Saturday, June 28, 2014

I'm giving up sports, and some other things...

Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us,

All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any.

All things are lawful for me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but all things edify not.

I grew up a sports fan. I grew up loving sports. I have been a huge fan of the Georgia Bulldogs, Atlanta Falcons, and the Atlanta Braves. I have also had a "following interest" in the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets. 

I even used to tell people that it was "Biblical" to be a Braves fan. After all, God said to Joshua, "be strong and courageous." Another word for courageous is BRAVE. In other words, "be a Brave." And for the Pharisees who happen upon this blog: I said that as a joke, not as a true Biblical command. However, it did sum up a lot of my feelings about "my team."

I've long since stopped watching sports. Giving up TV will do that. However, I have kept up through sports talk radio. I drive a truck for a living. Drive time needs to be filled right? 

However, I came to a decision not long ago. I've stopped listening to sports radio, talk radio, and any secular entertainment, at all (of any kind). Basically, if something isn't Christian oriented, I'm not listening, watching, or reading it. 

But, what's the harm? It's just a sports team. Are you saying sports are sinful? 

In and of themselves? No. There's nothing wrong with the games themselves. 

However, sports are permeated with much evil: gambling, ungodly ads, ungodly ideas being spouted by the talking heads, scantily clad "cheerleaders" (I realize you can't see them if you don't watch it, but I'm supporting it by listening). 

But, this is not the main reason I'm quitting. The real reason is about my life. 

I'm not getting any younger. I'm 48 years old. I had a heart attack last year. I have Arthritis in my back, Diabetes, and high blood pressure. I also have a blood condition that causes my blood to clot too much. I take 6 pills a day just to stay alive.

My mom died in 1999 at the age of 55. Others in my family tree have died between 50 and 55. Though I may live another 20 or 30 years (the Lord willing), it's not even a given that I will live out this day I'm in, much less live to be over 90 like my grandma. 

As such, I'm taking personal inventory of my life. I need to spend more time with my God and family. Sports and other distractions may not be sinful, but they are time thieves. And once that time is gone, I can never get it back. 

I have also noticed that, since I've stopped these activities and have begun to surround myself with godly and edifying things, my attitude has begun to change. I don't get angry as quickly. Some of the things that used to really get under my skin, don't bother me like they did. I'm becoming less harsh and more caring. 

I've also begun to feel a drawing to a deeper place in God. A closer walk with him. I feel like I'm peering through a window into God's house. I'm able to catch a glimpse of what he's drawing me to, but I can't experience it or get a clear view of it. I want to go inside and see what's for dinner!

Am I perfect? No. But, I'll never even get close unless I try. Grace is a partnership, not a free pass. I've got to try.

I want more of Jesus. I must increase and he must decrease. I want to become saturated in him. I want to be used of him in ways I never imagined, so I'm clearing away the clutter. 

There's no sports team in existence that can offer me the joy of one minute with Jesus. There's no TV show, movie, book, computer game, website, etc, than can fulfill me like Jesus can. In fact, the "satisfaction" that we feel with these distractions doesn't last and leaves us empty.

Yet, time spent with family, friends, and especially Jesus gives satisfaction that can never be lost. 

So, I'm clearing away the clutter. I'm not gonna spend near as much time online as I have before. 

I can live without football. I cannot live without Jesus. I can live with less Facebook. I crave more time with Jesus and my family.

I have a job to do that has nothing to do with delivering Ice Cream to stores. I am called to love Jesus. I am called to love and lead my family. I am called to love people and help them along their journey to and with Jesus. 

I have books to finish and proofread. I have songs to sing, lessons to teach, sermons to preach, and prayers to lift up to the throne. I have hugs to give, and quality time to spend with my family and friends.

My priorities need to be Jesus, my wife (Della Mae), my children, my grandchildren, others, my job, and then myself. Giving in to lot's of entertainment places ME above all else. Some entertainment (as long as it's godly) is OK. Lot's of entertainment weighs us down and hinders our walk with God and our relationships with our loved ones. 

Pray for me as I keep myself in check and strive for a closer walk with Jesus and my family. I will do the same for you.      

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Let no man (that's ANYBODY) despise thy youth.

