Monday, November 30, 2015

NOVEMBER 30 "IS ALL REVELATION FOR SHARING?"

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

NOVEMBER 29 "DANIEL'S CONNECTION FAILS HIM"

We don’t know all that is going through Daniel’s mind, but with a little thought, we can piece it together. No doubt Daniel was a very spiritual, Godly man; not easily persuaded or scared away by the ungodly. But what was really going through his mind as he was told the edict had been passed and anyone who disobeyed it would be fed to the lions? We like to see Daniel as this man that was unmoved by death, resolute to serve God even if it meant being devoured by hungry lions and I’m sure that is half of the story. However I believe the other half of the story is Daniel believed that the King, once he found out who it was that had disobeyed the edict, (not to pray to any other God) would make allowance for him. Daniel was no fool and neither are we. We know when we have favor with someone. We know when someone likes us. Daniel has seen himself rise from captive to Wiseman and from Wiseman to ruler over all the Satraps in the country. It has already been made known to Daniel that the King has chosen him to be ruler of all the land. There is no one with more favor, in the land, than Daniel. So yes, Daniel is no coward, yes, Daniel is not easily persuaded against his beliefs and faith,  but I believe coupled with that, is the thought, “these monkeys think the King is going to side with them over me, fat chance, I’m getting ready to be ruler over all the land”.  And Daniel is right. When the Satraps go to the King to report this offense by Daniel, the King, just like Daniel thought, does try to ignore it, because it’s Daniel. These Satraps have to return to the King (if you read the story) and “remind him” that not even he, the King, can overrule his own Edicts that he decrees. Sometimes in our walk with God, God causes are most reliable “connections” to fail us. He causes our “ace in the hole” not to come through for us. He causes our “source” to fail us and just when we think this person is going to come through we find out ….”they, he or she” is not going to come through. Often that’s when we feel the wind sucked out of us, fear, despair and hopelessness starts to overwhelm us and we cry out, “what am I going to do now” and that’s when we hear that still small voice say, “rely on me!” Even the King returns to Daniel and tells him, “I’m not going to be able to get you out of this one, bud!” “The God that you say you serve, the God that you say is mighty, is really going to have to be the one to come through for you on this”. God definitely uses connections, God definitely gives us favor with people so they can help us, but He also at times brings us to a place where He says, “on this one, I want you solely rely on me, I’m going to be your deliverer on this one and He sets up are “fail proof sources, to fail!” so that we have no choice but to turn to Him and see and experience the great miracle that is going to spurn our faith for future conquests. In Daniel having to rely on God and not the King, a great miracle happens. The miracle that happens isn’t simply that the lions don’t devour Daniel, but that the King, through this miracle, makes a new edict proclaiming that everyone in the land, from that day forward, shall serve and pray to the God of Daniel. None of this would have ever come about, had Daniel’s sure connection, “The King” come through for him. Sometimes we think it’s the Devil ruining all our avenues of help, but sometimes it’s God, trying to lead us to Him, to believe in Him for our help and our deliverance and nobody else.  Are all your leads and favors failing you, maybe it’s time to look to God!

Thursday, November 26, 2015

NOVEMBER 26 "WATCHING THOSE WE LOVE SUFFER"

For sake of argument, let’s say David wrote this Psalm(choices are David, Ezra or Daniel). David writes, “I am worn out waiting for your rescue”.  Well, if David is sick and down and out why wouldn't God come to the rescue right away? “When will you comfort me?”  There is not even any comfort for David either. Unless you have suffered or watched others suffer than this scripture means nothing to you yet, until one day you experience this situation. I have experienced this watching my wife suffer. She had one ailment, that was very bad, went to emergency was prescribed the wrong drugs, after a few days of that she went to another doctor who prescribed a new medication that she ended up being allergic to and have a horrible reaction, fever, swelling, her skin literally looked burned from the high fever she carried for 3-4 days. I prayed for her every night as she lay there crying, often in pain. My powers were impotent, as far as I could tell. I prayed for her in the morning, her fever raging, no difference and then headed over to church for morning prayer, as is my custom. I sat there at church perplexed about even praying. I was angry and confused. This was a severe illness and if not any other day or time, this is when we desperately needed God to help us and He wasn’t. And so I would rally my faith, pray, go to work and then “believe” that when I got home she would be better and when I arrived home she was worse!  We decided it had peeked and we needed to take action. We went to Urgent Care, 3 hour wait, they sent us to another. We arrived at the other Urgent Care and they would not accept our Insurance, they recommended another Urgent Care and that one was closed. And as far as the Emergency Room, that is where she was misdiagnosed and we were given a $500.00 co-pay. We ended up back home and I prayed again, to no avail. I woke up in the morning, prayed again and headed off to prayer at our church. Once again I sat there dumbfounded and angry. David writes in verse 84, “how long must I wait”.   David goes on to write in verse 87, “but I refused to abandon your commandments”.   This is the temptation that comes when we face suffering and have no relief from God. Those that don’t serve God expect nothing back from God. We who serve him, obey his commands expect that when things get bad, He will intervene and when He doesn’t, when He remains silent it is an awful struggle we go through and the temptation is “why then, even follow your commands”.  I know this, I will show much more empathy, in the future, towards the individual that tells me they are not serving God anymore because they watched their wife (or anyone they loved) suffer and die of cancer while they prayed everyday and “believed” God to heal them, but they just got worse, suffered more, cried in pain, etc…..”  This is very hard to watch and then go to church on Sunday and act as if everything is “okay” between you and God, when it is not! If the Christian is known for having a flame of fire inside them then I would describe these events as the enemy unleashing a serious fire hose at our fire. I have seen the most on fire Christians go through something like this and walk into church completely lifeless, not even knowing why they are in church that morning.  You will never know the depth of your allegiance to God and Faith until you watch someone suffer you love or you yourself suffer and have no relief and hear absolutely nothing from this God that you serve.  It’s rough to go through but we must all come to the place these 3 men came to. We know David endures through, we know Job said, “though he slay me yet I will praise Him” and we know Peter said, “Lord to whom and where would we go?” and each of us in our journey will come to a crossroads where we will have to make a decision to either; come to the same conclusions or not; if we choose to accept, we move on, if we choose not to we now embark on a journey of a spiritual unraveling of faith that leads us to a slow, spiritual decline and death.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

