Thursday, April 30, 2015

Giving To God The Part He Asks

Tithing today is thought of only as money, but the Lord asks for one-tenth of All we have.
The time He gives us is not our own.
The blessings we have should be shared, that others might know, our blessings come from the Lord.
The Lord is God and He owns All.
He allows us to use the things we have, but He asks for one-tenth part back for Himself.
Not that He needs it, we understand. It's only to show us that He's in command.
Give to God the part He asks, and He will bless you more.
If you are in need, but you give to God all your needs shall be met.

         Economic situations impact everyone. None of us are exempt from financial entanglements which pull us in any number of directions (Mostly away from God.) But, His answer to our economic struggles is a promise of provision. For me, independence has always been a source of pride. The best way to get me to do something was telling me I could not. Right now I am considering major life changes that bring to mind the question: “Who is really providing for me.” Walking along this journey of rediscovery has brought me face-to-face again and again with my responsibility to give to God what He asks and trust Him for the ultimate outcome. — Leviticus 27:30-34

         Yet, even after recounting the provisions God has made for my daily needs, and striving to grow in the fullness of the knowledge of God; I have discovered, I need to submit to the Lord in the area of generosity. God, in the books of the law, gave strict commands concerning the portion of income He required for Himself, and the servants who fulfilled the duties of His household. I realize that what follows may be some uncomfortable reading, but I ask that you stick with me on this topic because I think we all need to be a little more faithful in this area.

            There is a distinct attitude prevailing in contemporary American society with regard to giving. We seem to think it is appropriate to give — as long as we can claim our giving on our tax from. Our giving seems to be all about the deduction. Today’s economic situation is making it increasingly difficult for non-profit organizations to benefit from the tax structure.  A small church in Southwestern Arizona for example, provides food boxes for needy families year round. Although the church is composed of  “Winter Visitors” or “Snow Birds” (Retired couples who travel to Arizona to escape the harsh winters in other parts of the U.S.), the Pastor and his wife are permanent residents of Arizona. They do not receive compensation from the church, in effect, pouring any income generated by the ministry back into meeting needs in the community. The church provides in the neighborhood of 45 families basic necessity food items. This is accomplished with very minimal (some would say non-existent) assistance from any governmental agency; however, the church is burdened with unnecessary paperwork to report who is being helped. Why? — Malachi 3:6-10

         Generosity should never be based on the blessing we receive. It is simply obedience to God’s Word. Many congregation members seem to believe the contributions placed in the offering plate are their weekly vote of confidence or support for the ministry. I have heard people say, “I’m not giving because I do not agree with how the church spends the money.” Or, on the other end of the spectrum, “I cannot afford to tithe. Do you know how much money that is?” Unfortunately, in matters of obedience God does not ask for our approval He waits for our submission. — Numbers 18:24

         As I see it, God uses the tithe for three purposes. First, it is used to prove both our faithfulness to His command and our trust in His ability to provide. Jesus taught it is important to keep both the laws regarding the tithe and the law of love for our fellowman. In giving our tithe, I feel that we are serving one another. In the New Testament the poor were cared for from what was in the storehouse. In the Old Testament the Priesthood was given an inheritance from the tithe. Today we see both uses of the tithe being fulfilled. As the people of God we therefore have a responsibility to tithe regardless of any tax benefit or our approval of how the funds are apportioned from the “storehouse.” — Matthew 23:23 (KJV)

         From the book of Proverbs I understand that as we honor God in our giving God promises to pour out on us an even greater blessing. These verses also tell us we are blessed with more than money and God expects a tithe of all our increase.
— Proverbs 3:9-10

         I hope I haven't turned too many people off by what I've said. I understand many Christians today believe what they give to the church is between themselves, and God. I accept that and appreciate that view; I am only saying that as we calculate what we will give to the work of the Lord we must take care to give God the part He asks.

      Will we respond honestly in our giving? There is an account of one who did not respond honestly in the New Testament. In Acts chapter five we find the story of Ananias and Sapphira. Who, following the trend at the time, saw others selling their possessions and giving everything to the church. This couple wanted to be seen as generous and sold a piece of property but decided to keep part of the money for themselves. When they took their offering to the church they lied and were dishonest before God. As a result, both dropped dead. Please remember to exercise caution when making any type of vow in the area of personal finances (or for that matter any other area with God). The three most important attributes in the area of giving are faith, wisdom, and obedience. Faith — to believe what we give will be used to honor God. Wisdom — weighing the consequences of not giving. Obedience — answering God’s call to discipleship.

