Monday, October 8, 2018

A Legacy of Hope

The great depression took place primarily between the years of 1929 and 1939.  One fourth of the American workforce was unemployed.  Those numbers are still deceptive because many that had work had their pay reduced or their hours cut to part time.  During those meager years for the average citizen their motto became: 
“Use it up, wear it out, make do or do without.”
My paternal grandfather was born in 1900. 1929 came as he was just starting to a see a better life ahead for his family. With the stock market crash came the loss of his income with a wife and family for which to care.  I can’t imagine the stress and pressure of such a time. I have searched vintage black and white photos of that era. What struck me most, once I got beyond the poverty, was the difference between atmospheres of differing families.  The looks in the faces seem to tell a story.  Some homes seemed blighted, filthy and hopeless. Others were spotless and there seemed to still be joy.  Certainly every family has its on story and some had it worse than others.  However, having been born just a decade after the great depression I vividly remember the stories of the difficulty and even the humor of the time.  One phrase seemed to be uttered over and over again by those who were children during that time.  “We didn’t know we were poor.”  That simple phrase speaks volumes to us.  I can’t count the number of times I have heard it nor the many different families that said it.  I noticed in the photos that when the parents of the family looked depressed, the children looked depressed as well. While most people that I have talked with about their great depression childhood have said, “we didn’t know we were poor”, many must have had their lives wrecked by the devastation that was upon their family life. Possibly the greatest damage done to these children was the absence of hope. One photo that struck me most was a poor family sitting around the kitchen table waiting for breakfast. The father was present, holding a small child on his lap and the rest sitting patiently as the mother rationed out the limited portions.  All were very clean, the house spotless and the father had a pleasant demeanor.  Heralding from that photo came the message to me “a legacy of hope!”  We often talk about the responsibilities of parents to their children. Certainly, food, clothing and shelter are the basics.  Providing safety, decency and identity are crucial as well.  May we not forget to instill in our children and grandchildren a legacy of hope.  A legacy that says, we will make it through difficulty.  We will weather the storm and we will arrive safely at a better place. It is that steadfast inner strength that has seen our Nation through many dark hours.  At the center of real hope is our faith in God.  It is much greater than wishful thinking. True hope is solidly sitting atop a truth of knowing personally the One who is committed to the hope for our future.  Interestingly enough statistics tell us that the great depression did not see a huge increase in faith and church attendance. You would think that it would. Evidently when the calamity came on the heels of the "roaring twenties",  many had no Rock upon which to stand and no hope in which to believe.  We must build in prosperity that which will stand during difficulty. Let us not forsake our children and grandchildren by not preparing them for difficult days.  Every generation will see them.  While giving them happiness, may we also teach them to hope.  

"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." Jeremiah 29:11

Friday, September 7, 2018

Degeneration

 I can think of nothing worse than violating our calling as shepherds, serving the Lord Jesus, and preying upon the weak in His Church.  As pastors we are often trusted in the Church because of our position before we are evaluated by our behavior.  I have seen it all too often as ministers are suddenly revealed as predators, wolves among the flock.  It appeared to be suddenly but it is never a sudden condition.  There were signs along the way but a lack of true accountability left the minister unguarded as a city without walls.  You cannot hear these stories without asking the hard question, "could I become that?"  Could I fall to such a low place in my relationship with God that I wouldn't realize it or not know how far I had fallen.   The Catholic Church has been uncovered in recent years and even recent months revealing hundreds of priests accused of sexual sins and many as predators of children and adults who were in vulnerable situations.  I'm not writing this to condemn the Catholic Church.  They are the largest denomination in the world so obviously by sheer percentages they will have more bad apples.  I'm sure the large majority of Priests are dedicated men of God following their vows and calling.  Every denomination has dark stories of ministers who have left the straight and narrow and wandered back into the world by their actions and sins. What is the process that leads to such debasement from the Holy Call of God?

In Romans chapter 1, Paul tells us of a process of degeneration that leads to corruption.  He tells us of a people who chose to look away from God, the Creator, and worship the creation.  They chose to follow the temptation of sin and to resist the corrections of God through the Scripture and the internal working of the Holy Spirit.  This is at the heart of the matter.  The voices in our minds.  The voice of God and the voice of Satan.  Righteousness or sin.  Three times in this chapter we read, "God gave them up to..."  He gave them up to "impurity, dishonorable passions and a debased mind."  There is a point when, if we continue to resist the correction of God,  he releases us to the worst of all of our enemies, ourselves, to our own lusts and temptations.  When that happens it results in a fast downward spiral.  Our faith connects us firmly to the righteous hand of God.  Our unbelief is a sin that is struggling to get a release from God's law.  In Romans, we see a principle that gives explanation to most if not all of the shocking headlines in our day.  A rejection of God and/or a resistance to his loving correction and adjustment always degenerates into moral decay.  Backsliding almost always ends in some form of sexual sin.
That principle is not only an answer for the crisis in the Catholic Church but in other groups as well.     There is a definition of degeneration in Pathology that is striking in this study.  "A process by which a tissue deteriorates, loses functional activity, and may become converted into or replaced by other kinds of tissue."  Degeneration is a process of deterioration that causes a loss of function and can even be converted into something else!  Even in true believers this degeneration can occur.  To avoid it we all must remain constant in the Scripture, prayer and fellowship in the church.  This was the pattern of Acts 2.  This surrounds us with the right guidelines of living, personal daily relationship with Jesus and the loving encouragement and accountability of living among true believers.  Ministers too often cool down in fervor and back away from these things that they preach for others to follow.  From the pulpit to the pew we must all take heed and hear the clarion call of heaven to practice what we preach.

Monday, August 6, 2018

In What Do We Rejoice?

The motivation of our heart seems to be the most important thing to God.  I have always felt this was true but the older I get the more I believe it and believe it even to a greater degree.  We know that man looks on the outside of a man but God looks upon the heart.  We have learned that the mouth speaks words that in time reveals the motives of the heart.  Even if a person is trying to cover the secret thoughts of the heart in order to get their way, if we listen closely long enough we will hear the true motivations in their lives.  We need to be careful with whom we align ourselves.  We need to make sure that we don't join the ranks of those in whom we sense or discern dishonest motivations.  It can be tempting to do so and especially if it could mean a promotion for us personally.  But the Lord will see to it that sinful ways will come to an end and all those supporting these activities will fall with the false leadership.  In 1 Kings Chapter 1 we read the story of one of King David's sons, Adonijah.  While David appeared to be on his death bed, Adonijah acted to take by political maneuvering and manipulation the throne of his father.  It has to be noted that he was a spoiled child. David the king seemed to be inclined to use his great wealth to spoil his children.  Spoiling our children is a form of child abuse in light of the life ahead of that child and the repercussions in store.  Adonijah invited a very special list of guests to his self directed coronation as King. He invited his closest allies and those who would benefit from his gaining the Crown.  He did not invite Solomon his brother who was the rightful heir or Nathan the prophet who had no problems confronting sin and exposing lies.
A great party convenes around Adonijah's self appointment.  The Scripture tells us that Adonijah was very handsome, he surrounded himself with chariots and horsemen and 50 men to run before him.  He set up outwardly everything possible to demand respect and to cause the "Wow" factor to come into play. It worked at first and many people gathered around him to feast and celebrate.  They rejoiced in the elevation of the new king.  He had done everything possible to gain the throne outwardly or in an earthly manner but it didn't make it happen.  Heaven still held the keys to the Kingdom!  Now there would be a reckoning.  Where would the reckoning come?  It would come to those who rebelled outwardly and inwardly against the will and plan of the Lord.

We live in a day of grace, mercy and forgiveness.  However, even in an hour of grace the plans of the Lord still come to pass.  There is a price to pay for hidden motivations of the heart that are wicked and steeped in rebellion.  Men follow men to ruin.  Wrong motivations are attracted to wrong motivations in order to fulfill aspirations that are not in God's choosing.  We must not be deceived by artificial anointing.  We must separate ourselves from a spirit of antichrist and accept God's destiny upon our own lives.  Be careful with whom you celebrate and rejoice and remember that God requires wholehearted devotion.

Monday, July 9, 2018

Artificial Anointing

I had the privilege of taking part in a Conference of Pastors numbering in the thousands from around the world.  It was held in the old Georgia Dome which since has been imploded to make room for a newer, more modern stadium.  During this conference a Communion Service was held.  I was amazed at how efficiently a stadium filled with pastors could be served communion in a matter of minutes.  Then, I vividly remember receiving the elements of the Lord's Supper.  There was such a powerful manifestation of the Lord's Presence that we all began to bow at first and then stretch out as best we could on the floor.  There was a uniform experience of humility and awe as we all sensed God's Holy Presence.  I believe it was God's favor on unity.  This meeting was not a single denominational gathering but rather churches represented from all the major groups.  We were not worshipping in any earthly liturgy but purely from an instinctual response to God's obvious Presence.  I glanced up at one point and really thought I saw smoke or a thin cloud above the congregation.  My reaction was to get back on the floor again!

