Wednesday, August 24, 2011

AUGUST 24 "PLEASE, I DON'T NEED TO BE LECTURED RIGHT NOW!"

     JUST because someone is down does not necessarily mean that they are spiritually inferior to you.  There's some great insight into human nature in the Book of Job.  Verse 5, "Men at ease have contempt for misfortune".  There is a weird, sinister characteristic in humans that has a contempt for misfortune and people in misfortune. People need compassion and empathy when misfortune strikes, but often what they get from us is contempt and a cold shoulder. Why is that?  Why is our response, "here, here's $50.00 now get it together, I got it together, what is so difficult?"  I believe one of the reasons for this attitude and response towards struggling people is that we have seen many people in misfortune because of their own decisions as we watched them through their lives away and we begin to take on this mindset that all who are suffering, are suffering due to their own fault.  We assume they have brought this suffering on themselves through sin, rebellion and stupid decisions.  And although that is true in some instances, we cannot begin to assume that it is true in all instances.  Job is our case and point.  Job is here to show us that sometimes people suffer misfortune or seem to "be cursed" for no reason that can be blamed on them.  Job knew this misfortune was not about his sin or any decisions he had made, He was confident about this. His friends interpreted his confidence as arrogance and conceit, but it was neither.  His friends had contempt for him because he was suffering instead of mercy and compassion. Instead of compassion and mercy they want to lecture him.  There's nothing so futile or vain as lecturing one of your peers. I've had this happen to me and I'm sure you've had it happen to you.  Just because you admit that you are down and struggling doesn't mean that you have forgotten about God, doesn't mean you've forgotten the basic tenements of the Christian Faith, but super spiritual people begin to treat you like you have.  Job is quick to remind them and annoyed when he says, "what you know, I also know; I am not inferior to you".  This is not a "pride thing", it is simply a true statement spoken out of his annoyance with these "brothers". They are adding insult to injury.  You can hear the heart of Job here, he's basically pleading with this guys, who are supposed to be his friends and he is saying,"why are you guys talking to me like this? Why are you guys talking to me like I'm inferior, just because I'm suffering doesn't mean I'm inferior neither does it mean I've become totally dense".  These friends of his are rambling on about these religious platitudes that are as common to Job as breathing and water.  His friends spout out to him, "what is man, the he could be pure or one born of woman, that he could be righteous?" Job is very aware of this, this is common knowledge and they are wasting his time and theirs, standing there speaking down to this Godly man reciting Religious Platitudes that even a common Jewish boy would now, never mind a Godly, Righteous man of God like Job. Job responds to them, "you are worthless physicians, all of you!"  In other words, they have come to heal him but are doing absolutely no good. All they are doing is adding "insult to injury".
     I wonder how many times we have visited someone and done absolutely no good in our visit, or worse, we have made things worse?  Never has anyone told us that we visited that we were "worthless physicians, but I wonder how many thought it or told somebody else that we were? This story is good for us to remember; that instead of comforting and reassuring, we can be guilty of condemnation and showing contempt.  We have to be careful that we do not automatically assume that all those that are suffering are suffering are suffering because of their sin, rebellion and ungodly decisions. If I am going to error on one side or the other,  I would much rather error on the side of being too compassionate than error on the side of being to harsh and condemning, how about you?

Monday, August 22, 2011

AUGUST 22 "THE WORSE PEOPLE TO TRY TO COMFORT ARE..."

