Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Gideon, the Human

"The angel of the Lord came and sat down under the oak in Ophrah that belonged to Joash the Abiezrite, where his son Gideon was threshing wheat in a winepress to keep it from the Midianites. When the angel of the Lord appeared to Gideon, he said, 'The Lord is with you, mighty warrior.'
'Pardon me, my lord,' Gideon replied, 'but if the Lord is with us, why has all this happened to us? Where are all his wonders that our ancestors told us about when they said, ‘Did not the Lord bring us up out of Egypt?’ But now the Lord has abandoned us and given us into the hand of Midian.”
The Lord turned to him and said, 'Go in the strength you have and save Israel out of Midian’s hand. Am I not sending you?'
'Pardon me, my lord,' Gideon replied, 'but how can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family.'
The Lord answered, 'I will be with you, and you will strike down all the Midianites, leaving none alive.'
Gideon replied, 'If now I have found favor in your eyes, give me a sign that it is really you talking to me. Please do not go away until I come back and bring my offering and set it before you.'
And the Lord said, 'I will wait until you return.'" [Judges 6:11-18, NIV]

     I love to read about Gideon.
     Every time I think about his life, it excites me--I see the awesome power of God--imbedded in Gideon's doubts and fears. A lot of times, we are under the (mistaken) impression that our fears and doubts hinder God's ability to work in our lives; but clearly we can see from Gideon's life as a  "mighty man of valor" (KJV) that isn't so. God doesn't need our ability, or our superhuman strength and faith to use us. He simply wants us to be willing. He does the rest. In fact, to think that God needs our faith is somewhat egotistical. God doesn't need anything from us. He wants us. We need Him. In fact, any faith that we "possess", came from Him, we don't muster it up or create it in our ourselves, but Paul writes in Romans 12 "For through the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith." [NASB]

     When I read this passage in Judges, I see the character of God at work, in spite of our doubts, fears, idiosyncrasies, faults and shortcomings. I see God's power to move, even in a mere human. Gideon was made of the same flesh, as you and I. It would be easy to forget that as we read the great exploits, but most of us (if we're honest) can identify with Gideon shaking in his sandals, hiding out in the winepress trying to thresh wheat.
Ancient Winepress
If you have taken the time to find out anything about the difference between a winepress and a threshing floor, then you will know that what Gideon was doing was no small task--but he was driven to it, because of his extreme fear of the oppressive Midianites.

Threshing floor

     The Midianites were a destructive bunch. They did damage for the sheer fun of it--they would take the food and crops of the Israelites, not to enjoy themselves, but simply to destroy and watch them suffer. While Gideon was about this very difficult work of trying to save some wheat for his family, God appears to him, in the form of an Angel. The first thing God does is speak to Gideon's identity. He calls this fear-filled, bitter man "mighty man of valor" or "mighty warrior" (NIV). You see, God does not see as man sees. He has the divine ability to see us in the framework of eternity. Our very finite minds cannot fathom what God sees-- although, thankfully, from time to time, we get a glimpse of glory!
     On this day, Gideon saw no glory, only the drudgery and constant oppression that he witnessed and lived daily. And, he voiced his resentment--so much for not questioning God. Gideon goes so far as to accuse God of abandoning Israel. We have all wondered where God was (even if we didn't have the guts to accuse Him, like Gideon!) in the midst of hard trials, when we felt as if we were alone. Just as God was with Gideon, preparing him for something great (in the winepress), He also prepares us for great things in the place of pressure, and adversity.

     Gideon's doubt doesn't shake God. His identity crisis, doesn't move Him; nor does Gideon's sarcasm, bitterness, accusation or even the need for a sign. God patiently and kindly bears Gideon and his issues, until he is ready for the task at hand. And even, when he steps into his assignment, at first, he takes some fear with him. Gideon's first exploit was under cover of night for fear of his own people. The idols had to go. They were the reason Israel was in this predicament; not because God had forgotten them. They had forgotten God. But, Gideon knew they (the Israelites) would kill anyone who interfered with their idol worship, so he gathered his men together at night and destroyed the altar of Baal, and cut down the Asherah pole. 

     It's not hard to move when you have total confidence. It's much more difficult to act when you have doubts and fears--but how God-honoring is it, when you act in spite of them? I'm reminded of Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah who said to King Nebuchadnezzar, "we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up." [Daniel 3:16-18, NIV]. I'm also thinking of Hadassah (Esther), saying, "And thus I will go in to the king, which is not according to the law; and if I perish, I perish." [Esther 4:16, NASB]. Then, I remember the disciples as Jesus giving them final instructions after He was resurrected: "they worshipped Him, but some doubted". Yet, just as with Gideon, Christ continues with the plan: "And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, 'All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 'Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.'"

