When you have lived a long time in a negative environment one of the most difficult things, after you are removed from it, is to accept praise.

Often you mistrust it because when people praised you in the past they usually wanted something from you so you doubt the sincerity of the current praise.

Sometimes you find it so refreshing that you act like an excited puppy wetting himself while being petted and begging for it not to end. You feel like a starving man given a plate at a buffet and overeat on that praise making yourself and the giver sick to the stomach.

Sometimes you may allow it to go to your head and then do something unwise bringing on the criticism. After all, in the workplace, one aww nuts wipes out ten attaboys. You may even purposely sabotage yourself because you are more comfortable with criticism.

Usually, you feel uncomfortable and unworthy of it so you downplay it discouraging people from praising you because they feel it is unappreciated.

If any of this is you, rejoice that you escaped the environment that made you this way. Thank God for the freedom. Ask Him to help you discern what is real praise and what is manipulating flattery.

When presented with sincere praise, receive it graciously and with true humility knowing that it is God who has given you whatever talent you have as well as the opportunity to use it. You have nothing of yourself, but God loves you enough to give you what you need to become what He created you to be so walk in gratitude for that love giving Him the praise.

1Cor 4:7 For who maketh thee to differ from another? and what hast thou that thou didst not receive? now if thou didst receive it, why dost thou glory, as if thou hadst not received it?

Those who criticize you falsely have not read this verse and think they are special and you are not. Do not listen to them. You are special. God loves you and made you different and gifted you differently.

Learn the difference between constructive and destructive criticism. Reject the destructive and heed the constructive. It will also help you deal with praise.

Live with what God says about you not what the people in your past said or what people may be saying now that is destructive. They may have come from the same background and only know criticism so that is all they can give.

Don’t listen to the devil. He criticized the perfect God so all he knows how to do is be critical and make unwise choices.

Listen to God for He will do all things for the good of those who are His children. That may include some constructive criticism, but it will be done in love and peace and righteousness will come from it. He is also full of praise for those in His Son as they seek Him and obey.

Be blessed and encouraged today. Jesus died for you because He loved you sees great potential in you as a child, warrior, and co-heir of the Kingdom. Receive His love and praise. Maranatha

Not What If, What Now

March 28, 2017

Php 3:13  Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before,
Php 3:14  I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.

There must come a time when we quit thinking about what if and ask God what now or we will never be fulfilled or fruitful.

The what ifs from the past will never happen. Forget about them. Most of the what ifs we worry about in the future will not happen, but they will cripple you with fear and doubt so kick them to the side. The future is in His hands and He has a fruitful one for you if you will seek Him and pray for the what now.

Father, my what ifs have only brought me sorrow, guilt, regret and fruitless days. Redeem and restore them in the what nows. Show me what you have for me now and as I walk in that allow my faith to grow and squelch the what ifs.

Allow me to anticipate with joy and faith that what You have for me in the next what now will bring glory to You and reveal more of You and our relationship to me. That will mean at the end of my days the walking in the what nows will wash away the what ifs that were hurtful with the glory of the what nows that were wonderful. Amen and Amen!

Long-winded Preachers

March 19, 2017

I posted on FaceBook a video by Todd White that is nearly two hours long. It amazes me that people willingly sit to hear him that long.
I am always hearing people complaining about long-winded preachers. I had one deacon that felt seventeen minutes was good enough and if you cannot get it done in seventeen minutes you need to work on it.
Todd speaks of watching three hours of TV. We will stay for extra innings on a work night even if it means we only get fours hours of sleep.
How long did Jesus preach when He had to feed the multitude? People worked from sunup to sundown and yet they listened to Paul preach until midnight.
Neh 8:2 And Ezra the priest brought the law before the congregation both of men and women, and all that could hear with understanding, upon the first day of the seventh month.
Neh 8:3 And he read therein before the street that was before the water gate from the morning until midday, before the men and the women, and those that could understand; and the ears of all the people were attentive unto the book of the law.
The morning started at 6 AM so approximately six hours and no music. Many are glad to sing 45 minutes and only have a 20-minute devotional. If you sing 45 then the preacher should have at least 60. The music is to prepare your heart from the sermon so if it takes 45 minutes to do that you need maybe a 90-minute sermon to get the job done.
When I was a Baptist, my Pentecostal friends said the problem with the Baptists is that they leave before the Holy Spirit shows up. That is bad theology because He is always there, but He does not always have control of the service, but I got there point.
Thankfully, no Pentecostal ever complains about the length of a sermon because the Holy Spirit will never want them to leave before He is done. Every Pentecostal preacher who reads this would say, “From his mouth to God’s ear” for they know that is not accurate. We have folks that would nearly agree with that Baptist deacon.
Set the crockpot for 1 PM instead of 12:30 and forget about the sporting event. You will not starve and the team will win or lose without you.
Count your blessings that the morning service is not six hours and the evening service until Midnight. Even more, be glad we are not meeting daily like the early Church. Then again, maybe we should mourn because we do not have the attention span and zeal they had. After all, they turned the world upside down and we could sure use that today! Maranatha!

Sweat Of Thy Brow

February 25, 2017

Gen 3:17 And unto Adam he said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life;
18 Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field;
19 In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.
Psalms 90:10 The days of our years are threescore years and ten; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, yet is their strength labour and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away.

