17 December, 2014

Is It the Cup or the Coffee?

Probably all coffee drinkers have a favorite coffee cup or mug. It's just something that happens within us, that we like or prefer that coffee cup. But you know what? If my coffee cup is dirty, it does not prevent me from drinking coffee. I have a variety of them for a reason. I may prefer my Looney Tunes cup, but I can use cup with my kids pictures on it or my Spider Man cup, or one of two dozen sitting in my cupboard. If I go to someone else's house or if I go to Starbucks or Innkeeper's I don't refuse their coffee because they use different cups. I still like my coffee. People do like different styles and designs of cups for many reasons. For example, I prefer cups that are taller and more narrow. The reason is because the more surface area of the coffee due to a wider cup, the quicker the coffee cools off. I also like a thicker cup, rather than a thin dainty cup. That dainty little cup that some prefer may look pretty, but I don't like them because 1) my fingers will not fit in the tiny handles, and 2) the then walls allow the coffee to cool quicker. But some prefer their coffee in those cups. We are all different.  The reality is that the cup, while necessary, is really not all that is important. It's the coffee that I like to drink. It's the coffee that warms me and satisfies me. The cup is just a vessel that is used to deliver the coffee from the pot that brewed it to me.

So, what am I getting at? Preachers are like coffee cups. They are necessary. The Bible says, "How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher?" My point is that God does indeed use the preacher, but just like the cup, the preacher is only a vessel to deliver what God has for us. There are different styles and designs and even methods of delivery, but we must never lose sight that the preacher is nothing more than the vessel... the messenger that God uses. What is important is the message... not the messenger. Some people really have a huge problem in this regard. They will only come to church when a certain preacher is going to be there. They seem to give more credence to the coffee cup than they do the coffee. Maybe it's because they have a pet doctrine, or maybe it's because they like a word of prophecy... but the fact of the matter is that they have put their trust in the coffee cup rather than the coffee. 
Just saying.  

12 December, 2014

The Choice Is Yours

I love the freedom of choice, don’t you? I'm the type of guy who does not like it when I am not given choices. I like being able to choose what I want to eat, do, wear or drive. When I'm pushed into situations or circumstances, while I can conform, there is a part of me that is very unsettled and unhappy. Some people take choice for granted. It is true that some choices are so insignificant that many people really don't give it that much thought. The choice of what clothes you will wear today, what you will eat for breakfast and such don't really require all that much thought and we don't really really stop to consider this is the freedom of choice. Having spent time incarcerated, I know what it is like to only be able to wear what someone else says you can wear or eat whatever they give you. Believe me, it gets old real quick.

On the other hand there are other choices that we make that have a major effect our entire life, i.e.; choosing a spouse, choosing a career, choosing a school for our education and so on. Even greater is the choices we make that will effect us for all eternity. These are things like how we respond to God’s will and Word, the choice whether we will yield our lives over to the will of God and whether we will walk in obedience to his Word. This is one of the most important decisions any of us will ever make it, yet it is also one of the most controversial subjects we will ever encounter in talking with people who are not Born Again. Yes, controversial. What I mean by that is that so many people will get angry with those of us who are Born Again. They will accuse us of being judgmental, hypocritical or filled with hate. But it really need not be any of those things, even though there are those withing the Body of Christ do in fact become all of them. 

Just this week I was talking with a someone who has been a friend of mine for more than 35 years. This person was upset because a Christian person had been rather rude and "in your face" in telling her that she was going to Hell. So she asked me if I agreed with that. I asked her if she believed that Jesus was the Son of God and had asked Jesus to forgive her of her sins. She told me that she did not need religion and she rejected my concept of God. So, I told her that while I was not God, based on what she was saying, that if she died without accepting Christ, then she would in fact go to Hell. She became very angry with me and started calling me judgmental. I stopped her dead in her tracks and I told her that I did not want her to go to Hell, but the bottom line is, that she was making her own choice. I explained that God had sent His son to die for our sin and had given us His Word and the Holy Spirit to offer eternity in Heaven to anyone who would accept His offer, but that He gave each one of us the freedom to choose. I showed her a very simple, yet powerful picture to help her understand this choice. In Revelation 3:20 Jesus says, "Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will go in and eat with him and he with me."  I explained it to her this way. Jesus asks to "come in" but He does not open the door. He gives us the choice to let him or to turn him away.  I said that He loves each of us the same and He give everyone the same choice. So the fact is, God sends no one to Hell, rather people choose to go there. 

