Forgiven And Forgetting.

Satan does not fill us with hatred of God, but with forgetfulness of God. – Dietrich Bonhoeffer

One of the many battles that some people face is memory. I happen to have horrible short-term memory. I will often think of something I need to do or get while I’m out driving and by the time I can stop and write it down, it’s gone! I’ve had to learn to use voice memos so that I can note the task while driving and later write it down. In fact, I’ve resorted to using an app on my phone that not only states what I need to remember, but I can also set an alarm for a day and time! It has been a lifesaver!

The hardest part of memory issues for me though is remembering the Words of God. Many devout Christians will memorize Scripture. The Bible says in Psalm 119:11 “I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.” The more words from God we carry in our hearts and mind, the stronger we become standing firm against the evils of this world that try to derail us in our walk. In my previous writing and podcast (Things I Preach To Myself About…“Where’s My Sword”), I talked about the importance of reading the Bible and how the Bible is the Sword of the Spirit, the Sword of Truth. With this at our side at all times, we can defend ourselves from the attacks of the enemy.

But is our forgetfulness simply a psychological or physical matter? There certainly are many contributing factors that affect our capabilities to remember things. Everything from stress and anxiety, depression, injuries to the brain, all can affect someone’s short-term (and/or long-term) memory. But today I want to delve into another area that can be a factor against our ability to remember God’s word: Sin

One thing that can thwart our ability to memorize Scripture is sin. Within each of us is a disease. It is a disease that we have carried since birth. This sin disease will be with us until our last breath. As with any disease, it affects various parts of our body (mind and soul). And, as with any ailment, once it’s discovered, it has to be addressed and treated; often daily! When we identify that we have this sin nature and we want to be rid of it, we begin a working process to keep it from flaring up in our lives.

As sin erupts, God becomes quite distant to us. Our only desire during this moment is for self-gratification. Our natural inclination leans toward the flesh, the strongest pull at the time. Without help, we become weak and powerless to resist. James puts it this way in chapter 1, verse 14; “But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.” As Bonhoeffer says, we are not hating God, but forgetting God.

The Ten Commandments

Yes, we do have a natural animosity against God and His ways. Since the fall of man in the Garden of Eden, we have been natural-born sinners! Psalm 51 says “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.” We enter into this world already at odds with God and His laws (10 Commandments). And until the Spirit changes our hearts, we relish sin over salvation. But when God does quicken us, we are then able to see Him in a different light; now wanting His ways in our life, not the world’s ways! We are able to believe and trust our life to Jesus Christ through his death, burial, and resurrection from the grave. We enter into newness of life! Now we place Jesus as our Lord and Savior!

That doesn’t necessarily make the disease go away though. What it does do is cause us to actually see the disease and want it gone! Thus, our trusting in God and His Word is key to the process of fighting this sin! 

Which brings me back to memory. As I’ve said before, Christians will often memorize Scripture as a means of strengthening their walk and building up a defense against the devil’s lies. Being able to quote Bible verses from memory is paramount to a growing faith. But for some of us who struggle to even remember what we were going to do as we walk into another room, or forget our ideas or tasks the moment our attention is distracted; we need a different remedy.

One thing I’ve discovered lately is to meditate on Scripture. There is a difference between memorizing and meditating. Memorization is planting something into your mind for recall whenever needed. Meditation is delving deep into something so intently, that it becomes imbedded in your heart. Learning a set of words by rote memorization is essentially a mechanical or habitual repetition. But to thoroughly and intimately learn, we meditate on the Word of God. 

I will meditate on your precepts and fix my eyes on your ways. Psalm 119:15

Many of the great Puritans devoted vast amounts of time delving deep into the Bible, meditating on them to fill their hearts complete with the truth of God. Dr. Joel Beeke, in his essay on “The Puritan Practice of Meditation,” lists some benefits that meditating on Scripture has to offer (compared to just memorizing):

  1. Meditation helps us focus on the Triune God, to love and to enjoy Him in all His persons (1 John 4:8)—intellectually, spiritually, aesthetically.
  2. Meditation helps increase knowledge of sacred truth. It “takes the veil from the face of truth” (Prov. 4:2).
  3. Meditation is the “nurse of wisdom,” for it promotes the fear of God, which is the beginning of wisdom (Prov. 1:8).
  4. Meditation enlarges our faith by helping us to trust the God of promises in all our spiritual troubles and the God of providence in all our outward troubles.

These are just a few that Dr. Beeke lists. But what it does point to is the importance of absorbing God’s Truths deeper into our being rather than just reciting words. For a deeper insight to the Puritan study of God’s Word, I would also recommend the book “God’s Battle Plan For The Mind: The Puritan Practice of Biblical Meditation” by David W. Saxton. The book not only shows the necessity for personal meditation on the Scriptures, but also gives motivation by showing us how the great Puritans meditated on the Word themselves! 

There are so many great benefits to meditating on the Word of God instead of just memorizing them. And don’t get me wrong, memorization is a great option for many who can do it and it does work. But we all need to imbed these truths in our minds, as well as our hearts, no matter the method. But, for those of us who struggle with the duty of memorizing, we do have an option that can actually take us deeper into His word AND get those words within us to recall when needed!