         When it comes to our relationship with God "Honesty is the best policy"; in fact, it's the only policy that will insure our continued blessings. Our lack of honesty with God can forfeit our vary lives. (It's been known to happen.) The attitude we take toward giving will undoubtedly affect our ability to receive what God has for us. In my own life I have noticed that if I hold back money to serve a selfish desire, there soon is no money to hold back. The blessings stop. If I refuse to help others when I have the knowledge or skills they need, the help I need does not arrive. If my time is too precious to give up a few minutes, I end up wasting days. — Luke 6:38 (KJV)

            When we begin to understand giving and live the life of faith in generosity we can move on toward understanding what has been given to us. We can receive the grace that God has shown us through Christ. The cross, the communion cup, the bread, an empty tomb — What do all these symbols mean?

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Bitterness or Forgiveness

Hebrews 12:14-15  Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord: 15 Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled;  (KJV)

Bitterness or Forgiveness

“A Poison Tree” by William Blake is a simple short poem that illustrates a powerful truth for anyone who takes the time to read it. 

What is the “Poison Tree?”  Answering that question from a professional vantage point depends upon your career path. For law enforcement personnel, it is anything that will jeopardize the legal and judicial strength of a case. Anything that does not follow established protocol is fruit of the “Poison Tree.” For educators, that same tree is anything that invalidates “Standardized Tests." So, wherever you find yourself professionally, not following established rules produces fruit from the “Poison Tree.”

How does that apply to us on a spiritual level? Every day and in every situation we have choices expressed through our reactions. Bitterness or forgiveness becomes the trees from which we consume fruit. Bitterness produces “Poison” fruit. Eventually bitterness will kill every good thing in our lives.  Forgiveness, on the other hand, produces the fruit of “Life.” (Proverbs 17:9)

Presiding in the past, holding on to hurts, and sitting down surrounded by sorrows, feeds bitterness and drains life from us. God speaks to us again and again telling us, “Choose Life”. We chose life when we accepted Christ. We also choose life every time we forgive. Letting go of disappointments seems to be the most difficult action for many of us to take, but is by far the most rewarding. There really is no easy advice to make forgiveness happen other than to say, “Just do it.”

Matthew 18:15  Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. (KJV)

Forgiveness and restoration is the path to life everlasting. Beyond what it does for us, forgiveness, our forgiveness, freely offered can heal relationships, turn our brothers and sisters back onto the path of righteousness. Bitterness only results in a slow and agonizing spiritual death. Forgiveness is the tree of life to all who choose to savor its fruit and stretch out under the shade of its branches. (Galatians 6:1)

Colossians 1:21 And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled. (KJV)

God reconciled us and called us to a ministry of reconciliation. Do not withhold forgiveness! The price is simply too high to pay. Be patient, show love to each other and do not allow bitterness to grow its deadly fruit in your life. The Word of God is clear: FORGIVE!

James 5:8-9, 19-20 You too be patient; strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is near. 9 Do not complain, brethren, against one another, so that you yourselves may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing right at the door. …19 My brethren, if any among you strays from the truth and one turns him back, 20 let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins. (NASB)

Thank you, Dawn Wilson for suggesting a post on forgiveness.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Fast-Food Faith

Joshua 24:15 And if it seems evil to you to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell; but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord. (KJV)
Fast-Food Faith

“Hold the pickles hold the lettuce. Special orders don’t upset us. All we ask is that you let us serve it your way…” Since 1974 this catchy tune has been the philosophy that Burger King used in attracting and keeping their patrons. “Have It Your Way” has been so engrained in us as a society we apply it everywhere.

During my 19 years as a middle school teacher I saw this philosophy at work in students, parents, teachers and administrators. If everyone is “having it their way”, where is the standard? Really as a selling point it’s fantastic, but as a general philosophy of life it’s a TRAIN WRECK. It works when we apply “Have It Your Way” to our meal preferences, and it creates an enjoyable dining experience. But, beyond that its applications are very limited.