Ever since the Fall, we have been trying to overcome the death sentence that was given.  We will fail at that and I think most people realize it so the alternative is to try and delay it as long as possible.  At one point, long life was really long with 969 years being the greatest age ever achieved.  Then God lowered the possibility to 120 years or as some think there were 120 years before the flood and then ages started decreasing. (Genesis 6:3)  Jacob lived to be 130, but 120 may have been an average just as we see in Psalms 90.  Even in David’s time, the average was 70 though by reason of strength you might make it to 80.  Obviously, not everyone made it to 70 because of war, disease, murder and such.  Some lived longer, but in the end, the average was 70-80.

Medical science was not very advanced until many centuries after David and even then many died of various epidemics and numerous wars. The 2oth Century saw marvelous achievements in medical science.  We have a vast array of labor-saving devices to the point of we once were paid to exercise by working to be paid and now most of us work to pay for our exercise at the club.  In fact, the mental stress we put on ourselves and the massive debt we accrue puts us in constant fear of losing it all and killing us by MIs caused by that fear.  We were meant to earn our bread by the sweat of our brow, not the furrow of the brow causing us to enter the furrow we call a grave at much earlier ages than 70.

So with all the advancement of medical science and science in general have we extended the average age of man?  Not really,  if you look at the stats in the link below.  The world average is actually barely over 67.  True some countries squeak a tad past 80, but so many are far less that the world average for men is 65 and women 69.5.

Before ladies started entering the workforce and developing the bad habits of men they used to average living 7 years longer than men and now 4.5.  I suspect as we go on that may shrink some more.  Ironically, the US with its medical marvels is 38 on the list, but we are right in the 70-80 range.  Guess we are not getting the bang for the buck we wished we would have gotten.

So, while we have some centenarians and centenarian-plus folks around the globe, we are still stuck on a 70-80 cycle.  Someday, with much surgery and replacement parts, we may get a VIP to live to 150 or so, but that rarity will still not get us over the hump.

Indeed, some of that age decrease has most likely come from tampering with our foods to try and make farming more productive and overcome the pests and thorns that hamper production.  Again, technology had removed the sweat of the brow for most of farming and animal husbandry, but that furrow of the brow thing is still more deadly.

Maybe we should have shunned technology for many things so we still could exercise and earn at the same time rather than having to work to pay for it and take more of our time to do it.  We will one day escape the curse in the new Heaven and new earth with a bit of reprieve in the Millennium where someone dying at 100 will be considered a child.  (Isa 65:20)  Until then make your 70-80 count and be sure you receive Christ and are saved early because you may leave long before 80.  Maranatha!

Average Life Span Expectancy Statistics

End The Bondage!

February 18, 2017

Gal 5:1 Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.
2 Behold, I Paul say unto you, that if ye be circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing.
3 For I testify again to every man that is circumcised, that he is a debtor to do the whole law.
4 Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace.
5 For we through the Spirit wait for the hope of righteousness by faith.
6 For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision; but faith which worketh by love.
Many of the Jewish believers struggled with the transition from Law to Grace and tried to merge the two in an attempt to reconcile their questions and doubts.
Many Gentiles also have had this problem and we see this admixture in many true sects of Christianity as well as various cults.
This passage alone should put the debate to bed even tough many Messianic believers would disagree. Circumcision was the very first step into entering the covenant and indeed the very first expression of the Law though it proceeded Moses. It was Abraham that God first gave this instruction and then it was codified by Moses.
A child born into a Hebrew home and circumcised would then be taught to follow the Law. It was the job of the Father to do this or to hire a tutor. Timothy being the child of a Greek father and a Jewish mother was taught only because his mother and grandmother had him tutored since his father would not have fulfilled his responsibility.
The Jerusalem Council in the Book of Acts clearly stated that the Gentiles were not required to keep the Law of Moses. They were only given certain instructions on four areas after Peter argued the case against requiring them to keep the Law as does Paul throughout his epistles.
You cannot pick and choose which laws you keep, Paul says if you are circumcised you are a debtor obligated to keep them all. You cannot mix Law and grace. This is why they had fallen from grace, in that they were walking under the Law and not grace forfeiting the benefits that Christ meant for them to have under grace. If you are justified by the Law you have made useless the blood of Christ. It has no effect or benefit for you.
If we hope for the righteousness that is by faith how can we be justified by Law? If the act that brought people into the covenant and bound them to the Law no longer means anything than as far as justification goes the Law means nothing as well. The Law is righteous, but it condemns and requires daily sacrifices. The New Covenant brings life for Christ sacrificed once and sanctified forever those who put their faith in Him.(Heb 10:10-14)
Therefore stand fast in your liberty, Your justification is in Him, not in the Law or rituals and requirements made up by men. Need more proof?
Col 2:9 For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily.
10 And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power:
11 In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ:
12 Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead.
13 And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses;
14 Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross;
15 And having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it.
16 Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days:
17 Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ.
Seek Him and He will give you the Spirit so that you can walk in liberty,
2 Corinthians 3:17 Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.

