Sunday, December 5, 2010

Who wants to be a healer?

"The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the Gospel to the poor; He hath sent me to HEAL the broken hearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, the recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised...."  Luke 4:18

"The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me; because the Lord hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to BIND UP the broken hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of prison to those that are bound..."     Isaiah 61:1

"And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven."

I've been born again now for twenty years this month. In that time, I have heard Matthew 16:16 preached and taught on many times. Unfortunately, I think we may have missed something vital here.

We have been taught militant, warrior Christianity. Believe me, I have no problem with that, nor with believing we are in the midst of major spiritual battles. However, if you've been in this thing for very long at all, you've heard some things like this: "I BIND you, Satan!" "Devil, we BIND you in the name of Jesus." "We BIND this sickness..."

Sounds good, right? We are told that we battle with spiritual powers in high places. We are to pray for the sick and cast out devils, right? There's just one small problem. That's all we focus on. The word for bind, in the Greek DOES carry, in it's definition, the concept of binding an enemy. However, is there a connotation we have missed?

Jesus came, died, was buried, and rose again. He left the church, empowered by HIS Spirit and HIS love, to continue HIS mission. HIS mission, in part, was to "BIND UP the broken hearted."Luke says it this way, "HEAL the broken hearted." So how is HEALING, called BINDING? Surely Jesus doesn't want people all bound up?

The truth of the matter is that BIND up in the sense of healing is like placing bandages on wounds. We are supposed to let Jesus love the broken hearted through us, placing a spiritual bandage on them so that they can then begin the process of emotional and spiritual healing.

Even the military has people in the medical fields, in order to help to save and heal the wounded. We as God's Army and children, are supposed to have healers among us, too. It's not all about battle. Sometimes, it's about loving the wounded so God can heal them and "set at liberty them that are bruised."

There's an old Gospel song, sung by the Imperials, that says, "You're the only Jesus some will ever see. And you're the only words of life some will ever read. So let them see in you the one in whom is all they'll ever need. Cause, You're the only Jesus some will ever see."

So this is a call to all of us warriors out there. How many of us are tired of the constant battle? How many of us don't just want to see the captives set free from their bonds, but also made whole of their emotional and spiritual wounds, as well? Who wants to be a healer?    

Sunday, October 24, 2010

The false prophets are here!

"Take heed that no man deceive you. For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many...And many false prophets shall rise, and deceive many..." Matthew 24: 4-5,11

A good friend of mine reminded me of an occurrence near Atlanta, Ga, a few years ago. A woman claimed that "the virgin Mary" had appeared to her and told her that the water in her well was now blesses and was, in fact, Holy water. Somehow, this news item hit the main stream news and it became an international sensation. People by the thousands began to show up at this woman's house. She began to sell small vials of this "Holy" water for $8.00 a vial. Tour buses were chartered to bring the people, seeking a sign from God and a blessing. This woman sold many, many bottles of water.

Finally, the state of Ga decided it might be a good idea to investigate the cleanliness of the "Holy Water", since it was being sold to the public. So, the health department was sent out to test it. Low, and behold, they discovered that this "holy water" was not so holy! "Holy" as you know, means "pure". This "pure" water was not only not pure, it was so contaminated that the state shut off the use of the well, even the use of the woman who owned it.

This is a sad case of people being hungry for God, but looking for him in all the wrong places. Many are the false religions that claim to have a insight from God, given to them by an Angel (i.e. Mormonism, Islam, etc), even though scripture tells us that "if we, or an angel from heaven, preach unto you any other Gospel, let them be accursed". Yet, many follow after the latest fad, the latest faith healer, the latest soul winning gimmick, the biggest named preachers who have been falling by the wayside by the droves lately.

The truth is that we don't need to seek after a sign from God. Scripture says that "these signs shall follow them that believe." We are not to follow after men, for men will always let us down. Even Godly men make mistakes. We are to, in all things, "seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these things shall be added unto you."

Whatever our need, Jesus is our answer. However dire the situation may be, Jesus is our way out. Many false religions prosper because they fool well meaning men and women by their good works. This is possible because people don't like to pray and study to show themselves approved of God. Politicians use the word of God to get elected, but live lives about as far away from a godly lifestyle as heaven is from hell.

The bottom line is this: "Buy the truth and sell it not." Jesus says "I am the truth." Therefore we are to give all the we have, are, and ever will be to obtaining a relationship with our almighty God- Jesus!    

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

More of you, Lord!

" Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus. Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus."  Philippians 3:12-14

         I must make a confession: I am fidgety. I am not satisfied. I have a strong yearning in my heart to see what I haven't seen before, do what I haven't done before- go far beyond the places in God that I have been to.
I've been born again since December of 1990. I've been preaching since Easter weekend of 1998 (I say Easter, not to glorify the word, but to give a timeline that people can understand). I've seen many things:

I've seen healing, on many occasions.

I've seen demons cast out of folks.

I've seen folks born again.

I've seen lack and I've seen plenty.

I've seen God repeatedly open doors and make ways where there seemed to be no way.

We've been loved and maligned, hurt and healed, thrown down and lifted up, praised on hated, yet, through it all, Jesus has been faithful!

When I first came to the Lord, it was because I was hungry for more than the dry religion I had been raised in could ever offer me. Something had to give. Something had to change. And change me he did!

Now, I have a yearning inside of me, not an emptiness like before, but a drawing to a deeper place than I've ever been. Greater submission. Greater prayer. Greater study. Greater relationship with Jesus, out of which will grow greater ministry to effect change in the spiritual lives of many that we meet.

I LONG to be about my Father's business! I yearn to grow to that place where he CAN open those doors. Right now, I feel like the child looking through the candy store window- I can see the good things on the inside of the store, but the window and the lack of currency in my pocket prevent me from having it.

Yesterday's blessings were great, but they are gone with the winds. Great memories, but nothing I can eat right now- this instant. Yesterday's words and directions were great, but what now?

Oh, Lord, open my eyes, let me see through your eyes! Teach me the ways I need to know! Equip me for your service! Open the door and let me feast with you and lead others to your table! I'm weary of just having the uniform, Lord. Please, place me on the playing field! I will fight the good fight! I will stand for your righteousness and speak your words without fear or favor!

In Ezekial 47, you speak of waters to the ankles, the knees, the loins, and to swim in. I'm grateful for each level, Lord. I'm thankful for the initial salvational waters to the ankles, that changed the direction of my life and the way that I walked. I'm grateful for the waters to my knees that taught me how to pray and seek your face. I love the waters to my loins that help me be of sound mind and in self control of my base human desires. But Lord, I want more!

I long to swim in your holy waters! I yearn to be moved by the current waters of your Holy Spirit inside of me! A place where you direct everything! A place where my feet cannot touch the bottom and my hands cannot touch the sides. A place where YOU are in complete control!

Please, Lord, Let me go swimming! I long to be in the place with you that we read of the early Apostles being in, where thousands are born again, cities are changed, multitudes are healed, the fear of the Lord reigns, and the peaceable fruit of righteousness reigned amongst your people. Lord, take us there!

We are your people and you are our God! Take us all there and beyond, for your word says that the glory of the latter house shall be greater than the glory of the former. Please, Lord. We are not worthy, in and of ourselves to be a part of your promised revival. But you make us worthy through your blood and spirit. Help us to love you above all, love others as ourselves, and love not our lives- even unto death.

In Jesus name! AMEN!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Spirit AND Truth- not just truth!

