Saturday, October 31, 2015

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 30, 2015

OCTOBER 30 "DO YOU LOVE ANGELS!?"

Do you love Angels?  Apparently, you're not the only one! The writer of Hebrews takes a whole chapter to dismantle, for the Gospel's sake, the worship of Angels. As one man famously quoted, "the more things change they more they remain the same." Here we are, a couple of thousand years later, still having to deal with this issue, of worshiping Angels, in the church.  We love Angels, they're beautiful (not sure how we know this?), they have wings, they fly and best of all, they don't judge. God, he's the boss, the mean guy! Angels, just help and do good. People who have a love affair with Angels, often are not that knowledgeable
of the Bible. Angels may be beautiful and only there to help, but if you read Revelations, they judge (by God's decree) and kill worse than any villain in Hollywood. The Catholics like to worship Mary and Saints, Christians like to worship Angels. Each religion has their own demi-gods that they set up for themselves, rather than go to God himself. Jesus himself is the mediator between God and man, not Mary, not Saints, and not Angels. "I don't feel comfortable going to Jesus, why can't I just go through Mary, Angels or......".  The question is, "why don't you feel comfortable going through Jesus? Why do we avoid authority?  Why do we avoid the boss at work, the principle at school, the Pastor at the front door on Sundays?" Normally there is a reason.  Santa Clause is a distraction from Jesus on his birth. Easter Bunny is a distraction from Jesus on his Victorious Resurrection and Angels are another distraction from a relationship with the Savior Himself. We used to have a woman that would come out to church we her Angel lapel. She never came out to church without it and always had stories of Angels for us and the little kids. She would get the kids to kiss her Angel lapel. She would also talk to me about Angels and I would politely listen and try, like the author in Hebrews, to play down her worship of Angels and point her towards Jesus. I was never quite successful in that endeavor. I wonder if the author in Hebrews had more success? I once lost my wallet and the person I was with suggested we pray to Saint Antony to help us find it. I asked, "could we also pray to Jesus himself to help us find it, after all, He is God, I think He could probably do a decent job too".  The answer was, "well, of course you can, but He may be busy with other stuff, why trouble  Him for the small stuff, just pray to Saint Antony, don't' be difficult!"  Why trouble Jesus with the small stuff? Well # 1, because He told us to and # 2 because nowhere in the Bible does it mention praying to Saint Antony for lost artifacts. Once again, people who are often distracted by religious decoys are often people who are ignorant of The Word of God. In short, our scripture today is simply telling us to "stop worshiping Angels and putting them in a place of preeminence above our Lord and Savior, Jesus. Not just Angels, but Mary, Saints, Santa, Easter Bunny and whatever else we are lured into to draw us away from the one that the Holy Spirit is trying to lure us to, each and every day and that is Jesus, a name above all names, our mediator, our lawyer, our defender, a friend that sticks closer than a brother, a father to the fatherless, a comforter to the widow, the healer of the broken heart, HE IS the one we should go to, there is no other and if there was, there would still be no better, than Jesus, to go to in our time of need, affliction, distress and/or comfort. "Come to me, all you that are heavy burdened down"  Come to me, Jesus says, not a decoy, not an idol, not a lessor god, false god or Mary, Saint or Angel, but COME TO ME!

Thursday, October 29, 2015

OCTOBER 29 "DO YOU WANT TO KNOW THE FUTURE?"

The scripture in Lamentations today makes me think of how ironic it is, that we so desperately want to know our future, but then again, we give no thought to our future, it's a complete contradiction of who we are. And this is who we are, as people, we constantly contradict ourselves. We say "this is what I want" but then turn around and do actions that our in complete contrast to what we said the previous day.....that we wanted. She defiled herself with immorality and gave no thought to her future. Now she lies in the gutter with no one to lift her out.  She gave NO THOUGHT to her future. All we think about is our future, but this text says, "she gave no thought to her future", so which is it? Do we think about our future or do we not think about our future. It's both! All we think about is our future "in our thoughts" but we never think about the future "in our decisions", our decisions, contradict our thoughts. If we our so concerned about our future that we are willing to go to some fortune teller and pay for our future then why don't we make better decisions? We are now living in the future, of decisions we made 1,2,3 or 5 years ago. We are now in that future living out those decisions. Now she lies in the gutter with no one to lift her out.  No doubt she is not happy at this point in her life, but she is living in the future, she is living out, suffering, from bad decisions, way back when, when she gave no thought of the future. Okay, we don't want to dwell in the past, we can't change decisions we made years ago, but we can, today, start thinking about the future. If I make this decision today, how will that work out a year from now? If we are so concerned with our future, why not today start making decisions that will benefit us, or at least, not hurt us, a year from now?!

