Are You Paying Attention?

PAY ATTENTION

We live in fast paced world. Everything and everyone is on the move, and everyone seems to be busy doing something, and who’s to say what’s being done is not important? But with all the things there are to do, who has the time? With things pulling you in every direction, and everyone wanting a piece of you, what’s important? What is worthy of your valuable time? What do you pass off, and what do you pay attention to? Because as should be obvious, we do need to pay attention to what’s going on around us.

When we look at it from a spiritual perspective, it all becomes even more important to pay attention. Scripture is full of admonitions to ‘take heed’, which means not just to pay attention, but to pay careful attention. Both Old and New Testaments speak at length about this often looked over discipline. We read in Deuteronomy 4:9:

  • Only take heed to thyself, and keep thy soul diligently, lest thou forget the things which thine eyes have seen, and lest they depart from thy heart all the days of thy life…

And then in Hebrews 2:1:

  • Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip.

Whether you are a babe in Christ, or have been living for the Lord for any number of years, paying careful attention to our walk should not be underestimated.

One of the reasons why so many Christians struggle, is because they live loose, slipshod, and raggedy Christian lives. What I mean by all that is that they live on a ‘whatever sounds right is right’ mentality. A little bit from here, and a little bit from there; a little dab of this and a little dab of that. When it comes to their daily walk, and trying to make practical application of these ‘spiritual tidbits’, the struggle ensues, because what it all amounts to  is what resembles a patchwork of belief systems, pulled in from different places to make a whole with no solidity and no root; just a runny doctrinal mess. It needs to be understood that an improper doctrinal foundation will only lead to trouble down the line. For this reason, and several others we will explore, we need to pay careful attention. Are you paying attention?

WE NEED TO PAY CAREFUL ATTENTION TO OUR COVENANTS & COMPANIONS

  • Take heed to thyself, lest thou make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land whither thou goest, lest it be for a snare in the midst of thee: Exodus 34:12

This speaks of our relationship with the world. The Lord is saying that we should not make, or have any close, intimate alliances with the world. We cannot ‘sleep with the enemy’, so to speak. Here’s how the New Testament breaks it down:

  • Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? 2 Corinthians 6:14

The Israelites were prone to backsliding; they were easily beset by the sin of compromise. The danger lied in becoming  too closely entangled with the people and their ways and allowing those ways to become their own. This challenge is also ours: to be in the world, and remain unspotted from the world. I don’t believe any of us do it to any perfection because as one preacher puts it, ‘the clinging vines of the fall’ are not easily broken. However, who you surround yourself with and who you allow into your space  matters. We need to pay careful attention to our covenants and our companions. Are you paying attention?

WE NEED TO PAY CAREFUL ATTENTION TO THE COMPASS OF OUR HEART

  • Take heed to yourselves, that your heart be not deceived, and ye turn aside, and serve other gods, and worship them; Deuteronomy 11:16

The Lord says that we are to pay careful attention to our hearts, because simply put, as the heart goes, so goes the life. King Solomon put it this way:

  • Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life. Proverbs 4:23

Jeremiah 17:9 reminds us that,

  • The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?

Wherever and whatever our hearts are drawn to, will be the place where our affection lies. Jesus himself said:

  • For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. Matthew 6:21

All this means that we need to pay careful attention to our heart’s trajectory. Where does it lean? In what direction does it constantly point you toward? Which way do you find yourself turning? If we do not get a handle on this, we will slowly find ourselves turning aside, running to, and embracing those things which can only bring us back into bondage. Are you paying attention?

WE NEED TO PAY CAREFUL ATTENTION TO THE CARES OF THIS LIFE

  • And take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting, and drunkenness, and cares of this life, and so that day come upon you unawares. Luke 21:34

When there’s too much going on in our lives and around us, our minds and hearts can become dulled, and numbed to it all. Once again, the heart is referenced as we’re told to pay careful attention to our hearts (which can be translated, ‘mind’ here), so it doesn’t become weighed and bogged down with,  ‘stuff.’ It is not just our alliances that ought to be selective, but also our activities. We may not have issues with partying or drunkenness, as spoken in this verse, but we all have cares in this life. These are the things that cause us to take our eyes off what is most important. Jesus said that the cares, riches, and pleasures of this life will choke the Word out of our lives and make us unfruitful (Lu.8:14). Are you paying attention?

WE NEED TO  PAY CAREFUL ATTENTION TO OUR COMMUNICATION

First, we need to pay careful attention how we communicate the Word to others:

  • And he answered and said, Must I not take heed to speak that which the Lord hath put in my mouth? Numbers 23:12

We all feel we have something important to say, and what we have to say is important, except when what is being said clashes with His Word. That’s when my words are no longer important. His word rules.
When speaking, relating, explaining or proclaiming the Word of God, we must be careful to speak what the Lord has spoken. In our verse, Balaam speaks this way because he had already proven himself to be willing to tickle the people’s ears for a price, and God found it necessary to chastise him. We must never make the mistake of muzzling, softening, changing, adding or subtracting anything that God has spoken or has done.

Secondly, we must pay careful attention how the Word is communicated to us:

  • And he charged them, saying, Take heed, beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, and of the leaven of Herod. Mark 8:15

When I say ‘how’ the Word is communicated here, I don’t mean the manner in which it is done, but rather the content of what is spoken. Is it truth? Does it line up with the Word of God? It’s important to note also that scripture usually uses the word ‘leaven’ to illustrate sin. Here it means ‘doctrine’ or ‘teaching.’ Jesus says to pay careful attention to, and be on guard for the teachings of two groups: the Pharisees and the Herods.

