Monday, May 30, 2011

The Name of the Lord, Part II of II

The Name of the Lord, Part II of II
May 30, 2011
Exodus 20:7 "You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God, for the LORD will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name."

There is far more to the misuse of the Lord's name than just using it in a profane manner. Sure, it is extremely inappropriate to say, "Oh my God" or to use His name to damn "it" to Hell, as the common expression might suggest. But there are more grave ways in which we misuse the name of the Lord, and this is done by people who would call themselves a Christian. In the Bible, the Israelites were extremely familiar with people we might consider to be a prophet. Prophets were men or women of the Lord who would declare the Lord's words to the public. Their words were quite often inspired of the Lord, many of which have been written down. We have many books of the Bible containing the words of some of the Prophets. Those books include Daniel, Jeremiah, Hosea, Ezekiel, Jonah....just to name a few. When a prophet would speak, some people listened while others mocked what they had to say. It could have been difficult to tell which prophets were actually from the Lord, although over time the true prophets were confirmed when their prophecies came true. But another fact stands out: those true prophets had permission from the Lord to speak on His behalf, to use His name. They were not misusing the Lord's name when it was coupled with their spoken message.

Many times, however, men or women, who were NOT from the Lord or directed of the Lord to speak, would declare a message during Biblical times. They were considered false prophets or false teachers. Those people would stand up and declare their words were from the Lord, though they did not actually have permission to use the Lord's name and couple it with their specific message. You and I might not dare stand up and declare our words were from the Lord, but the Lord has given His permission to do so on certain occasions.

The first occasion was when the Lord appeared to Moses and told him to tell Pharaoh to let the Israelites go free. The Lord told Moses to tell everyone that the great "I AM" had sent him, and that he was to speak on the Lord's behalf. You remember the story. Pharaoh didn't recognize this god, the Lord, the great I AM. Pharaoh mocked Moses, even though Moses had been given permission to use the Lord's name and declare the Lord's words.

Moses declared the truth, as the Lord truly had given him permission to use His name coupled with His message. Sadly, there are countless times false prophets have risen up over the years, declaring their message was from the Lord. In some of those instances, men have declared they heard from the Lord that the end of the world was coming. This just happened recently, as I'm sure most of you are aware, someone telling the world the Lord was coming back on such-and-such a date. Obviously it did not happen, since we are all still here. This was a sad and blatant misuse of the Lord's name. Though this isolated incident of declaring the Lord's return does not happen often, the Lord's name is still misused on a regular basis. In fact, the Lord's name is misused, sadly, almost every Sunday, in our churches. It happens right from the pulpit.

The Lord's name is misused by many men and women who consider themselves to be pastors or preachers. Every time someone preaches or teaches from the Bible, he is doing so in the name of the Lord. The Bible is the inspired Word of the Lord, and when we read it out loud, we are declaring the Lord's words. When we use Bible passages to teach a lesson, we are then further declaring the Lord's words coupled with our own. This is so common that we seldom think anything of it. But every Bible lesson given or sermon taught can become our own explanation and interpretation of the Lord's original words. If we add anything to it, we are doing so in the name of the Lord. If we choose to use the Bible to teach the Bible, then we are obligated to make SURE we get it right, lest we misuse the words and consequently, the name of the Lord. This is how false doctrine is spread, when men of the Lord preach a message out of the Bible but skew the words slightly to further their own ideas or agenda. The Bible IS what the Bible IS, and the Bible Says what the Bible Says. Any use of it from the pulpit on Sunday is doing so in the name of the Lord and it better be right. There are many parishioners who believe the person from the pulpit is speaking directly from the Lord at all times, in the name of the Lord.

I have heard many sermons, even in the churches I have attended over the years, where the message preached was taken out of context, skewing what the Scripture was actually communicating. This was done by someone we would all consider a to be a preacher, a man who was speaking in the name of the Lord. Whether he intended it or not, this sermon was then a misuse of the Lord's name, and the Lord will not hold this man guiltless. There are many sermons broadcast over the airwaves into our homes, sermons where a person is preaching a message that does not quite line up with the Bible. We should all consider this person to be a false teacher and never listen to his words again. I urge you, Christian, to double check everything you hear with your own copy of the Bible, as many words are being spoken in the name of the Lord but still might be wrong. Don't take my word for it; look it up.

