Monday, July 31, 2017

JULY 31 "CAN'T WE ALL JUST GET ALONG?"

The Church is a very interesting institution or organism, if I can use that term. Especially if you are part of an Evangelical Church that reaches out into the community to win and bring in the lost. All the effort that goes in to outreaching, all the money, time & resources, to win the lost and bring them in to the Church. A lot of planning and strategy goes in to evangelism, but do we ever think, "what will we do with them once they are in the church, will we be able to keep them?" We have a plan to "reach out" but do we have a plan to "reach in".  Paul in our text is admonishing us to "accept those who are weak in faith, and don't argue with them...".  I know people who are weak in faith bother you, I know people who seem to struggle allot bother you, I know.....people in general, that are in the church bother you.  I know this person bothers this person, and that person bothers that person. Paul is writing to the Romans to instruct them to stop looking down at each other, stop condemning each other, don't cause a believe to stumble (especially those that we have just outreached to bring in, what is the sense in that???) Paul ends the chapter with "let us aim for harmony in the church and try to build each other up".  Can you hear Paul adding at the end of that sentence a big...PLEASE, I BEG YOU! Can't we all just get along? I thank God, literally, that when I first came in to the church God put a spiritual blind fold over me that I was completely oblivious to all the problems and dissension in the church. I would not have made it, had I seen what I see today, I would have been thoroughly discouraged and left the church, probably never to return. I wish I could say, every situation is like this, but it is not.  Sometimes the church's dissension is even to grand for God to cover up. Sometimes the clicks, the factions, the dis-like for this person and that person, just bleeds out and we become a stumbling block to our brother, as Paul mentions. I believe that after we have been in a church a long time we become way to comfortable around each other. I have noticed that most couples will behave around other couples, but you will also notice that once that couple begins to become very comfortable around another couple they will start arguing and criticizing each other, right in front of you; something you would have never seen years before, it was done behind closed doors. This also happens in the church, after a while, we are all to comfortable around each other, and all diplomacy and grace, go out the door and so do our brothers and sisters, go out the door right behind them. The question today is, "can't we all just get a long?" and for many the answer is "no", but I hope for others the answer is "yes" at least I can make a decision that "I" will get along with my brothers and sisters and "I" will not be a stumbling block to others. It starts with "the one" and it can start with you. One by one, as we read God's word and get the revelation we can become the Christian, The Church Member God has called us to be. It is our job, "as the one" to make every effort to build a culture of acceptance and tolerance (not the acceptance & tolerance of the world either!) within our church and hope and pray, that it is contagious and spreads to the point where what is condemned and what is looked down upon, in our church, is criticizing, bashing and putting down others in our church, let that be what is condemned and judged, not weak faith, different personalities and opinions.

JULY 30 "SO000 MUCH DRAMA!"