You might ask, “Why would anyone turn a deaf ear to God’s invitation?” Well, some reject God’s invitation, not so much by conscious choice, but by default. Because they "choose not to believe" as my friend stated that she did, they then, by default choose to reject God and accept Hell. Just as bad, they miss out on the privilege of being a friend of God and living under His blessing in this life! Then there are also those who once opened the door to Jesus and asked Him into their heart, yet they have crowded him out of their lives by inviting too many other guests inside who have taken up residence in their heart and as a result, there is no longer room for Jesus in their lives.

So I have a message for anyone will hear or read...
For the one who has never opened up the door to their lives to Jesus, my question is-
"Will you let him come into your life and serve him?"

The bottom line is really this simple... "The choice is yours." The ball is in your court. What will you do with this choice?  Let me be clear that I will love you no matter what choice you make. I will love you no matter how you choose to live your life. I don't have to agree with your choices to love you. Your choices may break my heart or even disappoint me, but I will still love you. Not agreeing with your choices does not equate to hate. Those who throw out that "hate" accusation are basically consumed with guilt and shame and are looking for me (and others) to validate their choice, which is not going to happen. That's your choice as well, but you will not be successful in transferring that hate onto me. That's your's to carry. It's your choice.  

08 December, 2014

No One Believes Seniors

No one believes seniors . . . Everyone thinks they are senile.

An elderly couple was celebrating their sixtieth anniversary. The couple had married as childhood sweethearts and had moved back to their old neighborhood after they retired. Holding hands, they walked back to their old school. It was not locked, so they entered, and found the old desk they'd shared, where Jerry had carved I love you, Sally.

On their way back home, a bag of money fell out of an armored car, practically landing at their feet. Sally quickly picked it up and, not sure what to do with it, they took it home. There, she counted the money - fifty thousand dollars! Jerry said, We've got to give it back. Sally said, Finders keepers. She put the money back in the bag and hid it in their attic.

The next day, two police officers were canvassing the neighborhood looking for the money, and knocked on their door. Pardon me, did either of you find a bag that fell out of an armored car yesterday? 
Sally said, No. 
Jerry said, She’s lying. She hid it up in the attic. 
Sally said, Don't believe him, he’s getting senile.  
The agents turned to Jerry and began to question him.   
One said: Tell us the story from the beginning.  
Jerry said, Well, when Sally and I were walking home from school yesterday ...... 

The first police officer turned to his partner and said, Were outta here!

05 December, 2014

A Close Look At the Facts

Oh well, one of my friends is once again calling me a racist. I find it odd that every time I don't agree with him, I'm a racist. Maybe one day he will understand the underlying racist tendencies in his own heart... but I'm not going to hold my breath. We were discussing the whole Ferguson thing and the New York choke case (which in my opinion do not even belong in the same conversation) and he simply will not listen to the facts. Rather, he does not care about the facts. We've debated and argued this to the point that I really don't even want to talk with him about it anymore, because even when presented with the facts of testimony of witnesses before the Grand Jury, he is convinced that a white cop murdered an innocent black "boy" (as he always calls him).  So, today I presented a different side of this argument to him, totally ignoring either of these stories in the news, rather using actual statistics from the past year. When I gave him these numbers, he became really agitated and loud. The numbers just don't lie. 

Here are the numbers and facts I presented to my friend:
- The number of blacks killed by police gunfire in 2013 was 123. 
- The number of whites killed by police gunfire in 2013 was 326. 
- There are 43 million-plus black Americans — 123 were killed by police gunfire. 

This does not sound like an "epidemic" to me.  I certainly don't mean to minimize a single death, but the fact is that there are nearly three times as many whites killed by police each year as there are blacks killed. He argued that those numbers are such because there are more whites in America than there are blacks. I'll agree with him here, but let's take this a step further. 

- Whites comprise 63% of the US population
- Blacks comprise 13%
Take careful note of these numbers. 
- In 2013 blacks committed 5375 murders in the USA 
- Whites committed 4396 murders last year. 

Folks, that is one telling statistic, but let's add another statistic to mix:
- 93% of all black murders are committed by other blacks. 

Anyone see a problem here?

The mantra being screamed across this Nation today is "Black lives matter."  
I agree, they do. 
But it's high time they start looking at their own community and saying the same thing, because that's where the killing fields are.

Blacks MUST take ownership of this problem if they are ever going to change things. Again, every life matters, but when you are protesting, rioting and looting over your PERCEIVED notion that cops are "hunting black men" while the fact is that 93% of blacks murdered are murdered by other blacks in their own communities, you are delusional. Turn your focus own your own communities and lets begin to get real about where the problem lies. Only you can fix this.

01 December, 2014

How Does A Guy Win for Losing?

