November 27, 2012
23 Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised;)
24 And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works:
25 Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching. KJV
These verses tend to upset or confuse a lot of folks, when it is really quite simple. Some want to ignore it completely. They want to only be part of the invisible church so that they can be invisible from the gathering of the believers to do church at Bishop Burger King or Monseigneur McDonalds. Maybe it is at the lake or in the tree stand, but they are all so close to God there. When I was in the military quite a few lads left the unit to see Friar Fastfood instead of going to a meeting of the saints.
Others go to the other extreme and say that you cannot have God as your Father if you do not have the Church as your Mother. Others do not go quite that far but will threaten you with fierce rumblings of God’s wrath if you are not at all four formal services and all the special meetings that might be called including a three week revival or evangelistic service.
If you read the first chapters of Acts it does not seem to many into the invisible church nor did they have to be threatened to attend church every day! A church supper, prayer and preaching every day sometimes until midnight was a thrill for them even though they worked from dawn to dusk. Of course, they did not have the distractions of ESPN or 500 other channels, Iphone, Ipad and aye, yi, yi and yada, yada, yada to fill their evenings.
Of course when you pray until the Spirit fills you so that you can preach the Word of God with boldness that takes some time. Also when you read an entire epistle at one service and not just a verse or a block of verses that takes some time as well. If all you have is one epistle or book of the Bible you read it again the next night and the next. Repetition is how we learn and that much repetition should bring about some learning and renewing of the mind. Is it any wonder they turned the world upside down? Might be a lesson there.
Nonetheless, while each person is actually the church, and not the building, the passage clearly states the the parts of the body or the building blocks of the church/kingdom are to meet regularly. Very hard for the folks given the gifts in Ephesians four to do their job if the people that they are to train for the work of the ministry are not there on a consistent basis.
Other than to receive training and blessings from church attendance you can see that you are to attend to give as well. You have gifts you need to use as they were given for the edification of the body. You are there to provoke one others as they provoke you to love and good works. Yes, I know some folks seem to think their gift is to exercise the negative connotation of provoke and they do all they can to provoke debate and disunity at every opportunity and at times the best of us are provoked to sack them like a quarterback or open up the can of whoop butt that they hand us and beg us to open it. They can make it very hard to deny their request, but let that trial of your patience strengthen you so that you can better provoke others to love and good works.
Unfortunately, we need to be provoked in the right way because there is so much to distract us and hold our attention and energy that we get off mission. We exercise our talents and gifts to make money to give our family nice things. Yet, we fail to realize that the most valuable things we can give them besides our time is an example of our good works for and love towards the saints as well of those outside of the household of faith. While we are provoking others it reinforces our soul as well and then others provoke us as well and hopefully all that provoking and reinforcing will keep us in a frame of mind to hear the Spirit and not the call of the flesh and satan. How often do we need that? Much more than we think. Daily worked very well for the first century church. Man, they had power and fruit. May we be able to get a portion of their mantle!
We are also to exhort one another as we see the day approaching. What day, Sunday? No, the day we stand before Christ at the BEMA. When we get there we will be feeling mighty stupid and ashamed that we made such a light thing of being in church to be trained and to serve. When we see how much we could have done and how little we did, it will be a shocker! Hence, the call to exhort one another.
The closer we get to that day the more we should do that and maybe the more often we should meet. Yet, for folks enraptured with the Rapture it is hard get people to put in four hours a week let alone a daily meeting. Sunday night service is gone in many churches as is Sunday School or even the old Training Hour in evening so where do we get discipleship training since most Sunday morning messages are evangelistic as that is the usual time a unbeliever may visit with his believing friend or relative? Some Wednesday nights are no longer prayer and bible study. The choir and band practices and maybe there is an AWANA program for the kids so the parents in the choir have their children care for while they practice. I was an Asst Pastor at a church once were two of the elders did not make it to the prayer meeting but showed up at the end to practice their music. Odd that.
So all some get is one sermon per week. Not exactly what this passage seems to be conveying at all. Yes, there are legitimate reasons to miss. If you are sick or dead, though if you are dead and saved you will be like the first century Christians in that you will be in worship daily. If the only job you can get forces you to work on the days the Body meets then you must provide for your family or you are worst than an infidel. YET! If there are others in the same situation then a service should be created for people who can’t make the normal meetings. Indeed, if we would get real then we would have a church service every day and even three shifts to make sure all can be ministered to despite any work obligations. That could be done, but folks would have to be spirit filled to make it happen.
If you can find suitable employment that would give you the days off to meet with the standard meetings of the Body then you should endeavor to work at that place. DO NOT! I repeat, DO NOT quit your job because you cannot get Sunday and Wednesday off. Make arrangements with your pastor to see if the staff can set up a service or Bible Study for you and others that may be in this situation or let him give you some guidelines on how to conduct a cell group as a part of the local church. You do not want to be a loose cell running about, but should work through the local Body. Many pastors dislike the cell group concept because of the abuses that they have seen. Done correctly, they can be a grand evangelistic tool and an aid to the Body, not a destructive cancer cell.
There used to be just one church per town. Now, it is like a buffet and though beef is beef you will find the same kind of church in several trays of the bar, but one has jalapenos, one doesn’t, one is BBQ and the other pot roast, but basically the same thing. This ought not to be if we are indeed one Body that has one Lord, one faith and one baptism. Most often, it is carnal preferences and man-made divisions keeping the Body from being one. Yes, sound doctrine will divide, but there is not reason to have eight churches with the same doctrine in the same town. Seven are redundant and poor stewardship. We need revival to fix that issue.
