Watch Out! You may be in Danger!

1Cor 3 “The Danger of Holy Huddles”

them vs us2AThe church at  Corinth was birthed under Paul but now left to their own they have become divided into Paul camps and Apollo camps. This is a warning to us about this happening to our churches and even para-church organizations. No matter how it comes about, know this; these “holy huddles’  divide.  As Paul hears about this,  his heart is grieved. This is the sin that grieves not only us but more importantly the Holy Spirit.

Paul’s response to the Corinthians goes something like this: you still are acting and reacting as if you never met Christ or were made righteous! You are behaving like one who is unregenerate and the evidence is front and center. This is not evidence of one who has a relationship with Christ and has become righteous, sanctified and redeemed!

Fast forward to today. If Paul could come to our local body of believers would he see the same thing? Listen to yourself, listen to your fellow congregants and see for yourself. Are we guilty of putting the pastor on a pedestal and not Christ? What happens when one of the church staff falls from grace? That very action reveals where our priorities were and are. Some of those who were followers of that person may also fall away too because they focused on them not Christ who became for us wisdom from God.

How does this happen? We need to look no further than what Paul noted. It happens when we revert to fleshy actions and attitudes. It should be a reminder of what Jesus told Peter: “You are a stumbling block to me because you are not setting your mind on God’s interest but man’s.” [Matt 16]

 

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Are We Walking in “No-Man’s Land?”

be the solution2aWe have heard it said over and over and over: you are judging. Now to be sure there are times when we are to judge and to judge righteously when we discern doctrinal error. However, in this chapter, Paul over and over and over is trying to get our attention that when we judge or criticize another’s spiritual walk we have crossed the no-man’s zone of hypocrisy.

Paul asks “who are you to judge the servant of another?” and “why do you judge your brother?” And in the context of this discussion, Paul is referring to three non-essentials of food, days and drink. Some insist we must follow the Feasts of Israel and another says no. One says it is OK for me to drink wine but another comes alongside and says no you shouldn’t do that. Another says I celebrate Christmas and another says that is a pagan holiday and you shouldn’t celebrate it.

Beloved, NOT one of these will keep us from heaven’s door but alone or together our attitude and our words may cause a brother/sister to stumble in their walk with Jesus. The problem is us not them. We have this urge to change others rather than accepting them as they are. Instead of a gentle quiet spirit, we become a gonging cymbal as we beat our drum of “no, no, no” all the while forgetting two essentials:

  1. We all will stand before God to give an accounting
  2. We will give an account of every idle word we have spoken

What we need to remember is that God looks not on the outward man as we do but on the heart. Let’s let God do the judging regarding these areas. We are not to be a stumbling block but a solution lest we scar hearts God has already healed.

Romans 13: How Shall I Respond?

government2aGovernment has been instituted by God; He placed it to keep anarchy from reigning supreme. Not all leaders will be honorable as history attests. If we resist governing authorities we are in essence resisting God for He established and allowed each to exist for His purposes.  We must not fear governing authorities for God will use them to bring wrath upon those who do evil—even if it seems that God is delaying. Go read Psalm 73:17 to see what Asaph gleaned from his time wondering about this topic.

How do we submit and obey when we are faced with governing authorities who are evil?  Joseph submitted yet Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego resisted. God blessed them each lived under brutal dictatorships.  The key is this given by the prophet Daniel “It is He [God] who changes the times and the epochs; He removes kings and establishes kings”

Some principles to remember:  “We must obey God rather than men” [Acts 5] and especially so when it becomes an instrument for evil, violating the explicit will of God as outlined in Scripture…” [G. Herrick.]  Ask yourself, are you praying for the governing authorities God has placed over you?  Also, remember we are not to revile them no matter how evil they may be: “Do not curse a king even in your thoughts.”[Eccl 10:20]  Follow the example of Christ who when reviled did not revile in return. Lastly, leave the results to God so that He alone gets the glory for His plan is perfect.