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

OCTOBER 28 "THE ACCURACY OF THE BIBLE UNBELIEVABLE"

It's very interesting, Isaiah predicts the rise of Babylon when they are insignificant nobodies, it is hardly believable that Babylon is every going to rise to any stage of great prominence, never mind, defeat Israel and take them all in captive to be their slaves. Yet that's exactly what happened. Now we have Jeremiah, when Babylon is the greatest force in the earth predicting that they will be reduced to nothing, they will be something to be laughed at and mocked, this is also hardly believable, especially as he predicts this while they are great. Yet, approx 65-70 years later, the Medes and Persians come in and completely destroy Babylon, the Great. Isaiah predicts their greatness when they are nothing, Jeremiah predicts their fall when they are great. The boldness of these predictions......these prophecies will either prove them to be true Prophets or false prophets. History (don't even have to use the Bible) proves both these Prophets to be 100% accurate. Not only in their predictions of the events to come but also in the time they would come. The atheist will say, "the bible is just a book written by men" and that it is....it's a book written by men, men 100 years apart that never knew each other, but yet all their predictions and prophecies fall into perfect alignment. Just like you can tell the earth has behind it a divine creator, so can you tell the Bible has been sown together by a divine creator. We can't even predict the weather or the stock market, but yet these men predicted the rise and fall of Kingdoms and predicted when it would happen. Coincidence is the god of the atheist. Anything they can't explain they dismiss as coincidence or " I don't know". The atheist needs faith in faith itself, which actually makes no sense, to believe what they believe, the Christian must have faith in God to believe what they believe. The atheist relies on non-nonsensical talking points in all their arguments, we Christians have History on our side. It's History that proves the Bible to be true, not Christians. Any Historian will tell you, one of the greatest tools over the centuries in studying history, has been the Bible. It is pinpoint accurate as far as dates, leaders & nations, rising and falling. The characters in the Bible are real life characters that can be traced right through even secular history books. The only person who dismisses the Bible as a man made book, is only the man who is ignorant and have never read it through from cover to cover.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

OCTOBER 27 "SELF CONTROL A DIRTY WORD"

     Paul in our text is breaking down Christian and ethical behavior 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 exercise 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 behavior" 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.

Monday, October 26, 2015

OCTOBER 26 "CULT & BACKSLIDING ATTRACT READERS"

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 mesmerized 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 charismatic 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 Culta 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 among 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 passiveness, 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 diametrically 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.

OCTOBER 25 "THE UGLY SIDE OF MINISTRY"

I would much prefer not to talk about this, I would much rather not have to deal with this, this is messy stuff. If I wanted to be involved in politics and messy stuff, then I would get involved in that. I stay clear of politics, I stay clear of conflict, I just want to be a Christian, go to church and be happy. Paul today is writing about rebuking people, setting them straight, confronting supposed Christians, challenging people who are teaching false doctrine, people rejecting the truth and coming up with lies, I just want to ask Paul, "are you trying to discourage me from The Church or encourage me?". Reading about this discourages me, reading about this reminds me of when people say, 'the reason I don't go to church is because of all the problems in the church". There really is an ugly side of ministry, isn't there?! It's been like this sense the beginning of the church, apparently. So what do we do then? What we do is keep going to church, keep serving in ministry and try to make it as beautiful as you can, just like you would with anything else that can look ugly. Everything that is beautiful has an ugly side. Family can be quite ugly at times, but we forge through, and more often than not, especially during Holidays, we are glad for them, and if not then, then for sure when we are older. Studies show that in most situations where a Pastor was driven from a Church, it was not a majority of the church that was involved in that, studies found in most instances it was less than 6 members of a church, that caused them to quite or drove them away. That's quite surprising statistic to most people, but I would have to conquer, that in my experience, I would have to agree with those findings and so does God's Word.. In Proverbs we read, that a little fly spoils all the wonderful smell of the ointment and Solomon writes, "it's the little foxes that ruin the vine". How true that is, who knows who Paul is talking about in our Epistle today, my guess is, it's not a vast majority, but according to research and according to The Word of God, it's just a small handful of people, ruining it for everyone. If ministry has an ugly side to it, it simply because of the people that are involved in it. And the problem is, the good people go, the good people get fed up and leave and that only makes matters worse. If ministry has an ugly side to it, then it is our duty, we that are not contributing to it's ugliness, to remain and change the landscape of that ministry, change the environment to be a more uplifting one, more joyful, more pleasant to be part of. If there's an ugly side to ministry, the question to ask ourselves, "is what side are we on?"

Saturday, October 24, 2015

OCTOBER 24 "ARE YOU A FOOL?"