The leaven of the Pharisees can be defined as, ‘the hypocrisy and religious traditions that overturn and set aside God’s righteous commands, and both invalidate and make of no effect God’s Word and God’s will.’ The leaven of Herod can be similarly regarded as, ‘the spirit of secularism and worldliness, along with the attending immortality and corruptness that accompanies them.’

We have to pay careful attention as to who we allow to speak into our lives. With the myriad of voices around us claiming to have a ‘word from the Lord’ we must be very selective. New believers need especially to arm and equip themselves with basic foundational teaching. But what is right? Who is right? When it comes to doctrine, everything that glitters is not gold. Much of the church’s teaching nowadays can be classified as ‘fool’s gold.’ It looks right, it sounds right, but if I may use the vernacular–it ain’t right. The key is not accepting views of those who preach human ideas, unbiblical traditions, or a secular humanistic type of gospel.

  • Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ. Colossians 2:8

Once again the admonition is to be on guard. Receiving and accepting this type of teaching will bring weakness to the church in general and to your personal walk with the Lord. False teaching, properly labeled, ‘doctrines of demons’ in scripture, will always seek to drive a wedge between the Christian and truth. Are you paying attention?

FINALLY, WE NEED TO PAY CAREFUL ATTENTION TO THE CROSS

  • How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him; Hebrews 2:3

This great savation is all about the Cross. It is the Cross that saves us, it is the Cross that sanctifies us, and it will be the Cross that keeps us.

  • Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. 1 Peter 1:5

The Cross is the power of God, because it was there, at the Cross, that Satan was defeated, and remains defeated. If we neglect and overlook the Cross, we do ourselves great harm. We must embrace it and keep it at the center of all we do, because it is the center of who we are. Are you paying attention?

That’s the Word! Take it with you. God bless you.

Your Place In The Son

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I have glorified thee on the earth: I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do. John 17:4

Purpose: The reason for which something is done or created or for which something exists.

Your purpose. These are words that are used often in today’s church. They’re used to describe the place or thing you need to be doing in order to receive the greatest joy, peace, or even recognition. Too many times when we speak about our purpose, we mean the thing that brings us the most happiness or satisfaction. Let me make it absolutely clear what I don’t mean by ‘your purpose.’ I am not speaking of one’s dream, or life’s ambition, or the thing you’ve always wanted to do or be.

There’s a great illustration I found, that speaks in relation to what the Lord has put upon my heart today. I pass it on to you:

Consider a hammer. It’s designed to hit nails. That’s what it was created to do. Now imagine that the hammer never gets used. It just sits in the toolbox. The hammer doesn’t care.

But now imagine if you can that same hammer with a soul, a self-consciousness. Days and days go by with him remaining in the toolbox. He feels funny inside, but he’s not sure exactly why. Something is missing, but he doesn’t know what it is.

Then one day someone pulls him out of the toolbox and uses him to break some branches for the fireplace. The hammer is exhilarated. Being held, being wielded, hitting the branches — the hammer loves it. At the end of the day, though, he is still unfulfilled. Hitting the branches was fun, but it wasn’t enough. Something is still missing.

In the days that follow, he’s used often. He reshapes a hubcap, blasts through some sheet rock, knocks a table leg back into place. Still, he’s left unfulfilled. So he longs for more action. He wants to be used as much as possible to knock things around, to break things, to blast things, to dent things. He figures that he just hasn’t had enough of these events to satisfy him. More of the same, he believes, is the solution to his lack of fulfillment.

Then one day someone uses him on a nail. Suddenly, the lights come on in his hammer soul. He now understands what he was truly designed for. He was meant to hit nails. All the other things he hit pale in comparison. Now he knows what his hammer soul was searching for all along.

It’s very easy for us to believe, without ever actually saying it, that God is required to make my life go according to my plan, and that He must fall in line with my will.We sort of have a picture of what we want our lives to be, and then fall into the trap of believing that God’s job is to make our pictures become reality.

The problem is, as long as we live with this “God make me happy in my will” mentality, we will find it not only counteractive to our joy in Christ, but it also will not bring any type of lasting fulfillment to our lives. Like the hammer in our story, until we are doing what it is we are created and called to do, there can be no lasting fulfillment.

First of all, there is an individual or specific purpose and there is a common purpose. By common, I mean those things which are understood and shared by everyone in the kingdom. If you don’t know your specific purpose, go about doing what you know. These things are at best, quite basic and should be obvious:

* Proclaim the gospel (be a witness)
* Love/serve one another
* Read your Bible
* Pray at all times

Above all, Christ must remain the absolute center of our lives. All things will flow from here because everything we have or ever will have is a direct result of what Christ accomplished through the Cross. This includes His will and purpose for our lives.

When we take a look at the word purpose in the original language (Greek), we see that it means, ‘to set forth a thing’ or ‘to place a thing in view.’ The Lord has set forth His purposes; laid them out in plain view–they are not hidden. However, in order to get access into His purpose, sacrifice and submission are necessary; and that means setting aside our own dreams and desires. Remember that His will is always the perfect fit for our lives.

Jesus said in John 17:4, ‘I have glorified thee on the earth: I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do.’ Has this been your experience? Is this your goal? Has the overpowering trajectory of your Christian life been to be active in, about and accomplishing God’s purposes? My friend, until you are busy doing the Father’s business and not your own, you will chasing after peace; but never able to grab hold of it.