We know that we are living in the last days and oppression and wickedness will continue to escalate.  We must pray not only for ourselves but for those in nations that are exceedingly opposed to Christianity. How faithful are we to pray and are we prepared?

Summertime and the Livin’ is Easy OR is it?


Summertime for children seems to be the “same ole same ole” every day. They wake up, eat and go about their daily tasks and chores. We hear the sighs and then; is that all there is to do today; I’m bored. Sound familiar? Yes, summertime can be less exciting for children who don’t have that everyday school routine. Time to jumpstart that summer vacation by taking a journey into a day with God in Psalm 65.

Ever wonder what God does in his day. Is it humdrum? Hardly and the psalmist wants us to awaken and appreciate the God who has given us each day. He wants us to know all about this God of the universe so we can tell the next generation about Him and place their confidence in Him and His works. So if your children are facing a humdrum day have them take a look at a day in God’s kingdom.

Does God sleep? The scriptures say he does not. [Psalm 121:4] Does God sit and wait for us to praise Him? The psalmist tells us that He does! In fact, He sits on his throne and listens attentively to our prayers—all at once! Although this sounds overwhelming to us, to Him it is just an everyday occurrence and He can handle it! Do you think God doesn’t see when we argue with sister or brother? He does but the good news is that He is waiting for us to repent (say I am sorry) so He can forgive. As God looks about His kingdom here on earth, He sees Sammy and Nancy and more who are His because He chose them in eternity past and He says. “I predestined each one according to my purpose to accomplish all things according to the counsel of My will.” [Eph 1 author’s paraphrase] In little people words it means God has a plan for today and tomorrow and the next day for each one of us.

Cloud watching is a great thing to do. Take a moment with children and have them look up at the clouds. See if you find Him in His chariot riding on the clouds as the wind as them pushes along. Read Psalm 104:3 where the psalmist says “He makes the clouds His chariot and travels along on the wings of the wind.”  Look for pictures in the clouds. Take some time to lay on your back and observe the clouds as they move across the sky and then think; I wonder if God is that chariot I see? Ask what do you think He is doing as He rides along? Is he taking time to look at his marvelous creation; the mountains and the seas and the rivers and all of the life in them? What would you do if you were God out on a chariot ride?  Take an atlas and find all He might see just where you live. God calms the raging seas and their roaring waves just as Jesus did on the Sea of Galilee and He watches to see the men on the earth and what they will do when they see His mighty hand at work.

Yes, to us it is beyond our imagination but to God, it is just an everyday day in His Kingdom and one day if we know Him personally we will all experience it all in real-time with Him. Present God to these precious ones so they see their summertime days as not so humdrum after all. Just think; while we are swimming or playing or doing chores; God is commanding the wind and waves to obey Him. Stop and give Him praise.

Summertime is perfect just for taking the time to journey through God’s Word to see Him at work and at play just as we do. Make God come alive this summer!

The Most Unruly Member!

The Most Unruly Member – James 3

This week we will be celebrating July 4th with all of its hoopla and yes, fireworks. Our tongues, James says, are like those fireworks. They erupt with power and noise yet leave a residue that is unbecoming.  Our author James is comparing our tongue to the power of fire or fireworks. it erupts with the spark of a match yet can be deadly if not handled carefully.

James doesn’t just use words to this flock to whom he is writing and far from his presence, but he is wanting them and us to observe and analyze our world around us. What do you see, what do you hear, what is the effect of these images? Words may reveal a truth but visual images grab our attention and stay with us. For example, as we observe the waves of the sea, the wind, a wildflower in a meadow, the rising and setting of the sun, our attention is arrested to see our physical world around us, how it arrives and passes away with time. A crown of life, the Father of lights, a mirror, a gold ring and fine clothing vs filthy clothes, a prostitute named Rahab, bring our attention to God and His character. A ship and its rudder, a horse and its bridle bring our attention to how men have learned to control both physical objects and animals. But, now he will use the image of fire.  James is trying to get us to see how desperate we are to be children of God but without Him having first place we are facing a spiritual battle that cannot be won.