You know, you just can't win for losing sometimes. Yesterday while I was preaching, the Holy Spirit just kept pulling me away from my message to talk about having a spirit of offense and how it will be like a cancer and divide and destroy a church. It seemed like every time I tried to move away from that, I was compelled to go back. I did what I felt the Holy Spirit was leading me to do, even though it had nothing to do with the message I had come to preach. Immediately following service I had someone pull me aside and tell me thank you for allowing the Holy Spirit to move because that was for them and they received what I had to say. Later in the day I got a message from someone who was VERY upset with me because they felt like I was targeting them with what I had to say and that they took it personal. I told them I was NOT speaking about anyone and was only doing what the Holy Spirit prompted me to do and say. This person basically blew me off and said that they knew it was about them whether I admitted it or not. Then, just a little while ago I received a phone call from someone else who told me that I had really upset another person in the church (not the one mentioned above) because they felt like I had attacked them from the pulpit. Right now I'm sitting here asking God, "What?" All I did was follow the prompting of the Holy Spirit. One person took ownership of what I said and thanked me while two others are angry at me. I'm just sitting here scratching my head and saying, "how do I win?" This is why most preachers will tell you that they hate Mondays. 

Freedom of Speech? Get Your Facts Straight!

I'm really tired of people who are ignorant of facts trying to use those "facts" as an excuse for their behavior. The latest example to illustrate my point is the behavior of 5 members of the Saint Louis Rams at yesterday's game in Saint Louis.  As seen in the picture here, Stedman Bailey, Tavon Austin, Jared Cook, Chris Givens and Kenny Britt came out of the tunnel with their hands raised in the "hands up, don't shoot" pose that has been used by the Ferguson protesters for months now. This was just totally inappropriate for NFL players to do this representing their team and the NFL. People have been on Facebook and the media saying that they have the right to free speech. Oh really? Do they? Not when they are under contract and representing their team and the NFL they don't. This is a clear example of people not understanding what the first amendment is all about. That part about "free speech" means that we, as Americans have the right to speak our minds without fear of the government throwing us in prison for speaking against them. (Although we are seeing this violated currently.) It does mean we have the right to express ourselves. BUT, it in no way gives us permission to say anything we want, anywhere we want without repercussions. For example, I can sit in my home and say, "I have a gun." I would not recommend saying that at a political rally where the President is speaking unless you want to be thrown to the ground and hauled off in chains.  Freedom of speech does not mean that you are free to do or say anything you want. Say you work as a salesperson for a Ford dealership. How long do you think you would work there if your employer heard you say to a customer that Ford sucks and that you'd buy a Chevy?  He'd have every right to fire you on the spot and if you sued him, he would win. Why? Because your conduct and speech represents him and the product he sells. It's the same thing with these Rams players. When they chose to walk out of that tunnel they were not 5 individuals, they were the Saint Louis Rams. Their right to free speech and expression ended when they put that uniform on and walked out onto that field. I am a Rams fan. I've been one a long time, dating back to the late 1960's, but right now, I am ashamed of my team, and I hope and pray that they deal accordingly with these clowns. What they did yesterday was a slap in the face to the Grand Jury, ALL men and women who put on a uniform to protect us as law enforcement officers and to the American judicial system. The facts of this case are clear for anyone who cares to actually read them. Justice was served. You can disagree all you want if that is what you want to do, but not as a representative of the Rams and the NFL. The NFL should deal with these clowns immediately.

Now, let's take this a step further. I watched Al Sharpton giving an interview a few days ago about the Ferguson "protesters" and he said that they were exercising their First Amendment rights. I'd suggest that the "Reverend" AL might what to bone up what that amendment says and means as well. The moment your speech and or actions brings harm to someone else, your rights have ended. Looting, rioting and burning are not protected by the First Amendment. Most people have no understanding of the intent of that amendment. Freedom of speech was written to protect us from an oppressive government.  Anything we SAY or Do that brings harm to anyone else, we are still very much accountable for our words and actions, so we need to choose them carefully. The first amendment gives us the right to PEACEFULLY assemble. What these people are doing is striking terror in the hearts of people... which makes them TERRORISTS. They should be arrested and dealt with as terrorists. As long as they are allowed to run wild and hurt people, this will only escalate. This is not free speech or the expression thereof. This is lawless terrorism and it is time for the government to step in and squash it before it gets completely out of control. 

30 November, 2014

The Sin of Taking Offense

Someone shared this with me tonight and it needs to be passed on. I have no idea who the author is, but it is good. I had been talking in my sermon today about how offense destroys and hinders the Body of Christ and someone sent this to me in relation to what I said.  Read it and pass it on.

Taking Offense: Do We Really Understand and Implement Matthew 18:15 with the Power and Fruits of the Holy Spirit? 

Matthew 18:15 if your brother wrongs you, go and show him his fault, between you and him privately. If he listens to you, you have won back your brother.