          Today I was angered. I was having a simple conversation about a doctrinal issue and the responses I was given by my brethren were insulting to me. You see, there are at least two sides to every scripture. One is the cold, hard facts of it. The other is the spiritual side. Both complement each other. Let me try and explain where I'm coming from.
          Jesus had a problem with the Pharisees. They were too focused on keeping the "Law". They were proud of their knowledge. Proud of their holiness. They were "God's people", but their actions sometimes bore little resemblance to the real God they claimed to serve.
         His solution? He informed them in no uncertian terms just how unrighteous they were. He told us all that we must worship God in "Spirit and in truth". Why? a) Because the scriptures are SPIRITUALLY understood, and b) "The letter kills, but the spirit gives life."
         You see, Jesus didn't say that the world would know his followers by their doctrines (though that is important) or their holiness standards. Jesus said they will know us by our AGAPE! The word of God is quick and powerful, but I'm afraid that we've all become so focused on OUR truths and OUR righteousness that we've started to become modern day pharisees!
          Jesus gave us his word as a) a fencepost to stay within and b) a road map to relationship with him! Our doctrines do need to stay biblical, but if our doctrines don't lead us to a deeper love relationship with God- and, by extension, to other people- then our doctrines need to be questioned.
          We are soooo overly proud of our truth that we wear it like a battle armor and use it as a sword to slash the unbelieving infidels. We are, in fact, almost spiritual Muslims in this. Those that disagree with our doctrines are ostracized and condemned. We may not cut off their physical heads, but how many have been killed by our harsh words?
          I'm not advocating false doctrine. We must stand on the truth. But truth is NOT a pet doctrine. Jesus said , "I am the way, the TRUTH, and the life." Our doctrines should lead us into deeper relationship with him. When we get deeper in him, our love for each other and for the unregenerate sinner should GROW DEEPER! We should become MORE loving and MORE helpful of others- NOT more judgemental and haughty!
         When Revelations says that we will overcome by "the word of our testimony", it is not the dry doctrine it refers to. rather, since Jesus is THE WORD MADE FLESH, we will overcome by the JESUS of our testimony. We need to ask ourselves, which Jesus am I portraying to the world? If we are portraying his passionate, unselfish, humble, giving, and sacrificial love to each other and the world at large, then we are doing right. If all they see, however, is a smug, selfish, and holier than thou critic of their every move, then we need to pray back through! After all, it's all about relationship, not religion.
         Just a thought to ponder.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Will the real church of God, PLEASE come out from among them?

Most of the time, when I write one of these blogs, I tend to have a pattern. I begin with a few scriptures, and then expound upon them to get the point across that I feel God wishes to tell us all. This time, it's different. This time, I'm just going to write from my heart.

For many years, my family and I have struggled. We have fought enemies real, enemies imagined, enemies spiritual, and enemies physical. This struggle has cost us friendships, ministerial contacts, money, and who knows what else. Why have we done this?

We have tried with all our might to be, what one author calls, "God chasers". It is our desire to be with God. It is our desire to be in the middle of what God is doing in these last days. Unfortunately, when you step out to truly follow God, there are MANY voices (in and out of the church), that try and tear you down and stop you!

All we want to do is be a help to the kingdom of God and God's people. If God will help me, and I have not arrived yet, I would like to point out a few things we've learned along the way. Maybe this will be of help to someone out there.

1) Holiness IS required by God, but it is NOT a checklist of rules and regulations! Holiness is a real relationship WITH God! It is God living HIS life in and through us! I cannot be holy, as he is holy, unless he is the one doing the living in my life!

2) Standard. This is the word we "holiness people" like to use when we are referring to the list of do's and don'ts that we believe will get us into heaven. First of all, it is NOT these rules that will get us into heaven. It is, simply and totally, our relationship WITH HIM that gets us in. If we stay in relationship with him, we will naturally live the way he wishes. We will also stay under the blood, keeping us washed whiter than snow. When we begin to follow our standards, but neglect our relationship, we are backslidden!
Secondly, the word standard in scripture doesn't even mean "rules to follow". A standard, in scripture, was the flag that carried the kings emblem on it. When this standard was raised, it caused a beaten down and battered army to look, remember their just cause, regroup and fight for their righteous king. Jesus said, "If I (not these rules), but if I be lifted up, I will draw all men." The standard we need to be lifting is JESUS! We are called to introduce people to Jesus, not our rules!
I'm not saying that scripture doesn't give us do's and don'ts- it does! I am not trying to throw out all of our rules (though some of them are unbiblical and need to be tossed). What I am trying to say is that we have erred. We have placed so much emphasis on our rules, that we have given a false impression to people. We've unwittingly taught them that it is the rules that save them. I have personally seen many "saints" who lined up from head to toe to the "standards", but are as cold as a block of ice, hateful as a mad wolf, and as manipulating as any witch or politician. Yet, they are told if they come to church and check the blocks the preacher tells them to, they will make heaven. God help them on judgement day.

3) Church. Church is NOT the building. Going to church, to quote Kieth Green, won't make you a Christian any more than going to McDonald's will make you a hamburger. When the scripture says to forsake not the gathering of yourselves together, it is NOT referring to a building. Don't get me wrong. If you have a building to assemble in, great! Praise God for it. But that building is not "the church". The church is the people, the bride of Christ that he died on a cross to redeem. Many are the people who think that if you don't go to a building, you're breaking scripture. Many are the people who believe that because they darkened the door of the building, they checked the block, meeting the requirement of gathering together. Again, we have erred.

4) The "church" today is quickly becoming a "bless me club". Sermons are given that tell people how God will bless them, wants to bless them, how to line yourself up in order to receive the blessing. Where is the cry for repentance? Where are the cries to righteousness? Where are the preachers who will stand against sin- naming it specifically, instead of glossing it over as a vague concept. The law, scripture says, is the school teacher to lead us to Christ. Specific sins are named so that we can then see our need for cleansing in the blood of Jesus. The average church today teaches another Gospel, not the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

5) The Bible gives us specific instructions on how to live in EVERY area of our lives. There is more to being a Christian than Acts 2:38 and the oneness of God. But even those things are done in relationship with our creator, not on our own.

6) Todays churches are becoming educated and sleek. Professional preachers, impeccably dressed, preach in front of professional choirs, to a congregation of professional Christians, who proudly hold their head up because they go to Brother "X"'s church. We look down on the worldly singers and celebrities, yet we make our own to follow! In the mean time, lost souls are dying by the thousands right outside the church doors, but these are not reached out to because they can't pay tithes and will be a burden on the pastor and the people to straighten out their lives! God help us! Return us back to the days where all we want is Jesus! Help us Lord to see people through Your eyes!

7) The Apostate church is growing in numbers and notoriety! While many are the people- hungry for God's true words, that are starving in the temples!

It is time for God's people to stand up! It is time for a modern day Pentecost! It is time for the remnant of the bride of Christ to come out from among the worldly church and begin to be the arms, eyes, mouthpiece, and heart of our Lord to a lost and dying world! Lord, help us to find your mind for each of our lives! Help us to find the fields that you would have each of us to work in! Send laborers to the fields to help us and bring forth the promised end time revival! Oh, How my heart longs to be in the middle of what you are doing!

May God help us all!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

All kids argue.

"Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it." - Proverbs 22:6

"He that is weak in the faith, receive ye, but not to doubtful disputations" -Romans 14:1

"Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves." - Philippians 2:3

"By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another." -John 13:35

I love facebook. I love the interaction between friends and colleagues. I love meeting new people who are part of the body of Christ. I enjoy the conversation, the testimonies, and (surprise to those who know me- wink, wink) the debates. If I have a life verse, as they call it, outside of ACTS 2:38, it would probably be the Proverb that says "As Iron sharpens Iron, so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend." In short, put another way, I'll have to begrudgingly admit that- long pause as I gather courage to say it- I enjoy a good argument.

I don't look at it as being hard headed or thinking that I'm always right. My mother, however, used to say that there is a right way, a wrong way, and Mike's way. I guess that means I'm a bit peculiar. I am, in short, opinionated.

I don't mean to come across as a "know it all", at all. I can be a little sure of my opinions, however. To some, this has come across like I think I know it all. Let me be clear- I do NOT know everything. I don't claim to know everything. I will never know everything in this lifetime.

That said, I love to study the word of God and share what God illuminates to me there. Sometimes this sharing has rankled a few feathers of my fellow preachers. Let me say to you all, I'm sorry for upsetting you.

You have your walk with God and I have mine. Some of you and I can agree and get along well. Others of you and I tend to agree to disagree a lot. That's ok, too. We are all at differing levels of understanding of God's word in differing areas of that word. Some of us may know more in one area than others. Others know more in other areas than still others. All of this is ok. We are all God's children and God's kids will argue and disagree from time to time.

The problem comes where we, and I do say WE (me included 4 fingers pointing back at me), get so upset over the others arguments that we go too far. We push so hard to prove a point that we make the other one tend to feel like we think we're better than them, or that they're stupid, or some other such nonsense.

Scripture tells us to esteem each other as being higher than ourselves. I can heartily agree with Paul when he said he was the "least" of the Apostles. We may all be preachers, but many of you have done far more for the kingdom than I've ever dreamed of doing. Truly, I am the least of my brethren.

Scripture also says that we will one day come to a unity of faith. I'm not talking about the basic Bible doctrines like the oneness of God and the plan of salvation. Indeed, we should all have these down pat. It's the other stuff: definitions of holiness, what a Christian can and can't do, who were the sons of God, etc, where we get a little hung up on.

