Friday, July 21, 2017

JULY 21 "CAN YOU GET GOD TO CHANGE HIS MIND?"

I'm always reminded when I read my Bible that "we are made in God's image". How often, I as the authority in my home have been persuaded by the children that I love so much to be persuaded against what I have said. I clearly laid down how things would be, it was set in stone (or maybe not) how things were going to be, what we were going to do or where we were going to go and how long we were going to stay, but yet, as I look back, somehow, these little kids were able to influence me, the great authority in the home, to do otherwise. How does a child, who knows really nothing about nothing, influence an adult who has been living & experiencing life for 40 years? It must be this thing called "love" that allows us to be influenced by a lesser "species" (if I can use that term). Take the example I have just given you and multiply it to the Nth Degree and you have some sort of resemblance of us, a much, much lower species, influencing the Almighty Omniscient God of The Universe. How can that be, how can that happen? The only answer I can come up with is another component of the Creator that was installed in his creation and that is, Love. Love compels us to be influenced by those that we love, this can be good and it can be very, very bad. History has recorded unbelievable and inspiring stories of those that were allowed to be changed and influenced, by Love. History has also recorded some of the most worse acts committed by people who were influenced to commit heinous acts, against their better judgement, by the one(s) they loved, only to find their lives ruined because of it. Solomon himself, testifies that this awesome God, creator of the universe had Himself said that "O Lord, you have said that you would live in a thick cloud of darkness. Now I have built a glorious Temple for you, a place where you can live forever".  Solomon is showing his ignorance here and displaying to us how gracious this God is that Solomon serves. Some of the plans I have allowed, that my children thought were glorious, but yet their understanding was so limited and the things I had to do behind the scenes so that my children's "great & glorious" plans wouldn't actually get us killed or completely mess us up. I never told them, I just worked behind the scenes and at the end they said, "dad, aren't you glad you listened to us and wasn't that a great idea".  My answer...."yes, yes, it was great".  Imagine Solomon telling God how glorious his Temple is! "Now I have built this glorious temple for you". In the eyes of Jehovah, that Temple looks, at best,  like a kids doll house, it's "a cute and modest structure". Obviously Solomon has had no visions of Heaven as John did.  Secondly Solomon exposes his ignorance by stating that it is a place
 " a Temple for you, a place you can live forever!".  In Solomon's eyes, this is the greatest thing on earth. And he's probably right, greatest thing "on earth", but to think that it's so great that God, the Omnipotent, Sovereign God can dwell there forever?! You can't help but laugh at this thought, and this is coming from the "Wisest Man that ever lived". Solomon testifies that God had said He would not dwell in any place, God had said that Israel would not have a King, but yet Solomon is quick to say, "ahhhhhh, but we do have a King now and you have chosen a place to dwell".  In this Solomon is right. Solomon is correct in testifying that this God of the universe,  has allowed, this species, this much lessor species, called Humans, to influence him to do and/or allow, what He said he would not. It's one thing that my children can do that with me, but to think that we, mere mortals, can do that with this Omnipotent, Omniscient, Omni-present God is quite something else. God's love for you allows you to have influence over Him, in a way most don't understand and probably never use to their advantage. We have access to the Throne of God, we can petition this God that loves us so much and He can be moved by our petitions and pleas. A God who will and can cover us in our botched and often, ridiculous plans and make sure we still land on our feet rather than on our head. And last our reading shows us, that even the best of us, have so much more to learn about the God that we serve. Solomon is the knowledgeable one to his people, but here we are, as 21st Century believers and we, who are not as wise as Solomon, can look at Solomon and say, "wow, Solomon, you had a lot to learn about God, I know more about God than you did". The opportunity we have as New Testament Christians, with the Bible, with the Holy Spirit is unprecedented, but yet do we realize it and do we take the opportunity we have to get to know, this Omniscient, Omnipotent God of the Universe? Do we take the time to petition Him for ourselves because of the knowledge we have,  of his great love for us? Will the next generation look at us and say, "we were ignorant, we knew nothing?" Will they look at us and say, "they had more knowledge, but that knowledge they had was in vain, they never used it to their advantage!"

Thursday, July 20, 2017

JULY 20 "SOLOMON...NOT RICH & WISE?"

As we are reading our text today in the Old Testament, we are reminded of a Solomon that we often forget ever existed. It's hard to imagine a Solomon that was not always wise, powerful and influential, but it is a reality that there is a Solomon that we could never imagine. We've come to know Solomon as the Wisest, Richest most powerful influential King Israel ever had and cannot think of him otherwise. If I sound redundant here it is simply because I am trying to stress the point that we only know of the Solomon that God raised up and did the miraculous in. This is God's work! I stand before a congregation every Sunday and they look at a Pastor, they look at a man that has some wisdom ( I at least would hope), a man with influence, a man that is different from before the miraculous change.  Only a few people will ever know the Richard that once was; the rest, will only, ever know me as Richard, the Christian, the wise Pastor, the steadfast one, etc...etc.....I can even tell them about how I was, but when they look at me they will always see me, regardless, as they know me. This is the power of God, this is what God does. He transforms us to the point that nobody could ever imagine us other than what He has made us. Nobody ever looks at a butterfly and says, "I recognize you from the caterpillar you were!" No, the metamorphosis is unrecognizable. Immoral women, that are transformed and we cannot even for a moment contemplate them ever being anything but pure, virtuous and modest women, but yet they were anything but that, this is what God does. Many that would meet Mary Magdalene years down the road would have a very, very hard time conceiving who she once was. The most gentle man in the church, patient and kind, how can we ever see him as being anything other than that. However, only a few know and saw the man that was very violent, bigoted and dangerous, but we only know and see the man God has made. This is what God does, this is the Power of God.  All knowing, all wise, King Solomon the great, only God and a few others will ever know, the Solomon that wasn't so wise and so desperately needed Wisdom that when asked for anything......We only know him as the wisest man that ever lived. The point is, when God has His way, when God is done with us, we become amazingly different specimens than we ever were before and His work is so grand, so great, so complete, that when people look at us, when people come to know us, it's hard for them to imagine us Ever having been, any less the what they see before them, that's God!

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

JULY 19 "IS YOUR WALK BLAMELESS?"

     I was just speaking with a brother (a Christian) the other day who has willful sin, but yet seems to continue in it. I wonder if God would find him blameless, I wonder if God would find you blameless? In our text we read, "1 LORD, who may dwell in your sacred tent? Who may live on your holy mountain?  2 The one whose walk is blameless," We can try to worm around this if we want, but why would you want to risk eternity on trying to squirm around a clear call from God.  Question you might ask then is "so do we have to be perfect to get to heaven? No, of course not, but we do have to repent and turn away from "what we know" to be sin in our lives. Paul writes to "the Saints" at Corinth and says, "don't be deceived.....the  ________ will not inherit the Kingdom of God". And he goes on to list a whole plethora of "willful" "knowledgeable" sins that people in the church are indulging in. Be blameless, in what you know.  James writes in his epistle, "if we know what to do and do it not, it is sin". The sin that we are currently engaging in, the sin that we are constantly convicted of, the sin that we know is wrong, that is the sin that we will be judged on and that is where God expects us to be blameless, not perfect, but blameless. How will we be blameless on sins that God dealt with us every day about?  Answer is...we won't be held blameless. Again, we don't have to be perfect, God will not judge us for losing our temper perhaps at work when we were pushed to our limits and exploded in an impromptu situation. This was not premeditated, this was not something that God dealt with us not to do, we had no knowledge that at such and such a time we would be pushed or vexed and not respond in a Christian manner,  we were weak, we fell, we ask forgiveness and move on, we are not perfect, there is Grace, not to worry. However being blameless is not about being perfect it's about God not being able to come to us and blaming us for not responding to his dealings with us about our willful, constant sin that we are committing and involved in. You would be amazed at some of the sin that God's people are involved in, they know it, admit to it, feel God's conviction but yet continue in that sin/behavior. God is not only letting perfect people into heaven, but rather a people that sinned, but when they were dealt with repented and moved on. The question to ask yourself today is not..."am I perfect" but "am I blameless".  Yes I have sinned, yes I have fallen short, but when God convicted me, I repented and moved on.  Scripture plainly tells us we are sinful, we are imperfect but yet when we continue in willful sin and disobedience there is no covering.  1 John 1:8  If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. Are you blameless today? I know you're not perfect, none of us are, but the question is "are you blameless". If Jesus was to return for his church today, if you were to die today would you be found blameless or as you were standing in line (to be judged) would you immediately begin to think of your unrepentant sin and begin shaking in your boots because you know what sin God is going to bring up that you never dealt with even though He had been dealing with you to quit/repent or end. Are you blameless? And if you are not and know it, than that speaks volumes doesn't it. You are willingly admitting that there is a sin you just refuse to let go of.  "I can't" you say. "It's not that I won't, it's just that I can't", is your excuse. Well if this is true, than most of the bible is a lie, most of the stories we have read are a fraud, testimonies we have heard were just fabricated and God's power is simply not enough, Jesus' sacrifice was simply not enough and Christianity is just another religion to appease man's conscience. It is either all that or it is more so that "the power" to overcome is there (according to God) and you simply will not repent and therefore most certainly will not be found blameless before God; and that is not a good place to be! You are playing Russian Roulette with your soul. No we cannot be perfect before God, that's where Grace comes in, "1 John 2  1 My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. 2 And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins", but we can be blameless in the areas that we are aware of and the areas that Jesus deals with us and reveals to us through His Holy Spirit!  Who will dwell in God's tent on His Holy Mountain, those who's walk is blameless!