Well, now that we have that backdrop I am sure you are wondering how this the title go with this message. This is where that comes in. Besides the basic failure to see the need of church attendance or wanting a buffet or being footloose and fancy free there are some other excuses people use to avoid church. I have been hurt in church. Come on, let’s compare scars. I bet I have you beat. They are too hard line or strict at that church. There are nothing but hypocrites in the church. There are too many beliefs and heretics running around. Shoot, the devil shows up to the church more than the saints.
There is some truth in all of that. Yet, Jesus contended with all that and yet He still met in the synagogue with those people. Think about it. Who were the primary attenders? The Pharisees and the Sadducees were the main event. They ran the show. What kind of people were they?
The Pharisees were the hardliners. Man, they had things down to a science. They tithed mint, cumin and anise. Yes, Sir, they knew about tithing. They came up with all sorts of rules on how to wash hands, plates, etc. They can judge the people and know how a man could get out of caring for his parents and yet be righteous. Well, righteous by their definition anyway. They knew the rules as they made most of them up and you better not break the rules. That is why they hated Jesus. He broke all of their rules and taught people what was really the true will of God for their lives. Yes, He hit the hardliners right where they lived. He took their rules and rituals to the spiritual woodshed and wore them out.
The Pharisees have both the hardline and the hypocrite role down as they pretended to be holy and worshippers of God obedient to His laws, but they wrote laws supposedly as interpretation of God’s laws that were really their ideas to make them look good while taking the easy way out and yet binding heavy burdens on the populace. They were indeed hypocrites as they were good at acting the part, but that was all it was, just an act. Some really were seeking to do right like Nicodemus and even Paul who were zealous for God though they were not on target with His will. Even so, Jesus still showed up at the synagogue though it was full of hypocrites.
I need to throw in a couple of extra H words here and that is hospital and hurting. Many unbelievers think the saints should never fail and when they do they are quick to use the hypocrite word. A person who is ill needs a hospital and that is part of the role of the Church. The Great Physician runs the Church/Hospital and hurting people come to Him and it.
A person taking treatments for a physical ailment may forget to take his meds or may suffer a setback during therapy. So also, may a spiritually ill person suffer some setbacks during the therapy he is receiving from Christ and the Church. That does not make him a hypocrite or actor. It merely validates that he needs the therapy. So be sure you know if a person is hurting and off his meds or if he is merely playing a role before you hang the hypocrite label on him. Jesus came to the synagogue in spite of the hardliners and hypocrites to help the hurting.
Then we have the Sadducees who were the heretics of the day before the Church was birthed in Acts 2 and another set of heretics came on the scene. These lads also said they were seeking God, but instead of paying lip service like the Pharisees while making end runs around the God they claimed to be sovereign these lads just shrunk God to a level they could control or endure.
They did not believe hardly anything the Law and the Prophets said as they did not believe in miracles, angels or the resurrection of the dead. They basically had a God equal to what we might call the Social Gospel. The morals were fine, but we do not need a powerful or miraculous God. Just give us a form of godliness. After all, being a religious leader is a respectable and cushy position why do anything else? They would be equal to many of our Liberal preachers today as well as several cults. Use the Bible and the name of God, but deny the power. If they were honest they would be social workers or psychologists instead of preachers, but they aren’t and so they keep on the facade of belief. Hmm, that makes them hypocrites of even a higher degree than the Pharisees. Jesus did not stay away from the synagogue, but rather went to teach the truth and expose the heresy of the Sadducees and the hypocrisy of both groups.
That brings us to the final group, the heinous!
33 And in the synagogue there was a man, which had a spirit of an unclean devil, and cried out with a loud voice,
34 Saying, Let us alone; what have we to do with thee, thou Jesus of Nazareth? art thou come to destroy us? I know thee who thou art; the Holy One of God.
35 And Jesus rebuked him, saying, Hold thy peace, and come out of him. And when the devil had thrown him in the midst, he came out of him, and hurt him not.
36 And they were all amazed, and spake among themselves, saying, What a word is this! for with authority and power he commandeth the unclean spirits, and they come out.
37 And the fame of him went out into every place of the country round about. KJV
Yes, the devil and his minions show up regularly up at church. They are more faithful than the saints as they are there at every service. They are harassing the saints. They are stirring up tares to rip and tear up the church. They are deceiving the young and weak as well as depressing the aged.
We do not like to think about this in the Western or Civilized nations. We think all that demon stuff happens only in third world nations where voodoo and other heathen practices are prevalent. Demons in the West may act more civilized, but they are just as active. Indeed, they have hidden much of their activity by doing things we have come to accept as a part of aging or medical conditions and even some mental issues are more likely demonic activity rather than physical damage to the brain or hormonal imbalances. We have however made them all medical issues that we pump lots of drugs into a person when the real cure would be a spiritual healing of guilt or even spiritual warfare to end oppression from demons and in some cases possession.
Someone may ask at this point two questions. Are you a really a Baptist and are you saying all mental and physical illness are from demon activity? Yes, I am a Baptist. In fact, I am possibly more Baptist than some Baptists that might ask that question. Remember the Sadducees did not believe in angels, fallen or non-fallen. The Bible clearly teaches that demons exist and will be active in the world except for the bulk of the Millennium until the last battle at the end. That being so, why do we think we would be exempt from their shenanigans and tactics? Were there not demons involved in some of the illnesses that Jesus healed? Was not the demoniac exhibiting some symptoms that we see in some folks that are declared mentally ill?