1 Timothy 4:11-13

King James Version (KJV)
11 These things command and teach.
12 Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity.
13 Till I come, give attendance to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine.

I realize that some reading this are young (in age). And while I do believe that it can be gleaned from this passage that Timothy was a young man, I think there's a deeper lesson here.

The bigger fight on your hands in living for God is not your age, but the sins of your youth- the things you did when you were younger. Let's face it: most of us don't have great pasts and much of what we did was in our youth. People will remind us. Unsaved loved ones will bring it up. Friends will bring it up. Church folks will bring it up. Preachers will bring it up. Co-workers will remind you about it. 

We need to remember that when we were born again, ALL things were made new. Not some things. ALL things. 

Rather than getting into a verbal brawl with them about it, use it as an occasion to testify of what the Lord has brought you out of. Remember, we overcome by 1) the blood of the lamb, 2) the WORD of our testimony, and 3) (extremely important) we would rather die than reject Jesus. When they come against you: Testify! Either they will get right themselves or they will leave you alone about it cause they don't want to hear it. At least you won't have to keep fighting the same fight- AND your faith will build as you lift up Jesus and what he's done for you.

But, brother Mike, what about what I did AFTER I was born again?

It's a sad fact that we still live in this flesh after we are born again. It would be so much easier to live for God if we didn't. But, we do. And, as humans, sometimes we fail- even after we get born again.

The enemy uses all these folks to try and harm our testimonies. He tries to limit our effectiveness in sharing the Jesus who delivered us. He gets people talking and then whispers in our ears that we ain't changed and we may as well quit being a hypocrite and just be who we are (by which he means, be who you used to be before Calvary's blood washed us). Sometimes, we give in. 

Then he jumps on us even more. He tells us to just quit. God doesn't love us anymore. 

But, rather than quit (which is what he wants us to do), we need to follow scripture. There's a verse that applies to us if we sin after we are born again.

1 John 1:9

King James Version (KJV)
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Notice, that wonderful word: ALL!  Same word as before. God gives second chances. God even seeks after "lost causes". Whatever we did after being born again, all we need do is sincerely cry out to him in repentance and he will clean us up again!

So, my friend. Don't be weighed down by your past. If you've been born again, it's all under the blood! Washed away by the precious blood of Jesus. Don't go back there and live. Don't let you past trip you up in your walk with God. Use it as a stepping stone to get even closer to Jesus. 

And when folks bring it up, testify! Maybe you can reach them and see them changed, too.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

For my sweetheart!

Romans 13:7

King James Version (KJV)
Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour.

Proverbs 31: 10-31

10 Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies.
11 The heart of her husband doth safely trust in her, so that he shall have no need of spoil.
12 She will do him good and not evil all the days of her life.
13 She seeketh wool, and flax, and worketh willingly with her hands.
14 She is like the merchants' ships; she bringeth her food from afar.
15 She riseth also while it is yet night, and giveth meat to her household, and a portion to her maidens.
16 She considereth a field, and buyeth it: with the fruit of her hands she planteth a vineyard.
17 She girdeth her loins with strength, and strengtheneth her arms.
18 She perceiveth that her merchandise is good: her candle goeth not out by night.
19 She layeth her hands to the spindle, and her hands hold the distaff.
20 She stretcheth out her hand to the poor; yea, she reacheth forth her hands to the needy.
21 She is not afraid of the snow for her household: for all her household are clothed with scarlet.
22 She maketh herself coverings of tapestry; her clothing is silk and purple.
23 Her husband is known in the gates, when he sitteth among the elders of the land.
24 She maketh fine linen, and selleth it; and delivereth girdles unto the merchant.
25 Strength and honour are her clothing; and she shall rejoice in time to come.
26 She openeth her mouth with wisdom; and in her tongue is the law of kindness.
27 She looketh well to the ways of her household, and eateth not the bread of idleness.
28 Her children arise up, and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praiseth her.
29 Many daughters have done virtuously, but thou excellest them all.
30 Favour is deceitful, and beauty is vain: but a woman that feareth the Lord, she shall be praised.

