27 February, 2015

For My Friend... You Know Who You Are

I wanted to share this song for a a precious friend who's feeling pretty broken and confused right now. I just wanted to say to my friend, "Why don't you take all those broken pieces and put them in God's hands? You were raised to know the Lord and while life has dealt you some really cruel blows, God is quietly waiting for you to stop running and come back to him."  
Praying for you, my friend. 

Pieces, pieces
So many pieces to my life
Scattered all around
And some of them are gone
And I know that I can't ever
Put them back together again

Pieces, pieces
So many pieces to my life
A puzzle left unfinished
jumbled and unformed
Who can really ever
Fit it all together again?

In a vision, like a daydream
That filters through your mind
I saw Jesus coming closer
Holding all my hopes combined
He spoke with great compassion
As He put one hand on me
And in His other hand He held
What I could never see

He said, "Pieces, pieces
I've got all the pieces to your life
A thousand tiny fragments
Of every single day
I can put them all together
And there'll never be another one who can"

He said, "Pieces, pieces
I've got all the pieces to your life
In my hands I hold the pieces
Of every single day
I can put them all together
So they'll never fall away
I can put them all together
And there'll never be another one who can"

Fear Not

Fear is a funny thing because it can be a good thing or it can be bad. On the one hand fear causes people to be cautious and serves to keep them away from harm. On the other hand fear can be absolutely devastating. When someone wants to attempt a new venture, fear can paralyze them and destroy their dream. It can cause believers to hesitate to stand up and voice their beliefs. There are many things that have been left undone or untried because people did not believe in their God-given abilities. Fear causes people to forget that God has promised to walk beside them through all circumstances. In the Old Testament, God freed the children of Israel from the bondage of slavery to the Egyptians and gave them the promise of being a free, strong and proud people who depended on Him. In like manner, He freed man from the chains of sin with Jesus death and resurrection. He has given us a reason to stand tall, fearless, and walk forward, not in selfish pride, but knowing God can and will defend and provide for us. .

I keep seeing people who profess to be Christians post things on social media sites about their fear and nervousness as they see end time prophecies being fulfilled on the world’s stage. I would say to them and to anyone else, that if you have truly surrendered your life to Christ (which is much more involved than just saying you accept Christ) then you have no need to fear. You and I can have confidence that we are secure in His hands eternally. The devil tries to bring fear upon you and cause you to doubt that you will make Heaven. The key is remembering that if any of us had to “make it into Heaven” on our own merit or works, then no human being would ever make it in. We must KNOW that the righteousness of Christ has been added to our account and we are justified in the sight of God. Thank you Jesus!

16 February, 2015

Maybe We've Been Wrong All Along?

My wife is off work today and since she is home I've kind of taken the morning to do nothing. I've been sitting here at my desk just thinking back over my years of ministry and the things I've been taught and learned over the years, especially in the area of church growth. I have to say that as I think back, I am deeply saddened by the realization that we've done a lot of "stuff" and labeled it "ministry" when in reality what we've been doing has had little to do with ministry at all. For example, one of the men that I really looked p to as a pastor and leader once taught a seminar that I was in back in the early 1990's and the crux of his entire session was to keep the church people so busy that they would not leave. He spoke of constantly having a new project in the planning session even while working on the current one because, as he put it, "if you ever stop working and give them a break, they will leave your church quicker than a flash." He spoke about the need to always be building, adding on to the church building or remodeling... anything that gave them something to keep their hands and minds busy so that they felt like they were accomplishing something. The sad truth is... this works. If you want to get a church excited and "growing" then start building. The problem is, we are not making disciples in this method. It reminds me of the old vaudeville act where the guy would spin as many plates as possible. Sooner or later, the plates are going to begin to fall. The church where the man I was speaking off went through this. Eventually the plates began to fall, the  man left and the church lost more than 90% of those who attended as they left and went on to a church with a new act. I've seen this play out over and over again over the years. Ask any pastor and he will tell you that when he first went to almost any church, there was an influx of growth. Most of them started using these people to remodel nurseries, kitchens, fellowship halls or sanctuaries, because we've been taught to "get them busy." And for awhile, it works. But that pace simply cannot be maintained and people leave OR the pastor leaves and repeats his 2-3 year run at  new church. This might have a lot to do with the fact that the average pastor, across denominational lines, stays at a church approximately 3.6 years. Considering the number of guys who stay much longer, it means that the overwhelming majority of pastors stay less than 2 years to come to that average! We've learned how to draw crowds and how to manipulate them with strategy... but maybe it's time we start learning to make disciples who will follow Christ and become committed to the church. Maybe it's time to realize that having 50 genuine followers of Christ is of more value than having 200 people who have come to see the show and will leave you as soon as a bigger, better show comes to town. 