     And, He is still with us, in spite of...so, go.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Why I Pray the Way I Do

I was just thinking about prayer and many might think I spend a minute time praying for myself and those around me...in comparison to what I spend most of my time praying for, that is probably accurate. I stand guilty as charged.

I personally feel as if I and those around me are so blessed that my prayers could be put to better use, elsewhere. I spend the majority of my time praying for people I don't know--have never seen, and probably never will, at least in this life. However, I look forward to hearing the stories of the miracles and help that God provided to them, when we all see Jesus, as a result of my prayers and the prayers of countless others. It excites me to know that one day I will get to hear how miraculously food was provided in a village that previously had none, and they heard the Word of God, and believed as a result of the miracle which gave them the faith to recognize that He, alone Is God. I look forward to the stories of Boko Haram, the Taliban, ISIS, and Al Qaeda falling into utter confusion because of the prayers of a few, and having their efforts against Christians thwarted.
 And, even more stories from Christians in underground churches in China, about secret police who came to Christ, or Indian Christians living in a hostile environment finding a reprieve from the constant oppression.
I can't wait.

I think these people need my prayers a lot more than the people I see on a daily basis, who have the ability to worship freely, and have food, clothing and shelter. I don't know of anyone in prison because of the Name of Jesus. In fact, most, if not all of us, have more than enough.

I do think it's important to pray for those in leadership--the Bible tells us to. We need them to make wise decisions, and to execute justice without partiality, so they need our prayers.

Sometimes, things we are praying for God to handle, we forget that are His Hands and Feet in the world. While we are praying for our brother or sister nearby to be blessed with enough to feed and clothe their family, when we have more than enough, we're failing to see that we are the answer to the prayer. God has already supplied the need, we have to be willing to get involved in His plan.

There are some emotional and spiritual struggles that all of us have in our lives that I pray for, but I have to admit, I don't spend much time focused on "us", even for that, because we don't have nearly as much to contend with as 2/3 of the world's population.
The oppressed of the world
win my attention and prayers, hands down--they have much bigger battles to fight, daily, and greater decisions to make. How many times have you had to choose between your child and Jesus???

"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls." [1 Peter 1:3-9, NIV]

Friday, January 16, 2015

Forgiveness: An Act of Love

There really is no true love without forgiveness. After all, the ultimate love was shown to all mankind in the forgiveness of sins, by death at Calvary. We see, very clearly, the role of the Forgiver as He grants forgiveness to sinners and those of us (all of us) in need of repentance. As we come to Him in repentance with hearts filled with contrition, seeking and asking for forgiveness, He freely grants it. It is His desire to give us the keys to the Kingdom.

Our human relationships resemble (or at least they should), the divine model. Not only the Forgiver, but the seeker. Our tendency is to focus all of the responsibility on the forgiver--the person who has been wronged. We place this great burden on one party to forgive, but not much is required of the person who committed the sin/fault. That is so opposite of Jesus' teaching.

In Luke 17, Jesus teaches on forgiveness: "And Yeshua said to his disciples, 'It is not possible that offenses shall not come, but woe to him by whose hand they shall come. It were better for him if the millstone of a donkey were hung on his neck and he were cast into the sea than that he would stumble one of these little ones. Guard your souls. If your brother should sin, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him. And if he sins against you seven times in a day and seven times in the day returns to you and says, 'I am sorry', forgive him.'

And The Apostles said to Our Lord, 'Increase our faith.' He said to them, 'If you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you may say to this sycamore tree, 'Be uprooted and be planted in the sea', and it would obey you.'"