I was reading Proverbs today with a little trepidation. Thinking, "I hope I'm not a fool?".  What a negative discourse this is. If the first four books of the New Testament are called "The Gospels" ie: Good News, what would we call Proverbs 26?  As you are reading through this proverb, you don't get the sense that there is much hope for a fool. It's sad because I know a few fools and so do you! Not only does it pretty accurately describe a fool, it also describes or alludes as to how we may try to work with a fool and you know what, I have tried them all and true to this proverb, the results have been as stated in the scripture. Let's look at the idea of "honoring a fool". Verse 8 deals with that. You may ask "who would honor a fool?", I have!  And obviously others have too; otherwise it would not be addressed in our text. I honored a fool in hopes that in honoring them, it would encourage them to change and just like it says, it came right back to hit me in the face! I have trusted a fool with responsibility, I have tried to trust work to a fool and it has always back fired. It's interesting that a whole proverb on "a fool" takes on the subject of laziness too. As if the author is now going to pick on somebody else. However, the author is not picking on somebody else, the fool and the lazy person are one and the same! And as I keep reading, now a few more people come to mind and I am even more discouraged. For some, they are reading this proverb and thinking of a son, a daughter, a parent, a brother, a husband, a wife, a friend.....people will all love so much, but they are "fools" and as we read Proverbs 26, all we can think about is them and how tragic it is. A foolish toddler affects nobody else but himself, but a foolish adult affects all those around him. We are the ones being called, we are the ones having to show up at the police station, we are the ones having to bail him or her out, we are the ones having to go pick up their children, we are the ones having to make room for them in our homes, we are the ones having to lend or should I say, give them our money, our car our time and to what ends? It never seems to payoff. If we invest in a fool, we get a fools return on our investment. Proverbs 26 is clear, there is no hope for a fool. Of course this proverb doesn't talk about the hope of change through Salvation in Jesus Christ, but then again, the New Testament adds to this, "that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is foolishness to them that are perishing". And so yes, let me add to your discouragement, to say that the fool is also a perishing soul. That's probably the saddest part. The fool lives a miserable life here on earth, often hates God or gets to a place where he dismisses God all together (the fool says in his heart this is no God) and then when he/she dies, they perish into everlasting judgement, to make matters worse. Maybe you are reading this today, by some miracle and you are that fool! Well there is "good news" that as long as you're still breathing, there's hope for you to change! "If any man be in Christ, he is a new creation".  If you are reading this today and you realize you once "used to be" that fool, but by the Grace of God, by a miracle you changed....I wouldn't let a day go by, that you don't thank God for that. Don't EVER take it for granted that you are not a fool, keep in your mind and heart the idea, next time you see the fool, "there go I; except for and by.......the Grace of God!"

Friday, October 23, 2015

OCTOBER 23 "GOOD MORNING AND PRAISE THE LORD!!"

Wow, I wish I felt like that in the morning!  Somebody has had way too much Java this morning. "It is good to give thanks to the lord, to sing praises to the Most High. It is good to proclaim your unfailing love in the morning, your faithfulness in the evening, accompanied by a ten-stringed instrument, a harp, and the melody of a lyre. You thrill me,Llord, with all you have done for me! I sing for joy because of what you have done."  Somebody got off to a good start this morning, was it you? We're waking up tired, very tired. We're thinking about that dead end job we have to go to everyday, wishing we would win the lottery so we could quit, oh but we don't play the lottery, great, then we'll never get out of that dead end job. We still don't know how the rent is going to get paid, who's going to be able to fix the car, how our daughter is going to get out of this crazy relationship, how you’re going to deal with your husband being laid off, etc..etc…and then we open our bible and read about this man who seems to have so much joy and victory in his life. He seems to have so much joy and contentment in his relationship with God. What is wrong with me? Maybe I need another cup of coffee, oh never mind, I'm going to be late for work.....Through out the day I will think about what I read this morning and wonder, "am I missing something? Why is my walk with God nothing compared to what I read this morning?

I am not in any way thinking of turning from my faith or my church. I love my church and I am glad I’m a Christian, but this morning, to be honest, I just can't relate to this man's abounding joy and thrill to be a Christian and thrilled with what God is doing". I don't know if this is in the bible to encourage me or discourage me? And at night.....I am so tired I can barely remember to take off my shoes before I hit the sack. Last thing I'm going to do is sit there and ponder on God's faithfulness, it is all I can do to utter a quick "thank-you Lord for getting me through this day" and then it's lights out! Maybe if I didn't work so hard, maybe if I didn't have to run the kids all over the place, pay bills, go to meetings, school events, work events and now our church just announced a week long revival, oh yippee yay! That means more laundry piling up, more late nights, getting the kids to bed late or staying up trying to get homework finished and falling that much further behind. I wonder if Christians were meant not to work and just sit at home all day, be well rested and meditate on the things of God and how good He is? I don't think so because His Word says, "if a man will not work then let him not eat".  So I must work, juggle life and still some how, masterfully figure out how to find time & energy to be as in love and appreciative of my Savior as the writer of our Psalm today. Is it possible, really?!  When these words were penned had God ever thought of the life the 21st Century Christian would be living? Wednesday night I sat in church with one eye open and one eye closed, and then switched to the other eye, hoping the preacher would not notice if I had at least one eye open.  Sunday night services our becoming more of a chore as I think of all I need to get done before Monday and how much more, I'd rather be sitting at home, in my pajamas with my feet up on the couch. Am I evil, am I not saved? I don't think so, I don't feel evil, I think I'm saved. I agree with everything that I read today and I would say, "yes and amen" God is good and great and He does have unfailing love, I just don't know if it would be that early in the morning or that late at night that I would express that, but somewhere in between the madness of life, I must find time to reflect on my God and how good He is!