 It has seemed to me that we like to skip this verse and go directly to vs. 16 & 17.

 Matthew 18:16-17 but if he does not listen, take along with you one or two others, so that every word may be confirmed and upheld by the testimony of two or three witnesses. If he pays no attention to them [refusing to listen and obey], tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a pagan and a tax collector.

I believe that as many in the Body of Christ are wounded by the miss-use of this principle as there are wounded by the lack of use of this principle.

How often have you heard “that offended me”?  Are we aware that we can not be offended unless that is our personal choice?  Eph. 6:16 Lift up over all the [covering] shield of saving faith, upon which you can quench all the flaming missiles of the wicked [one].

If someone gives offense or curses us, we don’t have to receive or accept it.  If we don’t, it will return to the giver. Prov. 26:2 like a fluttering sparrow or a darting swallow, an undeserved curse does not come to rest.

Ps. 64:2-3 hide me from the secret counsel and conspiracy of the ungodly, from the scheming of evildoers, Who whet their tongues like a sword, who aim venomous words like arrows,

Matt 5:44 But I tell you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,

Rom 12:14 Bless those who persecute you [who are cruel in their attitude toward you]; bless and do not curse them.

Proverbs 25:21-23 If your enemy is hungry, give him bread to eat; and if he is thirsty, give him water to drink; For in doing so, you will heap coals of fire upon his head, and the Lord will reward you. The north wind brings forth rain; so does a backbiting tongue bring forth an angry countenance.

Romans 12:19-21 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave the way open for [God’s] wrath; for it is written, Vengeance is Mine, I will repay (requite), says the Lord. But if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals upon his head. Do not let yourself be overcome by evil, but overcome (master) evil with good.

If someone gives a blessing or a gift and we don’t receive it, they will not receive the blessing of giving from the Lord.

The Biblical usage of “offense:

 having nothing to strike against, not causing to stumble
Of a smooth road
Metaph. Of not leading others to sin by one’s mode of life.
not striking against or stumbling
metaph. Not led into sin, blameless
without offense, not troubled by a consciousness of sin
Acts 24:16 Therefore I always exercise and discipline myself [mortifying my body, deadening my carnal affections, bodily appetites, and worldly desires, endeavoring in all respects] to have a clear (unshaken, blameless) conscience, void of offense toward God and toward men.

Philippians 1:10 So that you may surely learn to sense what is vital, and approve and prize what is excellent and of real value [recognizing the highest and the best, and distinguishing the moral differences], and that you may be untainted and pure and unerring and blameless [so that with hearts sincere and certain and unsullied, you may approach] the day of Christ [not stumbling nor causing others to stumble].

In the November 2006 issue of Charisma magazine, David Cannistraci, in an article called “Don’t Be Offended” listed five laws for resolving offenses.  He says that “when it’s time to clear up a conflict, following the rules in this verse will keep us from falling”.

The Law of Sensitivity:  Jesus began by saying, “If your brother sins against you.”  This is a call to assess if we have truly been sinned against or are we just being oversensitive.  Sin means that someone has violated Scripture and offended God.  The fact that we don’t approve of someone’s actions doesn’t mean he has actually sinned.  Let us allow the Word to set our sensitivity levels.  Ps. 119:165 Great peace have they who love Your law; nothing shall offend them or make them stumble.
The law of Honesty: Jesus said: “Go and tell him his fault” because we need to be honest with ourselves and those who have offended us.  It is both dishonest and dangerous to pretend we are not offended.  If a valid issue has come up, we should approach our offender.  Ignoring him only creates a hothouse of pent-up emotions in which bitterness and unforgiveness can germinate. John 20:21-23 Then Jesus said to them again, Peace to you! [Just] as the Father has sent Me forth, so I am sending you. And having said this, He breathed on them and said to them, Receive the Holy Spirit! [Now having received the Holy Spirit, and being led and directed by Him] if you forgive the sins of anyone, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of anyone, they are retained.
The Law of Privacy: Jesus said the problem is to be solved “between you and him alone”.  WE need to keep others out of it.  Gossip and tale bearing may masquerade as something more refined, such as “sharing” or a prayer request, but they are still both sinful.  Violating the law of privacy may be a greater sin than the original offense because it multiplies the problem throughout the local body of believers and opens the door to division. 2 Cor. 12:20 For I am fearful that somehow or other I may come and find you not as I desire to find you, and that you may find me too not as you want to find me–that perhaps there may be factions (quarreling), jealousy, temper (wrath, intrigues, rivalry, divided loyalties), selfishness, whispering, gossip, arrogance (self-assertion), and disorder among you.
The Law of Responsibility:  The words of Jesus “if he hears you” raise the issue of our responsibility to listen when we are confronted.  Everyone’s healing depends on it.  Ideally, forgiveness will be extended between the parties and the relationship will be saved.  If your words are ignored, take the situation to the Lord in prayer and try another approach. Matt. 5:23-25 So if when you are offering your gift at the altar you there remember that your brother has any [grievance] against you, Leave your gift at the altar and go. First make peace with your brother, and then come back and present your gift. Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are on the way traveling with him, lest your accuser hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you be put in prison.
The Law of Victory:  Jesus defined a successfulresolution with the words, “you have gained your brother”.  The goal of honest confrontation is to regain the relationship, not further damage it.  Victory is a win-win outcome so that no one walks away from the encounter shamed or rejected.  Eph. 4:15 Rather, let our lives lovingly [a]express truth [in all things, speaking truly, dealing truly, living truly]. Enfolded in love, let us grow up in every way and in all things into Him Who is the Head, [even] Christ (the Messiah, the Anointed One).
Remember that the Greatest Commandment: Matthew 22:36-40 Teacher, which kind of commandment is great and important (the principal kind) in the Law? [Some commandments are light–which are heavy?]  And He replied to him, You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind (intellect). This is the great (most important, principal) and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as [you do] yourself. These two commandments sum up and upon them depend all the Law and the Prophets.