In Matthew 5, Jesus teaches how we must approach Him when we have caused a breach in a relationship with a brother or sister. "Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift."  [Leave there thy gift before the altar,.... This might easily be done, and the business soon dispatched, at some seasons; particularly, at their public feasts, as the passover, pentecost, and feast of tabernacles, when all the Israelites were together:
and go thy way; make what haste thou canst,
first be reconciled to thy brother: use all means to reconcile him; acknowledge the offence; ask his pardon; assure him that thou wishest well to him, and not ill;
and then come and offer thy gift, by putting it on the altar, before which it was left. This shows, that acts of love and friendship are preferable to sacrifices; and that sacrifices offered up in wrath, and whilst unreconciled to others, are unacceptable to God, and of no avail: and so much the Jews themselves seem to acknowledge; when they say (e):
"that transgressions, which are between a man and God, the day of atonement expiates; the transgressions which are between a man and his neighbour, the day of atonement does not expiate, , "until he hath reconciled his neighbour."''
Which is enlarged upon, and explained by Maimonides (f), after this manner:
"the day of atonement does not expiate any transgressions, but those that are between a man and God, as when one eats anything that is forbidden, and lies with anything that is forbidden, or the like; but transgressions which are between a man and his neighbour, as he that hurts his neighbour, or curses his neighbour, or steals from him, and the like, are never forgiven, until he has given his neighbour what he owed him, and has "reconciled" him; yea, though he has returned to him the money he owed him, he ought to "reconcile" him, and desire him to forgive him; yea, even though "he has only provoked him by words", (which is the very case in the text before us,) , "he ought to reconcile him", and to meet him until he forgives him: if his neighbour will not forgive, he must bring with him three of his friends, and meet him, and entreat him; and if he will not be reconciled by them, he must bring them a second, and a third time.''
So that he was to use all means to obtain a reconciliation.
(e) Misn. Yoma, c. 8. sect. 9. (f) Hilchot Teshuba, c. 2. sect. 9. Vid. T. Bab. Yoma, fol. 87. 1. Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible]

Forgiveness has two very distinct sides. The debt of responsibility in forgiveness does not belong solely to the forgiver but to the one in need of forgiveness. When one needs forgiveness, it is of utmost importance to ask for it; it is an act of contrition, setting aside pride. It shows the person offended, that there is an awareness that harm was done. That simple acknowledgement and laying aside pride goes far in healing and repairing not only the relationship, but the hurt experienced by offended person. Sincere, heartfelt apologies seem to come hard to so many, today. Perhaps, because true repentance is lacking. That is perhaps why the disciples exclaimed at the end of Jesus' discourse in Luke 17, "Lord, Increase our faith." Our hearts must come to a place of repentance--changed from hearts of stone to fleshy hearts that will acknowledge our sins and faults against others, so that we are moved to change the behavior and ASK for forgiveness for the sin against them. It is sin to "sweep it under the [proverbial] rug". Moreover, it goes against the grain of love.

Love seeks healing and reconciliation, even at the expense of one's own pride.

"Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Love never fails." [1 Corinthians 13:4-8, NIV]

Sunday, November 9, 2014

NO MORE Business As Usual

"Trust in the Lord, and do good;
dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness.
Delight yourself in the Lord,
and he will give you the desires of your heart.
Commit your way to the Lord;
trust in him, and he will act.
He will bring forth your righteousness as the light,
and your justice as the noonday". [Psalm 37:3-6, ESV]

These past few weeks (even more than normal), I have really been in a place of desire for more of God and not willing to settle for what was before--not even the "former glory". Sometimes, it's easy to proverbially settle on our laurels as we think back over past spiritual exploits, and great moments of fasting, and awesome periods of a phenomenal prayer life--or those times when we witnessed God's Hand constantly at work, before us, personally. I can't be satisfied with what was, at this point; in fact, if what was, were to occur right at this moment, it still wouldn't be enough. I thought it would, as I found myself praying for God to restore me to that place, only to realize that place was a stepping stone to a higher place, in Him. The former glory is not the greater (or greatest) glory that He has for me. And, I want it all.

I want an Elijah moment--I just thought about it. I want God to put "Baal" on blast, today. I'm tired of Baal and his prophets. I'm wearied by the "troubling of Israel". Spiritual Israel is just as troubled by Baal, as when Ahab and Jezebelopened the door enabling Baal to trouble Israel, in 1 Kings. "The Phoenician baal of Ahab and Jezebel was a storm-god. The extrabiblical evidence indicates that the baal of Carmel and Baal Shamem were also storm gods." [M. Smith]. "Baal worshipers believed that their god made rain, which is a quite important detail in an agricultural community. Elijah apparently prays for a drought to prove that Yahweh, not Baal, is in charge of crop-enriching rains." [R. Deffinbaugh].

