Tuesday, October 4, 2022

OCTOBER 4 “SO MUCH FOR THE IDEA WE CREATED GOD”

Ever hear that argument from atheists, "I believe human beings are really creative and invented God to help them through tough times and un-explainable events". Well, if human beings created God to help them, why does history show that human beings want nothing to do with who they (according to atheists..) created? The atheist says "we created God for us, to help us believe, but history has shown that humans want nothing to do with God? So which is it? In our text today in Jeremiah we read, "why do my people say, at least we are free from God, we don't need him anymore". Atheists embrace many fallacies and one of them is that they are living in a Christian World and they are the rugged few that reject God , so they come up with ridiculous theories that "we" created this notion of God because that's what we wanted. If that's the case, then when Pontius Pilate offered humans and option to release Barabbas, the loathe some murderer, or Jesus, why did they choose for Barabbas to be released and Jesus to be executed? And the answer to that is man has not wanted God and it makes no sense that God was our idea. We think today and only today our society has gone secular, but the bible (and history in case you are atheist and don't believe in the bible) shows us man has always wanted to be free from the restraints of God. The only difference between a worldly (secular) citizen and an atheist is that the secular citizens lives his life in defiance of God, while believing in Him and the atheist dismisses God so they too can live in defiance of God, but not have to feel guilty or fear death, because they have dismissed God's existence. In the end, the secular citizen and the atheist are the same, in that each of them must wake up each day and suppress the truth, ie: that there is a God and one day they will answer to Him. The Christian is simply the atheist or secular citizen that finally decides just to submit his/her rebellious will to God, do right and then stop suppressing what they have always known....and what is that you ask? That there is a God and that they have been in rebellion, set on their own course to do their own will, as Frank Sinatra so boldly proclaimed in his hit song, that the world applauded, "I did it may way!" You can do it "your way" but then have the guts to face up to the consequences rather than fabricate the "true lie" that there is no God. If there's anything we can say man has invented, it's not the notion of God that man has invented, it's the notion that "there is no God" that man has invented and to that God responds in Psalm 14:1 "the fool has said in his heart, there is no God". Why don't you share this with your atheist acquaintances or compadres!

Monday, October 3, 2022

OCTOBER 3 "CONFLICT BETWEEN TWO WOMEN"

   Many Christians are "fruitless or spiritually childless". They've never lead anyone to Christ, normally don't engage in that arena of evangelism, they just come to Church on Sundays and lead a decent, Christian, moral life. They have never really dealt with the heartache of investing in someone that turns on you or walks away, back into their life of sin and destruction, but neither do they know the "joy" of fruit, the joy of being used by God to see another life transformed, right before your eyes; and make Heaven their home. Paul writes, "friends, for you are my joy and the crown I receive for my work".  If you have ever labored in this area you will find how true this statement is. As much as I've been hurt, I must also say, that many, many good relationships, that became a great blessing to me, were from fruit that I labored for. My joy, when nothing else is going right, is in them and they are the crown for all my work too!  How about you? That being said, nothing hurts us more than watching 2 people we love, devour each other. The fact is two Christians, that each love God can still have severe disagreements and conflict.Paul knows both these sisters personally. Each of these women, Euodia and Syntyche, are Paul's fruit, have become his friends and have each been a blessing to him and a help in his ministry. Paul sees the good in Eudia and he sees the good in Syntyche. Paul does not take sides, he doesn't try to point out who's wrong and who's right, because chances are, neither is right or wrong, it's just a conflict of opinion, misunderstanding or gossip. Paul's desire is that they would just resolve their conflict and that those in the church would somehow help. It grieves us to see the people we love fight with each other especially when we can see the good in each of them, if only they would see what we see. Church members are constantly getting in petty fights and arguments, trying to turn the Pastor or other Church members against the one they are in conflict with. The problem is, we, like Paul, looking from the outside in, see both, as good Christians and we wonder why they so dislike each other.  Paul writes, these are both good sisters who have labored with me and whose names are written in The Book of Life, if only they would see that....Who are you fighting with, who are you in conflict with? Do you see that sister, that individual with horns on her head, do you see her as an enemy, arch-rival, is she a "she-devil?" The problem is we don't see her like that and we don't see you like that. And even more important, neither does Jesus. It grieves us when our children fight; as we love them both and see the qualities in each of them and we wish they would only see that themselves and stop fighting. We grieve God when we fight, we grieve God when we slander one of his daughters that He loves so much. We make our conflicts personnel and begin to slander and question other people's salvation, their motives and their heart and we cross the line. We grieve God and we grieve the Church that watches, discouragingly at two sisters who simply cannot get along, and love each other, when we see the good in both of them.  We never find out if these two sisters, in our text, reconcile or if they just continue to fight and grieve God and grieve their Church or if one of them ends up leaving the Church to go to another, as tragic as that would be. I can get up Sunday mornings and leave for Church with so much excitement and enthusiasm for the day and leave Church on Sundays depressed and discouraged because there was fighting amongst two sisters, two brothers or a brother and sister. This is not what I went to Church for, do they not realize that, do they not care that their fighting brings everyone down with them? They are so consumed by their hatred or animosity that it just rides right over and crushes the Holy Spirit who is standing in their way, saying "stop, stop, you're destroying everything I'm trying to do". I hope these two sisters reconciled and I hope so do you because it really does grieve God and your Church, that you say you love so much, be reconciled with each other, stop fighting, settle your disagreements! "Don't tell me what to do!", you say.  Well I'm not, read God's word, He's telling you, not me, will you listen to Him?

