About the Seasons of Life…And Avoiding the Convenient One

Winter. Spring. Summer. Fall. What’s your favorite season? Depending on who you are, and no matter what your seasonal preference is, you’d have to admit that each one has its own perks. Look at winter. Winter has Christmas! Yay! The children say to that (and many adults too, I’m sure). Ah springtime! Melting snow, nasty cold weather slowly disappearing, along with the blooming of flowers–readying themselves for warmer weather. Then there’s good ‘ole summer! Schools closed, vacation time, warm days at the beach, and the park. Can you beat all that? Finally, the only season with two names. Autumn brings the promise of color! Those summer green leaves transforming into bright oranges, yellows and shades of brown; all falling to the ground. And not to forget, the children go back to school! Yay again!
Each season also has its downside. And once again depending on who you are, it’s too cold in the winter, too rainy in the spring, too hot in the summer, and too many leaves to rake in the fall. It’s all a matter of preference, but the simple fact is seasons come and seasons go–and that will never change. Read the Lord’s words in the first book of the Bible: While the earth remaineth, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease (Genesis 8:22). That’s the promise. As long as this earth remains, there will be seasons. I believe this truth; and I believe this principle can also be carried over into our spiritual lives. The fact is that our lives in the Lord also consist of seasons.

God says that there is a time and place for everything. This is not as much a theological truth as it is a practical truth. All seasons however, must be seen in their proper perspective. In addition to these seasons or times we experience, there are several other seasons we go through that the bible speaks of both specifically and not so specifically; yet I believe most have experienced many of these seasons for ourselves.

  • There are seasons of plenty
    Ex. Egypt’s seven years plenty (Gen.41:47-49)
  • There are seasons of drought
    Ex. Egypt’s seven years of famine (Gen.41:54)
  • There are seasons of dependence
    Ex. Elijah being fed by ravens (1Ki.17:6)
  • There are seasons of doubt
    Ex. Lord I believe: help thou my unbelief (Mk.9:24)
  • There are seasons on the mountain
    Ex. Elijah and the prophets of Baal (1Ki.18:20:40)
  • There are seasons in the valley
    Ex. Elijah running for his life (1Ki.19:3)
  • There are seasons of transition
    Ex. Abram moving on from Ur (Gen.12:1)

All of these seasons, both good and bad, play vital roles in our lives and help to shape us into the persons we are and will become. The psalmist stated, ‘It was good for me that I have been afflicted; that I might learn thy statutes’ (Psa.119:71). Ultimately, all seasons serve a definite purpose and are in God’s sovereign control. Once again, the Word declares: ‘…all things work together for good to them that love God…’ (Ro.8:28), and also from Eccl.3:11: ‘…He hath made everything beautiful in His time…’

The list of Seasons can go on and on. A thing qualifies as a season if you remain there for a significant amount of time. But there is another season-it’s a season you want to avoid at all costs. It’s a season you don’t want to step into. Yet many, because they are so zoned in to making it happen for themselves, willfully enter in to this season by giving God a rain check; and with a friendly ‘don’t call us we’ll call you attitude, walk away from God’s best for them. They have entered into the convenient season.

What is the convenient season? A convenient season is a time of your own making. It is putting God on hold. It is time and life on your own terms. It is a season that finds you attempting to undermine and derail the plan of God for your life. It is the sinners’ or saints’ excuse when under conviction and refusing to surrender to God’s will and way. It is a refusal to say, ‘Not my will, but thine be done.’ Read the words of governor Felix to the Apostle Paul after being convicted by the Spirit of God to change his ways: “And after certain days, when Felix came with his wife Drusilla, which was a Jewess, he sent for Paul, and heard him concerning the faith in Christ. And as he reasoned of righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come, Felix trembled, and answered, Go thy way for this time; when I have a convenient season, I will call for thee.” (Acts‬ ‭24:24-25). Notice that Felix trembled after hearing the powerful gospel. This discomfort gave him all the reason he needed to remove himself from Paul’s presence. What he didn’t realize was that he was actually attempting to distance himself from God’s presence.  The truth is that you can never unhear the Word of God after the Spirit of God has impressed it upon your heart and mind. Felix’s response shows us that in addition to placing himself into a convenient season, he also entered into:

