Thursday, April 29, 2010

"Have You Seen A Burning Bush Lately?"

Can you recall one of those times where you see or hear something and it makes you have a deep sense of holiness? I'm not talking 'touchy/feely' stuff. I am talking about where you observed someone and it caught your attention that you are standing on 'holy ground'. It doesn't happen often but something about a person or a situation makes you pause and without anyone knowing it, you want to sort of 'take your shoes off because you're standing on holy ground.' Sometimes it might be that moment you hold the most innocent and sinless part of God in a baby or you see devotion from one human to another or maybe you see someone die with deep faith and conviction. As you return to you ordinary life, it just affects that you just can't 'unhear' or 'unsee.'
While in Nigeria, while being stopped at a road check by some military personnel, the tax collectors came up and were threatening us. As some 15 men surrounded our vehicle and tensions were running high and little Nigerian girl, probably 4-5 yrs. old came up to my window, reaching out and taking my hand. She wanted to hold it. For a brief moment, I lost complete touch with what was going on around us and all I sensed was holiness, not the ordinary. In the midst of the struggle it struck me that maybe this was the 'burning bush.'
I know to write things like this makes some people just think, "Well, that's interesting" while they dismiss it. I am not one to toy with peoples emotions with some moving story but I do want us to realize that many times God is trying to help, get our attention and we are too busy to recognize it. Sometimes you may have had a father or mother that lived a quiet humble life in the presence of God and they pass from this earth, it hits you that all this time in their presence, you were standing on 'holy ground.' No one else was there or saw but it struck you because of their deep sense of devotion to the Lord and they lived it before your eyes. There can be other events that catch our attention and affect us but sometimes it isn't until later we realize it.
Some of you who read this know exactly what I mean because you too have seen a 'burning bush' and it makes you want to take off your shoes!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

"Sacred Clothing?"

In Ex. 28:1-4 the Jew's were to make sacred garments for the High Priest Aaron. Doesn't that sound strange to us? Sacred garments? What were they made of that made them so sacred? Was it the material was holy? Did God beam down something from heaven to give them spiritual molecular structure? No, these garments were sacred because God claimed them and purposed them for His particular use when Aaron approached the holy Father.
We look in the religious world today and we see beautiful robes worn by religious figures, covered in rings and necklaces with their bright smiles and perfect hair. It makes us think the person is exalting himself while putting on display whatever it is they put on display.
But in the OT, Aaron was told to have sacred garments. Those garments as instructed by God were what God wanted in the High Priests ministry to the Almighty! The clothes spoke of his function! He was a representative of God on behalf of the people. They would be shocked (and it would be sin) if the High Priest entered the presence of God without these sacred clothes. Without these sacred clothes, he would be condemned.
I often hear people (especially preachers) saying clothing doesn't matter today. At one time clothing did matter but those days seem to be gone. Something wonderful was happening when the priest ministered! He was not permitted to minister without the special clothes. The clothes he wore spoke a message to his devotion to God. The clothes didn't make the man, they identified him! The clothes didn't create the moment, they marked the moment! The moment was calling that something wonderful was happening between God and His people.
Okay, but what does all this have to do with us? As I stated, many say clothes aren't important as we try to pull together verses from the NT to prove it. Wait, let's be honest here. Clothes do matter today! When there is a special occasion, we concern ourselves with our clothing. When we go to the store, we don't walk in our pajamas do we? I saw a Senator the other day at the capital wearing a suit, putting on his running shoes to walk. It looked out of place with his suit! We attend funerals of friends and loved ones but not wearing shorts with some outlandish shirt! Even golf courses have clothing codes! We dress for the occasion! Maybe we don't wear sacred clothing while ministering before God but perhaps we need to reconsider what we are showing in the presence of our Lord as the body approaches a holy and righteous God who bought us with the blood of His Son.
I am not trying to dictate our clothing but I am trying to get us to open our eyes to what we may be doing. Too many times the preachers are trying to be just "one of the boys" or "no different than anyone else." Maybe that's what is happening to us as people just see us as that and nothing more! The lack of dignity, honor and awareness have escaped many. Laid back and the lack of respect are what is hurting many in the church. And then we chime in, "why people in the community won't visit us if we are dressed to high heaven." We aren't talking of dressing to high heaven and I have yet to see very many of the community come in our dress-down assemblies either! We need to carefully consider what Paul instructed Titus that all men, young and old, need to be dignified. The word "dignified" means what commands and demands respect in behavior and attitude! Preachers need to be an example to the rest living lives of integrity and dignity. Because many preachers aren't taking their position before the Lord as serious, the brethren don't either. We aren't conducting ourselves in ways that would make people respect what is going on during an assembly. We have turned so much like to world, to think like the world, to look like the world and the message sounds like the world! Our casual approach to God seems to cheapen God and when you look closely at the people, you can see them follow suit to those who minister the word of God. The word is taken casually, preached casually and God has lost His respectful place. Maybe I am going overboard or I am missing something but it just isn't right to dishonor the ministry of the Word and if by our casual approach to it we cheapen it and if we avoid prayerful study of the Word, we ought to stay out of the pulpit!!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

