Saturday, May 18, 2019

DABSTER GENTLEMEN CD REVIEW

     
      This week I received my much anticipated copy of Dabster Gentlemen Death or Life.  If you have not heard of Dabster Gentlemen, please allow me to introduce you to a unique sounding band with, what may be to some, familiar vocals.  
           
     Dabster Gentlemen, based in Amarillo Tx, is made up of  Myles Barfield and Dale Thompson.  (yeah, that Dale Thompson).  DG originally started out, more or less, as a Jazz outfit, but have implemented elements of Flamenco guitar, folk and rock to craft something that is hard to categorize but very fun to listen to. 

       The combination of the light and airy, yet masterfully complex, musical compositions of Barfield, coupled with the rock/metal infused vocals of Thompson somehow works in a way that has to be heard to be believed.  

       From the first track, Thick as Thieves, you will find yourself tapping your foot, well before Thompson's vocals kick in. Thick as Thieves is the perfect selection for an introductory song and sets the tone for what the listener can expect.  

           The second track, Animals, rolls a little toward funk with a fun piano foundation.   I love the organ giving way to the Flamenco sound of Rejoice. Darkness Falls actually sounds like it could have been included on Bride's Drop album, with very reflective and thought provoking lyrics.  

            No Signs of Life could easily have been released as a follow up single to Thick As Thieves if the state of Christian radio was not so abysmal.  Have You Met The Man has a bit a of a country vibe that brought me back to the good old days of Outlaw Country.  When The Preacher Stops Preaching kicked me into a Led Zeppelin III kind of vibe.  

          Lyrically, Death or Life is exactly what you would expect from any project to which Dale Thompson is connected.  Deep, meaningful, thought provoking, scripture based and God honoring.

             Overall, this album is a winner and should be on any music lovers rotation.  

            Have they invented a new genre of music? I will leave that up to you do decide. 

     If you would like to learn more about Dabster Gentlemen you can check out their Facebook page here.  
         

              This CD has a very limited release of only 100 units so if you want one, you may have to act fast. For digital downloads you can hit them up on Amazon or wherever good music sold digitally. Here is a sample of what you have been missing: Don't forget to play it loud!



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

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

CHURCH AND THE BUSINESS OF GIVING

     
If you have been to church for any period of time, you have probably heard it.  The infamous "Storehouse Message"  You may be feeling a little squirmy just reading this, or maybe you are rolling your eyes, thinking "here we go again".  

        Relax, I am not going to give you seven Biblical principles on why you should give to me or my ministry.  I am going to give you only five... just kidding, this is totally not about that.  

         In fact, one of the biggest tragedies in the church today is the handling of money and methods employed to get more.  I wonder how many pastors Jesus would drive out of their pulpits with a whip after hearing the latest gimmicky sermon designed to raise more money.  

          Maybe, like me, you have heard gems like these, "cash in your nest egg for our latest building project." Or my personal favorite, "dig deep and show Jesus how much you love him."  

  I remember when I was visiting a local church for a few weeks, I felt led to put my tithe in the offering plate.  The next week, a gentleman on the finance committee came up, put his arm around me squeezed real tight and said,  "boy, I'm glad you're here!"   I wonder if his exuberance was because I was a brother in Christ come to worship with him or maybe had something to do with the size of the check I dropped in the plate the previous week.  He wasn't so glad I was the week before...

           As the western church continues to thrive as a business, business interests will continue to muddy up the waters of ministry.  After all, competitive salaries, high mortgages and exorbitant utility bills have to be paid somehow.  The kingdom of God is free, but it ain't cheap!

Storehouse giving

     One of the most blatant and shameful mishandling of scripture is the "Storehouse message", designed to shame and manipulate church goers into giving. The Storehouse Message comes out of Malachi 3:8-10  Will man rob God? Yet you are robbing me. But you say, ‘How have we robbed you?’ In your tithes and contributions.  You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing me, the whole nation of you.  Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the LORD of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need. 

       I certainly believe in the principle of tithing and yes, we are commanded to give to the Lord, but the Storehouse Message has nothing to do with funding a church to pay salaries, mortgages and light bills.

    Unless your local church actually has a literal storehouse where the needy can come and be supplied, this message should never be applied to the offering plate. 

  Keeping the big givers happy

      What happens if your biggest contributors are your biggest sinners? What happens when your biggest contributors begin to assert their agendas with the unspoken threat of withholding their generosity?  

      The Apostle Peter dealt with just such a situation in Acts 8 when a new convert offered money to receive authority in the church.  I love his response: Act 8:20-21  But Peter said to him, “May your silver perish with you, because you thought you could obtain the gift of God with money! You have neither part nor lot in this matter, for your heart is not right before God. 

  Peter was not interested in the man's money, but his soul.  What if Peter was facing a huge mortgage payment on his extravagant church building, high utility bills, and needed to make sure he and all his assistant pastors got paid?  What if Peter viewed his ministry from a business perspective?  

    Peter focused on the work set before him and trusted God for provision.  Peter had no need to coddle a wealthy contributor or sugarcoat the truth for fear of losing a big donor.  

Teaching to the tithe

       Another big trap a ministry can fall into is teaching to the tithe.  Teaching to the tithe is making sure the message offends no one because let's face it, happy customers are paying customers.  If McDonald's decided to change it's menu to only healthy food, how long would it take before McDonald's went out of business?

        Recently, I heard a nationally syndicated radio talk show host say church should not challenge people or make them introspective, rather church should make people feel good about themselves. 

