Saturday, August 19, 2017

AUGUST 19 "MASTER ORCHESTRATOR"

This is our hope, when there is no hope. That God is a "Master Orchestrator", orchestrating events on our behalf, in our favor. Though God is not "specifically" mentioned through-out the Book of Esther, He is interwoven through-out the whole book. God is not speaking directly to Esther or Mordecai. God is not even sending Angels to speak to his people; as in other stories. The story of Esther is  a story that the 21st Century Christian should be able to relate to, more than any other story in the bible.  In our day and age, we are not seeing appearances of God nor speaking with Angels. We pray and we believe God; once we've prayed and sought his help to guide by divine guidance and to orchestrate, we, the 21st Century Christian, rely heavily on Providence! Often we quote Mordecai as saying to Esther "for such a time as this you have come to be Queen", but the actual quote is "who knows if perhaps you were made queen for such a time as this".  Mordecai is very much like us, a man with a relationship with God, but does not claim to have a direct line with God and neither does he claim to audibly hear from God. Mordecai is a man that prays and tries to reason and does not claim to know all, Mordecai is simply stating, "this sure seems like God here, I don't really believe in coincidence, you must be there for a purpose". Mordecai's hope is that God is at work and God is involved in their lives. His hope is that God has put Esther in the position she is in and his hope is that God will use her there as they pray. And while Mordecai is praying and believing, God is behind the scenes being the conductor of their lives, the Master Orchestrator. The very night, before the "Big Banquet" the King cannot sleep so he orders his attendant to bring the book of the history of his reign so it could be read to him" (Really!). This is divine orchestration. And don't you know he finds out, that night about a plot that Mordecai had exposed and saved the King from being treacherously assassinated. It will be less than 24 hours later that Haman is petitioning the King to have Mordecai hanged on the gallows while the King is asking Haman what to do to honor Mordecai, talk about being at opposite opinions. Our hope as believers, like our brother Mordecai, is not in "the arm of the flesh". Our hope is in Jehovah, the Master Orchestrator of our lives from start to finish. Our job is simply to seek him, use the positions and places He has set us up in, to the best of our ability, do what we can and believe Him to orchestrate the rest and if that means that God needs to keep a King up at night, not able to sleep and have him request to read exactly what God wanted him to read, than that's exactly what God will do. Mordecai prayed, challenged, Esther used the place/position "that perhaps" God had put her in and God did the rest! This example should sum up the experience of every faithful Christian that ever passes through this life and in hindsight, we will see, that it was so!

Friday, August 18, 2017

AUGUST 18 "YOU'RE BOTH RIGHT & YOU'RE BOTH WRONG!"

     How can we both be right?  Easy, happens all the time.  Where do you stand in this story?  If you're a man then you probably will take sides with the man, "can't have a woman dissing her husband in front of all those people, especially a man of that authority, what kind of precedent would that make?  Hmmm, true.
     If you're a woman then you will probably take sides with the woman, "you have to stand up for yourself, if you don't respect yourself, then who will. He thinks he's going to get all drunk with his friends and then call me over in front of his drunk friends and parade me in front of them....I don't think so!"  Hmmm, true.
He should not be getting drunk with his friends and then for entertainment be thinking of having his wife come parade in front of them so they can all gawk and grope at her, c'mon....she should not be disrespecting her husband in front of all his friends and setting a bad example for other woman to follow that probably look up to the Queen. If you just take the side of your gender, it's an easy decision to make of who's right and who's wrong. But if you want to judge fairly and put gender preference aside, it is very difficult to rule in this matter, except to say, "you're both right and you're both wrong!". Some of the fiercest fights between couples are based on the fact that each side has a legitimate claim, against the other spouse and neither is willing to back down. Who's right, who's wrong? In this case they're both right and both wrong. I'm looking at this from the outside in, so it's easy for me to see that they are both right and both wrong, but as you know, when you're in the thick of it, and you're all fired up, it's not so easy to step back and judge your own conflict without partiality. Difficult, yes, impossible, no! This is why every marriage needs the trinity of you, your spouse and Jesus. In every fight, every argument, Jesus can be and will be, that impartial, neutral witness than can illuminate to each individual their wrong and right. Many times after a heated argument, when i finally settled down and went to pray or sometimes not even when I was praying, the Holy Spirit was faithful to convict me of my actions, my words and totally dismantle the case I had set up in my mind, acquitted me of all wrong doing. Many, many times the Holy Spirit has shown both my wife and I, "you're both right and you're both wrong" now stop fighting, apologize, kiss and make up. I truly do feel sorry for couples desperately trying to make a go at marriage, trying hard and failing, without the help of Jesus in that marriage. It is not surprise the divorce rate is over 50% and quite frankly I'm surprised it's not over 70%. We will fight to the death of our marriages to prove we were right and we were done wrong. Every crumbling marriage has a person in each corner, with their arms crossed, very angry, pointing the finger at the other spouse and shouting, "I'm right, they're wrong", that's all their is to it. It's a sad state of affairs in many homes today and what's worse is kids get stuck in the middle. Can it be, you're both right and you're both wrong?

Thursday, August 17, 2017

AUGUST 17 "DO THAT AGAIN AND I'M GOING TO BEAT YOU!"

