Monday, December 26, 2016

Peace on Earth Maybe

Peace on Earth Maybe
December 26, 2016
Matthew 10:34  "Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace on the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword."

As Christmas is slowly behind us, let us take a moment to reflect on how filled with peace we were during this holiday season. If you were like me, it went 90 miles an hour and will only slow down when it gets back into the groove of a normal routine. Sure, you've heard the messages about making sure Christmas was about the birth of Jesus, the Savior.  Christmas is supposed to be filled with peace on earth and goodwill toward men.  Ironically, the birth of Jesus was anything but during a time of peace.  There was nothing about peace in or around his birth story.  Recall that Mary was traveling during the days leading up to the birth, on a donkey, on her way to simply be counted for a census, during a time of infanticide, when the ruler of the land had heard about a Savior coming and wanted to kill him and was in fact killing babies looking for Him.  The truth of the story is that a dispatch of soldiers was sent to find the baby Jesus and kill Him.  How do you think Mary felt, knowing people wanted her baby dead even before He had a chance to come into the world?

But again, what about peace on earth and goodwill toward men?  Surely, it was foretold Jesus would come to bring peace.  The gravity of Scripture is that Jesus came only to bring peace in our hearts, being able to have reconciliation with the Lord from our sins, but not until after Jesus was slaughtered on the cross.  That was anything but peace.  In fact, if you asked Jesus directly, He admitted He did not come for peace.  He said He came only to bring the sword of division.  Jesus was not born during a time of peace, He did not intend to bring peace, and was murdered so that one day in Heaven their might be peace in our hearts.  So again, why do we think Christmas is about peace on earth and goodwill toward men?

Scripture never says anything about peace on earth and goodwill toward all mankind.  Where did they come from? Perhaps it is a quote from a Christmas poem written in 1836 by Henry Longfellow, where those lines are written.  Perhaps they are from a famous speech given by FDR in 1943.  Perhaps they are an interpretation from a Christmas song, slightly quoted, sung in our churches.  Perhaps they are a loosely translated King James Bible verse.  Or perhaps those words are a misinterpretation of something spoken by the angels during the time of the birth of Jesus.

Recall there were shepherds in the field at night tending their flock. Why were the shepherds tending their flock at night?  Sheep don't graze at night; they sleep.  The shepherds were either fearful of thieves or wolves; they were protecting their flock by night.  Angels appeared to the shepherds and to calm the nerves of shepherds ready to defend their flock, the angels told the shepherds not to be afraid.  But the angels never proclaimed peace to the shepherds, just that they should not be afraid.  During the discourse between the shepherds and the angels, the Heavens opened up and there was a host of angels signing.  But the host of angels never declared peace on earth goodwill toward all mankind.  The angels declared glory to God, the angels declared peace in the hearts of those on whom the Lord's favor rests, but the angels never declared peace on earth or goodwill toward all mankind.

It is not fully understood if the angels were signing about the shepherds, about Mary or Joseph, all men on whom the Lord finds favor, or all men the Lord saves from his own sin.  Take it as you'd like, but it was most likely meant as peace to the shepherds, who instantly suggested afterward that they head out to see the savior who was born.  Those shepherds, who were fearful, were potentially risking their flock, their livelihood to go and find the savior of the world.  If they did find the savior of the world, they risked being killed by the rulers who dispatched the soldiers to kill Jesus once He was found. If they declared there was a savior, they risked their lives, nonetheless they risked it all and loudly proclaimed He came as a baby; the Christ child was here.

It's OK to be busy during Christmas, just not OK to forget what Christmas was and is all about, and not OK to misquote the story of His birth.

Don't take my word for it; look it up:  Is 9:6, Matt 2:1-23, Luke 2:1-20, John 18:36

Monday, December 19, 2016

At His Word

At His Word
December 19, 2016
Luke 1:38  "'I am the Lord's servant,' Mary answered. 'May your word to me be fulfilled.' Then the angel left her."

As it approaches the time of the year when we celebrate the birth of our Savior, it is necessary to revisit the story of His entrance into this world.  As I read the story of Jesus' birth, it is always interesting to note the response of Mary and Joseph at the discovery of His conception.  Start it out nine months to the magnificent delivery and you have Mary and Joseph engaged.  Then Mary discovers she is pregnant.  Seriously, the magnitude of what the angel revealed to her was so heavy and truly life altering.  She would be carrying the Christ child; conceived by the Holy.  The angel appeared to her and told her what would happen, but the angel never told her how to navigate the next nine months, keeping the momentum, the excitement, the faith.

We quickly gloss over the nine months of her carrying the child and immediately cross over into the events of the birth, but think about the battle in her mind.  After the angel appeared to her she was excited, elated, in awe, full of anticipation.  She took him at his word and believed what he said.  She believed she was truly pregnant by the Holy Spirit and that she would be the Christ child's mother.  How did she feel days later, weeks later, months later?  Did she doubt?  Did she question herself?  Did she questions if it was real or not?  If Mary was anything like you and me, she probably had thoughts of conflict, wondering if the angel truly did appear to her, wondering if she heard him right, wondering if she understood it correctly, wondering if it really was completely true.  She had to have moments of doubt.  The thing about Mary's story, though, is she didn't go through a dark time of personal confusion.  The Bible would have recorded her sin if she was in error in her path.  She clung to the truth revealed to her and believed, even when things got difficult.

It wasn't easy for Mary, traveling while pregnant, ready to give birth.  She was experiencing labor symptoms riding that donkey, being turned away at the Inn, just before delivery.  She didn't yell at Joseph for not providing a room for her or a comfy nest of her own.  She didn't complain that the Holy Spirit had got it wrong and that things were messed up with how things were turning out.  She never dreamed of delivering her first child in a barn, to a man she technically wasn't married to yet because they had not consummated their marriage.  When she was a little girl, she never envisioned it would turn out this way.  But she took the Word of the Lord for what it was worth and clung to it, clung to the truth that had to carry her through the times of confusion, doubt, and questioning, when it would have been easier to complain or give up.  There are more than a few of us who would have quit.  Not Mary, she took him at his word.

While it's a big deal to have an angel appear to you, there is so much revealed to each and every one of us throughout the Bible and throughout our lives that we have much to go on, much to live by, much to sustain us.  Yet judging by our lives, we don't live it out like we've taken Him at His Word.  Do you believe what the Lord has told you?  Do you live that like it?  Do you navigate as successfully as Mary or do you complain, quit, live out your sin, and then regret your decisions.  As you approach this time of year, do so by taking the Lord at His Word.  You may not be carrying the Christ child, but  you've been on a path directed by the Lord.  It's time live it like you were told by the angel who appeared to Mary.

Don't take my word for it; look it up:  Luke 1:26-56

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Sell Everything

Sell Everything
December 12, 2016
Matthew 19:21  "Jesus told him, 'If you want to be perfect, go and sell what you own and give the money to the destitute, and you will have treasure in heave. Then come back and follow me.'"

Jesus said it is very difficult for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.  A rich man came to Jesus and confessed his devotion to the Lord and listed all the ways he followed the Lord devoutly from his youth.  The man thought surely following the Lord's commands to the letter would be sufficient to satisfy the Lord's requirements of him. But Jesus said the man was still lacking, that the man still had one more hurdle to jump to make his faith complete.  The Lord asked him to sell everything he had and give it to the poor, only then would he have done all the Lord required of him.  The man was sad because he just couldn't do it; he could not part with his money.  Jesus knew it would be difficult for the man and pressed him where He knew it would hurt.  The man's wealth was his most important stronghold.

