Friday, October 31, 2014

World Peace

“The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb,
The leopard shall lie down with the young goat,
The calf and the young lion and the fatling together;
And a little child shall lead them.
The cow and the bear shall graze;
Their young ones shall lie down together;
And the lion shall eat straw like the ox.
The nursing child shall play by the cobra’s hole,
And the weaned child shall put his hand in the viper’s den.
They shall not hurt nor destroy in all My holy mountain,
For the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord
As the waters cover the sea.” – Isaiah 11:6-9

I was thinking the other day about all the things I ask of God.  There are big things like to heal those that are terminally ill, and then there are little things like a good parking spot at Wal-Mart.  I tend to just ask for stuff all the time.  I mean, He’s listening – why not ask? 
Then I wondered, if we could all ask God for anything, what would it be?  What would you ask for?

We’ve all been asked at some time what we would wish for if we could get three wishes.  I usually say that the first wish would be for an infinite number of additional wishes to be granted.  (Feel free to stop and pray now, thanking God that I didn’t get it! What a mess we’d all be in if He had given that!)  But most of the time when the question is raised, someone will say ‘world peace’.  It’s a noble answer and one that seems to be possible only by the granting of a magical wish. 
Imagine what world peace would be like.  If everyone in the world was content, at peace with each other, then things would be wonderful.  Granted, they would be much better than they are today, but we would still have problems.  We would still have issues with elements of weather, the decay of the world itself, and all of nature.  There would still be famine and disease.

We think so much smaller than God does.  When we imagine world peace, we figure that’s as good as it can get.  But it’s sort of like the little kid that asks for his two front teeth for Christmas without asking that no more teeth fall out!  God can able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think (Ephesians 3:20). Yet because we cannot imagine it, we ask for less than possible.  We are small thinkers with an unimaginably powerful God.
World Peace? God has already granted us that wish, and even more, in the span of eternity.  In Isaiah 11 we’re told that when God’s Kingdom is given to God’s children, even nature itself will be at peace.  Shepherds won’t have to protect their sheep from wolves, because they’ll be at peace.  Lions will be led by children, and bears and cows will graze the same fields.  Children can play with snakes, and yes, that makes me cringe too, but when it happens, we will be at ease with it.

We think small when we ask God for things, even when we think they are big things.  His thoughts are so much bigger than ours, not encapsulated within dates and times, nor left to only what we can see as possible.  World Peace - that’s a small thing with God. He’s already planned to one-up us on that request.
“For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
Nor are your ways My ways,” says the Lord.
“For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
So are My ways higher than your ways,
And My thoughts than your thoughts” – Isaiah 55:8-9

Thank you God, that your ability isn’t defined within the realm of our understanding.

Friday, October 24, 2014

A Message To Those Hurt by Church Goers

This is an apology. It’s an apology to any and all who have been hurt by “Christians” when they attended a church, or in some other way came in contact with those that call themselves “Christians”.  For the purposes of this discussion, let’s just call them “church goers”.

Have you ever been to a doctor and found that even with the degree to be an “M.D.” he or she apparently did not know what to do to help you? 
Have you ever taken your car to an auto mechanic, and even though they said they knew how to fix your car, you get it back and it’s still messed up? 

Have you ever gone to a restaurant to get a good meal only to later wish you hadn’t?
Church and the people that go there are no different I’m afraid.  But you can’t stop going to the doctor, you can’t stop getting your car fixed, and you can’t give up on eating out just because there are those that aren’t what they claim to be.  So PLEASE don’t give up on us all just because of a few who “the enemy” has sown among us.  Jesus explained it like this:

Another parable He put forth to them, saying: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field;  but while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares [weeds] among the wheat and went his way.  But when the grain had sprouted and produced a crop, then the tares also appeared.  So the servants of the owner came and said to him, ‘Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have tares?’  He said to them, ‘An enemy has done this.’ The servants said to him, ‘Do you want us then to go and gather them up?’ But he said, ‘No, lest while you gather up the tares you also uproot the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest, and at the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, “First gather together the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them, but gather the wheat into my barn.”’ – Matthew 13:24-30

You see, we do sometimes know which ones are the weeds in our church families.  But we can’t tell them to leave because of their bad attitudes and lifestyles because they would take with them their friends and family.  The ‘tares’ can’t be taken out of the family yet.   But one day, God will harvest us all.  He will be the one true judge of which were weeds and which were good crop.
So please, know that not everyone who sits in a church or calls themselves a Christian is a Christian, just like not everyone who sits in a garage is a car.  There are a lot of frauds out there.  We sometimes even know which they are.  But we have hope for them to change, just as we hope for ourselves to change as we learn more of God, and allow our relationships with Him to change us.

