Wednesday, April 4, 2018

What Happened to Integrity?

"Let your eyes look straight ahead, fix your gaze directly before you. Give careful thought to the paths for your feet and be steadfast in all your ways. Do not turn to the right or the left; keep your foot from evil." Proverbs 4:25-27

I'm a bit of a news junkie. Pray for me. I guess I inherited it from my dad. I remember when we were kids (there was only one television in the house! If you can wrap your head around that one, and we had about 6-8 channels to choose from) be assured at the news hour, it didn't matter what was on, the television dial was going to be turned to channel 6. And, be quiet! The bunny ears would be adjusted, and we would agonizingly suffer through the news of the day. However, nothing we heard then could compare to the awful news we receive on a daily basis, today. I'm glad my parents and grandparents have been spared from this time--it's difficult for us, without them, but we cannot imagine them seeing the condition of the world today. 

As this modern day "news junkie" consumes the news, I'm struck by the lack of integrity that hangs over our nation like a cloak. (Integrity= the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles; moral uprightness. The state of being whole and undivided.) 

Recently, I heard an interviewer ask if there was an explanation for the disrespect and non-bipartisanship in our government--and, in our nation. His (the interviewee, I cannot remember for the life of me!) answer regarding Congress and the Senate was surprisingly simple. I think--in fact, I know, it would work in the whole of society, too. He said for a long time, congressional representatives and senators didn't only work together. Once elected, they moved to Washington, D.C. to serve their term(s). They also moved their families. Their children went to school together, they socialized with each other and developed genuine friendships. That brought a kindness and respect that carried into the workplace, that sadly no longer exists. Because they don't have these relationships, it is easy for them to resort to name-calling, to refuse to compromise, to view "the other side" as the enemy and fail to respect differing points of view. 

Imagine if we could all begin to spend time with people who don't think just like us, who have differing points of view--and learn how to discuss the difficult issues that plague our society without resorting to viciousness or divisive language? I believe that would be the beginning to a return to integrity. We're splintered...badly. We have major issues dividing us, and until we are able to discuss them, we cannot begin to resolve them. We need to pray--without preconceived notions and pretexts. We need to ask God to reveal the secret places in us--those places that we may not be aware of, ourselves. As Christians, the healing must begin with the "household of faith". Do you remember? "If My people who are called by My Name will humble themselves and pray, and seek My Face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will heal their land. 

We are quick to say, "God bless America!" He already has blessed America, abundantly! But, just like Israel of old we have departed from the way that He set before us and it has led us into a den of iniquity. The problem with us, as Christians is, we focus on the symptoms rather than the cause. What led us to this place? If we figure that out, and "humble ourselves, pray, seek Him, and (this is key) TURN/REPENT that's when the land will be healed and we will experience true revival. Understand, repentance is more than being sorry, it must coexist with change, or it isn't repentance. You must "turn" in a different direction, if you want to experience revival. 

While we point at "Sodom and Gomorrah", and call her abominable and detestable, we think that the outward sin is God's greatest concern...but not so fast. Ezekiel 16: 49-50 says, "Behold, this was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had pride, excess of food, and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and needy. They were haughty and did an abomination before me. So, I removed them, when I saw it." Pride always precedes a fall. Pride leads us away from the care and concern for others and causes us to focus on self. When we reach this point, we are apt to do anything--any abomination our wicked hearts can conceive. This description of Sodom reminds me of a few New Testament characters--like the rich barn-builder, the rich man who walked past Lazarus daily, and the rich young ruler who challenged Jesus with the question, "Rabbi, what must I do to inherit eternal life?" The final answer of, "sell all that you have and give to the poor", sent him away dejected and sad. The barn-builder? Jesus called him a fool and he wasn't ready when death came knocking, because his soul was wrapped up in his stuff. Likewise, the rich man who practically stumbled over Lazarus (probably was even annoyed by his presence) woke up in Hell, and wanted Lazarus to give his brothers a message...Lazarus was busy, resting in Paradise. Now, it isn't a sin to be wealthy; it is how you handle wealth--how you prioritize it and how you give, that makes the difference.

God knows exactly what lies in the deepest recesses of our hearts--even if we aren't completely aware. And, He will reveal those hidden things, if you desire change and are honest with Him. Don't agree with me. Agree with Him.   

There are some problems that make my heart ache--that burden me, daily. 

I find myself sorrowful as I listen to Christians, say the "Black Lives Matter Movement" is racist and excludes everyone else. The truth is, it exists because people of color, in America, have been excluded for so long--and want to be included and afforded the same treatment and respect as the whole of society. 

I find myself sad as I listen to arguments against immigrants who come here (or want to) seeking asylum from terror, only to be turned away. That is anti-American. Suppose this nation had built borders in the 1400's-1700's? It would be very different--very view of us, are native--certainly not white or black people. We all (or our forefathers) came here seeking/fleeing (or in many cases, in chains, against our will--but there is purpose even in that) something. We need compassion, as Christians, and grace enough to put ourselves in someone else's shoes. We need empathy.

Finally, we cannot continue to put ourselves first--that is not godly. If we are going to be Christians first, and even true Americans, some of our values must be reexamined. God is not a God of exclusivity, but of inclusiveness. It is His desire that all would be saved, and helped, and fed, and healed. We are His hands, and feet, in the earth. First things first, put down your arguments and ideologies, self-examine, be honest with God. Does your thinking line up with His New Commandment? Does it line up with grace--or is it bound up in legalism; is it self-preserving, or self-serving? 

"Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who though He was in the Form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross." Philippians 2:3-8, ESV. 

Monday, December 11, 2017

Don't Forget Ishmael

"The next day at about the sixth hour, as the men were approaching the city on their journey, Peter went up on the roof to pray. He became hungry and wanted something to eat, but while the meal was being prepared, he fell into a trance.
He saw heaven open and something like a large sheet being let down to earth by its four corners. It contained all kinds of four-footed animals and reptiles of the earth, as well as birds of the air. Then a voice spoke to him: 'Get up, Peter, kill and eat!'
'No, Lord!' Peter answered, 'I have never eaten anything impure or unclean.'
The voice spoke to him a second time: 'Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.'"
[Acts 10:9-15, BSB]

This morning, as I was praying--not quite like Peter (no trance or anything like that!☺), but just feeling a burden for those being persecuted by extreme terrorists around the globe it was impressed upon my spirit how fervently we need to pray for Muslims. They are, in fact, the group most terrorized by extremists. God allowed me to see an important connection, in my prayer. Just at the time that many Muslims are accepting Christ--many having visions of Christ (some similar to Paul's Damascus Road experience), it is at this time that they are being slaughtered in droves. It is no mistake--satan, although a defeated foe, intends to take as many with him to eternal perdition, as he possibly can. If we don't intercede for Ishmael, who will?

While we were celebrating Thanksgiving in America, over 300 of the most peaceful sect of Islam (it is said of them), the Sufis, were brutally murdered while praying in a mosque, in Egypt. Sufis are attacked regularly in Pakistan. ISIS attacked a Sufi mosque in Pakistan in February, killing more than 70, and injuring many others. Even children are not exempt from such evil. The truth is, even Muslims who are not Sufis, generally are not violent or extremist. It's much the same as Christians--most of us don't behave like Fred Phelps, leader of Westboro Baptist Church, a Thomas Robb or any others who promote hate. Extremists abound...everywhere.