You and I each have a stronghold, an area of our lives we are just not willing to give over to the Lord.  The Lord asked the man to forsake his stronghold, so there would be nothing between him and the Lord.  For this man, his wealth was standing between him and the Lord.  The Lord asked him to give it up.  It was more of a test than it was a literal request possibly.  Jesus asked it of him because He knew what the answer would be, that it would be too difficult for the man.  Jesus was showing the man what stood between the two of them and the man didn't get it.  For those who are wealthy, money easily gets in the way, in front of the Lord. If you have all the money in the world, then you probably won't need the Lord.  If the money wasn't a big deal to the man then Jesus wouldn't have asked it of him.  You might not be wealthy, but there is something that comes between you and the Lord.

The man's money represented what he wanted to keep away from the Lord.  The Lord could have every area of the man's life except his wealth.  For some of you money isn't an issue because you don't have any, but what about the pursuit of money?  What about your time?  What about your comfort?  Comfort is a bigger deal than most Christians realize.  You might not necessarily be holding onto your money or your time but your comfort level might be standing between you and the Lord.  You're willing to give everything over to the Lord as long as it remains comfortable.  You can give of your time but not too much of your time.  You can give of your money but not too much of your money.  You can give of your patience level but not to the point your patience level is maxed.  The difference between what you have and what you end up giving is the level of your sacrifice.  Jesus asked the rich man to sacrifice his wealth, to sacrifice it all.  The man just couldn't; he wasn't willing.

What are you not willing to sacrifice for the Lord?  Are you willing to sacrifice it all?  Are you willing to give a good deal of money to the Lord but keep enough so you have a vacation every year?  What if the Lord asked you to give of your money so much so that you couldn't afford a vacation ever again?  Could you do it?  What if the Lord asked to sacrifice your personal time and spend it with autistic children who tested your patience level?  Could you do it and not feel you needed to reward yourself for your efforts?  What if the Lord asked you to have more than the 2.4 kids you decided to have in order to maintain a comfortable lifestyle?  What's standing between you and the Lord.  What is your stronghold?  What is it you're not willing to sacrifice.  Be careful, because the very thing you are not willing to sacrifice could be what keeps you from entering heaven. Jesus said we are to take up our cross and follow Him, sacrificing it all.  Whoever wants to gain his life must be willing to lose it.  Are you willing to lose it?

Don't take my word for it; look it up:  Matt 7:21-23, Matt 16:24-27, Matt 19:16-30, Luke 18:18-29

Sunday, December 4, 2016

God Limits

God Limits
December 5, 2016
Acts 17:26  "From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundary lines of their lands."

Dream Big.  Dream God-sized dreams, they told me as a youth.  Naturally, as a kid, hearing I should dream God-sized dreams, that meant my dreams should be as big as God, limitless.  Oh, how the church, in an effort to be positive, gets it wrong sometimes.  I hear more and more messages about having dreams requiring so much faith only God can bring them about.  With the risk of being banned from the Internet or social media altogether, let me just say there is nothing found in Scripture about dreaming God-sized dreams, dreams as big as God.  That is just a load of humanistic thought entering the church, even if well-intended.

The Lord never taught us to have any other dream or vision that does not come straight from Him.  If you just simply thought it up, then it didn't come from Him and no amount of faith will bring it about.  If there is something burning in your heart, that you cannot deny or quench, that you didn't invent, and you feel empowered by the Holy Spirit to step out in faith, then that is certainly from the Lord.  Those dreams however, based on the history found in the Bible, require sacrifice and hardship without glory for the individual.  Those dreams aren't the ones you and I come up with.  Our own personal dreams always end up with us being the hero of the story, not God.  Coming up with your own hair-brained concoctions does not justify or allow you to force God into being involved in your plans.  God is only involved in HIS plans.  A God-sized dream should be measured in the proportion of the size God intended, not the size you intended.  God sometimes puts limits on things, purposefully.  No one wants to hear that God might need your specific church to remain a certain membership size, or that He might want your specific income to be limited.  After all, He came so we could have life more abundantly, correct?  If we just have faith big enough we can do anything we set our heart on doing?

The fact of the matter is the Lord determines our place and time, and sets our boundary lines.  These boundary lines are for PLACE and TIME.  Place and time are with respect to every place in your life and ever time period in your life.  Your place at work is limited by God.  Your place in your family is limited by God.  Your time for expiry is limited by God.  Your time for moving, birthing, planting, all limited by God.  No one likes to have limits set for them.  WE like to determine our limits.  We want the sky as the limit when it comes to what we want.  We also want to limit our pain and discomfort, but the Lord sets those limits too, which may end up in the opposite direction we hope.  We don't get to determine our limits.  Our cup is full when the Lord says its full.  Our family is full when the Lord says its full.  Our job growth is set when the Lord says its set.  Our profitability or success is determined when and where God has determined it.  We cannot push beyond the Lords limits; He has put them in place.

 The Lord has set limits on what you can do, most likely for your benefit.  He works all things out for your good, Scripture says so...this means He works out your limits and boundary lines as well.  It is for your benefit, per Scripture to force you to call out to Him.  Read the Scripture carefully.  The very next verse, Acts 17:27 reads, "God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us."  God put your limits in place so you would be forced to seek Him.  If you had no limit, you would become arrogant and think you didn't need a God.  If your personal dream was fulfilled to the size of a God, then it might become your God.  You would end up the hero of your own story instead of the Lord.  If you find yourself at a limit, then it's because anything further than that and you'd not need to focus on Him.  the Lord knew you and understands the human desire to be the hero of the story.  Make God the hero of your story and He just might move those limits.

Don't take my word for it; look it up:  Ps 16:5-6, Ps 75:1-3, Pr 8:15-35, Pr 16:1, Matt 26:18, Acts 17:25-27, Romans 8:28

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Sacrifice for Reward

Sacrifice for Reward
November 28, 2016
Matthew 16:26  "What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world yet forfeit their soul?  Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?"

In the typical rules of business, you only earn your money after all expenses are paid.  Everything that is left over is your profit.  You don't get a reward in business; you get  what you've earned and you don't get what you haven't earned.  You can work your heart out in business yet come home empty handed.  A few poor business calculations or bad decisions and your efforts can be wiped out completely.  Jesus, though not typically considered an economist, taught a good deal about money and surprisingly offered some business advice we seldom take.  He offered a solution so you could guarantee a  return on your efforts.  He said you could toil your whole life, end up having gained the world, and yet still be a loser if you lost your soul.  In this lies the advice we seldom take

You and I have heard this Scripture over and over again.  Not to worry, we both think, none of us are in jeopardy of gaining the entire world.  Jesus was giving the worst case scenario, suggesting the epitome of worldly richness wouldn't be worth the loss of your soul.  He was also saying all the money in the world could not purchase back your soul from Hell, given the opportunity.  Any amount wouldn't be enough.  While you may not be trying to gain the whole world, you are probably, like me, trying to gain YOUR whole world.  The Lord said this effort is more risky than not; saying it is a poor business decision that would end up with the antithesis of what you'd like to happen, akin to working yourself to the bone and yet having no profit to speak of at the end of the business deal after all the expenses were paid.  It isn't enough, though, to not seek the gain of the entire world or the gain of your whole world, Jesus gives the secret in the verse right before it and right after it.

