Wednesday, May 16, 2018

SERVING GOD ACCORDING TO YOUR DESIGN

          Ok, so now, you are a born again believer, what's next?  Why, conforming to the standards of your local congregation, silly.  You will be instructed on all the important things pertaining to your new, or renewed Christian faith. You will learn, for instance, what style of clothing is acceptable, what type music is approved, the proper hairstyles and all the places and people types you should avoid.  If you work very hard, you too can become a perfect clone, protected from all the evils of the outside world.  In fact, if you follow all the rules and make all the necessary changes, you and your whole family can become totally insulated from all contact and tainting of unbelievers - isn't that exciting?

Cue the loud sound of screeching brakes..

       When Jesus walked the sands of Israel, this type of religious hypocrisy was the norm and 2000 years later not much has changed.  Jesus was accused of being a glutton, a drunkard and a friend of sinners.  How does a perfect and righteous man get labeled with such ignanamous titles?  Obviously, Jesus was none of those things (ok, maybe He was a friend of sinners, but only to tell them "go and sin no more") yet, something about the way He lived His life caused the religious crowd to disparage Him.  

     Jesus refused to conform to political correctness, nor did He allow the traditions of man to influence His lifestyle and ministry.  Jesus was God, clearly.  Not only does the Gospel of John demonstrate this in the very first chapter, but the Old Testament reveals the Messiah would be God CLICK HERE to read my post Yehovah Yeshua.  In addition to being God, Jesus was a man who experienced life like all men do, He had a personality and style influenced by His life experiences.  

DO NOT ALLOW THE WHIMS OF MEN INTERFERE WITH YOUR GROWTH

     Guess what, you too have a personality and style influenced by your life experience.  The life you have lived has helped shape who you are today.  Tough things you have gone through and difficult situations you have faced, along with victories and high points have all played a role in the person you are.  God looks at the person you are and He loves you.  You have a unique style and way of viewing life formed by your experiences.  God has allowed you to become who you are and will use you within your uniqueness.  

    This is not to say God excuses sin or harmful behavior.  Those things must change as we grow in our faith.  God wants to change your heart and lead you to obedience while allowing you to minister according to your personality.  As you grow and pursue the righteousness of Christ, you will change inwardly.  The trap you must avoid is allowing the rules of men to interfere with the work God is doing in you.  

    For most of my adult life, I have looked and dressed in a certain manner.  For 3 of the last 5 years, I attempted to conform to a certain image.  I "cleaned up" my appearance and dressed more "professionally" and felt like a fish out of water.  I literally wanted to punch every mirror.  Finally, about 2 years ago, I came to a place where I could hear God's voice tell me, "be who you are."  By being true to who God has allowed me to become, I am able to serve Him according to my design.  Do I still need to grow and allow God to prune sin out of my life?  You bet.  The sanctification process goes on until we die.  

      So many times well meaning believers want to impose rules, not found in scripture, to help you in your spiritual growth.  Maybe God does want to change many things about you, but that is a willing partnership between you and God.  True spiritual change takes place within and manifests outwardly. This is natural or organic change.  Again, this does not apply to obvious sin or destructive behavior.  We are beholden to point these out to one another as part of healthy accountability.  

IS WHATEVER I DO NOT LIKE SIN? 

     I have to be careful not to allow my preferences to define sin.  I personally do not care for Rap music. Rap, in and of itself is not evil, just as Metal in and of itself is not evil.  I have met believers who will adamantly declare drum beats are inherently evil.  I have met believers who adamantly declare men wearing earrings is sin.  If the Bible is the final authority and the Bible never once condemns drum beats and the Bible actually commands the piercing of men's ears under certain circumstances, drumbeats and earrings for men become a preference thing, not a sin thing.  How about nose rings, pretty edgy in certain circles, right?  Rebekah the mother of Jacob, had a nose ring...

BE WHO YOU ARE WITHIN THE FRAME WORK OF LOVING GOD WITH ALL YOU ARE

     Often, society attempts to define sin by norms and mores, which leads to the same self righteous hypocrisy Jesus encountered within the so called religious community of His time.  The danger in this is we know how to make the outside appear clean without ever having to deal with the inner sin.  Your hairstyle manner of dress or taste in music genre does not define your spiritual maturity, your devotion to God and your pursuit of holiness defines your spiritual maturity.  God has made you unique for a unique purpose.  Be who God has allowed you to be within the framework of loving Him and loving others with all your being.  Serve God according to your design.

Now, go live as Christ... and give the devil hell!

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

MANIPULATING GODS FAVOR THROUGH GOOD BEHAVIOR - FAIL!

   
  If you have ever set off fireworks, you know how disappointing it is when you light a fuse only to watch a little wisp of smoke drift off and no bang.  It's a temporary let down when you realize you lit a dud.  Out of a box of 100 firecrackers, there is bound to be 3 or 4 duds.  Even though 97 exploded and brought satisfaction, those 3 that failed still let you down because you anticipated a certain outcome and nothing happened.  After all, you did your part by lighting the fuse so, obviously, the maker of the firecracker failed you because you got no bang.

GOD CANNOT BE STRONG ARMED

     Sometimes our spiritual life seems like that.  You do some good deed, or you faithfully go to church every week and you pray for a certain situation anticipating a certain outcome and... nothing but a wisp of smoke.  You think, I did everything right and still nothing happened, there must be something wrong with the maker...  Though you may be careful to never verbalize such words, they sometimes float around in your mind.  The problem is not with the Maker, the problem is with our perception and expectation.  We sometimes get to a level of self righteousness where we falsely believe God somehow owes us something for being good.  Or even worse, we perform solely for the purpose of demanding something from God.  God cannot be manipulated, strong armed nor fooled into giving us what we want.  

WE ARE NOT TRAINED CIRCUS ANIMALS 

      Many people fall away from faith because of faulty thinking.  Once you believe God owes you something or you have somehow earned God's favor through good behavior, you have failed Theology 101.  If your obedience to God is motivated by what you can get from God you have reduced yourself to the level of a trained seal clamoring for a fish or a poodle jumping through a hoop of fire for yummy dog treat.  We are not trained circus animals, we are children of the Living God, created in His image.  

OBEDIENCE OUT OF FEAR IS MISPLACED 

      Another trap to avoid is obedience out of fear.  This is not the "Fear of the Lord is beginning of wisdom" kind of fear, this is the, if I step out of line, God will whack me kind of fear.  This fear is an unhealthy fear that reduces God to an angry control freak who looks for opportunities to inflict pain and retribution on His wayward children.  The scriptures tell us God takes no pleasure in the destruction of the wicked.  If anyone deserved to get a whack it was Adam in the Garden of Eden.  Adam sinned and then tried to hide from God.  God did not yank him out of the bushes by his hair and beat him, instead God called out to him and covered his nakedness.  Yes, there was the whole curse thing, because there are consequences for bad behavior, but even in the midst of consequence, God demonstrated mercy, grace and love.  

GOD IS NEITHER A GENIE NOR AN OGRE

      God's nature is revealed to us in scripture.  He is neither a Genie we can call upon to grant us our wishes nor is He an ogre angrily awaiting our failure so He can gleefully inflict pain and suffering.  God is a loving father who desires fellowship with His children.  Yes, obedience leads to blessing, but on His terms and determination, not our whims.  Yes, disobedience leads to discipline, as scripture reminds us God disciplines the ones He loves, however, Godly discipline is designed to correct bad behavior and bring restoration.  

OBEDIENCE BECOMES  WHO WE ARE NOT WHAT WE DO

     When we begin to see God as He truly is, obedience becomes part of who we are, not merely something we do. If you love someone, you want to please them.  Therefore, if you love God... well you get the idea.  God desires a relationship that is more than you simply following a set of rules, God desires the pleasure of your company because He loves you. Jesus told us His yoke was easy and His burden light because the commands of God are designed for our own protection and benefit.  Our disobedience breaks fellowship, our repentance restores fellowship.  In the midst of all that, our position in Christ remains secure.     

       Do not be discouraged when God tells you no.  God is not beholden to your behavior or religious practice, He is beholden to His own sovereignty  and holiness.  When God says no, it is for your good.  Rejoice in the knowledge He loves you enough to tell you no. 

 Now, go live as Christ... and give the devil hell!

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

THE MOON MAKES A MONKEY OUT OF EVOLUTIONISTS

     
  I am often amazed by the design and symmetry of creation!  The earth, moon, and sun, all working together with the precision of a Swiss clock.  Last year, I was fortunate enough to witness a total eclipse of the sun.  (didn't even need to fly to Nova Scotia)  Millions of Americans were able to witness this extremely rare event.  Did you ever stop to think - how is it the moon is a perfect fit for the sun during an eclipse?  If you have ever seen a total solar eclipse, the moon appears the same size as the sun and  covers the sun without any overhang from either celestial body.


    The moon happens to be 1/400 the size of the sun.  The moon also happens to be 1/400 the distance from earth as the sun.  So how did this amazing phenomenon take place?  The two prevailing ideas from science are the Capture theory and the Giant Impact Hypothesis.  The Capture Theory postulates the moon was flying through space, minding it's own business, when suddenly, Earth captured it in it's gravity.  How exciting, and fortunate, that a celestial body sooo beneficial to earth (governs tides, believed to govern seasons by holding Earth in it's axis), arguably necessary for life to exist on Earth, just happened to get captured.  It's almost like the Earth knew!  

     The Giant Impact Hypothesis states our planet was impacted by something about the size of Mars and the impact was so great the moon popped out of the earth and flew into space.  This is what scientists currently believe!  So, in a effort explain the existence of the moon without the Creator, science has postulated the earth gave birth to the moon after colliding with another planet.  

Psalm 191:1 - The heavens declare the glory of God, The skies proclaim the work of His hands. Day after day, they pour out speech, and night after night, they reveal knowledge

     Precision and design is why the moon makes monkeys out of evolutionists.  Evolutionists would have us believe that an object 1/400 the size of the sun, accidently popped out of the earth and shot out into space until it reached 1/400 the distance to the sun and locked into orbit.  Scientists would also have us to believe this cataclysmic accident was necessary or life to have evolved on Earth.  

     The Bible tells us, in Genesis, God created the moon on the 4th day of creation.  God gave us the moon as a lesser light to govern the night and to mark times and seasons. The intricate details in the relation of the earth, sun and moon suggest intent which demands a creator.  Aside from the 1/400 thing noted earlier, there is an even more astounding mathematical fact: the circumference of the sun is equal to the circumference of the earth multiplied by the circumference of the moon.   Once again, a mathematical wonder that defies chance.

     When studying the universe, the imprint of design and intention is undeniable.  This is only one of millions of examples of symmetry and detail that cannot be denied.  The Bible tells us, "the fool says in his heart, 'there is no God'."  and only a fool could study the universe and not see the clear imprint of design.  Where there is design, there must be a designer.

     The next time you see a full moon -  keep in mind the care and detail that went into designing a world for you to not only live in but to have fellowship with the creator.  Do not allow the foolishness of man's attempts to ignore God make a monkey out of you!

Now, go live as Christ ... and give the devil hell!

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

IS THERE A TOBIAH IN YOUR HEART?

 
    Do you have a Tobiah taking up residence in your heart?  Well, you'd better get him out!!  Just what is a Tobiah and how would he get in someone's heart and more importantly, how can you get him out?  Well, we learn about Tobiah in the book of Nehemiah, in the Old Testament. Nehemiah was rebuilding the city of Jerusalem and Tobiah was a bad guy bent on destroying the work of God.  As long as Nehemiah was around, Tobiah was powerless, once Nehemiah left, Tobiah made his move and literally moved into the holy Temple. 

           Tobiah personifies sin. Sin allowed to manifest in our lives will have repercussions beyond ourselves.  Like throwing a pebble in a pond, the ripples move out and affect everything on the surface, long after the pebble has settled to the bottom of the pond.  Who sinned in the case of Tobiah moving into the Temple?  The priest in charge of the Temple sinned by allowing Tobiah to take up residence.  Likewise, as Christ's followers, our bodies are Temples of God.  When we harbor sin, even secret sin, as the high priest harbored Tobiah, the repercussions to those around us can be devastating.

The Priest over the Temple emptied the store room, which was set aside for a holy purpose, and in so doing, unemployed all the guys whose job it was to maintain the store room and distribute it's contents.  With no purpose, these guys left and went back to farming their own lands.  With no place to store contributions, the people stopped giving to the work of the Temple, sending the priests out to find work elsewhere.  In essence, Tobiah, single handedly, stopped the function of the Temple and destroyed the ministry of untold men, simply by his presence!

The enemy comes to steal and destroy

     Sin takes resources.  Time, money, and energy are all resources we have in limited supply.  Minimally, at least one of these is expended on our private, and not so private, sin.  If we waste one or all of these resources on sin, we are failing to use it for the purposes God intended.  Obviously, God does not want us to use our time, energy or money to disobey Him so there must be a proper way to expend time, energy and money.   In wasting our resources on sin, we rob God and we rob others around us who would have otherwise benefitted by our obedience.  

John 10:10 - "The enemy comes to kill steal and destroy, but I come that you may have life and have it more abundantly."

Your pet sin may seem small and inconsequential, but...

      Converting a storage room into living quarters may have seemed like a minor thing to the priest in charge of the Temple but the affect it had was disruptive and destructive, negatively impacting the lives of many, effectually halting the work of God.  Your little pet sin may seem small and inconsequential, but how many lives are being negatively impacted because your time, energy or money is being squandered on sin when it should be utilized as God designed.  

God loves you too much to leave you in your sin

       Jesus said, "I come that you may have life and have it more abundantly."  This means God has so much more for you than the temporary pleasure of sin.  God loves you, even in your sin, but He loves you too much to leave you in your sin.  If you are harboring a Tobiah in your heart, he is destroying your ability to serve God according to your design.  Humble yourself before God, ask for the power to expel Tobiah and experience the life God designed for you. Mark 8:36 - For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and lose his soul?"

Be restored to your true purpose

        When Tobiah was expelled from the Temple, the room was restored to it's original purpose and the ministry picked back up.  God wants to cleanse you of the impurity of sin, expelling it from your life and restoring you to your true purpose.  Are you willing to let Him?  Expel your Tobiah and watch God work!

Now, go live as Christ... and give the devil hell!

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

THE TRAGIC ISOLATION OF SPENCER CHAMBERLAIN

Formerly Christian band Under Oath
      What would you call an organizations whose members ostracize and condemn those who fall on hard times or struggle with addiction?  Tragically, I would call that organization the Church.  This past week, I read of yet another casualty of the one organization whose sole command is to love God and love others. Spencer Chamberlain, of the Christian metal band, Underoath, has renounced his faith, stating, "The most alone and isolated I've ever been in my life is when I considered myself a Christian, personally."  You see, Chamberlain got hooked on drugs and the "Christians" promoting his band were more concerned with his ability to continue performing than his spiritual crisis.  Instead of helping him work through his issues, the "believers" around Chamberlain encouraged him to hide his problems because, after all, the show must go on!

      Even more outrageous was the hate and vitriol Chamberlain received from the Christian community at large.  Chamberlain recounted how he was reviled and attacked during his very public bout with addiction.  Here is a revelation: Christians struggle with sin, just like everyone else, and  before you get all self righteous, would you be willing to share your Saturday night activities, Netflix watchlist or internet browsing history with your church leaders?  Jesus said it best, "He who is without sin, cast the first stone."  

        Of course, there is the debate as to whether or not Chamberlain, now a self proclaimed atheist, was ever actually a Christian.  The theology behind that question goes way deeper than a simple eternal security conversation. Laying theology aside for just a moment, my immediate concern here is how can we better serve those who struggle within the Body of Christ? 

        Chamberlain's story is not isolated nor rare.  I am routinely meeting people who have been shunned or alienated within the church because it is easier to trim the fat than to actually get involved in people's lives.  I have personally served in a church where the spiritually needy were shoved aside, or even out, while those who contributed were lauded and supported, even when they were of questionable character.  I myself experienced the same isolation, in that church, when my commitment to my family was criticized as interfering with my commitment to that church.  

      The Church must do better to serve those within who struggle.  We must consider each member a vital part of the Body of Christ and relate to their personal struggles and setbacks the same way we would tend to a broken or pained body part.  If we were as quick to sever body parts as we are to sever struggling parts of the Body of Christ, we would all be in various states of amputation and not functioning well at all.  Yes, there are times when a diseased body part must be removed, but always as a last resort and after all method's of treatment designed to save the part are exhausted.  It must be the same within the Body of Christ.  How easy is it to cut someone off when you do not consider them vital? What happens when you are the one struggling and deemed unnecessary because you are no longer contributing?  The Spencer Chamberlain's are vital and the church is now without his unique role. 

      Perspective is everything. Seeing one another as vital members of the same body will go a long way to helping us love the way we are commanded in scripture.  1 John is a great place to learn the type of sacrificial, others centered love God expects from His children.  Jesus said, "they will know you by your love for one another."  Let that sink in for a minute...  Where would Spencer Chamberlain be today if he experienced this kind of love from his so called brothers and sisters in Christ?  

    When you see your brother or sister struggling, remember Spencer Chamberlain, consider where his isolation led him.  Pray you would be part of the solution and not the problem.  See your struggling brother or sister as a vital part and think how you would want to be treated in a similar situation. Pray for Spencer Chamberlain that he may reconnect with a Savior whose people let him down.

Now, go live as Christ... and give the devil hell!

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

33,000 DIE EACH YEAR SHAVING? - CHECK YOUR FACTS

   
   The Emergency Room Statistical Resource Center (ERSRC), has released a report this month on the number of deaths associated with neck shaving.  A little known fact is 33,000 men die each year, having slit their own throats while shaving.  Ben "Goatee" Robinson, President of the Neckbeard Co-op International (NCI), is capitalizing on this report for NCI's annual recruitment drive.  

      "People think neckbeards are a fashion statement, but they just might save your life, or the life of someone you love." Robinson stated at a rally at the  Norfolk, VA chapter of NCI.  ERSRC's report found most deaths were caused by straight razors, however almost one third of slit throat accidents were the result of utilizing safety razors.  ERSRC also went on to report that very few victims survive because they simply bleed out before help can arrive.  


     Robinson has been preaching the dangers of neck shaving for years and believes all men everywhere should either sport neck beards or, at the very least, use electric shavers.  One of NCI's brochures warns: "Every year, parents hand a razor and a can of shaving cream to a young, inexperienced teen aged boy, only to rue a tragedy which could have been easily averted with a neckbeard."


NCI has spent thousands of dollars lobbying Congress to outlaw private ownership of razors and have actually found an unlikely ally in the National Brotherhood of Barbers, who also believe razors of all kinds should be left in the hands of professionals.  

    You can't make this stuff up folks!   Or can you....  Well I just made all of the above up to make a point. Many people will read a ridiculous fake news article and never bother to verify it for accuracy.  Daily, millions see nonsense online then share and repost.  Recently, the topic of fake news has been lighting up both social and mainstream media.  Now, more than ever, fact checking is crucial.  Once a trusted source is found to have delivered fake news, all credibility is lost.  For a news agency, this can be devastating. 

      Tragically, fake news is not something exclusive to the media. Fake news has found it's way into the church and with it the loss of credibility.  When a news agency gets caught presenting fake news, revenue is lost and maybe a job or two.  When the church gets caught promoting fake new, lives can be destroyed.  

     How can you protect yourself from fake news in the church?  The only way is to learn the truth so well, you recognize error when you hear it.  2Timothy 2:15  Give diligence to present thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, handling aright the word of truth. 

      If you don't know the truth, you cannot detect a lie.  Millions of Christians trust their local congregation or minister to reveal Biblical truth, without ever actually reading the Bible for themselves.  Beware any minister who discourages you from reading the Bible for yourself.  No different than a husband who refuses to allow his wife to look through his phone, guaranteed, he is hiding something. 

      Blind Willie Johnson, the famous Bluesman, sang: Momma she taught me how to read... if I don't read and my soul is lost, it's nobody's fault but mine."  We have unlimited access to the Word of God.  If you don't read and you get deceived, it's nobody's fault but yours!  God has given us His word, it is our responsibility to read it.  

    The Gospel of Jesus Christ is literally The Good News.  The Good News is God has prepared a way for us to have a relationship with Him. The true news is Jesus is the Way the Truth and the Life and no man comes to the Father but by Him.  The fake news is there are many pathways to God.  If your church or some other so called religious authority is presenting a way to God other than Jesus or teaches He was just a man, if your church or some other so called religious authority is telling you the Genesis account is not true, you are being presented with fake news!

     Do not trust your soul to man, read the Book God gave you and if men teach something different than what you read, run away.  Don't be a victim of fake news in the Church.

Now, go live as Christ... and give the devil hell!
     

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

GETTING RID OF THE LEAVEN? - WHATSA MATZAH WITH YOU

                                           
  
   Friday night began Passover and with it commenced the Feast of Unleavened Bread or as I affectionately refer to it the FOUB.  Most people are at least familiar with Passover, but the FOUB, not so much. The FOUB is a seven day period in which Israel was commanded to not eat any bread with leaven (yeast).  The day before Passover, Preparation Day, every Jew is to search their home for leaven, including bread crumbs that may have fallen from the table or even in the cracks of the table, bundle it all up and burn it. For seven days only unleavened bread, matzah, is to be eaten. 

          "What in the world does leaven and the FOUB have to do with me," you may ask.  Whatsa matzha with you?  You know 2Timothy 3:16-17  All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. 

     So, if everything in the Bible has value and the lesson of the FOUB is in the Bible, we have to ask ourselves, "what's it all about?"  It's all about sin!

         We find this command in Exodus: Exodus 13:6-18  Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread, and on the seventh day there shall be a feast to the LORD.   Unleavened bread shall be eaten for seven days; no leavened bread shall be seen with you, and no leaven shall be seen with you in all your territory. You shall tell your son on that day, 'It is because of what the LORD did for me when I came out of Egypt.' 

     In my experience, much of scripture has a three-fold purpose, the literal re-telling, the practical application, and the spiritual meaning.  In the above passage, the spiritual meaning is so deep, one could almost drown in it! When scripture says, "No leaven shall be seen with you..." the spiritual application is no sin shall be seen with you

        Consider for a moment what removing the appearance of sin looks like in your life.  There are basically two ways to remove the appearance of sin: One is to stop sinning and the other is to do a better job of hiding sin.  Jesus condemned the religious leaders who hid their sin behind religious practices, so that is probably not what God had in mind. That leaves us with door number one - STOP SINNING!
     
      God is not so much interested in us appearing sin free, He wants us to live free from sin.  It is only when we begin to understand God's heart toward us that we begin to see sin from His perspective. What we may see as fun or normal, God sees as destructive.  Our pursuit of holiness - removing the leaven - is less about looking good and more about honoring God.  For more on that CLICK here   We have all experienced the destructive consequences of sin.  

       God's desire is His best for you.  Poor behavior hinders God's blessing. Can we attain a sin free life - theoretically yes, realistically no. 1John 2:1  My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. 
God desires us to be free from sin, the consequences of sin and the guilt of sin.  God takes away the guilt, but we control the consequences by whether we give in to temptation or not.  

     What leaven do you need to clean out of your heart and life?  With God's help, you can overcome anything.  Remember, God loves you!

Now, go live as Christ... and give the devil hell!

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

RESTING IN GOD OR WRESTLING WITH GOD - WHAT'S YOUR COPING MECHANISM?


   Life doesn't always give us what we think we deserve. When things don't go our way, we sometimes develop coping mechanisms, things we implement to deal with stress or difficult situations.  Some coping mechanisms are good and healthy but many are investments in future stress and difficulty.  For instance, a healthy coping mechanism would be to pray, recall memorized scripture or contact a close friend. Unhealthy coping mechanisms would include tantrums, finding comfort in alcohol or drug abuse, resorting to violence, withdrawing or employing deception.  It's the difference between resting in God or wrestling with God.  

 In Genesis, we meet Jacob, a guy who finds a way to get by on his wit and wisdom.  Jacob, the second son of Isaac, not only manages to gain the birthright of the firstborn son, he also swindles his older brother out of the blessing of the firstborn.  God had a plan for Jacob and placed a strong calling on his life, but Jacob chose to carve his own path through life, ignoring God.  Jacob spends the early part of his life employing his favorite coping mechanism, outsmarting those around him.  Jacob does not realize he is wrestling with God.

   Jacob was not a God hater nor an atheist.  Jacob believed God existed and probably considered himself a follower.  Like many today who acknowledge God and consider themself Christian, Jacob mostly ignored God and did things his own way.  The key component of faith missing for Jacob was a personal relationship with God.  In the early part of Jacob's life we see him referring to God in terms like, "the God of Abraham" or the "God of my fathers", it is not until Jacob has a real encounter with God that he takes ownership of  a relationship. Jacob learned to move from wrestling to resting. 


     So often, as a minister, people ask me to pray for them or for a specific situation.  Often I get the sense of the unspoken, "can you pray to your God on my behalf?"  Though no one has actually expressed it this way, I sense it is an underlying issue for many who do not perceive God as their God.  I once told someone who asked for prayer, "I will pray for you if you promise to also pray."  The response I received was unexpected, "you mean, actually, like get on my knees and talk to God?"  I was totally not expecting such a response. This was a person who acknowledged God and probably if asked, would say they were good with God, yet the idea of actually talking to God was completely foreign.  

   Similarly, I know President Trump exists, I know things about him and also have heard many things about him which may or may not be true.  I even follow him on Twitter.  None of these things equals a relationship.  I would be a fool to claim to know President Trump.  Most of what I know, or think I know of him, comes from the press.  This, unfortunately, is many people's experience with God.  The difference is, Donald Trump has no awareness of my existence and is not the slightest bit interested in me as an individual.  I have no ability to engage Donald Trump in a conversation. God, on the other hand, knows me and loves me individually.  God allows me the privilege of speaking to Him and hearing from Him and knowing Him.  

      Jacob managed to get by on his own until he couldn't...  Jacob's coping mechanisms alienated him from his family and the family of his wives.  Jacob found himself isolated and vulnerable because he chose to keep God at arm's length.  Only when Jacob realized he was out of tricks did he surrender and call out to God.  When all seemed hopeless, Jacob found hope in God, even as he realized he had been fighting against God his whole life.  Jacob went from knowing about God to knowing God. From wrestling to resting. God changed Jacob's name to Israel and Israel took possession of his relationship with God.

     Are you Jacob or Israel?  Do you know about God or do you know God?  Are you wrestling against God or resting in His Lordship.  God wants you to know Him, to have a rich and deep relationship with Him, through His Son Jesus Christ.  The only way to know someone is to spend time with them. God gives us prayer, His Word, worship and fellowship with other believers as methods to get to know Him.  

    Would you turn down tea with the Queen of England or dinner with with a King?  Of course not, but everyday, we pass up opportunities to spend time with the King of Kings.  What is your coping mechanism and how's it working out for you?  May I suggest getting to know the One who not only helps you cope but will make you more than an overcomer.  God has so much more for us than just getting by.  Unless you take the time to know Him, you'll never know how meaningful life can be.  Jesus isn't merely dying to spend time with you, He actually did.  Get to know the risen Savior and find your special purpose. Stop wrestling and rest.

Now, go live as Christ... and give the devil hell!



Wednesday, March 21, 2018

"GOD BLESS YOU" ..? THEM'S FIGHTIN' WORDS!


   Just when you think college campuses cannot get any more ludicrous: the March 15, 2018 edition of the Washington Times  reports Simmons College in Boston MA has decreed saying "God bless you" after a sneeze is considered micro aggressive behavior.  And why would saying "God bless you" be considered micro aggression, you ask.  "God bless you" is micro aggression because, according to Simmons College, it assumes your religious identity as the norm.  I guess the Declaration of Independence should be banned from college campus as "We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal and endowed by their Creator..." assumes a religious identity and may trigger a delicate hater of God.          


     I fear for the future if today's college students are so fragile the very cliched mention of God after a sneeze can cause a sense of being bullied!  I may, as a public service, go on up to Simmons College and collect all the little green slips of paper that say, "In God We Trust" on them so none of those precious leaders of tomorrow will feel aggressed against when they reach into their pockets to pay for their morning Starbucks.  

     Seriously though, the real agenda on these campuses is not to create a "safe space" conducive to learning, it is to undo 230 years of American culture that acknowledges absolute moral truth  imparted to us by God.   The goal is to cast off restraint and to replace God's moral law with "do as thou wilt", as espoused by famed sorcerer and black arts devotee Aleister Crowley.  Crowley, the self proclaimed Beast 666,  and Helena Blavatsky, before him promised to transform society by transforming the youth.  Alice Bailey, founder of the Lucifer Publishing Company, wrote numerous books espousing a society free from the constraints of the God of scripture.  The Lucifer Publishing Company became the Lucis Trust and is now an integral component of the United Nations.  

      The late Robert Muller, who served as assistant deputy director of the United Nations was an open follower of Alice Bailey. Muller espoused Bailey's ideas, writing over a dozen books touting eastern mysticism and promoting a one world religion headed by the UN.  One of Muller's roles at the UN was to prepare curriculum for schools world wide.  You can kind of see where this is going.  Blavatsky, Crowley, Bailey, and Muller, each guided by evil forces, touted the importance of conditioning the children in order to transform society.  

     As silly as banning "God bless you" from campus sounds and as ridiculous  as this makes the academic society look, we have to keep in mind we are in a spiritual war for the heart and soul of all people.  Banning "God Bless you" is not the real problem, just as the hoopla over whether or not to say  "Merry Christmas" is not the real problem.  The real problem is we do not recognize there are actual spiritual forces working to undermine God and His influence on society.  Influence the children and you change the culture.

     Until churches figure out a way to become relevant to the youth of America, without compromising the Gospel, the enemy will continue to have the upper hand.  Like the Pied Piper of yore, Satan,  the modern day piper, is leading our children to oblivion by encouraging them to think with their heart rather than their minds. We live in a society where truth is relative and facts only cloud the issues, and Satan is holding court in the highest institutions of learning, laughing his rear end off.  

     I know the God of Scripture is the one true God and I will continue to say "God bless you" when someone sneezes.  Whether that person feels triggered is not my responsibility, my responsibility to speak truth in love.  As we roll into spring and people begin to battle allergies, I imagine I will be very "micor-aggressive".  I hope you will too!

Now, go live as Christ... and give the devil hell!

     

Thursday, March 15, 2018

YOU DON'T LOOK LIKE ME SO YOU CAN GO TO HELL



 Have you ever felt discounted or ostracized because you did not meet some physical standard of a particular group?   Maybe you had the wrong clothes or hair style.  Maybe you were obviously of a different economic level, social class or ethnicity.  People tend to distrust those who are different.   

     The saying, Birds of a feather flock together, holds a great deal of truth.  Most people naturally gravitate toward those with whom they can identify.  Though affirming the similar is a natural tendency, it may be a destructive practice.  What happens when a church filled with suits and dresses receives a visit from a guy in jeans and a t-shirt?  Will t-shirt man be made to feel welcome or will he get dirty looks and under the breath comments?  I have actually heard rumors about a church in Knoxville which turns people away at the door if they are not properly dressed.  I am considering a visit there one Sunday...

      I am blessed to be part of a ministry where a black t-shirt is basic garb for our events.  Metal Mission of Knoxville tries to create an environment where "come as you are" is literal.  The danger for us is  allowing a certain look or style to become standard and not accept someone who looks more traditional.  At our last ministry meeting, I jokingly asked out loud, "what if some guy in a romper shows up?"  My comment got a good laugh but... what if?  

    In the last year, our ministry was contacted by a dear lady in another state who lamented there were no ministries like ours where she lived.  This woman felt judged by the local churches because of her background. I thought, surely there must be a local church near her where she could feel welcome.  As I began to visit church website after church website I discovered something disturbing, every church displayed photos of upper middle to upper class people enjoying time together.  As I looked through the photos each church chose to represent itself, nowhere did I find any indication my friend would be welcomed.  To me, the message was clear, "if you look like us, you are welcome."  

     I know you cannot judge a book by it's cover, but the practice I have observed in many churches and is evident throughout the country on Sunday mornings is people desire to worship with people who look like themselves.  Worse, many create a standard of what is acceptable appearance and anyone not meeting the standard is written off as unworthy. 

    If you attend church, what would the reaction be if a group of bikers or young adults in concert t-shirts showed up Sunday morning?  Would they be welcomed and included in fellowship or would they be ignored and avoided?  

     God is interested in the heart. We have to get passed the outer and focus on the inner.  What is the basic thing we all want? Love and acceptance. As Christ's representatives, are we properly demonstrating God's love and desire for individual relationship or are we deeming people worthy of hell because they do not meet our standards? 

 My Bible has no passages referring to Sunday best attire or the standard appearance for a committed Christian.  I love the response I get when I tell someone I am a pastor, especially when I am not dressed for work.  My go to garb is jeans and a t-shirt, preferably black, I have tattoos, both my ears are pierced, and my preferred musical style is, of course, Metal.   Not exactly standard fare for the average minister.

     The point of all this is, we have to look beyond the outer and pursue the inner.  Just because someone does not wear a sweater vest or does not dress business casual does not mean they are less intelligent or less in need of love.  To many, a tough outer appearance is designed as protection.  My original purpose in getting tattooed(when tattoos were still taboo) was to send a message: LEAVE ME ALONE!  Not because I was dangerous but because I was insecure.  

     When we judge someone unworthy of our time or attention because of the way they dress or any other aspect of their physical appearance, we are, in essence, saying, "You don't look like me, so you can go to hell."  Your mission today, should you choose to accept it: go out of your way to be friendly to someone you would normally avoid because they look different than you.  I am not talking about hit and run evangelism or walking up to a stranger and asking if they know Jesus.  Just be friendly and see where it leads.

    Act 10:34  Then Peter opened his mouth, and said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons: 

If God is no respecter of persons, how can we, His representatives, disregard those we deem different?  

Now, go  live as Christ... and give the devil hell!