They are not going to give up things that work though they may not always make them as plain as they did back then since they can do more damage if people believe that everything is just a medical condition or resulting from some trauma. In places where they are feared they can clearly manifest themselves as the fear brings about control and they love to see the fear and suffering in those they torment. In places where they are considered a figment of the imagination or in some other way have their existence denied they get the same thrill and maybe even a larger thrill by watching the fear and suffering one go through all the medical attempts for a cure like the woman with the bloody flux knowing full well that it is a waste of time since the real cause is not being addressed.
The problem is real and many mock the idea because there so many charlatans out there. Indeed, the demons are quite possibly in cahoots with some of them. They can cause the illness or duress and when the charlatan does whatever rigamarole he says will heal the person they stop doing what they were doing. The person may be healed, but still possessed or oppressed by the demon so they are not really cast out but using deception to lead people to believe the diatribe of a false prophet. After all, will not many say to Christ in that day that they did miracles and cast out devils in Jesus’ name, but He will cast them out and call those people workers of iniquity? Will not the Anti-Christ with lying wonders that will deceive everyone, but the elect?
Yet, we do need to become skilled in spiritual warfare and people can be made free. The Word is still powerful and the same Father, Son and Holy Spirit can cast out demons and heal. You just need discernment to know what is real and what is fake. The war is won. We are in a mop up exercise, but we still have weapons to use against the same enemies. Be wise. Jesus was not deterred from attending the synagogue because of the heinous ones. He merely cast them out. If God’s people get wise and do battle the heinous will leave or be thwarted in any plans that they have to hurt people and the mission of the Church.
So, what’s you excuse? Jesus did not use any. He had to deal with the hardliners, the hypocrites, the heretics and the heinous? What makes you better than Him to cop out and seek to appear to be spiritual? Some do not like organized religion. I have not seen any form of disorganized religion do any better. Indeed, Christ worked within the organization that God ordained and man corrupted until He fulfilled the Law. Then He established His Church and the Apostles gave us the rules to run the organized Church. Yes, it is a relationship, but all things are still to be done decently and in order as He is not the author of confusion. So scratch that argument as well.
If you are so much better than the average Christian then it is your duty to show up and exhort the brethren. Provoke us to love and good works. If you don’t, you may as well come and join up with the hypocrites because you are one of them if you do not do your duty. If you know to do good and don’t do it then it is sin so you are in a bit of a quandary. I guess it comes down to the old adage of put up or shut up. Come show us how to fix things or be quiet. You are a Pharisee or Sadducee so you have nothing to say in the matter. You have no dog in the fight.
Some might say as I did, that the church will fall down if you come in because of things that you have done. Are you more heinous than the demons who are faithful attenders? I have my doubts, so come and let Christ set you free. Come to the hospital and let Him heal your hurt then give you wisdom to help the other H word attenders.
I told a fellow once who felt like he did not fit in to watch me. When they throw me out then you worry. He told me later that he often checked to see if I was still there when he felt out of place. He is now a worldwide evangelist. Come on in. I am still here so there is room for you. If Jesus can hang out with such a sorry crew and do what He was called to do so can you. Hallelujah for the Cross! Maranatha!
November 23, 2012
Ephesians 5:17, Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is.
18, And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit;
19, Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord;
20, Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ;
21, Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God.
A few months ago I was experiencing a leak in my truck’s radiator and tracked it to a small crack which I promptly fixed with JB Weld®. It worked well for a long time and then I saw a drop or two here and there. I expected that as it was in a very rough place to reach and a drop or two was fine.
Lately, we have had a few cold mornings and my good old truck was not heating up as quickly. Where I am usually near roasting a few minutes it was at best tepid until I reached my job over thirty miles away. Yet, in the afternoon it would heat up almost immediately, but true to Texas weather, I did not need it then. I assumed it was the thermostat sticking, but was told I should check the fluid level.
What a shock that was as it took nearly a half of gallon of anti-freeze to fill it back up. The next morning my heater was functioning perfectly. My drop here and there still added up to a large loss over the months. Had I not noticed the heat loss I would have gone on driving until my level got to a dangerous level and seriously damaged my truck. It is a good thing that the seasons change.
It seems to be the same in our spiritual lives. We are commanded to be filled with the Spirit and the idea of being continuously filled with the Spirit indicates that in a sense we can leak. Not that He leaks out of us, but that we do not allow the control He once had over us. Often this happens like my small leak that we do not see or ignore as no major issue. When He is in our lives in full capacity we are good and warm in a cold world, but when His control is diminished we experience the coldness of the world and it cools us down.
At first, it may be a degree at a time over a long period so that we adjust and feel comfortable at a temperature that once made us reach for the control to turn up the heat or seek the Spirit’s control and guidance. We ignore warning signs like the drops on the driveway equal to our missing services now and then, losing joy in our ministry though we may continue in it out of duty or habit. The pastor’s sermons just aren’t what they once were and we nit pick them or watch the game or play Irritated Fowls on our tablet. Fellowships are a bother and the people just aren’t as close to each other as they were when we first joined. Little things that we just don’t notice. Prayer is short and sweet and done mostly at the table or a last minute thing in our beds as we pass out during them. Spouses and children are a burden rather than a joy. In fact, very little is a joy and we trudge on in our rut all the while telling everyone all is well because we have adjusted to the lack of heat and accept what we have as being as good as it gets.