The preceding verse says, "whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me."  This could not be more opposite of gaining the whole world.  Jesus said, not only do you have to forsake gaining and winning over your whole personal world, but that you should be willing to give it all up completely.  You and I might not be winning over our entire personal world, but are we willing to give every ounce, every last bit away for the sake of Jesus.  We read the Bible and says yes, but our actions, our check book of expenditures, say otherwise.  We don't really want to sacrifice anything for the Lord; few of us have ever done that.  This is extremism and surely the Lord isn't asking us to give it all up for Him.  Yes, it is and Yes, He is asking.  Do you deny your flesh every single day?  This isn't akin to going to work when you don't want to, just to pay the bills.  That doesn't count.  Jesus is asking if you have denied yourself today.

After Jesus said He is requiring you to deny yourself today, not working for control and gain over your entire personal world, He said one last thing (and this is what makes Him the greatest economist).  He said He will keep score and reward you for your sacrifice, for your loss.  Remember in business you don't profit unless you win.  Jesus said you can only win if you lose.  He said you will be rewarded exactly in direct correlation to what you have sacrificed on His behalf.  Whatever your lose intentionally, you will be rewarded for in direct or greater proportion.  It can't be an accidental loss, it must be an act of self denial.  This gives you an option.  You can work hard in this world, and maybe, just maybe, you might gain something temporal.  OR you can intentionally give up many things in order to work for Him and gain all, if not more than, whatever it is you've sacrificed.  It does not make sense to the natural world, but it is some interesting truths very few of us employ.  What to get rich?  Then give it all up, because in your great sacrifice there is great reward.

Don't take my word for it; look it up:  Matt 16, Mark 10:29, Lk 9:24, John 12:29

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Silent God

Silent God
November 21, 2016
Psalm 28:1  "To you, Lord, I call; you are my Rock, do not turn a deaf ear to me.  For if you remain silent, I will be like those who go down to the pit."

Have you ever prayed and it seemed like the Lord was silent?  Have you ever asked for an answer to prayer and He didn't say yes OR no?  Have you ever asked for wisdom and it seemed as if you had no idea what to do without leading one way or the other from the Lord?  Unless you're Jesus, my guess is you're like me and feel like He is more silent than He is anything else.  So what do you do when there is no answer from the Lord, no clear direction, no clear path, and the Lord seems silent?  The answer is more practical than you probably want to know and far less magical than you were hoping for.  The answer is already there.  When God seems silent, He has actually already spoken loud and clear.

The pale, trendy answer to when the Lord seems silent is that the Lord Almighty has already spoken to you through the Bible, leaving you the Holy Book to lean on if you'd just open the leafy pages or click on the app.  Without sounding heretical or rude, that is not sufficient enough of an answer.  The Bible does not always speak to your specific situation and sometimes the Lord is truly silent.  The Israelites realized this in the Old Testament.  Between the last book of the Old Testament and first writing of the New Testament, the Lord was silent for approx 400 years.  It was known as the silent period (how appropriate).  God chose to be quiet during that time and He chooses to be quiet during your lifetime, too.  During those 400 years, did the Israelites not need any answered prayer requests or wisdom for their lives?  They were human and needed Him just as desperately as you need Him now.

When the Lord seems silent, for your significant request, direction, or wisdom, there is actually an answer to your dilemma.  The answer is you should figure it out on your own, well, not really.  If the Lord has already answered it for you, He wants to see if you will trust Him with His last known response.  He doesn't tell you to never seek Him ever again.  He wants you to call on Him, but if He seems silent, here is your plan of attack.  The first and foremost thing to do is consult scripture.  If there is an easy answer there is an easy answer to apply.  If you want to know whether or not you should tithe or give to the needy, the answer is easily found in there without a smoke screen rising to Heaven for a sign.  If you want to know if you should marry such and such a person, well, that is not easily answered in Scripture (unless the person is not a Christian).  So, God asks you to apply the last known answer first.  He is not going to give you a new revelation on the fruits of the Spirit.  The last answer was sufficient.  Then He asks you to apply a sound methodology.

The methodology starts with where you stopped, and that is prayer.  Obviously, you're still praying and seeking, praying and seeking.  But if He still seems silent and there isn't an answer in Scripture, then you get to seek out the wisdom of your elders.  An elder isn't an old person, an elder is someone very mature in Scripture (who has demonstrated it with his or her own life).  But if that answer doesn't seem to satisfy, then pause and check your spirit.  Make sure your movement forward isn't accompanied with a stop sign in your spirit.  If you have a check in your spirit, then don't move forward.  But if there is nothing, and you still must move forward without an answer, then know the Lord has already equipped you with the answer, you're just being insecure about it.  The Lord is testing you, to see how you will respond, to see how you'll move forward.  A teacher in school is only silent during the tests.  A teacher has given instruction, plenty of practice, and then must be silent to see if the student is able to apply the knowledge on the exam.

While I am not suggesting the Lord is testing you, I AM suggesting the Lord is seeing how you'll respond and if you'll move forward in the wisdom He has already given you.  His goal is that you'd be a mature Christian, complete and wise, not living off milk but weaned from the infancy of your Christianity.  You can't be a mature Christian if you constantly depend on the Lord for your baby milk, after this long.

Don't take my word for it; look it up:  1 Sam 3:1-10, 1 Kings 19,  Is 28:9, Is 30:21, 1 Cor 3:2, James 1:5-6, James 4:8, Heb 5:12-13  

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Don't Bless Don't Get Blessed

Don't Bless Don't Get Blessed
November 14, 2016
Matthew 6:8  "Don't be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him."

So much is misunderstood about blessing and cursing, praying for something and against something else.  The older I get and the more I try to understand Scripture, the more I realize I do not have the answer or the key to it all.  You've had days when it seems your life is so blessed and you've had days when it seems your life is so cursed.  You've had blessings fall into your life, the blessings that you prayed for, and you've had disaster hit you like a freight train.  Was the Lord present in the blessing and absent to protect you from the freight train?  Did you get a blessing you didn't pray for yet received a bad report when you prayed against such a thing?  Up, down, forward, reverse, it doesn't always make sense.  You remembered to pray for your child's good health but you must have clearly forgotten to pray that you wouldn't lose your job.  Isn't it a given, that you don't want to lose your job and He would know that?  Shouldn't the Lord just know that you want the good things and don't want the bad things?  Shouldn't the Lord just know how to take care of you best?

In reading Scripture, there are verses about blessings and curses, seemingly contradicting teachings in the New Testament compared to transactional circumstances of the Old Testament.  To be succinct, without going into too much detail, here is what I can say with certainty as backed by Scripture.  Don't pray harm would happen to anyone else, instead pray good things happen to them (even the people you don't like and of whom you happen to be jealous).  Pray the Lord protects you and keeps you safe, as well as your loved ones.  And that's about it.  Notice I did not mention anything about praying blessings for yourself.  Here is what I have found in Scripture about that.  You do NOT have to pray to receive blessings from the Lord.  You just don't.  The Lord is your father and He loves you.  A good father wants to naturally bless His Children.  The Lord will naturally bless you as you live for Him and live a righteous lifestyle.  Understand that the Lord is not willing to bless you when you are living in sin, living against His plan for your life, away from His will.  However, live the Life He has asked of you and blessing will naturally come from the Lord.  The Lord knows how to take care of you best; He is your good father.