And know that not all churches are the same, just like not all doctors are the same, not all auto mechanics are the same, and not all restaurants are the same.  If you like Mexican food, you don’t go to a seafood place.  Find one that fits, and then realize that not everyone there is Mexican…if you know what I mean. 
And now a message for the church-goer:

God will hold you accountable for every action and every word.  Straighten up or stop calling yourself a Christian and misrepresenting the Christ you are to portray.  Some of you know you’re a fraud, just as God knows you are.  What you may not have realized, is that you’re chaining those that would come to Him to your ankles and dragging them into Hell with your criticisms, un-Biblical lifestyles, ungodly mouths, and your finger pointing.  James 3:1-6 says that your tongue defiles your whole body, and “sets on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire by hell. 

And finally, a message for Christians, from God’s own words and not my own:
“Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel; therefore hear a word from My mouth, and give them warning from Me: When I say to the wicked, ‘You shall surely die,’ and you give him no warning, nor speak to warn the wicked from his wicked way, to save his life, that same wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood I will require at your hand. Yet, if you warn the wicked, and he does not turn from his wickedness, nor from his wicked way, he shall die in his iniquity; but you have delivered your soul. 

“Again, when a righteous man turns from his righteousness and commits iniquity, and I lay a stumbling block before him, he shall die; because you did not give him warning, he shall die in his sin, and his righteousness which he has done shall not be remembered; but his blood I will require at your hand. Nevertheless if you warn the righteous man that the righteous should not sin, and he does not sin, he shall surely live because he took warning; also you will have delivered your soul.”  - Ezekiel 3:17-21

Correct each other in love and gentleness, because the Kingdom of God is at hand!

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Sweet Tea

Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” – 2 Timothy 2:15

If there’s one thing always present at a meal here in the south, its sweet tea - the “wine” of the south.  You can order it in any restaurant, and it’s always in a pitcher in the fridge (or “ice box” if you’ve over 60).  While I’ve never seen a recipe for it, we all seem to make it the same way.

But if you leave the south and ask for sweet tea, just cross your fingers and pray because there’s just no telling what you’re going to get!  It could be anything from a cup of hot tea and a bottle of honey to a watered down weak looking glass of what my grandfather called “dish water tea”.

There’s nothing quite as disappointing to a southerner as dish water tea.  It’s so weak that that you can see through it.  And if you add more sugar (which you’ll almost always have to do) or lemon, it tastes like what you add – not what it is meant to be.  You might as well just order a Pop if they’re serving dishwater tea.

If I had one vision, one wish for the body of Christ, it would be that we would not be like dishwater tea -  so weak that we have no flavor, and always becoming the thing added to our lives, never strong enough to stand alone.  Yet, without God’s word written on our hearts, we are weak!  We will fall into all the traps placed before us, and we will fail ever test given to us. 

Timothy says “Study to show thyself approved unto God”.  Knowing God’s word does come with tests, but not in the written multiple choice kind we would like.  It comes through life experiences and trials, and how we react to them.  It comes through being tested with lies, to determine if we can “rightly divide the word of truth”. 

Now that I’ve had sweet tea, I know what it’s supposed to taste like, look like, and yes, even what it should sound like when poured into my glass.  We as the Body of Christ should know His Word in the same way.  We should know when His Word is watered down or when it is twisted and mingled with some other crazy concoction (mango tea is not sweet tea!).

I learned sweet tea a little each day over the course of my life.  “Faithie Jo, make the tea, and Bubba, get the glasses and ice” was said at my dinner table every night. And every night, I made the tea.  Through the repetition of doing it, I learned how.  There was constant correction of “Gracious! This is too sweet”, “This is weak as dishwater!” or “Did you put any sugar in it at all?” We learn God’s word the same way, a little at a time through a repetitive process of study and refinement.