I'm just thinking out loud here... but something tells me that the church should be more than a place to keep people busy. It should be a place of training and equipping the people to do the work of Christ, not the busy work around the church. 

13 February, 2015

Something Is Terribly Wrong

Turn on your television set, tune into the Christian channels and listen to the vast majority of the people preaching, and the message is "God wants you happy and blessed." On the surface, that sounds good. I mean, who doesn't want to be happy and blessed? Who doesn't want perfect health, a trouble free life, money in the bank, to live in nice houses and drive nice cars? Sounds wonderful! And certainly, people are flocking to those ministries and churches where they hear that once you've prayed "the sinners prayer" then God's grace covers you no matter what you do or live. Well known preachers are changing their message to line up with this newly discovered aspect of grace... but I am sounding the trumpet and screaming at the top of my voice, "SOMETHING IS TERRIBLY WRONG HERE!" 

Oh, they'll tell you that the shear numbers of people who are embracing this modern gospel is all the proof you need of it's being the right message. But numbers prove nothing to me. Jesus' own words tell us in Matthew 7:13, " Go in through the narrow gate. The gate to destruction is wide, and the road that leads there is easy to follow. A lot of people go through that gate." Make no mistake about it, there is something terribly wrong with the new fangled gospel that is being embraced by the masses today. To fully embrace this gospel, you must throw out a lot of the New Testament. For example, what do you do with the teaching of Jesus when he says that we will be hated for his name's sake? What do we do with the passage in 1 Peter 4: 12-19 which tells us clearly that if we are going to follow Christ, then we should fully expect to suffer? What do we do with Romans 8:17 which says, "and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with HIm so that we may also be glorified with Him." What are we to do with passages that make statements like, "Just as it is written, 'For your sake we are being put to death all day long, we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered." (Romans 8:36)  Are these passages to be ignored? Or are they only for the poor people whose lot it fell to be born outside of the United States? The fact is, we have a Westernized version of the gospel that simply does not line up with the Word of God. Make no mistake... it sells! It's popular and it draws crowds and lots of money... but this gospel will not work in Iran, Iraq, Ethiopia, Calcutta or hundreds of other places around the world. So we just don't talk about that. We don't talk about the words of Christ where he says, "If you cling to your life, you will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it." (Matthew 10:39 LB) We no longer talk about denying ourselves and picking up our cross. The modern gospel mentions nothing about denying oneself... it is about total self indulgence and instant gratification. We've heard it taught and preached for years about the great falling away in the last days. I am sounding the alarm tonight because we are living in that time! People are sitting in the churches but are being deceived by the millions. The gospel you are hearing and embracing is NOT the Gospel of Jesus Christ! He who has ear to hear... let him hear!

05 February, 2015

Like the Sun in the Night

I love this particular saying that was on a poster and it goes:
" I believe in the sun, even when it isn't shining.
I believe in love even when I am alone.
I believe in God even when he is silent."

There is a special song that my daughter Ashley and I have.
It is our song. It has been ever since she was about 5 years old.
If the Lord tarries his coming and I get to see her married, I will dance with her to this song. The song is called, "Like the Sun In the Night."  The meaning of that song is summed up in these words,
Like the sun in the night 
You’ll always be with me baby.. be in my soul 
You’ll always be with me, wherever I go.

The meaning, of course is that I carry her in my heart always, whether we are together in a physical sense or not.
Even when I don't see her, she is with me.
Just like the sun in the night.
Go out and look at the night time sky, and you don't see the sun...
But it is still there!

Well, can I tell you, that's the way it is with God. 
Even when we don't see him, he is there!
Even when we don't feel him, he is there!
Even when life seems dark and cold, our God is there!

Now let's be honest...
There are times in this Christian journey that it sure feels or seems that God has abandoned you, turned a deaf ear to your cries, and it seems as though the heavens over head have become brass. 
It seems as our prayers are not going up and therefore nothing is coming down. 
There are times when we find ourselves desperately pleading to God in prayer, but God is silent.

It is in these silent times that our emotions begin to literally make mince-meat of us and we become an emotional basket case, frustrated, discouraged, disappointed, angry, and we find it hard to even hold on to Gods unchanging hand. 

Sometimes we even get to the point of just throwing up our hands and saying "I quit God if you do not say something!"
If you have never felt like that than just hold on you will. 

One song writer said it like this 
Nobody told me the road would be easy but I do not believe He brought me this far to leave me."

