Tuesday, November 27, 2012

America and God

We’ve been so “Americanized” about our Christianity that although in our churches you hear us say the words ‘its not about us”; in our hearts – ITS ALL ABOUT US!  Why aren’t WE getting things just the way WE want them?  Why aren’t WE seeing just what WE want to see?  Why isn’t God doing just what WE want Him to do?  Need proof?  Look closely at and READ the words of our modern day so-called “worship” songs.  READ THEM!  Here I AM to worship.    I am bowing down, I AM giving glory, I - I - I - I - I – Oh- we’re worshipping alright – we are worshipping the CREATURE (ourselves) and not the CREATOR!  The truth is- there is only ONE I AM and it ain’t you and it ain’t me!  Jesus declared the only  truth, “before Abraham was I AM” 

Ever wonder why so many miracle stories seem to come from what we consider “third world countries” about AWESOME things God is doing in hearts and lives?  Why their churches are growing by 10’s of thousands on a regular basis?  I wonder if it doesn’t have something to do with the fact that they aren’t spoiled and pampered and convinced that the whole world and God included “owes” them something? Perhaps they have a better understanding of “gratitude” because they haven’t had every luxury handed to them since birth and been brain washed into believing its their RIGHT  to have whatever they think they need.  It may even have something to do with an awe toward God that we seem to lack here in our American churches, allowing us to think its no big deal if we “sell” Gods good news or use it to enrich ourselves.  In the name of Christianity we’ve made “celebrities” of those God has blessed and anointed and then gleefully torn them to shreds when they bought into the hype and started to think they really were something! (Do we really need to name names here?  Just think of headlines in the last few years - Swaggert, Baker, Haggard and more!)

It is very difficult to separate politics from religion in spite of the best efforts of America to do so.  (In fact, I maintain it is IMPOSSIBLE!)  Who we are as a nation is absolutely reflected in who we are as people in our personal lives.  Are we a people who follow a moral code and have a reverent fear of God our Creator?  (See Psalm 33:12 Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD.)  America was founded on religious freedom.  NOT freedom FROM religion – but freedom to express religious beliefs as each individual might choose to worship.  NOT freedom FROM worshipping God, but freedom TO worship God in the manner you choose for yourself and your family.  Or not to have any religious expression in your life if that is what you choose.  BUT also not the right to STOP others from religious expression! 

Right now I sincerely hope many reading this are sputtering about “separation of church and state.”  I hope that, because it means we’re being read by those who don’t know the Lord as their God.  And that’s GOOD!  You can’t learn if you never read about things you don’t already know about and it is Gods most ardent desire that every single soul of His creation KNOW HIM!  He doesn’t have ONE specific criteria for HOW you worship either, but just THAT you worship the ONE TRUE GOD.  (See Exodus chapter 20.)  God speaks of having no God before Him, and not bowing down to idols and having no graven images – yet He does not limit your expression of worship to Him.  It is for YOUR health, for YOUR well being and for YOUR blessing that HE desires you to know His truth, because He loves you so very much and He knows the only possibility of YOU being TRULY blessed is to know HIM.

FOR THE RECORD; there is NO such statement found ANYWHERE in the Consitution of the United States of America.  It states that congress shall make NO LAW concerning a religion – not that religion has no place in our laws.  In fact, it is our laws that give our citizens the right to have NO RELIGION IN THEIR PERSONAL LIVES if that is what they choose to do, however,  IT DOES NOT GIVE ANYONE THE RIGHT TO INFRINGE UPON OTHERS INDIVIDUAL RIGHTS TO HAVE RELIGION IN THEIR LIVES!  If the majority of Americans celebrate Christmas – then MERRY CHRISTMAS it is and not Happy Holidays for the majority of us.  Which brings me to this “silent majority” stuff.  If we are in fact the majority,  WE’D BETTER STOP BEING SO SILENT BEFORE WE ARE SILENCED ALL TOGETHER!

You may agree with my sentiments here.  You may not agree with my sentiments.  That’s okay.  That’s the beauty of America.  You have a right to your opinion AND I HAVE A RIGHT TO MINE. 

Friday, November 2, 2012

9000 and counting.....

