Thursday, January 31, 2013

When Your Mouth Gets Your Butt in Trouble


When Your Mouth Gets Your Butt in Trouble

 

And the king was exceedingly sorry; yet, because of the oaths and because of those who sat with him, he did not want to refuse her.” – Mark 6:26

When my daughter Gabby was little she would often ask for things she would see in TV commercials.  For nearly every toy commercial on a Saturday mornings I would hear “Mom, can I have that?” and answer a quick “OK!”  I would give “OK” as an answer knowing that five minutes later she wouldn’t remember asking for the pet monkey or whatever it was she had just seen on TV.  But she caught on to my quick answers.  She started following my answer with and outstretched little finger and “Pinky promise?”
Oh, the dreaded pinky promise!  When pinkies lock in a sacred oath of life, you must forego all retreat from your given answer!  Your words are written in stone!  You can’t break a pinky promise!  The outcome is wailing and sobbing, and cries of “But….you pinky promised!” from a broken heart that no longer believes your word!  I quickly learned after one too many broken pinky promises and sobs to stop making promises. 

In Matthew 5:33-37 Jesus taught that we shouldn’t make promises to each other, but just keep our word.  He said not to swear by anything on earth, in Heaven, or on your own head [life], but “let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No.’ For whatever is more than these is from the evil one.” Anything more than ‘yes’ or ‘no’ gives Satan, the evil one, an opportunity to use your mouth to get your butt in trouble.  The easiest way to dent your character is to break your promise.  You become instantly untrustworthy.  But if you simply give a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer, and mean what you say, you keep yourself from trouble.
In Mark 6:14-29 we are told of how King Herod allowed his words to become his enemy and even bind his actions against what he knew to be right.  Herod thought highly of John the Baptist, and knew he was a holy man, and “when he heard him, he did many things, and heard him gladly.”(Mark 6:20).  But when John preached that it was not right of Herod to marry his brother Philip’s wife, Herodias, his wife, got angry.  In fact, she became murderously angry and wanted to kill John!  So to save John from his wife, and to appease her, Herod put John in prison. 

That could have been the end of the story.  John could have stayed in prison till he died, or Herod released him after Herodias’ anger subsided.  But Herod let his own words write the rest of the story. 
It was Herod’s birthday and he was having a fine time.  Eating and drinking and having a good time, Herodias’ daughter came to dance for the King.  Oh, he could have simply said “Thank you”.  He could have given her gold or silver, or some other thing to show his appreciation.  But no!  Herod made an oath.  He promised her “Ask me whatever you want, and I will give it to you.” And if that wasn’t enough, he swears to her in front of all who are there, “Whatever you ask me, I will give you, up to half my kingdom.” 

“Up to half my kingdom” was the rights of her mother Herodias as the queen, and the young girl seems to have recognized that.  So she went to her mother and asked “What shall I ask?  Oh, Herodias’ evil heart was still enraged at John, and saw this as a way to get exactly what she wanted!  She sent her daughter back to the king saying “I want you to give me at once the head of John the Baptist on a platter.”
He didn’t want to do it.  He had great respect for John the Baptist.  He knew John was a holy man.  But as we are told in Mark 6:26 “yet, because of the oaths and because of those who sat with him, he did not want to refuse her.”  He sent the executioner, had John beheaded, and his head brought to the girl who gave it to her mother, Herodias.  From the simple desire to reward a girl for dancing at his birthday party, Herod’s words caused him to become the murderer of John the Baptist.  His words trapped him into doing things his heart never wanted to do. 

Many things can happen that cause you to break your promise.  Plans change, circumstances change, even the ability to keep the promise changes.  And when we break a promise the first thing we say is, “I’ll make it up to you” which is nothing more than another opportunity to disappoint.  We often hear “Don’t make promises you can’t keep.” But the truth is we don’t know the future so we don’t know if we can keep any of them.  Guard your words, and mean what you say.  Don’t make promises.  They are traps that lead to dishonesty.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

A Spiritual Heritage


A Spiritual Heritage

 

When all that generation had been gathered to their fathers, another generation arose after them who did not know the Lord nor the work which He had done for Israel.” – Judges 2:10

A spiritual heritage isn’t something you hear much about these days. But it’s something this old girl loves to tell about.  The love of those who blessed me with the knowledge of God overflows in my heart as I remember them.  I grew up with grandparents who believed in God and worshipped Him.  All of them, great-grandparents, grandparents, and parents, knew God as their savior and allowed Him to be Lord of all.
My Papaw Lev was the song leader at the church I grew up in for many years.  On the day I was baptized in Lake Barkley I remember him on the bank, in his old gray flannel hat, leading the church in “Shall We Gather at the River”.  He would often go to town with his Bible, sit on the “loafer’s bench” in front of the old court house, and wait for someone to come along to discuss the Bible with him.

My Granddaddy Clarence, nicknamed “Tarzan”, was a loving man much like my Uncle Dale.  His hugs would tell you all you needed to know about what was in his heart.  He was a deacon in the church for a long time, and proudly served the church.  It wasn’t uncommon to see his Bible on the table beside his recliner.
My Mamma Ruby, given up for adoption as a little girl, had been raised in an orphanage.  She was not saved when she came into our lives, but I remember when she was. And I remember her morals of hard work, and determination.  She would work in the field or with the cattle or pigs till noon, come in and cook a farmer’s lunch, and then clean up and go to work at one of a number of restaurants she worked in as a cook.  And she was a great cook too! If you ever ate at Pete Light Springs when it was in the height of its popularity, you most likely ate her cooking.