The Book of Acts is filled with expressions of God's power and presence among his people following Pentecost.  The progression of these events is important to see.  There is usually a seeking of God by man.  There is some expression of looking to God for help or wanting God's direction in some life event.  Humility seems to prick heaven and the answer comes!  Man responds with humility, thankfulness and obedience.  Man has looked to God as his source, God has lovingly responded to man's approach to heaven and man moves in obedience to God's provision or direction.  A charlatan is defined as one who claims to have special powers or abilities.  He bypasses the Biblical pattern of the relationship between God and man.  He might orchestrate events or apparent experiences to make the people believe God is doing supernatural things among them.  These acts are very deliberate efforts at deceiving God's people for personal gain.  Then there can be another type of deceiving not intentional at all.  It can be something as simple as in an instant of human excitement declaring that God is about to heal a person.  Certainly God can give a word to someone that healing is about to happen and the healing flows.  Yet, what about when in human zeal healing is declared and no healing follows?  This is a kind of charlatanry that seems innocent enough but charlatanry none the less.  It is wanting to see God work without the relational aspect between God and His people.  There is no faith, no relationship and certainly no humility.  It is like Simon the magician who wanted the power Peter represented and offered to buy such power.  Peter made it clear that Satan was behind such a desire for artificial anointing.  I once told a minister that I didn't want to see "wild fire" in the church to which he said, "I'd rather have wild fire than no fire at all!"  Wild fire,  strange fire or artificial anointing confuses the people of God.  When the genuine anointing comes it won't be appreciated and possibly not even recognized.  In the church we need to be very careful in our zeal and efforts to fill the house with people, that we are preaching Jesus and not promoting hype.  That we are standing strictly upon the Word of God and not upon what we would like it to say.  Once we align ourselves as individuals and as the Church in humility and awe at His goodness and grace, the real anointing will come and it will break the powers of darkness.  The house will be filled with the true restoration Glory and with those seeking a relationship with Him.

Monday, June 4, 2018

The Purpose of Titles

There is deep within all a desire to be recognized.  The yearning to be admired by peers and to be seen as greater than ones own accomplishments.  I am reminded of King Saul when he was confronted with his sin by the Prophet Samuel.  Unlike the brokenness of King David when he found himself in a similar situation, Saul acknowledged his sin but had a request of self interest.  He asked the Prophet to go with him before the elders and Israel an an act of personal honor. "Honor me" he said.   How can one be honored when he has dishonored himself and most of all God.  Yet, this was very important to Saul.  He was more interested in looking like a righteousness man than being a righteous man. What a terrible thing Saul asked, "Honor me now!"  The cry came from deep within his own heart and deeper still from within the corporate heart of mankind.  We all, regardless of how we resist it, have an innate yearning to be exalted.  It took it's origin in Lucifer in heaven and was cast out of heaven to find a new lodging on earth in human form. " Honor me now" has been echoing throughout the universe ever since.  It even can be heard in the church.

In the early 1970's I was first exposed to what was called the five-fold ministry teaching based on Ephesians chapter 4.  I saw a powerful explanation of a functioning model of Kingdom Building in the earth through the Church.  It revealed the uniting of spiritual gifts in the church that could be identified, trained and activated by the ministry gifts of apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers, the five fold ministry.  I was having coffee one day with a man who said the Lord spoke to him and told him that I was not a true pastor but that I was an apostle.  I had already started two churches as this point and was on my way to begin a third congregation.  I hadn't had a title up to that point.  The name or title bothered me internally and even embarrassed me.  Yet, I must admit that it felt good in a deeper place.  Too good!  Through the decades since I became known and was even introduced in meetings as an apostle.  It always was a bit troubling and yet it seemed to be the way the church world was going.  I did see that it could be a positive thing in the sense of having recognized leaders that could function and help build the church.  If it could help me serve the Church in a better way then that would be a good thing.  However, the discomfort never went away.  Once it was even suggested that we apostles be called Bishops and be ordained as such.  I couldn't even be a part of that discussion.  Looking back now I realize that these titles, at least for me, were not helping me to be a better servant but actually creating an elevated position where I could be better served.  I must say this loud and clear; I am not saying that others who are carrying titles are wrong or desiring elevation or to be served. I cannot judge others but I can judge my own heart.  Many years ago when others of my peers were choosing to wear clerical collars for a sign of humility was for me a sign of pride.  I wanted to do it and wanted to justify it.  For me, and me only, I could not.

Where has it taken us?  Again, I can't answer for any heart but my own.  My heart apart from Jesus is an evil thing.  It desires recognition and elevation all the while wanting that true motivation hidden from man.  Why does it matter?  It matters because Jesus has redeemed and emancipated His Bride, His Church.  Leaders in the Church must be men and women who desire from the heart to help liberate, equip and activate with no provision for self exaltation.  It seems to me that titles have not truly helped in that cause.  We all must decide for ourselves but many good lives have been ruined and many humble servants have become proud because of a simple Title.  Our heart cry must be, "EXALT HIM!"  It must not be honor me.

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!"

A Legacy of Hope

The great depression took place primarily between the years of 1929 and 1939.  One fourth of the American workforce was unemployed.  Those ...