       Hmmm, I guess that makes Jesus the biggest failure when it comes to building a congregation.  In one day, Jesus attracted over 5000 people to His ministry and because He taught them things they did not want to hear, His congregation collapsed and He was left with only twelve.  Jesus was not very business savvy and not many church boards would tolerate such behavior from a pastor hired to "pack 'em in".  

         As soon as a ministry considers how a particular message or truth may negatively affect attendance and giving, the ministry has lost sight of it's true purpose. 

  Giving is commanded in scripture

      Don't get me wrong, I believe in giving and I also believe in supporting local ministries through tithes and offerings. This is scriptural.  What I do not believe in is a ministry strong arming people into giving where God has not directed.  

       God commands us to give, however, nowhere in scripture does it say, "Thou shalt give to the local church."  God may tell you, individually, to support a local congregation, or, God may direct to buy groceries for a needy family facing sudden unemployment.  

        The point is, if your giving is not God directed, it may be misdirected.  If you are giving out of guilt or intimidation, your giving is in vain, spiritually speaking.

Tithing is a Biblical principle

        For the Church, tithing is not commanded.  The clearest teaching on giving in the church age is found in 2 Corinthians 9:7  Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 

        Tithing, however, is a Biblical principle established before the giving of the Law.  Hundreds of years before the Law was given, we see Abraham tithing the spoils of war to Melchizedek. 

         Tithing is basically a covenant between you and God where you set aside 10% of your income for His work.  I believe in and practice tithing.  I do not, however, believe we are called to blindly support a local ministry or church just because we are told to by someone who depends on your giving for a salary.

         Instead, allow God to direct your giving.  You may be called to support a variety of ministries, missionaries or individuals.  You may be called to give to the local congregation you attend.  Just be open to God's lead and give where God directs, regardless of how convincing this quarter's storehouse message may seem.  

        God calls us to give and to do so with a cheerful heart.  Don't be afraid to ask where the money you give goes.  Be open to the move of the Holy Spirit when it comes to your finances and know you can trust God.  

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


            

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

WHAT IS A SOUL WORTH?

   
Ponder hell with me for just a moment.  Ponder the idea of eternal flames, wailing, gnashing of teeth, remorse and separation from God.  


        Now ponder this thought, people you know and love are on their way to this very reality.  

        
       Have you shared what you believe?  Have you taken the time to, at the very least, broach the topic of spiritual things?  

        We have no problem sharing our favorite stuff.  We can talk for hours about our favorite movie, TV show, music, food... well you get the idea.  So why is it so difficult to share our faith or simply make God part of our normal conversations?

         Yeah, I get it, as long as I talk about normal stuff, safe stuff, no one will think  I'm weird.  After all, who am I to push my beliefs on other people, right?

          If you truly believe in the reality of hell and eternal torment for those who do not know your savior, can you in good conscience say you love, or even care about them, if you never bring up the topic of God's grace?

           Would you watch silently as people you cared about drove 100 miles per hour toward a bridge you knew was out?  Would you care if people you claimed to love took a nap on train tracks?  Why is the surety and reality of hell any different?  

           What is a soul worth?  

           Consider, for a moment, what the Apostle Paul endured for people he never met:  2 Corinthians 11:24-28  Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea;  on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers;  in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches. 

           Paul's understanding of the reality of eternal separation from God drove him to cast aside his own well being and safety, even for people he never met and some who hated him.

            What perspective does this give us towards those we actually know and love?  

            No, not all of us are called to be evangelists, but we are all called to be salt and light to those around us.  This means we are to live and speak in a manner properly representing our Lord Jesus Christ.  

            This is not about "going out witnessing" or street corner evangelism or even handing out tracts, which are all fine and good for those who are called to such things.  This is about being real, being who you are in Christ, and possibly, doing nothing more than letting people know you are a person of faith, without getting preachy.  Living a life that honors God and seizing the opportunities God gives, with those whom you are already in relationship.  

            I decided to conduct a poll on Twitter @RealPaulAhnert, to see what the top hindrance is to sharing faith.  As of now, 40% of those who responded claim fear of rejection as the greatest obstacle.  Fear of being thought weird is running a close second at 32% and is my personal folly to overcome. 

          I am also very thankful to the many who left comments on the poll giving various other obstacles they face and those who have no hindrances at all are of course admirable.  

            The point is, most of us struggle with sharing our faith with friends and loved ones at one time or another.  This camaraderie cannot allow us to continue struggling and sensing safety in numbers, however.  Rather, we ought to be lifting one another up in prayer, encouraging each other and even throwing in a little good old fashioned accountability.      
            

              Getting started is the hardest part. Finding those openings, without making it seem forced or confrontational can be difficult.  Once the conversation starts, it takes, either, a natural flow or you may sense resistance pretty quickly.  Those sweet moments when the natural flow occurs are often amazing and unexpected.  When great resistance takes place, back off a bit and wait for another opportunity and do not forget to pray for the person.

      We do not face this alone 

                God does not leave us to fend for ourselves: 2 Timothy 1:7-8  for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.  Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God, 
               
              When we do God's business, He equips us.  Live a life worthy of the Gospel, treat others well, earn the right to be heard and ask yourself one question: What is a soul worth?
               
       Here is a song by Rocketboy dealing with this very topic:  




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

Thursday, April 25, 2019

FINDING YOUR PLACE IN THE BODY OF CHRIST - SERVING BY GOD'S DESIGN

         Should Christians be coerced or otherwise guilted into serving God in a specific manner?  Should giving to the work of the Lord be compulsory?  Is it ever right to assign service based on availability vs. suitability?  


       Interestingly, God answers these questions in a portion of scripture many overlook or merely read over quickly.  In Exodus 35, we find Moses, having been given the instructions for the building of the Tabernacle, offering the people of God the opportunity to serve God according to their calling and gifting.  

Exodus 35:4-5  Moses said to all the congregation of the people of Israel, “This is the thing that the LORD has commanded.   Take from among you a contribution to the LORD. Whoever is of a generous heart, let him bring the LORD's contribution: gold, silver, and bronze; 

Notice what Moses did not say: "Dig deep and show God how much you love Him!"  "The more you give, the bigger the blessing from God you will release!"  "Nobody else is doing the work I am doing, so you need to give to this ministry!"

 Notice what Moses does say: Whoever is of a generous heart, let him bring the LORD's contribution

Exodus 35:10  “Let every skillful craftsman among you come and make all that the LORD has commanded: 

Everything is not for everybody              

     Everyone has a crucial part to play, a role to fulfill, a specific function in the body of Christ.  As the Apostle Paul said:
 1 Corinthians 12:12-15  For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.  For the body does not consist of one member but of many.  If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 

         So we all participate in the Great Commission but we do not all participate in the same manner.  As in the Exodus passage above, there are those who are called to give and will do so out of joy.  There are those who are skilled in various ways, these are called to serve according to their ability.  

         If everyone is serving and contributing according to their God given design, each will feel fulfilled in service and the work will not be a burden.

         Few things will destroy your spiritual life quicker than attempting to serve outside your calling.  

Pitfalls to avoid:

1. Availability does not equal ability 

     Do not allow someone to bully, coerce, or manipulate you into a        task or service to which you have not been called nor equipped.        By allowing someone to fill your free time with a service you 
      are not called to, you will not have time to pursue things to
      which you are called. You will experience burnout, frustration
       and dissatisfaction and soon begin questioning God's goodness.
       If you do not feel called, just say no!

2. Avoid compulsory giving

       The Bible teaches two very important concepts when            it         comes to giving: 
       1.God loves a cheerful giver.  
       2. The principle of the tithe
       
        These principles are God led.  Just like any other service to 
        which we are called, God will provide the resources.  Tithing 
        is a contract between you and God where you trust God with 
        10% of your income and God promises to provide your needs.
        Tithing has nothing to do with being obligated to give to a 
         local church or ministry.  It may mean buying groceries for a 
         needy family supporting a missionary.

          If you give because you have been pressured or otherwise  
          coerced you are giving for the wrong reason and possibly to             the wrong place.  

3. Do not allow others to decide your calling, gifts or purpose

     Your relationship with God is personal.  Your gifts, calling and          talents are unique.  When you are operating in your God given 
      gifting, there is no greater joy or contentment.  Unless you hear
      clearly from God, it is ok, even wise, to hold back and wait.  
      God will reveal your gifts to you in due time. When a person 
      tells you what they think your calling is, it should confirm what
      you already believe or suspect. 


None of this excuses you from getting out of your comfort zone.  Nothing grows in the comfort zone. In fact, we are commanded by scripture to encourage people out of the comfort zone and into serving: 1 Thessalonians 5:14  And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all. 

     We are to encourage people to serve, though, not necessarily how to serve.  That is the difference.  Yes, we are commanded, in scripture, to give, serve and fellowship.  What we are not commanded to do is give, serve or fellowship outside of God's directing.  

     As a born again believer, you are indwelt by the Spirit of God and, therefore, have direct communication with the Father.  The early church was devoted to the apostles' teaching, prayer and fellowship and so should we be.  If you are putting the time in to study God's Word and pray, I promise you, you will hear from God.

   Do not allow a minister or spiritual leader to replace the Holy Spirit.  If you find a spiritual leader who seems to contradict what you are hearing from God, run, don't walk to the nearest exit.

  Jesus said His yoke is easy and His burden is light.  Not because following Jesus is a cake walk but because He will empower and equip you to follow as He directs.  If you are struggling in service, you may not be serving according to God's plan for your life. 

    Few things could be more tragic than a life spent pursuing something God never intended for you. God desires your life to be filled with joy, peace and contentment.  If you are serving according to your design, joy, peace and contentment will be the natural fruit of your labors.  Proverbs 3:5 Trust in Yehovah with all your hear and lean not on your own understandings, in all thy ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths.

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


Friday, April 19, 2019

THE HOLLYWOOD CONNECTION TO CONNECTING WITH GOD

             
     Is Jesus our example for being in the world but not of the world?  Are we following the lead of our Master or the misguided ideas of men?

     Jesus connected with, ate with, associated with and ultimately ministered effectively to unbelievers. Jesus did not wall Himself off from society and sit around with like minded people complaining about the sin of others.  Jesus went out and made meaningful relationships.  

              What opportunities might we not even be aware of as we live in our little church bubbles, believing attending services once or twice per week is somehow serving God?    

      As I get older, and hopefully wiser, I begin to rethink some convictions I formerly held.  As a pastor, I have had the honor of performing wedding ceremonies. I have not performed many weddings and have chosen to not perform some along the way.  

       I generally shied away from performing weddings for those who do not consider themselves believers in Christ, thinking, you do not want God part of your daily life, but you want Him to bless your marriage?  

       I think I may have missed a great opportunity and also may have misunderstood the reason so many unbelievers seek out a minister for major life events like weddings and funerals or why so many who do not regularly attend church or synagogue do so on high holy days such as Christmas, Easter, Yom Kippur and Rosh Hashanah.  

       Is it possible America has been conditioned, inadvertently by pop culture, to seek out clergy for specific events or major religious holidays?

       To test this hypothesis, one only need to look at Hollywood's formative years.  Originally, in the earliest years of the 20th century, movie makers began producing films for American audiences.  Soon, Eastern European immigration began to change the Hollywood landscape.  Many immigrants who came to Hollywood in order to make films were non religious but of Jewish heritage.  Over time, the movie industry began to make not so family friendly films. 

         By the early 1920's, Catholic leaders set ups advisory boards to oversee content in the film industry, but much of the advisory board's regulations were ignored.  By the early 1930's, film industry profits were in sharp decline as families stopped attending movie houses.  By the mid 1930's, the Catholic led advisory boards were able to influence the content of new films, resulting in more family friendly fare, which rescued the film industry by, once again, boosting ticket sales.

        Hollywood was influenced mainly by Jewish and Catholic filmmakers and executives.  Interestingly, Judaism and Catholicism are both representative theocracies. God established Israel as a representative theocracy at Mt Sinai.  God set up a system where the common man experienced God through proxy.  The prophet took the Word of God and brought it to the people while the priest  took the prayers and sacrifices of the people and presented those to God.

           When Jesus died on the cross, His sacrifice granted access to God the Father, meaning we no longer needed a human representative between us and God: Ephesians 2:18  For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. Both Jew and Gentile now have access to God through the shed blood of Christ.

             Somewhere along the line, the Vatican missed this concept and created a Christian version of a representative theocracy.  The Roman Catholic clergy fulfilled the role of both prophet and priest as the sole representative, both man to God and God to man.  Much of this was changed during the Vatican II Council in the mid 1960's, but prior to Vatican II, Catholic doctrine taught only a priest could interpret scripture and the priest provided absolution through confession. 

             Because Hollywood was run by those who held to a representative theocratic view, the concept of coming to God through a human mediator or hearing from God through a human interpreter has been deeply embedded in our entertainment.  This is not some great conspiracy, merely a byproduct of the religious views of the early Hollywood establishment.  American culture has mistakenly elevated clergy to the position of the average man's connection to God.  

            I discovered this truth when I began to give a different response to people who asked me to pray for them.  I am not really sure why, but instead of just saying. "sure, no problem" as I was accustomed, I began saying, "I will pray for you if you promise to also pray about this situation."  The response I got was so unexpected.  Most people who do not go to church or have a sense of a relationship with God seemed surprised I would make such a request.  I was surprised by their surprise!

              It would appear most people want to connect with God on some level but the idea of a personal relationship seems to elude many.  In fact, many mistakenly perceive a barrier between them and God, not realizing there is free access through the shed blood of Christ.

              This is why those outside the church or synagogue seek out clergy for weddings and funerals.  People want God's blessing on marriages and want to ensure loved ones are sent on to the next world by a qualified representative of God.  

              This is why Christmas, Easter, Yom Kippur and Rosh Hashanah are the most attended services of the year.  These are the times people are conscious of God's favor. 

               This is why I am changing my perspective, and practice, concerning weddings and funerals.  These are opportunities for evangelism to people who may never, otherwise, seek out clergy.  

                The task of the church should be to encourage people to connect with God on a personal level, to disciple believers into spiritual independence, and ultimately move them into serving according to their gifting and calling.  

              You do not need the pastor, priest or rabbi to go to God on your behalf, you have access to the Father through the Son.  God wants to hear from you.  God wants you  to know Him on a personal level, not for you to merely know about Him based on what someone tells you.  

                  Let's help others connect with God on a personal level and support the work of the Holy Spirit in one other's lives. Be available to help someone connect with God, don't allow anyone to make you the connection.

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



            

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

TAX COLLECTORS, SINNERS AND FRIENDS OF JESUS

       
Have you ever been made to feel as if you were insignificant, didn't matter or just not worth the effort?  Maybe you have been written off by someone you cared about.  

         When a person is made to feel insignificant or worthless, they will often withdraw and build a protective shell to ward off emotional harm from others. This is where dangerous and self destructive behavior can take place.  

     Where is God for the cast off, the misfit and the oddball?  Where is God for those on the fringe of society?  Does God just write people off as well?

            In Matthew 9:9-13 we see Jesus standing against the status quo and associating  with those who had been written off by society. Matthew 9:9-13  As Jesus passed on from there, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he rose and followed him.  And as Jesus reclined at table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and were reclining with Jesus and his disciples.  And when the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”   But when he heard it, he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.  Go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.” 

               In Jesus' society, tax collectors were considered among the worst of the worst.  Granted, many tax collectors were dishonest and viewed as traitors for collecting taxes for occupying Rome, but nonetheless, they were cast offs. 

               Jesus called Matthew to be part of His inner circle, not because Matthew had anything special, but because Jesus knew Matthew's heart was willing. Jesus went to Matthew's home to eat and apparently other tax collectors and sinners of various stripes showed up as well.  Jesus did not excuse Himself or begin to rebuke anyone, He, instead, built relationships.  

                The Pharisees, who complained about Jesus associating with those they considered riff raff, were the establishment and arbiters of what was acceptable.  The Pharisees looked down on and criticized Jesus for associating with those who were deemed unworthy.   

              Jesus' response reveals God's heart toward those who are viewed as misfits.  Jesus values those society devalues.  Jesus seems very comfortable with with those who may make others squirm.

          As familiar and welcoming as Jesus was with the outcasts, He also did not downplay the fact they were sinners.  This is very important.  Jesus loved the fringey but He did not endorse, celebrate or overlook their sin.  

           Jesus makes two very important distinctions here:

1. He did not come for the self righteous or those who had no 
     sense of sin in their lives 

2. Those with sin were loved by God but needed the Great                     Physician to cure them of the spiritual disease of sin

Jesus recognized those with need and welcomed them, one and all, to have their needs met.  

Apparently, Jesus is not rebuking the dinner guests directly, not calling out their individual sins, rather, He is sharing truth.  Likewise, we are not the Holy Spirit, and it is not necessarily our role to point out everyone's specific sins, especially those of unbelievers.  Instead, we are to point those outside of faith to the Savior and allow God to convict their hearts.

         Notice whose sin Jesus pointed out?  The religious leaders.  There are times when it is biblical to directly address the sins of brothers and sisters in Christ.  There may even be times when it is appropriate to address dangerous behavior of unbelievers, but we should not be in the practice of calling out the individual sins of those outside the church.  

              People outside faith in Christ are not going to hell because they sin, they sin because they are going to hell
When we understand this truth, our approach to evangelism will change and look more like the way Jesus interacted with unbelievers.

             Jesus did not fail to address sin, but He did so only after a relationship or connection was established.  The woman at the well, the woman caught in adultery, the man healed at the pool of Bethesda - each one Jesus addressed sin, but each one had a meaningful encounter first.

              It is easy for believers to sit around criticizing, condemning and complaining about the sin of the world around us. It is not so easy for us to love and care about those whose lifestyles or behaviors disgust us.  This is where we need to be like Jesus, loving people where they are but not being willing participants in their own destruction. 

     Love means speaking truth

     Jesus never sugarcoated the truth and neither should we.  At the same time, we have to remember our use of the truth is not a club but a shepherds staff meant to guide others to the Good Shepherd.  

     Jesus said, "if you love me you will obey my commands" and we know Jesus commanded us to love God and love others.  Sounds pretty simple, right?  So let's get out there and do it!

       Jesus was not afraid to walk along the fringe of society in order to reach the lost.  Likewise, we cannot shun those who need to know about Jesus.  

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



                
              


Sunday, March 24, 2019

THROUGH THE BIBLE PROJECT - READY FOR A CHALLENGE?

A marked up Bible is a good thing
         What do you think about the Bible?  If you are like most people, you will agree the Bible is important.  According to the 
Barna Group , 88% of Americans own a Bible, 80% believe the Bible is sacred and 61% wish they read the Bible more.  America loves the Bible but, apparently, America does not read the Bible.  

           Are you one of the 61% of Americans who wish you read your Bible more?  Almost 75% of Americans claim faith in God, yet, only 11% claim to have read the whole Bible.  In fact, according to ReligionNews.com , only 15% claim to have read more than half.  How can such an important book, held in such high regard, and found in almost every home in America be so neglected?      

      I have read through the Bible, numerous times, and I never fail to learn something new about history, God and myself.  I believe the Bible is the infallible word of God and is indispensable to anyone who claims faith in Christ.  

           In 2013, the History Channel aired The Bible, which was the number one non sport entertainment program of the year, according to Nielsen research.  Obviously, there is interest in the Bible, yet most do not find time to read it.  
  
            I would imagine the number one reason people do not read the Bible is because they do not have time.  I submit to you, you have time for what is important.  How often do you miss dinner because you are simply too busy to eat?  How often do you miss your favorite television show because you didn't have time to watch it? Not very often, I bet!  We schedule time for all we deem important. 

            #ThroughTheBible project 

            In order to encourage meaningful Bible reading, I am initiating the #ThroughTheBible project. The goal is to encourage believers to read through the Bible and Tweet what they learn.  If you have been a believer for more than 5 seconds, this is for you. 

           How it work:

            Whether you are a Bible Scholar or a brand new believer, you can participate in the #ThroughTheBible project. 

              1. Pick a book of the Bible - you do not have to start in                        Genesis - and read through it.
               
              2. As you read through each chapter, Tweet what you                             learn, discover or remember and include the hashtag                       #ThroughTheBible
            
              3. Eventually read through the Bible 


        The purpose:
            
             1. To encourage regular Bible reading

             2. To increase Bible literacy

             3. To encourage thoughtful reflection on God's word
              
             4. To help encourage community 


       Why the hashtag

              The hashtag is designed to encourage the maximum amount of participation.  As more join in, others will be encouraged to join and/or stick with it.  Also, it encourages the reader to not only pay attention to what is being read, but to expect to hear from God through His word. 

               The Bible is so much more than a book of history or old sayings.  Scripture is alive: Hebrews 4:12  For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

              
                 If you are on Twitter, simply search #ThroughTheBible and click latest. You will be able to see what others have written and you can add to the party by writing your thoughts with the hashtag.  Be sure to follow me and I promise to follow back as well. https://twitter.com/RealPaulAhnert  

                God commands us to read His word.  If we are not, at least, doing that (and praying regularly), why would God reveal more of His will to us?  2 Timothy 2:15  Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.

                Are you up for the challenge?  I hope so. Lets see if we cannot raise that 11% number!  I promise your life will be changed for the better.

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

         

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

AMAZON, ABORTION AND A TALE OF TWO STATES

   
As a follower of Christ, I do not believe in coincidence.  I believe God is actively involved in our world today.  God allows us to exercise our will for or against Him, yet, He is able to overcome our greatest efforts against His will and still have His way.  This is true sovereignty.

          The Bible tells us the plans of the wicked will not prosper.   Psalm 21:11  Though they plan evil against you, though they devise mischief, they will not succeed.  

           Today's headlines attest to this Biblical truth.  Recently, most of America cringed in horror, as the State of New York giddily celebrated legislation allowing abortion, up to the moment of birth.  Click here for my post on this   Watching the maniacal grins of those present, as Gov. Cuomo signed the bill into law, should have turned the stomachs of moral people everywhere.  

               Meanwhile, the State of Tennessee has been working hard to make abortion rare.  In 2014, Tennessee amended the state constitution to declare, among other things, "Nothing in this Constitution secures or protects a right to abortion or the funding of abortion." TN Right To Life has more info on TN abortion laws.

                  On the heels of New York's abortion law, Tennessee's House of Representatives passed a bill restricting abortion if a heartbeat is detected.  Facing great opposition from pro-abortion foes, the bill soon goes before the State Senate for a vote, where it will hopefully pass and land on the Governor's desk.  

     Jesus said: Matthew 25:40  And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’ Yes, I know Jesus was not addressing abortion in this passage, and yes, this is an end time passage, not pertaining, specifically, to the Church today, however, this passage does show God's heart for those without a voice.  Surely, God considers the unborn "one of the least of these".  

      Ironically, in the midst of New York's celebrating unrestricted murder of the the voiceless unborn, the state lost, what looked like, a slam dunk job boon from Amazon.com Inc.  Amazon, planning on building a second headquarters in New York, creating 25,000 high paying executive jobs, scrapped these plans after opposition from state and local protesters.  Though the decision to pull out of the New York project had nothing to do with the newly minted abortion law, I cannot help but see God's hand in blocking the state from enjoying the economic boost Amazon would have provided. Amazon now plans on distributing these jobs across the country in existing or planned hubs.

       Meanwhile, Amazon announced this week, the company plans on moving forward with building an Operations Center of Excellence in Nashville TN, creating 5,000 high paying jobs, averaging $150,000 each.  Whether Amazon plans on moving additional jobs to Tennessee, originally slated for New York, remains to be seen, however, with the current project, Amazon will now be Nashville's largest private employer. 

       I do not believe Amazon cares about the abortion laws of New York or Tennessee. I do believe God cares.  Is it a mere coincidence a great economic opportunity has been lost in New York at the same time Tennessee gains? Not if you believe in God and understand He is not to be mocked.  

       New York is not unique in expanding abortion laws, New York is unique, however, in how politicians disgraced themselves celebrating death.  Tennessee is not the first state to pass a "heartbeat" bill, but at the same time, Tennessee is not making national news calling attention to itself.  Tennessee is acting on behalf of those who have no voice as a simple matter of the natural course of doing business. 

 Matthew 6:6  But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly. 

           Abortion is a scourge on America.  The slaughter of innocent life for convenience is a travesty and the selling of baby body parts is an abomination against God.  Planned Parenthood was exposed, in recent years, for profiteering off of dead babies CLICK HERE to read more  The abortion industry has become another form of human trafficking, preying on the misery and naivety of others.  

            As stated above, abortion is a national scourge.  While states like Tennessee are busy passing legislation restricting abortion, federal courts are just as busy knocking down these laws. Congressional protection for babies is not any better.  Senator Ben Sasse of Nebraska sponsored a bill designed to save the life of a baby born alive after a botched abortion.  Incredibly, Democrats in Congress blocked the measure, including every senatorial presidential candidate.  What would cause politicians to vote against saving the lives of a baby who is born alive? Could it be because Planned Parenthood donated over $530,000.00 to federal candidates in 2018?  This figure is in addition to money donated to state and local races. Of the candidates receiving monies from PP, 99% are democrat and none are republican.  As in everything else, follow the money.

              If God is to judge us on how we "do unto the least of theses" America is in big trouble.  Planned Parenthood was never about women's health and never will be.  PP originally started as a eugenics project and has evolved into a baby body part factory.  Doctors all over America are speaking up against third trimester abortions, deeming them as completely unnecessary for protecting the life or health of an expecting mother.  An emergency Cesarean Section delivery would, in almost all cases, be more healthy for a mother in physical danger caused by a third trimester pregnancy. Unfortunately, abortion proponents will continue to lie about caring about women's health as long as there is money to be made selling the parts of well developed babies killed in, and now outside, the womb.

            Babies born pre-mature can survive outside the womb, with the proper care.  Read The Miraculous Plight of Baby Avery to see one such case that touched my community about four years ago.

       America cannot continue to allow evil people to profit from the destruction of those God considers "the least of these".  Prayer and education are key in wining this war.  Praying hearts to be softened and evil be exposed while educating young mothers about what is actually growing inside their wombs. If good people do nothing, evil will flourish.  Pray that God would protect the innocent and hinder the work of those who would promote their destruction.

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



        

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

OVERCOMING SELF CONDEMNATION

    1 John 3:20  for whenever our heart condemns us, God is                     greater than our heart, and he knows everything. 

     As broken people living in a broken world, it is often difficult to see ourselves and others as God sees.  While some have an over inflated view of self, many suffer from the inner turmoil of self condemnation.  Haunted by missed opportunities and personal failures, paralyzed by self doubt and fear of the unknown, or damaged by the carelessness and selfishness of others, self condemnation is one of the most difficult adversaries to overcome.

       Self condemnation goes beyond the seasons of self doubt most people experience in the course of normal life.  Self condemnation can become debilitating, often leading to withdrawal from friends and family and, sometimes, self destructive behavior.  Self condemnation brings feelings of isolation and the perception of being unworthy of God's love.

          Understanding God is foundational to overcoming feelings of worthlessness.  So many relationships we experience are performance based.  Society defines value based on an arbitrary sense of contribution.  A case in point: R. Kelly, world renowned pop star, is facing serious charges for sexual deviance.  Some of these charges go back decades yet are only being addressed now.  Why?  Twenty years ago, R. Kelly was producing millions of dollars for the record industry, consequently, he was protected.  Mr. Kelly's contribution is no longer large enough to overlook his depravity and what everyone already knew about him is suddenly an outrage.  According to society, R. Kelly is only as good as his contribution.

            It is the societal definition of contribution and performance which leads many to self condemn.  Pressure to please others by meeting unrealistic expectations is hamster wheel futility.  Setting unrealistic expectations on ourselves and others will surely lead to disappointment and discouragement, the parents of self condemnation.  

             A healthy view of God and understanding His view of His children is a necessary first step in overcoming feelings of worthlessness and self loathing.  God, a benevolent Father who, on one hand demands perfection while on the other hand recognizes our weakness and makes provision for our inability to please Him in our own strength.  Psalm 103:13-14  As a father shows compassion to his children, so the LORD shows compassion to those who fear him.  For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust. 

            Notice what garners God's compassion - our fear of Him.  Not afraid fear but awe and reverence fear.  Understanding God is worthy of honor and respect from the deepest level of our being.  God is not asking us to perform tricks for Him or entertain Him in some way. God is not asking us to provide some necessary service to Him.  God is asking for us to revere, trust and rely on Him.  

            Understanding God's love for us does not require performance or accomplishment frees us to accept God's love on His terms, not some man made construct.  Romans 5:8  but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

   If you are experiencing self loathing, no amount of platitudinal pep talking will help you, no matter how annoying or misguided your well meaning friends can be.  Job found no solace in the words of his friends either.  When Job was able to hear the voice of God he was able to place things in proper perspective.  Job's struggles were real and no amount of encouragement to "snap out of it" could help.  

       Know you are loved by God.  Sit still and listen for His voice in the midst of the cacophony sounding off in your head.  Understand God loves you as you are, but too much to leave you that way.  Know God sees purpose in you, even when you do not.  God sees purpose in you, even if you have been made to feel worthless by others.  God's people are not God and do not always represent Him well so if you have been harmed by someone claiming to represent God, they failed God.

If your heart condemns you, know this - God is greater than your heart.

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

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

IS JESUS REALLY THE JEWISH MESSIAH?


        
       I am taking the time to write this because of my great love for the people of God - the Jews. I believe the Jewish people are the Elect spoken of by the Apostle Paul.  Even a cursory study of the Old Testament prophets reveals a future time when God will restore the fortunes of Israel and rule the world from Jerusalem.

          It is my prayer for Jewish people to not "convert" to Christianity, but to embrace the True Messiah for the remission of sin.  Yeshua did not set out to start a new religion, He came to reveal God's redemption for His people. Many of the first believers retained their Jewish identity, only recognizing the sacrifices offered at the Temple were a foreshadow of the sacrifice of the Lamb of God and no longer necessary.  In fact, God took the Temple away for this reason.

        The Jewish scriptures, the Tanakh, clearly speak about a future golden age in which God will restore the fortunes of Israel and the earth will revert to a Garden of Eden like state.  Isaiah 65:17-25 speaks of a time when Israel shall experience peace and prosperity where even the most ferocious animals will be tame herbivores, just as they were before the fall of man.  This golden age is referred to as the Messianic age.  Ezekiel 37 speaks of a time when Israel will be reborn, the 12 tribes regathered into the land and united as one nation, and God will dwell among them.  Ezekiel 37:26-28  I will make a covenant of peace with them. It shall be an everlasting covenant with them. And I will set them in their land and multiply them, and will set my sanctuary in their midst forevermore.  My dwelling place shall be with them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.   Then the nations will know that I am the LORD who sanctifies Israel, when my sanctuary is in their midst forevermore.”  Two very important key statements appear in this passage: "I will make a covenant of peace with them" and "My dwelling place shall be with them, and I will be their God"  

 Jesus, obviously, did not usher in this golden Messianic Age. Clearly His followers expected Him to and were quite perplexed when Jesus began to talk about going away.  In fact, Jesus' followers cowered in fear after the crucifixion.  Judas, so disheartened by the realization he had bet on the wrong horse, first betrayed his master, and then regretting his decision, took his own life. Following this, something changed, causing the remaining 11 to not only proclaim Jesus as the Messiah, but emboldened  them to stand by this belief through torture and death.  What changed?

              Throughout every Biblical age, from the Garden of Eden to the destruction of the Temple by King Nebuchadnezzar, God gave clear instruction as to His expectations, warned of the consequences for failure and made restoration once repentance was established.  God never left His people without a witness or a method of reconciliation.  Every covenant was contingent on man's ability to obey God's commands. Every covenant, until the one introduced in Ezekiel and Jeremiah, a future covenant, of which God says, Jeremiah 31:31-33  “Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah,   not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the LORD.   For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. God tells His people there will be a New Covenant and it will be unlike the Old Covenant.

    In the Garden of Eden, the covenant God made with Adam required Adam's obedience. When Adam failed, sacrifice was made to cover Adam. God warned Adam failure would result in death. The institution of substitutionary sacrifice was established to restore mankind to fellowship with God. 

  At the time of the flood, God warned mankind through Enoch, who prophesied judgement, and through Noah, the preacher of righteousness. Mankind failed to heed the warning and destruction came.  God restored mankind on the earth through Noah.  When Noah exited the ark, sacrifice was made and restoration took place. 

      Following the Great Flood, God told man to spread out upon the earth.  Man ignored God's command by establishing a city and building a tower of defiance.  God confused the languages and drove man apart. God then brought restoration through the bloodline of Abraham, establishing a people through whom He could reveal Himself to mankind. 

Out of the bloodline of Abraham, God brought forth the nation of Israel and  Moses the Lawgiver. Through Moses, God established a covenant with Israel.  Israel violated these instructions.  Tabernacle worship and sacrifice was established. God sent Judges to lead Israel to repentance and freedom from the consequences of rebellion.  Then came the time of the kings.

        During the time of kings, God sent prophet after prophet to warn the people to repent.  God warned of dire consequences for rebellious behavior.  The people refused to heed God's warning and disaster struck the nation.  Even after the Temple was destroyed and the city conquered, God brought restoration.

         In all these scenarios, God gave warning, followed through on his threats and provided a means of restoration.

  In 70 AD, Rome sacked Jerusalem and destroyed the Temple.  Where was the prophetic warning?  What did God prescribe to avoid this tragedy?  Now, almost 2000 years later, what form of restoration has God offered?         

     If God is true to Himself and truly loves the Jewish people as He claims, the destruction of Jerusalem could not have simply happened inadvertently, without warning or means to avert. What prophet did God send?  Was there a  message?  

If God provided no specific warning to Israel prior to 70 AD, then He lied to the nation when He spoke through the prophet Amos.
Amos 3:6-7 Is a trumpet blown in a city, and the people are not afraid? Does disaster come to a city, unless the LORD has done it?  “For the Lord GOD does nothing without revealing his secret to his servants the prophets. 

     God did, indeed send a prophet.  John the Baptist came preaching, "repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand."  John warned the religious leaders who represented the people to prepare for the coming Messiah. 

    Messiah did, indeed, come and He offered the Kingdom.  The first chapters of Matthew's Gospel reveal Jesus offering the kingdom to Israel.  It is only after Jesus is rejected, via representation, we see Jesus change the message and begin to expand His ministry beyond Israel.  At first, Jesus taught what we call the beatitudes, the rules for living in the Kingdom.  The religious leaders (priests) were established, by God, to represent the people before God. The High Priest, specifically chosen by God to represent the people, rejected Jesus' message, in effect, leading to a national rejection.   

        God gives another warning through the prophet Amos, indicating the Messianic Age coming only after great tribulation: Amos 5:18-20  Woe to you who desire the day of the LORD! Why would you have the day of the LORD? It is darkness, and not light,   as if a man fled from a lion, and a bear met him, or went into the house and leaned his hand against the wall, and a serpent bit him.  Is not the day of the LORD darkness, and not light, and gloom with no brightness in it? 
     Every Israelite knew the Day of  YHWH was the beginning of the Messianic Age. Through Amos, God revealed the Day of YHWH would not be a pleasant time for Israel.  

    Many today reject Jesus as Messiah because He did not usher in the Messianic Age.  Rabbinic Judaism continues to look for Messiah and modern day Jewish leaders state it will be easy to know when Messiah is here because He will fulfill the prophecies calling for the restoration of Israel and the destruction and/or subjugation of her enemies.  

      What many in the Jewish community fail to realize is Bible prophecy reveals a two fold ministry for Messiah.  Isaiah 53 refers to Messiah as a suffering servant who suffers death for the sins of the people.  The Talmud, the Septuagint version and the Aramaic translation found among the Dead Sea Scrolls all attest to Isaiah 53 referring to a specific man, not the nation of Israel, as purported by modern Rabbinic thought.

         Many ancient Rabbis and Jewish scholars could not reconcile passages of scripture attributed to Messiah portraying Him as suffering and dying and conquering and reigning.  Because of this supposed conflict, the two Messiahs theory was born.  On Messiah would suffer for the sins of the people, as described in Isaiah 53. This Messiah, it was believed, would be descended from the Patriarch Joseph through Ephraim, thus the title Messiah Ben Joseph.  The second Messiah, believed to be descended from Judah through David was referred to as Messiah Ben David.

          God did a neat little trick, assigning Jesus' adopted father duties to a man named Joseph.  Jesus, in his true lineage, descended from Judah through David, on His mother Miriam's side and humanly speaking Jesus was, through adoption, the son of Joseph.  Jesus fulfills both roles of suffering servant and reigning king and can rightfully be called both Ben Joseph and Ben David. Ben Joseph through adoption and Ben David through lineage. 

              The most important question you will ever have to answer is, "Who is Jesus?"  How you answer this one simple question will govern your whole life and beyond.  The matter of whether or not He lived is not worth debating as only the most intellectually dishonest among us will attempt this argument.  The question of His identity, however, has been debated and redefined for 2000 years, yet His followers continue to change the world.

             Sadly, many evil men have done monstrously evil things in the name of Jesus.  Today, evil men continue to do Satan's work disguised as Christianity.  Satan has been misrepresenting the truth of God since the Garden of Eden. 


The Torah and he Tanakh all point to the coming Age of Messiah.   I have written previously, how God has revealed in Psalm 60 how Israel will call out to Jesus in the Great Tribulation ushering in the Messianic Age

               My prayer for you today is, if you are Jewish, you will consider these things and understand, Jesus never set out to establish a new religion.  Jesus' mission was and is to set His people free from sin.  

               My prayer for you today is, if you are a follower of Jesus, you would represent the Messiah well and be burdened for the nation of Israel as the Apostle Paul who wrote: Romans 1:16  For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 



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