In the Garden of Eden, the first challenge to Eve by the serpent (the devil, himself) was to ask “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” Thus, seeing if she knew the words of the Lord. As we face the lusts of the flesh, the lusts of the eyes, and the pride of life that surround us every day, we need to be on guard with the Sword of the Sprit, the Word of God! We won’t always have an opportunity to sit down and look up Scripture to challenge back the temptations set before us. In most instances, we will need to draw on our understanding and knowledge of the Word of God that is deeply set within us. Words of Scripture that we have committed to our hearts and minds for just such an occasion! 

Not only do we strive to know God through His word daily in our lives, but we are called to persevere onward in our sanctification, always remembering that God is working in us through His Son Jesus, by the power of the Holy Spirit! Joshua 1:8a says: “This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it.” 

Amen

Sons Of Belial?

Some pretty deep and prolific words are found within the covers of the Holy Bible. There is no doubt about that. Even pagan religions have a level of reverence when it comes to the Christian Bible. It is filled with historical truths, poetic visualizations, proverbial guidances, and revelations of the very nature of God Himself. To read the pages is to get introduced to the God of the universe, to understand His will and ways, and to hold a roadmap for our life.

Yet as powerful and impacting as the Words are, it is amazing how people still live like the Scriptures have an insignificant influence. Even people who claim to be followers of Christ Jesus, the Messiah, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world, still live daily under the control of worldly ways instead of God’s ways. Obviously we reside in this world and, as such, we have to contend with it no matter how holy and pious we try to be. But you can tell a lot about what has the strongest inclinations or sway in someone’s life by how that person lives.

Taking into consideration that all will stand before the judgement of God at the end, which will determine where we spend eternity, one would think that a decision to follow God’s way would be an easy choice. Now, for some, that decision is easy. Yet, many others don’t want to give up the creature comforts of the secular life. They may find that walking in the ways of God is not easy or too burdensome . Plus, we need to note that there is another side to things working in our lives that also has great influence: sin. Sin’s influence goes against God’s ways, yet is very strong and many have fallen by its trappings. 

“Now the sons of Eli were worthless men; they did not know the Lord” 1 Samuel 2:12

While reading through some Old Testament scripture, I came across an interesting verse that caused me to stop and think. What caught my attention in 1st Samuel chapter 2 were the words “They did not know the Lord”. Looking at the context of that statement, it shows a sad and harsh reality that I think can apply to many within the very walls of today’s church. Let me explain.

Eli was a descendant of Aaron, the brother of Moses and the great high priest. Eli was a high priest in the temple at Shiloh. He was a godly man who was one of the judges over Israel. He had two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, both of whom were raised to be in the service of God. But for Scripture to describe them as ‘Sons of Belial’, (which means worthless, and is also used in the New Testament to describe Satan!), it really shows the true nature of those boys.

To earn such an evil moniker from the writer of First Samuel, we need to understand what they were doing. First of all, as workers in the temple or sanctuary, their job was to gather and prepare the sacrifices prescribed by the Law and follow the exact instructions. The problem is that they were selfish, greedy, and very much living in the flesh for themselves. Instead of sacrificing the best cuts of the meat, they would take the best cuts of meat from the sacrifices for themselves. Adding to their debauchery, these married men would commit adultery with the various women who served at the sanctuary gates. (And we all know how clergy adultery turns out, even in our modern day and age!)

Of course these activities garnered the anger of God. Eli was admonished to scold his sons for their behavior, but he did it so lightly that they didn’t listen to him. Long story short; subsequently both of the sons would end up dying on the same day that the Philistines defeated Israel in a battle and captured the Ark of the Covenant. Their father, Eli, would subsequently fall over and die of a broken neck upon hearing of the loss of his two sons and the Ark. Shortly after all this, Phinehas’ wife gave birth to a son when she heard of her husband and father-in-law’s deaths and the loss of the Ark, thus causing her to name the child Ichabod (which means the Glory Has Departed). Afterward she would also die. All this came about because God cursed the lineage of Eli and his sons for their behaviors.

So, what does all this mean?

This serves to show that even people who stand in the most reverential of duties, who interact in the most religious of environments, and who have the appearance of walking with God outwardly, might not truly know God!

That is a very scary prospect to think about! Jesus said in Matthew 6 to “beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven.” Psalm 139 says that the Lord has searched us and knows us! Verse 4 says “Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O Lord, you know it altogether.” These are truths that should have us reflecting not only on our outward life, but on our hearts as well!

You can be the most pious, religious, and reverential person on the entire planet in front of the people around you and still not know God. There are countless religious leaders that go through the motions, and yet don’t have a clue who God or Jesus or the Holy Spirit of the Bible truly are. Hophni and Phinehas went through the motions daily with their father, a high priest, yet they did not know God. Just because you say and do the right things or have great knowledge about the Bible, doesn’t make you right before the Lord.

So why is this? How can someone be exposed to the truth every day and still not know?