NOVEMBER 25 "WE ARE SIMPLY, ONE...OF THE MANY"

Nobody ever realizes that in the great story of a great young man, Jeremiah, God has another great story of another great young man, whom we know as Daniel. As we read the book of Jeremiah we are caught up in all his exploits (“my people shall know me and they shall do great exploits” [ironically we read this in the Book of Daniel]. While Jeremiah is doing his great exploits, Daniel is in the background, being fashioned by God, for phase II, of His great plan. We get so consumed with our little world and churches and Christians begin to see Christianity through their own little world and experience.  In essence, we box God up.  We claim, “this is where it’s at, this is where it’s happening”, but yet as we read the Bible we see God’s plans and purpose are vast and include many others and are far beyond us and light years ahead of us. God is not limited to one man/woman or any one particular group of people. Think of it, in this large and grand scheme, God is working through Jeremiah, all the while, priming up Daniel in the background and in the midst of all that, using an evil ruler as Nebuchadnezzar, all this to fulfill His purposes. That’s pretty awesome! As Israel goes into captivity, just as Jeremiah prophesied, God begins phase II of his plan, and brings Daniel to the forefront of what He is doing.  Daniel becomes the Kings most prized and chosen servant. Daniel, who serves the God of Israel becomes the chosen servant of a pagan King. Who would have ever have imagined that? The Bible clearly records that it is God that has given Daniel favor with this heathen King.  Daniel is going to be the key figure when Israel returns to their land, not Jeremiah. We ought to thank God that He uses us in any capacity, that somehow He has included us in His large network of people that He moves and works through; all at the same time, remaining cognizant of the fact, that we are one of many and that ought to keep us humble. Our church…..is one of many….our outreach program…..is one of many…..our witness…..is one of many…..our Christmas program….is one of many……our witness…..is one of many……we are one of many and we should just be glad and thankful, that we are ONE of the MANY.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

NOVEMBER 24 "PETER YOU INSULT ME!"

  Well, it sounds like “unbelievers” have been trying to trash talk Christians for a couple of thousand years; and to think I thought this was only happening to us, here in the 21st century. Glad to see, nothing has changed….., neighbors, co-workers, relatives are always waiting for the day when we are going to slip, mess up or say something we shouldn't have said; and when we do,  you can count on it, everybody is going to know about it.  It’s interesting to see that nothing has changed in the past 2000 years. However, what I do take issue is Peter eluding to the thought, that I, might behave in such a way that would give my neighbor, justifiable cause, to have slander against me. I’m insulted and I’m sure so are you, that Peter feels like he has to write this and caution us to “act & behave” like Christians in front of our unbelieving neighbors!
Verse 12, “be careful to live properly among your unbelieving neighbors”.  Are you just as offended as I am today? I mean, what is Peter implying!?!?  Do you think Peter is implying that there are times that my neighbor might have justifiable cause against my profession that I am a good Christian man? Now I’m thinking…..if Peter is talking about that time that my wife and I were “having it out” over finances and all the windows in the house were open and of course the whole neighborhood was listening. Okay, alright, maybe one time that happened.  Wait now…..maybe Peter is talking about the time I got out of the car and slammed the door and was yelling at my daughter? I wonder if Peter is talking about that time we were late for church and we were all fighting, yelling and blaming each other as we got into the car, slammed the doors and screeched off to church. Oh no…..is Peter talking about that time my girlfriend slept over and the neighbors saw her leave early in the morning, of course nothing happened, and every neighbor, of course is going to believe that. I wonder if Peter is talking about that time we had the great family gathering and all our unsaved family (and some saved) were pouring into our home with their cases of beer and leaving our home quite intoxicated and getting behind the wheel of the car (well what do you want me to do, I wasn’t drinking, I can’t control them, they’re grown adults!)  Now I’m wondering if Peter is talking about the time my son was parked in our driveway, for over an hour, with his girlfriend in the car,  surely they know,  that they were just “talking”, at least I hope they were just talking.  Alright, there is that one time, the neighbors did call the cops and they had to come to our house for a domestic violence call. Things got out of hand, I’ll admit, but that was a one time thing!”