28 November, 2014

My Personal Theme for 2015

I've picked a theme and theme song for myself for 2015 is "The Year of Rediscover" and I'm using this song by Downhere entitled, "Let Me Rediscover You."  I've been serving the Lord now for going on 34 years, and what I've begun to realize over the last few months is that in many ways and many areas of my walk with Christ, I've become guilty of "going through the motions." Things I've done so long that without realizing it, they have become habits, (which is a good thing) but they've also become so commonplace that they've lost their meaning. In some cases, I have come to realize that I've lost my spiritual edge and passion. I want that back. For me, not my church, but me... on a personal level, I want to rediscover Christ. I want to rediscover the love, passion and zeal that I had as a young person who had just found Christ and was so madly in love with Christ that nothing else mattered. I'm going to put away my favorite Bibles with all my notes and markings and I'm going to rediscover the Word from a fresh perspective. I'm going to go back to the way it used to be, before I knew anything about God at all and I'd get so excited when I'd read something in the Word of God and the words jumped off the page at me and I was so excited that I could not contain it. I want to rediscover that passion for telling others about him and what he had done for me. 

Recently I was thinking back to those early days in 1981 and 1982 when people thought I'd lost my mind because I was so consumed with my love for Christ. I want that back. So, I'm launching myself on a year of "rediscovery." I invite others to join me on my quest.

24 November, 2014

8 Clear Signs of a Compromising Church

8 Clear Signs of a Compromising Church
Charisma Magazine

Members of the 'Confessing Church' which rose against the Nazi Socialist German Church movement. (Gregor Helm/Wikimedia)
During the days of Nazi Germany there arose a Confessing Church movement that rose against the German Church movement, which became the religious arm of the Fascist Nazi Socialist movement. Of the 18,000 pastors in Germany during that time (from 1933 to 1945), less than 5,000 were aligned with the Confessing Church. Hence, only a remnant held fast to the biblical position with about half of the churches conforming due to political and societal pressure. Unfortunately, this demonstrates that, when push comes to shove, a large percentage of pastors, churches and so-called Christians will probably bow to pressure and allow the norms of culture to become their credo for Christianity.
We see the same thing today in churches in the USA and beyond. With the accelerated pace of the attack on religious liberty today, there could develop a great divide in the church between confessing churches and compromising churches similar to what happened in Nazi Germany. This will not be a divide based on denominational affiliation but based on the degree of loyalty to biblical fidelity. It is sad but true that more and more believers will be compromising core biblical values and standards rather than be stigmatized or persecuted, and lose influence in society.
In John 12:42-43 we see that many contemporaries of Jesus believed in Him but would not confess Him because they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God.
The following are contrasts between the confessing church and the compromising church.

1. In the confessing church, Christ is over culture. The compromising church accommodates Christ to culture. The confessing church believes Jesus is Lord over all creation. Hence, they attempt to reflect Christ in every area of culture. The compromising church has a posture of accommodation. Hence, the Christ they believe in and preach is shaped by the culture they live in.

2. The confessing church holds fast to the Word of God in spite of opposition. The compromising church alters the Word of God because of opposition. Soon in America it is quite possible that it will be illegal to preach from certain passages of the Bible dealing with human sexuality. Because of this, many will alter their theology to fit the culture while the confessing church will preach the Word of God in spite of governmental fines, penalties, lawsuits and even serving time in jail.