From Warning to Wonderful

February 5, 2017

A Warning With A Promise

We all have had warnings given to us. Some were meant to help us as “Look out for that car!” “Don’t touch that! It’s hot!” They had implied promises because that car will hurt you will get burned. Other warnings were threats with negative promises. “Don’t make me pull this car over!” The implied promise was that something very negative would happen to you and often you knew what unless your parents liked to change things up so you might get a surprise.

I once asked my son if he wanted me to blister him. He said no quite emphatically! I asked if he knew what that meant and he said no just as emphatically. He had no clue, but it did not bode well or sound good and he wanted no part of it. Sometimes we do not know the promise, but the tone in which it is given is enough to change our course of action or attitude.

Most did come out with the promise being very clear. “If you do not quit crying I will give you something to cry about.” “Don’t make me say it again or you’re grounded.” “That phone pings one more time during supper and I am taking it away for a month!’ A co-worker and I once threatened to break a co-worker’s phone if it pinged one more time with an annoying sound.

Jesus gave a stern warning to Peter at the Last Supper. Fortunately, there wee actually two positive promises along with the warning.

Luke 22:

31 And the Lord said, Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat:

32 But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren.

Early in my Christian walk, I aspired to be like Peter and Paul. The problem was I was only looking at their good days and not their bad days as well. I do seem to have many of their weaknesses, but I was hoping for their strengths. After Jesus, I want to meet my soul brother, Peter, and then Paul, my mentor.

This is a serious warning Peter is being given, but I imagine Jesus giving it in a very loving tone. When someone said your name twice in that day it was almost like when your parents called you a couple of times and you did not respond. That is when they broke out all three names. Repeating Simon twice was to make sure he was listening.

To tell him that Satan desired to have him would make you think Peter was really going to pay attention. The desire was in the intensity of a demand! Satan was saying something like, “Let me have him! I’ll show you what your lead man is like!” It wasn’t a small request. Satan wanted to have at him much like he wanted God to remove the hedge from around Job. Picture the meanest junkyard dog snarling and straining at his chain to come for you and you may have a nearly accurate picture of satan desiring Peter.

Sift like wheat is not a small thing. Many of us remember Mom or MeMaw making homemade pie crusts or dumplings. She would roll out her dough after having placed the flour in a sifter to get out the clumps. The sifting satan wanted to do was more like threshing wheat where you thrashed and thrashed it to separate the chaff from the wheat. He had a real beating in mind for Peter, not just a soft sifting like Mom’s flour. It was a knock down drag out desire. He had that desire, but as we shall see, I think Jesus put limits on satan just like God did for Job, but the sifting was still painful.

The wonderful promise with this warning is that Jesus said that He had prayed for Peter. That mitigated some of the devil’s plans right there because Jesus has never had a prayer denied. He had not left Peter alone at the mercy of the devil. He had covered Peter with a bulletproof vest with that prayer.

I think it is really important to see what that prayer was for Peter. It was that his faith failed not. It was not that Peter’s works would fail not because his works were going to fail. His works were going to crash and burn. Jesus prayed for faith to remain in the sifting and after the failure of his works. It is all about faith as it has been from the Garden.

Pete needed to be converted, not in the salvation sense, but from trusting in himself. When he was changed from self-dependence tChrist-dependent, he was to strengthen the brethren. Not only does this mean strengthen their faith, but also to turn them in the right direction and confirm them. Peter was a leader, but to properly lead his brethren and strengthen them he needed to be submitted to Christ and dependent on Him so Peter could lead his brethren to do the same and confirm or strengthen them in their faith and walk.

A Wild Vow

Luke 22:

33 And he said unto him, Lord, I am ready to go with thee, both into prison, and to death.

How did Peter respond to this warning and promise? It was almost like he did not hear most of it. He responds with a wild vow that just gave the devil more ammunition to go after him. Was he sincere? I am sure. Was he prideful? Oh yes. Matthew tells us that Peter said that though all men would be offended, he would not be offended.

Be careful about making vows especially if you are a new believer or under some sort of stress. Your zeal or situation can make you give a foolish vow. Jephthah made a vow that left him without heirs because he said he would offer up the first thing to greet him after his military victory as a burnt offering. His only daughter was the first to greet him and he should have figured she would the first. She lived the rest of her life unmarried and he had no grandchildren. He meant well and it was it was made in gratitude for victory, but not thought out and very unwise.

I also made a very foolish vow many years back and satan used it to sift me like wheat. That is why Luke 22:31,32 became my life verses and call to ministry. I was only a couple of months in the Lord when in a moment of sheer joy I said, “Lord, even if satan convinced I was going to Hell I would still preach for you because You are the truth.” That was insanely or inanely unwise because what happened shortly thereafter was an incident that made me think that I committed the unpardonable sin and my life cratered into a place where I did not want to live because I lost His love and did not want to die and go to Hell.

I look back and I can see how the Lord tried to comfort me the night I did that, but satan knew that the fear of abandonment was my Achilles heel. I was so distraught that I could not be comforted. Pastors and friends tried to comfort me and often I quoted the verses they wanted to use, but could not quite remember the verse or they would start it and I would finish it.