Yet, in America, our sympathies seem only to lie with Israel--especially among the Evangelical community. I don't quite understand how we can be so connected to natural Israel, in spite of their wickedness. Our loyalties to Israel are not to be political, but spiritual; and they are not to be in spite of anything that Israel does politically, foolishly, or with evil intent. Often, throughout the years, our government has sided with Israel, even when Israel was/is in direct violation of the Torah. Evangelicals are big supporters of Israel's matter what. Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu is leading Israel down a path of terror--becoming a terror itself. Past prime ministers worked toward the goal of peace, but Netanyahu has done everything he can to undermine the goal of peace in the Middle East--particularly in Palestine. (Here's a link to Human Rights Watch, which will show abuses on both sides of the conflict, but honest reporting shows that Israel has become quite the cruel aggressor). .

These things give rise to terrorism and give extremists ammunition against any (like Westerners) who support those who are terrorizing Muslims on a daily basis. There really is more than one side to this this story and plenty of guilt to go around. 

When an Israeli prime minister really worked toward a peaceful resolution that respected both sides, Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated by an Israeli extremist. Rabin was no lover of Palestinians, but was pragmatic in his approach--and therefore, willing to work with Palestinians to ensure peace for Israel. Of this dire situation, one Israeli said, "that the Israeli public is not willing to make the compromises Rabin promised. 'The people of Israel say they like peace, but when it comes to the table, they don’t want to give up anything,' says Hon. 'Not Jerusalem. Not the West Bank and not the ruling of the Palestinians.'" I think he may just have a point.

What does God's Word say to us as Christians, in regards to our dealings with Israel and Islam (Ishmael)? Let's go way back to the very beginning of the conflict. I won't go into detail, but most of us know the story of Sarah, Abraham, Hagar, Ishmael and Isaac. If not, it's found here: Genesis 15-18, 21. 

 In Genesis 17, Abraham prayed, "If only Ishmael might live under your blessing!" and God responded, "And as for Ishmael, I have heard you: I will surely bless him; I will make him fruitful and will greatly increase his numbers. He will be the father of twelve rulers, and I will make him into a great nation." God didn't only love Isaac--Isaac was the son of the Covenant--the son who was promised by faith, through whom the Redeemer of the world would come, but God still promised to bless Ishmael. He does that so often, even when we make a mess trying to "help God out"! He doesn't need our help--and every time we get our flesh, our pride, our earthbound minds involved in His business, we create problems for Him to fix. In His mercy, He does just that, and blesses our messes. The Bible abounds with such accounts!

Today, we see Christians taking the truth of Jesus Christ throughout the Muslim world--sacrificing life and limb for the sake of the Gospel. We also know that even where they have not yet gone, God is reaching the hearts of Muslims (because it is His plan and His will, and because of the prayers of many), miraculously through dreams and visions. Many are turning to Christ, even in the face of extreme persecution, imprisonment and death. In many countries, it is illegal and punishable by death to renounce Islam. If only we could see this conflict spiritually, rather than naturally and how we (in the West) are affected by it. 

What comes to mind in this moment is: "This is not a wrestling match against a human opponent. We are wrestling with rulers, authorities, the powers who govern this world of darkness, and spiritual forces that control evil in the heavenly world." [Ephesians 6:12, GWT].
 Everything is not as simple as black and white. 
Everything is not simply what we see on the surface or with our natural eyes. 
We have to dig deeper and pray deeper. 
God is doing a new thing, and will receive ALL who will call on His Name without respect to nationality, ethnicity, or any such thing--even bad prior acts (remember Saul/Paul). Peter had to learn this lesson in order to go to the Roman centurion, Cornelius. It was tough for Peter--he was quite prejudiced; in fact, Paul gave him the riot act for his prejudices and two-faced behavior (Galatians 2). Peter certainly had his flaws; and apparently forgot his cowardice, denials, and thug mentality, on occasion. God didn't reject him, he taught him, molded him and used him, in spite of his forgetfulness. But, for all of Peter's prejudice and aforementioned shortcomings, he obediently went to Caesarea according to God's command, and Peter preached to Cornelius and his whole house saying, "I now truly understand that God does not show favoritism, but welcomes those from every nation who fear Him and do what is right. He has sent this message to the people of Israel, proclaiming the gospel of peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all.
You yourselves know what has happened throughout Judea, beginning in Galilee with the baptism that John proclaimed: how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power, and how Jesus went around doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, because God was with Him.
We are witnesses of all that He did, both in the land of the Jews and in Jerusalem. And although they put Him to death by hanging Him on a tree, God raised Him up on the third day and caused Him to be seen— not by all the people, but by the witnesses God had chosen beforehand, by us who ate and drank with Him after He rose from the dead. And He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that He is the One appointed by God to judge the living and the dead. All the prophets testify about Him that everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins through His name. [Acts 10:34-43, BSB]. And the outcome to Peter's obedience was amazing. "While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard his message. All the circumcised believers who had accompanied Peter were amazed that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles. For they heard them speaking in tongues and exalting God.Then Peter said, 'Can anyone withhold the water to baptize these people? They have received the Holy Spirit just as we have!' So he ordered that they be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ...." [Acts 10:44-48, BSB].

I wonder what would have become of those faithful believers if Peter held fast to his principles and beliefs that it was all for the Jew, and only for the Jew?

Pray for the peace of Israel and understand that anyone can become "a Jew"--circumcised in the heart, not merely in the flesh. This is by faith, as God promised Abraham, and has nothing to do with the flesh, but God's arms are open to all who will call on the Name of the Lord. It's the promised gift.

When you pray, remember Ishmael and God's promise to bless Him.

"If God be for us [or Ishmael] who can be against us [or Ishmael]? 

Read: Romans 4:1-13; 9:1-33; Genesis 15:1-7.


Monday, November 6, 2017

What Shall We Say to These Things?

" What then shall we say to all these things? If God is for us, who can be [successful] against us? He who did not spare [even] His own Son, but gave Him up for us all, how will He not also, along with Him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any charge against God’s elect (His chosen ones)? It is God who justifies us [declaring us blameless and putting us in a right relationship with Himself]. Who is the one who condemns us? Christ Jesus is the One who died [to pay our penalty], and more than that, who was raised [from the dead], and who is at the right hand of God interceding [with the Father] for us. Who shall ever separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? Just as it is written and forever remains written,
For Your sake we are put to death all day long;
We are regarded as sheep for the slaughter.”
 Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors and gain an overwhelming victory THROUGH HIM who loved us [so much that He died for us]. For I am convinced [and continue to be convinced—beyond any doubt] that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present and threatening, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the [unlimited] love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord." [Romans 8:31-39, AMP]

So, this morning, we have awakened to yet another tragic shooting--in a church, no less. It seems like every other week, there is a mass tragedy in our nation. Most of them, are the result of guns--or their improper use, by terrorists, the mentally ill or just someone with a penchant to kill. We really don't know their motivations, but we form many assumptions. This isn't about politics, though--as much as you might think it's headed in that direction. I simply refuse to go there--besides, I think most of you know my stance on many political issues, because I have freely shared my beliefs--and the Scriptures to support them. Of course, we can all interpret the Bible ( or the Quran, or any text that you hold to) any way that we choose (we certainly have seen the dastardly results of many who hold to twisted interpretations (or indeed do the twisting to deceive others)--or we can set aside preconceived notions and dig deep (at least when it comes to the Bible--that's what I know best) and study culture, context and background to learn what is really being said, rather than interpreting it according to our preferences and biases. But, it's a choice. Just like you, I can read words on the page--or I can pray, and search to glean the actual truths of the many mysteries contained within the holy pages of the written Word of God.

