Wednesday, December 30, 2009

God knows where you are!

Do you ever wonder if you're completely alone? Do you ever feel as if your prayers are either bouncing off the ceiling or, have gotten lost somehow in the vast space between you and the throne of God? Worse yet, do you ever feel that God is either, ignoring you, angry at you, or making fun of you? Don't worry, you're not alone.
First of all, How did Job feel when he'd lost his wealth, his health, and his children? His "friends" in his face pointing a religious finger at him probably made him feel worse! It's easy for us to read Job's responses as if he were standing up and shouting his attempts to protect himself. Personally, I don't believe that. I believe that the correct picture of this event would be different. His friends were the ones raising their voices at him. I think Job's posture was a man sitting on the ground. He was broken and hurting. He had tried over and over to understand any wrongdoing on his part that could've led to the events he was suffering through. His voice, I believe was barely above a whisper, with his head hung down and tears running down his face. Yet, eventually, God showed up!
How did David feel when the king had turned against him and tried to kill him? All David had wanted was to be a blessing to God's people. Why was the king that he loved, and some of his followers, trying to kill him? Yet, it was in these times that God used him to write some of the Psalms that we know and love! Yes, God did show up- time after time.
How did Paul and Silas feel when they were in a cold and nasty jail? All they'd done was preach the word of God. For this, they were beaten, whipped, and put in chains? Did they wonder if it was worth it? Did they think about quitting. After all, wouldn't life be easier if they just went with the flow of human thought, in stead of following God. To the world, God's word is foolishness! They must've been severely tempted to give up. I don't believe that their singing began as a bold step of faith. I believe that their singing began as a personal cry- almost like a small child who's been injured cries out to get their parents attention! I think they began singing praises to God because they were at the end of their rope. There was nothing else that they could do. But when their heartfelt desperation reached out, it touched the God who was looking for that certain sound.
What sound? The sound of a child who truly realizes that they can't do it. The sound that cries out- "Daddy, help me"! If you think about it, that's the common thread of all the miracles in scripture. When the people that God loved put down their pride, their ways of doing things, their ideas, and simply said, "God, I can't handle this, I need you to handle this"! At that point, that's when God swoops in to save the day!
Why does God wait? Does he not love us? Does he enjoy seeing us suffer? NO, NO, a thousand times NO! However, because he loves us and knows whats best for us, he allows us to go through the pain.
Did you ever look closely at the story where Peter walked on the water? There were these big, burly fishermen talking about the amazing miracles they'd seen that day. No doubt, they were really confused when Jesus sent them and the crowds away. Hadn't the crowds wanted to take Jesus to Jerusalem and crown him king? The disciples knew that Jesus was the Messiah. Wasn't the Messiah supposed to be the king that would free the Jews? Why would he do that? They got so lost in conversation that they were in the grips of a terrible storm before they knew what hit them! I think that they were praying- hard! When Jesus came walking on the water, they were surprised.
Jesus was (and is) God in the flesh! He knew the storm was coming before they were ever on the boat. He knew where they were before the storm and he knew where they were in the storm. Why did he allow it? Look at the results. The biggest miracle here was not Peter's walking on water, nor was it Jesus preventing his drowning and walking him back to the ship. It wasn't even the ceasing of the storm when they got back in the boat. The true miracle was when the faith of these men, and the love they held for Jesus, was built up, and they found themselves on their faces- worshipping the one true God in flesh and giving him their all!
God allows us to suffer in order that we may learn: a) We cannot do everything and we are not the masters of our own destiny, and b) That the all-powerful, all-knowing God of the universe truly IS in control, truly DOES love us, and we truly CAN and MUST trust him with it all.
Just something to think about!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Biblical discrepencies!

A good friend of mine, Gregg Stone, has a wonderful newsletter he calls "the Preacher's page". I greatly enjoy it and look forward to receiving each one. The messages are always very timely and true. Below, you will find a quote from the latest one that really got me to thinking.

"In 1631 an English Bible printer forgot the NOT in one of the Ten Commandments. Here's how his mistake in Exodus 20:14 read: "Thou shalt commit adultery." Because of this colossal goof, the edition became known as The Wicked Bible, and the printer had to pay a large fine.

 

 

An edition of the Bible printed at Cambridge , England in 1653 contained the following printer's error: "know ye not that the unrighteous shall inherit the kingdom of God?" (1 Corinthians 6:9)."

 

As you can see, leaving a small word out of the text- not- makes a HUGE difference in the meaning of a verse.

We live in a day and an hour that, in an effort to "make the word of God more understandable", keeps printing newer and newer versions of the "word of God". In principle, I have no problem with the idea itself. If someone were to go back to the KJV (King James Version) and go through the Greek manuscripts that those translators used, then a truly more understandable version could be brought out- without changing the word of God.

For example,1 Peter 3:1-2 states, "Likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands; that, if any obey not the word, they also may without the word be won by the CONVERSATION of the wives; while they behold your chaste CONVERSATION coupled with fear." In our current culture, the word "conversation" generally means to be in a good talk with someone. Therefore, many think that, in this scripture, the husbands will be reached by what the wife says to her husband. How many men, no offence to the women that are truly trying to reach their husbands, grow weary of their wives "preaching at them"?

In truth, however, the word Conversation comes from the Greek word "anastrophe", which means "behavior". It really is by how his wife acts AND talks that the unregenerate husband is won over- not simply by what she says. To put it bluntly, a wife can preach at her husband all day long, but if the husband sees no love of God in her actions and hears no love of God in her voice and attitude, then she's wasting her words.

If someone were to come out with a version of the Bible that said, in 1 Peter 3:1-2, "Be Christlike, wives, and be in submission to your own husbands; that way, if any husband does not obey the word of God, they may, without your trying to pound them with the word of God, be won to God by the Godly lifestyles that they see displayed by their wives; because they see the pure lifestyle coupled with the fear of God.", I'd have no problem with that.

That having been said, however, the truth is that the "modern translations" are not translations at all! They are transliterations. Instead of going word for word, as the KJV translators did, and translating the word into the (at that time) modern equivalent to that word for people to be able to understand it, they've reworded the word of God in such a way as to make the word of God ineffective.

Here's one example. John 3:13 is one of my favorite verses. It reads, "And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the son of man which is in heaven." In this one verse, Jesus was revealing to Nicodemus that, although he was speaking with Jesus face to face, Jesus was also in heaven at the same time he was speaking to him. In other words, he was telling Nicodemus that even though all he saw was a man, Nicodemus was actually talking to the very real God of the universe.

The New Living Translation says, "No one has ever gone to heaven and returned. But the son of Man has come down from heaven".

The Message Bible says, "No one has ever gone up into the presence of God, except the one who came down from that presence, the son of man."

The New American Standard says, "No one has ascended into heaven, but he who descended from heaven: the son of man."

The NIV says, "No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven- the son of man."

Can we not see the changes that they've made? Can we not see that they all leave the phrase "which is in heaven" completely off? Do we not understand the damage that they have done to the true meaning of the word of God?

John 3:16 says, "For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish but have everlasting life."

There is much in this verse, but we will focus on this one part. If a person believes, they SHOULD not perish. It does not say SHALL not. It is not a guarantee or a blank check. By believing in a biblical way, we have the option to follow Jesus and let him live through us. If we stay in that relationship with him we will make it to heaven. If, however, we choose to leave that relationship, we will NOT make heaven. That's why it says SHOULD, not SHALL.

When a couple gets married, they've made a commitment and are joined together in the eyes of God and man. If, however, one of them decides to leave the other and go off with someone else, they break the covenant. The marriage, in most circumstances, is over (and biblically could be). If we leave our covenant relationship with Jesus, we break the marriage and unless we go back in real repentance and pray back through, we will (in the words of a good friend of mine) bust hell wide open!

Now, what do the other mistranslations say?

The NIV says, "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son, that whoever believes in him SHALL not perish but have eternal life."

The NAS says, "For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, that whoever believes in him SHALL not perish but have eternal life."

The Message says, "This is how much God loved the world: he gave his son, his one and only son. And this is why, so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. God didn't go through all the trouble of sending his son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again. Anyone who trusts in him IS ACQUITTED; anyone who refuses to trust him has long since been under the sentence without knowing it. And why? Because of that persons failure to believe in the one of a kind son of God when introduced to him."

The NLT says, "For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only son, so that everyone who believes in him WILL not perish but have eternal life."

In short NO TRUE BELIEVER should ever use the modern translations. It's that simple. They are not the whole word of God. A little bit of leaven leavens the whole loaf. A little lie written and passed off as the word of God makes the true word of God in the rest of the book to have no effect. Stick with the KJV and a good Strong's concordance. For now, anything else, is not the word of God!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Grace alone? What is grace anyway?