     THE worse people to try to comfort are those that have spent their lives encouraging others, ironically enough (or not so ironic) is that they that have spent their lives encouraging others and expected those that they ministered to to receive their benevolence; now that they are recipients of such Grace and benevolence, they are not such good takers. Verse 3 in Job, "Think how you have instructed many, how you have strengthened feeble hand. Your words have supported those who stumbled; you have strengthened faltering knees"  We don't have to guess at what Job's life has been, we are told here, he has spent his life instructing, strengthening and supporting others but now that he is down and out, he is not so good at letting others encourage him.  Ever met people like that?  They are great at helping others, they are great at encouraging others but when they need help, when they need encouraging they are not so easily encouraged and don't want to accept that they need help from others too!  As a general rule, we prefer to be the ones on top (except for a few that are addicted to self pity) but in all reality, life will make sure to let us taste the floor from time to time. We must be able to minister to others, but we must also be able to let others minister to us.  It does not take humility to minister to others,sometimes the opposite of humility is present in ministering to others, IE; Pride, but one thing is for sure,  it does take humility to let others minister to you. It takes humility to admit that you do need that $50.00 (we would much rather say, "no, I'm good bro") that someone is offering to buy you groceries, does not help your ego. It does take humility to admit that for once you're the one struggling and now the people you have helped in the past are not struggling. 
     Job's friends continue in their discourse..."you have strengthened faltering knees and now trouble comes to you and you are discouraged.".   And they are right! Job who has in the past pumped everyone else up, is now down when trouble comes his way. In essence his friends are right. The problem with Job's "ministering friends" is they didn't know when to shut up!  All we remember Job's friends for is all the non-sense they spoke and we lose sight of anything reasonable they might have said.  And this is the problem with not knowing when to shut up, what happens is all the stupid things you say, will wipe out all the good things you did have to say. Job's friends said allot of good things, if only they had stopped there. We must be careful that when ministering to others we don't go beyond what we should have. We may be inspired by God to say a few inspired, helpful words and rather than just leave it at that we feel like, "hey I'm on a roll, I might as well keep on talking" but that is when we ruin it and now start rambling on; out of our domain; and now we start saying stuff that the person we were trying to minister too, does not agree with. Now we have over stepped our boundaries and may even leave the person, having done more harm, than good. I have been there and done that many times and I'm sure so have you. If we are going to be effective ministers for Jesus, than we must learn to be able to dish it out, but we must also be able to receive it.  We must also learn to shut up and stop trying to minister beyond our boundaries.
     Perhaps you are in a place in your life right now where you are not necessarily where you have been used to being. To be blunt, you are down, you are hurting, you are weak, you are struggling and the hardest thing for you, other than your troubles, is admitting that you need help, admitting that you need to be encouraged by someone else and God forbid that someone else be the one you have encouraged yourself in the past. Are you willing to accept this and are you willing to let them encourage you?  Will you let humility have it's work in you?  Will you let someone see you when you're down?  Will you let someone see you depressed?  Will you let someone see you cry?  Will you let someone see you sick and weak?  Will you let someone see you with a whimpering Faith?  If the answer to these questions is a decisive NO then you will die right where you are at and the saddest part will not be your death, but that your death could have been prevented had you allowed yourself to accept help and allow humility to have it's way in you.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

AUGUST 20 "GOD CAN DO ANYTHING.......OR MAYBE NOT!"

