Friday, December 25, 2015

What exactly are we celebrating on Christmas?

Isaiah 9:6King James Version (KJV)

For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.

John 1:14King James Version (KJV)

14 And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.

Merry Christmas to you all! This is the day that the majority of believers in Jesus Christ celebrate his birth. While some say, "there's no record of the early church celebrating Jesus' birth," I say, "there's no record of them celebrating their families birthdays or anniversaries either. Are you going to say that it's a sin to do so when the Bible clearly does not say that it is?" Incidentally, when the Angels sang on the day of his birth, wasn't that a celebration of his birth? When the Shepherds went to see him, wasn't that an acknowledgement of his glorious birth? When the wise men brought gifts (probably 2 years later) on his birthday, wasn't that a celebration of his birth? 
Some say, "Christmas has pagan roots and we shouldn't celebrate pagan things." If we were to cut out every pagan thing in our culture, we'd have practically nothing left. By their argument, why don't we go back to the Jewish calendar? After all, even the days of the week on the Gregorian calendar we use in the western world are all named after pagan gods. 
Finally, some say, "Jesus wasn't born on December 25th, so we shouldn't celebrate his birthday on that day." To these I say, "we don't know his birth date, so December 25th is as good a day as any other." 
Why cannot we Christians just except the good in some things instead of saying everything short of breathing is a sin? Relax! Jesus came, in part, to bring us joy everlasting and life eternal! Isn't that worth celebrating? 
But here's the most amazing thing to me. 
In the Old Covenant, before the first temple was built, the Jews worshiped God at a glorious tent called the tabernacle. It was at the altar near this tabernacle that the sacrifices were made by the priests for the sins of the people. It was in this tabernacle that this blood was taken, by the high priest, into the Holy of Holies, to sprinkle it onto the mercy seat in the midst of the ark of the covenant. 
The Holy of Holies was also where the presence of God dwelt. God is holy! No one unholy could enter there. In fact, they tied a long rope with bells on it to the ankle of the high priest when he went in. Why? Because if he had not repented right, if he had not sacrificed right, if he had not used the right amount of sacrificial blood on himself and his clothing before he entered the presence of God within the Holy of Holies, he would be struck dead by the holiness of God! 
For centuries, between the tabernacle and (later) the first temple, God was pretty well inaccessible to the vast majority of human beings. The laundry list of requirements to the people, the priests, and for the high priest himself, is astounding to read (found in Leviticus-Deuteronomy)! If a man had a small blemish on his skin, he could not be the high priest. 
If anyone tried to enter the presence of God in the Holy of Holies, they would be struck dead by God himself! 
The people lived in fear and wonder of God. Yet, they were separated by sin from the one thing both God and man desired- a close relationship with almighty God! 
Then, an amazing thing happened. Mankind could do nothing to fix the situation, but God could. 
God himself became a man!
Read Isaiah 9:6 above. This baby that was born in Bethlehem over 2000 years ago was God himself! He was "the everlasting Father" in human flesh. He was the "wonderful Counsellor" (Holy Ghost) in a human body. He was "the mighty God" in a frail, human form. 
John puts it in an even more amazing way in John 1:14: "the word was made flesh and DWELT among us..." The word for "dwelt" there comes from the Greek word "skenoo", which means, " 
  1. to fix one's tabernacle, have one's tabernacle, abide (or live) in a tabernacle (or tent), tabernacle
  2. to dwell                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  So, "on that first Christmas morn" (as some folks word it), GOD made his own tabernacle- his own Holy of Holies, and dwelt there!
  