God’s way or sin’s way? Let me point out here that there are two motivations people face when entering into any type of religion or ministry; God or self. The Apostle Paul was a good example of a Godly motivation. He declared in 2 Corinthians 5 “For if we are beside ourselves, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you.” Paul did everything for God through Christ Jesus and his love for God’s people was beyond a heartfelt passion. He did nothing in selfishness that can be shown in any of the Bible! He wrote to the Church in Rome Therefore I urge you, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. (Romans 12:1)

But there are many examples of people in a ministry platform strictly motivated by self. We see a prime example in Acts Chapter 8. In Samaria there was a magician named Simon who many claimed that “this man is the power of God that is called Great.” When the Gospel of Christ was preached in the area, many became converts and were baptized, including Simon. He became very zealous, working with the evangelist in the area, and saw the miracles performed. When the Apostles Peter and John came to the area, they laid hands on the people to receive the Holy Spirit. Simon saw this and offered to pay them money for “this power also, so that anyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.” He wanted to keep his great reputation before the people. But he was admonished by Peter saying “May your silver perish with you, because you thought you could obtain the gift of God with money! You have neither part nor lot in this matter, for your heart is not right before God.” (Acts 8:20-21). Peter demanded he repent from his wickedness and intentions as he was in the bond of iniquity.

Another prime example, (that I won’t go into great depth right now), are the Pharisee and Sadducees. They enjoyed the praises of the people, walked in the highest honors in the cities, and enjoyed their power. They were also used by Jesus as examples of holy and pious men whose hearts were far from God. Jesus called them “whitewashed tombs, filled with dead men’s bones”. Sepulchres that look great on the outside, but inside were vile and filth. Their motivations were known to God; greed and selfishness. Essentially, hearts filled with sin.

The question we need to ask ourselves is; are we like Hophni and Phinehas? Are we claiming the Christian walk in appearance like the Pharisees, yet without Christ as our motivation? Are we talking a big game of being right with God, yet wanting the accolades from people? You might be able to deceive your family and friends with an illusion of Christianity by going to church. You might be able to talk all the Christian jargon online and post Scripture verses to strangers. You may even have Bible verses and stories memorized. But if your heart’s motivation in all these things is for self adulation, then not of your relationship with God is true. If you going through the motions to impress or puff yourself up, then you are only lying to yourself and those around you, which will only lead you to the lake of fire.

You see, God knows your heart. He knew Hophni and Phinehas. He knew the Pharisees and Sadducees. He knew Simon. He knows all things; and the heart of man is especially known. The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? “I the Lord search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds.” Jeremiah 17:9-10

Eventually, like the two sons of Eli, all things we say and do will catch up to us and the truth will be revealed. As mentioned above, all will stand before the throne of God to give an account. Now is the perfect time to check your heart, check your motivation, your standing with the living God. Saying some words that you believe in Jesus are just that; words. It comes down to your true motivation. God or sin? Don’t let it be said of you “they did not know the Lord”

Amen

Take Courage!

No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, He will also provide a way out so that you can endure it. 1 Corinthians 10:13.

My prayer is for you to stand firm in your faith, strong in your convictions, trusting in God’s mercies, and able to cry out to Him during trials.

When we stumble, even if we fall, we are able to stand back up in His grace, kneel before the throne of grace, and walk in newness of life by His grace.

Even though it feels like you are alone at times, we know that God is with us by His Spirit through Christ. Not only that, but God has provided true believers to come alongside you, hold you up during weakness, encourage you in darkness, and love you unconditionally in the journey.

Look to His Word, trust in His Spirit, lean on His mercies!

If God is for us, who can be against us? (Romans 8:31 paraphrased)

All of this encouragement comes to you from the God of the universe! We tend to get frustrated over our shortcomings and falter in our faith. We don’t daily take up our cross and march forthright into the battles of life. It’s easy to give up, go home, quit the game and take an easier path. I know this personally. I’ve done it many, many times before. Walking away from God when the storms erupt around me.

Why? With all the positive that Jesus has showed us in His ministry on earth and the teachings and examples from the Apostles and Bible heroes within the pages of Scripture, you would think that we can just stand firm in the faith, knowing that our old man (character, leanings, ways) has been crucified and is dead and buried!

Because there is a negative side to the walk of faith. Believing in God doesn’t make the storms vanish. Trusting Christ comes with a cost. When we deny ourselves the way of our former lives, we are going against the grain of the world around us. We have made a decision to cast aside the societal norms and pursue a holiness. We choose to walk in a manner to glorify God, through Christ, by the power of the Holy Spirit. We separate ourselves from the world, yet still live in the world.

This is a daily battle. Daily choices are made to either indulge the flesh or cling to the Spirit. It is not a simple task. Even though we have accepted the gift of Grace extended to us by God through the work of Christ’s atonement on the cross, we are still, by nature, sinful creatures. Our natural leaning is to break the laws of God, selfishly follow our own desires, and flow without ridicule and shame the ways of this world.

Yes, it is easy to lay aside the newness of salvation, walk away from the sanctification process, and return to our old ways. But we are told how this is a race, not a sprint. That the race is long and has, at times, hills…even mountains…to climb. The terrain we travel can be rough. So many snares, pitfalls, false directions, and easier paths to waylay our journey.

The race set before us takes endurance. And to endure to the end takes fuel, energy. With God’s Holy Spirit, His Word, and fellowship of true believers, we can endure and finish this race! The letter to the Hebrews tells us that we are surrounded by a cloud of witnesses, who by example encourage us to continue on, by faith, trusting that “He who began a good work in you, will be faithful to complete it”!

Take courage today, everyday!