What was Elijah doing? Why a storm-god? First, the people were straddling between God and Baal. Much like today--God is great when we want Him (for things, or to change our situations); really we are more consumed with the things of the world ( our own form of Baalism)--the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life.
 The lust of the flesh is: "the lust of uncleanness, which includes all unchaste desires, thoughts, words, and actions, fornication, adultery, rape, incest, sodomy, and all unnatural lusts; and which make up a considerable part of the all that is in the world: or else intemperance in eating and drinking, gluttony and drunkenness, excess of wine, surfeitings, rioting, and revellings, and all the sensual pleasures of life, by which the carnal mind, and the lusts of it, are gratified; whereby the soul is destroyed, the body is dishonoured, and a wound, dishonour, and reproach brought on the character"
The lust of the eyes: "after unlawful objects, and may design unchaste and lascivious looks, eyes full of adultery, and whereby adultery is committed [see Matthew 5:28]; a sinful curiosity of seeing vain sights, and shows, with which the eye of man is never satisfied [see Ecclesiastes 1:8]; and finally, the sin of covetousness is here designed, the objects of which are visible things, as gold, silver, houses, lands, and possessions, with which riches the eyes of men are never satisfied, and which sin is drawn forth and cherished by the eyes; and indeed a covetous man has little more satisfaction than the beholding his substance with his eyes, and in which he takes much sinful pleasure [see Ecclesiastes 4:8]; and what a poor vain empty thing is this! therefore, love not the world, since this is a principal thing in it."
The pride of life: "ambition of honour, of chief places and high titles, as in the Scribes and Pharisees [see Matthew 23:6], or of grand living, for the word signifies not so much life as living; living in a sumptuous, gay, luxurious, and pompous manner, in rich diet, costly apparel, having fine seats, palaces, and stately buildings, and numerous attendance; all which is but vanity and vexation of spirit [see Ecclesiastes 2:1]. Gill's Exposition of the Bible.

There is a great and vicious storm brewing over us, today; it is a storm of our lusts and it has already overtaken many and threatens to consume many more, if we do not take heed, and mortify these sinful tendencies in ourselves. We have rationalized and justified our stormy lusts by twisting and misusing Scripture to suit our basest desires, in an effort to fill ourselves with the very things that God wants us to oppose and reject--"love not the world"; "Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions".

Elijah, in his day, called out the worshippers of baal, to meet him and let the real God prove Himself, by fire. Elijah gave baal every advantage and every opportunity. The so-called storm-god, had the advantage of going first, having a majority (450 prophets) to seek his "help", dry wood on a fresh altar, and many (don't be fooled by numbers--"Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.") who believed baal was the one who gave rain. In 1 Kings 17: 1, God sent Elijah to tell Ahab there would be NO rain until God said otherwise. This is really the beginning of the challenge. This is God showing that no one can control His creation, except Him. That struck at the very heart of Baalism, which was the theological center, at that time. And, when God said no rain, there was NO rain, and there was a severe famine as a result in Samaria. Now, the moment was right for the challenge to commence.

Everyone is now assembled at Carmel, and Baal's prophets start calling for Baal to answer--"even from morning to noon". No response. Elijah begins to mock them, saying, "he might be asleep, and needs to be awakened". The false prophets get louder, and start to maim themselves until their blood ran--but to no avail. Finally, after many hours, Elijah calls the people to repair the altar assembling the stones according to the tribes of Israel. Then, it gets weird--he has a trench built around the altar (sometimes, God specializes in things that don't make any sense to the natural/carnal mind--that's why it is an enemy to the Spirit). Then, he has water poured onto the burnt offering and the wood (we all know, wet wood does NOT burn, right???) There was so much water that it flowed all around the altar and filled the trench, after of course, it had drenched the wood and the burnt offering. Then, Elijah prays (rather simply): "O Lord, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, let it be known this day that you are God in Israel, and that I am your servant, and that I have done all these things at your word. Answer me, O Lord, answer me, that this people may know that you, O Lord, are God, and that you have turned their hearts back." And God--the REAL Rain-God, responded. BTW, He is the Fire-God, too. "Then the fire of the Lord fell and consumed the burnt offering and the wood and the stones and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench. And when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces and said, “The Lord, he is God; the Lord, he is God."

I want that all-consuming fire to fall from Heaven and consume every worldly lust, craving and desire--every vestige--not only from my life, but from the Body of Christ. I want to see us rid ourselves of lukewarmness and crave the "sincere milk of the Word" rather than the next program, or the celebrity of preachers, prophets, evangelists and psalmists and gospel artists. We have become chasers of status and things that will become dust--and corrupted by moths, instead of God-chasers and the eternal things of God--namely love. I desire to see the fire of God lick up the stoniness of selfishness and self-centeredness, until we become a people known for our devotion to God and others--no matter what walk of life they hale from. I want God's fire to erase the dust of complacency that is willing to settle for a few hours of going to "church" rather than continually being "the Church".

When we seek Him for that fire, sincerely and wholeheartedly, He will respond--remember, Elijah was no different from you or I. "Elijah was as human as we are, and yet when he prayed earnestly that no rain would fall, none fell for three and a half years!" [James 5:17, NLT]. Once, the fire falls and draws us to repentance, then--and only then will the rain fall. 

And, this whole world needs the rain. The spiritual rain that can heal the drought.    