31 Give her of the fruit of her hands; and let her own works praise her in the gates.

Today, I want to step out of character a bit and get personal.

I remember when I was single (again). I remember how lonely and miserable I was. I remember crying out to God for a wife- literally crying. I told him I wanted a woman that loved HIM more than she would love me. 

The next day, I met Della Mae. Not only was she beautiful (and she still is), but she truly loved God in all she did. 

I remember vividly the night we were at her mother's grave. She was grieving. I was trying to be a comfort to her and praying for her. The Lord broke into my prayers and actually spoke to me: "This is my gift to you, and your responsibility. Take care of her."

We were married on Feb 23, 1999. I have never regretted it. This wonderful woman has tolerated me working long hours- for not much pay. She has never had "the best" this world has to offer. Yet, she loves me just the same.

She prays for me and our children (and grandchildren). Her health is not the greatest, but she keeps pushing herself to perform her wifely duties and to pray.

She gets up with me (at 2 or 3 AM) and fixes my lunch. She talks to me on the phone to make sure I make it safely to work. When she hangs up, she reads the word and prays for us all. Then, she tries to get a little sleep. And she greets me with a hug and a smile when I get home 12-14 hours later.

We've lived in 14 different homes in 6 different states in the last 15 years. Yet, she doesn't whine and complain as most women would. She deserves to live in a mansion! But, she accepts what little I can do.

She tolerates the time I put into writing, because she loves me.

She cooks. She cleans. She does her best to make our small income stretch as far as it can. She takes care of the animals. She home-schooled our daughters. We only have one vehicle, so she's "stuck at home" all day, but she never pitches a fit about it. She gives godly counsel to the whole family. She even gets in our faces if we need it.

When I've grown frustrated and wanted to throw in the towel and give up, she's the one who helped me to keep standing. When I've started to get out of line, she prayed. Many's the time, I have been spanked by God because of her praying, "You get his attention, Lord."

But she's not just focused on us. When she sees other's needs, she prays and tries to reach out to them. Several times, her godly generosity has turned potential enemies into friends.

Our children know she loves them and would do anything she can for them- except sin.

I've never met a sweeter, kinder, more giving and loving woman than my Della Mae.

Many have wounded her heart, but she keeps on loving. Many have used and abused her, but she keeps on giv
ing. Many have stopped being friendly with her because she won't compromise the word of God, but she loves them anyway.

So, for no other reason than to say, "I love you, Della Mae Winskie," I write this today. Honey, you are the sweetest, most wonderful, most beautiful woman God has ever made. I am humbled and honored to be the undeserving recipient of your love and devotion.

Thank you for teaching me what true love is. I see it every time I look at you.
I love you with all my heart.

Your devoted husband, Mike

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Psalms 23 through the eyes of a Father

23 The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.
He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.

The heart of a Father is a curious thing. It can take you to tremendous heights and plunge you to astonishing depths. Since God is the only perfect Father, it may be instructive to learn what he thinks that the job entails. 

Verse 1: The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.

The term used for Lord in this verse is Yehovah. It means, the self existing one, the one true God. Just as God is true, we, as Fathers, need to be true. We need to speak the truth. We need to live the truth. 

What is true, in a fatherly sense? 

We need to be a storehouse of wisdom that our families can go to for answers and help. They also need to know that we will be truthful in our answers to them, irregardless of whether or not it puts us in a bad light (our pasts can be pretty ugly). They need to know that we will tell them the truth, even if the truth hurts their feelings. I'm not advocating emotional brutality. We can speak the truth in a gentle manner. But, as fathers, we need to be men of truth.

Another meaning of the word true is to be faithful and dedicated. Our families need to know that dad is faithful to God, mom, and the children. They need to know that we have given our heart and dedicated our lives to them. They need to see us as a servant leader who will be there for them till death do us part. 

That means that we put their needs above our own. We must value their lives above our own. We must understand that God has given us a precious gift in our wives and children. We need to treat them as precious, love them as precious, and handle them well. The way we love and treat them is our gift back to the God who gave them to us.

And God takes this seriously. He may want us to lead others in some capacity (preacher, teacher, evangelist, prophet, bishop, deacon, etc). But, he can't allow us to walk in those callings unless we rule our own houses well. 