Friends, do not neglect the sweet word of God.  There will be a test!

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Worm Food

“Now Herod had been very angry with the people of Tyre and Sidon; but they came to him with one accord, and having made Blastus the king’s personal aide their friend, they asked for peace, because their country was supplied with food by the king’s country. So on a set day Herod, arrayed in royal apparel, sat on his throne and gave an oration to them.  And the people kept shouting, “The voice of a god and not of a man!”  Then immediately an angel of the Lord struck him, because he did not give glory to God. And he was eaten by worms and died.” – Acts 12:20-23

There’s an old saying that pride comes before the fall.  It originated with a Bible verse.  Proverbs 16:18 says “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.”  Why is it important to know that it comes from the Bible?  There are a lot of saying that are nothing more than quotes, superstitions, or old wives sayings.  But because it originates in the Bible, we can know that it holds truth.  Therefore, when you feel pride, expect to the fall of your pride and destruction on the horizon.

Pride is a terrible disease of the heart.  It is a form of idolatry whereby we begin to worship ourselves, seeing ourselves as better than others.  There’s nothing wrong with having good self-esteem, but there is something terribly wrong when we begin to see ourselves as more worthy than someone else. 

For many years before Herod Agrippa I’s reign, Galilee had supplied Tyre and Sidon with all their provisions.  Tyre and Sidon were small in territory and needed the supplies to survive.  King Solomon sent grain and oil to them every year as reported in 1 Kings 5:11.  But for some reason, Herod was angry with them. 

This put fear into the hearts of the Tyre and Sidon citizens, who depended on the supplies from Galilee to live.  Having a friend on the inside of Herod’s household, they decided to appear before him and beg for peace.  Keep in mind that these people were not wealthy.  They could not afford food to buy for themselves.  And on that day when Herod appeared before them, he donned himself in the great apparel of a roman emperor – royally dressed, crown and all.  When the people began to shout “The voice of a god and not a man!” he accepted their praise. 

What happens next is gruesome!  God struck him with worms.  Notice that it says “he was eaten by worms and died”.  The worms didn’t eat him after he died, but before! 

God’s reasoning for giving such a punishment?  Herod did not give God the glory for all that he had, and for what he was giving to the poor in Tyre and Sidon.

We often come in contact with people who we believe are blessed with material things above what we are.  Sometimes we can be jealous of their lifestyle and financial ease.  But understand that even with little material goods, we can fall into this same trap of pride. 

Pride isn’t tied to material goods.  We can have pride in our looks, our abilities, our relationships, our intelligence, or any number of things.  Recognizing you are blessed in these areas is not a sin.  But believing that you are of greater worth because God has blessed you greatly is pride.  Pride never has a happy ending.

Give God the glory He deserves for all your blessings.  For without Him, we are without even the breath we breathe. Consider that he made us out of dirt – nothing but dirt, the food of worms.  Without the life that he breathed into our nostrils (Genesis 2:7) we would still be nothing more than worm food.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Who’s Afraid of Isis? NOT ME.

So Herod had already killed James, John’s brother.  Why? Because it was good entertainment for the Jews! They loved to see Christians die.  Christians, they believed, were their enemy! (Sound familiar?)

And because he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded further to seize Peter also. Now it was during the Days of Unleavened Bread. So when he had arrested him, he put him in prison, and delivered him to four squads of soldiers to keep him, intending to bring him before the people after Passover.” – Acts 12: 3-4

Peter.  This was the same Peter with the boldness to attempt water-walking (Matthew 14:29), declaring He would be willing to die with Jesus (Matthew 26:35), cutting of an ear of the opposing army guard (John 18:10), denying Christ three times (Matthew 26:69-75), “Do you Love Me? Feed My Sheep!” (John 21:15-19) Peter.  Yes, God had His hands all over Peter’s life. 

And when Herod said He would kill him, God just said NO.