Don't take my word for it; look it up: Ex 3:14-15, Ex 34:1-17, Ezekiel 22:28, Jer 14:4, Jer 23, Matt 10:24-25, James 3:1-2

Sunday, May 22, 2011

The Name of the Lord, Part I of II

The Name of the Lord, Part I of II
May 23, 2011
Exodus 20:7 "You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God, for the LORD will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name."

My wife and I have four children, none of whom have yet reached their teenage years. Since our children are still quite small, they depend greatly upon me and my wife. Consequently, the most commonly used words out of our children's mouths are: mom, momma, mommy, dad, daddy, and even daddio. Sometimes, it seems they might say our names over and over again and wear it out. There have been quite a few times we both wish our children would use another name when they call us because they have truly used the words "mom" and "dad" in vain so often. You've probably all heard a child in a grocery store call out "Mom," only to see four or five women turn around looking to see who is calling her. Until I became a dad, I never understood how someone could use a name in vain before. To use a name in vain means to do so in a disrespectful manner.

The Lord knew of this human tendency to use names and words in vain, even before we had a chance to prove it. Shortly after the Lord introduced Himself in the Bible, He told us not to misuse His name or speak it in vain. The Lord wanted His name to be used out of respect, to be set high above all other names or words. When the Lord introduced Himself for the very first time to Moses, He called Himself "I AM." The Lord said, "ehyeh asher ehyeh," which means "I am that I am." The Jews at that time would not call Him "I AM," they would say "Yahweh," which means "He Is." They did so out of respect. Jews who lived toward the end of the Hellenistic time period (right after the life and death of the Apostle Paul) were so intent on not using the Lord's name in vain, that they would only use the tetragrammaton "YHWH" when copying scripture or writing the Lord's name. They even made cultural laws for the use of "YHWH" or the Lord's name, so as to keep it sacred. While this might be going to extreme, it is certainly opposite of what we see and do today.

Personally, I am convicted by this because I use the word "God" very often in my references and writings regarding the Lord and His name. In fact, the Lord never refers to Himself as "God" in the Bible. The word "God" was a pagan word. The Lord refers to Himself as a god, as the ONLY god, but never uses it as His name. This is something we have put into practice only in the last few hundred years, probably improperly so. When the Lord told us not to use His name in vain, He was saying not to use it unless it was out of respect, out of reverence. This is something we fail at every day, regardless of calling Him "God" or using the word "God" in a profanity or curse. The Lord is the most important persona in the universe, yet we use His name as one of the most common words in our language. We say His name, but do not feel awestruck regarding the magnanimity for which His name stands. He is the Lord, the great I AM, the One who is above all yet we are so comfortable hearing His name that it has lost its sacred meaning to us.

The Lord wants to be called upon and certainly wants to be referenced out of respect, but He does not want to be put on a plane of equality with anything else. So, whatever form of His name you chose to use when calling upon the name of the Creator of the Universe, use it out of respect. While my children might use informal names to call me or reference me, there is a way they each can do it with the utmost of respect yet have my listening ear in an instant. In fact, my children can call upon me to save them from everything humanly possible because they know they have my ear. Christian, you have the Lord's ear, just use His name out of respect each and every day, being cognitive of its enormity.

Don't take my word for it; look it up: Ex 3:14-15, Ex 34:1-17, Jer 23

Sunday, May 15, 2011

A Vision for Your Future

A Vision for Your Future
May 16, 2011
Acts 2:17 "'In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams.'"

It has been said that people die for lack of vision. By "vision," I am not referring to "sight" but to a glimpse of your future that you are looking forward to, striving for something up ahead, working towards a goal. A vision is not the same as a dream. A dream is a want or a desire originating from inside that may or may not be from the Lord, but a vision can only come from God. In the past, visions were given to men and women of God who were considered prophets, the elite of God's devout, respected above the priesthood. Since the death and resurrection of Jesus, however, the need for a priest or prophet has been eliminated. You and I now have direct access to God, through Jesus Christ and are equipped to receive a vision from the Lord. Most of us, however, do not take advantage of that great opportunity.