Someone once stated that there is a ‘God-shaped hole’ in everyone. I believe it. This void is responsible for the restlessness that persists in the soul of man. Man tries to fill it with all sorts of things, people, plans and parties, only to find that nothing works. There’s an old song from many years gone by, that moves me whenever I hear it. Though not a Christian song, I believe that it conveys perfectly the idea of the endless restlessness that exists in the hearts of men without Christ. The words go like this:

Like a long lonely stream
I keep runnin’ towards a dream
Movin’ on, movin’ on
Like a branch on a tree
I keep reachin’ to be free
Movin’ on, movin’ on

‘Cause there’s a place in the sun
Where there’s hope for ev’ryone
Where my poor restless heart’s gotta run
There’s a place in the sun
And before my life is done
Got to find me a place in the sun

Like an old dusty road
I get weary from the load
Movin’ on, movin’ on
Like this tired troubled earth
I’ve been rollin’ since my birth
Movin’ on, movin’ on

There’s a place in the sun
Where there’s hope for ev’ryone
Where my poor restless heart’s gotta run
There’s a place in the sun
And before my life is done
Got to find me a place in the sun

You know when times are bad
And you’re feeling sad
I want you to always remember

Yes, there’s a place in the sun
Where there’s hope for ev’ryone
Where my poor restless heart’s gotta run
There’s a place in the sun
Where there’s hope for ev’ryone
Where my poor restless heart’s gotta run
There’s a place in the sun
Where there’s hope for ev’ryone…
Gotta find me a place, in the sun.

So have you found your place in the Son, Jesus Christ? Are you seeking Him? Are you doing His will? Seek Jesus. Come to the Cross. There is a place for you there.

That’s the Word! Take it with you. God bless you.

To Christmas or Not To Christmas? That is the Question

JesusIsTheReasonForTheSeason

Rudolph. Santa. The elves. The lights. The tree. The toys. The songs. One popular song touts it as being ‘the most wonderful time of the year’. Yes, obviously I’m talking about Christmas. As a child all these things and more, were a staple around my house. And all those cartoons! I can still remember them all! And ‘The Yule Log’! Just sitting and watching that fire burn as the music played, or just having it on in the background as you moved around the house. I enjoyed it all so much!

As a child growing up, I knew nothing about Jesus. I remember going to church on Easter a couple of times, but that’s about it. When I got saved at the age of fifteen, everything changed. Christmas took on a whole new meaning. Now I really understood what Linus was talking about at the end of ‘A Charlie Brown Christmas.’ I learned what a manger was from that song and I found out that the three wise men may not have been just three after all. And now, on a more serious note, I began to celebrate the birth of Christ.

Call me naive (though I don’t think I am), but up until several years back, I thought all Christians celebrated Christmas in one way or another. I was surprised to find out that this is not the case. The reasons many Christians don’t celebrate it varies. They range from ‘It’s not in the bible’, and, ‘Jesus never told us to do it’, to ‘Christmas is a pagan holiday,’ and ‘Jesus wasn’t born on December 25th.’Allow me to briefly address each; not so much theologically (though I will use scripture), but from a more practical standpoint.

So, is Christmas in the bible? I think it depends on what you mean. Will you find any of the trappings and traditions the world embraces there? No. Will you find the word ‘Christmas’ there? No. What you will find is the birth of Jesus Christ, including the events that led up to that magnificent event. The Holy Spirit through the writers go to great lengths to describe and capture the mood of the times, along with the various people groups involved. Mary and Joseph. Herod the King. The shepherds. They all played their part in this wondrous story. His birth matters.

But in spite of all this, should we celebrate this birth? First, let’s define the word:

celebrate=to publicly acknowledge a significant or happy day or event…to commemorate; observe; to honor, keep or remember

Isn’t this event worthy of all this, seeing that it centers around our Saviour, Jesus? The wise men thought so. They came a great distance to do so. They unabashedly proclaimed to Herod, ‘…for we have seen His star in the east, and are come to worship Him’ (Lu.2:2). We read further that when they saw the star that they followed, standing over where young Jesus was, they responded by rejoicing with exceeding great joy (Mat.2:10). This means that they were absolutely enthralled beyond measure over what had taken place! Is this not cause for celebration? And what about the angels? Lu.2:13-14 says,’…And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.’

If the angels, who wish to look into these things, because they have no understanding of salvation and its implications (1Pe.1:12), can honor Him in this way, based on His mere presence, ladies and gentlemen I believe I ought to honor, praise, worship and celebrate the fact of His coming! I am a recipient of the results of His grace!

And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth. (Jn.1:14)

As to Christmas being a pagan holiday, I am very well aware of this argument. I will not take the time to go into detail, but whatever the reasons those involved did what they did, it has nothing to do with me now. I know many don’t see it this way. I am not guilty of trying to take something evil, wrap it up in good, and make it alright. I believe the birth of Christ ought to be celebrated; along with His life, His death, and His resurrection. I know I won’t change anyone’s thinking on the matter, and that’s not my purpose, but if we could all take into account that these are things that we should remember daily, not just a couple of days out of the year, and that He is so worthy of it all! Even if your mind revolts against the word ‘Christmas’, celebrate Him. Of course we know Jesus was not born on December 25th (shepherds would not be out in the field with their sheep on a winter night), but if I choose to honor Him on this day, or any other day or days for that matter, I do not believe my Lord takes me to task for this. Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days: (Col.2:16).

