Wednesday, November 30, 2011

NOVEMBER 30 "IS ALL REVELATION FOR SHARING?"

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

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

NOVEMBER 23 "IGNORANCE IS BLISS"

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

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

NOVEMBER 22 "WHEN THE HOLY BECOMES UNHOLY"

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

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

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

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

Saturday, November 12, 2011

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

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

Friday, November 11, 2011

NOVEMBER 11 "NEVER GOT AWAY WITH NOTHING"

     MY guess is that many people reading this blog will have, perhaps 2 things in common.  #1. They often wondered "there's got to be more to life than this" and # 2.  They wondered, "why do I never get away with anything, but my friends and others always seem to get away with stuff??".  I do not have a perfectly vivid memory about my childhood, but I do remember this, "I never got away with anything".  I remember this one incident in elementary school, 6th grade, we were running up the stairs, trying to be first as always (everything was a race) and this one kid is pushing me, pulling on me and driving me nuts.  I was always one to keep my cool (unlike other kids in my grade) and I did not fight or cause trouble often, but the one time I decide "I'm not going to hold back".  I just stopped, grabbed the kid and pushed him off of me, he went backwards, hit his head up against a brick wall, cracked it and his head started bleeding pretty bad.  It was a big ordeal, as you can imagine.  All I did was push a kid, which was common with boys in elementary school. Kids would fight in the school yard, pounce on each other and then get in line after recess and nothing happened.  I pushed a kid, and he cracks his skull, principal's office, threats of being sued, accused of assault, kids parent's at school....it was drama!  Being bad, sinning, rebelling has always been drama for me, how about you?
     In our text, in Ezekiel in the last sentence, verse 49, we read "You will suffer the penalty....and bear the consequences of your sins .....then you will know that I am the Sovereign Lord".  Most of my friends (whom I envied) who seemed to always get away "with stuff" are still getting away with stuff and you know what....they also "do not know" God.  In our text God reveals something to us, that the purpose of us not getting away with stuff is for the very purpose of knowing God.  Perhaps God's leadings, his guiding us into his arm is set up from his sovereign workings in our lives, making sure we do suffer the penalty and consequences of our sins.  In God's eyes, nothing could be worse than for us to be able to get away with our sins, dishonesty, rebelliousness and wayward ways.  Had the "Prodigal Son" succeeded in his quest to venture out (and some do) he would not have returned to the Father (symbolic of God). It was him suffering the penalty and bearing the consequences of his decisions that opened him up to salvation.
     I used to think my friends were lucky and I was not.  I thought I had "bad luck" because things did not pan out for me as well as my friends.  When my friends stole, they got away with it and I saw what a great benefit it was to "steal", you get what you want and for free, "how great is that". However when I stole, a badge was flashed in my face, I was chased down, caught and suffered the consequences. My parents were called,  a record was made of me in that store, it was a mess and quite embarrassing!  "Why me?", I thought.  Why can I not get away with nothing?  In hindsight, I can see these were the sovereign workings of God, making sure I did not get away with my sin, slowly but surely bringing me to a place, one day, that according to our text "Then you will know that I am the Sovereign Lord".   Today, I don't consider myself "unlucky" in the least, I consider myself blessed.  The unsaved, the ungodly now continually look to me and call me "lucky".  How many times have I heard, " You are so lucky, things always seem to work out for you".  Interestingly, they don't realize they are quoting Romans 8:28 and they don't even know it.  Interestingly enough, they don't realize that there was a day when my friends considered me "unlucky".  I didn't get away with nothing, if things could go wrong, they did. I always felt like I was going against some unseen, supernatural force.....and you know what, I was!  And that unseen, supernatural force was God himself, driving me, directing me, into a place of repentance.  This is only brought out more and further clarified when God knocks Saul of Tarsus of his horse and says to him, "why do you kick against the goad"?  In other words, "why are you fighting against this force that you feel apposing you?".  Paul also felt this force that seemed to be fighting against him, but he, just like I, and just like you never realized it was God's workings in his life and he too came to repentance and came to the place in our text "Then you will know that I am the Sovereign Lord". Thank God today that these two elements were at work in you, #1. That you wondered if there was more to life and # 2. Why you never got away with stuff, these were the wonder working, providential dealings of God, in your life, bringing you to a place, one day, where you would turn from your sins and turn to him, to come to know that he is The Sovereign Lord and that this was his masterful plan, from before you were even born.  In Jeremiah we read, "for I knew you before you were formed in your mother's womb, before you were born, I had "called" you and "appointed" you."  It takes us a while to get it. It takes us a while to come around, but thank God for his persistent and getting us to realize, that unlike many others, God has not called us to prosper in this world and get a way with our sin, but he has called us to a better life, not having to get away with our sin, but rather to be set free from our sin, forgiven of our sin (can't be forgiven if you are getting away with it) free to serve him and prosper in his Kingdom.  Those that are getting away with their sin and seem to be prospering, those that, at times, if we will be honest, we can envy, they will one day be left in this world and we will be taken away and who will be glad on that day, that they "got away with their sin"  or we "who got caught, suffered the consequences and repented, were able to be forgiven, have our conscience cleared and be set free!?".  I think the answer is clear, dont' you!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

