26 September, 2015

You Get Used To It

I'll probably get judged harshly by some about the beginning of this , but please read on and you'll get my point.  Today I was talking with someone who had multiple piercings. By multiple, I'm talking dozens. She had both ears filled with them, her eyebrows, nose, lips, tongue and she told me she had many more which were not visible. I'm really not ripping on her, or anyone else who has piercings; I just don't get it. I asked her about them and how she got started and how she got to where she is now. She explained about getting her first one and was telling me about how it became "addicting" to her. I asked her about the pain and she claimed that it does hurt, but you get used to it. She told me that she is kind of addicted to the pain as well. I asked her how much it had cost her for the piercings, tattoos and the jewelry and she said she had several thousand dollars "invested" in the tats, piercings and jewelry. I thought that an odd word and asked her what kind of dividends her investment paid off.  She said that to her it was an investment because she enjoyed it. I commented how that if I invested something, I expected a return that was worthwhile. So I asked her how much time it took cleaning and replacing the jewelry every day and she told me that she did not do it every day because it would take too much time. I did not ask her, but I was thinking to myself how that if my "investment" was too time- consuming to take care of then I was on the losing end.  

Now, all this got my mind to racing after I left her and I got to thinking how people welcome painful things into their life and get used to the pain get to where they like it. No, I'm not talking about the piercings or tats anymore. I'm talking about drug use, alcohol abuse, illicit sex, and on and on we could go. I got to thinking about when I was just a kid sneaking my first drink of beer how I hated that taste, but people told me that I'd get used to it. I did. Same with drugs. The first time I shot up heroine I puked all over the place. But that did not stop me from doing it again. I ruined relationships. Lost jobs. Hurt people I loved. Wrecked cars and went through a lot more money than I care to admit that I squandered. I changed who I was, changed who I ran with and lost the trust of most everyone around me. But I got used to it. In fact, I laughed it all off. It cost me three years of my life in prison... but I got used to that as well. My point in all this is to ask, "why do we want to get used to things and situations that are a living Hell?" Why would anyone in their right mind risk so much, not only in this life, but eternity, for things that if we would get totally honest about, we did not really want in our lives, at least not in the beginning... until we "got used to them." All I can say is the devil is a master and the deception game and he actually convinces us that we are having the time of our lives... while we are actually miserable and dying for something better. 

I've been clean from drugs and alcohol now and serving Jesus Christ for almost 35 years, and to be totally honest... I cannot remember what it was like to be caught in that trap. I have to really think about it to remember what it was like at all. That's a wonderful thing, to know that I've been completely set free. But it at times causes me to also forget just how deceived I was and therefore, how deceived people around me are. I look at them and ask, "WHY?"  The answer is, "Because they are used to it."

21 September, 2015

Green Eggs and Ham Visits the Church

I was talking with someone on the phone this morning about a situation in his church where a group of people are "stonewalling"  or holding up progress in the church because they do not want to proceed any further because they do not like the direction that the rest of the church is trying to go. Those throwing up the roadblocks are doing so because someone else who is not even in that church is telling them that they do not want to move that way, that they will not like it and will be sorry. Based on this persons word, they refuse to move.  I told the person that I was talking with that it reminded me of the classic Seuss book, "Green Eggs and Ham."  Here is a group of people who are stubbornly refusing to budge... based on what? Someone else's word...who, by the way, have never tried the very thing this church is trying to do. So basically you have someone who has decided that they "do not like green eggs and ham" and they are telling others that they won't like them either. Meanwhile, the progress of the church and the work of the Kingdom comes to a screeching halt because someone with an unknown problem is screaming, "I DO NOT LIKE GREEN EGGS AND HAM!"  How sad is it that a voice from outside is telling those within what they will and will not like. Truly sad indeed.

19 September, 2015

Isolation Is a Mistake

I've been around the church long enough to know this much... when Christians begin to pull away and isolate themselves from the church, it is a sign that spiritually they are dying. They may deceive themselves as they try to tell others that they are "trying to get closer to God" but the fact is that one of the key aspects of the church is the sense of family and fellowship. When you cut yourself off from that, you are cutting off something God designed, and once you cut off the flow, the festering and slow death begins, just as if you cut off the flow of blood to a part of your own body. Are their problems within the church? You bet. It's that way in any church. Where ever you have people, you are going to have differences and issues that crop up. But family overlooks shortcomings and confronts and deals with issues in order to keep the family intact. Take a look at our culture today. The readily accepted methodology for dealing with problems is to NOT deal with them, but divorce yourself from the family. We have a fragmented society and regretfully, we have a fragmented Body of Christ. Withdrawing oneself and isolating will almost always result in death or divorce.

