Tuesday, November 21, 2017

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!

Monday, November 20, 2017

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.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

NOVEMBER 19 "PRACTICE WHAT YOU PREACH"

Sometimes I blame it on the State I live in....Texas!.  It is the Bible Belt of the southwest.  I came here with a preconceived notion that people would be terribly religious, everyone would claim to "know the Lord", but would they live it? I blamed it on the South West Bible belt, but as I read what James has to write in his Epistle, it makes me realize, this is a very long standing issue and has nothing to do with a particular state and/or country. According to James, over 2000 years ago, this was an issue and James was not living in Texas; America did not even exist, but yet James is having to address people who claim to be pious and religious folks, but don't have the actions and character to back it up. James mentions folks praising God and then turning around and cursing somebody. He mentions lots of talk of faith, with little action. He mentions people who can't or don't control what they say. He mentions people who hear sermons, but don't do what the sermons say. This describes the church in Texas. But then again, that's not fair. It describes the church in South Africa, it describes the church in California, it describes the church in Nebraska, Tennessee, it describes the church everywhere, not just one particular state or region (ie: the midwest).  We blame it on Catholics or Methodists or Anglicans or whomever, but it's everyone! It's Born Agains, Evangelical Christians too, it's Pentecostals, it's Baptists, it's all across the board. All denominations are guilty of having members that are not living how they should as Christians. I have heard Born Again Christians cuss, I have known Pentecostal Christians to look at porn, I have known Baptists to drink and cuss and smoke. It's unfortunate, but it is true. I would like to assume, that because James is writing the Epistle, he does not live his Christian life this way. I would like to assume, that because Paul wrote the letters to the church at Corinth, that he does not live his Christian life like they did. We can spend our days scratching our heads wondering why people who are Born Again, live and act like this? They hear the same sermons, read the same bible and some of them go to the same church, we just don't know. All we can do is not be one of them! All we can do is not be the type of Christian that prompts these kind of letters or the ones the Paul had to write. We can be an example, as Paul said he was, of what it is to be a Christian, Paul wrote, "follow my example as I follow Christ". If we have any opportunity to speak, speak, if we have an opportunity to preach, preach, if we have an opportunity to write, write, but above all, live it! You may never have an open forum in the sense of crowds, but you everyday have an opportunity to live it. As one man wrote, "the best sermon I ever saw my dad preach, was the one he lived!"

Saturday, November 18, 2017

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 a “super power” that you just miraculously get endowed with. Fruitfulness 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 of 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 part of my  “family”.  Can it be that as churches we become to familiar with one another and when a new member comes in we forget he/she is new and we cannot just be crude, rude, insensitive, cold as we often are with each other! Jesus is quoted as saying to the Father, “none that you have given 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!

Friday, November 17, 2017

NOVEMBER 17 "BI-POLAR CHRISTIAN ARE YOU?"

 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!

Thursday, November 16, 2017

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 Ezekiel, "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.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

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.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

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!

Monday, November 13, 2017

NOVEMBER 13 "GOD SURE SEEMS MEAN...I'M JUST SAYIN...."

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!”

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!

Saturday, November 11, 2017

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!

Friday, November 10, 2017

NOVEMBER 10 "COULD YOU BE A PSALM WRITER?"

Could you be a Psalm writer?  "No, I'm not poetic".  The Psalms are not about poetry, they're about relationship. What encourages us in reading the Psalms is reading about the relationship the writer(s) have with God. It's refreshing, it's encouraging, it shows us what we can have; and should have!  "Your faithfulness reaches to the sky"  "I will sing your praises"  "all human help is useless, with God's help we will do mighty things". It is so refreshing to read and in so doing , it implants in our minds, thoughts that are right, thoughts that are in line with God's Word.  So different than what we hear otherwise, from week to week from our brethren and sisteren! Staying home from church, speaking doubt and negativity, talking of losing their faith, God's not coming through, etc..etc...and then we read the Psalms, we read about men that are enthused, pumped up, about their relationship with God and something inside of us says, "yeah, that's, the way it should be, that's who I want to hang around with", so the question is...."could you be a Psalm writer?  Do you have anything good to write? Do you have anything praise worthy to say? Are you even going to church faithfully? Are you even praying regularly? Do you worship when you do go to church or just sit or stand there detached; could you be a Psalm writer? Have you ever tried to write a Psalm, have you ever wrote a journal on the faithfulness and goodness of God? Could you be a Psalm writer, should you be a Psalm writer? The answers...YES and YES. Set your mind, your attitude, to be a Psalm writer. Strive for that relationship with God that the Psalmists had and sit yourself down and write a Psalm for God, write a Psalm, to God!

Thursday, November 9, 2017

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.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

NOVEMBER 8 "OLD ORDER OR NEW ORDER, WHICH WOULD YOU HAVE?"