I was not a believer in visions at the time as I was a good Baptist. However, in a moment of tears and regret, I saw myself behind a pulpit preaching. I told the Lord I had to talk to someone who could help and a name popped into my head. I called that person and when I was telling him what happened and what I was going through he said. “God must have something really great for you to do.” I thought he was nuts as I was doomed, not ordained, appointed or anointed!

Yet, through many changes and struggles I have been in ministry for many years. Just as I thought my change or conversion process was fairly complete, I ended up in an Assembly of God church when I would have told you I would never join just five or so years ago. The process is obviously not complete.

Still, I do not recommend making any kind of vow without much prayer. The heat of a moment, joyful or sorrowful, is not the time to make a vow. Better to never vow than to vow and not keep it.

A Wavering Faith

Luke 22:

55 And when they had kindled a fire in the midst of the hall, and were set down together, Peter sat down among them.

56 But a certain maid beheld him as he sat by the fire, and earnestly looked upon him, and said, This man was also with him.

57 And he denied him, saying, Woman, I know him not.

58 And after a little while another saw him, and said, Thou art also of them. And Peter said, Man, I am not.

59 And about the space of one hour after another confidently affirmed, saying, Of a truth this fellow also was with him: for he is a Galilaean.

60 And Peter said, Man, I know not what thou sayest. And immediately, while he yet spake, the cock crew.

61 And the Lord turned, and looked upon Peter. And Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said unto him, Before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice.

62 And Peter went out, and wept bitterly.

The story of Peter’s denial of Christ is well known. The one who would never be offended and would go to jail and death for Christ failed miserably and wept miserably. He may not have thought that he had committed the unpardonable sin, but he was certainly no longer a disciple and if he had any spot in the Kingdom, it would be a rather lowly position. He allowed fear of men to rob him of his joy because he did not know himself as well as he thought he did. We are often in that position and can let fear control us. That is why we must be Christ and Spirit dependent and not self-reliant. His faith in Christ may have wavered, but the only faith that failed was his faith in himself and it was about time and to his gain.

Mar 16:6 And he saith unto them, Be not affrighted: Ye seek Jesus of Nazareth, which was crucified: he is risen; he is not here: behold the place where they laid him.

7 But go your way, tell his disciples and Peter that he goeth before you into Galilee: there shall ye see him, as he said unto you.

Praise God, Jesus knew Peter’s place in the Kingdom and exactly how he was feeling. Had the angel just said to go tell his disciples Peter would not have thought that he was included and would have waved goodbye to the others as they went off to Galilee. But to hear it said His disciples and Peter made no mistake that Jesus was expecting to see Peter and all was forgiven. Yet, it is quite possible that he still did not get it. He may have figured it was a mistake that he was mentioned. He may have thought it tell his disciples and not Peter.

John 21

2 There were together Simon Peter, and Thomas called Didymus, and Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, and the sons of Zebedee, and two other of his disciples.

3 Simon Peter saith unto them, I go a fishing. They say unto him, We also go with thee.

They went forth, and entered into a ship immediately; and that night they caught nothing.

When we are out of fellowship with the Lord or think we are out for the count. Because of the devil’s lies we often go back to something that we are comfortable with doing or going to a place that gives us some sense of peace. For Peter, it was fishing. Note that we have here nine out of the eleven disciples. We don’t know where the other two are at this time.

Note, that while Peter may have felt like he was out of the group because of his failure, the group did not feel the same. He was still a leader to them. After all, they ran from the start. Only John was with Christ through it all. There are only nine and we are not told where the other two were. They were possibly still hiding in fear.

Like stepping out of boat on to the raging sea, Peter at least tried to make good on his vow. He went to the courtyard and the others did not so how could they judge him when their fleeing was just as bad as his verbal denial. So when Peter said I need some time fishing, they were all for going with him. Little did they know Jesus was going to be waiting for them when they came back empty handed and still heavy hearted. Peter definitely did not know that a wonderful thing was waiting for him in the morning.

A Wonderful Assignment

John 21

15 So when they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest (AGAPAO) thou me more than these? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love (PHILEO) thee. He saith unto him, Feed my lambs.

16 He saith to him again the second time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest (AGAPAO) thou me? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love (PHILEO) thee. He saith unto him, Feed my sheep.

17 He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest (PHILEO) thou me? Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest (PHILEO) thou me? And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love (PHILEO) thee. Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep.

Jesus did not discuss this until they had eaten a hearty breakfast. Sometimes hunger can deter from learning, but this was an act of love and care before full restoration of a beloved disciple. They had often fellowshipped around a meal and Jesus wanted them to be at ease with Him and to feel that same love and fellowship with Him.

He also needed a good place to have this discussion with Peter. He made his great profession and vow in front of the rest of the disciples at a meal. It was only fitting that he confess before them and as he was already given the role of the one who would strengthen his brethren they needed to see his restoration.

Paul said he was the least of the Apostles because he was born out of due time as he was not one of the original twelve or even the one they replaced Judas with on the day of Pentecost. Of the original twelve, Judas made the worst decisions in that he betrayed Christ. After that, Peter was next with his verbal denial. The others ran in fear, but Peter denied him. Peter had the highest heights of the twelve and also some of the worst lows. Paul called himself the Chief of Sinners because he persecuted the church, but Peter may have considered himself the Chief because of his rash vow and denial of Christ. Because of my rash vow and the aftermath, I have often thought that I was the Assistant Chief of Sinners.