Remember, here is the basic formula: don't pray harm on anyone else, pray blessing on everyone (even your enemies); pray for protection for yourself and others; live in His will for your life.

Take this one step further and understand He will not bless you if you are not praying for or actively seeking the blessing for other people (even the people you don't like and of whom you are jealous). The Lord is not likely to bless you when and if you are not willing/seeking for someone else to be blessed, if you are just indifferent of others.  This proves you are a selfish child and does not represent the life He has asked you to live.  If you do not have the blessing to which you are seeking, realize you don't need to seek it for yourself, but genuinely on behalf of others only, then just live a righteous life.  This is what He has asked you to do.  In doing what He has asked you to do, He will naturally take care of you, blessings included.  He can already see you and He knows what you need.  He also knows perfectly well how to bless you.  He also knows when you are being selfish and don't need that blessing.

I have several children and when I want to bless them I consider each one differently, according to what I know would truly bless each one.  One of my sons would appreciate tickets to a football game, while my other son would be so blessed by a model rocket.  One of my daughters would love a coloring book while another of my daughters would be blessed by a father/daughter date.  Because I love my children, I know them well and know exactly how to bless them.  They don't have to beseech me for a blessing.  When I'm ready to bless them, I will.  I will, however, not bless them in the middle of discipline or during their temper tantrums or during their insubordination.  I will not bless them when they care only for themselves, ready to receive but never willing to give.  If you don't bless other people, you certainly cannot expect a blessing in return.  You don't have to beseech Him for a blessing, when He sees you're ready to receive one you can rest assured it will be good.

Don't take my word for it; look it up:  Ps 109:17, Joel 3:1-7, Matt 5:44, Matt 6:8-15, Matt 7:9-11, Lk 11:1-13, Rom 12:14  

Sunday, November 6, 2016

The Next Government

The Next Government
November 7, 2016
Romans 13:1  "Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established.  The authorities that exist have been established by God."

The Lord is in charge of anything and everything that matters and even the things that don't seem to matter.  He is in control and has never left His throne.  There is no one or thing that can usurp His authority or establish any government without His permission.  Nothing fashioned against Him will prevail and nothing comes as a surprise to Him.  If anything happens it is because He has willed it or allowed it to take place.  This was true ten thousand years ago; this was true last year and this will still remain true this next coming week.  No matter what happens this next coming week, the Lord has either willed it to happen or allowed it to happen as a direct result of our own choices, decisions, or behaviors.

Scripture says there is no government established on earth that has not been established (allowed) by the Lord your God.  Scripture further states we are to submit to that government, willfully submit.  This is your opportunity to demonstrate your Christianity, your willingness to follow the Lord your God.  Is the government in control over your life or is the Lord in control over your life?  Does the government's rule reign over you or does the Lord's rule reign over you?  Whom should you fear and respect more, the established government or the one who establishes the governments?  He is the one who establishes governments, the current government and the one to come, and the one far in to the future.

Does this mean you should lay down and roll over and let be what will be?  Absolutely not.  If something is within your power and authority then it is within your God-given duty to discharge that with excellence.  If you are in charge, then administer laws in service to the King of Kings.  If your only influence is the ability to vote, then vote as if you were voting on behalf of the King of Kings.  If you have significant influence or less than a you'd want, in either case you have the authority under Heaven and earth to at least pray.  Pray with all your might, for the government in power and the one that will be in power when your children become adults.  If you don't like the government, then submit to it's rule and pray.  If you've been granted the ability to change that government, then I suggest you change it for the Lord after you've prayed.  Then pray for it once it is established.

If you chose not to submit to your government,the government the Lord has established, then you've eliminated your option to complain about it.  If you didn't serve in changing that government when given the opportunity, then you've eliminated your option to complain about it.  If you didn't even exercise your ability to vote or pray for it, then you've eliminated your option to complain about it.  Actually, if you are a Christian, you've eliminated your option to complain about it.  Whatever happens to the government, the one established this week or in the next ten years, submit to the Lord, then submit to the government.  The Lord is still in control, over your life and the government that is over your life.  He is still on His throne, both now and for eternity.

The next government is the one established by the Lord. 

Don't take my word for it; look it up:  Josh 1:9, Ps 23:4, Ps 27:1, Ps 139:5, Pr 21:30, Pr 29:25, Phil 4:6, Is 9:6, 1 Peter 3:14, 1 Peter 5:6-7 

Sunday, October 30, 2016

No Advice

No Advice
October 31, 2016
John 21:6  "He said, 'Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.'  When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish."

Peter was a fisherman.  It is true that Peter eventually became one of the most prominent Christian evangelists of all time, but by trade, by training, he was a fisherman.  Back in Peter's time, there were no schools you could attend to learn your craft; you learned by apprenticeship most likely from your father.  Peter learned to fish when he was considered a youth, during his apprenticeship, and then honed his craft as he got older.  While I do not know what level of skill he ever achieved, I'd say you could call him a true professional at fishing.  He knew his stuff, his job.  Conversely, Jesus was trained as a carpenter.  Before Jesus ever healed someone, he honed his personal craft as a carpenter.  As a child, his father taught him about working with wood and I'd venture to guess, as soon as he could hold a hammer, he was driving nails.  Fishing and carpentry have very little in common.  In fact, you could probably say carpentry and fishing are almost completely opposite fields, with no crossover.

Despite the opposing fields of carpentry and fishing, Peter and Jesus started on an unique friendship that was centered around their belief and dedication to God.  A carpenter and a fisherman only talked about the Heavenly Father.  One day, Peter and a few fellow expert fisherman had fished all through the night and caught nothing.  fish at night with nets so the fish aren't spooked away by what is exposed by the daylight.  But daybreak came and it was highly improbable a fish was going to get caught (if a fish hadn't already been caught).  Enter Jesus, the expert carpenter.  From the shoreline, the carpenter called out to the fishermen who were finishing up and about to head in, calling it quits.  The carpenter advised the fisherman to try again, but this time to cast their net on the other side of the boat.  Pause and realize what just happened.  A carpenter was telling a group of expert fishermen to change their tactic and try it his way just one time.  I can imagine all the fishermen on the boat, secretly rolling their eyes regarding the advice from a carpenter.  I know very few experts, when among their colleagues, would heed the advice from someone else not in their field of study.  It goes against everything an expert stands for.

Peter, the expert fisherman, didn't need fishing advice from Jesus, the expert carpenter, but he took it anyway.  Jesus was right and they caught a record number of fish in just one cast.  This speaks to Peter's trust in the word of Jesus, not as a carpenter but as the miracle working God incarnate.  Peter wasn't trusting in the advice from a carpenter; he was trusting in the advice from the Word, God's own Son.  Maybe Jesus doesn't speak audibly to you today, but you've been given somewhere to go for advice, God's Word.  If you are without a fresh word, needing advice or not, you may consult your Bible.  Before you suggest you are an expert on anything, you should consult the Lord and then His Scriptures.  I don't care how advanced you are in your field, if there is a recommendation found in the Bible, and it goes against what you've learned in your modern day education, you should follow the advice of the Bible.