NOVEMBER 9 "WHAT DO YOU REALLY WANT FROM GOD?"

     I was once in a morning prayer meeting at our church with a few other Christians, when I saw a young boy approaching me.  He bypassed everybody else in the room and came directly to me and said, "my mom needs help getting her car started".  Then he stood there just waiting for me to jump to my feet and help. My first thought was, "who in the world are you?" Then, people in the room began looking at me to see how I was going to respond to this stranger. The second thought that came to me was "why in the world am I being summoned to go help a woman start her car when I can barely change a flat tire?".  I walked outside with the boy and asked him where he lived, he pointed his house out to me....and then I remembered who he was.  I had outreached that neighborhood a month prior and had spoken to the little boy and his sister about coming to church and about God.  The boy, his sister, nor his mother had ever come out, but now, that there was a need, that same boy was coming back to the "good Christian man" to help his mother out. The boy told me, "the car won't start" and so my quick response was, "well I don't have cables so unless your mom has cable...."  and he interrupted me and told, "she has cables".  I honestly was hoping she did not have cables and that was going to be the end of that episode.  So I approached the car and introduced myself to the mother, grabbed her cables and attached them to my car and tried to boost her battery.  I told her I felt for her predicament and God really did want to help her out (single mom with 4 kids living in a very, very small apartment). I asked her if she went to church and she said no, but her kids went.  I already knew her kids went from my previous encounter with them, some Baptist Church down the way that sends a bus around to pick up kids.  I explained to her that that was nice but she, being the mom, was the one that needed to go.  Then she told me her boyfriend (her live in boyfriend) had mentioned coming to our church, but they never got around to it.  I must admit, I was a little harsh in my witness, as I explained to her that her children needed a father, a man committed to their mother, not some live in boyfriend and I asked her what happened when it didn't work out with him, would a new boyfriend move in? I explained to her that God was not able to help her because of her sin. I quoted to her from Isaiah 59 "it's not that God's arm is to short, neither his ear to dull to hear, but it is your sins that separate you from God".  How can God honor your prayers if you want to continue to live in sin.  To my amazement, in the middle of my witness, she took the initiative to take the cables off the battery herself (once the car started) and commenced to take off.  In short, she was done with me. She knew what she wanted and she got it and had no desire for anything more, no interest in anything I had to say from that point on. She knew where to go when she needed help, (the church/God) and now that she was helped and able to move on that is exactly what she was going to do.  I felt used....and the reason I felt used is.....because I had been used!  Here is a church, that is spitting distance from this woman's house and yet she has never visited once, but when she needed help she knew where to send her son.  "Those good Christian folks, they'll help me out, at least they better, that's their duty isn't it, to help poor people like me", she thought to herself.
     So what does this have to do with our text?  In the text written in Ezekiel, the people randomly, for one reason or another (not mentioned because it doesn't really matter) decide they want to inquire of God.  God should have been honoured and jumped at the opportunity, but He does not, instead God says, " This is what the Sovereign LORD says: Have you come to inquire of me? As surely as I live, I will not let you inquire of me, declares the Sovereign LORD."
     Then God proceeds to tell Ezekiel  4 “Will you judge them? Will you judge them, son of man? Then confront them..."  Perhaps Ezekiel thought as I did, "Lord, now is not the best time to confront them, after all, at least they're seeking you for help right now?"  After reading today's text, I thought, "perhaps my witness was not as harsh as I thought?" It is not my style to be harsh and I don't think often this is the best approach, but this morning, without giving it a thought, I began immediately to confront this women about her sin, even though I had never met her before and to my surprise, she was very stiff and hard. She did not melt down or seem the least bit remorseful.  I don't know this woman's history, but I have to think that this was not the first time God tried to reach this women and get through to her.
     The question is, what is it that you want from God, what is it that you want from the church? Do you see the Church as just another welfare program instituted to help you and your struggling life get by.  Do you see the people in "The Church" as just a bunch of social workers assigned to help you with your needs?  What is it that you want from God?  It is human nature to try to manipulate and exploit. Is there a chance that you are in the local church, you are serving God but deep down there resides a tendency to try to exploit your Christianity. If God stops "blessing your socks off" and "answering every prayer" will you continue to serve him and continue to serve in the body of Christ with a good attitude? If you are passed up for "promotion" in the church will you continue on to serve God and serve the local body?  What is it that you want from your church? What is it that the church is not doing for you that is beginning to upset you and cause resent the people in your church?  How close are you to leaving "The Church" because they're not doing what they should for you and your family?  And next, how close are you to leaving God because He's not doing what He should for you and your family?  I believe this is a trap of the enemy and the best traps are the traps that look as real as the natural surroundings. We know that God is a helper and we know that The Church should also be a great place of help for the struggling, but if we are not careful, we, just like the woman this morning and the people in Ezekiel's day, can just begin to see God and The Church as a place of getting needs met and if we are not careful we allow the enemy to get us trapped in tunnel vision where all we see is the Church and God as a one stop shop for us, for our needs and thence, we have long strayed from the altruistic heart/mindset of not "what do I want from the church and God" but what does God and the Church want from me?  When the latter question is what is on the forefront of our hearts and minds, we excel as Christians; however when the former question is what is on the forefront of our hearts and minds, we stray, become narcissistic and if not corrected, eventually leave The Church and if not correct from there, eventually leave God.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