Just typing what I hear the Spirit speaking.

11 September, 2015

Staying Alive

Ah, ha, ha, ha, stayin' alive, stayin' alive.

No, I'm not really going to talk about disco, John Travolta or the Bee Gees. In fact that has nothing to do with my topic today, other than as I was contemplating this, that song popped into my head and I could not get it out.

So, what is it?
I want to share a bit about keeping your dreams alive. Let me begin by sharing a story that I heard told recently.

There was a couple who loved mushrooms and bought several pounds of them from a roadside vendor. They had so many that they made mushroom omelettes, mushroom salad, mushroom soup, and even came up with a mushroom dessert. After their mushroom feast was over, they gave the left overs to their cat, who gobbled up the leftover mushrooms. Later that evening the lady went into her kitchen and found the cat lying on the floor, gasping for breath. She frantically called the vet who said they'd probably gotten some poisoned toadstools and advised they go to the emergency room. Several hours later, after having their stomachs pumped the couple came home with the dire expectation of finding their cat dead and they prepared themselves for the inevitable task of burying their beloved pet. To their amazement, when they walked into the kitchen thy found the cat curled up in the corner nursing a brand new litter of kittens. What they thought were death pains were just birth pains!

When it seems that your dream is gasping its last breath, keep believing God; you're closer to giving birth than you've ever been!

Remember the story of Joseph in Genesis 37? Joseph had a dream where he became great and his brothers bowed down to him. When he told his brothers, they hated him for it. Now many of us would have quit right there, where the criticism came. But rather than quit, Joseph had yet another dream (vs 9), an even bigger dream.
There is a powerful lesson in that verse. When those around you demean, criticize and try to discourage you... dare to dream again,... and dream bigger! In the face of criticism and hatred, Joseph dreamed a second dream, an even bigger one!

If you've had a dream and maybe you've abandoned your dream because of ridicule and scorn or maybe you've listened to someone else who has spoken death over your dream and now you have given in to fear and discouragement.  I dare you today to rise up and reclaim it. Maybe you've had a dream that you have already fulfilled. If so, then it is time to ask God to give you another... and even bigger one.
Dare to do great things for God. You may feel inadequate and think that the challenge is too big for you, but I say to you that it's not too big for God!
You can never out-dream God. In the Bible He asks, "Is anything too hard for the Lord?..." (Genesis 18:14 NKJV)

Don't come to the end of your journey filled with regrets over things you never did. Dare to do great things for the Lord. Don't let your dreams be stolen from you!
If God has given you a dream, he will equip you to carry it out. If you've had a dream that is fading away, you must seek God and dream again!

10 September, 2015

Beware the Spirit of Korah

I had been studying on the "spirit of Korah" earlier this week and I came across this article which was published on the website of the Intercontinental Church of God. I just read this Tuesday and then today it was brought back to remembrance and I decided I wanted to share this for my readers.
The original article may be found HERE

The "spirit of Korah" refers to a negative attitude he held regarding the leadership of the children of Israel. He sought, with others, to overthrow Moses and Aaron. Korah felt he was more qualified than Moses and that he should be leading Israel. To tell you the story, following is an excerpt from "The Bible Story" published years ago by our parent church:

Picking up the story in Chapter 41, REBELS CHALLENGE GOD'S GOVERNMENT"

Discontentment Grows Again

Not long after the Israelites left Kadesh, another wretched event took place that resulted in another great disaster. The situation developed because a state of envy existed in the minds of some of the people who wanted to be priests or who wanted certain of their friends to be priests and leaders instead of Levi's family.

Foremost among such men was a man named Korah, one of Levi's great grandsons and a first cousin to Moses and Aaron. He strongly felt that he should have been chosen for a high office. In fact, he had the idea that he should be in Moses' position as head of Israel. He was joined in this ill attitude by three Reubenites, Dathan, Abiram and On. They were of the opinion that Moses was favoring his family too much, and was not properly distributing the offices of authority. These men thought all the congregation should have a voice in government. (Numbers 16:1-3.)

For a long time these men had been seething with discontent and planning how they could move in to take over the priesthood for themselves. This scheme against Moses was the same as scheming against God (Numbers 26:9), but these men were desperate for power. Gradually they managed to persuade high-ranking Israelites that their cause was right. Eventually two hundred and fifty Israelite leaders agreed to join these influential, smooth-talking schemers in the hope that all would move into higher rank with greater power and more income.