"An external washing, ceremonies" that's all they are, writes the author of Hebrews, UNTIL, the time of the New Order. Do some research, find out, "are there more Catholics, than Born Again Christians, in the world?"  I believe there is. If God ever slept, this idea of the New Order would have kept Him up at night with excitement. Away with religious ceremonies, away with an external washing, that does not clear or clean the conscience. The new order will be Christ coming Himself, by the Holy Spirit, to make His dwelling place in our hearts. Now are consciences can be cleansed/cleared, now we can be washed within. Now we can be clean inside and out, not just a superficial, surface change, but a true change, "if any man be in Christ, he is a New Creation". Well, the New Order has come and Praise God there are many all over the world that rejoice at being saved, being Born Again, being made a "New Creation", but yet there are literally millions that still want to hold on to the "old order" of religious ceremonies and only external washing" but still being filthy inside. There are an estimated 1.2 Billion Catholics in the world today. That's HUGE! Why would the vast majority of the world's population, reject the "New Order"? Why would they reject God's great plan to abolish the Priesthood, to do away with religious ceremonies and only an external washing? Why? Why? Why? I will let you figure that one out!

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

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!"

Monday, November 6, 2017

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? 

Sunday, November 5, 2017

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."

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. 

Friday, November 3, 2017

NOVEMBER 3 "DO YOU HAVE THE MARK?"

     IF this is not what we already knew, at least deep down in our conscience, now it has been confirmed in by Ezekiel. And what is that you ask?  That God looks through our little, secret doors and chambers and sees everything we do in secret.  "Then he brought me to the entrance to the court. I looked, and I saw a hole in the wall...Go in and see the wicked and detestable things they are doing here.... He said to me, “Son of man, have you seen what the elders of Israel are doing in the darkness, each at the shrine of his own idol? They say, ‘The LORD does not see us..."  However this only confirms what we subconsciously repress and that is....we are not getting away with nothing.
And along with the "not getting away with nothing" comes the Doom & Gloom. Yes this is quite a doomsday scripture to read today and I do mean that quite literally "Disaster! Unheard-of[a] disaster! See, it comes! 6 The end has come! The end has come! It has roused itself against you. See, it comes! Doom has come upon you..."
     Well....is God a destroyer, a Judge, a killer? Yes, He can be, but in the midst of Judging, destroying and killing God always saves room to spare the penitent. This is consistent with God through out the whole Bible, Genesis to Revelation. The scary part is that God does peek into the windows and doors of our hearts and He does see us practicing things we ought not to practice. God not only judges what we do, whether it be right or wrong, but also whether or not are motives were pure.  This does not leave much hope for any of us except for the fact that immediately following our reading of doom & gloom in Ezekiel we turn to read in Hebrews about the covering of the Priests for our sins...phew!!! We also know that our priest is Jesus Christ himself and if it were not for the shedding of his blood for us, as our high priest, it would be doom & gloom because surely nobody would make it to Heaven. Did God plan it out that as we read so gloomily about his judgement in Ezekiel that we would turn and then read in Hebrews about his covering for our sins, about Grace? The answer to that question is irrelevant because whether it is planned like that or not, we know that it is true.  Even in Ezekiel's doom and gloom there is Grace5 As I listened, he said to the others, “Follow him through the city and kill, without showing pity or compassion. 6 Slaughter the old men, the young men and women, the mothers and children, but do not touch anyone who has the mark.
And who are the ones that had the mark?  “Go throughout the city of Jerusalem and put a mark on the foreheads of those who grieve and lament over all the detestable things that are done in it.”
This is very similar to what John writes in revelationsRevelation 9:4They were told not to harm the grass of the earth or any plant or tree, but only those people who did not have the seal of God on their foreheads.  And of course this is all reminiscent of the Passover in the book of Exodus where the Angel "The destroyer" went over every home and destroyed, killed every first born, but passed over the homes that had "The Mark" over the door post/frames of their homes.  What was the mark?  The Blood of The Lamb.  Who had the mark?  The same group that had the mark in Ezekiel's day and the same group that have the Mark in the book of Revelations....thousands of years apart but yet they are all spared God's judgment, from Old Testament to New Testament and who is the group that has the Mark, whether Old or New Testament?  They are those that fear God. It is those that grieve and lament over all the detestable things that are being done".
     People say that it seems like God changed somewhere between Malachi & Matthew; as if God himself got saved in between the Old & New Testament.  I believe people say this in ignorance.  God has always been more than willing, whether in the Old or New Testament, to have mercy, show Grace & Compassion to the penitent of heart. His judgment in the New Testament seems absent, but it is not absent it is only being held off for a "short time" and when it is unleashed it will make the Old Testament judgment, doom & gloom, seem like Disney Land.  And in the New, just like the Old, those that will be spared with be those with "The Mark".  Question is...do you have "The Mark?"  Often when we think about "The Mark" we think about the mark of the beast, the number 666 that is put on our right hand or forehead, but remember, God is the originator of "The Mark" and the Devil is just a counterfeit of all that God does.  Many people are obsessed with not having the Devil's mark, but the question is "do you have God's Mark upon your life?" When God's judgement is unleashed in the earth, will He pass over you?  Yes God peeks inside our secret chambers and doors and sees all, but there is Grace & Forgiveness if we seek it. The blood of bulls and sheep He does not want, but a broken and contrite spirit He will not despise (turn away).