NOVEMBER 5 "EYES TO SEE"

     AS we function in a natural world we can begin to view Christianity as a natural process, we can begin to view salvation as a logical decision.  Although, in many ways "salvation" is a logical decision, it is anything but logical to the natural or carnal mind.  The verse in Ezekiel is a common verse through out the bible, "they have eyes to see but they do not see and ears to hear but do not hear".   Isaiah also spoke these words and so did Jesus in quoting Isaiah say,  14 In them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah:  “‘You will be ever hearing but never understanding; you will be ever seeing but never perceiving. 15 For this people’s heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them.’[a] 16 But blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear."  How many times have we found ourselves rattling around in our minds, different scenarios in which we may present the Gospel; that it would be irrefutable to the hearer.  The only problem is, your "hearer" for which you have spent many sleepless nights preparing....can't hear a word you are saying, no matter how logical and persuasive you are.  Jesus said, "count yourself blessed, that you see and hear".  Now Jesus doesn't mean this in the literal sense, He means it in the Spiritual sense.
     How frustrated we can become "trying to save people" however there is not one command that ever left Jesus' mouth, that speaks of saving anyone. We are human and we will get emotionally involved and we will relentlessly try to persuade (even the Apostle Paul admits to this) but we must always come back to the realization that Jesus us gave us the simple command to "preach The Gospel".  Whom that seed flourishes in and whom it doesn't, is in God's hands, but the problem is we don't accept that.  We choose for ourselves those that are going to be saved (of course we don't admit that).  WE choose that it will be our siblings, friends, families and of course, our kids; and we become quite frustrated when the random drug addict walks into the church and hears the Gospel for the first time and is gloriously converted while those that we have so cleverly and faithfully tried to persuade are still not  not converted, but only harder, than ever, towards The Gospel.
     We run into even more trouble when we cut people out of our lives and allow resentment to work in to that relationship because they have rejected our clever persuasion and presentation of The Gospel. Why are we angry at them?  Why are we angry at them for being blind and deaf?  They are not hearing what you're saying and they cannot see what you see, why are you becoming resentful towards them?  The answer is because of your sinful nature. How many times in the car or outside to we try to point out some awesome thing to our friend and he cannot see it and then the moment has passed and we become angry with him, "what's wrong with you, it was right there, I don't know why you couldn't see it!", we say.  The individual who is the victim of our wrath is amazed at how angry with are with him for not seeing our "great and awesome sight".  That individual thinks to himself, "it's not as if I intentionally tried not to see what he was pointing out, for one reason or another I just didn't see it, don't know why he's so mad at me".   And we function the same way with The Gospel.  We get so angry with those who "just don't get it".  We get so angry we become resentful towards them (as if we understood the Gospel from birth ourselves) that the relationship deteriorates over this and you have to ask yourself,..."what good will that do?"
     Our job is to be Christian, to continue to love them just as Christ loved us when we were the objects of his wrath. Our job is to keep the communication lines open, our job is to continue to gently and patiently teach as opportunities arise and then, leave the results with The Holy Spirit. I believe the strategy of The Devil is to exploit our flesh and ego's into thinking we are the converters and getting us in to a place where we begin to measure our results and then determine it's not working and quit speaking, quit trying to explain and quit trying to even be a vessel God can move through.  Then what? Then we are no longer "salt to the earth" are we?  And what did Jesus say, "what good is salt if it loses it's flavour but to be thrown out and trampled upon".   Don't wear the yoke upon your shoulders of trying to "save people", but simply preach and teach and allow God to open up the eyes of the blind and the ears of the deaf.  In doing this you will find yourself a lot less frustrated and a lot more fruitful and don't ever forget "blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear."