            I could go on all day, couldn't I, about our indiscretions.  The reality is, if you have lived for God for any length of time, you will see and hear of conduct that is quite “unbecoming” of one that claims to be a Christian. So in essence, Peter is not out of line, as a Leader in the Church of Jerusalem, one who has seen and heard it all, no doubt, to reach out to his brethren and caution them, “don’t give your neighbor(s) any reason to accuse you”. We all need this and if you are insulted by it you are probably the worse offender! We all need to Word of God to show us who we are and who we are capable of being. The Christian who claims to never have displayed, “unbecoming” Christian conduct to a neighbor, is clearly under a spell of self righteousness and delusion. It is bad enough that our neighbors, co-workers, and relatives will falsely accuse us from time to time, but at least they know they are speaking lies and normally those lies are exposed. However, what is horrible is when they are not speaking lies and all we can do is bow our heads in shame.  Next time you are getting ready to step into “the next dimension” (your flesh) think twice, think about who you represent, think about who’s watching & listening and think about who’s name you are really tarnishing, don’t give your neighbor any justification to accuse you, step back, hold your peace and exercise self control.  In Peter’s words, “BE CAREFUL!”

Monday, November 23, 2015

NOVEMBER 23 "IGNORANCE IS BLISS"

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

NOVEMBER 22 "WHEN THE HOLY BECOMES UNHOLY"

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

Saturday, November 21, 2015

NOVEMBER 21 "CLASS WARFARE IS UGLY"

There’s no denying, James is not that fond of “rich people”.  If it was only this reference in Chapter 5, that would be bad enough, but James has taken jabs at the rich in other chapters as well. No doubt, James did not grow up with affluence of any kind. We know from the Gospels that Joseph and Mary (James’ parents) were poor. Historians believe that Joseph died at an early age, as he is not mentioned in the Gospels; except in the early stages of Jesus’ life. Now with Joseph dead, James & Jesus (step brothers) probably had to work that much harder to make ends meet at home. Jesus himself takes a jab at rich people saying, “it is easier for a camel to get through the eye of an needle than for a rich person to get into heaven”.  I’m sure in the Church of Jerusalem where James was an elder, there were not many affluent people in that congregation. However we cannot deny that it was Joseph of Arimathea, an affluent man, a prominent member of the Sanhedrin that God used to purchase the burial place for Jesus. Mathew calls Joseph of Arimathea, a rich man. The tomb Joseph purchased was so large that a huge boulder had to be rolled in front of the entry and guards placed at the door to prevent anyone from stealing Jesus’ body. This was by no means, a poor burial. The rich young ruler Jesus did try to call to follow him, failed. However, Zacchaeus was also wealthy (though it was gained unrighteously) and he did follow Jesus.  Interesting though, that although most that followed Jesus were poor, they were not lazy non working men, they were all working men. Jesus never called one disciple to follow him that was not a “working man”. If you were to categorize my income by any economic census, I would be considered poor.  But yet I have always worked a job, as long as I can remember. Christians tend to think that if they go into an impoverished area of town, where everyone is on welfare; and preach the Gospel “to the poor”, that there is going to be an overwhelming response.  You may have a response, but it will not be for Jesus, it will be for handouts. It would be good for us to understand that being poor is not an automatic ticket into Heaven.  And we would do well to also understand, that neither is being rich an automatic refusal into Heaven.  I could write, as James wrote, just as many ugly comments about my experience in working with  “the poor” over the years, as James writes about his experience with  “the rich.”  Some of the poor people I’ve worked with used me, drained me of my money, my time, my vehicles, everything I had, they drained me and the church for all that it was worth and the one time they were ever told “no” that was their marching orders to move on to the next welfare program. All I was to them was another welfare program and because I was a Christian it was my duty to help them. All the while they never gave a dime to the church, never helped in anyway; they took, took, took, and never gave and then left. It is true that affluent, rich people, are hard to reach and are often very arrogant about their success and often do mock the Gospel and accuse Christians of just needing “a crutch”.
I have worked around people (because of my profession) like this for many, many years.  I don’t know how a rich Christian is to respond to James’ epistle, as he/she sits down to read his epistle. He/she might take offense to it. He or she might feel that James is being unfair or resents rich people. Is there anyone wealthy and/or rich that is reading this today? I think the best we can try to do is not categorize people and/or allow people do create social class wars. I have been equally blessed by well to do family’s in the church, in times of financial need, as I have been placed by middle class or poor, by their Fellowship and strong faith. Are the rich hard to reach? Yes, but so are the poor. God will bring the poor and the rich into the church and encourage them to live in harmony and not allow social classes and prejudice to divide. Each social class has their own unique (and sometimes not so unique) characteristic flaws that they must overcome, now that they have been called into the body of Christ. Don’t’ hate the rich because they are rich and don’t’ look down on the poor because they are poor. It is our duty to be no respecter of persons and not give preferential treatment to one or the other. Am I saying that James is wrong, about what he writes in his Epistle? Of course not, all scripture is God breathed and inspired by the Holy Spirit. All I'm trying to do is bring a balance, that if you were to just open your bible up to James Chapter 5, you might not get. God's not trying to get us to "hate the rich', that's class warfare and it's ugly, He is simply trying to give us perspective, which I hope you got today!