Thursday, October 22, 2015

OCTOBER 22 "WHERE'S GOD IN TRAGEDY?"

Certainly, many of life's tragedies we are not gong to get an explanation on. We will have to wait until we get on the other side of eternity before we can any reasonable explanation. Right now, all we can do is grieve and maintain our faith in God, when it seems hard, in the midst of tragedy. The end of the story that we read today is that Gedaliah is murdered today and the rest of the Jews that are with him are slaughtered. First question we are going to ask is going to be, "where was God?", not "why did Ishmael do such a wicked thing?". No, the 1st question is always, "where was God?". However this is one story that we do get privy insight into, unlike most other tragedies, in this story we get to see the whole story unfold. It starts with a solemn warning to Gedaliah. Johanan is able to find out (now how was Johanan able to find out except by divine orchestration or you can say "coincidence" but I won't). So Johanan is able to find out, by divine orchestration that there is going to be an attempt to assassinate Gedaliah. "Phew, that's a good thing, a tragedy averted, Gedaliah won't be assassinated and the Jews that are with him will not be murdered and all thrown into a cistern. Thank-you Jesus! Isn't God good!!! Oh wait, that's not how it goes.....Gedaliah doesn't listen to the warning, proceeds in his stubbornness and perhaps a bit of arrogance (nothing can touch me I'm God's leader and child) and the tragedy, that God was trying to avert, comes to pass, regardless and instead of everything shouting "praise God, He is good!" They are shouting, "where was God!!" We don't answers and explanations into every tragedy that happens in life, but our reading together does give us insight that perhaps, many tragedies in life, God did try to prevent but it was a stubborn, perhaps arrogant or prideful person that caused the tragedy NOT to be averted and what we have in the end, is not people praising God, but cursing, accusing Him and shouting "where's God!"

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

OCTOBER 21 "HOW ABOUT A LITTLE RESPECT"

This is only proof to me, for what I've often thought was the case; and that is, often we don’t offer the same common courtesies to one another, that we often offer to those whom we are not even that close with.  Why is that? Is it because we take each other for granted? What Paul is saying almost doesn't make sense, “if the masters are believers that is no excuse for being disrespectful….they should would “all the harder” because their masters are believers” I definitely would agree with that. How about you? Why is it that sometimes are poorest performance is what we do for one another or what we do for the church. Often someone has to come in behind the previous person and re-do what that person did because it was done with such a poor effort. We are short with each other, rude and inconsiderate. Paul notices this, he realizes that sometimes the fact that we are dealing with another Christian will not bring the best out of us, but the worse. If we were dealing with a sinner or somebody “outside the church” we would do our best to make sure we behaved, kept a smile on our face and made sure we behaved the way we know we should be, as a Christian, lest that person call us out. However when we are simply around family, when we are just around the same people we see every Sunday, we tend to just be lax and unrestrained in our behavior. This catches Paul’s eyes and he says it should be the opposite. If anything, when we are dealing with each other, as fellow believers we should be even more respectful towards one another, we should try even harder to please one another, not less! Basically what Paul is saying, “is things are totally backwards here!”  We treat people of the world better than we treat those in our own house; both our house at home and the house of God. One son told his father, “dad I wish I was a sinner”.  His father answered, “son, why in the world would you say something like that!”  His son replied, “because you’ll do anything for a sinner, but not for me!”  And how true that is! The bible clearly states that we, “of the House of God” ought to give each other preferential treatment. Yes we need to be there for the world, but even before that, we need to be there for each other, above all else. People miss the days when they first came in to the church because that’s when they felt loved. People say the only time anyone ever calls is when they stop coming to church and then it’s too late. The truth is, we do take each other for granted and we do often treat the ones closest to us, the worse. Paul warns us, God is warning us, “don’t’ think you can just “be you”, let you guard down and disrespect someone, just because they are a Christian. Paul says, if anything, you should be even more respectful and make that much more of an effort, because they are a fellow believer.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

OCTOBER 20 "JEREMIAH THE TRICKSTER"