Sunday, October 2, 2022

OCTOBER 2 "WHAT DO YOU BASE YOUR SUCCESS ON?"

   What do you base your success on? We all, secretly in our minds, base our success on something, whether we will admit it, to anybody, or jut keep it to ourselves. "I know, the secret of my success".  Others are not so closed about "the secret of their success" because they don't think "their secret" is conceited. One Pastor accredits the secret of his success to his Tuesday Night prayer meetings. "That's the key, right there!". We listen and we think, "makes sense, prayer, of course prayer is the key, let's implement Tuesday night prayer meetings in our Church". However, this Church finds no success in these Tuesday night prayer meetings, they can't pay or offer enough food, to gather any kind of substantial crowd to participate in these Tuesday night prayer meetings, another Church is able to rally good support for the meetings, but a year or two down the road, they cannot say that they have seen any difference. The church who bases the secret of their success on Tuesday night prayer meetings went from 30 people to 3000 people, other churches that have tried the "secret recipe" for success have gone from 30, to .....31, back down to 20, back up to 25, etc...etc....

No, that's not the secret, then we hear of how one Church began to do street meetings every Friday night and saw their Church go from 35 to 250 people. " I'll tell you what the secret was brother, we started doing these street meetings....".  And so what do we do, we start Friday night street meetings. The results....a church member gets in a fight with a heckler and five people leave the Church.  Net gain, - 5 from Street Meetings. Paul lists all his credentials and boy does he have some credentials but yet attributes none of these to his success. "I count them all as dung...".  It would have been so easy for Paul to think, all that knowledge I have, all that training, surely that's why I have the success I have, I know that none of those fishermen disciples had much of a formal education. That's why God is using me more, but how could I ever express that? I will keep it to myself, but I know...."  Or Paul could have thought it was because he was "a Hebrew of Hebrews, of the best stock, of the tribes of Israel, it must be, that somehow that is linked to my success, wow, it's a good thing I came from good stock".  We all do this, we all want to figure out "the reason for success" we all want to be able to "figure out the why".  However Paul does not allow himself to be lured into this thought of mind that can only lead to false conclusions and assessments. Paul never gave in to the temptation to write a book on "the five keys to successful missions work".  What do you attribute your success to? Is it because you have such a great heart for God and He sees that or is it because you pray so much and He hears that, is it because you labor so hard and He sees that? Are you tempted to write a book on the "secrets of your success?". 
The moment you think you have found the key, the moment you voice to others "what the key is" to your success, don't be surprised if the success begins to diminish from that point on. Can it be "that there is no key", can it be that your success, Paul's success, any Church's or Christians's success has nothing to do, particularly, with any "specifics" but rather it is simply God's Grace upon that Church, God's Grace upon that Christian, God's Grace upon that ministry and of course the temptation then is to ask, "but why is God's Grace upon that Christian, why is God's Grace upon..." And I recommend YOU DON'T. We human beings, are hopelessly pre-occupied with wanting to figure everything out, figure out every "why"; make a formula, package it and sell it. And perhaps in some ways, God has put that in us; and in the physical realm, it may work well, but in the spiritual realm, we are out of our league and when we try to apply some kind of theorem to the things of God; we insult God, grieve the Holy Spirit and often put a wet blanket upon the fire that God was breathing. Next time you are tempted to figure out "the why" and how, suffice it to say, it is simply God's Grace and more of it I need, that's all I need to know, the rest I leave up to God.

