Monday, October 31, 2011

OCTOBER 31 "HAPPY HALLOWEEN......WHAT'S SCARIER THAN DEATH!"

     I have always wondered about people who claim a peacefulness about dieing. It is not that I don't believe the accounts/stories I have heard, it is just hard to believe. In my opinion, I have always feared death and until this day there is still somewhat of a fear that lurks within. Today's reading helped me feel a little more at ease with my disposition towards death. Our text acknowledges that there is a natural, human tendency to have a fear towards death, so I am normal. Anyone who claims to have no fear of death must be someone who is not being completely honest with you or worse, with themselves. This text in Hebrews is very important concerning death.  It is written that one of the pre-requisites for Jesus to be our Saviour was that He too face (taste) death.  And what was Jesus' response just seconds before he died? "Father, why have you forsaken me" (does that sound like fear?!)
There was a fear ....however Jesus rebounded (as we all must) and exercised faith, to overcome fear and unbelief and said, "Father I commit my spirit into your hands".  There is nothing scarier than a slow death.  It is one thing to have a sudden death and be taken without any foreknowledge, but for those that can see their death on the horizon, whether it be by a disease, fatal injury or old age, it is surely a battle of fear and faith.  To know that in a moment you will close your eyes and once you do, to know things will never, ever be the same again. You will close your eyes and perhaps never exist again?  There's the thought that you will close your eyes and when you awaken you will be in a place of torment for all eternity, never to escape.  And of course there is the thought that you will close your eyes and when you awaken you will find yourself in such a beautiful place as Heaven.  Jesus had to trust, that as He allowed himself to die (taste death), that it would not be the end for him who had existed since forever, up until that point. He had to "taste" death and read what the text goes on to say.    14 Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil— 15 and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death."
     Jesus had to experience and face death, head on, himself and so must we! The difference....Jesus was the Pioneer! He was the first to taste death and conquer it!  Now, we too, by faith can face death, conquer it and raise from the dead. We have to believe that "death" has no grip on us. A Christian never dies, we simply close our eyes and enter into another dimension, called Eternity. The Christian on his death bed needs to believe, "I will now close my eyes and when I awaken again, I will be ALIVE AGAIN, in Eternity and by Faith...., in Heaven. Because we know, none of us truly deserve Heaven, so we must believe, by faith in God's word, that that is where we will be when our eyes open again.
     Unfortunately, the fear that can torment, is that we will open our eyes again and find ourselves in a dark place and never able to reverse that. The fear is that we died deluded, self deceived and that reality hits us when our eyes are opened again. Jesus himself is the one who points out to us that there will be many who die, thinking they were right with God that find themselves in Hell.  This is recorded for us in Matthew 7:21, "many, will say to me Lord, Lord, we knew you.....and I (Jesus) will say to them, "depart from me, you workers of iniquity".  This is a frightening thought and this is what brings us back to the frightening part of death.  That as my hour approaches or as death looms on the horizon of the unknown, the question the Christian must soberly ask himself is, "am I living a self-deluded Christian life?"  "Is my walk with God a farce?"  "Is it possible that I am deceived by my own self?" 
     The difference between us and Jesus is Jesus knew He was sinless and we know the opposite, that we are sinful!  All we know is this, that according to our text today, death is a big issue and there is nothing scarier for a human being to face than that of his own mortality. However, we also know that Jesus has come to break the fear of death in us, which according to scripture, has kept us in slavery. The irony is, that Jesus can only break the fear of death in you if He can break you from your sin. The fear of death is never broken in the life of the Christian that lives with secrets sins.  How can the unforgiven, bitter, gossiping, immoral, unclean Christian have the fear of death broken by Jesus? The only way for these types of Christians to have the fear of death broken in their minds is to give themselves over to a deluded/deceived mind.  The only way for the reprobate to free himself from this great fear of death is simply to dismiss God all together and this allows him to sleep at night and go on living in a deluded state of mind and consciousness.  Most of us face our mortality every time we fly.  It seems that people become quite sober when flying around in the skies, thousands of feet above the ground and ocean. However, truth is, most people will never die up in the sky, they will die with their feet planted on the ground. They will awaken one morning, not knowing that that day, is their last, no matter how hard they try to be safe, no matter how careful they are, no matter how healthy they are, that morning will be the last time they awaken on earth. The fear of death is not that "I am going to get old and one day die" The fear of death is that "I may die tomorrow".  The fear of death is that it is actually an "appointed" time already pre-ordained and every day that passes we are that much closer to facing the most critical experience of our lives, and we do not know when it is.  Death is the "ultimate tease" that God has put on humanity!  We do not know when it will be but it is a set time, but we can prepare. If you are alive today, reading this blog, you have enough time to prepare. The uncertainty of death is certain and quite unnerving, but the time to prepare, regardless of not know the hour, is here, it is now, it is today.  Many people go through life, every morning waking up, hoping that today is not the day they will die. They are playing Russian Roulette with their souls and they know it. And this is a sure sign that they are not right with their maker. Perhaps then, we who are living right, should have a peace about death.  Their will always be struggles of doubt and faith at times, we may cry out in an instance, "God why have you forsaken me" but like Jesus, we must rebound and counter that with Faith and say, "Lord, you are true to your word, by the blood of Christ I'm not perfect but forgiven and that same Spirit that raised Christ from the dead shall quicken my mortal body and I shall not see decay but see Jesus face to face, into your hands Lord, I commit my spirit".

Friday, October 28, 2011

OCTOBER 27 "SELF CONTROL HAS TO BE A DIRTY WORD"

