Sunday, January 27, 2019

Wait or Go

Wait or Go
January 28, 2019
Psalm 27:14 "Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord."

There is a cheap cliche that suggests you have two ears but one mouth, so you should listen twice before you speak. This is reinforced in the Bible when it says you should be slow to speak but quick to listen. The same can be said with wait or go. No matter what translation or version of the Bible you prefer, if you search for the words "wait" and "go," you'll find that "wait" appears an average of five times, or more, than the word "go." The reason for this is almost as obvious as listening twice before you speak. When you listen twice before you speak, you are less apt to make severe mistakes or put your foot in your mouth. Waiting before you go is almost just as wise, but something none of us are good at. That's probably the reason why the word "wait" appears so many times in comparison to the word "go." The Lord knows our propensity to rush into things, making a decision before it is the Lord's time.

If you recall Joseph's life, he was so intent on moving forward, but it took an invalid jail sentence to get him to wait. David was bent on building a temple for the Lord, but the Lord told him to wait, it wasn't time yet. Peter was intent on starting a revolution, but Jesus told him to back down, to wait for the Lord to do His work. We are told to wait, often because it isn't the Lord's time yet, not necessarily because the answer is "no." If you pray for direction and need to have insight, sometimes there is a non-answer. Lack of clear direction is a good sign to "wait" rather than "go." In fact, the only time you should go is when you have clear understanding to go, a strong declarative from the Lord.

In speaking with many Christians over the years, not one of them has ever expressed a regret on being patient. No one has ever suggested they should have rushed into things sooner. Patience is having the ability to go forward but the wisdom to wait until the time is right. The Lord requires us to be patient. The funny thing about most of our situations in life, is that the Lord is not telling us no, rather telling us to wait on His timing. His timing is perfect, but the only way you can come to understand this is by waiting. You've experienced this once or twice, waiting until the time was right and then realizing how blessed it was to wait just a little bit longer. The Lord would say to you today to remember those times in your life with things worked out so well, because you waited. Now, remember that right at this moment, when you want to rush forward and do something, do anything. In the Bible, most of the time the word "rush" appears, it is in reference to war. Not waiting on the Lord is being at war with His perfect plan. This may seem like an extreme concept but anytime you rush, when the directive is to wait, then it is an act of disobedience.

Things are easier when you've waited on the Lord, when He has prepared the road ahead of you and made the path level. We have it stuck in our heads that when we do not have a directive to wait, then it must mean "go." This is opposite of how the Lord designed it. Never go unless there is a directive to go. If you do not have a clear directive to go, then the answer is to wait. As Christians, with a free will, we still think we have the right to move forward. We think by waiting that somehow we are weak or insecure, but waiting is actually wisdom until the Lord has given you clear directions otherwise. Surprisingly, it takes more strength to wait than it does to move forward.

Don't take my word for it; look it up:  Num 9:8, 1 Sam 13:1-15, Is 40:31, James 1:19

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Love Gong

Love Gong
January 21, 2019
1 Corinthians 13:2 "If I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have faith, so that I could move mountains, and have not love, I am nothing."

A gong or a cymbal are not known as solo instruments. They are actually rather offensive on their own. A gong by itself is used to represent an alarm, an alert to something not necessarily positive. Likewise a cymbal is a clashing sound that can be very displeasing to the ear. Both a gong and a cymbal have their uses in a symphony, however. When used in just the right amounts and at the right time, the sound is not a cacophony, but rather an interesting and pleasant accent to the overall theme of music. The Bible uses a gong and a cymbal in an analogy about the Christian faith, saying that having faith without love is like a gong as a solo instrument, completely displeasing.

There is more to it than that, however, but the point was clear that you must have faith, knowing that faith is more akin the the accent piece that is immersed in love. Love, however, is not always clearly defined. Love is an action, not a feeling, when used in the Bible. If you have faith, a cymbal, then you obviously have love, a full symphony. Love is meant to be the action portion of the Christian life, in response to having faith. Faith, as it was used in context, is the belief that something was/is going to happen, faith so strong to move a mountain. When someone needs to have faith, they are believing in a future outcome that is not yet seen. In relation to people in your life, who are having problems, you could have faith in prayer for them, to move that mountain, but the Bible says that is rather offensive, you should have love for that person. When you have love for that person, in the same context, you are patient and kind to them, you are generous to them and selfless, you are forgiving of them and gracious in your actions. All of those words are active words, not passive. While praying in faith isn't necessarily completely passive, the recipient cannot see it in action. The Bible is saying you have to put feet to your faith, but further than you might imagine.