"For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them." Ephesian 2:8-10

There is a belief in the "Christian community" that says that we are saved by grace alone through faith alone. The reasoning comes from the above stated scripture. They say that if we are saved by grace through faith, then we can add nothing to that and play no part in the salvational process. Of course, the actual ending of their argument is ignored. If we have absolutely nothing to do with the process of our salvation, then nothing is required of us- everybody is saved already!

The real crux of the matter is this, however: What is grace? When asked this question the vast majority will respond that grace is "God's unmerited favor". Is that the true definition? Greek word for grace means, "the divine influence on the heart, and it's reflection in the life, including gratitude".

Does this mean "unmerited favor"? No. God is a gentleman and does not force his will upon anyone's life. Indeed, the scriptures declare that "it is not God's will that any should perish...", yet we know from scripture that the majority of people will go to hell. So what does the definition of Grace really mean?

First, it says that grace is "the divine influence on the heart". Jesus said that no man can come to him except the spirit first draws them. God sees us in our fallen state. He sees all of our sins that keep us separate from him. Yet, he loves us anyway! Thanks to his sacrifice on calvary, the door is wide open for us to be in relationship with him! He loves us so much that he begins to try and draw us out of the world and into his will for our lives. No one comes to God on their own, God drew them out. He whispers his love for us in the little things in our lives. He reaches into our hidden desires and dreams and tries to open our eyes to new possibilities. He taps us on the shoulder while we're trapped in prisons of our own making, and tells us that he loves us and is willing to set us free!

Yet, the definition of Grace does not stop there. It goes on to say that God's influence must be "reflected" in our lives. If Grace is the "unmerited favor of God" and we are saved by grace alone, then there is nothing else required of us. But, since grace is a process that begins with God influencing us, but that influence also has to be reflected in our lives, then we DO play a part in our salvation. Salvation then becomes a choice. It is up to us as to whether we are willing to accept that divine influence and allow him to work in our lives! If we do, then his influence will be reflected in our lives for the whole world to see.

For the record, "Unmerited favor" or, put another way, "favor from God that we do not deserve", is MERCY, not grace. Grace is a partnership between us and God. It is God working in our life and our submission and obedience to his will for us. His mercy caused him to go to calvary to pay for our sins. His grace gives us access to the blood that he shed. Mercy opens the door for the divine partnership of grace!

This is why, on the day of Pentecost, on the birthday of the church, the Apostles did not tell the multitudes that all they had to do was "believe in Jesus" and their sins would be forgiven. No, when the crowd asked "what shall we do?", the answer was "Repent, be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of our sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost." (Acts 2:38)

What does the divine partnership of grace have to do with Acts 2:38?

First of all, noone would even ask the question "What shall I do to be saved", unless God had influenced their heart and convicted them of their sins- drawing them with his love to the possibility of a right relationship with God.

Next, they (and we) were told that we must repent. What is repentance? It is a spiritual ACTION on our part. It is our first response to the call of God in our lives. We see ourselves as sinners. We see the cross and all that Jesus did to pay for OUR sins. It is an emotional and spiritual response. It is a letting go of our own will and excepting and submitting to the will of God. It is, in short, a complete turning from our sinful ways and turning to God in COMPLETE surrender. This is part of our portion of the divine partnership of grace.

Further, they (and we) are told to "be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission (washing away) of your sins." Again, the partnership of grace is displayed. We submit to him in baptism and repentance, he does his part by applying the blood to our lives and washing away our sins.

Finally, they (and we) were told that we would "receive the gift of the Holy Ghost". Again grace is displayed. We submit to God and open our hearts to him, he infills us with his spirit.

One more thought. The proponents of the false "grace alone" theory point to John 3:16 as the plan of salvation. They say that "whosoever" believeth in him WILL not (actually says SHOULD not- it's not a guarantee!) perish but WILL have everlasting life. The Greek for Believeth here means "to have faith...to entrust ones spiritual well being to Christ." However, in John 2:23-25, a group of people "believe on Jesus" (same Greek word for believe). We are told that Jesus did not commit himself to them! Newsflash! If Jesus doesn't commit himself to you, you're NOT saved! Yet, in John 3:16, we're told we must believe and these people in John 2 did- but they were not saved. What are we missing here? Is this a contradiction? No.

John 3:3-5 says that we must be born again of the water and of the spirit. Look again at Acts 2:38. We must Repent of our sins, be baptized in Jesus name (born of the water) and receive the Holy Ghost (born of the spirit).

His mercy opens the door for his grace. His grace is a partnership with him that allows him to work in our lives and clean us up. It is a process that is activated and freely given at our biblical new birth (Acts 2:38) and continues, if we allow it, until we die. Grace is a lifetime commitment, not a one time event. God bless you all.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The refiners fire!

"But who may abide the day of his coming? and who shall stand when he appeareth? for he is like refiners fire, and like fullers soap: And he shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver: and he shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the Lord an offering of righteousness." Malachi 3: 2-3

Much has been said about God purifying us as individuals with his "refiners fire", to get out the sinful "dross" (the impure particles in Gold and Silver that rise to the top of their liquid forms- to be scooped out by the refiner) from our lives and hearts. Today, we're going to look at his refining fire from a corporate standpoint.

The last thing Jesus told his church before leaving earth was: "Go ye therefore..." Mat. 28:18 After waiting to recieve his Spirit on the day of Pentecost, revival broke out! On the birthday of the church 3,120 souls were born again. What a great day. Many more were brought into the kingdom through Gods plan of salvation (Acts 2:38) over the coming weeks and months. Along the way, something happened.

Instead of going into the uttermost parts of the earth, they pretty much stayed in Jerusalem, Judea, and Samaria. What happened? Revival slowed. God's people got "comfortable". Life started to become a routine. So, our Lord stoked his fire a little and allowed Herod to kill the Apostle James. He also allowed Peter to be taken captive.

That fast, the people hit their faces in prayer for their leader. Soon, Peter was free, Herod was dead, and life settled down again. Once more, God's people grew complacent. So, Jesus stoked the fires again.

A great persecutor, named Saul rose up, killing and torturing Christian men, women, and children by the thousands. As a result of this persecution, God's people finally began going to the "uttermost parts of the earth"- fleeing for their lives. The results were magnificent. Wherever God's people found themselves, revival broke out and untold numbers were born again into the family of God. After much prayer,the persecutor of God's people, was struck down and born again. Saul the killer, became Paul the apostle. Again, the church new peace.

Down through the years, the same pattern has been seen time and time again. The church gets complacent and comfortable. God allows an enemy to rise up to "lite a fire under his people". Then, after repentance, revival breaks out in the midst of persecution.

It happened under Nero. It happened in the middle ages, under the Iron fists of "the Holy Roman Empire" and the Catholic church. It happened in Europe and England during "The Great Awakening". It's happened here in the USA and is happening now in dictatorial regimes like China and the Muslim controlled countries. Millions are being born again, in spite of the absolute risk to their own lives!

We, as American Christians, seem to think that we're immune to this refining process- that somehow, we're special here in the USA. God would never allow those things to happen to us, right?

Many of us are looking around us and wondering what in the world is going on. Our elected leaders, by and large, are the most immoral and ungodly group we've ever had. Our country seems to be teetering on the brink of total collapse into socialism (which always brings oppression) and communism (which brings death to many).

The state of our churches is becoming even worse! Some churches are even openly advocating gay marriage, gay clergy, abortion, assisted suicide, Marxism, and ecumenical beliefs. After all,we're all just spokes on a wheel, trying to get to God in our own ways, right?

In the midst of all of this, God's true people have been praying for revival. The reason things are like they are is because God has, once again, lit his refiners fire. He will boil the impurities out of us and light a fire that will never be quenched! We will have revival.

But revival comes with a price. Many will be arrested. Some will die. To speak the name of Jesus in public will become criminal. We will, at some point, have to go underground. Just as they did in Rome, during Nero, and as they are doing now in China and the middle east. Through it all, though, God is accomplishing 2 things. 1) He's purifying his bride and preparing us for the trip home, and 2)He's bringing more and more people into the kingdom.

We've been praying for revival. It's almost here. I pray we're ready!



Saturday, September 26, 2009

Just let them grow up! (by our daughter- Heather)

A green-eyed towhead girl sat on the kitchen floor banging spoons together. Mom was standing at the stove stirring a pot of stew for dinner that night.
The phone rings.

“Lucy” mom said, “ I have to step out and answer the phone. Don’t touch the stove it is very hot and you will get burned.”