One of the things that I love about the Word of God, and something that the critics of the Bible often miss is this...
The Bible does not hide from us the trouble that is part of this Christian journey.  Jesus even told us that we would be hated for His name sake. Peter tells us think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you but rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ's sufferings. 
Paul said our light affliction, which is but for a moment, works for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory. 
And in our text we find Asaph, who is a chief musician appointed by David to work in the Tabernacle. He is dealing with troubles in his life. We are not given liberty to know what was going on, but he says in the day of my trouble I sought the Lord¨ 
Here he is seeking God in the midst of his trouble, yet as he cries out to God he gets no answer from God. His emotions begin to run rapid within him and he become literally a perplexed and troubled individual caught up in his emotions. He says my sore ran in the night and ceased not, my soul refused to be comforted he complained and his spirit was overwhelmed.¨ He begins to question Gods love and care for him because he is seeking God and God is silent. It is possible that this day of trouble was no worse than any others that he had, but this time when he cries out to God, God is silent and because of Gods silence he begins to question God.

Have you ever cried out to God only to find that you are not to hear from God? And then you go into questioning God. Asaph begins to question God because in the past when he cried unto God, He answered his cries, but this time he did not hear from God. He began to wonder in his mind has God changed? 
Has His unfailing love gone forever? 
Has God forgotten to be gracious anymore? 
Are Gods promises valid anymore?
He is faced with the circumstance of feeling as if Gods love is gone. Now he has a dilemma that he must deal with... 
Do I trust God regardless of my circumstances (God is silent) 
And did I only trust Him in the past because of His answers¨.
Asaph must either reject everything he has believed in the past to decide that God has changed or accept that God is God and He changes not and continue to trust Him even when he cannot trace Him. 

When we come to the 11th and 12th verses Asaph comes to the edge of himself and his circumstances. 
He investigates the rationale of answering his dilemma about God changing and he makes a decision...  He says "I will remember the woks of the Lord: surely I will remember thy wonder of old. I will meditate also of thy work, and talk of thy doings.¨  Asaph decided to get hold of his emotions by reflecting on God and the things He has done.

Someone might say that is good for Asaph, but I have not come to that point yet so what am I to do?

3 things you need to get here:
1) First you must understand How God speaks to us...
2) Then you must understand the reasons why God is silent... 
3) Then you need to know How to act when God is silent¨.

1.) OBSERVABLE FACTS of Nature: Psalms 19 the entire chapter speaks to this... but I will focus on verses 1-3. 
The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork. Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night sheweth knowledge. [There is] no speech nor language, [where] their voice is not heard. 
Just look around and see all His hands have made. 
If His eyes are on the sparrow then know He is watch over you as well.

John 5:39 says Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me. 

Hebrews 1:1-2 says God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, Hath in these last days spoken unto us by [his] Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds¨. 

Psalms 40:7 & Hebrews 10:7 says Then said I, Lo, I come (in the volume of the book it is written of me,) to do thy will, O God¡¨. 

God speaks to us through the Word of God.

The providence of God is a Theological terms that simply means God is ultimately in control. 
Genesis 50:20 says But as for you, ye thought evil against me; [but] God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as [it is] this day, to save much people alive¨. 

Romans 8:28 says And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to [his] purpose¡¨. 

We must understand that even in times of silence God is in control.

One thing I have trouble with on a personal level is when my wife is silent with me. 
I can handle her getting mad... and even yelling (not that she ever does that ) but I can't stand when she does not say anything, because I do not know what to expect when she is silent.

WATCH THIS:- Some people become silent when they get angry or upset. 
Sometimes people are silent when they disagree with something. 
Some people are silent taking time to think before they speak, they understand the scriptures that says slow to speak and let your words be seasoned with salt. 
Some people are silent because they have tuned you out. 
Sometimes people are silent because they do not want to laugh in your face.


Just maybe, He is waiting for the Fullness of Time when it is concerning you and your situation.

2.) HE MAY HAVE ALREADY SPOKE TO YOU, but it was not the answer you were looking for so you did not listen and He is waiting to see if you are going to obey what He has already said.

3.) HE MAY BE TESTING YOU TO SEE WHAT YOU ARE GOING TO DO. In Genesis 22:1-2 God said to Abraham And it came to pass after these things, that God did test Abraham, and said unto him, Abraham: and he said, Behold, [here] I [am]. 
And he said, Take now thy son, thine only [son] Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of. 

WATCH THIS:- Abraham got up the next morning and left with his son Isaac, the on the 3rd day he looked and saw the place afar off 

God had not said anything else to Abraham yet he continued to do what God had spoke to him. 
When we get to the 11th verse the Bible says And the angel of the LORD called unto him out of heaven, and said, Abraham, Abraham: and he said, Here [am] I. 