My heart is broken, just a bit more--each time I hear of another tragedy--"natural" or otherwise. I empathize with those who suffer so profoundly around the world--and of course, in our own nation. It's so difficult to see people en masse lose life, property, and more to hurricanes, earthquakes, flooding, tsunami's and fires. I think of what it must be like to suddenly have no access to clean water or food. To have no refrigeration for insulin for diabetics, no way to keep milk cold for toddlers--or even to obtain it, or to have no roads to get access to medical attention must be horrific. And then, I see those with firearms kill not one or two precious souls ( as if that isn't a huge enough tragedy!), but dozens--including children; and the alarms begin to blare deep within, disquieting everything in me. I along with the earth am groaning for the redemption to come! I wonder, like the Psalmist, "How long??!!!" and say with longing, "Even so, Come Lord Jesus"!, knowing that His waiting is an act of extreme mercy in place to save many more. 

I am so acutely aware that this world IS NOT my home.

I have so many questions and sorrows to accompany those deep queries. And, I challenge my sisters and brothers in Christ to consider more deeply how we view the Word of God (in our lives) in light of the happenings in the world. 

Whenever I hear gun-toting Christians justify their right to bear arms, I have to admit, it makes me a little uncomfortable. I know the Bible said, "an eye for eye, and a tooth for tooth (hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, bruise for bruise"...yes, there was more [Exodus 21, NIV]. And, that was  the Law for the Israelite who harmed another of his own countrymen--up to and including death for intentional and deliberate murder (or physically attacking or cursing parents, or kidnapping). The reason I cringe a bit is because Jesus brought us the marvelous and precious gift of grace. Jesus, Who was the fleshly Embodiment of God the Creator; this Same One, gave us an improvement/update on this Law. (Mind you, the Law wasn't bad--according to Scripture, simply incomplete. It had a purpose, a distinct beginning...and a very distinct end--that end was GRACE. The Law was a temporary fix, until Jesus wrapped Himself in a human Body, and become our Kinsman- Redeemer. Only God (by His own arm) could save mankind. As our Kinsman-Redeemer, He ALONE had the credentials to get the job done! There were requirements to redeem: 1. WILLINGNESS; 2. ABILITY; 3. MEANS; 4. RELATIONSHIP. (See the Book of Ruth to learn more about this act. Boaz was a type/foreshadow of Jesus Christ). 

Paul, in writing to the church at Galatia, called the Law, "a schoolmaster". You see, this was a church who had come to receive Christ by faith, but had begun to revert back to the Law of Moses, to live by. Paul exasperated, questioned: "O you foolish and thoughtless and superficial Galatians, who has bewitched you [that you would act like this], to whom—right before your very eyes—Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified [in the gospel message]? This is all I want to ask of you: did you receive the [Holy] Spirit as the result of obeying [the requirements of] the Law, or was it the result of hearing [the message of salvation and] with faith [believing it]? Are you so foolish and senseless? Having begun [your new life by faith] with the Spirit, are you now being perfected and reaching spiritual maturity by the flesh [that is, by your own works and efforts to keep the Law]?" [Galatians 3:1-3, Amplified Bible]. 

In the 5th chapter of the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus said, You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth [punishment that fits the offense].’ But I say to you, do not resist an evil person [who insults you or violates your rights]; but whoever slaps you on the right cheek, turn the other toward him also [simply ignore insignificant insults or trivial losses and do not bother to retaliate—maintain your dignity, your self-respect, your poise]. If anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, let him have your coat also [for the Lord repays the offender]. And whoever forces you to go one mile, go with him two. Give to him who asks of you, and do not turn away from him who wants to borrow from you.
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor (fellow man) and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love [that is, unselfishly seek the best or higher good for] your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may [show yourselves to] be the children of your Father who is in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on those who are evil and on those who are good, and makes the rain fall on the righteous [those who are morally upright] and the unrighteous [the unrepentant, those who oppose Him]. For if you love [only] those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do that? And if you greet only your brothers [wishing them God’s blessing and peace], what more [than others] are you doing? Do not even the Gentiles [who do not know the Lord] do that? You, therefore, will be perfect [growing into spiritual maturity both in mind and character, actively integrating godly values into your daily life], as your heavenly Father is perfect." [Matthew 5:38-48, Amplified Bible].

Jesus explained the difference between the Law and Grace. Under the New Covenant, ushered in at Calvary--by the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ, we now have the opportunity to embrace grace in ALL of its fulness and glory. But, we need to understand, mixing in a little of the Law, cancels out the grace that we have so lavishly received and rely on. ("...we know that a man is not justified [and placed in right standing with God] by works of the Law, but [only] through faith in [God’s beloved Son,] Christ Jesus. And even we [as Jews] have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the Law. By observing the Law no one will ever be justified [declared free of the guilt of sin and its penalty]. But if, while we seek to be justified in Christ [by faith], we ourselves are found to be sinners, does that make Christ an advocate or promoter of our sin? Certainly not! For if I [or anyone else should] rebuild [through word or by practice] what I once tore down [the belief that observing the Law is essential for salvation], I prove myself to be a transgressor. For through the Law I died to the Law and its demands on me [because salvation is provided through the death and resurrection of Christ], so that I might [from now on] live to God. I have been crucified with Christ [that is, in Him I have shared His crucifixion]; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body I live by faith [by adhering to, relying on, and completely trusting] in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me. I do not ignore or nullify the [gracious gift of the] grace of God [His amazing, unmerited favor], for if righteousness comes through [observing] the Law, then Christ died needlessly. [His suffering and death would have had no purpose whatsoever.])” [Galatians 2:16-20, AMP].

What does this have to do with Christians today, and guns? Consider this: 1) If we believe that at the root of every bad thing that happens, is sin--not mentally ill people, guns, etc. but SIN and its control over this world, and that all evil is a result of sin's presence in this world from the very first sin at creation;  2) If we believe that God has promised to keep us, and to give His angels charge over us; 3) If we believe that to "live is Christ, and to die is GAIN! And, "to be with far better [Philippians 1:23, KJV]; 4) if we believe that "all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose."; And finally, 5) If we believe that God is our Jehovah-Nissi (A Banner over us to protect us) why do we need to protect ourselves with "horses and chariots" rather than trusting in the Name of the Lord?  

There is NOTHING that can happen to any child of God that God isn't aware of and approved of. If something negative has happened--or is coming your way, know that He is already in the midst of that crisis, preparing your preservation. If the plan is for you to live in this world--He has an escape prepared, and He does not need your help (just ask Sarah! We create more problems for ourselves when we try to fix things that God didn't ask us to fix. Learn to be still and allow God to go before you. Victory belongs to Him!). If His plan is to take you to be with Him, what could be better than that? 

"We, of course, have plenty of wisdom to pass on to you once you get your feet on firm spiritual ground, but it’s not popular wisdom, the fashionable wisdom of high-priced experts that will be out-of-date in a year or so. God’s wisdom is something mysterious that goes deep into the interior of his purposes. You don’t find it lying around on the surface. It’s not the latest message, but more like the oldest—what God determined as the way to bring out his best in us, long before we ever arrived on the scene. The experts of our day haven’t a clue about what this eternal plan is. If they had, they wouldn’t have killed the Master of the God-designed life on a cross. That’s why we have this Scripture text: No one’s ever seen or heard anything like this, Never so much as imagined anything quite like it— What God has arranged for those who love him. But you’ve seen and heard it because God by his Spirit has brought it all out into the open before you."      [ 1. Corinthians 2:9, The Message]

Relax, no matter what...He is in control. LCC


Thursday, July 13, 2017

Guess Who's Got Your Back??!!!

