have consciously made a decision to enter the battle field, have been taken out by that very decision to enter in battle. Some soldiers for Christ are taken out quickly, quicker than those that know neither defeat or victory; their death is a slow death of apathy and indifference, in trying to preserve their life they have not lived. Is your relationship with God uneventful, boring and fading. Is the reality of God very distant from you? It's because you play it safe, you do not give God an opportunity to sustain you lest you die or be overcome. God can only move in your life supernaturally when you put yourself in a position "where he must".  I don't know about you, but I'd rather die a quick death on the battle field than a slow death in some comfortable retirement home. 
     The key to David's confidence to go into battle is tied to his confidence in his relationship with God. Our confidence in God will always be in proportion to our security about our relationship with him. The man who is insecure about his relationship with God will lack confidence in God to provide and sustain him in times of difficulty.  David is quick to quote, "I have been blameless before him and have kept myself from sin...to the faithful you show yourself faithful". David's confidence to sustain him in barbaric warfare is directly tied to his confidence of his heart towards God. David understood something many Born Agains don't understand today, our favour with God does not come from living "perfect" Christian lives, it comes from having a perfect heart towards God. David lived anything but a perfect righteous life, he messed up worse than many of us may ever do, but yet his heart was always perfect towards God. Many of us will never commit the sins that David committed, but it is not because our hearts are perfect towards God, it's because we could not bare to stand up to the shame it would bring us, not so much the shame it would bring God. What keeps most of us from great sin is the knowledge of the repercussions it would bring us, to put it bluntly, we are no so foolish to commit these grievous sins that would tarnish our reputations in the church and community, but yet our hearts are not perfect towards God.  When David was right with God, he was right with God. Some of us, even when we are right with God (so to speak) we are not blameless neither are we right with God through and through, there's always little crevices of sin in the chambers of our heart.  In short, we all need the confidence that David had in God to sustain him in war and to have that we will all need that same confidence that David had, in our relationship with God, and that comes from having not a perfect life, but a perfect heart, towards God.  You may ask, "what's the difference between being perfect in living for God vs. having a heart that is perfect towards him?"  You figure that one out and when you do, it may bring an ease, to your tight rope walk, relationship with God, that you currently have.

Friday, June 3, 2011

JUNE 3 THE BAD GUY

     The bad guy isn't always the bad guy, sometimes he's the good guy.  It's easy to read this story today and read it dismissing David as the calloused killer, insensitive to the lives that he is affecting by having these innocent people murdered. These parents and citizens must be filled with hatred and animosity towards David. I seriously doubt that this is easy for David to do and the text does make mention to his sparing Mephibosheth from the slaughter. David is simply trying to help Israel, Saul is the culprit and the reason behind why David must to, what to many is, a senseless slaughter of innocent lives. David inquiries to God why the famine (which is also leading to the death of innocent lives) and God's response to David is, “It is on account of Saul and his blood-stained house; it is because he put the Gibeonites to death.” Saul is long gone now, and David is left with the mess left behind by the previous King. A true leader is one that has the courage to do what's right, for the better of the whole, though it often will cause him to be hated by some. Israel will rejoice when the famine ends and rain falls, but these families who had their sons taken away from them by David will probably 'till their death, loathe David.  Imagine David's heart as he hears about Rizpah who spreads herself over the bodies of her sons, for days, wailing, weeping and protection them from the vultures. Although the famine ends, David must live with this on his conscience that he ordered the execution of Rizpah's sons. Everybody wants to be a leader and have recognition, but nobody wants to and often fail, to make the hard decisions that a true leader must make. This is why politicians are so ineffective today, they are trying to lead at the same time they are waiting for public opinion to help them decide what to do. Their decisions are not based on personnel moral convictions, they are based on polls and public opinion.  Don't ever inquire of God to find out what is wrong and what can be done to fix it if you are not going to have the courage to follow through on what God prompts you to do. It would be better had you not consulted God, than to consult God and then ignore the advice and direction you receive from him. David is an incredible leader, he not only has the wisdom to seek God in this dilemma but he has the courage to follow through on this very difficult resolution that God provides him with. The Apostle Paul, another great leader writes that when God told him what to do, "he did not confer with man". Often we confer with man because we are looking for someone to talk us out of what we sense is what God wants us to do but don't have the courage to do it. If you ask enough people, after God has spoken to you, you will always find enough people to convince you that it was not God and to do otherwise. Always be careful of trying to be spiritual and enquire of God, when you are not spiritual enough to follow through on what he may say, you will be worse off than before. David inquiries and David follows through and all is well, concerning the famine, but many, many leaders and men, would not have followed through and many, many leaders today have enquired of God and never followed through and that is why our Country, our families and our churches are in disarray, because we inquire, but don't follow through because we are more people pleasers than we are God pleasers and God warns us that the fear of man, is a snare. We will never truly lead or serve God until we are set free from the fear of man and the fear of wavering public opinion.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

