Archive for June, 2009

“Our Words have the power to influence;  God’s words have the power to save.”  Our Daily Bread – June 23rd

 

Today’s devotional told the story of a man that came to know Christ because a girlfriend referred  him to three passages of scripture, and told him to read them (Romans 3:23, 5:8 and 10:13).  He did and God convicted him of his sin, and he accepted Christ as Savvior.  He stated he “wept and believed.” 

When his son was seven years old, he used those same verses on him.  He son was saved, and went on to become a pastor.

We, as American Christians talk too much!  Talk, talk, talk, talk.  Reminds me of the Far Side cartoon depicting the owner of a dog talking to his BFF.  The caption, paraphrased, states “What a owner says to his dog and what a dog really hears.”  In one scene, the owner is talking and the words are clear but in the other scene, the dog is sitting there listening but the words he’s hearing are, “Blah, blah, blah, blah.” 

Makes me wonder if Gary Larson had Christians in mind when he drew this one.  It does kinda reflect more accurately how our “witnessing”  conversations go with someone that is lost and without Christ.  We quote scripture after scripture, telling them how much Jesus loves them, and how they are destined to spend eternity in hell if they don’t accept Jesus as Lord and Savior.  Granted, if you are geniunely allowing the Holy Spirit to speak through you and direct the conversation, then fine.  But how often does this really happen?  Conservatively, probably as often as not.  I know I’ve been guilty of this without even realizing it.

God’s Word is anointed, living, powerful, full of love, mercy and grace.  It has the power to save!  Patrick’s don’t!  Christy’s don’t!  Your’s don’t!  So, the next time we have a witnessing opportunity, shut up, give them God’s Word, and get out of the way.

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“In Acts 4, when the church was still new, Peter and John also boldly addressed the people of their generation….

….That boldness was not the fruit of ministerial training but of much time spent in the presence of the Master.  As a result, they had become passionate about what concerned Christ – the eternal destiny of men and women.”  Our Daily Bread – June 18th

Am I, or we as the American Church, passionate about what concerns Christ?  Do we even know what concerns Christ?  Do we even care? 

Reading this devotional a couple days ago caused me to ask myself these questions.  I know I talk about Christ passionately but am I passionately sharing  Christ with this lost and dark world?  Am I passionately seeking Him and allowing Him to work in my life, and through my life so others will know how passionate Christ is about their salvation and eternal abode? 

Are we as His Church passionate about fulfilling the Great Commission or are we more passionate about our worship programs, our church buildings, our state-of-the-art audio and video equipment, our offerings of extra-curricular christian activities, our church road trips to Amish country or christian cruises to exotic locations.

I believe, as a whole, we have forgotten that reaching lost souls is what concerns Jesus above all things.  When Jesus died on the cross, the eternal destiny of men and women was His sole motivation.  He knew and understood the role God needed Him to play – Sacrificial Lamb for mankind.  He was, and is, the Bridge in which we use to reach God. 

Now, it’s time for us to re-evaluate what role we are to play in God’s plan.  It’s not as “good Baptists”, “devout Catholics”, “fired-up Pentacostals”, “loyal Presbyterians” or “enlightened Calvinists” but as a unified, single-minded, obedient, purpose-driven, Great Commission fulfilling, hell-busting servant warriors of God that are concerned about the one true passion of Christ, “the eternal destiny of men and women.”  Once we put “our passions” aside, and get back to Jesus’ passion for reaching lost souls, we’ll become the bold and courageous leaders that this world desperately needs, just like Peter and John.

“(15) Well then, since God’s grace has set us free from the law, does that mean we can go on sinning?  Of course not!  (16) Don’t you realize that you become a slave of whatever you choose to obey?  You can be a slave to sin, which leads to death or  you can choose to obey God, which leads to righteous living.  (17) Thank God! Once you were slaves of sin but now you wholeheartedly obey this teaching we have given you.  (18) Now you are free from your slavery to sin, and you have become slaves to righteous living.

