Sunday, January 29, 2012

Who knows better what's best for us: God or us?

Psalm 47

 1O clap your hands, all ye people; shout unto God with the voice of triumph.
 2For the LORD most high is terrible; he is a great King over all the earth.
 3He shall subdue the people under us, and the nations under our feet.
 4He shall choose our inheritance for us, the excellency of Jacob whom he loved. Selah.

The question has arisen anew for me in recent days. I have things I see that I would like to happen. Yet, as good for me as these things appear to be, every time I have reached out for them, something happens to stop them. Why? Does God not see how beneficial these things will be for me? Does he not see how bad things are where I am at and I need to get out of here? Does he take some perverse pleasure in watching me struggle? OR, does he have me exactly where he wants me and HIS way is better than my way?

This is an age old problem for us humans. Our arguments rise as our flesh rages: God gave me a good mind and he expects me to use it. I don't have to ask him about every little decision in my life. 

So, we look. We reach. We try to grasp hold of the things we want. We pray and ask God for them. We may even fast to try and force God's hand to let us have them. Then, we get angry when he doesn't allow us to have what we think we need. 

We seemingly never stop to ask some important questions. A) Does God want us to have the things we want to have? B) Why doesn't he want us to have them?

Psalms 47 teaches us that HE will choose our inheritance for us. Notice that it doesn't say that he will give us what we think we need or want. Yes, the scriptures declare that he will give us the desires of our hearts. But, this is only as we delight ourselves in HIM. OUR will must be submitted wholly and completely to HIS will. When this happens, OUR desires come in line with HIS desires. THEN and only then will he give us the desires of our hearts. 

We see the same pattern here in Psalms 47. We worship and praise him with all we are and have. We elevate him to LORD (supreme controller) and KING (ruler) of our lives- then HE decides what is best for us to have. The scriptures truly ring true. We have not because a) we ask not (I don't have to ask God about every little thing- or do I?) or b) because we ask amiss (We don't ask according to HIS will, but ours). 

If we will truly humble ourselves and submit to HIS Lordship over us, the scriptures teach that he will withhold NO GOOD THING from us. BUT, we must allow HIM to decide was is good for us, rather than insisting that our way is better. 

He knows all things. We do not. He sees the ends from the beginning. We do not. Don't bite into that fruit just because it looks good to you. Next time, listen to God. We don't want to repeat what our ancient parents did in the garden now do we?

Sunday, January 22, 2012

I had a dream last night.

1 Kings 3:5
In Gibeon the LORD appeared to Solomon in a dream by night: and God said, Ask what I shall give thee.

  1. Isaiah 58:12
    And they that shall be of thee shall build the old waste places: thou shalt raise up the foundations of many generations; and thou shalt be called, The repairer of the breach, The restorer of paths to dwell in.

  2. Isaiah 61:4 And they shall build the old wastes, they shall raise up the former desolations, and they shall repair the waste cities, the desolations of many generations.

This is a little different post for me, so please bear with me.

You see, I've been bothered of late. It seems that many of the Apostolic "old guard", so to speak, are dying off. Those great men of God that have blazed the trail ahead of us have begun to be called home in, it seems to me, record numbers. In the last few weeks, many men of God have been called to their rewards. It has caused me to begin to look around and ask, "What now"?

Who among us that are left behind will begin to stand and take their place? Who will the God of heaven tap on the shoulder and begin to work through in these last and evil days? 

Our world, indeed our country, is heading down a disastrous and slippery sinful slope! Entertainment is growing more and more ungodly. Homosexuality/lesbianism, lying, cheating, cohabiting (as opposed to marriage), crime, etc are becoming the new norm. People are leaving the God of their fathers behind in record numbers in favor of sinful lifestyles that were not permitted openly just a generation or two ago.

Worse, the church in America seems to be at a total loss of how to deal with it. What are we to do? How do we stand against the rising tide of evil in our nation and world? One things for sure: business as usual isn't cutting it! We've got to make some changes in order to begin to reach this lost and undone generation we live in!