The Bible is full of wisdom that goes against the face of mainstream thought and worldly expert advice.  The world says to save your money, store it up and keep it all to yourself.  But the Word of God says to give and then it will be given to you, that you should store up for yourself treasures in Heaven.  The world says you should demand payment from those who owe you (emotionally, physically, and spiritually), but the Word says you should forgive and even turn the other cheek.  The World says you should try every deceitful tactic in order to win in a court of law and manipulate the jury, but the Word says you should give honest testimony, not covering up the truth.  The world says to divorce the spouse that you have fallen out of love with so you can follow your heart, but the Bible says you should be faithful to your spouse.

As you get to know His Word, you'll learn how to trust His advice even when it goes against your conventional training.

Don't take my word for it; look it up:  Pr 12:17, Matt 5:32, Matt 5:59, Matt 6:14, Matt 6:19-21, Matt 6:33, Lk 5:4, Lk 6:38, James 5:14-15

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Stick Your Neck Out

Stick Your Neck Out
October 24, 2016
1 Corinthians 1:1  "Paul, called to be an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and our brother Sosthenes. . ."

You did not raise yourself in the woods.  There were may significant people who are to be given credit for helping to make you who you are today.  Sure, you are responsible for making mature decisions, but other people have put themselves in the line of fire, taking risks, for making a significant impact on your life.  You are not an island and did not happen by yourself.  There is no shame in giving credit for the help others have given in support of your life, those who propelled you forward.  Even the Apostle Paul, a significant leader, could not have made it without the impact of others, especially someone who risked his life for him.  Paul needed someone to stick his neck out for him, literally.  Sosthenes, a man with a seemingly funny name, was beaten, almost killed, because he took a stand for Paul and Paul's ministry.

Paul, a Jew, was a religious man who first persecuted Christians to the point of death.  Then Paul became a convert to Christianity, himself.  Being a Christian was not popular, especially if you were a Jewish Christian.  To add to being unpopular, you certainly didn't try to make friends by trying to proclaim Christianity to other Jews.  But Paul risked his life, encouraged by the Holy Spirit to do so, and stayed in Corinth, reasoning with the other Jews for over a year, even on the Sabbath day.  It should be noted the Synagogue leader had to the legal authority and the power to make your life difficult if you were teaching anything contrary to their beliefs, which is exactly what Paul was preaching.  The Synagogue's leader was Sosthenes.  Apparently Sosthenes let Paul speak, and evidently even listened to him on more than one occasion.  Then things came to a head.  Paul was challenged in a court proceeding and the Synagogue leader, Sosthenes, refused to press charges.  Paul was allowed to go unharmed, while Sosthenes was beaten by the mob because they disagreed with Sosthenes leadership.

Sosthenes had the authority to have Paul flogged and possibly put to death for heresy, and yet did nothing.  The mob, gave Sosthenes Paul's intended beating.  Sosthenes saved Paul's life, risking his own.  Sosthenes was on his way to becoming a believer when he stuck his neck out for Paul.  Thankfully, Sosthenes didn't die that day and actually did become a believer.  It should have been Sosthenes who thanked Paul for leading him to salvation, but instead Paul credited Sosthenes for his own ministry.  In an open letter to the church in Corinth, the church Paul started while there, Paul thanked God first and then Sosthenes second.  If Sosthenes had prosecuted Paul that day, Paul could have been led off to his death.  Paul could not have made it out alive without Sosthenes.

You, too, have someone like Sosthenes in your life, who has risked much for your benefit.  You could not be who you are today without that significant person in your life.  Someone has stuck his neck out for you.  Sosthenes thought Paul's ministry was worth it, that Paul was worth it.  Someone thought you were worth it, too.  I have a few questions for your you.  Were you worth it; was that person's risk in vain?  What did you do with that person's risk or sacrifice on your behalf?  Are you willing to stick your neck out for someone else in return?  Give some credit to him who stuck his neck out for you.  Be a hero and do the same for someone else when it matters.

Don't take my word for it; look it up:  Acts 18

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Good Father

Good Father
October 17, 2016
Ruth 1:20  "'Don't call me Naomi,' she told them. 'Call me Mara, because the Almighty has made my life very bitter.'"

The Lord your God is a good Father.  What does it mean to be a Good Father, if He truly is a Good Father?  Will your life always be filled with rainbows and roses and butterflies?  Of course not; no one believes this, not even the most positive, glass-half-full Christian.  But can you still say He is a Good Father when things go horribly wrong, the opposite as planned?  It's easy to sing about His goodness on a Sunday morning or in the car on the way to work, but can you say this when the chips are really down?  Naomi couldn't.  You remember Naomi, right?  If not, here is a fast version of her story.

Things were going well for Naomi; she had a respected husband, two boys, and a relatively comfortable lifestyle.  Then famine struck in Bethlehem.  Because they could afford to move their household elsewhere, she traveled with her husband and kids to where the money was to be made and the food was plenty.  But then disaster really struck.  Her husband died.  It was OK, her sons, now men, could take care of her and continue in the family business.  But then bad went to worse.  Her two sons also passed away.  Soon the money ran out and she didn't have a way to support herself or her two daughters-in-law.  She recommended her daughters-in-law go and fend for themselves, finding new husbands any way they could.  One kissed her and wished her well, the other, Ruth, stayed.

Naomi and Ruth traveled back to where Naomi's family and friends survived the famine, which was now over after many years.  Everyone recognized their friend, as Naomi, but Naomi asked them to call her by a different name, to call her Mara, which means bitter or bitterness.  The name Naomi meant happiness, yet she, in her sadness, had become bitter and hard.  Naomi helped Ruth find a husband and Ruth was able to find happiness in the arms of another man, Boaz.  Thankfully, Ruth and Boaz took Naomi in, taking care of her as she aged.  But Naomi, now Mara, was never able to remarry nor was she able to find happiness again.  The story ends with Ruth and Boaz having a baby, and Naomi spent her final years helping to rear their son, Obed.

The story certainly stinks for Naomi, and one can  understand why she became bitter.  But I don't know if Naomi ever praised the Lord after the disaster was over.  I don't know if Naomi was ever able to proclaim that God was still a Good Father.  Scripture never says she changed her name to Happiness again.  My guess, and this is not recorded in Scripture, but I imagine there was a small degree of happiness at least when she held Ruth's little baby, smelling his head after a bath, seeing him smile, or hearing him coo when she tickled his belly.  That baby, though she would have no way to know it, would grow up to become the grandfather of King David, and one of a few to be named in the human lineage of Jesus.  Naomi held the human seed that led to the earthly father of Jesus, yet she called herself bitterness.  It was only after the famine and her great personal loss that the story of Jesus started and yet her name no longer meant happiness.  She was saddened by her tragedy but did she ever proclaim that He was, and is, still a Good Father?  Her friends had to help her with that.  Apparently Naomi was struggling to praise the Lord in the end; her friends encouraged her, helping to do just that, helping her to give the baby his name, Obed, which meant servant worshipper.

We can learn from Naomi's story and realize there is Someone at work in our story, even in the midst of tragedy.  That Someone has the name of Good Father.  He is a Good Father when things go well and He is a Good Father when things make you want to quit and throw in the towel.  God is good, all the time.  He is still sovereign, and is always on His throne.  He knows what He is doing and is crafting your circumstance right now.  I promise you, no one knows your bitterness more than Noami, except she is standing in Heaven right now, next to Jesus, next to Obed, rejoicing in the goodness of the Father.  I know you don't understand why it is you might be experiencing Naomi's story, but choose today not to become Mara.  He is a Good Father.