     I think, God gave man an ego and I believe God gave man an ego so he could use them as leaders of his people, specifically, Shepherding his people. As you have heard before, Pastor's have ego's and God capitalizes on that to draw them into the call. Why else, would any man ever want to Pastor? I know, I know...it's rewarding, it's service to The Lord, it's "a calling" and it is "all that" BUT at the end it will also drive you crazy and cause you to "lose it" over and over.  I know you are more spiritual than Moses, but Moses would agree with me and so would Nehemiah, our subject at hand. Many young men have the glare in their eyes of one day being called "Pastor" and God will use that as bait. No doubt, God will also make sure there is a shepherd's heart and character in that man, but ego will play a big part. This statement is offensive to both receiving ends isn't it.  The people are insulted to be told they cannot serve God without a leader and the leader is insulted to be told he has an ego and that his motives are not pure as the driven snow. The war in the church right now is the constant struggle for power and individuality.  More and more people are trying to prove, today, that you don't need a Pastor to serve God and neither to you need a church, while the Pastor's are preaching constantly over the pulpit that you do.  The people rose up constantly against Moses, "what makes you think you're so great, you're not the only one that God speaks through you know!"
     The capacity for people to backslide without God's chosen leader is beyond belief. The state of affairs after Nehemiah's departure is unbelievable. He writes in Verse 8 "I was greatly displeased and threw all Tobiah's household goods out of the room"  Displeased....is an under statement!  But it doesn't end there...one of these Israelite men actually marries Sanballat's daughter. This nauseates my stomach just reading this.  These two men, Sanballat & Tobiah, the very two instruments of the devil, who fought and wickedly apposed and threatened Israel in their attempt to rebuild Jerusalem are now living there and Sanballat is actually a father in law to one of the Israelite men???
     To add to that, they have no regard for the Sabbath, which was part of the original problem. Nehemiah must be thinking, "I thought I took care of all this, I thought we got our hearts right, I thought we had reinstated the Sabbath?"  So Nehemiah locks the gates and puts at stop to the breaking of the Sabbath. So what do the men do..repent and ask God forgiveness? NO, they camp out at the gate to be the first ones in the next day.  Nehemiah's response, "Why do you spend the night by the wall? If you do this again, I will lay hands on you"  When Nehemiah says he will, "lay hands on them" he is not speaking about praying for them!  Nehemiah is slowly unraveling, bit by bit.  Verse 25, "I rebuked them and called curses down on them. I beat some of the men and pulled out their hair".  I'm not sure who has to repent here? The people or the Leader, perhaps both.  I don't want to be the one to judge, but perhaps it is safe to say that this was not the best Christian conduct here? Perhaps it's safe to say that this is not specifically how God told Nehemiah to deal with the situation, ie: beating them and pulling out their hair, ouch!!!
     We can never overstate the need for God's people to be led by a Shepherd and we can never understate the people's immense capacity to sin and drift when no leader is present. For this formula (so to speak) to work there really needs to be humility on both sides of the camp. When one side or worse, both loose their humility, this is a recipe for disaster.  The people need to be humble enough to understand they do need a leader and the leader needs to be humble enough not to Lord the fact over their heads and understand he cannot lead unless God helps him. No matter what side you are on today, allow humility to have it's work in you, as the Apostle writes, "why make it hard for them (the leaders) what benefits is that to you) and why as a leader make it hard for those you are leading. If the people see humility in the leader and the leader sees humility in the people, this can work.  God's plan in this is that as many people as possible make it to the promised land and that nobody GETS BEAT, along the way!

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

AUGUST 16 "DON'T YOU LOVE DOGMATIC CHRISTIANS"

If you don't have time to read Paul's discourse on Christian benevolence, let me sum it up for you today! Stop being dogmatic with each other; especially young Christians, if you want to be fruitful and see people saved. This is all nit picking and petty stuff, the kind of stuff that repels people, not draws them in. Paul writes that his end focus in everything, is to see people saved.  It's not about you, it's about them.  But I wonder if his words are falling on deaf ears, I wonder if our words today, are falling on deaf ears.  It would be like gathering a group of men together in a room and delivering your dissertation on bargain shopping and how to find the best sales at Macy's and the best yard sales to find great deals. You may have all the wisdom and expertise in the world on the subject matter, but you just don't have the right crowd to share that with. "Well, the church is definitely the right crowd to share this with!"  Is it?  I wonder how many took Paul's advice and calmed down on their stance on not eating certain foods for the sake of others or vice versa?  "The Church" is one of the rare organizations that exists mainly for it's "non-members". It's not about the congregation members, it's about those that God is drawing in.  Jesus said, "none have I lost that you brought me" can we say the same? This is not a redundant statement, Jesus didn't make redundant statements, if Jesus said that then it IS possible that we can lose people, even though God was the one that drew them to us. And how do we lose them? By being dogmatic with them!

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

AUGUST 15 "WAS PAUL A CALVINIST?"

     WAS the Apostle Paul a Calvinist?  While we can debate all day long; as to whether Paul was a Calvinist in theory, more importantly is how he lived. And when we look at how he lived it appears more than anything, that he believed in Arminiusism. Jacobus Arminius was a Dutch Pastor and Theologian who  rejected his teacher's theology (John Calvin) that it is God who unconditionally elects some for salvation. Instead Arminius proposed that the election of God was of believers, thereby making it conditional on faith. The scriptures that John Calvin used to prove his theory of "predestination" mostly, if not all, came from the Apostle Paul's writings.  No doubt many of Paul's writings do refer to the "elect in Christ" and those "whom God predestined and chose", but yet while Paul might have seemed Calvinist in theory, look at how he lived his life! For a guy who taught allot about "the elect" & predestined" he lived his life as one trying to reach and save anybody he possibly could. Paul himself writes, "I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible".  Paul goes on to more explicitly write, "I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some".  If Paul was such a Calvinist, why did he try to save all? Why did he become all things to all men? Why such an effort  to save if God had already predestined those that would be saved?
     We will never know on this side of eternity what exactly Paul meant in his writings, although some already reading this are saying, "yes we do" but for every clever argument you have, someone on the other side of the spectrum has just as clever an argument.  Suffice it to say, that Paul did not allow his intellect to get in the way of his Faith and ability to serve God.  Paul did not allow his knowledge to render him impotent for God, as many other Theologians do! Paul himself wrote, "knowledge puffs up!".  Paul knew better than anyone that theological knowledge could easily instill pride and render someone useless in God's hands.
     Paul had some deep revelations and theological exhortations, but yet he never allowed them to hinder him in his usefulness for God and the saving of souls.  I once overheard some men in a restaurant speaking and was quit thrilled that I had run into some Christians in the city that I had just been launched to pioneer a church in. It was an ungodly city, but here sat next to me a group of Christians, a group of men. Perhaps they could give me some insight and direction. I quickly got up from my table and introduced myself. My intuition was right, they were indeed Christians. We shared a few thoughts and introductions back and forth and then  I decided to share with them a very exciting outreach my wife and I had planned. We had special tracts ordered for the Passion of the Christ and we were going to go inside a very busy movie theatre and reach out to the folks coming out from the movie. We were hoping and believing to see some saved, as Paul would have said.  To my surprise the shot my idea down.  The leader of the group said, "ah, we don't believe in that, God is going to do what he's going to do and we just leave that to him".  Sadly enough, the man who's scriptures they would use (the Apostle Paul) to back of their apathy & laziness, was the man who spent himself more than any other human being for the saving of souls.  "I will be all things to all men that I might save some". 
     What was Paul, what would he be considered today, was his theology Calvinism or Arminianism?  It doesn't matter. NO matter what side of the fence you find yourself on, one thing is for sure, Jesus Christ commanded us to Preach the Gospel unto the ends of the earth, to every tribe, tongue and nation. That is...every one, everyone that will listen. Paul, irregardless of his deep theological beliefs, responded dutifully to the call of Jesus Christ more seriously than any other disciple who ever walked the earth.  Do you have great revelation and theological ideas? Are those revelations and ideas making you a greater servant in the master's hands or are they rendering you impotent for him, something to consider....