Then the season’s change. I could have put off looking into my coolness issue because the cab did eventually warm up by the time I reached work. However, the weather is only starting to get cool. I knew it would be a tad intolerable if I waited until the middle of winter to fix it. Even so, I had the wrong idea for a fix as I thought it was the thermostat sticking halfway. My wife had her car in the shop and mentioned my issue to him and he suggested checking the fluid. I would have seen the low fluid at some point, but I was on the wrong track and would not have made the connection until after I filled the radiator. That might not have happened until I bought and replaced the thermostat causing me a needless cost for the part and a waste of time replacing it.
Seasons change in our lives as well and unless we notice the little leaks and the slight cooling we will not seek a fix in our lives until things get bitterly cold. We need not suffer that. Even if we figure we have an issue we might be very prone to surmising the wrong cause and spend needless a money and time on it. It may well take a concerned friend or a professional to evaluate and point you in the right direction.
We need to exercise preventative maintenance to avoid future issues. In the military we were required before we ever took a vehicle out of the motor pool to perform some routine checks of fluids, tires, etc. in an effort to not have something that should have been prevented take a vehicle offline and maybe jeopardize a mission.
We are truly on a mission from God and we need routine checks of our spiritual fluid to ensure that we are not jeopardizing our mission by breakdowns that could have been prevented. Just as we had service manuals in the military we also have one called the Bible. Everything we did to our vehicles had to be done according to the manual and so does what we do in our lives have to operate within the normal parameters according to our Owner’s manual.
These verses give us some Piety Maintenance checklist items. If we are to perform our mission successfully we need to be wise and understand the Commanding Officer’s orders, but to do that we need know what they are first. We find the SOPs (Spirit Operating Procedures) in the FM (Father’s Manual), the Word of God. Once we read the orders we can then ask for clarification so that we perform them. We are not left to meander about trying to reinvent the wheel. The Bible is our battle book and all the strategies we need for victory are all there and well tested.
You cannot fight a battle in a drunken state. You must be in full control of your faculties. Drunk people are controlled by the alcohol. This is called excess or as we might say without any redeeming value. There is no good in it and it leads to immorality, broken relationships, crime and a general waste of one’s life and resources. No soldier is called to that kind of mission though I and many of my comrades-in-arms have experienced such states of excess and riot. If it happened while we were on duty there were severe consequences and depending what we did even being drunk off-duty could land us in the Brig, get us demoted, fined and even discharged so there was no good time to be drunk if took the time to think about it.
We are Christian soldiers given armor and tactics to fight against our spiritual enemies. Being filled with booze, the world’s philosophies or our own desires will not bring about any victory in our live and is also excess. We are on duty 24/7 so there is no good time for us to be filled with anything or anyone else than the Holy Spirit. Indeed, just as antifreeze can be used to warm us in a cold world it can also be used to take the heat of the world off of us to keep our engines from overheating. It has to be controlled for that to happen and so do we if we expect to be kept from freezing or blowing a gasket when things get hot in this life.
We had cadences or Jody calls to help us keep in step and to lifts our spirits when training or the march got to be long and tiring. So also does the army of God have songs to do the same. That is why good music is very important though having sound doctrine being taught is of prime importance. While what genre(s) of music can be classified good can be debated there can be no debate that the lyrics are of utmost importance. Bad theology and false doctrine are bad be it set to classical music or heavy metal. I do believe that some genre’s are not appropriate, but I have had to change some words in old songs to change the doctrine. Some old songs paint a wrong view of Heaven and others have different flaws. They may not have been intentional or created by poetic license, but that does not make them right. Words and doctrine have lasting influence. Genres of music come and go, but the influence of words can impact a soul long after the genre loses favor among the masses. No matter what the form, psalms, hymns or spiritual songs be sure they are sound doctrine. These songs will go into your heart and influence you consciously or unconsciously so be sure what you put in there is gold and not dross.
I am writing this on the day after Thanksgiving which could also be called National Overeating Day or NOD since that is what happens when the tryptophan kicks in. I’m a ham man, myself. With that I just get a salted instead of the nods. 😉 It is good to pause for a day of reflection and gratitude, but it is supposed to be Thanksgiving every day as we are to be thankful every day. We do usually thank God it’s Friday unless our week ends on some other day. Yet, if we are breathing we should thank God every day for ALL things. Aye, there’s a rub. It is easy to thank God for the things we like and when life is a bowl of pit less cherries. Thanking Him for trials and difficulties is another thing.
We cop an attitude that God should never let anything bad happen. Hello! We live in a fallen world condemned to be destroyed and replaced. We live in a world of sinners driven by their own lusts and prodded on by satan and his minions. We also have a body of believers who are not always all that they can be and should be and you wonder why life has its bad moments? The question is not why do bad things happen to good people. The real question is why do good things happen to bad people? Grace and mercy is the answer to that one. We should be thankful that God did not take off after Adam fell and said I’ll check in on you every thousand years or so for a good laugh at how you are getting on without me. No, thankfully, He is with us every day doing things not obvious to and for us as well as things that should be obvious, but we are too dense to see. Sometimes the bad times are the only time we check out spiritual radiators and see we are running low on the Spirit’s control and seek a fix and a filling.
Many of the saints will answer, “Better than I deserve” when asked about how we are doing, but do we really fully comprehend that? If we got what we deserved we would be bouncing off the walls of Hell like a pin ball. Many of us saints would already be dead with nothing but wood, hay, and stubble to show for our lives. Indeed, what if the first time we just decided to sin and then claim 1 John 1:9 God just took us to the woodshed in Heaven and not chastise us here? There would not be any mega-churches for sure. God would be doing a lot more of direct calling to folks like Noah and Moses unless people started seeing the correlation between all the dead saints and the last thing they were doing. Yes, indeed we are doing better than we deserve and will be doing so for eternally as we do deserve heaven or anything good. We get good because of mercy and grace by virtue of the work of Christ paying for our sins and ever interceding for us. That should be worthy of daily thanks that will be preventative maintenance for our souls.