Don't take my word for it; look it up:  Gen 41:51-52, Ruth, Ps 136:1, Matt 7:11

Sunday, October 9, 2016


October 10, 2016
Luke 1:13  "But the angel said to him, 'Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard.'"

Zechariah was an extremely common name in the Bible.  It was as common a name as Steven or John, today.  If I asked you about a famous Zechariah in the Bible, maybe a couple of you would recall one of the first few kings of Israel.  But there was one Zechariah who should be on the forefronts of our minds.  In the New Testament, there was a Zechariah who was a priest.  He wasn't THE high priest, but served in the temple and was on rotation to serve as a priest when a priest was needed.  Almost nothing is noteworthy about this guy except of few things we can surmise.  We can assume, from the Scriptures surrounding his story, that he was a devout man of God, a fervent prayer, and a fantastic role model as a father.  Who was this guy?  He was the father of John the Baptist.  What should make him such a role model to you and me was his steadfastness in prayer.

The Bible does not record any of his prayers except that an angel of the Lord appeared before him and said one of his prayers had been answered.  The prayer request was that his wife would conceive a child.  Remember, John the Baptist's mother was Elizabeth, a relative of Mary, the mother of Jesus.  Elizabeth was noted as being advanced in age for her years, beyond typical child bearing years.  Let's pretend, for all intents and purposes, that Elizabeth in modern terms would be considered in her fifties.  The Angel of the Lord appeared before Zechariah and told him his prayer for Elizabeth to bear a child had been answered.  You need to take a guess how long Zechariah probably prayed that prayer, how many years, over and over again he prayed that prayer.  My guess is he prayed that prayer close to 30 years, continually, before the angel appeared before him to answer his prayer request.  There is a specific term you can use to describe Zechariah's kind of prayer.  The word is petition.

Scripture says we should bring our requests to the Lord, though prayer and petition.  If you look up the word for petition in the original Aramaic, it means to humbly beg constantly, desperately, and on-going.  The Aramaic word defines Zechariah's prayer as that kind of prayer when the angel appeared to him and said his prayer had been answered.  You could say Zechariah's petition had been answered, after all it had been many, many years of the same prayer over and over again.  Zechariah did not give up on the prayer despite the seemingly mute reply even after a decade or two.  Notice I didn't say after a day or two of prayer; I said after a decade or two.  Zechariah is an example of fervent patient prayer of petition, humbly begging.  While begging isn't a polite term to describe the petition, it is carried in the meaning of the original Hebrew.

The term petition contains more meaning than only humbly begging over and over again.  Petition additionally means all sorts of prayers, any type of lifting up the request to the Lord.  It is safe to understand that a petition-type prayer would involve other people.  I doubt Zechariah's prayer was limited to just Zechariah.  I can guarantee He shared such a deep longing to his closest companions, fellow priests, and they also prayed.  I can safely say Mary, the mother of Jesus, was aware of Zechariah's prayer request for Elizabeth, and that she most likely prayed, too.  Mary, being a servant of the Lord, would have lifted up prayer for others.  This can be understood from the angel who appeared to Mary and referenced Mary's acknowledgment of Elizabeth's barrenness.  You couldn't be aware of someone's deep need and be considered a sincere servant without praying for others.  Mary was probably a part of Zechariah's petition.

You, too, have a sincere prayer request and I urge you to patiently and continually bring that prayer to the Lord, sharing it with your trusted friends and allowing them to pray with you in that request.  Don't pray once or twice, then figure the answer isn't coming.  Pray patiently EVERY single day.  So many Christians give up on the prayer request after a week or two.  Christian, it's time to pray with petition, allowing the Lord's grace to carry you until the answer is a yes or a no from the Lord.  If you've given up on a prayer request and feel it isn't worth it, yet you'd like help in petition, reply to this devotional e-mail with your first name and request, and I will gladly join you in the petition.  Be like Zechariah; learn from his example, his patient example of petition. 

Don't take my word for it; look it up:  Luke 1, Phil 4:4-7

Sunday, October 2, 2016

When Will It Be Enough

When Will It Be Enough
October 3, 2016
2 Corinthians 12:9  "Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weakness, so that Christ's power may rest on me."

There are quite a few stories in the Bible that don't need retold for you to remember what happened.  Daniel in the lion's den is pretty famous, Noah and the ark is quite memorable, and the serpent in the Garden of Eden needs little reminding.  Another famous story you know much about is Paul's thorn in his flesh.  You instantly should remember the Apostle Paul prayed for the Lord to remove Paul's difficulty, but the Lord did not coalesce.  The Lord simply replied to Paul that His grace was sufficient for Paul, without the removal of the difficulty.  The expanded version of the story is not much more detailed then that.  You have the full essence of the story, and the punch line in almost one complete sentence.  But I would submit to you that the meaning is possibly lost on most of you reading this.

There is so much more to the story, however, that was never quite captured in Scripture.  Paul, upon hearing the Lord's response, had to submit to the Lord's decision.  After the Lord told Paul that grace should be enough to carry him through, Scripture record's Paul's response.  Paul said that he would boast in his own weakness, then, so the Lord's power would rest upon him.  It is quite a response, yet still does not paint the full picture.  There is a small story in between the Lord boasting in His grace for Paul and Paul deciding to boast in his own weakness.  The untold part of the story is how Paul had to wrestle and submit to the Lord's response to him, the Lord telling Paul that the Lord would not be removing the thorn in Paul's flesh, the Lord's denial to answer Paul's prayer request.  Essentially, that is what the Lord did; He denied Paul's prayer request and waited until Paul could submit to the denial.  The Scriptures only tell Paul's eventual response of boasting in his own weakness, but never discusses the emotions Paul had to wrestle with in order to submit to the Lord's denial.

Paul had to submit to the Lord's response to the situation, laying down what he wanted, how he thought the situation should be resolved, and stand strong in the Lord's design for his life.  Paul's story was a success and he accepted the Lord's response.  Paul didn't stop serving the Lord.  Paul didn't try to remove the difficulty by himself without the Lord's help.  Paul didn't become bitter or resentful by the difficulty.  Paul submitted to the Lord's grace for the situation and it was enough for Paul.  My question to you is when will the Lord's grace be enough for you?  When will it be enough for you to rest in the Lord's strength and stand firm that the answer you think you desire may not be forthcoming?  The Bible doesn't say how long Paul had to wrestle and submit to the Lord's design; it sums it up neatly in a few sentences.  I doubt Paul was as perfect and succinct in his wrestling with it as Scripture suggests.  The Bible wraps it up in two sentences but Paul had to come to grips that the difficulty, for now, was not going to be removed in the immediate future.  Have you come to the same conclusion in life as Paul?

You, Christian, are facing this same trial; you've asked the Lord to remove the problem and difficulty.  You don't see the Lord's answer forthcoming, and instead of submitting to the Lord's grace, you've decided to move forward in your own human effort to change the situation.  You don't want to rest in His grace, you want your answer they way you want your answer.  You don't want to trust in the Lord's sovereignty, you want to grasp at every straw possible until your fingernails are bleeding.  You don't want the Lord's grace, you want to be right and justified and vindicated over the difficulty.  But by denying the Lord's grace for you, by not submitting to the Lord's design and plan, you are creating more difficulty than the situation already presents.  In an effort to fight the difficulty, you end up hurting yourself even more.  When will the Lord's grace be enough for you?  When will you submit and accept that right here and right now is where God has you and wants you?  The more you fight it, the more it will hurt.  Yet the more you submit, the more successful you will be in navigating your difficulty.  It doesn't make sense to the logical mind, but you must trust in the Lord's sovereignty.  Accept His grace for you r situation today and see that it actually gets easier.