Now, for the first time since Adam's day, common men and women could walk and talk with God! They could touch God! Shepherds who could never have come into his presence before, were able to actually touch him! Even the wise men would never have been able to give gifts to and touch and interact with God before this day. But, now they could! 
This was God reaching out to a lost and dying world in a magnificent way. He touched people now that he could never have touched before the incarnation. He talked with common sinners and forgave them (without requiring them to kill a sheep)! He showed love and compassion where he couldn't do it before. 
Why? Because he knew that soon even THIS new tabernacle's veil (his own flesh) would be torn on a cross on a hill called Calvary and HIS OWN BLOOD (ACTS 20:28) would be shed to cover the sins of these (and every person) people he was now touching. 
God made a plan before time began to buy us back! And that plan (his word) was made flesh and put into action on that "first Christmas morning."
What an amazing God we serve! 
Jesus Christ, not just the son of God, but the God of the whole universe all by himself, made flesh in order to purchase a people with his own blood.
Oh, what a savior! 
That's why I celebrate Christmas. It's not about the gift giving (though there were gifts given on Jesus' birthday). It's not about the family time so much (though we do enjoy that and thank God for the blessing he has given us in each other). 
It's all about the ultimate gift that God almighty gave by tabernacling himself in a human body to pay for the sins of us all! So, I will celebrate Christmas because it's the one day a year that nearly everyone celebrates him. AND I CHOOSE TO USE THIS DAY TO TELL THEM JUST HOW SPECIAL THIS DAY REALLY IS! And, they need to know how special they are in his eyes: so that they can see his nail-scarred hands reaching out to them in the hope that they will obey his plan of salvation (Acts 2:38) and come to him. 
The God of the universe became man, so that man could have a relationship with him. 
Won't you respond to him today? 
Merry Christmas to you all!       

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Work in progress

Philippians 1:6King James Version (KJV)

Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ:

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.

Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth notyet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.

Romans 8:20-23King James Version (KJV)

20 For the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who hath subjected the same in hope,
21 Because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.
22 For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now.
23 And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body.
In Apostolic Pentecostal circles, we put a lot of emphasis on holiness, much of it misdirected (albeit well-intentioned.) While it is true that holiness is necessary, many paint holiness out to be a long list of rules and legislation. Indeed, to hear some tell it, we can work ourselves into heaven simply by going to church, paying tithes, obeying the leadership, dressing and acting in certain ways, etc. 
This week is Christmas, where we celebrate the birth of Jesus. Stop and think about it. Why did he come? Why did he robe himself in flesh and become a man? Consider this powerful answer: 
Isaiah 64:6 [Full Chapter]
But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousness is as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.

The word "filthy" here comes from the Hebrew word, "idda." It means, "menstruation." And the word "Rags" here comes from the Hebrew word, "beged," and it means, "treachery, deceit, garment." 

In other words, for all our worship, for all our praise, for all our effort, for all our giving, for all our towing the line of standards, our righteousness is as worthwhile to Jesus as a used Tampon. (Yes, I said it! But, God said it first through Isaiah.) 

We can be the most accomplished and seemingly successful Christian leader in the world, but for all our accomplishments in the eyes of mankind, we fall so very short of what God himself calls righteous. 

But, he became sin for us so that we might become the righteousness of God. Therefore, we can stand before him washed in his blood as his children, enjoying the full love and devotion of God towards us.

Yet, when we declare to the world that we are the children of God, they begin to nit pic us to death.
"I thought you were a Christian, Christians don't do that."  

In our flesh we can do nothing. However, WITH GOD LIVING THROUGH US, we can do all things. Just as humans have different levels of development, so do children of God. Just as we don't expect a new born to walk, or a toddler to iron their clothing, neither should anyone expect a Christian to be perfect. 

Over time, we will "grow in Grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ." But, will we achieve sinless perfection? Not in this life. But, the trick to being Holy is not following standards and being religious. The trick is in allowing Jesus to live through us. The more we allow him to, the less sins we will commit and the more like him we will become. 

But, for all the fruit inspectors out there who are investigating "God's people," looking for signs of sin:

Please bear with us, we are, after all, truly a work in progress. 



Sunday, December 20, 2015

The trouble with the "Apostolic Pentecostal" movement.

First of all, I'm sorry for having been away for so long. We've had a lot on our plates and our minds. Life is hard. Life is frustrating. I work 60+ hours a week. I am a full time college student. I have a wonderful wife, two grown daughters, a grand daughter, and 4 animals at home to care for. Granted, they do as much caring for me- if not more- as I do for them.

Yet, we live in a fallen world. We live in a world that, in Paul's words, is "wax(ing) worse and worse." 2 Timothy 3:13

Terrorism is on the rise. Entertainment is where people hide. "Me first," is the people's cry! Politics, for the most part, has become a push to give out "candy" to people in order to gain votes and stay in power. We are on the brink of WW3, as ideologies war for control of the world, and our politicians don't seem to want to stand up for anything at all.