     THIS is not the answer to prayer that Esther is looking for, ie: Fight.   She is going to The King (A God type figure in this story) and as we all know, The King (Jesus Christ) can do anything, right?  The King can put a stop to this! However, to Esther's surprise the King says, "I cannot!"  Whoever heard of such words coming out of the mouth of a King! How many times have we asked our King, and quoting with assurance "you can do anything" and God comes back to us and says, "this I cannot do, but if you will do thus and so then...."   The King says he cannot stop it but what he can do is make it so that they can fight and defend themselves.  Not quite the answer Esther was looking for and often not the answer we are looking for either, if we will be quit honest.
     The King has limited his own self by this law that causes him not to be able to reverse what he has signed off with his own signet ring, he has limited his own ability to intervene, crazy, isn't it...or is it? I believe our King, King Jesus, has limited himself in a similar manner.  God has limited himself in his ability to intervene in the affairs of human life.  There is a paradox here, that although God can do anything, He cannot do anything.  He could not slay the Giants for Israel in the "Promised Land", they had to do that for themselves. So much so that their unbelief that they themselves couldn't go in and slay them caused his people to have to make an about face and totally retreat from the mission that God has brought them all the way to that point to fulfill. God cannot heal every person, or every Christian dieing of Cancer.  God cannot save every marriage on the brink of divorce.  God cannot save every person jumping off a rooftop to kill themselves.  God cannot intervene in every rape, every child molestation, every murder and every genocide. There are things so horrible to even speak of, that are happening right now, that God (as much as he would like to) will not and can not intervene in for reasons beyond our finite understanding. God has limited himself even as this King (this God like figure) has limited himself  in this story.  Imagine Esther's shock when the King says, "no document written in the King's name and sealed with his ring can be revoked".  She must have thought, "you're joking, that's the most ridiculous statement I ever heard, you wrote if for crying out loud, unwrite it, my people are going to die!!"  
     Think of it, didn't God himself say, " I will never again wipe out the face of humanity on the earth by a flood and sealed that promise with his signet ring, "the rainbow".  So what does that mean? It means, that by God's own hand, he has limited himself from doing something. So if something says, "God can do anything" we know there's for sure one thing He cannot do (and many more) and that is wipe out the face of humanity with a flood.
     Okay, so what is THE POINT??  The point is we should not always approach God with the "you can do anything, so do it" mentality (because we don't know to what point God has limited himself in our situation) but we can ALWAYS approach God, our King with the mindset that He will for sure help us and that's what the King tells Esther. He basically tells her, I cannot do this, but I can do this; and that is make it so that you can fight.  God understands the limitations of the King and works with this.  Christians want to pray and have God wipe out there problems and God says, "I can't" and we say "what do you mean you can't, you're God, you can do anything" and God says back to us, "well, you're wrong, I can't but what I can do is make it so you can fight and I promise if you fight I will bring the victory.  The end result will be the same, it just won't be how you thought".
     You may be praying right now, for God, the God who can do anything, to intervene and perhaps it's time to take a break from praying and take some action. That's where Faith comes in.  It doesn't take faith to pray, it takes faith to step out in action, once you have prayed.  As much as we want, the issue is not just "supernaturally" going to go away or disappear because you have asked The King to make it go away. If you have started to wonder if God even hears your prayers, maybe the issue is not that He doesn't hear you it's that you don't hear him!  Maybe it's that God has heard you and responded, " I can't do that but I can do this and if you will do that then together, we can get you through this".  But can you hear God's still small voice as he speaks this to you or are you to busy screaming, "YOU CAN DO ANYTHING, NOW REVERSE THIS!" 
     I'm not so sure God can just do anything, but I am sure that the help you want is for sure available and that the ends you desire are possible, if you are able to hear God's still small voice, ihis solution and guidance and getting through, what you're going through.  To Esther, the King said, "Fight" I can give you the opportunity "to fight", that's what I can do for you.  Esther and the Jews worked with what The King gave her, but that is where many throw their hands up in the air and say, "allot of good you are and you call yourself a King" and they walk away never able to experience God's glorious victory that he wanted to bring, not just by his shear force and omnipotence, but rather a victory brought forth by both of you, working together!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

AUGUST 18 "A FLIPPANT WOMAN....DO AS I SAY NOT AS I DO!"

     I HAVE often thought this way, but often my thinking is wrong. How glad I was to read that I'm actually right for once.  Is the way a husband responds to his wife the reason the son responds to his mother in such a manner?  Could it be that the reason a daughter treats her father with contempt is because the mother treats him with contempt?  Could it be that a mouthy wife encourages other women to be mouthy to their husbands? Could it be...that our actions REALLY DO influence others, more so than we would like to admit.  Could it be that our behavior has and is even NOW influencing, for the worse, another human being and having a negative impact upon a relationship somewhere else, in another home?  Verse 17..."for the queen's conduct will become know to all the women....will respond to all the king's nobles in the same way"  (Read the rest for yourself) What are these advisers saying? "This is not just going to stop here but this will now affect other men in homes all over.  Is the an exaggeration?  If so, why does God allow this to be written and not corrected with what some might think would be a "proper balance".  The reason is....there is no proper balance, it is what it is.
     We don't want to have that responsibility placed upon our shoulders.  Are you telling me my loose tongue is now causing damage in other homes?  Yes!   Are you telling me my short temper is now causing damage in other homes?  Yes!  Are you telling me the way I speak to my husband is affecting my daughter's relationship with her father?  Yes!  Are you telling me my disrespect for my husband is actually cause other women in the church to disrespect their husband?  Yes!  Verse 18 "there will be no end of disrespect and discord".   Is the subject matter here..disrespect or discord?  The answer of course is BOTH!  They always travel together, ie: disrespect & discord.  Where there is disrespect you will ALWAYS find discord.  So now, not only is the flippant attitude of one woman causing other women to become flippant, but now it is causing fighting in homes all over.  If you are a person of influence you have a God given responsibility to hold your tongue and exercise self-control; if not for the sake of your own home then for the sake of other women and their homes.  The king was left with no choice but to make an example of Queen Vashti otherwise this would do damage through out all the Provinces. 
     How is the Christian husband who deals with this today to make an example of his wife?  We read that the king does it by "sending her away".  However this will not work for a modern day Christian. We cannot simply divorce our wives or "send them away" because of disrespect (although some do).  In short, the husband today has no recourse, but to pray and contend for change; thence the damage that is prevented in our text, is not prevented in our churches (our provinces) today and the bad effect of one, two or three women can spread, and does spread, like wild fire, through out the church.  Everybody knows the mantra "do as I say and not as I do" is not one  anyone would want to claim is "their mantra".  However, when it comes to this area, it is the mantra of many women.  Even worse would be the woman who does not condemn her own behavior but proudly boasts about it and encourages other women to do like wise.
     In being fair, I want to say that any woman, no matter how good natured, would have been frustrated to have been in Queen Vashti's position that day. This is not about excusing the King's undignified behaviour towards his wife, but surely the Queen, with her wisdom and beauty could have found a more tactful way to deal with the situation. And this is conjecture, but I have a sneak'in suspicion that this was not the first time (rarely is it the first time when someone is picked to be "the example) she had behaved like this, perhaps this was the first time she was caught in public, but I doubt it was the first time. God is more merciful than that; than to take some poor woman who slipped one time, under duress and make such an example out of her. Either way, the point is our behaviour does effect others and women especially have the power and ability to affect their daughters and other women's dispositions, attitudes and behaviour towards the men in their lives. Use that power wisely and responsibly, God forbid there is discord in another man's home, because of you.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