That was going to end here with Peter. Jesus asked if he really did love him more than the other disciples as he indicated in his vow. He had to humble himself and change that view. In fact, many think that Jesus was being harsh to Peter and making him recant three times because of his three denials. That may be a part of the reason, but there is more to it if we leave the English and go back to the Greek.

We are limited in our language in that our word love covers everything. We love God, family, country, cars, dogs, steak, red and so on. The Greek has a few more words. They have one for sexual love, playful love, love of self, longstanding love, friendship love and selfless love.

When Peter made his vow, he was talking agape love that never fails and loves because it loves and really only God has that kind of love in perfect form. He found out that he did not have that, but more of a phileo type of love, which is where we get Philadelphia or city of brotherly love albeit many in Philadelphia are not seeing that city live up to its name. It is a friendship love in most uses of the word.

It was really the same love the other disciples had for Jesus. Peter was just the uber-extrovert full of energy and passion, but the love was the same. Once Peter realized that restoration could begin.

We see Jesus asking Peter if he had agape love for Him and Peter replied with the lesser term. Peter was told to feed Christ’s lambs. You do not entrust your weakest of your flock to just anybody. This is an expression of trust in Peter. He is asked again and he gives the same answer. Peter is told to care for Christ’s sheep or the more mature ones. The third time Peter is very humbled and tells Christ that He knows that Peter loves Him that much. He again says to feed his sheep. As we see the progression from lambs to sheep, it would be logical to assume that this time indicated to care for the whole flock.

We see Peter stepping up to his role given to him by Jesus at the Last Supper and affirmed here manifested on Pentecost after he was really changed or converted when the Holy Spirit indwelled him. Yet, we also read that Paul caught him in hypocrisy at Antioch because of the fear of men. He ate with Gentiles until some men sent from James came then he did not eat with them. He was still used until he died even with this chronic flaw.

So we see that after the warning, a wild vow and wavering faith Peter still received a wonderful assignment in ministry. We can be comforted and challenged in this because a less than agape faith is accepted by Christ to serve Him. Failure does not mean rejection or a recall because the gifts and calling of God are without repentance. Add to the fact that it only takes faith the size of a mustard seed to move mountains that no Apostle ever did we can see Christ accepts less faith than that for salvation and service.

Unsaved friend, rejoice that small faith can get you to Heaven if the faith is in Christ and not yourself. He is willing to save you. He often said His disciples had little faith and look what He did for them. Bring your little faith and allow Him to grow it.

Brothers and Sisters. Have you blown it? Has your faith wavered? Have you failed to live up to your vows or promises to Him? Those may have been what you thought you could do in your strength and that He required. In reality, He may not have even required those vows and if it was something He required He wanted your faith so He could accomplish His will in you. As Pastor Mike Mizell has said, “Don’t use muscle where God wants to do a miracle.” Sit down and dine with Him. Let Him feed you, humble you, commission you and then indwell you completely. Let Him convert/change you and then you can strengthen others in the path they need to take. Rejoice, little is accepted. Give it to Him and He shall multiply it. Maranatha!

Ever since I have been saved, I have heard that “Preachers are only in it for the money.”  My first pastor was driving a twelve-year-old car, raising four kids on a salary that was equal to what my father-in-law was paying in weekly taxes.   Admittedly, when you look at the lifestyles of the rich and famous TV preachers it is hard to not come up with the conclusion that preachers are all about the shekel.   When you are living in multi-million dollar houses, wearing Rolex watches, have private jets and expensive furniture in your office it does cast a cloud of suspicion on your motives, mission, and message.

I determined early in my ministry that I did not want to be one of those lads.  Even if I made it to TV, I wanted to live on a much simpler budget.   Some men like Alistair Begg do keep things real as he offers all of his online sermons on an offering basis and if you are broke you can still be blessed for free. My pastor does the same with his online material.  A workman is worthy of his hire, but then there is an excessive luxury that neither Jesus, the Apostles or the mighty men of God throughout history ever experienced or desired.

Unfortunately, these folks create headaches for the majority of pastors who are struggling because their churches cannot pay them a decent salary and many work full-time jobs to keep both family and church afloat.  Others are able to pastor without pay because they have other means of income.  These folks do the bulk of ministry in the Kingdom. The other lads have a crowd, but they are not in the trenches ministering to the bulk of the Body.

As of July 4th, 2016, there were 323,148, 587 people in America.  As of July 18th. 2016, ABC news stated that 83% of all Americans identify as Christians or 268,213,327 people.  Add all the mega-churches together and I doubt they come to more than 6 million.  They must be at least 2K or more to be considered a Mega-church.  There are 1210 in the US give or take.  I used an average of 5K per to get the 6 million.

So that means that at least 260+ million Christians are getting ministered to by some other means.  Some are shut-ins so the TV, radio, and Intenet folks are ministering to them, but there is also a local pastor and church group ministering to them  Some of these are full-time pastors with pay and benefits.  Many are full-time pastors on SS or part-timers working a job with a small salary while others are not paid at all.  So who are the real superstars?