Wednesday, July 16, 2014


"And let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near. For if we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins..." [Hebrews 10:24-26, NASB]

Some time ago, I wrote a post with the title RETHINK CHURCH. This morning as I lay wrestling, I felt that topic begin to resurface and believe in my heart that today, it needs a revisitation. I am sure this time will look very different from the first, because I see things that I didn't see then, and I know things that I didn't know before--and certainly, I feel things even more acutely then I once did. I know many might question why I would suggest that there is a need to "rethink" church. I believe that when church doesn't mirror the New Testament teachings in spirit and in embodiment, (as well as, the teachings of Christ) it is time to take stock.

I must admit that, at present, I find church as I know it--and see it (in my customary circles) pretty hard to digest. It leaves me not only unrefreshed, but often parched and starved. I go in search of worship, fellowship and genuineness, but often I find a pseudo-representation of Christianity. Today, in many of our assemblies, the concern is more structural, hierarchical, finance and business-focused, perfectionist/legalistic and driven toward the outward appearance rather than God-focused and people-centered (even as we tout those very things). I am soured by the many ministries that focus so much attention on the human leadership of the ministry rather than on God--be it in name, advertisement, literature or even within the edifice. It causes people to be focused on leadership, in an unhealthy way, and not dependent on the Holy Ghost to "teach them all things"; beside all that, it is a major distraction to some who are attempting to focus on God, while being bombarded with images of human leadership while attempting to worship.

It is past the point of a slippery slope--we have created a whole generation of church-goer's who are fans of their pastors, and church leaders, rather than totally consumed with God, and the things of Him. It is such a tricky thing, because we think that we are being obedient to Scripture by caring, providing for and honoring church leadership, but we have begun to put them on a pedestal that belongs only to One King.

A side-effect of our dyslexic spirituality, is our love for natural things. We read "love not the world..." and find a way to justify our love of all things worldly. We read "delight thyself in the Lord, and He will give thee the desires of thy heart", and assume if I give God some time and pay tithes and an offering, I can have all of the (earthly) things I want--(and completely dismiss the grammatical context altogether, by the way! [I will explain: If you delight in the Lord, when He rewards you, He will reward you with what you delighted in--not things, but in the Lord.]) We also read, "But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you." And, somehow from that we get that things = whatever my heart desires for myself and my family. The fact is, "things" refers to only three things (verse 31): food, water, and clothing/raiment; and they are all basic human needs, not merely human whims or wishes. God has not promised anything else. 

Perhaps, an even worse side-effect is our tendency to dismiss or forget others in need. We simply overlook so much globally, nationally, locally--and even worse right in our own assemblies. And, it is through human instrumentation that God supplies the needs of everyone. We are ALL dependent upon someone to help supply our basic human needs, in some way. This is why there is so much poverty and humger in our world--not because there isn't enough for everyone, but because there aren't enough "suppliers" who will care enough to give of the substance entrusted to them for that purpose. We shut up our "bowels of compassion" so tightly against others, until I'm amazed that we fail to recognize it. We step all over and around needs, even as we read, preach and shout all over 1 Corinthians 13, the Good Samaritan and the woman with the issue of blood. How do we miss the point? How is it that we read about the Macedonian saints (the power-GIVERS of the New Testament) and remain unmoved and unchallenged to do more for others? How can we read of Peter and John arriving at the temple with bare pockets (yes, the church leaders were broke!), but still full of compassion and unwilling to leave the lame man in his needy state, and be so callous with need in our midst? They couldn't give him what he asked for, but they gave him what they had--and changed his life. 

How many times can we make a difference--even in small things, and we neglect to do so? That small thing, that kindness, may be huge in the life of the recipient. I can't understand why we are so hard-pressed to extend ourselves for others--especially those who "are of the household of faith", and besides you never know when you might be "entertaining angels unawares". Sometimes, I wonder if we really believe the Bibles we carry. I do notice how expertly the saints avoid healthy debate and confrontation on the tough issues.  We label people as rebellious or "off" without even so much as a conversation. We're really good at it--we've perfected it, after so many years. It's the stuff we all see and know about, but only discuss behind closed doors. Rethinking church....

The truth is, it has all led to a real disillusionment for me--not at all with God, but with church--not the Church, but church; and there is a difference. 
I crave Church. I desperately NEED Church--it is imperative for my spiritual health and well-being.
My soul is thirsty in a dry and barren land.

Even so, come Lord Jesus....


Monday, July 7, 2014

Praying for You...Be Blessed!