  • A proud season…when I(v25)
  • A presumptuous season…I will(v25)
  • A selfish season…makes it
    all about you
  • A deceptive season…he listened to Satan’s lie what other lies will he tell him?
  • A declining season…Whooping Goldberg  had a line in the Oscar winning movie ‘The Color Purple’ that went like this: ‘…till you do right by me, everything you think about gonna fail!’

Though not precisely scriptural, the statement yet has an aura of truth around it and here it is: As long as an individual chooses to remain on the opposite side of the will of God, whatever it is that they do will be tainted-it will ultimately come to naught-at least for them. This is because it will have the stench of disobedience upon it. That thing may be good and right; but it is not good and right for that person because it’s not what the Lord told them to do. The convenient season says, ‘I’m in my place, I’m in my time–I need to complete me before I deal with with God.’

The convenient season in all cases are seasons of procrastination. In all cases they are seasons of avoiding the truth. It is the result of running from God. Runners from God have a language all their own. They say things like:

  • I’m not ready
  • It’s not my time
  • I will later…promise
  • What if this way is not the right way?
  • I have other things to do…let me go and bury my father first (Lu.9:59-60)

Avoiding the convenient season is as simple as saying, ‘Yes, Lord.’ Except saying it is sometimes the most difficult thing to do. We have to come to the end of ourselves by concluding that God, in His infinite wisdom, knows what is best. God’s will is not a matter of convenience, it’s a matter priority. He must come first or I run the risk of following myself and not Him; and when I follow myself, ultimately I’m no different than the proverbial dog who chases his tail-getting itself nowhere.

So when faced with the choice to do or go God’s way, or your own…don’t settle for convenience. Avoid it at all costs. You’ll be glad you did.

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Word To My Hyper-Holy Brethren:Caterpillars Can’t Fly

No, I don’t have an axe to grind. I’m not angry at anyone. And I don’t for one second presume to think I know better or am better than anyone else-because I’m not better and I don’t know anything. I’m just a small voice in a small corner of the world, trying to fulfill the Great Commission. I don’t expect to change anyone’s mind about anything with the words that follow. But I’d like to address several important issues that have been scratching at my heart and mind lately. Indulge me if you please.

Ok. Let me lay down some ground rules. I am Pentecostal. No shame for me there. I would probably be described as being of the more ‘conservative’ brand; comparatively speaking-as opposed to those who are hyper or ultra Pentecostal. I am neither, but I am Pentecostal nonetheless. We’re the ones who speak in tongues. Some of us jump, shout, and wave our hands; we are quite the demonstrative ones. Some even run, spin around or wave their hands; and I hold no malice toward those who do those things–I do some of those things myself. But it must all be Spirit led and Spirit driven, and not flesh driven. Having said all that, I must say sadly, that as I see it, much of the bad doctrine that has permeated the church in recent years, has come from our camp (I speak also of the closely related Charismatics). It’s actually a shame to even speak of different ‘camps’–seeing that God does not recognize denominations anyway.

Do Pentecostals have the corner on spirituality? Of course not. Depending  on what church you attend, why is it that we Pentecostals sometimes spend so much time and effort trying to make everyone else just like we are? Let me tell you what happens sometimes, or rather what I have witnessed. In some churches there are ‘cliques’. These cliques sometimes call themselves ‘ministries’. Some of them, however, are quite ‘exclusive.’ To be a part, you basically have to do what they do and speak and believe what they do. If you don’t measure up, you become a piriah (an outcast), and you get treated as such (yes, I’ve seen it).