(19) Because of the weakness of your human nature, I am using the illustration of slavery to help you understand all this.  Previously, you let yourselves be slaves to impurity and lawlessness, which led ever deeper into sin.  Now you must give yourselves to be slaves to righteous living so that you will become holy.  (20)When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the obligation to do right. (21)  And what was the result?  You are now ashamed of the things you used to do, things that end in eternal doom.  (22)  But now you are free from the power of sin and have become slaves of God.  Now you do those things that lead to holiness and result in eternal life.  (23)  For the wages of sin is death but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.”  Romans 6: 15-23 (NLT)

“Slavery” is an ugly word that illicits deep emotions within peope and vivid images in our minds of anger, hatred, bitterness, sadness, misery, hopelessness, pain, torture, oppression and death.  Slavery is not unique to the black community here in America.  It has destroyed millions of lives throughout history, here and afar, leaving its ghosts to wander through the generations, hauntingly reminding us of the deals mankind has made with satan himself.  Every step forward made is accompanied by these ghosts of slavery.  They influence our politics, our jargon, our idealogies, our attitudes, our minds and our emotions.  They are constantly pulling us back into the past, hoping to keep our souls and spirits bitter, angry and hate-filled with fingers pointed.  Sadly, they do a good job.  Satan undertands this fully….that’s why he is continually feeding these ghosts, keeping them alive.

I understand that this is a sensitive subject, and I am not down-playing the tremendous hurts that anyone has suffered because of physical slavery.  They are real.  Any present day slavery that a person or ethnic group is experiencing should be addressed and remedied promptly.  It cannot, nor should not be allowed to continue. 

Whether we admit it or not though, we are all slaves to something or someone.  There hasn’t been a person born, regardless of race, ethnicity or gender that hasn’t played the role of slave.  We still do!  We will for the remainder of this life and the next.  Failure to understand this puts your spiritual state in peril.

You see, the danger isn’t that you or I will become a physical slave to someone but to whom we will  become a spiritual slave – God or satan?  Being a physical slave to someone is temporary.  It lasts until we are set free or die.  Straight-forward and simple to understand.  However, spiritual slavery is eternal.  It doesn’t end when we die, and we are never set free.  If you have never accepted Jesus as Lord and Savior, you are currently a spiritual slave to sin and your worldly, carnal desires.  Your master is satan.  He dictates the terms of your enslavement, whether that’s a wasted life spent addicted to drugs, alcohol or sex, a life spent in a homosexual lifestyle or a life spent denying the existence of God.  There have been billions of people that spent their lives enslaved to satan, and never realized it until they stood before Christ Jesus in Judgment.  It was too late at that point.  Their fate was sealed.

But it doesn’t have to be this way.  We have a choice!  We can choose to become enslaved to the one true Master – Christ Jesus.  He is a Master that surrounds us with His unconditional, unlimited and undying mercy, grace and love.  He adopts us into His family to become His royal heirs, with all the power and authority in the heavenlies.  He grants us access to all that is His, and all that He is.  We are never left lacking.  We are never left alone.  We are never left hungry.  We are never left homeless and orphaned.  We are never left to despair, oppression, hopelessness and unforgiveness. 

When we choose to become the eternal bondslaves to Christ himself, we open our souls and spirits to healing, to deliverance, to love, to hope, to mercy, to grace, to forgiveness, to victory.  He takes the chains that satan had bound us in for so long, and shatters them, replacing them with splendid crowns of righteousness that reveal us to be God’s own children.  

If the American Church wants to break out of our spiritual slump, then we have to humble ourselves before God, and offer ourselves as faithful, obedient bondslaves, willing to serve our Master however He desires.  We have to give up the illusion we hold that we are able to live as we please and still honor and glorify God.  He sent His Son, Jesus to pay the debt that we owed God for living in sin, separated from Him.  Once we choose to follow Christ, we become new creations that are indebted to God for the sacrifice He made to adopt us into His family.  It’s not a requirement for salvation but necessary in order for us to grow to become the servants that Christ needs us to be in order to fulfill the Great Commission, and reach lost souls. 

So instead of us being slaves to our religions, our money, our worldly toys, our status, our ambitions, our thirst for power and acceptance, our pride, our prejudice, our hatred, our unforgiveness, our addictions, our lust and our selves, let’s bow before God, dying to ourselves, humbly offering Him our lives to Lord over as He desires.   Not only will He raise up a powerfully anointed and blessed church that is perfectly equipped to harvest lost souls, He will bring us into His Holy Mysteries so we can live in the spiritual heavenlies.