How many times have you uttered those words to someone who needed your help, or needed your time or just a listening ear... "I'll be praying for you; now, be blessed!" How many times, when you said those words did you have the ability to give or do what was needed, but instead, offered those words choosing rather to "shut up bowels of compassion". It is a choice. I understand that it is often much easier, since it can be an inconvenience to help, to give and to extend yourself when in fact, you may be tired, overextended already or simply not in the mood. After all, even Jesus got tired, right?

Often, I want to say, "No", because I'm overwhelmed or swamped with my own issues and circumstances, but I always seem to hear these words in my ear: "Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others." Then, I remember exactly WWJD; because He did it. He put aside His glory, and took on the form of sinful flesh for such "a worm as I"--and you, too. In His life and earthly ministry too, though (as well as in death for our redemption), He proved His care for all--giving, healing and touching those who were dismissed by others. He met the needs of the sick--even the leprous and the woman with the issue of blood (at risk to Himself, as far as the Law was concerned), the demon-possessed, even the dead (definitely untouchable legally-speaking). While the priesthood was excelling in avoidance, Jesus was immersing Himself in the needs and issues of the "common" people.

One day, they brought a man to Jesus who was paralyzed, and it might seem like Jesus was giving that typical pat response--sort of like we do. Instead of meeting his need for healing, right away, Jesus says, "Be of good cheer; your sins are forgiven!" We might be tempted to use that as an excuse for our standard response to need (when we don't want to or feel we can't for whatever reason--valid or otherwise), but there is a major difference, actually two. The first one is, Jesus actually had the power to forgive his sins--all of them. He wasn't simply speaking and declaring, and not backing it up with the power to do it--He forgave his sin. Secondly, just to make sure there was no doubt that He was taking the proverbial bull by the horns (and not ducking the challenge or responsibility for this man in need), He healed his paralysis, too.  Everything in order.

It is easy to say, "I'm praying for you and be blessed, but it is so much more to stand in the gap and be a blessing and prove that there is some action/works to accompany your prayers/faith. James put it this way: "Dear friends, do you think you’ll get anywhere in this if you learn all the right words but never do anything? Does merely talking about faith indicate that a person really has it? For instance, you come upon an old friend dressed in rags and half-starved and say, “Good morning, friend! Be clothed in Christ! Be filled with the Holy Spirit!” and walk off without providing so much as a coat or a cup of soup—where does that get you? Isn’t it obvious that God-talk without God-acts is outrageous nonsense?
I can already hear one of you agreeing by saying, “Sounds good. You take care of the faith department, I’ll handle the works department.”
Not so fast. You can no more show me your works apart from your faith than I can show you my faith apart from my works. Faith and works, works and faith, fit together hand in glove.
Do I hear you professing to believe in the one and only God, but then observe you complacently sitting back as if you had done something wonderful? That’s just great. Demons do that, but what good does it do them? Use your heads! Do you suppose for a minute that you can cut faith and works in two and not end up with a corpse on your hands?" [James 2:14-20, The Message]



Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Apples & Oranges

Sometimes, we really miss the point.

To speak of God's people being reconciled back into full fellowship, as they were at Creation without a discussion of the effects of the Fall really is to the detriment of us all. It leads to fallacious teaching--and heresy. It is easy to fall into a New Age gospel of prosperity when we dismiss the effects of the sin on ALL of mankind, and fail to distinguish between natural and spiritual.

Many times, we hear it preached and taught that when we are saved, we have all of the benefits of man that were granted to the first man (and woman) at Creation. That is only partially true--what we have been reconciled to--in this life, is the spiritual restoration, and the spiritual blessings; no longer separated from God. It does not mean we are always going to be from sickness, pain, lack, sorrow or death. If that were so, God's people would no longer be subject to natural death, once saved, and I think we can all establish that as ludicrous. In fact, God made sure we would die, so that man would not live forever in an unregenerated state; and mercifully removed him from the presence of the tree of life in the midst of the garden.

I read this statement recently, "If you are talking about material things when you say, 'I'm blessed!' then you have no idea what being blessed really is." There is so much truth to that message. Jesus did not die to make us naturally rich, or naturally anything, but to reconcile us back to God and to give us spiritual fellowship with God, because we had been alienated from Him since sin first occurred.
The Law couldn't redeem us, only the Blood of Jesus could bridge the gap between the heart of God and man and open the way, giving us access to the Father. Having Christ means we are guaranteed fellowship with God and every spiritual blessing that relationship affords. It is completely separate from natural things. The natural things we desire, God is not obligated to supply--and they are not His focus, either. God is after the heart of man. He isn't interested in buying your love and devotion with things--He wants us to fall in love with Him, for Him.