Because we love our families, we need to provide for them. We should work hard to provide for their physical needs. And we should work even harder to provide for their emotional needs. 

Going to work and earning a paycheck isn't all we're called to do. If we don't take the time with our wives and children to show them that we are concerned for their emotional well being, that we want to know who they are, and are willing to help them to become who GOD wants them to be, we are poor fathers.

Our homes need to be a safe haven for our families. A place where they know they can be who God is making them to be. A place where they know that, even when they fail, we will be there to help them get back up again. Our love needs to go beyond what they do right and correcting their wrongs. It needs to be a soothing balm that wraps it's arms around them when they need to cry out their hurt. They need to know that daddy's never too tired for them and they're never an inconvenience to us.

Our sons shouldn't have to go to the world for a father figure and role model. Our daughters shouldn't feel they need to give in to the whispers of worldly boys in order to feel loved and accepted. If they feel loved, needed and respected at home, the world won't have as much pull over them. 

The best thing we can do for them is to love God above all. They need to see our faith lived out in our homes. Ultimately, the God they choose to serve will be a direct result of what they see lived out in front of them day in, and day out in our home. 

verse 2: He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. 

We need to make our homes and families a place of rest and healing. When they try to get too busy, we need to make them stop being so busy. We need to make time for family time. Not just games, but talks and walks, laughter and love. 

Our families need to be led. We need to LEAD our families in the ways of God and life. If we leave them to find God on their own, the chances are high that they will find false gods instead. We can't be afraid of offending them. We can't put it off for another day, or assume that they know what we know just because we live under the same roof. We must be proactive in our leading them. We need to do our best to teach them the things of God and help them to find the spiritual oasis that only Jesus can provide. 

verse 3: He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake.

There is a false teaching out there that says that we cannot be friends with our children. Nothing could be further from the truth. We are Jesus' children. So were the Apostles. They stayed with him, day in and day out, for 3 1/2 years. For this to happen- and for Jesus to effectively teach them, they had to be friends. They didn't keep separate camping spots, eat separate food, and only speak when they were spoken to. 

If our children cannot be our friends, then they won't see God as their friend and they won't develop a relationship with him. EVERY relationship begins with friendship. It cannot progress to something deeper if we don't start as friends. 

As friends, we share our secrets- good and bad. We help each other- in easy times and hard times.

Our families need to be allowed to see our weakness. When we fail, we do not help the by hiding it. They need to see us on our knees- seeking forgiveness and answers.They need to see us study the scriptures and be taught how to do it for themselves. They need to hear daddy pray and be encouraged to pray for themselves. 

As daddy's we have to lead them in the ways of God's righteousness. We don't allow them to watch and read just anything. We cannot allow them to hang out with ungodly friends and family. We must not allow them to dress in ways that God is against. We are to guard the gate for our family. Sometimes guards have to correct- even though it won't be popular. They may not like it at that time (and you won't either), but they will thank you later.

And it's all for the glory of JESUS name. Remember, HE'S the center of our home- not us. 

verse 4: Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

Even when the hard times come and we have no answer to give nor clear path to show, they must see our steadfast faith in the deliverer- Jesus Christ. Our attitudes must be like the Hebrew children in Daniel: Our God is well able to deliver us, but if he doesn't, we still will not bow. 

We must show that we know that God is with us, even though we don't know where he is. Even when the circumstances of our lives would seem to indicate that he's not.

We must demonstrate in life our trust in God's protection and correction. We must be willing to protect our families at all times. We don't push our wives and children in front of us to shield ourselves. In fact, we should be their shield. We must be willing to fight to protect them.  

Verse 5: Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.

When our family feels that the whole world is against us, we still must try to make our homes a place of provision and restoration for them. Living for God is not easy, regardless of what the prosperity preachers say. The word says that ALL those who will live godly in Christ Jesus SHALL suffer persecution. Our homes need to be a safe haven of restoration and healing to recover from the wounds of the war. 

Make no mistake: we are in a war. The world persecuted and crucified Jesus. 11 of the first 12 Apostles were martyred for their faith. Millions more have been killed and tortured for Jesus. If we are not facing persecution for our faith, then we need to find out where we left Jesus at and return.