I am fixin’ to go to meddlin’ here. Submission to an American is a hard thing to understand. At least in the last fifty years or so. Since my hippie generation started challenging all the paradigms we have gone off the deep end in many things. I am not saying that it is wrong to challenge things for there would have been no Jonestown, Wacos or Hale-Bop tragedies had folks challenged these madmen. The problem came when it was not really a challenge to find truth and fix or enhance a paradigm, but rather just tear everything down for the sake of change. That is where my generation and the succeeding ones have gone astray. That may be another sermon in of itself.
If we cannot submit to any kind of authority or structure here we will have a hard time submitting to God and the structure of His church and kingdom. I can compare scars and tell you many stories of abuse of authority. All that does is condemn abuse of authority, but it does not negate the principle or need for authority. Bucking authority is what got us into the mess we are in. Satan and his followers bucked God’s authority and fell from Heaven into damnation. Satan deceived Eve into joining the rebellion and Adam jumped in and voila a damned world and race. Bucking God’s authority is never right. Bucking man’s can be right, but it can bring about less than desirable results. Good guys, yet there is none good, do not always win contrary to all the cowboy movies I ever watched.
God has set up the universe and He has the right to set the rules. Those who do not desire to follow those rules lack wisdom as they fail to see the panorama thus deciding that one piece is wrong because they do not see where that piece fits perfectly in the panorama. God has that view as the Creator and understands the place of the piece you don’t like and the logic for it being there. Hence, it makes sense that even if we cannot comprehend the value of the piece we need to trust the One who put it there. After all, we see what happens when man starts moving pieces or seeking to remove or destroy the various pieces and it is not a pretty sight.
Before man, the authority structure was God. For our feeble minds God shows a structure of authority in the Godhead by using the terms Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Though they are co-equal we see that the Son came to do the will of the Father and the Spirit is here to magnify the Son and not speak of Himself. He convicts the World of sin, leads men into all truth (if they will follow) and will bring to mind the things that Jesus said. Trying to completely understand that before we get to Glory is most likely futile. Our minds are not capable of understanding all things hence faith/trust in what we don’t know fully. We have plenty of things we can understand and have seen so we are not assassinating our brains when we exercise faith.
We are not told when, but at some point God created the angels. They were made by Him and for Him so not a surprise that they should be in submission to Him. Then we have the creation of the universe with man as the top creation. Should be no surprise that Adam should be in submission to the One who made him. Here comes some raised eyebrows and fussing. Then Eve, made by God for Adam, so no surprise she should be in submission to God, but what about Adam? Even though it is not spoken until after the fall by virtue of seeing the natural progression Eve would be in submission to Adam and then the children that would come after the fall would be in submission to both of them since they are one.
I can hear the “Ah Has” now as some will say, “See they are one and Galatians says there is no longer male or female, etc. “ Well, can I first say that Galatians is obviously taken out of context for the same writer inspired by God to write Galatians also wrote this and 1 Cor 11 showing authority structures that are to be eternal as they were set up pre-Fall and similar to the original structures established before Creation? Indeed, the man and woman are one, but since in believers God is in both of them and He in them there is a picture of the trinity. God, man, woman in a spiritual unity, but each with their role and in their place of authority. Remember, this is a picture and not the same as the trinity, but a similarity. God is the head of both man and the woman. Paul says that since the man was created first and we know woman was made for man so he has authority over the woman though they be one even as Jesus and the Spirit submit to the Father and the Spirit submits to Jesus though they are one and co-equal. Hence submission is not about equality. God is a God of order and structure. Indeed, the term submit comes from a military term. There is not mutual submission between a Captain and Major. The Captain is submissive to the Major even if the Captain has the same skill set and education. Two full Colonels assigned to a project will have one of them put in charge. If all things are equal, they go by date of rank. If COL A became a COL on May 1st and COL B became a COL on May 2nd then COL A is in command. There is no question of ability or equality. Adam has date of rank if nothing else. When only two people have to make a decision someone has to have the tie breaking edge. God gave that edge to Adam.
It is not about equality because men and women were deliberately made differently. The best marriage is between a man whose strengths are the weaknesses of the woman and the strengths of the woman are the weaknesses of the man making them stronger together than they will ever be apart with that union being strengthened even more by their submission to God. Submission is more about strength and often survival, not fairness or equality. When the man abdicates and the woman dominates they are not right with God so the strength is not there so the marriage disintegrates. For sake of length, I won’t go into the rest of the structures shown here and in other passages. As you can see from our culture and even among Christians there has been a slow leak over a long time that has left many frozen in this area and content to stay that way.
If we will go back and ask God to plug the leaks and refill us and then daily do the piety maintenance given to us in this passage we will be able to redeem or buy back the time in these evil days and make them profitable to God, us and our fellow humans. We will enjoy the fruit of the Spirit and be cold to Worldliness and warm to the things of God. Then our journey will be more pleasant no matter if it rains, snows, sleets, hails, or we are ducking tornadoes. We can have a long rough road or a short smooth one for all that will matter is the final destination. We will be able to find some pleasant scenery no matter what the season of our life.
Are you leaking? Have you seen some signs in your life that you are cooling off? Now is the day to be fixed and filled! Do it now! Maranatha!