Like every kid Lucy’s curiosity got the best of her.
She toddled her way over to the stove and reached up her tiny hand. She soon found out what hot meant.
As she let out a cry mom was soon their pulling Lucy into her arms.

“It’s okay sweetheart” mommy crooned, “I am here and I will help to make it feel all better.”

Yes the mom could have taken Lucy with her but how would Lucy have ever learned what hot meant. You see we can shelter someone so much that we never let them grow up. Sometime the best thing to do is let them learn and when they hurt we can always be there for them to wipe the tears away. A part of hurting is a part of growing. It comes one way or another. The thing is to let them know that you are always there for them and you love them.

God is that way. He lets us grow and find out for ourselves what life is all about. Just like the mom in this story he is there to pick us up when we fall and He forgives us.

So just a thought, maybe letting go is the best thing that we could ever do. We might just be surprised at the outcome.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

A true Friend

"There is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother." Proverbs 18:24

I had started to write on another subject, a truthful subject, one that would correct some misinterpretations of scripture. That subject will wait. Today, Jesus has other ideas.

Today, we received a phone call- a desperate plea for prayer. It seems that a good friends uncle was working on the roof of his home and had an accident. One minute he was hammering on the roof and the next minute he was falling off of said roof. The house is a two story home. Worse still, on the side he fell off of, there is a drop off of the ground that adds up to yet another story. One minute he's fixing his home for his family and the next he's rapidly falling three stories- only to be suddenly stopped by a very hard landing at the bottom.

If ever I've heard an almost certian recipe for disaster, this was it. We, immediately, and with a spark of hope in our creator, began to pray. We felt as if we touched the throne of God in that prayer. What made this prayer all the more important was that the man in question had been raised in church, but had fallen away from his fellowship with God's people and with his God. He was in desperate need of physical and spiritual help!

The next word we received was that he was being life flighted to a nearby trauma center. This meant that his injuries were likely both serious and life threatening. We prayed and trusted God.
He alone knows our goings and comings. We know that Jesus is a friend that sticks closer than any brother. It's all in his hands.

Time after time, people all over the world have cried out to Jesus in times of crisis. Be they a soldier in a "fire fight", a mother begging for the life of their child, or a child crying for food- he never fails. He always moves according to his soveriegn will and purpose, motivated by a heart of love. He's all knowing, all powerful, and all loving. We can and should always trust him.
Humans will fail. No matter how loving or good intentioned the person or group may be, they will fail. Jesus never does.

Several hours later, we received another phone call. This one was good news. The backslider who slid off the roof, had not fallen to his death. In fact, he was being sent home. He has a broken arm and a broken rib, to go along with a whole lot of bruises. The hospital is calling the "life flight" a wasted flight for his condition.

You and I know better. Trained and seasoned paramedics don't call for life flight unless a) the situation is desperate and b) the doctors they are in touch with, via radio, order it. Jesus, our closest friend, has stepped in once again to bring life out of our calamity. We can only pray that the faller will really think about "from whence" he's fallen and turn back to his friend. When he does, Jesus will be waiting with open arms to, once again, bring life from lifelessness.

God bless you all.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Buy the truth and sell it not!

" Buy the truth and sell it not..." Proverbs 23:23

"What is truth?" Pilate famously asked Jesus (John 18:38). That's really the crux of the worlds problems today, isn't it? Everyone's trying to figure out the answer to Pilates very poignant question.
Scientists study their data sheets searching for truth. Philosophies try to stretch our brains to accept more and more "truth". Religious teachers are all scouring their sacred texts to try and figure out the next great leap of truth with which to excite the masses and start a movement. Teachers have given up on finding "the truth" and concentrate instead on each person finding his or her own truth. Is "the truth" important?
Jesus said "ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free." (John 8:32) But what is that singular truth that we must know? What is that singular truth that, when we know it, it will set us free? This would seem to be important. After all, if knowing that truth sets us free, then not knowing that truth leaves us bound up.
Furthermore, scripture declares that many will perish because they recieved NOT the love of "the truth", that they might be saved! (2 Thes. 2:10) Apparantly, we cannot stop at simply knowing the truth, we must LOVE the truth. Proverbs tells us to buy (pay the price for) the truth and to sell it not.
So, we like Pilate ask, what is truth? In answer Jesus says, "I am THE TRUTH..." (John 14:6). Truth is not a scientific discovery. Truth is not a political or moral philosophy. Truth is not a religion. Truth- THE TRUTH- is a man. But not just any man. This man- Jesus Christ- is the God/man. The God who loved us so much that he became flesh for us to die for our sins and make a way for us to really know him! To know him, biblically, is not simply head knowledge. It is an intimate and loving relationship with God almighty. It is Jesus indwelling us with his spirit and giving us the power to obey him. It is Jesus guiding us every step of the way.
There is a popular old song in pentecostal circles that says, "For whatever you have to do to me, Don't let me be lost for eternity, for above ALL else, I must be saved." That's what Proverbs means when it tells us to "buy the truth and sell it not."
Whatever gets in the way of my relationship with almighty God has got to go! Everything else in life comes second to the man who willingly died and rose again for me. Let's plaster this everywhere we need to: "Buy JESUS, and sell him NOT"!

Lord, Help us to really love you (the truth). Help us to hold onto you with every ounce of strength that we have! We don't need another fact, another doctrine, another philosophy- we need YOU! In Jesus name!


Sunday, September 13, 2009

Saved the day!

Sorry, I haven't written much lately. We've been going through a lot. Please keep us in your prayers! But for us, and all of you who may be struggling, I wanted to give us all some hope! So here's my favorite group, Phillips, Craig, and Dean with a little reminder! When all seems lost and everything looks like it's over, that's when God steps on the scene and take's over! So, let's all look to the hills, from whence cometh our strength and wait for him to work. He'll not only show up, but he'll show out!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vCqn1MGf7Ek

I was going to put the actual video here, but, being technically computer illiterate, I couldn't figure out how. Therefore, I'm giving you the link! Enjoy, and be blessed!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

What's the meaning of the fig tree?

"Now, learn a parable of the fig tree; When his branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is nigh: So likewise ye, when ye shall see all these things, know that it is near, even at the doors. Verily, I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled." Mat. 24: 32-34

Thus reads one of the most quoted and most misunderstood sections of scriptural prophecy. Many are the varying beliefs of what Jesus actually meant. However, the answer is not that hard.

What is the context of the verse?

Jesus has been prophesying against the religious leaders of his day (Mat.23:13-36). He lays out some severe punishments for the external religion they practiced- full of pride and arrogance and devoid of any real relationship with God. Then, seemingly without warning, he shifts gears and proclaims both his LOVE for the people of Jerusalem and their impending judgement, due to their lack of responding to him- their Messiah and God!
Note: he speaks to them as GOD, not as a man here- "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not." You can hear the anguish in his voice and see the tears rolling down his cheeks as he loudly proclaims his great love for them! He tells them that he sent prophet after prophet to try and bring them to a place where he could gather them into his protective and loving arms, but they killed his prophets and refused his offers. Now, as God in the flesh- Jesus Christ- he tells them that they have rejected their God as well. His heart is breaking because of his great love for them and their rejection of his love.
His disciples are somewhat taken aback at his outburst. Almost like any caring child would do, they seek to cheer Jesus up by pointing out the great beauty of the temple of God. "Look, daddy, can't you see the wonderful temple of God? Cheer up." For centuries, this temple had stood as a reminder of the special relationship of the Jews to their God. Millions had gained courage and cheer by observing it's great walls and remembering the promises it represented.
But Jesus was not any ordinary man. He was God almighty and he knew full well what was to come in the future, due to the disobedience of "Abraham's children". He shocks the disciples further by refusing their offered comfort and proclaiming the destruction of the temple that they were so proud of. It's as if he's asking them, "Don't you understand? Can't you see the destruction that will come because of their disobedience?"
The disciples are absolutely stunned at this revelation. Shaken to their core, they then ask Jesus 3 questions: 1)"When shall these things be?" 2) "What shall be the sign of thy coming?" 3) "And of the end of the world?" Jesus then gives an incredible chapter: He lays out a basic time frame of the order in which things will happen - from their day until his second coming. All those who wish to understand when prophesies occur, and in what order, would do well to use Jesus' own blueprint!
He warns of the deceptions to come (verses 4-5), increasing wars - both numbers and intensity (verses 6-7), increasing diseases and natural disasters (verse 7), and then says, "That's only the beginning"(verse 8). He warns of the many martyrs that will be made (the disciples and the millions that have died for him through the ages) (verses 9-10). He tells them that many false prophets will come and deceive many (verse 11). The love of men's hearts will grow cold, but if his people can keep his love alive in their hearts and lives, they will be saved (Verses 12-13). The Gospel of the kingdom (1 Cor 15:1-4, 2 Thes. 1:7-10, Acts 2:38) shall be preached (to cry, as a town cryer) in ALL the world (the land, the terrain part of the globe, specifically, the Roman Empire) for a witness (testimony) unto all the nations , THEN shall the end come (verse 14).
He then warns of the great tribulation to come (the final 3 1/2 years before his second coming), that begins with the Abomination of desolations (verses 15- 28, Daniel 9:27, 2 Thes. 2:3-4). Most importantly, to me, he then says the the rapture and his return both happen AFTER (or at the end of) the great tribulation (verses 29-31).
This ends his teaching of the times, but he then begins to help them put things into context by giving them the "parable of the fig tree". He says that just as you, when you see a fig tree bloom, you know that summer is near, "LIKEWISE, when ye see these things (what things? Israels rebirth? NO! Though it is prophesied in other scripture passages, Jesus did not even mention Israel here. So, what are the things we are to be looking for? The things he discussed in Mat. 24: 4-29! ) know that it (the return)is near, even at the door. Verily I say unto you, this generation (what generation? the generation that is alive when these things (4-29) are happening) shall not pass, till all things be fulfilled. (verses 32-34).
Those that try and point to the "fig tree" as being Israel, have NO SCRIPTURAL BASIS. They are simply reading into it something that strikes their fancy and sounds neat. However nice it may sound, it is not truth!
Israel became a nation again in 1948. That's 61 years ago. Chances are high that should Jesus decide not to return for another 30 years (I'm not saying that is the case, it's his choice), that whole generation of people who were alive on the earth at the time will be dead. How many people would be turned away from the Bible and call it a false book, because of the false understanding of "the fig tree" parable? That's why I'm writing this blog. The simple reading of the text tells you that this parable is referring to the prophetic scriptures listed before the parable (verses 4-29). Jesus says what he means and means what he says!