In some churches, tradition prevails over truth in some matters. Many people, especially young people, are made to feel as if they must ‘conform’. They are inadvertently pushed by well meaning, but overzealous parents and in some instances pastors, to be baptized, take communion, or even ‘preach’. I once heard a pastor tell a young person, ‘You’ve been coming to church long enough, why are you not baptized yet?’ Surely time spent in church cannot be the criteria for getting baptized and such, right? Am I missing something? Caterpillars cannot fly. Longevity has its place, but that alone is no substitute for salvation. Before baptism and the like can take place, a person must be saved. Encouraging individuals, especially youth, to do saved things, will not benefit them-if they’re not saved. As it pertains to preaching, the church is not the place to ‘hone’ your preaching skills. Young people don’t need to ‘learn’ how to preach. If the call of God has been placed on someone’s life to preach, He will make it known. The church is not the Aberdeen Proving Grounds. You may be thinking, ‘Who set you up as a judge, and how do you know who’s saved or not?’ What I will say is that God has given us discernment; the Spirit-led ability to know whether someone or something is of God or not. In our desire to see young people serve God, we must not attempt to ‘play God’ by placing them behind the pulpit to keep them on fire for God. If some of these are not saved in the first place, as stated previously, then there’s no fire anyway; putting them behind the sacred desk will do them no good, except possibly giving them a false sense of security, resulting in the mistaken idea that they must be a Christian; ‘After all, I preached!’, some may say to themselves. When will we learn that going and being in church is not the equivalent of being in Christ. The pulpit, as far as the preaching of the Word goes, is for those who have been called to it.

The following matters are not weighty issues at all. They do not affect one’s salvation in one way or another. I bring them up only as points of reference as they pertain to youth, or others affected by it. For instance, does the bible explicitly state that it is a sin for a woman to ‘straighten’ or ‘perm’ her hair? Weaves? No. Many young people in hyper-holy churches are told yes. How about braids? Or pants on women? Sleeveless blouses in God’s house anyone? Those who are part of the hyper-holy crowd will tell you that these things are evil, worldly, and just plain ungodly. Once again, I’m simply using these cases as examples. My aim is not engage in any lengthy debate. I’m only saying that for those who believe that these and many other such things are actually sinful, young people in particular are placed under pressure and highly scrutinized. The older ‘saints’, in an effort to keep them and the church ‘holy’, are actually turning out ‘clones’, i.e., younger versions of themselves. Is this what we want? Listen to what Jesus said: ‘Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves (Mat.23:15). I’m not calling anyone a child of hell, but what I am saying is that we should avoid adopting a ‘pharisaical’ mindset. Should we not want folk to be like Jesus, and not like ourselves? With all of our holier than thou, pre-conceived, ‘I think that’s what Jesus would’ve done’ attitudes? Half the things folk do in church, in His name, He never sanctioned anyway!

When it comes to matters of praise, worship, the moving of the Spirit of God and prayer, how is pressure placed upon the young? First of all, church, i.e., the worship service, is not a circus. The Spirit of God can have His way without it being a free for all. Anything should not go in God’s house. The Holy Spirit is the moderator of worship services-not we ourselves. Some of the things I’ve seen over the course of many years in several places, amount to one thing–flesh. Scripture tells us in 1 Jonn 4:1, that we should test the spirits, to see whether they are of God or not. He’s telling us here not to be deceived; everything that looks of God is not of God. So, when some well meaning saint places their hands on someone to pray for them, and the immediate response of the one being prayed for is a shake, and a shimmy, and a shout, and the same response comes from the next one, and the next one, and the next one, etc.; and all of the responses are exactly alike in word and motion–then I know that something is rotten in Denmark! No rocket science is needed to figure out that something’s not right.

