Saturday, September 30, 2017

SEPTEMBER 30 "POUR OUT UR LIFE 4 GOD!"

Wherever is the concept of "pouring out your life" for Christ, in the Church today? The Assemblies of God, the largest Pentecostal Denomination is now shutting down their Sunday evening services. It's too much, twice on Sundays, those days are gone. It's too much to ask a Christian to come to Church twice on Sundays, once in the morning and the return for the evening service. "People want their family time together at night" said one Assembly of God Pastor. How can one argue against a Christian wanting "family time" together? So what does "family time" look like on a Sunday evening? Well, it looks like this..., dad flopped in front of the T.V. watching Football, junior in his room playing X-Box, Susie in her room on Facebook and mom in her room sleeping. Great "family time" isn't it!  Really what people want is not "family time", they want more "me time", more "rest time" all under the guise of ....."we just want to stay home and have some family time', well how can anyone argue against that?! Paul was a radical Christian who I don't believe would have done well in the Christian circles that we traffic in; here in the 21st Century. Paul most definitely would not have had a church of 50,000 people, maybe 50, but not 50,000. Paul's commitment, his challenge for Christians to "pour out their lives" for Christ would seem far to radical for today's Christian. Today's Christian is not far, in ideals, from the the secularist, atheist and/or agnostic,  Their ideas for the "elixir" of life is, rest, then more rest; then leisure time; then vacations and then some more!  Commercials on T.V., commercials on the radio, "are you tired, run down....then what you need is this drink or this vitamin" as if there is something wrong with you if "you are tired". What is wrong with you? Why are you tired, what is the cause, how can you resolve this great abuse of your life, that you, as a human being should be tired?". Well, what if in retrospect, they realize they're tired because of Christ? What if in reflection, they realize they are tired because of "their ministry" or their commitments to Church? We know our unsaved family members will be quick to be the Devil's advocate and convince us we are "too committed" to our churches, we are giving too much of ourselves to this "Christian thing" we are involved in and that life, is about being rested, life is about leisure and vacations and many allow themselves to be seduced into this carnal and secular mindset. But yet Paul's idea of life was being "spent for Christ!".  Modern translation, "worn out for Christ".  "Paul, you poor boy, you look worn out, you need to get out of the ministry and rest, it would do you good?" Paul would have said, "get behind me Satan for you do not have the purposes of God in mind". You will find that Christians today just want to go home after work, Monday night, take off their shoes, rest and be left alone. That's not so bad, but it's not just Monday Night, it's Tuesday night, it's Wednesday Night, it's every night of every week. I don't want to be pestered by The Church during the week, I go Sunday Mornings and that's enough. "Why is the Church planning events during the week and on Saturday, don't they know we have our own lives?"  Many Christians today probably feel a Church that has services Sunday evenings should be reported to some kind of authority, "for abuse".  The question to ask is, "has the 21st Century lost the essence of Consecration, the essence of sacrifice, self-denial, in short, has the 21st Century Christian lost the essence of Christianity? Paul described himself  "as a slave to Christ". How would you describe your Christian walk with God? Are you "pouring out your life to Christ" or are you sitting on the couch pouring yourself another ice tea, or worse, another beer? Is your manta, "rest, rest, leisure and more rest" or is your mantra, "I have but one life, a short life, here on earth, to live for Christ and may I be a poured out offering for Jesus, as He was for me!"

Friday, September 29, 2017

SEPTEMBER 29 "DOES GOD'S SILENCE DRIVE YOU CRAZY?"

What has God's silence accomplished or not accomplished? We know He is the "invisible God" but He is also, very often, the "silent God".  In Isaiah we read today, "Is it because of my long silence that you no longer fear me?". God realizes everything He does and the ramifications of that. He understands what drives us crazy, He understands his silence and the pretense of being "aloof" might only encourage some further into their Lascivious & rebellious life style. The question is not how often does God speak, but rather, when He speaks, whether often or little, do we listen? And so now God is speaking, is anyone listening ? "You have been unfaithful, you have put pagan symbols on your doorposts and behind your doors." We want God to speak, but when He speaks we ignore him and then when He doesn't speak we accuse him of neglecting us, or we accuse him for our struggle of Faith, because we never hear from him. God cannot win, with people who do not have a right heart towards him. "Is it because of my long silence that you no longer fear me?"
It's a rhetorical question, as most questions that come from God. However, what kind of relationship is a relationship that is constantly run by fear and threats? This kind of relationship is to no advantage to anyone and it's a relationship based on a some very precarious grounds. Can God be silent and can He stop threatening and just see people serve based on what He has already spoken in the past and serve him based on their love for Him? God's silence will make the wicked more wicked, but God's silence will also cause people of faith to increase their faith. Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things unseen. Carnal Christians need the constant voice and the constant threat of God, to be obedient. God's true Children serve him even when the Master is gone away from the house for a while. When the Master returns He finds the faithful about their Father's business and when the Master returns He also finds the unfaithful back at what He has threatened them over and over, what not to do. If you can't trust your children when you are away, then you are only deluded to think that you can trust them when you are not away. If God cant' trust us in silence, if God can't trust us in his absence (or at least seemingly absent) then He cannot trust us at all. If you're waiting for lightning to strike and barely miss you, so fear can get in you and straighten you up to serve God, I've got some news for you, it's probably not coming. If you're waiting for something bad to happen to you as some kind of sign of omen, that God is against you so you can know and repent, I got some bad news for you, it probably isn't coming. So what does God's silence accomplish? It weeds out the faithful from the unfaithful. It weeds out the genuine from the disingenuous. It brings out the carnality of the carnal and brings out the Faith of the Faithful. It forces a relationship to be forged out of love and obedience, not just fear. It releases people, gives the freedom to serve God or not and it creates a relationship where I am serving you now because I love you and want to; not just because I fear you and you will strike me with lightning or send me to hell if I don't. Yes, "fear of God is the beginning, of all wisdom" , but remember, "it's the beginning" in other words, we should at some point in our relationship progress on and move on to a place where now our relationship is not just based on fear but has moved towards a love and appreciation of this God that we have come to know and love. Now, we sin not, because we know it hurts God, whether perhaps in the beginning, we stopped sinning because of the fear of Hell. Joseph in the Old Testament, does not sin and commit adultery because he does not want to sin against God. I'm not sure what understanding Joseph had of the afterlife, about hell and judgement but we know by readying his story that he had an immense love for God.  God's silence in those days caused most of his brothers only to become more wicked, but it also caused Joseph to become more devout and so can God's silence do the same for us, God's silence will either make or break us!

Thursday, September 28, 2017

SEPTEMBER 28 "EVER FORGET TO PUT ON A BELT?"

     I used to have dreams of being caught in High School with no shoes and having to walk around in my socks all day, I felt like an idiot. I'm not sure what the meaning of those dreams were, but I know one thing, I felt like an idiot all day and couldn't wait for the day to end and I would be sure to double check that I had my shoes on the following day before I left my house. Paul in our text is using dress items as a metaphor of how we should dress ourselves up, as Christians. No more would I want to walk around without shoes all day than I should be willing to walk around without Peace in my heart and in my intentions. Paul mentions to put on "the belt of Truth". I don't know if it was my Marine Corps training that drilled this into me or it's just common sense, but either way, you don't get all dressed up and then forget to put on a belt.  If I catch my son before he leaves the house for Church, without a belt I quickly send him back to his room to find his belt and put it on, "don't leave the house without a belt on", I tell him.  I wonder if the Holy Spirit ever tries to remind us that we are leaving the house with less than honest intentions for the day. We have no intentions about telling the truth about what happened the previous day. The Holy Spirit would ask, "where is your belt" and what do we say? How about women, did you leave the house without your shoes (God forbid!), of course NEVER would a women leave the house without her shoes, but quite often women leave the house without PEACE in mind, as a matter of a fact, there is a war waiting to happen at the office, or worse, at church and nothing is going to deter them, not even the Holy Spirit as He cautions them to put on their shoes of peace.
     Paul is admonishing us that the Christian life consists of these virtues, ie: Truth (belt), Peace (shoes), Righteousness (breastplate), Faith (shield), Sanity (helmet) and God's word and to get up on any given day and not fully dress with any of these is not to be dressed completely and as much as we would feel like a fish out of water walking around with no shoes all day or leading a high profile, corporate meeting that day without a belt; we should feel just as awkward knowing we have left the house and not dressed ourselves with peace, truth and righteousness. In any of these situations we would return home to get the belt or shoes and we should do the same spiritually. The Christian life consists of righteousness, faith, peace, honesty etc.....and we ought to leave the home every morning with every intent to wear these virtues without compromise. This is not only how we should conduct ourselves but we will find that in the end, virtues become our armor, and that perhaps is the greatest point of this passage. These virtues that we hold to will be what protect us against the onslaughts of hell.  Paul is saying that these "virtues" actually work as insulators against the attacks of the enemy.  I want to ask, "which of these virtues that Paul has mentioned have you learned over the years not to put on? Has your business profession caused you to leave your belt at home? Have relationships caused you to leave your shoes at home? Well, what you have done i s not only compromised virtues but you have compromised what Paul says is your "spiritual armor" and over time you will not stand, you will get hit and wounded to the point that you may be taken out and you will wonder how, how you were penetrated and God will be Faithful to show you (I hope) the area of vulnerability you left open when you began to dress each morning, purposely leaving, one of the aforementioned items, off your list. Paul says, "put on the full armor", not just bits and pieces that you select.  Struggling??? Being assaulted beyond what you think you can endure?? Maybe this is an area you need to re-examine and ask yourself, "am I putting on the full armor each day" and if not, determine which item you are leaving off." Once you've decided which item it is, then from that point on, begin each day by making sure, you do not leave the house without and once you leave with it, keep it on!  Don't be like children who wear a certain item to leave the house, but immediately once they are out of sight of their parents, take it off.  Put it on and keep it on, until you lay your head down to sleep!