When the kids are grown and circumstances turn against them, they must know that our arms and homes are always open to them. We may not condone their actions that may have led them there. But, we still love them and will help them get out of the mess.

We need to anoint them and pray over them from the day they're born. They must become familiar with the presence of God, so that when they are older, the false gods of the world will not be able to draw them away. 

They need to see and feel our love. Their emotional cups need to be so filled with love that it overflows into their own families- for they learned how to love from us.

 Verse 6: Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.

We set the tone in our homes. If they are raised in an environment of love and mercy, they will set the same tones in their own homes. They need to be raised in a loving environment. One that says, "I love you even when you're hurt- even when you mess up." This way, we pass the legacy on and we will have a much greater chance of all of us dwelling in the house of the Lord forever.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

I have to forgive WHO seventy times WHAT?

Matthew 18:21-22

King James Version (KJV)
21 Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times?
22 Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven.

I was talking today with a guy I work with about how it's a shame that many times the folks that really hurt and use you are those that you love. Kin folks and close friends, because we have allowed them into our heart, have the ability to cause us emotional pain that the rest of the world cannot cause. 

A husband leaves his wife and kids for a younger woman.

A sibling is nice to your face, but lies on you and eats your lunch to the rest of the family.

A child has a drug problem and sells family heirlooms to get their fix.

A fellow church member you really respect gets in your face because of a misunderstanding or a doctrinal disagreement.

Life happens. 

John 10:10
The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.

The false "prosperity preachers" love to use this verse to say that "when you're right with Gawd you can have the ABUNDANT LIFE! Just send me-ah (x) dollars and Gawd will bless you-ah!"

But, Mark Lowery, actually made a good point during one of his comedy routines. He said something like: "Life is the whole thing. Good AND bad. Happy AND sad. Healthy times AND sickness. Since we have an ABUNDANT life, we just have MORE of all of it: Good and bad."

Turns out he was right. In the Greek the word for life means....wait for it.... "life." And the word Abundantly means, "exceeding some number or measure or rank or need." 

So, not only will we have MORE good times, but we will have MORE bad times. And part of those bad times means that somebody, somewhere, will offend us. Jesus put it this way: Matthew 18:7
Woe unto the world because of offences! for it must needs be that offences come; but woe to that man by whom the offence cometh!

The question becomes, how do we handle it? Many times we may actually have a right to be angry. After all, they stole from us, or lied about us, etc. So, we ask Jesus, as Peter did, "How many times do I have to keep forgiving this idiot before I can dot their eyes?" (MSV (Mike's Street Version)

And Jesus says, "seventy times seven." 

"What," we ask? "Four hundred and ninety times? Is there somebody else up there I can speak to?"

Truth is, I've been alive forty eight years, and there have been some folks that have hurt me badly. But, no one has ever hurt me that many times- ever. Some theologians say that Jesus meant four hundred and ninety times PER DAY. 

I'm not sure if that's what Jesus was saying, but that's a lot of hurt in a lifetime to forgive, much less per day. And we argue with him, "But Lord, they deserve my wrath. My indignation is righteous here."

And Jesus tells us, "You deserved my wrath and righteous indignation, and what did I do?"

We hang our heads and say, "You forgave me, Lord." 

"Can you not do the same," he asks?

"I'm not capable, Lord." 

He gently lifts our face and looks us in our tear filled eyes and says, "With me, you can do all things- even this."

So, we should forgive because we are forgiven. We should remember how we used to be and all he's forgiven us for and pass that forgiveness on.  

Jesus showed us how. 

How many people that were yelling for his crucifixion that day at Pilate's palace were people that he had healed, fed, and touched? 

Even his closest people mostly abandoned him in his hour of need. Of the twelve disciples, one directly betrayed him, one denied him three times, and ten scattered when the pressure came. As he hung on the cross that day, only three folks close to him were there: the disciple that betrayed him, his mom, and a former unclean woman. 

More than this, the people he came to save mocked him, spit on him, gambled for his clothes, and crucified him. His response? "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do."

With him, we can do it, too.