Our tongue, James says, is a small part of our body yet it has great pretensions—that is it is boastful and arrogant just like a fireworks presentation. Our tongue represents the worst of us because it is ignited with just a small flame. It can be only controlled by timing and care. Fire too, if not quenched becomes destructive. It starts small and then is fanned by the wind destroying all in its path. The tongue slanders, is a false witness, is scolds, boasts, flatters, profanes the Word of God, swears, seduces, murmurs, scoffs and is unjust. Beloved, these should not be—- but we seem to be helpless because we have not put our mind in gear before we unleash the power of the tongue.

The psalmist gives a way to handle this unruly member.”

“Lord, place a guard on my mouth! Protect the opening of my lips!” [Ps 141]

I need this prayer today and every day. I need to post it where I will see it and hide it in my heart that I might not sin against Him whom I call Lord and Savior. How about you?

What do Balaam, Donkeys, Bluebonnets and the Wilderness have to do with Trials?

bluebonnetsJames 1: Count It All Joy!

Donkeys that talk are out of the ordinary and we giggle at Balaam’s response but oftentimes we act just like him when God is trying to get our attention. We are a stubborn people when we are in a trial just like Balaam. But, James, God’s servant, is not talking about these “in your face” trials but rather the everyday ordinary ones such as a computer that is fried, as I am facing, or a simple water leak as in our bathroom.

As Creator, God has given us a myriad of word pictures so we understand His plan and the way He works in our lives. Sometimes He uses donkeys that talk, bears that scare or sometimes it is the innocent and beautiful wildflowers like the Texas Bluebonnet that grow in the meadow in spring. They cover the farmland, the roadsides, and the yards so that we will stop and ponder their beauty. But, just as we are enjoying them, the heat comes and they wither and pass off not to be seen again until the following spring. That is like the trials we face. Know this whatever He has chosen you can know that it has a purpose to get our attention.

As God’s servant, James wants us to learn how to face and handle trials that we face. Trials teach us about our mindset and how we respond to them just as the bluebonnets. Just as a bluebonnet faces the test of heat, God tests our faith. Peter reminds us that we should not be surprised when life seems to be beautiful and then SMACK!  summer heat arrives in the form of a trial. God uses each trial to reveal how we look to Him, how we are responding or how we are going to weather it. We want it to just go away but God is saying I am teaching you about character building and this is my way of doing that. We say, I just don’t understand it. God is saying then why don’t you ask me for wisdom to understand it? But, like Balaam and the donkey story, in the heat of the trial, we reveal that we are a stubborn people who think we can find our own solutions and our own answers.  Like the wildflower that sprouts in spring with its beauty, at first we face it head on but when the heat comes we fade. We look in God’s mirror and walk away because we don’t like the image we see. However,  if we do choose to look and then respond in humility God’s grace is sufficient and the beauty of the bluebonnet is a reminder that we passed with flying colors. But, sometimes we see and then walk away and don’t respond correctly. It is then that we may have to do, as the Israelites, another lap around the wilderness until we learn how to respond properly.

You can be a Balaam, an Israelite or a Bluebonnet that bursts forth with beauty in spring. It is up to you.

Thorns; Thistles and God’s Will

thorns 1thess 5aThorns and Thistles are part of our world and when experiencing them we respond with “ouch.”  But, we also meet them as thorny people. Their attitude and countenance say, leave me alone.  You ask how they are doing but their response is a cold shoulder. OUCH. We think what did I do to deserve that? You fail to respond instantly when another is hurting and they offer unkind words. OUCH!   It seems they carry the weight of the world on their shoulders. They have been pricked and want you to feel their prick as well.  Yet holy people don’t prick with thorns but God’s compassion. The prescription is to

  • Always rejoice.
  • Constantly pray.
  • In everything give thanks.