I believe the day of unity in these things will be the day he calls us home and explains it all to us.
I, and all of us, will probably be surprised, both at what we had right and what we had wrong. If we'll just hold on to Jesus- together-, pray with and for each other, show love TO each other, we'll make it. It's the love of God that will show the world that we are God's people, not our scripture quotations or our knowledge.

So, I said all of that to say this: To all those that I have offended in trying to prove a point, to all that I have hurt by the tone of what I said- or the inference of the words- PLEASE FORGIVE ME! It is not my intention to prove to you how great I am! I am nothing! Jesus is everything! For those who are higher up than I on God's food chain, pray for this hard headed preacher to learn to show a little more love!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Grace and unconditional security

"For by grace are ye saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God."
Ephesians 2:8

"For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, and have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, if they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify the son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame."
Hebrews 6: 4-6

"But I keep under my body, and bring it under subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway."
1 Corinthians 9:27

"Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed , not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure."
Philippians 2:12-13

There are some teachings that are very popular in "Christendom"- namely, Grace as God's unmerited favor, and unconditional eternal security (that we are saved once for all time- irregardless of what we do after salvation). Many base the unconditional teaching on the "fact" that Grace is God's unmerited favor.

After all, if we are saved by God's unmerited favor, then what can we do to add to that? How can we ever "fall away" from something that has been given to us, even though we haven't done anything to earn it? If salvation is a free and unearned gift, how can we ever lose it?

Here's the problem with this: the passage above in Hebrews, and many others, clearly refute unconditional security. Scripture says that - once a person has been born again and reached a certain level in their walk with God- and falls away from God, it is then IMPOSSIBLE to renew that person to repentance. Paul even said in 1 Corinthians that he worked hard at keeping his body under subjection to the Lord, because he feared becoming a castaway if he didn't!

If a person can become a castaway AFTER salvation, and a person can reach a point AFTER salvation where they can no longer get into a repentant place with God, then that person (or those people) can be lost AFTER salvation! Therefore, "unconditional eternal security" is a lie. It is true that, if a person desires to stay saved, and that person stays in right relationship with God, then they WILL hear, "Well DONE my good and faithful servant, enter ye in...". God will move heaven and earth to keep you saved. There is only one thing that God will not do in this regard: he will not break your will.

God has given us something he gave no animal nor Angel- free will. Animals do what they were made to do. Angels do God's will or become fallen Angels. God never tried to redeem Satan and the 1/3 of the Angels that rebelled with him. Yet, we fall, and God himself, as Abraham prophesied ("God will provide HIMSELF a lamb"), became a man- the lamb of God- and became the perfect sacrifice for our sins. This opened the door for, "whosoever will" to take part in the salvation he bought and paid for with his OWN blood (Acts 20:28).

Yet, for all this, we have freedom of choice. We can choose to enter into relationship with God, or not. Once we've chosen to enter that relationship, we can chose to leave that relationship as well. That's why scripture tells us to "work out (our) own salvation in fear and trembling." It's a choice. If we chose to leave our relationship with God, we lose our salvation, unless God grants us repentance- which he doesn't have to do.

God died for a bride that would love him. It is not his desire to have an "arranged and forced marriage." We either love and serve him out of genuine and loving relationship, or we don't. It's up to us.

As I've pointed out on this blog on other occasions, Grace is NOT the unmerited favor of God. Grace is a partnership relationship with God- see my earlier posts on Grace to see what I refer to. Unmerited favor from God is MERCY! Some say that the words mercy and grace are used interchangeably in the scriptures. Yet, there is not one place in the scriptures where this is true.

Mercy and Grace work interactively. Without mercy, we have no access to his grace. With Mercy, we CAN be in relationship with God. His Mercy drove him to the cross for our sins. His Grace opened his arms to say "whosoever will". His Mercy allows for us the chance for forgiveness. His Grace helps us to STAY forgiven. If grace is "God's unmerited favor", then how do we "grow in Grace" as Peter admonishes us to do? If, however, Grace is that divine partnership WITH God, then THIS we can grow in.

Some are saying that I'm making a mountain out of a molehill. What does it matter if someone's definition of Grace is wrong? So what if they believe that Grace is "unmerited favor", what difference does it make? It makes all the difference in this world- and the next.

I'm not saying that a person will go to hell simply because they have a wrong definition of the word. However, we tend to act out what we believe. Our actions, in fact, always follow what we believe. That's why James says for someone to show him there faith without works, but he will show his faith BY his works. Paul said we are to "work out" our salvation in fear and trembling.

We have two beliefs. They cannot both be correct. They are diametrically opposed.

"Unmerited favor" as Grace leads to the belief that salvation is a finished work. WE have no part to play in it. After all, we are "saved by "unmerited favor". It's a done deal. This belief flies in the face of the many scriptures that say we CAN lose out with God. Are there contradictions in the word of God. It also leads to ungodliness and worldliness in "the body of Christ." Why try if it's a done deal?

If Grace is a divine partnership, then it is a RELATIONSHIP with God that we can enter into because of his mercy (unmerited favor). A relationship that, like a marriage, must be tended to and worked at. God gives us the power and even the desire to do what he wants us to do, but the obedient choice is still ours to make.

This view of Grace is the scriptural one. This view tells us that "whosoever endureth unto the end, the same shall be saved." This view allows us to "work out our salvation" and "grow in relationship (grace)". This view leads to us striving to stay in right relationship with God. This opens the door for us to know God more- to know him deeper. This allows us to go from "glory to glory." That's why Paul himself worked hard at keeping his own body under subjection. He had to, out of love and out of fear, stay in that right relationship with God. If he didn't, he said he would become a castaway.

Anything less than a partnership with God (in which both God And we, give our all), is simply not biblical grace, it's a religion that bears no resemblance at all to the relationship that the Lord died to create.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Correction builds God's fruit into our lives- if we let it!

" All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works." 2 timothy 3:16-17

"Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child: but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him."
Proverbs 22:15

"For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not? But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers then are ye bastards, and not sons. Furthermore we have fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits and live? For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but he for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness. Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby." Hebrew 12: 6-11

There are many people leaving the church these days. Don't get me wrong. I'm not a preacher that says you have to stay in the church you were born again in, or your a sinful church hopper. It is my belief that we are the body of Christ. God knows the best place for each part of his body to be. If he is leading someone to leave one good church and go to another, it is for the benefit of everyone involved. Go with God!

There are also some bad churches out there. If they are not teaching the truth, if they are getting worldly and allowing ungodliness to come in, pray for them- say something to the pastor (respectfully) if God wants you to. If, it gets too bad, AND God gives you the go ahead, leave there and go somewhere else.

My problem is with the ones who break with churches- and Christian friendships- for bad reasons. Namely, correction. Our society hates correction! Scripture says for us to spank our children in order to drive the foolishness far from them. That used to be an accepted practice in our world. Now, kids are told to call the police if their parents spank them.

The results of this nonsense has been devastating to our country. Murder is way up. Armed robbery is way up. Rape is way up. Divorce is way up. Homosexuality is not only accepted, but you can face legal problems if you stand against it. Our prisons are filled to overflowing and our society is spiraling out of control. All because we've left God and his ways!

We're seeing similarities in the church. If God leads a preacher or a brother/sister in the Lord to say "Be careful...", "Thus saith the Lord...", "The unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God..." and the like, many "Children of God" get offended and act like spoiled brats. HOW DARE THEY SAY THAT TO ME! You can almost hear the unspoken "Don't they know who I am? I'm a child of the king!"

Well, princes and princesses, scripture is replete with warnings to preachers to correct the saints and warnings to God's children to accept correction. I'll admit that some "men of God" have gone overboard. Some of us may actually misunderstand some of God's words. Some of us aren't as tactful as maybe we should be. We are "men of God", but, in the end, we ARE men. As such, we are not perfect and stand in need of correction from time to time, just like any other child of God.

However, Scripture tells us all that if we will endure his correction, from wherever he chooses to bring it, it will bring forth HIS righteousness (not ours) and HIS holiness (not our own) in
our lives. I didn't enjoy the spankings I got from my parents when I was growing up, but I'm now glad I received them. I don't enjoy it when God spanks me, either, but I KNOW it's for my good and HIS glory.

Through it all, I MUST "Buy the truth and sell it not". I MUST receive a LOVE for the truth, an unconditional AGAPE' love for his holy words. That kind of love will allow me to submit my will to God and allow him to continue to mold and make me into the "man of God" he wishes to make me to be. That kind of love will allow me to accept a gentle word from a concerned fellow Christian, or from a concerned preacher, with meekness of heart.