“Peter was therefore kept in prison, but constant prayer was offered to God for him BY THE CHURCH. And when Herod was about to bring him out, that night Peter was sleeping, BOUND WITH TWO CHAINS between TWO SOLDIERS; and the GUARDS BEFORE THE DOOR were keeping the prison.

Now behold, an angel of the Lord stood by him, and a light shone in the prison; and he struck Peter on the side and raised him up, saying, “Arise quickly!” And HIS CHAINS FELL OFF his hands. Then the angel said to him, “Gird yourself and tie on your sandals”; and so he did. And he said to him, “Put on your garment and follow me.”

So he went out and followed him, and did not know that what was done by the angel was real, but thought he was seeing a vision. When they were PAST THE FIRST AND THE SECOND GUARD POSTS, they came to the IRON GATE that leads to the city, which OPENED TO THEM OF ITS OWN ACCORD; and they went out and went down one street, and immediately the angel departed from him.

And when Peter had come to himself, he said, “Now I know for certain that the Lord has sent His angel, and has delivered me from the hand of Herod and from all the expectation of the Jewish people.” – ACTS 12:5-11

So tell me again….why should I fear ISIS or any other enemy of God?  I’m not going to live in fear of them being at the Mexican border, being in Ohio or any other state.  I’m not going to read all the so-called “news” from sources that you really should (seriously) check.  I’m not going to fear when my God says fear not!  Either it will be God’s will I die and I’ll be with Him, or it won’t be God’s will I die, and I’ll be delivered from it.  Either way – I win.  I’m just going to pray about it and see what God says. 

We all have to die.  That’s a given.  But for those of us that have eternal life, death is a passage to a better life – not the end of life.  I refuse to live in fear of what might be, what could be, in light of the fact of who my God is and what He can do. 

I’ll take that a step further.  I refuse to stop travelling and doing what I love just because there is an enemy.  Get this – THERE HAS ALWAYS BEEN AN ENEMY! 

Could it be that the whole time God was molding Peter, checking his faith through walking on water, through the arrest of Christ, through the fishing excursion that could have been a career detour, could it be that God was testing his faith for that day?  Father God, let me be faithful.  Let my faith stand!

People get ready…there’s a day coming when you will want to know God and be at peace with Him.  Even today there are chains to be broken, doors to be opened, deliverance to be gained.  Christianity isn’t for what is to come.  It’s for NOW, for a better life here.


Monday, October 6, 2014

Do No Harm

"Then Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked letters from him to the synagogues of Damascus, so that if he found any who were of the Way, whether men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem.  As he journeyed he came near Damascus, and suddenly a light shone around him from heaven. Then he fell to the ground, and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?” – Acts 9:1-4
Do you hear the love of Jesus’ voice in His words to Saul?  “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?” Jesus said to him as he was on his way to capture more Christians.  Saul had not laid a hand on Jesus, but on those that believed in Him.  Yet Jesus said that Saul was persecuting Him.

Jesus cares for those that believe in Him with such passion!  Those that hurt us or seek to harm us He sees as His own enemies.  And He doesn’t sit idly by and watch as we are torn down by their words and actions toward us.  He takes note of every crime against us. 

Psalms 105 talks of God’s faithfulness to His people.  It speaks of how He gave the land of Canaan to them, and says in verses 11-15:

To you I will give the land of Canaan as the allotment of your inheritance,” When they were few in number, indeed very few, and strangers in it. When they went from one nation to another,
from one kingdom to another people,  He permitted no one to do them wrong; Yes, He rebuked kings for their sakes, saying, “Do not touch My anointed ones, and do My prophets no harm.”

Jesus did what He saw God doing at all times (John 5:19).  God was instructing His every move, and every thought.  He took on our persecution as His own because He had seen God do it with the Israelites when He gave them Canaan. 

If Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever - and we are told in Hebrews 13:8 that He is - I think it would be wise for us to consider how personally He takes the acts of persecution against His people.  In any family there are times when we find it hard to get along.  The family of God is no different.  But we should handle how we act in those times because we are called to be different.

Words spoken against a brother or sister in Christ are taken personally by Christ.

Anger and resentment against our fellow Christians are felt as anger and resentment against Him.

Love one another, even has He has loved us.  Extend to others the grace and mercy that you have so freely enjoyed.