Wednesday, September 28, 2011

SEPTEMBER 28 "DANG...I LEFT MY BELT AT HOME"

     I used to have dreams of being caught in High School with no shoes and having to walk around in my socks all day, I felt like an idiot. I'm not sure what the meaning of those dreams were, but I know one thing, I felt like an idiot all day and couldn't wait for the day to end and I would be sure to double check that I had my shoes on the following day before I left my house. Paul in our text is using dress items as a metaphor of how we should dress ourselves up, as Christians. No more would I want to walk around without shoes all day than I should be willing to walk around without Peace in my heart and in my intentions. Paul mentions to put on "the belt of Truth". I don't know if it was my Marine Corps training that drilled this into me or it's just common sense, but either way, you don't get all dressed up and then forget to put on a belt.  If I catch my son before he leaves the house for Church, without a belt I quickly send him back to his room to find his belt and put it on, "don't leave the house without a belt on", I tell him.  I wonder if the Holy Spirit ever tries to remind us that we are leaving the house with less than honest intentions for the day. We have no intentions about telling the truth about what happened the previous day. The Holy Spirit would ask, "where is your belt" and what do we say? How about women, did you leave the house without your shoes (God forbid!), of course NEVER would a women leave the house without her shoes, but quite often women leave the house without PEACE in mind, as a matter of a fact, there is a war waiting to happen at the office, or worse, at church and nothing is going to deter them, not even the Holy Spirit as He cautions them to put on their shoes of peace.
     Paul is admonishing us that the Christian life consists of these virtues, ie: Truth (belt), Peace (shoes), Righteousness (breastplate), Faith (shield), Sanity (helmet) and God's word and to get up on any given day and not fully dress with any of these is not to be dressed completely and as much as we would feel like a fish out of water walking around with no shoes all day or leading a high profile, corporate meeting that day without a belt; we should feel just as awkward knowing we have left the house and not dressed ourselves with peace, truth and righteousness. In any of these situations we would return home to get the belt or shoes and we should do the same spiritually. The Christian life consists of righteousness, faith, peace, honesty etc.....and we ought to leave the home every morning with every intent to wear these virtues without compromise. This is not only how we should conduct ourselves but we will find that in the end, virtues become our armor, and that perhaps is the greatest point of this passage. These virtues that we hold to will be what protect us against the onslaughts of hell.  Paul is saying that these "virtues" actually work as insulators against the attacks of the enemy.  I want to ask, "which of these virtues that Paul has mentioned have you learned over the years not to put on? Has your business profession caused you to leave your belt at home? Have relationships caused you to leave your shoes at home? Well, what you have done i s not only compromised virtues but you have compromised what Paul says is your "spiritual armor" and over time you will not stand, you will get hit and wounded to the point that you may be taken out and you will wonder how, how you were penetrated and God will be Faithful to show you (I hope) the area of vulnerability you left open when you began to dress each morning, purposely leaving, one of the aforementioned items, off your list. Paul says, "put on the full armor", not just bits and pieces that you select.  Struggling??? Being assaulted beyond what you think you can endure?? Maybe this is an area you need to re-examine and ask yourself, "am I putting on the full armor each day" and if not, determine which item you are leaving off." Once you've decided which item it is, then from that point on, begin each day by making sure, you do not leave the house without and once you leave with it, keep it on!  Don't be like children who wear a certain item to leave the house, but immediately once they are out of sight of their parents, take it off.  Put it on and keep it on, until you lay your head down to sleep!

Monday, September 26, 2011

SEPTEMBER 26 "IF ONLY....IF ONLY....IF ONLY....."