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

JULY 18 "BEING KIND TO THE POOR"

     In our reading today we are admonished by God to be "kind to the poor". I believe Christians today are confused on this whole issue of "the poor". Perhaps it stems from Jesus condoning the breaking of the alabaster jar on himself and when the disciples criticize this act and say, "what a waste, the bottle of perfume could have been sold and the money given to the poor", Jesus rebukes them and says, "the poor you will always have with you, what she has done is a good thing".  We almost see a disregard for the poor being reflected in Jesus' statement. Sometimes the Church can project an anti-sympathy for the poor, "the poor are like that because they refuse to serve God, or they deserve it or they are just lazy people that want to collect welfare, they don't want to work....blah...blah..." and what this can create in Christians is a lack of empathy for the poor. Christians may be insensitive to the needs of the poor and we are wrong in trying to justify are callousness thru Jesus. Jesus is not showing a disregard for the poor, nobody cared more about the poor than Jesus, He gave his life to the poor. The poor we will always have amongst us, is for sure, even within God's house. We are apt to think that a Christian should have money and always be prosperous, but the poor we will always have amongst us. Even in the Old Testament, God had different sacrificial provisions for the poor amongst the Israelites. Were these not "God's Children", were these not Jews..., yet not all were prosperous. Some God required to sacrifice a bull, a ram,  a sheep, others simply a pigeon or dove because God knew, that's all they could afford. Not all who are poor are lazy and trying to exploit the system. God will one day judge us for our stinginess and ignoring the needs of the poor amongst us.  "Amongst us" is the key word. It may seem like a noble act to give money to some poor man on the street that you do not know and somehow think that that will glorify God, but I don't believe this is what scripture teaches. Do we ignore the needs of the poor outside the church? No not necessarily, but scripture does command us to give preference to those amongst us. Who are the poor "in the church"? Are they suffering unduly?  Is their financial hardship really more than God would have them to bear? Is the church responding properly to the poor amongst them or are we spending "our blessings" all on ourselves and dismissing their needs as "their own fault?".   God's promise that we have read today is 17 Whoever is kind to the poor lends to the LORD, and he will reward them for what they have done".  Nobody understands human nature more than God, you don't have to try to convince God that some are poor because of their own doing, but yet God acknowledges this is not the case with all and God is watching to see what we do with the resources that come into the hands of those of us that "are not poor". Will you be found a worthy steward? "Well I give to my church, I give to this and that", you may say. Well that is great, but that is "not enough" we still must set aside a portion for the poor amongst us, whenever it is possible. God knows whether or not we have done our best, or if we have at least responded when prompted to give, to bless or to let go. Can you say with a clear conscience that you have helped, when you could, the poor amongst you?

Monday, July 17, 2017

JULY 17 "TELL ME GOD'S NOT FAIR!"

"They were assigned to their duties by means of sacred lots, without regard to age or rank. Lots were drawn the presence of King David". And just before that, we read "all tasks were assigned to the various groups by means of sacred lots so that no preference would be shown, for there were many qualified officials serving God in the Sanctuary". I wonder if we are doing a dis-service in our Sanctuaries today by doing the complete opposite of what David did. "I will pick and choose by preference, so you'd better ship up!" I'm sure is the mantra in many sanctuaries across North America. "If Pastor, the Worship Leader, the Assistant Pastor, The Children's Church Director, don't like you, you aint getting a chance at nothing!"  We would say, "surely there is more qualified people than this?"  And the answer would be, "yes there are, but these are the ones being shown preference!".  Our text reveals to us "there were many qualified" and to avoid hurt feelings, to be sensitive to other people, they made sure "lots were cast" so that everyone knew, that whomever ended up in service and/or Leadership, it could not be said that "favorites and politics" factored in to the decision making. In all, 24 ministry workers are selected and 24 leaders.  I am going to "assume" here that David is being guided by God, in the wisdom he is using here, in the casting of lots. You can say, "ah, that's garbage, I will pick who I want and if the others don't like it, let them leave".  However, even in the New Testament when they must pick an Apostle to replace Judas, they cast lots.  I'm sure Peter had a preference, we all do, but he did not let it factor in, Peter, in wisdom, in fairness, cast lots.  We cannot always beckon to the sensitivities of man, but when we can, we should. When we can extract our preference, for the sake of all and the better good of the Congregation or ministry, we should.  The good thing here is there are many qualified people and many qualified leaders. The good thing here is  there is a great response to want to be involved. How different this is than many Churches today where few want to be involved in ministry and service in the Church.  Could it be that they have been turned off by constant preferences and politics in the picking and choosing of who is going to be involved in what and who is going to lead? I wonder.......If we will be honest, we all have favorites, just be honest with yourself. And while we are being honest with ourselves let us also admit, that it is hard, if left to us, not to let our bias factor in, when picking and choosing, whether that be at Church, at work, in sports,  or at home, this applies everywhere. Often the picking and choosing was not at all fair and everyone that was involved, knew it. Will this affect the morale of the whole, of course! Will this affect the outcome of this next "roll call" for help, of course!  Are you finding yourself with less and less volunteers and finding yourself working more and more with the same 2 or 3 and getting closer to them and drawing further away from the rest?  Can you look at that and say, "this is a good thing".  I would hope not. Take a step back and dare to ask yourself, have I been going about this the right way? Have I allowed my bias and preference to factor in to the decisions and choices I have been making? The wisdom of David in our text and the wisdom of Peter is that when choosing workers, helpers, leaders and you are finding yourself with more than enough qualified individuals, take a step back and figure out a way, that your bias and your preferences, will not factor in and you will find over time, that you are never lacking for volunteers and helpers for the work that is before you and/or under your leadership. "all tasks were assigned to the various groups by means of sacred lots so that no preference would be shown, for there were many qualified officials serving God in the Sanctuary"

Sunday, July 16, 2017

JULY 16 "MINISTRY OF PROPHECY"

Some men were set a part for the ministry of prophesying? That's interesting....the text goes on to say  "the sons of Asaph were under the supervision of Asaph, who prophesied under the king" Imagine your ministry is always to prophecy? I wonder if they ever just prophesied something, for the king, that really was more them, then it was, actually God speaking?  Do we ever do that? Do we ever prophesy, "thus saith The Lord" but it really is "thus saith me". It's not necessarily is evil, blatant lie like the false prophets during Jeremiah's time, but yet, they are not really words from God either. God actually speaks on this issue, The Lord says, "they prophecy out of the premonitions of their own heart"  It's not "necessarily evil", they hear a sermon, are moved by it, think of a few scriptures that could attach to that sermon and they are really in agreement with the sermon and next thing you know, "they are prophesying out of the premonitions of their own heart".  Some prophecies that are specific, of course have the chance to pass the true test. Any prophecy from God will come to pass, no if's, when's or but's...about it. If the prophecy is, "thus saith The Lord, you will be pregnant next year this, time, then if it's God, that's what will happen. If the prophecy is, "within two years this church will double in size/attendance, then that's exactly what will happen. The fact of the matter is, all prophecy is intertwined with human personality and imagination. So prophecy would be part God, part human. Some prophecies may have less of God and more human thought and others vice versa. My son recently asked me, "why 3 different people prophesying, why doesn't God just say it all through one person?"  Good question! And the answer is, ....because prophesy is mixed with human personality. It's not just all God. So 3 different people can be moved, according to their own persona by a situation and give a different prophesy than the person before them. The prophecies will each have their variation, according to the filter that Holy Spirit goes through, in that unique individual. The prophecies should not contradict each other, they should compliment or just add to one another. The Word of God teaches us to "test the Spirits". It is up to reverently listen to prophesies, not disparage them, or mock them or by cynical, but simply to listen to them, and store them in our hearts in mind. If they are true, they will come to pass, if not, they won't. If they are not prophecies of specific future outcomes, but merely to encourage, or rebuke or challenge, then all we can do is listen and treasure them. God will bring them back to our memory, if they indeed were of God, when He impresses a challenge on us in the future. No doubt these men in our text, that prophesied before David, I'm sure just spoke out something they read or something on their heart. We cannot just stand before God and conjure up prophesy at a whim, just because the king says so, unless we just start making stuff up or prophesying out of the inclinations of our own heart. I believe in prophecy and I believe God still prophesies through His people today, as He did back then. But I also believe, that just like back then, sometimes, we are hearing more from that person, than we are of God, we must discern, that, consider that and test the spirits, to see if they be of God, but never become cynical towards prophecy, it is a good thing!

Saturday, July 15, 2017

JULY 15 "ARE YOU A JEW?