3. The confessing church puts the kingdom of God above their culture and ethnicity. The compromising church puts their ethnicity before the kingdom of God. The German Church during the Nazi era put nationalism and their Aryan heritage above the Word of God. Many pastors and believers today view the Scriptures more through the lens of their ethnicity and national heritage than through a proper exegesis of Scripture.
When, and if, our nation officially makes biblical Christianity illegal, we will soon see who will be the confessors and who will be the compromisers. In many ways, practicing biblical Christianity is already illegal when it comes to believers attempting to walk out their faith in the marketplace because private Christian-owned businesses do not have the same level of protection today as do local churches.

4. The confessing church alters their methods of preaching. The compromising church alters the message they preach. While it is wise and biblical for the body of Christ to be relevant to culture regarding the preaching of the gospel, it should never put being relevant above being faithful. The compromising church puts being relevant before biblical faithfulness. Hence, they not only change the method of preaching but also the message they preach.

5. The confessing church is a remnant in the minority of church and state. The compromising church wants to be in the mainstream of both church and state.  The confessing church endures long seasons of feeling like aliens and strangers in their own communities. The compromising church wants to be in the mainstream of culture more than living in the divine flow of God's favor and presence.

6. The confessing church is penalized by the state government. The compromising church is applauded by the state government. While the confessing church is hunted down and ostracized by the humanistic state, the compromising church is celebrated by the far-left radicals and used as a model of how church and state should function together.

7. The confessing church prophetically speaks truth to power. The compromising church conforms to those in power. The confessing church knows that at various seasons in their existence they will not gain a lot of converts and/or experience societal transformation. The best they can do is to maintain a prophetic witness to the cultural elites and surrounding communities. Since the compromising church enjoys the power and prestige the elites grant them, they always conform rather than confront.

8. The confessing church desires the praise of God. The compromising church desires the praise of men. Ultimately at the end of the day it boils down to this: Are we living for the praise of men or the praise of God? If things don't change in the coming days, we will be shocked at how many megachurches, mid-size churches and smaller churches compromise the word of God so they could continue to keep their doors open.

At some point we will all have to stand the ultimate test, which is whether we desire God more than we love our lives, or whether we love our pleasures, conveniences and material goods more than God. Truly, if we confess Christ before men He will confess us before His Father in heaven, but if we deny Him before men He will deny us before His Father in heaven (Matt. 10:32-33).

22 November, 2014

Where Has Civility Gone?

Today I was getting ready to go into a store, when as I was approaching the door, there was a woman and her daughter who was pretty severely handicapped, (I know that is not the PC word, but believe me, in this case, if is appropriate) also approaching the door. The daughter was mentally challenged but also had severe physical limitations which caused her movements to be very forced and deliberate in order to just be mobile, and this caused her to be very slow moving. The mother told 3 other people to go on ahead of them which they did. She then turned and told me to go on and explained that it was going to take awhile. I told her no, that where I came from, ladies always went first. She smiled and said, "It's OK, we are used to being last." I said, "Not today. Ladies first." Not only did the mother appreciate it, but her daughter was thrilled and was so excited. I held the door for them, and yes, it took probably close to a minute for her to get inside, and the mom again apologized for the delay and tried to hurry her  daughter up. I told her that I was not in that big of a hurry that I could not give up one minute to treat them with the respect they deserved. The woman touched me on the hand softly and said thank you, that she had not been made to feel like a lady in so long that she had forgotten what it was like. She told me that people usually got very upset because her daughter was so slow moving and that she often did not take her out because she did not want the looks of disgust that were shot at her. She thanked me again and said, "God bless you."  I told her that God had indeed blessed me abundantly and it was my honor to be of some small service to them.  As I went about my shopping I saw that by the time I'd gone in and picked up the 3 things I needed, the two of them were just getting to the first aisle. I thought about the patience of this loving mother and I whispered and asked God to bless that mom who has sacrificed to raise this daughter at home rather than stick her in an institution. Her love was so obvious and amazing. As I drove away I could not help but think about them and how heartbreaking it is that they had become accustomed to being delegated to last because people are in too much of a hurry to stop and show a little respect. God help us as a society.