I've seen so many Christians say they have love for a persona or "a certain people group" yet provide none of the actions described in the Bible as required to prove it. Christians are so apt to say they are praying for someone, even apt to tell them they love them, but not very adept in participating in any actions to meet their needs. Love for someone is the meeting of that person's legitimate needs. Pray in faith for them and the mountains that need moved in their lives, and immediately put into action patience and generosity and forgiveness and graciousness for them. While the Bible is clear that faith without love is like a gong, many Christians put a gong to their love too, willing to forgive without helping someone through the difficulty.

Paul was the one to write about faith to move mountains is like a gong; it was better to have love coupled with faith. But James extends it just a little and writes that faith without full-on deeds is dead faith. If you have faith for the Lord to move a mountain in someone's life, and you demonstrate love by being patient and kind to them, forgiving and gracious, yet do nothing to chip away at the base of that mountain then you are a love gong. If you are praying in faith for the Lord to meet a need in someone's life yet make no attempt to meet that need, then you truly don't have love, even if you kind in your words, forgiving and patient. If a loved one is struggling with a problem, you don't just pray for that problem, ask the Lord how He would like you to help. Maybe instead of being a love gong you could grab a pick ax and start at the base of that mountain.  The Bible says if you don't, then you really are nothing.

Don't take my word for it; look it up:  James 2, 1 Cor 12 & 13

Monday, January 14, 2019

How Are You Living

How Are You Living
January 14, 2019
1 Thessalonians 4:1 "As for other matters, brothers and sisters, we instructed you how to live in order to please God, as in fact you are living. Now we ask you and urge you in the Lord Jesus to do this more and more."

Paul set up churches on his missionary journeys, staying there for a while and then moving on when they were established. He would then check up on them, sending them letters of admonishment or encouragement (of which we have most of them recorded in the Bible). To the Thessalonians, he was insecure about their lifestyle, with rumors they were starting to fall into temptation. Paul wrote a huge letter of encouragement to them, telling them to keep on going, to stay strong in the faith, to move to the next level in their Christianity. He cared so deeply about them and wanted to make sure they were staying on the right course.

Unlike the early churches, who were left by themselves because they were so new and so radical for the day, we have many success stories around us, of church bodies who are doing things right. We also use those other church bodies as examples to emulate, if they are doing things correctly. The early churches did not have anything to compare to, a standard to live up to. To be honest, the early churches didn't really know what they were doing; it was a path they were pioneering, with Paul their guide who had moved on to start other churches. Some of the churches he set up had no clue what they were doing, with some of them failing. If they failed, it was due to a lack of leadership and accountability, a lack of encouragement. Paul's letters were meant to stave some of this off.

But Paul's letters are available to us now, and the words he said to those early churches still applies to Christianity today. For the Thessalonians, he reminded them of the original instructions, the standards for living, to make sure their lifestyles aligned with the guidelines. He wrote to them to check in on them, to hear a report on how they were doing because the rumors were they had fallen into temptation. He wanted a report. If you were to give a report on your life and lifestyle, to publicly weigh it against Scripture and score yourself, what kind of a grade would you get? You, as a Christian, know the truth and know the standard the Lord requires of you in daily living. Are you living up to it? Are you living how you know you are supposed to be living?

My guess is that you have not turned your back to the point of following the evil one, but are not living to your fullest potential nor to even the highest standard you once have attained. This is how the first churches traveled down the slippery slope. This is also how most churches today fall asleep. You, if you are like the rest of us humans, have probably compromised in an area or two, reasoning that 80 percent is good enough, why be an over achiever? What profit is there to live 100 percent when it is kind of hard to do?  Paul's letters to the church were to point out that no one could ever reach 100 percent and if you did, you'd just realize you still were not at 100 percent. There is always further to go in your Christian walk, living up to the standard that you've already attained.