     ISAIAH speaks it out very plainly and clearly, "I am the Lord your God, who teaches you what is best for you, who directs you in the the way you should go, if only..."  IF ONLY....those are not the best words to hear from a parent, an authority figure and most certainly God.  "If only" is usually a pre-cursor for what could have been.  "If only" you had chosen behind door #1..."  "If only" are the words that haunt us. If nobody else speaks them to us, we often voice them to ourselves; in our thoughts we wonder..."if only" I had taken a different path, if only I had married someone else, if only I had taken a different career path, if only I had or hadn't moved, if only ..if only if only...can haunt us to our grave; unless we just decide to let Jesus take control.  The quicker, the sooner we decide to let go of the wheel and let Jesus take over, the less "if only's" we will have to worry about.
     God is not hesitant to make his point clear (through Isaiah) that if only we had allowed Him to direct us the past, present and future would have been different, and different for the better.  "Your descendants would have been like the sand, your children like its numberless grains..." surely things would have been different, would have been better, if only, we had listened and allowed him to direct us.
     God stresses to us in our text that He wants to teach us what is best for us, that it is He who directs the way we should go..., but this only applies if we are allowing him to direct us.  If we have our predetermined agenda of what we think God wants, than He cannot direct us.  We are lousy amateur Providences, we sure do like to play the part, but all we do is set ourselves of course and leave a bunch of "if only's" echoing in our minds. We are trying to force what we think God has for us instead of simply allowing God to guide and direct.  Much of the problems we face concerning this whole issue is that we have a hard time accepting what God's plan is. If we are going to be quite honest, what many struggle with is the simplicity of God's plan, we have illusions of grandeur for our future and have a hard time accepting that God perhaps just wants us, you or I to simply love our wives and raise Godly children for the next generation & be outstanding citizens in our community. For every great and famous Christian, there was a dad and a mom, that were faithful Christians who lived in complete obscurity from the media and the "flood lights" of success and fame.  If we were to mention the names of their children we would immediately recognize their names, but we would not recognize the names or the faces of the parents should we ever come across them. How many times have I mentioned the name of a famous Christian Community Leader and author to my friends and I always get an acknowledgement of who he is, "sure I know him, who doesn't" they respond, but then I ask them if they know who his father or mother was and I always get a blank stare. And according to his own biography, his parents were very faithful Chrisitan Parents and his dad was even the Pastor of a small congregation, but yet nobody knows who they were!
     Could it be that we have a hard time allowing God to teach us what is best for us and direct us....could it be that we have a hard time with it because we cannot accept where it might be leading?! "I have been called to fame and success and I can see this path leading to the mundane and ........", we say to ourselves.  Solomon in the Book of Ecclesiastes writes, "...for a man to accept his lot and be happy in his work...this is a gift of God".  Those words could be allot more profound than we think.  You ever think about what Solomon is implying here?  For the man who is a great success, famous & influential this scripture may not mean much, but for the man that isn't...And we know, that most people in life will not be famous, will not be great successes and men and/or woman of great influence.  Most of us are on the sidelines watching ONE Quarterback march his team into victory. Thence this scripture that Solomon wrote is not speaking to just a few select people, but rather this scripture is speaking to the majority of the men and women that will pass through life, here on earth. There will be no great fanfare about our lives and can we accept that? Can we accept our lot?  Can we accepts God's leading and God's saying what is best or do we think we know what is best, do we think we have been called to some greatness and fame and somehow, someway we just haven't received the right breaks yet?  Well, in God's Kingdom we don't believe in chance or the right breaks. Any Christian who has made it anywhere or to any place of influence will be the first to tell you "it was not by chance" that in retrospect, they can see God's hand of providence that was leading and guiding the whole way, unbeknown to them.  Those that do enter into their destinies I believe are not the ones who had a preconceived notion of what they thought that destiny was but rather those that were content to serve God, in whatever position, whatever vocation, great or small, in the flood lights or behind the scenes, it was irrelevant to them. They came to God with no preconceived notion other than to serve him and allowed God to teach, allowed God to direct and lo and behold, they find themselves where they would never have imagined themselves to be. "If only" is only a question for those that have never relinquished "their Will" and preconceived notions of his will, back to God himself; and the sooner we do that the less "if only's" we will have to ponder on.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

SEPTEMBER 24 "WHY BE TOLERANT TO OTHER GODS?"

     WHAT valid reason does any genuine Christian have to exercise any tolerance towards this LIE that there are other gods and salvation through them?  It can only be through ignorance or cowardice that we would succumb to such a lie. Over and over Jehovah tells us in our text, "I am the first and the last and apart from me there is no God".  And if this is not clear enough we go on to read, "....Is not this thing in my right hand a lie?".  So there it is!  We can squirt around the issue, we can try to be fake, tolerant or politically correct but at the end of the day, what we are supporting is A LIE!  Yes, after much discourse, God finally comes out and just calls it for what it is...A LIE.  Any other God, any Idol, any carved image of a god or anything else outside of Jehovah, Jesus Christ, Yahweh....is a LIE.  There is no room for tolerance here. We have enough of a hard time making tolerances for things that are real for which we may not agree with, but at least they are real and at times we must be tolerant to other people's opinions, stands and ideologies, but when we are dealing with a lie, we do not pretend not to know it is a lie, we don't pretend to except it and we don't in any way help and/or encourage anyone to believe in a lie just for the sake of peace and harmony, this is just short of insanity.
     It is one thing to share your glory with another when there is good cause, good reason. Perhaps others have helped in your success, they have contributed, even if only a small percentage, then it is right for us to share the glory, even if their contribution has been minimal.  However in the case with God we are wanting God, Jehovah, to share his glory with a lie.  We are wanting Jesus who left Heaven, came to earth in the form and likeness and frailty of man, to be rejected, tortured, crucified and die for the sins of humanity.... to share his glory with a....with a.....a lie?!  We are wanting God who did everything that was needed to save us, heal us, deliver us & break the curse....to share the glory with fictitious gods, all for the sake of peace?  This is why Jehovah says, "I am the Lord thy God, there is no other but me and I will share my glory with none other!".  This is not because He wants all the glory but because there is no one to share that glory with, it's insanity to try to pretend otherwise
     This is not about being rude, insensitive or intolerant it is about being real. If my 18 year old daughter comes to me and tells me that she has another Father that she communicates to on another planet and tells me about how he helps her and how she is planning to go visit him someday, etc..etc....am I expected to allow her to continue in this delusion and be tolerant to her belief?  Would I be judged for being intolerant by not excepting this ridiculous notion, know I am the one that gave her birth and that she has no other Father?  We would say indecisively "no" but yet we are supposed to allow people to ramble on about these gods that don't exist and we are supposed to keep our mouths shut and let them continue in their delusions. Why is that? Why are we pressured when it comes to false god's to be tolerant and excepting when we would do that with nothing else?  Well there are many reasons for that, first and foremost, because the Prince of the Power of the Air (Satan) is the one behind those lies and he has sway over people and culture. Paul writes that when we sacrifice to idols we are really sacrificing to demons. There is a demonic element to this whole sway and pressure to be tolerant towards false gods, a spirit of Anti-Christ for sure, but at the end of the day; we the Christians are probably more culpable than anybody else because we know the truth, we are not under the sway of the spirit of this age, yet often times we succumb to the pressures and allow ourselves to be coerced into being tolerant towards what we know is A LIE.  So why would we be tolerant to other gods, the answer simply is we do it for peace, we do it to avoid confrontation and we do it to relieve ourselves of persecution we know will come if we stand for the truth. And we do it all at the sake of hurting the one true God and damaging our relationship with him, the one who did all to save us, the one who died for us while we were yet sinners. Is it really worth it?