We know Jeremiah as The Prophet, but we don’t know Jeremiah, as The Trickster! Jeremiah is entering into some under cover work here, for God. Jeremiah is being used by God to try to trick this good folks into drinking some wine. These believers really have something solid working in their lives that we would be wise to envy and want for ourselves and our families. This is my personnel opinion, but who cares about my personnel opinion. What’s even more note worthy, is that this is God’s opinion too! Can you imagine yourself sitting in the presence of the great prophet Jeremiah and he says, “come now, sit and have a cup of wine”.  Unless Jeremiah is acting very odd or suspicious, I would think, “this must be okay” after all, Jeremiah is a man of God if there ever was. If Jeremiah says, it’s okay, let’s drink up!! These people, the Recabites have an amazing ability to not allow themselves to be influenced by others, no matter how much clout or status, those people have or in this case, this individual. A wife or husband falls because their spouse falls, congregation members fall because their pastor falls, children stray when their parents become lukewarm or turn against their faith. In each of these situations, someone fell; someone stumbled because of the influence of another. It is tragic when someone falls because someone they looked up to fell or influenced them to  stumble. Even Jesus brings this up in the Gospels, “woe unto those that cause one of these little ones to stumble, for it would be better for them if they hung a millstone around their necks….” We should not take lightly being a stumbling block to anybody. And while we must be cautious not to be a stumbling block we must also make sure that we don’t allow anybody, no matter who they are, what reputation they have, to be a stumbling block for us. This is what God praises and commends about the Recabites. God understands the influence and name that Jeremiah has, but yet, even under Jeremiah, these people, respectfully decline. And how does God respond to that? “This is what the lord of Heaven’s Armies, the God of Israel, says: Go and say to the people in Judah and Jerusalem, ‘Come and learn a lesson about how to obey me.The Recabites do not drink wine to this day because their ancestor Jehonadab told them not to. But I have spoken to you again and again, and you refuse to obey me. Time after time I sent you prophets, who told you, “Turn from your wicked ways, and start doing things right. Stop worshiping other gods so that you might live in peace here in the land I have given to you and your ancestors.” But you would not listen to me or obey me. God is contrasting how one group is not only not being told by God what to do, obeys, even with the influence of Jeremiah, they don’t compromise; and yet the other group who is constantly being told by God, what to do,  still won’t obey? This contrast of Christians still exists today. There are those that will receive endless counsel, direction and words spoken to them over and over again, yet still do not obey and then you have other Christians, that don’t constantly receive words, have had numerous Godly examples in their life fall and disappoint them, yet they go on to obey God, nonetheless. I believe God sees this and applauds them, praises them as much as He did the family of the Recabites. Every one of us has the opportunity to be the Recabites. If you are a parent, you have the opportunity to set this kind of example for your children. A Christian family that is not swayed by public opinion, is not swayed by who’s falling, who’s compromising and who’s not, but that you as a parent would display to your children an obedience and faithfulness to God that is unwavering.

OCTOBER 19 "EVER RENEGE ON A PROMISE?"

There's nothing wrong with being moved by emotion and then making pledges, promises or commitments based off of that. Is it possible that we could be manipulated by others, of course, there's always that chance. Are some people mentally or emotionally week and very susceptible to people with strong personalities, of course, that's where we get cults from. You have one strong, charismatic, type-A personality who preys and draws upon the weaker to follow him by his manipulation. So now that we got all that out of the way, for the rest of us, that are able to guard ourselves, and make sensible decisions, while being moved with emotion, we have an obligation to follow through on those. Even more so when we have been moved upon to "do good" and we do it not. For one reason or another, the people make a decision to release the Hebrew slaves and not for no apparent reason either. God had established the year of Jubilee, where all slaves and debts were released. Bankruptcy Courts still follow this rule today! The slaves had not been released as prescribed by the law, they are convicted, agree to release the slaves, but then renege on their promise and God is quite perturbed over the whole affair. Why did they go back on their promise, do you think? The answer is obvious, that their good deed, the right decision, the moral thing to do, not actually to play out in "real time" and cost them. Often we renege on good and moral decisions we have made, when it begins to cost us,...and all God's people said...AMEN! It starts with Salvation and continues from there. Many are moved to give their lives to Christ, to surrender all, to give up their sin.......until.....it begins to cost them, then they renege. Then they say, "oh it was just a low point in my life", "oh, I was just manipulated by the Preacher". No, it was none of those, the truth is you, we, were moved "yes by emotion" but it was to do a good thing and there was no manipulation involved, it is simply when the cost began to play out in your life, you reneged on that promise. We don't hear God speak often do we! We make promises everyday day, week, month and year, to God, and half the time don't follow through. Do we hear any displeasure from God, does lightning strike us.....of course not. So we go on with our merry lives thinking "it's no big deal". Our story reveals to us that it is a big deal. God's not speaking audibly today because He has already said all He has to say, in His Word, if we will just take the time to read. And over and over in His Word, it is stated, "better not to make a vow to God, then to make it and then not follow through". It's never too late to go back and follow through or to re-commit to a promise, a pledge, or commitment you made to God.  I guarantee if you do, you will sleep a lot better tonight and have a much better experience next time your Worship God in church. Guilt is a nasty burden to carry, but it is a good thing, if we respond to it!