Psalm 100:3 Know ye that the Lord he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. (KJV)

In recent years, this mindset has come rolling into the church. We want to pick and choose which parts of the Bible to preach. We work at creating the perfect mood for worship. Everything has become focused around our comfort. We have distorted our view of God. We have replaced the throne of the All Powerful Creator with a Phone to the ever pleasing Caterer.

Genesis 6:5 And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. (KJV)

We have followed the way of the world and departed from the righteousness God is calling us to express in our lives. We must bow our wills to the “will of the Lord” and re-establish the righteousness that exalts a nation. That righteousness only comes from Christ, and cannot be accomplished our own way. (Proverbs 16:25)

What will it take for our generation to turn back to God, and give up our Fast-food approach to FAITH. We cannot keep God on the phone as our ever pleasing Caterer. We must serve Him and not expect that He serves us. God will again establish His favor upon His people when we recognize Him as Lord. God is the Creator. We choose to serve Him for His glory not our own. “Have It Your Way” is fine for the drive thru on vacation, but it will not work on the road to eternal life in heaven.

1 Kings 18:39 When all the people saw it, they fell on their faces and they said, The Lord, He is God! The Lord, He is God! (AMP)

Ask yourself today am I serving God or am I expecting God to serve me?
Remind yourself Jesus Christ is not Burger King – He is King of Kings!

Thank you,
 Susan Lasky for the seed of thought that grew into this devotional message.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Demons or Doubt

Matthew 17:21 Howbeit this kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting. (KJV)

Demons or Doubt

A few days after re-establishing this blog site, I requested ideas from friends because writing a daily devotional thought is a huge undertaking. As you might imagine, there was a very sparse response to the plea, but I made a few calls and was blessed to hear this nugget of TRUTH form an experienced miner. Michael Lasky, personal friend, mentor, and anointed minister of the Gospel dropped this into my lap. I’ve never heard it anywhere else, so the credit is his for faithfully listening to the voice of the Holy Spirit. (Psalm 119:162)

Proverbs 2:3-5
3 Yea, if thou criest after knowledge, and liftest up thy voice for understanding; 4 If thou seekest her as silver, and searchest for her as for hid treasures; 5 Then shalt thou understand the fear of the Lord, and find the knowledge of God. (KJV)
Everyone has access to the TRUTH through the Holy Spirit if we accept the Bible as God’s Word. Pastor Lasky was simply listening and searching for the hidden treasures of wisdom. In college I attended a course on “The Theology of Power, Wealth, and Prosperity”. A portion of that course dealt with deliverance form demonic oppression and possession. Understanding the authority we have been given through Christ is critical in the exercise of His Power.

Christ has delegated His Power to us. The responsibility for the outcome remains with Him because authority can be granted, but responsibility is nontransferable. The twelve were given power and authority to act in Christ’s name. Authority over devils, diseases, and declarations of the KINGDOM all these were granted with power and provision. (Luke 9:1-2)

Yet in Matthew 17:20-22 Jesus’ closest followers were unable to “cast out” the demon. Why?

Matthew 17:20-22
20 And Jesus said unto them, Because of your unbelief: for verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you. 21 Howbeit this kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting. 22 And while they abode in Galilee, Jesus said unto them, The Son of man shall be betrayed into the hands of men: (KJV)
The answer is not as easily recognized as you might think. When asked, most people will tell you that fasting and prayer is the only way to win victory over demonic activity. However, here is Pastor Lasky’s nugget of TRUTH: Fasting and prayer does not “cast out” demons – It “casts out” our unbelief.

When we deny ourselves and seek God’s will, our FAITH is increased to the point we can actually believe God for ALL THINGS.

Mark 9:23 (emphasis added) Jesus said unto him, If thou canst believe, allthings are possible to him that believeth. (KJV)

Saturday, April 25, 2015

A Conversation With God

Lord, do you see what the wicked have done?
They deny You are God. They deny Your great love.
They deny that You came, and deny that You died;
But, worst of all Lord they deny You're alive.
They deny You're alive!

Tell me, my child, are you better than they?
Have you gone in my name my truth to proclaim?
Have you stood in the gap when no one would pray?
It is so hard to tell; do you live what I say?
Do you live what I say?