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

SEPTEMBER 21 "THIS ONE THING DO RIGHT"

     IF there's one thing King Hezekiah did right, was HE PRAYED.  Twice in our text today we read, in response to Hezekiah's prayers, Ch. 37 verse 21, "This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: Because you have prayed to me...."  and  Ch. 38 verse 4, "This is what the Lord, the God of your father David, says: I have heard your prayer and seen your tears".  BECAUSE YOU HAVE PRAYED....remember those words. And it could equally be said that, because you have NOT prayed....that we can rightly say, events have just easily, taken a turn for the worse. We cannot pretend, just to appease our own conscience, that prayer does not impact our lives and the lives of others. This would be just short of insanity. There is to much circumstancial evidence to every point to any other verdict, than the verdict that prayer does change events and lives as we know it.  We have to accept that because we have prayed our lives are different and we must also accept that because we have NOT prayed our lives are also different.  Prayer is the difference maker. Hezekiah did some foolish things in his life, but there's one thing he did right and that was he was a praying man and it is when he stopped praying and seeking God that he falls flat on his face. 
     Many of us have our priorities backwards. We are committed, we are faithful and reliable people and faithful to church, we do many things right but the one thing we do not do right is....PRAY.  "Why?", you may ask...to many reasons to consider, but we know there are seasons when prayer pays great dividends and there are other seasons we wonder why we pray at all and those are the seasons that take many out and once we have come out of the lifesytle of prayer, and managed to do without, it is hard to get back into it. Every congregation hates a sermon on prayer as much as they love a sermon on prayer.  They love it for the part that tells of all the possibilities through prayer, but they hate the part that in all reality, truth be known, they still will not pray.
     The bible commands us to "pray and pray without ceasing". The bible promises us that "the fervant prayers of a righteous man availeth much".  There is no two ways around those scriptures and many more that admonish us to pray. We must make sure that we don't pray to be religious as perhaps our parents did. That we don't pray to be seen of men, as some disciples do. That we don't pray to appease our consciences, as sinners do. We pray because we have a clear conviction and understanding that prayer can change the course of lives and the lives of others. We pray because we know it is our civic duty and responsibility as a Christian and not to pray is to neglect the greatest power ever divested to any being on earth or in Heaven above.  Not to pray is to be negligent in the most critical area of our Christian lives and only eternity will reveal to us, what could have been, had we only....PRAYED!  If there's one thing you ever do right as a Christian, let it be that you prayed.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

SEPTEMBER 20 "SATAN'S TESTIMONIALS"