One morning when Israel was camping at a stopping place on the way southward, all these ambitious men gathered before Moses' tent. With Korah, their best speaker and worst schemer leading them, they came to demand of Moses that some changes be made in the priesthood. When Moses was told that a crowd of high ranking men had come to demand some changes in government, he wasn't surprised. He had sensed for weeks that this kind of trouble was brewing. Now, as he came out of his tent, he expected to see only a handful of men. He was rather startled to see more than two hundred and fifty, and he was considerably upset to recognize so many trusted men of high rank among those who now stood before him with unfriendly expressions. (Numbers 16:2.)

"Why are you here?" Moses asked.

Korah Wants More Authority

"We are here because we believe you are taking on too much power for one man," Korah answered. "You and your priests act as though you are holier than any of the rest of us. If we are God's chosen people, then ALL of us are holy. That means that all of us have equal rights in matters of government. However, you use your authority to put men who are your friends in the best positions in government. (Verse 3.) We demand that you yield some of those offices to the congregation so we can choose our own officials." Korah, being a good speaker, knew he could be elected to a high office if the people were allowed to choose their own leaders. What Korah really was after was complete control of all Israel. Leaders of nations have always been the objects of envy by greedy men. Seizing leadership has always been a selfish, bloody game, with the greatest losers generally turning out to be the citizens. Even Israel, God's chosen nation, wasn't free of this kind of ambitious trouble makers.

Moses was shocked by this blunt demand from Korah. He could see that the men weren't just bluffing. It was plain that they were willing to go to extremes to gain what they had set out to do. Setting armed soldiers on them would only mean bloodshed. Besides, most of the Israelites would sympathize with the victims of the soldiers, since they were popular, well-known leaders, and the situation would become worse.

Without even going back into the privacy of his tent, Moses knelt forward with his head to the ground and asked God for help. A few of those assembled became uncomfortable as they stood in the presence of a humble man calling on his Creator for aid. They included On, one of the Reubenites. He wanted no more of the matter, and slipped out of the scene. Other onlookers merely smiled at what they considered an attempt by Moses to gain their sympathy by appearing pitifully pious.

"This is no time for a show, Moses!" Korah called out. "Stand up and explain why at least some of us shouldn't be priests in place of some of those who are now in service merely because it was your whim to put them there." Korah, a Levite, already had a high office, but he wanted an even higher office -- the priesthood that was given to Aaron. (Verses 8-11.)

Moses slowly came to his feet. Those who watched him couldn't know that God had just inspired him to know what to say. Ignoring Korah, Moses addressed Dathan and Abiram.

Moses Tries to Save Rebels

"Before you carry this matter further, let us discuss it in my tent," Moses said, thus giving them an opportunity to separate from Korah.

"There is no reason to talk with you," Dathan and Abiram replied. "We refuse to listen to your excuses for leading us from the good land of Egypt and into a desert where we are to die. Your only aim has plainly been to control the people, no matter what becomes of them." (Verses 12-14.)

These untruthful charges upset Moses. He was tempted to summon soldiers to slay every rebel before him. But he knew this was not according to God's plan of dealing with them, and he controlled himself.

"You have started something you will have trouble finishing," Moses declared to Korah in a voice that reached the whole crowd. "Your belief that just anyone can be in the priesthood without being ordained by God is not a true one. However, if all of you insist on trying to force your way into such offices, every one of you should be here tomorrow morning with incense and with a censer filled with hot coals. Aaron and his sons will also be here with their censers. God will make it known which ones he will choose as priests and their helpers." (Verses 4-7.)

Korah smiled when he heard this. He lacked respect for God, and he felt that he had bluffed Moses into giving in to the extent that he and his followers could gain a foothold in wresting power from Moses.

Rebels Challenge Moses

Next morning the crowd of two hundred and fifty, plus Korah, Dathan and Abiram, appeared before the tabernacle. Every man carried a censer filled with hot coals to show his readiness to go at once into priestly service. Korah had spread the word throughout the camps that he was going to challenge Moses, and that there would be a showdown to free the people from what was wrongfully referred to as Moses' unfair leadership. As a result, a growing crowd of curious people built up behind Korah's men.

Moses came out to face Korah. With him were Aaron and Aaron's sons, all of whom held censers with hot coals. The elders of Israel were also present.

There were minutes of strained silence. God hadn't told Moses what to do beyond asking the men to show up with censers. Moses didn't know what would happen next, but he was certain that God would somehow make it very clear which group would be in power from then on.

Suddenly there was a brilliant flash from the tabernacle, followed by a second and a third. It was plain to most that God was in the tabernacle. (Verse 19.) Some of them drew back, fearful of what might happen. Even a part of Korah's followers appeared to be ready to leave, but Korah told them to stand firm. Korah had become so rebellious that he actually doubted that God could hinder him and his men from gaining leadership of Israel, and the blinding display of light from within the tabernacle didn't move him from his ambition.