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Isaac faith, the next step from Abraham faith.

"And Abraham called the name of his son that was born unto him, whom Sarah bare to him, Isaac"
Genesis 21:3

Of all the figures in the Bible, Abraham stands atop them all (besides Jesus). Called out from a pagan society on the word of a God he truly didn't know very well (at the time), he left all he had known behind for the promises of God! He is called "the father of faith" in the New Testament, and rightly so. He trusted God's promise for an off spring in his old age and had to trust him for 25 years, before the promise came to reality- at age 100! His faith in God would bring into being God's chosen people (Israel), allow God's law to be brought into the world, lead to the fulfillment of the law- Jesus Christ-, and throw open the door of salvation to "whosoever will".

Was Abraham perfect? No. Abraham tried to fulfil God's promise of an offspring using the customs of his day, and his offspring and the whole world have been paying the price for that sin ever since! He also lied on at least 2 occasions. Yet, when the rubber really hit the road, he trusted God enough to take his son, Isaac, and offer him as a sacrifice to God. Much acclaim and praise has been placed on Abraham for his faith- and rightly so! Yet, there's a question that I've never heard asked, though some probably has- I am not a "giant of the faith".

Lost in this story of Abraham's sacrificial faith is Isaac's faith. What is the difference in the two faiths?

While it is true that Abraham had great faith (which one of us has the faith to be willing to sacrifice our child?), that faith actually pales in comparison to Isaac's. Most people present this story as if Isaac was a baby or a small child. Nothing could be further from the truth, however.

It is true that, in Gen 22:5, he is called a "lad" (in the Hebrew it means "an active boy"), but look at the rest of the passage. Verse 6 states that Isaac was the one who carried the wood, that would be used for the sacrificial pyre, up the side of the mountain. The practice was to build a stack of wood that was a) long and wide enough for the sacrifices body, and b) high enough that the sacrificer need not bend over to strike the deadly blow, probably a little above Abraham's waist. The wood also had to be strong enough to hold the sacrifice, so Isaac wasn't carrying twigs.

Secondly, He asked Abraham, "Behold the fire and the wood: but where is the lamb for a burnt offering." However old you may think that Isaac was in this passage, this is not the question that a young child would ask. This lad was old enough to understand that he was in danger of death. He was also strong enough to carry a large load of stout wood up the side of a mountain.

Why am I bringing this up? Because his father was well over 100 years old at this time. Isaac was very capable of not allowing his Father to go through with his promise to God. However, when Abraham answered his question, "My son, God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering", this settled the question in Isaac's mind.

Because of a promise from God to his Father, and his trust in his Father, Isaac willingly laid down on the wood, let his father bind him, and watched and waited for God's lamb to appear. This is faith! Sure enough, just as Abraham lifted the knife, (with Isaac undoubtedly laying there with his eyes squeezed shut, praying to God to intervene) God stopped the sacrifice and gave Isaac his life back.

This is true biblical faith in action! It is our taking everything we have, every dream, every hope, every fear, and our very physical life itself, and strapping it all to God's altar. It is us saying, as Job did, "though you slay me, yet will I trust you". It is us saying, as the 3 Hebrew boys said, "Our God is well able to deliver us, but if he chooses not to, we still will not bow (to the ungodly religion)". Jesus said, "he that endureth unto the end, the same shall be saved." We must trust God and give him our all, no matter what the consequences may appear to be!

Abraham's faith was great, in that he was willing to sacrifice his promised son. Isaac's faith was greater, in that he was willing to sacrifice HIMSELF! Abraham's faith was the start. Isaac's faith was the goal. Abraham's faith was about obedience. Isaac's faith was about self-sacrifice!

We all start with a seed of faith. Then, if it's cultivated, we grow into an Abraham faith (obedience). The goal is for a self-sacrificing and completely trusting faith in God! That's the faith that will lead us home. The seed of faith causes us to begin to seek for God. The obedient faith causes us to be obediently born again (Acts 2:38). Sacrificial faith will keep us on the right path, no matter thee situation, so we will one day hear Jesus say, "Well done...".

Isaac's faith was not in vain, however. He got his life back. He gained a true understanding of how precious life is and just how great a God we serve. He would have a wife and two children that he loved dearly. God blessed his business and he became great among men. But it all started through his father's example and his own willingness to die to accomplish what God wanted.

If we will but give him our all, relinquish all control of our lives, and let him decide what we need and don't need, we will be amazed at the results! "Though you slay me Lord, yet will I trust you!"

Just a thought.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

What's in a closet?

"And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly." Matthew 6:5-6

Recently, it has come to my surprised attention that there is some false doctrine circulating through the church. This false doctrine is doing much harm to God's people, handcuffing God's people, and slowing the move of God. What is this false doctrine and how has is become so prevelant? It is simply this: Jesus said for us to pray at home in our prayer closet. Any Christian who goes to the altar to pray is either a) showing off to be seen of others, b) steeped in sin, or c) sinning by pouring out their burdens to God in front of others.

May I tell you that this is simply NOT TRUE? While it is true that some people do go to the altar to "show off", not all do. It is true that some Christians struggling with things (some sinful, some not) "make a bee line" for the altar, but why is this a sin? The supposed sinfulness of this practice comes from a complete misunderstanding of the above mentioned verses.

Let's take apart the verses, piece by piece, and see what we can find.

"And when thou prayest..." In both verses he says this. Message: Prayer is necessary! We cannot "make heaven our home" unless we maintain a real relationship with our creator! Reading and studying his word is also necessary, but without a prayer life: "the letter killeth, but the spirit gives life". We require both study and prayer, spiritually, in the same way that we need both food and drink, physically. All study and no prayer, we dry up. All prayer and no study, we blow up. It's that simple.

This whole section of scripture, here in Matthew, is part of the "sermon on the mount". Much of this sermon is a series of comparison and contrast between the actual teachings and practices of the day and the way God says they aught to be. In chapter 6, he begins a section of comparing what their religion taught them and how they, in contrast, should do the same practice. He was correcting their teachings.

"...When thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are.."