Friday, November 20, 2015

NOVEMBER 20 "DIVIDED LOYALTIES"

James today follows up on his theme in Chapter 2 that he was touching on; he comes right out and says it now in Ch. 4, "purify your hearts for you loyalties are divided between God and the World". Loyalty is a virtue of a by-gone era. Our kids are raised watching professional athletes run from one team to another, it's all about the mighty dollar, there is no loyalty. These athletes have no loyalty to any team or any city. It's all about "me". You bring that mind set into the Church or into your Christianity, and it's a nightmare. It goes against the very grain of Christian ethics, that teaches us to "do all things without selfish ambition, but rather considering others more than ourselves". Churches today are so desperate for parishioners that we put up with this quasi Christian that is coming out, but yet Joshua confronted them and told them, "if it's to difficult to serve the Lord, make a decision today whom you will serve."  The Philistines kicked the great warrior David off the battle field because they believed he had divided loyalties. They knew David would be unreliable on the battlefield with divided loyalties between Israel and the Philistines. People with divided loyalties are definitely unreliable and unfaithful. Proverbs warns us that relying on them is like relying on a broken tooth or foot out of joint. A gentleman in our church was recently sharing that his company  has a clause that states if they are caught drinking beverages by the competitor, that they will be released from the Company. Their standard is, "If you work here, we expect that if you entertain at your home, you will be serving our companies products at best, but at least, definitely not serving the products of the competitor." They demand loyalty from their employees and are not ashamed to do so. Nobody is more despised in politics than "moderates". These are politicians that are not Conservative, but neither are they Liberals. Politicians on either side would say, "stop being so double minded, make a stand for something!". Jesus also makes mention of this in Revelations, "I'd rather you either be hot or cold". We are seriously irritated by people who just want to be "middle of the road" and apparently so is God, "because you are neither, I will spit you out of my mouth".  Moses did not try to keep his spot as Prince of Egypt and also try to function as a helper for Israel. The book of Hebrews tells us that Moses forsook the fleeting pleasure of sin that he had being the Prince of Egypt, to be associated with the People of God. Moses knew better than to try to play both sides of the fence. The irony of all this is that people who try to be moderate, or middle of the road are only doing it because they think it's the perfect compromise and will bring them the greatest joy, but ironically enough, they are the most miserable. People, Christians that have the most peace & joy are those that have made a resolute decision about whom they serve, what they believe and what church they are going to be loyal too, in the end, James, Jesus and Joshua all say, "this will be the best decision you can make, not only for you, but for those around you". How embarrassing it was, for David, such a great warrior as he was acclaimed to be, to be sent off the battlefield. And how embarrassing it will be to us,  who have undivided loyalties when we are left out of the equation, when our Church and/or our God is looking for someone to include, someone to get involved, someone to help, we will wonder and be embarrassed, at how often we are left out of the equation or even asked not to participate, but this will be your lot, as it was David's, until you make a resolute decision as to whom and what, you want to be loyal too.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

NOVEMBER 18 "GOT PEOPLE SKILLS?"

It seems like brother James is trying to school us in some “good ‘ol fashion people skills”.  Simple gestures like not to show partiality, show mercy to one another and that “love” covers a multitude of sins. We know that according to scripture, “God has ordained that we be fruitful”, so then why are we often, not fruitful? James helps us to understand that if we want to be fruitful, there may be more to it than praying, “Lord make me fruitful, make my church fruitful”.  It’s not like s “super power” that you just get, fruitful will not be the result of something you “just get” but it will be a result of how you treat people. Obviously James has seen this in the Church, as one of the Elders in the Church in Jerusalem.  He has seen preferential treatment being giving to one Christian as opposed to another, he has seen lack of mercy in the dealing with each other and he has seen people holding grudges for past sins. “Love covers a multitude of sins” folks!  I know that we see and read about the mega churches, but the reason these churches are a phenomenon to us is simply because of that, they are a phenomenon!!!  Most churches are not satisfied with the amount of growth. Statistics show most churches in America are either stagnated in growth or declining. I know my family often talks to me in ways that I would not appreciate, someone talking to me that was not “family”.  Can it be that as churches we become to familiar with one another and when a new comer comes in we forget he/she is new and we cannot just be crude, rude, insensitive, cold as we often are with each other because of familiarity. Jesus is quoted as saying to the Father, “none that you have me have I lost”.  It would have been nonsensical to make such a statement if there wasn’t the possibility of losing fruit, which the God brings in to our lives and Churches.  If we will take heed to James’ educational epistle here on how to deal and work with people, we might find ourselves more fruitful as individuals and as a Church. We might want to try changing our prayer from “Lord give me fruit lest I die” to “Lord help me to hold on to the fruit that you bring me, Lord help me to retain and not chase away those you bring my way, Lord help me to develop some people skills so I can be fruitful”.  James teaches us today, that fruitful, often times is a whole lot more practical than we seem to think, James learned from the best, his brother was Jesus so we might want to take heed to his words today!