And he said, Lay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou anything unto him: for now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only [son] from me.¨

God did not speak to Abraham for it appears 3 days yet Abraham was going to do what God said and when God saw that he feared God...
THEN... God spoke to him, 
God just wanted to see what he was going to do, He was testing him.


5.) HE KNOWS I WILL NOT LISTEN. Isaiah 42:20 says Seeing many things, but thou observest not; opening the ears, but he heareth not¨

6.) YOU FORGOT WHAT HE SAID BEFORE. Mark 6:52 says For they considered not [the miracle] of the loaves: for their heart was hardened¡¨ You failed to remember what He did and said before.

Daniel 10:12-13 says Then said he unto me, Fear not, Daniel: for from the first day that thou didst set thine heart to understand, and to chasten thyself before thy God, thy words were heard, and I am come for thy words. 
But the prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me one and twenty days: but, lo, Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me; and I remained there with the kings of Persia¨. 

Galatians 5:7 says Ye did run well; who did hinder you that ye should not obey the truth?"


When God is silent we must remember His last words. 
Mark 6:52.
When you can't hear Him you still have to trust Him.
When darkness veils His face... hold onto His unchanging GRACE.

The emotional struggle of feeling God has abandoned us and that God is silent when we sometimes cry out to Him will come...
But we just have to hold on!
I promise the answer will come... just wait for it.

Like Habakkuk 2:3 says wait for it; because it will surely come, it will not tarry¨. 

Understand that God's ways are not our ways and His thoughts are not our thoughts.

He often takes us through the sea of difficulty or the fiery furnace to refine us and develops trust within us and for that reason we can't understand how and why God does what He does, 
Or the way He does it, nor the things he causes to work out in order to bring us to the expected end He has planned for us.

We must remember that God cannot lie!
Titus 1:2 says In hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began¨. 

Therefore since He cannot lie... When He said I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee... then we can trust Him even when we can't seem to touch Him or hear Him ...because He is right there with me in the midst of everything that I am going through.
His Word tells me so!

Like a marriage your relationship with God will have its ups and downs, there will be high points and there will even be times of low, but God is always there despite how you may be feeling and it is that which you can depend upon.

The emotional rollercoaster will come; however, we do not have to be led by our emotions. 
Whenever we experience these ups and downs in this Christian journey we need to think back upon the faithfulness of God and realize that even when I do not feel His presence or hear His voice and it seems as if His love is far from me that He is right there.

26 January, 2015

Take It For What It's Worth

I've not been feeling well since last Wednesday and today I hit a wall. Just run down and achy. The only reason I mention this is because earlier today I was so wiped out I decided to lay down and take a nap, which I don't do very often. In my sleep, I had a dream that was so real that honestly I was not sure at first if I had dreamed it or if it had happened. It took me a couple of minutes to awaken well enough to realize that it was all a dream. Anyway... this is what I saw.

In the dream, I saw the economy in America picking up. Unemployment numbers were better and prices were coming down. It's hard to describe this, but I knew that there was time lapsing in the dream. At the beginning, there was snow on the ground. Then I saw grass and flowers sprouting. We were at summer time, and I saw a news show talking about the upcoming Independence Day holiday, so I know we were in June. In that same news show, I saw them announce that the Federal Reserve was raising interest rates. I heard a voice say, "Now it begins to crumble."  Again, I was seeing the passage of time by the seasons. At first, things seemed to go along just great, but then I saw like a whirlwind sweep across a map of the United States and bright colors turned black and gray. I saw a news anchor on TV again, reporting with the White House in the background, and the White House was dirty looking and crumbling. The reporter was speaking about the crash of Wall Street and the panic in the streets. He was wearing an overcoat and somehow I knew this was in November.  I heard the reporter say that now that the "financial system came crashing down like a house of cards."  I woke up at that point. 

Some will call me crazy, but that's all right, I've been called that before. But the fact is, I believe this was a warning from God. I believe that we, as a Nation, are teetering on the edge of an all out economic collapse. Don't be deceived by what appears to be good times and go out and put yourself into major debt, because I believe that if something does not drastically change, by years end, we are going to see a major collapse that will shake this Nation to it's foundation.  

23 January, 2015

Enough is Enough

The past few weeks have been really tough. Three weeks ago I was fighting off a stomach virus and just feeling really rough all week. Friday night of that week, actually early Saturday morning I was awakened to find I was having chest pains and had to have my wife take me to the Emergency Room where as a precaution, they took me by ambulance to Peoria where I had an emergency heart cath done. The concern was that since I had previously had a stent placed near the heart several years ago that it could be closing up again. The heart cath results were actually very good, but the recovery time of the procedure itself knocked me for a loop physically. Just as I really began feeling myself again, my wife came down with a severe cold and sinus issue. I tried staying clear of her, but nonetheless, I succumbed to this and have been really under the weather since Wednesday of this week. So, the end result is that outside of just a few days, I've been laid up for almost 3 weeks. I've been able to get out and take care of some business, make some phone calls and such, but especially this week I have stayed clear of people, so as to not pass this illness on to anyone else. By this point, I'm frustrated as I have so many things that need to be done, people I need to see and so on and I've been, for the most part, sitting on the sidelines for the better part of three weeks. 