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

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

Monday, August 15, 2011

AUGUST 15 "CALVINIST IN THEORY"

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

Saturday, August 13, 2011

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

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

Friday, August 12, 2011

AUGUST 11 "YOU CAN COUNT ON OPPOSITION"

     THE four steps and in this order always seem to be:

1. Prayer and Fast
 2. Then Opportunity - Doors open  
 3. Opposition arrives on the scene. 
 4. To quit

It takes enough energy to fast and pray, then we must conjure up more energy to press through with the opportunity, but at least we are where we wanted to be. It has taken allot of mental, physical and emotional energy and steadfastness, but we are there, or so we think! NOW  the least expected (although I don't know why) hits us, OPPOSITION and that is more than most can handle. After all I've been through to get here, now there are people (we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities and wicked spirits in high places...) here that want to oppose me, why? "I'm tired of this, this is to difficult".  This third step is the nail in the coffin (so to speak). It is more than most can bare, but it is reality. You can count on it!  Always remember the sequence of events and then you will not be so taken back by them. First you will fast and pray, then, "yes" you will see doors open (and you'd better have a plan) and last you can count that when you at your last strength, then you will have to face opposition. When opposition comes the rebuilding of the wall slows down and then comes to a screeching halt.
     Secondly, did you notice that Nehemiah has a plan. He's prepared for God to move, just as he's equally prepared for opposition. He's not fasting and praying cause it's the "religious" thing to do, he's praying and fasting because he believes it will work. He so believes it will work that he has prepared in advance what to ask the King for when the opportunity arises.  Most of us would have stood there tongue tied in front of the king, in total disbelief that our prayer had actually been answered and we would not have known what to say. However, this is not the case with Nehemiah, he is prepared, he pretty much lays out a plan that has been well thought out.
     He's prepared for God to move and he's prepared for opposition.  "How can anyone ever prepare for opposition when you don't know what the opposition will be?", you may ask...Good question!  You can be prepared for opposition by being prepared mentally and spiritually. You can prepare with a resolve that there will be opposition (it's just a reality in the spiritual realm) and that you will have resolve to see the task through, in spite of the opposition.  Jesus says, "count the costs" before you enter into an endeavor for God, "count the costs" know full well what you are getting into, and once you do, prepare for opposition and have resolve to see it through.
     Next time you feel stirred for something remember these 3 steps and leave out the 4th.  First Pray and fast, then wait for the opportunity, have a plan, be ready and then wait for opposition to arrive, don't be got off guard when it comes and have an internal commitment, a resolve, intestinal fortitude, a spiritual tenacity, to see the matter, the task, the vision...through!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

AUGUST 10 "I'M SORRY.....KIND OF..."