Monday, August 14, 2017

AUGUST 14 "LIVING WITH THE STIGMA OF OTHERS"

Paul, in his writing to the Corinthians opens up about this stigma, that he has had to live with. As hard and faithful as he has been, Paul is still not considered an "Apostle" within many circles. He is not regarded as being in the same class and group as Peter, James & John. They are the "Apostles".  Paul is like the black sheep of the Apostles, at best. Paul writes himself, "even if I am not considered an Apostle to others, I am to you!". In other words, "don't you start treating me like that too, enough is enough!". We think that to be able to flourish in our Church, to be able to flourish in the Kingdom of God, we have to be that Christian that everybody loves, everybody excepts and everybody thinks the best of. "It's easy for them, everybody thinks they're so great, let them try living with the stigma that I have to live under". Paul teaches us that we can flourish as a Christian, despite what others think, God can and God does, still want to use us. Paul came later, Paul was not one of the first, selected by Jesus, Paul doesn't have the 3 years one on one with Jesus, Paul wasn't there through the trial & Crucifixion and not only was he never part of that, he persecuted Christians and was in part, responsible for some of their deaths.  Paul has to live with this stigma, but he doesn't have to allow it to render him useless. Paul admits himself, he has labored harder and done more than any of the other Apostles. Paul ends up being the greatest missionary of any Apostle and ends up writing three-quarters of the New Testament, Peter only has two books, James only has one. Maybe Paul used this stigma to his own advantage, maybe it was this stigma of "you're not an Apostle" that stirred him to labor that much more, not do nothing, what's your excuse?!

AUGUST 13 "DON'T BE SO FREE TO EXERCISE YOUR FREEDOMS"

     DON'T be so free to exercise your freedoms lest you cause others to stumble, Paul warns us, what a lost concept this is. Actually it's not just a concept, it's a command. Paul goes on to write, "when you sin against your brothers by doing this and wounded their weak conscience, you sin against Christ. It's almost as if God makes sure it is phrased like this, "you sin against Christ" because otherwise we would not change our behavior. If all the scripture said is that we sin against our brother, most would say, "oh well, to bad, he/she just needs to suck it up, grow up and mature. I believe God really knows human nature very well, doesn't he!
      I have been a Christian for 20 years and have yet to meet a Christian that practices this.  Have you?  I have met the opposite. Christians who refuse to stop drinking, because it is their right to drink and nowhere in the bible does it say having a drink is a sin. I have met Christians who rent and go to the movies every week-end, not once limiting themselves to what they would watch, lest it offend or cause a younger, weaker Christian to stumble. All I hear is, "it's my right and nowhere in the bible does it say I cannot...".  Truth be known, most don't really know what the bible does say on many issues and secondly, chances are even if it was written in the bible it would be dismissed as legalistic. Whatever we don't like we dismiss as legalistic or Old Testament.
     I once was given a pack of O'Doul's non-alcoholic beer for my birthday (why...I'm not sure) and it sat in my fridge, in the garage for about a month.  One Saturday, a young Christian and I were doing some landscaping at my house, here in the desert. We were quite thirsty standing in my garage trying to cool off. I thought, "let's see what we have in the fridge". All there was in the fridge to drink was the O'Douls. So I said, "we could drink this, it's all I have, don't worry, it's non-alcoholic".  The young Christian was scandalized that I would even want to drink beer, even if it was non-alcoholic.  The individual was so offended I said, "it's okay, I don't really care, give it to me" and I poured them out and threw the rest of the pack in the trash can. I thought to myself, "wow, this really threw him off, that's the last time I allow myself to be associated with even "non-alcoholic" beverage." Imagine the even greater damage had I had alcoholic beer in my fridge? Most Christians will say, "that's my right, and if he/she doesn't agree with it, that's their problem".  The issue with that attitude is that the bible says the complete opposite. Paul says, their problem know becomes your problem (so to speak) and if you don't do anything to curve your habits & supposed freedoms, that you are now sinning against God.
      Paul writes, "be careful, however, that the exercising of your freedom does not become a stumbling block to the weak."  I think we've lost our tolerance for "the weak". I think we've lost our tolerance for people in general. I am noticing as time goes on that people are becoming more and more irritated by people, more so than ever before. This is to the point where people just want to co-exist with their families, maybe a few select friends, and THAT'S IT!.  And I'm speaking about those inside the church of Jesus Christ, not those outside the church!  The response of many, with the young/weak Christian that I mentioned earlier, probably would have been, "that's the last time I invite him over!"  Rather than curb our habits, for the benefit of another, we would rather just cut them off.  If you read the context of this whole passage, the predominant message is "brotherly love".  At the root of all the issues here is this, we are becoming very deficient in "brotherly love". This is a sign of the last days, "that men will become lovers of themselves" and that "the hearts of many will wax cold".  The warning here is deeper than, "have some Grace with people" the warning here is against our hearts turning cold toward one another.  The old commandment still remains, "by this they will know that ye are my disciples, that ye have love for one another".

Saturday, August 12, 2017

AUGUST 12 "I CAN'T DO THIS ANYMORE!"