I remember sometime before either my sister or myself, came to know Christ, my sister had changed her Dog Tags (we were both in the Marine Corps) to read “Jewish” as her religion. I was dumbfounded by this. My Dog Tags had “Roman Catholic” in scripted on them. My sister was always eccentric, but this was odder than ever to me and to a family that grew up in the French Province of Quebec, we were Caucasian French Catholics, where did Jew fit in with that? And who would want to be a Jew anyway? In my eyes, Jews were strange people. I grew up around many Jews in Montreal. We had a whole Community in Outremont, of Orthodox Jews, with their side locks or side curls, black hats and long black trench coats. They seemed to be the most religious people in the City. Who would want to be religious, who would want to be a Jew? What was wrong with my sister? In our text today Paul makes this profound statement, “For you are not a true Jew just because you were born of Jewish parents or because you have gone through the ceremony of circumcision. No, a true Jew is one whose heart is right with God.”
The Religious Jews that I grew up with, who had all the Laws and outward appearances, but just as their predecessors; had not the Heart of the Law. God was not drawing my sister to be a “religious Jew”, like the Jews I grew up, God was drawing my sister to be “a true Jew” (if I can borrow that phrase from Paul) one that has a right heart with God. It would not be much longer before my sister gave her life to Jesus. Neither my sister, nor I knew anything about being Born Again, about Salvation or “being saved”. All we knew was religion and sin. The Word of God teaches that “no man” comes to Jesus unless he/she is drawn by the Father. God surely was drawing my sister during this time. She may not have understood why she changed her Dog Tags to read “Jewish”, I certainly did not understand, but God did and Paul the Apostle would have fully understood what my sister was going through and doing. I asked my sister, why would you do that? Her answer to me, “because the Jews are God’s people, I’m not doing it for the religion, but because the Jews are God’s people”.  This still went over my head.  My thought was, “who cares who God’s people are and where did you get that anyway, the Bible? Who reads the Bible?” I thought.  Here I am years later, writing a blog, based on one, who “reads the Bible Daily”. Here I am years later, a true Jew, according to Paul. Are you one of God’s people? If your answer is “Yes” and I will show you by law I follow, by my sacraments and religious duties.  I am by my birthright, I am born a Jew, born a Catholic, I have done all the sacraments, Paul would say, “so what!”.  True circumcision comes not merely by obeying the letter of the law (which none of us can fully obey) but by a change of heart produced by the Spirit

Friday, July 14, 2017

JULY 14 "PIVOTAL MOMENT IN CHURCH HISTORY"

 Mark this day in your bible, this is the establishment of “The Church” as we know it today. David has the best of intentions, but the best of intentions from the best of people does not always produce the best of results. We can begin to view certain people, especially of “the clergy” as people that can do no wrong and say no wrong. Nathan himself is caught up in this and is so quick to tell David, “do whatever you have in mind, for God is with you”, but Nathan is completely wrong.  The Temple is built, this we know, by David’s son and we are still recovering from the effects of this decision to put God in a building. In the middle ages, also known as the Dark Ages, the structure, the edifice, the building became man’s sole connection with God. It was a cold existence; man’s relationship with God became the structure, stained glass windows, cathedral ceilings, sacraments, and ceremony. All this was introduced to substitute the inner relationship man was intended to have with is God. Instead of God dwelling in our hearts, man tried to replicate a holy experience by walking into a building that would have a splendor and holiness of it’s own. It was made that when you walked into one of these Cathedrals and/or Temples, you felt like you were in a Holy Place, in God’s presence. The Saints on the walls, Angels painted in the glass, Holy music, stained glass windows set up so that when the sun shined in it mimicked God’s glory coming in and people allowed this to replace an inner relationship. The end result was when you left this glorious structure, temple or Cathedral was you left your relationship (which was no relationship) with God in that building.  Two thousand years later we are still struggling with this, trying to teach people that you don’t leave God and your relationship with him, in the building after Sunday Morning’s service, you take  God with you everywhere you go in everything you do. We still struggle to teach people, God can and does want to dwell in your heart, not in the building. As much as we preach it, as much as we teach it, it still remains a struggle to ingrain this in God’s people; God is not in the structure. And by and large, Christians know this in Theology, but they don’t live it. Christians still act/behave much more Christ Like in The Church than they do at work and at home with their families. And why would that be; unless, there’s still some kind of mental block there, that puts God in a building more so than at their home. Even in the days of The Great Temple of Solomon, God speaks through Jeremiah saying, “This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel after that time,” declares the Lord. I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts.” Building a Temple, a structure for God’s presence was not the best idea in the long run, but it served a purpose for the time. The Christians in the New Testament decided they could spin off of this idea of a building, a place to meet, to congregate as long as they taught the people that it was they that made up the Church, not the building. The idea of a building, a place to Congregate is still the best idea, with Pastors and Teachers in that building and a congregation in that building, waiting each Sunday to serve and minister to one another, but we must always fight and contend, to keep to the forefront of our minds and hearts, that God is as much with us Monday night, in the privacy of our home, as He was with us on Sunday, in our glorious Church building. We become the greatest of hypocrites and the biggest religious devils when we embrace this mindset that God’s presence and dwelling remains in the Temple, the building, the structure, the Cathedral. This mindset has done more damage to the cause of Christianity than anything else I can think of. I grew up in this environment. We were the worse sinners on our street, but when we walked into that beautiful Cathedral every Sunday, we became the most Pious and Holy people you knew. However once we left that building we reverted to being profane and immoral because God remained in the Cold Cathedral and never traveled outside of it. If you had asked us if in our Theology we believed that, we would have said “No, God is everywhere” but it was hard to live otherwise, it was hard to believe as beautiful and holy as that Cathedral was, that God’s presence was not there and as ugly and sinful as our home was, that God obviously was not there. Today, we read a pivotal, monumental turning point in the history of The Church as we know it and the question to ask is, “have we ever truly recovered?”




Thursday, July 13, 2017

JULY 13 "THE RIGHT WAY"

In our reading today we get some insight about what happened in the past,...that didn't work! Wouldn't we all like to get insight into why our efforts have failed in the past! Today, we get insight as to why they failed to bring in "The Ark of The Covenant". The insight is that they didn't do it "the right way" and because they didn't, they fell flat on their faces and failed. We, in our super-spirituality say, "well, let's just do it and God is God, it will all work out". However it doesn't all work out, they fail and God never says a thing! Are we catching this! There's Grace, God will cover.......not this time! People actually died! God says, "you didn't seek me about "the right way" to do this; and you didn't even seek me after you failed, so I will just sit here and watch you fall flat on your faces". 
The confession/admittance in our text today is that "we didn't do it the right way and that's why we failed". It's not because of the Devil or worldly opposition, it was because of them. Everything in The Kingdom of God, from marriage, finances, evangelism to church structure, there is a right way and a wrong way and many times we are failing because we have not sought God; read His Word or heeded to our headship about the right way to do it. Grace is not always going to be the net that catches us. There will be times that God will remove the safety net and let us hit the ground and hit the ground hard so that we may learn a valuable lesson, ie: There is a right way to do this!

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

JULY 12 "IF YOU DO NOT SUCCEED AT FIRST..."

"If you do not succeed at first, then try, try, try again" David's first attempt to bring the Arc of The Covenent to Jerusalem , is a colossal failure. David is so frustrated and discouraged he decides to leave it with Obed-Edom. However, over and over David proves himself to be the "come back kid." David always shows himself to be quite resilient.  David has the humility to admit that he did not do it right the first time and he seeks God to do it right and comes back with a vengeance, to do it right! Failing is not the problem in our lives, we all fail for different reasons. Our greatest obstacle is not failure but our inability to come back and try again. It's almost like the boxer who almost wants to get knocked out in the first round and just get the fight over, "there, I tried, it didn't work now give me my pay check for entering into the fight".  Sure most Christians are, in theory, signed up for the fight, but are we signed up to succeed or fail, in our minds? Is failure an option? "If God be for us then who can be against us?" Step back, like David and ask the questions, "why did this not succeed" "Did I do it according to God's way or mine?" And " what must I do or change to try again and succeed?" If we will follow this course of action after a defeat and/or failure, then I believe more often than not, God will speak and direct and we can come back to be the "come back kid" too!

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

JULY 11 "OUR MOVEMENT DENOUNCED EVERYWHERE"

“The only thing we've heard about this movement is………”  Are you ready for the answer? Obviously the answer is going to be, “it’s the best thing that has ever happened! People are healed, lives are restored, demoniacs are set free, the poor are being fed and taken care of…”  Unfortunately, to our surprise, or maybe not to our surprise, we read, “…only thing we know about this movement is that it is denounced everywhere”.  That’s impossible. How could something so good be “denounced everywhere”. How could something that leaves a trail behind, of such good, not be embraced enthusiastically by every community? This is a movement that carries around it, all the evidence of a remarkable and benevolent ministry.  Paul is bit by a poisonous snake on the island and suffers no sickness. Paul prays for Publius’s father who has dysentery and he is healed. Paul prays for many others on the island and they are healed too. Paul is speaking before this crowd, as a prisoner with his own private lodging and guard. The evidence is everywhere of God’s power and God’s favor on this ministry and those that are part of it, but yet these people look at this movement as one to be denounced. Nearly 2000 years later we can say, “not much has changed”. It is still a movement that is “denounced”. If you are the Born Again Christian at the Family gatherings, you will still be the one to be denounced, there will still be rumors floating around that you have joined some cult and people will look at you with pity. Never mind your life is blessed, never mind your marriage is thriving while others, in your family, are falling apart and/or are divorced. Never mind your daughter is still a virgin and waiting for her husband; while her cousins are pregnant and hooked on drugs. Somehow, someway they are not going to see any of that and they are going to look at your life and the movement you are entangled in as one that is denounced and “should be” denounced by anyone who is in their right secular mind. Do you find yourself desperately trying to sway public opinion that your cause is a good cause? And if you are, ask yourself, is it for yourself you are doing this or for Christ? And you will find the answer to be, “it is for yourself”.  We so desperately want others to know that we are not losers that have fallen in to some cult, some “non hacker club”. We so desperately want to be “saved” “Born Again” and yet still have respect from co-workers, relatives and siblings. The Christian who is going to have peace and joy is the man or woman who quickly learns and accepts that he or she will never be on the respected and approved side of public opinion. Jesus himself said, “Woe unto you when all men speak well of you”. When they day comes that you are a Christian and you have the love and approval of the world too, something is amiss in your Christianity. Not to say that all should hate you. As a matter a fact, as a Christian you should have favor with man, to a certain degree, favor given by God. However, that being said, our movement is still one that goes against the grain of society, it is a movement that fights the spirit of Anti-Christ. And when we as Christians are determined to make Christianity the flavor of the day and as accepted in every household as Oprah Winfrey, then we are either heading to much frustration or down a slippery slope of Christian compromise. Our movement may be one that is being denounced everywhere, but the paradox or irony is, that it is also a movement that is saving millions everywhere too! “For it is foolishness to them that are perishing but the power of God unto salvation to them that believe.”