My Momma Pearl was a strong woman of faith.  She believed God for what the Bible said and was non-denominational before it even had a name.  She would worship Him anywhere and everywhere she was invited to go.  She watched TV ministries, and give to orphans in other countries.  She taught me how to pray by watching and listening to her.  Being widowed at an early age, she raised my cousin’s single handedly.  Though they gave her a hard time, she remained strong, steady in her faith, loyal to God, and unshakeable.  She was the one to lead me to Christ.    
But they weren’t perfect people by any means.  My Papaw Lev quit going to church completely after my Great-Grandmother Oat died.  Truth be told, he liked to argue the Bible as much as discuss it.  My Granddaddy Clarence gave up on church after my Momma Ruby died and eventually was excluded from the church because he hadn’t attended in a long time.  He later turned back to church but missed several years.  My Momma Pearl had a tongue sharper than a steak knife and often lit up the phone lines gossiping with her friends.  But were they spiritual role models for me?  You bet they were!  Love covers a multitude of sins, and it was there love for Him that I saw most. They showed reverence and respect to God regardless of their church attendance, bad habits, or attitudes.  I am a better person today because they were part of my spiritual heritage.

In Judges 2 we read of Israel when they had first begun to take the Promised Land from its inhabitants.  Under God’s direction and Joshua’s leadership, they conquered nation by nation to gain the land that God had given them.   Joshua rallied them and directed them to trust and obey God, much like a grandparent will teach their children to respect God.  But as Joshua died, something unexpected unfolded.  Though he taught His generation to trust God, the second generation did not.
Judges 2:8-10 tells of his death and says “Now Joshua the son of Nun, the servant of the Lord, died when he was one hundred and ten years old.  And they buried him within the border of his inheritance at Timnath Heres, in the mountains of Ephraim, on the north side of Mount Gaash. When all that generation had been gathered to their fathers, another generation arose after them who did not know the Lord nor the work which He had done for Israel. 

After 110 years of life Joshua died, and the generation he led died. And the next generation grew and did not know the Lord or even the miraculous things He had done for Israel.  If we read further we find that they were idolaters, and “did evil in the sight of the Lord, and served the Baals” (Judges 2:11).  After all God had accomplished for Israel to have these children raised in freedom, they could not be grateful because they didn’t know about the blessings God had given them.  We have to lay blame at their parent’s feet for this one.  What parent would deny their child the knowledge of God?
After raising two kids of my own, I know how hard it is to get them up and dressed for church on a Sunday morning.  It’s even harder if the man of the house doesn’t want to lead.  But friends, if we don’t take our children to church, they will never learn of God.  The school doesn’t teach about Him.  We don’t teach about Him in our homes. Our liberal media isn’t going to proclaim His existence.  Without church attendance, they will likely grow up to be idolaters as well, and reject the God that loves them.

Giving your children a spiritual heritage means you have to walk with Christ in a visible daily manner.  The best sermons are the ones that are not spoken.  Seeing you pray, as I did my Momma Pearl, they will learn to pray.  Seeing you study your Bible, as I did my Papa Lev, they’ll learn the joy of studying His word.  Seeing you go to church when you’re tired and overworked, as I did my Momma Ruby, they learn the importance of loyalty to Him without you even having to proclaim it.
You can leave your children a great inheritance in financial funds and investments.  But when you’re gone, you will have no idea if it will be spent well or wasted on momentary desires.  But if you leave them a spiritual heritage, you will see them walk through Heaven crowned one day.  Then you will know that the struggles were all worth it.

I won’t be searching Heaven for my kids for I know they’ll be there.  I’m passing on my spiritual heritage.  What about your kids?  What about your grand kids?  Are you leaving them a spiritual heritage?  The best time to teach them about God is before you’ve breathed your last breath. 
 

 

 

Friday, January 25, 2013

God Will Repay


God Will Repay

 

“For the Lord is the God of recompense, He will surely repay.” – Jeremiah 51:56

Adoni-Bezek was an evil man.  We can safely say that even though God’s Word only gives us a short passage in Judges 1:4-7 about him.  At the time he is mentioned, the Israelites were fighting the inhabitants of Canaan, the Promised Land, to take possession of what God had given them.  One of the towns they had to fight to control was Bezek.  He was the ruler of Bezek, Adoni-Bezek, which means “Lord of Bezek”.  Most likely he was not a king, but a tyrant ruler.   
Adoni-Bezek had conquered many kings.  When he did, he would cut off both their thumbs and big toes.  He did this to assure that they could never pick up a sword or pull back a bow against him, or run away.  They became incapacitated to fight or escape.  But to reduce them even more, he wouldn’t feed them.  He forced them to gather the scraps under his table after he had eaten.  It was a barbarous act to insult and humiliate them in the face of his lavish lifestyle.