What's worse, people are looking to Government programs and education to fulfill their inner needs. They jump from bed to bed, trying to find "the love of their lives." When all that fails, they turn to drugs and alcohol and sex for the sake of fulfilling their own desires.

In the midst of all of this, stands the church. An entity that is supposed to care for people in every way. We are supposed to care not only for the souls of people, but for their physical needs, as well.In the heart of every true believer is a desire to worship the one true God in the midst of a gathering of our fellow believers. So, we get in our cars and take our families to buildings where "the church" is supposed to meet for the glory of God. And the vast majority of the time, we wind up leaving disheartened and discouraged. Why is this?

Rather than being encouraged to operate freely in the spirit of God- and as part of the body of Christ- God's people are told to sit down, shut up, and let the real ministry (translated as titled preachers and singers) operate. Rather than being challenged to go deeper in the Lord and let him teach us through the power of the Holy Ghost, we are told to "be on the same page as the church leadership." In other words, get our beliefs from the professionals who are better than we and just blindly obey.

We are told that God loves everyone. But yet, in practice, we are shown that God seems to love some of us more than he does others. The rich, or well off, are allowed to get away with things that those of us in the poor masses would never be allowed to get away with- and still stay active in "the ministry" by virtue of their "giving heart". When people are sick, they don't even get a phone call, much less a personal prayer- unless it is a big tithe payer.

Preachers now are either spiritual cheerleaders who tell us that God is a spiritual Santa Claus who can't wait to bless us from his bag of goodies- thus eliminating God's judgement from the scriptures, or they are so hardcore that they add to the word and make everything- including wearing certain colors- a sin. Some are too educated for us common folk and only speak with high sounding words that few can comprehend. Others only know four sermons and go back and forth between these four from differing angles to the point where people leave because they're spiritually starving from lack of getting all the spiritual nutrients needed to feed their spirit man. Some pastors are egomaniacs. Some are control freaks. Almost none allow the spirit of God to have full reign in a service. much less the lives of their flocks.

We are told that God is a forgiving God. We are told that when we are born again, ALL things are made new. Yet, in practice, if a man doesn't have a family Pentecostal pedigree (or a large bank account), the "leadership" of the church will use their past sins to keep them out of the calling God is laying on their lives.

We claim to be the book of Acts church. But are we really?

While it is true that the early church taught and practiced Acts 2:38 salvation (as we do), and they taught and believed in only ONE God (as we do), yet, we are not having the same world changing results that they did. Why is that?

The early church reached out to the lost and the hurting- going so far as to sell all they had and trust the spirit's leading of the church leaders to care for the needs of everyone. We, on the other hand, take up special offerings to fix up a perfectly good bathroom so that it looks pretty to the upcoming conference goers- while at the same time, talking down to the folks in the church that are in need of food, rent, utilities, and a good friend.

The early church stood up to political leaders and spoke the word without fear or favor. We kiss up to political leaders and push our convictions under a rug, all so we can keep tax free statuses and favorable zoning for our properties.

The early church gave their lives to Jesus and their all to people. We can barely push away a plate, much less spend hours tarrying at the altar for the sake of lost souls.

The early church cared for the needs of others. We seem to care only for the needs of the building and the privileged few.

The early church practiced holiness by getting as close as they could to Jesus and allowing him to live through him. We "practice holiness" by proclaiming man-made and barely if at all scriptural rules.

The early church practiced a definite leadership structure that lifted up the family structure (God-husband, then wife, then children). We tell people that Structures were a cultural thing and not for our now enlightened society.

The early church had men preaching and teaching to all and did not allow women to preach at all, while they could teach other women. (1 Corinthians 14:34, 1 Timothy 2:12, Titus 2:1-5, etc)

Rather than encouraging Sunday school teachers to pray and seek God to tell them what to teach their classes (thereby letting God use their gifts), they are given programmed books that skim the surface and make it "easier" to teach. Many preachers now would rather download a sermon from the internet than seek God for a fresh word to help their hearers.

If we are ever to see the results that the early church saw. If we are ever to actually BE what we say we are, then we need to hit our faces, repent, and make wholesale changes to nearly everything we do. We need to study out and learn the principles and actions of the early church and then let God use as (as HE sees fit- not as religions says) to reach out to a very lost and very dying world. Then and only then, will we have a book of Acts revival.
                                            Image from www.restlesspilgrim.net

Sunday, August 23, 2015

When the way becomes slippery, hold onto the safety line.