Please view my Seed of Hope site page to see how you can get started sharing Jesus with these extremely impoverished children while we cater to their physical, medical and educational needs.

There was a time when Christy and I owned a condo at Carolina Beach.  It wasn’t beachfront nor luxurious but from our living room we had a open view of the ocean and from our bedroom we could lay in bed and watch the sailboats gliding by on the Sound.   For a young, childless, fiancially broke married couple, it was a dream. 

One of our favorite spots was the large, covered deck where we would often find ourselves on – eating, watching the dolphins play or just being.  Even now, I can still feel the thick, salty summer breeze blowing in off of the ocean while sitting on the deck deep into the early hours of the morning, watching storms dance offshore. 

The breeze was like an old friend that had come to sit with us awhile as we attempted to quiet our souls from a day of constant static.  The storms were beautiful and awe-inspiring.  As the storms danced, I would imagine the dark sky as God’s canvas in which he would paint splashes of color that knew no earthly origins.  It was as if we had won a Grand Prize Offshore Storm Watching package that allowed us to watch the Master Artist paint a supernatural masterpiece.  Watching these storms affirmed the presence and existence of our God, and often left me contemplating how anyone could witness such beauty and still not believe.

However, the blessing wasn’t the storm itself.  It was the reality that I was a spectator of the storm, not a participant.  It wasn’t raining,  thundering or lightening on me.  I got to watch God’s show from the comfort and safety of a covered deck where it was warm and breezy.  I bet those that were in the midst of the storm would have a different perspective though.  They were at the mercy of the rain, thunder, lightening and rough seas.  They weren’t camped out on deck in a lounge chair admiring the beauty of the storm.  They were doing their best to survive the storm.  Same storm but two completely different experiences.  I sat and praised the storm, while the ones in the midst of the storm probably cursed it.  I wouldn’t have changed places with them for any reason, and I’m sure they would have taken my place without hesitation.

Such it is in life.  We love to watch the storms of life that others battle, whether literally or figuratively as long as we aren’t affected.  We watch them and praise them for their beauty but once that first rain drop falls on us or the lightening comes a little too close, then our first choice, reaction is retreat to the safety of our shelters, leaving the person to survive on their own.   We want to be the spectators but not the participants.   But there are times when the storm unleashes destruction on everyone close to that person regardless of how fast we run to seek shelter.   The beauty then becomes the beast, and leaves a wake of destruction and tragedy on the guilty and the innocent.  No one is left the same.

Now, six years later, we have moved, and our days of watching those beautiful, awe-inspiring offshore storms are gone but I find myself on a “spiritual” deck, watching a storm surrounding someone so dear to me.  This one isn’t beautiful though.  Satan is behind the proverbial curtain, conjuring up an ominous and supernaturally powerful storm that is going to destroy marriages, tear apart families and shatter the innocence of children.   

It’s hard to watch people we care deeply about at the mercy of a spiritual storm.  You feel helpless….I feel helpless.  I’ve done my best to “rescue” my dear friend from the oncoming storm but to no avail.  I’ve prayed that satan would be bound, that God would dissipate this storm but I know that it’s in His hands now.  I know there’s no out-running this one.  So, I’m doing the only thing I can;  I’m putting on my spiritual “rain gear”, anticipating the oncoming deluge. 

I am asking that all my brothers and sisters in Christ lift up my dear friend in prayer to our Lord and Savior.  That He will convict my friend of his sinful choices, and bring him into a relationship with Christ.  That spiritual and emotional healing will be found, marriages saved and innocence kept through the grace of God.  Also pray that the Holy Spirit will use me as an example of Christ-like love, grace and forgiveness.  Finally, let’s pray that once the storm subsides, that all affected that did not know Christ as Savior will have been rescued from the gates of hell.

A powerful, supernatural testimony to the mercy, love and grace of our Lord.  A true story taken from the Save our World, Church of God world missions publication, Winter 2008-2009 illustrates that our Gift of Salvation cannot be earned but is a free gift given only by Christ.  Written by Justin Rose:

This event occurred in recent weeks and was reported to World Missions by Missionary Evangelist Kelvin McDaniel.  Keep our brothers and sisters in the persecuted church in your prayers.

It seemed like a typical predawn morning at the little white church in the western reaches of a Southeast Asia country, a church previously protected from attack even when other churches nearby had been burned to the ground.  However, this morning danger loomed on the horizon.

Just after sunrise, a flatbed truck backed into the front lawn of the church and men jumped off, dragging 55-gallon barrels of fuel.  A barrel was smashed open, and fuel was poured over the front steps.   The men burst open the door and started pouring gallons of fuel into the sanctuary.

The pastor and his family, living in the building, were awakened by the noise.  Sensing danger for her children, the pastor’s wife ran outside, screaming and begging for the men to not set fire to the church.  This was their home, as well as the house of the Lord.  The men bellowed that they were destroying this church of deceit as a service to God.  Finished soaking the building in fuel, the men threw a nearly empty barrel through the front door and moved the truck away.

Feeling a sense of despair, the pastor’s wife collapsed in to the mixture of mud and fuel, lifting her voice to heaven, praying to God to be with them as never before, that His hands would halt this terrorist attack.

The leader of the group had stayed behind and slowly pulled a box of matches from his pocket.  The pastor’s wife froze.  In the paralysis of the moment, the terrorist scraped the side of the box with a match.  Nothing happened, the match would not light.  The man pulled out another, which fizzled and then died as well. 

By this time, scores of spectators had gathered to see what all the commotion was about, and they watched in silence as the man tried to light match after match without success.  All at once, the man shrieked in horror and ran, hands tightly gripping his head.  Having been such a formidable threat, ready to burn down a church just moments before, the spectators wondered if he had lost his mind.

Seeing him screaming and running, one of his friends ran and tackled him before he hurt himself.  The terrified man thrashed around and kept throwing people off of him, his eyes full of fear.

After much calming and consoling, the man told the story of what happened; his voice quivered and his breaths came in short bursts.  As he had tried to light the final match, he said, an angel of the Lord appreared suddenly in front of him, and with a booming voice said, “I am the messenger of the Most High God sent to warn you so that you will warn all others that this is God’s real holy ground and you will die if you do not flee.”

This man, who had come with the purpose of burning the church to the ground, was instantly converted (our emphasis).   After the initial shock, he ventured into the town, climbing on rooftops and proclaiming his story to everyone that could hear.  Reborn through Christ Jesus, this man was proclaiming the truth of the gospel that he had so vigorously opposed.

On Sunday morning at the church he attended (Reformation Lutheran Church), Dr. George Tiller was fatally shot during worhip services.  He was serving as an Usher while his wife was pulling choir duty.  His wife called it “an unspeakable tragedy” and community/church leaders stated it “is also a loss for the city of Wichita and women across America. George dedicated his life to providing women with high-quality health care despite frequent threats and violence.”

The alleged gunman, Scott Roeder entered the church and proceeded to blow Tiller away.  Why?  What was Roeder’s issue with Dr. Tiller?  It seems that Dr. Tiller, according the the Associated Press, “remained one of the nation’s few providers of late-term abortions through decades of protests and attacks.”  The Associated Press went on to report that “Tiller’s Women’s Health Care Services clinic is one of just three in the nation where abortions are performed after the 21st week of pregnancy.”  Mr. Roeder, it seems, is an extremist Anti-Abortion protester, and took it upon himself to end Dr. Tiller’s Reign of Death.  Doesn’t seem Roeder is pro-life after all, huh?  Great way to bring attention to the senseless act of murder.

First, I agree that the killing of Dr. Tiller was unwarranted, and is a great loss for his family.  Regardless of Dr. Tiller’s beliefs or actions, he did not deserve to die at the hands of Mr. Roeder.  Although you could question Dr. Tiller’s actions and his understanding of what it means to be a follower of Christ, he did nothing illegal (to our knowledge).  Only the law can judge a person through the eyes of  justice, and only God can judge him spiritually and eternally. 

President Obama, who has already made it easier for women to kill their unborn babies, expressed “outrage” and “shock” over the killing.  But really?  Are we truly “shocked” and “outraged” at the behavior of Mr. Roeder?  I am not condoning the killing of Mr. Tiller but I’m not “shocked”, “surprised” or “outraged.”  I feel deeply for his wife, kids and grandkids because they shouldn’t have to experience the grief of losing someone so dear to them.  They need our prayers, privacy and sympathy.