With churches in decline, more and more of the pastors are receiving small or no salaries and churches are going without pastors.  Some churches still have parsonages, which they might consider selling, but many do not so a man must provide his own housing on his own dime.  Their reward is in serving Christ and one day they will get a reward in Heaven.  Indeed, some of these churches do more in some areas than some of the big churches.

I know one now that is pastored by a disabled Veteran who takes no salary and has a housebound wife.  He drives at least forty-five miles one way to minister.  They have a soup kitchen weekly and reach out to the poor and homeless with such success that surpasses the ministry of many churches ten times their size and they have only been in existence three years.   May others model them.

People complain about pastor’s salaries and some even teach that a pastor should never have a salary, which is not scriptural.  They that preach the gospel are to live of the gospel and the elder who labors in the Word is worthy of double honor or salary.  That word honor is where we get the term honorarium, which is a payment.  The irony of this is that the one who wrote those words often worked to support himself though he did at times receive funds much like our missionaries. Yet, he took nothing from the church in Corinth and they seemed offended by that.

2 Corinthians 11:7 Have I committed an offence in abasing myself that ye might be exalted, because I have preached to you the gospel of God freely?
8 I robbed other churches, taking wages of them, to do you service.

He was working and receiving money elsewhere.  The Corinthians had many issues and were a very immature and carnal bunch though they had all the gifts of the Spirit.  That should be a warning and call to assessment for all of us. You can be gifted and still be carnal.  Much care needs to be taken when studying these folks are they are more a study of what not to be than how to be a spirit-filled Christian.

These people were led to Christ by Paul and yet all it took was some folks in fancy attire and glowing referrals to show up and they lost respect for Paul questioning his apostleship.  They may have asked for food, housing, and offerings as well. If you read more about this you see Paul did not have the physique for the cover of GQ and was not an orator like Chrystoom who was known as the golden-mouthed orator.  This did aid his detractors who seemed to feel that God could not use a physically beat up man with a less than perfect elocution.  I am glad that God did use him because I am a better writer than a speaker and you will never see me on GQ as well.

I have found that people who cuss about how much a pastor makes also have an issue with a man who will minister for less or even for free.  A man once looked at my resume and said that my problem was that I did not have enough titles or paid positions, which churches looked for when calling a pastor.  I thought that would be a plus showing I was not seeking to serve for a title or filthy lucre.  Go figure.

I once told a church that I would come for 10K less than they offered so they could use that many to pay off the mortgage give it to missions.  I guess I sounded weird, desperate or crazy.  Who asks for a lower salary rather than more?  I just did not need as much as they offered to take care of my family.

If I sounded weird to them, I must really drive folks nuts now when I tell them I will fill in for their pastor, be an interim or do a revival or evangelistic service for free.  I recently offered my services to local funeral homes and told them to especially consider me for people who not only have no local pastor but also for those who need to keep down expenses as I do not require payment.  My card, I know, is on file with one, but the others may have put it in their round file thinking I am crazy.  We shall see.

1 Corinthians 9:18 What is my reward then? Verily that, when I preach the gospel, I may make the gospel of Christ without charge, that I abuse not my power in the gospel.

I like the way Paul said this.  It is his reward to preach without charge.  I guess he was crazy, also.  Like my disabled Vet friend, my needs are well cared for and I retired to serve.  Most of my ministry over the years has been unpaid and that is cool as I did not abuse my power and cannot be accused of it.  All of those folks who fussed about preachers in the early days would have to hush looking at my ministry career.

Would it have been great if I could have had a full-time paid ministry? Yes, I could have done more.  The advantage besides not being able to be accused of wanting “easy” money is that no one controlled me.  My family’s welfare did not depend on my ministerial income.  I have seen men kicked out with little/no warning, no severance pay and unable to draw unemployment as a pastor is considered self-employed.  Not very Christian, but it happens more than I would care to think.

Some churches entrap and control a man with their pay and benefits so that they can decide what he will preach and what he will not preach.  An old song talks about tiptoeing through the tithers.  Another speaks of not making the teachers or the deacons’ wives mad.  There is much truth in those thoughts as many seasoned ministers can affirm.  I never had a strong fear of that as I was looking for a place to minister when I got to where I was and my family would eat with or without the pleasure of those folks.  Every place I served, I hoped I would be serving there until death or Rapture, but it was not the end of the world when it was time to leave either with a farewell party or on a rail.  😉  Fortunately, there were few rails, but there were times when a change in personnel and vision made it necessary for me to leave.  If I cannot support the vision, I leave as quietly as possible seeking to have no one follow me.  More people need that philosophy and not start another church a mile down the road taking their fan club with them.

The bottom line is that if you do not think the pastor is worth the salary he is making then go find one that you believe is getting what he is worth.  If you are looking for a pastor and can give him an adequate salary so he and his wife do not need to work then do so without marionette strings attached.  Oh, and don’t do the old two for one trick giving the man and his wife paid positions that together do not make a wage you could live on.  That is just wrong.  She needs to be with the kids, if they have them, not working ten hour days for the church and her husband twelve hour days when he is on call 24/7.  Many a minister has burned out and his marriage destroyed because of the selfish and miserly ways of a church.