Thursday, November 3, 2011

NOVEMBER 3 DO YOU HAVE "THE MARK?"

     IF this is not what we already knew, at least deep down in our conscience, now it has been confirmed in by Ezekiel. And what is that you ask?  That God looks through our little, secret doors and chambers and sees everything we do in secret.  "Then he brought me to the entrance to the court. I looked, and I saw a hole in the wall...Go in and see the wicked and detestable things they are doing here.... He said to me, “Son of man, have you seen what the elders of Israel are doing in the darkness, each at the shrine of his own idol? They say, ‘The LORD does not see us..."  However this only confirms what we subconsciously repress and that is....we are not getting away with nothing.
And along with the "not getting away with nothing" comes the Doom & Gloom. Yes this is quite a doomsday scripture to read today and I do mean that quite literally "Disaster! Unheard-of[a] disaster! See, it comes! 6 The end has come! The end has come! It has roused itself against you. See, it comes! Doom has come upon you..."
     Well....is God a destroyer, a Judgor, a killer? Yes, He can be, but in the midst of Judging, destroying and killing God always saves room to spare the penitent. This is consistent with God through out the whole Bible, Genesis to Revelation. The scary part is that God does peek into the windows and doors of our hearts and He does see us practicing things we ought not to practice. God not only judges what we do, whether it be right or wrong, but also whether or not are motives were pure.  This does not leave much hope for any of us except for the fact that immediately following our reading of doom & gloom in Ezekiel we turn to read in Hebrews about the covering of the Priests for our sins...phew!!! We also know that our priest is Jesus Christ himself and if it were not for the shedding of his blood for us, as our high priest, it would be doom & gloom because surely nobody would make it to Heaven. Did God plan it out that as we read so gloomily about his judgement in Ezekiel that we would turn and then read in Hebrews about his covering for our sins, about Grace? The answer to that question is irrelevant because whether it is planned like that or not, we know that it is true.  Even in Ezekiel's doom and gloom there is Grace. 5 As I listened, he said to the others, “Follow him through the city and kill, without showing pity or compassion. 6 Slaughter the old men, the young men and women, the mothers and children, but do not touch anyone who has the mark.
And who are the ones that had the mark?  “Go throughout the city of Jerusalem and put a mark on the foreheads of those who grieve and lament over all the detestable things that are done in it.”
This is very similar to what John writes in revelations: Revelation 9:4They were told not to harm the grass of the earth or any plant or tree, but only those people who did not have the seal of God on their foreheads.  And of course this is all reminiscent of the Passover in the book of Exodus where the Angel "The destroyer" went over every home and destroyed, killed every first born, but passed over the homes that had "The Mark" over the door post/frames of their homes.  What was the mark?  The Blood of The Lamb.  Who had the mark?  The same group that had the mark in Ezekiel's day and the same group that have the Mark in the book of Revelations....thousands of years apart but yet they are all spared God's judgment, from Old Testament to New Testament and who is the group that has the Mark, whether Old or New Testament?  They are those that fear God. It is those that grieve and lament over all the detestable things that are being done".  
     People say that it seems like God changed somewhere between Malachi & Matthew; as if God himself got saved in between the Old & New Testament.  I believe people say this in ignorance.  God has always been more than willing, whether in the Old or New Testament, to have mercy, show Grace & Compassion to the penitent of heart. His judgment in the New Testament seems absent, but it is not absent it is only being held off for a "short time" and when it is unleashed it will make the Old Testament judgment, doom & gloom, seem like Disney Land.  And in the New, just like the Old, those that will be spared with be those with "The Mark".  Question is...do you have "The Mark?"  Often when we think about "The Mark" we think about the mark of the beast, the number 666 that is put on our right hand or forehead, but remember, God is the originator of "The Mark" and the Devil is just a counterfeit of all that God does.  Many people are obsessed with not having the Devil's mark, but the question is "do you have God's Mark upon your life?" When God's judgement is unleashed in the earth, will He pass over you?  Yes God peeks inside our secret chambers and doors and sees all, but there is Grace & Forgiveness if we seek it. The blood of bulls and sheep He does not want, but a broken and contrite spirit He will not despise (turn away).