On the day that God sent His army of Israelites to overcome Bezek, Adoni-Bezek received his just reward.  God doesn’t always wait for the Day of Judgment to deliver punishment.  Sometimes the day of His wrath comes first.  And this was the case with Adoni-Bezek.  In Judges 1:4-7 we read his story:
Then Judah went up, and the Lord delivered the Canaanites and the Perizzites into their hand; and they killed ten thousand men at Bezek. And they found Adoni-Bezek in Bezek, and fought against him; and they defeated the Canaanites and the Perizzites.  Then Adoni-Bezek fled, and they pursued him and caught him and cut off his thumbs and big toes. And Adoni-Bezek said, “Seventy kings with their thumbs and big toes cut off used to gather scraps under my table; as I have done, so God has repaid me.” Then they brought him to Jerusalem, and there he died.

Jeremiah 51:56 says “For the Lord is the God of recompense, He will surely repay.” He tells us that when other do us wrong to not seek vengeance on our own, but to take our complaints to Him (Deuteronomy 32:35).  He is a Father that rules with justice over us.  His justice is righteous and fair, as 2 Thessalonians 1:6 says it is a righteous thing with God to repay with tribulation those who trouble you”. 
Adoni-Bezek never grew up expecting to receive the torture he delivered to seventy kings.  He never said in his heart “one day God is coming for me for what I’m doing to these kings”.  Adoni-Bezek wasn’t thinking of God at all!  But God was thinking of him, and saw every evil deed.  He saw the thumbs and toes of seventy kings fall to the floor, and remained longsuffering and patient with Adoni-Bezek until the day His wrath was full.  But when God’s wrath was full, His punishment was just.

The golden rule use to be taught in school, and many of us grew up reciting “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”.  It is based on the words of Jesus in Matthew 7:12, where He says it is the “sum of the Laws of the prophets”.  These are the Levitical laws of the old covenant, but the expectation of how we treat each other did not change with the new covenant grace and Jesus Christ. 
Jesus reiterates the golden rule again in Matthew 22:36-40.  He tells us that there are two commandments that sum all the laws. The first relates to God, and says You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.”  The second relates to each other and says, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”  

The thing we often dismiss about the commandments is that they are not suggestions, but commands.  God means what He says when He is - not asking - but telling us to love our neighbor as ourselves. 
In Romans 2:5-6 it tells us that we are “treasuring up wrath in the day of wrath and revelation of righteous judgment of God who will render to each one according to his deeds”. There is a day coming when we all will have to answer for our deeds toward each other.  Surely knowing Almighty God is keeping track of all our sins toward each other and His wrath is building up toward us would be enough reason to change our ways.  But we forget that God is seeing our deeds, as Adoni-Bezek did.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Don't Fight HIm - Resist Him


Don’t Fight Him – Resist Him

 

“Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” – James 4:7

I remember growing up watching the “Flip Wilson Show”.  Flip was a comedian whose real name was Clerow Wilson, Jr.  One of the skits he often performed on the show was as a woman named Geraldine.  Geraldine was an outspoken woman with low morals, a love for men, and a boyfriend named “Killer”.  Whenever Geraldine did something wrong, she was quick to pass blame and say “The Devil made me do it!”  Geraldine never took the blame for anything she did wrong.  It was always the Devil’s fault.
But the Devil does not cause us to sin.  WE cause us to sin.  In James 1:14 His Word says But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death. Sin is a two-step process.  Satan doesn’t enter into the process until step 2.

First, your own desires cause you to be “drawn away”.  This would lead us to ask what we are being drawn away from.  For the born-again Christian, the answer would be the Holy Spirit within us.  And our own desires, drawing us away from Him, allow for step two, which is to be “enticed”.  This is Satan’s work, to tempt us with the things we desire.  But it doesn’t start with Satan, and Satan cannot be blamed.
Paul speaks of Satan’s role in sin and says in 1 Corinthians 10:13 “No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.” From Paul we learn that the temptations we have are “common to man”.  The Greek word used for this phrase is anthrĊpinos (Strong’s G442), which means “adjusted to the strength of man”.  No matter what the temptation is, it is NOT beyond your strength.  If it were beyond your strength, how could God fairly judge sin?  How would it be fair for you to be tempted with things you cannot overcome, and be found guilty?  We are all tempted within our own strength, whether it feels like it or not.  But we are not all tempted by the same sins.  Satan feeds off our own desires and lusts, and entices accordingly.  If you don’t like the things you’re being tempted with – change your desires and lusts!

But Paul also says that God shows up in the midst of our temptations, for He is faithful.  He provides a “way of escape that you may be able to bear it”.  No one sins without having a way out of the sin.  It’s an escape route, not a war.  That’s God’s promise. 
So we sin willfully, out of our own desire to sin.  Our spirit takes possession of our body, overruling the Holy Spirit within us, which seeks to lead us to in truth (John 16:12-15) and we sin.  James says in James 4:5 “The Spirit who dwells in us yearns jealously” because we pursue our own desires instead of His.