            How often do we as Christians look down in judgment on the actions of those we view as “the wicked”, not realizing or caring that it is only through the grace of God that we are any different in our actions than they? I have often wondered how anyone could do some of the awful things I have seen on the evening news or read about in the morning paper. This generation is not as gracious, loving and kind as I would expect. We are not growing in the grace of God. Do you ever ask yourself, "How has society gotten into this condition?"

            I do not want to pass myself off as an expert in psychology or philosophy but a small part of the answer can be seen through an understanding of our human nature. Perhaps it can be illustrated best from a Biblical example. I see a reflection of the society of Israel during the time of Ezekiel in our society today. In his day, as in ours, people knew about God, they even practiced to some degree the religion of their fathers, but they did not have a pure faith. And, I must say, in our day we do not have a pure faith. A pure faith is one that seeks the holiness of God, not through outward appearances, but through an inward changing of the heart. Listen to what God instructed Ezekiel to tell his generation, and see if you can also recognize the need for this message in our society.

"The people of the land have used oppression, and exercised robbery, and have vexed the poor and needy: yea, they have oppressed the stranger wrongfully. And I sought for a man among them, that should make up the hedge, and stand in the gap before me for the land, that I should not destroy it: but I found none." — Ezekiel 22:29-30 (KJV)

            We see the effects of evil today, as I am sure they have been seen throughout history. Evil is a very insidious problem. I do not wish to get into all the effects or discuss every possible manifestation of evil here because I’m sure anyone reading this is able to cite their own examples. If we get caught up in the discussion about evil, we take our focus away from the cure. The cure to the problem of evil is Christ, and the question becomes a personal one. “What will my response be to the evil of this age?”

            Dr. William Williams, Professor of Theology, during my years as a student at Southern California College, now Vanguard University, instilled in me the understanding that one measure of an educated person is the ability to ask the right question. To answer the right question, in this case, “What will our individual responses be to the evil of this age?” we should remember those great men of faith and power from scripture. Every prophet who ever spoke the Word of the Lord spent time alone with God to receive His message. They were called to a place of personal relationship. If it is our desire to experience the power of God, and to see Him answer our prayers as He answered the prayers of the prophets of old, we must be willing to act in faith believing what God has already spoken. This can only be done as we individually realize that God is still looking for someone to stand in the gap. I don't think we will be held blameless in our generation unless we seek God and speak His Word to society. As God called Ezekiel, He is calling us today.

"Son of man, I have made thee a watchman unto the house of Israel: therefore hear the word at my mouth, and give them warning from me. When I say unto the wicked, Thou shalt surely die; and thou givest him not warning, nor speakest to warn the wicked from his wicked way, to save his life; the same wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at thine hand. Yet if thou warn the wicked, and he turn not from his wickedness, nor from his wicked way, he shall die in his iniquity; but thou hast delivered thy soul.”— Ezekiel 3:17-19 (KJV)

            Every day we make a choice to use the tools we have been given as master builders or use those same tools as instruments of destruction. Again, it is not my desire to come off as a know-it-all or to speak out of turn on any issues we are faced with today. The plain truth is that I am not any different than you. We are God's watchmen. We all have feet of clay. The strength is not our own; it comes from the Word on which we stand. Are we going to abandon our posts, or are we going to answer God's call? A hammer in the hands of a skilled carpenter can build a beautiful house. That same hammer in untrained angry hands can be a tool of great destruction and tear down that beautiful house. I can only answer for myself. As for me, I will seek to do all that the Lord commands.

            God Himself has issued to each of us a call to minister. We answer the call within the context of our lives and become part of the “Family of God”.  Within His family there is a great deal of diversity. Our modes of worship differ; our modes of baptism and other holy ordinances differ; and our interpretations of the sacred text certainly differ, but even with our differences we serve the same Lord. If we are going to please God, in the hope of becoming a master builder, in these the last of the “Last Days”, we must find the true meaning and application of the term "Family of God”.

“But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” — John 1:12-13 (KJV)

            I am not talking about allowing any number of unholy things in the name of spirituality. The Church as a collective body needs to stand on what common ground it can find in Christ, and allow the Holy Spirit to interpret Scripture through Scripture. This is not the time to point fingers or place blame. It is time to get serious before the Lord, seek His direction, and answer His call. Each of us must use our gifts, talents, and abilities to serve God. Scripture clearly teaches us we should do whatever our hands find to do.

“Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest.” — Ecclesiastes 9:10 (KJV)

            Join me — seek the Lord. He promises to revive, restore and renew us as we commit to His cause.

“If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.” — 2 Chronicles 7:14 (KJV)

            Redemption is closer now than it has ever been before, but we must keep our eyes on the goal. As the people of God we are subject to both individual and corporate responsibilities. Corporately we face the weight of a fitting and proper response to evil in the world, but it is our individual choices that will fuel and inform our corporate response. Every church body needs a mission statement and clearly defined scope of ministry. Without the two components, mission and scope, no church is able to measure its effectiveness in ministry.  If we accept that truth, we should be compelled to take it to its fullest measure and apply the need for a mission statement and scope of ministry to our individual lives.

            Writing a mission statement for my life has called for serious soul searching and dedicated Bible study. Accountability partners have been a necessity, and the process has not worked without complete honesty. The driving questions for me have been: Who has God revealed Himself to be through Scripture? What gifts, talents and interests exist within me that can be employed serving God? How can my accountability partners and I accurately measure effectiveness in ministry? What is the definition of MINISTRY for my life? Even now as I am discerning my next step in a life of ministry, a very perplexing question has arisen: When is the right time to jump off the cliff and go completely without a parachute?

 “I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, …” — Ephesians 4:1 (KJV)

            Each of us is distinctively designed to fulfill needs within the community and body of Christ. Begin to see your vocation as an honored place of ministry within that body — not just the job that supports your physical and financial wellbeing. See the world around you as souls in need of grace, forgiveness, and love — not “the wicked” deserving judgment and condemnation. Answering the call to ministry is not a matter of changing professions. It is a matter of living your convictions.

“For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.” — John 3:17 (KJV)

Thursday, April 23, 2015

The Last Straw

Proverbs 26:17
Like one who takes a dog by the ears Is he who passes by and meddles with strife not belonging to him. (NASB)

All my life I’ve heard about “The Straw That Broke The Camel’s Back”. In our fast-paced, unrelenting, world we pick up offences easily, and quickly. They fill the invisible baskets on our backs – from the discourteous stranger driving next to us on the freeway, to our closest family member or friend – everyone has and freely uses the power to offend.

A few days ago a flaw in my integrity was brought to my attention. A close and trusted individual ask me if I was aware of how many times I had disappointed them. Shocked – I responded with, “What do you mean?” They answered my question with brutal detail, and all I should have done was gently ask them to forgive me.

Do you think that’s what happened?

No – This story does not end that simply. Immediately upon hearing their “legitimate” complaints, my defenses kicked in and the tit-for-tat list came gushing out of my being like an unstoppable desert flash-flood. All that could be done at that point was “get out of the way”. For the better part of the day I was in a dark, depressing, and very stormy mood.

This camel’s back was burdened down to the limit. The baskets were already overflowing, then it happened. The straw – The last straw – The straw that broke the camel’s back: “How can you be a Pastor, and get so frustrated?”

Before anyone gets the wrong idea and stops reading, the flaw in my integrity is: I take on more projects than I can complete in specific time frames. Does anyone else find themselves, long on good intentions, but short on time to complete projects?

James 3:2
For in many things we offend all. If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man, and able also to bridle the whole body. (KJV)

None of us is perfect. We are all human and subject to the many mistakes available daily. We always have reason to forgive and be forgiven. How do we drop the offences and accept the forgiveness? It is all bound to the abundance of our heart. On any given day we ALL (ministers included) walk the fine line between Saint and Sinner. Are we feeding our flesh and gorging ourselves on the All-You-Can-Eat Buffett of offences, or are we feeding our spirit the Life-Giving-Word of the Father?

Luke 6:45
45 A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of. (NIV)

My goal, and I’m sure your goal, is to be trees of righteousness producing good fruit as-well-as being springs of living water refreshing to all. The key is walking in the power of forgiveness. We must forgive ourselves and freely offer forgiveness to ALL those who have offended us. Being able to do that requires us to “Let Go” – Casting ALL our cares upon the Lord.

The truth is we learn more from our failures than we do from our successes. God will wake us up and call us back to Him. As we experience this ongoing process our down turns become fewer and farther between until the day we see ourselves in the image of Christ. His love working in us will replace the Flash-Flood of our frustration with the cool, sweet, eternally thirst-quenching water of the Holy Spirit.