     Paul in our text is breaking down Christian and ethical behaviour in 3 categories.  He's breaking it down for Men, Women & Children.  There is variation in what he writes to all 3, but one common virtue Paul brings up in all 3 scenarios, the "only" virtue he brings up to all 3 parties is that of "Self Control".  I think it is easier to understand that word if you say it backwards...Control Self, or even more specifically, Control yourself!  Is this such a big issue with us?  Do we not control ourselves? I know I control my bladder, it would be severely embarrassing to me to be with friends and have an "accident". I don't think they would look at me with much empathy but they probably would look at me with much sympathy, sympathy for what a sorry sucker I am that I cannot control my own bladder at my age.  There are other areas that I am not so flawless at exercising self control. I have never, not once had a bladder accident, not once! I am quite "powerful" in this area of self control and so are you!!!  Why is it then that in other areas we do not have such a perfect track record, we are not so strong? Have you ever lacked self control in the area of purity? Have you ever lacked self control in the area of temper?  Have you ever lacked self-control in the area of your tongue, your eyes, your mind, your hands/fists? I will not pee on myself in front of others but for some reason I will lash out with my mouth in front of others.  Do I somehow think that I have made less of a fool of myself because it was only my mouth I let loose?  Well in some ways we may be correct in thinking that.  And why is that?  The reason is because it's a cultural norm to lack self control of the tongue/mouth, but it is not a cultural norm to lack self control over your bladder.  Imagine how different we would be if people frowned at the lack of self-control over your mouth as much as they would the lack of self-control over your bladder.  Do you think we would refrain more often from temper tantrums, do you think we would refrain more often from mouthing off, of course we would.  And why would we?  Because, truth be known, we do have the power to exercise self-control if we truly want to.  This is why Paul doesn't say, "if you can, please do your best to excercise self-control", but rather Paul simply says, "just do it".
     We are truly a mess when it comes to this word, this virtue, this fruit of the Spirit, called "Self-Control".   Even Preachers do not have a grasp on this, as they should, how much more so the congregation members and your average day to day Christian. We fail miserably in the area of self-control, don't we!  At the end of the day, all we have to say is, "I shouldn't have said that, I shouldn't have ate that, I shouldn't have hit him, I shouldn't have looked at that, I shouldn't have lost my temper, I shouldn't have gone through that light, I shouldn't have drank so much, I shouldn't have had that second helping, I shouldn't have .......I shouldn't have.....
     Self-Control is tied to our will.  It is "our will" that determines our self control.  And "our will" is motivated by "self", so this is a combination destined to fail, unless someone or something, ie: The Holy Spirit, gets involved. If it will make us look bad (by cultural norms) we will go to great lengths to exercise self-control, but if we are not concerned about how we may look or appear, self-control goes out the window.  Self-Control is like a muscle, the more it is exercised the stronger it gets.  Every time we make a stand and say "no, I will not" our self-control is reinforced, re-calibrated with a greater strength.  The same is also true that every time "we give in" we weaken our will to overcome and in so doing we weaken our self-control.  Christians who have more self-control than others are not simply Christians who prayed, "God I want more self-control" (don't we all) they are Christians who one decision at a time, one day at a time, began saying "no, I will not" and actually did not cave in. They are Christians that do not function by "cultural norms" but by "Kingdom norms ".
      I wish I had self-control like you" is the greatest cop-out any Christian can ever utter, as if some are more gifted with it than others (I hope you didn't think that). THE LIE is that true happiness will come from gratification, that true happiness comes from not restraining yourself, but it is a HUGE LIE  and we are not dumb for falling for it once or twice, but we are dumb as dirt for falling for it over and over again through out the course of our lives.  Has "self gratification" ever turned out to be good, when you instinctively sensed it was wrong but refused to exercise self-control.  Did you ever eat to the point that you were bloated and felt sick and then thought... "gee, that was good, I feel great about that".  There was a time when gluttony was frowned upon and thought to be a sin (according to the bible, it still is).  "And why was that?" you may ask...well simply said, because it showed a lack of self-control, which was expected by the Christian who claimed to be indwelt, by the Holy Spirit. 
     The classic case of a man that lacks self-control, is the man that is out of work (because he can't keep his mouth shut), he is grossly overweight (because he cannot say no or enough), he is divorced because he refuses to deny his eyes and he is bound in pornography because he refuses to control his mind (all areas where we can exercise self-control, if we choose to). Perhaps what we need to do is change our mindset, don't think "is this culturally acceptable" but rather think, "is this acceptable in the sight of God"  "Would I be embarrassed to behave or do this in front of God?  Would I be embarrassed to do this in front of a host of Angels? Than that is the "cultural norm & acceptable behaviour" that we need be concerned about.  In some areas of the middle east, rape is a cultural norm (clearly a lack of self-control on the man's part, sinfully so) but yet there is no shame because it is a cultural norm.  So if we allow our deteriorating culture to dictate to us what is "normal" we will get to a place where self-control is a lost virtue.  "Where do I need to begin exercising self-control?"  Look in your bible, it is clearly outlined and best of all, it is timeless.  Once you know which areas to exercise self-control in, you don't have to look back, no matter where you move, what country you live in, how much time  passes, it remains the same.
     Self-Control is not a dirty word, it is a fantastic word and a great virtue to have. It is not bought, nor does it come by prayer (although that would be a starting place) but it is available to all and it starts the moment you are done reading this blog. It can be attained and you will have an opportunity to begin attaining it in just a moment or two and it is a virtue that Paul writes, is a virtue that the man, the woman and the child must possess if he or she is going to walk the Christian walk and not profane the name of Christ. 

Thursday, October 27, 2011

OCTOBER 26 "SCREAM "CULT..CULT....AND BACKSLIDING BIG READS"

IS it coincidence that the two biggest reads in this blog had the words, "Cult & Backsliding" in their title? Most market trends indicate that the title of an article is what captures the readers interest. People don't read the blog then decide if it's interesting they read the title then determine by the title if it's worth their read. The title "with Cult" attracted many readers. Also the title "Backsliding" attracted many readers. This is what older "Saints" have to deal with. We come into "The Church" with youthful idealism, perhaps confused about the course of our lives, no political affiliations, perhaps a life torn apart by sin and we quickly embrace the dogmas of The Church. However, as life smooths out (as it should if you are living morally & ethically) and life begins to become a little more manageable, we become wiser, start to form our own opinions and become more mature, then we begin to struggle in our Faith and we begin to question things about the church and about God, ie: is He just, is He fair? In retrospect we begin to look at the Church as Cult like and the Pastor as the Cult Guru Leader and we are not so sure about God and how He thinks and functions. As the Saint matures his faith diminishes and he begins to wonder, "have I been in a Cult all these years and not known it?" The greatest danger is that the older saint begins to look at the church through a new prism. There was a time where he saw the church through a "spiritual prism" now as his faith diminishes he, perhaps even unconsciously, looks at the church through a new prism, a natural or secular prism, and that changes everything!

Never would this have entered the mind of the young Christian. The young Christian believed God to fill his tank up with gas when he ran out in the middle of nowhere....and God did. Today that same Christian will walk, if he runs out of gas. The young Christian would fight to the bitter end to defend his church and his love for the people in that church. That same Christian today openly and often, affirming, listens to criticisms of his church and the people within. Churches may vary in styles and doctrines, but when you sum it up, the basic premise of every church is the same. They are all "sects" (as described in the book of Acts/aka Cults), they are a society within a society (again, sect or cult) and at the helm of these Sects there is normally a Leader who is highly revered and honored, often called Reverend, Bishop or Pastor. The Leader, the head Guru of the sect stands before some small and some very large groups and then he begins to speak for 45-60 minutes and those people, who have awakened themselves early, gathered their families, dressed themselves and some driven miles and miles only to sit and listen to the head Guru pontificate upon his thoughts, ideas and revelations during the weak. Often, the people sit in amazement as to his brilliance (although other churches or times may be bored to death) and incredible revelation and the people are often mesmerised by the man behind the pulpit. Thus, as we grow older, our spirituality diminishes, we can see how we can wonder down this path, especially as we grow older, develop our minds and develop more in our own persona of who we are; that some can begin to look back at this whole affair of the church and God and wonder....Cult?