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

NOVEMBER 17 "BI-POLAR...........CHRISTIAN?"

 We read today about a “double minded man”.  A divided man, or woman, you know…can’t make up his mind what he wants, she has divided loyalties, divided affections and divided interests which lead to divided and unstable commitments. I think I know a few of these people. If we like to throw around the term “bi-polar” then let’s do it! They are bi-polar Christians, bi-polar in attendance, bi-polar in commitments and as we rack our heads trying to figure them out, what makes them tick, what makes them so fleeting and unpredictable we just cannot figure it out. James give us insight that what we are dealing with is an individual with divided loyalties.  Joshua says, “stop wavering, make a decision today” David is not allowed to fight with the Philistines, they tell him to go back, David is accused of having divided loyalties (which David had whether he realized it or not). We can live in a Country, be in a Faith, attend a Congregation, each Sunday, faithfully, but have divided loyalties.  Divided Loyalties will get you killed. Some of these journalists that are being caught and beheaded in the Middle East, ironically enough are Muslim sympathizers. They are American, but have divided loyalties. I didn’t’ say they were Muslims, I said they were “Muslim sympathizers” in other words, I am of Judea-Christian belief, I am American, but just because they are not; and they are Muslim, doesn’t mean I’m right and they’re wrong.  If I go there and let them see that I am not this harsh, arrogant American, John Wayne, “It’s my way or it’s the high way” they will see that I am a sympathizer and we can be in harmony” The reality is, no they won’t! We have seen first hand that what they will do is capture you and behead you. Why? Because they don’t have divided loyalties. Our scripture today says, “let not ANY double minded man think that he will receive anything from the Lord.”  Joshua says, “make up your mind today who you want to serve”.  Jesus in Revelations says, “be hot or cold” same message, make a decision! The bible is filled with the idea of not being double minded, but rather to be resolute, committed and sure of where you stand and what you believe. In politics nobody is despised more than “moderates”. The Conservatives can’t stand them and the Liberals can’t stand. Each party will say, “Stop being a coward and choose a side!!!”.  One thing we can respect about Islamic Extremists (okay, I respect nothing about Islamic Extremist, but for the purpose of my argument…) is that they know what side they’re on and they are sold out for the cause. Are we sold out for the cause or is our Christianity simply “the soup de jour”. A moderate politician I can tell you will never get anywhere and certainly will never get elected into office.  James tells us neither will the “moderate Christian” get anywhere. James, Jesus and Joshua, the 3  J’s all tell us, make a decision what it is you want because until you make that decision, you’re wasting everyone’s time, effort and energies and you yourself are going nowhere, make a decision today, be hot or cold!

Monday, November 16, 2015

NOVEMBER 16 "YOU'RE JUST ENTERTAINMENT TO THEM!"

This is the scripture preachers don't like to read. Every time I read it it leaves me a little unsettled. To think of myself as nothing more than mere entertainment for parishioners is not comforting, in the least. But the reality is, for many Americans, Sunday church attendance is a form of a religious, habitual ritual for many. You get up, put on your best dress, show up to church, it's very social, mingle a little, listen to the sermon (with half our minds on something else) then mingle a little more, go out to lunch and then head home and begin to wind down for the evening. The idea that your sermon is going the be the very spiritual breath in their lungs and change their course, catapult them forward is perhaps naive or overly optimistic. However, this is how the true preacher feels about his sermon. He studies, prays and tries to get the mind of Christ for that service believing that his sermon can make a difference in someone's life. God is really bursting that bubble in this text. God straight out tells Ezekial, "they have no plans on doing a thing you are saying". Huh? Can be the response to the preacher who first hears this from God. While God has never told me that, I have read it in this passage many times, I have also read it in the Epistle of James "to be doers of the Word and not hearers only" and I have seen it with my own two eyes and experienced it with my church. So what do you do? Some get cynical and stop putting forth the effort in their sermon preparation, others just grab sermons off the internet and last, some get discouraged and just quit the ministry all together. I think as congregation members we must read this passage, check ourselves and ask the probing question, " is this me in this passage, would God include me in this bunch of people, has church become no more than just a religious, habitual ritual for me? Am I still going to hear from God or is it more about socializing, dressing up, seeing my friends, getting out of the house and getting some fellowship?" For the preacher, we must guard our hearts from becoming cynical, as it is very easy to do so. And we must continue to believe in our purpose and in the power of a sermon to help and perhaps, change someone's life.