I had a dream last night that I cannot shake and don't totally understand. What I write now will be the dream and any thoughts that God gives me along the way as I write: 

I was in a church (not the one I currently attend). It was a huge building. The colors were dazzling. The furnishings ornate. The choir loft was larger than many church buildings I've seen. The chairs on the large platform bore soft, velvety cushions and fancy decorative carvings. Especially the center chair that was reserved for "the pastor". 

The reason I was there was two-fold. 1) My family and I had recently begun attending there at the request of the old pastor. 2) The pastor had recently died and the church body were gathering for his funeral. 

I was struck by the lack of people there in the massive facility. A building that had a capacity to hold thousands, held just a mere handful of people. The thought in the dream was that this was a normal crowd. The days where this place was near capacity were long forgotten "glory days". The world that  numbers billions had slowly began to ignore the old church with her "old fashioned ways". 

I remember passing a note to someone there. An Usher? A church board member? I'm not sure. I never saw anyone's face or noticed how they were  dressed. In the note, I simply said, "We'll be glad to help anyway we are needed." When I passed the note, I was sitting in the pews with the few mourners. 

The dream skips some time. Now I am "the pastor" of this huge, but largely empty facility. (Again, this is the dream, not my desire) I am way up in the side balcony looking down on the platform area. I am praying as I pace back and forth- pouring my heart out to God and asking what needs to change. Asking him how we can get the attention of the population at large that ignores this building. 

He seems to draw my attention to the "pastor's chair" and says "you need to begin there and make changes to the structure. Go back to my word and reorganize according to what I will show you there."

At this point, I awakened. 

Now, here are my thoughts on this so far. Any thoughts you have and wish to share, please do. 

1) We, as a movement, have turned our focus away from "the people business" we are called to be in. In it's place, we have placed our focus on prosperity. The prosperity of the people, the ministry, and "the church". This prosperity is not measured by the spirituality of the people, but is measured by the money and wealth of the people involved and the size of our church rolls and buildings. We have turned away from Peter's words and have begun to "suppos(e) that gain is godliness". 

We build bigger and fancier edifices "to the glory of God". We have the best choirs, wearing the best robes, using the best instruments, and best equipment. We buy church vans, ostensibly to pick up "the lost", but really because we want to BE SEEN as caring for the lost. We build all the trappings to "look the part", yet when a family with a real need shows up, all we tend to do is give them some stale food and tell them, "We'll pray for you- God will make a way".

2) Our organization needs to change. Rather than the "single pastor" system we have become accustomed to, the early church seemed to lead congregations by "Elderships"- a team of elders. It's not a one man show. It's Godly men working and praying together to accomplish the will of God. 

3) We need to focus on meeting the needs of sinner and saint alike. Everyone needs a real helping hand sometimes. How many folks could we win to the Lord, if we'd open up our pockets and hearts to their needs? How many folks could we keep if we focused on the needs of people rather than on the monetary needs of the facilities we populate? 

4) The early church went from house to house breaking bread, the Lord adding daily such as would be saved. We need organized home study groups that will take the word of the Lord to the peoples homes, not just expect them to show up at church. 

5) We do NOT need to compromise our beliefs or our holiness in order to win the lost. We do NOT become socially relevant again by giving in to the sinful ways of our culture at large. We become relevant again by standing firm in Jesus and holding out his love and life to the world. 

It is God's plan to raise up a people who will shine forth his light. He desires us to live in a way that will draw folks to him, without compromising his truth. 
Preach and teach the plan of salvation (Acts 2:38). Preach holiness AND forgiveness. Preach judgement AND mercy. Hold fast to ALL the principles of scripture. LIVE them to a lost and dying world. Only in this way will we see the prophesied end time harvest come to pass! 

To quote and old song called "Mirror in me" (by John Chisum)- let this song be the prayer of the church of the living God:

               "Mirror in me your love. Mirror in me your glory.
                Reflecting in my every day, your gentleness and mercy.
                Mirror in me your grace. Mirror in me compassion.
                Conforming me to your image, Lord, as I gaze on you.