HOWEVER, that being said, if your church is a cult, than it is safe to say that "The Church of Jesus Christ" as a whole, for which the bridegroom is coming back for, ie Jesus Christ, is a Cult. No doubt some churches are more controlling than others, some more charasmatic than others, but at the end of the day, the premise of all churches is the same, as outlined above. It is a society within a society, it believes different than the world and community without and there is a head pontiff(s). Our problem today is we vary and are confused about what we mean when we speak of "Cult".  I often wonder when people mention The Church with the word "Cult" which definition of "Cult" they are referring to? There is the real definition of "a cult" which I believe the Church does fall into and then there is the "culture's definition" of the word Cult which The Church most definitely does not fall into. The culture's definition of the word "cult" is one that intends to control, manipulate, brainwash, deny individual thinking and intends to do mental and/or physical harm to it's members. Some examples being being: "Jim Jones, Heaven's Gate & Charles Manson. These are all cults that fall under "culture's definition" and there are many others that have passed through society, exploiting and harming, poor, vulnerable individuals. There are many definitions of Cult, There is the Religious Cult, there is Cult of Suicide, Doomsday Cults and Cults of Personality. No doubt some Churches are legit but there is a factor of a Cult of Personality functioning within that church and it is up to the individuals in that church not to allow themselves to be caught up in that, often times unbeknownst to the Leader, or at least not encouraged by him. Here's another definition of Cult: a particular system of religious worship, especially with reference to its rites and ceremonies and/or instance of great veneration of a person or ideals. This is one of the standard (not cultural) definitions of the word cult and under this definition the church does fall and has always fallen. Paul and his followers were constantly referred to as a cult and for all intensive purposes they were. Think of the words of Jesus himself, "we are not of the world" "though we are in the world we are not of it" "whoever loves the world, hates me" These words, posted on a billboard can read quite cultish. However the fact is we are a society that exists within a society and do have ideals that are diametrically opposed to the world we live in and if that is your definition of Cult, then The Church, is a cult.
     As we get older, as the flux of converts that came into the church in the late 70's, eighties and into early the early 90's, as this generation enters into mid-life, they begin to question life, look introspectively at their past, their present and future. Add to that that they are not as committed as they once were, they have long forsaken the spiritual disciplines they once practiced, ie; bible reading and prayer and now they are looking at The Church through a new prism, a natural one or better termed, a "secular one" and when you do that it changes how you view the Church, the Pastor and the whole affair of God, Faith and the Church. And once you get locked into looking at the church through this prism, you are slowly, but surely preparing your departure, your exit from The Church of Jesus Christ or you digress into a church that functions and behaves no different from the world that they exist in. The generation that entered the church in the 70's, 80's. and early 90's is just as quickly exiting the church through the back doors as quickly as the youth is entering through the front. The problem is, the youth that is entering in today will also face this same crisis of faith 20's years from now and the cycle goes on and on; unless one generation decides to turn from it's backsliding and go back to their first love and do the things they once did and begin, once again, to view The Church through the "Spiritual Prism" through which is should be viewed.
     Why were the blogs with the words "Cult" & "Backsliding" the most read, for the obvious reason that it struck a cord with it's readers. We have a whole generation of believers in mid-life that are at a crisis of faith, have regressed in their relationship with Christ (whether "we" will admit it or not) and have begun to take a very secular approach towards "The Church". Yes, in the natural sense, why would we all gather each Sunday to listen to a man speak, why would we gather each Sunday to try to live so differently than the citizens amongst us, why would we give so much of our lives, time and money to this old institution called "The Church" in the natural it makes no sense, but in the supernatural, spiritual and according to God's word, it makes perfect sense. What a benefit it would be to "The Church" if the older saints would not allow themselves to be "seduced" into this secular prism of viewing the church, held fast to their faith and were now able to come to The Church, not with naiveness, not with youthful idealism, but with a true and mature faith, tested,tried and resolute faith.
     The crisis of The Church today, is not that there is nobody coming in the front door, it is that as quickly as they are coming in the front, the older saints are exiting out the back. We are not sustaining in the long term. We spiritually run out of steam, just like we do physically. Stats show that over 95% of those that lose weight, if you follow them through the years, WILL put the weight back on. Is it because years later they realize they were in a cult and were brainwashed into losing weight and now they realize it is good to be grossly over weight and they thank God they can be liberated from that oppressive dogma of being healthy? Does that mean that in their youthful optimism they were deceived. Does it mean that the weight loss was only good then but not necessarily good now? No, what it means ? Or does it show us that it is human nature to regress,  where once we had the drive and stamina to do what we knew to do,  clearly knowing it was right at the time and not wanting to admit, it is still right today. However to appease our conscience we must excuse and justify rather than to admit we have regressed and are either slipping back to our original weight or have completely regressed.
     And this is what the older saints are doing with their experience with the church over the past 20 years. Rather than admit they have regressed or are slowly regressing back to who they were, they simply disguise it under "I am older now, I am not so naive as I used to be, I have my own mind now, I cannot be so easily manipulated as I once was and I am beginning to see this whole church thing as cultish". The individual when confronted with the weight that has all been put back on will say, "you know what, I realized I can only live once and I might as well enjoy it. I'm not going to be bound by what I can and cannot eat (translated...I'm just going to give in to my flesh even if it kills me) I'm going to eat what I want and if it kills me it kills me". However this is utter nonsense and just short of insanity. But this is the length we will go to justify ourselves. The mantra of the older saints that leave the church is very similar to the mantra of the one who puts so much effort into losing their weight but yet down the road, reverts back. The truth is it's a physical and spiritual fight to the end. The truth is, we are in a constant state of fighting physically and spiritually and when we backslide and when we falter we simply begin to look at life through a different prism and convince ourselves all is well when deep in our conscience, a small voice is yelling, "all is not well, all is not well...." Do you have the will and stamina to keep being spiritually minded? This is why Paul said, "I have fought the fight of faith, I have finished my course".
     In short, Jesus is not coming back for "The World" he is coming back for a cult, a society that exists within the world, call it a sect, call it a cult, call it what you want...but it is a society that exists within a society, it is a society that has values, morals and ethics that are diametically opposed to the world that it functions within. It is called THE CHURCH, THE CHURCH OF JESUS CHRIST! Whether we change or not, it does not change. It's principles and values are timeless and immutable, enduring for all generations to come. Yes, we are part of a cult, The Church of Jesus Christ and the head guru is Jesus Christ himself and he's coming back for his cult, his church, his bride for which he paid a tremendous price to preserve unto himself, "a peculiar people" he's coming back for,....zealous for good works.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

OCTOBER 18 "DOES GOD HAVE A SICK SENSE OF HUMOR?"