"O ye sons of men, how long will ye turn my glory into shame? how long will ye love vanity and seek after leasing? Selah.
But know that the LORD God hath set apart him that is godly for himself: the LORD will hear when I call unto Him."          Psalm 4:2,3

As I read this Psalm this morning, the "mood" of the psalmist David, caught my attention. Knowing what David was experiencing --the rebellion of his own son, Absalom, being under attack by Shimei (along with his faithful servants), while fleeing the wrath of Absalom. 2nd Samuel 16:11 says it all: "Then David said to Abishai and to all his servants, "Behold, my son who came out from me seeks my life; how much more now this Benjamite? Let him alone and let him curse, for the LORD has told him." 

By this point in his life, even with all of his military might and power (as king), David must be feeling like drama and terror are a constant companion. In fact, he thinks that  even God has turned His back against him--and sent Shimei to assault him. Every time things seem to be peaceful, trouble is not far behind. Ever feel that way--you know living in a state of "waiting for the other shoe--the deadly one, to drop"? Aside from the Shimei's in David's life, there are Saul and Absalom to contend with. Saul's "shoe" dropped squarely on the head of David, in spite of the fact that David loved him, and served him faithfully. And, now, this son of David, Absalom wins the hearts of the people in an attempt to steal the throne from his own father. Even worse, David's own counselor (Ahithophel) sides with Absalom, against him! 

So, Absalom rebelled and is seeking to kill him, Shimei is trying to stone him (and his servants with him--that makes things even harder. Feeling like you are the cause of the pain of those you love), Saul once upon a time, came out against him--out of his own insecurity, insanity and pride, David had to flee from Jerusalem again thanks to Absalom's rebellion, and his counselor/adviser Ahithophel is seduced into serving Absalom, in his wickedness. That's A LOT to contend with in any one lifetime. I think I would need a few lifetime's to get through all of that! Certainly, David could say, "when it rains it pours!" Now, add David's sin to that mix, and it's a wonder he survived, much less became a man after God's own heart. At this time, I'm sure David felt as if God wasn't with him. See, you're not the only one--there's a great cloud of witnesses before you who experienced this. We are not alone in our suffering--in more ways than one. Clearly, God is ALWAYS present--even when we can't see through the fog of pain, death, injustice, loss and more, He Is there. What a blessed hope for this treacherous journey called life. And, we're in good company, suffering is inevitable in life. However, for the child of God, there is blessing in our suffering. Just ask Jesus, Joseph, and all of the others who suffered before us. It's not for naught. Victory is embedded in our suffering.

Believe it or not, David recognized the help of God, in his time of trouble. So, although many said, "there is no help for him in God, because his enemies were coming in droves, David was sustained by the LORD. When it would seem that he would toss and turn, he SLEPT, because God Is a  Shield and Lifter of our heads. That's one of the most amazing things about walking with God--and you can't explain to those who don't know Him. Peace in the midst of a  raging storm is a profoundly wonderful thing! Knowing (because you cannot always feel it) with confidence that God Is being Immanuel (with us, GOD!) in our darkest times is a conundrum to the human mind. We will never be able to figure out (this side of Heaven) how God sustains us, gives us peace and rest, even while the world is turned upside down, for us. He holds us fast right in the eye of the storm. While the terror tries to overtake us, we find peace in the eye of the storm, because He Is with us.

So, even as enemies try to destroy your character, and you are assaulted on every side, by life's trials, God Is there making a path through the deepest valley, for us. We can be still, because He fights for us.

There is no need to fear the Absalom's and Saul's in our lives, for God will "make my feet like hinds' feet, and he will make me to walk upon mine high places." 

"Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labour of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls:
Yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my salvation."           Habakkuk 3:17,18

Saturday, March 11, 2017


"Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good.Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other....
Bless those who persecute you. Don’t curse them; pray that God will bless them. Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with each other. Don’t be too proud to enjoy the company of ordinary people. And don’t think you know it all!

Never pay back evil with more evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable. Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone.

Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God. For the Scriptures say,
'I will take revenge;
I will pay them back,'
says the Lord.

'If your enemies are hungry, feed them.
If they are thirsty, give them something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap
burning coals of shame on their heads.
Don’t let evil conquer you, but conquer evil by doing good."
Romans 12:9,10,14-21 (NLT)

It was really hard to choose just one passage of Scripture for this subject--so many are on my mind, and in my heart right now. And, thankfully so, in such divisive and uncertain times!

As I watch the news and read it (I know, I'm consuming way more than I should be), I see so much division, even to the point of hatred. Literally, in our current political climate, marriages have ended, families have split along political lines (no longer speaking to one another whose views are different from our own), and long time friendships have ended, as well. How utterly sad! 

More sad, are the divisions that occur between Christians. Think of the implications--and there are many:
A divided house cannot stand. Mark 3:25
The world won't recognize us as children of God. John 13:34,35
No LOVE, no FAITH. Galatians 5:6
Without real, functioning (Agape) love, we will destroy each other by self-gratification. Galatians 5:13-26
Quarreling and bickering occur. 1 Corinthians 1:10-13
God hates it. Proverbs 6:16-19
Hate causes us to remain in darkness. 1 John 2:9
We trample underfoot the prayer of Jesus, for us. John 17:21
We will miss the blessings that come when unity is present. Psalm 133:1-3
The body becomes out of joint. 1 Corinthians 12:21-26
We cause breaches, rather than build. Nehemiah 4:6,15-23; (Causing breaches) 5:1-13.

I could go on and on, but that would be a book, not a blog! What's the point? It is entirely possible to be on opposite sides of the political spectrum, or even disagree on some doctrinal issues (read Romans 14, if you don't believe me) and still respect and love one another the way Christ Jesus prayed we would. We don't have to agree, to walk in love and be united in Him. UNITY is the requirement, not uniformity. The only time we are to have the same mind--is when we are imitating Christ (Philippians 2:1-8). Look closely at verses 2 and 5 of that chapter. That's the best time to be alike--if we aren't alike in anything else, be alike in this: in humility, in sacrificing self for the good of others, not being selfish or conceited, but tender and compassionate...just like Jesus.

"As much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men." [Romans 12:18, KJV] Yup, that's what he said...and it was God-inspired, I promise. This is one of those not so easy things, like when Jesus broke forgiveness down to His disciples in Luke 17:1-4. Their immediate response in verse 5 was, "Lord, increase our faith!" The NIV and a few other versions, add that exclamation point to their response--I believe, it is well-deserved. Living peaceably with ALL men is another "Lord, increase our faith!" exercise. One of the things I've learned...(finally!), is that growth is facilitated most, by irritation (think diamonds, or seeds, etc.). It's the "prickly" people in our lives that cause us to grow up. They teach us to pray and rely on God, rather than whine and complain. Ease and comfort don't make the "man" (or woman). Recently, in Bible Study, my pastor said something so profoundly wise, "Trials can become your best friend." Of course, as long as you go against the course, and refuse to learn that won't be the case. However, as soon as you surrender your will and accept the "cup" that is prepared for EVERY one of us, the tools needed to thrive in the eye of the storm, become apparent.