"Let's Love"

I wished people would learn to love with the love of God, don't you? The love of God...not our human experiences of 'touchy/feely' but real, genuine love where we would sacrifice on behalf of another and not take things so petty when something isn't said the way we think it should be or someone treats us in a way we don't like.
First, we need to love the truth of God's word. That's the beginning downfall of many. Truth doesn't seem to matter. Throw a few Scriptures out there and wham...we have our doctrine! We talk of good people, and there are, we talk of kind people, and there are, we talk about believers in the Lord, and there are but all of those things cannot substitute for the love of the truth in order to be saved. Goodness, kindness and believing in the Lord are not the ingredients for the truth. Loving the Lord and loving the truth of His word with all our heart is what matters. Sometimes we have believed something wrongly and the word of the Lord approaches us and we recoil at it. Paul warned the Thessalonians that people will ultimately perish "because they did not receive the love of the truth so as to be saved." (II Thes. 2:10).
Secondly, we need to love one another by being dedicated to well being of each other. We need to love the church! I hear little talk of that. The church, those who received the love of the truth to be saved, we need to love. Peter said we need to "love the brotherhood." (I Pet. 2:17). There are rebels in the church, irritants (sometimes I am probably one of those) and people with varied lifestyles of what they like and dislike. But because of their love for the truth that brought them to salvation, we cannot let our petty physical likes and dislikes turn us from one another. A lover of the truth is loved by the Lord and the Lord is dedicated to their well being. We should love the same. When one gets off track in their thinking about the truth, love says help them come back and see it. If they don't, there is nothing to do but let them go through their struggles hoping the struggles will bring them back to their senses. Congregations are destroyed by opinions, food outreaches and things like that because people press their personal issues rather than love (Rom. 14).
We need to really learn to love, to be dedicated to one another's spiritual well being. There are too many wandering from the faith, which is leaving the church and it comes down to one simple thing: love! Let's love.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

"God At Work"

I buried my friend yesterday. It was rather amazing to me. I saw people hurting and there was a sadness but I just couldn't help marvel. I tried to encourage those in attendance to look at the big picture. That's what I saw. A man of humble means, never was a public figure and called no attention to himself. A man that humbly walked with his Lord and had no 'flash or dash' about him. He raised his two sons to love the Lord above all and his wife is the example of the worthy woman in Proverbs 31. At the visitation, they had more than 1000 people attend. That was astounding for a man of such a humble life. The funeral was standing room only. The procession to the grave site was said it was the largest procession they had ever had from such a 'common' man. It made me realize the impact of one family in this life living so quietly and faithfully.
But in all the above, that's not what drew my attention. I saw God working! With the tears and heavy hearts, God was calling but many could not hear Him. He was speaking about eternal things, calling us to prepare our lives knowing that all of us will end with this same fate unless the Lord comes first. I can't tell you the number of people, friends from years gone by came up to me and said how great it was to see me but not under these circumstances. I wonder, "Why not?" It was great having a reunion under these circumstances. My friend was safe and sound. He is in reality. It was God trying to speak to the rest of us living in the temporal. Stories were shared as people wiped tears from their eyes but God was speaking. I heard Jesus, "I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?" (John 11:25-26) That was the question that was being asked, "Do you believe this?" I couldn't get those words out of my mind! No one read these verses but they were clear in my mind. God was calling through Jesus!
I was encouraged by the day. I was so thankful for my dear friend and family. It made me realize how real things are, eternity is awaiting and one day in the near future, my time too will come where I will be escorted by my Lord into the eternal place prepared. Please, don't weep for me...God is at work!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