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

SEPTEMBER 27 "WHAT!!! NOT A HINT OF SEXUAL....."

Today the mantra is "Tolerance". This mantra is being shoved down the throats of the Church. You must have tolerance.  Well, that could mean a lot of things, couldn't it?!  We need to be tolerant of sinners, we are, we understand we are all sinner's saved by the Grace of God.  It could mean we must be tolerant of each, other, we are, so it can't mean that.  We must be tolerant of people who have different opinions, we are, so it can't possibly mean that.  We must be tolerant of people with attitudes, people who are unfaithful and uncommitted, we are tolerant of that, so it can't mean that. We must be tolerant of Catholics who come in with weird notions of worshiping Saints & The Virgin Mary, we are tolerant of that, so it can't possible mean that. We must be tolerant of young Christians that are constantly falling and stumbling into sin, we are tolerant of that, so it can't possible mean that. So when "tolerance" is being pushed upon the church, and we are being accused of not being tolerant, I don't know what they're talking about? Or do I......is it that it's not tolerance that is being pushed upon the church, but rather, it is a tolerance for a specific sin? And what could that sin possibly be? Hmmmm.....could it be "tolerance for sexual immorality?".   And to that we say, NO, we will not be tolerant to sexual immorality, sorry!  Paul admonishes the Church at Ephesus on true Christian living and Paul emphasizes that "there must not be a hint of sexual immorality among you". That sounds to me like "zero tolerance".  Paul goes on to write, "or any kind of impurity". The Hallmark of The Church is "Morality". Christianity brought morality to and immoral culture. Christianity did not bring religion to the culture, Europe/Asia was already permeated with Religion. What Christianity brought was Morality to a Immoral Culture. And if we take away "the morality of the church" we take away it's soul. We leave the church to be just and empty shell. This is why the great assault in these last days, for the church to drop its stance on morality, because the enemy knows it is the heart and soul of the church. Morality must be the last battlefield that the Church dies on, before Christ comes back. We can't and should not fight every social and moral evil in the world, but this is one battle that the Church has to say, "we will fight to our death".  And this is what the Secular World is threatening, "the death of The Church" as we know it, it we don't back down. They will shut us down in our pulpits, they will legislate what comes from behind the pulpits as "hate speech". They are threatening to fight and bring us down and to this I say, bring it on! This is a fight we will not back down from. We have our marching orders from Christ, as all scripture is God breathed and the call of the church is, "not a hint of sexual immorality among you".  Whether that's heterosexual or homosexual is irrelevant, the fight is not against "Homosexuality", the fight is against "immorality" in itself.. The Church must be the moral light of the world, it is the heart and soul of The Church of Jesus Christ.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

SEPTEMBER 26 "IF ONLY...THE WORDS YOU DON'T WANT TO HEAR"

     ISAIAH speaks it out very plainly and clearly, "I am the Lord your God, who teaches you what is best for you, who directs you in the the way you should go, if only..."  IF ONLY....those are not the best words to hear from a parent, an authority figure and most certainly God.  "If only" is usually a pre-cursor for what could have been.  "If only" you had chosen behind door #1..."  "If only" are the words that haunt us. If nobody else speaks them to us, we often voice them to ourselves; in our thoughts we wonder..."if only" I had taken a different path, if only I had married someone else, if only I had taken a different career path, if only I had or hadn't moved, if only ..if only if only...can haunt us to our grave; unless we just decide to let Jesus take control.  The quicker, the sooner we decide to let go of the wheel and let Jesus take over, the less "if only's" we will have to worry about.
     God is not hesitant to make his point clear (through Isaiah) that if only we had allowed Him to direct us the past, present and future would have been different, and different for the better.  "Your descendants would have been like the sand, your children like its numberless grains..." surely things would have been different, would have been better, if only, we had listened and allowed him to direct us.
     God stresses to us in our text that He wants to teach us what is best for us, that it is He who directs the way we should go..., but this only applies if we are allowing him to direct us.  If we have our predetermined agenda of what we think God wants, than He cannot direct us.  We are lousy amateur Providences, we sure do like to play the part, but all we do is set ourselves of course and leave a bunch of "if only's" echoing in our minds. We are trying to force what we think God has for us instead of simply allowing God to guide and direct.  Much of the problems we face concerning this whole issue is that we have a hard time accepting what God's plan is. If we are going to be quite honest, what many struggle with is the simplicity of God's plan, we have illusions of grandeur for our future and have a hard time accepting that God perhaps just wants us, you or I to simply love our wives and raise Godly children for the next generation & be outstanding citizens in our community. For every great and famous Christian, there was a dad and a mom, that were faithful Christians who lived in complete obscurity from the media and the "flood lights" of success and fame.  If we were to mention the names of their children we would immediately recognize their names, but we would not recognize the names or the faces of the parents should we ever come across them. How many times have I mentioned the name of a famous Christian Community Leader and author to my friends and I always get an acknowledgement of who he is, "sure I know him, who doesn't" they respond, but then I ask them if they know who his father or mother was and I always get a blank stare. And according to his own biography, his parents were very faithful Chrisitan Parents and his dad was even the Pastor of a small congregation, but yet nobody knows who they were!
     Could it be that we have a hard time allowing God to teach us what is best for us and direct us....could it be that we have a hard time with it because we cannot accept where it might be leading?! "I have been called to fame and success and I can see this path leading to the mundane and ........", we say to ourselves.  Solomon in the Book of Ecclesiastes writes, "...for a man to accept his lot and be happy in his work...this is a gift of God".  Those words could be allot more profound than we think.  You ever think about what Solomon is implying here?  For the man who is a great success, famous & influential this scripture may not mean much, but for the man that isn't...And we know, that most people in life will not be famous, will not be great successes and men and/or woman of great influence.  Most of us are on the sidelines watching ONE Quarterback march his team into victory. Thence this scripture that Solomon wrote is not speaking to just a few select people, but rather this scripture is speaking to the majority of the men and women that will pass through life, here on earth. There will be no great fanfare about our lives and can we accept that? Can we accept our lot?  Can we accepts God's leading and God's saying what is best or do we think we know what is best, do we think we have been called to some greatness and fame and somehow, someway we just haven't received the right breaks yet?  Well, in God's Kingdom we don't believe in chance or the right breaks. Any Christian who has made it anywhere or to any place of influence will be the first to tell you "it was not by chance" that in retrospect, they can see God's hand of providence that was leading and guiding the whole way, unbeknown to them.  Those that do enter into their destinies I believe are not the ones who had a preconceived notion of what they thought that destiny was but rather those that were content to serve God, in whatever position, whatever vocation, great or small, in the flood lights or behind the scenes, it was irrelevant to them. They came to God with no preconceived notion other than to serve him and allowed God to teach, allowed God to direct and lo and behold, they find themselves where they would never have imagined themselves to be. "If only" is only a question for those that have never relinquished "their Will" and preconceived notions of his will, back to God himself; and the sooner we do that the less "if only's" we will have to ponder on.

Monday, September 25, 2017

SEPTEMBER 25 "IS GOD SAYING ASTROLOGY IS STUPID?!"

Are you into Astrology? I've got some bad news for you today. God is not! What we learn about God today is that He does take notice of all.  We are not going to hear about every day, He's not going to bring it up every day, but today, He chooses to "let it out" so to speak. "Let your astrologers come forward, those stargazers who make predictions by the month, let them save you".  God is talking about all the little things that upset him, the stupid things we do, like fashioning an idol for ourselves and them having to pin it down so it doesn't  topple over, what kind of god is that and while God is on his rant about stupid things, He brings up the topic of Astrology. I grew up Roman Catholic and every Christmas, I knew I would get my new astrology, horoscope book for the coming year, I was so excited! I read that horoscope book religiously, it was my bible. I believed in it, but God is saying today, "I believed in a lie'. What sign are you? Leo? Sagitarian, Scorpio, Virgo? It's nonsense when you think about it. The "Leo" is a leader because he/she is born in July, and so we find a great Leader and find out he/she was born in July, it must be true!!! Well, what about the great leaders that were born in January, March, October? The one that always got me was "The Scorpio", one of the characteristics of the Scorpio was "Sex".   "Wow, I want to meet a Scorpio", I would think as a teenager.....however, as we live out life, we must come to think that the whole world was born in November (Scorpio), because the world is obsessed and saturated in sex. I believe it vexes God that intelligent creatures as Human Beings, that He created, would fall for this stuff, but yet not believe in Him.
The stupid things we believe in, but yet won't believe in Him or His Word. God is not going to rant and rave everyday but that is not for us to take his silence as his approval. We are caught up in so many little things, stupid things and because they do not fall under the great cardinal sins of the church, we think.."God probably doesn't care", but He does. If there's one thing we can learn from our reading today, is He does care about these side issues that we think He doesn't care about. God's got bigger things to deal with then whether or not I think it's cool that I'm a Leo and I read my astrology, well today He took the time to let us know, He does care and it does bother Him. But today's reading is not about "astrology" it's about God seeing and being concerned about every aspect of our lives, the big, the little and the in-between.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

SEPTEMBER 24 "WHY BE TOLERANT OF OTHER RELIGIONS?"