On Romans 12:18, the Expositor's Bible says this: "If possible, as regards your side (the "your" is as emphatic as possible in position and in meaning), living at peace with all men; yes, even in pagan and hostile Rome. A peculiarly Christian principle speaks here. The men who had "given over their bodies a living sacrifice" might think, imaginably, that their duty was to court the world’s enmity, to tilt as it were against its spears, as if the one supreme call was to collide, to fall, and to be glorified. But this would be fanaticism; and the Gospel is never fanatical, for it is the law of love. The surrendered Christian is not, as such, an aspirant for even a martyr’s fame, but the servant of God and man. If martyrdom crosses his path, it is met as duty; but he does not court it as eclat. And what is true of martyrdom is of course true of every lower and milder form of the conflict of the Church, and of the Christian, in the world.
Nothing more nobly evidences the divine origin of the Gospel than this essential precept; "as far as it lies with you, live peaceably with all men." Such wise and kind forbearance and neighbourliness would never have been bound up with the belief of supernatural powers and hopes, if those powers and hopes had been the mere issue of human exaltation, of natural enthusiasm. The supernatural of the Gospel leads to nothing but rectitude and considerateness, in short to nothing but love, between man and man. And why? Because it is indeed divine; it is the message and gift of the living Son of God, in all the truth and majesty of His rightfulness. All too early in the history of the Church "the crown of martyrdom" became an object of enthusiastic ambition. But that was not because of the teaching of the Crucified, nor of His suffering Apostles.
Not avenging yourselves, beloved; no, give place to the wrath; let the angry opponent, the dread persecutor, have his way, so far as your resistance or retaliation is concerned. "Beloved, let us love"; {1 John 4:7} with that strong and conquering love which wins by suffering. And do not fear lest eternal justice should go by default; there is One who will take care of that matter; you may leave it with Him. For it stands written, {Deuteronomy 32:35} "To Me belongs vengeance; I will recompense, saith the Lord." "But if" (and again he quotes the older Scriptures, finding in the Proverbs 25:21-22 -the same oracular authority as in the Pentateuch), "but if thy enemy is hungry, give him food; if he is thirsty, give him drink; for so doing thou wilt heap coals of fire on his head"; taking the best way to the only "vengeance" which a saint can wish, namely, your "enemy’s" conviction of his wrong, the rising of a burning shame in his soul, and the melting of his spirit in the fire of love. Be not thou conquered by the evil, but conquer, in the good, the evil.
"In the good"; as if surrounded by it, moving invulnerable, in its magic circle, through "the contradiction of sinners," "the provoking of all men." The thought is just that of Psalm 31:18-19 : "How great is Thy goodness, which Thou hast laid up for them that fear Thee, which Thou hast wrought for them that trust in Thee before the sons of men! Thou shalt hide them in the secret of Thy presence from the pride of man; Thou shalt keep them secretly in a pavilion from the strife of tongues." "The good" of this sentence of St. Paul’s is no vague and abstract thing; it is "the gift of God"; {Romans 6:23} it is the life eternal found and possessed in union with Christ, our Righteousness, our Sanctification, our Redemption. Practically, it is "not It but He." The Roman convert who should find it more than possible to meet his enemy with love, to do him positive good in his need, with a conquering simplicity of intention, was to do so not so much by an internal conflict between his "better self" and his worse, as by the living power of Christ received in his whole being; by "abiding in Him."

I started this post with a passage from Romans 12. Romans 12:9 (in the KJV) begins with, "Let love be without dissimulation." The Greek word for dissimulation will give a great clue as to its meaning: "anupokritos" [an=without; pokritos...sounds like our English word for hypocrisy]. Of course, we don't want to be hypocritical in any way, so what is Paul saying to us? As I was studying the subject (because I needed some godly light in this darkness!), I read some commentaries on Romans 12. MacLaren's Exposition on verse 9 seemed to go further in explanation and depth than the others: "Let love be honest.
"Love stands at the head, and is the fontal source of all separate individualised duties. Here Paul is not so much prescribing love as describing the kind of love which he recognises as genuine, and the main point on which he insists is sincerity. The ‘dissimulation’ of the Authorised Version only covers half the ground. It means, hiding what one is; but there is simulation, or pretending to be what one is not. There are words of love which are like the iridescent scum on the surface veiling the black depths of a pool of hatred. A Psalmist complains of having to meet men whose words were ‘smoother than butter’ and whose true feelings were as ‘drawn swords’; but, short of such consciously lying love, we must all recognise as a real danger besetting us all, and especially those of us who are naturally inclined to kindly relations with our fellows, the tendency to use language just a little in excess of our feelings. The glove is slightly stretched, and the hand in it is not quite large enough to fill it....Any man who seeks to make his words a true picture of his emotions must be aware that few harder precepts have ever been given than this brief one of the Apostle’s, ‘Let love be without hypocrisy.’"
In other words, it's a slippery slope. It's easy to appear to love and care, without a heart that is actually engaged in that process. Motives genuinely matter, to God. We don't want to be vain in our worship, or vain in our love towards God or others.

Along with that, we have to reject this tendency in ourselves, to overlook, rationalize or justify our lack in the area of sacrificial love (and, at the moment, I'm not talking about as it relates to things, but to the real giving of self, in relationship.) So many times, I've heard CHRISTIANS say, "that's just the way I am...". But, you are a new creation, in Christ Jesus, so that must change to "that's the way I was, and by the grace of God, I am no longer. All of our doing can quickly become "sounding brass and tinkling cymbals" if our hearts are not motivated by pure love.

Last point I want to make is this: nothing works right without love and when division is presence. We can't fight (spiritual warfare) divided. The armor that Paul referenced in Ephesians 6, requires unity for optimal effectiveness. Paul's point of reference would have been the Roman soldiers of that day--and among their armor was a shield that served several purposes. First, it was covered in animal skins, and before battle they would soak the shield in water, so that when the "fiery darts" hit them, they would immediately be quenched. Secondly, they were large enough that if the battle became too fierce, they could crouch behind them for protection. And, finally, they had beveled edges that when linked with the shields of all of the other soldiers they could form one long impenetrable wall against the enemy, leaving no room for him to attack. By faith, unified, we are unstoppable, and the enemy has to flee. 

United, we win. Divided, we can't win.

The presence of division is proof that we, Western Christians have not the love of Christ--corporately; at least, not the way we think we do. And, we have been divided for a long time. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said that 11 a.m. on a Sunday morning is “the most segregated hour in this nation,” going on to call rampant racial segregation in American churches “tragic.”

#Philippians2verses1thru10 #Matthew22verses37thru40 #Nehemiah4vs6 

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

In Times Like These

Just last week, I read a post from Vicky is a long-time friend and we worshiped at the same church years ago. With life changes, we have both moved on to other churches--she has married and has a beautiful family, now; and, I am in "Moses mode", as I've come to think of my current state. There was a time when this extended period of not knowing would have given me great anxiety, but time and getting to know the Lord better has helped me to relax and trust His timing. He knows what He is doing, and is not concerned (in the least!) that I am now 54--even if I am (age-aware). His purpose for my life, is right on track.