The way to avoid sin is to resist.  We don’t have to fight Satan, wage war against him, nor speak to the devil and his minions.  The fight is within.  We have already won the battle against Satan, and Satan has already lost.  We stand in victory with the incorruptible seed of the Holy Spirit within us, our divine power in Christ.  He came to steal, kill and destroy, but all power is in us to resist.  We have already won as 1 John 4:4 says You are of God, little children, and have overcome them, because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. On the organizational chart of God’s Kingdom, Christ rules higher than Satan and all the other demons and angels.  We rule with Christ, as His Spirit is in us.
When we resist, we allow our sinful spirit to take a back seat to the Overcomer, the Holy Spirit of Christ living within us.  James 4:7-10 says “Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Lament and mourn and weep! Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up.”  We’re not asked to fight, but to resist.  When we resist, just standing our ground and not giving in, we win and the enticement leaves.  He will “flee from you” meaning run away! 

Resisting our own will to sin, we submit to God, we “draw near to God”.  We cleanse ourselves from sin, purify our hearts, and clean up the fogged “double-mind” that occurs when we try to follow our own spirit, and the Holy Spirit, both within us.  James says that when we do turn from our sins, allowing the Spirit of God to empower us, “He will lift you up.” To be lifted up, you have to be down.  Sin is a downer, much like a pit, and you have to find a way out.  Drawing near to God is the way out.
Psalms 40:1-3 speaks of the pit and God’s mercy to His children:

I waited patiently for the Lord;
And He inclined to me,
And heard my cry.
[We pray]
He also brought me up out of a horrible pit,

Out of the miry clay,
And set my feet upon a rock,
And established my steps.
[He rescues]
He has put a new song in my mouth—

Praise to our God;
[We praise]
Many will see it and fear,
And will trust in the Lord.”
[He uses our testimony]
When you feel you are giving in, when you don’t think you have the strength to overcome, pray.  He will rescue you.  He will give you a new song, solid ground to stand firm on, and praise to be spoken for Him.  He will allow you to use what the devil meant for evil for His good. Resist, and you will find that God is right there, pulling you from the pit.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Respect for Life


Respect for Life

 

“Surely for your lifeblood I will demand a reckoning; from the hand of every beast I will require it, and from the hand of man. From the hand of every man’s brother I will require the life of man. Whoever sheds man’s blood, by man his blood shall be shed; For in the image of God He made man.” – Genesis 9:5-6

A teen son kills his two younger siblings, mother, and father. 

An ex-husband breaks into his ex-wife’s home, killing her and his own children. 

Police arrive at a home to find an elderly couple and their son dead, all shot by the father. 

A gunman kills twenty six people, including innocent young children at an elementary school. 

Twelve people are killed in a movie theater by one gunman. 

A mother kills her twin infant sons. 

Thirty-two are killed on the campus of Virginia Tech by one man.

Murder fills our news headlines nightly. But murder doesn’t stop at what hits the news. Over the past forty years that abortion has been legalized, fifty million (50,000,000) unborn children have been murdered at the hands of their own mother.  As if the end of 2012, the number of lives put to death through capital punishment since it was reinstated in 1976 was at 1320.  Gang related homicides are killing our young men averaging 15-19 years old at alarming rates.  Suicide takes the lives of thousands of our teens each year.  And euthanasia, while not legal in our nation, occurs daily in other countries at the hands of doctors and nurses, who take the lives of patients requesting their own death. 
No one will argue with the fact that we have a lack of respect for life in our society.  We have a deficiency in what we teach our children about the sanctity of human life.  We can blame it on video games, guns, violent movies, drugs, and a list of other things.  But at the very root of the issue, we don’t value human life.

If we ever want to see our society change, we have to teach our children - in our own homes - the value of life.  We cannot depend on schools or society to do it.  Of all the mass murders that have occurred lately, there is one thing we did not hear about the shooters.  We did not hear that of any of them were raised in Christian homes.    Respect for life must to be taught, but respect for God, the creator of life, must come first. 
Murder is nothing new.  The first family God created experienced it as Cain in his anger toward his younger brother, Abel, killed him in a field.  When God came to Cain concerning his sin, God said to him “Where is Abel your brother?” and Cain lied and said, “I do not know. Am I my brother’s keeper?” God replied to Cain, What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood cries out to Me from the ground.” (Genesis 4:9-10).  Surely as the the blood of Abel cried out to God, God’s ears are filled with the cries of so many lost daily to murder. 

1 John 3:12 speaks of Cain’s murder of Abel and tells us why it occurred.  It says “And why did he murder him? Because his works were evil and his brother’s righteous.”  Had Cain a righteous heart, and not works of evil, he would have loved his brother and not murdered him.  The only way for anyone to have a righteous heart is for Christ to make it righteous through salvation.  And salvation will only come to those that know God. 
To respect life we have to understand its source is not of ourselves.  We destroy something divine when we destroy life.  God is the creator of all life.  Not man.  Not woman.  Unless God gives life, none of us have it.  Psalms 127:3 says Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb is a reward.” Each and every person walking this earth is here as a reward to their parents. Regardless of the circumstances that lead to conception, the disabilities of the child, the kind of person they grow up to be, or the disabilities as disease and aging occurs, their life is a gift from God.  Life is His creation.  In all our magnificent wisdom in science and medicine, the one thing we cannot create is blood.  Blood gives life and it is created solely by God. 