JULY 10 "DAGON, MAKES A DAGON COMEBACK"

How many of you remember the story of when the Ark of The Lord was put in the temple with this Philistine god, Dagon.  It was a mockery, everyday they would find Dagon, there, fallen on his face, then the next day, Dagon is found on his face with his arms broken off. On that day, we rejoiced, "one great victory for God's people. Well on this day, it's not so great, we read about the King of Israel being beheaded (Saul) and his head is put in the temple of the Philistine god, "Dagon" and I'm sure Dagon is looking on saying, "I guess this victory is mine!" Dagon makes a dagon comeback! He's not the one being laughed at today; today Israel is the one being laughed at and the hero is Dagon, today!
The thing to note is we do suffer losses in the Kingdom of God from time to time, Dagon does have his comebacks.  Don't expect every battle to be a victory; for reasons of disobedience, missing God and many other reasons, sometimes we have to accept, this battle is loss, try to access why the battle was loss and move on to the next battle believing for great victory. So what, Dagon has a comeback in this battle, continue reading the story and see we ultimately we win. I don't even mind you skipping and reading the end of the whole book and you'll see, in the end, if we keep fighting and don't loose heart, we win!!! And that's the dagon truth!!!

Sunday, July 9, 2017

JULY 9 "THE TRAJEDY OF OUR LIVES PENNED..."

You were probably were skipping through the lineage in today's reading and probably missed what was penned about two of Ephraim's sons. Ezer and Elead, "these two were killed trying to steal livestock from the local farmers". If we continue to read out, this incident is described as a "tragedy". Ephraim mourned a long time for his boys, it was a senseless death. No doubt, Ephraim did not need his boys to steal cattle for him. It was a senseless act, a daring act, a stupid act, that cost these boys their lives. Their stupidity and this tragedy is penned in God's eternal Word. In recent months, we have had a number of senseless and stupid deaths in our city, mostly by young teens and twenty year olds. Maybe our prayer for our families should be "Lord, don't let their be stupid and senseless deaths in our family". The prayer that would have to follow that would be, "Lord, let the communication lines flourish in my home among our family".  I recently had an acquaintance make a very stupid decision. I find it hard to believe that had he discussed his decision with a friend he could not have been talked into waiting a few more months.Maybe we don't want to know, maybe we don't want the confrontation, let them make their own decisions and learn for themselves. Well, it's not always the case that you told someone to wear a hat; they didn't and they get a cold, "good for you, hope you learned your lesson". In our text, the lives of two boys are loss. In our city the lives of many are loss. In the lives of friends and acquaintances around our sphere of influence, lives are being destroyed. "Hands off approach" is not always best. "Letting people make their own decisions" is not always best. "Let them learn themselves" is not always the answer. The tragedy and stupidity of our lives too, are being penned for eternity. Why? Because it's tragic, as our text writes! It's tragic that there was no conversation, it's tragic that something so senseless and stupid could not have been prevented. In your sphere of influence, be a prayer covering to those who cross your path, be a voice, be as one that shouts out, confronts and does his/her best to be the road block towards stupid and senseless deaths and tragedies. We must all be able to stand at the foot of every coffin (figuratively and literally) of stupidity and senseless tragedy and say, "I did everything within my power and ability, to stop this".

Saturday, July 8, 2017

JULY 8 "CAUGHT IN A STORM...."

The perplexity of God and His will.  Was it God that gave Paul the premonition that the voyage would not be a good one if they left port?  Or was it God that caused the storm to drive Paul to be a witness on that island?  Or is God making the most of the situation (Paul is shipwrecked unto an island, let's use this). Who knows?  We do know that it must have been very hard for Paul to keep a good attitude on that ship, after warning them not to attempt to make the voyage, they disregard him (I don't blame them, what experience does he have with sailing?) and now he has to suffer and is in danger of losing his life because of their bad decision. But Paul, rather than go to the lower deck, get an attitude, sulk and wait for death, rally's himself, he rises up to the occasion and lives out his faith for them all to see. What an example Paul is for all of us, if only we could follow his good example in in our daily lives. He had every reason to have an attitude, but he gets a hold of God, he gets wisdom from God to save the crew, the crew is saved because of him, including those who made the bad decision to set sale. It seems we go so far in our faith, but at a certain point, we stop and often, retreat because of bad results and responses. Paul had no point where his faith stopped. Paul's faith overcame all obstacles and set backs. He's not there struggling in his mind (why did God give me the premonition this boat was going to crash, if not to stop the voyage, what's the sense in that?) Paul just keeps pressing forward, believing God for divine intervention; keeping his heart and attitude right in a horrible situation. They were days at sea, with no sign of even stars, for days. This story is nothing short of the novel/movie "Perfect Storm". Unfortunately, in the Perfect Storm, they all perish, in this situation, with Paul on board, they all survive. I believe God is often stretching the limits of our faith and these are probably the times you are most irritable. We don't want to be stretched, we don't want to be challenged. Many would say, "I'd much rather stay the way I am then have to go through what Paul went through". Unfortunately (or fortunately, depends how you look at it) God more often, than not, does not leave that decision to us. You are the Christian you are today because God has stretched you into that Christian or you are the Christian you are today because you would not allow God to stretch you. Which are you? Which do you want to be? Make your life one that would be one worth reading about for encouragement! Caught in a storm for no reason? Get a grip and make the most of it!

JULY 7 "BLESS ME LORD"

  THERE is allot of stats about sons and tribes that might just cause you to doze off in our text today, but you can miss a great nugget of truth and revy (revelation) in the midst of it.  Verse 10 "Jabez cried out to the God of Israel, "oh that you would bless me and enlarge my territory!  I would say that request is a number of things ....#1, it's pretty gutsy, #2, it's pretty self-serving, #3 it's pretty honest, maybe to honest or maybe not!  Because surprisingly, God doesn't rebuke him for being so self centered and audacious to ask that God bless him and his family. What about the rest of the world, there's people starving all over the world and all your concerned about is that God bless you and your family, c'mon!  So what is God's response...."And God granted his request!" What are you serious?!  God granted him his request......well why don't I pray that then, why can he ask that and I can't?  Who said you couldn't??? Why are we so afraid to ask God to bless us and enlarge our territory? Jabez was given a piece of land, property and he has the nerve to ask him to enlarge it.  But yet God does.
     By and large, most Christians I know are struggling financially, have very little money and practically none to bless others with.  Just recently I was approached by a brother who had brought someone out to church, knew the individual was looking for fellowship, rather than just be driven home, but yet, in the end, he drove him home because he had no money to take himself out to eat, not to mention having to pay for another person. Is it just the group or sphere of Christians I run with or is this the norm? Are many Christians broke and impoverished? I  don't think it's fair for me to speak on behalf of Christians all over the world (and I will not) but I can speak for Christians in my neck of the woods. I once worked with a Real Estate Mortgage Professional who told me often Christians were his worse clients, with the least money and often the worse credit.  Should that be? Now there can be many factors contributing to this, it could have been traumatic circumstances that brought them to Christ in the first place and now they are having to deal with baggage from the past, so I do acknowledge, often we don't have or see the whole picture, so I understand that, BUT, that does not write off, or explain for the many, many Christians who serve Christ (supposedly) and yet are impoverished. Are we called to be rich? Not necessarily, at least not monetarily...BUT (there's lots of "buts" today) is it a shame for us to ask that God would bless us and enlarge our territory? If you are serving God truthfully and faithfully why not ask God to bless you and in so doing make you a blessing to others? There are Christians that are in such impoverishment that they do not get involved in helping others, do not entertain in their homes, cannot give people rides, cannot bless others, cannot take someone out to eat or help them out and they cannot even imagine or conceive being involved in helping others, surely this is not the way it's supposed to be.  Some Christians beleive it spiritual to make a vow of poverty (thought I've never found that principle in the Word of God) and Jabez did the opposite. Does poverty glorify God? Does it glorify God for new Christians or the world to see that we are in financial distress, impoverished, begging, having are lights turned off, empty fridges, credit agencies calling, bankruptcy filings, not able to pick others up, not able to bless, not able to take someone out to eat, not able to put some money in someone's hand, not able to by groceries for a struggling single mom.....is this really spiritual, is poverty really something God relishes in? Our text today is not a one time incident, it is available to all who would DARE to ask, it is available to all that would be trusted with blessing, it is available to all that are serving God truthfully and faithfully, it is available to all that God knows would pass the blessing on. Now....do you DARE to ask, I double dog DARE YOU!B

Thursday, July 6, 2017

JULY 6 "I ADMIT IT, I'M ONE OF THEM!"