November 18, 2012
34 Then stood there up one in the council, a Pharisee, named Gamaliel, a doctor of the law, had in reputation among all the people, and commanded to put the apostles forth a little space;
35 And said unto them, Ye men of Israel, take heed to yourselves what ye intend to do as touching these men.
36 For before these days rose up Theudas, boasting himself to be somebody; to whom a number of men, about four hundred, joined themselves: who was slain; and all, as many as obeyed him, were scattered, and brought to nought.
37 After this man rose up Judas of Galilee in the days of the taxing, and drew away much people after him: he also perished; and all, even as many as obeyed him, were dispersed.
38 And now I say unto you, Refrain from these men, and let them alone: for if this counsel or this work be of men, it will come to nought:
39 But if it be of God, ye cannot overthrow it; lest haply ye be found even to fight against God. KJV
6 When they therefore were come together, they asked of him, saying, Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?
7 And he said unto them, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power.
8 But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth. KJV
Note, that the ones who were able to gain a following in Israel were folks that offered a political solution to the people’s problems and all those movements failed. Yet, even after Jesus spent three years teaching that He was the solution to their spiritual problems the soon to be Apostles instead of Disciples asked about restoring the physical kingdom when they were already in the Kingdom of God called to be its Ambassadors.
Times change, but the nature of man does not. There should not be any despair over the condition of your physical kingdom. You are an Ambassador from the Kingdom of Heaven. Yes, be salt and light and seek to help in any way you can, but maintain your focus on your calling. Many earthly kingdoms are in deep financial, political, and moral trouble. There is no satisfactory solution because they got there by their own wisdom denying God’s call to His wisdom. Thus, seeking more carnal knowledge and policies are a waste of time. If we would seek more of His wisdom as His Ambassadors then we would have more influence in this world as we point others to the true King and bring them into His Kingdom. If we would be filled with His Spirit and walk worthy of our vocation we would see healing to at least some degree.
Yet, we know that the end of the world is coming. Indeed, from a medical viewpoint the world is terminal and all we can do is some hospice work. Yet, unlike hospice we are not to make the world comfortable as it nears the end but rather to inject truth so that while the body may die the spirit will live in the right environment in eternity. As a song that is oft quoted by one of my co-workers, “everything is broken.” Anything man makes breaks including kingdoms. Only the Kingdom of God is eternal. Therefore;
12 Wherefore lift up the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees;
13 And make straight paths for your feet, lest that which is lame be turned out of the way; but let it rather be healed. KJV
You are children of God and Ambassadors so fulfill your calling with joy. It is the Word energized by the Spirit that brings life and peace to the kingdoms. If you cannot change the kingdom then concentrate on its citizens and help transfer their citizenship to the Kingdom of God. Help to turn from darkness to Light. That is our calling and mission, not boycotts and protests. Know ye not that ambassadors are pulled out when their mission is done? We are awaiting our recall to our home country. Occupy until He comes and delivers that message personally with the sound of the trump and the voice of the archangel. Maranatha!
November 8, 2012
While I went to bed election night discouraged and woke up a couple of times during the night, I kept reminding myself that God is still on the throne. Then this morning I woke up with just a bit of a song running through my head that I could not shake. I recognized it though I had not sung it in some time but could not remember any more lyrics other than “There’s A Great Day Coming.” On the way to work I contemplated that phrase and thought about the possibilities of what that might mean to me in this situation.
I started to get pumped up when I thought about the Rapture and such since that will be a great day coming and possibly very soon so maybe God was offering me this song as a comfort. Then I started thinking about the church (it is a thirty plus mile drive to work so I have plenty of time to think) especially after the radio preacher starting talking about revival. I really got pumped when I saw that there very well could be a great day coming for the church to have revival.
We are now in a place where we have to actually trust God instead of politics. Yes, it has come to that. That the culture is becoming hostile to the faith is a good sign! The Church always grows stronger and faster in adversity rather than prosperity. We have been too comfortable and God is moving us out of our comfort zone and this should cause us to focus our priorities on the things that are eternal as we were always meant to be focused. I am excited as to the possibilities to minister in this climate that will make us more dependent upon the Spirit’s power than political or financial power. We can maybe concentrate on the mission, message and the masses and not the mansions and moguls.
When I got the chance I looked up the song to get the rest of the lyrics. It was quite an eye opener for while my thoughts were not completely off there are other connotations of the word great and indeed it is a great day, but not necessarily a wonderful day much like while I am sure the Great White Throne is quite grand or great in quality and architecture it will not be great for those who appear upon it any more than the BEMA will be for the believer. Are you ready for the judgment day brought other thoughts that even more affirmed the need to get back to 1st Century Christianity and dump the silliness of the 21st Century. People need to be pulled as firebrands from the fire by people who have a fire up under them and a fire burning within them so that they will be ready for that great day. Since judgment starts with the house of God, we may see some hard times as God refines His people with fire to burn off the chaff and trappings of this world so we can be those people on fire for Him. It is a great day to seek to be like Wesley when he responded to the question of how he drew a crowd by saying, “I set myself on fire and people come and watch me burn.” May we all set ourselves on fire because of that great day is coming and we want it to be great in a positive way for us as well as for as many others who also need to be ready. Maranatha!