     I WAS not around approx 3000 years ago when this situation took place with the King of Assyria, but I sure do recognize the voice and the rhetoric, ie: "Don't trust in the Lord".  Pastor's and Spiritual Leaders spend most of their time trying to convince God's people to trust in him while the individual and the masses of Christians face a bombardment of attacks, day in and day out, a voice that speaks to us in our conscience and says basically the same words the King of Assyria Spoke, which are: "don't trust in the Lord, where was He for so and so and where was He for that family, that situation and what makes you think it will be any different for you!". The enemy will remind us of the sister that was not healed of cancer, he will remind us of the family that did have to file bankruptcy, or the single mom that did lose her job, her home and then Satan will come to us and tell us, "what makes you think it will be different for you!".  The enemy strikes us at the heart, he strikes us where are greatest fears lie.  When are security is threatened, our livelihood, our children and of course our lives are threatened, through disease, sickness or threats, these are the areas that leave us most vulnerable to perhaps listen to Satan a little longer than we should and begin to consider twice about trusting in The Lord.  "After all, Suzie trusted in The Lord and she died"  "Jim trusted in God and he was laid off and lost his home", these are the thoughts we will get and they are pretty convincing, they are not at all lies, but true cases that we have witnessed. They are "Satan's Testimonials".  He (the enemy) has a whole arsenal of them and he is ready to launch them at any time when we are attempting to trust God in a difficult situation. Verse 15, "do not let Hezekiah persuade you to trust in the Lord when he says, "The Lord will surely deliver us....who of all the gods has been able to save..."  All the Israelite had to do was their homework (which they had) and they would quickly find out that it was true.  
     So what do we do? Well our options are simple, either we trust or we do not. "Okay" you would say, "I don't trust, I simply can't I am to convinced by "Satan's Testimonials". The problem is "not trusting" in God is not just a state of mind we choose, but it must be followed by action. If we don't trust God to "save us" then that means we must take matters into our own hands, it means trusting in another, it means making alliances with people we should not.  One of two things will happen when we take matters into our own hands, it will either work or fail miserably.  The latter scenario is the best option, although we will suffer we will also learn next time to simply trust in God.  My worry is the first scenario, ie: we take matters into our own hands and it works out for us! (or should I say, it seems to work out). The worse thing that could happen when you don't trust God and make an alliance with someone or something else is that it actually works out for you. This is not good!  What do you think that will do for your faith, not only in the present but for a future trial? What do you think that will do for your relationship with God if your last vivid memory of God was that you were in a sticky situation and God did not come through for you, but you came through for you or so and so came through for you or worse, Satan came through for you.  Verse 16 "This is what the king of Assyria says: Make peace with me and come out to me. Then every one of you will eat from his own wine and fig tree and drink water from his own cistern"  Had the Israelite s opted in for this option (which they didn't thanks to a Godly leader) what do you think the chances of them continuing to serve the God of Israel would have been?  What do you think your chances are of continuing to serve God once you've decided not to trust God and it works out, for what seems to be the best, in your limited understanding.
     In all reality, there is NO... "I took matters into my own hands and it worked out". In the short term it may appear as such but time will reveal that it did not work out like you thought.  There is only one option when the enemy comes to us with his "testimonials" and that is simply to ignore them. The fact that they are true is irrelevant. We simply do not know all and much will be revealed to us in eternity that will leave many of us feeling quite embarrassed that we actually thought for a second that Satan had a valid testimonial against God failing one of his children. God has never failed any of his children "let God be true and every man a liar" and time and eternity will reveal this.  There is only one option and that is always to Trust the Lord and if everything still falls apart, then we keep trusting and as we keep trusting, though all evidence points towards abandonment by God, we will see, whether it be a month, a year or a few years, that God, in the end will be shown faithful and trustworthy. If we bail, if we cut and run, then we simply become one more of Satan's Testimonials that he will use against the next brother or sister that is struggling. Question is, will you be a testimonial to the church, of God's unfailing love and faithfulness to encourage others or will you be one of Satan's testimonials to discourage others?

Monday, September 19, 2011

SEPTEMBER 19 "DID PAUL SAY HE WISHES THEY WOULD ( Blank ) THEMSELVES?

     DID Paul really write/say that he wishes they would emasculate themselves? The Message translation writes, "Why don't these agitators, obsessive as they are about circumcision, go all the way and castrate themselves! "   What in the world.....is Paul saved? Is Paul losing the victory here? This is not very Christian conduct.....How would the religious world deal with this? This verse is not  often used as a memory verse and neither will you hear it as the quote of the day on your favorite Christian Radio Station! However, he said what he said and I don't believe he had any intentions on retracting that statement.  Today, you say what you feel needs to be said and the the media with their onslaught of attacks makes you retract your statements or threatens to ruin you. Had Paul said such a thing in our generation the media would have launched a serious attack against the brother and it would be interesting to see if even Paul would have caved in under the pressure and threats of today's media.  I don't think he would, just for the record.
     No man knows the intense labour a man or woman goes through to be fruitful in the Kingdom of God; except, of course those that do get involved (which is becoming fewer and fewer). Although we know only God gives spiritual life we also know that with that spiritual life that God has birthed there will be much human labour involved.  Paul constantly refers to "his labours". Paul understands more than anyone that only God can save a soul, but Paul, who was immensely fruitful also understands that there is much human labour that goes in with that and Paul considers the souls he has laboured for, "his fruit" , "his spiritual children" and he takes very personnel what happens to them because he has laboured so hard for them. We can "over spiritualize" the whole salvation process and become very Calvinistic in our views towards spiritual life. This works great for the lazy soul that does not want to be burdened with the messy and laborious work of working with young converts in Christ.  For those that don't get involved in the messy lives of young Christians it would be easy for them to judge Paul as being very carnal in his response and very "UN-Christlike". However, for those that have been involved in the lives of young Christians and labouring to see them make it, they would not judge Paul as carnal but say, "amen!" to his comment about them castrating themselves.  What side are you on?  In verse 7 is where we begin to read about Paul's frustration, "you were running such a good race. Who cut in on you and kept you from obeying the truth?"  Unfortunately, The Baptist or Calvinist cannot relate to this scripture and they certainly cannot relate to the heartache and frustration Paul is having to deal with.  The Calvinist or Baptist would say, "aghhh, don't worry about it, they were probably never saved anyway, because if they were really saved they would never have slipped away, don't you know that nothing can take us out of the Father's hand?".   Unfortunately, Paul (a theologian himself) does not have the luxury to indulge in this Christian Psycho Babble.  Paul clearly understands that someone can be touched by God, received full revelation and truth, be saved and then later on be lured away by wolves in sheep's clothing.  And quite frankly, Paul, who labours more than any other Apostle, is quite sick of it!  His sick of labouring for souls only to see them drawn away by wicked and evil men that of course think themselves agents of God, but they are wolves in sheep's clothing. They are agents of hell and half of them don't even realize it!  The supposed caring "believers" have enticed these poor gentile believers into yoking themselves back into the slavery and bondage of The Law after everything Christ Jesus has down to bring them out.  Verse 1, "It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery". Paul is not randomly telling them to castrate themselves, it is of course in jest, as the subject matter that is being discussed here is circumcision.
     There are two issues Paul is having to deal with and they happen to be two of the most vexing issues to have to deal with as a workman for Christ and when hit with both at the same time, it can be quite frustrating, to say the least.  The two issues that are most frustrating to deal with is #1. Labouring with people who then turn and walk away.  #2.  Fighting the religious community and mindset that prevails in every city that experiences a move of God.  And in this case Paul is dealing with both. If it were heathens he was having to deal with it would have been easier for him and perhaps he would have had more Grace, but Paul is not dealing with "supposed" heathens/pagans here is contending against people who claim to be religious and claim to only want the best but yet are doing almost irrevocable damage and resisting the very Grace of God.  These are the people that will push you to your edge and cause you to say and act in ways that will shock most bystanders. Jesus said some pretty outlandish things himself to folks that presented themselves as "religious" but were actually opposing the very work He was trying to do, Jesus said to them, "you are of your Father, the devil" and we could go on and on about harsh words Jesus spoke. 
     We must constantly examine ourselves and guard our hearts against this spirit. It is quite easy over the years to become staunchly religious and self righteous and begin to oppose the very Grace that Christ is trying to bring to the lost.  It is our responsibility to check our hearts daily and make sure that we never find ourselves resisting and opposing God's work of redemption, rather than helping and enhancing his work on the earth.  What side are you on?  What part are you playing? How do you fit into the scheme of all that God is doing in the earth, but more specifically your city and even more specific, your church!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