"Love Is Not Self Seeking"

Sometimes people just amaze me. You know, those people who like to give you that hug, smile and tell you that they love you. We see them often, maybe walking in a structure where we assemble to worship or go out and eat with such. They are such a delight and it thrills our hearts to see them.
But then something happens...someone says something wrong or does something that riles them a little and, well, they think about leaving the presence of all. Offended they do not want to return. We wonder what happened to the love and encouragement they always gave. Where is it? I know it stings to hear such, but their love is a self seeking love. As long as everything goes according to their desires, meets their expectations, all is well but when things grain against them there is pouting and discontent. It was James that opens our eyes to see the source of ALL quarrels and conflicts (Jam. 4:1-4). This inspired writer by the Holy Spirit said the source is our personal pleasures and desires! We are told no or offended by not getting our way and what do we do? Our actions speak words louder than we could ever say.
Jesus was NEVER a self seeker with selfish ambitions. He voluntarily laid down His life so we might live. He calls us into that holy union with Himself, asking us to love as He loved us. His love carried our burdens, our selfishness, our hurts and our lives while He denied His own. He gave up His rights so we could live! That love and devotion to our eternal well being is what He calls us to. If we are secure eternally, wouldn't you want others to make it? Did we not learn from the cross?
One thing about God's love, it never seeks its own desires (I Cor. 13:5). In fact, God speaks to us to tell us you can know you have eternal life. You can rest assured that you and the Lord are walking hand in hand. "We know that we have passed out of death into life because we love the brethren. He who does not love abides in death." (I John 1:14) If we don't start allowing the love of God to direct us, lead us forward when others might hurt us, who is God going to get to help people see Him in a greater way? God is not self seeking. Jesus is not self seeking. Where does that leave me and you?

Monday, April 19, 2010

"Saying Goodbye"

I lost a good friend this weekend. He was not just a good friend but a wonderful example of Christ. You could say when you look at him and watch him work and live life, he loved His Lord. It's no shame to weep when someone we love leaves us. It's not a weeping of hopelessness but because we will miss them. Jesus was no different. He came into our world, in our form and shared in our existence as weak and frail man. He won the victory over death while feeling for our hurts.
What we have that others do not is the conviction that suffering and death are not the last words or the final realities! Beyond the suffering, there is God our Father who shares His life in us but allows pain. In this pain, He does not allow it to win. This Father who loves us so will not allow death to be our lord! Should darkness descend on us, should lightening strike us, should death overtake us, should disease ravage us, we are safe and secure because the Lord God Almighty has made an eternal commitment to us. He controls it all and invested His Son in our lives to bring us safely home.
Those who depart to be with the Lord would tell us they would never want to return to us. A place where only righteousness dwells, no hint of sin, no sorrow, no decay...not one thing that can ruin us again. Why would they want to return? And why would we want them in this world? Believe me, the day is coming when we too will stand in that eternal place before our loving Father and wonderful Savior seeing the unseen, praising God and never giving it a thought of going back or whatever we encountered as anything. Yes, sometimes saying goodbye can be difficult. Shed your tears but remember your Lord. Rejoice in hope! Be strong toward the Lord. The loss isn't forever. In all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

"Greener Grass"

We have all heard the statement that the grass is greener on the other side. People get caught up in things that are new and think that changes will lead to better things. There are occasions that is true as a situation can be helped but most of the time it is only short lived and people find themselves right back where they were or maybe even a little worse.
People just aren't content. We live in a society of discontentment and uneasiness. People are haunted by a past or their lives have become a drag. Why do things look better somewhere else? Because we have never been there and we have been where we are! It looks better in the mind but there is one element that is never considered: we still have to live with ourselves. As long as we do not change, changing our circumstances will not help. Paul said he learned the secret of contentment (Phil. 4:12). It comes down to a proper relationship to the Lord. He wrote this while in prison. As long as one is estranged from the Lord, living in their sins, they will always be discontent. There will be this longing, this reaching and uneasiness because we have not dealt with our sins before God. That's the secret!
Changing our circumstances might look better and we might believe we will be better off but sooner or later in that change, your sinful self will follow and will find you out. Here's the better idea: deal with your sins before the Lord, serve Him with all your heart where you presently live and contentment will be yours in abundance. Once contentment hits our heart, we are free to live because our lives are lived for the Lord. The doors that open will be a blessing and the places we live will be full. Too many are fooling themselves into thinking they would be better off with greener grass. One thing they forget, you still have to mow!!!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

"Grandpa...It's Not Wurkin!"