                So fill my hand with your hands. Fill my feet with your feet.
                Speak the words that I should say. Live your life through me.
                Fill my mind with your mind. Fill my soul with your soul.
                Show me all you really are- till I overflow."


Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Dating versus Courting: A Godly perspective

Before I get started too deeply in this, I wish it to be known that my wife and I dated. We, like you,  were raised in a culture that taught dating. We never gave it a second thought. As I've gotten older and now have two grown daughters of my own, I have begun to re-examine some things.

First of all, in the history of the western world, dating is a reletively new concept. In fact, it really only appeared as a strong cultural movement in the early 1900's- not truly becoming a cultural mainstay until the "roaring 20's". Even then, it was mainly in the big cities that tend to be more liberal than the more rural areas. By the 50's it had taken over in even those areas. 

Before this, Courting had been the cultural norm. Courting allowed a perspective "couple" to get to know each other, within limits. It allowed them to not only say, "Hey, you're cute. I want to know you better". But, it also allowed a safe way for them to get to know the person behind the looks and see if the person could possible be the person God intended for them to marry.

Why do I say safe? Let me explain: In courting, there are "fences" involved to help keep the couple pure before God. Not so in dating. In courting, the couple can be alone: on the phone, online, on the front porch, at a restaurant, at church- but with none of the "chances" taken in dating. A courting couple can sit on the front porch, or in the back yard, or in the living room. However, they are never completely alone. Always, a parent, or an elder, or another responsible person is nearby. Not near enough to overhear the couples conversations, mind you. But, near enough to cause a hindrance to the raging hormones that so often take over in a "dating" relationship. There is always someone else there to help keep you accountable. 

Dating, tends to be more casual. They go out to "have a good time". They like to "have someone", but still have their "freedom". It is not unsusual at all for people to date many different people at the same time, just for fun. No commitment involved. Or, commitment as long as the other person does what they want. There is WAY too much "freedom" (or so the world calls it. God calls it bondage) involved in dating. The only thing holding back a dating couple from sin, is their own tenuous hold on themselves. Most of the time, in the heat of the moment, they lose their grip on that hold. 

Courting says, "Lord, they're cute. If you'll help us and give your OK, I'd like to see if this is the one for me." This isn't trying each other out. And it doesn't include sex. Sex comes AFTER marriage, not before. Living under the same roof as a couple comes AFTER marriage, not before. The conversations in courting should include how you think, how you act, how you believe. Things in common. Things different. Are these differences complimentary? Or are they deal breakers? How do you feel about children, marriage structure, money, homes, where you'd like to live, etc. Each others personal histories (good and bad). 

Dating is "rolling the dice and hoping everything works out for the best". 

Courting is planned, deliberate, PRAYERFUL,  and thoughtful. 

Irregardless of our "grown up rights", Courting is BY FAR the better way. 

Sunday, January 8, 2012

What about Romans 10:9?

This question was asked on a Facebook page I'm part of. It's also the one of the first questions asked whenever Acts 2:38 is brought up. Br Charles Albert Johnson III gave the following answer. There's nothing I could add to this. It's the best exegesis on this subject I've seen thus far. Thanks, bro Charles, for allowing me to use this!

Before examining the ninth verse of the Chapter, let us get context by examining the first verse of the Chapter.

Romans 10:1 - Brethren, my heart's desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved.

So Paul is addressing the Church (Brethren), folk who are already saved. Paul is addressing the Church concerning "Israel's" salvation, for they were the ones in the context in need of salvation. Therefore, we understand that Romans 10:9 is NOT addressing the Church about how they get saved, nor is it intended to communicate a generic plan of Salvation for sinners in general. Keep the Scripture in context and you won't err.

Now to the meat of the text. Paul is addressing folk who are already saved, therefore it doesn't make sense for him to be telling them how to get saved. He is, however, speaking concerning the salvation of Israel. Paul quotes the law in Deuteronomy 30 to proclaim that the "word" in that place in the law was the "word of faith" which "we preach." He is talking about the Gospel, to the Jew first (Romans 1:16).