SEPTEMBER 15 "WE ARE STILL SO FLAWED"

     NO matter how far we think we have come as a Christian, if God is at work in your life (and I hope He is), He will always be faithful, from time to time, to remind you that you have not yet arrived.  Paul just a few verses prior has just referred to Peter twice and mentions God working through Peter's ministry and mentions Peter  as one of "those reputed to be pillars".  In another text he refers to Peter as a "super apostle". NO doubt, Peter is THE MAN!  For all the shame Peter had to endure when he forsook Christ, he has definitely made up for it with all the recognition, authority, influence and power he now holds. However, even with all that going for Peter, he is still a flawed vessel.  He is still a man who at times allows others to dictate his actions rather than Christ. He is still a man who cares what others think of him.  He is still a man who struggles with prejudices and dealing with inconsistencies in his walk with Christ. Does this sound like you? If it does, then good, we are on the right track.
     Thank God for faithful brothers who step up to the plate to rebuke us when we need it. We see way to little of this today in our relationships. Our relationships are superficial at best and hypocritical at worse. Men and Women are floundering and nobody is there to let them know. The worse thing Paul could have done is let Peter get a way with his hypocrisy. Paul could have pretended like he didn't notice Peter get up and walk away from the Gentile Christians when James arrived.  It would have been much easier to let Peter's actions go unnoticed. "Why make a scene?"  "What difference will it make if I do say something?" "Who am I to correct the great Peter?"  If Paul is human, which we know he was, then he struggled with all these thoughts.  Perhaps we need not concentrate so much on "what difference will it make if I do say something" as much as we should concentrate on the responsibility you and I have to speak out and leave the results with that individual and God.  Give God something to work with! It is not our job to be the Holy Spirit Police, running around rebuking everyone, but there are key moments when we know we ought to speak up and say something and most often we don't and that individual then continues on in their behaviour not thinking anyone notices or cares or even further convinces themselves that their conduct is not that bad, after all, if it is so bad why doesn't God or anybody correct me? Doesn't anybody see or anybody hear? Yes, they do see and hear it is simply they won't speak up, they don't care. We selfishly avoid the confrontation to preserve our own selves at the detriment of somebody else. Is this right?
     One thing for sure we can learn from this is we are all flawed vessels no mater who we are and no matter how long we've been saved. We should realize there is always room for growth, enlargement and character to be formed in us as long as we are breathing. We should be changing from day to day, from Glory to Glory in the image of Christ. Thank God for the brother or sister who risks all to let us know, our behaviour, our conduct is not in line with one who claims to be a follower of Christ.  We unfortunately never read about how Peter responded to this rebuke he received from Paul in front of the others. I'm sure it was quite embarrassing, but I am going to assume Peter took it well and was grateful to Paul for calling him on it. A Godly man will always except "due" criticism and thank those who dared to correct them. We must be both those that are willing to step up and rebuke when it is due and we must also be the ones that are also willing to accept rebuke and correction when it comes our way;  be grateful for those it comes from and not become resentful, (who do they think they are!) but rather thank God and thank them for not allowing you to continue in your hypocrisy, in your prejudices, in your temper tantrums, in your dishonesty, in your unchristian like conduct.
     No doubt, we are all flawed vessels and until the day we die,  we will always be in need of fine tuning and adjustment and (not to sound redundant) we ought always to be grateful when it comes our way because most often, people don't care and won't speak up, thence we do not have the opportunity to change because people are no longer willing to speak up, at the risk of helping others. We would rather keep silent, preserve ourselves and simply let others self destruct or continue in their demise and this is a sad state of affairs in the Church today.  Does not the scripture say, "as iron sharpens iron so does man sharpen man". Does that still apply to today? Let us not neglect the ministry that we are all called to and that is to exhort one another, encourage one another and to correct one another. These are timeless principles founded in God's word and have been put there for the edifying and the building up of the Saints in the church.  "Lord, send people, friends are way, that will lovingly speak the truth to us".  "For deceitful are the kisses of an enemy but faithful are the wounds of a friend!"