This is now the 2nd to 3rd time the Jews face opposition in the rebuilding project. Now it's coming through different individuals, this time it's the SanBallat & Tobiah team. It comes through mocking, gesturing and intimidation. Opposition is a formidable enemy. In the middle of all this opposition the people come to Nehemiah and say, "we can't do this". You'll notice they come to Nehemiah right after they agree to pray together and believe God. How many times have I prayed with people and agreed with them to believe God and then, the next week, "Pastor we/I can't do this". You'll notice when they come to Nehemiah and say "we can't do this" they mention nothing about the opposition, they mention nothing about Sanballat or the intimidation. They come up with another reason, "the people are tired and there is just too much rubble".  In other words, "this is too big a mess".  But it was always too big a mess, from the first day they showed up at the site, it was too big a mess, when they prayed to believe God, it was too big a mess (that's why they prayed), now all of a sudden,  "too big a mess" is a reason to quit, but it has nothing to do with that, what it really has to do with is that "opposition and intimidation" is working on the people. And rather than admit..."hey Nehemiah, we can't handle Sanballat & Tobiah" they come up with another excuse. Well hey folks, why can't we just be honest? Opposition does wear us down, opposition does occasionally cause us to quit. Think of the areas in your life that you gave up because it was just too much of a battle. This is not just opposition, it is demonic opposition, which makes it 10 times worse! Most Christians seem to get by in their Christian life with little, personnel, spiritual investment in their lives. Their devotional time with God is practically, if not fully, "non-existent. And most get by like this, they're not functioning on full cylinders, they're like a 6 cylinder car functioning with two bad spark plugs, but they're functioning and it works, for now. Until....until opposition comes, until demonic opposition comes, that's when we find out, we don't have what it takes to press through. We are quick to throw down the shovel and tell our leader, "this is too much, I can't take this!" They cry out, "we can't do this" and what's sad, is they are probably right. They don't have the intestinal fortitude to see it through. MC Hammer, a famous Hip Hop singer once had a popular song in the 80's, "We got to pray just to make it today", well that's actually not true, we are praying today, to make it through next week, next month, next year. Prayers today, are to prepare us for the future, it is the prayer's of the past that are actually guiding us through today. A famous General was once quoted as saying, he once had a young soldier stand by his side before a fierce battle they were, within minutes, getting ready to engage in and the young soldier looked to the General and said, "sir should we pray now before we enter battle?" The General paused, then looked at the young soldier and said, "son, if we have not already prayed and sought God prior to today, for this battle, then we have already lost!".

Friday, August 11, 2017

AUGUST 11 "YOU CAN COUNT ON OPPOSITION!"

THE four steps and in this order always seem to be:

1. Prayer and Fast
 2. Then Opportunity - Doors open
 3. Opposition arrives on the scene.
 4. To quit

It takes enough energy to fast and pray, then we must conjure up more energy to press through with the opportunity, but at least we are where we wanted to be. It has taken allot of mental, physical and emotional energy and steadfastness, but we are there, or so we think! NOW  the least expected (although I don't know why) hits us, OPPOSITION and that is more than most can handle. After all I've been through to get here, now there are people (we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities and wicked spirits in high places...) here that want to oppose me, why? "I'm tired of this, this is to difficult".  This third step is the nail in the coffin (so to speak). It is more than most can bare, but it is reality. You can count on it!  Always remember the sequence of events and then you will not be so taken back by them. First you will fast and pray, then, "yes" you will see doors open (and you'd better have a plan) and last you can count that when you at your last strength, then you will have to face opposition. When opposition comes the rebuilding of the wall slows down and then comes to a screeching halt.
     Secondly, did you notice that Nehemiah has a plan. He's prepared for God to move, just as he's equally prepared for opposition. He's not fasting and praying cause it's the "religious" thing to do, he's praying and fasting because he believes it will work. He so believes it will work that he has prepared in advance what to ask the King for when the opportunity arises.  Most of us would have stood there tongue tied in front of the king, in total disbelief that our prayer had actually been answered and we would not have known what to say. However, this is not the case with Nehemiah, he is prepared, he pretty much lays out a plan that has been well thought out.
     He's prepared for God to move and he's prepared for opposition.  "How can anyone ever prepare for opposition when you don't know what the opposition will be?", you may ask...Good question!  You can be prepared for opposition by being prepared mentally and spiritually. You can prepare with a resolve that there will be opposition (it's just a reality in the spiritual realm) and that you will have resolve to see the task through, in spite of the opposition.  Jesus says, "count the costs" before you enter into an endeavor for God, "count the costs" know full well what you are getting into, and once you do, prepare for opposition and have resolve to see it through.
     Next time you feel stirred for something remember these 3 steps and leave out the 4th.  First Pray and fast, then wait for the opportunity, have a plan, be ready and then wait for opposition to arrive, don't be got off guard when it comes and have an internal commitment, a resolve, intestinal fortitude, a spiritual tenacity, to see the matter, the task, the vision...through!

Thursday, August 10, 2017

AUGUST 10 "THE LONGER YOU PERSIST IN REBELLION, THE DEEPER....."

"..for this matter cannot be settled in a day, for we have sinned greatly".  I read that and thought, "aint that the truth". And the other revelation we can learn from these men is that the longer you persist in your disobedience and rebellion, the deeper the hole you dig and the longer it takes to dig your way out. This story is a tragic mess with no happy ending. There is going to be crying and broken hearts. These men are going to be sending away their pagan wives along with their children. I will give them credit though, often, Christians want to say "I'm sorry" but they don't want to make any changes or undue anything they've done, they just want to exercise that greasy Grace, not change a thing, take that wonderful forgiveness and move on. However these men, realize it's one thing to ask forgiveness, but if we don't act or do anything, is it really genuine? When folks were coming to John the Baptist for forgiveness, John actually sent them away. He said, "first go forth and show fruits of repentance, then come back and be baptized."  Everybody wants to be forgiven and right with God, very few want to make the changes necessary to accommodate that. The man who divorces his faithful wife of his youth (which God says he hates in Malachi) and marries the young, blond, bimbo; then he begins to think about his eternal abode, with such a crude and heartless act, and goes to church, and cries "Lord, I'm so sorry" but then walks away and keeps the young blood bimbo, he doesn't divorce her, send her off and return to his faithful wife and 3 children. He begs forgiveness but keeps everything he wanted, how nice is that! That would be like robbing a bank, writing a letter to the bank indicating that you are truly repentant and sorry for what you did, but never returning the money. In our text, today, not only do they say, "I'm sorry" but they also add to that, "to show fruits of repentance, to show that we are truly sorry and we know what we have done wrong, we are going to send these wives and their children away. It costs them, it hurts them and that's good! When forgiveness comes at a price, we are more likely to think twice, next time we are going to disobey and do our own thing. I'm not talking about doing penance, I know ultimately, Jesus paid the price for our forgiveness, but I am talking about showing forth, "fruits of repentance" rather than just crying out, "oh Lord, I"m sorry, forgive me, but please let me keep the money I  stole from the Bank".

