Saturday, March 11, 2017

DISAGREEMENT WITHOUT DIVISION

"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.

Instead,
'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 https://ladylynchlifemoments.blogspot.com. 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,
Vicky






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". 


 

Monday, April 11, 2016

Faithful God

I'm always amazed at God's attention to the details of my life--it really blows my mind.

When you KNOW God, and see Him in all of His splendor, you quickly become aware of yourself and recognize (like Isaiah) "Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts." [Isaiah 6:5, KJV]. That knowledge of self and awareness of a sin nature makes God's love and attention that much more mind-boggling. Often, I find myself wondering why He cares--especially at those times when I know I am falling short. It's those times when everyone and everything else seems to demand and get way more attention than the One Who deserves all of it. Those are the times of my greatest conviction.


I can't begin to tell you how great of a Provider He has been to me. Or how often He has been a Nurturer, Sustainer, Keeper and Friend. He has filled more gaps and breaches than I can count--just in these last few years. I really have come to know the sufficiency of His grace until He brought me into a large place. How can I be so forgetful?

The truth is, that's human nature. When we get comfortable, we forget. It's just like any relationship--the happier we are, the less attention we apply to the the relationship. We don't need to work so hard when things are going well. It's the hard times that keep us praying and fasting, but when things get better, we bask in the goodness and relax. I know that really isn't the time to get lazy.

Mountaintops, just like valleys don't last forever--this isn't doomsday talk. It's just real life talk in a fallen world. It's the mercy of God to make us aware before the bottom falls out, so we can begin to seek His face while still on the mountain and not plunged deep into the depths of the valley where it's hard to see and feel Him.
The  best time to prepare for war is when there is no war--not during the heat of the battle. How faithful is God to nudge me out of oblivion and prod me into preparation?

I love this place I'm in, but while I'm here, I'm going to utilize the time well. I will let His Word penetrate the secret places of my heart, renew my mind and arm me for the fight ahead. As long as I am in this world, in this body, there's a war going on and I can't afford to get too comfortable. 

 "Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour..." [1 Peter 5:8].

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Good Wine, Fish and Bread



Sometimes, I wonder why we serve God. I mean, is it for spiritual things or natural, temporal ones???

Are we guilty of following God for the tangible blessings, or is it really because our soul longs for more of Him? I just have to ask, because too often, I hear the scriptures that relate to the blessings of God's children in an earthly sense, rather than a spiritual one. The verses that promise great spiritual blessings are reduced to simple get rich quick schemes when we are done with them (and so are many of our church offerings--they sound more like auctions, than a time to give in God's House).

God is not focused on giving us every thing that our hearts desire--that promise was never made, without a disclaimer. God is concerned with providing all of our natural needs--food, water and clothing. We don't have to worry about our daily bread, He provides it. Clearly, if God wanted every child of His to have every earthly thing that they desired, then every child of God would be rich and every wicked man (conversely) would be poor. It doesn't require God or faith to get "things"--if it did, there wouldn't be any wealthy atheists or agnostics. As far as natural things go, He wants to meet our needs, and He expects us to be the vessels through which all of His children have their needs met, as well--and that must be done before we take care of meeting our desires. We are not to take care of "the least of these" with what we have left over after we lavish luxuries on ourselves, but before.

In God's Word, are many verses of scripture that relate to our blessings. One of my favorite's is Psalm 37:4. "Delight yourself also in the Lord, and He will give you the desires and secret petitions of your heart." At first glance, it might look like a ticket to Extravagance City. Look closer. Before He gives you the desires of your heart, you have something to do. You must delight yourself in Him; to delight yourself in the Lord, is to crave more of Him, and more of Him, so much as to be insatiable! When you arrive at that point, then He gives you what you want--MORE OF HIM!!! Not a bigger house, or a better car, larger diamonds or the latest apparel. Our problem lies in what we delight ourselves in. We have become distracted by the "things", and it is a very subtle trick of the enemy, because in and of themselves, there is nothing wrong with having those things. They are not wicked, they are to be enjoyed--but we have placed too much priority on them; they now come before people, sometimes before worship, often before fellowship and the adversary watches us and says, "gotcha!"