However, when you, me, us….anyone plays with the fires of hell, there should be the expectation that at any moment, that fire can engulf us and torch our souls.  Satan is a devious, lying, manipulating, conniving, evil and powerful enemy of God that has caused many angels to fall from God’s grace so why do we continue to fool ourselves as Christians that we can walk outside of God’s Word and not get destroyed?  Why do we believe that we can play spiritual “hop scotch” between heaven and hell and our lives will not get ripped to pieces by satan and his army?

I didn’t know Dr. Tiller but its appears he took great pride in his killing of unborn babies, and that his church was fine with that.   Granted, his church should have continued to welcome him in love as a member because there is no better place for us to be when we are living in sin (or at anytime) but they allowed him to participate in a active, visible manner.  What a great example to the youth of the church and his fellow believers?  Why?  I don’t know the answer to that question but could it possibly be because of his social standing or his financial standing in the church? Who knows but I believe those are good guesses.

When are we, as the American Church, going to stop dining with Satan at his table of spiritual destruction?  He feeds us lies and deceptions and we gorge ourselves on them.  He makes the lies and deceptions taste so sweet that we eventually stop caring who the one supplying them is because we crave the sweetness.  Sin is what it is – a foul, putrid piece of spiritual excrement that God cannot stand in the presence of or tolerate.  Sometimes we see it for what it is but don’t care or our senses have become so numbed to it that we don’t recognize it.  Most times though, we recognize it but satan has made it look and smell so sweet and attractive that we can’t help ourselves.  Just like in the Garden of Eden.  But as soon as we partake of it, our souls and spirits begin to rot, and we find that we can no longer stand in God’s presence.

Satan is a master illusionist, and is strategic in his attack on the church body of Christ.  He doesn’t hang out in bars and perform his act there because he’s already got them believing the lies and deception.  No need to waste his time.  Satan attacks the believers of Christ, and he starts at the top because he knows that if he can get a pastor or spiritual leader to eating his sin-filled “fruit”, then he has access to the whole congregation.  He knows that we trust our leaders, our pastors and their knowledge, wisdom and discernment regarding God and His word, and will fall in line with his beliefs, rituals, traditions, etc.   However,  once satan has gotten a spiritual leader believing the sin is truth, then his job becomes easier and frees himself up to move on to the next church because the pastor/leader will in turn become the master illusionist. 

If satan wants to decrease the power and authority that we have through the Holy Spirit, then he will attack our trust and knowledge of spiritual gifts.  We can’t use a spiritual gift with power and authority if we don’t believe in the viability of a particular gift.  If satan wants to infiltrate and attack God’s sacred institution of marriage, then he will attack it by placing homosexual leaders in our churches that preach “openness” and teach acceptance of spiritual morals and values that are in direct opposition to God.  If satan wants to attack the sanctity of life, then he will place a pastor or leader in the church that tolerates abortion, or even practices it.  If satan wants to attack “salvation by faith” (which is the foundation of salvation), then he will place a leader in the church that is legalistic and ritualistic. 

We have some strong persons of God leading our churches (Pastor McDaniel/s – here’s a “shout-out” to you both) but for every strong one, the American Church produces a Joel Osteen or Benny Hinn that builds up huge congregations of passive, ineffective, “praise me”, “bless me”, confused, ignorant and hypocritical folks that wouldn’t know Jesus or His Word if they tripped over them. 

The time has come for our leaders to rise up and preach/teach the truth of Jesus Christ in love, in mercy and in grace but without apologies and without compromise.  They have to be the spiritual Generals of our churches, setting clear expectations and Christ-like examples to those they are leading.  We cannot afford to allow homosexuals, abortionists, adulterers, or any other person living an unrighteous life to be in visible, active roles in our churches just as we can’t allow those that deny any parts of God’s Word or that chose to preach only scriptures that rationalize their worldly and carnal desires to lead in our churches. 

There is always a “Trickle-Down Effect” that starts with our leaders.  The question is, “Is the Truth of Christ being trickled-down or are the lies and deceptions of satan being trickled-down” in our churches?