Thursday, November 2, 2017

NOVEMBER 2 "ARE YOU ENJOYING THE SABBATH?"

  Are you enjoying your Sabbath? We work to rest. If we dismiss the Sabbath as 21st Century Christians, we show our ignorance of the Sabbath. For man was not made for the Sabbath, but the Sabbath was made for man, Jesus proclaims. The author in Hebrews is alluding to the fact or point, that Heaven is our Sabbath as Christians. Retirement is very much ingrained in the culture of North American Society, it is the ultimate, earthly Sabbath. That God made the earth in six days and rested on the seventh day has been reduced to no more than a Children’s Church story. However it’s meaning and implications, ironically, is meant for Adults, not in anyway was it meant for Children. However it is good to teach our children, that there is a day of Sabbath, a day of rest, even if at times, that means boredom to the child. The Sabbath is meant for us in the same way it was meant for the land. In the 7th year the Israelites were told to give the land rest, to allow it a year of rest to replenish its nutrients.  Experts say today the land has been so depleted of it’s nutrients that it is false to think, that we can get by with just eating vegetables because those vegetables do not contain half the vitamins they once contained because the soil has been depleted of all it’s nutrients. And we as humans become the same and you and I have run into the individual who has disregarded the Sabbath; he is a worn out and depleted human being. You can sit there and try to throw your Theology at me and explain to me how the Sabbath is an Old Testament ritual, but call me ignorant if you want, but I see Heaven as New Testament and in Hebrews, the author describes to us, the true Sabbath, that has been prepared for us, the eternal Sabbath and day of rest for God’s people, Heaven!!. We work while it is day because the night cometh when no man can work. We labor now, for the rest that is coming, when that rest does not come or we have no hope of that rest, we become unproductive as citizens and we become equally unproductive as celestial citizens. There is meaning behind the Sabbath on both sides of Eternity. The Sabbath was never meant to become forced or become “a law” Jesus tries to explain to you and I….”listen, the Sabbath was made for you, don’t you get it?”  Do we get it? Are you run down and ragged, has the soil of your life been depleted of all its nutrients? Two things God gave us to help us in our journey, the Holy Spirit and The Sabbath, amazing how many Christians think, they can get by, without either of them!

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

NOVEMBER 1 "WHO ARE THEY REALLY REJECTING?"

" But the people of Israel are not willing to listen to you because they are not willing to listen to me" There's a profound truth here! People that are willing to listen to us are really people that are willing to listen to God. Many people pray and ask for a sign from God, but that's not what they need. I myself once prayed, "God if you're real, cause a falling star to fall...RIGHT NOW!” A falling star didn't fall and I continued in my sinful ways until later on I ran into a Christian who invited me out to church....several times! What if God had gave me my request that night in the park and shown me a falling star, would I have become a believer? Of course not, I would have dismissed it as mere coincidence and gone on in my sin. All we need is the people God sends our way, if we will listen to them then we will listen to God. But the opposite is also true, if we will not listen to them then we will not listen to God either. People are looking for something more than their co-worker, friend and/or family member, inviting them to church and telling them about God. They are looking for God incarnate, they are looking for something big, yet God is speaking to them through this person, ie: Ezekiel. They reject as, "who do you think you are?", "Stop judging me", "God I will listen to, but you're just a man", blah, blah, blah.....it's a facade. Nobody reading this blog was reached by a 10 foot arch angel. Nobody here had Jesus incarnate, take them by the hand to church; it was an Ezekiel for all of us and those that rejected our words, rejected God and those that heard and listened to our words heard and listened to God and are saved and in church today. Next time someone rejects the words God gave you, make sure to let them know, "it's not my words you're rejecting, it's God's!" And walk on your merry way and let them chew on that for a bit.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

OCTOBER 31 "HAPPY HALLOWEEN! NOTHING SCARIER THAN DYING!"

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

Monday, October 30, 2017

OCTOBER 30 "DO YOU LOVE ANGELS?"

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

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

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

Saturday, October 28, 2017

OCTOBER 28 "THE ACCURACY OF THE BIBLE"

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