Each year around this time, we hear the usual rants from various churches, and individuals, warning us about the ‘evils’ of Christmas. We know the history. Ad nauseam. What I want to know is, what do you do with His birth then? Ignore it? Downplay it? Treat it with scorn? Tell people they are sinning if they acknowledge it? No tree. Fine. Away with Santa (after all, Santa is ‘Satan’ spelled sideways, sort of, right?). No problem. And don’t get caught up in all of the commercialization. Good job. But–do not forget Jesus. I know folk praise and worship Him ferociously for this and that, jumping, shouting and the like and rightfully so, but you cannot then turn a deaf ear and a blind eye to the greatest miracle we’ve ever known; that is, the Incarnation. Our very salvation was made possible because of it. Unfortunately, folk get so caught up in keeping the letter of the law, that they step over the spirit of the law. Celebrate Jesus! 

In the final analysis, you can forget the fact Christmas means nothing more than a few days off from work for some, or an opportunity to embarrass oneself at the annual office party. That’s the world. I stand for Jesus. If He did not come, I would not be here; or else I would be here with no hope.

Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift. (2 Cor.9:15) That’s Jesus. Praise Him!

What grace is this that brought my Savior down,
That made Him leave His glorious throne and crown.
The one who made the earth, the sky and sea.
Who put the stars in every galaxy!
What condescension, Oh how can it be!
What shame He suffered oh what agony!
And then the death He died,
For sinners crucified,
What grace is this! What grace is this!

That’s the Word! Take it with you. God bless you.

Authentic Worship

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Worship. Underrated and undervalued. How does it happen? Can anyone engage in it? Is there a wrong way to do it? One thing is for certain: worship needs to be real. Authentic.

However, before entering into a larger discussion concerning our topic, I’d like to first offer an explanation of terms. Those two terms are: 1) Praise and, 2) Worship

I believe sometimes we make the mistake of using the two terms interchangeably. However they are not the same. While there may be elements of each within both of them, let’s take a closer look at the differences.

There are several words for praise in the bible, and without getting bogged down in the original languages, suffice it to say that the definitions range from blessing and thanking Him with our mouth, to lifting and spreading the hands to bowing the knee, or even dancing. Having said that, let’s take a look at several scriptures.
Psa.33:2 Praise the Lord with harp: sing unto him with the psaltery and an instrument of ten strings.
Psa.149:1 Praise ye the Lord. Sing unto the Lord a new song, and his praise in the congregation of saints.
Heb.13:15 By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name.

According to these scriptures, praise can consist of song, music, or words, and should be done consistently, even when it is a sacrifice.
Depending on which version of the bible you use, where the word praise is seen in the KJV, you may read ‘rejoice’, ‘thanksgiving’ or ‘declare’, among others. These words are all reflections of what praise is.

Here’s one more great verse concerning the power of praise:

2 Chr.20:22 And when they began to sing and to praise, the Lord set ambushments against the children of Ammon, Moab, and mount Seir, which were come against Judah; and they were smitten.
This is a great truth! When we praise, it not only serves to fend off the enemy, but also enables us to walk in His power and protection. There is victory through praise!

Worship, on the other hand is defined as, ‘to make obeisance, do reverence to; to serve, or give homage.’
Take a look at these verses:
1 Chr.16:29 Give unto the Lord the glory due unto his name: bring an offering, and come before him: worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness.
Psa.95:6 O come, let us worship and bow down: let us kneel before the Lord our maker.
Psa.96:9 O worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness: fear before him, all the earth.

As we see in these verses and in so many others, worship is not necessarily singing and such (though of course it can be), but it is more of an action taken in acknowledging the Lord in who He is.
Worship goes beyond praise; it is an act of bowing down and honoring Him. Worship is also an act, for example in our daily work or our giving. We even serve others as a way of worshiping the Lord. Our lives should be an act of worship.
The difference between praise and worship can be stated this way: praise is about what God has done; but worship is about who God is.

This subject is much to exhaustive to be treated here, and I am by no means an expert–but I am a participator. Please allow me to offer a few thoughts on this important matter.

So how do I worship God authentically?
I’m going to make a startling statement. Anyone can praise. Anyone can shout, dance, or lift their hands. Praise can also be fickle. To be fickle is to constantly change loyalties or affections.  At Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem, the praises went up, and the garments went down. There were no doubt genuine praisers in the crowd. But among them were many who would shout, less than a week later, ‘Crucify Him! Crucify Him!’ This is not meant in any way to demean praise, and place it on a par below worship. Both worship and praise are absolutely essential elements of every Christian’s life, and both need to be authentic. But because of the nature of worship, it being a way of life, authentic worship can only flow from authentic people of God.

Jo.4:23-24 But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him.
God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.

According to this pivotal verse, God is not seeking authentic worship; He is seeking authentic worshipers–if God gets this, He will get the other.

What does it take to be an authentic worshiper who offers authentic worship? Several things must be in place:

Authentic worship is dependent upon authentic relationship
As stated earlier, authentic relationship cannot happen apart from salvation. I must know Him, serve Him, and appreciate His goodness in order to worship Him.
Authentic worship must be in response to God’s awesomeness
When I am confronted with God’s greatness, I am filled a desire to honor Him. Worship has to with the worth of its object. Worship is ‘worth’ship. He is worthy!