November 6, 2012
When I was a new Christian I wanted to be like Peter and Paul. I wish I had been more specific because I have found that I have a lot of their weaknesses, but I was hoping for their strengths. Everyone has a hero in the Word that they wish they could be like and most of us while we want to be like Jesus usually have another person we are especially fond of since being truly Christlike seems less attainable than being like one of the hired hands. Indeed, while Christ was every bit human the being every bit God as well overwhelms us whereas all the rest of the folks in the Word were just folks that God empowered.
More often than not, we look at all their exploits and put aside their foibles and failings. We also look at the end result of God working in their lives without truly seeing the process or path God took them through. In some ways that may be good in that in our early years after conversion as it might scare the fire out of us or discourage us from seeking to grow if we saw the full picture clearly. The downside is that as God put us through processes and takes us down paths we may still get scared or faint because we do not understand what is happening to us especially if we think that everything for the Christian is supposed to be a primrose path of prosperity and giddy happiness.
I had no idea what I was asking for when I asked to be like Peter and Paul. I was looking at the Day of Pentecost and Mars Hill and missing a lot between and after the mountain top experiences. Peter is definitely a soul brother and I relate to him very well especially the weak side of him. Right after Jesus, Peter is the one I want to meet and hug.
I would love to have the apologetic and polemic skills of Paul. I am not really good at apologetic debate. For me, that is equal to Timothy doing the work of the evangelist. Not my strong suit at all. I am more gifted in the polemic side dealing with doctrine and things inside the faith, but I am no match for Paul. I write expansively like him, but I am not on the best seller lists anywhere like Paul’s writings albeit he was just the person the Holy Spirit used to write those books. Odd is it not, that we call a person who does the writing for someone else a ghost writer. In the case of Scripture, it is actually the man that is the ghost writer for it is he that the Holy Ghost is inspiring. English is a wild language at times. No wonder it can be hard to learn and understand.
When we look at Paul at the end of his life and ministry we see a man of great spiritual success though from a human perspective, not well off. Much of his best writing came written from a jail chained to four guards in abject squalor and filth. When he was free to roam and speak neither his stature or style was truly that of a popular speaker especially by our standards. He would have a hard time getting an audience today because he could not ever be on the cover of GQ nor was his speech erudite and polished. Yet with all that going against him he had a great following then and now though he still has some detractors here who are not found of some of his doctrines as they do not fit the culture nor the religious fads of our day. Still, though some love him and some hate him he is still the one of the best read authors and theologians of all time subordinate only to Jesus and John the Baptist in his lifetime. It might even be debatable as to if he was greater than Moses since Paul’s influence is greater though both are read in the Church.
He was an awesome man among men even though for much of his ministry he was a wounded man. He was wounded by friend and foe alike. The Jews and pagans hated him. There were preachers preaching who were only doing it to hurt him. My suspicion is that Paul would not ordain them because their hearts were not right so they took advantage of him being in jail and the poor communication of the day to get someone to ordain them or became self-ordained and preached knowing it would get back to him at some point. However they went about it we know it was of strife and envy. It does appear that they at least preached a sound gospel so Paul comforted himself with that fact even though he knew their motives were not pure.
Alexander the Coppersmith did him much harm. Hymanaeus and Philetus preached false doctrine that overthrew the faith of some which hurt Paul deeply. Friends deserted him like Demas, Phygellus and Hermogenes. At one point all had forsaken him and he was alone. The very people he had won to Christ in Corinth questioned his apostleship when the pretty boys with PhDs and pedigrees came up from Jerusalem.
This would be enough to defeat forty dedicated men, but then Paul had the strength that he drew from His conversion. Many men have doubted their call to preach, but not Paul. The road to Damascus experience could not be denied and yet in that call it was told that Paul would learn how much he would have to suffer to serve Christ.
God also provided him with the comfort of faithful men like Luke, Epaphras, Onesiphorus, Philemon, and many others he mentioned in the epistles. Then of course, he had his son in the faith, Timothy. Though he was wounded in the battle for Christ, God provided him the balm of the Spirit’s presence and the sweet smelling odor of men faithful first to God and then to Paul.
You can imagine with all that betrayal and such that it had to be wearying to his soul. Yet, how much more was he made weary by the things his body endured as well. He said that he bore the marks of Christ in that he had his scars because of his service to Christ, but he also bore whips as Christ had.
One has only to read Paul’s resume in 2 Corinthians 11 to see how weary he had to be in body. How many of us would endure half of what he did physically and still stay in ministry? Very few, indeed. There have been many of our brethren who have gone through great trials and torture for Christ with shouts of joy and gone off to their deaths singing while American Christians quit church and quit serving for the paltriest of things.
I have read where Christians living under Communism, who may not even have a whole book of Scripture let alone a bible, go to the grave of a martyr and ask God to pass the mantle to them as their ordination. Yet, we have the Word in numerous forms from printed to digital on our computers and phones but we barely make it to church and if the weather or something else is not the best we will sit at the house. Don’t ask us about sacrifice. We only want blessings. We wonder why we do not have the power and see the things Paul did. I wonder why when those who suffer persecution has so much less than what we have and yet they see God move in ways we shall never see until we see the trouble that for the most part only they and Jesus see.
Can we add the thorn in the flesh to this weariness? Paul asked three times for its removal. It had to be a real burden no matter what your opinion as to the real nature of it. It was wearisome and yet God said that His grace was sufficient. Remember that Paul had been quite prominent in the Jew’s religion and he had a lot that he had been proud about though he now considered it dung. With all that Paul had seen, though I do not believe he was the one who had been to Heaven, and all that God had done through him it would be quite easy to get a case of the big head so God gave him this wearisome burden and then gave grace to bear it. I am afraid that there are far too many of us that need such a thing in our lives as we have not come anywhere close to the experiences of Paul and yet we tend to get the big head forgetting where we came from and start to Lord it over the flocks of God when our job is to feed them, not fleece and flail them.