Psalm 37:4 says, "Delight thyself also in the Lord: and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart." God wants us to delight in Him; as we delight in Him, He gives us the object of our delight--Himself. The more we delight in Him, the more of Him, we receive. If we are delighting in anything other than God, we have become idolatrous, and we grieve God. 1 John 2:15-17 says this: "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."

It really is apples and oranges. It isn't wrong to have riches, but relying on God to obtain them, and praying for them is to pray amiss. (James 4:3). As we are given much, more is required of us. Give and it shall be given back to you--so you can give even more. Don't miss the message of the Word of God; and don't mix apples with oranges--keep spiritual things with spiritual, and natural with natural. 

When we fail to keep these (natural and spiritual) separate and acknowledge that the fall of mankind affects every man--the just and the unjust, it makes us harsh unyielding and judgmental. Then, we cannot recognize how people can possibly be born with tendencies against God's original plan for mankind, and understand that sinners sin, because it is their nature to do so. We look at those without the Body of Christ with disgust instead of compassion and mercy. Everything was marred by sin, and until Jesus appears, not one of us will be perfect, without showing some effect of sin in our natural selves--be it the wearing of glasses, a cold, cancer, an ingrown toenail, headache, hiccups, bills, fires, floods, tornadoes, getting tired, being broke, etc. Sin did all of that. Thankfully, none of it means we aren't redeemed!

Apples and oranges.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Just Say, "NO!"

Today's youth (of course, there are some [albeit rare] exceptions) are on my mind. Parents, please cut it out--you're raising a whole generation of self-absorbed, selfish, and entitled people who are convinced that the world revolves around them, their wishes, and their comfort.

The other day I went to a restaurant, and help was conspicuously absent. The owner said, he couldn't get good young people to work, because they want to be rewarded simply for showing up! They don't think that actual working is a part of having a job. Job descriptions mean nothing--they have to be coaxed and prodded to do everything, over and over and over.... And, then after three weeks, "I want a raise". When asked what they did to deserve a raise (IN THREE WEEKS!)--"I come to work, everyday." I want to LOL, but really, it's a bit disturbing, since in a decade or so, they will be running the country.

Kids need structure, guidelines and rules. They don't need to be rewarded for everything--and certainly, they don't need to be rewarded for simply doing what they are supposed to do; for example getting the best grades they're capable of earning, or doing their part to help out, at home. Parents need to stop covering for them when they mess up--they need to understand that there are consequences for bad behavior. Teach it early--if they lose at softball, they don't need a trophy, but encouragement that they will have another chance, if they give it their all and do better in the next game.

They don't realize (again, I'm generalizing) that consequences for unfavorable behavior are a lifelong reality, because they never experience any (consequences) in the home. When they misbehave, take that X-Box and have them earn it back; or say no when they want something, after they failed to clean up. They get whatever they desire whether they follow rules, do chores, and EARN good grades, or not. They get EVERYTHING for doing NOTHING. I often wonder, "What will these kids do, when Mom and Dad aren't around to fix everything for them?"

Disaster is brewing, not only for these young people, but for everyone they come in contact with. Strongly encourage them to get the chip off their shoulders, and think outside of self, to the needs and desires of others. I feel genuinely sorry for the few kids who have been raised by parents with good values, a work ethic and an ability to see that that sun doesn't rise and set, just for them. They will have quite a burden.

Consequences work. Consequences are a reality, in life. Adults have to deal with serious consequences when they err. Give kids a clue about repercussions for bad behavior, so they don't resort to ridiculous measures to cover their mistakes--they will know how to "man up" and take responsibility. It's a valuable lesson that will carry them far, in life.

If you have kids, PARENT them and stop worrying about being the "bad guy". They're very resilient, and they will recover from hearing the occasional "NO!"

Thursday, April 10, 2014


GOD always cared for those who had less.

The Law, as well as grace, made provision for the less fortunate and those who didn't have the ability to earn income. In the Old Testament, God's commands to His people were: "And you shall not glean your vineyard bare, neither shall you gather its fallen grapes; you shall leave them for the poor and the stranger. I am the Lord your God." [Leviticus 19:10, AMP] (Similarly, "When you gather the grapes of your vineyard, you shall not glean it afterward; it shall be for the stranger and the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow." [Deuteronomy 24:21, AMP]).  Elohim, lived up to His title of Jehovah-Jireh, not only by providing water, manna and quail, but by instilling in Israel the mind to care for those who had less than they did--whether Israelite or stranger. God was so concerned that no one slip through the cracks that He gave the command regarding gleaning, just to ensure that their was provision, even beyond the tithe.