Realizing that God wanted to give them some message, Moses and Aaron stepped away from the others and approached the tabernacle.

"Remove yourselves and the priests and elders from these people who face you," God commanded in a voice that only the two men could hear. "I want you at a safe distance because I intend to wipe all the others out of existence!" (Verses 20-21.)

Moses shuddered at this alarming remark from God. The Creator had threatened to do the same thing before, but Moses had begged him not to, and God answered Moses' prayer. There was nothing to do now but again ask God to spare the people. Moses and Aaron bowed down in fervent prayer.

"Look at him!" Korah exclaimed to those about him. "He's trying again to gain the sympathy of the people by appearing pious!"

On the contrary, Moses wasn't concerned at that moment what the people thought. He was concerned for their lives, and he pleaded with God not to be angry with many people because of the evil deeds of a few. (Verse 22.)

God Spares the People

"I shall do this much," God said. "I shall spare the congregation if you can succeed in getting the people back to their homes and away from the tents where Korah, Dathan and Abiram live. Any who go near the homes of those three men will risk losing their lives."

Encouraged by this merciful statement from God, Moses sent his officers out to warn the crowd to break up and return to their tents, and not to go near the tents of Korah, Abiram and Dathan. Slowly and a bit unwillingly the people sauntered away.

"You said that God would choose His priests if we would assemble with censers," Korah called out to Moses. "You have only proved to the people that you are not a man of your word, because nothing has happened. Tomorrow we shall return. The people will think the matter over, and tomorrow they will be ready to back us up in what should be done about your authority."

"You should remember this in the meantime," Moses replied. "If you live till tomorrow, then you can know that I will not continue to be the leader of the Israelites."

This strange remark was ignored by Korah, Dathan and Abiram, who returned to their respective homes, which were close together on the south side of the Tabernacle. (Numbers 2:10 and 3:29.) Korah felt that he had made another successful step, and that it would be only a matter of a day or two before the mass of Israelites would swing over to his side. As for his two hundred and fifty followers, they also left and went back to their various camps.

Later, Moses and Aaron and the elders went to make certain that the people were not congregated around the homes of the three main offenders. They found their residence free of visitors, which was as God wanted it to be. Moses then warned them that because they persisted in a scheme to take over the government, God would cause the ground to open up and swallow them. (Verses 23-30.)

Dathan and Abiram came out of their tents, along with their wives and children, to hear what more Moses had to say.

"Now he's trying to threaten us with an earthquake," Dathan scornfully shouted to Abiram. "Can you think of anything more fantastic?"

"I'll believe it only when it happens -- and maybe not even then," Abiram shouted back with a grin.

Too Late to Repent!

"We have given these men fair warning," Moses said to those with him. "Perhaps God would spare them if they would repent, but since they refuse to repent, it's obviously too late now. Let us leave here before something dreadful happens."

Almost as soon as their backs were turned there was a growing rumble from within the Earth. The ground trembled, then heaved upward directly between the tents of Abiram and Dathan and the tent of Korah, which was close by in another camp!


SCREAMING terrorized people of all three families -- Korah, Dathan and Abiram -- rushed wildly and aimlessly in all directions. Then the quivering mound of ground suddenly collapsed and fell back into a deep, yawning chasm! Tons of soil and rock slipped off the vertical sides of this horrifying hole and thundered down into dark oblivion, taking people, tents, animals and most everything that belonged to Korah, Dathan and Abiram. (Numbers 16:31-33 and 26:10.) It was as though a gigantic mouth had opened in the Earth's crust for the one purpose of swallowing the rebellious men and their possessions!

---end of excerpt---

The lesson is clear for us today. We should be immersed into the Word of God and His Salvation Process and never allow any type of a spirit of rebellion to creep into our minds. We should never seek to unseat those over us in the church because of envy, jealousy, pride or the desire for power and position. We should never allow anyone to gossip, murmur against nor tear down anyone in leadership. Korah was not just rebelling against Moses and Aaron but against God. Anyone today attempting to rebel against the leadership positions in the church, for those stated reasons and motivations would be doing the same.

Who Are You Going to Offend?

A few days ago, I spoke truth to someone and they took great offence at my words. Several of this persons “friends” took the opportunity to attack me for my words. Several questioned, “how can a pastor offend someone? They took the attack to another level and began accusing me of all sorts of ungodly things. Remember… all I did was speak truth to the person. Ironically, I’ve had many of that person’s friends contact me and tell me that they completely agreed with me and they support me and say that someone needed to tell her the truth. My question is simply: “Why are none of her friends willing to be honest enough to speak truth to her?” 
The answer is obvious… look how I was attacked!  