NOVEMBER 15 "DON'T DO IT!"

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

Saturday, November 14, 2015

NOVEMBER 14 "PERSONAL JESUS "

Depeche Mode even had a hit in the 90's called "Personnel Jesus " , the lyrics went something like this....
Your own personal Jesus
Someone to hear your prayers
Someone who cares
Your own personal Jesus
Someone to hear your prayers
Someone who's there
Pick up the receiver
I'll make you a believer.....
We read the verse today in Ezekiel and we might question it. God is telling Ezekiel to let Pharaoh know that He heard him say, "for you have said the river is mine, I have made it myself" Really? Six Billion people in the earth and God is paying attention to one sentence uttered by one person, in the midst of billions of people and quint trillion conversations. How can this be? Somehow this idea of a Personal God doesn't resonate with us. We can believe in God's existence, some kind of moral being in the Universe, even Creator of all. We can even see his as a judge, judging people, as they die, one by one. However this notion of a God who pays attention to me, as if I were the only one, this is hard to grasp for most people. This is why most people are very comfortable with religion because it espouses a belief in God but doesn't take it as far as a Born Again believer would.  The term "Christian" was originally a mocking term for those that the book of Acts describes as being part of "a sect" (modern day translation "cult" ) that believed Christ dwelt in them, a Personal Jesus, how ludicrous what that? This mindset is still very much prevalent today. People don't mind talking about God in general terms but when you begin to speak about God in a personal way, and reveal that you are a Born Again Christian, you will still be deemed as being a little of the far edge, you will still be deemed as fanatical and perhaps be accused of being in a Cult. We are not comfortable with a Personal God, but yet that's what God has always wanted, even as far back as the book of Ezekiel. God's purpose in all of this is laid out for us, we read, "that Israel may know that I am their God". Tragedy is, they never did know, and when the Personal Jesus came, of which Depeche Mode sings or mocks about, they crucified Him. Here we are in the 21 Century, maybe about four to five thousand years later and we still don't' know "the personal Jesus".  Pharaoh did not believe in a Personal Jesus, I think we can agree on that, but yet we see that in spite of Pharaoh not believing, that God was still listening and paying attention to Pharaoh, as if he were the only one. Not only does God reveal that He is listening to every word, but that Pharaoh will be judged by those words, by those actions, regardless of what Pharaoh and you and I believe. God is not to busy to hear our hateful words, see our sin and observe our uncharitable behavior. There was a story in the Phoenix Arizona paper about a burglar that robbed a house and when the Police showed up they found the house ransacked and noticed that the thief had turned a statue of Jesus to face the wall.  The thief was not comfortable with the idea of a Personal Jesus watching your every move and this is indicative of the society we live in. Why aren't are churches fuller, why aren't more people coming into the Evangelical Christian Church? The answer is because they want a Jesus that is facing the wall, they don't want a "Personal Jesus" give them religion and they will flood your Sanctuary, give them a Personal Jesus and you will actually scare them away!

Friday, November 13, 2015

NOVEMBER 13 "GOD SURE SEEMS MEAN"

There are times my daughter (Shania) has not understood me. There are times Shania has thought that I was mean, uncaring…..and probably thought my behavior was quite unchristian.  I remember harshly confronting a young unchristian man that kept coming out to church and was vehemently pursuing my daughter and always trying to get her somewhere alone where they “could talk”.  On several occasions I politely said hi to him and then interrupted their “moments” and told my daughter to come with me. However he would follow or cut her off in the hallway later on in the service, he just would not be deterred. I’ve seen too many, young, unsuspecting, easily flattered girls, seduced and ripped off from the church, by wolves in sheep’s clothing, to allow it to happen to my own daughter.  After the stern confrontation, he stopped coming to church. My daughter did not look at me with high regard and respect for this act, as a matter of a fact, it was the opposite, she saw me in a different light, she saw it as a negative mark in my character. All I heard for the next few weeks was “my dad is mean, he says he cares, but yet chases away, this poor, troubled young man who is simply seeking God”. It tainted her view of me just like our scripture in Ezekiel has tainted our view of God. “He is mean, uncaring…poor guy, God just takes his wife from him, who would do something like that, surely not a caring God”. My daughter was reading this story in her One Year Bible and asked me about it, she too was perplexed by God’s actions and behavior.  I thought to myself, “what is their to say, it is a very strange situation.  And to make matters worse, God tells Ezekiel that he is not to shed a tear either. I don’t know about you, but I would prefer that these stories were not in the bible and that I did not have to try to explain them to my daughter, and honestly, to myself. I am trying to teach my daughter and others of God’s great love and kindness and then she reads this odd story, the same one you read, and wondered, “wow…God sure can be mean and weird. My answer to Shania was simply, “yes, God did take her, I guess Heaven is a bad place to go eh?”. It was a tongue and cheek comment, and she did laugh…. “a little”.  I know my bible tells me “that there is no sin found in our God and all His ways are just and true” and I must trust in that scripture as I want my daughter to trust me when my behavior, seems to her, unbecoming, in her opinion, of a caring ,Christian man. I had the opportunity some time later to do some ministry in a Juvenile Detention Center and I was in with a group of young men, doing a bible study, when one of these young men, finally looked up at me (he had his head down the whole time) and said, “do you remember me?” That’s when it became evident to me who this young man was; it was the young man that was coming to church, hitting on my daughter months earlier. He was up to trouble then and has continued in trouble since.  At the time my behavior seem unjustified in my daughter’s eyes, but it was not. I had a higher purpose; beyond that moment, in the foyer of our Church.  My higher purpose was my daughter and the preservation of her innocence and her future. I personally think the brutality of Jesus’ death and the suffering Jesus went through also makes God look mean, strange and different than what I would expect of God. However there was a higher purpose beyond those two days that Jesus suffered;  that is beyond my/our understanding. We don’t have to try to justify God in every story in the Bible and try to make excuses for Him and/or his behavior. We simply have to say, “I admit, that is strange, I admit that does seem quite mean of God and I’m sorry if that story only gives you more reason “not to serve him”, but I trust him even though I don’t always understand God or agree, I do trust in his character”.  The truth is God’s people today still lose their wives, still lose their children, still lose their grandchildren and although God did not show up and audibly tell them, “I’m going to take your wife’ the end result was the same…the wife, the child or grandchild was taken and when we know that God is Omnipotent and could have stopped it, it only makes it that much worse. In those times we can turn on God and become Atheists or we can say, “though I don’t understand and I don’t agree, I will continue to trust and follow you because I know that all thy ways are just and true”…….perhaps that’s why Job in his suffering said, “though he slay me, yet will I praise Him!”