About Vicky's post. I asked if I could share it with those of you who read this blog because I believe her points to be God-inspired and important to share. I shared with her that I found them to be "powerful" and "most apropos" in this most chaotic climate that we now find ourselves both nationally and globally--even among Christians. Many Christians find themselves on opposite sides of the political divide--but see it as not only political, but spiritual and moral, as well. That greatly raises the stakes...the emotions, the debate and even (unfortunately) the divide. It seems, we still haven't learned how to "agree to disagree". We don't know how to express and discuss opinions without anger or accusation--or assumptions about the mindset of others who share a different view. I can love and respect you, and still vehemently disagree with you--and even (hopefully, be allowed to freely, without worry) express how I feel about our current issues; and the converse should also be true.

Two very important points stood out in the post: 1.) BE STILL; 2.) BE SILENT. That really settled it for me. I took that as a sign that it was time to settle down, be quiet, PRAY, and watch. There isn't a need for me to say anything else. God is in control, no matter how things appear. Now, don't get me wrong--I still engage in a lively debate with the newscasters and their guests on CNN and MSNBC, but, it's pretty harmless!

The rest of the message, I want to share to share with you (with Vicky's blessing) are these 3 bullet points:

1. There is too much calamity to accurately discern God's voice.

God is not a liar (Numbers 23:19). He is not speaking to so many different prophets and saying so many different things. We have to give God more credit than that. Prophets, during such mayhem, please do not force God to speak. Additionally, do not try to be God’s mouthpiece when God is choosing to be silent. How is this backed biblically?

Take a quick look at Job. The Bible classifies Job as a "perfect and upright man" (Job 1:1). God was confident in Job's character and permitted Satan to afflict him. With Job's initial shock of his trials, he and his friends remained in each other's company for seven days and seven nights, without uttering one word to Job. During one affliction after another, Job desperately wanted God to speak in the midst of his situation (Job 30:20). Well, it wasn't until chapter 38 that God finally decided to respond to Job; but, He didn't do it calmly. God spoke out of a whirlwind, or storm, and He spoke for a long time. At the conclusion of God's discourse, I can honestly say, "Job couldn't handle the truth." Hearing God speak caused an interpersonal revelation that humbled Job - how he saw himself, how he saw God, and how he saw his circumstance all changed.

What God wants prophets to know is that He executed His plan for Job's life and didn't feel obligated to speak to Job in the midst of his chaotic situations. So, please stop trying to represent God in the midst of all this turmoil we are experiencing in America, before and now, with the aftermath of the election. Let God be God all by Himself.

Furthermore, if you profess to be a prophet, please ask yourself, "Am I ready to hear what God is saying? Can I handle the weight of God's word?" Before you answer, I ask you to consider this statement. If God really spoke to you the way He is feeling, it would be an earsplitting noise that shocks your auditory senses. How is that biblical? Well, let's look at what happened on Mount Sinai (Exodus 19:1-18). When God decided to speak, He instructed the children of Israel to get ready. This was an instruction for both their outer and inner condition. If anyone touched the mount, they would die. So, preparing to hear God's voice and experiencing His presence, was an event that required a level of sacredness. Truthfully, the Church in America, has lost that level of reverence when approaching God. Here's the part that prophets need to know about hearing God's voice during this time. On Mount Sinai, God used thunders and lightnings, the voice of the trumpet; and the people trembled. If God used that same method today, can you really handle all of that noise in your natural ear? I can almost guarantee you that you can't. Do you have a godly fear of God's voice to tremble like the people on Mount Sinai? Only you can answer that.

As we've seen the use of natural phenomena, let us continue with that theme for my second point, as to why prophets need a moment of silence and stillness.
2. God is coming in different directions/ways, because His move is multi-faceted. Don't assume you know how God is working.

Let's look at how the Lord appeared to the Prophet Elijah (1 Kings 19). Now, Elijah was a man of God that did many exploits. Yet, even with his anointed positioning, he had a level of sensitivity to measure the direction and source of God's voice. He did not take every decibel and label it as a word from the Lord. That's a mistake prophets are currently making. They are taking every action, every observation, and running with a prophetic message of what God is saying. But, Elijah knew how to assess God's voice accurately. For instance, when Elijah went to stand on the mount before the Lord to hear God speak, the Lord passed by with a great and strong wind. Although it felt powerful, Elijah didn't start jumping up and down proclaiming a message from God. God didn't speak through the wind, and Elijah waited. After the wind came an earthquake. While that is powerful also, Elijah didn't pronounce a word from the Lord. God didn't speak through the earthquake, and Elijah waited. After the earthquake came a fire. Once again, that is powerful as well, but Elijah didn't pronounce a word from the Lord. God didn't speak through the fire, and Elijah waited. Finally, after the fire came a still, small voice. YES! It's in that minuscule moment that Elijah discerned God's voice and moved accordingly.

As prophets, without clearly hearing God's voice, your cognition is limited to your current knowledge, values, and experience. Please do not box God into your angle(s), because honestly, your finite understanding cannot keep up with God's infinite agenda. So, when you think God is speaking one way in these turbulent times, there's a strong likelihood that you are wrong. Again, I caution you to take a moment of stillness and silence 

Those last two words bring me to my last point.

3. Even though many scriptures call for God to not be silent or still (Psalm 83:1), we must accept that stillness and silence are valid forms of communication between God and humanity.

I don't plan for this point to be long. I only have three scriptures that are not exhaustive to demonstrate this point.

"Be STILL, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth." ~Psalm 46:10

"Ye shall not need to fight in this battle: set yourselves, stand ye STILL, and see the salvation of the Lord with you, O Judah and Jerusalem: fear not, nor be dismayed; to morrow go out against them: for the Lord will be with you." ~2 Chronicles 20:17

"Even fools are thought wise if they keep SILENTand discerning if they hold their tongues." ~Proverbs 17:28, NIV

In summation, prophets are valued historically and scripturally. However, I hope this post can enlighten someone about the importance of being precise, and the detriment of not speaking accurately. Analogically, it's like taking a bowl of salt, dropping one grain of pepper, and saying that the bowl only contains salt. It may look like it's true, but it's not. Even though the content primarily contains salt, the addition of pepper changes the composition. Also, if pepper keeps getting added incrementally, it continues to alter the content of the bowl. So, to those who are prophets, please do not change the composition of God's Word and present it to us like it's God's unadulterated truth.

Thanks again,

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

In This Season

I've been asked so many times, by so many people about my political views and my political leanings as a Christian, as an African-American woman, and as one who (most certainly!) is not a one-percenter. LOL (Nope, I'm far from rich (materially-speaking); however, my taste is an altogether different story...sighhhh. I digress.

Today, I found myself filled with thought, and melancholy as I considered the current state of affairs in the United States. I have heard so many say there is nothing to fear--and for me, as a Christian, there isn't. I know that God reigns. But, I certainly understand (and empathize with people who have) the fears and concerns of minorities like me, immigrants, and young people who have taken to protesting in the streets. And, if I read the Gospels correctly, and believe that Jesus meant exactly what He said, that leaves me in a conundrum as I consider how I could possibly vote with only what's best for "ME" in mind, or solely on one or two issues. So much of the rhetoric of this 2016 campaign has been about "me" and "us" and not about others, that frankly, I'm repulsed. It would seem that many of us went into it looking for a president to rescue us from our economic woes, and much more without consideration for "the widow, the orphan and the stranger among you". Throughout Scripture--including the Old Testament, God has always called on His children to be different in our care and concern for one another--and for the stranger(code word: immigrant) and others. Even the Ten Commandments teach us to guard our behavior not only to God, but six of the ten are in reference to others. The "New Commandment" (Matthew 22:37-40) really makes it plain. "Love your neighbor as yourself." We are all neighbors.