     WE read in the Book of Psalms quite a depressing passage, written by a man who really seems to be struggling in his Faith, depressed and at witt's end.  Have you been there or are you there today?  As depressing as it is to read I am glad that God did not purposely keep such writings out of his Book.
14 Why, LORD, do you reject me and hide your face from me......You have taken from me friend and neighbor— darkness is my closest friend."  That's some scarry stuff coming out of the mouth of someone that supposedly has a relationship with God. He's accusing God of rejecting him, hiding from him and taking from him. It would be wise before we passed judgement on this fellow, that we realize if we serve God for any length of time, we too will have to cross this bridge to continue along God's path for your life. Every comes to this bridge, to various degrees and must either cross it and go on or turn back. Jesus himself cried out "why have you forsaken me" and so will we at one point or another, sometimes more than once.  At this crossroads in our faith we have two choices. We either continue to cry out to God as the man is doing or we quit, we decide that's it, I am done with this whole faith and God thing, I am done praying and asking and hearing or seeing nothing back; except that things get worse.
     Question is, why would a good and loving God not immediately answer a Faithfull man's prayer for work when there is no food in the fridge, kids have clothing needs, electricity is being shut off  and the threat of a foreclosure is looming over their heards? Why wouldn't God in an instant help that man out rather than allow him to suffer and getting deeper and deeper and more and more depressed. Why would God allow a loving single mom, to die of cancer and leave her kids with no man, no dad?  Why? Why? Why? When God doesn't make sense it's easy to start thinking twisted about God. Does God have a sick sense of Humour, as the writer of Depeche Mode wrote in his song, "Blasphemous Rumours?"  As the chorus to the song goes..."and I don't want to start any blasphemous rumours but I think that Gods got a sick sense of humour and when I die, I expect to find him laughing..."  There are Christians out there that would not go so far as this man and write a song about it, but if they would be honest they do have some feelings of resentment and bitterness towards God.
     I am amazed in speaking with parishioners how much they disagree with a lot of the decisions a Pastor makes from week to week and month to month. They could name numerous decisions where they do not beleive he ruled justly or fairly, but yet they continue to attend his church and be cordial with him.  What can happen is we can also begin to think we can take this approach with God. There are many Christians still "supposedly" serving God but yet they have issues with God on many things that have happened or even, not happened for that matter.  While I agree that we cannot always agree with our Pastors on every decision they make, we know that man is falible and he's imperfect and some of his decisions may not always be right and mature Christians accept this and go on to servie God and submit to their Pastors regardless. However, we cannot take this approach with God and think that it works just as well. We cannot think of God as one "who made a bad decision or acted unjustly or unfairly".  We can say with a Godly man, "we will just have to agree to disagree" but we cannot say to God that we disagree. Why? The answer is that we by Faith,  we must always beleive that God is perfect and his ways are perfect and his ways are always just. We cannot taint or pervert the character of God, in order to prove ourselves right.  It is okay for a human to say to another human, "you could be wrong and I could be right" but it is quite arrogant for a mortal to tell God that He is wrong. We are speaking about the God who is the Alpha and the Omega. This is the God who is omniscient. He knows what the end will be, He's knows what is best for us, our lives and our future and He died for us, for out best interest, not his.  According to his word, "all His ways are just, all His ways are true".  No matter how ugly the circumstances or how dark the hour or how silent God is we must never lose faith and we must never allow our hearts to become bitter and resentlful towards God. 
     Ever stop looking for something because you were convinced it was not there? You were so convinced it was not there, that you quit looking and you were willing to get into a heated arguement with the individual that told you it was where he said it was. However the worse part is, is that you gave up, you quit looking and decided just to go on without it.  Only to find out that it was there, you just did not look hard enough.  God is there, never stop looking, never stop searching, never stop crying out, He is there. Don't quit looking and decide just to go on without Him. Then what should you do? You should keep calling out, keep beleiving that He is who He says He is even though all evidence may be contrary (this is Faith, not being foolish as some might say) keeping putting one foot in front of the other and eventually He will appear. It's not an if, it's not a maybe, it's a GUARANTEE.  
     Like the Psalmist, you have a choice, get bitter and resentful at God or hold on for dear life and wait for his glorious appearing

Saturday, October 15, 2011

OCTOBER 15 "WE WOULD BE SCREAMING...CULT, CULT!!!"

     HOW would this fair in today's modern church, "In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ we command you, brothers, to keep away from every brother who is idle and does not live according to the teaching you received from us".  WE would be screaming, "cult, cult, controlling, controlling...". Let's break this down. "I command you".  Our reaction today would be, "excuse me, you're commanding me?"  "Who are you to command me #1, and 2nd, who are you to tell me who I can and cannot hang around with, what is this a cult or something?"
     Now let's break down the reasons why Paul is "commanding" them not to hang around this person.  It is not that this man is some Satanist or vile sinner, but rather because this brother is "Idle", does not live up to their standards, basically sits around all day, does nothing, doesn't work and is a busy-body".  How many young men does that describe that fill our churches today?  And to make matters worse Paul is instructing them to do this so that he may "feel ashamed".  This would be the sermon that would definitely drive a few families to leave your church. The rhetoric of the families that would leave would go along the lines of something like this, "Pastor is to controlling, he wants to run our lives and he is harsh and doesn't care for those that are struggling, he wants us just to cut them off and make them feel ashamed, I'm sorry, but I am going to go to a church where it's a little less controlling and the Pastor cares more for people and does not purposely set out to "make people feel ashamed", after all, isn't that the Holy Spirit's job, to deal with people and convict them".
     Interesting that Jesus called "working" men to follow him.  Yes they were sinners, but they were working men, not idle men. Not one of his disciples that He picked, He chose (according to scripture) was an idle bum (if I'm allowed to use such a non-politically correct word).  You do your own study and see if this is not the truth. We would say, "If Jesus can do anything, if men can change, why not have had one or two bums in the group of Jesus' twelve.  What a testimony, what Glory it could have brought to Jesus that He took a bunch of idle bums off the street and turned them into these mighty men of God."
      This does not mean that bums, idle and lazy men do not come into the church and get saved, because we know that they do, but the problem is when they remain that way. Paul writes, "if a man will not work, he shall not eat". Paul says, "when we were with you we worked day and night to support ourselves, never mind the fact that we had the right to get paid by you, but to be an example, we didn't take a dime, worked to support ourselves".  Paul is saying, "there's no excuse", these men need to learn to work and give to the church instead of being idle and just taking, taking all the time.  Paul writes, "let them settle down and earn the bread they eat".  I have not listened to Paul and wasted years working with idle men that would not work, would not contribute to the church financially. They were idle, busy-bodies and took the most, but gave the least and where are they today, they surely are not in the church. Perhaps I failed them by encouraging them in their ways rather than make them feel ashamed. The presence of such men will stifle the growth and motivation of other men in the church.  Men coming into the church ought to be introduced to an atmosphere of "manly men". Christian Men are not just men that don't cuss or go to bars, they are men that rise up, step up, take responsibility, work a job and our the best citizens in their communities and a great support to the local church.
     What Christian Men are not, is the men that pass the offering plate by all the time without anything to give, standing at the back of the church always waiting for the free meal, a free ride, a hand out and collect welfare. They are not idle men but working and contributing men.  Idle men are leeches on the church, they will suck the church for every dime it's worth but never give, never tithe, always empty pockets, always idle and always busy-bodies.  And you can be more spiritual than Paul (as I thought I was) but you will learn the hard way.  Paul's advice is, "have nothing to do with them, let them feel ashamed".  Perhaps if I had taken Paul's advice I could have saved some, instead I encouraged them in their idleness, I encouraged them in their "welfare mindset" and "poverty spirit".   Paul says if they feel ashamed maybe they'll change. I agree, we should make such men feel ashamed rather than do the opposite and make them feel like it's okay, it's acceptable, when it is not.  "But they'll leave the church", you say...and I say, "so....."  If we are just looking to fill our churches with anybody, than we ought to serve free meals every Sunday and pay people's utility bills, but Jesus is not trying to just fill churches with bodies. Jesus is calling men out of their former lives, Jesus is calling men to "step up" and become "New Creations", Godly and Holy men and this is what conversion by the Spirit does and when that change has not occurred than what you have is simply a sinner that has found a nice welfare station to sit and squat for a time or you have found a man that refuses to give in to the Holy Spirit's dealing with him. 
     According to scripture, (according to Paul) it is our job to lay the standard down and call men to live up to the standard. It is not a standard to high to reach, it is simply that some have no desire to change and Paul says don't hang around with them, #1, their lazy spirit may catch on to you and 2nd, you're only encouraging them by hanging around with them. Paul does care for them and his hope is that in their being "shamed" they will make an effort to change and if "shame" won't even prod them to change than what hope is their for them?  Leave them alone and hang out with those that are converted, those that are like minded and those that are striving to change and be Christ like. Hard teaching for this politically correct, tolerant to all, generation that we live in, but yet it is God's word and God's wisdom is behind this and if we would take heed, rather than cry out, "cult, cult" we might see more men changed, and in the long run,  more men helped and saved.