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

AUGUST 9 "RADICAL DISOBEDIENCE IS GOING TO REQUIRE..."

Ezra is on his face, weeping and the people join him. Weeping is good....I guess, as long as once you get up, wipe your face and do something about it. The problem with tears is, they dry up and we go on with our lives with absolutely nothing changed. The revelation that we learn from this story today is that "radical disobedience requires radical obedience", to get back on track.  I am nauseous just reading about the decision these men make to divorce their pagan wives and send them away "with their children". Make no mistake, this was not an easy decision for this men to make. I don't know too many parents that don't love their children, this hurt and it hurt bad, at least for most of these men. This is amazing to see. Have you ever seen such a radical departure from disobedience?  Have you ever seen such a radical repentance? Have you ever seen such radical follow through, after the tears?  I have not! I see tears, I hear people sobbing in front of me, but very rarely to they ever go on and make any changes and/or decisions to put them on a the right path. They stay in the same place and do nothing. Then why come to me and cry, why come to me and sobb if you have no intentions on making any changes to your life and situation, why? why? why?!
The warning here is that for all the disobedience that you are living; know this, there is much hurt coming on the horizon, when you decide to do right, if you are sincere. People talk out of ignorance and/or foolishness when they say, "I will do wrong and then I will repent some day, God forgives".  People who speak like this are ignorant, at best. God does forgive (IF we are genuinely repentant) but the pain that will come will be more than they could have imagined. Is not obedience from the start, the best and wisest way? Obey now and reap the dividends later or disobey now and pay later, you choose which one works best for you!

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

AUGUST 8 "ARE YOU THE WELL RESPECTED CHRISTIAN?"

There's always the exception to the rule, but I believe most of us struggle with wanting to be the respected and dignified Christian, as opposed to what Paul describes as "spectacle to the entire world-to people and angels alike. Our dedication makes us look like fools, but you are so wise (and well respected)".  I think Paul breaks it down "our dedication" makes us look like fools. When we are dedicated, sold out for Christ, we will look like fools. Street preaching is not dignified, passing out tracts and flyers at Walmart does not boost your social status, preaching at a public event doesn't make the Community you live in respect you. "Our dedication makes us fools....BUT, you are wise!" I wonder how many Christians reading this have never Street Preached, passed out flyers and evangelized in an open square? Just the thought of it makes them nausea and raises the hairs on the back of their necks.  Have you become the wise and respectable Christian that Paul is speaking about? Should we ever be purposely obnoxious as Christians, of course not, but when we are being dedicated, it will come naturally. Jesus said, "woe unto you when all men speak well of you" and that's straight from the lips of the one you call "Lord, all day long. The question we have to ask ourselves, as 21st Century Christians; is which Christians are we that Paul is comparing, in our text? Are the the respected, wise and dignified or are we the Christians that are looked upon with contempt? Do you go to the well respected, establishment church in your Community that everybody loves and every goes to? Or do you go to the Evangelical Church down the street that preaches the Word outside the four walls and suffers reproach for it? We're not talking about being cultist and out on the fringe like the Westboro Baptist Church that protested the funerals of fallen military soldiers, but we are talking about being a bold voice in your Community and not shirking away from calling sin , sin, immorality , immorality, shacking up, shaking up, drunkenness, drunkenness and you that do these things be not deceived, will not inherit the Kingdom of God. I guarantee Paul didn't go to the local favorite establishment church that the mayor went to, the City Counsel Members and the High School Football coach. He went to the same church as Mary Magdalene, he went to the church the Gadarene Demoniac went to. Does your church do soup kitchens and feed the poor and do good deeds or does your church get a couple of speakers and mics and preach the Gospel to a lost and perishing people? The Church that feeds the poor and builds them homes will be loved and well respected, the Church that preaches to them will be hated and they will yell, "crucify him". They couldn't stand Jesus and they couldn't stand Paul. They couldn't stand Peter and the couldn't stand Stephen. The establishment church that fills up every Sunday to hear good "self help" pep rally speeches and the latest speeches out of the books of modern day, "Self Hep Guru's" was not the group Paul was a part of. We all struggle with wanting "all men to speak well of us", but we must guard ourselves from becoming one of the Christians that Paul speaks of in our text today. We must guard ourselves, that if Paul were around today, we wouldn't, I hope, look down at him and his form of Christianity, or would he seem like he's out on the fridge, would we quickly dismiss Paul, "no, no, he doesn't go to my church, no he's not part of us".  Could Paul, the Apostle come to your church or would they kick him out? Would you hang out with Paul or would he embarrass you in front of your friends? Paul writes, "you are well thought of, but we are all laughed at". Is Paul writing about you? That's the question to ask!

Monday, August 7, 2017

AUGUST 7 "ARE YOU TAKING NEW PATIENTS?"

Many Churches in America have given up "reaching the lost".  Their Church has just become one exclusive club,  "no taking any new members". I always love calling a Doctor's office when I'm sick and being told, "I'm sorry, Dr. Smith is not taking any new patients at this time".  Okay, I'm sorry too, I guess I'll just roll over and die. We may not have a high pitched, squeaky secretary telling people "we are not accepting new patients/sinners" but we can still have the same mindset and posture. Paul, in our text reminds us, indirectly, of our purpose and function in this Christian life. We are involved in a project, it's called "Advancing the Kingdom of God Upon the Earth", it involves work, sowing seed, water seed (follow up) and causing it (The Kingdom of God/The Church) to grow. "Not taking patients anymore" is an unacceptable answer! "They are unreachable" is an excuse, if not short of a lie. When have people been "reachable"? We read just last week, from the Old Testament about men of God going around trying to spurn up a religious awakening and they were being mocked and scorned. People want to know "the hot spot", the "hot city" to go to and have revival.  "Where's the hot spot to do an event, an outreach and/or a crusade? Where can I be guaranteed results? Paul in our text is giving us some pointers and revelations that none of that is up to us to determine. We are in partnership with God, we are the laborers in the Vineyard, but it is God who brings the growth and increase, but we must be laboring and planting seed and following up. Perhaps the situation in our text is that Paul preached the original word to these folks, but Apollos came in and locked the folks in, got them grounded in their faith. It was a team effort, with the greatest team member being God, because even with Paul and Apollo's exceptional effort, nothing would have come about, without God getting involved in the supernatural realm.