Many a definition of the word Hypocrite has been given by many a teacher. Want to know what the actual word that Jesus used was and what it meant? The word, in the Greek, was hupokrites (hoop-ok'-ree-sis). The actual meaning is: "an actor under an assumed character (stage player), i.e. (figuratively) a dissembler (to put on a false appearance, conceal facts, intentions, or feelings under a pretense)". In other words, a biblical hypocrite is someone who is making an appearance of being right with God in order to gain the approval of men. Many an ungodly politician have used this tactic. They go to large churches and go through the motions, even saying the right words, in order to gain votes. However, when they get elected, their policies are anything but Godly!
The reason that this distinction is neccesary to make, is that many well meaning Christians (and preachers, as well) have taken this verse out of context and used it wrongly to hurt other people. The theory is that if you pray in public at all, then you are a hypocrite. Nothing could be further from the truth! Jesus himself prayed in public on several occasions. Furthermore, why is this "standard of conduct" only applied to born again Christians? The same people that rebuke other Christians for praying publically at the altar, are the first to jump for joy (rightly so) when a sinner goes to the altar.
The problem is, if their interpretation of this passage really means that praying in public is being a hypocrite, then noone can pray in public at all! This would preclude prayer to begin services, meetings, and classes. It would also prohibit sinners praying at the altar, as well as other public prayers- up to and including prayer over meals. Does all of this sound ridiculous to you? It does to me, too.
So what did Jesus mean here in Matthew? Simply put, a Hypocrite is not defined by where you pray, but the attitude in which you pray. If you have an attitude that says, "Look at me. See how Holy I am.", then you're a hypocrite, regardless of what you are doing! If however, you have a humble spirit, if you are sincerely reaching out to God when you pray, you are not a hypocrite. In fact you are doing just what Jesus said for us to do: "Come unto me, all ye that are weary, and I will give you rest." This verse applies to ALL people: male or female, sinner or saint. Irregardless of economic level or political affiliation, God is all about having a loving relationship with mankind.
He came to seek and save "That which was lost". That's all of us! We are all sinners. The only difference being in whether or not we are washed in his blood and in a right relationship with him. If we keep Davids attitude, we will be alright. David was not perfect. When God called him a "man after my own heart", he was not saying that David was 'like God". No, he was saying that this man, no matter how badly he fails, lives in hot pursuit of a loving relationship with me.
If we, in a right attitude, go to the altar to pray (whether for ourselves or others), then we are in hot pursuit of God's heartbeat.

So preachers and saints, do not prevent anyone from going to the altar for prayer. It's the attitude, not the act, that makes the difference. Who knows, you just may be surprised to find that you made heaven, in part, due to the times that that person took YOUR name to God at the altar! Just something to think about.


Sunday, July 19, 2009

"Adam's Apple" today is the dollar!

"And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat." Genesis 3:6

"If any man teach otherwise and consent not to wholesome words, the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness; He is proud, knowing nothing, but doting about questions and strifes of words, whereof cometh envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings, perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth, SUPPOSING THAT GAIN IS GODLINESS; from such withdraw thyself." 1 Timothy 6: 3-5

We live in a society that is after money. Everything they do is in the hot pursuit of money. Why? I can hear some of you saying, "But we have to have money to survive!" Don't get nervous here, just bear with me and you'll see where I'm heading.
Money is NOT the root of all evil, you can relax. Now that you have, you can hear the rest: "The LOVE of money is the root of all evil." 1 Timothy 6:10

Did you catch the difference? Money, in and of itself, is amoral. It's neither good nor bad. As a force for good, it is a valuable tool that can be powerfully used for the good of mankind and to grow the kingdom of God on earth. As a force for evil, many lives are destroyed because of it's hot pursuit. It's all in how it's used, which is a direct reflection of our attitudes about it.

In Genesis, Eve (and Adam, we learn in verse 6) is tempted in three ways that coincide with 1John2:16. She first believed that the forbidden fruit was "good for food" (Lust of the flesh). She then believed that it was pleasant to the eyes (lust of the eyes). Finally, she believed that it was "to be desired to make one wise" (Pride of life). Because she believed these three things, she was willing to throw out ALL of God's teaching on the matter and CHOSE to go after what had been forbidden!

Brother Winskie, you ask, what does that have to do with money? GLAD YOU ASKED!

Anywhere you turn today, be it TV (if you watch it), Radio, Newspapers, Magazines, Internet, Movies, etc, there is a pervading philosophy: "He who dies with the most toys wins". There are literally thousands of people that are trying to get rich at your expense. "You need...", "A must see...", or "A must have...". The worst voices of all out there belong to the "name it/claim it" school of Christianity. These people present their "gospel" in such a way as to give the impression that God wishes to "make you rich'. If you'll just "exercise your faith" enough, you'll never need doctors or be in need of money ever again. After all, they say, did not Paul say that we are "to prosper, even as (our) soul doth prosper". Money is the modern day "Adam's Apple".

Unfortunately, besides the fact that they are not taking a look at the WHOLE word of God, they give people the impression that if they are sick or if they are running short of money, somehow, they are not right with God!

One MAJOR problem with this teaching: Paul told Timothy that those who "suppose that gain is godliness" are NOT teaching God's word, but are false teachers that we are to SHUN! ("from such withdraw thyself") Many times, these very same people who claim to be so holy and righteous really are not even close. They flaunt their "blessings" as proof of how righteous they are, yet their attitudes are horrible. How many people that are really in need are sneered at and NOT helped by those that claim to be so right with God and have the means to help them?

The world tells us to be after gain; be it more money, a bigger car, a bigger house, nicer clothes, a better class of friends, attend the right church, and on and on. God has another way for us to live:
"Godliness with contentment is GREAT GAIN". (verse 6)

Our attitude should be one of loving God and others first. When God gives us much, we praise him and use it in ways that will glorify him. When we have little, we praise him and use it in such a way as to glorify him. Paul put it this way:

"Not that I speak in respect of want; for I have learned in whatsoever state I am, to be content. I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: everywhere and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need." Philippians 4: 11-12
We are to learn to be content in whatever state God sees fit to put us in. If we aren't, there is another warning in scripture that we only quoted part of. Here's the whole thing:

"For the love of money is the root of all evil: Which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows."

Those that are seeking riches and not God, usually wind up straying from the faith. They may have the correct doctrine and attend a truly biblical church, but their own works are not biblical. In fact, Paul instructs the rich to be willing to help the poor and not to think too highly of themselves (1 Timothy 6: 17-19)

Brethren, let us learn to walk circumspectly in the fear and admonition of the Lord! Let us be very careful how we treat others and love them. Most of all, let us watch our attitudes about money.

The next time we feel "the need" to CLAIM that lottery jackpot, or that raise, or that promotion, let us remember this: The Apple that we reach for, may just have a hidden worm! Until next time, walk in faith with his word! God bless!

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Authentic Popcorn!

"Oh taste and see that the Lord is good: blessed is the man that trusteth in him." Psalms 34:8

We went grocery shopping today. I'm one of those strange guys that enjoys the "childish" snack called: popcorn. I'm an avowed Orville Redenbacher fan. My wife surprised me today by buying me a different Orville. There is no microwave involved. This is the place the butter in the pot, add the kernels, and shake till it stops kind.
I have vague memories of mom doing this when I was in elementary school (during the dinosaur age, as my children would say, and before Jiffy Pop). For many years now, I've simply taken the handy bag out of the box, put it in the Microwave, and nuked it! This has served me well and I've grown very accustomed to the taste and the convenience. However, since my dear wife bought it, I decided to try the new old-fashioned stuff.
I had to have my wife explain it to me, as I'm not the best cook in the world and my mind was rebelling against receiving the instructions on the jar! Finally, I had the butter melting (yum, cholesterol city!) and added the kernels, placing the lid on top. I then began melting some more butter in a small pot, as my taste buds began to imagine what this glorious concoction would taste like. How would it differ from the microwave? Would I even like it anymore?
To my surprise, and mild irritation, the kernels did not begin popping almost immediately as I was accustomed to. Further, I even had to turn my butter pot off, for fear of scorching it while I waited on the pops to start.
Finally, I heard a pop. Then another. Wait a few seconds (a lifetime?) and then another pop sounded. Then twosies and trios at a time. Finally, the drum roll! Relieved, I turned my butter back on. Knowing that shortly I'd be eating "the real thing".
While it was cooking, my wife had to remind me to shake it around so as not to burn the popcorn on the bottom. A little disgruntled at the extra effort involved, I obeyed my wife's wisdom filled suggestion. At last, the popping slowed to a crawl and I began to smell a faint scorch. I turned it off, removed it from the burner (along with my melted butter).
I wasn't quite done yet, however. I still had to put the popcorn in a large bowl, add lots of salt, and pour on my butter! Then came the lid for the bowl and me doing my best immitation of a child's rattle toy! I had to vigorously shake the bowl, my mom's bowl by the way (she passed away 10 years ago.), to mix the ingredients just right.
Upon removing the lid, the smell hit me. What a wonderful aroma! Tasting it was even better. As I ate it, I couldn't help but think about the decided lack of flavor in the microwave kind (as compared to the real thing). It was then that it hit me.
Many of us start out well with God! Everything is fresh and new, hot and tasty. Over the years, however, our relationship begins to change. We get caught up in so many things in life. We begin to reduce our relationship with Jesus to a microwave-like religion. A quick prayer here. A verse read there. A service at church to "check the block" of attendance. Slowly, we become accustomed to the routine, easier, and less favorable Jesus of religion.
May I take this moment to challenge us all to reexamine our religion? Can we shake off the day to day religious grind, ignore the microwave, and turn the heat back up? Can we shake ourselves in prayer and study until the kernels of our relationship with him begin to pop again?
Sure, it'll require stepping out of our comfort zones. It also won't be easy to make our flesh put forth the effort required to do so. I can tell you this: If we do, we will find that the relationship tastes a whole lot better and is much more fulfilling than the religion. "Oh, taste and see...."