Rev.4:11 Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.
Psa.145:3 Great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised; and his greatness is unsearchable.
One version translates a portion of this verse as: ‘and most worthy to be praised’

Authentic worship should have the heart as its source
Mat.15:8 This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me. (also Isa.29:13)
Worshipping the Lord with our heart is synonymous with worshipping Him ‘in Spirit’

Authentic worship must be transparent
We must come to Him as we are, not trying to be who we’re not. In John 4, the woman at the well was never going to enter into proper worship of God until she came clean about who she was.

The Binding Tie

The final thing that ties all this together is the fact that worship is sacrifice. Read these crowning words from scripture:

Rom.12:1 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.

Rom.12:1 (Expanded Bible) So [Therefore] brothers and sisters, since God has shown us great mercy, I ·beg [urge; appeal to] you to offer your ·lives [selves; L bodies] as a living sacrifice to him. Your offering must be ·only for God [holy] and pleasing to him, which is the ·spiritual [or authentic; true; or appropriate; fitting; or rational; reasonable] way for you to worship.
This verse makes it plain that authentic worship is to be:

An offering of ourselves
This statement lines up with Jo.4:24. It states that we are to worship ‘in spirit’. This means that we are to worship God with all that we have: mind, body, soul and spirit.
Exclusive to God
Only God is deserving of and is worthy of this type of worship.
Isa.42:8 I am the LORD: that is my name: and my glory will I not give to another, neither my praise to graven images.
God does not share His glory with another, and neither should we.
Pleasing to God
Our main goal as Christians, as it pertains to God, is to please Him. This means obedience. Jesus said ‘…why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?’
When it comes to authentic worship, you cannot be a member of the ‘eighteen inch club’. Eighteen inches is the approximate distance between the brain and the heart. To worship Him authentically, I must not just know Him: I must know Him. Listen to David’s heartfelt cry:

Psa.27:4 One thing have I desired of the LORD, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the LORD, and to enquire in his temple.
Psa.27:4 (Amplified Version) One thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek, inquire for, and [insistently] require: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord [in His presence] all the days of my life, to behold and gaze upon the beauty [the sweet attractiveness and the delightful loveliness] of the Lord and to meditate, consider, and inquire in His temple.

Is this where I am? To please Him, to dwell in His presence and simply gaze upon the greatness of who he is? Ladies and gentlemen, this is the attitude of authentic worship. We all fall short because we are all still wrapped in this flesh; yet God sees graciously sees our hearts. Even now, let us begin to enter in to his presence by lifting up holy hands. I will therefore that men pray every where, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting. (1 Ti.2:8)

Cutting It Straight

NEWSHOWLOGO 145Excuse me as I wax blissfully about one of my loves…

Oh the joy of studying the bible! There is nothing like having a pile of commentaries and dictionaries stacked up on my desk just to go over a passage! The pure joy of plumbing the depths of New Testament Greek just to understand one word! The utter feeling of satisfaction that comes from knowing exactly what you have to do when you get home-STUDY! Yes!

My words may seem sarcastic to some, but it should be apparent that I really love studying the bible! It is my hobby and my pastime, if I may describe it as such. Most and more important than all that, it’s my calling. It is what God has given and gifted me to do for Him as a contribution to His church. I teach, and if I teach for Him, it must be right.     My approach, my preparation, my perseverance, and my presentation must be proper.

Bible reading and especially bible study are obvious necessities of the Christian life. Along with prayer, they are commonly known as spiritual ‘disciplines’. They’re called disciplines because they don’t come naturally to us. We will do them and do them to a greater degree as we surrender ourselves to the Spirit of God. Without bible reading we will not know fully what the Lord wants to communicate to us, and without bible study, we will remain in a state of spiritual infancy. For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat. (Hebrews 5:12).

As I study the Word, first my approach must be right. I must believe that it is His Word and not my own. But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him. (Hebrews 11:6). I must be careful not to insert any of  my own bias into it. I must not force a meaning into it that is not there. When this is done, it plants the ungodly seeds of false doctrine.

When it comes to bible study, the scripture we love to tout the most, and rightfully so, is found in 2 Timothy 2:15. It says, Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. Having said that, it is important to note that the word ‘study’ in this verse (in the original Greek), actually has no direct reference to reading or studying as we understand it. It is from a verb that means ‘to make haste’, ‘to be zealous or eager’, or ‘to make every effort.’ So what is it that we are supposed to be eager and making every effort to do? We are to be presenting or showing ourselves as approved unto God. But how? Stay with me.

Secondly, my preparation to study the Word must begin with prayer. Asking the Lord to quicken His Word in the mind and heart and remove any obstacle so that they are ready to receive from Him. The fact that the Holy Spirit here uses the word ‘workman’ here, indicates that I am a laborer, and that the business of being approved unto God will not be easy. Satan will do all he is able to do to sidetrack and derail our faith. This is why we must keep our eyes on Christ and His cross, knowing that the battle was already won there. That leads directly into the third point. Perseverance will only happen on my part as I continue to rest my faith in Christ and all He accomplished on the cross. Anything less weakens me and pulls me away from Him.

Finally, there is the presentation of the Word. Approval also has to do with a proper handling of the Word. The phrase ‘rightly divide’ is one word in Greek and it means ‘to cut in a straight line.’ As I prepare to teach or preach, I am to be honest in my handling of it. The Word must be taught and preached in a straightforward manner, being careful not to tickle any ears in the process. In other words, as a minister of the Word, I must resist the temptation to tell people what they want to hear; which will probably make them feel good. Rather, I should speak exactly what the bible says, mincing no words. It should be understood that the Word does not always bring comfort as we know it. In 2 Timothy 3:16, we read among other things, that scripture is useful for reproof, which has the idea of bringing conviction, and also for correction; two things that we need from time to time as we traverse this life in the Lord.