But, he also gave us a warning: 

Matthew 18:23-35

King James Version (KJV)
23 Therefore is the kingdom of heaven likened unto a certain king, which would take account of his servants.
24 And when he had begun to reckon, one was brought unto him, which owed him ten thousand talents.
25 But forasmuch as he had not to pay, his lord commanded him to be sold, and his wife, and children, and all that he had, and payment to be made.
26 The servant therefore fell down, and worshipped him, saying, Lord, have patience with me, and I will pay thee all.
27 Then the lord of that servant was moved with compassion, and loosed him, and forgave him the debt.
28 But the same servant went out, and found one of his fellowservants, which owed him an hundred pence: and he laid hands on him, and took him by the throat, saying, Pay me that thou owest.
29 And his fellowservant fell down at his feet, and besought him, saying, Have patience with me, and I will pay thee all.
30 And he would not: but went and cast him into prison, till he should pay the debt.
31 So when his fellowservants saw what was done, they were very sorry, and came and told unto their lord all that was done.
32 Then his lord, after that he had called him, said unto him, O thou wicked servant, I forgave thee all that debt, because thou desiredst me:
33 Shouldest not thou also have had compassion on thy fellowservant, even as I had pity on thee?
34 And his lord was wroth, and delivered him to the tormentors, till he should pay all that was due unto him.
35 So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses.

Follow the progression. The servant owed a debt he could never pay (as we did in sin). He begged forgiveness (as we did). He was forgiven (as we were). Then, when someone owed him, he refused to forgive them. The result? He lost the forgiveness he had gained. 

Do we realize that our unforgiveness can pull our sins back out from under the blood of Jesus and cause us to lose out with God? Want further proof? 

Matthew 6:12-15

King James Version (KJV)

12 And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.
13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.
14 For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you:
15 But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

If we refuse to forgive those that have wronged us, we will lose out with God. It's that simple. 

So, Lord, please help us to forgive when we have been wronged- even when they don't repent. Because we love you and you forgave us. Cause being right with you is all that matters. 

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Men and brethren, what shall we do?

Acts 2:36-39

King James Version (KJV)
36 Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made the same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ.
37 Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do?
38 Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.
39 For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call.

Imagine with me, if you will, that you were there on the very first "Pentecost Sunday." You were a part of the crowds gathered in Jerusalem on the "feast of first fruits." A time set aside to celebrate God's provision for the needs of his people.

You've been raised following the law of Moses. All your life, you've been told that a deliverer, a messiah, was coming to deliver the people of God from their burdens. At some point during the day we call "Pentecost," called that because it was 50 days after the crucifixion of Jesus. (Penta means 50) 

Suddenly, in the midst of the religious celebrations, something had begun to happen. A disturbance. Something very strange is happening. Everyone is talking about it. When you and your friends hear about it, you all decide to rush over and see what is happening.

The first thing you see is a group of people spilling out of a building. At first look, they are staggering around. They seem to be drunk. Someone in the crowd actually accuses them of being just that. 

These strange people are speaking in foreign languages that only some in the crowd understand, but every language present in the crowd is somehow covered. You wonder how these obviously uneducated and low income people ever learned these languages. They certainly couldn't have afforded the schooling. 

Suddenly, one of the "drunks" stands and speaks loudly- almost unearthly. Somehow, it's loud enough for the thousands that are gathered nearby to hear (a feat that is difficult when you consider that they didn't exactly have amplifiers in those days.) He begins to explain that they are definitely not drunk. Rather, he explains, that what you see going on is a fulfillment of what the prophet Joel says: 

17 And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams:
18 And on my servants and on my handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my Spirit; and they shall prophesy:
19 And I will shew wonders in heaven above, and signs in the earth beneath; blood, and fire, and vapour of smoke:
20 The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and notable day of the Lord come:

21 And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved.

"Wait," you say, "this was prophesied by Joel all those centuries ago?"

He goes on to explain that the Messiah and deliverer that you have pined for and longed for all of your life, is a man named Jesus, from a little town called Nazareth. That this man lived a perfect and blameless life. He performed miracles and spoke the words of God. Then, in the ultimate act of love, he allowed himself to be crucified (at the behest of many in the crowd that day). 