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

SEPTEMBER 13 "DIVORCE MY CHURCH!"

     EVER wonder, why...if the Bible is inspired by the Holy Spirit, that such confrontational talk would be penned for eternity in God's word. I would almost consider some of the paragraphs in 2 Corinthians to be for "private consumption" wouldn't you? Is this not the kind of drama we try to hide from new converts in the church.  Don't we want people to only know about the bliss and wonderful experiences of the Church of Jesus Christ. The Apostle Paul is really getting down in our text today. He is "pulling their card" so to speak. He is "calling them out".  In essence he is saying, "hey I'm saved, why don't you check yourself! Unless you fail the test!"  Is this what the situation between Paul and the Corinthian Church has succumbed to?  Well, if that's the case you can never accuse God of trying to hide the imperfections of The Church. I think it is best that God doesn't hide the imperfections of the Church, for our own sakes! We will all one day find ourselves in a church that is more problematic than we ever thought or imagined. God will eventually allow the dim, rose colored glasses to come off and allow us to see the church for what it is. He will say, "you who are now mature, help influence the church to be better".  The church down the street may always look like this perfect blissful place to serve God just like the marriage across the aisle is always the marriage that looks so intact and perfect, but neither are true. Christians who leave their church or spouse in search for the perfect marriage or perfect church.... and the result?  The result is that they find  themselves in and out of one relationship after another or in and out of one church after another.
     After years of marriage you begin to see all the flaws in your spouse (that were there all along) and after years in a church or fellowship, you begin to see all the flaws in them too! The temptation then is to divorce in aspiration of finding the perfect spouse, marriage, church, perfect life that we are thinking exists out there. Statistics prove that most who divorce find themselves in another relationship having to deal with the same issues and often end up divorcing again and most who leave their church often find themselves facing the same imperfections, if not worse, in another church and end up leaving that church too. You will find that Christians who divorce their spouses or churches find themselves spiritual nomads, wondering forever from one church to another, from one relationship to another, never finding a true home again. Joseph Smith found himself disillusioned with the Church of Jesus Christ and found himself in the backwoods of his home expressing his grief, complaints and criticisms of the church to God when a "supposed" angel by the name Moroni (probably incognito for Moron) appeared to Joseph and said, "you are correct, they are all imperfect and you are the man to start a new church", thence the Mormons.  However, I'm sure if you were to join a Mormon church (which I do not recommend) you would find the Mormon church makes the Corinthian church look quite innocent. The point is, we are setting ourselves up to be quite deluded and deceived when we come to God expressing our revelations to him that the church is "jacked up" if I may.  What are we wanting to hear back from God at that point? We know what Joseph Smith was wanting to hear, but what are you wanting to hear back from God? Are you wanting to hear from God that He did not know and thank-you for your enlightening him? God would say, "have you not read..."  Isn't that what Jesus always said..."have you not read?".  We are not going to enlighten God about the condition of our church or the Church in general. He is fully aware of the state of the Church, read the first few chapters of the book of Revelations.  God, has by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit allowed such passages as we read today to be penned in his word for our own sake.  Jesus' response is always, "you who are mature...."  God's response would not be, "I'm so enlightened, I did not know the state of your church, poor you, move on..." he would rather say, "you who are mature, make a difference, be a peacemaker, be an encourager, be one that edifies others and makes a difference".  Is your church imperfect?! Are the people in your church not all they could be for Christ? Then we who are mature are to be the difference makers. God has allowed very small room or excuse for us to abandon our spouses or churches. The standard for God is never divorce or abandonment, but rather to work it out. 
     Yes the language in Corinthians is hard and the situation is messy, but if not sooner than later, this will become our lot or our experience and we will have to be able to accept and deal with it and work through the issues that will arise in our churches and we that are mature will make a difference and we that our immature
     The good news is that statistics show that those that do not divorce their spouses or church, but press on through the tumultuous years, go on to experience strong and blessed marriages and go on to experience and be part of churches that are strong and tightly connected and often times become "breakout Churches" in their community.