Thursday, November 12, 2015

NOVEMBER 12 "SUCH A THING AS SECULAR FAITH?"

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

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

NOVEMBER 11 "NEVER GOT AWAY WITH NOTHING"

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

Monday, November 9, 2015

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

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

Sunday, November 8, 2015

NOVEMBER 7 "SO GLAD I SERVE THE GOD OF THE N.T."

I am so glad I serve the God of the New Testament. I think somewhere between Malachi and the Gospel of Mathew, the God of the Old Testament was converted. The God of the Old Testament seems like He's always judging people for their sins and angry and Jesus of course, is more like Grandpa, He's just so nice and accepting and tolerant and forgiving, almost a "pushover", but hey, that's fine with me, I'd much rather that than this angry God in the Old Testament. How could God be so different in the Old Testament as opposed  to the New Testament? It almost seems like two separate Gods; unless I begin to look closer. The first place I need to go in my research of these seemingly two separate Gods, is Golgotha. When I get up to Golgotha, I see Jesus, hanging on that cross, with a crown of thorns forced unto his skull , nails driven into his hands and feet and a side pierced with a sword and a back that has it's flesh so beaten, the flesh is just hanging and then when I see this, I have to wonder, who is this Jesus and who was it that didn't like him because judging by the torture He received, somebody or some people despised him. But why? Then I remember that time he did confront the woman who had had five husbands and was shacking up with her current husband. Then I also remember the time he flipped over the tables in the Temple and began to call the people names and judge (oooops, there's that word) them for their actions.  I also remember the time he called the Priests hypocrites, told them their father was the devil, he called them adulterers and thieves, now it's all coming back to me. Jesus called sin sin and sinners sinners. He really wasn't this warm gushy grandpa type of God after all, so where do I get this notion then? It's not in my bible? As a matter of a fact, when I think of it, in Revelations, Jesus seems to be full of judgment, awful and awesome judgement that almost makes the God in the Old Testament look passive. Maybe the Jesus I'm thinking of is the one that the religious world has created that is just a fictitious as Santa Clause himself.  Maybe Jesus, just like Jehovah, sees all our sin and is just as angry about our sin today as he was 4000 years ago? Maybe Jesus today still does judge and bring consequences to sin, just like he did with Israel thousands of years ago. Maybe that's why I look around, read the news, talk to co-workers, and get depressed at the news (or could I say judgement) that I hear about? When I look at my life, it seems bliss compared to what I hear at work and watch on T.V. Maybe Jehovah didn't convert somewhere between Malachi and Mathew because He didn't need to. In our text in Ezekiel we read that His ultimate goal is to forgive and restore. Sounds allot like Jesus to me. Maybe the greatest understanding we in the 21st Century could gain is that we serve the same God of the Old Testament and He hasn't changed and He still does judge, get angry and bring consequences on those that blatantly and defiantly sin in the face of God.  It's interesting that as we go on to read our New Testament reading in Hebrews we read "the day is coming , says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and Judah. ..........I will put my laws in their minds, and I will write them on their hearts, I will be their God and they will be my people." Could it be that the God of the Old Testament is the same God of the New Testament, could it be that Jehovah is Jesus? Could it be that this same God, in Old Testament and New Testament has always had the same purpose and goal in mind and that is to bring his people to a place where they would know him, know his ways, follow him in his ways so he could bless them and not have to judge them? Nothing has changed from Old to New Testament. The same sins and disobedience that brought judgment and God's disfavor 4000 years ago are the same sins and disobedience that bring judgement upon our lives in the 21st Century. And what brought blessing and prosperity upon God's people 4000 years ago is still what brings blessing upon people today; and that is, a reverent fear and obedience to God's ways. Christians that are blessed today are the ones that have the understanding that we serve the same God, and what cursed and brought judgement in the Old Testament is the same that will being cursing and judgment today and what brought blessing then is also what will bring blessing today. " I am so glad (phew) I serve the God of the New Testament", anyone who utters those words shows only their ignorance, He is the same God and He was good and merciful then, only wanting relationship with his people and He is good and merciful today, only wanting relationship with us still, " I am the Lord thy God, there is no shadow of turning in me, I am the same yesterday, today and forevermore!"