Friday, October 14, 2011

OCTOBER 14 "DREAMS...DREAMS.....DREAMS....???:"

      I ONCE had a woman cover over to my house, she wanted to "talk with me", that's always a little nerve wrecking. So I said come on over, my wife is here and we can sit down together,with my wife. Well don't you know she wanted to tell me about her dreams and have me interpret what those dreams meant. Not only what they meant, but what "spiritual" aspect was to be applied.  This is where we get into trouble as Christians; we know as Christians that we are not just functioning in the "natural" but also in the supernatural and we have a hard time knowing where to draw the lines.  Truth is, we will never know "exactly" where to draw the lines, but the New Testament does caution us to discern and "test the spirits", to discern "Prophecy's" and judge them as to whether they be from God or "the delusions of man's own heart".    However this can also lead us down another slippery slope, where the church becomes very cynical to Prophecy's and there is no room for the Holy Spirit to move.  We read that when Mary, the mother of Jesus heard all these "unbelievable" things spoken and prophesied about Jesus, she just treasured them in her heart.  She did not go out and try to make them happen and neither did she change the course of her life because of them. She let God do all that, which He did.  She (Mary) treasured them in her heart.  That's the best we can do with dreams and prophecies.  We want to have a dream and use that dream to catapult us into our "destiny". We will wake up the next morning and quit are jobs, divorce our wives, kick the dog out, sell the house and move up to the mountains to reach.....? How about we store the dream, the prophecy in our memory bank, in our heart and allow God, in his sovereignty to bring about his purposes.  We make horrible amateur providence's. We ought to let God lead us by "divine providence".       If someone prophecies over you, gives you a "word of knowledge" store it away, treasure it in your heart and go on living your life just as you were. If you are going to change anything at all, change the intensity to which you have been pursuing God, to a greater level, you can never lose out doing that!  Do you have dreams, do you want them interpreted? Why?  Do you want a word, do you want a prophecy? Why? The answer...because I want direction, I want clarity of mind, I want to know what I am supposed to do, where I am supposed to be, I'm confused and this would help.  Would it really?
     In our text today, in Jeremiah, God has had it with these so called Prophets, prophesying out of their dreams. Surely the dreams of these men must have seemed spiritual, of some sort, for them to be prompted to prophesy because of them, but in the end, God says, "they are false, their dreams don't mean squat and they are giving the people "false" prophesies. God goes on to say they are prophesying out of their own delusions.  In other words, some of these men are flat out frauds, but even scarier is that some of them think they are prophesying something spiritual, something "right" and something God would have them to speak but yet they are so far off, what they are saying, is actually a lie".  Don't try to find God's path through dreams and prophecies. Yes they have their place but nothing replaces a vital, on-going, vibrant relationship with God when it comes to direction in life. Jesus said, "if you will abide in me I will abide in you" and if we will simply attend to that, God will do the rest, dreams or no dreams, prophecies or no prophecies God will get you to your Jerusalem, you can count on it!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

OCTOBER 13 "MAYBE IT'S TIME TO CHANGE"

     DON'T remind me of who I am or don't try to label me!!! We hate that, when people say, "you've always had a temper"  or whatever it is they try to label on us.  I'm not sure I like being labeled or told "you've always..." however sometimes it's true and cuts like a knife, but then there are times that the individual who voiced his or her opinion is completely wrong in his or her judgement.  I think it's safe to say that if God himself says, "this is how you are and this is how you've always been" then it's time to listen and begin to look introspectively at ourselves. He might just be right!!!  This verse would be quite a shock for any of us to hear, it is Verse 21 in Jeremiah, "21 I warned you when you felt secure, but you said, ‘I will not listen!’ This has been your way from your youth; you have not obeyed me.".   In most cases this is where we would say, "who do you think you are, telling me...." but in this case, it being God, we might just want to listen and take it. This scripture shows us that God has known our ways since our youth, whether we have been living for him or not, He is well acquainted with our ways and He also is not neutral on us but has an opinion of every human on the earth.  What is God's opinion of you and I? His opinion of Abarim is one that Abarim has never listened to Him, one that, since his youth, has never obeyed him.  So that means that since this man was a kid God has been at work in his life.  I would say I always felt this "unseen force" working in my life since I was a kid. My presumption was that "this force" was always working against me, but it was actually God working on my behalf. Jesus describes this to Saul of Tarsus (before he's converted to Paul) as "why do you kick against the goads". In short, why are you fighting me Paul???  In our stubbornness, in our rebellion and disobedience often it is God we are fighting against.  For sure God would look upon my youth and say, "He never obeyed, never listened". I hope that He (God) would look at my life now, as an Adult and say, "He does listen and obey, more than not".  For this individual it is not the case, God says, "you haven't changed one bit. You didn't listen to me when you were a youth and you still don't listen". 
     Maybe it's time to change, maybe it's time to stop being stubborn and rebellious.  Maybe it's time to change God's opinion of us. It's not hard to hear God's voice, it's only hard to listen. If a short time after you yell at and belittle your wife you begin to feel convicted (Holy Spirit) and voice in your conscience says, "then go tell her your sorry and apologize" you can know that's not you speaking.  If you are ripping your employees off and a voice in your conscience says, "stop ripping these people off, they work hard for their money" you can know, that's not your voice but the voice of God.  It is not hard to hear the voice of God, if you want a clue, often times God's voice runs contrary to how we think and what we would do.  In our text, God's voice is saying, 13 “Woe to him who builds his palace by unrighteousness, his upper rooms by injustice, making his own people work for nothing, not paying them for their labor."  It is obvious to the King that this is not his voice but God's voice speaking.  His voice (the King) says, "it is smart to get a head by ripping people off, getting free labor, just because he can.  God's voice is "you're unrighteous, you're not paying these people for their labor".  However, this King will not listen, He has never listened and he never changes.  I've met people like that and I mean, I've met people like that in the church.  They have become somewhat religious and part of the church, but they still have the tendency not to listen to God's voice in key areas and key decisions of their life.  The result is the same result as in our text. I dare to see where they find themselves in their 70's & 80's should Jesus tarry.  Maybe, just maybe, it's time to change. That God would be able to look at our lives and say something differently than what He said about this King. That God would say about us, "he did not listen to me in his youth, but as an Adult he grew up and lived and obedient life and because of such, I blessed him".