Matthew 10:8
Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils: freely ye have received, freely give. (KJV)

Lay down the offences of the day. Don’t be afraid to knock the rough edges from our friends by sharing open and honest feelings, and when we are the ones being sharpened, respond with Grace, Love, FORGIVENESS, and patience.

Proverbs 27:17
17 Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend. (KJV)

We are our brother’s keeper. Accountability does not condemn it offers Grace and forgiveness – Two lanes of the same highway. The road that leads to righteousness, peace and love is paved with accountability.

Thanks for holding me to the High Standard – I’ll hold you there as well. Forgive and be Forgiven. 

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Is My Difference All Right With You?

Father I do not seek you in the same way my friends do.
I honor You in all that I do;
You honor me too.

Yet because I do not serve You in the same way that they do;
They think I surely don’t know You.

Is it true Father, do I not know You?
Do I not honor You in all that I do?

Because my relationship with You, Father, is different,
Does that mean I don't serve You?

I do not judge my friends, or the way that they serve You.

I do not ask You which one is closer.

I only ask, "Am I all right with You?"

         The journey of rediscovery and commitment I find myself navigating, at times causes me to laugh, and at other times to cry. Sixteen months ago I resigned a pastorate because my wife and I sensed a season of change in our ministry. Eleven months ago I completed the ordination process eager to step right into the change I knew was just around the next bend, and now almost a year later I have no better idea where God is calling me than I did when I knew it was time to leave that pastorate. But, as I dig out, dust off, and update my previous attempts at writing a thought provoking devotional, I catch myself reliving the experiences that have shaped me as a person. 

“Unto the pure all things are pure: but unto them that are defiled and unbelieving is nothing pure; but even their mind and conscience is defiled.” — Titus 1:15 (KJV)

         It doesn't take long in Christian circles to feel condemnation from other believers who are supposed to love and affirm you in the faith. At least, that was my experience as I left home to attend a Christian college. I felt the calling into full-time ministry, and I had some evidence of the fruit of Christian maturity. Once on campus and assigned a living space the challenges to my faith began. My first roommate was from an extremely legalistic background and measured holiness by waking early and shouting prayers to the heavens. When he wasn’t doing that he was “evangelizing”. You know, the real in your face Bible thumping — “Repent, you sinner! You’re going straight to HELL!”

         Personally, I find no peace standing on a street corner preaching damnation to the passers by. I am not saying there is anything wrong with people who exercise their faith in that way. I am just saying that it is not the way God has dealt with me to walk before Him. Yet, as I was studying for the ministry, it seemed that no one understood my perspective or the ministry I believed God called me into. If I did not take part in the activities my roommates considered spiritual they did not consider me Christian.

         After about a month of this condemnation I felt justified throwing a little back the other direction. I was losing sleep because of early morning prayers and late night jam sessions, so I got up, went into the kitchen and asked: “Have you ever backslid?” He answered, “Yes. Why do you ask?”

         At that point I knew I had him, so I said, “I’ve been having trouble understanding this passage and I wondered if you might help me?” He replied, “Sure, I can help you. What is the passage?”

“For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame.” — Hebrews 6:4-6 (KJV)

         I shared the Scripture and left the room. Feeling completely satisfied and somewhat justified that I sent my roommate’s theology into a tailspin. When he could not reconcile what he read in the Word with his life, he all but lost hope. For that I am deeply sorry, because had I approached the situation differently I might have been able to teach him something about the grace, and love of God. Instead of simply continuing the pattern of frustration and judgment that was being passed back and forth between us. The situation did teach me a lot about commitment.

         The Lord began dealing with me and what I learned is: It is not my place to interfere with God’s plan for His servants. We are all on the same journey but we are in different stages of development. It’s my responsibility to extend a helping hand where I can and receive help graciously when I need it. After weeks of mental and spiritual struggle, I went back to my roommate and asked him to forgive me. I shared additional scriptures to ease the anguish he was experiencing. We both grew in our understanding and view of God and His Word. Therefore, I believe we all have something of importance to impart to those with whom we make contact in life. And none of us regardless of position are any more important to God than another.