Monday, September 12, 2011

SEPTEMBER 9 "DON'T LOSE YOUR MIND"

     WE have often heard, "don't lose your Faith" but how about don't lose your mind!  Is your faith in your heart or is it in your mind? Good question isn't it?  In Romans we read, "for it is with the heart that you believe but with the mouth you confess". However, that being said, Paul, the same author of the book of Romans, here writes, "...your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ".  So while we may believe in our hearts, the battle will be waged in our minds. Yes we must guard our hearts with all diligence, for out of our hearts springs the issues of life.  However, I believe what is happening in our hearts eventually drips into our minds. Paul is saying that it is "our minds" that are led astray, not the heart. I have lost more friends who's minds have wandered more than anything else.  There is the occasion that someones heart just turns cold to God because of a tragedy that struck their life, but more and more I am finding that Christians are being led astray in their minds. In "their hearts" they would say they still believe in God, still believe in Salvation through Jesus but.....then comes the but......and after that you begin to hear all sorts of weird thoughts that are running around in their minds, they are losing the battle ground in a key place, the mind.  They have failed to put on their helmet of salvation taking every thought into the captivity of Jesus Christ.  As a Christian we must learn to live with and deal with a constant barrage of assaults that come through our thoughts.  Our problem is we give way to much credence to our thoughts, more so than we do to the Word of God or wise counsel. "I have thought this and thought it for quite some time therefore it must be true!", is the reasoning behind madness. We wait far to long to share these thoughts with others. Instead of sharing these thoughts with others from the onset, we wait until we cannot be talked out of them.  In the book of proverbs we read, "he who isolates himself seeks his own desires and rages against all sound judgment".  Well, a person who behaves in such a manner is a Christian who is losing the battle in the mind.  He is forming thoughts, conclusions and theologies that he does not want countered by anybody.    
     Normally the battle in the mind begins with an area in our life that we are refusing to submit to God. It begins with an area of disobedience in one area and then all of sudden everything starts to become quite convoluted and complex and we want now to try to think it clear, but it will not work. In the natural realm of life perhaps we can think a matter through but in the spiritual realm, we must obey it through. We will find that the moment we begin to obey the murky waters become clear once again. It can be a constant and wearisome task to keep the mind in tact, especially pertaining to matters of our Faith, our belief in God, Satan, The Church, The Salvation of the Saints and all these matters that really do go against the Eben flow of the society we live in and it does not take a large opening, but merely a small crack for the enemy to come in to our minds and begin to work his web of confusion.  As wearisome as it may be to constantly reign in our minds and judge thoughts, rather than allow them to run around lose and unchallenged....it is worth it in the end.  I have seen many people who's minds went before their bodies. They had a whole body but a very messed up mind, not able to function as a normal citizen. Perhaps the reason is that we can see the bad shape our body is in every morning in the mirror and immediately want to take action. The mind is concealed, it is not scene, except by the Word of God. The greatest mirror for the mind is The Word of God.  James in his epistles tell us that if we hear the word but don't do it, it is as a man who looks in the mirror, walks away and quickly forgets what he saw". Again, The Word of God is the mirror to ourr minds and when we read or sit under God's word but do not allow to work as that mirror, we become self-deceived, every thing starts to become convoluted and complex and we begin a slow deteriorating process of losing our minds.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

SEPTEMBER 8 "DOES GOD NEED ANGER MANAGEMENT CLASSES?"

     IF you were hoping to find words of love, comfort and encouragement today in your One Year reading, you may want to look again...TOMORROW. You will not find much of that in today's reading.   If you were to have picked up the One Year Bible for the first time today, you would quickly put it down and think to yourself, "wow, this God sure is an angry and threatening God".   And of course in some people's unrealistic eyes, God should never be angry. The question is...."is God angry, does God need anger management classes?"  According to Isaiah, Jehovah is very ticked off.  Paul seems like an angry and frustrated man in the Corinthian Letter and again in Psalms God seems to be angry and threatening. What on earth is gong on here???
     You ever have days when anybody who crosses your path that day is going to feel your wrath?  Is it new wrath they are going to feel that day or is it anger that you have been storing up for some time? I have to admit some days I just wake up crancky  and vexed and those will be the days that I let people know what I think, especially my children. They will perceive that all of a sudden I have changed, what was permissible one day is now not permissible.  Well, it's not that it was ever permissible, it annoyed me and upset me the other day, the other week, the other month etc...etc...I just did not say anything at that point. In our text God eludes to the fact that he has been watching these people for some time and the anger and frustration has been brewing.  Our children will wonder, "what's wrong with mom, what's wrong with dad?" Well, nothing really, it's just mom and/or dad have had enough. 
     Is God angry, of course He is, we would be trying to conceal the truth to admit otherwise. He's tired and vexed with their behaviour. He has watched them do their religious duties and sacrifices for so long and now He is going to speak, although up until now He has kept silent.  "I cannot bear your evil assemblies, your new moon festivals and your appointed feasts my soul hates", says The Lord.  My kids always want me to be happy and pleasant and never to be harsh or stern, regardless of their attitudes or behaviour. They want to live as they want, be disobedient, disrespectful, smart mouthed,  sinful and yet mom or dad should never get angry and of course, we as God's children treat God the same way.  We want to live disobedient lives and expect God to always be this a loving and smiley God.  And he is, to show anger towards another does not negate our love. Many people in "anger management classes have been set up, so to speak. It is the people around them that have driven them into that place. Yes they are angry, but for many valid reasons. It's like the wreck less driver who causes an accident, but yet drivers on totally ablevious to him the damage and wreck he has left behind him. I am not taking responsibility away from the individual to control himself, after all, "self control" is one of the fruits of the spirit we should possess, but that being said, some people to seriously drive us to be angry. Do we let it out everyday, do we let them have it every day...NO, but there will be those days that they will hear an earful. The bible says, "be angry and sin not".   Anger is unavoidable and depending on the people that surround us can often determine the amount of anger we have to deal with on a daily basis
     Today is God's day to let us have it.  Today, from O.T. to Psalms to N.T. we are reading about a God and a man (Paul) that are showing some signs of anger and in both cases it is people, that are the source of their anger. Paul is certainly not character flawed and obviously neither is God.  Neither of them needs "anger management classes" (as some might suggest) they just need people who claim to be God's children to behave accordingly so.  Nobody here is asking for perfection, just simple, common courtesies, Godly and ethical behaviour is all that is being asked.  We as parents are not asking our children to be perfect, we are just asking for some common courtesies, some respect towards authority, towards those that could "wipe them out" (so to speak) and some obedience.  The irreverance to the very God that gives us air to breath, this contempt for parents who feed and clothe their children even before themselves is totally inexcusable and some days Parents will vent and some days God will vent. Allow God his day to vent, does he not have the right? Yes God is love and his love is demonstrated to us by allowing us to see how frustrated he is with humanity, but yet, his love is demonstrated towards us that he does not wipe us out as he once did.  His love is demonstrated towards us that he does not "kill us" in our sin and actually gives people like you and I a chance to repent, be forgiven and have eternal life. Yes God is angry, but it's anger in check, it's anger enveloped in a love that is constantly reaching out towards us and yet constantly being rejected and abused.  It's an anger that at the end of the day has a plea....and that plea is not, "I'm going to kill you" but rather "come now, let us reason together".   God no matter how anger is always wanting to reason and work things out. "Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow"...He is always wanting to forgive us and help us move on towards a blessed life. God's anger stems from the same anger we have towards our children. We have so much to offer, so much love to give them, but their attitudes and disobedience causes them to rob themselves of the blessing we are wanting to bestwow on their lives and perhaps, this is the most frustrating part of all about being a parent and perhaps the most frustrating part of being God, ie: having so much to give, so much love to lavish but an inability to give because of the decisions of our children. Is anger a sin? No it is not, it is a natural, God given emotion that often times is very justified and warranted, God simply says, "be angry....and sin not".  The question today is not "Does God need anger management classes" or "why is God so angry" but rather "am I the source of  any of God's anger or frustration or anybody else's for that matter?"  