As a matter of fact, all of us are immigrants, and have been almost since time began--when Adam and Eve were cast from the Garden of Eden, they became immigrants somewhere east of there homeland. Abraham was a stranger (Gen. 12:1, 23), so were Jacob, Joseph and ALL of the Israelites. Will we treat today's "strangers" like the Amalekites did the Israelites? Or will we behave toward our brother as Cain did? By the way, if you aren't Native American, you are an immigrant, too, so stop with the ownership attitude. America doesn't belong to any one group of people.

Those are issues that I wrestle with as I make choices socially and politically. I am a firm proponent of separation of church and state (to protect my religious freedoms as much as to protect your right to worship as you choose); in all things, I am shaped by my relationship with Jesus Christ and must always be modeling my life after His. In attempting to be Christlike, it isn't my goal to seek political leaders who will attempt to legislate righteousness--not even to protect the unborn or to keep gay people from marrying. Jesus never went after the Roman government to change anything--in fact, He simply said, "Render unto Caesar, what belongs to Caesar...". He did however, go after the religious elites who looked down on others.

Every precious, unborn baby is in God's providential care--He knows them and He formed them, and just as I will be resurrected from dust (if I see the grave), so will He bring every part of their little bodies together--and we "will not prevent them which are asleep" (1 Thessalonians 4:15). Awful things happen to people, but there is purpose in it--even when we can't explain it or understand it. Reversing Roe V. Wade is not the answer, being a living witness is. A reversal of that decision will cause more death and devastation. Remember? And, how is it that we are so quick to deny the woman who can't see any way to care for a child the right to terminate her pregnancy, and vehemently oppose food stamps and government programs to feed the poor? We cannot have it both ways.

Now, as I consider further the harsh criticism of the protesters, I have to ask what right does anyone have to question their right or motive to protest peacefully? Their fears are justified, in my opinion. President-Elect Trump built a campaign on some pretty scary speech--not what the media told us he said--but what we heard him say, at rallies. And, then he chooses Breitbart co-founder Steve Bannon as his 2nd right hand man. That combination makes people extremely afraid--not necessarily because of President-Elect Trump, but the appearance of this cabinet has the potential to empower and unleash some very nasty hate acts (even the Bible says, "shun the very appearance of evil"). In fact, it already has--toward Latinos, and Muslim-Americans. It's a mob mentality thing--as more and more incidents spring up, it will become increasingly "okay" to do it. And, many who think such things are horrific today, won't bat an eyelash a year or two from now. God's Word declared it best: "It's the little foxes that spoil the vineyard".  And there is something extremely offensive about telling people what they should and shouldn't be offended about. Offenders don't get to determine the offense, they just don't. Until you have been called "N_____" multiple times in your life simply because of your skin color, you can't tell me how I should feel about racism or understand when I am seeing "little foxes" that you may not recognize as easily. Because of past experiences, minorities are more acutely aware of certain pending dangers and threats. Please don't be dismissive.

Lastly, there are those who say, that those who didn't vote for President-Elect Trump are just "cry-babies" and "are just bitter". Really? I remember eight years ago, as most of us, were celebrating the election of the first African-American president, many of you were cursing him and his election--praying against him, for his demise and downfall. In fact, on the night of his inauguration, a group of men (including John Boehner, Paul Ryan, Eric Cantor, Frank Luntz (the organizer), Tom Coburn and others filled a room at a Washington steakhouse to strategize how they could oppose the new President. They decided that no matter what he brought before them--even if they supported it, they would block it. And, they did just that--even shutting down the government. And they called him a tyrant who wouldn't bend, while Democrats were angry with him for trying to please these men intent on destroying him. I call that evil. They were willing to sacrifice the American people to make a president they didn't like, look bad. Now, we have a new President-Elect not chosen by the majority of Americans, but by a largely Republican Electoral College, making decisions that are threatening to large groups of the population (by causing an empowerment in white nationalist groups and hate-mongers) and many of you think that's just sour grapes. Understand this, racism happens everyday, and we live with it--we have had to learn ways of adapting and coping with overt and the not-so-blatant forms. That's one thing, and that's bad, but a threat to civil rights is yet another.

Frankly, it doesn't look good. I'm just glad that I know Jesus..."Even so, come Lord Jesus!" 

“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.  He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.  For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in,  I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink?  When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you?  When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.  For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink,  I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’
 “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’
“He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’
  “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.” 
Matthew 25:31-46
#sheeporgoatsyouchoose2016 #lovereallydoestrumphate #walkintheirshoes

Sunday, October 23, 2016

When God Gets Angry

Once Upon a Time, early in the earth's days, the world was extremely wicked. "And it repented the LORD that He had made man on the earth, and it grieved Him at His heart". [Genesis 6:6, KJV]. But there was one man who found grace in God's eye, Noah; and Noah was one who walked with God. So, God saved Noah and his family and each species of animal that God created, by having Noah build an ark to protect them all. Noah was obedient to God's charge, in spite of the probable laughter and mockery of those around him--and, in spite of the fact, that it had possibly never rained [Genesis 2:5,6; Hebrews 11:7]. That's a debate for another time, and another person.

My point, today is, things happen when God gets angry; and many times we make assumptions about why something bad happened to someone--or even why something good always happens to someone else. Neither of these circumstances may have anything to do with God's anger or favor. I remember two tragedies when this theory became front and center: Hurricane Katrina and the earthquake in Haiti. Many people suggested that these tragedies occurred because of the "overwhelming presence of Voodoo and other dark practices". However, many "Noah's" were killed or affected in the wake of those events, too, so it doesn't quite follow the normal path of God's plan; and God is consistent in the way He does things.

There was another time, when people incorrectly made assumptions about the righteousness/unrighteousness of a person because of his blindness. They assumed that his disability had to be related to some sin in his life, or possibly his parents. I like to call this the Job's Friend's Effect. Thankfully, Jesus, Himself, was there to clear up that matter! "And as Jesus passed by, he saw a man which was blind from his birth. And his disciples asked him, saying, Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind? Jesus answered, Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him." That was a common error in that day, by now, we should know better. I'm just saying....

The truth is, "He maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust." 

God is not using such things to recompense evil on the world, today. That day will come, but it isn't happening by earthquakes and hurricanes that affect the "just and the unjust". In other words, those things are not punishment. They are a part of living in a sin-marred world. They can happen to any one of us, anywhere in the world. Be grateful that it hasn't (if it hasn't), and show love and concern towards those who have been affected by these tragedies. 

God is not judging those outside of His Body (or anyone else) with hurricanes, tsunami's, freak storms, earthquakes, or even gun violence. That can happen to any of us. If you look carefully, at the Old Testament, you will see a pattern. Post-flood/deluge, God's wrath was directed at His OWN who refused to follow Him, in spite of His care, mercy and deliverance. God said this to Jeremiah, "Therefore thus saith the LORD; Behold, I will give this city into the hand of the Chaldeans, and into the hand of Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon, and he shall take it: And the Chaldeans, that fight against this city, shall come and set fire on this city, and burn it with the houses, upon whose roofs they have offered incense unto Baal, and poured out drink offerings unto other gods, to provoke me to anger. For the children of Israel and the children of Judah have only done evil before me from their youth: for the children of Israel have only provoked me to anger with the work of their hands, saith the LORD. For this city hath been to me as a provocation of mine anger and of my fury from the day that they built it even unto this day; that I should remove it from before my face, Because of all the evil  of the children of Israel and the children of Judah, which they have done to provoke me to anger, they, their kings, their princes, their priests, and their prophets, and the men of Judah, and the inhabitants of Jerusalem." And, this was just one instance, with one prophet. God's people were, and often still are a "stiff-necked", hard-hearted bunch.