     Paul's main problem is not that he believes in God, most people do.  Paul's main problem is that he is attached to a certain group of people that believes in God, "followers of The Way" he calls it and then goes on to say that is is also known as "a cult".  Who in the world, who in their right mind, wants to be associated with a cult?! People who are enticed into cults are more often than not, people with issues, people who are mentally & emotionally weak, naive and in short..., stupid. The hardest thing in the world for a person who is none of the above, ..is to  "admit" that they are in a group of religious people that are known as a cult. Many will not "admit" to this, many are not willing to die a social death and end up walking away. I never wanted to be perceived as a individual that was mentally and emotionally weak, naive, vulnerable and stupid, but when I "admitted" that I was a "Born Again" that was what everyone thought of me. I immediately lost all respect by my peers and friends when I "admitted" I was a "Born Again" or a "Follower of The Way". Paul is before some very important people and if they are going to listen to a word he says, he'd better have some respect from them. Why not just talk about God and leave out "what group" he is part of. The moment he mentions he's part of that crazy following, the moment he mentions he's part of the group that actually believes they have a personnel relationship with God, the moment he mentions he's a follower of "The Way" also believed to be a cult, they're going to dismiss him as a loser & lunatic. But yet even with all that, Paul in the middle of his sentence, interjected by the Holy Spirit who knows, but out comes..."I admit that I worship the God of our ancestors as a follower of the Way, which they call a sect"  "Oopps, how did that come out of my mouth? This is not good", Paul could have thought.
     You can have talks about God all day long, at work, at lunch, around the water cooler, but the moment you admit, that the point of view you are coming from is one of a "Born Again" then people walk away because now they know they are not talking with a rational person, but someone, that for some reason, has gotten sucked into some cult.  Who better to write later on that God has chosen the foolishness of Preaching to save souls. Paul also goes on to say that "to those that are perishing it is foolishness, but to those that are getting saved, it is the power of God unto Salvation". THE POINT is that salvation does come from us looking like fools. Paul goes on to refer in one of his epistles about how interesting that some Christians seem to look so wise and dignified, while he and his disciples look like fools. How interesting that some feel that they are called to be the ones that look wise and dignified for God while others are called to look like fools for God.  There was no greater audience that Paul ever witnessed to that he did not want to be regarded as a fool, than in this audience that he is standing before, but Paul does the right thing and "admits" he is a "follower of The Way" also known as a cult.
     We have to watch our hearts, that over the years we do not find ourselves less and less inclined to be identified with a group that brings us reproach.  We have to be careful that over the years of our salvation we don't begin to think that God is now calling us to be the wise & dignified Christian. Jesus looked the fool from the start of his ministry all the way up until the end of his ministry. Never did Jesus look more the fool than hanging on that cross as others jeered and mocked at him saying, "he saved others but yet he cannnot save himself". Do you want to just join nominal Christianity and get-a-way from the stench that associates itself with being called Born Again? Of course you do, but it's not right! I ADMIT....remember those words that Paul spoke in front of far more important people that we will ever stand before and so much more to loose too.
      And last, Paul realized that if he was going to convince this crowd he needed far more than just his intellect & respect from his audience; he needed God's anointing and that certainly would not come by disassociating himself from Jesus Christ. And in associating himself with "The Way" with this supposed "cult" he gets the anointing so much so that in the text we read,  ".... As Paul talked about righteousness, self-control and the judgment to come, Felix was afraid and said, “That’s enough for now" .   You will find that wise & dignified Christians have no fruit. Very rarely will there be anybody in the church they can point to and say, "that's my fruit". Associate yourself with Christ, endure persecution, endure looking like a "fool for Christ" and you will find that God anoints your words, your witness and you will realize that God has chosen the foolishness of preaching Christ, to save souls, and that to those to whom you seem foolish, they are simply the perishing, but to the others, (your eventual fruit) it is the power of God unto salvation.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

JULY 5 "GOD'S PROVIDENCE; SO IMPORTANT!"

If you don't understand "Providence" then you have to read today's reading. Paul is pretty much a dead man. 40 men have made a vow not to eat or drink until they have killed Paul. However, as it would "happen" to be, Paul's sister's son (Paul's nephew) happens to over hear the conversation of these men conspiring to kill him. He reports this to Paul and then Paul has his nephew go tell the one in charge of Paul's security/safety and the plan is thwarted.  As we get ready to tackle on the 2nd half of the year, God's Providence is definitely something we want to contend for. He really is the God that goes before his people and prepares the way. He can circumvent events on our behalf, even in to our favor. He can cause the schemes of the enemy to be thwarted. From the time we wake in the morning until the time we lay our head down on the pillow that night, there are so many unknown factors. The idea is not to go through the day looking over your shoulder with paranoia all day, waiting for something bad to happen, but rather to solicit God, for his providence. It's not that every tragedy is going to be averted for the Christian, but as we read our bibles we do see that God is working behind the scenes protecting us from much. An early/premature death is averted in this story, simply by placing someone who cares for Paul and who God knew would respond and report the incident and then to have the right person in charge that would actually listen to this young boy. People conspire against us, the demonic realm conspires against us, but our hope is in God's providence to protect and circumvent events. We have on job, God has many. Our one job is simply to pray and seek his face and then He will do the rest. "You had one job, one job.....and you dropped the ball, failed".  Let us not drop the ball, solicit, invite God into your day to day and ask Him to go before you, in this 2nd half of the year.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

JULY 4 "INDEPENDENCE DAY...FREE FROM MAN OR GOD?"

It's ironic that on the 4th of July, "Independence Day" that we read in Psalm about people wanting to be free, about people breaking off the chains and being free, ironically they are wanting to break off the chains from God, " let us break off our chains and free us from the slavery of God". Could anything be more ironic than that? Than wanting to break free from God to be free, but yet only God can bring true freedom. We can say, today in the 21st Century that humanity has followed through in this quest to free themselves from the chains and slavery to God. Today, America is more of a secular Nation than a Christian one and the question, then to ask is ...."are we freer than we were before?"  The answer is definitively "NO". We freed ourselves from the slavery of God only to become enslaved by everything, but God! Today, many will celebrate their Freedom, all the while using the things that enslave them, to celebrate their supposed freedom, if that's not irony than I don't know what is!!!  " I am free, I am free, as the guzzle down more liquor and fight, the shout " I am free, I am free as they induce themselves with drugs. They shout " I am free, I am free as domestic violence doubles on the 4th, they shout " I am free, I am free, as the sirens flash behind them in one more DUI.The irony is freedom only comes by being a slave to God.  Only by submitting ourselves to God do we truly become free!!!

Monday, July 3, 2017

JULY 3 "UNDOING OTHER PEOPLE'S MISTAKES"

Josiah is left to undo years and years of disobedient parents, grandparents and great grandparents and beyond. A lot of this started with Solomon and all his foreign Miss Universe pageant winners that he brought to Jerusalem and built up Shrines for their gods. "I'm only hurting myself" is the biggest lie ever told! Do people really believe that? I guess we can convince ourselves to believe that, so we can live with ourselves and our self centered, self serving decisions. I don't know how many people reading this blog are gonna one day pull themselves back from making a very self centered decision because of this reading, but maybe, if it's just one, it's worth it! Because the fall out is immeasurable. I was listening to the story of a Vietnam Vet who was taken out of battle from shrapnel and he said it hurts worse than getting shot and often the fall out in our decisions does more damage than the original explosion. I'm not a genius but I'm thinking that the original plan was not that children would have to clean up the messes their parents left behind, but today we are seeing that more and more. Because we are becoming more and more self centered as individuals. It's a sign of the times, "people will be lovers of themselves" And I've seen many parents who one day get back on track and then expect their children to just shape up, get on track. After years of backsliding, alcoholism, violence in front of their children they expect that when they get back on track there will be no shrapnel. I get tired of watching Josiah's having to clean up the messes of their parents, do you? Josiah is a great and incredible young man and for that I'm encouraged, that sometimes, a young man or woman that has had a horrible cast to follow, can still rise up out of the mire and do something with his/her life and be used tremendously by God.  So if you are a Josiah reading this, than pat yourself on the back and for the rest of us, let us make sure that we live such a life that does not leave a mess for our children or heirs to clean up, but rather live a life that creates a springboard to catapult our children and/or grandchildren into their future/destiny.