Truth Or Emotion

I live in a country that has long declared itself a “Godly nation”, founded on “Biblical principles”. Historically, these are somewhat correct statements. The United States was founded by people that wholly believed in the Bible as the inerrant Word of God, that the Bible is to be the guide from which all life should follow. 2nd Timothy, chapter 3, verses 16 and 17 state All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.

A couple of things regarding these declarations:

First is that many people, groups, cultures, and countries have all started out under a basic and commonly held belief system. Many churches were started by a group of people who hold an identical theology. Governments have been formed based on a collective of ideologies and goals. And the United States began with people seeking out a place together where they can worship, govern, and commune together under the umbrella of Christianity.

Secondly, starting out with one philosophy doesn’t mean that the intended direction continues uninterrupted. When you look at institutions of learning such as Princeton, Harvard, Yale, and the likes, you might be surprised to know that they all started out as seminaries. Christian religion studies were so important in the early days of first settlers that many schools of Bible were created. Yet, if you look at the formats and leanings of these once great schools, you’ll find that they are almost diametrically opposite from their beginnings.

This type of falling away from initial beliefs has definitely happened within the USA. We have become a nation of godless trappings. Quick to cast aside any foundational roots that once made this a great nation on the earth. Isaiah 5:20 says “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!” I think we can look at our history and see how the tides have gone in opposite directions. Perhaps the Glory has departed? Why?

I believe that the church as a whole is at fault for this. Before the apostasy levels that we see nowadays, even differing denominations all held core beliefs that were tantamount to biblical living. People believed, lived, worked, governed, and worshiped scripturally.

Since the church isn’t a building or even a denomination, the true core of fault lies with the individual believer. The church body by definition is a group of believers, dedicated, diligent, and determined to follow the Word of God, through Jesus Christ, by the power of the Holy Spirit.

That was once the way. That used to be the church. Yes, there were many many conflicts and disagreements…since the beginning…but nothing to the magnitude you see now. In fact, the vast majority of mainstream denominations have completely fallen away from scripture being the complete governing mandate. In Romans chapter 1, Paul points out this type of godlessness, where people have cast aside God and followed after their own thinking and started worshiping themselves instead.

And so it has become that being a true, Bible-believing Christian today is an invite to derision. Since the “church” has fallen to the lures of false teachings, prosperity preachers, new age thinking, social gospel and the likes, scripture is looked at as outdated, archaic, and not keeping with the times…so much so that the leaders of this new “church” mock and scorn those who hold the Bible as the infallible Word of God. Fortunately, there are still a core, though small, group of Biblical adherents in the world today.

Why have so many fallen away? Three key things since the fall of man in the garden of Eden; the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life. Satan easily tempts those who don’t know the Word of God. And though many false teachers and ‘believers’ spend a ridiculous amount of time, effort, and energy blaming the devil for every evil or ignoring evil altogether and focusing only on “feel-good” theology, there is a deeper reality that most Christians forget as the source of problems in the church.

The first and foremost enemy that we face in our spiritual battle is not the devil, but it is our self. The devil has already tripped humanity. Since we have this fallen state within ourselves, most of the shortcomings and failures of our walk are self-inflicted. We spend so much time blaming everything else: the devil, the church, the government, the neighbors, et al. But now is the time to stop and reflect on our own accountability. We are sinful by nature and are a wretched people, in and of, ourselves.

I can’t account to have the fix for this speeding train-wreck that is the current “church” situation. America, as a whole, isn’t about to change it’s course either. Instead of utilizing Common Sense and logic and knowledge of the past, people run everything based on emotions. Every single person has individual emotions regarding every little facet and unfortunately, that is currently what is running every decision and thought process. Emotions are unstable, and so is the driven plight of mankind.

The Bible clearly states that the god of this world has blinded the eyes of many. They won’t see the Scriptures anymore, lest the scales drop from their eyes by the grace of God. The remnant has become smaller over time. This is actually all prophesied in the Word. We must maintain though. Keep fighting the good fight, striving to finish the race that is set before us. Keeping our eyes upon Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith. He will finish what He started.

So, this is the truth: 1) that we are NOT a Godly nation anymore. The old church has fallen away like so many before us (including the chosen nation of God; Israel). 2) The devil is not the purveyor of all evil we befall. We are fallen in nature and have our own evil momentum going and we must take responsibility for our actions. And 3) that we who do continue to call the Word of God as infallible need to be directing our every step, staying focused and uncompromising in these last days, so that the God of the universe, who is sovereign and supreme and worthy to be glorified, can tell us when we reach the shores of Heaven “well done, good and faithful servant”.     Amen

It’s All About Me Me Me

This is a minor departure from things I preach to myself about. Though this can be a preaching topic, it’s more of something that we all complain about from time to time. We observe this, yet can also find ourselves guilty of the very issue.

As we make our day-to-day travels, whether to the local store or to work, we are out and about sharing the highways and byways with our fellow humans. Because two solid objects cannot share the same place at the same time, we attempt to skillfully whisk by each other…sometimes at a “personal space” distance, sometimes too close for comfort. Either way, we try to respect the other person’s space.