As it pertains to the Word, when I approach, prepare, persevere and present the Word with these things in mind, and make every effort to do so, I will know that I have been approved unto God; maybe not unto man, but that doesn’t matter. When it comes to the Word, cut it straight–and no tickling!

That’s the Word! Take it with you. God bless you.

I Didn’t Sign Up For This…Or Did I?

worth itYea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution. 2 Timothy 3:12

One of the most pervasive untruths spread by many so-called ‘new gospels’ seem to give the impression that once you’ve given your heart to Jesus, He makes everything alright, all your problems go away and there will be nothing but smooth sailing all the way to glory. Most obviously, this is not the case. This is not stated to discourage anyone away from giving their heart to Jesus, yet the truth must be told. Regardless of who we are in the kingdom, or how long we’ve been in the kingdom, if you name the name of Jesus, you will suffer persecution of some kind. I imagine that what we experience is not very much different from what unbelievers have to deal with, except for one thing- the Satan factor. We in the kingdom have an extra added attraction to the situations we go through. We have the arch enemy of our collective souls who many times engineers, manufactures and is the silent instigator behind much of what we endure. He is at odds with us because we have been transferred from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of His dear Son. We’ve made him mad. We’ve gloriously ticked him off!

It isn’t that God is not sovereign and in complete control. It’s just that the Lord gives the enemy a bit of rope and a measure of latitude in our lives. Don’t worry though (**SPOILER ALERT**), it all works out in the end. And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His  purpose. (Romans 8:28). Bless His name!

Having said that though, is it all worth it? I mean our opening verse states clearly that, ‘those who live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.’ Wow. is that what we have to look forward to? This is no doubt a pessimists point of view. What this view fails to realize is that we are not alone. God has never and will never allow any of His children to bear more than they are able to handle. There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but with the temptation also make a way of escape, that ye may be able to bear it. (1 Corinthians 10:13). The word temptation in this verse is referring to trials. Our God will see us through.

The great apostle Paul is our shining example of one who faced seemingly insurmountable circumstances, yet lived to tell about it. I believe that every child of God will experience their fair share of what Paul faced. In 2 Corinthian 4:8-9, Paul says he dealt with trouble (pressure), perplexity(not knowing what to do), persecution and being cast down (whether emotionally or physically). In 2 Timothy chapter 4, Paul admits that he had been forsaken, mistreated and opposed. This selective listing is by no means exhaustive because Paul went through so much more! Knowing this, we should never underestimate our enemy because he will use any means necessary to accomplish his goal to stifle and undermine the work of the Lord. However, neither should we underestimate the power of our God!

What was Paul’s perspective on the things he suffered? His outlook is no less than stunning. Take a look at 2 Corinthians 4:16-17: For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory. Light affliction? Momentary? Is he serious? Yes! Paul here is stressing the temporary nature of all we endure in light of eternity. He saw everything from an eternal point of view. Similarly, in Romans 8:18 he states: For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. So is it all worth it? The answer is a resounding ‘Yes, yes Lord, Amen!

In spite of what we may face, our God promises us that we will not be alone. Nearing the end of his life, Paul spoke from his heart to young pastor Timothy. He mentions four things the Lord had done for him, even while he was in the midst of his circumstances. Notwithstanding the Lord stood with me, and strengthened me; that by me the preaching might be fully known, and that all the Gentiles might hear: and I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion. And the Lord shall deliver me from every evil work, and will preserve me unto his heavenly kingdom: to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen. (2 Timothy 4:17-18). There you have it! In our day of trouble, we can count on God’s faithfulness, his strength when we are weak, his deliverance from every evil work, and the knowledge that He will see us to the end. God is so good!

It will be worth it all, when we see Jesus; Life’s trials will seem so small, when we see Christ; One glimpse of His dear face, all sorrow will erase; So bravely run the race, till we see Christ!

That’s the Word! Take it with you. God bless you.

You Know It Makes Me Wanna…!

praise breakIf you’re familiar with this once popular refrain, then you know that the final word there is, ‘shout!’ Unfortunately church for some has become a place do this only. Of course there is nothing wrong with shouting to the Lord, or lifting up your voice in praise and honor to Him, of blessing His name for all He has done; these things are necessary and scripture encourages us to do so. O clap your hands, all ye people; shout unto God with the voice of triumph. (Psalm 47:1). I’m simply speaking of those who do nothing else but get caught up in emotional tailspins and outbursts which are ostentatious at best. Our flesh must not be given a chance to shine forth, else it will make a mockery of ourselves and quench the Spirit of God in one fell swoop.

Rather than bowing to the flesh and its sometimes rather gaudy displays of pseudo-spirituality, we should remember that there are those who have shown up to God’s house because they are fed up and are about to give up. We do better to keep in mind that there are those in our midst who are bound by sin and in some cases don’t know it or don’t care. As we enter His house , we should not forget that He himself called it a house of prayer. And said unto them, It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves. (Matthew 21:13). 

What does going into God’s house make you want to do? Worshiping the Lord and lifting up my voice in praise is part of what I want to do. But I also want to be mindful of those around me who may be in need. If I get too caught up with myself, I may miss the opportunity to minister to someone else. Hebrews 6:10 says, For God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labor of love, which ye have shewed toward his name, in that ye have ministered to the saints, and do minister. Let’s ask the Lord to help us reassess our purposes as it pertains to our roles in the house of God. If you have a calling, walk in that calling. If you don’t know where you belong in the kingdom, start at home in church where God has placed you. Someone there may need you. A word, a prayer, a hug or an even an ear. Don’t allow your church time to be relegated to just your own personal ‘shoutin’ time.’  As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith. (Galatians 6:10).

That’s the Word! Take it with you. God bless you.

A Revival of Repentance

repentanceHave you ever been to a revival? Careful how you answer. Most people generally associate revivals with a meeting of some kind. The scheduled gathering of a group of high profile speakers, a few dynamic choirs, a large amount of people (if it has been marketed properly), several powerful worship leaders and an ‘anointed’ word, is usually what constitutes a modern day revival. Many, but not all of these gatherings are little more than dens of entertainment and well meaning, emotionally charged melodious preaching, backed up by a generous organ meant to egg the preacher on. Most would disagree with this assessment of modern day revivals; I can understand that.

On the other hand, there are revivals which are called by individuals who desire to see a move of God. These meetings are saturated with prayer. There may not be any dynamic choirs, but there will be Spirit-filled singing. There may not be any organ during the preaching to pep it up, but there will be conviction. And that’s what we need. Genuine Holy Ghost conviction. It will change everything.

I knew a man years ago who was my first pastor after I became saved. To date, he was the godliest man I’ve ever known; and that was forty years ago. This man would pace the floors during prayer meeting every Tuesday night and other times asking God to send a revival. It was the topic of many of his sermons. It was what the conversation gravitated to if you were talking to him one on one. Now why didn’t he just call or schedule a revival? I believe it was because he understood that as corporate as we want revival to be, it’s still going to happen one soul at a time.

So the question is, what exactly is revival? I’ve heard many definitions, but I know revival is for those who know the Lord. The saved. The born again. It is the bringing back to life of that which was once alive and vibrant; the reigniting of a flame that has gone out. When the child of God no longer senses the power of God, revival is needed. When the child of God no longer allows himself to be led by the Spirit of God, revival is needed.

On any given Sunday morning churches all over are filled to some capacity with people. there reasons for being there are varied. Some are there to worship and praise. Some are there to pray. Nothing wrong with those things. Still others are there simply to meet someone or just to hear the choir sing. But is anyone there to repent? Of all the things we come to church for-I mean to sing, dance, shout and rejoice-does anyone know that what we really need to do is repent? We the people of God are guilty of such things as selfishness, bitterness, dishonesty, pride. There’s malice, fits of rage and we are easily offended. If we, God’s people have such things working in our life, on a nonchalant continual basis, then there is only one thing to say-we need a devil chasing, Holy Ghost, heaven sent revival. We don’t need mere emotional uprisings; not more jumping, spinning or shouting. Not another people or personality driven consecration; no more festivals of the flesh. We need repentance. We need confession. We need brokenness. Wilt thou not revive us again: that thy people may rejoice in thee? (Psalm 85:6).  Without personal revival, we cannot rejoice in the Lord as we ought.

2 Chronicles 7:14 says it perfectly: If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.  That’s revival. Let it start in you. Let it start in me. We need to get on the Calvary road and go back to the cross. That’s where it all started; that’s where it must begin again. A revival of repentance.

Spirit of the living God, fall fresh on me – break me, melt me, mold me, fill me – Spirit of the living God, fall fresh on me!

That’s the Word! Take it with you. God bless you.

                                                                                                

Planes, Thangs, Autmobiles and Other Sins of The Rich and Righteous

ilovemoneyI’ve never actually wanted to be rich. I mean I’ve just never had the itch to have a whole lot of money. A decent roof over my head, and having my basic needs met seems to have always been enough for me. Now don’t get me wrong. I’ve had plenty. I’ve been at that place where I didn’t have to worry about food, rent or mortgage and the like. I’ve also been in that place where I had pretty much nothing; living paycheck to paycheck, so to speak. So I’ve been in both places and truth be told, plenty is better. When one does have plenty though, the tendency is to forget God; we become comfortable. Having nothing much will keep you on your knees. I think I can rest somewhere in the middle.

Obviously there is nothing inherently wrong with being rich. If God chooses to bless me greatly financially, if He chooses to bless the fruit of my labor, or if He chooses to bless because I have been a good steward of what He has provided, or whatever the case may be, I would graciously receive whatever He gives with thanksgiving. However, I believe that the seeking out of wealth, for wealth’s sake and devoting one’s whole life purpose to the accumulation of riches will prove to be problematic. ‘Money is root of all evil!’ they say. Well they are wrong. It’s the love of money that is the root of all evil. 1 Timothy 6:10 says: For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. See the problem? Loving money and setting one’s heart on it is a form of greed and causes one to take their eyes off the Lord and wander away from Him. It also causes the offender to be on the receiving end of much sorrow and misery. It’s better to take the Apostle Paul’s advice (actually a command), to young Pastor Timothy. He told him, ‘Flee these things.’ (1 Timothy 6:11).