Mimicking has become an art in many Pentecostal churches. As I stated at the outset, I’m Pentecostal myself. We’re loud. We express ourselves. This is what we do. However, we all cannot do the very same thing, in the very same way, at the very same time all of the time. It’s not a spiritual phenomenon, but it is a fleshly one.What I believe has happened in some places is that folk have simply, and maybe unintentionally picked up one another’s behavior, and made it their own. When this happens they are not allowing the Spirit of God to work uniquely with them, and settle for ‘conforming’ to what everyone else does. This in turn causes the Spirit of God to step back because not only is He grieved, but He is quenched now that the flesh has come in. Scripture plainly states: ‘…So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God.’ (Romans 8:8). Young people, sometimes because they don’t know any better, or because they just want to be a part, unfortunately fall into this terrible behavior of just doing; copying and mimicking what the older ones do; and it’s not good, and it’s not right. Caterpillars cannot fly.

As far as the scripture goes, a wrongly divided word will do untold damage to those who hear it. When preachers add restrictions and read things into scripture that are not there, they place invisible shackles upon those under the sound of that word. For the young, many of them carry those chains with them into adulthood, with varying degrees of misery. As they grow, many begin to question certain restrictions that have been placed on them because they don’t find proof of these restrictions in the Word for themselves. This is because these restrictions do not exist! Rather, they are the unfortunate misinterpretations of those who have treaded down legalism’s path. Legalism is a dangerous monster and it’s victims are many. Young people who have chosen to opt out of church due to all they have seen, heard and experienced. For each one who has opted out, several others have thought about it or are presently thinking about it. A young lady told me years ago that she couldn’t wait until she turned eighteen, because then she was going to leave home, and leave church, due to the fact that she had had enough. All I know is, from that point, I began seeing her less and less-until I didn’t see her anymore.

Let me close by saying that we are not perfect. This should be obvious. But we must take pains to get the Word right. If not we run the risk of pushing people out rather bringing them in. The Word of God is described as a hammer; (Jeremiah 23:29), but we must not turn it into a spiked club. The Word is a sword; (Ephesians 6:17; Hebrews 4:12) but we must refrain from using it as a dagger. Let’s draw them to the water of life that they may drink-freely. We must not impose, we must not force, assume or take things for granted. We need to draw young people and everyone else to the living water, but we cannot make them drink. It’s the simple presentation of the gospel-the message of the Cross, preached under in the power and anointing of the Holy Spirit that will change lives. Anything more, or anything less, will not produce the desired results. Only saved people should do ‘saved’ things. Caterpillars can’t fly; and they shouldn’t try-not until they’ve been transformed into butterflies. And then the sky is the limit.

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

The Missing Ingredient

Imagine your favorite food. You taste, and it’s just not right; something is missing. You go and get that one ingredient that will make it taste the way it should. Once you add just enough of what was missing, you can eat on to your heart’s delight.

There are two types of people in every congregation: those who profit from the Word preached–and those who don’t. There always seems to be a case of us or them. Two students, same teacher; one passes and one fails–us and them. Consider also
two siblings with the same parents. Each child goes in two opposite directions in life–once again a case of us and them. In every group, some seem to go up and others seem to go down; some move forward in life, and some go backward; some do well and others not so well. Then there’s our case of the two people in the same congregation. Both under the same preacher, hearing the same gospel and only one of them profit from that word being preached–us and them.

Let us therefore fear, lest, a promise being left us of entering into his rest, any of you should seem to come short of it. For unto us was the gospel preached, as well as unto them: but the word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it.” Heb.4:1-2

This word preached that proved to be unprofitable to the hearer is not the fault of the Word. The Word of God has the power to pull down strongholds. The problem here is that the Word which was heard was not mixed with faith. The hearer simply did not believe. As it was then, so it is now.