    You ever notice how some people have so much DRAMA in their life?! Do you feel bad for them? Do you feel like maybe there's something you could do? Do you ever wonder where God is in the midst of their drama? I do...or I have until today.  In our O.T. reading today we see such a dramatic change in atmosphere once Jehoiada dies.  Our reading goes from peaceful, happy times to more of a reading that's more like a Godfather Saga. There is murder, treason, chaos and revenge; this stuff makes the mob seem like kids play.  We see our story turn from peace to chaos, from no drama to nothing but Drama.  And the one difference is....Jehoiada has died.
     You will find that where there is plenty of drama, there is often an absence of God.  We can easily be sucked in to people's drama and begin to have sympathy for them and perhaps get an attitude with God, but often, the attraction of drama in one's life stems from an absence of God.  The moment the man who brought God's presence into their lives, dies, we see drama.  Next time you find yourself in the midst of drama or you find yourself getting sucked into other people's drama, take a breath, step back, and before you get all riled up,ask yourself, "where is God in all this?" Ask yourself, "why is their so much drama in my life?" And if you are honest, you will probably realize that God has faded from you life, he is in the distance now rather than the center of your life.
     The enemy is the author of confusion and Panamanian, so you can be sure where there is chaos and fighting , the devil's spirit is dominating and not God's. God we know is the author of peace, not confusion. Christian's lives that are filled with drama are Christian's lives that are void of God's presence and spirit. There is a drama for a reason.  You will find that they are Christians who have let their relationship with God really cool down.  You will find that they are Christians that have no spiritual disciplines.  Prayer is hit and miss, if ever.  Bible reading is none existent, and church is when they can make it.  If you were to run into them on the street, they would boldly and maybe even proudly profess.."born again, Christian I am, been a Christian since.........." but in all reality, their relationship with Jesus faded a long time ago, and now what is left is a hollow shell of what once used to be. The beliefs are still there, the creeds are still there, the bible still sits on the coffee table in the middle of the family room, but in the midst of that is chaos, drama, panamonia and confusion.
     How about your life?  Is it filled with drama, is the drama in your life what fuels you and pumps adrenaline into your veins and keeps you going?  Are people amazed at the amount of drama in your life?  Is this really the life God has called us to live? According to our text the answer is no.  According to our text when God's presence, his spirit is dominating the atmosphere there is little to no drama, but the moment his presence is gone (even though we continue to repeat the same mantras) chaos, fighting, drama & panomonia prevail, they are the rule, rather than the exception. Want the drama to go away?  Tired of the drama, the chaos and fighting?  Then put Christ back at the center of your life and see if the atmosphere does not at once begin to change!

Saturday, July 29, 2017

JULY 29 "DON'T BE TOO QUICK TO JUDGE"

The lesson we can all learn here, especially someone filling in as the newly appointed leader; is that we shouldn't be too quick to judge. Just because everyone doesn't jump right on your idea(s), doesn't mean they are rebels and evil people with no heart for God. Joash decides it's time to fix up and restore the temple. "Go to all the towns of Judah and collect the required annual offerings, so that we can repair the Temple of your God. Do not delay!".  Joash wants this done and he wants it done quick!. As we read in the story, the people do not respond quick at all, as a matter of a fact, the do not respond at all. Joash is not pleased with this lack of response and now he starts getting on Jehoiada's case. "Why hasn't this been done, what's going on, haven't you demanded that the Levites go out and collect the Temple taxes? Don't you know Moses instituted this tax for the maintenance of the Temple!".  Joash just starts going off on poor man. Jehoiada just calmly responds to Joash, that there is a reason. The reason is, "that in the past".......we can stop right there!  "In the past"....remember those words.  Often if we are facing resistance from people it may be from experiences they've had in the past. A new leader we would be wise to consult with others that have been around much longer than he or she, for some wisdom and insight on the matter, before going off and starting to judge and make false accusations. Jehoiada is that person for Joash. Jehoida tactfully explains to Joash, that what he doesn't know is that # 1.  People have willingly given towards the Temple Tax before, in the past and gave quite liberally. So the issue is not that they don't want to give.  # 2. Jehoida explains that in the past when they did give, those funds were misappropriated and now the people are very mistrusting. They don't trust leadership and they don't trust  that the resources they give will be used for what they are supposed to be used for, ie: repairing the Temple. In the past, of all things, their resources went towards, not the Temple, but towards the worship of Baal. With this new insight, Joash is able to respond properly.  Without this insight he would have really done allot of damage to his credibility as a Leader and would have turned the people off from him. Had Joash been quick to judge and not consult with someone who had been around much longer than he, this would have been a leadership debacle. Have you seen those in the past!!  Men and/or women that are quick with the trigger, blow up their ministries faster than the devil could; and much better too! As a leader are you proactive or reactive? Are you willing to "listen to reason?" Or...are you quick to judge and make heads roll! Joash has not gone off on the people, he consults with Jehoida, gets insight as to why they're not responding/giving and comes up with a solution. The result, "this pleased all the leaders and the people, and they gladly brought their money and filled the chest with it." Joash was right on the preface of becoming a tyrant in the eyes of the people or a great leader and it all hinged right here....when people did not jump and immediately obey at is command, would he be quick to judge and make heads roll or would he take a step back, get some counsel and insight into the matter, listen to reason and hear from others that have been around, much longer than he.  We know he choose the latter and he becomes a hero and great leader, but how many others don't choose the latter and it becomes their own downfall and what's even sadder, is half the time they never even realize, it was "they" that destroyed their own ministry, it was "they" who caused the people to have a great disrespect for them. It was they who blew themselves up. Years down the road they will still blame their failed ministry "on the people" until someone else goes in and has great success "with that same group of people" and then and only then, does it begin to sink in, "maybe it was me, maybe I should have sought the counsel of others that had been there longer than I, maybe I should have listened to reason.....maybe I was too quick to judge and react."