In verse nine, Paul addresses the two main hindrances to Israel's salvation, namely confessing with the mouth the Lord Jesus and believing in His Resurrection. These two hindrances to Israel's salvation are clearly seen comparing the Scriptures.

Romans 10:9 - That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.


John 9:22 - These words spake his parents, because they feared the Jews: for the Jews had agreed already, that if any man did confess that he was Christ, he should be put out of the synagogue.

John 12:42 - Nevertheless among the chief rulers also many believed on him; but because of the Pharisees they did not confess him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue:


Matthew 28

11 Now when they were going, behold, some of the watch came into the city, and shewed unto the chief priests all the things that were done.

12 And when they were assembled with the elders, and had taken counsel, they gave large money unto the soldiers,

13 Saying, Say ye, His disciples came by night, and stole him away while we slept.

14 And if this come to the governor's ears, we will persuade him, and secure you.

15 So they took the money, and did as they were taught: and this saying is commonly reported among the Jews until this day.

Notice also it says "thou SHALT be saved," not "thou ART saved." More beyond simple confession and belief is necessary, for example, REPENTANCE is clearly necessary for salvation.

Luke 13:3 - I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.

Luke 13:5 - I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.

If we assume that generic salvation is simple confession and belief, as per Romans 10:9, then we'd be forced to conclude that repentance is unnecessary for salvation, though Jesus said otherwise. So you see salvation in the generic sense is absolutely not what Romans 10:9 is dealing with, rather, Romans 10:9 is dealing with the salvation of unbelieving Israel, who culturally and traditionally had issues with confessing Christ (and getting excommunicated from Jewish life ie. put out of the synagogue) as Lord and believing in the Resurrection (the Jewish leadership paid off the Roman soldiers to lie and that lie was commonly reported). To interpret otherwise is error.

Paul goes on to quote Moses and Isaiah (law and the prophets) in that God would use the unbelief of the Jews to bring about the salvation of all the nations (fulfilling His promise to Abraham...father of MANY NATIONS), and for to provoke Israel in unbelief to jealousy, that some of them may be saved.

Romans 10:19 - But I say, Did not Israel know? First Moses saith, I will provoke you to jealousy by them that are no people, and by a foolish nation I will anger you.

Romans 11:11 - I say then, Have they stumbled that they should fall? God forbid: but rather through their fall salvation is come unto the Gentiles, for to provoke them to jealousy.

Romans 11:14 - If by any means I may provoke to emulation them which are my flesh, and might save some of them.

I pray here that I have given you accurate exegesis of the Romans 10 text, and that you have been edified to be able to provide an answer to every man concerning the faith that is in you. Let all God's people be strengthened and sharpened in Jesus' Name.

The time for renewal is now!

Based on 2 Chronicles 29-32

Hezekiah became king at 25 years old. To place that age in perspective, according to "the law", you had to be at least 30 in order to be a priest in the temple. Yet, here was this "young man" who wasn't old enough for the priesthood, being tapped to become the king over God's people. 

Wow! What a responsibility! He wasn't just required to see to their spiritual well being, but also their economic, legal, and physical well being. 

Hezekiah was raised as a prince over Israel. He had all the luxuries that come with that title. He wore the choicest clothes, ate the best foods, was attended to by manifold servants. 

But Hezekiah wasn't always raised as royalty. He was 9 years old when his father, Ahaz, became king. He watched as his father did "not that which was right in the sight of the LORD, like David his father:" For 16 years, he watched his father, the king, destroy the work of God in Israel and raise up the works of Baal. 

Yet, in his mind, he remembered his Grandpa, King Jotham, who did what was right in the eyes of the Lord. He had 16 years to watch and compare the reigns of his Grandpa, Jotham and his father, Ahaz. 

So where does a young king start? Did he start with the economy? No. Did he start with the legal system? No. Did he start with the military protection of his people? No. Does he start with the land laws of the people and any disputes there may be? No. 