I was reading the Gospel of Mark recently, and found myself confronted with a question that had never crossed my mind before.  I'd just finished reading about two situations in which Jesus miraculously fed people from very little provision.  Combining the numbers from both occasions, within a short time span, Jesus took a few fishes and several loaves of bread and fed over 9000 people, the Gospel reveals to us.  A very short time later, a great many of the Jews are gathering in Jerusalem for the Passover and it is at this time that Jesus is arrested in the garden at Gethsemane.  Pilot, taking the advice of his wife who experienced a prophetic dream attempts to free Jesus, as he has a custom of freeing a prisoner each Passover, at the request of the Jewish people.

I found myself wondering, how many of the 9000 He had miraculously fed were among those crowds at that time?  And of those in attendance, how many willingly followed the instruction of the misguided religious leaders and called for the release of Barabbas and the crucifixion of Jesus?  How many were easily led to believe what was told them about Jesus by those they thought were "in the know" rather than what they had actually experienced of Him themselves?  Which naturally led me to this next question.  How many of us STILL do that today?

Specifically, as we travel and share the Gospel, we run into so many people (enough that it seems a trend!) who have been led to believe that the "christian life" is supposed to be one of ease, abundance of "stuff" such as MONEY, and attaining every (selfish) desire of our own hearts!  Far too many appear to be of the opinion that "choosing" Christ means all they have to do is attend church once in a while, be respectful toward those who are "leaders" in the church and that God, because He loves them, expects nothing more of them. 

Yet the truth is so different from that picture.  Jesus made it so plain that in this life, we would experience trials and tribulations, and even that "the world" would HATE us for His names sake!  We've been falsely led to believe that if we don't get quick easy answers that suit our idea of "deliverance" in any given situation, it must be "the devil" coming against us or some "hidden" sin we've failed to confess.  Lip service is given to the idea of trials and tribulation and suffering trouble, but in reality, we are so unprepared for actual trials and so wrongly expecting fast easy answers!

                      ??!?! WHY ??!?!   
We aren't being properly instructed concerning the POWER to overcome!  Jesus finished the statement about trials and tribulations and being hated by encouraging us - that HE has overcome the world!  Through Him, we can also overcome!  When trials come, we are NOT being punished, we are being lovingly provided opportunity for GROWTH AND STRENGTHENING in the Spirit!  If we never go "through" we will also never GROW UP IN HIM as Paul talks about in his letters to the churches.  The power to overcome is in exercising our FAITH.  Faith is not a verb until it is put into action!  And overcoming faith is the kind that operates with wisdom and knowledge. 

Like any muscle, our "faith muscle" has no strength if it isn't exercised regularly!  When you first go to the gym, you usually aren't going to lift 350 pounds and do 500 sit ups if you haven't been doing anything previously.  It takes time to build muscle.  And it only happens as you exercise REGULARLY!  None of this happens on a "hit or miss" work out once a week, once a month or once a year!  Faith works on the same principle.  As you regularly "work out" your faith by:
        * reading Gods written word on a daily basis
        * praying and worshipping God 
        * spending time in fellowship with other likeminded believers 
You will find yourself growing in every area of the Christian life.  That is exactly as God intends for each of us.  We are to actively engage in the "work of the ministry".  (See Ephesians - read the whole book, it'll be good for you!) The work of the ministry isn't for Ordained Clergy only, its for every single person who confesses Christ as Savior!  We are all to lead others to a saving knowledge of Christ.  We are all told to equip other saints of God for this work of ministry.  We are all told we are to build up the Body of Christ in LOVE!   Trust me, LOVE takes some real "work outs" to fully develop!  It just doesn't come naturally to our flesh to put others above ourselves.

I often hear people quote Psalm 37:4 as proof God will give them whatever THEY want! 
Delight yourself in the Lord and He will
give you the desires of your heart! 

Do you truly understand what idea is being conveyed here?  This doesn't mean that God will give you whatever YOUR FLESH desires!  He knows better!  He knows our hearts are 'continually wicked'!  What this scripture is conveying to us is that "as we DELIGHT in the LORD"- HE WILL GIVE OR CAUSE OUR HEARTS TO DESIRE RIGHTEOUS THINGS!  Then, as our hearts desire those righteous things, He will bring them to pass!  Or as I like to put it:
God gives you what your heart should be desiring and THEN God gives you those desires!
As we do the exercising, He brings the POWER to bear on our behalf.  You might ask, WHY is it important our faith muscles be strong?   Next time my friends, let's talk SPIRITUAL WARFARE.


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