I really am not trying to defend myself. I know what I did was the right thing to do and God himself will vindicate me in time. Rather, the reason for my writing this blog entry today is to address this notion that Christians (especially pastors) should not offend anyone.
I propose to the reader that each and every one of us look at ourselves in a mirror and ask that person looking back at us, “Who am I going to offend?”  If you are a Christian, you are going to offend someone. You can bank on that fact. The question is, Are you going to offend man or are you going to offend God? If you are one of these mealy mouthed people who thinks you walk around oozing love and tolerance, then you are going to offend God. Or… you are going to speak truth, even when that truth hurts a bit, because you want to please God.  I cannot speak for anyone else, but I’m far more concerned about offending God than I am about offending you. The last thing I want to do is offend God… and the fact of the matter is that in God’s Word, he says clearly that people will become offended at us who speak His truth, even to the point of hating us. If you try to be a people pleaser, you are going to offend God. And if your ambition is to be a God pleaser… you are going to offend people. No if, ands or buts about it. So don’t waste your breath asking me how I, as a pastor can offend someone. I’m doing what I’m supposed to do. When you speak truth, even in love, people are not going to like it, and they will hate you and tell lies about you. They did it to Jesus, so you’d better believe they will do it to you. That does not mean that we walk around being obnoxious and purposefully trying to hurt people. That’s just being a jerk. But the sad truth is that people who are focused on self (all sin focuses on self) are selfish people and are easily offended.

Allow me to give you and example from the Bible. Most of us know the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. If you read that story you will find that King Nebuchadnezzar had shown them great favor and put them in positions of authority. But then he issued a decree that they could not follow; that everyone had to bow to his ninety-foot statue. Now, I know that these boys did not want to offend the King, but they were far more concerned about offending God, so they refused to bow down to the statue.
They were told that if they did not bow down, they would be thrown into a fiery furnace. Look at their response found in Daniel 3:16:  “O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God whom we serve is able to save us. He will rescue us from your power, Your Majesty. But even if he doesn’t, Your Majesty can be sure that we will never serve your gods or worship the gold statue you have set up.”  They were not willing to compromise and offend God, EVEN if it meant their lives. Their unwillingness to offend God was the set up for one of the most amazing miracles recorded in Scripture. (In case you don’t know…God delivered them from the fiery furnace.)

My point is this… If you are going to serve God, You are going to offend someone. You need to ask yourself that question right now and get it settled within you, “Who am I going to offend… God or man? You need to know that when you offend man, you will be attacked viciously. But just as God delivered those three boys from the fiery furnace… He will deliver you. I’ve been called some pretty hateful and detestable things this past week by someone who claims to love me. Does it hurt? Yes… more than words can say. But I stand with my head held high and know I spoke the truth in love. I can stand before God with clean hands and heart and know that He is not offended. And that’s what matters to me.

02 September, 2015

Peace In the Midst of It All

I'm certain I'm not the only one who often finds themselves seemingly caught up in a whirlwind, with so much to do, so many things pulling at you, that you just don't know how you are going to get them all done. And it just seems like it is not going to stop. Of course it does, but for that season or time, it is relentless. I'm in the midst of one of those seasons right now. There are so many things that need to be done... many that MUST be done right now, which pushes others to the back of the stove... yet again. And it seems I just cannot get caught up.  Yesterday started out with me already exhausted. I'd not gotten settled down and to sleep until well after 3:00 in the morning and by noon I was dragging because I'd already been to the bank, post office, done some shopping that needed to be done, been to Peoria to see a member in the hospital and back, fielded 6 or 7 phone calls while making that drive and dealing with other people's problems, upset people because I've not had time to do what they wanted me to do for them and all the while trying to spend some time praying about my Wednesday night service and trying to go through the checklist of things I had to do for the wedding rehearsal later in the day... when I pulled up to the church and saw that the grass had grown incredibly since Sunday and it had to be mowed this week and I knew that the rest of the week was out of the question, so my plans were abruptly shifted and I ran home to change and load up my mower and I spent the next 3 hours mowing in the extreme heat... and wondering how I was going to get everything else done that needed to be done. The whirlwind was getting larger than life.