Monday, October 19, 2015

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 scary 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 Faithful 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 heads? 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 Humor, as the writer of Depeche Mode wrote in his song, "Blasphemous Rumors?"  As the chorus to the song goes..."and I don't want to start any blasphemous rumors but I think that Gods got a sick sense of humor 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 believe 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 fallible and he's imperfect and some of his decisions may not always be right and mature Christians accept this and go on to serve God and submit to their Pastors regardless. Howeverwe 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 believe 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 resentful 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 argument 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 believing 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 17, 2015

OCTOBER 17 "DON'T THROW IN THE TOWEL YET"

"Don't throw in the towel yet" ....This idiom comes from the world of boxing, when a boxer's manager or coach throws the white towel into the ring, signaling that his boxer is done, he can fight no more. We should have this idiom up on our fridges, up on the mirror in our bathroom or we could simply read the Word of God and get it there. "It will be a time of trouble for my people, yet in the end they will be saved." How important it is to know that.  If we can see the goal in sight, it re-invigorates us to keep pushing forward. We've all heard the story of the world distance swimmer that stopped short of the beach because it was hidden by the clouds and fog. Had she seen the shore was so close in sight, she would have pressed on, but exhausted and discouraged, not be able to see the shore, she gave up. Praise be to you, who does not need the shore in sight to keep pressing on, but for the rest of us, we do. Hold on there are better days ahead. As I mentioned a few days ago, this is not something we can just speak to anyone in any situation. However, concerning God's people, who are repentant, who are genuinely serving and seeking God, yet going through rough times or reaping from some bad decisions, God will say, "though sorrow may last through the night, joy comes in the morning".  The idea of only one night of sorrow, of course is not to be taken literally, but simply to imply that with God, there's always hope, that He will turn things around for us, in our favor, if we don't let go of Him or "Throw in the Towel". No Christian in their right mind will ever look back and say, "I'm glad I threw in the towel" back then......it will always be regret, more than anything. Every Christian who did not throw in the towel, but held on to God's Word for better days to come, will always confirm that they are so glad they did so. Whether that was throw in the towel for a marriage, a church, a convert, a job, a healing, or even your own salvation, those who heard God's Word's, "It will be a time of trouble for my people, yet in the end they will be saved" are those who found themselves back in the City of God (God's will and blessing).  And we know, through history, that the captivity did end and the people who held, who did not throw in the towel, did, as God said,  find themselves back in Jerusalem! We would be naive to think that everyone who heard Jeremiah's words of hope from God held on to them. I'm sure there were those who still gave up, I"m sure there are those who turned bitter and angry against God, but there are also those who held on to every word. Which will you be, which are you?  No matter where you are at today, the Hope, with God is that if you hold on,  He will bring you back to Jerusalem!


Friday, October 16, 2015

OCTOBER 16 "ARE YOU A FALSE PROPHET?"

Who would know, that one of the most famous passages of the bible "For I know the plans I have for you,” says the lord. They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope." was spoken to a people that were exiled, captives in Babylon. There were probably two groups of responses the day this word went out from Jeremiah. One group would have greatly resented these words, almost as if Jeremiah was patronizing them. Here they are, at rock bottom, have just been taken from Jerusalem to Babylon, their city has fallen and they are now captives in a foreign land, "and you Jeremiah are going to tell me about the goods things God has for us, is this captivity part of that great plan...get out of here Jeremiah, before we stone you!".  The other group of people would have believed Jeremiah; and taken those words as words of hope for a better future.  I wonder which group I would have been in? The classic mantra of Christians and Non-Christians, to people that are down on their luck is always, "hold on, the future is bright" This saying has pretty much become cliché to say, in hard times. However, just because someone says it, just because it has become cliché, doesn't mean it's true!! There are times when we are being false prophets, just like Ahab, wanting to prophesy good news  and we become false prophets for God because events get worse for that person, not better and then they remember what we had spoken to them about things getting better and they either resent us or God for it. Yet God is in the back round saying, "I never told them to say that!" There is not a rainbow at the end of every storm. There is not always light at the end of the tunnel. Sometimes people die in the storm, sometimes people never come out of the tunnel to see the light. As Christians we have to be careful of what we say and what we speak, less we too become false messengers of hope. Many times events are actually going to get worse for people, because though we may love them, and wish the best for them, they are still unrepentant in their ways and it doesn't matter what you prophesy to them, it's not going to get better for them until they learn the lesson God is trying to teach them. Jeremiah is the true prophet in our story and Ahab is the false prophet.  Ahab, is more like us. He does not hear from God and just wants to say nice and comforting things to people in distress. Jeremiah, unlike us, is not so concerned about speaking comforting words as he is speaking what God wants him to speak. Jeremiah has a keen ability to hear from God and prophecy's what is true, not what is comforting.  Jeremiah does not prophecy out of the inclinations of his own heart, as many wannabe prophets do. Jeremiah tells them you might as well establish yourselves here, because you are gong to be here for quite a while. There is a hope, there is a future, but for now, this is where you are at and you might as well make the most of it because you are leaving in no time soon.  Most of us don't have the ability to hear from God the way Jeremiah did and often find ourselves being the false prophet Ahab, instead of the true prophet Jeremiah; and we don't do this on purpose, it is simply because we are trying to be what we are not and trying to predict a future that simply is not, for the ones we love and care for. But until they learn the lesson God is trying to teach them, they they'd better get used to where they are because they are going to be there for a while...., would you prophesy that to them?