The Lord's response was enough for Paul.  When will it be enough for you?  Incidentally, re-read Paul's response when he accepts the Lord's answer.  He said that Christ's power came upon him.  I bet you could use some of Christ's power right now.

Don't take my word for it; look it up:  Es 4:14, Pr 3:5-6, Is 55:8-9, Rm 8:28 

Sunday, September 25, 2016

No Rest Know Rest

No Rest Know Rest
September 26, 2016
Matthew 11:28  "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest."

A guilty conscience is a terrible thing; it will keep you from any rest.  It won't just keep you up at night, it will emotionally drain you, destroying you from the inside out like a cancer.  Trying to rid yourself of guilt can be tricky, causing you to run your life in such a way to make up for your sins.  The problem is, they will never go away, that guilt will never be lifted.  It will make you feel like you are trying to keep your head above deep water yet with cement tied to your waist, a futile endeavor just leaving you exhausted and ultimately drowned by the thing you were trying to escape.  The Lord says we should come to Him, those who are tired and heavy laden, and He will give us rest.  This rest, though, it is specific to guilt, forgiveness, a sense of righteousness, and freedom from past discipline.  It has nothing to do with the physical relief of your daily tasks.  Examine this with me.

People like to quote Scripture and say the Lord desires to give us rest from our burdens.  It says so in clear to understand words, "Come to be all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest."  True, it does say so, but it is specific to burdens of guilt without forgiveness, and the freedom from discipline if you've repented and turned to righteousness.  Re-read the entire chapter of Matthew 11, where this verse is tucked.  It starts out talking about John the Baptist foretelling of Jesus as the Messiah.  A Messiah is someone who delivers His people from something.  That something that Jesus came to deliver us from was our sins.  The book of Matthew was written to Jews who were familiar with the daily rituals of the Old Testament, rituals and sacrifices that were burdensome for removing your sins.  You couldn't just ask and receive forgiveness.  Jesus was declared to be that Messiah in Matthew chapter 11, right before He promised rest.  He was promising rest from guilt, rest from the burdens of daily sacrifices, rest from trying to make amends for your sin.

Further this study on Matthew chapter 11 and you'll find that it contains fulfillment of prophecy.  Some believe it references words spoken by the prophet Jeremiah, who talked about a deliverer (a Messiah) in a dream he had.  Read chapter 31 of Jeremiah and it will show imagery of people who are physically ready for a break.  At first glance this looks like the words of Jesus are to truly give us a break from our busy, over-worked lives.  However, if you look closely at all of Jeremiah 31, you'll find that the Israelites did in fact need physical rest from their busy lives, but for reason.  The Israelites that needed rest were physically exhausted from living in the discipline of the Lord's wrath for their behavior.  They had been unrepentant and the Lord scattered them and made their lives hard.  Their lives weren't over-stressed because they were trying to build a bigger house or make more money, they were actually being punished for their sins.  Their sins resulted in a difficult life, a physical situation the Lord allowed to get their attention.  The Messiah was there to deliver them and give them rest from that discipline.

The Jews in the Old and New Testament needed rest from the daily burden of making sacrifices for their sins.  The unrepentant needed rest from the physical discipline their life choices warranted.  Both scenarios put a burden on the shoulders of man that will make him weary.  You are weary, too, I know.  This gives you an option to evaluate your weariness and what it is making you tired.  Are you pursuing a life of living for yourself, striving after whatever you want?  This is actually a sin and will make you weary.  Are you unrepentant in life and does your life seem extra hard, harder than most other people's lives?  Maybe the Lord is trying to get your attention to repent of your sin.  Are you trying to rid yourself of quilt, running yourself to the bone to make amends for sins through sacrifices or good works?  The Lord desires to give you forgiveness so you might find rest.  In fact, read the last words of Matthew 11:29 where Jesus says, "learn from me."  He actually wants to teach you how to avoid being weary in the first place.  He wants to lift that burned on your life, the correct burden of what your sins do to you, which will ultimately free you.

Don't take my word for it; look it up:  Jeremiah 31, Matthew 11

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Don't Pray for Them

Don't Pray for Them
September 19, 2016
James 2:12  "Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom. . ."

If you were to take the stand in a court of law, you would be required to tell the truth under perjury of law, risking the consequences. If you did not tell the truth, you would be committing a crime.  To perjure yourself is to knowingly mislead others in the truth or mislead others with your words in opposition to your actions.  Most of us would not dare to do so in a court of law, the fines and sentences would not be worth the risk.  Yet Christians perjure themselves every day in front of the Lord.  The Bible asks who you say God is in your life.  If you respond that He is Lord of your life, then you better make sure the testimony of your actions parallels with the testimony of your words.  If your actions do not line up, then you are just giving lip service.  I often wonder how much lip service I give on any particular day.  I often wonder how much lip service other Christians have given in front of me over the years.

Specifically, lets examine when someone is in need.  If you learn of a need, a fellow Christian who lacks or is in a predicament, do you tell you you will pray for them?  Do you actually pray for them, a real truthful and heartfelt and honest prayer?  Count how many times you've said, "I'll be praying for you"  This suggests an ongoing state of prayer until the situation has been resolved.  I'm guilty of this.  I've told people I would pray for them, but only given them a positive thought before the Lord, not a heartfelt intimate prayer.  Very rarely do I fully pray through with them.  If you've done this, not fully prayed through with them, you've perjured yourself before your brother, too.

Take this one step further and read what the Bible says about someone else's need.  The Bible says to do something about it and not just wish them to be warm and well fed.  If you are a Christian, you are held to the full extent of Scripture, being ignorant or not.  The Bible says if you declare the God in heaven to be Lord of your life, then you would obey His commands and follow through with His requests.  He has requested you to help those in need, not just pray for them.  If you are aware of someones needs and yet do nothing about it, being fully convinced you are a Christian, then you have perjured yourself in front of God.  Technically, the Bible is calling us liars, should we decide not to help when we are aware of a need.  A court of law would convict us of committing a crime, should we only offer to pray for someone without trying to assist them in their need.  These words are tough and I'm likely to lose readers for declaring these truths about what the Bible says.  We don't want to think we are liars; we want to believe we are just fine in thinking positive thoughts for other people.  Don't bother praying for them if you are not willing to assist them as well.  Don't pray for them if you aren't willing to put some action behind those words.  Don't risk committing perjury before the Lord. 

Here is a suggestion.  The next time you are aware of a need, of a prayer request, pray a heartfelt and honest prayer.  Then tell the individual you will be helping them out.  Don't ask them if you can help; tell them you will be helping.  Warn them if they don't give you direction regarding how you can help, then you'll simply be doing what the Lord leads you to do.  But you are now required to do something, to put your faith into action.  This requires you to make the next prayer, which is asking the Lord what He'd like you to do, how He'd like you to help.  Ask and then listen, truly listen.  Don't pray for them unless you're also asking the Lord how you can help.  Don't pray for them unless you are going to do something.  Trust me, He'll have something for you to do if you uncover your ears and pull your head out of the sand.  It's time to start acting like a Christian, being convicted of being a Christian, not being convicted of perjury.  It's time to do something.