What areas are you compromising? What areas have you ceased to improve upon? Paul knew the early church was not living up to their fullest potential, with his encouragement meant to sustain them from falling back further. He knew they weren't at the level he had left them in; he knew they had compromised a little. It takes encouragement to move beyond your statues quo and sometimes church leadership is so focused on keeping Christians from falling backward that they don't have the energy to propel them forward, to the next level. You need that challenge, that motivator to help take your Christianity to the next level, but you may not be getting that encouragement from your church pastor. It's not time to leave the church, its time to evaluate yourself with maturity and get back to doing it correctly, to identify what you've compromised on and live your Christianity to the fullest.

Don't take my word for it; look it up:  Phil 3:16, 1 Thes 4:1-9

Monday, January 7, 2019

Lead Repentance

Lead Repentance
January 7, 2018
Daniel 9:4 "I prayed to the Lord my God and confessed."

Daniel was an impressive man of God. He remained dedicated to the Lord despite the persecution, despite being tossed into a den of lions, despite being forced into servitude by wicked kings. He lived as an exile, possibly a very lonely life, with no record of him marrying or having a family. Despite all that Daniel had against him, he remained true to the Lord and was truly a righteous man. He was so honored for his righteousness that at one point in his life, the angel Gabriel appeared to give him a message and before Gabriel gave him the message he told Daniel that Daniel was well respected as per the conversations of the hosts in heaven. In other words, even the Lord and the angels discussed and were pleased and were impressed with Daniel's righteousness. 

Despite Daniel being an impressive man of righteous living, he still repented on behalf of his people, as if he committed the sins directly. In Daniel 9, he lead a magnificent prayer, in solitude, on behalf of himself and the nation of Israel. This prayer was in response to Daniel studying scripture, specifically Jeremiah chapter 29, following the orders that read, "if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray, and seek my face, then I will hear their prayer and heal their land." Daniel humbled himself to pray, with fasting and sackcloth, even though he did not do anything wrong, per se. Daniel led the way in repentance. It is right after this that the angel, Gabriel, appeared to Daniel and told him that his reputation as a man of God preceded him in heaven. It leads you to wonder if Daniel had a good reputation in heaven because of his consistent lifestyle of righteousness or because he humbled himself in repentance on behalf of others. Either way, Daniel did the right thing.

Leaders today, specifically spiritual leaders of the Christian church, do they preach sermons about repentance or do they lead the way in repentance? This is not in reference to a pastor's personal repentance, but weeping and fasting out of true sorrow for the state of the people, the sin of even those who call themselves Christians. Remember that Daniel was repenting on behalf of those who were called by the Lord's name, the Jews specifically, not for the sins of those around them who served foreign gods, but the church alone. We often weep and wail over the sins committed by the non-Christian nation where we live, but do we weep and wail and repent over the sins within the church. Following Daniel's example, it is up to the church leaders to lead in this repentance. 

Most pastors find it much easier to stand at the pulpit and preach against the sins of the church, or the church-goers, but when was the last time a pastor took the sins personally, and wept aloud as if the sins were his alone? Not a pastor and think you are exempt, when was the last time you repented for someone else's sins? If you read Job, Job repented constantly on behalf of his children. Let's start there. Let's start by repenting on behalf of our physical and spiritual children, not because their sin is our personal responsibility, but because maybe we could have lead them away from that sin if we had lead differently, or better. Maybe a pastor should repent on behalf of his church because maybe it is his responsibility to raise up a flock that lives more righteously than they do? My own personal children will be responsible for their sins someday before the Lord, but as small children, do I not have a responsibility to lead them correctly? If I lack as a spiritual leader for my children and they do not succeed because of my failure, am I to partake in some of that fault? Daniel took 100 percent responsibility, even though he wasn't even their spiritual leader? How much more you and I, and our pastors, should be leading the way in repentance for others. Start by confessing the known sins of the Christians around you; it may be an act of righteousness, even if their sin is not your direct fault.

Don't take my word for it; look it up:  Jer 29, Daniel 9