JULY 2 "I QUIT THE MINISTRY"

 The reality of Ministry is…the very people you are in ministry to reach and help are the very people that will want to make you quit the ministry, if you let them. We always have to remember that we are not in “the ministry” to help the people (that’s a by-product) we are in the ministry to serve God. If we are in the ministry out of some noble quest to “serve the people”, once the people start stepping all over you and spreading rumors about you, you will say, “well, if that’s how they are going to treat me, if they don’t appreciate what I’m doing for them; then forget this, I quit!” However if we are in the ministry to serve Christ, who is always grateful and appreciative of our efforts and service, then we will not quit even when the people we are trying to feed, bite us! As they saying goes, “don’t bite the hand that feeds you”, well people don’t seem to abide by that a whole lot”. The Elders in Jerusalem explain to Paul that the Jews are spreading lies and rumors about him. Paul has given his life for this cause only to come back to Jerusalem and find out there’s people, his own people, talking negatively about him. That would be enough to make me want to quit! Another reality of ministry is leadership, headship and orders to be taken. We could understand this at our secular places of employment but when we get saved and decide to get involved in ministry in the local congregation we have a na├»ve and unrealistic expectation of how it’s going to be. We falsely think, nobody is going to “boss”, it’s all just going to be fun, pleasant, everybody agreeing, laughing, singing Kumbaya in a circle, we’re all equals here now, ……, but in our story this is not the case and in all reality, it’s never the case. Paul, as mighty a disciple as he is has come into a circle of other disciples that have more authority than he.  And they are not shy to tell Paul, “this is what we WANT you to do”. Many in the ministry today would not have liked that. They would have said, “Peter, I don’t like your tone and you telling me what to do, we are all brothers in Christ here. I would have preferred if you had asked me “how I felt and if I would want, to go to the temple with these men, but I don’t like you thinking you are all in charge here and telling me what I need to do!”  We don’t hear any of that coming from Paul. Peter and the elders say, “this is what we want you to do” and Paul does it. And if you read the rest of the story, it turns out horrible! This for sure, would have been the end all of any other Christian’s involvement in any kind of ministry with these “Elders” and the Church in Jerusalem. Paul does what he is told to do, by their advice and nearly gets killed doing it. In spite of that, Paul remains in the ministry and remains in the ministry with these men, who told him what to do and caused him great physical harm. Paul, through out the rest of his life is never diverted from “the ministry”. Nothing is ever able to persuade Paul away or convince him from quitting the ministry and for all those out there, who have quit the ministry; no doubt because of a ministry leader, a person in that ministry, or even a Pastor….you have to ask yourself  “was I right in quitting and who was I serving in that ministry, the people or Jesus?” Ask yourself, “who called me into that ministry, the leader or was it Jesus?”  And last and most important, “who” did I really quit on, them or Jesus?”

Saturday, July 1, 2017

JULY 1 "ISRAEL HAS FALLEN"

I'm not one to rip apart my clothes in despair, but I have been there it's a bad place to be. The King of Assyria is definitely personifying the voice of Satan in our story. "Don't let King Hezekiah deceive you into thinking your God will deliver you from us, look what we have done to other nations". You have to remember this whole scene started with Hezekiah trying to bribe the King of Assyria into not marching out against them. Not exactly a sign of strength. Perhaps it was Joash who started this pathetic display of unbelief by trying to bribe his way out of battle. Either Israel has fallen and sunk quite low from her former stature of Faith, Power and Dominion. Now she is weak, cowardly and begging the enemy not to hurt her. The thought of fighting and winning is a bye-gone era. Now she will compromise, bribe, anything because she knows even herself how pathetic she has become. Does this remind you of some Christians you once knew? How the mighty have fallen! Unfortunately mighty today does not mean mighty tomorrow and certainly doesn't mean mighty next year. The good  news is no matter how low, how weak, how pathetic we become, the moment we get desperate enough, humble ourselves and cry out to God. Repent and ask for His help, He will help. Hezekiah gets so bad, so deep in despair that he cries out to God. God has been waiting for this and brings a great, merciful victory for a man, a nation that didn't deserve it and He will do the same for us!

Friday, June 30, 2017

JUNE 30 "I'M SO CONFUSED???"

     I'm so confused..are you?  They worshiped the Lord (well that's good) BUT, they also served their own gods...."
     At least there's a "but" in between, but that's a big butt.....I mean, which is it, did they serve God or not? I'm confused.  Confusion, that's what we get when we try to serve God along with our own gods along the way.  Confusion, is what you get when you try to serve God along with your own religion.  The world looks on and they are confused. The world ought to be able to look at an individual and either see a sinner or a saint, Christian or Heathen, which one is it? Choose, make a decision and then let it be clear what you are. I am confused by this.....they worshiped the Lord...BUT they also served their own gods. This confuses me just as much as our duplicate lives confuses the world that looks on at us in the church. And to add to the confusion Verse 34 says, "They neither worshiped the LORD nor adhered to the decrees and regulations, the laws and commands that the LORD gave..."  So now I'm really confused!!!  Just a couple of verses prior we are reading "they served the Lord, then we are reading they didn't".
     The grim reality is that those that try to serve The Lord alongside all their other mini gods and idols, well in the end, don't really serve The Lord after all, do they! Jesus said, "you break the commandments of God to follow the traditions of men" and of course Jesus was speaking about religion, religion is the mini gods. We can only cling to one thing tightly.  We will either cling to God tightly and hold loosely everything else, or we will hold on to our little gods tightly and hold loosely  to God. Trying to serve God with a death grip on your...livelihood, family, money & possessions is not going to work well.  How can you adhere to the decrees, regulations, laws and commands that the Lord gives and yet still be true to your fellow man, your family, your religion and all your family customs. Some traditions are just sacred to our unsaved families and you will be regarded as a traitor if you should ever skip out on those traditions, even if it is "in the name of God", it will not be excused. Family, careers, companies..., they are all in favor of you being religious, until it interferes with their agenda and traditions. Go ahead and miss the sacred Sunday night family dinner for church and see if you are not cast off as a betrayer of the family. Tell your boss you cannot work overtime because you are committed to a ministry at the church.  Tell your company you cannot join them in Vegas for their annual Sodom & Gomorrah fest and see now how thrilled they are. The best way it seems to us, to please both God and the world is to "serve the Lord and then set up our own priests and gods along the way". This is the best way we think. Favor with both, we think....The perfect scenario. But if you do this, don't fail to see how God concludes the matter, God's conclusion is that you are not serving him and you truly do not know him. "Send them a priest to show them what to do to please their God", they just don't get it. It is not about learning Christian cliches, making sure we say Grace, join a church (do the things that please God) and then set up on the side; the gods we really want to serve. This group of people who went into Samaria to occupy the land did not get it, do you? Are you confused by reading this text? You should be, it is meant to be. Does it read like a contradiction.....it was meant to read like a contradiction. Make sure your life does not read like a contradiction. Make sure you don't present a confusing message to your audience. Choose whom and what you want to serve and then make it clear to your audience, what you believe, who your God is and whom you serve.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

JUNE 29 "MY CHRISTIAN LIFE IS PRIVATE!"

     Always be very Leary about an individual who stresses to you that their Christian life is private, it is between them and God. Every Christian must possess both a private and a public life with Jesus Christ. Jesus woke up early in the morning, privately, to pray with the Father. The rest of his day was very public.  Even his sufferings were not in private. And of course his death and crucifixion was very public. Jesus could have been slain in private and He would have still died for our sins, The Father could have orchestrated his death a private death, but God orchestrated Jesus' death to be public.  We want our Christianity to be private and we want it not to have to "cost us" anything. Our text from the book of Acts today gives us a lesson in making our Christian life and profession...PUBLIC.  The word "publicly" is specifically used in verse 19. "A number who had practiced sorcery brought their scrolls together and burned them publicly."  Now let's look at the 2nd half of verse 19, When they calculated the value of the scrolls, the total came to fifty thousand drachmas".   "Who cares about the value", we may ask....God does. You will find examples through out the whole bible of God revealing "costs" to and in.....serving him. Again, we want a Christianity that is private and will cost us nothing. God is pushing us into a Christianity that will be public and will cost us something. We want our Christian life to be private and we cannot bare to let go of our hold relics and idols because they cost us so much, we cannot fathom burning them or throwing them away. Surely we will not worship them the way we used to, but I cannot bare to part with them, there is to much value invested, what am I to do?", we ask.  Well, in our text we find that they publicly burn them and it is not coincidentally that the value is also mentioned. I have seen people hold on to wet bars, pictures, booze, postures, idols, clothes, books, music, careers and all manner of ungodly, carnal stuff because of the financial investment that was made in these things prior to their coming to know Christ as their Saviour.
     We want to answer altar calls in the pews (this is why they are called "altar calls" not "pew calls", we want to pray at home, repent at home, confess our sins to God and only to God. We want to avoid shame and we want to avoid material and financial loss in serving God. However, this is not the salvation you will find in God's word.  The Apostle Paul suffered much shame and much loss in his salvation.  Why did the not just go home and throw their scrolls away in their own trash, in private, why did this have to be done "publicly"?
     Well, no where in our text does it say "they had to" so apparently this is something they wanted to do publicly. This is true conversion, my conversion is "not a secret" and my conversion is going to cost me financially and I am more than glad to suffer loss for the salvation of my soul and more than glad to make it publicly. Today the church has lost this heart and unfortunately the church often is finding itself as the enforcer of things that should have come from the heart. Is this the answer, perhaps not, but what then? There is no easy answer for this. I don't think anybody in this group, with annoyance asked, "do I have to burn my stuff publicly".  "I don't see why the church is making me throw all my stuff away, it's not like.....", we say. It can be very discouraging being in the ministry today and working with people. Perhaps what we are lacking more and more so today, (as the Church tries to market and sell Jesus) are genuine, holy ghost conversions. When the heart is converted and the mind renewed, I believe public profession/confessions and material loss are of no consequence.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

JUNE 28 "RACISM IN THE BIBLE?"