Finally, do not be afraid of a man that is willing to serve you for nothing.  You may be turning away the Apostle Paul and the person that God may use to turn your church around or show you something from God that another man could not or will not.  As with any man, vet him, but do not reject him without cause.  God pays better than most churches and also knows when to cap a salary for the glory of God and to avoid undue offense or giving ammunition to His critics.  Maranatha!

Tiptoe Through theTithers

Ignore the Crowds!

January 7, 2017

Mar 5:27 When she had heard of Jesus, came in the press behind, and touched his garment.
28 For she said, If I may touch but his clothes, I shall be whole.
29 And straightway the fountain of her blood was dried up; and she felt in her body that she was healed of that plague.
30 And Jesus, immediately knowing in himself that virtue had gone out of him, turned him about in the press, and said, Who touched my clothes?
31 And his disciples said unto him, Thou seest the multitude thronging thee, and sayest thou, Who touched me?
32 And he looked round about to see her that had done this thing.
33 But the woman fearing and trembling, knowing what was done in her, came and fell down before him, and told him all the truth.
34 And he said unto her, Daughter, thy faith hath made thee whole; go in peace, and be whole of thy plague.

If you want revival, do not look at the crowds. Look to Jesus and reach out to Him. No crowd can keep you from Him. All it takes is your faith. He knew who she was, but He wanted her to testify. He does not call secret disciples. When He does something for you, you need to make it known. Indeed, we just need to tell Him all the truth about our need for Him. He is never to busy to turn around and let you see His face and receive what you need. That meeting is your salvation or your revival depending on where you are spiritually at that moment. Reach out and touch Him! You are not lost in a crowd. God sees You as if you were the only person before Him. Praise His name!!!

1 Corinthians 16:9 For a great door and effectual is opened unto me, and there are many adversaries.

2017 is a great and open door for ministry, The sky is the limit. There are many needs so there is one or two somewhere you can meet whether you are 8 or 88.

God is on your side for ministry, When you were saved, He gave you at least one and possibly more spiritual gifts that you are to use for His glory, the health of the Body and even salvation of someone. You will never be content or joyful until you are exercising those gifts. You don’t have them to put them on a shelf and let them gather dust like souvenirs.

There are always many adversaries whenever there are great opportunities. Your own flesh and excuses will fight you to try and keep you from the success He has for you. Friends and family may try to dissuade you. Grab the vision and opportunity no matter who is trying to wrest it from your grip!

If you are seeing an opportunity for some spiritual growth in your life you definitely have adversaries. The devil will attack your weaknesses to keep you in despair and defeat. Again, friends and family may tell you to not get too fanatical. Even Christians who are content in the their doldrums and mediocrity will try to “reason” with you that Jesus does not want you to be radical about your faith. Unbelievers will mock you.

Never give up! God has other ideas so just turn away from the naysayers and the devil. The devil is a liar and sincere people can be sincerely wrong.

Whatever God has shown you and called you to do, YOU CAN DO IT THROUGH HIS POWER! It might be tough. Nothing worth anything comes easy except your salvation. This is a battlefield and you are in the Lord’s Army so endure hardness as a good soldier and fight on!

Great and effectual doors are open! This is to be your year of victory if you receive it. When He opens the doors run through them listening only to His voice! They can fire at you all they want, but God can deflect that fire as He sets you on fire for Him! Grab on to Jesus and enjoy the battle because it means the enemy is angry. which means victory will be even sweeter! Alleluia! Maranatha!!!

To Paul Or Not To Paul?

January 5, 2017

1Co 14 36 What? came the word of God out from you? or came it unto you only?
37 If any man think himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord.
38 But if any man be ignorant, let him be ignorant.

Paul is the most maligned apostle of all the apostles. If it were only by the Jews of his day, that would be understandable. The problem is that he received more friendly fire than enemy fire. He had to defend himself to the church in Jerusalem and against those who came to undermine his ministry at Corinth. Worst of all, he had to defend himself to the very people he won to Christ.

It was not easy being Paul then and it is just as hard today. The various groups today pick and choose his writings and some even question his apostleship today stating that much of his writings are not inspired, but just his opinions. Misguided opinions at that. Where they agree with him like in salvation by faith and faith alone they will sing his praises, but where they disagree they will say that it was cultural and not for today or the rants of a misogynist or some other derogatory name. Sometimes they try to play one verse over another though there is no contradiction in the verses, but rather contradiction in our biased interpretation.

We have a problem here. Either he is an apostle or not and if not we have even more problems. If he is, then we have no right to question his teachings because we or our culture does not like them. Paul had to deal with a culture that was not much unlike our own so it is really pretty easy to understand and apply his teachings if we are honest with the Word.

Indeed, I am a simple man and listening to some of the complicated and sometimes convoluted things people use to toss out some of his teachings or in some way to exalt one teaching over the others gives me a headache. Paul spoke of the simplicity of the Gospel and we have done everything we can but keep the Gospel and Church doctrine simple. That is why we have so many different groups, denominations and non-denominations, despite Christ’s goal that we be one and the Holy Spirit being sent to lead us into ALL truth, not essential and non-essential ones or gray areas when in Him there is no variableness or shadow of turning.