But how do we do that when with the thorny people who unruly, fainthearted, weak and yes antagonistic? We are to admonish them and to esteem them highly in love. The “thorns” remind you to rejoice, pray, and be grateful knowing that God is in charge, not us, and He is working this that they might know and trust Him in all circumstances.  This is God’s will for them and us because we are reconciled to Himself through Christ’s sacrificial death and are therefore a new creation in Christ.

Stop and think about this. When we respond in a thorny fashion we are grieving or extinguishing the Holy Spirit’s power. OUCH.  Don’t be a thorn. Today choose joy, prayer, and gratitude. Don’t let the thorns prick you taking away your joy and don’t you be a thorn in return. Listen carefully to the voice of the Spirit!

 

Who Are You Walking With?

crowd walking1Thess 4 “Which Crowd Do You Walk With?”

The Pharisees were hypocrites because they were like the whitewashed tombs outside the city. They looked the part of righteousness and acted the part of the righteous but inside they were full of dead men’s bones. We are the same when we walk with the Jesus crowd on Sunday and walk with the worldly crowd on Monday. Often we partake of communion with the saints on Sunday but partake of liquid spirits on Monday.  Those we meet do even recognize we are different because our “walk and talk” are just like theirs, the Gentiles/unbelievers.  Our behaviors are no different and we justify it by saying “everybody is doing it.” Really? If charged as a Christian would there be enough evidence to prove it?

Paul reminds the Thessalonians that they are on view before the unbelieving world. Their lifestyle had to be pristine if they hoped to win others to Christ. He challenged them to look at the crowd they were a part of.  Were they walking circumspectly or like the world? The first test is to see if you live a life of holiness and separateness from the world in purity without promiscuity.

Everybody is NOT doing it so why do you use that argument?

The Ripple Effect Of One Sin

one-sin-ripples-outrezized-ex-24-32How often do we fail to realize that it only takes one sin to affect others? We read about the anointing and consecrating of Aaron to the Priesthood. What an honor! What a position! Did Aaron realize what God had just given him? With great ceremony, Aaron had received the blessing of God. You, like Aaron, may have been anointed or called to a position of leadership. How do you handle this coveted position? With honor; with humility; or with pride? When God called Moses to the mountain for more instructions he left newly anointed Aaron and a compatriot Hur in charge and did so before the elders:

“Here are Aaron and Hur with you. Whoever has any matters of dispute can approach them.” [Ex 24]

Yet just 8 chapters later we find Aaron, ALONE! as one of two “men in charge,” compromising and failing in his God anointed responsibility. This leaves us wondering: Where was Hur all this time? Why did Aaron yield to the people to make the golden calf?  And lastly and more importantly, why did he lie to Moses when he returned from the mountain? When Moses asked him why he made the golden calf  he answered “They, that is the children of Israel, said to me,” (sounds like Adam in the Garden) and then  (note rolling eyes here as Aaron notes the miracle):  “I threw it [the gold that is] into the fire, and this calf came out.” Ah yes, from the miraculous to the ridiculous! Reading this we say “really?” But, when caught in sin we often do much the same thing if we are honest. 

Could it have been that Aaron’s pride in his position overshadowed his responsibility and relationship to Hur, the people, his sons—but more importantly to God? Or was it the fear of men that caused him to yield? Or could it have been a combination of both?  It appears that Aaron had not only forgotten his mandate from Moses to consult with his co-leader and the elders; but more importantly, had not quite grasped what it meant to be the spiritual leader who must give an account of his leadership! Hebrews reminds us that our “leaders…[are to]  keep watch over [our] souls and will give an account for their work.” [Heb 13:17]

Point to Remember: For Aaron,  it was a  combination of fear of men and pride of others following him that was greater than he following God.

 Learn from Aaron: The fear of man is a snare [Prov 29:25] and one sin affects or ripples out to affect the whole community.  In this event, three thousand are killed and later his own sons used strange fire and God takes them out.