Friday, July 28, 2017

JULY 28 "POWERLESS, IMPOTENT CHURCH IN AMERICA"

"If the natural branches were not spared, but broken off because of unbelief, you have been grafted in by Faith" (paraphrased). You may or may not know, the natural branches Paul is referring to, is the Jews. The unnatural branches are the Gentiles, you and I (unless of course you are Jewish). God still have a special promise for the Jews, but for you and I, Faith is critical. Paul writes that they (the Jews) have been rejected because of their unbelief. I believe this is more proof that Paul wrote the book of Hebrews (there is debate over who wrote Hebrews) because the author of Hebrews also mentions that the great sin of the Israelites was their Unbelief and the reason they did not enter the Promised land was because of their Unbelief. The Israelites mirror the American Church of today, we are devoutly religious, but we are full of unbelief. Paul also writes, "in the last days, men will acknowledge God, but render him powerless". Which is partly because of unbelief.  I run into more religious people, filled with unbelief than I do; atheists, satanists & agnostics, all combined together. Our problem in America is not the Homosexual Agenda, nor the Right Wing Agenda of the Democratic Party, nor the ACLU, the problem in America is the great sin of Unbelief. We are still filling Churches every Sunday, but walking out unchanged because of unbelief. The warning Paul is giving in our reading today is that if God rejected "The Natural Branches" because of unbelief he will surely remove us if we fall into arrogance and unbelief. "Do not be arrogant, but tremble", Paul writes. Can we still talk about God doing a Miracle, to our Christian Brethren, without having them "roll their eyes at us"?  Are we still allowed to quote "with man it is impossible, but with God all things are possible to them that believe" without being considered, some crazy Charismatic Christian?! It seems that to the church, these are becoming "Old Cliches" rather than God's unchanging promises. Christians today are, pragmatic, rational, practical and function by the 5 senses. Is that really Faith anymore? Will we still give our last penny, take our last bit of oil and cook our last meal, will we still step out of the boat, pray for someone to be healed, walk by faith and not by sight, believe for a coin in the fish of a mouth, believe God to deliver the demoniac, forgive and change the adulteress, heal a marriage, save a sinner, rebuke the devour, etc..etc....If we continue to mirror the Israelites/Jews with their unbelief, we (the Gentiles) will find ourselves worse off than them, because God has no special promise for us. We were grafted in, when the Jews were rejected because of their Unbelief, but yet "we had Faith", if we lose our Faith, we have nothing left, but Powerless/Impotent Religion, which is where America finds itself today.  Soren Kiergaard was a prolific 19th Century Danish Philosopher and Theologian. He wrote this parable to describe the state of the church, it’s called “Duckland”. It was Sunday morning in Duckland, and all the ducks dutifully came to church, waddling through the doors and down the aisle into their pews where they comfortably squatted.  When all were well-settled, and the hymns were sung, the duck minister waddled to his pulpit, opened the Duck Bible and read: "Ducks! You have wings, and with wings you can fly like eagles. You can soar into the sky! Use your wings!" It was a marvelous, elevating duck reading from the Duck Bible, and thus all the ducks quacked their assent with a hearty "Amen!" . . . and then plopped down from their pews and…..waddled home.