Thursday, October 15, 2015

OCTOBER 15 "SHOULD I SPEAK MY MIND?"

I'm feeling for Jeremiah, this morning! Are you? If you're not, than you're pretty cold.  The statements that God is having Jeremiah speak to these people is likely to leave him without any friends at best, and get him beat up or killed, at worse. If I spoke my mind, I would have a very hard life too. At work, at school functions, family get togethers, If we spoke our minds we would find ourselves the most hated in the neighborhood. People would talk about us. When they saw us coming they all would scatter or block us out of the conversation. We would be deemed as "haters", "insensitive", religious fanatics. My heart goes out to Jeremiah, it always has. If ever I feel sorry for myself or feel bad for any persecution I may face, I think of Jeremiah. Let me ask, does God still  ask us to speak our minds? Are we withholding more than we should? Should we be speaking out more? My guess is, the answer is yes to some of those questions. We should speak out more and we do withhold to often. However, should we speak out minds? I would say the answer to that is NO. Jeremiah did not speak his mind, he spoke God's mind. Listening to a conversation about a teenager that died in a car accident, partying one night, I might think, "and as tragic as that is, what's worse is he is probably in Hell".  Imagine voicing those thoughts, even if true, to a crowd of mourners and those mourners may even be saying, "at least his in peace right now".  Do I speak my mind? When do we speak our minds, when do we speak truth? Is there ever a right time or a right place? You will find that often the answer to that is also "no". There never seems to be a right time or a right place. I have in the past, tried waiting and waiting for the perfect time to speak and it never seems to come. Just when I think, "here is the right time" some kind of interruption comes. Some Christians are bold and insensitive and say whatever comes to their mind. Other Christians don't say anything they know is true, for fear of the people. Could there be some place in the middle we can meet? Those that are bold and speak out "the truth" no matter what the situation, will claim "Jeremiah" as their defense. And who can argue with that? Jeremiah did speak some crazy judgments and pronouncements in his day and was not one bit, politically correct. Jeremiah offended and spoke doom and gloom to the people. We cannot deny Jeremiah, a man of God did this and so did John the Baptist and many other Prophets. The question to ask ourselves is...."are we prophets?".  We know God will raise up Prophets in the end times and the book of Revelations makes mention of two prophets at the Wailing Wall. The Bible refers to us as Priests, not necessarily prophets. Priests intercede for others, help others, encourage and yes, speak God's Word too. The Priest incorporates all methods, he exhorts and he corrects. The Priest is neither silent, nor is he a constant voice of Judgment. The Prophet Jeremiah, had a clear calling which he was told from very early on in his life, that he would boldly speak the truth and the judgment to come upon Israel. The 21st Century Christian, you can say, is all, he/she is the Prophet, Priest, Shepherd and Evangelist. Some how, with the help of the Holy Spirit and a sensitivity to the Holy Spirit we have to discern what role we are to play on any given day or time. I can deem myself to be the Prophet one day and show up at a funeral of someone who everybody knew was a hard core sinner and begin preaching about the judgment of the wicked and see myself being bold for God as Jeremiah; and walk away feeling tremendously used by God, but was I? I think we can all agree that it is difficult to discern what to say and what not to say and at what time. As Christians we do have allot of knowledge, insight and revelation that many people in the world are completely ignorant to. The question is, "should I speak my mind, should I speak out, should I really say this?"  the answer to that question is what we are going to say, where we are going to say it and at what time never matters, what really matters would be, is God asking you to speak that at that time?" Not should I speak my mind right now, but should you speak God's mind at that moment. We will never go wrong speaking what God has asked us to speak, no matter what it is or no matter what time or place. However, the question now is, "is God asking me to speak this or is it me?"  And that, is where you have to learn to discern God's still small voice and it will only be learned, unfortunately, through trial and error.  Jeremiah was rough, Jeremiah spoke rough words, but it's important to remember, Jeremiah was always clear on who was asking him to say these things & why. Jeremiah always knew, he was not speaking his mind, but God's and that is the same place we need to be as Christians, Prophets, Priests & Evangelists, in the 21st Century.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

OCTOBER 14 "DREAMS....DREAMS....WHAT DO THEY MEAN?"

      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!