A couple of nights ago I threw down the gauntlet and said, "That's it devil... enough is enough! I'm not taking this anymore!" Now, you have to know that when you challenge Satan that way, the battle is just beginning. I've actually felt worse the past 2 days, but I refuse to give in. I'm still not going to be silly and pass this mess on to someone else, but I've purposed in my heart to do everything I could do and as I completed each task to remind the devil that he had lost that round. Some would say I'm silly, but I just don't think so. Sometimes you have to stand up and say to the enemy, "you may have landed some good blows in that round, but I'm still in the fight!" I refuse to just lay down and give him even a round. I'm in this fight to win. I may lose a round or two, but I'm determined to win this fight. I've heard the devil saying over and over all week, "you are not going to preach this week." I'm saying, "WATCH ME!" My voice is weak and hoarse right now, but I will proclaim the Word this Sunday. I'm not backing down. I have faith in my God. I know the devil is going to take repeated shots at me, trying to back me down. I expect that. That's why God's Word tells us to "take up the shield of faith" so that we can extinguish the fiery darts from the enemy. Faith is not easy. It is something we must fight and contend for. I'm not stupid. I know that when we are sick, we need to rest, but I also am able to recognize attacks from the enemy when I see them, and this has been an all out assault from the enemy trying to get me to back down. I've declared that 2015 was going to be a great year of victory and turnaround for Harvest Church, and Satan is doing everything he can to get me to back away and take it easy. It's not happening. Enough is enough! I will not give up, back down or even stand still. I'm pushing onward, in Jesus' Name!

20 January, 2015

The Joy of the Lord is Your Strength

I grew up around people that gave me the impression that being a Christian meant being "sticks in the mud." I literally remember a member of our church coming to the table in a steak house where some friends and I were having lunch after church and chewing us up and spitting us out because we were laughing in public on the day that a woman in the church has passed away. First of all, none of us even knew that she had died. But even if we did, does that mean that we could not still be happy and blessed people? The woman who had died was a precious saint of God who had suffered with cancer, and her death, while sad, also should have been a time of celebration because she had made it home. But this woman did not only chide us, she did in in a very loud way, so as to shame us in front of everyone in the restaurant. This is just one of many, many times over the years that the message was given loud and clear that God's people were supposed to be sour, mean spirited and sad looking people. This particular event had a profound impact on my life which scarred me and had a lot to do with my running from God as hard as I could for a lot of years. I wanted no part of a "religion" that meant I had to act like that. I recall coming out of a movie theater one time with my date and having three women from my church waiting by my car and screaming at me and telling me I would burn in hell for going to movies. (Horror of horrors, we had just watched Disney's "The Shaggy D.A.") That kind of stuff was the norm as I was growing up. There were so many that even now, some 35-40 years later I become angry as I recall being shamed and humiliated time after time for having fun and being told I was going to go to Hell. The image that had been formed in me by people telling me Christians did not laugh, did not have fun, did not enjoy life sank in deep and I finally got to the point that I figured I was going to Hell anyway, I might as well stop trying. And I did, turning away from God and running the opposite way as fast and hard as I could. 

For the next many years I ran the opposite way hitting every party, drinking everything I could, using various drugs, hanging in bars and discos almost every night. I'm not saying it was entirely their fault because it was obviously my choice. But I will say that the model of serving Christ that I had witnessed through such people played a huge part in shaping the decisions I made. As I saw it if you wanted to be a Christian, you had to be a miserable, bitter, hateful and judgmental person. I rejected that. Somehow I knew there had to be more. I still kept coming back to the church, but I always went back to that same church with the same influences around me. Ironically, it was not until years later when my life was in ruins and I was in prison that I discovered what I was looking for. The first week of January of 1982 I had an encounter with a man in a hospital room in prison who was a God send. This man saw the rage and hatred in me and as we talked he saw the confusion about God. He issued a challenge to me that totally transformed my life. He dared me to forget everything I had ever heard about God and to open the Bible and read it for myself. But he added that I should pray before I read every day and ask the Holy Spirit to reveal Jesus Christ to me as He would have me to see Himself. Over the next two weeks I read that Bible from cover to cover and something happened. I let go of religion and I discovered a relationship with Christ. I found things I'd never heard before and discovered that much of the man made "stuff" I had had pounded into my head over the years was not of God at all. I found out that God had so much more than a dry, lifeless religion to give us, he wanted to give us peace, joy, and love that was not only in us but flowed out of us to others. I discovered that God was not really so much interested in the mask I wore, but He wanted to change me on the inside until those inner changes reflected on the outside. I found that serving God was not meant to be a heavy burden... it was supposed to be freedom. Not freedom to live any way I wanted, but freedom from the curse of sin and freedom to pursue righteousness. I discovered Christ the advocate... not the judge.