19 November, 2014

The Day I Met "Charlie"

This week I've had several people asking me, "is this stuff real?". They are referring to the God encounters... the God set ups and the miraculous. I had someone Sunday tell me they were having doubts. Monday I had someone asking me if the story was true about meeting the young man downtown. After posting yesterday's story about the set up where I met up with Bobby, my friend I've not seen in more than 30 years, I've had a couple people message me and telling me that they just could not believe my stories. One of these people has been a friend for many years and she told me that while she believed in God, she just found my stories too much to be true and she asked me if I could prove it. Well, as I said, Bobby did not give me his phone number, so unless he contacts me (which I believe he will) and he gives me permission to use any identifying information, I cannot "prove" this happened. But as God always does, he does provide a way. Yesterday, when I posted the story, a former church member of mine commented on that story. It just so happens that in the summer of 1993, I met this woman in the exact same manner... a God set up.  So today, I'm going to share the story of the day I met "Charlie." I'm taking an chance and believing that "Charlie" will identify herself by commenting on this with her real name. Let me add this one slight disclaimer. It has been 21 years, so it is possible that with the passage of time, my memory may not be 100% accurate, so I am going to invite "Charlie" to make any corrections to the story, because I want it to be the absolute truth.  Here goes. Hope this does it for those of you who have doubts and those who have insinuated that I simply make this stuff up.
The story of how I met "Charlie".

In the June of 1993 my family moved to Danville, Il to pastor the Bowman Avenue Church of God. This church was small and struggling. When we arrived we had 18 people attending, which included my wife and I and our soon to be 3 year old son. Our daughter was born 2 weeks after we moved there. The church only had older people in it, with the youngest members (other than my own family) being the previous pastor who had just retired. We were working to grow the church, and God was blessing us. My people were some of the greatest people I've ever known, just full of love and willing to do what ever needed to be done. Their age did limit in some areas, but they did what they could. I asked them for the names of people to contact and told them that I would begin praying over those names and ask God to prepare those hearts and to set up times that I could meet them. Some of them gave me names, and one of the ladies, named Paula told me about a woman named Charlie who used to attend there and but had not been for quite a long while. She told me that Charlie worked at Sirloin Stockade. I added her to my prayer list. (I know this is long, but it all is necessary to set up the story, so bear with me.) 

Later that summer I was driving north out of Danville, on my way to Bismarck, IL where I was supposed to visit with one of my members. As I got to the last stop light before you go out of town, as clear as you can imagine, I heard the Holy Spirit tell me to go to Sirloin Stockade, which was just through that light on the right hand side. Now, I had literally just finished eating lunch at the Wiener Works. (Those of you who know me well know of my passion for hot dogs.) I ignored what I was hearing thinking that it made no sense. I drove down the road and I heard again to go back to the Stockade. I kept driving and I heard again, to go there and suddenly my car began to sputter and stalled. I pulled off the road, started the car and turned around, thinking I'd better get the car checked out. When I turned around, the car ran fine. When I got near the stop light, I again heard, "Go into the Sirloin Stockade."  I turned in and I was thinking, "God, this is really weird." I sat in my car for a couple of minutes praying asking God what this was all about. I heard again, "Go inside." I reluctantly went in, and stood in the corner of the room near the door for several minutes saying, "now what?"  I heard, "go order something to eat."  I was like, "but I'm not hungry!" I heard again, "go order something to eat."  So, reluctantly I finally went up and ordered a meal. I did not order the buffet and the guy at the counter thought I was crazy. I mean, everyone goes to SS for the buffet; right?
So, I take my tray and go sit in a booth, and being totally honest, I was not happy. I'm arguing with God at this point, asking him why I was there, why he made me buy a meal that I was not going to eat... wasting money that I really did not have. 

At about this point, God's plan unfolded. I'm sitting there, having myself a little melt down being mad at God when a server walks up. She was very polite, but then asked me with kind of a funny tone in her voice if I was all right. I don't remember exactly what I said to her, but then she said, "Well, my name is Charlie. If I can be of any service to you, just let me know."  It did not click at first, and she turned to walk away. Suddenly I said, "Charlie! You're Charlie?" She looked really surprised and asked, "Do I know you?" I said, "No... I'm your new pastor." Her face went absolutely blank at first, and then just lit up. "Charlie" is one of those people whose entire face smiles when she smiles. You know, eyes twinkle, cheeks glow and grinning from ear to ear. She plopped down in the seat across from me and said, "God sent you to me!"  She went on to tell me how that she had been really struggling in her walk with God for awhile and that literally that very morning before going to work she had been praying and said to God, "I need a pastor!" We sat and talked for awhile and she told me how that she had seen me standing in the corner, as she put it, "looking like you were lost or something." She said that she had seen me there for several minutes and wondered just what was wrong with me. Several times in our conversation she said, "God sent me a pastor!"  

I won't go into all the rest of it for times sake, but "Charlie" and her boyfriend started attending our church and shortly after our meeting her boyfriend gave his life to Christ. They became very dear friends, and a key part of our church. As it turned out, they literally lived about 4 blocks from me and I had to drive by their house every day to get in or out of my neighborhood. Funny that I'd never met them before, but God has his way and his timing.  