We don’t live under the old covenant laws of “an eye for an eye” anymore!  We live under grace, and are expected to give grace as we receive it.  Almighty God is the one true judge, yielding the sword of judgment and justice.  To take matters into our own hands and determine that we should kill a person due to their crimes is like taking the sword of judgment from God’s hands.  Consider Michael the Archangel, leader of all angels.  When arguing with Satan over the body of Moses, Jude 1:9 tells us that he dared not bring against him a reviling accusation, but said, “The Lord rebuke you!” The idea that one of God’s children could sentence another of God’s children to death is hypocrisy.  Judgment is for God.  What has been made legal here does not affect what God calls sin.  Their blood also cries out to Him.  They all deserve to be given the time God has appointed for them to turn from their sin and receive Christ.  Consider who the life belongs to that is being taken.  Does it not belong to the Creator, God? 
God expect us to be our brother’s keeper, assuring that no one gives into violence or self-destruction. We must work to assure our government does not legalize forms of murder, and work to rescind the laws that have made many legal.  Genesis 9:5 says “From the hand of every man’s brother I will require the life of man.” God says, “From the hand of every man’s brother”, which does not refer to a family relationship, but a species relationship.  In our lack of doing what we can to prevent murder, we are accomplices to the crimes and will be held accountable. 

1 Corinthians 6:20 says For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.ALL, regardless of whether they have accepted Christ yet or not, were paid for by the shed blood of Christ.  God is “not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.”(2 Peter 3:9)  He alone knows the destiny of each life.  
Murder is the work of Satan.  John 8:44 says Satan “was a murderer from the beginning”, referring to the sin of Cain.  He even tried to get Jesus to commit suicide by persuading him to jump from the pinnacle of the temple (Matthew 4:5).  He comes for no reason “except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy” (John 10:10). 

Is it so hard to see that the murderous spirit within our society today is that of Satan himself?  Blame guns, blame video games, blame movies, blame fatherless homes, blame whatever you want, but without Satan, murder would not occur. 
Let us draw near to God with broken hearts, cry out for the daily loss of lives at our own hands, and teach our children to respect the divine life He gives.

 

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Taming the Caged Monster


Taming the Caged Monster


There is one who speaks like the piercings of a sword, but the tongue of the wise promotes health.” – Proverbs 12:18
Have you ever shed tears over something someone said about you?  I’d suggest that no one that read that question answered ‘no’!  We’ve all been there.  Through unthinking brains and untamed tongues we’ve all been slashed by the sword of the tongue.  Many of us are recalling those hurtful words now, all over again, at the simple mention of being hurt.  The pain does not go away, it just lies dormant from time to time.

Have you ever said something about someone and later regretted it?  Again, I’d suggest that we all answer that question with a shameful ‘yes’.  The tongue seems to speak sometimes without engaging the brain, being cold and cruel.  As much as a sword of steel can injure the physical body, the sword in our mouths can cause deep gaping wounds in the heart of those it slashes.  And though an apology is given, the memory of what was said remains.
There’s been a big push in schools lately to stop bullying.  We’ve all realized that our children don’t understand the cutting nature of their words.  We’re working to resolve that by teaching them not to make ugly comments about another’s differences, and use hurtful names.  But let’s stop a minute and ask ourselves how our children learn such behavior.  Is it not from our own examples? 

Our little unthinking statements like “Wow! She’s put on weight” gets repeated as “You’re fat!”  Statements like “They don’t seem to care for their children” become “Even your parents don’t like you.”  Or “Why don’t they get that kid a tutor!” can be turned quickly into “You’re stupid”.  Though we may say it gracefully using a larger vocabulary than our children, are we not saying the same thing?  If they hear you speak negativity, they learn to speak negativity.  Likewise, if you allow your words to build up with things like “You look nice!” or “Good for you!”  they will learn to channel their negative thoughts into positive words. 
Let’s take that a step further and notice that if our children are with caregivers and their friends more than they are with us.  We need to be cautious of what they hear from others.  We don’t elect role models for our children.  Our children handpick them.   

Considering the damage that it can do, it seems so fitting that God placed it within a cage of clenched teeth, and covered with a thick layer of strong and guarding lips and cheeks. The tongue is the caged monster, given by God.  It can be trained to say good things, or left alone, will be completely barbaric and cruel.  It will “just slip out” of its cage if not trained by a spirit of love, longsuffering compassion, kindness, and peace.  Given a poor trainer, the monster may devour even the trainer himself, ruining his own reputation. 
So how to do we train the tongue?  Is there a twelve step program to follow?  Can you print some exercises off the internet?  Are there special daily activities to follow?  Nope.  It’s not the tongue we tame.  It’s the heart.

In Matthew 12:34-35 Jesus says to the Pharisees, Brood of vipers! How can you, being evil, speak good things? For out of the abundance of THE HEART the mouth speaks. A good man out of the good treasure of his HEART brings forth good things, and an evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth evil things.”
If your heart is evil, your words will be evil as well.  Apples don’t grow on orange trees!  Clean out the evil in your hearts, and change the diet of the monster in your mouth.  Jesus says “A good man”, which are those that are found righteous in Him, “out of the good treasure of his heart” says good things.  The Holy Spirit in you, giving you instruction and guidance, will transform your heart and drive out the evil. 