A while back we were keeping our two year old granddaughter. She had a new baby sister named Brynn Madelyn. As we sat at our table one evening, I asked my granddaughter, "I can't remember you sisters name. Do you know it?" She responds, "Bwynn". I said, "Let's see, what's her middle name?" to which my granddaughter replied, "Madawyn." When we took her back home, I wanted her parents to hear she knew baby Brynn's name. I said, "Let's see, what's your baby sisters name?" She replied, "Bwynn." I said, "I forgot her middle name. Do you remember?" She looked around, her face had a puzzled look on it and then she looked at me with her big blue eyes and said, "'s not wurkin!"
Every day our lives are being pushed here and there and our minds get so busy and full of things that we get pulled in many directions. It becomes easy to fall in line with others and think as the world around us thinks. The secret to over-coming and moving forward is our minds and our mind set. Because of the mercies of God, we must present ourselves back to God as a living and holy sacrifice (Rom. 12:1). Without that presentation, we will not be concerned about sacrificing our lives but live like those around us. It is a matter of growing or dying spiritually. The next thing we are encouraged to do is be transformed, changed into something new and different. The Lord has no use for us with the way we were because that old self was tied to sin and death and we need transformation. How does that happen? By the renewing of your mind (Rom. 12:2). The renewing of you mind is what approves the will of God doing that which is good, acceptable and perfect in His sight.
How do we renew our minds? There is only one way: through and by the word of God. We need to learn to think like God and see things from His perspective. Too many times we view things as we naturally see them just like the world. That leads to a lot of decisions that are hurtful and little sacrifice on behalf of others. We need our minds renewed day by day (II Cor. 4:16).
If we ignore our presenting of ourselves back to God as living and holy sacrifices, we won't renew our minds. Without the renewing of our minds, well my granddaughter said it best..."Grandpa, it's not wurkin!"

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

"Useful or Useless?"

No one likes to entertain the thought that they might be useless. I was once told that everyone was worth something, even it was for a bad example! That's going a little to far but there is something we need to realize that we can be doing doing that destroys God's intentions, stops our spiritual growth and makes us useless.
We are reminded to avoid worldly and empty chatter (II Tim. 2:16-18). What is worldly and empty chatter? It is talk that lacks a connection with the true and living God. It actually tears God down by putting us in a place above Him. Empty chatter is discussions on useless subjects that take one away from the Lord. Here is a few examples:
Ron L. Hubbard wrote a book called "Dianetics". He wrote it as a book to rehabilitate the mind and ties it to spiritual things to give it more credence. His bottom line teaching: we are the power and that power resides in each one.
The "Religion of Scientology" is the study of knowledge and religious philosophy. The bottom line teaching: what is true for you is truth in you!
The DaVinci Code sets out to prove that the Bible is a cover-up to the real Jesus. The bottom was teaching: Jesus was not Divine in nature and married Mary Magdalene.
In Acts 17:21 we read: "Now all the Athenians and the strangers visiting there used to spend their time in nothing other than telling or hearing something new."
Hymenaeus and Philetus strayed from the truth and were teaching the resurrection had already taken place and they were upsetting people's faith (II Tim. 2:17-18).
Where does all the above lead us? Not upward into God. If we go after such things, would they make us useful or useless to God? Listen to what God's firm foundation speaks: "Nevertheless, the firm foundation of God stands having this seal, 'The Lord know those who are His', and 'Everyone who names the name of the Lord is to abstain from wickedness.'" (II Tim. 2:19)
God's firm (immovable) foundation that upholds everything and His seal (trademark or brand) is intact that the Lord knows who belongs to Him! Those who hold to His name abstain from wickedness. It shouldn't surprise us in the church that there will be those who will be dishonorable and not useful to the Lord (II Tim. 2:20). How can we be sure we are useful? "Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from these things, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified, useful to the Master, prepared for every good work." (II Tim. 2:21) To keep ourselves free from things that will corrupt us in attitudes and actions, we are a vessel of honor, sanctified (set apart from the common) and useful to the Lord and His cause. The end result will be prepared for every good work. In other words, being useful to God you will have the proper equipment needed in every situation as the Lord will provide. Those with a pure heart to serve the Lord, walking with a whole heart before Him always leads Him to usefulness.