I was trying to pray while mowing... trying mind you... but my mind was racing. Trying to calm my mind and spirit, I found myself singing an old, old song, "Peace, Peace, wonderful Peace...Coming down from the Father above... Sweep over spirit forever I pray... In fathomless billows of love." There in the heat and dust a calm came over me and I began to realize that the most important thing is not the office work, nor the baptismal tank, nor even trying to visit the members who've not been to church... the most important thing was worshipping my God and getting in His presence. At first, I was "singing" in my head... then quietly to myself, then out loud, not caring who else heard.   As I sang it dawned on me that true peace isn't the absence of conflict or duty that pulls at you... true peace is the absence of the effect of those things. True peace is standing firm in the midst of the whirlwind... not because who we are nor how strong we are... but because of whose we are and how strong He is.

I don't have to tell you that things are crazy in our world right now. Politically, this Nation is in a crisis of truth. I'll leave it at that. Morally, we are in the sewer. Socially... I don't even know where to begin, but let's take a stab at this... the trend is to murder our men in blue because they are trying to protect us... how twisted is that for a society?  No...all is not always well in our world. Some people seem to live oblivious to what is happening in the world around them, but most of us at some point struggle with issues. And the bottom line is we all have "stuff" going on in our lives.. Our lives are filled with conflict, confusion and spiritual unrest. We all struggle with issues... family, finances, stress as we face things we didn't sign up for and we wonder how it is that we find this issue on our plate. We must face and deal with the whirlwind. 

And yet, Jesus promised to give us peace. In John 14:27 Jesus said, " Peace I leave with you, my peace I give you. I do not give you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid."   The Bible goes on the say that there is a "perfect peace" for those who have the ability to stay focused and keep their minds on God, rather than the things of the world. In fact the Bible promises to us a peace that is beyond our capacity to even understand.  That's amazing! 

Have you ever seen someone walking through the storm above all storms and they just seem to be at peace? People will say of such a person, "They've lost it! They are not in touch with reality." Well... I propose that maybe they ARE in touch with reality! Because reality is not found in the temporal things of this world, but in keeping our minds stayed or focused on things above. When you come to the place that you are thinking on an eternal level, the potholes we face here are nothing more than a bump in the road!
It causes people who are going through literal Hell on earth to be able to stand strong and say, "It is well with my soul!"
The world around them, and even the world within them may be in the midst of the biggest storm of their life... yet they keep their mind on Christ. When you are able to do that, then you rise above the storms.

We need to come to understand that life in Christ doesn't promise a stormless existence, it promises peace in the midst and in spite of the storm. It promises us peace when the storm is raging and it seems, in the natural, to be hopeless.  Jesus never promise sunny skies and smooth sailing all the time. He promised that when we pass through the waters, they will not over take us! When we pass through the fire, it will not harm us! This is the peace that Christ offers to those who keep their minds on the Father.

31 August, 2015

God's Way or Our Way?

The longer I serve as a pastor, or for that matter, as a child of God, the more I get absolutely dumb founded by the way some Christian people operate in their life. No, I'm not perfect... not even close. But there are some things that just leave me scratching my head in disbelief. Within the past few days I had one of those moments that I'm still asking myself if I really witnessed what I think I did. I cannot go into specifics without revealing who is involved, so I won't go there, but here is the gist of what happened. I was involved in a discussion with a group of Christian people trying to come to a consensus or decision which was very important. There was good discussion, which is always a good thing when you are trying to come to a group consensus. All were in harmony and agreement and spoke of what they felt God's will was, but one person kept coming back to one issue which they admitted was a personal desire that they would like to see, and because of that one point, the group process was overridden and the fact that they felt this was "God's will" was shoved aside to deal with the personal desires of one person. Although every person involved was in agreement that they saw this as "God's will", they chose to explore another path because one person wanted something else to happen. I'm still sitting here, days later, wondering how can you say that something is God's will, but I want "x,y,z" to happen, so since it is not, let's look for another way to make this happen? Pretty crazy. Sadly, I've seen this happen more times than I could count in my years of ministry. When people put self and selfish desires in front of God's plan or purpose, there is usually a big mess and heartbreak coming down the pike, and when it happens they will look to blame everyone but themselves. Truly sad.  

22 August, 2015

The "Sovereignty" of God

In response to "anonymous" from my last post, and any other strict Calvinist, I give an excellent article by Andrew Wommack.  What you see in the response of "anonymous" is exactly why I do not adhere to Calvinist theology. Such theology portrays God to be some sort of a monster and ignores scripture completely. 

The Sovereignty Of God
By Andrew Wommack

My heart was really stirred this last month. I attended a meeting where an old friend of mine was ministering. He had been through some terrible things that nearly destroyed his faith. He became bitter and angry at God for the things that had happened. When I heard him, he had humbled himself and was again loving the Lord and excited about the future. Praise the Lord! However, in the process, he had come to believe that it was the Lord that caused all his problems. He had resigned himself to the "sovereignty of God."