Remember, it's the little foxes that will destroy the vine. We see the big things coming, and are not likely to fall prey to them, but the craftiness of satan gets us at the point of our lust--of the eye. His job is not hard, either; because we use scripture to justify and satisfy our whims. There is one that is often referred to as a guarantee to health and prosperity for the saints, if they have enough faith! "THE ELDERLY elder [of the church addresses this letter] to the beloved (esteemed) Gaius, whom I truly love.
   Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in every way and [that your body] may keep well, even as [I know] your soul keeps well and prospers." (3 John 1:1,2 TAB) This is John's greeting to Gaius--not, in anyway a promise or a guarantee of anything. It is simply John (somewhat of a father-figure, in ministry) sending his wishes and hopes for a beloved son in the Gospel. It is no different than you or I saying (sincerely), "Be Blessed!" How can I be so sure? Let's look at some of the words from the KJV translated back to the Greek, to see what John meant. The KJV reads this way: "Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth." The word "wish" is the GRK word "euchomai": a desire (not a promise). above:comes from the GRK word "peri": which means about (not first and foremost). The word "prosper" comes from "euodousthai" and this word means essentially "have a good and safe journey throughout one's life". That sort of puts things in perspective.
God does not promise us earthly riches or wealth--or even a guarantee of health in this life. He did promise trials, if we chose to follow Him. He also promised to make the trials worth our while, in the great by and by! We are impatient though, and we want it now--and, then. However, if we are to follow the example of Jesus and the New Testament Church, we will have to make some drastic changes--for their focus was eternity, and heavenly reward. Jesus called the "barn-builder" of Luke 12, a fool, because he was so involved in acquiring earthly things, for himself that he became poor in the things that really mattered.

I want to serve God for the spiritual blessings--the glory, more of Him. I want His face and His countenance to be upon me, guiding me and directing me. I never want things to come before God--or my neighbors, near or far.

Lastly, whenever the Word of God declares that God will give us the "desires of our heart" understand that it is always "according to His will". And, His will is to deliver us home safely. His will is for us to love one another, and to prefer one another. His will is for us to be bound together with cords of love that cannot be broken--in unity. His will for us is that our focus be on the eternal, not the temporal.
You can get "good wine, fishes and loaves" anywhere, but His glory??!!! Don't settle!

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Serpents Under my Feet



This turned out to be a great week...the only thing missing was the opportunity to be in fellowship with God's people worshipping Him, today. I have to go it alone, today; but alone time with God is quite awesome, too. I love it when He answers my questions, or teaches me through the Word, when I'm still long enough to hear His direction.

One of the reasons my week was more special than usual, was that I had a chance to see what God will do when I really live by my motto (Exodus 14:14), rather than interfering in His business and trying to vindicate myself. I KNOW (in my mind) that God has my back, and has everything under control; however, holding fast to that knowledge in my innermost being is not always easy. It's those times when your character has been trampled underfoot (by those who should be defending your name [Psalm 41:9, 55:12,13]) without any just cause--because you know you have done nothing wrong, that self attempts to rise up and repair the damage. It's hard not to seek out the people that you know are listening to the lies and telling them your side of the story. But, if you want to see the power of God in the matter, you must "hold your peace" only then will you see that "God will fight for you". 

And, that's what happened this week. For months, I have been enduring the nasty, petty and often downright mean behavior of others, only to have them paint a picture (to others) of me
as the offender. I got a call late one night from someone who had listened to this version of me (as the offender). But, it just seemed " off" to her, knowing how I handle conflict. Thank God for consistency. She knew that I don't let things fester, and that I make every attempt to resolve conflict; so, that conversation didn't feel "right" to her, and she had been bothered by it all week. Only then did I explain why it had not been resolved, and she told me what I said clarified things, and she felt better knowing what was really true.

I am thankful that God used her to show me (one more time!) His power to vindicate me...without my help. Does it hurt that only one person has bothered to question whether or not they have actually heard the truth? Well, of course; I'm human. Still, today, I'm overflowing with joy because not only does God have my back, but He is gracious enough to prove it to me, every now and then. 

As hard as some people have tried to destroy my character, over the years, God always brings me out and vindicates me. It may not happen immediately, or even all at once, but I'm okay with the trying of my faith...it's working for my good. While a few work against me, God is working for me; and in holding my peace, I'm trampling some serpents under my feet. I awakened with the 91st Psalm on my mind... I guess that's why. I needed to see the importance of holding my peace, and what it accomplishes. It binds my enemies under my feet. That way they have no control, and are rendered helpless! All they have is talk...they can huff and puff but they cannot blow down this temple, not while God is fighting for me.





Who wouldn't serve a God like mine...He's simply AMAZING.

I'm thankful for "shut-mouth" grace...Lord, give me more.