To some of you reading this, you are thinking, "Duh?" because you already know this. But I am sure that there are thousands of others out there who have only known the religion of chains, burden and hardship. The religion of being stuffed shirt, stoic shell of a person. To those people... I challenge you with the same challenge that was offered to me. I dare you to forget everything you have ever heard about God, the Bible and the church. Let go of it all and then pick up the Bible for yourself and simply pray and ask the Holy Spirit to reveal Jesus Christ to you. The Bible says of the Holy Spirit that He will lead you into all truth. He will not lead you astray. Are you up to the challenge? I promise you that you will make some amazing discoveries! You will find that there is so much joy in serving Christ, and that "the joy of the Lord is your strength." 

To everyone who may read this, let me make one final statement to you all, young or old, new Christian or "veteran of Christ"...If you're not enjoying Salvation, you're not doing it right!

17 January, 2015

God Wants to Rebuke the Devourer For You

* Disclaimer - The first 3 paragraphs of this is not an original of mine. I had this on a photocopied paper stashed in a folder in my filing cabinet dating back many years, and I really have no idea just where I even got it from now. I'd like to give credit to the author, but I do not know who it is.

There is one who scatters, yet increases more;
And there is one who withholds more than is right,
But it leads to poverty.
Proverbs 11:24

During the Great Depression, two families shared a house in Pennsylvania. One family occupied the upper floor, and the other family lived on the lower level.. The family which lived downstairs was always inviting people in to share what they had. Whenever there was an opportunity for them to help out, they would do so. No matter how much they gave, they always seemed to have enough. The family on the upper floor, however, scoffed at the way the downstairs family lived. they stored all extras in a locker in the pantry. They gave nothing away, always saving more in case times got worse. It was not until they discovered that rats had gotten into their pantry and destroyed all that they saved that they were sorrowful for what they had done. Interestingly, the rats had not disturbed the downstairs pantry.

Selfishness leads to despair. True joy comes to us not from what we own but from what we are able to give to others. We were put on this earth to serve one another, and when we fail to do so, there is always a price to pay. When we give what we have, God will bless us with more. The blessings will be double because of the joy that giving brings.

Jesus said in Matthew 6:38 "Give, and it will be given to you. 
A good measure, pressed down,  shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, 
it will be measured to you."

Something many people fail to realize is that it is not JUST the blessing of God that comes in our giving to the church, it is also the protection of God.  In Malachi chapter 3:8-12 says:

 8 “Will a man rob God?
Yet you have robbed Me!
But you say,
‘In what way have we robbed You?’
In tithes and offerings.
9 You are cursed with a curse,
For you have robbed Me,
Even this whole nation.
10 Bring all the tithes into the storehouse,
That there may be food in My house,
And try Me now in this,”
Says the Lord of hosts,
“If I will not open for you the windows of heaven
And pour out for you such blessing
That there will not be room enough to receive it.
11 “And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes,
So that he will not destroy the fruit of your ground,
Nor shall the vine fail to bear fruit for you in the field,”
Says the Lord of hosts;
12 “And all nations will call you blessed,
For you will be a delightful land,”
Says the Lord of hosts.

Verse 11 is such a key verse. God says that when we are faithful in our giving to the church, that he protects or shields us from "the devourer."  Then in Haggai 1:6 the Word of God paints an incredible picture for us when it says;
“You have sown much, and bring in little;
You eat, but do not have enough;
You drink, but you are not filled with drink;
You clothe yourselves, but no one is warm;
And he who earns wages,
Earns wages to put into a bag with holes.”