I get that our Messianic Jewish brothers have some trouble dealing with Paul because even Peter said Paul taught some things hard to be understood, yet he acknowledged Paul’s apostleship and doctrine. Paul was and is the Apostle to the nations or Gentiles,us. Like it or not, we are to build our doctrines and practices off of his teachings, not our desires or disagreements. We really have no excuse because we do not have the cultural issues that often hinder our brethren of Jewish descent from fully embracing Paul or doing what we do and try to work around the parts they do not like or find hard to understand.

Paul was not what we would call politically correct. He was not called to be that. He was an extremely zealous and studious Jew that defended the faith to the hilt. We cannot expect him to be any less so as a Christian. We also have to give him some closer attention because he received one on one training from Christ in the wilderness for three years. That is more intense than the other Apostles received. They were prepared to minister to the Jews, whose language and customs they knew and it was a twelve member class with one who flunked.

Paul was amazingly intelligent and well learned, but he had to have a complete retraining so he could answer both Jew and Greek (Gentiles). He was going to have an intense ministry as we see in his resume (2 Cor 11) and in the book of Acts so he received special intense training from the Lord. It is very hard to question a man who has that kind of certification.

Jesus taught Paul and the others in just three years. We now want a man to study anywhere from 8 to 15 years before we deem him a real expert in the faith so obviously our training is a bit inferior to Christ’s. Who are we to argue with Paul? I would have to say we are very arrogant or maybe not true Christians, but rather having a form of godliness denying the power thereof. None of our writings are inspired like his, if you believe the Bible to be inspired. Just saying.

Paul obviously said that his writings were the commandments of God, not just the philosophy or theology of men. In college, we study the Pauline epistles and speak of Pauline theology, but in a sense that is a misnomer. God inspired him to write what he did, so really we are studying Theos theology or the study of God’s theology, not Paul’s. When you look at it that way, it makes it more difficult to question what Paul writes, He did say of one issue, that he was giving his opinion, not from commandment. Yet, he said that he believed he had the mind of Christ. If God disagreed with him, would he be allowed to give that opinion? Since God did not censor him and he was writing under inspiration, was it only his opinion and not to be considered? Indeed, did he know the mind of Christ so well that he could base his opinion on that knowledge without having to have a direct command on the issue? I think that is a logical conclusion.

Do we not make judgments on what we know about a person? If someone says they are thinking of asking me to go to a sporting event to a friend of mine, that friend who knows me will tell them I am not a sports guy. Did they ask me? Did I have to tell them? No, because my friend has my mind on that issue. Paul was in such close relationship with Christ he could give an opinion that was not contrary to Christ’s thoughts without needing a direct command. I feel safe to say that very few, if anyone, are in that same type of relationship and if they were they would never contradict anything Paul wrote. I am afraid that we are in the position of those who Paul had to ask if the word of God came from out of them or to them only. It is always safe to question other men, but dangerous to question the Apostles.

That is how we get wrapped up in many heresies. Heresy is not only false doctrine, but also division. We are not to be divided, but we are more so now than ever in history with a new church cropping up every day dividing the Body and sapping it of the unity Christ ordained. Often, it is because of some false doctrine or an undue exaltation of one issue or some fad. Sometimes, it is the pride or anger of men. It is hard to believe that this division is the will of God when His will is unity. Indeed, if every church in town is apostate then a new work would be necessary, but if not, then it is not necessary. In my small town, not every church is apostate or cultist and yet we have a new one it seems every six months or so crop up. So what is going on? Is it of God or man?

It would be interesting to research and see how many of these divisions have been caused over a difference of interpretation about something Paul wrote versus the rest of the New Testament writers. We do know that cessation and non-cessation churches exist because of disagreement over Paul’s writings about the gifts.

Some differences create denominations and others cause church splits while others change denominations. In my experience and research, every group has one or more doctrines that are not in complete alignment with Paul’s teachings that he said were commandments of God. So while Paul was called to teach us how Church is to be done and what we are to believe to keep us in unity, in the end we are divided over them. That did not come from God.

As I said, Paul was not PC and would be in great controversy if he were preaching today. He would experience more beatings and friendly fire. He may even incur more jail time. When someone is right, he can be adamant and even what we would call insulting when Paul said if a person is ignorant then let him be ignorant. So if a person claims to be spiritual or a prophet and disagrees with him they are in a precarious position. Are they ignorant and not as spiritual as they think or have a prophet’s call? Paul would say yes so that is an ouch to many theologians. Paul did not read Dale Carnegie’s book on how to win friends and influence people. Then again, that was worldly wisdom that works in the world, but Paul’s wisdom came from above.

It would seem it best for all theologians to reread Paul and readjust their theology accordingly. If Paul is wrong in one area, he may be wrong in others. What if he is wrong about salvation through faith by grace? Where we then? Still dead in sin or tossing dice. No, you have to take all of Paul, not pick and choose. If you dump Paul in one area, you may as well dump him in all. You cannot create a Jeffersonian bible and kick Paul even partly to the curb. There is too much peril in doing so. Accept what he says, not try to revise him to you or your culture’s liking. Just say yes to Paul. Jesus called him as one out of due time and trained him one on one. It is not wise to challenge a person with that honor. Maranatha!