Charlie... if you would, I'm asking for you to do me this favor, as a witness to those who are struggling with doubt and proof to those who simply do not believe... would you mind commenting on this to verify this account?  I'm asking, if you would, to comment here on the Blog rather than Facebook (or you can do both) so that it is there for everyone to see, that our God is real and that he does do these things I am speaking about. Again, if I have any of this wrong, or there is more that you remember, please feel free to share.

By the way, I know the skeptic may say I and my friend just cooked up this story. First, let me say that this woman and I have seen each other, if memory serves me correctly, twice in the past 18 years and have not spoken to each other in at least 4 years now, other than a quick comment or two on Facebook. Right Charlie?

18 November, 2014

Thank You God For Messing Up My Plans Again

I had another one of those "set ups" that could only have come from God today. Some would say chance or coincidence, but there is just no way that this was not orchestrated by God Himself. My wife has a conference that she must be at in Springfield on Wednesday and she is riding with co-workers, leaving Peoria at about 6:00 AM Wednesday. I suggested last night that she pack a bag and spend the night with our son who lives in Peoria so that she would not have such a long day. She agreed and got up early this morning to pack a suitcase. About 25 minutes after she left, I went to the kitchen to get a cup of coffee, and there by the door was her suitcase. I was not very happy because this was going to mean at least 2 hours out of my day to drive it down to her. I was fighting a headache this morning, so I waited to leave around 11:00 when I was feeling a bit better.  So I drove over to Peoria and on the way I called to see where Libby had parked her car so that I could put the bag in it. She asked if I could wait because she had something she wanted me to take home. So, I sat out in the parking lot for about 15 minutes waiting until she could get away. (If you don't know me well, let me tell you, I struggle with patience. I'm always getting worked up because I'm always in a hurry.) 

By this time I thought I might call my son to see if he could get away for lunch but he was not going to be able to go until almost 2:30, so I nixed that idea. I had decided to run by Sam's Club to pick up a few things since I was already in Peoria, so I went and did that and was going to head back for home. When I went to check out, there was a problem with my membership card. They were showing that I had not renewed and I knew that we had just recently paid. It took them almost half an hour to get the problem straightened out. By this time, I was not only not a happy camper, I was getting hungry. I decided to go eat at a BBQ place I like over there, but on the way to that place, I saw Culver's and decided that it would be much quicker, so I went there. 

When walked in Culver's the employees were all extremely polite but there was some sort of a problem with the coffee maker, which for some reason required everyone working to come try to figure it out, leaving all of us customers standing at the counter.  They took so long before they came to wait on us that a couple of people in front of my walked out of the store rather than continue to wait. Again, they were very polite when they came and took my order as well as when they brought my food out. In fact, they were so polite that I found myself thinking that in many cities (I'm not naming any... just use your imagination) they would not be able to find that many polite young people to work in the restaurant. But while I was waiting, I looked at my watch a few times thinking, "What is the hold up?" I grabbed my cell phone and checked my messages and then "checked in" on Facebook about  where I was. 

Right after I did the check in, a man walked through the door and instantly I knew him. I looked for a probably a minute and a half before I finally walked up to him and said, "Excuse me... your name would not happen to be Bobby; would it? He looked at me like he was searching me over and then finally said, "Dago?" I was just stunned. I had not seen this man since November 2, 1982 when we were in prison together. He was only 31 and I 23 last time we saw each other, but I just knew this was him. He came and sat with me for a few minutes and ate before he had to leave, but that few minutes was all that was needed and I knew why I was there in Peoria. It was very obvious when I saw him that he was sick, and he told me that he is dying of Kaposi's Sarcoma. Bobby was just floored that I was a preacher. He said that he always figured I'd "grow out of that religous stage" (as he put it) and go back to my old ways. I told him that it was not a stage and what God had done in my life and just how blessed I am. Bobby's head dropped and he said, "Damn Dago, I wish I'd listed to you way back then." He shared how his life has been in and out of jail and a list of other things. I told him that our running into each other today was not an accident, and that I believed God had set the whole thing up. I told him what all had happened to get me to that particular restaurant at that time. I told him that now matter where he'd been or what he had done, it was not too late to give his life to Jesus. He was open to hearing what I had to say, but was still not ready to accept Christ.  He allowed me to pray for him though. As we left each other, he was really searching for answers and did not know what to do. He would not give me his number, but he took mine and promised to call me soon. If you have not put it together yet, my friend is gay and is dying from AIDS. He has a partner and his mind is just swirling because he does not know what to do right now. He says he can't ask Jesus into his life and then continue living this way. I told him that he needs to take this one step at a time and let God work this out for him. I'm believing that Bobby is going to call on the Name of Jesus. I'm asking all my readers to please lift him up in prayer and that the Holy Spirit would draw him and that he would answer.