Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Is There Anything New...Really?

"What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun." Ecc. 1:9 ESV

I was lost in the Okefeenokee Swamp for a day when I was about 12.  I grew up just a few miles from the center of the famous "land of the trembling earth." That is the meaning of the Indian word Okefeenokee.  I went into the swamp in a truck with another guy and we "stuck" the truck in the mud and decided to walk out.  We started walking out in the middle of the morning and were still walking without any idea of where we were when the sun set.  We thought we were making progress until we looked down and saw our our footprints from a few hours earlier.  Interestingly enough, until we saw the footprints we thought we were actually covering new ground!  It is possible to be lost and think you are making progress.

There was a time back into 1980's when it became popular to teach "new revelations". Familiar teachings from the Bible became a little out of vogue.  Of course no one would admit it but you could feel a little boredom with the old paths.  The way we became lost in the first place in the swamp was when the older guy I was with made the decision to leave the familiar way by which we entered the swamp in order to find a shorter route home.  I remember asking, "are you sure we should leave the way we know?"  He assured me he could get us home via a shortcut. Well, that didn't work out so well.  Of course the only damage done was our pride and a few scrapes and bug bites.  What made us decide to leave the old paths that had been used since the ancient tribes made them?  Laziness was a big factor but I think pride was the motivating force.  We left our pride in the great swamp that day.  

When it comes to Christian Doctrine and Biblical interpretation much more is at stake than our pride.  It is a dangerous thing to walk away from the ancient paths of our forefathers to find a shortcut to the Kingdom of God.  The old paths of hundreds of years have been established by devotion, spiritual hunger and Divine revelation.  They have been received in the atmosphere of humility from a stance of neutrality.  Pride causes man to believe he has a new revelation that history never saw or understood. Even as I write that last sentence I think, "what arrogance!  Certainly there are new lessons to be learned and new revelation to be gained. But what a frightening place for the preacher of the "new" and for those accepting it because of their faith in the preacher.  I'll leave you with an ancient path to trod. 1 John 4:4 "Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world,"

Monday, April 2, 2018

Nothing Needing Doing

[1Sa 12:16 ESV] 16 "Now therefore stand still and see this great thing that the LORD will do before your eyes."

In the Church world we talk a great deal about all we need to do as Believers.  It is true that we need to practice our Faith in real tangible ways.  Obedience is the true mark of faith.  However, there are times when that "going" mentality can actually serve us badly.  For example when we are instructed by the Lord to "stand still!"  In the verse above the command goes out to "stand still".  I must confess that I don't do too well standing still.  I never did!  As I view the church world today I'm not sure very many Christians do as well with standing still as they do with going forth.  We like the activity of going with the drive to complete a task. It is exhilarating. In all honesty much of the church world is what my Grandmother would have called "fidgety."  If you study the book of Exodus you get the idea that Israel sat or camped before the Lord a lot more than they moved before the Lord.  A fidgety spirit is probably a symptom of a lack of faith on the part of the fidgety.  A spirit of rest is a part of the foundation of our stance of faith.  From our foundation up the rest in our feet will affect the success of our hands.   There are a lot of "stand stills" in the Bible once you start searching them out.  I'm learning (and I never stop learning) that I can only really stand still when I am standing in faith in the last instruction I heard from the Lord.  It might have been a Bible verse, a quiet whisper heard in prayer or a word from another believer that rang the bell of Truth inside my heart.  

Recently Teresa was given the diagnosis we all never want to hear.  Oh, I have been there when many others heard that simple word.  That simple word of cancer.  As a supporter of others I have been there to pray and encourage.  But when I heard it regarding Teresa it shook my spiritual equilibrium a little I must admit.  It took about a day or two to regain a focus of faith.  I don't mean that "regain" in a doing sense but in a "standing still" sense.  Then after a few days I heard that small voice say, "there is nothing you need to do in this."  I'm not sure I have ever heard those words in the face of a crisis before.  In the past I have had "regrets", "I wish I had" and "I'm going to do more now" moments that bothered me and added to the load of the moment.  This time I had this anointing to stand still.  Now we are resting in His peaceful words of stand still and see!  Where does this apply to you today?  Just remember that the stand still in God's plan is always followed by , "and see this great thing that the Lord will do before your eyes!"

Monday, March 5, 2018

Christian Martyrs

Tortullian an ancient theologian said, "the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church."  That has been accepted as fact until recently when statistics and graphs have been compared to question the validity of the statement.  Of course we know from the book of Acts that it was persecution of the first century church that drove the church outward from Jerusalem taking the Gospel message to a non Christian world.  If it is not true today then it might be an indictment upon present day believers and our level of faith and devotion to Christ and His Kingdom.  Are we willing to die for our faith and are we willing to live for our faith.  Living for our faith may be more difficult at times than actually dying for it.  Then the question arises, "can you live for the Faith without dying for the Faith?  I am writing this as one who has been young and now I'm older.  I once trained teams to go out into the "highways and hedges and compel them to come in." This phrase is taken from Luke 14:23,
"And the master said to the servant, ‘Go out to the highways and hedges and compel people to come in, that my house may be filled."  The word here for "highways" mean a well traveled path.  We can see the secular world going about their busyness without much knowledge of God, His ways or His desire to become a part of their lives or endeavors.  The word "hedges" used here is a really interesting word.  The Greek definition for this word is something that hinders crossing or preventing from coming together.  The world and it's busyness and/or business and enterprise must be entered in order to bring the Gospel to them and present to them the Kingdom of God.  We must get through the hedge and not be afraid of it.  

My old way was to take disciples out on a planned adventure to confront people in malls and street corners in an effort to see them accept Jesus Christ as savior.  Some did!  Forty years ago the culture was more conducive to such tactics than they are today.  But is it possible that I was a little off even back then?  It is hard even to write that.  I'm so called "retired" now and have been for about 3 years now.  I still give pastoral input to some spiritual sons, I still preach some and teach discipleship classes, etc.  But what I am really enjoying is living outside the laboratory environment and living out in the highways and hedges.  I'm living among and enjoying friendship with people the likes of which I haven't had relationships with since I was saved several decades ago.  In honesty I didn't have time for the people of the world because I was busy running the church. I was always telllng people to get out there "among them" and make a difference.  Some did and some didn't.  Maybe most didn't.
After over 3 years now of living this life I'm seeing the fruit that comes by affecting people without a plan but by just living, talking and listening. Listening is more important and I'm not that good at it but I'm working on it.  It is hard to just live the life you believe in and let the Holy Spirit work through you as His vessel day by day.  Why should that be so hard?  Because we have been trained and conditioned to stop being who we are a night a week or for a week once a year and put on our missionary hat.  That was never God's intention.  From the beginning it was about me being changed/converted, growing in my love for Jesus and His Word, living among the world, out in the highways and hedges and serving them there.  Yes, serving the world!  Serve them away from the hedges and serve them to Jesus himself! Acts 1:8 tells us,But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”  This verse tells us that it will be the Holy Spirit that empowers us to be witnesses.  The Greek word here is martyr.  The Holy Spirit will empower us to be martyrs for Christ to the world.  There will be days when that may mean knocking on the doors of strangers.  The balance of that is that every day we are already commissioned and empowered to be martyrs to the world.  We are servants to the world in the name and power of Jesus the Supreme example of servant hood leading to redemption.  As I leave my home these days I find myself praying less for converts and more that the Holy Spirit will help me prefer and serve others.  Guess what?  It ain't easy!  It involves death to self!  I believe in this sense that the "blood of the martyrs (servants) is the life of the Church!

Monday, February 12, 2018

The Burden of Prayer

My wife Teresa's Mother was a woman of prayer.  I could write a number of examples of her being awakened in the night or remaining awake for hours with the burden of prayer for someone.  One such occasion was a burden in the middle of the night for a missionary and his wife stationed on the other side of the globe in Singapore.  She prayed for them for hours.  She recorded the date and time of the burden and prayer.  This was before the days of social media or email.  She wrote a letter and asked the missionary about the time and date she had recorded.  He wrote back  and said, "Oh yes, that was when my wife was in labor with our daughter.  The Doctor told us that he was concerned that complications required that we make a decision to save either the mother or the child!"  They told the Doctor that they could not make such a decision.   Both mother and child came through the trial without harm!  Praise God for his power and intervention!  Praise God for His praying saints!

The burden of prayer is not intended to cause worry and dread.  Yet, it can seem that way when a believer becomes aware of a concern.  It is troubling because it can come without a shred of physical evidence of anything wrong.  There are times when you can sense a burden for someone without knowing any circumstances or details.  For the new intercessor it can be a troubling pattern of thoughts that is simply cast aside into the busyness of the day.  Each time we neglect the stirring of the Holy Spirit in our thought life we desensitize our spirit man even more.  But when we bring the thing to the Lord in prayer, even without understanding, we qualify for more usefulness to God.  How long should you pray about the burden or what feels like heaviness?  Until the burden is lifted!  That is what past generations of intercessors called "praying through!"  The lifting of the burden could be a momentary thing.  At times it might be a continuing prayer reminder that resurfaces for days in the Spirit.  The important thing is not to just suppose you are having random thoughts.  Your random thoughts may be very strategic leadership of the Holy Spirit enlisting you to enter spiritual warfare prayer on behalf of someone else in need.  Who knows how many others may be fighting the same spiritual battle for the same need you are engaging in prayer?

May we slow down today in our busy lives and keep an open ear to heaven for Kingdom purposes and assignments.

Monday, January 1, 2018

Misplaced Trust

Much has been said about covenant relationships among believers. We are reminded of David and Jonathan, Paul and Barnabas and others.  Some have taught this covenant principle to the point of trusting others to the point of death.  This sounds noble and conjures up scenes of a Navy Seal episode, but is the concept to trust another person to the point of death really Biblical?  My first thought as I write this is that even with Paul and Barnabas they actually split up with strong disagreement.  Two deeply committed men of God who were filled with the Holy Spirit had their bond tested and divided.  Before I proceed along these lines I must say that I am not writing this out of bitterness or disappointment from some past experiences.  Rather than leading you to distrust those around you I am seeking to motivate you to place your trust correctly and in the right direction.  

Because I was taught to build relationships with developing leaders to the point of covenant, that would make you think it involves total trust.  That total trust in any man will almost always lead to disappointment.  Any person on this planet has days of loyalty and days of failure.  We all have within ourselves a breaking point, a point of breaking trust.  I remember starting a church in a certain city once and one man in particular stood out as my greatest supporter.  From his words I was the greatest preacher he had ever heard and ready to become a superstar in the church world.  I trusted him so much that I asked him to be the treasurer for our newly formed church.  This particular church was in a town down the road from my home and my home church.  After a few months this man became disillusioned by my performance for some reason that I can't remember.  He left the church and no money was left in the treasury!  I had trusted him unconditionally.  The Bible calls us to love unconditionally but it does not teach us to trust man unconditionally.  Trusting man without limitation is "misplaced trust."  You can't trust any man, including this writer, unconditionally.  Trust is measured by the level of the Lordship of Jesus in the life.  And that unfortunately can be a moving target based on the day that you test it.  

Psalm 118:8 tells us, It is better to trust in the LORD than to put confidence in man.”  Isaiah says it this way, “Both he who helps will fall, and he who is helped will fall down…”  None of us has the ability to stand on our own.  Then Jeremiah drives it home.Jeremiah 17:5 and 7,  “Thus says the LORD: ‘Cursed is the man who trusts in man Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, and whose hope is the LORD…’”  That is very interesting and enlightening.  Two words stand out here.  "Trust and hope."  The problem with trust is when we place it in someone we also attach hope with it.  Then, when a person fails us we also lose our hope.  When we lose hope we are in a real mess.  Lack of hope brings personal implosion.  There is a "curse and blessing" in this verse.  The curse comes from trusting man and the blessing always comes from trusting completely only the Lord!  Many churches have as their motto these days, "Love God, Love Man!"  That is a good general visionary thought.  But don't take that to the point of "Trust God, Trust Man."  God will NEVER fail you!  Man will fail you.  As you read this you may be thinking of someone that you trusted without reservation.  You may still feel the sting of their failure, their betrayal.  As you enter this new year it is time to forgive and release them.  You expected too much from them from the beginning   You misplaced your trust in a mere mortal when only God can fulfill that trust.  After you forgive them then face this coming year with unconditional love in your heart but measured trust in man.  Clint Eastwood said, "A Man's Got to Know his Limitations!"  We all have ours!

Monday, December 4, 2017

The Reason For Your Joy

It's that Season again when shoppers enter stores to the sound of bells ringing and voices everywhere from the crowds trying to find a bargain.  It is a time when many are buying for others as the tradition of gift giving at Christmas is in full swing.  The atmosphere is one of excitement and hope.  I have always greatly enjoyed the season of Christmas. Yes, even with all the trappings I still enjoy the season and all the festivities.  Then the big day arrives, the gift wrappings are spread across the house, feasting has ended, the crowds leave and a kind of depression can come on the scene.  Now a return to work and the routine is imminent and the bills must be paid.  Where did the joy, excitement and the hope go?  How could it vanish so quickly?  Are we really so shallow that our energy is controlled by superficial hype?  Now here is the really painful part.  What I just described is the condition of most Christians as well as the world who knows no Christ.  This observation demands a closer look at our lives and even the motivation of our hearts.  Many years ago a Pastor described a friendly man in a way I have never forgotten.  I have revisited his description many times as I examine my own life and the reason behind my motivations.  The man he described always seemed happy with a big smile upon his face.  He almost vibrated with energy and joy!  He said of the man, "he seems to be filled with unenlightened enthusiasm."  That would imply an outer excitement without an inward reason. The conclusion we must draw is that unenlightened enthusiasm leaves as quickly as it came and disappears with the decorations of the event.  In my lifetime I have watched as advertisement never stops from season to season.  There is always something we are told to celebrate.    Stores take down decorations from one season only to put up the new decorations of the next season.  It is now possible to live in a perpetual excitement, an artificial enthusiasm without any idea of why we feel excitement.  God has designed us to live from the inside and not the outside.  The outside can be artificial and relates to reason.  The inside cannot be be fooled.  The inside knows even when it doesn't truly understand.  The inside, the spirit man, is the abode of the Spirit of God.  The new birth through faith in what Jesus has done for us brings an internal inflation.  All that Jesus has is now on the inside and His Joy brings His fullness into man's emptiness.  That "Christ in Us brings the hope of glory!" As followers and disciples of Jesus we must maintain the friendship connection with Jesus throughout and above all seasons and events.  Isn't it sad that Christmas can actually become a distraction to our internal life.  When this happens our joy and hope suffers.  We may not appear any different from a lost world.  On the contrary, what a wonderful season to "shine".  This is our season to check our connections and make sure our true internal source is healthy.  We want people to see that we are different from the inside out!  Who knows, they might even ask about our difference?

1 Peter 3:15 But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect...


Monday, November 6, 2017

Culture, Taste and God

Acts 10:13 13And there came a voice to him: "Rise, Peter; kill and eat."
I do understand  that this verse takes place during a time of transition from law to grace.  Actually grace had arrived at the resurrection of Jesus but I'm sure the culture was still reeling trying to adjust from law to grace.  In truth the Church is still trying to get it right!  From Peter's perspective to accept the voice as God's voice crossed religious lines but it also challenged his tastes and culture.  Someone called me one day and asked me a question about a big decision they were trying to make as a church.  As soon as the person asked the question my thought process was, "what will people think?"  The very first thing I thought was PEOPLE!  The subject of the question was nothing sinful or immoral but it would probably arouse some to cast instant judgement.  As I ran my mental search for a reason why they should not do the thing, the person asked, "do you know of a Scripture that says to do this is wrong?"  Ah, that brought me to a different level of soul searching.  Certainly there is a time that I should make sure I don't offend my brother.  Peter could have used that argument to avoid eating that which was unclean to him and in doing so he could have avoided obeying the voice of God!  We all know that if there is a clear Biblical precedent in Scripture, there is our answer.  Yet, as I pondered the question I knew there was no verse being violated.  My sole reason for wanting the folks to say "no" was because of what I felt other people would say or think.  I know talking about this leaves a lot of room for people to wonder how far I am going to take this!  Relax, I'm simply dealing with our leaning toward judging others because of our culture or taste.  We do it with our music tastes, our cultural bias and many other areas.  One day I heard a brother talking about a new worship song he was learning and he said how much it made him feel close to God.  I hate to admit this but my deep thought was, "I knew that song 30 years ago!"  Not only that but I immediately judged the brother as less mature than me.  We see a car with a license plate and we make a judgment about that person based on their home State.  We hear an accent and there we go again.  It's all sinful!  All too often our personal tastes and cultural preferences  have more power over us than the Word of God!  Now, you may be reading this and thinking that this doesn't apply to you.  I understand and appreciate that.  However, I have preached myself under conviction.  Next Time!

Is There Anything New...Really?

"What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun." Ecc. 1:9 ESV...