Let's be careful pointing our fingers at those who don't yet know Him; they don't have His Spirit to enable them to live godly lives, according to His Word. And understand this, that cannot be legislated--we will never win them by forcing our beliefs on them. Trying to legislate righteousness is merely a return to the Law in the presence of GRACE. Why??? Paul asked the Galatians, "O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you, that ye should not obey the truth...Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh? We have grace, walk in it and extend it to others, lavishly. It is God that changes hearts, not laws and rules. But, we are responsible for how we live, and how we treat one another. "By this, shall all men know that ye are My disciples, that ye have love one to another." The proof is in the love.  

Saturday, July 23, 2016

NO Bad News!

These days, I can commiserate with Evillene in the Broadway production of the Wiz. Please, "Don't Nobody Bring Me NO Bad News!". Everyday, the news waxes worse...and worse.

The last verse of that song goes like this:
"Bring some message in your head
Or in something you can't lose
But don't you ever bring me no bad news
If you're gonna bring me something
Bring me, something I can use
But don't you bring me no bad news"

I can remember seeing the Wiz on Broadway, many years ago--when Stephanie Mills played the role of Dorothy...that's how long ago, it was! And, I remember the supposed frustration of Evillene as she shuttled her weary body back and forth across the stage belting out, "Don't Nobody Bring Me NO Bad News! You knew she meant it; she was tired and fed up. I am, too. But, with all of that earthly weariness, there is a side of me that sees all that is going on in the world and knows it's a good sign of things to come. Before the sun, there is a profound darkness. That darkness has settled upon the earth and those of us who inhabit it. But, the Son changes my personal atmosphere of gloom and doom, into hope and light.

Bad news is not a surprise, it just begins to weary me, after so much bad news gets piled on top of other bad news, day after day. But, it is written: You should know this, Timothy, that in the last days there will be very difficult times. For people will love only themselves and their money. They will be boastful and proud, scoffing at God, disobedient to their parents, and ungrateful. They will consider nothing sacred. They will be unloving and unforgiving; they will slander others and have no self-control. They will be cruel and hate what is good. They will betray their friends, be reckless, be puffed up with pride, and love pleasure rather than God. They will act religious, but they will reject the power that could make them godly. Stay away from people like that! 
Yes, and everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.But evil people and impostors will flourish. They will deceive others and will themselves be deceived. But you must remain faithful to the things you have been taught.
You have been taught the holy Scriptures from childhood, and they have given you the wisdom to receive the salvation that comes by trusting in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work. [2 Timothy 3:1-5; 12-17, NLT]

Paul wrote this letter to Timothy approximately 2,000 years ago--that was the beginning of "the last days". It is abundantly clear that we are now at the end of those days. I know our redemption is nigh. And, that knowledge gives me hope.

These "days" are treacherous. I know that argument: "Guns don't kill people; people kill people", but without semi-automatic weapons , in the hands of those people, a lot less killing could happen. We no longer know how to resolve conflict--conflict gets "resolved" by the biggest gun. Every segment of society has some guilt to bear--politicians, attorneys, police officers and the general public. Add to that, terrorists strapping bombs to their bodies, in the hopes of a heaven with 72 virgins. Of course, that is a myth perpetrated by terrorist leaders to manipulate young people into committing heinous acts (that, by the way, they won't commit themselves). It is a myth. "Heaven in the Islamic faith does not include 72 wide-eyed sex goddesses. The number ‘72’ does not appear anywhere in the Quran. Nor does the word “suicide” (intihar in Arabic) appear, which is a word used interchangeably with martyrdom.
The confusion that exists arises over one oral tradition by Imam Tirmidhi. He cleverly crafted the “72 virgins” that has now become instilled in the minds of radicalized and misinformed Muslim men. The real tragedy is that so few scholars have accepted that this controversy exists or have failed to challenge the misinterpreted verse “of the 72 virgins” in the Quran."

I'm so glad that I know that Heaven's promises are not based on what I do, but on what has been done for me! It is so true that people are destroyed for "the lack of knowledge". Not studying or making one's self aware, is a killer. So many young people have died and killed many others in an attempt to please God, but have most likely awakened in hell (awaiting the Lake of Fire), not Abraham's Bosom (Paradise).

The news, almost everyday, has a new tragedy. Every week seems to "wax worse and worse". The current political campaign in the US, is not exempt from "bad news", either. It has been the most vitriolic and contentious campaign in our nation's history. In my opinion, there are no good options--in fact, both are frightening. But, I have good news!

It doesn't matter who will be elected president, or how much worse things will become, if you belong to God. He knows those who belong to Him, and He has provided us with a hope beyond the grave! And, while we pilgrim through this barren, evil land, He gives us peace beyond any human understanding. I thank God for the insulation of the Holy Spirit. I thank God for His awesome gift of grace--I only need the faith to believe in the finished work of the Cross...and He even provides that (faith). It's the only reason I can have a song in my heart, and a smile on my face. It's knowing that whatever happens to this body of flesh, I (the real me) will live forever, in His presence with joy. There will be no pain, evil or bad news to mar my eternity with Him. That's what keeps me going. You see, for me, living in this world is a bit of a paradox, because being a born-again Christian is kind of like living in two worlds, sometimes. While I must remain focused on God, I have to "occupy" faithfully. I'm yearning and groaning for Heaven, but I must be productive in the earth.

Some days, it is more difficult than others to focus on the Author and Finisher of my faith, because of all of the sorrow, persecution of Christians around the world, and even the presumptuous behavior of American Christians who think we have it made, while we fill ourselves with the decadence of this world. I'm reminded of these words: "Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever. [1 John 2:15-17, KJV]

The Amplified Bible breaks it down like this: " Do not love the world [of sin that opposes God and His precepts], nor the things that are in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.  For all that is in the world—the lust and sensual craving of the flesh and the lust and longing of the eyes and the boastful pride of life [pretentious confidence in one’s resources or in the stability of earthly things]—these do not come from the Father, but are from the world.  The world is passing away, and with it its lusts [the shameful pursuits and ungodly longings]; but the one who does the will of God and carries out His purposes lives forever." I think, that it has been made clear how we must journey through this land--unencumbered by the things of this world--yet, occupying our time here wisely, sharing the Good News of Christ and salvation. Living by grace--and not our own works. Still, a life of faith will bear fruitful works. While our works do not save us, they will cause others to see the love and presence of Christ, in us--and that wins souls. But, we cannot work hard enough or good enough to earn Heaven. Salvation is a gift, bought and paid for (in full) at Calvary. No earning, just believing, and receiving!

It is the hope of  Jesus Christ and eternity with Him, that makes all of this "bad news" bearable. I look beyond the news of the day, to eternity. Time is merely a pebble thrown into eternity to provide us a chance to prepare for the real life that God has for all of us who believe. It's merely a drop in the bucket, compared to the things He has in store for us. Be ready! There is a day when there will be "no bad news", if you choose Him. I don't know about you, but I can't wait!

I'm "Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ".