Monday, April 25, 2016

Where is the Love?

Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal.  And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I AM NOTHING.” – 1 Corinthians 13:1-2

Red hot fire and brimstone preaching.  We’ve all heard it, and some of us have benefitted from it.  But not all of it is edifying to the body of Christ.  To be edifying, it must build up, not destroy.  It must induce change and not promote hatred.  Love is the difference. 

A perfect example of this is found in Jonah 4.  Jonah was sent to Nineveh as a prophet.  A prophet hears from God, and delivers a message of things to come to pass.  But God never reveals bad things to come without the hope of repentance, change being induced from the message.  God acts in love, always.

Jonah tried his best not to go to Nineveh.  Why? Because he feared God would relent from destroying Nineveh if they repented.  And sure enough, God did.  When the people fasted and became humble, praying to God in repentance, Jonah 3:10 says “Then God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God relented from the disaster that He had said He would bring upon them, and He did not do it.

Oh but Jonah was angry with God!  Why?  Because as a prophet, he felt his creditability was ruined! He had proclaimed that God would destroy the city of Nineveh and all 620,000 people.  Yet, God changed His mind.   

In Jonah 4:1-3 we read his discussion with God on the matter:

“But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he became angry.  So he prayed to the Lord, and said, “Ah, Lord, was not this what I said when I was still in my country? Therefore I fled previously to Tarshish; for I know that You are a gracious and merciful God, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, One who relents from doing harm. Therefore now, O Lord, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live!”   

A song comes to mind when I read Jonah’s words.  “Where is the love?” (Black Eyed Peas)  When Jonah should have been grateful to God that 620,000 people were spared, he instead was angry that his reputation as a prophet had been ruined.  Instead of thanking God for showing grace and mercy, and accepting repentance, he asked God to just take his life!  There was no love in Jonah for those he was sent to minister to.  Therefore, he took not joy in seeing the change the message caused.

1 Corinthians 13 begins with a list of good deeds and gifts that we as Christians are to exercise toward all people.  But as it explains each one it says that without love, we are NOTHING.  Not just weak, not just ineffective, not just corrupted at heart, but NOTHING.  Our first gift to use in reaching others should always be love, sincere love.  Without it, we are as “sounding brass or a clanging cymbal”, just making a bunch of Christian theology noise.
Sometimes we act the same way as Jonah.  Oh, hear me out on this one.  How often do you look at the one who has strayed away as they enter church on their way back to him and remember their sins without seeing their repentance?  It seems would rather see people in their past than consider the possibilities of their future.  Yet, we believe - or say we believe - that God has given all of us a purpose and a plan for a life in Him. 

Friends, stop tying people to their past mistakes – or even their current ones.  See them as God sees them, with potential to be great in His Kingdom.  And if it costs you your reputation to get them there, is that not a small sacrifice to pay?
"Father, Father, Father help us
Send us some guidance from above
'Cause people got me, got me questionin'
Where is the love?"  


Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Your Body is Not Going to Heaven and Neither Is Your Race

“For we know that if our earthly house, this tent, is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed with our habitation which is from heaven, if indeed, having been clothed, we shall not be found naked.  For we who are in this tent groan, being burdened, not because we want to be unclothed, but further clothed, that mortality may be swallowed up by life.  Now He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who also has given us the Spirit as a guarantee. So we are always confident, knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord.  For we walk by faith, not by sight. We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord.” – 2 Corinthians 5:1-8
I recently heard someone say that they didn’t believe white people and black people should go to the same church.  It just makes me BEYOND angry to hear such ignorance because it is rooted in hatred.  Yet every ignorant thought can be defeated by God’s word.  1 John 4:20 clearly says that you cannot love God, who you have not seen, if you don’t love your brother, whom you have seen.  Therefore, I will tell you that those that feel this way have not experienced fully their salvation.  Grow in grace is my message to you if you are of this ridiculous inclination!

This kind also believes that in Heaven we will be our current race: Black, White, Asian, Indian, Spanish, and others.  Oh brothers and sisters in Christ!  Please let this sink in.  We are ONE race, and we are ONE body of Christ.  Or do you expect the One Body of Christ to be separated into various colors, one Black body and one White body?  God asked us to live in unity, and Christ even prayed that we would be one as He and God are one.  This kind of ignorance has to stop!  It is rooted in hatred, and that has no place in the heart of a Christian.
God’s word defeats all false notions we have, regardless of the topic.  In this passage from 2 Corinthians 5, Paul clearly tells us that “this tent”, our earthly body, will be destroyed and we will be clothes with a new house not made with hands.  We will be “absent” from this body when we are “present” with the Lord in Heaven. 

The word ‘tent’ used in this passage is from the Greek word “skēnos” (Strongs G4366) which means a temporary dwelling.  Specifically it refers to our body, which is a temporary dwelling for our soul.  Our soul will not enter Heaven in this body, but will be “clothed” in one not created by hands, but created by God.  The word ‘clothed’ is “endyō” in Greek (Strongs G1746) which has a beautiful meaning of “sinking into clothing”.  Our new ‘house’ is a permanent dwelling, coming from the Greek word Oikia (Strongs G3614) which means “an inhabited edifice, a dwelling”.

Galatians 3:27-28 says For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”  Well, guess what! The words ‘have put on’ are also translated from the Greek word ‘Oikia’.  And there is no ‘Jew’ or ‘Greek’, the rivaling races of that time, in the body.  Likewise, there will be no racial division in the bodies in Heaven. 

Brothers and Sisters in Christ, if God thinks so lowly of this body that it will be destroyed and replaced, why should we recognize the color of its skin?  Nowhere in God’s word will you read where He has asked us to be separated – not in worship, not in marriage, not in community, not in any way what so ever.  I challenge you to find otherwise.  We have created these boundaries out of the stupidity of hatred and tradition, and these walls have to fall.  When Christ said ‘love one another even as I have loved you’ He meant love everyone, not just those like you. 

 “But someone will say, “How are the dead raised up? And with what body do they come?”  Foolish one, what you sow is not made alive unless it dies.  And what you sow, you do not sow that body that shall be, but mere grain—perhaps wheat or some other grain.  But God gives it a body as He pleases, and to each seed its own body.

 All flesh is not the same flesh, but there is ONE KIND OF FLESH OF MEN, another flesh of animals, another of fish, and another of birds.

There are also celestial bodies and terrestrial bodies; but the glory of the celestial is one, and the glory of the terrestrial is another. There is one glory of the sun, another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; for one star differs from another star in glory.

So also is the resurrection of the dead. THE BODY IS SOWN IN CORRUPTION, IT IS RAISED IN INCORRUPTION.  It is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power. It is sown a NATURAL BODY, it is raised a SPIRITUAL BODY. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body. And so it is written, “The first man Adam became a living being.” The last Adam became a life-giving spirit.

However, the spiritual is not first, but the natural, and afterward the spiritual.The first man was of the earth, made of dust; the second Man is the Lord from heaven. As was the man of dust, so also are those who are made of dust; and as is the heavenly Man, so also are those who are heavenly. And as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly Man.

Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does corruption inherit incorruption. Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed— in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.” – 1 Corinthians 15:35-54

…and that, my friends, will be the end of racism once and for all!  Praise God!


Monday, April 18, 2016

Banah, Ben, Bath, and Beith

Unless the Lord builds the house,
They labor in vain who build it;
Unless the Lord guards the city,
The watchman stays awake in vain.”
– Psalms 127:1-2

This verse has so much to say about why families fail.  This was written by King Solomon, which God’s word says was the wisest man to have ever lived.  Yet in all his wisdom, Solomon disobeyed God and choose many wives that were idol worshippers.  King Solomon endured problems in his family due to his cursed marriages, and it cost him his kingdom (1 Kings 11).
At first glance it would seem that Solomon was talking of construction, and security.  But in fact, he’s talking about family.  The word “build” comes from the Hebrew word “banah”, which is also the root word for son (“ben”), daughter (“bath”) and house (“beith”).  It is the sons and daughters that build up a family, the home, as much as wood and nails build a house.

The blessing of God upon our sons and daughters will build a strong house from strong children who will bring honor to their family.  In this world, satan has a trap around every corner for our kids.  He starts early with social media, video games, television shows, music, and all sorts of ways to take over their minds and corrupt them into a neutralized view of sin.  If he can make sin acceptable, make it “politically correct”, their guard is down, and the door to temptations is left wide open. 
Friends, keep your kids close to God because He is your guard against all the evil of the world.  His word will teach them the truth about sin.  They will not find that truth anywhere else.  If your house, your family unit, will sustain the temptations that will come in later years, your children have to be strong men and women of God.  They must be empowered to make good decisions and see sin as the trap that it is. 

I’ve often quoted what a good friend told me one time.  “God is the best babysitter you can ever have, because He is with your children when you cannot be.”  God has to be your watchman or you will spend many sleepless nights in a failing home.

Friday, April 15, 2016

God Speed!