What God says in Haggai chapter 1 is that the people were so busy taking care of themselves and neglecting the House of God that God had taken His hand off of them, and even though they had plenty of money, it was never enough to meet the need or to bring satisfaction to them.  This is exactly how it is when God is no longer "rebuking the devourer" on our behalf. No matter how much we have, it is never enough. The description of putting your wages into a bag with holes in it speaks clearly to that issue. This is a description of when people just cannot find peace, and they keep buying more, spending more... but nothing satisfies. The more they have, the more miserable they are. Why? Because they are not honoring God. When people find themselves in this condition, they find that one thing after another happens to cause their money to disappear into thin air. The car breaks down, the washing machine quits, unexpected bills come, losses come and it just keeps piling on. Am I saying that God is causing these things to happen to them? Absolutely not. But what HAS happened is that when they started robbing God of the tithe and offering, then the covenant with God was broken and God no longer rebuked the devourer on their behalf, and their money is cursed. Usually when people find themselves in this place, they blame God, or they might actually blame the devil... but the fact of the matter is, the finger of blame needs to be pointed back at themselves. They broke covenant and there is no devil to blame for that. It is entirely their own fault.
So what does one do?
Simple... re-establish that covenant with God. Don't worry about the past... start where you are today. Bring what belongs to God to God and watch His covenant spring into action.

Remember what he says and take him up on it...
"And try Me now in this,”
Says the Lord of hosts,
“If I will not open for you the windows of heaven
And pour out for you such blessing
That there will not be room enough to receive it.
11 “And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes,
So that he will not destroy the fruit of your ground,
Nor shall the vine fail to bear fruit for you in the field,”
Says the Lord of hosts;
12 “And all nations will call you blessed.",

Let the Church Be the Church!

I don't have a lot of time to write  a lot about this right now but will come back later with my thoughts in more detail. For now, suffice it to say that I am deeply troubled by the message that seems to be going out from the majority of our churches. It seems everywhere I look I am seeing where the message is about being happy, living trouble free lives, being prosperous and blessed and so on. Yes, there are elements of this this we need to teach and preach, but Paul warned us to "rightly divide the word of truth." The point is that there is more... MUCH MORE than what many churches are preaching now days. It seems that many preachers have zeroed in on the part that sells easiest and they are neglecting the foundation of the Gospel. The message of the Gospel is the cross... not only the cross of Jesus, but the cross that we are to pick up and carry. The cross where we die to ourselves and become bond servants to Jesus Christ and His righteousness. You just don't hear that part preached anymore, and I am afraid that many people who call themselves Christians have never been "born again", and Jesus said, "you must be born again."

I'll write more later; but it is high time that the church stop prostituting itself at the altar on convenience and popularity and preach the whole Bible rightly divided. There are millions of souls at stake, and we will be held accountable.

16 January, 2015

You asked: I've Answered

This morning I received an email from a person in town who was writing to me because they had been talking with a former member of my church. I have not heard from this former member in several years. This person left the church where I am pastor under a dubious cloud in that they told me that they loved me, they loved the church and there wanted to make sure that I knew that there was absolutely no problem with me or the church, but that they were leaving because they felt that God was leading them to a new place in their life and they thanked me for all that I, my family and the church had done for them. Just a couple of weeks later, the talk began, how that this person was telling people that I had run them off because I was a dictator, a control freak and any number of other stories and accusations about me. Now this person who wrote to me said that they were "deeply concerned" after hearing the things this person had to say about me and my leadership. The long and short of the entire email was that according to this person I wanted to "run the ship" and often "corrected people" and told them that they were wrong. The writer challenged me with this question: "What makes you think that you are able to judge anyone's actions so that you should correct them? What gives you the right or the authority to do such a thing?"  I am responding to that woman with these words written in my email along with a link to this blog entry:

I am given that right and authority AND RESPONSIBILITY by the Word of God and by the calling on my life as Pastor. Pastor literally means "shepherd."  A shepherd is one who is charged with the care, provision and safety of his flock. It is the shepherd's job to lead the flock to a good supply of safe and clean water and a good supply of fresh food that is not contaminated. It is his job to guard them from the wolves and other predators that would destroy them. It is his responsibility to see that they stay healthy and disease free. It is his job to keep the flock together and not let the wander off and become isolated where they could be lost or attacked. It is the shepherds job to KNOW where the flock is going and lead them there, rather than let the flock wander around aimlessly or stay in one place too long where they will die of starvation. A good shepherd will know his sheep and lead and direct them and even discipline them where necessary so that they grow into healthy, strong sheep that are productive. It is his calling or job. As pastor, this is my calling or job. Some refuse correction. Some reject the healing balm and oil that is applied to diseased areas and would prefer to run off on their own. Such people bounce from church to church and never submit themselves to the leadership or counsel of the shepherd and breed discord, strife and spiritual disease where ever they go and always point an accusing finger at the shepherd and challenge his authority. I suggest you examine the person you are now associating with and ask yourself what is the fruit that their life displays? If there is a broken and fragmented trail that leads from church to church to church over the years and finds fault with every church and pastor, then I suggest that you are looking at a goat, not a sheep. And before you go throwing that "judge not" thing at me, let me leave you with this scripture giving me the responsibility to say what I have just written: "I urge you, brothers and sisters, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teachings you have learned. Keep away from them." (Emphasis mine)  

You asked; I have answered. Be warned!