The Choice of Unbelief
Do not fail to enter into His rest because you fail to believe–unbelief is the crux of the matter:
Wherefore (as the Holy Ghost saith, To day if ye will hear his voice, Harden not your hearts, as in the provocation, in the day of temptation in the wilderness:”
‭‭Hebrews‬ ‭3:7-8‬ ‭

The phrase ‘harden not your hearts’, obviously indicates personal choice. This was for the Israelites, their unfortunate response upon hearing the voice of the Lord. It is the voice of direction; why do we run from it? It is the voice of peace; why do we ignore it? There is a price to pay for not trusting His voice, as they would find out. The price we pay is no less. No, we don’t just die away as many of them did. It is a slow death to void oneself of His help. To put oneself at odds with the One that we will give an account to is a foolish thing. To choose not to believe what He has spoken, has to be the highest form of treason; choosing our way over His.

So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief.” Hebrews 3:‬19

The Character of Unbelief
Unbelief is, at its root, rebellion. It is both a hardening of the heart and a departure from the living God.

“Harden not your hearts, as in the provocation…”
‭‭Hebrews‬ ‭3:8‬a

“Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God.”
‭‭Hebrews‬ ‭3:12‬

We are told here that unbelief is akin to evil which is a departure from the Lord. This makes unbelief a very serious matter.

“That ye be not slothful, but followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises.”‭‭ Hebrews‬ ‭6:12‬ ‭

The Chemistry of Unbelief
“…but the word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it”Heb.4:12b
Several things cannot be mixed the Word. You cannot mix worry with the Word and you cannot mix doubt with the Word. Worry and doubt are cut from the same mold, and are actually the opposite of faith. Another thing that cannot be mixed with faith is apathy. Apathy naturally says, ‘I don’t care.’ The only thing that can be mixed with the Word is faith.

Two Impossible Things
First, it impossible to live the Christian life in your own strength. Most will deny that they do this. However, when individuals continue to ‘work’ at being a Christian and trying harder by doing more in an effort to keep from sinning, then living through your own strength is what is taking place. Second, it is impossible for someone who is not a Christian to live the Christian life at all–and don’t say ‘Who would ever do something like that?’, because it happens every day and every Sunday in churches all over the city, country and world–individuals caught up in church life. This is commonly called religion and uncommonly called churchianity.

The Consequence of Unbelief
Old and young alike, show up to church to have a good time, or to fulfill some duty, or even to make some connection–business or otherwise. Unfortunately, some are so blinded, deceived and far away from God, due to a false sense of security, and an over abundance of self-righteousness, they just don’t get it. No matter how much they hear, they don’t understand. They are the ones that scripture says are ‘ever learning but never able to come to the knowledge of the truth’ (2Ti.3:7). This is truly a sad state of life; to be in the right place to hear the truth, yet not able to receive it and walk in it.

I believe there are several things we can do to, in a sense, ‘protect’ our faith. These things themselves are accomplished by keeping Christ at the center of all we do by faith.

  • Do not allow the difficulties of your present circumstance overshadow the reality of God’s truth. All God’s promises concerning our well being in times of trouble, must be received.
  • Don’t be a hearer of the Word and not a doer; this is deception – (Ja.1:22)…thinking that because you have heard and have put yourself in a position to hear, that this amounts to righteousness on your part, or that God is somehow pleased.
  • Don’t be a learner and not a believer – 2Ti.3:7 (one who does not trust or have faith); this is also deception. Learning in this way only makes you acquainted with facts.Facts are good; but they are not enough. Remember, truth that does not transform, is truth that has not been properly received.

Without faith, hearing and learning become exercises in futility. Not entering into rest in the Lord due to a refusal to believe, actually causes one to short circuit and sabotage ones’ own destiny.

The Cure for Unbelief
Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need. Hebrews 4:16

The cure for unbelief is faith! It is shown by coming boldly, that is, coming in confidence and assurance, to receive what is needed, in this case, rest. This must be done by faith because:
“…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

Once we enter in to His rest by faith, great things will begin to unfold.

By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Romans 5:2

Need some rest? Add some faith!

Thats the Word! Take it with you. God bless you.

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.