Psalm 94:18-19King James Version (KJV)

18 When I said, My foot slippeth; thy mercy, O Lord, held me up.
19 In the multitude of my thoughts within me thy comforts delight my soul.
Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ:

Before I begin here, let me explain to you that I haven't changed my position. I still believe that God gave us a free will and he wants us to choose to love him and follow him. I still believe that we can willfully walk away from our salvation- after we are born again- and be eternally lost. 

However, I think that sometimes we Apostolics can become so focused on trying to get others (and ourselves) motivated to hold on no matter what, to willfully choose to walk in the ways of the Lord, to follow "the rules", that we can make it seem that it is our own works that saves us. We seem to overemphasize "work out your own salvation with fear and trembling" and downplay that "in (our) flesh is NO GOOD THING" and "(our) righteousness is as FILTHY RAGS."

Why do we do this? I think, in the end, it's about pride. We forget where the Lord brought us from, look at our rule following, and think, "I'M a good example of a good Christian." After a while, we begin to look down on others because they don't follow ALL of our rules like we do. 

The end result is that we find ourselves praying like the man in Luke 18:9-14, "Lord, I thank thee that I am not like other men..." Why? Because we have become a Pharisee, too. 

For all of our Bible Study, going to church, and learning the ropes, we have replaced Jesus with idols. Idols of religion. Idols of rules. Even the Bible itself, if read without the spirit of God, can become an idol. Even though Acts 2:38 IS the Biblical plan of salvation, if we focus on the verse, rather than on the giver of the verse, then it has become an idol. 

Because the truth is that we all fail. We all have fallen short of the glory of God. We forget that Paul, arguably the greatest Christian to ever live, said of himself that (he) "die(s) daily" (1 Cor. 15:31) and "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."

Why did he say this? Because he knew that he could not live a true Christian life in the power of his sinful flesh. We may be born again, but we still must completely rely on God for our salvation.

He is the potter and we are the clay. He is the builder and we are the building. If the work of God (salvation) is going to be finished in our lives, it is going to be finished BY JESUS, the master builder and not by our religious rules. 

Our part of the deal requires us to submit to God's workmanship. The key to it is in the submission to the spirit of God, not in following the rules. When we find ourselves about to give in to temptation, we need to follow Psalms 94:18 and say, "Lord, I'm about to fall here." When we do, in his mercy, he will reach down and help us NOT to fall." Put another way, 

1 Corinthians 10:13King James Version (KJV)

"13 There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it."

We are to submit to God and resist the devil and then he will flee (James 4:7), but when we fail to submit to God and try to fight the devil with our religion, rather than in the power of God, we will fall. When this begins to happen, we need to cry out to him to help us in our unbelief. He will reach down and provide a way out and the strength to follow the path he provides. 

So, if you find yourself on a slippery path (and we all do at times), then reach out and grab ahold of the safety line. God will provide it- if we ask. 

     


Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Did the Apostles disobey Jesus?

Matthew 28:19 King James Version (KJV)

19 Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:
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.

Here's the question: Did the Apostles disobey Jesus here? If they did, why didn't Matthew stand up and say: "Wait a minute Peter. You heard what the master said." He didn't! And that day they baptized 3000 people in the name of Jesus FOR THE (in order to get) forgiveness of sins.
Did they change to the "triune formula" after the day of Pentecost? NO!
Read Acts 8, Acts 10, Acts 19, etc. In EVERY case they baptized in Jesus name! So should we throw out the book of Acts? NO!
The fact is that there is NOT ONE reference from Acts to Revelations where baptism is ever done or referred to in the "triune formula."
Jesus said in John 17: 12-20 (about the Apostles:
12 While I was with them in the world, I kept them in thy name: those that thou gavest me I have kept, and none of them is lost, but the son of perdition; that the scripture might be fulfilled.

13 And now come I to thee; and these things I speak in the world, that they might have my joy fulfilled in themselves.

14 I have given them thy word; and the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.

15 I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil.

16 They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.

17 Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.

18 As thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world.

19 And for their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth.

20 Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word;

So, Jesus said that folks are to believe on him through the Apostles word, and prayed for the Apostles and all of us who would believe on him THROUGH them.
So, why the discrepancy between Matthew 28 and the rest of the NT?