Monday, April 12, 2010

"Ruining Ourselves Spiritually"

Israel, the northern 10 tribes called Ephraim because many of the kings came from that tribe, was a people of God going downward. Hosea went to them before their fall trying to stir their hearts to turn back to God. Of course, they did not heed. Here is what is sobering: the people who claimed God as their refuge and help were so taken in by the world around them, mixing themselves with the ideas of those around them that their strength was being devoured and it does not even know it (Hosea 7:6-16). What a shame that people can get themselves into such a state of being all the time thinking they are doing well spiritually!
I walked into a place to worship with the brethren. The first thing I saw was banners hanging around, boards and placards plastered over the walls. It made me pause for a moment, but I am determined not to allow all that to detour me from our purpose of assembling. It didn't take long and when the preacher began sharing whatever it was he had studied to help my faith, I thought I was in a comedy side-show. The focus was on us, the people and under the name of God in building up one another, they used this time just for that purpose. Different ones came up front to express their gratitude, their honors and the such and no one was bothered by it. The book of Hosea came to my mind.
When is it going to be that God enters our assemblies with us? If God were there, where would we focus and what would our attention be called toward? Sometimes when we assemble to worship with the saints, there are brethren who are hurting dealing with situations of health and family heartaches. But we are so focused on us, our accomplishments and calling attention to our "greatness" the Lord is pushed aside. It made me realize that just like in the days of Hosea, many times my brethren are being swallowed up by the surrounding world and spiritual strength is lost and soon, the people of God will stray too or the death of the people (congregation). I'm not trying to berate anyone but call our attention to what is happening many times in what we call our worship. It seems there are two great dilemmas: (1) We have those who care so much about crossing every "t" doctrinally that they lose sight of the whole. Let's compare our doctrine to everyone else and each sermon and message seems to be how right we are and how wrong everyone else is. (2) We have those who are so caught up in "us" that they could care less about the truth unless it is the kind that provides for our happiness and up-building only. "Look at our plaques and banners! It makes us feel great!" In either case, God is left out. One end puts a straitjacket on everyone while the other end doesn't want to hear anything that might make them take away their "good feeling" while blessing the people! Try to take either away, and people get very upset. Something other than Christ has taken them captive (Col. 2:8).
God is holy! God is righteous! God is love! You can't have one part of God without the whole. Maybe we are missing God? We are made holy first, by the blood of Christ. That holiness should lead us into holy behavior. We shouldn't be focusing on our accomplishments. The VERY best we did was sin against God and it was God that took the action to reconcile us back to Himself at the cost of His Son. The holiness of God brings us into the righteousness of God which shows us the love of God. "Do you not know that you are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If any man destroys the temple of God, God will destroy him, for the temple of God is holy, and that is what you are." (I Cor. 3:16-17) I wonder where the Spirit would lead His people?