Listen to your words.  Listen to the words of your children, grandchildren, and those that look to you as a role model.  Is it time to train the caged monster?

Monday, January 21, 2013

His Consuming Fire


His Consuming Fire

 

For the Lord your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God.” – Deuteronomy 4:24

I’ve done a little bit of planting in my day and found that if you want growth in anything, you have to pull out the weeds surrounding the plant.  You have to give all energy that’s in the ground to the plant you want to grow.  If the energy is stolen by the weeds, then the weeds grow and overtake the ground. 
Sometimes when there are too many weeds to pull, a farmer will set the field on fire, destroying everything to start over with fresh ground.  But the ground is actually strengthened with the byproducts of the consumed weeds.  The decay and ash of the burned plant matter nourishes the soil.

God weeds out His children with His consuming fire as well.  He uses that fire to create holiness within us.  There are four times in God’s word He is called a “consuming fire”. 
The first time is in Exodus 24:17 when it says “The sight of the glory of the Lord was like a consuming fire on the top of the mountain in the eyes of the children of Israel.”  He appeared like a fire, burning and seeming to consume the mountain, yet the mountain remained after His presence left.  But His presence had already made the mountain, which had been just an ordinary mountain, Holy ground (Exodus 3:5). The children of Israel were warned not to go near the mountain, nor to let any beast go near it because they would die.  His Holiness consumes and destroys sin.

The second time is in Deuteronomy 4:24 which says, For the Lord your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God.”  This time it comes in a warning of sin’s consequences to the Israelites.  God told them that idolatry would cause them to “utterly perish from the land” and be “utterly destroyed”.  God will be worshipped, and He will be glorified in our lives.  Giving Him less than your full worship, your full submission, has consequences.  He is jealous FOR us - not against us.  It is to our benefit that we become submissive to Him.
The third time is in Deuteronomy 9:3 when the Israelites are about to go into war against the inhabitants of the Promised Land, the enemies of God.  He tells them “Therefore understand today that the Lord your God is He who goes over before you as a consuming fire. He will destroy them and bring them down before you.”  But His clearing of the Promised Land for them was not due to their righteousness, for He had once thought to completely destroy them while they were in the wilderness.  His clearing of the Promised Land was due to the sins of its inhabitants.  His consuming fire is to remove sin.  He will consume anything that stands in the way of His promise toward us, which is an abundant life with Him.

The fourth time is in Hebrews 12:29 when Paul writes For our God is a consuming fire.” Paul is writing of the purification of the saved children of God.  He will burn up the ground so that sanctification takes place.  He will leave it nourished by the trials and the pain, and bring our spirit into subjection to His.
Another thing I’ve learned about planting is that there are some plants that cannot be put into the ground or they’ll overtake the ground.  One small container of spearmint will in a year become a yard full of spearmint!  Some plants are stronger than all others and will create a root mass that chokes out all others. 

God’s Holy Spirit is much like that.  As we drawn closer to God through His word and following His leadership we give more ground to His Spirit, and sin in us will be destroyed by His Holiness.  His Spirit is so much stronger than ours!  It’s not our work in us that creates holiness, but His work in us.  We just submit, offering up the ground. 
Children of God listen to the guidance of His Spirit and submit to the process of purification.  Don’t cause Him to set your field on fire.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Let Us Have Grace!


Let Us Have Grace!

 

Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear.  For our God is a consuming fire.” – Hebrews 12:28-29
The one thing regarding religion that bothers me most is that it makes everyone feel unworthy.  I’m not talking about Christianity, or the new covenant of grace given by Christ.  I’m talking of religion…the twisted gospel preached by many that we have to somehow make ourselves worthy of the salvation offered by Christ, and then have to keep ourselves perfected to hold on to His gift of grace.

The whole idea that we could with any success become worthy of salvation is contrary to God’s word.  Romans 3:23 says all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”. Even the ones speaking these false statements cannot of himself be found worthy, for it says ALL have sinned.  Romans 3:10 says There is none righteous, no, not one”.  Not a single person who ever walked this earth, except Christ, was righteous in his own efforts.
Yet we tell the alcoholic, the adulterer, the drug abuser, the thief, the party goer, and any we see sinning that they have to clean themselves up before coming to Christ.  We tell them to change their lives, and then come to Christ.  Whether this is spoken aloud from the pulpit or from our actions of making them feel unwanted when they enter our church doors (feel the conviction!), the message is the same.  Make yourself right – then Jesus will make you righteous.  How absurd! 

The whole idea reminds me of what Satan said when he rebelled from God.  In Isaiah 14:13-14 we read that in Satan’s heart he said:
‘I’ will ascend into heaven,
‘I’ will exalt my throne above the stars of God;
‘I’ will also sit on the mount of the congregation
On the farthest sides of the north;

‘I’ will ascend above the heights of the clouds,
‘I’ will be like the Most High.’”



I , I, I, I, I – Satan had an ‘I’ disease!  He concentrated on how he was going to make himself “like the Most High”.  Telling a sinner that they have to remove their sin before coming to Christ is giving them not the gospel of God - but the message of Satan.  And oh how Satan loves when we make those who need Christ most feel unworthy of His grace!  He applauds our efforts to do so!