Of all the things he looked and saw in his new kingdom, the thing that he felt needed to be addressed before anything else, was the work of the Lord in his kingdom! 

So he calls a massive overhaul of the temple. Did he make up a "new way"? No. I'm sure that, to those who had grown accustomed to Ahaz's rules, Hezekiah's ways did seem new. But, in the eyes of God, it was a return to God's ways. 

He calls the priests and levites to consecrate themselves. He calls for a cleansing of the temple. He calls for a cleansing of the altar. He calls for a cleansing of the people. He calls for the tearing down the altars and groves of Baal and Ashteroth. 

A massive "revival" is the result. The house of God is set in order. The people's homes are put in order. In the process, even the poor were taken care of. They sent invitations to the surrounding areas and some folks from Israel and other "Israeli" areas were brought back to God's fold. 

What were the results as far as their relations to other countries? They were attacked by Sennicharab and the Assyrians come calling to attack. They blasphemed God almighty and threatened and intimidated the people of God. 

Hezekiah calls a solemn assembly and asks for the Lord's help. He made ready for a strong defense, but he didn't send out the chariots to battle. He simply seeks the Lord. What happens, the Lord rewarded all of their faithfulness by fighting the battle FOR them and destroying the Assyrians- sending them fleeing without Israel having to lift a finger to fight. 

The results of that were that Israel became well known and honored by the other nations- even fearing them to the point of not attacking or threatening them. Israel, over all, enjoyed relative peace (with a few "bumps in the road") for the rest of Hezekiah's 29 year reign. 

What's the point of all this, br Winskie? Simply this:

Our nation has fallen into a state of deep sin. Our churches have fallen into a free spirit state of mind. Anything goes. Let's not talk about doctrine, you might offend someone. Let's not worry about God's ways of doing things, people will run away from your church. Let's just get together, "put our praise on", and enjoy the "blessings of God". 

But what god is sending the blessings? Is it the one true God (Jesus)? Or is it Baal of old? People forget 1 Timothy 6: 1Let as many servants as are under the yoke count their own masters worthy of all honour, that the name of God and his doctrine be not blasphemed.
 2And they that have believing masters, let them not despise them, because they are brethren; but rather do them service, because they are faithful and beloved, partakers of the benefit. These things teach and exhort.
 3If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness;
 4He is proud, knowing nothing, but doting about questions and strifes of words, whereof cometh envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings,
 5Perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth, supposing that gain is godliness: from such withdraw thyself.

Just because God heals, doesn't mean he approves of their religion, but Baal (Satan) does. Just because all your financial needs are cared for, doesn't mean that God is the one meeting those needs- but Baal sometimes is. 

It's time for us, as preachers of "the Gospel of Jesus Christ", and as "children of God", to call a "solemn assembly"! It's time for us to spend time in prayer, fasting, and consecration to God. It's time for us, like Hezekiah of old, to get into the word of God. We need to compare the ways folks are doing things now, with the ways God's word says to do them- and make changes accordingly! 

What will be the results? a) Right standing with God! What better result could we hope and pray for? b) Right standing with our "brothers and sisters in the Lord" (at least the ones who have returned to God, as well). c) Protection from our enemies. Not that we won't have trials and battles, but as long as we're in right relationship with God, we'll be victorious! Those battles we've been fighting for years- like Assyria attacking Israel of old- will be over! Victory will be ours! 

Hezekiah took over after his father died. Look around, church. How many men of God has the Lord been calling home, lately? They've ran their races and fought their fight. Nothing against them, but I believe that God is making room for our generation to stand up and do a work WITH the Lord (not FOR the Lord). The prophesied end time revival is here and it's OUR generations time to lead the way! 

Will we continue to allow the things to go on that our forefathers have allowed to creep in? Or will we, like Hezekiah, stand for righteousness and remove the evil from our midst? Will we enjoy the temporary "blessings" of Baal? Or we will enjoy the permanent blessings of Jesus?  Hezekiah's epitaph was "he did what was right in the eyes of the Lord". Wake up, church! What does our generation want our epitaph to be?