Thursday, April 8, 2010


People go through many strains and stresses in life. Some have major obstacles that affect the way they think and function. If these are not taken to the right source, they can lead to emotional problems.
God created us with a varied of emotions. We have joy, sorrow, guilt, shame, embarrassment, anger, disappointment, relief, confidence, fear, peace, love and there are others. We are created in the image of God and were given emotions but we are created as spiritual beings (I Thes. 5:23). God did not give us emotions to rule our lives! Too many are living off their feelings. Too many are making decisions about their lives off their emotions. As time goes on, we grow more and more comfortable with our emotional makeup, even though it may be negative, and we seem to embrace it.
Just think for a moment: drug addicts are addicted to a feeling created by their chosen drug. People use different alcoholic drinks to create an emotional buzz. People that harbor their feelings of anger finally release it all emotionally at an out-burst at another and feel better. Children grow up in households where guilt is used to control them and they "feel" guilt is a normal state of mind. People that are compulsive act without thinking in order to achieve some immediate feeling of satisfaction to whatever has stirred them. It seems we are being imprisoned by our emotions because of habits! People live for feelings but have great difficulty in controlling them. How do we break the cycle?
We can't deny our emotions but we must learn to allow God to determine how we react rather that react how we feel. The Spirit of God, which is given to those only in Christ Jesus, has a major objective: to keep us from doing what pleases us (Gal. 5:17)! That's where emotions take us. We want what pleases us, what makes sense to us and God gets pushed aside. When you read carefully Gal. 5:19-21, in speaking of our flesh, 9 of the 15 things our flesh produces work off our emotions!! We need a greater help. The Spirit of God will lead us into the things of God to produce the fruit of God and one of the fruit produced is self control (Gal. 5:23). We need to learn how to yield and live for God. Following God will help bring your emotions under His control. You will still feel and sense but they will not be our master, determining our outlooks on life. We have God as our help. Jesus was emotional in the garden but He allowed the will of God to be His over-riding factor and His emotions came under control. This is the key to emotional balance!!
The Philippians were reminded when they became worried and anxious (those emotions are strong in us) to pray to God and let God know how you feel, making a request of him about the situation (Phil. 4:6-7). If we will give these emotions up to God, lay them at His feet, He will respond with His peace and will guard your mind and heart in Christ Jesus. It is a peace that is beyond any human comprehension. That's a promise we have from Him!
Whatever our emotional state of being, God can and will help but only under one condition: you surrender and allow Him to Master your life and not your emotions!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

"Put Up Your Sword"

Judas knew exactly where Jesus would be as he had often been there with Jesus (John 18:1-3). The mob approached carrying swords, clubs and torches. They also had a Roman cohort with them (600 men). Jesus asked whom they were seeking to which they responded, "Jesus the Nazarene." (John 18:5) The signal, the mob was waiting for the signal. Silently Judas approached Jesus and kissed Him. The kiss of betrayal was the signal (Mark 14:44).
The disciples had two swords, one which was on Peter. Peter had sworn his allegiance to Jesus telling Him that he would fight to the finish. The showdown had begun. As the mob leaders reached out to seize Jesus, suddenly Peter pulls his sword and cuts off the right ear of Malchus, the slave of the High Priest. Peter was well equipped to use a sword. But what happened next was most surprising. Peter demonstrated his willingness to stand and fight for His Lord but then came the words from the mouth of Jesus: "Put your sword back into its place; for all those who take up the sword shall perish by the sword." (Matt. 26:52) Jesus reaches out and heals the ear of Malchus and Peter puts his sword away.
Peter was willing to fight against such great odds but was he willing to accept the will of God? Jesus had told His disciples over and over that this was going to happen. The test of faith was being presented. Could Peter accept Jesus' arrest and ultimate humiliation? Could Peter watch the betrayal kiss by one of their own and do nothing? Could Peter trust Jesus instead of his sword? The test of faith was at its height.
What about us? Do we really trust Jesus? I hear many say they do but when the time comes to do battle, we are quick to "take up the sword." Sometimes we are hurt by the rash statements of others. What does the Lord say? "Put up your sword and forgive them!" We want to fight back when offended, we want to take a stand against an attack of words and we put up our walls with attitudes toward certain ones to make sure we aren't hurt again. Jesus speaks, "Put up your sword and forgive! Do them good in return!" Our emotions take us down a road that we believe justifiable to strike back. Jesus speaks, "Put up your sword and pray for them." There is real test of faith! We are asked if we harbor any ill feelings toward another, go to them and forgive them, be reconciled to you brother, forgive and forget, put on a heart of compassion and be tender-hearted. Sometimes people disagree with us and what do we do? We either trust Jesus or fight back with an attitude. Sometimes we are helping people stay in the fight because we stand there with them in their fight rather than encourage them to "put up their sword" and do what is right! Jesus says, "Put up your sword and go the extra mile." Are we willing to walk where Jesus walked and wants us to walk? That depends on if we have a genuine heart of faith!
Remeber our Lord's words to Peter: "...for all those who take up the sword shall perish by the sword." And many wonder why their lives are so miserable and messy!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

"Beware of Manipulators"