God Needs No Help:A Word For The Hyper-Holy and Accidental Pharisees Among Us

Pharisee-Collector-Parable-sm

Luke 18:9-14; 1 Peter 1:14-16

Can holiness be enforced? Or rather, can it be forced upon people? Can people be told that by following a set of rules, or by wearing or not wearing this or that, it makes them holy? There is no doubt as to the absolute importance of holiness in the Christian life. To have a personal passion for it and for all involved is more than admirable indeed. But we must go about attaining it properly. We must also recognize what actually constitutes true holiness. I am reminded of Paul’s words in Rom.10:2, as he spoke of his Jewish brethren: For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. This must never be the case as we deal with holiness, especially as we do or do not see it in others.
When we think that we are rooting out evil and creating an atmosphere of holiness, we are actually creating an atmosphere of fear and uneasiness, and in many cases reduce ourselves to the level of an accidental, unintentional Pharisee.

As we read this parable in Lu.18, our focus will be on the Pharisee. We see that the Pharisee had the absolute wrong approach to God. Pharisees in general approached God on the basis of:
• their own righteousness
• their own works
They used their own knowledge of the law to promote their own brand of the law based on their own faulty interpretation of the law.
• they were proud (of who they were and who they weren’t)
• they were complacent (satisfied; they assumed they needed no help)
• they were religious (religion will always oppose true relationship)
• they were full of themselves (egocentric—note the five ‘I’s in vv.11-12)
• they were haughty (looked down on others)

The Pharisees’ Problem

Mat.23:26 They were consumed with appearances and how things looked on the outside; to them, this was holiness and righteousness. Jesus said to clean the inside first, and then the outside would be clean. Holiness is not just about externals. 1 Peter 1:15 says, But, as He who hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of life. Remember that man looks on the outward appearance, but God looks at the heart. (1 Sam.16:7)
Mat.23:24 They were so attentive to the smaller details, and the larger, more important matters they swallowed or let go. Matters of the heart are more important, at least as it pertains to holiness, than matters of fashion. Guard your heart, Proverbs 4:23 says, for out it flows the issues of life. This is because, as stated in Mat.15:19-20,…out of the heart proceeds evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies. These re the things which defile a man; but to eat with unwashed hands defileth not a man. They were consumed with outward appearances, but Jesus was telling them that the inward man, the heart, was more important.
Mat.23:4 They put the weight of added law upon the people (which was no law at all, because God never said it), and made it too heavy for them to bear-the people simply could not keep it. This is what creates the atmosphere of fear and uneasiness. Is my hair just right? Is my dress or skirt too short—or long? These types of questions and more flood the minds of those under the intimidating gaze of the accidental Pharisees among us. When we begin to move away from what scripture actually says, we become the authority rather than the Word of God. Our ‘authoritative’ word then becomes tradition; which in many cases, though unintentionally, and most unfortunately, supersedes the authority of scripture. Hear Jesus own words in Mark 7:13: Making the word of God of none effect through your tradition, which ye have delivered: and many such like things do ye. Never let it be said that we opt for our traditions over the Word of God.
The Pharisees are a picture of many in the church today–everyone who sees them thinks they are pure, holy and righteous; based on the things they do and say. They have convinced many that they are the model of righteousness and holiness. They have also convinced themselves that they are right and everyone around them who is not exactly like them is wrong.

They were also guilty of:

1. Pointing out the sins of others, effectively shrouding their own.
2. Exalting their own works-(fasting was only required once a year-if you did it more, it was personal)
3. Adding to the law, believing it made them more righteous; this is works based righteousness, which God does not recognize
Ex. Cain bringing what he decided God wanted (the works of his hands), thinking that God would bless him and declare him righteous
• proper interpretation of scripture is essential
• do not read things into scripture that are not there
• do not interpret based on your own personal likes and dislikes
When we begin adding things to scripture we do the wrong thing
Let God’s Word work; let God be God.