JUNE 2 DELIBERATLY PURPOSEFUL

     I may be overstating something here, but there are few scriptures, if any where Jesus compares his love to him, based on whether or not you do something.  I thought only my wife did this (lol), but apparently not. Jesus says, "Peter, do you love me....then __________"  and at this point we should all have open ears.  Recently I ran into a Christian from another church and I asked him what he was up to and his answer to me was, "just luving Jesus man....just luving Jesus..." and he said it with this glazed look in his eyes.  As I left that encounter I thought...."wow, that guy really loves Jesus...I think?" Rarely do I walk around with a glazed look in my eye telling people, "I'm just loving Jesus".  Do I love Jesus? If it's based off of sentiment and a glazed look in my eye, I might have to say...no!  However, if I base it off of what Jesus says love is for him, than I could say..."yes!".  There are few things in Christendom that we can deliberately set out do to, within our own means. There is much we can set out to do, but at the end of the day we know that God must move supernaturally on our behalf for our efforts to have effect. Jesus understands that much weighs upon him, but this is a weight (so to speak) that he is shifting back, not just upon Peter, but upon "any" that would say they love him.  Jesus is saying, "be deliberate" about this!" Don't just sit around and spiritualize this, if God wills it then...."  There is no, "if God wills it here, there is no, if God helps me, if God moves, if a miracle happens then...." there is NONE of that involved in this. This is something that we can be deliberate about. We can preach, we can witness, we can pass out flyers but at the end of the day, Jesus says, "I will build my church". Every person that gives their life to Jesus is a miracle given my God (unless the Father draws, no man can come to me) so we know that even with our best efforts, without God we cannot save a soul. But in this area, it's all on us. The soul is there, God has done everything to bring that soul into the Kingdom, now it is up to us to do our part. This WE CAN DO, but often we do not. If we would spend more time focusing on what we can do, and spend more time praying about what we cannot do rather than trying to force what we cannot, we would be more effective.  This we do not leave to chance, we do not leave to prayer, we do not wait for some miracle or Divine intervention, this is something Jesus wants us to be deliberately purposeful about. 1. Feeding & caring of his sheep is a responsibility that Jesus is shifting unto us. How many sheep does Jesus bring into the fold, that God only looks from heaven and grieves as he sees the sheep he has brought into the fold not cared for and famished. How can a soul stand in the midst of so many Christians and yet feel so alone. How can a soul sit in the midst of an assembly and be completely ignored. How can a soul be brought into the church by Divine intervention and then be left to stand there alone as the parking lot clears out and the voices and laughter fade away, as they go home to their lonely apartment? While we are luving on Jesus, with a glazed look in our eyes, his sheep go... uncared for and famished for fellowship, love and companionship.  The church has a twofold purpose, 1. Preach the Gospel, to nameless and faceless people and the 2. Love and care for those that god puts names and faces too!  I find we do a much better job preaching to the nameless and faceless than we do loving and caring for those that have names and faces right before us, day in and day out. We would rather preach to the thousands rather than love the one, homely & lonely person God puts in front of us. Peter preached to nameless and faceless people on the day of Pentecost and saw 3000 souls saved. Now Jesus is putting the weight upon Peter to love and care for those people, to "feed them", both spiritually and physically, if needed. Much in Christendom depends on the supernatural workings and providence of God, but here in our text is ONE THING that God gives back to us and says, this is up to you, this is something I want you to be deliberately purposeful about and that is....loving, caring and the feeding of MY SHEEP, are you deliberately purposeful about this?