Paul was an example of purity and devotion to the Lord. He reminded the Thessalonians, "For our exhortation does not come from error or impurity or by way of deceit; but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not as pleasing men, but God who examines our hearts. For we never came with flattering speech, as you know, not with a pretext for greed." (I Thes. 2:3-5)
There are too many manipulators in the church! A manipulator uses the art of deceit and flattery to gain control or use of another. Manipulation is the subtle art of managing, controlling or influencing people to a desired end. It amazes me how many use guilt in order to manipulate someone to doing what they want. These type of manipulators make a person feel guilty over something when nothing sinful has been committed. We have heard them and preachers can be the world's worst manipulators. They shame people into getting things done. I was on a campaign once and the preacher told the brethren that the proof of their love and devotion is seen in their service to Him. The next day he expected all to be out door knocking if they really loved the Lord. What a horrible thing to say! Some people make others feel obligated to get what they want out of them. Listen, there is NO condemnation for those in Christ Jesus (Rom. 8:1). To use guilt to manipulate someone is evil to the core, especially when no sin has been committed! To the one holding to the Jesus, clinging to the cross with all their heart and trying, there is no condemnation!
Other means of manipulation are seen in intimidation, flattery, anger, tears, coldness, brashness, moodiness and dominance. These are some of the major tools used. Charismatic people are often praised for their ability to get people moving when they are doing nothing more than getting people to follow them, to do their will. They are great at manipulating emotions!
We must not be manipulators. Paul wasn't nor many of the others in the first century. Just listen to this: "But concerning Apollos our brother, I encouraged him greatly to come to you with the brethren; and it was not at all his desire to come now, but he will come when he has opportunity." (I Cor. 16:12) The apostle of Jesus Christ encouraged Apollos to go to Corinth. What did Apollos do? He didn't want to go and Paul let it go! No lord! No guilt! Just simply encouraged and knew it was up to Apollos. That's called true love.
We cannot prey upon the goodness or weakness of someones emotions. God condemns the manipulation of people! When will we learn that we need to allow people to respond or act out of their own convictions, what they want to do to please the Lord, choosing to do God's will on their own. The next time someone uses manipulation to get you to do something, ask yourself, "Is it sin?" and if you're not sure, ask, "Where's the verse?" Manipulators are not serving the Lord. They are self seeking and self serving. Beware of manipulators!!!

Monday, April 5, 2010

"Beware of the Forces of Darkness"

Many do not realize what is happening around us. It is not something visible one can see. It is spiritual and powerful. We are reminded that the struggles in our lives are not caused by other people. There are invisible forces of wickedness, world forces of darkness that the devil is behind and wants to destroy your life (Eph. 6:12). Too many are living like each day is what life is about going around with their jobs, pleasures and families. This invisible, spiritual world is as real as you reading these words. It would frighten us to know what was actually happening in this spiritual unseen world. That's why we need God and in tune with His will.
The devil is doing all he can to make people not take eternity seriously. That's why people are living like there is nothing to face, nowhere to go but simply exist from one day to another. We live in a temporary environment! This is not reality. Reality is eternity. That should be our focus and desires. The devil is doing everything he can to blind minds from this reality. We see it all the time. Forget God, question God, take no time to thank God, no seriousness about being saved from our sins, little desire to want to know more while our lives pile up with pleasures and enjoyments that are blinding us to what is going to happen. There is nothing wrong with enjoying your life and family. When those things take precedent over the Lord and His will, the blinding has begun! In fact, we find from God's spiritual world that we are warned that the god of this world, the devil, is blinding the minds and the true saving gospel is veiled from those who are perishing (II Cor. 4:3-4). The perishing have no concern for salvation from the Lord! If we need salvation, that should teach us something other than what we see and take our lives seriously as something is headed our direction.
I watch people, who once thrived for the Lord, thrilled they were saved and that relationship with the Lord led them into fellowship with one another, only to walk away, thinking nothing is going to happen or they have nothing to face. They hold to this hurt or disappointment, excuse their actions because of the disappointments and feel completely justified for living the way they live. There are those who help support those who think and live this way. The blinding, powerful forces of darkness has overtaken them and they can't see what they need much less what is coming.
Hold the Jesus! Hold to the life saving gospel of Jesus. Rejoice in your sins forgiven because of Jesus. Live as you are living for eternity because that will determine your directions and decisions in this life. Once in eternity, everything is set and there will be no more decisions made.