Now the word of the Lord came to Jonah THE SECOND TIME, saying, “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and preach to it the message that I tell you.” So Jonah arose and went to Nineveh, according to the word of the Lord. Now Nineveh was an exceedingly great city, A THREE-DAY JOURNEY IN EXTENT.  And Jonah began to enter the city ON THE FIRST DAY’S WALK. Then he cried out and said, “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!”´- Jonah 3:1-4

There’s so much to be learned from Jonah’s return to God after trying to escape his calling to Nineveh. His prayer of repentance was one filled with not only sorrow for what had happened to him, but also gratitude, and his commitment to God to do His will.   But what is most remarkable to me is the energy he put towards that return.  He turned a three day journey to Nineveh into less than ONE DAY!  Now, when I walk the little 1.25 miles in my neighborhood, it takes me about 18 minutes.  I can tell you with certainty, if I were to do that in one third of that time, as Jonah did his “walk” to Nineveh, I would not be walking – I’d be running!  Jonah gave a whole new meaning to “God Speed”! 

But I guess if I had been swallowed by a big fish due to my disobedience, I’d probably do all I could to quickly return to God’s will too.  That is, if I understood that the big fish episode wasn’t just a coincidence, but God’s punishment.
I don’t believe in coincidence.  Romans 8:28 says “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.”  All things.  That means “ALL”, the good, the bad, and the ugly.  God is ALL-mighty.  Otherwise, He isn’t God.  That means that if it happens, He has either willed it, or allowed it.  Nothing and no one is outside of His reach.  He controls everything from the wind and waves, the rising of the sun, to our daily existence which He has proven many times in the Bible that He can end at any time.

Father, help us to see our disobedience in all things, and return to you with the speed of Jonah.  Let us not stray from the perfect path for our lives you’ve given us, but strive to follow only your lead.  We love you, and thank you for the breath in our lungs, the life you have given, and your sovereignty over our lives.   You’re the Good Father. Amen.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

When God Says GO

“Now THE WORD OF THE LORD came to Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry out against it; for their wickedness has come up before Me.” But Jonah arose to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord. He went down to Joppa, and found a ship going to Tarshish; so he paid the fare, and went down into it, to go with them to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord.
But THE LORD SENT out a great wind on the sea, and there was a mighty tempest on the sea, so that the ship was about to be broken up. 

Then the mariners were afraid; and every man cried out to his god, and threw the cargo that was in the ship into the sea, to lighten the load. But Jonah had gone down into the lowest parts of the ship, had lain down, and was fast asleep.  So the captain came to him, and said to him, “What do you mean, sleeper? Arise, call on your God; perhaps your God will consider us, so that we may not perish.” – Jonah 1:1-6

Poor Jonah.  Anyone who knows his story knows his disobedience to God.  How hard it must have been for him to be known for his fault instead of his faithfulness.
Imagine being Jonah.  You’re called to go somewhere you don’t want to go.  According to “Veggie Tales” cartoons, he didn’t want to go because the people there “slap people with fishes”.  But that wasn’t the case.  The people there were sinful, evil people.  I suppose Jonah was disgusted with their lack of respect for God, and didn’t want to bother himself with them.  A little self-righteousness?  A little self-pride?  Probably so.

But when God says “go”, no matter what the circumstances or the location, obedience is always better than disobedience. 
God will sometimes take our “no” as an answer, and leave us in our disobedience.  While it may feel like we’ve dodged a bullet, the truth is we haven’t.  Disobedience causes a wedge between your heart and God.  That closeness and soul communion with Him is broken, much like strong words between a parent and child.

Then there are times that God refuses to take “no” for an answer.  Jonah found out what that was like.  On a ship, about to capsize and throw him into the deeps of the ocean, He must have thought about his decision with great sorrow.  But God, knowing the future as history, expected this to bring about his repentance.  God even “prepared a great fish to swallow Jonah”. 
The story books all show Jonah sitting upright within the belly of a large fish, considering his situation.  But the truth is a fish’ stomach isn’t make like a room in a house! It’s an in-and-out drainage for all sorts of ocean edibles.  If you’ve ever cleaned a fish, you know this is not a place you want to put your nose, let alone your whole body!  Jonah’s “no” came with consequences. As Jonah put it in his prayer to God from within the fish, “The deep closed around me;
Weeds were wrapped around my head”.

And Jonah’s “no” also came with forced obedience.  The fish could have spit him up anywhere in the world, even in the bottom of the ocean where he would have died.  But it didn’t.  In God’s mercy, he was spit up on the shore, just a three day journey from Nineveh. 
God used Jonah to bring about a great revival in Nineveh, who all fasted and prayed for God to spare them.  But that’s not what he’s known for.  He’s known for his disobedience and God’s punishment.  Few preachers have been used in such a great way as Jonah, but it is his disobedience they remember. 

When God says “go”, take it as a command, not an option.  Obedience has great rewards, and disobedience is always a downfall.  Jonah’s reputation could have been much different if he had just submitted to God’s will.