Finally, he points out that Jesus is (by decree of God almighty) "both Lord (supreme controller) and Christ (Messiah/deliverer)."

There is a stunned silence that overtakes the crowd, you can see the look of realization of the faces of the gathered throngs. You can almost see them thinking: "All my life I've longed for my deliverer, and when he comes, I shouted for him to be crucified?"

A look of horror crosses all of their faces. Then, a look of desperation as they thought, "I am guilty of the murder of the Messiah! God will have vengeance on me! How can I ever make this right with God? What can I do?"

Finally, the pressure builds and then one by one, more and more begin to ask the same question out loud. And since these strange people seem to know what's going on, they begin to ask them: "Men and brethren, what shall we do?"

You yourself start to wonder and ask the same question. You were consenting of the death of Jesus. You even mocked and said, "He saved others, lets see him save himself." Some of your friends said that if he were to come down off the cross, then they would follow him.

Scriptures you haven't considered in relation to the Messiah, but that you've heard from your youth begin to go through your mind: 

Isaiah 53:4-6

King James Version (KJV)
Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.
But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.
All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.

"Oh, my Lord," you think in fear. You remember how you felt about him. How you disdained him. How you said God was against him and this Crucifixion was God's just punishment for this false prophet. 

Yet, he was beaten and wounded, just like the prophet said. You saw him beaten with the cat of nine tails- the many stripes he bore. You even saw him lain on a cross and his hands and feet were pierced...

Oh no. Another scripture said: Zechariah 13:6
And one shall say unto him, What are these wounds in thine hands? Then he shall answer, Those with which I was wounded in the house of my friends.

The feeling in the air becomes more oppressive, as if God himself is dealing with you. You think, "Am I guilty of the blood of the Messiah?"

But, he even cried out on the cross, why would the Messiah do that? Then it hits you: Didn't the Psalms use the exact same words that Jesus did? "Psalm 22:1
My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?..."

It hits you then, your Messiah did come. And, just as Isaiah prophesied, you are a sheep gone astray. Suddenly your voice joins the voices of others: "What shall we do," you ask aloud- desperate to have this great sin (Indeed, ALL your sins) somehow washed away.

Then, the man who had been speaking answers you all: 

Acts 2:38-39

King James Version (KJV)
"38 Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.
39 For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call."

Finally, a way out! You don't have to carry your sins with you. Your blood guilt can be washed away. You bow your knees and begin to pray in sincere repentance. You then join the multitudes that are being baptized in the very name of the one you had wanted crucified just 50 days ago. When you come up out of those baptismal waters, you find yourself speaking in a language you don't know- just like the crowd you had watched before. Now, however, you're not watching them- you are one of them.

Now, back to our day.

You see, my friend, that the response to the crowds cry on the birthday of the church was simple. When asked how to rid themselves of their sin, they were told- by the Apostles- 3 things: 1) Repent 2) be baptized in Jesus name 3) receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.

There was no "repeat the sinners prayer." There was no "just believe." There was no, "shake the preachers hand and join the church." In answer to the dilemma of sin, the Apostles all had the same message: "Repent, be baptized in Jesus name, and be filled with the Holy Ghost."

This same plan of salvation was used in Acts 8, Acts 10, and Acts 19. Jesus himself said we must "repent" (Luke 5:32)and be "born of water AND of the spirit." (John 3:5) John the Baptist taught water and spirit baptism (Matthew 3:11). The Apostles, as we have seen, all taught this same plan of salvation. 

Any "plan of salvation" that says otherwise, is no plan of salvation at all. If a person only repents, but does not do the other 2 steps, they are believers, but NOT born again. 

If a person repents and gets baptized in Jesus name, but fails to allow God to fill them with his spirit? 

Romans 8:9
"But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his."

If a person repents and receives the spirit, but doesn't get baptized in Jesus name? 

1 Peter 3:20-22

King James Version (KJV)
"20 Which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water.
21 The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ:"

No, my friend. There is no middle ground. Either a person is born again, or they're not. 

The Apostles were not born again until the day of Pentecost. How do I know? Luke 22:32
"But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren."