15 January, 2015

There Is Power In Your Words

Did you know there is power in your words? The Bible tells us in Proverbs 18:21 Amplified Bible: "Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and they who indulge in it shall eat the fruit of it [for death or life]."
I really wonder sometimes if people realize that the words coming out of their mouth are shaping or framing their lives.  I wonder if they realize that all the constant complaining, griping and whining about life is actually shaping the world they live in. Just this morning, I was at my doctor's office for a follow up visit after having a heart cath done this past weekend. The heart cath looked so good my cardiologist told me he does not need to see me for a year. The blood work was not "super" but was within the acceptable levels but could be better. My doctor suggested putting me back on statin drugs and some other drug and I told him that I believed I was fine without them. I told him that I was determined to drop 20 pounds this year and increase my exercise and that I'd like to monitor how I do with this. He again pushed for me to go on the drugs, but I told him that 4 years ago they told me I could not survive without those drugs and had me convinced of that and for 2 years I had repeated heart complications. I asked him to go back 2 years ago in my chart and look for a similar conversation and compare my numbers. He did and at that time I was 16 pounds heavier than I am now and my lipid panels were a mess. I told him, that I told him then I was going to change things, beginning in my thoughts and then in my body. Today, all of my reports are better than they have been in 8 years and it began by taking control of my thoughts and life. I said, "Keith, I'm no longer dependent on medication to do what I have been too weak to do for myself."  He looked at me and said, "I believe you. See you in 6 months to monitor how you are doing."  My point is, I had to change my thinking and change what I was saying. I used to believe and say that I'd be on heart medicines for the rest of my life. If I continued saying that, I would. But today, I'm free of those medications and all the risks that go with them.Thank you Jesus!

Now, I had more in mind than just sharing that testimony. I want to say that this applies to all of us, in every area of our lives. The words that come out of our mouths are a reflection of what we believe. We need to take control of them. Proverbs 4:23 says, "Watch over your heart with all diligence, For from it flow the springs of life."  Then in 2 Corinthians 10:3-5 we read, "3 For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. 4 For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, 5 casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ."  These passages tell us how important it is to get our thoughts and words under control. Again, the words that come out of our mouth are framing the world in which we live and operate. Oh yes, we've all met people who take this to the extreme and get just plain silly over it. I once knew a man who would go bananas if I said, "I'm dying of thirst" or "I'm so hungry I could die."  He told me I was speaking death over myself. I know he meant well... but seriously... we can get really overboard with stuff. While he may have been over the top with his thinking, the fact is that most people don't give enough thought to the power of their words. We often open the door to the enemy of our souls by the words we use and we need to reign those in.

Another area that I have been giving a lot of thought to is the "escape clauses" we invoke through our words. I've challenged people to read the Bible more and they will say, "I'll try to do better."  I've invited people to church and they will say, "I'm going to try" or "If nothing comes up."  I'll be honest... as soon as I hear those words I know that 95% of the time that person will not be at church. Their words betray their heart. It is not all that important to them and they have built in their escape clause into their response that was disguised to be a positive response. I have no doubt that somewhere within them they want to come to church; it's just not all that important to them at this juncture of their lives. What they are really saying is "One of these days when I have absolutely nothing to do and I can drag myself out of bed, then I might come." It's not a personal thing for them yet about serving God... it's more about doing me a favor by showing up. When they reach the place that they desperately need God, it will suddenly become important to them. In AA we call that hitting rock bottom and we know that something has to change. It's a different place for all of us, but we have to find that place for ourselves where we know it is not an option... it's a necessary part of our lives to worship God and have a close relationship with Jesus on our own. Until then... we will "try".  I've been doing this pastoring thing a long time and I know the difference. When someone tells me, "I WILL see you Sunday" then I know they are being real. "I'll try" literally means, "I know I need God... but I'm still trying to work this out on my own."  Hopefully they will discover the futility of that approach, but I've learned I cannot change someone's heart. Only God can do that.  My point is, the words coming out of our mouth frame our world. When we say, "I'll try" we leave ourselves room to weasel out while saving face. There is no commitment.  This is true not only of attending church, but in so many areas of our lives. I often tell people "I'll try" when asked to attend things because I know that I cannot make a commitment because things do come up regularly in my life that would make me break my word. For me personally, "I'll try" literally means that I will do my best to be there and I will be there unless something comes up that takes priority. I don't mean if a good TV show comes on. To me, my word means something, so I guard my words and don't make idle promises. People can lose all respect for you over a broken promise. I don't mean to digress, but it really is the same thing... our words mean something. We need to take control over them.