Thursday, July 27, 2017

JULY 27 "MY CHRISTIAN LIFE IS PRIVATE!"

     I was looking over my blog stats and to my surprise one of the most read blogs this year was titled "My Christian Life is Private".  And I know, or have experienced over time, that often, the title of the blog is what draws people to read. And I am alarmed that the title "My Christian Life is Private" drew so many readers.  Is this the crowd that I am catering too, I wonder? That TITLE "caught" your eye, didn't it. Unfortunately, as you read the blog it probably ended up being the complete opposite of what you thought. Readers probably thought it would confirm their delusion that their Christian Life was "private".  Instead, the blog was meant to blow that theory apart. I wonder if this title "My Christian Life is Private II" will draw another slew of readers. It discourages me that there are so many Christians out there that are off track, looking to confirm and console themselves in their decision to withdraw and become spiritual recluses. I've heard it all, the mantra goes somewhat like this, "I'd rather just stay home and believe in God than have to deal with all the drama and hypocrites and politics of the church."  Well, was there not drama, hypocrites and politics through out the early church. I find it interesting that the drama (of the church) would even be mentioned in God's Holy Bible, rather than be left out intentionally. However God does the opposite, God doesn't intentionally leave it out, He intentionally puts it in! God chose to put "the drama" of the church in his Holy Book for our sake. The drama and hypocrisy of people in the church is laid bare before us to see, but nowhere does Paul or any other writer, inspired by the Holy Spirit admonish us to just withdraw from the church and become spiritual recluses.
     Your Christian life is not private, if it is private than it is ineffective. Jesus said, "what good is salt if it loses it's flavor but to be thrown out and trampled upon".  A "Private" Christian life is an OXI-MORON.  Jesus' "private" Christian life was at 4:30am in the morning, after that, his life was anything but private. You want your Christian life to be private, than find it in the wee hours of the morning or the late hours of the night, but after that, God says your life belongs to him and if he wants to throw you out amongst the throngs of people, amongst the wolves, than he has the right to do so. (or does he?) So many Christians on the Internet today are Christians who once, wholeheartedly surrendered their lives to Jesus, and than at some point decided to "take their lives back".  Proverbs says, "he who isolates himself, seeks his own desires and rages against all sound judgement".  This is really what is at the heart of  this facade of "the private Christian life". In all reality and honesty, it's simply a guise for "yes I'm a Christian, but  I want to do what I want to do".  "I want to go to church when I feel like it, I want to date who I want, I want to give what I want and if people are going to try to tell me what to do, then I will just serve God by myself," so we say.We say.
      " The Church tries to control me, convict me, the Pastor tries to tell me what to do, the leaders in the church try to tell me what to do, I'm judged if I do this, I'm judged if I do that, I am made to feel guilty if I miss church 2,3,4, or 5 times a month and I don't like it!  I don't want anybody to hold me accountable, I don't want anybody trying to tell me how to live, this is between me and Jesus".   Yes, Preachers can be over opinionated, yes people can try to push their standards on you, but for the most part, God is the one that is guilty of trying to regulate your life, It is normally God's word that is simply being regurgitated right back to you and in the end, it is God's word dictating whom you should date, how much you should give and how faithful you should be to church, not a man. Don't hate the messenger but claim to love the message, that is a delusion. The reality is you hate both.
     Ironically, when you ask this type of  Pseudo Christian, "what is it that JESUS tells you to do, that you don't want to, what is it that Jesus holds you accountable for, that irritates you, what is it that Jesus convicts you of that makes you angry" you will always get a pause and of course after a long pause, the answer is "nothing" or something vague. The reality of the "Private Christian Life" is that not only can the church not infringe upon their "privacy" but in all reality neither can Jesus himself.  Their Jesus thinks like they do, approves what they approve and in the end what they have done is down-graded their God and fashioned him to be a reflection of them. It's a love affair with a Jesus they've created but has no scriptural backing and/or support.  To conclude, a "Private Christian Life" is one of the greatest OXI-MORON's in our modern vernacular.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

JULY 26 "DON'T BE STUPID!!"