The tithe was established in Israel to care for certain classes of people: "When thou hast made an end of tithing all the tithes of thine increase the third year, which is the year of tithing, and hast given it unto the Levite, the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow, that they may eat within thy gates, and be filled;
Then thou shalt say before the Lord thy God, I have brought away the hallowed things out of mine house, and also have given them unto the Levite, and unto the stranger, to the fatherless, and to the widow, according to all thy commandments which thou hast commanded me: I have not transgressed thy commandments, neither have I forgotten them." [Deuteronomy 26:12,13]. In addition, God says: "If there be among you a poor man of one of thy brethren within any of thy gates in thy land which the Lord thy God giveth thee, thou shalt not harden thine heart, nor shut thine hand from thy poor brother:
But thou shalt open thine hand wide unto him, and shalt surely lend him sufficient for his need, in that which he wanteth.
Beware that there be not a thought in thy wicked heart, saying, The seventh year, the year of release, is at hand; and thine eye be evil against thy poor brother, and thou givest him nought; and he cry unto the Lord against thee, and it be sin unto thee.
Thou shalt surely give him, and thine heart shall not be grieved when thou givest unto him: because that for this thing the Lord thy God shall bless thee in all thy works, and in all that thou puttest thine hand unto." [Deuteronomy 15:7-10]. The real blessing is in giving--not simply to one chosen class of people, but to everyone who has need.

Who is the stranger, if not the immigrant who comes to our country seeking asylum from war, poverty, and famine? Who is the widow, if not the elderly and disabled who struggle to live daily, dependent upon the mercy of our government system, especially since the church has not done its part--in gleaning or the tithe? And the same goes for the fatherless; who are they, if not the millions of children and their single moms who wonder everyday how they will make it through the week?

Jesus, came and added grace to these God-given principles, not by saying give less--or don't give ten percent (particularly since, Jesus lived under the Law, and grace had not yet been realized). He added grace in saying: "Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again." [Luke 6:38] (Jesus said this right after the Pharisees came accusing the disciples of "gleaning" in the fields, on the Sabbath). Jesus also said, "When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory:
And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats:
And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left.
Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:
For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in:
Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.
Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink?
When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee?
Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?
And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.
Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels:
For I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink:
I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not.
Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee?
Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me.
And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal." [Matthew 25:31-46]. How we give (or not) will determine where we spend eternity. 

How much should we give? "Then Jesus beholding him loved him, and said unto him, One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me."

And, the apostles understood what Jesus meant--and what He taught them from the Law. And, this is how they lived it: "And when they had prayed, the place was shaken where they were assembled together; and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they spake the word of God with boldness.
And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul: neither said any of them that ought of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things common.
And with great power gave the apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus: and great grace was upon them all.
Neither was there any among them that lacked: for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the prices of the things that were sold,
And laid them down at the apostles' feet: and distribution was made unto every man according as he had need.

They made provision for everyone--those who served in ministry, and those they served, as well as any who came among them with a need--not a wish, a whim, a fancy or a desire, but a need. 

It was no longer about the tenth, but the ALL.

We must remove the roadblocks and things within our hearts that keep us from giving lavishly, as much as we are able to give--according as "he purposeth in his heart", since that is the storehouse of our treasure. Giving must be a heart thing, not by coercion, or even command; just purity of heart. To have a heart like God is to provide for the well-being and welfare of others...just like God.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

GOD-Exaltation vs. SELF-Exaltation

 They assembled themselves together against Moses and against Aaron and said to them, “You have gone too far! For all in the congregation are holy, every one of them, and the LORD is among them. Why then do you exalt yourselves above the assembly of the LORD?”
When Moses heard it, he fell on his face, and he said to Korah and all his company, “In the morning the LORD will show who is his, and who is holy, and will bring him near to him. The one whom he chooses he will bring near to him. [Numbers 16:3-5, ESV]

You know the end of that story, don't you...not pretty...at least for Korah and the rest of his rebellion, and unfortunately, their families, too. We often bring down those we love, in our foolish pride and self-seeking. If you ever watch the news, you know exactly what I mean. As foolish men are carted off to prison for presumptuously taking what was not their own (thinking they would get away with it--you know, all the Bernie Madoff's out there) dragging families and friends through the muck and mire behind them. It isn't a new phenomenon.

There is a HUGE difference between GOD-exaltation and SELF-exaltation.

When God exalts, you can be humble, and He will lift you up--you never need to put yourself on display in any way, shape or form for people to see or recognize you. He will increase you, as you decrease, and mortify the flesh. Remember what Paul wrote to the Philippian church--it's a paradox. If we exalt or promote ourselves, we will be rejected or abased by God, because we have our reward of men; but, if we instead, humble ourselves, and "have the mind of Christ" He will exalt us, in due time. "Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." [Philippians 2:5-11]