But, as mankind has evolved over the centuries, we have become smarter, wiser, stronger, and more advanced exponentially. I believe this has created a greater egocentric mentality. Though not unique in human history, man seems to have grown even more ‘wise in his own eyes’ and became a chronic narcissistic in personality, even though since the beginning of time, self-exultation has been the norm.

Because of this self-adulation, people put themselves first over those around them. As a king would wave a hand to move commoners away, many have become so self-absorbed that putting others first is almost a chore, if done at all.selfish-leader-power-motive-900x400From as early as the accounts in Genesis through the final period in Revelation, the Bible has recounted stories of man’s arrogance. Not just toward God, as in man’s sin nature, but also toward each other. Many triggers are explained as to what causes men to act the way he does. From self-righteousness, greed, desire, and pride, humankind has an innate desire to ‘pat himself on the back’ and raise himself up as ‘the best’.

 

casting_the_first_stoneAll of this self-driven behavior though has caused more problems than anything else. Cain killed Able because he felt slighted by God. As in the days of Noah, everyone was wiped out except Noah’s family because of the wickedness of men…rambunctious for self-gratification. Many kings and leaders rose to power, grew egotistical, and created wars and atrocities…including their own demise…over people. Even in the end times recorded in the Bible, it’s the pinnacle of selfish pride that brings the final days of man.

Where has all this come from? If we are called to give, love, share, and ‘do unto others’, why, then, is there such a gross level of ‘me, me, me’ going on?

From the highest levels of world leaders and business greed to the simplest of people who think they have to park in three spots or cut off others in traffic because it’s all about ‘them’, humans have steadily become so selfish that even the daily commute or simple shopping trip creates such bitterness, anger, hostility, and anxiety. We all experience it, we all struggle with others and their self attitudes.

So what does all this say? It says that we need to buckle up, put on our patience-pants, learn to keep moving and stay focused! Why? Because this has been going on since time beginning and is going to continue till time ends. Absolutely nothing that you or I can say or do is going to stop the insanity of the inconsiderate egos who try to make life on this planet all about them.

You may vent until your heart’s content, but people are people, blinded by the god of this world, thinking that the more they glorify themselves, the better they will feel. They boast and puff themselves up in the hopes of gaining respect, admiration, and glory. This is exactly what the devil has been doing since the Garden of Eden. “If you…then you will be like God”. Mankind has striven for that since.

welcome2

The quickest and clearest example is: Hollywood. If ever there was a cloister of people who try to exalt themselves over everyone, it’s the ego maniacal minions of that entertainment world. They poise themselves above everyone else. They have to be first, have the best, have the most, be the biggest, be the most glamoured, be be be…me me me!

And that very mentality and existence doesn’t end there. The infection is as close as your backyard. Your neighbor, your co-worker, your children, the people we meet each and every day on those highways and byways I mentioned before.

Nothing you can do. Just be patient, love, pray, set examples, be humble, and stay focused the best you can.

Believe it or not, we all have that disease of self. With some, it shows more abundantly. But, we all have it. And until our self is quenched, we battle it inside and out every day. To overcome that problem through God, we’re taught to “put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness” (as stated in Ephesians 4:22-24).

But with so many who don’t seek God’s Word of redemption, the world continues to show the rampant display of selfishness, as is stated in 2 Timothy chapter 3;

But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy,heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people.” (underline of verse 2 mine for emphasis)

We see that in every direction we look these days. Through the help of God, we can put off our old self, and walk in newness with love, peace, joy, humility, and unselfishness. Though we might not be able to fix others, we can certainly start with ourselves! Amen

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Big you, bigger God

The UniverseWhen we look into the vastness of space, gaze at the billions of stars, and reflect on just how big the universe really is, we tend to feel very small…insignificant almost.  This feeling can be quite overwhelming to some as we wonder how we can measure up when compared to the complexities of the grand universe.  Because most of us will never achieve even world fame and fortune, we might think that we don’t matter…that we are just a cosmic speck in the grand scheme of things.

And then to look at our planet and all of creation around us, I think “how it is that God can see little me in all this?”  He’s the God of the universe! He created all things! So how do I fit within the expanse of time and space in God’s creation? Does God even see me? You may not feel like you are special, but I have some news for you!

Let’s think about Zacchaeus from the Bible story in the Gospel of Luke. He was a Jewish man, very short in stature (Bible’s words, not mine), who worked for the Roman government collecting taxes from his fellow Jews. Not only was he good at his job, he was the chief collector in the city of Jericho. This is not a very popular man!  Most of the collectors back then were cheats and often collected more than they should to pocket the overage for themselves. By society standards, they were frowned upon and even shunned.

And though Zacchaeus was a wealthy man, he was also reported to be a very honest and Godly man. (Yes, there can be honest, Godly people that do unfavorable jobs!)  I imagine that outside of family though, he was a lonely individual. We know that he followed God’s rules, lead an honest life, and that God knew him, but he wasn’t looked up to or admired.

Palestine_Jericho3_tango7174But God knew him so well, that long before Zacchaeus was even born, a sycamore-fig tree seed was planted in a particular spot. Then, God watered and took care of that seed until it grew to be a full-size tree. All because one day, in the future of that planting, that man named Zacchaeus would have an encounter with Jesus, the Son of God!  God knew that Zacchaeus would be so eager to see Jesus coming that he would climb the tree God placed years ago to get a glimpse of the Messiah. That event lead to Jesus calling to Zacchaeus and having a blessed dinner with him and his family!