Don't take my word for it; look it up:  John 14:18-24, James 2:8-24

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Slightly Stubborn

Slightly Stubborn
September 12, 2016
Psalm 81:12  "So I gave them over to their stubborn hearts to follow their own devices."

If I asked the question regarding how stubborn you are, I am sure you'd say you are at least slightly stubborn.  We often pride ourselves in being slightly stubborn, for whatever reason.  We think it means we are unwavering, grounded, if we are set in our ways.  Sure, we understand being completely obstinate isn't good but a little stubbornness is healthy, right?  While this is good when it comes to stick-to-itive-ness in finishing a task, being stubborn is never a good quality as referenced in the Bible.  The Lord never lauds anyone who is stubborn.  The Lord is appreciative of those who are unwavering in their faith, but that is the extent of His desire for you to be unwavering.  True, He doesn't want you to be blown and tossed by the wind, being grounded in Biblical teaching and sound doctrine, but He never wants you to be stubborn.  Stubbornness only leads to sin.

I had a response from a woman who challenged me on some Scriptural debate.  I suggested that a prosperity gospel is hard to defend at all times when aligned with ALL of Scripture.  I suggested financial difficulties in life don't always mean an attack of Satan or her inability to reach out and take hold of the financial blessing.  She argued and said she refused to believe the Lord would want anything but to financially prosper her.  While I surly hope the Lord desires to prosper her financially, her position is mistaken.  She wanted to believe what she wanted to believe despite any possible evidence to the contrary.  She had no Biblical basis for her belief but it was what she wanted to believe.  She was being stubborn.  You've been stubborn before, too.  I felt bad for this woman, because her stance would only lead her to place blame incorrectly if she didn't receive the financial prosperity she was believing she deserved.  While her particular stubbornness wasn't and isn't grave worthy, there is nothing good that can come from being stubborn.  She was setting herself up for difficulty.

There are many instances when individuals were stubborn in the Bible.  Being stubborn, as referenced in the Bible, is akin to doing what you want regardless.  This does not impress the Lord, and in fact will only get you into trouble.  The Lord has a propensity for allowing you to be stubborn and letting you go your own determined way.  The example of others in Scripture should be a warning to us.  Too many times the Lord removed His hand and allowed His children to go down their own path on their own understanding.  In Psalm 81, He said He allowed them to follow their own devices because of their stubbornness.  This means He allowed them to think what they wanted to think and fully suffer the consequences of their thinking and their actions.  I don't know about you, but I don't think I ever want to fully suffer the consequences of my poor decisions.  I'm always hoping there is grace and mercy there to rescue me when I make a mistake.  But when the Lord said He was turning them over to their own devices He was saying He was removing all grace and mercy for them.

Whether you acknowledge it or not, you experience the Lord's grace and mercy on a daily basis and will continue to reap these benefits as long as the Lord doesn't get too frustrated with your stubbornness.  As mentioned before, being stubborn is not a good thing.  You want to be known as humble, and meek, and compassionate, and forgiving, but never stubborn.  If you are slightly stubborn, I suggest you have something to work on.  The woman who argued her stance on refusing to believe the Lord wanted ONLY to prosper her financially was setting herself up for failure.  She was sincere in her belief but she was sincerely wrong in what she believed.  I'm only using her as an example because there are some things you and I are sincerely wrong about and being stubborn in those areas are not a benefit to anyone.  This is your opportunity to ask the Lord where it is you are being stubborn, where you need to submit.  Submitting your stubbornness will feel like defeat, but it will be your greatest success.  Submitting your stubbornness will ensure you continually receive the Lord's grace and mercy in your life.  As you read this, I believe the Holy Spirit is prompting your heart in areas of your stubbornness.  It's time to submit those areas to Him.

Don't take my word for it; look it up:  Ps 81, Pr 14:12, Pr 16:25, Jer 7:24, Jer 11:8, Mk 3:4-6

Sunday, September 4, 2016

God's Protection

God's Protection
September 5, 2016
Psalm 91:4  "He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge. . ."

The Lord is mighty and powerful, able to fight off any and every enemy.  And He is more than willing to fight off those enemies for His children.  Notice I said for His children, though.  He doesn't offer His protection to just anyone; He offers it to His children.  This would suggest you must first be His child.  If you are reading this, then there is little doubt you know about the Lord's existence and there is little doubt you are aware of how big and powerful He can be in your life.  Again, you must be His child if you want His protection, though.  There is more though, than just being His child.  The Bible is very clear you have to reside and abide in His house and living your life as His child.  This does not mean you must be within the four walls of the church at all times, but abiding in His will for your life, His path, following His recommended boundaries, and not walking in the way of sin.

Scripture says He will cover you with His wings and He will be like a shield for you, protecting you from the enemy.  The imagery is of a large bird with its offspring seeking refuge under its wings.  While a bird's feathers don't seem like a formidable refuge you must understand the full imagery of the metaphor by reading the verse of Scripture right before it.  The Bible says He will protect you from the fowler's snare.  A fowler is a professional bird hunter, who sets traps, specific to each bird he wishes to capture/kill.  If a bird is away from the nest, away from the covering of the wings, the bird is at risk of falling victim to one of these traps.  The enemy of your life has set traps for you.  They are in place right now as you read this.  The traps have your name on them, intended for you alone by the fowler.  The Lord is more than willing and able to keep you from these traps, but you have to do something first.  You must seek refuge under His wings, the Lord's wings, abiding in His house.  A bird is more than capable of leaving the parent's protection and only gets the benefit of the protection if it is under those wings.  Leave the nest, subject yourself to the deadly snare of the fowler.

The verse right before the description of the the winged covering also talks about protection from pestilence.  A smaller bird is at risk of being plucked out of the nest by anything larger than itself in the food chain.  A small bird is unable to defend itself.  Left without a covering of protection, the small bird is at risk of being carried off with the intention of being dinner.  But under the protection of the wings, the small bird gets the benefit of the parent's fighting skills.  Try to pluck a small bird out of the nest while being covered and you must first get through the covering.  The protector is not willing to lose anyone under its wings and will fight to the death anything that comes against it.  The Lord is this covering for you, but again, you must seek shelter under those wings, abiding in His house.  Like a bird that is able to leave the protection, it subjects itself to the terrors of whatever is hunting it.  Specifically, it is nice to sleep well with a covering.  There are large birds of prey that hunt in the darkness of night.  If it sees a small bird without a covering it will swoop it.  You want that covering in order to find that rest.

If you read the very first verse of this entire passage of Scripture, the Bible says, "Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will have rest....."  This is the verse before protecting you from the fowler, before protecting you from something wanting to pluck you away at night.  It says you MUST dwell in the shelter of the Most High in order to receive the intended benefits.  It doesn't say you should just say a simple prayer or go to church once a week, or even tithe in order to get protection.  It says you must dwell there, have a lifestyle of following the Lord every moment of the day.  He is more than willing to give you protection, but you must live, at all times, as His child, staying in His will and on His path for your life, staying away from sin.  His protection is there; all you have to do is enter into it.

Don't take my word for it; look it up:  Ps 9, Ps 91, Is 55:6, Ja 4:8