Monday, October 10, 2011

OCTOBER 9 "MAYBE BACKSLIDING IS NOT SUCH A GOOD IDEA!"

     IF you've been in the church for any number of years, you will know that "backsliding" is par for the course in the goings on,of the local assembly. There are multitudes that are in and out of the church and cannot make up their minds as to whether or not to give themselves fully to serving God or many others that have out rightly turned away and become apostates & reprobates. As a Christian we can become quite accustomed to this epidemic in the church, but it is no small thing in the eyes of God.  I have heard the scripture "God is married to the backslider" quoted many times, but here is a scripture  I HAVE NEVER heard quoted.  It is not that I haven't heard it quoted in a few years, but rather I have not heard it quoted in 20 something years.  However, it is here, in black and white for us to read today. Verse 7 "You keep on backsliding, so I will lay hands on you and destroy you; I can no longer show compassion".  Will anybody believe me that that's in the bible?
      Knowing God but not serving God is like owning a car and ignoring the; check engine light, thermostat, change oil light, ignoring squeaking brakes and the smoke coming out of your exhaust.  You may be able to say "you own a car" like the rest of us, but eventually your car will break down and you will be walking or mooching rides.  Should you decide one day to now attend to the lights and warnings it will be very costly and your mechanic may advise it is not worth it at this point.  Knowing God and ignoring the Holy Spirit will cause a break down and when and if you do decide to return to the Lord it will be very costly. Now you will not have a mechanic advising you that it is not worth the cost and neither will you have God telling you it's not worth it, but your own conscience may advice you of such.  Yes, it is when someone realizes they can't afford to get on without their car that they finally attempt to fix it but they normally can't afford it.  And most backsliders that realize they cannot get on without God do "attempt" to come back, but normally can't afford (metaphorically speaking) to come back. There is so much to repair it seems futile (although it is never futile).  Later on in our text God says he has, "withdrawn his blessing" well this only compounds the problem.  Credit cards have "compounded interest" in other words, not only are you charged interest on what you have not paid, but the bank then turns around and charges you interest on the interest that they are charging you, making it almost impossible to repay the dept and get back on track. Many have watched a backslider relentlessly try to "get back on track".  Backsliding is plagued with problems from bad decisions but it is compounded by the fact that on top off "self induced" problems, God in the midst of that has also chosen to withdraw his blessing, which only compounds the problems.  Most of us do not realize what it is to step out from under the blessing of God or have his blessing withdrawn, but know this, it is not a pretty site. And so the dilemma of the backslider is not only does he have many problems, much confusion and lack of direction, but he does not have God's covering and in bitterness he now cries out to God and hears no answer, gets no help and this only further induces him/her into his backsliden ways and begins to produce a bitterness in the heart of the individual towards God. Every try to save a marriage where one or both spouses have become bitter against one another?  Ever try to restore a Christian to God who has become bitter towards God?  Why are they bitter towards God...because He has withdrawn his blessing, but why has He done this...because they have not been faithful, but of course they don't see this. Verse 10 "When you tell these people all this and they ask you, 'why has the Lord decreed such a great disaster against us? What wrong have we done? What sin have we committed against the Lord our God?"  This is the problem, backsliders don't see where they have sinned all they see is that God has abandoned them and they do not know why?  They see their sin differently, of course than God sees it.  They see their sin as simply "I have questions"  "I have doubts"  "I struggle" but yet isn't this the plight of most Christians, isn't that the walk we must all walk. We must all press through and fight the fight of faith. We all have questions, we all have unanswered prayers and doubts, but yet we continue to serve God, trust him and obey him, in the midst of all the uncertainty.
     Thank God for every backslider that successfully returns to God and makes it, but truth be known and in line with scripture, most do not.  Better periodic maintenance in your Christian life than to completely let it unravel (for whatever reason and I'm sure there are many) and then try to fix a broken down clunker.  The true backslider has allowed years of neglect affect his relationship with God and that has put him in his apathetic state. The grossly over weight person has years of neglect invested in that weight. Will they ever lose the weight? Some will most don't, it's to hard hill to climb. You may want to try climbing some smaller hills before attempt to climb Mt. Everest.  If they had tackled their weight problem when it was 10-20 lbs they, with much work could have done it, but now it's 50-100lbs and most are past the point of no return, sadly enough. Will most ever restore that neglected car? No, most won't be able to, they will trade it in for almost nothing and try to start new. Will most backsliders make it back? No, most will not, but a few will.     Maybe backsliding is not such a good idea after all. Maybe dealing with issues while they are still small and manageable is really what God expects out of us, in life. Deal with the relationship before it escalates to the point of no return, deal with the debt before it escalates to the point of no return, deal with your weight before you reach the point of no return and last but not least, deal with the spiritual issues that resonate in your heart, before they grow beyond with what you can cope or come back from. Don't linger in your backsliden state because both you and God may reach a point where one of you says, THAT'S ITVerse 6 " You keep on backsliding.....I can no longer show compassion".  Many may be upset with this post, because it does not give a lot of hope (and we are always supposed to give a lot of hope) but perhaps this is post/blog is more to warn those that are heading down that path, rather than to try to reach out to those that have already made the decision to go down that path. We will have far more success in averting backsliders than we will trying to go out and brings those back that are already backslidden just as we would have much more success in finding people that are only 5-10 lbs over weight and getting them into shape than trying to find someone who is already obese and trying to convince them they can lose 50-100lbs.  God has done everything to save us and he has left only one thing to us, and even that we cannot do, and that is simply for us to maintain and upkeep the relationship with him that he did everything to initiate and start up. We did nothing to be saved, even the Faith we had to believe "unto salvation" was given from him, and then He says, "now abide in me....." and we cannot even muster the strength, resolve or fortitude to do that. It is a sad state of affairs, the human heart, isn't it!

Friday, October 7, 2011

OCTOBER 7 "WILL A MIRACLE REALLY WORK?"