The same thing applies to us, individually! God knows us personally and intimately. Luke 12 states that God knows us so well that even our hairs are numbered. He knows even the smallest of creatures like sparrows.

One of my favorite songs is from singer Betty McDaniel, a treasured Gospel singer out of Canada. It is titled “He looked across the years”.  The song reflects what I am trying to convey here: that God looked across the vastness of time and space in His creation and saw you!  He not only knows us, but also made a way to remedy the sin in our lives that separates us from Him.  Jesus looked across the years from the cross so that we can be restored to a right relationship with God through Jesus!

God is so big!

The question I have is this: if God is so awesome and powerful to create everything into existence, and yet personal enough to know each of us individually…then why are we so complacent in our relationship with Him? Why do we ignore His sovereignty? Why do we treat Him like a cosmic vending machine wanting only blessings and fortunes and such, yet don’t submit to His will and ways?

This is truly a much deeper topic than what can be covered here now, but as I explore this in my life, I look back at all the little things God has, in His infinite wisdom, done for me. He has directed my paths much differently than I would have walked on my own. God’s ways are not our ways. But I’m pretty sure that He knows what’s best for me better than I know myself!

As He looked across the years at Zacchaeus, as He looked across the years at me, as He looked across the years at you…He set up everything in advance because He loves us and knows us and wants us to acknowledge Him with fellowship and love! The old Puritan catechism question is this:  What is the chief end of man? Man’s chief end is to glorify God (1 Corinthians 10:31), and to enjoy Him forever (Psalm 73:25-26).

May we acknowledge the sovereignty of God in our daily lives. Amen

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Things I preach to myself-Hypocrisy pt2

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The knowledge that the world gains daily has grown exponentially over the last several decades. This has been clearly seen just by looking at the progressive growth of electronics and computers! Incredible intelligence continues to multiply as man builds better and smarter devices! Look at the evolution of the phone! Whew!

Yet, as I have tried to convey over the many years here, we may be getting smarter, but the one thing that hasn’t grown…Common Sense!

I recently re-read a piece of Scripture that puts our current plight into perspective: Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you thinks that he is wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is folly with God. For it is written, “He catches the wise in their craftiness,” and again, “The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise, that they are futile.” (1 Corinthians 3:18-20)

We may think ourselves wise because we are smart, but it is pretty clear that we are not. It’s clear that God has ‘confounded the wise’ of this world because they don’t seek His wisdom.  Having information locked into the brain doesn’t guarantee that we are capable of utilizing it in a productive manner! To say “yeah, I know” and not apply it wisely just makes us a fool.  And to claim ourselves wise and not follow God’s wisdom just shows that we are chasing our own tail for no end purpose! We can sit on the mountain top doling out wise sayings, but does that really garner the inner peace that our souls seek and strive for?

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Before you go and accuse me of being judgmental, remember what the title of this blog is!  I have traipsed around this world, gathering knowledge and various insights of many things, and have garnered some wisdom in my experiences, and yet I find myself unwise when it comes to my day-to-day life. The Lord knows that I have tried to be “wise in my own eyes” most of my adult life. It’s truly a wonder that I’m alive at all! But, wisdom (and common sense) just doesn’t come overnight! And even when you have some wisdom and knowledge, if you don’t apply it, what value is there in it?

There are many wise ways, but are they of value to your life and eternal life? And with knowledge and wisdom, even if it is from God above, if its not applied in your day-to-day life, doesn’t mean a thing!  I can spout off all sorts of facts and wise sayings all day long, but will be seen as nothing less than a hypocrite if I don’t “walk the talk”!

It comes down to two main points that the Bible teaches. First, let him who is without sin, cast the first stone.  Arguably simple in its meaning.  Who am I to judge when I am yet a sinner? Many live the “do as I say, not as I do” mentality that I wrote about in my previous blog.

Secondly is how can I talk about the speck in my brother’s eye when there is a plank in my own? We get so focused trying to correct others by showing that we know better, that we are wiser and smarter than they are.  But, in reality, we are just being a hypocrite.  We need to literally practice what we preach!

Thus, why I share these things I preach to myself about!!! I am in a constant state of learning to acknowledge that I have faults and failings and falter in life. But, with God’s leading and teaching, through His Word and the Holy Spirit, I strive to become a better man of God and a better man to those in my life!

I am a work in progress…we all are! But, if we are not able to identify, admit, correct, and grow through our shortcomings, what’s the point? God is clear that he wants us all to learn and grow! But, we must first admit that we need His guiding hand to get us through! For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. No one is smarter, wiser than anyone else!

We all come into this world the same way, we all leave this world the same way.  It now comes down to what we do between those two points in our lives! As for me and my household, we will worship the Lord! Amen.

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Things I preach to myself: Hypocrisy

“Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture!” declares the Lord.  Jeremiah 23:1

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A sad and pathetic desperation to socialize and be accepted by man created a huge hypocrisy in my life and caused delays in my walk with God. As horrible as that may sound, this is actually a normal human condition. We all have a hypocritical side within us. It just isn’t advertised as such to our family and friends!