At this point, Peter and the Apostles had all repented and been baptized and were baptizing (John 3:22). Yet, they were not born again. They still were incomplete and needed to be converted. So, why do we think we have a different path than they? 

And for those who say that "we only want to follow what Jesus said (the red letters)." Jesus also said of the Apostles: "

John 17:20

King James Version (KJV)
"20 Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word;"

So, in God's eyes, the words of his Apostles are his words. Indeed, we are told, 

2 Timothy 3:15-17

King James Version (KJV)
"15 And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.
16 All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:
17 That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works."

So, put yourself back in the shoes of the Jewish person we began this blog with. Like him, we are sinners in need of a savior. Like him, we look for our redeemer. Like him, we have -in times past- scoffed at the ways of God. 

Yet, also like him, we are guilty of the blood of the very savior we seek. He was bruised for OUR iniquities, wounded for OUR transgressions. He took stripes for US. He took the nails in order to redeem us!

We, like the thousands on that first day of Pentecost, should ask the Apostles of our Lord, "Men and brethren, what shall we do?" 

And, like that first crowd, we need to obey what they said and be born again: 

Acts 2:38

King James Version (KJV)
38 Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. 

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

In a desperate world, people need hope.

Romans 8:24
For we are saved by hope: but hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for?

Colossians 1:27
To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory:

Jude 1:22-24

King James Version (KJV)
22 And of some have compassion, making a difference:
23 And others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire; hating even the garment spotted by the flesh.
24 Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy,

We live in a society gone crazy. To quote one preacher I heard a long time ago, "Right is wrong. Wrong is right. And whatever's grey? Have a happy day!"

Our world doesn't want Jesus. They don't want his word in school, at work, or in our courts. They don't want him mentioned in public, much less prayed to. Most folks don't want to "retain God in their knowledge." (Romans 1:28)

But, ignoring God doesn't change the fact that he is God. Nor does it change the consequences of disobeying him. The word says that we reap what we sew. (Galatians 6:7) So, we naturally, as his word says, begin to reap corruption when we sew to the flesh. (Galatians 6:8)

Amazingly, however, rather than repenting, people begin to look to other sources to solve their problems. They look to harder work. They trade spouses. They get heavily involved in politics.

In fact, I believe the reason folks are offended at the word of God in public places is that it reminds them that all their efforts to solve their own problems are in vain. Without Jesus, there is no hope.

And that is what every law, every new drug, every self help book, every new government program is trying to give people- hope.

Because of our sins, we find ourselves living in hell on earth. Our homes are in shambles. Our government is corrupt. The entertainment that is lifted up is twisted and evil. People are looking for real hope. But where can they find it?

The worlds hope is fleeting and comes with costs that no one wants to pay. What the celebrities push, and the politicians use to gain votes, and the drug dealers and alcohol merchants say will fix what ails us? It's all castles built on sinking sand.

I know and agree that we are to preach and teach against sin. I have no problem with standing against sin. Absolutely, we are to fight against the evils of our day with all our might. But, in our righteous stands, let's not forget one thing:

Those that we are trying to help are living in a hell- right now- on earth.

Deep down, where they really live, they know they're not right with God. They don't have to be told continuously. What they desperately need to know is that there is hope. They need to know the way out of their hog pin. They want out of the sinful seas that are dragging them under and are drowning them.

They need a lifeline. That lifeline of hope is Jesus.

Rather than beat them down all the time, can we not show the love and compassion of God to them? Can we not allow God to use us to reach into their situations and help them? Can we not be the arms of Jesus that reach out to tell them, "I see your sin, but I love you anyway?"

Lord, please give us your eyes, so we can see them the way you do.
                  give us your mind, so we can think of them like you do.
                  give us your strength, to help to lift them out.
                  give us your heart, to love them like you do.
                  give us your feet and hands, to go to them and help.

The only hope that this world has is Jesus. We, his church, are supposed to be Jesus to the world. Yes. Jesus sometimes showed anger and spoke harshly, when the hearer needed it. And we should too when God leads us that way- for he knows the hearts of the hearers.

But, more often than not, he showed them love and compassion and offered them the way of hope to escape the hell of this life. Should we not do the same?