Read 2 Corinthians 1:8-11 and see the weariness of Paul and his comrades. I don’t see being “pressed out of measure, above strength, insomuch that we despaired even of life” as part of a prosperity, health and wealth gospel, which is another gospel, not the one first delivered to the saints that we are called to contend for and defend even with our lives.
What was the purpose of that time? “But we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God which raiseth the dead.” 1 Cor 1:9 The wounds and weariness brought him into the relationship and understanding of the God who delivers and is our strength who has delivered. is delivering. and will deliver us. With all that, where do we find Paul at the end of his life?
He is still warring. Paul knew who his real enemies were and while he had to call names of heretics and such he still knew that the weapons of our warfare were spiritual and not carnal. His real enemies were not the flesh and blood men who wounded and wearied him. The real battle was against the devil and his demons. Indeed, he laid out our armor in Ephesians 6. We really do not have any excuses for our spiritual losses and our sins. We have the victory in Christ, but our faith is small. Fortunately, since it only takes mustard seed faith move mountains it requires even less to be saved or we would all be doomed.
Though he fought with lions, wolves in sheep’s clothing and vicious dogs spiritually speaking and was now in prison soon to be executed he could still tell Timothy to fight the good fight of faith. By continuing to pray, reading the parchments, preaching the truth and exhorting the saints he was in the fight right to the end. He was wounded and weary, but he was till warring.
He did not say I have fought the good fight as one who fought for a noble cause and lost. He said it as a man coming home after being in the trenches for four years at the end of WWII. He had fought the good fight and he was going home a victor to wear the crowns of life, martyrdom and whatever other crowns Christ gives out for faithful service. He was not dragged to the executioner’s block battered and beaten down. I believed he walked with a swagger or as one overjoyed to be going to meet an dear friend or loved one for so he was as he would soon be with the One that He first met on a road with a mission to destroy the faith he has now preached. He was reading the Word of God right up to the time that he stood before the living Word of God who was, is and always will be the King of Kings and Lord of Lords! The soldier has finished his battles and the runner has finished the course with joy! Glory!!!!!
Do a more in depth study of your bible hero and see if you really want to be like them. Remember, God does not always give the details so consider what you might not see that could have been their path and process to what victory you see they had in their life and ministry. It might just scare you into considering someone else as a hero, hopefully not Demas.
You might ask if I still want to be like Paul? I freely admit that I do not like pain and I cannot imagine going through half of what he did and still survive. It would be a miracle! I want to be liked and loved. I have had my share of bad friends and foes and really don’t want to go through much of that again. It does hurt and wound. Yet, I would love to do the great things that he did and to be able to get to my last moments and be able to say, out of a heart of phileto love that Peter had, O God! I have been sorely wounded! O God! I am weary beyond my comprehension and yet, O God, you have found me warring and I will do so to the last breath!
It scares the fire out of me to even write that for I wonder if I have any more clue of what I am saying than in my youth when I declared my desire to be like Peter and Paul while making a vow that I had no sense in making for the devil must have taken it as a gauntlet thrown in his face for the war was definitely on. All I can say is that if God does call me into that life of ministry I will definitely need His grace to endure it and anything good that comes out of it will be His working through me by the power of the Spirit. It will surely be “not by power, not by might… but my Spirit.” Maranatha!!!!
November 4, 2012
Why is this church here or what really is our mission?
Are we truly fulfilling our mission?How did we get here?
Were we a split or the first of our faith?
If a split, was it because of doctrine or something/someone else?
If we are the first, have we fallen from our first love position or is our written statement of faith different from what we are doing and is that why we are no longer the only one of our faith in the area?
What makes us so fundamentally different than other churches in town especially those of like faith?
What do we have to offer community and believer that the other churches do not offer?
Do we really have anything to offer?
What have we done in the last five years that was significant?
How many pastors have we had in the last five years
?Have we actually seen any growth in the last five years or just turnover of personnel (sheep stealing and wandering)?
If nothing changes will we even exist in five years?
How many of us will be living with children in another area, in a nursing home or the grave?
If all the churches mentioned in Revelation are gone is this one meant to last or can it be gone though it has a 100 years of history? Will it be missed? Has it already died, but we refuse to turn off the life support machines?
These are hard questions. I believe that if many churches would take a hard look at themselves and answer these questions honestly many would close and seek to merge with a group that has a more positive set of answers. If there are five churches in the area that honestly see they should close, but there is no thriving church of like faith then maybe they should consider merging because maybe God would bless them together whereas He is not doing so because they are apart. Apart they are dead, but together He may bring about their resurrection. Imagine what could be done with the funds raised by selling needless buildings and lands that suck up all our financial resources and manpower so that we cannot do missions locally or foreign.I am not talking about one ecumenical 1st Cathabaptapentalutherpiscopal Church of Christ. I am talking about the numerous of the same faith or doctrine. From a Baptist standpoint, there should be no more than one SBTC, BGTC or IFB Baptist church in a 20 mile radius. If the doctrine is the same then more than one is a game. We are not called to play games. We are called to be Christians and even Christ merged two folds, Jews and Gentiles, into one. Surely, we can cut down on the number of folds if we can’t be one large one.
We are in perilous times and we need to make spiritually mature, doctrinally sound and good stewardship decisions. Even the world says that united we stand and divided we fall. I would rather we stand. Maranatha!