AUGUST 6 "WHY DO PEOPLE OPPOSE GOOD?"

Why do people oppose good? All the Israelites want to do is rebuild the Temple. This rebuilding of the Temple seems to irritate some, to the point where they make it their mission, to bring it to a halt. God's people figure they'll just ignore them, they're no threat, they'll go away. Well.....read the rest of the story....they don't go away, they writes letters to the king, fabricate lies, slander them.....and of course this won't work against God's people...WAIT IT DOES WORK, and the King writes back and issues orders to have the work immediately stopped. If you're just going to a religious church, playing religious games you will never have to face demonic opposition, you don't' have to worry about this blog today. However, if you are part of a Church that is pressing in against the Kingdom of Darkness, to advance The Kingdom of God, you'd better believe the enemy is not going to sit idly by and allow you to build anything without a fight. Why do people oppose good? Because some people are agents of Hell, ponds of the Devil. The Devil is able to stir them up and agitate them for his cause, his purposes, as God is able to stir His people for His exploits. Paul writes to the Church at Ephesus that is undergoing tremendous assaults and battles, "we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities & wicked spirits in high places". The people, the Church that is trying to advance, but does not take serious the strategies of Hell being formed against them, will come to a squelching stop. It doesn't matter your heart, doesn't matter your good intentions, it will come to a squelching stop unless you fight back. "For the Kingdom of God suffers violence, but the violent take it by force".  Not the passive, not the timid, but the spiritually tenacious and aggressive. Paul, after he's had enough opposition from Bar-Jesus, as he is trying to witness the Pro-Consul says "enough is enough" and he curses and blinds the man (demonically agitated) that is interfering with him in his witness. Naive Christians often ask, "why am I facing so much opposition here, I am just trying to do good?" And the reason is because there is a demonic realm, a spiritual fight, that you are engaged in, that you may not even be aware of and how can you win a fight, you don't even know you're in?!

Saturday, August 5, 2017

AUGUST 5 "I JUST LOVE WAITING ON PEOPLE, HOW ABOUT YOU?"

     NOTHING worse than waiting on somebody else.  Especially when you know (or at least think you know) where you are going. I'd rather take a side route, that my wife will be faithful to tell me, "took me longer" than sit and traffic and WAIT.  I'd rather give up something than have to WAIT.  Keep my waiting to long in a store to purchase my goods and you will lose that sale.  What is this wait thing anyway. I will never forget my months of training in the Marine Corps.  It was madness. They would rush us to the point of an anxiety attack and then when we arrived at the place the were rushing us off to with such urgency, then we sat and at times, waited for an hour before the event began.  Why am I waiting in line for so long when there are other cash registers sitting empty?  Why am I waiting for service at Walmart when I have gone there out of my time, I have gone there to spend my money on their goods, but yet I have been kept waiting in aisles for long periods of time, WAITING for someone, who apparently was called, to come assist me. I could go on and on but the key issue here is why am I waiting? And we can also throw into the mix, why am I waiting on God? Three times we are admonished to waif for the Lord.  Twice in Psalm 27 and then once in Proverbs 20 (if you read your reading for today!).  Has God recognized that his creation is a very impatient creation? Has God realized that we are not very good at waiting?  The answer must be decisively "yes" if we are admonished 3 times in one reading. I can barely stand to wait on people, like I mentioned earlier, especially when i think I know where I'm going, but do you think God might be worth waiting on?

Friday, August 4, 2017

AUGUST 4 "IS WORK A FOUR LETTER WORD, EVEN IN THE CHURCH?"

I am reading about this religious revival, a religious "awakening" something ....apparently every church yearns for, or so we say.  But you know what I noticed as I'm reading through Chronicles, especially today, I'm noticing it's allot of work and it's costly. And there are few that want to work and there are fewer that want to give. For all the people celebrating and having a great time in this "religious revival" there is also a group of people that are very tired, over worked and quite frankly, not really enjoying themselves or this wonderful idea of Josiah's.. It's allot of work, in verse 14 we read, "the priests had been busy from morning till night offering the burnt offerings..."  Now I have been in the Church and in Ministry long enough to know, that the priests were not rejoicing over this. If they are human like the people in our churches they were venting, saying things like, "next time Pastor, I mean...Josiah gets a wild idea to have revival, let him do the work himself and see how great an idea it is, why are we the only one's doing the work and everyone else is just eating and celebrating while we are busting our buns. This is ridiculous, next time I'm telling Pastor, I mean Josiah, I'm not helping. I'm exhausted, do you know how much work we have and we still have to clean up and everyone else is just going to go home, watch!"  And you know, they will just go home, they won't help and the bulk of the work will fall upon the shoulders of the few and if not careful, we can become bitter and very irritated in the midst of supposedly, "serving the Lord". Work is a four letter word to most people, most people by nature are lazy, but you would think, that in the church, work would not be a four letter word, after all, aren't we all a bunch of Christians filled with God's Spirit doing "the word of the Lord", And of course you know I'm being facetious.  Most church members are just wanted to enjoy the service, enjoy the event, enjoy the festivities and then go home. They don't know and don't care to know, how everything is getting done and who's doing what. Earlier in Chronicles we read that originally the celebration actually had to be delayed because there was not enough workers (priests)  to do the work. Then we read a chapter latter, that even the few that showed up to help, were not consecrated, as they should have been to perform the work (sacrifices) so in desperation, they bent the rules and said, "just go ahead and do the sacrifices anyway, this isn't the right way, but what choice have you left us". One of the most read blogs of the year was titled "Quite the Ministry" because that title struck a chord with many readers. Many Christians involved in Ministry in their churches are burnt out and ready to quit. They are tired of doing all the work, while others feel no compulsion, whatsoever to help. The call of the disciple is still and will always be, "to deny thyself, pick up your cross and follow me". The natural tendency is to be selfish and lazy, but we must fight that. The more that get involved the easier the load becomes and joy returns to that ministry. The joy of service comes back to that Christian; who once joined that ministry with great enthusiasm and thrilled to be involved. Every Sunday you sit in your church and watch how everything works, do you ever wonder, "how's everything working and who's making it work and is there anywhere that I could do to lighten the burden? Is there a reason these priests, with their own families to care for, were stuck offering sacrifices from morning 'till night? There is no justifiable reason other than the fact, that WORK is still a four letter word, even inside The Church of Jesus Christ". What can you do, to lighten the burden of the Priests, so that, they, who have families too, can go home at a decent hour and not work undue & unnecessary hours, that will eventually burn them out and then what? Then that individual quits the ministry and by doing so,  leaves fewer to carry the load; therefore putting more pressure on then, causing more to be burned out and it's a vicious cycle. Jesus said, "Pray for workers, for the harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few". Jesus didn't say, Israelite are few, He didn't say, the Church members are few,  Jesus didn't say, "the Christians are few", Jesus said, "the workers are few" and how true that was back  in Josiah's day, how true that was back in Jesus' day and how true it is today, work is still a four letter word, even amongst God's people.