4. Rather than compare themselves to God’s perfect and righteous standard, they compared themselves with others; that way they are bound to come up shining

God frowns upon our efforts to legislate holiness-as stated previously, when we try to create an atmosphere that we believe God will be pleased with, we instead create an atmosphere of fear and uneasiness—this is not God’s will.

For Those Who Try To Enforce or Legislate Holiness, Remember:

God needs no helpthe Holy Ghost will do His work. Uzzah thought he was helping God When he touched the Ark (2 Sam.6:6-7). The oxen stumbled; the ark shook, but would it have fallen? Let the power of God do what only it can do. He will protect His holiness. Absolutely. God needs no help.

God needs no helpMoses struck the rock (Num.20:11) when he saw the unholy behavior of God’s people–God told him only to speak. By not doing it God’s way, it cost him his place in the promised land. God will provide in His own way—not ours. He needs no help.

God needs no helpAbram was promised a son by God, but his wife was barren. Sarai suggested that they have a child through her handmaid Hagar (Gen.16:2-4). Because he followed his wife’s advice, he set off a chain of events that the world is still dealing with. God needs no help.

God is God all by Himself!

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

The Illusion of Vindication

Grabbed Frame 12

Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter. Isaiah 5:20

As I sat and watched nothing less than a shameless  display of jubilation, my spirit was grieved within me. Rebellious revelers  responding with glee at the decision handed down by the United States Supreme Court, guaranteeing the right to same-sex marriage- for those so inclined. This all should come as no surprise. As the world seemingly continues to spiral out of control, I believe we can expect see these types of things more and more. I do not share the faulty beliefs of some in the Christian community that say that as time passes, the world will become progressively better due the ‘gospel’ touching every strata of society. Nothing could be further from the truth. Here’s what the bible says: Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron…(1 Tim.4:1-2).  Ladies and gentlemen: these are the latter times. Scripture goes on to tell us more: This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, coveteous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away. (2 Tim.3:1-5) Once again ladies and gentlemen-WE ARE THERE..

In the case at hand, those who celebrate this pseudo-victory, do so ignorantly. No doubt there is a sense of freedom and vindication that their case has been heard and what they have long sought for has been granted. However, there is probably nothing more pathetic than a perceived freedom; something which is thought to bring both liberty and latitude, that will only lead to bondage. Freedom to sin and the approval of the same always does. This latest ‘seal of approval’ given to this portion of sinful society, will only lead its participants into a greater enslavement, a greater subjection, and a greater domination to the very thing which already has them in their clutches. This ruling will add to the sorrow and misery of this lifestyle by giving them the latitude to dig themselves deeper into sin. It must be understood that Satan’s lust for souls is never satisfied; he will not let go that which he sees as belonging to him; and except for the mighty hand and power of the Holy Ghost, he will not let go.

What we have here now, and any time that sin seems to triumph, is an illusion of vindication. Let’s first define the word. When something is vindicated it means that though a thing has been criticized, spoken against or doubted, it now has been found to be correct or true. This ruling by the court has now seemed to vindicate those who have fought for this so-called ‘right’. This vindication however, is an illusion. What seems to be, actually is not. It must be remembered that even though the corrupt hearts and minds of men seek change or even blot out what God has plainly spoken in His Word, that same Word stands, and will continue to stand. Society is on a downward slope, and will continue to tumble as long they push His Word aside. But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived. 2 Tim.3:13. As spoken in our opening verse, society has gone the way of Isaiah 5:20. But scripture’s promise and warning is that sin’s enjoyment, fun and the pleasure derived from it, is short-lived.(Heb.11:25) Sin will always leave one broken, bound, and empty.