     I was quite encouraged to finally read about a King who is doing well and serving God. "Jehoshaphat, you are the man", I thought....until....until out of nowhere we read, "1 Now Jehoshaphat had great wealth and honor, and he allied himself with Ahab by marriage."  You must be kidding?! Out of nowhere....isn't this how it normally happens. We see people doing "seemingly" so well and then "out of nowhere" they make a blunderous, stupid, ungodly decision.  And we think, "where did that come from?".  It proves that any one of us, can tomorrow make a decision that will totally throw us of course if we are not honest with ourselves, with others and foremost, with God.  The story gets worse as Ahab eventually convinces Jehoshaphat to go to war against Ramoth Gilead, even though, the very prophet Jehoshaphat requested, prophesied against it.  And on top of that, Jehoshaphat also lets Ahab to convince him to dress up as King of Israel.  We don't know if Jehoshaphat is enamored with the King of Ahab and his daughter or what is at work here, but Ahab seems to have more influence over Jehoshaphat, than God does, at this point. For all the good that we have read about Jehoshaphat, we begin to see him take a turn for the worse.
     Thank God that we have an opportunity to have a relationship with God in lieu of just some impotent religion because nothing supersedes a relationship with God.  Although Jehoshaphat is in the midst of some kind of stupid, spiritual fog, he knows one thing and that is to cry out to his God. I'm sure he knows he's gone of course, I'm sure he knows he's made some decisions without seeking God or even wanting God's opinion, we've all been there and done this!!! Jehoshaphat's motives in this series of bad decisions are even known to God, but never revealed to us, but yet when he cries out, God rescues him nonetheless. Verse 31 "So they turned to attack him, but Jehoshaphat cried out, and the LORD helped him. God drew them away from him" .  By all means, they should have killed Jehoshaphat right there, but for no other reason than God, they do not. Again, nothing can take the place of a relationship with God. We see in this story, that even though this man is very kinked and screwed up, God continues to have a relationship with this man and vice-versa and when he cries out God........God answers him and saves him
     There's no excuse for all these bad decisions Jehoshaphat makes, he wanted to do what he wanted to do, whether he was obsessed with Ahab's daughter or infatuated by her and the family dynasty, is all unknown to us and irrelevant, in the end he did wrong. We will all have our day "in the fog" and in wanting to do our own thing, but the key in all of this is never give up your relationship with God, never give up on God, he will always be there to help you, rescue you and save you when you come to the revelation that you have royally messed up and cry out to him for help. I don't believe God would have automatically intervened and saved Jehoshaphat had he not cried out.
     And last, ....nothing comes out of nowhere. Christians who seem to be doing well and then all of a sudden begin to make a series of "off the wall" decisions, as Jehoshaphat does, had issues lurking in their heart that they were not being honest about.  They were not honest with God nor were they honest with their spiritual mentors or headship about the issues.  Always be honest with God and your spiritual mentors and headship about the struggles in your heart, this is the first step, in the right direction, in getting help. God knows your heart whether you confess to Him or not, so why not just be honest with him and then let a trusted friend know also, that will pray for you and help keep you in check until you get these issues resolved through a process of time, prayer and accountability.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

JULY 25 "WHAT'S WRONG WITH SWEET 'OL GRANNY?!"