In Hebrews 12:18-28 Paul writes concerning the old covenant of laws that were given to man from Mount Sinai, in contrast to the new covenant of grace (unmerited favor) through Christ. When the old covenant laws were given, the people were instructed to not go near the mountain, not touch the mountain, and that even if a beast were to touch it, it would die.  Holiness must remain untouched by the unclean to remain holy (Haggai 2:11-14).  But the new covenant of Grace from Christ is attainable, allowing us to enter holiness by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.  Even Christ in winning Thomas told him to touch Him (John 20:27) so that he would believe.  Holiness is no longer untouchable.

The old covenant laws were never meant to be perfected, but to show man that he could not attain perfection.  The laws were to be a mirror reflecting our sins. Romans 3:20 saysTherefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin.” Read that again.  By following the laws, NO FLESH WILL BE JUSTIFIED IN HIS SIGHT!  You can keep all Ten Commandments, do every deed in the Levitical law, and you will still be unjustified in God’s eyes.  The laws were given to give “knowledge of sin”.  So if you feel guilty once you read the Ten Commandments, congratulations! You have proof that they still work in the way God designed them to work.  God’s word never returns void, but will accomplish what He sends it to do (Isaiah 55:11).
But God, knowing even before giving the law that we would not be able to perfect ourselves, planned a new covenant, a new way to righteousness.  Even before the earth was created, Jesus was “the lamb slain” for our sins (Revelation 13:8).  Our inability to follow the laws did not surprise God – it was part of His great plan.  And His great plan was always, as it is now, for us to come to Him through faith in Jesus.  Read this passage from Ephesians 4:2-10:

But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.  For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.
The message is clear.  God loved us with a great and mighty love, even before we were given life.  He planned even then to have us with Him in Heaven so He could show us “the exceeding riches of His grace and His kindness toward us”.  So His plan was never for us to achieve righteousness. He knew we could not.  His plan was to give us righteousness, as a gift, unearned.  It is ONLY by His grace, unearned love and favor, that we are saved, and “not of yourselves”.  He created us to be “in Christ Jesus” so that we could be righteous, and have good works.

The whole idea that somehow we could grow righteousness from our own sinful nature makes about as much sense as a farmer plowing a field, not planting seed, and expecting crop to grow!  There is nothing good in us.  Salvation plants an “incorruptible seed” in our souls by which we can expect a crop of righteousness.  1 Peter 1:22-23 says Since you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit … having been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever”.  That seed that is planted is the Holy Spirit, which leads us to righteousness through His life in our souls.  Without God, without His Holy Spirit, there is no seed and there is no righteousness.
Hebrews 12:28-29 says let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear.  For our God is a consuming fire.” LET US HAVE GRACE!  Do not twist Gods word by making us unworthy of salvation.  No one is worthy!  If we were it would be a wage earned by our perfection.  But it is a gift – not a pay check! And then “our God is a consuming fire” that will perfect us, burning out the sin within us through our transformation as we follow His Holy Spirit.

Make no mistake!  The salvation that is given is ETERNAL, coming from an “incorruptible seed”.  We receive ETERNAL LIFE and nothing can take that away.  In John 10:28-29, Jesus says And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand.  My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand. No one - not even yourself and your repeated sins after salvation - can loosen God’s grip on you! You “shall never perish”, which is an eternal promise.  
The consuming fire within you, His Holy Spirit, will perfect you as you follow Him.  But to think you receive the Holy Spirit at salvation and then are immediately perfected forever is crazy! We all know we cannot flip a switch and be good people for the rest of our lives.  How many perfect people do you know?  Follow the will of the Holy Spirit, submitting your will to His, and as Philippians 2:12-13 says, you will “work OUT your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.

Friends, don’t buy the lie that you are unworthy and therefore cannot have salvation.  Don’t wait until you have removed your sin because in and of yourself that is impossible.  If you do, you may never be saved, because you will never find yourself worthy of the gift of grace.  If you could have been righteous without Christ, surely God would not have sent His own son to die as a sacrifice, pre-paid for your sins.  He would have expected you to become righteous without Him. 
And once you have salvation, rest assured it will be yours for eternity.  God is not an ‘Indian giver’.  His grace is exactly that – grace – unearned.  His promise is ETERNAL life, and God does not lie nor break His promises.  Your salvation never was and never will be dependent on you. 

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Wisdom: A Super Power


Wisdom: A Super Power

 

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.” – James 1:5

I saw a poster the other day that said “Common Sense is so rare these days it should be a super power.”  I laughed at first, and then I thought about it.  No, common sense is not rare!  In fact, it is still quite common! 
Merriam Webster defines common sense as "sound and prudent judgment based on a simple perception of the situation or facts”.  Common sense is learned from our experiences. Its knowing to come in out of the rain or you’ll get wet, not to cross the street in front of an oncoming Mac truck, and not to wear a fur coat in 90 degree weather.  Common sense is simple knowledge based on the things we learn through past experiences.