Thursday, July 9, 2009

When they had no king....

When they had no king....

Prayer taken from schools.

When they had no king...

No use of Jesus name in schools and Government buildings.

When they had no king...

No displaying of the Ten Commandments or Bibles in Schools and Government buildings.

When they had no king...

No Fault Divorce.

When they had no king...

Teen sex, STD's, and suicide on the rise.

When they had no king...

Out of wedlock births on the rise.

When they had no king...

Abortion legalized.

When they had no king...

Homosexual marriage legalized and all sorts of perversions are becoming a protected class.

When they had no king...

Government control instead of individual liberty.

When they had no king....

Freedom FROM speech instead of freedom OF speech.

When they had no king...

...everyone did what they thought was right in their OWN eyes!

We need to turn to the real king- Jesus Christ!

Sunday, July 5, 2009

It's Comforting!

"God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble." Psalms 46:1

Last night, as you can tell by my previous blog, I was feeling a little down. I won't elaborate again. You can read it for yourselves. However, an amazing thing happened.
We live in Monessen, Pa. It's an old "steel" town that's set on the shore of the Monongahela river. There are several little towns along the river here. All of them were shooting fireworks off last night.
I should tell you that we have 4 dog's. Two are mixed breed Rottweilers. One is a mixed breed Lab. The last is a mixed breed Shihtzu. All of them are good dog's. They're protective and loving at the same time. My dog, "Talon", is one of the Rott's. He likes to act like he's big and bad. However, when all the fireworks were going on, I got to watch something amazing and wonderful.
Talon doesn't understand the meaning of July 4th. He doesn't know why we shoot off the fireworks. All he knows is that they're loud! The noise really bothered him, especially the big booms that the cities fireworks spectacular produced. His reactions at first were comical, as he would bark and growl at the perceived threat, not knowing where it was coming from, or why.
Then he did something precious, he came and laid down beside my recliner where I was seated, wanting to be close to the safety of his masters presence. Before it was over, the whole family, dog's and all, were watching the fireworks, from the safety of the upstairs bedroom, through the windows. The dog's were calm then. I even saw a shooting star.
It was at that point that God seemed to whisper to me. "All the problems and worries you're carrying, let me have them. They're to much of a burden for you. Do me like Talon did you. Simply lay down at my feet and leave the worries to me. Trust me. I won't leave you or forsake you. It'll all work out in my time and in my way."
All I can say is, What a difference a day makes! I've left the worries with my master and I can rest in him. Whatever happens, he's in control! Sound to good to be true? Try it for yourself. I promise, he won't let you down. But don't take my word for it, take his.
By the way, as I write this, Talon and Peter (the Shitzu) are running through the living room playing, without a care in the world because they know that they are loved, cared for, and protected. It's a joy to see. Our master, Jesus, would like to see us the same way! God bless!

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Independance Day?

I realize what this day means. I truly realize the freedoms and responsibilities we have been blessed with as Americans. However, I must also admit that this day just doesn't seem the same for me as in past years. I won't bore you with a long rant, but I can tell you some of the reasons why.
It's scary to me that the average younger American has no real idea what this day is really about beyond fireworks, parties, and frivolity. Many have no idea that the declaration of Independence was signed on this day in 1776, much less what it says. Our dumbed down institutions of enforced indoctrination that we call public schools, do not teach them. Instead they're told how unfair and horrible our founding fathers (and documents) were. If the schools really taught what the Constitution says, our Government would cease to be able to do many of the things it does.
I don't feel like celebrating because I see our foundational freedoms being stolen and emasculated. Instead of freedom of speech, the politically correct have changed perverted this basic right into freedom from speech. But not all speech, mind you. A movie or TV show can use words that would blush a sailor, but we can't say JESUS in public (unless we're using his name as a curse word).
It used to be that the undergirding principle of personal rights was that "My rights stop where your rights start." Now, it's become, "Your rights stop0 where I believe my rights should take me. We used to be a country of fellow servants, now it's me first and we're reaping the benefits of it! A wise man once said, "If the people ever figure out that they can vote themselves the candy that they want for themselves, it will be the end of our republic." My friends we are almost there!
The bottom line is this: We took the children from our homes to "better educate them" and we took the mothers from the homes to "better our standards of living". Then we took God out of schools so as not to "offend" the few who don't believe in him. Now we've raised a generation of people who don't believe in God or absolutes. The results? Families are disintegrating; drug use, sexual promiscuity and deviance (can you say LGBT's?), and crime have skyrocketed; and our Government is heading speedily towards all out government control of everyone and everything! Our common sense and moral compasses have all but vanished!
The only hope that any of us have is a return to the foundational documents of our republic, the Bible that these documents were based upon, and, most importantly, the God of the Bible and all the universe- Jesus!
May we all get right with him (John 3:3-5, Acts 2:38) before it's too late!

Saturday, June 27, 2009

One further note on Fatherhood.

It is not enough for the husband to simply be the head of the home. Many a despot father has been head of his home, while beating his children and abusing his wife. No, the key is to lead our families in the ways of God. If we will raise them up to be Godly young people and they see the example of Godly parents and a good marriage, God will bless!

A tale of three father's: Abraham

"Now the Lord had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father's house, unto a land that I will show thee: ...So Abram departed, as the Lord had spoken unto him..." Genesis 12:1-4
There are many great men in scripture, but few stand out like Abraham. He is called the "Father of faith".
First of all, it must be pointed out that Abraham was not perfect. The great thing about scripture (and one of the proofs of it's validity. After all, if it were, as some suppose, written after the fact as a way to try and prove the validity of it's teachings, the many faults of the people would not be included. These things would've been left out as a way to show how great the religion was, not included.), is that it always speaks the truth.
The great Abraham, who left home, family, and friends behind at 75 years old, because God had spoken to him, made many mistakes (don't we all?). He lied to at least 2 kings to protect his own skin. He displayed an appalling lack of faith, as well as caused many a problem for people today some 4000 years later, by accepting his wife's handmaid as a second wife in order to try and raise up the heir that God seemed to not be bringing. The resulting child, Ishmael, was not the promised son through which the Messiah would come. Rather, he became the father of the Arab world that gives us and Israel such a hard time. Sin does effect others besides the one who sins, even 4000 years later.
So why is he called the Father of faith? He left his homeland on a promise that he would be given a special land of his own, but he wasn't told where it was or how long it would take to get there. He repented when he messed up, but never permanently lost his faith in God. Probably the biggest reason, however, is that he had so much faith in God that he was willing to sacrifice the very son of promise- Isaac- when he was asked to, believing that even if God didn't stop him from doing it, then God would certainly raise his son from the dead! (Hebrews 11:17-19)
As we discussed before, to get back on topic, Abraham and Job were both alive at around the same time period. We already know why God did not choose Job to be the Father of many nations through whom he would bless the world- his parenting style. Why then did God choose Abraham?
We've already seen that Abraham was not perfect. Seemingly, in some ways, he was not as devout a man as Job was, so why Abraham instead of Job? The answer is simple and wonderful. It is also attainable for us today! Not being the "Father of faith" or the "Father of many nations". Those titles will forever belong to Abraham.
We can, however, obtain the blessing of God for us, our children, and those we come in contact with. Abraham was told in Genesis 12:1-4 that God would bless those that bless Abraham and curse those that curse Abraham. Can we attain this promise for ourselves? Yes, I believe we can. But what was it about Abraham that qualified him for this promise?
"And the Lord said, Shall I hide from Abraham that thing which I do; seeing that Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him? For I know him, that he will command his children, and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the Lord, to do justice and judgement; that the Lord may bring upon Abraham that which he hath spoken of him." Genesis 18: 17-19
So what were Abraham's qualifications and what is the pattern for us to follow?
First, God said of him, "I know him..."! This is very important. God didn't say, I used to know him or I will know him, he said (present tense), "I know him". The first qualification is to be in current, active, and intimate relationship with God! When Adam and Eve were married, it says "and Adam knew Eve.." in reference to their intimate loving relationship together. God desires to "know" each and every one of us. He desires to have that spiritually intimate relationship with US! The first step of qualification is for us to "be born again". Acts 2:38 is the ONLY New Testament plan of salvation. It says for us to "Repent, and be baptized...in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost." If you haven't done that, you will be unable to do the rest and you'll miss the blessings God has for you.
Second, God says of Abraham that "he will COMMAND his children and his household after him.."! The second key, father's, is that we are to BE THE HEAD OF OUR HOMES! We are not to cower to the wife and children and let them do whatever they wish and order us around. We are to be THE AUTHORITY in our home. A word of caution here is needed, however. This authority does not make us a dictator. If we are a dictator, we break 2 New Testament commands for us to follow and, therefore, disqualify ourselves as taking part in the promise we are studying today.
One is the command for us to love our wives as Christ loved the church and GAVE HIMSELF for it. This is not a dictatorship, but rather a loving and self-sacrificial leadership that puts her needs before his own, up to and including being willing to die for her safety!
The other command is the admonition to "provoke not your children to wrath". This, again is not a dictatorship. Rather, it is loving leadership that doesn't mind explaining why we do this and don't do that. A dictator will cause his children to become bitter and end up suffering the wrath of God.
However, it also is an attitude of "the buck stops here." The final decision maker in the home is the Father! The wife and children have the right to give input, but his final and prayerful decision MUST be followed by all in his home and he must love them enough to COMMAND that they not cross the line.
The final qualification is that his family will, as a result of his Godly leadership, "keep the way of the Lord, to do justice and judgement.." If we lead in a way that helps them to follow God's ways, then the result is a Godly home and Godly children!
But here's the real kicker, though: "...that THE LORD may bring upon Abraham (us) that which he hath spoken of him."! Even in this doing, God promises those of us who meet his qualifications, that he will help us to meet them and bring his blessings and promises to bear in our lives! What a promise and responsibility! God wants to bless us, our homes, and our family tree after us. What he needs is for us to lovingly submit to him in obedience.
Next time we will study, "An Isaac Faith". Until then, God bless!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