What’s going on with Granny setting up obscene poles that Asa has to cut down and destroy. Question we should ask ourselves is….does becoming old make us naturally virtuous? Does becoming old make us honest, pure and decent people? Is it a staple for grandmother’s and grandfathers to be human beings that are pretty much angelic & sweet? Or are they simply human beings, like you and I; that have aged in their sin, not grown out of it. No doubt, I hope grandpa has grown out of smoking weed and grandma has grown out of dressing to seduce men, but that doesn’t mean that they have metamorphosed into some saint like character. Perhaps some of the surface sins have diminished, but the deeper sins are entrenched. Hatred and bitterness are as strong as ever. I have seen old, nice grandma’s pouring gasoline on the fire of bitterness that has kept the family divided for years, even right up until their death. I have seen old people, right before their death getting vengeance on their families through their Last Testament & Wills.  I have seen men, that once were handsome, winsome, perverted groping youth, making girls blush, but now that same spirit, in that same man, who doesn’t have the handsome, winsome personality to go with it, repels and disgusts the woman who have to work with this “old pervert” in the nursing home.  With all that Asa has to deal with, you’d figure the last person he would have to add to that list, is his own sweet grandma. We read about Gideon having to take care of some house cleaning in his day and who does God mention to him that he is going to have to deal with….his Father! Gideon’s father has also set up, ungodly shrines that God tells Gideon he’s going to have to bring down and destroy. This frightens Gideon and I’m sure this frightened Asa as well. I’m sure grandma was not one to be reckoned with. I’m sure there was going to be family backlash for both Asa & Gideon for “messing with the family”.  Gideon and Asa I’m sure were assaulted for their stance, the family would come against them saying things such as, “some things you just look the other way at, you’re going to disrespect your grandma, you’re going to disrespect your father like that! Is that what they teach you at your church, is that what you call a Christian? Doesn’t the bible say, to honor your father and mother! Is that what you call honoring your father and mother, making a humiliation of your grandmother, for God’s sake, boy, what’s wrong with you!”. That would be when Asa, Gideon, or yourself, walk away wondering if you really heard from God. We’ve all been there; we’ve all had to do the hard things that brought us much reproach from our families. If it is not hard enough just trying to live for God, live clean and do right; often God also throws into the mix, dealing with family strongholds; and sometimes we feel like that’s more than we can handle. A lot of times it can be a family member with a lot of clout and influence in the family, other times it’s an ungodly, tradition that has been held in the family for years and now God has raised you up, to bring it down and we say, “I can’t, who am I, find somebody else, they will kill me, they will laugh me out of the family, kick me out of the family…etc…etc..”   And you know what; some of those statements are not so far off from the truth. Many Christians have been banished from their families for standing against grandma or grandpa, mom or dad. You may feel like you’re not “the one”, just like Gideon, “I am the least in my family” but you’re exactly the one God has called and sometimes we must do the hard thing, for the benefit of others and future generations to come.

Monday, July 24, 2017

JULY 24 "WHO ARE YOU FOLLOWING/ATTACHED YOURSELF TO?"

"for many had traveled from Israel to Judah during Asa's reign, when they saw the Lord was with him". The truth of the matter is, we can tell when God's Grace is on someone's life and we can tell when it is not. There is a drawing that comes towards those that have God's Grace on their lives. People want to rally behind a winner in the secular world and the same is true in the Kingdom of God, Christians want to rally behind a person who seems to be a winner for God, we call it a "man or woman with God's favor and Grace upon their lives" or as we read in our text, "The Lord was with him". People traveled quite a distance to be with Asa. It wasn't as simple as going to the next block to choose Burger King instead of McDonald's, This was a big move and there may have been family that did not follow. This will no doubt alter their lives, Israel and Judah were at war, opposite spectrum's in life. Was this a wise decision? I would say, yes! Who you follow really can make a big difference in your life, your future & destiny. The reality of life is that we do not all have an equal amount of God's Grace upon our lives.  And God does not pick and choose who He wants to pour more grace, more favor on, we are the ones that choose that. "If you will draw near to me then I will draw near to you". An individual that has a special Grace of God upon their life is not "a lucky individual" it's an individual that has sought God out, in the secret places. "you will seek in me secret but I will reward you in the open". The idea of following and attaching yourself to a man with God's Grace is not just so we can be where it's happening, but it's also the hope that it is contagious, that we will catch on, that we will acquire some of that Grace and Favor and that we to can partake, we can learn and be inspired by this leader (Asa) to do the same. Many congregation members have assigned themselves to a church, that is being led by a man that has resigned himself to retire in that church, to coast, to live and die there, accept a paycheck, accept his parsonage, do his duty to preach that one sermon on Sunday and maybe a Sunday School. That man is simply functioning as any other employee that goes to work in that City, from day to day. The people that have attached themselves to that leader, will suffer the same fate. A slow and dieing faith, a lack of favor and Grace. There's always an exception to the rule I know, but most will not rise above their leaders. Our text today reveals to us a man with God's Grace upon his life, is worth following and attaching yourself too, no matter what the cost, it can affect our future, our lives and sometimes our destinies. Who are you following? Who have you attached yourself to?