     "IN spite of all this they kept on sinning; in spite of his wonders, they did not believe."  As we have learned (I hope) with our children, spoiling them and showering them with gifts does not lead them to love, respect and obey us.  God himself has seen that giving people what they want and working miracles in their midst has not converted their hearts, one iota! Question to ask then is this,  "if  God spoiling and doing miracles doesn't change a sinner's heart, what does?  Isn't that what we pray for, for God to do a miracle in a family member, whether it be a financial miracle or a miracle healing of a fatal disease.  Then we and the family member, that we were praying for, witness for ourselves this prayer answered, the miracle happens, they are healed or receive a miraculous blessing and we think now they will "get saved" and serve God, but yet to our amazement, they do not!
     What are you praying for, concerning your family, co-workers and friends?  Are you praying that God would do a miracle in their lives; that they would know that He is real, that He really does exist, is this what they need?  I know in my own experience the miracles came after I surrendered my life to Jesus, not before. I read today of an anti-religious poster an atheist put up at my friend's work place, it said "funny if you're an individual who believes in an invisible person you call him crazy, but if you can get many people to believe in that invisible person you call it "Religion".  Pretty witty, I must say!  Only problem is God is not invisible to the millions He has chosen to reveal himself too.  If God is invisible, He's only invisible to those whom he chooses to make himself invisible to.  I have seen God many times.  I saw God when my wife's enormous cyst on her wrist, after prayer to the "invisible God" completely vanished away and all pain along with it went away.  I saw God when my son's leg grew out a quarter of an inch and he saw and felt it too.  I could go on and on about how many times I have seen "the invisible God" but unfortunately to many, I saw God after I made a decision to repent. Even Jesus said, "you sinful and adulterous generation, you want to see a miracle to beleive and the only miracle you're going to get is so as Jonah was in the belly of a whale, 3 days and 3 nights so will the Son of Man be ......"  in other words, Jesus was saying the only miracle the unrepentant will get is Jesus Christ dieing on the cross (for them) and raising from the dead. Once the unbeliever can appropriate this to their life, then the confirming miracles will follow.  The angel explains to the rich man in Sheol that even if someone was to rise from the dead and appear to them (unsaved family) they would not repent.
     In our text we see that God has gone out of his way to cater to these people, but yet their hearts have not changed. It is not the miracles that convert, it is the miracles that keep us, after we convert.  So what causes a man and/or woman to convert, that is a mystery.  Why there are two thieves on a cross, both witness the same miracle of Jesus Christ, one repents, converts and the other man's heart only hardens more.  Two people can witness the same miracle, yet one converts and the other does not.  If all it took was miracles to convert, the church of Jesus Christ would be exploding with growth. Conversion is an issue of the heart and why one heart repents at the sight of God's miracles and another heart does not, only God knows.  We can say the difference is "one chose to believe and the other chose not to" but if this is the case than we can take credit for our salvation and the bible says we cannot take any.  The bible says even the faith we had to believe was given to us by God.  Thence, salvation is a mystery that remains with God, but we know one thing for sure, from our text, that God has tried in the past, to lavish humanity with miracles in hopes that they would turn from their sins, believe in him and serve him, but they have not. So if you're praying for God to reveal yourself to your unsaved family, friends and/or co-worker, through a big, great miracle, you may want to re-consider your prayer or you may be disappointed when the miracle comes and yet they do not convert.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

OCTOBER 6 "STEVE JOBS A MORTAL BEING?"

     STEVE JOBS 1955-2011,  No doubt Mr. Job's life was cut short, 56 years old.  People die everyday, every hour, every minute, but there is something sobering when the powerful and elite of this world pass on.  It is a reminder to each and everyone of us that we are all mortal beings and that one day, no matter how famous and powerful we are, we will pass on in to eternity just like those before us. No matter how rich and powerful we are, we cannot buy immortality and sometimes we cannot even buy health.  Steve Jobs, one of the most innovative individuals of the 21st Century has passed on to meet his maker and now what does the future hold for Steve Jobs?  I was reading today in the book of Colossians and I was thinking about death and having to face God one day, Paul writes, 13 When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you[d] alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, 14 having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross. 15 At the end of the day this is what will matter more than anything else.  I may yearn for fame (if we will be honest many do), I may yearn for success and achievement, for prosperity and power, but it may not be attainable for me in this life (for one reason or another) but Salvation is something (for one reason or another) that I and many others have apprehend or perhaps it has apprehended us. It may seem insignificant today as you look at your bank account, your lack of success and your lack of fame, but one day, it will MEAN EVERYTHING. Steve Jobs we can say changed the world. The iphone, ipod, ipad, and i-everything in between, has changed how we view communication and technology. He accomplished what many would only dream of. He ascended to the TOP.  He was one of the richest and most influential men in the world, but now he's in eternity, now his influence is over, and of course so is his power & prestige. Now he dwells with the rest of the mortal souls that have gone before him and the most critical factor now will be, was he forgiven, was his indebtedness canceled, were his sins taken away, was his name written in the Lambs Book of Life.  Now more than anything this will determine the rest of his life in eternity.  For 56 short years on earth, he still has a quadzillion years to live in eternity. His 56 years of prominence on earth will be but a blimp on the radar screen of his life, in light of eternity.
     You may be living a life of what seems like total insignificance. Your name is not known anywhere, but within your small sphere of family and friends. You struggle financially, you are not a raging success, you are not a mover and shaker and sometimes (okay, allot of times) that can leave you and I feeling quite discontented with life, but don't succumb to a false ideaology that what matters is our fame and prominence in this life, because it is not.  As Steve stands before God right now, if he is not right with God, there will be peasants, nobodies, that Steve would give his billions to, in order to trade places with them. If we are peasants and nobodies on the earth, it is merely a disguise, for we are really sons & heirs to the richest and most poweful King and Kingdom that ever existed and it is just a short time that it is revealed to all and that we reap the benefits! Be patient, be content and most of all, be greatful that you are not one of the mighty of this world. For I would dare say, that very, very few of the mighty, successful and powerful billionaires of this world, will be mighty in the next. "Do not grow weary in well doing, for you shall reap in due season, if you do not faint (give up)", that is OUR PROMSIE, hold on to it!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

OCTOBER 1 "CHURCH & CHRISTIAN BASHING"