Instead of getting all bent out of shape about it, I can go home and enter my prayer closet with Bible in hand saying, "Lord, are you trying to tell me something here?" Instead of breaking fellowship, I can allow God to show me my own heart.

If I'm wrong, I can repent and ask forgiveness of whomever I need to ask it. If I'm right, I can then know that I'm standing on solid ground, look my accuser dead in the eye (with a heart filled with love) and tell them, "I understand where your coming from, but you're wrong on this one and here's why"- always with a heart towards reconciliation.

If it becomes a spiritual must for us to part ways, I can do it with a clean conscience towards God and love in my heart for my accuser. Always, we must strive to keep the unity of the faith. In order for this to happen, however, we must learn to humbly accept correction- for the greater good of us all!

After all, correction shows us our spots and blemishes. Repentance allows the blood to cleanse us and God to mold us into the image of Christ. No spots will enter heaven. It's that simple. It really is that simple.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

A time for...prophets?

"The word of the Lord came unto me, saying, Before I formed thee in the belly, I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations." Jeremiah 1:5

"To everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven;" Ecclesiastes 3:1

"And such as do wickedly against the covenant shall he (the Anti-Christ) corrupt by flatteries: but the people who do know their God shall be strong AND DO EXPLOITS. And they that understand among the people shall instruct many:..."

Recently, I was asked about my testimonies of my conversion and my call to preach. Since then, through some comments from my wife as well as some gentle nudgings of the spirit, God has had me go back and reexamine the passages he used to call me to preach. One of them was Jeremiah 1: 4-10.

The part that stuck out at me was, "I ordained thee a prophet...". I know what you're thinking: "Who is this guy to think he's a prophet? Will we see him on TBN soon? First of all, I don't think of myself as a prophet, most assuredly not one like the name it claim it hucksters of our day. God has been dropping some disturbing (to me) thoughts into my mind about this. Maybe I should think that way. In fact, maybe we should all think about ourselves that way.

We are entering the very end times. We are watching the beginnings of the final horrible days ahead. Some say we won't be here for the church will have been raptured. I don't happen to agree with that, though I wish it were true. Who really wants to be here and live through the time of Satan's wrath on Earth? Yet, we are told by another prophet (Daniel) that "the people that do know their God shall be strong and do exploits". In the midst of the awful days to come, we are told of how powerful God's people will become in the Lord. After all, doesn't the word also say that, "the glory of the latter house (us) will be greater than the glory of the former house" (the early church).

We've all been looking for that end time revival. We've all been praying for it to come, yet very little seems to be happening in God's kingdom nowadays. What's the difference?

In the OT, the revival was always brought on by a prophet- God's man for that hour- who would come with God's word for that generation. Many times he was used to show God's power in the land. When God's power was manifested, the people repented.

In the early church, it was the same, yet different. Yes, God had powerful leaders, and he showed up and showed out! Everything from casting out demons, to healing the sick, etc., was being done and many were converted. However, I would submit to you that our church structure seems to be the opposite of theirs.

"And he gave some, Apostles; and some, prophets; and some evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints; for the work of the ministry; for the edifying of the body of Christ." Eph. 4: 11-12

Our modern churches seem to be set up as a TOP DOWN hierarchy. We read these verses and are taught by many that these verses mean that:
It is the five fold ministries job to a) perfect the saints b) work the ministry, and c) edify the body of Christ. The sheep are to show up, worship, give their offerings, and hang on every word that their "enlightened leaders" say. Then they are free to go home and be all starry eyed about having been in the presence of God and, by extension, God's man. What if that's not what these verses mean?

What if they really mean that a) it is the 5-fold ministries job to help perfect the saints so that b) THEY (and us) can do the work of the ministry, in order that c) the body of Christ is edified (or grown and lifted up). What do I mean? It is the leaderships job to pray for, teach and correct, and lead God's people to higher places in God. For what reason? So that they, too, can learn to be used in ministry!

There are nine or more gifts of the spirit listed between 1 Cor 12 and Romans 12. These gifts are there and are available to the whole body of Christ, to be exercised by whoever God wishes to use in these capacities. "These signs shall follow THEM THAT BELIEVE.." Mark 16 says, yet in many churches, we are given the idea that only those special few on the platform can do these things. Indeed, in some places, the "sheep" are not allowed to operate in the gifts. If they do, they are accused of stepping into the pastors authority. How absurd!

On the flip side, if a congregation is encouraged to operate in the spirit of God, and taught how to do this, this gets a congregation excited! Why? They're involved. Their not just money giving pew warmers. They are an active part of what God is doing there. How many have been lost and have given up on God because they were not allowed to operate in the way God wished them to?

When they see a need for prayer and have the freedom to go do that? OH, what a difference that makes! When they have an opportunity to give a Bible study to a sinner, and that person (or people) get born again as a result? How excited will they get? How many more Bible studies will they give? How many, when they see the tears of joy and release on the face of the family that they just helped with groceries or a car, or their bills, or clothes, etc won't be encouraged to help more? Especially when they see the family they helped reached for God!

That's how it's supposed to work! We teach and preach and lead. We do take part in doing the work of the ministry, but God's people are let loose to let God work through them as well. The more God works through all of us, the more we are all willing to do more work for God. The more we see God doing, the more excited we become and want to see and experience more. This circle naturally edifies (lifts up and grows) the whole body of Christ. We all get closer and closer to God and see God doing more and more.

One of the gifts of the Spirit is Prophecy. We tend to think of it as "foretelling the future or giving divine warnings". If God chooses to use people that way, so be it. However, simply put, prophecy means, "to speak forth the word of God". Yes, there are gender specific requirements to certain offices in the church. But, anyone can be used to speak a word in due season to a hungry soul that they meet- if God directs. Anyone can be used to pray.

Yes, there is a specific office called a prophet that is part of the 5 fold ministry (prophetess is not a part of this), but anyone can prophecy. What does it say in Revelations about the end time saints (our generation?)?

"...And he said unto me, these are they they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the lamb." (Rev 7:14) See, we are going through the great tribulation. Sorry, had to throw that in. But, how did they (we) make it through?
"And they overcame him (Satan) by the blood of the lamb, and by the word of their testimony, and they loved not their lives unto death" (Rev 12:11).

That kind of commitment only comes through great spiritual excitement and freedom. The TOP DOWN church system does not bring revival. Only a people that are freed to follow God and experience their own love affair with him can do this.

I'm not advocating "no fences". I'm not advocating the abolishing of "pastoral authority". Yes, people need guidance and people need correction. All of these things are covered, in detail, in the scriptures. My point is that the five fold ministry was never intended to take the place of God in peoples lives. When we do, we hinder the move of God. When we preach or teach what God gives us, and the service is over, other than prayer, that message is now between the hearers and GOD. We have no authority from God to run other peoples lives.

Will they make mistakes and mess things up? Of course! But would a parent rather help a fallen toddler get back up and try to walk again, or would they prefer that they never walk because there's a possibility they may get hurt, hurt someone else, or inconvenience us? If we want to see more people staying in the church and getting excited about the things of God, then we've got to let go the strangle hold we think we have to have in order that they won't get out of control. The beauty of living for God is that HE"S IN CONTROL, not us. We're just blessed to be able to be used by him to serve others.

We need more people to walk in the gifts of God, not a centralized few. We need more people to prophecy, not just the leadership. We need more people to teach God's truth and reach out to the lost, and help the hurting, and pray for the sick, NOT JUST "THE MINISTRY". Everyone who is born of God has a ministry. I say, let the saints loose and see what God does!

After all, in the end times, "The PEOPLE (not just the ministry) that do know their God shall be strong and do exploits" and "they that understand among the people (not just the ministry) shall instruct many. Let this begin the era of the "ministry of the saints" and watch God work. Let the prophets arise!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

The Peace of God versus the God of Peace- 2 different levels in God

" Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say, rejoice.
Let you moderation be known unto all men, The Lord is at hand.
Be careful for nothing; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.
And the peace of God that passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
Finally, brethren, whatsoever ever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue and if there be any praise, think on these things.
Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you." - Philippians 4: 4-9

A dear friend of mine sent me an encouraging word about keeping the peace of God in our hearts and lives, in spite of the cares of this old world. It was a great comfort to me. It also got me to thinking about this section of scripture. Maybe we should rethink some things.