AUGUST 3 "ARE YOU JUST COASTING ALONG?"

     Josiah was king for 8 years before he decided to seek God.  Did you catch that!  What in the world was Josiah doing for 8 years??? The answer: same thing you've been doing for the past few years...and that is....COASTING.  Coasting on our own abilities, making do with what comes naturally to us and probably finding the path of least resistance. Taking what life simply throws at you and never contending for anything more from God.  The delusion for coasters is that "I am doing alright".  You are deluded and God forbid you should die in that state if you would even make Heaven your home and if you did make Heaven your home (as Paul describes as "one barely escaping through the fires") then you would probably find out all that you did not accomplish, that you could have, had you sought God and not coasted. It is safe to say, isn't it, that Josiah accomplished much more for God once he began to seek him, or am I reading to much into this?! (Rhetorical question)
     We read that before Josiah begins to seek God he is reigning in Jerusalem and he is doing "alright" he's going with the Eben flow of life, but it is not until he begins to seek God that his direction and course of action, dramatically changes.  Being a Christian and not seeking God does not mean that you are going to be this evil villain or drastic sinner, it simply means you will not be stirred or used by God for any specific purpose and/or divine use, on the earth.  Shouldn't that be the desire of every Born Again believer, "Lord use me, use my life for your purposes".  It is as obvious as night and day, the difference in Josiah's life and his usefulness to God, the moment he begins to seek out God.  The moment Josiah begins to seek God something gets fired up in him.  The carnality of the people no longer sits well with him, their sinful indulgences begin to repulse him, mind you, all these idols, sins and carnality were around him since the beginning of his reign! Nothing in his environment changed to prompt this reaction, He changed, God changed his carnal apathetic heart, as he began to seek God.
     Not much upsets a coaster for Jesus. Their approach to life is, "to each his own, let them be, they're not hurting anyone, who am i to judge, i have my own issues" and the list goes on, we've heard the mantra's all before from other people and we've heard some of those statements coming from our own mouths.  Sometimes this is why you have church splits.  You have a leader like Josiah that has been coasting for years and then all of a sudden he begins to seek God and as he seeks God, he gets stirred and he now sees the state of sin he has allowed his church to fall into and he begins to purge the church, take out the whip (so to speak) and cleanse the temple and all of a sudden, people who have now become accustomed to this quasi Christian life are not at all thrilled with the Pastor's new found zeal for righteousness and half leave the church and the other half, who have been praying for their leader to get stirred, stay and facilitate the new work that God is going to do.
     This is exactly what happens with Josiah. Many thought he was out of his mind and left but many were thrilled with his new found zeal for God and righteousness and stayed to support him. So we can learn then from our story that when you are coasting, you are not only hurting yourself, but you are hurting those in your sphere of influence.  Also we learn that the longer you live as a coaster the more work you will need to do when you get fired up.
     After years of coasting you have no guarantees who will follow you once you decide to get fired up. Those you are hoping will follow (such as your children) may become your worse opposition for your new found zeal and change.  Sometimes a spouse decides to stop coasting and is surprised to find that the other spouse doesn't automatically join them.  Never mind all the years they were zealous and the other spouse was coasting, but now the shoe is on the other foot, and all is supposed to be well....NOT SO!  A Pastor who has coasted for years now all of a sudden wants to get fired up and expects the church, all of a sudden to rally behind him, NOT SO!  A parent or parents that have coasted for years and all of a sudden want to get fired up and expect their children to just jump in line....NOT SO!
     So then is the answer NEVER to get fired up and just to remain a coaster, don't rock the boat?  No,  God clearly reveals to Josiah that had he not come out of that state of mind, had he not began to seek him, there would have been much, much more judgement and damage. The answer is then, never to coast as a Child of God and if you do catch yourself coasting, quickly, get back on track, quickly get back to seeking out God. It is clear in our text that it is better to realize you are coasting, rock the boat, deal with the repercussions and get back on track.There is way to much "cleaning house" for Josiah to do and if only he had not coasted for 8 years, it would not have been this difficult to clean things up.  Coasting may seem like the easy way to live for God

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

AUGUST 2 "A WISE ENEMY"