There's NOT one. Matthew 28:19 says "IN THE NAME (singular) of the Father, the son, and the HG." So, there is ONE NAME that encompasses Father, son and HG. What name does that? JESUS!
 Colossians 2:8-10King James Version (KJV)

8 Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.

9 For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily.

10 And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power:
The Godhead IS IN JESUS- NOT THE OTHER WAY AROUND! Look at Isaiah 9:6. Who is Jesus?
6 For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.

So the baby born on "the first Christmas" as some call it, was The "wonderful Counsellor". What is a Counsellor? One that COMFORTS AND GUIDES?Who is the Counsellor in the New testament that Comforts and guides the people of God? THE HOLY GHOST. So, this baby was THE HOLY GHOST in HUMAN FLESH. (John 14: 16-18) Read further, "THE MIGHTY GOD." This baby was GOD IN HUMAN FLESH. (1 Timothy 3:16) Read more: THE  EVERLASTING FATHER. So this baby was THE FATHER in human flesh! (John 14:7-9)
So, since Jesus IS the Father and Jesus IS the son (who disputes this?) and Jesus IS the HG. Then the ONE NAME of Matthew 28:19 of the Father, son, and HG) IS JESUS!
Therefore, the Apostles didn't disobey Jesus! They actually OBEYED him and used his NAME!
Father, Son, and HG, are not 3 gods that operate in a "Godheadquarters" (as I've heard it taught). Rather, they are TITLES or ROLES that the ONE God of the universe has taken on.
I'm a Father, a son, and a preacher. Yet, if I sign a check using those titles that describe who I am, what bank will cash it? No-one! My name is Michael Winskie. If I write you a check with my name on it, then it is legal for you to cash!
God is Father in creation, son in redemption, and HG in his people now, but his saving name is JESUS!
So, in order to obey Matthew 28:19, we MUST be baptized in JESUS name! If we do not, then we are not using his name and are disobeying the commandment he gave is Matthew 28:19!
Further, Jesus said in John 3:3-5, that we must be born again. When asked to explain further he said, we must be "born of water and of the spirit."
Acts 2:38 obeys this command also!
We must be baptized in Jesus name (born of water) AND filled with the HG (born of the spirit).
The apostles followed Jesus for 3 1/2 years. They were believers. They had been baptized. Yet, Jesus told Peter:
Luke 22:32King James Version (KJV)

32 But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren.

WOW! Peter was a believer. Peter had been baptized, but he STILL WASN'T born again! When was his new birth completed?
Acts 2:1-4

2 And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place.

2 And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting.

3 And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them.

4 And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.

Then, after being born again on the day of Pentecost, Peter stood up and told the masses of people who asked " Men and brethren, WHAT SHALL WE DO?" (Acts 2:37) to "Repent, and be baptized EVERY ONE OF YOU for the remission of sins, AND ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost."
This is the ONLY plan of salvation that ANY of the Apostles EVER taught.
This agrees with EVERYTHING Jesus taught in his earthly ministry.
If you have not obeyed Acts 2:38 in it's entirety, you ARE NOT scripturally born again. It's that simple.
I do not say this to be mean. I say it in the hopes that MANY will complete the born again experience.
If you have repented and been baptized in Jesus name, but have not received the baptism of the HG, then you are still in the spiritual womb and are  not born again. If you have repented, but not done the other 2 steps, you are in the spiritual womb, but are not born again. If you have repented and received the baptism of the HG, but have not been baptized in Jesus name, then you are in the womb, but have not been born again.
PLEASE, Obey Acts 2:38 before it is too late!

Friday, July 3, 2015

Slow and steady wins the race.

Most of us know the story of the tortoise and the hare.

We all know that a race was ran between the two. But, the hare, obviously the faster one, lost the race. Why? Because of his pride and lack of work ethic. He new he was faster than the tortoise. Therefore, he took naps and got sidetracked exploring things. He new he had plenty of time because the tortoise was so slow.

The Tortoise, on the other hand, set his mind and body to the task at hand. He ignored his desire to nap, He didn't turn to the side to explore the wonders around him. His goal was simple: to follow the path of the race and finish his race. He wasn't concerned about what the hare was doing. He had no control over that. All he had control over was his own actions. He didn't let his environment influence him. He didn't let his lack of talent influence him. He didn't let his opponents obvious advantage hinder him. He just set about his task and finished the race.