Saturday, October 1, 2022

OCTOBER 1 "CHURCH & CHRISTIAN BASHING"

        I AM appalled too at the lack of support within the church.  Verse 5, "I looked, but there was no one to help, I was appalled that no one gave support". Often in the church this is the case, you look for support in a Godly endeavor and are surprised when nobody signs up or shows up.  It is always interesting to watch a young zealot announce his event, outreach, activity and only to find out that not so many shared his enthusiasm.  There is a book that is a good read, it is called, "What happens to the other 80%" and this is speaking about the 80% of the church, obviously the majority, that finds itself totally un-involved in the affairs and functions of the church.  Yes I am appalled too and so is every layman, Pastor and disciple that is trying to do his best. However, we must also be careful against the enemy's strategy to disparage us against "The Church".  What I am noticing of late, is a trend of Church and Christian bashing, that is coming not from the outside world, but from within the church.  We are beginning to turn on ourselves and as I'm sure we all know, "no kingdom divided against itself will stand".  Christian books, sermons and conferences today, seem to spend a whole lot of time criticizing and bashing the Church. We know the Church is flawed, it has always been flawed and wills always be until Jesus' return. Church bashing other churches and Christians bashing other Christians is not going to advance God's Kingdom nor is it going to be a remedy to a flawed church and what good are we going to get out of it.  The rhetoric today is, "the church is apathetic, the church is lukewarm, Christians are carnal, Christians are not rising up, Christians aren't doing anything, we're cowards, we're not the father's we should be, we're not the mother's we should be, and we could go on and on...and we do, but I believe the enemy will exploit this to our demise.

     If we behaved like this in our marriages we would ALL be divorced and if not divorced we would have miserable marriages.  IN a marriage you have to de-focus from the negatives and focus on the positives in your spouse, otherwise......
     Surely Christians, surely the Church is doing something right? This is a rhetorical question because I know we are! There is some tremendous Christians out there, raising Godly children and being a the "salt of the earth" and a great testimony in their community and there is some tremendous churches out there doing their best to be "the Light on The Hill".  We still have couples "forsaking all" to be missionaries, we still have Children rising up and taking the mantle to the next level, we still have ministries forming, souls getting saved and lives being changed. Christians are impacting the radio, the media, the movies and are writing top selling books and novels. Christians are rising up in politics, speaking out in town hall meetings and making progress.
     Could the church be doing more, of course.  Could the balance in the church be a little better than 80/20, could be much better (after all, where are the other 80% and what are they doing?), but if we choose to turn on each other and get into this trend of Christians bashing Christians than what good can come out of that? We already have the world against us, we already have the Prince of this World against us, the media against us, often the government against us...are we now going to turn on each other too?  And if we bash other Christians that can only lead to one conclusion and that is that we are saying, "we are better". And it seems that every church and every Christian seems to think they are better than the one next door or down the street.  Could it be that neither is better?  Could it be that each church and each Christian has their flaws and their positives? Could it be that we are all flawed vessels but yet God chooses to work through us. Not just through one church or one group of Christians but God chooses to work through all of us collectively.
     Remember when the disciples were with Jesus and they saw "another" group of disciples that were not part of their group, and what did they say?"  If only they had said, "Praise God Lord, look, other men doing a work for our Heavenly Father and advancing his Kingdom on the Earth" However they did not say that! What did they say..."Lord, look at those men over there, what do they think they're doing, do you want us to go over there and stop them!"  And of course Jesus said, "no! leave them alone, for he that is not against us is with us".  We must never forget those words!  We are standing around bashing those that are on our side simply trying to do a work for God and we, like the disciples, are prejudiced against any other group, than ours, that is trying to do something for God. God is much bigger than our little organization, our little church and our little group. God is doing a work in the earth and he is using various churches, various denominations, various Pastors and Leaders and various countries to do it and it's time to put aside our prejudices and stop bashing each other, "for he that is not against us, is with us". There is a whole harvest of souls out there to be reaped, let's not waste our time criticizing the methods of the church or the christian next door or down the street and focus rather on the person down the street or next door, that does not know, nor has ever experienced, the Saving Love and Grace, of Jesus Christ.  And ALL God's people said....AMEN!

Friday, September 30, 2022

SEPTEMBER 30 "POURING OUT YOUR LIFE FOR CHRIST"

       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!"

Thursday, September 29, 2022

SEPTEMBER 29 "GOD'S SILENCE DRIVE U 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!

Wednesday, September 28, 2022

SEPTEMBER 28 "EVER FORGET TO PUT ON YOUR 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!