     HOW often are we sorry, but we don't want to have to change anything that we're sorry for. "Lord, I'm sorry, I shouldn't have bought and charged that on my Visa, I don't need this, it's just something I was lusting after and should not have bought"..., we insincerely pray.  However when a still, small voice says back to us, "I agree, so return it".  That's when God doesn't hear back from us.  This is the generation that will very easily cut a conversation short (although there is no such thing as actual conversations, it's all thru Text & Instant Messaging).  You will be texting or IM'ing back and forth until you ask a question or write something the other person doesn't want to answer or deal with and then it's as if they've disappeared and then sure enough you see the green light disappear, they're not even on-line anymore, they just left you sitting there in the middle of a conversation, how rude!  Well this is what we do in our conversations with God, we leave God in the middle of the conversation, next thing God knows, we are not even on-line with him.  The conversation seemed to be going great, you were saying how sorry you were, God agreed that you should be and then recommended you make it right and then there's no response back to him. This group of people in our text in Ezra actual mean what they say and say what they mean. I am amazed at these people. "Now let us make a covenant before our God to send away all these women and their children, in accordance with the counsel of my Lord".  Wow!  Now that's being sorry. Let your actions back up your supposed repentance! It may even cost you, but what is the alternative?  We pray, "God forgive me for being rude or yelling to my children or wife". Yes, for sure we want forgiveness, we don't want this held against us, but when God says, "then go tell your wife or children you were wrong, apologize to them" then what do we do?  We've heard many stories of an adulteress relationship, the husband divorces his wife for some young chicky, marries her, then months later comes to his senses (apparently), is now seriously considering what it will be like to stand before God with this stain, wants to come back to church, repent, "forgive me Lord".  So in the end we get what we wanted, the young chicky babe, and we're forgiven and we still got to get rid of the ol' cranky wife, sounds like a great scam to me. If you're sorry than make it right..., no? Is sorry staying with the young babe that you committed adultery with and divorced your wife for? "But we're married now, what am I supposed to do?"  These folks in our text, put their actions where their mouth is.  Later on in our text we read in verse 44 "all these had married foreign women, and some of them had children by these wives". What a mess!  But that doesn't dissolve them of their responsibility to follow through with actions that back up their repentance. John the Baptist wouldn't even baptize those that had just recently repented until they first went out and showed actions, fruit of their lives, that would show that they had truly and genuinely repented.  The old saying, "are we sorry for what we did or sorry we got caught?"  Are we sorry for what we did or are we more scarred of the punishment we will face at judgement? If you rob a bank and then realize what you did was wrong, do you simply ask God to forgive you, but keep the money? After all, the deed has already been done.  Or do you ask God to forgive you and also return the money showing forth, "fruits of repentance".  To many the answer is obvious, "return the money" but why in all other areas, do we simply have to ask forgiveness and not make restitution?
     Everyday we remain in our state of rebellion we are digging a bigger and bigger hole and mess, but does that mean the hole we've dug is so big that God says, "oh just stay in it".  Now these men have had kids with these women, it's complicated, nevertheless, he does not tell them to just "stay there". They say, "we're going to send these woman off and the children" and NEVER do we hear got scream out and say "STOP, don't do that!".  You're sorry? Are you? Then do something about it, have actions that match with your tears, have fruit that shows and matches your repentance, God is waiting and watching today.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

AUGUST 9 "WHERE TO DRAW THE LINE"

     It's refreshing to finally read about a true Man of God after all the decrepit Kings we have been reading about. Ezra has the goods, so lets learn from him.  Ezra is a spiritual man, practical and very level headed.  He does not "over spiritualize matters" but he knows where to draw the line.  Ezra could have been "super spiritual" and not even have asked for supplies, but he does ask for supplies from the heathen king, but when tempted to also ask for more, ie: armed protection, this is what Ezra confesses, "I was ashamed to ask the king for soldiers and horsemen to protect us from enemies on the road, because we had told the king, "The gracious hand of our God is on everyone who looks to him, but his great anger is against all who forsake him".   ...we had told the king, in other words we have already testified about our God, how awesome he is, bad enough that we are going to a heathen king for supplies, but now we are going to ask for him to protect us? Some might say, "why not, ask while the king is feeling liberal, is this not favor from God, work with it, get all you can out of the King while God is moving on his heart!" And that is a very logical argument, however, Ezra felt checked here, "no, if I ask for this I've gone to far", he must have thought to himself.  How many times have I been tempted to go to my unsaved family (that I know has lots of money) and ask them for help in desperate financial times.  I knew just a phone call and a sob story would have money in my hands within days. But how could I?  How could I go to those I'd preached to about the goodness and faithfulness of my God, Jehovah Jireh and then turn around and beg them for money after all I had told them?  Even if my family did not outright say it, you know they would think to themselves, "where is his Jehovah Jireh now?!"
     Not only would Ezra asking for soldiers for protection, have been a bad testimony to the King, but it would have robbed the people of God from experiencing a true miracle of God, thus drawing them closer to God and increasing their faith .  The best thing Ezra could have done, he did...he chose to save the greatest need, their lives..for God to meet. He challenged the people to seek God and believe him for this particular need.  No doubt this was nerve recking for them, but in the end they were able to see the supernatural hand of God at work in their lives.  And this is what separates the religious from genuine converted soul. Religious people talk allot about God but never leave the lives hanging in the balance, waiting for God to come through because inside, they don't truly believe. It's one thing to talk spiritual platitudes, it's another thing to say, "okay, if God is real, than we can get out of this boat and walk on water and Jesus will not let us drown".         
     There comes a time in each and every one of our lives where God will check us and say, "okay, this is where you need to draw the line in asking for help, at this point you simply need to believe in me"  And it will be in those critical times and decisions that we not only reveal to God, but also to ourselves if we are just a bunch of religious, superficial, spiritual talk or if we truly believe in the power of our God, to see us, hear us, protect us and come through for us in our time of need..