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

SEPTEMBER 7 "CHURCH & MONEY DON'T MIX"

     WE'VE all met or heard of those people that "swear" they will never return to church because when they did visit, all the preacher talked about was money and giving.  "That's all the church wants, is your money," they cry out.  If we falsely look at the church as simply a religious institution that teaches nice religious platitudes to make us feel better about ourselves and teaches nice principles such as "The Golden Rule" then maybe money should be left out.  However, if the church is an institution whereby God chooses to work through to help his people, to prosper them, to give them a future and a hope, then money better be a subject and a re-occurring subject, at that, because money is one of the areas that people struggle in more than anything else.  Any survey will tell you that couples (inside & outside the church) fight mostly about money.  The #1 cause of divorce is Money, not infidelity.  We have money problems and the church is there not just to teach you religious practices but to help you in every way, according to the bible.  According to the bible, Money is an issue God wants to help us with.  According to God's word Money is an area God wants us to do better in and fight less about. In our text Paul is laying down some physical and spiritual principles concerning money.  The law of sowing and reaping (a law that many would expect to be taught in church) is not just a law that applies with wrong or good doing, but a law that also applies to money. In proverbs we read, "there is one that withholds more than he ought and it tends to lead to poverty and there is one who scatters yet increases, the liberal soul shall be made rich".  Paul follows up with this principle by writing, "whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly and whoever sows generously will also reap generously".  If God is a God that wants to help us prosper in all ways, than we'd better be hearing about money in church and the individual who is offended by talk about money in church is either ignorant or is not right in the area of mammon.  The person who is offended by a sermon on morality would be the individual who is immoral, to the others in the congregation is was just a good sermon on truth, to the one offended, it was an indictment against his/her life. The person who is offended by talk on money in the church is the person who most needs to hear and be preached to about money.  He will either return and allow the truth to shed light on the darkness or he will not return in case his inner thoughts are exposed once again. Question is, do you get aggravated when preachers preach on money and giving? Do you think matters pertaining to money should be left outside of the church and we should spend more time hearing about doing good deeds and loving our neighbors and the Golden rule and all sorts of other religious platitudes that we nod, "yes and amen" but never follow unless we are having an extremely good day. 
     Not only is giving to the church spiritual and worthy of mention from behind the pulpit, but Paul goes further to say that it is even a ministry. Paul writes, "this service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of God's people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God".  Imagine, people are growing in faith and praising God (not men) because another person is giving somewhere else. Money is not flowing down from heaven but flowing through people into the hands of other people and in turn, God gets the glory.  Paul goes on to write, "Because of the service by which you have proved yourself, men will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ, and for your generosity in sharing with them and with everyone else".  Paul clearly states that "The Gospel" is very much associated with our monetarial giving towards the needs in The Church. Paul commends them for their obedience to God in giving.  In other words it is God who releases the resources and it is God who then challenges us to give of those resources and in so doing he causes us to prospor even more so than before we gave. Think money talk and the church don't fit together, THINK AGAIN!