     I AM appalled too at the lack of support within the church.  Verse 5, "I looked, but there was no one to help, I was appalled that no one gave support". Often in the church this is the case, you look for support in a Godly endeavor and are surprised when nobody signs up or shows up.  It is always interesting to watch a young zealot announce his event, outreach, actiivity and only to find out that not so many shared his enthusiasm.  There is a book that is a good read, it is called, "What happend to the other 80%" and this is speaking about the 80% of the church, obviously the majority, that finds itself totally uninvolved in the affairs and functions of the church.  Yes I am appalled too and so is every layman, Pastor and disciple that is trying to do his best. However, we must also be careful against the enemy's strategy to disparage us against "The Church".  What I am noticing of late, is a trend of Church and Christian bashing, that is coming not from the outside world, but from within the church.  We are beginning to turn on ourselves and as I'm sure we all know, "no kingdom divided against itself will stand".  Christian books, sermons and conferences today, seem to spend a whole lot of time critisizing and bashing the Church. We know the Church is flawed, it has always been flawed and wills always be until Jesus' return. Church bashing other churches and Christians bashing other Christians is not going to advance God's Kingdom nor is it going to be a remedy to a flawed church and what good are we going to get out of it.  The rhetoric today is, "the church is apathetic, the church is lukewarm, Christians are carnal, Christians are not rising up, Christians aren't doing anything, we're cowards, we're not the father's we should be, we're not the mother's we should be, and we could go on and on...and we do, but I believe the enemy will exploit this to our demise.
     If we behaved like this in our marriages we would ALL be divorced and if not divorced we would have miserable marriages.  IN a marriage you have to de-focus from the negatives and focus on the positives in your spouse, otherwise......Surely Christians, surely the Church is doing something right? This is a rhetorical question because I know we are! There is some tremendous Christians out there, raising Godly children and being a the "salt of the earth" and a great testimony in their community and there is some tremendous churches out there doing their best to be "the Light on The Hill".  We still have couples "forsaking all" to be missionaries, we still have Children rising up and taking the mantle to the next level, we still have ministries forming, souls getting saved and lives being changed. Christians are impacting the radio, the media, the movies and are writing top selling books and novels. Christians are rising up in politics, speaking out in town hall meetings and making progress. 
     Could the church be doing more, of course.  Could the balance in the church be a little better than 80/20, could be much better (after all, where are the other 80% and what are they doing?), but if we choose to turn on each other and get into this trend of Christians bashing Christians than what good can come out of that? We already have the world against us, we already have the Prince of this World against us, the media against us, often the government against us...are we now going to turn on each other too?  And if we bash other Christians that can only lead to one conclusion and that is that we are saying, "we are better". And it seems that every church and every Christian seems to think they are better than the one next door or down the street.  Could it be that neither is better?  Could it be that each church and each Christian has their flaws and their positives? Could it be that we are all flawed vessels but yet God chooses to work through us. Not just through one church or one group of Christians but God chooses to work through all of us collectively.
     Remember when the disciples were with Jesus and they saw "another" group of disciples that were not part of their group, and what did they say?"  If only they had said, "Praise God Lord, look, other men doing a work for our Heavenly Father and advancing his Kingdom on the Earth" However they did not say that! What did they say..."Lord, look at those men over there, what do they think they're doing, do you want us to go over there and stop them!"  And of course Jesus said, "no! leave them alone, for he that is not against us is with us".  We must never forget those words!  We are standing around bashing those that are on our side simply trying to do a work for God and we, like the disciples, are prejudiced against any other group, than ours, that is trying to do something for God. God is much bigger than our little organization, our little church and our little group. God is doing a work in the earth and he is using various churches, various denominations, various Pastors and Leaders and various countries to do it and it's time to put aside our prejudices and stop bashing each other, "for he that is not against us, is with us". There is a whole harvest of souls out there to be reaped, let's not waste are time criticizing the methods of the church or christian next door or down the street and focus rather on the person down the street or next door, that does not know, nor has ever experienced, the Saving Love and Grace, of Jesus Christ.  And ALL God's people said....AMEN!

SEPTEMBER 29 "WASTED FAST...WHAT COULD BE WORSE?"

   WHAT could be worse than a wasted fast?  I can't think of anything worse! For all the agony and deprivation of the flesh, at least we can (or should) have the comfort that there will be great benefits, dividends, to come our way..or perhaps not!  According to our text these folks have fasted "for nothing".  God goes on to say, through Isaiah, "You cannot fast as you do today and expect your voice to be heard", ughhh we can't?!!  This is revelation to these people, can you just hear them asking, "why, why can't we, what's wrong with our fast?" I wonder how much "religious activity" we do as Christians that is simply, at best being ignored by God or at worse, flat out annoying him. I wonder how much spiritual calisthenics we do that God that He would turn around and say to us, "you're wasting your time".  God is trying to bring us to the place where we ask ourselves, "why are we doing what we are doing?"  Because often, we can lose sight of it or those that come in after us have never really been enlightened as to why we do what we do they just simply follow suit and what once had tremendous meaning and impact is now just a religious exercise.  I once asked my mother as a young boy being forced to go to Catholic Mass every Sunday, "mom, why do we go to church every Sunday" and her answer was simply "because that's what we do, that's what we've always done". Unfortunately that answer wasn't good enough for me and as soon as I was old enough to stop going, I did and eventually our whole family stopped attending.  Are you ready to answer to your kids or anybody else that would challenge you and ask you, "why do you do ______ " There comes a point where we need to go back to our roots and probe and ask, "why are we doing what we are doing" because if we don't we will find ourselves doing things that would seem to have spiritual relevance but in the eyes of God we are wasting our time.       One of our lead Pastors in our Fellowship would always take off his shoes to pray and next thing you knew all his disciples started taking off their shoes when they prayed. Perhaps some reasoned that this probably had to do with God asking Moses to take off his sandals, "for this is holy ground", but nobody really knew for sure why they were taking off their shoes. Eventually he noticed this pattern and to diffuse all the misunderstandings and controversy he explained the purpose of his taking off his shoes. He explained that he often prays on this knees and he began to notice that the tips of all his shoes were beginning to curl up and be ruined, so to prevent the ruining of his shoes he began to take them off; there was no spiritual aspect, what so ever to the "taking off of shoes" but yet there was a multitude of men that were taking off their shoes to pray and not having a clue why they were doing what they were doing.
     If we are not careful this can become us, doing "something" but not knowing why, but thinking we are being spiritual and who can afford to waste time doing spiritual exercises that God is not honoring? I know I cannot.  I do not have the time to waste nor do I have the spiritual aptitude to be able to be doing stuff that God is not honoring. I cannot afford to have God ignore my fasts, I cannot afford to have God ignore my prayers, I cannot afford to have my wheels spinning and going nowhere spiritually.      God is trying to break us out of our habits and rituals and bring us back to a place of relationship. So easily, as humans, do we let activity and habits substitute relationship. Even prayer can turn into a vain exercise if it simply has become a habit. We can be in our place of prayer and simply be mumbling away, speaking repetitiously, minds wandering, same rout prayer every day and then walk away thinking we have prayed and touched God, but we have not. We have not met with God that morning, we have simply met with our mindless habit we have called prayer.  We must allow God to get through at times and break us out of our routine, habits and spiritual exercises.   I need what I am doing for God to count, to count for him and to count for my spiritual welfare.  I need to know what I'm doing, why I'm doing it and what I intend to get out of it or what I intend for God to bring out of it.  As the Apostle Paul said, "we are not beating the air aimlessly, as one swinging in the air". We are aiming to hit something! We are not doing "stuff" just to be doing stuff  (I hope). What we are doing we are doing that it will have impact, whether that be in our lives or in somebody else's, let it have impact.