Monday, August 8, 2011

AUGUST 5 "WAIT...YOU MUST BE JOKING!"

     NOTHING worse than waiting on somebody else.  Especially when you know (or at least think you know) where you are going. I'd rather take a side route, that my wife will be faithful to tell me, "took me longer" than sit and traffic and WAIT.  I'd rather give up something than have to WAIT.  Keep my waiting to long in a store to purchase my goods and you will lose that sale.  What is this wait thing anyway. I will never forget my months of training in the Marine Corps.  It was madness. They would rush us to the point of an anxieity atack and then when we arrived at the place the were rushing us off to with such urgency, then we sat and at times, waited for an hour before the event began.  Why am I waiting in line for so long when there are other cash registers sitting empty?  Why am I waiting for service at Walmart when I have gone there out of my time, I have gone there to spend my money on their goods, but yet I have been kept waiting in ailes for long periods of time, WAITING for someone, who apparently was called, to come assist me. I could go on and on but the key issue here is why am I waiting? And we can also throw into the mix, why am I waiting on God? Three times we are admonished to waif for the Lord.  Twice in Psalm 27 and then once in Proverbs 20 (if you read your reading for today!).  Has God recognized that his creation is a very impatient creation? Has God realized that we are not very good at waiting?  The answer must be decivsively "yes" if we are admonished 3 times in one reading. I can barely stand to wait on people, like I mentioned earlier, especially when i think I know where I'm going, but do you think God might be worth waiting on?

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

AUGUST 3 "COASTER FOR JESUS!"