REJOICE: When we, in our society, think of the word rejoice, we tend to think about exuberance. We picture loud clapping and shouting, etc- especially those of us in the Apostolic church. It's even been taught to us that if we aren't living our lives in this way that we don't have "the joy of the Lord" in our lives. Many is the person who has felt somehow, less than Christian, because they don't feel all joyful.

Unfortunately, those who believe this way are ignoring some obvious facts. Job, for example, was not at all happy and joyful in this way. In fact, Job said, "My soul is weary of my life; I will leave my complaint upon myself; I will speak in the bitterness of my soul." (Job 10: 1) He even went so far as to say, "I will say unto God, Do not condemn me; Show me wherefore thou contendest with me" (Job 10:2) Yet, scripture clearly says that, in God's view of him, "...and still he holdeth fast his integrity..." (Job 2:3).

So what does it mean to be joyful? To rejoice, in the Greek, means, "to be cheerful, i.e. CALMLY HAPPY or well off:..." Yes, it does include feeling happy sometimes. But, it also includes a calmness. A calm trust that, no matter what happens, God has our back. It also includes having a made up mind that, as Job said, "Though you slay me, yet will I trust you".

How can we do this in trials? "The joy of the Lord" is not, as some teach, an exuberant feeling that defies logic. It is a knowledge that, as long as we hold onto and follow him, God's personal joy is fulfilled. When he looks at our integrity in the face of all the demonic opposition, can he turn to Satan and ask about us, as he did of Job, "Have you considered my servant so and so?" Does God feel joyful when we get knocked down? No. But when we tap into his strength and stand back up again- continuing to "fight the good fight of faith", then God's joy overflows!

I can picture him on the throne watching as our enemy knocks us down. With a determined concern, he waits. Then we pray, he gives us strength, and we begin to rise up again. "Look", he tells the Angels and points! "Look, my child is getting back up! Oh, how I love that child!" Saints of God, we can endure any trouble or any trial- even up to death- as long as we know that God's joy is fulfilled! HIS JOY is our strength. When we know that we make him fill joy by our testimony, we can endure the hardships.

MODERATION: We, as Apostolics are all about letting our moderation be known unto all men, though some of us do it in a bragging and finger pointing way (which is not what this means). The word, in the Greek means, "Appropriate, mild". We believe that the scriptures teach us how we should live, think, talk, dress, and conduct ourselves in all areas of our lives. Unfortunately, to some of us, these principles have become almost a Pharisee like checklist. We almost get the attitude that, as long as we check off these things on our "holiness list" every so often, we are right with God.

My brethren, may I tell you that, if we believe this, our focus is wrong. Does God expect us to live in certain ways? Yes. We must strive to be conformed to his word. However, the focus of the word of God is not to give us more rules and regulations. He didn't save us and give us a checklist. The focus of the Gospel is for us to let HIM live his life THROUGH us. He wants our hands as his hands, our feet as his feet, our mouth as his mouth, our thoughts as his thoughts, etc. He is the vine and we are the branches. Our task is to get our flesh out of the way and let him live through us. It's about relationship with and submission to God! The closer we get to him, the more he lives through us and the less important we are to ourselves. We, like John the baptist, should cry out, "I must decrease that he might increase".

For the checklist brethren who fear what I just wrote, if we let God live through us, the checklist will naturally be taken care of. After all, if God gave us the "standards", then he will live those standards that are biblical through us. We must relinquish control of our lives and let him live through us and have control. "Holiness" doe not come from simple obedience. Holiness comes from a submitted life that allows God to live through it.
CAREFUL: Unlike our modern definition of the word, this word, in the Greek, means, "Anxious". Worry is the modern antithesis of faith. We worry about this. We worry about that. As such, we make contingency plans for this and that to try and minimize any possible damage for any possible scenario. Yet, when we realize that GOD is in control of our lives, not us, then we are free to simply pray and let God give us wisdom in every situation.

It also frees us to be able to thank God in every situation. If, in the midst of our trials, we understand that God is working every situation out for our good and his glory, then we are free to praise him in those trials- even when we don't see the answer to our dilemma on the horizon.
We also understand that our prayer requests are just that- requests. We may think that we know the best way that a given situation should be worked out. However, God knows best for every situation. When we make our faithful requests, we should understand that God sometimes tells us wait (because it's not the right time), or even no (because our solution is not the one that he thinks is the best solution). When we pray, we should end with "thy will be done", allowing that God IS God and he knows best for our lives.

If we do these things, mainly relinquishing control of our lives and letting God live through us, then we can experience the "peace of God which passeth ALL understanding" and this peace of God will keep (Greek: "to be a watcher in advance, to mount guard as a sentinel {post spies at the gates}, to hem in, protect) our hearts (emotions) and minds (thoughts) through Christ Jesus (relationship with him). We can have peace in the tough times, no matter how tough or confusing, as long as we know we are in a right relationship with Jesus!

That's one level in God. This is where the majority of us live and struggle in our walks with God (including myself). We struggle in the wildernesses of our lives. We strive to reach our promised land (I call this our areas of ministry). Yet, like Israel of old, we struggle to kill off our flesh. Therefore, like them, we find ourselves journeying in never ending circles in the wilderness. Yet, if we will just relinquish control and let God have it, we will finally be able to enter our promised lands! The wilderness is there to teach us to let go. The peace of God is there to help us through the wilderness.

The next level begins in verse 8, and it begins in our thought lives. We, as God's people, suffer from what one old time preacher called "stinkin thinkin". We don't think this will work out well. We don't like what we see in the world, our family, our brothers and sisters in the Lord, the church we attend, etc. We don't like the political situation. A myriad of negative thoughts constantly bombard us. I'm not saying that there aren't legitimate concerns in any or all of these areas. However, when we leave these concerns at the feet of Jesus, and trust him to care for these needs in his way, we can focus on other things.

We are to focus on (think on) things that are:

True (Greek: "true, as not concealing") - we must think about truth (God's truth), live out God's truth (by his power and spirit living through us), speak God's truth (without fear or favor), and hold on to God's truth (buy the truth and sell it not, the Proverbs declare!).

Honest (Greek: "venerable {deserving respect, from age, character, or associations}, honorable")- we must think honestly, act honestly, speak honestly, work honestly, etc.- even when such honesty may make us look bad in the eyes of others. We must hold fast to our integrity.

Just (Greek: "Equitable in character or act, innocent, holy") We should preach truth and live truth without showing favorites to one. It should not matter to us who has more or less money, who can help or who needs help, who has a pedigree or who doesn't, who has a high position in a company or government or denomination- or who lives under a bridge. God's word is for everyone irregardless of station in life or blood ties.

Pure (Greek: "clean, innocent, modest, perfect") We should be pure in all areas.

Lovely (Greek: "friendly towards, acceptable") We should show ourselves friendly (in Godly ways) and be accepting of whoever God brings our way to help.

Of Good Report (Greek: "well spoken of, reputable") Yes, as Christians, we are to stand against the evils of our society, however, we are also to praise those good things that we see and hear, as well. Give honor where honor is due!

Virtue (Greek: "manliness, excellence") This goes along with "Of Good Report", but deserves it's own category". Instead of the "feministic modern manhood" and the "don't strive for excellence but be as bad as everyone else" attitudes that have clearly taken stronghold in our world, we are to speak and live to be Godly men and strive for excellence.

Praise (Greek: "laudation, a commendable thing") Give honor where honor is due!

This is a heavy list. This is where our thought life should dwell. After all, Proverbs says that, "As a man thinketh, so is he". Just like a horse with a bit in it's mouth, we will naturally go in the direction that our head is going. We need to give God the reigns of our thought life and let him guide us where he sees fit for us to go. We are to be actively looking for truth, honesty, justice, purity, friendliness, things of good reputation, virtuous, and praiseworthy things.

Then, once we've thought on these things, we LEARN and RECEIVE, HEAR and DO (verse 9) these things. In so doing we reach the level that I believe the Apostles and many in the early church operated in: Verse 9 says "THE GOD OF PEACE shall be with you"!

This is both challenging and exciting to me. Instead of fumbling around in our wilderness, getting hurt and spanked, and having very little effect on our world. Instead of bellying up to the Holy Ghost table and reaching for huge portions of "the peace of God". Please, don't take it that I'm belittling the peace of God. On the contrary, I'm grateful for it! It's exactly that peace that has gotten me through many situations.