     Hezekiah and his people are faced with an onslaught of verbal and mental assaults. What Hezekiah faces and what we must face, almost on a daily basis, is a constant barrage of assaults in our minds, that target our God and our faith in him to take care of us.  The problem is, that the enemy does not present STUPID arguments. The enemy provides arguments that are both very reasonable and very persuasive.  As we have heard before, the best lies are those that are mixed with truth.  Rat poison is 99% actual rat food. This is what makes it so irresistible for the rats to consume. We see also in our text that our enemy speaks our language, he knows our culture and how best to affect us.  Verse 18 "Then they called out in Hebrew to the people of Jerusalem who were  on the wall, to terrify them and make them afraid".  It's all about fear and intimidation. Every terrorist, worth his salt and weight, embraces this spirit.  The ruthless leaders of History all embraced and embodied this spirit. How many of God's people have fallen in this kind of predicament?  The answer is....more than we can count. We are definitely engaged in a war, a fight and if our stance in the ring is to merely stand there and take as many blows and hits as we can, hoping and praying our opponent will have mercy on us, run out of energy or get fed up of pounding on us.....well, the end result will probably be us eventually knocked out, falling straight to the mat, right on our faces, out for the count!
     Never should we consider verbal or mental arguments against our faith as "is this logical?" or "could this happen?" These considerations are irrelevant.  Think of this, as the Children of Israel stood at the edge of the Red Sea, with the Egyptians quickly catching up to them, with the Israelites cornered by the sea, it was very logical and reasonable to think that they would all be slaughtered right there. However logical or reasonable that may have seemed, however much fear that put in the hearts of the Israelites, we know that they were not slaughtered there, that the sea opened up for them to cross through and it was the Egyptians that were consumed there, as the water closed in on them and drowned them all.
     If we sit and listen to the lies of the enemy and consider if his arguments are reasonable and logical, we will all be given in to discouragement, fear & intimidation. Our stance needs to be, "I don't care how reasonable or logical this assault, this lie is that has been embedded in my mind, I chose to believe against it.". 
It doesn't take logic and reason to serve God, it takes FAITH. It takes more than faith, it takes an aggressive faith, an aggressive posture.
     Imagine people who try to fix and solve everything themselves and it seems when they don't know what else they can do they say, "I guess all we can do is pray".  Imagine referring to prayer as, "all we can do..." As if prayer is the religious, ceremonious, cop out.  Perhaps for religious people it is, but for those that know their God and his great exploits, prayer is not "I guess all we can do" but rather, prayer "is the most powerful thing we can do".  It is King Hezekiah's prayer that turns God's attention towards this whole matter. It doesn't matter how logical the enemy's arguments are or how persuasive he is, none of that matters when God gets involved. Verse 21 "and The Lord sent an angel, who annihilated all the fighting men and the leaders and officers in the camp of the Assyrian King".  This is what God can do! And it only came when Hezekiah brought the blasphemies of his enemy before God and basically said, "Lord, you deal with this guy, it's your name he is blaspheming, I leave this with you".
     Never listen to reason with the enemy of your soul.  Never give him a speaking platform in your mind or through some of his ponds. We don't care what he has to say nor do we care what his mouth pieces have to say. It doesn't matter if it's logical or reasonable our God is more than able and often moves beyond reason, beyond the natural. Don't give an ear to the enemy or those that speak on his behalf and you will find yourself much more poised to believe God in hard circumstances. Give him a platform to speak, listen to his arguments and persuasion and you will find yourself defeated mentally, spiritually and then physically. Who are you gonna listen to today? Your choice.....

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

AUGUST 1 "DON'T LAUGH AT ME!!!"

The story in our bible today is so old it's hard to even imagine, over 2,500 years ago, at least. There were no secular, arrogant Americans at the time, only Israelites and the pagan nationalities that surrounded them. It was a time with no T.V.'s, no Hollywood and of course everyone wanted to serve The Lord, or maybe not! We think that man has degraded, we talk about the secularization of America and the rest of the World; and there is truth to that, but we can push it to far and make it sound like there was a time when every human being just wanted to surrender their selfish, rebellious will to God.  Well, if that time didn't exist even 2,500 years ago, then when did it exist and why pretend like it ever did exist? In our text Hezekiah, a good King, is trying to stir religious revival. He sends out his runners, to declare "we are going to have a great celebration!". The people ask, "oh yeah, what kind of great celebration?"  The answer they get, "we are going to have a great celebration to The Lord".  We read, "but most of the people just laughed at the runners and made fun of them".  What!!!! No way!!!!  People had no other desire than to serve God back then, there were no people that would mock the things of God, there were no people that would think serving God was  the last thing the would want to do, not good God fearing Jews. After all, they didn't have MTV, they didn't have Cable, isn't that the problem? MTV, Hollywood and Cable?  Apparently not! So what was the problem? Human nature was the problem. Is MTV foul, is Hollywood vile, the answer most of the time would be "yes' but that's just a by-product of who we are, it's not what makes us what we are. In any group of people in any given time or generation, there will always be those that have no interest in serving God and will mock those that do. Our problem is we get upset, we don't like being mocked and so desperately want to prove to the world, "we're not stupid, we're not nerds, we're not losers" and so today we have Christians that are hip, we have Christians that are "cool", there is a Church, or at least used to be a Church, in Tucson, Az. that was called, "The Cool Church".  In our text there is simply a quick passing comment that there were those that laughed, but then the story goes on with those that had a heart for God and of their celebration. God does not get all upset about those that don't want to be on his team. God is not out there begging people to join his side.  God is not insecure, are you?  We need to stop trying to prove to those that don't want to serve God, "that we're really cool people" and that serving God is not for losers.  Why? What if God does call losers and the rift raft of society to serve him. "Jesus is a crutch and that's why you're a Christian!" Will you fight and argue that that is not true to your own defense, will you fight for your rights and demand that you not be laughed at? Or will you say, "you're right, Jesus is a crutch and I need him, that's right, that's me, non-hacker, loser. That's right I couldn't make it through life without this crutch called Jesus, go ahead, laugh at me".  Most won't do that, will be get Tat and pierce ourselves up, just like the world and say, "hey, we're just like you, c'mon  man, be my friend, don't laugh at me!".  Our text right after we read, "but many people laughed" goes on, moves on with the story, "at the same time , God's hand was on the people ....all one heart to obey God".  Don't excuse or try to justify that you "have a heart for God" and they don't. Count yourself privileged, that for some reason, beyond our finite understanding we have a heart to serve God and others have a heart to mock God.  The story doesn't given undue attention to those that want to laugh and neither should we. We give way to much attention to our mockers because it bugs us, it feeds off our insecurity as Christians. We, like Jesus when He walked the earth, have to be comfortable in our own skin, we have to be secure in who we are.  BORN AGAIN Christians, unashamedly unapologetic in our beliefs and immune to those that laugh and mock. The more their laughter irritates you, the more their laughter affects you, the more you are revealing, that you are not all that confident and secure in who you have become, and that should be a greater concern to you than those that laugh at you. Those that are bothered the most by those that laugh, are often those that eventually revert and turn from their Christianity, it is only a sign, that you are not all that secure and sure, of what you are involved in and what you have become.