When the terrain became rough, he kept going. When the path led up a steep hill, he didn't stop. When the path was wet and slippery, he slowed and made his steps sure- but he continued. Everybody was amazed that the tortoise won the race: except the tortoise.

The Bible is replete with people who imitated the hare. They were flashy. People were in awe of them. But their end was not like the beginning.

Samson's strength didn't win him a prize. Sure he defeated thousands of Israels enemies, but he still ignored God's instructions for his life (Num. 6:1-8, Judges 13:4-5). He lost his hair, his strength, his family, and ultimately, his life. Many say he died right with God because God gave him back his strength. Yet, his prayer to God was anything but repentant. He wanted his strength back to kill his enemies and take vengeance. There was no reaching out to God.

Solomon started out extremely well. He asked for wisdom from God, instead of riches and power. He built the great temple of God in Jerusalem. His wisdom became world renowned. He even expanded Israels territory all the way to the border of Egypt. He knew peace all his early days. But, he failed to follow the instructions for Kings that God had given to Moses (Dt 17:14-20, 1 Kings 10:14- 11:43). And when God judged him and pointed out his replacement (for 10 of the tribes, at least), rather than repent, he tried to kill his replacement. No repentance there.

Judas started out as a devout and chosen disciple of Jesus, but he ended up being a thief and a betrayer. He hung himself and died. No repentance there.

There were others, though, that were more like the tortoise. They may have come from humble beginnings, but they finished well.

Abraham was 75 years old before he began to follow the Lord. Though he stumbled some along the way, he still remained faithful to God and finished his life still looking for a city who's builder and maker was God. God called him the father of faith. He finished well.

Paul was at first called Saul. He persecuted the fledgling church and was responsible for the torture and death of many, many Christians. But, when the Lord got ahold of him, he left behind his former life and titles and became the greatest evangelist of all time and was used by God to write 2/3 of the New Testament. He finished well.

John Mark started well, but buckled under the pressure. It was a dispute over him that caused Paul and Barnabus to stop traveling and preaching together. Yet, he must have changed his attitude. For Paul, in a later letter, asks that he be sent to him as a help in the ministry: And the Lord used him to write the book of Mark in the New Testament. He finished well.

I don't know about you, but I'm tired of seeing flash in the pan Christians go by the wayside. "The next hot young preacher" more often than not, fails and disappears in the long run.

I'm also tired of knowing that I have failed God too many times. I used to be one of those "next hot young preachers" in some folks eyes. But, I faltered and went chasing down too many rabbit (hare) holes.

However, God tells me I don't have to end my life that way. Like John Mark, I can change my attitude (and I have). I can become like the tortoise and simply follow the path the Lord has lain out before me. It's not a matter of being well known. It's about finishing the race. It's not about seeing the Lord move large crowds through "my ministry." That would be nice, but I've learned something simple and profound:

IT'S NOT MY MINISTRY. IT'S HIS MINISTRY. I'm just a vessel for him to use at his will.

My job is to continue the race, at the pace that's needed, and just be an available vessel for his use.
I may never again preach to a large crowd. That's ok. I may never again sing and see people moved in the Holy Ghost. That's alright, too. I may never write another word. It's not up to me. Because I learned that he's in charge and slow and steady wins the race. Hard times are here and will get worse, but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord. I want to finish well.

As long as I am available for God to use, he will use me for whatever purpose he chooses, when he chooses and how he chooses. He's the potter and I'm the clay. I have no right to demand anything of him. My job is to walk on, to fight on, to pray on, to speak when he says, and shut up when he doesn't- until he calls me home and tells me "Well done, my good and faithful servant."

When my days are over, I want to be able to say:

2 Timothy 4:6-8King James Version (KJV)

For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand.
I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith:
Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing.

Or, in other words: Slow and steady wins the race.

So, here I go. Wanna race?

On your mark.
Get set.
Go!

Sunday, June 28, 2015

A sad message from the Lord for America.