I believe, however, that God is trying to bring his church back to the level of the early church. Back to an age of Apostolic authority and power. If we, as God's people can somehow get to a place in God where we can get past verses 4-7 (which are important), then we can have the Apostolic revival that God has promised us! The Apostles walked so closely with God that the dead were raised, thousands were saved, and the mere contact with their shadow (mixed with faith in Jesus) brought healing. The lame walked, the dumb talked! They, put simply became an extension of God! They became his hands and feet, his mind and words. In other words, they became so close to Jesus that he was able to live THROUGH them and bring the revival he wanted to bring!

God desires for us to get so close to him that he can live through us and bring the revival that he longs to bring to this day and age. A revival that he prophesied with these words: "The Glory of the latter house (us) will be greater than the Glory of the former house (the early church)."
Lord, help us to get straight with you and get past our wildernesses. Help us to not be content with just being born again. Help us to want what you want!
We don't have to settle for "the peace" of the Rock, we can have the WHOLE MOUNTAIN- you!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The water does no good without the power!

" All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you..." Matthew 28:18-20

"He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not not shall be damned."
Mark 16:16

"Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name given among men men whereby we must be saved." Acts 4:12

"For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence....But ye shall receive power after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you..." Acts 1:5,8

Recently, I was corresponding with one my young cousins. It seems the water was out at their house yesterday. It was restored today, but somehow, in the process, their power was knocked out. In writing me about it, she made the statement that the water does them no good without the power (because it takes power to warm up the water). This set me to thinking in two similar directions at once.

The first direction is this: There are millions of people who have only been baptized in water using the Matthew 28:19 verse as a formula. What they fail to understand is that the power of baptism is in the name, not the titles! Acts says that the name of Jesus is necessary for salvation (Acts 4:12).

When it is pointed out to them that every time, in scripture, when someone was baptized, it was always done in the name of Jesus, they argue one of two things. The first is that Father, Son, and Holy Ghost are names. Really? Consider this:

What is the name of the son? Jesus, right? So why don't they at least baptize saying, in the name of the Father , and of Jesus, and of the Holy Ghost? Since they acknowledge the name of the son, shouldn't they at least use his name in the Matthew 28:19 formula?

What's the name of the Father? They generally can't answer this. They might say Jehovah or Yahweh. Some just say Father. What does scripture say? Isaiah 9:6 says that the name of the Christ child would be called, get this, "the everlasting Father". So the Father's NAME IS JESUS.

Now, since we know that the name of the father, and of the son is Jesus, what is the name of the Holy Ghost? Jesus calls the Holy Ghost, "the comforter" in John 14:16. In promising they will receive this comforter, he told the disciples that, "I will not leave you comfortless, I WILL COME TO YOU" (John 14:18). Further more, Isaiah 9:6 says that the name of the Christ child would be called, "Wonderful Counselor". A counselor is one who Comforts. Remind me again who the comforter is? Oh yeah. The Holy Ghost! So the name of the Holy Ghost IS Jesus!

Therefore, THE NAME of the Father, the Son, and The Holy Ghost IS JESUS! Since there is no other name under heaven that saves us, and Baptism is part of salvation (Mark 16:16), then everyone aught to be baptized in water in the name of Jesus! Otherwise?

The water does no good without the power!

Thought number two:

There are many who believe baptism in water to be necessary, but believe the baptism of the Holy Ghost, with the evidence of speaking in tongues to be a thing of the past.

Jesus told the disciples that they would be endued with POWER from on high and that then, then they would be witnesses. The world really wasn't paying them any mind, until the day of Pentecost. When that day came, the Holy Ghost fell on ALL 120 in the upper room and they ALL spoke in tongues.

Baptism in Jesus name washes away our sins from that point backwards (if we've truly repented- otherwise, there's still no power in the water). However, we need more than that. Jesus said we have to be born of water (baptism in Jesus name) AND born of the Spirit (Baptism of the Holy Ghost). You can find this in John 3:3-8.

The Holy Ghost is the Earnest (down payment) of our heavenly inheritance (Ephesians 1:14). The Holy Ghost also gives us the POWER we need to live as he wishes us to, and be a living witness to our savior- the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. If fact, "But ye are not in the flesh, but in the spirit, IF SO BE that the spirit of God dwelleth in you. Now, if any man have not the spirit of Christ (proving that the spirit of God and the spirit of Christ are the exact same spirit- one God, not three), he is none of his." (Romans 8:9)

The message is simple here as well. If we stop with being baptized in Jesus name, but are not filled with the power (the baptism of the Holy Ghost), then, once again, the water does no good without the power!

The water, through the blood (Collossians 2), cleanses us of our past sins. The Holy Ghost fire purifies us more!

The water sets us free from the past, the Holy Ghost empowers us for the future!

So yes, my dear cousin, you spoke very true words.

The water does no good without the power!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The Nest, part 2

"And we know that all things work together for good, to them that love God, to them who are the called according to HIS (emphasis mine) purpose." -Romans 8:28

"They that sow in tears shall reap in joy." - Psalms 126:5

A few weeks ago, I wrote about a little Robin's seemingly futile attempts at building a nest. Given the location (the window sill above our front door), the very small frame it was attempting to build on, and the wind that seemed to blow the nest apart, it seemed a lost cause. However, today I must report to you that "Mildred" (my wife's name for the mother robin) was not only successful in her attempts, but she now has a small brood of baby robins to care for.

This got me to thinking, again. Life is not easy. Our lives seem to be filled with troubles that follow us from the cradle to the grave. Yet, the prosperity preachers continually shout how wonderful and blessed our God wants our lives to be. The usually unspoken flip side of this false doctrine is that if a person is struggling, then somehow they had a lack of faith- or didn't have enough faith with which to hold onto their miracle.

Mildred kept working at her appointed, and impossible, task in spite of her circumstances. She dealt with the wind. She avoided the predators. She stayed watchful and vigilant as she worked. Finally, the nest was done and she began the even more consuming task of caring for the eggs. After the chicks were born (can you call a baby robin a chick? I don't know.), she set out to find food and keep herself and the little ones both fed and safe from harm.

I believe that we humans tend to constantly look for easy street. We are continually trying to avoid the hard things in life. Worse, we've twisted our theology so badly that we- contrary to 1 Timothy 6:5 - suppose that gain IS godliness. When we find ourselves struggling we somehow believe, much like the disciples in the storm while Jesus slept, that God has abandoned us. Not so.

Every test and trial that we go through will be turned for our good IF:

a) we continue our love for the Lord, and
b) we walk in our calling, or if you'd prefer another term, his purpose for our lives.

When we find ourselves struggling in the storms of life, we need to keep loving Jesus. When everything in our lives that we try to do - like Mildred's nest- is continually falling apart in the winds of life, we need to keep loving Jesus AND keep trying to accomplish that which God has given us to do.

If we will - again, just like Mildred- we will see the dream take shape and life spring forth from a hopeless situation! We cannot give up and stop trying. No matter how bad the situation, God WILL make it work for good in both our lives, and his kingdom. How many people that point a finger at our lives and watch us struggle, may become that new born saint? How, you ask? As a result of them witnessing the Red sea parting in our lives. How many of our children will remember that we never gave up on God in our struggles and find the strength to keep living for God in theirs.

No. The struggle isn't easy, but it will be worth it- no matter the situation- to see others enter the kingdom through the "word of (our) testimony." Life's hard, but God specializes in making something beautiful out of our messes, if we let him. If you're struggling today, hold on to Jesus and keep working at your mission. One day, it'll be worth itl. God is truly good- and he makes our circumstances work out for good- all the time. And all the time, God is good.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Truth and Love

We seem to live in a society that rejects absolutes. As I once heard Br Arnold say, "Black is white and white is black, and whatever's gray, have a happy day"!
Our whole society screams "LOVE ME", while at the same time, trying very hard to cover up who we are.
We don't like our looks? Let's have plastic surgery to change them. We don't like our relationships? Instead of making the hard choices and looking at ourselves to see what part of the problem we play, we ditch the relationship to find a "better" one. We get hurt by people in our relationships and we decide to either have no more relationships, or to stop having normal relationships and seek relationships in ungodly ways (Homosexuality, lesbianism, adultery, bisexuality, Transvestitism, etc).
When it is pointed out, truthfully, that these ways of living, are wrong, we scream, "Don't judge me", or "I thought you loved me- How can you speak to me that way?"

The truth is that God's love requires a truthful answer. God loved us so much that he robed himself in flesh to die for our sins. He loves us for who we are (though he hates the sin that inhabits us), but he also loves us too much to allow us to stay that way! He does, however, love us so much that he gives us a choice- our sinful ways of doing things, or his better way. One path leads to hell. The other to eternity with him.