I think that we can all mark times in our lives when we have, whether directly or indirectly, declared “do as I say, not as I do”.  This is just a natural human issue that many battle on a regular basis.  Whether it is a conscience act, or subconsciously done, it is part of our fallen nature. Since God (and most folks around) wants us to live right and honest, and we do try, we still have that old sin nature within and it’s often easy to live two lives (hypocrisy) without too many woes.

In fact, this thing called hypocrisy has been going on for centuries, and is addressed in the Bible a number of times. Perhaps the greatest acknowledgement of hypocrisy comes from Jesus’ rebuke of the scribes and pharisees in the Gospels (particularly Mathew chapter 23). Sometimes called the “Woes of the Pharisees”, Jesus calls out the religious leaders of their time for being ‘high and mighty’ on the outside, yet contradictory in their hearts and lives. Essentially inner and outer moral states.

The leaders are supposed to be living examples of righteousness (right living under Gods laws). And, even though no one can keep the 10 Commandments completely, their position was to be above reproach…to teach and lead others in the proper ways expected by God.  But, once you intermingle human sinful nature with greed and lust and power, it doesn’t take much to compromise yourself and your beliefs.

Which leads me back to my self-preaching.

First of all, I am not a preacher/teacher/leader in any way. So, my matter isn’t about growing in stature in any way.  But, as a self-professing Christian, I do have a responsibility and commission from Christ to share the truth to the world (which can be the very next person I meet)…whether through my words or through my actions. But, since my actions don’t always correlate with my words, therein lies the problem! (Do as I say, not as I do)

The Bible doesn’t directly state to “be in the world, but not of the world“, but there are numerous verses that support this general ideology (John 15:19, Romans 12:2, 1 John 2:15, John 17:14, Colossians 3:2, Ephesians 6:12).  And here I am trying to “fit in”, as it were, yet also trying to “walk in faith”.  Thus, walking in two worlds. Hypocrisy.

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My hypocrisies are not any less or different from the pharisees of ancient times.  Though the Bible is clear that teachers and preachers are held to a higher accountability than the average Joe, that doesn’t dismiss my walking in two worlds.  God’s Spirit has been quite good at pointing out to me that my private world and public world can, at times, be contradictory to one another.  This is sin and this is to be confessed, repented of, and begin walking in a new light.

Not always the easiest to do, mind you, but acknowledging sin and looking to the Bible and praying for a changed heart and mind regarding these things is a first step.  We often regret our sins more than repent of them, but we need to keep taking steps forward with the help of the Holy Spirit, delving into the Scriptures for guidance and truth, and looking to Christ as our example!

Which leads to another topic, for another time:  The hypocrisy of (most) modern churches today.  Those leaders and preachers and teachers will have a lot of accounting to do before the Lord on judgement day!  Can we be the change needed to alter the downward spiral of the false teaching going on within the church?

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Things I Preach To Myself About…

The old statement of ‘when you point your finger at someone, three are pointing back at you’ is such a good reminder!  One of the great lessons taught in the Bible asks ‘how can you talk about the speck in your brother’s eye when there is a plank in your own’.  As much as I understand that concept, I have to remind my brain and heart of this often when I am inwardly judging people based on their actions, attitudes, attributes, and asinine behaviors!

That being said, I thought it would be a good (and hopefully helpful) idea to share with you some of the (many) things that I learn and preach to myself along this path in life!  I’d like to let you peak into my walk, see how my mind and heart are processing things, and share my insights (whether right or wrong) into how God is working in the life of this wretched and often-faltering man!

I say “preach to myself” because I find that all the wonderful gems and lessons I learn from the Bible, as well as the many great preachers and teachers, are things that I need to hear and apply…daily!  I have often come across people who quickly become judgmental of others in regards to new things they’ve learned.  This falls right along the lines of the pharisees in Biblical times.  They were a group of educated teachers of the Scriptures (old Testament stuff) who were quick to tell others “do as I say, not as I do”!  (Though Jesus was quick to point out their hypocrisy!)

I don’t want to be a hypocrite, at least no more that I’m sure I am!

So, after a quick introduction, I would like to start with something that is seemingly simple on the outside, but a deep well of study that is too much for this humble blog.

First and foremost: I am not a formally educated preacher/teacher/theologian/scholar! I do love researching and studying everything and anything, but the contents of my ramblings are simply my learning, understanding, and interpretation of what has most recently slapped me in the face! I don’t stand on any particular platform or denomination.  For myself, I am basing things strictly on the Bible and what the Word has to say!

That being said, there is no doubt that people will disagree with my understanding of things. And, that is something that I am perfectly at peace with. I am not here to dissect the deeper, theological treatises and philosophical camps. I’m just here to say; “This happened, this is what I learned, this is how I see it, and this is where I’m at!”

The starting point in anything is always the root…the very beginning. My start has been hot, cold, and lukewarm for many decades. Thankfully, God’s beginning for everything is right on point every moment of every day! Genesis 1:1 says “In the beginning, God…”

If you stop right there and ponder that often gleaned-over piece of scripture, there is a volume of awe! Before anything and everything, there was God! Wow! When I think deeper about that, and then think about how lackadaisical I am in my attitude toward God regarding having reverence and respect…it’s a wonder I am still breathing on this planet!