     WHAT valid reason does any genuine Christian have to exercise any tolerance towards this LIE that there are other gods and salvation through them?  It can only be through ignorance or cowardice that we would succumb to such a lie. Over and over Jehovah tells us in our text, "I am the first and the last and apart from me there is no God".  And if this is not clear enough we go on to read, "....Is not this thing in my right hand a lie?".  So there it is!  We can squirt around the issue, we can try to be fake, tolerant or politically correct but at the end of the day, what we are supporting is A LIE!  Yes, after much discourse, God finally comes out and just calls it for what it is...A LIE.  Any other God, any Idol, any carved image of a god or anything else outside of Jehovah, Jesus Christ, Yahweh....is a LIE.  There is no room for tolerance here. We have enough of a hard time making tolerances for things that are real for which we may not agree with, but at least they are real and at times we must be tolerant to other people's opinions, stands and ideologies, but when we are dealing with a lie, we do not pretend not to know it is a lie, we don't pretend to except it and we don't in any way help and/or encourage anyone to believe in a lie just for the sake of peace and harmony, this is just short of insanity.
     It is one thing to share your glory with another when there is good cause, good reason. Perhaps others have helped in your success, they have contributed, even if only a small percentage, then it is right for us to share the glory, even if their contribution has been minimal.  However in the case with God we are wanting God, Jehovah, to share his glory with a lie.  We are wanting Jesus who left Heaven, came to earth in the form and likeness and frailty of man, to be rejected, tortured, crucified and die for the sins of humanity.... to share his glory with a....with a.....a lie?!  We are wanting God who did everything that was needed to save us, heal us, deliver us & break the curse....to share the glory with fictitious gods, all for the sake of peace?  This is why Jehovah says, "I am the Lord thy God, there is no other but me and I will share my glory with none other!".  This is not because He wants all the glory but because there is no one to share that glory with, it's insanity to try to pretend otherwise.
     This is not about being rude, insensitive or intolerant it is about being real. If my 18 year old daughter comes to me and tells me that she has another Father that she communicates to on another planet and tells me about how he helps her and how she is planning to go visit him someday, etc..etc....am I expected to allow her to continue in this delusion and be tolerant to her belief?  Would I be judged for being intolerant by not excepting this ridiculous notion, know I am the one that gave her birth and that she has no other Father?  We would say indecisively "no" but yet we are supposed to allow people to ramble on about these gods that don't exist and we are supposed to keep our mouths shut and let them continue in their delusions. Why is that? Why are we pressured when it comes to false god's to be tolerant and excepting when we would do that with nothing else?  Well there are many reasons for that, first and foremost, because the Prince of the Power of the Air (Satan) is the one behind those lies and he has sway over people and culture. Paul writes that when we sacrifice to idols we are really sacrificing to demons. There is a demonic element to this whole sway and pressure to be tolerant towards false gods, a spirit of Anti-Christ for sure, but at the end of the day; we the Christians are probably more culpable than anybody else because we know the truth, we are not under the sway of the spirit of this age, yet often times we succumb to the pressures and allow ourselves to be coerced into being tolerant towards what we know is A LIE.  So why would we be tolerant to other gods, the answer simply is we do it for peace, we do it to avoid confrontation and we do it to relieve ourselves of persecution we know will come if we stand for the truth. And we do it all at the sake of hurting the one true God and damaging our relationship with him, the one who did all to save us, the one who died for us while we were yet sinners. Is it really worth it?

Saturday, September 23, 2017

SEPTEMBER 23 "A BRUISED REED HE WILL NOT BREAK, BUT WHAT ABOUT YOU?"

"A bruised reed he shall not break, and a smoldering  wick he will not snuff out".  This is GREAT STUFF, great poetry, but it certainly is not us! In Football, we cut the weakest players, in Marine Corps Boot camp, you weed out the weak and in the corporate world, you fire or ax the weak and move on with the strong. The weak, put them in a home, the disabled, hire someone to take care of them, confused & depressed people.....I  don't know isn't there a drug you can give them, sedate them, anything, as long as we don't have to deal with day in and day it, give me a break!! There is nothing more frustrating than a smoldering wick, especially when you really do need that light, the electricity is off, you're trying to get some help, some light and that wick is flickering, spitting out more irritation than light; you and I both know, if that wick doesn't catch on soon we may just throw the wick and the candle, in the trash, after we snuff it out!  And that's how we treat people. That is who we are! Nothing more draining than the weak. Whether that's weak people in the Church or a weak and fragile grandmother or even perhaps are own mother and/or father. I currently know of a family that is having to deal with the aging and mental deterioration of an elderly mother and the kids are constantly squabbling over "who's turn it is to watch over her". Sometimes the fighting only ends in fighting, nothing is resolved and the elderly, disabled mother is left alone. Paul in his epistles brings this up, "don't despise the weak", he warns. Most teachers have no patience with that child that doesn't learn as fast as the rest of the students in her/his class. That teacher can and I have seen in my experience, begin to resent that slow learner, stupid kid! We are not impressed with the weak, the slow, the not so intelligent, the not so "lovely". Weak, slow and unattractive people, repel humanity. They are the Lepers of our society today. Even in our churches you will find, those that are attractive, sharp and witty, will get more attention and better follow up than perhaps, ....the Leper. A bruised week we will yank out of the ground and make room for something healthy to grow. This scripture in Isaiah is not us! It's Jesus, but it's not you. You think it's you, perhaps you dabble a little here and there with the weak....., trying giving your life to it and see how well you do! If we are not careful, the Church of Jesus Christ, just like the world, becomes "survival of the fittest"  i.e: those that are strong will make it and lock into the church and have a great future and those that are weak will fall away, only to go on and self destruct while The Church moves on it's merry way, singing "Lord, I wanna be more like you".

Friday, September 22, 2017

SEPTEMBER 22 "HOW BADLY WE WANT THE APPROVAL OF OTHERS"

Hezekiah has just come off a great experience and victory with God. Hezekiah was told by Isaiah that he was going to die, "to put his house in order", but yet Hezekiah turns his face against the wall and begins to cry and petition God for his life.  God speaks to Isaiah, tells him to go back to Hezekiah and tell him He has heard his prayers and will add 15 years to his life. Today, however, is a different day and a different story. A not so desperate Hezekiah. He is visited by some dignitaries from a place he would least have expected. Sometimes the people that dislike us the most are the people we want to like us the most. It's amazing to see how often people fall into this trap of wanting the popular kids at school, or the in crowd, to so desperately like them. Sometimes in order to gain favor with these unrighteous, but popular people, many of us did things we were ashamed of later or that went against our conscience. There is a tendency in every one of us (the people of God included) to want to be liked by the powerful, inflectional and popular. Hezekiah is mesmerized by these powerful men, even though they are the heathens of all heathens. These are men, from a nation that opposes everything the God of Israel is for. They are an immoral, ungodly, perverse people and nation, but they are also a powerful and well respected one too. Just like the ungodly today. The ungodly, immoral, unclean celebrates of today are not looked down upon, but rather, looked up to. Nothing has changed much! Hezekiah does not seek God this time, he is enamored by this entourage and flattered that they have come to visit him, just the lowly King of Israel and he shows them all the treasuries of God. Little does Hezekiah know, they will one day come back and attack Israel and take away all those treasuries. God confronts Hezekiah, through Isaiah, "what did these men say and where were they from?".  Isaiah is going to have Hezekiah incriminate himself here, "they are from Babylon". He gets Hezekiah to confess, that he knew where they were from and from there Isaiah begins to pronounce the judgement that will now follow. The question to ask ourselves is, when the enemies of God come around us, flattering and schmoozing with us, how do we respond. Are we so enamored by them, like the rest of the world that we just fall down and worship (so to speak) or do we not worship at their altar and not desire their approval. Many Christian celebrities and athletes that do truly have a genuine conversion experience, never make it, because they so desire the approval of the rich, mighty and powerful of this world. It is the Hezekiah effect in them and it lives in each and every one of us, if we will be honest. The difference between them perhaps, and the rest of us, is we fight it, resist it and stand our grand. Read Psalm 1, "blessed is he that does not stand in the counsel of the ungodly or sit in the seat of scoffers". When we yearn so desperately for their approval, we will constantly fall and be tripped up and if we desire it so much, we may trade in, a genuine salvation experience with God, for the approval of the ungodly and immoral and sad as that may be, it happens more often than we would like to admit.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

SEPTEMBER 21 "THIS ONE THING DO RIGHT?

     IF there's one thing King Hezekiah did right, was HE PRAYED.  Twice in our text today we read, in response to Hezekiah's prayers, Ch. 37 verse 21, "This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: Because you have prayed to me...."  and  Ch. 38 verse 4, "This is what the Lord, the God of your father David, says: I have heard your prayer and seen your tears".  BECAUSE YOU HAVE PRAYED....remember those words. And it could equally be said that, because you have NOT prayed....that we can rightly say, events have just easily, taken a turn for the worse. We cannot pretend, just to appease our own conscience, that prayer does not impact our lives and the lives of others. This would be just short of insanity. There is to much circumstancial evidence to every point to any other verdict, than the verdict that prayer does change events and lives as we know it.  We have to accept that because we have prayed our lives are different and we must also accept that because we have NOT prayed our lives are also different.  Prayer is the difference maker. Hezekiah did some foolish things in his life, but there's one thing he did right and that was he was a praying man and it is when he stopped praying and seeking God that he falls flat on his face.
     Many of us have our priorities backwards. We are committed, we are faithful and reliable people and faithful to church, we do many things right but the one thing we do not do right is....PRAY.  "Why?", you may ask...to many reasons to consider, but we know there are seasons when prayer pays great dividends and there are other seasons we wonder why we pray at all and those are the seasons that take many out and once we have come out of the lifesytle of prayer, and managed to do without, it is hard to get back into it. Every congregation hates a sermon on prayer as much as they love a sermon on prayer.  They love it for the part that tells of all the possibilities through prayer, but they hate the part that in all reality, truth be known, they still will not pray.
     The bible commands us to "pray and pray without ceasing". The bible promises us that "the fervant prayers of a righteous man availeth much".  There is no two ways around those scriptures and many more that admonish us to pray. We must make sure that we don't pray to be religious as perhaps our parents did. That we don't pray to be seen of men, as some disciples do. That we don't pray to appease our consciences, as sinners do. We pray because we have a clear conviction and understanding that prayer can change the course of lives and the lives of others. We pray because we know it is our civic duty and responsibility as a Christian and not to pray is to neglect the greatest power ever divested to any being on earth or in Heaven above.  Not to pray is to be negligent in the most critical area of our Christian lives and only eternity will reveal to us, what could have been, had we only....PRAYED!  If there's one thing you ever do right as a Christian, let it be that you prayed.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

SEPTEMBER 20 "SATAN'S TESTIMONIALS"

     I WAS not around approx 3000 years ago when this situation took place with the King of Assyria, but I sure do recognize the voice and the rhetoric, ie: "Don't trust in the Lord".  Pastor's and Spiritual Leaders spend most of their time trying to convince God's people to trust in him while the individual and the masses of Christians face a bombardment of attacks, day in and day out, a voice that speaks to us in our conscience and says basically the same words the King of Assyria Spoke, which are: "don't trust in the Lord, where was He for so and so and where was He for that family, that situation and what makes you think it will be any different for you!". The enemy will remind us of the sister that was not healed of cancer, he will remind us of the family that did have to file bankruptcy, or the single mom that did lose her job, her home and then Satan will come to us and tell us, "what makes you think it will be different for you!".  The enemy strikes us at the heart, he strikes us where are greatest fears lie.  When are security is threatened, our livelihood, our children and of course our lives are threatened, through disease, sickness or threats, these are the areas that leave us most vulnerable to perhaps listen to Satan a little longer than we should and begin to consider twice about trusting in The Lord.  "After all, Suzie trusted in The Lord and she died"  "Jim trusted in God and he was laid off and lost his home", these are the thoughts we will get and they are pretty convincing, they are not at all lies, but true cases that we have witnessed. They are "Satan's Testimonials".  He (the enemy) has a whole arsenal of them and he is ready to launch them at any time when we are attempting to trust God in a difficult situation. Verse 15, "do not let Hezekiah persuade you to trust in the Lord when he says, "The Lord will surely deliver us....who of all the gods has been able to save..."  All the Israelite had to do was their homework (which they had) and they would quickly find out that it was true. 
     So what do we do? Well our options are simple, either we trust or we do not. "Okay" you would say, "I don't trust, I simply can't I am to convinced by "Satan's Testimonials". The problem is "not trusting" in God is not just a state of mind we choose, but it must be followed by action. If we don't trust God to "save us" then that means we must take matters into our own hands, it means trusting in another, it means making alliances with people we should not.  One of two things will happen when we take matters into our own hands, it will either work or fail miserably.  The latter scenario is the best option, although we will suffer we will also learn next time to simply trust in God.  My worry is the first scenario, ie: we take matters into our own hands and it works out for us! (or should I say, it seems to work out). The worse thing that could happen when you don't trust God and make an alliance with someone or something else is that it actually works out for you. This is not good!  What do you think that will do for your faith, not only in the present but for a future trial? What do you think that will do for your relationship with God if your last vivid memory of God was that you were in a sticky situation and God did not come through for you, but you came through for you or so and so came through for you or worse, Satan came through for you.  Verse 16 "This is what the king of Assyria says: Make peace with me and come out to me. Then every one of you will eat from his own wine and fig tree and drink water from his own cistern"  Had the Israelite s opted in for this option (which they didn't thanks to a Godly leader) what do you think the chances of them continuing to serve the God of Israel would have been?  What do you think your chances are of continuing to serve God once you've decided not to trust God and it works out, for what seems to be the best, in your limited understanding.
     In all reality, there is NO... "I took matters into my own hands and it worked out". In the short term it may appear as such but time will reveal that it did not work out like you thought.  There is only one option when the enemy comes to us with his "testimonials" and that is simply to ignore them. The fact that they are true is irrelevant. We simply do not know all and much will be revealed to us in eternity that will leave many of us feeling quite embarrassed that we actually thought for a second that Satan had a valid testimonial against God failing one of his children. God has never failed any of his children "let God be true and every man a liar" and time and eternity will reveal this.  There is only one option and that is always to Trust the Lord and if everything still falls apart, then we keep trusting and as we keep trusting, though all evidence points towards abandonment by God, we will see, whether it be a month, a year or a few years, that God, in the end will be shown faithful and trustworthy. If we bail, if we cut and run, then we simply become one more of Satan's Testimonials that he will use against the next brother or sister that is struggling. Question is, will you be a testimonial to the church, of God's unfailing love and faithfulness to encourage others or will you be one of Satan's testimonials to discourage others?

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

SEPTEMBER 19 "THINGS WILL CHANGE IN A LITTLE MORE THAN A YEAR"

Things will change in a little more than a year, Isaiah prophesies; and the change is going to be based on our attitudes and decisions we are making today, tomorrow, next week and next month. You think it's not big deal now, but you won't think it's not big deal, a little more than a year from now.  One of the key factors that Isaiah warns us, that is going to affect us, a little more than a year from now, is going to be our complacency. "Rise up" says the Lord. Rise up you people of power. Every sing that in church and wonder, "where are those people of power?"  Is it because we just know too much about each other or they simply are not there? Isaiah continues, "the harvest will not come and there will be no fruit, tremble you complacent. If I told you I could tell you your future and it would not be sorcery, it would be from God, just call me, get with me, my phone would be ringing constantly. Well, here it is....here's your future!  "Thanks" you say, for the negative message today!" NO, it's a positive one! Why? Because of the very reason that we all want to know our future; and that reason is, if we don't like it, maybe we can alter it. And I know the message today is that we can definitely alter our future. A little more than a year from now we can be well, prospering and getting along fine, why? Because we changed our attitude, fore-knowing where it would lead us. We got a startling revelation that complacency will ruin all that I'm striving for and want out of life. Complacency is not red, with horns a pitchfork and a tail. Complacency is not a spirit that we can say, "I rebuke you in the name of Jesus", complacency is an attitude, that we must fight and conquer. If there's one thing we can learn about God through the bible and that is, that He is always more than willing to change his plans, for the better, if His people are willing to rise up, take action, repent, whatever the case may be, one thing we can always count on, God is always more than willing to scrap the script and write a new one, if it's in your favor! He holds the script in His hand and He's asking you, "scrap it, write a new one or goes with this one, let me know when you decide."

Monday, September 18, 2017

SEPTEMBER 18 "EXCESSIVE FORCE"

The NFL (ironcially) issued disciplinary action on one of it's elite players for using excessive force in disciplining his son. His contract with his team was cancelled in lieu of the criminal charges against him, for using a tree branch to discipline his son, leaving marks, bruising and swelling on his son's body. No doubt there are parents out there that are too lazy to discipline their children or worse, simply just don't care! We have to deal with these children every week at Walmart. We pray that we could just have one moment alone with this child that is screaming as if he was being tortured, only to realize it's not that he's being tortured or kidnapped, he is screaming and raving because his mom told him he can't have the candy bar he grabbed by the cash register. So we have excessive discipline to no discipline and somewhere in the middle lies the balance. God is trying to give us wisdom through Isaiah, the wisdom that discipline is good, discipline is needed, but excessive discipline, discipline that is beyond the capacity of the recipient, can potentially crush and destroy, rather than bring the intended and hoped for results. "The farmer knows just what to do...God has given him wisdom, a heavy sledge is never used to thresh black cummin, rather it is beaten with a light stick...grain for bread is easily crushed....thresh it under the wheels of a cart, but don't pulverize it".  God is using all these metaphors to describe the wisdom in punishing. The Lord is getting ready to punish Israel, but in his punishment He will remember not to use excessive force, not to pulverize or He may crush them all together. God's purpose in punishment is always to heal and restore, not crush and destroy. We have churches that have no punishment, no disciplinary actions for anything. The Christians in their Church are like the kids at Walmart, totally undisciplined and unruly Christian they are! We have other Churches who have no discernment in punishing, their punishing often crushes, pulverizes and destroys, rather than redeem. Oh where, oh where do we find the balance? What is excessive and what is negligent? God speaking through Isaiah, says, "this requires wisdom and that wisdom He has given to the farmer, so the farmer can be productive and fruitful. As Parents, as Leaders, as Ministers, we desperately need this wisdom. Not everyone is to be dealt with in the same manner, go back and read the wisdom that God gives to the Farmer. In reading this passage today we should be thinking.... "I wonder if there are any that we crushed in are discipline. I wonder if there are any that could have been restored, redeemed, but we took a heavy sledge to thresh cumin and completely crushed that struggling Christian?" We always have to remember, that discipline is not to satisfy our anger, discipline is not to show everyone "who's boss", discipline is not to be vindictive, it's not a way for us to feel better, discipline is for the purpose of the one being disciplined, and in that respect, it is being administered to save them, not crush them. The discipline is being administered to restore and redeem and if we don't learn the wisdom of the farmer, we may one day have to answer for people that we crushed and pulverized in our discipline; when God wanted to redeem them, through discipline. "Lord give us the wisdom, that you have given the farmer, so we too can be productive and fruitful, Amen!

Sunday, September 17, 2017

SEPTEMBER 17 "DO MEN CRY?"

We tend to read the bible and think about what is written, but we don't think about "who wrote it". This is very nice and comforting read, in Psalms 61, "listen to my cry.....I cry to you for help when my heart is overwhelmed..." I'm sure many women read this in their affliction and find comfort that they are not alone. And they are not alone, they are in great company; and who is their company, DAVID. King David, the Warrior, Conqueror! Women are finding great comfort in reading, poetic metaphors, not written by Ruth, Rebecca, Mary, Esther or any other woman, but by David. If today we found these writings in a private journal of a man, we thought to be a man's man, we would ex-communicate him.The only problem is, we cannot find more of a man's man, in the bible, than David. Today, we have this persona, that men do not cry and are not overwhelmed. So then why do they drink so much? Why are they so violent, so abusive? Why are they so unfaithful? Why do they come to church for a while and then disappear?  Why are they such substance abusers, why are jails & prisons mostly filled with men? David was in jail, David did not drink himself into an oblivion, David did not take out his frustrations by abusing his wife and/or children. So what did David do? He cried out to God and told God he was "overwhelmed".  Overwhelmed with responsibilities, overwhelmed by his enemies, overwhelmed by the problems in his family, in short, he was overwhelmed with Life!  We sing this song in Church, "when my heart is overwhelmed, when my heart is aching....lead me to the Rock, the Rock that's higher than I."  The women are engrossed in this song, the men are thinking, "what kind of pansy of a man would lift his hands and sing this?"  Little do they know that the song was written by a Warrior, a man that chopped of Goliath's head and killed thousands of men, a man's man, tougher than most men would ever dream to be. The question is, "do men cry, do men get overwhelmed" the answer is most definitely, "yes", the difference is, men will not admit it, rather than cry out to God as David did and get victory and dominion, they cover it up through alcohol, drugs, physical and verbal abuse towards those they love and they engage themselves infidelity to try to reassert their manhood. It causes them to quite their jobs, forsake their families and run; and yet somehow a man doesn't view that as being weak or acting like a pansy, but some how crying out to God is? The strongest men, are those who do admit they cry, even if inside; and do admit life overwhelms them and then cry out to God. I guarantee you, any Christian man that you see in your Church that seems very strong is a man who knows he is very weak He is a man that cries out to God, day in and day out and is not ashamed or embarrassed to sing, "listen to my cry, when my heart is overwhelmed, lead me to the Rock" and in so doing , God takes that man and puts him on top of the rock while other men get crushed at the bottom of the rock by the waves and storms of life.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

SEPTEMBER 16 "HOW'S YOUR RETURN ON YOUR INVESTMENT?"

In the financial world, we monitor our investments and if the return is not what we anticipated or if we suffer to many losses, we pull our money out and reinvest in something else with greater dividends. Only in The Kingdom of God do we continue to invest, on what often is not yielding the returns we would want. Only in the Kingdom of God would we continue to invest where we continually take losses. Paul is writing this letter to the Galatians, trying to save a major loss, from a major investment he has made.  Paul himself quotes "the Lord's investment in me was not in vain!".  Paul understands investment and that there should be a return on investment. Paul has greatly invested in this Church, he writes, "Oh foolish Galatians! Who has cast an evil spell on you? For the meaning of Jesus Christ's death was made as clear to you as if you had seen a picture of his death on the cross. How foolish can you be".  He's frustrated, he's vexed, after all the investment he made in them, that they would so easily and so quickly, be swayed back.  To be honest, I don't think Paul's letter accomplished what he perhaps was hoping it would.  It could be that Paul also realized that his letter would not change the course for them, but God inspired Paul to write it so it could change the course for us. The lesson we can learn from Paul and Jesus, is that we invest in lives with no promise of any return. We invest in lives knowing full well, there will be betrayal!  We invest in lives knowing at times it will be in vain. We continue to invest in lives when there is no dividends to cash in. We must be reminded that we invest in people's lives not for people, but for Jesus. Jesus will always be grateful for our investment in other people's lives and our dividends, for the most part, will not come to us here on earth, but are being stored up in Heaven. And that is not some sappy cliche just to make us feel better, next time someone stabs us in the back or walks away after much investment. In the physical realm, investment yields dividends here on earth, in the spiritual realm, investment yields dividends in Heaven. If what we do, we do for people, we will quickly quit the fist time we suffer loss on our investment.  If what we do, we do for Jesus and because of what Jesus did for us, then we will continue to invest, until we die, in the lives of other people because we do it not for them and we do it not for physical and earthly rewards/dividends. No doubt, there are many lives in many churches doing quite well, because of the investment of another Christian; and may that encourage us and be a portion of our reward, but if we begin to lean and depend upon that, to spur us on to invest in another life, eventually that will fail and then what, we stop investing? Take your rewards, your encouragement from wherever you can get it, but always hold to the core of your being, that you invest in others, not for them, but for Christ, and He is always grateful and He will always reward, "for great is your treasure in Heaven", says The Lord.

Friday, September 15, 2017

SEPTEMBER 15 "WE ARE STILL SO FLAWED"

     NO matter how far we think we have come as a Christian, if God is at work in your life (and I hope He is), He will always be faithful, from time to time, to remind you that you have not yet arrived.  Paul just a few verses prior has just referred to Peter twice and mentions God working through Peter's ministry and mentions Peter  as one of "those reputed to be pillars".  In another text he refers to Peter as a "super apostle". NO doubt, Peter is THE MAN!  For all the shame Peter had to endure when he forsook Christ, he has definitely made up for it with all the recognition, authority, influence and power he now holds. However, even with all that going for Peter, he is still a flawed vessel.  He is still a man who at times allows others to dictate his actions rather than Christ. He is still a man who cares what others think of him.  He is still a man who struggles with prejudices and dealing with inconsistencies in his walk with Christ. Does this sound like you? If it does, then good, we are on the right track.
     Thank God for faithful brothers who step up to the plate to rebuke us when we need it. We see way to little of this today in our relationships. Our relationships are superficial at best and hypocritical at worse. Men and Women are floundering and nobody is there to let them know. The worse thing Paul could have done is let Peter get a way with his hypocrisy. Paul could have pretended like he didn't notice Peter get up and walk away from the Gentile Christians when James arrived.  It would have been much easier to let Peter's actions go unnoticed. "Why make a scene?"  "What difference will it make if I do say something?" "Who am I to correct the great Peter?"  If Paul is human, which we know he was, then he struggled with all these thoughts.  Perhaps we need not concentrate so much on "what difference will it make if I do say something" as much as we should concentrate on the responsibility you and I have to speak out and leave the results with that individual and God.  Give God something to work with! It is not our job to be the Holy Spirit Police, running around rebuking everyone, but there are key moments when we know we ought to speak up and say something and most often we don't and that individual then continues on in their behaviour not thinking anyone notices or cares or even further convinces themselves that their conduct is not that bad, after all, if it is so bad why doesn't God or anybody correct me? Doesn't anybody see or anybody hear? Yes, they do see and hear it is simply they won't speak up, they don't care. We selfishly avoid the confrontation to preserve our own selves at the detriment of somebody else. Is this right?
     One thing for sure we can learn from this is we are all flawed vessels no mater who we are and no matter how long we've been saved. We should realize there is always room for growth, enlargement and character to be formed in us as long as we are breathing. We should be changing from day to day, from Glory to Glory in the image of Christ. Thank God for the brother or sister who risks all to let us know, our behaviour, our conduct is not in line with one who claims to be a follower of Christ.  We unfortunately never read about how Peter responded to this rebuke he received from Paul in front of the others. I'm sure it was quite embarrassing, but I am going to assume Peter took it well and was grateful to Paul for calling him on it. A Godly man will always except "due" criticism and thank those who dared to correct them. We must be both those that are willing to step up and rebuke when it is due and we must also be the ones that are also willing to accept rebuke and correction when it comes our way;  be grateful for those it comes from and not become resentful, (who do they think they are!) but rather thank God and thank them for not allowing you to continue in your hypocrisy, in your prejudices, in your temper tantrums, in your dishonesty, in your unchristian like conduct.
     No doubt, we are all flawed vessels and until the day we die,  we will always be in need of fine tuning and adjustment and (not to sound redundant) we ought always to be grateful when it comes our way because most often, people don't care and won't speak up, thence we do not have the opportunity to change because people are no longer willing to speak up, at the risk of helping others. We would rather keep silent, preserve ourselves and simply let others self destruct or continue in their demise and this is a sad state of affairs in the Church today.  Does not the scripture say, "as iron sharpens iron so does man sharpen man". Does that still apply to today? Let us not neglect the ministry that we are all called to and that is to exhort one another, encourage one another and to correct one another. These are timeless principles founded in God's word and have been put there for the edifying and the building up of the Saints in the church.  "Lord, send people, friends are way, that will lovingly speak the truth to us".  "For deceitful are the kisses of an enemy but faithful are the wounds of a friend!"

Thursday, September 14, 2017

SEPTEMBER 14 "PAUL WANTS US TO CURSE PEOPLE, YIKES!"

The Great Apostle Paul would not have been deemed so great among us 21st Century Christians. We would have distanced ourselves from him and his ministry.  We would have been quick to say, "he's not one of us", he's with the church down the street, but yet God thought quite the opposite.  We love the "Politically Correct Jesus". We love the Jesus that gets along with everybody, the Jesus that's the Peacemaker, non-confrontational, non-controversial.  Who is this Paul that Curses People?  Curse people? In another Text Paul says (paraphrased by me) "I hope when you're circumcising yourselves you go ahead and cut the whole thing off and castrate yourselves".  We read about Paul in another text where he "Curses a man, blind!".   "Cursed be any man, or even Angel that preaches another gospel, again I say, cursed be him". I would assume that someone preaching another Gospel might be considered an enemy, didn't Jesus say, "bless them that curse you, pray for your enemies" so what in the world is Paul doing cursing people? Why is this man a celebrated Christian? Isn't he off track?  Isn't he misrepresenting Jesus? Or maybe Paul isn't not self-consciously trying to represent anybody and it is as he states himself, "it is no longer I that lives but Christ that lives in me". The modern day church doesn't know what to do with Paul? The church can't just dismiss him, after all he wrote three-quarters of the New Testament, but what does the emerging church do with the Apostle Paul?  If the Church says he was off track, we discount his Epistles, if the Church says, "he was right on the money" then our congregants might start behaving like him, would we want that?  Point is, the 21st Century Church is perplexed by this man. Paul had an edge to him, however, it was the same edge that Jesus had, can we accept that?  When Paul wrote, "it is no longer I that live, but Christ who lives in me" or better yet, "through me".  He meant it! So was he right in saying that? The Emergent Church has taken the aspects they like about Jesus and conveniently left out the rest. We package to the World a Jesus we feel is much more palatable, more acceptable, more marketable! We have given up on preaching to sinners, we have decided preaching is not the way, let's use marketing methods that work in the Corporate World to Market/Sell products and let's use that to Market Jesus. Thence, we portray or act out, to the world the Jesus we think should be shown to them, based on very limited scripture knowledge and a very limited relationship with him.  Paul certainly would not have fit the criteria for the Poster Boy for this marketing scheme. Paul wasn't PC [Politically Correct], but then again, neither was JC [Jesus Christ]. We are abnormally way to self-conscious about who we are as Christians.  Our relationship with Jesus should be as natural as breathing. We breath all day long without being self-conscious of it. We don't sit there and think, "did I breathe in to strong...did I ex-hale to much...will I have enough for the next breath?  Our relationship with Christ ought to be as natural as breathing, the moment we become conscious of our breathing is when we start having problems or there's a problem arising. People who are always self-conscious about what they should say or shouldn't say on how to portray Christ are missing it, there's something wrong with that. Paul wrote, "if I were trying to please man, I would not even be serving God".  However, that same man also wrote, "I will be all things to all men that I might save some".  Therefore, rather than think and analyze on how best to portray Christ why not rather saturate yourself with his word and get to know him better and then let Christ live through you as He wishes and don't restrain him.  The result will be days that the things you say will offend and cut and people will say, "that's not Jesus" [though it is] and there will be others days where your magnanimity, compassion and mercy will astound them.  Just let Jesus be himself, through you.  Either Paul was off track in cursing others or he was not. Jesus was not just looking the other way at Paul's actions, Jesus either approved or He did not. Paul knew, in him, both the fierceness, severity of God and both the compassion and mercy of God. Paul is trying to pass down to his disciple Timothy, who he is and what does he tell Timothy....."God has not given you a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of POWER".  We don't like the Jesus who flipped tables, shouted, took out a whip and told people, "you are of your father the Devil" and cursed nations like Chorazin and Bethsaida that rejected his salvation, Woe to you, or doom to you, basically translated "cursed be Chorazin and Bethsaida....".  The truth is Paul probably wouldn't fit in to most of the Churches in America today.  In the Church's eyes of  Modern Day Ecumenism and PC mantra, non-threatening, churches he would be asked to go somewhere else.  This isn't a license to be rude, insensitive and damning to our lost world and turning people away from Christ rather than towards him, but it is supposed to be thought provoking. It should prompt you to ask yourself if you self-consciously go out each day trying to portray a Jesus that you best feel the World will receive on a few choice scriptures you have read and limited understanding or if you are saturating yourself with his word, with Jesus and then simply letting Jesus live through you as naturally as breathing is to you. Some days that will make you the villain at work,with your unsaved family and religious community; and other days it will make you the most loved and respected person in the room, either way, it doesn't matter, let Christ be Christ, through you and don't fall prey to the mindset of the 21st Century Church that we must present and market, only one side of Jesus, otherwise they won't come. It is God, the Father that draws, calls and brings people to his Son. The Hollywood Jesus may draw crowds and enlarge churches, but how many is it really adding to Heaven? Only time and/or the Rapture will reveal the answer to that, in the meantime, let God be himself, in and through your life and let people make their own decisions and form their own opinions about you and the Jesus you represent, even as Paul wrote, "if I were concerned about what man says, I would not even be serving Him".

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

SEPTEMBER 13 "DIVORCE MY CHURCH!"

     EVER wonder, why...if the Bible is inspired by the Holy Spirit, that such confrontational talk would be penned for eternity in God's word. I would almost consider some of the paragraphs in 2 Corinthians to be for "private consumption" wouldn't you? Is this not the kind of drama we try to hide from new converts & new church members, in the church?  Don't we want people to only know about the bliss and wonderful experience of the Church? The Apostle Paul is really getting down in our text today! He is "calling them out"!  In essence he is saying, "hey I'm saved, why don't you check yourself! Unless you fail the test!"  Is this what the situation between Paul and the Corinthian Church has succumbed to?  Well, if that's the case you can never accuse God of trying to hide the imperfections of The Church. I think it is best that God doesn't hide the imperfections of the Church, for our own sake! We will all one day find ourselves in a church that is more problematic than we ever thought or imagined. God will eventually allow the dim, rose colored glasses to come off and allow us to see the church for what it is. He will say, "you who are now mature, help influence the church to be better".  The church down the street may always look like this perfect blissful place to serve God just like the marriage across the aisle is always the marriage that looks so intact and perfect, but neither are true! Christians who leave their church or spouse in search for the perfect marriage or perfect church.... and the result?  The result is that they find  themselves in and out of one relationship after another or in and out of one church after another. 
     After years of marriage you begin to see all the flaws in your spouse (that were there all along) and after years in a church and/or fellowship, you begin to see all the flaws in them too! The temptation then is to divorce in aspiration of finding the perfect spouse, marriage, church, perfect life we are thinking exists, somewhere...out there! Statistics prove that most who divorce find themselves in another problematic, relationship having to deal with the same issues and often end up divorcing again and most who leave their church often find themselves facing the same imperfections, if not worse, in another church and end up leaving that church too. You will find that Christians who divorce their spouses or churches find themselves spiritual nomads, wondering forever from one church to another, from one relationship to another, never finding a true home again. Joseph Smith found himself disillusioned with the Church of Jesus Christ and found himself in the backwoods of his home expressing his grief, complaints and criticisms of the church to God when a "supposed" angel by the name Moroni (probably incognito for Moron) appeared to Joseph and said, "you are correct, they are all imperfect and you are the man to start a new church", thence the Mormons.  However, I'm sure if you were to join a Mormon church (which I do not recommend) you would find the Mormon church makes the Corinthian church look quite innocent. The point is, we are setting ourselves up to be quite deluded and deceived when we come to God expressing our revelations to him that the church is "jacked up", if I may.  What are we wanting to hear back from God at that point? We know what Joseph Smith was wanting to hear, but what are you wanting to hear back from God? Are you wanting to hear from God that He did not know and thank-you for your enlightening him? God would say, "have you not read..."  Isn't that what Jesus always said..."have you not read?".  We are not going to enlighten God about the condition of our church or the Church in general. He is fully aware of the state of the Church, read the first few chapters of the book of Revelations.  God, has by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit allowed such passages as we read today to be penned in his word for our own sake.  Jesus' response is always, "you who are mature...."  God's response would not be, "I'm so enlightened, I did not know the state of your church, poor you, move on..." he would rather say, "you who are mature, make a difference, be a peacemaker, be an encourager, be one that edifies others and makes a difference".  Is your church imperfect?! Are the people in your church not all they could be for Christ? Then we who are mature are to be the difference makers. God has allowed very small room or excuse for us to abandon our spouses or churches. The standard for God is never divorce or abandonment, but rather to work it out.  
     Yes the language in Corinthians is hard and the situation is messy, but if not sooner than later, this will become our lot or our experience and we will have to be able to accept and deal with it and work through the issues that will arise in our churches and we that are mature will make a difference and we that our immature
     The good news is that statistics show that those that do not divorce their spouses or church, but press on through the tumultuous years, go on to experience strong and blessed marriages, relationships and go on to experience and be part of churches that are strong and tightly connected and often times become "breakout Churches" in their community.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

SEPTEMBER 12 "JEHOVAH WITNESS'S FAVORITE SCRIPTURE"

We read today, Jehovah Witnesses' favorite scripture. Now if you're not familiar with the Cult of Jehovah Witness or their false doctrines, this means nothing to you (although you will be familiar with them after today). Their favorite scripture they put on the front of the "Watch Tower" magazine is the one quoted from Isaiah, in our reading today. "The Lion lying down with the lamb and the child will play in the midst of them" (paraphrased by me). Don't you want that? That's what we believe! "Don't you want to be part of us?", they ask? The only problem is, Jehovah Witnesses believe only 144,000 will make it on the new earth? 144,000? And their prophets believe the 144,000 are already chosen, so what hope does that leave for us? It's too bad when a Cult takes a scripture and makes false claims about it, it can ruin it for the rest of us. We can become disenchanted towards that scripture because it becomes associated with false teachings. That's a shame because this prophecy today, by Isaiah, is one that we should read and re-read over and over again. This is our promise, this is our future and it's not just for 144,000 but for whoever receives Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior on this earth, before departing. The bible, in revelations declares to us an amount of people so numerous they cannot be counted. Hollywood makes millions creating movies that are classified as "fiction" where fantastic animals and supernatural beings are interacting with humans, we watch in awe in movies like Narnia, Lord of the Rings and we are fascinated, but these are movies classified as "fiction".  The bible classifies them as our future. Not just in Isaiah, but if you read Revelations, there are Glorious beings that will dwell amongst us. God has a fascinating place waiting for us, it's real and if there's one thing (and it's the only thing) the Jehovah Witnesses have right; that is that God will be bringing down a New Earth out of Heaven and it will be far beyond anything we have every scene on our T.V's and/or in movie theaters, and it will not be classified as "fiction" but it will be our reality!

Monday, September 11, 2017

SEPTEMBER 11 "A PROPHECY EVEN I CAN UNDERSTAND"

Sometimes it's easy to think these "prophet guys" are just rambling on about....who knows what? We have to get out a Matthew Henry Commentary just to find out what it is they're actually speaking/writing about. Well, in the midst of our reading today, in Isaiah, there's something even the simplest of us, can understand.You don't have to be a theologian to have read and understand that Isaiah is talking about Jesus. "Unto us a child is born and He shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace" and if you notice, a little before that text, Isaiah also mentions "Galilee, by the sea" this we know would be where Jesus would launch his ministry and we know "Micah the prophet"  prophesied the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem. It is hard to believe how many Jews today, and at that time, that failed to see the prophecies, through their own Jewish Prophets, that Jesus was truly the Messiah they had been waiting for, longing for!
It just goes to prove, if you don't want to see something, no matter how obvious the evidence and/or facts may be, you won't. How many heated arguments have you had with people who just failed to see the truth, whether that was about the Gospel or any other issue; you presented facts & evidence, but they, in their stubborn hearts, refused to see. The evidence is there, for all Jews to see, they, out of their religious pride and stubbornness hearts choose not to see it. The evidence of our changed lives, by Christ, is evident to all to see, especially our family and old friends, they just choose not to see it, because it's as obvious as our reading today. What we can learn today is that it is not the bible that's the problem, it's not our witness, that's the problem, the problem and/or issue, is the hearts of those on the receiving end. Until something changes in their hearts, your best, cleverly crafted arguments, will only fall on deaf ears and blind eyes. "Forever seeing, they will not see and forever hearing, they will not hear".

Sunday, September 10, 2017

SEPTEMBER 10 "DO YOU SEE WHAT I SEE?"

Isaiah is Definitely seeing things that we will never see, at least on this side of eternity.  I was encouraged to read that in God's presence Isaiah did see something that I can say, I also saw!  What is it that we both saw? We both saw that we are sinful men of  unclean lips among a sinful people. Not, often, but I have had a few opportunities, in the past few years, to speak in front of some rather large crowds (larger than I'm used to at least)  God's presence was there, words were given, a picture drawn before them (metaphorically speaking) and what was heard and what was seen?  To the surprise of many, .....not much.
I have been in the presence of much, much smaller crowds and yet have seen more eyes and ears opened. The Lord says, "they listen carefully, but do not understand, Watch closely, but learn nothing. Harden the hearts of these people.....they will not see with their eyes nor hear with their ears, nor understand with their hearts and turn to me for healing".  It's too bad, because that's exactly what is needed in this situation that has allowed me to speak to so many, ie:.healing.  Will there be healing as God would have it? Probably not! Why? Because they don't see what you see and don't hear what you hear.  What do you see when you are in God's presence? Do you see an interior that does not have aesthetics to your liking, do you hear singers that sing off key.  I was amazed to see so many people come into God's presence yet not see and not hear. However this is a good reminder to us, that the ability of the hearer to hear, and those present to see is never in the hands of the speaker. What happens to that individual once he or she gets in the presence of God is strictly between two principals and those two principals are: God and that individual!  Isaiah is simply the messenger and once Isaiah takes on more of a burden than that he has over stepped his duty for which he volunteered for and this will only lead to Isaiah's discouragement and/or self-deprecation. "In the year of Uzziah's death I saw the Lord'.  Isaiah needed to see The Lord at this juncture in his life, but could we say that Isaiah was the only one that needed to see the Lord? Obviously not, there were many that needed too and many that needed to even more so than Isaiah. However they saw nothing and God goes further to say, "they will continue to see nothing and hear nothing and will not receive comfort from me because their hearts are hardened, but give the message regardless. We as God's messengers must always deliver the message, even if we believe the response is going to be a pre-determined conclusion, so to speak.  Often we walk away and think, "why didn't I say that, if only I had done this, if I had preached harder, prayed more, done this, done that" as if somehow, we have in ourselves the capacity, if we do well enough or exert enough effort, to save a soul. Imagine the condemnation we would walk around with, thinking, "if I had done a better job, that person could have made heaven their home, but now they're going to hell because.....I'm not a good witnesser, I don't know enough scripture, I'm not good with people". I wonder how many Christians walk around with that yoke upon their necks? What do you see or what did you see many years ago or perhaps a few months or weeks ago, when you came into God's presence? I saw what Isaiah saw, that I was a man of unclean lips, a sinful man. I was in God's presence, in a Sanctuary, a man delivered a message, but what took place from that moment was solely between God and I.  What you see and what you hear in God's presence is solely a reflection of your heart. We know that the moon gets it's light from the reflection of the Sun's Light and we know now, that a person's countenance, response in God's presence, is merely a reflection that's coming off their heart, whether we see it, discern it or not, it is a reflection of the heart that's casting a shadow over what they have heard and saw.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

SEPTEMBER 9 "DON'T LOSE UR MIND"

     WE have often heard, "don't lose your Faith" but how about don't lose your mind!  Is your faith in your heart or is it in your mind? Good question isn't it?  In Romans we read, "for it is with the heart that you believe but with the mouth you confess". However, that being said, Paul, the same author of the book of Romans, here writes, "...your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ".  So while we may believe in our hearts, the battle will be waged in our minds. Yes we must guard our hearts with all diligence, for out of our hearts springs the issues of life.  However, I believe what is happening in our hearts eventually drips into our minds. Paul is saying that it is "our minds" that are led astray, not the heart. I have lost more friends who's minds have wandered more than anything else.  There is the occasion that someones heart just turns cold to God because of a tragedy that struck their life, but more and more I am finding that Christians are being led astray in their minds. In "their hearts" they would say they still believe in God, still believe in Salvation through Jesus but.....then comes the but......and after that you begin to hear all sorts of weird thoughts that are running around in their minds, they are losing the battle ground in a key place, the mind.  They have failed to put on their helmet of salvation taking every thought into the captivity of Jesus Christ.  As a Christian we must learn to live with and deal with a constant barrage of assaults that come through our thoughts.  Our problem is we give way to much credence to our thoughts, more so than we do to the Word of God or wise counsel. "I have thought this and thought it for quite some time therefore it must be true!", is the reasoning behind madness. We wait far to long to share these thoughts with others. Instead of sharing these thoughts with others from the onset, we wait until we cannot be talked out of them.  In the book of proverbs we read, "he who isolates himself seeks his own desires and rages against all sound judgment".  Well, a person who behaves in such a manner is a Christian who is losing the battle in the mind.  He is forming thoughts, conclusions and theologies that he does not want countered by anybody.  
     Normally the battle in the mind begins with an area in our life that we are refusing to submit to God. It begins with an area of disobedience in one area and then all of sudden everything starts to become quite convoluted and complex and we want now to try to think it clear, but it will not work. In the natural realm of life perhaps we can think a matter through but in the spiritual realm, we must obey it through. We will find that the moment we begin to obey the murky waters become clear once again. It can be a constant and wearisome task to keep the mind in tact, especially pertaining to matters of our Faith, our belief in God, Satan, The Church, The Salvation of the Saints and all these matters that really do go against the Eben flow of the society we live in and it does not take a large opening, but merely a small crack for the enemy to come in to our minds and begin to work his web of confusion.  As wearisome as it may be to constantly reign in our minds and judge thoughts, rather than allow them to run around lose and unchallenged....it is worth it in the end.  I have seen many people who's minds went before their bodies. They had a whole body but a very messed up mind, not able to function as a normal citizen. Perhaps the reason is that we can see the bad shape our body is in every morning in the mirror and immediately want to take action. The mind is concealed, it is not scene, except by the Word of God. The greatest mirror for the mind is The Word of God.  James in his epistles tell us that if we hear the word but don't do it, it is as a man who looks in the mirror, walks away and quickly forgets what he saw". Again, The Word of God is the mirror to ourr minds and when we read or sit under God's word but do not allow to work as that mirror, we become self-deceived, every thing starts to become convoluted and complex and we begin a slow deteriorating process of losing our minds.

Friday, September 8, 2017

SEPTEMBER 8 "DOES GOD NEED ANGER MANAGEMENT CLASSES?"

     IF you were hoping to find words of love, comfort and encouragement today in your One Year reading, you may want to look again...TOMORROW. You will not find much of that in today's reading.   If you were to have picked up the One Year Bible for the first time today, you would quickly put it down and think to yourself, "wow, this God sure is an angry and threatening God".   And of course in some people's unrealistic eyes, God should never be angry. The question is...."is God angry, does God need anger management classes?"  According to Isaiah, Jehovah is very ticked off.  Paul seems like an angry and frustrated man in the Corinthian Letter and again in Psalms God seems to be angry and threatening. What on earth is gong on here???
     You ever have days when anybody who crosses your path that day is going to feel your wrath?  Is it new wrath they are going to feel that day or is it anger that you have been storing up for some time? I have to admit some days I just wake up cranky  and vexed and those will be the days that I let people know what I think, especially my children. They will perceive that all of a sudden I have changed, what was permissible one day is now not permissible.  Well, it's not that it was ever permissible, it annoyed me and upset me the other day, the other week, the other month etc...etc...I just did not say anything at that point. In our text God eludes to the fact that he has been watching these people for some time and the anger and frustration has been brewing.  Our children will wonder, "what's wrong with mom, what's wrong with dad?" Well, nothing really, it's just mom and/or dad have had enough.
     Is God angry, of course He is, we would be trying to conceal the truth to admit otherwise. He's tired and vexed with their behavior. He has watched them do their religious duties and sacrifices for so long and now He is going to speak, although up until now He has kept silent.  "I cannot bear your evil assemblies, your new moon festivals and your appointed feasts my soul hates", says The Lord.  My kids always want me to be happy and pleasant and never to be harsh or stern, regardless of their attitudes or behavior. They want to live as they want, be disobedient, disrespectful, smart mouthed,  sinful and yet mom or dad should never get angry and of course, we as God's children treat God the same way.  We want to live disobedient lives and expect God to always be this a loving and smiley God.  And he is, to show anger towards another does not negate our love. Many people in "anger management classes have been set up, so to speak. It is the people around them that have driven them into that place. Yes they are angry, but for many valid reasons. It's like the wreck less driver who causes an accident, but yet drivers on totally oblivious to him the damage and wreck he has left behind him. I am not taking responsibility away from the individual to control himself, after all, "self control" is one of the fruits of the spirit we should possess, but that being said, some people to seriously drive us to be angry. Do we let it out everyday, do we let them have it every day...NO, but there will be those days that they will hear an earful. The bible says, "be angry and sin not".   Anger is unavoidable and depending on the people that surround us can often determine the amount of anger we have to deal with on a daily basis
     Today is God's day to let us have it.  Today, from O.T. to Psalms to N.T. we are reading about a God and a man (Paul) that are showing some signs of anger and in both cases it is people, that are the source of their anger. Paul is certainly not character flawed and obviously neither is God.  Neither of them needs "anger management classes" (as some might suggest) they just need people who claim to be God's children to behave accordingly so.  Nobody here is asking for perfection, just simple, common courtesies, Godly and ethical behavior is all that is being asked.  We as parents are not asking our children to be perfect, we are just asking for some common courtesies, some respect towards authority, towards those that could "wipe them out" (so to speak) and some obedience.  The irreverence to the very God that gives us air to breath, this contempt for parents who feed and clothe their children even before themselves is totally inexcusable and some days Parents will vent and some days God will vent. Allow God his day to vent, does he not have the right? Yes God is love and his love is demonstrated to us by allowing us to see how frustrated he is with humanity, but yet, his love is demonstrated towards us that he does not wipe us out as he once did.  His love is demonstrated towards us that he does not "kill us" in our sin and actually gives people like you and I a chance to repent, be forgiven and have eternal life. Yes God is angry, but it's anger in check, it's anger enveloped in a love that is constantly reaching out towards us and yet constantly being rejected and abused.  It's an anger that at the end of the day has a plea....and that plea is not, "I'm going to kill you" but rather "come now, let us reason together".   God no matter how anger is always wanting to reason and work things out. "Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow"...He is always wanting to forgive us and help us move on towards a blessed life. God's anger stems from the same anger we have towards our children. We have so much to offer, so much love to give them, but their attitudes and disobedience causes them to rob themselves of the blessing we are wanting to bestow on their lives and perhaps, this is the most frustrating part of all about being a parent and perhaps the most frustrating part of being God, ie: having so much to give, so much love to lavish but an inability to give because of the decisions of our children. Is anger a sin? No it is not, it is a natural, God given emotion that often times is very justified and warranted, God simply says, "be angry....and sin not".  The question today is not "Does God need anger management classes" or "why is God so angry" but rather "am I the source of  any of God's anger or frustration or anybody else's for that matter?"

Thursday, September 7, 2017

SEPTEMBER 7 "CHURCH AND MONEY DON'T MIX"

 WE'VE all met or heard of those people that "swear" they will never return to church because when they did visit, all the preacher talked about was money and giving.  "That's all the church wants, is your money," they cry out.  If we falsely look at the church as simply a religious institution that teaches nice religious platitudes to make us feel better about ourselves and teaches nice principles such as "The Golden Rule" then maybe money should be left out.  However, if the church is an institution whereby God chooses to work through to help his people, to prosper them, to give them a future and a hope, then money better be a subject and a re-occurring subject, at that, because money is one of the areas that people struggle in more than anything else.  Any survey will tell you that couples (inside & outside the church) fight mostly about money.  The #1 cause of divorce is Money, not infidelity.  We have money problems and the church is there not just to teach you religious practices but to help you in every way, according to the bible.  According to the bible, Money is an issue God wants to help us with.  According to God's word Money is an area God wants us to do better in and fight less about. In our text Paul is laying down some physical and spiritual principles concerning money.  The law of sowing and reaping (a law that many would expect to be taught in church) is not just a law that applies with wrong or good doing, but a law that also applies to money. In proverbs we read, "there is one that withholds more than he ought and it tends to lead to poverty and there is one who scatters yet increases, the liberal soul shall be made rich".  Paul follows up with this principle by writing, "whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly and whoever sows generously will also reap generously".  If God is a God that wants to help us prosper in all ways, than we'd better be hearing about money in church and the individual who is offended by talk about money in church is either ignorant or is not right in the area of mammon.  The person who is offended by a sermon on morality would be the individual who is immoral, to the others in the congregation is was just a good sermon on truth, to the one offended, it was an indictment against his/her life. The person who is offended by talk on money in the church is the person who most needs to hear and be preached to about money.  He will either return and allow the truth to shed light on the darkness or he will not return in case his inner thoughts are exposed once again. Question is, do you get aggravated when preachers preach on money and giving? Do you think matters pertaining to money should be left outside of the church and we should spend more time hearing about doing good deeds and loving our neighbors and the Golden rule and all sorts of other religious platitudes that we nod, "yes and amen" but never follow unless we are having an extremely good day.
     Not only is giving to the church spiritual and worthy of mention from behind the pulpit, but Paul goes further to say that it is even a ministry. Paul writes, "this service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of God's people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God".  Imagine, people are growing in faith and praising God (not men) because another person is giving somewhere else. Money is not flowing down from heaven but flowing through people into the hands of other people and in turn, God gets the glory.  Paul goes on to write, "Because of the service by which you have proved yourself, men will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ, and for your generosity in sharing with them and with everyone else".  Paul clearly states that "The Gospel" is very much associated with our monetarial giving towards the needs in The Church. Paul commends them for their obedience to God in giving.  In other words it is God who releases the resources and it is God who then challenges us to give of those resources and in so doing he causes us to prosper even more so than before we gave. Think money talk and the church don't fit together, THINK AGAIN!