I think what is in fact a rare super power is wisdom.  Wisdom is defined as discernment of what is true and right, perfect judgment, insight and understanding of people and the inner workings of emotions. But wisdom does not come from books and education.  Wisdom comes from God, who has infinite knowledge and understanding of the heart of man.  Wisdom tells you when something is wrong with a person, even when they don’t say it.  Wisdom will give you intuition as to whether you are hearing truth or lies.  Wisdom instructs you when to speak, and when to be silent.  Wisdom is beyond learning, beyond knowledge, beyond philosophy.  It will reveal the unspoken things of the heart, the intentions of man. 
Yes, wisdom is VERY rare these days! The rareness of wisdom has to do with how it’s given.  Wisdom, unlike common sense, is a spiritual gift, given through the Holy Spirit.  In Exodus 31:3, when God explains the building of the tabernacle and it’s furnishings to Moses, He speaks of a man named Bezalel, and says I have filled him with the Spirit of God, in wisdom, in understanding, in knowledge, and in all manner of workmanship”. Later in verse 6, God says He has also put wisdom “in the hearts of all the gifted artisans”. 

Solomon was blessed by God offering to give him anything he desired in 2 Chronicles 1:8-12.  When Solomon requests wisdom from God, God honored his request and gave him “wisdom and knowledge for yourself that you may judge My people over whom I have made you king”. But when we read of this event in 1 Kings 4:29, we see that God gave Solomon largeness of heart like the sand on the seashore.” The wisest man to have ever lived received a larger heart at the time he received wisdom from God.  In Psalms 51:6, Solomon’s father, King David, says that in the hidden part You will make me to know wisdom.”  King David had also been given wisdom in the heart.  Proverbs 2:10, written by Solomon, says thatwisdom enters your heart”.
Wisdom isn’t in the brain, as knowledge, but the heart (soul) is wisdom’s home. When we look at the original words used for “heart” in these verses we find the Hebrew word leb (Strongs H3820), which means not the physical ticking heart organ, but the soul of man.

It then makes perfect sense that God only gives wisdom to those that have attained righteousness through the salvation of Jesus Christ.  The soul of the lost does not have the Holy Spirit, whereby wisdom is given.  In Ecclesiastes 2:26 we read that “God gives wisdom and knowledge and joy to a man who is good in His sight”, but no man can be good unless he is made righteous through Christ. 
The book of Proverbs is rich in teaching about wisdom.  The author, King Solomon, seems to have understood the preciousness of the gift of wisdom he had been given, and dwelt on it.  Throughout Proverbs we read that wisdom comes from the “fear of God”, which is a reverence and respect for God and His will.  As Proverbs was written under the old covenant, righteousness was through following the laws and commandments. 

In Proverbs 2 Solomon speaks to younger men, calling them son, and tells them to fear God and obey His commands, and in verse 5-7 says “Then you will understand the fear of the Lord, and find the knowledge of God. For the Lord gives wisdom, from His mouth come knowledge and understanding; He stores up sound wisdom for the upright; He is a shield to those who walk uprightly”. Psalms 111:10 repeats the fact that wisdom comes from righteousness and says, The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; a good understanding have all those who do His commandments. His praise endures forever.”  Even outside the book of Proverbs we find in Job 28:28 the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom”.  Again in Daniel 5:14, we read that wisdom comes from the Holy Spirit as King Nebuchadnezzar says to Daniel I have heard of you, that the Spirit of God is in you, and that light and understanding and excellent wisdom are found in you.”
Wisdom is with God, and without God there can be no wisdom.  In Isaiah 11:1-2 we are told that God has given the seven attributes of His Spirit to Jesus, our salvation.  These are also mentioned in Revelation 5:6 and again called the Seven Spirits of God.  One of those seven Spirits is the “Spirit of wisdom and understanding”.  The Body of Christ, His redeemed people who now have His Holy Spirit within them, are given different gifts of His Spirit for ministry (1 Corinthians 12).  Of those gifts, verse 8 says, “for to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit”, which is wisdom given for the building up of the Body of Christ. Colossians 2:3 says that in God and Christ “are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.

Without the Holy Spirit within you, you cannot attain wisdom, because wisdom comes from God.  And this, my friends, is why it is so rare today!  Lost souls live all around us and among us that have no ability to receive wisdom because they have not found Christ, their Savior.  Yet, even in those that are saved, we often find wisdom has not grown to its full potential. 
Wisdom is in fact, a super power, a gift from the supernatural abilities of the Holy Spirit.  But it is not a gift beyond our reach!  In James 1, the apostle writes to the church telling them that If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.”

Wisdom has so much value, and God stands ready to deliver wisdom to all His people, LIBERALLY! We are told that wisdom is more precious than rubies (Proverbs 3:15,Job 28:18), preserves you and keeps you (Proverbs 2:11), helps us deal with people (Proverbs 11:12), gives strength (Ecclesiastes 7:19), is better than weapons of war (Ecclesiastes 9:18), brings success (Ecclesiastes 10:10), and is better than gold (Proverbs 16:16).  The benefits of wisdom are infinite!
Considering that God gives wisdom to those that ask believing they will receive this great gift, we should all ask daily for wisdom.  If wisdom were to become a power prevalent in this world, instead of so very rare to find, how great a change we could see! 

Lord, give your children the precious gift of wisdom!