But, thanks be to God for his amazing love! He loves us! He loves me! And, though I don’t understand all the why’s and how come’s and such, it is enough to know that as God looked across the years, he planned me, he knew me, loved me, and did amazing miracles to get me to this point! I’ll just leave that right there and relish the thought of the creator of the universe knowing me!

Getting a grasp on the sovereignty and grandness and holiness of God should be humbling and awe-inspiring to us. Unfortunately, though, we tend to treat God like a cosmic vending machine. We pray/ask for this blessing and that all the time, and then when we’re done, put him back into some out-of-sight/out-of-mind bottle and shelve him until the next time we need something. Sad, and wrong!

If you think about that, we treat everyday people a hundred-fold better than we treat the God who created and sustains everything in the universe!  We worship the created instead of the Creator! I don’t know about you, but this revelation hit me like a ton of bricks and almost made me sick!

Don’t get me wrong, though. I didn’t grasp this truth and then suddenly walk around with a glow of reverential fortitude in my day to day life! The knowledge was humbling and caused me to stop and re-think many things, but, I still have that selfish, go-about-my-business mentality most days…something I am still working on daily!

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I am a work in progress. Clay that needs to be more submissive and flexible for the Creator to create! He who began a good work in me will be faithful to complete it! I just need to open my mind and heart more and receive! The process is slow in some, faster in others, but the sanctification process is just that…a process (meaning that it is moving and happening!)  I just wish most days that the process worked faster in me!

But…God’s timing! After all…He is the Creator of the Universe and definitely knows better how things (and myself) should work! Amen and Amen!

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Race Among The Ruins

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Inundated and overwhelmed  by the barrage of mixed messages that are filling my brain (and heart)!  That is where I have been at for the last several years.  This is from the pattern that has built up within me over the years.  Conflicting messages that seep, beg, demand, and suggest multiple ways that I am supposed to think, act, and behave.

From the sweeping changes of the 1960’s race equality movements to the violent segregation mentality of today, the war of unity/separation of humans has been a roller coaster of chaos that has created and divided relationships in such a way that I am sitting here with my hands over my ears and screaming “stop the world, I want to get off!”

With a push for equality among humans in the 60’s from the likes of Martin Luther King Jr., growth and maturity had seemed to bring people together in such a way that almost made the 70’s and 80’s look like a time of peace among the people. But, as I reflect back in comparison to todays’ events…I confess a deep confusion.  It seems that the messages of anti-segregation in the 60’s have turned into a strong segregationist movement.

Before you start raising pitchforks and burning torches to me, let me explain.

In a sneak-up-on-you kind of way, many of the groups that fought for equality have created a very separatist ideology. Examples include:  NAACP, BLM, NOW, and various other groups. But, not only these formalized organizations, but the demands of political and religious leaders such as Farrakhan, Jackson, and most recently, Maxine Waters.

Waters, a politician from the state of California, has recently declared that there should be a “black-only” political party. I’ll wait. Let you gather your senses a bit before going on.

As much as I am all for equality of the races…I stand absolutely dumbfounded by such a remark from a woman who, for all intents and purposes, was very much alive and active during the 60’s and 70’s racial movements.  And, to declare such a segregationist goal has me scratching my head as to what happened!  Where did the universe take a U-turn?

I have recently looked back over the past several years to see from where and why this momentum been gathering steam, and I have to conclude that the key perpetrators of this anti-equality movement are the very people that demanded equality in the first place! Call it whatever you want to, but to place such an emphasis demanding special treatment to one people group is the very thing that MLK and others fought against.

So, I will go on record here and now, declare them, (those who demand this segregational and special treatment), racists! The very people who get upset and call others racist are, in fact, the ones who are being such!

In 1927, Leon Trotsky, a Jewish Bolshevik Marxist revolutionary, used the term racist to browbeat dissenters of the communist ideology.  Prior to him, though, was Richard Henry Pratt. His use of the term was related to the issues of white men and Indians in early America. He said “Segregating any class or race of people apart from the rest of the people kills the progress of the segregated people or hinders their growth. Association of races and classes is necessary to destroy racism and classism.”

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Hmmmm…….that mentality goes against the grain of today’s segregating movements!  And, it seems to parallel the ideology that blacks and other proponents pushed for in the 60’s and 70’s.  So, it stands to reason that the Maxine’s and Sharpton’s of today are trying to recede back in time…..(or is there something else? I am not here to start conspiracy theories!)

No matter where you stand on the issue…be it with BLM or KKK or CAIR or whatever alphabet organization you want to associate with, the bottom line is that this country has taken two steps forward, but now working on three steps back!

Extremism has cost lives, trust, rational thinking, and most importantly…Common Sense!!!!!

Sadly, people have this demand that it’s “all about” them.  They want special and preferential treatment.  They want everything handed to them. Well, I’m here to tell you…it doesn’t matter what your color, race, religion, ethnic, or gender background is: if you want respect and a place in this civilized society…you have to earn it! Just because you are this or that doesn’t give you a standing any different than anybody else!

The greatest line I’ve heard from some very respectable people over the years is “they put their pants on the same as everyone else…one leg at a time!”

And guess what folks…..you are no better or worse than me or anyone else! Call me what you will, but in the end, we all end up in the dirt.  So, get off your high horse, your mightier-than-thou attitudes, and get common sense!!!

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