"If now thou hast understanding, hear this: hearken to the voice of my words. Shall even he that hateth right govern? and wilt thou condemn him that is most just? Is it fit to say to a king, Thou art wicked? and to princes, Ye are ungodly? How much less to him that accepteth not the persons of princes, nor regardeth the rich more than the poor? for they all are the work of his hands." — Job 34:16-19 (KJV)

         In fact, the Lord addressed Eli on the matter of whom He would honor. Do you remember the story? If not it's found in 1 Samuel. Eli was the High Priest and his sons were not following God’s commands. They were manipulating ministry situations to get their own way and benefit themselves.  According to the story, God is able to clean up His own house and deal with His servants. He does not need our help. In fact, we often get in His way and delay the lesson He is teaching others.

"Wherefore the LORD God of Israel saith, I said indeed that thy house, and the house of thy father, should walk before me for ever: but now the LORD saith, Be it far from me; for them that honour me I will honour, and they that despise me shall be lightly esteemed." — 1 Samuel 2:30 (KJV)

         Living our lives to honor God is our main purpose. There are other examples from Scripture. Take a look at David. He was a man with several problems. His father-in-law wanted to kill him. His son attempted to steal the kingdom from him, and there were also his personal bouts with sin; yet, David, upon his deliverance, had quite a bit to say about the faithfulness of the Lord; and, I now find myself in agreement with what he had to say. I trust that as you read this, you too will be able to reflect on the mighty hand of God at work in your own situation. God is at work and He faithfully protects those who are dedicated to His service.

"For thou art my lamp, O LORD: and the LORD will lighten my darkness. For by thee I have run through a troop: by my God have I leaped over a wall. As for God, his way is perfect; the word of the LORD is tried: he is a buckler to all them that trust in him.” — 2 Samuel 22:29-31 (KJV)

         Our lives are not always the picture of rock solid Christian perfection others expect. I, for one, am glad God is the judge. The foundation of our holiness is God. If we abstain from an activity we must examine our basis for avoiding it. On the other hand, if we take part in an activity we need to understand why we are involved. In either case do we strengthen, weaken, or deny our faith?

         Regardless of the organization, fellowship or denomination we are affiliated with, we ultimately are God’s servant, child, and friend. The difficulty with denominations, organization and fellowships is not that we have differences, but that we will not accept the differences we have. If God can accept us with our differences we need to learn to accept each other. The fact is, if there are some we would rather not see in heaven we might not need to worry about it. (Think about it for a minute; I'm sure the meaning will hit you soon.) In spite of our differences God provides, He directs our paths, and somehow accomplishes His will through us even though we are not always the most willing servants.

         God is on time when it comes to the matter of His provisions for us, and although we may have many accusers, Jesus does not condemn us. The Spirit of God brings hope, restoration and reconciliation. When we find ourselves caught up in any sin, the only solution is repentance, but differences in our practice of worship do not in and of themselves constitute sin. Are the things we “DO” done in “Spirit and Truth”? 

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

This Person I Know

This person I know; you should know Him too.
He can do all that you cannot do.
He will show you how to start life anew!
You can do nothing without Him, my friend.
He is the one who cleanses from sin.
He takes all of your fear and dismay when you let Him into your heart to stay.
For all have sinned, the Bible does say. Please come to Him. He will take sins away.
He will cleanse you today if you only say,
"I know I have sinned, Lord, please take my sin, I pray."
This person I know; you know now too.
His name is Jesus, the King of the Jew.
His story is told in the Bible, you see.
It tells how He died for you and for me.
Yet, He now lives within us. He sets us free.
Read of His life and His love each new day.
And, pray to be like Him in every way.

            Re-establishing the guiding force in life requires looking back and evaluating personal goals. My journey of self-examination began with a look back to the time I first accepted Christ as Savior.  I quickly came to the conclusion something vital was missing in my relationship with Him — my focus had changed. In those first days as a Christian seeking God's righteousness and his kingdom were the most important pursuits in my life — not out of fear or obligation, but out of love.

            After all it was love that brought me to the place of accepting the idea Christ was the answer and through Him I would find salvation. What happened to the love? What happened to the peace that came through accepting Christ?

            I suppose you would be right in saying of me, "He got caught up in the day-to-day burden of life. His bills needed to be paid. His friends did not understand the changes in his attitudes and actions. Every time he found a close Christian friend, they would move to another state, and they lost contact."