Thus saith the Lord God of heaven and earth:

When you were young and new, you delighted in my word and I protected you.
When you had trouble, you sought me with your whole heart and I delivered you.
But you prided yourself in the blessings I gave you. You took credit for the prosperity I gave you.
You turned from my ways and followed after other gods, which are no gods at all.
I sent messagers to you, time and time again, but you vilified and ignored what they said to you.
I lowered my hand of protection and allowed your enemies to attack you and for a short season you sought me.
But, in short order, you turned your back on me again and swore to rebuild yourselves better and greater than you were before: as if it were you, and not I, that prospered and protected you.
I sent more messengers to you and still you did not hear.
Therefore, BECAUSE YOU HAVE REJECTED ME AND HAVE EMBRACED AND CELEBRATED THAT WHICH I CALL AN ABOMINATION, THE PROTECTION OF MY HAND IS LIFTED AND YOUR ENEMIES WILL SPOIL YOU.

I WILL DIVIDE YOUR LAND AS A SYMBOL TO THE WORLD THAT I AM INDEED GOD OF ALL. I WILL SAVE A REMNANT FOR MYSELF AND WILL RAISE THEM UP FOR THE WORLD TO SEE. BUT, WHEN THIS DESTRUCTION COMES, REMEMBER THAT IT IS FROM I, THE LORD YOUR GOD, AND REPENT.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

A sad day. It's time for heavy prayer.

Acts 1:13-15King James Version (KJV)

13 And when they were come in, they went up into an upper room, where abode both Peter, and James, and John, and Andrew, Philip, and Thomas, Bartholomew, and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon Zelotes, and Judas the brother of James.
14 These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brethren.
15 And in those days Peter stood up in the midst of the disciples, and said, (the number of names together were about an hundred and twenty,)

Acts 2:1-4King James Version (KJV)

And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place.
And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting.
And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them.
And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.

Acts 17:6King James Version (KJV)

And when they found them not, they drew Jason and certain brethren unto the rulers of the city, crying, These that have turned the world upside down are come hither also;

This is a sad day in the United States. Riots are breaking out in many cities. Racism is being fomented and stoked by people bent on subverting the founding principles of this country. And it seems likely that the Supreme Court will soon legalize same sex marriage- an abomination in the eyes of God. 
Virtuous things are being tossed aside and immorality and illegal behaviors are being lifted up as normal. 
Good people are being vilified by the media AND the courts. Evil seems to be having free reign. It is entirely possible that Christians here will soon have the same choices that many of us have had over the centuries: Bow to ungodliness or risk beatings, imprisonments, or worse. 
What's a Christian to do? 
Well, it is a time for prayer. In the Bible, whenever God's people were threatened or suffering or scared, they prayed. They prayed in their homes. They gathered together and prayed. They prayed until they touched heaven and God unleashed his supernatural power. Then, they would take that same God and his power to the streets and (one life at a time) they began to change their culture. 
Many lives were changed. Many souls were saved. 
This is the only hope for America. In fact, this is the only hope for the world. 
It will not be easy. Even those that took that power to the streets, suffered. Many were beaten. Many were killed. But, lives were changed through their obedience to God and refusal to give into the evil culture they were in.
We have prayed for real revival for many years. Study the scriptures. Real revival almost always came in times of extreme persecution- and through God performing the miraculous up to and including killing false believers and ungodly political leaders. GOD did that- not his people. 
If ever our world needed a healthy dose of the fear of God and the moving of his spirit- it is today. 
We may not be able to change the direction of the whole world, but we can make a difference and take some folks with us to heaven as we go. 
I took down my American flag today from off my home. I did it in part because there are rumors of gangs killing whole families who fly the flag on their homes. But, the main reason I took it down is because, though I love my country and the Constitution it is based upon, I cannot be proud of what America has become. 
The scripture declares that a nation that lifts up evil cannot stand (my paraphrase). I will not support the leaders we have now that are sacrificing our freedoms and destroying the Godly principles our nation was built upon. 
I am not advocating physical war: though I believe strongly a second civil war is well on it's way. What I am advocating is hitting our collective faces in deep prayer and fasting in supplication to the only being who can make a real difference in our ungodly world: Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior. 
I pray you will join me. 

Friday, June 19, 2015

Why do some bear more fruit than others?