Friday, November 6, 2015

NOVEMBER 6 "DOES GOD STILL DO MIRACLES?"

The Psalmist writes, "who can list the glorious miracles of the Lord!" I dare say, there are some reading this blog that might challenge that!"  They would say, "list them, I'm hard pressed to think of one!
How'' your miracle life? Miracles go hand in hand with opportunity. We have our lives so structured and we don't venture out in faith, we keep it safe. Well then don't complain you have no miracles. Peter had to step out of the boat to experience a miracle, but don't forget there was a handful of other disciples that stayed in the boat, safe and experienced no miracle! You can have it both ways.  Christians who venture, in faith, are the ones that have the "lists of miracles" to write about. 
 "Does God still do miracles? In your intellect you say, "yes of course", but in your heart what do you say? God does miracle, yes! Does He do miracles for you? Do you encourage others to believe in miracles and now you need a miracle but yet you are having a hard time believing God for a miracle, for yourself. "I believe for others so why can't I believe for me?", people ask. I have a simple answer for that, "you don't believe for others, it's a fallacy is all it is, it's just talk because it DOES'T really matter, because it's not you. True faith causes a believer to Believe God for their own miracle, before believing for another and once we see God do a miracle for us then and only then, can we TRUL believe for someone else. It's backwards to say, "I believe for others but not for myself, it's actuallydisingenuous.
Does God still do miracles, of course, question is........is He doing them for you and if not, then why? 

Thursday, November 5, 2015

NOVEMBER 5 "EYES TO SEE"

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

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

NOVEMBER 4 "HOW DO YOU KNOW YOU LOVE JESUS?"

I go to church, I pray from time to time and on the occasion, pick up my bible. I'm not perfect, but I do abstain from most obvious and premeditated sins. I wonder, is my love for God shown by being faithful in ministry, is it shown by my generous giving, maybe....I can guess and assume on these previous virtues, but here is one that I don't have to guess about, it's plain as can be, "For God is not unjust. He will not forget how hard you have worked for him and how you have shown your love to him by caring for other believers".  There it is, in writing, "you have shown your love FOR GOD, by caring for other believers.  We lose that vital link with God when we lose our heart for other believers in the church. Every relationship hinges on common bond in that relationship. Two people connect when they have a common idea, sport, hobby or passion that they share and connect on. Many couples divorce when the children have grown and moved out because that couple now realizes they had no other bond between them, other than those children, that are now gone, "what do we have in common now, nothing!" and they divorce. Our connection to Jesus, is our heart, our common bond for his people. Many religious people would attribute their love for God then, by telling us the good and how much they care for their families. This does not impress God that you would care for your own family, you are quite dysfunctional at best, if you don't care for your own family. God does not mince words. Our scripture indicates that we show our great love for Him when we care for "other believers", never mind your family. To illustrate this, Jesus gives us the parable of the Good Samaritan. What's good about the Good Samaritan? We know the answer, "that he cared", but the answer is not that simple, everybody cares, at least most normal people. I'm sure the priest and the Rabbi would have stopped if this was their mother or father on the side of the road. However, it was not and therefore;  they did not stop or care.  Yes the Good Samaritan cared, but what's more relevant is that he cared for someone that was not part of "his own". In Hebrews today we read that God attributes our love for him but loving other believers. "Give preference to one another" another scripture reads.  At the end of this we read a secret to keeping a passion in our relationship with God.  Our great desire is that you will keep on loving others as long as life lasts, in order to make certain that what you hope for will come true. 12Then you will not become spiritually dull and indifferent.  Christians who become dull are Christians who have no interest in caring for other people in the church. All they do is come out, hear the sermon and rush home, but are disconnected from other believers and are definitely disconnected from caring for other believers in the church. We often hear this comment, "I've lost interest in the Church, not God, but the Church, I just stay home and worship there".  Well the truth is, before they lost interest in the church they lost interest in the believers in the church. What do you really have in common with Jesus if you've lost interest in caring for other believers? How do you show your love for God? Any answers you come up with, that our contrary to our scripture today, are meaningless at best; and very deceptive and misleading at worse. We don't have to guess, we don't have to assume or wonder anymore about how we know we love God, it has been laid out for us today, we know we love God when we are actively engaged in the caring for other believers.