I'm sure any title with "racism" in it is not going to surprise anyone, but what is surprising is the racism I am writing about is between Jews.  Jews fighting Jews.  How it must have broken God's heart to see this war between Judah & Israel. A civil war between God's people. Racism, it's a hot topic today's media onslaught. America had it's own civil war, Ireland has had it's own sort of civil war, the Protestants killing the Catholics and vice-versa. What we can learn about racism is it goes deeper than skin color. Today's headlines focus' on skin color, it's the blacks against the whites, but these are naive people. What they don't realize is racism goes deeper than skin color. Racism is basically about anyone who is "not us", "not in our group". As I mentioned, Ireland for years had whites killing whites, same skin color, but yet still racism. I grew up in Montreal and we had racism. It was blacks that were racist against other blacks. The blacks from Montreal were racist against the blacks from Haiti, they would beat each other to death, if allowed. I lived in Arizona for a number of years and realized that Mexicans are racist against Mexicans. They (Mexicans) began to differentiate amongst themselves and have racism amongst their own ranks. In Montreal, the English whites were racist against the French whites. And today, we read about the hatred between the Jews from Israel vs the Jews from Judah. We could take the whole human race, pick one color, whether it be black, brown, white or purple, if you want, and there would be racism. We would begin to classify against, the "light purple's as apposed to the dark purples or regular purples. "Then just make them the exact same color purple", you say. Then we would find another differentiation to be racist about. I've learned a lot about racism living in different parts of the U.S. & realizing that racism, goes far deeper than skin color. We don't hate and our prejudice because their skin color is different, that's ignorance, we are racist simply because they are different than our group. Racism will never be wiped out as long as we are sinners by nature. From the very beginning, when Cain had no reason to hate his brother Abel, who has of the same color, there only was one race, but yet Cain found a reason to hate and murder. We are all descendants of our fallen brothers, Cain and Abel. Color is not the problem of racism, the sinful hearts of men is the problem of racism. Show me a true Christian, show me someone who is truly filled with God's spirit and I will show you someone who sees no color. The wars that are caused by religion are just that, they are caused by religion, not God or Jesus himself. Religion divides, religions breeds hate and prejudice but Christianity in it's essence promotes love, peace and harmony. Wars are started in the name of religion yes (ie: The Irish Protestants blowing up the Irish Catholics) but Christ said love your enemy, not "blow them up". Religion only fuels racism, Christ quenches it. If someone claims to be Christian but is yet racist, then they are not Christian, the are fraud's and are simply living in their self deluded religion. The KKK were devout religious men, but they were not saved, they were not Christian and most certainly did not have the Holy Spirit in them and they would wake up to a rude awakening after their deaths to find themselves judged by a God who loves all colors. How will racism ever be wiped out? It won't on this side of eternity, but there is a day coming when it will. In the meantime God must look down from Heaven and watch this civil war take place in Israel, Jews killing Jews, Americans killing American, Blacks killing blacks, White's killing whites and it must break God's heart to see how far, we as humans have fallen, that we will hate and kill, just because someone is different than us and not part of our group.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

JUNE 27 "FIND SOME COMFORT FOR TODAY"

     You can find some comfort today, in reading about God's inspired description of Joash. We read at the beginning of Joash, 2 Joash did what was right in the eyes of the LORD all the years Jehoiada the priest instructed him. "2 Joash did what was right in the eyes of the LORD all the years Jehoiada the priest instructed him." However, as we go on to read about Joash we find out that his life was not so stellar after all. Immediately after that verse we read..."3 The high places, however, were not removed; the people continued to offer sacrifices and burn incense there."  And it doesn't stop there, further on we read...
 "17 About this time Hazael king of Aram went up and attacked Gath and captured it. Then he turned to attack Jerusalem. 18 But Joash king of Judah took all the sacred objects dedicated by his predecessors—Jehoshaphat, Jehoram and Ahaziah, the kings of Judah—and the gifts he himself had dedicated and all the gold found in the treasuries of the temple of the LORD and of the royal palace, and he sent them to Hazael king of Aram, who then withdrew from Jerusalem."  This was an awful cowardly act and I'm sure not the way The Lord would have had him handle the situation, by bribing his way, out of this situation with this enemy of Israel. We don't read much about Joash seeking God's counsel or direction. I'm sure had Joash sought his counsel God would not have said, "..you know what, this king is a pretty bad dude, i can't handle him, you'd better bribe him". This is obviously a failure on Joash's part. In spite of that, overall, I see Joash as a pretty good guy, seems to be a natural born leader, seems to take initiative and get things done that nobody else was getting done. Seems to care about The Temple of the Lord when nobody else did and he seems concerned about accountability of the church resources and making sure they were used for what they were appropriated. Joash is not all bad...and neither are you! Overall, as I said, we know Joash is not this stellar man of God. But you know what the good news is, he doesn't have to be this stellar man of God to please God! Joash has some good qualities but God is not shy to list the things he did wrong and messed up, but THE POINT IS...when God chooses to inspire the author of this book to describe Joash, we find Joash described as someone who "by and large" did right in the eyes of the Lord.  And this ought to bring comfort to you that perhaps God is not so disappointed in you as others might seem to make you feel. That you don't have to be the Apostle Paul to please God or any other spiritual guru's that are in Christendom today. Many Christians live under horrible condemnation that they simply don't measure up. The question to ask is, who do they not measure up to? Is it our peers, our spouses, our Pastor's or church's standards? I'm sure there were many "in the camp" that thought Joash  was a coward for not fighting the King of Aram, and thought it quite unspiritual to bribe him instead. I'm sure there were many who thought he was not spiritual for not taking down the altars in the "high places". I don't know how Joash evaluated himself, he may have given in to what others thought and felt quite unworthy as a King, but if only Joash had known what God thought of him.."Joash did right...." if only more people in the church knew what God thought about them instead of everyone else, they would be allot happier and have allot more joy. Take comfort today that God probably doesn't think of you as people have convinced you he does. Perhaps God know your flaws but he also knows your qualities and irregardless of either, his love is unconditional and perhaps he also says of you today..."he/she hasn't done this I know, they haven't done that I know...but still my summary of their lives and heart is ....they do right (overall) in the eyes of The Lord. Not in the eyes of their peers, but in The Eyes of the Lord, take comfort in that!

Monday, June 26, 2017

JUNE 26 "LET'S CUT THIS PRAISE THING SHORT"

  David can’t help but Praise God with the heart of gratitude that he has. We get a glimpse of where some of his gratitude comes from in the Psalm, “Praise the Lord, who is my rock, He trains my hands for war and gives my fingers skill for battle.”  How many times did David go into battle for Israel, risking his life but yet God supernaturally enabled him. A life of leisure, a life where we just live in our “comfort zone” may be a little better for our blood pressure, but it is not something that is going to cause exuberant Praise to come out of your mouth on Sunday mornings. As a matter of a fact, you may be one of the individuals that yawns during Praise & Worship on Sunday mornings. You may say, “I’m into the Word, just give me the Word, we can skip all that Praise non-sense and just get to the good stuff”. David would have disagreed with you; and David was a man’s man, but yet David had exuberant Praise in him, that just had to come out. So much so that it vexed his wife to see him act like such a fool (at least in her opinion, but surely not God’s opinion) before the Lord. She obviously could not relate and when we cannot relate we judge and of course we judge in our favor and condemn the other. A nominal Christianity will never exude much praise or appreciation and gratitude to God. Had David not known war, had David not encountered the bear & the lion (who wants that!) he would not have had this immense gratitude stored up in him for God. I can tell by someone’s praise pretty much what level, at what pace, that person is serving God. I know, there’s always exceptions to the rule (we all have bad days, weeks, months) but, for the most part, it is pretty proven and tried, over the years. Someone who has no relationship with God, comes in to the service and their praise is just 100% flat;  during the song service there is ZERO praise coming out of them. And that’s what you would expect; it only goes along to prove the theory, or perhaps, hypothesis, that our praise indicates what level we are on with God. “Don’t judge me!!!, we say.  “If that’s what’s happening, I’m coming to church and people are just judging me by my praise, then I will just stay home!” you cry out.  I say, “go ahead, that’s probably what you’ve been wanting to do in the first place anyway”. We hate to be judged. We hate yearly evaluations by our employers, we hate any kind of judgment, any kind of assessment of our character and God forbid anyone judge us in our walk with God. Nobody should say anything about how bored we are during praise. Nobody should say anything about how that’s the most convenient time for us to go to the restroom, 3 times and spend 5 minutes there each time. Nobody should say anything about our acute interest in the dirt under our finger nails during praise and worship, nobody should say anything about your acute attention to all the type-0’s in the power point, about how the song leader is off-key, anything is more interesting during praise, then the actual praise and perhaps that’s because there’s no praise in you? David cannot help but praise God, he cannot help but sing and dance to his God. David is the one who gives us our prescription for praise, “ I will sing a new song, I will praise with a ten-stringed harp” Let’s get loud, let’s get exuberant, let’s get excited, how amazing is God, He’s incredible, I just got back from War, He saved me, He helped me, what a victory He brought, He is so amazing, aren’t you just amazed and in wonder of how good God is, how much He cares about us, mere mortal men?” Our reply, “how long does this Praise Worship thing last, because I really have somewhere I have to be this afternoon and David, I appreciate your enthusiasm, and I’m really there with you, in spirit, but if we can just cut this short and get to the preaching, I would really appreciate it!” And what’s even more amazing, is we can say that with a straight face and not even for a moment, think, there’s anything wrong with us or our apathy towards Praise, which is really an apathy towards God.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