A personal note.

I realize that whenever biblical truth is talked about, there will be some who are angered by it. Let me say in advance, I'm sorry. It is never my intention to anger anyone with God's word. Further, there will be some who will ask, "Who does he think he his, trying to tell me how to live my life."
Let me assure you, strangers, friends, and family alike, I do not ever intend to come across as someone who has "arrived". If any of you get to know me, you will soon realize that I am human, just as you are. I have struggles. I make mistakes. I get hurt. I hurt others, though usually unintentional.
I have learned, however, that the only real truth is found in God's abiding presence and in his eternal word. It is this that I wish to study WITH you. I am in no way pointing AT you. I, like you, am living my life and trying to be the best me that I can be. However, I've learned that to truly be the best me, I must submit my life to the only one who really can change me, Jesus Christ.
Therefore, I ask you, especially those that know me now, or knew me in my mistake filled past, look past the messenger and look to the message. In the grand scheme of things, I'm irrelevant. However, the message giver is very relevant! He loves you more than I ever could. I do love you all, but the only real and perfect love you will ever find is in Jesus. the only lasting hope and real answers you will find are in Jesus. He is the first and the last, the beginning and the end. He is the great "I am..."
He left that open ended statement for all of us on purpose. We say we need love. He says that "I am ..." the only true lover of your soul. If we need a friend, he's the friend that sticks closer than a brother. If we need provision, he's the provider. If we need a father that will never let us down, he will be that father to us. If we need salvation (and we all do), he stands ready to save us. All we need to do is lovingly obey his word: "Repent,be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost."
God bless you all. Until next time (from one imperfect man to imperfect hearers)...

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

A tale of three fathers: Job

"There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job; and that man was perfect and upright, and one that feared God, and eshewed evil." Job 1:1

What an opening statement! Of all the people in the land of Uz (however many there were), God singled out one man: Job. Why was Job singled out? Was God playing favorites? No. The answer is simple.
"He was a perfect and an upright man". I'm thoroughly impressed right there. How many people do you and I know that could be called "upright", much less "perfect"? Job is called BOTH, by no greater a source than the creator of the universe himself. WOW!!!
Now, the word upright here means, "straight" in a righteous way. The word perfect here does NOT mean, "without fault". It actually means, "complete, usually morally pious, specifically gentle, dear". We do not have to be morally and spiritually without fault to get the attention of our loving God because we are trying hard to please him out of a heart of love towards him. What's more is that he will consider us "dear" for the effort and attitude! This is akin to the thrill that a loving parent receives when their 2 year old gives them a "picture" that they've drawn saying, "I drew picture for you". When the parent looks at the picture itself, it's nothing more than lines and squiggles with no coherent shapes. But the attitude of love with which their toddler gave it to them makes the parent feel that the picture is better than anything that Rembrandt or Michael Angelo ever did!
This is how God views our loving efforts to please him from our heart of love. No, we may not be perfect, but he thrills at the trying and, more so, the attitude behind the trying.
Almost everyone who knows anything about scripture knows about Job. They know about the "heavenly wager" between God and Satan. They know that he lost his home, his livestock, his children, and his wife. They know that he lost his health. They know that he remained faithful to God in spite of the circumstances he was suffering. They also know that God "rewarded him seven fold". What we are going to look at today is something very few have ever covered.
According to scholars, Job and Abraham were alive during the same time period of history. Both were great men and both loved God with all their hearts and obeyed him in the face of insurmountable odds. Yet, God chose Abraham to be the "Father of many nations", whose family tree would include Jesus and would bless the whole earth. My question is this: Why not Job?
God called Job perfect and upright, why didn't he choose Job? Many would say that it was because he was not in the right bloodline. However, this can't be true, as the Jewish nation did not exist then (nor the Jewish people) and ALL of the bloodlines of the day came from the bloodlines of Adam, through Noah's sons. God could've chosen anyone to start the promised redeemers bloodline with. Why not Job?
I believe the answer to this riddle is found in the following two verses:

"And (Job's) sons went and feasted in their houses, every one his day; and sent and called for their sisters to eat and drink with them. And it was so, when the days of their feastings were gone about, that Job sent and sanctified them, and rose up early in the morning, and offered burnt offerings according to the number of them all: for Job said, it may be that my sons have sinned, and cursed God in their hearts. THUS DID JOB CONTINUALLY." Job 1:4-5

Yes Job was a great man who loved God and his family with all of his heart. However, he did have one glaring weakness. Job loved his family too much! How can anyone love their family too much? When a person doesn't want to correct his family, as we saw with Eli, but tries to live for God FOR them, rather than teaching them (and enforcing them) to live for God, they love them too much. This is the problem in so many homes today. The parents don't want to go through the trouble of setting the rules for their children's lives. They don't want to teach them to live for God. No, they'd rather sit back and pray that their children make the right choices about things when the proper time comes.
Scripture says for us to "raise up a child in the way they should go...". It further says that "foolishness is in the heart of a child, the rod of correction will beat it out of him." No, we are to set the tone's in our home so that our children can be shaped and molded to be God fearing, God worshipping young adults.
We cannot do, as Job apparently did, and simply live a good live. give them good things, and pray that God will forgive their little excesses (sins). Little sins grow to be big sins. Little humans will grow to depend on mommy and daddies relationships with God, rather than developing one of their own, if they're not taught correctly.
Job tried to let them be and hope they'd come around, while praying for God to forgive their wrongdoings. This opened a door that Satan could exploit. Job's children lost their lives and, quite possibly, their souls because of this one "oversight".
Father's, it is our God given obligation to make sure, with the help of our wives, that our homes have a godly environment and our children are helped to gain their own relationship with God. If we, like Job, let our children get grown and move out of the protective sphere of influence of our Godly homes, we risk having to undergo the utter pain that Job went through and see our children die lost!
Job lost his children, his wife, his belongings, and his help because he failed to raise his own children to love God the way that he did. He also lost the opportunity to be "the father of many nations" and have the promised messiah enter the earth through HIS family, instead of Abraham's.
Who knows, if he'd done it right, we might all be talking about the nation of Job, instead of the nation of Israel. What a missed opportunity! And, what a Godly challenge for all of us! Father's. lets all get on our knees, give everything to God, and let him lead us in a revival IN OUR HOMES! God bless! See you next time.