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

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 youthhas 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 moneyyou 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 12, 2015

OCTOBER 12 "IS SOBRIETY STILL A VIRTUE OF THE CHRISTIAN"

Christians want to fight for their right to drink. Of all the battle grounds that a Christian must choose to fight on or not, this is one that Christians will fight 'till their death, their right "to drink". We all know, some Christians drink and other Christians don't.  We all know, some Christians get a good buzz and other Christians don't, some Christians get drunk and other Christians don't. Which Christian are you? Is sobriety still a Christian virtue? As we read in Thessalonians, we are reminded of who we are; we are Children of the Light, Children of the Day, Children of Sobriety.  There's nothing more embarrassing than the drunk uncle at the wedding, the drunk father or mother at the family gathering. As Christians, we of all people should be sober and practice sobriety. Drunkenness is an altered state of mind. I have not heard of too many Christians that will push for their right to smoke weed, but they are the same. Whether you are stoned or drunk, you are not sober, you are in an altered state of mind. You will do things when drunk that you would not do sober. You will say things when you are intoxicated, that you would not do when sober. You will flirt, compromise, and do many other things that you would not do sober. We as Christians are called to be sober minded. It doesn't take too many glasses of wine or too many beers to start to decline into that altered state of mind. No doubt, drinking loosens us up. "Here, have a drink, loosen up" is the phrase we often hear. And once we loosen up, all self restraint, goes out the window. We have all heard of the horror story of Michael English and  Marabeth Jordon (Group First Call) who went on tour together and did just fine through out the tour, until the last night of the concert tour, decided to celebrate with a bottle of wine. Both were married at the time to other spouses, perhaps there was a mutual attraction between the two through out the tour, but sobriety allowed them to exercise self restraint. "Have a drink, loosen up" is the mantra, well they had a drink and really loosened up, loosened all their clothes off and the rest is history. Is sobriety still a virtue of the Christian? A righteous, moral life is hard enough to live when we are sober and in our right minds, how can we even think we will succeed when intoxicated. We wish (at least I do) that it plainly stated in the Bible that drinking is a sin, but we know it does not. Drunkenness is a sin and is plainly stated. And so because it does not plainly state, "drinking a glass of wine is a sin" we will then have a glass, or two or three...". However remember, it does state in the bible that those that wanted to be "consecrated unto God" were not to drink any kind of wine.  Why would God have made that a requirement? Why would God have written, "if you want to come to the next level with me, abstain from alcohol, give up your right to drink!" Is sobriety still a virtue of the Christian? You'd better darn well believe it is. I'm not a Baptist and I'm not and Apostolic Pentecostal, but yet I can still make a stand, in my house and in my life, that some things in life we are better without and the best place for me to be, each and every day, is in sobriety and If I feel the need to "loosen up" I have a whole list of things I can do in life, that allows me to loosen up, that does not involve me flirting with alcohol and seeing how far I can push my freedom as a Christian. Paul wrote, "I am free to do all things, but not all things are profitable for me to do".  Paul also wrote, "that I must be careful in exercising my freedoms that I don't cause ones that a weaker to stumble."  You'd better make sure, that in your fighting for your right to drink, you fighting for your right to exercise "your Christian freedoms" that you don't cause "one of these little ones to stumble" whether that's your own children or a new Christian in your church, you'd better be careful because Jesus' warning is stern to those who cause others too stumble just because they want to exercise their freedoms......in Christ!"

Saturday, October 10, 2015

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 IT.  Verse 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!

Thursday, October 8, 2015

OCTOBER 8 "THE 4 DYNAMICS OF A HEALTHY FAMILY"

It has been said, "Constructions workers build houses, families build homes". Paul may not have had a family, but he has definitely tapped into "the mind of Christ" for the family, here in his epistle to the Colossians. It just goes to show, that God can give us wisdom and insight we need to navigate through life properly, and we do not always need experience to have wisdom & insight.  Paul gives us great wisdom and insight into the 4 dynamics of a successful family. Not in any order of priority, but he starts with wives being submitted to their husbands, husbands not to be harsh with their wives, children to be obedient to their parents and parents not exasperating their children unto anger (as we often do). Turmoil in a home is when one or worse, all of these elements are out of place. How often parents are fighting and frustrated because the kids are misbehaving. How often the children listen to the mom and dad go out at it because the wife is bent on leading and having her way. How often the children watch dad treat mom horribly and how often parents over step their place and enrage their kids. Unfortunately, I have just described the average home in America. Home is not a place the family is longing to be anymore, it is the last place they want to be. The dinner table at 6pm is empty because nobody wants to be there. Teenagers want to be home as little as possible, dad wants to stay at the office as late as he can to avoid going home and having to deal with a contentious wife. The wife is looking to get out of the house because she's tired of being bullied by her husband. Children have been enraged and are bitter towards their parents. Is this really the idea God had when He thought about "The Family". If we would simply follow these 4 dynamics that Paul lays down for us to follow, inspired by God himself, the family could begin to thrive, once again! The home could be a place of blessing, a sanctuary to come in, from the madness outside. When we would prefer to be at work, or anywhere else besides home, we have to face the facts, that we have failed in "building our home". Proverbs admonishes us, "the wise woman builds her home, the foolish one tares it down". The women does have a lot of influence in the home, but it would not be honest to say, that it all rests on her shoulders. According to Paul, according to God, it's a team effort, are you doing your part?

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

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.