            All those things are true; however, the biggest reason my relationship with Christ changed is that I became indifferent to the pursuit of righteousness. Holiness was only an unattainable concept. It was not a real lifetime goal. I can't help feeling there are other Christians who have lost the burning desire to seek God in His fullness. I believe that there are many of us who need to find a renewed faith in the Savior. Where can we go and what can be done?

"So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God." — Romans 10:17 (KJV)

            According to this verse, we must involve ourselves in actively hearing God's Word. Therefore, it is important for us not to be passive listeners, but to actually see ourselves as an important part of the body of Christ. Over the years I must say that I have not acted on all I was taught from the Bible, and I was rather passive in the way I listened. The preaching did not affect me because I could always find someone else in the congregation for whom the message was better suited. But, if I accept the idea of personal responsibility everyone is required to hear and do the will of God as it is revealed to them. For that reason, I must retrace the foundation of my faith.  So, that is my story, but where are you in your relationship with God?

            I know that when we all start out on this journey, pleasing God is our highest priority, but things just have a way of happening. Our only defense can be to take refuge in the Word of God, and to correctly respond to the truth of all He speaks. Remembering where we have come from and lining up where we are going according to God’s expectation, is our only hope.

"Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent." — Revelation 2:5 (NKJV)

            How many will hear God's call and respond? Will you be one who chooses to rebuild and strengthen your faith, or will you tear down and destroy what God wishes to establish? The Bible speaks both of a great falling away, and a great revival. I believe that if we are not actively looking for the latter we will find the former by default. Christ is calling. I know which side I want to identify with — Do you?

"Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me." — Revelation 3:20 (KJV)

            Clearly God, through Jesus Christ, is seeking a relationship with each of us. The sin in our lives can be forgiven and the struggles we face have solutions when we apply scriptural truth to them. Finding what we lack begins with confession. Our faithlessness is overcome by God’s faithfulness.

"If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." — 1 John 1:9 (KJV)

            It seems that it is easy to become a Christian, but it is increasingly difficult to stay in the family. Daily devotions, prayer, and Christian service within the community of faith cannot be defeated by the demands of daily life; however, the demands of daily life can become a distraction. For me the only way I can maintain focus is to daily remember the things that God has conquered in my past, and to look forward to those things He has said He will accomplish in my future. I must also realize that God does not work according to my schedule. He has divine timing. Therefore, He is not subject to my deadlines. Then again, God has never been subject to any deadlines. Do you recognize the words, "Lazarus, come forth?"

            Just as Christ called Lazarus back to life He is calling us to life in Him today. I understand, at this point, you may think everything I have said is tired, old and worn out. You may be thinking, “I have heard all this before. I even put it into practice once or twice.” If that is the case, ask yourself, "Do I see God working in my life the way He worked throughout the Bible?"

            When the answer comes back no, remember what God said concerning the fact that He does not change, and what is said of Christ being the same yesterday, today, and forever.

"For I am the LORD, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed. Even from the days of your fathers ye are gone away from mine ordinances, and have not kept them. Return unto me, and I will return unto you, saith the LORD of hosts. But ye said, Wherein shall we return.” — Malachi 3:6-7 (KJV)

            Please understand that I am not saying we can either work our way into or out of heaven. I fully realize that it is only by the grace of God that anyone will make heaven home. In spite of our traditions, and our interpretations of scripture the Word of God calls to us, offering us the opportunity and responsibility to examine what we believe, the reasons for our faith and the outcome of our lives. We are always brought back to the foundation of God’s grace. Grace establishes our heart.

“Remember them which have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the word of God: whose faith follow, considering the end of their conversation. Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and today, and forever. Be not carried about with divers and strange doctrines. For it is a good thing that the heart be established with grace; not with meats, which have not profited them that have been occupied therein.” — Hebrews 13:7-9 (KJV)

            It is only through the perfect love of God that we have any hope of changing this world, or of being changed ourselves. It is only through the peace and strength that Christ brings we can stand for the truth of this Gospel. My conduct is often a poor example of my faith; however, I am finding it impossible to block out any longer the message God is calling me to deliver. I must pray. I must read His Word. I must speak to my generation and I must renew my devotion to the things of God. Will you respond with me to God's call? Will you join me in loving this generation enough to tell them about Jesus and what He expects?