We may not tap into that great opportunity because it can seem overwhelming, to have a vision from the Lord Almighty. But, I would submit to you that most of us desire a vision from God, a direction for the future, our future. We don't want to walk around aimlessly in life so we tell people we are searching for "God's Will" in an attempt to satisfy the need for a vision, a fresh vision from Heaven. The Bible says in those last days, the days AFTER Jesus rose from the dead and BEFORE His second coming, He will pour out His Spirit and give us visions. It is found in the book of Joel and then reaffirmed in the book of Acts. Those visions, Christian, are for today and they are for you and me, should we be willing to live by them.

God does not randomly hand out visions to every John and Jane, though, which might explain why our generation could be lacking in vision from the Lord. God gives visions to those who are willing to see them as empowered by the Holy Spirit through a dedicated prayer life. God gives visions to those He can trust to act upon them and not tuck them away or ignore them. God gives visions to those who will use that vision to inspire Christian leadership within the Body of Christ. God gives visions for the benefit of all, not the selfish gain of one. This is why receiving a vision can seem overwhelming, because with a vision from the Lord comes responsibility. It sometimes requires a person to act against the accepted social norm. We don't like feeling different, we LIKE fitting in with the crowd; a vision from the Lord might disrupt that.

If you are part of the bold few willing to walk against the mundane drone of normalism, I encourage you to seek a fresh vision from the Lord for the future. This vision won't be a new idea that goes against the Bible; it will be a new pathway to implement God's design for mankind. This vision will be an exciting new adventure that might cause you to lose a few friends who are not willing to walk a new pathway with you. This vision might take you places in your relationship with the Lord that you never imagined. This vision will keep you up at night and completely change your priorities. But it is worth it. To get a fresh vision from the Lord, however, you must be willing to lay down all your own ideas and truly seek God in prayer. That is where it starts, prayer. Pray, Christian, for what God might reveal to you through the Holy Spirit. Pray for a fresh vision from the Lord and see what He is willing to do through you and your future.

Don't take my word for it; look it up: Joel 2, John 14:15-17, John 16:13-16, Acts 2, Acts 9, Acts 10

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Who is Better Than You

Who is Better Than You
May 9, 2010
Philippians 2:3 " . . . Rather, in humility value others above yourselves . . ."

This world is full of stupid people. You've thought it, but I've said it. There are so many people we run into, day in and day out, who just get on our nerves to the point we consider them to be stupid, ignorant, obnoxious--we each have a word to describe the people who irritate us. While this is rather offensive, we've all had these thoughts, if we are willing to be honest with ourselves. We often FEEL this way toward others, whether or not it is valid, and these thoughts begin to devalue the person in our own eyes. We think slightly less of them and therefore begin to treat them with a small degree of annoyance or disdain. I know I have a few co-workers that I have written off as being less than their full potential (and I have certainly had my share of bosses of whom I thought this as well). But when we find ourselves thinking these thoughts about our fellow man, we must think of the verse in Philippians 2:3, "Rather, in humility value others above yourselves." Some translations of the Bible read, "Consider others [BETTER] than yourselves."

So, how do we go about considering someone better than ourselves, when clearly they are not (or at least not in our eyes)? Well, first we have to get into the mindset that there is NO ONE better or worse, simply different. God values each and every one of us the same, without having favorites. If God can value that "stupid person," then certainly you and I can do the same. But the verse in Philippians really isn't saying we should consider or value someone over ourselves, as most of us understand the word "better." The verse is advising us against being haughty or prideful of what we have or have accomplished. The verse is telling us to hope for the best for other people, desiring all the fullness of life that God has for them. The verse is telling us to work towards a successful outcome for others, the same way we would work for our own ends.