     Josiah was king for 8 years before he decided to seek God.  Did you catch that!  What in the world was Josiah doing for 8 years??? The answer: same thing you've been doing for the past few years...and that is....COASTING.  Coasting on our own abilities, making do with what comes naturally to us and probably finding the path of least resistance. Taking what life simply throws at you and never contending for anything more from God.  The delusion for coasters is that "I am doing alright".  You are deluded and God forbid you should die in that state if you would even make Heaven your home and if you did make Heaven your home (as Paul describes as "one barely escaping through the fires") then you would probably find out all that you did not accomplish, that you could have, had you sought God and not coasted. It is safe to say, isn't it, that Josiah accomplished much more for God once he began to seek him, or am I reading to much into this?! (Rhetorical question)
     We read that before Josiah begins to seek God he is reigning in Jerusalem and he is doing "alright" he's going with the Eben flow of life, but it is not until he begins to seek God that his direction and course of action, dramatically changes.  Being a Christian and not seeking God does not mean that you are going to be this evil villain or drastic sinner, it simply means you will not be stirred or used by God for any specific purpose and/or divine use, on the earth.  Shouldn't that be the desire of every Born Again believer, "Lord use me, use my life for your purposes".  It is as obvious as night and day, the difference in Josiah's life and his usefulness to God, the moment he begins to seek out God.  The moment Josiah begins to seek God something gets fired up in him.  The carnality of the people no longer sits well with him, their sinful indulgences begin to repulse him, mind you, all these idols, sins and carnality were around him since the beginning of his reign! Nothing in his environment changed to prompt this reaction, He changed, God changed his carnal apathetic heart, as he began to seek God.   
     Not much upsets a coaster for Jesus. Their approach to life is, "to each his own, let them be, they're not hurting anyone, who am i to judge, i have my own issues" and the list goes on, we've heard the mantra's all before from other people and we've heard some of those statements coming from our own mouths.  Sometimes this is why you have church splits.  You have a leader like Josiah that has been coasting for years and then all of a sudden he begins to seek God and as he seeks God, he gets stirred and he now sees the state of sin he has allowed his church to fall into and he begins to purge the church, take out the whip (so to speak) and cleanse the temple and all of a sudden, people who have now become accustomed to this quasi Christian life are not at all thrilled with the Pastor's new found zeal for righteousness and half leave the church and the other half, who have been praying for their leader to get stirred, stay and facilitate the new work that God is going to do.
     This is exactly what happens with Josiah. Many thought he was out of his mind and left but many were thrilled with his new found zeal for God and righteousness and stayed to support him. So we can learn then from our story that when you are coasting, you are not only hurting yourself, but you are hurting those in your sphere of influence.  Also we learn that the longer you live as a coaster the more work you will need to do when you get fired up. 
     After years of coasting you have no guarantees who will follow you once you decide to get fired up. Those you are hoping will follow (such as your children) may become your worse opposition for your new found zeal and change.  Sometimes a spouse decides to stop coasting and is surprised to find that the other spouse doesn't automatically join them.  Never mind all the years they were zealous and the other spouse was coasting, but now the shoe is on the other foot, and all is supposed to be well....NOT SO!  A Pastor who has coasted for years now all of a sudden wants to get fired up and expects the church, all of a sudden to rally behind him, NOT SO!  A parent or parents that have coasted for years and all of a sudden want to get fired up and expect their children to just jump in line....NOT SO! 
     So then is the answer NEVER to get fired up and just to remain a coaster, don't rock the boat?  No,  God clearly reveals to Josiah that had he not come out of that state of mind, had he not began to seek him, there would have been much, much more judgement and damage. The answer is then, never to coast as a Child of God and if you do catch yourself coasting, quickly, get back on track, quickly get back to seeking out God. It is clear in our text that it is better to realize you are coasting, rock the boat, deal with the repercussions and get back on track.There is way to much "cleaning house" for Josiah to do and if only he had not coasted for 8 years, it would not have been this difficult to clean things up.  Coasting may seem like the easy way to live for God

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

AUGUST 2 "A WISE ENEMY"

     Hezekiah and his people are faced with an onslaught of verbal and mental assaults. What Hezekiah faces and what we must face, almost on a daily basis, is a constant barrage of assaults in our minds, that target our God and our faith in him to take care of us.  The problem is, that the enemy does not present STUPID arguments. The enemy provides arguments that are both very reasonable and very persuasive.  As we have heard before, the best lies are those that are mixed with truth.  Rat poison is 99% actual rat food. This is what makes it so irresistible for the rats to consume. We see also in our text that our enemy speaks our language, he knows our culture and how best to affect us.  Verse 18 "Then they called out in Hebrew to the people of Jerusalem who were  on the wall, to terrify them and make them afraid".  It's all about fear and intimidation. Every terrorist, worth his salt and weight, embraces this spirit.  The ruthless leaders of History all embraced and embodied this spirit. How many of God's people have fallen in this kind of predicament?  The answer is....more than we can count. We are definitely engaged in a war, a fight and if our stance in the ring is to merely stand there and take as many blows and hits as we can, hoping and praying our opponent will have mercy on us, run out of energy or get fed up of pounding on us.....well, the end result will probably be us eventually knocked out, falling straight to the mat, right on our faces, out for the count!
     Never should we consider verbal or mental arguments against our faith as "is this logical?" or "could this happen?" These considerations are irrelevant.  Think of this, as the Children of Israel stood at the edge of the Red Sea, with the Egyptians quickly catching up to them, with the Israelites cornered by the sea, it was very logical and reasonable to think that they would all be slaughtered right there. However logical or reasonable that may have seemed, however much fear that put in the hearts of the Israelites, we know that they were not slaughtered there, that the sea opened up for them to cross through and it was the Egyptians that were consumed there, as the water closed in on them and drowned them all.
     If we sit and listen to the lies of the enemy and consider if his arguments are reasonable and logical, we will all be given in to discouragement, fear & intimidation. Our stance needs to be, "I don't care how reasonable or logical this assault, this lie is that has been embedded in my mind, I chose to believe against it.".
It doesn't take logic and reason to serve God, it takes FAITH. It takes more than faith, it takes an aggressive faith, an aggressive posture.
     Imagine people who try to fix and solve everything themselves and it seems when they don't know what else they can do they say, "I guess all we can do is pray".  Imagine referring to prayer as, "all we can do..." As if prayer is the religious, ceremonious, cop out.  Perhaps for religious people it is, but for those that know their God and his great exploits, prayer is not "I guess all we can do" but rather, prayer "is the most powerful thing we can do".  It is King Hezekiah's prayer that turns God's attention towards this whole matter. It doesn't matter how logical the enemy's arguments are or how persuasive he is, none of that matters when God gets involved. Verse 21 "and The Lord sent an angel, who annihilated all the fighting men and the leaders and officers in the camp of the Assyrian King".  This is what God can do! And it only came when Hezekiah brought the blasphemies of his enemy before God and basically said, "Lord, you deal with this guy, it's your name he is blaspheming, I leave this with you".
     Never listen to reason with the enemy of your soul.  Never give him a speaking platform in your mind or through some of his ponds. We don't care what he has to say nor do we care what his mouth pieces have to say. It doesn't matter if it's logical or reasonable our God is more than able and often moves beyond reason, beyond the natural. Don't give an ear to the enemy or those that speak on his behalf and you will find yourself much more poised to believe God in hard circumstances. Give him a platform to speak, listen to his arguments and persuasion and you will find yourself defeated mentally, spiritually and then physically. Who are you gonna listen to today? Your choice.....