How does that play out with us on a daily basis? When in a conversation with someone and we hear them saying things that are wrong, do we let it fly on by and say nothing? Or do we speak the truth IN LOVE?

Truth is just that- truth. There is no changing it. It is written in stone- never changing. Truth is absolute and truth is not an emotion. Truth, absolute truth, is probably sitting on most peoples coffee table or book shelves. It's called "The Holy Bible". It is the ultimate truth. It is God's word to us. It is his instruction manual for life, love, and everything else. Incidentally, where science "fact" and the Bible disagree, science hasn't caught up to God yet- believe the Bible every time.

When someone says something to you that's wrong, prayerfully give them a loving AND biblical answer. Say it gently, but speak the truth! Jesus does! Aren't we supposed to be like him?

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The nest

"Set your affection on things above, not on the things on the earth." Col 3:2

We have a rather interesting drama going on here at our home. No, we're not having a major family problem or anything. Let me explain.

Attached to our home is a covered deck. There is also lattice attached to the side area of the deck near the door. As such, our front door area is somewhat protected from the elements. The door is surrounded by glass panes. The top panes have 2 x 2's surrounding them. It's an older home, but the front door area is nice and inviting.

Especially to a certain bird. You see, for the better part of a week now. A bird- a robin, I think- has been steadily trying to build a nest onto one of the wooden lips where the glass is around the upper right side of the front door. Here's the problem.

You see, the lip is far to small to provide a quality base for the nest to sit on. The parts of the nest that aren't firmly on the window sill are constantly falling off due to simple gravity. Then there's the wind that blows through the lattice (about two feet away from the nest). The parts of the nest not taken down by gravity, are systematically scattered around by the wind. Yet, the bird continues its futile efforts to build a nest for it's family. What it really needs to do is change the surroundings and find a better foundation to build it's nest on.

How like that Robin most of us are! We get so caught up in the temporary. We like the looks of something and, usually with very little forethought, we go running after it- never once considering the possible future ramifications to ourselves and our loved ones. We chase the better job, the better car, and the better house. We pursue the corporate ladder, the higher educational degree, the more prestigious neighborhoods and churches.

Then, like that Robin, we find ourselves in a seemingly never ending battle to pick up the pieces of our lives. All the while wondering why God allowed us to go through all that. Meanwhile, God, just like me watching the bird's struggles, wonders when we're going to quit throwing effort after foolishness. His desire is for us to have our lives built on the firm foundation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ!

That's not to say that life is easy or even prosperous when we are living for Jesus. However, we have the priceless gift of knowing that we're not alone. We have his spirit to lead, guide, and comfort us throughout our lives. Then, we also have the gift of avoiding some of the life winds and great falls that we otherwise would have if we chose to go our own way!

No, God doesn't promise us great riches and glory. However, he does promise to never leave us nor forsake us. He does promise to guide us. And he does tell us that, if we will but endure unto the end, he will one day take us to be with him forever- where there will be no more pain, no more tears, and no more suffering. What a day that will be!

What is that CEO position, when compared to the streets of Gold? What is that PH.D., when compared to eternity with Jesus? What is that big home on the golf course, when compared to walking the streets of God's city- hand in hand with the family he gave us and helped us to guide them in his ways? What is the praise of this world, when compared to hearing our Savior say, "Well done my good and faithful servant- enter ye in..."?

Where are we building our kingdoms today? Where is the foundation of our lives today? Is it on the temporary things of this world? Or are our feet set firmly on the rock of our salvation?
Just something for all of us to think- and pray- about.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

What exactly did Noah find?

"But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord." Genesis 6:8

The word for Grace here, in the Hebrew, is the word, "chen" (pronounced khane) and it means, "graciousness, i.e. subj. (kindness, favor), or objective (beauty)" It comes from the Hebrew word "chanan" (pronounced khaw-nan), which means "to bend or stoop in kindness to an inferior; to favor, bestow; causative to implore (move to favor by petition)."

This is the first appearance of the word Grace in the whole of Divine scripture. With one exception (Ezra 9:8- where the Hebrew word is techinnah and means "graciousness, caus. entreaty") this is the same word for the English word, Grace, that is used every single time in the Old Testament.

What exactly was it that Noah found here? How did he find it? The situation around this verse, as well as the word meanings, holds our answers.

Genesis 6 begins with a detailed explanation of just how far mankind had fallen since our ouster from the Garden of Eden. In only some 1600 years or so, mankind had become so reprobate in our thinking that God says that "every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually" (verse 5). God became so fed up with this, as well as the many other sins listed here (that I won't get into right now), that he decided to destroy everything and everybody and basically start over again. He would surely have done just that, were it not for one man: Noah.

The scripture states, unequivocally, that Noah and Noah alone found Grace in the eyes of God. It has been presented to me for many years, as an explanation for this, that God was making plans to destroy everything, when he just happened to come across one righteous man and decided to make an exception of his family due to what he saw. I believe this to be only partially true.

I believe that, in the definitions listed above, lies our answers. It states that Grace is not only
'kindness and favor", but that at it's core, it is that God was "moved to favor by petition". It is my belief that Noah was not only a righteous man in a very ungodly generation, but that he was moved to prayer by the evil that he saw around him. I believe that he constantly was in a state of supplications for God to intervene in the lives of those around him. I believe that he looked around him and prayed, as many of us do today, "Lord, this is terrible, you've got to do something about all this!"

Scripturally, the vast majority of the time, whenever someone was allowed to hear a personal message from God, it was because they had already spent time in prayer talking to and listening to their creator. I believe that it was in one of those times that the Lord spoke to Noah with the answer to the many petitions he'd been making! "OK, Noah", the Lord said interrupting Noah's prayer time, "you've been asking me to do something about all these evils, here's my plan".

To everyone that has prayed and prayed for their loved ones, to all that have begged a righteous God to intervene in an increasingly vile and evil world, don't give up hope I give you Noah!

Noah began to build the ark, using God's blueprints. For 100 years Noah (called a preacher of righteousness in the New Testament) cut lumber, sanded it, nailed it all together, pitched it (to water proof it), and preached that if the people would only join them and get in the boat (when the time came), they'd be saved from the judgement to come. 100 years of sweat and toil. 100 years of hard and frustrating labor. 100 years of enduring everything from mockings to angry unrest. 100 years of standing alone for God's truth. 100 years of continued prayer and wondering if he'd misheard God or if it was all worth the effort. Was it?

Noah's prayers found favor with God and Noah's prayers caused God to give him the plans for anyone to escape the flood. Grace is NEVER unearned and Grace is never accidentally found.
The New Testament says that God is a rewarder of them that "diligently seek him". Jesus said that the straight and narrow way to avoid the coming judgement, at the end of this age, will have "few...that FIND it". In other words, a person must be looking for it, in order to find it!

Our enemy would have us to believe that it's not worth the trouble. Our enemy would try and persuade us to give up the fight and stop praying. our enemy would tell us that we've misunderstood the Lord and are being foolish. After all, who else out ther stands for what we do? In the world, ours is a very small voice. Surely the majority must be correct, right?

The majority in Noah's day were not only wrong, but dead wrong. Of all the millions of souls alive at the time, only EIGHT escaped on the ark. As God's judgement fell and the mocks turned to terrified cries, Noah and his family were safely rising above it all on the ark that came from God's blueprint and provision of materials, and Noah and his families hard work faith and obedience! Millions died, but I can Garuntee that Noah thought the hard work and confusion had been worth it all!

Confusion? What do you mean? There is not one biblical record of God speaking to Noah between the time he gave him the blueprints and 100 years later when Noah was told to get on the ark with the animals that God sent. That could cause some frustration and confusion, when you're facing the upset people Noah had to face. But, when you've truly heard the voice of God tell you to do something, not a voice on this earth can sway you from that path, if you've a made up mind and a God fearing heart.

Can one person make a difference? Noahs family was saved, due to his commitment. The hundreds of animals on board (except those that were eaten to sustain Noah's family) were spared, due to Noah's dilligence. The whole climate of the earth itself was changed due to Noah's obedience to God's plan's. Mankind recieved a fresh start, due to Noah's love of God, family, and others. Can one person make a difference? Oh Yes!

Just as in Noah's time, it takes obedience and faith on our part to make it. When we willingly yoke (bind) ourselves to Jesus and willingly let him lead us- doing what he asks us to do along the way (with his help), we'll make it, and escape judgement. If we do not, we will be judged, just as surely as the millions who died in the flood! God didn't build the ark for Noah. He gave him the plans and told Noah what to do.