I believe this is the worst doctrine in the church today. I know that this is a shocking statement and is near blasphemy to some people, but the way sovereignty" is taught today is a real faith killer. The belief that God controls everything that happens to us is one of the devil's biggest inroads into our lives. If this belief is true, then our actions are irrelevant, and our efforts are meaningless. What will be will be.

If we believe that God wills everything, good or bad, to happen to us, it gives us some temporary relief from confusion and condemnation, but in the long-term, it slanders God, hinders our trust in God, and leads to passiveness.

The word "sovereign" is not used in the King James Version of the Bible. It is used 303 times in the Old Testament of the New International Version, but it is always used in association with the word "LORD" and is the equivalent of the King James Version's "LORD God." Not a single one of those times is the word "sovereign" used in the manner that it has come to be used in religion in our day and time.

Religion has resulted in the invention of a new meaning for the word "sovereign," which basically means God controls everything. Nothing can happen but what He wills or allows. However, there is nothing in the actual definition that states that. The dictionary defines "sovereign" as, "1. Paramount; supreme. 2. Having supreme rank or power. 3. Independent: a sovereign state. 4. Excellent." None of these definitions means that God controls everything.

It is assumed that since God is paramount or supreme that nothing can happen without His approval. That is not what the Scriptures teach. In 2 Peter 3:9, Peter said, "The Lord is...not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance." This clearly states that it is not the Lord's will for anyone to perish, but people are perishing. Jesus said, "Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat" (Matt. 7:13). Relatively few people are saved compared to the number that are lost. God's will for people concerning salvation is not being accomplished.

This is because the Lord gave us the freedom to choose. He doesn't will anyone into hell. He paid for the sins of the whole world (1 John 2:2; 1 Tim. 4:10), but we must choose to put our faith in Christ and receive His salvation. People are the ones choosing hell by not choosing Jesus as their Savior. It is the free will of man that damns them, not God.

People virtually have to climb over the roadblocks that God puts in their way to continue on their course to hell. The cross of Christ and the drawing power of the Holy Spirit are obstacles that every sinner encounters. No one will ever stand before God and be able to fault Him for withholding the opportunity to be saved. The Lord woos every person to Him, but we have to cooperate. Ultimately, the Lord simply enforces the consequences of people's own choices.

God has a perfect plan for every person's life (Jer. 29:11), but He doesn't make us walk that path. We are free moral agents with the ability to choose. He has told us what the right choices are (Deut. 30:19), but He doesn't make those choices for us. God gave us the power to control our destinies.

Typical teaching on the sovereignty of God puts Jesus in the driver's seat with us as passengers. On the surface that looks good. All of us have encountered the disastrous results of doing our own thing. We desire to be led of the Lord, and teaching that nothing happens but what God wills fits that nicely. However, the Scriptures paint a picture of each of us being behind the wheel of our own lives. We are the one doing the driving. We are supposed to take directions from the Lord, but He doesn't do the driving for us.

Man has been given the authority over his own life, but he must have the Lord's direction to succeed. Jeremiah 10:23 says, "O LORD, I know that the way of man is not in himself: it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps." God created us to be dependent upon Him and our independence is at the root of all our problems. As if it wasn't bad enough for man to try to run his affairs independently of God and His standards, it has been made even worse by religion teaching us that all our problems are actually blessings from God. That is a faith killer. It makes people totally passive.

James 4:7 says, "Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you." This verse makes it clear that some things are from God, and some from the devil. We must submit to the things that are of God and resist the things that are from the devil. The word "resist" means, "Actively fight against." Saying "Whatever will be will be" is not actively fighting against the devil.

If a person really believed that God is the one who put sickness on them because He is trying to work something for good in their life, then they should not go to the doctor or take any medicine. That would be resisting God's plans. They should let the sickness run its course and thereby get the full benefit of God's correction. Of course, no one advocates that. That is absurd. It is even more absurd to believe that God is the one behind the tragedy.

Acts 10:38 says that Jesus healed all those who were oppressed OF THE DEVIL. It was not God who oppressed them with sickness. It was the devil. It's the same today. Sickness is from the devil, not from God. We need to resist sickness and, by faith, submit ourselves to healing, which is from God through the atonement of Christ.

I know someone is thinking, What about the Old Testament instances where God smote people with sickness and plagues? There is a lot I could say about that if I had the space, but a simplified answer to that question is that none of those instances were blessings. They were curses. God did use sickness in the Old Testament as punishment, but in the New Testament, Jesus bore our curse for us (Gal. 3:13). The Lord would no more put sickness on a New Testament believer than He would make us commit a sin. Both forgiveness of sin and healing are a part of the atonement Jesus provided for us.