Monday, August 1, 2011

JULY 30 "IT'S DEEP OUT THERE, DON'T DROWN!"

     The million dollar question is, "what is harder, getting success or maintaining it?".  I wish I had the answer, but I don't. Depending on whom you speak with, answers will vary from one to another. Perhaps they are equally difficult. Perhaps a Corporate CEO could write a book (and probably already has) about Secular Success and how to maintain it, but for Spiritual Success the prescription is in our Text.  Verse 5 of 2 Chronicles 26 "As long as he (Uzziah) sought the Lord, God gave him success."  I've never quite climbed to the top or had any kind of great success (at least from my point of view) but I would imagine once achieved that I would continue to seek God for his guidance and counsel, but I don't know, statistics show I might not...who knows until you're there.  We know some do (continue to seek God's guidance and help) and many do not.  Uzziah falls right in line with the stats of the many "who do not".
     Pride is a stronger force than we realize. We are ignorant to it's power as we are ignorant of many of the natural elements of life.  The Ocean, lakes and large bodies of water are so beautiful, but how many lives has it taken. I was recently out swimming with a youth group that I took out from our church and I ended up spending my afternoon trying to make sure nobody drowned, as there were no lifeguards at the location we swam at and the water goes very deep. I know what it is like to almost drown in deep water and I have also saved a life of someone drowning in deep water. The issue is always, "I can swim", but that's not the issue.  Most people who drown are people who can swim, not people who can't. Most people who can't swim stay out of the water or don't dare to venture out into the deep.  It's the people who can swim who venture out, not knowing how merciless the water is, who drown.  When do they drown? It's normally a combination of two factors.  First, when they venture out into the deep and Second, when they run out of strength to uphold themselves; then they sink like a rock! Success (is the deep) and Pride (is the water)  are as dangerous if not more, than deep waters. I was almost angered by the ignorance of these boys as they raced out to the deep not sparing any energy to swim back to the shore. So I gathered as many floating devices as I could and swam out with them to the deep and don't you know every single one was used on the way back to shore.  As we strive for success in anything in life we have to remember that going out for success is like going out into deep waters, something better sustain you when you get there or you will drown.  "No I will not", you say and those are always the first to drown.  The most confident and cocky swimmer I had that day was the one who's life I probably saved, if any. 
     As long as Uzziah was a little shaky about his abilities, a little insecure about his own abilities he did well. He sought God and stayed alive. Success caused Uzziah to become self reliant, prideful and arrogant and something much more powerful, than he could ever imagine took him out.  Water is a powerful force and a human being is no match for water. A human being will lose every time in a fight against water and a human being will lose every time in his/her fight against pride; except for divine intervention. 
     Are you at the top, have you achieved some level of success, beware, cause you can swallow water, lose energy and drown in literally minutes. Over confidence will kill you, continue to seek God, continue to depend on him and then you will have God at your side, even as I was at the side of this young boy, and when you begin to sink he (God) will be there for you to reach out to even as I was there for the young boy when he realized he wasn't going to make it back to shore after all.