Then, as now, Grace is still a partnership with almighty God. I beg all to willingly enter into this divine partnership (Acts 2:38, John 3:3-5) with Jesus! If we will follow his plan, though we are mocked by the world, though it goes against the modern grain, though we are persecuted and killed, we will escape the coming judgement. As the old song says, "It's gonna be worth it all one glorious, happy day. It's gonna be worth every long mile, every heartache and every trial. It's gonna be worth it all, one beautiful, happy day!"

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The Exchange and the Partnership

"Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your weary souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light."
Matthew 11: 28-30

When most of us have read this passage, or heard this passage, we've mostly understood it to speak of an exchange. We bring our burdens to Jesus, he takes them and frees us from them. Then we go on our merry way, leaving all those heavy burdens with him. But, is that really what this passage teaches? Let's have a closer look.
The passage begins with Jesus saying "Come unto me...". He didn't say "Come to my religion", or, "Come to this philosophy". He calls us to enter into a relationship with himself!
Who is he calling? Everybody? No. Though he does want everyone to be in relationship with him, he only calls the heavy laden. What does that mean? In the Greek it means "loaded up and overburdened". Why does he only call these folks?
Humans are basically proud. As long as everything is going smooth for us, we think that we are just fine and in NO need of help. This is why God allows troubles and trials in our lives. When things begin to pile up and life seems to be more than we can handle- when we just don't think we can take another step- that's when Jesus tells us to come to him! It's at this point that he understands that we know that we are not as big and bad as we think we are. During the hard times, we know that we MUST have outside help, if we are going to be able to make it to the other side of the valley that we're in. At this time, we are humbled enough to ask for and accept the help that we need.
So what happens when we come to him? First of all, we humans are sinful creatures. Sin has a way of piling up on us like barnacles onto a ship. Left unchecked, these barnacles will slow us down, effect our navigation, and eventually, destroy our ship- causing us to sink and die. However, he made a way, through his death, burial, and resurrection, to remove these barnacles from our lives. When we are obedient to the Gospel message (Acts 2:38), an awesome exchange happens! Jesus was made "sin for us..., that we might be made the righteousness of God in him."(2 Cor 5:21).
What an awesome event! Our whole past is washed and made new to the glory of God! Our sins are washed away in his blood and our spirits are made new! He has given us a new nature. Instead of the old sinful one, if we will walk in his spirit, we will then be able to make heaven our home.
It is here that the Matthew scripture picks back up. Jesus takes his analogy a little further. He tells us to take his yoke upon us. What is a yoke? In those days, the oxen or beast of burden they were using were grouped together in yokes of twos. A yoke was the device that was used to strap the two animals side by side and make them work together. It actually made it easier for their master to keep them headed in the right direction, as well as making it easier for the individual animals involved to pull the load. This analogy actually began when Jesus told "all that are heavy laden" to come to him. If the burden becomes too heavy for one animal to carry, it will either stop moving or fall under the weight.
Jesus is telling us that we need help. In order to make it safely through and accomplish what he has given us to accomplish (take his YOKE upon US), we need help. He is telling us that, though he may have given us a lot of work to do, if we will but allow him to place a yoke on us, HE will help us. Who are we working with, who are we plowing with? JESUS!
When I was in the Army, I was an enlisted soldier. By military statute, I had to obey the orders of all officers. It didn't take me long to discover that there were two types of officers. One type used his authority to order those under his command to GO and DO whatever the task was. Either he, or his representative, would be back to check on your work at a later time. These were the officers that you did only what you had to do out of respect for his rank. You didn't have much use for the man behind the rank, but you obeyed the rank.
The other type were the ones that used their authority to say, "Let's Go do..." whatever the task was. These officers understood that they commanded men that needed to be respected. They understood that when they showed respect to their men, not only did the task get done, it was done well- many times above what was actually needed. They didn't think themselves better than their men. They thought it a privilege to lead these fine men and cared for the welfare of each and every one of them. These officers could give nearly impossible orders and knew that their men would put their lives on the line in order to try and accomplish the goal!
Jesus, the king and creator of the universe, became a man and describes himself as "meek and lowly of heart". Think about it. Our creator doesn't think himself better than we are! Our creator made a way for us! Our creator BECAME SIN FOR US, so that we can BECOME HIS RIGHTEOUSNESS! It's the becoming part that he refers to, when he says for us to "take (his) yoke upon" us. Here, take this yoke and let me help you to become my righteousness in a very unrighteous world.
Jesus is saying, "I realize that I've given you a big job to do. I'm asking a lot of you. But, I've taken care of the barrier that was between us (sin), and If you will enter into relationship with me- attach yourself to me- I'll help you pull the load that I've given you to pull! I'll help you become what I plan for you to become. Just attach yourself to me, and stay attached to me, and I'll see you through to glory!"
Jesus is calling us to relationship (Acts2:38) and Partnership! What a great idea! I, for one, say YES! What will you say?

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

On this blessed day!

"But seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you." Matthew 6:33

"Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled." Matthew 5:6

"Whoso findeth a wife findeth a good thing, and obtaineth favor of the Lord." Proverbs 18:22

It was 12 years and 8 days ago in the afternoon, on a lonely Sunday drive home, when my life began to change- though I didn't know it at the time. I had walked away from God for a time (out of anger at him), and had only recently came back to him and "prayed back through" (as we Pentecostals call it). I had gone to visit a dear friend of mine in south Georgia that weekend and was on my way back to my rented room in Lawrenceville.

My friend, David, has a beautiful family and as much as I enjoyed being with him, my heart yearned for a family of my own, especially a wife. I had been through a failed marriage of my own (the reason I walked away from God in the first place) and now found myself yearning for the love of a good woman (Yes, I mean LOVE- not lust).

My newly cleansed heart began to cry out to Jesus for what I desired and knew I needed. I drove with tears running down my face and one hand raised in the air- worshipping my God and petitioning him for my needs. As I prayed, I reminded him that he had said that "it is not good for man to be alone." Then I made the request that would change my life: "Lord, I need a wife, but I want this one to love you more than she loves me." Little did I know the glorious changes that would bring.

The very next day, at about 10 AM (forgive me, honey, if I get the hour wrong- I'm close), my boss walked up to me with a beautiful woman following him. He spoke to me and said, "Mike. This is Della. Would you mind training her?" My first thought was amazement that he would ask me to train anyone at all. I'd only been on the job for 10 days! My next thought came after seeing the trainee- she was beautiful! Sure, boss, I'll be happy to train her!

As we talked, I could see that she was as sweet as she was beautiful. The biggest thing that stuck out to me, however, was her love for God. She really loved him!

One week later, I worked up the courage to ask her out to dinner. To my joy, she accepted. As we walked out the door of the warehouse, heading to my car, I suddenly remembered- I hadn't cleaned my car out! I was a true bachelor. There were fast food bags and newspapers galore in the floor board of the passenger front seat! Would she see this and walk away? It was too late now. All I could do was pray, "Lord, Help me".

When I opened the door to let her in, I didn't see her face. I'm sure she was shocked, but she said nothing. To my delight, she got in. The poor woman's knees almost touched her chin, due to the floor board's garbage.

We went to Ryans and got the buffet. I have no idea what I ate, nor who else was around. All I could see was Della. She was even more charming outside of work than she was at work. We talked for a while and, too soon, the evening was over.

The following Saturday, she invited me over to her Dad's house and helped me clean my car. Apparently, she saw something in me more than my being a slob! I'm still not sure what.

A few weeks later, she asked me to accompany her to her mother's grave, who had passed away one year earlier. We went after work. It was a starry night, so it wasn't very hard to find the grave. As Della cried softly on my shoulder, the Lord spoke to me: "This is my gift to you and your responsibility. Take care of her." I began to cry with her.

On February 23, 1999, one year to the day after our first date- and one year and seven days since we first met and one year and eight days after I cried out to my God for a Godly wife- Della and I married! God is so good!

Della has followed me and the call of God on our lives ever since. We've lived in Ga, Tx, Ms, Ar, and now Pa. We've had times of plenty, and times of little. We've had times of laughter, and times of tears. But always, we've had God and each other. She prayed for me when I was week, backed me up when I was right, and spiritually spanked me when I was wrong. A better help mate could never be found!

So, on this day, my love, I want to tell the world how much I thank God for you! I also want to tell the world and you, that I truly love Della Mae Winskie- now and always. Thank you for tolerating me these 11 years! I still don't know who's training who! With love, from your husband, Mike