There should be no anger, no hopelessness, no retreat and no surrender. Remember that where sin abounds or flourishes, grace does much more abound.(Rom.5:20) We must continue to preach the truth of the gospel in power and under the anointing of the Holy Ghost. He is the only one who can change hearts and lives of individuals bent on destruction. Where the world now sees vindication, Jesus wants to bring salvation. Every soul seeking a way out, every person caught in a sinful web of their own making, every individual tired of living as they do, Jesus offers and is the way out.

The hashtag that came out after the ruling said, #LoveWins. No Supreme Court. No White House. No Mr.Obama. Love has NOT won. But Jesus has won! At Calvary!

Mercy there was great, and grace was free

Pardon there was multiplied to me

There my burdened soul found liberty

At Calvary!

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

The Cure For The Saddening Blissfulness of Sinfulness

Happy-face-sad-face

Years ago at my job, one young man got up and announced to all within listening distance, how much he was looking forward to Friday. He said he was excited and was anticipating it because after work he intended to go out to a club or two, meet a few people, and get drunk out of his mind, in so many words. On Monday, with the weekend behind us, we all gathered at the job, minus one: the excited, anticipating young man. He did show up, late, wearing the same clothes he had worn on Friday, a little wrinkled but no worse for the wear. As he told it, he did go out as he said, but the rest of the weekend was a blur. He had awaken early Monday morning in the back seat of his car. He never made it home. The amazing thing was, he was bragging about his weekend and excitedly looking forward to another one. There was another individual I recall, several years later, who was looking forward to the annual Christmas party (which I never attended). The day came, and everyone was more dressed than usual. At the day’s close all who were going, left to go to the party which was at another location. When Monday came I was told that this individual basically nodded out in a corner and had to be helped home. This person too, bragged about his ability to ‘hold his liquor’, and proclaimed what a good time he had had. This is all very sad. I call it the ‘saddening blissfulness of sinfulness.’

What this condition amounts to is spiritual blindness. Sin has taken some so far, that they are absolutely unaware of their condition. They simply don’t recognize their need for Him. I know all the unsaved are in this condition in one form or another, but I’m speaking of an accelerated state. All men and women without Christ are lost, but these folks bask in the sinfulness of their sin; feeling no remorse and no regret, only a sense pride and accomplishment.

This ‘pseudo-joy’ is short lived. The duration of ‘short’ may vary, but eventually sin will take its toll on a life. The examples used above focus on alcohol and drunkenness, but sin of any color or stripe will rip at the fabric of the soul, leaving one lost, disillusioned and in all cases, in bondage to one degree or another. Whether it’s such socially ‘acceptable’ sins like self-righteousness, impatience, irritability, etc. (and the list can go on), the accumulation of it all takes its toll.

The cure for all of this and for whatever nags and ails the soul is  found in the Word of God. While scripture is full of verses that will bring comfort and deliverance, I gravitate to Luke 4:18, because it is so all-encompassing. It touches and addresses the human condition like no other. In it Jesus prophetically lays out His mission statement to His people. He says: The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised. We’ve all been to these places both emotionally and spiritually at one time or in one form or another, and it hurts.

The world offers its own solutions to these types of problems. For one, therapy is not the answer. Psychology promises freedom, but delivers little more than a very small bandage. Anyone who believes that psychology will alleviate what troubles them, and bring them any kind of lasting peace, is deceived. Here’s what scripture says: 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. (Col.2:8) Psychology is a mere stop-gap solution, if that. The world also offers other stop-gap solutions to life’s problems and addictions such as: patches, e-cigarettes, Methadone, and several variations of A.A. There are self-help books galore, claiming to tell you how to be the best you, or to live your best life now, with none of them holding any water and leaving those who seek their help dry. The world simply does what it knows. What they offer are simply ways around the truth, which is Jesus.

Jesus is and will continue to be the remedy for sin. That’s why we must not stop preaching the chain-breaking message of the cross of Jesus Christ. It’s for the blind, the bruised, the bound and the broken.

Jesus is the answer

For the world today

Above Him there’s no other

Jesus is the way!

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

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.

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.

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.