JUNE 25 "THAT'S MINE, GIVE IT BACK"

I think we all know this Shunemmite woman. She exists in every church.  She is that woman of extraordinary faith in God to move on her behalf; and you know what, He does! The Shunemmite woman believes God has given her the son she has and when he is taken away, she goes back to God, or at least her source to God and demands him back and Elisha raises her son from the dead. I believe her reasoning here, in our text is the same. She believes God is the source of all she has and she is right; therefore the land she had, that she has lost, was from God and she is believing God to give her that land back just like He gave her back her son.  The only problem is, with her son, she had Elisha to go to, in this case who does she have? This is a woman who acts in faith, not logic. Logic would says, “she doesn't have a snow ball’s chance in Hell” of getting that land back, but with God all things are possible to them that believe. Her job as a believer is to motion forward and allow God to do the miracle. This is by divine orchestration that the moment she walks in to see the King, there is Gehazi, of all people, telling the King, the story about the Shunemmite Woman’s boy that Elisha raised from the dead and who walks in, but the Shunemmite Woman. The king not only restores all her land to her but also recompenses her for her crops. Once again, this woman walks away, with what God had originally given to her, but was taken away. How many Christians do you know that have had God give them blessings over the years, but today, they don’t have them. Those blessings have been taken away and they have accepted that and moved on, but they are not the same. They wonder, “why did God give me that blessing, only to take it away?”.  Maybe there is a lesson to learn from this little woman. Sometimes we must fight for what God has given us. Sometimes we must go after, by Faith, what the enemy has taken away from us. Jesus said, “I have come to give you life and life more abundantly, but the thief, comes to steal, kill and destroy”. Maybe you have been robbed by the enemy, would you believe in God, by Faith, to get back what the enemy has stolen? You’ll never know if you don’t try and believe. Motion forward, make a move and then sit back and allow God to the miracle.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

JUNE 24 "CAN WE AGREE TO DISAGREE?"

I remember many years ago Pastoring in a Church where there was some minor issues, that were quickly escalating to major issues. My options were to ignore it or confront it. I looked at the parties involved and what I saw was a group of men that were strongly opinionated, but also mature and strong in their faith. So based on that, I chose the option of confronting, head on. We all met at every Christian’s church outside of church, ie; Starbucks and just brought out all the gossip and rumblings. The situation was fragile and could have easily escalated out of my control, but it didn't! I believe that when you are dealing with two or more mature Christians, solid in their faith, you should be able to bring up any issue, discuss any matter and still be able to have a civil conversation or even a civil argument; and not all leave hating each other and wanting to leave the church and/or ministry. If ever you have one of these meetings and things do not go well, it is because you were wrong in your assessment of the maturity and faith of the Christians you were meeting with.  Paul and Barnabas are exactly the type of men of which I've been speaking (writing). They are both strongly opinionated, but are also strong in their faith and mature. We of course want to know, “who’s right, who’s wrong”.  We of course would pay anything to find out “who’s side was God on in that argument?”  What if God respected both their opinions! What if God didn't take sides? Why does someone always have to be right and someone always has to be wrong? The same thing that causes fighting at home is the same thing that causes fighting and dissension at Church.  When you have a group of people that are brought together on a regular basis, that are immature, but yet strongly opinionated, you’re going to have strife. And in this case you will say, “two is not better than one” it’s a nightmare and NO I will not agree to disagree. Paul and Barnabas remain great friends through this blow out. Not only do Paul and Barnabas remain great friends, but Paul and Mark also become very good friends and ministry partners later on. This one time argument isn’t the death blow between Paul, Barnabas and Mark. As with many Christians today, one blow out, one argument is the death blow to a friendship that had been going on for years. Now the friendship is over, they are leaving the Church, years of relationship now will be thrown away, it just makes no sense. And it makes no sense because it’s wrong and it’s wrong because the people are wrong. Trying to make sense out of people who are just wrong, jaded or twisted in their hearts and faith is a futile exercise. Today’s reading displays to us what “Christianity should look like” and if you see anything else that does not look like what you saw (read) today, don’t try to make sense out of it, don’t try to justify it, just call it for what it is, say, “I know Christianity when I see it and what I saw take place today between those two, was not Christianity” or the opposite could be true, “I know Christianity and what I saw take place between those two church members today, is a classic example of two earnest Christians, mature and strong and faith and they, like Paul and Barnabas have agreed to disagree and yet remain friends and partners in the ministry”.

Friday, June 23, 2017

JUNE 23 "TWO ARE BETTER THAN ONE!"

The Word of God declares, “two are better than one”. There are many reasons why two are better than one and here in our story, we have a perfect illustration of how that works. What happens is this woman’s son from Shunem dies. We are not sure what happened, let’s say it’s a tumor or brain aneurysm, he screams out his head is hurting; next thing you know the child is dead. We have a wife and husband in this story. The husband accepts, perhaps, to simply “take the hit”, as I’m sure this hurt. The wife resolves something completely different.  While the husband accepts the death, the wife will not. She has resolved to contend for this miracle (the boy) that God gave her. When she is saddling up to head out, the husband thinks she is going to see the man of God for some religious ceremony. Little does she know she is going to fight for the life of her son. This is why two are better than one in a home, in raising children and even when there are no children. It brings a great help and advantage to life. In this particular situation, had it been left to the husband, this boy’s life would have been over.  In this tragedy, it is the wife’s faith that rises up. In my life experiences, with my wife, there have been times when her faith was low for a particular trial, event or tragedy and my faith was high and it brought us through; then there were other seasons where it was my wife’s faith that rose up when mine was flat. It is unfortunate in homes where you have a single parent trying to carry the load, trying to always have all the faith, for all of life’s events, trials and tragedies. And the reality is they “will not” have faith for all of life’s events, trials and tragedies, which means there will be times, when something could have lived (keeping in the analogy of the boy)  but died. Had the dad been a single parent in this story, the boy would not have lived. From the very beginning, God ordained, this concept of two, starting with Adam and Eve. The idea is when one is weak, the other is strong and so they keep each other from falling. This is the great tragedy of the Garden. Yes it is horrible that Eve was seduced, but even worse is that God’s plan failed. Two are better than one, failed here. It is normal that on any given day, one can be low, can be weak, but the plan is that the other comes along and helps, encourages, brings faith into the situation, brings sound judgment to the table, brings courage into the situation. Unfortunately, on this day, Adam comes into the situation, where Eve is weak, a perfect opportunity for this concept to work, Adam could have taken the apple out of her hand, thrown it to the ground and interceded for Eve and who knows where we would be today, but in his moment to shine, he doesn’t.  In this story, the way God meant it to be prevails and it is a “happy ending” as we all like to read.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

JUNE 22 "A GOOD RETURN ON YOUR INVESTMENT"

     I can't tell you how many times this principle has been applied in my life & circumstances. The good that I did for others, as God moved upon my heart, has ALWAYS come back to do me better good than I did in helping others.  All this woman has done is use the wealth God has given her to build a room for Elisha to stay in and has taken the time to feed him when passing through town. And we do give credit where credit is do, she could have easily made excuses for not doing so, but she didn't. However, look what she gets in return! Never in her wildest dreams did she ever imagine, that by simply doing good to this obvious servant and man of God, that she would reap a son in return.  And not only does she reap a son, but when her son dies years later, that same man, Elisha, restores her son to life. That same man, Elisha, years later, is the cause of this woman having her property restored to her. The dividends, the retribution that is recompensed this woman far exceeds what she did for Elisha. And how often in life, do we find that by our simple obedience to respond to God in helping others does the retribution come back 10 fold what we put out.  We often say that doing good doesn't pay, and that's A LIE.  Perhaps it is the good that you are doing that is the problem. The Pharisees did plenty "of good" but I guarantee there was never any retribution paid by to them for their good. There are two kinds of good. A good that we do for ourselves (those reasons my vary and for sake of time we won't get into that) and a good we do as God prompts us...and that good, the latter good, will always pay back dividends, you can be sure. If you are lacking this experience in your walk with God than you should ask yourself, "am I doing any good; and if so...who and by what pretense am I doing good, for myself or for God".  Is the good I do "what I think is good and beneficial" or is the good I'm doing what God wants?" You may ask, "how do I know what God wants, how do I know the good that God wants me to do?"  And that only comes as naturally as breathing comes to you. As you abide in Christ and He abides in you, the natural outcome is Godly instinct and promptings and then it is up to you not to excuse them away. Do not grieve the work of the Holy Spirit in you. If God puts someone upon your heart, if God puts a certain persons needs upon your heart, than at once, put aside your feeble ideas and attempts of goodness and respond to God's and you will see the dividends of obedience. However, if you only respond to reap the dividends than you have ruined any reward you may have received. Simply respond because God asks of you, and let the rest be..., whether you reap or not should be inconsequential in your decision. The right response is..."Lord you need, and I have, therefore I give". That is the right heart and that is what Jesus meant when he said, "unless your righteousness exceeds that of the Pharisees, you shall not see the Kingdom of God".  Not only doing good for good or for "goodness sake" (as some might say) but doing good for the right reasons and those reasons should always end and begin, with God's promptings, not ours.