Monday, June 22, 2009

A Tale of three fathers: Eli

With Father's day just having passed, many would question my reasoning for devoting any blogs at all to the subject of fathers. Many of my fellow writers would say that I should have written all this BEFORE the actual day instead of after it is passed. I, as you can see, am not a normal writer (or preacher, for that matter). It is my intention to do what my English teachers used to call "a compare and contrast" piece. This will be done in three or four different blog posts. Hopefully, by the time we're done, we'll all have learned some things.
Three of the most famous Father's in the Holy Scriptures (Bible) are Abraham, Job, and Eli. I'm not going to rate them in this writing, though I admit that the temptation is there. What we discover about these men and their "fathering style" could very well change us, our families, and even the world at large. With that in mind, let's begin with Eli.
After the famous flight from Egypt, wondering around in the wilderness, and the taking of the land; but before the famous first three kings of Israel (Saul, David, and Solomon), Israel was a true theocracy. They were guided by the principles of the Torah (the first five books of the Old Testament) and were ruled by a series of judges. These judges were not a monarchy. Indeed, there were many time periods in which there was no judge.
Inevitably, Israel would fall into sin. Then they would cry to God in repentance and ask to be delivered from the hands of the enemy. God would then raise up a judge that would, in most cases, call them to task for their actions, remind them of their vow to God,and follow God's leading to rid the Israelites of their enemies. Then, in most cases, the judge would rule until he died. Then they would be without a judge again.
During the time just before the last and greatest of the judges (Samuel), there arose a high priest of special significance: Eli. We first hear of him through the story of Hannah.( 1Samuel 1-2:11) He is the one who rebuked the mourning Hannah for being drunk, when he found her crying her prayers to God, with her lips moving but not speaking out loud. When she responded that she was not drunk, but was petitioning God for a child, he famously told her "...the God of Israel grant thy petition...".
He was charged by God through this same woman to raise the child that God had given her (Samuel). What is really remarkable about this is the very first verse AFTER the very young Samuel was safely tucked away in Eli's house:
"Now the sons of Eli were sons of Belial, they knew not the Lord..." The next few verses go on to describe in detail just how bad these young men were! What a rebuke of Eli's fathering of these boys. (Actually they were at least 30 years old, as this was the youngest age that a man could take on priestly duties, according to the law.) He, who had ascended to the highest level of the priesthood, who was supposedly the holiest man in all of Israel, was a lousy father.
What happened? Did he get so caught up in rising to the top of his profession that he spent little time with his children? It's possible. Many a man of God, in this day and age, get so focused on their ministry that they forget that their primary ministry is their family. This is why so many PK's (preachers kids) go so wild.
Was Eli more concerned with the reputation that he had, than the family God had gifted him with? This is also possible. Many a preachers kid gets aggravated at their parents because of this. They have to act a certain way, speak a certain way, etc, not so much because these things are the right things to do (though much of it may be), but because they must carry themselves in a way that honor's daddy's office as a man of God.
Was there no bite to daddy's bark? This is also possible. Verses 2:22-25 tell the story of Eli confronting his sons with their sins. Yet, they received no punishment and did no repenting. Why did not Eli, who was not only their Father but their BOSS as the high priest, forcefully remove them from their "ministries"? He apparently was one of those fathers that told his children "you shouldn't do that. God doesn't like that.", yet he never applied the board of education to the seat of learning.
Whatever he did wrong, his sons were NOT godly men. Eli was apparently a much better father figure for Samuel than he had been for his sons, as Samuel turned out to be a much better man. What were the results of his lack of foresight in raising his sons?
1) The sins that he allowed to fester in his sons actually caused many Israelites to turn from God (2: 17) When we allow sin to fester in our family or ourselves, we open the door for that sin to cause many more sins in generations to come and families near our own. Indeed, I know of one family that gave God lip service, but were mean as rattlesnakes and as manipulative as a politician. The results? Their children went deep into drugs, alcohol, and sexual immorality. The grandchildren were worse than the children, even delving into homosexuality, lesbianism, and even witchcraft. Only God knows how bad the next generation will be. Many families have been deeply scarred due to the wrongs of this one couple and their ungodly parenting style.
2) Judgement was brought by God against the family and the nation (verses 2: 27- 36 and 4: 2-22). When we started, as a society, to move away from the God given instructions (the Bible) for child rearing, how we should act, how we should live, etc, we began to spread an unholy cancer in our country! God is not mocked. Our sins are finding us out. Our families are shambles because of it. Our schools teach lies because of it. Our churches are only shells of what they once were. Our entertainment is unspeakably ungodly. Our government is extremely corrupt. Our economy is on the brink of ruin because of it and we have the gall to call ourselves a christian nation! It started in the home- with Mom's and Dad's who "wanted something better" for their children, but were deceived into doing things to get those things that never would've been done in generations past. All because we left our Godly foundations.
As the men of God for this hour, WE need to stand up and shout the truth from the rooftops. It is time for personal, familial, community wide, church wide, and country wide REPENTANCE! If we, who are called by his name, will humble ourselves, repent, pray, and turn back to God's book and God's ways; he has promised that he will hear from heaven and heal our land. It has to begin with us. In our homes. On our jobs. In all that we do, "seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you."
God bless you all. Until next time, to quote The Steeles famous song, lets guard the gate "For the sake of my children."

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Monday, June 15, 2009

Goats need love, too!

There once was a goat named Matthew. You might know him as a sheep called Matthew. This sheep wrote the book that is named after him- the book of Matthew. Matthew was not called a disciple until chapter 9, verse 9 of his own book and would not be fully born again until Acts chapter 2: 1-4. At that point, he became a baby sheep. As of chapter 9, verse 9 of Matthew, he was a sheep in process (still in the womb). Before that, he was a goat.

According to God's teaching in Matthews book (chapter 25:31-46). There will only be two types of people on judgment day- goats and sheep. The sheep will make it to enter into the kingdom of God, the goats won't. We all, like Matthew, start out as goats.

The question arises: How did Matthew know about what to write in chapters 1-9:9? After all, he wasn't there was he? The short and correct answer is "God told him what to write." I believe that there may be more to it than this. The early things about where Jesus came from, etc are by inspiration of God (some of which he leaned from listening during his travels with Jesus as well as from Mary the mother of Jesus).

However, when it comes to the specific teachings of Jesus, such as the sermon on the mount and such, you almost get the impression that he was there, in the background listening AND hearing every word the savior spoke. He was in the background because he was not popular at all, being a “sinful tax collector” and “turncoat” to the Jews

Matthew was a wealthy man, with servants, etc., but he was a lonely man. He had people that hung around him, largely due to what he could afford to do for them. Yet, there was very little, if any, real love and relationship in his life. Matthew had a very dry heart. When the murmurings of a "new prophet" began to reach his ears, he was compelled, I believe, to seek him out- looking for a real word, real love, and a real God.

The words of the master must have felt like cool water to a dry, hot, and thirsty heart! He must have followed Jesus at a distance, at first. Strangely attracted to this new prophet, but constrained by his position in society to stay back or be run off by the masses- (not much mercy around for a traitorous tax collector.)

Eventually, he must have, with a sad heart, given up on this. Following your only hope from a distance is as satisfying as a starving man peering through a restaurant window. It all looks great, but he's barred from touching it. So, sadly, he returns to his circle of influence to continue his well-off, if shallow, existence.

What he didn't know was that his life was about to change forever. The master, unbeknownst to Matthew, had seen the precious and starving little goat following him at a distance. He’d also noticed when the little goat no longer followed. So Jesus did a wonderful thing- he went after him.

One day, Matthew was going about his job of collecting taxes when suddenly a hush must have come over the ordinarily angry crowd at his booth (people didn't take paying taxes to Rome lightly or without complaint). When Matthew looked up to see what had happened, his heart must've caught in his throat. There, at HIS booth, stood the master- face to face with Matthew.

A million questions must have entered his mind: "What is he doing here? How can I charge HIM taxes? What do I do?" Jesus, the great shepherd and master, silenced the panic in his mind, reached through the pain in his heart, and offered love and a new life to the little goat named Matthew, by saying: "Follow me".

We're not told all that went through Matthew’s mind: astonishment and unbelief at first? Probably. But when he looked into the eyes of the great shepherd, he saw no condemnation. Rather, he saw love and a new start! Immediately, he left his unpopular job and began the process of letting the shepherd change him from a goat into a sheep.

Sometimes, it seems to us that people are "too lost to ever be found". However, as the Phillips, Craig, and Dean song says: "He believes in lost causes"! Just like the little goat named Matthew, these "lost goats" are outcasts by the church and feel hopeless. Just existing, they go through their daily lives without hope. What they don't know is that the great shepherd knows and loves them all!

If we, as God's body on earth, will simply let God speak to them through us in any way he wishes to (a kind word, a prayer, a meeting of a need), we would be as amazed as Matthew to see the change as God begins to work on changing them from a goat to a sheep- just as he's doing with us! Who knows? Maybe one day, they and us will hear those glorious words: “Well done my good and faithful servant. Enter ye in…”