Sunday, July 23, 2017

JULY 23 "SO DEVOUTLY RELIGIOUS WE ARE"

We have areas in our lives that are so obedient to the Will of God and we have other areas in our lives that are so flagrantly disobedient to God. As I read about Solomon bringing this heathen women back to Jerusalem with him and building her her own house, I am nauseated. Either in disgust, because God had told him not to marry foreign women because they would turn his heart away or I'm nauseated because it reminds me of my own life, at different seasons, or maybe it's a little of both. And of course, as with you and I, to appease his conscience he does something devoutly religious, after being devoutly rebellious, "Then Solomon offered burnt offerings unto the Lord on the altar of the Lord".  I wonder if Solomon had read about when Samuel rebuked King Saul with these words, "Obedience is better than sacrifice". I remember as a young Christian going out of town with a foreign woman. We stayed over night in a city, I got a hotel, requested twin beds and kept it clean; but regardless, I was in screaming rebellion to the Holy Spirit who hammered me not to take this trip. The first thing I did when i got up in the morning was I read my bible and then knelt and prayed at the foot of my bed. When we are in rebellion, we become devoutly religious. Problem is, God doesn't honor our sacrifices and/or prayers in this time, "for obedience is better than sacrifice and rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft". Not only does God not hear our prayers but we look like fools to those that look on at us, trying to be pious in the midst of sin and rebellion. Imagine how foolish I looked, praying at the foot of my bed that morning. Even though nothing happened, she knew, she was not a Christian (a backslider she was) and she knew I was (or at least supposed to be) and she knew, "do not be unequally yoked with an unbeliever". As Solomon brings this heathen woman to his city, the next order of service for him is to offer burnt offerings unto his God.  His God that he only listens to when it appeals to him. However, before we throw stones at Solomon, let us recognize that this lures in each and every one of us. Not only have I seen it play out in my own life, I have seen it play out in many other Christians that I know and many Christians in my Church. We can be so perfectly obedient in some areas of our lives and so flagrantly disobedient in others.  If ever you find yourself, being super, devoutly, religious, you may want to step back and ask yourself, "what sin am I trying to cover up for here?"

JULY 23 "SO DEVOUTLY RELIGIOUS WE ARE"