Now I read that Pastor Creflo Dollar (yes that is his real name), is asking for money to purchase a new jet for his ‘World Changers’ ministry. The old one purchased in 1999 has engine problems. The new luxury jet will cost 65 million dollars. He’s asking for 200,000 people to contribute 300 dollars apiece to meet the need. The statement from his website reads in part: ‘…we believe it is time to replace this aircraft so that our Pastors and staff can continue to safely and swiftly share the Good News of the Gospel worldwide. We need your help to continue reaching a lost and dying world for the Lord Jesus Christ.’ Awww. Just the right combination of compelling words to almost make one want to give out of duty and compassion. But here’s the problem with the statement. Aside from the phrase ‘Good News of the Gospel’ being redundant (the word gospel already means ‘good news’; it’s like saying ‘good news of the good news’), there is a much more serious problem. What exactly is the gospel that he is preaching? Creflo Dollar teaches a ‘prosperity’ gospel. It is both nefarious and unbiblical. It is a gospel laced with untruths, half truths and scripture twisted so tight it takes discernment of the highest order to weed it out. He is also a major proponent of the ‘gospel of grace’ or ‘grace revolution’, as it is touted, which states that since we’ve been forgiven, there’s no need to ever confess your sins again. Basically, though they don’t say it in so many words, I am to ignore the convicting power of the Holy Spirit if I sin, as a matter of fact, it’s not the Spirit convicting you, it’s the devil trying to make you sin conscious, because I’m already forgiven! That, my friend, is very near blasphemy; attributing the work of the Holy Ghost to the devil. Here’s what scripture has to say about those who promote false gospels which are actually no gospel at all and preach another Jesus: Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them. For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple. (Romans 16:17-18).  

That all being said, why would a truth loving child of God want to support this type of ministry or any like it that preaches and teaches the things they do? I’ve only given you the most basic tenets of what they believe; it’s all much more intricate. The Apostle Paul stated that he preached ‘Christ crucified.’ (1 Corinthians 1:23). That speaks of the Cross, and we can do no wrong by preaching the same.

But alas, Creflo Dollar will get his 65 million dollars and his new luxury jet and will probably continue spouting his pseudo-gospel. These men and women have countless followers who support their ministries and have made it possible for them to live like kings and queens. Their lavish lifestyles filled with planes, cars, houses and land are all passed off as blessings from the Lord. The jury is still out on that one. Building a ministry and lifestyle on the backs of the deceived is not my idea of being blessed.

But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed. (Galatians 1:8-9). Powerful words. So powerful, he had to say it twice.

That’s the Word! Take it with you. God bless you.

Careful What You Pray For-You Might Just Get It!

PRAYINGI’ve heard people say that when they pray, and ask God for something, they pray specifically. Not a thing wrong with that. 1 John 5:15 says: And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of him. It says whatever we ask right? More on that later. Right down to the make and model, people pray for their next car. Right down to his or her height, weight, hair color, build and complexion, people pray for a spouse. There can’t be anything wrong with praying for what you want when scripture explicitly states: Delight yourself also in the Lord, And he will give you the desires of your heart. (Psalm 37:4). Seems like a body can’t go wrong. Seems. 

There’s a great quote I read on social media recently, it said, ‘Sometimes God will give you exactly what you wanted just to show you it’s not all you needed.’ I think there’s an element of truth in the statement. When I read it, my mind was immediately brought to Psalm 106. Verses 12-15 say: Then they believed his words; They sang his praise. They soon forgot his works; they did not wait for his counsel; But lusted exceedingly in the wilderness, and tempted God in the desert. And he gave them their request; but sent leanness into their soul. In summary we see that God had been good to the children of Israel on the heels of the miracle at the Red Sea. As long as they believed His Word, they were able to praise Him. However when they took their eyes off Him (because this is inevitably how it happens), they forgot Him and His good works, and because their focus was now on self, began to lust after evil things. They no longer sought after Him or waited to hear from Him for their life’s direction. God in turn, because they persisted in this behavior, gave them what they were asking for. This then triggered an emptiness, a scantiness and leanness in their souls. They now could no longer enjoy fellowship with the Lord. Why did this happen? It happened because what they received from the Lord was not what He wanted them to have! This is a natural consequence many times of getting what we want when what we want is outside the circle of His will.

If 1 John 5:15 is isolated it would seem as though it says that no matter what you want, just ask and receive. God is supposed to give me the desires of my heart, right? Well, when your desires line up with His will, yes, because in 1 John 5:14 it says: And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us. (italics mine). Remember that He is not bound by your word but by His. Our wish is not His command. I heard a pastor say just the other day that we should command our needs to God and He will answer. He cited Isaiah 45:11 which says in part: Ask me of things to come concerning my sons, and concerning the work of my hands command ye me. The sermon was entitled ‘On Demand Prayer.’ What a horrible and despicable twisting of scripture! Trying to get people to believe that all we have to do is command the Lord and He will come through! If you tell people a good sounding lie long enough, they will believe it. No, the prayers God will answer in His time are those in accordance with His will. For your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. (Matthew 6:32b). Delighting ourselves in the Lord means submitting ourselves to His will and being satisfied with it; even if it seems not to be what I wanted.

James says that the reason we don’t get what we want when we pray is because we ask improperly and seek to consume or waste it upon our own desires. (James 4:3). The bottom line is this; we do not tell God what we want, rather we ask Him for what we need. Keeping myself firmly entrenched within the circle of His will and delighting myself in Him, will ensure that I will receive the petitions I have asked of Him. So that I do not receive leanness in my soul, dissatisfaction and wind up regretting  receiving what I thought I wanted, I need to be careful what I ask for. If I don’t do this, I may be asking for trouble.

That’s the Word! Take it with you. God bless you.