If you look at the Scriptures immediately before and after this verse, it gives an example of Jesus sacrificing His life for us so that we may have the best outcome in our own lives. Jesus gave the ultimate sacrifice for us when He suffered on this earth and willingly laid down His life. We certainly are not better than Jesus, but He gave us an example of working hard for someone else's own ends instead of His own. If you are familiar with the Scripture in Romans that reads, ". . . in all things God works for the good of those who love Him," then you can further understand Jesus' example. Jesus, in His act of service to us, was working things out for our own good. He was considering us of great value, valuable enough to die for, as He desired good things for us.

So, those "stupid people" with whom you wish to not associate anymore, are actually your service project. God wants you, every time you consider someone less than functioning at full capacity, to work in service to them. It is your job to work towards and hope for and pray for a better life and outcome for your fellow man and his situation. This is HARD, but there is a reward. If you read the rest of Philippians chapter 2, you will see that Jesus, because He paid the ultimate sacrifice considering others better than Himself, was exalted high above everyone else, having a name and reputation second to none. This is an example of God wanting to lift you up and reward you in Heaven, too. But it also has earthly repercussions. I've tried this, serving others whom I thought were a little less deserving of a pedestal, working for their best interests. In doing so, I developed a good reputation and respect from these people, having a name above reproach in their eyes. And they, in turn, want the best for me and are now willing to work toward MY best interests.

Don't take my word for it; look it up: Acts 10:34, Romans 8:28, Philippians 2

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Fate for the Wicked

Fate for the Wicked
May 2, 2011
Job 21:7 "Why do the wicked live on, growing old and increasing in power?"

Though I am still considered young by many standards, my eyes have seen a great deal in life. And of all that I have seen in life, I am only shocked and perplexed by one thing. I do not understand how wicked people can prosper in this world. It happens, though. It is a great injustice, to see an evil person live a physically abundant life. It is a tragic injustice in this world to see upright men struggle to find work, while many fools and liars live in luxury. I can think of one man, in particular, who stole from me a significant amount of money, but he'll never get caught and he lives a life of comfort and ease. There are many days I could use that money to put food on my table or provide a better life for my children. It seems backward in my mind, that such a man could get away with robbery and never suffer the consequences of his deeds. It is perplexing, indeed.

But this perplexing situation is not new. Every generation from the beginning of time has seen this, when the wicked prosper and are not served their fair punishment while on this earth. It is not my place to hold them accountable, though, the Holy Spirit has promised the wicked will get their just desserts and return what is rightful to the righteous. Listen to the awesome words found in Scripture: "[God] does not keep the wicked alive but gives the afflicted their rights. [God] does not take his eyes off the righteous; he enthrones them with kings and exalts them forever." This is a promise of injustices being made right, though it is only guaranteed to happen in eternity. It is not for today and you will see many injustices continue. But don't worry, the wicked will eventually get the fate they deserve.

Listen to how the beginning of the end will look for those wicked. It is found in Revelation 19:11, "I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and wages war." The rider on the horse, who is called "Faithful and True", is Jesus. He is called "Faithful and True" because He is coming to right all that went wrong on this earth, to make good on ALL those promises. Jesus will be the means to bring the correct fate to the wicked. But in correcting the scales of injustice regarding the prospering wicked, another great tragedy occurs. A huge tragedy happens when Jesus comes back on His white horse. He will punish the wicked. Though it seems like a good thing, it is horrible.

While I sort of want to see the wicked get what they deserve, I don't really want ANYONE to suffer the fate of what will happen when Jesus returns. You shouldn't want that either. Our hearts should reflect for others what God wants and has given to us, the opportunity for repentance. As Peter says it, "The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance." You had the same chance to repent and hopefully you have seized that opportunity. Now, instead of wanting to see injustices righted, you and I should want to see that the wicked have a chance to repent BEFORE Jesus rides the white horse on His return.

Most days I want to see the wicked man punished for stealing from my family. But if I think long and hard about it, I'd rather see him have the opportunity to repent while he still can.

1. What injustices have you seen?
2. Do you want to see the wicked punished or have the chance to repent?
3. If you hoped for repentance for the wicked man, what would your actions look like towards him?

Don't take my word for it; look it up: Job 11:20, Job 36:6-7, Psalm 1:6, Proverbs 10:6, Proverbs 13:9, 2 Peter 3, Rev 19:11