We have areas in our lives that are so obedient to the Will of God and we have other areas in our lives that are so flagrantly disobedient to God. As I read about Solomon bringing this heathen women back to Jerusalem with him and building her her own house, I am nauseated. Either in disgust, because God had told him not to marry foreign women because they would turn his heart away or I'm nauseated because it reminds me of my own life, at different seasons, or maybe it's a little of both. And of course, as with you and I, to appease his conscience he does something devoutly religious, after being devoutly rebellious, "Then Solomon offered burnt offerings unto the Lord on the altar of the Lord".  I wonder if Solomon had read about when Samuel rebuked King Saul with these words, "Obedience is better than sacrifice". I remember as a young Christian going out of town with a foreign woman. We stayed over night in a city, I got a hotel, requested twin beds and kept it clean; but regardless, I was in screaming rebellion to the Holy Spirit who hammered me not to take this trip. The first thing I did when i got up in the morning was I read my bible and then knelt and prayed at the foot of my bed. When we are in rebellion, we become devoutly religious. Problem is, God doesn't honor our sacrifices and/or prayers in this time, "for obedience is better than sacrifice and rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft". Not only does God not hear our prayers but we look like fools to those that look on at us, trying to be pious in the midst of sin and rebellion. Imagine how foolish I looked, praying at the foot of my bed that morning. Even though nothing happened, she knew, she was not a Christian (a backslider she was) and she knew I was (or at least supposed to be) and she knew, "do not be unequally yoked with an unbeliever". As Solomon brings this heathen woman to his city, the next order of service for him is to offer burnt offerings unto his God.  His God that he only listens to when it appeals to him. However, before we throw stones at Solomon, let us recognize that this lures in each and every one of us. Not only have I seen it play out in my own life, I have seen it play out in many other Christians that I know and many Christians in my Church. We can be so perfectly obedient in some areas of our lives and so flagrantly disobedient in others.  If ever you find yourself, being super, devoutly, religious, you may want to step back and ask yourself, "what sin am I trying to cover up for here?"

Saturday, July 22, 2017

JULY 22 "WAS PAUL A LOUSY CHRISTIAN?"

You would think, that by reading Paul's writing today, that he was the worse Christian. The type of Christian you sure don't want in any kind of leadership position in your church. You wouldn't want Paul in any ministry where he is supposed to be an example to anybody else. "And I know that nothing good lives in me, that is , in my sinful nature. I want to do what is right, but I can't.  Let's just stop right there! What do you mean you want to do what's right but you can't?! What is that Paul? You're an example here to all these converts you have won over. Paul goes on to write, "I want to do what is good, but I don't".  Paul, you're the one that has started all these churches, you're the one who wrote, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me" and now you're sitting here saying, "you can't do good". Paul continues in his writing, "I don't' want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway".  Well, Paul, I don't know what you're going through, we will pray for you, but you definitely need to be removed from ministry, from leadership, maybe you need some time off, maybe you need a sabbatical, but you're not fit for ministry or leadership at this time. This scripture has been the license to sin for more Christians than we will ever be able to count. The mantra will go something like this, "well hey, if Paul said the bad things he didn't want to do he did and I sure am not Paul, so....". Was Paul a lousy Christian? Is Paul the consummate example for every Christian that just wants to give in to temptation and excuse it away as, "hey, I'm just weak like Paul". The question is, was Paul as weak as he humbly describes himself to be? Paul also wrote, "in my weakness I am made strong, through Christ who strengthens me". Paul wrote three quarters of the New Testament. Paul went successfully on 3 missionary journeys and pioneered most of Asia. If Paul never did "the things he wanted to do" then he would never have accomplished all that he did. As a matter of a fact, Paul also writes, that he has labored more than all the other disciples. I would say, for every Christian that wants to use Paul as an example to justify their fleshly indulgences, they should read the rest of his epistles. The truth is, and facts are, that Paul was the strongest Christian that ever lived. I believe the reason he was the strongest Christian that ever lived is because Paul thought he was so weak. Whether Paul was right or not, in his estimation of himself is irrelevant, the point is, Paul's humble stance drove him to his knees praying daily for strength, to do what he should and not give in to his fleshly desires. Paul's admittance of his weakness and "no good within me" is what ironically enabled him to overcome great odds and be the most productive Apostle that ever lived. So if you want to use Paul as your example of weakness, then follow Paul's other example by praying incessantly for God's Grace and Strength, to cause you to be an over-comer and begin quoting some of Paul's other writings, ie: "I can do ALL THINGS through Christ Jesus, who strengthens me".

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.