Matthew 13:8-9King James Version (KJV)

But other fell into good ground, and brought forth fruit, some an hundredfold, some sixtyfold, some thirtyfold.
Who hath ears to hear, let him hear.
We recently moved to a much more rural (or as I would prefer to call it- country) area. Directly across from our home is a corn field. In fact, while driving around in this area, I have seen many corn fields. The vast majority of the corn in these fields seems to be doing just fine to my untrained eye.
However, the other day, I noticed something odd. On the edges of these fields there was corn growing that seemed to not quite be in the fields themselves. The soil around these areas seems different than the soil where the majority of the corn was growing. Why does this matter, you ask? Because the corn plants that were a little out of the field looked healthy enough. But, the plants were much smaller and it was obvious that they would not produce as much corn as the ones who were in the normal field. 
What was the difference? Apparently the soil around the smaller plants was good soil. If it wasn't good soil, it wouldn't grow, right? I'm no farmer, but I asked the Lord to explain this to me and the phrase he brought to my heart in reference to the smaller plants was this: fallow ground. 
Immediately, I remembered a part of this scripture: 

Hosea 10:12King James Version (KJV)

12 Sow to yourselves in righteousness, reap in mercy; break up your fallow ground: for it is time to seek the Lord, till he come and rain righteousness upon you.
What is fallow ground? 
In the Hebrew in this passage it means: tillable or untilled or fallow ground. 
In Websters dictionary's first definition it means: cultivated land that is allowed to lie idle in the growing season.
This is tillable land. It is land that could be used for crop growth. But, for one reason or another, it was not tilled. So, the soil was not broken up. It is hard and unyielding. It is amazing that any seed took root there at all. 
The farmer starts tilling the land, before the crops are planted. This breaks up the hard surface, removes rocks, kills insects and parasites, etc. He then goes behind that with fertilizer. Where we live, that means spreading manure mixed in water over the plowed area. (I don't have to tell you how wonderful the smell is when the wind blows over that field towards our home at that time.) 
He then lets it soak in for a couple of weeks. Afterwards, he re-tills and fertilizes it again. Then, he makes his rows and plants his seeds. 
In the case of the corn growing in this fallow ground, apparently the seed must have fallen in a crack, or a small hole. Since the soil below the hard surface was good soil, it took root. But, the rains and farmers watering doesn't soak into the fallow ground as well as the plowed up ground. The plant does grow. But, at a slower place, to a shorter height, and it will yield a smaller crop. 
To the soil (if you will allow me a little poetic license here), the plowing, the fertilizing, and the re-plowing are not pleasant experiences. It's not fun to be tossed and turned, broken and beaten, and (worst of all) "messed on." But, the process is a necessary one if the soon planted seed is to grow and give a maximum yield. 
The fallow soil doesn't endure these things. It is, in a sense, shielded by it's hard surface. It is isolated and somewhat lonely- being apart from the tilled ground. But, without enduring the tilling process, the seed that it gains isn't able to grow as well. Growing at all, in fact, is a fight for survival. Many of these seeds do die. But, some of them grow and have a reduced yield. 
Scripture tells us to: 

1 Peter 4:12-13King James Version (KJV)

12 Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you:
13 But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ's sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy.
And again: 

James 1:3-4King James Version (KJV)

Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience.
But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.
Many of us are like the fallow ground. We are good ground. We want to live for God. We want to bear fruit for our Lord. But, we don't allow ourselves to be fully tilled and fertilized so that his seed can grow unhindered. 
But, unlike earthly ground, the ground of our hearts has a choice.  It's not fun to be messed on by others. It's tough when our hearts are broken by the tilling of problems in this life. 
We can choose to allow God to take us through the hard times- to be broken and contrite before him. We can allow ourselves to be dumped on and accept our suffering, for we know we will one day bear much fruit for our Lord. 
Our trials can either make us better, or bitter. If we become bitter, we become hard. If we become bitter, it's hard for the water of God's word to seep through our crusty ground and water the seeds he's planted in us. 
I can't speak for you, but I'm tired of struggling to grow. I'm worn out by fighting the circumstances God has allowed in my life to allow his seed to bear a hundred fold. I'm not satisfied with the thirtyfold, or even the sixtyfold production in my life. 
I want my ground broken and tilled and well fertilized. That way, the water and nutrients he provides will sink deep down within me and help his seed to grow. I want to give my Lord maximum yield. 
How about you? 
There's no guarantee that his seed will grow if our heart is hard and un-tilled. It may, but are you really satisfied with returning so little to him who gave so much for us? 
I'm not. And I don't believe you are either.