Deuteronomy, chapter 28, should forever settle this question for all who believe the Word of God. The first 14 verses of Deuteronomy 28 list the blessings of God and the last 53 verses list the curses of God. Healing is listed as a blessing (Deut. 28:4). Sickness is listed as a curse (Deut. 28:22, 27-28, 35, 59-61). God called sickness a curse. We should not call it a blessing.

Knowing that God is not the author of my problems is one of the most important revelations the Lord has ever given me. If I thought it was God who killed my father when I was twelve, and some of my best friends before I was 20, if it was God who had people kidnap me, slander me, threaten to kill me, and turn loved ones against me, then I would have a hard time trusting God, if He was like that.

On the contrary, it is very comforting to know that God only has good things in store for me. Any problems in my life are from the devil, of my own making, or just the results of life on a fallen planet. My heavenly Father has never done me any harm and never will. I KNOW that.

I am not saying that there is nothing to learn from hardships. Most of you reading this article have come to the Lord because of something in your life that overwhelmed you and caused you to turn to the Lord for help. That situation was not from God regardless of the results. It was you turning to the Lord and the faith you placed in Him that turned your life around, not the hardship.

If hardships and problems made us better, then everyone who has had problems would be better for them. Those who have the most trouble would be the best. That simply is not so.

Let me illustrate this with a story about my son, Joshua. When he was only a year old, I was loading lumber on a large truck in the heat of a Texas summer. I had Joshua with me, and he was having a big time playing in the lumber yard. By mid-afternoon, he was tired and sleepy and started to lie down in the dirt for a nap. I knew his mother wouldn't like that, so I put him in the cab of the truck to lie down and take his nap.

He had been wanting to get into that truck all day, and when I put him in there, he revived. I had to roll the windows down because it was hot, and Joshua was leaning out the windows and waving at me in the side view mirrors. I told him to lie down and even gave him a spanking, but he didn't take heed. He leaned out the window too far, fell out of the cab, hit his eye on the running board and landed on his head.

I ran up to him, prayed over him, and held him until he quit crying. Then I told him that was why I told him to lie down and go to sleep and not lean out the window. I used that situation which caused him pain, to teach him, but if Joshua would have been like the sovereignty teachers of today, he would have gone out and told all his friends that his father made him fall out of that truck to teach him to obey. That's not so. I did what I could to restrain him. I would be very hurt if that's the way Joshua thought I was.

Likewise, I don't believe it blesses our heavenly Father for us to blame Him for all the problems that come into our lives. Sure, He will comfort us when we turn to Him in the midst of our problems, but He doesn't create the negative circumstances that hurt our lives.

God is sovereign in the sense that He is paramount and supreme. There is no one higher in authority or power, but that does not mean He exercises His power by controlling

In many instances, it is our wrong choices that bring disaster upon us. In other cases, our problems are nothing but an attack from the devil. In some cases, natural forces of an imperfect world cause us pain. Our tragedies are never the judgment or correction of God. Jesus came to give us abundant life. The devil came to steal, kill and destroy (John 10:10). Don't ever get that confused. If it's good, it's God. If it's bad, it's the devil.

This is a fundamental doctrine of Christianity that must be understood properly if you want victory in your life. Believing that God controls everything renders a person passive. Why pray and believe for something better? Whatever God wants will come to pass. That simply is not true.

The Lord is the answer to all our problems. He is not the problem.

16 August, 2015

Hit a MAJOR Mark Today

If you follow me at all you know that for the past 6 months or so, I've been trying to make some changes in my life and in the process lose some of my girth, and get in shape. Little by little I've dropped some weight... and sometimes put some back on. This is a real battle for me. Well, today I stepped on the scale and it read 199. That is a huge step for me because it's like 200 has been a barrier for me for years. Today is the first time I have been less than 200 pounds since 1999. I cannot tell you how good that makes me feel. I'm not done yet. I still have at least 10 more pounds to go, but it feels so good to know that I have finally broken the 200 barrier. 

15 August, 2015

Witnessed An Unbelievably Touching Wedding Tonight

I was hired to shoot pictures of a wedding tonight and I have to say this was one of the coolest and most meaningful weddings I've ever witnessed. I'm too tired to write about it in detail tonight, but I will write more later and include photos. This couple chose a very religious ceremony (which very few do today) and then as part of the ceremony, they washed each others feet in observance of when Christ washed the feet of the disciples. It was absolutely beautiful and touching. I'm so proud of these "kids". They are both military veterans and tough as nails, but they wanted to have this ceremony, not only for themselves, but as a witness to all of their friends and family. That takes guts and Christian integrity, and I am proud of them for taking this stand.